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Welcome to the July 26, 2019 edition of ACM TechNews, providing timely information for IT professionals three times a week.

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bear at computer, U.S. flag Russia Targeted 2016 State Elections with 'Unprecedented Level of Activity," Senate Intel Report Says
CBS News
Olivia Gazis
July 25, 2019

A report released by the Senate Intelligence Committee provided new information on the "unprecedented" Russian cyber activity targeting U.S. election infrastructure ahead of the 2016 presidential election, finding that election systems in all 50 states were targeted. The committee released its preliminary findings on election security in May last year, and will release four more final installments on other areas of focus. Russian intentions for U.S. election infrastructure "remain unclear," said the latest report, which confirmed the 2018 finding that no votes were changed and no voting machines were manipulated. "Russia might have intended to exploit vulnerabilities in election infrastructure during the 2016 elections and, for unknown reasons, decided not to execute those options," the report said. "Alternatively, Russia might have sought to gather information in the conduct of traditional espionage activities." The report called for, among other things, an "overarching cyber doctrine" to outline deterrent measures.

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University of Utah Ph.D. student Jacob George and associate professor Greg Clarke examine the “LUKE arm” Improved Prosthetic Hand Has Lighter Touch, Easy Grip
Luisa Torres
July 24, 2019

Researchers at the University of Utah (UT), the University of Chicago, and the Cleveland Clinic academic medical center have improved a commercially developed, three-dimensional printed robotic prosthetic arm, allowing an amputee to grasp his wife's hand and "feel" her touch. The research team adapted the "LUKE arm," named after the robotic hand the character Luke Skywalker received in the film The Empire Strikes Back, by implanting electrodes in some nerves in an amputee's forearm, then recording his brain signals when he thought about moving his hand to grab or touch an object. The researchers were able to restore the amputee's ability to "feel" what he was touching by providing stimuli through the electrodes implanted in his arm. Said UT's Jacob George, "We're tapping into the same [mechanism] that's used in ... everyone's body, and we're trying to just activate it in the way it would have normally been activated, so the sensations feel like they're coming from their hand."

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IBM Gives Cancer-Killing Drug AI Project to the Open Source Community
Charlie Osborne
July 22, 2019

IBM has released to the open source community three artificial intelligence (AI) projects designed to address the challenge of curing cancer. The projects, led by researchers at IBM's Computational Systems Biology Group in Switzerland, involve developing AI and machine learning approaches to help accelerate the understanding of the leading drivers and molecular mechanisms of different cancers. The first project, PaccMann, is working to develop an algorithm that can automatically analyze chemical compounds and predict which are most likely to overcome cancer strains. The second project, "Interaction Network infErence from vectoR representATions of words" (INtERAcT), aims to develop a tool that can automatically extract information from the thousands of papers published every year on cancer research. The third project, "pathway-induced multiple kernel learning," focuses on an algorithm that uses datasets describing what is currently known about molecular interactions to predict the prognosis of cancer patients.

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Brainport Smart District autumn harvest Smart Technology Will Transform Dutch Neighborhood
Kim Loohuis
July 24, 2019

The Brandevoort district of the city of Helmond in the Netherlands will host a pilot project for the design of future urban environments that rely on smart technologies for transportation, health, and energy. The neighborhood will be a testing ground for new products, services, and systems through the Brainport Smart District (BSD) project. BSD officials, in conjunction with colleagues at the Eindhoven University of Technology in the Netherlands, chose Brandevoort because it was already using some smart technologies, and has space for the construction of 1,500 homes and 12 hectares (nearly 30 acres) of business destinations. Said BSD director Peter Portheine, "We are striving for a new, smart neighborhood that does not further burden, pollute, or deplete our planet; a neighborhood that uses technology to add meaning to the lives of the people who use it or go to live in it."

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New Technology Sparks More Worry for Black, Hispanic Workers
Jeff Green
July 24, 2019

Black and Hispanic workers are more concerned about how they will be impacted by new technology in the workplace than white or Asian workers, according to a survey of 2,000 workers. The survey, whose data was analyzed by the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, also found that Black and Hispanic workers were less likely to say they saw efficiency gains from new technology than their white or Asian counterparts. Black and Hispanic employees also showed more support than Asian or white workers for a guaranteed basic income for people displaced by new technology. Respondents of all races agreed the federal government should take a leading role in preparing workers for the changes that come with new technology.

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Professor Thomas Bjorkman studies broccoli in a field Software Helps Plant Breeders Bring Out Their Best
Cornell Chronicle (NY)
Melanie Lefkowitz
July 19, 2019

Cornell University researchers have developed a software program based on a statistical method to standardize evaluations of broccoli, to make plant-breeding decisions more consistent and efficient. Breeders can use the open source RateRvaR software to select desired traits and ask multiple people to perform the same evaluation; the program analyzes that data to determine which traits are more or less important in predicting overall quality. The software also can identify traits that do not seem relevant to overall quality, so breeders can collect less data and still get accurate results. Said Cornell researcher Zachary Stansell, "This approach can standardize evaluations and make them faster and more efficient, and it can also reveal individual biases in how a human might respond to a particular variety of a vegetable or plant."

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Scientists conferring in front of turbulence fluid flow simulation screens. Supercomputers Use Graphics Processors to Solve Longstanding Turbulence Question
Imperial College London
Hayley Dunning
July 25, 2019

Researchers at Imperial College London in the U.K. have solved a longstanding question in turbulence—the seemingly random changes in velocity and pressure that occur when a fluid flows fast enough—using supercomputers running simulations on graphics processors originally developed for gaming. The researchers found a solution that allows them to check empirical models of turbulence against the "correct" answer, to determine how well they are describing what actually happens, or if that needs adjusting. The supercomputer-created simulations allowed the researchers to find the exact parameters describing how turbulence dissipates in the flow, and determined various requirements that empirical turbulence models must satisfy.

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A graphic depicting a lock and the word Ransomware Johannesburg Ransomware Attack Leaves City Without Power
Anthony Spadafora
July 25, 2029

South Africa's financial capital, Johannesburg, has been hit by a ransomware attack that left some of its residents without electricity. The database, internal network, Web apps, and official website of electrical provider City Power were all encrypted by the malware. The attack is preventing customers from buying electrical power units and selling them back into the grid, and blackouts have been reported across the city. The company reports it has had difficulties responding to reported blackouts in a timely fashion, since it has not been able to access its internal applications.

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A photo of RMIT University computer scientists (from left) Flora Salim, Nan Gao, and Wei Shao. Phone Movement Predicts Personality Types
Michael Quin
July 24, 2019

Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT) researchers in Australia used data from the accelerometers in mobile phone to predict users' personalities. The researchers found accelerometer data improved the accuracy of predicting people's personalities over previous methods using phone call and messaging activity logs. The researchers found people with consistent movements on weekday evenings were generally more introverted, while extroverts showed more random movements. The data also showed that agreeable people had more random activity patterns, and were busier on weekends and weekday evenings than others. Said RMIT researcher Nan Gao, "There are applications for this technology in social media with friend recommendations, online dating matches, and targeted advertising, but I think the most exciting part is what we can learn about ourselves."

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Experian Tests AI Platform to Improve Identity Verification
The Wall Street Journal
Jared Council
July 19, 2019

Researchers at the Experian credit-reporting firm are testing whether artificial intelligence (AI) can better validate consumer identities. A new AI platform, which the company expects to introduce in 2020, uses machine learning algorithms to assign an identity score to a person based on hundreds of elements. Experian is currently testing the platform in its U.S. financial services and marketing data business units. The AI platform also could be used to help retailers and brands learn more about who saw their ad campaigns and made purchases. Said Experian's Eric Haller, "The amount of information used to describe identity is only going to expand, so we want to make sure that the solution we develop can handle that expansion without human intervention."

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smart glove Smart Glove Uses Stretch-Sensing Tech for Highly Accurate Hand Gesture Capture
New Atlas
David Nield
July 24, 2019

Researchers at ETH Zurich in Switzerland have developed a glove that can capture hand movements with greater detail than most existing technologies. The researchers created a silicone compound in which 44 stretch sensors are embedded, combined with a soft fabric layer. A set of algorithms process sensor data from the gloved hand, which can capture movements even when holding an object. ETH Zurich researcher Oliver Glauser said this work "required expertise from various fields, including material science, fabrication, electrical engineering, computer graphics, and machine learning."

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