Friday, July 17, 2015



Case comes on the heels of a scathing inspector general report

The Transportation Security Administration is facing a new lawsuit over its controversial body scanners, in a case that accuses the agency of pushing ahead with the devices without the required regulations.

Three limited-government and civil-liberties groups filed suit Wednesday against the agency before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia.

The plaintiffs — the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI), National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE), and The Rutherford Institution – make a simple argument: the TSA doesn’t actually have rules for the use of body scanners.
“There is no regulation controlling the use of body scanners right now,” Marc Scribner, a research fellow at CEI, told “TSA has been using scanners the last seven years but that entire span of time they’ve been operating without a regulation.”

The groups are asking the court to force the agency to propose system regulations within 90 days. The case comes on the heels of a scathing inspector general report that found major security gaps at airport checkpoints.

The same D.C. federal appeals court ruled in 2011 that the agency needed to develop rules for scanners under the Administrative Procedure Act. The TSA proposed ideas in 2013, but has yet to follow through. Since 2007 the agency has installed 740 scanners across 160 airports. The plaintiffs want the court to enforce its prior ruling.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Futuristic brain probe allows for wireless control of neurons

Futuristic brain probe allows for wireless control of neurons

NIH-funded scientists developed an ultra-thin, minimally invasive device for controlling brain cells with drugs and light
NIH News, Jul 16, 2015
A study showed that scientists can wirelessly determine the path a mouse walks with a press of a button. Researchers at the Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis, and University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, created a remote controlled, next-generation tissue implant that allows neuroscientists to inject drugs and shine lights on neurons deep inside the brains of mice. The revolutionary device is described online in the journal Cell. Its development was partially funded by the National Institutes of Health.

Remote controlled brain implant.
Mind Bending Probe - Scientists used soft materials to create a brain implant a tenth the width of a human hair that can wirelessly control neurons with lights and drugs. Courtesy of Jeong lab, University of Colorado Boulder.
“It unplugs a world of possibilities for scientists to learn how brain circuits work in a more natural setting.” said Michael R. Bruchas, Ph.D., associate professor of anesthesiology and neurobiology at Washington University School of Medicine and a senior author of the study. 
The Bruchas lab studies circuits that control a variety of disorders including stress, depression, addiction, and pain. Typically, scientists who study these circuits have to choose between injecting drugs through bulky metal tubes and delivering lights through fiber optic cables. Both options require surgery that can damage parts of the brain and introduce experimental conditions that hinder animals’ natural movements.
To address these issues, Jae-Woong Jeong, Ph.D., a bioengineer formerly at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, worked with Jordan G. McCall, Ph.D., a graduate student in the Bruchas lab, to construct a remote controlled, optofluidic implant. The device is made out of soft materials that are a tenth the diameter of a human hair and can simultaneously deliver drugs and lights.
“We used powerful nano-manufacturing strategies to fabricate an implant that lets us penetrate deep inside the brain with minimal damage,” said John A. Rogers, Ph.D., professor of materials science and engineering, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and a senior author. “Ultra-miniaturized devices like this have tremendous potential for science and medicine.”
With a thickness of 80 micrometers and a width of 500 micrometers, the optofluidic implant is thinner than the metal tubes, or cannulas, scientists typically use to inject drugs. When the scientists compared the implant with a typical cannula they found that the implant damaged and displaced much less brain tissue.
The scientists tested the device’s drug delivery potential by surgically placing it into the brains of mice. In some experiments, they showed that they could precisely map circuits by using the implant to inject viruses that label cells with genetic dyes. In other experiments, they made mice walk in circles by injecting a drug that mimics morphine into the ventral tegmental area (VTA), a region that controls motivation and addiction. 
The researchers also tested the device’s combined light and drug delivery potential when they made mice that have light-sensitive VTA neurons stay on one side of a cage by commanding the implant to shine laser pulses on the cells. The mice lost the preference when the scientists directed the device to simultaneously inject a drug that blocks neuronal communication. In all of the experiments, the mice were about three feet away from the command antenna.
“This is the kind of revolutionary tool development that neuroscientists need to map out brain circuit activity,” said James Gnadt, Ph.D., program director at the NIH’s National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS).  “It’s in line with the goals of the NIH’s BRAIN Initiative.”
The researchers fabricated the implant using semi-conductor computer chip manufacturing techniques. It has room for up to four drugs and has four microscale inorganic light-emitting diodes. They installed an expandable material at the bottom of the drug reservoirs to control delivery. When the temperature on an electric heater beneath the reservoir rose then the bottom rapidly expanded and pushed the drug out into the brain. 
“We tried at least 30 different prototypes before one finally worked,” said Dr. McCall.
“This was truly an interdisciplinary effort,” said Dr. Jeong, who is now an assistant professor of electrical, computer, and energy engineering at University of Colorado Boulder. “We tried to engineer the implant to meet some of neurosciences greatest unmet needs.”
In the study, the scientists provide detailed instructions for manufacturing the implant.
“A tool is only good if it’s used,” said Dr. Bruchas. “We believe an open, crowdsourcing approach to neuroscience is a great way to understand normal and healthy brain circuitry.”
This work was supported by grants from NIH (NS081707, DA037152, DA038752, MH101956), US Department of Energy (DE-FG02-07ER46471, DE-FG02-07ER46453), Department of Defense National Security Science and Engineering Faculty Fellowship.

Joel M. Moskowitz, Ph.D., Director
Center for Family and Community Health
School of Public Health
University of California, Berkeley

Electromagnetic Radiation Safety

News Releases:
Twitter:                 @berkeleyprc

Validity of at home model predictions as a proxy for personal exposure to radiofrequency electromagnetic fields from mobile phone base stations

Validity of at home model predictions as a proxy for personal exposure to radiofrequency electromagnetic fields from mobile phone base stations

Astrid L. Martens, John F.B. Bolte, Johan Beekhuizen, Hans Kromhout, Tjabe Smid, Roel C.H. Vermeulen. Validity of at home model predictions as a proxy for personal exposure to radiofrequency electromagnetic fields from mobile phone base stations. Environmental Research. 142:221-226. Oct 2015. doi:10.1016/j.envres.2015.06.029

• Inadequate RF-EMF exposure assessment hinders current epidemiological studies.
• We compared modelled at home exposure levels to RF-EMF with personal measurements.
• Meaningful ranking of personal RF-EMF can be achieved but there is misclassification.
• Large sample sizes are required for sufficient power to study RF-EMF health effects.


Epidemiological studies on the potential health effects of RF-EMF from mobile phone base stations require efficient and accurate exposure assessment methods. Previous studies have demonstrated that the 3D geospatial model NISMap is able to rank locations by indoor and outdoor RF-EMF exposure levels. This study extends on previous work by evaluating the suitability of using NISMap to estimate indoor RF-EMF exposure levels at home as a proxy for personal exposure to RF-EMF from mobile phone base stations.

For 93 individuals in the Netherlands we measured personal exposure to RF-EMF from mobile phone base stations during a 24 h period using an EME-SPY 121 exposimeter. Each individual kept a diary from which we extracted the time spent at home and in the bedroom. We used NISMap to model exposure at the home address of the participant (at bedroom height). We then compared model predictions with measurements for the 24 h period, when at home, and in the bedroom by the Spearman correlation coefficient (rsp) and by calculating specificity and sensitivity using the 90th percentile of the exposure distribution as a cutpoint for high exposure.

We found a low to moderate rsp of 0.36 for the 24 h period, 0.51 for measurements at home, and 0.41 for measurements in the bedroom. The specificity was high (0.9) but with a low sensitivity (0.3).

These results indicate that a meaningful ranking of personal RF-EMF can be achieved, even though the correlation between model predictions and 24 h personal RF-EMF measurements is lower than with at home measurements. However, the use of at home RF-EMF field predictions from mobile phone base stations in epidemiological studies leads to significant exposure misclassification that will result in a loss of statistical power to detect health effects.

RF-EMF exposure from mobile phone base stations (in the Netherlands) contributes ~13% to total environmental RF-EMF exposure (Bolte and Eikelboom, 2012). This contribution may vary by location and by age groups due to differences in behavioural patterns.

The use of models to predict personal exposure to RF-EMF has limitations due to the large spatial variation in RF-EMF levels in combination with subject movement patterns. Misclassification can lead to significant problems in epidemiological studies that look at an association between RF-EMF exposure and possible health effects, as potential health effects might not be detected due to lack of power and attenuated effect sizes. However, there are currently no alternatives for geospatial models to predict exposure for large scale epidemiological studies. Some improvements might be made by modelling additional locations where participants spend a lot of time like work or school, but future studies are necessary to assess the potential added value of this approach. It should be noted that detailed location information of the participants within buildings such as schools and offices are needed to reliable model RF-EMF exposure due to the large spatial variation in RF-EMF levels. This information is often not readily available, making it difficult to include these locations in estimating total exposure. When we stratified our analyses by the subjects that did not work during the measurement data (n=57) and subjects that did work during the measurement day we observed a slightly higher Spearman correlation for subjects who didn’t work (not worked: rsp=0.39, worked: rsp=0.32). Note that the low to moderate association between modelled exposure to RF-EMF from mobile phone base stations and measured personal exposure is similar to the accuracy found for other environmental pollutants, most notably air pollution (e.g. Nethery et al. 2008; Van Roosbroeck et al. 2008). Despite the presence of misclassification, a large number of air pollution studies have found health effects, although the type of exposure and health effects expected for air pollution are very different than for RF-EMF. When epidemiological studies have a sufficient sample size it should be possible to pick up potential health effects of RF-EMF exposure using NISMap.


This study evaluated the use of NISMap to predict personal exposure to RF-EMF from mobile phone base stations. The results indicate that a meaningful ranking of personal RF-EMF can be achieved, even though the correlation between model predictions and 24 h personal RF-EMF measurements is lower than with at home measurements. Our results indicate significant misclassification of participants, although in part our low Spearman correlations and sensitivity parameters can be explained by the inherent measurement error in the personal RF-EMF measurements. Exposure misclassification, assuming a classical error structure, leads to loss of power and can lead to attenuation of effect sizes (Armstrong, 1998). The main implication of our findings is therefore that epidemiological studies of health risks from far field RF-EMF will need a large number of participants in order to have sufficient power for detecting potential health effects. Ideally we would use more accurate methods of exposure assessment, but such methods (personal measurements, modelling multiple locations where the participants spend a lot of time, or including behavioural characteristics and other RF-EMF sources in the exposure model) are often expensive or require information that is not readily available.


Joel M. Moskowitz, Ph.D., Director
Center for Family and Community Health
School of Public Health
University of California, Berkeley

Electromagnetic Radiation Safety

News Releases:
Twitter:                 @berkeleyprc

Close to Home | It Can Wait

Close to Home | It Can Wait

We all hear about the dangers of texting and driving. But in this PSA, it isn't sending a text that causes tragedy.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

The FCC Is a Symbol for a Corrupt, Broken American Government

The FCC Is a Symbol for a Corrupt, Broken American Government

The FCC somehow publicly lost public comments on a petition they were mandated to create. It might not matter, anyway. Telecoms are outlobbying net neutrality advocates 3:1. That's all that matters in all of American government. But due to one provision, the FCC was at least forced to talk about it.

In April, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler proposed a new rule that would allow for corporations to discriminate against certain kinds of speech on the web. By rule, the commission put the proposal up for public comment.

Yesterday, the FCC's website somehow lost public access to signatures and public comments for a petition to stop it.
Today, the commission said it was vowing to give those people a chance to file again.

The FCC is extending the deadline for initial public comments on Chairman Tom Wheeler's controversial net neutrality proposal because of trouble with the commission's online comment system, the agency announced Tuesday. The deadline was set for midnight.

The spokeswoman also politely asked everyone to "please be assured that the commission ... is committed to making sure that everyone trying to submit comments will have their views entered into the record."

The record — if they can keep the website up and running — will show that almost all of the comments are against the new rules, which shouldn't be a surprise. As former FCC Commissioner Robert M. McDowell pointed out today, consumers stand to gain nothing by having increased FCC oversight of the internet.

On the other end of the influence game, telecoms lobbying for the new rules are outspending their opponents 3 to 1. So you know they stand to gain something.

What does that mean? It means the FCC will have to take a side. Either it will allow Internet providers like Comcast and Verizon to discriminate traffic and speech based on their own private interests. Or it will say that this proposal ended up being wildly unpopular and not worth pushing through for the sake of that founding idea that this is a government doing things in Our Name.

Since Chairman Wheeler proposed the rule, however, and since money is power in Washington, we would be wise to prepare for the worst. Is Comcast feuding with Netflix? Under the new rules, Netflix speeds will be slower. Is a website publishing an unpopular opinion about Comcast's ties to the FCC—like a customer service call from Hell, or that its chief lobbyist used to be an FCC Commissioner? Fine, slow traffic to that website or its web host to a crawl.

Want assurances this won't happen? You can't have any. There is no law for it or provision for it, just Wheeler's word on it. Feel slightly better, until you remember that Wheeler is the former head of America's biggest telecom lobby.

You may want to switch providers in protest? It's likely you can't—the new Time Warner Cable/Comcast merger would account for 30 percent of cable and Internet subscribers in the U.S., for example—and it's also likely that help will not be on the way.

One question frequently comes out of this: Why are we supposed to care about this? Why does the Internet matter so much?

That's the issue: It doesn't. The speed of your Internet—as long as you're receiving it—doesn't really matter. That's not what matters. What matters is that there is a protected class at the top that has won immunity and permanent wealth and power by turning its influence into money and jobs and kickbacks and cheating the average consumer in the process. The Chairman of the FCC is the former head of the cable lobby. The head of lobbying at Comcast is a former FCC Commissioner.

America was invited to see the inner workings of how greed has taken over Washington very nearly by accident—an old bylaw mandates that the FCC hold a period for public comment that lasts at least 30 days. Now, the way government works is on display for everyone to see. The only difference between this case and all of the other ones that would be just as upsetting is that one procedural rule and the public's dissatisfaction with buffering on Netflix forced Americans to pay attention.

We stood up and screamed because we finally got to see, by mistake, the raw deal it was getting. Now we will find out if the untouchable America is too big and powerful to even hear them.
Note: The article initially reported a loss of a half-million public comments, as reported in this Reddit thread and corroborated by the Wayback Machine. The FCC says the comments were only lost from view publicly and temporarily in the Commission's blog post.

Cisco’s CTO believes in digital detoxes, but do you?

Cisco’s CTO believes in digital detoxes, but do you?

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When was the last time you went an entire day without using your phone, tablet or computer? If you can’t remember, it may be time for a digital detox.

We’ve all seen films like the Terminator, where there is an uprising of technology and robots try to take over the world. But what most of us don’t realise, is that technology conquered the real-life modern world a long time ago.
Think about it: when was the last time you went an entire day without your smartphone, computer, laptop, tablet or any other digital device? We bet you can’t remember! Can you?
If you’re answering ‘no’, then it may be time for what the experts are calling ‘a digital detox’.
What is a Digital Detox and Why Do You Need One?
Well, who knows more about this kind of thing than the professionals who work with technology every day? Cisco’s chief technology officer, Padmasree Warrior, has discussed the topic of digital detoxes in great detail at the Third Metric Conference in New York.
Warrior is responsible for more than 20,000 employees who develop Cisco’s new technology. As a result, two thirds of the company’s annual revenue is down to her (about £10billion).
But even she believes it is important to, on occasion, set down her phone and stay off the internet for one entire day. At the conference she explained, that two years ago she had the realisation that things were getting on top of her. A hectic, non-stop work schedule prompted her to make a huge change for her health and sanity. She no longer works 7 days a week, Saturdays are now her ‘digital detox day’.
Warrior said: “Two years ago I found I was working all the time — entire Saturdays and Sundays — to the point where I wasn’t being creative and I felt like I was not making the right decisions,” she explained. “I was trying to keep up with the pace, and I was so focused on the quantity of what I was doing rather than really making quality decisions.”
“I’ve taken Saturdays to be the day I pull back completely,” said Warrior. “I do things that are more creative and I’ve actually found that helps me when I get back into work to be more thoughtful, and I truly believe that feeding your creative soul is really important to being more analytical.”
Other top tips from Warrior include taking 20 minutes for yourself to meditate or simply have some time to think. Plus, she ensures that her staff take their allotted holiday allowances. It’s important to have some time to relax!
But it’s not just Cisso’s senior staff that believe in this withdrawal technique; many other famous faces are singing the digital detox’s benefits, including John Mackey, CEO of Whole Foods, Vice President of Google[x], Megan Smith and IT and business training provider Global Knowledge.
So, will you be switching off for a day a week? Before you do, check out a few of the other articles on this site!
Global Knowledge is a worldwide provider of Cisco training, as well as other IT and business training for both public and private organisations. With flexible and tailored learning programs, no one knows the further education or e-learning environment quite like Global Knowledge. Find out more about their course and certifications, here.