New window blinds standards to prevent child death take effect – TODAY

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/ Source: TODAY

By Ronnie Koenig

Window blinds and coverings with cords pose serious risk of injury or strangulation to infants and young children. But consumer advocates are hopeful that new standards for window coverings manufacturers that took effect Saturday will prevent further tragedy.

The new standard requires stock products, sold in stores and online, to be cordless or have short cords, according to a press release from an industry group Window Covering Manufacturers Association.

It’s a measure that many parents had hoped for in the wake of accidents involving window blinds that caused children to be seriously injured by or suffer death by strangulation.

“The standard’s new requirements segments the market into custom and stock, and requires all stock products, sold in stores and online, to be cordless or have inaccessible or short cords,” the association’s executive director, Ralph Vasami, said in a press release.

This means that custom blind orders can still have long cords, (for people who need them because of their height or a disability). But since stock blinds account for more than 80 percent of those sold in stores, the blinds you’ll see on the shelves will now be largely cordless or have short cords.

Vasami says that data from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission shows that short-corded or cordless blinds will have the most significant impact on reducing strangulation risks to children.

Getty Images

When most new parents baby-proof their households they immediately cover electrical outlets and place safety guards on door knobs and cabinets. But window blind cords are often overlooked as a potential danger.

A study published in the journal Pediatrics found that from 1990 through 2015, 17,000 children under six, or almost two children a day, wound up in the emergency room for injuries involving to window blinds. Sadly, there have been many cases of children dying from window cord strangulation, including the daughter of NFL running back Reno Mahe, whose three-year-old daughter Elsie was found strangled to death in her home in November 2016. Reportedly, the toddler had been playing with a friend when the incident occurred. Unfortunately, in most cases involving window blind cords the child does not make a sound so parents or caregivers are unaware that anything is wrong.

Hopefully this new safety standard will prevent these tragic situations. In the meantime, check out this easy guide to baby-proofing your home. And if you have corded blinds, it’s time to take them down and go window dressing shopping.

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Energy firms SSE and Npower scrap merger plan – BBC News

Close up of woman's hand setting temperature control on oven.Image copyright
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Energy firm SSE has scrapped its plan to merge its retail business with rival Npower, blaming “very challenging market conditions”.

The deal would have created the UK’s second-biggest energy supplier.

The two said last month they would have to renegotiate the deal, which had been cleared by the regulator, because of the government’s new price cap.

The cap will keep energy bills below £1,137 a year for “typical usage” and is due to start in the new year.

Energy regulator Ofgem has said the cap will save 11 million customers an average of £76 a year on their gas and electricity bills.

More than half of all households in Britain are on default tariffs because they have never switched or have not done so recently.

‘Complex transaction’

The merger would have seen SSE’s household energy division, SSE Energy Services, combined with the retail operations of Npower, which is owned by Germany’s Innogy,

However, in a statement, SSE said it had decided the tie-up was no longer “in the best interests of customers, employees or shareholders”.

The deal was affected by several factors, SSE added, including the performance of the two businesses, the energy price cap and changing energy market conditions.

It said the combination of these factors “meant the new company would have faced very challenging market conditions, particularly during the period when it would have incurred the bulk of the integration costs”.

SSE chief executive Alistair Phillips-Davies said: “This was a complex transaction with many moving parts. We closely monitored the impact of all developments and continually reviewed whether this remained the right deal to do for our customers, our employees and our shareholders.

“Ultimately, we have now concluded that it is not. This was not an easy decision to make, but we believe it is the right one.”

SSE said it was now assessing options for its SSE Energy Services business, including a standalone demerger and listing, a sale or an alternative transaction.

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Washington’s new marijuana candy regulations approved – KOMO News

by Zosha Millman, SeattlePI

In this Thursday, June 2, 2016 photo, an employee displays a limeade-flavored cannabis-infused gummy candy at the Chalice Farms industrial kitchen in Portland, Ore. Thursday was the first day recreational marijuana users could legally purchase marijuana edibles and oils in Oregon. (AP Photos/Gillian Flaccus)

Good news edible fans: Washington state will not ban pot-infused candies and gummies after all. But there will be some changes coming to the treats.

The Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board finalized a policy on Wednesday which limits the colors and shapes that edibles can have, but doesn’t forbid pot-infused candies, like an earlier policy did.

As expected, the new rules stipulate that pot companies to avoid bright colors, working instead with a “standard pantone color book that sets the list of colors and specified ranges within those colors” for both product and packaging.

There will also be limits on the shapes, with exceptions for things like non-profit collaborations or naturally-occurring colors.

WSLCB said that the official color list and other materials will be available in January.

Ahead of their formal announcement, LCB released a memo that reviewed the process of the past few months, including draft policy decisions that outlines the proposed regulations. The document also outlined the implementation for the policy, which the LCB expects to take about 10 months once the new requirements are adopted and standard operating procedures are in place.

During that time, retailers would have nine months to sell off existing inventory. Anything remaining after that time (assuming it’s not expired and meets the new rules) should be allowed to be re-labeled and re-sold.

Currently, the LCB expects all edible makers will have to resubmit their products for approval by January 2020.

This is a boost to organizations like Washington CannaBusiness Association, one of the handful trade groups in the state that opposed the state’s action on candies.

“We applaud the Liquor and Cannabis Board for their careful re-evaluation of their announcement earlier this year regarding cannabis-infused edibles,” Vicki Christophersen, executive director of the Washington CannaBusiness Association, said in a statement earlier this month.

“The agency’s new interim policy decision, informed by the input of bipartisan elected leaders and regulated industry representatives, provides a transparent review and approval process going forward for safe, quality-controlled products for adult and medicinal use. Our shared goal is to support the long-term viability of our state’s cannabis marketplace while also keeping cannabis out of the hands of minors.”

Editor’s note: SeattlePI and KOMO News have a content-sharing agreement.

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‘Text tax’ vote canceled by California utilities panel after FCC ruling – Fox News

The California Public Utilities Commission has withdrawn from its January meeting agenda a scheduled vote on imposing a tax on text messaging.

The move came after the Federal Communications Commission in Washington declared text messaging to be an “information service,” not a telecommunications service, and thus not subject to a surcharge under California law.

“Prior to this FCC ruling,” the CPUC wrote in a statement posted on Twitter, “text messaging was not a classified service under federal law.

CALIFORNIA MULLS TAX ON TEXT MESSAGING, MAY LEAD TO SHOWDOWN WITH FEDERAL REGULATORS

“In light of the FCC’s action,” the statement added, “assigned Commissioner Carla J. Peterman has withdrawn from the CPUC’s Jan. 10, 2019 Voting Meeting agenda the draft decision in Docket R.17-06-023, which proposed to clarify that text messaging service should be subject to the [state of California’s[ statutory surcharge requirement.”

The CPUC’s plan was to use the proposed tax on text messages to help subsidize telecommunications service for the state’s rural areas, as well as for its low-income and disabled residents.

A report from the commission laid out why it viewed the tax was needed. It specifically cited declining telecommunications industry revenues during the past six years — a drop of nearly $5 million.

TEXT MESSAGES MIGHT BE NEXT TO FACE CALIFORNIA TAX, REPORTS SAY

“This is unsustainable over time,” the report states.

It was not clear from the CPUC’s statement whether the panel had an alternative plan for funding those initiatives.

Jim Patterson, a Republican former mayor of Fresno who now represents the state’s 23rd District as a state assemblyman, was among those hailing the CPUC’s decision to cancel the vote.

“You can bet I’ll keep a watchful eye on them for future shenanigans,” Patterson wrote on Twitter. “For now…consider the Text Tax cancelled.”

Previously, Patterson had characterized the text tax plan as “an outrageous attempt at a money grab from California families.”

The CPUC had claimed that revenues for its subsidy programs have been falling as consumers switch from traditional landline telecom services to text messaging, FOX 11 of Los Angeles reported.

Fox News’ Travis Fedschun contributed to this report.

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‘Porch pirate’ steals children’s Christmas gifts off porch – KATV

SHERWOOD, Ark. (KATV) — The holidays are known as the season for giving, but for porch pirates it’s the season for taking.

Homeowner Jennifer Garrett tells KATV she got a message her children’s Christmas gifts were delivered Thursday afternoon, but when she got home nothing was there.

It wasn’t until she checked her security footage she realized what happened

“He nonchalantly parked his car, had some trouble getting his door open, slowly made his way to the front porch and left.”

Security footage shows a man in a dark colored SUV drove by her home once, came back, pulled in her driveway and took the stack of gifts.

“They weren’t things for me, they were for my children,” Garrett’s fiance Mark Osborne said. “When people take from your children, it makes you really angry.”

Osborne called police and took to Facebook to spread the word.

His post with the security footage was shared more than 400 times.

“We started receiving messages from people saying they knew who it was,” Osborne said.

If it wasn’t for their security cameras, the homeowners say they would have never found out what happened to their delivery.

“I think having your neighbors watch for you and everyone keeping an eye out as well as keeping cameras are the main things,” Osborne said.

While the couple is doubtful they will get their packages back, Garrett says they just want their neighbors to be on alert.

“As long as it prevents it from happening to someone else, that’s a big deal to us,” she said.

The couple tells KATV police believe they know the man who took the packages, but he has not yet been arrested.

This Monday, the U.S. Attorney’s office is hosting a press conference to announce a joint initiative called Operation Porch Pirate.

The U.S. Postal Service and Little Rock police will work together to prosecute mail thieves.

For tips on how to prevent package theft, click here.

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Quantum Computers Threaten the Web’s Security. We Must Take Action Now. – Fortune

Inside the stark and sweeping Eero Saarinen-styled exterior of the Thomas J. Watson Research Center in Yorktown Heights, IBM’s blue jeans-wearing boffins are assembling a new generation of super-powered computers built on quantum mechanical principles. These otherworldly machines dangle from sturdy, metal frames, looking like golden chandeliers, or robotic beehives. The devices perform their magical-seeming operations inside vacuum-sealed, super-cooled refrigerator encasements. It’s a technology that combines both brains and beauty.

Future iterations of these quantum computers will be able to solve mathematical problems ordinary computers have no hope of computing. They will vastly speed up classical calculations, accurately model complex natural phenomena like chemical reactions, and open as yet unexplored frontiers for scientific inquiry. Despite seeming arcane, machines like these will touch every aspect of our lives—from drug discovery to digital security.

IBM scientists examine quantum computing hardware.

IBM scientists examine quantum computing hardware.

Courtesy of IBM.

This latter area presents significant challenges. One advantage quantum computers have over traditional ones is a knack for factoring large numbers, an operation so difficult for present-day computers that it has become the foundation for almost all today’s encryption schemes. A sufficiently advanced quantum computer, on the other hand, can chew through these math problems with the destructive force of that metal-melting Xenomorph blood in the Alien film franchise. The prospect of quantum computing necessitates a complete rethinking of cryptography.

Today’s encryption may be rendered obsolete sooner than most people anticipate. As Adam Langley, a senior software engineer at Google, has pointed out in a recent blog post, some experts predict this latter-day Y2K could occur within the decade. Michele Mosca, cofounder of the Institute for Quantum Computing in Waterloo, Ontario, has estimated a 1-in-7 chance that quantum breakthroughs will defeat RSA-2048, a common encryption standard, by 2026. If that’s true, then the time to begin reengineering our digital defenses is now. As Langley writes, waiting around for guidance on standards “seems dangerous”; there’s no time to lose.

Buttressing Langley’s view is a recent paper out of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. The research organization determined that, while the advent of an encryption-busting quantum computer is unlikely within the decade, preparations to defend against one must be undertaken as soon as possible. Since web standards take more than a decade to implement, a press release accompanying the paper warned, developing new, attack-resistant algorithms “is critical now.”

The era of quantum computation fast approaches. Fortune 500 companies like IBM, Google, Microsoft, and Intel, are plugging away on the tech alongside smaller startups, like Calif.-based Rigetti. Nation states like China are, meanwhile, dumping billions of dollars into research and development. Whichever entity achieves so-called quantum supremacy first will find itself in possession of unprecedented power—the equivalent of X-Ray goggles for the Internet.

That is, unless we act with urgency to armor up.

A version of this article first appeared in Cyber Saturday, the weekend edition of Fortune’s tech newsletter Data Sheet. Sign up here.

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