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Today’s News: November 25, 2020

Todays Headline News

U.S. News, Politics & Government

Proposal Seeks To Prohibit Gatherings In LA County As Pandemic Surges

LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — The Kibare family was picking up some last minute pies Tuesday night for the Thanksgiving holiday.

They’re planning to celebrate with a close bubble of friends they have seen throughout the coronavirus pandemic.

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“We wouldn’t meet any new people, kind of just keep it to maybe just six people that we typically — well, it would be like three households — sitting out on a patio, so maybe that will cover it,” the mother said.

Just last week, Los Angeles County health officials said Thanksgiving gatherings were allowed as long as they were limited to three households, held outside and did not last more than two hours.

But now, public health director Dr. Barbara Ferrer is telling people to cancel those plans and asked the L.A. County Board of Supervisors to approve new restrictions — as COVID-19 cases continue to surge faster than ever.

“At this point in time, our metrics are the most alarming metrics we have ever seen,” she said.

On Wednesday, the supervisors are scheduled to discuss a proposal banning all gatherings — even those held outdoors — of people not in the same household.“The risk at this point is that overwhelming the healthcare system is now a very real possibility,” Ferrer said.

None of the supervisors responded to multiple requests for comment on the proposal.

But, for some who know the toll COVID-19 can take, the boards’ decision will not impact them since they’ve already made the decision to cancel their plans.

“We’ve actually lost friends and, you know, family members,” Brenda Casas said. “We’ve had friends and family in the hospital, so we’re aware that it’s here.”

Casas said she hopes to see her friends and family next year when it’s safe for everyone.

“I want to see them this year, and it’s more important for me to see them next year and the year beyond than this year,” she said.

If the board approves the proposed restrictions, the only gatherings allowed would be outdoor church services and outdoor protests — though they would both have to adhere to social distancing and face covering guidelines.

Veteran News

Veteran-Made Docu Series ‘Honor Guard’ Gets Amazon Christmas Day Streaming Bow; Sam Elliott Narrated

MSN – Amazon has acquired Honor Guard, a four-part military docuseries created by two U.S. Army veterans, and narrated by Sam Elliott. Show

creators Ethan Morse and Neal Schrodetzki of Time To Kill Productions will debut their new series online digitally Christmas Day through

Amazon. The series will arrive on more than 50 streaming services throughout 2021.

The four-part docuseries took more than three years to complete. It showcases four unique specialty platoons of the 3rd U.S. Infantry

Regiment in Washington D.C., where the filmmakers served together nearly two decades ago. Morse and Schrodetzki got Sam Elliott and that singular voice of his, to be the narrator.

“Working with an icon like Mr. Elliott was surreal,” Morse said. “I grew up watching his movies, and I had just viewed A Star Is Born a

few days before meeting him for the first time in the recording studio. It was like a dream come true.”

Schrodetzki received exclusive access to film his former unit, the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment, after releasing the documentary The Unknowns in 2016. “The amount of history and honor on display in the 3rd Infantry Regiment is difficult to encapsulate in a four-hour docuseries,” he said, “but it’s a story we want to share with the world.”

Economy & Business

Long in China’s Shadow, the US Is Becoming a Bitcoin Mining Power Again

Coindesk – When it comes to the energy- and capital-intensive process of mining cryptocurrency, people tend to think of China, where about 65% of global hash power is located.

But like many other closely observed metrics in crypto, American hashrate is a number that seems to be on the cusp of significant increase. 

Crypto mining, which harnesses data centers full of specialized computers to earn bitcoin by processing a so-called proof-of-work algorithm, is an industry that’s about to come out from under the radar in North America, say its proponents, and become new core infrastructure.

While the U.S. and Canada don’t have the cheapest energy on the planet, there’s plenty of underused power and energy infrastructure to repurpose. But the really deciding factor is stability, and with that comes access to capital markets and institutional investment.  

There are at least 23 listed crypto mining companies, the majority of which are based in the U.S. and Canada. 

“U.S. equity markets continue to be the most favorable listing venue for mining companies,” Ethan Vera, CFO and co-founder of mining company Luxor Technologies, told CoinDesk. “They can raise through [at-the-market] offerings, which provide a very solid financing method for public companies looking to scale up their operations. Foreign companies have more limited financing levers and have a relatively harder time raising capital through equity.”

A prominent example is Nasdaq-listed Marathon Patent Group, which spent $50 million on a fleet of Bitmain’s state-of-the-art S19 Pro Bitcoin mining computers earlier this year. Marathon is building out a 105-megawatt (MW) mining facility in Hardin, Montana, as part of a venture with Maryland-based power provider Beowulf Energy. 

“As a public company, everything we do is transparent,” said Marathon CEO Merrick Okamoto on Tuesday at Bitmain’s Mining and Investment Summit 2020. “There are disadvantages to letting everybody know what you’re doing, but it’s also a benefit. It gives us unique access to capital markets. We’ve done two financings in the last year.” 

China may have lorded it over the crypto mining space until now thanks to cheap labor and a massive over-build in dam and hydro generation infrastructure. But the U.S. has begun catching the attention of Chinese players looking to diversify, according to Peter Wall, CEO of London Stock Exchange-listed Argo Blockchain. 

“I’ve had conversations with people in the mining industry in the last few months about Chinese miners coming over to North America,” Wall told CoinDesk. “There’s been talk about it for years, but it really now does appear to be a trend we’re seeing. Miners are always looking for more stability, which North America offers, and power and hosting costs in North America are competitive and sometimes even cheaper than Chinese options.”

The obvious geopolitical implication is that the U.S. could eventually take on China in this nascent arena. But the mining community would rather couch this in terms of greater decentralization, whether that means geographical spread or selling mining company shares to the public.

“Everybody loves the geopolitical angle,” said Mike Colyer, CEO of Foundry, a crypto mining investment company owned by Digital Currency Group (which is also the owner of CoinDesk). “But the goal is not for the U.S. to dominate bitcoin mining. That’s not gonna happen. The goal here is to decentralize it throughout the world.”

That said, Colyer anticipates a muscular market in the U.S. As well as the growth afforded public mining companies, there’s a bank of interesting opportunities available regarding private investment plays in the U.S. coming from the likes of hedge funds and private equity firms that own infrastructure. 

“A lot of the power in the U.S. is deregulated, and private equity or hedge funds own a lot of power-generation facilities,” said Colyer. “They’re starting to recognize the idea they can make a lot of money mining bitcoin, and it also helps make their overall power generation more efficient. They actually save money on their core power generation, plus they can make money on bitcoin.”

Bitcoin mining comes in for some stick thanks to its gargantuan energy consumption, but less attention is paid to the fact it’s also at the forefront of energy innovation. Colyer calls the Bitcoin system’s mining algorithm “ruthless” in always driving for the lowest cost possible, which is generally towards renewables like hydro-power – the reason for a migration of up to 40,000 Chinese mining rigs at the end of Szechuan’s wet season.

Science & Technology

Part human, part machine: APPLE turning us all into cyborgs?

The Guardian – At the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, Apple engineers embarked on a rare collaboration with Google. The goal was to build a system that could track individual interactions across an entire population, in an effort to get a head start on isolating potentially infectious carriers of a disease that, as the world was discovering, could be spread by asymptomatic patients.

Delivered at breakneck pace, the resulting exposure notification tool has yet to prove its worth. The NHS Covid-19 app uses it, as do others around the world. But lockdowns make interactions rare, limiting the tool’s usefulness, while in a country with uncontrolled spread, it isn’t powerful enough to keep the R number low. In the Goldilocks zone, when conditions are just right, it could save lives.

The NHS Covid-19 app has had its teething problems. It has come under fire for not working on older phones, and for its effect on battery life. But there’s one criticism that has failed to materialise: what happens if you leave home without your phone? Because who does that? The basic assumption that we can track the movement of people by tracking their phones is an accepted fact.

This year has been good for tech companies, and Apple is no exception. The wave of global lockdowns has left us more reliant than ever on our devices. Despite being one of the first large companies to be seriously affected by Covid, as factory shutdowns in China hit its supply chain delaying the launch of the iPhone 12 by a month, Apple’s revenue has continued to break records. It remains the largest publicly traded company in the world by a huge margin: this year its value has grown by 50% to $2tn (£1.5tn) and it is still $400bn larger than Microsoft, the No 2.

It’s hard to think of another product that has come close to the iPhone in sheer physical proximity to our daily lives. Our spectacles, contact lenses and implanted medical devices are among the only things more personal than our phones.

Without us even noticing, Apple has turned us into organisms living symbiotically with technology: part human, part machine. We now outsource our contact books, calendars and to-do lists to devices. We no longer need to remember basic facts about the world; we can call them up on demand. But if you think that carrying around a smartphone – or wearing an Apple Watch that tracks your vitals in real time – isn’t enough to turn you into a cyborg, you may feel differently about what the company has planned next.

A pair of smartglasses, in development for a decade, could be released as soon as 2022, and would have us quite literally seeing the world through Apple’s lens – putting a digital layer between us and the world. Already, activists are worrying about the privacy concerns sparked by a camera on everyone’s face. But deeper questions, about what our relationship should be to a technology that mediates our every interaction with the world, may not even be asked until it’s too late to do anything about the answer.

The word cyborg – short for “cybernetic organism” – was coined in 1960 by Manfred E Clynes and Nathan S Kline, whose research into spaceflight prompted them to explore how incorporating mechanical components could aid in “the task of adapting man’s body to any environment he might choose”. It was a very medicalised concept: the pair imagined embedded pumps dispensing drugs automatically.

Our parents warned us the internet would break our brains. It broke theirs instead

The Week – My college dorm was the first place I had reliable home internet access, and that was in part because my mom shared all the late 1990s and early 2000s parenting fears about the internet breaking our brains.

These worries were an extension of prior concerns about television: Don’t sit so close! You’ll hurt your eyes looking at a screen that long. How many hours today? That stuff rots your mind. You’re getting manipulated by ads. Go outside. Go see your friends. No, you can’t see an R-rated movie — those images will be in your brain forever. No, we’re not watching that on a school night. No, you can’t have one in your room!

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With the internet, there was an extra element of suspicion: Don’t use your real name or post a picture of yourself. Pedophiles could be literally anywhere! Don’t go to sites you don’t know. Porn could be literally anywhere! Don’t believe everything you read, especially if it’s not from a reputable source. Lies could be literally anywhere!

Two decades later, so many boomers that warned millennials to be careful on the internet seem to have forgotten all their own warnings. Their brains are broken, and that destruction is threatening to break our relationships, too.

The brain-breaking effects of the internet are by now well-documented. Author Nicholas Carr was a Pulitzer finalist in 2011 for his exploration of the subject in The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains, which remains a landmark work on this phenomenon. “Over the past few years I’ve had an uncomfortable sense that someone, or something, has been tinkering with my brain, remapping the neural circuitry, reprogramming the memory,” Carr wrote in an Atlantic article that inspired the book. “My mind isn’t going — so far as I can tell — but it’s changing. I’m not thinking the way I used to think.” The internet, Carr said, “is chipping away my capacity for concentration and contemplation.”

That article came out in 2008, when Twitter was just two years old, a silly place where you pointlessly announced your breakfast, and Instagram didn’t exist. Facebook felt innocuous — Carr didn’t even mention it in a story about the destructive mental effects of “the Net,” an unthinkable choice today. The risks our brains faced then, real though they were, look laughably meager now.