Friday, July 2, 2021

Man who set fire to house by cooking steak in toaster upset at insurance payout

A man whose attempt to cook steak in a toaster sparked a fire that destroyed his house was upset to find that his insurance policy did not pay out as much as he had wanted it to. The man decided to prepare a meal of steak and chips, but opted to cook the steak in a toaster rather than the frying pan. While it was toasting, he left the house to go to the local fish and chip shop for chips. Their insurance company paid $418,000 for the damage, the maximum that could be paid under the couple’s policy, but the couple felt it was not sufficient to replace the house and contacted their insurance company saying the insurer should pay another $200,000. They said it had not been made clear to them that their policy had changed from replacement cover to total sum insured. The scheme did not uphold their complaint, saying the insurer had paid the maximum entitlement and the pair had been adequately informed of the change to their policy.  Insurance and Financial Services Ombudsman said “Cooking steak in a toaster is literally a recipe for disaster. To have then left the house and toaster unattended for the sake of hot chips must be a constant source of regret. Never, never leave cooking unattended, even if you think you’ll just be a minute – and please, use your appliances for the purpose for which they designed. Toasters are for toast.” (Stuff)


A New Brain Implant Automatically Detects and Kills Pain in Real Time

A group from the New York University School of Medicine has engineered a “neural bridge” that connects two brain regions: one critical for detecting pain, the other that dampens pain when activated. For a brain implant, this one’s particularly special. It’s basically a tag-team of spy and sleeper agent. The “spy” listens to electrical chatter in a brain region that processes pain, along with dozens of other tasks, and decodes it in real time. Once it detects an electrical signal that suggests “pain found,” it sends the information to the “sleeper agent,” a computer chip implanted in the front part of the brain. The chip then automatically triggers a light beam to stimulate the region, activating neurons that can override pain signals. This particular brain-machine interface (BMI) is it only activates when there is pain, instead of zapping the brain all the time. For now, the device has only been tested in rats, but it’s a “blueprint” for tuning the brain to ease pain in the future. “Our findings show that this implant offers an effective strategy for pain therapy, even in cases where symptoms are traditionally difficult to pinpoint or manage,” said the researchers who led the study. (Singularity Hub)


Data from 700 million LinkedIn profiles have been posted for sale on a hacker forum

Just two months after a jaw-dropping 500 million profiles from LinkedIn were put up for sale on a popular hacker forum, a new posting with 700 million LinkedIn records has appeared. The seller stated they were in possession of the 700 million records on June 22 2021, and included a sample of 1 million records on RaidForums to prove their claims. Our researchers have viewed the sample and can confirm that the damning records include information such as full names, gender, email addresses, phone numbers, and industry information. The LinkedIn official statement: “While we’re still investigating this issue, our initial analysis indicates that the dataset includes information scraped from LinkedIn as well as information obtained from other sources. This was not a LinkedIn data breach and our investigation has determined that no private LinkedIn member data was exposed. Scraping data from LinkedIn is a violation of our Terms of Service and we are constantly working to ensure our members’ privacy is protected.” (Privacy Sharks)


Japanese researchers claim to have found a treatment that halts, and in some cases reverses, symptoms associated with Alzheimer’s and dementia in mice

Researchers have identified a new treatment candidate that appears to not only halt neurodegenerative symptoms in mouse models of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, but also reverse the effects of the disorders. The team, based at Tohoku University, said the treatment candidate has been declared safe by Japan’s governing board, and the researchers plan to begin clinical trials in humans in the next year. “There are currently no disease-modifying therapeutics for neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease, Lewy body dementia, Huntington disease and frontotemporal dementia in the world,” said one researcher who is professor emeritus in Tohoku University’s Graduate School of Pharmaceutical Sciences. “We discovered the novel, disease-modifying therapeutic candidate SAK3, which, in our studies, rescued neurons in most protein-misfolding, neurodegenerative diseases.” SAK3 directly binds to the subunit of this channel, resulting in the enhancement of neurotransmission thereby improving cognitive deficits. The researchers found that the same process also appeared to work in a mouse model of Lewy body dementia, which is characterized by a build-up of proteins known as Lewy bodies. (Tohoku University)


Network of Bronze Age merchants developed a set of standardized weights and measurements that facilitated commerce across Asia roughly 3,000 years ago, study suggests

A new study suggests merchants in Bronze Age Europe were an exception: Through informal networks, Mesopotamian merchants established a standardized system of weights that later spread across Europe, enabling trade across the continent. The advance effectively formed the first known common Eurasian market more than 3000 years ago. Standard weights, used by merchants to trade goods of equivalent value, were invented in Egypt or Mesopotamia 5000 years ago. By 3000 years ago, they had spread across Europe, where some graves included pouches or boxes containing bone balance beams, tweezers for picking up scraps of gold or silver, and stone weights. For more than 100 years, historians have assumed that weight standards were handed down from on high, first created by a king or religious authority to collect taxes or tribute, then later adopted by merchants. The first artifacts to clearly be weights, for example, were found in the highly stratified civilizations of ancient Mesopotamia and Egypt, but Bronze Age Europe boasted few such states when weights proliferated. (Science Magazine)


Walmart is once again going after the State of Texas and its liquor laws

The Texas Alcoholic Beverage Code (TABC) prohibits publicly traded retailers from owning package liquor stores. Walmart’s attorneys claim that the rule is unconstitutional and that the state’s law discriminates against Walmart and other stores like Costco and Walgreens and gives favor to smaller, family-owned liquor stores. Walmart is allowed to sell liquor in 31 other states, but not here in Texas. The Texas Retailers Association is supporting Walmart’s lawsuit against the State of Texas. (The Dallas Morning News)


Border officials seized 4,000% more fentanyl in 2021 than in 2018 as the border crisis continues

Border officials have found 41 pounds of fentanyl in fiscal year 2021, compared with nine pounds in 2020, two pounds in 2019, and one pound in 2018. Cartels have been manufacturing fentanyl using raw materials imported from China, experts said. Just two milligrams of fentanyl can be lethal to the average person and one kilogram, about 2.2 pounds, can kill up to 500,000 people, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). Cartels reportedly favor fentanyl because it’s easier to smuggle into the U.S. and highly potent and profitable, DEA officials say. Officials reported an 85% increase in the number of methamphetamine seizures between ports of entry in 2021. Fentanyl seizures at ports of entry increased 719% and methamphetamine was up 781%. (NBC News)


Hundreds of migrants go on hunger strike – with some stitching their mouths shut

Belgium’s government is facing increasing pressure as hundreds of migrants continue a hunger strike that has lasted more than a month. Earlier this week, some participants stitched their mouths shut and are only accepting small amounts of liquids through straws, others are unable to stand up because they have become too weak. The strike started in May in two universities and a Brussels church by migrants trying to obtain legal residency papers to continue to live in the country, where some say they have been working and living for a decade. Without official documentation, they are unable to access benefits granted to Belgium residents, such as healthcare. Estimates of the number of migrants taking part in the protest are as high as 400, but migrant and asylum secretary of state Sammy Mahdi has said the figure is around 200. Red Cross health workers have been offering assistance at the ULB university in Brussels, where migrants are striking. (Sky News)


AI technology could help farmers improve soil and crop production to address looming challenges in global food security, according to a University of Birmingham study

Researchers found that AI and nanotechnology could contribute to precision agriculture, or advanced farming methods that boost efficiency and crop yields. Challenges such as declining soil quality, less available land, higher populations, polluted water sources, and climate change could impact the future of farming. As a result, 840 million people could be impacted by hunger by 2030, according to the United Nations Precision agriculture, using AI and nanotechnology, could boost sustainable food production by linking “models for nutrient cycling and crop productivity with nanoinformatics approaches to help both crops and soil perform better,” according to a University of Birmingham study co-author. Nanotechnology could help boost production rates and crop yields, improve soil health and plant resilience, reduce pollution, and lead to higher efficiency of resources. In addition, more smart sensors would alert farmers to environmental stresses affecting crop yields. (Euro News)


Housing boom ain’t over yet

As if the fastest-rising prices in 30 years weren’t enough to demonstrate that housing is still hot, sales in May rebounded to the highest level in 15 years. Pending home sales jumped 8% from April, according to the National Association of Realtors, while an index of property values this week showed an annual increase of almost 15% (the most since 1988). A potent combination of low mortgage rates and pandemic-driven demand for suburban properties continues to turbocharge the market. Rent has caught up with pre-pandemic expectations nationally, although it still lags in big cities. (CNBC)


Traveling this weekend? Leave early

Millions of Americans are expected to travel this holiday weekend, many of whom will be reuniting with loved ones for the first time in over a year. It’s good news for the travel industry, which expects a frenzy from now through Labor Day weekend. Around 47 million people are predicted to travel from July 1 to 5, according to the American Automobile Association, which also expects this weekend to have the highest auto-travel volume on record, surpassing 2019 levels. Daily rates for rental cars are up 140% from 2019 prices, per the AAA. (The Wall Street Journal)


Saudi Arabia seizes 4.5m amphetamine pills hidden in oranges

Saudi Arabia’s customs have foiled an attempt to smuggle into the kingdom more than 4.5 million pills of amphetamine, locally known as Captagon, hidden in a shipment of oranges entering via the port in Jeddah. Authorities said a shipment arriving via the port of Jeddah consisting of cartons of oranges was confiscated after it was subjected to customs procedures and examined through X-ray machines. The images showed a large quantity of Captagon pills hidden under the boxes of fruit. Initial reports did not mention the origin of the narcotics. The authorities added that several people suspected of waiting for the arrival of the boxes were taken into custody. Saudi Arabia banned imports of Lebanese produce in April citing increased attempts to smuggle drugs from the country. Saudi authorities announced on Saturday the seizure of 14.4 million amphetamine pills from Lebanon, hidden in a shipment of iron plates. In April, they said they discovered 5.3 million such pills hidden in pomegranate shipments from Lebanon. At the time, authorities said they arrested four suspects, including two nationals, and two residents, one of whom was Syrian. (Aljazeera)


US to add third gender option on passports

The State Department announced that non-binary, intersex and gender-nonconforming Americans will soon be able to choose a third gender option, other than “male” or “female,” when applying for a U.S. passport. A statement from the department said the policy change is an effort to take “further steps toward ensuring the fair treatment of LGBTQI+ U.S. citizens, regardless of their gender or sex.” Secretary of State Anthony Blinken further noted several efforts by the Biden administration to support and protect the human rights of individuals within the LGBTQI+ community across the world, citing the State Department’s consultations with “like-minded governments.” It is unknown when the third gender option, reportedly denoted by an “X,” will be made available. Updates on the State Department’s progress will be posted to a specific webpage on its site. In the nearer future, the department said passport applicants will be able to self-select their gender without providing supporting medical documentation if their gender marker does not match the gender marker on their other identity documents. (United States State Department)


Friday Is Fried With:

  • Anisette Day
  • I Forgot Day
  • Made In The USA Day
  • Second Half of The Year Day (Non-Leap Years it’s July 2)
  • World UFO Day


Historical Events

  • 437 – Emperor Valentinian III, begins his reign over the Western Roman Empire. His mother Galla Placidia ends her regency, but continues to exercise political influence at the court in Rome.
  • 1494 – The Treaty of Tordesillas is ratified by Spain.
  • 1679 – Europeans first visit Minnesota and see headwaters of Mississippi in an expedition led by Daniel Greysolon de Du Luth.
  • 1698 – Thomas Savery patents the first steam engine.
  • 1881 – Charles J. Guiteau shoots and fatally wounds U.S. President James Garfield, who eventually dies from an infection on September 19.
  • 1890 – The U.S. Congress passes the Sherman Anti-Trust Act.
  • 1937 – Amelia Earhart and navigator Fred Noonan are last heard from over the Pacific Ocean while attempting to make the first equatorial round-the-world flight.
  • 1966 – The French military explodes a nuclear test bomb codenamed Aldébaran in Mururoa, their first nuclear test in the Pacific.
  • 1993 – 37 participants in an Alevi cultural and literary festival are killed when a mob of demonstrators set fire to their hotel in Sivas during a violent protest.
  • 2000 – Vicente Fox Quesada is elected the first President of México from an opposition party, the Partido Acción Nacional, after more than 70 years of continuous rule by the Partido Revolucionario Institucional.