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U.S. body brokers supply world with tons of limbs, torsos and heads

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PORTLAND, Oregon – On July 20, a Hong Kong-flagged cargo ship departed Charleston, South Carolina, carrying thousands of containers. One of them held a lucrative commodity: body parts from dozens of dead Americans.

According to the manifest, the shipment bound for Europe included about 6,000 pounds of human remains valued at $67,204. To keep the merchandise from spoiling, the container’s temperature was set to 5 degrees Fahrenheit.

The body parts came from a Portland business called MedCure Inc. A so-called body broker, MedCure profits by dissecting the bodies of altruistic donors and sending the parts to medical training and research companies.

MedCure sells or leases about 10,000 body parts from U.S. donors annually, shipping about 20 percent of them overseas, internal corporate and manifest records show. In addition to bulk cargo shipments to the Netherlands, where MedCure operates a distribution hub, the Oregon company has exported body parts to at least 22 other countries by plane or truck, the records show.

Among the parts: a pelvis and legs to a university in Malaysia; feet to medical device companies in Brazil and Turkey; and heads to hospitals in Slovenia and the United Arab Emirates.

Demand for body parts from America — torsos, knees and heads — is high in countries where religious traditions or laws prohibit the dissection of the dead. Unlike many developed nations, the United States largely does not regulate the sale of donated body parts, allowing entrepreneurs such as MedCure to expand exports rapidly during the last decade.

No other nation has an industry that can provide as convenient and reliable a supply of body parts.

Since 2008, Reuters found, U.S. body brokers have exported parts to at least 45 countries, including Italy, Israel, Mexico, China, Venezuela and Saudi Arabia. Whole bodies are studied at Caribbean-based medical schools. Plastic surgeons in Germany use heads from dead Americans to practice new techniques. Thousands of parts are shipped overseas annually; a precise number cannot be calculated because no agency tracks industry exports.

Most donor consent forms, including those from MedCure, authorize brokers to dissect bodies and ship parts internationally. Even so, some relatives of the dead said they did not realize that the remains of a loved one might be dismembered and sent to the far reaches of the globe.

“There are people who wouldn’t necessarily mind where the specimens were sent if they were fully informed,” said Brandi Schmitt, who directs the University of California system’s anatomical donation program. “But clearly there are plenty of donors that do mind and that don’t feel like they’re getting enough information.”

MedCure shipments are now the subject of a federal investigation. In November, the Federal Bureau of Investigation raided the company’s Portland headquarters. Though the search warrant remains sealed, people familiar with the matter say it relates in part to overseas shipping.

MedCure is cooperating with the investigation, said its lawyer, Jeffrey Edelson. He declined to comment on the FBI raid, but said: “MedCure is committed to meeting and exceeding the highest standards in the industry. It takes very seriously its obligation to not only deliver safe specimens securely, but to do it in a way that respects the donors.”

Edelson also said MedCure “partners with government and industry agencies to follow and exceed requirements for shipping human tissue,” and that “shipping handlers, drivers and carriers are specially trained for the safe handling and transportation of human specimens.”

INFECTED PARTS AT THE BORDER

As a Reuters series last year revealed, the body donation industry is so lightly regulated in the United States that almost anyone can legally buy, sell or lease body parts.

Although no federal law expressly regulates the body trade, there is one situation in which the U.S. government does exercise oversight: when body parts leave or enter the country. Border agents have the authority to ensure that the parts are not infected with contagious diseases and are properly shipped.

This authority played a leading role in the government securing a conviction last month of Detroit broker Arthur Rathburn, who stored body parts in grisly, unsanitary conditions, according to trial testimony. The FBI began to focus intently on Rathburn’s business, International Biological Inc, after repeated border stops in which he was found ferrying human heads, court records show.

The jury found that Rathburn defrauded customers by supplying body parts infected with HIV and hepatitis.

“The fraud scheme orchestrated by IBI shocked even the most experienced of our investigative team,” said FBI special-agent-in-charge David Gelios. Even in death, Gelios said in a statement after the verdict, donors were “victimized as IBI intentionally and recklessly marketed and transported contaminated human remains… Personal greed overcame decency.”

Rathburn was also convicted of transporting hazardous materials — the head of someone who had died of bacterial sepsis and aspiration pneumonia. The transportation conviction underscored the U.S. government’s growing concern about shipments of body parts that might endanger public health, officials said.

Martin Cetron, director of Global Migration and Quarantine for the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, said that when brokers dissect a body that is infected, there is added risk of transferring that disease to anyone who handles the parts.

“In the case of saws (used) to cut bones or limbs, there may be additional procedures that could potentially turn a fluid into an aerosol that could be inhaled and be communicable,” Cetron said.

A Reuters review of government records shows that border agents intercepted body parts suspected to be infected at least 75 times between 2008 and 2017. Border agents pay more attention to goods entering the country than those departing, and virtually all of the intercepted shipments were remains of American donors whose body parts were being returned to United States. Typically, body parts are returned to America for three reasons: to comply with foreign laws on final disposition; when cremation is not available in the foreign country; or when a U.S. broker intends to reuse the parts.

In 2016 and 2017, for example, federal agents stopped shipments being returned to MedCure at the border, law enforcement records show. The body parts they stopped included torsos carrying infectious biological agents that cause sepsis, a body’s extreme response to infection. At least one carried the life-threatening MRSA bacteria, the records show.

For more than a year, records show, U.S. officials and some body brokers have disagreed over whether the presence of sepsis in a corpse — without further information about a person’s cause of death —poses enough of a risk to warrant special packaging and warning labels.

“Sepsis itself is not a disease diagnosis but it raises a red flag,” said Cetron, the CDC official. The pathogen that caused sepsis, he said, “could be a bacteria, could be Ebola, could be salmonella, could be E. coli.” That’s why further documentation, including a death certificate, must accompany any body part imported into the United States, he said.

The CDC has an exemption intended to allow for shipping blood and other lab testing samples. Reuters found dozens of examples of brokers labeling customs manifests and packages with a version of the term “exempt human specimen” to ship body parts.

“I think that’s a deceptive practice,” Cetron said. “If they are human remains, part or in whole — heads, arms, limbs, etc. — they are not exempted.”

Several brokers said the government should clarify the rules — whether the CDC’s or those of other regulatory entities. They cited, for example, a U.S. Department of Transportation regulation that, they believe, exempts body parts. Transportation officials declined to comment on their regulations.

Alyssa Harrison, executive director of Oklahoma-based broker United Tissue Network, said most in her industry want to follow the law. But, she added, “there are many guidelines that are unclear and or contradictory to other department’s regulations.”

The disconnect between what the industry and government believe is dangerous, and what precautions are required by law, should be resolved, said Matthew Zahn, chairman of the public health committee for the Infectious Diseases Society of America, a group that represents doctors, researchers and other health professionals.        

“It’s a situation where we don’t have a huge amount of regulation or clarity as to what the risks are,” Zahn said. “It feels like one of those cracks in the system where a practice has developed and the risk factors and oversight have not fully matured.”

EXPORTING AMERICANS

MedCure, founded in 2005, describes itself, as do most body brokers, as a non-transplant tissue bank. It has distribution hubs and surgical training centers near Portland, Oregon; Las Vegas; and Providence, Rhode Island. The company also has distribution hubs near Orlando and St Louis.

When MedCure donors die, the cadavers are transported to one of these five U.S. hubs. According to former employees, MedCure deploys a temperature-controlled truck to carry body parts between the five facilities.

MedCure began shipping cadavers and body parts overseas as individual orders, one by one, and largely by airplane. The former employees said the company later calculated that it could increase profits by shipping bulk quantities of body parts to Europe, and distributing them from there.

In 2012, MedCure opened its European hub in Amsterdam. Since then, MedCure has sent to the Netherlands at least six refrigerated cargo containers filled with frozen human remains, manifest records show. The first container — 40 feet long, 8 feet wide, 9.5 feet tall — departed the Port of Tacoma in Washington state in July 2012. The body parts weighed about 5,000 pounds (2,268 kg) and were valued at $259,210.

MedCure continued to export via truck and plane as well — for example, shoulders to a hospital in Mexico, knees to a surgical training center in Taiwan and a head to a university in Chile. The shipments are detailed in internal MedCure documents and in data from two companies that collect trade manifests: Descartes Datamyne of Ontario, Canada, and PIERS, a unit of IHS Markit Maritime & Trade, based in London.

One reason foreign doctors and researchers rely on U.S. companies for body parts: Their nations restrict the dissection, sale and distribution of donated cadavers.

In many nations, certain sects of religions – from Judaism to Islam to Taoism — frown upon separating the bodies of the dead into parts. Huang Yi-Ling, who worked in Singapore for a medical device manufacturer, said that importing body parts from the United States avoids “conflict with donor intent” in regard to religion.

“MedCure makes donor tissue available for researchers and teaching facilities even in places where religious and cultural norms discourage body donation,” said Edelson, the MedCure lawyer.

Holger Gassner, director of the Finesse Center for Facial Plastic Surgery in Regensburg, Germany, said he began importing body parts from the United States in 2009 because he couldn’t obtain the volume of heads he needed locally for medical conferences. He also said most German anatomy departments use formalin to preserve bodies; MedCure supplies fresh body parts, which are more useful for teaching.

“You have to practice on human tissue in order to become a good or better surgeon,” Gassner said. “There’s no alternative.”

Gassner described MedCure as “very reputable” and noted that it sent an inspector to Germany to approve his facilities. “At the end of the day,” he said, “this has been a very positive thing for us and for the university.”

“SERIOUS WORRY”

The FBI search of MedCure in November is part of a national investigation by the bureau of body brokers, many of whom did business with each other.

MedCure, for example, was among the brokers who supplied Rathburn, the Detroit businessman convicted last month. MedCure was not accused of supplying any body parts at issue in the Rathburn trial.

A different Rathburn supplier, Steve Gore of Phoenix, pleaded guilty to providing customers with infected body parts. A Reuters report in December described how Gore’s business used construction saws to dismember donated bodies and employed an untrained intern to rip out cadavers’ fingernails with pliers.

In early 2016, authorities stopped nine torsos that were being returned from Vancouver, Canada, to MedCure in the United States. According to U.S. government records reviewed by Reuters, some torsos were infected with sepsis. At least one had MRSA, methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus.

Border officials in both countries struggled to verify the identities of the torsos and how they were used. The records show that officials determined that a Vancouver-area bioskills seminar to which the torsos were purportedly sent did not exist.

Canadian and U.S. officials said they do not comment on specific cases. Edelson, the MedCure lawyer, said the government's account is inaccurate and “the training course was a legitimate medical program.” He said the company does not sell or rent out human remains infected with HIV or hepatitis, and that body parts with other “non-contagious conditions are shipped overseas only with the permission of the CDC, including CDC permit, proper labeling and packaging and full disclosure” to its foreign clients.

In January 2017, another shipment being returned to MedCure from Hong Kong was stopped at the U.S. border. This one contained six torsos with legs. MedCure had sent the body parts to the Orthopaedic Learning Centre at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, which trains surgeons.

The specimens were used to test the biomechanics of a knee implant procedure, including the impact of the technique on muscles connecting to the pelvis and femur, said the center’s director, Jack Chun Yiu Cheng. The doctor would not disclose which company or individual had organized the workshop.

Reuters reviewed a copy of the MedCure medical summary accompanying the specimens noting that two of them carried sepsis, including one from a donor who died in part from  “septic shock.” When asked about the summaries, Cheng said there was not enough information provided to determine what caused the septic shock, but he said that he would not have used the body parts himself.

“I would have serious worry,” Cheng said.

Any training workshop carries risk, he said. But going forward, the doctor said, the training center will probably reject torsos with sepsis, “or at least discuss it directly with the workshop leader, not just send them the forms.”

Edelson, the MedCure lawyer, said the company discloses appropriate medical information. He added, “Recipients are medical professionals who are expected to use basic safety precautions when handling any human tissue, including wearing gloves, masks and scrub suits.”

READING THE FINE PRINT

Some donor relatives said they were disappointed to learn their loved one’s parts were sent overseas.

“I should have read the fine print,” said Marie Gallegos, whose husband’s head was shipped to a dental school in Israel months after he died of a heart attack in May 2017.

Six hours after he died, she said, an employee from Donate Network of Arizona called to discuss body donation. The employee promised the body would advance medical research and be treated with dignity, Gallegos said.

She recalled signing two consent forms, one for Donate Network and one for the company she was told would handle the cremation, United Tissue Network. The UTN form authorized use of her husband’s body parts “both domestically and internationally.”

Later that summer, UTN delivered her husband’s ashes, which she buried at a veterans’ gravesite. She said she did not realize the ashes represented only a portion of her husband’s remains. UTN still had his head and in the fall shipped it to the Tel Aviv dental school.

“Had I known that my husband’s head was over there, I would have waited to have the ceremony,” she said. “If they really wanted my husband’s body for these purposes, they should have told me upfront and verbally.”

Donor Network declined to comment about this case. UTN executive director Alyssa Harrison said, “We make it very clear for families to understand our whole process before deciding to donate.”

HEADS IN LIMBO

If not for the keen eye of a Phoenix airport worker, Marie Gallegos might not have learned what became of her husband’s remains.

On November 1, as Daniel Gallegos’ head and the heads of six other donors were returning from Israel to UTN in Arizona for cremation, someone noticed a discrepancy on the shipping documents. According to records reviewed by Reuters, the shipping manifest described the contents as “electronics” valued at $10 each. A label on the coffin-sized package described the contents as human remains.

Government records show that border officials were troubled that the package appeared punctured and a strong smell was wafting from the box. They also demanded death certificates to ensure that the specimens were disease-free, records show. One of the donors, records show, carried staphylococcus aureus, an infection the CDC website says poses a potentially serious risk to healthcare workers.

After officials stopped the package in Arizona, documents reviewed by Reuters show, UTN employees disagreed with border authorities about whether the package was damaged or death certificates were required. It took three weeks to resolve the dispute, according to the documents. The government then released the heads and they were cremated.

UTN’s Harrison told Reuters the electronics designation was “human error” and the package was sent in a leak-proof container. She disputed the government’s contention that further documentation should have accompanied the shipment, arguing that “a diagnosis of sepsis in the clinical setting does not confer any specific risk.”

Harrison said UTN and the freight company followed all laws and regulations covering the export and import of human medical specimens.

“The CDC should not have gotten involved,” she said.

Milli Raviv, whose Tel Aviv-based International Dental Studies center leased the heads from UTN, said her school maintains “high standards” to protect students.

On shipping documents, Raviv was listed as the contact person in Israel for shipping the heads back to UTN’s Phoenix office.  Even so, the dentist professed ignorance about why the package was mislabeled.

“No idea about shipping,” she said.

Additional reporting by Clare Baldwin in Hong Kong and Brian Grow in Atlanta.

The Body Trade

By John Shiffman and Reade Levinson

Graphics: Christine Chan and Wen Foo

Photo editing: Steve McKinley

Design: Jeff Magness

Edited by Blake Morrison 

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satadru
2 hours ago
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It's unconscionable that families aren't getting a major cut of the proceeds of the sale of body parts from their loved ones. Also, I wonder how many people would be marking their bodies for donation if they knew the bodies were being sold abroad to countries where religions don't allow dissections of bodies of people who have died there.
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Thoughts and Prayers and NRA Funding

jwz
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Since the New York Times seems to specialize in bemused puff-piece profiles of nazis these days, it always surprises me when it gets its head out of its butt and does actual data-driven reporting, like this incredibly long calendar-based infographic full of un-checked checkboxes:

What Congress Has Accomplished Since the Sandy Hook Massacre:

More than five years have passed since the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, where 20 children and six adults were killed. In that time, dozens of gun control proposals have been introduced in Congress attempting to fix glaring issues with gun safety and regulation. More than 1,600 mass shootings have taken place in America since then.

Here is a guide to what Congress has -- or, more accurately, has not -- accomplished during this time.

Or this, from a few months ago:

Thoughts and Prayers and NRA Funding:

Most Americans support stronger gun laws -- laws that would reduce deaths. But Republicans in Congress stand in the way. [...] Below are the top 10 career recipients of N.R.A. funding -- through donations or spending to benefit the candidate -- among both current House and Senate members, along with their statements about the Las Vegas massacre. These representatives have a lot to say about it. All the while, they refuse to do anything to avoid the next massacre.

  1. John McCain, Ariz. -- "Cindy & I are praying for the victims of the terrible #LasVegasShooting & their families." $7,740,521

  2. Richard Burr, N.C. -- "My heart is with the people of Las Vegas and their first responders today. This morning's tragic violence has absolutely no place here in America." $6,986,620

  3. Roy Blunt, Mo. -- "Saddened by the tragic loss of life in #LasVegas. My thoughts are with all of the families affected by this horrific attack." $4,551,146

  4. Thom Tillis, N.C. -- "Susan and I send our deepest condolences and prayers to the families of the victims of this horrific and senseless tragedy in Las Vegas." $4,418,012

  5. Cory Gardner, Co. -- "My family and I are praying for the families of those injured and killed in Las Vegas last night." $3,879,064

  6. Marco Rubio, Fla. -- "I'm praying for all the victims, their families, and our first responders in the #LasVegas #MandalayBay shooting." $3,303,355

  7. Joni Ernst, Iowa -- "My prayers are with all of the victims in Las Vegas, and their loved ones affected by this senseless act of violence." $3,124,273

  8. Rob Portman, Ohio -- "Jane & I mourn the loss of innocent lives in this horrific attack in Las Vegas last night. We are praying for those taken from us, their families & all those injured in this attack." $3,061,941

  9. Todd Young, Ind. -- "We must offer our full support to the victims and their families as our nation mourns." $2,896,732

  10. Bill Cassidy, La. -- "Following closely the horrendous act of violence in Las Vegas. Our prayers are with those who were injured, killed and their families." $2,861,047

Previously, previously, previously.

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satadru
2 hours ago
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macOS may lose data on APFS-formatted disk images | Carbon Copy Cloner

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This week we reported to Apple a serious flaw in macOS that can lead to data loss when using an APFS-formatted disk image. Until Apple issues a macOS update that resolves this problem, we're dropping support for APFS-formatted disk images.

Note: What I describe below applies to APFS sparse disk images only — ordinary APFS volumes (e.g. your SSD startup disk) are not affected by this problem. While the underlying problem here is very serious, this is not likely to be a widespread problem, and will be most applicable to a small subset of backups. Disk images are not used for most backup task activity, they are generally only applicable when making backups to network volumes. If you make backups to network volumes, read on to learn more.


Disk images are handy devices. They're files, but they act like a hard drive – you mount a disk image by double-clicking the file, then it behaves like it's another hard drive attached to your Mac. macOS has been using disk images for decades, and we find them particularly useful when making backups to network volumes. By formatting the disk image volume using an Apple-native format, we can do things like back up system files.

Naturally, when Apple introduced APFS in macOS High Sierra, we sought to offer support for using APFS on destination disk images when doing so would match the format of the source volume. As far as creating and mounting disk images is concerned, APFS and HFS+ are easily interchangeable, so adding support for APFS was very straightforward. Unnoticed by us, Apple, and thousands of developers, however, is a very subtle behavioral difference that is specific to APFS on a sparse disk image.

Earlier this week I noticed that an APFS-formatted sparsebundle disk image volume showed ample free space, despite that the underlying disk was completely full. Curious, I copied a video file to the disk image volume to see what would happen. The whole file copied without error! I opened the file, verified that the video played back start to finish, checksummed the file – as far as I could tell, the file was intact and whole on the disk image. When I unmounted and remounted the disk image, however, the video was corrupted. If you've ever lost data, you know the kick-in-the-gut feeling that would have ensued. Thankfully, I was just running some tests and the file that disappeared was just test data. Taking a closer look, I discovered two bugs in macOS's "diskimages-helper" service that lead to this result.

An APFS volume's free space doesn't reflect a smaller amount of free space on the underlying disk

In the past with HFS+ formatted disk images, the disk image volume would automatically adjust its free space to accommodate any differences between the disk image volume's capacity and the actual amount of free space on the underlying disk. So for example, if you had created a disk image with a capacity of 500GB on a 500GB network volume, but then you added 400GB of stuff to the network volume outside of the disk image, now there's only 100GB of space for stuff on the disk image. Accordingly, when you mount the disk image, it would report its own disk usage as 400GB and its free space as 100GB (even if there is literally nothing on the disk image volume). The math always felt weird, but the result was right – the disk image can't practically accommodate more than 100GB of data, so the free space should reflect that. This behavior is documented in Apple's hdiutil man page:

To prevent errors when a filesystem inside of a sparse image has more free space than the volume holding the sparse image, HFS+ volumes inside sparse images will report an amount of free space slightly less than the amount of free space on the volume on which image resides.

This behavior has been a known quantity for many, many years. HFS+ still performs this adjustment on High Sierra, so it does not appear to be a regression, rather just an oversight that is specific to APFS.

If this were the only bug, however, this issue would be just an annoyance. The larger issue occurs when any application tries to write more data to the disk image volume than the underlying disk can accommodate.

The diskimages-helper application doesn't report errors when write requests fail to grow the disk image

The diskimages-helper application works quietly in the background, responding to filesystem requests made to the disk image volume. It's essentially a broker, or middle-man. There's a disk image file on disk, but applications don't interact directly with the file, they need to interact with a filesystem. So the diskimages-helper application presents a filesystem interface on top of that disk image file. When you make a write request to a mounted disk image volume, the request goes to the diskimages-helper application, which translates that request into changes to the disk image file.

When you initially create a "sparse" disk image file, that file is very small, e.g. <100MB. It's just large enough to hold some pre-allocated space for the filesystem structures. As you copy files to the disk image volume, the file grows. Herein lies the bug. Following the earlier example, suppose you attempt to copy 200GB of data to that 500GB disk image file. This shouldn't be possible, because there was only 100GB of free space left on the underlying disk. The APFS disk image reports that there's 500GB of free space available, though, so what the heck, let's do this! The first 100GB of data does successfully get written into the disk image file – the disk image file has grown now to 100GB. But now the underlying disk is completely full, and the disk image file can no longer grow – the diskimages-helper application is getting "No space left on device" errors when trying to write data to its band files. At this point, you'd think that the diskimages-helper application would do one of the following:

  • Report a "No space left on device" error to the process making the write request
  • Refuse additional write requests – sorry, no more space
  • Unmount the disk image – we have to stop this insanity
  • Quit – please, just stop pretending to do something that you're not actually doing!
  • Panic the kernel – we're writing data into a VOID, STOP!

Alas, none of those things happen (and no, it should never panic the kernel, but writing to the void is equally unreasonable). diskimages-helper continues to accept writes, and the application asking to write the data continues to send data, eventually completing with apparent success.

The final illusion

After files failed to actually make it to a physical disk somewhere, you'd think (hope?) that perhaps, at least, the file would appear smaller on the disk image. This is probably the most alarming part of this bug – because the filesystem structures are stored on a section of pre-allocated space on the underlying disk, the diskimages-helper application has no trouble updating filesystem metadata. So file size, modification date, permissions, etc – all of those attributes are fine. In yet another bizarre twist, we found that many times a truncated file would even validate a checksum test. Presumably the diskimages-helper retains some of the file data in RAM, because again, the data never made it to the underlying disk. This part is perhaps the hardest to explain in text, so I created a video to demonstrate the problem:

Proactively avoiding data loss

CCC creates and uses disk images when you select "New disk image..." from the Destination selector. Starting in CCC 5.0.4 and up to CCC 5.0.8, CCC will automatically create an APFS-formatted disk image if the source is an APFS-formatted volume. Today we're posting an update to CCC (5.0.9) that will revoke support for creating APFS-formatted disk images. Additionally, if you have a task that is currently backing up to an APFS-formatted disk image, CCC will issue a warning when that task completes indicating that APFS-formatted disk images are no longer supported by CCC. This will not prevent you from using an APFS-formatted disk image, and indeed, if your underlying destination is not overly full, there's no need for panic here. Nevertheless, disk images eventually fill up, so our recommendation to our users will be to migrate away from an APFS-formatted disk image at your earliest convenience.

What should the average user do?

The average CCC user will be unaffected by this APFS shortcoming. CCC 4 users are completely unaffected; users not yet on High Sierra are unaffected. Our usage statistics indicate that less than 7% of CCC backup tasks leverage a sparse disk image, and of those, less than 12% are APFS-formatted. We recommend that CCC 5 users update to 5.0.9, and then make a brief review of your backup tasks – open CCC and select each task, and read the task plan. If the task is configured to back up to a disk image, it will plainly state that, e.g.:

CCC will copy selected items from Macintosh HD into a disk image at Macintosh HD.sparsebundle on NAS Backup.

If you do have a task that is configured to back up to a sparsebundle or sparseimage disk image, hover your mouse over the source icon. A tooltip will indicate how the source volume is formatted. If your source's filesystem is APFS, then your destination disk image might be formatted as APFS as well. When you run that backup task, CCC will update the disk image as usual, and then when the task completes, CCC will issue an error if that disk image is formatted as APFS. If you see that warning, we recommend deleting the destination disk image at your earliest convenience. Again, if the underlying destination is not very full and has never been near capacity (e.g. if it has always had more than 50GB of free space), then there's no reason to be alarmed and you can remove the destination disk image on a weekend or at night when you have ample time to allow CCC to recreate an HFS+ formatted disk image. If your underlying disk has ever filled up to capacity, though, you should delete the disk image and allow CCC to replace it with an HFS+ formatted disk image.

Note: Disk images that end with a .dmg suffix are not affected by this problem. The storage for dmg disk image files is pre-allocated when those files are created, so their storage space is guaranteed. CCC specifically does still provide support for APFS formatted dmg files.

Is this a problem specific to CCC?

No, this problem will affect any application that writes to APFS-formatted sparse disk images that reside on a full or nearly-full disk. I tested this scenario with copies via the Terminal application, Finder copies, and even exported a file from QuickTime. In every case, the application that was copying or creating the file was completely unaware that any problem had occurred when writing the data to disk. In the QuickTime case, I was able to immediately open the exported file and play it start to finish. After ejecting and remounting the disk image, QuickTime qouldn't open the file. The core of this problem resides in macOS's diskimages-helper application and can only be resolved by an update to macOS.

Until Apple resolves this disk images bug, we strongly recommend that people avoid using APFS-formatted sparse disk images for any purpose with any application.

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satadru
8 hours ago
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Trust Apple with version 1.0 of their new file system they said! It will be better they said! (Also I guess we're pretty lucky that Apple keeps Time Machine from using APFS disk images.)
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German Olympians Drink a Lot of (Nonalcoholic) Beer, and Win a Lot of Gold Medals

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Scherr conducted a double-blind study which he gave runners in the 2009 Munich Marathon nonalcoholic beer every day for three weeks before and two weeks after the race. These runners suffered significantly less inflammation and fewer upper respiratory infections after the race than runners who had been given a placebo.

“This was pretty surprising to us,” said Scherr, who published the results in the peer-reviewed journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise.

If nonalcoholic beer helped athletes recover more quickly from grueling workouts, then it could allow them to train harder. Scherr credits the nonalcoholic beer’s salubrious effects to its high concentration of polyphenols, immune-boosting chemicals from the plants with which its brewed.

“After that, we really had the proof: It’s really healthy and not only a marketing gag,” said Holger Eichele, the chief executive of the German Brewers Association. From 2011 to 2016, German consumption of nonalcoholic beer grew 43 percent even as overall beer consumption declined, according to Euromonitor International. New brewing techniques helped to diversify and improve the flavor, and now there are more than 400 nonalcoholic beers on the market in Germany. Germans drink more nonalcoholic beer than any nation, except Iran.

“It tastes good, and it’s good for the body,” Linus Strasser, an Alpine skier from Munich, said on Sunday after finishing his second run in the men’s giant slalom. “Alcohol-free wheat beer, for example, is extremely healthy. It’s isotonic. That’s why it’s good for us sports guys.”

Many breweries market their nonalcoholic beers explicitly as sports drinks. The Bavarian brewery Erdinger, for instance, calls its nonalcoholic wheat beer “the isotonic thirst quencher for athletes” and advertises it with the motto, “100% Performance. 100% Regeneration.” Heineken promotes its nonalcoholic beer Heineken 0.0 with lines like, “There is no limit to what the human body can achieve,” and recently struck a deal to sell Heineken 0.0 in the vending machines at McFit Fitness, Germany’s largest chain of gyms. At most major German marathons, nonalcoholic beer is available to runners at the finish line. Erdinger handed out 30,000 bottles at the Berlin Marathon last year.

Sales have been helped by the fact that traditional sports beverages, like Gatorade, are not particularly popular in Germany. Nonalcoholic beer has a lower sugar content compared with many sports drinks, and Germans drank three times as much nonalcoholic beer as they did sports drinks in 2016.

Moritz Geisreiter, a German speedskater, said he drank nonalcoholic beer from the grocery store before switching to a specialized sports beverage designed by a nutritionist. “It’s a nice solution for someone who doesn’t want to pay dozens of euros a week for a nutrition drink,” he said last week at the Olympic skating oval in Gangneung, South Korea.

Scherr doesn’t prescribe nonalcoholic beer to the German Olympic skiers. Most of them are Bavarian and drink it on their own. He usually recommends that athletes drink a nonalcoholic beer after exercise, but a 2016 study by Chilean researchers in the peer-reviewed journal Nutrients also found that nonalcoholic beer before a workout helped soccer players stay hydrated compared to regular beer and water. Scherr also believes it benefits most endurance athletes and may be less helpful in sprint or strength-based competitions, where inflammation is less of a problem.

Despite its demonstrated benefits, nonalcoholic beer has been slower to catch on with athletes from other countries. When the Ethiopian runner Guye Adola finished second at last year’s Berlin Marathon, setting the record for the fastest-ever marathon debut, he did not take a sip from the enormous mug of Erdinger nonalcoholic beer that was handed to him when he finished.

“I was scared that it might contain alcohol and I didn’t want to add to my fatigue,” he said in an email. “In our country, we don’t have such stuff at the finish line.”

Of course, at the finish line, after months of training, many German athletes crave something with a kick — which is why Krombacher also shipped 11,000 liters of regular beer to South Korea.

“Sometimes an alcoholic beer can also be good,” Strasser said with a smile.

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satadru
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The First Step Toward a Personal Memory Maker?

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What exactly does it mean that scientists are truly beginning to understand the biology of memory well enough to manipulate it? Which reaction is appropriate: the futurist’s, or the curmudgeon’s?

The only honest answer at this stage is both.

The developers of the new implant, led by scientists at the University of Pennsylvania and Thomas Jefferson University, built on decades of work decoding brain signals, using the most advanced techniques of machine learning.

Their implant, in fact, constitutes an array of electrodes embedded deep in the brain that monitor electrical activity and, like a pacemaker, deliver a stimulating pulse only when needed — when the brain is lagging as it tries to store new information.

When the brain is functioning well, the apparatus remains quiet.

“We all have good days and bad days, times when we’re foggy or when we’re sharp,” said Michael Kahana, a psychology professor at the University of Pennsylvania and senior author of last week’s report.

“We found that jostling the system when it’s in a low-functioning state can jump it to a high-functioning one.”

If this system, once refined, one day provides support for people with extreme deficits, it will sharply improve lives (insurers willing). The older person with creeping dementia will have more years living independently. The veteran with traumatic brain injury may regain just enough sharpness to find a decent job, or a career.

For most everyone else, the central discovery behind the device — that goosing a wandering brain can make it somewhat sharper — is already deeply familiar. Human beings have been doing this deliberately, and forever: with caffeine, nicotine, prescription drugs like Ritalin, or more virtuously, with a brisk run around the park.

“We have good evidence that things like nicotine and aerobic exercise improve some aspects of attention,” said Zach Hambrick, a professor of psychology at Michigan State University. “The stimulation may be activating some of the same systems, only more directly and precisely.”

One such ability that people with extraordinarily precise memory have in common is known as selective attention, or “attentional control.” In a common measure of this, the Stroop test, people see words flash on a computer screen and name the color in which a word is presented.

Answering is nearly instantaneous when the color and the word are the same — “blue” displayed in blue — but slower when there’s no match, like “blue” displayed in red. The men and women who compete in memory competitions score very highly on such tests and often do so well into their thirties, when the ability is typically on the wane.

This skill is partly inherited, but psychologists have shown that just about anyone can stretch his or her native ability using the same technique that the memory champs do: mentally arranging new names, facts or words in a deeply familiar place — along subway stops, for example, or in a childhood room.

In one continuing study, researchers at Washington University in St. Louis trained a group of 50 older adult volunteers to memorize word lists using location imagery — a so-called memory palace.

“One woman in her sixties got to where she could recall more than 100 words in correct order,” said David Balota, who collaborated on the study. “Others were well up to fifty and sixty words.”

And all without surgery, or Ritalin.

But there was a catch. “That ability didn’t transfer to any improvement in general cognition, like the ability to concentrate, to store new information without using the technique, or speed of processing,” Dr. Balota said.

In short, ramping up the ability to recall lists of facts, whether with use of an electric brain implant or imagery-based training, may mean nothing for overall quality of life in people whose memories are functioning normally.

It is in those with serious deficits that the equation changes.

A device that even partly corrects those injuries might keep crucial details — whom to call for help, how to use the phone, even navigating back and forth to the bathroom — firmly lodged in mind. For now, that is where a brain implant is most relevant.

In the years to come, scientists are likely to turn this new technology to the task of memory retrieval, rather than just storage.

“We find there’s even more variability during retrieval than encoding,” Dr. Kahana said — meaning more potential to ramp up performance. When that happens, the game changes.

Giving people with serious deficits a way to master the crucial facets of daily existence would certainly be a medical advance.

But giving them, and others, a more vivid and deeper reach into the vast pool of what they already know — well, there are angels and demons buried there, in addition to facts and names.

That will be a real-life screenplay we should all watch carefully.

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doi: 10.1038/s41467-017-02753-0
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$50K Judgment Awarded Against NYC Nightclub Security Firm for Groping During “Security Search”

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Default Judgment against Ward Security Inc.A year ago yesterday, I filed suit against now-defunct New York nightclub “Flash Factory” and their security firm “Ward Security Inc.” (of New York, no apparent relation to same-name security firms in Florida and England) for an invasive door search policy that involved full-hand grabbing of the genitals of male attendees and inside-the-bra searches for female attendees, all with no advanced warning of the nature of the search.  A girlfriend and I were shocked to encounter their “actually worse than TSA” pat-down on the way into a music event in December 2016 and were groped before we had a chance to refuse consent.  A search of the Internet showed at least a dozen complaints about this by others and they refused our attempts to try and settle the matter with a policy change, so we took it to the courthouse.

Last week, N.Y. Supreme Court Judge Gerald Lebovits awarded my co-plaintiff and I a default judgment of $50,000 against Ward Security after they refused to show up in court despite repeated service and notice.  The order, dated January 11th, 2018 but entered on February 8th, 2018, thanks to the efficiency of the New York court system, further orders that the case continue against Flash Factory itself, which has shown up to court and appears to be using the, “it’s not our fault what our own security did” defense.  As I previously posted, this defense simply doesn’t work, even if you call your security “independent contractors” and shut your eyes to what they do.  It doubly doesn’t work when you’re on notice that a dozen other people have complained about the same thing.

Our goal is to get these practices to stop, and the only tool at our disposal is a request for money damages, as an order requiring them to stop would require us to show potential future harm to us.  But, money damages have the same effect, as once one party gets a judgment, the company knows that if it doesn’t stop, it will have more of the same.

“I’m thankful for this partial victory. It’s good to know that someone is listening to us, but we’re not done fighting by any means. These practices have to change, and venues like Flash Factory need to know that.”

~ Elise Domyan, Co-Plaintiff

A word to the wise: if your business gets sued and has any assets, including accounts receivable (that is, it’s still doing any business whatsoever), ignoring a lawsuit is a bad way to go.  New York law allows a process for collection against businesses similar to the garnishment of wages against individuals, whereby I can require Ward Security’s clients to withhold payment for services, but the process against a business requires them to withhold 100% of the pay instead of a fraction as they do in wage garnishment.  Security firms are also required to post a surety bond at the time they apply for a license — I’ll be taking that, thank you very much.

Corbett & Domyan v. Flash Factory – Default Judgment Granted against Ward Security, Inc. (.pdf)





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satadru
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