It was supposed to be the laptop that saved the world.
In late 2005, tech visionary and MIT Media Lab founder Nicholas Negroponte pulled the cloth cover off a small green computer with a bright yellow crank. The device was the first working prototype for Negroponte’s new nonprofit One Laptop Per Child, dubbed “the green machine” or simply “the $100 laptop.” And it was like nothing that Negroponte’s audience — at either his panel at a UN-sponsored tech summit in Tunis, or around the globe — had ever seen.
Really good breakdown of this project. I was an early follower of it's progress, and I signed up within an hour of when the Give One Get One deal went live (had a friend working for them, being in Boston and all). By the time the laptop got to me, I was already familiar with many of the problems, and ultimately it was a major disappointment once I had it in my hands. All that being said, the black and white mode screen was AMAZING, and I used it for my e-book reader for many years before getting a nook.
Like a lot of people who go way back in the land of food blogs, I learned how to make pad thai from Pim Techamuanvivit. Pim wrote Chez Pim for many years before moving onto make jams (still the best apricot I’ve ever had) and then, homesick for the food she missed from growing up in Bangkok and disappointed by the versions of Thai food she saw in American restaurants (and “the tyranny of peanut sauce”), opened her first restaurant, Kin Khao, in San Francisco in 2014. It received a Michelin star a year after it opened because why do anything mediocre?
But in 2007, she wrote a seminal post called Pad Thai For Beginners that I’ve read and reread so many times over the years, I’ve practically memorized it. As pad thai is one of the most popular street foods in Thailand, she encouraged us to approach it at home the way the street vendors do: the prep is already done, so you can finish it in a flash. First, she wants you to make the sauce in advance because the ingredients are not standardized — fish sauces and tamarind concentrates will vary in intensity between brands — and you’ll want to adjust as needed, not over a screaming hot pan while your noodles get soft. And she wants you to make extra because it keeps well, and then if your dish needs a little more oomph, you won’t have to run back to the fridge to measure more from bottles and jars. Finally, she wants us to never make more than two portions at once, which will lead to “clumps of oily, sticky noodles.” She explains that the textures and flavors of a proper pad thai “derive largely from the way the dish is cooked, that is to say its quick footloose dance in an ultra hot wok. That simply means you can’t do many servings at once.” This doesn’t mean you cannot feed a crowd, you simply prep as much as you’d need, but only cook a portion or two at a time.
T-Mobile USA has agreed to pay a $40 million fine after admitting that it failed to complete phone calls in rural areas and used "false ring tones" that created the appearance that the calls were going through and no one was picking up.
"To settle this matter, T-Mobile admits that it violated the Commission's prohibition against the insertion of false ring tones and that it did not correct problems with delivery of calls to certain rural areas," states an order issued by the Federal Communications Commission today.
T-Mobile will pay the $40 million fine into the US Treasury. FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn criticized the commission for not getting refunds for customers.
T-Mobile admitted that it used the fake ring tones on "hundreds of millions of calls" each year, the FCC said. It's not clear how many of these calls weren't completed at all, because T-Mobile used the fake ring tones on many types of calls that took longer than usual to complete.
The FCC order explains why fake ring tones are a violation of a commission rule that has been in effect since January 2014:
False ring tones cause callers to believe that the phone is ringing at the called party's premises when it is not. A caller may then hang up, thinking no one is available to receive the call. False ring tones also create a misleading impression that a caller's service provider is not responsible if the call fails. False ring tones are a problem on calls to rural areas and are a symptom of the problems of impaired quality and completion of calls to rural areas.
T-Mobile was already using fake ring tones for several years before that rule took effect. The company continued inserting fake ring tones into calls despite the new rule.
No refunds for affected customers
"There is absolutely nothing in this consent decree to compensate consumers," Clyburn said in a statement about the T-Mobile penalty. "Prior consent decrees have included direct-to-consumer benefits, such as refunds or discounts, or notifications to customers who have been impacted. Despite demonstrating a clear and tangible consumer harm, in this consent decree, consumers are treated as a mere afterthought."
The $40 million penalty is too small "to address massively deceptive and harmful violations of the Commission's rules likely impacting billions—yes, billions—of telephone calls to rural areas over the past several years," Clyburn said.
The fine is also "dwarfed by larger, unpaid fines recently proposed against individual robocallers," and the compliance plan that T-Mobile must follow "does not contain any concessions that would explain such a massive discount," she wrote.
Clyburn, one of two Democrats on the Republican-majority commission, also criticized Chairman Ajit Pai for not letting the full commission vote on the T-Mobile order. The order was issued by the commission's Enforcement Bureau without a vote of the full commission even though "the Chairman's office was directly engaged in negotiating this item," she wrote.
Call-completion problems are more common in rural areas than urban ones. The FCC said it opened an investigation into T-Mobile after getting "complaints that T-Mobile callers were unable to reach consumers served by three rural carriers in Wisconsin." The complaints began in June 2016.
T-Mobile investigated the complaints as well and filed reports with the FCC describing its investigations. "In each instance, T-Mobile reported that it had handed the call off to an intermediate provider for delivery and that any reported problems had been 'resolved,'" the FCC said.
But the FCC said it continued to receive complaints about failing calls, and the problems extended beyond Wisconsin. "Call-completion complaints filed directly with T-Mobile showed patterns of problems with call delivery to consumers in at least seven other rural areas," the FCC said.
Rural call completion problems significantly harm the public interest because "[t]hey cause rural businesses to lose revenue, impede medical professionals from reaching patients in rural areas, cut families off from their relatives, and create the potential for dangerous delays in public safety communications," the FCC said.
Fake ring tones
The FCC order explains that T-Mobile has been using fake ring tones for a decade. In 2007, T-Mobile "began using servers that included a 'Local Ring Back Tone' (LRBT) for calls from certain customers that took more than a certain amount of time to complete," the FCC said.
When T-Mobile migrated to different servers in 2013, the carrier "began using the LRBT only for the out-of-network calls from its customers that were routed via Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) trunks and that took more than a certain amount of time to complete," the FCC said.
T-Mobile acknowledged that it "continued its practice of using the LRBT on such calls (and expanded the LRBT to cover such calls on additional SIP routes) after the FCC rule prohibiting the practice went into effect in January 2014," the FCC said. "Because T-Mobile applied this practice to out-of-network calls from its customers on SIP routes that took more than a certain amount of time on a nationwide basis and without regard to time of day, the LRBT was likely injected into hundreds of millions of calls each year."
Although T-Mobile used the fake ring tones for years both before and after the FCC outlawed them, T-Mobile claimed in a statement to CNBC and other media outlets that it was "unintentional." The statement from T-Mobile's public relations squad praises the company twice before acknowledging the years-long mistake.
"T-Mobile is committed to all of our customers across the country," T-Mobile said. "Our actions have always been focused on better serving our customers, and the ringtone oversight, which was corrected in January 2017, was unintentional. We have settled this matter—and will continue to focus on our mission."
January 2017, when T-Mobile fixed the problem, was about six months after the FCC started receiving complaints.
T-Mobile's compliance plan will involve training for employees, better procedures for investigating call-completion complaints, and regular compliance reports to the FCC, among other things. The requirements will remain in effect for three years.
Well that fucking explains a few things. Had T-Mobile from 2009 till 2016 (now on Google Fi and I love it), and shit like this would happen to me constantly. Phone would ring and ring and ring, but nobody would pick up, and then the person I was calling would say that they never got a call.
One-shot cures for diseases are not great for business—more specifically, they’re bad for longterm profits—Goldman Sachs analysts noted in an April 10 report for biotech clients, first reported by CNBC.
The investment banks’ report, titled “The Genome Revolution,” asks clients the touchy question: “Is curing patients a sustainable business model?” The answer may be “no,” according to follow-up information provided.
Analyst Salveen Richter and colleagues laid it out:
The potential to deliver “one shot cures” is one of the most attractive aspects of gene therapy, genetically engineered cell therapy, and gene editing. However, such treatments offer a very different outlook with regard to recurring revenue versus chronic therapies... While this proposition carries tremendous value for patients and society, it could represent a challenge for genome medicine developers looking for sustained cash flow.
For a real-world example, they pointed to Gilead Sciences, which markets treatments for hepatitis C that have cure rates exceeding 90 percent. In 2015, the company’s hepatitis C treatment sales peaked at $12.5 billion. But as more people were cured and there were fewer infected individuals to spread the disease, sales began to languish. Goldman Sachs analysts estimate that the treatments will bring in less than $4 billion this year.
“[Gilead]’s rapid rise and fall of its hepatitis C franchise highlights one of the dynamics of an effective drug that permanently cures a disease, resulting in a gradual exhaustion of the prevalent pool of patients,” the analysts wrote. The report noted that diseases such as common cancers—where the “incident pool remains stable”—are less risky for business.
To get around the sustainability issue overall, the report suggests that biotech companies focus on diseases or conditions that seem to be becoming more common and/or are already high-incidence. It also suggests that companies be innovative and constantly expanding their portfolio of treatments. This can “offset the declining revenue trajectory of prior assets." Lastly, it hints that, as such cures come to fruition, they could open up more investment opportunities in treatments for “disease of aging.”
Ars reached out to Goldman Sachs, which confirmed the content of the report but declined to comment.
I really fucking hate capitalism. They are correct only in the specific outlook of maximizing profits for individual companies. Once you take the larger increase in value to society that is created by those people who will no longer suffer and die from a now preventable disease, then the equation breaks down. Regardless, fuck those guys.
I have worked in orphan drug status pharma companies for most of my career and this attitude really bums me out. Late stage capitalism stamps out progress in the pursuit of profits to such a depressing degree.
I truly hope this isn't indicative of an attitude shift in investment firms. Companies who are researching trans-formative and life saving drugs rely so heavily on investment to take a possible treatment or cure to a full scale deliverable drug.
Steve Wozniak, the cofounder of Apple, has formally deactivated his Facebook account.
Wozniak, who has not been involved with day-to-day operations at Apple in decades, nonetheless has a legendary status in Silicon Valley. He is an active user of social media: his Twitter account regularly sends out automated messages of where he is traveling and what he is eating.
In an email interview with USA Today, Wozniak wrote that he was no longer satisfied with Facebook, knowing that it makes money off of user data.
"The profits are all based on the user’s info, but the users get none of the profits back," he wrote. "Apple makes its money off of good products, not off of you. As they say, with Facebook, you are the product."
His Sunday announcement to his Facebook followers came just ahead of Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s scheduled testimony before Congress on Tuesday. The CEO is also reportedly set to meet with members of Congress privately on Monday.
Wozniak wrote that Facebook had "brought me more negatives than positives."
Facebook is still under notable public pressure in the wake of the scandal involving Cambridge Analytica, the British data analytics firm that worked with the Donald Trump presidential campaign. The company is said to have retained private data from 87 million Facebook users despite having assured Facebook that the data was deleted. Cambridge Analytica and its affiliated companies maintain that they did nothing wrong.
In the wake of the March 2018 revelations, there have been increasing calls for users to #DeleteFacebook, however only relatively few appear to have actually done so. In a call with reporters last week, Zuckerberg said that the number of people who have undertaken such efforts remained small.
Still, when Wozniak tried to change some of his privacy settings in the aftermath of Cambridge Analytica, he said he was "surprised" to find out how many categories for ads he had to remove. "I did not feel that this is what people want done to them," added Wozniak. "Ads and spam are bad things these days and there are no controls over them. Or transparency."
The Apple cofounder did not immediately respond to Ars’ request for comment.
Facebook has also not responded to Ars’ repeated queries as to whether the company would consider a paid, more privacy-minded option for some users—an option that some, including Wozniak, say they would sign up for.
I deleted my FB account around 2009 after they changed the privacy settings such that they had perpetual license to all text and images that you upload. As a content creator that wasn't ok. I have certainly missed out on lots of events and have lost touch with friends and family because of it. Stuff like this gives me hope, as more and more friends and family are leaving it and getting back in touch with me. I'm even getting invited to parties and such again.
The placebo effect can be incredibly powerful, performing nearly as well as carefully designed and tested drugs, substituting for actual surgeries and even generating side effects. But it's a tricky thing to apply outside of experiments. After all, not everyone will have a strong placebo response, so it's unethical to use it in place of actual treatments.
Now, some researchers in Germany have figured out a way to harness the placebo effect to increase the impact of a normal drug treatment. The procedure involves getting patients to associate a taste with a powerful drug that has problematic side effects. Once the association is made, the patients were given a mix of normal drugs and a placebo, along with the flavor they'd associated with the drug. This experiment enhanced their response to the drug, providing an avenue to potentially reduce its dose and, thus, its side effects. And the whole thing worked despite the fact that the patients knew exactly what was going on.
The drug at issue, cyclosporine A, is a powerful suppressor of the immune system, which makes it useful for patients who have received organ transplants or who have a strong autoimmune disorder. But the immune system isn't the only system affected by this drug; it also kills off kidney and nerve cells and causes heart problems and hypertension. These effects are independent of any changes to the immune system, but nobody has figured out a way to target the body's response specifically to immune cells. As a result, people taking this drug have to carefully balance its useful features against its toxicity.
But our immune systems are also highly sensitive to mental states like stress and depression, making them good candidates for influence by the placebo effect. There's evidence from rodents that this effect can include suppressing the immune system, so the team behind the work developed a protocol in rodents that could specifically drive immunosuppression through the placebo effect. That work prompted the researchers to test the same procedure in a small population of healthy humans, which indicated it also worked in us. A new paper now describes using the procedure in a population where it matters: people who have to be on immunosuppressive drugs the rest of their lives.
The basic outline of the procedure is pretty simple. For three days, patients who had received a kidney transplant took their normal dose of immunosuppressant drugs accompanied by a novel-tasting drink (the authors don't describe what the drink tastes like, just that the taste is distinctive). For two days after that, they took the same drink/drugs combination, but they additionally took a combo of placebo pills and drink four times a day. During the second day of the placebo treatment, they had blood taken to check on immune function.
It worked. Compared to a control population of people taking only immunosuppressives, the people taking the placebo had reduced signs of immune cell activity (T cell proliferation was down by about 30 percent) and saw a very weak reduction in the expression of an immune signaling molecule called gamma interferon.
Based on the T cell proliferation, it appears that the effect of the immunosuppressant was enhanced by the placebo treatment, even though all the patients knew they were engaging in a placebo-based trial.
The results are even stranger than they sound. In mice, the researchers had figured out that the placebo effect was driven by release of the signaling molecule called noradrenaline. But in these patients, noradrenaline was completely unchanged. Some of the patients also happened to be on common drugs called beta blockers, which inhibit the noradrenaline receptor. The immune response in patients taking beta blockers was indistinguishable from that of patients who weren't using these drugs. So the researchers really have no idea how the trained placebo effect is working in humans.
Beyond questions about the mechanics, there's a lot we'd still want to know before using this as a treatment. We don't know how long this effect would persist or whether there are ways to maintain the placebo effect for something that's a lifetime treatment. We also don't know if this procedure is really a treatment—whether the enhanced effect on immune function is large enough to have any effect on symptoms or if it's safe to reduce the dose of the real drug in placebo-treated patients. Still, the results are promising enough that longer-term trials are clearly called for here.