Google’s Pixel smartphones are nowhere near as popular as Apple’s iPhones, but they boast one major advantage: photography.
Though the iPhone camera is excellent, the Pixel line has best-in-class camera tech — especially when it comes to photos taken in low lighting.
We confirmed as much with the Pixel 3a in a recent review:
Google is clearly aware of this discrepancy, and it took Tuesday’s announcement of the Pixel 3a and the Pixel 3a XL, which start at $400 and $480, as a chance to take a jab at Apple’s far more expensive smartphone.
“What other smartphone cameras try to do with expensive hardware, we can deliver with software and AI — including high-end computational photography,” Google’s vice president of product management, Sabrina Ellis, said onstage. “So here’s what that means: Pixel 3a can take amazing photos in low light with Night Sight. It’s one of Pixel’s most popular features.”
As the words came out, an image showed a side-by-side comparison portrayed as demonstrating the superiority of Google’s Pixel line at capturing low-light photos.
Notably, Google’s image didn’t explicitly spell out the competitor — saying only that the comparison is to “Phone X.” We’re taking a wild guess that Google isn’t talking about the Moto X.
The Complete Photoshop 2019 Master Class Bundle can help you create stunning marketing materials and gorgeous photos.
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In celebration of the new royal baby, an online photography marketplace, Perfocal.com, is offering free “royal photo shoots” for babies who are born on the same day as Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s little one.
Additionally, moms who give birth within the same hour as Markle will be entitled to free birthday photography every year for their child until they turn 18.
While the world eagerly anticipates the arrival of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle‘s royal baby, it would be easy to forget that there are hundreds of other moms ready to give birth at the exact same time.
Not everybody could be so lucky when showing off their child for the first time — but thanks to online photography marketplace Perfocal.com, some might come close.
The UK-based company is offering parents whose child is born on the same day as the royal baby a free “royal photo shoot” to replicate Harry and Markle’s own Windsor photo call.
Sounds like a pretty sweet deal — but there’s more. Moms who give birth within the same hour as Markle will be entitled to free birthday photography for their child up until they are 18.
All parents have to do to claim the free photo shoots is to upload a photo of their baby’s birth certificate online.
New moms and dads will have a month to upload the certificate to get booked in with a local photographer.
While Perfocal has ambitions to launch in the US, the service is currently only available to UK residents.
Tony Xu, founder of Perfocal.com, said: “Professional photography is already very popular for graduations, weddings, proms, birthdays and other milestones, but having a baby is one of the most valuable memories to photograph of them all.
“Newborn photoshoots are becoming an increasingly popular trend, and a staple in any family’s photo album.
“Many will be focused on the royal baby, but we’d like to celebrate every baby born on this special day. We’re delighted to offer the free photoshoot for expectant parents and hope that the service we provide makes them feel like royalty,” he added.
Bluetooth is the invisible glue that binds devices together. Which means that when it has bugs, it affects everything from iPhones and Android devices, to scooters, and even physical authentication keys used to secure other accounts. The order of magnitude can be stunning: The BlueBorne flaw, first disclosed in September 2017, impacted five billion PCs, phones, and IoT units.
As with any computing standard, there’s always the possibility of vulnerabilities in the actual code of the Bluetooth protocol itself, or in its lighter-weight sibling Bluetooth Low Energy. But security researchers say that the big reason Bluetooth bugs come up has more to do with sheer scale of the written standard, development of which is facilitated by the consortium known as the Bluetooth Special Interest Group. Bluetooth offers so many options for deployment that developers don’t necessarily have full mastery of the available choices—which can result in faulty implementations.
“One major reason Bluetooth is involved in so many cases is just how complex this protocol is,” says Ben Seri, one of the researchers who discovered BlueBorne and vice president of research at the embedded device security firm Armis. “When you look at the Bluetooth standard it’s like 3,000 pages long—if you compare that to other wireless protocols like Wi-Fi, for example, Bluetooth is like 10 times longer. The Bluetooth SIG tried to do something very comprehensive that fits to many various needs, but the complexity means it’s really hard to know how you should use it if you’re a manufacturer.”
Long in the Tooth
Bluetooth, as you probably know from your portable speaker, wireless keyboard, or toothbrush, allows two proximal devices to connect to each other over the air. The pairing can last however long both devices are in use, as with a fitness tracker and smartphone. Or it can be temporary, a way of setting a device up or authenticating a user. Bluetooth Low Energy is a condensed version of the protocol, for devices that have limited computing and power resources.
“All of the details are buried in hundreds of pages of unreadable specifications.”
Matthew Green, Johns Hopkins University
Fundamentally, both Bluetooth and BLE open up a channel for two devices to communicate—an extremely useful arrangement, but one that also opens the door for dangerous interactions. Without strong cryptographic authentication checks, malicious third parties can use Bluetooth and BLE to connect to a device they shouldn’t have access to, or trick targets into thinking their rogue device is a trusted one.
“The standard often describes a topic in a scattered way,” says Syed Rafiul Hussain, a security engineering researcher at Purdue University. “And it often leaves the complex interactions of the protocol to the manufacturers, which is another source of vulnerability.”
Ken Kolderup, vice president of marketing at the Bluetooth SIG, says that the group is very aware of the challenge and importance of training developers to get a handle on Bluetooth’s massive scope. He says the documentation is so extensive because the protocol doesn’t only define a radio frequency layer for Bluetooth, but also has components at every layer of tech, from hardware up through applications, to guarantee interoperability between Bluetooth devices.
“Bluetooth isn’t just wireless audio streaming anymore. There’s low power data transfer, mesh network; it’s a very broadened scope,” Kolderup says. “But security is obviously very important. The standard offers operational modes for everything from no security all the way up to 128 AES encryption or ‘secure connections only’ mode. We’ve put into it as much as the community has asked for.”
A recent example, though, helps illustrate how the process can break down. In February, researchers from the security firm McAfee reported Bluetooth Low Energy misconfiguration issues in a smart padlock known as BoxLock. The device had been designed to use a Bluetooth Low Energy configuration called “Just Works Mode,” which lets devices pair without any passwords or other cryptographic protections. As a result, McAfee researchers could connect to any lock, analyze the device’s BLE commands, and discern which gave the unlock order. Further, BoxLock had configured this command to be in read/write mode, so once the attackers knew what to target, they could initiate an unlock. BoxLock has since patched the vulnerabilities.
BoxLock ran into two common Bluetooth issues. It deployed a relatively insecure version of it for a device—a lock—that demands heightened security. And it made life easier for hackers by leaving Bluetooth traffic out in the open.
“The problem is that BoxLock used a very insecure implementation of BLE,” says Steve Povolny, head of advanced threat research at McAfee. “I wouldn’t say that it’s an insecure protocol by any means. Part of this is the fact that Bluetooth has not been as comprehensively studied by the security community as some things, and it’s not as clear to vendors and manufacturers what the potential flaws are.”
Bluetooth has certainly been investigated to a degree, but researchers say that the lack of intense scrutiny historically stems again from just how involved it is to even read the standard, much less understand how it works and all the possible implementations. On the plus side, this has created a sort of security through obscurity, in which attackers have also found it easier to develop attacks against other protocols and systems rather than taking the time to work out how to mess with Bluetooth.
“I couldn’t possibly give an informed opinion on the true security of Bluetooth, and I strongly suspect that the protocol designers couldn’t either,” says Matthew Green, a cryptographer at Johns Hopkins University. “That’s because all of the details are buried in hundreds of pages of unreadable specifications. Many device manufacturers have engineered around this by designing their own security as a kind of ‘add on’ layer that they use over Bluetooth. This is probably wise, given what a mess the protocol itself has been.”
“We encourage people to use the max level of security your product can support.”
Ken Kolderup, Bluetooth SIG
But in recent years, the Bluetooth standstill has begun to erode. After high-profile vulnerabilities like BlueBorne, researchers are increasingly focused on raising awareness about Bluetooth implementation and configuration issues. And attackers are starting to consider Bluetooth as a real option for launching attacks. On Monday, for example, the security firm Kaspersky Lab published findings about a Korean-speaking threat actor with potential state ties that has built a Bluetooth scanner into its Windows malware, seemingly to scan for potentially exposed Bluetooth devices.
Locking It Down
The Bluetooth SIG says it is considering a next generation of resources for developers, including the possibility of creating a security audit tool coders can use to check their Bluetooth implementations. And the SIG’s Kolderup says that the consortium encourages scrutiny of the specification and input about potential vulnerabilities and how to improve its overall security. The SIG is also working to do a better job publicizing existing resources on secure Bluetooth implementation, like the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s guide.
“More and more devices are becoming interconnected and that all of a sudden brings a whole other set of challenges that you need to be aware of when you’re creating a product,” he says. “We encourage people to use the max level of security your product can support. We encourage you to lock it down.”
Researchers emphasize that the risks of Bluetooth security—and potential rewards for malicious hackers—are only growing, as Bluetooth spreads from being used largely in consumer settings, like smart home devices and wearables, to being adopted more and more by enterprises and governments for large-scale deployment in corporate offices, hospitals, and industrial control environments.
“Bluetooth is being used for smart keys, for sensitive encryption and authentication,” Armis’s Seri says. “And also just anything from connected medical devices to wireless infrastructure. All kinds of stuff in business environments where this is a way in and it isn’t monitored. It isn’t secured.”
Researchers say that more tools and training resources from the Bluetooth SIG would go a long way toward making Bluetooth implementation more manageable. In the meantime, whenever you’re not using Bluetooth? Just turn it off.
The name is apt even if the spelling isn’t; this controller grips my phone like a vise. A flat cable linking the two halves runs along the back, and the sides snap together nicely (magnetically) for storage. The built-in USB-C plug provides a latency-free connection to a Samsung Galaxy or Pixel phone. The setup, with the screen dead-center, was awesome for racing games like Riptide GP and will feel familiar to fans of Nintendo Switch (it me!) or PlayStation Vita (R.I.P.). The compact joysticks are perfect for preteens or the small-handed, and there’s a headphone jack for Minecraft-ing during your commute. Plus, like on the Rotor Riot, I can use the joysticks as triggers for mobile gaming that matches the functionality of my at-home system.
An unsightly cable connects this controller to an iPhone, but that means I can avoid the latency common to Bluetooth models, keeping my backflips well-timed and my trigger pulls crisp. The Rotor has the same layout and feel as an Xbox controller, with buttery-smooth, full-size joysticks. Unlike with most iOS controllers, I can press on the joysticks to use them as triggers—L3 and R3 in gamerspeak—which lets me play titles like Fortnite with console-grade dexterity. To find playable games, download the Ludu Mapp app, which catalogs titles that work with the Riot—I recommend the trippy adventure game Morphite and EA’s classic Real Racing.
Depending on how you count, I’m in between four and 18 active group chats, across half a dozen different apps that occupy most of my time on my phone. Right now, I’m in a one called “Ramius’s Boys,” which is devoted to sharing quotes from the film The Hunt for Red October and submarine-related links; another called “News and Politics Discussion Group,” for arranging Mario Kart matches and, most important, talking shit; and a third, “No More Furry Nudes I Promise” — though, to be fair, that one probably shouldn’t be counted as “active” because no one trusted the promise its creator made in the title. One friend described to me a group chat she’s in with one “overriding rule”: The only thing allowed is GIFs of the Hulk. Another friend told me she’s in a group chat dedicated to sharing photographs of Cobb salads called, naturally, “COBB COBB.”
In some ways, group chat feels like a return to the halcyon era of AOL Instant Messenger, once the most widespread method of messing around with your friends on the internet. But in my life, group chats — on Apple’s iMessage, WhatsApp, Slack, Instagram, Twitter, Facebook Messenger, or any number of other apps or platforms — aren’t simply additional modes of socialization, drawing on the IM conversation or the chat room. They’re an outright replacement for the defining mode of social organization of the past decade: the platform-centric, feed-based social network. For me, at least, group chats aren’t the new AIM. They’re the new Facebook.
Like Facebook at its best, they’re pocket sources of interpersonal nourishment. Some of my group chats were created for utilitarian reasons, like planning a bachelor party, but have since outgrown the limiting stricture of “having a particular reason to exist.” Most have been freewheeling and themeless since their inception, cast haphazardly and sustained by gossip and boredom and the opportunity to make fun of someone else’s typos. The paradigmatic message of the group chat is one my friend Sam sent recently: “Wanna see something mildly funny?” In group chats, the answer is always “yes.”
It’s easy to forget, 15 years, 2 billion users, and an ethnic-cleansing controversy or two later, that Facebook was a place for this kind of purposeless sociality before it was a place for repeatedly blocking and reporting your step-cousin. More than that, it was a piece of essential social infrastructure — a new layer of life that efficiently, and aggressively, reorganized social existence, describing and enabling friendships, cliques, parties, and even memories, formalized as they would eventually be by Facebook photo albums uploaded on hungover Sunday afternoons.
As it happens, Facebook’s mandate was never to facilitate social life. It was to draw new users in and keep them there, even in alienating and potentially antisocial ways. Over the years it grew beyond the original, limited social contexts in which it began, and chased user engagement at the expense of its users’ well-being. The arrival of parents and bosses into the same social space as college friends, and the introduction of the implicitly competitive News Feed, with its opaque multi-metric ranking system, created the sense that this once-friendly space had turned against us. But by the measurements important to investors, it was successful, and the endlessly updating, always-available feed was adopted as the model for all social networks. The result was, depending whom you talk to, either every single bad thing that’s happened in the last five years, or just most of them.
As feeds grew hostile, though, the rise of the smartphone, with its full-screen keyboard and its array of free messaging options, gave us a new, context-specific, decentralized social network: the group chat. Over the last few years, I and most of the people I know have slowly attempted to extricate our social lives from Facebook. Now it’s the group chat that structures and enables my social life. I learn personal news about friends from group chats more often than I do on Facebook; I see more photos of my friends through group chats than I do on Instagram; I have better and less self-conscious conversations in group chats than I do on Twitter. I’m not alone: The Avengers are in a group chat; the actresses of Big Little Lies are in a group chat; Beyoncé is in a group chat with her mother and Solange. (Jay-Z was apparently not invited.) Group chats have become so fundamental to daily life, in some cases, that they are the first place people turn for help: During the shooting at the STEM School in Highlands Ranch, Colorado, on May 7, BuzzFeed News reported that students took to group chats to share moment-to-moment updates.
And Facebook knows it. “The future is private,” Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg told developers at the company’s annual F8 conference on April 30. “Over time, I believe that a private social platform will be even more important to our lives than our digital town squares.” He unveiled a new design for the Facebook homepage that emphasized private, user-created Facebook Groups, rather than the default-public News Feed, and announced to the crowd: “This is about building the kind of future we want to live in.” I doubt everyone is as invested in group chats as I am. But if Facebook has its way, they soon will be — on Facebook.
To me, the reorientation of Facebook around private groups feels less like the company “building the kind of future we want” and more like its attempt to force itself back into a social life I’d rescued from its feed. Last year, the technology writer Navneet Alang wondered in a column in the Globe and Mail if it would be possible “to save social media from Facebook.” That is, could we extricate from the globe-spanning behemoth that is Facebook, Inc., the many uses and experiences that can make Facebook, the website and app, so enjoyable? The flowering of group chats points us in one direction. In almost all ways, I find the group chat an improvement over the machine-sorted feed. Freed from the pressure to stand out from thousands of other posts, conversations on group chats tend to be comfortably subdued — even appealingly boring — in a way that Facebook status updates or tweets never can be. Because most group chats exist on platforms or apps that don’t rely on advertising money or user engagement to support themselves, they’re only as addicting or exploitative as any social interaction might be.
You don’t “check” chats the way you check an endless feed: Conversation flows when enough people want to have it, but there’s no algorithm to find and surface an unseen chat message that you might engage with. What you get instead is distraction the old-fashioned way: with intention. The feed, at its worst, is a passive and slack-jawed experience. The group chat requires some level of active engagement. Whatever conditioning has led us to seek validation from the glass-and-metal rectangles in our pockets is obviously at play in the group chat as it is on other social platforms. But it occurs at human scale, with distinct reactions from a handful of friends for a minorly funny joke, rather than at the alien scale of behemoth platforms, with likes endlessly mounting for a Facebook post in which you dunk on the president.
Like any social network, the group chat has its own social mores and prerogatives. Every group chat contains recognizable archetypes — the out-of-it person who asks “wait, what?” about every conversation; the (psychologically self-actualized and professionally successful) member who keeps the group chat on mute, meaning they don’t get alerted every time someone sees a Cobb salad — and undergoes regular cycles of high and low activity, depending on the schedules and time zones of participants. Every group chat has smaller orbiting sub-chats featuring new constellations of the original group’s members, created to plan surprise parties, or, worse, to complain about the guy who keeps asking “what, what?”
Which is another way of saying that group chats aren’t always beautiful and healthy expressions of friendship. The distraction of the group chat may feel more fulfilling than the distraction of Instagram, but it’s still a distraction — sometimes even from fulfilling in-person socializing. Orienting your social infrastructure around sharply circumscribed friend groups might help avoid the dreaded collapsing of social contexts that occurs on Facebook, but it can also reinforce cruel in-group/out-group dynamics. (Though, in their defense, because group chats can’t be crashed by angry strangers or malicious trolls, they’re only ever toxic in the familiar and reassuring ways that friend groups have been since middle school.) Private group chats can create echo chambers as distorting as the decontextualized noise of a public social feed.
Nor are any of the many companies whose products I use to talk to friends particularly benevolent. Apple’s iMessage, my most frequent group-chat app, ties my phone number up in difficult-to-extricate ways with its proprietary system, and splits friends in two tiers — blue and green. (My friend Dan became so incensed at being left out of iMessage group chats that he rigged a home server so he could receive iMessages chats on his Android.) WhatsApp is routinely accused of being a vector of misinformation in India, where it’s been linked to mob violence, and in Brazil, where it’s a source of far-right “fake news.” (Not surprisingly, WhatsApp is also the most “frictionless” of any chat platform, and it’s telling that the first step in reducing the flow of misinformation on the app is to disable the “forwarding” button.) It’s also owned by Facebook, the very company I took to group chats to get away from.
But even if most of these corporations are untrustworthy, at least there are many of them. The key advantage of the group chat is that “social graph” of your friend network exists in your head, and not only on a server in Iceland, which means you can easily abandon one platform for another without any trouble — or, as most of us do, occupy many platforms at once. The result, as Facebook knows all too well, is an internet much closer to the one we might want. “The only thing I still enjoy doing online/with technology is texting,” Sam, the friend who wanted to share something mildly amusing, told me. “All of the rest of it is torture/agony/hell. But I fucking love iMessage.”
*A version of this article appears in the May 13, 2019, issue of New York Magazine. Subscribe Now!
It seems to have been prompted by a Fox News segment on his administration’s ramped-up tensions with the country.
Trump Is Not a Defender of Religious Liberty but a Threat to It
Trump’s combination of hate-mongering and loud identification with Christianity is the antithesis of the American tradition of religious pluralism.
Jared Kushner’s long-not-really-awaited peace plan will propose giving Palestinians money instead of rights
The Trump administration will unveil economic proposals for development in the Palestinian territories next month as part of a proposed Arab-Israeli peace package, it announced Sunday, but will hold back crucial details about a potential political settlement to the conflict.
Bahrain will host a two-day economic conference in June described as a working session to develop ideas and drum up investment from Arab governments, business and investment figures, and nations outside the region, including in Asia.
In announcing the session, the Trump administration did not describe any plans for Palestinian self-governance or a future state. The initiative developed by Trump adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner is expected to call for a multibillion-dollar package of loans, grants and investment for Palestinians and in neighboring states affected by the conflict, but to stop short of endorsing a separate, fully sovereign state alongside Israel.
Way better than a boring speech
Billionaire Robert F. Smith, who received an honorary doctorate at Morehouse College’s Sunday morning graduation exercises, had already announced a $1.5 million gift to the school. But during his remarks in front of the nearly 400 graduating seniors, the technology investor and philanthropist surprised some by announcing that his family was providing a grant to eliminate the student debt of the entire Class of 2019.
rule of law
Trump Wants to Make War Criminals Great Again
The pardon-happy president seems set to celebrate Memorial Day by disregarding core principles of service and military justice.
Deutsche Bank Flagged Trump and Kushner for Potential Money Laundering: Report
In 2016 and 2017, Deutsche investigators recommended that several transactions involving Trump and Jared Kushner be reported to the Treasury.
Trayvon Martin’s mother, Sybrina Fulton, is running for office
Thrust into the national spotlight and a life of activism after the shooting of her teenage son, Sybrina Fulton has spent the better part of the last seven years advocating for an end to gun violence and promoting social justice. She has appeared on network TV, co-written a book and helped form a non-profit organization — the Trayvon Martin Foundation — named in her son’s memory and based in his hometown of Miami Gardens.
Now she’s challenging the city’s mayor for a seat on the Miami-Dade County Commission.
“Since 2012, I have advocated tirelessly to empower our communities and make them safer,” she said in a statement Saturday. “But the work is not done. I am proud to announce that I will run to represent District 1 on the county commission.” Fulton announced Saturday that she would launch her campaign for the District 1 seat, which will be relinquished in 2020 by the term-limited Commissioner Barbara Jordan. Miami Gardens Mayor Oliver Gilbert is also running for the seat, one of five up for grabs after Miami-Dade voters approved a two-term limit for the 13-member board in 2012. Miami Gardens is the biggest city in District 1.
Where there is still a catastrophic political cost for openly courting Russian influence
Turns out Russian collusion isn’t a “witch hunt hoax” after all. At least not in Austria. The country’s government collapsed on Saturday after Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said he was pulling the plug on his ruling coalition after just 17 months in office.
The move came barely 24 hours after the release of a bombshell video showing Heinz-Christian Strache, the far-right leader of his junior coalition partner, trying to trade public contracts for party donations from a woman he believed to be the wealthy niece of a Russian oligarch. [(He resigned on Saturday.)] …
The government crisis was a blow to the youthful chancellor who sees himself as the future of European conservatism and whose international stardom won him a private dinner with Donald Trump’s daughter Ivanka and son-in-law Jared Kushner in February. …
Given the gravity of the scandal — in the video Strache offered to exchange lucrative government contracts for campaign donations with a supposed Russian millionaire and discussed how to hide the payments from authorities — Kurz appeared to have concluded that pulling the plug was the only way he could shield his own party from the affair.
The moral stain that keeps getting bigger
The Trump administration has identified at least 1,712 migrant children it may have separated from their parents in addition to those separated under the “zero tolerance” policy, according to court transcripts of a Friday hearing.
U.S. District Court Judge Dana Sabraw ordered the Trump administration to identify children separated before the zero tolerance policy went into effect in May 2018, resulting in the separation of over 2,800 children. Sabraw previously ordered those migrant families to be reunited, but the additional children were identified more recently when the Inspector General for Health and Human Services estimated “thousands more” may have been separated before the policy was officially underway.
Other potentially separated migrant children could still be identified. The government has reviewed the files of 4,108 children out of 50,000 so far.
Will Old Folks Stick With Joe Biden?
There’s a dynamic that could undercut his exceptional popularity among seniors, across racial and gender lines.
Justin Amash Becomes First GOP Lawmaker to Say Trump Should Be Impeached
He also criticized Barr for misrepresenting the Mueller report, and chided both parties for putting partisanship above the rule of law.
Conservatives, PM Morrison hold onto power in Australia after shock win in national elections
Prime Minister Scott Morrison has claimed victory in a stunning political “miracle” that has devastated the Labor Party, forced Bill Shorten to step down as its leader and reshaped Australian politics. Mr Morrison vowed to get “back to work” after holding power at the federal election in a shock result that puts the Coalition on course for a narrow majority in federal Parliament. …
The Prime Minister said the election was a victory for the “quiet Australians” rather than about the Liberal Party or himself. …
Mr Shorten said he had wanted to achieve victory for Australians who needed better healthcare, an expanded Medicare, greater school funding and other policies. …
Mr Morrison’s presidential-style campaign focussing on income tax cuts and risks to the economy under Labor led the Coalition to significant gains in Queensland and Tasmania while limiting losses NSW and Victoria. His staunch opposition to Mr Shorten’s plans to tax higher-income earners appears to have resonated with voters living outside inner-city seats.
Just another normal week at the White House
An attempt by President Trump’s senior adviser Stephen Miller to engineer a new shake-up at the Department of Homeland Security was blocked this week by Kevin McAleenan, the department’s acting secretary, who said he might leave his post unless the situation improved and he was given more control over his agency, administration officials said.
The closed-door clash flared over the fate of Mark Morgan, the former FBI official the president has picked to be the new director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. With Morgan eager to move into the top job at ICE, Miller on Wednesday urged the president to have Morgan installed as the new commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) instead.
McAleenan the next day told senior White House officials that he — not Miller — was in charge of the department, said three Trump administration officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe internal tensions one Trump aide likened to an “immigration knife fight.” McAleenan also argued that he should make personnel decisions at his agency, or at least be involved in them, these people said, and that communication needed to improve. McAleenan met with Mick Mulvaney, the acting White House chief of staff, among others, the officials said. McAleenan prevailed in the dispute.
Fentanyl has effectively won the war on heroin, and that’s essentially a death sentence for many longtime heroin users
This is not an elegy for heroin, a dangerous drug in its own right that spread from cities into suburbs and rural areas about a decade ago, when addictive prescription painkillers became harder to get. But for longtime urban users like [64-year-old William Glen Miller Sr.,] many of them African-American, its disappearance is taking a particular toll. From 2016 to 2017, the fatal overdose rate from fentanyl and other synthetic opioids increased by 61 percent among black Americans, compared with a 45 percent increase for whites.
The number of overdose deaths involving heroin has been dropping, even as overdose deaths over all have kept climbing because of fentanyl. In Maryland, deaths involving heroin fell by 38 percent from 2016 through 2018, according to preliminary data. In Massachusetts, heroin or likely heroin was present in 71 percent of opioid-related deaths in 2014; in the third quarter of 2018, it was present in only 34 percent.
the national interest
the national interest
Bernie Sanders Wants to Destroy the Best Schools Poor Urban Kids Have
Bernie’s worst policy idea.
trump tax returns
trump tax returns
Mnuchin Refuses to Comply With Trump Tax Return Subpoena From Congress
The Treasury secretary shows his contempt for Congress, but he apparently won’t be held in contempt of Congress.
Caucuses Aren’t King on the Democratic Campaign Trail Anymore
Ten states will move toward primaries, and it should boost turnout in 2020.
Trump’s Huawei Ban Is a Bigger Deal Than His Trade War
If great-power rivalry renders high-tech trade between the U.S. and China impossible, globalization as we’ve known it will end.
the top line
Trump Is Adjusting His Trade Strategy to Be More Realistic
And this looks like a nod at something Trump hates: multilateralism.
Abortion Is Morally Good
Liberals must avoid falling into the traps the anti-abortion movement sets for them.
House Passes LGBTQ Anti-Discrimination Act, Which Will Die in the Senate
The Equality Act won’t become law so long as Republicans control the Senate and the White House. Every House Democrat voted for it.
the top line
The Banks That Ran Uber’s IPO Feared This Would Happen
The stock tumbled in its first few days on the market. But did the banks make it worse?
Andrew Sullivan: Elizabeth Warren Just Transformed the Abortion Debate
The war over a woman’s right to choose has been raging for a half century. The solution lies in politics, not Supreme Court decisions.
trump tax cuts
Trump Accidentally Raised Taxes on the Children of Dead Veterans
An ill-considered provision in Trump’s signature law hiked taxes on survivor benefits and low-income students’ college scholarships.
the national interest
the national interest
Taibbi’s ‘Liberal Embrace of War’ Screed Cites Zero Liberals Embracing War
It’s Matt Taibbi’s bravest and loneliest stance against the corporate media since his defense of William Barr.
Mueller disappoints Democrats, yet again
House Democrats, frustrated by President Trump’s efforts to stonewall their investigations and eager to stoke public anger about the president’s behavior, are pinning their diminishing hopes on Robert S. Mueller III yet again.
They had a plan: dramatize the special counsel’s damning but dense report on national television in their committees, animating his prose with vivid testimony from witnesses who would discuss Mr. Mueller’s findings on Russia’s election interference and Mr. Trump’s possible obstruction of justice.
But so far Mr. Trump and his allies have successfully parried every one of their moves. Donald F. McGahn II, the former White House counsel and a central player in the story, is expected to either flout a subpoena to testify before the House Judiciary Committee next Tuesday or refuse to answer questions. The White House has claimed executive privilege over the unredacted Mueller report and all the evidence underlying its 448 pages, and administration officials refuse to satisfy virtually any other request — setting up months, possibly years, of legal wrangling.
Mr. Mueller, who was invited to testify by the chairmen of the House Judiciary and Intelligence Committees a month ago, has not agreed to do so.
In 1960 David Latimer got curious and decided to plant a glass bottle with seed. He would have never guessed it would turn into a beautiful case study of a self-sustaining sealed ecosystem.
In fact, more than a century has passed and David’s sealed bottle garden is still thriving and robust as can be. With thriving plant life, despite not watering it since 1972.
David planted the terrarium back in 1960 by placing a quarter pint of water and compost in the ten gallon bottle. He then lowered in spiderworts seeding with a wire. Finally sealing it and placing it in a corner filled with sun. Letting mother nature do its thing through photosynthesis.
Photosynthesis puts moisture and oxygen in the air through the plants. The moisture then starts to build and begins to rain back down on the plants. Leaves will also fall and rot which produces carbon dioxide that the plants need for nutrition.
It’s a beautiful example of how nature can support itself.
Larimer did open the bottle in 1972 to water the plant. But, since then it has remained sealed without fresh water or air.
This is possible because the garden makes its own ecosystem through the magic of the sun (photosynthesis) that is self-sufficient.
“It’s 6ft from a window so gets a bit of sunlight. It grows towards the light so it gets turned round every so often so it grows evenly. Otherwise, it’s the definition of low-maintenance. I’ve never pruned it, it just seems to have grown to the limits of the bottle.”
The sealed garden has been placed in the same exact spot for 27 years in the Latimer’s home. Located in Cranleigh, Surrey. First exposed to the world through Radio 4’s Gardeners Question Time on BBC by Chris Beardshaw. Chris is not only a television host, but also a garden designer. Saying that he felt David’s sealed garden was indeed the perfect cycle of life and a great example of plants recycling ability. Also adding that it is the same method that NASA is interested in bringing plants into space. Saying:
‘”Plants operate as very good scrubbers, taking out pollutants in the air, so that a space station can effectively become self-sustaining,’ he said. ‘This is a great example of just how pioneering plants are and how they will persist given the opportunity.”
Hexbyte News Computers Growing Bottle Gardens
As stated earlier a bottle garden works by creating a ecosystem that is self-sustaining. Through plant photosynthesis and recycling nutrients.
Light is the only input needed externally. Providing energy for food and growth. The light shines on the leaves and is taken in by protein containing chlorophylls (green colored pigment). The plant stores a portion of the light as ATP (adenosine triphosphate) for energy. The remaining amount is used in the plant roots to get rid of electrons from water.
The electrons then are free to release oxygen by converting carbon dioxide to carbohydrates through chemical reactions.
To decay organic material like deal leaves the ecosystem employs cellular respiration. Which is done by bacteria that takes in waste oxygen and releases carbon dioxide that helps the plant grow.
The plant will also use a similar process of cellular respiration to break down nutrients it has stored when there is no sunlight (nighttime).
Water is cycled by getting sucked up in plant roots, transpires into the air, then gets condensed into the potting mix. Beginning a new cycle that repeats over and over again.
Many are skeptic of this being true and some like Bob Flowerdew (organic gardener) thinks that “It’s wonderful but not for me, thanks. I can’t see the point. I can’t smell it, I can’t eat it,”.
Shockingly David Latimer feels the same. Saying that the sealed bottle garden is pretty boring. Not really doing much, but it does interest him enough to see how long it can sustain itself.
He plans on passing on this experiment to his kids when he passes. Which if they don’t have an interest in it at that time it will then get passed on to the Royal Horticultural Society in London, England.
If this sounds interesting to you we suggest searching around the web. There are many tutorials like the video below that will help you make a bottle terrarium.
It’s a simple almost zero maintenance, fascinating experiment that just about anyone can do.
The series finale of Game of Thrones defied pretty much all the predictions as to who would emerge triumphant and sit on the Iron Throne, in what has proved to be the most polarizing and controversial season yet. (Over a million fans have even signed a petition demanding that HBO re-shoot the entire final season, which—c’mon, people. That’s not how any of this works. Save it for the fanfic.) Personally, I thought the series as a whole provided a gripping, trope-bashing narrative arc that was imperfectly executed in the crucial last two seasons. Showrunners David Benioff and David B. Weiss got the plane on the ground in the end—but it wasn’t a pretty landing, and there’s bound to be a lot of grumbling from dissatisfied customers. Ramsey Bolton did warn us: “If you were hoping for a happy ending, you haven’t been paying attention.”
(WARNING: It’s impossible to write a meaningful wrap-up analysis of this incredibly influential series without going into specifics, So there are MAJOR spoilers below, especially for the final season and last two episodes.)
Let’s get the controversial plot turn from last week out of the way up front, since it drove much of what transpired in the finale, and pretty much encapsulates the best and worst aspects of this final season. In the penultimate episode, “The Bells,” Daenerys and Drogon, her surviving dragon, make short work of Cersei’s forces to conquer King’s Landing. (That showy Golden Company? Not so tough after all.) As the bells ring to signal surrender, we see a flurry of conflicting emotions play across Dany’s face before hardening into steely resolve. She proceeds not to just incinerate the Red Keep where Cersei has been watching the battle from afar—which is what everyone expected—but to rain down dragon fire on all the innocent civilians who Cersei brought in to serve as a human shield. Her decision lit up Twitter and launched a thousand hot takes, as disappointed fans howled in rage at seeing the Mother of Dragons break bad.
It was an especially horrifying twist in a show that has produced plenty of them. Dany has been a fan favorite for the entire run of the series, and nobody wants to see a favorite character commit genocide. That said, this should have surprised no one, since it’s been strongly foreshadowed all along. She’s always had equal parts kindness and cruelty, and she’s literally solved every problem she’s encountered over eight seasons by raining down fire and blood. That’s exactly what she explicitly vowed to do to take back the Iron Throne; it’s what Varys promised she would do when he recruited Dorne and the Tyrells of Highgarden to her cause. In a season 3 behind-the-episode interview, David Weiss observed, “As the sphere of her empathy widens, the sphere of her cruelty widens as well.” It’s why I have never been Team Dany when it comes to who sits on the Iron Throne, even though I adore the character too.
Hexbyte – Tech News – Ars Technica | Look How Far We’ve Come
Think of everything she’s lost since she came to Westeros: two of her three precious dragon children; her oldest most trusted advisor, Jorah Mormont; and her closest female friend. She sacrificed a huge chunk of her army to fight with the North and help save them from the White Walkers. But the Northerners still didn’t embrace her, the ingrates. She is isolated and alone in a foreign land, and then the man she loves turns out to be her nephew and technically the legitimate male heir to the Iron Throne. This doesn’t in the least excuse what she did, mind you; it’s unforgivable. But the moment Cersei gave the order to publicly execute Missandei—with Missandei uttering one final, telling word, “Dracarys“—I knew the Mother of Dragons would be merciless in taking her revenge. And I knew she would pay a very high price for it in the end.
In the finale, we see the consequences of her ruthlessness. Daenerys is Queen of the Ashes; her season 2 vision of the Iron Throne in a destroyed Red Keep that she encountered in the House of the Undying is a reality. Plus she has a taste for conquering now, and it’s clear she won’t stop at Westeros. Even more innocent civilians are going to die in fire and blood if she isn’t stopped. All this naturally horrifies several key allies, Tyrion, Arya, and Jon Snow in particular. There’s no way for this to end without one of them taking her out, and it turns out to be exactly who we most expected.
As a narrative twist, it’s conceptually brilliant. It takes this complex, initially sympathetic character, who has grown and overcome so much over eight seasons, and turns her into a tragic hero, corrupted by power and fueled by grief and rage. The series has always been about power, or rather, as Andrew Prokop observed at Vox, “the misuse of power, how innocents suffer when the high lords seek power, and the subversion of expectations.” We even get a mini-monologue from Tyrion in the finale riffing on those motifs when Jon Snow comes to visit him in his cell. We’re reminded of how we cheered when Daenerys rained down dragon fire on her enemies in the past, because after all, those were bad people who “deserved” it. But it was all too easy for Dany to convince herself that the good people of King’s Landing “deserved” it, too, and her noble ends justified her brutal means.
The showrunners sat down with George R.R. Martin when they realized they would soon outpace the books, and he told them how it was all meant to end. There’s no reason to think Dany’s turn to the dark side wasn’t Martin’s plan all along. He has said the ending he envisioned would be “bittersweet.” But I do think the TV execution of the concept was lacking. The moment wasn’t quite earned. Perhaps if viewers had a bit more time to perceive and react to the shift in the Mother of Dragons’ emotional state, as the full weight of what she has lost, and the grief she’s been suppressing, sank in, the turnabout might have felt less abrupt and been less distressing for fans. (Also, someone should apologize to Varys posthumously, because the dude was so, so right.)
Hexbyte – Tech News – Ars Technica | For the throne
If you speak a certain language about classic video games, you probably know about M2, a Japanese game studio responsible for dozens of impressive arcade and console ports to newer home consoles. Yet even if you don’t, a new hour-long documentary about the studio should still be considered required viewing for anybody who loves the best Japanese games of the ’80s and ’90s.
Produced by My Life In Gaming, a video channel known for a laser focus on retro gaming, the M2 Complete Works documentary (embedded below) is a sweeping, decades-long look at a game studio renowned among dedicated gaming fans. That’s because M2 has produced some of the most impressive ports, emulations, and even fully blown remakes of classic series by Sega, Konami, Capcom, and SNK. (Listing them all would bury the embedded video below, but to get a sense of how impressive M2’s work is, look into the Sega 3D Classics Collection. This series saw M2 deconstruct many original Sega arcade and console games, then fully rebuild them with pitch-perfect emulation and 3D depth effects for the Nintendo 3DS.)
The MLIG production duo of Coury Carlson and Marc Duddleson fill their documentary with original insights from M2 staffers, starting with the studio’s college-aged efforts to build an arcade
Hexbyte – News – Science/Nature | For now, it’s only a model. But in five years, the Amazon CEO says, he can land it on the lunar surface.
Two years ago, Blue Origin founder Jeff Bezos — yeah, the guy who owns Amazon.com(NASDAQ:AMZN) — made NASA a promise: If it wants to establish a moon base, Blue Origin would partner with the space agency and build it a rocket — and a moon lander — to help build that base.
The rocket in question is New Glenn, currently under development, with plans to become one of the most powerful rockets on earth. And the lander? That would be Blue Moon.
Jeff Bezos with a model of the Blue Moon lunar lander. Image source: Blue Origin.
Hexbyte – News – Science/Nature | Introducing Blue Moon
Although Blue Moon was originally envisioned as a cargo vessel capable of delivering “gear for experiments, cargo, and habitats by mid-2020,” Bezos in 2017 promised that it would be a launcher-agnostic spacecraft that could fly on top of its own New Glenn rocket, or on NASA’s new Space Launch System (also still under development), or even atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas 551. (There was no mention of SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy, you will note.)
But when NASA announced earlier this year that it is soliciting proposals to build its Human Landing System to put astronauts on the moon, Bezos seems to have had an epiphany: Blue Moon could do that, too.
Last week, at a closed-door presentation in Washington, Bezos pulled back the curtain on a mock-up of Blue Moon, revealing it to be a fuel-cell-powered spacecraft capable of delivering between 3.6 and 6.5 metric tons of payload (up to and including moon buggies ) to the lunar surface. Blue Moon will use hydrogen and oxygen to fuel a new, 3D-printed BE-7 engine (also brand new, and as-yet untested) to travel from lunar orbit to the surface. The first version of Blue Moon will be robotic, but a later, larger version should be human-rated to carry astronauts to the moon.
Hexbyte – News – Science/Nature | NASA and Blue Origin, together at last?
To refresh your memory, NASA’s latest moon project comprises three main stages: By 2024, the agency wants to have a “lunar descent element” — a moon lander — docked with a “lunar gateway” space station in orbit around the moon. By 2026, it wants to add a lunar ascent element built and delivered, and test both elements in an unmanned mission to land on, and return from, the lunar surface.
Finally, in 2028, NASA plans to repeat this feat with astronauts aboard, accomplishing the first manned moon landing in more than a half-century!
This schedule recently got jumbled when in March, Vice President Pence stated that a 2028 target date was “just not good enough,” and that official U.S. policy is now to return astronauts to the moon by 2024. Not everyone is convinced that five years is enough time to do what NASA said just three months ago it would need nearly a decade to accomplish. But Bezos, who has been pouring $1 billion a year of his wealth into Blue Origin through sales of Amazon.com stock, says that because he began development of Blue Moon three years ago, a 2024 landing is in fact doable by him.
Hexbyte – News – Science/Nature | What comes next
And yet, whether we’re talking about 2028, 2026, or 2024 — whatever the date — NASA first needs to build the equipment to make it happen. Space companies large and small, ranging from Boeing and Lockheed to Sierra Nevada to SpaceX, all want to help. And now we know for certain that Blue Origin will be joining them in the competition.
The agency has budgeted only $30 million to $40 million to pay for development at this time, which sounds like small beans to many of these companies. That being said, the eventual winner(s) of contract(s) to help NASA realize its mission can expect to reap contracts worth tens and hundreds of millions more to build, launch, and operate the spacecraft necessary to land on the moon.
This latest space race has just started — but it’s also already begun.
Rich Smith has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Amazon. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.