Category Archives: Tech

Puerto Rico Has Full Power Restored

Compliments of NBC

Power has been restored to all of Puerto Rico for the first time since Hurricane Maria struck nearly 11 months ago, officials said Tuesday.

The island’s electric utility announced that crews working in the southern city of Ponce reconnected the last neighborhood that had been offline since the Sept. 20 storm knocked out the U.S. territory’s power grid.

Ponce resident Charlie Colon Nazario told El Nuevo Dia that he was looking forward to no longer having to use a generator to light his house.

“No more lamps, no more candles, no more extension cords,” he said as about two dozen power workers completed the connection to his home.

The Ponce neighborhood was the last to be reconnected to the grid because landslides and rough terrain made it difficult for crews from the electrical authority or contractors to reach the area to make repairs, said Carlos Alvarado, chief of technical operations for the power authority.

Utility crews used a helicopter to replace wooden power poles knocked down in the storm with steel ones that officials hope will do a better job staying up during future storms.

“They will have a more robust system,” Alvardo said.

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Uk And EU Join In Agreement To Block Trump’s Iran Sanction

By: Benjamin Kentish of Independent

The UK has agreed to work with the EU to try to block the impact of Donald Trump‘s new sanctions against Iran.

Jeremy Hunt, the foreign secretary, signed a joint statement with other EU foreign ministers to ensure European companies doing business with Iran will be protected.

The ministers promised to introduce a “blocking statute” to ban European firms from abiding by the US sanctions, which were reimposed by Mr Trump on Monday.

The US president decided to reintroduce the penalties after withdrawing from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal negotiated by his predecessor, Barack Obama.

The European foreign ministers said the lifting of Western sanctions was “essential” to the deal, officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), which involved Iran agreeing not to pursue development of nuclear weapons.

Mr Hunt signed the statement along with EU High Representative Federica Mogherini and foreign ministers Jean-Yves Le Drian of France and Heiko Maas of Germany.

They said they “deeply regret” Mr Trump’s decision to reimpose sanctions and argued that 11 consecutive reports bythe International Atomic Energy Agency confirm the Iran deal “is working”.

The statement said: “It is a key element of the global nuclear non-proliferation architecture, crucial for the security of Europe, the region, and the entire world. We expect Iran to continue to fully implement all its nuclear commitments under the JCPOA.

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Lab Grown Lungs Successfully Implanted In Pigs

By: Kristin Houser of Science Alert

In the US alone, more than 1,400 people are waiting for a lung transplant – there simply aren’t enough donor lungs available to meet the need. Soon, though, patients might have a new source for brand new lungs: the lab.

On Wednesday, researchers from University of Texas Medical Branch published a new paper in the journal Science Translational Medicine.

In it, they detail their latest milestone along the path to creating lab-grown lungs for humans: they can now successfully transplant these bioengineered lungs into pigs.

To grow the lungs, the researchers first created four lung scaffolds. To do this, they removed all of the cells and blood from pig lungs using a mix of sugar and detergent. This left them with just the proteins of each lung – essentially, its skeleton.

Next, they placed each scaffold in a tank containing a special mix of nutrients. They then added cells from recipient pigs’ own lungs to each of the scaffolds and let the lungs grow for 30 days. Finally, they transplanted the four lab-grown lungs into the four recipient pigs.

Within two weeks, the transplanted lungs had already begun to establish the robust networks of blood vessels they need to survive.

During two months of post-transplant observation, the researchers found no signs that the animals’ immune systems had rejected the new lungs. But they next want to study the long-term viability of the organs.

Bioengineered organs are something of a holy grail in transplantation research. Because they are grown from the recipient’s own cells, the body is less likely to reject the organ, and we could grow them in the lab as needed – no more organ shortages.

If all goes as hoped with the pig experiments, the researchers believe they could be just five to 10 years away from being able to create lab-grown lungs to transplant into people in compassionate use circumstances (people with life-threatening conditions and essentially no other treatment options).

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Global Amazon Strike

By: Adam Clark Estes of Gizmodo

I know what you’re thinking: Amazon’s got some hot deals for its made-up holiday, and even though you don’t exactly need an AmazonBasics portable air compressor, you would be foolish not to save $14 by buying it on Amazon Prime Day. Resist these thoughts, fellow consumer. Amazon Prime Day is bullshit.

The first Amazon Prime Day happened in 2015, the year of Amazon’s 20th birthday, when the company boldly said “Step Aside Black Friday.” Prime Day deals were going to be so good, the world might run out of money before all the good could be bought. Yes, to celebrate two decades of selling discount books and weird sex toys, Amazon invited its most loyal customers to spend even more money and to do so in a limited amount of time. It was such a fun celebration that Amazon decided to do it every year. Now, Prime Day is even longer than a day. It’s 36 hours of unbelievable deals. And if you’re not an Amazon Prime member, Amazon will let you sign up for a free 30-day trial that you will definitely forget to cancel.

The only problem is that Amazon Prime isn’t necessarily the incredible deal that it used to be. I recently downloaded all of my Amazon data, only to learn that all my Amazon Prime membership seemed to do for me was to make me buy more stuff on Amazon. The fact that there’s now a fake holiday that encourages even more spending seems slightly insulting. Than again, nobody is forcing me to be a Prime member and to buy stuff on Amazon. And I’m certainly not compelled to buy stuff on Prime Day. That’s not what bothers me about this 36-hour bargain bonanza.

I’m actually starting to think that Amazon is a bad company. There must be a reason why Amazon workers in Europe are marking this year’s Prime Day by going on strike. A one-day strike at six Amazon facilities in Germany is currently in effect, while a three-day strike is happening in Spain. Workers in Poland are staging a work-to-rule action, meaning they’ll only do the bare minimum required by their contracts. The workers are universally demanding healthy working conditions, which seems like a reasonable thing for any employee to want. Amazon, however, has developed an infamous reputation as a terrible and dangerous place to work. Pay is so low that many warehouse workers are reportedly on food stamps. Third-party contractors often work long hours with no benefits. People even die in Amazon fulfillment centers from time-to-time.

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California Law Prevents Companies From Keeping Duping Clients Trying To Cancel Subscriptions

By: Shan Wang of Niemanlab

Here’s a script you’re surely familiar with if you’ve ever tried to cancel a subscription to, well, anything:

A version of this exchange happened when I tried to cancel my ClassPass account. A similar version happened when I tried to cancel my Boston Globe a few years ago when it kept being delivered to the wrong address.

We all have our own subscription auto-renewal and cancellation grievances.

effect July 1 aims to stop companies from blockading customers looking to cancel their services — along with the practice of sneakily sliding them into another month’s subscription without much clarity on the real, full cost of the service. Among the changes: It bans companies from forcing you to, say, call a hard-to-find telephone number to cancel a subscription that you purchased online.

California’s Senate Bill No. 313, which adds further protections for consumers to an existing law, would (according to its official legislative summary):

…commencing on July 1, 2018, require a business that makes an automatic renewal offer or continuous service offer that includes a free gift or trial, to include in the offer a clear and conspicuous explanation of the price that will be charged after the trial ends or the manner in which the subscription or purchasing agreement pricing will change upon conclusion of the trial.

The bill would prohibit a business from charging a consumer’s credit or debit card, or the consumer’s account with a 3rd party, for an automatic renewal or continuous service that is made at a promotional or discounted price for a limited period of time without first obtaining the consumer’s consent to the agreement.

The bill would also specify that if the automatic service offer or continuous service offer includes a free gift or trial, the business is required to disclose how to cancel, and allow the consumer to cancel, the automatic renewal or continuous service before the consumer pays for the goods or services.

And while it’s just a California law, it also applies to any company (or publisher) with paying customers in the state — so, pretty much everybody, GDPR-style. (Credit/blame State Sen. Bob Hertzberg, the bill’s sponsor, for the new rules.)

Ryan Nakashima, an AP technology writer who’s been conducting some adblocking and subscriptions research at the Bay Area News Group in California, mentioned to me that in an exit survey of people who were canceling their subscriptions, some cancelers had also called out the cancellation process itself.

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NASA Makes Organic Material On Mars

By: NASA

NASA’s Curiosity rover has found new evidence preserved in rocks on Mars that suggests the planet could have supported ancient life, as well as new evidence in the Martian atmosphere that relates to the search for current life on the Red Planet. While not necessarily evidence of life itself, these findings are a good sign for future missions exploring the planet’s surface and subsurface.

The new findings – “tough” organic molecules in three-billion-year-old sedimentary rocks near the surface, as well as seasonal variations in the levels of methane in the atmosphere – appear in the June 8 edition of the journal Science.

Organic molecules contain carbon and hydrogen, and also may include oxygen, nitrogen and other elements. While commonly associated with life, organic molecules also can be created by non-biological processes and are not necessarily indicators of life.

“With these new findings, Mars is telling us to stay the course and keep searching for evidence of life,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for the Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters, in Washington. “I’m confident that our ongoing and planned missions will unlock even more breathtaking discoveries on the Red Planet.”

“Curiosity has not determined the source of the organic molecules,” said Jen Eigenbrode of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, who is lead author of one of the two new Science papers. “Whether it holds a record of ancient life, was food for life, or has existed in the absence of life, organic matter in Martian materials holds chemical clues to planetary conditions and processes.”

Although the surface of Mars is inhospitable today, there is clear evidence that in the distant past, the Martian climate allowed liquid water – an essential ingredient for life as we know it – to pool at the surface. Data from Curiosity reveal that billions of years ago, a water lake inside Gale Crater held all the ingredients necessary for life, including chemical building blocks and energy sources.

“The Martian surface is exposed to radiation from space. Both radiation and harsh chemicals break down organic matter,” said Eigenbrode. “Finding ancient organic molecules in the top five centimeters of rock that was deposited when Mars may have been habitable, bodes well for us to learn the story of organic molecules on Mars with future missions that will drill deeper.”

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States Take Net Neutrality Into Their Own Hands

By: Harper Neidig of The Hill

States are pushing their own net neutrality laws and rules in defiance of the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) repeal, heightening the possibility that supporters will be waging another legal battle over the popular Obama-era regulations.

Washington and Oregon have already passed their own laws to fill the void left by the FCC’s repeal, and California appears to be close behind after the state Senate passed a net neutrality bill on Wednesday.

A total of 29 states have proposed their own open internet legislation, according to Gigi Sohn, a fellow at Georgetown Law who’s been tracking the initiatives.

And five Democratic governors have gone with another tactic: issuing executive orders that prohibit the state from doing business with any broadband company that violates the principles of net neutrality.

The FCC’s repeal order included a provision preempting states from creating their own net neutrality rules, and this movement could lay the groundwork for a court battle over states’ rights to implement their own consumer protections.

A potential industry lawsuit against the states that have passed net neutrality laws could hold some promise for net neutrality supporters, says Marc Martin, a communications and technology lawyer at Perkins Coie.

“It’s not a slam dunk” despite the preemption clause, Martin said. “It’ll be interesting, I think that is one of the more vulnerable parts of the repeal overall.”

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Trump Cancels Major Meeting

By: Mike Calia of CNBC

President Donald Trump canceled his historic nuclear summit with Kim Jong Un on Thursday, accusing North Korea of “tremendous anger and open hostility.”

The meeting, which would have marked the first face-to-face encounter between a sitting U.S. president and a North Korean leader, was set for June 12 in Singapore.

“Sadly, based on the tremendous anger and open hostility displayed in your most recent statement, I feel it is inappropriate, at this time, to have this long-planned meeting,” Trump wrote in a letter to Kim, which was released Thursday morning.

Stocks fell and gold rose after news of the cancellation broke.

Much of the letter was written in seemingly friendly terms, including praise for North Korea’s recent release of three American prisoners. In contrast, Trump also appeared to issue a threat that conjured memories of his war of words with Kim last year.

“You talk about your nuclear capabilities, but ours are so massive and powerful that I pray to God they will never have to be used,” Trump wrote.

The cancellation appeared to take South Korea’s government by surprise. The nation’s president, Moon Jae-in, had played a pivotal role in setting up recent diplomatic developments.

A representative of Moon’s office said the South Korean administration was “trying to figure out what President Trump’s intention is and the exact meaning of it,” according to the country’s Yonhap News Agency. Moon and his aides convened emergency meetings to address the shock announcement, which broke shortly before midnight in Seoul.

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Google Under Investigation For Secretly Mining Data

By: John Rolfe of Daily Telegraph

THE ACCC is investigating accusations Google is using as much as $580 million worth of Australians’ phone plan data annually to secretly track their movements.

Australian Competition and Consumer Commission chairman Rod Sims said he was briefed recently by US experts who had intercepted, copied and decrypted messages sent back to Google from mobiles running on the company’s Android operating system.

The experts, from computer and software corporation Oracle, claim Google is draining roughly one gigabyte of mobile data monthly from Android phone users’ accounts as it snoops in the background, collecting information to help advertisers.

A gig of data currently costs about $3.60-$4.50 a month. Given more than 10 million Aussies have an Android phone, if Google had to pay for the data it is said to be siphoning, it would face a bill of between $445 million and $580 million a year.

Google’s privacy consent discloses that it tracks location “when you search for a restaurant on Google Maps”. But it does not appear to mention the constant monitoring going on in the background even when Maps is not in use.

The Oracle experts say phone owners’ data ends up being consumed even if Google Maps is not in use or aeroplane mode is switched on. Nor will removing the SIM card stop it from happening. Only turning off a phone prevents monitoring, it says.

The information fed back to Google includes barometric pressure readings so it can work out, for example, which level of a shopping mall you are on. By combining this with your coordinates Google knows which shops you have visited.

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Trump Leaves Nuclear Deal With Iran

By: Josh Lederman and Catherine Lucey of Associated Press

President Donald Trump announced Tuesday the U.S. is pulling out of the landmark international nuclear accord with Iran, declaring he was making the world safer but dealing a profound blow to allies and deepening his isolation on the world stage.

“The United States does not make empty threats,” he said in a televised address from the White House.

Trump said the 2015 agreement, which included Germany, France and Britain, was a “horrible one-sided deal that should never ever have been made.” He added that the United States “will be instituting the highest level of economic sanction. ”

Trump’s decision means Iran’s government must now decide whether to follow the U.S. and withdraw or try to salvage what’s left of the deal. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said he was sending his foreign minister to the countries remaining in the accord but warned there was only a short time to negotiate with them and his country could soon “start enriching uranium more than before.”

The leaders of Britain, Germany and France immediately urged the U.S. not to take any actions that could prevent them and Iran from continuing to implement the agreement. The statement from Prime Minister Theresa May, Chancellor Angela Merkel and President Emmanuel Macron also urged Iran to “show restraint” and continue fulfilling its own obligations such as cooperating with inspections.

In Washington, the Trump administration said it would re-impose sanctions on Iran immediately but allow grace periods for businesses to wind down activity.

The Treasury Department said there will be “certain 90-day and 180-day wind-down periods” but didn’t specify which sanctions would fall under which timelines. Treasury says at the end of those periods, the sanctions will be in “full effect.”

National Security Adviser John Bolton said nobody should sign contracts for new business with Iran.

In his remarks, Trump blasted the deal as “defective at its core.” As evidence, he cited documents recently released by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a leading critic of the deal.

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