Weekly Roundup: Stories you might have missed (Aug 4)

It’s been a long week and there’s not always time to keep up with all the crazy things going on in the world. So we’ve put together a handy list of stories you might have missed for the week of August 4, 2017.

President Trump told to declare opioid crisis a state of emergency

The President’s Commission on Combating  Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis, established by President Trump on March 29, 2017 and chaired by New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, published it’s first report on Monday with recommendations for the president. After months of consultation with public health experts the Commission recommends that the president eliminate legal barriers to treatment facilities, imrpove access to medication-assisted treatment, proscription monitoring, and a crackdown on fentanyl. Among it’s most significant recommendations the report suggested that the president declare the crisis a state of emergency.

The report stated:

“Your declaration would empower your cabinet to take bold steps and would force Congress to focus on funding and empowering the Executive Branch even further to deal with this loss of life. It would also awaken every American to this simple fact: if this scourge has not found you or your family yet, without bold action by everyone, it soon will.”

Read the full report here.

Hackers proved US voting machines could be cracked in minutes

Hackers at this year’s DEF CON, an annual hacking conference in Las Vegas, Nevada, attempted to hack 30 electronic voting machines in a simulation of a national election. Participants were able to compromise the system within 90 minutes using techniques they say are readily available to foreign hackers. The machines used in the demonstration were purchased online or at government auctions – some of which are outdated, but still run similar programs as current voting systems.

IT news agency The Register reported that there were both physical and software flaws:

[T]he DEF CON Voting Village revealed a sorry state of affairs. Some were running very outdated and exploitable software – such as unpatched versions of OpenSSL and Windows XP and CE. Some had physical ports open that could be used to install malicious software to tamper with votes.

Read the full story here.

Turkey holds a mass trial of nearly 500 people for last year’s failed coup

Turkey’s state-run news agency Anadolu announced that a trail of 486 coup suspects had begun. On July 15, 2016 members of the military based at Akinci airbase made an attempt to overthrow the government which lasted late into the night but was quelled by forces loyal to the government by the early morning. The government alleged that the coup was organized by businessman Fethullah Gulen, who has lived in self-imposed exile in the United States since 1999. In the aftermath of the coup attempt, the government has become increasingly authoritarian cracking down on opposition and the press. The mass trail is the largest that modern Turkey has ever seen and was held in a hall built just for such cases.

Anadolu reported that the suspects are charged with various crimes including:

[A]ttempting to assassinate the president, trying to overthrow parliament, directing an armed terrorist group, damaging public property, endangering public safety, damaging houses of worship, and offenses against civil liberty.

Read the full story here.

Researchers launched a study into whether transgender identity is genetic


A new study on gender genetics has begun and will include, Vanderbilt University Medical Center, George Washington University, Boston Children’s Hospital, Vrije University in Amsterdam and the FIMABIS institute in Malaga, Spain. The study will compare the genetic traits of transgender individuals to those of individuals with varying gender identities looking at the complete set of DNA to discern any differences. Depending on the results, the study could provide scientific backing to the notion that transgender individuals have a genetic predisposition to their identity, though some have criticized the study saying it could lead to greater discrimination. Until now, research in this area has been limited to characteristics of the brain, which have discovered distinct differences, but with relatively small sample sizes due to the difficulty in gathering samples.

According to Reuters, the study will be conducted on:

[E]xtracted DNA from the blood samples of 10,000 people, 3,000 of them transgender and the rest non-transgender, or cisgender. The project is awaiting grant funding to begin the next phase: testing about 3 million markers, or variations, across the genome for all of the samples.

Read the full story here.

One of the internet’s foremost fact-checking websites fights for it’s survival

One of the internet’s most famous fact-checking websites is locked in a legal battle between its shareholders which could endanger the future of the company. Snopes.com has been a haven for fact-checkers since it launched in 1994 covering everything from celebrity gossip to political pronouncements in its investigative articles. After one of its co-founders, Barbara Mikkelson, sold her 50 percent stake in Snopes‘ parent company Bardav in 2015 advertising rights were given to it’s new shareholders from Silicon Valley based Proper Media. A range of lawsuits on both sides have launched a war withing the company as one side attempts to buy out Proper Media’s shares while the other wants to fire co-founder David Mikkelson. Meanwhile Proper Media has been withholding ad revenue from the website putting its operations in danger.

As Vox reported:

With these ongoing disputes awaiting resolution — the competing motions will all be heard in court this Friday, August 4 — Mikkelson has set up a GoFundMe campaign with a goal of raising $500,000 in an effort to ensure Snopes’s survival. The campaign has already been tremendously successful, with more than 23,000 supporters donating more than $665,000. But even with this infusion of cash, the website’s future remains murky.

Read the full story here.

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