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Is someone restricting your Internet access? Error Code 451 will tell you the truth.

The Internet is an important tool for democratizing people and information all across the world. Let's keep it that way.

Is someone restricting your Internet access? Error Code 451 will tell you the truth.

Have you ever wondered what those Internet error messages mean?

You know the ones. Maybe your Wi-Fi connection is shaky and you're hit with a "500 Internal Server Error" or a "504 Gateway Timeout." Sometimes you try to bypass the login screen (what? everyone does it) and see a "403 Forbidden," or you keep refreshing your browser to buy some concert tickets, but all you get is a "429 Too Many Requests."

The worst, right?



Image from Wikimedia Commons.

Those codes and other online standards are created by a decentralized secret society of hackers worldwide task force of volunteers called the Internet Engineering Task Force.

The Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) defines itself as "a large open international community of network designers, operators, vendors, and researchers concerned with the evolution of the Internet architecture and the smooth operation of the Internet."

This loosely-organized consortium is completely volunteer-run, with a strong emphasis on transparency and democratic practices. Membership is free, and different working groups each focus on individual issues relating to fair and open Internet use.

Although IETF was originally associated with the U.S. government, it's since become its own international entity — just one of the larger consortium of Internet overseers affiliated with the Internet Society.

So next time your dad asks, "Who runs the Internet?" now you (kind of) know. Photo by Romeo Gacad/Getty Images.

Now the IETF has come up with a brand new error code to add to the list...

On Friday, Dec. 18 2015, the IETF officially added "Error 451: Unavailable for Legal Reasons" to its existing list of HTTP status codes.

Originally proposed by software engineer Tim Bray, Error 451 encourages web services to display pertinent legal information when a site is blocked or taken down by a government or ISP. It's an alternative to the ol' generic 403 Forbidden — which, while not wrong, is certainly misleading.

"As censorship became more visible and prevalent on the Web, we started to hear from sites that they'd like to be able to make this distinction," explained Mark Nottingham, chair of IETF's HTTP Working Group. "More importantly, we started to hear from members of the community that they wanted to be able to discover instances of censorship in an automated fashion."

...and it's based on science fiction.

The name itself is a nod to Ray Bradbury's dystopian sci-fi novel "Fahrenheit 451," about a future American society where books are banned and burned. It's a famously harrowing tale of government overreach and oppression through censorship. (and, yes, there's a film version if that's more your speed).

The act of book burning — literally destroying physical knowledge — is pretty much the hallmark sign of government oppression. And while it's hard to light the Internet on fire, clandestine censorship is the next worst thing.


I get the pleasure of turning pages, but it's a lot harder to physically burn an ebook. Photo by Chris Drumm/Flickr.

At first, this sounds like silly science fictional fun ... until you realize just how serious the problem is.

Most of us probably think that Internet censorship is only a problem in dictatorial countries like North Korea. But it's happening more and more in countries like America.

Right here in the United States, Google saw an alarming rise in censorship requests from the government in 2012, and it has remained steady in the years since.

Back in 2010, for example, the Department of Homeland Security restricted access to the popular hip-hop blog Dajaz1.com for a full year due to bureaucratic holdups from vague accusations of copyright infringement.

There was also that super-shady situation with MegaUpload where the U.S. government shutdown a New Zealand-based web service and arrested the founder on vague and questionable charges. Yes, there are some gray areas when it comes to pirated content, but there are also plenty of other legitimate reasons for people to use torrents and storage sites — not to mention that whole "due process of law" thing.

Heck, just a few weeks ago, I was trying to watch the midseason finale of "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." on Hulu, but I was denied access on account of my "suspicious IP address" — just because I use a Virtual Privacy Network to protect my data. So basically, I was left with a choice: let Comcast and the government track and catalog my every move, or find out what happens with Coulson and his crew (which, if you've seen "Captain America: The Winter Soldier," is not a good sign #HailHydra.) Photo by Backbone Campaign/Flickr.

Error 451 won't stop authorities from limiting our access to free information. But it's still a big step for transparency.

It's bad enough if any government or ISP wants to restrict your access to information.

But it's even worse when they pull the wool over your eyes and pretend they're not doing it at all. If an authority wants to suppress your right to receive information, the least they can do is tell you that they're doing it. It might not change the situation, but it can empower the people to hold their governments accountable.

That is, if they cooperate.


Image made available by a Creative Commons license from 451unavailable.org.

"In some jurisdictions, I suspect that censorious governments will disallow the use of 451, to hide what they're doing," Mark Nottingham said. "We can't stop that (of course), but if your government does that, it sends a strong message to you as a citizen about what their intent is. That's worth knowing about, I think."

On the bright side, not all governments have direct control over Internet access. But even when a government forces web services such as Google or Twitter to restrict their content to specific people or locations, Error 451 could empower those services to reveal that information to users as well. (This would also make it clear to customers when their ISP is intentionally throttling service.)

The Internet is one of our best tools for democratizing people and the spread of information. Let's keep it that way.

This article originally appeared on August 27, 2015

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This article originally appeared on August 27, 2015

Oh, society! We have such a complicated relationship with relationships.

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True

Each year, an estimated 1.8 million people in the United States are affected by cancer — most commonly cancers of the breast, lung, prostate, and blood cancers such as leukemia. While not everyone overcomes the disease, thanks to science, more people are surviving — and for longer — than ever before in history.

We asked three people whose lives have been impacted by cancer to share their stories – how their lives were changed by the disease, and how they're using that experience to change the future of cancer treatments with the hope that ultimately, in the fight against cancer, science will win. Here's what they had to say.

Celine Ryan, 55, engineer database programmer and mother of five from Detroit, MI

Photo courtesy of Celine Ryan

In September 2013, Celine Ryan woke up from a colonoscopy to some traumatic news. Her gastroenterologist showed her a picture of the cancerous mass they found during the procedure.

Ryan and her husband, Patrick, had scheduled a colonoscopy after discovering some unusual bleeding, so the suspicion she could have cancer was already there. Neither of them, however, were quite prepared for the results to be positive -- or for the treatment to begin so soon. Just two days after learning the news, Ryan had surgery to remove the tumor, part of her bladder, and 17 cancerous lymph nodes. Chemotherapy and radiation soon followed.

Ryan's treatment was rigorous – but in December 2014, she got the devastating news that the cancer, once confined to her colon, had spread to her lungs. Her prognosis, they said, was likely terminal.

But rather than give up hope, Ryan sought support from online research, fellow cancer patients and survivors, and her medical team. When she brought up immunotherapy to her oncologist, he quickly agreed it was the best course of action. Ryan's cancer, like a majority of colon and pancreatic cancers, had been caused by a defect on the gene KRAS, which can result in a very aggressive cancer that is virtually "undruggable." According to the medical literature, the relatively smooth protein structure of the KRAS gene meant that designing inhibitors to bind to surface grooves and treat the cancer has been historically difficult. Through her support systems, Ryan discovered an experimental immunotherapy trial at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, MD., and called them immediately to see if she was eligible. After months of trying to determine whether she was a suitable candidate for the experimental treatment, Ryan was finally accepted.

The treatment, known as tumor-infiltrating lymphocyte therapy, or TIL, is a testament to how far modern science has evolved. With this therapy, doctors remove a tumor and harvest special immune cells that are found naturally in the tumor. Doctors then grow the cells in a lab over the next several weeks with a protein that promotes rapid TIL growth – and once the cells number into the billions, they are infused back into the patient's body to fight the cancer. On April 1, 2015, Ryan had her tumor removed at the NIH. Two months later, she went inpatient for four weeks to have the team "wash out" her immune system with chemotherapy and infuse the cells – all 148 billion of them – back into her body.

Six weeks after the infusion, Ryan and Patrick went back for a follow-up appointment – and the news they got was stunning: Not only had no new tumors developed, but the six existing tumors in her lungs had shrunk significantly. Less than a year after her cell infusion, in April 2016, the doctors told Ryan news that would have been impossible just a decade earlier: Thanks to the cell infusion, Ryan was now considered NED – no evaluable disease. Her body was cancer-free.

Ryan is still NED today and continuing annual follow-up appointments at the NIH, experiencing things she never dreamed she'd be able to live to see, such as her children's high school and college graduations. She's also donating her blood and cells to the NIH to help them research other potential cancer treatments. "It was an honor to do so," Ryan said of her experience. "I'm just thrilled, and I hope my experience can help a lot more people."

Patrice Lee, PhD, VP of Pharmacology, Toxicology and Exploratory Development at Pfizer

Photo courtesy of Patrice Lee

Patrice Lee got into scientific research in an unconventional way – through the late ocean explorer Jacques Cousteau.

Lee never met Cousteau but her dreams of working with him one day led her to pursue a career in science. Initially, Lee completed an undergraduate degree in marine biology; eventually, her interests changed and she decided to get a dual doctoral degree in physiology and toxicology at Duke University. She now works at Pfizer's R&D site in Boulder, CO (formerly Array BioPharma), leading a group of scientists who determine the safety and efficacy of new oncology drugs.

"Scientists focused on drug discovery and development in the pharmaceutical industry are deeply committed to inventing new therapies to meet unmet needs," Lee says, describing her field of work. "We're driven to achieve new medicines and vaccines as quickly as possible without sacrificing safety."

Among the drugs Lee has helped develop during her career, including cancer therapies, she says around a dozen are currently in development, while nine have received FDA approval — an incredible accomplishment as many scientists spend their careers without seeing their drug make it to market. Lee's team is particularly interested in therapies for brain metastases — something that Lee says is a largely unmet need in cancer research, and something her team is working on from a variety of angles. "Now that we've had rapid success with mRNA vaccine technology, we hope to explore what the future holds when applying this technology to cancers," Lee says.

But while evaluating potential cancer therapies is a professional passion of Lee's, it's also a mission that's deeply personal. "I'm also a breast cancer survivor," she says. "So I've been on the other side of things and have participated in a clinical trial."

However, seeing how melanoma therapies that she helped develop have affected other real-life cancer patients, she says, has been a highlight of her career. "We had one therapy that was approved for patients with BRAF-mutant metastatic melanoma," Lee recalls. "Our team in Boulder was graced by a visit from a patient that had benefited from these drugs that we developed. It was a very special moment for the entire team."

None of these therapies would be available, Lee says without rigorous science behind it: "Facts come from good science. Facts will drive the development of new drugs, and that's what will help patients."

Chiuying "Cynthia" Kuk (they/them) MS, 34, third-year medical student at Michigan State University College of Human Medicine

Photo courtesy of Cynthia Kuk

Cynthia Kuk was just 10 years old when they had a conversation that would change their life forever.

"My mother, who worked as a translator for the government at the time, had been diagnosed with breast cancer, and after her chemotherapy treatments she would get really sick," Kuk, who uses they/them pronouns, recalls. "When I asked my dad why mom was puking so much, he said it was because of the medicine she was taking that would help her get better."

Kuk's response was immediate: "That's so stupid! Why would a medicine make you feel worse instead of better? When I'm older, I want to create medicine that won't make people sick like that."

Nine years later, Kuk traveled from their native Hong Kong to the United States to do exactly that. Kuk enrolled in a small, liberal arts college for their Bachelor's degree, and then four years later started a PhD program in cancer research. Although Kuk's mother was in remission from her cancer at the time, Kuk's goal was the same as it had been as a 10-year-old watching her suffer through chemotherapy: to design a better cancer treatment, and change the landscape of cancer research forever.

Since then, Kuk's mission has changed slightly.

"My mom's cancer relapsed in 2008, and she ended up passing away about five years after that," Kuk says. "After my mom died, I started having this sense of urgency. Cancer research is such that you work for twenty years, and at the end of it you might have a fancy medication that could help people, but I wanted to help people now." With their mother still at the forefront of their mind, Kuk decided to quit their PhD program and enter medical school.

Now, Kuk plans to pursue a career in emergency medicine – not only because they are drawn to the excitement of the emergency room, but because the ER is a place where the most marginalized people tend to seek care.

"I have a special interest in the LGBTQ+ population, as I identify as queer and nonbinary," says Kuk. "A lot of people in this community and other marginalized communities access care through the ER and also tend to avoid medical care since there is a history of mistreatment and judgement from healthcare workers. How you carry yourself as a doctor, your compassion, that can make a huge difference in someone's care."

In addition to making a difference in the lives of LGBTQ+ patients, Kuk wants to make a difference in the lives of patients with cancer as well, like their mother had.

"We've diagnosed patients in the Emergency Department with cancer before," Kuk says. "I can't make cancer good news but how you deliver bad news and the compassion you show could make a world of difference to that patient and their family."

During their training, Kuk advocates for patients by delivering compassionate and inclusive care, whether they happen to have cancer or not. In addition to emphasizing their patient's pronouns and chosen names, they ask for inclusive social and sexual histories as well as using gender neutral language. In doing this, they hope to make medicine as a whole more accessible for people who have been historically pushed aside.

"I'm just one person, and I can't force everyone to respect you, if you're marginalized," Kuk says. "But I do want to push for a culture where people appreciate others who are different from them."