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Submission Is The 21st Century The Century Of Religion?->

angelastirlingas4 writes: Vivekananda International Forum on Hindu-Buddhist global initiatives in conflict avoidance and environmental consciousness Twenty years ago I was invited to give an open lecture at St Gallen, the prestigious Swiss university, on the theme of Chinaâ(TM)s emergence in the global market economy. This was not as banal a subject as it [...]
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The Almighty Buck

When Fraud Detection Shuts Down Credit Cards Inappropriately 210

reifman writes: On Sunday, Capital One declined a $280 travel reservation I charged at India-based and immediately shut off my card for all transactions until I contacted them by phone. It wasn't the first time that CapitalOne had shut off my card after a single suspect transaction. But, I'd actually purchased from using my CapitalOne card on two prior occasions. It was an example of very poor fraud detection and led me on a tour of their pathetic customer service. The banks want to cut their losses regardless of how it impacts their customers. Having had my own credit card suspended out of an abundance of caution on a different credit card issuer's part (for legitimate charges), but having recently had some widely known scam charges get accepted, the fraud protection algorithms that the credit companies use certainly seem inscrutable sometimes, and so do the surrounding practices about communicating with customers. How would you like it to work instead?

Submission Study Finds Poor People More Likely to Die in Car Crashes writes: Emily Badger and Christopher Ingraham report at the Washington Post that new research finds that improvements in road safety since the 1990s haven't been evenly shared with fatality rates actually increasing for people 25 and older with less than a high school diploma. In 1995, death rates — adjusted for age, sex and race — were about 2.5 times higher for people at the bottom of the education spectrum than those at the top. By 2010, death rates for the least educated were about 4.3 times higher than for the most educated. According to Badger and Ingraham, the underlying issue is not that a college degree makes you a better driver. Rather, the least-educated tend to own cars that are older and have lower crash-test ratings and those with less education are likely to earn less and to have the money for fancy safety features such as side airbags, automatic warnings and rear cameras. Poor people are also more likely to live in areas where infrastructure is crumbling and have less political clout to get anything done about dangerous road conditions.

The role of behavioral differences is murkier. Some studies show lower seat-belt use among the less-educated, but seat-belt use has also increased faster among that group over time, meaning socioeconomic differences there are narrowing. Badger and Ingraham conclude that "as we increasingly fantasize about new technologies that will save us from our own driving errors — cars that will brake for us, or spot cyclists we can't see, or even take over all the navigation — we should anticipate that, at first, those benefits may mostly go to the rich."

Legionnaires' Bacteria Reemerges In Previously Disinfected Cooling Towers 91

schwit1 writes with the New York Times' unsettling report that 15 water-cooling towers in the Bronx that this week tested positive for Legionnaires' disease had been disinfected less than two months ago. From the NYT: After an outbreak of the disease killed 12 people in July and August in the South Bronx, the city required every building with cooling towers, a common source of the Legionella bacteria that cause the disease, to be cleaned within two weeks. ... [The] city found this week that bacteria had regrown in at least 15 towers that had been cleaned recently in the Morris Park section of the Bronx. The testing occurred after a fresh outbreak in that area that has killed one person and sickened at least 12, and spurred an order from health officials for the towers to be disinfected again.

Submission The Decline of 'Big Soda': Is Drinking Soda the New Smoking? writes: Margot Sanger-Katz reports in the NYT that soda consumption is experiencing a serious and sustained decline as sales of full-calorie soda in the United States have plummeted by more than 25 percent over the past twenty years. Nearly two-thirds of Americans say they are actively trying to avoid the drinks that have been a mainstay of American culture but bottled water is now on track to overtake soda as the largest beverage category in two years. The changing patterns of soda drinking appear to come thanks, in part, to a loud campaign to eradicate sodas. School cafeterias and vending machines no longer contain regular sodas. Many workplaces and government offices have similarly prohibited their sale.

For many public health advocates, soda has become the new tobacco — a toxic product to be banned, taxed and stigmatized. “There will always be soda, but I think the era of it being acceptable for kids to drink soda all day long is passing, slowly,” says Marion Nestle. “In some socioeconomic groups, it’s over.” Soda represents nearly 25% of the U.S. beverage market and its massive scale have guaranteed profit margins for decades. Historically, beverage preferences are set in adolescence, the first time that most people begin choosing and buying a favorite brand. But the declines in soda drinking appear to be sharpest among young Americans. "Kids these days are growing up with all of these other options, and there are some parents who say, ‘I really want my kids to drink juice or a bottled water,’ ” says Gary A. Hemphill. “If kids grow up without carbonated soft drinks, the likelihood that they are going to grow up and, when they are 35, start drinking is very low.”

DHS Detains Mayor of Stockton, CA, Forces Him To Hand Over His Passwords 345

schwit1 writes: Anthony Silva, the mayor of Stockton, California, recently went to China for a mayor's conference. On his return to San Francisco airport he was detained by Homeland Security, and then had his two laptops and his mobile phone confiscated. They refused to show him any sort of warrant (of course) and then refused to let him leave until he agreed to hand over his password.

Submission How to explain the KGB's amazing success identifying CIA agents in the field?->

schwit1 writes: As the Cold War drew to a close with the fall of the Berlin Wall in November 1989, those at CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia, finally hoped to resolve many long-standing puzzles.

The most important of which was how officers in the field under diplomatic and deep cover stationed across the globe were readily identified by the KGB. As a consequence, covert operations had to be aborted as local agents were pinpointed and CIA personnel compromised or, indeed, had their lives thrown into jeopardy.

How could these disasters have happened with such regularity if the agency had not been penetrated by Soviet moles? The problem with this line of thought was that it did not so much overestimate CIA security as underestimate the brainpower of their Russian counterparts.

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Volkswagen Diesel Scandal Logistics Imply Sizable Conspiracy 143

Guinnessy writes with an interesting analysis of the Volkswagen software cheating scandal: Physics Today's Charles Day takes a look at how diesel engines work, and why it's clear it's not just a lone software engineer who came up with the cheat. "...[S]oftware is impotent without hardware. To recognize when a car was being tested and not driven, the defeat device required data from a range of sensors -- sensors that a noncheating car might not need.... Whereas it's conceivable that a single software engineer, directed by a single manager, could have secretly written and uploaded the code that ran the defeat device, installing its associated hardware would require a larger and more diverse team of conspirators," he says.
The Courts

A Broke Fan Owes $5,400 For Pokemon-Themed Party Posters 203

Jason Koebler writes: A fan has been ordered by a Washington judge to pay the Pokémon Company International $5,400 for copyright infringement after attempting to throw a Pokemon-themed party earlier this summer. Even though he canceled the free event, the Pokemon Company successfully sued Ramar Larkin Jones, for using an image of Pikachu to promote the Unofficial PAX Pokemon Kickoff Party.

IBM Scientists Find New Way To Shrink Transistors 98

MarcAuslander writes that IBM scientists have discovered a way to replace silicon semiconductors with carbon nanotube transistors, an innovation the company hopes will dramatically improve chip performance and get the industry past the limits of Moore's law. According to the Times: In the semiconductor business, it is called the 'red brick wall' — the limit of the industry's ability to shrink transistors beyond a certain size. On Thursday, however, IBM scientists reported that they now believe they see a path around the wall. Writing in the journal Science, a team at the company's Thomas J. Watson Research Center said it has found a new way to make transistors from parallel rows of carbon nanotubes.
The Courts

East Texas Judge Throws Out 168 Patent Cases 150

Earthquake Retrofit writes: Ars Technica is reporting that an East Texas judge has thrown out 168 patent cases in one fell swoop. The judge's order puts the most litigious patent troll of 2014, eDekka LLC, out of business. The ruling comes from a surprising source: U.S. District Judge Rodney Gilstrap, the East Texas judge who has been criticized for making life extra-difficult for patent defendants. Gilstrap, who hears more patent cases than any other U.S. judge, will eliminate about 10 percent of his entire patent docket by wiping out the eDekka cases.

Submission Mealworms Eat and Digest Polystyrene Foam->

ckwu writes: Polystyrene foams—including products like Styrofoam—are rarely recycled, and the materials biodegrade so slowly that they can sit in a landfill for hundreds of years. But a pair of new studies shows that mealworms will dine on polystyrene foam when they can’t get a better meal, converting almost half of what they eat into carbon dioxide. In one study, the researchers fed mealworms polystyrene foam and found that the critters converted about 48% of the carbon they ate into carbon dioxide and excreted 49% in their feces. In the second study, the researchers showed that bacteria in the mealworms’ guts were responsible for breaking down the polystyrene--suggesting that engineering bacteria might be a strategy for boosting the reported biodegradation.
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Legal Loophole Offers Volkswagen Criminal Immunity 319

An anonymous reader writes: According to the Wall Street Journal (paywalled) a loophole in the 1970 Clean Air Act could make it impossible for U.S. prosecutors to subject Volkswagen to criminal charges over its use of standards-dodging 'defeat devices' in its emissions-testing software. Prosecutors are now reported to be considering alternative methods, including (considerably lesser) charges that Volkswagen lied to regulation authorities.

"Confound these ancestors.... They've stolen our best ideas!" - Ben Jonson