Autism Rate Rises in US, May Begin In Utero

in science on (#3H4)
story imageAn abstract of a study released by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that the study's "2010 [Autism Spectrum Disorder] prevalence estimate of 14.7 per 1,000 (95% CI = 14.3-15.1), or one in 68 children aged 8 years, was 29% higher than the preceding estimate of 11.3 per 1,000 (95% CI = 11.0-11.7), or one in 88 children aged 8 years in 2008." Of the sites surveyed, four counties in New Jersey had the highest prevalence estimate, with 21.9 per 1,000 (95% CI = 20.4-23.6).

National Public Radio quotes CDC experts that "skyrocketing estimates don't necessarily mean that kids are more likely to have autism now than they were 10 years ago."
"It may be that we're getting better at identifying autism," says , director of the CDC's National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities.
Researchers say intervention in early childhood may help the developing brain compensate by rewiring to work around the trouble spots.
Another abstract of a "small, explorative study" from The New England Journal of Medicine describes Patches of Disorganization in the Neocortex of Children with Autism and suggests "a probable dysregulation of layer formation and layer-specific neuronal differentiation at prenatal developmental stages." CBS News demystifies the study as "brain abnormalities may begin in utero."

Cross-submitted by the author at Soylent News.

Electronic Cigarettes May Not Help Smokers Quit

in science on (#3GX)
story imageA small study done by The Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education at The University of California, San Francisco, suggests that e-cigarettes don't actually help people to quit smoking." Of the 949 smokers in the study, only 88 used e-cigarettes, causing the study's researchers to "admit that their findings should be viewed with some caution."

World Science reports "They also found that e-cigarette use was more commmon among women, younger adults and people with less education." Last year, the US Centers for Disease Control reported e-cigarette use more than doubled among U.S. middle and high school students from 2011-2012. The lack of solid research, potential youth market, and abundance of caution have had anti-tobacco activists and researchers pushing for a ban on advertising of e-cigarettes.

NPR has a recently story about vaping, or using e-cigarettes, indoors and in the workplace.

If you smoke, have you been able to cut back your smoking or quit thanks to electronic cigarettes? If you do not smoke, does it bother you that others use e-cigarettes indoors?

Laser Pointing at Aircraft Increasing

in security on (#3GD)
story imageThe US FBI has been working with the FAA and the Air Line Pilots Association to crack down on people pointing lasers at aircraft. "Reported incidents of laser attacks on aircraft in flight in the US have increased more than 1,000 percent since 2005, according to the FAA, from 283 up to 3,960 in 2013 - an average of 11 incidents a day."

Per the Air Line Pilots Association, " reports of aircraft laser illuminations in the U.S. have increased sharply over the past few years from 2836 in 2010 to 3,960 last year."

Sergio Patrick Rodriguez, 26, now has the dubious distinction of being sentenced to "14 years in federal prison, a term prosecutors believe to be among [California's] longest for such a crime." Rodriguez's gang membership and criminal record were likely factors in his sentence, as was using a laser that is called 13 times more powerful than most laser pointers.

Has anyone seen this happen? Or experienced it as a pilot or aircraft passenger?

MA Fires CGI for Health Connector Site Failures

in internet on (#3G9)
"CGI Group, the Montreal-based IT consulting company behind the botched rollout of the Federal site, has been removed from the Massachusetts Health Connector project. This comes about two months after being removed from, and a few weeks after CGI admitted the MA site 'may not be fully functioning by the end of June, and that one option under consideration is to scrap the multi-million-dollar site and start over.'

Like Oregon's similar troubles , Massachusetts uses paper submissions as a workaround to meet Federal sign-up requirements. 'The paper backlog fell to 21,000 pending applications, from 54,000 two weeks ago.'

If you are in the US, have you used or a State equivalent? If you are not in the US, do you use similar online systems in your nation?"

Planet Mercury is Slowly Shrinking

in space on (#3G5)
story imageAccording to a research published by Nature Geoscience, but not yet online, the planet "Mercury shrunk by more than 7 kilometers in radius over past 4 billion years". Using analysis of NASA's Messenger probe , researchers at the Carnegie Institution for Science say the planet lost seven kilometers (more than four miles) of elevation in some areas, over the course of four billion years. Scientists first suggested the phenomenon in the mid-1970s, when the Mariner 10 probe passed the planet in three flybys.

Dicephalic Parapagus Twins Born in India

in science on (#3G2)
story imageDicephalic parapagus twins, or a single body with two heads, were born in India on March 12th. reports "the twins have a slim chance of survival even after they are operated upon" and the parents have yet to name their conjoined daughters.
[It] may not be possible to separate the twins because they share the same body. "The baby girl has two heads, two necks and two spines, but only one body, one lung for each head, two separate oesophaguses and trachea, a single stomach and heart. Most of the vital organs are shared," said Dr Amit Gupta, medical director of Sonepat's Cygnus JK Hindu Hospital, where the conjoined twins were born.
The parents are poor and did not have an ultrasound until the last trimester.
"It was on February 24 that the patient came to meet me and was into her 8th month of pregnancy. The mother had not gone through any tests earlier as she couldn't afford an ultrasound test. And it was then we broke the news to the family that there are conjoined twins to be born, and that their babies hadn't completely separated" gynaecologist Dr Shikha Malik said.
While having a single set of organs for conjoined twins does put more strain on the body, there are examples of thriving dicephalic parapagus twins, such as Abby and Brittany Hensel. The pair, now age 24, had a reality show on US TV channel TLC in 2012.

Target Had Multiple Chances to Stop Breach

in security on (#3FX)
story imageLate last year, US retailer Target had multiple IT failures that led to 40 million credit cards being leaked. Target lost more than $61 million in breach-related expenditures and incurred a significant decrease to holiday sales. Businessweek has a lengthy article laying out the failures, among them:
  • Despite installing FireEye's monitoring technology, security administrators disabled FireEye's option to automatically delete malware as it is detected, allowing the unclassified 'malware.binary' through.
  • When Target India's team received the first critical alert from FireEye, they notified the security team at Target's Headquarters in Minneapolis Minnesota, USA, but the report was ignored or simply no action was taken on it.
  • Additional critical alerts were generated, but apparently no action was taken on them.
  • Symantec Endpoint Protection detected odd behavior on the same server as detected by FireEye, but this did not raise concern.
  • The initial illicit access was gained by an outside vendor's stolen credentials, which should not have given as much network access as it did.
Although the data was copied through a few hops in the US, the destination was ultimately traced to Russia. Analysis of the binaries shows that the malware itself was unsophisticated and included a possible hacker's alias in the 'exfiltration code'.

Women Avoid STEM Degrees to Get Better Grades?

in books on (#3FV)
story imageCatherine Rampell at The Washington Post has "A message to the nation's women: Stop trying to be straight-A students."

In her analysis of others' findings, she writes of a discouragement gradient that pushes women out of harder college degrees, including economics and other STEM degrees. Men do not seem to have a similar discouragement gradient, so they stay in harder degree programs and ultimately earn more. Data suggests that women might also value high grades more than men do and sort themselves into fields where grading curves are more lenient.
"Maybe women just don't want to get things wrong," Goldin hypothesized. "They don't want to walk around being a B-minus student in something. They want to find something they can be an A student in. They want something where the professor will pat them on the back and say 'You're doing so well!'"

"Guys," she added, "don't seem to give two damns."
Why are women in college moving away from harder degrees?

Elephants Can Distinguish Human Voices by Ethnicity

in science on (#3FF)
story imageThe Los Angeles Times reports elephants distinguish human voices by sex, age, ethnicity according to a new study.

USA Today notes Maasai men, who may hunt the elephants, were treated differently than Kamba men, who are farmers.
When the voice belonged to a Maasai man, the elephants tended to sniff the air and bunch closely together for protection. But when the voice was a Kamba man's, the elephants were more nonchalant. The elephants also reacted with relative calm to the voices of Maasai women and boys, who, unlike Maasai men, generally don't take part in spearing elephants.
Voice of America says the study is available now but does not appear posted on the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences site yet.

Nintendo to Discontinue Online Play for Wii and DS

in games on (#3F0)
story imageNintendo has announced the discontinuation of their Wi-Fi Connection Service for the Wii, DS, and DSi systems. Over 400 titles are affected, including Mario Kart Wii.

Engadget reports:
Services that will keep working on the DS after May include the DSi Shop, DS Browser, and DSi Browser, while the Wii keeps Netflix, Hulu, Wii Shop Channel, Internet Channel, Pay and Play and YouTube.
Could the slow sales of the Wii U be motivating this move? Will casual gamers be put off by this and hurt the company's future sales?