November 2017 - TechDisease

The FCC sabotaged its own public comments process. Congress needs to stop them from voting to kill net neutrality on December 14

The FCC sabotaged its own public comments process. Congress needs to stop them from voting to kill net neutrality on December 14
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: November 30, 2017
Contact: Evan Greer,, 978-852-6457

Yesterday’s Pew Research study led to incorrect reports

Yesterday, the Pew Research Group released a study that triggered a number of new reports about issues within the FCC’s net neutrality comment docket. The Pew study, unfortunately, contained a number of serious inaccuracies, and lacked needed context in a way that conflated legitimate grassroots advocacy and organic online outrage with malicious attempts to manipulate the FCC docket with fraud.
“The FCC sabotaged its own public comment process for the exact purpose of sowing the type of confusion that we’re seeing now,” said Evan Greer, campaign director of Fight for the Future, “They knowingly allowed malicious actors to abuse their system and submit enormous numbers of fraudulent comments using real people’s names and addresses without their permission, and they’ve refused to cooperate with investigations or transparency laws.”
She continued, “Their goal is to obscure the fact that the overwhelming majority of people from across the political spectrum oppose Ajit Pai’s extreme proposal to gut net neutrality protections. All you have to do is look at the unique comments in the docket that people took the time to draft by hand: almost 99% of them supportexisting net neutrality protections. Congress must take action now to demand the FCC cancel its planned vote on December 14. It’s unconscionable that the agency would move forward with such a controversial proposal while so many allegations of serious fraud and abuse surround their rulemaking proceeding.”
Here are some key things that the Pew study got wrong:
  • The original Pew study claimed that there had only been 450,000 comments during the FCC debate in 2014. There were closer to 4 million. Pew has since corrected this error after we brought it to their attention, but they have not addressed the points below.  
  • The Pew study claims that comedian John Oliver promoted our net neutrality advocacy site – to our knowledge that is incorrect. During his viral net neutrality segment, John Oliver directed viewers to his own page:
  • The study casts suspicion on legitimate comments using the text from, noting that 476,000+ were submitted at the same time on July 19. That’s because these comments were submitted as a CSV using the FCC’s “bulk upload” option, a perfectly legitimate way to submit comments to the agency, and in fact the one that the agency encouraged groups to use. Pew never asked us about this, or we would have been happy to provide them with the records of this. 
  • The study claims that the large bulk of comments came from “a small number of organizations,” and points to as an example. However, this is a mischaracterization of what the site is. It’s an Internet-wide coalition effort that has been promoted by dozens of public interest organizations, hundreds of startups, and thousands of websites, apps, and online communities who participated in the July 12 day of action and other campaigns. 
  • Overall, the study fails to give readers needed context to understand the difference between a legitimate comment submitted through a site that provides a concerned constituent to add their name to a default statement, and comments that were submitted using real people’s names and addresses, likely stolen from breached databases, without those people’s permission or knowledge. The study seemed to be unaware of the various ongoing investigations surrounding this issue – including a law enforcement investigation by the New York Attorney General’s office. By failing to include essential information about the comments they analyzed, the Pew study offers a distorted view of what’s happening in the net neutrality docket.

Bitcoin loses over a fifth of its value in less than 24 hours

Bitcoin loses over a fifth of its value in less than 24 hours
LONDON (Reuters) - Bitcoin slid to as low as $9,000 in volatile trade on Thursday, having lost more than a fifth of its value since hitting an all-time high of $11,395 on Wednesday. BTC=BTSP.
The cryptocurrency fell as much as 8 percent on Thursday on the Luxembourg-based Bitstamp exchange to hit $9,000 exactly, marking a fall of well over $2,000 in under 24 hours. It then edged back up to trade at around $9,400 in the hour that followed, still down roughly 4 percent on the day. (Graphic: Bitcoin searches exceeds that of Trump -
One market-watcher attributed the fall to outages in bitcoin exchanges and the heavy price surge of recent times.
“Naturally a few of the early bitcoin traders are taking some profits off the table,” said Charles Hayter, founder of
“Volatility is in the market at the moment and that means both positive and negative moves.”
The latest fall has tempered an astronomical rise for the cryptocurrency in recent months - bitcoin was up almost 1,100 percent year-to-date on Wednesday. As of 1500 GMT on Thursday, it was still up around 880 percent.
The rise has been fueled by signs that the digital currency is slowly gaining traction in the mainstream investment world, as well as by increasing awareness.
In the past week, Google searches for “bitcoin” exceeded searches for “Trump” for the first time, data from Google showed, even though U.S. President Donald Trump has been prominently in the news this week.
Several large market exchanges including Nasdaq, CBOE Holdings and CME Group -- the world’s largest derivatives exchange -- have said they are planning to provide futures contracts based on bitcoin.
A screen displays the price to purchase Bitcoin at a Bitcoin ATM at the Bitcoin Center NYC in New York City, U.S., November 27, 2017. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid
Some investors have said such a development may prompt them to add the digital currency to their portfolio.
In October, Goldman Sachs chief executive Lloyd Blankfein said he was keeping an open mind on bitcoin following a media that the investment bank was exploring a new trading operation dedicated to cryptocurrencies.
Bitcoin’s rapid ascent has prompted warnings from a stream of prominent investors that it had reached bubble territory, while the Bank of England deputy governor on Wednesday said investors should “do their homework” before investing in the digital currency.
FILE PHOTO: A logo of Bitcoin is seen on an advertisement of an electronic shop in Tokyo, Japan September 5, 2017. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon/File Photo


New users of bitcoin have skyrocketed in recent weeks, along with the cryptocurrency’s own rise.
London-based, one of the biggest global bitcoin wallet-providers, told Reuters on Wednesday it had added a record number of new users on Tuesday, with more than 100,000 customers signing up, taking the total number to more than 19 million.
The evidence suggests that few of the users are buying bitcoin to use it as a means of exchange, but are speculating to increase their capital.
Bitcoin’s fall on Thursday dragged down the prices of other cryptocurrencies in its wake, with Ethereum, bitcoin’s biggest rival, falling as much as 19 percent on the day, according to trade website Coinmarketcap.
For the month, bitcoin is still on track for a more than 40 percent price increase.

Americans Taxed $400 Billion For Fiber Optic Internet That Doesn’t Exist

Americans Taxed $400 Billion For Fiber Optic Internet That Doesn’t Exist
America's rate of fiber optic penetration is half the OECD average

Americans Paid $400 Billion in Taxes & Internet Surcharges for Fiber Optic Upgrades that Never Came

South Korea is the poster child for high-speed internet: its fixed-connection and mobile download speeds are consistently among the fastest in the world, and its capital city, Seoul, is completely saturated with Wi-Fi.  How did they do it?
Being densely populated helped: it’s easier and cheaper to wire-up crowded cities than empty countrysides.  But the key element was the government’s pro-broadband policies.  Not only did they open up the market for competition among internet service providers, but they also invested in hard infrastructure.
Back in 2011 the New York Times reported that the South Korean planned investments of $24.6 billion in digital infrastructure.  It paid off: South Korea’s internet remains among the world’s fastest, according to testing done by Speedtest—and this is in spite of massive recent gains and investments made by other countries.
Meanwhile, America’s internet connections are slow.  This summer Forbes Magazine reported:
The US ranks 9th in the world in fixed broadband speed at 70.75 Mbps average download and 27.64 Mbps average upload. Ranking in the top ten is good but the US’s average download speed is less than half top-ranked Singapore’s 154.38 Mbps. Both upload and download speeds increased steadily from July 2016 to July 2017 and the US’s rank increased from 11 to 9.
The picture for the US is not nearly as good when you look at mobile internet speed where the US ranks 46th, just ahead of Albania and behind Oman. Average download speed in the US is 23.05 Mbps which is less than half the average download speeds in Norway, the Netherlands and Hungary. Average upload speed in the US is 8.26 Mbps. While mobile download speed increased by almost 20% from July 2016 to July 2017, the US’s world ranking fell from 44th to 46th. Not good.
Since then America’s fallen down to 11th place in terms of fixed connection download speed, and 47th in terms of mobile download speed.  Basically, America’s internet is slow, and it’s getting relatively slower.  This will have big economic consequences down the road as the world grows increasingly digital.
 But that’s not the real story here.  More important is America’s failure to keep pace with countries like South Korea despite absolutely astronomical investments in broadband technology.
According to a fairly recent book (2015) called The Book of Broken Promises, the American people have been charged some $400 billion by telecom companies (at the insistence of government) for fiber optic upgrades that have not materialized.  The author writes:
By the end of 2014, America will have been charged about $400 billion by the local phone incumbents, Verizon, AT&T and CenturyLink, for a fiber optic future that never showed up. And though it varies by state, counting the taxes, fees and surcharges that you have paid every month (many of these fees are actually revenues to the company or taxes on the company that you paid), it comes to about $4000-$5000.00 per household from 1992-2014, and that’s the low number.
You were also charged about nine times to wire the schools and libraries via state and federal plans designed to help the phone and cable companies.
And if that doesn’t bother you, by year-end of 2010, and based on the commitments made by the phone companies in their press statements, filings on the state and federal level, and the state-based ‘alternative regulation’ plans that were put in place to charge you for broadband upgrades of the telephone company wire in your home, business, as well as the schools and libraries — America, should have been the world’s first fully fibered, leading edge broadband nation.
In fact, in 1992, the speed of broadband, as detailed in state laws, was 45 Mbps in both directions — by 2014, all of us should have been enjoying gigabit speeds (1000 Mbps).
Of course, this didn’t happen.  America has relatively slow internet, and just a 9.4 percent penetration rate for fiber optic cables, according to Business Insider—this is less than half the OECD average.
The Trump administration would be wise to make improving America’s digital infrastructure a priority.  The South Korean model, market liberalizations combined with hard investments, could be a viable model.

DNA was the reason for the acquittal of two men sentenced to death

DNA was the reason for the acquittal of two men sentenced to death
Henry McCollum is surrounded by guards as he sits in a courtroom, Tuesday in Lumberton, N.C.

LUMBERTON, N.C.—New DNA evidence has freed a death-row inmate and his half-brother after they spent three decades in prison for rape and murder.
A judge overturned the convictions of Henry McCollum, 50, and Leon Brown, 46, after another man’s DNA was discovered on a cigarette butt left near the body of a girl the siblings were convicted of killing in 1983. Tuesday’s ruling is the latest twist in a notorious legal case that began with what defence attorneys said were coerced confessions from two scared teenagers with low IQs. McCollum was 19 at the time and Brown was 15.
Superior Court Judge Douglas Sasser said the new DNA results contradicted the case prosecutors put forward.
He said he was vacating their convictions and ordering their release “based on significant new evidence that they are, in fact, innocent.”
The DNA from the cigarette butts doesn’t match Brown or McCollum, and fingerprints taken from a beer can at the scene aren’t theirs either, attorneys say. No physical evidence connects them to the crime.
Both were initially given death sentences, which were overturned. At a second trial, McCollum was again sent to death row, while Brown was convicted of rape and sentenced to life.
Family members of the men gasped and some sobbed as the judge announced his decision to the packed courtroom. Brown smiled and shook a defence lawyer’s hand and McCollum looked spent and relieved
“We waited years and years,” said James McCollum, Henry McCollum’s father. “We kept the faith.”

Amazon Transcribe is a sophisticated transcription service for AWS

Amazon Transcribe is a sophisticated transcription service for AWS

Amazon is hosting AWS Re:INVENT today, its developer conference for all things AWS. And the company just announced a promising new service called Amazon Transcribe. The service is now available as a preview and goes beyond many automated transcribing services.
Now that video and audio have overtaken the web, it has become harder to parse information inside those media formats. One way to do it is to transcribe the audio part and turn it into text. Text is indexable, searchable and opens new possibilities.
With Amazon Transcribe, the company has built a speech recognition engine. It lets you turns an audio file stored on your Amazon S3 account into grammatically correct text.
Amazon Transcribe works in English and Spanish for now. But the company promised that many more languages will be added in the coming weeks.
The secret sauce behind Amazon Transcribe is that the service can intelligently format and add punctuation. The service can also recognize multiple speakers and adds timestamps so that you can isolate each part of a conversation.
Amazon mentioned multiple use cases. For instance, Transcribe can help you create automatic subtitles for online videos. It’s also a good way to log customer support calls and analyze them.
The service works with low-bitrate audio files, such as call recordings, and you can add your own vocabulary if you want to help the service understands product names.
Amazon Transcribe will also be useful with Amazon Translate and Amazon Comprehend, two new services announced today. This way, you can turn audio recordings into meaningful data.

New law gives freedom to people to punish online businesses

New law gives freedom to people to punish online businesses

Congress has passed a law protecting the right of US consumers to post negative online reviews without fear of retaliation from companies.

The bipartisan Consumer Review Fairness Act was passed by unanimous consent in the US Senate yesterday, a Senate Commerce Committee announcement said. The bill, introduced in 2014, was already approved by the House of Representatives and now awaits President signature.

The Commerce Committee held a hearing on gag clauses a year ago and said it heard "testimony from Ms. Jen Palmer, a plaintiff in Palmer v. KlearGear, where a company demanded the removal of a negative online review or payment of $3,500 in fines because the online merchant’s terms of service included a non-disparagement clause. When the review was not taken down, the company reported the unpaid $3,500 to a credit reporting agency as an outstanding debt, which negatively impacted the Palmers’ credit."

Palmer beat Kleargear in court, but only after a years-long ordeal. In other cases, a supplements maker, called Ubervita, threatened legal action against customers leaving negative reviews on Amazon, and a jewelry store sued a customer who left a one-star review on Yelp.

The Consumer Review Fairness Act—full text available here—voids any provision in a form contract that prohibits or restricts customers from posting reviews about the goods, services, or conduct of the company providing the product or service. It also voids provisions that impose penalties or fees on customers for posting online reviews as well as those that require customers to give up the intellectual property rights related to such reviews. The legislation empowers the Federal Trade Commission to enforce the new law and impose penalties when necessary.

The bill also protects reviews that aren't available via the Internet.

Senate Republicans and Democrats praised the bill's passage. "By ending gag clauses, this legislation supports consumer rights and the integrity of critical feedback about products and services sold online," Commerce Committee Chairman John Thune (R-S.D.) said in the announcement.

"Reviews on where to shop, eat, or stay on websites like Yelp or TripAdvisor help consumers make informed choices about where to spend their money," said Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii). "Every consumer has the right to share their honest experiences and opinions of any business without the fear of legal retaliation, and the passage of our bill brings us one step closer to protecting that right."

Now you can know if you have cancer disease or not in a very easy way

Ancient Greek physicians figured that our breath was a strong health indicator, but researchers from the Israel Institute of Technology have proven just how true that is. They developed a device that uses nanoparticles to identify 17 different diseases, including lung cancer and Parkinson's disease, from just a single breath. While the machine isn't accurate enough yet for real-life clinical diagnoses, it shows high promise as a quick, non-invasive test that could catch diseases in their early stages
The team tested breath samples from more than 1,400 patients and identified 13 chemicals found in eight types of cancers, Crohn's disease, Parkinson's disease, pulmonary hypertension and other diseases. Each of those volatile organic compounds is present in varying amounts, forming a distinctive "fingerprint" for each ailment. "These odor signatures are what enables us to identify the diseases using the technology that we developed," says research lead Prof. Hossam Haick.
To pick up the presence and ratio of the chemicals, the team built an "artificially intelligent nanoarray" called the Na-Nose. It uses specific sensors, like one made from gold nanoparticles and another that uses a network of carbon nanotubes, to sense the different compounds. The data is then analyzed by an artificial intelligence system, which takes into account age, gender and other factors, picking out the right affliction 86 percent of the time.
That's not enough accuracy for clinical diagnosis, but it could eventually be used as a routine test to catch diseases in their early phases when they're much more treatable. "For example, in the case of lung cancer we can increase the survival rate from 10 to 70 percent by early diagnosis," Haick said in a video (above). It could even be used to identify people who aren't sick yet, but have a higher risk than others for certain conditions. Moreover, Haick adds, "it is available without the need for invasive and unpleasant procedures, it's not dangerous, and you can sample it again and again if necessary."

more than one thousand website encourage girls 'no more eat'

more than one thousand website encourage girls 'no more eat'
نتيجة بحث الصور عن ‪extreme diet‬‏

Teenage girls are becoming involved in dangerous games of competitive dieting thanks to the proliferation of pro-anorexia websites.
Between 1000 and 1700 websites promoting anorexia and related eating disorders, which are visited by thousands of young girls each day, have been identified in the first review to quantify the phenomenon.
They tell people how to stay thin, promoting diets of 400-500 calories a day (compared with a recommended 2,000 for women and 2,500 for men), backed by coffee, cigarettes and diet pills.

They encourage “starving for perfection” featuring pictures of celebrities such as Keira Knightley and Victoria Beckham and advocate “thinspiration” backed by images of thin bodies.
In one year, more than 500,000 people visited the sites, according to one study, and a 2017 EU survey found that more than one in five 6 to 11-year-olds had been exposed to one or more sites with “harmful content”.
Dr Emma Bond, senior lecturer in childhood and youth studies at the University Campus Suffolk, Ipswich, who carried out the review, said the sites were set up by individuals with eating disorders who in some cases generated a following of almost religious intensity. There was no evidence of commercial involvement.
“It starts with an individual who wants to share their experience and as they get a following they set themselves up as almost Goddess-like,” she said. “When I started this research last January I came across a website set up by a girl who was disgusted with herself because she had put on a few pounds at Christmas. She planned to fast for three days and regain control.
“In under two hours, she had 36 followers saying things like ‘You’re wonderful, you’re an inspiration to me, I’m only fasting because of you’.”
In addition to the websites there are “thousands” of blogs by individuals on sites such as YouTube and Tumblr, many featuring sexualised images of scantily clad girls, Dr Bond said.
“Girls are posting images of themselves and are then approached by people who want to sell them on porn sites because there is a market for ‘skinny porn’. But the girls are  unaware they are being looked at for sexual gratification.
“Some of the websites are works of art in themselves, very beautiful with illustrations, clips of film and letters and poems to ‘Ana’. To a vulnerable teenager they appear lovely, pretty and attractive and give a sense of belonging. But they have a gruesome side too.”
Many focus on purging, starving and the use of laxatives and diet pills which cannot be obtained in the UK but are available on the internet. Some include advice on self-harming and have links to pro-suicide sites.
A disturbing feature of anorexia is the rivalry that can occur between “ana-buddies” who meet on the websites and vie with each other to starve themselves to the point where their lives may be in danger.
Anorexia usually begins in adolescence, affecting 1 to 2 per cent of teenagers and university students, though it can occur at any age. Dr Bond said the threat posed by the sites should be tackled through a combination of education and better policing. “Eating disorders are not going away, if anything they are becoming more common,” she said.
The review, Virtually Anorexic – Where’s the harm?, was funded by the Nominet Trust and supported by the charity b-eat (beating eating disorders).

Dolphins ‘deliberately get high’ on puffer fish nerve toxins by carefully chewing and passing them around

Dolphins are thought of as one of the most intelligent species in the animal kingdom – and experts believe they have put their ingenuity to use in the pursuit of getting “high”.
In extraordinary scenes filmed for a new documentary, young dolphins were seen carefully manipulating a certain kind of puffer fish which, if provoked, releases a nerve toxin.
Though large doses of the toxin can be deadly, in small amounts it is known to produce a narcotic effect, and the dolphins appeared to have worked out how to make the fish release just the right amount.
Carefully chewing on the puffer and passing it between one another, the marine mammals then enter what seems to be a trance-like state.
The behaviour was captured on camera by the makers of Dolphins: Spy in the Pod, a series produced for BBC One by the award-winning wildlife documentary producer John Downer.
Rob Pilley, a zoologist who also worked as a producer on the series, told the Sunday Times: “This was a case of young dolphins purposely experimenting with something we know to be intoxicating.
“After chewing the puffer gently and passing it round, they began acting most peculiarly, hanging around with their noses at the surface as if fascinated by their own reflection.
“It reminded us of that craze a few years ago when people started licking toads to get a buzz, especially the way they hung there in a daze afterwards. It was the most extraordinary thing to see.”

The documentary makers used spy cameras hidden in fake turtles, fish and squid to film 900 hours of footage showing dolphins in their natural habitats.
The scenes showing them “using” puffer fish will feature in the second episode of the series, which starts on Thursday.
It is the latest in a long run of wildlife documentaries made by Downer which use similar spy camera techniques. Previous series include Penguins: Spy in the Huddle, which like the Dolphins programme was narrated by David Tennant, Elephants: Spy in the Herd with David Attenborough and Lions: Spy in the Den.

Downer said: “The spy creatures were designed to infiltrate the dolphins’ hidden lives by looking like the marine creatures a dolphin might encounter in their everyday lives.”

The rich will get richer while two million more children slide into poverty, 2030 economic forecast suggests

The rich will get richer while two million more children slide into poverty, 2030 economic forecast suggests

    A joint study by Landman Economics and the Fabian Society says policies introduced since the election will increase long-term poverty

    Another two million UK children will be living in poverty in 15 years time if the Government continues its current policies, a new analysis has said.
    The calculations by Landman Economics and the Fabian Societyhowever suggest that the incomes of the richest will increase significantly over the same period.
    The study of policies introduced since the 2015 general election and their impact over the long-term if left unchanged found that the proceeds of any growth will overwhelmingly be distributed to the country’s richest, the report’s authors say.
    They point out that cuts to in-work benefits scheduled to come in with the new Universal Credit system will reduce the income of the poorest workers, and that the National Living Wage will do little to offset these cuts.
    The total number of people in poverty is expected to rise by 3.6 million with 1.9 of that increase being children.
    This amounts to 22 per cent of all people living in poverty, up from 20 per cent.
    The incomes of the bottom 10 per cent in society are expected to rise by only £90 by 2030 – while the incomes of the top 10 per cent per cent are expected to be  £14,500 higher.
    Previous analyses and official figures have shown some Government policies having a detrimental effect on the welfare of the poorest.
    Rough sleeping rose by 55 per cent under the Coalition government, according to official figures. David Cameron said during the election campaign it was down, however.
    Food bank use also grew dramatically during Mr Cameron’s first five years, with a million people now reliant on the charitable orgnaisations. The Government says this is because it is signposting more people to the services, including at Jobcentres.
    The Government has met its child poverty targets but Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith has moved to scrap the current measure. Ministers claim the current target does not accurately reflect material poverty.
    Andrew Harrop, the general secretary of the Fabian Society, said the distribution of wealth was a political choice the the Government made.
    “If decisions made this year go unchanged, more British children will be hungry at Christmas 2030 than today,” he said.
    “We will live in a country where food banks are an entrenched part of everyday life, not a response to short-term crisis. Is that the gift we want to leave the next generation?
    “In the 15 years up to 2009 the incomes of rich and poor increased in proportion to each other because the Labour government chose to share the proceeds of growth.
    “In contrast, the current government has chosen to cut taxes for people near the top of the income distribution and cut social security for people at the middle and bottom.”
    The Chancellor George Osborne has delayed the introduction of its cuts to in work benefits by cancelling cuts to tax credits laid out in the summer budget. 
    However, similar cuts are scheduled to apply to Universal Credit – a new benefits system the Government wants all claimants to eventually use.
    Alan Milburn, who chairs the Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission, on Sunday warned that the current policy on in-work benefits would “merely defer the pain” for low-income families.
    “As the economy strengthens, the Government should look to reverse cuts to universal credit so that this key welfare reform can improve work incentives. It should take the opportunity in 2016 to set out a timetable for doing so,” he said.