MIND YOUR BUSINESS.
Dozens of Asian American groups are urging U.S. lawmakers to resist extending the Section 702 surveillance program, fearing its misuse and disproportionate impact on Asian Americans. Sixty-three organizations, including the National Council of Asian Pacific Americans and the Sikh Coalition, oppose its renewal through a rider in a “must pass” bill. They emphasize the severe effects of unlawful surveillance on careers, livelihoods, and reputations in the Asian American community. Advocates like Andy Wong from Stop AAPI Hate highlight the chilling effect of surveillance, particularly for the two-thirds of Asian Americans who are immigrants with overseas connections. The 702 program, used by the NSA, targets foreigners’ electronic communications but also inadvertently captures Americans’ data. Civil liberties groups, alongside these Asian American organizations, oppose its extension via a spending bill, like the National Defense Authorization Act. They argue such a move undermines the democratic process and call for standalone legislation and open debate. Meanwhile, Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer is considering alternative “must pass” legislation, but attaching a 702 amendment might meet strong opposition from House Republicans. (Wired)
The U.S. and China, the world’s top climate polluters, have agreed to boost renewable energy, aiming to replace fossil fuels. This comes ahead of Presidents Biden and Xi Jinping’s meeting, amidst tensions over Taiwan and Ukraine. The plan doesn’t commit China to phase out coal but focuses on tripling global renewable energy by 2030 to reduce emissions. This marks China’s first pledge to cut emissions in any sector. The agreement, preceding the COP28 U.N. climate talks, was facilitated by discussions between John Kerry and Xie Zhenhua. It includes China’s broader commitment to reducing greenhouse gases, not just carbon dioxide, but lacks specific targets. China hasn’t joined the Global Methane Pledge to cut emissions by 30% by 2030. Seen as foundational for the U.N. summit, this agreement is vital for global climate action. The collaboration between the U.S. and China is crucial to limit global temperature rise, given their significant greenhouse gas contributions. (New York Times)
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MEDICAID FAILING MILLIONS OF AMERICANS.
Up to 30 million Americans risk being removed from Medicaid due to error-prone state reviews, a concern highlighted by Avalere’s projections. The Biden administration is criticized for insufficient intervention. Issues include long phone wait times in Florida, confusing forms in Arkansas, and wrongful coverage drops in Texas. Legal Aid of Arkansas highlighted Arkansas’ flawed process, but the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) hasn’t made changes despite being informed. Nearly a dozen advocates report widespread issues, fearing systemic neglect. The Health and Human Services Department is monitoring states with high disenrollment rates and threatens enforcement actions. A COVID-19 policy change now requires states to review every Medicaid enrollee’s eligibility. However, issues in the review process lead to high procedural disenrollments, suggesting communication and paperwork problems. In Arkansas, over 70% were removed for procedural reasons. Advocates report receiving calls from newly uninsured individuals, highlighting the urgency of addressing these systemic issues. (Associated Press)
STARING INTO DEEEEEEP SPACE.
The James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) has identified the second and fourth most distant galaxies ever observed, supporting the Big Bang theory of galaxy formation. This discovery was enabled by the gravitational lensing effect of the galaxy cluster Abell 2744, known as Pandora’s Cluster, magnifying the light of distant galaxies. Bingjie Wang from Penn State Eberly College of Science, part of the JWST UNCOVER team, discovered these galaxies using JWST’s advanced technology. Cosmological redshift, a result of the universe’s expansion, stretches light wavelengths, shifting them from blue to red and into the infrared spectrum. This makes JWST’s Near-Infrared Camera (NIRCam) and Spectrometer (NIRSpec) essential for detecting such distant galaxies. UNCOVER-z13, the second most distant galaxy with a redshift of 13.079, is observed as it was 330 million years post-Big Bang. The fourth most distant, UNCOVER-z12, with a redshift of 12.393, is seen as it existed 350 million years after the Big Bang. These findings contribute significantly to our understanding of early galaxy formation. (space.com)
X FALLS SHORT.
Amidst Middle East conflicts, X (formerly Twitter) is criticized for inadequately moderating hate speech on its platform. The Center for Countering Digital Hate (CCDH) found 200 X posts with hate speech, yet 196 remained online after being reported. These posts included antisemitic caricatures, dehumanizing language against Palestinians and Muslims, and garnered millions of views, some over 100,000 times. Despite X’s reporting tools for hate speech, which include options for slurs, racist or sexist stereotypes, and incitement of fear, the majority of reported posts weren’t removed. 82 of the 101 accounts responsible for these posts were paid verified accounts. Some posts now carry a warning label, but others, including those promoting antisemitic conspiracies and dismissing the Holocaust, are still accessible. X, under Elon Musk’s leadership, has faced criticism for reduced content moderation and legal threats against CCDH. X claims to have acted against over 325,000 pieces of content violating its Terms of Service, including post removals and account suspensions, especially during the Israel-Hamas conflict. (Techcrunch)
SSH NOT SO SECURE.
Researchers have discovered a significant vulnerability in cryptographic keys used in SSH (Secure Shell) traffic, revealing that errors in signature generation can compromise these keys. The study found that a third of SSH signatures, using the RSA algorithm, were susceptible, translating to about 1 billion out of 3.2 billion signatures examined. This vulnerability exposed the private key of the host in about one in a million RSA signatures. Despite countermeasures in most SSH software, including OpenSSH, these signature faults were previously thought to only affect TLS (Transport Layer Security) protocol keys. However, this new research shows SSH traffic is also vulnerable. The researchers utilized a lattice attack technique to recover RSA keys from faulty SSH signatures. This issue affects devices with custom SSH implementations lacking standard countermeasures, with devices from Cisco, Zyxel, Hillstone Networks, and Mocana identified. The researchers emphasize the need for robust protocol designs to protect against computational errors, underscoring the importance of defense in depth in cryptographic implementations. (Ars Technica)
MEET YOUR AI WEATHER FORECASTER.
Google DeepMind has developed an AI model, GraphCast, which surpasses conventional and other AI methods in weather forecasting. Running on a desktop computer, it delivers more accurate and faster predictions than traditional numerical weather prediction (NWP) models, which are costly and energy-intensive. GraphCast was trained on historical global weather data from 1979 to 2017, learning correlations between various weather variables. It predicts weather 6 hours ahead using current and past data, with the ability to forecast up to 10 days in advance rapidly. The model has shown proficiency in predicting severe weather events and outperforms the High RESolution forecasting system (HRES) from the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts. However, despite its efficiency, AI models like GraphCast pose challenges in understanding their decision-making processes and risk amplifying biases from training data. The AI approach is viewed as a complement to, rather than a replacement for, conventional models, with practical application expected in two to five years. (Nature)
FELINE CORONAVIRUS IS KILLING THOUSANDS OF CATS.
In Cyprus, thousands of cats exhibited symptoms of feline infectious peritonitis (FIP), linked to a new feline coronavirus strain, FCoV-23. This strain has integrated RNA from a virulent dog pathogen, pantropic canine coronavirus (pCCoV), potentially increasing disease severity and transmission. Initially, FIP cases were thought to be nearly 300,000, but later estimates were around 8,000. The Cypriot government approved the use of molnupiravir, a human medication, for treating FIP. University of Edinburgh researchers found FCoV-23’s unique spike protein might enhance its transmissibility and severity. The virus was also detected in a cat imported from Cyprus to the UK, though the global risk appears low. Ongoing research focuses on FCoV-23’s prevalence, fatality rate, and its propensity for causing neurological symptoms. This case highlights the importance of cross-species research in understanding viral evolution and its implications. (Science)
JOHN OLIVER… BIRD INFLUENCER.
Comedian John Oliver successfully influenced New Zealand’s Bird of the Century contest, leading the pūteketeke (Australasian crested grebe) to victory over the iconic kiwi. Oliver’s campaign on his HBO show “Last Week Tonight” included various humorous promotional efforts, such as billboards in major cities worldwide, an airplane banner in Brazil, and an appearance in a bird costume on “The Tonight Show.” His efforts resulted in a record-breaking 350,000 votes for the contest, significantly higher than the previous record of 56,700. The annual event, typically named Bird of the Year, aims to raise awareness about native birds. This year, it was renamed Bird of the Century to mark Forest and Bird’s centennial. Oliver discovered a loophole allowing anyone with a valid email to vote. His campaign temporarily crashed the voting system and delayed the announcement. Despite controversies and accusations of foreign interference, Oliver’s involvement dramatically increased engagement with the contest, highlighting New Zealanders’ deep connection to their wildlife. The contest, known for past voting irregularities, witnessed significant participation due to Oliver’s influence. (Associated Press)
Thanks for reading. Let’s be careful out there.
WORDS: The Biology Guy.