One-term presidents generally don’t leave big footprints. And the last four years may be seen as a reaction to the game-changing presidency of Barack Obama.
The Supreme Court will hear arguments on Monday in a case that could lead to sweeping changes to America’s controversial computer hacking laws — and affecting how millions use their computers and access online services.
The Computer Fraud and Abuse Act was signed into federal law in 1986 and predates the modern internet as we know it, but governs to this day what constitutes hacking — or “unauthorized” access to a computer or network. The controversial law was designed to prosecute hackers, but has been dubbed as the “worst law” in the technology law books by critics who say it’s outdated and vague language fails to protect good-faith hackers from finding and disclosing security vulnerabilities.
At the center of the case is Nathan Van Buren, a former police sergeant in Georgia. Van Buren used his access to a police license plate database to search for an acquaintance in exchange for cash. Van Buren was caught, and prosecuted on two counts: accepting a kickback for accessing the police database, and violating the CFAA. The first conviction was overturned, but the CFAA conviction was upheld.
Van Buren may have been allowed to access the database by way of his police work, but whether he exceeded his access remains the key legal question.
Orin Kerr, a law professor at the University of California, Berkeley, said Van Buren vs. United States was an “ideal case” for the Supreme Court to take up. “The question couldn’t be presented more cleanly,” he argued in a blog post in April.
The Supreme Court will try to clarify the decades-old law by deciding what the law means by “unauthorized” access. But that’s not a simple answer in itself.
How the Supreme Court will determine what “unauthorized” means is anybody’s guess. The court could define unauthorized access anywhere from violating a site’s terms of service to logging into a system that a person has no user account for.
Pfefferkorn said a broad reading of the CFAA could criminalize anything from lying on a dating profile, sharing the password to a streaming service, or using a work computer for personal use in violation of an employer’s policies.
But the Supreme Court’s eventual ruling could also have broad ramifications on good-faith hackers and security researchers, who purposefully break systems in order to make them more secure. Hackers and security researchers have for decades operated in a legal grey area because the law as written exposes their work to prosecution, even if the goal is to improve cybersecurity.
Tech companies have for years encouraged hackers to privately reach out with security bugs. In return, the companies fix their systems and pay the hackers for their work. Mozilla, Dropbox, and Tesla are among the few companies that have gone a step further by promising not to sue good-faith hackers under the CFAA. Not all companies welcome the scrutiny and bucked the trend by threatening to sue researchers over their findings, and in some cases actively launching legal action to prevent unflattering headlines.
Security researchers are no stranger to legal threats, but a decision by the Supreme Court that rules against Van Buren could have a chilling effect on their work, and drive vulnerability disclosure underground.
“If there are potential criminal (and civil) consequences for violating a computerized system’s usage policy, that would empower the owners of such systems to prohibit bona fide security research and to silence researchers from disclosing any vulnerabilities they find in those systems,” said Pfefferkorn. “Even inadvertently coloring outside the lines of a set of bug bounty rules could expose a researcher to liability.”
“The Court now has the chance to resolve the ambiguity over the law’s scope and make it safer for security researchers to do their badly-needed work by narrowly construing the CFAA,” said Pfefferkorn. “We can ill afford to scare off people who want to improve cybersecurity.”
The Supreme Court will likely rule on the case later this year, or early next.
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The pandemic has many people wanting to avoid crowded slopes. Going into the backcountry requires avalanche knowledge or a guide. Here are suggestions for taking part across the United States.
On April 15, more Americans were reported dead of Covid-19 than on any other day of the pandemic. The daily toll is growing close once more.
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AstraZeneca’s CEO told Bloomberg that the pharmaceutical company will likely conduct another global trial of the effectiveness of its COVID-19 vaccine trial, following the disclosure that the more effective dosage in the existing Phase 3 clinical trial was actually administered by accident. AstraZeneca and its partner the University of Oxford reported interim results that showed 62% efficacy for a full two-dose regimen, and a 90% efficacy rate for a half-dose followed by a full dose – which the scientists developing the drug later acknowledged was actually just an accidental administration of what was supposed to be two full doses.
To be clear, this shouldn’t dampen anyone’s optimism about the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine. The results are still very promising, and an additional trial is being done only to ensure that what was seen as a result of the accidental half-dosage is actually borne out when the vaccine is administered that way intentionally. That said, this could extend the amount of time that it takes for the Oxford vaccine to be approved in the U.S., since this will proceed ahead of a planned U.S. trial that would be required for the FDA to approve it for use domestically.
The Oxford vaccine’s rollout to the rest of the world likely won’t be affected, according to AstraZeneca’s CEO, since the studies that have been conducted, including safety data, are already in place from participants around the world outside of the U.S.
While vaccine candidates from Moderna and Pfizer have also shown very strong efficacy in early Phase 3 data, hopes are riding high on the AstraZeneca version because it relies on a different technology, can be stored and transported at standard refrigerator temperatures rather than frozen, and costs just a fraction per dose compared to the other two leading vaccines in development.
That makes it an incredibly valuable resource for global inoculation programs, including distribution where cost and transportation infrastructures are major concerns.
U.S. Fertility, one of the largest networks of fertility clinics in the United States, has confirmed it was hit by a ransomware attack and that data was taken.
The company was formed in May as a partnership between Shady Grove Fertility, a fertility clinic with dozens of locations across the U.S. east coast, and Amulet Capital Partners, a private equity firm that invests largely in the healthcare space. As a joint venture, U.S. Fertility now claims 55 locations across the U.S., including California.
In a statement, U.S. Fertility said that the hackers “acquired a limited number of files” during the month that they were in its systems, until the ransomware was triggered on September 14. That’s a common technique of data-stealing ransomware, which steals data before encrypting the victim’s network for ransom. Some ransomware groups publish the stolen files on their websites if their ransom demand isn’t paid.
U.S. Fertility said some personal information, like names and addresses, were taken in the attack. Some patients also had their Social Security numbers taken. But the company warned that the attack may have involved protected health information. Under U.S. law, that can include information about a person’s health or medical conditions, like test results and medical records.
A spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment about the incident. (Thursday is a national holiday in the U.S..)
U.S. Fertility didn’t say why it took more than two month to publicly disclose the attack, but said in the notice that its disclosure was not delayed at the request of law enforcement.
This is the latest attack targeting the healthcare sector. In September, one of the largest hospital systems in the U.S., Universal Health Services, was hit by the Ryuk ransomware, forcing some affected emergency rooms to close and to turn patients away. Several other fertility clinics have been attacked by ransomware in recent months.
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With cases and deaths rising fast, scientists say they worry about the virus’s course in the United States as Thanksgiving celebrations and cold weather arrive.
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SpaceX has launched yet another Starlink mission, adding 60 more Starlink satellites to its low-Earth orbit constellation. That’s good news for its efforts to blanket the globe in high-speed broadband, and today’s flight is even better news for its equally important ambition of developing more reusable rocket systems, since the first-stage booster that helped launch today’s Falcon 9 rocket made a record-breaking seventh trip.
SpaceX broke its own reusability records of six flights for a reused first-stage rocket component, and it also recovered the booster with a controlled landing using its drone flight in the Atlantic Ocean, which means it could potentially break this record with yet another future flight for this same booster.
Today’s launch took off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, lifting off at 9:13 PM EST (6:13 PM PST). The flight also uses a fairing cover to protect the payload on its way to space that had flown previously, including one half that’s flown one prior mission, and another that’s been used twice before.
SpaceX aims for greater usability as a way to continue to reduce costs – every time it flies a component used in a previous mission, it realizes some degree of cost savings vs. using all new parts. Today’s mission represents likely its most cost-effective flight to date as a result.
This is SpaceX’s sixteenth Starlink mission thus far, and it has now launched nearly 1,000 total small satellites for its constellation. The service is currently operating in beta, and recently expanded from parts of the U.S. to areas in southern Canada .
Civil servants, elected officials and judges did their jobs and protected democracy.
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Australia’s intelligence agencies have been caught “incidentally” collecting data from the country’s COVIDSafe contact tracing app during the first six months of its launch, a government watchdog has found.
The report, published Monday by the Australian government’s inspector general for the intelligence community, which oversees the government’s spy and eavesdropping agencies, said the app data was scooped up “in the course of the lawful collection of other data.”
But the watchdog said that there was “no evidence” that any agency “decrypted, accessed or used any COVID app data.”
Incidental collection is a common term used by spies to describe the data that was not deliberately targeted but collected as part of a wider collection effort. This kind of collection isn’t accidental, but more of a consequence of when spy agencies tap into fiber optic cables, for example, which carries an enormous firehose of data. An Australian government spokesperson told one outlet, which first reported the news, that incidental collection can also happen as a result of the “execution of warrants.”
The report did not say when the incidental collection stopped, but noted that the agencies were “taking active steps to ensure compliance” with the law, and that the data would be “deleted as soon as practicable,” without setting a firm date.
For some, fears that a government spy agency could access COVID-19 contact tracing data was the worst possible outcome.
Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, countries — and states in places like the U.S. — have rushed to build contact tracing apps to help prevent the spread of the virus. But these apps vary wildly in terms of functionality and privacy.
Most have adopted the more privacy-friendly approach of using Bluetooth to trace people with the virus that you may have come into contact with. Many have chosen to implement the Apple-Google system, which hundreds of academics have backed. But others, like Israel and Pakistan, are using more privacy invasive techniques, like tracking location data, which governments can also use to monitor a person’s whereabouts. In Israel’s case, the tracking was so controversial that the courts shut it down.
Australia’s intelligence watchdog did not say specifically what data was collected by the spy agencies. The app uses Bluetooth and not location data, but the app requires the user to upload some personal information — like their name, age, postal code, and phone number — to allow the government’s health department to contact those who may have come into contact with an infected person.
Australia has seen more than 27,800 confirmed coronavirus cases and over 900 deaths since the start of the pandemic.
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JoomPay, a startup with a similar product to PayPayl-owned Venmo in the US, is set to launch in Europe shortly after being granted a Luxembourg Electronic Money Institution (EMI) license. The app allows people to send and receive money with anyone, instantly and for free. “Venmo me” has become a common phrase in the US, where people use it to split bills in restaurants or similar. Venmo is in common use in the US, but it’s not available in Europe, although dozens of other innovative mobile peer to peer transfer options exist, such as Revolut, N26, Monese and Monzo. The waitlist for the app’s beta is open now.
Europe leads the world’s instant payments industry, with $18 trillion in worldwide volume predicted by 2025 up from $3 trillion in 2020 – a growth of over 500%. Western Europe – and COVID-19 – is now driving that innovation and will account for 38% of instant payment transaction value by 2025. While Europe lacks simple peer-to-peer payments solutions such as Venmo or Square Cash App in the US, challenger banks have stepped up to provide similar kinds of services. JoomPay’s opportunity lies in being able to be a middle-man between these various banking systems.
Shopping app Joom, which has been downloaded 150M times in Europe, has spun-off JoomPay to solve this problem. The app allows users to send and receive money from any person, regardless of whether they use JoomPay or not – and you only need to know their email or the phone number. JoomPay connects to any existing debit/credit card or a bank account. It also provides its users with a European IBAN and an optional free JoomPay card with cashback and bonuses.
Yuri Alekseev, CEO and co-founder of JoomPay, said: “Since COVID-19 started, we’ve seen a significant decline in cash usage. People can’t meet as easily as before but still need to send money, and we offer a viable alternative.”
JoomPay may have an uphill struggle. Its main competitors in Europe are the huge TransferWise, Paysend, and of course PayPal itself.
Being president should mean you are more accountable, not less, to the rule of law.
AMP Robotics, the recycling robotics technology developer backed by investors including Sequoia Capital and Sidewalk Infrastructure Partners, is close to closing on as much as $70 million in new financing, according to multiple sources with knowledge of the company’s plans.
The new financing speaks to AMP Robotics’ continued success in pilot projects and with new partnerships that are exponentially expanding the company’s deployments.
Earlier this month the company announced a new deal that represented its largest purchase order for its trash sorting and recycling robots.
That order, for 24 machine learning-enabled robotic recycling systems with the waste handling company Waste Connections, was a showcase for the efficacy of the company’s recycling technology.
That comes on the back of a pilot program earlier in the year with one Toronto apartment complex, where the complex’s tenants were able to opt into a program that would share recycling habits monitored by AMP Robotics with the building’s renters in an effort to improve their recycling behavior.
The potential benefits of AMP Robotic’s machine learning enabled robots are undeniable. The company’s technology can sort waste streams in ways that traditional systems never could and at a cost that’s far lower than most waste handling facilities.
As TechCrunch reported earlier the tech can tell the difference between high-density polyethylene and polyethylene terephthalate, low-density polyethylene, polypropylene and polystyrene. The robots can also sort for color, clarity, opacity and shapes like lids, tubs, clamshells and cups — the robots can even identify the brands on packaging.
AMP’s robots already have been deployed in North America, Asia and Europe, with recent installations in Spain and across the U.S. in California, Colorado, Florida, Minnesota, Michigan, New York, Texas, Virginia and Wisconsin.
At the beginning of the year, AMP Robotics worked with its investor, Sidewalk Labs on a pilot program that provided residents of a single apartment building representing 250 units in Toronto with detailed information about their recycling habits. Sidewalk Labs is transporting the waste to a Canada Fibers material recovery facility where trash is sorted by both Canada Fibers employees and AMP Robotics.
Once the waste is categorized, sorted and recorded, Sidewalk communicates with residents of the building about how they’re doing in their recycling efforts.
It was only last November that the Denver-based AMP Robotics raised a $16 million round from Sequoia Capital and others to finance the early commercialization of its technology.
The government needs stringent standards for how states report Covid-19 testing.
Strong e-commerce sales are predicted to help lift overall holiday retail spending in the U.S., according to forecasts released today by the National Retail Federation (NRF) and eMarketer. Both firms expect to see overall retail sales growth during November and December, though the market may be impacted by slowing brick-and-mortar sales.
Of the two, NRF had the more optimistic forecast. It estimates U.S. holiday sales during November and December will increase between 3.6% and 5.2% year-over-year, for a total between $755.3 billion and $766.7 billion. That’s compared with a 4% increase in 2019 to $729.1 billion, and an average of a 3.5% increase over the past five years.
Growth will come from online and other non-store sales, which are included in the total, which will increase between 20% and 30% to reach between $202.5 billion and $218.4 billion. That’s up from $168.7 billion last year.
NRF’s takeaway is that consumers are willing to spend — perhaps because of the challenging year that 2020 has been, rather than despite it.
“After all they’ve been through, we think there’s going to be a psychological factor that they owe it to themselves and their families to have a better-than-normal holiday,” noted NRF Chief Economist Jack Kleinhenz. “There are risks to the economy if the virus continues to spread, but as long as consumers remain confident and upbeat, they will spend for the holiday season,” he added.
The firm also noted Americans may have reduced their spending in other categories, like personal services, travel and entertainment due to the pandemic, which could increase the money they have for retail spending.
eMarketer, on the other hand, paints a less rosy picture when it comes to overall sales.
The firm predicts that total holiday season retail sales will see the lowest growth rate at just 0.9% year-over-year. This growth will come from the e-commerce sector, which will see its highest growth rate — 35.8% — since the firm began tracking retail sales in 2008. Brick-and-mortar sales, on the other hand, will decline 4.7%.
The discrepancy between these two firms’ estimates have to do with how they calculate “retail sales.”
eMarketer’s estimates include auto and gasoline sales, but exclude restaurants, travel, and event sales. NRF’s figures, on the other hand, exclude auto, gasoline and restaurants.
However, both agree on an e-commerce surge. NRF notes online sales were already up 36.7% year-over-year in the third quarter — in part, due to early holiday shopping. This year, some 42% of consumers had started shopping earlier than usual, it recently found. Plus, retail sales were up 10.6% in October 2020 versus October 2019, in aggregate, its forecast noted.
But whether it’s 20% to 30% growth or 35.8%, depending on the firm, it’s clear e-commerce is saving the day here.
NRF also expects seasonal hiring to be in line with recent years, as retailers hire between 475,000 and 575,000 seasonal workers compared with 562,000 in 2019. Some of that hiring may have already taken place in October, due to early shopping, it said.
Though Black Friday may not see the same levels of in-person shopping as in years past, brick-and-mortar retailers have made it easier to shop digitally, then either have items shipped home, picked up in-store, or even curbside. Outside of Amazon, Walmart and Target have particularly benefited from investments in e-commerce, as both retailers easily beat Wall St. expectations in their latest earnings reports, released just ahead of the holiday quarter.
Online, however, Cyber Monday will continue to rule, however, eMarketer says.
Of the five big online shopping days in 2020, eMarketer says Cyber Monday will again beat out Black Friday in terms of overall e-commerce sales, at $12.89 billion compared with Black Friday’s $10.20 billion. But Thanksgiving Day will see the most year-over-year growth in e-commerce sales, at 49.5%, followed by Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, Cyber Sunday and Cyber Monday.
In a mobile forecast, analytics firm App Annie predicted Americans would spend over 110 million hours in shopping apps on Android devices during the two-week period consisting of Black Friday and Cyber Monday weeks. It noted the pandemic had already accelerated mobile device usage to 4 hours, 20 minutes per day, and Americans spent over 61 million hours shopping during the week of Prime Day.
Yes, the coronavirus can be spread over cocktails and dinners. But these get-togethers do not account for the huge rise in cases seen now, the data show.
SpaceX is set to launch its sixteenth Starlink mission on Monday at 9:34 PM EST (6:34 PM PST). This launch will carry 60 of the company’s broadband internet satellites to low-Earth orbit, where they’ll join the existing constellation and contribute to its growing network of eventually global coverage. The launch is also significant because it will potentially set a new record for Falcon 9 rocket reusability – this marks the seventh flight for the first stage booster flying tonight.
The booster SpaceX is using for this mission previously flew in August, June and January of this year, as well as May 2019, January 2019 and also September 2018. And that’s no the only way that this is SpaceX’s most reusable flights ever – the fairing covering the payload of satellites on top of the rocket includes one half that flew on one mission previously, and another half that supported not one, but two prior missions before being recovered and refurbished.
Of course, it’ll also be furthering SpaceX’s mission with Starlink, which is ultimately to provide fast, low-latency and relatively low-cost broadband internet access to hard-to-reach areas around the world. SpaceX has launched nearly 900 satellites for Starlink to date, and began operating its ‘Better Than Nothing’ early beta in parts of Canada last week, in addition to the areas in the U.S. where it’s offering this early access service.
The launch livestream will begin above at around 15 minutes prior to liftoff, or at around 9:19 PM EST (6:19 PM PST).
3D-printed rocket startup Relativity Space has closed $500 million in Series D funding (making official the earlier reported raise), the company announced today. This funding was led by Tiger Global Management, and included participation by a host of new investors including Fidelity Management & Research Company, Baillie Gifford, Iconiq Capital, General Catalist and more. This brings the company’s total raised so far to nearly $700 million, as the startup is poised to launch its first ever fully 3D-printed orbital rocket next year.
LA-based Relativity had a big 2020, completing work on a new 120,000 square-foot manufacturing facility in Long Beach. Its rocket construction technology, which is grounded in its development and use of the largest metal 3D printers in existence, suffered relatively few setbacks due to COVID-19-related shutdowns and work stoppages since it involves relatively few actual people on the factory floor managing the 3D printing process, which is handled in large part by autonomous robotic systems and software developed by the company.
Relativity also locked in a first official contract from the U.S. government this year, to launch a new experimental cryogenic fluid management system on behalf of client Lockheed Martin, as part of NASA’s suite of Tipping Point contracts to fund the development of new technologies for space exploration. It also put into service its third-generation Stargate 3D metal printers – the largest on Earth, as mentioned.
The company’s ambitions are big, so this new large funding round should provide it with fuel to grow even more aggressively in 2021. It’s got new planned initiatives underway, both terrestrial and space-related, but CEO and founder Tim Ellis specifically referred to Mars and sustainable operations on the red planet as one possible application of Relativity’s tech down the road.
In prior conversations, Ellis has alluded to the potential for Relativity’s printers when applied to other large-scale metal manufacturing – noting that the cost curve as it stands makes most sense for rocketry, but could apply to other industries easily as the technology matures. Whether on Mars or on Earth, large-scale 3D printing definitely has a promising future, and it looks like Relativity is well-positioned to take advantage.
We’ll be talking to Ellis at our forthcoming TC Sessions: Space event, so we’ll ask him more about this round and his company’s aspirations live there, too.
Facebook today is introducing a new feature that will allow users in the U.S. to collect food, clothing, and other necessities for people in need. The feature, called “Drives,” is being made available through Facebook’s existing Community Help hub, which is the place where Facebook centralizes requests and offers for help within a local community.
The Community Help hub was first launched in 2017 as a way for Facebook users to centralize their resources in the wake of a crisis, like a man-made, accidental or natural disaster, ranging from weather events to terrorist attacks, and more. In 2020, however, the feature has been put to broader use as a part of Facebook’s COVID-19 efforts, which even saw a version of Community Help feature scaled globally to help those impacted by the coronavirus outbreak.
Now, with the economic crisis created by the coronavirus pandemic in the U.S., millions are out of work and 12 million may lose their unemployment benefits in December when CARES Act provisions lapse. Food insecurity and an inability to pay bills, including rent and mortgage payments, as well as manage other household expenses, are impacting millions as well.
With Drives, Facebook will allow users to create and share their own efforts in collecting items for those in need, like a Canned Food Drive that’s looking to gather items for local shelters, a Clothing Drive, or any other event where someone is working to collect items to help others.
To create a Drive, type “Community Help” into Facebook Search to find the shortcut that takes you to the Community Help hub. From there, click the “Request or Offer Help” button, and on the bottom sheet that appears, click “Create Drive.” You can then fill out the form, setting a goal for the number of items you want to collect. When you post the Drive, others will be able to see what’s still needed with this goal tracker. Once created, the Drive will appear in your News Feed and Timeline like a regular post, in addition to appearing in Community Help.
The feature is rolling out starting today, but it may not be widely available to all for “weeks,” Facebook says. That’s unfortunate, given that many people likely want to run holiday-related Drives within the hub to help get food for holiday meals or toys for families in need, for example.
Facebook notes that all posts in Community Help, including Drives, are reviewed to ensure they don’t violate Facebook’s Community Standards or its Community Help Product Policies. These policies prohibit insensitive and promotional content, spam, inauthentic posts, and posts from users under 18, among other things. If posts are found to be in violation, they’re taken down, the company says.
Drives is one of several efforts around holiday giving that Facebook announced today. The company also says it will match up to $7 million in eligible donations to U.S. nonprofits on GivingTuesday (Dec. 1), and is running its own fundraiser, “Peace Through Music: A Global Event For Social Justice” exclusively on Facebook Live. The event, on Dec. 1 at 12 PM ET, will feature Aloe Blacc, Billie Eilish, Becky G, Carlos Santana & Cindy Blackman Santana, Killer Mike, Ringo Starr, Skip Markey, and others. The event will support the Playing for Change Foundation, the United Nations Population Fund, Sankofa, Silkroad and The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Foundation.
Meanwhile, Instagram will soon gain new fundraising tools. Today, Instagram users can fundraise with stickers on Stories and on Instagram Live. A new feature will allow Instagram users to post fundraisers to their Instagram Feed, too, but Facebook didn’t offer a timeframe as to when that feature would launch.
The president has been trying to dismantle our shared beliefs about democracy. And now, his fellow Republicans are helping him.
Educate a girl. Send a young person to college. Restore a person’s sight.
It’s both a moral failure and a public health one.
SpaceX is set to launch a Falcon 9 from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California on Saturday morning, with a target liftoff time of 9:17 AM PST (12:17 PM EST). This is the Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich Mission, which carries a satellite of the same name developed by the European Space Agency, NASA, and both U.S. and European meteorological monitoring bodies.
The Sentinel-6 is named for former NASA Earth Science Division Director Michael Freilich, who occupied the position between 2006 and 2019 and passed away in August. It’s one of two Sentinel-6-series satellites that will be launched for the program, with the Sentinel-6B set to join the Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich sometime in 2025.
SpaceX will be looking to recover the Falcon 9 first stage booster with a powered landing back on Earth at Landing Zone 4 at Vandenberg. This is the first SpaceX launch from Vandenberg since June of last year, though it has flown plenty of missions from both Cape Canaveral Air Force Station and Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
The webcast above will go live approximately 15 minutes prior to the liftoff time, so at around 9:02 AM PST (12:02 PM EST). Should this mission have to be canceled today, there’s a backup opportunity set for Sunday at 9:04 AM PST (12:04 PM PST).
From how we ride the lifts to where we sleep and what we eat, ski areas are taking steps to minimize crowding and to curb opportunities for the virus to spread.
A negative test is helpful, scientists and doctors say. But it doesn’t mean you should skip other measures, like quarantining, masking and distancing.
Isamu Noguchi’s 1962 installation, “Floor Frame,” will be the first piece by an Asian-American artist in the White House collection.
A large team of regulators at the agency will take about three weeks to review an application spanning thousands of pages.
Japan-based financial services group ORIX Corporation today announced that it has made a $60 million strategic investment into the Israeli crowdsourcing platform OurCrowd. In return, the crowdfunding platform will provide the firm with access to its startup network. OurCrowd also says that the two groups will collaborate to create financial products and investment opportunities for the Japanese and global market, including access to its venture funds and specific companies in the OurCrowd portfolio.
“ORIX is a global leader in diversified business and financial services who will strengthen OurCrowd in many ways,” OurCrowd CEO Jon Medved said in today’s announcement. “We are enthusiastic about the potential to further transform the venture capital asset class together and provide a strong bridge for our innovative companies to the important Asian markets.”
While ORIX already operates in 37 countries, including the U.S., this is the company’s first investment in Israel. It comes at a time where Japanese investments in Israel are already surging. And earlier this year, Israel’s flag carrier El Al was about to launch direct flights to Tokyo, for example, and while the pandemic canceled those plans, it’s a clear sign of the expanding business relations between the two countries.
“We are excited about investing in OurCrowd, Israel’s most active venture investor and one of the world’s most innovative venture capital platforms,” ORIX UK CEO Kiyoshi Habiro said. “We intend to be active partners with OurCrowd and help them accelerate their already impressive growth, while bringing the best of Israeli tech to Japan’s large industrial and financial sectors.”
So far, OurCrowd has made investments in 220 companies across its 22 funds. Some of its most successful exits include Beyond Meat and Lemonade, JUMP Bike, Briefcam and Argus. ORIX, too, has quite a diverse portfolio, with investments that range from real estate to banking and energy services.
Saudi Arabia’s leaders counted on President Trump’s unwavering support, but President-elect Biden has vowed to take away the kingdom’s “dangerous blank check.”
Arturo Sanchez and his co-founders have spent the past two years developing the telemedicine and insurance platform, Sofia, as a way to give customers across Mexico better access to quality healthcare through their insurance plan.
Along with his co-founders, Sebastian Jimenez, a former Google employee who serves as the company’s chief product officer, and Manuel Andere an ex-Patreon employee who’s now Sofia’s chief technology officer, Sanchez (a former Index Ventures employee) is on a path to provide low-cost insurance for middle class consumers across Latin America, starting in Mexico City.
Backing that vision are a clutch of regional and international investors including Kaszek Ventures, Ribbit Capital, and Index Ventures. When Index Ventures came in to lead the company’s $19 million round earlier this year, it was the first commitment that the venture firm had made in Latin America, but given the strength of the market, it likely won’t be their last.
In Sofia, Index has found a good foothold from which to expand its activity. The company which initially started as a telemedicine platform recently received approvals to operate as an insurer as well — part of a long-term vision for growth where it provides a full service health platform for customers.
Founded by three college friends who graduated from the Instituto Tecnológico Autónomo de México (Mexico’s version of MIT), the company initially launched with COVID-19 related telemedicine service as the pandemic took hold in Mexico.
That service was a placeholder for what Sanchez said was the broader company vision. And while that product alone had 10,000 users signed up for it, the new vision is broader.
“We registered as an insurance company because we want to go deeper into people’s health. We have built a telemedicine solution, which is a core component of the product. The goal is to be an integrated provider that provide primary care and handles more significant types of illnesses,” said Sanchez.
The company already has a core group of 100 physicians in Mexico City and initially will be serving the city with 70 different specialist areas.
All the virtual consultations are covered without an additional payment and in-person or specialty consultations come at a 30% reduced rate to an out-of-pocket payment, according to Sanchez.
Fees depend on age and gender, but Sanchez said a customer would typically pay around $500 per-year or roughly between $40 and $50 per-month.
The company covers 70% of the cost of most treatments that’s capped at $2,000 per-year and coverage maxes out at $75,000. “In Mexico that covers north of 98% of all illnesses or treatment episodes,” said Sanchez.
In Mexico, insurance is even less common than in the US.
“90% of private health spend happens out of pocket. The problem that we’re trying to solve is for these people that are already spending money on healthcare but doing it in an unpredictable and risky way,” said Sanchez. “They buy [our service] and they have access to great quality healthcare that they buy it and it’s a significant step up from what they’ve been living with.”
Two of the companies behind one of the leading COVID-19 vaccine candidates will seek approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for emergency use authorization (EUA) of their preventative treatment with an application to be delivered today. Pfizer and BioNTech, who revealed earlier this week that their vaccine was 95% effective based on Phase 3 clinical trial data, are submitting for the emergency authorization in the U.S., as well as in Australia, Canada, Europe, Japan and the U.K., and says that could pave the way for use of the vaccine to begin in “high-risk populations” by the end of next month.
The FDA’s EUA program allows therapeutics companies to seek early approval when mitigating circumstances are met, as is the case with the current global pandemic. EUA’s still require that supporting information and safety data are provided, but they are fast-tracked relative to the full, formal and more permanent approval process typically used for new drugs and treatments that come before they’re able to actually be administered broadly.
Pfizer and BioNTech’s vaccine candidate, which is an mRNA-based vaccine that essentially provides a recipient’s body with instructions on how to produce specific proteins to block the ability of SARS-CoV-19 (the virus that causes COVID-19) to attach to cells. The vaccine has recently been undergoing a Phase 3 clinical trial, that included 43,661 participants so far. The companies are submitting supporting information they hope will convince the FDA to grant the EUA, including data from 170 confirmed cases from among the participants, and safety information actively solicited from 8,000 participants, and supplementary data form another 38,000 who that was passively collected.
While production is ramping globally for this and other vaccines in late stage development, and EUA will potentially open up access to high-risk individuals including frontline healthcare workers, it’s worth pointing out that any wide vaccination programs likely aren’t set to begin until next year, and likely later in 2021.
A new study has found that cold-weather drownings are increasing sharply in warmer parts of the Northern Hemisphere.
After a half a century of failure, the U.S. and Mexico have an opportunity to find a new way forward on narcotics policy.
We can all, by now, ascribe to the idea that something has changed in the last few months. Like it or not, business is not as it was. If we were true to ourselves, we would admit that our lives will never be the name again. But parallel to this visceral feeling, is the quite clear and objective truth that the planet that sustains our existence is in trouble. So, surely, is it not beholden upon us to step up? Is this both a moral and a commercial opportunity?
Today Astanor Ventures is launching a $325m ‘Global Impact fund’ concentrating on food and agriculture technology. These are two of the most pressing areas in the climate debate, The aim is to deploy funds across Europe and North America.
Astanor‘s fund is a multi-stage tech investor that unites both knowledge and experience of scaling new technology companies with food, cross-sector expertise and agriculture.
Speaking to TechCrunch, Eric Archambeau, co-founder and partner of Astanor Ventures said: “There is now an urgent need for an impact investor like Astanor which is using tech and capital to bring about a revolution in food and farming.”
Archambeau told TechCrunch that the fund will rigorously apply the ideas behind the UN’s seventeen SDGs to ints investments.
“There is a new generation coming on board at LPs and family offices today and new funds understand the imperative this generation now raises. It’s time to stop up and be counted for the future,” said Archambeau.
Within its network, Astanor counts entrepreneurs, impact investors, farmers, chefs, policymakers, food scientists and high-profile sector experts, such as Kathleen Merrigan, Professor in the School of Sustainability and Executive Director of the Swette Center for Sustainable Food Systems at Arizona State University (an Astanor Venture Partner).
The background opportunities to shift the economy are, by now, obvious. Multiple studies show there are booming greenhouse gas emissions and some 70% of the world’s freshwater resources are consumed by agriculture. The earth’s soil is degrading (fertile soil is being lost at rate of 24bn tonnes a year. Food waste is a huge issue and some 40% of food goes to waste); most fruit or vegetable has 15% less nutrients than it did in 1950.
Since its founding in 2017, Astanor has invested in more than 20 European and US startups that are working to accelerate regenerative agriculture, innovate food production techniques and farming, as well as promote food culture and the enjoyment of food.
Portfolio companies include French insect farming pioneer Ϋnsect, in which Astanor is the lead investor; Infarm, the Berlin -based on-demand vertical farming company; La Ruche Qui dit Oui, a French farm to table supplier; and Notpla, a UK-based company seeking to eliminate plastics by creating a highly functional packaging material from seaweed. California food waste reduction company Apee created plant-based protection for fresh fruit and vegetables, allowing produce to stay fresh twice as long as without it.
U.S. airlines expect Thanksgiving to be their busiest period since the pandemic began. But with new virus fears, a return to normal is nowhere in sight.
Even as the White House downplays the coronavirus threat, health officials warned against traditional gatherings with those from outside the immediate household.
With the pandemic raging in the U.S., a new ad campaign features frontline medical personnel pleading for everyone to mask up.
PayPal is expanding its fundraising efforts with today’s launch of the Generosity Network. Unlike the PayPal Giving Fund, which helps people support charities through online donations, the new Generosity Network lets people raise money for themselves, other individuals in need, or organizations like a small business or a charity. This puts the network more directly in competition with other crowdsourced fundraising platforms, like GoFundMe or Facebook Fundraisers, for example.
At launch, the Generosity Network will be open to PayPal customers in the U.S. only and will allow them to create fundraising campaigns of up to $20,000 over a 30-day period.
The company says it was motivated to create the new service after seeing the growth in the peer-to-peer fundraising market following the coronavirus outbreak. It also noted the pandemic has made it difficult for traditional charitable organizations to raise as they had before. More than half of charities in the U.S. now expect to raise less money than in 2019 as a result of the economic hardships driven by the pandemic, PayPal said, citing a survey (PDF) by the Association of Fundraising Professionals.
In addition, over 65 million Americans filed for unemployment at some point over the course of the pandemic, PayPal says, which often led to them turning to family, friends and their community for extra support.
This isn’t the first product PayPal has developed that focused on social fundraisers. A few years ago, it launched Money Pools, which would let friends and family donate towards a shared expense — like a surprise party, group gift, travel fund, and more. The Generosity Network is an expansion on that earlier effort.
The new Generosity Network fundraisers can be created directly from PayPal’s website and donations are deposited directly into the organizer’s account for them to distribute as needed. The campaigns are also more broadly shared on the Generosity Network platform, which allows them to reach millions of more people than the organizer may have been able to reach through their own posts and shares across social media and the web.
Already, PayPal users are raising funds for disaster relief, funeral expenses, medical expenses, community efforts, and other organizations.
Like other fundraising platforms, PayPal’s Generosity Network will include fees. But, at launch, the website says it’s waiving those fees for donations made through credit and debit cards for a limited time. Cross-border fees and currency conversions fees will still apply, however.
For comparison, Facebook doesn’t charge fees for donations to charitable organizations, but does for personal fundraisers. (In the U.S., it’s 2.60% + $0.30). GoFundMe’s U.S. transaction fees are $2.9% + $0.30.
We’ve asked PayPal to disclose its fees schedule for the new platform and will update if one is provided. (The website offers no information about fees, in fact — its FAQ even links to the Money Pools FAQ, which seems to imply this Generosity Network is not yet a fully-fleshed out product.)
PayPal is likely hoping to acquire users during the increased fundraising that generally occurs over the holiday season, and believes that a platform that waives fees will give it an edge against the established competition.
“From collecting money for grocery deliveries to high-risk populations to fundraising campaigns in support of teachers and frontline workers, we’ve seen an outpouring of generosity from the PayPal community using our platform to help one another during this unprecedented year,” said PayPal VP of Giving, Oktay Dogramaci, in a statement. “The Generosity Network was designed to provide an accessible, easy and secure way for our customers to raise money on behalf of causes, and connect them with millions of PayPal customers who can offer their support this holiday season and beyond,” he said.
A succession of Trump policies reflected the administration’s spite and heartlessness.
Well, many reasons. But Harvard economist Raj Chetty says that’s the age at which America’s “Einsteins” are identified — and lost.
The Palestinian Authority pays stipends to prisoners held by Israel in a system critics call “pay to slay.” The worse the crime, the higher the payment.
African cross-border fintech startup Chipper Cash has raised a $30 million Series B funding round led by Ribbit Capital with participation of Bezos Expeditions — the personal VC fund of Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos.
Chipper Cash was founded in San Francisco in 2018 by Ugandan Ham Serunjogi and Ghanaian Maijid Moujaled. The company offers mobile-based, no fee, P2P payment services in seven countries: Ghana, Uganda, Nigeria, Tanzania, Rwanda, South Africa and Kenya.
Parallel to its P2P app, the startup also runs Chipper Checkout — a merchant-focused, fee-based payment product that generates the revenue to support Chipper Cash’s free mobile-money business. The company has scaled to 3 million users on its platform and processes an average of 80,000 transactions daily. In June 2020, Chipper Cash reached a monthly payments value of $100 million, according to CEO Ham Serunjogi .
As part of the Series B raise, the startup plans to expand its products and geographic scope. On the product side, that entails offering more business payment solutions, crypto-currency trading options, and investment services.
“We’ll always be a P2P financial transfer platform at our core. But we’ve had demand from our users to offer other value services…like purchasing cryptocurrency assets and making investments in stocks,” Serunjogi told TechCrunch on a call.
Chipper Cash has added beta dropdowns on its website and app to buy and sell Bitcoin and invest in U.S. stocks from Africa — the latter through a partnership with U.S. financial services company DriveWealth.
“We’ll launch [the stock product] in Nigeria first so Nigerians have the option to buy fractional stocks — Tesla shares, Apple shares or Amazon shares and others — through our app. We’ll expand into other countries thereafter,” said Serunjogi.
On the business financial services side, the startup plans to offer more API payments solutions. “We’ve been getting a lot of requests from people on our P2P platform, who also have business enterprises, to be able to collect payments for sale of goods,” explained Serunjogi.
Chipper Cash also plans to use its Series B financing for additional country expansion, which the company will announce by the end of 2021.
Jeff Bezos’s backing of Chipper Cash follows a recent string of events that has elevated the visibility of Africa’s startup scene. Over the past decade, the continent’s tech ecosystem has been one of the fastest growing in the world by year year-over-year expansion in venture capital and startup formation, concentrated in countries such as Nigeria, Kenya, and South Africa.
Bringing Africa’s large unbanked population and underbanked consumers and SMEs online has factored prominently. Roughly 66% of Sub-Saharan Africa’s 1 billion people don’t have a bank account, according to World Bank data.
As such, fintech has become Africa’s highest-funded tech sector, receiving the bulk of an estimated $2 billion in VC that went to startups in 2019. Even with the rapid venture funding growth over the last decade, Africa’s tech scene had been performance light, with only one known unicorn (e-commerce venture Jumia) a handful of exits, and no major public share offerings. That changed last year.
In April 2019, Jumia — backed by investors including Goldman Sachs and Mastercard — went public in an NYSE IPO. Later in the year, Nigerian fintech company Interswitch achieved unicorn status after a $200 million investment by Visa.
One of the more significant liquidity events in African tech occurred last month, when Stripe acquired Nigerian payment gateway startup Paystack for a reported $200 million.
In an email to TechCrunch, a spokesperson for Bezos Expeditions confirmed the fund’s investment in Chipper Cash, but declined to comment on further plans to back African startups. Per Crunchbase data, the investment would be the first in Africa for the fund. It’s worth noting Bezos Expeditions is not connected to Jeff Bezo’s hallmark business venture, Amazon.
For Chipper Cash, the $30 million Series B raise caps an event-filled two years for the San Francisco-based payments company and founders Ham Serunjogi and Maijid Moujaled. The two came to America for academics, met in Iowa while studying at Grinnell College and ventured out to Silicon Valley for stints in big tech: Facebook for Serunjogi and Flickr and Yahoo! for Moujaled.
The startup call beckoned and after launching Chipper Cash in 2018, the duo convinced 500 Startups and Liquid 2 Ventures — co-founded by American football legend Joe Montana — to back their company with seed funds. The startup expanded into Nigeria and Southern Africa in 2019, entered a payments partnership with Visa in April and raised a $13.8 million Series A in June.
Chipper Cash founder Ham Serunjogi believes the backing of his company by a notable tech figure, such as Jeff Bezos (the world’s richest person), has benefits beyond his venture.
“It’s a big deal when a world class investor like Bezos or Ribbit goes out of their sweet spot to a new area where they previously haven’t done investments,” he said. “Ultimately, the winner of those things happening is the African tech ecosystem overall, as it will bring more investment from firms of that caliber to African startups.”