World’s Oceans Being Significantly Harmed

This report comes as some major fishing countries have agreed to halt their commercial fishing activities in the Arctic Ocean for 16 years. It will be shameful for humanity if there is more plastic than fish in the ocean in several decades.

There’s a lot humans can learn from animals too. Radar for example was developed through studying bats. It’s therefore terrible that climate change is destroying so many ecosystems that there is a lot to gain from keeping around.

While renowned naturalist Sir David Attenborough warned the world’s oceans are “under threat now as never before in human history,” green groups on Tuesday said a United Nations resolution to end plastic pollution in the world’s oceans does not go nearly far enough to combat the problem, and stressed that more urgent action is needed to eradicate the damage before it’s too late.

Attenborough’s new BBC documentary series finale airing this weekend will highlight the crisis, drawing attention to the huge amount of plastic that’s dumped into oceans and seas every year, as well as the impact of climate change, overfishing, and noise pollution on underwater wildlife.

The final episode of Blue Planet 2 will focus entirely on the damage being done, arguing that humans’ actions are the only thing capable of reversing the effects.

“For years we thought the oceans were so vast and the inhabitants so infinitely numerous that nothing we could do could have an effect upon them. But now we know that was wrong,” said Attenborough, who narrates the show, in a preview of the episode in the Guardian. “It is now clear our actions are having a significant impact on the world’s oceans…Many people believe the oceans have reached a crisis point.”

“The future of humanity, and indeed all life on Earth, now depends on us,” added Attenborough.

[…]

In addition to the damage done by plastics, Blue Planet 2 will detail the bleaching of coral reefs, which have served as ecosystems for fish and other ocean life, brought on by the warming of oceans; the damage done to water when carbon dioxide dissolves in oceans; and the harm done by noise from shipping, tourism, and fossil fuel drilling.

“There is a whole language underwater that we are only just getting a handle on,” Steve Simpson, a coral reef researcher at the University of Exeter in England, told the Guardian, explaining that high levels of noise prevent sea animals from communicating with one another.

Another researcher featured in the program concludes that it is “beyond question” that the damage to the oceans is manmade. “The shells and the reefs really, truly are dissolving. The reefs could be gone by the end of the century,” said Professor Chris Langdon of the University of Miami.

Consumers buy about one million plastic bottles per minute, according to a Guardian report earlier this year, and Attenborough stressed that a reduction in plastic use is a step people around the world can take immediately to help combat plastic’s impact on the oceans.

Germany Will Possibly Enact Law That Requires Device Manufacturers to Put in Dangerous Backdoors

Backdoors in technology are a problem because they are vulnerable to being exploited by more than just “good” people — they are also vulnerable to exploitation by malicious adversaries. With this reasoning in mind, backdoors (security flaws that are designed in) being required to be built in would make the German public much more at risk of harm to criminal threats. So this proposal to mandate backdoors is dangerous and should be opposed, as it’s a policy of horrible security.

German authorities are preparing a law that will force device manufacturers to include backdoors within their products that law enforcement agencies could use at their discretion for legal investigations. The law would target all modern devices, such as cars, phones, computers, IoT products, and more.

Officials are expected to submit their proposed law for debate this week, according to local news outlet RedaktionsNetzwerk Deutschland (RND).

[…]

Furthermore, the new law would also give German officials powers akin to the “Hack Back” bill proposed in the US, allowing authorities the power to hack any remote computer. The Minister says this is important to “shut down private computers in the event of a crisis,” such as is the case with botnet takedowns.

But privacy advocates who also read the new law proposal say the text also contains verbiage that would allow the German state to intercept any traffic on the Internet [1, 2], effectively setting up a surveillance state with full snooping powers over everyone’s online communications. Experts called for caution before approving the new law, which could be abused in its current state.

German authorities anticipated such reaction and said that any access to such data would be allowed only after law enforcement have obtained a court order. But the problem with encryption backdoors is not how you access them, but that they exist in the first place and that they could be abused by ill-intent actors as well.

The law proposal is not a surprise for people who’ve been keeping an eye on such things. There are concerted efforts going on in Germany, France, and the UK to introduce legislation for mandatory encryption backdoors. In fact, de Maizière and his French counterpart even signed a joint letter they sent to the European Commission that supported encryption backdoors.

Smartphone Addiction Creates Brain Imbalance, Study Suggests

My advice is to control the phone instead of letting it control you. As with many other parts of life, for some that will be much easier said than done.

Researchers have found an imbalance in the brain chemistry of young people addicted to smartphones and the internet, according to a study presented today at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA).

According to a recent Pew Research Center study, 46 percent of Americans say they could not live without their smartphones. While this sentiment is clearly hyperbole, more and more people are becoming increasingly dependent on smartphones and other portable electronic devices for news, information, games, and even the occasional phone call.

Along with a growing concern that young people, in particular, may be spending too much time staring into their phones instead of interacting with others, come questions as to the immediate effects on the brain and the possible long-term consequences of such habits.

Hyung Suk Seo, M.D., professor of neuroradiology at Korea University in Seoul, South Korea, and colleagues used magnetic resonance spectroscopy (MRS) to gain unique insight into the brains of smartphone- and internet-addicted teenagers. MRS is a type of MRI that measures the brain’s chemical composition.

The study involved 19 young people (mean age 15.5, 9 males) diagnosed with internet or smartphone addiction and 19 gender- and age-matched healthy controls. Twelve of the addicted youth received nine weeks of cognitive behavioral therapy, modified from a cognitive therapy program for gaming addiction, as part of the study.

[…]

Researchers used standardized internet and smartphone addiction tests to measure the severity of internet addiction. Questions focused on the extent to which internet and smartphone use affects daily routines, social life, productivity, sleeping patterns and feelings.

The researchers performed MRS exams on the addicted youth prior to and following behavioral therapy and a single MRS study on the control patients to measure levels of gamma aminobutyric acid, or GABA, a neurotransmitter in the brain that inhibits or slows down brain signals, and glutamate-glutamine (Glx), a neurotransmitter that causes neurons to become more electrically excited. Previous studies have found GABA to be involved in vision and motor control and the regulation of various brain functions, including anxiety.

The results of the MRS revealed that, compared to the healthy controls, the ratio of GABA to Glx was significantly increased in the anterior cingulate cortex of smartphone- and internet-addicted youth prior to therapy.

Dr. Seo said the ratios of GABA to creatine and GABA to glutamate were significantly correlated to clinical scales of internet and smartphone addictions, depression and anxiety.

Having too much GABA can result in a number of side effects, including drowsiness and anxiety.

More study is needed to understand the clinical implications of the findings, but Dr. Seo believes that increased GABA in the anterior cingulate gyrus in internet and smartphone addiction may be related to the functional loss of integration and regulation of processing in the cognitive and emotional neural network.

The good news is GABA to Glx ratios in the addicted youth significantly decreased or normalized after cognitive behavioral therapy.

“The increased GABA levels and disrupted balance between GABA and glutamate in the anterior cingulate cortex may contribute to our understanding the pathophysiology of and treatment for addictions,” Dr. Seo said.

Feature on the Opioid Crisis

The Empire Files program did a feature on the opioid crisis that focuses on the behavior of criminogenic pharmaceutical corporations. It is particularly notable for noting that big pharmaceutical corporations have targeted and still do target economically ravaged places suffering from significant despair.

Economic despair is at the core of the opioid epidemic. A lot of those people addicted to opioids would have done much better if they had meaningful work to occupy their time and give them a sense of purpose. Unfortunately though, in many sectors the economic system is so dysfunctional that it fails to provide even basic elements of meaningful community work for people.

There’s a disturbing graph that shows utilization of capacity, and it reveals that there are many, many billions of dollars being lost due to capacity such as buildings not being used. It isn’t because there’s a lack of needed work — on the contrary, looking around plenty of places will have a reasonable person saying that there’s a lot that needs to be done. So there’s a lot of work that needs to be done and a lot of capacity (23 percent in the graph) pointlessly sitting idle, and there’s an economic system that isn’t putting them together for productive benefits.

Screenshot-2017-12-5 Capacity Utilization Total Industry

The U.S. government could enact a massive infrastructure project that would create millions of jobs and/or it could provide low interest loans to support worker cooperatives in economically downtrodden communities. There are other solutions too, and they also need significant will to be applied. The point to make here though is that the situation doesn’t have to be that bleak for the communities, and there’s actually a clear enough method to reconstruct what has been mismanaged.

The Congressional GOP Tax Scam

The tax scam is absolutely horrendous. U.S. citizens, call or contact Congress if you are able. The Capitol Switchboard number is 202-224-3121.

Just as “bombshell” revelations where being made public late Friday morning about President Donald Trump’s former national security advisor Michael Flynn, Senate Majority Mitch McConnell told reporters just before noon—following a “complete shit show” of legislative maneuvering on Thursday night—that Republicans finally “have the votes” to pass their widely decried tax overhaul bill.

As numerous critics have warned, the GOP plan would exacerbate already historically high levels of economic inequality by giving enormous tax cuts to corporations and the richest individuals while increasing the tax burden on millions of low-income and middle class families in order to pave the way for massive cuts in future social spending, including a premeditating assualt on education, Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security.

Net Neutrality’s Importance

Net neutrality is a doctrine that says Internet service providers should treat Internet traffic that flows over their networks fairly. The repeal of net neutrality means that even more unjust control will be granted to the corporate sector, which could then decide to charge people extra money per month to visit specific websites or even outright block them. So if you’re a U.S. citizen and appreciate the Internet, you should tell Congress to prevent net neutrality from being eliminated.

Vital Part for Quantum Computers Invented

Universal quantum computers are still somewhere around a decade or two away from being developed, but they will be significant when they arrive. Important new problems will be solved, but new problems will also be created. Much of the cryptography that the world replies upon today will be rendered ineffective (and will need to be replaced) when faced against quantum computers… For example, the asymmetric RSA regularly used to protect online banking will need to be phased out due to what quantum computers will do to today’s asymmetric ciphers. The symmetric cipher AES-256 will have its strength cut in half when faced against a quantum computer, downgrading it to an adequate but less strong AES-128. This is of course only one example.

A team at the University of Sydney and Microsoft, in collaboration with Stanford University in the US, has miniaturised a component that is essential for the scale-up of quantum computing. The work constitutes the first practical application of a new phase of matter, first discovered in 2006, the so-called topological insulators.

Beyond the familiar phases of matter — solid, liquid, or gas — topological insulators are materials that operate as insulators in the bulk of their structures but have surfaces that act as conductors. Manipulation of these materials provide a pathway to construct the circuitry needed for the interaction between quantum and classical systems, vital for building a practical quantum computer.

Theoretical work underpinning the discovery of this new phase of matter was awarded the 2016 Nobel Prize in Physics.