5 years after Texas GOP's attack on women's reproductive health, TX leads developed world in maternal mortality

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Remember when Texas governor Rick Perry and the GOP state government led an unprecedented assault on women's reproductive health in the name of preventing abortions, using dirty tricks to pass an unconstitutional law that led to a boom in unsafe home abortions and a black market for day-after pills, while ending Planned Parenthood's vital cancer-screening program, before defunding Planned Parenthood altogether? Read the rest

Predictive policing predicts police harassment, not crime

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In Chicago, the "Heat List" system is used to direct policing resources, based on data-mining of social media to identify potential gang-members; the model tells the cops where to go and who to arrest, and is supposed to reduce both violent crime and the likelihood that suspects themselves will be killed -- but peer-reviewed analysis (Scihub mirror) of the program shows that while being on the Heat List increases your chances of being harassed and arrested by Chicago PD, it does not improve crime rates. Read the rest

UC Davis Chancellor spent $400K+ to scrub her online reputation after pepper-spray incident

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Back in April, we learned that UC Davis Chancellor Linda P.B. Katehi had hired a sleazy "reputation-management" company to scrub her reputation and that of the university after the 2011 incident in which university police lieutenant John Pike hosed down peaceful protesters with pepper spray, jetting chemical irritant directly into their open mouths and eyes. Read the rest

What life is like when you really understand advanced mathematics

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An anonymous Quora commenter has written an exhaustive and fascinating response to the question, "What is it like to understand advanced mathematics?" Read the rest

It's pretty easy to hack traffic lights

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Researchers from the University of Michigan EE/Computer Science Department (previously) presented their work on hacking traffic signals at this year's Usenix Security Symposium (previously), and guess what? It's shockingly easy to pwn the traffic control system. Read the rest

UK/EU security researchers: tax-free stipend to study privacy and authentication

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UC London's offering a tax-free stipend for UK/EU students to work on designing and evaluating new approaches for continuous authentication, based on a solid theoretical underpinning so as to give a high degree of confidence that the resulting decisions match expectations and requirements" as well as "ways to preserve user privacy by processing behavioural measurements on the user’s computer such that sensitive information is not sent to the online service." (Image: LordHarris, CC-BY-SA) (Thanks, William!) Read the rest

Cash grants to people with unexpected bills successfully prevents homelessness

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In The impact of homelessness prevention programs on homelessness (Scihub mirror), a group of academic and government economists show that giving an average of $1,000 to people in danger of losing their homes due to unexpected bills (for example, emergency medical bills) is a successful strategy for preventing homelessness, which costs society a lot more than $1,000 -- more importantly, these kinds of cash grants do not create a culture of "dependency" that leads to recklessness, nor does it have a merely temporary effect. Read the rest

100 million VWs can be unlocked with a $40 cracker (and other cars aren't much better)

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In Lock It and Still Lose It—On the (In)Security of Automotive Remote Keyless Entry Systems, a paper given at the current Usenix Security conference in Austin, researchers with a proven track record of uncovering serious defects in automotive keyless entry and ignition systems revealed a technique for unlocking over 100,000 million Volkswagen cars, using $40 worth of hardware; they also revealed a technique for hijacking the locking systems of millions of other vehicles from other manufacturers. Read the rest

Why did it take a private foundation to do public science right?

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Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen funded the Allen Brain Observatory, a detailed, rich data-set derived from parts of a mouse-brain: what's striking is that the Allen Institute released all the data into the public domain, at once, as soon as it was available, which is exactly what you'd want the publicly funded alternatives to do, and what they almost never do. Read the rest

Monopoly power and the decline of small business: big business vs democracy, growth & equality

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In the 15 years between 1997 and 2012: 72,000 small US manufacturers shut down; as did 108,000 local retailers and 13,000 community banks (fully half of America's complement of small banks!). The number of US startups has dropped by 50% since 1970. These statistics are not the result of the changing times: they're due to massive, monopolistic corporations stacking the deck against small competitors through unfair and corrupt practices, to the detriment of American growth, equality and democracy. Read the rest

Mysterious medical research consortium: we should own volunteers' clinical trial data for 5 years

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The "International Consortium of Investigators for Fairness in Trial Data Sharing" -- a group that appears to have just been formed, backed by 282 researcher in 33 countries -- has objected to a plan to limit exclusivity over clinical trial data derived from medical volunteers, insisting instead that the fair thing to do is to lock up this uncopyrightable, factual data for up to five years. Read the rest

Compounds in human exhalations during movies vary in response to suspense and comedy

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Researchers from German's Max Planck Institute and Johannes Gutenberg University have published a paper in Nature documenting the phenomenon whereby the volatile organic compounds exhaled by cinema audiences change in synchrony while the movie plays, with specific cocktails of chemicals exhaled in response to comedy and suspense. Read the rest

How racist traffic stops criminalize black people, and what to do about it

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When Philando Castile was killed by a Minneapolis cop after a traffic stop, we learned that he had been stopped 46 times before and had been fined for driving without a license. Read the rest

Study confirms a physical correlate to PTSD: "brown dust" in the brain

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Since WWI, doctors have speculated that PTSD's underlying cause was some sort of physical damage caused by blast-waves from bombs, which literally shook loose something important in the brains of sufferers. Read the rest

1 billion computer monitors vulnerable to undetectable firmware attacks

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A team led by Ang Cui (previously) -- the guy who showed how he could take over your LAN by sending a print-job to your printer -- have presented research at Defcon, showing that malware on your computer can poison your monitor's firmware, creating nearly undetectable malware implants that can trick users by displaying fake information, and spy on the information being sent to the screen. Read the rest

Mexico-US illegal migration has been at zero for 8 years, and other eye-opening facts

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NPR's On the Media have released a new installment in their indispensable Breaking News Consumer's Handbook (previously), this one about migration -- legal and illegal -- and it's a doozy. Read the rest

Big rigs can be hijacked and driven with software-based attacks

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In a two-month-long class assignment, researchers from the University of Michigan found vulnerabilities in J1939, the standard for networking in big rigs and other large industrial vehicles, that allowed them to control the acceleration, braking, and instrument panels of their target vehicles. Read the rest

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