Category Archives: Tech

White House Wants to End Some Eco Based Subsidies

By: Reuters

White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow said on Monday the Trump administration wants to end subsidies for electric cars and other items, including renewable energy sources.

Asked about plans after General Motors Co (GM.N) announced U.S. plant closings and layoffs last week, Kudlow pointed to the $2,500-to-$7,500 tax credit for consumers who buy plug-in electric vehicles, including those made by GM, under federal law.

“As a matter of our policy, we want to end all of those subsidies,” Kudlow said. “And by the way, other subsidies that were imposed during the Obama administration, we are ending, whether it’s for renewables and so forth.” 

Asked about a timeline, he said: “It’s just all going to end in the near future. I don’t know whether it will end in 2020 or 2021.”

The tax credits are capped by Congress at 200,000 vehicles per manufacturer, after which the subsidy phases out. GM has said it expects to hit the threshold by the end of 2018, which means under the current law, its tax credit scheme would end in 2020. Tesla Inc (TSLA.O) said in July it had hit the threshold. Other automakers may not hit the cap for several years. 

Experts say the White House cannot change the cap unilaterally. U.S. President Donald Trump last week threatened to eliminate subsidies for GM in retaliation for the company’s decision.

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Is Gerrymandering Killing Democracy?

By: Zachery Roth of Daily Beast

Thousands of would-be voters at risk of being disenfranchised by ultra-strict registration rules. A draconian ID law that could keep Native Americans from the polls en masse. New measures targeting voting by college students. A Hispanic-majority city that moved its lone polling place out of town. 

As the 2018 campaign nears its end, experts who track voter suppression saythis is the worst it’s been in the modern era. In fact, making it harder to vote, especially for racial minorities, now appears to be—with the possible exception of stoking fear over a group of desperate migrants still about 700 miles from the Texas border—the single most important plank of the GOP’s strategy.

Aside from likely giving Republicans an undeserved boost in several key races, the drive to restrict voting has reached a scale that should raise serious questions about the democratic legitimacy of our elections. And alongside the extreme Republican gerrymander—currently the only reason why the party has even an outside shot at holding onto the House—it represents a massive structural obstacle to Democrats ever achieving the power their popular support deserves. In other words, Republicans can only win by rigging the game. 

Georgia has grabbed many of the headlines. Secretary of State Brian Kemp reportedly put around 53,000 registrations—70 percent of them from African-Americans—on pending status because of minor discrepancies with the information on state records.

The difference could be as trivial as a misplaced hyphen or a missing middle initial. Those on pending status are supposed to still be able to vote by showing ID, and two late-breaking court rulings softening some of the rules may help. But given the likely level of confusion that’s been kicked up, how it all will play out is anyone’s guess.

Kemp also has aggressively purged Georgia’s voter rolls, raising serious concerns that eligible voters have been wrongly removed. Since 2016, he has scrapped over one in 10 names. And in the four years before that, he purged 1.5 million, twice as many as in the previous four years.

The likely chief beneficiary of these strict policies? That would be Kemp himself, the Republican locked in that super-tight race with Democrat Stacey Abrams, who’s bidding to be the nation’s first ever female African-American governor. Oh, and just for good measure, back in 2014 Kemp, on flimsy evidence, launched an aggressive investigation into a voter registration group serving mostly minority voters that Abrams had founded, significantly stymieing the group’s work.

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Swedes Receiving Tech Injections

By: NPR

Technology continues to get closer and closer to our bodies, from the phones in our pockets to the smartwatches on our wrists. Now, for some people, it’s getting under their skin.

In Sweden, a country rich with technological advancement, thousands have had microchips inserted into their hands.

The chips are designed to speed up users’ daily routines and make their lives more convenient — accessing their homes, offices and gyms is as easy as swiping their hands against digital readers.

They also can be used to store emergency contact details, social media profiles or e-tickets for events and rail journeys within Sweden.

Proponents of the tiny chips say they’re safe and largely protected from hacking, but one scientist is raising privacy concerns around the kind of personal health data that might be stored on the devices.

Around the size of a grain of rice, the chips typically are inserted into the skin just above each user’s thumb, using a syringe similar to that used for giving vaccinations. The procedure costs about $180.

So many Swedes are lining up to get the microchips that the country’s main chipping company says it can’t keep up with the number of requests.

More than 4,000 Swedes have adopted the technology, with one company, Biohax International, dominating the market. The chipping firm was started five years ago by Jowan Osterlund, a former professional body piercer.

After spending the past two years working full time on the project, he is currently developing training materials so he can hire Swedish doctors and nurses to help take on some of his heavy workload.

“Having different cards and tokens verifying your identity to a bunch of different systems just doesn’t make sense,” he says. “Using a chip means that the hyper-connected surroundings that you live in every day can be streamlined.”

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Tim Cook ( CEO of Apple) Demands Federal Privacy Laws

By: James Vincent of The Verge

Apple CEO Tim Cook has called for new digital privacy laws in the United States, warning that the collection of huge amounts of personal data by companies is harming society.

Speaking at a privacy conference in Brussels, Cook gave an impassioned and forceful speech. He reiterated familiar talking points like Apple’s commitment to privacy (and, by implication, its rivals lackof commitment) while spelling out public concerns in recent years regarding data collection, surveillance, and manipulation.

Cook said that modern technology has led to the creation of a “data-industrial complex” in which private and everyday information is “weaponized against us with military efficiency.” He added that this mechanism doesn’t just affect individuals, but whole societies.

“Platforms and algorithms that promised to improve our lives can actually magnify our worst human tendencies,” said Cook. “Rogue actors and even governments have taken advantage of user trust to deepen divisions, incite violence, and even undermine our shared sense of what is true and what is false. This crisis is real. It is not imagined, or exaggerated, or crazy.”

Cook did not mention triggers for this crisis, but his comments clearly reference recent events like the Cambridge Analytica scandal, in which the personal data of millions of Facebook users was harvested by a consulting firm with the aim of swaying users’ political views. Similarly, while Cook never mentioned by name tech companies like Facebook and Google, it’s clear that these were targets in his criticism of indiscriminate data collection.

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New Glued Cans Will Reduce Plastic Consumption by 75% Making Carlsberg The First Brewery Of Its Kind

By: Telegraph Reporter

Carlsberg beer cans are to be stuck together with glue as it becomes one of the first brewers to abandon plastic rings.

The Danish firm said the move, which has been heralded as a world-first, to attach its multi-packs with adhesive will reduce the use of plastic to package products by 75 per cent.

After a three-year development process, Carlsberg insists the dots of glue bonding its new “Snap Packs” are strong enough to withstand journeys from shelves to homes, yet sufficiently brittle to break when twisted.

The eco-friendly packaging innovation will be debuted in the UK, where 30 per cent of Carlsberg’s beer output is drunk every year.

At a launch event in Copenhagen, inventor Christopher Stuhlmann revealed how a trip to his local DIY store helped convince him that his brainwave could become a reality

arlsberg beer cans are to be stuck together with glue as it becomes one of the first brewers to abandon plastic rings.

The Danish firm said the move, which has been heralded as a world-first, to attach its multi-packs with adhesive will reduce the use of plastic to package products by 75 per cent.

After a three-year development process, Carlsberg insists the dots of glue bonding its new “Snap Packs” are strong enough to withstand journeys from shelves to homes, yet sufficiently brittle to break when twisted.

The eco-friendly packaging innovation will be debuted in the UK, where 30 per cent of Carlsberg’s beer output is drunk every year.

At a launch event in Copenhagen, inventor Christopher Stuhlmann revealed how a trip to his local DIY store helped convince him that his brainwave could become a reality

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Netflix competitors and pirating are becoming inversely proportional

By : Karl Bode of Motherboard

A new study shows that after years of declines, BitTorrent usage and piracy is on the rise again. The culprit: an increase in exclusivity deals that force subscribers to hunt and peck among a myriad of streaming services to actually find the content they’re looking for.

Sandvine’s new Global Internet Phenomena report offers some interesting insight into user video habits and the internet, such as the fact that more than 50 percent of internet traffic is now encrypted, video now accounts for 58 percent of all global traffic, and Netflix alone now comprises 15 percent of all internet downstream data consumed. 

But there’s another interesting tidbit buried in the firm’s report: after years of steady decline, BitTorrent usage is once again growing.

According to Sandvine, file-sharing accounts for 3 percent of global downstream and 22 percent of upstream traffic, with 97% of that traffic in turn being BitTorrent. While BitTorrent is often used to distribute ordinary files, it remains the choice du jour for those looking to distribute and trade copyrighted content online, made easier via media PCs running Kodi and select plugins.

Back in 2011, Sandvine stated that BitTorrent accounted for 52.01% of upstream traffic on fixed broadband networks in North America. By 2015, BitTorrent’s share of upstream traffic on these networks had dipped to 26.83 percent, largely thanks to the rise in quality, inexpensive streaming alternatives to piracy.

But Sandvine notes that trend is now reversing slightly, with BitTorrent’s traffic share once again growing worldwide. That’s especially true in the Middle East, Europe, and Africa, where BitTorrent now accounts for 32% of all upstream network traffic.

One major reason for BitTorrent’s rising popularity? Annoying exclusivity streaming deals.

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Man Paralyzed Walks Again With Brain Controlled Implants

By: Adam Forest of Independent

A 29-year-old man who was paralysed from the waist down after a snowmobile accident has made medical history by walking independently after pioneering surgery.

Doctors in the US state of Minnesota implanted a remote-controlled electrode in the patient’s back to stimulate surviving nerves in his spinal cord.

Thanks to the groundbreaking surgery, Jered Chinnock, from Tomah, Wisconsin, was able to stand up and walk just over 100 metres – the length of an American football – while pushing a front-wheeled walker.

It was the first time Mr Chinnock had walked by himself since his accident on the slopes five years ago.

“It’s very exciting, but still very early in the research stage,” said neurosurgeon Dr Kendall Lee, who co-led the team from the Mayo Clinic in Rochester.

“The reason why this is important is because the patient’s own mind, thought, was able to drive movement in his legs. Just as important is that we were able to get him to stand independently and take his own steps.”

Mr Chinnock said: “The walking side of it isn’t something where I just leave my wheelchair behind and away I go.”

But the Wisconsin man said he was hopeful that he might one day be able to “leave the wheelchair behind, even if it is to walk to the refrigerator.”

Dr Lee explained that as soon as the remote-controlled electrode was turned off, Mr Chinnock became paralysed again.

The innovative technique used by the Mayo Clinic team, which was reported in the journal Nature Medicine, involved inserting an electrode in the epidural space – the fat-filled hollow region surrounding the spinal cord.

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Sirius XM Buys Pandora for 3.5b

By: Chris Isidore of CNN

SiriusXM is buying Pandora in a $3.5 billion all-stock deal.

The deal will create the world’s largest audio entertainment company, the companies said early Monday.

SiriusXM (SIRI) has 36 million subscribers in North America. It was formed with the merger of the Sirius and XM satellite radio services in 2008.

Sirius had paid Howard Stern hundreds of millions of dollars to lure him from traditional radio in 2006. SiriusXM has built a stable of stars with exclusive programming to go along with its lineup of music, news, talk and sports.

Pandora (P), a groundbreaking streaming music service founded in 2000, has more than 70 million active users. It faces intense competition from Spotify (SPOT), from music services offered by Apple (AAPL) and Amazon (AMZN), and from Jay-Z’s Tidal, which is partly owned by Sprint (S).

Pandora’s ability to stay an independent company was very much in doubt. SiriusXM had already invested $480 million to buy 19% of Pandora’s stock last year, and it was widely reported to be looking at a full purchase.

Soon after that investment was announced, Pandora co-founder Tim Westergren lost his positions as CEO and board member, and Michael Herring lost his job as president.

Pandora stock, which was down 35% for the year when they left, has nearly doubled since then, partly in anticipation of a purchase. The company still lost $221 million in the first half of the year, although that was down 43% from the first half of 2017.

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Canadian Government Takes a Jab At U.S. Pharmaceuticals

By: Jeff Lagerquist of Yahoo

Canadian officials are considering how to take aim at the massive U.S. pharmaceutical industry in the event of a full-blown trade war with the United States, according to an Ottawa-based law professor with knowledge of the situation.

The plan would target valuable U.S. patents, granting Canada’s generic pharmaceutical firms the right to copy, sell and potentially export American drugs.

Amir Attaran, a biomedical scientist and University of Ottawa law professor, said the move would stun Wall Street and the White

House, while mobilizing the powerful U.S.

pharmaceutical lobby behind Canada’s cause.

“Canadian officials are aware of and studying the proposal in case the United States decides to impose a major retaliation on Canada,” he told Yahoo Canada Finance on Tuesday.  “I’m positive it’s being considered.”

Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland travelled back to Washington to resume NAFTA negotiations on Wednesday. U.S. officials have demanded a deal by Oct. 1., upping the pressure to resolve long-held sticking points such as the dispute resolution mechanism, cultural protections, and the supply-managed dairy industry.

Attaran spelled out how Canada could employ a pharma-based retaliation strategy in a magazine column in June. He declined to disclose who in the federal government is now considering the plan, saying only that it is not the officials negotiating the trade deal with the U.S.

Global Affairs Canada did not respond to a request for comment in time for publication.

“I think one plausible reaction for the Canadian government would be to say if the Americans operate radically outside of NAFTA, as by penalizing our car industry, we will pursue their pharmaceutical industry’s interests,” Attaran said. “At that point, you have exited the negotiating model of resolving our differences, and you are resorting to brute force.”

The Pharmaceutical Research & Manufacturers of America was the fourth largest U.S. lobby group in 2017, spending nearly US$26 million that year, according to the nonpartisan Centre for Responsive Politics. The Washington D.C.-based trade group’s members include drug industry giants Pfizer, Sanofi, and Johnson & Johnson.

Attaran said a threat by Canada to suspend U.S. patents on Canadian soil would be impossible for those companies to ignore.

“Pharma would be putting in phone calls out to everyone in Congress whom they made campaign donations to. And that is nearly everyone,” he said. “Pharma spends more on lobbying than banking and defence combined, and each of those are a huge lobby.”

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Japanese Billionaire Yusaku Maezawa To Be First Private Citizen To Fly Around The Moon With Space X

By: Michael Sheetz of CNBC

Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa signed with SpaceX to fly around the moon on the company’s next generation rocket, CEO Elon Musk announced on Monday.

Maezawa will attempt to be the first to return to the moon in nearly half a century, launching aboard a Big Falcon Rocket (BFR), which SpaceX is developing. BFR is the flagship for Musk’s vision of creating a permanent, self-sustaining human presence on Mars, and testing on the behemoth rocket is expected to begin next year.

The trip is expected to launch in 2023.

“Ever since I was a kid, I have loved the moon. It’s always there and continues to inspire humanity,” said Maezawa, one of the richest people in Japan, who made his fortune as the founder of online retailers Start Today and Zozotown.

SpaceX announced in February 2017 that two passengers would be flying around the moon in the company’s Crew Dragon capsule, launched by its Falcon Heavy rocket. But earlier this year, Musk said SpaceX was considering using BFR instead and on Monday confirmed that Maezawa is “the same person” who was announced before, just with a larger group now onboard.

BFR is a massive, 35-story tall rocket designed to launch and land like SpaceX’s Falcon 9, but also carrying dozens of people on board instead of just satellites. Musk confirmed BFR’s “design has been changed,” after receiving questions about new renders of the rocket posted online.

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