Posted Mar. 16, 2017 at 5:47 a.m.

Tech wrap: Duke Twitter hack; Tesla raising $1B; stem cell blindness; in-flight headphone explosion; China patent surge

Published: 2017-03-16 05:47:47
Updated: 2017-03-16 05:47:47

Bulldog Bulletin

In today's Bulldog wrapup of technology and life science news:

  • Twitter accounts of Duke, others hijacked over Turkish diplomatic feud
  • Tesla to sell $1B in stock and notes to increase capital
  • Doctors say unproven stem cell treatment blinded 3 women
  • Woman burned after headphones explode on flight to Australia
  • Passengers were "coughing and choking" for the rest of the flight, the woman said.

The details:

  • Twitter accounts of Duke, others hijacked over Turkish diplomatic feud

Hundreds of Twitter accounts have been hijacked amid the ongoing diplomatic feud between Turkey and two European nations, Germany and the Netherlands.

It's not clear how many accounts were taken over altogether but a slew of them, ranging from celebrities to government agencies, suddenly began issuing anti-German and anti-Dutch abuse in Turkish late Tuesday.

"This is a small Ottoman slap," the swastika-studded messages read in part, blasting "Nazi Germany" and "Nazi Holland."

The Twitter hijackings are the latest in a campaign of online vandalism that has followed from days of escalating tensions between Turkey and its European partners. Politicians from Turkey's ruling party have demanded to campaign in Europe ahead of their country's constitutional referendum next month. The demands have met with refusals and controversy, which has devolved into angry nationalist chest-thumping, a display mirrored online by a campaign of low-level web defacements. On Monday alone several hundred websites were hit at a single Dutch internet hosting provider, Versio, according to an employee who posted a message to the company's help forum .

Forbes, UNICEF, Duke University, Amnesty International and Starbucks Argentina were among those who appear to have had their Twitter accounts hijacked late Tuesday. Tennis star Boris Becker and the official account of soccer club Borussia Dortmund were also taken over, according to German news agency dpa.

  • Tesla to sell $1B in stock and notes to increase capital

Electric car and solar cell maker Tesla Inc. wants to raise over $1 billion in new capital by selling stock and five-year convertible notes.

The company says the offerings will strengthen its balance sheet and reduce risks from scaling up to produce the $35,000 Model 3 electric car starting in July.

The company plans to offer $250 million worth of common stock and $750 million in notes due in 2022. Underwriters can buy another 15 percent, which would bring the total proceeds to about $1.15 billion.

Tesla says CEO Elon Musk will buy $25 million of the stock.

The company lost just under $675 million last year but revenue rose 73 percent to just over $7 billion.

  • Doctors say unproven stem cell treatment blinded 3 women

Three women were left nearly or totally blind by a vision treatment at a stem cell clinic, in what doctors call a dramatic illustration of how risky such clinics can be.

The clinic's method hasn't been proven effective or tested for safety in people, said ophthalmologist Dr. Thomas Albini of the University of Miami. He and colleagues, who examined the women after their treatments at a Florida clinic, described the outcome in Thursday's New England Journal of Medicine.

"These women had fairly functional vision prior to the procedure ... and were blinded by the next day," Albini said in an interview.

One woman is totally blind and the others legally blind, and it's very unlikely their vision will improve, he said.

Scientists have long studied the use of stem cells, including those taken from a patient's own body, for treating vision problems and a variety of other diseases. But they and regulators have also issued warnings about clinics that offer unproven stem cell therapies.

The new report says the three women, in their 70s and 80s, paid $5,000 to be treated in 2015 for age-related macular degeneration. A leading cause of vision loss in people older than 50, the condition damages a part of the retina needed for sharp, central vision.

  • Woman burned after headphones explode on flight to Australia

An Australian woman suffered burns to her face after her battery-operated headphones exploded during a flight from Beijing to Melbourne, Australian air safety investigators said Wednesday.

The woman, whose name was not released, fell asleep on the plane while wearing the headphones and awoke to a loud explosion about two hours into the flight, the Australian Transport Safety Bureau said in a statement about the Feb. 19 incident. The woman said she then felt a burning sensation on her face.

"I just grabbed my face which caused the headphones to go around my neck," the woman was quoted as saying in the statement. "I continued to feel burning so I grabbed them off and threw them on the floor. They were sparking and had small amounts of fire."

Flight attendants poured a bucket of water on the headphones. The battery and cover were melted and stuck to the floor of the plane.

  • Passengers were "coughing and choking" for the rest of the flight, the woman said.

The transport safety agency said it believes the batteries in the headphones likely caught on fire. A spokesman said the agency has decided not to say what brand of headphones was involved, because officials believe the problem was with the batteries.

China has explosive growth in patent applications

The U.N.'s intellectual property agency says China is showing "quite extraordinary" growth in international patent applications, putting Chinese applicants on track to outpace their U.S. counterparts within two to three years.

Francis Gurry, director-general of the World Intellectual Property Organization, says China posted nearly 45-percent growth in such patent applications last year, saying "the country continues its journey from 'Made in China' to 'Created in China.'"

Overall, the United States was first for the 39th straight year and accounted for nearly 56,600 applications under the Patent Cooperation Treaty, followed by Japan at over 45,200 and China at nearly 43,200.

China's state-owned ZTE Corporation in Shenzhen, one of the world's biggest suppliers of network switching gear, was the No. 1 applicant last year, topping crosstown rival Huawei. U.S.-based Qualcomm was third.

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