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The Peculiar Economics of Developing New Antibiotics

Slashdot - Wed, 02/25/2015 - 22:40
HughPickens.com writes Every year at least two million people are infected with bacteria that can't be wiped out with antibiotics but the number of F.D.A.-approved antibiotics has decreased steadily in the past two decades. Now.Ezekiel J. Emanuel writes at the NYT that the problem with the development of new antibiotics is profitability. "There's no profit in it, and therefore the research has dried up, but meanwhile bacterial resistance has increased inexorably and there's still a lot of inappropriate use of antibiotics out there," says Ken Harvey. Unlike drugs for cholesterol or high blood pressure, or insulin for diabetes, which are taken every day for life, antibiotics tend to be given for a short time so profits have to be made on brief usage. "Even though antibiotics are lifesaving, they do not command a premium price in the marketplace," says Emanuel. "As a society we seem willing to pay $100,000 or more for cancer drugs that cure no one and at best add weeks or a few months to life. We are willing to pay tens of thousands of dollars for knee surgery that, at best, improves function but is not lifesaving. So why won't we pay $10,000 for a lifesaving antibiotic?" Emanuel says that we need to use prize money as an incentive. "What if the United States government — maybe in cooperation with the European Union and Japan — offered a $2 billion prize to the first five companies or academic centers that develop and get regulatory approval for a new class of antibiotics?" Because it costs at least $1 billion to develop a new drug, the prize money could provide a 100 percent return — even before sales. "From the government perspective, such a prize would be highly efficient: no payment for research that fizzles. Researchers win only with an approved product. Even if they generated just one new antibiotic class per year, the $2-billion-per-year payment would be a reasonable investment for a problem that costs the health care system $20 billion per year." Unless payers and governments are willing to provide favorable pricing for such a drug, the big companies are going to focus their R&D investments in areas like cancer, depression, and heart disease where the return-on-investments are much higher.

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Star Wars-Style "Bionic Hand' Fitted To First Patients

Slashdot - Wed, 02/25/2015 - 21:57
schwit1 writes "Three Austrians have replaced injured hands with bionic ones that they can control using nerves and muscles transplanted into their arms from their legs. The three men are the first to undergo what doctors refer to as "bionic reconstruction," which includes a voluntary amputation, the transplantation of nerves and muscles and learning to use faint signals from them to command the hand. Previously, people with bionic hands have primarily controlled them with manual settings."

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It's Official: NSA Spying Is Hurting the US Tech Economy

Slashdot - Wed, 02/25/2015 - 21:16
An anonymous reader writes China is backing away from U.S. tech brands for state purchases as NSA revelations, according to Reuters, which confirms what many US technology companies have been saying for the past year: the activities by the NSA are harming their businesses in crucial growth markets, including China. From the article: "A new report confirmed key brands, including Cisco, Apple, Intel, and McAfee -- among others -- have been dropped from the Chinese government's list of authorized brands, a Reuters report said Wednesday. The number of approved foreign technology brands fell by a third, based on an analysis of the procurement list. Less than half of those companies with security products remain on the list."

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It's Official: NSA Spying Is Hurting the US Tech Economy

Slashdot - Wed, 02/25/2015 - 21:16
An anonymous reader writes China is backing away from U.S. tech brands for state purchases as NSA revelations, according to Reuters, which confirms what many US technology companies have been saying for the past year: the activities by the NSA are harming their businesses in crucial growth markets, including China. From the article: "A new report confirmed key brands, including Cisco, Apple, Intel, and McAfee -- among others -- have been dropped from the Chinese government's list of authorized brands, a Reuters report said Wednesday. The number of approved foreign technology brands fell by a third, based on an analysis of the procurement list. Less than half of those companies with security products remain on the list."

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Inventors Revolutionize Beekeeping

Slashdot - Wed, 02/25/2015 - 20:55
wombatmobile writes For more than 5,000 years, apiarists donned protective suits and lit bundles of grass to subdue swarms of angry bees while they robbed their hives of precious, golden honey. Now two Australian inventors have made harvesting honey as easy as turning a tap — literally. Cedar Anderson and his father Stuart have just been rewarded for a decades worth of inventing and refining with a $2 million overnight success on Indiegogo. Their Flow Hive coopts bees to produce honey in plastic cells that can be drained and restored by turning a handle, leaving the bees in situ and freeing apiarists from hours of smoke filled danger time every day.

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Google Now Automatically Converts Flash Ads To HTML5

Slashdot - Wed, 02/25/2015 - 20:33
An anonymous reader writes "Google today began automatically converting Adobe Flash ads to HTML5. As a result, it's now even easier for advertisers to target users on the Google Display Network without a device or browser that supports Flash. Back in September, Google began offering interactive HTML5 backups when Flash wasn't supported. The Flash-to-HTML5 conversion tools for the Google Display Network and DoubleClick Campaign Manager created an HTML5 version of Flash ads, showing an actual ad rather than a static image backup. Now, Google will automatically convert eligible Flash campaigns, both existing and new, to HTML5."

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Interviews: Ask Senior Director Matt Keller About the Global Learning XPRIZE

Slashdot - Wed, 02/25/2015 - 19:51
The former Vice President of One Laptop per Child (OLPC) Matt Keller is currently the Senior Director of the $15 million Global Learning XPRIZE. The competition challenges teams from around the world to develop open source software solutions that will allow children in developing countries to teach themselves basic reading, writing and arithmetic within a 18 month competition period. After 18 months a panel of judges will evaluate the projects and announce semi-finalists. Semi-finalists will have a month to tweak their projects and/or reconfigure their teams before the judges elect the top five finalist to proceed. Each of the five teams selected will receive $1 million to field test their ideas with the eventual winners receiving the Grand Prize of $10 million. The Global Learning XPRIZE is recruiting teams now through April 30, 2015. Matt has agreed to answer any questions you might have about the competition and the future of education in general. As usual, ask as many as you'd like, but please, one per post.

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The Groups Behind Making Distributed Solar Power Harder To Adopt

Slashdot - Wed, 02/25/2015 - 19:09
Lucas123 writes: Distributed rooftop solar is a threat not only to fossil fuel power generation, but also to the profits of monopolistic model of utilities. While the overall amount of electrical capacity represented by distributed solar power remains miniscule for now, it's quickly becoming one of leading sources of new energy deployment. As adoption grows, fossil fuel interests and utilities are succeeding in pushing anti-net metering legislation, which places surcharges on customers who deploy rooftop solar power and sell unused power back to their utility through the power grid. Other state legislation is aimed at reducing tax credits for households or businesses installing solar or allows utilities to buy back unused power at a reduced rate, while reselling it at the full retail price.

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Ask Slashdot: Terminally Ill - What Wisdom Should I Pass On To My Geek Daughter?

Slashdot - Wed, 02/25/2015 - 18:26
An anonymous reader writes: I am a scientist and educator who has been enjoying and learning from Slashdot since the late 90s. Now I come to you, my geek brothers and sisters, for help. I've been diagnosed with Stage 4 pancreatic cancer, which you will remember is what took Steve Jobs and Randy Pausch from us. My condition is incurable. Palliative chemotherapy may delay the inevitable, but a realistic assessment suggests that I have anywhere from two to six months of "quality" time left, and likely not more than a year in total. I am slowly coming to terms with my imminent death, but what bothers me most is that I will be leaving my wife alone, and that my daughter will have to grow up without her father. She is in sixth grade, has an inquisitive and sharp mind, and is interested in science and music. She seems well on the path to becoming a "girl geek" like her mother, an outcome I'd welcome. Since I will not be around for all of the big events in her life, I am going to create a set of video messages for her that she can watch at those important times or just when she's having a bad day. I would like to do this before my condition progresses to the point that I am visibly ill, so time is short. In the videos I will make clear how much I treasure the time we've spent together and the wonderful qualities I see in her. What other suggestions do you have? What did you need to hear at the different stages of your life? What wisdom would have been most helpful to you? At what times did you especially need the advice of a parent? And especially for my geek sisters, how can I help her navigate the unique issues faced by girls and women in today's world? Please note that I'm posting anonymously because I don't want this to be about me. I'd prefer that the focus be on my daughter and how I can best help her. Thank you so much for your help.

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Amazon Files Patent For Mobile 3D Printing Delivery Trucks

Slashdot - Wed, 02/25/2015 - 17:45
ErnieKey writes: Amazon has been inching its way into the 3D printing space over the past 10 months or so. This week, however, the U.S. Patent office published a filing by Amazon for mobile 3D printing delivery trucks. The trucks would have 3D printers and CNC machines on board and be able to communicate with a central hub. When a product is ordered, the mobile 3D printing truck that's closest to the consumer's home or office would then get the order, print it, and deliver it as soon as possible.

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Should a Service Robot Bring an Alcoholic a Drink?

Slashdot - Wed, 02/25/2015 - 17:03
An anonymous reader writes: We've come to a point where care robots are being used to assist people with illnesses and mobility problems. They can bring medicine, a glass of water, food, and other items that a person may have trouble getting to on their own. But what limits should we set on these robots? Should they be able to deliver alcoholic beverages? If so, should they refuse to serve them to certain people, like children or alcoholics? The issue is complicated further because these robots may have been purchased by the patient, by the doctor or hospital (which sent it home with the patient to monitor their health), or by a concerned family member who wants to monitor their relative. The latest poll research by the Open Roboethics Initiative looked at people's attitudes about whether a care robot should prioritize its owner's wishes over those of the patient.

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Jury Tells Apple To Pay $532.9 Million In Patent Suit

Slashdot - Wed, 02/25/2015 - 16:21
An anonymous reader writes: Smartflash LLC has won a patent lawsuit against Apple over DRM and technology relating to the storage of downloaded songs, games, and videos on iTunes. Apple must now pay $532.9 million in damages. An Apple spokesperson did not hesitate to imply Smartflash is a patent troll: "Smartflash makes no products, has no employees, creates no jobs, has no U.S. presence, and is exploiting our patent system to seek royalties for technology Apple invented. We refused to pay off this company for the ideas our employees spent years innovating and unfortunately we have been left with no choice but to take this fight up through the court system." The trial happened in the same court that decided Apple owed VirnetX $368 million over FaceTime-related patents back in 2012.

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Use Astrology To Save Britain's Health System, Says MP

Slashdot - Wed, 02/25/2015 - 15:39
An anonymous reader writes: An MP from the governing Conservative Party has said that using astrology could radically improve the performance of Britain's National Health Service and that its opponents are "racially prejudiced" and driven by "superstition, ignorance and prejudice." David Treddinick even claims he has "helped" fellow legislators through astrology.

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Gemalto: NSA and GCHQ Probably Hacked Us, But Didn't Get SIM Encryption Keys

Slashdot - Wed, 02/25/2015 - 14:56
An anonymous reader writes: Last week The Intercept published a report saying agents from the NSA and GCHQ penetrated the internal computer network of Gemalto, the world's largest maker of SIM cards. Gemalto has done an internal investigation, and surprisingly decided to post its results publicly. The findings themselves are a bit surprising, too: Gemalto says it has "reasonable grounds to believe that an operation by NSA and GCHQ probably happened." They say the two agencies were trying to intercept encryption keys that were being exchanged between mobile operators and the companies (like Gemalto) who supplied them with SIM cards. The company said it had noticed several security incidents in 2010 and 2011 that fit the descriptions in The Intercept's documents. Gemalto had no idea who was behind them until now. They add, "These intrusions only affected the outer parts of our networks – our office networks — which are in contact with the outside world. The SIM encryption keys and other customer data in general, are not stored on these networks." They claim proper use of encryption and isolation of different networks prevented attackers from getting the information they were after.

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Republicans Back Down, FCC To Enforce Net Neutrality Rules

Slashdot - Wed, 02/25/2015 - 14:14
An anonymous reader writes: Republican resistance has ended for the FCC's plans to regulate the internet as a public utility. FCC commissioners are working out the final details, and they're expected to approve the plan themselves on Thursday. "The F.C.C. plan would let the agency regulate Internet access as if it is a public good.... In addition, it would ban the intentional slowing of the Internet for companies that refuse to pay broadband providers. The plan would also give the F.C.C. the power to step in if unforeseen impediments are thrown up by the handful of giant companies that run many of the country's broadband and wireless networks." Dave Steer of the Mozilla Foundation said, "We've been outspent, outlobbied. We were going up against the second-biggest corporate lobby in D.C., and it looks like we've won."

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Moxie Marlinspike: GPG Has Run Its Course

Slashdot - Wed, 02/25/2015 - 11:16
An anonymous reader writes: Security researcher Moxie Marlinspike has an interesting post about the state of GPG-encrypted communications. After using GPG for much of its lifetime, he says he now dreads getting a GPG-encrypted email in his inbox. "Instead of developing opinionated software with a simple interface, GPG was written to be as powerful and flexible as possible. It's up to the user whether the underlying cipher is SERPENT or IDEA or TwoFish. The GnuPG man page is over sixteen thousand words long; for comparison, the novel Fahrenheit 451 is only 40k words. Worse, it turns out that nobody else found all this stuff to be fascinating. Even though GPG has been around for almost 20 years, there are only ~50,000 keys in the "strong set," and less than 4 million keys have ever been published to the SKS keyserver pool ever. By today's standards, that's a shockingly small user base for a month of activity, much less 20 years." Marlinspike concludes, "I think of GPG as a glorious experiment that has run its course. ... GPG isn't the thing that's going to take us to ubiquitous end to end encryption, and if it were, it'd be kind of a shame to finally get there with 1990's cryptography."

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What Happens When Betelgeuse Explodes?

Slashdot - Wed, 02/25/2015 - 08:10
StartsWithABang writes: One of the great, catastrophic truths of the Universe is that everything has an expiration date. And this includes every single point of light in the entire sky. The most massive stars will die in a spectacular supernova explosion when their final stage of core fuel runs out. At only an estimated 600 light years distant, Betelgeuse is one (along with Antares) of the closest red supergiants to us, and it's estimated to have only perhaps 100,000 years until it reaches the end of its life. Here's the story on what we can expect to see (and feel) on Earth when Betelgeuse explodes.

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Pebble Time Smartwatch Receives Overwhelming Support On Kickstarter

Slashdot - Wed, 02/25/2015 - 06:08
DJAdapt writes: Pebble Time, the successor to the Pebble & Pebble Steel smartwatches, has gone up on crowdfunding site Kickstarter, hitting its $500,000 goal in 17 minutes and hitting the $2M mark in less than an hour. The new wearable is touting a color e-paper display and microphone for responding to notifications. It also has features Pebble users are already familiar with, such as seven days of battery life, water resistance, and an extensive library of watch faces and apps. Will any of you be jumping on this? Holding out for the Apple Watch? Waiting for wearables to get more capable?

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FBI Offers $3 Million Reward For Russian Hacker

Slashdot - Wed, 02/25/2015 - 04:14
mpicpp sends word that the FBI and the U.S. State Department have announced the largest-ever reward for a computer hacking case. They're offering up to $3 million for information leading to the arrest of Evgeniy Bogachev, a 31-year-old Russian national. Bogachev is the alleged administrator of the GameOver Zeus botnet, estimated to have affected over a million computers, causing roughly $100 million in damages. "Bogachev has been charged by federal authorities in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, with conspiracy, computer hacking, wire fraud, bank fraud and money laundering... He also faces federal bank fraud conspiracy charges in Omaha, Nebraska related to his alleged involvement in an earlier variant of Zeus malware known as 'Jabber Zeus.'"

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Giant Asian Gerbils May Have Caused the Black Death

Slashdot - Wed, 02/25/2015 - 02:12
Dave Knott writes: Rats, long believed to be the scourge that brought the Black Death to 14th-century Europe, may not be the disease-bearing scoundrels we thought they were. Scientists have shifted blame for the medieval pandemic responsible for millions of deaths to a new furry menace: giant gerbils from Asia. University of Oslo researchers, working with Swiss government scientists, say a "pulse" of bubonic plague strains arrived sporadically from Asia. They posit the Yersinia pestis bacterium was likely carried over the Silk Road via fleas on the giant gerbils during intermittent warm spells. The fleas could have then transmitted the disease to humans. The Black Death is believed to have killed up to 200 million people in Europe. Though very rare today, cases of the plague still arise in Africa, Asia, the Americas and parts of the former Soviet Union, with the World Health Organization reporting 783 cases worldwide in 2013, including 126 deaths.

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