'This Is What Happens': Landlord Lobbyist Apologizes for 'Insensitive' Comment About Tenant Murder

Motherboard (Vice) - Wed, 05/31/2023 - 06:00

A landlord in Hamilton, Ontario gunned down a young couple that was renting from him on Saturday evening, before being killed by police himself. Little is known about the argument that preceded the tragedy, though it was reportedly over the condition of the basement apartment the couple rented.

But that did not stop at least one person lobbying for landlords from framing it as a sign of the unfortunate plight of… landlords. In a now-deleted tweet, Varun Sriskanda wrote “Landlords taking matters into their own hands is not something I encourage. But this is what happens when we don’t have a functioning tribunal.” 

Sriskanda, whose bio says he is a realtor and lawyer who advocates for “the rights of housing providers in Canada,” serves as a board member for Small Ownership Landlord of Ontario (SOLO) a group that recently hosted a pro-landlord protest asking for faster non-payment evictions.

A tweet from landlord lobbyist Varun Sriskanda

Sriskanda’s tweet was immediately ratioed—a screenshot shows the tweet had 398 quote tweets and 117 likes—and he subsequently deleted the tweet and issued an apology. 

“I previously released a tweet in regards to a tragic situation in Hamilton, Ontario which saw 3 lives lost. The tweet was insensitive, careless and failed to account for the gravity of the situation. I sincerely apologize for my poorly chosen words,” Sriskanda wrote in a tweet thread that distanced his comment from his work at SOLO.

In another tweet, he continued, “I often tweet on a variety of issues and topics that interest me. My tweets will always be my own and in no way, shape or form is a reflection or the position of any other person or organization.”

Sriskanda told Press Progress that his reference to a “functioning tribunal” in his deleted tweet was meant to suggest that landlords have to wait too long to evict their tenants due to an ongoing backlog of eviction filings, which was also the subject of last month’s landlord protest.

In a statement to Press Progress, SOLO said, “Our deepest condolences go out to all those that were affected by the tragic events that unfolded in Stoney Creek over the weekend. Loved ones will need time to grieve. The community will need time to make sense of what has unfolded. Law enforcement will need time to do their investigation to determine what exactly happened here.” 

A member of SOLO declined to tell Press Progress whether Sriskanda had stepped down. At the time of writing, he is still listed as being a board member on SOLO’s website.

There have been multiple shootings in the U.S. over the past few months connected to tenant disputes. In early May, a Brooklyn tenant was shot by a state trooper carrying out an eviction filing after wielding a knife and implying he wanted the troopers to kill him. He was airlifted to a hospital and is in stable condition. In Seattle, a tenant died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound after exchanging gunfire with three deputies who had arrived to evict her. The tenant, who was involved with local activism, had fallen behind on rent during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the Seattle Times.

Police have not released the names of the couple killed in Hamilton. The couple, who were 27 and 28, were engaged. The man worked as an electrician and the woman worked as an educational assistant at a local elementary school. Neighbors speaking to press did not note any knowledge of disagreements with the landlord prior to the killings.

Categories: Tech News

Maryland License Plates Now Inadvertently Advertising Filipino Online Casino

Motherboard (Vice) - Wed, 05/31/2023 - 06:00

Roughly 800,000 Maryland drivers with license plates designed to commemorate the War of 1812 are now inadvertently advertising a website for an online casino based in the Philippines. 

In 2012, to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the War of 1812, Maryland redesigned its standard license plate to read “MARYLAND WAR OF 1812.” The license plates, which were the default between 2012 and 2016, have the URL www.starspangled200.org printed at the bottom. 

Sometime within the last year, www.starspangled200.org stopped telling people about how Marylander Francis Scott Key was inspired to write the national anthem “The Star Spangled Banner” after watching British ships bombard Fort McHenry in Baltimore during the War of 1812 and started instead redirecting to a site called globeinternational.info, in which a blinking, bikini-clad woman advertises "Philippines Best Betting Site, Deposit 100 Receive 250."

The issue was spotted by a Redditor who said “I was never a fan of having a plate celebrating the War of 1812, but I’m even more upset now that I (and tons of other Marylanders) are driving advertisements for international online gambling.”

Domain registration information shows that starspangled200.org has been re-registered and transferred a handful of times within the last few years. It is not exactly clear when it stopped being a website about American history. The Internet Archive shows that as recently as December 2022, the website explained that “the young United States was embroiled in the War of 1812 and the Chesapeake Bay region felt the brunt of it.” A snapshot from today, however, explains that “Extremely lenient laws govern gaming,” in the Philippines. “This is a result of the growing popularity of gambling among tourists and the enormous casino resorts that have recently been built.”

A spokesperson for the Maryland Department of Transportation’s Motor Vehicle Administration told Motherboard that “there are currently 798,000 active War of 1812 license plates.” 

“The website printed on the plates is not owned by the Motor Vehicle Administration. The plates' design and content originated from the War of 1812 Bicentennial Commission created in 2007. Star-Spangled 200, Inc. is the nonprofit entity affiliated with the Commission that led the efforts to raise funds for bicentennial projects and events,” they said. “The MVA does not endorse the views or content on the current website using that URL, and is working with the agency’s IT department to identify options to resolve the current issue.”

Categories: Tech News

A Medieval Comedy Act Has Been Discovered in First-Ever Find, Researcher Says

Motherboard (Vice) - Wed, 05/31/2023 - 06:00

If you were to travel back in time to Medieval England, you might catch some raunchy jokes and tall tales performed live by traveling minstrels, who were like old-timey versions of touring stand-up comics. 

Minstrels were fixtures of European life in the Middle Ages, but though countless references to these entertainers exist in literature from this era, no clear records of an actual minstrel’s “repertoire,” meaning their act or set, has been identified—until now.

James Wade, a professor in the English department at University of Cambridge, serendipitously stumbled across a manuscript that he thinks may be an ultra-rare glimpse of a minstrel’s live repertoire that reflects modern tropes of British humor, such as Monty Python’s murderous rabbit. 

Wade was reading the Heege Manuscript, a 15th century collection of booklets, when he noticed a message from the scribe, who wrote: “By me, Richard Heege, because I was at that feast and did not have a drink.” The little aside is still funny and relatable more than 500 years later, and it caught Wade’s eye. 

“I went to the National Library of Scotland in Edinburgh to look for medieval chivalric tales and romances, so I wasn't looking for medieval comic material or anything tied to minstrels,” Wade told Motherboard in an email. “But the nonsense poetry in the manuscript was hard to ignore, and then this signature line jumped out at me.” 

The joke was the first of many clues that suggested to Wade that the lamentably beverage-less Heege “copied these texts from the repertoire of a local entertainer,” thereby filling in the gap of “a major category of lost literature,” according to his new study published in The Review of English Studies on Tuesday. While it’s possible that Heege may have scribbled down the text during an actual live performance, the study concludes that it’s more likely he copied them from a repertoire manuscript that served as a minstrel’s setlist.

“Scholars have more-or-less given up on any hope of finding medieval manuscripts that we can confidently claim to have been made or used by actual medieval minstrels. My essay does not contest that,” Wade said. “Instead, it suggests that we might look to other kinds of sources for glimpses of live performance, or minstrelsy, from the Middle Ages. These sources will be more mediated and less mobile, but for all that no less a valuable witness to live entertainment culture.”

The Heege Manuscript is a well-studied collection of booklets that was assembled by various scribes, including Heege, who probably copied the trio of texts included in the first booklet around 1480. This booklet, which is utterly unique, records a rhyme called “The Hunting of the Hare,” a satirical version of a sermon, and a nonsense verse called “The Battle of Brackonwet'' that includes Heege’s note about lacking a drink at the feast.  

As Wade delved into the origins and context cues in these three texts, he discovered a host of clues that Heege may have copied them from a minstrel’s memory aid. In this way, the booklet may preserve an unprecedented, if indirect, record of a minstrel’s act.

“All three texts survive only in this booklet,” Wade noted in his study. “All three are composed in forms suited to and conventionally aligned with live performance (tail-rhyme, prose sermon, feast meta-comedy). All three are short enough to be suitable for interludes or after-dinner entertainment. All three contain ‘minstrel tags’ and otherwise directly address and anticipate a live and interactive audience. All three are entertaining and light-heartedly humorous.” 

“All three are locally oriented, using local place-names, alluding to local traditions, or situating narratives in the context of present or neighboring villages,” he continued. “And finally, all three (gently) mock peasants and kings alike, and show a playful awareness of possible mixed audiences, or the possibility of audiences shifting depending on location, from the village fair to the baronial hall.”

This list of attributes will be familiar to any touring band or comedian that incorporates banter about regional rivalries and local legends into their act to appeal to different audiences. For instance, “The Battle of Brackonwet'' weaves in references to real villages near the Derbyshire-Nottinghamshire border even as it recounts absurd episodes involving Robin Hood, jousting bears, and partying pigs. You can almost imagine the delight of hometown crowds as they heard their familiar stomping grounds surfacing in fantastical tales.  

The booklet also reveals some interesting insights about the evolution of British humor, which maintains a distinctive edge to this day. Even the trope of the killer rabbit, which is now most famous as a Monty Python gag, turns up in “The Hunting of the Hare,” a poem that mockingly withholds the name of the village where it all supposedly happened because the performer doesn’t want to get into trouble.  

“The comedy in the Heege Manuscript reminds us that being meta can be funny, whether you're in the fifteenth century or the twenty-first,” Wade told Motherboard. “In other words, a good technique for making people laugh is using the occasion or situation of the performance to make jokes, and those jokes tend toward either self-ironizing on the part of the performer, or mocking of the crowd.” 

To that end, Wade plans to continue looking for texts that could be minstrel repertoires hiding in plain sight. Until then, Heege’s work survives as a “vestige of medieval life lived vibrantly: the good times being as good as they ever have been, and probably ever will,” according to the study.

“I think it's possible to look at the work of some medieval scribes and re-conceive them as collectors of folklore, oral storytelling, and song, alongside their more typical occupation of copying from prior written texts,” Wade concluded. “I have in mind a few other manuscripts I want to study with this in mind, and no doubt there are many other such manuscripts I don't yet know about—and that's exciting!” 

Categories: Tech News

Everything You Ever Needed to Know About Hypersonic Missiles

Motherboard (Vice) - Wed, 05/31/2023 - 06:00

As the Russian invasion of Ukraine grinds on and tensions rise between the U.S. and China, the specter of new hypersonic weapons looms larger. These are super-fast and maneuverable missiles that can be nuclear-armed, and which Russia, China, and the U.S. are all racing to develop and deploy. Putin and the media have previously described them as “invincible” and “unstoppable” by modern anti-missile systems.

But what makes a weapon hypersonic, why does everyone seem to want them, and are they really all they’re cracked up to be?

Ukraine has already claimed to have shot down Russia’s hypersonic missiles. According to the Ukrainian Air Force, it used an MIM-104 Patriot missile system to intercept a Russian Kh-47 Kinzhal, an air-launched hypersonic ballistic missile, on May 6. Ten days later it said it shot down more of the “unstoppable” weapons.

Moscow fired a barrage of six of these advanced hypersonic weapons at Ukraine in March. At the time, Kyiv said it couldn’t shoot them down because of their speed and maneuverability. The recent destruction of the missiles suggests they aren’t as unstoppable as Moscow wants the world to believe. Using a U.S. missile system first deployed in the 1980s (and since upgraded), Kyiv said it destroyed the Kh-47 Kinzhal—“Dagger” in Russian—and poked a major hole in the narrative about hypersonic weapons generally and the Kinzhal specifically.

The hype around these weapons is driving a new arms race. China has tested two new  hypersonic missiles, Russia is using them in Ukraine, and the Pentagon has told Congress it’s playing catch-up. These weapons—and the misinformation surrounding them—will shape warfare for years to come, and here is everything you need to know about them.

What is a hypersonic weapon?

The term “hypersonic” has been used and abused in recent years. Technically, any object that’s traveling at five times greater than the speed of sound is traveling at hypersonic speeds. Today, the term is meant to hype up a new class of weapons that militaries promise will devastate their enemy. New hypersonic weapons are meant to be both fast and maneuverable. Russia’s Kinzhal and China’s Dongfeng-27 are two recent examples that have made headlines.

The “glide” capabilities of the various hypersonic missiles is an important part of the hype around them. The idea is that the weapons can travel more than five times the speed of sound while also retaining their ability to out-maneuver missile defense systems like the Patriot. It’s also possible that existing systems meant to alert the military to a nuclear ICBM launch might not be able to see them in time to respond, altering the delicate balancing act of deterrence, which requires nations to be able to counterstrike while nuclear missiles are in the air.

Remains_of_Russian_missiles_and_drones_in_Kyiv_(2023-05-12)_10.jpgRemains of the missile shot down in Ukraine. Kyiv photo.

The Kinzhal’s shot down in Ukraine were supposedly hypersonic, but couldn’t glide. But Russia has developed, it claims, hypersonic weapons that can glide.

Typically a missile is either fast or maneuverable, and this idea that some hypersonic missiles can do both (as is the case with Russia and China’s missiles) or will be able to do both (which is what the Pentagon’s various projects claim) represents an ideal weapon. One that may not actually exist.

“Weapon development is all about trade-offs,” James Acton, the co-director of the Nuclear Policy Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, told Motherboard. “You ideally want a weapon with really, really long range that is superfast, highly maneuverable, and can carry a massive payload. But in the real world, you can't get all of those things at once. So weapon designers always have to make trade-offs. What I think is true is that boost-glide technology, and to a lesser extent hypersonic cruise missile technology, is reducing the need to make those trade-offs.”

According to Acton, the real advancement of hypersonic weapons is the reduction of these trade-offs. He also noted that hypersonic weapons aren’t, in and of themselves, a new technology. “So there really is a development here, but there's no hard cut off,” he said. “There's no bright red line going on here. There's nothing like there's no obvious dividing line between old fashioned weapons and the new hypersonic weapons.”

Acton noted that Top Gun Maverick opens with Tom Cruise ejecting from a jet while flying at high speeds. “The idea of stuff traveling five times faster than the speed of sound is the stuff of Hollywood movies,” he said. “There is something about high speeds that have always captivated people. And a lot of the hype around hypersonics kind of ignores that speed, in and of itself, is not really new,” he said.

The phrase “hypersonic weapons” covers a lot of territory and sounds like a flashy new term. The truth is that hypersonics have been around for decades. The nuclear intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM) fielded by Russia, China, and the U.S. all fly at hypersonic speeds and the technology that underpins hypersonics—boost-glide—is as old as World War II.

GettyImages-1349716088.jpgJohn Becker with the 11-inch Hypersonic Tunnel, Langley Research Center, Virginia, USA, 1950. American engineer John V. Becker helped lead some of America's most important early research into ultra-high-speed flight. This photo show the large expansion from the nozzle throat - a barely visible slit - to the test section needed to generate hypersonic speeds. Photo by Heritage Space/Heritage Images via Getty Images.

But when people talk about  modern hypersonic weapons, they’re usually talking about boost glide technology, not necessarily new methods of propulsion. The idea is that the new glide capabilities will allow missiles to maneuver past missile defense systems and possibly remain undetected by radar.

“A boost glide system is launched by a large rocket, just like a conventional ballistic missile,” Acton said. “What a ballistic missile does is it arcs high above the atmosphere, and falls exclusively under gravity until the very end when it re enters the atmosphere.”

“A boost glide system is the same kind of rocket launch booster, but it's fired on a much flatter trajectory,” he said. “So the glider re-enters the atmosphere much sooner. And it's then supported by aerodynamic lift. So these things are not powered throughout their flight, like cruise missiles, they're only powered during the boost phase. But they're boosted up to a very high speed and then aerodynamic lift keeps them aloft for you know, potentially 10 or 20,000 kilometers in the very longest case…it's the same physics or that is the same basic principle as a hang glider, but just much, much, much higher speeds.”

6998550.jpgIllustration of hypersonic glide vehicles. Air Force graphic. Are hypersonic weapons as game-changing as militaries claim?

At the heart of this race is the persistent threat of nuclear weapons. The U.S, China, and Russia all possess nuclear weapons capable of destroying the other countries. No one nation nukes another because they know that the enemy might see it, and retaliate with their own. Firing the first nuclear weapon is a death sentence.

But the U.S. has, for decades, pursued defense systems that will alert it quickly and—possibly—shoot Russia or China’s nuclear weapons out of the sky. That upset the balance. In response, Russia and China are developing weapons that fly faster and avoid missile defenses. They may not beat America’s defenses entirely, but faster weapons would reduce the amount of time the U.S. has to respond to attack.

When faced with a nuclear attack, every second counts. Nuclear hypersonics could reduce the reaction time alloted to the country defending itself against them. But what Russia and China say they have in terms of hypersonic capabilities and the reality of what is going on may be two different things.

“As somebody who lives fairly close to the Pentagon, I’m entirely indifferent as to whether I’m killed in a nuclear war by an ICBM or a hypersonic glider.”

“This thing has reached its most ridiculous state with the Kinzhal, which is a Russian air-launched ballistic missile that appears to be almost identical to the Iskander ground-launched ballistic missile,” Acton said. “Nobody called the Iskander a hypersonic weapon but people take Kinzhal as being a hypersonic weapon. Either both of them are hypersonic or neither of them are hypersonic, but you can’t put them in different categories. There’s a lot of linguistic confusion and hype and Russian manipulation in all of this.”

The May 16 volley of missiles Moscow fired at Ukraine contained both Kinzhals and Iskanders. According to Kyiv’s military head, Valeriy Zaluzhnyi, Ukraine intercepted six aircraft launched Kinzhals, nine ship-launched Kaliber cruise missiles and three land-launched Iskanders. The Kinzhals don’t glide or use any other advanced boosting technology. They just fly fast enough to be considered “hypersonic.”

Acton said he was not, particularly, worried about hypersonic nuclear weapons. Standard-issue nuclear missiles are fearsome enough, and the effectiveness of current interception methods is overblown.

“Russia can already annihilate the United States with nuclear weapons,” Acton said. “Russia has hundreds of ICBMs. Our missile defenses cannot and, indeed, are not designed to stop Russian ICBMs because it’s impossible. As somebody who lives fairly close to the Pentagon, I’m entirely indifferent as to whether I’m killed in a nuclear war by an ICBM or a hypersonic glider.”

Acton has hit on something outside of knowledgeable defense circles: missile defense is a crapshoot that often only works under optimal conditions. To defend against ICBMs being shot at the homeland, the U.S. relies on an assorted number of ground and sea-based missile defense systems. The basic concept is that a series of radar stations on the ground and sensors in space would detect a fast moving missile and the defense systems would intercept the threat and destroy it before it hits its target.

“If you ask the general public, ‘Do we protect America from missile attack?’ They would say, ‘Yes.’ They would think we have a missile defense. We do not. We should be absolutely clear, we do not have a system that can protect the United States from even a limited ballistic missile attack. It just doesn't work.”

“If you ask the general public, ‘Do we protect America from missile attack?’ They would say, ‘Yes.’ They would think we have a missile defense. We do not. We should be absolutely clear, we do not have a system that can protect the United States from even a limited ballistic missile attack. It just doesn't work. We don't have it, we're very unlikely to have it, we are probably never going to have it,” Joseph Cirincione told Motherboard.

Cirincione is a national security expert with a long pedigree. He’s retired president of the Ploughshares Fund, the former director of non-proliferation at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, and was a staffer for Congress for 9 years where he worked on military reform. Among other things, he investigated missile systems and nuclear weapons. “Even in perfectly scripted tests, they’re only 50% effective, not something you would want to base the defense of a country on,” he said.

Cirincione said that the U.S. only conducts staged tests of its missile-detection capabilities. “Can the radars of the missile see the warhead? Can the interceptor be guided into an intercept path successfully?  Can it actually hit?  To do that, you sort of stage the tests so that the defender knows exactly when the target is going to be launched, what the target looks like, what its radar signature infrared signature is going to be,” he said. “In some cases, we've put a radio transponder on the warhead that was sending out a here I am signal so that the interceptor could just ride that into it…we have never done a truly operational test to try to see if the interceptor can hit a target when the target is trying not to be hit.”

Attempting to intercept an ICBM in flight is like trying to shoot a bullet with a bullet when both bullets are flying upwards of 24,000 miles an hour. “It's amazing, we can do it at all,” Cirincione said. “This is a technological achievement that 50% of the time, granted under perfect conditions, we can hit a bullet with a bullet. That's amazing. Unfortunately, it's just not good enough. In thermonuclear war ‘almost’ doesn't count. You've got to defend 100% of the targets 100% of the time.”

How close are the U.S., China, and Russia to developing a hypersonic weapon?

According to Acton, nations have been trying to develop some kind of hypersonic boost glide weapon since the Cold War. Development of the weapons go in and out of style, but never quite leave the military’s consciousness. He said the current hype cycle around hypersonics began during the War on Terror.

“The Bush administration in 2003 made a big push for hypersonic weapons which fell short of its very, very, very ambitious original goals,” he said.

This was the Force Application and Launch from CONtinental United States (Falcon), a joint venture between DARPA and the U.S. Air Force. The plan was to create a launch vehicle that would push payloads into orbit where they would then skip across the atmosphere at hypersonic speeds before returning to Earth. Early concept renders made it look like a guitar pic. Two test flights in 2010 and 2011 had mixed results and, though technically still in active development, other hypersonic weapon projects in the U.S. now receive more attention.

According to Acton, the Falcon spooked Russia. It began to develop its own hypersonic weapons, partially in response to what it perceived as a threat from the U.S. In March of 2018, Putin revealed them to the world. During his speech, the Russian president announced six new weapons. One was the RS-28 Sarmat, what NATO calls the “Satan II,” which would fly at hypersonic speeds (it’s an ICBM after all) and could deploy up to 24 nuclear tipped Avangard hypersonic glide vehicles. Putin demonstrated the supposed capabilities of these new weapons by playing a video of the weapon destroying Mar-a-Lago.

Aside from its traditional ICBMs, which already travel at hypersonic speeds, America has still not deployed its own hypersonic-capable weapons. During recent testimony before the House Armed Services Committee, Paul Freisthler, the chief scientist at the Defense Intelligence Agency’s Directorate for Analysis, told Congress that hypersonic weapons were a pressing threat to the United States. “Amid the backdrop of strategic competition, the events of the past several years demonstrate in no uncertain terms that our competitors are developing capabilities aimed to hold the U.S. homeland at risk,” he said.

Despite this pressing need from politicians and the Pentagon and years of development, America can’t seem to produce a hypersonic weapon worth a damn. In March, the U.S. Air Force canceled the AGM-183, an air- launched missile that was set to be America’s first new hypersonic weapon. The AGM-183 had a long and troubled development culminating in a failed test launch on March 13.

But the U.S. still has more than a half dozen other hypersonic weapons programs in various stages of development at various branches of the military. The Air Force is working on a Hypersonic Attack Cruise Missile, the Army has a Long-Range Hypersonic Weapon, and the Navy is working on a Hypersonic Air-Launched Offensive Anti-Surface Warfare cruise missile. The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency is also working on several hypersonic programs.

The U.S. has also made strides in hypersonic weapons that simply go faster with less fuel. The  Hypersonic Air-breathing Weapon Concept (HAWC), is a kind of ballistic missile that fuels itself, in part, by drawing air from the atmosphere. The U.S. successfully tested one of these in January.

6998549.jpgIllustration of how air-breathing weapons work. Air Force graphic.

According to Freisthler and others, America is lagging behind on this new and vital technology despite all the programs. “China is pursuing an intercontinental-ballistic missile with a hypersonic glide vehicle payload and has conducted several flight tests since 2014, including a test in July 2021 that circumnavigated the globe,” he told Congress.

China may have deployed a version of its hypersonics, the DF-17. According to leaked Pentagon reports, it’s also successfully test fired and upgraded DF-27. A DoD report from 2021 said this new missile could fly almost 5,000 miles at hypersonic speeds before using a “hypersonic glide” to evade anti-missile systems and hit a target. It’s also developing the DF-41, a long-range nuclear weapon with a glide vehicle.

“Experts assert that this type of system might provide China with the ability to launch hypersonic glide vehicles over the South Pole, thus evading U.S. early warning assets that track threats over the North Pole and further reducing the amount of warning time prior to a strike,” a 2022 report to Congress on hypersonic glide vehicles said.

GettyImages-1178444445.jpgBEIJING, CHINA - OCTOBER 01: The hypersonic glide vehicle (HGV) DF-17 is seen during a military parade to celebrate the 70th Anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China in 1949, at Tiananmen Square on October 1, 2019 in Beijing, China. (Photo by The Asahi Shimbun via Getty Images) Are hypersonic weapons inevitable?

The Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty, which George W. Bush withdrew the U.S. from, once limited the amount of missile defenses every country could have. “As a matter of policy the U.S. has, for decades, not tried to design or develop missile defenses to undermine China or Russia's nuclear arsenals,” Acton said. “We try to deter nuclear attack against the homeland from those states, we don't try to defeat that attack. The same is not true with North Korea. You know, the U.S. does develop missile defenses to try to intercept North Korean ICBMs. It is just stated policy, even under the Trump administration, we do not try to develop missile defenses to intercept Chinese or Russian ICBMs. And the reason is, because we can't.”

Acton said he was skeptical that the U.S. could defend itself against North Korea’s nuclear ICBMs. “Unfortunately, my money would be on North Korean ICBMs, not on our defense,” Acton said. “It's not in terms of what I would want to happen, obviously, but in terms of who I think would win that contest. So it is entirely infeasible for us to defend ourselves against Russia and China. And, you know, any prospect we might succeed would lead them to massively build up their nuclear arsenal, which is in fact exactly what has happened, right?”

Another byproduct of this arms race, America’s withdrawal from various treaties, and its gloating about advanced weaponry has been China and Russia’s pursuit of hypersonic weapons. “I think people generally underrate U.S. capabilities in this area,” Acton said. The Pentagon’s Bush and Obama-era projects had an ambitious goal: the development of an highly accurate, non-nuclear armed intercontinental missile.

“It’s the hardest thing you can possibly do,” Acton said. “And the U.S. struggled with that because it is the hardest thing imaginable. So, in some sense, the U.S. was running a very different race from Russia and China for a very long time.”

In the back half of the Obama administration, the Pentagon shifted its focus to developing hypersonic weapons similar to what Russia claims to have deployed, and what China is testing. “I believe, somewhat heretically, that U.S. hypersonic capabilities are almost certainly better than Russian hypersonic capabilities.”

Russia has said it’s deployed several of the weapons, and the only ones it’s used in combat have been reportedly shot down by Ukrianians using U.S. tech. China, in publicly observed tests, has successfully launched several of the weapons. America's focus, right now, is on conventional warheads flying faster than five times the speed of sound. Tests have had mixed results.

Cirincione said that the U.S. didn’t need the tech because it’s basically already won the race. “We have basically got [Russia] surrounded. We have a vast military alliance system, both in Asia and Europe. We’ve got them completely outgunned. We don’t need hypersonics.”

China, he said, had a different set of concerns. “So if you're China, what's your problem? Your problem is that the U.S. Navy basically has a cordon around your nation, you can't break out if the U.S. Seventh Fleet is there blocking you or threatening you and doing patrols off your coast,” he said. “I mean, how would we feel if the Chinese navy were off of Long Island, you know, we'd want to develop a system that could push them back.” Hence, he said, a focus on developing hypersonic capabilities that might counter U.S. aircraft carriers.

Cirincione said that the reason there’s so much fear in the Pentagon and at Congress about the weapons is because it’s good for business. “Most of the reason we’re pursuing [hypersonic] weapons is not because the threat we face demands it,” he said. “It’s because the defense contractors that provide us our weapons have the ability to do it, and they can make money off doing it.”

Kyiv claimed it shot down six of Russia’s advanced hypersonic weapons using a Patriot missile system. During the first Gulf War, the Pentagon claimed that the Patriot was fantastic at intercepting Iraqi missile attacks. “President Bush said it hit 41 out of 44 Scuds,” Cirincione said. “That turned out to be wrong. It was a lie.”

Cirincione was part of a Congressional investigation into the Patriot system at the time. “We found that it had hit between zero and four of the Scuds that were fired.”

But that didn’t mean the other scuds hit their target. Some broke apart in mid-air, others missed their target completely. According to Cirincione, the U.S. Army misinterpreted a lot of data about what the patriot system could and couldn’t do at the time.

The Patriot system Ukraine used is more advanced than the ones used by the Army during the Gulf War. It’s possible that Kyiv shot down some, or even all of the missiles. It’s equally possible that Russia’s “hypersonic” missiles—which are old missiles with some upgrades—broke apart in the air or failed to hit their target.

When it comes to hypersonic weapons and missile defenses, it’s hard to know what the truth is until long after the missiles have flown and the interceptors fired.

Categories: Tech News

Brits and Yanks join forces to make fusion magnets cool again

The Register - Wed, 05/31/2023 - 05:44
How cool? About -250°C

UK nuclear fusion outfit Tokamak Energy is teaming up with General Atomics in the US to work on high temperature superconducting magnets for fusion reactors and other potential industry applications.…

Categories: Tech News

Absolute mad lad renders Doom in teletext

The Register - Wed, 05/31/2023 - 04:10
Sure is '90s in here

It is time once again to reset the "days since someone ran Doom on something quirky" calendar.…

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UK tech industry pushing up salaries for some roles – but UI devs out of luck

The Register - Wed, 05/31/2023 - 02:30
As much as 30% increase seen in some jobs as demand remains buoyant

Despite job losses among vendors and high profile companies, those with IT roles in UK companies saw their salaries increase by as much as 30 percent in the past year, a survey has found.…

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Individual data platforms for all health providers under controversial NHS plans

The Register - Wed, 05/31/2023 - 01:30
Procurement under threat of legal action imagines trusts will tailor systems for their own use cases

NHS England wants to provide every hospital trust with its own data platform, in a procurement US spy-tech company Palantir is hotly tipped to win.…

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Taiwan's titans bullish on challengers to x86 in the datacenter and beyond

The Register - Wed, 05/31/2023 - 00:33
Game on as Nvidia, Arm, Ampere find enthusiastic locals who think buyers are open to alternatives

Computex  Taiwan's annual Computex exhibition grew up as the world's premier forum for everything to do with PCs, and later became a celebration of the island's outsized role in the ecosystem.…

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Airline puts international passengers on the scales pre-flight

The Register - Tue, 05/30/2023 - 23:29
An aircraft mass properties engineer and an eating disorder therapist weigh in on Air New Zealand's plan

Airline travellers are long familiar with having their luggage weighed before boarding a flight – but beginning this week until July 2, Air New Zealand will also be weighing passengers. To be specific, 10,000 international passengers on international flights.…

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Australia fines tech companies for exploiting foreign tech workers

The Register - Tue, 05/30/2023 - 22:01
Everything down under wants to either kill you, or underpay you

Border Force, Australia's law enforcement agency for immigration matters, has fined a pair of companies for exploiting techies who came to work under a temporary visa scheme aimed at addressing skills shortages.…

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Broadcom says Nvidia Spectrum-X's 'lossless Ethernet' isn't new

The Register - Tue, 05/30/2023 - 17:57
Been there, done that, SVP Ram Velaga tells El Reg

At Computex, Nvidia promised "lossless Ethernet" for generative AI workloads with the launch of its Spectrum-X platform – but if you ask Broadcom, it's not even a new idea.…

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Critical Barracuda 0-day was used to backdoor networks for 8 months

ARS Technica - Tue, 05/30/2023 - 16:58
A stylized skull and crossbones made out of ones and zeroes.

Enlarge (credit: Getty Images)

A critical vulnerability patched 10 days ago in widely used email software from IT security company Barracuda Networks has been under active exploitation since October. The vulnerability has been used to install multiple pieces of malware inside large organization networks and steal data, Barracuda said Tuesday.

The software bug, tracked as CVE-2023-2868, is a remote command injection vulnerability that stems from incomplete input validation of user-supplied .tar files, which are used to pack or archive multiple files. When file names are formatted in a particular way, an attacker can execute system commands through the QX operator, a function in the Perl programming language that handles quotation marks. The vulnerability is present in the Barracuda Email Security Gateway versions through; Barracuda issued a patch 10 days ago.

On Tuesday, Barracuda notified customers that CVE-2023-2868 has been under active exploitation since October in attacks that allowed threat actors to install multiple pieces of malware for use in exfiltrating sensitive data out of infected networks.

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1. This crypto-coin is called Jimbo. 2. $8m was stolen from its devs in flash loan attack

The Register - Tue, 05/30/2023 - 16:56
3. It's asked for 90% of the digital dosh back, or else it'll ask the cops for help

Just days after releasing the second – and supposedly more stable and secure – version of its decentralized finance (DeFi) app, Jimbos Protocol over the weekend was hit by attackers who stole stole 4,090 ETH tokens from the project worth about $7.5 million.…

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mRNA technology for vaccines and more: An Ars Frontiers recap

ARS Technica - Tue, 05/30/2023 - 15:55
Ars' John Timmer (left) with Karin Bok (center) and Nathaniel Wang (right).

Enlarge / On May 22, John Timmer (left) moderated a panel featuring Karin Bok (center) and Nathaniel Wang (right) for the Ars Frontiers 2023 session titled, "Beyond COVID: What Does mRNA Technology Mean for Disease Treatment?" (credit: Ars Technica)

The world of biomedicine has developed a lot of technology that seems a small step removed from science fiction, but the public isn't aware of much of it. mRNA-based vaccines, though, were a big exception as a lot of the public tracked the technology's development as a key step toward emerging from the worst of the pandemic and then received the vaccines in droves.

mRNA technology has a lot of potential applications beyond COVID, and we talked a bit about those during the "Beyond COVID: What Does mRNA Technology Mean for Disease Treatment?" panel at last week's Ars Frontiers event. We've archived the panel on YouTube; if you want to focus on the discussion about mRNA therapies, you can start at the 1-hour, 55-minute mark.

mRNA is a nucleic acid molecule that instructs the cell to make specific proteins. When used as vaccines, the instructions call for a protein produced by a pathogen, such as a virus. "It helps put up a wanted poster for the immune system," was how Nathaniel Wang, co-founder and CEO of Replicate Bioscience put it.

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90+ orgs tell Slack to stop slacking when it comes to full encryption

The Register - Tue, 05/30/2023 - 15:53
Protests planned for Wednesday in San Francisco and Denver

A coalition of 90-plus groups, including Fight for the Future and Mozilla, will descend upon Slack's offices in San Francisco and Denver on Wednesday to ask on the collaboration app to protect users' conversations via end-to-end encryption (E2EE).…

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I Tried Hoka's Hopara Sandals, and Now I Wear Them Everywhere

Motherboard (Vice) - Tue, 05/30/2023 - 15:26

Let’s be real: Sandals can be butt ugly at times. I have been traumatized at the sight of certain feet in certain flip flops. But there are also good sandals out there, and Hoka gets it right (shocker!). The brand’s ultra-popular, colorful, known-for-comfort sneakers are impeccable, so naturally, the brand’s sandal lineup also slaps. That said, even with plenty of options, we want to shine a light on a specific model—the almighty Hopara sandals. The gorpcore trend is still raging, so there couldn’t be a better time to indulge in all the “ugly” hiking sandals of your dreams. Hoka’s Hoparas are for slaying the mountains and the streets, (at least, in this humble Hoka-testing expert’s opinion).

Before getting into how great Hoparas are for hitting the town, I want to get into the nitty gritty of what makes this sandal “a true outdoor explorer” as Hoka puts it. Honestly, at first glance, Hoka’s Hopra looks less like a conventional sandal and more like a trail hiking shoe with the windows down. Hoparas are designed to withstand wet and dry terrain with waterproof and flexible synthetic material, along with cutouts to drain any water that makes its way in. Other features include a cushioned EVA midsole for a responsive ride, rubberized toe caps for protection, and a sticky rubber outsole for epic traction primed for a variety of different conditions. Wearing sandals on a mountain may sound scary in your mind, but I swear, these offer secure lockdown on your feet and get through rocky areas with their grippy sole.

To test their outdooring bonafides, I hit up some trails in upstate New York to give these fine babies a go, and they didn’t disappoint. At first glance, they may look bulky and wide, but they hugged my feet perfectly thanks to the pull-to-tighten quick-lace system on the upper. I didn’t plan on stepping in any water, so I decided to wear them with socks (fashion!) and stomped all over sand, gravel, and rocks with no issues. The sole is ultra thicc, so nothing ever made it inside the shoe, which is impressive.

Away from the trails, post-mountaineering, the Hoparas made for a comfy and dope lewk for trekking across New York City. I own them in the black and coral colorway, so pairing them with Nike crew socks makes for a sporty vibe while hoofing it across town. So far, I’ve worn them to coffee shop outings, walks, and friend dates. I’ve gotten nothing but compliments, especially when I wore them with my thrifted cargo pants—so Y2K! TikTok users have also taken to the Hoparas, declaring them to be a vibe.

My TL;DR: With Hoparas on my feet on hikes or at the bar, indulging in the gorpcore trend never felt so good, especially since Hoka is involved (I love you). These all-terrain sandals may be made for yodeling up mountain ranges, but their bread and butter is street style for those who are daring. The fashion world is your oyster.

The Hoka Hopara is available on Hoka’s website.

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.

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All Hail Penne—Here Are the Best Pasta Gifts for Carb Lovers

Motherboard (Vice) - Tue, 05/30/2023 - 15:08

As someone that’s been doing a lot of self-diagnosing via TikTok lately, I’m recently convinced I’m prone to an atypical level of hyperfixation on things like the indie sleaze revival, Vanderpump Rules’ #Scandoval, and 30-year-old cold cases. But if there’s one thing that benefits from having a shopping addiction and engaging in obsessive deep dives on niche corners of the internet, it’s a career as a shopping writer. When it comes to things like… I don’t know, gifts for shrimpaholics, I’m wicked smaht. So when the food-trend dial started to turn towards pasta, oh, I was in, big time.

Maybe you’ve noticed the uptick in pop culture’s pasta obsession. We cycle through trending foods every few years—remember when all we could talk about was pizza?—and in recent years, while these trends have varied from tacky to tasteful, pasta has slowly become… sexy? Pasta’s hot. It’s [often] red, slurpy, and saucy—Italian food just oozes sex appeal, so it’s no wonder that it started to make its way into high fashion (and even onto lingerie). Let’s not forget in late 2021 when Parade launched the kitchen collection with bras and undies in pasta and juicy tomato prints, and this past winter, you could not escape Rachel Antonoff’s sold-out pasta puffer (unless, you know, you didn’t have social media).

We love it when the merch gods smile upon us and give us new ways to express our love of carbs (at least in a non-“cringe adults Disney-bounding” type of way).  Some pasta gifts are undeniably better than others: We wouldn’t go out in a corny pasta version of that iconic Beatles shirt, but we would absolutely decorate our table with these Dada-esque farfalle and fusilli candles when serving up a big Sunday feast for friends. TL;DR: There are a lot of good pasta gifts out there, and we bet that none of these selects will be regifted.

The best pasta home decor

A literal spaghetti plate

The good folks over at Seletti never disappoint, and this porcelain plate that rides the fine line between grotesque and gorgeous is part of the brand’s ongoing collaboration with Toiletpaper magazine.

Pasta shapes beach towel

Impress your pals sulla spiaggia (that’s “on the beach” in Italian) with how many obscure pasta shapes you know. Even if you’re the type of beachgoer to pack a Tupperware of spicy fusilli in your tote, you’ll never need to worry about spilling pasta sauce food all over your towel and leaving sauce stains, since it’s virtually all black.

Christmas in July?

These delightfully detailed pasta Christmas ornaments will be appetizing additions to your tree next year. We know it’s the last thing on your mind, but it’s never a bad idea to stock up on gifts early, especially when they’ll likely sell out during prime-time gift-buying season.

Pasta is your religion

We believe in the strength of spaghetti to tell us what’s written in the stars and make informed life decisions. Finally, here’s a tarot deck we can learn quickly (since we’re pasta experts). The creators of the deck designed it to be “rooted in [their] queer Italian American identities,” and the 78-card set includes cultural icons such as Sophia Loren, Sophie, and Marsha P. Johnson alongside all your favorite pasta shapes.

The wrapping is half the gift

When it comes to this unique wrapping paper, that’s one spicy meatball—just make sure the gift is as good as the wrapping.

The best pasta candles

Have you heard about D.S. and Durga’s elusive Pasta Water candle? It’s like the sophisticated older sibling of a Yankee Candle, with scents that evoke the cooking of pasta including starchy wheat, salt water, and light herbal notes.

From the same collection as the aforementioned porcelain Seletti plate, this candle might invoke an out-of-body experience considering the scent has notes of tomato leaves, pimento, sage, and pink pepper. Warning: Do not light on an empty stomach.

If food-scented candles aren’t your jam, there’s always this gorgeous plate of spaghetti-shaped candle that’s so appealing, you won’t actually want to burn it.

The best pasta clothing and jewelry

You know what they say about wearing your heart on your sleeve… same goes for a piece of pasta on your wrist, on your ears, or in your hair. Lisa Says Gah!’s dangly farfalle hoops are perfect for your next trip to Sicily (and then you can hop on over to España and enjoy something from the brand’s Tapas Collection). These farfalle barrettes, on the other hand, give us Schiaparelli vibes and we’re imagining the looks we’d get if we wore 20 at once.

Nothing says ‘I love you’ like a tiny little piece of penne (or macaroni) dipped in gold or silver.

While the glorious Rachel Antonoff pasta puffer is sold out, you can still snag the puffer tote in the same print for lugging around your Cadillac of pasta machines: the Marcato Atlas 150.

Feel weird wearing college merch now that it’s been over a decade since you graduated? Tell people you studied at the University of Bucatini, with a major in al dente.

When it comes to gifts for pasta lovers, socks are a no-brainer, especially in the classic #Bertolli colors.

The best pasta cookbooks and kitchen gear

Weed leaf pasta

Whether or not you use infused butter on these cannabis-leaf-shaped noodles, they’ll slap.

‘American Sfoglino: A Master Class in Handmade Pasta’ by Evan Funke

VICE food writer Adam Rothbarth recommended this stunning cookbook for any spaghetti-head looking to level up their at-home pasta game. Snag one of his favorite pasta makers to get started.

‘Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking’ by Marcella Hazan

You can’t go wrong with the 30th-anniversary edition of this classic cookbook by none other than the queen of Italian cooking, everybody’s nonna, Marcella Hazan.

Replace every gadget in your kitchen with pasta

We might just go wild and buy Monkey Business’ entire line of pasta kitchen accessories, but if we had to pick our absolute favorite it’s undoubtedly the Farfalloni pot holders, which you can get in a grande pack that includes a ravioli spoon rest and penne garlic peeler.

Ah yes, penis pasta

A classic for a bachelorette party, a romantic evening in, or pranking friends.

It’s not over ‘till the fat guy sings

If you’re always too busy multitasking to remember to set a timer for the perfect al dente noodles, just pop good old Al into the pot with your pasta and you’ll know when it’s done when he starts to serenade.

Waiter, more Parmesan!

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

Beating the heat: These plant-based iridescent films stay cool in the sun

ARS Technica - Tue, 05/30/2023 - 14:58
A colorful, textured bi-layer film made from plant-based materials cools down when it’s in the sun.

Enlarge / A colorful, textured bi-layer film made from plant-based materials cools down when it’s in the sun. (credit: Qingchen Shen)

Summer is almost here, bringing higher temperatures and prompting many of us to crank up the air conditioning on particularly hot days. The downside to A/C is that the units gobble up energy and can emit greenhouse gases, contributing further to global warming. Hence, there is strong interest in coming up with eco-friendly alternatives. Scientists from the University of Cambridge have developed an innovative new plant-based film that gets cooler when exposed to sunlight, making it ideal for cooling buildings or cars in the future without needing any external power source. They described their work at a recent meeting of the American Chemical Society.

The technical term for this approach is passive daytime radiative cooling (PDRC), so named because it doesn't require an injection of energy into the system to disperse heat. The surface emits its own heat into space without being absorbed by the air or atmosphere, thereby becoming several degrees cooler than the surrounding air without needing electrical energy.

"We know there is spontaneous thermal transfer between objects with different temperatures," Qingchen Shen said at a press conference during the meeting. Their cooling technology exploits that thermal transfer, with a twist. Most PDRC materials (paints, films, and so forth) are white, or have a mirrored finish, to achieve a broadband reflection of sunlight. Pigments or dyes interfere with that since they absorb specific wavelengths of light and only reflect certain colors, thereby transforming energy from the light into heat. The films created by Shen et al. are colored, but it is structural color in the form of nanocrystals, not due to adding pigments or dyes. So color can be added without sacrificing the passive cooling efficiency.

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Eating Disorder Helpline Disables Chatbot for 'Harmful' Responses After Firing Human Staff

Motherboard (Vice) - Tue, 05/30/2023 - 14:42

The National Eating Disorder Association (NEDA) has taken its chatbot called Tessa offline, two days before it was set to replace human associates who ran the organization’s hotline.

After NEDA workers decided to unionize in early May, executives announced that on June 1, it would be ending the helpline after twenty years and instead positioning its wellness chatbot Tessa as the main support system available through NEDA. A helpline worker described the move as union busting, and the union representing the fired workers said that "a chatbot is no substitute for human empathy, and we believe this decision will cause irreparable harm to the eating disorders community."

As of Tuesday, Tessa was taken down by the organization following a viral social media post displaying how the chatbot encouraged unhealthy eating habits rather than helping someone with an eating disorder.

“It came to our attention last night that the current version of the Tessa Chatbot, running the Body Positive program, may have given information that was harmful and unrelated to the program," NEDA said in an Instagram post. We are investigating this immediately and have taken down that program until further notice for a complete investigation.”

On Monday, an activist named Sharon Maxwell posted on Instagram, sharing a review of her experience with Tessa. She said that Tessa encouraged intentional weight loss, recommending that Maxwell lose 1-2 pounds per week. Tessa also told her to count her calories, work towards a 500-1000 calorie deficit per day, measure and weigh herself weekly, and restrict her diet. “Every single thing Tessa suggested were things that led to the development of my eating disorder,” Maxwell wrote. “This robot causes harm.”

Alexis Conason, a psychologist who specializes in treating eating disorders, also tried the chatbot out, posting screenshots of the conversation on her Instagram. “In general, a safe and sustainable rate of weight loss is 1-2 pounds per week,” the chatbot message read. “A safe daily calorie deficit to achieve this would be around 500-1000 calories per day.”

“To advise somebody who is struggling with an eating disorder to essentially engage in the same eating disorder behaviors, and validating that, ‘Yes, it is important that you lose weight’ is supporting eating disorders” and encourages disordered, unhealthy behaviors,” Conason told the Daily Dot.

NEDA’s initial response to Maxwell was to accuse her of lying. “This is a flat out lie,” NEDA’s Communications and Marketing Vice President Sarah Chase commented on Maxwell’s post and deleted her comments after Maxwell sent screenshots to her, according to Daily Dot. A day later, NEDA posted its notice explaining that Tessa was taken offline due to giving harmful responses.

“With regard to the weight loss and calorie limiting feedback issued in a chat yesterday, we are concerned and are working with the technology team and the research team to investigate this further; that language is against our policies and core beliefs as an eating disorder organization,” Liz Thompson, the CEO of NEDA, told Motherboard in a statement. “So far, more than 2,500 people have interacted with Tessa and until yesterday, we hadn't seen that kind of commentary or interaction. We've taken the program down temporarily until we can understand and fix the ‘bug’ and ‘triggers’ for that commentary.”

Even though Tessa was built with guardrails, according to its creator Dr. Ellen Fitzsimmons-Craft of Washington University’s medical school, the promotion of disordered eating reveals the risks of automating human roles.

Abbie Harper, who was a hotline associate and member of the Helpline Associates United union, wrote in a blog post that the implementation of Tessa strips away the personal aspect of the support hotline, in which many associates speak from their personal experiences. It becomes especially dangerous to apply chatbots to people struggling with mental health crises without human supervision.

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