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Chinese tech companies could face trouble in Europe

Huawei. TikTok. Whos next? The United States government this week launched a new phase in its campaign to push back on Chinese technology firms, announcing efforts to block cloud and software companies from China from thriving in the West. The move was flanked by a decision Thursday to block business dealings with social media company TikTok and chat app WeChat and follows a two-year-long diplomatic campaign against telecom giant Huawei, as officials warned repeatedly that these firms dont play by Western rules, particularly when it comes to snooping and data protection. And theres more coming. U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who is scheduled to visit Central Europe next week, signaled Washingtons plans to use its trade and export tools against a broader range of Chinese technology firms. Those efforts will likely spill over into Europe, where privacy concerns, human rights woes, security and trade interests are advancing political pushback against Chinese tech. [TikTok] was ..

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In a consequential decision, Air Force picks its rockets for mid-2020s launches

Enlarge / Artist's rendering of a Vulcan-Centaur rocket launch.United Launch Alliance On Friday afternoon, the US Air Force answered one of the big questions that had been hanging over the US launch industry for more than a year—which two companies will be selected to compete for national security launch contracts from 2022 to 2026? During a video call with reporters, William Roper, Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics, said that United Launch Alliance will receive approximately 60 percent of the launch orders and SpaceX will receive the other 40 percent. Two other bidders, Northrop Grumman with its Omega rocket, and Blue Origin with its New Glenn vehicle, will not receive awards. "The ability to meet our technical factors to do the mission is the most important thing," Roper said, in response to a question on the Air Force criteria. Secondary factors included past performance, the ability to work with small businesses, and total evaluat..

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Appeals court rules 10¢-a-page charge for court documents is too high

EnlargeAurich Lawson / Getty Images A federal appeals court has ruled that the federal judiciary has been overcharging thousands of users for access to public court records. PACER, short for Public Access to Court Electronic Records, is an online system that allows members of the public (including Ars Technica reporters) to download documents related to almost any federal court case. For PDF documents, the site charges 10 cents per page—a figure far above the costs of running the system. In 2016, three nonprofit organizations sued the judiciary itself over the issue. The class action lawsuit, filed on behalf of almost everyone who pays PACER fees, argued that the courts were only allowed to charge enough to offset the costs of running PACER. Over the last 15 years, as storage and bandwidth costs fell, the courts actually raised PACER fees from 7 cents to 10 cents. The courts used the extra profits to pay for other projects, like installing speakers and displays in courtrooms. The pla..

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Review: Doom Patrol comes back strong with fierce and fun S2

TKTK in the second season of Doom Patrol. Lots of people missed last year's debut of Doom Patrol, a delightfully bonkers show about a "found family" of superhero misfits, because it aired exclusively on the DC Universe streaming service. Fortunately, S2 also aired on HBO Max, expanding the series' potential audience. Apart from one sub-par episode, this second season expanded on the strengths of the first, with plenty of crazy hijinks, humor, pathos, surprising twists, and WTF moments. Alas, the season finale is bound to frustrate fans, since it ends on a major cliffhanger and leaves multiple dangling narrative threads. (Spoilers for S1; some S2 spoilers below the gallery.) As we reported previously, Timothy Dalton plays Niles Caulder, aka The Chief, a medical doctor who saved the lives of the various Doom Patrol members and lets them stay in his mansion. His Manor of Misfits includes Jane, aka Crazy Jane (Diane Guerrero), whose childhood trauma resulted in 64 distinct pers..

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Japanese foreign minister to leave London without trade deal

LONDON — Britain and Japan were unable to announce a new trade deal Friday after two days of intense high-level political negotiations in London. From August 6 to 7 Japanese Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi and Tokyos chief negotiator wrangled with British Trade Secretary Liz Truss and her team to get the deal closer to the finish line, though didnt quite cross it. The politicians did not hold a joint press conference after talks wrapped up Friday. “Negotiations have been positive and productive, and we have reached consensus on the major elements of a deal — including ambitious provisions in areas like digital, data and financial services,” Truss said. Truss added that these go “significantly beyond” the EU-Japan Economic Partnership Agreement that the U.K. deal is based on and added the two sides aim “to reach a formal agreement in principle by the end of August.” Time is short, and although both sides were hoping for a deal this week, there is still time to get one through the..

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HS suspends teen who tweeted photo of hallway packed with maskless students

Enlarge / Photo from North Paulding High School, tweeted by student Hannah Watters on Tuesday.Hannah Watters A 15-year-old high school student who posted a viral photo of a crowded school hallway says the school suspended her for five days for allegedly violating a social-media policy. But the school has since backed down and lifted the suspension. Hannah Watters, a student at North Paulding High School in Dallas, Georgia, posted a photo to Twitter on Tuesday, noting the "jammed" hallways and "10 percent mask rate." Her tweet received 1,800 retweets and 4,500 likes. She also posted a 10-second video of a hallway at the 2,000-student school and says she was suspended around noon the next day. This is what it looks like even with split dismissal. pic.twitter.com/erCA2lhOUb — hannah (@ihateiceman) August 4, 2020 "The policies I broke stated that I used my phone in the hallway without permission, used my phone for social media, and posting pictures of minors without consent," Watters s..

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New study models ways of emerging from a pandemic lockdown

Enlarge / Testing and contact tracing may be essential for exiting pandemic lockdowns.Sean Gallup / Getty Images As the scale and threat of the COVID-19 pandemic became clear, researchers who trace the spread of diseases were pretty unanimous: to buy us time to develop a therapy or vaccine, countries needed to implement heavy-handed restrictions to limit the opportunities for the virus to spread. Experts painted frightening pictures of huge peaks of infections that would overwhelm local hospital systems if lockdowns weren't put in place, leading to many unnecessary deaths. For countries like Italy and Spain, which were already in the throes of an uncontrolled spread, reality bore these predictions out. Peaks rose sharply in advance of restrictions but fell nearly as sharply once they were put in place. But those same models also predicted that ending the restrictions would put countries at risk of a return of the virus a few months later, forcing governments to again decide betwe..

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Lawn chairs and kitchen tables: Ergonomics in the involuntary work-from-home era

Enlarge / This is your skeleton. This is your skeleton working from home. Any questions?Aurich Lawson / Getty Images With offices shuttered around the world, many people are experiencing working from home for the first time—or experiencing it in much longer doses than they were used to. Many companies are planning to keep employees working remotely at least part of the time well into 2021. And some are considering making it permanent. Countless people have had to improvise their work-at-home workspaces. But now that we're several months in, some of that improvisation may be wearing thin. And one of the things that often gets pushed to the back burner in all this improvisation is ergonomics. If you haven't worked from home regularly in the past, and you're now sitting at the kitchen table every day working from a corporate-issued laptop, you're probably feeling the physical strains of this never-going-to-be-normal reality. As someone who has worked primarily from h..

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Trump issues executive orders against TikTok and WeChat

WASHINGTON — U.S. President Donald Trump issued an executive order late Thursday prohibiting transactions with the parent company of the popular video-sharing app TikTok. The order, set to take effect on September 20, bars Americans and U.S. companies from conducting transactions with the Chinese tech giant ByteDance, citing “national security” concerns. A separate executive order with the same conditions was also issued to WeChat, another Chinese-owned smartphone app. Trump asserted in his order that the apps “capture vast swaths of information from its users” and their data collection “allows the Chinese Communist Party access to Americans personal and proprietary information.“ “The spread in the United States of mobile applications developed and owned by companies in the Peoples Republic of China (China) continues to threaten the national security, foreign policy, and economy of the United States,” Trump said in the order. “At this time, action must be taken to address the threat..

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Facebook removes pro-Trump accounts operating out of Romania

A number of Romanian Facebook pages and Instagram accounts pretending to be American in a bid to influence the U.S. election have been removed, the company said Thursday. It removed 35 Facebook accounts, three Facebook pages and 88 accounts on photo-sharing app Instagram, which it owns. “The people behind this network used fake accounts — some of which had already been detected and disabled by our automated systems — to pose as Americans, amplify and comment on their own content, and manage Pages including some posing as President Trump fan Pages,” Facebook said in its monthly report on “inauthentic behavior.” Social media companies like Twitter and Facebook politico [contfnewc] [contfnewc]

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