Amazon sues writers of fake reviews

Who among us does not read consumer reviews before buying an online product?  Or eating out at a new restaurant?  Or choosing a service provider?

These seem to me to be a valuable dimension of the online marketplace, and they have become very important to the businesses getting reviewed.  I appreciate it when companies post an answer to a negative review, pledging to address the problems that were noted.  For the marketplace to be responsive to consumers, it needs information, and now that information–from feedback to businesses to warnings and testimonials to fellow consumers–is now instantly available.

And yet it invites fraud.  I read one estimate that 10% of  reviews are faked.  Businesses can review themselves, or cajole or even pay other people to give them a 5-star review.  Review sites such as Yelp and Trip Advisor try to police that as best they can.

Now Amazon, which posts reviews not only for books but for practically everything it sells,  is suing up to 1,000 writers who are part of a scheme to post positive reviews for $5 apiece. [Read more…]

“Editing” embryos

Researchers are crossing the line into direct “editing” of human embryos, amounting to genetically modifying human beings.

Some of those who don’t approve of genetically modifying vegetables may not mind doing the same thing to babies.  But the new research is stirring up controversy in the scientific community. [Read more…]

Exemptions on moral, as well as religious grounds

Religious organizations can get an exemption from Obamacare’s birth control mandate.  But opposition to contraception and embracing a pro-life philosophy are matters of moral conviction, not just religious conviction.  What about an organization whose stance is based on moral reasoning, rather than religious doctrine?

March for Life is a secular organization, so a judge had ruled that it cannot be exempt from the Obamacare mandate.  But a federal judge threw out that decision, saying that moral objections can carry the same weight as religious convictions.

People are always confusing religion and morality, as if they were the same thing, or as if moral decisions are always religious decisions, and vice versa.  They are related, to be sure, but in the case of Christianity, which affirms both realms, the religious part is not so much about being moral as with finding forgiveness for NOT being moral.

[Read more…]

Volkswagen’s scam

Since 2009, Volkswagen diesels have had software that detects when the car is on one of those treadmills states use for your annual emissions test.  Whereupon the software causes the car to emit very few pollutants.  But when the car goes back to normal driving, the software shuts down and the pollutants pour forth.

That acclaimed German engineering used for such a flagrant deception!  Now dealers are stuck with lotsful of inventory they aren’t allowed to sell, owners can’t pass their emissions tests, their resale value has plummeted, the head of the company has resigned, and a respected brand is utterly discredited.

Do any of you have a Volkswagen diesel affected by this scandal?  What is the company telling you?

[Read more…]

Covetousness and idolatry

In our Bible class last Sunday, in which we are studying the hymns of Martin Franzmann, this Scriptural text came up:

“For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God.” (Ephesians 5:5).

The question arose, in what sense is someone who is covetous also an idolater?  Think about that.  After the jump, I’ll tell you the quite illuminating explanation given by my son-in-law, Rev. Ned Moerbe.

[Read more…]

The Christian vs. the collective

Anthony Sacramone has a quite brilliant post entitled “There Are Only Two Conceptions of Human Ethics.”  He begins with an excerpt from Arthur Koestler’s Darkness at Noon, a conversation between two Soviet-era totalitarians on the difference between the Christian ethic and the “collective” ethic.  Then he applies it. [Read more…]


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