Amazon ordered to rerun contentious Alabama union election

Amazon will have to redo the union election held at its Bessemer, Alabama fulfillment center back in April. According to Politico, Lisa Henderson, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) Region 10 Director, has ordered the e-commerce giant to hold another vote mostly due to the fact that Amazon installed a US Postal Service mailbox in front of the warehouse to collect ballots. 

The election results were 1,798 to 738, with workers voting against joining the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU). After those results came out, the RWDSU filed 23 objections, accusing the company of interfering with the elections. One of those complaints pointed out that Amazon installed the ballot box without approval from the NLRB and in view of security cameras that made workers feel they were under surveillance. The labor relations board sided with the union and found that Amazon interfered with the election by installing the mailbox and offering employees anti-union badges and signs. 

Henderson wrote in the documents ordering a new election:

“By causing the Postal Service to install a cluster mailbox unit, communicating and encouraging employees to cast their ballots using the mailbox, wrapping the mailbox with its slogan, and placing the mailbox at a location where employees could reasonably believe they were being surveilled, the Employer engaged in objectionable conduct that warrants setting aside the election.

The Employer’s flagrant disregard for the Board’s typical mail-ballot procedure compromised the authority of the Board and made a free and fair election impossible.”

Amazon, of course, criticized the NLRB’s decision. In a statement sent to The Washington Post, spokesperson Kelly Nantel said in a statement:

“Our employees have always had the choice of whether or not to join a union, and they overwhelmingly chose not to join the RWDSU earlier this year. It’s disappointing that the NLRB has now decided that those votes shouldn’t count.”

Source: Engadget – Amazon ordered to rerun contentious Alabama union election

Pentagon Announces Plans on Improving Airfields in Guam and Australia to Counter China


The US military will re-inforce deployments and bases directed at China and Russia, the Pentagon says.

The move comes in the wake of the formation of a new defense alliance, dubbed AUKUS, between the United States, Britain and Australia to counter a rising China.

The Middle East remains an area of flux for the Pentagon after the long wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The review confirmed the priority region for the US military was the Indo-Pacific, a top Pentagon policy official says. But a senior Pentagon official downplays any idea of radical shifts, saying the review was necessary after the disruptive approach of President Donald Trump, who altered US commitments abruptly, a senior official says in the first year of an administration.

The officials declined to answer questions on how the review sees US force presence in ongoing conflict zones like the Middle East, East and West Africa, and Eastern Europe.

Improvements planned for US military bases in Guam, Australia to counter China

The Pentagon wants to improve bases in Guam and Australia to counter China following a review of U.S. military resources around the globe.

Continue reading on TheHill

Analysis: The US and China say they want to avoid military conflict, but no one can agree on how

Among the recriminations and accusations, there was one point of consensus when American and Chinese diplomats met in the coastal city of Tianjin earlier this week: no one wants to see the world’s most important relationship deteriorate into armed conflict.

Continue reading on CNN

US to send bombers and fighter aircraft to Australia to counter China

A Pentagon review of the US military resources also called for an upgrade of its bases in Guam and Australia to counter Beijing’s military buildup in the Indo-Pacific.

Continue reading on The Sydney Morning Herald

Source: TG Daily – Pentagon Announces Plans on Improving Airfields in Guam and Australia to Counter China

AMC, Sony Will Hand Out NFTs To 'Spider-Man' Advance Ticket Buyers

AMC and Sony Pictures are giving away 86,000 NFTs to Stubs Premiere, A-List and Investor Connect members who buy or reserve tickets for Spider-Man: No Way Home showings on December 16th. Engadget reports: Redeem a code through a special website and you’ll get one of 100 designs available through the more eco-friendly Wax blockchain. You’ll need to order your tickets through the AMC Theatres website or mobile app when pre-orders launch on November 29th. If you qualify, you’ll get your code on December 22nd and will have until March 1st, 2022 to claim the NFT.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Source: Slashdot – AMC, Sony Will Hand Out NFTs To ‘Spider-Man’ Advance Ticket Buyers

Airbus A340 Plane Lands On Antarctica For First Time

An anonymous reader quotes a report from India Today: For the first time in history, a commercial Airbus plane made a successful landing on the white continent of Antarctica. One of the company’s A340 planes touched down on an ice runway earlier this month, paving the way for more tourism on the frozen landmass. The A340 took off on the morning of November 2 from Cape Town, South Africa before flying 2,500 nautical miles (4,630 km) to Antarctica. It then achieved an aviation first by successfully landing on a runway made of “blue glacial ice,” according to the aircraft’s pilot, Captain Carlos Mirpuri.

CNN reported that the historic flight was operated by Hi Fly, a boutique aviation company, and was chartered by Wolf’s Gang luxury adventure camp. The aircraft will be used this season to fly a small number of tourists, alongside scientists and cargo to the icy continent. There was “attention and anxiety” in the cockpit as the 190-tonne plane approached the runway in Antarctica. Captain Mirpuri detailed how the runway had to have special grooves carved into it to allow for more friction as the aircraft landed, which would have otherwise slipped down the icy course due to its heavy supply cargo. The pilots also had to wear special eye gear due to the glare coming off the polar ice. Thankfully, Mirpuri and the rest of the A340’s crew managed to land safely and they took less than three hours to deliver all of the cargo.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Source: Slashdot – Airbus A340 Plane Lands On Antarctica For First Time

World's First Living Robots Can Now Reproduce, Scientists Say

The US scientists who created the first living robots say the life forms, known as xenobots, can now reproduce — and in a way not seen in plants and animals. CNN reports: Formed from the stem cells of the African clawed frog (Xenopus laevis) from which it takes its name, xenobots are less than a millimeter (0.04 inches) wide. The tiny blobs were first unveiled in 2020 after experiments showed that they could move, work together in groups and self-heal. Now the scientists that developed them at the University of Vermont, Tufts University and Harvard University’s Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering said they have discovered an entirely new form of biological reproduction different from any animal or plant known to science.

[T]hey found that the xenobots, which were initially sphere-shaped and made from around 3,000 cells, could replicate. But it happened rarely and only in specific circumstances. The xenobots used “kinetic replication” — a process that is known to occur at the molecular level but has never been observed before at the scale of whole cells or organisms […]. With the help of artificial intelligence, the researchers then tested billions of body shapes to make the xenobots more effective at this type of replication. The supercomputer came up with a C-shape that resembled Pac-Man, the 1980s video game. They found it was able to find tiny stem cells in a petri dish, gather hundreds of them inside its mouth, and a few days later the bundle of cells became new xenobots.

The xenobots are very early technology — think of a 1940s computer — and don’t yet have any practical applications. However, this combination of molecular biology and artificial intelligence could potentially be used in a host of tasks in the body and the environment, according to the researchers. This may include things like collecting microplastics in the oceans, inspecting root systems and regenerative medicine. While the prospect of self-replicating biotechnology could spark concern, the researchers said that the living machines were entirely contained in a lab and easily extinguished, as they are biodegradable and regulated by ethics experts. “Most people think of robots as made of metals and ceramics but it’s not so much what a robot is made from but what it does, which is act on its own on behalf of people,” said Josh Bongard, a computer science professor and robotics expert at the University of Vermont and lead author of the study, writing in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. “In that way it’s a robot but it’s also clearly an organism made from genetically unmodified frog cell.”

“The AI didn’t program these machines in the way we usually think about writing code. It shaped and sculpted and came up with this Pac-Man shape,” Bongard said. “The shape is, in essence, the program. The shape influences how the xenobots behave to amplify this incredibly surprising process.”

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Source: Slashdot – World’s First Living Robots Can Now Reproduce, Scientists Say

Intel Is Stockpiling Legacy Technology For Security Research

James Rundle writes via the Wall Street Journal: A few years ago, executives at Intel began to realize they had a problem. The company was making dozens of new products each year, from chips to software platforms, but it didn’t have a formal method for cataloging and storing older technology so engineers could test it for security flaws. […] Intel’s answer to this conundrum was to create a warehouse and laboratory in Costa Rica, where the company already had a research-and-development lab, to store the breadth of its technology and make the devices available for remote testing. After planning began in mid-2018, the Long-Term Retention Lab was up and running in the second half of 2019. The lab gives Intel, which is based in Santa Clara, Calif., and has more than 100,000 employees, a centralized, secure location where security tests can be run from anywhere in the world. Access to the building is strictly controlled and approved by senior managers, while surveillance cameras watch the equipment at all times. Even its location is secret — Intel representatives declined to say where exactly it is.

The lab brings commercial value to Intel, [said Mohsen Fazlian, general manager of Intel’s product assurance and security unit.], citing company research that shows customers are more likely to buy technology from manufacturers that proactively test their products. […] The lab has changed Intel’s product development. All new technology is now built with the facility in mind, with technical documentation created to allow engineers to support it for up to 10 years, and units are sent to the lab before they are released, Mr. Fazlian said. “Hopefully, I will never find myself searching eBay for Intel hardware again,” he said.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Source: Slashdot – Intel Is Stockpiling Legacy Technology For Security Research

Hoverbike Tests in Yamanashi Prefecture

Akihabara News (Tokyo) — A.L.I. Technologies has reached an agreement with Yamanashi Prefecture for what it calls “social implementation of air mobility.”

CEO Daisuke Kitano explains, “By today’s agreement, we will make maximum use of Yamanashi Prefecture, which is extremely attractive both geographically and environmentally, as a test bed, and proceed toward social implementation of hoverbikes.”

He added, “We are confident that we have taken the first step to grow as an industry that contributes to society, together with the products and technological innovations of air mobility.”

In practical terms, it appears the thrust of the agreement is that Yamanashi, a mountainous and sparsely populated prefecture near Tokyo, will provide areas where A.L.I. can conduct test flights of its XTurismo hoverbike and perhaps other experimental vehicles.

The company made a splash in the global media last month when it announced that it is now accepting customer orders for the XTurismo Limited Edition hoverbike at a price tag of ¥77.7 million (US$680,000).

Customer deliveries are not expected for another year, giving the firm time to improve the technology.

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The post Hoverbike Tests in Yamanashi Prefecture appeared first on Akihabara News.

Source: Akihabara News – Hoverbike Tests in Yamanashi Prefecture

South Korea Will Use VR To Determine If the Elderly Can Keep Driving

The Korean National Police Agency (KNPA) is pushing for the implementation of conditional driver’s licenses for the elderly by 2025, Yonhap News reports. How they’ll determine who gets to keep their licenses will be via virtual reality. The Next Web reports: As of Monday, a three-year research project has been introduced, which will employ VR tech to assess whether drivers aged 65 years and older can remain behind the wheel. The program’s total budget is expected to reach approximately $3 million (3.6 billion won). Contrary to other countries around the word, South Korea has no strict regulations regarding the driving license of seniors, unless they test positive for dementia. Currently, two measures apply: the three-year license renewal period for those aged 75 years and older, and the voluntary return of the driver’s license for people over 65 years-old. However, the KNPA is still raising concerns over the number of accidents attributed to senior drivers, as well as the continuous aging of the country’s population.

The VR test will asses driving, cognitive, and memory skills using a VR headset, close to how virtual reality technology is used in dementia clinics to check the brain functions of older people. While the specifics are yet to be disclosed, a similar academic research by independent scientists has run an experiment, testing driving performance evaluation based on virtual reality tech. The researchers conducted driving simulator experiments to measure various driving behaviors under many different driving conditions, in order to examine the participants’ visual acuity. The virtual simulations included two scenarios: daytime and nighttime highway driving. In both cases, three unexpected incidents were created to test the drivers’ performance […].

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Source: Slashdot – South Korea Will Use VR To Determine If the Elderly Can Keep Driving

Interesting research, but no, we don’t have living, reproducing robots

Clusters of frog cells look like beignets.

Enlarge / The crescent-shaped balls of cells would travel in circles, piling up cells that could grow into mobile clusters. (credit: Sam Kriegman and Douglas Blackiston)

Scientists on Monday announced that they’d optimized a way of getting mobile clusters of cells to organize other cells into smaller clusters that, under the right conditions, could be mobile themselves. The researchers call this process “kinematic self-replication,” although that’s not entirely right—the copies need help from humans to start moving on their own, are smaller than the originals, and the copying process grinds to a halt after just a couple of cycles.

So, of course, CNN headlined its coverage “World’s first living robots can now reproduce.”

This is a case when something genuinely interesting is going on, but both the scientists and some of the coverage of the developments are promoting it as far more than it actually is. So, let’s take a look at what’s really been done.

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Source: Ars Technica – Interesting research, but no, we don’t have living, reproducing robots

Big Tech Firms Should Pay ISPs To Upgrade Networks, Telcos In Europe Claim

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: The CEOs of 13 large European telecom companies today called on tech giants — presumably including Netflix and other big US companies — to pay for a portion of the Internet service providers’ network upgrade costs. In a “joint CEO statement,” the European telcos described their proposal as a “renewed effort to rebalance the relationship between global technology giants and the European digital ecosystem.” The letter makes an argument similar to one that AT&T and other US-based ISPs have made at times over the past 15 years, that tech companies delivering content over the Internet get a “free” ride and should subsidize the cost of building last-mile networks that connect homes to broadband access. These arguments generally don’t mention the fact that tech giants already pay for their own Internet bandwidth costs and that Netflix and others have built their own content-delivery networks to help deliver the traffic that home-Internet customers choose to receive.

Today’s letter from European ISPs was signed by the CEOs of A1 Telekom Austria Group, Vivacom, Proximus Group, Telenor Group, KPN, Altice Portugal, Deutsche Telekom, BT Group, Telia Company, Telefonica, Vodafone Group, Orange Group, and Swisscom. They wrote: “Large and increasing part of network traffic is generated and monetized by big tech platforms, but it requires continuous, intensive network investment and planning by the telecommunications sector. This model — which enables EU citizens to enjoy the fruits of the digital transformation — can only be sustainable if such big tech platforms also contribute fairly to network costs.” The European telcos didn’t mention any specific tech giants, but Reuters wrote today that “US-listed giants such as Netflix and Facebook are companies they have in mind.” The letter also discusses other regulatory topics related to fiber and mobile broadband, saying that “regulation must fully reflect market realities… Namely, that telecom operators compete face-to-face with services by big tech.”

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Source: Slashdot – Big Tech Firms Should Pay ISPs To Upgrade Networks, Telcos In Europe Claim

US preps vaccine contingencies amid panic over poorly understood omicron

Two white-haired men in suits speak at a podium.

Enlarge / WASHINGTON, DC – NOVEMBER 29: Anthony Fauci (R), Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and Chief Medical Advisor to the President, speaks alongside US President Joe Biden as he delivers remarks on the Omicron COVID-19 variant following a meeting of the COVID-19 response team at the White House. (credit: Getty | Anna Moneymaker)

Amid global panic over the recently identified omicron coronavirus variant, US President Joe Biden on Monday urged Americans to stay calm and continue following health measures known to be highly effective at combating COVID-19—namely, masking, vaccination, and boosting.

“This variant is a cause for concern, not a cause for panic,” Biden said in remarks delivered from the White House Monday. He touted the power of current vaccines and America’s scientific prowess in being able to address the potential threat. “We’ll fight this variant with scientific and knowledgeable actions and speed—not chaos and confusion.”

Flanking Biden during the remarks was top infectious disease expert Anthony Fauci. Earlier today, Biden huddled with Dr. Fauci and the rest of the White House COVID-19 Response Team to discuss the threat of omicron. Biden reported that, so far, Fauci and the team believe that current vaccines will “provide at least some protection” against omicron—particularly against severe disease—and that booster doses “strengthen that protection significantly.”

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Source: Ars Technica – US preps vaccine contingencies amid panic over poorly understood omicron

Charlie Brown and the Peanuts Gang Are on a Mission in Their New Holiday Special

Heartwarming as Peanuts stories tend to be, Apple TV+’s upcoming For Auld Lang Syne animated special tells a story about just how stressful and emotionally exhausting the holiday season often ends up being. Though Lucy Van Pelt prides herself on doling out mental health advice to her friends, Auld Lang Syne finds her…

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Source: Gizmodo – Charlie Brown and the Peanuts Gang Are on a Mission in Their New Holiday Special

AMD Allegedly Jacking Up RX 6000 GPU Prices by 10 Percent

As wafer costs increase, so are the costs of GPUs. According to a post on the Board Forums, AMD says it’s increasing the price of its RX 6000 series GPUs by 10 percent across the board. ExtremeTech reports: This pricing change will apparently occur in the next shipment of GPUs to its partners, which will apparently drive up the price of these GPUs by $20 to $40 USD. This news arrives just in time for the holiday shopping season, when demand for GPUs is expected to increase even more, as if that is even possible.

According to a translation of the board posting, AMD is citing TSMC wafer costs as the reason for the change, and as we reported earlier, sub-16nm prices, including 12nm, 7nm, and 5nm, are said to have increased roughly 10 percent, while TSMC’s older nodes have gone up by as much as 20 percent. AMD seems to be passing this price increase along to its partners, who in turn are passing it along to us, the customer, or the scalper, as it were. Then the scalper passes it along to us, the gamers. Although, as Videocardz points out AMD also produces its CPUs at TSMC and there hasn’t been a similar across-the-board increase, which is curious.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Source: Slashdot – AMD Allegedly Jacking Up RX 6000 GPU Prices by 10 Percent

'Cyberpunk 2077' next-gen upgrade will be free for PS4 and Xbox One owners

CD Projekt Red is “on track” to release the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X/S versions of Cyberpunk 2077 in the first quarter of 2022, the studio’s parent company announced on Monday. CDPR had initially planned to release the update in late 2021 until it announced a delay to early 2022 in October. 

CD Projekt also confirmed anyone who purchased the game on either PlayStation 4 or Xbox One will receive the next-gen update for free. Since the game is currently playable on the current generation systems through backward compatibility, everyone who owns the game on a console will get the upgrade for free. If you don’t already have Cyberpunk 2077, you can buy it while it’s currently 50 percent off on the PlayStation and Microsoft Stores and get the game at a discount before the updated version comes out next year.

Source: Engadget – ‘Cyberpunk 2077’ next-gen upgrade will be free for PS4 and Xbox One owners

Amazon's Alabama Workers Are Getting a Second Chance to Unionize

Bessemer, Alabama warehouse workers will get a second shot at a union election, the National Labor Relations Board has decided. It found that Amazon shot itself in the foot by interfering with the election, even beyond its considerable leverage to influence workers.

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Source: Gizmodo – Amazon’s Alabama Workers Are Getting a Second Chance to Unionize

Nissan announces halfhearted EV strategy after fumbling its lead

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Source: Ars Technica – Nissan announces halfhearted EV strategy after fumbling its lead

Nissan Lays Out $17.6 Billion Plan To Electrify Its Future

Nissan has announced plans to spend around $17.6 billion over the next five years to accelerate the roll-out of electric vehicles. “And to emphasize that point, Nissan unveiled a pack of delightful EV concepts, including an adorable pickup truck, an outdoorsy SUV, and a sleek sports car,” reports The Verge. From the report: Nissan said it will produce 23 new electrified models by 2030, 15 of which will be fully electric. The company is targeting a 50 percent electrification mix for its Nissan and Infiniti brands by the end of the decade. In the US, Nissan plans to take things a little slower, only targeting 40 percent of its sales to be EVs by 2040. On batteries, Nissan is pursuing what it calls “all-solid-state batteries (ASSB)” by 2028. The company is preparing a “pilot plant” in Yokohama, Japan, for early 2024. Solid-state batteries could theoretically charge faster, hold more power, and last longer than traditional lithium-ion batteries, which use liquid electrolytes to move energy around. While solid-state batteries have eluded researchers for years, some companies claim that a breakthrough is nearly at hand.

Nissan says that solid-state batteries will help make EVs more affordable by reducing the price of battery packs down to $75 per kWh by 2028. The company aims to bring it further down to $65 per kWh to achieve cost parity between EV and gasoline vehicles in the future. To underline its commitment to an electric future, Nissan revealed a handful of EV concepts: a small pickup truck called Surf-Out; a boxy crossover called Hang-Out; a compact SUV called Chill-Out; and a convertible sports car called Max-Out. […] It’s an impressive commitment, but Nissan notably stopped short of making the same promise that other automakers have to phase out the production of gas-powered vehicles. For example, Volvo and General Motors have vowed to become EV-only companies by 2030 and 2040, respectively.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Source: Slashdot – Nissan Lays Out .6 Billion Plan To Electrify Its Future

Star Wars: Ahsoka Adds a Possible Thrawn Counterpart

Star Wars producers Jon Favreau and Dave Filoni are hard at work prepping their next streaming show, Ahsoka, and have added a relatively unknown actress to the cast in a mystery part. Deadline reports that Ukranian actress Ivanna Sakhno, who previously appeared in Pacific Rim Uprising and the High Fidelity TV show,…

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Source: Gizmodo – Star Wars: Ahsoka Adds a Possible Thrawn Counterpart