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There Are About 5.3 Billion People on Earth Aged Over 15. Of These, Around 5 Billion Have a Mobile Phone.
Posted by News Fetcher on May 30 '19 at 11:31 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's state-of-things department:
Benedict Evans: There are about 5.3bn people on earth aged over 15. Of these, around 5bn have a mobile phone. This is an estimate: I'm going with the GSMA's but most others are in the same range. The data challenge is that mobile operators collectively know how many people have a SIM card, but a lot of people have more than one. Meanwhile, ownership starts at aged 10 or so in developed markets, whereas in some developing markets half of the population is under 15, which means that a penetration number given as a share of the total population masks a much higher penetration of the adult population.

< article continued at Slashdot's state-of-things department >

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Millions of Dollars From US University Endowments, Foundations and Retirement Plans Have Helped Fund Two Billion-Dollar Chinese Facial Recognition Startups
Posted by News Fetcher on May 30 '19 at 11:31 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's closer-look department:
An anonymous reader shares a report: Princeton University and the US's largest public pension plan are among a number of stateside organizations funding technology behind the Chinese government's unprecedented surveillance of some 11 million people of Muslim ethnic minorities. Since 2017, Chinese authorities have detained more than a million Uighur Muslims and other ethnic minorities in political reeducation camps in the country's northwest region of Xinjiang, identifying them, in part, with facial recognition software created by two companies: SenseTime, based in Hong Kong, and Beijing's Megvii. A BuzzFeed News investigation has found that US universities, private foundations, and retirement funds entrusted their money to investors that, in turn, plowed hundreds of millions of dollars into these two startups over the last three years. Using that capital, SenseTime and Megvii have grown into billion-dollar industry leaders, partnering with government agencies and other private companies to develop tools for the Communist Party's social control of its citizens.

Also among the diverse group of institutions helping to finance China's surveillance state: the Alaska Retirement Management Board, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and the Rockefeller Foundation all of which are "limited partners" in private equity funds that invested in SenseTime or Megvii. And even as congressional leaders, such as Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, have championed a bill to condemn human rights abuses in Xinjiang, their own states' public employee pension funds are invested in companies building out the Chinese government's system for tracking Uighurs.

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Microsoft Will Distribute More Xbox Titles Through Steam and Finally Support Win32 Games
Posted by News Fetcher on May 30 '19 at 10:11 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's for-what-it-is-worth department:
Microsoft says it's committed to supporting competing PC game stores and it's announcing today that it will distribute more Xbox Game Studios titles through Valve's Steam marketplace. From a report: Typically, Microsoft has distributed its games through only Xbox Live on its game console platform and through its own Windows storefront on PC. Now, Microsoft says it wants to better support player choice and let customers buy games in more than one destination on PC. "Our intent is to make our Xbox Game Studios PC games available in multiple stores, including our own Microsoft Store on Windows, at their launch. We believe you should have choice in where you buy your PC games," writes Xbox chief Phil Spencer in a blog post announcing the shift in strategy. The move follows Microsoft's decision earlier this year to publish its upcoming PC port of Halo: The Master Chief Collection on Steam.

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Netflix To Raise Prices For UK Subscribers By Up To 20%
Posted by News Fetcher on May 30 '19 at 08:51 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's up-next department:
Netflix is to raise prices for UK subscribers by up to 20% as it looks to invest more in programmes ahead of the arrival of deep-pocketed rival Disney's eagerly anticipated service later this year. From a report: The streaming company, which has not raised prices in the UK since 2017, is increasing the cost of a standard plan by 1 Pound ($1.26) to 8.99 Pound ($11.3) and premium by 2 Pound ($2.52) to 11.99 Pound ($15.1). The price of a basic plan remains unchanged at 5.99 Pound ($7.5). The company, which has 10 million UK subscribers, said new customers will pay the higher rates immediately, while the increases will be implemented for existing users "over the coming weeks." Netflix has already raised prices in the US, as well as a number of markets in Latin America and the Caribbean that also use US dollars, with increases across western Europe also expected.

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Joseph Gordon-Levitt: HitRecord Is 'GitHub For Creativity'
Posted by News Fetcher on May 30 '19 at 08:51 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's future-of-work department:
Krystalo writes: HitRecord is a production company transitioning into a tech platform. We caught up with cofounders Jared Geller and Joseph Gordon-Levitt at Collision 2019 in Toronto last week to understand what HitRecord was, is, and wants to be. HitRecord is a collaborative media platform that lets anyone work together on creative projects. If a project earns money, contributors are paid based on any work that makes it into the final product. In June, HitRecord will have paid out some $375,000 over the past year, totaling over $3 million contributor payments since 2010. CEO Gordon-Levitt works 20-30 hours per week, while president Geller is full time. The site has 750,000 users interested in collaborating on content together.

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Huawei a Key Beneficiary of China Subsidies That US Wants Ended
Posted by News Fetcher on May 30 '19 at 07:31 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's closer-look department:
From a report: A replica of the Palace of Versailles, medieval turrets, and spires rise across Huawei's new campus in southern China, a monument to the telecom giant's growing fortune -- and the benefits of state aid. The fairytale-like facilities rest on land that was sold by the local government at cut-rate prices to woo and bolster a strategic, high-tech company like Huawei. It is the kind of government largesse that has fanned US frustrations at China's industrial policies -- subsidies are a sticking point in protracted trade talks between the world's top two economies.

Huawei has become a major flashpoint in the trade war, with President Donald Trump taking steps to block the company's dealings with US companies, threatening its global ambitions. With the dispute shining a spotlight on China's technological shortcomings, the subsidies are a window into the kind of measures Beijing may step up as trade negotiations founder. Huawei's annual reports and public records show that it has received hundreds of millions of dollars in grants, heavily subsidised land to build facilities and apartments for loyal employees, bonuses to top engineers, and massive state loans to international customers to fund purchases of Huawei products. [...] Over the past 10 years, Huawei has received 11 billion yuan ($1.6 billion) in grants, according to its annual reports.

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Apple, Google and WhatsApp Condemn GCHQ Proposal To Eavesdrop on Encrypted Messages
Posted by News Fetcher on May 30 '19 at 07:31 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's tussle-continues department:
Tech giants, civil society groups and Ivy League security experts have condemned a proposal from Britain's eavesdropping agency as a "serious threat" to digital security and fundamental human rights. From a report: In an open letter to GCHQ (Government Communications Headquarters), 47 signatories including Apple, Google and WhatsApp have jointly urged the U.K. cybersecurity agency to abandon its plans for a so-called "ghost protocol." It comes after intelligence officials at GCHQ proposed a way in which they believed law enforcement could access end-to-end encrypted communications without undermining the privacy, security or confidence of other users.

Details of the initiative were first published in an essay by two of the U.K.'s highest cybersecurity officials in November 2018. Ian Levy, the technical director of Britain's National Cyber Security Centre, and Crispin Robinson, GCHQ's head of cryptanalysis (the technical term for codebreaking), put forward a process that would attempt to avoid breaking encryption. The pair said it would be "relatively easy for a service provider to silently add a law enforcement participant to a group chat or call."

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Tech Giant Brings Software To a Gun Fight
Posted by News Fetcher on May 30 '19 at 06:10 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's how-about-that department:
An anonymous reader shares a report: On its website, Salesforce touts retailer Camping World as a leading customer of its business software, highlighting its use of products to help sales staff move product. A Camping World executive is even quoted calling Salesforce's software "magic." But behind the scenes in recent weeks, the Silicon Valley tech giant has delivered a different message to gun-selling retailers such as Camping World: Stop selling military-style rifles, or stop using our software.

The pressure Salesforce is exerting on those retailers -- barring them from using its technology to market products, manage customer service operations and fulfill orders -- puts them in a difficult position. Camping World, for example, spends more than $1 million a year on Salesforce's e-commerce software, according to one analyst estimate. Switching to another provider now could cost the company double that to migrate data, reconfigure systems and retrain employees.

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Amazon Patent Reveals Plans To Allow Alexa To Listen, Record Users At All Times
Posted by News Fetcher on May 30 '19 at 06:10 AM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's always-listening department:
schwit1 shares a report from ScienceAlert: A newly revealed patent application filed by Amazon is raising privacy concerns over an envisaged upgrade to the company's smart speaker systems. This change would mean that, by default, the devices end up listening to and recording everything you say in their presence. Rather than only record what is said after the wakeword is spoken, the system described in the patent application would effectively continuously record all speech, then look for instances of commands issued by a person.

In the patent application, the authors explain that your Echo device would only ever record between 10-30 seconds of audio at a time, before wiping it from the local memory buffer, and recording a new 10-30 seconds of audio over it (again and again). In each of these 10-30 second recordings, the device would continuously scan looking for commands involving the wakeword, and if it didn't find any, they'd get deleted forever -- in theory, at least. But because of the potential privacy implications of having a device that records you all the time, it's understandable that some people might not be thrilled about what this patent application represents, especially since Amazon has a mixed track record with Alexa recording things it wasn't ever supposed to.

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Brown Dwarf Atmospheres As The Potentially Most Detectable And Abundant Sites For Life
Posted by News Fetcher on May 30 '19 at 02:10 AM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's alternative-astronomical-habitable-zone department:
RockDoctor writes: Yet another provocative paper emerges onto Arxiv from Harvard's Lingam and Loeb. Today they estimate the volume of space occupied by habitable zones (regions where liquid water is stable) in brown dwarf not-quite stars. They find that it could be orders of magnitude greater than the volume in the atmospheres of Earth-size planets. Brown dwarfs are masses of gas which are too small to sustain nuclear fusion (so, they're not stars), but can have a brief period of fusion of deuterium or lithium shortly after formation (so they're not planets; the boundary size is under debate). After this burst of energy, they slowly cool, for billions of years. This leads to a large volume of the star's outer body -- or atmosphere -- with potentially attractive temperature and pressure. If the brown dwarf is orbiting with a larger star, there may be enough light to allow photosynthesis. Supply of chemicals is uncertain, but not impossible.
While this paper is speculative, the prospects for detecting such life by spectroscopy are plausible with observational instruments being designed at the moment. Previous work on abiogenesis and the origin(s) of life has speculated that life could persist in the atmospheres of Venus and Jupiter, using comparable pressure-temperature arguments. In this respect, the proposal is more conventional.

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Food Delivery Apps Are Drowning China In Plastic
Posted by News Fetcher on May 29 '19 at 11:30 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's transformation-of-daily-life department:
"The astronomical growth of food delivery apps in China is flooding the country with takeout containers, utensils and bags," writes Raymond Zhong and Carolyn Zhang for The New York Times. "And the country's patchy recycling system isn't keeping up. The vast majority of this plastic ends up discarded, buried or burned with the rest of the trash, researchers and recyclers say." From the report: Scientists estimate that the online takeout business in China was responsible for 1.6 million tons of packaging waste in 2017, a ninefold jump from two years before. That includes 1.2 million tons of plastic containers, 175,000 tons of disposable chopsticks, 164,000 tons of plastic bags and 44,000 tons of plastic spoons. Put together, it is more than the amount of residential and commercial trash of all kinds disposed of each year by the city of Philadelphia. The total for 2018 grew to an estimated two million tons.

Recyclers manage to return some of China's plastic trash into usable form to feed the nation's factories. The country recycles around a quarter of its plastic, government statistics show, compared with less than 10 percent in the United States. But in China, takeout boxes do not end up recycled, by and large. They must be washed first. They weigh so little that scavengers must gather a huge number to amass enough to sell to recyclers. "Half a day's work for just a few pennies. It isn't worth it," said Ren Yong, 40, a garbage collector at a downtown Shanghai office building. He said he threw takeout containers out. Many people in urban China are using the delivery apps because "delivery is so cheap, and the apps offer such generous discounts, that it is now possible to believe that ordering a single cup of coffee for delivery is a sane, reasonable thing to do," the report adds.

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DIY Facial Recognition For Porn Is a Dystopian Disaster
Posted by News Fetcher on May 29 '19 at 08:50 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's dubious-claims department:
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Vice News: Someone posting on Chinese social network Weibo claims to have used facial recognition to cross-reference women's photos on social media with faces pulled from videos on adult platforms like Pornhub. In a Monday post on Weibo, the user, who says he's based in Germany, claimed to have "successfully identified more than 100,000 young ladies" in the adult industry "on a global scale." According to Weibo posts, the user and some of his programming friends used facial recognition to detect faces in porn content using photos from social platforms. His reasoning for making this program, he wrote, is "to have the right to know on both sides of the marriage." After public outcry, he later claimed his intention was to allow women, with or without their fiancees, to check if they are on porn sites and to send a copyright takedown request.

Whether the Weibo user's claims are trustworthy or not is beside the point, now that experts in feminist studies and machine learning have decried this project as algorithmically-targeted harassment. This kind of program's existence is both possible and frightening, and has started a conversation around whether such a program would be an ethically or legally responsible use of AI. Just as we saw with deepfakes, which used AI to swap the faces of female celebrities onto the bodies of porn performers, the use of machine learning to control and extort women's bodily autonomy demonstrates deep misogyny. It's a threat that didn't begin with deepfakes, but certainly reached a public sphere with that technology -- although in the years since, women have been left behind in the mainstream narrative, which has focused on the technology's possible use for disinformation.

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PCI Express 5.0 Announced With 32GT/s Transfer Rates
Posted by News Fetcher on May 29 '19 at 06:11 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's new-and-improved department:
The Peripheral Component Interconnect Special Interest Group (PCI-SIG) today announced PCI Express 5.0, even though PCI Express 4.0 is still a rarity in the PC market. Phoronix reports: PCI Express 5.0 doubles the bandwidth of PCIe 4.0 with a promise of 32GT/s transfer rates while maintaining low-power and backwards compatibility with existing PCI Express specifications. PCI Express 5.0 is set to allow 128GB/s bandwidth via PCIe 5.0 x16, improved signal integrity and mechanical performance, a new "CEM" connector for add-in cards, and backwards compatibility back through PCIe 1.x. Additional details can be found via today's PCI-SIG press release.

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Gmail's Confidential Mode Will Be On By Default For G Suite Users Starting June 25th
Posted by News Fetcher on May 29 '19 at 06:11 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's ready-or-not-here-it-comes department:
Google's new confidential mode is rolling out to G Suite users and will be turned on by default starting on June 25th. Personal account holders have been able to use this feature since Gmail's mid-2018 redesign, but Gmail users at work have not.

"Confidential mode is a powerful tool that will come in handy at work if you send messages containing sensitive details," reports The Verge. "It lets you set an expiration date for your message, which cuts off access when that day arrives. While the message is available, recipients won't be able to forward your message to others, copy its contents, or download it, and the sender can revoke access at any point. To add another layer of security, you can set the message to only unlock after the recipient types in an SMS verification code that's sent to their phone number." Slashdot reader shanen reacts: Apparently the Google of supreme evil has decided they need to try to force this confidential-mode email down people's throats. I think that's actually a gigantic business opportunity for Outlook, assuming they actually want to offer a superior email system. The fundamental premise of confidential mode is "We want to communicate with you, but we don't trust you," and my fundamental response is GFY. The ONLY thing I want is an option to reject all confidential-mode email. (However, I'm sure Microsoft is too evil to offer that option because they don't trust their own employees and have to eat their own poison dog food.) (Well, actually there are several other improvements I want from email, such as a bounce for no-reply email.)

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Google To Restrict Modern Ad Blocking Chrome Extensions To Enterprise Users
Posted by News Fetcher on May 29 '19 at 04:51 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's sticking-to-their-guns department:
Earlier this year, Google proposed changes to the open-source Chromium browser that would break content-blocking extensions, including various ad blockers. Despite the overwhelming negative feedback to the move, Google appears to be standing firm on the changes, sharing that current ad blocking capabilities will be restricted to enterprise users. 9to5Google reports: Manifest V3 comprises a major change to Chrome's extensions system, including a revamp to the permissions system and a fundamental change to the way ad blockers operate. In particular, modern ad blockers, like uBlock Origin and Ghostery, use Chrome's webRequest API to block ads before they're even downloaded. With the Manifest V3 proposal, Google deprecates the webRequest API's ability to block a particular request before it's loaded. As you would expect, power users and extension developers alike criticized Google's proposal for limiting the user's ability to browse the web as they see fit.

Now, months later, Google has responded to some of the various issues raised by the community, sharing more details on the changes to permissions and more. The most notable aspect of their response, however, is a single sentence buried in the text, clarifying their changes to ad blocking and privacy blocking extensions: "Chrome is deprecating the blocking capabilities of the webRequest API in Manifest V3, not the entire webRequest API (though blocking will still be available to enterprise deployments)." Google is essentially saying that Chrome will still have the capability to block unwanted content, but this will be restricted to only paid, enterprise users of Chrome. This is likely to allow enterprise customers to develop in-house Chrome extensions, not for ad blocking usage.

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Nuke Retirements Could Lead To 4 Billion Metric Tons of Extra CO2 Emissions, Says IEA
Posted by News Fetcher on May 29 '19 at 04:51 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's climate-goals department:
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: A report released today by the International Energy Agency (IEA) warns world leaders that -- without support for new nuclear power or lifetime extensions for existing nuclear power plants -- the world's climate goals are at risk. "The lack of further lifetime extensions of existing nuclear plants and new projects could result in an additional four billion tonnes of CO2 emissions," a press release from the IEA noted.

The report is the IEA's first report on nuclear power in two decades, and it paints a picture of low-carbon power being lost through attrition (due to the retirement of aging plants) or due to economics (extremely cheap natural gas as well as wind and solar undercutting more expensive nuclear power for years in some regions). Around the world, 452 nuclear reactors provided 2,700 terawatt-hours (TWh) of electricity in 2018. This makes nuclear a significant source of low-carbon energy on a global level. While 11.2 gigawatts (GW) of nuclear power were connected to the grid last year, all of the new capacity was located in China or Russia. "Without additional nuclear, the clean energy transition becomes more difficult and more expensive -- requiring $1.6 trillion of additional investment in advanced economies over the next two decades," IEA says. "Critically, a major clean energy shortfall would emerge by 2040, calling on wind and solar PV to accelerate deployment even further to fill the gap."

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IEEE Bans Huawei From Peer-Reviewing Papers, Chinese Scientists Quit To Protest
Posted by News Fetcher on May 29 '19 at 03:31 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's cause-and-effect department:
New submitter AntiBrainWasher writes: Running away from the fear of legal/political persecution, the New York City-based Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) told editors of its roughly 200 journals yesterday that it feared "severe legal implications" from continuing to use Huawei scientists as reviewers in vetting technical papers. They can continue to serve on IEEE editorial boards, according to the memo, but "cannot handle any papers" until the sanctions are lifted. The IEEE ban has sparked outrage among Chinese scientists on social media. "I joined IEEE as a Ph.D. student because it is recognized as an International academic platform in electronics engineering," wrote Haixia (Alice) Zhang of Peking University in Beijing in a letter to IEEE leadership. "But this message is challenging my professional integrity. I have decided to quit the editorial boards [of two IEEE journals] until it restores our common professional integrity."

Meanwhile, the SD and Wi-Fi Alliance reinstated Huawei as a member, less than a week after they quietly removed the company from its membership list. Despite the lack of evidences, U.S. officials have alleged that the Chinese government could use equipment manufactured by Huawei, which is a global supplier of cellphones and wireless data networks, to spy on users or disrupt critical infrastructure, similar to what the NSA has done.

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Intel Graphics Division Shares Wild Futuristic GPU Concept Cards
Posted by News Fetcher on May 29 '19 at 03:31 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's think-outside-the-box department:
MojoKid writes: What do you think graphics cards will look like in the next decade and a half? Intel wanted to know that as well, so it commissioned designer Cristiano Siquiera to give us a taste of what graphics cards might look like in the year 2035. Siquiera, the original talented designer that brought the first set of Intel Odyssey GPU renders not long ago, focused primarily on the fan/shroud designs and what innovations could be fostered in the coming years. He was tasked with thinking far beyond current design conventions, materials and cooling technologies in current-gen graphics cards, and to envision new designs that could employ technologies and materials not even invented yet. One concept, called Gemini, shows an ionic-based cooling system that isn't too far beyond the realm of feasibility. Yet another design, called Prometheus, showcases top edge-mounted display readout that could also be fairly easily employed with flexible OLED display technology. Intel also just launched a new Graphics Command Center driver package today, which offers more customization, better control of power and cooling and one-click game optimization for Intel GPU-enabled systems.

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Uber Will Start Deactivating Riders With Low Ratings
Posted by News Fetcher on May 29 '19 at 02:11 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's respect-is-a-two-way-street department:
An anonymous reader quotes a report from TechCrunch: Uber is now requiring the same good behavior from riders that it has long expected from its drivers. Uber riders have always had ratings, but they were never really at risk of deactivation -- until now. Starting today, riders in the U.S. and Canada are now at risk of deactivation if their rating falls significantly below a city's average. For drivers, they face a risk of deactivation if they fall below 4.6, according to leaked documents from 2015. Though, average ratings are city-specific. Uber, however, is not disclosing the average rider rating, but says "any rider at risk of losing access will receive several notifications and opportunities to improve his or her rating," an Uber spokesperson told TechCrunch. For example, Uber will offer tips to riders around encouraging polite behavior and keeping the car clean. "Ultimately, we expect this to impact only a very small number of riders," the spokesperson said. "Respect is a two-way street, and so is accountability," Uber Head of Safety Brand and Initiatives Kate Parker wrote in a blog post. "Drivers have long been required to meet a minimum rating threshold which can vary city to city. While we expect only a small number of riders to ultimately be impacted by ratings-based deactivations, it's the right thing to do."

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Chevron Exec is Secretly Pushing Anti-Electric Car Effort in Arizona
Posted by News Fetcher on May 29 '19 at 02:11 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's closer-look department:
A California lobbyist for Chevron is urging retirees of the oil company in Arizona to oppose electric-car policies, saying the vehicles are too expensive for most people and should not be promoted. From a report: A handful of people who either retired from Chevron or from Unocal, which Chevron acquired in 2005, have used the form letter to urge Arizona Corporation Commissioners not to require electric companies here to build electric-car charging stations. Form letters are commonly used to lobby commissioners, but the secretive nature of this campaign has drawn criticism, including from a retiree who alerted commissioners to the lobbyist's effort.

The letters discourage electric-car infrastructure. "Let the electric vehicle industry finance the construction of the infrastructure from which it will benefit, rather than burdening most Arizona ratepayers with the costs of supporting the electric vehicle market," wrote Sel Larsen, the president of the Arizona retirees group. The letter-writing campaign is a response to a March document from the Corporation Commission asking electric companies in Arizona to propose how they will roll out electric-vehicle infrastructure and incorporate electric vehicles into their business.

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