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The European Court of Justice has ruled the Safe Harbour agreement between the EU and US to be illegal. This has implications for how data is shared across the planet. But what does it really mean to you? Here's a short reading list:
A pact that helped the tech giants and others send personal data from the EU to the US has been ruled invalid.
The European Court of Justice said that the Safe Harbour agreement did not eliminate the need for local privacy watchdogs to check US firms were taking adequate data protection measures.
It added that the ruling meant Ireland's regulator now needed to decide whether Facebook's EU-to-US transfers should be suspended.
Businesses that relied on the Safe Harbour agreement for processing and storing their data in the US will need to rethink. Solutions could involve drafting new contractual agreements with users; encrypting US servers; or building EU-based servers. Companies will still be able to transfer data if they have the free and informed consent of users, and if it's in interest of the public or an individual.
This is the second ruling about data protection from an EU court in recent weeks. The first ruled that businesses had to comply with the laws of member-countries as well as those of the EU when processing data across nations. At the end of the year the EU is expected to roll out the block-wideEU Data Protection Reform that will override these national regulations -- and companies will have to rethink their policies all over again.
If Irish Data authorities restrict or ban data transfers on popularly used services such as Facebook or Gmail, those companies say that it will limit new services made available to EU users. That could mean if Facebook were to introduce, for example, new messaging services, EU-based users wouldn’t get them. It could also mean that the next big online service -- a Snapchat or a Pinterest -- may simply ignore the European market when launching.
Doping in rugby
Is rugby union the cleanest sport as far as performance-enhancing drugs goes? Up to a point, but the game will need to fight to maintain its record, says Gavin Williams:
Ho cites numerous reasons for this including an increased budget, the introduction of the athlete biological passport in 2014, and mandatory anti-doping education for players from under-20 level. The results appear to support Ho’s claim with only four positive tests from 2,100 elite samples taken in 2014 – less than one percent.
This however does not tell the full story. The timing of Ho’s proclamation coincided with the news that the 22-cap South Africa hooker, ‘Chiliboy’ Ralepelle, had been suspended for two years after testing positive for drostanolone, an anabolic steroid. And of course, some may argue that the lack of positive results simply indicates that elite athletes who choose to cheat are merely one step ahead.
Cancer discoveries in Brazil
The discovery of shared genetic mutation among South Americans might lead researchers to interesting new treatments for cancer:
Some 1,200 km to the south of São Paulo, Patricia Prolla – a fellow cancer geneticist working in Porto Alegre – was also seeing an unusual number of patients with Li–Fraumeni syndrome. And when these turned out to have the same p53 mutation as Achatz’s patients, Prolla and Hainaut resolved to find out how prevalent it might be in the general population. They tested blood from a large sample of apparently healthy women enrolled in a preventive breast screening programme at the Porto Alegre clinic and found, remarkably, that nearly one in 300 had the faulty p53 gene. This startling result was confirmed by a screening programme among nearly 200,000 newborn babies in the nearby state of Parana, where doctors had been finding especially high rates of adrenal gland cancer in small children. Again, it was linked to the same p53 mutation.
br />“That means that the population of south and south-eastern Brazil has an immense number of Li–Fraumeni carriers, probably more than 300,000,” says Achatz. “People are just not aware of this, so probably many cancers that are occurring in the population in general are due to this mutation and people just don’t realise.”
Some otters have purple bones. They really do:
Eating urchins can cause the bones and teeth of the sea otter (Enhydra lutris) to turn purple. This is likely due to their absorption of antioxidant polyhydroxynaphthoquinone pigments made by the urchins.
This week, for our start-up segment, we're visiting the smallest county in England (apart from the other ones with technical claims), Rutland. Yesterday, we started out in the small village of Empingham, but today we're going to an even smaller place - but one linked to two explosive episodes in British history. Stoke Dry.
Stoke Dry - or Drystoke, as it was originally - is home to just 39 people; it runs along an optimistically titled Main Street, past St Andrews church down to Eyebrook Reservoir. Both these locations are tied to great events.
The church, according to myth, was one of sites where the Gunpowder plot was pulled together. There's little evidence that any plotting actually took place in the church porch - it hangs mostly on Sir Everard Digby, scion of the local landowners, having been one of the plotters. It's not even clear how deeply connected with the plot Digby actually was. He was the only conspirator to hand himself over to the authorities when the plot was discovered; while held in the Tower of London he tried to put his case to James VI/I - leading some historians to suggest he was a naive dupe who was in over his head rather than a hardcore would-be regicide. Either way, he was still hanged, drawn and quartered for his treason.
More positive was the village's role in the Second World War. Eyebrook Reservoir was started in 1937, to provide water for Corby steelworks. By the time it was completed in 1940, it had moved from a business neccesity to part of the British war effort. But the reservoir didn't just play a role by helping make the steel which was made into planes and ships - in 1943, the reservoir was used a practice target for pilots who would fly the dambuster raids over Germany.
Obviously, the preparations were secret - and they weren't entirely popular with locals, who had two solid weeks of disturbed sleep as practice runs were made. The Leicester Mercury spoke to a resident of a nearby village in 2003:
“They used to come at dusk,” Great Easton villager Geoff Band, told the Mercury in 2003.
“They’d come over the village, circle round and have another go at the lake.
“They were so low, I said at the time they were going to hit the village’s church spire.
“The noise was quite something. The farmer I worked for said they were a damned nuisance. The bombers used to make the horses go mad at night. They’d go galloping off all over the field.”
The horses, though, would be calmed. And the interrupted nights were a small price to pay for a role in history.