German prosecutors open homicide case after hacker attack on hospital leaves woman dead

Manitoba-based insurance and financial services company Andrew Agencies said it had been involved in a "ransomware incident" but provided few details publicly. (Joyseulay/Shutterstock) German prosecutors opened a homicide investigation on Friday into the case of a patient who died after a hospital in the western city of Duesseldorf was unable to admit her because its systems had been knocked out by a cyber attack. The female patient, suffering from a life-threatening illness, had to be turned away on the night of Sept. 11, by the city's University Clinic and died after the ambulance carrying her was diverted to Wuppertal, 30 km away. Prosecutor Christoph Hebbecker, head of the cybercrime unit in Cologne, said he had opened an investigation into negligent homicide against unknown persons, the Kolner-Stadtanzeiger daily reported. Hebbecker could not be reached for comment. If the investigation leads to a prosecution, it would be the first confirmed case in which a person has died as the direct consequence of a cyber attack. The University Clinic in Duesseldorf, capital of Germany's most populous state of North Rhine-Westphalia, was hit by a ransomware attack on Sept. 10 that penetrated its systems via a flaw in a Citrix VPN system. If confirmed, this tragedy would be the first case I know of, anywhere in the world, where the death of a human life can be linked in any way to a cyberattack- Arne Schoenbohm, head of Germany's cyber-security agency The hospital's IT operations remain affected and it is still unable to admit patients brought in by ambulance, it said on Friday. Germany's cyber-security agency, the Federal Office for Information Security, was called in to shore up the hospital's systems. Its chief, Arne Schoenbohm, said the Citrix flaw had been known about since Dec. 2019 and called on healthcare facilities not to delay IT security upgrades. "I can only urge you not to ignore or postpone such warnings but to take appropriate action immediately," Schoenbohm said in a statement. "This incident shows once again how seriously this danger must be taken." Ciaran Martin, who stepped down as the head of Britain's National Cyber Security Centre this month, said the incident could be prove to be first death caused by a cyberattack. "If confirmed, this tragedy would be the first case I know of, anywhere in the world, where the death of a human life can be linked in any way to a cyberattack," he told an event in London.

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World's largest fish are females

A whale shark (Rhincodon typus) swims in the Caribbean Sea in Isla Mujeres July 14, 2011. Males were found to grow slightly more quickly than females, plateauing at around 8 metres at age 30. Females plateaued at around 14 metres when they reached sexual maturity at about age 50. (Victor Ruiz Garcia/REUTERS) Male and female whale sharks — filter-feeding marine behemoths — grow at different rates, with females doing so more slowly but getting much larger than the guys, according to research that offers deeper insight into the biology of Earth's largest fish. Researchers said on Wednesday they had tracked the growth of 54 whale sharks over a 10-year period in the vast Ningaloo Reef off Australia's west coast, where hundreds of these slow-swimming endangered fish migrate annually. Whale sharks of both sexes were found to have their fastest growth as juveniles, about 20 to 30 centimetres annually. Overall, males were found to grow slightly more quickly than females, plateauing at around 8 metres long after reaching sexual maturity at about 30 years old. Females plateaued at around 14 metres when they reached sexual maturity at about age 50. A scuba diver swims near a whale shark as it approaches a paddleboat off the beach of Tan-awan, Oslob, in the southern Philippines island of Cebu, March 1 2013. It is believed whale sharks may live 100 to 150 years. The longest-known whale shark reached about 18 metres. (David Loh/REUTERS) It is believed whale sharks may live 100 to 150 years. The longest-known whale shark reached about 18 metres. "Whale sharks are remarkable in that females have massive litters of pups, up to 300 at one time. Being very large is almost certainly a prerequisite for carrying this many young inside a female's body," said Australian Institute of Marine Science marine biologist Mark Meekan, who led the research published the journal Frontiers in Marine Science. These sharks have a brownish-grayish color on the back and sides with white spots, with a white underside. "Our study provides the first evidence that male and female whale sharks grow at different rates," Meekan said. "Previously, researchers had to rely on estimates of growth and age extracted from the vertebrae of dead sharks that had either stranded on shore or been killed by a fishery. Samples were very limited and didn't cover a very wide size range of animals, confounding attempts to produce reliable estimates of growth patterns." They are filter feeders, swimming great distances through the world's tropical oceans to find enough plankton to sustain themselves. "Our study has important implications for conservation," Meekan said. "If it takes many years, 30 or more, for these animals to become mature, there are lots of threats such as hunting and ship-strike that they may succumb to before they get a chance to breed, making conservation strategies for these animals an urgent task."

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Crackdown on QAnon conspiracy content is working, Twitter says

A man in the crowd holds a QAnon sign at a Donald Trump rally at the Las Vegas Convention Center on Feb. 21. Measures to crackdown on content related to the conspiracy theory are working, Twitter said Thursday. (Patrick Fallon/Reuters) Twitter said Thursday it has reduced impressions on QAnon-related tweets by more than 50 per cent through its "work to deamplify content and accounts" associated with the conspiracy theory. In July, the social media company said it would stop recommending QAnon content and accounts in a crackdown it expected would affect about 150,000 accounts. QAnon is a fringe group that claims "deep-state" traitors are plotting against U.S. President Donald Trump. It has also claimed that Democratic Party members are behind international crime rings. Last year, the FBI issued a warning about "conspiracy theory-driven domestic extremists" and designated QAnon as a potential domestic extremist threat. In a blog post on Thursday, Twitter laid out how it assesses groups and content for harmful activity, saying it must find evidence that individuals associated with a group or campaign are engaged in some kind of co-ordination that may harm others. In July, we began removing Tweets associated with QAnon from Trends and recommendations and not highlighting them in conversations and Search. Impressions on this content dropped by more than 50%, decreasing the amount of unhealthy and harmful content on timelines. (2/3) —@TwitterSupport The company said this co-ordination could be technical — for example, an individual operating multiple accounts to tweet the same message — or social, such as using a messaging app to organize many people to tweet at the same time. LISTEN QAnon gains ground ahead of 2020 U.S election Twitter said it prohibits all forms of technical co-ordination, but for social co-ordination to break its rules, there must be evidence of physical or psychological harm, or 'informational' harm caused by false or misleading content. Facebook has also cracked down on QAnon content. Last month it removed nearly 800 QAnon conspiracy groups for posts celebrating violence, showing intent to use weapons, or attracting followers with patterns of violent behaviour.

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A big chunk of Greenland's ice cap has broken off

In this image proved by the European Space Agency, ESA, showing the glacier section that broke off the fjord called Nioghalvfjerdsfjorden, bottom, which is roughly 80 kilometers (50 miles) long and 20 kilometers (12 miles) wide, the National Geological Survey of Denmark and Greenland said Monday Sept. 14, 2020. (European Space Agency via AP) A big chunk of Greenland's ice cap, estimated to be some 110 square kilometres (42.3 square miles), has broken off in the far north east Arctic which scientists say is evidence of rapid climate change. The glacier section broke off the fjord called Nioghalvfjerdsfjorden, which is roughly 80 kilometres (50 miles) long and 20 kilometres (12 miles) wide, the National Geological Survey of Denmark and Greenland said Monday. The glacier is at the end of the Northeast Greenland Ice Stream, where it flows off land and into the ocean. Annual end-of-melt-season changes for the Arctic's largest ice shelf in Northeast Greenland are measured by optical satellite imagery, the survey known as GEUS said. It shows that the area losses for the past two years each exceeded 50 square kilometres (19 square miles). The ice shelf has lost 160 square kilometres (62 square miles), an area nearly twice that of Manhattan Island, New York, since 1999. "We should be very concerned about what appears to be progressive disintegration at the Arctic's largest remaining ice shelf," said GEUS professor Jason Box. "Another massive chunk of vital sea ice has fallen into the ocean," said Greenpeace spokeswoman Laura Meller who is aboard the organization's ship Arctic Sunrise at the edge of the sea ice. "This is yet another alarm bell being rung by the climate crisis in a rapidly heating Arctic." Last week, Ruth Mottram, an ice scientist at the Danish Meteorological Institute in Copenhagen, said, "again this year, the ice sheet has lost more ice than has been added in the form of snow." "What is thought-provoking is that if we ... had seen this meltdown 30 years ago, we would have called it extreme. So in recent years, we have become accustomed to a high meltdown." In August, a study showed that Greenland lost a record amount of ice during an extra-warm 2019, with the melt massive enough to cover California in more than 1.25 metres (4 feet) of water.

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What's behind the 'unprecedented' wildfires ravaging California

Monstrous wildfires tearing through California have so far killed at least a dozen people, destroyed some 4,000 structures and burned more than 12,500 square kilometres (more than double the area of Prince Edward Island), breaking records as the worst fire season in the state's history. "This is an unprecedented event," said Noah Diffenbaugh, professor and senior fellow at Stanford University in California, who has been studying fire risk in California. "We now have the largest wildfire in the state's history, as well as the third largest and the fourth largest and five of the Top 10." He said they've all started in the past three and a half weeks. The North Complex Fire in northern California, which broke out on Aug. 17 following lightning strikes, has become the largest wildfire in state history. So what's behind this disaster? Diffenbaugh said there are multiple contributors behind any individual fire, including ignition from lightning or humans and the availability of dry fuel to feed the flames. But research over the past 15 years shows that climate change has drastically amplified the risk of many conditions that help wildfires ignite and spread. "We now have very strong evidence from those years of research that global warming is, in fact, increasing the odds of unprecedented extremes," Diffenbaugh said. A tree is engulfed in flames during the Creek Fire in Tollhouse, Calif., on Sept. 8. The wildfire began four days earlier in the Sierra National Forest. The North Complex Fire, which broke out on Aug. 17, is now the largest wildfire in California's history. (Stephen Lam/Reuters) In a study published in the journal Environmental Research Letters in August, Diffenbaugh and his colleagues reported that the number of days with high fire risk in California have doubled since the early 1980s, as climate change increased average temperatures by about 1 C and autumn precipitation declined by 30 per cent. Higher temperatures lead to earlier snowmelt, a longer fire season and drier vegetation, especially by August and September. That higher risk has contributed to a tenfold increase in the area burned in the western part of the United States over the past four decades, Diffenbaugh said. WATCH | Scientist says climate change contributes to scale, intensity of wildfires: Climate change contributes to the scale and intensity of the wildfires on the West Coast, says climate scientist Peter Gleick. 4:37 Not only are fires more frequent, but they're growing more quickly, he said. "The brave men and women on the ground who are fighting these fires are describing a rate of spread that is unprecedented in their years of experience," he said, noting that the record-breaking North Complex Fire ripped across 32 kilometres in one night. WATCH | Wildfires devastate portions of western United States: More than 200 wildfires tearing through western U.S. have killed at least eight people and caused catastrophic damage. 1:45 The research also suggests that this year's new records will soon be broken by even more extreme wildfire seasons. "If global warming continues along its current trajectory, we're very likely to experience dramatic intensification — doubling, even tripling of the frequency of occurrence of these extreme wildfire weather conditions," Diffenbaugh said. Western Canada faces fiery future, too Those conditions are not unique to California, as devastating wildfires are also burning in Oregon and Washington state. "We have quite a bit of evidence that this global warming is increasing the risk not only in California and the western United States, but also in Western Canada," Diffenbaugh said. Western Canada has had a slow wildfire season so far this year after some record seasons in recent years, including one whose destructiveness has been directly linked to climate change. However, after more than 70 wildfires broke out in southern B.C. over two days in August, officials warned that sustained hot, dry weather could lead to more, and fire bans were imposed across a wide swath of Alberta. Simon Donner, a climate scientist and professor of geography at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, noted that, in fact, Canada is warming at about double the world's average rate. "And so that means more extreme heat and ... more extreme fire weather conditions." On average, wildfires in Canada have been burning 2.5 million hectares a year (nearly half the area of Nova Scotia) — double the 1970s average. B.C. and Alberta have been bearing the brunt of that increase, according to Environment and Climate Change Canada. Natural Resources Canada estimates the cost of managing wildfires has been rising by about $120 million per decade since 1970, to an annual cost of up to $1 billion in recent years. How scientists make a direct link to climate change But while climate change is upping the risk factors for extreme fires, is it directly to blame for the destructiveness of the blazes in California right now? That may take a few weeks to determine, using a scientific technique called "event attribution science." It uses modelling to determine how likely a given event would be with or without human-caused climate change. Donner said that type of analysis wasn't possible 20 years ago, but it can now be completed within days or weeks. "Given advances really in computer modelling and partly just the speed of computers, this work can be done faster and faster," he said. The technique has recently shown that climate change:  WATCH | San Francisco skies turn orange from wildfires: Area residents capture video along the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge as the city's skies are blanketed with smog and debris from wildfires throughout the state. 0:45 How to reduce the risk So what can be done to reduce the mounting destruction from wildfires in both Canada and the U.S.?  Researchers acknowledge that climate isn't the only factor, and others risks can be reduced. For example, suppressing too many small fires may allow fuel to accumulate, resulting in bigger fires, so techniques such as controlled burns and less aggressive fire suppression in some areas may help.  Donner said how responsible people are when they're out in the forest (humans cause about 55 per cent of fires in Canada) and land-use planning, such as deciding how close to forests buildings should be erected, also play a role. People can also adapt to higher fire risk in other ways, such as building homes with more fire-resistant materials and keeping flammable materials away from their home. But Donner said reducing climate change is key. "We need to do everything we can to reduce greenhouse gas emissions," he said. "It's going to keep warming until we stop emitting greenhouse gases. And so this will keep getting worse." Diffenbaugh said given the current strain on California's emergency response system, we are "clearly not adapted to the global warming that's already happened." He added, "Becoming resilient will require catching up with the climate change that we're already living with and getting ahead of the climate change that is to come." WATCH | Scorching wildfires tear through parts of California: Thousands of firefighters are battling uncontrolled fires on many fronts, forcing emergency rescues and power shutdowns 1:11

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