Is 10,000-steps goal more myth than science? Study seeks fitness truths through our phones and more

Is 10,000-steps goal more myth than science? Study seeks fitness truths through our phones and more
By Ariana Eunjung Cha
May 26 2016

PALO ALTO, Calif. — Stanford cardiologist Alan Yeung has embarked on what may be the most audacious study of exercise in history. Using an app on those ubiquitous gadgets that many of us carry around 24/7 — our smartphones, fitness watches and other electronic devices — Yeung and his colleagues are mapping the second-by-second minutiae of how we move. Not just the count of our steps, but all sorts of measures, including our velocity and orientation in space.

Just a year in, the results already are provocative.

For starters, America’s couch-potato lifestyle may be worse than anyone thought. Not only are many of us not exercising, the early data also show that a huge percentage of us are barely moving. The finding applies even to people in their 20s through 40s, supposedly the prime of life.

“This was a surprise,” Yeung said. “A lot of people are spending most of their time sitting around — not even standing, not even going up and down.”

The numbers also confirm one of the nation’s cliched fitness divides, with East Coast residents being less active than their counterparts in California, Oregon and Washington state.

The study is one of a number of potentially paradigm-shifting initiatives made possible by the gazillion data points amassed by our smart devices. Stanford’s app — which participants download voluntarily — is part of the first generation of projects powered by Apple’s ResearchKit, a set of free tools introduced by the company in early 2015 to great fanfare and a fair amount of skepticism.

The first set of Apple’s ResearcKit apps allow you to run tests on yourself and give you instant feedback. (Courtesy of Apple)
More than 100,000 people signed up in just the first six months, generating so much information that most of the researchers involved have been able to analyze only a tiny fraction of it.

Other apps in this first wave target asthma, melanoma, breast cancer, epilepsy, autism and Parkinson’s disease, capitalizing on the power of various tracking and multimedia features to extract information that might be helpful for researchers and participants alike. The Parkinson’s app uses a device’s touch screen to analyze a sequence of finger taps and determine whether they might signal tremors. Another tool lets you aim your smartphone camera at a child’s face while he or she watches a video, with the app then reading the youngster’s reaction to signal whether there might be concern about autism.

Stanford’s project uses a smartphone’s accelerometer (a sensor that measures movement and velocity) and gyroscope (which measures angular rotation across three axes) to analyze how we move. The researchers’ goal is to figure out how we can change our movements to improve heart health and live longer. Eventually, they hope to answer such questions as: Does a person need to exercise daily, or is it okay to be a weekend warrior? Are brief, high-intensity workouts just a fad, or do they actually work?

“We know exercise saves lives,” explained project co-director Euan Ashley, head of Stanford’s biomedical data science initiative. “What we don’t know is what is the right dose.”

Scientists’ aha! moment on the link between exercise and health came in 1953 with the publication of a study by Scottish epidemiologist Jeremiah Morris.

It focused on London’s transportation workers, who worked in pairs on the city’s double-decker buses. They worked the same shifts and breathed the same air, but there was one big difference. While drivers spent most of their time sitting, the conductors who walked up and down the aisles selling tickets climbed about 600 stairs each shift. In analyzing the health outcomes of the two groups, Morris found a startling disparity: Over a two-year period, the conductors were 50 percent less likely to have a heart attack than the drivers.


The superbug that doctors have been dreading just reached the U.S.

The superbug that doctors have been dreading just reached the U.S.
By Lena H. Sun and Brady Dennis
May 26 2016

For the first time, researchers have found a person in the United States carrying bacteria resistant to antibiotics of last resort, an alarming development that the top U.S. public health official says could signal “the end of the road” for antibiotics.

The antibiotic-resistant strain was found last month in the urine of a 49-year-old Pennsylvania woman. Defense Department researchers determined that she carried a strain of E. coli resistant to the antibiotic colistin, according to a study published Thursday in Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy, a publication of the American Society for Microbiology. The authors wrote that the discovery “heralds the emergence of a truly pan-drug resistant bacteria.”

[Superbug known as ‘phantom menace’ on the rise in U.S.] 

Colistin is the antibiotic of last resort for particularly dangerous types of superbugs, including a family of bacteria known as CRE, which health officials have dubbed “nightmare bacteria.” In some instances, these superbugs kill up to 50 percent of patients who become infected. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has called CRE among the country’s most urgent public health threats.

It’s the first time this colistin-resistant strain has been found in a person in the United States. In November, public health officials worldwide reacted with alarm when Chinese and British researchers reported finding the colistin-resistant strain in pigs, raw pork meat and in a small number of people in China. The deadly strain was later discovered in Europe, Africa, South America and Canada.

“It basically shows us that the end of the road isn’t very far away for antibiotics — that we may be in a situation where we have patients in our intensive-care units, or patients getting urinary tract infections for which we do not have antibiotics,” CDC Director Tom Frieden said in an interview Thursday.

“I’ve been there for TB patients. I’ve cared for patients for whom there are no drugs left. It is a feeling of such horror and helplessness,” Frieden added. “This is not where we need to be.”

CDC officials are working with Pennsylvania health authorities to interview the patient and family to identify how she may have contracted the bacteria, including reviewing recent hospitalizations and other health-care exposures. CDC hopes to screen the woman and her contacts to see if others might be carrying the organism. Local and state health departments also will be collecting cultures as part of the investigation.

Thursday’s study did not disclose further details about the Pennsylvania woman or the outcome of her case, although it said that she had not reported any travel in the previous five months. The authors could not be reached for comment. A spokeswoman for Pennsylvania Department of Health said the agency could not legally disclose specific details about an individual case investigation.

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf issued a statement saying his administration immediately began working with the CDC and Department of Defense to coordinate “an appropriate and collaborative” response.

“We are taking the emergence of this resistance gene very seriously,” he said, adding that authorities will take all necessary actions to prevent it from becoming a widespread problem with “potentially serious consequences.”


Re: Smart Tampon? The Internet of Every Single Thing Must Be Stopped

[Note:  This comment comes from friend Linda Stone.  DLH]

From: Linda Stone <>
Subject: Re: [Dewayne-Net] Smart Tampon? The Internet of Every Single Thing Must Be Stopped
Date: May 26, 2016 at 4:02:26 PM EDT

We’re going a crazy direction with IoT, drowning ourselves in inputs and data. 

Meanwhile, the French are moving in a more sustainable, human-centered way with the “right to disconnect” law:




Smart Tampon? The Internet of Every Single Thing Must Be Stopped 


Not every object should connect to our smartphones—and if it does, it should at least work




May 25 2016





Minimum Wage Workers Can’t Afford Rent Anywhere In The Country

Minimum Wage Workers Can’t Afford Rent Anywhere In The Country
By Bryce Covert
May 26 2016

People who make the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour can’t find an affordable place to live anywhere in the country, according to a new report from the National Low Income Housing Coalition.

But perhaps even more surprising is that even if the minimum wage were raised to $15 an hour — the level low-wage workers have been demanding in a constant flow of strikes and protests and the highest level supported by Democratic lawmakers — they would still be out of luck.

The report found that to afford a one-bedroom apartment at the average fair market rate without shelling out more than 30 percent of his income, someone has to earn at least $16.35 an hour. The necessary pay goes up to $20.30 an hour to afford a two-bedroom unit.

Some states have more affordable markets. But none of them are cheap enough for a minimum wage earner. In order to afford a two-bedroom apartment while earning $7.25 an hour, someone would have to have nearly three full-time jobs, putting in 112 hours a week every single week of the year. “If this worker slept for eight hours per night,” the report notes, “he or she would have no remaining time during the week for anything other than working and sleeping.”

Many cities and states have gone further than the federal minimum wage and instituted their own higher levels. But even those wages mostly leave workers unable to afford rent. None of the higher wages give a full-time minimum wage worker the ability to cover rent for a two-bedroom apartment; only 12 counties and one metropolitan area have ensured a floor that allows a worker to afford a one-bedroom.

Even those who earn more than the minimum wage are often out of luck. Among those who rent, they earn an average wage of $15.42, not enough to afford an average one- or two-bedroom apartment. 

Stagnant wages have increasingly come into conflict with rising rents for most Americans. The share of renters paying more than half their income for housing has doubled since 1960, constituting more than a quarter of all renters.


Smart Tampon? The Internet of Every Single Thing Must Be Stopped

Smart Tampon? The Internet of Every Single Thing Must Be Stopped 
Not every object should connect to our smartphones—and if it does, it should at least work
May 25 2016

Let’s play a game. Which of the following is a real smartphone-connected product? 

A) A bottle that tracks your H2O intake 
B) A bowl that tracks your dog’s H2O intake 
C) An umbrella that reminds you not to leave it behind 
D) A tampon that reminds you when it is time for a change

It is actually a trick question. All four of these “smart” items have either been announced by startups or are already shipping. 

Technology has made our lives easier and solved some incredible problems, but a connected egg tray that reminds you to buy more? Come on. A subset of startups inventing the “world’s first connected [insert any noun here]” believe everything goes better with Bluetooth.

Blame the falling price of parts, the popularity of crowdfunding sites or the flood of cash into the tech industry. But if an object has room for a chip and a battery, some entrepreneur is trying to shove them in—and replace common sense with an app alert. The high water mark was reached last week, when startup MyFlow announced the smart tampon.

In life there are big problems and small problems. A connected pill bottle for seniors or an EpiPen case that sends an alert when someone goes into anaphylactic shockmay save lives. A connected thermostat can save money; a doorbell can provide peace of mind. But many of these overpriced newcomers aim to solve problems that aren’t really problems. “Remembering to floss your teeth is hard,” is the first line of one product’s marketing video. 

There is even greater irony: Instead of solving the hassles of everyday life, they create more of them. I’ve been testing many products that simply don’t work as promised. It is time potential buyers wised up to the Internet of Every Single Thing. Until the hardware improves and the ideas get more practical, it is buyer beware.

My egg tray doesn’t like my Wi-Fi network. That may sound like a Mad Lib, but I’m serious. It took me 15 minutes to correctly pair Quirky’s $15 Egg Minder with the iPhone app, which gives you a count of remaining eggs. Yet when I removed eggs from the tray to make breakfast, one of them remained virtually present. I guess you could say the app was… scrambled.

I washed down that delicious breakfast with nearly 15 ounces of water. But it happened to be one of the times the Hidrate Spark water bottle didn’t record it. What a waste of hydration! Later in the day at spinning class, my OMSignal smart bra only recorded half of my 45-minute workout. Because the fit of my preproduction bra wasn’t perfect, the sensors in the fabric didn’t always pick up my heart rate. 

Most of the companies explained the reasons for the glitches—and that, with just a handful of employees and relatively limited funding, they were working on fixes. Will they actually get fixed? Hard to say. My review partner Geoffrey Fowler and I see these issues time and time again in our testing. 

And I haven’t even gotten to the notification overload. Like the connected toothbrushand fork, it took some time to get used to my phone yelling at me to drink every few hours. Leave my living room just to go to the bedroom and my phone blares with alerts that I’ve left behind my connected $125 Davek Alert umbrella.


Could Alzheimer’s Stem From Infections? It Makes Sense, Experts Say

Could Alzheimer’s Stem From Infections? It Makes Sense, Experts Say
May 25 2016

Could it be that Alzheimer’s disease stems from the toxic remnants of the brain’s attempt to fight off infection?

Provocative new research by a team of investigators at Harvard leads to this startling hypothesis, which could explain the origins of plaque, the mysterious hard little balls that pockmark the brains of people with Alzheimer’s.

It is still early days, but Alzheimer’s experts not associated with the work are captivated by the idea that infections, including ones that are too mild to elicit symptoms, may produce a fierce reaction that leaves debris in the brain, causing Alzheimer’s. The idea is surprising, but it makes sense, and the Harvard group’s data, published Wednesday in the journal Science Translational Medicine, supports it. If it holds up, the hypothesis has major implications for preventing and treating this degenerative brain disease.

The Harvard researchers report a scenario seemingly out of science fiction. A virus, fungus or bacterium gets into the brain, passing through a membrane — the blood-brain barrier — that becomes leaky as people age. The brain’s defense system rushes in to stop the invader by making a sticky cage out of proteins, called beta amyloid. The microbe, like a fly in a spider web, becomes trapped in the cage and dies. What is left behind is the cage — a plaque that is the hallmark of Alzheimer’s.

So far, the group has confirmed this hypothesis in neurons growing in petri dishes as well as in yeast, roundworms, fruit flies and mice. There is much more work to be done to determine if a similar sequence happens in humans, but plans — and funding — are in place to start those studies, involving a multicenter project that will examine human brains.

“It’s interesting and provocative,” said Dr. Michael W. Weiner, a radiology professor at the University of California, San Francisco, and a principal investigator of the Alzheimer’s Disease Neuroimaging Initiative, a large national effort to track the progression of the disease and look for biomarkers like blood proteins and brain imaging to signal the disease’s presence.

Dr. David Holtzman, a professor and the chairman of neurology at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, was also intrigued. “It is obviously outside the box,” he said. “It really is an innovative and novel study.”
The work began when Robert D. Moir, of Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital, had an idea about the function of amyloid proteins, normal brain proteins whose role had long been a mystery.

The proteins were traditionally thought to be garbage that accumulates in the brain with age. But Dr. Moir noticed that they looked a lot like proteins of the innate immune system, a primitive system that is the body’s first line of defense against infections.

Elsewhere in the body, such proteins trap microbes — viruses, fungi, yeast and bacteria. Then white blood cells come by and clear up the mess. Perhaps amyloid was part of this system, Dr. Moir thought.

He began collaborating with Rudolph E. Tanzi, also at Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital, in a study funded by the National Institutes of Health and the Cure Alzheimer’s Fund. The idea was to see if amyloid trapped microbes in living animals and if mice without amyloid proteins were quickly ravaged by infections that amyloid could have stopped.

The answers, they reported, were yes and yes.

In one study, the group injected Salmonella bacteria into the brains of young mice that did not have plaques.

“Overnight, the bacteria seeded plaques,” Dr. Tanzi said. “The hippocampus was full of plaques, and each plaque had a single bacterium at its center.”

In contrast, mice that did not make beta amyloid succumbed more quickly to the bacterial infection, and did not make plaques.


Revealed: How copyright law is being misused to remove material from the internet

“Revealed: How copyright law is being misused to remove material from the internet”
When Annabelle Narey posted a negative review of a building firm on Mumsnet, the last thing on her mind was copyright infringement
By Alex Hern
May 23 2016

Writing a bad review online has always run a small risk of opening yourself up to a defamation claim. But few would expect to be told that they had to delete their review or face a lawsuit over another part of the law: copyright infringement. 

Yet that’s what happened to Annabelle Narey after she posted a negative review of a building firm on Mumsnet.

Narey, who is the head of programme at an international children’s charity, had turned to London-based BuildTeam for a side return extension, but almost six months later, the relationship had turned acrimonious. The build, which was only supposed to take 10–14 weeks, was still unfinished, she wrote. “On Christmas day a ceiling fell down in an upstairs bedroom,” she says, apparently due to an issue with the plumbing. “Mercifully no one was hurt. [That] there seem to be so many glowing reports out there it is frankly curious. Proceed at your own risk,” the review concluded.

BuildTeam disputes her account. In a letter sent to Mumsnet, which the site passed on to Narey, the builders complained that the comments were defamatory. They say it is “untrue” that the ceiling fell down due to an issue with plumbing, and cited a total of 11 statements they claimed were defamatory.

Mumsnet, following UK law on libel accusations, passed the letter on to Narey and offered her the chance to delete the post or get in touch with BuildTeam to sort out the matter.

“BuildTeam have been in touch persistently with us at Mumsnet since mid-March, asking for the thread to be removed,” a spokeswoman said. “We’re keen to defend our posters’ freedom of speech and to ask complainants to follow due process, so previously we had referred them to Section 5 of the 2013 Defamation Act.”

By this point, the thread on Mumsnet had grown to include other posters claiming to have had bad experiences with the building firm. Some of them decided to remove the posts in response to the legal threats from BuildTeam, but Narey wanted to keep hers up.

BuildTeam says that “at no point has … Build Team Holborn Ltd stated that they are to pursue a defamation claim against any individual. Enquiries were made to the relevant web hosts as to their position for such posts being made, thus resulting in the relevant documentation being lodged with the aforementioned hosts. At present Build Team Holborn Ltd are currently assessing the situation and/or their options in respect of reserving their rights should any action be required in the future.”

Narey says that after she heard from Mumsnet about the defamation claims, BuildTeam got in touch personally to ask for the post to be removed. “Staff even came to our house holding printouts of it. They never acknowledged the contents or made any apology, but distanced themselves from the context of the review, asking only for it to be taken down,” she said.

But in April, the decision was made for her, in a very peculiar way. Mumsnet received a warning from Google: a takedown request had been made under the American Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), alleging that copyrighted material was posted without a licence on the thread.

As soon as the DMCA takedown request had been filed, Google de-listed the entire thread. All 126 posts are now not discoverable when a user searches Google for BuildTeam – or any other terms. The search company told Mumsnet it could make a counterclaim, if it was certain no infringement had taken place, but since the site couldn’t verify that its users weren’t actually posting copyrighted material, it would have opened it up to further legal pressure.