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Comcast Launches Contract-Free Xfinity Prepaid Internet Service
Posted by News Fetcher on March 30 '17 at 03:00 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's read-the-fine-print department:
Comcast has been testing its Xfinity prepaid internet service for several years and now it appears to be ready for the masses. "The package allows consumers to pay for internet service on a pay-as-you-go basis, with refills ranging from seven to 30 days," reports The Verge. From the report: Comcast is partnering with Boost Mobile to sell the $80 prepaid internet starter kits, which come with a wireless DOCSIS 3.0 gateway and 30 days of service. Download speeds measure up to 10 Mbps downstream and 1 Mbps for uploads, and refills start at $15 for one week. The prepaid plans works anywhere within Xfinity's coverage area, and while there's no credit check involved, you do have to be 18 years or older to sign up. The partnership also gives Boost Mobile customers $5 off refills. At launch, customers will be able to find the the Xfinity starter kits at Boost Mobile stores around Illinois, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Texas. The company plans to roll out the kits to all 4,000 stores (that are within Comcast's coverage area) by the end of the year.

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Twitter Will No Longer Count Usernames Against a Tweet's 140-Character Limit
Posted by News Fetcher on March 30 '17 at 01:41 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's so-much-more-room-for-activities department:
An anonymous reader quotes a report from PhoneDog: Last year, Twitter updated its service so that photos, videos, and other media wouldn't count against your 140-character limit. Now it's excluding another feature from that limit. Twitter is now rolling out an update that excludes usernames from your tweet's 140-character limit. This means that you can tag as many people in your tweet as you'd like, but still have 140 characters for your actual message. With this change, Twitter is also tweaking how usernames are shown when you're @ replying to people. Now you'll see "Replying to" followed by user names at the top of your tweet, rather than a long string of user names in the tweet itself. Tapping this will show you exactly who you're replying to. This update is now rolling out to Twitter.com as well as the Twitter apps for Android and iOS.

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Streaming Services Generated More Than 50% of All US Music Industry Revenue in 2016
Posted by News Fetcher on March 30 '17 at 01:41 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's disruption department:
Janko Roettgers, reporting for Variety: Streaming music services were for the first time ever responsible for more than 50 percent of all U.S. music industry revenue in 2016, according to new numbers released by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) Thursday. Paid and ad-supported streaming together generated 51 percent of music revenue last year, to be precise, bringing in a total of $3.9 billion. In 2015, streaming music was responsible for 34 percent of the music industry's annual revenue. Much of that increase can be attributed to a strong growth of paid subscriptions to services like Spotify and Apple Music. Revenue from paid subscription plans more than doubled in 2016, bringing in $2.5 billion, with an average of 22.6 million U.S. consumers subscribing to streaming services last year. The year before, subscription services had an average of 10.8 million paying subscribers.

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Microsoft To Sell Customized Edition of Samsung Galaxy S8 Android Smartphones
Posted by News Fetcher on March 30 '17 at 12:14 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's anything-for-money department:
Done with selling its own phones, Microsoft is getting back at the smartphone business. This time, selling Samsung's Android powered flagship S8 and S8 Plus smartphone. From a report: Microsoft says it is making available for pre-order the Samsung Galaxy S8 and Galaxy S8+ Microsoft Edition. Both phones will be available for purchase beginning April 21 at brick-and-mortar US Microsoft Store locations. Details as to exactly what "Microsoft Edition" means are scarce. But based on an email I received from a Microsoft spokesperson, I believe this means these phones will need to be unboxed inside a Microsoft Store, connected to the Microsoft Store Wi-Fi and automatically populated with Microsoft apps, including Office, OneDrive, Cortana, Outlook, and more Microsoft apps.

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Google Plans To Alter JavaScript Popups After Abuse From Tech Support Scammers
Posted by News Fetcher on March 30 '17 at 12:14 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's tidying-things-up department:
An anonymous reader writes: Chromium engineers are discussing plans to change how JavaScript popups work inside Chrome and other similar browsers. In a proposal published on the Google Developers portal, the Chromium team acknowledged that JavaScript popups are consistently used to harm users. To combat this threat, Google engineers say they plan to make JavaScript modals, like the alert(), confirm(), and dialog() methods, only work on a per-tab basis, and not per-window. This change means that popups won't block users from switching and closing the tab, putting an end to any overly-aggresive tactics on the part of the website's owner(s). There is no timeline on Google's decision to move JavaScript popups to a per-tab model, but Chromium engineers have been debating this issue since July 2016 as part of Project OldSpice. A similar change was made to Safari 9.1, released this week. Apple's decision came after crooks used a bug in Safari to block users on malicious pages using popups. Crooks then tried to extort payment, posing as ransomware.

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Safe Harbor Cost the US Music Industry Up To $1B in Lost Royalties Per Year, Study Finds
Posted by News Fetcher on March 30 '17 at 12:14 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's blame-game department:
An anonymous reader shares a report: For the first time, researchers have quantified the "value gap" and its impact on the US recorded music industry. A study published yesterday (March 29) by Washington, DC-based economy think tank the Phoenix Centre For Advanced Legal And Economic Public Policy Studies attempted to calculate how much revenue the recording industry loses from the distortions caused by the safe harbor provisions. Entitled Safe Harbors And The Evolution of Music Retailing, the study was conducted by T. Randolph Beard, George S. Ford and Michael Stern who applied "accepted economic modelling techniques" to simulate revenue effects from royalty rate changes on YouTube. It showed that if YouTube were to pay the recorded music industry market rates, similar to what other streaming services pay, its economic contributions to the sector would be significantly bigger. The premises used by the Phoenix Centre economists was that, according to the music recording industry, YouTube evades paying market rates for the use of copyrighted content by exploiting the Digital Millennium Copyright Act's "safe harbor" provisions, which allow to post creative content online in good faith and remove it if rights holders so require. Using 2015 data, the Phoenix Centre found that "a plausible royalty rate increase could produce increased royalty revenues in the US of $650 million to over one billion dollars a year."

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Facebook Announces Crowdfunding Service To Back Causes Such As Medical Needs
Posted by News Fetcher on March 30 '17 at 12:14 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's for-a-cause department:
Facebook said today it is introducing a crowdfunding feature to help users back causes such as education, medical needs, pet medical, crisis relief, personal emergencies and funerals. The new tool, which appears to offer similar features as GoFundMe, allows users 18 or older to "raise money for themselves, a friend or someone or something not on Facebook." From a report: Personal Fundraisers are available in several specific categories, and require a 24-hour review process. Here are the covered categories for now: Education: such as tuition, books or classroom supplies. Medical: such as medical procedures, treatments or injuries. Pet Medical: such as veterinary procedures, treatments or injuries. Crisis Relief: such as public crises or natural disasters. Personal Emergency: such as a house fire, theft or car accident. Funeral and Loss: such as burial expenses or living costs after losing a loved one.

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Britain Wants Tech Firms to Tackle Extremism
Posted by News Fetcher on March 30 '17 at 12:14 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's take-a-stand department:
Britain will tell Google, Facebook, Twitter, and Microsoft on Thursday to do more to stop extremists posting content on their platforms and using encrypted messaging services to plan attacks. From a report: Home Secretary Amber Rudd said on Sunday tech companies should stop offering a "secret place for terrorists to communicate," after British parliament attacker Khalid Masood was widely reported to have sent encrypted messages moments before he killed four people last week. Rudd has summoned the Internet companies to a meeting to urge them to do more to block extremist content from platforms like Facebook and Google's YouTube, but a government spokesman said encryption was also on the agenda. "The message is the government thinks there is more they can do in relation to taking down extremist and hate material and that is what they are going to be talking about this afternoon," the prime minister's spokesman said on Thursday.

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Christopher Nolan and Sofia Coppola Urge Fans To Watch Films in Cinemas, Not On Netflix
Posted by News Fetcher on March 30 '17 at 09:22 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's where-to-watch-a-movie department:
Christopher Nolan and Sofia Coppola have urged audiences to see their films in the cinema at a time when the movie industry is reckoning with the growing popularity of video on demand and streaming platforms such as Netflix and Amazon. From a report: Presenting their forthcoming films at CinemaCon, the annual convention organised by the National Association of Theatre Owners, the directors said that they hoped fans opted to watch them at movie theatres, where they were "meant to be seen." Nolan made his comments during a presentation of his second world war drama Dunkirk, at which he previewed footage from the film. "This is a story that needs to carry you through the suspenseful situation, and make you feel like you are there, and the only way to do that is through theatrical distribution," Nolan told the audience. "I am depending and relying on all of you to try to present this film in the best way possible." Coppola echoed Nolan's comments during a Focus Features presentation for The Beguiled, a remake of the Clint Eastwood civil war drama starring Colin Farrell and Nicole Kidman.

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Airline Fined For Sending 3.3 Million Unwanted Emails
Posted by News Fetcher on March 30 '17 at 09:22 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's stop-the-madness department:
The airline Flybe has been fined 70,000 pound ($87,000) for sending more than 3.3 million marketing emails to people who had opted out of receiving them. From a report on BBC: The emails, sent in August 2016, advised people to amend out-of-date personal information and update their marketing preferences. They also gave people the chance to enter a prize draw. But the regulator said Flybe should have obtained people's consent before sending the emails. "Sending emails to determine whether people want to receive marketing, without the right consent, is still marketing, and it is against the law," said Steve Eckersley, head of enforcement at the Information Commissioner's Office. "In Flybe's case, the company deliberately contacted people who had already opted out of emails from them."

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Will VPNs Protect Your Privacy? It's Complicated
Posted by News Fetcher on March 30 '17 at 08:02 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's how-about-that department:
From a CNET report: A VPN redirects your internet traffic, disguising where your computer, phone or other device is when it makes contact with websites. It also encrypts information you send across the internet, making it unreadable to anyone who intercepts your traffic. That includes your internet service provider. Ha! Problem solved -- right? Well, sort of. The big catch is, now the VPN has your internet traffic and browsing history, instead of your ISP. What's to stop the VPN from selling your information to the highest bidder? Of course, there are reputable VPN services out there, but it's incumbent on you the user to "do your homework," Ajay Arora, CEO of cybersecurity company Vera said. In addition to making sure the VPN will actually keep your data private, you'll want to make sure there's nothing shady in the terms and conditions. Shady how? Well, in 2015, a group of security-minded coders discovered that free VPN service Hola was selling its users' bandwidth to the paying customers of its Luminati service. That meant some random person could have been using your internet connection to do something illegal. So, shady like that. "I would recommend you do some cursory level research in terms of reputation [and] how long they've been around," Arora said, "And when you sign up, read the fine print." From a report on Wired: Christian Haschek, an Austria-based security researcher, wrote a script that analyzed 443 open proxies, which route web traffic through an alternate, often pseudo-anonymous, computer network. The script tested the proxies to see if they modified site content or allowed users to browse sites while using encryption. According to Haschek's research, just 21 percent of the tested proxies weren't "shady." Haschek found that the other 79 percent of surveyed proxy services forbid secure, HTTPS traffic.

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Trolling Will Get Worse Before it Gets Better, Study Says
Posted by News Fetcher on March 30 '17 at 08:02 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's shape-of-things-to-come department:
If you thought that the internet had a chance of becoming a nicer place at any point in the near future, it might be time to give up hope. From a report: "Harassment, trolls, and an overall tone of griping, distrust, and disgust" will stay the norm on the internet over the next decade, experts told the Pew Research Center in a new report. The Pew Research Center and the Imagining the Internet Center at Elon University surveyed about 1,500 technology experts, scholars, corporate practitioners and government leaders in July and August 2016 for the study, and the results are pretty demoralizing. Forty-two percent of respondents thought the internet would stay the same sometimes less-than-pleasant place over the next 10 years, while another 39 percent said they thought the internet would become a more negative environment. Just under 20 percent of experts thought the internet had any chance of getting better over the next decade when it comes to harassment and trolling.

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Cisco Developing Standalone Networking OS, Report Says
Posted by News Fetcher on March 30 '17 at 06:22 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's assuming-control department:
Cisco has built a new network operating system that will allow users to run its most sophisticated networking features on older and lower-cost Cisco routers and switches, according to a report. From a report: The move to potentially disrupt its networking hardware business was first reported by The Information, which said that Cisco, for now, is not looking to have its network operating system available for non-Cisco switches. Customers who want to run the new operating system, known as Lindt, will be able to move away from switches based on proprietary high-performance Cisco chips to Cisco hardware that works with lower-cost chips, according to the report.

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UW Professor: The Information War Is Real, and We're Losing It
Posted by News Fetcher on March 30 '17 at 06:22 AM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's information-war department:
An anonymous reader writes: It started with the Boston marathon bombing, four years ago. University of Washington professor Kate Starbird was sifting through thousands of tweets sent in the aftermath and noticed something strange. Too strange for a university professor to take seriously. "There was a significant volume of social-media traffic that blamed the Navy SEALs for the bombing," Starbird told me the other day in her office. "It was real tinfoil-hat stuff. So we ignored it." Same thing after the mass shooting that killed nine at Umpqua Community College in Oregon: a burst of social-media activity calling the massacre a fake, a stage play by "crisis actors" for political purposes. "After every mass shooting, dozens of them, there would be these strange clusters of activity," Starbird says. "It was so fringe we kind of laughed at it. "That was a terrible mistake. We should have been studying it." Starbird argues in a new paper, set to be presented at a computational social-science conference in May, that these "strange clusters" of wild conspiracy talk, when mapped, point to an emerging alternative media ecosystem on the web of surprising power and reach. There are dozens of conspiracy-propagating websites such as beforeitsnews.com, nodisinfo.com and veteranstoday.com. Starbird cataloged 81 of them, linked through a huge community of interest connected by shared followers on Twitter, with many of the tweets replicated by automated bots. Starbird is in the UW's Department of Human Centered Design & Engineering -- the study of the ways people and technology interact. Her team analyzed 58 million tweets sent after mass shootings during a 10-month period. They searched for terms such as "false flag" and "crisis actor," web slang meaning a shooting is not what the government or the traditional media is reporting it to be. Then she analyzed the content of each site to try to answer the question: Just what is this alternative media ecosystem saying? Starbird is publishing her paper as a sort of warning. The information networks we've built are almost perfectly designed to exploit psychological vulnerabilities to rumor. "Your brain tells you 'Hey, I got this from three different sources,'" Starbird says. "But you don't realize it all traces back to the same place, and might have even reached you via bots posing as real people. If we think of this as a virus, I wouldn't know how to vaccinate for it." The report goes on to say that "Starbird says she's concluded, provocatively, that we may be headed toward 'the menace of unreality -- which is that nobody believes anything anymore.'"

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Ivanka Trump To Take Coding Class With 5-Year-Old Daughter
Posted by News Fetcher on March 30 '17 at 02:23 AM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's core-curriculum department:
theodp writes: Speaking about women in STEM at a Women's History Month event at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, new [unpaid] federal employee Ivanka Trump revealed she'll be taking a computer coding class with her 5-year-old daughter. "On a very personal level, as a mom I'm trying to do my part as well," Ivanka told the crowd. "My daughter Arabella and I are enrolling in a coding class this summer." Parroting supermodel Karlie Kloss (the girlfriend of Ivanka's brother-in-law), the first daughter added, "We're excited to learn this incredibly important new language together. Coding truly is the language of the future."

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The Guardian Interviews Valentina Tereshkova, the First Woman In Space
Posted by News Fetcher on March 29 '17 at 11:40 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's fifty-years-later department:
Oxygen99 writes: The Guardian published an interview today with the first woman in space, Valentina Tereshkova, ahead of her forthcoming exhibition at the London Science Museum. An interesting and informal chat with perhaps the most visible and famous living face of the Soviet space program. Here's an excerpt from the interview: "Over 50 years ago, in 1963, Tereshkova became the first woman to go into space, and it was her parachuting experience that qualified her for selection. She was only 26 when she made her one and only space flight, but that feat has defined the rest of her life. It propelled her into the upper reaches of the Soviet elite, and gave her security for life. That elevation though came at a life-long cost: a treadmill of obligations that has lasted more than half a century. Public speaking, accepting honors, roving the world as a citizen-diplomat, being a very visible part of Soviet, and now Russian, public life, are roles that she continues to fulfill to this day. Hence her visit to London for the opening of a display of artifacts linked to her cosmonaut's life. It is one of a series of UK-Russia collaborations, following the hugely successful Russian space exhibition at the museum last year."

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Scientists Discover Way To Transmit Taste of Lemonade Over Internet
Posted by News Fetcher on March 29 '17 at 07:41 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's virtual-lemonade department:
schwit1 quotes a report from VICE: With the use of electrodes and sensors -- and zero lemons -- a group of researchers at the University of Singapore have announced that they can convince you that you're drinking lemonade, even if it's just water. Plus, they can send you a glass of lemonade virtually over the internet. In an experiment that involved 13 tasters, the subjects' taste buds were stimulated using electricity from receiving electrodes; LED lights mimicked a lemony color. Some were convinced that the water they were drinking was, in fact, almost as sour as lemonade. According to researcher Nimesha Ranasinghe, the experiment proved that taste can be shared online: "People are always posting pictures of drinks on social media -- what if you could upload the taste as well? That's the ultimate goal." Each of the subjects was given a tumbler filled with a liquid that was either cloudy white, green, or yellow. They were told to place their tongues on the rim of the tumbler before sipping. Then they took a taste and rated the beverage on appearance and taste. Some of the liquids were plain water and some were lemonade. "We're working on a full virtual cocktail with smell, taste, and color all covered. We want to be able to create any drink." Why would anyone want to drink a virtual lemonade? Advocates of virtual eating say that virtual foods can replace foods that are bad for you, that you may be allergic to, or that you shouldn't eat because of a medical condition.

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FCC To Halt Expansion of Broadband Subsidies For Poor People
Posted by News Fetcher on March 29 '17 at 06:22 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's short-end-of-the-stick department:
FCC Chairman Ajit Pai announced today that the FCC will be "dropping its legal defense of a new system for expanding broadband subsidies for poor people, and will not approve applications from companies that want to offer the low-income broadband service," reports Ars Technica. The Lifeline program, which has been around for 32 years and "gives poor people $9.25 a month toward communications services," was voted to be expanded last year under FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler. That expansion will now be halted. Ars Technica reports: Pai's decision won't prevent Lifeline subsidies from being used toward broadband, but it will make it harder for ISPs to gain approval to sell the subsidized plans. Last year's decision enabled the FCC to approve new Lifeline Broadband Providers nationwide so that ISPs would not have to seek approval from each state's government. Nine providers were approved under the new system late in former FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler's term, but Pai rescinded those approvals in February. There are 36 pending applications from ISPs before the commission's Wireline Competition Bureau. However, Pai wrote today, "I do not believe that the Bureau should approve these applications." He argues that only state governments have authority from Congress to approve such applications. When defending his decision to revoke Lifeline approvals for the nine companies, Pai said last month that more than 900 Lifeline providers were not affected. But most of those were apparently offering subsidized telephone service only and not subsidized broadband. Currently, more than 3.5 million Americans are receiving subsidized broadband through Lifeline from 259 eligible providers, Pai said in today's statement. About 99.6 percent of Americans who get subsidized broadband through Lifeline buy it from one of the companies that received certification "through a lawful process," Pai wrote. The remaining 0.4 percent apparently need to switch providers or lose service because of Pai's February decision. Only one ISP had already started providing the subsidized service under the new approval, and it was ordered to notify its customers that they can no longer receive Lifeline discounts. Pai's latest action would prevent new providers from gaining certification in multiple states at once, forcing them to go through each state's approval process separately. Existing providers that want to expand to multiple states would have to complete the same state-by-state process.

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Verizon To Force 'AppFlash' Spyware On Android Phones
Posted by News Fetcher on March 29 '17 at 06:22 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's tough-sell department:
saccade.com writes: Verizon is joining with the creators of a tool called "Evie Launcher" to make a new app search/launcher tool called AppFlash, which will be installed on all Verizon phones running Android. The app provides no functionality to users beyond what Google Search does. It does, however, give Verizon a steady stream of metrics on your app usage and searches. A quick glance at the AppFlash privacy policy confirms this is the real purpose behind it: "We collect information about your device and your use of the AppFlash services. This information includes your mobile number, device identifiers, device type and operating system, and information about the AppFlash features and services you use and your interactions with them. We also access information about the list of apps you have on your device. [...] AppFlash information may be shared within the Verizon family of companies, including companies like AOL who may use it to help provide more relevant advertising within the AppFlash experiences and in other places, including non-Verizon sites, services and devices."

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Westinghouse Files For Bankruptcy, In Blow To Nuclear Power
Posted by News Fetcher on March 29 '17 at 05:03 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's running-behind-schedule department:
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Reuters: Westinghouse Electric Co, a unit of Japanese conglomerate Toshiba Corp, filed for bankruptcy on Wednesday, hit by billions of dollars of cost overruns at four nuclear reactors under construction in the U.S. Southeast. The bankruptcy casts doubt on the future of the first new U.S. nuclear power plants in three decades, which were scheduled to begin producing power as soon as this week, but are now years behind schedule. The four reactors are part of two projects known as V.C. Summer in South Carolina, which is majority owned by SCANA Corp, and Vogtle in Georgia, which is owned by a group of utilities led by Southern Co. Costs for the projects have soared due to increased safety demands by U.S. regulators, and also due to significantly higher-than-anticipated costs for labor, equipment and components. Pittsburgh-based Westinghouse said it hopes to use bankruptcy to isolate and reorganize around its "very profitable" nuclear fuel and power plant servicing businesses from its money-losing construction operation. Westinghouse said in a court filing it has secured $800 million in financing from Apollo Investment Corp, an affiliate of Apollo Global Management, to fund its core businesses during its reorganization. Westinghouse's nuclear services business is expected to continue to perform profitably over the course of the bankruptcy and eventually be sold by Toshiba, people familiar with the matter said. When regulators in Georgia and South Carolina approved the construction of Westinghouse's AP1000 reactors in 2009, it was meant to be the start of renewed push to develop U.S. nuclear power. However, a flood of cheap natural gas from shale, the lack of U.S. legislation to curb carbon emissions and the 2011 Fukushima nuclear accident in Japan dampened enthusiasm for nuclear power. Toshiba had acquired Westinghouse in 2006 for $5.4 billion. It expected to build dozens of its new AP1000 reactors -- which were hailed as safer, quicker to construct and more compact -- creating a pipeline of work for its maintenance division.

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