The Daily Moth 5-15-17

May 15, 2017


Massive Cyberattacks Infect Computers Worldwide, Fraternity Brothers at Penn State Faces Criminal Charges for Pledge's Death, Syrian Prison Has Crematorium, Says U.S. State Department, and Deaf Bioethicist and Gallaudet Professor Discusses Human Gene Editing 




Hello, welcome to the Daily Moth! It is Monday, May 15. Hope your weekend was good. Ready for news? 




There have been huge cyberattacks last weekend that seized many computer systems in 150 different countries, mostly in Europe and Asia — on computers using Microsoft systems. 


The cyberattacks are different kinds of ransomware, which means it is a computer attack that will lock up access to your data until you pay. 


The first attacks started on Friday — a ransomware called “WannaCry” or “WannaCrypt” has locked up computers, telling people they had to pay $300 in Bitcoins in order get through. It will also spread itself to other computers. 


Many businesses, hospitals, and government agencies saw their computer systems compromised, including two huge companies — Hitachi in Japan and Renault in France. 


The hacking is made possible by taking advantage of a flaw, a “hole” in the Microsoft system’s programming. 


Microsoft has pointed the finger at the NSA National Security Agency for keeping tabs on vulnerabilities in Microsoft’s systems (possibly for their benefit for future spying) — and say they did not protect this information, allowing it to be stolen by hackers in April, who then used the vulnerabilities to create this ransomware. 


Microsoft said NSA did not let people know that this data was stolen. NSA has not yet commented about this. Microsoft also said they have put out a patch to cover this vulnerability, but many have not updated their systems. So if you have Microsoft, better update it if you haven’t already. 


There is now a big, international effort to try and find who is doing the attacks — as well as to fight the ransomware and disable it. 




At Penn State University (PSU) — in February — a college student, Timothy Piazza, died when he was pledging to become a member of the Beta Theta Pi fraternity. 


Timothy was a sophomore and during the frat event, he drank a lot of alcohol and fell down a 15-foot staircase, sustaining brain injuries that led to his death..

An investigation said frat brothers did not seek medical care for him — instead they apparently tried to do a cover-up. They googled the effects of intoxication and head injuries. Brothers fought against each other on what to do. One wanted to take Timothy to the hospital, but another said he was overdramatic. Brothers tried to slap him awake and even hit him in the stomach. 


Timothy was lying there, unconscious and injured, for 12 hours before they 911 for help in the morning, and when he was taken to the hospital, frat brothers did not tell of Timothy’s injury and did not notify his family.  


Timothy’s parents said doctors told them Timothy had a non-recoverable brain injury. He died two days later. The parents are grieving and disappointed at the university and at the fraternity.


PSU is an alcohol-free campus, but this is an alcohol-related event. 


8 frat brothers were charged with involuntary manslaughter and 18 brothers were charged with more than 1,000 various criminal counts. The fraternity is now permanently banned from PSU. 


There was surveillance video footage of the incident inside the frat house and it’ll be a part of evidence for court proceedings. 


Timothy’s parents say the frat brothers killed his son, treated him like a rag doll, like road kill. 




The U.S. State Department has issued a report that accuses the Syrian government of building and using a crematorium inside of a military prison to secretly get rid of thousands of bodies of prisoners they have executed inside. 


The report says at least 50 prisoners a day are killed, some in mass hangings, and that the killings are approved by leader al-Assad and without any opposition from allies Russia and Iran. 


The State Department released photos that say show evidence of the crematorium and got reports from human rights organizations. 


This is yet another terrible report coming from Syria. The civil war and international tensions around the country continues.




Remember when I did a report about an article written by a Gallaudet philosophy professor and bioethicist about human gene editing and it’s possible impact of eradicating Deaf people by “fixing” the mutant genes that cause deafness? 


The article was written by Dr. Teresa Blankmeyer Burke, who continues to be engaged in human editing summits. She recently gave a presentation at a gene editing meeting in April — challenging people to think why they would not want a deaf child and discussed Deaf people as being a part of biological and linguistic diversity. 


She recently led a “Bioethics and the Deaf Community” class where students discussed genetics issues and how it could impact the Deaf community. For their final project — they did a “case study” of what the future would look like if the genetic editing is effective and mandated by governments and health insurance companies. It is a very interesting discussion and it could become reality. You can read the case study and watch their ASL videos at the link in the transcript below. 


I did an interview with her when I visited Gallaudet. 


Here it is! 



Dr. Burke: Hi, I’m Dr. Teresa Blankmeyer Burke. I’m a professor here at Gallaudet. My Ph.D. is in Philosophy with a specialization in bioethics and I’ve worked here for 13 years. 


So now we have a group of scientists and a few ethicists with a specific perspective about deaf people and generally people with disabilities. Their perception is that we want to be fixed, that we want to be changed. Wait a minute…


Often their perspective, I don't mean all of them, but scientists working on genetics have a goal of making genetics “more normal.” But first, what does that mean, “more normal?” 


They say, “we want to help you.” I want help in support for breaking down barriers, but I don’t want you to help me by changing my body. It is my body, I’m fine with the way I am. 


Will science stop its progress if deaf people raise the issue? I think science will just keep on going. So what do we do? We could just do nothing, but that wouldn’t be appropriate. But how do we force or convince them to listen to us? 


For example, we know many hospitals have ethics meetings. They are required to have community members. How many community members in those meetings are Deaf? There are just a few. So if you have the opportunity to be involved yourself, contact the hospital and tell them when they have issues related to deaf people, to give them a list of recommend people to be included in those meetings, on how to include the perspectives of the deaf community. 


We can do what we need to do to get attention for the purpose of pausing technology before it continues to “eliminate” us. 


It is very important to recognize that my writings are about two different kinds of genetic editing. The first is with individuals -- for example, it it is me, or you, we can change your genetics, this is one person. But there’s also a potential to change my genes and my children’s genes and their children's genes for generations in the future. This is called, “germline gene editing.” This means you have two people, suppose you have two hearing people with one deaf kid and maybe they want to have a second kid and when (the mother is pregnant), they check the genes and it is a deaf embryo, they can change the genes so not only is the embryo turned hearing, but when it is born and becomes a person, it will never have a deaf child for generations forward. 


This changes the potential for hearing people to have deaf children, and we know here in the U.S., I don’t know the statistics for other countries, but here in the U.S., typically 90 to 94 percent of deaf people have hearing parents. what would the impact be on our community? How do we figure out what to do with this issue? Hearing people usually want to have a child like them. 


It is easy to feel overwhelmed. it is easy to feel overwhelmed and think, “I give up, I can’t change this.” But you don’t know because people have the power to change society. History is full of instances of change. Women got the right to vote. The south had the civil rights movement. 


We have so many different examples of people willing to stand up and resist. So I think we have more power than people would recognize, but we can’t just sit back. 



Alex: Wow, thank you for sharing, Dr. Burke. Clearly there are a lot of potential consequences to Deaf people, our language, and our culture with human gene editing. What do you think? 



Bioethics Class Case Study:


Gene Editing Session:




That is all for today. See you tomorrow and stay with the light! 




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