Making room for new technology they don’t handle mail they sort magazines… ballots never go here…

Virgin Orbit sending first payload to space Sunday | fox43.com

nation-world

The launcher will be released from a Boeing 747 named Cosmic Girl. Author: JOHN ANTCZAK Associated Press Published: 12:29 AM EDT May 21, 2020

LOS ANGELES — Richard Branson’s Virgin Orbit is targeting the coming weekend for its first attempt to launch a demonstration payload into space aboard a rocket released from beneath the wing of a Boeing 747.

The air launch is scheduled for Sunday off the coast of Southern California and will only proceed if conditions are satisfactory, the company said Wednesday.

“Although air-launched systems like ours are less vulnerable to bad weather than fixed ground-launch systems, we’ll be watching the weather closely and being cautious for this maiden flight. Should our flight slip, we have a launch window open at a similar time on May 25th,” it said.

The carrier aircraft, named Cosmic Girl, will take off from Mojave Air and Space Port in the Mojave Desert and fly out over the Pacific.

Release of the LauncherOne rocket would occur near San Nicolas Island, part of the Channel Islands off the California coast.

19dcc5a0-7d62-4422-9d3f-afb41b196839_1140x641This April 12, 2020 photo shows a Boeing 747 with a rocket slung beneath a wing in its final major test before an upcoming demonstration of its system in which the rocket will be carried aloft and launched.   Virgin Orbit

RELATED: NASA’s human spaceflight chief resigns just days before historic SpaceX launch

RELATED: Try this SpaceX simulator and dock with the International Space Station

Earlier this year, Virgin Orbit conducted a rehearsal flight that simulated release of the rocket.

Headquartered in Long Beach, Virgin Orbit is a sister company to Virgin Galactic, which is preparing to carry tourists on suborbital flights high over New Mexico.

Virgin Orbit’s system will be capable of launching small satellites into space from locations around the world.

The launch rehearsal comes after years of development and recent extensive modification of operations because of the coronavirus pandemic, as well as putting team members to work on the development of medical ventilators. https://d-35037793112624109830.ampproject.net/2005151844001/frame.html

https://www.fox43.com/amp/article/news/nation-world/virgin-orbit-space-launch/507-0d19eb87-c50a-4db9-b874-e27e11b4e74f?__twitter_impression=true

How to enable Twitter ‘Lights Out’ dark mode on Android – 9to5Google

Since the unveiling of Android 10, dark mode has been one of the most hotly requested features for almost every app. As of today, Twitter is finally rolling out their AMOLED-black “Lights Out” dark mode on Android, but you might need a trick to enable it. On those platforms, Twitter has long offered a dark mode which replace the blinding white background with a more subdued blue hue. Twitter for Android and iOS even allow this dark mode to be triggered automatically based on sunset.

https://9to5google.com/2019/10/22/twitters-lights-out-dark-mode-rolling-out-on-android-heres-how

-to-manually-enable/amp/?__twitter_impression=true

Wow! This Is What SpaceX’s Starlink Satellites Look Like in the Night Sky | Space

You have never seen a night sky sight quite like this.

It’s been one day since SpaceX launched its first 60 starlink internet satellites into orbit, and sky watching sleuth has already spotted them soaring across the night sky.

Neverlands-based satellite tracker Marco Langbroek stunned space fans tonight (May 24) with this jaw-dropping video of dozens of Starlink satellite soaring overhead.

Continue reading here and watch this amazing video.

https://www.space.com/spacex-starlink-satellites-spotted-night-sky-video.html

Genetically Engineered Salmon May be Coming To A Store Near You

https://grist.org/food/genetically-engineered-salmon-may-be-coming-to-a-store-near-you/

One fish, two fish, strange fish, new fish
By Richard Martin on Mar 9, 2018

This story originally appeared in bioGraphic, an online magazine about nature and sustainability powered by the California Academy of Sciences.

One day in 1992, a technology entrepreneur sat down for a meeting with a pair of biologists who were studying the genes of fish. The scientists, Choy Hew and Garth Fletcher, were working on a method of purifying “antifreeze proteins” that would help Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar) survive so-called superchill events in the North Atlantic. Normally, these salmon migrate out of the subzero ice-laden seawater of the far North Atlantic to overwinter in less frigid waters. Increasingly, though, such fish were being farmed, penned year-round in offshore cages, in near-Arctic waters to which they were not adapted. Fish farmers were looking for a way to keep the fish alive through the winter, and the antifreeze protein seemed like a possible solution.

As the meeting drew to a close, Fletcher and Hew showed Elliot Entis, the entrepreneur, a photo of two fish of equal age. One dwarfed the other. “I sat back down,” Entis recalled recently.

Fletcher and Hew, it turned out, had not just been putting antifreeze proteins into Atlantic salmon. They had also figured out a way to add a growth hormone from Chinook salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha), plus a fragment of DNA from the ocean pout (Zoarces americanus), an eel-like creature that inhabits the chilly depths off the coast of New England and eastern Canada. This genetic code acts like an “on” switch to activate the growth hormone. The result was a genetically engineered superfish that grew nearly twice as fast, on less food, than conventional salmon.

Those salmon, grown and marketed by a company called AquaBounty Technologies that was founded by Entis, could be coming to U.S. grocery stores next year. And they could offer a way out of the deadly spiral of overfishing that is decimating wild fish stocks.

Open-ocean fishing for wild species is no longer sustainable; it hasn’t been for a long time. While some of the most damaging forms of industrial fishing have been outlawed over the years, a combination of continued overfishing, habitat destruction, and warming oceans has dramatically reduced salmon populations. According to the Northwest Fisheries Science Center, of the 17 distinct populations of Pacific salmon, all are considered either “in danger of extinction” or “likely to become endangered.” Atlantic salmon, too, have been battered by commercial overfishing, climate change, and cross-contamination by farmed salmon and the resulting spread of disease; according to a 2001 World Wildlife Fund report, their population fell by more than 75 percent between 1984 and 2001.

At current rates, according to a 2006 article in the journal Science, the world will run out of all wild-caught fish by mid-century.

Genetically engineered fish could provide a solution, taking the pressure off wild stocks and reducing the energy and carbon emissions required to feed the world’s seafood appetite. Because AquaBounty’s salmon are sterile and raised in land-based tanks, they can’t breed with wild populations. And because they efficiently convert fish feed into edible protein, they offer a potential low-cost solution for nourishing not only affluent consumers in North America but hungry people in the developing world with little access to meat.
The eyespots of developing embryos are clearly visible inside these fertilized salmon eggs. AquaBounty

But there is something about genetically engineered fish that many find uniquely disturbing. In a 2013 poll by The New York Times, 75 percent of respondents said they wouldn’t eat genetically modified fish. (That number dropped to two-thirds for other forms of GE meat.) The nation’s largest grocery chains, including Safeway and Kroger as well as Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s, have signed a statement saying they will not sell genetically modified fish.

There’s also a tangle of bureaucratic red tape to get through before GE fish finds its way into U.S. grocery stores. The U.S. Food & Drug Administration approved AquaBounty salmon for sale in this country more than two years ago, in November 2015. But an obscure rider attached to a budget bill by Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski in December of that same year effectively blocked the FDA from allowing GE salmon into the U.S. That import ban still stands.

It’s a strange paradox: If you could get the fish here, you could sell them; but you can’t legally bring GE salmon into the country.

Undeterred, in June 2017, AquaBounty, which is headquartered in Maynard, Massachusetts, purchased a land-based fish farm near Albany, Indiana. If the import ban can be overturned, enabling the company to bring in transgenic eggs produced in Canada, AquaBounty could begin raising fish there sometime this year. That means the company’s salmon could be on sale in the U.S. by 2019, which would make it the first genetically modified animal food ever sold and eaten in this country.

Opposition, naturally, is fierce. But to AquaBounty CEO Ron Stotish, bringing superfish to global markets is not just a promising business opportunity; it also has the potential to change an industry.

“We are providing technology to improve food production and make it sustainable,” Stotish says. This, he says, will put society in a better position “to address the global food security issues we’ll face as the world’s population approaches 10 billion.”

Great Bear Rainforest, British Columbia, Canada Ian Mcallister/Getty

Eager to see how AquaBounty got to this point and what the future of fish farming might look like, I traveled to the company’s hatchery at Bay Fortune, on Prince Edward Island. The island — known as PEI — forms an arc in the southern Gulf of St. Lawrence, just off the coasts of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. Driving out from Charlottetown to the far eastern peninsula, we pass small, picturesque fishing villages and tidy farms flying Canadian flags. AquaBounty’s lab and hatchery is a metal-sided, two-story building, painted the cheery shade of ocean blue that has become the company’s trademark color. Belying the research and engineering underway inside, the exterior looks more like a roadside warehouse than a lab for mad fish science.

Inside, in big green fiberglass tanks, swim the salmon: conventional and transgenic in separate tanks, each fish individually microchipped. Called “AquAdvantage Salmon” in the company’s marketing materials, the genetically engineered fish are more than twice the size of conventional fish at 12 months of age — around 1 kilogram (2.2 pounds) compared to 300 to 400 grams (0.7 to 0.9 pounds) for the regular salmon.

This is Fletcher and Hew’s innovation, pictured in the photo they showed to Entis 25 years earlier. Entis, whose father ran one of the first companies to import farm-raised salmon from Norway, had seen a revolution in the making. “The first thing I thought was, ‘My God, these guys don’t know what they’re sitting on.’ To raise fish in half the time, that has enormous implications. I pretty quickly realized that this is the kind of massive breakthrough that could be critically important to an entire industry.”

What Entis didn’t realize at the time was just how long it would take to bring that breakthrough to market — nor that he would no longer be there to see it through. Along the way, both Entis and Fletcher — who joined the company in 1994 — were ousted.

In 2012, the company’s primary investor, Kakha Bendukidze, a biologist and entrepreneur who’d served as Minister of Economy in the former Soviet Socialist Republic of Georgia, lost patience and pulled out. AquaBounty was close to collapse before receiving a $6 million investment in 2012 from Intrexon Corp., a synthetic biology company.

Today, AquaBounty’s fish are available in Canadian grocery stores. Five tons were sold there in 2017 without being labeled as such. Canada has no law that requires labeling of genetically modified seafood.

Back in the Bay Fortune hatchery, the transgenic fish patrol the tanks ceaselessly, the only sound the occasional splash as a fish breaks the surface, thinking we might have food. The salmon are stippled and banded in endless shades of gray, silver, and black, with occasional flashes of green. Evolved to travel hundreds of miles from their freshwater spawning grounds to the open ocean and back, these fish will live out their lives in these tanks, fed by constantly circulating filtered freshwater, never leaving this building.
Market-sized, genetically modified salmon patrol the indoor tanks inside AquaBounty’s Prince Edward Island facility. Stephen DesRoches

Dawn Runighan, the facility manager, shows me the miniature tanks where the baby fish are raised, and the grow-out area where they reach maturity. There are big bags of fish feed, and canisters of sperm lined up like old-fashioned milk tanks. In another room are tubular incubators containing the eggs that will become superfish. If I was expecting a high-tech sanctum where Faustian scientists use supercomputers to meddle with the building blocks of nature, what I found was more quotidian: a few technicians in rubber boots moving equipment around and checking water levels. Much of the space in an adjoining room is taken up by an elaborate, three-phase filtration system that includes settling tanks, “bio-beads” impregnated with organisms that remove ammonia and organic matter from the water, and finally a UV-light filter to finish the cleansing process. “It’s basically a wastewater treatment plant, with fish,” cracks Runighan.

Upstairs there is a lab where quality control and R&D on the company’s proprietary gene technology takes place. A white-coated technician dips a pipette and fills tiny tubes in a rack. These will go into a machine that multiplies copies of a specific sequence of DNA for later analysis. No actual gene-splicing goes on at Bay Fortune. In fact, none has gone on for 13 generations of AquaBounty salmon, dating back to a single ancestor fish that reproduced and died in 1992. Each descendant carries a copy of the genetic construct that combines the Chinook growth hormone gene with the promoter gene from the ocean pout.

“Today,” says company spokesman Dave Conley, “we are in the business of breeding fish.”

It’s a messy business. At spawning time, conventional females are milked of their eggs by hand, a method that requires two fish wranglers per female — one to handle the fish and another to hold the container that collects the eggs. The technicians use the same squeeze technique to extract semen, or “milt,” from the males.

To prevent uncontrolled reproduction of genetically engineered fish, AquaBounty produces only transgenic females for market. To avoid the possibility of male eggs being produced, the male fish that produce the milt are actually “neomales”: female fish that have undergone a sort of piscine sex change. Exposed to testosterone when they’re juveniles, they produce milt that contains only female sex chromosomes. This is a common technique in aquaculture. When the sperm from neomales is used to fertilize the eggs (also with female sex chromosomes), only female fish can result.

When combined, the eggs and milt produce fertilized eggs. The technicians place the developing embryos in a stainless-steel tube where they’re subjected to high pressure. This renders all the embryos’ cells triploid — meaning they have three sets of chromosomes instead of two, which makes the fish incapable of reproducing — another biological barrier to the spread of transgenic salmon in the wild.

After a period of incubation at the Bay Fortune hatchery, the sterile, all-female transgenic embryos are then flown to a rearing facility in the highlands of Panama, where the resulting salmon are grown to maturity before being re-imported into Canada. (According to Conley, Panama was selected because the president of the company at the time had contacts there and the cost of building a facility was far less than it would have been in North America.) Eventually, AquaBounty plans to produce market-ready fish at a new facility now under construction at Rollo Bay, on Prince Edward Island, and at the Indiana facility — an existing fish production factory that belonged to a now-defunct aquaculture company.

Aerial view of workers in boats feeding salmon in off-shore enclosures near Seal Cove, Grand Manan, New Brunswick, Canada. Marc Guitard/Getty

The key fact about all of these places, existing and under construction, is their location: They’re on land. Nearly all other aquaculture takes place in ponds, lakes, or the sea — in pens designed to keep farmed fish in and wild fish out. Unlike fish produced using this conventional approach, AquaBounty salmon have no chance of escaping into wild habitats. That was key to the company’s application for approval by the FDA. But land-based aquaculture is expensive, and many previous attempts have failed. Finding cost-efficient ways to maintain water temperature and quality at levels needed to grow healthy fish — things nature does for free — is critical to AquaBounty’s business success.

“We saw the convergence of these two technologies: the improved biology of the fish, and the improved technology of contained aquaculture systems,” says Stotish, a former pharmaceutical executive. He says the company has “altered the economics of growth and production.”

Producing salmon in Indiana, Stotish points out, would eliminate the need for long-distance flights that now carry frozen fish from overseas fish farms to the U.S. market. Producing fast-growing fish on land reduces the amount of food and energy required to grow a given volume of food, while also reducing the use of fungicides, antibiotics, and pesticides that are prevalent in conventional aquaculture. AquaBounty’s scientists say they have devised a sustainable, environmentally friendly and economical way of producing high volumes of healthy seafood, without the environmental risks of conventional aquaculture.

Most scientists who have studied the matter concur — and believe that the significance of AquaBounty salmon extends far beyond the fishing industry. A 1992 article in Nature Biotechnology by Fletcher, Hew, and five other scientists laid out the evidence behind the company’s claims, and since then those claims have been validated by a number of other studies. An article published in the journal Aquaculture in 2013 (by seven scientists independent of the company) concluded that transgenic AquAdvantage salmon had higher feed-conversion ratios, retained nitrogen more efficiently, and achieved their target weight 40 percent faster than conventional Atlantic salmon fed the same diet.

“In 20 or 25 years we’re all going to be eating genetically modified animal products,” says Eric Hallerman, a professor of marine biology at Virginia Tech who served on an expert panel that reviewed AquaBounty’s technology for the FDA application. “What’ll make it attractive to producers is the benefit to consumers.”

That potential benefit has not allayed the concerns of the vocal movement opposed to GMOs in general and to genetically engineered “Frankenfish” in particular.
Nick Norman/Getty

Humans have been consuming salmon virtually since we first arrived in North America, and salmon have become deeply intertwined with both the cultures and the ecosystems of the places where they thrived. Indeed, salmon in many ways shaped both the civilization and the environment of those places. And salmon have been an intensely managed food source all along.

“The anadromous fish resource was perhaps the most intensely managed and ecologically manipulated food resource among these aboriginal societies,” wrote the anthropologists Sean Swezey and Robert Heizer in a 1977 study.

“Ecological manipulation” is a good description of today’s salmon market. Even the wild salmon fishery of Alaska is helped along by human intervention: Each year the Alaska Department of Fish and Game releases nearly 2 billion juvenile salmon spawned in hatcheries into the waters of Prince William Sound and Southeast Alaska. In 2015 Alaskan fishermen caught 93 million hatchery-born salmon, more than one-third of the total harvest of 263 million. Salmon stocks in the northern Pacific have recovered since bottoming out in the 1970s; that would not have happened without the coastal hatcheries.

U.S. imports of salmon totaled 339,000 metric tons in 2016, worth more than $3 billion. The vast majority of that came from farmed Atlantic salmon raised in floating cages off the coasts of Canada, Chile, Norway, and Scotland, and flown into the U.S. According to SINTEF, an independent research institute in Norway, accounting for feed, aquaculture, and energy to freeze and transport the fish, 1 kilogram of farmed salmon eaten in Paris or New York produces the equivalent of 2.9 kilograms of CO2 emitted into the atmosphere. A 2016 paper in Aquaculture Engineering found that the carbon footprint of salmon produced in land-based closed systems, like AquaBounty’s, is less than half of that from salmon produced in conventional fish farms in Norway and delivered to the U.S. by air.

But carbon footprints don’t pack the emotional punch of cultural legacy. “The Coast Salish people have organized their lives around salmon for thousands of years,” Valerie Segrest, the project coordinator for the Muckleshoot Food Sovereignty Project, said in a 2017 statement. The group is based at the Northwest Indian College in Bellingham and works to preserve access to traditional foods.The Salish fear that GE salmon could wreak environmental havoc with native species, and that the combination of genetic engineering and aquaculture could finally overwhelm the traditional fishing methods that they still carry out. “Corporate ownership of such a cultural keystone is a direct attack on our identity and the legacy our ancestors have left us.”

In July 2016, the Quinault Indian Nation joined a lawsuit put forth by environmental groups and recreational fishermen in March of that same year. It challenged the FDA approval, saying the agency “has not adequately assessed the full range of potentially significant environmental and ecological effects presented by the AquaBounty application.” That lawsuit is still pending. Led by the Center for Food Safety, anti-GMO activists are concerned that GE salmon could threaten native species if some fish Houdini escaped and spread its transgenic kind in the wild.

But scientists who have followed AquaBounty’s long road to regulatory approval believe that the quarter-century process signals a flawed and politicized approval mechanism. The delay “sends the message to the rest of the world that the science-based regulatory oversight as embodied in the FDA review process is subject to political intervention,” testified the late Calestous Juma, of Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, in a 2011 hearing before House Agriculture Committee’s Subcommittee on Rural Development, Research, Biotechnology, and Foreign Agriculture. “Furthermore, it signals to the world that the United States may cede its leadership position in the agricultural use of biotechnology.”

According to the scientific panel that reviewed the evidence submitted by AquaBounty to the FDA, the genetically engineered salmon “is as safe as food from conventional Atlantic salmon, and … there is a reasonable certainty of no harm from the consumption of food from this animal.”

The agency concluded that because AquaBounty salmon is “not materially different from other Atlantic salmon” — meaning it is nutritionally and chemically indistinguishable — no additional labeling was required.

In the early 2000s, William Muir, a professor of genetics at Purdue University and a pioneer in the risk analysis for GE fish, and his colleague Richard Howard developed a quantitative model to assess risks associated with the other major fear about GE salmon: escape. In simple terms, Muir’s method quantifies the probability of an escaped transgenic fish interbreeding in the wild, and the level of harm it would cause if that should happen. The first part is itself the product of two factors: “the probability of the organism escaping into the wild, dispersing and becoming feral” and the ability of the new gene to spread.

If either of those terms is zero, according to the model, the risk of environmental damage from transgenic fish farming is zero. It’s a simple matter of multiplication. “If it can’t escape, then don’t worry about it,” Muir says. “Or if it escapes and then can’t proliferate, don’t worry about it.”

By raising the fish on land, in contained tanks, far from cold-water environments, AquaBounty has reduced the risk of escape to near zero (unlike conventional aquaculture, where the farmed fish can and often do escape into the wild). The second factor — the risk of an escaped fish spreading its genetic material — should also be zero, because AquaBounty produces sterile, triploid females. Even if these fish did escape, wild salmon couldn’t successfully breed with them, so they wouldn’t be able to reproduce and persist in the environment. In contrast, when a net pen containing conventional farmed salmon breaks, the escapees can overwhelm an environment with their sheer numbers, and since they’re fertile, they can interbreed and bring down the fitness of native salmon.

“In my view the risk of harm from GE salmon as developed and managed by AquaBounty is less than that of farmed salmon,” says Muir, who is now retired.

Alison Van Eenennaam, an animal genomics and biotechnology specialist at the University of California, Davis, who served as a subject matter expert for the scientific panel that evaluated AquaBounty’s FDA application, says that conventional farmed fish carry different, and arguably higher, risks. “Conventionally bred Atlantic salmon undergo no food safety tests, grow faster as a result of selective breeding, are fertile, and are raised in ocean net pens where they can escape to the ocean and transmit/acquire diseases and parasites,” she says.

Like most scientists who have examined the matter, Hallerman dismisses the claim that GE salmon pose a threat to existing fisheries. “This technology has been sitting on the shelf for way too long. People want more meat and this is a way to get it to them.”

20180125-0133-_mg_7317-e15206212825131230606486.jpg
Stephen DesRoches

But not all scientists agree with this consensus. In 2013, after the FDA issued its draft environmental assessment of the AquaBounty breeding program, Anne Kapuscinski, a professor of sustainability science at Dartmouth College, and Fredrik Sundström, an assistant professor of ecology and genetics at Uppsala University in Sweden, submitted comments criticizing the agency’s finding of “no significant impact.”

The two scientists wrote that they “found major scientific inadequacies” in the assessment. Among their many concerns was that while the risk of exposure to the open sea and harm to the marine environment from GE salmon is probably low at the existing PEI and Panama sites, those facilities are only the first of many probable hatcheries and production farms — and there is no guarantee that other locations will maintain the same standards.

“The future of GE fish farming will surely involve larger fish farms, with less confinement, in many different environments,” wrote Kapuscinski and George Leonard, the chief scientist at the Ocean Conservancy, in a 2015 opinion piece. The risks posed by those hypothetical future farms are harder to determine.

Meanwhile, Murkowski, whose legislation is at this point the only remaining legal obstacle for AquaBounty in the U.S., has said allowing GE salmon would amount to “messing with nature’s perfect brain food.” In July 2017, vowing to continue her “years-long fight against ‘Frankenfish,’” Murkowski introduced the Genetically Engineered Salmon Labeling Act, which would not only require plain-English labels for GE salmon but would mandate a review of the FDA’s procedures for approving AquaBounty’s fish. AquaBounty officials say they have no problem with labeling their fish, if regulations require it; but Murkowski’s bill, cosponsored by senators from Washington and Oregon, would effectively maintain the ban on AquaBounty salmon in the U.S. market.

Ultimately, the future of AquaBounty’s superfish will most likely hinge more on marketing than on legal challenges. Will grocers carry the fish, and will consumers buy it? If the answers to those questions are yes, the sustained outcry over GE salmon will ultimately matter little. Muir points out that research on transgenic fish is proceeding worldwide, regardless of what happens with AquaBounty salmon in the U.S. market. Scientists in Cuba and the UK have engineered tilapia to add weight three times faster than normal fish. A mud loach developed in South Korea can grow up to 35 times faster than conventional varieties.

At the end of my visit to Bay Fortune, I sat in the small company kitchen with Stotish and the AquaBounty staff and enjoyed some smoked salmon, grown in AquaBounty’s indoor fish farm and prepared by a local chef. It was delicious. I could not have told it from conventional salmon.

Stotish hopes that Murkowski’s import ban will be dropped in an upcoming appropriations bill, should Congress ever manage to agree on a budget. He won’t say much about AquaBounty’s future plans for worldwide production, other than to mention that he’s talked to more than one Asian fish supplier who’s interested in growing and marketing AquaBounty salmon. The U.S. market may be important to AquaBounty’s success as a company, but Stotish is working in other places where the opposition to GE seafood is less pitched, and less political. In other words, whether AquaBounty ever gets to sell its fish in the United States may ultimately be moot, in terms of the future of GE aquaculture.

Meanwhile, AquaBounty’s new indoor aquaculture facility at Rollo Bay, on PEI — two warehouse-sized buildings with enough space for more than 2,500 cubic meters of fish tanks — is nearing completion. It will supply 13 to 15 million eggs a year when it reaches full capacity. The company expects to be producing eggs there by the second quarter of 2018.

A Beacon in the Smog®

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ConnecTable Solar Charging Products | Universities, Resorts, Corporate Campus


The ConnecTable offers three sustainable outdoor solar charging products, the ConnecTable Café, the ConnecTable Hub and the Grid2Go solar mobile charger.

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Popular with Universities, Corporate Campuses, Malls, Parks, Resorts and Theme Parks, the ConnecTable offers the perfect green solution that reduces your properties carbon footprint while also creating a clean gathering space.

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The ConnecTable Hub is our newest model of solar table charging station. The Hub offers the same great performance as our Café model, with key material and structural modifications that have enabled us to offer this solar charging solution at a more economical price point.

Designed for our customers looking for a more “out-of-the-box” sustainability solution, the ConnecTable Hub is the ultimate outdoor workstation.

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Grid2Go is a sustainable outdoor charging solution that provides portable solar charging to anyone, anywhere, at any time. It’s perfect for a day at the beach, camping trips, or as a backup emergency charger in any environment.

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Did your smart thermostat contribute to last week’s big cyberattack? | Grist

Massive Attack
Did your smart thermostat contribute to last week’s big cyberattack?
By Heather Smith on Oct 26, 2016 3:33 pm

In the future, we will live and work in buildings where the heat, lighting, and appliances are controlled by smart, internet-connected devices that save energy and money and help the grid work more efficiently. Isn’t that great? It seems great.

But then, what to do with the news last week that a robo-mob of clever internet-enabled gadgets was hijacked and used to temporarily bring down many of the most popular websites in the U.S.? Could our smart thermostats go rogue and help take out the internet?

It doesn’t look like internet-connected energy-saving devices were affected by the cyberattack, experts say. So this attack is not a reason to avoid buying or using them. It is, though, a reminder to make sure all of your smart devices are protected by top-notch security.

Here’s what you need to know:

What was the deal with this attack?

The Internet of Things — or IoT, for short — consists of more than 6 billion devices connected to the internet: security cameras, Fitbits, learning thermostats, what have you. Last week, hackers used malware named Mirai to create a botnet gang of several hundred thousand of these gadgets and attack Dyn, one of a handful of companies that direct traffic across the internet. An estimated 1,200 websites, including Twitter, Reddit, and the New York Times, didn’t so much go down as become impossible to find, because Dyn was too flooded with meaningless requests from Mirai’s zombie bot army to help real humans get where they were trying to go.

Dyn weathered that attack (and the attack after that, and the attack after that attack), but the episode left a lot of people wondering just how great the Internet of Things is after all.

Here’s how Justine Bone, CEO of MedSec, which studies security in internet-enabled medical devices, described the IoT security challenge to me: When you have a bad chip in your high-tech toaster, there’s not too much that can go wrong. Maybe you get some bad toast out of it. Maybe it catches on fire. But when a whole series of badly designed devices are connected to the internet, that can make everyone miserable, not just toast eaters. “An army of toasters can cause trouble,” she said.

You’re sure my thermostat wasn’t involved?

Yes. Here’s how we know: Brian Krebs, a former reporter for the Washington Post who now runs his own site on computer security, became an involuntary expert in Mirai when someone used it to attack his site in September. Attacks like this are fairly common (they’re called distributed denial-of-service, or DDoS, attacks), but the size of the one on his site attracted some attention. Akamai, the company that keeps Krebs’ site running, claimed at the time that it was one of the largest botnet attacks in the history of the internet.

A few weeks after the attack on Krebs, the source code for Mirai was publicly released onto the internet, probably to confuse any law enforcement agencies trying to trace the program back to its source. The code revealed that Mirai works by constantly scanning the internet for IoT gadgets with usernames and passwords that are still set to the factory defaults. Mirai then uses those passwords to make itself administrator of the devices.

So here’s where your thermostat gets a pass. None of the passwords used by the Mirai code are for smart home energy-saving devices.

Craig Young, a security researcher with Tripwire, told Consumer Reports, “I would be confident in saying that most popular IoT devices have not been exposed to the Mirai threat — thermostats, fridges, name-brand cameras, smart outlets, and lighting.”

Thermostat company Nest, perhaps the most well-known maker of smart home energy-saving gadgets, believes none of its products were affected: “To our knowledge, no Nest device has been involved in any of the recent attacks,” it said in a statement.

So what devices were hijacked?

Last week’s attack primarily involved security cameras and digital video recorders being used for surveillance.

The hackers who write botnet software are looking for the low-hanging fruit — usernames and passwords that will let them unlock as many devices as possible. So they targeted products from a handful of companies that make low-cost electronics in high volume, and with terrible security features.

Most consumers who buy easily hackable devices aren’t thinking about internet security — in part because DDoS attacks and the like target public websites rather than individuals. “People just plug in these things and forget about them,” Krebs said when I called him to ask about the latest attack.

“People want to blame the Russians or something, but there’s lots of blame to go around,” Krebs continued. “This is a case of some companies wanting to own this market and dumping cheap hardware and flimsy software. The IoT storm has been a decade in the making, and now it’s happening. The longer we ignore it, the harder it is to fix.”

Many of the insecure devices hijacked last week contain hardware manufactured by Chinese company XiongMai Technologies. When word got out about this, XiongMai announced that it had tightened its security standards and was recalling millions of cameras — even as it threatened legal action against media outlets that it said were issuing “false statements” about the company.

How can I make sure my smart gadgets are protected going forward?

Figuring out how secure your devices are can be tricky, but it’s important — not just to make sure you don’t facilitate DDoS attacks, but to protect your personal data and ensure that you’re the one controlling the heating, lighting, etc., in your home.

A device with good security will require you to come up with a new username and password before you connect it to the internet. A device with not-so-great security will make it possible to change the factory default username and password. A device with terrible security will come with a factory-installed username and password that you can’t change, making it a sitting duck for any program crawling the web and looking for machines that can be turned into zombie minions.

If you’re going to connect something to the internet, go with a brand that emphasizes its attention to security. Companies that are trying to establish or maintain a reputation for security will be much more motivated to patch a security hole than companies that don’t mention security at all.

Smart thermostat makers Nest, Ecobee, and Tado have security information clearly posted on their websites. Nest goes even further; it’s owned by Google, which offers a reward to anyone who can find a security hole in the system. In contrast, thermostat manufacturer Trane, whose various past security holes are described in this blog post, does not highlight security on its website.

“At the end of the day, security is just a symptom of the quality of the product,” said Bone. “If a product is badly designed, that will flow through to mistakes in the underlying software.”

Going for a cheap, off-brand model is not a good idea. “Basically, you get what you pay for,” said Krebs.

What’s the solution to all this poor security?

As security expert Bruce Schneier put it after the attack on Krebs, “the economics of the IoT mean that it will remain insecure unless government steps in to fix the problem. This is a market failure that can’t get fixed on its own.”

The owners of the security cameras that are being used to attack the internet don’t know that their devices have been taken over. Meanwhile, the manufacturers are busy trying to sell new models, instead of patching up old ones. “There is no market solution,” Schneier concludes, “because the insecurity is what economists call an externality: it’s an effect of the purchasing decision that affects other people. Think of it kind of like invisible pollution.”

But neither Bone nor Krebs have faith that governments will effectively regulate the Internet of Things, especially given the hot mess that is international trade. More than anything, they think it will be the fear of losing customers that will motivate companies to tighten up their security.

So, do I even want to be a part of this Internet of Things?

Well, you’re reading this on the internet, so you’re already partway there. If you like gadgets, don’t be frightened off from buying smart devices as long as they’re from reputable and well-reviewed companies.

On the other hand, if you think gadgets are overrated, you can feel smug in knowing that there are plenty of low-tech ways to conserve energy.

A Beacon in the Smog®

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Should I keep my laptop plugged in while I use it? | Grist


Q. Dear Umbra,

I work all day on a laptop (a MacBook Air). I’d like to prolong the life of my computer and battery so I don’t have the expense and waste of having to replace the laptop earlier than necessary. So what’s the best approach to plugging the laptop in vs. running it off the battery? When it’s 100-percent charged, should I unplug it and let the battery charge drop down low before plugging it in again? Or should I keep it plugged in all day long while I work?

Jamal J.
Princeton, New Jersey

A. Dearest Jamal,

Most people understand that repurposing or recycling something is better than throwing it away. But you know what’s even better than that? Not recycling that thing, because it still works perfectly — or, at least, postponing that inevitable moment of mortality as long as possible. In our culture of planned obsolescence and gimme-that-hot-new-tech upgrades, this is a somewhat radical idea. I tip my hat to you, my status quo–shaking friend.

“Maintain it, don’t disdain it!” could be your creed. Apply it to most material things, but it’s particularly important with laptops and their lithium-ion batteries, as well as other electronics. Not only do these gadgets cost a pretty penny, but manufacturing them (and their batteries) requires water, energy, and rare-metal mining, and also brings up concerns about potentially toxic substances and human rights for miners. In short: The fewer you go through in your working life, the better.

To that end: There is indeed a plug-in protocol you can use to maximize your battery’s overall lifespan, Jamal, and it’s all about minimizing stress on that hardworking power pack.

The No. 1 thing that shortens a lithium-ion battery’s life? Letting it drain to zero. So try never to do that.

Why? Let’s start with a quick vocabulary primer. Depth of discharge refers to how much of a battery’s power has been used up: 40 percent depth of discharge means it has 60 percent of its life left, and 100 percent means you’ve let the battery run dry. A charge or discharge cycle is one full drop from 100-percent charged to dead as a doornail (or multiple partial discharges that add up to 100 percent). These two concepts are directly connected: The larger the average depth of discharge, the fewer total discharge cycles you get out of the battery.

In other words, if you regularly let that battery gauge dip into the red zone, then fully recharge it, the battery will degrade more quickly. And we’re not just talking a little difference: According to Battery University, an online juggernaut of battery information, if you tend to drain your battery low and then charge it back up to 100 percent, you’ll get about 300-500 discharge cycles before the battery starts losing capacity. But if you go with frequent partial recharges, you can boost total discharge cycles up as high as 4,700 before the battery’s performance starts slipping (and before you have to get much more aggressive about commandeering the outlet at the coffeehouse).

So is it best to just leave it plugged in at 100-percent charge all the time? Nope. As it happens, being completely full also stresses out a lithium-ion battery, aka the Goldilocks of portable power sources. The sweet spot, according to battery experts, is between 40 and 80 percent charged. In a perfect world, then, you’d drain the battery to 40, recharge it to 80, and repeat for years of top-notch battery performance. If monitoring your battery levels to this degree sounds a bit obsessive, well, it is. But unfortunately, I couldn’t find any easy apps or settings tweaks that would do this automatically for you. (Hey, developers: Opportunity alert!)

That said, it’s not a terrible practice to leave your laptop plugged in at times. You won’t “overcharge” a lithium-ion battery; once it tops up, the battery essentially steps off to the side and lets the power grid run the computer, waiting until you need it again. So while keeping the battery full does cause strain, it’s better than a 100-percent depth of discharge.

If you are tethered to the outlet for a while, some experts suggest removing your laptop’s battery entirely (though that’s not an option for Macs because they have integrated batteries). Removing it protects it from a lithium-ion battery’s No. 2 nemesis: heat. A battery’s optimal temperature zone is about 62 to 72 degrees (what a coincidence — that’s my optimal zone, too), and anything hotter than about 95 degrees can really wreak havoc. So keep your laptop out of hot cars, direct summer sunlight, Bikram yoga class, etc. And make sure to keep the cooling vents clear — work at a table or desk, not in bed with your computer on a quilt on your lap.

There you have the secret to long life: Watch your power levels, and keep it cool. And you know, I suspect following that advice might translate to a longer, happier life for ourselves as well as our batteries.

Stress-freely,
Umbra

© 1999-2016 Grist Magazine, Inc. All rights reserved. Grist is powered by WordPress.com VIP.

Air Force Tries Killing Weeds With Light Beams, Not Pesticides | TakePart

When you think of military weapons, you tend to imagine things like bullets and bombs. The Air Force is experimenting with a new tool for its arsenal: a wand that zaps a concentrated beam of light and heat.

No, this isn’t Harry Potter, and the enemies aren’t terrorists. The wand is called NatureZap, and it targets “unwanted vegetation”—aka weeds. Edwards Air Force Base in Southern California is testing the device as a way to remove weeds without the use of toxic herbicides.
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The electric device uses a combination of heat and high-energy blue light to kill the plants’ leaves and roots. Treated plants, according to manufacturer Global Neighbor, die in as little as three days. “We’ve had a pretty good success rate,” said Jon Jackson, the company’s president. “We get about a 70 to 80 percent die-back without regrowth.” He said NatureZap is particularly effective on ragweed, dandelions, and crabgrass. The light penetrates about two inches into the soil, so it only affects targeted weeds and not the “good” plants around them.

Global Neighbor has received two rounds of funding, totaling nearly $900,000, from the federal government’s Small Business Innovation Research program to develop and test the NatureZap device.
(Photo: Courtesy Good Neighbor)

Danny Reinke, principal scientist for the 412th Civil Engineering Group at Edwards Air Force Base—who developed the device with Global Neighbor—told the Desert Wings newspaper that NatureZap may be useful in meeting the military’s requirements to reduce its use of toxic chemicals under the Sikes Act, which helps protect endangered species on Department of Defense property. He’s testing a battery-powered version of the device that reportedly can treat a softball field–size area between charges.

This is the second version of NatureZap. The company previously sold a similar device, also called NatureZap, that only used heat to kill roots.

“We’ve graduated since then,” said Jackson. “Even before we were with Edwards we spent a few years working with lasers and other things, trying to get ground penetration.” The developers hit on the idea of light several years ago after they built a clear Plexiglas enclosure to see how their earlier device affected dandelion roots. “It turns out that’s a stupid idea, because as soon as you expose a root to light it dies,” Jackson said.

RELATED: Weed Killer That ‘Probably’ Causes Cancer Is Sprayed Near Schools

Global Neighbor has worked with Central State University professor Cadance Lowell to test various versions of the gadget. Lowell said NatureZap definitely kills some plants, apparently by disrupting chloroplasts, the plant cells where photosynthesis takes place. It may cause other stress damage on the cellular level, the nature of which is still being investigated. So far Lowell’s research, presented in February at the Weed Science Society of America’s annual meeting, has shown that NatureZap is at least as effective on ragweed as glyphosate, the primary ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup. Deeper-rooted plants such as dandelions are harder to kill because the light can’t penetrate the ground far enough. “You need to hit it a couple of times, but eventually you will kill it,” she said.
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Experts have shown interest in the device. “I think published studies would be the first step before any conclusions can be made about this technique,” said Scott Hoffman Black, executive director of the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation.
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“If it truly works, I think it will be very successful, because change cannot come quickly enough in the world of pest management,” said Nathan Donley, a scientist at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Most weed-killing chemicals in use today have been around for more than 50 years. Innovation is nonexistent in this realm.”

Donley expressed pleasant surprise when he learned that the Air Force was testing NatureZap. “If the federal government can reduce its pesticide use, the money saved can be used to advance other conservation efforts,” he said. “Pesticides aren’t cheap, and a lot of costs of their use aren’t paid up front. They’re externalized to the community in terms of increased health care costs or environmental restoration.”

Jackson said that’s why he wanted to develop NatureZap in the first place. “Chemical applications have lasting damage,” he said. Light and heat, on the other hand, can come and go with the press of a button, and that might have a lasting impact that won’t leave a toxic legacy in its wake.

Safety alert and recall: 26,000 baby monitors recalled due to burn hazard | WPMT FOX43

A popular brand of baby monitor is being recalled over the possibility that the video monitor’s batteries can overheat, swell and expand and cause the battery cover to open or come off. This can expose hot batteries, posing a burn hazard to consumers.

The recall is for about 26,000 units of the Lorex CARE ‘N’ SHARE Series video baby monitor (in addition, 8,000 were sold in Canada.)

The model numbers included in this recall are WL3520, WL4320 and WL3401. The model numbers are printed on the back panel of the monitor. The monitors were sold in bundles with cameras. The monitors contain a blue lithium polymer battery and measure about 4 inches tall by 5 inches wide. The monitors have a white plastic back and either a white or black border. “LOREX” or “The Lorex Baby” is printed below the monitor screen.

Picture: Lorex Technology

Babies “R” Us, B&H, Best Buy, Target, The Home Depot, Walmart and online at http://www.amazon.com andwww.lorextechnology.com from May 2013 through April 2016. The video baby monitors were sold in bundles for between $60 and $140.

The firm has received 488 reports of batteries overheating and expanding; about 140 reports involved the swelling of the battery pack, causing its plastic casing to open or come off. No injuries have been reported.

Consumers should immediately stop using the recalled monitors and contact Lorex to receive a full refund.

Lorex toll-free at 844-265-7388 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. ET Monday through Friday

Having Problems with my Computer and Electricity in Neighborhood

monkey-on-a-computer

Having issues with Google since last update!!  Its been shutting me out, I have not been able to get to my mail,  when I  try a pop up comes up saying… Unknown Issue with Google Play services! Today I finally got in touch with Google,  but it keeps shutting down, plus our neighborhood is having electricity problems, they’re digging up the street! 😕 I would like to apologize to my followers and to all of you who left comments, I will try to get to you as soon as possible…Hugs  💗

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