Last fall, it came to light that researchers had infected 700 Guatemalan soldiers, prisoners, and mental patients with syphilis in a US Public Health Service study between 1946 and 1948. The American government apologized for these “abhorrent” practices, and promised to investigate what had happened. A White House bioethics commission released its report on the study this Tuesday—and as horrific as the experiments sounded initially, the full story is even worse.
What’s the News: America’s intelligence agencies are in the business of predicting the future, using limited amounts of information to divine world events. But even expert analysts and sophisticated algorithms can make mistakes.
That’s why IARPA—which takes on high-risk, high-reward research projects (read: awesome longshots) in US intelligence—is turning to crowdsourcing, reports Adam Rawnsley at Wired.com’s Danger Room. Applied Research Associates will launch an IARPA-backed website this Friday to test whether those of us without security clearances can point the clandestine services in the right direction.
Researchers sifted through a whole lot of AT&T mobile phone data to find out who’s talking to who—or, really, where’s talking to where. The Connected States of America, as the project is called, has produced some amazing maps showing clusters of communication, from the surprising—neighboring states like Oklahoma and Arkansas pair off, chatting mostly with each other—to the expected: the flood of continent-spanning calls between New York and San Francisco.
The internet can fit in here, thanks to a State Department-backed effort.
What’s the News: The US government is spearheading—and funding—projects to create “shadow” internet and mobile phone systems, the New York Times reported on Sunday. These systems would allow dissidents to share information and go online in areas where governments have cut off, censored, or severely slowed access to global internet and cellphone networks.
Virions from a smallpox vaccine
What’s the News: Global health officials are expected to decide whether to destroy the world’s last caches of smallpox at the 64th World Health Assembly this week. The disease was declared eradicated by the World Health Organization in 1979, but two small stores of the virus remain: one at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta and one in a Russian government lab.
Now, public health officials are divided on how to ensure that the disease stays eradicated. Some say our best bet is to keep the remaining samples of the virus safe and continue to study them, then destroy them at a later date; others say the safest course is to destroy them now, once and for all.