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Submission + - House Passes Bill Allowing Banks To Continue Using “ (consumerist.com)

Lcilla74Linton writes: A few months back, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau proposed new rules that would limit how banks, credit card companies, and other financial services could shield themselves from legitimate lawsuits by forcing customers to sign away their constitutional rights. Now, the House of Representatives has passed an appropriations bill that, if signed, would stop the CFPB from enforcing these rules and give banks back their “get out of jail free” cards.

A growing number of companies — from banks to cable companies to for-profit colleges — have adopted the practice of inserting arbitration clauses into their customer contracts. These clauses, which most customers have no authority to change or remove, generally do two things: bar the consumer from suing the company in a court of law, and prohibit that consumer from joining similarly harmed customers in a class action.

Instead, each individual complaint must be heard in the byzantine process of binding arbitration, where damages are limited, costs for mounting a proper case can be prohibitive, no precedents are set, and where the arbitrator's final decision can not be appealed in the legal system — even in cases where a serious error was made that would have resulted in a different outcome.

As a result, very few wronged consumers take part in the arbitration process. Additionally, the CFPB found that financial institutions primarily use arbitration as a tool for shutting down class actions, invoking their contractual right to arbitration mostly in cases that involve large numbers of plaintiff customers.

To that end, the CFPB proposed that certain financial services providers be barred from banning class actions in their consumer contracts.

But in the House version of the 2017 Financial Services and General Government Appropriations Act, the Bureau would effectively be stopped from moving forward with its proposed rules. This legislation passed through the House easily on Thursday, with a 239-185 vote, largely along party lines.

Among the many anti-consumer things sprinkled throughout the appropriations bill — we'll get to those in a later story — is a condition barring the CFPB from using any of its funding “to regulate pre-dispute arbitration agreements.” Additionally, any regulation the Bureau does come up with can't be enforced until the CFPB effectively repeats its three-year study on the issue.

This is, in essence, a repeat of what the banks asked Congress to do last year with riders to the omnibus spending bill, but which ultimately failed to make the final cut.

And just like last year — and several other previous pieces of failed legislation — the House is trying to restructure the CFPB to weaken the agency and put it under the budgetary thumb of bank-backed lawmakers.

Rather than have the Bureau be led by a single Director, the appropriations bill seeks to replace that position with a 5-person board, any member of which can be removed by a sitting President at any given time for “inefficiency, neglect of duty, or malfeasance in office.”

Instead of having the CFPB's funding coming from the Federal Reserve, the Bureau would need to enter into the annual political process of seeking appropriations from Congress.

“In last night's vote, Wall Street interests prevailed over the interests and rights of American consumers,” says Christine Hines, legislative director for the National Association of Consumer Advocates. “Congress can and should fund the government without indulging corporate interests and their harmful policies.”

The funding bill now goes to the Senate, where it is expected to face greater scrutiny from both lawmakers and consumer advocates.

As the CFPB finalizes its rule, industry lobbyists have tried to spread myths about the benefits of arbitration and the shortcomings of class actions.

One favorite factoid repeated by arbitration backers is that the average class-action settlement only pays out $35/plaintiff. That may be accurate, but it ignores a number of important aspects of class action lawsuits.

First, those $35 payments add up. If 200,000 customers are affected, that means the company is being penalized $7 million — and that's not including the substantial chunk of money that would go to the lawfirm(s) representing the plaintiff class.

By comparison, assume (generously) that maybe 200 of those wronged customers goes through the arbitration process. Assume again (even more generously) that each of them subsequently wins and gets damages that are 100 times what they would have gotten through the class action settlement. That's $3,500 each, for a total of $700,000.

In reality, the number of customers who would even think to go to arbitration would be a lot smaller than this example. According to CFPB data, only 2% of credit card customers would even consider consulting a lawyer for a small-dollar legal dispute.

Submission + - FDA Finally Approves Cavity-Fighting Liquid That Lets Kids Avoid Dentists' Drill

HughPickens.com writes: Catherine Saint Louis writes in the NYT that silver diamine fluoride, available in Japan for decades, has now arrived in the United States after Food and Drug Administration cleared SDF for use as a tooth desensitizer for adults 21 and older. Studies show SDF can halt the progression of cavities and prevent them, and dentists are increasingly using it off-label for those purposes. “The upside, the great one, is you don’t need to drill and you don’t need an injection,” says Dr. Margherita Fontana. SDF is already used in hundreds of dental offices and and at least 18 dental schools have started teaching the next generation of pediatric dentists how to use it. “Being able to paint it on in 30 seconds with no noise, no drilling, is better, faster, cheaper," says Dr. Richard Niederman. "I would encourage parents to ask for it. It’s less trauma for the kid.” In Japan, Australia, Argentina and other nations, dentists have been placing SDF on caries lesions for more than 80 years. The value of silver ions to treat tooth decay has been known in this country for well over a century. Silver nitrate was commonly used by the forefathers of modern dentistry. When applied every six months, silver diamine fluoride arrests more than 90% of caries. In children, applying silver diamine fluoride on active lesions once per year prevents caries in other teeth better than fluoride varnish placed four times per year on all surfaces. Fillings, by contrast, do not cure an oral infection. Bacterial infections also cause acne, but a “dermatologist doesn’t take a scalpel and cut off your pimples,” says Dr. Jason Hirsch. Yet “that’s how dentistry has approached cavities.”

Submission + - SPAM: Maker of Oxycontin Sued for Wrongful Death

An anonymous reader writes: The maker of oxycontin is finally being sued for wrongful death. Too many drug companies have been getting away with negligent behavior. They tried to keep their records out of the public, so they settled out of court. The judge has granted access to these records, but Purdue Pharma can still appeal this and keep their information private.
Link to Original Source

Submission + - SPAM: Harvard astrophysicist suggests China could seize part of the moon legally

An anonymous reader writes: Via a report by Leonard David, a Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics researcher named Martin Elvis sounds the alarm of how an unfriendly power – the Chinese for example – could seize control of an important piece of lunar real estate. They could do it legally by exploiting provisions of the Outer Space Treaty, which technically prohibits claims of national sovereignty on other worlds.
Link to Original Source

Submission + - SPAM: So Much For Benevolent Robotic Overlords: Security 'Bot Knocks Down Toddler

kheldan writes: A 300-pound security robot at at the Stanford Shopping Center knocked down and ran over a 16-month-old boy. The parents of the injured boy are understandably pissed, claiming the autonomous machine is dangerous.

“The robot hit my son’s head and he fell down facing down on the floor and the robot did not stop and it kept moving forward,” noted the boy’s mom, Tiffany Teng, in an ABC7 News report. “He was crying like crazy and he never cries. He seldom cries.”

Check out the full story over on Gizmodo.

Submission + - Password Sharing Is A Federal Crime, Appeals Court Rules (vice.com)

An anonymous reader writes: An appeals court ruled Wednesday that sharing passwords can be a violation of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, a catch-all "hacking" law that has been widely used to prosecute behavior that bears no resemblance to hacking. Motherboard reports: "In this particular instance, the conviction of David Nosal, a former employee of Korn/Ferry International research firm, was upheld by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, who said that Nosal’s use of a former coworker’s password to access one of the firm’s databases was an 'unauthorized' use of a computer system under the CFAA. In the majority opinion, Judge Margaret McKeown wrote that 'Nosal and various amici spin hypotheticals about the dire consequences of criminalizing password sharing. But these warnings miss the mark in this case. This appeal is not about password sharing.' She then went on to describe a thoroughly run-of-the-mill password sharing scenario—her argument focuses on the idea that Nosal wasn’t authorized by the company to access the database anymore, so he got a password from a friend—that happens millions of times daily in the United States, leaving little doubt about the thrust of the case. The argument McKeown made is that the employee who shared the password with Nosal 'had no authority from Korn/Ferry to provide her password to former employees.' At issue is language in the CFAA that makes it illegal to access a computer system 'without authorization.' McKeown said that 'without authorization' is 'an unambiguous, non-technical term that, given its plain and ordinary meaning, means accessing a protected computer without permission.' The question that legal scholars, groups such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation, and dissenting judge Stephen Reinhardt ask is an important one: Authorization from who?"

Submission + - Canadian Man Invented A Wheel That Can Make Cars Move Sideways (nationalpost.com)

An anonymous reader writes: Canadian man William Liddiard invented a wheel that allows vehicles to move sideways. "True all-way drive for anything with wheels," Liddiard says in an online writeup for his successful prototype of "omni-directional" wheels. They consist of a specialized roller-equipped rim that can move horizontally and a tire that is rounded like a donut. "This is a world first bolt-on application for anything with wheels," wrote Liddiard. "Now you can drive in all directions, and turn on the spot, when needed." His demo video titled "you've never seen a car do this...," has received more than 1.1 million views since it was uploaded on May 10th. The wheels are a "proof of concept" prototype right now, but Liddiard says the design would allow them to be made as durable and safe as standard automotive wheels. Omni-directional wheels are nothing new, though they are typically only used in wheelchairs, robotics and other small-scale applications. Honda Motor Co. debuted an omni-directional wheel at the 2009 Tokyo Motor Show, but it wasn't for a full-sized car — it was for a Segway-style mobility device. "My wheel can hold ten times more than the other [wheels], while maintaining speed," Liddiard told Postmedia in an interview earlier this year. He's currently trying to sell his invention to a major tire or automotive company.

Submission + - The physics and technological anatomy of fireworks

StartsWithABang writes: When gunpowder was first invented more than 1,000 years ago by mixing activated carbon (charcoal), sulfur and potassium nitrate together, its first major application was to the development of fireworks. By combining four simple elements – a launch, a fuse, a burst charge and ignitable stars – the most spectacular explosive shows could be produced. Yet the design of each stage only works with the proper understanding of the science behind it, and in particular, of the physics underlying it all. To get the right height, shape, size and color for your firework, you have to master each component of each stage. And yet, the science enables us to do exactly that!

Submission + - Federal Court: The Fourth Amendment Does Not Protect Your Home Computer (eff.org)

An anonymous reader writes: The EFF reports that a federal court in Virginia today ruled that a criminal defendant has no "reasonable expectation of privacy" in his personal computer (PDF), located inside his home. The court says the federal government does not need a warrant to hack into an individual's computer. EFF reports: "The implications for the decision, if upheld, are staggering: law enforcement would be free to remotely search and seize information from your computer, without a warrant, without probable cause, or without any suspicion at all. To say the least, the decision is bad news for privacy. But it's also incorrect as a matter of law, and we expect there is little chance it would hold up on appeal. (It also was not the central component of the judge's decision, which also diminishes the likelihood that it will become reliable precedent.) But the decision underscores a broader trend in these cases: courts across the country, faced with unfamiliar technology and unsympathetic defendants, are issuing decisions that threaten everyone's rights.

Submission + - Volkswagen: $10.2 billion settlement for emissions lawsuit

Khashishi writes: Slashdot has been following the story of Volkswagen manipulating diesel emissions tests for some time now. The control software contained algorithms which reduced emissions during testing but not during normal driving. Well, now Volkswagen has agreed to pay $10.2 billion to settle the case. This is higher than the $430 million damages estimated in this story. It appears that vehicle owners will have the choice of fixing their cars or selling them back. Most of the money will go towards fixing the cars, buying them back, and compensating owners.

Submission + - Study Finds Password Misuse in Hospitals is Endemic (securityledger.com)

chicksdaddy writes: Hospitals are pretty hygienic places — except when it comes to passwords, it seems.

That's the conclusion of a recent study (http://www.cs.dartmouth.edu/~sws/pubs/ksbk15-draft.pdf) by researchers at Dartmouth College, the University of Pennsylvania and USC, which found that efforts to circumvent password protections are "endemic" in healthcare environments and mostly go unnoticed by hospital IT staff.

The report describes what can only be described as wholesale abandonment of security best practices at hospitals and other clinical environments — with the bad behavior being driven by necessity rather than malice.

"In hospital after hospital and clinic after clinic, we find users write down passwords everywhere," the report reads. "Sticky notes form sticky stalagmites on medical devices and in medication preparation rooms. We’ve observed entire hospital units share a password to a medical device, where the password is taped onto the device. We found emergency room supply rooms with locked doors where the lock code was written on the door--no one wanted to prevent a clinician from obtaining emergency supplies because they didn’t remember the code. "

Competing priorities of clinical staff and information technology staff bear much of the blame. Specifically: IT staff and management are often focused on regulatory compliance and securing healthcare environments. They are excoriated for lapses in security that result in the theft or loss of data. Clinical staff, on the other hand, are focused on patient care and ensuring good health outcomes, said Ross Koppel, one of the authors of the report, told The Security Ledger (https://securityledger.com/2016/06/study-finds-password-misuse-in-hospitals-a-steaming-hot-mess/)

Those two, competing goals often clash. “IT want to be good guys. They’re not out to make life miserable for the clinical staff, but they often do,” he said.

Submission + - Apple Starts To Shell Out $400 Million To Customers In eBook Settlement (cnet.com)

An anonymous reader writes: Starting today, millions of e-book purchasers will get either credits or checks for twice their losses, said legal firm Hagens Berman, which helped litigate the class action lawsuit. CNET reports: "Apple is on the hook for $400 million in damages plus an additional $30 million to pay the legal fees for Hagens Berman and $20 million to the state attorney generals who became involved in the case. On an individual basis, each plaintiff in the suit will receive $1.57 in credit for most e-books they bought and a $6.93 credit for every e-book purchased that was on the New York Times bestseller list. Consumers who purchased e-books from Amazon, Barns and Noble, Kobo and Apple between April 1, 2010 and May 21, 2012 are eligible to receive credits deposited directly in their accounts or checks sent through the mail. In August 2011, a lawsuit filed by two individuals accused Apple of conspiring to fix e-book prices with five publishers: Hachette Book Group, HarperCollins Publishers, Holtzbrinck Publishers, Penguin Group and Simon and Schuster. The DoJ and the attorneys general of several states joined in with their own suits against the publishers. The lawsuits charged that the actions of Apple and the publishers prevented other e-book sellers from competing on price, thereby increasing the prices that consumers had to pay for e-books. After being found guilty of violating antitrust laws by a U.S. District Judge in 2013 and by an Appeals court in 2015, Apple's request for an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court was denied this past March, forcing it to settle with the plaintiffs.

Submission + - MSI and ASUS Accused of Sending Reviewers Overpowered Graphics Cards (theverge.com)

An anonymous reader writes: TechPowerUp discovered that the MSI GeForce GTX 1080 Gaming X card they were sent for review was running at faster GPU and memory clock speeds than the retail version. This was because the review card was set to operate in the OC (overclocking) mode out of the box, whereas the retail card runs in the more regular Gaming mode out of the box. This may result in an unobservant reviewer accidentally misrepresenting the OC performance numbers as the stock results from the card, lending MSI's product an unearned helping hand. The site found this was a recurring pattern with MSI stretching back for years. Fellow Taiwanese manufacturer ASUS, in spite of having better global name recognition and reputation, has also show itself guilty of preprogramming review cards with an extra overclocking boost. Needless to say, the only goal of such actions is to deceive — both the consumer and the reviewer — though perhaps some companies have felt compelled to follow suit after the trend was identified among competitors. The Verge notes that TechPowerUp revealed its finding on Thursday of last week, and has not received any official response from either MSI or ASUS. They did update their story to note that MSI addressed the matter, in a comment provided to HardOCP Editor-in-Chief Kyle Bennett, back in 2014.

Submission + - Google staff protest casual sexism by adding "Lady" to their job titles

AmiMoJo writes: More than 800 members of Google's staff are standing together in a showing against sexism today by appending a single word to their job titles: "Lady." This is happening in response to a ludicrous comment made during Alphabet's shareholder meeting last week, when someone referred to company CFO Ruth Porat as the organization's "lady CFO." The idea sprouted in an email group for alums of a Google leadership-development program for women. One employee suggested that they should all change their titles to "Lady ___" in acknowledgement and lighthearted protest of the incident. As in "Lady Systems Engineer," or "Lady People Analytics Manager." As of now, more than 800 Googlers — women and men — have changed their job titles in the company-wide directory or in their email signatures.

Submission + - The Earth actually has two "moons". (msn.com)

CaroKann writes: Recently NASA has discovered another celestial object orbiting the earth. It probably can not be considered a moon because it is only about 300 feet wide.

The object is an asteroid called 2016 HO3 and orbits our planet in an elongated orbit. From the video the orbit looks to be perpendicular to the solar plane, but to my eyes it is hard to tell for sure.

It is believed that 2016 H03 has been orbiting the earth for only about 100 years.

The URL shows a short video of the asteroid and its orbit.

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