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Chelsea Manning released from jail as grand jury expires

Posted by on May 10, 2019 in Chelsea manning, Privacy, TC | 0 comments

Chelsea Manning walked free today for the first time after spending two months in Virginia’s Alexandria Detention Center for refusing to cooperate with a grand jury probing her relationship with WikiLeaks. Gizmodo first reported news that Manning left the facility today.

Manning was found to be in contempt of court, remaining in custody until the Eastern District of Virginia grand jury expired. Before her release, Manning was issued another subpoena for a second grand jury for Thursday May 16.

“Chelsea will continue to refuse to answer questions, and will use every available legal defense to prove to District Judge Trenga that she has just cause for her refusal to give testimony,” her legal team shared in a blog post.

Manning has consistently signaled her ongoing unwillingness to cooperate with the federal grand jury. That makes it entirely possible that she could be returned to custody at the detention center next week when she appears for her latest subpoena.

“I don’t have anything to contribute to this, or any other grand jury,” Manning said last month. “While I miss home, they can continue to hold me in jail, with all the harmful consequences that brings. I will not give up.”


Source: The Tech Crunch

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Co-Star raises $5 million to bring its astrology app to Android

Posted by on Apr 17, 2019 in Astrology, funding, iOS apps, seed funding, TC | 0 comments

Nothing scales like a horoscope.

If you haven’t heard of Co-Star, you might just be in the wrong circles. In some social scenes it’s pretty much ubiquitous. Wherever conversations regularly kick off by comparing astrological charts, it’s useful to have that info at hand. The trend is so notable that the app even got a shout out in a New York Times piece on VCs flocking to astrology startups.

This week, the company behind probably the hottest iOS astrology app announced that it has raised a $5.2 million seed round. Maveron, Aspect, 14w and Female Founder Fund all participated in the round, which follows $750,000 in prior pre-seed funding. The company plans to use the funding to craft an Android companion to its iOS-only app, grow its team and “build features that encourage new ways get closer, new ways to take care of ourselves, and new ways to grow.”

TechCrunch spoke with Banu Guler, the CEO and co-founder of Co-Star about what it was like talking to potential investors to drum up money for an idea that Silicon Valley’s elite echo chambers might find unconventional.

“We certainly talked to some who were dismissive,” Guler told TechCrunch in an email. “But the reality is that interest in astrology is skyrocketing… It was all about finding the right investors who see the value in astrology and the potential for growth.”

“There are people out there who think astrology is silly or unserious. But in our experience, the number of people who find value and meaning in astrology is far greater than the number of people who are turned off by it.”

If you’ve ever used a traditional astrology app or website to look up your birth chart — that is, to determine the positions of the planets on the day and time you were born — then you’ve probably noticed how most of those services share more in common with ancient Geocities sites than they do with bright, modern apps. In contrast, Co-Star’s app is clean and artful, with encyclopedia-like illustrations and a simple layout. It’s not something with an infinite scroll you’ll get lost in, but it’s pleasant to dip into Co-Star, check your algorithmically-generated horoscope and see what your passive aggressive ex’s rising sign is.

In a world still obsessed with the long-debunked Meyers-Briggs test, you can think of astrology as a kind of cosmic organizational psychology, but one more interested in peoples’ emotional realities than their modus operandi in the workplace. For many young people — and queer people, from personal experience — astrology is a thoroughly playful way to take stock of life. Instead of directly predicting future events (good luck with that), it’s is more commonly used as a way to evaluate relationships, events and anything else. If astrology memes on Instagram are any indication, there’s a whole cohort of people using astrology as a framework for talking about their emotional lives. That search for authenticity — and no doubt the proliferation of truly inspired viral content — is likely fueling the astrology boom. 

“By positioning human experience against a backdrop of a vast universe, Co–Star creates a shortcut to real talk in a sea of small talk: a way to talk about who we are and how we relate to each other,” the company wrote in its funding announcement. “It doesn’t reduce complexity. It doesn’t judge. It understands.”


Source: The Tech Crunch

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FAA proposal aims to ‘streamline’ regulations for future space launches

Posted by on Mar 26, 2019 in commercial spaceflight, department of transportation, Elaine Chao, FAA, Federal Aviation Administration, mike pence, Space, spaceflight, TC, Trump administration, United States | 0 comments

On Tuesday, the FAA and Department of Transportation published a proposal that greases the wheels for the commercial space industry, long bound by outdated regulations that were not created with a modern vision of private spaceflight in mind.

Last May, the Trump administration signaled its intention to ease commercial spaceflight regulations with Space Policy Directive 2. That directive called on Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao to “release a new regulatory system for managing launch and re-entry activity.” That system, released in draft form today, seeks to pave the way for an “industry that is undergoing incredible transformation with regulations that have failed to keep up.”

With less than a year of turnaround time, the FAA and DOT produced a document detailing “Streamlined Launch and Reentry Licensing Requirements” that will govern commercial space activity. As the document states:

This rulemaking would streamline and increase flexibility in the FAA’s commercial space launch and reentry regulations, and remove obsolete requirements. This action would consolidate and revise multiple regulatory parts and apply a single set of licensing and safety regulations across several types of operations and vehicles. The proposed rule would describe the requirements to obtain a vehicle operator license, the safety requirements, and the terms and conditions of a vehicle operator license.

“These rules will maintain safety, simplify the licensing process, enable innovation, and reduce costs to help our country remain a leader in commercial space launches,” Chao said of the 580-page document, embedded in full below.

The new regulatory guidance comes on the same day that Vice President Mike Pence declared that U.S. astronauts must return to the moon again within the next five years “by any means necessary.” That considerably hastened schedule would upend NASA’s existing timeline for a U.S. return to the moon at 2028 at the soonest.


Source: The Tech Crunch

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No Man’s Sky has a big new update due out this summer

Posted by on Mar 16, 2019 in Gaming, Hello Games, No Man's Sky, TC | 0 comments

After a conspicuous stretch of silence ending with a mysterious teaser tweet on Thursday, No Man’s Sky creator Sean Murray revealed that another major free update is on the way. The new content, which is the first since last year’s Visions update, will hit the massive space exploration game this summer.

The bundle of new content, called No Man’s Sky “Beyond,” will tie together three different updates, though Murray is only giving up the details of one so far. The one we know about is something that Murray is calling “No Man’s Sky Online” which “includes a radical new social and multiplayer experience which empowers players everywhere in the universe to meet and play together” and weaves together three standalone updates into “a vision for something much more impactful.”

The short preview video doesn’t reveal much, but it shows a ship we haven’t seen before in what looks like either a reimagined space station (that would be nice!) or some kind of brand new multiplayer hub area.

Murray emphasized that the multiplayer update wouldn’t add things from other major multiplayer games like microtransactions or subscriptions and that he has no intention of turning No Man’s Sky into an MMO. (Still, if a lot of people are playing online together in a massive world, isn’t it uh, kind of an MMO?) The blog post noted that the team would release more details on the other two big pieces of new content in the coming weeks.

“These changes are an answer to how we have seen people playing since the release of NEXT, and is something we’ve dreamed of for a long time,” Murray added.

After a very rough launch and its accompanying critical lambasting in 2016, No Man’s Sky’s team has consistently added huge free content updates to the game. That dedication to building out the world the development team initially promised has brought “millions” of new players into the fold and inspired a thriving online and in-game community.

That community will be happy to hear that according to his latest blog post, Murray doesn’t intend to walk away from the game any time soon.


Source: The Tech Crunch

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After Christchurch, Reddit bans communities infamous for sharing graphic videos of death

Posted by on Mar 15, 2019 in Reddit, Social, TC | 0 comments

In the aftermath of the tragic mosque massacre that claimed 49 lives in Christchurch, New Zealand, tech companies scrambled to purge their platforms of promotional materials that the shooter left behind. As most of the internet is now unfortunately aware, the event was broadcast live on Facebook, making it one of the most horrific incidents of violence to spread through online communities in realtime.

As Twitter users cautioned others from sharing the extraordinarily graphic video, some Reddit users actively sought the video and knew exactly where to look. The infamous subreddit r/watchpeopledie was quarantined (making it unsearchable) in September 2018 but until today remained active for anyone to visit directly. The subreddit has a long history of sharing extremely graphic videos following tragic events and acts of violence, like the 2018 murder of two female tourists in Morocco.

After Thursday’s shooting, the subreddit became extremely active with users seeking out a copy of the video, which was shot in first-person perspective from a head-mounted camera.

After the flurry of interest, one the subreddit’s moderators locked the a thread about the video and posted this statement:

“Sorry guys but we’re locking the thread out of necessity here. The video stays up until someone censors us. This video is being scrubbed from major social media platforms but hopefully Reddit believes in letting you decide for yourself whether or not you want to see unfiltered reality. Regardless of what you believe, this is an objective look into a terrible incident like this.

Remember to love each other.”

Late Thursday, the subreddit’s members were actively sharing mirrored links to the Christchurch video, though they did so largely via direct messaging. After watching the footage, many users returned to the thread to express that the content was extremely disturbing and to caution even their most violence-hardened peers from seeking the video.

The subreddit remained active until some time late Friday morning Pacific Time, when Reddit banned the controversial community.

Reddit declined to provide details about its decision to ban the long-running community after this particular act of violence. “We are very clear in our site terms of service that posting content that incites or glorifies violence will get users and communities banned from Reddit,” a company spokesperson told TechCrunch. “Subreddits that fail to adhere to those site-wide rules will be banned.”

The subreddit’s many detractors consider the act of seeking and sharing such graphic depictions of death both inherently disturbing and disrespectful to victims and their families.

The subreddit is unquestionably grisly but remains surprisingly well-loved by some devotees, who insist that its graphic depictions of death are in fact life-affirming.

“Definitely saved me and helped me figure out I didn’t necessarily have tomorrow to get my shit in order,” one former member said in a thread discussing the since-banned community.

“Don’t think it is the kind of place to spend too much time in but, we all need reminders.”

Reddit banned the adjacent subreddits r/gore and r/wpdtalk (“watch people die talk”) on Friday as well.


Source: The Tech Crunch

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