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Amazon To Pay $500 Million in Bonuses To Workers Most Exposed To Coronavirus

Slashdot - Mon, 29/06/2020 - 21:30
Amazon on Monday said it's paying out $500 million in one-time bonuses to front-line employees -- those most at risk of contracting the coronavirus -- who worked for the company through June. From a report: The move is an apparent reversal for the company following weeks of criticism for it cutting its coronavirus hazard pay even as the pandemic has continued. Amazon had eliminated its $2-an-hour hazard pay for workers at the start of June, after it first instituted the higher wages in mid-March. That hazard pay increases had already cost the company hundreds of millions of dollars. "Our front-line operations teams have been on an incredible journey over the last few months, and we want to show our appreciation with a special one-time thank you bonus," Dave Clark, the company's SVP for worldwide operations, wrote in a note to workers Monday. Full-time Amazon workers, Whole Foods employees and Delivery Service Partner drivers will get $500, while their part-time counterparts will receive $250. Amazon and Whole Foods employees in leadership positions will get $1,000, Delivery Service Partner owners will get $3,000 and Amazon Flex drivers who worked more than 10 hours in June will each get $150.

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Apple Strong-Arms Entire CA Industry Into One-Year Certificate Lifespans

Slashdot - Mon, 29/06/2020 - 20:52
A decision that Apple unilaterally took in February 2020 has reverberated across the browser landscape and has effectively strong-armed the Certificate Authority industry into bitterly accepting a new default lifespan of 398 days for TLS certificates. From a report: Following Apple's initial announcement, Mozilla and Google have stated similar intentions to implement the same rule in their browsers. Starting with September 1, 2020, browsers and devices from Apple, Google, and Mozilla will show errors for new TLS certificates that have a lifespan greater than 398 days. The move is an important one because it not only changes how a core part of the internet works -- TLS certificates -- but also because it breaks away from normal industry practices and the cooperation between browsers and CAs. Known as the CA/B Forum, this is an informal group made up of Certificate Authorities (CAs), the companies that issue TLS certificates used to support HTTPS traffic, and browser makers. Since 2005, this group has been making the rules on how TLS certificates should be issued and how browsers are supposed to manage and validate them.

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Rise of the Tomb Raider, Erica are July's PlayStation Plus games

Eurogamer - Mon, 29/06/2020 - 20:14

PlayStation Plus is ten years old today! And what's occurring to mark this auspicious occasion over at Sony? Why, it's revealed the next batch of games to be included as part of the service this July, and here they are now: Rise of the Tomb Raider, NBA 2K20, and FMV adventure Erica.

Rise of the Tomb Raider: 20 Year Celebration is, of course, the second entry (plus DLC) in developer Crystal Dynamics' three-game re-imagining of the classic Tomb Raider franchise, and does, by and large, offer more of the same as its predecessor. It's a tense, tightly constructed, if rather unremittingly grim, adventure that, this time, sees Lara maiming and murdering (and occasionally puzzling) her way across Siberia in search of the Lost City of Kitezh.

"Rise of the Tomb Raider is a well-made game," wrote Oli Welsh back in 2015, "It's a handsome and solidly entertaining, if seldom inspired, way to while away a dozen hours. It has a famous name and an avatar of real dynamic power at its centre. It has tombs to raid. That ought to be enough. It shouldn't have to reach. But reach it does - for an emotional hook it doesn't have, and for trendy gimmicks it doesn't need."

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Categories: Video Games

Twitch Temporarily Bans President Trump

Slashdot - Mon, 29/06/2020 - 20:11
Twitch has temporarily banned President Donald Trump, in the latest surprise and high-profile suspension from the streaming service. Trump's account was banned for "hateful conduct" that was aired on stream, and Twitch says the offending content has now been removed. From a report: One of the streams in question was a rebroadcast of Trump's infamous kickoff rally, where he said that Mexico was sending rapists to the United States. Twitch also flagged racist comments at Trump's recent rally in Tulsa. "Like anyone else, politicians on Twitch must adhere to our Terms of Service and Community Guidelines. We do not make exceptions for political or newsworthy content, and will take action on content reported to us that violates our rules," a Twitch spokesperson told The Verge. The statement was originally issued last year when Trump's channel was launched.

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The Global Coronavirus Death Toll Tops 500,000

Slashdot - Mon, 29/06/2020 - 19:34
The global total of deaths passed 500,000 on Sunday, while the number of confirmed cases surpassed 10 million. From a report: The grim markers were hit as countries around the world struggle to keep new infections from reaching runaway levels while simultaneously trying to emerge from painful lockdowns. In April, roughly a month after the World Health Organization declared the outbreak a pandemic, deaths topped 100,000. In early May, the figure climbed to 250,000. Now it has doubled in less than two months. More than a quarter of all known deaths have been in the United States. The number of confirmed infections -- which took about 40 days to double -- may be substantially underestimated, public health officials say. Data released last week by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicated that the actual figures in many regions are probably 10 times as high as reported.

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Reddit Finally Bans Hate Speech, Removes 2,000 Racist and Violent Forums

Slashdot - Mon, 29/06/2020 - 19:07
Reddit first launched as an online discussion site in June 2005. Now, 15 years later, it has finally taken action to officially ban hate speech and groups that promote it. From a report: A revised Reddit content policy, announced Monday, explicitly states that groups or users that "incite violence or that promote hate based on identity or vulnerability" are prohibited. "Everyone has a right to use Reddit free of harassment, bullying and threats of violence," it says. With the updated content policy, Reddit is initially banning about 2,000 subreddits, most of which are inactive, the company said. Included in the purge is The_Donald, a pro-Donald Trump forum notorious for users posting racist, misogynistic, anti-Islam and anti-Semitic content. In 2015, Reddit adopted a new content policy and banned several blatantly racist subreddits. But until today, the official rules still did not explicitly forbid hate or racist forums. Reddit CEO/co-founder Steve Huffman, in an post about the new policy, said "I admit we have fallen short" in supporting the site's communities and moderators with respect to adopting a comprehensive anti-hate policy.

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India Bans TikTok, Dozens of Other Chinese Apps

Slashdot - Mon, 29/06/2020 - 18:10
The Indian government on Monday evening said it was banning 59 apps developed by Chinese firms over concerns that these apps were "engaged in activities which is prejudicial to sovereignty and integrity of India, defence of India, and security of state and public order" in what is the latest standoff between the two most populated nations in the world. From a report: ByteDance's TikTok, which counts India as its biggest market, Community and Video Call apps from Xiaomi, which is the top smartphone vendor in India, UC Browser, UC News, Shareit, CM Browser, Club Factory (India's third-largest e-commerce firm), ES File Explorer are among the 59 apps that India's Ministry of Electronics and IT have ordered to ban. "The Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT-IN) has also received many representations from citizens regarding security of data and breach of privacy impacting upon public order issues," the Indian government agency said.

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Google Expands Free Retail Listings Into Search as Pandemic Hits Ad Sales

Slashdot - Mon, 29/06/2020 - 17:29
Google will expand free shopping results from a narrow experiment in its shopping tab to the main search engine, dramatically expanding their reach. From a report: The company announced the move today in a blog post written by commerce president Bill Ready. The shift is part of a continuous move away from paid search results and follows a trend of users searching more for information on subjects like the coronavirus and less for products. At the same time, advertisers have been cutting spending as the pandemic takes an economic toll. Ready attributed the move to Google's desire to help sellers and buyers connect and noted that it remains difficult for users to find what they need online in terms of product, price, and seller reputation. Likewise, digital remains a challenge for many small businesses, even as shoppers continue to gravitate toward online purchasing. "It's crucial that we help people find all the best options available and help merchants more easily connect with consumers online," Ready wrote.

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Microsoft will close out June without a big Xbox 20/20 moment

Eurogamer - Mon, 29/06/2020 - 17:17

In early May, Microsoft laid out its plans for Xbox 20/20, a series of "monthly moments" to reveal details of its next-gen consoles, services and games. May's 20/20 moment was the episode of Inside Xbox which focused on third-party games. July, meanwhile, was pegged as when we'll see next-gen games from Microsoft's own studios.

May's event had its critics - with Microsoft admitting it had "set some wrong expectations". But what about June? A day away from the end of the month and with no further mention of Xbox 20/20, it should perhaps come as no surprise to hear Microsoft does not have a big reveal still tucked up its sleeve for tomorrow.

All Microsoft said publicly on its Xbox 20/20 plans for this month was a vague comment from Xbox marketing exec Aaron Greenberg that the "June news will be done differently than [an] Inside Xbox show".

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Categories: Video Games

Apple Declined To Implement 16 Web APIs in Safari Due To Privacy Concerns

Slashdot - Mon, 29/06/2020 - 16:56
Apple said last week that it declined to implement 16 new web technologies (Web APIs) in Safari because they posed a threat to user privacy by opening new avenues for user fingerprinting. Technologies that Apple declined to include in Safari because of user fingerprinting concerns include: Web Bluetooth - Allows websites to connect to nearby Bluetooth LE devices. Web MIDI API - Allows websites to enumerate, manipulate and access MIDI devices. Magnetometer API - Allows websites to access data about the local magnetic field around a user, as detected by the device's primary magnetometer sensor. Web NFC API - Allows websites to communicate with NFC tags through a device's NFC reader. Device Memory API - Allows websites to receive the approximate amount of device memory in gigabytes. Network Information API - Provides information about the connection a device is using to communicate with the network and provides a means for scripts to be notified if the connection type changes. Battery Status API - Allows websites to receive information about the battery status of the hosting device. Web Bluetooth Scanning - Allows websites to scan for nearby Bluetooth LE devices. Ambient Light Sensor - Lets websites get the current light level or illuminance of the ambient light around the hosting device via the device's native sensors. [...] The vast majority of these APIs are only implemented in Chromium-based browsers, and very few on Mozilla's platform. Apple claims that the 16 Web APIs above would allow online advertisers and data analytics firms to create scripts that fingerprint users and their devices.

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Diablo 2 turns 20

Eurogamer - Mon, 29/06/2020 - 16:26

Diablo 2 is 20 years old today.

Blizzard's action role-playing game launched on PC on 29th June 2000, and quickly shifted millions of copies. It set a record for the fastest-selling computer game ever sold, with more than 1m units in the first two weeks.

Diablo 2 improved upon its popular predecessor in many significant ways, and is considered one of, if not the greatest action-role-playing game of all time. It was developed by Blizzard North, the Bay Area division of Blizzard, whose headquarters was - and still is - based in Irvine, southern California. (Blizzard North closed in 2005 amid the troubled development of its take on Diablo 3.)

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Categories: Video Games

Horizon Forbidden West: how the Decima engine evolves for PS5

Eurogamer - Mon, 29/06/2020 - 16:06

Guerrilla Games' Decima Engine is evolving - and in more than one direction. Over the next couple of months we will see its existing iteration deployed on PC with the arrival of conversions of both Death Stranding and Horizon Zero Dawn. However, it's in the reveal of Horizon Forbidden West for PlayStation 5 that we see the very latest work on Decima and our first look at how Guerrilla intends to deploy its technology on next generation console technology. With that in mind, we decided to take a look at the Forbidden West reveal trailer, to get some idea of the studio's next-gen vision.

The big challenge facing Guerrilla was exactly how to expand on its existing work, simply because the iteration of Decima as seen in Death Stranding is already in a league of its own. However, as advanced as the tech is, it is fundamentally shackled to the constraints of a 2013 console design, and some shortcuts and compromises are in evidence - so for example, interaction with the world's rich foliage is somewhat minimal. While the Forbidden West trailer does not show off much in the way of direct character interaction with foliage, we do get to see scenes where tall grass flows in the breeze with a rolling pattern dictated by the wind. There's also secondary motion from foliage on the back of the gigantic tortoise mech, reacting to the behemoth's primary movements. There is still the sense that this is work-in-progress though: in the scene where the trackers subdue the bot, there's no physical reaction from foliage when it stamps the ground or falls down - something we'd expect to see addressed in the final code.

Actual foliage density is also an area where Guerrilla is making strides with Horizon Forbidden West. In the original game, the focus on detail is mostly in the foreground surrounding Aloy, with shadow maps, detail and overall LOD cut dramatically further into the distance (I really can't wait to see how this changes on PC). For Death Stranding, the priorities changed since that game had less foliage, which is expensive to render. Foliage wasn't quite so dense, but perhaps because of that, more of it could rendered further into the mid-distance, and even smaller elements like rocks closer to the camera received an upgrade in detail.

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Categories: Video Games

Amazon Eliminates Single-use Plastic in Packaging in India

Slashdot - Mon, 29/06/2020 - 16:00
Amazon said on Monday it has eliminated all single-use plastic in its packaging across its fulfillment centers in India, delivering on a pledge it made last year to achieve this goal by June. From a report: The American e-commerce group said it had replaced packaging materials such as bubble wraps with paper cushions and was also using "100% plastic-free biodegradable" paper tapes. All of Amazon's 50-plus fulfilment centers in India, one of its key overseas markets, were complying with the new guidelines, the company said. Flipkart, which had made a similar pledge last year, said last month that its reliance on single-use plastic across its supply chain had dropped by 50%. Last year, the Walmart-owned marketplace said it intended to move entirely to recycled plastic consumption in its supply chain by March 2021. Amazon's announcement Monday follows Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's directive last year, when he urged Indians to put an end to usage of single-use plastic by 2022. India has been grappling with a major plastic waste problem for several years. Asia's third-largest economy is struggling with disposing of the 9.4 million tons of plastic waste it generates each year. Dozens of nations across the world have in recent years moved to address this challenge by imposing curbs and levies on use of single-use plastic.

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Ubisoft reportedly set to tease a battle royale called Hyper Scape

Eurogamer - Mon, 29/06/2020 - 15:51

UPDATE 5.30pm: Hyper Scape is now official, albeit in just about the most scattershot way imaginable thanks to the slightly confusing blend of tease, announcement, and streamer reveal that Ubisoft has decided is the best way to sort-of-unveil its game this evening.

Your first port of call should be Ubisoft's new teaser site, which is presented as the home of Prisma Dimensions, a technology company specialising in "direct neural simulation". Read down, and there's some in-universe talk of its new product, Hyper Scape, which will be hosting the "the pulse-pounding action of Crown Rush" on the neon-drenched streets of the virtual city Neo Arcadia - with more to be revealed this Thursday, 2nd July.

Those wishing to do so can sign up for news via the Prisma Dimensions website.

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Categories: Video Games

Two of our favourite gaming monitors are more than £50 off today

Eurogamer - Mon, 29/06/2020 - 13:53

Two of the best gaming monitors are discounted in the UK today: Dell's Alienware AW2521HF, a great 240Hz monitor for FPS and the LG 27GL83A, a 1440p 144Hz monitor that's a fantastic all-rounder. Other gaming monitor deals we've posted have disappeared quickly, so do take a look if you're looking to upgrade!

Let's do the Alienware AW2521HF first. This is a 24-inch 1080p monitor with a buttery-smooth refresh rate of 240Hz. It's also one of the first 240Hz monitors to use an IPS panel, meaning you get the wide viewing angles and great colour accuracy that IPS is known for - something you won't get with the older TN-panel 240Hz monitors (which tend to look a bit suspect outside of the esports games they were designed for). If you like to play fast-paced competitive games, like CSGO, Valorant and Call of Duty Warzone, but you still want your monitor to look good when you're browsing the web or watching Netflix, this is an awesome choice.

The AW2521HF is currently discounted by £100 in Dell's UK sales, and you can take a further 8 per cent off using the discount code DIGITALFOUNDRY8. That brings the price down to £303, which is roughly £50 cheaper than you'll find it on Amazon!

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Categories: Video Games

Tim O'Reilly Asks If Venture Capital Is Doing More Harm Than Good

Slashdot - Mon, 29/06/2020 - 13:34
Tim O'Reilly is the founder of O'Reilly Media (formerly O'Reilly & Associates), and is credited by Wikipedia as helping to popularize the term open source. But Techcrunch reveals what he's learned about venture capital from his work with Bryce Roberts (O'Reilly's investing partner at early-stage venture firm O'Reilly AlphaTech Ventures). "At a minimum, O'Reilly — who bootstrapped his own company, O'Reilly Media, 42 years ago and says it now produces 'a couple hundred million dollars in revenue' yearly — provides a lot of food for thought." Tim O'Reilly: The typical VC model is looking for this high-growth company with exit potential, because it's looking for this big financial return from an IPO or acquisition, and that selects for a certain type of founder. My partner Bryce decided two funds ago [to] look for companies that are kind of disparaged as lifestyle companies that are trying to build sustainable businesses with cash flow and profits. They're the kind of small businesses, and small business entrepreneurs, that have vanished from America, partly because of the VC myth, which is really about creating financial instruments for the wealthy... The talent pool is just much greater [when you look outside of Silicon Valley]. There's a certain kind of bro culture in Silicon Valley and if you don't fit in, sure [you could find a way], but there are a lot of impediments... I've been really disillusioned with Silicon Valley investing for a long time. It reminds me of Wall Street going up to 2008. The idea was, "As long as someone wants to buy this [collateralized debt obligation], we're good." Nobody is thinking about: Is this a good product...? It's part of the structural inequality in our society, where we're building businesses that are optimized for their financial return rather than their return to society.

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Valorant review - exacting, infuriating, sublime

Eurogamer - Mon, 29/06/2020 - 12:00

At its best, there are few games that can get close to Valorant. This is a game made with impeccable clarity of focus and purpose, a dream team assembled from every competitive player's wishlist of ideas. It feels, more often than not, quite wonderful to play, smooth and severe and millisecond precise. It can also feel like a nightmare, trapping you in mazy, winding corridors of pristine white and silent beige, the silence only punctuated by other players' rage or deafening bursts of gunfire. The result is a game that leaves you oscillating wildly between love and hate, depending on the outcome of a round, the result of a match or just the makeup of your team, and that's also how it gets you - or at least how it gets me. Play enough and you'll push through the barrier of marvelling at purposeful design, or shaking your fist at its blandness, to find a kind of lovable monster, a white whale, designed not just to feel good and accurate and fair, but to be something you'll be desperate to chase, and obsessed with trying to conquer and tame.

We're well after release now, which means Valorant is a known entity to most people, but here are the basics: it's Counter Strike with abilities. Two teams of five face off in rounds, with the first to 13 winning the match. There are four maps, one team attacks, the other defends, you swap after 12 rounds - half-way, if it's evenly split - and the goal is to either plant a bomb ("spike") and protect it until it explodes, or stop the other team from planting it and defuse it if they do. Or, you could just kill everyone on the opposite team. At the beginning of each round you buy your weapons, shields and abilities with currency earned from your previous round's feats. Adding different characters (there are 11 at launch) each with four abilities (three plus an ultimate, naturally) makes the whole thing a simple, brilliant, and cohesive concept - which is almost inevitable, because its ideas, while they are fantastic, are also overtly borrowed from elsewhere, and so the question becomes almost entirely one of execution.

Valorant knows this, clearly, because execution is its brand, and one it wears with pride. If you've even glanced in the game's direction you'll have overheard its boasts of unprecedented server tick rates, unparalleled performance on decade-old laptops, magical lag reduction and lowered pings worldwide. There are so many small things this game does right that in a way I don't know where to start. One - a personal favourite - is its art style, which is something that happens to be emblematic of so much of what the game itself is about, too. Valorant's art is function, function, function. It's ordered hierarchically, for instance, in terms of what visual information you need to process first: your equipped weapon or ability is the clearest and brightest, sparkling clean in the foreground. Then its other characters, with "distinct shapes, colour palettes, colour zones" as director Joe Ziegler put it to us recently, designed to stand out both from the background and one another with as much immediacy as possible, but not as much as your weapon. Behind them lies the immediate environment, which is purposefully sparse and, by virtue of that, irrefutably bland. Anywhere that an in-game character can stand is clear, muted, and uncomplex - un-busy - so your eye can skip straight to the movement, straight to the prey. Above that imaginary play-space line: freedom, for more fun, more world-building, more story hints and teases of lore - if you ever find yourself looking that way.

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Categories: Video Games

Mercedes-Benz and Nvidia Partner On Software-Defined Autonomous Cars

Slashdot - Mon, 29/06/2020 - 11:15
ZDNet reports: Car manufacturer Mercedes-Benz and chipmaker Nvidia have partnered to build a software-defined computing infrastructure and system that enables vehicles to receive over-the-air software updates to ensure they are equipped with the latest autonomous features. "Together, we're going to revolutionise the car ownership experience, making the vehicle software programmable and continuously upgradeable via over the air updates," Nvidia CEO and founder Jensen Huang said. The pair will build the software-defined architecture based on Nvidia's Drive AGX Orin system-on-chip (SoC) platform, and it will be a standard feature in the next fleet of Mercedes-Benz vehicles from 2024... "Nvidia's AI computing architecture will help us streamline our journey towards autonomous driving," said Ola Källenius, chairman of the board of management of Daimler and Mercedes-Benz. "These new capabilities and upgrades will be downloaded from the cloud, improving safety, increasing value, and extending the joy of ownership for all Mercedes-Benz customers...." The pair said the new system would enable level two and three driving autonomy, as well as automated parking functions of up to level four. This would mean, according to the two companies, vehicles would have the ability to "automate driving of regular routes from address to address". Barron's reports: Nvidia and Mercedes are, in some respects, playing catch-up. Something the rest auto industry is used to these days regarding Tesla. Almost every other auto maker around the globe is pursuing an Electrical Vehicle (EV)-centric strategy nowadays, something unthinkable a few years ago. Tesla CEO Elon Musk deserves a lot of credit for the shift. Tesla led in EV development, and now it's leading in software too... And Forbes adds this telling quote from NVIDIA's senior director of automotive. "Revenues can be realized at the point of sale, as well as any time during the life of the vehicle. New features may be free of charge, single charge, pay by use, or subscription-based. Customers have shown that when they see the value, they are more than willing to pay for new apps and services."

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Categories: Geeky Stuff

Volvo's Polestar Plans an Electric Ride-Hailing Robotaxi with Waymo

Slashdot - Mon, 29/06/2020 - 09:59
Slashdot reader Way Smarter Than You shares this article from Car and Driver: Polestar, the Volvo premium electric brand, will come out with a new electric vehicle platform just for ride-hailing vehicles. The automated driving technology is called Waymo Driver, and Waymo has been testing it in vehicles from a number of automakers, including Jaguar Land Rover, Nissan, and Renault. You'll be shocked to hear this, but Volvo thinks that self-driving vehicles will be safer than today's human-piloted models. Add Polestar to the list of companies that think Waymo has what it takes to bring us to an autonomous-vehicle future.... Polestar says that this new partnership will open up "new opportunities for the electric performance brand," including putting Waymo's fully self-driving technology — called Waymo Driver — into future Polestar vehicles. The deal makes Waymo the exclusive global Level 4 partner for Volvo Car Group. As defined by the SAE, Level 4 is a category of technology that can drive the car on its own in limited situations. "Through our strategic partnership, we will first work together to integrate the Waymo Driver into an all-new mobility-focused electric-vehicle platform for ride-hailing services," Waymo said in a statement. In other words, some sort of Polestar premium autonomous robotaxi mobility service is coming, at some undefined point.

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Mysterious Spike In Radioactivity Over Northern Europe, Accident At Russian Nuclear Plant Suspected

Slashdot - Mon, 29/06/2020 - 06:06
An anonymous reader quotes the International Business Times: Watchdog agencies last week detected an increase in radioactivity levels in the atmosphere over northern Europe, suggesting a potential damage at a nuclear plant. Authorities noted the possibility that the spike may be the result of accidental release of radioactive material from one of the nuclear plants in Russia, but a spokesman denied any problems with the Russian power plants. Several Scandinavian watchdog agencies detected elevated levels of radionuclides cesium-134, cesium -137 and ruthenium-103 over parts of Finland, southern Scandinavia and the Arctic. Although the levels are not considered harmful to human health and the environment, radionuclides are artificial, unstable byproducts of nuclear fission, suggesting that the sudden increase in levels may have resulted from a damage in a nuclear power plant. According to the Associated Press, the Swedish Radiation Safety Authority noted Tuesday (June 24) that locating the origin of the radionuclides is "not possible" but by Friday, the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment in the Netherlands announced that calculations revealed that the radionuclides may actually have come from the direction of Western Russia... In 1986, it was a similar detection in Sweden that contributed to the reveal that a disaster had occurred in Chernobyl.

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