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Submission + - Transport employees were secretly paid by the DEA to search travelers bags (economist.com)

schwit1 writes: THERE are many reasons why you might have been stopped at an American transport hub and your bag searched by officials. You might have be chosen at random. Perhaps you matched a profile. Or you could have been flagged by an airline, railroad or security employee who was being secretly paid by the government as a confidential informant to uncover evidence of drug smuggling.

A committee of Congress heard remarkable testimony last week about a long-running programme by the Drug Enforcement Administration. For years, officials from the Department of Justice testified, the DEA has paid millions of dollars to a variety of confidential sources to provide tips on travellers who may be transporting drugs or large sums of money. Those sources include staff at airlines, Amtrak, parcel services and even the Transportation Safety Administration.

The testimony follows a report by the Justice Department that uncovered the DEA programme and detailed its many potential violations. According to that report, airline employees and other informers had an incentive to search more travellers' bags, since they received payment whenever their actions resulted in DEA seizures of cash or contraband. The best-compensated of these appears to have been a parcel company employee who received more than $1m from the DEA over five years. One airline worker, meanwhile, received $617,676 from 2012 to 2015 for tips that led to confiscations. But the DEA itself profited much more from the programme. That well-paid informant got only about 12% of the amount the agency seized as a result of the his tips.

Submission + - Orwell's toys

Presto Vivace writes: These Toys Don’t Just Listen To Your Kid; They Send What They Hear To A Defense Contractor

According to a coalition of consumer-interest organizations, the makers of two “smart” kids toys — the My Friend Cayla doll and the i-Que Intelligent Robot — are allegedly violating laws in the U.S. and overseas by collecting this sort of voice data without obtaining consent. ... ... In a complaint [PDF] filed this morning with the Federal Trade Commission, the coalition — made up of the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC), the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood (CCFC), the Center for Digital Democracy (CDD), and our colleagues at Consumers Union — argue that Genesis Toys, a company that manufactures interactive and robotic toys, and Nuance Communications, which supplies the voice-parsing services for these toys, are running afoul of rules that protect children’s privacy and prohibiting unfair and deceptive practices.

Submission + - Russian Supply Rocket Malfunctions, Breaks Up Over Siberia En Route To ISS (npr.org)

An anonymous reader writes: An unmanned cargo rocket bound for the International Space Station was destroyed after takeoff on Thursday. The Russian rocket took off as planned from Baikonur, Kazahkstan, on Thursday morning but stopped transmitting data about six minutes into its flight, as NPR's Rae Ellen Bichell reported: "'Russian officials say the spacecraft failed ... when it was about 100 miles above a remote part of Siberia. The ship was carrying more than 2 1/2 tons of supplies — including food, fuel and clothes. Most of that very likely burned up as the unmanned spacecraft fell back toward Earth. NASA says the six crew members on board the International Space station, including two Americans, are well stocked for now.'" This is the fourth botched launch of an unmanned Russian rocket in the past two years.

Submission + - Matt Taibbi: 'Washington Post' 'Blacklist' Story Is Shameful and Disgusting (rollingstone.com)

MyFirstNameIsPaul writes: From the article:

Most high school papers wouldn't touch sources like these. But in November 2016, both the president-elect of the United States and the Washington Post are equally at ease with this sort of sourcing.

Even worse, the Post apparently never contacted any of the outlets on the "list" before they ran their story. Yves Smith at Naked Capitalism says she was never contacted. Chris Hedges of Truthdig, who was part of a group that won the Pulitzer Prize for The New York Times once upon a time, said the same. "We were named," he tells me. "I was not contacted."

Hedges says the Post piece was an "updated form of Red-Baiting."

"This attack signals an open war on the independent press," he says. "Those who do not spew the official line will be increasingly demonized in corporate echo chambers such as the Post or CNN as useful idiots or fifth columnists."


Submission + - Trump considering MIT grad for head Science position (thelibertyconservative.com)

SonicSpike writes: A confidential source on the Trump transition team has told The Liberty Conservative that Rep. Thomas Massie, an award-winning, MIT-educated engineer, elected to Congress in 2012, is under consideration for the job of Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy, a role commonly known as Science Advisor to the President. Massie currently serves as Chairman for the Subcommittee on Technology and Innovation in the House of Representatives and is a libertarian-leaning Republican.

Submission + - Aspartame stops us from getting slimmer (dw.com)

schwit1 writes: For some time, nutritionists have suspected that artificial sweetener — often used as a substitute for sugar in coffee or added as an essential ingredient in diet sodas — does not help people lose weight. However, scientists have struggled to understand why this is the case.

Now, researchers from the Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) have found a lead. "We found that aspartame blocks a gut enzyme called intestinal alkaline phosphatase (IAP)". IAP is produced in the small intestine. "We previously showed [this enzyme] can prevent obesity, diabetes and metabolic syndrome [a disease characterized by a combination of obesity, high blood pressure, a metabolic disorder and insulin resistence]. So, we think that aspartame might not work because, even as it is substituting for sugar, it blocks the beneficial aspects of IAP."

The researchers confirmed their suspicions via a variety of tests on mice. In one case, they fed IAP directly to mice, who were also on a high-fat diet. It turned out that the IAP could effectively prevent the emergence of the metabolic syndrome. It also helped relieve symptoms in animals that were already suffering from the obesity-related illness.

Submission + - Fidel Castro is Dead (nytimes.com) 2

Striek writes: Fidel Castro, the fiery apostle of revolution who brought the Cold War to the Western Hemisphere in 1959 and then defied the United States for nearly half a century as Cuba’s maximum leader, bedeviling 11 American presidents and briefly pushing the world to the brink of nuclear war, died Friday. He was 90.

His death was announced by Cuban state television.

In declining health for several years, Mr. Castro had orchestrated what he hoped would be the continuation of his Communist revolution, stepping aside in 2006 when he was felled by a serious illness. He provisionally ceded much of his power to his younger brother Raúl, now 85, and two years later formally resigned as president. Raúl Castro, who had fought alongside Fidel Castro from the earliest days of the insurrection and remained minister of defense and his brother’s closest confidant, has ruled Cuba since then, although he has told the Cuban people he intends to resign in 2018.

Submission + - SPAM: FTC: Homeopathy 'treatments' must be labelled to say they do not work

schwit1 writes: There is a huge market in the US for homeopathic remedies. In 2007 alone, it was estimated Americans spent more than $3bn on a controversial system of alternative medicine created in 1796 by Samuel Hahnemann, and which has long been dismissed by mainstream science.

Now, the US government is requiring that producers of such items ensure that if they want to claim they are effective treatments, then they need to make available the proof. Otherwise, they will need to point out that there is "no scientific evidence that the product works".

Now if we could get the same for the supplement industry ...

Link to Original Source

Submission + - Chinese Scientists Become First To Use CRISPR Gene-Editing On Humans (popularmechanics.com)

An anonymous reader writes: A team of Chinese scientists from Sichuan University in Chengdu have become the first to inject a person with cells modified with the gene-editing tool CRISPR-Cas9. The trial involved modifying a patient's own immune system cells to make them more effective at combating cancer cells and then injecting them back into the patient. The Chinese trial was approved back in July, and United States medical scientists also plan to use CRISPR as an experimental treatment for cancer patients in early 2017. The CRISPR-Cas9 "tool" is a DNA construct that can be injected into any organism—in this case, human immune system T cells—to modify the genome of that organism. It works in three steps: an RNA sequence guides the CRISPR construct to the correct part of the organism's DNA, the Cas9 enzyme "cuts out" that segment of DNA, and then, as an optional third step, a new DNA sequence can be inserted to replace the deleted segment of the genome. In the case of the Chinese trial, conducted October 28 at the West China Hospital in Chengdu, only the first two steps of the CRISPR-Cas9 process were carried out. Immune system cells were extracted from a patient with metastatic lung cancer, and then the gene code that produces a protein called PD-1 was deleted by the Cas9 enzyme. PD-1 instructs T cells to stop or slow an immune system response, and cancer cells can take advantage of this protein to trick the body into responding to the ailment with less than full force. Once the PD-1 protein was removed with CRISPR, the edited cells were cultivated to increase their numbers and then injected back into the patient. This is the first of two injections for the patient, and an additional nine patients in the trial will receive between two and four injections of edited cells, depending on their individual conditions.

Submission + - Let's Talk About Fake News (newslines.org)

sparkydevil writes: The furore about fake news on Facebook and Google hides an uncomfortable truth. Fake news from sites no-one cares about is eclipsed by fake and manipulated news on mainstream media that are supposed to be bastions of truth. The author invites readers to take the The Kovaleski Test, which highlights how much truth has been abandoned in the name of the narrative.

Submission + - Assassination threats against president-elect Trump flood Twitter (nypost.com)

cold fjord writes: As anti-Trump protests and riots have broken out in various cities across the US, assassination threats against president-elect Trump. have flooded Twitter. There is even an associated hash tag: #AssassinateTrump. Federal law enforcement agencies, including the FBI and Secret Service, have reportedly taken notice. Such threats could run afoul of 18 U.S. Code 871 — Threats against President and successors to the Presidency, and result in serious consequences. As noted in The Secret Agents Who Stake Out the Ugliest Corners of the Internet:

Sifting through those messages to determine which, if any, need to be taken seriously is the responsibility of the Secret Service Internet Threat Desk, a group of agents tasked with identifying and assessing online threats to the president and his family. The first part of this mission—finding threats—is in many ways made easier by the Internet: all you have to do is search! Pulling up every tweet which uses the words “Obama” and “assassinate” takes mere seconds, and the Secret Service has tried to make it easier for people to draw threats to its attention by setting up its own Twitter handle, @secretservice, for users to report threatening messages to.


Submission + - Donald Trump Child Rape Victim's Story Was Completely Fabricated (inquisitr.com) 9

Okian Warrior writes: The Donald Trump child rape victim’s story, as revealed early this morning by Daily Mail, is a work of complete fiction.

Katie Johnson herself spoke with journalists about why she lied and made herself into the Donald Trump child rape victim. “We would have a rapist in the White House. I would feel horrified every single day if I stay in this country,” she said, making it apparent that, although the GOP-running presidential hopeful never sexually assaulted her, she still believes he’s a rapist.

Katie maintains that she was sexually abused on more than one occasion by Jeffrey Epstein during mid-1994. A separate informant told Daily Mail that her story “had been believable and compelling right up until the last minute,” when it was found out “Donald Trump’s name had been inserted into this, [and] he was not involved whatsoever.”

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