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Massive Lithium Ion Battery Fire/Explosion Shows Challenges of Renewable Energy Storage
Posted by News Fetcher on June 30 '19 at 01:11 PM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's explosive-charges department:
Pursuing a renewable energy strategy, Arizona's largest electric company "installed massive batteries near neighborhoods with a large number of solar panels, hoping to capture some of the energy from the afternoon sun to use after dark," reports the Associated Press.

Slashdot reader pgmrdlm shares their report on what happened next:
But an April fire and explosion at a massive battery west of Phoenix that sent eight firefighters and a police officer to the hospital highlighted the challenges and risks that can arise as utilities prepare for the exponential growth of the technology. With an investigation ongoing and no public word on the fire's cause, the incident is being closely watched by energy storage researchers and advocates... "Absent battery storage, the whole value proposition of intermittent renewable energy makes no sense at all," said Donald Sadoway, a battery researcher at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and co-founder of battery storage company Ambri...

Nearly all of the utility-scale batteries now on the grid or in development are massive versions of the same lithium ion technology that powers cellphones and laptops... Arizona Public Service (APS) has assembled a team of engineers, safety experts and first responders to work with the utility, battery-maker Fluence and others to carefully remove and inspect the 378 modules that comprise the McMicken battery system and figure out what happened....

The APS fire was the third involving a utility-scale battery. One was at an APS-owned battery in Flagstaff in 2012, and the other was in Hawaii. APS has shut down its two similar batteries while awaiting the investigation's results, but the utility is not slowing down its plans to deploy new massive batteries, said Alan Bunnell, a company spokesman. "We believe energy storage is vital to a clean energy future here in Arizona," Bunnell said.

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AMD Cites 'Factual Errors', 'Omissions' in Critical Report on Its China Venture
Posted by News Fetcher on June 30 '19 at 01:11 PM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's blogging-rebuttals department:
Thursday the Wall Street Journal wrote a piece about AMD's joint venture with Chinese holding coming THATIC -- titled "How a Big U.S. Chip Maker Gave China the 'Keys to the Kingdom'." The article argues that AMD "essentially granted China access to advanced processor IP that could be used to threaten U.S. national security," reports Forbes.

But they add that the same day, AMD executive Harry Wolin wrote an angry blog post in response, complaining that the story "contains several factual errors and omissions and does not portray an accurate picture." Forbes reports:
From Wolin's post, "Starting in 2015, AMD diligently and proactively briefed the Department of Defense, the Department of Commerce and multiple other agencies within the U.S. Government before entering into the joint ventures. AMD received no objections whatsoever from any agency to the formation of the joint ventures or to the transfer of technology -- technology which was of lower performance than other commercially available processors. In fact, prior to the formation of the joint ventures and the transfer of technology, the Department of Commerce notified AMD that the technology proposed was not restricted or otherwise prohibited from being transferred. Given this clear feedback, AMD moved ahead with the joint ventures."

Not only does AMD claim it had the green light from multiple government entities to enter into the deal, the post claims that the WSJ article is simply wrong. "The Wall Street Journal story omits important factual details, including the fact that AMD put significant protections in place to protect its intellectual property (IP) and prevent valuable IP from being misused or reverse engineered to develop future generations of processors."

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Inside the Race To (finally) Bring Pinball Into the Internet Age
Posted by News Fetcher on June 30 '19 at 01:11 PM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's high-scores-in-the-cloud department:
harrymcc writes: Jay Adelson, the cofounder of Digg, has a new, deeply personal startup: Scorbit. It aims to connect existing pinball machines to the internet, giving them networked leaderboards, compatibility with smartphone apps, and other newfangled features. But Scorbit faces a major competitor in Stern, the pinball giant whose new Spike platform is attempting to introduce similar functionality. Over at Fast Company, Jared Newman reports on the dueling systems and the general pinball resurgence now underway.
The COO of a pinball parts supplier tells Fast Company that "People are just saturated with the internet. They don't want to look at screens anymore for entertainment, but they want to be entertained, so they want something physical. Pinball ticks all the boxes there."

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Bitcoin's 10-Minute, $1,800 Plunge Wednesday Shows Its Volatility
Posted by News Fetcher on June 30 '19 at 01:11 PM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's bitcoin-bears department:
An anonymous reader quotes Bloomberg News:
Bitcoin soared as much as 39% this week to $13,852, the highest since January 2018. But it hit a brick wall around 4:30 p.m. New York time Wednesday, plunging more than $1,800 within about 10 minutes. Moments later, prominent cryptocurrency exchange Coinbase Inc. reported a system outage, which was resolved after an hour. Swings continued Thursday, with the coin anywhere from down 7.3% to up 4.8%... Volatility in Bitcoin is near the highest levels since early 2018, when the bubble was bursting. Analysts said this was likely a sign of things to come.
It was just last Saturday that the price of bitcoin surged past $11,000 -- less than 24 hours after rising past $10,000. (Right now it's within $50 of $12,000.)

But another Bloomberg article notes that the price of Bitcoin tends to spike on weekends (when the traditional stock exchanges are closed), and that those spikes since just the beginning of May accounted for nearly 40% of Bitcoin's price gains in 2019. One pundit tells them it "takes a lot less to move the needle when everyone's sleeping or it's the weekend."

That rang true to Bloomberg Intelligence analyst Mike McGlone. "It is more Asia and those more sophisticated traders picking time and paths of least resistance to profit," said McGlone. "I fully expect the leveraged money professional-types are utilizing all tools to spark moves and profit from."

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'Retro Games' Announces A New Commodore 64
Posted by News Fetcher on June 29 '19 at 01:11 PM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's back-to-the-future department:
Long-time Slashdot reader cshamis tipped us off to this story in HotHardware:

It is official, folks -- Retro Games is releasing a full-size retro reboot of the original Commodore 64, called TheC64, on December 5...

Of course, modern amenities abound for this reboot. TheC64 can connect to any modern TV via HDMI, to deliver "crisp 720p HD visuals" at 60Hz (USA) or 50Hz (Europe). It also comes with an updated joystick featuring 8 buttons, micro switches, and USB connectivity. It bears a passing resemblance to the original, but with additional bells and whistles. TheC64 will arrive with 64 games preinstalled, including titles such as California Games, Destroyer, Impossible Mission (1 and 2), Monty on the Run, Speedball 2, and many others... [P]layers will be able to add more games from a USB memory stick (not included).
The original Commodore 64 is widely considered the best-selling single-model PC of all time. Estimates have sales pegged at somewhere between 10-17 million units.

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Microsoft Claims Unauthorized Repairing of Its Devices Would Be a Security Risk
Posted by News Fetcher on June 29 '19 at 11:51 AM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's please-trust-nobody department:
In comments submitted to America's Federal Trade Commission, Microsoft says repairing its devices could jeopardize protections from the Trusted Platform Module (TPM) security chip.

"Don't believe them," argues a group of information security professionals who support the right to repair. Slashdot reader chicksdaddy quotes their report:

The statement was submitted ahead of Nixing the Fix, an FTC workshop on repair restrictions that is scheduled for mid-July... "The unauthorized repair and replacement of device components can result in the disabling of key hardware security features or can impede the update of firmware that is important to device security or system integrity," Microsoft wrote... "If the TPM or other hardware or software protections were compromised by a malicious or unqualified repair vendor, those security protections would be rendered ineffective and consumers' data and control of the device would be at risk. Moreover, a security breach of one device can potentially compromise the security of a platform or other devices connected to the network...."

As we know: Firms like Microsoft, Lexmark, LG, Samsung and others use arguments like this all the time and then not too subtly imply that their authorized repair professionals are more trustworthy and honest than independent competitors. But that's just hot air. They have no data to back up those assertions and there's no way that their repair technicians are more trustworthy than owners, themselves...

< article continued at Slashdot's please-trust-nobody department >

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German Scientists Say Spinach Should Be Banned In Sports
Posted by News Fetcher on June 29 '19 at 11:51 AM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's prohibiting-Popeye department:
Thelasko quotes a surprising CNN story about spinach: A study released by Freie Universitat Berlin suggests that ecdysterone, a chemical found in the leafy green vegetable, has a similar effect to steroids and should be added to the list of substances banned in sport, CNN affiliate RTL reported. The researchers ran a study involving 46 athletes who trained three times per week for 10 weeks. Some were given ecdysterone and others a placebo. Those who took ecdysterone saw their performance improve by three times as much as those who did not...

Co-author Francesco Botre, director of the Italian anti-doping agency (FMSI), told CNN that the team are now investigating ways to test for ecdysterone. Anti-doping agencies are currently not allowed to test for ecdysterone because it isn't on the list of banned substances, he explained. This, combined with its greater than expected effect on performance, is a worry. "It's very powerful because it's invisible," said Botre. "It's not on the list."

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Performance-Enhancing Bacteria Has a Symbiotic Relationship With Athletes
Posted by News Fetcher on June 29 '19 at 11:51 AM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's beneficial-bacteria department:
Long-time Slashdot reader tomhath shares some big bacteria news from Harvard Medical School:
Researchers from Joslin Diabetes Center determined Veillonella metabolizes lactic acid produced by exercise and converts it into propionate, a short chain fatty acid. The human body then utilizes that propionate to improve exercise capacity...
"It creates this positive feedback loop. The host is producing something that this particular microbe favors. Then in return, the microbe is creating something that benefits the host," Aleksandar D. Kostic Ph.D. says. "This is a really important example of how the microbiome has evolved ways to become this symbiotic presence in the human host."

By Friday, CNBC was reporting their research "could lead to a probiotic-like supplement that 'regular joes' could use to enhance their performance in a few years."
"The future of fitness is here and it's something that we're rapidly developing," Jonathan Scheiman, former Harvard postdoctoral fellow and CEO and co-founder of FitBiomics, tells CNBC Make It. "We want to translate this into consumer products to promote health and wellness [to the masses]..."
[The researchers] found the mice given Veillonella ran 13% longer on a treadmill compared to mice who were not given the bacteria. "It might not seem like a huge number, but I definitely think its biologically significant and certainly if you ask a marathon runner, if they could increase their running ability by 13% -- I think that they will be generally interested," Aleksandar Kostic, co-author of the study and an assistant professor of microbiology at the Joslin Diabetes Center tells CNBC Make It.

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Trump Relaxes US Ban On Selling To Huawei In Surprise G20 Concession
Posted by News Fetcher on June 29 '19 at 10:31 AM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's maybe-not department:
hackingbear tipped us off to a breaking news story.
CNN reports:
US President Donald Trump has appeared to soften his tone on Chinese communications giant Huawei, suggesting that he would allow the company to once again purchase U.S. technology. Speaking at a press conference in Osaka, Saturday, Trump said that the U.S. sells a "tremendous amount of product" to Huawei. "That's okay, we will keep selling that product," said Trump. "The (U.S.) companies were not exactly happy that they couldn't sell."

Forbes points out "While it's not a lifting of the blanket ban, it will significantly benefit the Chinese manufacturer."

ZDNet reports:
This news just broke with comments made by Trump, including "U.S. companies can sell their equipment to Huawei. We're talking about equipment where there's no great national security problem with it." The details of this statement are still pending, but it is likely that 5G infrastructure equipment may still not be part of this access deal while the smartphone segment may be where we see open access.

One Daily Beast contributor argues the action "appears to be a surrender to publicly issued Chinese demands."

But TechCrunch writes that "any mutual trust has been broken and things are unlikely to be the same again."

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Boeing Falsified Records of a New 787 That Leaked Fuel
Posted by News Fetcher on June 29 '19 at 09:11 AM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's errors-by-airlines department:
Long-time Slashdot reader Freshly Exhumed quotes the CBC: Boeing staff falsified records for a 787 jet built for Air Canada which developed a fuel leak ten months into service in 2015. In a statement to CBC News, Boeing said it self-disclosed the problem to the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration after Air Canada notified them of the fuel leak.

The records stated that manufacturing work had been completed when it had not.
Boeing said an audit concluded it was an isolated event and "immediate corrective action was initiated for both the Boeing mechanic and the Boeing inspector involved." Boeing is under increasing scrutiny in the U.S. and abroad following two deadly crashes that claimed 346 lives and the global grounding of its 737 Max jets.

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Tech Press Rushes To Cover New Linus Torvalds' Mailing List Outburst
Posted by News Fetcher on June 29 '19 at 07:50 AM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's programmer-paparazzi department:
"Linux frontman Linus Torvalds thinks he's 'more self-aware' these days and is 'trying to be less forceful' after his brief absence from directing Linux kernel developers because of his abusive language on the Linux kernel mailing list," reports ZDNet.

"But true to his word, he's still not necessarily diplomatic in his communications with maintainers..."

Torvalds' post-hiatus outburst was directed at Dave Chinner, an Australian programmer who maintains the Silicon Graphics (SGI)-created XFS file system supported by many Linux distros. "Bullshit, Dave," Torvalds told Chinner on a mailing list. The comment from Chinner that triggered Torvalds' rebuke was that "the page cache is still far, far slower than direct IO" -- a problem Chinner thinks will become more apparent with the arrival of the newish storage-motherboard interface specification known as Peripheral Express Interconnect Express (PCIe) version 4.0. Chinner believes page cache might be necessary to support disk-based storage, but that it has a performance cost....

"You've made that claim before, and it's been complete bullshit before too, and I've called you out on it then too," wrote Torvalds. "Why do you continue to make this obviously garbage argument?" According to Torvalds, the page cache serves its correct purpose as a cache. "The key word in the 'page cache' name is 'cache'," wrote Torvalds.... "Caches work, Dave. Anybody who thinks caches don't work is incompetent. 99 percent of all filesystem accesses are cached, and they never do any IO at all, and the page cache handles them beautifully," Torvalds wrote.

"When you say the page cache is slower than direct IO, it's because you don't even see or care about the *fast* case. You only get involved once there is actual IO to be done."

< article continued at Slashdot's programmer-paparazzi department >

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The Slashdot Interview with FreeDOS founder Jim Hall
Posted by News Fetcher on June 29 '19 at 07:50 AM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's free-as-in-DOS department:
In honor of FreeDOS's 25th birthday, project founder and coordinator Jim Hall agreed to answer the 10 best questions submitted by Slashdot readers. You asked and he answered! Read on for Jim's interview.

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Theranos Founder Elizabeth Holmes To Stand Trial In 2020
Posted by News Fetcher on June 29 '19 at 05:10 AM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's criminal-charges department:
An anonymous reader quotes a report from TechCrunch: Elizabeth Holmes, the founder of the now-defunct biotech unicorn Theranos, will face trial in federal court next summer with penalties of up to 20 years in prison and millions of dollars in fines. Jury selection will begin July 28, 2020, according to U.S. District Judge Edward J. Davila, who announced the trial will commence in August 2020 in a San Jose federal court Friday morning. Holmes and former Theranos president Ramesh "Sunny" Balwani were indicted by a grand jury last June with 11 criminal charges in total. Two of those charges were conspiracy to commit wire fraud (against investors, and against doctors and patients). The remaining nine are actual wire fraud, with amounts ranging from the cost of a lab test to $100 million. Bloomberg says Holmes' legal team plans to argue that The Wall Street Journal's John Carreyrou "had an undue influence on federal regulators," and "went beyond reporting the Theranos story."

"The jury should be aware that an outside actor, eager to break a story, and portray the story as a work of investigative journalism, was exerting influence on the regulatory process in a way that appears to have warped the agencies' focus on the company and possibly biased the agencies' findings against it," her attorneys wrote, per Bloomberg. "The agencies' interactions with Carreyrou thus go to the heart of the government's case."

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New Mac Malware Abuses Recently Disclosed Gatekeeper Zero-Day
Posted by News Fetcher on June 29 '19 at 02:30 AM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's still-unpatched department:
puddingebola writes: In May, security researcher Filippo Cavallarin made public a vulnerability in macOS's Gatekeeper. The vulnerability can allow an attacker to use a symlink and an NFS server to bypass Gatekeepers authentication and run malicious code. The malware has been named OSX/Linker and has been tied to the same group that operates the OSX/Surfbuyer adware. All macOS versions are affected, including the latest 10.14.5, and Apple has yet to release a patch to this day, a full month after Cavallarin's public disclosure.

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ISS Is Home To Molds That Can Withstand Radiation Doses That Would Kill a Human, Researchers Find
Posted by News Fetcher on June 28 '19 at 11:50 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's mold-and-bacteria department:
Mold spores commonly found aboard the International Space Station (ISS) turn out to be radiation resistant enough to survive 200 times the X-ray dose needed to kill a human being. Based on experiments by a team of researchers led by Marta Cortesao, a microbiologist at the German Aerospace Center (DLR) in Cologne, the new study indicates that sterilizing interplanetary spacecraft may be much more difficult than previously thought. New Atlas reports: The researchers exposed samples of Aspergillus and Pennicillium spores to X-rays, heavy ions, and high-frequency ultraviolet light of the kinds and intensities found in space. Such radiation damages DNA and breaks down cell structures, but the spores survived X-rays up to 1,000 gray, heavy ions at 500 gray, and UV rays up to 3,000 joules per meter squared. Gray is a measurement of radiation exposure based on the absorption of one joule of radiation energy per kilogram of matter. To place the results into perspective, five gray will kill a person and 0.7 gray is how much radiation the crew of a Mars mission would receive on a 180-day mission.

Since mold spores can already survive heat, cold, chemicals, and drying out, being able to take on radiation as well poses new challenges. It means that not only will manned missions have to put a lot of effort into keeping the ship clean and healthy, it also means that unmanned planetary missions, which must be free of terrestrial organisms to prevent contaminating other worlds, will be harder to sterilize. But according to Cortesao there is a positive side to this resiliency. Since fungal spores are hard to kill, they'd be easier to carry along and grow under controlled conditions in space, so they can be used as raw materials or act as biological factories.

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Boeing's 737 Max Software Outsourced To Lower-Paid Engineers
Posted by News Fetcher on June 28 '19 at 07:51 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's you-get-what-you-pay-for department:
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Bloomberg: It remains the mystery at the heart of Boeing's 737 Max crisis: how a company renowned for meticulous design made seemingly basic software mistakes leading to a pair of deadly crashes. Longtime Boeing engineers say the effort was complicated by a push to outsource work to lower-paid contractors. The Max software -- plagued by issues that could keep the planes grounded months longer after U.S. regulators this week revealed a new flaw -- was developed at a time Boeing was laying off experienced engineers and pressing suppliers to cut costs. Increasingly, the iconic American planemaker and its subcontractors have relied on temporary workers making as little as $9 an hour to develop and test software, often from countries lacking a deep background in aerospace -- notably India.

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Italy Stings Facebook With $1.1 Million Fine For Cambridge Analytica Data Misuse
Posted by News Fetcher on June 28 '19 at 06:31 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's that'll-teach-em department:
Italy's data protection watchdog has slapped Facebook with a $1.1 million fine for violations of local privacy law attached to the Cambridge Analytica data misuse scandal. TechCrunch reports: Last year it emerged that up to 87 million Facebook users had had their data siphoned out of the social media giant's platform by an app developer working for the controversial (and now defunct) political data company, Cambridge Analytica. The offences in question occurred prior to Europe's tough new data protection framework, GDPR, coming into force -- hence the relatively small size of the fine in this case, which has been calculated under Italy's prior data protection regime. (Whereas fines under GDPR can scale as high as 4% of a company's annual global turnover.) A Facebook spokesperson issued the following statement: "We have said before that we wish we had done more to investigate claims about Cambridge Analytica in 2015. However, evidence indicates that no Italian user data was shared with Cambridge Analytica. Dr Kogan only shared data with Cambridge Analytica in relation to U.S. users. We made major changes to our platform back then and have also significantly restricted the information which app developers can access. We're focused on protecting people's privacy and have invested in people, technology and partnerships, including hiring more than 20,000 people focused on safety and security over the last year. We will review the Garante's decision and will continue to engage constructively with their concerns."

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New Property of Light Discovered
Posted by News Fetcher on June 28 '19 at 06:31 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's lost-and-found department:
A team of researchers affiliated with several institutions in Spain and the U.S. has announced that they have discovered a new property of light -- self-torque. Their findings have been published in the journal Science. Phys.Org reports: Scientists have long known about such properties of light as wavelength. More recently, researchers have found that light can also be twisted, a property called angular momentum. Beams with highly structured angular momentum are said to have orbital angular momentum (OAM), and are called vortex beams. They appear as a helix surrounding a common center, and when they strike a flat surface, they appear as doughnut-shaped. In this new effort, the researchers were working with OAM beams when they found the light behaving in a way that had never been seen before.

The experiments involved firing two lasers at a cloud of argon gasâ"doing so forced the beams to overlap, and they joined and were emitted as a single beam from the other side of the argon cloud. The result was a type of vortex beam. The researchers then wondered what would happen if the lasers had different orbital angular momentum and if they were slightly out of sync. This resulted in a beam that looked like a corkscrew with a gradually changing twist. And when the beam struck a flat surface, it looked like a crescent moon. The researchers noted that looked at another way, a single photon at the front of the beam was orbiting around its center more slowly than a photon at the back of the beam. The researchers promptly dubbed the new property self-torque -- and not only is it a newly discovered property of light, it is also one that has never even been predicted. Their technique may be used to modulate the orbital angular momentum of light in ways very similar to modulating frequencies in communications equipment, leading to the development of novel devices that make use of manipulating extremely tiny materials.

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House Votes To Block Ajit Pai's Plan To Kill San Francisco Broadband Law
Posted by News Fetcher on June 28 '19 at 05:11 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's reuse-and-recycle department:
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: The U.S. House of Representatives has voted to block Ajit Pai's attempt to kill a San Francisco ordinance designed to promote broadband competition in apartment buildings. As we reported last week, the Federal Communications Commission chair has scheduled a July 10 vote on a measure that would preempt the San Francisco city ordinance, which lets Internet service providers use the existing wiring inside multiunit residential and commercial properties even if the wiring is already used by another ISP that serves the building. The ordinance applies only when the inside wiring belongs to the property owner, but it makes it easier for ISPs to compete in many multiunit buildings already served by another provider.

Pai claimed that the city's rule "deters broadband deployment" and infringes on the FCC's regulation of cable wiring. But US Rep. Katie Porter (D-Calif.) proposed a budget amendment that would forbid the FCC from using any funding to implement or enforce Pai's preemption proposal. The House, which is controlled by Democrats, yesterday approved the Financial Services and General Government Appropriations Act for fiscal 2020 in a mostly party-line vote of 224-196. Earlier in the day, the House approved a block of amendments including Porter's proposal that "prohibits the Federal Communications Committee from finalizing a draft declaratory ruling that would overturn local ordinances that promote broadband competition." The amendment's passage by a vote of 227-220 was also noted in the Congressional Record.

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Iran Seizes 1,000 Bitcoin Mining Machines Using Subsidized Power
Posted by News Fetcher on June 28 '19 at 05:11 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's search-and-destroy department:
Iranian authorities have seized about 1,000 bitcoin mining machines in two abandoned factories, after warnings that the activity had led to a spike in consumption of government-subsidized electricity. Reuters reports: "Two of these bitcoin farms have been identified, with a consumption of one megawatt,"; Arash Navab, a power official in the central province of Yazd, told the television. The machines, which produce cryptocurrencies that are banned in Iran, were mostly to blame for a 7% increase in power consumption in the month to June 21, according to an Energy Ministry spokesman, quoted by the website of state-run Press TV. In 2018, Iran's central bank banned the country's banks from dealing in cryptocurrencies, including bitcoin, over money-laundering concerns.

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