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Ward Plunet
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Dietary prebiotics improve sleep, buffer impacts of stress, says study

In recent years, reams of research papers have shed light on the health benefits of probiotics, the "good bacteria" found in fermented foods and dietary supplements. Now a first-of-its kind study by University of Colorado Boulder scientists suggests that lesser-known gut-health promoters called prebiotics - which serve as food for good bacteria inside the gut—can also have an impact, improving sleep and buffering the physiological impacts of stress. "We found that dietary prebiotics can improve non-REM sleep, as well as REM sleep after a stressful event," said Robert Thompson, a post-doctoral researcher in the Department of Integrative Physiology and first author of the new study published in the journal Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience. Prebiotics are dietary fibers found naturally in foods like chicory, artichokes, raw garlic, leeks and onions. When beneficial bacteria digest prebiotic fiber, they not only multiply, improving overall gut health, but they also release metabolic byproducts. Some research suggests these byproducts can influence brain function, explains lead author Monika Fleshner, a professor in the Department of Integrative Physiology.

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How Peter Thiel's Palantir helped the NSA spy on the whole world

“Palantir” is generally used interchangeably to refer to both Thiel and Karp’s company and the software that company creates. Its two main products are Palantir Gotham and Palantir Metropolis, more geeky winks from a company whose Tolkien namesake is a type of magical sphere used by the evil lord Sauron to surveil, trick, and threaten his enemies across Middle Earth. While Palantir Metropolis is pegged to quantitative analysis for Wall Street banks and hedge funds, Gotham (formerly Palantir Government) is designed for the needs of intelligence, law enforcement, and homeland security customers. Gotham works by importing large reams of “structured” data (like spreadsheets) and “unstructured” data (like images) into one centralized database, where all of the information can be visualized and analyzed in one workspace. For example, a 2010 demo showed how Palantir Government could be used to chart the flow of weapons throughout the Middle East by importing disparate data sources like equipment lot numbers, manufacturer data, and the locations of Hezbollah training camps. Palantir’s chief appeal is that it’s not designed to do any single thing in particular, but is flexible and powerful enough to accommodate the requirements of any organization that needs to process large amounts of both personal and abstract data.


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Famed Hacker Kevin Mitnick Shows You How to Go Invisible Online

When you encrypt a message—an e‑mail, text, or phone call—use end‑to‑end encryption. That means your message stays unreadable until it reaches its intended recipient. With end‑to‑end encryption, only you and your recipient have the keys to decode the message. Not the telecommunications carrier, website owner, or app developer—the parties that law enforcement or government will ask to turn over information about you. Do a Google search for “end‑to‑end encryption voice call.” If the app or service doesn’t use end-to-end encryption, then choose another. If all this sounds complicated, that’s because it is. But there are PGP plug-ins for the Chrome and Firefox Internet browsers that make encryption easier. One is Mailvelope, which neatly handles the public and private encryption keys of PGP. Simply type in a passphrase, which will be used to generate the public and private keys. Then whenever you write a web-based email, select a recipient, and if the recipient has a public key available, you will then have the option to send that person an encrypted message.



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One vaccine to wipe out ALL mosquito-borne diseases? It’s in clinical trials

It’s hard to imagine anything more despised than mosquitos. They menacingly buzz about, swoop in to feast on your blood, and often leave behind an annoying, itchy lump. But by far the worst bit is that they spread throngs of pathogens—dengue, Zika, chikungunya, yellow fever, West Nile, malaria… the list goes on. Their bites cause hundreds of millions of infections each year. Dengue alone infects around 390 million people a year globally. Malaria strikes around 214 million. What if there was a vaccine that could, in one fell swoop, prevent all of those infections? As a bonus, what if it could also prevent itchy responses to mosquito bites and even knock back the bug’s populations? It sounds like a dream. But SEEK, a UK-based biotech company, and the US National Institutes of Health are hoping it could be a reality some day. This week, the NIH announced the start of a Phase I clinical trial for a vaccine that’s designed to do all of that. It’s called AGS-v, and it has been in the works for nearly a decade. It takes an approach to disease blocking that scientists have danced around for decades but never pulled off—it targets the saliva of mosquitos instead of any individual germ.

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Early birds may make healthier food choices than night owls

Researchers looked at data from nearly 2,000 randomly chosen people to determine if their circadian or biological clock rhythm (chronotype) affected what they ate and at what time. Clear differences in both energy and macronutrients between the two chronotypes abound, with morning people making healthier choices throughout the day. Evening types ate less protein overall and ate more sucrose in the morning. In the evening, they ate more sucrose, fat and saturated fatty acids.

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Regular aerobic exercise beginning in middle age may lessen severity of stroke in old age

Mice that started exercising regularly at twelve months-age (equivalent to 40 years-age in humans) had the same abundance of collateral vessels when they reached 25 months-age (equivalent to 70 humans years) as seen at 3 months-age (equivalent to 16 human years), unlike their non-exercising 25-month-old counterparts who had fewer collaterals of smaller diameter. When the exercising 25-month-old mice suffered strokes, they had much less brain damage, i.e., the same as seen in young 3-month-old mice. The exercising mice also had higher levels of molecules that help blood vessels work properly and stay healthy. Researchers said their findings suggest that regular aerobic exercise may protect the collateral circulation and lessen the severity of strokes later in life.

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Surge in opioid epidemic death rate continues, hitting 2.5-fold increase

Opioid’s deadly grip on the US continued to tighten in 2015, pushing up death rates across the board, according to new data released Friday by the National Center for Health Statistics, a division of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Overall, drug overdose deaths rose to 16.3 per 100,000 in 2015—that’s 2.5 times the 1999 rate of 6.1 per 100,000. In that time range, increases were seen for both men and women, as well as across all age groups and races, with whites seeing the most dramatic increases. Generally, overdoses of opioid painkillers continued to be a leading killer, but heroin and synthetic opioids, such as deadly fentanyl, are behind an increasing number of deaths.

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Morphing drone takes off like a helicopter, flies like a plane

Thought Google also had something similar.

A shape-shifting drone takes off like a helicopter and transforms into a plane in mid-air to fly all day on solar power. The drone is designed to provide affordable aerial surveys for farmers, so they can see where to irrigate and use fertiliser and herbicide only where needed...A low-cost drone with greater endurance than existing models would be very helpful to farmers and businesses that oversee large areas of crops, says Ivan Grove at Harper Adams University in Shropshire, UK. “The current range of VTOL [vertical take-off and landing aircraft] are mainly the multirotors, which suffer from short flight times in comparison to their fixed-wing counterparts.” Although the SUAV:Q is aimed at farmers, its long flight time should make it attractive for other uses, such as inspecting infrastructure, forestry and firefighting.

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Everything You Need to Know About Cloudbleed, the Latest Internet Security Disaster

Have you heard? A tiny bug in Cloudflare’s code has led an unknown quantity of data—including passwords, personal information, messages, cookies, and more—to leak all over the internet. If you haven’t heard of the so-called Cloudbleed vulnerability, keep reading. This is a scary big deal. Let’s start with the good news. Cloudflare, one of the world’s largest internet security companies, acted fast when security researcher Tavis Ormandy of Google’s Project Zero identified the vulnerability. The bad news is that the Cloudflare-backed websites had been leaking data for months before Ormandy noticed the bug. Cloudflare says the earliest data leak dates back to September 2016. It’s so far unclear if blackhat hackers had already found the vulnerability and exploited it secretly before Cloudflare fixed its code. Cloudflare’s clients include huge companies like Uber, OKCupid, 1Password, and FitBit. That means a holy fuck ton of sensitive data has potentially been compromised.



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Teach yourself everyday happiness with imagery training

Researchers have found that self-guided positive imagery training can successfully combat negative emotions in our daily lives. This tool is so powerful that it also changes the way our brain functions...o find out if we can train ourselves to use imagery techniques and optimize our emotional state, Velikova and co-workers turned to 30 healthy volunteers. During a two-day workshop the volunteers learnt a series of imagery techniques. They learnt how to cope with negative emotions from past events through imagery transformation, how to use positive imagery for future events or goals, and techniques to improve social interactions and enhance their emotional balance in daily life. They then spent the next 12 weeks training themselves at home for 15-20 minutes a day, before attending another similar two-day workshop. Velikova compared the results of participant psychological assessment and brain activity, or electroencephalographic (EEG), measurement, before and after the experiment. "The psychological testing showed that depressive symptoms were less prominent. The number of those with subthreshold depression, expressing depressive symptoms but not meeting the criteria for depression, was halved. Overall, volunteers were more satisfied with life and perceived themselves as more efficient" she explains.

Brain changes

Following analysis, the EEG data showed significant changes in the beta activity in the right medial prefrontal cortex of the brain. Velikova notes that this region is known to be involved in imaging pleasant emotions and contributing to the degree of satisfaction with life. There were also changes in the functional connectivity of the brain, including increased connectivity between the temporal regions from both hemispheres, which Velikova attributes to enhanced coordination of networks linked to processing of images. She concludes, "this combination of EEG findings also suggests a possible increase in the activity of GABA (gamma -aminobutyric acid), well known for its anti-anxiety and antidepressant properties."
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