E-voting followup: Vendors and county officials push back

Late last week, the California Secretary of State released the results of a five-week ‘Red Team’ study of three voting systems used in the state. A team lead by UC Davis professor Matt Bishop found that they could bypass all the security devices on the machines, so that vote totals could be manipulated or voter information disclosed.

Secretary Bowen held a public hearing on the report yesterday. I guess it’s not surprising that the manufacturers of these systems would push back.

Sequoia, in a statement read by systems sales executive Steven Bennett, called the UC review “an unrealistic, worst-case-scenario evaluation.”

Law professors’ blogs

Via Concurring Opinions, I just found a bunch of blogs run by UC Davis law professors.

Kevin Johnson, Bill Hing and Jennifer Chacon are running the ImmigrationProf blog, part of the LawProfessorBlogs network.

Anupam Chander has his own blog about globalization, “digitization” and culture. He also contributes to Law School Innovation, another member of the LawProfessorBlogs group, a blog about innovations in law school teaching methods.

Diane Marie Amann contributes to the (rather pink) IntLawGrrls blog, which describes itself as “voices about international law, policy, practice.” Amann blogs there under the pseudonym of ‘Grace O’Malley.’

Will new rules for biotech help GM livestock to market?

The Food and Drug Administration is finally getting around to drafting regulations that would allow genetically modified meat and milk to enter the U.S. food supply, the New York Times reports.

Companies and biotech researchers actually welcome the prospect of firm rules, because it would encourage investment after years of delay.

“Right now, it’s very hard to get any corporate investment,” said James D. Murray, a professor at the University of California, Davis, who developed the goats with the infection-fighting milk. “What studies do you need to do? What are they looking for?” he said, referring to government regulators. “That stuff’s not there.”

Steroid medications don’t work for viral lung infections in kids

A large study by a network of pediatric hospitals, including UC Davis Medical Center, found that steroids were no more effective than placebo in treating bronchiolitis in infants admitted to hospital.

Bronchiolitis can be caused by viral infections deep in the lung. A common cause in children is Respiratory Syncytial Virus or RSV. It is the number one cause for hospitalization of infants in the U.S..


San Diego-based FlexPetz offers a “shared pet ownership experience.” For a fee or two, members can get regular visits from a dog, complete with bowl, pre-measured food and GPS-enabled collar. Then when the weekend is over and it’s time to go to work, Rover goes off to another client.

Melissa Bain, a veterinarian with the Companion Animal Behavior Program at the University of California, Davis, said she had concerns but no hard-and-fast objections to a service like FlexPetz.

“It depends on the people and it depends on the animal,” Bain said. “Some dogs may be fine and some may become stressed because they are moving from home to home.”

Report finds gaps in voting system security

California Secretary of State Debra Bowen has released the first set of reports from her “Top to Bottom Review” of voting systems. Part of the review was a “Red Team” exercise lead by Matt Bishop of UC Davis. The Red Team’s task was to act like bad guys and find ways into the machines.

The teams did find potentially serious security flaws in all three voting systems tested, allowing them to bypass both physical and software security. A summary of the Red Team report is available here.

Leave immigration to the feds, says law professor

A town ordinance in Hazleton, Pennsylvania that put restrictions on undocumented immigrants has been thrown out by a federal judge, who ruled out that towns have neither the right to interfere with federal law, nor the ability to take away people’s constitutional rights.

Kevin Johnson, a UC Davis law professor who studies immigration and civil rights issues, tells the Houston Chronicle that he is not surprised.

“Local governments can’t regulate immigration, and the Hazleton ordinance was an effort to punish the undocumented and that’s not the role of the state government,” Johnson said. “I think the precedent is pretty clear.”

Itch gene found, separate pathway from pain?

Researchers at Washington University in St Louis have found a gene for itchiness in mice. Mice lacking the gene, which makes a protein found in spinal cord cells, responded normally to painful stimulation but did not respond to itchy sensations by scratching.

“I think it’s a really interesting, possibly breakthrough kind of report,” said itch expert Earl Carstens, a professor of neurobiology at the University of California at Davis.

“It suggests that there must be a separate itch-producing pathway.”

The paper is published online today by the journal Nature.

Big squid back off California

A study from the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute says that Humboldt squid (Dosidicus gigas) have expanded their range north into Monterey Bay, where they are eating their way through the Pacific hake fishery (also known as Pacific whiting).

Humboldt squid are not exactly giant — they can get to be about seven feet long — but they are fast, voracious predators.

The expansion does coincide with warming waters off Northern California, but as the squid often feed in very deep water where the temperature is more stable, the growth in numbers may have more to do with overfishing of their main predators in the Pacific, such as tuna, marlin and sailfish.

LA Times: Toyota, UC campuses to test plug-in hybrid cars

UC Berkeley and UC Irvine are going to test plug-in hybrid Toyota Priuses (What’s the plural of Prius? Priae? Priussies?), the LA Times reports. Andy Frank at UC Davis, of course, has been working on plug-in hybrid technology for years — adapting vehicles such as Chevy Suburbans, Ford Explorers and most recently a Chevy Equinox.

Read more about UC Davis’s hybrid vehicle team here.

UC Davis’ Institute of Transportation Studies has also worked on testing Toyota’s hydrogen fuel-cell powered Highlander SUV.

Plug-in hybrids differ from conventional hybrids because they can be recharged from the wall and have a substantial range on all-electric power, leading to higher fuel economy and lower emissions.