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Posted by Shalini Saxena

Enlarge (credit: NOAA)

Scientific advancements have led to the introduction of many new chemicals into daily life. Unfortunately, along with their benefits, some of those chemicals have brought problems with toxicity. One group of chemicals that has faced this challenge is called polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs); they have been widely used as fire retardants but are now restricted due to their toxicity and tendency to accumulate in organisms.

Surprisingly, these complicated chemicals are also made naturally. In some cases, the natural compounds actually exhibit higher toxicity than their man-made counterparts. These naturally occurring chemicals are found across all levels of the marine food-chain, from cyanobacteria to whales, and they have also shown up in humans.

Oddly, most of the chemicals come from sponges that live in the tropics. PBDEs can account for more than 10 percent of the sponge’s tissue by dry weight, and these sponges also harbor other related polyhalogenated compounds. Although scientists have been aware of the natural occurrence of PBDEs in these sponges, little has been known about how they were made. In a recent investigation published in Nature Chemical Biology, researchers have found out that the toxic chemicals aren't the sponges' fault. Instead, bacteria living inside the sponge produce them.

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Posted by Scott K. Johnson

Enlarge (credit: Tammy Anthony Baker)

After weeks of rumors and delays, President Trump signed an executive order on climate policies Tuesday at the headquarters of the Environmental Protection Agency—an agency the Trump Administration tried to hit with a $247 million cut for the current fiscal year, according to Politico, and is seeking a 31 percent budget cut for next year. The order includes a number of actions to undo Obama-era decisions addressing the greenhouse gas emissions that have already warmed the world’s climate about 1°C (1.8°F) since the late 1800s.

As part of the announcement, Secretary of Energy Rick Perry said, "America's leadership, the president's leadership, on how we achieve energy independence while improving our environment in this country and abroad is determined more by the actions that this president is taking than at any time."

Clean Power Plan ended

The main target of the effort is the EPA’s Clean Power Plan rule. The EPA finalized the rule last August, but a court challenge by a number of Republican state attorneys general (including new EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt) has kept it in legal limbo. The goal of the Clean Power Plan was to reduce CO2 emissions from power plants to 32 percent below 2005 levels by 2030. The rule set reduction targets for each state to meet but left it to the states to decide how they wanted to meet it. It would have been particularly difficult for coal-burning plants to meet the new standards, and less burning coal would result in reductions of other pollutants as well.

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Posted by Mike Smithson

There’s a fierce attack in the Canary on GfK and its research director known well to PBers, Kieran Pedley.

The chart says it all and shows all three sets of published leader ratings in March. And you know what – all the numbers are very close – the Canary favourite Corbyn is doing appallingly however you look at the numbers.

So if there is a conspiracy against Labour’s bed-blocker leader then Opinium and Ipsos MORI are involed as well.

The Corbyn cultists have simply got to accept that their man is electoral poison.

Mike Smithson

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Posted by Joe Mullin

Enlarge (credit: Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

It didn't take long during oral arguments yesterday for the Supreme Court to hear about the "single judge in the United States that has one-quarter of all patent cases" from a lawyer representing patent defendant TC Heartland. Now, the question is what the court will do about it.

The wonky issue of patent venues is now in the hands of the US Supreme Court, which heard arguments yesterday in TC Heartland v. Kraft Foods Group Brands. Kraft sued TC Heartland for infringing its patents on "liquid water enhancers" in Delaware, and TC Heartland lawyers asked to move the case to its home state of Indiana. A Delaware judge rejected the case, noting that TC Heartland shipped about 2 percent of the accused products to Delaware. That was enough to keep the case in the state.

TC Heartland appealed, but the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit ruled against the company last year. The company appealed again, asking the Supreme Court to take its case. TC Heartland's petition was bolstered by a brief (PDF) filed by 32 Internet companies, emphasizing that venue rules were being abused by so-called "patent trolls" with no business beyond licensing and litigating patents. Tech trade associations and public interest groups Electronic Frontier Foundation and Public Knowledge (PDF) also urged the high court to take the case. In December, the petition was granted.

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Posted by Annalee Newitz

It's trailer #2 for Spider-Man: Homecoming, and it's looking mighty fine.

There's a new trailer out for Spider-Man: Homecoming, and I now officially love this movie. Or at least I like what I've seen of it in the trailers. This trailer gives us a much better sense of Peter Parker's arc in the movie, and it also gives us a chance to see him hanging out with his hilarious best friend, Ned Leeds (Jacob Batalon). Also, we get a better view of what Vulture is up to.

Before we get into anything else, can I just say that I'm endlessly amused by the fact that Michael Keaton is playing Vulture, after playing both Batman and a meta-version of himself in the movie Birdman, where he's a washed up actor known mostly for playing a flying superhero. Now he has come full circle, once again playing a bird guy in a mainstream superhero flick. I don't know how many levels of meta that is, but it's working.

Like the previous Spider-Man trailer, this one shows off Tony Stark's role as Peter's mentor/annoying older brother. Stark gave Peter an amazing Spidey suit in Civil War, but in this trailer, we see that he has decided to take it away. Which sucks, because the suit has that eye-widening feature, plus the Spidey symbol can detach and become a drone. Peter has been getting into too much trouble trying to stop bank robbers (led by Vulture) and saving people on a doomed Staten Island ferry. Stark wants him to be "a friendly neighborhood Spider-Man," not a full-blown superhero. If you watch carefully, some of the fight scenes in the trailer show Peter in his old spandex suit—that's what he's wearing in the amazing airplane fight with Vulture.

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Posted by Ron Amadeo

Enlarge (credit: Andy Rubin)

Android Inc. cofounder and former CEO Andy Rubin has taken to Twitter to tease a new slim-bezeled smartphone. This is the first device we've seen from Rubin's new startup, Essential.

The details on Essential came out in a January report from Bloomberg. The report said Rubin is currently building a consumer hardware company, starting with a "40-person team, filled with recruits from Apple Inc. and Alphabet Inc.'s Google." The company is still in stealth mode, but when it goes public, Rubin will be announced as the CEO, according to the report.

Bloomberg described Rubin's company as "A platform company designed to tie multiple devices together," and in addition to a smart home product, "the centrepiece of the system is a high-end smartphone with a large edge-to-edge screen that lacks a surrounding bezel." The phone part certainly seems spot on after this picture. The report claimed the device would leverage "artificial intelligence" somehow, and said it would come with a magnetic modular connector.

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Europe is going to investigate a second site on Mars - called Mawrth Vallis - as a possible destination to send its 2021 rover.
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Posted by Ron Amadeo

Enlarge (credit: Samsung)

Samsung is back! After a rough stretch thanks to the recall of the Galaxy Note 7 and the arrest of Samsung chief Lee Jae-yong, Samsung is dusting itself off and jumping back into the smartphone game. Galaxy Unpacked 2017 starts on March 29 at 4pm UK time (5pm CEST, 8am PST, 11am EST), where we expect Samsung to finally take the wraps off its newest flagship, the Galaxy S8.

The Galaxy S8 promises to be a major revamp of Samsung's flagship, expected to get its most drastic redesign ever, with super-slim bezels and an extra-tall 18.5:9 display. As its first major smartphone launch since the Galaxy Note 7 fiasco, we're also expecting a lot of reassurances from Samsung that this phone has gone through a battery of battery tests, which should be fun to watch. We'll be there to cover all the twists and turns live, with a live blog of the festivities and a hands-on after the event is over. You can follow along with us at the link below.

Liveblog starts in:

View Liveblog

This post originated on Ars Technica

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Posted by Jonathan M. Gitlin

Enlarge (credit: Scott Olson | Getty Images)

The same Chinese company that bought League of Legends a couple of years ago just became one of Tesla's largest shareholders. According to a Securities and Exchange Commission filing dated March 24th, Tencent Holdings Ltd. has purchased a five percent stake in the company—8,167,544 shares to be exact. According to TechCrunch, the deal was arranged a week earlier, and Tencent paid $1.7 billion for the shares.

The cash infusion will no doubt be welcome at Tesla. The company's acquisition of Solar City came with a large amount of debt, and it continues to lose money selling Model S and Model X electric vehicles—its two profitable quarters have been thanks to the sale of emissions credits to other companies. But it has bulging order books for the Model 3, and it told investors in February that production for that car begins in July. Fulfilling those orders in a timely manner won't be cheap, which is where Tencent's $1.7 billion (£1.4 billion) should come in handy.

There's plenty of reason for scepticism over that target, though. The Model S and Model X both had plenty of teething troubles early on, and neither were built in numbers close to Tesla's goals for the Model 3. Tesla is also forgoing the traditional production prototype, a "beta" version of a new car that companies use to refine the product and its production process. That's a change of plan from last year, when the company told investors in a 10-K filing that a beta prototype Model 3 would be the company's next performance milestone. Last week, Elon Musk tweeted a short video of a "release candidate" Model 3:

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Thanks for all the free publicity, says Daily Mail

Tuesday, March 28th, 2017 03:25 pm
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Posted by Davywavy

PAul-Dacre-Daily-MailThe owners of the Daily Mail are delighted by all the free publicity they've got from furious Internet users today.
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Posted by Mike Smithson

With all the fuss today about the Daily Mail’s “legs” front page let us not forget that the BBC can sometimes stray into what could be described as sexist.

In November 2005 when David Cameron and David Davis were slugging it out for the Tory leadership the two of them appeared on Woman’s Hour and were asked at the end what sort of underpants they preferred.

Another question was whether they preferred blondes or brunettes. David said the former while Cameron did not reply.

The interviewer was Martha Martha Kearney, now of the World at One, who was quizzing people about the Mail’s front page at lunchtime today.

There’s a link to the 2005 interview here

Mike Smithson

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Posted by Dan Goodin

(credit: Lookout)

Ransomware scammers have been exploiting a flaw in Apple's Mobile Safari browser in a campaign to extort fees from uninformed users. The scammers particularly target those who viewed porn or other controversial content. Apple patched the vulnerability on Monday with the release of iOS version 10.3.

The flaw involved the way that Safari displayed JavaScript pop-up windows. In a blog post published Monday afternoon, researchers from mobile-security provider Lookout described how exploit code surreptitiously planted on multiple websites caused an endless loop of windows to be displayed in a way that prevented the browser from being used. The attacker websites posed as law-enforcement actions and falsely claimed that the only way users could regain use of their browser was to pay a fine in the form of an iTunes gift card code to be delivered by text message. In fact, recovering from the pop-up loop was as easy as going into the device settings and clearing the browser cache. This simple fix was possibly lost on some uninformed targets who were too uncomfortable to ask for outside help.

"The attackers effectively used fear as a factor to get what they wanted before the victim realised that there was little actual risk," Lookout researchers Andrew Blaich and Jeremy Richards wrote in Monday's post.

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AI to dominate banking, says report

Tuesday, March 28th, 2017 02:58 pm
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AI can help banks create a human experience even as more and more services are automated, says report.
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Posted by Eric Berger

Enlarge (credit: Win McNamee/Getty Images)

Key Blue Origin officials have begun to drop hints about the imminent hot-fire test of the company's new rocket engine, the BE-4. Jeff Bezos recently said to expect a full-scale engine test "in the coming weeks." And last Wednesday the company's director of business development, Brett Alexander, said during a Center for Strategic and International Studies panel discussion the test "was coming soon."

For many people, a rocket engine is just a rocket engine. But Blue Origin's new engine is a big deal for a number of reasons, not the least of which is its 550,000 pounds of thrust at sea level, more powerful than a space shuttle main engine, which had 418,000 pounds of thrust. Beyond the brawn, however, there are other reasons to anticipate a successful test.

A new kind of engine

During a tour of his rocket factory in Kent, Wash., last year Bezos explained the philosophy behind the BE-4 engine. "In principle rocket engines are simple, but that’s the last place rocket engines are ever simple," he said. Nonetheless, Blue Origin sought to make an engine that was not too complex, nor one that required ultra-premium materials. The designers didn't want to create a work of art that pushed the limits engineering—rather, they wated a reliable workhorse that could be flown again and again, perhaps as many as 100 times as the company pushes the boundaries of reusable spaceflight.

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Posted by Ars Staff

Enlarge (credit: Bungie)

For nearly three years, Destiny has been the source of strife, joy, frustration, and often fierce loyalty to millions of players. With Destiny 2 just announced on Twitter, developer Bungie has elected to close things out with a celebration of sorts.

“The dream of Destiny has always been that it is an adventure that continues,” Bungie community manager David “DeeJ” Dague told Ars in a recent interview. “With ‘Age of Triumph,’ we’re taking a moment before a brand new beginning to take stock of everything that our community has achieved thus far.”

“Age of Triumph,” is the latest (and apparently last) of the original Destiny’s live events. It is live today, March 28. These free updates came with new activities and rewards for players to rally around, but they lacked the new missions, maps, enemies, or other more substantive additions you’d find in paid expansions. With a sequel on the way, Bungie has every incentive to ensure players come away from the first game with a pleasant memory of this final event. To that end, “Age of Triumph” adds new in-game rewards like armor and a “Record Book” of achievements to showcase players who reach Bungie-approved milestones.

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Uber to pull out of Denmark

Tuesday, March 28th, 2017 01:01 pm
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New taxi laws requiring drivers in Denmark to have fare meters have led Uber to withdraw its services.
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Posted by Beth Mole

Enlarge (credit: Worcester Polytechnic Institute)

To create artificial tissue with functioning vasculature, tissue engineers looked no further than their salad bowls.

By peeling away the cells from a spinach leave and seeding the cellulose matrix left behind with heart cells, researchers were able create a beating sheet of human heart tissue—complete with a functional vascular system. The proof-of-concept experiment, appearing in the May issue of Biomaterials, provides an intriguing plant-based approach to generating realistic tissues for grafts and transplants.

Vasculature has been a sticking point for bioengineers. Modern methods for creating artificial tissues and organs, such as 3D printing, haven’t included a good way to recreate the vital conduits. Yet the success (and survival) of any bioengineered tissue or organ hinges on whether it’s equipped with an extensive network of blood-carrying vessels, which drop off oxygen and critical nutrients to cells while flushing away molecular garbage.

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Posted by Sean Gallagher


On March 25, security researcher Kevin Beaumont discovered something really unfortunate on Docs.com, the Microsoft free document-sharing site tied to the company's Office 365 service: its homepage had a search bar. That in itself would not have been a problem, if Office 2016 and Office 365 users were aware that the documents they were posting were being shared publicly.

Unfortunately, hundreds of them weren't. As described in a Microsoft support document, "with Docs.com, you can create an online portfolio of your expertise, discover, download, or bookmark works from other authors, and build your brand with built-in SEO, analytics, and email and social sharing." But many users used Docs.com to either share documents within their organizations or to pass them to people outside their organizations—unaware that the data was being indexed by search engines.

Within a few hours, Beaumont, a number of other researchers, and Ars found a significant number of documents shared with sensitive information in them—some of them discoverable by just entering "passwords" or "SSN" or "account number."

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2017 Renault Zoe review: A cure for range anxiety

Tuesday, March 28th, 2017 11:58 am
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Posted by Ars Staff

Portugal, Renault, and electric cars are becoming indivisibly linked in my mind. I test drove the Renault Fluence in Lisbon in November 2011, and then the Renault Zoe a few miles up the coast in March 2013. I liked both cars, but with effective touring ranges of around 80 miles, I’d be the first to admit they had their limitations.

The latest version of the Zoe, the Z.E. 40, is an attempt to address that limitation. While the 2013 model had a 22kWh battery, the 2017 incarnation packs nearly twice as much energy: 41kWh, to be precise, with a real-world range of about 190 miles.

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Exposed files on Microsoft's document-sharing site

Tuesday, March 28th, 2017 10:47 am
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Passwords and sensitive health data are among documents inadvertently shared by Microsoft users.
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Posted by Andrew

new-pound-coinThe Royal Mint has ended speculation about the ‘hidden feature’ of the new pound coin by revealing that it’s the fact that since the Brexit referendum it’s now only worth 82p.
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Posted by Sebastian Anthony

Today, March 28, the Royal Mint will release 300 million new £1 coins. The new coins are 12-sided, slightly thinner than old pound coins, and are bimetallic like the £2 coin. Perhaps most intriguingly, though, the Royal Mint says the new £1 coin is "impossible" to fake because of a top-secret security measure.

There are currently around 1.6 billion round pound coins in circulation in the UK, and the Royal Mint estimates that 2.55 percent of them—about 40 million pounds—are fake. Over the next few months a total of 1.5 billion of the new £1 coins will be released, and then the old coin will be officially retired on October 16 (you'll still be able to bank any leftover round pounds, but shops and machines will stop accepting them). The old pound coin, in case you were wondering, has been in circulation since 1983.

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