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US Internet Privacy Law Scrapped By House Republicans


      House Republicans Vote To Let Your

      Internet Service Provider Share Your Web History

      Change could also expose your Social Security number and

      information pertaining to your children and health.

      The Huffington Post

      WASHINGTON ― House Republicans jammed through a measure on Tuesday overturning the Obama administration’s rules that would have banned telecom and cable companies from sharing customers’ personal information, including web browsing history, without their consent.

      The House resolution passed 215-205, mostly on party lines. Its companion passed the Senate last week on a 50-48 vote. If President Donald Trump signs the measure into law, internet service providers will win a regulatory victory. But advocates say consumers can kiss network privacy goodbye.

      “ISPs will be able to sell your personal information to the highest bidder ... and they won’t have any real obligation to keep your personal information secure, either,” Gigi Sohn, who previously served as counselor to former Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler, said Monday.

      The FCC adopted rules last October that required companies like Comcast and Verizon to get their customers’ explicit permission before they could share “sensitive” data like Social Security numbers, or information pertaining to children or health. Under the rules — which are not yet in effect — companies also had to tell customers and law enforcement if a potentially harmful data breach occurred. (Verizon is the parent company of The Huffington Post.)

      In a heated floor debate on Tuesday, House Republicans sought to paint the rules as an example of government overreach. “These broadband privacy rules are unnecessary,” said Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), who introduced the resolution.

      But House Democrats warned that Republicans were scrapping common-sense privacy regulations — and predicted a dim future without them. Rep. Michael Capuano (D-Mass.) pointed to a patent application from an ISP for a cable box that would detect whether people were cuddling on the couch through a thermal camera, then show them TV commercials for a romantic getaway or contraceptives. “That’s what this bill will allow, and you can’t turn it off,” he said, calling it “terrible.”

      The measure uses the Congressional Review Act, which allows lawmakers to undo any regulation within 60 days of its finalization, while also barring agencies from writing a “substantially” similar rule after the original one has been overturned. That means the FCC could be banned from regulating ISP privacy issues in the future, said David Segal, executive director of Demand Progress, a grassroots group.

      Trump ran a populist campaign, but his vision for the FCC, a government agency that is supposed to protect consumers from predatory telecom and cable companies, is shaping up to be the opposite, consumer advocates say. The current FCC chairman, Ajit Pai, also opposed Obama’s privacy rules when he was the agency commissioner under the prior administration.

      Internet service providers say it’s not fair they have to be subject to regulations that tech giants like Facebook and Google, which the Federal Trade Commission oversees, don’t have to follow. In response, Republicans have advocated for a privacy framework modeled on the FTC’s approach. But according to Sohn, the FTC rules come into play after harm occurs ― while the FCC’s regulations have the power to protect consumers before they are harmed.

      Advocates, as well as Democrats, say that it doesn’t make sense to regulate an ISP, which has access to everything a person does online, like Google, which only sees some of a person’s internet traffic. As a consumer, “if I don’t like the practices of Google, I can go to Bing; if I don’t like the practices of Bing, I can go to Firefox,” Wheeler told HuffPost on Monday. “But if I don’t like the practice of my network provider, I’m out of luck.”

      “Consumers have entered into a business relationship with ISPs that ISPs are now seeking to change ... [but] it’s not their information, it’s the consumers’ information,” he said.

      Overturning the rules is a win for the 21st Century Privacy Coalition, a group led by former Federal Trade Commission Chairman Jon Leibowitz. The coalition is backed by telecom companies and has spent millions of dollars on lobbying in the past few years.

      “I can’t tell you [the House-approved bill] is not repealing privacy regulations,” Leibowitz told HuffPost on Monday. But, he said, “in a very partisan Washington, where often the only choices are binary, the FCC passed a very flawed regulation.”

      He argued that if the bill is enacted, the FCC can still continue to protect privacy. To do that, it could write another rule ― “if that rule takes a different approach.”

      When asked whether he thought a repeal would improve privacy for consumers, he said only that the Obama administration’s rule would “increase costs to consumers and reduce choices, and reduce competition for privacy.”

      But consumer advocates aren’t buying it. “It’s special interest lobbying as usual,” said Jeff Chester, executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy.

      “These companies are just trying to exploit consumers’ data towards ends of private profit,” said Segal of Demand Progress.

      As of Monday, the Congressional Progressive Caucus said it was opposed to the measure and would be pushing for legislators to vote against it. The office of Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.), first vice chair of that caucus, also noted that they had received a fair amount of calls and emails in favor of the Obama administration rule.

      “Considering how much access providers already have to highly sensitive data, it is absolutely unacceptable for them to monetize personal information,” Pocan said.

      But that wasn’t enough to stop most House Republicans from approving the resolution. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on Tuesday asked ISPs to weigh in on the measure. “This is about profit,” she told her House colleagues in the House. “From America’s most intimate, personal information.”

      This article has been updated with additional comment from Sohn and with comment from Pelosi.


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      Scientists Turn Mammalian Cells Into Complex Biocomputers


          Are we the next or possibly other answer to this AI confrontation happening about us? Augmented and Cyborg abilities are well within grasp. I wonder if humanity will leave itself behind in the grasp for a continuing... future?

          Computer hardware is getting a softer side. A research team has come up with a way of genetically engineering the DNA of mammalian cells to carry out complex computations, in effect turning the cells into biocomputers. The group hasn’t put those modified cells to work in useful ways yet, but down the road researchers hope the new programming techniques will help improve everything from cancer therapy to on-demand tissues that can replace worn-out body parts.

          Engineering cells to function like minicomputers isn’t new. As part of the growing field of synthetic biology, research teams around the globe have been manipulating DNA for years to make cells perform simple actions like lighting up when oxygen levels drop. To date, most such experiments have been done in Escherichia coli and other bacteria, because their genes are relatively easy to manipulate. Researchers have also managed to link multiple genetic circuits together within a single cell to carry out more complex calculations in bacteria.

          Scientists have tried to extend this to mammalian cells to create genetic circuitry that can help detect and treat human diseases. But efforts to construct large-scale genetic circuits in mammalian cells have largely failed: For complex circuits to work, the individual components—the turning on and off of different genes—must happen consistently. The most common way to turn a gene on or off is by using proteins called transcription factors that bind to and regulate the expression of a specific gene. The problem is these transcription factors “all behave slightly differently,” says Wilson Wong, a synthetic biologist at Boston University.


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          After Dino-Killing Asteroid Impact, Life Re-Emerged Quickly

          "THE WOODLANDS, Texas

          Life came back surprisingly quickly to the site of the impact that killed the dinosaurs, new research found.

          When a 6-mile (10 kilometers) asteroid slammed into the Gulf of Mexico 66 million years ago, causing the demise of the dinosaurs as part of the largest mass extinction event in the last 100 million years, it took life on the planet at least 30,000 years to bounce back.

          The space rock also melted the crust and mantle at the point of impact, making modern scientists suspect that life would have had a particularly challenging time recovering at that location.

          Yet a core sample from the crater rim has revealed that, even at ground zero, life managed to bounce back rapidly, closely matching the resurgence of life around the globe. [Wipe Out: History's Most Mysterious Extinctions]"

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          How The Human/Computer Interface Works (Infographics)

          "The long history of user interfaces spans the decades from the primitive punched-card days of the 1950s, through the typed command lines of the 1960s, to the familiar windows and icons of today and beyond.

          Three factors work to both limit and enable human/computer interface development:
          • Computing Power: Increasingly powerful computer hardware enables more sophisticated software interactions.
          • The Imagination of Inventors: Software designers envision new interactions that take advantage of increasing computer power.
          • The Market: Driven by both large corporate customers and also super-popular consumer gadgets like iPad."

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          The Fifth Force Of Physics Is Hanging By A Thread Issue 46: Balance


              "How about that! Mr. Galileo was correct in his findings.” That conclusion wasn’t based on the most careful experiment you’ll ever see, but it was one of the most spectacular in its way—because it was performed on the moon.

              "In 1971, Apollo 15 astronaut David Scott dropped a feather and a hammer from the same height and found that they hit the lunar surface at the same time. The acceleration due to gravity doesn’t depend on a body’s mass or composition, just as Galileo asserted from his (probably apocryphal) experiment on the Leaning Tower of Pisa.

              "Or does it? Jump forward to the front-page headline of The New York Times in January 1986: “Hints of 5th Force in the Universe Challenge Galileo’s Findings.” The newspaper was reporting on a paper in the premier physics journal Physical Review Letters by physicist Ephraim Fischbach and his colleagues, describing evidence that the acceleration due to gravity does vary depending on the chemical composition of the object in question. Gravity, it seemed, was not quite what we thought it was: its effects are modified by what the The New York Times’ reporter John Noble Wilford christened a “fifth force,” adding to the four fundamental forces we already know.

              "More than 30 years later, many experiments have sought to verify this putative fifth force. Yet despite their extraordinary accuracy, none has ever found convincing evidence for it. That search shows no sign of abating, however. Even in the past year a new tantalizing hint that such a force exists has emerged from experiments in nuclear physics, provoking fresh speculation and excitement."


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              What We Can Learn From Trees


                  "Convinced that tree rings could reveal Earth’s climate history, scientist Edmund Schulman spent summers out West hunting the oldest living specimens. He found them in the gnarled, diminutive bristlecone pines. In 1957 Schulman discovered Methuselah, a bristlecone with 4,789 rings. (The ancient tree still stands, its location a guarded secret.) In 1964 another researcher was coring a spectacular specimen in Nevada to determine its age, when the drill bit broke. After the tree was cut down for study and its rings were found to total 4,862, scientists realized that they had unwittingly felled what was then the oldest tree known."


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                  Opening A Window Into The Minds Of Language-Impaired Children


                      "Imagine if every conversation you had was like speaking with someone in a foreign language that you only partially understood. Your conversations—to the extent they could be called that—would be filled with an exasperating combination of confusion, frustration and even embarrassment at being unable to comprehend many of the words and phrases that native speakers take for granted. That’s what it feels like for the nearly 8 percent of U.S. kindergartners who suffer from a developmental disorder called specific language impairment (SLI), except that instead of struggling with a foreign language they find it difficult to communicate verbally in any language.

                      "Children with SLI—also called developmental language disorder—can hear just fine but have difficulty processing the meaning of spoken words. It takes them longer than other children to learn to speak. When they do start to form words and sentences they tend to leave off the grammatical endings of verbs that indicate past tense, and their words do not always come out in the right order. These difficulties affect their ability to read, and thereby their ability to learn in general. Researchers have struggled for years to understand the disorder, challenged by their communication barrier with the children they study. In recent years scientists have begun to realize that their best source of information about SLI is visual rather than verbal—a child’s gaze speaks volumes when words fail.

                      "Eye-tracking technology has already proved itself in a number of research areas. Advertisers and publishers have long scrutinized eye movement to better understand which parts of an ad or article best capture a reader’s attention. Carmakers use similar data to study driver distraction and software companies use eye-tracking technology to help them design games and virtual reality experiences. Researchers value eye tracking when studying kids with SLI and other language disorders because it offers a window into how their young minds work."


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                      Robot Pours A Beer.


                          I thought this was interesting, not least because the beer is Paulaner's excellent alcohol free hefeweizen. The Japanese bot even "remembered" to pre-wet the glass and give the bottle a shake before empying it to stir up the sediment (as is the tradition with such brews.)

                          The only drawback is that it took 3 minutes. lol

                          Also here's a Paulaner review.

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