Thursday, 23 January

17:00 EST

Pharmaceutical Executive John Kapoor Sentenced To 66 Months In Prison In Opioid Trial [News : NPR]

Insys Therapeutics founder John Kapoor was convicted in a bribery and kickback scheme that prosecutors said helped fuel the opioid crisis.

His sentencing is the culmination of a months-long criminal trial that resulted in the first successful prosecution of pharmaceutical executives tied to the opioid epidemic.

(Image credit: Charles Krupa/AP)

MAP: Confirmed Cases Of Wuhan Coronavirus [News : NPR]

Map showing cases of Wuhan coronavirus detected so far

A look at the cities, provinces and countries where the newly identified Wuhan coronavirus has spread.

(Image credit: Daniel Wood/NPR)

Tech Companies Take A Leading Role In Warning Of Foreign Cyber Threats [News : NPR]

Sandra Joyce, the head of global intelligence at the cybersecurity firm FireEye, speaks at the company

U.S. cybersecurity firms are making headlines with reports of online attacks by Russia and other foreign actors. Why are tech companies taking the lead, rather than the U.S. government?

(Image credit: Courtesy of FireEye)

Jim Lehrer, Longtime PBS Anchor, Dies At 85 [News : NPR]

Jim Lehrer joined PBS in the 1970s and went on to moderate 12 presidential debates and write some 20 novels, three memoirs and several plays.

Lehrer chronicled such weighty events as John F. Kennedy's assassination and the 1973 Senate Watergate hearings. For years, he and lifelong friend Robert MacNeil co-anchored The MacNeil/Lehrer Report.

(Image credit: PBS via AP)

Don't Be Like Jeff Bezos. Here's How To Keep Your Phone Safe From Hackers [News : NPR]

The phone of Jeff Bezos allegedly was hacked via a WhatsApp account held by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

The world's richest man and high-tech mastermind, Jeff Bezos, allegedly was hacked by the crown prince of Saudi Arabia. What do you need to know to protect your phone from perhaps less royal attacks?

(Image credit: Bandar Algaloud/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

Mean Girls channels Street Fighter: The Movie: The Game as culture becomes a ouroboros of remakes [The Verge - All Posts]

Time to break out your best pink outfits because Mean Girls — the popular 2004 Tina Fey cult comedy film, which is based on Rosalind Wiseman’s 2002 book Queen Bees and Wannabes and has since become a Broadway stage musical — is now being turned back into a movie. This time, it’s adapting the musical, which, again, is already based on an existing movie. In other words, Mean Girls is pulling a Street Fighter: The Movie (the video game). You can thank Variety for bringing us this news.

If you’re not familiar with Street Fighter: The Movie: The Game, it’s one of the best examples of the cultural remake ouroboros in which we’re now stuck. Once upon a time, Street Fighter (the original game series) was adapted into a movie (Street Fighter, r...

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How to delete Cortana recordings and protect your privacy [The Verge - All Posts]

Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge

If you use a PC, Xbox, or other Microsoft device, chatting with Cortana can be an easy way to get things done while your hands are occupied.

But as with all voice assistants, beware of corporate snooping. In August, Motherboard discovered that Microsoft contractors listen to recordings of Cortana voice commands, sometimes from personal computers and browsers with little security.

Cortana recordings are now transcribed in “secure facilities,” according to Microsoft. But the transcription program is still in place, which means someone, somewhere still might be listening to everything you say to your voice assistant.

Don’t worry: if this creeps you out, you can delete your recordings. Here’s how.

The first step is to open a Windows PC and...

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Samsung’s next foldable may have an ‘ultra thin’ glass display [The Verge - All Posts]

Image: 王奔宏 via Weibo

We first heard last month that Samsung’s rumored new foldable, possibly called the Galaxy Z Flip, will apparently fold clamshell-style similar to Motorola’s upcoming Razr and might have a glass screen. Today, leaker Max Weinbach of XDA Developers shared a few more rumors about that glass screen on Twitter.

According to Weinbach, the phone’s OLED screen will use a type of glass that Samsung may call “Samsung Ultra Thin Glass.” Leaker Ice Universe used similar language last month, saying that the phone would have “an ultra-thin glass cover,” and we noted last month that Samsung has applied for a trademark for the term in Europe. Weinbach also says that the upcoming foldable will have a crease in the middle — which you can see in the image...

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23andMe just laid off 100 employees [The Verge - All Posts]

23Andme Photo by Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images

Home DNA-testing company 23andMe is laying off 100 employees, which is around 14 percent of its workforce. The layoffs primarily affect the operations team, according to a CNBC report that was published on Thursday.

The downsizing reflects a shrinking market for DNA kits. Illumina, which makes genetic-sequencing technologies and counts 23andMe among its customers, reported that sales were down across the industry in an earnings call last summer. Genome-sequencing company Veritas Genetics also nixed its US operation last year and laid off around 50 employees after struggling to raise capital.

23andMe CEO Anne Wojcicki told CNBC that customers might be reluctant to pay for pricey genetic tests if they fear economic downturn. Wojcicki...

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Rocket League is killing online multiplayer on macOS and Linux [The Verge - All Posts]

Image: Pysonix

Today, Epic Games-owned Psyonix announced that it will stop supporting Rocket League on macOS and Linux starting in March. Psyonix says it will release a final patch on both platforms that month that will turn off online features, which means you won’t be able to play online multiplayer anymore. You’ll still be able to play matches with your friends sitting in front of your computer, though.

According to a support document, here is what will still work after the patch:

  • Local Matches
  • Split-Screen Play
  • Garage/Inventory (existing items will not be removed from your inventory)
  • Career Stats
  • Replays
  • Steam Workshop Maps (downloaded before the final patch)
  • Custom Training Packs (downloaded before the final patch)

And here’s what won’t work...

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Tech companies are ‘too big, and we’ve allowed them to exercise monopoly power,’ says House Antitrust chairman David Cicilline [The Verge - All Posts]

Rep. David Cicilline Photo By Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

Last week, the House Antitrust Subcommittee held a unique hearing where executives from Sonos, Tile, Basecamp, and PopSockets laid out the challenges of working and competing with big tech companies like Apple, Google, and Amazon. It felt like a turning point in the conversation about big tech platforms and the power they have over competition, something PopSockets CEO David Barnett called “bullying with a smile.”

“Help us Congress, you’re our only hope,” said Basecamp’s David Heinemeier-Hansson. It was like that.

But the hearing was just one part of a lengthy Antitrust Subcommittee investigation into the competitiveness of digital markets led by Chairman David Cicilline (D-RI) that’s been going on for some time — a bipartisan...

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Star Trek: Picard knows Star Trek is a hard sell in 2020 [The Verge - All Posts]

Meet Jean-Luc Picard, space dad. He was, for 178 episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation and four theatrical films, the captain of the starship Enterprise; an inherently trustworthy father figure who pushed everyone around him to be more noble, understanding, and empathetic. Eighteen years after his last appearance in the movie Star Trek: Nemesis, Picard is back in Star Trek: Picard — a CBS All Access show that plays surprisingly well for people who have not seen a moment of Star Trek as well as longtime fans. Star Trek: Picard is trying to go somewhere new. Shockingly, it seems a little bit nervous about it.

Star Trek: Picard takes place 18 years after the events of Star Trek: Nemesis, the final film starring the crew of The Next...

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16:00 EST

Apple Fights EU Call For Common Smartphone Charger, Claiming Consumer Harm [Slashdot]

Apple on Thursday pushed back against EU lawmakers' call for a common charger, warning the move could hamper innovation, create a mountain of electronic waste and irk consumers. From a report: Apple's comments came a week after lawmakers at the European Parliament called for a common charger for all mobile phones and amended a draft law to say the ability to work with common chargers would be an essential requirement for radio equipment in the bloc. A move to a common charger would affect Apple more than any other company as its iPhones and most of its products are powered by its Lightning cable, whereas Android devices are powered by USB-C connectors. "We believe regulation that forces conformity across the type of connector built into all smartphones stifles innovation rather than encouraging it, and would harm consumers in Europe and the economy as a whole," Apple said in a statement.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

MDhex Vulnerabilities Impact GE Patient Vital Signs Monitoring Devices [Slashdot]

Security researchers from CyberMDX, a cyber-security company specialized in healthcare security, have disclosed today technical details about six vulnerabilities they are collectively referring to as MDhex. From a report: The vulnerabilities impact seven GE Healthcare devices meant for patient vital signs monitoring. These are devices installed near patient beds, meant to collect data from sick patients, and send it back to a telemetry server, monitored by clinical staff.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Link [tinywords]

rent arrears my son’s goldfish swims around its castle  

15:00 EST

Rocket League will drop support for Mac, Linux versions in March [Ars Technica]

Screenshot of video game Rocket League.

Enlarge (credit: Epic Games)

For anyone who clings to Linux or MacOS as a preferred gaming platform, Epic Games and Psyonix offered a rare kind of bad news on Thursday. The companies confirmed that their mega-hit game Rocket League would no longer receive updates for either platform following a "final" patch for all non-Windows versions on PC coming in "early March."

This "end-of-life" version of Rocket League on Linux and MacOS will still function in a wholly offline state, and affected players will be able to access whatever cosmetics and add-ons they'd previously earned through the game's economy system (but no more new ones). Additionally, those platforms will be able to use Steam Workshop content, but only if it's downloaded and applied to the game before the March patch goes live.

Otherwise, if any function in the game connects even in the slightest to the Internet—from item shops to matchmaking to private matches to friends lists—it will stop working once the March patch goes live, and any future modes, maps, or other game-changing content won't come to their platforms, either.

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After a decade of drama, Apple is ready to kill Flash in Safari once and for all [Ars Technica]

Safari is the default browser on all of Apple's devices.

Enlarge / Safari is the default browser on all of Apple's devices. (credit: NurPhoto/Getty Images)

Release notes for the latest version of the Safari Technology Preview, essentially the beta version of the macOS Web browser, explicitly state that the update ends support for Adobe Flash. This marks the end of the line for that Web technology on Macs.

The change happened in Safari Technology Preview 99 and is likely to hit the public release sometime in the near future.

Apple already disabled Flash by default in a previous Safari version, and the practice of including Flash on each Mac from initial installation ended a decade ago. But if users wanted to download Flash to their Macs and manually activate it, doing so was still possible. Soon, it won't be—at least, not in the system's default browser.

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Sick of Big Pharma’s pricing, health insurers pledge $55M for cheap generics [Ars Technica]

A pharmacy technician grabs a bottle of drugs off a shelf at the central pharmacy of Intermountain Heathcare on September 10, 2018 in Midvale, Utah. IHC along with other hospitals and philanthropies are launching a nonprofit generic drug company called "Civica Rx" to help reduce cost and shortages of generic drugs.

Enlarge / A pharmacy technician grabs a bottle of drugs off a shelf at the central pharmacy of Intermountain Heathcare on September 10, 2018 in Midvale, Utah. IHC along with other hospitals and philanthropies are launching a nonprofit generic drug company called "Civica Rx" to help reduce cost and shortages of generic drugs. (credit: Getty | George Frey)

Fed up with the exorbitant price tags on old, off-patent medications, 18 Blue Cross and Blue Shield companies are partnering with a nonprofit dedicated to manufacturing and selling affordably priced generic drugs.

The BCBS companies are providing $55 million in their new partnership with nonprofit Civica Rx, the two organizations announced.

Like the new venture, Civica was born out of frustration with the pharmaceutical industry’s steep price increases as well as perilous shortages of essential drugs. In 2018, numerous health care organizations banded together with three philanthropies to manufacture their own brand of generic drugs, forming Civica and thwarting the generic industry. Their aim was to provide hospitals with injectable generic medications in steady supplies at affordable prices.

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A young couple is trapped in the forever home from hell in Vivarium trailer [Ars Technica]

Jesse Eisenberg and Imogen Poots play a house-hunting couple trapped in a suburban nightmare in Vivarium.

A young couple stumbles into the wrong neighborhood while house-hunting and finds themselves prisoners in the forever home from hell in Vivarium, a surreal science fiction film directed by Lorcan Finnegan. The film premiered last year at the Cannes Film Festival and made its way around the festival circuit before being picked up for distribution by Saban Films. And it has been garnering quite a bit of positive word of mouth along the way.

There's only the vaguest official premise: "A young couple looking for the perfect home find themselves trapped in a mysterious labyrinth-like neighborhood of identical houses." But Wikipedia offers this telling definition of the film's title: "A vivarium is an area, usually enclosed, for keeping and raising animals or plants for observation or research." It translates into "place of life," and it can be a small terrarium, for example, or something much larger, like Biosphere 2. It's pretty obvious that the film's suburban paradise is meant to be just such a place.

Imogen Poots plays Gemma, who is married to Tom (Jesse Eisenberg). They decide to check out the home options in a wholesome development called Yonder ("It has all you'd need and all you'd want"), and a very creepy real estate agent named Martin (Jonathan Aris) shows them around #9. Yonder is basically a large grid of identical streets filled with identical cookie-cutter houses, with the same cookie-cutter backyards. It calls to mind the classic folk song, "Little Boxes," popularized by Pete Seeger in the 1960s, about cheap, tiny suburban houses "made of ticky-tacky" that "all look just the same."

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Amazon Prime Video Gives Amateur How-To's, Conspiracy Theories a Stage [Slashdot]

Streaming service touts its large collection of titles, but a majority are uploads -- and questionable films are in the mix [Editor's note: the link may be paywalled; an alternative source wasn't immediately available.]. From a report: When Walter Wilson, a construction worker from North Carolina, sat down to watch the blockbuster "Avengers: Endgame" on Amazon Prime Video, he ended up seeing something very different: a 2007 documentary, also titled "Endgame," directed by far-right talk show host Alex Jones. Mr. Jones's videos have been banned from many mainstream sites like Apple's iTunes and Facebook for promoting outlandish conspiracy theories. "Endgame" purported to document a clandestine organization of bankers and politicians bent on establishing a "blueprint for global enslavement." Its availability on Amazon.com's streaming service highlighted a fact not widely known among subscribers: The e-commerce giant accepts nonprofessional and questionable content to offer a video library that in Amazon's style can dominate the competition through sheer volume. While the video service is known for original movies and shows that have won Oscars and Emmys -- such as "Manchester By the Sea" and "Transparent" -- the site also carries thousands of conspiracy-theory videos, amateur productions and short instructional clips. Similar to Alphabet's YouTube, some videos are uploaded by individuals who made them or by others owning the rights to the content. Others Amazon bought in bulk as part of vast libraries of amateur content. An Amazon spokeswoman says the company has sought a broad selection of content, including videos from award winners and independent producers.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Russian comedian who dissed Putin flees country [Boing Boing]

Aleksandr Dolgopolov, a 25-year-old Russian comedian, made some jokes about Russian President Vladimir Putin and Christianity during a stand-up performance last year. Dolgopolov says he has now fled Russia over fears for his safety.

In a show he did at amall bar in St Petersburg 12 months ago, Dolgopolov joked about Putin and his supporters:

"Our population has split into two camps. On one hand there are those who support Putin; on the other, there are those who can read, write, and reach logical conclusions."

Ouch. Then he insulted the Virgin Mary and Christianity -- and there are laws against blasphemy in Russia, so this was a big deal.

Dolgopolov told reporters he learned that police were investigating footage from his stand-up act.

More from BBC News:

Authorities said they had received a complaint that Dolgopolov had been "insulting the feelings of believers".

The interior ministry in Moscow confirmed police were investigating.

"Police officers are conducting an audit, the results of which will be decided in accordance with the law," the ministry said in a statement on Wednesday.

On Thursday, Dolgopolov posted a photo on Instagram along with the caption: "We arrived! We are safe, bye. Thanks for the support!"

READ MORE:Russian comedian who joked about President Putin flees country [bbc.com, JAN. 23 2020]

SCREENGRAB: Aleksandr Dolgopolov, Stand-Up Club #1, YouTube



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Ребята, я вас всех поздравляю, мы сделали это! Моя карьера вышла на новый уровень - два года назад на меня охотились деревенские гопники, теперь охоту открывает целое государство, вау! Вот такое замечательное уведомление пришло в петербургский стендап-клуб, из чего можно сделать вывод, что Россия все еще на пути к бездонной пропасти безумия. Хорошего вечера, буду держать в курсе, надеюсь не придётся прятаться в лесу

A post shared by Александр Долгополов (@sankldive) on

LEGO step-by-step build: Ultimate Millennium Falcon [Boing Boing]

Oh this is gloriously satisfying.

IMGURian Phoenix3600 did a step-by-step build gallery of what I am assuming is the very pricey and fancy LEGO Star Wars Ultimate Millennium Falcon 75192 Expert Building Kit.

I no longer need to buy it, as I have seen all the assembly photos and foud them to be most pleasing indeed.

I built a thing, grown men can still have these right?

Trump Administration Targets 'Birth Tourism' With New Visa Rule [News : NPR]

Visiting the U.S. to have a baby — and secure a U.S. passport for the child — is not "a legitimate activity for pleasure or of a recreational nature," the State Department says.

Saying "birth tourism poses risks to national security," the State Department tells consular officials to deny a visa if they believe a potential visitor has the "primary purpose" of giving birth.

(Image credit: Benny Snyder/AP)

World Health Organization says it’s too early to declare global emergency over new coronavirus [The Verge - All Posts]

Coronavirus Pneumonia Outbreaks In China Photo by Getty Images

The World Health Organization (WHO) said today that it’s too early to declare an international public health emergency in response to the rapid spread of a new coronavirus from China. The virus is in the same viral family as SARS, which circulated throughout the world in 2002 and 2003. There are currently over 500 confirmed cases in five countries of the virus, which causes fever and respiratory distress, and 17 confirmed deaths, according to data cited during the press conference. Other sources have reported over 650 confirmed cases and 18 deaths.

“Make no mistake, this is, though, an emergency in China. But it has not yet become a global health emergency. It may yet become one,” said Tedros Adhanom, director general of the WHO, in a...

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Uber is bringing its self-driving cars to Washington, DC [The Verge - All Posts]

Uber’s self-driving cars will soon be jockeying for space on the streets of Washington, DC, with the ride-hailing company announcing it will begin collecting data to support the development of its fleet of autonomous vehicles. The vehicles will not be operating in autonomous mode, though. They will instead be operated by human drivers to start out, collecting mapping data and capturing driving scenarios which Uber’s engineers will then reproduce in simulation.

That said, the company hopes to eventually allow its self-driving cars in Washington to, well, self-drive. “Our hope is that this first round of manually driven data collection will lay the foundation for testing our vehicles in self-driving mode in Washington, DC,” the company’s...

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Read the report that concluded Saudi Arabia hacked Jeff Bezos’ phone [The Verge - All Posts]

Commemoration ceremony to mark first anniversary of Khashoggis murder in Istanbul Photo by Arif Hudaverdi Yaman/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

This week, The Guardian posted a huge story reporting that Saudi Arabia hacked Jeff Bezos’ phone in May 2018 after he received a message from Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. A report published by the security forensics firm FTI Consulting concluded with “medium to high confidence” that was the case.

If you want to read the report yourself, you can do so right here, thanks to Vice, which obtained the report in its entirety exclusively on Wednesday.

Some security professionals don’t think that FTI went far enough with its analysis, as reported by C...

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14:00 EST

Doom Eternal hands-on: It’s more, more, more—and maybe just a little bit less, too [Ars Technica]

The portals open, the metal music starts, and the chainsaw revs up. There's something about that moment that, repeated as many times as it was throughout Doom (2016), never got old for me. But Doom Eternal is coming from the point of view that this setup did, in fact, get old, and the way to keep it fresh is to add a lot of new stuff. So much new stuff.

Publisher Bethesda Softworks hosted a 3-hour preview of Doom Eternal for press in Los Angeles this week. I came into the event right off my first playthrough of its immediate predecessor on Nightmare difficulty (I did better than I feared, though I still died a lot!) and amped up by watching an entertaining live speedrun at Awesome Games Done Quick earlier this month. I was ultra-eager to get a taste of the sequel to one of my favorite shooters in years.

I was pleased to find that the frenetic, in-your-face, always-moving combat of the 2016 reboot was still here in full force, as was the tendency of the music to amp up as enemy portals appear in your immediate surroundings. I was surprised, though, to find that much of the pacing and narrative of Doom (2016) have been dropped in the name of pure, video game-y carnage.

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Dealmaster: Our favorite Fitbit fitness tracker is 30% off on Amazon today [Ars Technica]

Dealmaster: Our favorite Fitbit fitness tracker is 30% off on Amazon today

Enlarge (credit: Ars Technica)

In today's Dealmaster, we have a great discount on Fitbit's Inspire HR, which we recently named the best fitness tracker for most people. As part of Amazon's Deal of the Day, the heart-rate-tracking Inspire HR is down to $70 for today only. That's just $1 off the lowest price we've seen from reputable retailers and a good $30 off its usual going rate.

The Inspire HR is essentially an updated version of Fitbit's old Alta HR tracker. It's something like the general-purpose option in Fitbit's lineup: it doesn't have the battery life and altimeter of the pricier Fitbit Charge 3 or the smartwatch-style functionality of the Fitbit Versa series, but it's still good for what most people need from a device like this without breaking the bank.

Compared to the Alta HR, the Inspire HR includes a full-on touchscreen instead of a tap-only panel and a generally more intuitive interface, with the ability to set timers and better change the look of the OS. At its core, it remains a dependable monitor of daily activity, heart rate, and sleep, aided in large part by the ever-useful Fitbit app. Fitbit rates the Inspire HR's battery as lasting up to five days per charge, which is a downgrade from the seven-day rating of the Charge 3 or Alta HR but should still be enough to only require one charge a week.

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World's Highest and India's Largest Gamma-Ray Telescope To Go Live in Ladakh this Year [Slashdot]

India's largest and the world's highest gamma-ray telescope is set to go live later this year, aiming to provide a new window into distant stars and galaxies in the universe. From a report: The Major Atmospheric Cherenkov Experiment Telescope (MACE) in Hanle, Ladakh, is placed at an altitude of 4,300 metres above sea level. It is the world's second-largest, ground-based gamma-ray telescope with a 21-metre-diameter dish. The largest telescope of the same class is the 28-metre-diameter telescope, which is part of the High Energy Stereoscopic System (HESS) in Namibia. "The installation of the telescope is complete and trial runs are being carried out. It will go live later this year. The first science results from this project will come in a year or two," Nilay Bhatt, a researcher at the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC), told ThePrint. The project is a collaboration of scientists from BARC, Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR) and the Indian Institute of Astrophysics, along with the Electronics Corporation of India Limited.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Ready For Meat Grown From Animal Cells? A Startup Plans A Pilot Facility [Slashdot]

Memphis Meats, a Berkeley, Calif.-based startup, says it's one step closer to bringing cell-based meat to consumers' mouths. From a report: The company plans to build a pilot production facility with funds raised from high-profile investors including Bill Gates, Richard Branson and Kimbal Musk, as well as two giant players in the animal protein and feed space, Cargill and Tyson Foods. The company says its latest funding round has brought in $161 million in new investment. "People thought this was all science fiction" when the company was founded back in 2015, Uma Valeti, the co-founder and CEO of Memphis Meats, told NPR in an interview at the company's headquarters. "Everything that we've done at Memphis Meats [has] started to show that this can be done," Valeti said. "This is real." Interest in cell-based meat production and other meat alternatives has increased amid growing awareness of the environmental impact of traditional livestock agriculture. Valeti and his team walked us through the process of producing cell-based meat. It starts with the selection of specific types of animal cells that can grow to become meat. Next, the cells are fed and put in a "cultivator" -- similar to a fermenting tank â" where they can grow and form muscle and connective tissue. The process is analogous to the way breweries grow yeast cells to produce beer. Only here, they're growing animal cells.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Albert Einstein's funny face is on the world's smallest gold coin [Boing Boing]

In Switzerland, the state-owned Swissmint says today that a 2.96-millimeter (0.12-inches) gold coin created with Albert Einstein's face on it is the smallest in the world.

The coin, shown above, weighs 0.063 grams (1/500th of an ounce) and has a nominal value of 1/4 Swiss francs ($0.26).

From the Associated Press:

Swissmint said the coin, of which just 999 have been made, will be sold for 199 francs with a special magnifying glass so owners can see the famous physicist on its face.

IMAGE courtesy Swissmint: A gold coin with the face of Albert Einstein on the image side. (Handout Swissmint/Benjamin Zurbriggen)

Scientists recreate sound of Egyptian mummy's voice from 3,000 years ago [Boing Boing]

Researchers in Berlin claim to have succeeded in re-creating the sound of the voice of an Egyptian person who died 3,000 years ago, and was entombed as a mummy.

The scientists say they managed to mimic the mummy's voice (well, the voice of the living person the mummy used to be) by recreating portions of the vocal tract using medical scanners, 3D printing and an electronic larynx.

Excerpt:

In a paper published Thursday by the journal Scientific Reports, the authors say the technique allowed them to produce a single sound - somewhere between the vowels in ‘bed’ and ‘bad.’

The eerie tone is unlikely to be a precise reflection of the speech of Egyptian priest Nesyamun, whose mummified body the researchers worked with, because the tongue has lost much of its bulk over three millennia.

“We have made a faithful sound for his tract in its current position, but we would not expect an exact speech match given his tongue state,” said co-author David M. Howard of London’s Royal Holloway college.

READ MORE at the Associated Press:
Ancient voice: Scientists recreate sound of Egyptian mummy

IMAGE: Crop from the original movie poster for 'The Mummy', 1932 (public domain)

Cop investigating burglary stun guns his K9 after dog bites cow [Boing Boing]

Everybody hurts. No crime was solved.

In the otherwise normal town of Georgetown, South Carolina, a sheriff’s deputy who was investigating a burglary ended up using a stun gun on his own K9 after the police working dog bit a cow, which then charged at both the property owner and the deputy, reports the sheriff’s office.

Still with me?

Good.

In a statement [Link], Georgetown County sheriff’s deputies say they responded to a burglary call in the Pleasant Hill community Wednesday afternoon, when the K9 brought to the scene became “distracted” and bit a cow that belonged to the owners of the property.

The officer responded by stunning the dog to prevent serious injury to the cow, said the statement posted on Facebook.

PHOTO: Georgetown County Sheriff's Office

From the Associated Press:

The dog was taken back to the cruiser, and none of the people or animals involved appeared to be seriously hurt, The Greenville News reported.

At the end of it all — it was determined the original burglary call was unfounded, the statement concluded.

More at the USA Today-owned Greenville News:
SC deputy tazes his own K-9 after the dog bit a cow on an unfounded burglary call

First 'baked in space' cookies: 2 hours at 325º in zero-g oven [Boing Boing]

SPOILER: Nobody got baked. Not that kind of space cookies. Sorry.

“How do they taste? No one knows.”

From the Associated Press:

Italian astronaut Luca Parmitano was the master baker in December, radioing down a description as he baked them one by one in the prototype Zero G Oven. The first cookie — in the oven for 25 minutes at 300 degrees Fahrenheit (149 degrees Celsius) — ended up seriously under-baked. He more than doubled the baking time for the next two, and the results were still so-so. The fourth cookie stayed in the oven for two hours, and finally success.

“So this time, I do see some browning,” Parmitano radioed. “I can’t tell you whether it’s cooked all the way or not, but it certainly doesn’t look like cookie dough any more.”

Parmitano cranked the oven up to its maximum 325 degrees F (163 degrees C) for the fifth cookie and baked it for 130 minutes. He reported more success. Additional testing is required to determine whether the three returned cookies are safe to eat.

First space-baked cookies took 2 hours in experimental oven [apnews.com, Thu. Jan. 23, 2020]

PHOTO: U.S. astronaut Christina Koch tweeted this image on Dec. 26, 2019. Koch and Italian astronaut Luca Parmitano pose for a photo with a cookie baked on the International Space Station. Today, results are in for the first chocolate chip cookie bake-off in space. The tastiest cookies required two hours of baking time last month on the International Space Station. It takes far less time on Earth, under 20 minutes. (NASA via AP, File)

Wuhan virus puts airlines on high alert around the world [Boing Boing]

Here’s a good explainer from Reuters on the airline industry’s response to the Wuhan coronavirus outbreak so far. If the virus spreads becomes a pandemic, this could impact world financial markets as did SARS in 2003.

SARS killed about 800 people. Since then, people travel by plane even more, and other things have changed in global travel patterns.

“The biggest concern is a sharp drop in travel demand if the virus becomes a pandemic.”

Excerpt:

Many airlines, including Korean Air Lines, Singapore Airlines’ budget carrier Scoot, Taiwan’s China Airlines Ltd and Japan’s ANA, announced they were cancelling flights in and out of Wuhan after authorities announced a lockdown.

South Korean budget carrier T’way Air earlier this week postponed the scheduled launch of a new route to the city.

Flight tracking website FlightRadar24 showed that as of 0600 GMT on Thursday, 184 Wuhan flights, or 60% of the departures listed for the day, had been canceled.

Wuhan’s Tianhe airport serves around 2% of China’s total air traffic and mainly serves domestic routes. Broker Jefferies estimated 88.8% of overall flights are domestic, with China Southern Airlines Co Ltd holding the largest market share at 30%.

Explainer: Global airlines on high alert as virus outbreak spreads [reuters.com]

Bill Clinton’s party on Epstein’s Lolita Express jet, Two Meghans demand millions, and a very Merry Christmas, in this week’s dubious tabloids [Boing Boing]

“Meghan Demands $90m Payout!” screams the ‘National Enquirer’ cover about the imminent ex-Royal.

No, she doesn’t.

As the story inside makes clear, the Duchess of Sussex has made no such demand.

Allegedly “Royals fear Harry’s wife will demand hush money . . . in return for keeping silent about the shocking details about her relationship with her blue-blood in-laws.” Meghan supposedly “wants the monarchy to buy her silence!”

Why are there reportedly “Fears she’ll tell all on TV”?

Here’s how the tabloids’ twisted thinking goes: Prince Harry is co-producing an Apple TV+ series on mental health with Oprah Winfrey. Oprah is best friends with 'CBS This Morning’ host and interviewer Gayle King. King would love to bag the first sit-down with a post-Royal Harry & Meghan. Therefore the Royal Family fears Meghan will tell all on TV. QED.

“Clinton’s Party on Epstein Sex Plane!” declares the ‘Globe’ cover, promising “bombshell photos inside,” where you find a center spread beneath the lurid headline: “Onboard Epstein’s Kinky Lolita Express!”

The “bombshell photo” is of a much-younger Bill Clinton fully dressed in buttoned-up polo shirt and black jacket buttoned at the waist, with his arm around Epstein’s “masseuse” Chauntae Davies, described as a “sex slave” by the ‘Globe.’ It’s not a lascivious groping, but more of a paternal arm around the then-22-year-old blonde, in the same way Clinton must have posed with tens of thousands of others during his long political career.

Clinton reportedly “partied on high-flying pervert’s plane.”

So, how kinky and perverse was the in-flight entertainment?

Totally PG, according to Davies, who reports that Clinton was the “perfect gentleman” on every flight he took with Epstein.

What about the “party on Epstein’s sex plane”? They played cards, watched a movie, and “eventually, everyone fell asleep to the movie.” Not quite the Bacchanalia the headline seemed to infer..

‘Us’ magazine’s cover is devoted to “Meghan & Harry’s New Life in Exile,” promising the “first look at $27 million dream home, Disney deal done & taking over Hollywood” and “Meghan’s mom moves in to raise Archie.”

Talk about setting readers up for disappointment.

There is zero mention of Meghan’s mother Doria moving in with the ex-Royal couple, though the article does say that H&M “are looking at a vacation home in Malibu that’s close to Meghan’s mom.”

The first look at the $27 million dream home? It’s one short paragraph summing up a highly speculative story reported in British tabloid ‘The Sun’ last week about a luxury home currently for sale in Vancouver, Canada, in which Harry & Meghan may or may not have any interest. But there's no photo - so no “first look.”

As for “taking over Hollywood”? We already know that Meghan has recorded the voice-over for a Disney documentary in exchange for a payment to an elephant charity, and that’s it, though the mag says: “Together, Meghan and Harry can no doubt take Hollywood by storm.” Not quite the same as “taking over Hollywood.”

Apparently the Duchess of Sussex isn’t the only Meghan planning to extort millions from her meal ticket.

Seemingly recycling a plot from the Royal Soap opera, the ‘Globe’ reports that “Mega-Monster” TV host Meghan McCain “Plots Escape From The View” by negotiating a massive pay-off to leave the TV show, “holding out for a pile of exit cash.” It sounds like the mag has conflated the two Meghans. Calling McCain a “scheming diva,” it reports that “no one speaks to Meghan,” and “she wants to go somewhere where she feels she’ll be appreciated.” Meghan Markle would doubtless sympathize, and no doubt next week the tabloids will reveal that Duchess Meghan wants to replace Diva Meghan on ‘The View.’

The tabloids’ obsession with celebrity weight continues in the post-New-Year’s-Resolution-Diet period, shaming the stars for being either too fat or too thin - even if they look healthy and sensational.

“Katie Homes Wastes Away to 91 pounds!” says the ‘Enquirer,’ calling her “pin-thin.”

“Skin-and-bones Charlize” Theron’s “Diet Obsession” has her down to 105 pounds, alleges the ‘Globe.’

Jessica Simpson plans a "movie of her memoir after dropping 100 lbs” claims the ‘Enquirer.’

Meanwhile former ‘Mad About You’ star Helen Hunt is supposedly “worried about plump” former co-star Paul Reiser, claims the ‘Enquirer.’
And “Hugh Jackman’s six-pack abs seem to be a thing of the past” reports the ‘Globe’ about the man who still looks fitter than 99 per cent of Americans (or fellow Australians.)

Fortunately we have the crack investigative team at ‘Us’ magazine to tell us that Amber Valletta wore it best, that Kristin Cavallari is “the best air-hockey player in my house,” that actress Larisa Oleynik carries “a million backup MetroCards” and “a million lipsticks” in her YNOT backpack (though we have to assume she’s slightly exaggerating on the numbers), and that the stars are just like us: they drink coffee, eat frozen yogurt, walk their dogs and take out the trash. Insightful as always.

Proving that tabloid readers are ahead of their time, the ‘Globe’ offers readers in mid-january a “first-of-a-kind Thomas Kinkade” sculpted tabletop Christmas tree complete with “flickering candlelight” for just $149.99. Not to be outdone, the ‘Enquirer’ offers its readers an “Elvis ‘Taking Care of Christmas’ Express” toy train complete with “real working electric” steam locomotive, tender stuffed with Santa’s toys, and a “Rockin’ Christmas Gondola” complete with removable Elvis Presley sculpture.

Merry Christmas everyone!

Onwards and downwards . . .

Spain: Cops free 100s of dogs from illegal puppy farm, 5 people arrested [Boing Boing]

Police in Spain raided two puppy mills and rescued 270 small dogs, many of which were sick and stuffed inside cramped cages.

Five people suspected of running the illegal animal breeding and sales operation were arrested outskirts of Madrid on Thursday.

The puppy crime ring is identified as one of the largest distributors of Chihuahuas and Pomeranians in Europe. They marketed the dogs using social media, and cops say they made more than $2.2 million in US dollars in the course of roughly ten years in operation.

Excerpt from Reuters:

Among the group, mostly Chihuahuas and Pomeranians, police found two dead animals whose frozen bodies had been wrapped in newspaper. Police said the breeders had cut some of the dogs’ vocal chords, possibly to prevent them from barking and alerting neighbours.

Two of the five people arrested were veterinarians who helped give the operation a veil of legitimacy by providing stamped certificates and fitting the dogs with identification microchips.

Read more at REUTERS:
Spanish police free hundreds of dogs from illegal puppy farms

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