Secret Malware in European Network Traced to NSA & GCHQ Reply

 

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Complex malware known as Regin is the suspected technology behind sophisticated cyberattacks conducted by U.S. and British intelligence agencies on the European Union and a Belgian telecommunications company, according to security industry sources and technical analysis conducted by The Intercept.

Regin was found on infected internal computer systems and email servers at Belgacom, a partly state-owned Belgian phone and internet provider, following reports last year that the company was targeted in a top-secret surveillance operation carried out by British spy agency Government Communications Headquarters, industry sources told The Intercept.

The malware, which steals data from infected systems and disguises itself as legitimate Microsoft software, has also been identified on the same European Union computer systems that were targeted for surveillance by the National Security Agency.

The hacking operations against Belgacom and the European Union were first revealed last year through documents leaked by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden. The specific malware used in the attacks has never been disclosed, however.

The Regin malware, whose existence was first reported by the security firm Symantec on Sunday, is among the most sophisticated ever discovered by researchers. Symantec compared Regin to Stuxnet, a state-sponsored malware program developed by the U.S. and Israel to sabotage computers at an Iranian nuclear facility. Sources familiar with internal investigations at Belgacom and the European Union have confirmed to The Intercept that the Regin malware was found on their systems after they were compromised, linking the spy tool to the secret GCHQ and NSA operations. More…

Trans Fats make brain go Hmmm? Reply


Trans fat consumption is linked to diminished memory in working-aged adults
– For those eating the highest amounts of trans fats, this translated to an estimated 11 fewer words (a more than 10 percent reduction in words remembered), compared to adults who ate the least trans fat. (The average number of words correctly recalled was 86.)
* American Heart Association Meeting Report Abstract 15572 NOV 2014 More…

Soap and toothpaste ingredient may be linked to liver tumors and fibrosis Reply


Soap and toothpaste ingredient may be linked to liver tumors and fibrosis
Cleaning yourself to death?
-Triclosan, a common antimicrobial in personal hygiene products, causes liver fibrosis and cancer in mice
-Study suggests triclosan may do its damage by interfering with the constitutive androstane receptor, a protein responsible for detoxifying (clearing away) foreign chemicals in the body. To compensate for this stress, liver cells proliferate and turn fibrotic over time. Repeated triclosan exposure and continued liver fibrosis eventually promote tumor formation.
*Published Nov. 17 by Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences More…

No gut bacteria, No healthy brain Reply

Gut microbiota influences blood-brain barrier permeability

“We showed that the presence of the maternal gut microbiota during late pregnancy blocked the passage of labeled antibodies from the circulation into the brain parenchyma of the growing fetus”, says first author Dr. Viorica Braniste at the Department of Microbiology, Tumor and Cell Biology at Karolinska Institutet. “In contrast, in age-matched fetuses from germ-free mothers, these labeled antibodies easily crossed the blood-brain barrier and was detected within the brain parenchyma”.

*Published in the journal Science Translational Medicine Nov 2014 More…

Cost of meeting basic needs rising faster than wages in Washington state 1

A Washington family of four must spend 46 percent more on average to make ends meet today than 13 years ago, according to a new report from the University of Washington.

“families with two adults, a preschooler and a school-aged child saw the costs of meeting their most basic requirements jump as much as 72 percent between 2001 and 2014″

The Self-Sufficiency Standard for Washington State 2014, released Thursday (Nov. 20), provides a sobering look at how much it costs individuals and families statewide to meet basic needs — and how far short they’re falling.

The study found that Washington families with two adults, a preschooler and a school-aged child saw the costs of meeting their most basic requirements jump as much as 72 percent between 2001 and 2014, depending on where they live. But median wages increased just 21 percent during that time.

“We’re looking at a bigger and bigger crunch for people struggling to survive economically,” said Diana Pearce, author of the report and the director of the Center for Women’s Welfare at the UW School of Social Work.

“Everything’s going up, even though people’s wages are not,” Pearce said. “Costs for basic needs are even going up faster than overall inflation.”

Just in the last three years, the cost of basic needs increased 10 percent on average for four-person Washington families, while wages increased just 4 percent. More…

Spooky alignment of quasars across billions of light-years Reply

Artist’s Impression of Mysterious Alignment of Quasar Rotation Axes

Caption: This artist’s impression shows schematically the mysterious alignments between the spin axes of quasars and the large-scale structures that they inhabit that observations with ESO’s Very Large Telescope have revealed. These alignments are over billions of light-years and are the largest known in the universe.

The large-scale structure is shown in blue and quasars are marked in white with the rotation axes of their black holes indicated with a line.

This picture is for illustration only and does not depict the real distribution of galaxies and quasars.

VLT reveals alignment
Quasars are galaxies with very active supermassive black holes at their centres. These black holes are surrounded by spinning discs of extremely hot material that is often spewed out in long jets along their axes of rotation. Quasars can shine more brightly than all the stars in the rest of their host galaxies put together.

A team led by Damien Hutsemékers from the University of Liège in Belgium used the FORS instrument on the VLT to study 93 quasars that were known to form huge groupings spread over billions of light-years, seen at a time when the Universe was about one third of its current age.

“The first odd thing we noticed was that some of the quasars’ rotation axes were aligned with each other — despite the fact that these quasars are separated by billions of light-years,” said Hutsemékers. More…

Were Neanderthals a sub-species of modern humans? New research says no Reply

Disappearance of Neanderthals likely the result of competition from Homo sapiens, and not from poor adaptation to cold

In an extensive, multi-institution study led by SUNY Downstate Medical Center, researchers have identified new evidence supporting the growing belief that Neanderthals were a distinct species separate from modern humans (Homo sapiens), and not a subspecies of modern humans.

The study looked at the entire nasal complex of Neanderthals and involved researchers with diverse academic backgrounds. Supported by funding from the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health, the research also indicates that the Neanderthal nasal complex was not adaptively inferior to that of modern humans, and that the Neanderthals’ extinction was likely due to competition from modern humans and not an inability of the Neanderthal nose to process a colder and drier climate.

Samuel Márquez, PhD, associate professor and co-discipline director of gross anatomy in SUNY Downstate’s Department of Cell Biology, and his team of specialists published their findings on the Neanderthal nasal complex in the November issue of The Anatomical Record, which is part of a special issue on The Vertebrate Nose: Evolution, Structure, and Function (now online).

They argue that studies of the Neanderthal nose, which have spanned over a century and a half, have been approaching this anatomical enigma from the wrong perspective. Previous work has compared Neanderthal nasal dimensions to modern human populations such as the Inuit and modern Europeans, whose nasal complexes are adapted to cold and temperate climates.

However, the current study joins a growing body of evidence that the upper respiratory tracts of this extinct group functioned via a different set of rules as a result of a separate evolutionary history and overall cranial bauplan (bodyplan), resulting in a mosaic of features not found among any population of Homo sapiens. Thus Dr. Márquez and his team of paleoanthropologists, comparative anatomists, and an otolaryngologist have contributed to the understanding of two of the most controversial topics in paleoanthropology – were Neanderthals a different species from modern humans and which aspects of their cranial morphology evolved as adaptations to cold stress. More…

Adjusting Earth’s thermostat, with caution Reply

Harvard scientists say aspects of solar geoengineering can—and should—be tested without need for full-scale deployment

November 17, 2014

Cambridge, Mass. – November 17, 2014 – A vast majority of scientists believe that the Earth is warming at an unprecedented rate and that human activity is almost certainly the dominant cause. But on the topics of response and mitigation, there is far less consensus.

One of the most controversial propositions for slowing the increase in temperatures here on Earth is to manipulate the atmosphere above. Specifically, some scientists believe it should be possible to offset the warming effect of greenhouses gases by reflecting more of the sun’s energy back into space.

The potential risks—and benefits—of solar radiation management (SRM) are substantial. So far, however, all of the serious testing has been confined to laboratory chambers and theoretical models. While those approaches are valuable, they do not capture the full range of interactions among chemicals, the impact of sunlight on these reactions, or multiscale variations in the atmosphere.

Now, a team of researchers from the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) has outlined how a small-scale “stratospheric perturbation experiment” could work. By proposing, in detail, a way to take the science of geoengineering to the skies, they hope to stimulate serious discussion of the practice by policymakers and scientists.

Ultimately, they say, informed decisions on climate policy will need to rely on the best information available from controlled and cautious field experiments.

The paper is among several published today in a special issue of the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A that examine the nuances, the possible consequences, and the current state of scientific understanding of climate engineering. David Keith, whose work features prominently in the issue, is Gordon McKay Professor of Applied Physics at Harvard SEAS and a professor of public policy at Harvard Kennedy School. His coauthors on the topic of field experiments include James Anderson, Philip S. Weld Professor of Applied Chemistry at Harvard SEAS and in Harvard’s Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology; and other colleagues at Harvard SEAS. More…

74 percent of parents would remove their kids from daycare if others are unvaccinated Reply

41 percent of parents say under-vaccinated kids should be excluded from daycare, according to U-M’s National Poll on Children’s Health

ANN ARBOR, Mich. – Most parents agree that all children in daycare centers should be vaccinated, and that daycare providers should be checking vaccine records every year, according to the University of Michigan C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health.

All states require vaccines for children who attend daycare, but those requirements may not include every vaccine from birth to age 5 years. As a result, some children still don’t receive all recommended vaccines–leaving daycare providers and parents to decide how to handle the situation of a child who is not up-to-date on vaccines.

In this national sample of parents of child 0-5 years, most indicate that daycare providers should review children’s immunization status every year to ensure they are up-to-date (52 percent strongly agree, 22 percent agree).

“Results of this poll indicate that most parents want strong policies around making sure children in daycare are up-to-date on vaccines,” says Sarah J. Clark, M.P.H. , associate director of the National Poll on Children’s Health and associate research scientist in the University of Michigan Department of Pediatrics. “Checking vaccination records every year is beyond the scope of many state requirements, and may represent a significant change in practice at many daycares.”

The poll gave parents a scenario where 1 in 4 children in their daycare center were not up-to-date on vaccines. In response to this scenario, 74 percent of parents would consider removing their own child from the daycare.

“This scenario mirrors the national statistics that show approximately 25 percent of preschool children in the United States are not fully vaccinated,” says Clark. “Parents may not realize that so many children are not up-to-date; in some daycares, this scenario is a reality.” More…