Self-Driving Cars Will Make Organ Shortages Even Worse

One of the many ways self-driving cars will impact the world is with organ shortages. It’s a morbid thought, but the most reliable sources for healthy organs and tissues are the more than 35,000 people killed each year on American roads. According to the book “Driverless: Intelligent Cars and the Road Ahead,” 1 in 5 organ donations comes from the victim of a vehicular accident. Since an estimated 94 percent of motor-vehicle accidents involve some kind of a driver error, it’s easy to see how autonomous vehicles could make the streets and highways safer, while simultaneously making organ shortages even worse. Slate reports: As the number of vehicles with human operators falls, so too will the preventable fatalities. In June, Christopher A. Hart, the chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board, said, “Driverless cars could save many if not most of the 32,000 lives that are lost every year on our streets and highways.” Even if self-driving cars only realize a fraction of their projected safety benefits, a decline in the number of available organs could begin as soon as the first wave of autonomous and semiautonomous vehicles hits the road — threatening to compound our nation’s already serious shortages. We’re all for saving lives — we aren’t saying that we should stop self-driving cars so we can preserve a source of organ donation. But we also need to start thinking now about how to address this coming problem. The most straightforward fix would be to amend a federal law that prohibits the sale of most organs, which could allow for development of a limited organ market. Organ sales have been banned in the United States since 1984, when Congress passed the National Organ Transplant Act after a spike in demand (thanks to the introduction of the immunosuppressant cyclosporine, which improved transplant survival rates from 20-30 percent to 60-70 percent) raised concerns that people’s vital appendages might be “treated like fenders in an auto junkyard.” Others feared an organ market would exploit minorities and those living in poverty. But the ban hasn’t completely protected those populations, either. The current system hasn’t stopped organ harvesting — the illegal removal of organs from the recently deceased without the consent of the person or family — either in the United States or abroad. It is estimated that, worldwide, as many as 10,000 black market medical operations are performed each year that involve illegally purchased organs. So what would an ethical fix to our organ transplant shortage look like? To start, while there’s certainly a place for organ donation markets in the United States, implementation will be understandably slow. There are, however, small steps that can get us closer to a just system. For one, the country could consider introducing a “presumed consent” rule. This would change state organ donation registries from affirmative opt-in systems (checking that box at the DMV that yes, you do want to be an organ donor) to an affirmative opt-out system where, unless you state otherwise, you’re presumed to consent to be on the list.

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Apple Patent Hints At Magnetic Ear Hooks To Keep Future AirPods In Your Ears

Patently Apple has recently uncovered a new Apple patent that may help AirPods stay in your ears. The patent details a magnetic mechanism that wraps around the user’s ear. Digital Trends reports: The magnets attract each other through the ear tissue, keeping the AirPods in place and ensuring that they don’t get lost. Of course, it’s not certain if Apple filed this patent with AirPods in mind — one of the images clearly shows a wired pair of headphones, and the patent was filed in June. The concept, however, would help keep both wired and wireless earbuds in place. The issue of keeping AirPods in the ear has been arguably the biggest issue related to the AirPods, and for good reason — they’re pretty expensive little devices, so losing them is definitely not something you want to do. It’s possible that Apple decided against using the ear hooks for aesthetic reasons — Apple is known for its excellent design and the ear hooks in the patent don’t exactly look great. Not only that but the design of the charging case would have to change with the ear hooks. Some reports indicate that the patent could be implemented with future versions and given the hullaballoo surrounding keeping AirPods in, we wouldn’t be totally surprised. It’s also possible, however, that Apple patented the design but ultimately ended up nixing it.

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China Says It Will Shut Down Ivory Trade By End of 2017

An anonymous reader quotes a report from ABC News: China says it plans to shut down its ivory trade by the end of 2017 in a move designed to curb the mass slaughter of African elephants. The Chinese government will end the processing and selling of ivory and ivory products by the end of March as it phases out the legal trade, according to a statement released on Friday. China had previously announced it planned to shut down the commercial trade, which conservationists described as significant because China’s vast, increasingly affluent consumer market drives much of the elephant poaching across Africa. China, which has supported an ivory-carving industry as part of its cultural heritage, said carvers will be encouraged to change their activities and work, for example, in the restoration of artifacts for museums. More efforts will be made to stop the illegal trade, the statement said. China has allowed trade in ivory acquired before a 1989 ban on the ivory trade by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, which seeks to regulate the multi-billion-dollar trade in wild animals and plants. The number of Africa’s savannah elephants dropped by about 30 percent from 2007 to 2014, to 352,000, because of poaching, according to a study published this year. Forest elephants, which are more difficult to count, are also under severe threat.

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How Russia Recruited Elite Hackers For Its Cyberwar

Lasrick quotes a report from The New York Times (Warning: source may be paywalled; alternate source): For more than three years, rather than rely on military officers working out of isolated bunkers, Russian government recruiters have scouted a wide range of programmers, placing prominent ads on social media sites, offering jobs to college students and professional coders, and even speaking openly about looking in Russia’s criminal underworld for potential talent. From the New York Post: “Russia’s Defense Ministry bought advertising on Vkontakta, the country’s most popular social media site, to lure those who were more talented with a keyboard than an AK-47 rifle. ‘If you graduated from college, if you are a technical specialist, if you are ready to use your knowledge, we give you an opportunity,’ the ad promised, according to the Times. The ad went on to assure recruits that they would be part of units called science squadrons based at military installations where they would live in ‘comfortable accommodation’ and showed an apartment outfitted with a washing machine, the Times reported. The Defense Ministry even dangled the chance to dodge Russia’s mandatory draft by allowing university students to join a science squadron instead and then questioned them about their proficiency with programming languages, the report said.”

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NASA Designs 'Ice Dome' For Astronauts On Mars

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Phys.Org: The “Mars Ice Home” is a large inflatable dome that is surrounded by a shell of water ice. NASA said the design is just one of many potential concepts for creating a sustainable home for future Martian explorers. The idea came from a team at NASA’s Langley Research Center that started with the concept of using resources on Mars to help build a habitat that could effectively protect humans from the elements on the Red Planet’s surface, including high-energy radiation. The advantages of the Mars Ice Home is that the shell is lightweight and can be transported and deployed with simple robotics, then filled with water before the crew arrives. The ice will protect astronauts from radiation and will provide a safe place to call home, NASA says. But the structure also serves as a storage tank for water, to be used either by the explorers or it could potentially be converted to rocket fuel for the proposed Mars Ascent Vehicle. Then the structure could be refilled for the next crew. Other concepts had astronauts living in caves, or underground, or in dark, heavily shielded habitats. The team said the Ice Home concept balances the need to provide protection from radiation, without the drawbacks of an underground habitat. The design maximizes the thickness of ice above the crew quarters to reduce radiation exposure while also still allowing light to pass through ice and surrounding materials.

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Seattle Man Accused of Using Social Media To Set Up Fake Porn Agency

The Washington State Attorney General’s Office has charged a Seattle man for setting up a fake talent agency for adult entertainers in order to trick women into posing nude and having sex with him. NBC News reports: Michael-Jon Matthew Hickey is accused of creating a fictitious business and using deceptive ads with bogus employment offers to find his victims. The lawsuit alleges Hickey offered and advertised commercial services solely for his “own personal gain” and to “satisfy his sexual desires” with no intention of following through on the promised services to help these women find jobs. Hickey, a 40-year old technology blogger and aspiring photographer, is charged with numerous violations of the Washington Consumer Protection Act and the Commercial Electronic Mail Act. Assistant Attorney General Andrea Alegrett, who is handling the consumer protection case, told NBC News Hickey had developed “a sophisticated scam” which involved fake business websites, fictional people, and bogus contact information. The lawsuit alleges Hickey pretended to be a woman named Deja Stwalley, who claimed to live in Las Vegas where she ran a number of talent companies, including New Seattle Talent, West Coast Talent and FMH Modeling. The New SeattleTalent website stated: “We work as recruiters and scouts for some of the top studios in the Northwest. Our goal is to be the top recruiting group for girls in America. We’re woman-founded and woman-owned, and take the talent’s safety and welfare seriously.” Hickey, posing as Stwalley, would contact women between the ages of 17 and 25 via Facebook and offer them a chance to audition for an adult film studio. Stwalley assured each woman that they “TOTALLY have the look they’re going for” and could earn between $1,200 and $3,500 a day, the AG’s complaint alleges. Digital Security expert Adam Levin, Chairman and founder of Identity Theft 911, said this case shows just how easy it is for someone to use social media for fraudulent purposes.

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Toshiba Is 'Burning Cash At An Alarming Rate'

bsharma quotes a report from Reuters: Faced with the prospect of a multibillion-dollar write-down that could wipe out its shareholders’ equity, Japan’s Toshiba is running out of fixes: It is burning cash, cannot issue shares, and has few easy assets left to sell. The Tokyo-based conglomerate, which is still recovering from a $1.3 billion accounting scandal in 2015, dismayed investors and lenders again this week by announcing that cost overruns at a U.S. nuclear business bought only last year meant it could now face a crippling charge against profit. Toshiba says it will be weeks before it can give a final number, but a write-down of the scale expected — as much as 500 billion yen ($4.3 billion), according to one source close to Toshiba — would leave the group scrambling to plug the financial hole and keep up hefty investments in the competitive memory chip industry, which generates the bulk of its operating profit. “Toshiba’s immediate problem is that it is burning cash at an alarming rate, and this will be more than challenging,” said Ken Courtis, chairman of Starfort Investment Holdings. “I see little option but to sell a slew of non-core assets.”One source in the semiconductor industry said Toshiba could revive plans to list a slice of the memory chip business, which though highly profitable burns through cash for reinvestment. “Toshiba will probably need to sell 30-40 percent of the NAND business in an IPO to secure enough cash,” the source said, adding China’s aggressive drive into NAND flash memory chips could make the timing reasonable. The group has already said it could reconsider the “positioning” of its nuclear business, deemed core last year, and has signaled it could trim an 87 percent stake.

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Wisconsin's Department of Natural Resources Site No Longer Says Humans Cause Climate Change

The website of Wisconsin’s Department of Natural Resources has been updated with new language and no longer says that humans and greenhouse emissions cause climate change. Instead, the site says that the causes of global warming “are being debated and researched by academic entities.” The problem is that almost all climate scientists agree that human-made greenhouse gases are responsible for climate change, and that global warming is a big issue that needs to be addressed. Prior to the revision, the site said “human activities that increase heat-trapping (“green house”) gases are the main cause.” The Verge reports: DNR spokesperson Jim Dick told the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel in an email that the “updated page reflects our position on this topic that we have communicated for years, that our agency regularly must respond to a variety of environmental and human stressors from drought, flooding, wind events to changing demographics.” This does not address the question of why the new language implies that we do not know what causes climate change. This is the latest anti-environment move from Wisconsin’s government, which has de-emphasized global warming since Republican Gov. Scott Walker took office in 2011. So far, Wisconsin is the only state that appears to be revising its website, but more states could follow suit now that it’s clear climate science will be attacked under President-elect Donald Trump.

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Facebook Buys Data From Third-Party Brokers To Fill In User Profiles

An anonymous reader quotes a report from International Business Times: According to a report from ProPublica, the world’s largest social network knows far more about its users than just what they do online. What Facebook can’t glean from a user’s activity, it’s getting from third-party data brokers. ProPublica found the social network is purchasing additional information including personal income, where a person eats out and how many credit cards they keep. That data all comes separate from the unique identifiers that Facebook generates for its users based on interests and online behavior. A separate investigation by ProPublica in which the publication asked users to report categories of interest Facebook assigned to them generated more than 52,000 attributes. The data Facebook pays for from other brokers to round out user profiles isn’t disclosed by the company beyond a note that it gets information “from a few different sources.” Those sources, according to ProPublica, come from commercial data brokers who have access to information about people that isn’t linked directly to online behavior. The social network doesn’t disclose those sources because the information isn’t collected by Facebook and is publicly available. Facebook does provide a page in its help center that details how to get removed from the lists held by third-party data brokers. However, the process isn’t particularly easy. In the case of the Oracle-owned Datalogix, users who want off the list have to send a written request and a copy of a government-issued identification in the mail to Oracle’s chief privacy officer. Another data collecting service, Acxiom, requires users provide the last four digits of their social security number to see the information the company has gathered about them.

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Paintings Reveal Signs of Alzheimer's and Parkinson's In Famous Artists

Researchers from the University of Liverpool believe it is possible to detect cognitive decline in the paintings of famous artists by analyzing subtle changes in their brush strokes over time. The technique may one day be used to flag Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s in artists before they’re diagnosed. Gizmodo reports: A new study published in Neuropsychology shows that a mathematical technique known as “fractal analysis” can be used to detect signs of neurodegeneration in an artist’s work. A research team led by Alex Forsythe from the University of Liverpool’s School of Psychology made the discovery by examining 2,092 paintings from the careers of seven famous artists who experienced either normal aging or neurodegenerative disorders. Using fractal analysis, the researchers were able to identify complex geometric patterns in the brushstrokes of each artist. Fractals can reveal hidden and often self-repeating patterns in everyday objects and phenomena. These distinctive geometrical shapes are like fingerprints, allowing scientists to match an artist with his or her work. With this in mind, Forsythe’s team sought to learn if variations in an artist’s fractal fingerprint over time are a function of increasing age, or if neurological decline has something to do with it. For the study, the researchers examined paintings from four artists known to have suffered from either Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s, namely Salvadore Dali, Norval Morrisseau, James Brooks, and Willem De Kooning. The researchers also studied the works of three artists who had no known neurodegenerative problems: Marc Chagall, Pablo Picasso, and Claude Monet. Fractal analysis demonstrated clear patterns of change among the artists who suffered neurological deterioration compared to those who aged normally. In all cases, the fractal fingerprints changed, but the fractal dimensions produced by the Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s artists showed consistent patterns that were distinguishable from the healthy group.

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