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Are We Being Suckered by Facebook Marketing Schemes?

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It sounds too good to be true.

Discredited for its inflated claims long before the Information Age, multilevel marketing has found fertile ground in social media.

There are more MLM firms, like clothing company LuLaRoe and the people selling That Crazy Wrap Thing, than ever before, looking much like old-school recruitment schemes populated by stay-at-home mothers looking for a flexible income source.

Many online sellers say their involvement is making them real friends and providing real support — even if most don’t make real money.    Source: The Atlantic

WhatsApp Photo Secures ‘Groundbreaking’ Conviction

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Fingerprinting is an “old-fashioned technique,“ says Dave Thomas of the South Wales police. Convicting a drug dealer on the basis of a partial fingerprint from a photo in a WhatsApp message, however, is groundbreaking stuff. The image of a hand holding ecstasy pills was the key evidence in a case that sent 11 members of a drug gang to prison. Thomas says that amid a stream of messages on the phone of a suspect, there was a “photograph of the hand holding pills that seemed like it was sent to potential customers saying ‘these are my wares, I’m selling these,‘“ the BBC reports.

The photo was sent to the force’s scientific unit and while there was no match on Britain’s national fingerprint database, it was enough to link 28-year-old Elliott Morris to the supply chain. He was sentenced to 8.5 years in prison after a raid that seized large quantities of ecstasy, cocaine, and marijuana, the Birmingham Mail reports. Thomas says it was the first conviction in Wales based on a fingerprint taken from a photo—and there are likely to be plenty more. “While the scale and quality of the photograph proved a challenge, the small bits were enough to prove he was the dealer,“ Thomas says. “It has now opened the floodgates and when there is part of a hand on a photograph, officers are sending them in.“

Mutant Enzyme Munches Plastic

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Some rare good news in the fight against plastic pollution: Scientists working with a plastic-eating microbe discovered in Japan two years ago accidentally created a mutant enzyme that sounds like an environmentalist’s dream, the Guardian reports. The enzyme breaks down the PET—polyethylene terephthalate—used in plastic bottles even more efficiently than the original microbe, which had evolved to eat the waste it encountered around an Osaka recycling plant. Researchers, who inadvertently improved the enzyme while investigating how it evolved, say the tweaks enable it to begin digesting plastic more quickly. It now takes just a few days to start breaking down plastic, and researcher say more tweaks could make the process super-fast, reducing both plastic waste and the need to create more plastic.

“What we are hoping to do is use this enzyme to turn this plastic back into its original components, so we can literally recycle it back to plastic,“ says lead researcher John McGeehan at the University of Portsmouth. “It means we won’t need to dig up any more oil and, fundamentally, it should reduce the amount of plastic in the environment.“ Experts not involved in the research say it sounds extremely promising, though it may be a while before the enzyme can be used as a large-scale solution to plastic pollution, reports the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. “Enzymes are non-toxic, biodegradable, and can be produced in large amounts by microorganisms,“ notes RMIT University chemistry expert Oliver Jones.

U.S., Britain Issue Unusually Strong Warning About Russia

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Two big developments in the arena of cyber security: First, the US and Britain issued a joint warning, and an unusually strong one at that, about Russia. Second, the White House is losing its well-regarded “cyber czar,“ along with his boss. On the first development, the New York Times reports that the US and Britain put out a “first-of-its-kind” warning that Russian operators have infiltrated government, corporate, and private computer systems, either to steal information or to lay the groundwork for future thefts or attacks. The idea is not only to warn systems operators to improve their defenses but to send a message to the Kremlin that cyber attacks will bring real consequences.

“When we see malicious cyberattacks, whether from the Kremlin or other nation-state actors, we are going to push back,“ says Rob Joyce, cybersecurity coordinator for the National Security Council, and that includes “all elements of US power.“ Which leads to the second development: Joyce himself is leaving his “cyber czar” position to return to the National Security Agency, reports the Washington Post. His departure comes after that of his boss, homeland security adviser Tom Bossert, who was widely seen as forced out by new national security adviser John Bolton. The departures leave “the administration without two trusted voices on one of the most important challenges the US faces going forward,“ writes Brian Barrett at Wired.

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