Dating App Tinder Cited for Age Discrimination

A California court has ruled that the popular dating app Tinder violated age discrimination laws by charging users 30 and older more than younger ones.

Allan Candelore of California sued the app company over the pricing of its Tinder Plus premium service. Tinder Plus costs $9.99 per month for users younger than 30, while those 30 and older are charged $19.99 per month. The features for Tinder Plus are identical for users regardless of age.

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Brian Currey ruled in favor of Allan Candelore, 33, of San Diego, saying Tinder’s pricing violates California’s Unruh Civil Rights Act. That law “provides protection from discrimination by all business establishments in California.”

The company countered in court documents that it is “self-evident that people under 30 face financial challenges” and this “common knowledge provides a reasonable and non-arbitrary basis for Tinder to offer a discount to people under 30.”

“Why is Tinder allowed to get away with charging me more for the exact same product as any other 18-28 year old?” asked Reddit user jshrlzwrld02. “Nothing magically changes at age 29 on Tinder. I don’t get new features. I don’t get anything extra. So why is this not discrimination based on age/sex/religion/orientation?”

Tinder has faced similar accusations before. In 2015, Michael Manapol sued Tinder for age and gender discrimination, but a judge dismissed that claim, saying Manapol failed to show how he was harmed by the allegations. Also in 2015, Wired magazine took issue with Tinder’s pricing tiers, calling them “ageist.”

“The only time pricing should be staggered is if each step up in cost coincides with a step-up in service or concern,” said Robert Carbone, a digital marketer with the LinkedIn networking service.

“Tinder is a privately owned company and should be able to charge any amount they see fit to whoever wants to use their service. No one is forcing consumers to use Tinder. This ruling is an infringement of capitalistic practices,” said Katja Case, a math major at Iowa State University, on LinkedIn.

Tinder is popular among college-age people.

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USA Gymnastics: All Directors Have Resigned After Abuse Scandal

USA Gymnastics, the sport’s U.S. governing body, said Wednesday that all its remaining directors have resigned following revelations that the longtime team doctor had sexually abused numerous athletes under his care.

A USA Gymnastics spokeswoman on Friday had said that the full board intended to resign. The U.S. Olympic Committee threatened to revoke the organization’s governing authority if the full board had not stepped down by Wednesday, after former team doctor Larry Nassar was sentenced to up to 175 years in prison after pleading guilty to sexual assault charges.

“We are in the process of moving forward with forming an interim board of directors during the month of February, in accordance with the USOC’s requirements,” USA Gymnastics said in a statement. “USA Gymnastics will provide information about this process within the next few days.”

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University Researchers Face Increasing Obstacles in Applying for Grants

Vaccines. Popular sports drinks. Computers.

They share one quality: They were invented by researchers working at a college or university.

Victoria McGovern says research leads to greater discovery and better education.

McGovern is a senior program officer with the Burroughs Wellcome Fund, an organization that supports medical research in the United States and Canada.

“It’s a very good idea to connect the discovery of new things to the teaching of new students,” she told VOA, “because you don’t want people who come out of their education thinking that the world around them is full of solved problems. You want people to come out of an education excited about solving problems themselves.”

Research, however, costs money and most colleges have limited budgets, as well as competing goals and needs.

A large part of being a researcher at a college or university involves applying for grant money, McGovern says, such as to private companies and organizations like hers, or local and national governments.

The National Institutes of Health, or NIH, is an example. The NIH is the U.S. government agency that supports medical and public health research, distributing about $32 billion a year.

Increasingly complex process

The application process for grant money is highly competitive, McGovern says. It can be challenging for researchers who are less skilled at writing.

Kristine Kulage argues that it is more difficult than ever for university researchers to secure funding. Kulage is the director of research and scholarly development at Columbia University School of Nursing in New York City.

Kulage says that in the 20 years she has been working in university research, the grant application process has become longer and more complex.

“Researchers don’t have time to conduct their research, write their grants and learn how to use all of these new systems through which they have to submit their grants, and all of the ways in which they have to be compliant with regulations,” Kulage told VOA.

“There are so many rules now … it takes individuals who are now trained as research administrators to know what those rules are … and know whether or not the rules are being followed.”

Investing in help

Kulage says schools must do more to support their researchers in gaining grant money. Last November, she published a study that looked at how the nursing school invested $127,000 to create a support system between 2012 and 2016. This system employed administrators to complete grant applications, freeing researchers to spend more time on their work.

Administrators and other researchers met with the grant writers to review the applications. The team was expected to defend its proposal.

Kulage says that over those five years, proposals that went through review were almost twice as likely to be accepted. That $127,000 investment led to Columbia’s School of Nursing earning $3 million in outside funding.

McGovern and Kulage say applying for research funding is very difficult. Having one other person read a proposal and provide feedback is essential.

Large companies often conduct much research and development, but it is typically limited to their industries. University researchers have the freedom to take risks on less popular ideas.

And those risks can lead to important discoveries that colleges and universities have a responsibility to share with the world, she says.

Have you had to write a grant to support your research? Please visit us on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn.

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Connected Thermometer Tracks Spread, Intensity of Flu

This year’s flu season in the U.S. is the worst in 15 years and health officials predict there are weeks of sickness ahead. One company’s “smart thermometer” is tracking how the flu is spreading across the country in real time by gathering data every time someone takes a temperature. Michelle Quinn reports.

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Connected Thermometer Tracks the Spread and Intensity of the Flu

When a child feels sick, one of the first things a parent does is reach for a thermometer.

That common act intrigued Inder Singh, a long-time health policy expert.

What if the thermometer could be a communication device – connecting people with information about illnesses going around and gathering real time data on diseases as they spread? 

That’s the idea behind Singh’s firm Kinsa, a health data company based in San Francisco that sells “smart” thermometers.

Worst flu season in years

With the U.S. in the midst of its worst flu season in years, Kinsa has been on the forefront of tracking the spread and severity of flu-like symptoms by region.

The company says its data is a close match to flu data tracked by the U.S.Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Whereas the CDC collects from state and regional reports, Kinsa can spot fever spikes in regions or even by cities, said Singh.

Fast and accurate information about how disease is spreading can make a difference during a health crisis.

“If you knew when and where a disease was starting, you could target the people who needed the treatment and potentially prevent pandemics and epidemics from occurring,” said Singh, founder and chief executive of Kinsa.

How it works

Kinsa thermometers, which range in price from $14.99 to $49.99, connect via Bluetooth to a smartphone app, which pose questions about a person’s symptoms. The customer’s personal information is private, the firm said.

With its thermometers in 500,000 households, Kinsa receives 25,000 temperature readings per day.

The company can’t diagnose illnesses or distinguish between different kinds of sicknesses. But from gathering information about individuals’ fevers and other symptoms, it can report where flu-like symptoms are peaking. In recent weeks, Missouri and Kansas have been the hardest hit, Kinsa said. 

Selling aggregated data 

Beyond selling thermometers and advertising on its app, Kinsa makes money by selling data – stripped of any personally identifiable information – to companies that want to know where and how illness is spreading – cough and cold companies, disinfectant manufacturers, orange juice sellers. Sales of toothbrushes spike during flu season, Singh says.

Companies “want to know when and where illness is striking on a general geolocation basis,” he said. Firms stock shelves with products and change marketing plans if they know how an illness is progressing.

Kinsa has launched a program in schools, where it gives away thermometers, so parents can learn about illness trends locally. The company is also starting a new initiative with some U.S. firms, which buy Kinsa thermometers for their employees. When an employee shows a fever, Kinsa can inform the person about available company benefits.

At the moment, Kinsa thermometers are sold just in the U.S. But the company plans to go global.

“Imagine a living breathing map where you can see where and when disease is spreading,” Singh said. “That’s what we want.”

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Rare Picasso Painting Starts Tour Before Next Month’s Auction

A rare Picasso painting will be auctioned off in London next month.  The 1937 work titled “Femme au beret et a la robe quadrillee” (Woman in beret and checked dress), inspired by the painter’s French lover Marie-Therese Walter is being shown in Hong Kong, Taipei, Los Angeles and New York before being sold. VOA’s Zlatica Hoke reports the painting’s Hong Kong debut is a clear indication of the growing importance of the Asian art market.

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Mugabe’s Political Demise Brings Hope to Zimbabwe’s Ousted White Farmers

A new political dawn in Zimbabwe has sparked talk among farmers of land reform and the return of some whites who lost their land and livelihoods to President Robert Mugabe during a 37-year rule that drove the economy to collapse.

Mugabe, 93, resigned in November after the army and his ZANU-PF party turned against him, prompting optimism among some of the thousands of white farmers ousted in the early 2000s on the grounds of redressing imbalances from the colonial era.

For colonialists seized some of the best agricultural land that remained in the hands of white farmers after independence in 1980 leaving many blacks effectively landless and making land ownership one of Zimbabwe’s most sensitive political topics.

Now some white landowners hope the post-Mugabe regime may address the land issue, either through compensation or returning land, and try to resuscitate a once vibrant agricultural sector boosting an economy once seen as one of Africa’s great hopes.

“We are convinced positive signals will come quickly in terms of property rights,” Ben Purcel Gilpin, director of the Commercial Farmers Union (CFU), which represents white and black farmers, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation. “It would send a good signal to people outside Zimbabwe.” 

New president and long-time Mugabe ally, Emmerson Mnangagwa, has promised a raft of changes since he took office, including a return to the rule of law and respect for property rights.

Land ownership has been a key issue for decades in Zimbabwe dating back to British colonial rule in what was then Rhodesia.

At independence, white farmers owned more than 70 percent of the most fertile land and generated 80 percent of the country’s agricultural output, according to academics.

Reforms began after independence with a “willing buyer, willing seller” system aimed at redistributing land to poor black subsistence farmers. In the 1990s, compulsory acquisition of land began with some funding provided by Britain.

But for many Zimbabweans change was too slow and Mugabe approved radical land reforms that encouraged occupation of some 4,000 white-owned farms. Land went to his supporters with no knowledge of farming and thousands of white farmers fled.

The violent farm seizures saw Zimbabwe forfeit its status as the bread basket of Africa and led to a collapse of many industries that depended on agriculture. Among those were paper mills, textile firms, leather tanners and clothing companies.

As a result the country failed to generate foreign currency, resulting in the central bank printing money which led to unprecedented levels of hyper-inflation and high unemployment.

New start

Now some white farmers are starting to reclaim their land.

“White commercial farmers, like all other Zimbabweans, could apply for land from the Government and join the queue or go into joint ventures,” Mnangagwa told a former white commercial farmer during a recent visit to Namibia.

The CFU’s Gilpin – who quit farming and moved to Harare after his farm was compulsorily acquired by the government in 2005 – said sound policies from the new team could win support and help the economy.

He said compensation rather than putting people back into their properties might be the best route as many farmers are now too old to farm, some had died and others migrated.

The current situation – where resettled farmers had 99-year leases – was also untenable as the leases were not accepted by banks as collateral against borrowing.

Gilpin said this effectively made the land dead capital, as banks could not sell if farmers failed to pay back loans, so the government should instead offer farmers freehold titles.

Property rights expert Lloyd Mhishi, a senior partner in the law firm Mhishi Nkomo Legal Practice, said although Mnangagwa spoke about compensating farmers whose land was expropriated, he did not give specifics and title deeds of the former white farmers had no legal force after repossession.

Political way out

“As far as the law of the country is concerned, the title deeds that the former white commercial farmers hold do not guarantee them title,” Mhishi said in an interview.

But the lawyer said there were positive signs that the new administration realised land was a vital cog in the economy.

“I see there will be an attempt to make land useful, productive,” he said. “The land tenure side needs to be addressed to make land useful.”

Independent economist John Robertson, a former Advisor to the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe, said, however, that any idea of compensation should be dropped and former white commercial farmers should get back to their land and resume work.

“I’d rather see them get back their land and start farming again than paid out and emigrating. We need their skills. If people who oppose that idea could be just successful, where have they been for the past 20 years?” he said.

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Beirut Guide Gives Walking Tours of City’s History and His Own

Tour guide Ronnie Chatah, 36, is once again doing what he loves after a four-year hiatus – telling the stories that have shaped Beirut’s history from ancient to modern times.

Chatah put the walking tours on hold in late 2013 after the assassination of his father Mohamad Chatah, a former minister and diplomat. He was worried he would not be able to give an impartial view of the city, he said.

“My father is buried in what is probably the most climactic part of the tour,” he said, referring to Martyrs’ Square, a pockmarked statue in the epicenter, where many Lebanese have rallied in times of political crisis since World War I. “It is not easy to look at your father’s burial site and just ignore the emotions.”

But reviving the tour has had a surprising effect.

“I have not had a better therapy session,” said Chatah, who first launched the tours in 2009.

Now for four hours every other Sunday, people follow Chatah as he explains some of the most complicated aspects of Lebanon’s capital.

He explains that the local currency is pegged to the U.S. dollar and about how since the civil war political power is shared between Lebanon’s 18 different religious sects. He also explains why so many abandoned heritage buildings have been seemingly left to disintegrate.

Standing outside what was once the Holiday Inn hotel, Chatah recounts how the building that once exemplified Beirut’s Seventies glamour became an icon of the 1975-1990 civil war only a few weeks after it opened. It became the military headquarters of whichever militant faction was winning the war in Beirut over the next 15 years.

For him, the building – with its grey exterior, huge gaping holes and revolving balcony – is the best reflection of how the Lebanese have yet to make peace.

“We don’t reflect properly and I think that is our problem. Maybe that is part of our story too, that we are constantly avoiding the deeper issues, and hence a country that still cannot stand properly on its own two feet,” he said.

The tour allows visitors to discover parts of the city that have either ceased to exist or cordoned off by security because of close proximity to government buildings or politicians’ residences. This includes what used to be the old Jewish neighborhood, once home to a small community that is now all but gone save for a restored synagogue.

“I thought I knew the area but I was surprised to find out about … a neighborhood that I never knew existed,” Sarah Harakeh, 24, a teacher said.

Chatah said he had been planning to resume the walks for just a couple of months, but now there are tours scheduled for the rest of the year.

“That is the persuasion of this city, you keep coming back, and even when you know it is not good for you,” he said.

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Refugees Ready to Go Green, Become ‘Innovation Hubs’

Many refugees would like to buy low-carbon stoves and lights but poor access in camps and a lack of funding is forcing them to rely on “dirty and expensive” fuels, a report said Tuesday.

Millions of refugees worldwide struggle to access energy for cooking, lighting and communication and often pay high costs for fuels like firewood, which are bad for their health.

Yet two-thirds would consider paying for clean cookstoves and more than one-third for solar household products, according to a survey by the Moving Energy Initiative (MEI), a partnership among Britain, the United Nations and charities.

“Energy providers don’t tend to think of refugees as potential energy consumers, but the opportunities to build a relationship with them are huge,” Mattia Vianello, one of the report’s authors, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation by phone.

Clean energy for refugees is a global priority for the U.N. refugee agency, which provides free solar power to thousands of displaced people in camps in Jordan and Kenya.

Campaigners are seeking to create a market for cleaner-burning stoves and fuels to supply millions of households worldwide that are using inefficient, dangerous methods.

Perilous smoke

When burned in open fires and traditional stoves, wood, charcoal and other solid fuels emit harmful smoke that claims millions of lives each year, according to the Clean Cooking Working Capital Fund, which promotes stoves that produce less pollution.

In Uganda, refugees collect wood from surrounding areas, “devastating” the local environment and creating tensions with locals, Raffaela Bellanca, an energy adviser with the charity Mercy Corps, said in emailed comments.

Humanitarians should work with the private sector to provide more sustainable energy to displaced people, said the report, which surveyed about 500 refugees, business owners and aid workers in Burkina Faso and Kenya.

“Refugee camps have the potential to become energy innovation hubs with a spillover effect on surrounding host communities,” Bellanca said.

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Colorful Makeover Puts Mumbai Slum on Tourist Map

A colorful paint job has transformed one of Mumbai’s drab hilltop slums into a tourist destination, even prompting comparisons with Italy’s picturesque Amalfi Coast.

During a recent journey on a Mumbai metro train, Dedeepya Reddy was struck by the grim appearance of a slum in Asalpha in the city’s eastern suburbs as she stared out from her air-conditioned carriage.

Reddy, a Harvard University-educated co-founder of a creative agency, was keen to brighten the lives of slum residents, while also changing the perception of slums being dirty and dangerous, and decided on a simple makeover.

Armed with dozens of cans of colorful paint, Reddy and a team of about 700 volunteers painted the walls and alleyways of the hilltop slum over two weekends last month.

Residents, at first skeptical, also got involved and helped paint quirky murals, the 31-year-old said.

“When you look at slums, you think they are shabby and dirty, and that also becomes a reflection of the people who live there,” Reddy told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

“We used bright colors to change how slums and their residents are viewed. It also gives residents a sense of pride and dignity about their homes.”

Up to 37 million households, or about a quarter of India’s urban population, live in informal housing including slums because of an acute shortage of affordable housing, according to social consultancy FSG.

In space-starved Mumbai, which has some of the priciest real estate in the world, the shortage is even more critical, with hundreds of migrants from rural areas cramming into the city every day to seek better prospects.

Reddy’s Chal Rang De (Let’s Color It) charity has seven other slums, similarly situated on hillocks, on its wishlist, she said.

Locals and tourists have thronged Asalpha in recent weeks, posting pictures on Instagram which have drawn comparisons to Italy’s Amalfi Coast.

Their interactions with residents are a welcome change, Reddy said.

For resident Aparna Chaudhuri, who has lived in Asalpha for about a dozen years, the paint job was welcome.

“Earlier, our house looked dull. Now it looks good,” said Chaudhuri, who picked pink for her home. “Everyone is also keeping the neighborhood clean now.”

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U2 Defeats Lawsuit Claiming It Stole Part of ‘Achtung Baby’ Song

A U.S. judge on Tuesday dismissed a lawsuit accusing U2 of lifting part of a British songwriter’s work for a song on the Irish rock band’s 1991 blockbuster album “Achtung Baby.”

U.S. District Judge Denise Cote in Manhattan rejected Paul Rose’s claim that U2 willfully copied from a 13-second guitar riff near the start of his 1989 instrumental “Nae Slappin,” to create a 12-second segment featuring a guitar solo for its song “The Fly.”

Rose, who lives in New York, claimed that U2 copied from his song “virtually note-for-note,” and also used a tambourine and the same drum, percussion and bass line without permission.

But the judge said the riff was not a “sufficiently substantial” portion of “Nae Slappin,” a 3-1/2-minute composition that “demonstrates the plaintiff’s impressive guitar skills,” to be a protectable “fragment” of the work.

She also said that even if the riff were protectable, a reasonable jury could not find that U2 copied it.

Rose had been seeking at least $5 million in damages from U2 lead singer Bono; bandmates The Edge, Adam Clayton and Larry Mullen Jr., and UMG Recordings Inc, a Vivendi SA unit that releases records under U2’s label Island Records.

He claimed he had given Island a demo tape of “Nae Slappin” that was later incorporated into “The Fly.”

A lawyer for Rose did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Lawyers for the defendants did not immediately respond to similar requests.

The case is Rose v Hewson et al, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, No. 17-01471.

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Cuban Refugee Sets Cold War Stage in ‘Blind Date’

The 1979 Soviet invasion of Afghanistan reversed the process of detente between the United States and the then-Soviet Union, ushering in a freeze in relations and heightened Cold War tensions. Anxiety grew across the globe with many people fearing that the superpower rivalry would someday lead to nuclear war. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports from Chicago, a new play called “Blind Date” by a Cuban-born immigrant explores this dynamic and the events in the mid-1980s.

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White House ‘Embarrassed’ By NBC’s Pre-Olympic Coverage from North Korea

An American news outlet that made a rare visit to North Korea to cover the country’s Olympic team is being criticized by the Trump administration for coverage that, in the words of one official, depicted “the most totalitarian country on the planet … as a cheerful winter holiday resort.”

NBC Nightly News anchor Lester Holt broadcast last week from the Masikryong Ski Resort, where South Korean and North Korean alpine ski teams are slated to train.

In some segments of the program, Holt was framed against a backdrop of children sledding, skiers in brightly colored gear, and jumbo screens displaying singers in military uniforms. Holt said that he and his crew had undergone an extensive customs search when entering North Korea, noting that the resort was “certainly” an aspect of North Korea that its leaders “would like us to see.”

Criticism of the broadcast erupted online, accusing NBC of misrepresenting a stage-managed piece of North Korean propaganda for American viewers. Holt defended the coverage, saying, “You go to a place like North Korea with your eyes wide open.”

A spokesperson for President Donald Trump’s National Security Council (NSC) told VOA’s Korean Service on Thursday that council members were ashamed of the network’s coverage.

“We are embarrassed for NBC. A first-year journalism student would know to highlight the severe constraints on their ability to report on North Korea as it truly is,” the official said. “It is no small feat of the most totalitarian country on the planet to be depicted as a cheerful winter holiday resort, but somehow NBC has managed to do it.”

The controversy over Holt’s coverage comes amid a slight easing of tension between Pyongyang and Seoul, a change which could undercut the Trump administration’s campaign of international sanctions and “maximum pressure” on North Korea to halt its nuclear and missile programs.

In response to last week’s White House comment, an NBC spokesperson told VOA that Holt clearly stated that the North Korean “government escorts determined where they could go, watching and listening to every move.” In one report, Holt said, “What you’re seeing here certainly flies in the face of a country that’s undergoing crippling sanctions, and that may be part of the reason we were invited to see this.”

Holt told Adweek on Monday that the Olympic Games will be conducted with a major news story in the background.

“The world is holding its breath on the issue of: Is this the breakthrough? Is this the moment when they can start having a useful dialogue?” he said. “On a geopolitical level, this may complicate how the White House views the North Korean nuclear threat if this sets a pattern for a stronger relationship between the North and South.”

North, South agreement

Earlier this month, the two Koreas held the first high-level talks in two years following Kim’s offer to discuss his country’s participation in the Olympics.

The discussions produced an inter-Korean agreement, officially announced on Jan. 20, under which the two sides agreed to march together under a single flag at the opening ceremony of the games and field a combined women’s ice hockey team. The North also agreed to send 22 athletes and a large delegation, including a cheerleading squad and performers. The athletes will compete in ice hockey, figure skating, short track speed skating, cross-country skiing and alpine skiing, the International Olympic Committee said.

North Korea on Monday canceled a joint cultural event, citing South Korean media coverage of its participation in the games.

The NBC broadcast from Masikryong came several weeks ahead of the Winter Olympics, scheduled to be held in the South Korean city of Pyeongchang from February 9-25. The games are a prized franchise for NBCUniversal, the Comcast subsidiary that is parent company of NBC, which also broadcast The Apprentice, the show that launched Trump’s reality TV career.

Since 1995, NBCUniversal has paid the International Olympic Committee (IOC) $15.63 billion for the rights to broadcast the Olympics through 2032. The money helps support the Olympic movement, according to the IOC.

VOA’s Christy Lee contributed to this report.

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NEM Foundation: Coincheck Hackers Trying to Move Stolen Cryptocurrency

Hackers who stole around $530 million worth of cryptocurrency from the Coincheck exchange last week — one of the biggest such heists ever — are trying to move the stolen “XEM” coins, the foundation behind the digital currency said on Tuesday.

NEM Foundation, creators of the XEM cryptocurrency, have traced the stolen coins to an unidentified account, and the account owner had begun trying to move the coins onto six exchanges where they could then be sold, Jeff McDonald said.

Hackers made off with roughly $533 million worth of the cryptocurrency from Tokyo-based exchange Coincheck Inc late last week, raising fresh questions about security and regulatory protection in the booming market. The location of the hackers’ account was not known.

“(The hackers are) trying to spend them on multiple exchanges. We are contacting those exchanges,” Singapore-based McDonald told Reuters.

NEM Foundation spokeswoman Alexandra Tinsman said the hacker had started sending out “XEM” coins to random accounts in 100 XEM batches, worth about $83 each.

“When people look to launder these types of funds, they sometimes spread it into smaller transactions because it’s less likely to trigger (exchanges’) anti-money laundering (mechanisms),” said Tom Robinson, co-founder of Elliptic, a cryptocurrency security firm in London.

Robinson said such hopping among different cryptocurrencies was becoming more prevalent among cybercriminals trying to cover their tracks.

The coins that the hackers had taken made up around 5 percent of the total supply of XEM, the world’s 10th biggest cryptocurrency, according to trade website Coinmarketcap.

McDonald said the hackers were unlikely to try to spend anything close to all of the stolen cryptocurrency at once, because the “market simply couldn’t absorb that much.”

If the hackers successfully moved the coins to an exchange, they were likely to try to swap them into another cryptocurrency before transferring the coins back into a conventional currency, he said. That would make the funds difficult or near impossible to trace.

“I would assume that they are going to get away with some of the money,” McDonald said.

At least three dozen heists on cryptocurrency exchanges since 2011 are known; many of the hacked exchanges later shut down. More than 980,000 bitcoins have been stolen, and few have ever been recovered.

In 2014, Tokyo-based Mt. Gox, which once handled 80 percent of the world’s bitcoin trades, filed for bankruptcy after losing bitcoins worth around half a billion dollars — then the biggest ever such heist, which triggered a huge sell-off in bitcoin.

“It shows how far the industry has come that a hack of this scale isn’t really an issue,” said Robinson at Elliptic. “This is just kind of a blip.”

As of 17:44 GMT, XEM was trading at around $0.83 per coin, with a total market value of around $7.5 billion. That was around 20 percent lower than trading levels on Friday, when the hack was announced, but XEM is still up almost 300 percent over the past two months.

Japan’s Financial Services Agency (FSA) on Monday ordered improvements to operations at Coincheck, which on Friday suspended trading in all cryptocurrencies except bitcoin.

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5 Ideas Win $10,000 Each in Ohio Opioid Science Challenge

Virtual reality, neural feedback and digital therapy were among five ideas to help solve the U.S. opioid crisis that won a global technology challenge on Tuesday.

Winners were selected from hundreds of ideas submitted by researchers, caregivers, service providers and individuals from Ohio, other states and nine countries. The winning entrants will receive $10,000 each to take their ideas to the next phase.

The $8 million Ohio Opioid Technology Challenge was modeled after the Head Health competition launched by the National Football League, Under Armour and General Electric to address traumatic brain injuries suffered playing football. It’s part of a two-pronged strategy Ohio is pursuing to fight the deadly epidemic tied to prescription painkillers; the state has also awarded $10 million in research-and-development grants.

Besides the top prizes awarded to ideas with the highest likelihood of success, 40 runners-up — 20 laypeople and 20 technical professionals or experts — will be entered into a drawing to win $500 cash prizes.

The efforts, spearheaded by Republican Governor John Kasich, came in a state among the hardest hit by the deadly opioid epidemic. There were 4,050 overdose deaths in Ohio in 2016, many linked to heroin and synthetic opioids like fentanyl.

The winners were:

— Judson Brewer (Worcester, Massachusetts): For a digital therapy centered on the psychological theory of mindfulness, which will extend ideas contained in his nationally known Craving to Quit program to opioid addiction.

— Kinametechs LLC (Cincinnati, Ohio): For an augmented reality-based interactive coaching system resembling glasses proposed by Yong Pei and the Kinametechs team that would use motion tracking to customize a surgical patient’s physical rehabilitation routine once he arrives home from the hospital, reducing demand for opioid painkillers. “It’s like an expert sitting right in the glasses,” Pei said in an interview.

— Lee Barrus (Oren, Utah): For an opioid risk assessment screening app suggested by Barrus and the team at InteraSolutions to identify patients with risk factors for opioid abuse. The idea is to enable medical professionals to flag at-risk patients earlier and direct them to alternatives to opioids for fighting pain.

— The Edification Project (Boston, Massachusetts): For a use of virtual reality technology focused on preventing addiction in teens and young adults, framing attitudes early to prevent opioid abuse.

— The University of Dayton Research Institute (Dayton, Ohio): For a neurofeedback application developed by software engineer Kelly Cashion that uses sensors to provide real-time information to patients about their brain activity, allowing them to take back control by better understanding the effects of addiction on their brains. “Some people like to play video games, or look at the sunrise. By making them do these other tasks, anything to help them distract, and by constantly measuring it, you can see what works, reinforcing it and taking back control,” said Nilesh Powar, a senior research engineer who worked with Cashion on the project.

The second stage of the challenge begins in late February and runs through July. It will seek expertise from within the business and innovation community to help advance winning ideas into solutions. The third phase will fund the most promising ideas into products for use in the marketplace.

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Report: Hanoi Had 38 Days of Clean Air in 2017

Vietnam’s capital, Hanoi, enjoyed little more than one month of clean air last year as pollution levels rose to match those of China’s smog-prone capital, Beijing, preliminary findings of a new report showed.

Annual average air pollution in Hanoi in 2017 was also four times higher than the level deemed acceptable by the World Health Organization’s air quality guidelines, according to a report by the Green Innovation and Development Center (GreenID).

And the situation is likely to get worse, according to the Hanoi-based nonprofit organization.

“A bit more than one month were days with good air quality,” said Lars Blume, technical adviser at GreenID, which analyzed air monitoring data compiled at the U.S. Embassy in Hanoi.

“It is out of people’s control — they have to go out and work — and in many cases it is hard to really feel whether air is good or bad,” Blume told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Air pollution in Hanoi is caused by a number of factors, including a rise in construction work, an increase in car and motorcycle use, and agricultural burning by farmers, Blume said.

But research in the report suggests that heavy industries, like steel works, cement factories and coal power plants in areas near the capital, are also significant contributors.

Hanoi’s air pollution is now worse than that of the Indonesian capital, Jakarta, the report showed, and things are unlikely to improve as Vietnam pushes ahead with plans to build more coal-fired power plants.

Exposure to high levels of air pollution, especially over the long term, can affect human respiratory and inflammatory systems, and can also lead to heart disease and cancer.

Acknowledging the problem, in mid-2016 the Vietnamese government launched a national action plan that sought to control and monitor emissions and improve air quality. Hanoi is planning to install 70 air monitoring stations.

The GreenID report criticized the lack of regulations on air quality, a lack of public awareness of the problem and a lack of effective measures to minimize the effects, such as home purifiers.

The Vietnamese government must install more air pollution monitoring stations across the country and make the data available to the public, Blume said.

Improved urban planning and investments in renewable energy and public transport systems are also needed, said the report, which is due to be published at the end of February.

Previous GreenID surveys showed a growing concern among the Vietnamese over the issue of air quality and a rise in respiratory problems among children, said Nguyen Thi Anh Thu, a researcher at the organization.

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