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Batteries and bitcoin not nickel and dime for Musk



Batteries and bitcoin not nickel and dime for Musk


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Bitcoin, which dipped below $30,000 earlier this week, is back above $32,000 today, after influential tech chiefs Elon Musk and Jack Dorsey voiced their support at a conference on Wednesday.

Musk disclosed for the first time that his private rocket company SpaceX holds bitcoin and that Tesla would “most likely” resume accepting it as payment for its electric cars.

The billionaire entrepreneur said he personally held bitcoin, ethereum and the more niche dogecoin, while two of his companies, SpaceX and Tesla, were bitcoin investors — and would remain that way. “We’re not selling any bitcoin, nor am I selling anything personally,” he said. “I would like to see bitcoin succeed.”

Musk may not be selling bitcoin, but he is certainly a big buyer of nickel, reports Henry Sanderson. Tesla has agreed to buy nickel for its batteries from BHP, the world’s largest miner, as it looks to lock up supplies of the metal not controlled by China. The deal is the third for nickel it has signed in the past eight months, following ones with Vale and the Trafigura-backed Goro mine. Musk has been seeking supplies of “sustainable” nickel and the metal is a key material for Tesla’s longer-range cars that require more powerful batteries.

In other electric car news, Mercedes has acquired Yasa, a British electric motor start-up. Spun out of Oxford university in 2009, Yasa manufactures next-generation electric motors for performance cars, and counts Ferrari and other supercar brands among its customers. Its products, known as axial flux motors, offer greater efficiency, and are smaller, than traditional electric drives.

Meanwhile, in Asia, Foxconn and Japan’s Nidec are in discussions to set up a Taiwan-based joint venture next year to build motors for electric vehicles, as the two Apple suppliers make an aggressive push into the market.

The Internet of (Five) Things

1. Autonomy founder can be extradited, says judge
Mike Lynch, the billionaire founder of the software company Autonomy, can be extradited to the US, a London judge ruled on Thursday. Lynch, one of the UK’s best-known technology entrepreneurs, has been charged in the US with 17 counts of conspiracy and fraud relating to Hewlett-Packard’s purchase of Autonomy for $11bn in 2011. An appeal is expected.

2. Saudi Aramco is ransomware victim
Saudi Aramco, the world’s largest oil producer, said company files were leaked via a contractor, after a cyber extortionist claimed to have seized troves of its data last month and demanded a $50m ransom. Separately, a 22-year old British national, known online as “PlugWalkJoe”, has been arrested on Spain’s Costa del Sol for allegedly being one of four young hackers who grabbed control of dozens of celebrity Twitter accounts last year and used them to solicit more than $115,000 in bitcoin.

3. Chinese IPOs pivot to Hong Kong
Global investment banks are racing to redirect Chinese groups’ initial public offerings towards Hong Kong after new cyber security rules instituted by Beijing halted lucrative tech listings previously heading for New York. About 20 Chinese companies had publicly disclosed plans to raise $1.4bn from share sales in New York this year, Dealogic data shows. “All the Chinese issuers planning New York IPOs are looking at whether they can pivot to Hong Kong,” said a senior capital markets banker in Hong Kong.

Bar chart of First-half investment bank revenues from Chinese IPOs in New York ($m) showing China listings have delivered record fees for Wall Street banks

4. EU appeals Amazon tax decision
Brussels is appealing to the European Court of Justice over a court decision that quashed an order for Amazon to pay €250m in tax to Luxembourg. Similar to its appeal in the Apple state aid case, the EU believes the ruling should have been based on the profits recorded in Luxembourg by Amazon rather than looking at the US, where it holds its intellectual property.

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5. HBO Max gains as Netflix slips
HBO Max signed up 2.4m new subscribers in the June quarter in the US while hundreds of thousands of Americans cancelled their Netflix subscriptions, in a sign of how Hollywood’s streaming battle has heated up. Netflix senior management this week dismissed HBO as a threat. It now has 12.1m US subscribers, compared to Netflix’s 74m in the US and Canada.

Forwarded from Sifted — the European start-up week

The frenzied pace of start-up investment continues in Europe, with more venture capital deployed in the first half of this year than in the whole of 2020. That means VC firms are getting through their funds faster than ever; transatlantic investor Index Ventures this week announced two new funds totalling $2.9bn, just one year after raising its last set worth $2bn. 

Elsewhere, Sifted sat down for brunch with Daniel Dines, the founder of software sensation UiPath and Romania’s richest man; the interest in on-demand grocery delivery start-ups shows no sign of waning; and top executives at digital bank Monzo reveal that an IPO is on the cards.

Tech tools — OnePlus Nord 2 5G

OnePlus today launched the value-priced Nord 2 5G, with the Chinese company describing it as a comprehensive upgrade from the first Nord, “from camera and performance to charging and design”. It has a 50MP AI triple camera with an improved Sony sensor and optical image stabilisation (OIS). There is also an 8MP ultra-wide camera with a 119.7-degree field of view along with a 32MP selfie camera. The MediaTek processor offers 65 per cent faster CPU performance and 125 per cent better graphics performance than in the Nord of a year ago. Warp Charge 65 charging technology charges from 0 to 100 per cent in less than 35 minutes. The screen is a 6.43-inch fluid AMOLED display with a 90 Hz refresh rate. The phone is available for pre-order now with shipping beginning on Monday. It starts at £399 for a 128GB version. TechRadar has a first review.

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Google To Pay $700 Million In Antitrust Settlement With States



Google To Pay 0 Million In Antitrust Settlement With States
Google app is seen on a smartphone in this illustration taken, July 13, 2021. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/File Photo

Google has agreed to pay $700 million and make several other concessions to settle allegations that it had been stifling competition against its Android app store — the same issue that went to trial in another case that could result in even bigger changes.

Although Google struck the deal with state attorneys general in September, the settlement’s terms weren’t revealed until late Monday in documents filed in San Francisco federal court.

The settlement with the states includes $630 million to compensate U.S. consumers funneled into a payment processing system that state attorneys general alleged drove up the prices for digital transactions within apps downloaded from the Play Store. That store caters to the Android software that powers most of the world’s smartphones.

Like Apple does in its iPhone app store, Google collects commissions ranging from 15% to 30% on in-app purchases — fees that state attorneys general contended drove prices higher than they would have been had there been an open market for payment processing.

Those commissions generated billions of dollars in profit annually for Google, according to evidence presented in the recent trial focused on its Play Store.

Another $70 million of the pre-trial settlement will cover the penalties and other costs that Google is being forced to pay to the states.

Google also agreed to make other changes designed to make it even easier for consumers to download and install Android apps from other outlets besides its Play Store for the next five years. It will refrain from issuing as many security warnings, or “scare screens,” when alternative choices are being used.

The makers of Android apps will also gain more flexibility to offer alternative payment choices to consumers instead of having transactions automatically processed through the Play Store and its commission system. Apps will also be able to promote lower prices available to consumers who choose an alternate to the Play Store’s payment processing.

Washington D.C. Attorney General Brian Schwalb hailed the settlement as a victory for the tens of millions of people in the U.S. that rely on Android phones to help manage their lives. “For far too long, Google’s anticompetitive practices in the distribution of apps deprived Android users of choices and forced them to pay artificially elevated prices,” Schwalb said.

Although the state attorneys general hailed the settlement as a huge win for consumers, it didn’t go far enough for Epic Games, which spearheaded the attack on Google’s app store practices with an antitrust lawsuit filed in August 2020.

Epic, the maker of the popular Fortnite video game, rebuffed the settlement in September and instead chose to take its case to trial, even though it had already lost on most of its key claims in a similar trial targeting Apple and its iPhone app store in 2021.

The Apple trial, though, was decided by a federal judge instead of the jury that vindicated Epic with a unanimous verdict that Google had built anticompetitive barriers around the Play Store. Google has vowed to appeal the verdict.

But the trial’s outcome nevertheless raises the specter of Google potentially being ordered to pay even more money as punishment for its past practices and making even more dramatic changes to its lucrative Android app ecosystem.

Google faces an even bigger legal threat in another antitrust case targeting its dominant search engine that serves as the centerpiece of a digital ad empire that generates more than $200 billion in sales annually. Closing arguments in a trial pitting Google against the Justice Department are scheduled for early May before a federal judge in Washington D.C.


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Apple To Stop Some Watch Sales In U.S. Over Patent Dispute



Apple To Stop Some Watch Sales In U.S. Over Patent Dispute
SAN FRANCISCO, CA - OCTOBER 20: The Apple Pay logo is displayed in a mobile kiosk sponsored by Visa and Wells Fargo to demonstrate the new Apple Pay mobile payment system on October 20, 2014 in San Francisco City. Apple's Apple Pay mobile payment system launched today at select banks and retail outlets. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

If two of the latest Apple Watches are on your holiday shopping list, don’t dawdle for much longer because the devices won’t be available to buy in the U.S. later this week if the White House doesn’t intervene in an international patent dispute.

Apple plans to suspend sales of the Series 9 and Ultra 2 versions of its popular watch for online U.S. customers beginning Thursday afternoon and in its stores on Sunday.

The move stems from an October decision by the International Trade Commission restricting Apple’s watches with the Blood Oxygen measurement feature as part of an intellectual property dispute with medical technology company Masimo.

The White House had 60 days to review the ITC order issued on Oct. 26, meaning Apple could have kept selling the two affected models in the U.S. through Christmas.

But the Cupertino, California, company said in a Monday statement that it is pausing sales early to ensure it complies with the ITC order.

If the ITC’s sales ban isn’t overturned, Apple pledged to “take all measures” to resume sales of the Series 9 and Ultra 2 models in the U.S. as soon as possible.

The Apple Watch SE, which lacks the Blood Oxygen feature, will remain on sale in the U.S. after Christmas Eve. Previously purchased Apple Watches equipped with the Blood Oxygen aren’t affected by the ITC order.


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European Union Investigates Elon Musk’s X Over Possible Social Media Law Breaches



European Union Investigates Elon Musk’s X Over Possible Social Media Law Breaches
Elon Musk, Chief Executive Officer of SpaceX and Tesla and owner of X, is funding the formation of a new school in Austin, Texas. Gonzalo Fuentes/Reuters

The European Union is looking into whether Elon Musk’s online platform X breached tough new social media regulations in the first such investigation since the rules designed to make online content less toxic took effect.

“Today we open formal infringement proceedings against @X” under the Digital Services Act, European Commissioner Thierry Breton said in a post on the platform Monday.

“The Commission will now investigate X’s systems and policies related to certain suspected infringements,” spokesman Johannes Bahrke told a press briefing in Brussels. “It does not prejudge the outcome of the investigation.”

The investigation will look into whether X, formerly known as Twitter, failed to do enough to curb the spread of illegal content and whether measures to combat “information manipulation,” especially through its Community Notes feature, was effective.

The EU will also examine whether X was transparent enough with researchers and will look into suspicions that its user interface, including for its blue check subscription service, has a “deceptive design.”

X remains committed to complying with the Digital Services Act, and is cooperating with the regulatory process,” the company said in a prepared statement. “It is important that this process remains free of political influence and follows the law. X is focused on creating a safe and inclusive environment for all users on our platform, while protecting freedom of expression, and we will continue to work tirelessly towards this goal.”

A raft of big tech companies faced a stricter scrutiny after the EU’s Digital Services Act took effect earlier this year, threatening penalties of up to 6% of their global revenue — which could amount to billions — or even a ban from the EU.

The DSA is is a set of far-reaching rules designed to keep users safe online and stop the spread of harmful content that’s either illegal, such as child sexual abuse or terrorism content, or violates a platform’s terms of service, such as promotion of genocide or anorexia.

The EU has already called out X as the worst place online for fake news, and officials have exhorted owner Musk, who bought the platform a year ago, to do more to clean it up. The European Commission quizzed X over its handling of hate speech, misinformation and violent terrorist content related to the Israel-Hamas war after the conflict erupted.




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Artificial Intelligence Now Decides Who Lives and Dies



Artificial Intelligence Now Decides Who Lives and Dies
The armed drones carry relatively simple artificial intelligence (AI) that can identify human forms and target them with missiles. AP Photo

Lets start with the uncomfortable truth. We have lost control of artificial intelligence. This shouldnt be too surprising, considering we likely never had any control over it. The maelstrom at OpenAI over the abrupt dismissal of its chief executive, Sam Altman, raised accountability questions inside one of the worlds most powerful AI companies. Yet even before the boardroom drama, our understanding of how AI is created and used was limited. 

Lawmakers worldwide are struggling to keep up with the pace of AI innovation and thus cant provide basic frameworks of regulations and oversight. The conflict between Israel and Hamas in Gaza has raised the stakes even further. AI systems are currently being used to determine who lives and dies in Gaza. The results, as anyone can see, are terrifying. 

In a widespread investigation carried out by Israeli publication +972 Magazine, journalist Yuval Abraham spoke with several current and former officials about the Israeli militarys advanced AI war program called the Gospel.” According to the officials, The Gospel produces AI-generated targeting recommendations through the rapid and automatic extraction of intelligence.” Recommendations are matched with identifications carried out by a human soldier. The system relies on a matrix of data points with checkered misidentification histories, such as facial recognition technology. 

The result is the production of military” targets in Gaza at an astonishingly high rate. In previous Israeli operations, the military was slowed by a lack of targets because humans took time to identify targets and determine the potential of civilian casualties. The Gospel has sped up this process with dramatic effect. 

Thanks to the Gospel, Israeli fighter jets cant keep up with the number of targets these automotive systems provide. The sheer gravity of the death toll over the past six weeks of fighting speaks to the deadly nature of this new technology of war. According to Gaza officials, more than 17,000 people have been killed, including at least 6,000 children. Citing several reports, American journalist Nicholas Kristof said that “a woman or child has been killed on average about every seven minutes around the clock since the war began in Gaza.” 

Look at the physical landscape of Gaza,” Richard Moyes, a researcher who heads Article 36, a group that campaigns to reduce harm from weapons, told the Guardian. Were seeing the widespread flattening of an urban area with heavy explosive weapons, so to claim theres precision and narrowness of force being exerted is not borne out by the facts.”

Militaries around the world with similar AI capabilities are closely watching Israels assault on Gaza. The lessons learned in Gaza will be used to refine other AI platforms for use in future conflicts. The genie is out of the bottle. The automated war of the future will use computer programs to decide who lives and who dies. 

While Israel continues to pound Gaza with AI-directed missiles, governments and regulators worldwide need help to keep up with the pace of AI innovation taking place in private companies. Lawmakers and regulators cant keep up with the new programs and the programs being created.

The New York Times notes that that gap has been compounded by an AI knowledge deficit in governments, labyrinthine bureaucracies, and fears that too many rules may inadvertently limit the technologys benefits.” The net result is that AI companies can develop with little or no oversight. This situation is so dramatic that we dont even know what these companies are working on. 

Consider the fiasco over the management of OpenAI, the company behind the popular AI platform ChatGPT. When CEO Sam Altman was unexpectedly fired, the internet rumor mill began fixating on unconfirmed reports that OpenAI had developed a secret and mighty AI that could change the world in unforeseen ways. Internal disagreement over its usage led to a leadership crisis at the company.

We might never know if this rumor is true, but given the trajectory of AI and the fact that we cannot understand what OpenAI is doing, it seems plausible. The general public and lawmakers cant get a straight answer about the potential of a super-powerful AI platform, and that is the problem. 

Israels Gospel and the chaos at OpenAI mark a turning point in AI. Its time to move beyond the hollow elevator pitches that AI will deliver a brave new world. AI might help humanity achieve new goals, but it wont be a force for good if it is developed in the shadows and used to kill people on battlefields. Regulators and lawmakers cant keep up with the pace of the technology and dont have the tools to practice sound oversight. 

While powerful governments around the world watch Israel test AI algorithms on Palestinians, we cant harbor false hopes that this technology will only be used for good. Given the failure of our regulators to establish guardrails on the technology, we can hope that the narrow interests of consumer capitalism will serve as a governor on the true reach of AI to transform society. Its a vain hope, but it is likely all we have at this stage.

Joseph Dana is a writer based in South Africa and the Middle East. He has reported from Jerusalem, Ramallah, Cairo, Istanbul, and Abu Dhabi. He was formerly editor-in-chief of emerge85, a media project based in Abu Dhabi exploring change in emerging markets. Twitter: @ibnezra

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The AI Regulation Battle Is Only Just Beginning



The AI Regulation Battle Is Only Just Beginning
Outmanned, and out-resourced by Russia, Ukraine is hoping smart use of artificial intelligence will turn the tide in the war, both on the battlefield and on the messaging front. Getty Images

Given the pace of development in artificial intelligence in recent years, it’s remarkable that the United States has only just released clear regulations concerning the technology. At the end of October, President Joe Biden issued an executive order to ensure “safe, secure, and trustworthy artificial intelligence.” The directive sets out new standards for all matters of AI safety, including new privacy safeguards designed to protect consumers. While Congress has yet to enact comprehensive laws dictating the use and development of AI, the executive order is a much-needed step toward sensible regulation of this rapidly developing technology.

Casual observers might be surprised to learn that the US didn’t already have any such AI protections on the books. A gathering of 28 governments for the AI Safety Summit in the UK last week revealed that the rest of the world is even further behind. Held at the historic former spy base Bletchley Park, those attending managed to agree to work together on safety research to avert the “catastrophic harm” that could come from AI. The declaration, whose signatories include the US, China, the EU, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, was a rare diplomatic coup for the UK but light on detail. The US used the event to brandish its own new guardrails as something that the rest of the world should follow.

You don’t need a degree in computing to understand that AI is a crucial part of one of the most profound technological shifts humanity has ever experienced. AI has the power to change how we think and educate ourselves. It can change how we work and make certain jobs redundant. AI systems require massive amounts of data generally collected on the open internet to deliver these results. Chances are that some of your data is being fed into large language models that power AI platforms like ChatGPT. 

This is just the tip of the iceberg. AI is currently being deployed in Israel’s operations in Gaza to help make decisions of life and death. Israel’s Military Intelligence Directorate said the military uses AI and other “automated” tools to “produce reliable targets quickly and accurately.” One unnamed senior officer said the new AI-powered tools are being used for the “first time to immediately provide ground forces in the Gaza Strip with updated information on targets to strike.”

This is a grave escalation in the use of AI, not just for Palestinians but for the international community. The technology being tested in Gaza will almost certainly be exported as part of Israel’s large and powerful weapons technology sector. Put simply, the AI algorithms used to attack Palestinian targets could soon crop up in other conflicts from Africa to South America. 

Biden’s executive order specifically addresses issues related to AI safety, consumer protection, and privacy. The order requires new safety assessments of new and existing AI platforms, equity and civil rights guidance, and research on AI’s impact on the labor market. Some AI companies will now be required to share safety test results with the US government. The Commerce Department has been directed to create guidance for AI watermarking and a cybersecurity program that can make AI tools that help identify flaws in critical software.

While the US and other Western countries have been slow to draft comprehensive AI regulations, there has been some movement in recent years. Earlier this year, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) outlined a comprehensive AI risk management framework. The document became the basis for the Biden administration’s executive order. Critically, the Biden administration has empowered the Commerce Department, which houses the NIST, to help implement aspects of the order. 

The challenge will now be securing buy-in from leading American technology companies. Without their cooperation and a legal framework to punish companies that don’t follow the rules, Biden’s order won’t amount to much.

There is still a lot of work to be done. Technology companies have largely been able to develop with little oversight over the past two decades. This is partially due to the interconnected world of tech, where companies have created new products or services outside the US. Amazon’s groundbreaking AWS cloud hosting technology, for example, was created and developed at the University of Cape Town in South Africa, far from the reach of American regulators. 

With honest buy-in from leading companies, the Biden administration could seek more comprehensive laws and regulations. Direct government involvement in technology always runs the risk of stifling innovation. Yet, there is a clear opportunity for smaller countries with knowledge economies to step in. Countries like Estonia and the UAE that have invested in their knowledge economies and have small populations (and regulatory environments) can follow Biden’s lead with AI safeguards. This would have a powerful effect in cities like Dubai, where multinational tech companies have set up regional offices. Because there is less red tape in these smaller countries, AI regulations can be pushed through quickly and, perhaps more importantly, amended if they stifle development too aggressively.

Given the hyper-connected world of technology development, the international community can’t wait for larger countries or blocs like the United States and the European Union to push through legislation first. Instead, new markets that have their tech economies to consider should push ahead with regulations that work for their needs. 

The development of AI technology is happening at a remarkable pace. Because it is so essential to the overall technology sector, we don’t have the luxury of waiting for world leaders to act first. It’s time to lead by example, and AI regulations are an ideal place to start.

Joseph Dana is a writer based in South Africa and the Middle East. He has reported from Jerusalem, Ramallah, Cairo, Istanbul, and Abu Dhabi. He was formerly editor-in-chief of emerge85, a media project based in Abu Dhabi exploring change in emerging markets. Twitter: @ibnezra

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iFFALCON Enters Indonesian Market with Innovative Smart TVs



iFFALCON Enters Indonesian Market with Innovative Smart TVs
iFFALCON E-commerce Representatives and Kevien Willieady - iFFALCON Marketing Representatives believe that iFFALCON Smart TV will answer the lifestyle needs of young consumers in Indonesia. Photo credit: Achmad Marendes CBCOMM

iFFALCON, a global smart TV brand, has entered the Indonesian market with the vision of “bringing an endless experience to young people worldwide.” The launch event, called the iFFALCON Offline Grand Launch, was held by several celebrities and influencers such as Raditya Dika, GadgetBox, Joerdy S, and Riyuka Bunga. The company showcased its innovative smart TV features during the event.

The iFFALCON smart TV is designed to create a new and unique lifestyle for the younger generation, and it has already sold three million units in 16 countries worldwide, including the UK, France, Italy, Spain, Australia, Russia, India, Pakistan, Vietnam, Singapore, Japan, and others.

The iFFALCON Product Manager, Kevien Willieady, met with the social pan The Breeze BSD grand launching (08/04) and assured that iFFALCON would display the best products that meet the needs of young people for advanced audio-visual equipment. According to Kevien Willieady, “iFFALCON makes it easier to access various modern programs and applications such as online streaming services, Google Play, and YouTube with one command using the iFFALCON S52 Smart TV’s voice control remote control.”


iFFALCON also launched two premium products during the Grand Launching event, the iFFALCON Series S52 with the best Android TV and the iFFALCON Series U62, also known as the best Google TV for young people. The S52 Series is available in three sizes, 32 inches, 40 inches, and 43 inches, and has two image resolution types, HD for 32 inches and FHD for 40 inches and 43 inches. The S52 also uses Android TV as its operating system, which has the most comprehensive and up-to-date application selection. It has an added voice control feature that allows users to give commands to the TV easily.

For those who want higher resolutions, the U62 Series is equipped with 4K resolution in all sizes, 43 inches, 50 inches, and 55 inches, and has a higher color depth of up to 1.07 billion colors, as well as supporting HDR10 content. The U62 also has HDMI 2.1, which is suitable for gamers to enjoy all games. The U62 Series also uses the latest version of Android TV called Google TV, which has a higher response rate and a fresher user interface.

Despite being a new brand in Indonesia, iFFALCON’s product quality is unquestionable, proven by its global sales of over three million units and numerous positive reviews on various foreign forums. The company has also provided more than 150 service centers across Indonesia for user convenience. iFFALCON held its first Grand Launch event on the Shopee platform, the largest market share platform in Indonesia, with the theme “Where Infinity Begins,” to introduce itself to the Indonesian market. Daniel Minardi, Director of Brand Management and Digital Products at Shopee, said that Shopee is suitable for increasing brand awareness.

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/From The Past/