Medicine

E-Cigarettes Linked To Helping People Quit Smoking, Says Study (theverge.com) 46

According to a new study, electronic cigarettes help people trying to quit smoking. The Verge reports: For the study, published today in the journal BMJ, researchers analyzed survey data from over 160,000 people spanning almost 15 years. They found that smokers who used e-cigs tried to quit smoking more often and succeeded (for at least three months) more often than smokers who didn't use e-cigs. Overall, more people quit in the latest year that data was available -- the 2014 -- 15 year -- than in the 2010 -- 11 year. Today's study didn't address whether e-cigs are luring people who would otherwise be nonsmokers. But it did find that e-cigs do have a role in helping people quit. The researchers looked at several population surveys that cover the years 2001 to 2015. These surveys provided smoking-cessation rates, and the most recent survey, from 2014 to 2015, had information about e-cigarette usage. The results show that 65 percent of e-cigarette users had tried to quit smoking, versus 40 percent of people who smoked but didn't use e-cigs. About 8 percent of e-cig users succeeded in quitting for at least three months, compared to about 5 percent of non-users. Overall, the number of people who quit smoking increased by 1.1 percentage points in 2015 from 2011. This might not seem that impressive, but it still represents about 350,000 people.
Businesses

The Inside Story of the Lily Drone's Collapse (wired.com) 48

New submitter mirandakatz writes: Lily Robotics had everything: Two charismatic young founders; millions in funding; and a product that promised to change the world -- or, at the very least, transform photography. But over 60,000 customers are still waiting for their Lily Drones, and the company is now being sued by the San Francisco District Attorney's office for false advertising. As it turns out, Lily Robotics never actually had the right tools to create the product it was selling -- and it all came crashing down. At Backchannel, Jessica Pishko has the untold story of how such a promising company went so wrong.

From the report: "The magic of the Lily Drone was in its concept: It was a product you could unpack and throw -- so easy, Antoine Balaresque, the cofounder and CEO of Lily Robotics, wrote in emails, that even an old person could do it. But translating that idea into a tangible product proved difficult, and the storytelling that made the Lily Drone so tantalizing to consumers ultimately factored into its downfall. In one of his presentations, Balaresque presented a PowerPoint slide with the sentence, 'Humans have a fundamental need to put themselves in the center of stories.' It appeared to be a quote he made up, but the idea that human nature needs stories is fundamental. Stories are how we make sense of our lives. But while a good story can get you funding and acclaim, ultimately it isn't enough."

Medicine

Stem Cell Brain Implants Could 'Slow Aging and Extend Life,' Study Shows (theguardian.com) 55

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Guardian: Scientists have slowed down the aging process by implanting stem cells into the brains of animals, raising hopes for new strategies to combat age-related diseases and extend the human lifespan. Implants of stem cells that make fresh neurons in the brain were found to put the brakes on aging in older mice, keeping them more physically and mentally fit for months, and extending their lives by 10-15% compared to untreated animals. The work, described as a tour de force and a breakthrough by one leading expert, suggests that aging across the body is controlled by stem cells that are found in the hypothalamus region of the brain in youth, but which steadily die off until they are almost completely absent in middle age. Researchers at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York hope to launch clinical trials of the procedure soon, but must first produce supplies of human neural stem cells in the lab which can be implanted into volunteers. The study has been published in the journal Nature.
Education

Scientists Propose To Raise the Standards For Statistical Significance In Research Studies (sciencemag.org) 92

sciencehabit shares a report from Science Magazine: A megateam of reproducibility-minded scientists is renewing a controversial proposal to raise the standard for statistical significance in research studies. They want researchers to dump the long-standing use of a probability value (p-value) of less than 0.05 as the gold standard for significant results, and replace it with the much stiffer p-value threshold of 0.005. Backers of the change, which has been floated before, say it could dramatically reduce the reporting of false-positive results -- studies that claim to find an effect when there is none -- and so make more studies reproducible. And they note that researchers in some fields, including genome analysis, have already made a similar switch with beneficial results.

"If we're going to be in a world where the research community expects some strict cutoff ... it's better that that threshold be .005 than .05. That's an improvement over the status quo," says behavioral economist Daniel Benjamin of the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, first author on the new paper, which was posted 22 July as a preprint article on PsyArXiv and is slated for an upcoming issue of Nature Human Behavior. "It seemed like this was something that was doable and easy, and had worked in other fields."

Bitcoin

SEC Rules That ICO Tokens Are Securities (vice.com) 63

schwit1 shares a report from Business Insider: On Tuesday, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) said that "ICOs" (Initial Coin Offerings) can sometimes be considered securities -- and as such are subject to strict laws and regulations. For the uninitiated, ICOs are a fancy new way of fundraising enabled by digital currencies like Ethereum -- participants invest money and receive digital "tokens" in return. Thus far, it has been largely unregulated, with some ICO crowdfunding events raising hundreds of millions of dollars -- leading some observers to argue that it is a massive bubble. But the SEC's warning means that this free-for-all may not last forever.

"Going forward, according to the SEC, companies that are issuing tokens as part of an ICO (if they are considered securities) need to register with the commission," reports Motherboard. "This will force companies to comply with regulations that ask them to reveal their financial position and the identities of their management. The SEC also concluded that online exchanges where tokens are bought and traded may have to register as security exchanges."

schwit1 adds a quote from Benito Mussolini: "All within the state, nothing outside the state, nothing against the state."

Crime

Feds Crack Trump Protesters' Phones To Charge Them With Felony Rioting (thedailybeast.com) 245

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Daily Beast: Officials seized Trump protesters' cell phones, cracked their passwords, and are now attempting to use the contents to convict them of conspiracy to riot at the presidential inauguration. Prosecutors have indicted over 200 people on felony riot charges for protests in Washington, D.C. on January 20 that broke windows and damaged vehicles. Some defendants face up to 75 years in prison, despite little evidence against them. But a new court filing reveals that investigators have been able to crack into at least eight defendants' locked cell phones. Now prosecutors want to use the internet history, communications, and pictures they extracted from the phones as evidence against the defendants in court. [A] July 21 court document shows that investigators were successful in opening the locked phones. The July 21 filing moved to enter evidence from eight seized phones, six of which were "encrypted" and two of which were not encrypted. A Department of Justice representative confirmed that "encrypted" meant additional privacy settings beyond a lock screen. For the six encrypted phones, investigators were able to compile "a short data report which identifies the phone number associated with the cell phone and limited other information about the phone itself," the filing says. But investigators appear to have bypassed the lock on the two remaining phones to access the entirety of their contents.
Patents

Apple Ordered To Pay $506 Million In Damages For Processor Patent Infringement (hothardware.com) 95

MojoKid writes from a report via Hot Hardware: Apple has been ordered to feed a recognized patent troll hundreds of millions of dollars for infringing on a patent that has to do with technology built into its A-series mobile processors. Initially Apple was on the hook for $234 million, owed to the University of Wisconsin-Madison Alumni Research Foundation (WARF) after it won a patent dispute against the Cupertino tech giant. However, a judge this week more than doubled the fine by tacking on an additional $272 million. U.S District Judge William Conley in Madison ruled that Apple owed additional damages plus interest because it continued to infringe on the patent all the way up until it expired in 2016. WARF is reportedly a non-practicing entity that exists only currently by defending its patents in litigation. The lawsuit filed in 2014 involves U.S. Patent No. 5,871,752, which describes the use of a predictor circuit that can help processors run more efficiently. WARF claimed the technology was used in Apple's A7, A8, and A8X processors that power the iPhone 5s, iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus, and various iterations of the iPad. Apple is not commenting on the matter, though it's being reported that Apple plans to fight and appeal the ruling.
AI

Qualcomm Opens Its Mobile Chip Deep Learning Framework To All (techcrunch.com) 12

randomErr shares a report from TechCrunch: Mobile chip maker Qualcomm wants to enable deep learning-based software development on all kinds of devices, which is why it created the Neural Processing Engine (NPE) for its Snapdragon-series mobile processors. The NPE software development kit is now available to all via the Qualcomm Developer Network, which marks the first public release of the SDK, and opens up a lot of potential for AI computing on a range of devices, including mobile phones, in-car platforms and more. The purpose of the framework is to make possible UX implementations like style transfers and filters (basically what Snapchat and Facebook do with their mobile app cameras) with more accurate applications on user photos, as well as other functions better handled by deep learning algorithms, like scene detection, facial recognition, object tracking and avoidance, as well as natural language processing. Basically anything you'd normally route to powerful cloud servers for advanced process, but done locally on device instead.
Google

Google Is Testing Autoplay Videos Directly In Search Results (thenextweb.com) 89

For a select group of individuals, Google has enabled autoplay videos in Search. "We are constantly experimenting with ways to improve the search experience for our users, but have no plans to announce [the feature] at this time," a Google spokesperson told Search Engine Land. Facebook, Instagram and Twitter all have similar features that were introduced fairly recently. If you find automatic videos to be a nuisance, now is the time to let Google know how you feel about this "feature."
Government

Travelers' Electronics At US Airports To Get Enhanced Screening, TSA Says (arstechnica.com) 133

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Aviation security officials will begin enhanced screening measures of passengers' electronics at US airports, the Transportation Security Administration announced Wednesday. Travelers must remove electronics larger than a mobile phone from their carry-on bags and "place them in a bin with nothing on top or below, similar to how laptops have been screened for years. This simple step helps TSA officers obtain a clearer X-ray image," the TSA announced amid growing fears that electronic devices can pose as homemade bombs. The TSA was quick to point out that the revised security measures do not apply to passengers enrolled in the TSA Precheck program.

"Whether you're flying to, from, or within the United States, TSA is committed to raising the baseline for aviation security by strengthening the overall security of our commercial aviation network to keep flying as a safe option for everyone," TSA Acting Administrator Huban A. Gowadia said. "It is critical for TSA to constantly enhance and adjust security screening procedures to stay ahead of evolving threats and keep passengers safe. By separating personal electronic items such as laptops, tablets, e-readers and handheld game consoles for screening, TSA officers can more closely focus on resolving alarms and stopping terror threats."

Businesses

The Quitting Economy (aeon.co) 172

From an essay on Aeon magazing: [...] The CEO of Me, Inc is a job-quitter for a good reason -- the business world has come to realize that market value is the best measure of value. As a consequence, a career means a string of jobs at different companies. So workers respond in kind, thinking about how to shape their career in a world where you can expect so little from employers. In a society where market rules rule, the only way for an employee to know her value is to look for another job and, if she finds one, usually to quit. If you are a white-collar worker, it is simply rational to view yourself first and foremost as a job quitter -- someone who takes a job for a certain amount of time when the best outcome is that you quit for another job (and the worst is that you get laid off). So how does work change when everyone is trying to become a quitter? First of all, in the society of perpetual job searches, different criteria make a job good or not. Good jobs used to be ones with a good salary, benefits, location, hours, boss, co-workers, and a clear path towards promotion. Now, a good job is one that prepares you for your next job, almost always with another company. Your job might be a space to learn skills that you can use in the future. Or, it might be a job with a company that has a good-enough reputation that other companies are keen to hire away its employees. On the other hand, it isn't as good a job if everything you learn there is too specific to that company, if you aren't learning easily transferrable skills. It isn't a good job if it enmeshes you in local regulatory schemes and keeps you tied to a particular location. And it isn't a good job if you have to work such long hours that you never have time to look for the next job. In short, a job becomes a good job if it will lead to another job, likely with another company or organisation. You start choosing a job for how good it will be for you to quit it.
Businesses

Tech Leaders Speak Out Against Trump Ban on Transgender Troops (axios.com) 425

Technology executives, including Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Google CEO Sundar Pichai took to social media to voice their displeasure over President Donald Trump's latest stance on transgendered people in the military.

"I am grateful to the transgender members of the military for their service," Google CEO Sundar Pichai said.
Apple CEO Tim Cook said, "We are indebted to all who serve. Discrimination against anyone holds everyone back."
Brad Smith, Microsoft President and Chief Legal Officer said, "We honor and respect all who serve, including the transgender members of our military."
Salesforce said it "believes in equality for all. We support and thank all U.S. service members, including transgender Americans."
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said, "Everyone should be able to serve their country -- no matter who they are."
Veteran entrepreneur Max Levchin urged support for transgender people across party lines. "Trans kids, soldiers etc need our support today and to know they are valued & respected regardless of politics. Let us not be divided."
Uber told news outlet Axios, "We owe the deepest debt of gratitude to all those who volunteer to serve in the US Armed Forces and defend our values. These patriotic Americans deserve to be honored and respected, not turned away because of who they are."
Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey said, "Discrimination in any form is wrong for all of us."
Technology

One Man's Two-Year Quest Not to Finish Final Fantasy VII (newyorker.com) 108

Simon Parkin, writing for The New Yorker: In 2012, David Curry, a thirty-four-year-old cashier from Southern California, came across a post on an online forum by someone who went by the handle Dick Tree. It contained a herculean proposal: Tree planned to play the 1997 video game Final Fantasy VII for as many hours as it took to raise the characters to their maximum potential, without ever leaving the opening scene, which unfolds in a nuclear reactor. Final Fantasy VII is a role-playing game, a form popularized in the nineteen-seventies by Dungeons & Dragons, in which players' feats -- beasts felled, maidens wooed -- are quantified with "experience points." Accrue enough of these points, and your character ascends a level, at which point it confronts stronger opponents worth more points. Curry estimated that, even playing for a few hours every day, Tree's attempt to raise a character to Level 99 by fighting only the game's weakest enemies would take more than a year to complete. Nevertheless, Tree attracted a following of forum users, including Curry, who cheered the project on and watched it unfold in sporadic posts. Over time, Curry told me recently, Tree's updates became more infrequent. After two years, Tree stopped altogether. "I got fed up with Dick Tree," he said. "So I declared that I would do it myself." Curry had first played Final Fantasy VII several years after its debut, but had set the game down after a few hours, underwhelmed. Although he had participated in a few Web endurance projects -- he once provided commentary on twenty-three seasons' worth of "The Simpsons" -- he had never undertaken a video-game marathon before. "I don't consider myself anything more than a casual gamer," Curry said. But then, on January 18, 2015, he switched on his PlayStation and loaded the game disk. "After that first session, I felt confident that I could complete the challenge," he told me. "I was also confident that I would teach Dick Tree a lesson about finishing what you start."
Microsoft

Microsoft Launches Windows Bug Bounty Program With Rewards Ranging From $500 To $250,000 (venturebeat.com) 29

Microsoft on Wednesday announced the Windows Bounty Program. Rewards start at a minimum of $500 and can go up to as high as $250,000. From a report: To be clear, Microsoft already offers many bug bounty programs. This is also not the first to target Windows features -- the company has launched many Windows-specific bounties for those starting in 2012. The Windows Bounty Program, however, encompasses Windows 10 and even the Windows Insider Preview, the company's program for testing Windows 10 preview builds. Furthermore, it also has specific focus areas: Hyper-V, Mitigation bypass, Windows Defender Application Guard, and Microsoft Edge.
Security

Some Low-Cost Android Phones Come at a Price -- Your Privacy (cnet.com) 77

Cheap phones are coming at the price of your privacy, security analysts discovered. From a report: At $60, the BLU R1 HD is the top-selling phone on Amazon. Last November, researchers caught it secretly sending private data to China. Shanghai Adups Technology, the group behind the spying software on the BLU R1 HD, called it a mistake. But analysts at Kryptowire found the software provider is still making the same "mistake" on other phones. At the Black Hat security conference in Las Vegas on Wednesday, researchers from Kryptowire, a security firm, revealed that Adups' software is still sending a device's data to the company's server in Shanghai without alerting people. But now, it's being more secretive about it. "They replaced them with nicer versions," Ryan Johnson, a research engineer and co-founder at Kryptowire, said. "I have captured the network traffic of them using the Command and Control channel when they did it." An Adups spokeswoman said that it had resolved the issues in 2016 and that the issues "are not existing anymore." Kryptowire said it has observed the company sending data without telling users on at least three different phones.

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