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News track

News Track

The subway and bus bombings in London were a sign to security experts worldwide that the best defense governments can provide against terrorists armed with explosives remains low-tech options such as bomb-sniffing dogs, trained personnel, and working video cameras. The New York Times reports that after the billions were spent to improve homeland security worldwide, particularly after the 2004 Madrid train bombings, experts concede that building high-tech anti-terror systems and tools to protect the mass transit infrastructure is an extremely costly challenge that will take years to resolve. Creating effective sensor devices, terahertz radiation devices, and millimeter wave machines to detect explosives and weapons may one day prove effective, but in the short-term experts are pushing to better educate transit personnel in spotting likely terrorists, a measure that has shown results in Israel. Moreover, training legions of bomb-sniffing canines is now a distinct priority over artificial nose technologies. "You can't catch everything with a gizmo," says Harvard-based terrorism expert Jessica Stern, "because terrorists come up with some way to evade the gizmo."

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Change for the Meter

A cell phone-based payment option that spares cashless drivers from having to abandon their hard-won parking spot is previewing in Florida. A PayMint system allows drivers to bill parking meter charges through their cell phones. Drivers can make an initial payment or extend their time in the spot by calling a number listed on the meter. When connected, the driver registers personal information such as a credit card number and the car's license plate number, as well as the meter's ID number, through the phone's keypad. The meter charges are then billed to the driver's credit card along with a 25-cent "convenience fee." ABC News reports implementation of the system, used in several Canadian cities, is expected to grow in meter-based municipalities.

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Quicky Wiki

It was intended as an experiment to create a new form of opinion journalism, but it lasted all of 72 hours. The Los Angeles Times boldly entered the Wiki arena earlier this summer with a Wikitorial Web feature encouraging readers to collectively rewrite, edit, override, and revise a posted editorial urging a better-defined plan to withdraw troops from Iraq. As the editors explained in their introductory remarks, the goal of the Wikitorial was to build "a constantly evolving collaboration among readers in a communal search for truth. Or that's the theory." But the number of "inappropriate" posts soon began to overwhelm the editors' ability to monitor the site. Three days later, the Times editors decided to pull the feature.

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Kicking and Screaming

The Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) is considering implanting a microchip inside the soccer balls to be used at the 2006 World Cup finals. The intent is to confirm whether or not a ball has actually crossed the goal line in an effort to eliminate disputed calls. FIFA officials say they will test the technology at the under-17 world championship in Peru this month (and in October). If it proves successful, the chipped balls will be introduced at next year's World Cup. Cameras, sometimes up to a dozen of them at various points on a soccer pitch, have failed to capture some close calls. Officials hope the chips will end the arguments but don't believe the technology will sit well with the multitude of soccer fans worldwide. "Like the players, referees make mistakes," says FIFA president Sepp Blatter. "The only people who don't make mistakes are the spectators. The technology will take away the fun of discussing whether the ball was in or not."

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Career Swings

Research firm Gartner, Inc. predicts up to 15% of today's tech workers will drop out of the profession in five years, not including those who retire or die. Most will leave because they cannot find jobs or can earn more money or feel more job satisfaction elsewhere. The Associated Press reports that within the same period, worldwide demand for technology developers—a job category ranging from programmers to people who maintain everything from mainframes to laptops—is forecast to shrink by 30%. Moreover, Gartner researchers predict professionals affiliated with corporate IT departments will assume "business-facing" roles focused more on personnel and financial analysis than on gadgets and algorithms.

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A News Item We Couldn't Refuse

A new video game set to debut in the coming weeks takes its cue from one of the most iconic motion pictures of all time, letting the player build "respect" by conning mobsters, making alliances, and taking over rackets to become a Godfather. The multimillion-dollar project from Electronic Arts has corralled the efforts of more than 100 artists, programmers, and designers to turn the world of The Godfather into a much-anticipated video game, reports the New York Times. All the infamous members of the Corleone clan are present, but the game makes one of the nameless henchman the star as he makes his way up the "family" ladder. EA consulted with several original cast members in the creation of the game, including Robert Duvall, James Caan, and Marlon Brando (prior to this death). Upon hearing of the project, Caan's first thought was his character, Sonny, would finally make it through the tollbooth and reap his revenge. Alas, no such luck. Sonny still gets it on the causeway. In fact, the player is one of the bodyguards who pulls up to the gruesome scene...too late.

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