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02.05.17 | 11:36 am

U.S. appeals court denies Justice Department’s emergency motion to lift block on travel ban

It's confusing to keep up with all the legal volleys over President Trump's immigration ban in the last few days. Long story short: For now, the ban is still blocked. Here's a timeline:

Friday: U.S. District Judge James L. Robart, a nominee of President George W. Bush who was confirmed 99-0 in June 2004 — issued a nationwide restraining order halting parts of Trump's executive action that took effect immediately. 

Saturday: The U.S. Department of Justice filed a motion late in the day to issue an immediate stay on Robart's temporary restraining order. 

Sunday: The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit announced this morning that it has denied the DOJ's emergency motion.

06.26.17 | an hour ago

CBO says Senate health care bill would leave 22 million people uninsured over the next decade

The numbers are in, and they're pretty scary. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) today estimated that the Senate's version of the GOP plan to repeal Obamacare would leave 22 million more people uninsured by 2026. That's slightly better than estimates for the House's version of the bill, which the CBO projected would leave 23 million uninsured. The plan, which Senate Republicans revealed last week after cooking it up in secrecy, would increase the number of uninsured by 15 million next year alone, mostly because of the elimination of the Obamacare penalty, the office said. The legislation would also reduce the federal deficit by $321 billion over 10 years. Read the full projections here.

[Image: CBO]

06.26.17 | an hour ago

Pharma bro trial’s first big challenge? Finding jurors who don’t think Martin Shkreli is terrible

With controversial pharma exec Martin Shkreli's fraud trial set to begin in Brooklyn, at least a dozen jurors have been excused for bias against the so-called "pharma bro," Bloomberg reportsPotential jurors have called Shkreli "an evil man," a "snake," and a "price gouger." While Shkreli is perhaps best known for his unapologetic decision to raise the price of a drug used by HIV patients more than 5,000%, he's facing federal criminal charges for allegedly defrauding investors. In recent months, he's faced comparisons to President Trump for his refusal to curb controversial social media posts, even as he awaits his day in court.

06.26.17 | 2 hours ago

NASA and Lockheed Martin hope you don’t hear this supersonic jet coming

NASA said today it has reached a "significant milestone" in a project to create an ultra-quiet supersonic passenger jet. The space agency has completed a preliminary design review of its QueSST aircraft concept and found that it is capable of fulfilling objectives for what NASA calls "Low Boom Flight Demonstration," which basically means it should be able to fly at supersonic speeds without that noisy sonic boom. As NASA describes it, the airplane will just make a soft "thump," which I'm guessing is more pleasant. 

Last year, NASA teamed up with aerospace defense giant Lockheed Martin on the experimental project. Now that the design review is complete, NASA says the next step is to start soliciting proposals to actually build the thing. It expects to award a contract early next year with the hope that flight testing could begin by 2021. Check out more on the project here

[Image: NASA/Lockheed Martin]

06.26.17 | 3 hours ago

Apple rents a few SUVs from Hertz, Hertz shares jump 14%

Apple is renting a small fleet of vehicles from Hertz, according to DMV documents seen by Bloomberg. Apple will reportedly use the vehicles to test autonomous driving software and sensor systems. 

Hertz investors have been looking for something to feel good about after seeing the company's stock drop by 75% over the past year. Some implied role for Hertz in the self-driving future seems to have done the trick. 

And Avis stock got its biggest jolt in five years (+21%) earlier on Monday after Alphabet said its Waymo autonomous driving division will pay the rental company to store and manage a few of its autonomous testing vehicles in Phoenix. 

06.26.17 | 3 hours ago

Get ready to (maybe) hear a lot more ads on your favorite podcasts

According to a recent study by the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB), ad revenue from podcasts is about to go way up. Last year, podcast ad revenue was about $119 million; this year, that number is projected to hit $220 million. 

Thus far, a podcast's success has been measured by number of downloads; beyond that, however, many advertisers have had little sense of how many people are actually listening to their ads, beyond tracking promo code usage. (Ad skipping is a phenomenon in podcasting, too.) Podcast creators, too, received little feedback. But as Apple beefs up its podcast analytics, advertisers and creators alike can be smarter about how they spend their money. So while IAB's study indicates that advertisers will be pouring a lot more money into podcasting, the podcast ad biz is still young, so we don't want to make any proclamations just yet. 

06.26.17 | 1:01 pm

Missouri women are a Senate vote away from living in an early stage of “The Handmaid’s Tale”

Ever feel like we are living in the first chapter of a dystopian novel? In an "emergency" special session, Missouri's Senate is currently considering legislation that would allow employers to fire or not hire women who use birth control or have had abortions. The bill has the support of the state's governor, Eric Greitens, and passed in the House last week. 

Under the bill, SB 5, landlords could also refuse to offer housing to women based on their reproductive health choices. The Federal Pregnancy Discrimination Act prevents discrimination against women who have had an abortion, but makes no mention of birth control. That means that if this bill passes it would be perfectly legal for a boss or landlord to ask a women what forms of birth control they use.

Under His Eye indeed. 

via Newsweek

06.26.17 | 12:46 pm

The Super NES Classic will include an ill-fated 1990s game that never made it to market

Nintendo is releasing another retro console this fall, with one killer hook for classic game aficionados: Among the Super NES Classic's 21 preloaded games is Star Fox 2, which Nintendo canceled toward the end of development more than 20 years ago. (The company reportedly wanted to avoid unfavorable 3D graphics comparisons between the Super Nintendo and newer consoles like the Sony PlayStation and Sega Saturn, and eventually released a slicker Star Fox on the Nintendo 64.)

Nintendo plans to launch the Super NES Classic on September 29 for $80, though it's unclear if the company will produce enough of them this time around. With last year's NES Classic, Nintendo didn't seem to anticipate the demand for video game nostalgia, and ended production after an all-too limited run. It'd be a shame if the only way to play Star Fox 2 faced a similar fate.

06.26.17 | 12:42 pm

Waymo just tapped Avis to help it manage future self-driving car fleets

Earlier this year Waymo invited people in Phoenix to join its early rider program—its first public self-driving trial. There will be 600 Chrysler Pacifica minivans involved in this test fleet. Now we know who will manage them. Waymo is teaming up with rental car agency Avis, which will support and maintain the cars during the pilot, according to Reuters. The pilot and partnership with Avis is an important next step in Waymo's self-driving efforts, one that will test its ability to create self-driving technology but run related services. 

06.26.17 | 12:25 pm

Here are some MIT drones that can fly and drive to get you through your Monday

Researchers at MIT's Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab have created a new prototype drone that can both fly and drive, and will undoubtedly rule the earth—or at least make sure your copy of Rise of the Robots is delivered from Amazon in a timely fashion.

The engineers were inspired by birds and bugs that can both walk and fly, TechCrunch reports. The eight quadcopter drones can currently only drive for up to 252 meters (275 yards) or fly for 90 meters (98 feet), so they still have a way to go, but it's a pretty cool and/or frightening feature depending on how you feel about these things. The new drones are designed to assess both air and car traffic and decide whether it is faster to drive or fly, which could be a hint of how flying cars could work in the future. Frankly, though, they should have just modified duck boats, so they could drive and sail and fly.

06.26.17 | 12:15 pm

Study: More boomers, senior citizens, and even Republicans are coming around to gay marriage

A new study from the Pew Research Center shows that support for same-sex marriage is at its highest point in over 20 years. While the traditional gift is cotton, the study is an apt way to mark the second anniversary of the Supreme Court's 2015 landmark decision Obergefell v. Hodges, which legalized same sex marriage.

The study shows that by a margin of nearly two-to-one (62% to 32%), more Americans now say they favor allowing gays and lesbians to marry than say they are opposed to it. Young people are the most supportive (cue up Whitney Houston singing, "I believe the children are the future…") with 76% of millennials and 65% of Gen Xers saying they support same-sex marriage. However, baby boomers are slowly getting on board, too, with 56% of them now favoring same-sex marriage, while 39% are opposed. Even senior citizens are realizing same-sex marriage won't trigger an angina attack, with support nearly doubling among members since 2007.

Support for allowing gays and lesbians to marry legally has steadily risen across racial and ethnic groups and even *gasp* Republicans. According to Pew, 47% of Republicans and independents who lean Republican now favor same-sex marriage, with 48% opposing it. (Yep, based on this study, a majority of Republicans no longer oppose same sex marriage.) As recently as 2013, Republicans opposed gay marriage by nearly two-to-one (61% to 33%). Guess two years after the fact, they realized that letting people marry whomever they want regardless of gender didn't trigger the apocalypse as written in the book of Revelations and/or The Hunger Games.

[Photo: Unsplash user Peter Hershey]

06.26.17 | 12:00 pm

Because flying is stressful enough, the TSA will not make you remove books from your carry-on—updated

Update: A spokesman for the TSA has shot down the rumor that the agency would require passengers to remove books, saying a private airport security company was experimenting with the procedure.

"This is the rumor that doesn't want to die … At no time has the removal of books been TSA policy, nor are we considering making it policy. Now there are times when a TSO may ask a passenger declutter their carry-on bag in order to make it easier to screen. We do this because our xray machines may have trouble screening overstuffed bags."

The TSA is reportedly testing new safety procedures that could require airline passengers to remove books from their carry-on bags when going through security lines, as The Hill reported. The TSA has been testing this program since at least early May, although the agency told the Wall Street Journal that tests in Kansas City "didn't go well" and were halted after a few days. 

We reached out to the TSA for comment about implementation of this new rule. As frequently flying bookworms may be aware, the TSA has already been plucking people out of line to search through their carry-on bags for books, because apparently books can look like plastic explosives when they are sent through the X-ray machine. (That's what the TSA agent told me last time I was pulled out of line for packing hardcovers in my carry-on.) 

However, the ACLU is sounding the alarm on the grounds that this could be a way for TSA agents to unconstitutionally scrutinize reading material, citing a case they took on of a man handcuffed and detained for hours for merely carrying a set of Arabic-language flash cards and a book critical of U.S. foreign policy. "[B]ooks raise very special privacy issues," the ACLU's senior policy analyst Jay Stanley wrote in a recent blog post. "There is a long history of special legal protection for the privacy of one's reading habits in the United States, not only through numerous Supreme Court and other court decisions, but also through state laws that criminalize the violation of public library reading privacy or require a warrant to obtain book sales, rental, or lending records." While the ACLU is clearly on it, for now, maybe don't pack Conquered by Clippy on your next flight.

[Photo: Skyler Smith]

06.26.17 | 11:23 am

Just in time for the Fourth of July, Trump’s travel ban gets a second chance

The Supreme Court has decided that it will look into whether Donald Trump's proposed travel rules—which would bar people from six predominately Muslim countries from traveling to the U.S.—is constitutional. The court, however, won't hear the case until this fall and has decided that parts of the ban can go into effect until then. 

The ruling goes against two other federal court judges who ruled that it should be put on hold until its constitutionality is decided. SCOTUS said the ban can't be enforced for people who have relatives in the United States, reports NBC News, but it can be enforced for refugees and those with no ties. 

 

[Photo: Robert Couse-Baker via Wikimedia Commons