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Tech Firm Sigfox Develops Tiny Tracker To Help Fight Rhino Poaching
Posted by News Fetcher on December 27 '18 at 09:41 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's how-about-that department:
French tech company Sigfox has developed a bite-size tracker that can be inserted into the horns of rhinos to help conservationists monitor and protect the endangered species. From a report: With the dramatic decline of animal species in the past century mostly due to poaching and urban expansion, wildlife organizations have turned to technology to help safeguard species being pushed towards extinction. The global number of rhinos dwindled to about 20,000 a decade ago due to relentless poaching, though they have rebounded to about 29,000 thanks to conservation efforts. Cameras, infrared and motion sensors, electronic bracelets and drones have been used over the years to protect endangered species, but have at times been limited by vast distances and limited resources in the countries concerned. Sigfox, known for building networks that link objects to the internet, has developed sensors able to give the exact location of rhinos using the firm's network over a longer period of time. [...] The sensors can alert park rangers when rhinos approach an area identified as particularly dangerous due to previous instances of poaching. Combined with other warning sensors, they can be used to get rescue teams to the location in real time.

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Users Report Losing Bitcoin in Clever Hack of Electrum Wallets
Posted by News Fetcher on December 27 '18 at 08:21 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's security-woes department:
A hacker -- or potentially a group of hackers -- has made over 200 Bitcoin (circa $750,000 at today's exchange) using a clever attack on the infrastructure of the Electrum Bitcoin wallet over the last one week. From a report: The attack resulted in legitimate Electrum wallet apps showing a message on users' computers, urging them to download a malicious wallet update from an unauthorized GitHub repository. The attack began last week on Friday, December 21, and appears to have been temporarily stopped earlier today after GitHub admins took down the hacker's GitHub repository. Admins of the Electrum wallet expect a new attack to soon get underway, with either a new GitHub repo or a link to another download location altogether. This is because the vulnerability at the heart of this attack has remained unpatched, albeit Electrum wallet admins taking steps to mitigate its usability for the attacker.

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Here's What 2019 Holds For Paint.NET
Posted by News Fetcher on December 27 '18 at 08:21 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's up-next department:
The developer of the popular image editing tool Paint.NET, Rick Brewster, has shared his vision of what the coming year holds for his software. The 2019 roadmap for Paint.NET is an exciting one, promising migration to .NET Core, support for brushes and pressure sensitivity, and an expanded plugin system.

BetaNews: Changes are on the cards for app icons and improved high-DPI support -- something that may be seen as mere aesthetic by some, but important changes by others. Switching to .NET Core could have big implications for the software, as Brewter explains: "It's clear that, in the long-term, Paint.NET needs to migrate over to .NET Core. That's where all of the improvements and bug fixes are being made, and it's obvious that the .NET Framework is now in maintenance mode. On the engineering side this is mostly a packaging and deployment puzzle of balancing download size amongst several other variables. My initial estimations shows that the download size for Paint.NET could balloon from ~7.5MB (today) to north of 40MB if .NET Core is packaged 'locally'. That's a big sticker shock... but it may just be necessary."

And, for those who're interested: the move to .NET Core will finally enable a truly portable version of Paint.NET since. Proposals for better DDS support and brushes and pressure sensitivity will be welcomed by digital artists, and there can be few users who are not excited at the prospect of an expanded plugin system.

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Slashdot Asks: Your Favorite Movies and TV Shows of 2018?
Posted by News Fetcher on December 27 '18 at 07:00 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's time-to-reflect department:
Several remarkable movies and shows hit the theaters and TV this year. We had "First Man", "Black Panther", new "Incredibles", "Avengers: Infinity War", more "Star Wars" and "Mission: Impossible" hit the cinemas. On TV, we saw the conclusion of "The Americans", continuation of "Westworld" on HBO, and "Homecoming" arrive on Amazon Prime Video. "Money Heist" on Netflix, "Barry" on HBO, and "Detectorists" on AcornTV garnered good reviews from critics, too. What did you like this year?

Also in this year-ender series: Slashdot Asks: What Are Some Good Books You Read This Year?

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No More Paperwork: Estonia Edges Toward Digital Government
Posted by News Fetcher on December 27 '18 at 04:21 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's marching-forward department:
In the Estonian capital of Tallinn, three-day-old Oskar Lunde sleeps soundly in his hospital cot, snuggled into a lime green blanket decorated with red butterflies. Across the room, his father turns on a laptop. "Now we will register our child," Andrejs Lunde says with gravity as he inserts his ID card into the card reader. His wife, Olga, looks on proudly. And just like that, Oskar is Estonia's newest citizen. No paper. No fuss.

From a report: This Baltic nation of 1.3 million people is engaged in an ambitious project to make government administration completely digital to reduce bureaucracy, increase transparency and boost economic growth. As more countries shift their services online, Estonia's experiment offers a glimpse of how interacting with the state might be for future generations. Need a prescription? It's online. Need someone at City Hall? No lines there -- or even at the Department of Motor Vehicles! On the school front, parents can see whether their children's homework was done on time.

Estonia has created one platform that supports electronic authentication and digital signatures to enable paperless communications across both the private and public sectors. There are still a few things that you can't do electronically in Estonia: marry, divorce or transfer property -- and that's only because the government has decided it was important to turn up in person for some big life events. This spring, government aims to go even further. If Oskar had been born a few months later, he would have been registered automatically, with his parents receiving an email welcoming him into the nation.

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Hospital Prices Are About To Go Public in the US
Posted by News Fetcher on December 27 '18 at 03:00 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's up-next department:
Prices hospitals charge for their services will all go online Jan. 1 under a new federal requirement, but patient advocates say the realities of medical-industry pricing will make it difficult for consumers to get much out of the new data. From a report: A federal rule requires all hospitals to post online a master list of prices for the services they provide so consumers can review them starting Jan. 1. The health care industry nationally has a reputation for having little price transparency, which can make it difficult for consumers to price compare. But the hospital's master list prices, sometimes called a chargemaster, is also not a complete look, consumer advocates say. That's because the final bill a patient receives is almost never the same as the sticker price for the services they received. Insurance companies negotiate discounts on the sticker prices. Co-pays, co-insurance, deductibles also add other layers of complexity that bring discounts or increased costs before a final charge is determined.

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Banana Pi 24-Core ARM Server Running Ubuntu Breaks Cover
Posted by News Fetcher on December 26 '18 at 11:00 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's up-next department:
MojoKid writes: ARM-based server processors have threatened to take on Intel in the data center for some time but not much has materialized thus far in terms of significant deployments. However, a new breed of low cost ARM server implementations may be in the works with a many-core platform called Banana Pi. The latest Banana Pi device being teased is something very different in the form of a 24-core ARM server that speculation suggests might be sold as a Banana Pi server board or as a finished server product.

A video has surfaced that reportedly shows a 24-core ARM Cortex-A53 processor with 32GB of RAM, though the OS only sees 29.4GB of that RAM. The OS is Ubuntu 18.04.1 LTS with MATE desktop. Unless the processor used in this device is something unannounced, and that seems unlikely, the chip itself would likely be a SocioNext SC2A11. The same processor is used in the Linaro Developer Box. The demo shows the server fully loaded at 100% CPU utilization building a Linux kernel and reportedly the system also supports NVMe storage as well as TensorFlow workloads for machine learning. Not much else is known about the system at this time but it's an interesting development in the Linux server space to be sure.

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India Curbs Power of Amazon and Walmart To Sell Products Online
Posted by News Fetcher on December 26 '18 at 05:41 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's tussle-continues department:
The Indian government dealt a surprise blow on Wednesday to the e-commerce ambitions of Amazon and Walmart, effectively barring the American companies from selling products supplied by affiliated companies on their Indian shopping sites and from offering their customers special discounts or exclusive products. From a report: If strictly interpreted, the new policies could force significant changes in the India strategies of the retail giants. Amazon might have to stop competing with independent sellers and end its offerings of proprietary products like its Echo smart speakers in India, its top emerging market. For Walmart, which spent $16 billion this year to buy 77 percent of Flipkart, India's leading online retailer, the new rules could hamper its strategy of selling clothing and other products under its own private brands and prevent it from using its supply-chain expertise and clout with retailers to drive down prices for Indian consumers.

[...] The government posted the changes, which go into effect Feb. 1, without warning on Wednesday evening in New Delhi, while much of the business world in both countries was on vacation. [...] Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India initially courted foreign companies to invest more in the country after his 2014 election victory, but his administration has turned protectionist as his party's re-election prospects have dimmed in recent months. Mr. Modi has increasingly sought to bolster Indian firms and curb foreign ones through new policies, including one that requires foreign companies like Visa, Mastercard and American Express to store all data about Indians on computers inside the country.

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A Man Spent $5,000 of His Own Money To Put Zimbabwe on Street View
Posted by News Fetcher on December 26 '18 at 04:21 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's how-about-that department:
Zimbabwe is too far for many people to visit, but 37-year-old Tawanda Kanhema grew up there before moving to the United States. Thanks to Kanhema, though, you'll soon be able to play virtual tourist, thanks to his work and the magic of Google Street View.

From a report: Kanhema, who left the country to study journalism and documentary film-making at the University of California, Berkeley, spent two weeks back in Zimbabwe shooting the sights and sounds of the coolest places. Areas he covered include the capital's Harare's central business districts, malls, a virtual tour of Victoria Falls, Christmas Pass, the city of Mutare's main business strip as well as the Great Zimbabwe monument and the Eastern Highlands. He's uploaded over 500 miles of coverage, including Street View images uploaded during October and November. It's a lot to pack in, especially over a mere two weeks, but Kanhema got it done with a custom off-the-shelf kit of cameras consisting of the Insta360 Pro 2 and a GoPro Fusion. He particularly liked the Pro 2, which is Street View ready -- meaning he could publish footage to the platform right after shooting it.

CNET:So tell me more about you and why you decided to embark on such a project.
Kanhema: I grew up in Zimbabwe and went to school at the University of California, Berkeley where I studied journalism and documentary film-making. I currently work as a product manager in San Francisco, building news applications and internal tools for newsrooms. I have a background in journalism and documentary photography, so visual storytelling has always been close to my heart and I see a lot of opportunities for storytelling on the Street View platform.

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Colin O'Brady Completes Historic Antarctic Crossing
Posted by News Fetcher on December 26 '18 at 03:01 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's pushing-the-limits department:
The final miles of a nearly two-month race across Antarctica -- a lonely effort marked by long days, short nights and stunning endurance -- ended Wednesday with a sprint to the finish.

From a report: Adventurer Colin O'Brady on Wednesday accomplished what he had dubbed "the Impossible First," becoming the first person to complete a solo, unsupported crossing of Antarctica. With a push of 32 hours after leaving his last camp on Christmas morning, the 33-year-old American reached the edge of the Ross Ice Shelf on Day 54 of his expedition. He had covered almost 80 miles since his last sleep. Briton Lou Rudd, who set off the same day -- Nov. 3 -- on the same quest, on Wednesday had about 70 miles left, according to his expedition's tracking map. It estimated a finish on Saturday.

The full trek is about 935 miles. O'Brady's Instagram post from the finish post read in part: "While the last 32 hours were some of the most challenging hours of my life, they have quite honestly been some of the best moments I have ever experienced. I was locked in a deep flow state the entire time, equally focused on the end goal, while allowing my mind to recount the profound lessons of this journey." O'Brady had reached the South Pole on Dec. 12, a day ahead of Rudd.

The New York Times story adds: To some following his progress, his decision was unnerving. Under intense stress, the line between lucidity and madness can be fuzzy, and especially so for someone who has been alone for almost two months, trekking miles each day, while doing battle with raging winds, unseasonal snowfall, whiteout visibility and polar temperatures. Could someone in that situation, exhausted and emaciated, be trusted to make sound choices?

< article continued at Slashdot's pushing-the-limits department >

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'Two Years Later, I Still Miss the Headphone Port'
Posted by News Fetcher on December 26 '18 at 01:41 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's in-hindsight department:
An anonymous reader shares a column: I've been trying to figure out why the removal of the headphone port bugs me more than other ports that have been unceremoniously killed off, and I think it's because the headphone port almost always only made me happy. Using the headphone port meant listening to my favorite album, or using a free minute to catch the latest episode of a show, or passing an earbud to a friend to share some new tune. It enabled happy moments and never got in the way.

Now every time I want to use my headphones, I just find myself annoyed. Bluetooth? Whoops, forgot to charge them. Or whoops, they're trying to pair with my laptop even though my laptop is turned off and in my backpack. Dongle? Whoops, left it on my other pair of headphones at work. Or whoops, it fell off somewhere, and now I've got to go buy another one. I'll just buy a bunch of dongles, and put them on all my headphones! I'll keep extras in my bag for when I need to borrow a pair of headphones. That's just like five dongles at this point, problem solved! Oh, wait: now I want to listen to music while I fall asleep, but also charge my phone so it's not dead in the morning. That's a different, more expensive splitter dongle (many of which, I've found, are poorly made garbage).

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Tech is Killing Street Food
Posted by News Fetcher on December 26 '18 at 12:21 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's closer-look department:
In San Francisco and Bangalore, street-vendor unions and nonprofits are helping informal food workers eke out a living -- but their future is still uncertain. From a report: Bangalore and the Bay Area have a lot in common. They are the tech centers of the world's second- and third-most-populous countries, respectively, and they both sometimes feel like they're bursting at the seams. Some economists argue that when tech companies move to cities with rigid housing markets, the value of real wages goes down as the cost of living jumps. [...] In both places, many street vendors are migrants -- Bangalore's come from other parts of India, while in the Bay Area many hail from Latin America. They and their livelihoods offer a warning about the fate of immigrant service labor in the tech economy: When space is at a premium, the high-profile, high-margin industries tend to take it up, while the low-paid, already precarious jobs that keep them humming are threatened.

< article continued at Slashdot's closer-look department >

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AI Automatically Sorts Cancer Cells
Posted by News Fetcher on December 26 '18 at 12:21 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's marching-forward department:
Researchers have developed an artificial intelligence system that can automatically differentiate between different types of cancer cells and their sensitivity to radiotherapy. From a report: A team of researchers in Japan have devised an artificial intelligence (AI) system that can identify different types of cancer cells using microscopy images. Their method can also be used to determine whether the cancer cells are sensitive to radiotherapy. The researchers reported their findings in the journal Cancer Research. In cancer patients, there can be tremendous variation in the types of cancer cells in a single tumor. Identifying the specific cell types present in tumors can be very useful when choosing the most effective treatment. However, making accurate assessments of cell types is time consuming and often hampered by human error and the limits of human sight. To overcome these challenges, scientists led by Professor Hideshi Ishii of Osaka University, Japan, have developed an AI system that can identify different types of cancer cells from microscopy images, achieving higher accuracy than human judgement.

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NYPL's Chief Digital Officer Says Public is Better off When Libraries Are 'Risk Averse' About Tech
Posted by News Fetcher on December 26 '18 at 11:01 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's bigger-picture department:
New York Public Library's Tony Ageh was recently in Seattle to talk about libraries' digital transformation. Ageh made the point that tech now permeates pretty much all of a library's operations, from ebooks and article databases, to systems for checking out materials and tracking fines. Still, don't look for your library to be on the bleeding edge of digital.

From a report: "What I previously imagined was a weakness I think is a strength, which is that libraries have been very reluctant to move too quickly and have allowed the marketplace and allowed other organizations to kind of prove things work before libraries have taken the plunge," said Ageh, who before joining NYPL oversaw internet and archive efforts at the BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation).

"I think that has actually inoculated us against waste or harmful behavior." That kind of fad-or-trend, wait-and-see behavior appears to generally suit libraries well. "Librarians are incredibly risk averse," he said. "I think they do care very much about patrons and about the impact that their work does, and so we're very unlikely to take a chance when we're dealing with public money and when we're dealing with patrons; we have a personal relationship with them."

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Artificial General Intelligence is Nowhere Close To Being a Reality
Posted by News Fetcher on December 26 '18 at 09:41 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's reality-check department:
Three decades ago, David Rumelhart, Geoffrey Hinton, and Ronald Williams wrote about a foundational weight-calculating technique -- backpropagation -- in a monumental paper titled "Learning Representations by Back-propagating Errors." Backpropagation, aided by increasingly cheaper, more robust computer hardware, has enabled monumental leaps in computer vision, natural language processing, machine translation, drug design, and material inspection, where some deep neural networks (DNNs) have produced results superior to human experts. Looking at the advances we have made to date, can DNNs be the harbinger of superintelligent robots? From a report: Demis Hassabis doesn't believe so -- and he would know. He's the cofounder of DeepMind, a London-based machine learning startup founded with the mission of applying insights from neuroscience and computer science toward the creation of artificial general intelligence (AGI) -- in other words, systems that could successfully perform any intellectual task that a human can. "There's still much further to go," he told VentureBeat at the NeurIPS 2018 conference in Montreal in early December. "Games or board games are quite easy in some ways because the transition model between states is very well-specified and easy to learn. Real-world 3D environments and the real world itself is much more tricky to figure out ... but it's important if you want to do planning."

< article continued at Slashdot's reality-check department >

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Whale Shark Tourism Harms Coral Reefs
Posted by News Fetcher on December 26 '18 at 08:21 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's closer-look department:
Scientists in Hong Kong, the Philippines and Guam have found that whale shark tourism in Tan-awan, Oslob, the Philippines, has led to degradation of the local coral reef ecosystem. They reported their findings in Environmental Management. From a report: Oslob, a small municipality on the south coast of Cebu, the Philippines, has become a domestic and international tourism hotspot since 2011, attracting over 300,000 visitors to the village of Tan-awan in 2015. The mass tourism phenomenon is fueled by the year-round presence of whale sharks along the local shallow reef. This unusual aggregation is maintained by the local tourism association feeding the whale sharks with up to 50 tons of shrimps annually.

In this study, scientists from the University of Hong Kong (HKU), the University of Guam, and the Large Marine Vertebrates Research Institute Philippines (LAMAVE) have demonstrated that whale shark tourism has had a detrimental effect on the local reef ecosystem off the coast of Tan-awan. They found that Tan-awan had higher macroalgae and lower coral density, as well as a less diverse coral community dominated by weedy corals and stress-tolerant corals, in comparison to a reference site further south of the coast.

[...] The researchers added that reef degradation in Tan-awan requires immediate attention, given that reef health underpins the ecosystem services afforded to the local communities, including the important tourism sector. As whale shark tourism is projected to grow continuously in the foreseeable future, the research team urges the need for local authorities to implement proper management strategies to mitigate the problems and risks associated with the rapid tourism development.

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Hacker Steals Ten Years Worth of Data From San Diego School District
Posted by News Fetcher on December 26 '18 at 08:21 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's security-woes department:
A hacker has stolen the personal details of over 500,000 San Diego Unified School District staff and students, the district revealed in a breach notice posted on its website Friday. From a report: The breach occurred because the attacker gained access to staff credentials via a tactic known as phishing -- sending authentic-looking emails that redirect users to fake login pages were attackers collect login credentials. The attack didn't go unnoticed. Some staff reported the funny-looking emails to IT staff, who investigated and eventually discovered the breach in October this year. District officials said the hacker had access to its network between January 2018 and November 1, 2018, but that he stole student and staff data going back to the 2008-2009 school year.

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Android TV Now Claiming Over 100 Pay TV Operator Partners Worldwide
Posted by News Fetcher on December 26 '18 at 07:00 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's for-the-record department:
Google's Android TV platform has now been deployed by more than 100 pay TV operators around the world, the technology's top product manager told news outlet MCN. From a report: According to Shalini Govil-Pai, senior director of product management for Android TV, the platform designed to provide access to over-the-top apps on digital video players, is now being used by "tens of millions" of consumers, primarily in Europe and Asia. Govil-Pai said that around half of Android TV users are derived from the platform's operator partners. The open Android TV platform allows operator subscribers to access the Google Play store for popular apps, including Netflix and YouTube, as well as more niche OTT services, such as virtual MVPD Philo, which just launched an app for the platform.

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Top Amazon Boss Privately Advised US Government on Web Portal Worth Billions To Tech Firm
Posted by News Fetcher on December 26 '18 at 04:20 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's tussle-continues department:
A top Amazon executive privately advised the Trump administration on the launch of a new internet portal that is expected to generate billions of dollars for the technology company and give it a dominant role in how the US government buys everything from paper clips to office chairs. From a report: Emails seen by the Guardian show that the Amazon executive Anne Rung communicated with a top official at the Government Services Authority (GSA) about the approach the government would take to create the new portal, even before the legislation that created it -- known to its critics as the "Amazon amendment" -- was signed into law late last year. Amazon and the Trump administration appear to have an antagonistic relationship because of the president's frequent Twitter attacks on the Amazon founder, Jeff Bezos, who also owns the Washington Post. But the behind-the-scenes lobbying by Amazon officials underscores how the company has quietly amassed an unrivalled position of power with the federal government.

The 2017 correspondence between Rung -- a former official in the Obama administration credited with transforming the federal government's procurement policies before she joined Amazon -- and Mary Davie at the GSA, offers new insights into how Amazon has used key former government officials it now employs -- directly and as consultants -- to gain influence and potentially shape lucrative government contracts. It has not yet been determined which companies will build the US government's new e-commerce portal, but Amazon is widely expected to take on a dominant role, giving it a major foothold in the $53bn market for federal procurement of commercial products.

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Japan Announces Withdrawal From International Whaling Commission, To Resume Commercial Whaling
Posted by News Fetcher on December 25 '18 at 09:41 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's stranger-things department:
Japan is withdrawing from the International Whaling Commission (IWC) and will resume commercial whaling next year, a government spokesman said on Wednesday, in a move expected to spark international criticism. From a report: "We have decided to withdraw from the International Whaling Commission in order to resume commercial whaling in July next year," top government spokesman Yoshihide Suga told reporters. "Commercial whaling to be resumed from July next year will be limited to Japan's territorial waters and exclusive economic zones. We will not hunt in the Antarctic waters or in the southern hemisphere," Mr Suga added.

The announcement had been widely expected and comes after Japan failed in a bid earlier this year to convince the IWC to allow it to resume commercial whaling. Tokyo has repeatedly threatened to pull out of the body and has been regularly criticised for catching hundreds of whales a year for "scientific research" despite being a signatory to a moratorium on hunting the animals. Mr Suga said Japan would officially inform the IWC of its decision by the end of the year, which will mean the withdrawal comes into effect by June 30. Leaving the IWC means Japanese whalers will be able to resume the hunting in Japanese coastal waters of minke and other whales currently protected by the commission. But Japan will not be able to continue the so-called scientific research hunts in the Antarctic that has been exceptionally allowed as an IWC member under the Antarctic Treaty.

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