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    - Amazon Rainforest Plots Sold via Facebook Marketplace Ads
    Parts of Brazil's Amazon rainforest are being illegally sold on Facebook, the BBC is reporting. From the report: The protected areas include national forests and land reserved for indigenous peoples. Some of the plots listed via Facebook's classified ads service are as large as 1,000 football pitches. Facebook said it was "ready to work with local authorities", but indicated it would not take independent action of its own to halt the trade. "Our commerce policies require buyers and sellers to comply with laws and regulations," the Californian tech firm added. The leader of one of the indigenous communities affected has urged the tech firm to do more. And campaigners have claimed the country's government is unwilling to halt the sales. "The land invaders feel very empowered to the point that they are not ashamed of going on Facebook to make illegal land deals," said Ivaneide Bandeira, head of environmental NGO Kaninde.

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    - Google's Stadia Problem? A Video Game Unit That's Not Googley Enough
    The tech giant likes to test and tweak. Stadia promised to change the industry and failed to deliver. From a report: Google's streaming video game service Stadia had ambitious plans to disrupt the gaming industry, which is dominated by consoles. The tech giant had planned to pack Stadia with original content, announcing two years ago that it was hiring hundreds of game developers and starting studios in Los Angeles and Montreal. But those teams barely had time to get started before they were dismissed earlier this month as Google shut down in-house game development. From the beginning, Google's approach to video games wasn't very Google-like. The Alphabet company tends to launch bare-bones products and test them as they grow. With Stadia, it came out big. Flashy press conferences and ad campaigns promised high-quality games with innovative features playable on Android smartphones or on the TV through Chromecast. Gamers would have access to a library of exclusive titles and well-known favorites like Assassin's Creed without having to dish out $500 for Sony Corp's PlayStation or Microsoft's Xbox. So when Stadia launched in 2019, gamers were expecting the complete package, not the beta model. While the cloud streaming technology was there, playing to Google's strengths, the library of games was underwhelming and many of the promised features nonexistent. Other platforms offer hundreds of games a year, but Stadia offers fewer than 80, according to Mat Piscatella, an analyst at the NPD Group, which tracks video game sales data. Players also didn't like Stadia's business model, which required customers to buy games individually rather than subscribe to an all-you-can-play service a la Netflix or the Xbox's Game Pass. Paying as much as $60 for a single game, for it only to exist on Google's servers rather than on your own PC, seemed a stretch to some. After all the hype, gamers were disappointed. Stadia missed its targets for sales of controllers and monthly active users by hundreds of thousands, according to two people familiar with the matter, who asked not to be identified discussing private information. A Google spokesperson declined to comment for this story. "I think it would be fair to say the messaging leading up to and around the launch was inconsistent," with the final product, Piscatella says. Further reading: Stadia Leadership Praised Development Studios For 'Great Progress' Just One Week Before Laying Them All Off.

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    - US Drops Digital Tax Demand, Opening Door To Global Deal
    The U.S. has dropped a key demand in negotiations over digital taxation of technology companies such as Alphabet's Google and Facebook, lifting a barrier that had raised transatlantic trade tensions and prevented an international deal. From a report: Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen told her counterparts at a virtual meeting of Group of 20 finance officials that the U.S. is no longer calling for a so-called safe harbor rule that would allow U.S. companies to opt out of paying such a tax overseas, according to a Treasury spokeswoman. Yellen said the U.S. will now engage robustly in negotiations on both that issue and on a global minimum tax, the spokeswoman said. The talks between around 140 countries on how to overhaul tax rules stumbled last year when Donald Trump's administration demanded there should be a safe harbor regime. Most other countries said they couldn't accept such optionality on paying tax. "Today we saw a strong tailwind for a fair taxation of the large digital corporations," German Finance Minister Olaf Scholz said. "My U.S. colleague Janet Yellen declared today at the G20 finance ministers that the U.S. will join in." There is still some distance to go to get a global deal on digital tax. Beyond the issue of safe harbor, the U.S. and Europe have long been at odds over the scope of any new rules. There are also outstanding issues over the amount of profit to be reallocated to different jurisdictions and how to ensure and enforce tax certainty.

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    - Apple Forced To Add iPhone and MacBook Repairability Scores To Comply With French Law
    Apple has added iPhone and MacBook repairability scores to its online store in France to comply with a new French law that came into effect this year. From a report: MacGeneration reports that the rating takes into account features like how easily a device can be disassembled and the availability of repair manuals and spare parts. Links to each product's final score, with details for how they were calculated, are available on this support page. The ratings for Apple's products vary between products and generations. Its iPhone 12 lineup all have scores of six out of 10 for example, while the previous year's iPhone 11s are rated lower at between 4.5 and 4.6. The improvement, according to the detailed scoring assessment, is due to the newer iPhones being easier to dismantle than the previous year's models, and spare parts being cheaper compared to the cost of the phone itself. There's less of a spread between the company's different MacBook models, whose scores range from 5.6 to 7.

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    - Apple Mail and Hidden Tracking Images
    John Gruber, writing at DaringFireball: In my piece yesterday about email tracking images ("spy pixels" or "spy trackers"), I complained about the fact that Apple -- a company that rightfully prides itself for its numerous features protecting user privacy -- offers no built-in defenses for email tracking. A slew of readers wrote to argue that Apple Mail does offer such a feature: the option not to load any remote resources at all. It's a setting for Mail on both Mac and iOS, and I know about it -- I've had it enabled for years. But this is a throwing-the-baby-out-with-bath-water approach. What Hey offers -- by default -- is the ability to load regular images automatically, so your messages look "right", but block all known images from tracking sources (which are generally 1 x 1 px invisible GIFs). Typical users are never going to enable Mail's option not to load remote content. It renders nearly all marketing messages and newsletters as weird-looking at best, unreadable at worst. And when you get a message whose images you do want to see, when you tell Mail to load them, it loads all of them -- including trackers. Apple Mail has no knowledge of spy trackers at all, just an all-or-nothing ability to turn off all remote images and load them manually. Mail's "Load remote content in messages" option is a great solution to bandwidth problems -- remember to turn it on the next time you're using Wi-Fi on an airplane, for example. It's a terrible solution to tracking. No one would call it a good solution to tracking if Safari's only defense were an option not to load any images at all until you manually click a button in each tab to load them all. But that's exactly what Apple offers with Mail. "Don't get me started on how predictable this entire privacy disaster was, once we lost the war over whether email messages should be plain text only or could contain embedded HTML. Effectively all email clients are web browsers now, yet don't have any of the privacy protection features actual browsers do," he adds.

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    - FCC Approves $50 Monthly Internet Subsidies for Low-Income Households During Pandemic
    The Federal Communications Commission has approved final rules for a new broadband subsidy program that could help struggling families pay for internet service during the pandemic. From a report: The agency's $3.2 billion Emergency Broadband Benefit Program provides eligible low-income households with up to a $50 per month credit on their internet bills through their provider until the end of the pandemic. In tribal areas, eligible households may receive up to $75 per month. The program also provides eligible households up to $100 off of one computer or tablet The congressionally created program is aimed at closing the digital divide, which has become painfully apparent over the past year as millions of Americans have been forced to work and learn remotely. Some have also raised concerns that the digital divide could affect access to the vaccine as signups typically happen online.

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    - Best Buy Lays Off 5,000 Workers, Will Close More Stores
    Best Buy said it laid off 5,000 workers this month and is planning to close more stores this year as more consumers buy electronics online. From a report: The news comes at a time when big chains face growing competition from Amazon and other sites that sell items like TVs and laptops. Fry's Electronics said Wednesday that it would abruptly close all of its stores overnight, ending nearly four-decades in business. Best Buy expects 40% of its sales to come from online purchases this year, up from 19% two years ago, and the company said it needed to alter its workforce in response to this shift. CEO Corie Barry told analysts Thursday that starting earlier this month, Best Buy had been adjusting the mix of full-time and part-time employees in stores, due to "having too many full-time and not enough part-time employees." As a result of this reorganization, Best Buy laid off 5,000 employees, the majority of whom worked full-time. It also said it is adding approximately 2,000 new part-time positions. Best Buy has around 102,000 employees.

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    - Stanford Researchers Identify Four Causes For 'Zoom Fatigue' and Their Simple Fixes
    In the first peer-reviewed article that systematically deconstructs Zoom fatigue from a psychological perspective, published in the journal Technology, Mind and Behavior on Feb. 23, Professor Jeremy Bailenson, founding director of the Stanford Virtual Human Interaction Lab (VHIL), has taken the medium apart and assessed Zoom on its individual technical aspects. He has identified four consequences of prolonged video chats that he says contribute to the feeling commonly known as "Zoom fatigue." Below are four primary reasons why video chats fatigue humans, according to the study: 1. Excessive amounts of close-up eye contact is highly intense. 2. Seeing yourself during video chats constantly in real-time is fatiguing. 3. Video chats dramatically reduce our usual mobility. 4. The cognitive load is much higher in video chats. The article also offers solutions to alleviate the fatigues.

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    - US Says Saudi Prince Approved Journalist Khashoggi Killing
    A US intelligence report has found that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman approved the murder of exiled journalist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018. BBC: The declassified report released by the Biden administration says the prince approved a plan to either capture or kill the US-based Saudi exile. It is the first time America has publicly named the crown prince, who denies ordering the death. Khashoggi was murdered while visiting the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. He had been known for his criticism of the Saudi authorities. "We assess that Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman approved an operation in Istanbul, Turkey to capture or kill Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi," the report by the office of the US director of national intelligence says. From our earlier coverage of Khashoggi: Silicon Valley's Saudi Arabia Problem (2018) Uber CEO Calls Saudi Murder of Khashoggi 'a Mistake', Scrambles To Backtrack (2019) Amazon Boss Jeff Bezos' Phone 'Hacked By Saudi Crown Prince' (2020) UN Calls For Investigation Into Saudi Crown Prince's Alleged Involvement in Bezos Phone Hack (2020).

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    - FBI Confirms Report of 'Long, Cylindrical' UFO 'Moving Really Fast' Over New Mex
    An anonymous reader shares a PopularMechanics report: An American Airlines flight crew encountered an unidentified flying object over New Mexico on February 21. American Airlines has confirmed the strange incident, during which a "long, cylindrical object that almost looked like a cruise missile" zipped over the Airbus A320, according to a pilot's transmission obtained by The War Zone. American Airlines Flight 2292 was en route from Cincinnati to Phoenix on Sunday afternoon when it came into contact with the mysterious object at approximately 37,000 feet over northeastern New Mexico. Radio interceptor Steve Douglass captured Flight 2292's transmission on the Albuquerque Center frequency of 127.850 MHz or 134.750 MHz. In the transmission, which you can hear here, the American Airlines pilot reported: "Do you have any targets up here? We just had something go right over the top of us. I hate to say this, but it looked like a long, cylindrical object that almost looked like a cruise missile type of thing -- moving really fast right over the top of us." Albuquerque Center didn't respond to the pilot's report because local air traffic interfered, Douglass wrote on his blog, Deep Black Horizon. American Airlines Flight 2292 safely landed in Phoenix shortly after the encounter. American Airlines later confirmed with The War Zone the validity of the transmission: "Following a debrief with our Flight Crew and additional information received, we can confirm this radio transmission was from American Airlines Flight 2292 on Feb. 21. For any additional questions on this, we encourage you to reach out to the FBI."When TMZ reached out to the FBI, spokesperson Frank Fisher said the Bureau is "aware of the reported incident." He continued: "While our policy is to neither confirm nor deny investigations, the FBI works continuously with our federal, state, local, and tribal partners to share intelligence and protect the public." The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) also released a short statement confirming the encounter: A pilot reported seeing an object over New Mexico shortly after noon local time on Sunday, Feb. 21, 2021. FAA air traffic controllers did not see any object in the area on their radarscopes.

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    - Why an Animated Flying Cat With a Pop-Tart Body Sold for Almost $600,000
    In the 10 years since Chris Torres created Nyan Cat, an animated flying cat with a Pop-Tart body leaving a rainbow trail, the meme has been viewed and shared across the web hundreds of millions of times. On Thursday, he put a one-of-a-kind version of it up for sale on Foundation, a website for buying and selling digital goods. In the final hour of the auction, there was a bidding war. Nyan Cat was sold to a user identified only by a cryptocurrency wallet number. The price? Roughly $580,000. From a report: Mr. Torres was left breathless. "I feel like I've opened the floodgates," he said in an interview on Friday. The sale was a new high point in a fast-growing market for ownership rights to digital art, ephemera and media called NFTs, or "nonfungible tokens." The buyers are usually not acquiring copyrights, trademarks or even the sole ownership of whatever it is they purchase. They're buying bragging rights and the knowledge that their copy is the "authentic" one. Other digital tokens recently sold include a clip of LeBron James blocking a shot in a Lakers basketball game that went for $100,000 in January and a Twitter post by Mark Cuban, the investor and Dallas Mavericks owner, that went for $952. This month, the actress Lindsay Lohan sold an image of her face for over $17,000 and, in a nod to cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, declared, "I believe in a world which is financially decentralized." It was quickly resold for $57,000. People have long attached emotional and aesthetic value to physical goods, like fine art or baseball cards, and have been willing to pay a lot of money for them. But digital media has not had the same value because it can be easily copied, shared and stolen. Blockchain technology, which is most often associated with Bitcoin, is changing that. NFTs rely on the technology to designate an official copy of a piece of digital media, allowing artists, musicians, influencers and sports franchises to make money selling digital goods that would otherwise be cheap or free. In an NFT sale, all the computers hooked into a cryptocurrency network record the transaction on a shared ledger, a blockchain, making it part of a permanent public record and serving as a sort of certification of authenticity that cannot be altered or erased. The nascent market for these items reflects a notable, technologically savvy move by creators of digital content to connect financially with their audience and eliminate middlemen. Some NFT buyers are collectors and fans who show off what they have bought on social media or screens around their homes. Others are trying to make a quick buck as cryptocurrency prices surge. Many see it as a form of entertainment that mixes gambling, sports card collecting, investing and day trading. Eye-popping NFT sale prices have attracted some of the same confusion and derision that have long haunted the cryptocurrency world, which has struggled to find a good use for its technology beyond currency trading.

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    - Biden Lifts Trump-Era Ban Blocking Legal Immigration To US
    President Joe Biden has lifted a freeze on green cards issued by his predecessor during the pandemic that lawyers said was blocking most legal immigration to the United States. From a report: Former President Donald Trump last spring halted the issuance of green cards until the end of 2020 in the name of protecting the coronavirus-wracked job market -- a reason that Trump gave to achieve many of the cuts to legal immigration that had eluded him before the pandemic. Trump on Dec. 31 extended those orders until the end of March. Trump had deemed immigrants a "risk to the U.S. labor market" and blocked their entry to the United States in issuing Proclamation 10014 and Proclamation 10052. Biden stated in his proclamation Wednesday that shutting the door on legal immigrants "does not advance the interests of the United States." "To the contrary, it harms the United States, including by preventing certain family members of United States citizens and lawful permanent residents from joining their families here. It also harms industries in the United States that utilize talent from around the world," Biden stated in his proclamation. Most immigrant visas were blocked by the orders, according to immigration lawyers. As many as 120,000 family-based preference visas were lost largely because of the pandemic-related freeze in the 2020 budget year, according to the American Immigrant Lawyers Association.

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    - Plastic Bottles Holding 2.3 Litres Are Least Harmful To the Planet
    Using plastic bottles that contain the most liquid for the lowest packaging weight could help reduce plastic waste. From a report: Plastic pollution is a huge problem for the world, with much plastic waste reaching the oceans where it can affect marine life. In recognition of this, many researchers are developing strategies to tackle the plastic waste problem. Now, Rafael Becerril-Arreola at the University of South Carolina and his colleagues have come up with a relatively simple method to make a difference: change the packaging size to maximise its capacity for a given weight of plastic. "We realised we could establish a relationship between supermarket beverage sales and plastic waste," says Becerril-Arreola. "I saw the opportunity to create an impact, and I took it." Becerril-Arreola and his team focused on polyethylene terephthalate (PET), the most common material in plastic bottles. They weighed 187 empty bottles of different sizes from bestselling drink brands to determine the weight of plastic required to produce a bottle of a given capacity. They also compared this against PET waste and drink sales in Minnesota between 2009 and 2013, as the state government there reliably collects waste statistics and its bottled drink consumption is close to the US national average. The researchers found that the most efficient bottles -- those with the greatest capacity relative to the weight of plastic used to make the bottle -- had a volume between 0.5 and 2.9 litres. Bottles of this size are typically bought for on-the-go use or social gatherings. Bottles that were smaller (under 0.4 litres) or larger (over 3 litres) used more plastic in relation to each bottle's capacity.

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    - Sergey Brin's Airship Aims To Use World's Biggest Mobile Hydrogen Fuel Cell
    Sergey Brin's secretive airship company LTA Research and Exploration is planning to power a huge disaster relief airship with an equally record-breaking hydrogen fuel cell. From a report: A job listing from the company, which is based in Mountain View, California and Akron, Ohio, reveals that LTA wants to configure a 1.5-megawatt hydrogen propulsion system for an airship to deliver humanitarian aid and revolutionize transportation. While there are no specs tied to the job listing, such a system would likely be powerful enough to cross oceans. Although airships travel much slower than jet planes, they can potentially land or deliver goods almost anywhere. Hydrogen fuel cells are an attractive solution for electric aviation because they are lighter and potentially cheaper than lithium-ion batteries. However, the largest hydrogen fuel cell to fly to date is a 0.25-megawatt system (250 kilowatts) in ZeroAvia's small passenger plane last September. LTA's first crewed prototype airship, called Pathfinder 1, will be powered by batteries when it takes to the air, possibly this year. FAA records show that the Pathfinder 1 has 12 electric motors and would be able to carry 14 people. That makes it about the same size as the only passenger airship operating today, the Zeppelin NT, which conducts sightseeing tours in Germany and Switzerland. The Pathfinder 1 also uses some Zeppelin components in its passenger gondola.

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    - Coinbase Says Entire Crypto Market Could Destabilize if Bitcoin's Creator is Ever Revealed or Sells Their $30 Billion Stake
    Coinbase on Thursday released documents for its public debut on the Nasdaq stock exchange via a direct listing. In the filing, the digital trading platform cited as a risk factor Bitcoin's creator, Satoshi Nakamoto -- the pseudonym used by the person or group of people who created bitcoin. From a report: If the identity of the creator was revealed, it could cause bitcoin prices to deteriorate, according to the filing. The filing also referenced Nakamoto's personal stash of bitcoins, which totals over 1 million. As of February, one bitcoin was worth about $50,000. Nakamoto could negatively affect Coinbase, the company said, and destabilize the entire crypto market if the creator decided to transfer his bitcoins, which are valued at over $30 billion.

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