Archive | June, 2013

Let Golfers Golf and Hackers Hack

17 Jun

As Justin Rose wins the 2013 US Open at Merion, becoming the first Brit to win in 43 years, more revelations become available about Britain’s equivalent to the US’s NSA.

In 2009, Britain’s GCHQ eavesdropped on telephone conversations and email communications between attendees of the G20 Summit in London. Four years ago, without (obviously) knowledge of this activity, targeted G20 attendees had their keystrokes logged so that their passwords could be captured, and their phone conversations were monitored. Rest assured, this was only being done so that the outcome of the meetings would be favorable to HMG, Her Majesty’s Government. This is not to be confused with some clandestine terrorist activity.

“The GCHQ intent is to ensure that intelligence relevant to HMG’s desired outcomes for its presidency of the G20 reaches customers at the right time and in a form which allows them to make full use of it.” Two documents explicitly refer to the intelligence product being passed to “ministers”.

To think that you can keep golfers from playing golf is equivalent to keeping hackers from hacking. It’s just what they do. So when The Office of the Director of National Intelligence, suggest that analysts (government hackers) cannot listen to phone calls without “proper legal authorization”, you have to ask, “What is stopping them?”

Your best bet is to remain calm, and accept the reality of the technological world we live in. If you have not disclosed enough personal information through Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, or whatever already, your emails and phone calls can be tapped as necessary. Look at it like 40% of people in the US do today. You are just helping to provide information so that the government can keep our country safe.

You’re not going to stop the golfers or the hackers, even when sometimes they are the same.

Patent Business Addendum – Supreme Court Rules

13 Jun

In an announcement today, the Supreme Court has ruled that human genes cannot be patented.

This is bad news for Myriad Genetics, who was banking on their patents over genetic traits associated with breast cancer for revenue.

Justice Clarence Thomas wrote the decision for a unanimous court. “Myriad did not create anything,” Thomas said. “To be sure, it found an important and useful gene, but separating that gene from its surrounding genetic material is not an act of invention.”

The issue before the judges was not simple, as there are significant costs associated with the development of new technologies.

“We invest heavily in the research and development that is needed to discover and provide high-quality molecular diagnostic products that save and improve patients’ lives,” said Richard Marsh, executive vice president and general counsel at Myriad. “Strong intellectual property and patent rights in the United States are critical to fulfilling our mission.”

Nonetheless, the ruling today is taken as a victory for cancer patients.

The decision represents a victory for cancer patients, researchers and geneticists who claimed that a single company’s patent raised costs, restricted research and sometimes forced women to have breasts or ovaries removed without sufficient facts or second opinions.”

This subject garnered worldwide attention as Angelina Jolie utilized Myriad Genetics’ technology to choose her course of action with regards to breast cancer treatment.

Genetic Modification Gone Haywire

12 Jun

No matter what your perspective is with regards to genetically modifying nature, you have to admit there are probably going to be some unintended consequences. After all, future generations of species get a somewhat modified version of their parents genes to start with. If their parents have genes that are from another species entirely, what outcome might we expect?

Anyway, a company called BioCurious decided it would be a good idea to create a Glow-In-The-Dark plant. A little short on funds, they resorted to crowdsourcing. Posting a need on KickStarter for funding, they raised over $480,000, when they apparently were going for $65,000.

“The group had hit upon a new method for funding biotech, one that’s faster, cheaper and requires less expertise than traditional grants or venture capital.”

As technology develops, as it does, this type of activity would become easier and cheaper to do in the future. Do we really want to open up Pandora’s door of genetically modified species to anyone that “has a good idea”?

Fortunately the ETC Group formally petitioned the USDA and Kickstarter to stop the program in its tracks. That, of course, would not prevent BioCurious from going outside the country to manipulate the genes, or stop other groups, fully funded to pursue the activity.

 

 

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American Media

11 Jun

An article in The Atlantic discusses errors in American journalism based on various causes. The number one cause of errors in American journalism comes from “excessive deference to government officials“.

“Thus far, I’ve argued that excessive deference to government officials, sending lots of journalists to cover the same unimportant events, flaws in TV as a news medium, a society that undervalues watchdog journalism, incentives to cheerlead in the business press, the inadequacy of our most influential strain of media criticism, and the fact that no one coordinates coverage all play a part.” 

During this last week a milestone was reached on YouTube for another source of news, the RT Channel (RT.com). What was called Russia Today, had over 1 Billion YouTube views.

Fresh perspectives outside your home country can help shed light on issues within your own country. This is no doubt a reason for the success of RT.com. Another possible factor for RT.com’s success is from Max Keiser, a former stock broker/ comic. He reminds me of Gilbert Godfrey.

Transplanting … Addendum

8 Jun

As an update for the Transplanting Feces blog post within this site, the Columbus Dispatch says that the OSU’s Wexner Medical Center is now performing this treatment in Ohio.

Treatment for the deadly “superbug” Clostridium difficile is stated as being 95% effective. It is estimated to kill 14,000 a year in the US alone.

The procedure, which transfers good bacteria in a fecal transplant, treats the infection that can cause diarrhea, fever and other symptoms. The disease usually is picked up in health-care facilities or from antibiotics, which can disrupt the normal bacteria in the bowel.

What is interesting in this procedure is that it does not involve (many?) drugs. And, what procedure in the United States, performed within a hospital does not involve drugs? On top of that, it is used as antibiotics, another drug, are not effective.

But, as I write this, the Dispatch article also states:

“The FDA recently began to discuss regulating the transplants and now requires doctors to fill out a new-drug application before performing them.”

It hinges on the natural process the body uses to process and digest food. The naturally occurring bacteria in the gut prevents the “diarrhea, fever and other symptoms”. It will be interesting to see what drug the FDA wants to associate with this procedure.

Still in an Uptrend

5 Jun

The stock market has been on a continuous rise since about November of 2012. The rate of increase became even stronger starting in May.

A green line represents the trend line from November for SPY. You can see the divergence beginning in May.

During the last week, SPY has dropped below the 17 period moving average on the chart, but has not yet touched the 53 period moving average. SPY last touched the 53 period moving average on 4/19/2013.

The bottom line for this chart is that the uptrend is still intact.

Knowing GMO Products

3 Jun

Genetically engineering is totally different than Natural Selection and natural breeding methods. Natural breeding is referred to as “vertical” breeding. Changes in the DNA and changes in traits are derived from the parents within the same species. The most invasive type of genetic engineering uses “horizontal” breeding techniques, only available in a laboratory. Horizontal breeding inserts genes from “other” species, randomly into another species with uncontrollable results.

A more technical distinction between the two techniques for breeding might be Cisgenesis for Vertical breeding and Transgenesis for horizontal breeding.

GMO corn is produced using Transgenesis techniques. Corn is susceptible to insects in the larvae stage. In order to kill the insects, a bacteria (Bacillus thuringiensis) that is toxic to the insect larvae is inserted into the genome of the corn. This specific toxin known as Bt attacks the digestive system of the insects by breaking down the cell walls of their stomachs.