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Fasting Can Improve Overall Health By Causing Circadian Clocks In the Liver and Skeletal Muscle To Rewire Their Metabolism, Study Finds

An anonymous reader quotes a report from ScienceDaily: In a University of California, Irvine-led study, researchers found evidence that fasting affects circadian clocks in the liver and skeletal muscle, causing them to rewire their metabolism, which can ultimately lead to improved health and protection against aging-associated diseases. The study was published recently in Cell Reports. The research was conducted using mice, which were subjected to 24-hour periods of fasting. While fasting, researchers noted the mice exhibited a reduction in oxygen consumption (VO2), respiratory exchange ratio (RER), and energy expenditure, all of which were completely abolished by refeeding, which parallels results observed in humans. "The reorganization of gene regulation by fasting could prime the genome to a more permissive state to anticipate upcoming food intake and thereby drive a new rhythmic cycle of gene expression. In other words, fasting is able to essentially reprogram a variety of cellular responses. Therefore, optimal fasting in a timed manner would be strategic to positively affect cellular functions and ultimately benefiting health and protecting against aging-associated diseases." This study opens new avenues of investigation that could ultimately lead to the development of nutritional strategies to improve health in humans.

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Key West Moves To Ban Sunscreens That Could Damage Reefs

Yesterday, the Key West City Commission unanimously voted to ban the sale of sunscreens that contain two ingredients -- oxybenzone and octinoxate -- that a growing body of scientific evidence says harm coral reefs. The measure must now be reviewed again by the commission before it becomes law. The second vote is scheduled for February 5th. Miami Herald reports: Environmental researchers have published studies showing how these two ingredients, which accumulate in the water from bathers or from wastewater discharges, can damage coral reefs through bleaching and harming the corals' DNA. In some instances, the corals can die. A Feburary 2016 study in the Archives of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology examining the impact of oxybenzone in corals in Hawaii and the U.S. Virgin Islands concluded that the sunscreen ingredient "poses a hazard to coral reef conservation and threatens the resiliency of coral reefs to climate change.'' Last year, Hawaii banned the sale or distribution of any sunscreens containing oxybenzone and octinoxate, a measure that will go into effect on Jan. 1, 2021. It was the first state in the nation to implement such a ban. In Florida, the website for the South Florida Reef Ambassador Initiative, which falls under the state's Department of Environmental Protection, tells divers to "Avoid sunscreens with Oxybenzone and Avobenzone. The benzones are compounds that are lethal to coral reproduction in very small amounts." Experts who have studied the issue say sunscreens with zinc oxide or titanium dioxide, which are minerals, also block ultraviolet rays. They create a barrier on the skin that deflect the sun's rays .

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Researchers Report Breakthrough In Ice-Repelling Materials

"Researchers from the University of Houston have reported a new theory in physics called stress localization, which they used to tune and predict the properties of new materials," reports Phys.Org. "Based on those predictions, the researchers reported in Materials Horizons that they have created a durable silicone polymer coating capable of repelling ice from any surface." The new research has huge implications for aircraft, power transmission lines, and more. From the report: Hadi Ghasemi, Bill D. Cook Assistant Professor of mechanical engineering at UH and corresponding author for the work, said the findings suggest a way to take trial and error out of the search for new materials, in keeping with the movement of materials science toward a physics-driven approach. "You put in the properties you want, and the principle will tell you what material you need to synthesize," he said, noting that the concept can also be used to predict materials with superb antibacterial or other desirable properties. The new material uses elastic energy localization where ice meets the material, triggering cracks at the interface that slough off the ice. Ghasemi said it requires minimal force to cause the cracks; the flow of air over the surface of an airplane acts as a trigger, for example. The material, which is applied as a spray, can be used on any surface, and Ghasemi said testing showed it is not only mechanically durable and unaffected by ultraviolet rays -- important for aircraft which face constant sun exposure -- but also does not change the aircraft's aerodynamic performance. Testing indicates it will last for more than 10 years, with no need to reapply, he said.

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Fortnite Bugs Gave Hackers Access To Millions of Player Accounts, Researchers Say

Researchers at cybersecurity firm Check Point say three vulnerabilities chained together could have allowed hackers to take control of any of Fortnite's 200 million players. "The flaws, if exploited, would have stolen the account access token set on the gamer's device once they entered their password," reports TechCrunch. "Once stolen, that token could be used to impersonate the gamer and log in as if they were the account holder, without needing their password." From the report: The researchers say that the flaw lies in how Epic Games, the maker of Fortnite, handles login requests. Researchers said they could send any user a crafted link that appears to come from Epic Games' own domain and steal an access token needed to break into an account. Here's how it works: The user clicks on a link, which points to an epicgames.com subdomain, which the hacker embeds a link to malicious code on their own server by exploiting a cross-site weakness in the subdomain. Once the malicious script loads, unbeknownst to the Fortnite player, it steals their account token and sends it back to the hacker. "If the victim user is not logged into the game, he or she would have to log in first," a researcher said. "Once that person is logged in, the account can be stolen." Epic Games has since fixed the vulnerability.

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Marco Rubio Introduces Privacy Bill To Create Federal Regulations On Data Collection

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Fortune: Senator Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) introduced a bill Wednesday aimed at creating federal standards of privacy protection for major internet companies like Facebook, Amazon, and Google. The bill, titled the American Data Dissemination Act, requires the Federal Trade Commission to make suggestions for regulation based on the Privacy Act of 1974. Congress would then have to pass legislation within two years, or the FTC will gain the power to write the rules itself (under current laws, the FTC can only enforce existing rules). While Rubio's bill is intended to reign in the data collection and dissemination of companies like Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Google, and Netflix, it also requires any final legislation to protect small businesses from being stifled by new rules. The caveat comes when one considers states' rights to create their own privacy laws. Under Rubio's legislation, any national regulations would preempt state laws -- even if the state's are more strict. "While we may have disagreements on the best path forward, no one believes a privacy law that only bolsters the largest companies with the resources to comply and stifles our start-up marketplace is the right approach," Rubio wrote in an op-ed for The Hill, announcing his bill.

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Federal Prosecutors Are Investigating Huawei For Allegedly Stealing Trade Secrets, Says Report

According to The Wall Street Journal, federal prosecutors have launched a criminal investigation to see if Huawei allegedly stole trade secrets from U.S. companies. The probe is reportedly built out of civil lawsuits against the telecommunications firm. The Hill reports: People familiar with the probe told the Journal that it is at an advanced stage and that an indictment could soon be coming. Huawei has long faced scrutiny from both lawmakers and national security officials, who have labeled the firm as a national security threat over its ties to the Chinese government. The company has denied that characterization, and China this week called for other countries to end âoethe groundless fabrications and unreasonable restrictionsâ on Huawei and other firms.

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New Satellite Network Will Make It Impossible For a Commercial Airplane To Vanish

pgmrdlm quotes a report from CBS News: For the first time, a new network of satellites will soon be able to track all commercial airplanes in real time, anywhere on the planet. Currently, planes are largely tracked by radar on the ground, which doesn't work over much of the world's oceans. The final 10 satellites were launched Friday to wrap up the $3 billion effort to replace 66 aging communication satellites, reports CBS News' Kris Van Cleave, who got an early look at the new technology. On any given day, 43,000 planes are in the sky in America alone. When these planes take off, they are tracked by radar and are equipped with a GPS transponder. All commercial flights operating in the U.S. and Europe have to have them by 2020. It's that transponder that talks to these new satellites, making it possible to know exactly where more than 10,000 flights currently flying are.

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Google Play Starts Manually Whitelisting SMS, Phone Apps

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Google is implementing major new Play Store rules for how Android's "SMS" and "Call Log" permissions are used. New Play Store rules will only allow certain types of apps to request phone call logs and SMS permissions, and any apps that don't fit into Google's predetermined use cases will be removed from the Play Store. The policy was first announced in October, and the policy kicks in and the ban hammer starts falling on non-compliant apps this week. Google says the decision to police these permissions was made to protect user privacy. SMS and phone permissions can give an app access to a user's contacts and everyone they've ever called, in addition to allowing the app to contact premium phone numbers that can charge money directly to the user's cellular bill. Despite the power of these permissions, a surprising number of apps ask for SMS or phone access because they have other, more benign use cases. So to clean up the Play Store, Google's current plan seems to be to (1) build more limited, replacement APIs for these benign use cases that don't offer access to so much user data and (2) kick everyone off the Play Store who is still using the wide-ranging SMS and phone permissions for these more limited use cases. Google provides a help page that helps explain the new rules and offer workarounds for some use cases.

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YouTube Cracks Down on 'Harmful and Dangerous' Challenges and Pranks

YouTube has set stricter guidelines for "harmful and dangerous" prank and challenge videos. From a report: "We've always had policies to make sure what's funny doesn't cross the line into also being harmful or dangerous," reads the YouTube guidelines. "Our Community Guidelines prohibit content that encourages dangerous activities that are likely to result in serious harm, and today clarifying what this means for dangerous challenges and pranks." YouTube's guidelines now further detail which of these popular videos push the line, including challenges such as the Tide Pod challenge and the Fire challenge -- anything "that can cause death and/or have caused death in some instances." As for pranks, videos that make the victims believe they're in serious danger or cause severe emotional distress to children (further clarified with examples like faking the death of a parent) are no longer acceptable on the platform. Creators who host these types of videos on their channels will receive a grace period of two months to clean up their channel.

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Federal Prosecutors Pursuing Criminal Case Against Huawei for Alleged Theft of Trade Secrets: Report

Federal prosecutors are pursuing a criminal investigation of China's Huawei for allegedly stealing trade secrets from U.S. business partners, including the technology behind a robotic device that T-Mobile used to test smartphones, WSJ reported Wednesday. From a report: The investigation grew in part out of civil lawsuits against Huawei, including one in which a Seattle jury found Huawei liable for misappropriating robotic technology from T-Mobile's Bellevue, Wash., lab, the people familiar with the matter said. The probe is at an advanced stage and could lead to an indictment soon, they said. The link to the source article may be paywalled; here's an alternative source.

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Happy 18th Birthday, Wikipedia

This week, Wikipedia celebrates its 18th birthday. If the massive crowdsourced encyclopedia project were human, then in most countries, it would just now be considered a legal adult. But in truth, the free online encyclopedia has long played the role of the Internet's good grown-up. From a story: Wikipedia has grown enormously since its inception: It now boasts 5.7 million articles in English and pulled in 92 billion page views last year. The site has also undergone a major reputation change. If you ask Siri, Alexa or Google Home a general-knowledge question, it will likely pull the response from Wikipedia. The online encyclopedia has been cited in more than 400 judicial opinions, according to a 2010 paper in the Yale Journal of Law & Technology. Many professors are ditching the traditional writing assignment and instead asking students to expand or create a Wikipedia article on the topic. And YouTube Chief Executive Susan Wojcicki announced a plan last March to pair misleading conspiracy videos with links to corresponding articles from Wikipedia. Facebook has also released a feature using Wikipedia's content to provide users more information about the publication source for articles in their feed.

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Microsoft is Separating Cortana From Search in Windows 10

Microsoft is making some big changes to Cortana in Windows 10. The company intends to decouple search and Cortana in the Windows 10 taskbar, allowing voice queries to be handled separately to typing in a search box to find documents and files. From a report: This change will be implemented in the next major Windows 10 update, currently scheduled for April. Windows 10 will direct you towards an built-in search experience for text queries, while Cortana will exist for voice queries instead of them both bundled together. "This will enable each experience to innovate independently to best serve their target audiences and use cases," explains Dona Sarkar, Microsoft's Windows Insider chief. "This change is one of several we've made throughout this release to improve your experience in this space, including updating the search landing page design, enhancing your search results, and integrating Microsoft To-Do with Cortana."

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Google's Transition To 64-Bit Apps Begins in August, 32-Bit Support To End in 2021

In a bid to deliver better software experience on devices powered by 64-bit processors in the coming years, Google aims to shift Android towards a 64-bit app ecosystem. From a report: The company has now shed more light on the transition and has announced that developers will have to submit a 64-bit version of their Android apps starting August this year. This move will eventually culminate in a universal implementation of the 64-bit app policy that will be enforced in 2021, after which, Google will no longer host 32-bit apps on the Play Store accessed on a device based on 64-bit hardware. Google announced the move towards 64-bit apps in 2017, claiming that apps with 64-bit code offer significantly better performance. However, the search giant did not provide any details regarding the exceptions to the new rule or when the Play Store will cease to serve 32-bit apps. Google has now revealed that starting August 1 this year, developers must submit 64-bit versions of all new apps and app updates, alongside the old 32-bit versions prior to their publishing from the Play Store.

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Mozilla Kills Its Experimental Firefox Test Pilot Program 3 Years After Launch

Mozilla has announced that it is closing Firefox Test Pilot, an experimental program it launched three years ago. Firefox Test Pilot allowed users to try out potential new built-in Firefox features and offer feedback to the browser maker. The company says the program was used by an average of 100,000 daily users. A report adds: It's worth noting here that Test Pilot is separate from the various beta versions of Firefox, which are early iterations designed to fine-tune features intended for the prime-time Firefox. Test Pilot, on the other hand, is more about Mozilla dipping its toes in the water to see whether a new feature is worth pursuing at all in the main version of the app, or even as a standalone product. Ultimately, it allows Firefox developers to take bigger risks with their ideas.

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Most Facebook Users Don't Know That it Records a List of Their Interests, New Study Finds

Seventy-four percent of Facebook users are unaware that Facebook records a list of their interests for ad-targeting purposes, according to a new study from the Pew Institute. From a report: Participants in the study were first pointed to Facebook's ad preferences page, which lists out a person's interests. Nearly 60 percent of participants admitted that Facebook's lists of interests were very or somewhat accurate to their actual interests, and 51 percent said they were uncomfortable with Facebook creating the list.

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