Qualcomm repackages last year’s flagship SoC as the “Snapdragon 870”

A stylized promotional image of a computer chip on a motherboard.

Enlarge (credit: Qualcomm)

Qualcomm is repackaging a chip from last year into the “Snapdragon 870.” Last year’s flagship SoC was the Snapdragon 865, and then Qualcomm released the slightly up-clocked Snapdragon 865+. The Snapdragon 870 seems to be a 865++. It’s another clock bump.

Qualcomm has a totally impenetrable product lineup, so it’s hard to know if any single non-flagship SoC announcement from the company is significant. It sounds like this chip will be picked up by some of the more interesting Android OEMs, though. The press release says it will “power a selection of flagship devices from key customers including Motorola, iQOO, OnePlus, OPPO, and Xiaomi.” The real flagship SoC is the Snapdragon 888, so Qualcomm’s use of “flagship” here definitely belongs in scare quotes.

Like the 865, this is a 7nm, eight-core chip. The Prime Cortex A77 core is now clocked at 3.2GHz, and hold on to your benchmark apps, because that’s 3 percent faster than the 3.1Ghz Snapdragon 865+! Qualcomm doesn’t say anything, so we’ll assume all the other cores are the same as the Snapdragon 865. That means three more A77 cores at 2.4Ghz and four A55 cores at 1.8Ghz. Like on the 865+ model, it sounds like there is still the option for Qualcomm’s latest connectivity chip, giving you the possibility of an 870 with Wi-Fi 6E.

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Source: Ars Technica – Qualcomm repackages last year’s flagship SoC as the “Snapdragon 870”

Fired former data scientist Rebekah Jones arrested, tests positive for COVID-19

Florida's handling of the pandemic has been... a mixed bag. This beach was hopping on May 20, around the same time Jones publicly claimed the state fired her for refusing to manipulate Florida's COVID-19 data.

Enlarge / Florida’s handling of the pandemic has been… a mixed bag. This beach was hopping on May 20, around the same time Jones publicly claimed the state fired her for refusing to manipulate Florida’s COVID-19 data. (credit: Mike Ehrmann | Getty Images)

Florida police have arrested former state data scientist Rebekah Jones, accusing her of breaking state laws prohibiting accessing computer systems without authorization.

Jones on Saturday disclosed the arrest warrant herself, writing in a series of tweets that she and her lawyer had arranged with Florida police for her to present herself to law enforcement in Tallahassee on Sunday evening. (Jones and her family currently live in the Maryland suburbs of Washington, DC.) Jones was released from jail Monday after posting $2,500 bail and reportedly testing positive for COVID-19 while in police custody.

The warrant alleges that Jones gained unauthorized access to state Department of Health systems in November to send an unauthorized message to employees and to download a list of contact information for approximately 19,000 people.

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Source: Ars Technica – Fired former data scientist Rebekah Jones arrested, tests positive for COVID-19

Trump’s Clean Power Plan replacement gets thrown out by a court

Image of a power plant.

Enlarge / DUNKIRK, NEW YORK, UNITED STATES – 2016/10/09: A NRG owned coal fired energy facility that plans to convert to a natural gas facility. (credit: John Greim / Getty Images)

Today, the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia vacated the Trump administration’s attempt to take a minimalist approach to the regulation of carbon dioxide emissions. The ruling was a lopsided victory for the long list of groups opposing the Trump EPA’s approach, with the entire rule being vacated. Thus, the Biden administration will start unencumbered by its predecessors’ attempts to gut carbon dioxide regulations.

Here we go again

Some of the legal issues here date back to the Clinton administration, when states sued to force the EPA to regulate carbon emissions under the Clean Air Act. That issue was ultimately clarified by the Supreme Court, which, during the George W. Bush administration, ruled that carbon dioxide could be regulated as a pollutant as defined by the Clean Air Act. Early in the Obama administration, the EPA issued an endangerment finding for greenhouse gasses that provided the scientific rationale for regulations. Those regulations came in the form of the Clean Power Plan, issued during Obama’s second term.

While the Clean Power Plan completed the federal rule-making process, it was held up by lawsuits when President Obama left office. Trump issued an executive order that directed the EPA to replace the Clean Power Plan. The EPA’s eventual replacement, the Affordable Clean Energy rule (ACE), went well beyond simply ending or limiting the Clean Power Plan. Instead, ACE attempted to narrow the regulation allowed under the Clean Air Act by having states regulate each individual source of emissions, rather than regulating the state’s total emissions. As an added bonus, it also stretched out the timeline for states to bring their emissions into compliance.

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Source: Ars Technica – Trump’s Clean Power Plan replacement gets thrown out by a court

Today’s best tech deals: Lots of Switch games, Fire HD tablets, and more

Today’s best tech deals: Lots of Switch games, Fire HD tablets, and more

Enlarge (credit: Ars Technica)

Today’s Dealmaster includes a number of discounts on first-party Nintendo Switch games. While most of the deals don’t reach the lowest prices we’ve ever seen, the likes of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the WildSuper Mario OdysseySuper Mario Party, and Super Mario Maker 2 are all down to $40, bringing them each about $10 cheaper than their usual street prices online. While many of the discounted games have been out of contract for a few years, newer recommended titles like Clubhouse Games and Paper Mario: The Origami King are down to the lowest prices we’ve tracked as well.

Elsewhere, we also have discounts on Amazon’s Fire HD tablet lineup, the latest iPad Air and Apple Watch Series 6, and the upcoming Hitman III, among others. You can have a look at our full roundup below.

Note: Ars Technica may earn compensation for sales from links on this post through affiliate programs.

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Source: Ars Technica – Today’s best tech deals: Lots of Switch games, Fire HD tablets, and more

Aston Martin’s new SUV is actually extremely good: The 2021 DBX review

There’s no escaping the crossover, even in the poshest of neighborhoods. Everyone knows that the Cayenne saved Porsche, particularly in new markets like China, and that’s why we now have six-figure SUVs like the Rolls Royce Cullinan, Lamborghini Urus, Bentley Bentayga, and now Aston Martin’s $176,900 DBX.

Last year was a hectic one for Aston Martin, and that’s saying something for a company with as many ups and downs as its had during its 108-year history. Lawrence Stroll, Canadian billionaire (and dad to F1’s Lance) bought a 16.7-percent stake as part of a $656 million cash infusion. Stroll is also behind Aston Martin’s return to F1 as a constructor, with the British marque rebranding the team most recently known as Racing Point and hiring four-time World Champion Sebastian Vettel to drive alongside

CEO Andy Palmer—who led the development of the Nissan Leaf earlier in his career—was replaced by Tobias Moers, formerly boss of Mercedes-AMG at Daimler. That strengthens ties with the German giant that supplies the low-volume British firm with powerful V8 engines and 21st-century infotainment tech. There’s a brand-new factory, just completed on the site of an old RAF maintenance base at St Athan, Wales. And it’s from here that the brand is diversifying its lineup with what it describes as it’s “first full-size five-seater.” (Which tells you everything you need to know about the rear seat experience in the now-retired Aston Martin Rapide, I suppose.)

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Source: Ars Technica – Aston Martin’s new SUV is actually extremely good: The 2021 DBX review

Microsoft invests in $30 billion driverless car company Cruise

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Source: Ars Technica – Microsoft invests in billion driverless car company Cruise

What psychology of mass mobilization can tell us about the Capitol riot

Trump supporters near the US Capitol on January 6, 2021 in Washington, DC. The rioters stormed the historic building, breaking windows and clashing with police. (Photo by Shay Horse/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Enlarge / Trump supporters near the US Capitol on January 6, 2021 in Washington, DC. The rioters stormed the historic building, breaking windows and clashing with police. (Photo by Shay Horse/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

It’s a dark moment in American history that will not be soon forgotten. On January 6, thousands of supporters of soon-to-be-former President Donald Trump gathered for a “Stop the Steal” rally in Washington, DC, to protest the certification of the 2020 election results by Congress. Speaker after speaker pumped up the angry crowd by repeating false claims of widespread election fraud, culminating with an address by Trump himself, in which he called on his followers to “fight like hell” and march on the US Capitol. The result: frenzied rioters overran Capitol Police, smashing windows and triumphantly posing for selfies as they roamed through the evacuated building. By the time the National Guard regained control, five people were dead, including a Capitol Police officer.

As people struggled to process the horror in the immediate aftermath, Michael Bang Petersen, a Danish political scientist at Aarhus University, weighed in on Twitter with some counter-intuitive commentary. While the predominant theme among many pundits centered on the role of Trump and his enablers spreading lies about widespread voter fraud and then whipping the crowd into a frenzy during that morning’s rally, Petersen suggested that perhaps they had it backward. “Did protestors storm Congress because they followed Trump and believed his misinformation about the US election? No,” he tweeted. “They followed Trump and believed in misinformation because they wanted to storm Congress.”

Petersen’s background is in evolutionary psychology, and his research focuses on how the adaptive challenges of human evolutionary history shape the way modern citizens think about mass politics. Back in October, Petersen published a review paper in the journal Current Opinion in Psychology, making the case for his thesis that “mass mobilization”—like we saw with the Trumpian insurrectionists storming the nation’s Capitol—is not the direct result of manipulation by misinformation/wild conspiracy theories spread by a dominant leader. Rather, the paper said, those factors are vital tools for coordinating individuals who are already predisposed to conflict.

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Source: Ars Technica – What psychology of mass mobilization can tell us about the Capitol riot

As Ajit Pai exits FCC, Charter admits defeat on petition to impose data caps

Illustration of Internet data, symbolized by ones and zeroes moving through a pipe.

Enlarge (credit: Getty Images | Andrzej Wojcicki)

Charter Communications has withdrawn a petition seeking government permission to impose data caps on broadband users this year.

Unlike other ISPs, Charter is subject to the prohibition on data caps and overage fees until May 2023 because of seven-year conditions applied to its 2016 purchase of Time Warner Cable. In June 2020, Charter petitioned the Federal Communications Commission to let the condition expire two years early, on May 18, 2021.

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai sought public comment on the petition but never took final action, even though he had opposed the merger conditions when they were imposed by the Obama-era FCC. With Pai leaving the FCC upon President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration tomorrow, Charter submitted a brief filing stating that it “respectfully withdraws its petition.”

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Source: Ars Technica – As Ajit Pai exits FCC, Charter admits defeat on petition to impose data caps

iFixit tears down Apple’s $550 AirPods Max headphones

As is a custom at this point, online repair kit and tool vendor iFixit tore down one of the latest Apple products and assessed its repairability. In this case, the product is the ultra-expensive ($550) AirPods Max over-ear noise-canceling headphones.

Most of the interior components are about what you’d expect in a high-end pair of wireless headphones, but the machinery is highly intricate, and there are many, many screws.

iFixit found that the Lightning port is particularly difficult—though not impossible—to reach, which is unfortunate, given that this is one of the parts most likely to fail. The part is also critical to the device’s ability to function, since it’s the charging port.

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Source: Ars Technica – iFixit tears down Apple’s 0 AirPods Max headphones

NASA likely to redo hot-fire test of its Space Launch System core stage

SLS Green Run Test

Enlarge / At 4:27pm central time on Saturday, the SLS rocket core stage ignited its four RS-25 engines at NASA’s Stennis Space Center. The test was to last up to eight minutes. (credit: Trevor Mahlmann for Ars)

Following the unsuccessful completion of a Space Launch System hot-fire test, NASA is likely to conduct a second “Green Run” firing in February.

On Tuesday, three days after the first hot-fire test attempt, NASA released a summary of its preliminary analysis of data from the 67.2-second test firing. The report highlights three issues, none of which appears to be overly serious but will require further investigation.

The agency found that the test, conducted at the Stennis Space Center in Mississippi, was automatically shut down by an out-of-limits reading of hydraulic pressure in the thrust vector control mechanism used to gimbal, or steer, the engines. At 64 seconds into the test, the rocket began a pre-programmed sequence to gimbal its engines as if it were in flight. Shortly after, the pump-return pressure fell below the redline of 50 pounds per square in gauge, to 49.6. This pressure limit, the agency said, was more stringent than an actual flight redline and was set to protect against potential damage on the test stand.

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Source: Ars Technica – NASA likely to redo hot-fire test of its Space Launch System core stage

Ars online IT roundtable tomorrow: What’s the future of the data center?

Ars online IT roundtable tomorrow: What’s the future of the data center?

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If you’re in IT, you probably remember the first time you walked into a real data center—not just a server closet, but an actual raised-floor data center, where the door wooshes open in a blast of cold air and noise and you’re confronted with rows and rows of racks, monolithic and gray, stuffed full of servers with cooling fans screaming and blinkenlights blinking like mad. The data center is where the cool stuff is—the pizza boxes, the blade servers, the NASes and the SANs. Some of its residents are more exotic—the Big Iron in all its massive forms, from Z-series to Superdome and all points in between.

For decades, data centers have been the beating hearts of many businesses—the fortified secret rooms where huge amounts of capital sit, busily transforming electricity into revenue. And they’re sometimes a place for IT to hide, too—it’s kind of a standing joke that whenever a user you don’t want to see is stalking around the IT floor, your best bet to avoid contact is just to badge into the data center and wait for them to go away. (But, uh, I never did that ever. I promise.)

But the last few years have seen a massive shift in the relationship between companies and their data—and the places where that data lives. Sure, it’s always convenient to own your own servers and storage, but why tie up all that capital when you don’t have to? Why not just go to the cloud buffet and pay for what you want to eat and nothing more?

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Source: Ars Technica – Ars online IT roundtable tomorrow: What’s the future of the data center?

Gaming the system: How GameStop stock surged 1,500% in nine months

When will this stock [game]stop rising?

Enlarge / When will this stock [game]stop rising? (credit: Aurich Lawson)

Nine months ago, GameStop stock bottomed out at $2.80 a share, a reflection of the myriad problems facing the retailer specifically and brick-and-mortar game retail as a whole. As of Tuesday morning, though, that stock price is hovering around $40 a share (peaking at $44.74 as of this writing), with the vast majority of those gains coming in the last couple of weeks.

Is GameStop really worth up to 16 times as much as it was back in April? Is the company’s ambitious turnaround plan finally (and suddenly) turning things around? Is GameStop roaring its way back to the nearly $10 billion market cap it enjoyed at the height of the Wii phenomenon?

Probably not. Analysts suggest the recent surge in GameStop’s stock price is the result of a massive short squeeze bubble that will pop eventually. But beyond the sky-high valuations of recent weeks, analysts also suggest there’s some reason to believe GameStop’s long-term health is more robust than last year’s stock doldrums suggest.

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Source: Ars Technica – Gaming the system: How GameStop stock surged 1,500% in nine months

With latest Starlink launch, SpaceX to set record for rapid reuse

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Source: Ars Technica – With latest Starlink launch, SpaceX to set record for rapid reuse

How one musician took on the world’s biggest TV network over copyright—and won

A dramatic moment from Glee maybe isn’t the first thing you expect to see in an Ars story, but promise there’s a point here.

You’ve heard Kerry Muzzey’s work (Bandcamp, Spotify), even if you haven’t heard of him. The 50-year-old classical music composer from Joliet, Illinois, who now lives in Los Angeles, produces haunting orchestral scores that soundtrack some of the most poignant moments in film and television. When Finn Hudson kissed Rachel Berry for the first time on TV’s Glee, it was Muzzey’s stripped-back piano playing in the background. Some of his works have been choreographed and performed on So You Think You Can Dance?, too.

The use of Muzzey’s music across pop culture has no doubt brought the veteran composer some success and acclaim. And around 2012, he decided to see for himself, searching for his name on YouTube. Muzzey recalls the site’s algorithm surfaced 20 or 40 videos. The majority were fan compilations that teenagers obsessed with Glee had painstakingly put together to memorialize their two favorite characters’ love story—and they were all soundtracked to the full version of Muzzey’s music.

“It was really kind of cool and validating, especially for someone who was a complete independent, to have a kid finding a piece of instrumental music, which is the most uncool kind of music for a kid to find, and to make a tribute montage using it,” he explains. “It was stuff nobody would have a problem with.”

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Source: Ars Technica – How one musician took on the world’s biggest TV network over copyright—and won

Hitman III review: Let’s call it Hitman 2.5 and be fine with it

The Hitman game series reached a zenith in 2018 with Hitman 2, technically the seventh in the series—but, hey, the seventh time can be the charm. Everything that we enjoyed in the 2016 series comeback was even better in this sequel, and IO Interactive nailed its “murder puzzle box” concept with sprawling, macabre playgrounds, all built to encourage a kill-multiple-ways core.

Three years ago, IO Interactive still had compelling directions to take its level design and plot composition, and the resulting sequel doubled down on dark humor and inherent video game silliness—while also getting a better handle on how to compose its levels. Walking through crowded scenes as a slow, blend-in-the-scenes assassin, looking for clues and opportunities, simply felt better in Hitman 2.

This week, Hitman III arrives on consoles, PCs, and streaming platforms with five new arenas of mayhem—the fewest yet in a numbered entry—and a pesky list of new tweaks. It feels very, very familiar—even more than the leap from 2016’s Hitman to 2018’s Hitman 2. It lands in a nearly identical interface as the last game, with the same XP progression meters, the same objective-based system, the same one-off “escalation” missions, and the same “custom contracts” sandbox. And its graphics engine revolves around a seemingly identical core, with one admittedly handsome tweak.

A sequel or an episode?

The worst part about Hitman III, then, is the number in the title. It betrays the game’s true nature as an expansion pack instead of a standalone game that can easily be enjoyed in isolation. That’s not a bad thing! If all you want are “more Hitman reboot levels that are up to the series’ par of excellence” (and that was the game’s original “episodic” plan), then III will neatly lodge into your brain. IO Interactive has concluded the “World of Assassination” trilogy in mostly fine fashion, although its inability to live up to the heights of Hitman 2 led me to immediately wish this were a more ambitious sequel.

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Source: Ars Technica – Hitman III review: Let’s call it Hitman 2.5 and be fine with it

Wi-Fi 6E arrives at CES 2021

Wi-Fi 6E is very slowly coming to a product near you. The Wi-Fi Alliance started certifying devices on January 7, and CES 2021 saw plenty of product announcements related to the Wi-Fi 6E rollout.

Wi-Fi 6E, if you haven’t heard, is a new standard for Wi-Fi that was approved by the FCC last year. While Wi-Fi 6 (no “e,” aka 802.11ax) is a bunch of technical improvements mostly aimed at more efficient usage of existing spectrum, Wi-Fi 6E is all about expanding Wi-Fi to a newly freed-up chunk of spectrum. Previously, Wi-Fi only worked on the 2.4Ghz and 5GHz spectrum, but Wi-Fi 6E uses the 6GHz spectrum. In the United States, 6E has a huge chunk of continuous spectrum—1200MHz. Previously, 5GHz only offered 140MHz of useful, non-DFS spectrum, and 2.4 GHz only had 70MHz of very crowded spectrum, which is vulnerable to running microwaves and other interference.

Neither Wi-Fi 6 or Wi-Fi 6E is about more speed—both are more about dealing with Wi-Fi capacity issues, which frequently rear their heads in apartment buildings and large public gatherings. If your Wi-Fi is currently terrible due to crowded airwaves in a densely populated area, Wi-Fi 6E could greatly improve your wireless performance. Getting on Wi-Fi 6E will mean buying new clients and new access points, though, hence this roundup article.

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Source: Ars Technica – Wi-Fi 6E arrives at CES 2021

Parler seems to be sliding back onto the Internet, but not onto mobile

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Source: Ars Technica – Parler seems to be sliding back onto the Internet, but not onto mobile

Report: This year’s iPhones may have in-screen Touch ID

The iPhone 12 and 12 Pro. The next iPhones aren't expected to change looks very much.

Enlarge / The iPhone 12 and 12 Pro. The next iPhones aren’t expected to change looks very much. (credit: Samuel Axon)

This weekend, business publication Bloomberg ran a plethora of articles sharing details about various upcoming Apple products. We previously covered what Bloomberg’s sources said about the Mac lineup, but another report details upcoming iPhones.

According to “a person familiar with” Apple’s work, the 2021 iPhone will be a small, iterative update and may carry the “S” label, which Apple has used to denote smaller upgrades to the iPhone in the past (for example, iPhone 6S or iPhone XS). This is in part because the iPhone 12 lineup introduced last fall was particularly loaded with new features and design changes, but it was also because COVID-19 restrictions have slowed Apple’s engineers down, according to the report.

While the iPhone 13 wouldn’t have a radically new design, the report does describe one potential change of note that Apple is testing internally: the addition of an in-screen fingerprint reader.

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Source: Ars Technica – Report: This year’s iPhones may have in-screen Touch ID

Scientists surprised to find that electric eels sometimes hunt in packs

Volta’s electric eels can gather in groups, working together to corral smaller fish in shallower waters, a new study finds. Then, smaller groups of about 10 eels attack in unison with high-voltage discharges.

Electric eels were long believed to be solitary predators, preferring to hunt and kill their prey alone by sneaking up on unsuspecting sleeping fish at night and shocking them into submission. But according to a recent paper published in the journal Ecology and Evolution, there are rare circumstances in which eels employ a social hunting strategy instead. Specifically, researchers have observed more than 100 electric eels in a small lake in the Brazilian Amazon River basin forming cooperative hunting parties to capture small fish called tetras.

“This is an extraordinary discovery,” co-author C. David de Santana, of the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, said. “Nothing like this has ever been documented in electric eels. Hunting in groups is pretty common among mammals, but it’s actually quite rare in fishes. There are only nine other species of fishes known to do this, which makes this finding really special.”

Electric eels are technically knife fish. The eel produces its signature electric discharges—both low and high voltages, depending on the purpose for discharging—via three pairs of abdominal organs comprised of electrocytes, located symmetrically along both sides of the eel. The brain sends a signal to the electrocytes, opening ion channels and briefly reversing the polarity. The difference in electric potential then generates a current, much like a battery with stacked plates.

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Source: Ars Technica – Scientists surprised to find that electric eels sometimes hunt in packs

GitHub regrets firing Jewish employee who called Trump-incited mob “Nazis”

A mob of Trump supporters tries to break into the Capitol building on January 6, 2021.

Enlarge / Trump-incited mob tries to breach the US Capitol building in Washington, DC, on Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021. (credit: Getty Images | Bloomberg)

GitHub Inc. yesterday apologized for firing a Jewish employee who had urged colleagues to “stay safe” and avoid “Nazis” on the day a mob incited by President Trump stormed the US Capitol. GitHub said it “reversed the decision” and indicated it is trying to hire the employee back.

“Stay safe homies, Nazis are about,” the employee, whose identity hasn’t been revealed publicly, wrote in an internal Slack chat room on January 6. He was fired two days later, after one “coworker was quick to criticize the employee for using divisive rhetoric,” Business Insider reported last week.

“I did not know that, as a Jew, it would be so polarizing to say this word,” the former employee wrote in a Slack group for Jewish employees shortly “before his corporate accounts got deactivated,” Business Insider wrote. The former employee “is Jewish and had family who died in the Holocaust,” the article said.

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Source: Ars Technica – GitHub regrets firing Jewish employee who called Trump-incited mob “Nazis”