March 5, 2021

On March 3, SpaceX’s Starship pulled off a successful high-altitude flight—its third in a row. Unlike in the first two missions, the spacecraft stuck the landing. Then, as in the last two, the spacecraft blew up.

What happened: At around 5:14 p.m. US Central Time, the 10th Starship prototype (SN10) was launched from SpaceX’s test facility in Boca Chica, Texas, flying about 10 kilometers into the air before falling back down and descending safely to Earth. 

About 10 minutes later, the spacecraft blew up, from what appears to have been a methane leak. Still, the actual objectives of the mission were met.

What’s the big deal? This is the first time Starship has landed safely after a high-altitude flight. SN8 was flown on December … Read the rest

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Tom Cruise and Hayley Atwell on the set of Mission Impossible 7, which will arrive on Paramount+ 45 days after the movie debuts in theaters later in 2021. | Marco Ravagli/Barcroft Media via Getty Images

Three charts that explain the streaming wars.

Paramount+, the latest entrant in the streaming wars, launches today, promising a mix of classic TV shows and movies, sort-of-early access to some Hollywood blockbusters, and some reboots of stuff you didn’t know you wanted rebooted: Welcome back, Frasier Crane.

But in some ways, the stuff that ViacomCBS’s new service offers may be less important than the timing of its launch. It comes after every other big media company has rolled out its own streaming service. Which means Paramount+ is entering a very crowded marketplace.

And that means, most likely, that ViacomCBS isn’t just trying to get someone to pay $10 a month for Paramount+ — it … Read the rest

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In the private space industry, it can seem that there’s SpaceX and then there’s everyone else. Only Blue Origin, backed by its own billionaire founder in the person of Jeff Bezos, seems able to command the same degree of attention. And Blue Origin hasn’t even gone beyond suborbital space yet. 

Rocket Lab might soon have something to say about that duopoly. The company, founded in New Zealand and headquartered in Long Beach, California, is second only to SpaceX when it comes to launch frequency—the two are ostensibly the only American companies that regularly go to orbit. Its small flagship Electron rocket has flown 18 times in just under four years and delivered almost 100 satellites into space, with only two failed launches. 

On March 1, the company made its ambitions even clearer when it unveiled plans for a new rocket called Neutron. At 40 meters tall and able to carry 20 … Read the rest

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YouTube co-founders Chad Hurley and Steve Chen, flanked by former US President Bill Clinton and Google co-founder Larry Page, in September 2007. A year earlier, Google had bought YouTube for $1.65 billion. | Daniel Acker/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Google’s video site has room for everything, from everyone. Is that a feature or a bug?

YouTube has more than 2 billion users. It generates $20 billion a year. But those numbers don’t begin to explain the size and impact of the world’s biggest video site.

So let’s try this: YouTube is so big that you almost don’t notice it. It’s just always there, always on. It seems fundamental to digital life, like texting or email. Maybe, like my kids, you actively go to YouTube for entertainment or education. Maybe you’re like a lot of other people and end up watching YouTube without even knowing you’re doing it: You’re just watching a … Read the rest

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Fully recovering from the SolarWinds hack will take the US government from a year to as long as 18 months, according to the head of the agency that is leading Washington’s recovery.

Brandon Wales, the acting director of CISA, the US Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Agency, says that it will be well into 2022 before officials have fully secured the government networks compromised by Russian hackers. The list includes at least nine federal agencies, including the Department of Homeland Security and the State Department. Even fully understanding the extent of the damage will take months.

“I wouldn’t call this simple,” Wales says. “There are two phases for response to this incident. There is the short-term remediation effort, where we look to remove the adversary from the network, shutting down accounts they control, and shutting down entry points the adversary used to access networks. But given the amount of time they were … Read the rest

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Twitter, like other social media companies, is contending with vaccine misinformation as Covid-19 inoculations roll out. | Olivier Douliery/AFP via Getty Images

The company is introducing a new strike system that could lead to some users getting permanently banned.

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Like other social media companies, Twitter has banned harmful misinformation about the Covid-19 vaccines out of concern that it could make people more hesitant to get inoculated. Now, the social media platform is adding more layers to its approach.

On Monday, Twitter said that posts deemed to be harmful misinformation will be subject to labels directing people to content curated by Twitter, public health resources, or the company’s rules. At the same time, users who continue to post such tweets will be subject to a strike policy. If a user posts too much vaccine misinformation and gets five strikes, their account could be permanently deleted from the app.

“Our goal with … Read the rest

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You’ve heard of Apple’s famous walled garden, the tightly controlled tech ecosystem that gives the company unique control of features and security. All apps go through a strict Apple approval process, they are confined so sensitive information isn’t gathered on the phone, and developers are locked out of places they’d be able to get into in other systems. The barriers are so high now that it’s probably more accurate to think of it as a castle wall. 

Virtually every expert agrees that the locked-down nature of iOS has solved some fundamental security problems, and that with these restrictions in place, the iPhone succeeds spectacularly in keeping almost all the usual bad guys out. But when the most advanced hackers do succeed in breaking in, something strange happens: Apple’s extraordinary defenses end up protecting the attackers themselves.

“It’s a double-edged sword,” says Bill Marczak, a senior researcher at the cybersecurity watchdog … Read the rest

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Facebook is blocking Australians from sharing news links in response to a proposed law that would force the company to pay for news. | Robert Cianflone/Getty Images

A law that would require some tech companies to pay news publishers is making waves around the world.

If you’re an Australian Facebook user who loves to share the news on your timeline, you may have noticed something different recently: You can’t.

In the next few days, though, things should go back to normal. Less than a week after suddenly banning news links for Australian users and shutting down Australian news pages to protest an upcoming law, Facebook says it’s gotten reassurances from the Australian government that it won’t be forced to pay publishers but will instead be given the chance to negotiate agreements with them — which it’s already starting to do. According to the Sydney Morning Herald, Facebook has agreed to … Read the rest

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Counselors volunteering at the Trevor Project need to be prepared for their first conversation with an LGBTQ teen who may be thinking about suicide. So first, they practice. One of the ways they do it is by talking to fictional personas like “Riley,” a 16-year-old from North Carolina who is feeling a bit down and depressed. With a team member playing Riley’s part, trainees can drill into what’s happening: they can uncover that the teen is anxious about coming out to family, recently told friends and it didn’t go well, and has experienced suicidal thoughts before, if not at the moment.

Now, though, Riley isn’t being played by a Trevor Project employee but is instead being powered by AI.

Just like the original persona, this version of Riley—trained on thousands of past transcripts of role-plays between counselors and the organization’s staff—still needs to be coaxed a bit to open up, … Read the rest

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Amazon’s downtown Seattle campus. | Meron Menghistab for Vox

Interviews with diversity managers and internal data obtained by Recode indicate that Black Amazon employees are promoted less frequently and are rated more harshly than non-Black peers.

When Chanin Kelly-Rae started working at Amazon in 2019 as a global manager of diversity in the company’s cloud computing division, she had big ambitions for her new job. She had nearly two decades of experience leading diversity and inclusion efforts inside important institutions, like Washington state’s governor’s office, but she’d never worked at an influential global business leader like Amazon.

But less than a year later, Kelly-Rae quit. Her tenure inside the company convinced her that Amazon’s corporate workplace has deep, systemic issues that disadvantage Black employees and workers from other underrepresented backgrounds. And she was dismayed by her perception that Amazon leadership was unwilling to listen to internal experts about how to … Read the rest

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