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    NASA official may face criminal investigation for contact with Boeing / ArsTechnica · Yesterday - 22:32

Doug Loverro, formerly NASA

Enlarge / Doug Loverro, formerly NASA's chief of human spaceflight. (credit: NASA)

The US Attorney's Office for the District of Columbia has opened a criminal investigation of a former top NASA official, the Wall Street Journal reported Friday .

The grand jury investigation concerns communications between Doug Loverro, then the chief of human spaceflight for NASA, and Jim Chilton, senior vice president of Boeing's space and launch division. These discussions occurred early this year, during a blackout period when NASA was taking bids to construct a Human Landing System for the Artemis Moon Program. It is not permissible to interfere with a competition for government contracts.

"Mr. Loverro, who wasn’t part of NASA’s official contracting staff, informed Mr.Chilton that the Chicago aerospace giant was about to be eliminated from the competition based on cost and technical evaluations," the report states, citing unidentified sources. "Within days, Boeing submitted a revised proposal."

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    Charter can charge online video sites for network connections, court rules / ArsTechnica · Yesterday - 20:22

A Charter Spectrum service van used by a cable technician.

Enlarge / A Charter Spectrum van in West Lake Hills, Texas, in April 2019. (credit: Tony Webster / Flickr )

Charter can charge Netflix and other online video streaming services for network interconnection despite a merger condition prohibiting the practice, a federal appeals court ruled today.

The ruling by the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit overturns two merger conditions that the Obama administration imposed on Charter when it bought Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks in 2016. The FCC under Chairman Ajit Pai did not defend the merits of the merger conditions in court, paving the way for today's ruling. The case was decided in a 2-1 vote by a panel of three DC Circuit judges.

The lawsuit against the FCC seeking to overturn Charter merger conditions was filed by the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) , a free-market think tank, and four Charter users who claim they were harmed by the conditions. The FCC unsuccessfully challenged the suing parties' standing to sue, and it did not mount a legal defense of the conditions themselves.

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    FDA finds new toxic hand-sanitizer ingredient, expands warning to 157 products / ArsTechnica · Yesterday - 19:35

Check to make sure your sanitizer is safe

Enlarge / Check to make sure your sanitizer is safe (credit: Getty | Omar Torres )

The US Food and Drug Administration is yet again expanding its warnings of toxic hand sanitizers—this time, not just after finding additional dangerous products; the FDA also found an additional toxic ingredient.

The FDA this week announced that it has identified hand sanitizers that contain 1-propanol, a toxic form of alcohol not yet seen in contaminated products. If ingested, it can cause confusion, unconsciousness, slowed pulse and breathing, and even death.

The ever-growing “do-not-use” list of dangerous hand sanitizers now includes 157 products. You can see the entire list of dangerous products here on the FDA’s website. Below is a sampling of some labels of the dangerous products.

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    Trump admin. finally kills off Obama-era rule limiting methane emissions / ArsTechnica · Yesterday - 18:44

A natural gas flare from an offshore oil drilling rig in Cook Inlet, Alaska.

Enlarge / A natural gas flare from an offshore oil drilling rig in Cook Inlet, Alaska. (credit: Paul Souders | Getty Images )

The Environmental Protection Agency this week finalized a rule that kills off Obama-era limitations on how much methane, a potent greenhouse gas, oil and natural gas producers are allowed to emit into the atmosphere—even though industry leaders didn't want the changes.

The changes to the rules, known as the New Source Performance Standards (NSPS), remove some segments of the industry from being covered under the existing standards at all, and these changes also lift the methane caps on other segments, the EPA announced on Thursday.

The oil and gas industry basically splits into three big buckets of activity: upstream, meaning the actual drilling for oil or gas; midstream, which is the world of storage and pipelines; and downstream, that last mile where products are refined and sold. The current changes apply to the downstream and midstream segments, as the EPA broke down in a graphic ( PDF ).

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    Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. takes final bow with high-octane journey through time / ArsTechnica · Yesterday - 18:08

One last mission: Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. ended its seven-year run with a two-part finale.

Agent Phil Coulson and his plucky team of superheroes battled an alien race of Chronicoms in a high-octane journey through multiple time periods in the seventh and final season of ABC's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D . It's always been a fun show, even when the narrative occasionally went bonkers—honestly, especially then—with compelling characters that kept you coming back each week. The seventh and final season brought a pronounced sense of playfulness to the show's pre-existing strengths, effectively saving its best season for last and tying everything together in a satisfying two-part finale.

(Some spoilers below, but no major plot twists.)

The spin-off series created by The Avengers writer and Director Joss Whedon brought Coulson (Clark Gregg) back from the dead to lead an elite squad of agents to take on the terrorist group Hydra, eventually incorporating a superhuman race called Inhumans into the storyline.

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    Ripped chemical bags added to risk of Beirut blast / ArsTechnica · Yesterday - 17:05

A view of the Port of Beirut on August 13 after a fire at a warehouse with explosives led to massive blasts on August 4.

Enlarge / A view of the Port of Beirut on August 13 after a fire at a warehouse with explosives led to massive blasts on August 4. (credit: Aysu Bicer/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

Lebanese officials knew that more than half the bags of a 2,750-ton stockpile of ammonium nitrate that caused a deadly explosion in Beirut were damaged six years ago but took no action to dispose of the chemical.

A 2014 inspection report by Beirut port authorities, seen by the Financial Times, labels the chemical as “explosives” and said that 1,950 of the 2,750 one-tonne bags filled with the chemical were “torn." Photos of the stockpile taken the following year, also seen by the FT, show the huge sacks appearing to be stacked haphazardly on top of each other and ammonium nitrate spilling from large rips in the industrial bags.

The evidence will increase concerns that negligence and poor management were the root cause of the blast at the port, which killed more than 170 people and devastated the capital. Prime Minister Hassan Diab blamed “political corruption” for the tragedy as he resigned on Monday.

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    SpaceX Starlink beta tests show speeds up to 60Mbps, latency as low as 31ms / ArsTechnica · Yesterday - 17:00

A SpaceX Starlink user terminal, also known as a satellite dish, seen against a city

Enlarge / A SpaceX Starlink user terminal/satellite dish. (credit: SpaceX)

Beta users of SpaceX's Starlink satellite-broadband service are getting download speeds ranging from 11Mbps to 60Mbps , according to tests conducted using Ookla's tool. Speed tests showed upload speeds ranging from 5Mbps to 18Mbps .

The same tests, conducted over the past two weeks, showed latencies or ping rates ranging from 31ms to 94ms. This isn't a comprehensive study of Starlink speeds and latency, so it's not clear whether this is what Internet users should expect once Starlink satellites are fully deployed and the service reaches commercial availability. We asked SpaceX several questions about the speed-test results yesterday and will update this article if we get answers.

Links to 11 anonymized speed tests by Starlink users were posted by a Reddit user yesterday . Another Reddit user compiled some of the tests to make this graphic:

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    As Epic attacks Apple and Google, it ignores the same problems on consoles / ArsTechnica · Yesterday - 16:43

As Epic attacks Apple and Google, it ignores the same problems on consoles

Enlarge (credit: Aurich Lawson / Getty Images)

Yesterday, Epic used Fortnite to essentially wage open war against Apple's and Google's mobile app marketplaces . First it added a discounted "Epic Direct Payment" option alongside the standard iOS App Store and Google Play payment options in Fortnite , in direct violation of those stores' policies.

Then, when Fortnite was predictably removed from both platforms, Epic filed lawsuits against both companies, alleging "anti-competitive restraints and monopolistic practices" in the mobile app marketplace. That move came alongside a heavy-handed PR blitz including a video asking players to "join the fight to stop 2020 from becoming '1984.'"

But through this entire public fight for "open mobile platforms," as Epic puts it, there is one major set of closed platforms that the company seems happy to continue doing business with. We're speaking, of course, about video game consoles.

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