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To address urgent obesity crisis, PepsiCo plans slight sugar cut by 2025

10/17/2016 4:02pm

Enlarge / Photographer : Luke Sharrett / Bloomberg (credit: Getty | Bloomberg)

As leading health experts gathered in Washington Monday to discuss the dramatic rise in obesity and type 2 diabetes over the last three decades, PepsiCo Inc. announced goals to slightly reduce added sugars in beverages—a significant driver of the health crises.

According to its new “sustainability agenda,” PepsiCo is giving itself until 2025 to cut back production of beverages that pack more than 100 calories from added sugars in a 12 ounce serving. (Added sugars are those added during food production and processing that are not naturally included in foods, such as the natural sugars found in milk and fruits.) Currently, about 60 percent of PepsiCo’s beverages contain more than 100 calories from added sugars; the company’s goal is to get that down to 33 percent in the next nine years. The efforts, the company said, will help "meet changing consumer needs."

High-calorie culprits include the company’s flagship beverage, Pepsi, which contains 150 calories and 41 grams of sugar (or about 10.25 teaspoons) in a 12 ounce can. PepsiCo’s Mountain Dew contains 170 calories and 46 grams of sugar in a 12 ounce serving. And Starbucks Frappuccino coffee drink, also made by the company, contains 290 calories and 46 grams of sugar in a 13.7 fluid ounce serving.

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Hacked Republican website skimmed donor credit cards for 6 months

10/17/2016 3:00pm


A website used to fund the campaigns of Republican senators was infected with malware that for more than six months collected donors' personal information, including full names, addresses, and credit card data, a researcher said.

The storefront for the National Republican Senatorial Committee was one of about 5,900 e-commerce platforms recently found to be compromised by malicious skimming software, according to researcher and developer Willem de Groot. He said the NSRC site was infected from March 16 to October 5 by malware that sent donors' credit card data to attacker-controlled domains. One of the addresses—jquery-code[dot]su—is hosted by dataflow[dot]su, a service that provides so-called bulletproof hosting to money launderers, sellers of synthetic drugs and stolen credit card data, and other providers of illicit wares or services.

De Groot said it's not clear how many credit cards were compromised over the six months the site was infected. Based on data from TrafficEstimates, the NRSC site received about 350,000 visits per month. Assuming 1 percent of those visits involved the visitor using a credit card, that would translate to 3,500 transactions per month, or about 21,000 transactions over the time the site was compromised. Assuming a black market value of $4 to $21 per compromised card, the crooks behind the hack may have generated revenue of $600,000.

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When confronted with extreme opinions, extremists become more centrist

10/17/2016 2:02pm

When societies are involved in long-term, intractable conflicts, individuals tend to develop highly polarized views about how to resolve them, which can make it even harder to reach agreements. But it’s possible that making things seem worse could make them a bit better.

A recent study published in PNAS showed that when people who hold extreme opinions are exposed to even more extreme opinions, they tend to moderate their views. Unfortunately, exposing moderates to these same intervention messages makes them more extreme in their opinions, so this technique may be a double-edged sword.

The authors of the study examined attitudes of people living in a conflict-ridden region of Israel. The Israeli conflict has been going on for decades, and individuals’ opinions on it are closely tied to their political beliefs and level of religiosity. The authors attempted to use a model called “paradoxical thinking” to change people’s perspectives on this deeply entrenched conflict.

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FTC says it may be unable to regulate Comcast, Google, and Verizon

10/17/2016 1:54pm

Enlarge / A Comcast service vehicle. (credit: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

The Federal Trade Commission is worried that it may no longer be able to regulate companies such as Comcast, Google, and Verizon unless a recent court ruling is overturned.

The FTC on Thursday petitioned the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals for a rehearing in a case involving AT&T’s throttling of unlimited data plans. A 9th Circuit panel previously ruled that the FTC cannot punish AT&T, and the decision raises questions about the FTC’s ability to regulate any company that operates a common carrier business such as telephone or Internet service.

While the FTC's charter from Congress prohibits it from regulating common carriers, the agency has previously exercised authority to regulate these companies when they offer non-common carrier services. But the recent court ruling said that AT&T is immune from FTC oversight entirely, even when it’s not acting as a common carrier.

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Lucasfilm unleashes legal Death Star on lightsaber schools

10/17/2016 1:47pm

Enlarge (credit: John Lamparski via Getty Images)

Lucasfilm, the maker of the Star Wars movies, is unleashing its legal Death Star on the California owner of schools that teach lightsaber skills in New York, San Francisco, and at events across the country.

In a federal court lawsuit (PDF), Lucasfilm claims that participants might be confused that the program is affiliated with Lucasfilm, when it's not, and that the Lightsaber Academy's owner has not obtained any rights to use Lucasfilm trademarks.

Defendants regularly use the Lucasfilm Trademarks without authorization in connection with their businesses. Among other infringing activities, Defendants use a logo ("Defendants’ Infringing Logo") that is nearly identical, and confusingly similar, to Lucasfilm’s trademark Jedi Order logo. ...Defendants’ Infringing Logo, like Lucasfilm’s trademark Jedi Order logo, is round in shape, with six wing-like shapes curving upward (three per side), and an eight-pointed star featuring elongated top and bottom points stretched into a vertical line.

The suit said the classes, or "infringing activities," are promoted at,,, and

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Tesla, Panasonic deepen ties with tentative solar panel manufacturing agreement

10/17/2016 1:37pm

(credit: Dave Hanmer)

Sunday evening, Tesla announced that it would be partnering with Panasonic to create photovoltaic cells and modules at SolarCity’s new Buffalo, New York factory—if Tesla’s shareholders approve the company’s purchase of SolarCity, that is.

Tesla currently has a partnership with Panasonic to help build its Gigafactory outside of Reno, NV, and manufacture batteries in it. Last year, Tesla announced its foray into stationary battery manufacturing, which it said was a natural extension of its electric vehicle business. The Gigafactory has just begun churning out batteries for Tesla vehicles and so-called Powerwalls (7kWh stationary batteries for residential use), as well as battery systems for industrial use, which Tesla calls the Powerpack.

Panasonic has decades of experience building photovoltaic cells, and Tesla says if the SolarCity deal goes through, Panasonic will start manufacturing in the Buffalo facility sometime in 2017. “Tesla intends to provide a long-term purchase commitment for those cells from Panasonic,” the electric vehicle company said in a press release.

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iOS 10.0.3 fixes iPhone 7 cellular connectivity problems

10/17/2016 1:26pm

Enlarge / The iPhone 7 and 7 Plus. (credit: Andrew Cunningham)

Apple has just released iOS 10.0.3, a minor update to iOS 10 intended to fix cellular connectivity problems with the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus. Unlike most iOS updates, this one is available exclusively for the newest iPhones, since older iPhones and iPads running iOS 10.0.2 don't seem to be affected.

The problem seems to affect US users on Verizon the most consistently, and most users' complaints say that the phones drop their LTE connections and either fall back to 3G speeds or lose connectivity altogether. Reports of similar connectivity problems have also come from AT&T users, and late last week, Bloomberg also reported on complaints from Chinese users who were losing their signals. Apple's release notes don't mention any particular countries or carriers, but iOS 10.0.3 will hopefully resolve the problems for everyone.

Apple is also working on a major update to iOS 10, version 10.1, which adds the "portrait mode" feature to the iPhone 7 Plus' dual-camera system and makes other tweaks. That update is currently in its third developer beta and will be released later this fall.

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Samsung’s new 10nm process promises big power efficiency improvements

10/17/2016 1:06pm

Enlarge (credit: Samsung)

The news hasn't been great for Samsung's smartphone division lately, but there is good news for the chipmaking arm of the company: Samsung announced today that it has started to mass-produce chips on its new 10nm LPE manufacturing process, a major improvement over its current 14nm process.

According to Samsung, 10nm chips can fit 30 percent more transistors within the same physical area as a 14nm chip. Chip designers will be able to create chips that are up to 27 percent faster or chips that use up to 40 percent less power, though most chips will probably do a little of both instead of maximizing one or the other.

A second-generation, 10nm LPP process will begin mass production in the second half of 2017, roughly one year from today. Other than the timing, we only know that this revision is intended to boost performance.

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New agreement will end use of refrigerants that enhance climate change

10/17/2016 12:56pm

Enlarge / US Secretary of State John Kerry speaks in Kigali, Rwanda. (credit: IISD/ENB | Kiara Worth)

Because of the 1987 Montreal Protocol, NASA was able to call a video about the ozone layer “The World Avoided.” In a model for international agreements, the world’s nations came together in response to research revealing a dangerous trend of ozone destruction driven primarily by chlorofluorocarbons—used as refrigerants and, yes, propellants in aerosol cans. The agreement that ensued dealt with the problem.

There’s a common misconception that global warming and ozone depletion are one and the same, but they are separate phenomena with separate causes. The two phenomena do actually intersect with each other, however. Apart from destroying stratospheric ozone, some chlorofluorocarbons are tremendously potent greenhouse gases. The concentration of these gases in the atmosphere is very, very small, but their potency makes them more than a rounding error for climate change. That means the Montreal Protocol has also helped us avoid a bit of planetary warming.

Chlorofluorocarbons were largely replaced with hydrofluorocarbons, which are ozone-safe. Unfortunately, they're also extremely potent greenhouse gases. UN talks eventually started up again with the goal of pushing a second transition to chemicals that are safe on both counts. As more and more air conditioners come online in developing economies like India, the leakage of hydrofluorocarbons into the atmosphere has been growing rapidly, adding urgency to the talks.

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Video game voice actors prepare to go on strike

10/17/2016 12:46pm

Enlarge (credit: Overpass Light Brigade)

Some major video game publishers might have trouble finding top talent to voice their game characters starting Friday, October 21. That's when SAG-AFTRA—an actor's union boasting 150,000 active members across film, TV, radio, and games—is set to begin a strike targeting some of the biggest companies in the game industry.

The strike threat comes more than a year after SAG-AFTRA first publicly discussed a proposed strike, following the 2014 expiration of a contract with publishers including EA Games, Activision, Disney, Take Two, Insomniac, and Warner Bros. The union is seeking royalty payments for actors in games that sell at least two million copies, as well as stunt pay for "vocally stressful" recording sessions, among other demands.

If those demands aren't met, union members will be barred from all voice, motion-capture, and background work on games with 11 affected companies in total. The potential strike action was overwhelmingly approved last year by more than 96 percent of voting union members.

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Court: It’s entirely reasonable for police to swipe a suspicious gift card

10/17/2016 12:36pm

Enlarge (credit: 401(K) 2012)

A US federal appeals court has found that law enforcement can, without a warrant, swipe credit cards and gift cards to reveal the information encoded on the magnetic stripe. It's the third such federal appellate court to reach this conclusion.

Last week, the 5th US Circuit Court of Appeals found in favor of the government in United States v. Turner, establishing that it was entirely reasonable for Texas police officers to scan approximately 100 gift cards found in a car that was pulled over at a traffic stop. Like the previous similar 8th Circuit case that Ars covered in June 2016, the defendants challenged the search of the gift cards as being unreasonable. (The second case was from the 3rd Circuit in July 2015, in a case known as US v. Bah.)

In this case, after pulling over the car and running the IDs of both men, police found that there was an outstanding warrant for the passenger, Courtland Turner. When Turner was told to get out of the car and was placed in the patrol car, the officer returned to the stopped car and noticed an “opaque plastic bag partially protruding from the front passenger seat,” as if someone had tried to push it under the seat to keep it hidden.

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Connected cars are cash cows; low margins may have killed the Apple Car

10/17/2016 12:18pm

(credit: Aurich Lawson)

A pair of articles published on Monday by Bloomberg and Fast Company provide an interesting snapshot of the ongoing collision between the tech and automotive industries. In the former, Mark Gurman and Alex Webb provide a fuller exploration of Apple's ongoing "Project Titan" than we've read to date. The "so secret we can't talk about it" car R&D is believed to have been heavily scaled back—along with Apple's vehicular ambitions.

The once thousand-strong team has now lost hundreds of members, particularly those working on a car OS, as well as chassis and suspension design, Bloomberg reports. Perhaps Apple's scaled-back plans were inevitable; according to Bloomberg, "Apple executives had imagined an electric car that could recognize its driver by fingerprint and autonomously navigate with the press of a button."

Meanwhile, Rick Tetzili at Fast Company takes a look at General Motors under Mary Barra's leadership. Like others in the car business, GM has realized its future is as much in technology as it is in building the vehicles themselves. It therefore has designs on the clever young brains that currently flock to Silicon Valley and so is doing its bit to make working at GM an appealing prospect.

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Assange’s Internet “intentionally severed by state party”

10/17/2016 9:57am

Enlarge / WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange prepares to speak from the balcony of the Ecuadorian embassy on February 5, 2016 in London, England. Today, he can't get online. (credit: Photo by Carl Court/Getty Images)

WikiLeaks announced via its Twitter account this morning that WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange's Internet connection had been cut off, blaming a "state party" for the outage. Assange, who has been ensconced in the Ecuadorian embassy in London since he sought asylum there over four years ago to avoid extradition, has been "detained in absentia" by the Swedish government for questioning on allegations of rape. Other lesser allegations have been dropped because they have passed the time allowed by Sweden's statute of limitations.

Update: Wikileaks now reports that Ecuador cut off Assange's internet access.

The announcement comes after the postponement of an interview of Assange by Swedish authorities at the Ecuadorian embassy by Ecuador's Attorney General's office. The interview, which was to take place today, was pushed back by Ecuador until November 17 "to make it possible for Assange's lawyer to attend."

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Tesla must not use the term “autopilot,” Germany says

10/17/2016 8:47am

Enlarge (credit: Sebastian Anthony)

Tesla has been told by the German transport ministry to stop using the term "autopilot" because it is a "misleading term."

As reported by the German newspaper Bild am Sonntag, the German transport minister Alexander Dobrindt wrote a letter to Tesla saying: "In order to prevent misunderstanding and incorrect customers’ expectations, we demand that the misleading term 'autopilot' is no longer used in advertising the system."

As far as we're aware, this is the first time that a government has asked Tesla to stop using the term "autopilot." There has been pressure building over the last few months for car companies in general to avoid using terms like self-driving, autonomous, and autopilot, though.

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Volvo execs talk self-driving aspirations over the V90 Cross Country reveal

10/17/2016 5:00am

Megan Geuss

VAIL, Colo.—It’s 8am in mid-September, and the air in the Rocky Mountains is cold and crisp and still. A small group of journalists and car reviewers drive Volvo S60s and XC60s down 10 miles of dirt road to get to a lodge by the side of the picturesque Piney Lake, where the Swedish automaker will announce the company’s V90 Cross Country—the latest in Volvo’s Scalable Product Architecture (SPA) line of cars.

Mechanically, this new model is more or less a V90 tweaked to make it ideal (or so Volvo claims) for off-roading. (We should note the Volvo XC90 also handles off-roading, but that vehicle was curiously absent from the day's events.) The Colorado-based event, like its sister event in Sweden, was tailored to show the invitees that Volvos aren't just luxury vehicles—they're built for “Swedish ruggedness” and suffer “battle scars” easily. (I assumed “battle scars” to mean scratches and dings, although maybe even an arrow to the wheel—I didn’t ask.)

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Report: Tech investor Peter Thiel will donate $1.25M to Trump campaign

10/16/2016 8:10pm

Enlarge / Peter Thiel delivers a speech during the Republican National Convention in July. (credit: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Silicon Valley heavyweight Peter Thiel will soon cement his place as one of Donald Trump's biggest financial supporters. The New York Times reported last night that the billionaire venture capitalist, who co-founded PayPal, will donate $1.25 million to Trump's presidential campaign.

According to the report, part of the money will go to a pro-Trump Super PAC, while some will go directly to the campaign. Thiel declined to comment on the donation, which was sourced to "a person close to" Thiel.

Saying that Trump's support in Silicon Valley is slim would be an understatement. Thiel, who spoke at the Republican National Convention in July, is practically the only high-profile tech personality who has come out in support of Trump.

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Bdellovibrio, the cannibalistic drug coming to humanity’s rescue

10/16/2016 9:00am

Enlarge / Unlike Anthony Hopkins here, a bacteria that eats other bacteria is proving to be exciting (not horrifying). (credit: Columbia TriStar)

Bdellovibrio isn’t your average kind of bacteria.

“It has a psychological problem,” jokes Robert Mitchell, a microbiologist and an associate professor at the Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology in South Korea. “It thinks it’s a virus.”

Though it may have an identity crisis, Bdellovibrio has managed to spread to a wide range of environments, including soil, bodies of water, animals, plants, and humans. And its unique set of oddities has made it rather appealing to researchers, many of whom have realized its potential utility—biomedically, industrially, even environmentally.

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NASA’s Juno spacecraft has a problem, delays firing its engine

10/15/2016 2:30pm

Enlarge / Juno captured this image of Jupiter’s north pole on August 27th. (credit: NASA)

For NASA's Juno spacecraft, all had been going well since its July 4th insertion into orbit around Jupiter—as well as things can go when radiation is slowly eating away at a spacecraft, that is. That ended when mission managers tried to send a command to the robotic probe on Thursday.

According to a NASA news release, two helium check valves that play an important role in the firing of the spacecraft's main engine did not operate properly during the command sequence. "The valves should have opened in a few seconds, but it took several minutes," Rick Nybakken, Juno project manager at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, said. "We need to better understand this issue before moving forward with a burn of the main engine."

NASA had intended to fire the spacecraft's Leros 1b engine, its primary source of thrust, next Wednesday. The goal was to bring Juno into a shorter orbital period around the gas giant, from 53.4 to 14 days. The optimal time for such a "period reduction maneuver" is when the spacecraft is closest to the planet, so Juno's next opportunity for this engine burn will not come until Dec. 11. This was to be the final burn of the Leros 1b engine, which fired perfectly on July 4 to put Juno into a precise orbit around Jupiter. Future maneuvers can be conducted by smaller onboard thrusters.

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Presidential candidates promise to change America’s roads, but how?

10/15/2016 1:00pm

Gridlock in Houston, Texas. (credit: aJ Gazmen)

Here at Ars, we like thinking about the future. And some of the biggest problems we’ll have to solve in the future are related to transportation. The population of the US is increasing, fossil fuel consumption must be cut or climate will change more dramatically than it already is, and autonomy is coming to vehicles. So it’s worth asking our presidential candidates their views on transportation policy. After all, the policies of the next four years could impact how automakers implement autonomous systems, whether large train systems will be built (hello, Hyperloop?), and how quickly electric vehicles will be adopted.

Unfortunately, although Ars reached out to Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump, Gary Johnson, and Jill Stein’s campaigns, not one of the candidates’ teams got back to us. That left us with statements on the candidates’ websites and comments they made during debates and interviews earlier this year.


Clinton’s policies are by far the most thorough, although there are still gaps in her plan that leave room for questions.

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Voyage of Time is a glorious, odd trip through the Universe

10/15/2016 12:00pm

Enlarge / A computer rendering of one of the Universe's first stars. (credit: SLAC)

Filmmaker Terrence Malick is a polarizing figure. Some find his emphasis on philosophical themes compelling, but even his Wikipedia entry notes that others "consider it pretentious and gratuitous." Still, it's hard not to get excited when you hear that a director of his stature has made a science-focused film about the history of the Universe. In IMAX. With Brad Pitt as narrator.

Or two films. Voyage of Time: The IMAX Experience is the shorter piece, focusing on the timeline of the Universe and life on Earth. The longer version (Voyage of Time: Life's Journey) has Cate Blanchett doing the narration and focuses more on humanity's place within the cosmos. We recently got a chance to see the IMAX version, and we came away with mixed feelings. While the science is solid and the visuals are absolutely stunning, the narration leaves us a little underwhelmed.

Life, the Universe, and everything

The movie starts with images of a small child exploring her town, and the narration parallels this, with the first words being "dear child." But from there, it dives into computer simulations of the Big Bang, followed by one of the dark matter filaments that drew in matter and helped the first galaxies to form. You can have a look at one of these animations, but even a good-sized monitor doesn't do the IMAX experience justice.

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