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ACMA to use s313 to block illegal offshore gambling sites

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Image: Juan R Velasco, Getty Images/iStockphoto

The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) has warned it is set to get the nation’s ISPs to block offshore gambling sites that are in violation of the Interactive Gambling Act 2001.

“The ability to have ISPs block illegal websites will be a valuable additional weapon in the ACMA’s arsenal in the fight against illegal online gambling,” ACMA chair Nerida O’Loughlin said.

“If you have funds deposited with an illegal gambling site, you should withdraw those funds now.”

ACMA added that offshore gambling sites often do not pay out significant wins, with customers left with little recourse.  

Over 65 companies have exited the Australian market since 2017, when it began to enforce the rules, ACMA said, with the directors of those sites also being added onto the Department of Home Affairs Movement Alert List. ACMA has also reached out to regulators in those sites’ home countries.

“Public education is also crucial in deterring Australians from using these sites, given many illegal offshore gambling websites target Australians by using Australian themes and images, such as the Australian flag and native animals,” O’Loughlin said.

The blocks will occur under section 313 of the Telecommunications Act, the same powers that allowed the Australian Securities and Investments Commission to accidentally block 250,000 sites in April 2013. In its guidelines for blocking, each block needs to be signed off by the chair, deputy chair, or a senior executive within the ACMA, with each request to expire after a “specified time”.

“The ACMA will monitor at regular intervals the disruption of access to the website to ensure that it remains appropriate (that is, it is effective, responsible, as targeted as possible and is executed appropriately),” the guidelines states.

For most of the 21st century, the Australian government has sought to clamp down on online gambling.

Communications Minister Paul Fletcher said up to AU$400 million each year is spent on illegal gambling sites, amounting to AU$100 million in lost taxation.

“While ACMA has a range of powers to protect Australians from illegal gambling services — including issuing formal warnings and seeking civil penalty orders — it can be difficult to take direct action against faceless companies with no legal presence on our shores,” Fletcher said.

“This is an important partnership with the Communications Alliance, and I want to acknowledge industry’s support. Working with ACMA, these additional measures give ISPs the ability to block illegal websites, protecting Australians and contributing to a safer online gambling environment.”

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Porsche may step into F1 competition

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Formula 1 racing fans are always on the lookout for more competition and better-performing cars. Something interesting has surfaced that claims iconic sports car manufacturer Porsche and its parent company Volkswagen Group are considering entering Formula 1 competition. Porsche and its parent company are reportedly considering entering F1 competition if the next engine regulations for the sport, expected to be introduced in 2025, meet company goals.

Porsche Motorsport Vice President Fritz Enzinger said that F1 racing would be of “great interest” if regulations focused on sustainability aspects, specifically e-fuels. The executive said if those green aspects were confirmed, it would evaluate them in detail and discuss further steps. F1 is considering e-fuels, which are carbon-neutral fuels able to power internal combustion engines without the impact on the environment seen from normal fossil fuels.

Several types of e-fuels available, with some being bio-fuels made from biomass and others completely synthetic, manufactured using industrial processes that capture carbon in the atmosphere. F1 officials have committed the sport to making e-fuels a central part starting in 2025.

F1 officials have confirmed that Porsche is involved in discussions around new engine rules. It would be very interesting to see Porsche step into Formula One racing pitting it against the other major manufacturers such as Mercedes and Ferrari that are big in the sport. Formula 1 plans to be net-zero carbon status by 2030. Sources have confirmed that if the VW Group does decide to enter F1 competition, it would be with either the Porsche or Audi brands. Both brands have significant racing efforts in other branches of motorsports.

One interesting potential would be for Porsche or Audi and Red Bull to tie up Red Bull is losing its engine partner. Honda has announced it is pulling out of F1 racing at the end of the current season, but Red Bull will run Honda engines through the end of 2024.

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Massive Texas power outage teaches hard lessons about EVs

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The last few weeks have been brutal down in Texas as a massive and extremely uncommon winter storm left many residents without electricity for days. Some larger Texas cities are pushing hard to move municipal fleets to electric vehicles, and the power outage came with a tough lesson about EVs and the strains they could add to the power grid. During the massive storm, Austin’s entire fleet of 12 electric buses were inoperative due to the power outage.

Similar problems in the future can be an even bigger issue as city officials intend to begin purchasing only electric vehicles. Currently, the Austin transit agency has $650 million budgeted for the next 20 years to purchase electric buses and charging facilities for 187 vehicles. Officials are now scrambling to figure out how to deal with power issues like those caused by the recent storm. Many believe that what happened to Austin highlights a challenge facing municipal, state, and federal governments around the country and the world.

As more and more automakers vow to go to electric vehicles only an ever-increasing strain will be added to power grids that are often already strained. The massive push to electrification for automobiles will mean utility companies and power generators have to invest billions of dollars to bring additional capacity on board. Average everyday Americans all around the country will end up footing the bill for this with increased electric bills even if they don’t own an electric vehicle.

California faces a similar problem with rolling blackouts already an issue within the state due to summer heat. California plans to actively phase out sales of gas and diesel vehicles by 2035. If that goal is achieved, additional capacity for the electric grid will be required. One estimate has found that a utility company with 2 to 3 million customers would need to invest between $1700-$5800 in grid upgrades for each electric vehicle through 2030 to meet demand. That can reach a total investment of $200 billion compared to the $2.6 billion some companies plan to invest. Utility bills around the country will undoubtedly go up as utility companies aim to regain their investment.

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A longer Land Rover Defender called the 130 is coming

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The Land Rover Defender returned to the US in recent months and has proven to be a popular SUV for many buyers. Currently, the vehicle can be had in two-door and a longer four-door version known as the Defender 110. Many buyers have been clamoring for something with more space in the third row, and Land Rover is set to deliver.

A new Defender 130 is on the way, according to a recent report. The 130 will have 14 extra inches of body, giving it a much more usable third-row seat. The optional third row in the 110 is only fit for smaller children. The longer Defender could mean a third row suitable for actual adults.

The 130 will be targeted at buyers in the US, China, and the Middle East. The chassis for the 130 will be the same with the same wheelbase as the Defender 110. However, the vehicle will have an overall length of 201 inches. While more space inside the Defender 130 is exciting, even more exciting was the recent announcement of a new V-8 engine option for the Defender in 2022.

Land Rover is offering a supercharged V-8 engine under the hood. The downside to putting the V-8 engine in the vehicle is that the price jumps up significantly. For 2022 the Defender 90 V-8 (pictured) starts at $97,200, with the Defender 110 V-8 starting at $100,400.

No matter which version you purchase, they get the same 5.0-liter supercharged V-8 that makes 518 horsepower and 461 pound-foot of torque. Land Rover says the Defender 90 V8 will reach 60 mph in 4.9 seconds and 149 mph given enough road. Both six-cylinder and four-cylinder engines remain options.

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