People Are A**holes

Brain HEALTH HND_Disease NWT_Biology TECH

Cat feces parasite may reduce fear in humans

A parasite commonly found in cat droppings may make people more daring, according to a new study published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

The microscopic organism — known as Toxoplasma gondii — infects 2 billion people around the world and has long been known to make rodents foolishly brave. So brave that they no longer fear predators.

As a result, researchers from the University of Colorado set out to see if it had a similar effect on humans.

To do that, they tested 1,500 students and 200 attendees of entrepreneurial events and then analyzed whether or not they carried the parasite, USA Today reports.

From there, the researchers analyzed databases from 42 different countries and compared them against the earlier data. That revealed those infected with the parasite were much more likely to start their own business and take entrepreneurial risks than healthy individuals.

In fact, subjects at entrepreneurial events who had the parasite were almost twice as likely as others attendees to start their own business, and infected college students were 1.4 times more likely than their peers to major in business.

The team concluded that the correlation, while not definitive, suggests a link between more risky behavior and the parasite.

Currently, over 60 million people across the U.S. likely have the parasite. However, it is often not noticeable and comes with no blatant symptoms. As a result, studying it could help researchers better account for certain behavioral trends.

Though more research needs to be done on the link analyzed in the research, the study adds more credence to the idea that T. gondii does influence human behavior. 

“While correlational, these results highlight the linkage between parasitic infection and complex human behaviors, including those relevant to business, entrepreneurship and economic productivity,” wrote the team in the study, according to Mental Floss.


Seahawk’s Rashaad Penny suffers broken finger, out 4 weeks

Seattle Seahawks first-round draft pick Rashaad Penny will undergo surgery Wednesday morning to repair a broken bone in his finger, a source informed of the situation told NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport.

It was later reported by Rapoport that Penny flew to Philadelphia Tuesday night to have surgery to repair the broken finger and that he will be out 3-4 weeks.

Penny may be able to return for the regular season opener on September 9th at Denver but would likely miss the remainder of the preseason.

Seahawks coach Pete Carroll is expected to meet the media on Wednesday and clarify the injury.

He was battling Chris Carson for the Seahawks’ starting running back job prior to the injury, which he suffered during practice Monday. Penny flew to Philadelphia on Tuesday night and is scheduled to have surgery first thing Wednesday morning, Rapoport reported.

The Seahawks are starving for more production on the ground after ranking in the 20s in several major rushing categories, including just one rushing touchdown from someone not named Russell Wilson.

After trading back in the first round from 18 to 27, Seattle surprised many by making Penny the second running back selected in the draft. The Seahawks doubled down on the move by asserting they would have taken him at 18.

Penny (5-11, 220) was listed second on the team’s most recent unofficial depth chart, ahead of Mike Davis and C.J. Prosise, among others. He rushed for just 16 yards despite a team-high eight carries in the Seahawks’ preseason opener last week against the Colts.

The San Diego State product led college football in rushing last year with 2,248 yards.


Urban Meyer investigation takes dramatic turn

New information has surfaced in Ohio State’s investigation into what head coach Urban Meyer knew about domestic abuse allegations against one of his former assistants, and it paints a disturbing portrait of the accuser.

Former Buckeyes wide receivers coach Zach Smith was accused of domestic violence by ex-wife Courtney Smith in 2009 and 2015, accusations that Smith has denied. In a bombshell interview recently, Courtney Smith said Meyer was aware of the allegations, despite his denials at a Big Ten media event earlier this month that he had any prior knowledge of the incidents.

But, according to, Courtney Smith told Lynn Bruce, Zach Smith’s mother, in 2013 that she would “take Zach down and take Urban Meyer down with him.”

“She told me that not one time, but in fact she said it several times over the years,” Lynn Bruce said.

Courtney Smith was reportedly out for revenge after learning that her husband had cheated on her, according to the report.

“When she found out five years ago that Zach had cheated on her, she was so angry that she vowed to me she would get back at him someday,” Lynn Bruce said. “And she said she would take (Ohio State coach) Urban (Meyer) down, too. And this is exactly what she did. She wanted to do as much damage as possible. She has been planning this for some time.”

Meanwhile, Meyer has been prohibited from any contact with players, coaches or staff members while he’s on paid administrative leave, pending the university’s investigation. He also does not have access to any university-issued communication devices or his school email account.



Doxorubicin negatively affects the immune system

University of Alabama at Birmingham researchers discovered that Doxorubicyn causes heart failure, according to Science Daily. Immune responses are vital for heart maintenance, repair and control of inflammation. This problenstic immunometabolism impairs resolution of inflammation, and chronic, non-resolving inflammation leads to advanced heart failure.

Immunometabolism is the study of how metabolism regulates immune cell function, and it is a recent and growing aspect of immunology. 2 of the key factors in immunometabolism are immune-responsive enzymes called lipoxygenases and cyclooxygenases. These immune-sensitive enzymes control various various bioactive lipid mediators that regulate immune cell responses.

UAB researchers, led by Ganesh Halade, Ph.D., an assistant professor in the UAB Department of Medicine’s Division of Cardiovascular Disease, used a mouse model to study the effect of doxorubicin on immunometabolism. In the mice, doxorubicin induced fibrosis in the heart, increased the programmed cell death called apoptosis and impaired the pumping of the heart. The drug also caused a wasting syndrome in the heart and the spleen.

Mounting research has shown that the spleen plays a leading role in the initiation of immune response after a heart attack. Now, Halade and colleagues have found that the doxorubicin is also involved in the deleterious response to the spleen.

The scientists found that doxorubycin also poisoned a special group of marginal zone immune cells called CD169+ macrophages, causing the spleen to diminish in size. This loss of specialized macrophages means an impaired host defense system because these unique macrophages usually coordinate the first-responders monocyte deployment plan to sites of injury or infection in order to synthesize bioactive lipids to activate the resolution of inflammation. The research is still ongoing.


Drama surrounds Coleman, Calloway on ‘Hard Knocks’

Buffalo Bills wide receiver Corey Coleman was featured on Tuesday night’s episode of Hard Knocks. Coleman, traded to the Bills for a 7th round pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, essentially asked for a trade in an opening scene of the HBO show.

A clip was shown of Coleman running a route at training camp before an inaccurate pass is thrown just out of his reach.

Offensive coordinator Todd Haley yells at Coleman for letting the pass bounce off his chest. Coleman lets Haley know that the pass never bounced off his chest before the offensive coordinator continues to chew him out. Haley is still complaining about Coleman has he walks off after practice.

Days before the Cleveland Browns’ preseason opener, receiver Corey Coleman came into head coach Hue Jackson’s office to complain about a demotion and flippantly requested a trade.

The sequence, captured by HBO’s Hard Knocks, provided the back story of the Browns’ move to trade Coleman to Buffalo earlier this month, receiving just a seventh-round pick in return.

After the opening credits, a Hard Knocks crew was shotgun in Coleman’s vehicle as Coleman drove to the Browns’ facility to clean out his locker before catching a flight to Buffalo.

The Coleman trade was a part of the wide receiver drama in Tuesday’s second episode of Hard Knocks, which is chronicling the Browns’ preseason.

HBO received police dash camera footage of an officer pulling over and citing rookie receiver Antonio Callaway with misdemeanor marijuana possession and driving with a suspended license.

Callaway apologized to the team, and Jackson told the rest of the Browns that he believed Callaway’s story that a friend had left a used marijuana cigarette in his care before the vehicle was shipped to Callaway to Ohio.

“Everyone gets one mulligan, and it better be a mulligan when you’re telling the [expletive] truth,” Jackson said. “Then I’ve got your back. If you’re not, I’m done with you.”

Notably, Coleman played every offensive snap in the Browns’ preseason opener and made two impressive catches — a two-drug catch on the sideline, and a catch-and-run 54-yard touchdown.


FDA blamed for Opioid epidemic

The Food and Drug Administration knew about the opioid epidemic but chose not to act on it, according to NVC News. The FDA knew that some doctors were wtiting wrong prescriptions for powerful opioid painkillers but did nothing to investigate their actual usage.

The drugs in question include mouth sprays and lozenges meant to provide immediate relief for cancer pain. These drugs are very potent and are often as much as 100 times stronger than morphine.

These powerful drugs were prescribed to patients who had no tolerance, and for issues such as migraines or dental pain, according to the team at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health said. Many providers who were apparently trained in the proper use of the drugs gave incorrect answers on surveys about their use.

“There are some doctors who are clearly prescribing it wrong,” Dr. Joshua Sharfstein, a former FDA deputy commissioner who was part of the study team at Johns Hopkins says. “And FDA did nothing to stop them.”

At the same time, the CDC reported last year, that the number of painkiller prescriptions tripled from 1999 to 2015. The FDA, CDC and other medical groups agree that the crisis has been driven in no small part by overprescribing.

One subset of these drugs is apparently so powerful and so dangerous that the FDA set up a special plan to control their use, called a risk evaluation and mitigation strategy. It is designed “to mitigate the risk of misuse, abuse, addiction, overdose, and serious complications due to medication errors,” the FDA said in a statement.

Business TECH TECH_Technology

Ethereum receives first top-level domain name

The Ethereum Name Service (ENS), which provides ethereum users the opportunity to replace long addresses with “human readable names” attached to a .eth domain, has officially partnered with Minds + Machines Group (MMX), a company that owns and operates “top-level domains” within the internet’s Domain Name System (DNS) (others include .com or .uk, for example).

CoinDesk first reported the future initiatives of the partnership August 3rd.

“Blockchain-based social network Minds is migrating its platform to the ethereum network”, the startup Minds announced Monday.

Subsequent to nearly five months on its Rinkeby test network, Minds will be transferring to ethereum for its full live launch.

According to CoinDesk, the startup “claims to provide a censorship-resistant, accessible social network for users, especially those in potentially authoritarian nations, according to a press release”.

The partnership, which enables users to attach their addresses to top-level domain names as announced on in early August, means ethereum users will be able to register their addresses with MMX’s soon to be launched .luxe domain, which stands for “lets u xchange easily,” offering a more user-friendly way to access the blockchain’s assets and services like dapps and smart contracts.

Likewise, MMX said the .luxe addresses will allow “names to resolve over the internet in the normal way for email or web-based traffic,” enabling users to conduct “traditional internet activity” with the same address used for their ethereum assets and services.

“We’re very excited to be helping advance integration between existing DNS-based name services and the Ethereum Name Service, improving usability for blockchain applications and users,” ENS lead developer Nick Johnson said in a statement.

He added in an email that the “natively ‘blockchain enabled'” .luxe domain will offer “more choices of domain and of trust model” for ethereum users, and that the partnership “improves integration between the legacy DNS space and blockchain technologies.”

MMX is confident that sufficient demand exists for .luxe, and pointed to ENS’ success as evidence.

“We already know from ethereum’s test in its .eth zone that there is a real proven demand for word-based identifiers that are blockchain enabled,” CEO Toby Hall said in the statement.


Nick Saban downplays Jalen Hurts’ criticism of coaching staff

Alabama head coach Nick Saban is dismissing the notion that Jalen Hurts’ comments over the weekend, in which he was critical of how Tide coaches have handled the quarterback controversy this offseason, will have any effect on the team.

“Every player has a right to express what he feels and what he thinks, and I think he has every right to do that with every coach or anybody in the organization who he has relationships with, which we certainly do quite often with all players at all positions,” Saban said via ESPN.  “This is probably a lot more important to people outside this organization than it is to people inside. I don’t think it has any effect on our team…The rhetoric will not have anything to do with who’s the quarterback. That will obviously be decided on the field by how people execute, how they do their job.”

In his comments to the media Saturday, Hurts, whose future in Tuscaloosa has been in question since he was benched during the national championship game last January in favor of true freshman quarterback Tagovailova, expressed disappointment with how the coaching staff has dealt with the controversy. He believes comments like when Saban told reporters at SEC media days that he had “no idea” whether Hurts would be on the roster opening day have only fueled speculation that he would transfer out.

“That’s always been the elephant in the room,” Hurts said Saturday. “For me, no one came up to me the whole spring, coaches included, no one asked me how I felt. No one asked me what was on my mind. No one asked me how I felt about the things that were going on. Nobody asked me what my future held. That’s that. So now it’s like when we try to handle the situation now, for me, it’s kind of late, it’s too late, the narrative has already been created.”

Hurts and Tagovailova have been locked in a heated battle this offseason, with no indication as of yet who will get the start for the opener against Louisville Sept. 1.


Research TECH TECH_Technology

Chinese hackers turn Amazon’s Echo speakers into spies

At the DefCon security conference Sunday, researchers Wu Huiyu and Qian Wenxiang plan to present a technique that links a series of bugs in Amazon’s second-generation Echo to take over the devices and stream audio from its microphone to a remote attacker.

A group of Chinese hackers has spent several months refining a new technique for hijacking Amazon’s voice assistant gadget, providing insight into the probable methods that can be used to facilitate a surveillance hack.

The group informed Amazon to their conclusions, resulting in the company implementing security fixes in July.

“After several months of research, we successfully break the Amazon Echo by using multiple vulnerabilities in the Amazon Echo system, and [achieve] remote eavesdropping,” reads a description of their work provided to WIRED by the hackers, who work on the Blade team of security researchers at Chinese tech giant Tencent. “When the attack [succeeds], we can control Amazon Echo for eavesdropping and send the voice data through network to the attacker.”

The researchers’ repaired attack illustrated how hackers can combine a malicious collection of schemes to create an intricate multistep penetration technique that works against a relatively secure gadget, such as the Echo.

“They start by taking apart an Echo of their own, removing its flash chip, writing their own firmware to it, and re-soldering the chip back to the Echo’s motherboard. That altered Echo will serve as a tool for attacking other Echoes: Using a series of web vulnerabilities in the Alexa interface on that included cross-site scripting, URL redirection, and HTTPS downgrade attacks—all since fixed by Amazon—they say that they could link their hacked Echo with a target user’s Amazon account”, explains Wired.