No One Has the Data to Prevent the Next Flint
You have no real way of knowing if your town, your family, or your children face the kind of water contamination that exposed everyone in Flint, Michigan, to lead poisoning. Not because Flint is an outlier–it may, in fact, be the norm—but because no one has enough data to say for sure.
Five state and local officials in Flint face involuntary manslaughter charges for failing to alert the public to the looming health crisis there. Yet a recent Reuters report found 3,000 geographic areas in the US with lead poisoning rates twice that of Flint. But you would be hard-pressed to determine whether you lived in one of them because the United States lacks the data—and data collection requirements—needed to know for sure whether people are being poisoned by their drinking water. President Trump’s proposed cuts to the Environmental Protection Agency’s could make it even harder to know.
“The data gaps are so huge. It is abominable. We have a huge number of people in this country living completely in the dark,” says Eric Fegl-Deng, an epidemiologist at Harvard University’s Chan School of Public health and founder of the public health website ToxinAlert.org.
Some 170,000 public water systems provide water to Americans. The federal government regulates that water under laws like the Safe Water Drinking Act and the Lead and Copper Rule, but leaves it to states, utilities, and property owners to test that water and enforce the laws.
Yet the number of taps that must be tested remains woefully small. The rules require water systems serving at least 100,000 people, for instance, to test 100 taps every six months. The requirements decrease from there. Systems that serve, say, 90,000 people must test just 60 taps. Smaller systems, only five. And certain systems qualify for reduced testing. In some cases, that means testing once every nine years.
“Would you really rely on a sample of 100 people in New York or Boston?” says Feigl-Deng. “In no universe is that going to give you a statistically significant result. That’s just ludicrous.”
Lead is measured in parts per billion, or ppb. If more than 10 percent of a given system’s taps exceed 15 ppb (referred to as the “action level”) the system operator must inform the public of the risk and report the violation to the state, which reports it to the EPA. But some researchers worry that even that threshold is too high and creates a cycle in which water systems worry more about compliance than keeping people safe.
“The system detects violations. It’s not set up to be useful,” says Jeffrey Griffiths, professor of public health at Tufts University. “If you had nothing but lead going straight to your house, nobody would know that, because all that gets captured is there was a violation.”
Griffiths says something as simple as GPS technology could vastly improve the ability of ordinary citizens to monitor their own risk levels. The hurdle to establishing such a system at the national level is each state has the authority to address the problem—or not—as it sees fit. “There’s a common understanding around what water contamination is,” he says, “but the degree to which they are enforced or there’s real help from the state is completely variable.”
Private property owners have no obligation to test their taps, a situation that includes privately owned wells serving small towns across the country. That said, if private property owners do detect lead in their water systems, they must address it. That can quickly get expensive. For that reason, most property owners skip testing entirely, says Angel Hsu, director of the Data-driven Environmental Group at Yale University. (The same problem applies to lead paint, another common cause of childhood poisoning.)
“This problem demonstrates the need for a federal program to underwrite lead clean-up,” Hsu says. “Cash-strapped people and municipal governments do not have the resources necessary to remedy such a broad and persistent hazard.”
The EPA stores much of this data on water contamination, but the Center for Disease Control measures the damage already inflicted on those living with lead in their water. The data there are even patchier. The CDC compiles data on blood lead levels, collected from children 1 through 5 by pediatricians nationwide because lead is most damaging in children. But nothing requires states to report that data, which explains why so much of it is outdated. Several states report no data at all.
“You’re talking about only 25 to 30 states that consistently report blood lead levels. And poor and rural people who don’t go to the doctor are less likely to be reported,” says Feng. “By the time kids have elevated lead levels, gosh, it’s almost too late.”
Feng created ToxinAlert.org to be a central repository of crowdsourced data about lead and other water contaminants. It aggregates data from the EPA and the US Geological Survey, which measures toxins in groundwater, and adds data from states and independent researchers. The portal allows anyone to order a test and have the results logged on its national risk map.
“It’s a public alert warning system,” Feng says. “People can type in your address or zip code and it gives you all the alerts around the area.”
The goal is to give ordinary citizens the ability to hold local leaders accountable, because often, as was the case in Flint, the problem goes beyond inadequate information to a lack of political will to address the problem. A recent USA Today investigation found seven water systems in Ohio failed last year to notify the public of heightened lead levels within 60 days last as mandated by the EPA. Several more in Arizona that reported unsafe water levels to the government years before only alerted the public after USA Today began its investigation.
Michigan Attorney General Bill Schruette determined last week that local health officials' failure to alert the public to a Legionnaires' disease outbreak warrants charging them with involuntary manslaughter. He alleges that negligence led to the death of Robert Skidmore in December, 2015. “Involuntary manslaughter is a very serious crime and a very serious charge,” Schruette said during a news conference. “It holds significant gravity and weight for all involved, and I don’t take this lightly, not one bit.”
In most cases, that negligence usually comes down to a lack of resources and concerns over the cost of addressing the problems, problems that could be exacerbated by President Trump desire to cut the EPA's funding by 30 percent because federal funding helps defray the cost of testing. “If state agencies are struggling right now, what are they going to do when their budgets continue to go down?” says Lynn Thorp, national campaign director for the non-profit Clean Water Action. “That’s the gap I’m most freaked out about.”
Testing water and mitigating contamination is expensive, Griffiths says, but states must consider the repercussions of poisoning an entire generation of people. Lead poisoning can cause developmental delay in children, reduced IQ levels, anemia, and hypertension in adults. “These are kids who are not going to be as smart as they would have been,” Griffiths says.
Given that, you can consider spending the money for more and better testing an investment in the future.
via Wired https://www.wired.com
June 23, 2017 at 06:15AM
As Uber Flails, Its Self-Driving Car Research Rolls On
For all its heat, the fire that is Uber in 2017 hasn't scorched everything. While the nigh-apocalyptic past six months have felled founder and CEO Travis Kalanick, and sparked questions about its ability to keep its employees safe, let alone happy, Uber's self-driving car program seems to be doing just fine.
It's a rare but vital bit of good news for Uber, for which autonomy is an existential question. If another company figures out how to operate a taxi service without paying drivers and Uber cannot, it's lights out, unicorn. “What would happen if we weren’t a part of that future? If we weren’t part of the autonomy thing?” Kalanick told Business Insider last year. “Then the future passes us by.”
Now, Uber's self-driving program hasn't been unscathed. It faces a vicious lawsuit from Waymo, Google's self-driving car spinoff, which accuses it of using stolen IP to advance its autonomy research. Last month, Uber fired Anthony Levandowski, its self-driving car lead who allegedly brought that IP over from Google. In the past year, it has lost talented employees to competitors like Ford’s Argo AI and Aurora, a startup run by former Google autonomous vehicle head Chris Urmson.
But researchers, roboticists, and entrepreneurs in the small automation community say Uber remains stuffed with smart, hardworking people, and that the research is going forward at Uber's Advanced Technologies Center in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. There, 400 employees race to deliver the autonomous future, branded with a big "U."
“I can say without reservation that Uber built something really special in the lab there,” says David LaRose, who spent two years at Uber ATG before leaving earlier this year to become chief scientist at the manufacturing robotics company Carnegie Robotics. “It’s an amazing place with a lot of great people.” (Uber declined to comment for this story.)
And engineers are still hyped about getting self-driving cars on the road. “You do feel it around town,” says LaRose. “There's a snap in the air that feels like something big is happening.”
Uber landed in Pittsburgh in 2015, when it announced its intention to become a self-driving force. It poached more than 40 researchers from Carnegie Mellon University, which has one of the country's best robotics programs and a long history in autonomy.
Suddenly, scientists who had toiled for decades on projects many considered irrelevant had greater opportunity to bring their technology into the real world, where it could generate profits and save lives. (It helped that the Steel City's lower real estate prices and booming arts and restaurant scene made it a real nice place to do cutting-edge robotics work.) In less than two years, evidence of their efforts cruised about town, in the form of self-driving Ford Fusions.
“When Uber first came into town, there was no one doing what they were doing,” says Jackie Erickson, who founded the Pittsburgh Robotics Network last fall. “They could pick the brightest people to work on the something that was extremely meaningful, the hardest problem in the world.”
The rosy picture has faded a bit. In the past year, amid reports of clashes between the self-driving team in Pittsburgh and the trucking-focused unit run out of San Francisco (formerly helmed by Levandowski), some of that top roboticist talent left. Peter Rander, one of those poached CMU roboticists who became engineering lead at the ATG, founded Argo AI, joined by autonomous vehicle engineer Brett Browning. Aurora picked up Drew Bagnell, Uber’s head of perception and computer vision. But turnover is typical in booming industries with limited talent pools. “The competition for talent is fierce, at all levels, but there are companies who are really interested in getting senior people who have been in the field for 15 years,” says Steve DiAntonio, president and CEO of Carnegie Robotics.
And plenty of smart people remain at Uber. John Bares, the former head of the National Robotics Engineers Center, is still Uber ATG operations director. Uber hired AI superstar Raquel Urtasun (and some of her researchers) out of the University of Toronto last month, launching another R&D outpost in the Great White North.
Meanwhile, local robotics researchers and entrepreneurs say Uber’s crises don't get the same kind of play in Pittsburgh they do in Silicon Valley. “It hasn’t been sensationalized here,” says Jorgen Pedersen, CEO of the robotics company RE2 Robotics. “People are just heads down, engineering, solving hard problems, and making progress.”
The Hardest Problem
Researchers bound to Uber have good reasons to stay put. First, autonomous vehicles take years to develop. “If we were talking about a technology that anyone could just whip up in their basement over the course of a couple of weeks, maybe people would be making more moves,” says Mike Wagner, Pittsburgh-based co-founder and CEO of Edge Case Research, an automation software testing and consulting company.
Second, building a safe autonomous car requires vast datasets, the kind that take manpower to build, and fleets of vehicles to test your tech on. You also need a teams, where each member is responsible for handling a different self-driving challenge—computer vision, the mapping, hardware, artificial intelligence. For now, Uber is one of the few companies that can provide the cash to fund all that, and keep it flowing.
That longer time horizon also makes engineers less likely to jump ship based on moments of rockiness and instability. “Engineers evaluate the likelihood of success at a particular company over the long run and they may be less moved by the crisis of the day,” says David Kalson, a lawyer at the firm Cohen & Grigsby, who advises robotics companies in the Pittsburgh area.
Plus, the Silicon Valley glorification of the disruptor doesn't play everywhere. “It’s not just about the entrepreneurial instinct," says Wagner. "It’s really about the technology. Engineers see where they can make the most continuing impact." Abandoning the company giving you a chance to do that is a little more challenging and a little less appealing in that light.
Yet Uber’s self-driving program has many challenges ahead. Employees tire of the constant shuffling up top. Workloads can be onerous. Fatter paychecks might be out there. And the partners Uber needs to bring a product to market may not want to work with the scandal-covered company.
Then, of course, there’s Waymo, and the lawsuit that got Anthony Levandowski fired in the first place. Uber has dodged the worst of it thus far, avoiding a preliminary injunction that could have paused or even shut down its self-driving program. But if Waymo wins this one, it threatens to cut off something that autonomous vehicle research needs desperately: the money. No checks mean no engineers means no self-driving cars. No self-driving cars means no future Uber. For now, at least, the self-driving cars roll along.
via Wired https://www.wired.com
June 23, 2017 at 06:15AM
To make ‘Battlegrounds’ a blockbuster, Playerunknown had to learn to let go
E3 can be grueling, and few know that better than Brendan Greene, who you may know by his moniker, PlayerUnknown. Greene’s game, PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, has sold 3.5 million copies after two months in early access, built on the back of five years creating a “battle royale” mod for the military shooter Arma 3.
While the game’s success caught most of the gaming world off-guard, Greene was not surprised by the game’s success. By bringing his community into the fold, and keeping them there, understanding the progression of game development, and keeping a clear timeline and singular focus, PlayerUnknown knew exactly what was coming, and Battlegrounds is poised to continue dominating the PC gaming space.
From humble beginnings
For the last five years, PlayerUnknown has been a key player in growing what players call “Battle Royale” games. Like the 2000 Japanese movie of the same name, players are dropped onto a deserted island, and forced to fight until only one player is left standing. In each round of PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, 100 real, live people jump out of a plane onto a 64-kilometer abandoned island with one goal: Find weapons and kill each other. Though, Battlegrounds is the most well known by far, a number of games have continuously popped up in the genre, and Greene has had his hands in several of them.
“We have a lot of players that were just passionate about me getting to make my own ‘battle royale’ game,” Greene told Digital Trends. “Some of them have been with me from the ARMA 2 days. I’ve very rarely asked for donations. I paid for the servers myself, and I never asked for anything, I just gave them a good mod to play.”
That self-sufficient, selfless attitude has permeated into Greene’s development style. His focus lies squarely on the game, and the experience, and not with how it will make money. That’s a change of pace, especially in PC Gaming, where the rise of DLC and free-to-play games have forced designers to consider their monetization strategy from the word “go.”
“I really believe that’s what you should do, I just want to make a good game,” Greene said “It’s the same thing with PUBG, we just want a well made game, get it out, performing well for everyone, that’s our goal here. Monetization, that will come later, when the game’s stable. Our priority is getting a good experience for everyone.”
Making the transition
Of course, bringing that mentality to an existing publisher like Korean Bluehole Inc. was easier said than done. Switching over from handling the mod as a one-man project to a complete game has brought its own set of unique challenges.
“When I was starting at the mod I did most of the things myself. Even today on the github when they’re changing some of the original code it says ‘warning: original code, very messy’ because I can’t code to save my life. I can, but not very well.”
That led us to a burning question regarding a PlayerUnkown’s BattleGrounds urban legend: Vehicles spawn randomly on the map each round, but players have noted that, at least most of the time, vehicles spawn facing east. For those who believe it, the quirk has become a tactical consideration: Players will look at which way a car is facing to see if someone has driven the vehicle, which means they might be lurking nearby.
“That’s probably true,” Greene laughs. “There’s probably something in the code that does that, but we can fix that. There are a lot of these systems that we’ve added that are not complete yet, that cause these little things that people notice. That’s why we have early access, so we get three million people playing and giving feedback.”
The game’s unpolished coding has helped define the game’s aesthetic, and created a competitive world with its own own unique appeal. Being part of a larger development process also meant changing the way he laid out his vision, and how much he put in other developers’ hands. As a lot of new modders-turned-developers learned, that isn’t always the easiest transition.
“From doing that and implementing everything to being creative director where it’s my vision, and I lay out the vision and I have teams of people, that was tough at the start, because I was trying to micro-manage everything. That’s just bad to do, you have to leave the teams to do their work, and trust them. And now that I do, it’s amazing. They’re really great at what they do.”
After placing his trust in the team at Bluehole Inc., Greene found it easier to move forward with the project in clearer ways, allowing for a more succinct development timeline, and more ingrained new features, like jumping and vaulting.
A steady stream
Greene sees PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds as more than just a single game mode in a vacuum. As a devout modder, he sees the potential in a community to create something far greater than the developers could even imagine.
“We’re trying to build a platform for game modes. We give them lots of assets, with zombies, the two new maps, and weapons we’re adding, they’re then free to create whatever they want, he said. “Those aspects won’t be limited to streaming partners for much longer, as the team hopes to continue to roll out the extra settings and custom game modes in a more meaningful way soon, while still providing bonuses to those who build content outside the game.
Greene’s development and marketing philosophy goes beyond just wanting streamers to share his game with the world, it’s about building a better game for the fans who love it. “I think this is important for [Battlegrounds‘] longevity. We’re not providing a game, we’re providing a platform for many things — not just battle royale.”
With his name right on box, you might expect Greene to shrink back and limit his exposure to the flood of user reports and suggestions, but he’s done quite the opposite. “We have a super active user community, because they want to see this be the best version of battle royale. Through me they have a direct conduit. I’ll say to all the people who follow me on twitter and tweet stuff at us. Although we don’t reply to everyone, I read everything. I see all the tweets and all the suggestions.”
Green says that open ear extends to everyone who plays the game. “People go ‘oh they won’t listen to us because we’re not a big streamer’ and that’s so far from the truth. If it’s a good idea, or it’s a bug, I just copy and paste the tweet into our internal Slack. When I don’t respond, people think I’m not listening, but the truth is, my fingers can only do so much in one day.”
via Digital Trends http://ift.tt/2p4eJdC
June 23, 2017 at 05:59AM
Facebook expands its hate-fighting counterspeech initiative in Europe
Facebook has launched a third counterspeech initiative in Europe, partnering with the not-for-profit Institute for Strategic Dialogue for the launch of the Online Civil Courage Initiative (OCCI), which is aimed at tackling online extremism and hate speech.
COO Sheryl Sandberg launched the initiative in London this morning along with Sasha Havlicek, CEO of the Institute for Strategic Dialogue, and with the UK founding partners for the initiative who are:
The OCCI will commit financial and marketing support to UK NGOs working to counter online extremism, including the four listed above.
Facebook said the aim is to bring together experts to develop best practice and tools for people to engage in counter speech.
The move follows similar initiatives launched by the company in Germany in January 2016 and in France in March 2017. At the initial launch in Germany Facebook pledged more than €1 million in funding for NGOs under the OCCI program.
It’s not clear if Facebook has since expanded its funding commitment for the program — we’ve asked and will update this post with any response.
In the UK the OCCI will provide:
Overall, the initiative aims to enable a community of local organisations and activists to “share campaigns, experiences, advice and challenges” — using Facebook’s own Groups feature as their networking media.
To date, Facebook says OCCI across Europe has engaged in direct training at OCCI Counterspeech Labs and workshops with more than 100 anti-hate and anti-extremism organisations, reaching some 3.5 million people online via — you guessed it — its Facebook page.
The company has previously talked about how counterspeech training is a part of its strategy to tackle online extremism, noting this in its first Hard Questions post — which focused on what it’s doing to counter terrorism.
Hard Questions is a series of policy discussions the company announced and initiated last week, soliciting feedback from users on a variety of questions and concerns — from countering the spread of extremist content to considering whether social media is generally good for democracy?
And given Facebook’s staggering size — with the platform now having amassed nearly two billion users globally — the company has clearly reached a tipping point in terms of realizing it must at very least be seen to be acknowledging it has a responsibility to consider the wider impacts of its platform.
The days of Zuckerberg just being able to shrug his shoulders at concerns by claiming Facebook is just a technology platform are well and truly behind it.
Yet it remains to be seen what practical measures and changes to how Facebook does business will flow from this series of grown up public discussions. And cynical voices might say Facebook is seeking to turn criticism of its platform into increased engagement on its platform.
The company has certainly been facing increased attacks in recent times, including from politicians seeking to scapegoat tech platforms for not doing enough to counter extremism.
And — more broadly — for not taking their social responsibilities seriously enough.
A UK parliamentary committee recently slammed tech giants including Facebook for taking a laissez faire attitude to content moderation, for example — and suggested the government should look at implementing fines for failures on this front. Something it has said it is considering.
Meanwhile, in Germany, a legislative proposal that includes fines of up to €50M for social media firms failing to promptly remove illegal hate speech after a complaint has gained government backing.
Perhaps we therefore should not be surprised that Facebook revealed a new mission statement yesterday — saying it now wants to: “Give people the power to build community and bring the world closer together.”
It’s certainly a slogan that better aligns with current political priorities in a world that’s sounding increasingly divided and divisive.
And one that Facebook will surely be hoping not merely takes the heat away from its platform, but — via the likes of this expanded counterspeech initiative — works to rechannel the negative energy being directed at its platform and turn it into increase engagement on its platform.
via TechCrunch https://techcrunch.com
June 23, 2017 at 05:55AM
Which Fictional Boss Are You? [Flowchart]
I know I'm literally ten years late to this, but I just started watching Mad Men on Netflix. And guys -- newsflash -- it's a really good show.
The old school ad strategies, the fun outfits, the drama -- I love it all. Except Don Draper's management style. That, in my humble opinion, could use a little work.
I know my stance might be colored by several generation gaps. I'm a millennial, and according to some reports, we need to be told we're smart and wonderful every two seconds or we turn to avocado toast dust -- but it seems to me that Draper could afford to encourage his team a little bit more. Or at the very least, not rely so heavily on cryptic one-liners and mysterious stares to drive the direction of major projects.
I probably won't ever relate to Don Draper's unconventional leadership style on Mad Men, but there are plenty of other fictional bosses from TV and film to aspire to -- or avoid becoming.
To help you discover your fictional boss alter ego, the folks at GetVoIP spun up this clever flowchart. So go ahead: Take a break from your morning grind, and answer the questions below to figure out which beloved (or notorious) fictional boss your leadership style most aligns with. It's still kind of work related, right?
Which fictional boss did you get? Let us know in the comments!
Featured Image Credit: AMC
via HubSpot http://ift.tt/1y9rdls
June 23, 2017 at 05:03AM
China clamps down on live-streaming services
The Chinese government has cracked down on three of the country’s top live-streaming services over their apparent broadcast of unsuitable political content.
Weibo, the Nasdaq-listed microblogging site, disclosed that it had received a notice from The State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television of the People’s Republic of China (‘SAPPRFT’) asking it to remove illegal content and user accounts.
“The SAPPRFT had recently requested the local competent authorities to take measures to suspend several companies’ video and audio services due to their lacking of an internet audio/video program transmission license and posting of certain commentary programs with content in violation of government regulations on their sites, and Weibo is named as one of these companies,” Weibo wrote in a statement.
It some ways it was inevitable. First came the investors with money, then we saw incredible revenue growth as the medium took off — now the government arrives with regulations for some of the edgier content that’s out there.
News of this week’s clamp down comes after regulators forced WeChat and Weibo to close down celebrity gossip outlets using the services to disseminate news. China’s strict new cybersecurity laws went into effect on June 1. Although the exact details of how they will impact businesses is unclear right, containing online media seems to be one of the major focuses.
This is the second controversy that Weibo has dealt with this past month. Overseas-based users of the Chinese service found themselves unable to publish videos or photos during the weekend of the 28th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre.
Weibo blamed the situation on a systems upgrade, but the timing of the restriction made it seem like a method to prevent content that would be deemed unsuitable by authorities. The Chinese government has never acknowledged nor commented upon the events that took place in Tiananmen on June 4 1989 — which resulted in upwards of 300 deaths as troops forcibly suppressed student-led protests.Featured Image: crystal51/Shutterstock
via TechCrunch https://techcrunch.com
June 23, 2017 at 04:12AM
Supplement Wildly Unreliable, Despite FDA Regulations
Lots of people have an opinion on supplements. But when you go to the store to buy one, you’d expect the amount of the active ingredient to be consistent, right? Apparently, that doesn’t seem to be happening.
Scientists tested one supplement which is sometimes used to treat high cholesterol called “red yeast rice.” They bought lots of the supplement from GNCs, Walgreens, and other stores, and analyzed the amount of monacolin K, the beneficial chemical, in the pills. It turned out that the amount of monacolin K in the same-sized pills varied wildly. All of this comes after the US Food and Drug Administration’s 2007 supplement production regulations.
Study author Pieter Cohen from Harvard University asked Gizmodo: “After implementing the revised standards, how could it be that the most mainstream products sold at retail pharmacies and grocery stores aren’t standardized?”
Yes, red yeast rice is ancient Chinese medicine, and Gizmodo coverage is generally hostile towards supplements. Before you write this one off, though, red yeast rice’s monacolin K is the same ingredient in the cholesterol lowering drug, lovastatin. But according to the National Institutes of Health, “The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has determined that red yeast rice products that contain more than trace amounts of monacolin K are unapproved new drugs and cannot be sold legally as dietary supplements.” So folks are buying it to lower their cholesterol, but the FDA says there can’t be more than a trace amount of that cholesterol-lowering chemical in the product.
All that goes out the window with a little testing, however. Of the 28 brands that Cohen’s team tested, 26 had monacolin K. The amount could range anywhere from .09 to 5.48 milligrams per 1200mg red yeast rice pill. Six of the tested brands contained more than the 4 milligrams maximum allowed by the FDA.
“Consumers would have no idea which were and weren’t the ones with more than the allowed monacolin K amount,” said Cohen.
So, what’s going on? Probably, companies aren’t being compliant and the FDA isn’t enforcing the law, said Cohen, but more likely it’s the former—companies are just importing big vats of rice powder without checking which part of the plant goes into their pill.
There are limitations to the study, Cohen (and the paper, published today in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology) pointed out. The team only analyzed single batches from each brand, and the amount of the chemical might change between batches.
But that doesn’t change the fact that relying on red yeast rice for monacolin K could be dangerous, especially when it shouldn’t have any of the chemical in the first place. On top of that, monacolin K has side effects like muscle pain that folks taking a supplement might suffer unsuspectingly.
At least one source thought this was a case as to why we shouldn’t deregulate the pharmaceutical industry. “We don’t have to speculate what a deregulated pharmaceutical industry would look like,” Arthuer Caplan, New York University bioethicist told Gizmodo. “We just have to look at the supplement industry.” Caplan doesn’t blame the FDA in this case. “I think they’re doing their best to nose their way into the oversight of supplements, but there’s a ton of resistance.”
We reached out to the FDA about the results, but they do not comment on individual research, and are reviewing the paper’s findings. The spokesperson did offer some general information on supplement regulation via email:
Furthermore, “Red yeast rice products containing added lovastatin, or manufactured to contain enhanced levels of lovastatin, cannot be marketed as dietary supplement,” and “The FDA encourages health care professionals and patients to report adverse events or quality problems experienced with the use of dietary supplements to the Department of Health and Human Services’ Safety Reporting Portal.”
So really all that can be said here is that you shouldn’t trust a supplement to do the things that a prescribed pharmaceutical should be doing, especially if the supplement contains the same active ingredient as the prescribed pharmaceutical.
Said Cohen: “This is exactly why I do not recommend my patients use red yeast rice to lower cholesterol.”
via Gizmodo http://gizmodo.com
June 23, 2017 at 04:03AM
Amazon’s Prime Air ‘drone tower’ would look and sound like a giant beehive
In case you didn’t already know it, Amazon envisions a world where the skies buzz with autonomous drones carrying packages from fulfillment centers to customers’ homes. The ecommerce giant has long been working on its Prime Air flying machine, though strict regulations governing the commercial use of such contraptions means that a full-fledged, drone delivery service is still a ways off.
Still, that doesn’t stop Amazon making plans, evidenced by a string of related patents landing on the desk of the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office in recent years.
The latest one focuses on the design of its fulfillment centers and how it could be adapted to suit drone delivery operations in urban areas.
Currently, most of Amazon’s depots comprise single-floor warehouses built away from city centers. Its latest patent describes a multi-level fulfillment center “designed to accommodate landing and takeoff of unmanned aerial vehicles.”
Illustrations included in the patent application show a giant beehive “drone tower” with numerous exit and entry points for delivery drones. For reasons of speed and efficiency, it’s perfectly understandable that Amazon would want to base a drone delivery operation in an urban area, enabling it to reach more customers in super-quick time. However, the company would first have to satisfy regulators that having so many drones flying in such a concentrated area posed no safety issues for people on the ground, and noise could also potentially be an issue for occupants of nearby buildings.
While Amazon’s latest idea may seem fanciful to many observers, it’s clearly not as wacky as the flying warehouse with incorporated drone airport that it proposed in another patent.
Another patent described using the top of street lights, cell towers, and church steeples as docking stations to charge its drones as they make their way to and from customers’ homes.
Of course, we should note that at this stage Amazon’s plan for a drone tower is only a patent application, and that even if it’s granted by the USPTO, there’s a chance it’ll forever remain as an idea on a piece of paper.
via Digital Trends http://ift.tt/2p4eJdC
June 23, 2017 at 03:23AM
Say what? Tesla might launch its own music streaming service
It’s a brave outfit that dives into the ultra-competitive music streaming game at this stage, but that’s exactly what Tesla is reportedly planning on doing.
You read that right — Tesla, the automaker created by billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk, is in talks with music labels about a plan to bundle a streaming service with its electric cars, sources in the music industry told Recode this week.
The apparent ambition may surprise many, though Musk didn’t get to where he is today by sitting on his hands and saying, “That’s just not possible.” Sources said they weren’t entirely sure about how far Tesla wants to go with its streaming plan, but claimed that the company is exploring the option of offering “multiple tiers of service, starting with a Pandora-like web radio offering.”
Although declining to confirm that it’s in talks with music labels, a Tesla spokesperson told Recode that the company “believes it’s important to have an exceptional in-car experience so our customers can listen to the music they want from whatever source they choose,” adding that its goal is “to simply achieve maximum happiness for our customers.”
If a music streaming service can offer “maximum happiness” to a user, then we’re certainly keen to learn more about what Tesla has in mind.
Business Insider noted that Musk touched on the subject of music streaming services earlier this month, telling a meeting of shareholders he was interested in exploring options because it’s hard to find “good playlists or good matching algorithms.” It seems that Spotify’s service, which Tesla actually already integrates into its cars in some of its markets, falls well short for Elon. Ditto for Apple Music.
Of course, for any streaming service launched by Tesla, the challenge would be getting its drivers to switch from competing services for which they’re already paying. Currently, Spotify has around 50 million paying subscribers, while Apple has some 27 million. A Tesla streaming option would have to offer something special to make it worthwhile, though perhaps the idea is part of a long-term vision involving broader entertainment-based subscription services for future vehicles that are entirely autonomous, leaving riders eager for amusement and diversion as they zip along from A to B. So let’s wait and see if Musk and his crew take this plan forward.
via Digital Trends http://ift.tt/2p4eJdC
June 23, 2017 at 02:55AM
Watch Apple’s new ‘spaceship’ campus get built in just 18 seconds
Apple’s so-called “spaceship campus,” officially known as Apple Park, is close to completion, though some workers have already started to move in.
With so much interest in the project, a number of drone enthusiasts have been flying their remotely controlled birds over the sprawling Cupertino complex to capture its development ever since construction work started in 2013.
For something a little bit different, we’re posting a new video (above) shot from way up higher. The high-res imagery comes courtesy of a Planet Labs satellite, which began snapping photos of the campus site in September, 2015 (here’s a drone video of the location taken at around the same time). The video condenses the last two years of work at the site into a mere 18 seconds.
Several viewings are needed to take in the myriad of changes that have transformed the 175-acre plot of land over the last 20 months or so, with the donut-shaped main building taking center stage.
Also look out for the development of the subterranean, 1,000-seat Steve Jobs Theater at the bottom of the screen, marked about by its ground-level entrance featuring a circular, metallic carbon-fiber roof.
You can just see one of the solar-panel-topped parking garages at the bottom of the picture, too.
With most of the exterior construction work completed, the end of the video reveals the beginnings of the landscaping efforts, but with as many as 7,000 trees expected to be planted throughout the location, it’s clear that there’s still much to be done in that area.
Apple Park, which aims to run entirely on renewable energy, is also home to several fitness centers, dining facilities, a visitor center, and a shiny new R&D facility where Jony Ive and co. can dream up new kit.
Over the coming months, Apple’s $5-billion campus will become home to 12,000 of the company’s employees. The site is the work of acclaimed U.K. architect Norman Foster, although the project was the long-time ambition of Steve Jobs, who championed the plan up until his untimely death in 2011.
San Francisco-based Planet Labs launched at the end of 2010 and offers high-res imagery to a range of clients. It recently purchased the Terra Bella satellite network from Google as part of expansion plans to become a leading provider of Earth imagery shot from way up high.
via Digital Trends http://ift.tt/2p4eJdC
June 23, 2017 at 12:55AM