Hexbyte  Tech News  Wired Google-Funded Study Finds Cash Beats Typical Development Aid

Hexbyte Tech News Wired Google-Funded Study Finds Cash Beats Typical Development Aid

Hexbyte Tech News Wired

Traditional international aid programs typically offer some combination of clean water, livestock, textbooks, and nutritional supplements. A new study funded by Google.org and the US Agency for International Development asks whether the poor would benefit more if they were given cash and free to spend the money as they see fit.

A number of studies on unconditional cash transfers are underway, but the government agency’s involvement demonstrates a willingness to question whether the status quo is cost effective, says Michael Faye, cofounder and director of the US-based nonprofit GiveDirectly, which distributed the mobile cash in 248 villages in Rwanda, where the study took place.

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Hexbyte  Tech News  Wired How Bots Ruined ‘Clicktivism’

Hexbyte Tech News Wired How Bots Ruined ‘Clicktivism’

Hexbyte Tech News Wired

Hexbyte  Tech News  Wired

Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call/Getty Images

Hexbyte  Tech News  Wired

Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call/Getty Images

I recently came across two tweets—or rather, thousands of tweets sharing the same two ideas over and over again.

The first batch targeted elected officials and read: “SNAP has helped lift millions out of poverty, but millions of Americans living in poverty today still depend on it. Help make poverty history and reject proposals to cut SNAP funding in the upcoming Farm Bill! #SaveSNAP”

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Hexbyte  Tech News  Wired Video: How Elvis Introduced Paul McCartney to the Remote Control

Hexbyte Tech News Wired Video: How Elvis Introduced Paul McCartney to the Remote Control

Hexbyte Tech News Wired

The Beatles met Elvis Presley only once, at his home in Los Angeles while they were on their second US Tour in August 1965.

“It was just like a dream, really, meeting Elvis. We’d fantasized about him since we were kind of young teenagers and here he was in the flesh. So it was great. It was lovely,” says McCartney.

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Hexbyte  Tech News  Wired A Decade-Old Attack Can Break the Encryption of Most PCs

Hexbyte Tech News Wired A Decade-Old Attack Can Break the Encryption of Most PCs

Hexbyte Tech News Wired

If you want to secure the data on your computer, one of the most important steps you can take is encrypting its hard drive. That way, if your laptop gets lost or stolen—or someone can get to it when you’re not around—everything remains protected and inaccessible. But researchers at the security firm F-Secure have uncovered an attack that uses a decade-old technique, which defenders thought they had stymied, to expose those encryption keys, allowing a hacker to decrypt your data. Worst of all, it works on almost any computer.

To get the keys, the attack uses a well-known approach called a “cold boot,” in which a hacker shuts down a computer improperly—say, by pulling the plug on it—restarts it, and then uses a tool like malicious code on a USB drive to quickly grab data that was stored in the computer’s memory before the power outage. Operating systems and chipmakers added mitigations against cold boot attacks 10 years ago, but the F-Secure researchers found a way to bring them back from the dead.

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Hexbyte  Tech News  Wired Give Sandra Oh the Emmy, but ‘Killing Eve’ Deserved More Nominations

Hexbyte Tech News Wired Give Sandra Oh the Emmy, but ‘Killing Eve’ Deserved More Nominations

Hexbyte Tech News Wired

Hexbyte  Tech News  Wired

Sandra Oh is long overdue for an Emmy.

BBC

Hexbyte  Tech News  Wired

Sandra Oh is long overdue for an Emmy.

BBC

All week, WIRED’s Culture team will be writing endorsement letters for various Emmy nominees in advance of next Monday’s awards ceremony. Next up: senior associate editor and aspiring assassin Angela Watercutter.

In the spring of 2018, nearly three decades and some 75 roles into her career, Sandra Oh gave the performance of a lifetime. That’s not to say her nine years as Cristina Yang on Grey’s Anatomy or her turn in Sideways weren’t praise-worthy, but as Eve Polastri on BBC America’s Killing Eve, she is able to flex every one of her strongest acting muscles: impeccable timing, deadpan humor, wry sensuality, and the ability to appear both strong and shattered simultaneously. Her MI6 desk-jockey-cum-agent is easily one of the most complex women on television, and Oh rides the edges of each of Eve’s facets like she’s walking a tightrope. She never won an Emmy for Grey’s—still one of the Television Academy’s biggest oversights considering her five consecutive nominations—but let me see this as dispassionately as I can: she had freaking better get one for Eve.

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Hexbyte  Tech News  Wired Why Big Tech and the Government Need to Work Together

Hexbyte Tech News Wired Why Big Tech and the Government Need to Work Together

Hexbyte Tech News Wired

Hexbyte  Tech News  Wired

Zach Gibson/Getty Images

The arc of innovation has reached an inflection point: technological change now threatens to overwhelm us. Discovery is unstoppable, but it must be shaped for good. We ourselves—not just market forces—must manage it.

WIRED OPINION

ABOUT

Ash Carter, former US Secretary of Defense, is the Director of Harvard Kennedy School’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs and its project on Technology and Public Purpose. He is also an Innovation Fellow at MIT. This op-ed is adapted from his Ernest May Lecture, given at this summer’s Aspen Strategy Group.

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Hexbyte  Tech News  Wired Spider-Man Story: There Are Two Sides to Every Memetic Breakup

Hexbyte Tech News Wired Spider-Man Story: There Are Two Sides to Every Memetic Breakup

Hexbyte Tech News Wired

Hexbyte  Tech News  Wired

Insomniac Games

This isn’t a gossip column, but that doesn’t mean we don’t occasionally dabble in whispers from time to time. As such, this week we’ve got a (sort of) breakup, hot news about yet another videogame making its way to TV, and some dirt on Nintendo’s long-awaited online service. Well, kinda. Bottom line: Some stories are way more complicated than they appear. Let’s rock.

There Are Two Sides to Every Memetic Breakup

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Hexbyte  Hacker News  Computers Brain’s Dumped DNA May Lead to Stress, Depression

Hexbyte Hacker News Computers Brain’s Dumped DNA May Lead to Stress, Depression

Hexbyte Hacker News Computers

Humans and other mammals react to stressful situations through a series of well-orchestrated evolutionary adaptations. When faced with a predator looking for its next meal, or with worry of losing a job, our bodies release a cascade of stress hormones. Our heart rate spikes, breath quickens, muscles tense up and beads of sweat appear.

This so-called “fight-or-flight” response served our ancestors well, but its continual activation in our modern-day lives comes with a cost. Scientists are starting to realize stress often exacerbates several diseases, including depression, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, HIV/AIDS and asthma. One theory is hoping to explain the link between stress and such widespread havoc by laying the blame on an unexpected source—the microscopic powerhouses inside each cell.

Each of our cells contains hundreds of small bean-shaped mitochondria — subcellular structures, or organelles, that provide the energy needed for normal functioning. Mitochondria have their own circular genome with 37 genes. We inherit this mitochondrial DNA only from our mothers, so the makeup of the DNA’s code stays relatively consistent from one generation to the next.

But our fight-or-flight response places extreme demands on the mitochondria. All of a sudden, they need to produce much more energy to fuel a faster heartbeat, expanding lungs and tensing muscles, which leaves them vulnerable to damage. Unlike DNA in the cell’s nucleus, though, mitochondria have limited repair mechanisms. And recent animal studies have shown chronic stress not only leads to mitochondrial damage in brain regions such as the hippocampus, hypothalamus and cortex, it also results in mitochondria releasing their DNA into the cell cytoplasm, and eventually into the blood.

The genetic cast-offs are not just inert cellular waste. “This circulating mitochondrial DNA acts like a hormone,” says Martin Picard, a psychobiologist at Columbia University, who has been studying mitochondrial behavior and the cell-free mitochondrial DNA for the better part of the last decade. Ejection of mitochondrial DNA from the cell mimics somewhat adrenal glands’ release of cortisol in response to stress, he says. Certain  cells produce the circulating mitochondrial DNA and, as with the adrenal glands, its release is also triggered by stress.[

To demonstrate psychological stress can cause mitochondrial DNA to be released by cells, Picard and his team devised a quick stress test. They asked 50 otherwise healthy men and women to deliver a quick speech defending themselves against a false accusation on camera. Afterward the researchers took blood samples from the participants and compared them with blood taken immediately before they were stressed. Even though the stressful task only lasted a total of five minutes, the scientists found participants’ serum circulating mitochondrial DNA levels more than doubled 30 minutes after the test. These results, currently under review, provide the first direct evidence for how bits of mitochondrial DNA floating in our blood may relay stress to other parts of the body, like dominoes tumbling one after another.[

Previous studies have provided several clues that suggest circulating mitochondrial DNA is a hallmark of stress. In 2016 Swedish researchers published findings in Translational Psychiatry demonstrating elevated levels of mitochondrial DNA outside the cell in 37 people who had recently attempted suicide. Earlier this year the same group of scientists published another paper in Neuropsychopharmacology showing people with major depression had high levels of circulating mitochondrial DNA, and these levels kept increasing in patients who did not respond well to antidepressant medication.

These studies are all part of an emerging field of research on mitochondrial DNA, where scientists are recognizing that the tiny organelles have effects across a wide range of diseases. “Mitochondrial DNA is probably the most sensitive thing in your body,” says Douglas Wallace, director of the Center for Mitochondrial and Epigenomic Medicine at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. “If your mitochondria are sensing a problem, then all the rest of you is in trouble, too.”

In his own research Wallace has shown mitochondrial DNA mutations are more common in people with autism spectrum disorders than in neurotypical adults. Other studies in the past few years have linked mitochondrial dysfunction to schizophrenia, Alzheimer’s, arthritis and cancer—all problems where inflammation is also known to occur, Picard notes.

But how was this inflammation triggered by mitochondrial DNA leaking out of cells? A 2010 Nature paper provided the answer: In it researchers demonstrated the way mitochondrial DNA, when released into the blood after an injury, mobilized a pro-inflammatory immune response. Because of mitochondria’s bacterial origin and its circular DNA structure, immune cells think it’s a foreign invader.  When circulating mitochondrial DNA binds to a particular receptor, TLR9, on immune cells, they respond as if they were reacting to a foreign invader such as a flu virus or an infected wound. The immune cells release chemicals called cytokines telling other white blood cells they need to report for duty at sites of infection, inflammation or trauma.

Together, this growing understanding of circulating mitochondrial DNA sets a time frame for how psychological stress may lead to widespread inflammation, Picard says. “Mitochondria are the missing link between our psychological state and neurological or other disorders involving inflammation,” he says.

It is an interesting shift away from the traditional, anatomical aspects of disease, such as brain shrinkage in depressed patients. But reducing disorders like depression to brain imbalances or shrinkage simply has not explained everything, says Bruce McEwen, a neuroendocrinologist at The Rockefeller University. “If that was the case, you could take Prozac or [selective] serotonin reuptake inhibitors [SSRIs] to fix it, but everybody is now realizing that that’s not the way it works,” he says. “Otherwise, antidepressants would be more effective.”

If further evidence of the importance of healthy mitochondria continues to emerge, drugs that focus on regulating cellular energy production instead could become a new line of defense for psychiatric and biological disorders.

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Hexbyte  Hacker News  Computers A South Vietnamese Air Force Officer Was Responsible for One of the Craziest Carrier Landings of All Time

Hexbyte Hacker News Computers A South Vietnamese Air Force Officer Was Responsible for One of the Craziest Carrier Landings of All Time

Hexbyte Hacker News Computers

Hexbyte  Hacker News  Computers
Major Buang Lee comes to a halt aboard the USS Midway in a Cessna O-1 Bird Dog. (US Navy/released)

The early weeks of April, 1975 found the USS Midway steaming towards the coast of South Vietnam to link up with a number of other warships including the USS Coral Sea and the USS Enterprise of Task Force 76, standing by to support Operation Frequent Wind, a mass evacuation of all American nationals and as many South Vietnamese military personnel (and their families) as possible during the North Vietnamese Army’s final push into the South. Reaching its station on the 19th, the Midway had previously offloaded half of its air wing at Subic Bay on its way to Vietnam and her sailors were prepping to receive thousands of evacuees in the coming days. To assist with the evacuation, ten massive US Air Force Sikorsky HH-53C Super Jolly Green Giants were loaded onto the Midway while at Subic. On the 29th, orders were handed down from higher- Operation Frequent Wind was a go. It was on that very day that Major Buang Lee (also spelled as Buang-Ly in a number of other accounts) of the South Vietnamese Air Force unintentionally had his name etched into the record books by attempting and completing one of the weirdest carrier landings in history aboard Chambers’ ship.

Hexbyte  Hacker News  Computers U.S. Air Force Sikorsky HH-53C Super Jolly Green Giant helicopters on the deck of the aircraft carrier USS Midway (CV-41) during en:Operation Frequent Wind, April 1975. (U.S. Navy/released)

U.S. Air Force Sikorsky HH-53C Super Jolly Green Giant helicopters on the deck of the aircraft carrier USS Midway (CV-41) during en:Operation Frequent Wind, April 1975. (U.S. Navy/released)

By the end of the war in Vietnam, a fairly sizable number of Republic of Vietnam Military Forces (the South) officers and senior enlisted soldiers/airmen, as well as their families, were marked for death. Their civilian peers in the South were especially fearful of reprisal from the invading North Vietnamese Army for supporting and harboring ranking RVNMF personnel, who were often unceremoniously dragged out from their houses and shot in the streets, their bodies left to rot as both a warning to anyone who wouldn’t give up RVNMF troops and to the soldiers themselves that their demise was imminent. Anyone who was seen or thought to have aided the United States in any way, shape or form, was hunted down and mercilessly slaughtered. The US military offered a way, during Frequent Wind, for these men and their families to flee to safety. Their places of refuge were the decks of US Navy vessels floating off the coast of Vietnam.

Major Buang Lee, a young officer with the Vietnam Air Force, was extremely worried for the safety of his wife and five children. If Northern soldiers came across them, or their neighbors gave them up, torture and execution was the brutal fate that awaited them. Unwilling to let this happen, he crammed all of them into a small Cessna O-1 Bird Dog parked on an airfield ramp on Con Son Island and took off. The Bird Dog was the military version of the Cessna 170 and it generally flew with two crew- a pilot and an observer; Lee’s Bird Dog was packed with seven people, including the pilot. After lifting off from Con Son, the Bird Dog took fire but was miraculously left unscathed. The plan was to fly out and hopefully find an American warship, ditch the aircraft and swim to safety. If they couldn’t find a ship, they wouldn’t have any other option than to ditch anyways. Luckily, the Lee family spotted a cluster of vessels in the distance, and twisted the aircraft in that direction.

Aboard the Midway, Frequent Wind was winding down. South Vietnamese and American UH-1 Hueys, previously hauling over evacuees, were chained to the flight deck while crew moved to-and-fro in the light rain soaking the carrier. The bridge of the Midway received reports of an approaching small aircraft, though they were unable to determine its origin and intentions. Observers with powerful binoculars spotted the Bird Dog from a distance, which proceeded towards the large flattop, slowly but surely. Lee flipped on the O-1’s landing lights, and banked into a small pattern above the ship, circling overhead. Chambers, up on the bridge of the Midway in the captain’s chair, was understandably extremely confused but also on the edge of his seat, trying to figure out if the small aircraft meant the Midway and her crew harm, or otherwise. He ordered the communications center to hail the Bird Dog on all frequencies and channels, but their attempts were met with static and a lack of response. The confusion quickly lifted when Chambers and the other officers on the bridge realized that that the Cessna contained more than just the pilot; there were children and a woman aboard as well.

Unable to establish radio contact with the ship below him, Lee decided on a more rudimentary approach. Scribbling a note describing his situation on a piece of paper taken from the Bird Dog’s cockpit, he swooped in low over the flight deck and tossed it out of the window, hoping that someone would be able to catch it. This attempt, along with a second try failed as both notes blew over the side of the ship before the flight deck crew could get them. Now with less than an hour’s worth of fuel remaining in his tanks, Lee decided to add some weight to the third note, penned onto a map from the cockpit. Attaching it to his service pistol, he once again made a low pass over the carrier and dropped it out before climbing away. This time, the deck crew got a hold of it and immediately brought it to the carrier’s island, and then up to the bridge to Chambers.

Hexbyte  Hacker News  Computers Major Lee's note. (US Navy/archives)

Major Lee’s note. (US Navy/archives)

“Can you move the Helicopter to the other side, I can land on your runway, I can fly 1 hour more, we have enough to mouve. Please rescue me.

-Major Buang, wife and 5 child.”

Chambers called an impromptu meeting with the Midway’s Air Boss and the commanding officer of the Midway Carrier Task Force, Admiral William L. Harris. Outlining the situation that was unfolding right in front of their eyes, they quickly determined that the passengers of the Bird Dog had a very slim chance of survival if they ditched in the South China Sea, next to the carrier. Air Boss Vern Jumper and Harris concurred with Chambers that giving the Bird Dog a green light to land directly aboard the vessel would be the better alternative. Chambers did so and immediately put the ship’s crew into high gear. They had their work cut out for them.

During Frequent Wind and the gradual cessation of evacuation operations, the Midway had barely been making steerageway- just enough forward movement to helm the ship effectively. There was no real need for the ship to be moving any faster, as it was only supposed to be operating helicopters for the duration of Frequent Wind. Normally, it would have had to generate winds over the flight deck, so as to launch fixed-wing aircraft from its catapults, but helos didn’t need such a provision. Chambers had therefore allowed the ship’s engineering crew to partially shut down the powerplant for maintenance, upon their request. Now in need of speed to assist with Lee’s landing, Chambers got the Midway’s chief engineer on the line and asked that he be given enough steam to increase the ship’s speed to 25 knots. Due to the partial shutdown, this wouldn’t be possible right away, so Chambers had the engineering crew shift the hotel load (electricity used for every other purpose aboard the ship than propulsion) to the emergency diesel engines while cranking up the main powerplant. With that issue solved, another problem was manifesting itself outside on the deck.

Though Frequent Wind was coming to a close, helos were still flying to the ship. Chambers ordered all available hands to the flight deck, regardless of rank, to assist in moving any aircraft parked on the deck to a different spot, clearing a long strip for Lee to land on. Any helo that couldn’t be moved in a safe and timely manner was to be pushed over the side of the deck after a quick gear strip. An estimated $10 million worth of South Vietnamese UH-1Hs were thus stripped and jettisoned from the flight deck. When five more South Vietnamese Hueys landed on the deck during the mad dash to clear the deck, their occupants were hustled into the ship and their helos met the same fate as the others. Meanwhile, the arresting gear, strung across the angled deck of the Midway were also removed, lest Lee’slanding gear get fouled in the cables during his landing.

Hexbyte  Hacker News  Computers South Vietnamese UH-1H being pushed overboard to make room for a Cessna O-1 landing. Operation Frequent Wind, the final operation in Saigon, began April 29, 1975. During a nearly constant barrage of explosions, the Marines loaded American and Vietnamese civilians, who feared for their lives, onto helicopters that brought them to waiting aircraft carriers. The Navy vessels brought them to the Philippines and eventually to Camp Pendleton, Calif. (U.S. Navy/released)

A South Vietnamese UH-1H being pushed overboard to make room for a Cessna O-1 landing. (U.S. Navy/released)

Keeping a keen eye on the deck, Lee brought his Bird Dog around and lined up with the ship, approaching just above stall speed. Chambers later recalled that Buang’s relative speed wasn’t more than 20 to 25 knots. As if he had practiced it a dozen times, Lee set the aircraft down on the flight deck and rapidly came to a halt amid the shouts and yells of the crew assembled on the deck to help facilitate the Bird Dog’s recovery. Many of the crew agreed- if Buang had a tailhook on his aircraft, he would have undoubtedly bagged the third wire (the the ideal wire for a textbook carrier landing). Shaking, but thoroughly relieved, Lee and his family emerged from the Bird Dog and were taken inside the ship’s island right away, where they met an equally-relieved Captain Chambers.

In the face of frightening odds, Lee’s story ended spectacularly well. The crew of the Midway unanimously donated money towards a fund that would help the Lee family settle in the United States after claiming refugee status, which they were able to, upon reaching the US. Captain Chambers’ actions could have very well had him court-martialled and killed off his career in the Navy, and he was well aware of that. Even still, he put his livelihood on the line and took the necessary actions to save the Lee family. Thankfully, Chambers was able to retire from the Navy later on after achieving flag rank and becoming a Rear Admiral. Years later, he would reunite with the Lee family, still ever grateful for Chambers and the Midway’s crew, and just what they did to save their lives on that overcast April day in 1975.

Hexbyte  Hacker News  Computers Lee lands aboard the Midway. (US Navy/released)

Lee lands aboard the Midway. (US Navy/released)