76 of 79 deceased NFL players’ brains had evidence of degenerative disease

76 of 79 deceased NFL players’ brains had evidence of degenerative disease
Majority of football players who submitted their brains to Department of Veterans Affairs’ study had chronic traumatic encephalopathy
By Rich McCormick
Sep 30 2014
<http://www.theverge.com/2014/9/30/6876131/majority-of-nfl-player-brains-in-study-had-cte>

New data from the United States’ largest repository of human brain samples has shown that an overwhelming majority of NFL players who submitted their brains for analysis after their death suffered from chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). The Department of Veterans Affairs’ brain repository, based in Massachusetts, found that 76 of 79 former pro players had evidence of the condition, which can be caused by repeated head trauma.

The brains were submitted for study after death

The findings came as part of a wider study in which the department examined the brains of 128 deceased football players who had played the game at professional, semi-professional, college, or high school level. It found that even in the brains of those that had played at lower standards, the rate of CTE was high — of the 128 players, 101 tested positive for the disease. The brain condition is caused when blows to the head cause the production of tau, a protein that manifests as dense tangles around the brain’s normal cells and blood vessels. The degenerative condition can cause depression and fits of rage among its sufferers, and confusion, memory loss, and dementia later in life.

The Department of Veterans Affairs’ findings come from a weighted testing group — the experiments were conducted on brains donated to the brain repository by players and families who suspected the presence of the condition — but neuropathologist Dr. Ann McKee, who directs the brain bank, says that there’s a correlation between playing football and developing CTE. “Playing football, and the higher the level you play football and the longer you play football, the higher your risk.”

CTE can cause depression, fits of rage, and dementia

The NFL is currently responding to a lawsuit brought against it by more than 4,500 ex-players. The new Department of Veterans Affairs’ report comes two weeks before an October 14th deadline at which thousands of NFL retirees have to decide whether to agree to the league’s proposed settlement. Frontlinesays the ex-players have accused the league of hiding links between football and CTE, but these findings could help address “a key sticking point” in negotiations now that the league has acknowledged long-term concussion effects. Data filed in a federal court this month shows the NFL actually “expects nearly a third of all retired players to develop a long-term cognitive problem, such as Alzheimer’s disease or dementia, as a result of football.”

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Demonstrators and Censors Tangle on the Web

Demonstrators and Censors Tangle on the Web
Chinese Web Censors Struggle With Hong Kong Protest
By ANDREW JACOBS
Sep 30 2014
<http://www.nytimes.com/2014/10/01/world/asia/chinese-web-censors-struggle-with-hong-kong-protest.html>

BEIJING — Can Chinese censors vanquish the umbrella?

As protesters in Hong Kong continue to defy authorities with their demands for greater democracy, mainland China’s politically minded web users have been trying to outmaneuver the invisible army of Internet guardians working to scour social media of photos and news about the continuing demonstrations.

They have been posting pro-democracy remarks on nonpolitical websites and uploading selfies of their shaved heads to express solidarity with the protesters. On Tuesday, some social media users shared stock images of President Xi Jinping carrying an umbrella, a not-so-subtle nod to that essential protester accessory for staving off sun, rain and pepper spray. Other users simply changed their profile photo to that of an umbrella.

Charlie Smith, co-founder of Greatfire.org, a group that tracks Internet censorship in China, said authorities were not likely to relax.. “They are going to be on top of this situation 24/7.”

But there were signs Tuesday that China’s formidable censorship machine was struggling to keep up with savvy commenters who found ways to thumb their noses at the authorities.

On one popular mainland music-sharing site, hundreds of people left supportive comments under a Cantonese ballad, “Under the Vast Sky,” that has become something of an anthem for protesters. “Without resistance there is no freedom,” read a typical entry. “Go Hong Kong!”

Fu King-wa, a professor of media studies at Hong Kong University, said the rate of deletions on Sina Weibo, the country’s most popular microblog service, had jumped in recent days, a testament to the flood of protest-related content and the Communist Party’s fears that the demonstrations might prove contagious.

Many analysts said the in-house censors employed by Chinese Internet companies like Sina had become more adept at culling material.

On Tuesday, words such as “Hong Kong,” “barricades” and “Occupy Central,” the putative name for the civil disobedience campaign, were either blocked or yielded few results on weibo. Sina had also neutralized the word “umbrella.”

[snip]

Antarctica Has Lost Enough Ice to Cause a Measurable Shift in Gravity

Antarctica Has Lost Enough Ice to Cause a Measurable Shift in Gravity
By CLIMATE DESK
Sep 30 2014
<http://www.wired.com/2014/09/melting-antarctic-ice-shifting-gravity/>

This story originally appeared in Slate and is republished here as part of the Climate Desk collaboration.

Gravity—yes, gravity—is the latest victim of climate change in Antarctica. That’s the stunning conclusion announced Friday by the European Space Agency.

“The loss of ice from West Antarctica between 2009 and 2012 caused a dip in the gravity field over the region,” writes the ESA, whose GOCE satellite measured the change. Apparently, melting billions of tons of ice year after year has implications that would make even Isaac Newton blanch. See the data visualized above.

To be fair, the change in gravity is very small. It’s not like you’ll float off into outer space on your next vacation to the Antarctic Peninsula.

The biggest implication is the new measurements confirm global warming is changing the Antarctic in fundamental ways. Earlier this year, a separate team of scientists announced that major West Antarctic glaciers have begun an “unstoppable” “collapse,” committing global sea levels to a rise of several meters over the next few hundred years.

Though we all learned in high-school physics that gravity is a constant, it actually varies slightly depending on where you are on the Earth’s surface and the density of the rock (or, in this case, ice) beneath your feet. During a four-year mission, the ESA satellite mapped these changes in unprecedented detail and was able to detect a significant decrease in the region of Antarctica where land ice is melting fastest.

The new results in West Antarctica were achieved by combining the high-resolution gravity field measurements from the ESA satellite with a longer-running but lower resolution gravity-analyzing satellite mission called Grace, which is jointly operated by the United States and Germany. Scientists hope to scale up this analysis to all of Antarctica soon, which could provide the clearest picture yet of the pace global warming is taking in the frozen continent. Current best estimates show that global seas could be as much as 50 inches higher by century’s end, due in large part to ice melt in West Antarctica.

[snip]

U.S. Law Enforcement Seeks to Halt Apple-Google Encryption of Mobile Data

U.S. Law Enforcement Seeks to Halt Apple-Google Encryption of Mobile Data
By Del Quentin Wilber
Sep 30 2014
<http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2014-09-30/u-s-seeks-to-reverse-apple-android-data-locking-decision.html>

U.S. law enforcement officials are urging Apple Inc. (AAPL) and Google Inc. (GOOG) to give authorities access to smartphone data that the companies have decided to block, and are weighing whether to appeal to executives or seek congressional legislation. 

The new privacy features, announced two weeks ago by the California-based companies, will stymie investigations into crimes ranging from drug dealing to terrorism, law enforcement officials said. 

“This is a very bad idea,” said Cathy Lanier, chief of the Washington Metropolitan Police Department, in an interview. Smartphone communication is “going to be the preferred method of the pedophile and the criminal. We are going to lose a lot of investigative opportunities.” 

The dispute is the latest flare-up that pits the federal government against the nation’s leading technology companies since National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden disclosed last year the extent of U.S. snooping on phone and Internet communications — and how companies cooperated. 

U.S. Justice Department and FBI officials are trying to understand how the new Apple and Google Android systems work and how the companies could change the encryption to make it accessible when court ordered. Their requests to the companies may include letters, personal appeals or congressional legislation, said a federal law official who requested anonymity to discuss the sensitive issue. 

NSA Spying 

Beyond lobbying the companies, there is little law enforcement can do without congressional action. Technology companies have stepped up efforts to shield customer data from hackers — and the government — after the NSA spy revelations and the recent theft of celebrity nude photos from Apple’s iCloud service. 

“These companies are trying to build products that people want to use,” said Carl Howe, a mobility analyst with 451 Research in Boston. “They want to provide that feeling of privacy. Otherwise, people won’t use them.” 

Apple described the new measures on Sept. 17 on its website, noting that it can no longer bypass customers’ passcodes and “therefore cannot access this data.” Apple has in the past cooperated with court orders and unlocked phones for law enforcement or provided data from its systems. Apple’s message said in most cases law enforcement doesn’t ask for content such as e-mails, photos or data stored on its iCloud or iTunes accounts. 

Technical Feasibility 

“It’s not technically feasible for us to respond to government warrants for the extraction of this data from devices in their possession running” the latest version of the company’s operating system, iOS 8, the Cupertino, California-based company said. 

Evidence from mobile devices has provided critical help in solving crimes ranging from homicides to drug trafficking. Just as most people spend time on smartphones, so do criminals. 

Investigators routinely recover from the devices videos of crimes in progress, photos of drug gang members flashing weapons, text exchanges between conspirators, and child pornography. 

Federal Bureau of Investigation Director James Comey entered the debate last week, telling reporters that he opposed the companies’ decision. He said the FBI was working to get them to change the policies. 

“What concerns me about this is companies marketing something expressly to allow people to place themselves beyond the law,” Comey said.

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Cops suspect that alleged thieves monitored them with a drone

Cops suspect that alleged thieves monitored them with a drone
High-tech criminals believed to employ drones to surveil cops, burglary sites.
By David KravetsSep 30 2014<http://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2014/09/cops-suspect-alleged-thieves-monitored-them-with-a-drone/>

Pennsylvania authorities suspect that two men accused of stealing mobile phones were monitoring law enforcement. Local media reported Tuesday that when they were arrested last month, one of the two suspects was carrying a camera-equipped drone that police saw flying over the Upper Saucon Township’s police headquarters the day before the arrests.

The accused are Duane Holmes, 44, of North Bergen, and Chaviv Dykes, 20, of Newark. Police said they had $50,000 in mobile phones allegedly stolen from a Verizon Wireless store and other outlets that NJ.com said were lifted “during a string of smash-and-grab burglaries.”

Police said footage from the drone they were reviewing did not contain images of the township’s police station. However, the footage included still shots of I-495 in Union City heading toward the Lincoln Tunnel, and West 38th Street in Manhattan, CBS reported. Other footage from the drone was of shopping areas, leading CBS to suggest that the suspects were also using the drones to surveil their targets.

NJ.com said Dykes and Holmes are believed to be members of a “burglary ring” known as the “Tub Gang” that is “suspected of victimizing businesses in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Minnesota, and Missouri.”

New Afghanistan pact means America’s longest war will last until at least 2024

New Afghanistan pact means America’s longest war will last until at least 2024
Bilateral security deal ensures that President Obama will pass off the Afghanistan war and his new war in Iraq and Syria to his successor
By Spencer Ackerman
Sep 30 2014
<http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/sep/30/us-troops-afghanistan-2024-obama-bilateral-security-agreement>

The longest war in American history will last at least another decade, according to the terms of a garrisoning deal for US forces signed by the new Afghanistan government on Tuesday. 

Long awaited and much desired by an anxious US military, the deal guarantees that US and Nato troops will not have to withdraw by year’s end, and permits their stay “until the end of 2024 and beyond.” 

The entry into force of the deal ensures that Barack Obama, elected president in 2008 on a wave of anti-war sentiment, will pass off both the Afghanistan war and his new war in Iraq and Syria to his successor. In 2010, his vice-president, Joe Biden, publicly vowed the US would be “totally out” of Afghanistan “come hell or high water, by 2014.”

Obama called Tuesday “a historic day” for the US and Afghanistan, as the security pact, which puts US troops beyond the reach of Afghan law, “will help advance our shared interests and the long-term security of Afghanistan.”

The primary explicit purpose of the deal, known as the Bilateral Security Agreement, is to permit the US to continue training Afghanistan’s roughly 350,000 security forces, which the US and Nato have built from scratch. 

But with domestic US political acrimony swirling over the rise of the Islamic State (Isis) after the 2011 US withdrawal from Iraq, the accord is also a hedge against the resurgence of the Taliban and a recognition that 13 years of bloody, expensive war have failed to vanquish the insurgency. 

Any earlier termination of the deal must occur by mutual consent, ensuring a US veto in the event of an about-face by newly inaugurated President Ghani or his successor. Ghani’s predecessor, Hamid Karzai, incensed the Obama administration by refusing to sign the basing deal, rebuking the country that installed him as Afghanistan’s leader after the US drove the Taliban from Kabul in 2001.

Ghani also agreed to a garrisoning accord with Nato forces, known as a Status of Forces Agreement. Nato has agreed to fund Afghanistan’s soldiers and police through 2017.

Under the Bilateral Security Agreement’s annexes, the US military will have access to nine major land and airbases, to include the massive airfields at Bagram, Jalalabad and Kandahar, staging areas not only for air operations in Afghanistan but the US drone strikes that continue across the border in tribal Pakistan. 

The additional bases – in Kabul, Mazar-i-Sharif, Herat, Helmand, Gardez and Shindand – ensure the reach of the US military throughout Afghanistan.

[snip]

The 1% has bought its own internet. What’s next? Words with Rich People?

The 1% has bought its own internet. What’s next? Words with Rich People?
If Internet Platinum Reserve is surprising, it’s only because we’ve been trying to fool ourselves that the web is a populist haven, over here at Poor People Online
By Jess Zimmerman
Sep 19 2014
<http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/sep/19/internet-rich-people-web-populism>

In one of the best moments of the genius webcomic Achewood, occasional protagonist Ray – a Scottish Fold cat who is also a wealthy playboy – goes on eBay while high and impulsively types, in the search bar, WHAT’S THE BEST THING YOU GOT? The screen blinks, then lights up with the message “Welcome to eBay Platinum Reserve.”

“Congratulations. By thinking like the world’s greatest, you have unlocked a wealth of incredible opportunities,” the message continues. These are, to be specific, purchasing opportunities. Purchasing opportunities that, as it turns out, include the actual Airwolf helicopter ($20bn) and Keith Moon’s head in a jar ($4.7bn, “eyes may close in transit – there is no technology to guard against this”). It’s an entire hidden eBay, accessible only by password – and the password is the grasping entitlement of the rich.

Proponents of net neutrality worry about this happening for real. Or at least they worry about a future in which a small handful of monopoly-happy telecoms are able to throttle access to any website that doesn’t make them money or provide lower-paying customers with slowed and restricted service. Net neutrality boosters want government regulation to dictate that all sites and customers get the same treatment, rather than splitting the web into “slow lanes” and “fast lanes” along financial lines. Internet pinkos don’t want rich people to have better internet.

Well, it’s too late. Rich people already have better internet. Mercifully, cable modems are fairly common these days – remember when the best you could afford was DSL? – so for now, the rich don’t necessarily get faster internet. But they do get Internet Platinum Reserve.

The rich have better dating sites, like The League, an invite-only dating app for “successful” people that’s basically snobby Tinder. The rich have better Facebook; the new social network Netropolitan costs $6,000 to sign up plus $3,000 a year, and is specifically geared towards “people with more money than time”. (Or, I might add, sense.) According to Scientific American, the rich get luxury ads and credit and loan offers that the rest of us never see. To be fair, though, I couldn’t read the second page of that article because it would have cost me $6; increasingly, the rich have more access to better news and writing as publications go subscription-based. There’s even a tech startup, lauded this month by Silicon Valley, that will let you rent a butler. That’s right: rich people have Ask Jeeves with ACTUAL JEEVES.

Netropolitan, which was just announced this week, seems like a particularly egregious example. It’s not even clear what, functionally, this new social network has over Facebook, other than allowing members to converse about “everything from fine wines to classic cars to vacation destination recommendations” (all illegal on regular Facebook, of course). The site has moderators, but stipulates that they are not concierges: “Our Member Service Associates will not book you a charter jet, or find you tickets to a sold-out Broadway show. They exist solely to help members technically navigate and find their way around the social club.” So the primary perk of Netropolitan appears to be that it has people who can help you figure out how to use Netropolitan.

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