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Submission + - The Unintended Consequence of Congress's Ban on Designer Babies (technologyreview.com)

schwit1 writes: By tucking two crucial sentences inside a federal spending bill last year, the U.S. Congress effectively banned the human testing of gene-editing techniques that could produce genetically modified babies. But the provision, which is up for renewal this year, has also flustered proponents of a promising technique that could help mothers avoid passing certain devastating genetic disorders to their children.

The language in the bill is a clear reference to the use of techniques like CRISPR to modify the human germline (see “Engineering the Perfect Baby”). Most scientists agree that testing germline editing in humans is irresponsible at this point. But regulators have decided that the description also fits mitochondrial replacement therapy, which entails removing the nucleus from a human egg and transplanting it into one from a different person to prevent the transmission of debilitating or even deadly mitochondrial disorders to children.

Submission + - The coral die-off crisis is a climate crime and Exxon fired the gun (theguardian.com) 1

mspohr writes: An article published by Bill McKibben in The Guardian points the finger at Exxon for spreading climate change denial which led to lack of action to prevent widespread coral die-off.
"We know the biggest culprits now, because great detective work by investigative journalists has uncovered key facts in the past year. The world’s biggest oil company, Exxon, knew everything there was to know about climate change by the late 1970s and early 1980s. Its scientists understood how much and how fast it was going to warm, and how much damage that was going to do. And the company knew the scientists were right: that’s why they started “climate-proofing” their own installations, for instance building their drilling rigs to accommodate the sea level rise they knew was coming.

What they didn’t do was tell the rest of us. Instead, they – and many other players in the fossil fuel industry – bankrolled the rise of the climate denial industry, helping fund the “thinktanks” and front groups that spent the last generation propagating the phoney idea that there was a deep debate about the reality of global warming. As a result, we’ve wasted a quarter century in a phoney argument about whether the climate was changing."

Submission + - Globalization Considered Harmful

theodp writes: In the wake of Brexit, the NY Times reported earlier this month that President Obama will need his oratory powers to sell globalization. Asked to explain his strategy to reverse growing sentiment over globalization, President Obama responded, "The question is not whether or not there's going to be an international global economy. There is one." Still, the President acknowledged, "Ordinary people who have concerns about trade have a legitimate gripe about globalization, because the fact is that as the global economy is integrated, what we've seen are trend lines across the advanced economies of growing inequality and stagnant wages, and a smaller and smaller share of overall productivity and growth going to workers, and a larger portion going to the top 1 percent. And that's a real problem. Because if that continues, the social cohesion and political consensus needed for liberal market economies starts breaking down." The disconnect between theory and reality is at the heart of Ross Hartshorn's Globalization Considered Harmful. "There is a word for people who are opposed to the globalized economy, and it isn't 'xenophobe' or 'racist'," he writes. "It's 'protectionist'. For some time now, it's been thrown around as an insult, as if there were something wrong with protecting people. There was a similar trick played in the U.S. with the word 'liberal', where conservatives used it as an insult long enough that candidates on the left started to avoid describing themselves as liberal. But there is nothing wrong with protecting people, and there is everything wrong with globalization. Globalization isn't about respecting other people's culture, or treating everyone fairly regardless of their race. Globalization is about each country specializing in just one part of a normal, healthy, diverse economy, and then treating anyone whose talents aren't suited to that part of the economy, as if they were defective and in need a handout rather than a job. I think it is time for people who don't like what globalization has done, to start using the word 'protectionist' to describe themselves. I am a protectionist; I think there is nothing wrong with protecting people. The backlash against globalization isn't the problem. Globalization is the problem."

Submission + - Should software engineers be certified? 2

mikeatTB writes: While the software engineering community does not have a formal regulatory body, there is the British Computer Society, the Association for Computing Machinery, and the IEEE Computer Society. But these are not governmental organizations. We interact with digital services daily and freely divulge information to people and organizations about which we know very little, and we have no idea what they will do with that data. And legitimate websites and services can fall short of diligently protecting the data; we’ve all heard of WikiLeaks and the Panama Papers. Can we trust the people who design, operate, and maintain access to these systems? Do we need formal regulation in the software industry? Malcolm Isaacs sat down with HPE Software's Robert Youngjohns to discuss the issue. Youngjohns says we should trust but verify — by employ cutting-edge monitoring and analytics technology to protect the organization and the data. Should we go further?

Submission + - What pranks have you pulled on scam callers? 1

flatulus writes: My wife has been getting calls repeatedly from "the Windows IT department" about our computer. She tells them she's not biting and hangs up.

This morning I had the pleasure of answering the call. It went like this:

"Hello?"
"Hi, this is the Windows IT department calling about your computer."
"A computer? what's that?"
"I'm calling about your computer."
"Computer? I've never heard of this. What is a computer?"
"What is a computer? OK, buddy — get lost" (hangup)

So, what fun stories do you have about pranking scammers?
Science

Submission + - Underwater Spider Spins Itself an Aqualung (sciencemag.org)

sciencehabit writes: In the ponds of northern Europe lives a tiny brown spider with a bubble on its back. The 10-millimeter-long Argyroneta aquatica is the only spider in the world that spends its entire life underwater. But just like land spiders, it needs oxygen to breathe. So every so often, it leaves its underwater web home to visit the surface and brings back a bubble of air that sticks to its hairy abdomen. It deposits the bubble into a little silk air tank spun for the purpose. This "diving bell," researchers have now found, is not just a repository. It's actually a gill that sucks oxygen from the water, allowing the spider to stay under for up to 24 hours.

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