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Updated: 58 min 34 sec ago

Curiosity Mars Rover Gets 50% Speed Boost From Software Update

1 hour 29 min ago
The navigation strategy of NASA's Curiosity rover means it has to stop frequently to check its position, but soon a software update will allow it to move almost continuously. From a report: A new software update will soon give NASA's Curiosity Mars rover a 50 per cent speed boost, allowing it to cover a greater distance and complete more science. But the update very nearly didn't happen because of a mysterious bug in the software that eluded engineers for years. Curiosity, which landed on Mars 10 years ago this month, has already greatly outlived its planned two-year lifespan.

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Streaming Services Deal With More Subscribers Who 'Watch, Cancel and Go'

2 hours 7 min ago
It is gradually getting tougher for streaming-video companies to hold on to their subscribers, as consumers who are flooded with options weed out services they don't need at any given time. From a report: Some 19% of subscribers to premium services -- a group that includes Netflix, Hulu, AppleTV+, HBO Max and Disney+, among others -- canceled three or more subscriptions in the two years up to June, according to new data from subscriber-measurement firm Antenna. That is up from 6% in the two-year stretch ended in June 2020. The average rate of monthly customer defections among premium services in the U.S. was 5.46% in July, up from 4.46% a year ago and 4.05% in July 2020, according to Antenna. Many households signed up for multiple streaming services a few years ago as options in the marketplace proliferated, subscription prices were lower and the pandemic boosted demand for in-home entertainment. Slowly but surely, they have gotten more choosy and frugal. Some consumers cancel subscriptions when they finish a hit series on a service, then switch to another that has something else compelling.

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Newly Discovered Molecule Fights Off Over 300 Kinds of Drug-Resistant Bacteria

3 hours 14 min ago
schwit1 shares a report from ScienceAlert: The molecule is called fabimycin, and further down the line it could be used to fight off some of the most stubborn infections that humans can get. The new potential treatment targets gram-negative bacteria, a group of hard-to-kill pathogens that are commonly behind infections of the urinary tract, lungs, and even the bloodstream. Their resilience is due to a protective outer membrane that helps shield the wall from damaging substances like antibiotics. One study at an English hospital found more than a third of individuals with gram-negative bacteria blood infections had died within a year, demonstrating the challenges involved in managing these robust microbes. Fabimycin overcomes these problems by passing through the outer cell layer, avoiding the pumps that remove foreign material to allow the molecule to accumulate where it can do the most harm. The substance also manages to avoid wiping out too many healthy bacteria, another issue with current treatments. The team started off with an antibiotic that was known to be effective against gram-positive bacteria and made several structural changes to give the molecule the power to infiltrate gram-negative strains' powerful defenses. In tests, fabimycin had an effect on more than 300 types of drug-resistant bacteria. What's more, in mice models it was shown to reduce levels of harmful bacteria in mice with pneumonia or urinary tract infections to where they were pre-infection. The research has been published in the journal ACS Central Science.

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Plasma Reactors Could Create Oxygen On Mars

6 hours 14 min ago
sciencehabit shares a report from Science Magazine: Last year, NASA achieved something science fiction writers have been dreaming about for decades: It created oxygen on Mars. A microwave-size device [called MOXIE, or the Mars Oxygen In-Situ Resource Utilization Experiment] attached to the agency's Perseverance rover converted carbon dioxide into 10 minutes of breathable oxygen. Now, physicists say they've come up with a way to use electron beams in a plasma reactor to create far more oxygen, potentially in a smaller package. The technique might someday not just help astronauts breathe on the Red Planet, but could also serve as a way to create fuel and fertilizer, says Michael Hecht, an experimental scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. But Hecht, who leads the oxygenmaking rover instrument, says the new approach still has a number of challenges to overcome before it can hitch a ride to our solar neighbor. [...] In the lab, he and his colleagues pumped air designed to match the pressure and composition of Mars into metal tubes. Unlike MOXIE, they didn't need to compress or heat the air. Yet, by firing an electron beam into the reaction chamber, they were able to convert about 30% of the air into oxygen. They estimate that the device could create about 14 grams of oxygen per hour: enough to support 28 minutes of breathing, the team reports today in the Journal of Applied Physics. Guerra's team still needs to solve some practical problems, Hecht notes. To work on Mars, the plasma device would need a portable power source and a place to store the oxygen it makes, all of which could make it just as -- if not more -- bulky than MOXIE, he says. If space agencies were willing to spend millions of dollars developing it -- as NASA did with MOXIE -- the plasma approach could mature, Hecht says. He especially likes how the electron beam could be tuned to split other atmospheric molecules, such as nitrogen, to create fertilizer. "There's nothing wrong with the plasma technique other than it's a lot less mature [than MOXIE]," he says.

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Wind, Solar Provide 67% of New US Electrical Generating Capacity In First Half of 2022

9 hours 14 min ago
Klaxton shares a report from Electrek: Clean energy accounted for more than two-thirds of the new US electrical generating capacity added during the first six months of 2022, according to data recently released by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). Wind (5,722 megawatts) and solar (3,895 MW) provided 67.01% of the 14,352 MW in utility-scale (that is, greater than 1 MW) capacity that came online during the first half of 2022. Additional capacity was provided by geothermal (26 MW), hydropower (7 MW), and biomass (2 MW). The balance came from natural gas (4,695 MW) and oil (5 MW). No new capacity was reported for 2022 from either nuclear power or coal. This brings clean energy's share of total US available installed generating capacity up to 26.74%. To put that in perspective, five years ago, clean energy's share was 19.7%. Ten years ago, it was 14.76%.

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Researchers Change Blood Type of Kidney In Transplant Breakthrough

Tue, 2022-08-16 23:30
An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Guardian: Researchers have successfully altered the blood type of three donor kidneys in a gamechanging discovery that could significantly improve the chances of patients waiting for a transplant finding a match. The development could increase the supply of kidneys available for transplant, particularly within minority ethnic groups who are less likely to find a match, scientists say. A kidney from someone with blood type A cannot be transplanted to someone with blood type B, nor the other way around. But changing the blood type to the universal O would allow more transplants to take place as this can be used for people with any blood type. University of Cambridge researchers used a normothermic perfusion machine -- a device that connects with a human kidney to pass oxygenated blood through the organ to better preserve it for future use -- to flush blood infused with an enzyme through the deceased donor's kidney. The enzyme removed the blood type markers that line the blood vessels of the kidney, which led to the organ being converted to the most common O type. [...] Now the researchers need to see how the newly changed O-type kidney will react to a patient's usual blood type in their normal blood supply. The machine allows them to do this before testing in people, as they can take the kidneys that have been changed to the O type, and introduce different blood types to monitor how the kidney might react. The full paper on the work is set to be published in the British Journal of Surgery in the coming months.

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Germany To Keep Last Three Nuclear-Power Plants Running In Policy U-Turn

Tue, 2022-08-16 22:02
Germany plans to keep its remaining nuclear power plants open for longer in a major U-turn as it scrambles to keep the lights on this winter with less Russian gas. The Telegraph reports: Officials have concluded the plants are needed due to gas shortages and they can be kept open without safety concerns, the Wall Street Journal reported. Germany pledged to phase out nuclear power after the Fukushima disaster in Japan in 2011, which hardened opposition to the technology. Berlin has been under pressure to change course since the invasion of Ukraine to limit the impact of the gas crisis on manufacturers and households. Germany has three plants left, operated by E.ON, EnBW and RWE, supplying about 6pc of the country's electricity. They are currently due to close at the end of the year. Any extension has yet to be officially adopted and details remain under discussion, the Wall Street Journal added. It came as Norway warned it could not do more to help Germany avoid a gas crisis this winter as Russia restricts supplies.

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Drought-Stricken States To Get Less From Colorado River

Tue, 2022-08-16 21:25
For the second year in a row, Arizona and Nevada will face cuts in the amount of water they can draw from the Colorado River as the West endures an extreme drought, federal officials announced Tuesday. The Associated Press reports: The cuts planned for next year will force states to make critical decisions about where to reduce consumption and whether to prioritize growing cities or agricultural areas. The cuts will also place state officials under renewed pressure to plan for a hotter, drier future and a growing population. Mexico will also face cuts. "We are taking steps to protect the 40 million people who depend on the Colorado River for their lives and livelihoods," said Camille Touton, commissioner of the Bureau of Reclamation. The river provides water across seven states and in Mexico and helps feed an agricultural industry valued at $15 billion a year. Cities and farms are anxiously awaiting official estimates of the river's future water levels that will determine the extent and scope of cuts to their water supply. That's not all. In addition to those already-agreed-to cuts, the Bureau of Reclamation said Tuesday that states had missed a deadline to propose at least 15% more cuts needed to keep water levels at the river's storage reservoirs from dropping even more. For example, officials have predicted that water levels at Lake Mead, the nation's largest reservoir, will plummet further. The lake is currently less than a quarter full. "The states collectively have not identified and adopted specific actions of sufficient magnitude that would stabilize the system," Touton said.

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Microsoft Employees Exposed Own Company's Internal Logins

Tue, 2022-08-16 20:45
Multiple people who appear to be employees of Microsoft have exposed sensitive login credentials to the company's own infrastructure on GitHub, potentially offering attackers a gateway into internal Microsoft systems, according to a cybersecurity research firm that found the exposed credentials. Motherboard reports: "We continue to see that accidental source code and credential leakages are part of the attack surface of a company, and it's becoming more and more difficult to identify in a timely and accurate manner. This is a very challenging issue for most companies these days," Mossab Hussein, chief security officer at cybersecurity firm spiderSilk which discovered the issue, told Motherboard in an online chat. Hussein provided Motherboard with seven examples in total of exposed Microsoft logins. All of these were credentials for Azure servers. Azure is Microsoft's cloud computer service and is similar to Amazon Web Services. All of the exposed credentials were associated with an official Microsoft tenant ID. A tenant ID is a unique identifier linked to a particular set of Azure users. One of the GitHub users also listed Microsoft on their profile. Three of the seven login credentials were still active when spiderSilk discovered them, with one seemingly uploaded just days ago at the time of writing. The other four sets of credentials were no longer active but still highlighted the risk of workers accidentally uploading keys for internal systems. Microsoft refused to elaborate on what systems the credentials were protecting when asked multiple times by Motherboard. But generally speaking, an attacker may have an opportunity to move onto other points of interest after gaining initial access to an internal system. One of the GitHub profiles with exposed and active credentials makes a reference to the Azure DevOps code repository. Highlighting the risk that such credentials may pose, in an apparently unrelated hack in March attackers gained access to an Azure DevOps account and then published a large amount of Microsoft source code, including for Bing and Microsoft's Cortana assistant. "We've investigated and have taken action to secure these credentials," said a Microsoft spokesperson in a statement. "While they were inadvertently made public, we haven't seen any evidence that sensitive data was accessed or the credentials were used improperly. We're continuing to investigate and will continue to take necessary steps to further prevent inadvertent sharing of credentials."

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Burnout Turned Twitch Streamers' Dreams of Playing Games Into Nightmares

Tue, 2022-08-16 20:02
An anonymous reader quotes a report from NPR: Stephen Flavall makes his living by playing video games to an audience of thousands on Twitch. When he first started streaming, he only had about fifteen people at a time watching him. He liked how he could engage with a small community, cracking jokes while people cheered him on. Unfortunately, the vibe changed as his popularity grew. "Around 200 viewers was when it started getting exhausting," says Flavall. "Now I have like 2,000 viewers [at a time] and when that many people are asking you questions and telling you what to do, it becomes absolutely unmanageable. I started having anxiety, bordering on full panic attacks." Flavall's gotten to a better place now, but his story isn't unique. Burnout is on the rise across the country, even for those whose work is -- quite literally -- play. While professional video gaming can sound like an enviable gig, it's not too different from being a performer. Streamers have an audience, a persona, and act in the same role for long hours. Streamers can't really take breaks, either. They risk their fanbase losing interest during a stream and logging off. Since they're self-employed, they can't rely on paid vacation, or sick leave. That leaves streamers wondering how to navigate making an income that isn't an official "job." [...] Twitch audiences can also demand that streamers play games they may have soured on. Haelian, another Twitch streamer known for playing rogue-likes, got tired of trying to escape the underworld of Hades day-in and day-out. But that game made his stream popular, and his fans weren't pleased. [...] Twitch's competitive culture also fans the flames. It's not just that a streamer can tire of a game or rude viewers; they can also fall victim to a pervasive "always on" mentality. Taylor Chou, Director of Talent Management at Evil Geniuses, an esports and gaming entertainment company, says that Twitch can be a pretty toxic work environment. "When you're a streamer, you truly know that every single second that you are not online, grinding, posting, streaming -- somebody [else] is," Chou says. "That's a lot of pressure for people to learn how to manage." Chou also says that communicating with your audience and having a support system is key to mitigating streamer burnout. "Most of the best ways to deal with burnout start with a support system," says Chou. "When you're a streamer, make sure that your community has a sense that this is a person they're watching." But that kind of structure can take years to build, and while fans have rallied around streamers, they can just as often stress or even harass them. That leaves many burnt out and on their way to signing off for good. Further reading: Deadly Swatting Increasing On Twitch; Alarmed Streamers Press For Change (Ars Technica)

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Tesla's Public Superchargers Are Deemed 'Illegal' In Germany Due To Technicality

Tue, 2022-08-16 19:20
Tesla's Supercharger stations that are open to non-Tesla electric vehicles are deemed "illegal" in Germany due to the lack of kWh counter on the units. Electrek reports: Handelsblatt reports that Tesla's Superchargers are considered "illegal" because they don't have a visible kWh counter at the stations (translated from German): "Every charging station at which charging current is billed according to kilowatt hours must comply with calibration law in Germany , i.e., have a meter that precisely measures the charged current. This applies to public space, but also to company and private premises." Tesla has always relied on its mobile app to monitor charging sessions, and the stations are not equipped with screens. Thomas Weberpals, head of the Bavarian State Office for Weights and Measures, said that it is Tesla's job to retrofit the stations, and it is working toward that. The government doesn't plan to act on it right now: "The illegal operation is not hindered and not sanctioned. It was and is being worked toward a lawful state." "There are a few other charging companies that are also in violation of the regulation, but Tesla has the highest number of stations in violation," notes Electrek.

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Court Upholds FCC's Decision To Reallocate Part of 5.9 GHz Band For Unlicensed Use, Including Wi-Fi

Tue, 2022-08-16 18:40
The Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit on Friday upheld the FCC's decision to reallocate part of the 5.9 GHz band for unlicensed use -- rather than the dedicated short-range communications (DSRC) it was originally allocated for. "This is part of the spectrum that in 1999 was set aside exclusively for the auto industry to use for DSCR to improve auto safety," notes Fierce Wireless. "At that time, the full amount set aside was 75 megahertz." From the report: After about 20 years, nothing ever really came of DSRC, and in 2020, the FCC divvied up the 75 megahertz, making 45 megahertz available for unlicensed use with the remaining 30 megahertz designated for auto safety. Specifically, the auto safety spectrum was reallocated for Cellular Vehicle-to-Everything (C-V2X) technology, a more modern tech than DSRC. The Intelligent Transportation Society of America and American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials didn't like the FCC's decision and appealed, arguing that it violated the Transportation Equity Act. They also said the FCC unlawfully revoked or modified FCC licenses. But Circuit Court Judge Justin Walker said it did not violate the act and said the court disagreed with the transportation officials' arguments "on all fronts."

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FDA Clears Path For Hearing Aids To Be Sold Over the Counter

Tue, 2022-08-16 18:00
An anonymous reader quotes a report from the New York Times: The Food and Drug Administration decided on Tuesday to allow hearing aids to be sold over the counter and without a prescription to adults, a long-sought wish of consumers frustrated by expensive exams and devices. The high cost of hearing aids, which are not covered by basic Medicare, has discouraged millions of Americans who have hearing loss from buying the devices. Health experts say that untreated hearing loss can contribute to cognitive decline and depression in older people. Under the new rule, people with mild to moderate hearing loss should be able to buy hearing aids online and in retail stores as soon as October, without being required to see a doctor for an exam to get a prescription. The F.D.A. cited studies estimating that about 30 million Americans experience hearing loss, but only about one-fifth of them get help. The changes could upend the market, which is dominated by a relatively small number of manufacturers, and make it a broader field with less costly, and perhaps, more innovative designs. Current costs for hearing aids, which tend to include visits with an audiologist, range from about $1,400at Costco to roughly $4,700elsewhere. The F.D.A.'s final rule takes effect in 60 days. Industry representatives say device makers are largely ready to launch new products, though some may need time to update labeling and packaging or to comply with technical details in the rule. "This could fundamentally change technology," said Nicholas Reed, an audiologist at the Department of Epidemiology at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. "We don't know what these companies might come up with. We may literally see new ways hearing aids work, how they look."

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Amazon is Raising Seller Fees For the Holidays To Manage Through Surging Inflation

Tue, 2022-08-16 17:22
In its latest effort to contend with soaring inflation, Amazon is planning to raise fulfillment fees during the holiday season, passing off some of its increased costs to the millions of merchants who rely on the site to sell their products. From a report: Starting Oct. 15, and running through Jan. 14, third-party sellers who use Fulfillment by Amazon, or FBA, will have to pay 35 cents per item sold in the U.S. or Canada, the company said Tuesday in an email to sellers. For merchants using FBA, Amazon handles the process of picking, packing and shipping items. The holiday fee comes on top of existing charges that sellers pay for using FBA services. Those costs vary depending on an item's size, category and weight. Amazon said it's implementing an added holiday surcharge for the first time as "expenses are reaching new heights," making it harder for the company to absorb costs tied to the peak shopping season. "Our selling partners are incredibly important to us, and this is not a decision we made lightly," Amazon said in the email. Amazon's third-party marketplace has become the centerpiece of its dominant e-commerce business, as it now accounts for more than half of online retail sales. Because of Amazon's global reach and massive customer base, many retailers count on the company for the majority, and in some cases the entirety, of their business.

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Alibaba, ByteDance Share Details of Prized Algorithms With Beijing for First Time

Tue, 2022-08-16 16:45
China's internet giants from Tencent to ByteDance have shared details of their prized algorithms with Beijing for the first time, an unprecedented move aimed at curbing data abuse that may end up compromising closely guarded corporate secrets. From a report: The internet watchdog on Friday published a list describing 30 algorithms that firms including Alibaba Group Holding and Meituan employ to gather data on users, tailor personal recommendations and serve up content. While the public list stopped short of revealing the actual code, it wasn't clear the extent to which internet firms may have revealed their underlying software to regulators in private. The algorithms that decide which TikTok videos, WeChat posts and Instagram photos users see are considered the secret sauce of many online services, critical in capturing user attention and driving growth. China in March adopted regulations that require internet firms to disclose such tools, an effort to address complaints about data abuse that also helps regulators keep internet firms on a tighter leash. Tech industry algorithms are jealously guarded and have been at the heart of political controversies around the world. That disclosure requirement sets China apart from countries like the US, where Meta Platforms and Alphabet have argued successfully that algorithms are business secrets, even as lawmakers and activists seek to better understand how they curate content and manage data.

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US Approves Nearly All Tech Exports To China, Data Shows

Tue, 2022-08-16 16:05
The U.S. has identified intensifying technological competition with China as a top national-security threat. But a Commerce Department-led process that reviews U.S. tech exports to the country approves almost all requests and has overseen an increase in sales of some particularly important technologies, according to an analysis of trade data. From a report: Of the U.S.'s total $125 billion in exports to China in 2020, officials required a license for less than half a percent, Commerce Department data shows. Of that fraction, the agency approved 94%, or 2,652, applications for technology exports to China. The figures omit applications "returned without action," meaning their outcomes were uncertain. The result: The U.S. continues to send to China an array of semiconductors, aerospace components, artificial-intelligence technology and other items that could be used to advance Beijing's military interests. The Commerce Department says it is focused on long-term, strategic competition with China and that it makes export-control decisions with its interagency partners in the Defense, State and Energy Departments. Critics say Commerce officials are improperly giving priority to U.S. commercial interests over national security and that an urgent regulatory revamp is necessary to respond to the threat from Beijing. For Steve Coonen, the Pentagon's former top China export-controls analyst, the high rate of approvals for licenses to sell tech with potential military use is evidence of significant policy failure.

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Google Demos Soda-Fetching Robots

Tue, 2022-08-16 15:25
Alphabet's Google is combining the eyes and arms of physical robots with the knowledge and conversation skills of virtual chatbots to help its employees fetch soda and chips from breakrooms with ease. From a report: The mechanical waiters, shown in action to reporters last week, embody an artificial intelligence breakthrough that paves the way for multipurpose robots as easy to control as ones that perform single, structured tasks such as vacuuming or standing guard. Google robots are not ready for sale. They perform only a few dozen simple actions, and the company has not yet embedded them with the "OK, Google" summoning feature familiar to consumers. While Google says it is pursuing development responsibly, adoption could ultimately stall over concerns such as robots becoming surveillance machines, or being equipped with chat technology that can give offensive responses, as Meta Platforms and others have experienced in recent years. Microsoft and Amazon are pursuing comparable research on robots. "It's going to take a while before we can really have a firm grasp on the direct commercial impact," said Vincent Vanhoucke, senior director for Google's robotics research. When asked to help clean a spill, Google's robot recognizes that grabbing a sponge is a doable and more sensible response than apologizing for creating the mess.

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Windows 11's Next Big Update Arrives Next Month With Start Menu Folders, New Gestures

Tue, 2022-08-16 14:41
Microsoft is planning to release its next big Windows 11 update, version 22H2, on September 20th. The Verge: Sources familiar with Microsoft's plans tell The Verge Microsoft will roll out Windows 11 22H2 through Windows Update on September 20th, a week after the company's regular Patch Tuesday fixes. Microsoft has been testing Windows 11 22H2 for months, and it will include a number of new improvements, like app folders in the Start menu, drag and drop on the taskbar, and new touch gestures and animations. Microsoft is also adding a new Live Captions accessibility feature with 22H2, which is ideal for people who are deaf, hard of hearing, or anyone who wants to caption audio automatically. Similarly, a new Voice Access tool that allows people to control their PCs by using voice commands is part of 22H2. The Task Manager is also being overhauled in Windows 11 22H2, with a new dark mode and a far better layout that includes a new command bar and an efficiency mode to limit apps from consuming resources. Snap Layouts will also be greatly improved in 22H2, making it easier to drag and app to reveal all the layouts you can use to arrange apps. Microsoft is also working on tabs for File Explorer, which will arrive a little later than September 20th.

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American Airlines Agrees To Buy 20 Supersonic Planes from Boom

Tue, 2022-08-16 14:02
American Airlines has agreed to purchase 20 supersonic Overture planes from Boom Supersonic, the companies announced Tuesday. From a report: The deal is the second firm order in the last two years for Boom, still years from building its first commercial airplane. United Airlines made a commitment last year to buy 15 Overture jets. "Passengers want flights that are faster, more convenient, more sustainable and that's what Overture delivers," Boom CEO Blake Scholl told CNBC. "Flight times can be as little as half as what we have today, and that works great in networks like American where we can fly Miami to London in less than five hours." Boom says the Overture jet will fly as fast as Mach 1.7, or 1,304 mph, dramatically cutting trans-Atlantic and trans-Pacific flight times. For example, a flight from Seattle to Tokyo, which typically takes just over 10 hours, could be completed in six hours in an Overture, according to Boom.

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Idaho Company Sues FTC, Claiming Agency Threatened Suit Over Its Tracking Data

Tue, 2022-08-16 13:24
A data-marketing and analytics company has sued the Federal Trade Commission, saying the agency is wrongly threatening to sue it for marketing geolocation data that might be used to track consumer visits to sensitive locations such as abortion clinics. From a report: The lawsuit by Kochava was filed on Friday in U.S. District Court in Idaho, where the company is based. The FTC didn't immediately respond to requests for comment. The commission announced last week that it would begin considering rules to protect the privacy of a range of consumer data. The Kochava case represents an early salvo in what could be a lengthy battle over the privacy of some online healthcare data. In June, the U.S. Supreme Court eliminated the constitutional right to an abortion, overturning the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision and leaving the question of abortion's legality to the states. In response, President Biden issued an executive order encouraging the FTC to take new actions to protect consumers' privacy when they seek information about reproductive health.

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