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Submission Summary: 4 pending, 1077 declined, 589 accepted (1670 total, 35.27% accepted)

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Submission + - How Your Digital Helper May Undermine Your Welfare, and Our Democracy (ssrn.com)

schwit1 writes: “All you need to do is say,” a recent article proclaimed, “’I want a beer’ and Alexa will oblige. The future is now.” Advances in technology have seemingly increased our choices and opened markets to competition. As we migrate from brick-and-mortar shops to online commerce, we seemingly are getting more of what we desire at better prices and quality. And yet, behind the competitive façade, a more complex reality exists. We explore in our book "Virtual Competition" several emerging threats, namely algorithmic collusion, behavioural discrimination and abuses by dominant super-platforms. But the harm is not just economic. The potential anticompetitive consequences go beyond our pocketbooks. The toll will likely be on our privacy, well-being and democracy.

Submission + - Popular belief that saturated fat clogs up arteries is a myth, experts say (independent.ie)

schwit1 writes: The authors, led by Dr Aseem Malhotra, from Lister Hospital, Stevenage, wrote: “Despite popular belief among doctors and the public, the conceptual model of dietary saturated fat clogging a pipe is just plain wrong.”

Dr Malhotra and colleagues Professor Rita Redberg, from the University of California at San Francisco, and Pascal Meier from University Hospital Geneva in Switzerland and University College London, cited a “landmark” review of evidence that appeared to exonerate saturated fat.
They said relative levels of “good” cholesterol, or high density lipoprotein (HDL), were a better predictor of heart disease risk than levels of low density lipoprotein (LDL), also known as “bad” cholesterol.

High consumption of foods rich in saturated fat such as butter, cakes and fatty meat has been shown to increase blood levels of LDL.
The experts wrote: “It is time to shift the public health message in the prevention and treatment of coronary artery disease away from measuring serum lipids (blood fats) and reducing dietary saturated fat.

“Coronary artery disease is a chronic inflammatory disease and it can be reduced effectively by walking 22 minutes a day and eating real food.”

Submission + - How Russia's next ISS module got contaminated (russianspaceweb.com)

schwit1 writes: Russia's next module for ISS, MLM or Nauka, has been delayed years because of the discovery of sawdust sized metal particles throughout the module's propulsion system. This article describes how this happened, showing the incredibly incompetence and bad quality control that caused it.

At the time, workers at Khrunichev were cutting pipelines and removing other components of the module's propulsion system, in order to reconfigure it from its original role as a backup to the Zarya FGB module into the MLM. For example, a set of six tanks, which would be used for refueling of the ISS during the FGB mission, were removed from the exterior of the spacecraft in order to make room for scientific instruments and for the attachment of the European Robotic Arm, ERA.

The official conclusion of the probe said that the contamination had stemmed from the "lack of methodological and technological support for the operations of cutting pipeline connections in the pneumatic and hydraulic system, PGS, which was needed to guarantee the meeting of requirements for ensuring the sterility of the internal cavities in the pipelines and system hardware." It is essentially bureaucratic speak for letting metallic dust formed during sawing off the lines pour into the interior of the remaining components.

According to one legend circulating at GKNPTs Khrunichev, the workers who were sawing off pipelines from the module thought they were dismantling the entire spacecraft for scrap. That story would sound completely unbelievable if not for other almost as incredible incidents of carelessness, poor quality control and incompetence within the industry in recent years, such as the installing navigation sensors on a Proton rocket in the upside down position or loading a Block DM-03 space tug on another Proton with too much propellant.

It is most revealing of the overall systemic problems within Russia's aerospace industry.

Submission + - Yesterday's Broad Power Outage Likely Caused By Geomagnetic Storm (stockboardasset.com)

schwit1 writes: Yesterday, a massive US power grid failure was seen across the entire United States in one simultaneous fashion. San Fransisco, New York, and Los Angeles were the three main areas that were hit the hardest. Each of the areas experienced challenges or shut downs in business commerce. Also, basic infrastructure such as communication networks, mass transportation, and supply chains experienced challenges. To many this seemed apocalyptic with anaylst citing possible cyber attacks amid mounting geopolitical turmoil across the globe. We're shocked that mainstream media didn't revive the failing Russian narrative for another round of fake news to confuse the masses. Personally, I don't think it was a cyber attack or the Russians, but more of a Space Weather Event.

Space weather refers to the environmental conditions in Earth's magnetosphere, ionosphere and thermosphere due to the Sun and the solar wind that can influence the functioning and reliability of spaceborne and ground-based systems and services or endanger property or human health.

Submission + - EFF Says Google Chromebooks Are Still Spying on Students (softpedia.com)

schwit1 writes: In the past two years since a formal complaint was made against Google, not much has changed in the way they handle this.

Google still hasn't shed its "bad guy" clothes when it comes to the data it collects on underage students. In fact, the Electronic Frontier Foundation says the company continues to massively collect and store information on children without their consent or their parents'. Not even school administrators fully understand the extent of this operation, the EFF says.

According to the latest status report from the EFF, Google is still up to no good, trying to eliminate students privacy without their parents notice or consent and "without a real choice to opt out." This, they say, is done via the Chromebooks Google is selling to schools across the United States.

Submission + - Operation Gotham Shield: U.S. Gov't To "Simulate Nuke Blast Over Manhattan" (infowars.com)

schwit1 writes: It is a tabletop, joint agency exercise during April 24-26th, involving FEMA, Homeland Security and a myriad of law enforcement and military agencies. WMD, chemical and biological units will all be on hand as a response is tested for a “simulated” nuclear detonation over the United States’ foremost urban center, in the iconic and densely populated island of Manhattan and nearby shores of New Jersey.

Submission + - Diet Sodas Raise Risk of Dementia and Stroke, Study Finds (medpagetoday.com)

schwit1 writes: We found that those people who were consuming diet soda on a daily basis were three times as likely to develop both stroke and dementia within the next 10 years as compared to those who did not consume diet soda, researchers reported Thursday.

The researchers, led by Matthew Pase of the Boston University School of Medicine and colleagues, studied more than 4,000 people for their report, published in the journal Stroke.

To their surprise, the team did not find the same risk for sugar-sweetened beverages. But they found other troubling signs. "In our first study we found that those who more frequently consume sugary beverages such as fruit juices and sodas had greater evidence of accelerated brain aging such as overall smaller brain volumes, they had poorer memory function and they also had smaller hippocampus, which is an area of the brain important for memory consolidation," Pase said.

Submission + - Ivy League Schools Received $41.59B in Taxpayer Payments & Benefits Over 6 Y (heatst.com)

schwit1 writes: A study by the fiscal transparency advocate Open The Books released an eye-opening study on how many government handouts Ivy League universities receive on an annual basis.

Since 2010, taxpayers have shelled over $41.59 billion in payments and funding for these elite universities — around $6.93 billion annually. Specifically, the schools got $25.73 billion in direct payments through contracts, grants, and student aid.

A number of these federal grants facilitated the study of topics like "the influence of women's employment on marriage in Bangladesh," "ethics in Tanzania," "wintering grounds for gold-winged warblers," "urban black men who have sex with men and women," and the question "what does health insurance do."

The schools also received special tax breaks on their endowments, which equal $119.41 billion combined. Every Ivy League school has an endowment well into the billions, with laggard Brown University at $3.2 billion and leader Harvard's at $35.7 billion.

Submission + - 44% Of Americans Won't Pay Any Federal Income Tax (zerohedge.com)

schwit1 writes: More than four in 10 American households (44.3%) — or upwards of 76 million — didn't pay any income tax to the federal government last year, according to data for 2016 from the Tax Policy Center. This year that number is expected to be roughly the same, at 43.9%.

Most of these people aren't paying income taxes because they either don't have any income that is taxable (many fall below the poverty line), or because they get enough tax breaks and don't owe the government money. Common tax breaks include the child tax credit, the earned income tax credit (EITC), and the exclusion of some or all Social Security income, explains Roberton Williams of the Tax Policy Center.

Submission + - If you want my attention, pay me (usatoday.com)

schwit1 writes: Napoleon famously told his generals, “Ask me for anything but time.” For me, it’s more like, “Ask me for anything but attention.” Or at least, be prepared to pay. It’s an idea whose time may have come.

Submission + - North Korea Parades New Long-Range 'Frankenmissile' (wsj.com)

schwit1 writes: North Korea showed off what appeared to be at least one new long-range missile at a military parade Saturday, as tensions simmer over the possibility of a military confrontation between the U.S. and North Korea.

The weaponry on show, which appeared to include a newly-modified intercontinental ballistic missile and two types of large launchers with never-before-seen missile canisters, is likely to trigger fresh concerns about the speed with which Pyongyang’s missile program has advanced in recent years.

An expert on North Korean weapons said the new hardware appeared to be far more advanced than expected.

“We’re totally floored right now,” said Dave Schmerler, a research associate at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies in Monterey, Calif. “I was not expecting to see this many new missile designs.”

Mr. Schmerler called the new ICBM, which appeared to have elements of two other ICBMS, the KN-08 and KN-14 missiles, a “frankenmissile.”

Submission + - Can an Airline Really Just Yank You Off the Plane? (popularmechanics.com) 1

schwit1 writes: By now there's a good chance you've seen the shocking video from a United Airlines plane at Chicago's O'Hare airport. The clip—in which a bloodied man is forcibly dragged off an overbooked flight to make room for an airline employee—has justifiably caused a sensation on social media. And lots of people who saw the fracas must have wondered: Does the airline really have the right to do this?

The short answer, according to aviation and government sources, is that airlines have a lot of leeway to remove a traveler from a plane, for any reason. "Passengers have far fewer 'rights' than they imagine," says George Hobica, president of AirfareWatchdog.com.

Submission + - Kim Jong Un's rockets are getting an important boost — from China (washingtonpost.com)

schwit1 writes: When North Korea launched its Kwangmyongsong-4 satellite into space last February, officials heralded the event as a birthday gift for dead leader Kim Jong Il. But the day also brought an unexpected prize for the country’s adversaries: priceless intelligence in the form of rocket parts that fell into the Yellow Sea.

Entire sections of booster rocket were snagged by South Korea’s navy and then scrutinized by international weapons experts for clues about the state of North Korea’s missile program. Along with motor parts and wiring, investigators discerned a pattern. Many key components were foreign-made, acquired from businesses based in China.

The trove “demonstrates the continuing critical importance of high-end, foreign-sourced components” in building the missiles North Korea uses to threaten its neighbors, a U.N. expert team concluded in a report released last month. When U.N. officials contacted the implicated Chinese firms to ask about the parts, the report said, they received only silence.

Submission + - Apple has a secret team working on the holy grail for treating diabetes (cnbc.com)

schwit1 writes:

Apple has hired a small team of biomedical engineers to work at a nondescript office in Palo Alto, miles from corporate headquarters. They are part of a super secret initiative, initially envisioned by the late Apple co-founder Steve Jobs, to develop sensors that can non-invasively and continuously monitor blood sugar levels to better treat diabetes, according to three people familiar with the matter.

Such a breakthrough would be a “holy grail” for life sciences. Many life sciences companies have tried and failed, as it’s highly challenging to track glucose levels accurately without piercing the skin.

The initiative is far enough along that Apple has been conducting feasibility trials at clinical sites across the Bay Area and has hired consultants to help it figure out the regulatory pathways, the people said.

From a business aspect, the most interesting part of this venture might be how Apple combines its penchant for secrecy with maneuvering through those regulatory pathways. It’s one thing to introduce another new bit of consumer electronics kit. It’s an entirely other thing to get a medical device past the FDA.

Submission + - The Dark Secret at the Heart of AI (technologyreview.com)

schwit1 writes: No one really knows how the most advanced algorithms do what they do. That could be a problem.

Last year, a strange self-driving car was released onto the quiet roads of Monmouth County, New Jersey. The experimental vehicle, developed by researchers at the chip maker Nvidia, didn’t look different from other autonomous cars, but it was unlike anything demonstrated by Google, Tesla, or General Motors, and it showed the rising power of artificial intelligence. The car didn’t follow a single instruction provided by an engineer or programmer. Instead, it relied entirely on an algorithm that had taught itself to drive by watching a human do it.

Getting a car to drive this way was an impressive feat. But it’s also a bit unsettling, since it isn’t completely clear how the car makes its decisions. Information from the vehicle’s sensors goes straight into a huge network of artificial neurons that process the data and then deliver the commands required to operate the steering wheel, the brakes, and other systems. The result seems to match the responses you’d expect from a human driver. But what if one day it did something unexpected—crashed into a tree, or sat at a green light? As things stand now, it might be difficult to find out why. The system is so complicated that even the engineers who designed it may struggle to isolate the reason for any single action. And you can’t ask it: there is no obvious way to design such a system so that it could always explain why it did what it did.

The mysterious mind of this vehicle points to a looming issue with artificial intelligence. The car’s underlying AI technology, known as deep learning, has proved very powerful at solving problems in recent years, and it has been widely deployed for tasks like image captioning, voice recognition, and language translation. There is now hope that the same techniques will be able to diagnose deadly diseases, make million-dollar trading decisions, and do countless other things to transform whole industries.

But this won’t happen—or shouldn’t happen—unless we find ways of making techniques like deep learning more understandable to their creators and accountable to their users. Otherwise it will be hard to predict when failures might occur—and it’s inevitable they will. That’s one reason Nvidia’s car is still experimental.

To be fair, we don’t really understand how natural intelligence works, either.

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