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Submission + - US Life Expectancy Declines For the First Time Since 1993 (washingtonpost.com)

An anonymous reader writes: For the first time in more than two decades, life expectancy for Americans declined last year — a troubling development linked to a panoply of worsening health problems in the United States. Rising fatalities from heart disease and stroke, diabetes, drug overdoses, accidents and other conditions caused the lower life expectancy revealed in a report released Thursday by the National Center for Health Statistics. In all, death rates rose for eight of the top 10 leading causes of death. The new report raises the possibility that major illnesses may be eroding prospects for an even wider group of Americans. Its findings show increases in “virtually every cause of death. It’s all ages,” said David Weir, director of the health and retirement study at the Institute for Social Research at the University of Michigan. Over the past five years, he noted, improvements in death rates were among the smallest of the past four decades. “There’s this just across-the-board [phenomenon] of not doing very well in the United States.” Overall, life expectancy fell by one-tenth of a year, from 78.9 in 2014 to 78.8 in 2015, according to the latest data. The last time U.S. life expectancy at birth declined was in 1993, when it dropped from 75.6 to 75.4, according to World Bank data. The overall death rate rose 1.2 percent in 2015, its first uptick since 1999. More than 2.7 million people died, about 45 percent of them from heart disease or cancer.

Submission + - John Deere's Electric Tractor Paves the Way For Zero Emissions Farming (newatlas.com)

An anonymous reader writes: John Deere has released a video of an all-electric concept tractor in the lead-up to the SIMA Agribusiness show in France, pointing the way toward a zero-local-emissions tractor product in the future. In some ways, tractors seem like an ideal candidate for electrification. Electric motors are great for generating the kinds of huge torque figures tractors require, and tractors are generally fairly short range vehicles that live in the same shed every night, making for convenient recharging. They're also very low-maintenance in comparison with diesel gear. That's the thinking behind John Deere's SESAM (Sustainable Energy Supply for Agricultural Machinery) tractor, a gutted out JD 6R with a huge battery bank up front and dual electric motors developing up to 130 kilowatts (174 horsepower) of continuous power. The dual motors can be set to three modes; all drive can go to the wheels, or the power take-off shaft, or drive can be split between them. The battery at this stage will only last for about four hours of work, so it's not ready for the big leagues yet. But it's starting to get close, and it's good to see a major player in agriculture starting to take zero-emissions farming seriously.

Submission + - Three college students were behind BBC, Trump cyberattacks (zdnet.com)

An anonymous reader writes: How many hackers does it take to bring down one of the world's largest websites? Turns out, only three, and two of them are still in college.

Several sources have told ZDNet that despite claiming to have dozens of members across the world, the New World Hackers' consists of just three core members who carry out the bulk of the group's cyberattacks — the youngest of which is still a teenager.

The group also targeted and downed Donald Trump's campaign website and banking giant HSBC's website in separate attacks.

Submission + - Scientists Develop Robotic Hand For People With Quadriplegia (phys.org)

An anonymous reader writes: Scientists have developed a mind-controlled robotic hand that allows people with certain types of spinal injuries to perform everyday tasks such as using a fork or drinking from a cup. The low-cost device was tested in Spain on six people with quadriplegia affecting their ability to grasp or manipulate objects. By wearing a cap that measures electric brain activity and eye movement the users were able to send signals to a tablet computer that controlled the glove-like device attached to their hand. Participants in the small-scale study were able to perform daily activities better with the robotic hand than without, according to results published Tuesday in the journal Science Robotics. It took participants just 10 minutes to learn how to use the system before they were able to carry out tasks such as picking up potato chips or signing a document. According to Surjo R. Soekadar, a neuroscientist at the University Hospital Tuebingen in Germany and lead author of the study, participants represented typical people with high spinal cord injuries, meaning they were able to move their shoulders but not their fingers. There were some limitations to the system, though. Users had to have sufficient function in their shoulder and arm to reach out with the robotic hand. And mounting the system required another person's help.

Submission + - It Will Soon Be Illegal To Punish Customers Who Criticize Businesses Online (arstechnica.com)

An anonymous reader writes: Congress has passed a law protecting the right of U.S. consumers to post negative online reviews without fear of retaliation from companies. The bipartisan Consumer Review Fairness Act was passed by unanimous consent in the US Senate yesterday, a Senate Commerce Committee announcement said. The bill, introduced in 2014, was already approved by the House of Representatives and now awaits President Obama's signature. The Consumer Review Fairness Act—full text available here—voids any provision in a form contract that prohibits or restricts customers from posting reviews about the goods, services, or conduct of the company providing the product or service. It also voids provisions that impose penalties or fees on customers for posting online reviews as well as those that require customers to give up the intellectual property rights related to such reviews. The legislation empowers the Federal Trade Commission to enforce the new law and impose penalties when necessary. The bill also protects reviews that aren't available via the Internet.

Submission + - NASA's Climate Research Is Set To Be Scrapped (theguardian.com)

dryriver writes: The Guardian reports: Donald Trump is poised to eliminate all climate change research conducted by Nasa as part of a crackdown on “politicized science”, his senior adviser on issues relating to the space agency has said. Nasa’s Earth science division is set to be stripped of funding in favor of exploration of deep space, with the president-elect having set a goal during the campaign to explore the entire solar system by the end of the century. This would mean the elimination of Nasa’s world-renowned research into temperature, ice, clouds and other climate phenomena. Kevin Trenberth, senior scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, said as Nasa provides the scientific community with new instruments and techniques, the elimination of Earth sciences would be “a major setback if not devastating”.“It could put us back into the ‘dark ages’ of almost the pre-satellite era,” he said. “It would be extremely short sighted".

Submission + - Trump to Attack Visas That "Undercut the American Worker" (cio.com.au)

OverTheGeicoE writes: On Monday, US President-elect Donald Trump released a video message outlining his policy plans for his first 100 days in office. At 1 minute, 56 seconds into the message, he states that he will direct the Department of Labor to investigate "all abuses of the visa programs that undercut the American worker." During his presidential campaign, Trump was critical of the H-1B visa program that has been widely criticized for displacing US high-technology workers. "Companies are importing low-wage workers on H-1B visas to take jobs from young college-trained Americans," said Trump at an Ohio rally. At other rallies, Trump invited former IT workers from Disney who had been forced to train their H-1B replacements to speak. According to TFA, the Monday Trump video is "the strongest signal yet that the H-1B visa program is going get real scrutiny once he takes office."

Submission + - SPAM: A dangerous moment for climate change, and for science

Dan Drollette writes: We're at a tipping point, says Princeton physicist Rob Socolow, who's been studying global carbon management and fossil fuel sequestration for years. (He's famous in the climate science arena, because of his 'wedges' paper on different approaches to solve the problem using current technology.) [spam URL stripped]...
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Submission + - New Report Shows Internet Freedom Declining Worldwide (thestack.com)

An anonymous reader writes: A report issued by an independent watchdog organization shows that internet freedom is on the decline worldwide for the sixth straight year. The study by researchers at Freedom House assigned each of 65 countries a Freedom of the Internet (FOTIN) score. The FOTIN score is based on three categories: obstacles to access, which includes infrastructural and economic barriers to the internet; limits to content, and violations of user rights, which covers surveillance, privacy, and repercussions to users who violate internet restrictions. The study found that internet freedom continues to decline as governments increasingly target social media and communication apps to halt dissemination of information among the public.

Submission + - Sony accused of censoring negative feedback on its Bravia TVs ahead of Black Fri (ibtimes.co.uk)

An anonymous reader writes: Disgruntled owners of Sony's Bravia televisions have accused the company of "censoring" its community forums by preventing users from reporting technical issues. Users on Reddit say the company has locked threads containing complaints about its 4K televisions to suppress negative feedback in the run-up to the high-spending season.

One of the threads removed by Sony contained 90 pages-worth of reports of input lag issues affecting its 2016 line of ultra-high definition (UHD) Bravia sets. The thread is titled, "Buyers beware, it looks almost the entire 4K 'HDR capable' TV line up from Sony are trash for 4K and HDR gaming" and clicking on the link now brings up an empty page with the error message: "the topic you are trying to access is not available."

Submission + - Vietnam abandons plan for first nuclear power plants (reuters.com)

mdsolar writes: Vietnam's National Assembly voted on Tuesday to abandon plans to build two multi-billion-dollar nuclear power plants with Russia and Japan, after officials cited lower demand forecasts, rising costs and safety concerns.

The vote to scrap the country's first atomic energy project deals a blow to the global nuclear business and to Japan's drive to begin exporting reactors after the Fukushima disaster left its nuclear industry in a deep freeze.

The Vietnamese government said in a statement that the decision, made in a closed session of parliament after discussion of a government proposal, was taken for economic reasons and not because of any technological considerations.

Submission + - China hits back at Trump's climate change hoax claims (cnn.com)

furnotree0106 writes: Beijing has turned the tables on US President-elect Donald Trump over his accusation that climate change is a Chinese hoax, claiming that it was the Republican's own party that initiated global warming negotiations.

Submission + - Elon Musk: Tesla's Solar Roof Will Cost Less Than a Traditional Roof (bloomberg.com)

An anonymous reader writes: After Tesla shareholders approved the acquisition of SolarCity, the new company is now an unequivocal sun-to-vehicle energy firm. And Chief Executive Officer Elon Musk didn’t take long to make his first big announcement as head of this new enterprise. Minutes after shareholders approved the deal—about 85 percent of them voted yes—Musk told the crowd that he had just returned from a meeting with his new solar engineering team. Tesla’s new solar roof product, he proclaimed, will actually cost less to manufacture and install than a traditional roof—even before savings from the power bill. “Electricity,” Musk said, “is just a bonus.” If Musk’s claims prove true, this could be a real turning point in the evolution of solar power. The rooftop shingles he unveiled just a few weeks ago are something to behold: They’re made of textured glass and are virtually indistinguishable from high-end roofing products. They also transform light into power for your home and your electric car. “So the basic proposition will be: Would you like a roof that looks better than a normal roof, lasts twice as long, costs less and—by the way—generates electricity?” Musk said. “Why would you get anything else?” Much of the cost savings Musk is anticipating comes from shipping the materials. Traditional roofing materials are brittle, heavy, and bulky. Shipping costs are high, as is the quantity lost to breakage. The new tempered-glass roof tiles, engineered in Tesla’s new automotive and solar glass division, weigh as little as a fifth of current products and are considerably easier to ship, Musk said.

Submission + - How Google Undermines User Trust by Blocking Users from Their Own Data (vortex.com)

Lauren Weinstein writes: There are times when Google is in the right. There are times when Google is in the wrong. By far, they’re usually on the angels’ side of most issues. But there’s one area where they’ve had consistent problems dating back for years: Cutting off users from those users’ own data when there’s a dispute regarding Google Account status.

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