SpaceX chooses the poorest US city for its launchpad

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Texas is set to house SpaceX’s commercial rocket launch facility in the greater Brownsville area, reportedly the most impoverished in America. According to a press release from Governor Rick Perry’s office, the state is funnelling approximately $15.3 million into the project, $13 million of which will be used to develop the necessary infrastructure.

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How Google scans your Gmail for child porn

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John Henry Skillern was arrested last Thursday for the possession of child pornography. The 41-year-old restaurant worker was allegedly sending indecent images of children to a friend, but while it was Houston police that obtained a search warrant for Skillern’s tablet and computer and placed him in custody, it was Google that tipped them off to his illegal activities. Skillern was using Gmail to send images of child sexual abuse, each of which had been given a unique digital fingerprint. When those images were sent via Google’s email service, they were identified by the company’s automated systems, allowing it to pass Skillern’s details on to the police via the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC).

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Comcast’s claim that LTE competes with cable modems is ‘a little bit of a stretch,’ says Verizon Wireless CEO

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In a discussion with reporters today, Verizon Wireless CEO Dan Mead hedged Comcast’s claims that LTE is a viable competitor to traditional landline cable modems. Anyone who uses both knows that it’s a ridiculous argument — LTE service is usually slower, less consistent, and comes with deeply restrictive data caps — but Comcast has been leaning on it as a supposed example of why competition is healthy in the broadband internet market. The end goal for the cable giant is to convince regulators that there’s enough competition in high-speed internet service that its pending acquisition of Time Warner Cable won’t create a monopoly or have a serious impact on consumer choice.

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Verizon response to FCC’s throttling concerns: everyone’s doing it

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Verizon Wireless has officially responded to FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler and his data throttling concerns. The Verge has obtained a copy of the carrier’s response, which was written by Kathleen Grillo, the company’s SVP of Federal Regulatory Affairs. In it, Verizon underlines the notion that customers will only experience slowdowns “under very limited circumstances.” It will only happen at “particular cell sites experiencing unusually high demand,” the letter reads. We’ve outlined the other factors that could result in reduced data speeds previously.

Verizon notes that any throttling will cease immediately when demand on a strained cell site returns to normal. “Our practice is a measured and fair step to ensure that this small group of…

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Square purchases food delivery startup Caviar for a reported $90 million

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Square has just purchased San Francisco-based food delivery startup Caviar, a somewhat unconventional acquisition for the payments provider. Both companies have officially confirmed the deal with posts on their respective blogs; Square CEO Jack Dorsey said in a statement that “Caviar’s curated, seamless delivery experience is exactly the kind of service we want to provide buyers and sellers.” It appears that Caviar’s core service (meal delivery from restaurants that don’t otherwise provide delivery services) will not be going away. An FAQ posted on the company’s site notes that “everything [customers] love about our product and service will remain the same.”

While a food delivery service might not be the most obvious place for Square to…

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Swipe right on Tinder to hook up or adopt a dog

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A New York City animal rescue organization is hoping that Tinder’s massive pool of date-seekers will swipe right for something a bit different: dog adoption. The rescue group, Social Tees, has partnered up with a creative agency to fill out profiles for 10 dogs in need of a new home. The profiles have bogus ages attached to put the dogs in front of more people, but real details about each dog’s age, demeanor, and expected adult size are filled out beneath  It’s a small step; 7.6 million dogs are abandoned every year in the United States alone. But repurposing the app to create “puppy love” (the campaign’s name) has proven very effective.

TechCrunch reports that over 1,500 matches have been made thus far — presumably the no-kill shelter…

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This is Comcast’s internal handbook for talking customers out of canceling service

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Remember that Comcast customer service representative who just wouldn’t let Ryan Block cancel his service? That employee was in Comcast’s retention department, which is a customer’s last stop on their way out.

Retention specialists are trained to persuade a customer to stay, or at least not cancel all their lines of service.

“We locked down the ability for most customer service reps to disconnect accounts,” a billing systems manager who worked for Comcast from 2008 to 2013 told The Verge. “We queue the calls for customers looking to disconnect to a retention team who are authorized to give more deeply discounted products to keep subscribers. Even if the subscriber disconnects cable, maybe we can keep them on internet or voice.”

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Microsoft’s white Xbox One due later this year with ‘Sunset Overdrive’

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Microsoft created white Xbox One envy when it gifted a special variant of its console to employees last year, but the company now plans to release the white version alongside Sunset OverdriveSpeaking to Polygon, a Microsoft spokesperson has revealed that the white Xbox One will come bundled with Sunset Overdrive, which will launch on October 28th. Microsoft has not yet confirmed pricing or an exact release date for the bundle, but the confirmation of a white Xbox One heading to store shelves follows rumors suggesting Microsoft would launch the bundle in October.

Ahead of the white console release, Microsoft is also making a new Madden NFL 15 Xbox One bundle available on August 26th. Priced at $399, the Madden bundle will include a…

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Kim Kardashian is evil

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The weekend before last I retreated into the woods, far away from New York City, but this past weekend I was back and needed something to do. So, naturally, I downloaded Kim Kardashian: Hollywood on my Nexus 5.

If you haven’t heard about the Kim Kardashian game by now I just, like, can’t even. Even I’m late to the party. It’s one of the most popular games on Google Play and the App Store right now, and it’s reportedly raking in unfathomable amounts of cash for creator Glu — up to $200 million a year. I can’t stop playing it, and that’s a big problem, because the game would be amazing if it wasn’t so goddamn terrible.

I’ll happily confess that I love games like Kim Kardashian: Hollywood. Roleplaying is fun. I’ve been doing it for as…

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The NFL is finally coming to Apple TV, but not how you want it

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The NFL is coming to Apple TV, but not in the way that most fans really want. A new NFL Now app is due later this month for Apple’s set-top box, and it promises to offer original content, game highlights, plenty of video from the NFL’s archives, and live streams for press conferences and other off-field events. That’s all well and good, but there’s no way to watch live games. And it won’t be coming. Not this year. DirecTV has outright said that Sunday Ticket won’t support Apple TV for the 2014 season. That hurts, and it’s especially disappointing since you can watch all of the NFL’s weekly action live pretty much everywhere else.

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Nokia Lumia 930 and 630 review

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Windows Phone isn’t setting the world alight just yet, but it continues to show signs of promise in the cheaper end of the smartphone market. Microsoft knows this. It’s why the first Windows Phone 8.1 device is a low-end Lumia 630. With Windows Phone still struggling to make a significant dent in a market full of Android handsets and iPhones, the Lumia 630 and Lumia 930 are the first handsets designed to showcase the new 8.1 update — an update that could improve things. This is even more…

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US reportedly proposing ban on in-flight cellphone calls

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Don’t plan on making a cellphone call on a plane any time soon. Though the Federal Communications Commission is in the process of allowing expanded use of phones while up in the air, the Department of Transportation plans to stop fliers from fully taking advantage of that, according to The Wall Street Journal. The DOT reportedly plans to propose a rule this December that would prohibit making and receiving in-flight cellphone calls. The public would be able to submit feedback on that proposal, which would then be factored in to the final rule.

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Comcast is promoting its low-cost internet program by forgiving old debts

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Comcast wants to merge with Time Warner Cable. To do that, it needs to convince the Federal Trade Commission and the Federal Communications Commission that the merger won’t create a monopoly or hurt consumers. And since Comcast can’t offer much in the way of good customer service, its promise to extend Comcast-level quality to America’s second-largest ISP rings a little hollow. But the company has at least one legitimate, potentially meaningful arrow in its rhetorical quiver: the Internet Essentials plan, which subsidizes the cost of basic broadband for low-income subscribers.

For families that qualify for the National School Lunch Program (which generally applies to households who make 185 percent or less of the poverty line), Internet…

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14 awesome flying machines from the biggest air show in the US

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Every July, hundreds of thousands of people flock to the middle of Wisconsin for the Experimental Aircraft Association’s AirVenture, a combination trade show, air show, and party for aviators and people who just like looking at cool planes. As its name suggests, EAA’s main mission is to promote so-called experimental aircraft — typically small planes that hold between one and four people and can often be built in a garage — but AirVenture brings out everything from helicopters to airliners…

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Point of despair: father of net neutrality Tim Wu talks about tech policy’s worst year

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Any way you look at it, Tim Wu is an unlikely candidate for public office. The Columbia law school professor who coined the term “net neutrality” is a public intellectual better known for his academic work than his political activism. But he entered New York’s Democratic primary when Zephyr Teachout, a fellow law professor and activist, asked him to be her running mate in a long-shot challenge to incumbent Governor Mario Cuomo. The current lieutenant governor, Robert Duffy, is not seeking reelection, so Wu faces Cuomo’s chosen successor, former Congresswoman Kathy Hochul.

Internet activists have long supported Wu’s writing; now he’s asking them to support his campaign. Cuomo has challenged the petitions that Wu needs to get on the…

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If your wedding guests throw shade on Yelp, this hotel will charge you $500

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A hotel in Hudson, New York really doesn’t appreciate it when wedding parties come through town and wind up trashing its hard-earned Yelp rating. So it’s implemented a policy whereby the hotel will fine newlywed couples $500 for any negative review posted on the internet after their special day. It’s an extremely aggressive, tone-deaf, and awful policy, but at least the Union Street Guest House isn’t shy about anything: it’s all laid out right on the hotel’s website.

“If your guests are looking for a Marriott type hotel they may not like it here,” the site reads. “Therefore: If you have booked the Inn for a wedding or other type of event anywhere in the region and given us a deposit of any kind for guests to stay at USGH there will be a…

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‘Flappy Birds Family’ is a perfect game for the Amazon Fire TV

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Flappy Bird is the only game I’ve ever played in which “I didn’t die instantly!” counts as rousing success. I’m not good at it, which is sort of a strange thing to say when the only thing required is to tap on the screen at certain times and then not tap on the screen at certain other times. But the game made a comeback this weekend, and so did my Flappy Bird career. Kind of.

After a brief, glorious, impossibly lucrative run, Flappy Bird’s creator Dong Nguyen took the game that had millions of people furiously mashing on their phone screen out of commission. But now, Nguyen has resurrected the game as an free, exclusive title for Amazon’s Fire TV set-top box, called Flappy Birds Family. It’s fundamentally the same game as ever, just…

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American ebola patient received ‘experimental serum’

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An American doctor who contracted Ebola in west Africa appears to be recovering, thanks in part to a new and experimental treatment, according to a report from The Los Angeles Times. Dr. Kenneth Brantly is currently being treated at an Atlanta hospital, but his organization, Samaritan’s Purse, says the crucial treatment began with an experimental serum that Brantly received in Liberia. Brantly also received a blood transfusion from a recovered Ebola patient who he had treated earlier, which may have aided in his ongoing recovery.

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HBO could bring web-only subscriptions to more international locations

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HBO may not plan on bringing a web-only subscription to the US any time soon, but international locations may be a different story. After launching a web-only streaming option — much like Netflix’s service — through HBO Nordic two years agoThe Wall Street Journal reports that HBO is now considering expanding that option to other countries, including Japan and Turkey. There is reportedly no timeline for how soon the expansion would roll out, however.

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