FDA warning brings controversial young blood transfusion company to a halt


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On Tuesday, the FDA issued a warning to anyone who might be inclined to give their old bones a jolt with fresh blood harvested from the young.

The idea is pretty far from mainstream, even in Silicon Valley, where the ultra-wealthy have a keen interest in the cutting edge of life-extension science. Still, there’s apparently enough buzz around the practice that the FDA is warning consumers of “unscrupulous actors” who tout the benefits of infusing patients with plasma extracted from youthful donors while extracting literal blood money from their clients:

We have significant public health concerns about the promotion and use of plasma for these purposes. There is no proven clinical benefit of infusion of plasma from young donors to cure, mitigate, treat, or prevent these conditions, and there are risks associated with the use of any plasma product.

Today, we’re alerting consumers and health care providers that treatments using

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Netflix office goes on lockdown over report of a potential shooter, suspect now in custody


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Alarming reports popped up on Twitter late Thursday of incident involving an armed individual at Netflix’s Hollywood office on Sunset Blvd. TechCrunch has confirmed with the Los Angeles Police Department that a call reporting a man with a gun first came in at 3:53 Pacific Time. According to the LAPD, there were no shots fired, no reports of injuries and the suspect in question has been taken into custody. Though some reports on social media appeared to contradict those details, the LAPD again confirmed that there is only one suspect and that suspect is in custody. As of 5:12 Pacific Time, Netflix employees reported being allowed to leave on foot though some areas remained closed as a precaution.

Netflix first moved into the historic Hollywood Sunset Bronson studio site in 2015 and expanded its lease on the space in 2017. The company shares the location with local news outlet KTLA.

Citizen expands its crime-tracking alert app to Baltimore


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Depending on who you ask, Citizen is either a useful urban safety tool or a menacing glimpse into a self-surveilled police state, but either way, the app is coming to Baltimore. Citizen, formerly known as Vigilante, is a crime tracking app that offers geo-targeted alerts that notify users of dangers lurking nearby, from carjackings to kidnappings and every mundane horror in between.

Citizen launched first in New York City before expanding to San Francisco in 2017. The app pulls in public safety data, sifts it through its own editorial team and dispenses it out to relevant users based on their location. Citizen’s founder and CEO Andrew Frame told the Baltimore Sun that Citizen is expanding to the city both because its team has connections there and due to Baltimore’s reputation for crime. The city’s reputation for a deeply corrupt police department with sometimes fatal results was not part

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Facebook may face a record-setting multi-billion-dollar fine from the FTC


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The Washington Post is reporting that Facebook’s row with the FTC could result in fines an order of magnitude larger than any levied against a tech company by the regulatory body before. While the talks appear to be ongoing, The Washington Post spoke with two people familiar with the situation who said the FTC is negotiating with Facebook over a possible “multi-billion dollar fine” — an amount more in line with the FTC’s massive $14.7 billion settlement with Volkswagen over emissions cheating in 2016.

In 2012, Google paid a record-setting $22.5 million to settle with the FTC over its own privacy infractions, an amount that is hardly a drop in the bucket by today’s terms. As we’ve previously reported, an FTC fine around that range — or even a multiple of that amount — would be easily shrugged off by the company, which brought in more than $13

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William Barr confirmed to lead the Justice Department


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On Thursday, the Senate voted to confirm Trump nominee William Barr as the next head of the Justice Department. Barr was nominated to replace former Attorney General Jeff Sessions who fell out of favor with the Trump administration and resigned last year.

Barr will step in for acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker, who controversially stepped into the role in December amidst criticism over his view of the Robert Mueller investigation. Barr isn’t a new name to the DOJ, having served in the nation’s top law enforcement role under George H. W. Bush’s administration in the early nineties.

While overseeing the Mueller investigation is the main topic that has anyone at the top of the Justice Department in the hot seat with Congress, Barr’s nomination has faced other criticisms. Some privacy advocates are fearful that the new attorney general will expand the federal government’s surveillance practices.

“Based on his own testimony,

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HyperSciences wants to ‘gamechange’ spaceflight with hypersonic drilling tech


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It’s no coincidence that Elon Musk wants to both tunnel down into and soar above the Earth. If you ask the team at HyperSciences, the best way to get to space is to flip drilling technology upside down and point it at the sky. In the process, that would mean ditching the large, expensive fuel stages that propel what we generally think of as a rocket — massive cylindrical thing, tiny payload at the tip — into space.

This month, the company hit a major milestone on its quest to get to suborbital space, capping off Phase I of a research grant with NASA with a pair of successful proof-of-concept launches demonstrating the company’s one-two punch of ram acceleration and chemical combustion.

HyperSciences put its vision to the test at Spaceport America, conducting a series of high altitude tests at the desolate launch site an hour outside of Truth

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Russia plans to test a kill switch that disconnects the country from the internet


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As a cyber-defensive measure, the Russian government will reportedly perform a trial run of a measure that would effectively cut the country off from the rest of the world’s web.

Last year, Russia introduced its Digital Economy National Program, a plan that would require Russian internet providers to remain functional in the event the country was cut off from worldwide internet. Under this plan, Russian ISPs would redirect web traffic to routing points within the country and rely on its own copy of the Domain Name System (DNS), the directory of domains and addresses that underpins the global internet.

The test run could be useful to the country for a few reasons. Primarily, Russia aims to simulate the drastic measures it would take in the case of some kind of cyber threat to its national security. But for a country notorious for its restrictive environment for individual and press

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Mars One goes bankrupt as reality catches up to the doomed space scam


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A grand mission to Mars that was always light on details has come to a decidedly terrestrial end. Mars One, a controversial space exploration project that made it as far as the “highly produced videos” and recruitment stage of its ambition, has quietly filed for bankruptcy, according to a liquidation listing spotted by a Redditor on r/space.

As the post explains, the private company that spearheaded the Mars One spectacle is actually made up of two parts, a not-for-profit called the Mars One Foundation and a for-profit company known as Mars One Ventures. In 2016, Swiss financial services company nFin Innovative Finance AG picked up Mars One Ventures in a takeover bid.

In a statement on the takeover, Mars One’s leadership explained how the plan was still on track, in spite of appearances.

“The takeover provides a solid path to funding the next steps of Mars One’s mission to establish

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Instagram and Facebook will start censoring ‘graphic images’ of self-harm


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In light of a recent tragedy, Instagram is updating the way it handles pictures depicting self-harm. Instagram and Facebook announced changes to their policies around content depicting cutting and other forms of self harm in dual blog posts Thursday.

The changes comes about in light of the 2017 suicide of a 14 year old girl named Molly Russell, a UK resident who took her own life in 2017. Following her death, her family discovered that Russell was engaged with accounts that depicted and promoted self harm on the platform.

As the controversy unfolded, Instagram Head of Product Adam Mosseri penned an op-ed in the Telegraph to atone for the platform’s at times high consequence shortcomings. Mosseri previously announced that Instagram would implement “sensitivity screens” to obscure self harm content, but the new changes go a step further.

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A popular genealogy website just helped solve a serial killer cold case in Oregon


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On Thursday, detectives in Portland, Ore. announced that a long-cold local murder case finally came to a resolution, 40 years after the fact.

In 1979, 20-year-old Anna Marie Hlavka was found dead in the Portland apartment she shared with her fiance and sister. According to police, she was strangled to death and sexually assaulted. Police followed a number of leads and kept tabs on the case for decades without a breakthrough.

Last May, detectives with Portland’s Cold Case Homicide Detail dug back into the case using the methodology made famous when investigators last year tracked down the man believed to be the Golden State Killer.

Around that time, detectives working the Hlavka case reached out to a company called Parabon NanoLabs to determine if their case could be solved the same way, by cross-referencing the suspect’s DNA with public DNA profiles uploaded to GEDmatch, a popular free ancestry and genealogy

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Facebook just removed a new wave of suspicious activity linked to Iran


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Facebook just announced its latest round of “coordinated inauthentic behavior,” this time out of Iran. The company took down 262 Pages, 356 accounts, three Facebook groups and 162 Instagram accounts that exhibited “malicious-looking indicators” and patterns that identify it as potentially state-sponsored or otherwise deceptive and coordinated activity.

As Facebook Head of Cybersecurity Policy Nathaniel Gleicher noted in a press call, Facebook coordinated closely with Twitter to discover these accounts, and by collaborating early and often the company “[was] able to use that to build up our own investigation.” Today, Twitter published a postmortem on its efforts to combat misinformation during the US midterm election last year.

Example of the content removed

As the Newsroom post details, the activity affected a broad swath of areas around the globe:

“There were multiple sets of activity, each localized for a specific country or region, including Afghanistan, Albania, Algeria, Bahrain,

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Facebook users who quit the social network for a month feel happier


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New research out of Stanford and New York University took a look at what happens when people step back from Facebook for a month.

Through Facebook, the research team recruited 2,488 people who averaged an hour of Facebook use each day. After assessing their “willingness to accept” the idea of deactivating their account for a month, the study assigned eligible participants to an experimental category that would deactivate their accounts or a control group that would not.

Over the course of the month-long experiment, researchers monitored compliance by checking participants’ profiles. The participants self-reported a rotating set of well being measures in real time, including happiness, what emotion a participant felt over the last 10 minutes and a measure of loneliness.

As the researchers report, leaving Facebook correlated with improvements on well being measures. They found that the group tasked with quitting Facebook ended up spending less time on other

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New York cracks down on companies that sell fake followers


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On Wednesday New York Attorney General Letitia James announced that her office had reached a settlement with Devumi, a company that made millions selling fake followers to unsuspecting customers. The state of New York found that Devumi had engaged in illegal deception and illegal impersonation in the course of fluffing up social media profiles with its automated accounts.

First reported by CNN, the settlement follows a New York state probe into the company after reports of suspicious activity and potentially deceptive business practices first surfaced. Almost exactly a year ago, The New York Times reported a big feature on the company that prompted the state’s probe.

In that piece, the Times describes Devumi as “an obscure American company… that has collected millions of dollars in a shadowy global marketplace for social media fraud.” The reported detailed how the company used a stable of 3.5 million bots to

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EFF lawyer joins WhatsApp as privacy policy manager


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In an effort to bolster its public credibility in the wake of a very rough year, Facebook is bringing a fierce former critic into the fold.

Next month, longtime Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) counsel Nate Cardozo will join WhatsApp, Facebook’s encrypted chat app. Cardozo most recently held the position of Senior Information Security Counsel with the EFF where he worked closely with the organization on cybersecurity policy. As his bio there reads, Cardozo is “an expert in technology law and civil liberties” and already works with private companies on privacy policies that protect user rights.

Cardozo announced the move in a post to Facebook on Tuesday.

“Personal news!

After six and a half years at the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), I’ll be leaving at the end of next week. I’m incredibly sad to be leaving such a great organization and I’ll miss my colleagues with all my heart.

Where to?

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Rep. Ocasio-Cortez calls out big tech on climate change controversy


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The newly minted social media star congresswoman is wasting no time in tearing into tech companies.

In a recent letter, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez joined Maine representative Chellie Pingree in calling out tech companies for supporting an event they believe to be inconsistent with big tech’s ostensibly climate-friendly attitude. Ocasio-Cortez is a noted champion of a Democratic package of sweeping environmental reforms called the Green New Deal — a term we can expect to hear a lot more leading into 2020.

The letter, addressed to Microsoft’s Satya Nadella, Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg and Google’s Sundar Pichai, expresses that the representatives were “deeply disappointed” to see that these companies sponsored a recent D.C. conference that featured a talk “denying established science on climate change” at a recent libertarian conference called LibertyCon.

LibertyCon appears to have hosted at least one group on the wrong side of the scientific consensus around climate change. That

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U.S. announces criminal charges against Huawei, seeks to extradite its CFO


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In a joint press event today, the U.S. Department of Justice revealed that it is pursuing criminal charges against Chinese mobile giant Huawei. Following a story from The Wall Street Journal earlier this month, TechCrunch previously reported that the indictments were set to be unsealed soon.

The indictments grew out of a civil suit dating all the way back to 2014 in which T-Mobile sued Huawei for stealing trade secrets related to a robotic phone-testing device known as “Tappy.” A grand jury in Seattle has charged Huawei, Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou and Huawei subsidiary Skycom with conspiracy to steal trade secrets, attempted theft of trade secrets, seven counts of wire fraud, and one count of obstruction of justice for the company’s alleged attempts to move potential witnesses back to China.

“As I told Chinese officials in August, China must hold its citizens and Chinese companies accountable for complying with

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Trump agrees to reopen the federal government through mid-February


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On Friday, President Trump announced his intentions to back off of his demand for border wall funding, allowing the federal government to reopen for three weeks through February 15. The president touted the decision to reopen the government as a deal in spite of his failure to obtain a multi-billion dollar agreement toward a physical perimeter for the southern border.

At 35 days, the federal shutdown has been the lengthiest to ever grind the U.S. government to a halt. Under the current terms of the proposal, the federal government would re-open, bringing hundreds of thousands of federal employees back to work, as negotiations around a border wall compromise take place. It would also provision backpay for the roughly 800,000 federal workers who have missed paychecks as part of the ordeal.

The Senate is expected to bring the proposal to

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Cannabis startup Caliva raises $75M from former Yahoo CEO Carol Bartz and Joe Montana


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San Jose cannabis company Caliva is proving that weed’s still hot, even as some markets cool off.

The company is announcing a $75 million round of investment that includes participation from former Yahoo CEO Carol Bartz and football legend Joe Montana . If that pair seems unlikely, it just goes to show that cannabis attracts an eclectic mix.

With what the company itself refers to as a “war chest,” Caliva intends to expand its portfolio of products as well as ramping up its efforts courting cannabis users in California through a combination of branded brick and mortar stores, direct to consumer sales and sales to distributors. While state regulations slowed the overall market over the last year, Caliva grew its revenues by 350 percent, growing its company to 440 workers.

A general partner at Liquid 2 Ventures, Montana isn’t new to cannabis investing. In 2017, the former quarterback participated in

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Buzzfeed will cut its staff by 15% in major round of layoffs


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It’s a dark day to work in media. On the heels of news that TechCrunch parent company Verizon Media Group (formerly Oath) would lay off roughly 800 workers, BuzzFeed has announced its own substantial staffing cuts. And though they were anticipated, Gannett also made substantial cuts to newsrooms around the US on Wednesday.

In a memo to employees, BuzzFeed CEO Jonah Peretti explained that the layoffs would hit next week, reducing its workforce by 15% or about 250 positions.

“Over the past few months, we’ve done extensive work examining the trends in our business and the evolving economics of the digital platforms,” Peretti said in the memo. “We’ve developed a good understanding of where we can consolidate our teams, focus in on the content that is working, and achieve the right cost structure to support our multi-revenue model.”

Peretti added that he is “confident” that the layoffs would

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Microsoft Edge on mobile now includes a built-in fake news detector


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In 2019, we still don’t really know what to do about fake news. With nothing to disincentivize viral hyperpartisan headlines and other exercises in confirmation bias, online misinformation seems to run as rampant as ever. It’s a tricky problem, particularly because it’s one that requires the readers most drawn to too outrageous to be true news to challenge their beliefs. In other words, without some kind of technical solution or massive cultural shift, the fake news dilemma won’t be solving itself any time soon.

That being said, Microsoft’s mobile Edge browser is taking a modest swing at it. On Android and iOS, the Microsoft Edge app now installs with a built-in fake news detector called NewsGuard. The partnership is an extension of Microsoft’s Defending Democracy program, and NewsGuard for Edge was first announced earlier this month.

While NewsGuard isn’t on by default, anyone using Edge can enable it with

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