Science & Technology
Hacking & ID Theft: Are You Next? PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Science & Technology
Written by Ginny Grimsley   
Monday, 20 January 2014 14:26

At least 110 million consumers were affected by the hack involving Target and Neiman Marcus retailers. Whether or not millions more will have their identities manipulated and finances ruined within the coming months due to more breaches of security at other stores is anyone’s guess, says identity theft recovery expert Scott A. Merritt.

“By necessity, I became an expert on identity theft. My information was stolen in 2006, and in repairing the damage, I learned some not-so-obvious ways we can all protect against identity theft in the first place,” says Merritt, CEO of Merritt & Associates (scottamerritt.com) and author of  "Identity Theft Do's and Don'ts."

Merritt’s problems began quickly. While disputing financial charges and dealing with resulting business problems, in 2007 he was stopped for a traffic violation and arrested on a false outstanding felony warrant. He immediately knew why.

“I had to enlist my U.S. congressman and convince the state police, NCIC, FBI and Secret Service that I didn’t commit the felonies. For a few years, I had to prove that the prints did not match the false record in question. After legal action, however, I was able to have this corrected.”

Unfortunately, the millions affected by the recent hacks may be dealing with similar repercussions in the years ahead, he says.

Before you become a victim of identity theft, Merritt offers seven ways to guard against it.

• Understand how and where it happens. Identity theft is like being robbed when you are away from home; most thefts occur in places where you do business every day. Either a place of business is robbed, a bad employee acts improperly or a hacker breaches the office through the computer.

• Secure your wallet’s information. Photocopy everything in your wallet: photos, credit cards (front and back), membership cards – everything. Put the copies in the order the cards are arranged in your wallet, staple the pictures and place them in a strong box or safe.

• Make sure your information is consistent. For all of your identity and financial documents, make absolutely sure, to the smallest detail, that all of your personal information is accurate and consistent! Discrepancies such as using your middle initial on some documents, and not others, or having different addresses, can wreck havoc in proving your identity, and can compromise your credit score.

• Secure your digital habits and data. Change your passwords at least twice a year on a non-scheduled basis – don’t be predictable. Have a strong firewall if you shop online, and only access sites that are protected by a strong firewall and high industry standards. Access accounts of a financial nature only from your personal computer.

• Protect your banking information. While in the bank, keep account numbers and other data out of sight, and avoid stating account numbers, Social Security numbers and similar information out loud. When planning a bank visit, have items such as deposits and withdrawal slips prepared in advance.

• Account for your interactions with vendors. Every time you speak to someone with whom you do business, write down the time, date, name and the purpose or outcome of the call. If an identity theft occurs on the vendor’s end, you will be able to reference these prior conversations effectively. Be sure to note any animosity or reluctance from the vendor.

• Don’t carry around your birth certificate or Social Security card. Unless it’s necessary, keep those vital items in a safe, or at least a firebox. If you know someone is going to need a copy of your tax returns or your driver’s license, for example, make the copies ahead of time. This avoids the need for a firm’s employee to leave the room with such information.

“Of course, you can greatly reduce being a victim of such recent hacks that occurred at the major retailers by using cash more often,” he says. “But if you’re going to use credit, use a card from a national bank or a national credit union and never a debit card, no exceptions.”

About Scott A. Merritt

Scott A. Merritt is the CEO and sole stockholder of Merritt Ventures, Inc., doing business as Merritt & Associates and author of "Identity Theft Do's and Don'ts." He has more than a decade of experience in the real estate industry, financial planning, insurance, investment services, and has more than a decade in mortgage services, all under the umbrella of Merritt Ventures. Merritt holds a life, accident and health insurance license, and a principal associate real estate broker’s license. He has an associate degree in pre-law, a bachelor’s degree in business administration and a certificate in computer information systems. He has personally represented himself and won in court hundreds of times to, in part, clear his record from the ravages of identity theft.

 
What Do Peyton Manning, Dwight Howard, and Diana Nyad Have in Common? PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Science & Technology
Written by Ginny Grimsley   
Friday, 17 January 2014 13:27
They All Rely on Performance-Enhancing Technology!

Forget drugs that boost performance but cause health problems – and get athletes stripped of medals, titles and anything else they’ve earned.

Professionals and amateurs alike have discovered a new technology, Neurobands, to optimize their performance on the field and alleviate pain from current and prior injuries. Developed with the help of a 16-member team of physicians, trainers and other specialists, Neurobands mimic contractions that stimulate neuron pathways in specific muscles so they continuously adjust muscle balance to keeping the skeleton in alignment.

“Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning, who’s had repeated neck and back injuries and multiple surgeries, now has eight therapeutic shirts with built-in Neurobands and wears them pretty much every day,” says Bill Schultz, who brought the technology to market via his company, AlignMed, www.alignmed.com.

“Houston Rockets center Dwight Howard began wearing MyLign shirts after suffering a torn labrum [shoulder injury] in January 2013 when he was with the Lakers. The National Basketball Association approved it as a medical device.”

And Diana Nyad wore one when she made her record-breaking swim from Cuba to the Keys last year,” he says.

Nyad, who injured her shoulder in her 2011 crossing attempt, can be heard asking during a training session, “When are we gonna put my shirt back on?” in the 2013 documentary, “The Other Shore: The Diana Nyad Story.”

How and why do therapeutic posture shirts work?

Schultz explains.

• Body alignment and good posture are the key recognizable characteristics of human health and a fundamental requirement for performance. The skeletal system will best support the weight and forces put on the body using the least amount of energy when it is correctly aligned. However, many people, including professional athletes, have a difficult time maintaining perfect alignment, or posture, either because they’ve had an injury that impedes it or because they’re unable to do so without making a conscious effort. “These shirts are actually even more helpful and effective for people who sit at desks all day, since they tend to sit with their head forward,” Schultz says.

• Compression shirts don’t perform the same function. Compression shirts are designed to indiscriminately squeeze regional body parts. The only scientifically validated benefit is increased blood flow in the legs when certain regions are compressed, Schultz says, adding compression garments tend to be worn more for an aesthetic the wearer hopes to achieve.

• Correct alignment improves blood flow and reduces stress on joints. Increased blood flow improves muscle strength. In one of the independent studies done on AlignMed Posture Shirts, the University of Southern California tested pitchers’ velocity, accuracy and throwing arm physiology when wearing the shirts and when wearing their usual game day undergarments. Velocity increased 1.47 mph and an overall 23.5 percent improvement in accuracy. “Reducing the excess force on joints cuts down on fatigue, the No. 1 cause of injury,” Schultz says.

About Bill Schultz

Bill Schultz is founder and president of AlignMed, www.alignmed.com, a leading research-based innovator focused on the mechanical, neurological and aesthetic functions of posture. Through clinical studies and with the help of the AlignMed Advisory panel of 16 physicians, trainers and other specialists, Schultz has helped deliver critical information on the benefits of a proper posture to universities, medical clinics, physical therapists, strength coaches, the Air Force Academy and professional athletes. In September, Schultz received a Certificate of Special Congressional Recognition for “outstanding and invaluable service.”

 
New Study: Corn Ethanol Reduces GHG Emissions PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Science & Technology
Written by Jeremy Funk   
Friday, 17 January 2014 13:20

Posted on January 16, 2014 by Joanna Schroeder

According to a new study, that compared the greenhouse gas emission reductions of corn ethanol and those of crude oil production and fracking, corn ethanol’s carbon intensity is declining while the carbon intensity of petroleum is increasing. The study was conducted by Life Cycle Associates and found that the carbon impacts associated with crude oil production continue to worsen as more marginal sources of fuel are introduced into the fuel supply.

According to the report, “As the average carbon intensity of petroleum is gradually increasing, the carbon intensity of corn ethanol is declining. Corn ethanol producers are motivated by economics to reduce the energy inputs and improve product yields.”

The study, commissioned by the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA), found that average corn ethanol reduced greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 32 percent compared to average petroleum in 2012. This estimate includes prospective emissions from indirect land use change (ILUC) for corn ethanol. When compared to marginal petroleum sources like tight oil from fracking and oil sands, average corn ethanol reduces GHG emissions by 37-40 percent.

As more unconventional crude oil sources enter the U.S. oil supply, and as corn ethanol production processes become even more efficient, the carbon impacts of ethanol and crude oil will continue to diverge. The study predicts that by 2022, average corn ethanol reduces GHG emissions by 43-60 percent compared to petroleum.

“The majority of unconventional fuel sources emit significantly more GHG emissions than both biofuels and conventional fossil fuel sources,” according to the study. “The biggest future impacts on the U.S. oil slate are expected to come from oil sands and fracking production.” In the absence of biofuels, “…significant quantities of marginal oil would be fed into U.S. refineries, generating corresponding emissions penalties that would be further aggravated in the absence of renewable fuel alternatives.”

The study also reveals several fundamental flaws with the GHG analysis conducted by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for the expanded Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS2) regulations. Just one example: corn ethanol was already determined to reduce GHG emissions by 21 percent compared to gasoline in 2005, according to the analysis. Yet, the EPA’s analysis for the RFS2 assumes corn ethanol GHG reductions won’t reach 21 percent until 2022.

The EPA’s analysis also assumes the carbon intensity of crude oil will be the same in 2022 as it was in 2005, a presumption that has already been disproven by the real-world increase in the carbon intensity of crude oil. “As unconventional sources of crude oil have grown in recent years, the carbon intensity of petroleum fuels has increased above the baseline levels initially identified in the Renewable Fuel Standard…” according to the authors, who call on EPA to address several shortcomings with its analysis.

RFA President and CEO Bob Dinneen made the following comments on the results of the new study. “When it comes to ethanol’s carbon footprint, biofuel critics and some regulatory agencies are unfortunately stuck in the past. We don’t need to wait until 2022 for corn ethanol to deliver on its promise to reduce GHG emissions. This study uses the latest data and modeling tools to show that corn ethanol has significantly reduced GHG emissions from the transportation sector since enactment of the original RFS in 2005.”

“Further,” said Dinneen, “the report highlights that ethanol’s GHG performance will continue to improve and diverge with crude oil sources that will only get dirtier as time goes on. When ethanol is appropriately compared to the unconventional petroleum sources it is replacing at the margin, the GHG benefits are even more obvious. We urge EPA officials to closely examine this new information and make good on their commitment to ensure the RFS regulations are based on the latest data and best available science.”

Other key findings and recommendations from the study can be found here.

Posted in biofuelsEnvironmentEthanolOilResearchRFALeave a reply

 
Hearing with the President's Review Group on Intelligence and Communications Technologies - Grassley Opening Statement PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Science & Technology
Written by Grassley Press   
Wednesday, 15 January 2014 08:58

Prepared Statement of Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa

Ranking Member, Senate Committee on the Judiciary

“The Report of the President’s Review Group on Intelligence and Communications Technologies”

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Mr. Chairman, thank you for holding this hearing.  I join you in welcoming the members of the President’s Review Group on Intelligence and Communications Technologies.

This is the latest in a series of hearings on the government’s surveillance authorities that the Committee has held.  The NSA continues to be of great concern to my constituents and many across our country.

The most important responsibility of government is to protect our national security, while at the same time preserving our civil liberties.  This is a responsibility that’s getting harder to meet.  Rapid changes in technology are making our enemies more lethal, our world more interconnected, and our privacy more subject to possible intrusion.

Under these circumstances, it’s useful to hear a variety of perspectives, including from those outside government.  I thank the members of the Review Group for their service.

Some of the conclusions in the Review Group’s report may help clarify the issues before us as we consider possible reforms.

First, according to the report, “although recent disclosures and commentary have created the impression in some quarters that NSA surveillance is indiscriminate and pervasive across the globe, that is not the case.”  Moreover, the report concludes, “we have not uncovered any official efforts to suppress dissent or any intent to intrude into people’s private lives without legal justification.”

None of this means that the potential for abuse of these authorities shouldn’t concern us.  It should.  Or that the NSA hasn’t made serious mistakes.  Or that the law in this area couldn’t be improved.  Indeed, there’s a place for additional transparency, safeguards and oversight in this area. But these conclusions are helpful in clarifying the issues before us.

Second, the report recommends that “the national security of the United States depends on the continued capacity of NSA and other agencies to collect essential information.  In considering proposals for reform, now and for the future, policymakers should avoid the risk of overreaction and take care in making changes that could undermine the   capabilities of the Intelligence Community.”  This seems like good advice.

One recommendation that may reflect this advice is the Review Group’s proposal to preserve the government’s controversial ability to query telephone metadata, but with some changes.

One of those recommended changes is that private entities hold the metadata.  This is an interesting idea perhaps worth investigating.  But I’m concerned that it may create as many privacy problems as it solves.  Indeed, private companies seem to be allowing their customers’ information to be hacked on what seems like a daily basis.

Just as importantly, I’m concerned that in other instances the Review Group may not have followed its own advice.  Some of its other recommendations may seriously threaten our national security, especially if adopted collectively.

For example, some of the recommendations in the report appear to make it more difficult to investigate a terrorist than a common criminal.

Some appear to extend the rights of Americans to foreigners without a good reason.

And some appear to rebuild the wall between our law enforcement and national security communities that existed before September 11, 2001.  Of course, that wall helped contribute to our inability to detect and thwart the attack on that day.  Thousands died as a result.

I don’t mean to criticize the effort or intentions of the Review Group.  But I’m concerned that the group was given such a relatively short time to do their work.  As a result, for example, I understand the group spent only one day at the NSA.

I’m also concerned that the group lacked some important perspectives.  For example, none of its members has any experience supervising terrorism investigations at the Department of Justice or the FBI.

And I’m concerned that the group produced a large number of recommendations, but didn’t develop many of them fully.

As the Review Group wrote, its recommendations “will require careful assessment by a wide range of relevant officials, with close reference to the likely consequences.”  I look forward to beginning that process today, and again welcome our witnesses.

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Quad City Engineering and Science Council Award Nominations Due By January 31, 2014 PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Science & Technology
Written by Christine Cournoyer   
Tuesday, 14 January 2014 10:14

The Quad City Science and Engineering Council is Accepting Nominations for 2014 Awards through January 31, 2014. The 6 award categories are: Junior Engineer (less than 36 years old), Senior Engineer (36 years old or greater), Junior Scientist (less than 36 years old), Senior Scientist (36 years old or greater), Lifetime Achievement Award and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) Teacher of the Year. Any technical society, business, organization, or individual may submit as many nominations as they wish. The awards will be announced at the 52nd Annual National Engineers Week Banquet tentatively scheduled for February 20, 2014.  The nomination form and more information can be found on our website:www.qcesc.org

Scholarship Applications Available for High School Seniors interested in STEM Degree Due January 17, 2014

The Quad-City Engineering and Science Council, or QCESC, has released its 2014 scholarship application at www.qcesc.org.  Applications must be mailed by January 17, 2014. The scholarships will be awarded at its 52nd annual National Engineers Week banquet on February 20th. Last year 11 scholarships were awarded worth $18,000.

These scholarships are awarded based on academics, extracurricular activities (which include work and community service), and leadership experience. An essay on career goals and why the applicant is interested in a STEM-related field is also required.

High school seniors from Henry, Mercer, Rock Island, and Whiteside counties in Illinois; and Clinton Louisa, Muscatine, and Scott counties in Iowa are eligible to apply. For more information and to download the form, please visit www.qcesc.org

 
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