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  • Scientists Find a Weak Spot In Some Superbugs' Defenses
    Researchers have found a new way to attack some of the bacteria behind treatment-resistant infections. An anonymous reader shares a report from Wired: In 2004, a 64-year-old woman in Indiana had a catheter put in to help with dialysis. Soon after the procedure, she came to a local hospital with low blood pressure and what turned out to be a dangerous antibiotic-resistant infection from a bacteria called Enterococcus faecalis. [...] After the patient in Indiana returned to the hospital, doctors sampled her blood and tested various antibiotics to see what might cure her infection. The strain she was infected with was already resistant to the antibiotic vancomycin, which was traditionally considered the treatment of last resort. But the bacteria that were making her sick were susceptible to a powerful new drug, approved by the FDA just a year before, called daptomycin. With a prescription for daptomycin, the patient improved enough to go home. But two weeks later, the woman was back in the hospital again, this time with a high fever. Nothing her medical team tried worked, and the woman died. A study out today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, though, offers new hope -- along with clues about how drug developers might fight back against this foe. VRE bacteria reproduce by pinching in at the center and dividing into two separate cells. Daptomycin fights VRE by binding to its cell membrane right at that center point, which disrupts its ability to divide, among other things. After the patient in Indiana died, doctors compared a sample of her blood with one they'd taken weeks earlier, when she first came to the hospital. They discovered that the daptomycin-resistant strain had a new mechanism that reorganized the cell. Daptomycin could no longer attach and halt the bacteria's cell division. "[The researchers] were puzzled that the cells somehow knew when to organize their membranes to resist the daptomycin," reports Wired. "[Researcher Ayesha Khan] noticed these drug-resistant strains had a lot of the protein LiaX both on the cell membranes and outside the cell, so she zeroed in on it. LiaX, the research team found, is an alarm system. The protein binds to daptomycin, sending a signal back telling the cell that it's time to reorganize. This same mechanism also helps VRE ward off the human immune system, they found, which might contribute to its deadly nature." "We knew prior to this study that LiaX likely has a role in daptomycin resistance, and this work goes a long way toward explaining what that role is," Kelli Palmer, a biologist who studies antibiotic resistance at the University of Texas at Dallas, said. "It is critical that we understand how daptomycin resistance works at a molecular level, so that we can design strategies to reverse it."

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  • Apple's Ad-Targeting Crackdown Shakes Up Ad Market
    Two years ago, Apple launched an aggressive battle against ads that track users across the web. Today executives in the online publishing and advertising industries say that effort has been stunningly effective -- posing a problem for advertisers looking to reach affluent consumers. The Information reports: Since Apple introduced what it calls its Intelligent Tracking Prevention feature in September 2017, and with subsequent updates last year, advertisers have largely lost the ability to target people on Safari based on their browsing habits with cookies, the most commonly used technology for tracking. One result: The cost of reaching Safari users has fallen over 60% in the past two years, according to data from ad tech firm Rubicon Project. Meanwhile ad prices on Google's Chrome browser have risen slightly. That reflects the fact that advertisers pay more money for ads that can be targeted at people with specific demographics and interests. "The allure of a Safari user in an auction has plummeted," said Rubicon Project CEO Michael Barrett. "There's no easy ability to ID a user." This shift is significant because iPhone owners tend to be more affluent and therefore more attractive to advertisers. Moreover, Safari makes up 53% of the mobile browser market in the U.S., according to web analytics service Statscounter. Only about 9% of Safari users on an iPhone allow outside companies to track where they go on the web, according to Nativo, which sells software for online ad selling. It's a similar story on desktop, although Safari has only about 13% of the desktop browser market. In comparison, 79% of people who use Google's Chrome browser allow advertisers to track their browsing habits on mobile devices through cookies. (Nativo doesn't have historical data so couldn't say what these percentages were in the past.)

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  • Cyberattack Hits City of Pensacola After Shooting At Naval Air Station
    The city of Pensacola, Florida, has been dealing with a cyberattack since late Friday when a Saudi Air Force trainee killed three sailors at Pensacola Naval Air Station. Officials for the city are unsure whether the incidents are related. CNN reports: The city of Pensacola, Florida, said it has experienced a cyber "incident" and has disconnected several city services until the issue can be resolved. Mayor Grover Robinson told CNN affiliate WEAR the city has been dealing with a cyberattack since late Friday. The city said the issue has impacted city emails and phones, 311 customer service and online payments, including Pensacola Energy and Pensacola Sanitation Services. However, 911 and emergency services are not impacted. As for whether the cyberattack is related to the Friday shooting, Kaycee Lagarde, a spokeswoman for the mayor, said: "It's really too early to say one way or another. We are still assessing this. We understand that it's on people's mind but we just don't know at this point." Lagarde said the incident was reported to the FBI and Homeland Security as a precaution.

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  • WireGuard VPN Is On Its Way To Linux
    WireGuard has now been committed to the mainline Linux kernel. "While there are still tests to be made and hoops to be jumped through, it should be released in the next major Linux kernel release, 5.6, in the first or second quarter of 2020," reports ZDNet. From the report: WireGuard has been in development for some time. It is a layer 3 secure VPN. Unlike its older rivals, which it's meant to replace, its code is much cleaner and simple. The result is a fast, easy-to-deploy VPN. While it started as a Linux project, WireGuard code is now cross-platform, and its code is now available on Windows, macOS, BSD, iOS, and Android. It took longer to arrive than many wished because WireGuard's principal designer, Jason Donenfeld, disliked Linux's built-in cryptographic subsystem on the grounds its application programming interface (API) was too complex and difficult. He suggested it be supplemented with a new cryptographic subsystem: His own Zinc library. Many developers didn't like this. They saw this as wasting time reinventing the cryptographic well. But Donenfeld had an important ally. Torvalds wrote, "I'm 1000% with Jason on this. The crypto/ model is hard to use, inefficient, and completely pointless when you know what your cipher or hash algorithm is, and your CPU just does it well directly." In the end, Donenfeld compromised. "WireGuard will get ported to the existing crypto API. So it's probably better that we just fully embrace it, and afterward work evolutionarily to get Zinc into Linux piecemeal." That's exactly what happened. Some Zine elements have been imported into the legacy crypto code in the forthcoming Linux 5.5 kernel. This laid the foundation for WireGuard to finally ship in Linux early next year.

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  • College-Educated Workers Are Taking Over the American Factory Floor
    An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Wall Street Journal: New manufacturing jobs that require more advanced skills are driving up the education level of factory workers who in past generations could get by without higher education, an analysis of federal data by The Wall Street Journal found. Within the next three years, American manufacturers are, for the first time, on track to employ more college graduates than workers with a high-school education or less, part of a shift toward automation that has increased factory output, opened the door to more women and reduced prospects for lower-skilled workers. U.S. manufacturers have added more than a million jobs since the recession, with the growth going to men and women with degrees, the Journal analysis found. Over the same time, manufacturers employed fewer people with at most a high-school diploma. Employment in manufacturing jobs that require the most complex problem-solving skills, such as industrial engineers, grew 10% between 2012 and 2018; jobs requiring the least declined 3%, the Journal analysis found. [...] Specialized job requirements have narrowed the path to the middle class that factory work once afforded. The new, more advanced manufacturing jobs pay more but don't help workers who stopped schooling early. More than 40% of manufacturing workers have a college degree, up from 22% in 1991. Looking ahead, investments in automation will continue to expand factory production with relatively fewer employees. Jobs that remain are expected to be increasingly filled by workers from colleges and technical schools, leaving high-school graduates and dropouts with fewer opportunities. Manufacturing workers laid-off in years past also will see fewer suitable openings. "At Pioneer Service, a machine shop in the Chicago suburb of Addison, Ill., employees in polo shirts and jeans, some with advanced degrees, code commands for robots making complex aerospace components on a hushed factory floor," reports The Wall Street Journal. "That is a far cry from work at Pioneer in the 1990s, when employees had to wear company uniforms to shield their clothes from the grease flying off the 1960s-era manual machines used to make parts for heating-and-cooling systems."

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  • E-Scooter Company 'Unicorn' Goes Bust After Spending Big On Facebook Ads
    Electric scooter start-up Unicorn is shutting down after spending too much money on Facebook ads. The BBC reports: Customers received an email from founder Nick Evans, saying he was "very sorry" and was trying to sell Unicorn's assets to offer partial refunds. The Texas-based company sold just 350 of its $699 commuter scooters, according to The Verge. They have a top speed of 15mph and a range of 15 miles. And start-up tracker Crunchbase said Unicorn had raised just $150,000. "It saddens me to write this letter but we have run out of funding and are shutting down operations immediately," the email says. "We unfortunately do not have the resources to deliver your Unicorns nor are we able to provide refunds, as we are completely out of funding." The cost of "Facebook and Google ads, payments for loans, and other expenses" ate through the company's funding quicker than Mr Evans anticipated. "A large proportion of the revenue went toward paying for Facebook ads to bring traffic to the site," the email says. "Unfortunately the cost of the ads were just too expensive to build a sustainable business."

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  • Oculus Quest Becomes First VR Set With Native Hand Tracking
    The Oculus Quest VR headset is about to receive an update that adds support for native hand tracking. "VR users will be able to put down their controllers and use their fingers to manipulate VR worlds, as tracked by Quest's array of built-in cameras," reports Ars Technica. From the report: The feature received a tease at October's Oculus Connect 6 conference and got an "early 2020" launch window from Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. But someone on the Oculus engineering team clearly ignored Lord Zuck in getting this feature out the door a bit early, and it will land in an "experimental" tab in Quest's settings menus as a free update by week's end. Today's news comes with two important asterisks. First, there's no fully fledged VR software available for the feature yet. At launch, the experimental feature will only work within Oculus Quest's root menu, which at least includes photo and multimedia viewing tabs. Within "a week" of the toggle going live, a Software Development Kit (SDK) for Quest hand tracking will go live for Oculus developers, which will allow them to tap into Oculus' hand-tracking system and potentially implement it in various games and apps. And second, Oculus is limiting its hand-tracking framework to the Quest ecosystem. This update isn't coming to the PC-centric Rift or Rift S headsets, and it won't work if you use Oculus Link to connect a Quest to your favorite PC VR games.

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