Europe Must Ban Bitcoin Mining To Hit the 1.5C Paris Climate Goal, Say Swedish Regulators
Faced with a sharp rise in energy consumption, Swedish authorities are calling on the European Union to
ban "energy intensive" crypto mining. From a report:
Erik Thedeen, director of the Swedish Financial Supervisory Authority, and Bjorn Risinger, director of the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency, said cryptocurrency's rising energy usage is threatening Sweden's ability to meet its obligations under the Paris Climate Agreement. Between April and August this year, the energy consumption of Bitcoin mining in the Nordic country rose "several hundred per cent," and now consumes the equivalent electricity of 200,000 households, Thedeen and Risinger said.
In an open letter, the directors of Sweden's top financial and environmental regulators called for an EU-wide ban on "proof of work" cryptocurrency mining, for Sweden to "halt the establishment" of new crypto mining operations and for companies that trade and invest in crypto assets to be prohibited from describing their business activities as environmentally sustainable.
Centrist Dems Sink Biden's Nominee for Top Bank Regulator
Five Democratic senators have told the White House they won't support Saule Omarova to head the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency,
effectively killing her nomination for the powerful bank-regulator position. Axios:
The defiant opposition from a broad coalition of senators reflects the real policy concerns they had with Omarova, a Cornell University law professor who's attracted controversy for her academic writings about hemming in big banks. Their opposition also hints at a willingness of some Democratic senators to buck the White House on an important nomination, even if it hands Republicans a political -- and symbolic -- victory.
Republicans have attacked the Kazakh-born scholar in remarkably personal terms, and turned her nomination into a proxy battle over how banks should be regulated. Driving the news: In phone call on Wednesday, Sens. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) Mark Warner (D-Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), all members of the Senate Banking Committee, told Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) -- the panel's chairman -- of their opposition. They're joined in opposing her by Sens. John Hickenlooper (D-Colo.) and Mark Kelly (D-Ariz.).
Inside the Rise and Fall of Clubhouse, a Pandemic Poster Child of VC-backed Hype
In May 2020, when the pandemic raged, the comedian and TV writer Marlena Rodriguez got an invite to a new app called Clubhouse that offered the homebound online masses a way to spend some of their suddenly abundant time. In the ensuing months, Rodriguez jousted in a chat room with the celebrity Ashton Kutcher, gained more than 13,000 followers, and started a party room on Fridays that frequently swelled to over 1,000 people. She wrote a play, "Once Upon a Clubhouse," and hired actors to perform it on the app. "I was in love," she said. Today, "I question why I'm even still on Clubhouse," Rodriguez said. Her Friday-night room has dwindled to about 30 people.
More than any other startup, Clubhouse epitomizes the venture-capital-backed euphoria that swept the tech industry since lockdowns shut millions of people inside and pushed them online for connection, entertainment, and information. Marc Andreessen has called the app "the Athenian agora come to life," referring to the hub of democracy in ancient Greece. It has raised more than $100m from his firm and other top VCs, garnering a $4bn valuation. But with vaccinations rising and more people returning to normal life, Clubhouse has been hit particularly hard. Daily downloads of the app have plunged more than 90% since a peak in June, while daily average users are down almost 80% since February, Apptopia data indicated. Insider interviews with creators, advertisers, VCs, and others in the tech industry show a platform struggling to build an audience and keep it. Moneymaking opportunities are also slim, which makes the app a tough sell for creators and users as there are many other options online and off.
China Suspends Tencent From Updating Existing Apps or Launching New Apps
China has suspended Tencent Holdings
from updating its existing apps or launching any new apps as part of a "temporary administrative guidance" against the tech giant, Chinese media outlets including Shanghai-based Chinastarmarket.cn reported. From a report:
According to the report, China's Ministry of Industry and Information Technology has told app stores and platforms to implement the order against Tencent apps from Wednesday in a harsh administrative punishment against the tech giant, which runs dozens of apps including the super app WeChat that has 1.2 billion users. Tencent said in a statement that it is cooperating with the authorities on inspecting its apps, indirectly confirming the report.
There are more than 70 apps published by Tencent that are active and there are more than 100 games published by Tencent Mobile Games, according to app tracking firm Qimai. It is not known how long the suspension will last and the Chinese ministry has not published any information about the ban. "We are continuously working to enhance user protection features within our apps, and also have regular cooperation with relevant government agencies to ensure regulatory compliance. Our apps remain functional and available for download," Tencent said in its statement.
Congress Decimates 911's Digital Upgrade
Public safety officials fear the nation's 911 centers will
continue to languish in the analog era , after Democrats slashed proposed funding for a digital makeover in their social spending bill. From a report:
The potentially life-saving ability for people to send texts, pictures or videos to 911 centers, and for centers to seamlessly share data with each other, remains out of reach for many of the country's 6,000 centers. The House Energy & Commerce Committee advanced a proposal that would have spent $10 billion on next-generation 911 centers in September, but that funding was reduced to $470 million for deployment in the final House version of the Build Back Better Act.
A cost report to Congress on next-generation 911 from 2018 estimated it would take about $12 billion to implement the networks nationwide, though advocates say $15 billion might be needed. "To say I'm disappointed is to put it mildly," Brian Fontes, CEO of NENA: The 911 Association, told Axios. "It's extraordinarily unfortunate." Next-generation 911 would allow centers to accept multimedia from those in need and let centers share data among themselves easily to ensure the best response.
The Head of Instagram Agrees To Testify as Congress Probes the App's Effects on Young People
Adam Mosseri, the head of Instagram, has agreed for the first time to
testify before Congress, as bipartisan anger mounts over harms to young people from the app. From a report:
Mr. Mosseri is expected to appear before a Senate panel during the week of Dec. 6 as part of a series of hearings on protecting children online, said Senator Richard Blumenthal, who will lead the hearing. Mr. Mosseri's appearance follows hearings this year with Antigone Davis, the global head of safety for Meta, the parent company of Instagram and Facebook, and with Frances Haugen, a former employee turned whistle-blower. Ms. Haugen's revelations about the social networking company, particularly those about Facebook and Instagram's research into its effects on some teenagers and young girls, have spurred criticism, inquiries from politicians and investigations from regulators.
In September, Ms. Davis told Congress that the company disputed the premise that Instagram was harmful for teenagers and noted that the leaked research did not have causal data. But after Ms. Haugen's testimony last month, Mr. Blumenthal, a Connecticut Democrat, wrote a letter to Mark Zuckerberg, the chief executive of Meta, suggesting that his company had "provided false or inaccurate testimony to me regarding attempts to internally conceal its research." Mr. Blumenthal asked that Mr. Zuckerberg or Mr. Mosseri testify in front of the consumer protection subcommittee of the Senate's Commerce Committee to set the record straight.
US Blacklists Chinese Quantum Computing Companies
The US has placed a dozen Chinese groups involved in quantum computing and other advanced technologies
on an export blacklist, saying they pose a risk of gaining access to critical American technologies for the People's Liberation Army. From a report:
The move, which makes it almost impossible for US companies to sell technologies to the listed companies, targeted a total of 27 entities, including 12 in China and two affiliated firms in Japan and Singapore. In addition to quantum computing, the list included companies in the semiconductor and aerospace industries. Eight of the Chinese groups were specifically targeted to prevent them from accessing sensitive quantum-related technology, the US commerce department said, arguing they could help the PLA improve counter-stealth and counter-submarine applications and facilitate efforts to break US encryption.
The actions mark the latest effort by the Biden administration to make it more difficult for China to secure cutting-edge technologies with military applications. Last month, US intelligence officials warned American companies about Chinese efforts to access technology in areas including quantum computing and artificial intelligence. "This is a sensible move and an important reminder of the scope and scale of China's efforts to achieve technological breakthroughs that erode US national security," said Martijn Rasser, a former CIA official who heads the technology and national security programme at the Center for a New American Security think-tank. In addition to the Chinese groups targeted, Washington put 13 Pakistani firms on the "entity list" for activities related to nuclear and ballistic missile programmes. It added the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology to a "military end-user" list that makes it more difficult to sell technology with military applications.
Next Windows 11 Update Brings Back Clippy
An anonymous reader
shares a report:
We're nearly two months out from the public release of Windows 11, and Microsoft is still slowly updating bits and pieces of the operating system that weren't quite ready in early October. Microsoft announced redesigned emoji back in July, and the next Windows update (version 22000.348, if you're tracking this sort of thing) adds those emoji to Windows 11. The new emoji remove the bold, black outlines from the Windows 10-era designs and change the colors and shapes of a few to make them match up better with Apple's, Google's, and Samsung's glyphs -- compare the new design for Spiral Shell to the old one, for an example. There are also a few cute Microsoft-specific touches, like a Clippy design for the paperclip emoji, though Ninja Cat appears to have been removed entirely.
A Three-Party Alliance is Set To Govern Germany
Three German parties have reached a deal to form a new government that will
end the era of longtime Chancellor Angela Merkel, according to Olaf Scholz, who is poised to replace her. From a report:
Scholz, of the center-left Social Democrats, said he expects that members of the parties will give their blessing to the deal in the next 10 days. At a news conference, Scholz and other leaders gave some indications of how the coalition would govern. Among the first measures agreed: compulsory vaccinations in places where particularly vulnerable people are cared for, with the option of expanding that rule. That comes as Germany is seeing a surge in cases, and the political transition has somewhat hampered the country's response. Scholz also stressed the importance of a sovereign Europe, friendship with France and partnership with the United States as key cornerstones of the government's foreign policy -- continuing a long post-war tradition. The new government will not seek "the lowest common denominator, but the politics of big impacts," Scholz promised. Robert Habeck, co-leader of the environmentalist Green party, meanwhile, said measures planned by the government would put Germany on a path to meet the goals of the 2015 Paris climate accord.
Virtual Real Estate Plot Sells for Record $2.4 Million
A patch of virtual real estate in the online world Decentraland
sold for a record $2.4 million worth of cryptocurrency, the buyer crypto investor Tokens.com and Decentraland said on Tuesday. From a report:
Decentraland is an online environment -- also called a "metaverse" -- where users can buy land, visit buildings, walk around and meet people as avatars. Such environments have grown in popularity this year, as the pandemic caused people to spend more time online. read more Interest surged last month when Facebook changed its name to Meta to reflect its focus on developing virtual reality products for the metaverse. Decentraland is a specific type of metaverse that uses blockchain. Land and other items in Decentraland are sold in the form of non-fungible tokens (NFTs), a kind of crypto asset. Crypto enthusiasts buy land there as a speculative investment, using Decentraland's cryptocurrency, MANA. A subsidiary of Tokens.com, called the Metaverse Group, bought a patch of real estate for 618,000 MANA on Monday, which was around $3.27 million at the time of this Slashdot post, a Decentraland spokesman and a statement by Tokens.com said.
Survey Shows Europeans Not Done Quitting Jobs
Quit a day job to do TikTok full-time? Why not, say some Europeans. From a report:
About one in 10 are considering leaving their main job in the next six months and instead earning money from social media, e-commerce or trading platforms, according to a Morgan Stanley poll of 12,500 people. "The received wisdom is that as Covid subsides, and with modest extra flexibility from employers, the majority of people will re-embrace their prior routines," a team of Morgan Stanley economists and equity analysts wrote in a note. "Our data suggest otherwise." With labor shortages already weighing on Europe's economic rebound, wage inflation will persist for longer if the Great Resignation -- the post-pandemic trend of people leaving the workforce -- carries on, the bank said. "It reveals a far greater potential risk of structurally higher wages," Morgan Stanley wrote.
Japan To Implement Bank-deposit-backed Digital Currency in 2022
A new digital currency backed by bank deposits is
set for a test run in Japan as early as this year, an effort that will involve the nation's top banks and about 70 other companies. From a report:
The test run will focus on the digital currency's feasibility for business transactions, such as large payments between companies. The group aims to bring the currency into circulation as soon as the latter half of 2022. The Digital Currency Forum announced the trial on Wednesday. The Forum includes MUFG Bank, Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corp., Mizuho Bank, Japan Post Bank and the Nippon Telegraph and Telephone group. East Japan Railway, which operates Tokyo's busy Yamanote Line, top trading house Mitsubishi Corp., Kansai Electric Power and retail giant Seven & i Holdings are also involved. Tokyo-based cryptocurrency exchange service provider Decurret, a subsidiary of Internet Initiative Japan, and others will lead the trial.
A Third of All Dark Web Domains Are Now V3 Onion Sites
An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Record:
Throughout 2020 and 2021, the Tor anonymity network has gone through a major change as the Tor software team has released a new version of its software that updated how .onion domains look and work. More specifically, the Tor Project has done away with 16-character-long .onion domains, also known as v2 addresses, and replaced them with 56-character-long domains, known as v3. The move, driven by a need to improve the Tor network's privacy, security, and resilience to deanonymization attacks, was announced years in advance, and the entire process took more than a year to complete.
But despite the Tor team's best efforts to announce the move in advance, new numbers compiled and released by dark web monitoring company DarkOwl show that the Tor network is still made up in large part of servers running older v2 domains. "In the last six weeks, DarkOwl's Vision platform has observed an average of 104,095 active .onion services across both address schemes of which: 62% are v2 addresses and 38% are v3 addresses," the company said last week. DarkOwl says it detected a spike in new v3 domains in July 2021, which coincided with the Tor team adding a fullscreen warning before accessing v2 domains in preparation for the browser's v11 release this fall. This resulted in more than 2,900 v3 domains being registered in the last two weeks of July alone. However, as the Tor team noted in its own v2-to-v3 analysis in September, the number of v3 domains is trending up. The report adds that v2 sites are expected to go extinct in the coming year. "The reason is that as most Tor node operators will update their servers to versions that will not support v2 domains, there will be no Tor relays capable of routing the traffic to these old-gen domains," report The Record.
US To Require Vaccines For All Border Crossers In January
President Joe Biden will require essential, nonresident travelers crossing U.S. land borders, such as truck drivers, government and emergency response officials,
to be fully vaccinated beginning on Jan. 22, the administration planned to announce Tuesday. The Associated Press reports:
A senior administration official said the requirement, which the White House previewed in October, brings the rules for essential travelers in line with those that took effect earlier this month for leisure travelers, when the U.S. reopened its borders to fully vaccinated individuals. Essential travelers entering by ferry will also be required to be fully vaccinated by the same date, the official said. The rules pertain to non-U.S. nationals. American citizens and permanent residents may still enter the U.S. regardless of their vaccination status, but face additional testing hurdles because officials believe they more easily contract and spread COVID-19 and in order to encourage them to get a shot. [...] About 47 million adults in the U.S. remain unvaccinated, according to figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Watch NASA Crash a Spacecraft Into An Asteroid
If all goes as planned, a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying the Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART)
will launch early Wednesday morning "to test whether slamming a spacecraft into an asteroid can nudge it into a different trajectory," reports The New York Times. "Results from the test, if successful, will come in handy if NASA and other space agencies ever need to deflect an asteroid to save Earth and avert a catastrophic impact." From the report:
The DART spacecraft is scheduled to lift off atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket on Wednesday at 1:20 a.m. Eastern time (or 10:20 p.m. local time) from the Vandenberg Space Force Base in California. NASA plans to host a livestream of the launch on its YouTube channel starting at 12:30 a.m. on Wednesday. If bad weather around the Vandenberg launch site prompts a delay, the next opportunity for liftoff would be about 24 hours later.
After launching to space, the spacecraft will make nearly one full orbit around the sun before it crosses paths with Dimorphos, a football-field-size asteroid that closely orbits a bigger asteroid, called Didymos, every 11 hours and 55 minutes. Astronomers call those two asteroids a binary system, where one is a mini-moon to the other. Together, the two asteroids make one full orbit around the sun every two years. Dimorphos poses no threat to Earth, and the mission is essentially target practice. DART's impact will happen in late September or early October next year, when the binary asteroids are at their closest point to Earth, roughly 6.8 million miles away.
Four hours before impact, the DART spacecraft, formally called a kinetic impactor, will autonomously steer itself straight toward Dimorphos for a head-on collision at 15,000 miles per hour. An onboard camera will capture and send back photos to Earth in real time until 20 seconds before impact. A tiny satellite from the Italian Space Agency, deployed 10 days before the impact, will come as close as 34 miles from the asteroid to snap images every six seconds in the moments before and after DART's impact.