posted 10 days ago on ars technica
D. enigmata ron the right, with the three larger samples on the left representing D. discoides. PLoS one Over the past few years, studies of genomes have confused what we thought we knew about the origin of animal life. Instead of the simple sponges being the earliest branch off the animal tree, a group of relatively complex organisms, the ctenophores, seem to be the earliest branch. That finding has some serious implications as it suggests that a nervous system evolved twice. Now, some more traditional biology may upset the family tree even further. Old samples taken from the seabed near Tasmania contain examples of two different species that may belong to a phylum entirely unknown to us—one that split off near the base of the animal tree. The strange creatures also have features that suggest they may be related to remains from the Ediacaran, a period in which the first animal life appears in the fossil record. The samples actually date from a research cruise taken nearly 30 years ago, where a "sled" was dragged along the ocean floor and samples returned to the surface. The new species weren't recognized as interesting when they were first found, so they were left mixed in with the rest of the collection, which was fixed with formaldehyde and then dumped in 80 percent ethanol. The samples suffered a bit of further abuse when one of the authors wanted to refresh the alcohol and was given 100 percent ethanol instead. (The paper actually notes, "Unfortunately absolute alcohol was provided without comment instead of the requested 80 percent ethanol.") Read 10 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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The new Moto X is a worthy successor to the original. Andrew Cunningham CN.dart.call("xrailTop", {sz:"300x250", kws:["top"], collapse: true});At the end of last year's Moto X review, we concluded that it wasn't a perfect phone. Still, we wanted to see where Motorola would be in a year and, about 13 months later, it's safe to say it's been a busy year for the company. For starters, Motorola has made an aggressive play for the midrange, low-end, and emerging smartphone markets in the form of the Moto G and the Moto E. Both phones make compromises to hit their sub-$200-unlocked prices, but they largely identify the most important smartphone stuff and give you enough to get by. The original Moto X launched at a $579 unlocked ($199 on-contract) price point that was frankly too much to pay for what it offered, but it dropped to a more suitable $399 by the beginning of the year. The phone has spent most of its time since hovering between $300 and $400, give or take a sale. Things have been no less lively on the business side. The US-based phone factory that factored so prominently into early Moto X advertising is being shuttered. The division has continued to lose money for Google, but its sales are finally on an uptick, and reviews of each Moto phone have typically been positive. Most importantly, Google is selling Motorola to Lenovo, a company that isn't doing so badly in the smartphone market itself (the deal isn't actually scheduled to close until sometime next year, but Motorola has already quietly stripped "a Google company" from its branding on everything from its homepage to its phones' boot screens). Read 39 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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CN.dart.call("xrailTop", {sz:"300x250", kws:["top"], collapse: true});Last week was a full one for Motorola. The company invited a group of technology journalists to its newly-opened offices in Chicago's historic Merchandise Mart for a first look at its new Moto 360 smartwatch, as well as its updated Moto X and Moto G smartphones. Much like our trip to HP's Houston campus in June, the visit to Motorola's multi-floor laboratory and design workshop provided the perfect opportunity to snap a ton of interesting pictures. The preview event was held on September 4, the day before the Moto 360 went on sale. We were first ushered through several hours of carefully choreographed presentations showing off the capabilities and design heritage of the Moto 360; this was followed by more of the same type presentations about the Moto G and the Moto X. After about four hours, managing editor Eric Bangeman and I skipped away from lunch with our review hardware to get started with our initial write-ups. We were somewhat limited with where we could take pictures—not at all unusual in a functioning office with people trying to work—but below are a few dozen images showing a bit of what we saw during the reveals. Read on Ars Technica | Comments

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On Monday, Home Depot confirmed that thieves compromised the payment systems in its stores in the US and Canada and stole credit- and debit-card data. The theft likely began in April and used unspecified malware, but it may not have compromised the PINs used to secure debit cards, the company said in a statement. The home-supply retailer has not yet determined how many cards were breached, but the thieves had as many as six months in the company's systems. Comparatively, the malware-enabled theft of card data from retail giant Target resulted in the compromise of 40 million credit- and debit-card accounts and occurred in just over three weeks, albeit during the peak shopping season. Home Depot's Chairman and CEO Frank Blake apologized to customers on Monday. Read 5 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Front Porch ad. A Northern California company that bills itself as the "worldwide leader in Wi-Fi monetization" is the vendor behind Comcast's and other US cable companies' promotional advertising campaign performed through JavaScript injection, Comcast said Monday. Comcast spokesman Charlie Douglas confirmed the vendor's name, Front Porch of Sonora, hours after Ars reported that Comcast recently started serving Comcast ads to devices connected to one of its 3.5 million publicly accessible Wi-Fi hotspots across the US. We wrote that Comcast's decision to inject data into the net raises security concerns and cuts to the heart of the ongoing net neutrality debate. As it turns out, Front Porch also does business with Cox, Time Warner, Bright House, and Cablevision in the US, Front Porch CTO Carlos Vazquez said in a telephone interview. Read 8 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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The new Moto G is mostly just a larger version of the original, and that's fine. Andrew Cunningham CN.dart.call("xrailTop", {sz:"300x250", kws:["top"], collapse: true});We were big fans of the first Moto G, mostly because it was a budget smartphone that didn't look or act like your typical budget smartphone. Many phones you can buy for around $200 unlocked are still either cheap, underpowered handsets that can never hope to see updates or any additional support from the company you bought them from, or they're near-end-of-life flagships from years gone by. Decent, current "midrange" phones from the likes of Samsung, Apple, or HTC can still cost $400 or more without a contract, tying many buyers to two-year agreements with major carriers that subsidize the up-front price but eventually end up charging you more than the phone would have cost in the first place. So a $179 unlocked smartphone that has (so far) gotten prompt updates and features reasonably high-quality hardware was a breath of fresh air. Even nine months past its launch, the original Moto G doesn't have a lot of competition. Motorola has had quite a bit of success with these low-cost phones, though, so the company isn't resting on its laurels. The second-generation Moto G (called simply the "Moto G" in most advertising materials, though with a "2nd generation" tag on the box, Motorola's site, and the phone's About panel) is already here. What's different? What stays the same? And, more importantly, is this still the best Android phone that $179 can buy? Read 24 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 10 days ago on ars technica
Months after Comcast upgraded its subscribers' Netflix performance, AT&T and Verizon have finally followed suit. The average Netflix stream on Verizon FiOS hit 2.41Mbps in August, up from 1.61Mbps in July, Netflix said today in its monthly speed test update. AT&T's U-verse service offered average Netflix performance of 2.61Mbps in August, up from 1.44Mbps in July. Netflix recommends 5Mbps for high-definition quality, but there is a lot of lower quality Netflix content that requires less throughput. The boost in the averages indicates that customers are getting high-quality streams more often. Read 5 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 10 days ago on ars technica
Paramount Pictures / Aurich Lawson Today eBay subsidiary Braintree, which provides a platform for companies like Uber and Airbnb to accept payments, confirmed that it would be partnering with Bitcoin payment processor Coinbase to let users pay for things in Bitcoin from a Coinbase wallet. The news is big for Bitcoin supporters who have been looking to large retailers and service providers to give the virtual currency mass-market appeal. Braintree, which was purchased by eBay subsidiary PayPal last year for $800 million, builds the software that a handful of big companies use to offer online and mobile payments to customers. In a blog post, CEO Bill Ready said that “in the coming months” Braintree's customers would be able to “add bitcoin to their existing payment methods and provide an elegant, adaptive user interface for consumers to pay in bitcoin with their Coinbase wallet.” It's unclear which, if any, merchants have decided to incorporate Bitcoin into their accepted payment methods with Braintree. Still, the development shows that PayPal is thinking about bringing alternative forms of payment into its fold. “This is PayPal making a move to embrace Bitcoin,” Ready told TechCrunch today. Read 2 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Recently, we covered a bill that was introduced in Ohio to deemphasize teaching the scientific process and open the door for people to object to scientific instruction on political grounds. While under consideration, the text of the bill has been modified considerably. Gone is the language about politics, and in its place is a provision that uses language promoted by a think tank that supports intelligent design. (The Cleveland Plain Dealer is hosting a change log prepared by the Ohio Legislative Service Commission.) First, the good news: initially, the bill would prohibit "political or religious interpretation of scientific facts in favor of another" while directing teachers to "focus on academic and scientific knowledge rather than scientific processes." The problem there is that many people consider subjects like climate change and evolution to be little more than political indoctrination. In addition, knowing how science operates can be far more important and engaging than simply memorizing a list of what it's discovered. Read 3 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 10 days ago on ars technica
An area of crustal spreading, similar to a mid-ocean ridge, is at the center of this image. If the crust spreads there, it must compress elsewhere. NASA/JPL The Solar System is ancient. Many of the bodies in it show their age with impacts that date back to the violent early days of the Late Heavy Bombardment and craters embedded in craters. Earth is different in that plate tectonics and other geological processes constantly remake its surface. But even the Earth looks pretty old compared to Jupiter's moon Europa. Based on the number of impacts present, Europa looks to be less than 100 million years old. A variety of evidence indicates that Europa's dynamic surface comes from the fact that the moon has a thin crust of ice above a large sub-surface ocean. Geysers and other features also suggest that the moon is geologically active. But the precise mechanism that drive the surface remodeling have remained uncertain. Now, two researchers are proposing that the mechanism is the same as it is on Earth: plate tectonics. The proposal is put forth by the University of Idaho's Simon Kattenhorn and Johns Hopkins' Louise Prockter, and it was released by Nature Geoscience yesterday. The authors note the clear evidence of remodeling and point out that we've already identified a source of new ice reaching the surface: some features on the moon's surface appear to be sites of spreading, analogous to a mid-ocean ridge. But assuming the Moon hasn't been growing larger, there must be some process that removes old ice from the surface. Read 10 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Despite widespread support, a bill that would put limits on widespread surveillance is unlikely to get a vote before the elections—or even after them. According to National Journal, the USA Freedom Act, which would essentially stop the government's bulk collection of telephone call data, is flailing. The bill is struggling despite the fact that it won a stunning new supporter last week: Director of Intelligence James Clapper, one of the top defenders of the surveillance programs. A Senate staffer told NJ that it was "extremely unlikely" the bill would be considered in September. It was originally introduced in July by Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), and it has co-sponsors ranging from liberal senators like Sen. Edward Markey (D-MA) to Tea Party favorite Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX). Read 7 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 11 days ago on ars technica
MSN—known to millions as "the site that Internet Explorer insists on going to after a fresh install"—is getting a new look as part of a broader rebranding effort. The venerable portal site is Internet Explorer's default homepage and boasts millions of visitors. Its new, stylish makeover brings back memories of iGoogle and so many other portal-type sites before it. The different news sections can be personalized to favor your interests, and there's also integration with Outlook.com, Facebook, and Twitter. The site aggregates news from a wide range of sources spanning wire services, online publications, and local news outlets. The news partnerships will vary on a country-by-country basis: in the US, partners include The New York Times and Wall Street Journal. The Guardian and Telegraph are those chosen in the UK. Read 4 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 11 days ago on ars technica
Activision's MMO-styled shooter Destiny is the kind of release that would usually see a wave of launch-day reviews when it hits stores and download services on all major consoles tomorrow, especially given the interest over whether the Halo creators at Bungie have any life left in them after parting ways with Microsoft four years ago. That interest won't be met with much critical reaction tomorrow, however. Bungie has decided to let reviewers wait to experience the game with the public this time around. "Typically, games receive their report cards before they become available to the public," Bungie community manager David "DeeJ" Dague wrote at the company's official blog on Friday, before adding that Destiny is not "a typical shooter." After listing some of the in-game activities that could be accomplished by a group of two-to-four players (a standard group size for a review), Dague described those activities as merely "a foundation for so much more." Read 3 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 11 days ago on ars technica
No thanks, 4Mbps is fast enough for me. Comcast AT&T and Verizon have asked the Federal Communications Commission not to change its definition of broadband from 4Mbps to 10Mbps, saying many Internet users get by just fine at the lower speeds. "Given the pace at which the industry is investing in advanced capabilities, there is no present need to redefine 'advanced' capabilities," AT&T wrote in a filing made public Friday after the FCC’s comment deadline (see FCC proceeding 14-126). "Consumer behavior strongly reinforces the conclusion that a 10Mbps service exceeds what many Americans need today to enable basic, high-quality transmissions," AT&T wrote later in its filing. Verizon made similar arguments. Individual cable companies did not submit comments to the FCC, but their representative, the National Cable & Telecommunications Association (NCTA), agrees with AT&T and Verizon. Read 21 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 11 days ago on ars technica
When the Fire Phone came out, it was criticized for its poor app ecosystem, high price, and not-very-good 3D feature. Amazon usually undercuts the competition on pricing, but the Fire Phone was $200 on contract, the same price as much better smartphones from other companies. Now that the Fire Phone is out in the market and apparently not doing very well, Amazon is fixing the one thing it can fix: the price. Amazon has announced that the (still) AT&T-exclusive device will now be going for 99 cents on a two-year contract. The off-contract price got a $200 price cut, too, going from $649.99 to $449.99 for the 32GB version. Buying a Fire Phone also gets you 12 months of Amazon Prime. $449.99 off-contract is a little closer to competitive, but it's still a tough sell compared to the 32GB Nexus 5, which is $399.99. Google's device has a much better (and bigger) screen and the full suite of Google Play apps. On-contract, it has to fight other under-a-dollar devices, like the one cent AT&T Moto X. Read 2 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Abby Sletten, 20. Police Handout A 20-year-old North Dakota woman is being charged with negligent homicide after the car she allegedly was driving at 85 mph slammed into another vehicle, killing an 89-year-old Minnesota woman. Prosecutors say the incident took place on May 27 in daylight on Interstate 29 outside Grand Forks, North Dakota. Police said Sletten was surfing photos on Facebook and texting before she plowed into a SUV, killing its front-seat passenger, Phyllis Gordon, 89. "Sletten had also sent and received several text messages since she departed from Fargo," the complaint read, according to the Star-Tribune. Witnesses said the vehicle Gordon was traveling in had slowed to make an unauthorized U-turn before the collision. The criminal complaint said that "several people" unsuccessfully tried to revive Gordon at the scene. Read 4 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 11 days ago on ars technica
The iPhone 5S (left) compared to what is allegedly the front glass from the next iPhone. Marques Brownlee After a year of minimalistic updates and the resurrection of old products, Apple is finally ready to make its first big hardware announcements of 2014 tomorrow at the Flint Center for the Performing Arts in Cupertino, CA. The event is laden with symbolic significance, not least because Apple used the Flint Center to introduce the original Macintosh over 30 years ago (it normally holds events on its campus in Cupertino or in downtown San Francisco). We're all but certain to hear about new iPhones tomorrow, along with a new version of the operating system that powers them. But while iPhone sales continue to grow and now account for well over half of Apple's revenue, in the eyes of certain analysts and investors it's old news. The last decade-plus of Apple's growth has been fueled not just by maintaining existing product lines, but by introducing new ones. A brand-new product type is what those Apple watchers want to see, and by all reports they'll be getting one tomorrow. Read 27 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 11 days ago on ars technica
Apple's next event is nearly upon us. Apple Apple has had a very quiet 2014. Aside from its announcements at WWDC, it hasn't made any major product introductions, and even WWDC was mostly previews of things that would be released in the fall. That's all set to change tomorrow morning, when Apple takes the stage at the Flint Center for the Performing Arts in its hometown of Cupertino, CA. We'll be publishing a longer post about what to expect soon, but the short list includes at least one new, larger iPhone, the public release date for iOS 8, and the announcement of a brand-new wearable that will be the first all-new product line of the Tim Cook epoch. Ars Staff Editor Megan Geuss and I will be on the floor at the show to deliver our customary liveblog and associated commentary, and after the show we'll be getting some hands-on impressions of anything Apple will let us touch (and maybe some other stuff besides). The proceedings begin at 10:00am Pacific time—see the countdown timer below to see when it starts in your time zone. Read 1 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 11 days ago on ars technica
TiVo This morning, great-grand-daddy DVR manufacturer TiVo announced that the company is aiming big with its next DVR, the TiVo Mega. With a release date currently scheduled for the first quarter of 2015, the Mega will come in a 10-bay, 19" rack-mount enclosure that appears to be 4U tall, judging from the PR images. The Mega's bays will be filled with hard drives in a RAID5 array, yielding 24TB of storage. The press release doesn’t say what drive types or capacities are used, but some quick RAID math shows that if all 10 bays are populated, the Mega likely uses 3TB drives, which would give it roughly 25TB of usable space before TiVo’s software is loaded. The Mega does everything TiVo’s flagship Roamio DVR does—it just does a lot more of it. The device has six tuners and can send content to TiVo Mini devices to send content to multiple rooms; it also comes with a lifetime subscription to TiVo’s service. Read 3 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Researchers working at the site of a recent ice core (designated NEEM) in northern Greenland. Christian Morel Any interesting field of science (read: all of them) has its little mysteries—things that don’t quite make sense. They're the currency of a research scientist, since they provide interesting questions. One of these little stumpers is found in Greenland ice cores. Ice cores, with their annual layering, have provided a revolutionary window into Earth’s climate history. By analyzing two isotopes of oxygen in the water molecules, researchers found a record of changing climate. In warmer times, the heavier 18O atoms become a little more common. In colder times, they are less so. This revealed all kinds of information about the last few glacial cycles, which are controlled by subtle changes in Earth’s orbit and amplified by positive feedbacks like CO2. There are, however, complications. The oxygen isotope ratio can also shift for reasons other than temperature, like changing snowfall patterns. The complications gave researchers reason to be skeptical of a strange detail at the end of the last ice age. Read 10 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Nearly a week after female celebrities’ nude photos were stolen and shared across the Internet, reddit has banned the subreddit that helped to distribute them. The reddit group /r/TheFappening and related subreddits were banned on Saturday night after reddit CEO Yishan Wong posted a blog titled “Every Man Is Responsible For His Own Soul.” The blog explained why the company is unlikely to make changes to its policies because of one incident. In an update to the blog post, Wong wrote that the subreddit was banned because it violated rules unrelated to being a center for people to access stolen nude photos of female celebrities. He wrote that he disagrees with the distribution of stolen images, yet believes that reddit is a place for people to distribute media (and in this case, stolen nude photos): Read 3 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Mike Mozart Comcast has begun serving Comcast ads to devices connected to one of its 3.5 million publicly accessible Wi-Fi hotspots across the US. Comcast's decision to inject data into websites raises security concerns and arguably cuts to the core of the ongoing net neutrality debate. A Comcast spokesman told Ars the program began months ago. One facet of it is designed to alert consumers that they are connected to Comcast's Xfinity service. Other ads remind Web surfers to download Xfinity apps, Comcast spokesman Charlie Douglas told Ars in telephone interviews. The advertisements may appear about every seven minutes or so, he said, and they last for just seconds before trailing away. Douglas said the advertising campaign only applies to Xfinity's publicly available Wi-Fi hot spots that dot the landscape. Comcast customers connected to their own Xfinity Wi-Fi routers when they're at home are not affected, he said. Read 19 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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The Moto 360 (center) could almost pass for a real watch. Ron Amadeo CN.dart.call("xrailTop", {sz:"300x250", kws:["top"], collapse: true});After what seems like an eternity, the most promising Android Wear hardware has finally hit the market. While the LG G Watch and the Samsung Gear Live were first to market, the Moto 360 has always felt like the flagship device for Android Wear. While the software seems like it's headed in the right direction, the hardware for smartwatches has felt like a live experiment being carried out in the marketplace. Pebble has aimed for maximum battery life with a black-and-white e-ink screen, and Samsung's hardware machine gun has been in full effect, releasing everything from a wrist-mounted smartphone to a skinny, curved OLED device focused on fitness. Spend a few minutes with the 360 and you'll quickly realize that the square, plastic designs other manufacturers are pushing are dead-on-arrival. The Moto 360 design is a huge step forward for smartwatches. It's round, it's comfortable to wear, and it looks like a normal watch. Read 46 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 11 days ago on ars technica
Peter Hartree The Bárðarbunga (or Bardarbunga) volcano has erupted, evoking memories of the 2010 Icelandic ash cloud that caused chaos across European and North American air routes.  What has been happening? The ice-covered Bárðarbunga volcano has a magma chamber beneath it, and measurements indicate that magma from this chamber has been escaping into a vertical underground crack. In total, the magma has migrated some 40 km northeast of the chamber. We call this process a dyke intrusion. Escape of magma from the chamber has removed support from the chamber roof, which has collapsed to trigger earthquakes in the area. At the far northeast tip of the dyke intrusion, the magma managed to find a route to the surface on August 29, producing a small eruption at the Holuhraun lava field. After a pause, a larger eruption started in the same place on August 31—that eruption continues at the time of writing. Both of these events occurred along an ancient fissure that had erupted in 1797. So it looks like the magma in the new dyke intrusion met the old and cold 1797 dyke intrusion and followed its path to the surface. Had this not happened, the new dyke intrusion might have kept moving to the northeast. Read 14 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 12 days ago on ars technica
In late May, an international law enforcement effort disrupted the Gameover Zeus (GoZ) botnet, a network of compromised computers used for banking fraud. The operation also hobbled a secondary, but equally important cyber-criminal operation: the Cryptolocker ransomware campaign, which used a program distributed by the GoZ botnet to encrypt victims' sensitive files, holding them hostage until the victim paid a fee, typically hundreds of dollars. The crackdown, and the subsequent discovery by security firms of the digital keys needed to decrypt affected data, effectively eliminated the threat from Cryptolocker. Yet, ransomware is not dead, two recent analyses have found. Within a week of the takedown of Gameover Zeus and Cryptolocker, a surge of spam with links to a Cryptolocker copycat, known as Cryptowall, resulted in a jump in ransomware infections, states a report released last week by security-services firm Dell Secureworks. Cryptowall first appeared in November 2013, and spread slowly, but the group behind the program were ready to take advantage of the vacuum left by the downfall of its predecessor. Read 10 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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