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EPA To Limit Science Used To Write Public Health Rules
Posted on Thursday January 01, 1970

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The New York Times: The Trump administration is preparing to significantly limit the scientific and medical research that the government can use to determine public health regulations, overriding protests from scientists and physicians who say the new rule would undermine the scientific underpinnings of government policymaking. A new draft of the Environmental Protection Agency proposal, titled Strengthening Transparency in Regulatory Science, would require that scientists disclose all of their raw data, including confidential medical records, before the agency could consider an academic study's conclusions. E.P.A. officials called the plan a step toward transparency and said the disclosure of raw data would allow conclusions to be verified independently. The measure would make it more difficult to enact new clean air and water rules because many studies detailing the links between pollution and disease rely on personal health information gathered under confidentiality agreements. And, unlike a version of the proposal that surfaced in early 2018, this one could apply retroactively to public health regulations already in place. [...] [The draft] shows that the administration intends to widen its scope, not narrow it. The previous version of the regulation would have applied only to a certain type of research, "dose-response" studies in which levels of toxicity are studied in animals or humans. The new proposal would require access to the raw data for virtually every study that the E.P.A. considers. "E.P.A. is proposing a broader applicability," the new regulation states, saying that open data should not be limited to certain types of studies. Most significantly, the new proposal would apply retroactively. A separate internal E.P.A. memo viewed by The New York Times shows that the agency had considered, but ultimately rejected, an option that might have allowed foundational studies like Harvard's Six Cities study to continue to be used. Harvard's Six Cities study is a 1993 project that "definitively linked polluted air to premature deaths" and is "currently the foundation of the nation's air-quality laws," the report says. "When gathering data for their research, known as the Six Cities study, scientists signed confidentiality agreements to track the private medical and occupational histories of more than 22,000 people in six cities. They combined that personal data with home air-quality data to study the link between chronic exposure to air pollution and mortality. But the fossil fuel industry and some Republican lawmakers have long criticized the analysis and a similar study by the American Cancer Society, saying the underlying data sets of both were never made public, preventing independent analysis of the conclusions."

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Tesla Shows Off Chinese-Made Model 3s Ahead of Shanghai Factory Start
Posted on Thursday January 01, 1970

Work on Tesla's Shanghai factory, dubbed Gigafactory 3, is just about finished, and the company is weeks away from beginning large-scale manufacturing. Ars Technica reports: According to Bloomberg, Tesla chairman Robyn Denholm said last week that Tesla is waiting for manufacturing certification from local government. The company hopes that will happen before the end of the year. Tesla recently posted images of some of the first Chinese-made Model 3s on Weibo, a Chinese social media platform similar to Twitter. Tesla allowed Chinese reporters to take additional photos of the vehicle. There are a couple of obvious differences from the American model. The back of the car has Chinese characters on the left and "Model 3" on the right. Like the cars Tesla is currently shipping to China, these new Model 3s also sport dual charging ports. One port is for the European Type 2 charging standard, while the other is for a Chinese charging standard. Tesla will initially use batteries from Panasonic in its Chinese-made cars, just as it does in the United States. Bloomberg recently reported that Tesla is negotiating a deal to start using batteries from Chinese battery maker CATL starting next year. Tesla is aiming to produce at least 1,000 vehicles per week at its Chinese factory before the end of the year. That could help Tesla achieve its overall goal to deliver at least 360,000 vehicles for the calendar year.

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Microsoft Vows To 'Honor' California's Sweeping Privacy Law Across Entire US
Posted on Thursday January 01, 1970

Microsoft said on Monday that it would honor the "core rights" provided to Californians through the state's landmark data privacy law and expand that coverage across the entire United States. The Verge reports: In a Monday blog post, Julie Brill, Microsoft's chief privacy officer, said that the company will extend the main principles of the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) across the U.S. just as it did with Europe's General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) last year. The law goes into effect in California on January 1st, 2020. CCPA, which was approved in June 2018, is one of the fiercest and most sweeping data privacy regulations in the U.S. It's somewhat similar to GDPR. Under CCPA, companies must disclose to users what personal data of theirs is being collected, whether it is sold and to whom, and allow users to opt out of any sales. Users must also have access to their data and be able to request that a company delete it. "Under CCPA, companies must be transparent about data collection and use, and provide people with the option to prevent their personal information from being sold," Brill wrote. "Exactly what will be required under CCPA to accomplish these goals is still developing." Brill continued, saying that Microsoft will closely monitor any changes to how the government asks companies to enforce the new transparency and control requirements under CCPA. "CCPA marks an important step toward providing people with more robust control over their data in the United States," Brill wrote. "It also shows that we can make progress to strengthen privacy protections in this country at the state level even when Congress can't or won't act."

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Lithium-Sulfur Battery Project Aims To Double the Range of Electric Airplanes
Posted on Thursday January 01, 1970

Oxis Energy, of Abingdon, UK, says it has a battery based on lithium-sulfur chemistry that can greatly increase the ratio of watt-hours per kilogram, and do so in a product that's safe enough for use even in an electric airplane. Specifically, a plane built by Bye Aerospace, in Englewood, Colo., whose founder, George Bye, described the project in this 2017 article for IEEE Spectrum. From a report: The two companies said in a statement that they were beginning a one-year joint project to demonstrate feasibility. They said the Oxis battery would provide "in excess" of 500 Wh/kg, a number which appears to apply to the individual cells, rather than the battery pack, with all its packaging, power electronics, and other paraphernalia. That per-cell figure may be compared directly to the "record-breaking energy density of 260 watt-hours per kilogram" that Bye cited for the batteries his planes were using in 2017. This per-cell reduction will cut the total system weight in half, enough to extend flying range by 50 to 100 percent, at least in the small planes Bye Aerospace has specialized in so far. If lithium-sulfur wins the day, bigger planes may well follow. [...] One reason why lithium-sulfur batteries have been on the sidelines for so long is their short life, due to degradation of the cathode during the charge-discharge cycle. Oxis expects its batteries will be able to last for 500 such cycles within the next two years. That's about par for the course for today's lithium-ion batteries. Another reason is safety: Lithium-sulfur batteries have been prone to overheating. Oxis says its design incorporates a ceramic lithium sulfide as a "passivation layer," which blocks the flow of electricity -- both to prevent sudden discharge and the more insidious leakage that can cause a lithium-ion battery to slowly lose capacity even while just sitting on a shelf. Oxis also uses a non-flammable electrolyte.

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Canada's OpenText To Buy Cloud Security Firm Carbonite For $1.42 Billion
Posted on Thursday January 01, 1970

An anonymous reader quotes a report from VentureBeat: Enterprise information management (EIM) company OpenText is acquiring cloud data backup and protection service Carbonite in a deal worth $1.42 billion. Carbonite, which offers a number of data backup and protection services for consumers and businesses, had become the subject of significant takeover rumors over the past few months after its revenue dropped. CEO Mohamad Ali stepped down in July and was replaced on an interim basis by board chair Steve Munford. Carbonite's announcement was timed to coincide with its Q3 2019 financials, which revealed a net loss of $14 million, compared to a small net income of $600,000 during the same period last year. Founded in 1991, OpenText is among Canada's biggest software companies, specializing in helping enterprises manage all their content and unstructured data in the cloud or on-premises. The company has made a number of other notable acquisitions in the recent past, including Dell EMC's enterprise content division, which it bought for $1.6 billion in 2017, and file-sharing service Hightail, formerly YouSendIt, which it bought for an undisclosed amount last year. OpenText hasn't offered any specifics around how it will leverage Carbonite's technology post-acquisition. But the latter's focus on backing up and protecting data stored in the cloud makes it easy to imagine the two platforms complementing each other as a growing number of businesses migrate to the cloud. "Following expressions of interest from multiple parties, the Carbonite board conducted a thorough and comprehensive process, which included contact with a number of strategic and financial parties, to identify the best way to maximize shareholder value," Munford said in a press release. "The board strongly believes that a transaction with OpenText delivers compelling, immediate, and substantial cash value to shareholders."

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