Invasive plant wins competition against its native cousin

Because of its aggressive behavior and its harmful effects, the invasive prairie plant Lespedeza cuneata has been added to several noxious weed lists. Research at the University of Illinois on how soil bacteria interact with the plants' roots to form nodules that fix nitrogen demonstrated that the invasive variety had superior performance when pitted against the native plant variety Lespedeza virginica.

"We expected Lespedeza cuneata to be a strong competitor when up against its native cousin that's planted primarily for prairie restoration," said U of I microbial ecologist Tony Yannarell. "There are a number of studies showing that L. cuneata grows quickly, is able to shade out its competitors, and has a high rate of nitrogen fixation, which allows it to 'self-fertilize' on unproductive soils."

Yannarell explained that Lespedeza plants establish a "partnership" with bacteria in the soil to form nodules that fix nitrogen. "We wanted to demonstrate that the partners in this symbiosis matter," he said.

Because the nitrogen-fixing gene is in the bacteria, the first step in the research was to identify bacteria that have the gene. "We started with isolating a pool of 50 bacteria [from the root nodules of invasive and native Lespedezas] and discovered that some of them weren't traditional nodule-forming bacteria."

Ultimately, seven bacteria were identified and used in a three-month greenhouse experiment in which various combinations of native and invasive varieties of Lespedeza were grown together in pots. Of the seven, five bacteria were found to benefit the invader and two did not benefit either of the plant varieties.

"We were hoping to be able to change the degree of competitiveness by using different varieties of Lespedeza by varying the bacteria," Yannarell said. "It turned out that none of the bacteria seemed to be better for the native plant.

"A really intriguing pattern that we found is that a lot of these strains of bacteria that are good for the invader belong to the Bradyrhizobium genus of bacteria that's been shown in other parts of the world to be good at fixing nitrogen so this was one more confirmation of that information," Yannarell said.

Yannarell said that this study provides yet another piece in the ecological puzzle.

The invasive Lespedeza cuneata was intentionally brought into the United States from Japan near the end of the 1800s. At the time, people liked its nitrogen-fixing capacity and soil fertilization. It was intended to be used to stabilize river banks and rehabilitate poor soil. Yannarell said that it has been recommended as wildlife forage, and some think that it has tannins that can act as a deworming treatment for goats. Now, however, it's considered to be a noxious weed that grows in the South and Midwest. It is commonly called silky bush clover.

Yannarell stressed that there are a lot of different species of Lespedeza that are native to North America and indicative of high-quality prairie. Although Lespedeza cuneata isn't a plant that would be intentionally planted by prairie restorationists, it has been seen in prairie seed mixes.

"Invasive Lespedeza cuneata and native Lespedeza virginica experience asymmetrical benefits from rhizobial symbionts," was published in Plant and Soil and was co-authored by Lingzi Hu, Ryan R. Busby, and Dick L. Gebhart. The work was supported by a grant from the U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center and by the Cooperative State Research, Education and Extension Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Illinois College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences (ACES) . The original article was written by Debra Levey Larson. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

US Spy Programs May Break the Internet if Not Reformed, Google Leader Says

Eric Schmidt, chairman of Google Inc., Sept. 24, 2014.

Eric Schmidt, chairman of Google Inc., Sept. 24, 2014. Victor J. Blue/Bloomberg via Getty Images

PALO ALTO — You own your data. And the government needs to start respecting that.

This was the assertion made today by Microsoft General Counsel Brad Smith at a Silicon Valley panel discussion on NSA surveillance. Until the US recognizes and restores the fundamental right of ownership you have in your data, he continued, the U.S. cannot hope to rebuild trust lost through the NSA’s widespread surveillance programs.

This stance flies in the face of what we expect from internet companies these days, many of whom tend to act as if they own the content we create.

“If you’re a consumer or a company, you own your email, your text messages, your photos and all the content that you create,” he said. “Even when you put your content in our data centers or on devices that we make, you still own it and you are entitled to the legal protection under our Constitution and our laws. We will not rebuild trust until our government recognizes that fundamental principle.”

The room erupted in applause.

The panel discussion was organized by Senator Ron Wyden (D – Oregon) to address the effects the NSA surveillance programs have had on the tech industry. It included Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt, and the top legal counsels for several tech companies—Colin Stretch of Facebook, Ramsey Homsany of Dropbox and Smith from Microsoft. Also participating was John Lilly, a partner with Greylock Partners an investment firm.

Wyden is chairman of the Senate Finance Committee and has served on the Select Committee on Intelligence for more than a decade. He was one of the few lawmakers privy to the NSA’s programs before they were disclosed by whistleblower Edward Snowden. The panel was held before an audience of about 200 adults and students on Wyden’s home court: the gymnasium of his alma mater, Palo Alto High School.

“We’re Going to End up Breaking the Internet”

Wyden opened the panel by noting that until the Snowden revelations he never once heard a US official express concern about the potential impact of the government’s mass surveillance programs on the digital economy.

“When the actions of a foreign government threaten red-white-and-blue jobs, Washington gets up at arms,” he said. “But, even today, almost no one in Washington is talking about how overly broad surveillance is hurting the US economy.”

The panelists all agreed that the surveillance has had detrimental affects on the industry, not only in terms of the erosion of trust from consumers but also in terms of the potential economic, social and educational impacts that would occur if countries follow through on their threats to keep data local. Some twenty countries have already proposed or stated intentions to propose domestic laws requiring local data to remain local as a result of the spying revelations. If this occurs, Google’s Schmidt warned, “the simplest outcome is we’re going to end up breaking the internet.”

Governments, he said, will eventually just say, “we want our own internet…and we don’t want other people in it.” The cost will be huge in terms of shared knowledge, discoveries, and science. It will also be expensive, since the cost of running data centers in every country where they have customers may be too much for some firms to handle.

“We’re screwing around with those kinds of concepts without understanding that that is a national industry,” Schmidt said.

Data localization also makes data potentially more accessible to foreign regimes that don’t respect the rule of law or even have a rule of law governing how or if they can access data. “More access points around the world make your network hard to secure [and] in a practical matter it makes us more vulnerable,” said Facebook’s Colin Stretch.

Homsany noted that the burden of regaining trust shouldn’t lay just with companies; the government needs to lead and repair the trust that’s been damaged “to show the world that we are a country that respects these values,” he said. “We have built this incredible economic engine in this region of the country . . . and trust is the one thing that starts to rot it from the inside out. I think it is really that serious. We need to see the government also starting to do its part.”

Silicon Valley vs. the Government

In a year of profoundly disturbing disclosures, Schmidt said the one that struck companies the hardest were reports about the tapping of undersea cables used to transmit data between the overseas data centers of U.S. companies. To put it in simple terms, Schmidt said, this was essentially hacking—the same kind of state-sponsored hacking the US has condemned in other countries, and it rallied companies to take action. “I think that put the relationship between the industry and the government on profoundly different footing,” he said. “The disclosure brought to light that there was this effort outside of what we all thought of as the appropriate legal process to obtain user data.”

The effect has led companies to play essentially a game of whack-a-mole with the government, working to find technological solutions that “force the government to come to us through the legal means [that are] the product of a democratic process,” he said. By “investing as heavily as we are through security, we’re forcing that access through those laws to be the only way in.”

Senator Ron Wyden, July 14, 2014.

Senator Ron Wyden, July 14, 2014. Victor J. Blue/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Wyden addressed the battle that’s currently taking place between the government and technology companies over this, referencing specifically Apple’s move to make encryption default on the iPhone 6 and government claims that this will erode the ability of law enforcement agencies to do their job. Wyden said lawmakers need to find laws that ensure that liberty and security are not mutually exclusive “so that companies aren’t forced to duke it out with the government in the technology lab.”

Schmidt had little sympathy for the government’s cries that the move to secure data thwarts law enforcement.

“The people criticizing this should have expected this,” he noted, adding that law enforcement still has “many, many ways to get that information they need without having to do this.”

The government should get used to it, because these kinds of technological solutions are here to stay. “I’d be shocked if anyone takes the foot off the pedal in terms of building security and encryption into their products,” Facebook’s Stretch said. “[But] I think that would be true even if the NSA didn’t exist.” The Snowden disclosures, however, created an additional imperative to do it “and I think we’re all working harder and faster on the process than maybe we were doing before.”

Companies had no choice but to take the steps that Apple and others were taking to strengthen the security of customer data, and the government should get used to it.

Homsany noted that the burden of regaining trust shouldn’t lay just with companies; the government needs to lead and repair the trust that’s been damaged “to show the world that we are a country that respects these values,” he said. “We have built this incredible economic engine in this region of the country . . . and trust is the one thing that starts to rot it from the inside out. I think it is really that serious. We need to see the government also starting to do its part.”

This led to a discussion about the inadequacy of current legislation to protect consumers.

There are two ways to protect privacy, either through stronger technology or better laws, Smith said. “And in the absence of better laws, we’re all being asked to invest in stronger technology. We need better laws.” Current laws are way too antiquated to address present-day technologies and circumstances. The Electronic Communications Privacy Act, he said, is almost 30 years old. “If this law were a technology product, it would be in a museum.”

HTC’s Action Camera Looks Like an Inhaler, Shoots Video Underwater



HTC’s new Re action camera looks like a ship’s pipe ventilator, and you might notice a few things missing on it. For one thing, there’s no viewfinder or screen. That’s because it’s designed to pair with your phone for framing and playing videos and photos. There isn’t even a power button. As soon as you pick it up, the Re powers on.

It’s yet another entry to the crowded action camera market—and a very late answer to the Flip—but it’s an interesting one. The Re records 1080p video at 30fps through its 146-degree wide-angle lens, and it’s also able to snap 16-megapixel stills. You capture both with a single button. Tapping it snaps a picture, and holding it down records video. You can use it underwater, too.

Along with a MicroSD slot that lets you expand its memory (it comes with an 8 GB card pre-installed, but you can swap it out for a 128 GB one), Re has a surprising amount of connectivity options—Bluetooth LE, Wi-Fi, Wi-Fi Direct, and MicroUSB for charging. That’s a good thing because it uses a smartphone for the rest of its interface. You can pair it up with the Re app for iOS and Android to see what you’re shooting in real time, and you’ll be able to store all your footage and photos on your phone. HTC will also offer cloud storage through the app, and the company says live-streaming capabilities to YouTube will be available at some point in the future.

This weird little inhaler-camera will be available for $200 in time for the holidays. It’s available for preorder now.

Why the Trolls Will Always Win


Getty Images

Editors’ Note: This post was first published on Kathy Sierra’s blog SeriousPony. We are republishing it here in its entirety, unchanged.

This month is the 10-year anniversary of my first online threat. I thought it was a one-off, then. Just one angry guy. And it wasn’t really THAT bad. But looking back, it was the canary in the coal mine… the first hint that if I kept on this path, it would not end well. And what was that path? We’ll get to that in a minute.

Later I learned that the first threat had nothing to do with what I actually made or said in my books, blog posts, articles, and conference presentations. The real problem — as my first harasser described — was that others were beginning to pay attention to me. He wrote as if mere exposure to my work was harming his world.

Kathy Sierra

Kathy Sierra is a writer, thinker, and animal lover.

But here’s the key: it turned out he wasn’t outraged about my work. His rage was because, in his mind, my work didn’t deserve the attention. Spoiler alert: “deserve” and “attention” are at the heart.

A year later, I wrote a light-hearted article about “haters” (the quotes matter) and something I called The Koolaid Point. It wasn’t about harassment, abuse, or threats against people but about the kind of brand “trolls” you find in, say, Apple discussion forums. My wildly non-scientific theory was this: the most vocal trolling and “hate” for a brand kicks in HARD once a critical mass of brand fans/users are thought to have “drunk the Koolaid”. In other words, the hate wasn’t so much about the product/brand but that other people were falling for it.

I was delighted, a few weeks’ later, to see my little “Koolaid Point” in Wired’s Jargon Watch column.

The me of 2005 had no idea what was coming.

Less than two years later, I’d learn that my festive take on harmless brand trolling also applied to people. And it wasn’t festive. Or harmless. Especially for women.

I now believe the most dangerous time for a woman with online visibility is the point at which others are seen to be listening, “following”, “liking”, “favoriting”, retweeting. In other words, the point at which her readers have (in the troll’s mind) “drunk the Koolaid”. Apparently, that just can’t be allowed.

From the hater’s POV, you (the Koolaid server) do not “deserve” that attention. You are “stealing” an audience. From their angry, frustrated point of view, the idea that others listen to you is insanity. From their emotion-fueled view you don’t have readers you have cult followers. That just can’t be allowed.

You must be stopped. And if they cannot stop you, they can at least ruin your quality of life. A standard goal, in troll culture, I soon learned, is to cause “personal ruin”. They aren’t all trolls, though. Some of those who seek to stop and/or ruin you are misguided/misinformed but well-intended. They actually believe in a cause, and they believe you (or rather the Koolaid you’re serving) threatens that cause.

But the Koolaid-Point-driven attacks are usually started by (speculating, educated guess here, not an actual psychologist, etc) sociopaths. They’re doing it out of pure malice, “for the lulz.” And those doing it for the lulz are masters at manipulating public perception. Master trolls can build an online army out of the well-intended, by appealing to The Cause (more on that later). The very best/worst trolls can even make the non-sociopaths believe “for the lulz” is itself a noble cause.

But I actually got off easy, then. Most of the master trolls weren’t active on Twitter in 2007. Today, they, along with their friends, fans, followers, and a zoo of anonymous sock puppet accounts are. The time from troll-has-an-idea to troll-mobilizes-brutal-assault has shrunk from weeks to minutes. Twitter, for all its good, is a hate amplifier. Twitter boosts signal power with head-snapping speed and strength. Today, Twitter (and this isn’t a complaint about Twitter, it’s about what Twitter enables) is the troll’s best weapon for attacking you. And by “you”, I mean “you the server of Koolaid.” You who must be stopped.

It begins with simple threats. You know, rape, dismemberment, the usual. It’s a good place to start, those threats, because you might simply vanish once those threats include your family. Mission accomplished. But today, many women online — you women who are far braver than I am — you stick around. And now, since you stuck around through the first wave of threats, you are now a much BIGGER problem. Because the Worst Possible Thing has happened: as a result of those attacks, you are NOW serving Victim-Flavored Koolaid.

And Victim-Flavored Koolaid is the most dangerous substance on earth, apparently. And that just can’t be allowed.

There is only one reliably useful weapon for the trolls to stop the danger you pose and/or to get max lulz: discredit you. The disinformation follows a pattern so predictable today it’s almost dull: first, you obviously “fucked” your way into whatever role enabled your undeserved visibility. I mean..duh. A woman. In tech. Not that there aren’t a few deserving women and why can’t you be more like THEM but no, you are NOT one of them.

You are, they claim, CLEARLY “a whore”. But not the sex-worker kind, no, you are the Bad Kind of Whore. Actually TWO kinds: an Attention/Fame Whore and an Actual Have Sex In Exchange For Jobs, Good Reviews, Book Deals Whore. I mean, could there be ANY other explanation for your visibility? But the sex-not-merit meme is just their warm-up, the lowest-hanging-fruit in a discredit/disinfo campaign.

Because what the haters MOST want the world to know is this: what you’re serving your audience? It’s NOT EVEN ACTUAL KOOLAID. “Snake oil”, the trolls insist. You’re a “proven liar”. Or, as I was referred to yet again just yesterday by my favorite troll/hater/harasser: “a charlatan”. And there is “evidence”. There is always “evidence”. (there isn’t, of course, but let’s not let that get in the way.)

And the trolls aren’t stupid. The most damaging troll/haters are some of the most powerful people (though they self-describe as outcasts). Typically, the hacker trolls are technically-talented, super smart white men. They’re not just hackers. They are social engineers. They understand behavioral psych. They know their Kahneman. They “get” memes. They exploit a vulnerability in the brains of your current and potential listeners.

How? By unleashing a mind virus guaranteed to push emotional buttons for your real, NOT-troll audience. In my specific case, it was my alleged threat to a free and open internet. “She issued DMCA takedowns for sites that criticized her.” Yes, that one even made it’s way into a GQ magazine article not long ago, when the writer Sanjiv Bhattacharya interviewed weev and asked about — get this — the “ethics” of doxxing me. Weev’s explanation was just one more leveling up in my discredit/disinfo program: DMCA takedowns. I had, apparently, issued DMCA takedowns.

Andrew 'Weev' Auernheimer

Andrew ‘Weev’ Auernheimer Fayetteville Police/Handout

If you are in the tech world, issuing a DMCA takedown is worse than kicking puppies off a pier. But what I did? It was (according to the meme) much much worse. I did it (apparently) to stifle criticism. If a DMCA takedown is kicking puppies, doing it to “stifle criticism” is like single-handedly causing the extinction of puppies, kittens, and the constitution. Behold my awesome and terrible power. Go me.

But here’s the thing. I never did that. I never did anything even a teeny tiny nano bit like that. But sure enough, even on my last day on Twitter, there it was again: Kathy did DMCA’s. And it wasn’t even a troll saying it, it was another woman in tech who believed the meme because she believed weev. Because in twisted troll logic, it makes sense. She must have done something pretty awful to deserve what, according to weev, “she had coming.”

After the GQ story came out, the one where weev “justified” the harassment of me by introducing the DMCA fiction, I asked him about it on Twitter. “Where, seriously, where exactly did I ever issue a DMCA?” His answer? Oh, right, he didn’t have an answer. Because it didn’t happen. But see? he doesn’t have to. He’s already launched the Kathy-does-DMCA-takedowns meme. Evidence not required. For that matter, common sense not required.

(For the record, far as most people have been able to determine, most of what happened to me long ago was triggered by a blog comment I made that said “I’m not moderating my blog comments, but I support those who do and here’s why.” That’s right, Blog. Comment. Moderation. Just a tiny hop, really, from that to full-blown DMCA takedowns. Easy mistake.)

For me, the hot button to rally the army (including the Good People) against me was my (totally fictional) legal threat to freedom. But there are so many other hot buttons to use against women in tech. So. Many.

A particularly robust troll-crafted hot button meme today is that some women are out to destroy video games (shoutout to #gamergaters). Another is that they are taking jobs from men. Men who are, I mean obviously, more deserving. “If women/minorities/any oppressed group are given special treatment, that’s not equality,” they argue “I guess you don’t believe in equality, feminists.” Quickly followed by, “wait, did I say ‘oppressed group’? There’s no such thing as an oppressed group I just meant Professional Victims Who Pretend To Be Oppressed And Serve Social Justice Warrior Koolaid.”

Life for women in tech, today, is often better the less visible they are. Less visible means fewer perceived Koolaid drinkers.

The Game Is Fixed

I’m not sure I like comparing trolls to animals (because insulting to animals), but as an animal trainer, I’m painfully aware of the power of operant conditioning. Yes, sure, “don’t feed the trolls” has been the standard advice, a bullshit talking point propagated by trolls to blame their targets. “You brought this on. You don’t want this? Don’t engage.” Except that’s not actually true. It’s the opposite of true, once you’ve been personally targeted.

As any parent of a two-year old can tell you, ignoring the child usually leads to escalation. Cry harder, scream louder, and in the most desperate scenarios, become destructive. Anything to get the attention they crave. Simply moving on is not an option for the haters once you’ve been labeled a Koolaid server and/or a rich source of lulz. Ignore them, and the trolls cry harder, scream louder, and become destructive.

If you’ve already hit the Koolaid Piont, you usually have just three choices:

1. leave (They Win)

2. ignore them (they escalate, make your life more miserable, DDoS, ruin your career, etc. i.e. They Win)

3. fight back (If you’ve already hit the Koolaid Point, see option #2. They Win).

That’s right, in the world we’ve created, once you’ve become a Koolaid-point target they always win. Your life will never be the same, and the harassers will drain your scarce cognitive resources. You and your family will never be the same.

The hater trolls are looking for their next dopamine hit. If you don’t provide it, they’ll try harder. But the escalation to get a response from you? That’s not even the worst escalation problem.

The more dangerous social-web-fueled gamification of trolling is the unofficial troll/hate leader-board. The attacks on you are often less about scoring points against you than that they’re trying to out-do one another. They’re trying to out-troll, out-hate, out-awful the other trolls. That’s their ultimate goal. He who does the worst wins.

Which may explain the slow, steady increase in both frequency and horror of online harassment. What was mostly drive-by nasty comments in 2001 then progressed to Photoshopped images (your child on a porn image is a particularly “fun” one), and what’s after images? Oh, yeah, the “beat up Anita” game. And what’s left when you’ve done as much digital damage as you can?

Real-life damage.

Doxxing with calls to action (that — and trust me on this — people DO act on).

Swatting (look it up): That nobody has yet been killed in one of these “pranks” is surprising. It’s just a matter of time.

Physical Assault: the online attack on the epilepsy forums, where the trolls crafted flickering images at a frequency known to trigger seizures in those with “photosensitive” epilepsy. Think about this. People went to the one safe space they knew online — the epilepsy support forums — and found themselves having seizures before they could even look away. (Nobody was ever charged.)

Side note: I have epilepsy, though not the photosensitive kind. But I have a deep understanding of the horror of seizures, and the dramatically increased chance of death and brain damage many of us with epilepsy live with, in my case, since the age of 4. FYI, deaths related to epilepsy in the US are roughly equal with deaths from breast cancer. There isn’t a shred of doubt in my mind that if the troll hackers could find a way to increase your risk of breast cancer? They’d do it. Because what’s better than lulz? Lulz with BOOBS. Yeah, they’d do it.

But what disturbed me even more than the epilepsy forum attack itself were the comments about it afterwards (I won’t link to it, but you can search for it on Wired). “I lol’d” “That’s awful, but you gotta admit… hilarious!” Once again, high-fives all around. This is the world we have created.

So I don’t have the luxury of assuming “it’s just online. Not REAL. It’s not like these people would ever do anything in the real world .” And what you don’t hear much about is what most targeted women find the most frightening of all: the stalkerish energy, time, effort, focus on… YOU. The drive-by hate/threat comment, no matter how vile, is just that, a comment that took someone 2.5 seconds to think and execute. It might be annoying, offensive, maybe intimidating the first few times. But you get used to those, after all, it’s not like somebody put time and effort into it.

But Photoshopped images? Stories drawn from your own work? There’s a creepy and invasive horror knowing someone is pouring over your words, doing Google and Flickr image searches to find the perfect photo to manipulate. That someone is using their time and talent to write code even, about you. That’s not trolling, that’s obsession. That’s the point where you know it’s not really even about the Koolaid now…they’re obsessed with you.

This is a very long way from the favorite troll talking point “Oh boohoo someone was mean on the internet.”

Mean: “You’re fat and retarded and deserve to be raped”. (we all get tons of those, but those aren’t what we’re talking about)

Stalking: “Here’s yet another creepy and terrifying thing I made for you and about you and notice just how much I know about you…” (1/200)

There is a difference.

We need to stop propagating the troll-driven meme that “it’s all just trollin’ and boohoo mean words you should cry more” and start making the hard, fine-grained distinctions. The hater trolls use the ‘just trollin’ and ‘just mean words’ to minimize even the worst attacks and gaslight their targets. In hater troll framing, there’s no difference between a single tweet and a DDoS of your employer’s website. There’s no difference between a “you’re a histrionic charlatan” and “here’s a headless corpse and you are next and here’s your address.” It’s all just trollin’ and mean words and not real life.

It’s all ‘just trollin’ unless you, you know, actually deserved it. Then they’re all, “sure, things got a little out of hand, and threats of violence are never acceptable but, um, what did you expect?” Followed by, “Well actually, if it WERE actual HARASSMENT, then it’s for The Authorities.”

Fun Troll Logic:

IF no legal action happens

THEN it wasn’t actually “real” harassment

You’re probably more likely to win the lottery than to get any law enforcement agency in the United States to take action when you are harassed online, no matter how viscously and explicitly. Local agencies lack the resources, federal agencies won’t bother. (Unless you’re a huge important celebrity. But the rules are always different for them. But trolls are quite happy to attack people who lack the resources to do anything about it. Troll code totally supports punching DOWN.)

There IS no “the authorities” that will help us.

We are on our own.

And if we don’t take care of one another, nobody else will.

We are all we’ve got.

Which brings me to why I really wrote this.


Most of the back-story is not important, and I hope to never have to talk about it again, but here’s the relevant bits:

In 2007, I was the target of a several-week long escalating harassment campaign that culminated in my being doxxed (a word I didn’t even know then) with a long, detailed, explicit document, posted pretty much everyone on the internet (including multiple times to my own wikipedia entry). It was a sort of open letter with a sordid (but mostly fictional) account that included my past, my career, my family, and wrapped up with my (unfortunately NOT fictional) social security number, former home address and, worst of all — a call to action for people to send things to me. They did. I never returned to my blog, I cut out almost all speaking engagements, and rarely appeared anywhere in the tech world online or real world. Basically, that was it for me. I had no desire then to find out what comes after doxxing, especially not with a family, and I had every reason to believe this would continue to escalate if I didn’t, well, stop “serving the Koolaid.”

A year later, I had one of the worst days of my life. I got a phone call from a journalist, Mattathias Schwartz. He’d been working on a long-form feature magazine story about trolls for the NY Times, and it was about to come out. He wanted to warn me about something in the story, something nobody expected: one of the main subjects of his story had just — out of the blue — announced that he was “Memphis Two” the author of That Document (i.e. my dox) and added that he was part of the harassment of Kathy Sierra.

I sat down. “I’ve never heard of this person. Am I in any danger?” He gave me the only truthful answer, “I don’t know.” But then he added, “I don’t think so, because honestly I don’t think he sees you as important at all.” So, whew. He was right. I was not important. And after all, they’d already put checkmark in the WIN column for me. I was gone. I’d not be serving any more Koolaid. Nothing to see here, etc.

And there I hoped it would end, fading away as all things do as the internet moves on and this troll I’d never heard of would just go back to whatever it was that trolls do.

But you all know what happened next. Something something something horrifically unfair government case against him and just like that, he becomes tech’s “hacktivist hero.” He now had A Platform not just in the hacker/troll world but in the broader tech community I was part of. And we’re not just talking stories and interviews in Tech Crunch and HuffPo (and everywhere else), but his own essays in those publications. A tech industry award. His status was elevated, his reach was broadened. And for reasons I will never understand, he suddenly had gained not just status and Important Friends, but also “credibility”.

Did not see that coming.

But hard as I tried to find a ray of hope that the case against him was, somehow, justified and that he deserved, somehow, to be in prison for this, oh god I could not find it. I could not escape my own realization that the cast against him was wrong. So wrong. And not just wrong, but wrong in a way that puts us all at risk. I wasn’t just angry about the injustice of his case, I had even begun to feel sorry for him. Him. The guy who hates me for lulz. Guy who nearly ruined my life. But somehow, even I had started to buy into his PR. That’s just how good the spin was. Even I mistook the sociopath for a misunderstood outcast. Which, I mean, I actually knew better.

And of course I said nothing until his case was prosecuted and he’d been convicted, and there was no longer anything I could possibly do to hurt his case. A small group of people — including several of his other personal victims (who I cannot name, obviously) asked me to write to the judge before his sentencing, to throw my weight/story into the “more reasons why weev should be sent to prison”. I did not. Last time, for the record, I did NOTHING but support weev’s case, and did not speak out until after he’d been convicted.

But the side-effect of so many good people supporting his case was that more and more people in tech came to also… like him. And they all seemed to think that it was All Good as long as they punctuated each article with the obligatory “sure, he’s an ass” or “and yes, he’s a troll” or “he’s known for offending people” (which are, for most men, compliments). In other words, they took the Worst Possible Person, as one headline read, and still managed to reposition him as merely a prankster, a trickster, a rascal. And who doesn’t like a “lovable scoundrel”?

So I came back because I saw what was happening.

I came back because I connected these dots:

* Weev writes an explicit warning to all women in tech that speaking out (in his words “squealing like a stuck pig”) will be “punished”.

* Weev demonstrates this by punishing a woman that was, for better or worse, a role model for some in the already-way-too-small group of women in tech.

* Weev then becomes celebrated in tech, spun as a straight-talking, no bullshit, asshole who speaks truth to power. Truth. Weev. Is. About. Truth. And Privacy. Ours. He wanted to protect Our Privacy with The Truth.

(If you want an example of gaslighting, imagine how I felt watching this unfold)

* And there it is. I came because if weev is credible, and endorsed as a “friend”, then the document he, at the least, ENTHUSIASTICALLY CONTINUES TO ENDORSE, is… well what does this mean?

I came back because I believe this sent a terrible, devastating message about what was acceptable. Because nobody in a position of power and influence in the tech world ever, NOT ONCE, brought up the explicit threats in that document, except for The Verge. (Tim Carmody, Greg Sandoval, you are my heroes).

I came back and watched endless streams of funny, casual, online banter between weev and some of those I respected and trusted most in tech. You know who I mean. I watched him being retweeted into my stream in a positive way. I actually did lol, though, when Twitter’s algorithm kept insisting You Probably Want To Follow Him! That’s how much our Venn diagrams overlapped.

But the one thing I never expected was that after all these years, he’d suddenly deny it. Even more so, that reasonable, logical, intelligent people would actually believe this. He’d suddenly, after 6 years, claim that a world-class, international, Livingston-winner (“Pulitzer of the Young”) journalist would just somehow… come up with that. And that in six years it never occurred to weev, not once, to publicly deny it no matter how many times he was asked about it.

(Schwartz himself came into these conversations more than once over the past year to remind weev about their conversation, to confirm that yes, it happened exactly as he described in the 2008 feature. Not that it made a difference. After all, in weev vs. amazing writer with everything to lose by lying, who are you going with? Weev. They went with weev.)

As I said in a now-deleted Twitter exchange, I couldn’t imagine “what sort of suspension of disbelief” one needs to accept a context in which a journalist who has never heard of me, somehow pulls MY name and that document out of thin air, then somehow mistakenly attributes it to the object of his story. Or that why, in all those years, weev never once publicly tried to refute this? He even wrote a response to the NYTimes story (the story where he outs himself as the doxxer) on his own blog, where he takes issue with several aspects of the article but never disputes the facts, and never even hints that weev-as-my-doxxer was inaccurate.

And he’s been asked about it many times over the next years, including that GQ interview where he explained his reasons for doing it. Never once, until I returned, did he ever publicly deny it. The NYTimes article stands, for 6 years, without correction or challenges. Weev of course now claims he wrote to the NYTimes, but has never produced, you know, “evidence”.

So there I was, now having unbelievable conversations with prominent people in tech that were more willing to believe the most absurd story over, well, one of the most respected journalists still left in the world. That they were willing to believe weev over… common sense. Logic. That they had the fantasy belief that though weev was known to be one of the most skillful and manipulative liars (and that description is from a friend of his), somehow, he wasn’t lying now, to them. I pushed back, but only if it was someone in the tech world who was not a troll, but an intelligent, rational, reasonable, person.

I underestimated the willingness of people to still, no matter what, believe him.

But recently I came to realize that OK let’s say we do suspend disbelief and let’s say he didn’t do it. Let’s say he simply wanted people to think he’d done it. That doesn’t actually change it.

Because the problem, the reason I came back is this:

Weev unequivocally, enthusiastically, gleefully, repeatedly ENDORSED it. He tweeted, many times, that I “had it coming”. I deserved it. That the “truth” in my dox was why I left the internet the first time.

And so again, I connect these dots:

* A document issues an explicit threat, warning women against speaking out. Lots and lots of women in tech have seen this document.

* Weev endorses this document, enthusiastically, repeatedly.

* Prominent people in tech endorse weev

Which could easily be seen as…

* Prominent people in tech tacitly endorsed that threat against speaking out.

Some of those people are/were feminists. I cannot even comprehend the cognitive dissonance.

THAT’s why I wanted to push back. Every. Single. Time. If someone described me, or the article about me as a lie, (as @erratarob did on my last day) I stepped in to do what I thought was the most rational approach: to just keep pointing to the facts that were known. To push back on the twist and spin. I believed the fine-grained distinctions mattered. I pushed back because I believed I was pushing back on the implicit message that women would be punished for speaking out. I pushed back because almost nobody else was, and it seemed like so many people in tech were basically OK with that.

But a few days ago, in the middle of one of those “discussions”, this time with @erratarob, I realized it wasn’t worth it. He concluded that I was just trolling so people would troll me back. I asked him what he thought I should have done. And his answer was “don’t feed the trolls.” “Ignore it and move on.” Perhaps Rob didn’t know that I’d already tried that for six years, but that it was weev who kept that damn thing alive no matter how gone I was. He managed to tweet to my social security number not long before he went to prison, and well before I resurfaced. No, I didn’t troll him into that. I didn’t “engage”.

But Rob didn’t do anything wrong. He was saying what he truly believes. What, sadly, a whole lot of people in tech believe. Rob just happened to be the last “you asked for it” message I wanted to hear. So I just stopped.

I didn’t “rage quit”, I just walked away. I shut off a big cognitive resource leak. From the beginning of my time tweeting as Seriouspony, that I tweeted I was not likely to stay and that I was looking forward to where we would end up next. I’m not GONE gone. I’m just not on Twitter. But I have to add I’m surprised to see my leaving Twitter as, once again, an example of someone who “just shouldn’t be on the internet”. Because nothing says “unbalanced” like having the freedom to walk away from a social media network. Because you can. Because you have a choice. Because you have the most beautiful and awesome ponies on the planet.


No idea. But I do think we need more options for online spaces, and I hope one of those spaces allows the kind of public conversations and learning we had on Twitter but where women — or anyone — does not feel an undercurrent of fear watching her follower count increase. Where there’s no such thing as The Koolaid Point. And I also know the worst possible approach would be more aggressive banning, or restricting speech (especially not that), or restricting anonymity. I don’t think Twitter needs to (or even can, at this point) do anything at all. I think we need to do something.

We can do this. I know we can. And many of you — especially you javaranchers — you know why I’m so certain. You’ve seen a million visitors a month in a male-dominated community year after year after year maintain a culture defined by a single TOS: be nice. You’ve seen how learning thrives in an environment where you can be fearless with questions and generous with answers. If millions of programmers can maintain one of the largest and most vibrant developer communities online, for 15 years, without harassment of any kind, then anyone can. Good luck trying to convince me it can’t be done. Because I have something the trolls do not— evidence.

If you made it this far, I cannot possibly express how grateful I am for the wonderful experiences I had during the time I was on Twitter as Seriouspony. The appreciation for the horses made my heart sing. And those of you who have ever talked with me there, or sent me pony pictures, or ever sent me a message or spoken to me at a conference about what you learned from me, you have done more for me than you will ever know.

And I miss you all right now. I miss hearing the stories about your life and your work and your thoughts and your pets, especially your pets. But again, it’s not like I’m GONE gone.

After all, the ponies have only just begun to learn to code…

When I know where they’ll be, you will be the first to know :) And when you all find a new space, that feels right, I know you will let me know.

[footnote-I-wish-I-didn’t-have-to-add: it’s been brought to my attention that my complaints about weev’s dox of me were apparently (and bizarrely) twisted to suggest I thought prostitution and being a victim of domestic violence were somehow “shameful.” That THIS must be the reason I didn’t want that narrative out there. First, that’s, well, I don’t even. Second, OMG you have no idea what I and my children have experienced in our lives so please, let go of the “Kathy hates that dox therefore Kathy hates prostitutes and victims of domestic violence. You know nothing of my life, so please stop imagining you know what I think, feel, or have been through. Quit trying to shoehorn me into a she-must-have-deserved-it-see-she-is-a-bad-person narrative. My reasons for not wanting a false backstory about my children to be publicized by a prominent troll has nothing at all to do with “shame” and everything to do with “actual truth”. Because even if you believe I deserved to be doxxed, the story of my children was not weev’s to tell (or let's say it was not up to the person-pretending-to-be-weev-that-weev-thinks-did-this-awesome-thing-to-me)]

Making sure antibiotics work as they should

Researchers at ETH Zurich are decoding the structure of the large ribosomal subunit of the mitochondria at an atomic level, thereby providing insight into the molecular architecture of this ribosome with implications for a better understanding of the mode of action of antibiotics.

A team of ETH Zurich researchers led by professors Nenad Ban and Ruedi Aebersold have studied the highly complex molecular structure of mitoribosomes, which are the ribosomes of mitochondria. Ribosomes are found in the cells of all living organisms. However, higher organisms (eukaryotes), which include fungi, plants, animals and humans, contain much more complex ribosomes than bacteria. In eukaryotes, ribosomes can also be divided into two types: those in the cytosol -- which comprises the majority of the cell -- and those found in the mitochondria or "power plants" of cells. Mitochondria are only found in eukaryotes.

Ribosomes serve as translation devices for the genetic code and produce proteins based on the information stored in DNA. Every ribosome consists of two subunits. The smaller subunit uses transfer ribonucleic acids (transfer RNA or tRNA) to decode the genetic code it receives in the form of messenger RNA, while the larger subunit joins the amino acids delivered by the transfer RNA together like a string of pearls.

Even higher resolution, even more details

Mitochondrial ribosomes are especially difficult to study because they are found only in small amounts and are difficult to isolate. At the beginning of the year, ETH researchers had shed light on the molecular structure of the large subunit of the mitoribosome in mammalian cells to a resolution of 4.9 Å (less than 0.5 nm). However, this resolution was not adequate to reliably build a complete atomic model of this previously unknown structure. The team lead by ETH Professor Nenad Ban has now succeeded in this task and was able to map the entire structure at a resolution of 3.4 Å (0.34 nm). The researchers recently published their findings in the scientific journal Nature.

The scientists used high-resolution cryo-electron microscopy at the Electron Microscopy Center of ETH Zurich (ScopeM) and state-of-the-art mass spectrometry methods in their experiments. Thanks to recent technical advances in cryo-electron microscopy and the development of direct electron detection cameras that can correct for specimen motion during the exposure, it only recently became possible to capture images of biomolecules at a resolution of less than four angstroms.

Improving the effect of antibiotics

In particular, the new images show the details of the peptidyl transferase centre (PTC), which is where the amino acid building blocks are combined. The proteins synthesised in this way then pass through a tunnel, where they finally exit the large subunit of the ribosome.

"This process is medically relevant," said Basil Greber, lead author of the study and postdoctoral researcher in Nenad Ban's group. The reason is that this tunnel is a target for certain antibiotics. The antibiotic becomes lodged in the tunnel and prevents the proteins that have just been synthesized from leaving the tunnel. However, antibiotics should only inhibit protein synthesis in the ribosomes of bacteria.

"For an antibiotic to be used in humans, it must not attack human ribosomes," explains Greber. Antibiotics must inhibit protein synthesis only in bacterial ribosomes. The problem is that mitochondrial ribosomes resemble those of bacteria, which is why certain antibiotics also interfere with mitoribosomes. "This can lead to serious side effects." The ETH researchers' findings will make it possible in the future to design antibiotics that inhibit only bacterial and not mitochondrial ribosomes. This is one basic requirement for using them in clinical applications.

A surprising discovery

The ETH researchers also made an unexpected discovery. They found that mitoribosomes use transfer RNA in two fundamentally different ways. Firstly, the tRNA is used to select the right amino acid for peptide synthesis in the PTC. Secondly, one tRNA is a fixed part of the structure, unlike in all other ribosomes. Although it has been known for quite some time that mitochondrial ribosomes integrated new proteins into their structure over the course of their development, this is the first time that the use of an entirely new RNA molecule was observed. "This demonstrates the great evolutionary plasticity of mitoribosomes," underscored Greber.

The ETH team is now faced with a major, still unresolved task in its research: determining the structure of the smaller subunit of the mitochondrial ribosome. The fact that it is more flexible than the large subunit renders this undertaking an even greater challenge.

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The above story is based on materials provided by ETH Zurich . Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

Fundamental theory about education of immune police questioned by researchers

A fundamental theory about how our thymus educates our immune police appears to be wrong, scientists say.

It's known that stem cells come out of the bone marrow and travel to the tiny thymus gland behind the breastbone to learn to become one of two CD4T cell types: one leads an attack, the other keeps the peace.

One widely held concept of why they become one or the other is that, despite coming from the same neighborhood and going to the same school, they are exposed to different things in the thymus, said Dr. Leszek Ignatowicz, immunologist at the Medical College of Georgia at Georgia Regents University.

In this case, the "things" are ligands and developing T cells are potentially exposed to thousands of these tiny pieces of us inside the thymus. "Ligands are like our fingerprints," said MCG Postdoctoral Fellow Dr. Lucasz Wojciech.

But when MCG scientists limited exposure to only one fingerprint, the same mix of T cells still emerged, said Ignatowicz, a corresponding author of the study in the journal Nature Communications. "We asked a simple question: Is it going to affect their development and the answer was no," Ignatowicz said. "The cells still mature in the thymus, so something else must be determining it."

The finding provides more insight into immunity that could one day enable a new approach to vaccines that steer the thymus to produce more of whatever T cell type a patient needs: more effector cells if they have a bad infection or cancer, more regulatory T cells if they are experiencing autoimmune diseases like arthritis and multiple sclerosis. "We could help steer the education process in the desired direction," Ignatowicz said.

It's definitely a tough learning experience in the thymus. The vast majority of T cells learn to be too aggressive or too passive so never make it out of the thymus. About 90-95 percent of T cells that survive become effector cells, which will one day drive the response of the immune system to invaders such as bacteria, viruses, and tumors. Effector cells will learn to recognize and attack invaders once they are out roaming the body. Still these future aggressors are the ones that bind less strongly to ligands they experience in the thymus. "You wouldn't want an effector cell that bind strongly to yourself because you would attack yourself," explained Dr. Richard A. McIndoe, a bioinformatics expert and Associate Director of the MCG Center of Biotechnology and Genomic Medicine.

T cells that bind most strongly are the small, but essential percentage of regulatory T cells, or Tregs, which down-regulate the immune response and, ideally, prevent self-attack. It's a pretty powerful minority: Mice missing Tregs die within three weeks of birth; without a bone marrow transplant, humans will die as well as the body attacks major organs, Ignatowicz said.

In this study, the scientists had two mice, each expressing a single ligand in the thymus, one the researchers thought would prompt strong binding, so favor Treg development, and another that would favor a weaker bond and effector cell development.

While the mix of resulting T cells was the same as if both were exposed to the usual thousands of ligands, there was a difference. Ligands -- and eventually bacteria and other invaders -- get the attention of T cells by activating their receptors. Both CD4T cell types generally have the same receptors, just organized differently.

MCG scientists found as long as the binding was weak, as it was in the first mouse, there was a lot of overlap in the receptors the ligand bound to in both T cell types. However, in the second mouse, which should have favored Treg development because the ligand prompted strong binding, there was far less overlap. "We are now trying to find what causes that difference," Ignatowicz said.

E. coli outbreak at hospital in Illinois associated with contaminated specialized gastrointestinal endoscopes

Despite no lapses in the disinfection process recommended by the manufacturer being identified, specialized gastrointestinal endoscopes called duodenoscopes had bacterial contamination associated with an outbreak of a highly resistant strain of E coli at a hospital in Illinois, according to a study in the October 8 JAMA, a theme issue on infectious disease.

The duodenoscope is different than that used for routine upper gastrointestinal endoscopy or colonoscopy. The procedure associated with these specialized scopes is endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP), an important and potentially lifesaving medical procedure that allows doctors to diagnose and treat life-threatening problems in the bile and pancreatic ducts.

Carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae (CRE) are multidrug-resistant organisms isolated predominantly from patients with exposures in health care facilities. CRE are a public health concern because treatment options are limited and invasive infections are associated with a risk of death. The New Delhi metallo-beta-lactamase (NDM) is a carbapenemase (an enzyme that breaks down antibiotics) that has been infrequently reported in the United States. However, NDM-producing CRE have the potential to add substantially to the total CRE burden. Understanding transmission and preventing further spread of CRE is a public health priority, according to background information in the article.

In March 2013, NDM-producing Escherichia coli was identified from a patient at a teaching hospital in Illinois. Between March 2013 and July 2013, 6 additional patients with a history of admission to this hospital had positive clinical cultures for NDM-producing E coli. In August 2013, Lauren Epstein, M.D., M.Sc., of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, and colleagues launched an investigation to identify the source and prevent further NDM¬-producing CRE transmission at this hospital. Interviews were conducted with health care personnel at the hospital.

A medical record review revealed that a history of ERCP procedures involving the use of a duodenoscope was common among initial cases. In total, 39 case patients were identified from January 2013 through December 2013, 35 with duodenoscope exposure. In this outbreak, 39 patients with NDM-producing CRE were identified from January 2013 -- December 2013, 35 with duodenoscope exposure in 1 hospital. Some of those patients had positive blood cultures, often an indication of infection and others were found to be colonized with CRE but did not have a CRE infection.

NDM-producing E coli was recovered from a reprocessed duodenoscope and shared similarity to all case patient isolates. Based on a case-control study, case patients had significantly higher odds of being exposed to a duodenoscope. The authors write that the large number of exposed patients that ultimately had NDM-producing CRE isolated from clinical or screening cultures suggests that duodenoscopes were an efficient source of transmission.

An infection prevention assessment that focused on duodenoscope reprocessing (such as cleaning) was conducted, and it was found that the hospital followed all manufacturer-recommended procedures. After the hospital changed its duodenoscope reprocessing to a gas sterilization procedure, no additional case patients were identified.

"The complicated design of duodenoscopes makes cleaning difficult. It appears that these devices have the potential to remain contaminated with pathogenic bacteria even after recommended reprocessing is performed," the researchers write. They add that another option for ensuring adequate duodenoscope reprocessing might be to conduct testing for residual contamination during reprocessing. "Many international professional societies recommend periodic microbiological surveillance testing of duodenoscopes after full reprocessing."

"Facilities should be aware of the potential for transmission of antimicrobial-resistant organisms via this route and should conduct regular reviews of their duodenoscope reprocessing procedures to ensure optimal manual cleaning and disinfection."

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The above story is based on materials provided by JAMA - Journal of the American Medical Association . Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

Very low concentrations of heavy metals, antibiotics contribute to resistance

New Swedish research shows that plasmids containing genes that confer resistance to antibiotics can be enriched by very low concentrations of antibiotics and heavy metals. These results strengthen the suspicion that the antibiotic residues and heavy metals (such as arsenic, silver and copper) that are spread in the environment are contributing to the problems of resistance. These findings have now been published in the journal mBio.

Antibiotic resistance is a growing medical problem that threatens human health worldwide. Why and how these resistant bacteria are selected is largely unknown, although it is known that the primary selection takes place in humans and animals treated with antibiotics. Another contributory factor is that roughly half of the antibiotics used in treating humans and animals are, in unchanged and active form, excreted in the urine.

Professor Dan I. Andersson, at Uppsala University, who headed the study, says: 'These antibiotics then disperse, usually in very low concentrations, through sewerage systems into water and soil, where they can remain active in the environment for a long period and so contribute to the enrichment of resistant bacteria.'

Besides antibiotics massive quantities of biocides and heavy metals are also present in the environment. This is due partly to various natural sources (such as heavy metals in groundwater), but also to contamination caused by human activities. Biocides and heavy metals are used mainly to prevent growth of various microorganisms in different contexts. For example, they promote growth in animal production (pigs and poultry), serve as ingredients in anti-fouling paint for boat hulls and as disinfectants for industrial, domestic and hospital use., and are found in products.

Plasmids (small extra fragments of DNA that can be transferred between bacteria) can contain not only antibiotic resistance genes but also genes conferring resistance to biocides and heavy metals, such as arsenic, copper, silver, lead and mercury.

'When these chemicals spread in the environment, bacteria with resistant plasmids will be selected. This indirectly results in antibiotic resistance increasing as well. What's more, in most environments there are complex mixtures of antibiotics, biocides and heavy metals that, together, have intensified combination effects,' Andersson continues.

In the study in question, the researchers performed very sensitive competition experiments in a laboratory environment. They allowed two different strains of bacteria, one susceptiblensitive to antibiotics and one resistant with a plasmid, to grow together in a culture with small amounts of antibiotics and heavy metals present. The results show that very low concentrations of both heavy metals (such as arsenic) and antibiotics, separately or in combination, were able to enrich the resistant plasmid-bearing bacteria.

'These results are worrying and suggest that substances other than antibiotics that are present in very small quantities in the environment can drive development of resistance as well. The results underline the importance of reducing the use of antibiotics, but also suggest that our high use of heavy metals and biocides in various contexts should decrease too,' says Andersson.

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The above story is based on materials provided by Uppsala University . Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

Anorexia/bulimia: Bacterial protein implicated

Eating disorders (ED) such as anorexia nervosa, bulimia, and binge eating disorder affect approximately 5-10% of the general population, but the biological mechanisms involved are unknown. Researchers at Inserm Unit 1073, "Nutrition, inflammation and dysfunction of the gut-brain axis" (Inserm/University of Rouen) have demonstrated the involvement of a protein produced by some intestinal bacteria that may be the source of these disorders. Antibodies produced by the body against this protein also react with the main satiety hormone, which is similar in structure. According to the researchers, it may ultimately be possible to correct this mechanism that causes variations in food intake.

These results are published in the journal Translational Psychiatry, in the online issue of 7 October 2014.

Anorexia nervosa, bulimia and binge eating disorder are all eating disorders (ED). If the less well defined and atypical forms are included, ED affect 15-20% of the population, particularly adolescents and young adults. Despite various psychiatric, genetic and neurobiological studies, the molecular mechanism responsible for these disorders remains mysterious. The common characteristic of the different forms of ED is dysregulation of food intake, which is decreased or increased, depending on the situation.

Sergueï Fetissov's team in Inserm Joint Research Unit 1073, "Nutrition, inflammation and dysfunction of the gut-brain axis" (Inserm/University of Rouen), led by Pierre Déchelotte, studies the relationships between the gut and the brain that might explain this dysregulation.

The mimic of the satiety hormone

In this new study, the researchers have identified a protein that happens to be a mimic of the satiety hormone (melanotropin). This protein (ClpB) is produced by certain bacteria, such as Escherichia coli, which are naturally present in the intestinal flora. Where this protein is present, antibodies are produced against it by the body. These will also bind to the satiety hormone because of its structural homology to ClpB, and thereby modify the satietogenic effect of the hormone. The sensation of satiety is reached (anorexia) or not reached (bulimia or overeating). Moreover, the bacterial protein itself seems to have anorexigenic properties.

Variations in food intake in the presence of the bacterial protein

To obtain these results, the researchers modified the composition of the intestinal flora of mice to study their immunological and behavioural response. Food intake and level of antibodies against melanotropin in the 1st group of mice, which were given mutant E. coli bacteria (not producing ClpB) did not change. In contrast, antibody level and food intake did vary in the 2nd group of animals, which received E. coli producing ClpB protein.

The likely involvement of this bacterial protein in disordered eating behaviour in humans was established by analysing data from 60 patients.

The standardised scale "Eating Disorders Inventory-2" was used to diagnose these patients and evaluate of the severity of their disorders, based on a questionnaire regarding their behaviour and emotions (wish to lose weight, bulimia, maturity fears, etc.). Plasma levels of antibodies to ClpB and melanotropin were higher in these patients. Furthermore, their immunological response determined the development of eating disorders in the direction of anorexia or bulimia.

These data thus confirm the involvement of the bacterial protein in the regulation of appetite, and open up new perspectives for the diagnosis and specific treatment of eating disorders.

Correcting the action of the protein mimicking the satiety hormone

"We are presently working to develop a blood test based on detection of the bacterial protein ClpB. If we are successful in this, we will be able to establish specific and individualised treatments for eating disorders," say Pierre Déchelotte and Sergueï Fetissov, authors of this study.

At the same time, the researchers are using mice to study how to correct the action of the bacterial protein in order to prevent the dysregulation of food intake that it generates. "According to our initial observations, it would indeed be possible to neutralise this bacterial protein using specific antibodies, without affecting the satiety hormone," they conclude.

Probiotics protect children, pregnant women against heavy metal poisoning

Yogurt containing probiotic bacteria successfully protected children and pregnant women against heavy metal exposure in a recent study. Working with funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Canadian and Tanzanian researchers created and distributed a special yogurt containing Lactobacillus rhamnosus bacteria and observed the outcomes against a control group. The work is published this week in mBio, the online open-access journal of the American Society for Microbiology.

A research team from the Canadian Centre for Human Microbiome and Probiotics, led by Dr. Gregor Reid, studied how microbes could protect against environmental health damage in poor parts of the world. Their lab research indicated that L. rhamnosus had a great affinity for binding toxic heavy metals. Working with this knowledge, the team hypothesized that regularly consuming this probiotic strain could prevent metals from being absorbed from the diet.

Working with the Western Heads East organization, Dr. Reid had already established a network of community kitchens in Mwanza, Tanzania to produce a probiotic yogurt for the local population. Mwanza is located on the shores of Lake Victoria, which is known to be polluted with pesticides and toxic metals including mercury. The team utilized this network to produce and distribute a new type of yogurt containing L. rhamnosus. The special yogurt was distributed to a group of pregnant women and a group of children. The researchers measured the baseline and post-yogurt levels of toxic metals.

The team found a significant protective effect of the probiotic against mercury and arsenic in the pregnant women. This is important as "reduction in these compounds in the mothers could presumably decrease negative developmental effects in their fetus and newborns," according to Dr. Reid. While the results obtained in the children studied showed benefits and lower toxin levels, the sample size and duration of treatment did not allow statistical significance.

The researchers were excited by the potential of basic foodstuffs to provide preventative protection for pregnant women worldwide. They are currently investigating lactobacilli with higher and even more specific mechanisms of sequestering mercury.

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The above story is based on materials provided by American Society for Microbiology . Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

Get Ready: Apple Has Confirmed an October 16 Media Event



Not content with dominating the news cycle for a entire month, Apple’s at it again. The company sent out official invitations to its upcoming October 16th media event on Wednesday morning. The event kicks off at 10 AM next Thursday at Apple’s Cupertino campus.

Just last month Apple held a huge, action-packed media event where it announced the iPhone 6, 6 Plus, and the Apple Watch. Today’s invitation features the tagline “It’s been too long,” which seems to play on the fact that they just held an event. This one will likely be a smaller affair, however, since it’s being held at Apple headquarters.

Among other things, we’re expecting Apple to spend some more time detailing OS X Yosemite, which the company previewed at WWDC in June. We’re also expecting an array of new iPads, perhaps a larger 12.9-inch model aimed at the enterprise market, and a follow-up to last year’s ultra thin iPad Air. These iPads are expected to have Touch ID this time around, and will reportedly come in the same colors as the iPhone: space gray, silver, and gold. New MacBook Airs, also in these hues, have been rumored, but we probably won’t see them until later in 2015.

The other big thing we could see October 16th is a 27-inch retina iMac. Apple last refreshed the iMac in 2012. We could also get a spec bump on the MacBook Air, Retina MacBook Pros, Mac mini, and new Cinema Displays.

Whatever gets unveiled, we’ll be there October 16th to share the news live.

Language and the Interconnectedness of Things


Helgi Halldórsson/Freddi @ Flickr

The Internet of Things has spawned more than just an increased infiltration of web technology into our day-to-day lives. It has introduced a much more connected experience among users of web technology every day — let’s call it the “Interconnectedness of Things.” That, in turn, has made it more important than ever that we appreciate the benefits of a common means of communication in science, technology and business. For what it’s worth, that common means of communication is (at least for the foreseeable future) the English language.

Despite the technological advances attributable to China and Russia, English is still the de facto language of science and business. As far back as 2008, Research Trends magazine noted that English is the first language of about 400 million people in 53 countries, and the second language of as many as 1.4 billion more. English, the magazine contended, is “well positioned to become the default language of science.”

As for business, a 2012 Reuters news agency survey conducted by Ipsos Global Public Affairs showed that more than two-thirds of employees of 26 nationalities who deal with people in other countries use English most often.

“The most revealing aspect of this survey is how English has emerged as the default language for business around the world,” said Darrell Bricker, CEO of Ipsos.

What does that mean in today’s interconnected age? Common communications skills create more options for more people, and yield better economic prospects for people with those skills. A common means of communication enables assimilation and creates positive changes in the culture of science and business. Distance is no longer an issue when the Interconnectedness of Things allows us to employ that common language to take full advantage of the Internet.

Breaking all of society into smaller lumps with no common means of communication is disadvantageous to progress in science, technology and business. Think of how much poorer your Internet experience might be if you could only read Russian or Chinese. It would be a more skewed experience with a much more limited point of view. That’s already been proven to some extent by the Chinese censorship of the Internet. You simply can’t fully appreciate the Internet without English.

On the other hand, resorting to a common language is also possibly damaging to the cultural identity and sense of heritage for non-native English speakers. According to the MIT Indigenous Language Initiative, approximately 6,000 languages are spoken around the world. Of those, they say, only about 600 are “confidently expected to survive this century.”

That is a real tragedy, but the plain fact is that affluence is tied to common language. If it were not, this trend toward English as the default language for science and business would just not be happening.

So, what’s to be done about language, culture and progress? In an ideal world, we’d all learn to use one language for science, technology and business, and learn, respect and use others for cultural identity and a sense of community — especially in our polyglot nation.

That requires some flexibility in how languages themselves are developed. We need to be more adaptable and sensitive to other cultures as we use language.

Some languages, however, seem institutionally disposed toward inflexibility. For example, L’Academie Francaise protects the French language, allowing only a few new words each year to enter the lexicon. A commission of the academy’s members (known somewhat supernaturally as “the immortals”) regularly publishes a dictionary of the French language, considered to be the “official” usage guide.

That’s different from the way in which the Oxford English Dictionary, for example, provides its updates. Slang, new interpretations of established words, and even new concepts seem to be embraced rather than limited.

In my opinion, an overly academic approach to language has stunted the growth and evolution of French as the lingua franca (irony) of business and science. Not that French is doing all that poorly — it is an official language of many international organizations including the United Nations, the EU, and NATO. And in 2011, Bloomberg Businessweek proclaimed French to be one of the top three most useful languages for business, behind English and Chinese.

But it’s this rigid approach to monitoring the language that is keeping French in the third spot, despite France’s remarkable history of scientific advancement. To some extent, French speakers are taking note. The official L’Academie Francaise dictionary is increasingly disregarded by users, in favor of language that has naturally fallen into common usage.

That’s for the best. The more flexibility there is in allowing a language to change and evolve, the richer it becomes. The richer it becomes, the more accepted it is as a common means of communication. And the more common a means of communication it becomes, the more it contributes to a connected experience — the real endgame in the new Interconnectedness of Things.

Simon Dudley is the Video Evangelist for Lifesize. Find him on Twitter @simondudley.

You May Soon Be Grabbing Your UPS Packages From Lockers

UPS delivery locker in Chicago.

UPS delivery lockers in Chicago. UPS

Online shopping was the best thing that ever happened to UPS. Think about it: while the internet sent so many other businesses and industries scrambling to adapt, the rise of e-commerce seriously increased demand for what UPS was already doing. Amazon still needed someone to put the box at the door.

But over the years, one-click retail has fostered an even broader change in consumer expectations that’s now forcing UPS to evolve as well. Just as shoppers believe they should have the power to buy anything whenever and wherever they want, they also expect to actually get their hands on the thing without hanging around the house all day waiting for a package to arrive. So, on Wednesday, UPS responded to the imperative of ultra-convenience by launching a trial run of some Amazon-style delivery lockers that let buyers pick up packages whenever it’s convenient for them.

The company is operating its first lockers in metropolitan Chicago, and members of its preferred customer program, called My Choice, can have packages routed to these lockers instead of their homes. By scanning a government-issued ID or in-app barcode at the locker or entering a PIN at the touchscreen terminal, they can open the door holding their deliveries and retrieve them. Judging from photos, the lockers are big, with many doors, and yes, they’re that signature shade of brown, which makes them look kind of like UPS delivery trucks without wheels.

Easier for Everyone

Along with the lockers, UPS is starting a program in both Chicago and New York City that lets customers pick up packages at local businesses, mostly grocery and convenience stores with evening and weekend hours. Ken Finnerty, vice president of customer technology at UPS, says the company was focused on creating what it calls “access points” in urban areas. Cities, he explains, are where deliveries can be the most complicated.

“Those are consumers who have challenges to overcome,” Finnerty says. “If you live in a metropolitan area—say, in a multi-unit apartment building—and don’t have a doorman, it becomes very difficult sometimes to receive deliveries.”

But it’s not just recipients who are inconvenienced by missing deliveries. Though the company is eager to push the benefits of lockers and in-store pickups for consumers, missed deliveries also create more of a logistical burden for UPS. Second and third delivery attempts mean one less spot in the truck for a new package. What’s more, if the company holds that package at a UPS hub for pickup, this takes up space too, and it’s not totally predictable when the recipient will come by to pick it up, if they come at all.

The Special Relationship

Lockers, on the other hand, get deliveries most of the way there. And the more packages a driver can deliver to a single location, the more efficient that driver’s overall delivery route. Increased efficiency is especially important in the world of online retail, where major customers of UPS such as Amazon are making big promises on shipping times that carriers are under huge pressure to keep. The more options UPS has for getting packages to customers, the less likely it is to run into delivery logjams such as the one that brought the company’s tense relationship with Amazon out into the open last Christmas.

Adding features to keep Amazon and its shoppers happy is important to UPS. But so is keeping Amazon from muscling in on the delivery business itself. The last mile is the only part of the customer relationship that Amazon doesn’t control, and recently, it has ramped up efforts to deliver orders to big-city customers itself through its Prime Fresh program, which offers groceries along with thousands of other items available on Amazon.

Amazon has long offered delivery lockers of its own, but the company has had some trouble finding brick-and-mortar partners to house what amount to machines that make it easier to shop at their biggest online rival. UPS may run into less of that resistance because it’s not a direct retail competitor to brick-and-mortar. People get all kinds of packages shipped for all kinds of reasons.

As a result, UPS could have an easier time as it tries to widen its logistical footprint in US cities. Getting more packages delivered to more places at more times will keep Amazon customers happy. At the same time, it would mean Amazon and just about every other online retailer would still have to rely on UPS to get those orders to customers, no matter where they wanted them, or when.

What Tesla Needs to Fix Before It Gives Us a New Model S


Ariel Zambelich/WIRED

Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk got automotive journalists all kinds of excited last week when he tweeted, “About time to unveil the D and something else.” We’re betting Elon’s going to give us an all-wheel drive version of the Model S (which sends its considerable power to the rear wheels). He might even try to upstage Google and the rest of the auto industry with a self-driving version of the sedan—he’s been jawing about autonomous driving lately, so it wouldn’t come as a big surprise. We’ll find out what he’s got in store Thursday night.

But before Tesla puts the time and money into offering us something new, we’d like to see it make some corrections and additions to today’s Model S. The sedan may be the best car you can buy today, but it’s hardly perfect. It’s missing some features that are commonly found on cars that cost way less money, and some of its interior design choices just don’t make any sense. It needs sun visors that actually extend down far enough to block the sun, for example. And if it really wants to build a car that can drive itself, it should start by including the now common features like adaptive cruise control and lane departure warnings that an autonomous system will rely on.

Here’s what needs to be fixed.

1. Add adaptive cruise control. In every category, the Model S is a way better car than the 1998 Ford Escort (Sport Edition!) I drove through high school and college. But the cruise control system on my old whip was just as capable as the one Tesla offers. It’s time for an update. Lots of new cars offer adaptive cruise control, which maintains a safe distance from other cars as well as a set speed. It’s standard issue in the luxury segment—Model S competitors like the Audi A7, BMW 5 Series, and Mercedes CLS all offer it—so Tesla should catch up.

2. Add active safety features. New cars—and not just those in the luxury segment—are now stuffed with blind spot monitoring, lane keeping systems, and cross traffic alerts to help their owners avoid accidents. The Model S is so impressive in terms of design and performance, it has so far gotten by without offering these things, even at a $70K base price. That doesn’t mean drivers don’t want them. Plus, these features are the basic ingredients of an autonomous system. If Tesla is really planning on offering a self-driving car, it should start here.

3. Prohibit at least some touchscreen options while driving. The centerpiece of the Model S’s interior is the 17-inch touchscreen that controls just about everything inside the car. Oh, and it has a full-blown web browser that you can use while driving. It’s super distracting. Tesla would be smart to block drivers (most of whom are easily distracted by enormous screens, like me) from using this and other functions while the car is moving.

How about putting some buttons and knobs in the new Tesla?

How about putting some buttons and knobs in the new Tesla? Ariel Zambelich/WIRED

4. Offer some buttons. The touchscreen wouldn’t be such an issue if you didn’t need it to do things like turn up the air conditioning. More functions controlled by buttons and knobs, which you can use without taking your eyes off the road, would make a real difference.

5. Create better storage spaces. The only place you can put your phone, keys, and other belongings is in a shallow bin on the floor, between the front seats. Put the car’s 4.2 second 0-to-60 mph time to the test, and there’s a good chance your stuff will end up in the backseat. Tesla should sacrifice some of the sleekness of the car’s interior in the name of practicality, and give us more places to store our things.

6. More cup holders! Astonishingly, there are none in the backseat (there are two up front, barely enough for one person on a long drive). Musk has proposed driving across the country with his five young sons in the car. I’d love to see him keep that car clean when at least 80 percent of his offspring can’t put down their sodas somewhere they won’t spill.

It’s worth noting that Musk has acknowledged some of these shortcomings and pledged to deal with them. And there’s a good chance that whatever the “D” is, it will include some of those fixes.

Or, maybe the D just stands for “Duh,” and there will be no all-wheel drive or autonomous systems: Just a slew of corrections to obvious problems. Then we’ll have to find something new to complain about.

Weev Is the Worst, But America Still Must End Its Paranoid War on Hackers

Andrew 'Weev' Auernheimer in his booking photo

Andrew ‘Weev’ Auernheimer in his booking photo Fayetteville Police/Handout

“How did you get caught?” I ask Darren Martyn, aka Pwnsauce, the former member of LulzSec.

“Bad Opsec. Really, really bad Opsec,” he says.

He tells me that he used to log on for his LulzSec romps using his school Internet account so it wasn’t a surprise that he got caught. It was a surprise that it took them so long. He recounts for me the day he got busted, waking up in his bed in Galway, Ireland surrounded by policemen with machine guns. He closed his eyes and tried to go back to sleep; it was so surreal he assumed it must be a bad dream.

I’m in London to meet with Lauri Love, who’s been indicted for computer crimes in three separate federal district courts in the US for allegedly going on a hacking spree involving various US governmental agencies’ atrociously secured computer systems. I’m also there to see “Teh Internet is Serious Business” at the Royal Court Theater, playwright Tim Price’s frenetic fantasia of LulzSec’s rise and fall. I’m a lawyer who represents a lot of hackers, and part of the job is to know your clients and their world. Too many lawyers who take on computer crime cases have little clue when it comes to code or culture and their clients often suffer as a result. So I make it my business to know. Plus, I enjoy the transgressive nature of the scene.

Before the play the Royal Court hosted a livestreamed panel discussion moderated by anthropologist and “Hacker, Hoaxer, Whistleblower, Spy: The Many Faces of Anonymous” author Gabriella Coleman. The panel was made up of LulzSec members Kayla, Topiary, Tflow, and Pwnsauce. After the show we all mingle in the Royal Court’s basement bar.

Celebrating with everyone after the show, it strikes me that this wouldn’t be happening in the US, which treats hackers far more harshly than the U.K. does. In the US the members of LulzSec would still be in jail under inhumane conditions.

America’s War on Hackers

My first hacker client, Andrew “weev” Auernheimer, was convicted for his role in downloading roughly 114,000 email addresses from AT&T’s publicly facing, non-password protected iPad servers, and giving them to Gawker to expose AT&T’s shoddy InfoSec. He never sold the email addresses or profited in any way from his purported crime. His actions came nowhere near the scope of LulzSec’s. Yet he was sentenced to three and a half years in federal prison, fined roughly $73,000.00, and subjected to brutal treatment by the U.S. penal system as if he was a murderer or rapist.

Let me stop and mention here that last week weev caused a storm when he wrote a racist screed for a white supremacist website. As usual I found out about it when my twitter timeline lit up with exhortations to do something about my client, the unpopular defendant. To me his bigoted viewpoint is just noise; the crucial issue here is not weev or his ideas but the future of criminal computer law in the U.S. You may think weev is an asshole. But being an asshole is not a crime, and neither is obtaining unsecured information from publicly facing servers.

The U.S. prison system is a dystopian Dostoyevskian nightmare.

While in jail, weev spent much of his time in prison in administrative segregation – a brutal form of incarceration that is considered torture by many psychologists. After the director of prisons in Colorado spent 24 hours in a solitary cell, he set out to eliminate all solitary confinement in the state. In weev’s case, he spent most of his time in a roughly 6×9 cell with one other prisoner. He was allowed out for only one hour a day. During the winter, weev’s prison would often schedule that hour before dawn, which led him to never leave his cell due to the brutal cold. Toward the end, the prison began denying weev all mail and reading material in a vindictive attempt to isolate him further.

They also sought to isolate him from me. Our privileged attorney-client communications were routinely and illegally opened by the prison; when weev was interrogated by the FBI (while being denied an attorney) about one of his communications to me and complained about his privileged attorney-client mail being opened, one of the FBI agents told him that they “didn’t give a fuck about the attorney client privilege.” Unfortunately, this attitude is typical of many FBI agents; generally they believe they are above the law they are entrusted to enforce.

The prison continually ignored my phone calls and letters asking about his treatment. We were preparing to sue them with regard to this appalling treatment when the Third Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously reversed his conviction. Immediately after, the prison’s phone system miraculously began working again. I’ve heard similar tales of nasty, brutish, and petty treatment when dealing with the U.S. penal system from other hackers I know who were thrown in jail for non-violent offenses.

Part of problem is that the U.S. prison system is a dystopian Dostoyevskian nightmare. But another part of it is engendered by the U.S. government’s hysterical reaction to hackers and hacker groups like Anonymous, whom they breathlessly label (in a word that has become meaningless because of its ever expansive use) terrorists. We are all terrorists now. There is paranoia when it comes to hackers because what they do is poorly understood by most people and is viewed as a form of witchcraft by many. And the government is scared of hackers because unlike the physical world where they can overwhelm you with force, on the Internet a 14-year-old kid in his mom’s basement is often more powerful than the best the government has. I know this because I’ve seen the government try to recruit my clients via indictments.

When one of my clients refused to cooperate with the FBI’s demand that he hack a foreign criminal organization at the risk of death for him and his family, the DOJ superseded his indictment, skyrocketing it from fifteen to 44 counts, increasing his potential sentence to over 400 years in prison.

The U.S. government is brutal and relentless in its paranoid zeal to prosecute hackers even when the harm was negligible.

The government can’t hack at the level those outside it can, and it can’t recruit real hackers because of its cookie-cutter, astringent recruiting mentality as to what a proper person is. Witness its laughable attempt to recruit hackers that foundered on the fact that they couldn’t find any that didn’t smoke marijuana. I have yet to meet a hacker of the caliber they wish they could get who doesn’t do drugs. So in their fear and impotence the government becomes hysterical and vindictive. Hackers are the new communists for the DOJ. And just like during the Red Scare, they seek to infiltrate and destroy that which they fear and do not understand.

The U.S. government is brutal and relentless in its paranoid zeal to prosecute hackers even when the harm was negligible. One of my clients, Matthew Keys, is on trial for allegedly passing a username and password to members of LulzSec that was then used to alter some words in one paragraph of a story on the LA Times website. The alleged alteration was rectified with a quick press of the restore button within half an hour. For this, Matthew faces a maximum of 25 years in prison and $750,000 in fines.

And of course the tragedy of Aaron Swartz’s prosecution is well known. The behavior of the prosecutors in Aaron Swartz’s case is becoming the norm, not the exception. The prosecutorial fervor of the U.S. DOJ when it comes to computer crime is too often disproportionate and misguided, and when coupled with the poorly drafted, ambiguous nature of the U.S. computer laws, is a recipe for prosecutorial abuse.

The U.K.’s More Measured Approach to Convicted Hackers

Contrast this with what happened to the members of LulzSec in the U.K. and Ireland.

On May 13, 2013, Topiary, Tflow, kayla, and Ryan Cleary were sentenced for their involvement in LulzSec. Yet, on September 29, 2014 I was attending a pre-show panel with all of them except Cleary before a performance of “Teh Internet is Serious Business”—a play that celebrated their collective. Now, consider the scope of just some of their hacking: HB Gary (destroying Aaron Barr’s reputation in the process); Sony Pictures; Game maker Electronic Arts; The Tunisian Government; the U.K.’s Serious Organized Crime Agency; The CIA; The FBI; The Arizona State Police; The Westboro Baptist Church; The UK’s Sun Newspaper; Fox Broadcasting Company; and PBS, to name just a few of their targets.

For this, Topiary served only 38 days in a young offenders unit. He had been wearing an electronic tag for 21 months under house arrest prior to sentencing and this was credited against his sentence. Kayla received a 30 month custodial sentence of which he was required to serve only half; Tflow received a suspended sentence of 20 months and 300 hundred hours of community service; and Pwnsauce avoided jail time by participating in a “restorative justice program.” Ryan Cleary, a tangential member of LulzSec at best, got the harshest sentence of 30 months for unleashing his botnet army on SOCA and the CIA.

These punishments are more proportionate considering the non-violent nature of the offenses committed. In the U.S., LulzSec’s members would undoubtedly still be in jail.

The only two members of LulzSec to escape prison sentences? Avunit, who was never caught, and Sabu. Sabu, of course, infamously snitched on his LulzSec colleagues and cooperated with the FBI from the moment they walked through his door. The FBI ran Sabu as a mole for months, instructing him to hack on their behalf in an effort to entrap LulzSec and other hackers. The FBI arguably did as much damage as LulzSec did through their use of Sabu, having him hack and decimate the private intelligence company Stratfor, release the personal information for officers of the Arizona State Police along with an exhortation on Twitter for people to take actions against them, and instructing Sabu to facilitate the hacking of a long list of foreign government websites. For these acts of criminal hacking on behalf of the FBI Sabu was un-ironically praised at his sentencing by Judge Loretta Preska and sentenced to time-served, meaning he was given no prison time at all. And of course, no one in the U.S. Attorney’s Office took any action against the FBI, because what is criminal for others is all in a days work for them.

The treatment of convicted hackers in the U.S. is in need of reform. Rather than seeking to destroy hackers through draconian sentences and treatment disproportionate to the actual harm done, the U.S. should follow the U.K. and Ireland’s approach in meting out punishment proportionate to the actual harm done. But the current paranoid zeal of the U.S. DOJ when it comes to hackers leaves little hope that this will happen anytime soon.