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Data Analysis Shows what Drives the Spread of Flu

Posted: 03 Mar 2018 09:17 AM PST

Submitted via IRC for Bytram

Using several large datasets describing health care visits, geographic movements and demographics of more than 150 million people over nine years, researchers at the University of Chicago have created models that predict the spread of influenza throughout the United States each year.

[...] In the paper, they liken the typical outbreak to a forest fire. To spread, a fire needs flammable, dry tinder, an initiating spark and wind to hasten its movement. In the southern U.S., people have a high degree of social connectivity. The number of close friends, friends who are also neighbors, and communities of people who all know each other is much higher than the country at large, meaning they have lots of opportunities to spread the flu.

This high social connectivity is the flammable material. The spark is the warm, humid weather of the southern coast, and the wind is the collective movement of all these people, over short distances by land, as they drive from county to county.


Source: Massive data analysis shows what drives the spread of flu in the U.S.

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The DNS Was Designed for Diversity, but Site Admins Aren't Buying

Posted: 03 Mar 2018 06:56 AM PST

Arthur T Knackerbracket has found the following story:

The world's top eight DNS providers now control 59 per cent of name resolution for the biggest Websites - and that puts the Web at risk, according to a group of Harvard University researchers.

The group was led by Harvard's Shane Greenstein, and warned that since 2011, the "entropy" of the DNS (referring to how widely distributed it is) has fallen, becoming concentrated in "a small number of dominant cloud services companies".

That state of affairs, the group's research paper (PDF) argued, creates fragility if attackers find a weakness in those DNS services.

[...] For the namespaces they measured, the team found the top eight providers grew their market share from 24 per cent to 59 per cent from 2011 to 2017, and the top four went from 17 per cent to nearly 50 per cent.

[...] The other trend they found was that unsurprisingly, in a world awash with easy-to-use cloud services, external DNS hosting has overtaken in-house DNS servers.

For companies worried that this might leave them open to a Mirai-style botnet taking out their DNS provider, the solution is simple, the paper said.

Organisations should diversify their pool of nameservers by taking DNS management services from multiple providers, the paper said. Compared to the costs of a day's downtime, this is " a comparatively costless and therefore puzzlingly rare decision".

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MIT Study Shows How Much Driving for Uber or Lyft Sucks

Posted: 03 Mar 2018 04:35 AM PST

A study conducted by the MIT Center for Energy and Environmental Policy Research analysed revenue and costs for over 1100 Lyft and Uber drivers, with the conclusion that most earn below minimum wage for their state and about 30% actually lose money when all the costs of owning and operating their vehicles are taken into account.

"A Median driver generates $0.59 per mile of driving, and incurs costs of $0.30 per mile", "On an hourly basis, the median profit was $3.37 per hour".

Because actual vehicle operating costs are significantly lower than the IRS allowance of $0.54/mile, many drivers report incomes that are substantially lower that their actual incomes, leading to a large pool of untaxed income (although it is small for each driver).

Techcrunch has a summary

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VPNs and Cross-Border Leased Lines Banned in China After the End of March 2018

Posted: 03 Mar 2018 02:14 AM PST

On March 31st new rules take effect in China banning VPNs and cross-border leased lines. Bloomberg writes:

Censors have already eliminated hundreds of VPNs, which route user requests for sites through virtual networks located on the providers' servers, disguising their users' true locations or destinations. A few operators have been jailed, and over the summer Apple Inc. began removing VPN software from the Chinese version of its App Store. VyprVPN, ExpressVPN, NordVPN, and a shrinking number of others are still working to outpace the government, renting extra cloud servers from Amazon Web Services Inc. and the like to buoy their networks. They're also working on software that can make user activity look like permitted internet traffic, sometimes by renting internet protocol addresses that have also been used by government-approved services.

Source : China's Internet Underground Fights for Its Life

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Arm Schoolteachers? Kids Say No

Posted: 02 Mar 2018 11:53 PM PST

The Los Angeles Times reports

After their teacher fires a gun at school, Georgia students use opportunity to challenge Trump's proposal

Jesse Randall Davidson wasn't a stranger, some mysterious threat from the outside. He was a bearded, bespectacled, 53-year-old social studies teacher and the play-by-play announcer for the football games at Dalton High School in northwest Georgia.

But when the teacher brought a gun to school, barricaded himself in his classroom [February 28], and fired a single shot, students quickly recognized that this wasn't just a sad local incident.

Amid national outrage over school shootings--and suggestions by President Trump that schools would be safer if some teachers packed guns--it was a political event.

"my favorite teacher at Dalton high school just blockaded his door and proceeded to shoot", a 16-year-old student named Chondi Chastain tweeted at the National Rifle Assn., earning more than 17,000 retweets. "We had to run out The back of the school in the rain. Students were being trampled and screaming. I dare you to tell me arming teachers will make us safe."

[...] When students came to his door at room 413 during third period--a time his classroom is normally empty--it was locked, and Davidson wouldn't let them in, police said later.

"My brother, who was one door down from the teacher, said he was yelling at his students to 'get the [expletive] out of here'", junior Henry Hansen, 17, wrote in a private message on Twitter.

The principal, Steve Bartoo, tried to unlock the door with a key, but Davidson "slammed the door before I could open it and said, 'Don't come in here, I have a gun'", Bartoo said at a televised news conference.

Bartoo put the school into lockdown mode, and soon after, Davidson "apparently fired a shot from a handgun through an exterior window of the classroom", Dalton police spokesman Bruce Frazier said at a separate news conference. "It did not appear that it was aimed at anybody."

[...] Dalton police, the Whitfield County Sheriff's Office, the Georgia State Patrol, and federal law enforcement agencies all responded to the emergency. "More or less everybody with a badge in the area came running", Frazier said.

After about half an hour, Davidson surrendered and was taken into custody

[...] The Dalton students immediately turned to social media to take issue with Trump's calls to arm teachers.

Heavy.com adds

Records show Davidson has been charged with aggravated assault with a gun, terroristic threats and acts, carrying a weapon in a school safety zone without a license, reckless conduct, disrupting public school, and possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony. He is being held without bail at the Whitfield County Jail.

[...] Davidson has a history of bizarre medical episodes both at school and outside of school, The Chattanoogan reports.

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Martian Moons and Saturn Imaged by ESA's Mars Express

Posted: 02 Mar 2018 09:32 PM PST

Mars Express views moons set against Saturn's rings

New images and video from ESA's Mars Express show Phobos and Deimos drifting in front of Saturn and background stars, revealing more about the positioning and surfaces of the Red Planet's mysterious moons.

[...] Mars Express has been studying Mars and its moons for many years. The satellite recently observed both Phobos, Mars' innermost and largest moon at up to 26 km in diameter, and Deimos, Phobos' smaller sibling at 6.2 km in diameter, to produce this new video and series of images.

The video combines 30 images as individual frames and shows Phobos passing through the frame with the gas giant planet Saturn, which sits roughly a billion kilometres away, visible as a small ringed dot in the background.

Link to video (Javascript required).

Also at EarthSky.

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Georgia Denies Delta Tax Break After Airline Cuts Ties With NRA

Posted: 02 Mar 2018 07:11 PM PST

Lawmakers in Georgia removed a $38 million tax exemption for jet fuel from tax-cut legislation on Thursday in a move that will punish Atlanta-based Delta Air Lines.

Republicans vowed to remove the exemption after the airline cut ties with the National Rifle Association (NRA).

Georgia's Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle (R), who is also running for governor, had threatened to kill any tax legislation that benefits Delta after the company's decision to end a discount program for NRA members.

[...] "I will kill any tax legislation that benefits @Delta unless the company changes its position and fully reinstates its relationship with @NRA," Angle tweeted earlier this week.


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NASA Moving to Scale Back the Space Technology Mission Directorate

Posted: 02 Mar 2018 04:50 PM PST

In response to Trump budget, NASA ending separate technology plan

Even though Congress has yet to formally consider President Trump's new budget for NASA, the space agency is already moving swiftly to implement some of its core principles. Among those is a White House desire to end a separate program within the agency focused on the development of advanced new spaceflight technologies intended to keep NASA at the cutting edge.

With an annual budget that has varied between $500 million and $1 billion, the Space Technology Mission Directorate was created in 2010 to develop the kinds of technology NASA needed to explore deeper into space, such as advanced propulsion and power systems, in-space manufacturing, and new means of landing on far-off worlds. If humans really were to expand beyond low-Earth orbit, research and development of these new technologies was deemed critical.

[...] According to internal emails obtained by Ars, this [realignment towards the Space Launch System and Orion] is already happening. The emails characterize the change as a "restructuring" and assign NASA official James Reuter to serve as acting associate administrator for the space technology program. Prior to coming to NASA headquarters from Marshall Space Flight Center in 2015, Reuter played a management role overseeing development of the SLS rocket and Orion.

Some former space technology officials have begun sounding the alarm about these changes being made without oversight from Congress. "Disastrous news!" tweeted Mason Peck on Thursday morning. He served as the space agency's chief technologist earlier this decade. "NASA is already dismantling STMD even though the President's budget is only a month old. Don't give up. We need Space Technology if we want NASA to have a bold future. I hope Congress will reject this gutting of NASA's technology investments."

Directorate homepage.

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U.S. Steel and Aluminum Imports to Face New Tariffs

Posted: 02 Mar 2018 02:29 PM PST

US steel and aluminium imports face big tariffs, Trump says

President Donald Trump has said he will sign off on steep tariffs on steel and aluminium imports next week, hitting producers like Canada and China.

Flanked by US metals executives at the White House, he said a 25% tariff would be slapped on steel products, and a 10% tariff would be imposed on aluminium.

Mr Trump tweeted that the US was suffering from "unfair trade".

The US imports four times more steel than it exports, and is reliant on steel from more than 100 nations.

Related: U.S. Quintuples Taxes on Chinese Cold-Rolled Flat Steel
China to Cut Steel and Coal Production
Trump Administration Finalizes 300% Import Tariff on Bombardier Jets From Canada
US Government Puts Tariffs on Imported Solar Cells, Solar Modules, and Washing Machines

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Haier Smartwatch Prototype Includes Tiny Projector

Posted: 02 Mar 2018 12:52 PM PST

This smartwatch can project a tiny dancing man onto your hand

The nice thing about smartwatches is that they put information right on your wrist so it's easy to check. But what if that information was even more visible? What if that information was right on the back of your hand?

That question, I can only assume, is what led to the creation of Haier's Asu watch, an enormous smartwatch with a built-in projector. The projector allows the watch to display information on the back of your hand, essentially serving as a second screen.

Haier uses the projection to provide additional information. So when you're running, the projection will display distance, time, and progress toward fitness goals, while the watch screen will have controls to pause and finish your workout. The projection actually supports gesture controls, too: you can double tap on your hand to change what's on the screen. It didn't work very well when I tried it, but Haier says the whole watch is still in development.


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Google Shopping Cracks Down on Gun-Related Products... Such as BurGUNdy Wine

Posted: 02 Mar 2018 11:15 AM PST

Google has banned items containing the string "gun" in the name on its e-commerce search platform, accidentally targeting many innocuous items:

Google Shopping, which allows users to compare product prices from thousands of online retailers, has removed all 'gun' search results - even if the product is not gun-related.

Online shoppers have complained about being unable to browse dozens of products such as Burgundy wine, water guns and music by American rock band Guns N' Roses. Searches for products including nail guns, glue guns and Arsenal Football Club's Gunnersaurus dinosaur mascot also returns the message: "Your search did not match any shopping results."

Google has banned weapons listings since 2012, however online shoppers have highlighted certain product unavailability since the Florida school shooting on Valentine's Day which left 17 dead.

The block could be circumvented using alternate terms such as "handgnu" or "fully automatic firearm".

Also at Engadget.

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