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26/09/2022 19:33:12  

The British pound on Monday briefly hit a record low against the dollar, extending losses after Britain's new government on Friday announced a sweeping economic overhaul centered around tax cuts and deregulation. Citibank called the move a "huge, unfunded gamble for the U.K. economy." From a report: The pound slumped as low at $1.035 on Monday, breaking the 1985 record, and although it bounced up from those depths it remains down about 19 percent this year. The pound has also fallen against the euro, although not by as much. In other markets, yields on British government bonds hit multiyear highs, meaning that borrowing costs are rising steeply as the government prepares to issue more debt to pay for subsidies on energy bills and other policies. What does the weaker pound mean for the British economy? The drop in the pound poses concerns, since a weaker currency makes imports more expensive. It also makes it more expensive for Britons to travel abroad, since their money doesn't go as far as it did before. British companies, many of which rely on materials imported from other countries, may raise prices to compensate for their higher costs -- putting pressure on inflation, which is already running near 40-year highs. [...] People and companies abroad buying goods and services from Britain could benefit from cheaper prices. And businesses in Britain that generate revenue elsewhere will earn more when that money is converted back into pounds. For Americans and others spending dollars or euros while traveling to Britain, their trips will be more affordable than they would have been even a few months ago. Further reading: Fed official warns UK tax cuts increase risk of global recession.

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26/09/2022 18:33:13  

New submitter nunya_bizns writes: President Vladimir Putin on Monday granted Russian citizenship to former U.S. intelligence contractor Edward Snowden, nine years after he exposed the scale of secret surveillance operations by the National Security Agency (NSA). Snowden, 39, fled the United States and was given asylum in Russia after leaking secret files in 2013 that revealed vast domestic and international surveillance operations carried out by the NSA, where he worked. U.S. authorities have for years wanted him returned to the United States to face a criminal trial on espionage charges.

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26/09/2022 18:33:12  

Most mission scientists would wince at the thought of their spacecraft being smashed to smithereens. But for those behind Nasa's Dart probe, anything short of total destruction will be chalked up as a failure. From a report: The $330m spacecraft is due to slam head-on into an asteroid about 11m kilometres above the Indian Ocean soon after midnight on Monday. The impact, at nearly seven kilometres a second, will obliterate the half-tonne probe, all in the name of planetary defence. Not that Dimorphos, the asteroid in question, poses any threat to humanity. The Dart, or double asteroid redirection test, is an experiment, the first mission ever to assess whether asteroids can be deflected should one ever be found on a collision course with Earth. A well-placed nudge could avert Armageddon, or so the thinking goes, and spare humans the same fate as the dinosaurs. "It's a very complicated game of cosmic billiards," said Prof Alan Fitzsimmons, an astronomer and member of the Nasa Dart investigation team at Queen's University Belfast. "What we want to do is use as much energy [as we can] from Dart to move the asteroid." With telescopes constantly scanning the skies, scientists hope to have some notice if an asteroid were ever to present a major threat. "If we are able to see far enough in advance and know that an asteroid might be a problem, pushing it out of the way will be much safer than the big Hollywood idea of blowing it up," said Catriona McDonald, a PhD student at Warwick University. The Dart mission launched from Vandenberg space force base in November last year. On Monday night, mission controllers will hand control to Dart's software and let the probe steer itself into oblivion.

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26/09/2022 17:33:08  

Walmart is making its first move into the metaverse. Starting Monday, the retailer will unveil two immersive experiences on Roblox's virtual platform. Walmart Land will feature fashion, beauty and entertainment items, while Walmart's Universe of Play will showcase toys, the company announced. From a report: Walmart follows companies from Nike to VF in a bid to get consumers' attention via virtual universes, where elements of video conferencing, gaming, social media and e-commerce blend together. Roblox has a community of more than 52 million daily users, and many of them are younger people, who are particularly valuable targets for corporate powerhouses. "This is the first major initiative that we have in the metaverse," William White, Walmart's chief marketing officer, said in an interview. "This is another step for us in reaching our customers in unexpected ways." Walmart Land will offer a virtual store where Roblox users can use badges and coins earned on the platform to buy merchandise for their avatars. There will also be a "physics-defying Ferris wheel" that provides a bird's-eye view of the virtual world, plus unlockable tokens and badges that can be earned in games and competitions.

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26/09/2022 17:33:08  

Deutsche Telekom, Orange, Telefonica and 13 other European telecoms providers on Monday made their strongest push for Big Tech to share network costs, citing the energy crisis and EU climate change goals. From a report: The call comes as the European Commission prepares to seek feedback from both sides before making a legislative proposal that could force tech companies to help pay for the roll-out of 5G and fibre cables across the 27-country European Union. The sector which invests some 50 billion euros ($48.5 billion) annually in infrastructure, needs more funding and urgently, the chief executives of the companies said in a statement. "Costs of planning and construction works are increasing. Prices for fibre optic cables, for example, have almost doubled in the first semester 2022. Similarly, the hikes in energy prices and in the prices of other inputs are also hitting the connectivity sector," they said. "Timely action is a must: Europe missed out on many of the opportunities offered by the consumer internet. It must now swiftly build strength for the age of the metaverses," the CEO's said. Europe's telecoms operators argue that U.S. tech firms such as Alphabet's Google, Meta and Netflix account for more than half of internet traffic and should bear some of the cost of upgrading infrastructure. Big Tech has rebuffed such requests, saying they are already investing in equipment and technologies to deliver content more efficiently.

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26/09/2022 16:33:10  

Interpol has issued a red notice for Do Kwon, requesting law enforcement agencies worldwide to search and arrest the Terraform Labs founder whose blockchain startup collapsed earlier this year. From a report: The collapse of Terra cryptocurrency (Luna) and the so-called stablecoin TerraUSD (UST) wiped out investors' $40 billion, prompting an uproar that caused the prosecutors to launch investigations into Kwon and his colleagues. He faces charges in South Korea, the prosecutors said Monday.

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26/09/2022 15:33:06  

An anonymous reader shares a report: Are smartphones ever entirely secure? It depends on one's definition of "secure," particularly when dealing with corporate environments. Most companies with bring-your-own-device policies install apps or agents on workers' smartphones to help secure them, leveraging the management capabilities built into operating systems like Android and iOS. But those might not be sufficient. That's what Cloudflare argues, anyway, in the pitch for the new services it's launching this week. Today, the company announced Zero Trust SIM and Zero Trust for Mobile Operators, two product offerings targeting smartphone users, the companies securing corporate phones and the carriers selling data services. Let's start with Zero Trust SIM. Designed to secure all data packets leaving a smartphone, Zero Trust SIM -- once launched in the U.S. (to start) -- will be available as an eSIM deployable via existing mobile device management platforms to both iOS and Android devices. It'll be locked to a specific device, mitigating the risk of SIM-swapping attacks, and usable either in a standalone configuration or in tandem with Cloudflare's mobile agent, WARP. In a recent email interview, Cloudflare CTO John Graham-Cumming made the case that Zero Trust SIM can accomplish what VPNs and other secure layers can't: cell-level protection. A SIM card can act as another security factor, and -- in combination with hardware keys -- make it nearly impossible to impersonate an employee, he argued. "Zero Trust SIM provides defense in depth. A VPN layer is one of those components, but doesn't remove the need to still deploy cellular connectivity across all of your mobile devices today, and traditional 'AnyConnect-style' VPNs do nothing to stop attackers moving laterally once they're inside the VPN," Graham-Cumming said. "We continue to see organizations breached due to challenges securing their applications and networks, and what was once a real-estate budget is quickly becoming a 'secure my remote and distributed workforce' budget from an IT security perspective." Specifically, Graham-Cumming said that Zero Trust SIM will enable Cloudflare to rewrite DNS requests leaving a device to instead use Cloudflare Gateway for DNS filtering.

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26/09/2022 14:33:17  

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Interesting Engineering: Florida-based tech startup Undefined Technologies announced its unique ionic propulsion drone has passed an outdoor flight test, meaning it's on track for commercial release in 2024, according to a report from New Atlas. The drone, called Silent Ventus, uses proprietary technology to ionize the oxygen and nitrogen molecules in the surrounding air to create an "ionic wind" that propels the machine in the direction it wants to go. According to Undefined, the drone could be used for cargo. Though it's not been used for large-scale drone projects on Earth before, ionic propulsion isn't a new technology. In fact, it's currently one of the best technologies humans currently possess for deep space exploration propulsion and other space applications. According to Undefined, its "Air Tantrum" ionic propulsion technology produces up to 150 percent more thrust than current ion thruster technologies. Earlier this year, the company released footage of a two-and-a-half-minute indoor flight test, saying the drone emitted 85 decibels of noise. Now, it claims it's flown a prototype for four and a half minutes, though it's only released one minute, 17 seconds of footage. The drone firm also says it achieved a noise level below 75 dB. It's now aiming to secure further investment to build a zero-emissions cargo delivery drone by 2023 that could fly for 15 minutes and make less than 70 dB. Undefined claims its "silent" 70-dB drones will lead to far fewer noise complaints in areas that will be served by urban cargo delivery drones in the future. However, it's worth pointing out that Undefined had yet to test its drone with large payloads, which will require extra thrust and will likely make more noise.

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26/09/2022 11:33:00  

In compliance with the country's nuclear phase-out law, Belgium's Doel 3 reactor was shut down on Friday after being in operation for 40 years. From a report: Despite the energy crisis in Europe, the nuclear reactor in the town of Doel, north of the port city of Antwerp, will close on Friday. This is the first time a nuclear reactor will be permanently shut down in Belgium. The Doel 3 reactor, one of four reactors of the Doel Nuclear Power Plant, will disconnect from the grid at 21.15 local time due to the nuclear phase-out law enforced by past governments. The 1,006 megawatt-hours capacitated reactor was built in 1978, was grid connected in 1982, and operated for 40 years. Belgium hosts a total of seven reactors, four of which are at the Doel Nuclear Power Plant close to the Dutch border, while three are located at the Tihange Nuclear Power Plant, close to the Germany and Luxembourg border. The electricity produced by these reactors meets about half of the country's needs. After the Russia-Ukraine war, Belgium decided to extend the operation period of the Doel 4 and Tihange 3 reactors by 10 years to avoid energy supply shortages. The reactors were previously planned to close in 2025. Decisions taken by previous governments prescribed that the Doel 3 and the Tihange 2 reactors would shut down in September and February next year, respectively. With the looming energy crisis, however, the current government started to work on extending the operation period of these reactors. Negotiations between the operators and the government concluded that it was not technically and legally possible to postpone the Doel 3 shutdown process at this stage.

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26/09/2022 08:33:04  

Using the Canadian Hydrogen Intensity Mapping Experiment (CHIME), astronomers have detected a new radio pulsar in a binary system with a massive non-degenerate companion star. The discovery of the pulsar, which received designation PSR J2108+4516, was detailed in a paper published September 14 on the arXiv pre-print server. Phys.Org reports: Pulsars are highly magnetized, rotating neutron stars emitting a beam of electromagnetic radiation. They are usually detected in the form of short bursts of radio emission; however, some of them are also observed via optical, X-ray and gamma-ray telescopes. Now, an international team of astronomers led by Bridget C. Andersen of McGill University in Montreal, Canada, reports the finding of a new rare type of a binary pulsar -- hosting a massive companion. The detection was made using CHIME, a radio telescope possessing a very wide field of view, large collecting area and high sensitivity across the 400-800 MHz range. All in all, the team acquired almost three years of near-daily CHIME/Pulsar observations of PSR J2108+4516 extending from October 20, 2018 to September 3, 2021. Profile drifts over pulse phase indicated that the pulsar was experiencing significant acceleration from orbiting with a massive binary companion. The observations of PSR J2108+4516 revealed that it has a spin period of about 0.58 seconds and orbital period of 269 days. The orbital eccentricity was found to be at a level of approximately 0.09 and the pulsar's characteristic age was estimated to be around 2.1 million years. The surface magnetic field of PSR J2108+4516 was measured to be some 1.2 trillion Gauss. When it comes to the companion object, the results suggest that its mass should be between 11.7 and 113 solar masses. The study found that the companion is a bright OBe star, known as EM* UHA 138, located at a distance of about 10,600 light years. The researchers estimate that the mass of this star is most likely between 17 and 23 solar masses. Summing up the results, the astronomers underlined that PSR J2108+4516 is the sixth young pulsar with a massive non-degenerate companion so far detected. The authors of the paper added that PSR J2108+4516 may serve as a rare laboratory for the exploration of massive star winds and circumstellar disks.

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26/09/2022 06:33:05  

An anonymous reader quotes a report from the Guardian: Richard Nixon and his wife, Pat, were exposed to potentially harmful radiation while staying at the US ambassador's residence in Moscow in 1959, according to declassified Secret Service documents. Nixon, who was vice-president at the time, was not informed of the threat, and the state department was only informed in 1976, when a member of his Secret Service detail, James Golden, revealed that detection equipment had measured significant levels of radiation in and around the Nixons' sleeping quarters at the residence, Spaso House. Golden said he was later told by the state department that he had been exposed to "massive dosages" of ionizing radiation produced by an atomic battery used by Soviet spies to power bugging devices hidden in the building. However, Golden had doubts about that explanation and it was not confirmed. After Secret Service agents denounced Soviet dirty tricks in earshot of the listening devices in the residence, the radiation stopped. "We sat down on the beds facing each other and began berating the Russians in loud voices cursing them for pulling a trick like this and wondering in loud voices why they were taking us for fools and asking each other if they thought they were going to get away with doing this," Golden testified. Before his Moscow visit, Nixon was asked by another member of his Secret Service detail, John Sherwood, whether he wanted radiation detection devices taken on the trip. Sherwood pointed out that Soviet officials visiting the US had asked for Geiger counters. The vice-president turned down Geiger counters, but yes to more discreet dosimeters -- though he said he would not wear one himself and did not want it known that the matter had been discussed. On the first evening of the visit, on 23 July 1959, the dosimeter readings climbed rapidly, leading a senior military official in the entourage, Adm Hyman Rickover, an expert on nuclear naval propulsion, to suspect that there had been a nuclear accident. Rickover and the US ambassador, Llewellyn Thompson, agreed not to tell Nixon. Golden was skeptical of the analysis by the state department's medical division that the radiation came from atomic batteries used to power listening devices inside Spaso House. He pointed out that the radiation had stopped while he was in the building, so no one could have come in and removed the batteries. He concluded the state department experts were not being frank with him. The incident was reported after Golden's revelations in 1976, but this is the first time the underlying documentation has been made available online, after a request to the Nixon presidential library from the National Security Archive at George Washington University.

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26/09/2022 06:33:05  

Kia is planning to manufacture its electric vehicles in the US, according to South Korean media sources Maeil Business and SBS (via The EV Officials). The Verge reports: The automaker currently builds its flagship electric car and North American sales hit, the Kia EV6, in South Korea at its Hwasung plant. But now, Kia will shift some of its EV assembly to the US by 2024, according to the report. Manufacturing EVs in the US would allow Kia to qualify for new incentives that were included in the recently passed Inflation Reduction Act, which requires automakers to build EVs in North America to qualify. Kia and its parent company, Hyundai, had threatened legal action against the US over what they see as a "discriminatory" policy. Other provisions will exclude automakers from incentives if they use Chinese-sourced minerals and battery components, which could effectively cut off almost every domestic EV manufacturer once the law goes into effect. Hyundai and Kia combined currently hold the second-highest market share for electric vehicles in the US, a position that could be at risk if customers can't take advantage of the new federal incentives (and man, are EVs getting expensive).

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26/09/2022 00:33:00  

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Earlier this year, the International Organization for Migration reported that more than 3 million refugees fleeing war-torn Ukraine were "at heightened risk of exploitation." Human trafficking cases, they warned, involved refugees more likely to leave home suddenly without secure financial resources and "less likely to be identified in the immediate aftermath of mass displacement." Since February, the European Union announced (PDF) that the number is even larger, counting more than 5.4 million people who "have arrived in the European Union since the beginning of the war in Ukraine." "All relevant stakeholders have recognized that the threat of trafficking in human beings is high and imminent," EU's human trafficking plan states. Since women and children represent the majority of refugees fleeing, the plan says they are believed to be most at risk. To respond, the EU began monitoring online and offline human trafficking risks, and experts called for countries across Europe to start working together to shield refugees during this uncertain time of conflict. This week, the EU's law enforcement agency focused on cybercrimes, Europol, reported that it had done exactly that by coordinating the first online EU-wide hackathon. By bringing together law enforcement authorities from 20 countries to aid in their investigations, the hackathon targeted criminal networks using social platforms and websites to map out the online criminal landscape of human trafficking across Europe. In particular, Europol noted in its report, "investigators targeted human traffickers attempting to lure Ukrainian refugees." "The Internet and human trafficking are interlinked," Europol stated in its report, which identified 30 online platforms "related to vulnerable Ukrainian refugees," 10 specifically targeting refugees for human trafficking. Europol identified 80 persons/usernames (with 30 possibly exploiting Ukrainian refugees), 11 suspected human traffickers (five believed to be targeting Ukrainian refugees), and 45 possible victims, 25 of which were Ukrainian. Countries involved in the hackathon were Austria, Albania, Belgium, Denmark, France, Finland, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Lithuania, Netherlands, Portugal, Poland, Romania, Slovenia, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden, the United Kingdom, and Ukraine. Online platforms probed during the hackathon included "a wide range of websites" and "social media, dating platforms, advertising and aid platforms, forums and messaging applications."

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25/09/2022 23:32:56  

Apple could decide to release its remaining products for 2022, which includes an updated iPad Pro, Mac mini, and 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pros, through a press release on its website rather than a digital event, according to Bloomberg's Mark Gurman. MacRumors reports: In his latest Power On newsletter, Gurman said that Apple is currently "likely to release its remaining 2022 products via press releases, updates to its website and briefings with select members of the press" rather than a digital event. Rumors had suggested that Apple was planning a second fall event in October that would focus on the Mac and iPad, but that may no longer be the case. Apple has three things on the roster for the remainder of 2022: an 11-inch and 12.9-inch iPad Pro with the M2 chip, an updated Mac mini with the M2 and yet announced "M2 Pro" chip, and updated 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pros. Apple announced the M2 chip in June for the redesigned MacBook Air and 13-inch MacBook Pro earlier this June at WWDC. Other than the new chip, the updates to the Mac and iPad will be relatively incremental upgrades with no major design changes rumored for the products. Apple has released products via press release in the past, such as the AirPods Max and the original AirPods Pro.

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25/09/2022 22:32:58  

According to a new report from the International Federation of Robotics (IFR), China now has almost half of all the world's robot installations and that it is increasing its lead rapidly. Engineering.com reports: The IFR, which exists to "promote research, development, use and international co-operation in the entire field of robotics," has been reporting that China has been the world leader in implementing industrial robots for the last 8 years. We have not been paying attention. In 3 years, China has almost doubled the number of industrial robot installations. With its 243,000 robot installations in 2020, China has almost half of all the industrial robots in the world, according to the Wall Street Journal. A majority of new industrial robots are used in electronics manufacture (for circuit boards, consumer electronics, etc.) and in automobile assembly, particularly in the surging production of electric vehicles (EVs).One must wonder why China, a country with so much cheap manual labor available, would opt for expensive robots with their special demands for tech support. China may have a giant population (1.4 billion people), but its workforce is actually decreasing, says the IFR, due to an increasing segment of its population aging and a growing competition for service jobs. China also expects a leveling off of its rural-to-urban migration. China's government is determined not to let a declining workforce cause a drop in manufacturing, and as only a centralized, authoritarian government can, it has made robotizing a national priority and has mobilized its forces. China's latest five-year plan for the robotics industry, released in December 2021 by the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT), aims for nothing less than making China a world leader in robot technology and industrial automation. And it appears to be working. China went from 10 robots per ten thousand employees 10 years ago to 246 robots per ten thousand employees in 2020, the ninth best ranking in the world. To keep the robots state of the art and operational, China's Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security introduced 18 new occupational titles in June, including "robotics engineering technician."

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25/09/2022 21:32:56  

The vast majority of electric vehicle owners charge their cars at home in the evening or overnight. We're doing it wrong, according to a new Stanford study. From the report: In March, the research team published a paper on a model they created for charging demand that can be applied to an array of populations and other factors. In the new study, published Sept. 22 in Nature Energy, they applied their model to the whole of the Western United States and examined the stress the region's electric grid will come under by 2035 from growing EV ownership. In a little over a decade, they found, rapid EV growth alone could increase peak electricity demand by up to 25%, assuming a continued dominance of residential, nighttime charging. To limit the high costs of all that new capacity for generating and storing electricity, the researchers say, drivers should move to daytime charging at work or public charging stations, which would also reduce greenhouse gas emissions. This finding has policy and investment implications for the region and its utilities, especially since California moved in late August to ban sales of gasoline-powered cars and light trucks starting in 2035. [...] Current time-of-use rates encourage consumers to switch electricity use to nighttime whenever possible, like running the dishwasher and charging EVs. This rate structure reflects the time before significant solar and wind power supplies when demand threatened to exceed supply during the day, especially late afternoons in the summer. Today, California has excess electricity during late mornings and early afternoons, thanks mainly to its solar capacity. If most EVs were to charge during these times, then the cheap power would be used instead of wasted. Alternatively, if most EVs continue to charge at night, then the state will need to build more generators -- likely powered by natural gas -- or expensive energy storage on a large scale. Electricity going first to a huge battery and then to an EV battery loses power from the extra stop. At the local level, if a third of homes in a neighborhood have EVs and most of the owners continue to set charging to start at 11 p.m. or whenever electricity rates drop, the local grid could become unstable. Another issue with electricity pricing design is charging commercial and industrial customers big fees based on their peak electricity use. This can disincentivize employers from installing chargers, especially once half or more of their employees have EVs. The research team compared several scenarios of charging infrastructure availability, along with several different residential time-of-use rates and commercial demand charges. Some rate changes made the situation at the grid level worse, while others improved it. Nevertheless, a scenario of having charging infrastructure that encourages more daytime charging and less home charging provided the biggest benefits, the study found. "The findings from this paper have two profound implications: the first is that the price signals are not aligned with what would be best for the grid -- and for ratepayers. The second is that it calls for considering investments in a charging infrastructure for where people work," said Ines Azevedo, one of the co-senior authors of the study. "We need to move quickly toward decarbonizing the transportation sector, which accounts for the bulk of emissions in California," Azevedo continued. "This work provides insight on how to get there. Let's ensure that we pursue policies and investment strategies that allow us to do so in a way that is sustainable."

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25/09/2022 20:32:58  

An anonymous reader quotes a report from VentureBeat: Neal Stephenson's Lamina1 blockchain technology startup dropped a white paper today on building the open metaverse. It's quite the manifesto. In the document, the company said its mission is to deliver a Layer 1 blockchain, interoperating tools and decentralized services optimized for the open metaverse -- providing communities with infrastructure, not gatekeepers to build a more immersive internet. The effort includes some new original content: Under active early-stage development, Neal Stephenson's THEEE METAVERSE promises a richly-imagined interactive virtual world with an unforgettable origin story, the paper said. Built on the Lamina1 chain, creators will come to experience Neal's vision and stay to develop their own. Stay tuned for more details, the paper said. [...] In the paper, Stephenson said, "Inexorable economic forces drive investors to pay artists as little as possible while steering their creative output in the directions that involve the least financial risk." The aim is to correct the sins of the past. The paper said that Web2 introduced a period of rapid innovation and unprecedented access to entertainment, information and goods on a global scale. Streamlined tools and usability brought creators and innovators to the web en masse to build digital storefronts, engage and transact with their customers. Owning and controlling that growing ecosystem of content and personal data became a primary, lucrative initiative for major corporations. Consumer behavior, recorded on centralized company servers, offered constant, privileged insight into how to monetize human emotion and attention, Lamina1 said. At its best, Web3 envisions a better world through the thoughtful redesigning of our online lives, instituting stronger advocacy for our interests, our freedom and our rights, the company said. Much as Web2 flourished with the maturity of tools and services that offered creators and consumers ease of use, the open metaverse will benefit from open protocols for payments and data, and a set of interoperating decentralized services to support virtual worlds. Lamina1 will be the rallying point for an ecosystem of open source tools, open standards and enabling technologies conceived and co-developed with a vibrant community of creators. [...] Lamina1 said it approaches the open metaverse with a multi-pronged approach: Layer 1 blockchain, metaverse-as-a-Service (MaaS), community economic participation and incentives and original content. Lamina1 said it uses a high-speed Proof-of-Stake (PoS) consensus algorithm, customized to support the needs of content creators -- providing provenance for creatorship and enabling attributive and behavioral characteristics of an object to be minted, customized and composed on-chain. "We chose to start with Avalanche, a robust generalized blockchain that delivers the industry's most scalable and environmentally-efficient chain for managing digital assets to date. This starting point provides Lamina1 with a flexible architecture and an extendable platform to support our goals in data storage, interoperability, integration incentives, carbon-negative operation, messaging, privacy, high-scale payments and identity," the white paper said. Lamina1 said its metaverse services work will explore creating a metaverse browser and it will align itself with the Metaverse Standards Forum. To enlist community support, the company isn't aligning with Big Tech. "We march waving the pirate flag at the front of the cultural movement, asking both creators and consumers to join the fight for greater agency and ownership -- the fight for an economy that is imagined, produced and owned by its creators," Lamina1 said. "It's going to be hard, and it's going to take heart, but the upside of providing a maker direct access to their market is staggering." The paper added, "At Lamina1, we believe two things will power expansion and growth in the metaverse -- a straightforward and principled approach to serving a diverse, open and self-sustaining community of makers, and a powerful ecosystem of content and experiences that will drive fans and funding directly to the platform."

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25/09/2022 19:33:00  

TikTok says it plans to ban all fundraising activity soon -- only six weeks before the November midterm elections. The Verge reports: In a blog post, TikTok's president of global business solutions, Blake Chandlee, said the company would immediately turn off all advertising and monetization features, like gifting and tipping, for politicians and parties on the platform. Additionally, accounts belonging to governments, politicians, and political parties will have to apply for verification. Over the next few weeks, TikTok expects to roll out a sweeping ban on campaign fundraising altogether. The ban will prohibit politicians and parties from using the platform to direct viewers to their campaign websites to make donations. TikTok spokesperson Jamie Favazza told The Verge on Tuesday that the company plans to enforce these new rules "through a combination of technology and human moderation." "We will work with governments, politicians, and political parties to verify their account either when they submit a verification request, or if we identify an account we believe belongs to a government, politician, or political party, we will confirm the authenticity of the account and begin the verification process."

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25/09/2022 18:32:59  

Psychiatrists in Brussels can now prescribe free visits to cultural venues to people suffering from depression, stress or anxiety. The Guardian reports: Delphine Houba, a Brussels deputy mayor in charge of culture, believes the project is the first of its kind in Europe. The first objective is to reinforce access to culture after the pressured days of lockdown, she told the Observer. "I want everybody back in our cultural institutions... but we know that, even before Covid, for some people it [was] not easy to open the door of a museum, they don't feel at ease, they don't think that it's for them. And I really want to show that cultural venues are for everybody." The second goal, she said, is to give doctors "a new tool in the healing process." The young socialist politician was inspired by a similar project in Canada, where doctors have been issuing prescriptions to the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts since 2018. In Brussels, the pilot project is running for six months, involving five museums that are directly under the control of city authorities. These include the city's history museum, a centre for contemporary art, and the fashion and lace museum. Patients may also discover the sewer museum, which allows them to stroll 10 meters underground along the banks of the Senne, the hidden river of Brussels, largely paved over in the 19th century. Or they could explore the collection of outfits belonging to the Manneken Pis, the statue of a peeing boy that has become a symbol of Belgium's self-deprecating humor "Anything could have therapeutic value if it helps people get a good feeling and get in touch with themselves," said Dr Johan Newell, a psychiatrist at Brugmann University Hospital, which is taking part in the pilot scheme. He expects museum prescriptions would suit people suffering from depression, anxiety, autism spectrum disorders, psychosis and bipolar disorder. "I think almost anyone could benefit from it," he said. "It would probably be more adapted for people who are already a little bit further on in the recovery process," rather than those who are severely ill, he said. Museum prescriptions, Newell stressed, were a voluntary addition to medication, psychotherapy, individual or group therapy, as well as exercise, healthy eating and other forms of relaxation. "It's just one extra tool that could help people get out of the house: to resocialize, reconnect with society." Newell suggests that the pilot could eventually be expanded to include other museums, cinemas, hospitals and groups of patients.

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25/09/2022 17:32:59  

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Hill: A new proposal passed by the California Air Resources Board (CARB) cements the state as the first to ban natural gas heaters and furnaces. The decision, which was passed unanimously, aims to phase out sales of the space heater and water heater appliances by 2030. The commitment is part of a broader range of environmental efforts passed by the board this week to meet the federal 70 parts per billion, 8-hour ozone standard over the next 15 years. Residential and commercial buildings in California account for approximately five percent of the state's total nitrogen oxide emissions due to natural gas combustion, according to the originally proposed plan (PDF), released in August 2022. In addition, space and water heating make up nearly 90 percent of all building-related natural gas demand. When burned, natural gas does emit less carbon dioxide than oil or coal. However, natural gas leaks pose health risks to homeowners, as they contain varying levels of volatile chemicals linked with cancer. The new regulations will rely on adoption of heat pump technologies, which are being sold to electrify new and existing homes. Although the proposal does not include gas stoves, several cities and towns in the state currently ban or discourage use of gas stoves in new buildings. California's Public Utilities Commission also eliminated subsidies for new natural gas hookups last week, marking the first state to do so. The move will help reduce greenhouse gas emissions and lower utility bills for consumers. "While this strategy will clean the air for all Californians, it will also lead to reduced emissions in the many low-income and disadvantaged communities that experience greater levels of persistent air pollution," said CARB Chair Liane Randolph in a statement. "California needs more federal action to clean up harmful diesel pollution from primarily federally controlled sources, from locomotives and ocean-going vessels to aircraft, which are all concentrated in communities that continue to bear the brunt of poor air quality. We simply cannot provide clean air to Californians without the federal government doing its part."

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25/09/2022 16:33:04  

James Earl Jones is stepping away from the role of Darth Vader after nearly 40 years. According to Vanity Fair, he has signed off on using archival voice recordings to recreate the iconic voice with artificial intelligence. From a report: "He had mentioned he was looking into winding down this particular character," Matthew Wood, a Lucasfilm veteran of 32 years, told the outlet. "So how do we move forward?" The company has enlisted the assistance of Respeecher, a Ukrainian startup that uses AI technology to craft new conversations from revitalized old voice recordings. Respeecher's relationship with Lucasfilm began with the Disney+ series "The Book of Boba Fett," for which they recreated the voice of young Luke Skywalker. The two also teamed for the voice performance of Darth Vader on the series "Obi-Wan Kenobi," which debuted on Disney's streamer this summer. Bogdan Belyaev, the 29-year-old speech artist, was tasked with delivering the new recordings to Lucasfilm, but tragedy struck on Feb. 24 when Russia invaded the country. As air raid sirens powered through the city of Lviv, Belyaev hurried to finish the project and send his work back to Skywalker Sound in Northern California. "If everything went bad, we would never make these conversions delivered to Skywalker Sound," he says. Following the debut of "Obi-Wan Kenobi," Jones' family informed Wood that they were pleased with the result of the synthesis between the actor's voice and Respeecher's technical work. Jones is credited for "guiding the performance" of Darth Vader in the Disney+ series, with Wood describing the actor as a "benevolent godfather."

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25/09/2022 15:32:58  

Martin Brinkmann writes via gHacks: From next year onward, extensions for Google Chrome and most other Chromium-based browsers, will have to rely on a new extension manifest. Manifest V3 defines the boundaries in which extensions may operate. Current Chromium extensions use Manifest V2 for the most part, even though the January 2023 deadline is looming over the heads of every extension developer. Google is using its might to push Manifest v3, and most Chromium-based browsers, including Microsoft Edge, will follow. [...] Mozilla announced early on that it will support Manifest v3 as well, but that it would continue to support important APIs that Google limited in Manifest v3. Probably the most important of them all is the WebRequest API. Used by content blockers extensively to filter certain items, it has been replaced by a less powerful option in Manifest v3. While Manifest v3 does not mean the end for content blocking on Chrome, Edge and other Chromium-based browsers, it may limit abilities under certain circumstances. Users who install a single content blocker and no other extension that relies on the same relevant API may not notice much of a change, but those who like to add custom filter lists or use multiple extensions that rely on the API, may run into artificial limits set by Google. Mozilla reaffirmed this week that its plan has not changed. In "These weeks in Firefox: issue 124," the organization confirms that it will support the WebRequst API of Manifest v2 alongside Manifest v3. Again, a reminder that Mozilla plans to continue support for the Manifest v2 blocking WebRequest API (this API powers, for example, uBlock Origin) while simultaneously supporting Manifest v3.

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25/09/2022 14:32:58  

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: For years, people in cars stuck behind blue delivery trucks in traffic have echoed media reports criticizing Amazon for clogging American roadways. It's well-known that the Amazon drivers steering these fleets of trucks and vans don't actually work for Amazon but are hired by companies contracted by Amazon, and Amazon has repeatedly denied liability for any dangerous driving reported, though. Because Amazon has contracts with more than 50,000 firms, just how dangerous Amazon's contracted drivers really are remains a question that is hard to track. However, The Information reported last year that horrific car crashes are part and parcel of Amazon's culture of convenience. And then more recently, The Wall Street Journal provided another window into how deadly America's favorite speedy delivery service can be. Since 2015, WSJ reported this week, "Trucking companies hauling freight for Amazon have been involved in crashes that killed more than 75 people." To arrive at this number, WSJ partnered with Jason Miller -- a Michigan State University professor who researches transportation safety -- to analyze various sources of government data from "3,512 trucking companies that were inspected by authorities three or more times while hauling trailers for Amazon since February 2020." The resulting report, WSJ said, "for the first time showed how the safety performance of Amazon's trucking contractors compared with their peers." And their results didn't appear good for Amazon. For example, a review of Department of Transportation data on unsafe driving scores of more than 1,300 Amazon trucking contractors from February 2020 to early August 2022 found that contractors who worked the most with Amazon were "more than twice as likely as all other similar companies to receive bad unsafe driving scores." WSJ also found evidence of dozens of companies that Amazon contracted that had "conditional" ratings, which is like DOT putting them on probation -- a black mark that typically alienates most firms from contracting them. One Illinois-based company contracted by Amazon "scored worse than the level DOT officials consider problematic" every month of WSJ's review period. "First and foremost, the insinuation that Amazon puts more value on meeting deadlines than on human lives is categorically false," said Amazon spokesperson Kelly Nantel. "Any accident involving one of our partners or community members is a tragedy, and we always work with our contractors to prevent accidents or learn from them, so they don't happen again." The safety director of Amazon's freight unit, Steve DasGupta, noted that Amazon contractors had "a rate of fatalities per vehicle mile about 7 percent lower than the industry average in 2020." The company also told said it has "suspended all contractors involved in car crashes described in WSJ's report, suspended or terminated 80 percent of contracts where WSJ found unsafe driving scores, and made changes to its screening process," reports Ars.

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25/09/2022 11:33:00  

Speech recognition remains a challenging problem in AI and machine learning. In a step toward solving it, OpenAI today open-sourced Whisper, an automatic speech recognition system that the company claims enables "robust" transcription in multiple languages as well as translation from those languages into English. TechCrunch reports: Countless organizations have developed highly capable speech recognition systems, which sit at the core of software and services from tech giants like Google, Amazon and Meta. But what makes Whisper different, according to OpenAI, is that it was trained on 680,000 hours of multilingual and "multitask" data collected from the web, which lead to improved recognition of unique accents, background noise and technical jargon. "The primary intended users of [the Whisper] models are AI researchers studying robustness, generalization, capabilities, biases and constraints of the current model. However, Whisper is also potentially quite useful as an automatic speech recognition solution for developers, especially for English speech recognition," OpenAI wrote in the GitHub repo for Whisper, from where several versions of the system can be downloaded. "[The models] show strong ASR results in ~10 languages. They may exhibit additional capabilities ... if fine-tuned on certain tasks like voice activity detection, speaker classification or speaker diarization but have not been robustly evaluated in these area." Whisper has its limitations, particularly in the area of text prediction. Because the system was trained on a large amount of "noisy" data, OpenAI cautions Whisper might include words in its transcriptions that weren't actually spoken -- possibly because it's both trying to predict the next word in audio and trying to transcribe the audio itself. Moreover, Whisper doesn't perform equally well across languages, suffering from a higher error rate when it comes to speakers of languages that aren't well-represented in the training data. Despite this, OpenAI sees Whisper's transcription capabilities being used to improve existing accessibility tools.

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25/09/2022 08:32:56  

The Artemis I rocket will not have its third launch attempt on Tuesday as planned due to concerns over Tropical Storm Ian making its way toward Cuba and Florida. CNN reports: After meeting on Saturday morning, NASA's Artemis team decided to forgo the September 27 launch opportunity and is now preparing the mega moon rocket stack for rollback. "On Tuesday, Tropical Storm Ian is forecast to be moving north through the eastern Gulf of Mexico as a hurricane, just off the southwest coast of Florida. A cold front will also be draped across northern Florida pushing south," said CNN Meteorologist Haley Brink. "The combination of these weather factors will allow for increased rain chances across much of the Florida peninsula on Tuesday, including the Cape Canaveral area. Showers and thunderstorms are forecast to be numerous and widespread across the region. Tropical storm-force winds from Ian could also arrive as early as Tuesday night across central Florida." Meanwhile, the Space Launch System rocket and Orion spacecraft continue to sit on the launchpad at Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Team members continue to monitor the weather as they make a decision about when to roll the rocket stack back into the Vehicle Assembly Building at Kennedy. NASA will receive information from the US Space Force, the National Hurricane Center and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to inform their decision. [...] The rocket stack can remain at the pad and withstand winds up to 85 miles per hour (74.1 knots). If the stack needs to roll back into the building, it can handle sustained winds less than 46 miles per hour (40 knots). On Friday, the Artemis team said that October 2 was a backup launch date. But it's unlikely that a new launch date will be set until the rollback decision has been made.

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