Oct 24

Apple Pay Glitch Charges Some Users Twice For the Same Transaction

It wouldn’t be a new tech release if there was not one or two snags and Apple Pay has finally encountered its first one. Apparently, some Apple Pay users have been getting charged double for purchases they made.

“We apologize for the inconvenient and are correcting this issue immediately and all duplicates will be refunded,” expressed Tara Burke, spokeswomen for Bank of America. She would not divulge any more information regarding the depth of the error or how many accounts were affected or through which networks the transactions were processed.

It was an error connected with a processing mistake between Bank of America and at least one of the payment networks involved with the Apple Pay service.

Trudy Miller, Apple spokesperson, said “We’re aware of a Bank of America issue impacting a very small number of Apple Pay users. They’re working on a fix that will be available shortly and revising any duplicate transactions.”


Of course, it is one of those things that is more of an inconvenience than a problem. We are all used to credit and debit cards and bank errors. And since this is not an issue of fraud, just a computer error, it should not take very long at all to remedy.

Aside from this issue, though, Apple Pay has been doing very well. This is a very good sign as Apple Pay is part of CEO Tim Cooks’ strategy to continue expanding Apple’s company with new products. By incorporating this new business product Apple joins the ranks of the biggest card issuers in the United States. This exclusive club is home to the likes of Citigroup Inc and JPMorgan Chase & Co. and credit card networks like MasterCard Inc and Vis Inc and American Express Co.

Oct 16

Organizer of E3 Says GamerGate Threats are Just ‘Wrong’

The nation’s top video game trade group spoke out this week against all the threats that have been made towards women in the gaming industry.

“Threats of violence and harassment are wrong,” an Entertainment Software Association (ESA) spokesman told The Washington Post. “They have to stop. There is no place in the video game community—or our society—for personal attacks and threats.”

The ESA run the E3 gaming conference, the biggest gaming conference of the year. New reports of female gamers being harassed have emerged recently and these comments came along with those reports. Game developer Brianna Wu had to call the police last week and even left her home after all the abuse and threats of rape sent to her on social media site Twitter. She tried to make light of the whole “GamerGate” situation and it backfired on her terribly.

This is, quite unfortunately, not the first time that Brianna has been attacked online. She is the co-founder and head of development for Giant Spacekat, who produced Revolution 60. Revolution 60 is a science fiction RPG for the PC, Mac, and iOS.

Anita Sarkeeisan, who created the Feminist Frequency channel on video sharing website Youtube was also left with no choice but to leave her hoem after she received threats on Twitter. She was also forced to cancel and upcoming appearance at Utah State University. The University chose to allow concealed firearms even though she had received anonymous threats online and she feared for her safety.

The whole GamerGate controversy exploded over the summer when a writer for Gamasutra Leigh Alexander critized the state of gaming in op-ed published in August. It’s “kind of embarrassing,” she wrote, adding that “it’s not even culture. It’s buying things, spackling over memes and in-jokes repeatedly, and it’s getting mad at the Internet.”
A lot of gamers took offence to the piece and began Operation Disrespectful Nod, which is a campaign using social media sites to hit back at websites “that are attacking gamers.”

As a gamer myself I have a vested interest in GamerGate. I’d like for it all to blow over but it seems every time it’s about to, someone else says or does something stupid to keep things going.

Sep 28

Ford Mustang Pipes Fake Engine Noise through Speakers

More fuel efficient engines have their advantages and their disadvantages. While no one would complain about lower fuel costs, some drivers complain that hybrid and electric vehicles are uncomfortably quiet. Drivers of muscle cars especially enjoy the sounds of a powerful engine. To give drivers the best of both worlds, Ford has admitted to pumping false engine noise into the cab through the car’s speakers.

The Mustang has long been considered a staple of American muscle cars, along with its competitors the Chevrolet Camaro and the since discontinued Firebird. Performance vehicles can no longer be made the way they used to be, as new legislation regarding emission standards and consumer expectations of higher fuel efficiency have caused automakers to produce vehicles that no longer perform at a level that consumers have come to expect from American made machines.


The new fuel efficient engines can produce similar results to the traditional four cylinder engines, especially when fitted to much lighter vehicles with frames made of lighter modern materials such as carbon fiber. The sound of the engine however is not comparable to the sound of a traditional engine in any way. The gas guzzling roar of the traditional engine has a powerful sound that an electric device will never be able to match.

Ford addresses this issue through the use of what it calls an “Active Noise Control”. The system is designed not only to eliminate background noise that the driver might find undesirable, but also to provide what Ford describes as an “authentic” driving experience. The chief engineer of the Ford Mustang described the process as reproducing amplified engine noise through the speakers in the vehicle after it is “processed” for a more ideal listening experience. However Ford insists this isn’t fake noise. Right.

Sep 14

Apple Pay Takes Major Hit, Wal-Mart and Best Buy Will Not Use System

You win some, you lose some.

That’s all Apple can really say after Wal-Mart and Best Buy announced that they would not be implementing the scanners necessary for Apple Pay to be used in their stores. Apple Pay uses a near field communication (NFC) to connect with the latest iPhone to allow the user to make purchases from the device instead of using a card.

While other top companies like McDonald’s and Macy’s have already committed to adopt the technology, the fact that retailers as large as Walmart and Best Buy have chosen not to participate shows that there is quite a bit of division on the subject amongst major corporations in the United States.


The primary arguments against using NFC is cost. After the Apple keynote announcement that the new iPhone 6 and Apple Watch would be equipped with the tap to pay technology, a flood of inquiries came into installers of the hardware as to the cost of acquiring and maintaining the necessary equipment required to service these customers. News that each individual unit would cost around $500 to purchase, not to mention install and maintain, quickly disenfranchised many retailers that could not afford the high buy in price for the new technology.

Even larger corporations that could theoretically afford the pricey new hardware began to look elsewhere for a more cost efficient method to accomplish the same task. The solution was an application by the name of CurrenC that uses a specialized barcode for each customer purchase. The retailer can scan this code at the point of sale and appropriately charge a customer’s account. CurrenC has the added benefit of being available for both Apple and Android devices, but at this time cannot be used with traditional credit and debit cards.

So for the time being, it might be best to keep your wallet with you.

Sep 07

Doctors Determine Bras Are Safe

It once appeared in a thrilling novel by Sydney Ross Singer and Soma Grismaijer. It was the first time anyone had ever suggested that bras can contribute to breast cancer. In the novel “Dressed to Kill” the argument is made that a woman who wears underwire bras are at a higher risk for developing breast cancer. And this occurs because the bras cause toxins to build up inside the breasts.

The American Cancer Society, of course, refutes this, pointing out there is no proof. But a new study has looked at 454 women with invasive ductal carcinoma and 590 women who have an invasive lobular carcinoma. There was also a control group of 469 women. Each group of women were asked several questions about how often and how long they wear a bra. They were asked what year they first asked started wearing a bra, does their bra have underwire, what is their cup size?


“There have been some concerns that one of the reasons why breast cancer may be more common in developed countries compared with developing countries is differences in bra-wearing patterns.” Says Lu Chen, MPH. Chen is a Public Health Sciences researcher at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center as well as a doctoral Department of Epidemiology student at the University of Washington School of Public Health.

Chen also said:
“There has been some suggestion in the lay media that bra wearing may be a risk factor for breast cancer. Some have hypothesized that drainage of waste products in an around the breast may be hampered by bra wearing. Given very limited biological evidence supporting such a link between bra wearing and breast cancer risk, our results were not surprising.”

Still, research shows there is no link between mammary cancer and breast support.

Sep 07

Pathogens that are Deadly Found in U.S Laboratories

The National Institutes of Health or the NIH, have found pathogens that are deadly in different laboratories of the U.S government.

The NIH reported the finding of a container with ricin, that was apparently, 100 years old. Samples of pathogens that seem to have been forgotten were also found. The NIH agency is searching for hazardous materials that have been improperly stored. Earlier in July, vials of smallpox where found. The vials were from the 1950’s.

Searches in different facilities showed that more “selected” agents or pathogens where not properly stored, nor registered. The containers, however, where found sealed and intact, free or tampering. There are no indications that the pathogens found are a threat to anyone, since they were sealed. The NIH proceeded to destroyed them.

 

Some of the pathogens found can cause plague, botulism, tularemia and a rare but lethal tropical infection that is known as melioidosis.

Dr. Alfred Johnson, who works directs the safety and security department, said that the NIH is allowed to use pathogens and that they are properly stored and inventoried.

The Food and Drug Administration made another finding on Friday. Staphycoloccus enterotoxin, which causes food poisoning. The vials containing this pathogen were found in a freezer that was locked. The problem is that the lab where the vials were found, was not cleared to handle this pathogen. The vials where relocated to a lab that is allowed to handle the toxins and the vials where later destroyed.

Pathogens need to be handled carefully and kept safe by those who use them. Improper use or improper storage can cause and outbreak and cause major health problems in the population. There needs to be more oversight in laboratories handling this. New safety protocols need to be implemented soon.

Aug 31

New Facebook Search Feature Soon Available

So Facebook is changing things up again. Don’t worry, it looks like this time they might have actually done something with users in mind.

Facebook, apparently obsessed with tracking lifelines, want to make old posts more readily available to you. Their new search feature will make it easier for you to find old posts and conversations with your friends by searching relevant key words.

You may recall that Facebook has tried similar feature in the past. The ‘Graph Search’ in particular—a feature which allows users to find certain information compared with known variables—comes to mind. While not everything always works according to plan or early speculation Facebook is always willing, it seems, to take risks in order to present users with more ways to interact with the network.


That’s probably the most important aspect to any change that Facebook makes—it should be interactive, but it should also be intuitive. If there’s a learning curve, it may not be too easy to sell the new search option.

Fortunately for Facebook—and for the users who are interested in the feature—it seems that the new search option will, indeed, make things easier for users. After all, what’s the point of having a system in place that can catalog every conversation you have ever had if you can’t go back in time to find a particular conversation and reminisce about it later.

Of course, the search option is usual in other ways too: someone shared a website with you but you forgot which one? Search it out. Need a phone number or a link to a google map and it is somewhere in your Facebook messages? Done. Did your friend recommend a book or a movie? Get it quickly.

Obviously the implications could be endless; and perhaps that is exactly what Facebook is banking on this time. The app is still in development.

Aug 24

Police Searching for a California Man With Drug Resistant Tuberculosis

This man’s illness is so serious that there was a warrant issued for his arrest. The young man, age 24, named Agustin Zeferino recently decided to stop treatment for his highly contagious disease. What are we talking about, a drug-resistant form of tuberculosis.

He hadn’t been seen at treatment for two weeks according to Santa Barbara County Public Health Officials. He has the most dangerous form of tuberculosis, which can be fatal if not treated. It is unclear at this time why he decided to discontinue his medical treatment.

Drug-resistant tuberculosis is a very rare form the disease and is highly contagious. It is easily spread by coughing and sneezing. This is the second time a warrant has been issued for a tuberculosis patient refusing their treatment. In fact just last month Eduardo Rosas Cruz, 25 years of age, was arrested in Fresno.


Public Health officials said it is common for patients to disappear for a short time, but said they generally return before any legal action is taken. If an extended period of time has gone by, than Public Health Officials work with District Attorneys when deciding whether to press criminal charges or not.

The drug-resistant form of tuberculosis generally takes 18-24 months of treatment, but is curable. Treatment cannot be forced upon a patient by law. The only power Health Officials have is to use the courts to try and isolate the patient from the public.

Up to this point they have not been locate the missing 24 year old man. They are doing everything they can to find him and ensure the health and safety of the public. This disease is very serious and Public Health official hope to find him before anyone else has a chance to get infected.

Aug 16

Parasitic Plants Can Exchange Genetic Material with Host Plants

If you heard there was a study involving talking parasitic plants you might be concerned that the musical Little Shop of Horrors has become a strange and grim reality.

While this is a fanciful idea that someday might get the Broadway treatment, scientists have discovered that some members of the Strangleweed species of parasitic plant can communicate with its host organism. It is not quite the same thing as a Venus fly-trap that sings about what it wants to eat but it is a more useful discovery.

 

The Cuscuta pentagona preys on familiar crop plants throughout the world. While it does belong to the order Plantae it acts more like a parasite: gripping onto other plants and using it as a means of retrieving resources like water and food.

This is not entirely rare, but something about how this plant uses its host is quite rare, indeed.

The Cuscata pentagona will actually share genetic information with its host plant. The two plants, then, can exchange messages—at least on a molecular level—in order to co-exist. A researcher with the Fralin Life Sciences Institute explains that the dodder plant (strangleweed) extends an appendage—called a haustorium—to the host plant and penetrates it. It can then use this channel to sap whatever it needs.

Of course, this discovery is marvelous but it is not just a natural wonder on its own. Scientists attest that this discovery could lead to more development in the understanding of how plants communicate. And this could aid technology in developing ways to manipulate the genetic material in plants for more beneficial use later.

Exactly what “beneficial use” they mean is still up for question. But the discovery will lead to more targeted research on how plants share information. Westwood continues that the previous understanding about plant RNA was that it is fragile and short-lived. This could prove otherwise.

Jul 24

Gilead Cashing In On Hepatitis C Cure

San Francisco-based Gilead Sciences Inc. has seen its second quarter results benefit from sales of Sovaldi – to the tune of $5.8 billion.

The launch of Sovaldi, a treatment for Hepatitis C with a claimed cure rate of 90% and fewer side effects than previously available treatments, was highly anticipated by patients and medical professionals alike. Flags have been raised, however, at the high price tag – $1000 per pill, making the 12 week treatment a hefty $84 000’s worth. Concerns about the affordability for government healthcare programs have been raised, and Gilead has been asked to produce documentation justifying the cost. With an estimated 3 million sufferers in the US, and more being diagnosed as testing improves, public health officials are concerned that the cost is going to prove crippling.


Hepatitis C is a liver disease that leads to liver failure and cancer, requiring expensive long term treatment and transplants to provide patients with any hope of a cure. Gilead cites the 90% cure rate, fewer side effects and the offset of long-term medical care as justification for the high cost. They believe the 9000 patients cured since the launch of Sovaldi will bring both patients and healthcare professionals around.

Another concern is that medical payers and insurers may ration treatment because of the cost, following Medi-Cal’s release of new treatment guidelines that appear to limit use of the treatment. Some Medicaid programs are attempting to slow the rate of new prescriptions by making prior authorization a prerequisite.

A spokesman from Project Inform, a lobbyist group, believes that this means treatment decisions will no longer be based on what is best for the patient, but instead, on the cost.

Gilead’s competitors will not be resting on their laurels, however, and many in the healthcare community, including patients, will be waiting for a more affordable alternative.

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