Homeland Security confirmed Russians targeted nearly half the U.S. for election hacks

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Homeland Security confirmed Russians targeted nearly half the U.S. for election hacks

A voter leaves the booth after voting in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, in New Hampshire.A voter leaves the booth after voting in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, in New Hampshire.

Image: Herb Swanson/Epa/REX/Shutterstock

Add this to your file on “The Russian government tried to destroy the election integrity of the United States last year.”

A Department of Homeland Security official confirmed in a Wednesday Senate Intelligence Committee hearing that they have evidence Russian-backed hackers targeted election systems in 21 states.

That public comment from the DHS’s acting deputy undersecretary for cybersecurity and communications, Jeanette Manfra, was the first of its kind

It’s unclear which 21 states she was referring to, as Manfra said she wasn’t at liberty to elaborate. 

Bloomberg previously reported that 39 state election systems were targeted by hackers associated with the Kremlin.  

Despite the scope of the attack, no officials believe voting tallies were altered. Ballot machines are, by design, not easy things to hack. 

Instead, hackers went after voter registration information. Bill Priestap, the assistant director of the FBI’s counterintelligence division in Washington, D.C., testified that he thinks the hackers took voter registration information so they might have a better understanding of the data. 

Though the Russian government wasn’t able to meddle with vote tallies, Priestap said they tried to mess with the U.S.’s election integrity by weighting the process in favor of President Donald Trump over rival Hillary Clinton. Priestap, asked if the president had acted as an “unwitting agent” for the Kremlin, said he wasn’t able to comment. 

Perhaps that’s why Trump seems to be close to the only person left in the U.S. who believes Russia didn’t try to upend the 2016 presidential election.

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Brooklinen’s new line of bedding completely solved one of my biggest sleep issues

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Brooklinen

Brooklinen wants to alleviate one of the worst summertime feelings: being hot and sticky while you sleep.

The online bedding retailer is launching its first new fabric since its 2014 launch: Linen.

The breathable fabric arrives in time for the painfully hot and humid summer months ahead, and the company says it’ll keep you cooler than other fabrics. 

Brooklinen is the brainchild of husband-and-wife duo Vicki and Rich Fulop, an impossibly chic couple based in — where else — Brooklyn. The company was founded three years ago and initially sold its wares on Kickstarter.

The premise of Brooklinen is "luxury bedding at non-luxury prices." As an ecommerce site, the company wants to cut out all possible middlemen and avoid brick-and-mortar retail. In doing that, Brooklinen says it eliminates as much as $200 in costs — its bedding starts at $99, compared to what the company says can be more like $300 at traditional retailers. 

Brooklinen now offers plenty of items for the bedroom, including sheets, comforters, pillows, and candles. But it’s stuck to just two fabrics for up until now: classic percale, and "Luxe," which has a higher thread count. 

I tried a "hardcore bundle" of Brooklinen’s new linen bedding — which includes a set of sheets, four pillowcases, and a duvet cover — just as the weather got hot. Here’s how it went. 

SEE ALSO: In less than 10 minutes, this powerful $400 hair dryer gave me the best hair of my life

Making bedding "idiot-proof"

The new line of linen sheets and comforters from Brooklinen comes in three colors: Cream, stripe and cream, and white. The motivation behind Brooklinen’s print and color choices is that they can be mixed and matched — the company wants setting up your bedroom to be easy, even if you don’t exactly have great taste.

The linen line runs a bit pricier than Brooklinen’s previous offerings. The core sets — a flat sheet, fitted sheet, and two pillowcases — costs $225 to $235 depending on your bed size, while a hardcore bundle retails for $375 to $390. If you’re just in the market for a duvet, it’ll cost $275 to $285. 

Brooklinen says the raw materials were harvested in Belgium and the fabric is woven, dyed, and stonewashed in Portugal. 

It will wrinkle — a lot

While it sounds obvious, it’s important to know that sleeping with linen bedding feels very different than regular sheets. If you’re someone who likes high thread count sheets or something that feels soft and silky, the linen bedding won’t feel anything like that. It’s not rough, exactly, but it’s a very different feeling on your skin. 

The other thing to know is that everything will wrinkle — a lot. I like my bed to look nice and neat, so this was a tough adjustment to make. The sheets wrinkle pretty immediately, with creases forming after one night of rest. The duvet will hold up a bit better, but nothing is immune to the classic linen wrinkle.

But that’s the point! Linen isn’t a formal fabric, and it’s not intended to look like one. 

Waking up cool and refreshed

When I put the new bedding on my bed and climbed in, I immediately noticed the difference from typical bedding. Linen has a looser weave, which means that air doesn’t get trapped underneath it but instead passes through it. The idea that it’ll keep you cool isn’t a marketing ploy — it’s true. 

My first night sleeping with Brooklinen was, honestly, delightful. I’m a really hot sleeper and, simultaneously, a deep and still sleeper, which means that I often wake in the middle of the night burning up, trapped under layers of blankets.

With the linen bedding, that didn’t happen. Instead, I woke up cool and refreshed. I wasn’t hot or clammy, and I had slept through the night without waking up once. And while I thought this was just a fluke, it continued to happen night after night.

See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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NASA photo captures the loneliness of the Mars Curiosity rover

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NASA photo captures the loneliness of the Mars Curiosity rover

Image of Curiosity rover on Mount Sharp, as seen from Mars Orbit.Image of Curiosity rover on Mount Sharp, as seen from Mars Orbit.

Image: nasa/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona

If you squint very hard and move your face towards your computer screen, you’ll see something truly remarkable.

You might not know it, but the blue-ish, purple-ish dot in the center of the above photograph is so much more than just a dot — it’s NASA’s Curiosity rover as seen from the agency’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.

According to NASA, the image, taken earlier this month, was captured using a High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera.

The image shows the 10-foot-long, 9-foot-wide rover located on the northwestern flank of Mount Sharp, looking like a little blue ant while surrounded by a rocky terrain. And if you’re wondering why the photograph’s hues look so vivid, it’s because the colors were enhanced to really make the rover and the surrounding surface more visible.

At the time the image was taken, NASA reported that the rover was in the middle of an “investigation of active sand dunes” on Mount Sharp, and was headed to examine “Vera Rubin Ridge.”

The HiRISE captures several shots of the Curiosity rover around every three months to monitor and record changes like “dune migration or erosion.” So if you’re interested about the Curiosity rover’s journey, be sure to stay tuned for more images. 

For now, let us just continue to marvel at the dot.

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The Deadspin Guide To Riding Your Damn Bike

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Illustration By Sam Woolley/GMG

Out on the street where you live, it’s finally summer. Maybe this means that the world outside your door is as hot as the surface of the sun or the trees have conspired to drown you in allergens, but regardless, winter has finally gone and died and guess what; it’s time to ride your bicycle.

“But,” you, ever the whiner, say, “I don’t have time,” or, “It’s too hard,” or, “I don’t even have a bicycle.” Nonsense! None of these problems should impede you in the least. Riding a bike is among the best ways to spend your time, and you don’t have to be a spandex-clad asshole to enjoy it or get good at it. Cycling can be whatever you want it to be—a way to get in shape, a competitive pursuit, a way to get around your city, or simply something to do. It’s for everyone.

Which bike is the bike for me?

Unlike its cheaper, lesser cousin (running), cycling requires specialized equipment—a bicycle, at the least. There is no one-size-fits-all butts bicycle that will fulfill every person’s needs, because everyone uses their bike for something different. You have to be honest with yourself and figure out what you are going to use your machine for. If you are going to transport kids and/or groceries, maybe look for something with the capacity to transport cargo. If you want a bike that you can take out for 80-mile rides over mountain passes, you absolutely do not want a cargo bike unless you are currently training for the cargo bike world championships, in which case, this is not the blog for you. Fat bikes look cool and are indisputably awesome; you probably don’t need a fat bike.

Screencap via YouTube

The bicycle industry—faced with the realities that one or two bikes are more than enough for nearly all people and that a bike will last a really long time if well-maintained, and, for that matter, even if it isn’t—spends enormous amounts of time and money defining niches of cycling and niches of those niches and niches of niches of those niches, and then convincing people that they need, say, a carbon fiber time-trial bike with hyper-light foam grips and an ovoid chain ring that costs as much as a new car. For our purposes, there are really three types of bike worth considering: city bikes, mountain bikes, and road bikes. (Spoiler: You should probably get a road bike.)

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A city bike, broadly, is any kind of bike with swept-back handlebars that has you sitting upright. Go ahead, put a cargo rack on the front handlebars. You want some fenders and maybe one of those inexplicably expensive thingies that let you ride home with a six-pack? All you. These are very fun bikes to ride for about five miles at a time on flat terrain. After that, their increased weight overshadows their sleek profile and burns the legs.

Screencap via YouTube

A mountain bike is a, well, mountain bike: Flat handlebars, big tires, low gearing. Mountain bikes are excellent for riding around in the woods and on actual mountains; they make great around-town bikes because they’re comfortable and you can ride them through or over giant potholes and bad pavement; and you can get old ones without fancy features that you probably don’t want anyway for pretty much nothing. The significant downside is that for various reasons they’re not fun to ride on the road for long periods of time.

A road bike is, generally, any kind of bike with curved handlebars that puts you in a leaned-over position. This covers a ridiculous range of bikes, from track bikes with one gear and tires the width of floss to touring bikes built like tanks. In the middle you have a lot of bikes that will do anything you could reasonably ask of them.

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If you want to put in a serious amount of miles, or even think you might want to, you will want a decent road bike. It will get you over the five miles between you and the office just as comfortably as a city bike, and if you pick the right kind—a cyclocross bike with low gearing and room for big tires, say—it will do just fine in the woods or on a mountain; meanwhile it will allow you to ride as far as you want as fast as you want.

Whatever kind of bike you want, you don’t need to spend four figures, or close, for a bike you’ll use for commuting or bopping around the city.

Say you want to do any kind of dirt riding but would not like to pedal around a big-ass mountain bike (understandable); a cyclocross bike is a great idea. They tend to be metal-framed, on the light side, and built like road bikes only with wider forks so as to accommodate thicker tires. I wish I had one.

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If you’re not as experienced, consider the aggressive positioning and thinner tires of the road bike before you put down money one one. An eight-pound road bike with feather-light components and a seat the size of an iPhone isn’t the friendliest starter bike. Also, the nicer the bike looks, the more likely it is that it will get targeted by thieves.

An old steel frame is a perfectly fine way to cruise around the park or make the odd run to the store. Your neighborhood’s physical geography should inform the sort of bike you choose. The shorter distance you plan to ride every day, the more wiggle room you have in selecting a bike. If there are hills, consider something on the lighter side, but if you’re just bopping around in the park or riding a few miles here and there, you have wiggle room. I live in an area with above-ground train tracks all over the street, so I’ve fallen ass-over-teakettle often enough to know that I need something with thicker tires to navigate in peace.

A word on racks: Rigging up your bike to be able to carry cargo is simple and (obviously) useful. I’d shy away from buying a basket, because those are not durable and they look dumb. For most city or road bikes, a front rack makes more sense than a rear rack, since it requires fewer changes to the structure and weight distribution of the bike. A simple metal guy will do the trick, and bundling up your crap with bungee cords or a thin rope is the lightest way to carry a small load. Keep in mind that a loaded front will change how much weight you have to shift to make turns, so don’t overdo it. However, if you are commuting with more than you can comfortably carry on a front rack, over-the-tire or around-the-tire racks will work. The smaller the better, since a bike is a small craft that can be destabilized by small left-right shifts in weight.

What kind of frame?

As noble as your mom’s old steel horse from the 1970s is, you need to consider weight when purchasing a rig designed to go for long distances. You don’t necessarily need a high-end, carbon-fiber, Tour de France caliber bike, but an aluminum, carbon, or light steel frame will save you a ton of grief if you have hills in front of you.

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Steel gets a rap as an ancient material for cavemen to ride on, but it’s a perfectly fine metal to build a bike frame with. Steel frames made this decade are an entirely different species from the Hulked-out Centurions and Treks you’ll see on any college campus, and they weigh only marginally more than a carbon-frame bike of equal cost. The pound or so you give up in weight is made up for in an increased durability and (probably) a cheaper bike. Steel also absorbs more shock than carbon, which makes it the top choice for touring bikes, which are cargo-laden rigs built for long rides day after day.

Screencap via YouTube

Carbon fiber does make for an easier ride, especially if you’re going to be doing any climbing. You get better power transfer but also feel every notch in the road thanks to the stiffness of carbon. It’s more fragile than steel or aluminum, and if you are unlucky as my friend Curtis, one wrong fall and that $900 frame is going to have go in for some $300 repairs, because carbon fiber is much harder to repair. Metal dents; carbon cracks. Aluminum is somewhere between the two in terms of weight, durability, and comfort.

So just, like, get a bike that looks right, or what?

An obvious piece of advice: Get a bike that fits you. The listed size of a bike frame corresponds to the length of the seat tube (the vertical tube that runs up to the seatpost) and it’ll probably be somewhere between 44 and 64 centimeters. You can consult a sizing chart and find out roughly what size bike is right for someone of your height.

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However, for a more precise measurement, you’ll want to use a chart that takes into account your height and inseam length. You should not just use the inseam length from your Levi’s since it’ll be a few inches short. Start by putting a book or some other object that approximates the shape of a bike tube between your legs where you want the top tube to rest (pretty close! about 1-2 inches for a road bike!) and measure the distance to the floor. You may need to get a longer or shorter stem (the gizmo that connects the handlebars to the frame) depending on how long your torso and arms are, but the frame size is the most critical here. Seat positioning and angle should be fine-tuned with a bike-shop person or a helpful friend so that you feel comfortable and your leg reaches full extension on each pedal stroke.

Most road bikes will have two chainrings in the front with 53 and 39 teeth on them, and between nine and 11 on the rear-wheel side of the chain. You can get extremely out into the weeds on cassette properties and gear ratios, but the quick and dirty way to conceive of gearing is to focus on the front ring (attached to the crank) and know that the more the teeth of the front ring go around, the more work you’ll be doing per pedal stroke. Shifting the chain on to the smallest ring in the rear and the biggest ring in the front would make the chain pass over the front teeth relatively slowly, while the opposite setup would require moving a lot more weight.

It might sound overcomplicated on the page, but it’s pretty intuitive once you start riding. If you are going to do some extreme climbing, there are all sorts of ways to get lower gears on, ranging from replacing the entire drive train to swapping out a $20 part, and your local bike shop or co-op can get you straight.

Where do I buy this bike from?

There’s nothing better than a new bike. All the gears move as they should and the bike stops when you tell it to. However, a bike straight off the shelves will run you a considerable amount more than a used bicycle. If you can afford it, the best and simplest solution to the problem of not having a bike is going and buying a new one. It will cost you too much. It will work.

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For the rest of us, there’s Craigslist.

When trying to buy a used bike online, you will inevitably be beset with all sorts of dumb issues. There are scammers, broken-ass bikes, stolen bikes, entries without pictures, and an inventory that might not have what you’re looking for for weeks at a time. It’s frequently frustrating, but if you can sift through the garbage, you can find unrivaled deals. Police stations will occasionally advertise auctions of unclaimed bikes where there are always decent deals to be had.

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I bought my current road bike for a quarter of its sticker price, but that took two weeks of fruitless emailing and getting owned by other bike hunters until I found a match. A good rule of thumb is to be very skeptical of any posting without multiple photos attached. These might very well be people trying to scam you. However, if you email the supposed owner with questions and request more pictures, you’ll quickly find out whether they are trying to grift you or are simply unaware of how the bike internet works, in which case, you might be the only one negotiating with them.

It’s a safe assumption that any bike you buy will have something that at least needs some checking up on. People often sell bikes because they don’t ride them anymore or because they are too lazy to fix them. Getting a non-functioning bike is no fun, but many can be fixed for relatively cheap. Always meet in person (in a well-lit public area etc.) and ride the bike around before you fork over the cash. You should be able to tell what’s wrong, if anything. Before you commit, be aware of how much things cost to repair. If you’re paying just $100 for a bike, but it needs a new crank and pedals, those will run you more than the bike is worth.

Which brands are good?

The dirty secret of cycling is that most top-end bikes are kind of the same. Many of the more respected manufacturers cook up their products in the same factory in Taiwan, and while this doesn’t exactly mean that a Giant and a Scott are the same thing, there isn’t a ton of difference in quality when you get to the higher ranges. The fanciest frames out there are made by Cervelo and Pinarello, while bikes by Cannondale, Specialized, Trek, Scott, Giant, BMC, Colnago, and Bianchi will cost about the same across the spectrum. Your local bike shop will not stock every brand, so shop around if you want to get an idea of how every brand fits. In general, if a WorldTour team rides them, they’ll be more expensive.

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Depending where you are in the world, there are ample options apart from the biggest, most expensive brands. Diamondback makes fine bikes, for example. I haven’t ridden them all, but my Cannondale road bike is reliable and light as hell, and you cannot go wrong with anything off the CAAD line if you’re into aluminum.

Screencap via YouTube

Should I buy this fixie?

Do not buy that fixie.

What about this heavy-looking “hybrid”?

Maybe? The hybrid is a bike targeted at commuters that, in theory, offers the weight of a road bike with the easy stability of a mountain bike. In practice, it offers neither, and hybrids tend to cost too much.

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However, the market is flooded with them, and if you can find a decent deal, they are easily customized into something either more aggressive or more laid-back.

Okay, what’s a good deal?

Short answer: It depends on the bike.

There is no hard and fast rule for how much a bike should cost on Craigslist. If you’re buying a bike that’s on the newer side, it’s fair to pay around half of the sticker price, and possibly less if it’s got some mechanical issues. You’ll be tempted by the gorgeous “vintage” steel-frame road bikes that cost like $900. This is not a good deal, since these bikes tend to weigh approximately 500 pounds and the quality of decades-old road bikes comes down to the durability of the parts rather than the sheen of the frame.

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The market for a used bike will vary from town to town. In the Bay Area, for example, it’s hard to get anything with two wheels for less than $200, but this is on the high side because everything in the region also costs too much. If you want, say, a starter bike that you can trick out if you want or take on the odd 30 miler when you get an itch, be prepared to pay over $400 or so, depending on the bike. Like I said, it varies a lot.

Do I need to buy a helmet? I’m not a dork or anything.

Buy a goddamn helmet.

And while you’re at it, lights and reflective materials are just as likely to save you as a helmet. Bikes are silent to drivers and the more noticeable you are, the safer you are. You don’t need a neon safety vest, but consider how well you pop when illuminated by headlights.

Now, how do I get in shape?

If you want to ride to get in shape, find some hills to climb! Cycling is a less efficient way of burning calories than running, yet the edge dulls if you can find something steep to power up. Climbing should be hard, but it’s important to keep your pedaling cadence high so you’re not stuck getting a huge gear to turn over. That will fuck your knees up quickly. For most training rides, you want to keep up a cadence of around 85-100 RPM.

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Better yet, try out some Tabata intervals. Interval training on a bike is much better than interval training on foot because you actually get to move around in the outside world instead of circling a track over and over.

A Tabata interval is a rather intense way to get the most out of your workout, and it requires you to go at maximum effort for 20 seconds, take a 10 second break, then lurch back into maximum effort. High-intensity interval training will kick your ass and make you hate your stupid bike and this stupid blog for recommending you buy that stupid bike, but it is the most efficient way to ride a bike to get in shape.

If you don’t feel like murdering your quads, ride it wherever you feel like. That is the point of having a bicycle.

I don’t wanna get squashed by a car!

A good rule of thumb when it comes to cars is that you should just assume that no cars will see you unless your ass is in their face. Most drivers are reasonably aware of cyclists on the road, and while having most drivers on your side makes for a generally pleasant riding experience, a single crash can seriously fuck you up. All the more reason not to chance anything, since you can’t fight a car and win. Stick to the right side of the road—just outside the “door zone,” i.e. the area where you’ll get hit by a door if someone throws it open—stop when you’re supposed to stop, and avoid sidewalks. Learn to read drivers’ eyes, because then you’ll know when they see you. This page has lots of good advice.

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Oftentimes, the busiest thoroughfares have the shittiest pavement. This is one of the problems that bicycle boulevards aim to alleviate. Look up where bicycle boulevards are in your city and utilize them, because they’re often the best routes around town. I’ve lived on two different bicycle boulevards in two different cities, and from my experience, they truly are safer and easier alternatives to the main streets right beside them. Aren’t you glad I bought that helmet I told you to?

What other gear do I need?

Not much! If you’re simply commuting to and from work and won’t be riding in the dark or locking your bike up outside, you might only need a helmet and some bike-appropriate clothes. For the love of God, if you plan to lock your bike up outside, buy a good lock. I know those cable locks are so easy (no key!) and U-locks are so heavy, but don’t be a doofus. A good bike thief can crack a U-lock and a dingus bike thief can crack a cable lock. In college, my friend once forgot to lock his bike to a rack on campus and left class to find his machine gone. The next day, he found it in the same place, dinged by the thief’s apparently frustrated attempts to take the U-lock off.

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A Kryptonite U-lock will run you between $20 and $120, depending on how serious you want to get. Most locks can come with a cable, and I recommend you grab one to secure your front wheel. Consult this handy chart if you’re unsure exactly how paranoid you should be.

Lights are a must for any after-dark riding. If you live in a poorly lit area and will need to provide your own lighting to see the pavement in front of you, you’ll need a LED light that can do at least 350 lumens. If you just want to be seen by cars, most basic pairs of white/red blinkers will do.

Clip-in pedals are more efficient at transferring power than flat pedals, and they are easier to pick up than one might imagine. Practice the motion while standing on one foot and it’s relatively simple. Anticipate when you’ll need to unclip and you will be fine. Be extra cautious when starting, because most newcomers will need a bit of forward momentum to clip in before falling ass-over-teakettle. For commuting and trawling around the city, I don’t think you need clip-ins. The constant stopping and starting increases the chances of falling, and you won’t be doing any sort of the unbroken straight-line riding where you’d feel the benefits of being clipped in.

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Saddles are a whole complicated thing. There’s really just no way to tell which will work for you; happily most good shops will have loaner models you can try out. Assuming the saddle is properly adjusted, there shouldn’t be any discomfort or any pressure on your junk, and counterintuitively, for most people a narrow, rigid saddle will work best. The near-ubiquitous Brooks, WTB, and Specialized are good brands to try out, but even if nothing they make works for you, rest assured that somewhere there is a saddle that will fit your butt perfectly.

What now?

Go ride your damn bike!

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Trump praised himself for the Panama Canal and the internet cringed

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Trump praised himself for the Panama Canal and the internet cringed

Trump is very proud of the Panama Canal.Trump is very proud of the Panama Canal.

Image: Riley/POOL/EPA/REX/Shutterstock

President Trump loves taking credit for things—even if they happened before he was born.  

During an exchange with Panamanian President Juan Carlos Varela on Monday afternoon, Trump patted himself on the back for the fabulous job the United States did building the Panama Canal … in 1914. 

“The Panama Canal is doing quite well,” Trump said. “I think we did a good job building it.” 

Fortunately, the absurdity of the moment was not lost on President Varela, who was quick to point out that the canal was built over 100 years ago:

Yikes. 

Additionally, the Panama Canal is now entirely controlled by Panama. The United States got permission to build the canal in 1904, and in 1977, former President Jimmy Carter signed the  Panama Canal Treaty, which gave control of the canal back to Panama in 2000.

Naturally, Twitter had some thoughts about all of this:

Look on the bright side—at least Trump has a decent memory of his grade school history class. 

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The Last Ceiling Light You’ll Need

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None of your furniture is immobile, so why should your ceiling lights be static? That’s the essence of Lili lighting! In the same way you can move your sofa, desk, or TV, you can also move Lili to adapt to your individual needs.

In fact, it’s even easier to move Lili around than any furniture. Unlike other ceiling lights which are often fixed in placed, Lili utilizes a large system of 4 pulleys that allow it to move to any position in a room on a whim. It’s as low tech as flipping a switch! Just pull Lili to the precise point you need it. DO want!

Designer: George Croissant

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Banking the unbanked in emerging markets

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As countries progress, citizens migrate from remote villages to large cities and foreign countries. Their economic power rises and they participate in the global economy.

People need to purchase food, pay electricity bills, top up transportation cards, arrange online services, buy overseas goods, repay loans, and send money to relatives.

Unlike the U.S., however, where 93% of people have banking options, many in developing markets do not. Globally, an estimated 2 billion adults lack access to formal financial services. The services that are available are typically cumbersome and expensive.

To address this gap, fintech startups are offering online and mobile solutions, which consumers are welcoming. Younger generations are increasingly embracing online banking and almost nine in 10 people under the age of 30 live in emerging markets.

In 2011, Paul Wu founded GMobi, which created white-labeled app stores for mobile phone carriers. Subsequently, it launched a third-party mobile wallet. Roughly one-third of GMobi’s 100 employees now focus on the company’s worldwide mobile payments vertical, Reach Pay, its fastest growing revenue source.

Owing to cultural and language similarities, GMobi initially explored opportunities in mainland China. Powerhouses Alipay and Tencent Pay, however, already cornered the market. “We cannot go to China anymore,” Wu said, sitting in GMobi’s headquarters overlooking mountains on the outskirts of Taipei. “China is bloody competitive.”

Thus, GMobi turned to India where, after a couple years of preparation, they launched Oxymoney, a mobile wallet that facilitates data card top-ups and money transfers. Most users are in lower socio-economic demographics and don’t own PCs, which is why GMobi only offers mobile phone services.

After rural laborers move to New Delhi, for example, they can send money back to their parents. Today, customers often go to physical money transfer operations in cities, complete paper forms, and pay non-transparent fees. After a few days or a week, their parents receive the funds at a rural bank location.

Much of this hassle and inefficiency is eliminated through Oxymoney. In a boardroom, Wu explained the process while using an erasable marker to draw diagrams on a white board. The flow can be abbreviated as: (Consumer → Agency → Business → Consumer).

Using a mobile phone, the laborer sends money, which is routed through one of the country’s major money transfer agencies. Afterwards, because the consumer’s parents rarely have bank accounts themselves, the money is then sent to a shop in their village that does have a bank account. At the shop, parents pick up the cash.

The entire process takes about a day and the user pays a 1 percent processing fee. There’s no minimum, but GMobi’s 10 million Indian users typically send between USD $15-30 per transaction.

“We want to help the majority of the middle class, or even lower-middle class to increase their economic situation by improving the efficiency for these services,” Wu said. “We still need to educate the market because most of the workers, they still go offline. Still go to bank counters.”

Macro forces should propel usage. India, the world’s fastest-growing smartphone market, is forecast to have 1.4 billion mobile phone subscriptions by 2021. Additionally, Indian officials are pushing the G20 to reduce remittance fees and more remittances will be sent as India continues to urbanize, which constitutes one-third of the population currently.

With the Digital India initiative, the government of India is pushing the adoption of all things digital, including currencies and payments.

“We are growing very fast because that’s really helping,” Wu said.

Although the digital initiative can boost startups, critics exist. On his podcast, comedian Bill Burr opined on the control it provides third parties saying, “They’re on their way to micro-chipping all of us.”

Currently, GMobi only handles domestic money transfers. They are exploring cross-border solutions, but that brings additional cultural, operational, and regulatory complexities.

“In each country, you need the local license and you need the certain capital level and certain effort to connect to local banks,” Wu said. “So it’s not so easy to do cross-border.”

With anti-money laundering laws tightening, sending money between countries is a time-consuming process, often requiring the sender to do so in-person from a bank office. 100-employee dLocal, however, hopes to change that.

dLocal provides back-end infrastructure enabling merchants, mostly in developed markets, to accept payments from customers, mostly in emerging markets.

For example, when FaceBook, AirBnB, or Uber furnish services in Asia or Latin America, receiving payment is difficult owing to operational differences in each market. dLocal provides a single, integrated payment interface across more than 150 platforms such as SMS, mobile wallets, online transfers, credit cards, data cards, debit cards, and cash payouts.

dLocal chief executive and co-founder Sebastian Kanovich explained why the model succeeds. “Users in emerging markets do not have traditional international credit cards and they want to pay with alternative payment methods. And all vary across markets,” he said.

Nine years ago while living in South America, Kanovich saw demand. Consumers there ordered goods online, but rarely completed the transactions because they didn’t have internationally accepted credit cards. At that time, Kavonich did have an international credit card, which he routinely lent to friends.

“It was clear users had the intention to pay online, but the merchants were not ready to accept payments from them,” Kavonich said.

Owing to onerous know-your-customer (KYC) and anti-money laundering (AML) restrictions associated with retail channels, dLocal only provides commercial payment services. When speaking with central banks regarding P2P, “It becomes a whole different story. It becomes much more restricted,” Kanovich said.

In some markets, regulatory uncertainty poses challenges. “Rules of the game are not always 100 percent stable. Governments change and sometimes rules change,” Kanovich said. “That will be the biggest threat for us.”

Although there are hurdles, Kanovich is bullish. dLocal offers services in 18 countries today, but aims to be in almost 30 by year end. They are encountering strong growth in Turkey, Colombia, Argentina, Brazil, Peru, and Chile. Kanovich says Africa and Asia-Pacific, however, hold the greatest potential.

With dLocal, “Surfing the wave of globalization,” Kanovich said, “The opportunity is massive.”

Another source of potential growth is to incorporate digital currencies, which dLocal does not do today. Kanovich personally advocates for Bitcoin, but says banks in emerging markets are weary. “We just need to wait for it to become slightly more mainstream before we can convince central banks everywhere that it’s okay,” Kanovich said.

 

Philippines-based Coins, which recently announced a funding round, is embracing digital currencies. The company facilitates bill payments, money transfers, buying phone credits, and online purchases globally.

Coins was founded “To bridge the gap in financial services,” according to Justin Leow, head of business operations. “There’s a huge disparity in access to financial services, especially in developing countries.”

One market segment they serve is P2P cross-border remittances. If a laborer or domestic helper moves to a foreign country, Coins assists them in sending remittances more cheaply, efficiently, and quickly than conventional channels like money transfer operators. Traditional channel fees can reach 10%, Coins is in the 2-3% range.

Take, for example, a domestic helper in Hong Kong earning USD $700 per month and sending half, $350, home to the Philippines. Reducing the fee from $35.00 (10%) to $10.50 (3%) is meaningful.

Globally, an estimated $601 billion is remitted annually, and developing countries garner almost three-fourths. In the Philippines alone, where 10% of its citizens live outside the country, $28 billion is remitted across borders annually, according to The World Bank data. Remittances to the two largest recipient countries, India and China, exceed $60 billion.

Banks often require high minimum balances, which is why fewer than one-third of Filipinos have accounts. There are more Facebook users in the country than bank account holders.

“So there’s a huge segment of the population banks aren’t able to tap, but we think that we can because of the model we’ve taken.” Leow said.

Coins uses digital currencies such as Bitcoin and Stellar. “That’s the only reason why it works as a medium for doing remittances around the world,” Leow said.

Although using complex block chain technology, Leow said customers don’t need to fully comprehend the behind-the-scenes processes. “All they’re concerned about is disbursing the payment on the other end.”

Digital currency adoption does not, however, imply doom for banks. “We require [banks] to run. And in exchange we also are able to drive more usage to their services, reaching a demographic that they’ve been unable to reach on their own,” Leow said.

This benefits consumers. Traditional banks often know little about their customers, but technology companies can easily record data on their preferences and habits in order to better tailor solutions to customer’s needs.

For the companies serving the unbanked, there are both financial and social benefits.

“It’s a very exciting opportunity and we can also make a huge impact on the lives of lots of people,” Leow said.

Featured Image: Stuart Kinlough/Getty Images

from TechCrunch http://tcrn.ch/2tsFzQf
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Arduino developers get extra support as Codeanywhere acquires Codebender

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Codeanywhere, a cross platform cloud IDE for creating web apps and sites has acquired Codebender, another cloud IDE that enables users to develop for Arduino devices. This is Codeanywhere’s first acquisition and financial terms of the transaction were not disclosed.

Codebender and it’s additional services edu.cobebender.cc and blocks.cobebender.cc will continue to operate and be supported by Codeanywhere, and become tier one offerings of Codeanywhere, Inc. Together Codeanywhere and Codeanywhere will now have over 1M users on its platform.

HQ’d in Palo Alto, Codeanywhere has raised $848k in three rounds from seven investors and originally emerged from tech-savvy Croatia. It competes with Codenvy which raised $9M and was acquired by RedHat in May this year, and cloud9ide which raised $6.3M and was acquired by Amazon last year. So clearly Codeanywhere is now well-positioned.

Founded in 2013 in Greece, Codebender has raised over $1M in capital and has attracted about 100,000 users and more than 300,000 projects are hosted in the platform, making it one of the biggest communities and code repositories of the Arduino ecosystem.

Ivan Burazin, Codeanywhere’s CEO and co-founder said: “Codeanywhere’s roadmap includes the introduction of more developer tools, with the same vision as Codeanywhere; develop anywhere, anytime, with anyone, and adding Codebender’s products to our offering does just that.”

“Giving codebender a home in Codeanywhere was a no-brainer to us. We’ve known them for a while, and after discussing this it was clear they could grow codebender to a great, sustainable platform, which is what we always strived for,” said Vasilis Georgitzikis, Codebender’s CEO.

from TechCrunch http://tcrn.ch/2sAkUd5
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This could be the tiniest hotel room in the world

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Met A Space Pod is a space-themed hostel that has space pods for you to sleep in for $60 a night. Inside the space capsule, you will find all the necessities. There’s a smart TV with movies, ring light mirror, desk to do work, a safe with your belongings, and pillows. There are even touch panels to adjust light and air. Get ready to live out your space dreams! Read more…

More about Travel Leisure, Space, Travel, Asia, and Travel Experience

from Mashable! http://on.mash.to/2sT1pPO
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Lionfish Are Eating Fish We Didn’t Even Know Existed

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Image: Kevin Gessner via Flickr/CC

Lionfish have very low standards and will eat anything in sight. Although they’re originally from the Indian and Western Pacific Oceans, these vacuum cleaners have been flopping around the Atlantic for the last 25 years, probably because people dumped them from their home aquariums. They’re so stupidly hungry and abundant that sometimes, they just eat other lionfish. This would be fine if these venomous beasts just kept to themselves, but because they have very few predators in their new home, lionfish get to ruin everything else around them, too. Seriously, they’re such a nightmare that scientists are trying to fight them with robots.

The cherry on top of this shit sundae is that now, lionfish are eating fish scientists haven’t even been able to describe yet. According to a new study in PLOS One, researchers from the University of Washington have recorded video of a lionfish noshing on a previously unnamed species of goby (genus Palatogobius) off the coast of Curaçao. The footage was captured by a submersible vehicle—aptly named the Curasub—over the course of several dives from 2013 to 2016.

Researchers have named their new find Palatogobius indendius, or the “ember goby.” These unfortunate little fellows are bright orange and less than an inch long, living at depths of about 384 feet (about 117 meters). While the ember goby is still abundant in this region off the coast of Curaçao, it doesn’t bode well that lionfish are preying on animals in such deep reefs. These ecosystems are poorly studied, so who knows how many other fish lion fish are terrorizing that we don’t know about.

In fact, lionfish have a history of hurting goby populations elsewhere.

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“Unlike many other reef fishes that can grow large enough to avoid predation as adults, gobies are vulnerable to predation by lionfish both as juveniles and adults,” the researchers wrote. “As a result, lionfish have led to local declines in biomass and recruitment in some Caribbean gobies, and several species are now listed as ‘near threatened,’ ‘vulnerable,’ or ‘endangered’ by the IUCN Red List of Endangered Species, due in part to potential threats by lionfish.”

Ember goby. (Image: Barry Brown via PLOS One)

While the study doesn’t represent the eating habits of all lionfish, the research is still pretty unnerving. Where do lionfish draw the line? Where does the carnage stop? Our best shot at taming these predatory beasts might be these robots, which are essentially vacuums controlled by Playstation 4 remotes. Innovation rules.

Fingers crossed it works, because the oceans are pretty screwed otherwise.

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[PLOS One]

from Gizmodo http://bit.ly/2sVgAb1
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