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Fair for all

Technology | For Japan, Aichi Expo 2005 is a chance to show off the country's industrial and technological prowess

Issue: "Schiavo’s fight for life," April 2, 2005

Japan opened the new World's Fair last month, showing off sights from a fuel-cell-based car to street-cleaning robots to a new-generation Zeppelin airship. It also displays an ancient woolly mammoth's almost perfectly preserved head, which scientists uncovered in the Siberian tundra last year.

These expos, which date back to 1851, have been major milestones in world trade, tourist extravaganzas, and grand stages to unveil new technologies. Recent fairs were disappointments, however, as the popularity of air travel, theme parks, and global communication made them less unique. This year the British, who hosted the first fair, stayed home.

For Japan, Aichi Expo 2005 is a chance to show off the country's industrial and technological prowess. Even after years of economic turmoil, Japan remains the world's second-largest economy.

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The U.S. pavilion honors Benjamin Franklin's 300th birthday in 2006. This $20 million exhibit features a digitally projected figure of Franklin showing off examples of American invention.

World's Fairs may make a comeback when Shanghai hosts Expo 2010. Chinese officials plan to spend over $3.5 billion and hire at least 200,000 workers for the fair, and they hope to convince 200 countries to participate, compared to 125 this year.

Data entry

About 32,000 people received letters from LexisNexis that hackers may have accessed dossiers on them containing private details, including their addresses and Social Security numbers. The company is now tightening security on its massive collection of personal data.

LexisNexis, known to many for its extensive collection of legal and news archives, is also now a major data broker, which means it keeps files on virtually every adult American. It collects data including real estate assets, motor vehicle registrations, and bankruptcy records, which it sells to customers, such as law enforcement investigators, insurance companies, and collections agencies.

After the breach, LexisNexis, which is owned by London-based Reed Elsevier, says it is now conducting a review of its security practices and restricting access to Social Security numbers to limited uses, such as locating witnesses, tracking down criminals, and finding parents who owe child support.

The LexisNexis incident is one of a recent spate of major security breaches involving personal information. Another data broker, ChoicePoint, admitted last February that a break-in affected 145,000 people. Also, Bank of America announced earlier this year that it lost computer tapes containing data on 1.2 million federal employees.

Bits & Megabytes

· Most parents of internet-savvy teens say they set limits on the time that their kids spend online, according to a Pew survey. Nearly three-fifths keep the family computer in a living room or some other common area, and 54 percent use filtering software to block objectionable content. Also, 64 percent of online parents say they check the sites that their children visit, although only a third of the teens believe their moms and dads do so.

· Microsoft plans to start selling sponsored links on MSN Search pages, following the trend popularized by Google. Previously the company used these ads, but let Yahoo do the selling. Microsoft will display paid links based on keywords and provide to sponsors the demographic information (including age, gender, and location, but not names) of the people who click on the ads.

· The debate over cell-phone radiation fired up again on March 16 when a three-judge panel in Maryland reinstated five class-action lawsuits that claim the mobile industry did not protect consumers from dangerous emissions. In addition to punitive damages, the suits demand that manufactures provide customers headsets, which they say cut the risk of brain tumors. U.S. District Judge Catherine Blake dismissed the suits last year, ruling that federal emissions standards pre-empt the state regulations that ground the suits.

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