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Meet the first private companies that NASA has selected to deliver stuff and things to the Moon

Posted by on Jun 1, 2019 in TC | 0 comments

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration has selected Astrobotic, Intuitive Machines, and Orbit Beyond as the first three private companies to deliver science and technology payloads under the Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) as part of its Artemis program.

In an announcement yesterday, the administration said that each lander will carry NASA-provided payloads to conduct science investigations and demonstrate technologies on the lunar surface to pave the way for NASA astronauts lunar return in 2024. In all NASA will dole out up to $253 million in contracts to the three companies for their respective missions.

“Our selection of these U.S. commercial landing service providers represents America’s return to the Moon’s surface for the first time in decades, and it’s a huge step forward for our Artemis lunar exploration plans,” said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine. ”Next year, our initial science and technology research will be on the lunar surface, which will help support sending the first woman and the next man to the Moon in five years. Investing in these commercial landing services also is another strong step to build a commercial space economy beyond low-Earth orbit.”

As part of the submissions, each company proposed flying specific instruments including gear to predict lander positions; measure lunar radiation; assess lander impact on the Moon; and assist with navigation.

It’s not only a win for NASA, and the companies, but another feather in the cap for XPRIZE — given that Astrobotic was initially spun out of Carnegie Mellon University to compete for the Google Lunar XPRIZE (GLXP) in 2007.

The Pittsburgh-based Astrobotic, which is backed by the Space Angels Network, was awarded $79.5 million to fly up to 14 payloads to Lacus Mortis, a large crater on the near side of the moon by July 2021.

Intuitive Machines, out of Houston, received $77 million to fly five payloads to Oceanus Procellarum, a dark spot on the moon in the same timeframe. While Edison, N.J.-based Orbit Beyond is flying four payloads to the lunar lavea plain of Mare Imbrium, in one of the Moon’s many craters by September 2020.

“These landers are just the beginning of exciting commercial partnerships that will bring us closer to solving the many scientific mysteries of our Moon, our solar system, and beyond,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in a statement. “What we learn will not only change our view of the universe, but also prepare our human missions to the Moon and eventually Mars.”

NASA’s partners have agreed to provide end-to-end commercial payload delivery services including: payload integration and operations, and launch and landing.

These first steps from NASA pave the way for not only the Administration’s lunar efforts, but also its eventual intentions to spacecraft and astronauts on Mars.

“This announcement starts a significant step in NASA’s collaboration with our commercial partners,” said Chris Culbert, CLPS program manager at NASA’s Johnson Space Center, in a statement from Houston. “NASA is committed to working with industry to enable the next round of lunar exploration. The companies we have selected represent a diverse community of exciting small American companies, each with their own unique, innovative approach to getting to the Moon. We look forward to working with them to have our payloads delivered and opening the door for returning humans to the Moon.”


Source: The Tech Crunch

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Foxconn halts some production lines for Huawei phones, according to reports

Posted by on Jun 1, 2019 in android, Apple, Companies, Donald Trump, Foxconn, Google, Huawei, mobile phones, operating system, president, shenzhen, smart phone, smartphone, Smartphones, TC, telecommunications, United States, Xiaomi | 0 comments

Huawei, the Chinese technology giant whose devices are at the center of a far-reaching trade dispute between the U.S. and Chinese governments, is reducing orders for new phones, according to a report in The South China Morning Post.

According to unnamed sources, the Taiwanese technology manufacturer Foxconn has halted production lines for several Huawei phones after the Shenzhen-based company reduced orders. Foxconn also makes devices for most of the major smart phone vendors including Apple and Xiaomi (in addition to Huawei).

In the aftermath of President Donald Trump’s declaration of a “national emergency” to protect U.S. networks from foreign technologies, Huawei and several of its affiliates were barred from acquiring technologies from U.S. companies.

The blacklist has impacted multiple lines of Huawei’s business including it handset manufacturing capabilities given the company’s reliance on Google’s Android operating system for its smartphones.

In May, Google reportedly suspended business with Huawei, according to a Reuters report. Last year, Huawei shipped over 200 million handsets and the company had a stated goal to become the world’s largest vendor of smartphones by 2020.

These reports from The South China Morning Post are the clearest indication that the ramifications of the U.S. blacklisting are beginning to be felt across Huawei’s phone business outside of China.

Huawei was already under fire for security concerns, and will be forced to contend with more if it can no longer provide Android updates to global customers.

Contingency planning is already underway at Huawei. The company has built its own Android -based operating system, and can use the stripped down, open source version of Android that ships without Google Mobile Services. For now, its customers also still have access to Google’s app store. But if the company is forced to make developers sell their apps on a siloed Huawei-only store, it could face problems from users outside of China.

Huawei and the Chinese government are also retaliating against the U.S. efforts. The company has filed a legal motion to challenge the U.S. ban on its equipment, calling it “unconstitutional.”  And Huawei has sent home its American employees deployed at R&D functions at its Shenzhen headquarters.

It has also asked its Chinese employees to limit conversations with overseas visitors, and cease any technical meetings with their U.S. contacts.

Still, any reduction in orders would seem to indicate that the U.S. efforts to stymie Huawei’s expansion (at least in its smartphone business) are having an impact.

A spokesperson for Huawei U.S. did not respond to a request for comment.


Source: The Tech Crunch

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U.S. State Department begins social media screening for nearly all visa applicants

Posted by on Jun 1, 2019 in TC | 0 comments

Yesterday the U.S. State Department began implementing its requirement that nearly all U.S. visa applicants submit their social media usernames, previous email addresses and phone numbers as part of the application process. The new requirement, which could affect up to 15 million would-be travelers to the U.S., is part of a broad expansion of enhanced screening under the Trump administration.

First proposed in March 2018, the State Department only just updated the application forms to request the additional information, according to a report from the Associated Press.

“National security is our top priority when adjudicating visa applications, and every prospective traveler and immigrant to the United States undergoes extensive security screening,” the department said in a statement to the AP. “We are constantly working to find mechanisms to improve our screening processes to protect U.S. citizens, while supporting legitimate travel to the United States.”

In the past, this enhanced screening information, including email, phone numbers and social media had only been required for applicants who had been identified for extra scrutiny — primarily people who had traveled to areas with a high degree of terrorist activity. Roughly 65,000 applicants per-year had fallen into that category, according to the AP.

When the State Department first filed its notice of the changes, it estimated that 710,000 immigrant visa applications and 14 million nonimmigrant visa applicants would be affected — including business and student travelers.

New questions on the visa application forms list social media platforms and require applicants to provide any account names they may have had on them for a five-year period. The forms also request phone numbers and email addresses applicants have used over the past five years, along with their international travel and deportation status and whether any family members have been involved in terrorist activities.

These new obstacles to immigration come at a time when competition for highly-skilled talent is at an all-time high. And according to data from the Organization of Economic Co-operation and Development, the U.S. is no longer the top-ranked destination for highly skilled workers or entrepreneurs.

Increasingly, immigrants are turning to countries like Canada,  Norway, Switzerland, Germany, Australia and New Zealand as destinations to settle and start businesses or find work, OECD data suggests.

It’s a (not unexpected) turn of events that could have significant consequences for the country as tensions with China continue to rise.

As The Economist noted earlier this week, putting up obstacles to immigration is exactly the wrong thing for the country to do.

It would be just as unwise for America to sit back. No law of physics says that quantum computing, artificial intelligence and other technologies must be cracked by scientists who are free to vote. Even if dictatorships tend to be more brittle than democracies, President Xi Jinping has reasserted party control and begun to project Chinese power around the world. Partly because of this, one of the very few beliefs which unite Republicans and Democrats is that America must act against China. But how?

For a start America needs to stop undermining its own strengths and build on them instead. Given that migrants are vital to innovation, the Trump administration’s hurdles to legal immigration are self-defeating. So are its frequent denigration of any science that does not suit its agenda and its attempts to cut science funding (reversed by Congress, fortunately).


Source: The Tech Crunch

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Trump declares national emergency to protect U.S. networks from foreign espionage

Posted by on May 15, 2019 in TC | 0 comments

President Donald Trump has declared a national emergency to “deal with the threat posed by the unrestricted acquisition or use in the United States of information and communications technology… supplied by persons owned by, controlled by, or subject to the jurisdiction or direction of foreign adversaries.”

Reports that the President would sign the executive order were circulating last night, and, as reported, it’s clear that China is the main target for U.S. concerns — even as the two nations continue to escalate their trade war.

While the U.S. has already restricted government contractors and federal agencies from using technology supplied by Huawei or its subsidiaries, this new Executive Order gives Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and other federal agencies broad powers of oversight and approval over private company transactions.

The President had been considering using the 1977 International Emergency Economic Powers Act, which gives the President broad powers to regulate commerce during a national emergency, since at least last May, when The Wall Street Journal first reported the potential for executive action.

The U.S. Justice Department has issued an unprecedented string of indictments against Chinese hackers since last September in addition to specifically targeting companies like ZTE and Huawei, which the U.S. has also accused of spying for the Chinese government.

As my colleague Catherine Shu wrote:

House committee first labeled Huawei and ZTE as national security threats in 2012, accusations they have repeatedly denied. U.S. government agencies and contractors have been banned from using Huawei equipment since last year.

Huawei has come under even more scrutiny during the trade war, with Chinese officials accusing the U.S. of using Huawei as a bargaining chip. Chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou, the daughter of Huawei founder and CEO Ren Zhengfei, was arrested last year in Canada at the behest of the U.S. government and faces up to 30 years in prison on accusations of fraud. U.S. federal prosecutors have also charged Huawei with stealing trade secrets from T-Mobile.

The Secretary of Commerce has 150 days to come up with an enforcement regime and name the technologies or companies that could be barred from the U.S. under the Executive Order.

Republican appointees at the Federal Communications Commission applauded the measure. “President Trump’s decision sends a clear message that the U.S. will do what it takes to secure our communications networks,” wrote FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr in a statement. “The Executive Order will help ensure that our foreign adversaries do not compromise the security of our networks or undermine our core values, including our freedom from unlawful surveillance and respect for intellectual property.”

Meanwhile, it’s likely that rural communities whose cable operators rely on low cost Chinese equipment to build and maintain high speed internet networks will be the hardest hit by the decision to ban foreign products from telecommunications networks.

Responding to an FCC proposal that would ban subsidies to carriers that use Huawei equipment, a group of telecommunications associations said that carriers would “have to spend millions of dollars — and in some cases, more than $100 million — on just the immediate costs of ripping up and replacing equipment.”

Those associations, including the Competitive Carriers Association, rural broadband association NTCA, the Computer & Communications Industry Association, and broadband providers association ITTA went on to add that “carriers that chose ‘the most cost-effective option’ available to them at the time of purchase will be forced to rebuild their networks at a cost substantially greater than they spent to build the networks in the first place.”


Source: The Tech Crunch

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White House refuses to endorse the ‘Christchurch Call’ to block extremist content online

Posted by on May 15, 2019 in Australia, California, Canada, censorship, Facebook, France, freedom of speech, Google, hate crime, hate speech, New Zealand, Social Media, Software, TC, Terrorism, Twitter, United Kingdom, United States, White House, world wide web | 0 comments

The United States will not join other nations in endorsing the “Christchurch Call” — a global statement that commits governments and private companies to actions that would curb the distribution of violent and extremist content online.

“While the United States is not currently in a position to join the endorsement, we continue to support the overall goals reflected in the Call. We will continue to engage governments, industry, and civil society to counter terrorist content on the Internet,” the statement from the White House reads.

The “Christchurch Call” is a non-binding statement drafted by foreign ministers from New Zealand and France meant to push internet platforms to take stronger measures against the distribution of violent and extremist content. The initiative originated as an attempt to respond to the March killings of 51 Muslim worshippers in Christchruch and the subsequent spread of the video recording of the massacre and statements from the killer online.

By signing the pledge, companies agree to improve their moderation processes and share more information about the work they’re doing to prevent terrorist content from going viral. Meanwhile, government signatories are agreeing to provide more guidance through legislation that would ban toxic content from social networks.

Already, Twitter, Microsoft, Facebook and Alphabet — the parent company of Google — have signed on to the pledge, along with the governments of France, Australia, Canada and the United Kingdom.

The “Christchurch Call” is consistent with other steps that government agencies are taking to address how to manage the ways in which technology is tearing at the social fabric. Members of the Group of 7 are also meeting today to discuss broader regulatory measures designed to combat toxic combat, protect privacy and ensure better oversight of technology companies.

For its part, the White House seems more concerned about the potential risks to free speech that could stem from any actions taken to staunch the flow of extremist and violent content on technology platforms.

“We continue to be proactive in our efforts to counter terrorist content online while also continuing to respect freedom of expression and freedom of the press,” the statement reads.”Further, we maintain that the best tool to defeat terrorist speech is productive speech, and thus we emphasize the importance of promoting credible, alternative narratives as the primary means by which we can defeat terrorist messaging.”

Signatories are already taking steps to make it harder for graphic violence or hate speech to proliferate on their platforms.

Last night, Facebook introduced a one-strike policy that would ban users who violate its live-streaming policies after one infraction.

The Christchurch killings are only the latest example of how white supremacist hate groups and terrorist organizations have used online propaganda to create an epidemic of violence at a global scale. Indeed, the alleged shooter in last month’s attack on a synagogue in Poway, Calif., referenced the writings of the Christchurch killer in an explanation for his attack, which he published online.

Critics are already taking shots at the White House for its inability to add the U.S. to a group of nations making a non-binding commitment to ensure that the global community can #BeBest online.


Source: The Tech Crunch

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