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    - Japan To Start Releasing Fukushima Water Into Sea In 2 Years
    According to the Associated Press, Japan's government decided it will start releasing treated radioactive water accumulated at the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant into the Pacific Ocean in two years. From the report: Under the basic plan adopted Tuesday by the ministers, Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings, also known as TEPCO, will start releasing the water in about two years after building a facility and compiling release plans adhering to safety requirements. It said the disposal of the water cannot be postponed further and is necessary to improve the environment surrounding the plant so residents can live there safely. TEPCO says its water storage capacity of 1.37 million tons will be full around fall of 2022. Also, the area now filled with storage tanks will have to be freed up for building new facilities needed for removing melted fuel debris from inside the reactors and for other decommissioning work that's expected to start in coming years. In the decade since the tsunami disaster, water meant to cool the nuclear material has constantly escaped from the damaged primary containment vessels into the basements of the reactor buildings. To make up for the loss, more water has been pumped into the reactors to continue to cool the melted fuel. Water is also pumped out and treated, part of which is recycled as cooling water, and the remainder stored in 1,020 tanks now holding 1.25 million tons of radioactive water. Those tanks that occupy a large space at the plant interfere with the safe and steady progress of the decommissioning, Economy and Industry Minister Hiroshi Kajiyama said. The tanks also could be damaged and leak in case of another powerful earthquake or tsunami, the report said. Releasing the water to the ocean was described as the most realistic method by a government panel that for nearly seven years had discussed how to dispose of the water. The report it prepared last year mentioned evaporation as a less desirable option. About 70% of the water in the tanks is contaminated beyond discharge limits but will be filtered again and diluted with seawater before it is released, the report says. According to a preliminary estimate, gradual releases of water will take more than 30 years but will be completed before the plant is fully decommissioned. Japan will abide by international rules for a release, obtain support from the International Atomic Energy Agency and others, and ensure disclosure of data and transparency to gain understanding of the international community, the report said. China blasted the Japanese government for being "extremely irresponsible," and warned that it might take action. "The Japanese side has yet to exhaust all avenues of measures, disregarded domestic and external opposition, has decided to unilaterally release the Fukushima plant's nuclear waste water without full consultation with its neighboring countries and the international community," the foreign ministry statement said. "This action is extremely irresponsible and will pose serious harm to the health and safety of the people in neighboring countries and the international community." South Korea also isn't happy with Japan's decision. "The government expresses strong regret over the Japanese government's decision to release contaminated water from the Fukushima nuclear plant into the ocean," said Koo Yoon-cheol, head of South Korea's Office for Government Policy Coordination.

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    - Human Taste Buds Can Tell the Difference Between Normal and 'Heavy' Water, Study Finds
    An anonymous reader quotes a report from ScienceAlert: [T]here's been a longstanding question over whether heavy water tastes the same as regular drinking water -- or whether its subtle isotopic variation yields a different taste that people may be able to perceive. "There is anecdotal evidence from the 1930s that the taste of pure D2O is distinct from the neutral one of pure H2O, being described mostly as 'sweet,'" an international team of researchers led by first authors and biochemists Natalie Ben Abu and Philip E. Mason explains in a new study. [I]n their new research, Ben Abu, Mason, and their team can finally confirm that there really is something a bit different about the taste of heavy water. "Despite the fact that the two isotopes are nominally chemically identical, we have shown conclusively that humans can distinguish by taste (which is based on chemical sensing) between H2O and D2O, with the latter having a distinct sweet taste," explains senior author and physical chemist Pavel Jungwirth from the Czech Academy of Sciences. In a taste-testing experiment with 28 participants, most people were able to distinguish between H2O and D2O, and tests with mixed amounts of the waters revealed that greater proportions of heavy water were perceived as tasting sweeter. In tests with mice, however, the animals did not seem to prefer drinking heavy water over regular water, although they did show a preference for sugared water -- suggesting that in mice, D2O does not elicit the same sweet taste that people can perceive. Other taste tests conducted by the team suggest why this is so, indicating that human taste receptivity to D2O is mediated by the taste receptor TAS1R2/TAS1R3, which is known to respond to sweetness in both natural sugars and artificial sweeteners. Experiments in the lab with HEK 293 cells confirmed the same thing, showing robust responses in TAS1R2/TAS1R3 expressing cells when exposed to D2O. The findings are published in the journal Communications Biology.

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    - Apple Working on Combined TV Box, Speaker to Revive Home Efforts
    Apple has been a laggard in the smart-home space, but a versatile new device in early development could change that. From a Bloomberg report: The company is working on a product that would combine an Apple TV set-top box with a HomePod speaker and include a camera for video conferencing through a connected TV and other smart-home functions, according to people familiar with the matter, who asked not to be identified discussing internal matters. The device's other capabilities would include standard Apple TV box functions like watching video and gaming plus smart speaker uses such as playing music and using Apple's Siri digital assistant. If launched, it would represent Apple's most ambitious smart-home hardware offering to date. The Cupertino, California-based technology giant is also mulling the launch of a high-end speaker with a touch screen to better compete with market leaders Google and Amazon.com, the people said. Such a device would combine an iPad with a HomePod speaker and also include a camera for video chat. Apple has explored connecting the iPad to the speaker with a robotic arm that can move to follow a user around a room, similar to Amazon's latest Echo Show gadget. Development of both Apple products is still in the early stages, and the company could decide to launch neither or change key features. The company often works on new concepts and devices without ultimately shipping them.

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    - Intel CEO Calls for 'Moonshot' To Boost US Role in Chipmaking
    Intel CEO Pat Gelsinger called Monday for the U.S. to spend billions of dollars over the next few years as part of a "moonshot" designed to regain lost ground in semiconductor manufacturing. The goal, he said, is to see the U.S. again account for a third of global output, up from about 12% today. From a report: Investments made now will take several years to bear fruit, so they won't do much to ease the current semiconductor shortage, but are vital to America's long-term economic future and national security, Gelsinger told Axios on Monday. The White House met with tech leaders in a virtual summit on Monday discussing the need for investment in chip manufacturing. With demand for broad categories of chips exceeding supply, makers of everything from cars to computers and networking gear are having to slow factories and cut output. Automakers have been hit especially hard. At the very leading edge, the vast majority of chip production today is done in Taiwan, an island that remains imperiled by China's longstanding claims. "I would argue the most important building block for our economic livelihood and every aspect of human life is now increasingly not in our control," Gelsinger told Axios in an interview after the White House meeting.

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    - Tesla Drastically Increases Price of Solar Roof
    Tesla appears to have drastically increased the price of its Solar Roof tiles in an update to its configurator and quote estimates. Electrek reports: After years of delays, the Tesla Solar Roof is finally gaining momentum with a sharp rise in installations over the last few quarters. The increased deployment came after Tesla launched version 3 of its Solar Roof tiles, which brought a significant price decrease through optimization and faster installation process. Tesla kept refining the product and changed its online cost estimates a few times, decreasing the price again last summer. But now Tesla appears to have changed course and significantly increased the price of its solar roof in its online configurator. Several Electrek readers and prospective solar roof buyers reached out this weekend to let us know that they are seeing higher prices for the same quotes. Last summer, a quote for a 3,947-square-foot roof with a 12,3 kW solar roof tile system was $54,966 before incentives. Now the Tesla Solar Roof configurator shows prices between $79,938 and $100,621 for the same size roof. While this is a sharp increase in price, Tesla also appears to try to make its online quotes more accurate with a new "roof complexity" factor. [...] However, in this case, the least to the most complex options all result in higher prices than previously quoted for the same address with the same square footage.

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    - Charter Must Pay $19 Million For Tricking Customers Into Switching ISPs
    A judge has ordered Charter Communications to pay $19.2 million to Windstream for lying to customers in order to trick them into switching from Windstream to Charter's Spectrum Internet service. Charter also faces a $5,279 penalty for shutting off service to hundreds of Windstream's resale customers. Ars Technica reports: When Windstream filed for bankruptcy in early 2019, Charter began a "literally false and intentionally misleading advertising campaign intended to create the impression, using mailings designed to seem as if they were coming from the Debtors [Windstream], that the Debtors were going out of business," said an order issued Thursday by Judge Robert Drain of US Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York. Charter's goal with the mailings "was to induce the Debtors' customers to terminate their contracts and switch to Charter by sending them literally false and intentionally misleading information about the Debtors' bankruptcy cases and financial wherewithal," the ruling said. Charter premised its ad campaign "on false assertions regarding the Debtors' bankruptcy cases," the ruling said. "We are gratified that Judge Drain's ruling means Charter will have to pay a significant price for its egregious false advertising," Windstream General Counsel Kristi Moody said, according to a FierceTelecom article. "Charter knew full well what it was doing when it embarked on a dishonest scare-tactic campaign to lure away our customers. At Windstream, we will always aggressively defend ourselves and our customers against predatory schemes and meritless allegations."

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    - Your WhatsApp Account Can Be Suspended By Anyone Who Has Your Phone Number
    An anonymous reader writes: If you're a frequent user of WhatsApp, you may want to keep an eye on a disturbing hole discovered in its security this weekend. It's possible for an attacker to completely suspend your WhatsApp account, without any recourse for the individual user, and all they need is your phone number. At the time of writing there's no solution for this issue. This newly-discovered flaw uses two separate vectors. The attacker installs WhatsApp on a new device and enters your number to activate the chat service. They can't verify it, because of course, the two-factor authentication system is sending the login prompts to your phone instead. After multiple repeated and failed attempts, your login is locked for 12 hours. Here's where the tricky part comes in: with your account locked, the attacker sends a support message to WhatsApp from their email address, claiming that their (your) phone has been lost or stolen, and that the account associated with your number needs to be deactivated. WhatsApp "verifies" this with a reply email, and suspends your account without any input on your end. The attacker can repeat the process several times in succession to create a semi-permanent lock on your account. The results are disturbing, but at the very least, this method can't be used to actually gain access to an account, merely to block access by its legitimate owner. Confidential text messages and contacts are not exposed. The proof-of-concept attack was first reported by Forbes from security researchers Luis Marquez Carpintero and Ernesto Canales Perena. There's no indication that it's being used in the wild.

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    - HSBC Bans Customers From Buying Bitcoin-Backer MicroStrategy Shares
    HSBC has banned customers of its online share-trading platform from buying or moving into their accounts MicroStrategy stock, calling it a "virtual currency product." Reuters reports: The bank will not facilitate the buying or exchange of products related to or referencing the performance of virtual currencies, the message to an HSBC InvestDirect client said. MicroStrategy declined to comment. The U.S. business software firm is led by bitcoin proponent Michael Saylor and owns bitcoin worth billions of dollars. While HSBC will allow the holding, sale and outgoing transfer of MicroStrategy shares, it will forbid new purchases or incoming transfers, said the message dated March 29. "HSBC has no appetite for direct exposure to virtual currencies and limited appetite to facilitate products or securities that derive their value from VCs (virtual currencies)," HSBC said in a statement. The bank said its policy towards cryptocurrencies had been in place since 2018 and is kept under review.

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    - Kraken CEO Warns a Crackdown On Cryptocurrencies May Be Coming
    Jess Powell, CEO of Kraken, the world's fourth-largest digital currency exchange, warns that governments around the world may start to clamp down on the use of bitcoin and cryptocurrencies. CNBC reports: "I think there could be some crackdown," Jesse Powell, CEO of Kraken, told CNBC in an interview. Cryptocurrencies have surged in value lately, with bitcoin hitting a record high price of more than $61,000 last month. The world's most valuable digital coin was last trading at around $60,105. [...] Kraken's chief thinks regulatory uncertainty around crypto isn't going away anytime soon. A recent anti-money laundering rule proposed by the U.S. government would require people who hold their crypto in a private digital wallet to undergo identity checks if they make transactions of $3,000 or more. "Something like that could really hurt crypto and kind of kill the original use case, which was to just make financial services accessible to everyone," Powell said. Cryptocurrencies like bitcoin have often been associated with illicit activities due to the fact that people transacting with it are pseudonymous -- you can see where funds are being sent but not who sent or received them. "I hope that the U.S. and international regulators don't take too much of a narrow view on this," Powell said. "Some other countries, China especially, are taking crypto very seriously and taking a very long-term view." Kraken's CEO said he feels the U.S. is more "shortsighted" than other nations and "susceptible" to the pressures of incumbent legacy businesses -- in other words, the banks -- that "stand to lose from crypto becoming a big deal." "I also think it might be too late," Powell added. "Maybe the genie's out of the bottle and just trying to ban it at this point would make it more attractive. It would certainly send a message that the government sees this as a superior alternative to their own currency."

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    - The Google Shopping App Is Shutting Down
    An anonymous reader quotes a report from 9to5Google: A new Google Shopping experience that featured a personalized homepage launched in 2019. On Android, Google rebranded the existing Express app to Shopping, but it's now shutting down the mobile experience in favor of just the web. The [Android and iOS clients] will continue to work through June. It comes as Google has been expanding shopping functionality in Search, Image Search, and YouTube, while increasingly leveraging augmented reality: "Within the next few weeks, we'll no longer be supporting the Shopping app. All of the functionality the app offered users is available on the Shopping tab. We'll continue building features within the Shopping tab and other Google surfaces, including the Google app, that make it easy for people to discover and shop for the products they love."

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    - Intel's Mobileye Will Launch a Fully Driverless Delivery Service in 2023
    Mobileye, the company that specializes in chips for vision-based autonomous vehicles, announced that it will launch a full-scale, fully driverless delivery service starting in 2023. The company, a subsidiary of Intel, is joining forces with self-driving delivery startup Udelv to run this new service. From a report: Deliveries will be made using a new type of cabin-less vehicle called The Transporter. While manufacturing plans are still in flux, Mobileye and Udelv say they will produce 35,000 Transporters between 2023-2028 -- a signal of their seriousness to launch a driverless delivery system at scale. "This is a real commercial deployment," Jack Weast, vice president of automated vehicle standards at Mobileye, told The Verge. "Thirty-five thousand units starting in 2023 that will fully integrate our self driving system for commercial use for automated goods delivery." Mobileye's turn-key self-driving system features a full-sensor suite of 13 cameras, three long-range LiDARs, six short-range LiDARs, and six radar. It also includes the Israeli company's EyeQ system-on-a-chip and a data crowdsourcing program called the Road Experience Management, or REM, which uses real-time data from Mobileye-equipped vehicles to build out a global 3D map.

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    - The FSF Doubles Down On Restoring RMS After His Non-Apology Apology
    In late March, the Free Software Foundation (FSF) readmitted its founder Richard M. Stallman (RMS) to its board, catching everyone by surprise. Now, weeks later, RMS "offers a defensive non-apology apology for the words and actions that led to his resignation from the FSF," writes Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols via ZDNet. Slashdot reader destinyland shares an excerpt of his statement from the Free Software Foundation's official website: Looking back over his life starting as a teenager, Stallman writes: "I realized that I didn't understand the subtle cues that other people were responding to. Later in life, I discovered that some people had negative reactions to my behavior, which I did not even know about. Tending to be direct and honest with my thoughts, I sometimes made others uncomfortable or even offended them -- especially women. This was not a choice: I didn't understand the problem enough to know which choices there were." "Sometimes I lost my temper because I didn't have the social skills to avoid it," Stallman adds. "Some people could cope with this; others were hurt. I apologize to each of them. Please direct your criticism at me, not at the Free Software Foundation. Occasionally I learned something about relationships and social skills, so over the years I've found ways to get better at these situations. When people help me understand an aspect of what went wrong, and that shows me a way of treating people better, I teach myself to recognize when I should act that way. I keep making this effort, and over time, I improve. Some have described me as being 'tone-deaf,' and that is fair. With my difficulty in understanding social cues, that tends to happen." This is just an excerpt. But through eight short paragraphs, Stallman seems to want to offer up a larger context for his badly-received defense of Professor Minsky on an MIT mailing list. (And Stallman adds later that "I condemn racism and sexism, including their systemic forms, so when people say I don't, that hurts too...") "I've learned something from this about how to be kind to people who have been hurt," writes Stallman. "In the future, that will help me be kind to people in other situations, which is what I hope to do." "RMS did not, however, address the many other issues which caused people to regret his return to a position of leadership," writes Vaughan-Nichols. Soon after the RMS post appeared on the FSF's front page, the board spoke on why they'd brought him back. The unsigned document states: The voting members of the Free Software Foundation, which include the board of directors, voted to appoint Richard Stallman to a board seat after several months of thorough discussion and thoughtful deliberation. We decided to bring RMS back because we missed his wisdom. His historical, legal and technical acumen on free software is unrivaled. He has a deep sensitivity to the ways that technologies can contribute to both the enhancement and the diminution of basic human rights. His global network of connections is invaluable. He remains the most articulate philosopher and an unquestionably dedicated advocate of freedom in computing. RMS acknowledges that he has made mistakes. He has sincere regrets, especially at how anger toward him personally has negatively impacted the reputation and mission of FSF. While his personal style remains troubling for some, a majority of the board feel his behavior has moderated and believe that his thinking strengthens the work of the FSF in pursuit of its mission. We take full responsibility for how badly we handled the news of his election to a board seat. We had planned a flow of information that was not executed in a timely manner or delivered in the proper sequence. [...]

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    - Huawei To Invest $1 Billion on Car Tech It Says Surpasses Tesla
    Huawei will invest $1 billion on researching self-driving and electric-car technologies, accelerating plans to compete with Tesla and Xiaomi in the world's biggest vehicle arena. From a report: Huawei's autonomous-driving technology has already surpassed Tesla's in some spheres, for instance by allowing cars to cruise for more than 1,000 kilometers (621 miles) without human intervention, Rotating Chairman Eric Xu told analysts in Shenzhen Monday. The Chinese telecom giant will partner with three automakers initially to make self-driving cars that carry the Huawei name as a sub-brand, said Xu, one of three executives who take turns to fill the post. It will keep its circle of partners small and get its logo onto cars -- not unlike how Intel calls attention to its microprocessors on PCs -- that adopt its autonomous driving technology, he added. The mobile giant has so far agreed to team up with BAIC Group, Chongqing Changan Automobile and Guangzhou Automobile Group.

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    - FCC Wants You To Test Your Internet Speeds With Its New App
    The Federal Communications Commission has released a new speed test app to help measure internet speeds across the country, available on both Android and iOS. From a report: The FCC Speed Test App works similarly to existing speed-testing apps like Ookla's and Fast by Netflix, automatically collecting and displaying data once users press the "start testing" button. According to the FCC, the data collected through the app will inform the agency's efforts to collect more accurate broadband speed information and aid its broadband deployment efforts. "To close the gap between digital haves and have nots, we are working to build a comprehensive, user-friendly dataset on broadband availability," Acting Chair Jessica Rosenworcel said in a statement Monday. "Expanding the base of consumers who use the FCC Speed Test app will enable us to provide improved coverage information to the public and add to the measurement tools we're developing to show where broadband is truly available throughout the United States."

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    - Logitech Harmony Remote Controls Officially Discontinued
    CIStud writes: The rumors have persisted for some time, and now Logitech has officially confirmed it has discontinued its once-vaunted Harmony remote controls, including the line of Logitech Harmony Pro programmable remotes for custom installers. Logitech plans to continue maintaining the Harmony database and software. The discontinuation does not affect the operation or the warranty on any Harmony remotes being used by integrators' clients already in the field. Logitech also plans to continue to offer service and support for Harmony remotes. The company also points out that the decision does not affect a customer's ability to interface with the Harmony universal remotes via their Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant voice controls.

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