Pakistan offers to share nuclear technology with Bangladesh

Pakistan's High Commissioner to Bangladesh Alamgir Babar on Monday said that his country was ready to share nuclear technology for civilian purposes to help tackle the massive energy crisis, The Times of India reports. Babar said discussions over the matter could take place within the parameters of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), even though Pakistan is not a part of it, adding that Bangladesh is a signatory to NPT. Meanwhile, Foreign Adviser Iftekhar A Chowdhury recently discussed nuclear energy cooperation with Russia and China after the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) had cleared Bangladesh to use nuclear power for civilian use (The Times of India, 5/20/08).

New York tech college, U.S. army partner for anti-terrorism research

The University at Albany's College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering is partnering with the U.S. Army Research Laboratory (ARL) in Maryland to develop new technologies to improve anti-terrorism efforts, The Business Review (Albany) reports. Under the partnership, called the "Center for National Nanotechnology Innovation & Commercialization," researchers also will create technology to improve the overall safety and efficiency of equipment and uniforms worn by soldiers stationed in the field. Officials note the research will start in the next two weeks, and will likely take place periodically to jive with the Army's research schedule ( The Business Review (Albany), 5/20/08).

Code analysis indicates open source software quality, security improving

Tech analysis group Coverity on Tuesday released a code analysis report suggesting that the quality and security of open source software continues to improve, InfoWorld reports. In its "Scan Report on Open Source Software 2008," Coverity across two years analyzed more than 55 million lines of code on a recurring basis from more than 250 open source projects. Overall, Coverity found that open source developers are interested in code quality and are taking efforts to make it better and more secure, officials said. Among other findings, the analysis suggests that the quality and security of open source software is improving; specific defects are more prevalent, including "null pointer reference" as the most common defect and "user before test" as the least common; and there has been a 16 percent reduction in overall static analysis defect density, reflecting the elimination of more than 8,500 individual defects (Krill, InfoWorld, 5/20/08).

Google rolls out Web-based personal health record to consumers

Google on Monday launched its much anticipated Web-based personal health record (PHR) system, which enables consumers to upload, store and manage medical records from a variety of sources, the New York Times reports. Under the new password-protected service, available at www.google.com/health, users can create an online health profile by culling medical records information imported from organizations such as pharmacies and lab testing companies, as well as personal information on medical history or drug allergies. In addition to connecting users with online research about health conditions and notifying them about potential drug interactions or other safety risks through a “virtual pillbox” feature, the site also directs consumers to links for physician searches, major U.S. pharmacies, medical groups, and other health information. Moreover, customers through the site can schedule appointments, refill prescriptions, receive online diagnostic test results and add their physicians’ e-mail addresses to their contact lists. Thus far, more than two dozen partners and institutions are participating in the Google Health initiative, including Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, CVS Caremark, the American Heart Association and Walgreens. Meanwhile, the company in February also announced it had forged deals with Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, health insurer Aetna, medical testing company Quest Diagnostics, Wal-Mart and several others (Lohr, Times, 5/20/08; Metz, Associated Press, 5/20/08; Auchard/Beck, Reuters, 5/19/08; Vascellaro, Wall Street Journal 5/20/08 [subscription required]). 

NASA device helps detect biohazards

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has developed a nanotechnology-based biosensor that can detect trace amounts of biohazards, United Press International reports. Developed at the NASA's Ames Research Center in California, the device can detect specific bacteria, viruses and parasites. NASA said the biosensor will be used to help prevent the spread of potentially deadly biohazards in water, food and other contaminated sources. According to the chief scientist for exploration technology and former director of the Center for Nanotechnology at Ames, "the biosensor makes use of ultra-sensitive carbon nanotubes which can detect biohazards at very low levels." Researchers add that, "when biohazards are present, the biosensor generates an electrical signal, which is used to determine the presence and concentration levels of specific micro-organisms in the sample. Because of their tiny size, millions of nanotubes can fit on a single biosensor chip." Early Warning officials, who received the license for the technology, said food and beverage companies, water agencies, industrial plants, hospitals and airlines could use the biosensor to prevent outbreaks of illnesses caused by pathogens -- and do so without needing a laboratory or technicians (UPI, 5/20/08).

Online game aims to discredit myths, raise HIV/AIDS awareness

The New York Times on Monday profiled a new Internet game, called Pos or Not, that aims to increase HIV/AIDS education and awareness. Launched in late April by mtvU, MTV's college network, and the Kaiser Family Foundation, the Web site features a matching game in which users are asked to determine based on photographs and short biographies of men and women ages 21 to 30 which ones are HIV-positive. According to the Times, the "message is that you can't judge someone's virus status by looks, occupation or taste in music." mtvU officials note that the game was played about 5.1 million times by 400,000 people during its first three weeks (Stelter, New York Times, 5/19/08).

British government drafts law to track citizens' electronic communications for security

The U.K. government is preparing new telecommunications legislation, which would update the current law to allow authorities to obtain communications data it says is essential for counter-terrorism purposes and investigating crime, IDG News Service reports. Ultimately, industry and security groups say the U.K. government wants to track every phone call, e-mail, and web site visit made in the country. According to local media reports, the new law would include a measure calling for the creation of a central database containing information about citizens' electronic communications. Meanwhile, a statement from the Home Office says that full details of the government's plans will be released later this year, but ministers have made no decision on whether a central database will be in that draft bill (Ricknas, IDG News Service/CIO, 5/20/08).

Nanotech companies may make radioactive sensors obsolete

The EE Times today reported that two tech companies have discovered that "green" smoke-alarm ionizers using field-emission from nanotubes instead of radioactive isotopes could eliminate a source of dirty-bomb material. Applied Nanotech Inc. in Texas and Sionex Corp. in Massachusetts both earned a U.S. Small Business Innovation Research contract sponsored by the Homeland Security Advanced Research Projects Agency and say they have proven in principle that carbon nanotube emitters can perform all the necessary ionization and identification steps without the use of radioactive materials. Under the contract, the companies are working to produce a small, safe, high-performance sensor using electron field emission from carbon nanotube arrays instead the ionizing alpha rays from radioactive isotopes. According to the Times, the companies' joint-development effort aims to "provide a safe, inexpensive, high-performance alternative method of ionizing samples by using carbon nanotube emitters integrated into air-flow passages ahead of a differential mobility spectrometer" (Johnson, EE Times, 5/20/08).

British national EHR system delayed at least four years

According to a National Audit Office report released Friday, England's National Health Service will not fully introduce its planned nationwide electronic health record system (EHR) until 2014 or 2015, four years later than planned, the Press Association reports. The report found "serious delays" in disseminating the software to NHS trusts as part of the £12.7 billion (roughly $24.7 billion) National Program for IT. According to the report, the original timeline, which projected EHR project completion by 2010, was unachievable, raised expectations and "put confidence in the program at risk." Specifically, the IT program involves rolling out an EHR system for 50 million patients and linking more than 30,000 general practitioners, deploying an online "choose and book" system for hospital appointments, electronic prescriptions, and network links between NHS organizations. Despite the delays, the report found the EHR project still is on budget and Tim Burr, head of the NAO notes that the project is progressing " and financial savings and other benefits are beginning to emerge" (Press Association, 5/16/08; Collins, Computer Weekly, 5/16/08; BBC News, 5/15/08).

U.S., German researchers studying new off-line hacking tools

German and U.S. researchers have developed two new techniques that tap cameras and telescopes for stealing data from a computer, IDG News Service reports. In separate studies, teams at the University of California-Santa Barbara (UC) and at Saarland University in Saarbrucken, Germany, describe attacks that manipulate data gleaned from off-line techniques. The UC team, for instance, has developed a method to analyze a video of hands typing on a keyboard in order to estimate what the user was typing. Specifically, the UC researchers' Clear Shot tool can analyze video of hand movements on a computer keyboard and transcribe them into text. However, researchers say the software is accurate roughly 40 percent of the time, but clear enough to offer the general aspects of information being typed. In Saarbrucken, meanwhile, researchers have read computer screens from tiny reflections on everyday objects such as glasses and teapots. Currently, the Saarland researchers are developing new image analysis algorithms and training astronomical cameras on their subjects in hopes of gaining better images from even more difficult surfaces such as the human eye. For example, thus far they have aimed their telescopes and cameras at a white wall and garnered readable reflections from a monitor 2 meters from the wall (McMillan, IDG News Service/InfoWorld, 5/19/08). 

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