Military Personnel Accidentally Ship Live Anthrax
An anonymous US defense official reported Wednesday that military personnel had accidentally sent a live anthrax specimen to a private lab in the northeast. The official said that 8 other samples may have been sent out, but said he believes all the samples are now secure. The samples were believed to be inactive, rather than live samples when they were shipped to private facilities for research purposes. A spokesman for the Pentagon confirmed that there was an investigation into the incident, and insisted that there is no public health risk. The Centers for Disease Control also acknowledged the mishap, and is investigating, but echoed the Pentagon stance that there is no risk to the public.
US Home Prices Rise for 35th Straight Month
US home values continued to rise in March, surging 5 percent from the same month a year earlier, according to the S&P.Case-Shiller index of home prices, issued Tuesday. Of the 20 cities tracked by the measure, San Francisco showed the biggest price gains, at 10.3 percent, followed by Denver. The Colorado capital saw prices rise 10 percent from March 2014, narrowly edging out the price growth in the number 3 city, Dallas. Prices also rose from February, edging up 0.8 percent across the 20 cities, and San Frnacisco again led the way with a 3 percent surge in home prices. Home prices have now risen for 35 consecutive months, according to the S&P/Case-Shiller index, and each of the 20 cities tracked by the measure have posted year-over-year gains in every month since the end of 2012.
EPA Expands Reach of Clean Water Act
The Environmental Protection Agency on Wednesday finalized an amendment to the Clean Water Act designed to further the legislation's reach. Known as te Clean Water Rule, the new piece provides federal protection for previously unprotected streams and wetlands that feed rivers and lakes that are used for drinking water in US cities and towns. Before the rule, the EPA estimates that 60 percent of the streams and rivers across the nation were unprotected by the Clean Water Act. The agency also estimated that one in 3 Americans will have cleaner water with the change, as the sources for their drinking water were fed by unprotected rivers or wetlands. The Clean Water Rule has had ample opposition since it was first proposed about a year ago. A statement from the Obama administration said the move was necessary to clear up a number of ambiguities in the Clean Water Act. The new rule marks the first major change to the Clean Water Act since it was originally passed in 1972.
1st Quarter Overdraft Fees Top $1.1 Billion at Big 3 US Banks
JP Morgan Chase, Bank of America, and Wells Fargo took in a combined $1.1 billion in overdraft fees in the first quarter, according to a report from CNN. Of course, that accounts for nearly half of the $2.5 billion brought in by the 600 US banking firms required to reveal income from overdraft charges. Overdraft fees are charged to a bank's customer when an automatic payment goes through or a check on the account clears, but also when a customer pulls money from an ATM and their account balance dips below $0. The latter can only occur if the customer opts in to allow ATM withdrawls to exceed available balance, otherwise the ATM wouldn't disperse cash if the amount exceeds the balance. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is looking into overdraft fees, and is particularly curious about instances when customers are charged multiple overdraft fees in a day. 2015 is the first year that banks are required to disclose overdraft fee information.
Tracking Protection Feature on Firefox Improves Browser Performance
The Tracking Protection feature on Mozilla's Firefox browser certainly takes care of privacy and security concerns, but can also improve browser performance, according to a study conducted by former Mozilla software designer Monica Chew with computer science researcher Georgios Kontaxis. According to the study, the Alexa top 200 news websites experienced a 67 percent reduction in the number of HHTP cookies set, a 44 percent median reduction in page load times and a 39 percent slide in data usage. The duo cited several examples, including the home page at Weather.com, which loaded in 6.3 seconds without Tracking Protection and 4.3 seconds with the feature on. The researchers loaded each site 10 times with and 10 times without Tracking Protection.
New Android App Could Hurt Google's Ad Revenue
A German company released a new mobile browser this week that has execs over at Google concerned about their biggest source of revenue. Based on the Firefox browser, the new AdBlock browser allows Android users to search the web without seeing the mobile ads that Google earns most of its income through. The app is currently in beta, and comes from Eyeo, the same German firm that developed AdBlock Plus, a PC-based ad-blocking browser extension. According to PageFair, some 28 percent of Internet-using Americans use AdBlock Plus, costing Google a whopping $887 million in ad revenue in 2012. While only 2 percent of the company's ad revenue that year, the total was enough that Google paid Eyeo to “whitelist” some ads. If the mobile version catches on, it could cost Google even more as Americans increasingly turn to mobile devices for their online browsing.
Bill O'Reilly Accused of Wife-Beating
Bill O'Reilly was accused of assaulting his ex-wife during a court hearing over the custody of the two children he shared with her, according to a report published Monday by Gawker.com. Citing a source familiar with the court proceeding in the custody case, Gawker reported that a court-appointed expert testified that one of the two children claimed to have witnessed O'Reilly dragging his ex-wife, Maureen McPhilmy, down a flight of stairs by her neck. Since New York officials seal most filed in cases involving minors, it would be hard to verify the claims made by Gawker's source, but the incident is not a hard sell considering other stories reported recently about O'Reilly's disturbing treatment of family, McPhilmy in particular.
Facebook Takes Another Stab at Google with New Search Engine
The world's largest social network rolled out a new feature this week that's designed to keep users from browsing over to Google something in order to share a story with friends. The feature has only been rolled out so far for a handful of iOS users, who are seeing an “Add-A-Link” option next to the buttons for adding photos or locations. When users type in a query, the feature shows a series of links related to the query. The user can then preview the pages or select one to add to your post. The results appear to be based on what users are most likely to share, as the links are mostly from publishers that have a lot of content shared over Facebook.
Spotify to Expand Into Video Streaming
The Wall Street Journal reported over the weekend that global music streaming leader Spotify is finalizing plans to begin producing and streaming video. According to the report, Spotify has been in negotiations for several months with companies that produce video content for YouTube. In addition to acquiring content, Spotify is also looking for partners to co-produce content with. The company could reveal its plans before the end of the month, according to the Journal piece, which cited an unnamed source familiar with the ongoing negotiations.
Wells Fargo Charged with Opening Unauthorized Accounts in Customers' Names
A complaint was filed Monday in the Superior Court of California accusing Wells Fargo of opening bank accounts and credit cards in their customers' names without their knowledge. The Civil suit seeks a $2,500 fine for each account opened plus additional damages. The number of unauthorized accounts has not yet been disclosed. A spokesman for the banking giant said it will “vigorously defend itself”, but declined to confirm or deny whether unauthorized accounts had been opened. According to the complaint, bank employees were pressured to meet unrealistic sales goals and quotas, prompting the fraudulent activity. Employees allegedly opened the accounts to meet the quotas and even transferred money from authorized accounts to pay fees on the unauthorized ones. In addition to fines, prosecutors also wants all money taken from customers to cover late fees returned.