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Firefly Launches Alpha Rocket To Orbit - techmage writes: Early this morning, Firefly Aerospace succeeded in launching their Alpha rocket to Low Earth Orbit. This marks one of a handful of companies who have reached space with that few attempts (Virgin Orbit and RocketLab are just some of the others). Shameless plug -- I had the pleasure of building the Serenity satellite, a 3U CubeSat that flew on the mission. Check out the video of the launch and deployment. It is quite something to watch. All three payloads were successfully deployed. Space.com reports: One of them, called Serenity, comes from the nonprofit organization Teachers in Space. Serenity was designed to collect a variety of data during today's flight, which will be shared with the educational community, according to a Firefly mission description. Also reaching orbit today was TechEdSat-15 (TES-15), which is owned by NASA in coordination with San Jose State University in California. TES-15 features an "exo-brake" designed to help satellites leave their orbital perches more smoothly when their work is done. "The exo-brake will deploy after the cubesat is ejected from its dispenser to deorbit the cubesat," Firefly wrote in the mission description. TES-15 also carries an experiment designed to optimize data transfer from the little spacecraft, the company added. The third payload -- the PicoBus deployer, from the nonprofit Libre Space -- carries five tiny payloads of its own. Those bantam "picosats" include Genesis-L & Genesis-N, from AMSAT (Radio Amateur Satellite Corporation) Spain. The pair will demonstrate a pulsed-plasma thruster system for spacecraft propulsion and "build heritage for future missions," according to Firefly. PicoBus is also carrying Libre Space's Qubik-1 and Qubik-2, which will perform communications experiments, and FossaSat-1B. This latter satellite, from the Spanish company Fossa Systems, will test communications and remote-sensing tech. It also carries a low-resolution Earth-imaging camera.

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(2022-10-01T21:21:00+00:00)

Chernobyl Black Frogs Reveal Evolution In Action - German Orizaola and Pablo Burraco write via The Conversation: Our work in Chernobyl started in 2016. That year, close to the damaged nuclear reactor, we detected several Eastern tree frogs (Hyla orientalis) with an unusual black tint. The species normally has a bright green dorsal coloration, although occasional darker individuals can be found. Melanin is responsible for the dark color of many organisms. What is less known is that this class of pigments can also reduce the negative effects of ultraviolet radiation. And its protective role can extend to ionizing radiation too, as it has been shown with fungi. Melanin absorbs and dissipates part of the radiation energy. In addition, it can scavenge and neutralize ionized molecules inside the cell, such as reactive oxygen species. These actions make it less likely that individuals exposed to radiation will go on to suffer cell damage and increase their survival chances. After detecting the first black frogs in 2016, we decided to study the role of melanin colouration in Chernobyl wildlife. Between 2017 and 2019 we examined in detail the colouration of Eastern tree frogs in different areas of northern Ukraine. During those three years we analysed the dorsal skin colouration of more than 200 male frogs captured in 12 different breeding ponds. These localities were distributed along a wide gradient of radioactive contamination. They included some of the most radioactive areas on the planet, but also four sites outside the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone and with background radiation levels used as controls. Our work reveals that Chernobyl tree frogs have a much darker colouration than frogs captured in control areas outside the zone. As we found out in 2016, some are pitch-black. This colouration is not related to the levels of radiation that frogs experience today and that we can measure in all individuals. The dark colouration is typical of frogs from within or near the most contaminated areas at the time of the accident. The results of our study suggest that Chernobyl frogs could have undergone a process of rapid evolution in response to radiation. In this scenario, those frogs with darker colouration at the time of the accident, which normally represent a minority in their populations, would have been favoured by the protective action of melanin. The dark frogs would have survived the radiation better and reproduced more successfully. More than ten generations of frogs have passed since the accident and a classic, although very fast, process of natural selection may explain why these dark frogs are now the dominant type for the species within the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone.

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(2022-10-01T20:20:00+00:00)

Citrix-Tibco Close $17 Billion Deal, Uniting Virtualization and Enterprise Apps Vendors - Virtualization and cloud products vendor Citrix and enterprise applications vendor Tibco Software have completed their merger, valued at $16.5 billion, with new leadership calling the combined company "a new global leader in enterprise software." CRN reports: The two companies announced the deal's completion in a statement Friday. Tom Krause, who left Broadcom after the chip giant's announced acquisition of VMware to become CEO of the combined Citrix and Palo Alto, Calif.-based Tibco, called the combined company "a new global leader in enterprise software" in the statement. "We are excited to create a new global leader in enterprise software, designed for scale and growth, through the combination of Citrix and TIBCO," Krause said. "The platform we have built will expand and deepen our relationships with our valued customers and partners, drive the future of mission-critical cloud software solutions and create long-term value for all our stakeholders." With the completion of the Citrix-Tibco deal, Krause revealed on LinkedIn that he is now CEO of Cloud Software Group (CSG), the owner of Citrix and Tibco.

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(2022-10-01T19:19:00+00:00)

Danish Pirate Site Blocking Updated, Telecoms Group Publishes All Domains - Rights Alliance and ISPs have agreed to update their code of conduct to block pirate sites more quickly in Denmark. When one ISP receives an instruction to block a domain, a new process will see other ISPs follow in less than seven days. Meanwhile, Denmark's Telecommunications Industry Association is publishing files that reveal precisely which domains are being blocked. TorrentFreak reports: Both Rights Alliance and Teleindustrien (Telecommunications Industry Association in Denmark) have published copies of the new Code of Conduct but neither explain how the new system will work. Indeed, the CoC contains a paragraph that explains that a section detailing the individual steps, procedures and criteria, has been withheld "in order to achieve the purpose of the agreement." Given that Denmark's blocking program is DNS-based, it's trivial for ISPs to modify local DNS entries to redirect pirate site visitors to Share With Care (SWC), a portal designed to encourage pirates back on to the legal path of authorized content services. Somewhat intrigued by the apparent need for secrecy, we took a closer look at Teleindustrien and to our surprise, found the complete opposite. It appears that when ISPs are ordered to block domains for any reason, Teleindustrien goes public with three things: the laws under which the blocking was ordered, who ordered the blocking, and which domains were blocked in response. For example, the telecoms industry group details recent blocks associated with the Ukraine conflict (including RT.com and sputniknews.com) and publishes the domains to an easily downloadable .csv file -- perfect for ISPs looking to implement DNS blocking. Another .csv file is published for gambling site domains deemed illegal in Denmark, 183 according to the latest batch. The data relating to Denmark's pirate site blocking program reveals how quickly it has expanded over the years. In 2017, Danish ISPs were blocking around 100 pirate sites, a figure that jumped to 478 in 2020. The latest .csv file containing the list of blocked piracy domains is dated September 27, 2022. It contains 892 URLs -- some of them domains in their own right and others representing sub-domains on various sites dedicated to unblocking. It's unclear how the new streamlining provisions in the revised Code of Conduct can beat pulling a plain text file from a website but Teleindustrian also provides the data in PDF format (PDF) for the Adobe fans out there.

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(2022-10-01T18:18:00+00:00)

Sofia, the Historic Airplane-Borne Telescope, Lands For the Last Time - An anonymous reader quotes a report from Wired: Over the past eight years, a modified Boeing 747 jetliner has flown hundreds of flights on a unique mission: carrying a 19-ton, 2.5-meter telescope known as Sofia, or the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy. Flying a telescope on a jumbo jet offered a way to peer into the heavens at wavelengths that could not be glimpsed from the ground -- but the ticket was expensive. So yesterday, NASA and the German space agency grounded the mission. Its final flight landed early Thursday morning at NASA's Armstrong Flight Research Center in the desert near Los Angeles. Sofia was an innovative way to gaze at the infrared universe. Infrared light is essentially heat radiation -- but astronomers can't probe cosmic objects like dust-enshrouded stars and galaxies without the water vapor in Earth's atmosphere absorbing that light. That confounds attempts to observe those objects with telescopes built on mountaintops, like the observatories in Hawaii and Chile. But by soaring through the stratosphere, at an elevation of 40,000 feet or higher, Sofia could fly above that water vapor and get a much better view. "Almost 50 percent of the energy of the universe comes out in the mid- to far infrared. Sofia has played an important and unique role for its lifetime, probing that entire wavelength range, and we've been able to observe all manner of phenomena that were otherwise invisible to other facilities," says Jim De Buizer, Sofia senior scientist at NASA's Ames Research Center in Mountain View, California. De Buizer and the Sofia team have made a number of significant astronomical discoveries, including measuring cosmic magnetic fields permeating nearby galaxies, charting the growth of massive stars, observing Pluto's faint shadow as it passed in front of a distant star, and even discovering water on the sunlit surface of the moon's southern hemisphere. The data from Sofia's final flight will map stellar nebulas and help scientists study the magnetic fields of the Sculptor starburst galaxy. But while flying a telescope in a jet is much less expensive than launching one aboard a spacecraft, like NASA's Spitzer and Webb space telescopes and the European Space Agency's Herschel Space Observatory, it's still not cheap. There are costs for the pilots, staff, engineers, and mechanics -- plus a round of repairs to the aircraft that had to be made in 2018. Sofia costs NASA about $85 million per year -- a significant fraction of its astrophysics budget. And that's actually only 80 percent of the funding it needs; NASA's German counterparts provided the rest. It was ultimately the mission's high operating costs, relative to its scientific output, that took Sofia down. "At the end of the day, the project itself just wasn't productive. You're talking about almost a Hubble cost for operations, but with a fraction of the scientific productivity," says Casey Dreier, senior space policy adviser for the Planetary Society, a nonprofit research organization based in Pasadena, California. "I feel for the scientists. They can't control the operational costs," Dreier says. "But Sofia got eight years of operations. It had a good, healthy life, for a mission."

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(2022-10-01T17:17:00+00:00)

Apple VP Leaves Company After Vulgar Comment Goes Viral On TikTok - Apple's vice president of procurement, Tony Blevins, has left the company after a TikTok video showed him making a vulgar comment about women at a car show. CNBC reports: An Apple representative confirmed the departure to CNBC, saying, "Tony is leaving Apple." The departure was spurred by a TikTok video posted Sept. 5, according to Bloomberg, which first reported the news. In the video, reviewed by CNBC, Blevins is getting out of an expensive Mercedes-Benz sports car and is asked what he does for a living by Daniel Mac, who has a channel centered around asking people in expensive cars questions. In the video, Blevins responds, "I race cars, play golf and fondle big-breasted women. But I take weekends and major holidays off." The remark appears to be a reference to a similar quote in the movie "Arthur." It was viewed 1.3 million times, according to the TikTok page. "Blevins was a VP at Apple," notes CNBC. "His main role was to negotiate with suppliers to keep the price Apple pays for computer parts down, according to a Wall Street Journal profile of Blevins from 2020."

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(2022-10-01T16:16:00+00:00)

Fake CISO Profiles On LinkedIn Target Fortune 500s - Security researcher Brian Krebs writes: Someone has recently created a large number of fake LinkedIn profiles for Chief Information Security Officer (CISO) roles at some of the world's largest corporations. It's not clear who's behind this network of fake CISOs or what their intentions may be. But the fabricated LinkedIn identities are confusing search engine results for CISO roles at major companies, and they are being indexed as gospel by various downstream data-scraping sources. [...] Rich Mason, the former CISO at Fortune 500 firm Honeywell, began warning his colleagues on LinkedIn about the phony profiles earlier this week. "It's interesting the downstream sources that repeat LinkedIn bogus content as truth," Mason said. "This is dangerous, Apollo.io, Signalhire, and Cybersecurity Ventures." [...] Again, we don't know much about who or what is behind these profiles, but in August the security firm Mandiant (recently acquired by Google) told Bloomberg that hackers working for the North Korean government have been copying resumes and profiles from leading job listing platforms LinkedIn and Indeed, as part of an elaborate scheme to land jobs at cryptocurrency firms. None of the profiles listed here responded to requests for comment (or to become a connection). LinkedIn could take one simple step that would make it far easier for people to make informed decisions about whether to trust a given profile: Add a "created on" date for every profile. Twitter does this, and it's enormously helpful for filtering out a great deal of noise and unwanted communications. The former CISO Mason said LinkedIn also could experiment with offering something akin to Twitter's verified mark to users who chose to validate that they can respond to email at the domain associated with their stated current employer. Mason said LinkedIn also needs a more streamlined process for allowing employers to remove phony employee accounts. He recently tried to get a phony profile removed from LinkedIn for someone who falsely claimed to have worked for his company. In a statement provided to KrebsOnSecurity, LinkedIn said its teams were actively working to take these fake accounts down. "We do have strong human and automated systems in place, and we're continually improving, as fake account activity becomes more sophisticated," the statement reads. "In our transparency report we share how our teams plus automated systems are stopping the vast majority of fraudulent activity we detect in our community -- around 96% of fake accounts and around 99.1% of spam and scam."

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(2022-10-01T15:15:00+00:00)

Researchers Use Fluid Dynamics To Spot Artificial Imposter Voices - An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Conversation: To detect audio deepfakes, we and our research colleagues at the University of Florida have developed a technique that measures the acoustic and fluid dynamic differences between voice samples created organically by human speakers and those generated synthetically by computers. The first step in differentiating speech produced by humans from speech generated by deepfakes is understanding how to acoustically model the vocal tract. Luckily scientists have techniques to estimate what someone -- or some being such as a dinosaur -- would sound like based on anatomical measurements of its vocal tract. We did the reverse. By inverting many of these same techniques, we were able to extract an approximation of a speaker's vocal tract during a segment of speech. This allowed us to effectively peer into the anatomy of the speaker who created the audio sample. From here, we hypothesized that deepfake audio samples would fail to be constrained by the same anatomical limitations humans have. In other words, the analysis of deepfaked audio samples simulated vocal tract shapes that do not exist in people. Our testing results not only confirmed our hypothesis but revealed something interesting. When extracting vocal tract estimations from deepfake audio, we found that the estimations were often comically incorrect. For instance, it was common for deepfake audio to result in vocal tracts with the same relative diameter and consistency as a drinking straw, in contrast to human vocal tracts, which are much wider and more variable in shape. This realization demonstrates that deepfake audio, even when convincing to human listeners, is far from indistinguishable from human-generated speech. By estimating the anatomy responsible for creating the observed speech, it's possible to identify the whether the audio was generated by a person or a computer.

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(2022-10-01T14:14:00+00:00)

High-Severity Microsoft Exchange 0-Day Under Attack Threatens 220,000 Servers - An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Microsoft late Thursday confirmed the existence of two critical vulnerabilities in its Exchange application that have already compromised multiple servers and pose a serious risk to an estimated 220,000 more around the world. The currently unpatched security flaws have been under active exploit since early August, when Vietnam-based security firm GTSC discovered customer networks had been infected with malicious webshells and that the initial entry point was some sort of Exchange vulnerability. The mystery exploit looked almost identical to an Exchange zero-day from 2021 called ProxyShell, but the customers' servers had all been patched against the vulnerability, which is tracked as CVE-2021-34473. Eventually, the researchers discovered the unknown hackers were exploiting a new Exchange vulnerability. Wednesday's GTSC post said the attackers are exploiting the zero-day to infect servers with webshells, a text interface that allows them to issue commands. These webshells contain simplified Chinese characters, leading the researchers to speculate the hackers are fluent in Chinese. Commands issued also bear the signature of the China Chopper, a webshell commonly used by Chinese-speaking threat actors, including several advanced persistent threat groups known to be backed by the People's Republic of China. GTSC went on to say that the malware the threat actors eventually install emulates Microsoft's Exchange Web Service. It also makes a connection to the IP address 137[.]184[.]67[.]33, which is hardcoded in the binary. Independent researcher Kevin Beaumont said the address hosts a fake website with only a single user with one minute of login time and has been active only since August. The malware then sends and receives data that's encrypted with an RC4 encryption key that's generated at runtime. Beaumont went on to say that the backdoor malware appears to be novel, meaning this is the first time it has been used in the wild. People running on-premises Exchange servers "should apply a blocking rule that prevents servers from accepting known attack patterns," reports Ars. The rule can be found in Microsoft's advisory. "For the time being, Microsoft also recommends people block HTTP port 5985 and HTTPS port 5986, which attackers need to exploit CVE-2022-41082."

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(2022-10-01T13:00:00+00:00)

Blackout After Drone Food Delivery Crashes Into Powerlines - AmiMoJo shares a report from the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC): Thousands of people were left without power after a food delivery drone crashed into powerlines yesterday in what has been described as a "first" by Energex. Energex spokesman Danny Donald told ABC Radio Brisbane people in Browns Plains, south of Brisbane, and the immediate surrounds lost power yesterday after a drone carrying food hit the network about 2pm. Energex restored power for about 2,000 customers within 45 minutes, while 300 customers in the immediate vicinity of that drone were without power for three hours. "The meal was still hot inside the drone's delivery box when the crew got there," Mr Donald said. "While this is a different circumstance, it's no different to the previous generation flying kites," Mr Donald added. "Fifteen years ago, we asked people to be careful if they were giving their children kites for Christmas and where they were flying them. Now we're asking parents to be very careful with where their kids fly their drones."

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(2022-10-01T10:00:00+00:00)

NASA and SpaceX Are Studying a Hubble Telescope Boost, Adding 15 To 20 Years of Life - NASA announced Thursday that it plans to study the possibility of using SpaceX's Crew Dragon vehicle to boost the aging Hubble Space Telescope into a higher orbit. Ars Technica reports: The federal agency has signed a "Space Act Agreement" with SpaceX to conduct a six-month study to determine the practicability of Dragon docking with the 32-year-old telescope and boosting it into a higher orbit. The study is not exclusive, meaning that other companies can propose similar concepts with alternative rockets and spacecraft. [...] Among the questions the new Hubble study will answer is the cost of such a mission and its technical feasibility. The principal goal is to boost Hubble's altitude from its current level of 535 km to 600 km, the same altitude it was at when first launched in 1990. Since the fifth and final servicing mission in 2009, Hubble has slowly been losing altitude, and this process is expected to accelerate as the telescope gets lower. The telescope's project manager, Patrick Crouse, said during a teleconference with reporters that in absence of a re-boost mission, NASA might have to launch a propulsion module to the telescope by the end of the 2020s. This would ensure Hubble makes a controlled reentry into Earth's atmosphere and lands in the Pacific Ocean. A Dragon mission to boost Hubble's altitude could add 15 or even 20 years of orbital lifetime, Crouse said. The study will also look at potential servicing options, although nothing like the detailed instrument replacements and major upgrades performed during Hubble servicing missions with NASA's space shuttle. Rather, engineers from NASA and SpaceX will assess the feasibility of replacing the gyroscopes that control the pointing of the telescope. Only three of the spacecraft's six gyroscopes remain in working order.

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(2022-10-01T07:00:00+00:00)

NYPD Considers Using Encryption To Block Public From Radio Scanner Broadcasts - An anonymous reader quotes a report from Gizmodo: The NYPD says it wants to reimagine its current police communication system and transition to encrypted messages by 2024, according to a recent amNY report confirmed by Gizmodo. While law enforcement has spent years fighting to make encryption less accessible for everyday people, police think they need a little more privacy. Critics worry a turn towards encryption by law enforcement could reduce transparency, hamstring the news media, and potentially jeopardize the safety of protestors looking to stay a step ahead. According to amNY, the NYPD's new plan would allow law enforcement officers discretion on whether or not to publicly disclose newsworthy incidents. That means the NYPD essentially would get to dictate the truth unchallenged in a number of potentially sensitive local stories. The report suggests police are floating the idea of letting members of the news media monitor certain radio transmissions through an NYPD-controlled mobile app. There's a catch though. According to the report, the app would send radio information with a delay. Users may also have to pay a subscription fee to use the service, the paper said. The NYPD confirmed its planning a "systems upgrade" in the coming years in an email to Gizmodo. "The NYPD is undergoing a systems upgrade that is underway and that will be complete after 2024," a spokesperson for the Deputy Commissioner of Public Information said. "This infrastructure upgrade allows the NYPD to transmit in either an encrypted or non-encrypted format," the NYPD said. "Some parts of the city have had the necessary equipment installed and the Department will begin testing the technology in these areas later this year. We are currently evaluating encryption best practices and will communicate new policies and procedures as we roll out this upgraded technology." The spokesperson claimed the department intends to listen to and consider the needs of the news media during the transition process. "The entire public safety news coverage system depends on scanners, and if scanners and scanner traffic are no longer available to newsrooms then news reporting about crime, fire -- it's going to be very hit or miss," CaliforniansAware General Counsel Terry Francke told the Reporters Committee in a blog post. "Cutting off the media from getting emergency transmissions represents the clearest regression of the NYPD policy of transparency in its history," New York Press Photographers Association President Bruce Cotler said in an interview with amNY. "We believe shutting down radio transmissions is a danger to the public and to the right of the public to know about important events." Gizmodo notes that New York joins a growing list of cities considering encrypting radio communications. "Denver, Baltimore, Virginia Beach, Sioux City, Iowa, and Racine, Wisconsin have all moved to implement the technology in recent years."

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(2022-10-01T03:30:00+00:00)

Elon Musk Unveils Prototype of Humanoid Optimus Robot - Tesla CEO Elon Musk revealed a prototype of a humanoid robot that he said utilizes the company's AI software, as well as the sensors that power its advanced driver assist features. The Verge reports: The robot was showcased at Tesla's AI Day, and reps said it features the same technology used to enable the Full Self-Driving beta in Tesla's cars. According to Musk, it can do more than what has been shown, but "the first time it walked without a tether was tonight on stage." Musk said they're targeting a price of "probably less than $20,000." The back doors of the stage open to reveal a deconstructed Optimus that walked forward and did a "raise the roof" dance move. Musk would admit after the motion that they wanted to keep it safe and not make too many moves on stage and have it "fall flat on its face." "It'll be a fundamental transformation for civilization as we know it." said Musk. Afterward, the company showed a few video clips of the robot doing other tasks like picking up boxes. Then Tesla's team brought out another prototype that has its body fully assembled but not fully functional. [...] Future applications could include cooking, gardening, or even "catgirl" sex partners, Musk has said, while also claiming that production could start as soon as next year. Musk says the robot is "the most important product development we're doing this year," predicting that it will have the potential to be "more significant than the vehicle business over time." Musk first announced the "Tesla Bot" at last year's AI Day.

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(2022-10-01T02:02:00+00:00)

SF To Feds: Cruise Driverless Cars Keep Blocking Our Roads - After years of lobbying the state to increase regulations on autonomous vehicles, San Francisco officials are taking their case to the feds. San Francisco Examiner reports: The directors of The City's two main transportation agencies outlined their concerns about Cruise's driverless cars in a letter to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration regarding Cruise's application to deploy a custom-built autonomous vehicle. In it, San Francisco Metropolitan Transportation Authority Director Jeffrey Tumlin and San Francisco County Transportation Authority Director Tilly Chang provide a comprehensive overview of disruptive and unsafe incidents that they say Cruise cars precipitated. The letter, sent on Sept. 21, comes as Cruise's driverless cars continue to stop in the middle of San Francisco's streets for extended periods of time, often in groups, blocking traffic until they can be remotely restarted or manually retrieved by Cruise staff. Over the past week, there were at least four such incidents, including one that delayed a couple of KRON4 reporters. The City's letter to NHTSA provides specific data on these incidents. Between May 29 and Sept. 5 of this year, 28 incidents of stopped Cruise cars blocking traffic were reported to 911. The City identified an additional 20 such incidents reported on social media over that time period, which does not include the events of the past week. The City estimates that these figures represent "a fraction of actual travel lane road failures," since most of these events take place late at night, when Cruise offers its driverless ride-hailing service, and when few other people are on the streets. In light of these concerns, The City requests several new regulations on autonomous vehicles from NHTSA. San Francisco's letter is in response to a petition by General Motors, Cruise's parent company, to manufacture and commercially deploy a custom-built autonomous vehicle called the Cruise Origin. It would be roughly the size of an SUV, but with no obvious front and back and no driver's seat or steering wheel. In their letter on behalf of the entire city government, Tumlin and Chang stress that they "neither support nor oppose the Petition, but document safety hazards and street capacity issues raised by the operation of the Cruise AV on San Francisco streets." They go on to call for several specific regulations they would like to see imposed on Cruise and Ford's Argo AI, another company seeking to build and deploy a fully autonomous vehicle. Those recommendations include stringent data reporting requirements and incident reports, limiting the geographic area and the number of vehicles that can be deployed in San Francisco, and enabling first responders to manually turn off the vehicles. "Safety is the guiding principle of everything we do," Cruise said in a statement regarding these incidents. "That means if our cars encounter a situation where they aren't able to safely proceed they turn on their hazard lights and we either get them operating again or pick them up as quickly as possible. This could be because of a mechanical issue like a flat tire, a road condition, or a technical problem. We're working to minimize how often this happens, and apologize to any other impacted drivers."

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(2022-10-01T01:25:00+00:00)

Two-Year Internet Outage In Ethiopia Continues - Zecharias Zelalem writes via Reuters: Few have been spared the effects of a nearly two-year internet and phone shutdown in Ethiopia's northern Tigray region, which has been cut off since fighting erupted between Tigrayan rebels and government forces in November 2020. The conflict resumed last month after a months-long humanitarian truce, dashing hopes for communications to be restored. Even the head of the World Health Organization (WHO) Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, who hails from Tigray, said he had been unable to reach his relatives back home, or send them money. "I don't know even who is dead or who is alive," Tedros told a recent news conference in London. As fighting continues in Tigray and elsewhere in Ethiopia, the government of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed says shutdowns are needed to curb violence, but critics accuse authorities of using the internet as a weapon of war. "Access to communications and other basic services, and most importantly humanitarian assistance, is explicitly used as a bargaining chip by the Ethiopian government," said Goitom Gebreluel, a political analyst specialising in Horn of Africa affairs. "It is used as leverage against both Tigray and the international community." In Ethiopia, sporadic internet and phone blackouts have been used as "a weapon to control and censor information," the group said, making it difficult for journalists and activists to document alleged rights crimes, and for aid to be delivered. In Tigray's regional capital, Mekelle, emergency workarounds such as satellite phones have become a vital tool for aid agency operations. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) also maintains a satellite phone service for local residents -- giving them a way to get a message to loved ones. So far this year, the ICRC has facilitated some 116,000 phone calls and oral messages "between family members separated by conflict and violence," said spokesperson Alyona Synenko. With almost half of the region's six million people in severe need of food, the shutdown as well as road blockades have hampered humanitarian aid deliveries, according to the U.N. World Food Program. The lack of mobile phone networks has also "crippled both the emergency and regular health monitoring systems," a WHO spokesperson said in emailed remarks. The only way to communicate is "via paper reports that need to be delivered by hand. All meetings have to be held in person."

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(2022-10-01T00:45:00+00:00)