BLU Products settles FTC suit over user data collection through ASUPS

Budget smartphone company BLU Products has agreed to a settlement with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) over its alleged use of user data by a third-party, according to a report by Android Headlines. No payment amount was announced by the FTC. Instead, terms were laid out that BLU must follow as part of the agreement.

The suit involves a 2016 report that surfaced suggesting the company used ADUPS on BLU mobile devices to collect more user information than allowable. While BLU was permitted to collect some user data from the devices, the excessiveness to which it did was called into question by the FTC. This included location data, call and message logs, and in some instances, full text message content.

BLU has denied knowledge of the scandal but has dedicated itself to making sure its devices did not use ADUPS to collect data that was unnecessary or at all. In the FTC complaint, two areas were outlined where BLU did not protect users – by collecting data that was not necessary and not taking action to remedy the situation when the company became aware of the issue.

Going forward, BLU will need to increase its protection for users with the use of a comprehensive security program. The company must also not misrepresent as a company that is able to deal with matters of security and privacy. In addition, the BLU will be subject to scrutiny by third-party assessment every two years for the next 12 years.


Marathon Petroleum to acquire Andeavor to become one of the largest refiners in the world

In a move that would make it one of the largest refiners in the world, Marathon Petroleum Corp. has agreed to buy Andeavor – a rival – for more than $23 billion, according to a report by Reuters. Through the deal, Marathon will have access to shale field throughout the U.S. as well U.S. fuel export markets.

By purchasing Andeavor, Marathon will have the access it needs to the shale oil industry in the U.S. Andeavor hold logistics and terminal operations throughout Texas and North Dakota – two booming shale oil states.

With the addition of Andeavor, Marathon will be able to process 3.1 million bpd of crude oil for use in gasoline, diesel, and other fuel sources. It essentially would become the sixth largest producer falling behind Sinopec, Exxon Mobil, PetroChina, Royal Dutch Shell, and Aramco.

Through the deal, Marathon will also be able to participate in the Mexican fuel arena. Andeavor had been working to expand its filling station network in the country. Mexico currently cannot meet the demand for fuel with a bevy of refineries that are in disarray.

Andeavor has been valued at $152 per share after the deal with Marathon was announced. This is a 24 percent increase for the company since Friday’s closing price of $122.38.


Panasonic subsidiary agrees to pay approximately $280 million to settle criminal charges

A division within Panasonic Corp. has agreed to pay approximately $280 million to the U.S. government to settle its criminal and civil charges, according to a report by Reuters. The case involved falsified financial records that concealed payments to sales personnel in China and other regions of Asia.

Panasonic Avionics Corp. was charged with the criminal offenses by the U.S. Justice Department in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. As part of the deal, the Justice Department delayed prosecuting the company in exchange for the penalty payment. The payment included $137 million in addition to another $143 million in disgorgement and interest for the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.
As part of the settlement, Panasonic agreed to improve its compliance program by hiring an independent agent to monitor its progress in this area. It will also cooperate in any further investigations of the allegations made against the company.

The charges against the company stemmed from 2007 to 2013. It involved senior executives that were retained by the company as consultants for what was considered improper use to win business in the airline industry. The payments to the executives were documented as legitimate consulting services.

Panasonic Avionics Corp. is a division of Panasonic Corp. that designs in-flight entertainment systems.


Free beer all summer at Busch Gardens

Free beer is here or at least at Busch Gardens this summer, according to a report by First Coast News. Busch Gardens is “going back to its roots” and offering theme park patrons free beer starting May 1 through the entire summer.

The theme park will provide a selection of beer that will rotate all summer long. Busch Gardens said it was part of an effort to grow Tampa’s “beer culture.”

Guests will be able to indulge in two free beers from the Garden Gate Café upon entry into Busch Gardens. Busch Gardens will offer the free beer to those of legal drinking age through Aug. 5.

A new beer will be offered every two weeks. Coronas will start the promotion paying homage to Cinco De Mayo. Other beers offered include Founders All Day IPA, M.I.A 305, Miller Light, Bud Light, Shock Top, and Yuengling.

Also, offered at the theme park is the ability to reserve your own beer stein as part of the Busch Gardens Brew Club. The stein can be refilled for $5. There are 20 different beers on tap to select from.

And, in the spirit of beer, Busch Gardens will hold its inaugural Bier Fest event on Aug 25 to Sept 16. This is in the theme of Oktoberfest in Germany and a result of the growing Tampa beer culture. There will be 100 different types of beer available at the event, including local as well as imported varieties as well as German food, music, and fun.

The tradition of offering free beer to patrons of Busch Gardens began in 1959 when Anheuser-Busch owned the park. Free samples were provided to guests with their admission to the theme park. The tradition ended in 2009.


Study finds playing football young could result in earlier CTE symptoms

A new study has concluded that players who began playing tackle football before the age of 12 showed the signs of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) on average 13 years earlier than other players, CNN reported.

Researchers from the VA Boston Healthcare System and Boston University’s school of medicine examined some 250 players and found that of the 211 players who were diagnosed with CTE after death, those who played tackle football before age 12 developed cognitive, behavioral and mood symptoms earlier than players who began playing tackle football after the age of 12. Problems with memory, planning and organization as well as emotional problems and problems with depression were among the issues reported during telephone interviews with the family and friends of players.

“What this study found was that playing tackle football lowers your resilience by about 13 years, and that is pretty profound, because that is a big difference,” said Dr. Ann McKee, chief of neuropathology at Boston VA Healthcare System and director of Boston University’s CTE Center.

The findings are sure to ignite even further debate about children playing football. According to data cited by CNN, many Americans say that kids should not begin playing tackle football until high school. Dr. McKee echoed those sentiments.

“Some argue that players should play even later than 12, maybe 18, when they are adults and can make fully informed decisions,” she said. “The study adds to the accumulating evidence that if you’re going to play football, you should do so later.”



Controlling nuclear power production could pave way for cheaper, renewable energy

A team of researchers from MIT and the Argonne National Laboratory suggest that throttling down nuclear power plant capacity and adapting their output to compensate for the unpredictable nature of renewable energy sources could pave the way for cheaper renewable energy.

The study suggests that nuclear power plants don’t need to operate at maximum capacity in order to optimize efficiency. Instead, they can adapt their output dynamically in order to compensate for unpredictable clean energy sources. The end goal is to create a symbiotic relationship that minimizes greenhouse gas emissions and decreases electricity costs for both consumers and power plant owners.

The team used a mathematical representation of nuclear reactor operational constraints and simulations to estimate electricity generation costs, market prices, and power plant revenues.

“Nuclear power plants are governed by a different set of principles compared to other generators, and our approach enables the representation of these relationships in the analysis of power systems and electricity markets,” Francesco Ganda, principal investigator of the study, said in a press release.

One of the most limiting constraints on flexible nuclear power plant operations is the spike in xenon concentrations that follow every drop in reactor power.

But despite this, the team concludes that nuclear power plants can still be efficient when they’re not operating at full capacity. Not only that, they can also respond dynamically to electricity market prices on an hourly basis and regulate frequency on a second-to-second basis.

The findings were published in the journal Nuclear Technology.


25 killed in Kabul’s double suicide bombing attack: reports

At least 25 people died including nine Afghan journalists Monday morning during a coordinated double suicide bombing by the Islamic State group that hit central Kabul, officials said.

Among the fatalities was an AFP photographer, a cameraman for the local Tolo TV station and several reporters for the Afghan branch of Radio Free Europe, police said.

In addition, at least 45 people were wounded in the attacks, according to Kabul police spokesman, Hashmat Stanekzai, who added that four policemen were among those killed.

This attack is the latest in the series of deadly large-scale bombings and assaults that have rocked Kabul and other places in Afghanistan this year. As the Afghan capital mourn the victims of the attacks, another suicide car bombing a few hours later in the southern province of Kandahar killed 11 children, according to a police spokesman. 8 Romanian NATO soldiers were also wounded in the car bombing.

In a statement posted on an Islamic State-affiliated website, the sect claimed responsibility for the attacks in which two of its martyrdom seekers carried out, while targeting the headquarters of the “renegade” Afghan intelligence services.

The blast happened in the central Shash Darak district, which house NATO headquarters and a number of embassies and foreign offices, as well as the Afghan intelligence service.


At least 16 people were reported killed in Syria missile strikes: reports

One of Iran’s regional allies and a conflict monitoring group on Monday, said at least 16 people were killed during missiles strikes that hit military bases used by Iran and its proxy militias, causing a blast large enough to shake the ground like a minor earthquake.

The news of the attacks was confirmed by Syrian state news media that reported the strikes happened near the central city of Hama and near the northern city of Aleppo late Sunday, but failed to provide the actual death toll. An official for the regional alliance that includes Iran, Syrian and the militant group Hezbollah said most of the dead were Iranians.

No country has claimed responsibility for the strikes; however Israel is suspected to be behind the attacks because it accused Iran of using Syria’s war as a cover to build a military infrastructure there to tackle Israel and also vowed to prevent it from developing. Recently, Russia and Syria blamed Israel for the April 6 strikes on a Syrian military base that killed seven Iranians, including an officer in the country’s drone program.

According to Amos Yadlin, former head of intelligence for the Israeli military and now executive director of the Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv, said that it is possible that Tehran would eventually respond to this month’s attacks, though it was not clear where or when. “The Iranian retaliation is on its way,” he said.

The Israeli military does not confirmed or deny its involvement in recent strikes in Syria, and declined to comment on the Sunday strikes. However, security cabinet is Israel held an emergency meeting on Monday, apparently to discuss the rising tensions with Israel’s northern neighbors.

NWT_Climate NWT_Environment SCI

Reductions in smog-forming emissions have slowed, study says

A new nationwide study suggests that reductions in smog-forming emissions have slowed by a significant amount, according to The Los Angeles Times. The data could reveal the reason for the hindered progress cleaning air pollution in California and other parts of the country, which experts believe should be declining steadily.

From the year 2005 to 2009, smog-forming nitrogen oxides decreased by 7 percent each year. But from 2011 to 2015, they declined by just 1.7 percent annually, and even increased in some regions of the United States.

The slowdown was revealed by an international research team that compared official U.S. Environmental Protection Agency emissions inventories with actual pollution measurements in the atmosphere using data from both ground-base air monitoring stations and satellites.

“We were surprised by the discrepancy,” said Zhe Jiang a researcher from University of Science and Technology of China and lead author of the study.

The findings are the first sign of a decline in air quality gains after decades of progress thanks to the Clean Air Act.

One explanation is that past success has amplified the relative contributions of less obvious pollution sources like industrial boilers, construction equipment, and residential water heaters.

“As you become effective at controlling emissions from cars and power plants, the other sources become more important and there’s less information about them,” said co-author Brian McDonald, an atmospheric scientist at the University of Colorado, Boulder.


Fossilized footprints may depict human hunters pursuing giant ground sloth

Several trackways excavated at New Mexico’s White Sands National Monument hint at giant, metric ton ground sloths being hunted by ancient humans 10,000 to 15,000 years ago. The tracks have been preserved for millennia in the first-ever sets of fossilized footprints chronicling human hunters in action against large prey, writes Sid Perkins for Science. Some of the tracks even show human footprints inside those of the sloths, indicating fierce pursuit.

Matthew Bennett, a sedimentologist at Bournemouth University, and his colleagues, studied the footprints and trackways made by giant ground sloths. They discovered that when human footprints are nearby, a sloth’s path sometimes takes sharp turns, or rears up on its hind legs. This process creates smeared-out tracks and arc-shaped scuff marks that the researchers call “flailing circles,” explains Perkins. The sloths “were obviously reacting to something in their environment,” says Anthony Martin, a vertebrate paleontologist at Emory University, who wasn’t involved in the study.

Bennett further suggests that trackways showing human footprints inside the larger footprints of the giant ground sloths show humans purposefully extending their stride to place their feet inside the sloths’ footprints. “This is a fascinating find,” says Jordana Meyer, a conservation ecologist at Stanford University, who wasn’t involved in the study. She agrees that it could in fact “show hunters in action.” Bennett believes that although climate change and disease may have played a role in the extinction of large beasts like the giant sloths, human hunters may also share a large part of the blame.