Day: May 17, 2017

Few US Doctors Discuss Cancer Costs With Patients, Study Finds

Most doctors did not discuss the cost of cancer treatment with patients, spent less than two minutes on it when they did, and usually did so only after patients brought it up, a study that taped hundreds of visits at several large hospitals finds.

Cancer patients are three times more likely to declare bankruptcy than people without cancer are, but many doctors are not having the conversations that might help prevent this and sometimes don’t know the cost themselves, the results suggest.     


“That would not occur in any other industry I can think of” where a service or product is sold, said the study leader, Dr. Rahma Warsame of the Mayo Clinic.

Results were released Wednesday by the American Society of Clinical Oncology and will be discussed next month at its annual meeting in Chicago.

The study has some limitations – it’s not nationwide, and it includes newly diagnosed patients, where cost is most likely to come up, as well as others further along in treatment who may have discussed this earlier.


But the larger point is clear, Warsame said: The “financial toxicity” of treatments that can cost more than $100,000 a year is growing, and talks about that aren’t happening enough.


“I’ve had people say ‘no’ to really life-extending therapies” because of worries about bankrupting their family, she said.


For the study, researchers taped 529 conversations between doctors and patients with various types of cancer at three outpatient clinics – the kind of places chemo often is given – at Mayo, Los Angeles County Hospital and the University of Southern California’s Norris campus in Los Angeles.


Patients and doctors knew they were being taped but didn’t know why. Cost came up in 151 of the visits. Patients brought it up in 106 cases and doctors did in 45.


Appointments lasted about 15 minutes on average at the two California hospitals and half an hour at Mayo, but cost discussions ran only one to two minutes when they occurred at all.


Even when doctors acknowledged a cost concern, they rarely acted on it. Only six patients were referred to social services to seek help with affording care.


“Maybe a lot of patients don’t know to ask questions” about cost, said Karla Mees, 63, a nursing instructor from Rochester, Minnesota, who was treated for breast cancer at Mayo Clinic.


Doctors warned her in advance that she might have to pay $4,500 for gene tests on her tumor to help determine care, but she never knew how much chemo and radiation would cost until the bills came.  


“I just remember thinking, ‘I need the stuff, I’ll worry about payment later,’” she said, thankful that her insurance capped her annual out-of-pocket costs at $2,500.


Doctors also may be reluctant to talk money and have to give medical issues top priority in the short time they have during patient visits, said Dr. Lowell Schnipper, a cancer expert at Boston’s Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and head of the cancer group’s panel on value in cancer care.


“Most of us are not very well skilled in bringing it up,” he said. “In school you’re trained to simply take the best care you can of your patient and not worry about anything other than doing exactly that.”


In 2015, the cancer society launched a tool to help doctors and patients decide whether a cancer drug is worth it – the amount of benefit it gives versus its cost. It’s a good starting point for money talks, he said.


US Campus Uses High-tech Center to Keep Students Safe

When Hurricane Sandy swept over Long Island, New York, in October 2012, power was knocked out and traffic lights were inoperable. While driving in her car, Stony Brook University student Vishwaja Muppa, 21, was struck by a police car and later died. The death of Muppa, from India, was one of 53 that were blamed on the storm.

On Stony Brook’s campus, damage was limited and students who sheltered remained safe. But university officials took the hurricane’s visit as a wake-up call and planned a state-of-the-art Emergency Operations Center (EOC).

Stony Brook hired two security technology firms, VCORE Solutions and IntraLogic Solutions, to install equipment and software  that would bring separate monitoring and communications systems under one roof.

“All the things we have in different silos, managed by different systems, are imported into one virtual environment,” Larry Zacarese, director of emergency management at Stony Brook, told VOA.

From the command center during Hurricane Sandy, Zacarese had little contact with other parts of the campus or local emergency responders off campus, he said. The new system shows images from cameras throughout campus and projects them on several monitors mounted across a 6½-meter-long wall.

Eyes everywhere

The system is regarded as a model and has been studied by other universities. Among the devices linked electronically are entry codes on hundreds of doors across campus, Global Positioning System units, fire alarms, video cameras and large, flat-screen television sets. The information from cameras and sensors is projected onto a large computer screen that shows the entire campus from above, including each building.

“We have a three-dimensional world overlaid on top of satellite imagery of our campus,” Zacarese said.

Software allows operators in the command center to expand each image and go into a building, checking its characteristics and the status of its sensors and alarms on each floor.

The system also allows the Emergency Operations Center to communicate in 15 ways with students across campus, utilizing social media, text messages, public address speakers and the 175 flat-screen television panels across campus. Operators can use the screens to warn students and faculty of a problem. They can use screens at all locations, or only at one site.

“If there is a fire in a chemistry lab,” Zacarese said, “we could communicate specifically to people in the chemistry building, as well as those in the immediate vicinity outside.”

Violence on campus

Zacarese said Stony Brook’s security system is vital in responding to violence and protecting those on campus. Last year, threatening messages of a “terroristic nature” appeared at a campus bus stop, he said. Using the information from cameras and other devices, police were able to identify the perpetrator and arrest him.

“In less than three hours,” Zacarese said, “we had someone in custody.”

There are more than 25,000 students enrolled at Stony Brook during a normal semester, but adding faculty and staff, campus population swells to about 50,000.

“The population size of this campus is essentially as big or bigger than some small cities,” Zacarese said.

The high-tech Emergency Operations Center can also be useful in police and fire investigations, he said, because investigators can use recorded data to find evidence and trace suspects.


Report: Apple to Announce Laptop Upgrades

Apple will reportedly announce an update to its lineup of laptops at its annual developer conference, known as WWDC, in June.

The report from Bloomberg suggests Apple is responding to increased competition from rival Microsoft.

According to the report, Apple will announce three new laptops: The MacBook Pro will get a quicker processor, as will the 12-inch MacBook and the 13-inch MacBook Air. The processors, according to Bloomberg, will be Intel’s newest, seventh generation chips.

Apple’s laptops account for 11 percent of the company’s annual $216 billion in sales. iPhones make up nearly two thirds of the company’s sales.

Rival Microsoft recently unveiled its own Surface Laptop as a possible competitor to MacBook Air. That device reportedly boots up quickly and has a touchscreen.

According to Bloomberg, the new MacBook Pro would share the same basic external look of the current models.

It has been seven years since Apple redesigned the MacBook Air and more than a year since the company released a new MacBook Pro. The 12-inch MacBook saw its last update last spring.

Apple will also reportedly announce an upgrade to its macOS operating system.

The WWDC will start June 5.


US Stocks, Dollar and Bonds Falter Amid Political Worries

U.S. stocks, the dollar, and government bonds were down in Wednesday’s trading amid investor worries about controversial actions and comments from President Donald Trump. The major U.S. stock indexes fell 1.8 percent or more, and the Dow Jones Industrial Average was off 372 points.

The faltering markets follow Trump’s firing of the FBI chief, his reported sharing of secrets with top Russian officials, and allegations that the president may have tried to block an investigation into actions by a top aide who was fired.

Following Trump’s election, the dollar rose and stocks climbed to a series of record highs as investors bet that Trump’s promises to cut taxes and regulations would boost economic growth and corporate profits.

Investors may be having second thoughts, though, after legislative efforts to repeal and replace a health care law stalled, and the tax cut agenda is tangled in political bickering.

Even Trump’s Republican allies say calls for congressional and other investigations of the administration’s actions are a distraction for lawmakers trying to move his agenda forward against determined opposition from Democrats.


‘Sea Monster’ Carcass Identified

Scientists say they have identified the “sea monster” that washed ashore on an Indonesian beach.

The badly decomposing carcass measures over 15 meters long and baffled scientists since it washed up on Seram Island last week.

Marine biologists now believe the carcass is a dead baleen whale, largely because of a visible skeleton, which would rule out speculation that the creature was a giant squid.

“Giant squid are invertebrates and there are clearly bones visible, so I am very comfortable saying it’s some type of rorqual whale,” said Regina Asmutis-Silvia, executive director of Whale and Dolphin Conservation in an interview with the Huffington Post. “Certain species of baleen whales (rorquals) have ‘ventral grooves’ which run from their chin to their belly button. It is stretchy tissue that expands when they feed.”

Alexander Werth, a whale biologist at Hampden-Sydney College in Virginia agrees with the assessment after seeing photos of the carcass on social media that showed the nearly amorphous carcass surrounded by blood in the water. He added that the carcass probably stinks “to high heaven.”

“That’s yet another reason you don’t want to be close to these things, not because it’s a scary, spooky creature, but [because] it would just be releasing some pretty foul, noxious gases,” Werth told Live Science.

Locals have asked the government for help in removing the whale.


Radical Burmese Buddhist Monk Is Subject of Documentary at Cannes Film Festival

Ashin Wirathu, the Burmese Buddhist monk known for whipping up anti-Muslim sentiment in Myanmar, is the subject of a new documentary airing at France’s renowned Cannes Film Festival, which starts Wednesday.

By filmmaker Barbet Schroeder, “The Venerable W” will appear in a special screening at one of the most prestigious cultural events in the world, marking the culmination of Wirathu’s journey from an obscure rabble-rouser to international infamy.

But his path to notoriety abroad points to questions back home about how much of a role the media have played in fueling his rise. Some believe he has been given too much of a platform for his hateful views or that coverage of his activities merits a more thoughtful approach.

Media attention for anti-Muslim views

“He has been famous because of the interviews and because of the posts in the local media,” said Thitsa Hla Htway, secretary of the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Myanmar.

He urged journalists to not report his more repugnant musings and to report on more diverse issues.

“What I want to stress is that they should just stay away from him and his popularity will go down. There are many important issues in Myanmar which are more important than him,” he said.

In and out of prison

This wasn’t the feeling five years ago, when Myanmar was emerging from military rule and grappling with ascendant Buddhist nationalist forces in the form of the 969 movement and Ma Ba Tha, the Committee to Protect Race and Religion.

Sentenced to prison for 25 years in 2003 for inciting violence, Wirathu was released in an amnesty in 2012, the same year that saw the first of several deadly riots to plague the country’s transition to democracy from nearly five decades of military rule.

‘Time magazine’ interview

Though Myanmar has long struggled to contain religious enmity, the story was not often heard outside of the country due to its isolation. That changed with a 2013 TIME magazine issue that put Wirathu on the cover and sought to explain the man’s connection to the mayhem.

The initial coverage was revealing, but over the years, Wirathu was interviewed by countless journalists, including the author of this article. Doubt crept into the worthiness of the enterprise for many journalists.

Social media star

But his following on social media is enormous, his posts can be inflammatory, and the fact that he has not faced strong pushback implies he has connections.

Thiha Saw, the director of the Myanmar Journalism Institute, said he credits Wirathu’s rise more to the explosion of internet access that has occurred in recent years. He added that mainstream media outlets in Myanmar have been cautious about not giving Wirathu an unnecessary amount of exposure.

Supported military

But his level of influence remains an open question. He supported the military-backed ruling party in a 2015 election contest against Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy, which won easily. This past March, Wirathu was hit with a ban on giving sermons for one year.

Even so, he was allowed to travel to a part of northern Rakhine State this month that has been largely closed off to observers since Rohingya militants attacked border posts in October, killing nine and setting off a crackdown that has resulted in accusations of possible crimes against humanity.

British journalist Oliver Slow, the chief of staff for the weekly magazine Frontier Myanmar, said in his personal opinion there needs to be a mix of scrutiny and restraint in the reporting.

Journalists want more scrutiny of Wirathu

“I think obviously he [Wirathu] needs to be heavily scrutinized. His group and the people behind him have the potential to cause massive issues, so I think it’s important to be reporting on him and what they are doing,” Slow said. “But I think we pretty much know all his views now, they’ve been aired for the past four or five years. His views on Muslims, his views on religion, have been so well aired, I just don’t really see any benefit any more of interviewing him.”

Matthew Smith, executive director of the NGO Fortify Rights, said in an email he isn’t persuaded by arguments the media has disproportionately fueled Wirathu’s rise to power, even if Wirathu has benefited from the attention.

“Wirathu is a populist demagogue with a considerable following and powerful connections behind the scenes,” Smith said. “But he and his followers have unarguably used international media attention to their advantage, to build their prominence and advance nationalist and racist narratives.”

Smith wants more investigative coverage of Wirathu.

“We see the occasional profile piece and don’t find those terribly helpful. Most foreign readers, particularly in the West, regard Buddhism as a tranquil religion of peace, so editors have endless fodder in stories of an extremist monk who preaches hatred.”

Schroeder, the filmmaker, did not immediately respond to a request for an interview sent through his production company.



70th Cannes Film Festival Opens Amid Heavy Security

The 70th Cannes Film Festival is opening Wednesday under sunny Cote d’Azur skies, heavy security and widespread unease in the movie industry.


Security was greater than ever at the French festival, with stepped up efforts to restrict access and even an anti-drone system. France remains under a state of emergency since the November 2015 Paris attacks. This is also the first festival held since the nearby Nice attack last year that killed 86 people.


Festival organizers have said everything has been done to maintain a balance of safety and the celebratory atmosphere of the world’s most prestigious film festival.


This year’s festival has its own anxieties. Television, virtual reality and Netflix are a larger presence than ever before in the program.


Arnaud Desplechin’s “Ismael’s Ghosts” will open the festival Wednesday.


Russia’s Controversial Eurovision Entry Spotlights Disabled

This year’s Eurovision song contest, hosted in Kyiv, saw Portugal crowned the winner.

But Russian officials cried foul even before the competition, as Ukraine banned their last-minute entry of contestant Yulia Samoylova, a singer who is disabled and uses a wheelchair.

“We were all very much surprised,” says chairwoman of the Moscow branch of Russia’s Disabled People Society Nadezhda Lobanova-who is herself in a wheelchair. “We don’t know how they treat their disabled, but it seems to me we wouldn’t have done anything like this. But we were surprised. And we wondered whether they’d let in a healthy singer or whether it was was done only to the disabled person.”

Instead, Samoylova performed on May 9 for Russia’s World War II Victory Day celebration in Russia-annexed Crimea. Her performing in Crimea in 2015 got her blacklisted from entering Ukraine in the first place.


Critics say Russia’s choice of a disabled contestant, while knowing she would be banned for breaking Ukrainian law, was a cynical move.

“It was not just tactless, it was so unfair,” says translator and disability expert Veronica Ivanova-who is also disabled and uses a wheelchair. “It was cruel to use a disabled person in their political games knowing in advance the risks. Hoping that the disability would melt the hearts of the European Union and, especially performing in Ukraine, I think that was very cruel.”

It’s not the first political scandal involving the Eurovision contest and Crimea. Last year’s winning song “1944”, by Crimean Tatar Susana Jamaladynova, was about Soviet leader Josef Stalin’s forced deportation of Crimean Tatars. It was seen as a subtle rebuke of Russia’s current occupation of Crimea.

But Russian claims of Kyiv’s discrimination against disabled are even more dubious as Russia itself still struggles to provide for disabled people. It took five years for Ivanova to get a proper ramp installed at her apartment building.

“It takes a long time due to bureaucratic processes but, in the end, it’s possible,” she says. “In the provinces, I am scared even to imagine how to do it.”

Despite a handicapped accessible sign, for Ivanova to enter her local grocery store requires serious help as there is an impassable step before a ramp that is too steep to safely climb in a wheelchair.

Forcing disabled access is still a challenge, grants Lobanova, as owners don’t want to pay for properly equipping their businesses, and apartment buildings require permission from all residents. “That’s rather ridiculous. But often the residents and especially landlords do not understand,” she says. “So there is a problem with the installation of stairlifts because permission must be received from all residents of the building.”

But Moscow has seen a lot of progress since she started working for disabled people three decades ago.

“There were no disabled in Moscow because there was no possibility to move around. Only those who had their own cars had such an opportunity. It was hard to find employment. It was hard to get education. There was no access,” says Lobanova.


About 85 percent of Moscow is accessible for the disabled, she says, a much higher rate than most Russian regions.

Today, vehicles and sports for Russia’s disabled are available in most cities, while education and jobs come easier, though not without problems


“In Moscow it is not such an acute problem as a lot of enlightenment work is carried out among employers by various social bodies,” says Ivanova. “In the regions, it’s worse.”

The controversy over Russia’s Eurovision contestant has had one positive outcome, says Ivanova, it raised more discussion on the plight of Russia’s disabled.

Olga Pavlova contributed to this report.


Group Behind Leak of Tools Used in Ransomware Attack Says Ready to Sell More Code

The hacker group behind the leak of cyber spying tools from the U.S. National Security Agency, which were used in last week’s “ransomware” cyberattack, says it has more code that it plans to start selling through a subscription service launching next month.

The group known as Shadow Brokers posted a statement online Tuesday saying the new data dumps could include exploits for Microsoft’s Windows 10 operating system, and for web browsers and cell phones, as well as “compromised network data from Russian, Chinese, Iranian or North Korean nukes and missile programs.”

Shadow Brokers tried unsuccessfully last year to auction off cyber tools it said were stolen from the NSA.

The WannaCry ransomware virus exploited a vulnerability in Microsoft’s older Windows XP operation system. The company had largely stopped offering support such as security updates for Windows XP, but did release a patch to protect users against the attack that demanded people pay to avoid losing their data.

There is no definitive evidence yet of who used the NSA tools to build WannaCry.

Cybersecurity experts say the technical evidence linking North Korea to the cyberattack is somewhat tenuous, but Pyongyang has the advanced cyber capabilities, and the motive to compensate for lost revenue due to economic sanctions, to be considered a likely suspect.

Since Friday, the WannaCry virus has infected more than 300,000 computers in 150 countries, at least temporarily paralyzing factories, banks, government agencies, hospitals and transportation systems.

On Monday, analysts with the cybersecurity firms Symantec and Kaspersky Lab said some code in an earlier version of the WannaCry software had also appeared in programs used by the Lazarus Group, which has been identified by some industry experts as a North Korea-run hacking operation.

“Right now we’ve uncovered a couple of what we would call weak indicators or weak links between WannaCry and this group that’s been previously known as Lazarus. Lazarus was behind the attacks on Sony and the Bangladesh banks for example. But these indicators are not enough to definitively say it’s Lazarus at all,” said Symantec Researcher Eric Chien.

Bureau 121

Symantec has linked the Lazarus group to a number of cyberattacks on banks in Asia dating back years, including the digital theft of $81 million from Bangladesh’s central bank last year. 

The U.S. government blamed North Korea for the hack on Sony Pictures Entertainment that leaked damaging personal information after Pyongyang threatened “merciless countermeasures” if the studio released a dark comedy movie that portrayed the assassination of Kim Jong Un. And South Korea had accused the North of attempting to breach the cybersecurity of its banks, broadcasters and power plants on numerous occasions.

Pyongyang is believed to have thousands of highly trained computer experts working for a cyberwarfare unit called Bureau 121, which is part of the General Bureau of Reconnaissance, an elite spy agency run by the military. There have been reports the Lazarus group is affiliated with Bureau 121. Some alleged North Korean-related cyberattacks have also been traced back to a hotel in Shenyang, China near the Korean border.

“Mostly they hack directly, but they hack other countries first and transfer [the data] so various other countries are found when we trace back, but a specific IP address located in Pyongyang can be found in the end,” said Choi Sang-myung, a senior director of the cybersecurity firm Hauri Inc. in Seoul.


It is not clear if the purpose of the WannaCry malware is to extort payments or to cause widespread damage.

The WannaCry hackers have demanded ransoms from users, starting at $300 to end the cyberattack, or they threatened to destroy all data on infected computers. So far the perpetrators have raised less than $70,000 according to Tom Bossert, a homeland security adviser for U.S. President Donald Trump.

The countries most affected by WannaCry to date are Russia, Taiwan, Ukraine and India, according to Czech security firm Avast.

Suffering under increased economic sanctions for its nuclear and ballistic missile programs, it would not be surprising for North Korea to attempt to make up for lost revenue through illicit cyber theft and extortion. But the WannaCry ransomware is more advanced than anything North Korean hackers have used in the past.

“Previous ransomwares required people to click an attachment in an email or access a specific website to get infected, but this time [computers] can be infected without getting an email or access to a website, just by connecting an Internet cable,” said Choi.

FireEye Inc., another large cybersecurity firm, said it was also investigating but cautious about drawing a link to North Korea.

In addition to past alleged cyberattacks, North Korea had also been accused of counterfeiting $100 bills which were known as “superdollars” or “supernotes” because the fakes were nearly flawless.

Youmi Kim contributed to this report.


Artist Carries on the Ancient Tradition of Handmade Korean Paper

Once renowned in Asia for its durability and versatility, traditional Korean paper called Hanji is now produced only in a handful of rural paper mills.

But Korean-American artist Aimee Lee is dedicated to carrying on the 2,000-year old tradition through her artwork and teaching.  And some of the artwork she produces from the famously durable paper are wearable.

“The very first dress that I made out of Hanji was a western dress, but, as I was making more dresses, I thought just in the way that I explored Korean paper… I thought it would be wonderful to explore Korean dresses.”

The dress and other artwork by Lee created with Hanji, traditional Korean paper, are on display in a group exhibition during May at the Korean Cultural Center in Washington to mark Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage month.

“Delicacy and strength is what I found in Korean paper,” says Jeanne Drewes, chief of binding and collections care at the Library of Congress. To Drewes, what the exhibit shows is that paper and fabric can be almost interchangeable. “That comes out in this exhibit.  This exhibit is so wonderful.”

Born in New York, Lee’s dedication to Hanji started in 2008 when she went to Korea with a U.S. Fulbright grant to research the disappearing traditional paper arts.   She apprenticed at a papermill in a remote village. It was run by a fourth-generation family whose patriarch is the Korean National Intangible Cultural Property holder of Hanji making. National intangible property is traditional knowledge that the South Korean government has designated for preservation. And intangible cultural property holders are masters of their crafts.

Lee turned what she learned about paper-making in Korea into a video which can be viewed here.

US Hanji studio

“When I first came back from Korea, I was so, so committed to sharing everything that I learned because it was so compelling, so interesting,” Lee says. “What I like about Hanji is that it’s so versatile.  So you can do so many things. I thought the world really needed to know.”

Working with the Morgan Conservatory, a non-profit arts center in Cleveland, Ohio, Lee built the first U.S. Hanji studio in 2010 to make and share the craft of Korean papermaking.   Each fall, mulberry trees whose inner bark is used to make Hanji, are harvested from the conservatory’s garden.

“I gather raw plant material from outside and then have to go through the process of stripping, sorting the parts you need and cooking it in special solutions and rinsing it, beating it and then making paper.  And then making art from that.  So it is a whole range from scratch.”

The self-appointed Hanji ambassador lectures or teaches workshops at art museums and universities across the country.  Lee’s passion for the paper led to her award-winning book: Hanji Unfurled: One Journey into Korean Papermaking.

“Actually more people not of Korean descent take my workshops than people of Korean descent.  I think people that come are very open-minded. It is a way to learn about other cultures in a way that is very hands-on.”

Lee also uses natural dyes she makes from kitchen scraps and flowers.  Her artwork ranges from traditional objects to more contemporary woven paper objects. Her series of artists books reside in library collections including Yale University library.

Lee plans to continue making Hanji indefinitely. She says, “I still feel like there are so much I can do and learn.”


Need a Skateboard? Print it Out!

Motorized skateboards are a simple and affordable form of personal transportation while advanced battery technology considerably extended their range. Now a startup company in Germany offers a skateboard that is almost entirely printed in plastic and has wireless speed control. VOA’s George Putic reports.


Mexico Expects NAFTA Talks by Late August, Its Economy Minister Says

Mexican Economy Minister Ildefonso Guajardo said Tuesday that he expected U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration to tell Congress early next week of plans to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement, a move that would produce talks by late August.

Guajardo said he would have more information after meeting with U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer in Vietnam on Thursday as part of Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation meetings.

During the 2016 U.S. election campaign, Trump vowed to scrap the 1994 deal between the United States, Canada and Mexico if he could not adjust it to benefit U.S. interests.

“Probably the notification will be sent to Congress by the U.S. executive at some time early next week,” Guajardo told Mexican reporters, a day after meetings in Washington with U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and other U.S. officials.

In Washington, Ross declined to predict the timing of the notification, saying that there were more consultations with Congress needed first.

Current format

In a meeting Tuesday, U.S. senators said Ross and Lighthizer expressed their preference to keep the current trilateral format in the NAFTA talks.

Guajardo also said that a dispute over sugar with the United States could be resolved within two weeks, before a June 5 deadline to break the impasse.

The U.S. sugar industry pressed the U.S. Commerce Department late last year to withdraw from a 2014 agreement that sets prices and quotas for U.S. imports of Mexican sugar unless the deal could be renegotiated. The U.S. sugar lobby wants Mexico to export less refined sugar and has become emboldened since Trump took office.

A U.S. Commerce Department spokesman said Ross and Guajardo discussed possible solutions and that they were continuing to work toward a negotiated settlement.

Any deal, however, would need agreement from the U.S. sugar producers who brought an anti-dumping case against Mexican competitors.

On Monday, Mexico’s sugar chamber said no deal had been reached in talks on Monday to resolve the dispute.


Hackers Mint Crypto-currency with Technique in Global ‘Ransomware’ Attack

A computer virus that exploits the same vulnerability as the global “ransomware” attack has latched on to more than 200,000 computers and begun manufacturing digital currency, experts said Tuesday.

The development adds to the dangers exposed by the WannaCry ransomware and provides another piece of evidence that a North Korea-linked hacking group may be behind the attacks.

WannaCry, developed in part with hacking techniques that were either stolen or leaked from the U.S. National Security Agency, has infected more than 300,000 computers since Friday, locking up their data and demanding a ransom payment to release it.

Researchers at security firm Proofpoint said the related attack, which installs a currency “miner” that generates digital cash, began infecting machines in late April or early May but had not been previously discovered because it allows computers to operate while creating the digital cash in the background.

Proofpoint executive Ryan Kalember said the authors may have earned more than $1 million, far more than has been generated by the WannaCry attack.

Like WannaCry, the program attacks via a flaw in Microsoft Corp’s Windows software. That hole has been patched in newer versions of Windows, though not all companies and individuals have installed the patches.

Suspected links to North Korea

Digital currencies based on a technology known as blockchain operate by enabling the creation of new currency in exchange for solving complex math problems. Digital “miners” run specially configured computers to solve the problems and generate currency, whose value fluctuates according to market demand.

Bitcoin is by far the largest such currency, but the new mining program is not aimed at Bitcoin. Rather it targeted a newer digital currency, called Monero, that experts say has been pursued recently by North Korean-linked hackers.

North Korea has attracted attention in the WannaCry case for a number of reasons, including the fact that early versions of the WannaCry code used some programming lines that had previously been spotted in attacks by Lazarus Group, a hacking group associated with North Korea.

Security researchers and U.S. intelligence officials have cautioned that such evidence is not conclusive, and the investigation is in its early stages.

In early April, security firm Kaspersky Lab said that a wing of Lazarus devoted to financial gain had installed software to mine Moreno on a server in Europe.

A new campaign to mine the same currency, using the same Windows weakness as WannaCry, could be coincidence, or it could suggest that North Korea was responsible for both the ransomware and the currency mining.

Kalember said he believes the similarities in the European case, WannaCry and the miner were “more than coincidence.”

“It’s a really strong overlap,” he said. “It’s not like you see Moreno miners all over the world.”

The North Korean mission to the United Nations could not be reached for comment, while the FBI declined to comment.