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.


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.


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.

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.


Five dead in ‘targeted attack’ at Capital Gazette newspaper

A gunman killed five people with a shotgun in a “targeted attack” on the Capital Gazette newsroom in Annapolis on Thursday afternoon.The victims have been identified as Rob Hiaasen, 59; Wendi Winters, 65; Gerald Fischman, 61; John McNamara, 56; and Rebecca Smith, 34.

Jarrod W. Ramos, a 38-year-old Laurel man who has held a grudge against the paper for some time, was arrested as a suspect.

“This was a targeted attack on the Capital Gazette,” said Anne Arundel County Deputy Police Chief William Krampf. “This person was prepared today to come in. He was prepared to shoot people.”

“Gunman shot through the glass door to the office and opened fire on multiple employees,” said Phil Davis, a Capital crime reporter who was in the building during the shooting. “Can’t say much more and don’t want to declare anyone dead, but it’s bad.”

“There is nothing more terrifying than hearing multiple people get shot while you’re under your desk and then hear the gunman reload,” he continued.

“I’m a police reporter” Davis continued. “I write about this stuff—not necessarily to this extent, but shootings and death—all the time. But as much as I’m going to try to articulate how traumatizing it is to be hiding under your desk, you don’t know until you’re there and you feel helpless.”


Heart disease in dogs linked to food

Food may actually be responsible for dogs developing heart cancer, according to NBC News. Potatoes, beans and potatoes are developing an unusual condition in dogs, a condition that can cause an enlarged heart, the Food and Drug Administration says.

This condition is called “canine dilated cardiomyopathy“ and it is more common in certain breeds, it‘s however turning up in breeds that are not usually susceptible, the FDA says.

It might come down to a nutritional deficiency, the FDA said. The agency is refusing to name brands, but said that the ingredients seemed to be more important than the brands. The dogs affected by the foods appear to have been fed certain types of pet foods.

“We are concerned about reports of canine heart disease, known as dilated cardiomyopathy, in dogs that ate certain pet foods containing peas, lentils other legumes or potatoes as their main ingredients,” said the FDA’s Dr. Martine Hartogensis.

“The FDA is investigating the potential link between DCM and these foods. We encourage pet owners and veterinarians to report DCM cases in dogs who are not predisposed to the disease,” Hartogensis added in a statement.

“Heart function may improve in cases that are not linked to genetics with appropriate veterinary treatment and dietary modification, if caught early,” the FDA said.

Some breeds of dog have a genetic predisposition, including great Danes, Newfoundlands, boxers, Doberman pinschers and St. Bernards.

“However, the cases that have been reported to the FDA have included golden and Labrador retrievers, whippets, a Shih Tzu, a bulldog and miniature schnauzers, as well as mixed breeds,” the FDA said.



Terry Crews recalls alleged sexual assault to Senate

“Brooklyn Nine-Nine” actor Terry Crews gave an emotional testimony before a U.S. Senate committee explaining why he didn’t fight back against WME Agent Adam Venit, who he claims sexually assaulted him two years ago.

“The assault lasted only minutes, but what he was effectively telling me while he held my genitals in his hand, was that he held the power,” the 49-year-old actor said. “That he was in control.”

“This is how toxic masculinity permeates culture,” he added.

After Senator Dianne Feinstein asked Crews why he did not fight back, he claims that he held back his initial urge to become violent.

“Senator, as a black man in America, you only have a few shots at success,” he said. “You only have a few chances to make yourself a viable member of the community.”

“I’m from Flint, Michigan,” he continued. “I have seen many, many young black men who were provoked into violence, and they were in prison, or they were killed. And they’re not here.”

Crews tried to report the assault to Venit’s agency, but nothing happened.

“I was told, ‘We’re gonna do everything in our power. We are gonna handle this, Terry. You’re right, it is unacceptable’,” he said. “And then they disappeared.”

Venit was reportedly suspended for 30 days in October of last year.


Jumping spiders could one day lead to better robots

By training a spider to jump, researchers from the University of Manchester managed to gain new insights into the mechanisms behind arachnid movement.

In the study, the team found that the arachnid — nicknamed Kim — could jump six times her body length from a standing start. In contrast, humans can only jump 1.5 body lengths.

Kim is a regal jumping spider (Phidippus regius), a species known for its ability to pounce on prey. To study the impressive jumping, researchers filmed the spider with high-tech cameras and then used 3D CT scans to build a model for both her legs and body structure.

That revealed Kim used different jumping strategies at different times. For instance, sometimes she would use a faster jump with a lower trajectory for increased accuracy, and sometimes she would tend towards more energy efficient ones for longer distance.

“She will jump at the optimal angle, which means that she can understand the challenge that she is presented with,” explained lead author Mostafa Nabawy, a researcher at the University of Manchester, according to BBC News“And then she can time her jumping performance at take-off to execute a jump that is optimal in terms of energy demand.”

The data collected from the study gives new insight into the forces behind a spider’s jump, as well as how such forces are generated. That could then shed light on certain biomechanics and allow scientists to use them in other areas of research.

As Kim only used muscle power to jump, the impressive leaping ability may then one day lead to a new generation of more efficient robots or other such machines.

“We aim to use this improved understanding of spiders to imagine a new class of agile micro-robots that are currently unthinkable using today’s engineering technologies,” said Nawaby, according to Gizmodo.


The research is published in the journal Scientific Reports.