Fleshlight Now Lets You Customize Your Own Masturbator

Motherboard (Vice) - Wed, 10/12/2022 - 10:32

Our top tier interests include thinking about Willem Dafoe’s penis, high-tech vibrators, and The Sims, so it was only natural that we would fall bum-over-noggin for the latest customizable sex toy experience from Fleshlight. The sexual wellness brand has become so iconic since its founding in Austin, Texas in 1995 that the name alone has become shorthand for all class-act male masturbators. As far as strokers go, Fleshlight’s are some of the easiest-to-clean male sex toys with designs ranging from what we like to call futuristic icy tube to the more classic, anatomically correct-ish toys such as the Stamina Training Unit, which has earned a 4-star average rating from over 1,800 reviews on Amazon. In the words of one customer, “I am absolutely hooked now. I will probably never use my hand again after today”; another fan writes that “[IT’S] THE BEST MASTUBATOR IN THE WORLD HANDS DOWN. AND YOU'LL LAST MUCH LONGER IN THE SACK.” Yeehaw.

There are clearly Fleshlights for every aesthetic, but did you know that you can also design your own? It won’t be a homemade Fleshlight per se, but you can design one from the ground up right from the comfort of your home. There’s an entire DIY section on the brand’s site that is dedicated to guiding you through the process of building a custom stroker. First, you select your color and your orifice, the latter of which rolls out two tantalizing options, “lady” or “butt.” Next, you get to have some real fun with the internal texture options; good luck trying to pick just one of the intricate, penis-tickling textures dubbed Original, Destroya, Heavenly, and Mini Lotus:

Screen Shot 2022-10-10 at 4.15.27 PM.pngPhoto courtesy of Fleshlight

You’re also given the option of topping off your order with some handy Fleshlight accessories, including drying machines, shower mounts, sleeve warmers, and more at the checkout line, where you get one final peep at your creation. Behold, my electric blue lady Destroya:

I haven’t felt such a powerful sense of satisfaction and pride since the days of my Giga Pet (RIP). Will I be taking my Build-A-Bear stroker on Tinder dates? Absolutely. Will I use it as a spyglass once the salvia hits? You bet. The sky's the limit for this $69 Destroya, because it strokes your pride and your [redacted].

Build your own Fleshlight here.

The Rec Room staff independently selected all of the stuff featured in this story. Want more reviews, recommendations, and red-hot deals? Sign up for our newsletter.

Categories: Tech News

Nasal COVID vaccine blows clinical trial, flinging researchers back to the lab

ARS Technica - Wed, 10/12/2022 - 10:17
A man receives an H1N1 nasal flu spray vaccine at an urgent care center on October 16, 2009, in Lake Worth, Florida.

Enlarge / A man receives an H1N1 nasal flu spray vaccine at an urgent care center on October 16, 2009, in Lake Worth, Florida. (credit: Getty | Joe Raedle)

The nasal version of the Oxford/AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine failed an early-stage clinical trial, dashing hopes for better infection prevention and forcing researchers to re-think the design.

Many experts have hyped the potential of nasal COVID-19 vaccines. They argue that snorting the shots could encrust the nasal mucous membranes with snotty antibodies—namely IgA—and other immune defenses that could blow away SARS-CoV-2 virus particles before they have the chance to cause an infection. Currently, the shots given intramuscularly in arms provide robust systemic immune responses that prevent severe disease and death but spur relatively weak antibody levels on mucous membranes and, relatedly, don't always prevent infection.

Researchers at the University of Oxford hoped to easily adapt their existing COVID-19 vaccine for such an infection-blasting schnoz spritz. The Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine is a viral vector-based design, using a weakened, benign virus to carry the genetic code of the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein to human cells. The benign virus, in this case, is an adenovirus, a type best known for causing mild cold-like illnesses in humans, though the specific virus used in the vaccine was isolated from chimpanzees. (This vaccine has not been authorized in the US but is used in dozens of countries worldwide.)

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Categories: Tech News

Westinghouse sale signals arrival of a new nuclear age

The Register - Wed, 10/12/2022 - 10:15
Energy granddad wants in on the next generation of atomic tech

Uranium fuel producer Cameco Corp and investment firm Brookfield Renewable Partners intend to buy Westinghouse Electric Company in a bid to accelerate a nuclear power resurgence. …

Categories: Tech News

A Man Said LGBTQ People ‘Deserve Death’ at a School Board Meeting in Arkansas

Motherboard (Vice) - Wed, 10/12/2022 - 10:10

A speaker at a school board meeting in Arkansas told a room full of students that their LGBTQ classmates “deserve death” and that their minds are “depraved.”

“God gave them over to a depraved mind, so that they do what they should not be doing,” the speaker said. “But let me remind you that those who do such things deserve death.”

The man took to the stage on Tuesday to voice support for policies that would roll back rights for trans students, immediately after a trans student spoke out against those policies in front of a crowd of teenagers and parents in Conway, Arkansas. The man also shared deeply anti-LGBTQ beliefs.

During the meeting, the board approved a set of policies that force students and staff to use bathrooms according to their gender assigned at birth and also require trans students to bunk with members of their assigned gender at birth on overnight trips.

Parents are now speaking out against the anti-trans policies as well as the school board’s alleged double standard: They say the board has allowed people with anti-trans views to speak out without repercussions, while parents who oppose anti-trans policies have been silenced. 

“There was no need to target kids with these new policies. No problems had ever been reported,” Anne Goldberg, a parent in the school district told VICE News. “Members who proposed these policies and voted to approve them deliberately created an environment for trans kids to be singled out and made to hear threats from adults.”

“I am disgusted that those words were allowed without a single member pushing back,” another parent, Jenny Wallace, told VICE News. “My heart is broken for the students who had to sit through those hate speeches. My heart is broken for the parents and for the teachers who feel helpless.”

Wallace is a part of a group of parents speaking against the board’s implementation of policies that target trans students. She said when the group spoke out at a previous board meeting, officials threatened to remove them. 

Some parents against the anti-trans policies yelled “shame” during Tuesday’s meeting and were escorted out by police, she said.

Meanwhile, those in favor of anti-trans policies haven’t faced the same repercussions, according to Wallace. The parent of a high school senior alleged that the school board has remained silent while people in the crowd and various speakers have used homophobic language—words like “abomination,” “groomers,” and “pedophiles”—when referring to LGBTQ people. 

State senator Jason Rapert was also in attendance on Tuesday, according to local news reports. 

“For the first time in my entire representation in the Arkansas Senate have I ever felt led to come and speak at a school board meeting. I am proud of the school board members,” Rapert said. 

Conway School District did not immediately respond to a VICE News request for comment.

There are plans to implement even more restrictions on students and teachers in the school district, including limitations on lessons that deal with “social justice” and “diversity,” according to a school board document reviewed by VICE News. 

The eight-page document, obtained by parents through the Freedom of Information Act and shared with VICE News, proposes to prohibit any discussion of “divisive concepts, gender identity, sexual orientation, or government-sanctioned or -facilitated racism.” 

Penalties for school staff include being placed on administrative leave, and even termination.

The proposal also lists more than a hundred banned terms, including “white privilege,” “intersectionality,” and “anti-Blackness.”

For Goldberg, the board has created a “hostile environment.” 

“The school board made it easier for people to spread hatred against our most vulnerable children,” Goldberg said. 

This is only the latest example in a trend sweeping across the US. School boards across the country have implemented anti-trans policies and banned books about LGBTQ rights, race and racism, gender, and abortion. Just last month, a report found that Texas has banned more books than any other state, with 801 books, including “The Bluest Eye” by Toni Morrison and “Gender Queer: A Memoir” by Maia Kobabe, which are banned in 22 districts. Virginia’s Republican Governor, Glenn Youngkin, has tried to implement anti-trans policies across the state’s public schools, and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a bill into law in 2021 that barred trans girls from playing on all-girls public sports teams.  

Follow Anya and Evy on Twitter. 

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Categories: Tech News

Webb captures truly strange set of rings built by massive stars

ARS Technica - Wed, 10/12/2022 - 10:04
Image of a bright area partially surrounded by rings.

Enlarge (credit: Image courtesy of University of Sydney)

Today, Nature Astronomy released a paper that shows off the sorts of science the Webb Telescope was designed to produce. Early on, the new telescope was pointed at a system of two massive stars that orbit each other closely. Ground-based observations had detected a ring or two produced by the interactions of these giants; the Webb was able to determine that there are at least 17 concentric rings of material that have been put in place over the previous 130 years.

And just to show off, astronomers were able to obtain a spectrum of the material that forms the rings.

It's difficult to express just how bizarre these rings look (just check out the image yourself at the top of this article!). Yet modeling the forces that are thought to have put them in place produces a near-exact replica of the structures.

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Categories: Tech News

Pixel Watch review: Beautiful, fast, and way too expensive

ARS Technica - Wed, 10/12/2022 - 10:00
The Pixel Watch. It's a perfect, round little pebble.

Enlarge / The Pixel Watch. It's a perfect, round little pebble. (credit: Ron Amadeo)

SPECS AT A GLANCE: Pixel Watch SCREEN  1.2-inch, 450×450 OLED (320 ppi) OS Wear OS 3.5 (Android 11) CPU Dual-core Samsung Exynos 9110 (10 nm)

Two 1.15 GHz Cortex A53 cores (plus a low-power Cortex M33 co-processor)

RAM 2GB GPU Arm Mali T720 MP1 GPU STORAGE 32GB NETWORKING 802.11 b/g/n, Bluetooth 5.0, GPS, NFC, optional LTE SIZE 41×12.3 mm WEIGHT 36 g (without band) BATTERY 294 mAh PRICE $349 (Wi-Fi) $399 (LTE) OTHER PERKS 5 ATM water resistance, ECG sensor, SPO2 sensor

It's hard to overstate how important the Apple Watch has become. It's the halo device for the entire Apple ecosystem, with something like a 30 percent attach rate on new US iPhone sales. There's nothing like the Apple Watch for Android phones, making it the reason to switch ecosystems from Android to iOS. If you're already on iOS, it's one of the primary reasons to stay. The Apple Watch is Apple's biggest lock-in weapon, and Google has spent the last few years doing absolutely nothing to fight it.

Google may have gotten to this market first with Android Wear in 2014, but its hardware progress came to a screeching halt in 2015 and hasn't moved much since. This was partly due to the company's reliance on Qualcomm SoCs, which have been released with the same basic chip design (under different model numbers) for six straight years. In addition, Wear OS hasn't had the greatest development effort, with major releases only occurring in 2014, 2017, and 2018. 2018 was also around the time that Google quietly quit Wear OS app development.

It's the usual situation: An Apple product has a focused, vertically integrated, laser-straight line of development, while the comparable Google product has to deal with a constantly shifting group of half-interested hardware partners, Google's internal attention deficit disorder, and at least one major rebrand. The Apple Watch ran away with the market while Google's efforts floundered, with the company capturing around 3 percent of the wearable market for several years.

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Categories: Tech News

The Polestar 3 SUV will cost $83,900 “loaded,” goes on sale Q4 2023

ARS Technica - Wed, 10/12/2022 - 10:00
The Polestar 3's bodywork has been optimized in the wind tunnel.

Enlarge / The Polestar 3's bodywork has been optimized in the wind tunnel. (credit: Polestar)

After a sublime-but-limited-production GT and a stylish fastback sedan, Polestar is launching its third vehicle, the aptly named Polestar 3. It's a performance-oriented SUV on the larger side of the spectrum, built on a new EV-only platform developed together with part-owner and Geely stablemate Volvo.

Polestar opens its order books for the Polestar 3 today, but if you push that button, be prepared for a bit of a wait before you take delivery, as the first cars may only reach these shores toward the end of next year. But Polestar is pretty sure this one will resonate with a North American audience, and local production of the Polestar 3 in Ridgeville, South Carolina, should begin in 2024.

"Polestar 3 is a powerful electric SUV that appeals to the senses with a distinct, Scandinavian design and excellent driving dynamics. It also takes our manufacturing footprint to the next level, bringing Polestar production to the United States. We are proud and excited to expand our portfolio as we continue our rapid growth," said Polestar CEO Thomas Ingenlath.

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Categories: Tech News

Biden gambles with global chip supply by halting US firms’ operations in China

ARS Technica - Wed, 10/12/2022 - 09:52
Biden gambles with global chip supply by halting US firms’ operations in China

Enlarge (credit: Pavel_Korr | iStock / Getty Images Plus)

The US has taken its next step in its boldest efforts yet to disrupt China's military by blocking access to memory chips and chip-making equipment that are crucial to modern defense systems like stealth aircraft, satellites, and cruise missiles. The Wall Street Journal reported yesterday that US chip equipment suppliers have withdrawn dozens of employees with key expertise and paused business activities at Yangtze Memory Technologies Co. (YMTC), "China's leading memory chip maker."

This is different from previous actions the US has taken by targeting specific technologies or individual firms, the Journal reported. Among key suppliers that "people familiar with the matter" told WSJ were halting operations are two major US firms, KLA Corp. and Lam Research Corp. Just weeks ago, the investment advising company The Motley Fool suggested that Lam Research "may be one of the most important companies in the world," noting that Intel is a key customer and that it serves a global market. Reuters reported that KLA losing its China market has restricted the company from its "largest geographic market, bringing in $2.66 billion in sales."

YMTC and Lam Research didn't respond to Ars' or WSJ's requests for comment. KLA Corp. chief communications officer Randi Polanich confirmed to Ars that "as of now, we cannot comment."

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Categories: Tech News

NASA says the Artemis I mission will be ready to launch in one month

ARS Technica - Wed, 10/12/2022 - 09:40
NASA's Space Launch System will make a nighttime launch on its current timeline.

Enlarge / NASA's Space Launch System will make a nighttime launch on its current timeline. (credit: Trevor Mahlmann)

A little more than two weeks have passed since NASA prudently rolled its Space Launch System rocket and Orion spacecraft inside the massive Vehicle Assembly Building at Kennedy Space Center to protect the hardware from Hurricane Ian.

During that time, engineers and technicians from the space agency and its contractors have performed a detailed inspection of the rocket and spacecraft to determine its flight readiness. This was an important process because the vehicles have been in a fully stacked configuration for nearly a year, since October 21, 2021. NASA wanted to assess the ongoing viability of batteries on the rocket, hypergolic fuel stored on Orion's service module, and more.

The good news from those inspections is that only minimal work is required to prepare the rocket for its next launch attempt, NASA said Wednesday in a blog post.

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Categories: Tech News

Microsoft tries to Ignite interest in DevOps cloud security tweaks

The Register - Wed, 10/12/2022 - 09:30
Identity governance and SOCs also on the menu

Microsoft is rolling out its usual host of cloud security features and services at this week's Ignite 2022 conference, with the focus on what's happening in and outside the firewall.…

Categories: Tech News

Ukrainian City Removes Elon Musk's Face from Celebratory Billboard

Motherboard (Vice) - Wed, 10/12/2022 - 09:04

The city of Odessa in southern Ukraine has covered up a photo of Elon Musk on a billboard following his comments on Twitter about a peace deal with Russia. 

“The advertising department removes the photo of Elon Musk from the billboards, which we used to thank for supporting Ukraine,” a Telegram channel linked to the Odessa city government said above of a video of a worker papering over the picture of the billionaire. The billboard sits above a road and shows off a few celebrities next to the words, “Thanks for the Support of Ukraine.”

Musk ended up on the billboard in the first place because he donated Starlink terminals to Ukraine in an effort to keep them online during the war. Ukraine’s love for Musk began to turn last Monday when the billionaire tweeted his hairbrained scheme for bringing peace to the region: redo the elections in the annexed regions and keep Crimea in Russia. Ukrainian politicians and diplomats told him to fuck off.

Musk doubled down over the next few days, fighting with South Carolina senator Lindsey Graham about the issue and posting a decade old map he claimed showed support for Russian rule. Around the same time, Ukrainian officials began to tell journalists they were having trouble with their Starlink terminals.

Odessa is an important part of Ukraine’s war. It’s a major Black Sea port in Ukraine, the place through which its grain shipments flow, and a constant target for Moscow’s assault. It has been the repeated target of missile strikes during the war. Just this morning, Ukraine’s military reported it had shot down a drone above the city. 

The billboard was a place for the city to celebrate celebrities it saw as heroes. Benedict Cumberbatch is there because he brought Ukrainian refugees into his home. Emilia Clarke is there because of her early support and fundraising efforts. Leonardo DiCaprio has also shown his support for the country and was the subject of a disproved rumor early in the war that he’d donated $10 million and that his family was from Odessa. Elon Musk was there too because of the Starlink terminals.

But now Musk is advocating the Kremlin’s position in public, commanders are complaining about the Starlink terminals not working, and the city of Odessa is covering up Musk’s visage on its celebratory billboard.

Categories: Tech News

Eric Andre Suing Atlanta Police Over ‘Racist’ Drug Search

Motherboard (Vice) - Wed, 10/12/2022 - 09:03

Two prominent Black comedians filed a federal lawsuit against Clayton County in Georgia, accusing the county’s police force of racially discriminating against them and other non-white people as they boarded their flights, all under the guise of stopping drug trafficking.

Actors and stand-up comedian Clayton English and Eric Andre, the latter of whom has a popular show on Adult Swim, say they were unjustly stopped by police as they waited to board a flight at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. As part of the “jet bridge interdiction program,” according to the lawsuit, the Clayton County Police Department has officers standing by before people step onto the plane, and those officers can randomly select passengers for questioning. During questioning, the passenger’s boarding passes and ID cards are confiscated, and they’re subject to a random search if deemed necessary. 

But as Andre and English’s lawsuit says, these so-called “random searches” don’t seem random at all.

“I was blocked in a jet bridge by two police officers who interrogated me about drugs,” André said at a press conference announcing the lawsuit Tuesday. “I didn’t see any other Black people boarding at the time. It’s hard to believe I was selected at ‘random’ for questioning. It was a humiliating and degrading experience.”

Six months earlier, English had his bag searched by police as passengers squeezed past. He said he agreed to the search because he thought he had no other choice.

According to the lawsuit, there are many similarities between the two men’s encounters. Both were stopped in their tracks by plainclothes cops who blocked their path; they were asked if they were carrying a number of illegal drugs in their luggage; they were pulled to the side and questioned about why they were flying to Los Angeles; and both men were subjected to this process as other passengers looked on and made their way onto the plane.

“Part of the reason I’m here today is because this needs to stop,” English said at Tuesday’s press conference. “I felt completely powerless. I felt violated, I felt cornered, I felt like I couldn’t continue to get on the plane. I felt like I had to comply if I wanted everything to go smoothly.”

The Clayton County Police says that the stops at Atlanta’s lone international airport are randomized. In the case of Andre’s stop, police said in a Facebook statement at the time that the comedian consented to the stop and even agreed to a search which officers did not conduct. 

But the data shows otherwise. According to police records, between September 2020 and April 2021, the police stopped 402 people and documented the race of 378. At least 211 passengers (56 percent) of those documented were Black, according to the lawsuit. An additional 47 passengers who were stopped were non-white.

“These are cases of flying while Black, plain and simple,” Barry Friedman, an attorney and co-founder of the Policing Project at NYU School of Law said at the press conference. Friedman and NYU’s Policing Project is joined by the law firms of Jones Day and Lawrence & Bundy in representing the two men. The three firms encouraged others who’ve experienced discriminatory stops at the Atlanta airport should reach out to share their stories.

Friedman told VICE News Wednesday that the legal team has already had more than one individual reach out about a separate airport encounter with Clayton police.

The Clayton County Police Department’s community liaison declined to comment on the lawsuit, telling VICE News it would not comment on pending litigation.

Both Andre and English are asking for compensatory damages, as well as a declaration that the jet bridge interdiction program violates people’s right against unreasonable search and their rights to equal treatment by the state.

While it is historically more common for middle class and poor Black Americans to face discrimination at the hands of law enforcement, affluence isn’t a shield. In March, Ryan Coogler, the Oakland-born director of films like Black Panther and Fruitvale Station, was detained at gunpoint by Atlanta Police at a Bank of America. Though Coogler had both his bank card and his ID, the bank teller reportedly told a manager that the director was attempting a robbery because he was trying to withdraw a large sum of money. Police eventually let him go, and Coogler settled the matter with Bank Of America out of court. 

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Categories: Tech News

The Women Training a Workforce of EV Charging Station Technicians

Motherboard (Vice) - Wed, 10/12/2022 - 08:47

Supported by Upwork. VICE News retains complete editorial independence.

Electric cars, which have lower carbon emissions than fuel-powered vehicles, are becoming a popular transportation choice. As a result, electric vehicle (EV) charging stations have been popping up everywhere, with the number of EV charging ports predicted to surpass the number of gas stations in the U.S. by 2030. Yet these charging stations are often filled with “out of order” signs, with many even being ripped out of the ground due to an undiagnosed problem. 

Kameale Terry and Evette Ellis are co-founders of ChargerHelp!, a startup that is dedicated to fixing these broken EV charging stations. In the third episode of a new documentary series by Motherboard called “Silicon Ceiling,” we spoke with Terry and Ellis about ChargerHelp! and how they’re not only solving charger problems but building an entire workforce of Electric Vehicle Supply Equipment (EVSE) technicians.  

Terry’s first job was in EV driver support, where she was on the phone with stranded drivers to help them get back on the road. Through this experience, she saw that the infrastructure powering EVs and their chargers isn’t reliable or streamlined for users. Terry formulated all the knowledge she learned from diagnosing these issues into a curriculum on the EV ecosystem and what people should understand in order to fix EV charging stations.  

Ellis, whose career is in workforce development, met Terry at the Los Angeles Cleantech incubator where Terry was training EVSE technicians with her curriculum and Ellis was the career coach on the project. 

“[Terry] had just completed our first cohort of folks that went through her curriculum, and I think it was their graduation day. She said I want to talk to you. Would you be my co-founder? And I was like, I don't know what a co-founder is. I don't understand entrepreneurship that way. I came from a working family. You know, we get a job, we get a paycheck, we pay our bills on Fridays,” Ellis said. “I really didn’t see where I fit into it, but once she explained to me that workforce development she wanted to be weaved into ChargerHelp!, then I could see my value add there.” 

The core mission of ChargerHelp! is not only to fix broken EV charging stations but also to train a workforce of people who can maintain these stations. 

“In your parking lot, we would sell what we call reliability as a service. And so it's a per month, per charging station fee that allows for essentially unlimited truck rolls and also a clear understanding of what your uptime metrics are,” Terry said. 

Terry and Ellis hope that their story inspires other female founders, specifically Black female entrepreneurs like themselves. 

“The advice I would give to other Black female founders specifically is to know your numbers. I think the best thing that I ever did is understand my unit economics. So somebody can ask me what is the cost? What's your price? What's your margin? How can you reduce that? I just make sure that my numbers don't lie,” Terry said. “If you focus on your numbers, you can be profitable and you don't need these investors.”

ChargerHelp! recently announced a partnership with Tesla to help survey their charging stations in California and provide insight pertaining to each station’s overall performance. 

Categories: Tech News

Musky scent? Billionaire launches fragrance: Burnt Hair

The Register - Wed, 10/12/2022 - 08:30
'The Essence of Repugnant Desire', selling via Boring Company website for $100, will accept Dogecoin

Elon Musk, the world's richest man, is threatening to break into the fragrance industry with a scent branded “Burnt Hair – The Essence of Repugnant Desire" and it's already for sale on his Boring Co website.…

Categories: Tech News

Report: “Thousands” of Intel layoffs planned as PC demand slows and revenues fall

ARS Technica - Wed, 10/12/2022 - 08:17
Report: “Thousands” of Intel layoffs planned as PC demand slows and revenues fall

Enlarge (credit: Andrew Cunningham)

Intel is planning its first major layoffs in almost six years, according to a new report from Bloomberg. The report says that layoffs will "likely" affect thousands of its 113,700 employees, particularly in its sales and marketing departments, and that they could happen as soon as this month. Bloomberg says that Intel's last major layoffs happened in 2016.

The alleged layoffs are the latest sign of trouble for the PC market and for the companies that make and sell PC components. Intel's year-over-year revenue for Q2 dropped from $19.6 billion in 2021 to $15.3 billion in 2022, driven by decreases in Intel's consumer PC and server businesses, and the company's forecast for Q3 was similarly gloomy. Nvidia missed its most recent quarterly revenue projections by $1.4 billion, as the GPU shortage has ebbed and cryptocurrency-driven demand has dried up. And even though AMD is benefitting from Intel's weakened position in the server market in particular, it is also signaling that it will miss its Q3 revenue estimates by about a billion dollars because of weakened PC demand.

Both businesses and individuals splashed out for more PCs as the COVID-19 pandemic began, so there are simply fewer people who need new PCs right now, regardless of larger concerns like inflation or recession. Prominent analysts can't agree on how much the PC market has contracted this year, but they all agree that sales are down by double digits because of a decrease in consumer and business spending. IDC says that Q3 sales fell by 15 percent year over year, and that's the most optimistic figure—Gartner claims it's down by 19.5 percent, and Canalys says it's down 18 percent. (IDC does note, however, that shipments remain "well above pre-pandemic levels.")

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Categories: Tech News

Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey, and Danny Masterson Are All on Trial for Sexual Abuse

Motherboard (Vice) - Wed, 10/12/2022 - 08:06

Five years after the #MeToo movement first exploded, three famous, once-powerful men are on trial this week for their alleged sexual abuses.

Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey, and Danny Masterson all stand accused of sexual misconduct. Weinstein and Masterson are both facing criminal sexual assault charges that could put them behind bars for life. Spacey, meanwhile, is facing a civil lawsuit from actor Anthony Rapp, who has said that Spacey made a sexual advance on him when Rapp was just 14 years old.

Weinstein has already been convicted in New York of sexual misconduct, and his case remains the most prominent conviction of the post-#MeToo era. (Bill Cosby, whose case was also heralded as an example of post-#MeToo accountability, was convicted but later released on a technicality.) Now, these three trials offer a new snapshot of how the justice system will deal with sexual assault allegations among the rich and famous.

Kevin Spacey

Spacey’s New York City civil trial is farther along than the other men’s, which are still mired in jury selection. Spacey’s main accuser, Rapp, has already testified on the stand for multiple days.

“Every time I saw him on the screen, I was reminded, I could not escape that memory,” Rapp said, according to CNN

Rapp first came forward in October 2017, as cries of #MeToo spread across social media. He told BuzzFeed News that, when he was 14 and Spacey was 26, Spacey climbed on top of him and made a sexual advance. Rapp, who is most known for his role in the founding cast of “Rent,” has said he went years without discussing his interaction with Spacey, but he felt increasingly overcome as Spacey’s star climbed. Even Spacey’s appearance in the 1980s movie Working Girl disturbed him.

“It was as if someone poked me with a cattle prod,” Rapp said Tuesday, the New York Times reported

Since Rapp came forward, Spacey has become persona non grata in Hollywood (except, occasionally, for some truly bizarre YouTube videos where he simultaneously seems to be comforting and threatening the viewer). Other men have also accused Spacey of sexual misconduct, including a man who said that he had a sexual relationship with an adult Spacey when the man was then just 14 years old. Spacey is also facing a criminal trial in London, where he’s been charged with four counts of sexual assault as well as one count of causing a person to engage in penetrative sexual activity without consent.

Spacey has generally denied wrongdoing and pleaded not guilty in the London case. 

In cross-examination Tuesday in New York, Spacey’s lawyers tricked to pick apart Rapp’s account, suggesting that he was making it up out of jealousy for Spacey’s career. Rapp has previously said that he was inspired to come forward after Lupita Nyong’o accused Harvey Weinstein of sexual misconduct, but texts showed that Rapp had actually been in communication with Buzzfeed News days before Nyong’o went public. 

Rapp has said that Spacey made the advance in a bedroom after a party Spacey threw. But Spacey’s legal team contended that Spacey lived in a studio apartment at the time. Rapp insisted that he remembered a bedroom, but it’s possible he was wrong about the apartment layout, according to the New York Times.

Rapp sued Spacey for $40 million in damages for assault, battery, and intentionally inflicting emotional distress.

Harvey Weinstein

Weinstein has already been convicted of third-degree rape and a criminal sexual act in the first degree in New York and now faces a jury in Los Angeles. Sentenced to 23 years in prison in the New York case, Weinstein, whose case kicked off a wave of accusations against other famous men, is now facing 11 counts of sexual assault in Los Angeles County. If convicted, he could be sentenced to life behind bars—although at 70 years old, Weinstein’s New York sentence will also likely last the rest of his life.

Weinstein has been accused of sexual misconduct by five different women in the L.A. trial. Jennifer Siebel Newsom, the wife of California Governor Gavin Newsom, is one of those women; her attorney told the Los Angeles Times that she “was sexually assaulted by Harvey Weinstein at a purported business meeting that turned out to be a trap.” Another of the women previously testified against Weinstein at his New York trial, although he was not directly on trial over her allegations.

Lawyers in the case are currently in the process of jury selection, which is supposed to last two weeks. But Weinstein’s team also took the time Tuesday to complain about the apparently “medieval” conditions of Weinstein’s cell.

“I’m concerned about his health and his ability to survive this ordeal,” one of his attorneys told Judge Lisa B. Lench, Variety reported

Weinstein’s legal team also suggested that Weinstein didn’t have access to a toilet, which Lench immediately shot down.

“He’s not deprived of a toilet. There is a toilet in the cell,” Lench said. “I’m not going to let the record reflect that he’s deprived of a toilet. I’m not going to let the record look like he didn’t have access to a toilet.”

Weinstein has pleaded not guilty in the case and has broadly denied all sexual misconduct allegations. He is also appealing his New York case.

Danny Masterson

The criminal trial for Masterson, the former star of “The ‘70s Show,” has a wrinkle that the other ones don’t: Scientology.

Masterson, an active member of the church, stands accused of three charges of forcible rape against three women who, at the time of the alleged assaults, were also Scientologists, Variety reported. If Masterson is convicted, he could be sentenced to life in prison.

One woman has said that, after accepting a drink from Masterson, her vision turned “blurry” and Masterson raped her, according to People. She has said that family told her not to file a police report due to Masterson’s Scientology connections, although she ultimately did so in 2004.

Another woman said that, when Masterson commanded her to take her clothes off, she obeyed because of his stature in Scientology, according to the Associated Press. She said Masterson later raped her twice.

The third woman, who dated Masterson for years, said she once woke up to him raping her. She said that he also spit on her and hit her with his fist, calling her white trash. 

All three alleged assaults are said to have taken place in the early 2000s. Masterson has pleaded not guilty.

Judge Charlaine Olmedo has tried to insist that “this is not going to become a trial on Scientology,” despite the trial’s links to the shadowy church, according to Variety. Olmedo has also predicted that the case will not take longer than four weeks.

Jury selection in the trial started Tuesday.

Categories: Tech News

Leaked Docs Link Soccer Star Cuauhtémoc Blanco to Narcos—Again

Motherboard (Vice) - Wed, 10/12/2022 - 07:54

MEXICO CITY—A former Mexican soccer star turned state governor, Cuauhtémoc Blanco, is facing renewed accusations of being connected to drug cartel members in leaked military documents. The documents reportedly not only mention Blanco, but also members of his inner circle, and other politicians and government officials throughout the state of Morelos, where he governs.

In January, a local newspaper in Morelos published a photo of Blanco posing arm-in-arm with three alleged drug cartel bosses. At the time, Blanco denied having any connection to the men and claimed that as a former pro athlete, taking photos with strangers was a regular occurrence, and “because I’m such a good guy, I take photos with everyone.”

Without a doubt, Blanco is one of the country’s most celebrated soccer players in Mexican history. Blanco represented Mexico internationally off-and-on for nearly 20 years in the Olympics, World Cup, and other competitions, scoring the third most goals in the national team’s history. He also played 15 years for arguably Mexico’s most popular local team—América—and spent a couple years playing in Major League Soccer (MLS) for the Chicago Fire.

After retiring from soccer, Blanco immediately entered politics, and was elected as the municipal president of the state capital of Cuernavaca in 2016. Two years later, Blanco was elected state governor after running a campaign based on lowering violence and clamping down on corruption.

But the release of the photo with cartel members in January was a black eye on his reputation, and that just got much worse.

In late September, a hacktivist group named Guacamaya released roughly 4 million confidential documents and communications from Mexico’s Defense Ministry. The leaks contained everything from proof that the military had sold grenades and tactical equipment to drug cartels, to personal information about the health of President Andrés Manuel López Obrador.

Several documents reportedly took aim at the military’s investigations of government officials in Morelos.

One document, cited by Mexican newspaper El Universal, is an intelligence report sent on May 14, 2019, which provided new insights to the accusations against Blanco.

Although the photo was released nine months ago, it is believed to have been taken in January or February 2019 shortly after he entered office. One of the men in the photo is Raymundo Isidro Castro Salgado, alias El Ray, a local boss for the Guerreros Unidos cartel.

The document reportedly alleges that El Ray could operate with “absolute impunity” in the state in return for supporting Blanco’s election campaign and not “heating up the plaza”—a term that means increasing violence in the region. El Ray was arrested the same month that the intelligence document was sent in the neighboring state of Puebla. He was murdered in a prison riot a few months later, in August 2019.

El Universal also reported that the information in the document came from intelligence given privately by another Guerreros Unidos boss, Irvin Solano, alias El Profe. El Profe is the second man in the photo, along with Blanco and El Ray. El Profe was arrested by the Mexican army in February 2021 and is currently incarcerated. The third man in the photo, Homero Figuera, aka La Tripa or El Simpson, remains at large.

Another set of documents in the leak focused on various members of Blanco’s government and other local politicians around the state. The documents, published by Aristegui Noticias, mentioned allegations of cartel collusion against at least two members of Blanco’s cabinet, a senator, 18 mayors, two local deputies, and the state attorney general: Uriel Carmona.

Carmona gave an interview to Aristegui Noticias on Monday to address the accusations and denied having connections to drug cartels. He alleged that the accusations actually came from someone within Blanco’s government. While he didn’t specifically allege retribution, Carmona went on to confirm that his office has an open investigation regarding Blanco’s involvement with organized crime, which began after the release of the photo in January. He did not provide additional information about the status of the investigation.

Blanco also answered questions regarding the government leaks after an event on Monday and denied the allegations. He said that he was a person of “principle and values” and had never made a “pact” with any criminal group. He said he welcomed any investigation and that “if any official is involved, I’m not going to defend them.”

“He who did nothing, has nothing to fear,” he said defiantly. “And that goes for me as well. Investigate me.”

Categories: Tech News

Tuxedo Computers releases version 1.0 of its Ubuntu remix

The Register - Wed, 10/12/2022 - 07:30
We spin up Linux PC vendor's first public version of its in-house OS

Tuxedo OS 1 is Ubuntu 22.04, tweaked for the company's own kit, with KDE instead of GNOME, a natively packaged Firefox, and Flatpak instead of Snap.…

Categories: Tech News

Microsoft takes AI image generation mainstream, strolling into ethics minefield

ARS Technica - Wed, 10/12/2022 - 07:16
A preview of the Microsoft Designer app's AI text-to-image functionality.

Enlarge / A preview of the Microsoft Designer app's AI text-to-image functionality. (credit: Microsoft)

During a Surface press event today, Microsoft announced integrations of AI-powered image-generation technology into its Bing search engine, Edge browser, and a new Office app called Microsoft Designer. The technology will be powered by DALL-E 2 by OpenAI, which made waves in April for its ability to generate novel images based on written prompts. The technology has also been the subject of ire among some artists due to ethical concerns.

Microsoft's offerings aim to help creators overcome blank-page syndrome by suggesting creative courses of action. In an example of Microsoft Designer provided by Microsoft, someone types a description of what they want to see, such as "Ombre cake decorated with flowers and fall foliage," and they can then scroll through AI-generated image examples that they can choose to add to their design. "Designer invites you to start with an idea and let the AI do the heavy lifting," wrote Microsoft in a press release.

An animated GIF preview of the Microsoft Designer app's "Start From Scratch" feature, provided by Microsoft.

An animated GIF preview of the Microsoft Designer app's "Start From Scratch" feature, provided by Microsoft. (credit: Microsoft)

Microsoft Designer originated as part of PowerPoint, where it currently suggests design ideas as a subset of that program. But Microsoft plans to break out Designer into its own Microsoft 365 app that will be available both as a free app and as a premium app available to Microsoft 365 Personal and Family subscribers. For now, Microsoft is limiting Designer to a free public web app, which it will use to gather feedback from public testing.

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Categories: Tech News

Ex-Starbucks Manager Says He Was Given a List of Pro-Union Workers To Target

Motherboard (Vice) - Wed, 10/12/2022 - 07:08

A former Starbucks manager in the Buffalo area testified under oath before a labor board judge that higher-ups told him to single out pro-union employees for disciplinary action, Bloomberg reported Tuesday

David Almond, a Buffalo-area manager who resigned from the company in January, testified during an August National Labor Relations Board hearing that managers who were sent to his store after the union effort went public read him a list of pro-union employees. In one case, Almond said, he was encouraged by a district manager to go through the files of a longtime employee to target her with disciplinary action.

“She said go through her files,” Almond said, according to a transcript obtained by Bloomberg via a FOIA request. “She’s a long-term partner. I’m sure there’s something in there we can use against her.”

On another occasion Almond testified, a district manager told him to make sure at least one manager was always working at the store. “She said, this way, the partners won’t feel comfortable talking about the union, and if they do, then you should discourage them,” Almond testified, according to Bloomberg. “She made me rewrite all the schedules so that there was a manager on from open all the way till close.”

Almond resigned from the company in January, Bloomberg reported. “I didn’t want to do illegal stuff,” Almond testified, according to Bloomberg. “I’ve worked my entire life to build up a career of integrity, and I was not going to allow Starbucks to take that from me.”

Starbucks has repeatedly insisted that it has not targeted pro-union workers with retaliation, even though more than 100 such employees have been fired this year nationwide. NLRB regional offices have issued more than 30 complaints against the company, covering well over 100 unfair labor practice charges filed by Starbucks employees across the country, the NLRB said last month. 

The company did not respond to an email from VICE News seeking comment Tuesday, but denied Almond’s claims and said it “respect[s] the right of all partners to make their decisions regarding union issues, whether they favor or oppose representation.” 

Starbucks Workers United, the union representing workers, told VICE News in a statement Tuesday that Almond’s testimony “corroborated what workers have now been saying for over a year — Starbucks and [CEO] Howard Schultz will do whatever it takes to crush our union.” 

“Starbucks has made managers, like David, choose between keeping their job or breaking the law.”

Of the more than 300 stores that have voted on a union this year, Starbucks employees have voted to unionize at 80 percent of them, or nearly 250 stores, according to NLRB statistics.

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Categories: Tech News