posted 13 days ago on ars technica
Enlarge / Four images from New Horizons' Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) were combined with color data from the spacecraft's Ralph instrument to create this enhanced color global view of Pluto. (credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University/SWRI) Humanity's expansion into the Solar System seems to be a recurrent theme around here. We dedicated a podcast to The Expanse and reviewed the book Beyond Earth, which imagines humanity colonizing Saturn's moon Titan. Recently, we got a chance to look at a different take on humanity's travels to other worlds, one that goes a step beyond political drama and existential threats. Instead, it's all about planetary tourism. Set up like a travel guide, with chapters for each planet and Pluto, Vacation Guide to the Solar System imagines a future in which people spend a couple of decades to do a round-trip to Saturn and don't want to miss any of the major sights when they get there. And, while Vacation Guide is anything but a hard science book, you'll probably end up smarter for having read it. Which is the entire point. Guerillas in space The book's authors, Olivia Koski and Jana Grcevich, belong to a group called Guerilla Science, which uses art, installations, performances, and more to try to insert a little science into the lives of people who weren't necessarily looking for it. The group started the Intergalactic Travel Bureau as a bit of a performance—members of Guerilla Science would act as travel planners and ask people what they were interested in before suggesting a planet that would suit those tastes. Eventually, the made-up bureau morphed into an actual storefront in Manhattan. Read 10 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 13 days ago on ars technica
Enlarge / This plaque honoring Robert Recorde is at the Tenby Museum in Wales. (credit: Tenby Museum) Robert Recorde was one of those people so irritatingly extraordinary that you're almost glad when they come to a tragic end. In the 16th century, he made advances in economics, medicine, theology, and poetry. But his greatest contribution is taught to every elementary school child, and it arguably laid the groundwork for modern computer science. He invented the equals sign. From urine to popular science Recorde was born in 1510 in Tenby, Wales. At age 14, he went to Oxford University. At age 21, he was teaching mathematics there, although scholarship wasn't his first career goal. Over the next few years, he also earned a degree in medicine and wrote the exquisitely titled monograph The Urinal of Physick, detailing what a physician could learn from a patient's urine. Either medicine proved less fascinating than Recorde had anticipated, or less lucrative. Over the next decade, he moved from medicine to finance and oversaw mints in Bristol, London, and Dublin. The writer's life, however, clearly appealed to him. He produced a large and varied body of work: theological tracts defending Protestantism, poems, and most importantly, textbooks. Read 9 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 14 days ago on ars technica
Enlarge (credit: NASA) Back in 2012, I had the pleasure of visiting the IBM Watson research center. Among the people I talked with was George Tulevski, who was working on developing carbon nanotubes as a possible replacement for silicon in some critical parts of transistors. IBM likes to think about developing technology with about a 10-year time window, which puts us about halfway to when the company might expect to be making nanotube-based hardware. So, how's it going? This week, there was a bit of a progress report published in Nature Nanotechnology (which included Tulevski as one of its authors). In it, IBM researchers describe how they're now able to put together test hardware that pushes a carbon nanotube-based processor up to 2.8GHz. It's not an especially useful processor, but the methods used for assembling it show that some (but not all) of the technology needed to commercialize nanotube-based hardware is nearly ready. Semiconducting hurdles The story of putting together a carbon nanotube processor is largely one of overcoming hurdles. You wouldn't necessarily expect that; given that the nanotubes can be naturally semiconducting, they'd seem like a natural fit for existing processor technology. But it's a real challenge to get the right nanotubes in the right place and play nicely with the rest of the processor. In fact, it's a series of challenges. Read 11 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 14 days ago on ars technica
Enlarge / Taking over Manhattan. (Note the various thugs who are "sleeping with the fishes" in the Hudson River.) Welcome to Ars Cardboard, our weekend look at tabletop games! Check out our complete board gaming coverage at cardboard.arstechnica.com—and let us know what you think. Straining your voice to mimic Marlon Brando's “make him an offer he can’t refuse” line from The Godfather is an American pastime. With CoolMiniOrNot's The Godfather: Corleone's Empire, you can now pull this off while playing a board game—and a pretty good one at that. High-quality tabletop games based on licensed intellectual properties are on the uptick. It's no longer correct to assume that licensed properties will result in a mailed-in effort with some stylish artwork thrown on a box. Game designer Eric Lang (Chaos in the Old World, Blood Rage) has said that The Godfather is his favorite film, and his dedication shows in this new release. Read 18 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 14 days ago on ars technica
Enlarge / Bad news for the bishop. (credit: Netflix) The only great thing about the first-ever animated Castlevania TV series is how it ends: with a taste of a promising follow-up. The new Netflix "series," which is technically an 80-minute movie broken up into four chunks, concludes with everything you would want from such a video game-inspired show. Vampires. Demons. Whips. Magic. Action. But the series' journey to that point is so tiring and burdensome that this tiny four-episode series still feels too long. Dracula takes a different type of bite Read 12 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 14 days ago on ars technica
Enlarge / We are not Batman. But you get the idea. (credit: Tiffany Liu, MIT) I have a healthy level of paranoia given the territory I inhabit. When you write things about hackers and government agencies and all that, you simply have a higher level of skepticism and caution about what lands in your e-mail inbox or pops up in your Twitter direct messages. But my paranoia is also based on a rational evaluation of what I might encounter in my day-to-day: it's based on my threat model. In the most basic sense, threat models are a way of looking at risks in order to identify the most likely threats to your security. And the art of threat modeling today is widespread. Whether you're a person, an organization, an application, or a network, you likely go through some kind of analytical process to evaluate risk. Threat modeling is  a key part of the practice people in security often refer to as "Opsec." A portmanteau of military lineage originally meaning "operation security," Opsec originally referred to the idea of preventing an adversary from piecing together intelligence from bits of sensitive but unclassified information, as wartime posters warned with slogans like "Loose lips might sink ships." In the Internet age, Opsec has become a much more broadly applicable practice—it's a way of thinking about security and privacy that transcends any specific technology, tool, or service. By using threat modeling to identify your own particular pile of risks, you can then move to counter the ones that are most likely and most dangerous. Read 36 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 15 days ago on ars technica
Enlarge (credit: Peter Linehan) A South Carolina inmate used wire cutters and other "tools" like mobile phones believed to be dropped from a drone to coordinate his escape from a maximum-security prison. The inmate wasn't noticed missing for 18 hours, prison officials said Friday. Jimmy Causey. (credit: South Carolina Department of Corrections) Jimmy Causey was arrested Friday in Austin, Texas, about 1,200 miles away from the Lieber Correctional Institution outside Charleston, authorities said. Prison officials believe the 46-year-old man (PDF), serving a life sentence for kidnapping his attorney, escaped around 8pm on July 4. The authorities had not realized the convict was gone until about 2pm the next afternoon. Causey had cut through four fences to escape. "We 100 percent know a cellphone was used or multiple cellphones were used while he was incarcerated, and we believe a drone was used to fly in the tools that allowed him to escape," Bryan Stirling, director of the South Carolina Department of Corrections, said, according to The New York Times. Read 5 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 15 days ago on ars technica
Enlarge / Zachary Quinto (left) as Commander Spock and Chris Pine (right) as Captain James T. Kirk in the 2013 movie, "Star Trek: Into Darkness." (credit: CBS via Getty Images) An Oklahoma City man was arrested last Saturday after police responded to a domestic disturbance in the force (or perhaps a rip in space-time): two roommates were arguing over whether Star Wars or Star Trek was the better movie, and things got too intense. A police report provided to Ars does not specify precisely which of the myriad of movies and/or shows the men were griping about. However, it does say that during the argument, the victim, Bradley Warren Burke, went back to his room. As he did so, Burke told his roommate, 23-year-old Jerome Dewayne Whyte, that Whyte was "just a trick." Read 3 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 15 days ago on ars technica
Enlarge With retailers continuing to sell out of Nintendo Switch hardware pretty much the moment it comes into stock and Nintendo promising shipments of 10 million consoles by the end of the fiscal year, you'd think third-party publishers would be falling all over themselves to port existing and upcoming games and franchises over to Nintendo's hit system. For the most part, you'd be wrong (so far, at least). Sure, you can find some major multi-platform ports in the Switch's list of upcoming games. Those include ports of older titles like Skyrim and Rocket League, sports games like NBA 2K18 and FIFA 18, family titles like Lego Marvel Super Heroes 2 and Just Dance 2018, and so on. And the Switch already has versions of Minecraft, NBA Playgrounds, and plenty of indie games that also appear on other consoles. Read 7 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 15 days ago on ars technica
Enlarge (credit: Scott K. Johnson) “Alternative facts” aren’t new. Young-Earth creationist groups like Answers in Genesis believe the Earth is no more than 6,000 years old despite actual mountains of evidence to the contrary, and they've been playing the “alternative facts” card for years. In lieu of conceding incontrovertible geological evidence, they sidestep it by saying, “Well, we just look at those facts differently.” Nowhere is this more apparent than the Grand Canyon, which young-Earth creationist groups have long been enamored with. A long geologic record (spanning almost 2 billion years, in total) is on display in the layers of the Grand Canyon thanks to the work of the Colorado River. But many creationists instead assert that the canyon’s rocks—in addition to the spectacular erosion that reveals them—are actually the product of the Biblical “great flood” several thousand years ago. Andrew Snelling, who got a PhD in geology before joining Answers in Genesis, continues working to interpret the canyon in a way that is consistent with his views. In 2013, he requested permission from the National Park Service to collect some rock samples in the canyon for a new project to that end. The Park Service can grant permits for collecting material, which is otherwise illegal. Read 7 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 15 days ago on ars technica
Enlarge / Pieces of Uber's earlier lidar system, codenamed "Spider," are arrayed in a courtroom in San Francisco. (credit: Waymo v. Uber court documents) Waymo has narrowed the claims in its lawsuit against Uber over self-driving car technology. Alphabet's self-driving car company dropped most of its patent claims in an effort to streamline a planned October trial. Uber was sued in February, when Waymo dropped the bombshell allegation that a former Uber engineer, Anthony Levandowski, stole more than 14,000 files while working at Google. Levandowski hasn't denied the downloads, instead asserting his Fifth Amendment rights. Meanwhile, Uber fired Levandowski and defended itself, saying Waymo's trade secrets never made their way onto Uber servers. With fiery disputes over discovery erupting practically every week, Waymo's patent case was a kind of corollary to the main show. Uber has used two different types of "lidar," the main technology at issue in the case. Lidar is a system for using lasers to allow self-driving cars to "see" the streetscape around them. Uber gave its prototypes the names "Spider" and "Fuji." Read 6 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 15 days ago on ars technica
Enlarge (credit: Getty Images) Shipping and Transit, LLC is a company that has spent more than a decade filing patent lawsuits against big businesses, public transport systems, and one-man software companies. Now for the first time, the organization has been ordered to pay the legal fees of one of the companies it sued. A federal judge has ordered (PDF) Shipping and Transit—formerly known as ArrivalStar, also known as Melvino Technologies—to pay legal fees to Logistics Planning Services (LPS), a Minnesota freight logistics company. Shipping and Transit's business model "involves filing hundreds of patent infringement lawsuits, mostly against small companies, and leveraging the high cost of litigation to extract settlements for amounts less than $50,000," wrote US District Judge Andrew Guilford in his order, published Wednesday. "These tactics present a compelling need for deterrence and to discourage exploitative litigation by patentees who have no intention of testing the merits of their claims." Read 14 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 15 days ago on ars technica
"It's the difference between looking at a picture and being there." (credit: Stone Age Gamer) Since launching the Virtual Console in 2006, Nintendo has officially re-released dozens of Super NES games for play on modern consoles. As that emulated library has grown, though, many have noted an important gap: Nintendo hasn't re-released any SNES games that made use of the 3D-focused Super FX chip (or the improved Super FX2 follow-up). The Super FX chip was only used in a handful of released games, and that list includes well-remembered classics like Star Fox and Yoshi's Island (which was actually re-coded with new, non-FX-powered graphics for its Game Boy Advance re-release in 2002). But while we've been able to buy and download games like SimCity and Kirby's Dream Course on the Wii for about a decade now, Nintendo has been effectively ignoring these Super FX-powered classics for just as long. That streak of Super FX disrespect will finally end in September when Yoshi's Island and Star Fox will show up on the Super NES Classic Edition. They'll be joined by the previously unreleased, Super FX2-powered Star Fox 2, which was completed in the mid-'90s but cancelled to avoid the shadow of more powerful 3D games on the likes of PlayStation and Nintendo 64. Read 14 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 15 days ago on ars technica
Enlarge (credit: Getty Images | KLH49) The cable TV industry has won a big victory against rate regulation via a court decision that will make it harder for cities and towns to impose price controls on pay-TV service. Today's ruling from the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit upheld a June 2015 decision by the Federal Communications Commission that helped cable companies avoid local rate regulation. The FCC, under then-Chairman Tom Wheeler, ruled that cable TV providers face "effective competition" nationwide, mainly because of the widespread availability of satellite TV service from DirecTV and Dish. Local franchise authorities are allowed to regulate the rates cable TV providers charge for basic cable services and equipment if the local cable company does not face "effective competition." Before the June 2015 FCC vote, the burden of proof was on cable companies to show that they faced effective competition. The Wheeler FCC's decision shifted the burden of proof to local authorities by adopting a "rebuttable presumption" that cable operators face effective competition. Read 9 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 15 days ago on ars technica
Enlarge (credit: Tesla) South Australia has suffered significant blackouts in recent months due to storms and heat. Now, the Australian state is looking for ways to fortify the grid, and it’s apparently turning to Tesla to provide some grid-tied storage. In a press release, Tesla wrote that it was chosen “through a competitive bidding process" to build a 100 MW/129 MWh battery system, which will draw energy from Neoen’s Hornsdale Wind Farm near Jamestown, South Australia. The project will be the largest grid-tied lithium-ion battery system in the world. The news comes several months after a Twitter exchange between Tesla CEO Elon Musk and Mike Cannon-Brookes, the billionaire behind software company Atlassian. Cannon-Brookes asked Musk if he could deliver 100MW in 100 days to South Australia and Musk responded in a tweet, “Tesla will get the system installed and working 100 days from contract signature or it is free. That serious enough for you?” Read 4 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 15 days ago on ars technica
Enlarge / Vice President Mike Pence speaks at Kennedy Space Center on Thursday. (credit: NASA) If President Donald Trump has had one consistent message about space exploration both during his campaign and presidency, it's that America is doing badly in space. About a year ago during a campaign stop in Daytona Beach, Florida, Trump said, "Look what's happened with our whole history of space and leadership. Look what's going on folks. We're like a third world nation." As Vice President Mike Pence has assumed duties over space policy, he has made a respectable effort to tour NASA and Air Force facilities around the country. But during these visits, he's also reiterated this Debbie Downer message. When he delivered a speech Thursday at Kennedy Space Center, Pence said that under the Trump administration, America will lead in space "once again" no less than eight times. The subtext here is that America has fallen far behind in space—and that it needs strong leadership to get back on its feet. While there are definitely significant problems with US space policy—starting with the lack a clear direction for human spaceflight and the funding to support those goals—no other nation can come close to the United States. Moreover, because of the long lead times baked into aerospace development, almost every "accomplishment" that demonstrates American leadership in space during the next 3.5 years will have started long before President Trump took office. Read 16 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 15 days ago on ars technica
Greetings, Arsians! Courtesy of our partners at TechBargains, we're back with a new list of deals to share. Dell is having its Black Friday in July sale, featuring savings on laptops, monitors, drones, and more. Of note is a steal on one of DJI's newest drones: now you can get a DJI Mavic Pro plus a $200 Dell gift card for $999. The Mavic Pro originally costs $999, so you essentially get the $200 gift card for free. Check out the full list of deals below, including Amazon Prime exclusive savings. Featured Read 8 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 15 days ago on ars technica
Enlarge / Trouble brews high, high in the sky. If only we had a hero nearby who could quickly scale buildings. (credit: Marvel Studios) How many Spider-Man film reboots do we really need? That's not a hypothetical question. The comic series often hinges on "boy-becomes-man" plot devices, so you don't want someone portraying Peter Parker who reaches 90210 levels of aging out. But the Menudo method of revolving-door casting can get exhausting with feature-length films. To escape its reboot baggage, Spider-Man Homecoming had quite a skyscraper of expectations to climb. Thankfully, its every element, including one of the best "teen" actor ensembles I've ever seen, spins enough taut, sky-high webbing to leap it handily. Peter Parker can’t lose Read 9 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 15 days ago on ars technica
Enlarge / Alexander Ljung, CEO and co-founder of SoundCloud, seen here in 2013. (credit: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images) SoundCloud announced Thursday that it would be closing its San Francisco and London offices—firing 173 employees, or around 40 percent of its staff. The Berlin-based company has been struggling for years: it reported losses of over €51 million ($58.1 million) in 2015—losses that have steadily grown since 2010. In January 2017 financial statements, the company said the losses "give rise to a material uncertainty about the Group's ability to continue as a going concern." Read 2 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 15 days ago on ars technica
(credit: Nuclear Regulatory Commission) The Department of Homeland Security and FBI have issued a joint report providing details of malware attacks targeting employees of companies that operate nuclear power plants in the US, including the Wolf Creek Nuclear Operating Corporation, the New York Times reports. The attacks have been taking place since May, as detailed in the report issued by federal officials last week, sent out to industry. The "amber" alert to industry—the second highest level of severity for these types of reports from the FBI and DHS—noted that the attacks had been focused on employees' personal computers but had not managed to jump to control systems. Administrative computers and reactor control systems in most cases are operated separately, and the control networks are generally "air-gapped"—kept disconnected from networks that attach to the Internet. There is no evidence that information on plant operations was exposed. FBI and DHS analysts have not been able to determine the nature of the malware planted by the attempted hacks, which used a "spear-phishing" campaign targeting senior industrial control engineers at nuclear facilities. The tailored e-mails contained fake résumés, and appeared to be from people seeking control engineering jobs, according to the report seen by the Times. Read 3 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 16 days ago on ars technica
Enlarge / Red's teaser image. (credit: RED) RED, the ultra high-end camera company with a flare for dramatic product designs, has announced an Android smartphone called the "RED Hydrogen." The press release is very light on details and written in RED's typical maximum-hype style, declaring that phone "shatters the mold of conventional thinking" and "features nanotechnology." There are a few details we can try to translate into English, though. First up, I'm not even quite sure what the phone's official name is. The website calls it the "RED Hydrogen," while the "Product Detail" PDF calls it the "RED Hydrogen One." The tag line calls this device a "Holographic media machine in your pocket" and says the 5.7-inch display "seamlessly switched between traditional 2D content, holographic multi-view content, 3D content, and interactive games." So presumably, like a Nintendo 3DS or HTC Evo 3D, this will come with some kind of special autostereoscopic 3D display. The talk of holography is a reference to something called "RED Hydrogen 4-view content (H4V)" which sounds like a new proprietary format from RED, but the company hasn't defined or announced H4V anywhere as far as we can tell. "Hydrogen" seems to be the branding for whatever this new imaging format is. The phone is also the "Hydrogen media machine," and, with a future accessory, you'll be able to record a "Hydrogen format holographic image." The release goes on to call the phone a "Control center for the hydrogen system" and will integrate with RED's cameras as a "user interface and monitor." Read 5 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 16 days ago on ars technica
Enlarge / Vice President Mike Pence addresses NASA employees on Thursday at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. (credit: NASA) As he continues to visit key space facilities around the country, Vice President Mike Pence spent a few hours at Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Thursday. During the visit, Pence spoke to the NASA workforce inside the iconic Vertical Assembly Building and, for the most part, gave his stump speech in which he and President Trump vow to restore US leadership in space. Within the remarks, which mentioned "leadership" 18 times, there were a few nuggets of news. The recently announced National Space Council will convene for its first meeting before the end of summer, Pence said. And he also offered a few more specifics about his overall goal for NASA's exploration program. "Our nation will return to the Moon, and we will put American boots on the face of Mars," he said. It was not clear whether Pence intends for humans to return to the lunar surface. Most likely, not too much should be read into this statement, as it seems less of a concrete policy proposal and more of a platitude at this time. What seemed more significant was Pence's repeated references to "commercial space," which two Republican sources indicated to Ars essentially referred to the kind of contracting NASA used to fund its commercial cargo and crew programs. Pence seems intent on pushing NASA toward the fixed-price model of contracting, in which the government buys a service—such as launch—from the commercial sector. This differs from the past, in which NASA might develop a technology, and then pay industry to develop it, or otherwise enter in an agreement where NASA pays for the costs of development, plus a fee. Read 7 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 16 days ago on ars technica
Enlarge / PARIS, FRANCE - JULY 06: French Minister of Ecological and Inclusive Transition Nicolas Hulot holds a press conference in order to present his climate plans on July 6, 2017 in Paris, France. (Photo by Christophe Morin/IP3/Getty Images) (credit: Getty Images) In an address on Thursday, France’s environment minister, Nicolas Hulot, said that the country would aim to phase out electricity from coal-fired plants by 2022 and end the sale of gas and diesel internal combustion cars by 2040. This first goal should be relatively easy to attain. France relies heavily on nuclear energy—more than 70 percent of the country’s energy mix is nuclear—and coal-fired plants only contribute to around four percent of France’s electric production. Hulot also said that he hoped to reduce the amount of nuclear energy in the country’s energy mix down to 50 percent by 2025, although, according to Le Monde, the environment minister admitted he does “not have all the answers.” In addition, Hulot noted a law would be proposed later this year to potentially end any new operating licenses for oil, gas, and coal mining. Read 4 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 16 days ago on ars technica
United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York Hobby Lobby, the US crafts supply company known for its pro-Christian branding, apparently has a side interest in smuggling rare archaeological artifacts. The company made headlines when it won a Supreme Court case in which it argued that the family-owned company should not have to pay for birth control for employees under the ACA, because doing so violated the owners' religious freedom as Christians. Apparently their Christian values did not extend to concerns about smuggling rare artifacts from the dawn of Western civilization. Read 7 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 16 days ago on ars technica
(credit: Ron Amadeo) Live sports streaming is a hot commodity for Internet companies, and now some have their sights on the 2018 World Cup. According to a Bloomberg report, Facebook, Twitter, and Snapchat are looking to obtain online streaming rights for World Cup game highlights. Fox Sports is the exclusive rights holder for the 2018 World Cup, to be hosted by Russia, and those social media websites are reportedly bidding tens of millions of dollars for the rights to stream highlights of games broadcast in the US. Whether Fox will sell the rights for these game highlights to one company or spread them out among many companies is unclear. It's worth noting that Facebook, Twitter, and Snapchat are only bidding for highlights—not the rights to stream full World Cup matches. Fox reportedly paid $400 million for multi-year rights to the World Cup and will air games on broadcast and cable television. But highlights may be in higher demand for the 2018 World Cup because many broadcasted games will be shown at odd times thanks to the Russian time difference. Short sports clips, like highlights, lend themselves well to social media, but they could be sought out even more during the next World Cup by soccer fans who can't watch games at 2 am. Read 3 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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