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The Russian Ministry of Internal Affairs (MVD) has offered a 3.9 million ruble (approximately $111,000) contract for technology that can identify the users of Tor, the encrypted anonymizing network used by Internet users seeking to hide their activities from monitoring by law enforcement, government censors, and others. In a notice on the Russian government’s procurement portal under the title “Perform research, code ‘TOR’ (Navy),” originally posted on July 11, the MVD announced it was seeking proposals for researchers to ”study the possibility of obtaining technical information about users and users equipment on the Tor anonymous network.” The competition, which is open only to Russian citizens and companies, requires entrants to pay a 195,000 ruble application fee. Proposals are due by August 13, and a winner of the contract will be chosen by August 20. The MVD had previously sought to ban the use of any anonymizing software. That proposal was dropped last year. However, a new “blogger law” passed in April, which goes into effect in August, requires all bloggers with an audience of over 3,000 readers to register their identity with the government—and enforcement of the law could be made difficult if bloggers use the Tor network to retain their anonymity. Read 2 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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The USS Coronado (LCS-4) underway in April 2014. The Coronado will test-launch the Norwegian-built Naval Strike Missile later this year off the coast of California. U.S. Navy photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialist Keith DeVinne This fall, the US Navy will test a new weapon system—at least, one that’s new to the US—aboard the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) USS Coronado somewhere off the California coast. In search of some way to beef up the firepower of the oft-maligned LCS class, the Navy will test-launch a missile that can fly up to 100 miles and strike targets at sea or on land. And that missile comes not from one of the big names in the US defense industry but from Norway. The LCS was supposed to be a modular, flexible ship that could get in close to shore and support troops with missile fire. But when the US Army cancelled the Non-Line of Site (NLOS) missile program, it took the teeth out of that idea—the modular missile system was also supposed to be the LCS’s go-to weapon for longer-range land and sea attack. Since then, the only missile that has even been fired from an LCS-class ship is the RIM-116 Rolling Airframe Missile, an anti-air point defense missile system tested aboard the USS Freedom in 2009 and 2010. And concerns about the ship’s underpowered armament and inherent lack of flexibility without a missile capability made it an expensive sitting duck in “contested” waters—in other words, against any adversary that could put even a patrol boat armed with anti-ship missiles to sea. As a result, the Navy cut the number of LCS ships to be built in half and froze the purchase of ships not already under construction while it looks at alternatives. Read 4 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Android Police Android Police has gotten a hold of leaked photos of an upcoming Motorola follow-up to the Moto X, the oddly named Moto X+1. The pictures show a device that looks a lot like the Moto X, complete with a presumably customizable wooden back. According to the leak, the X+1 will be bigger than the Moto X. The sequel is reportedly joining the rest of the flagship phones and jumping from a 4.7-inch screen to 5.1 inches. For Motorola, it's good to have a flagship with a screen matching the size of the competition, but if this device replaces the Moto X, it means one of the few choices for a smaller, relatively high-end phone will be going away. Like the Moto E, the earpiece cutout is mirrored on the bottom of the device, where it is used for the microphone. On the back, the camera module looks pretty big, which usually indicates optical image stabilization, though the article doesn't mention it. The dots to the left and right of the camera module are dual LED flashes. Like the Moto X, the back is said to be non-removable, and there's no microSD slot. Read 3 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Russian space agency Roscosmos issued a number of statements earlier today indicating that their Foton-M4 satellite is in trouble. According to Russian state-owned news agency ITAR-TASS, the scientific research satellite with its payload of experiments is still sending back telemetry, but it's unresponsive to commands sent from the ground. In a separate report, ITAR-TASS quotes a Roscosmos representative as saying that Foton-M4 is designed for "durable autonomous operation," but the lack of ground control jeopardizes the experiments slated to be carried out on board the Foton-M4—not to mention the health of its living cargo. A gecko. Geico Foton-M4 was launched on July 19 carrying five geckos—small lizards that favor tropical and subtropical climates (and, apocryphally, sell insurance). The lucky lizards—one male and five females—were sent into their 575-kilometer low earth orbit in order to study the effect of microgravity on their reproductive habits, with scientists monitoring their behavior through a video downlink to the ground. The lizards aren’t joining the 357-Mile High Club alone; the satellite is carrying an additional biological payload of flies, plant seeds, and assorted microorganisms, along with 850kg of scientific instrumentation to support 22 experiments. Read 5 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Musician Chubby Checker, best known for his 1960 smash hit cover version of The Twist, has settled the lawsuit he brought against Hewlett Packard in 2013, according to the Hollywood Reporter. In the suit the singer claimed trademark infringement after HP included a penis size estimating application, "The Chubby Checker," in its WebOS store. Rock and roll icon Chubby Checker, real name Ernest Evans, sued HP for half a billion dollars, claiming not only that it infringed his trademark but also that HP violated the Communications Decency Act. The Communications Decency Act claim was dismissed by the courts in August 2013, but the trademark claim was allowed to proceed and was due to go to trial this coming October. The application worked by asking for a man's shoe size and thereby providing an estimate of his penis size, a process that likely lacks rigorous scientific validity. HP first approved the app in 2006, withdrawing it in 2012 after receiving a cease and desist demand from Evans' lawyers. The $0.99 application was downloaded fewer than 100 times in the intervening years, leaving HP with a profit of no more than $30. Read 1 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Last week, Bungie and Activision unveiled a beta version of their upcoming online shooter game Destiny, which first launched on PS3 and PS4 consoles. Xbox 360 and Xbox One players had to wait until yesterday to join in. Beta access for users across all consoles had a catch: It required a Destiny pre-order (or luckily snagging a beta download code via social media). That changed on Thursday when Bungie opened the game's beta doors open to all console players, so long as they were subscribed to their system's paid subscription service (Xbox Live Gold or PlayStation Plus). The announcement came barely an hour ahead of the game's doors being swung wide open, telling players they merely needed to log into their consoles' normal download stores to find their free beta download. The launch comes on the heels of a limited alpha test in June. From our brief experience, the beta contains a more expansive world to explore, a better introductory sequence, and more stable online play—along with a chance for players to compare performance between older and newer console generations. (Our time with the PS3 version, for example, handled surprisingly well, in spite of a remarkably lower screen resolution, fewer foliage/skybox details, and smudgy anti-aliasing methods.) Read 1 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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After months of speculation, a report has linked Google to a $1 billion acquisition of the video-streaming site Twitch.tv. VentureBeat's Wednesday report went so far as to call the deal "confirmed," but it didn't list an exact price, announcement date, or other key details, relying solely on "sources familiar with the matter." The deal, originally reported by Variety in May, may seem like a small drop in the bucket for Google. YouTube racks up over one billion monthly viewers compared to Twitch's 45 million. But the gaming-focused Twitch enjoys an edge thanks to dedicated features like internal console apps, screencasting, and live chat. The acquisition looks particularly attractive in the wake of e-sports' recent rise in Western popularity. Though Twitch was founded by co-creators of Justin.tv, another streaming site, no report has mentioned whether the originating video-streaming site will be involved in the deal. If that amount remains around $1 billion, it'll be quite the coup for investors who have only sunk roughly $35 million into Twitch thus far. Read 1 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Cliff Most members and staffers of the US House of Representatives won't be able to edit pages on Wikipedia for more than a week. Administrators of the popular Web encyclopedia have imposed a 10-day ban on the IP address connected to Congress' lower house. The ban comes after a series of wild "disruptive" edits that appeared following the creation of @congressedits, a bot that monitors anonymous edits from congressional IP addresses and announces them to the world via Twitter. The account was created just over two weeks ago and already has more than 23,000 followers. Wikipedia editors explained their castigation for the IP address 143.231.249.138 on the user talk page. The 10-day edit ban follows a one-day ban imposed earlier this month, which apparently didn't do the trick. Read 4 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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The Kindle Fire tablet. amazon Despite Amazon's recent launch of the Fire Phone, Kindle Unlimited, and HBO on Amazon Prime, the company struggled to turn a profit last quarter. Amazon announced Thursday that it lost $126 million in quarterly earnings. The company’s stock price was down more than seven percent in after-hours trading. The losses show that Amazon may be overstretched at the moment. The company made $274 million in 2013 and nearly $3 billion in total profits from 2009 through 2013. Read 2 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Rockwell Collins and Elbit Systems' joint—a helmet that can see through planes without making the pilot throw up. Lockheed Martin This week, Lockheed Martin officially took delivery of a key part of the F-35 fighter’s combat functionality—the pilot’s helmet. The most expensive and complicated piece of headgear ever constructed, the F-35 Gen III Helmet Mounted Display System (HMDS) is one of the multipurpose fighter’s most critical systems, and it's essential to delivering a fully combat-ready version of the fighter to the Marine Corps, the Navy, and the Air Force. But it almost didn’t make the cut because of software problems and side effects akin to those affecting some 3D virtual reality headsets. Built by Rockwell Collins ESA Vision Systems International (a joint venture between Rockwell Collins and the Israeli defense company Elbit Systems), the HMDS goes way beyond previous augmented reality displays embedded in pilots’ helmets. In addition to providing the navigational and targeting information typically shown in a combat aircraft’s heads-up display, the HMDS also includes aspects of virtual reality, allowing a pilot to look through the plane. Using a collection of six high-definition video and infrared cameras on the fighter’s exterior called the Distributed Aperture System (DAS), the display extends vision a full 360 degrees around the aircraft from within the cockpit. The helmet is also equipped with night vision capabilities via an infrared sensor that projects imagery inside the facemask. The helmet is an essential part of the aircraft’s cockpit. Some pilots have called the helmet's austere touchscreen Panoramic Cockpit Display “the most naked cockpit in history“ because of its lack of switches and other physical instrumentation. (“Not true,” said Lockheed Martin F-35 Pilot Vehicle Interface lead Michael Skaff in a presentation he gave on the cockpit. “The Wright flyer had fewer switches.”) When combined with the cockpit’s built-in voice recognition capabilities, the helmet will allow the pilot to track everything in the aircraft’s sphere of visibility. Read 7 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Vincent Desjardins The Supreme Court of Wisconsin has upheld the warrantless use of cell phone tracking devices, better known as "stingrays.” In a narrow decision published on Thursday, the court found that while the Milwaukee police did not specifically have a warrant to use the stingray to locate a murder suspect, it did have a related judicial order that essentially served the same purpose. This 2009 murder case is one of the rare, high-level court decisions that directly speaks to the legality of the use of stingrays, which are often used to track suspects’ phones and, in some cases, intercept calls and text messages. However, stingrays also capture related information on all other cell phone users who happen to be in physical proximity to the target. The court order specifically approved “the installation and use of a trap and trace device or process,” and "the installation and use of a pen register device/process," and “the release of subscriber information, incoming and outgoing call detail…and authorizing the identification of the physical location of a target cellular phone.” Read 16 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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For years, Google’s Chrome browser on many platforms has relied on the Mozilla Network Security Service (NSS) to provide secure Web connections. And earlier this year, that reliance appeared to become a very good thing, with the disclosure of OpenSSL’s Heartbleed vulnerability. But Google also had used OpenSSL as the encryption engine for Chrome on some versions of Android, creating a security crisis for many of Chrome’s mobile users. Ironically, Heartbleed played out as Google engineers had come to the conclusion that they needed to switch development of Chrome on all platforms to OpenSSL. “Switching to OpenSSL, however, has the opportunity to bring significant performance and stability advantages to iOS, Mac, Windows, and ChromeOS immediately out of the gate,” wrote Ryan Sleevi in a draft design paper in January that was heavily referenced across the Chrome and open-source Chromium developer community. In the wake of Heartbleed, however, OpenSSL’s benefits have apparently been outweighed by its baggage. On June 20, Google Senior Staff Engineer Adam Langley announced that Google was moving to create its own clean version of OpenSSL, called BoringSSL—boring, as in a lack of exciting vulnerabilities. Read 3 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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According to the world of zipper merging, just because you see this sign doesn't mean you should change lanes at that exact moment. Lexinatrix Of all of the reasons for traffic snarls, impending lane closures bring out a particularly brutal combination of road rage and etiquette confusion. Most drivers know the pain of approaching two lanes in this situation; the left one is backed up much further because the right one will close in less than a mile thanks to, say, construction. Which lane should a driver pick in this scenario? Steer to the left as soon as you see a closure notice and you'll almost certainly go slower; stay in the right and you'll catch stink-eye, honks, and even swerving drivers. Everyone is upset that you're about to essentially cut in line—an act that will require a tense, last-minute merge of your own. Most driving schools and transportation departments in the United States don't instruct drivers on how to handle this situation or whether they must merge within a certain mileage, leaving this kind of merge up to the grace of your fellow, angry commuters. This week, however, Washington State joined Minnesota in sending a clear message to drivers: Merge rudely. It's actually faster and safer. Read 11 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Super 45 In a months-long trademark lawsuit, hip hop star Kanye West has finally defeated all the alleged people involved with the parody cryptocurrency Coinye. In January 2014, an unknown online group trumpeted the launch of “Coinye West” with a simple message: "We takin' shots at Bitcoin." Within days, West filed suit and Coinye appeared to collapse before really going anywhere. Documents filed this week at a New York federal courthouse show that 10 of the named defendants lost by default, meaning that they never responded to the case. The only remaining step in the case is for the court to order a final judgment in favor of West. Read 7 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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A reddit live thread in progress about the missing Air Algerie flight. On Wednesday, reddit added a new post format for keeping up with breaking news events, according to a blog post at the site. reddit live threads are meant for "real-time updates" that appear from posters automatically without needing a page refresh. The format is a reaction to numerous heavily trafficked threads that have appeared surrounding news events in the last few years, including the Boston Marathon bombing and the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370. Many reddit posters collect in relevant subreddits to discuss current events as they unfold, but because of the threaded and nested format of the site's comments, it's difficult for new information to surface without a user having to start a new thread, ultimately fragmenting the conversation. reddit live threads are still backed by a traditional reddit discussion thread, but the new threads have an alternative layout to arrange posts as they appear in reverse chronological order, like an ongoing liveblog. There is no curation and no way to surface relevant or correct information; all priority is given to what is new. Read 1 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler has been saying he’ll use the agency’s authority to overturn state laws that limit municipal broadband networks, and now he has a chance to make good on that promise. EPB, a community-owned electric utility in Chattanooga, Tennessee, today filed a petition with the FCC asking it to invalidate a state law that prevents it from offering Internet and TV service outside its electric service area. EPB already operates a fiber network that provides broadband, TV, and phone service to people within its territory, and nearby communities have asked for service as well. Wheeler is already facing opposition from House Republicans and the threat of a lawsuit, but he argues that the FCC can overturn state laws by using its authority to promote competition in local telecommunications markets by removing barriers that prevent investment. Read 7 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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In May, the European Union's highest court ordered Google to grant EU citizens a "right to be forgotten" that would allow them to remove "inadequate" or "irrelevant" links. Google complied, providing a new form that was used thousands of times—mostly by those seeking to erase links related to accusations of fraud and other serious crimes. But Google only removed links on its European sites, like google.co.uk. Users in Europe, or anywhere else, can still get "full" search results by visiting the US version of the site at google.com. That decision is now under fire by EU regulators and experts, who have said the limitation "effectively defeats the purpose of the ruling," according to a Reuters report. EU authorities are scheduled to meet with Google today, as well as representatives from Yahoo and Microsoft, to discuss the issue. Read 5 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Watchlisting Guidance memo Federal agencies have nominated more than 1.5 million names to terrorist watchlists over the past five years alone, yet being a terrorist isn't a condition of getting on a roster that is virtually impossible to be removed from, according to a leaked US "Watchlisting Guidance" manual. The 166-page document, marked as "sensitive security information" and published by The Intercept, comes amid increasing skepticism over how people are placed on or get off of US terrorism databases like the no-fly list that bars flying to and within the United States. Attorney General Eric Holder, for example, had claimed last year that national security would be imperiled if the public knew that a Stanford University graduate student was placed on the no-fly list because an FBI agent checked the wrong box on a nomination form. And just last month, a federal judge ruled that the government's method for allowing the public to challenge placement on the no-fly list was "wholly ineffective" and unconstitutional. Read 6 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Sean Nguyen While Valve and its Steam distribution platform have been pushing Linux as the future of PC gaming for a long while now, the folks at online store GOG have contented themselves with PC and Mac software. That situation changed today, as GOG (formerly Good Old Games) announced support for Linux, offering over 50 titles for DRM-free download. GOG's list of available Linux titles is unsurprisingly dominated by indie titles and overlaps somewhat with the more robust list of nearly 600 Linux titles on Steam. But GOG is promoting nearly two dozen titles that are being offered as appearing on Linux for the first time through GOG, after the site says it "personally ushered [them] one by one into the welcoming embrace of Linux gamers" with "special builds prepared by our team." That list of new-to-Linux titles on GOG includes some well-remembered, big-name classics like FlatOut (and FlatOut 2), Rise of the Triad, Sid Meier's Pirates, and Sid Meier's Colonization (not to mention Duke Nukem 3D, which was previously available on Linux). Users who buy a Linux-compatible game from GOG will be able to download their games as distro-independent tar.gz archives and/or as DEB installers that will work on Ubuntu or Mint. For games compatible with multiple operating systems, one purchase gives access to all versions. Read 3 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Children are often fussy eaters, and most parents would say that trying to convince them that a given food is good for them won't help convince them to eat it. As it turns out, "won't help" might be overstating things. When told that a food serves some purpose other than tasting good, kids will rate it as less tasty and eat less of it. Two Chicago-area researchers, Michal Maimaran and Ayelet Fishbach, phrase their research in terms of what they call "food instrumentality"—the idea that a given type of food is good for achieving a goal. Carrots are good for your vision, spinach makes you strong, and so on. The researchers suspect that this idea interacts with a quirk in the reasoning of young children: they tend to think of things as only serving a single purpose. If carrots are good for your vision, the reasoning goes, they're not likely to be good for your tastebuds at the same time. Over a series of experiments with children three to five years old, the authors tested foods that were given various purposes: makes you strong, helps you read, or helps you count. In each case, the same foods were offered to a set of control children without any message. By a variety of measures, a positive message about the food undermined the cause: the children rated it as less tasty, planned on consuming less, and actually did consume less when they were given the chance to eat it. Read 2 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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You, too can Yosemite-ize your desktop. Just proceed with caution. Andrew Cunningham If you didn't sign up for the OS X Yosemite public beta after reading our preview yesterday, you should do it sooner rather than later. Apple has just released the software to its Beta Program site, and people who have signed up should be receiving their notification e-mails now if they haven't gotten them already. Beta testers will receive a Mac App Store redemption code for the software, at which point they can download it as they would a standard OS X installer. Since this build of Yosemite is beta software, you should back up all of your data and treat the release as though it could wipe out your entire hard drive at any time. Time Machine is your friend. Use a Mac you don't rely on day-to-day if you have one, or at least make a separate test partition after backing all of your stuff up. If you're one of the people who's going to run this on your primary computer as your primary operating system no matter what we say, Apple has said that the public beta build will be able to update to the final, "golden master" build of Yosemite when it's finished in the fall. There shouldn't be any need to completely reload the OS. Read 2 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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The target chamber of the National Ignition Facility. Matt Swisher The discovery of so many exoplanets in recent years has raised many new questions, forcing us to reexamine some of our ideas. Scientists had extrapolated models of stellar system evolution from our own Solar System, assuming that others look very similar to our own. But extrapolation can only get us so far. Scientists never expected to find so many “hot Jupiters”—gas giants larger than Jupiter and orbiting very close to their star. We’re also having a hard time understanding the inner workings of exoplanets and stars with much greater mass than Earth. Scientists have managed to test some materials under extreme pressures and found that our conventional ideas about a material’s behavior may not apply. Certain exotic quantum mechanical models could apply in such extreme cases, but until recently, scientists have not been able to test those models’ predictions. The difficulty, of course, is that actually visiting the cores of gas giants to test our understandings is wildly impractical. The next best thing, then, is to recreate these massive pressures on Earth and study their effects on materials. As impossible a task as it may seem, scientists at the National Ignition Facility (NIF) used its enormous lasers to do exactly that. Read 8 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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The PSN cracking saga is finally coming to a close, legally. The final loose ends from the massive hack of Sony's PlayStation Network that first came to light in April 2011 are being tied up, with Sony agreeing to a settlement that could hold it liable for up to $15 million in damages, plus nearly $2.75 million in attorney fees. The lengthy settlement agreement (PDF) offers a number of benefits to users affected by the breach: a free downloadable PS3 or PSP game (from a selection of 14 titles), three PS3 themes (from a selection of six), or a three-month subscription to PlayStation Plus. Users who took advantage of Sony's "Welcome Back" promotion back in 2011 can choose one of those benefits, while those who didn't get a free game back then can choose from two of the three benefits. Sony has also agreed to pay up to $2,500 to each user who can show that their identity was compromised in a way that "more likely than not... directly and proximately resulted from the PSN Intrusion or the SOE Intrusion and not from any other source." Users can get additional benefits if they can show they stopped using their PSN account for the last three years because of the breach, if they lost out on time using an existing Qriocity music subscription, or if they were registered for Sony Online Entertainment games. Read 6 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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While communication from Microsoft about its layoffs and reorganization lacks a certain amount of clarity, one statement made in its earnings call yesterday did appear to be straightforward: "We will streamline the next version of Windows from three operating systems into one single converged operating system for screens of all sizes" said CEO Satya Nadella. The immediate reaction was twofold. From some parties, there were congratulatory noises, praising Nadella for this new strategy that moved away from the Ballmer-era multiple operating system. From others, there was glee that the "confusing" line-up of Windows, Windows RT, and Windows Phone would soon be gone and that in future users would no longer need to worry about what their devices were using. Some are even cheering the "fact" that this means that Windows RT will be killed off forever. That Nadella's remarks provoked headlines and column inches is ever so surprising, however, because what he said isn't new, isn't really being interpreted properly, and wasn't really his idea. Read 13 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Antana Heritage Auctions, the Texas company orchestrating the Bitcoins.com sale, pulled the auction listing on Wednesday afternoon, stating: "This lot has been withdrawn from this auction. Bids are no longer accepted and previous bids are cancelled." The move comes as the result of a federal judicial order issued on Tuesday that put an immediate halt to the sale of Bitcoins.com, the domain name owned by embattled Mt. Gox CEO Mark Karpeles. "The lot is being held for now so we can get this sorted out one way or the other," Noah Fleisher, a Heritage Auctions spokesman, told Ars. "I haven't heard from [Karpeles] at all." Read 9 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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