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AT&T offers 17.3-inch Samsung Galaxy View 2 Android tablet as portable DirecTV viewing device



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PC & Laptops


Samsung Galaxy View 2

Samsung seems to have a bit of an odd fascination with gigantic tablets (albeit one that the buying public doesn’t appear to share). In 2015, it launched a huge 18.4-inch Android slate, the Galaxy View, that weighed nearly six pounds. Undeterred by consumer’s shift from tablets to smartphones for content consumption, the company is back at it with a new large-scale tablet that has a slightly smaller screen but a much bigger battery.

While Samsung sold the original Galaxy View through its normal channels, the Galaxy View 2 is currently available through AT&T, which has a couple of compelling reasons to offer the device to its customers — namely, its existing DirecTV service and the streaming video service it has planned to launch later this year. These and other streaming video alternatives can be accessed through a TV Mode button and viewed on a 17.3-inch full HD touchscreen. A built-in kickstand provides support to hold the View 2 while you’re watching it, as you may not want a 4.9-pound inanimate object sitting on your lap for long amounts of time.

That’s especially true as the 12,000mAh battery probably produces a not insufficient amount of warmth, more than doubling the power of the Galaxy View’s 5,700mAh battery. It’s also upgraded to an Exynos 7884 chip from an Exynos 7580 processor, and 3GB of RAM from 2 gigs of memory. You get 64GB of onboard storage — with a microSD card slot to add up to 400GB more — as well as a 5-megapixel front-facing camera and a quartet of speakers equipped with Dolby Atmos Sound technology.

Because it’s being made available through AT&T, you obtain the Galaxy View 2 via monthly contract. In particular, you’ll pay $37 per month for 20 months, or over $700, which is nearly $200 less than the original View costs at or Do you think it’s worth the cost to have a giant viewing surface for your binge watching, whether the original or its successor? Let us know in the Comments section below.

[Via Engadget]

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A new book, Amazon Unbound, reveals Jeff Bezos’ envy of SpaceX



Enlarge / Jeff Bezos announces Blue Moon, a lunar landing vehicle for the Moon, during a Blue Origin event in Washington, DC, May 9, 2019.

By as early as the fall of 2016, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos had already started to worry deeply about the progress—or lack thereof—being made by his rocket company, Blue Origin.

Although the business had begun to successfully launch its suborbital vehicle, New Shepard, Bezos watched with increasing envy as SpaceX landed its much larger Falcon 9 rocket on ocean-based drone ships. He saw, too, this surging new-space competitor winning launch contract after contract from NASA and the US Department of Defense.

And so, in response, Bezos invited a succession of executives from Blue Origin to his office in Seattle for one-on-one lunches. During these meetings, the executives complained about poor internal communication, long meetings, and questionable spending decisions. One engineer described the company as a Potemkin village—with a dysfunctional culture concealed beneath an industrious façade.

This anecdote is recounted in Amazon Unbound, a new book about the rise of Bezos and Amazon over the last decade. Authored by Brad Stone, the book is being published today, and much of the book deals with Bezos’ much more valuable retail business. But there is a chapter devoted to Blue Origin that reveals a business in distress.

After the fall 2016 meetings, Bezos informed company President Rob Meyerson that he would hire a chief executive officer of Blue Origin for the first time. According to Stone’s book, this process included an inquiry to SpaceX’s president and chief operating officer, Gwynne Shotwell. Shotwell, who had worked for SpaceX almost from the beginning of its founding in 2002, quickly turned down the opportunity. (A source confirmed this to Ars).

Following a yearlong search, Bezos selected Bob Smith, a senior manager at Honeywell Aerospace. Smith was hired to lead Blue Origin through a transition from its startup phase, with just a few hundred employees, to become a major player in the space business. Most of all, Bezos wanted to start winning government contracts like SpaceX.

ULA dispute

The book also delves into the 2014 decision by United Launch Alliance to purchase BE-4 rocket engines from Blue Origin for its Vulcan rocket. Significant fallout ensued a few years later when Blue Origin announced it would build the large New Glenn rocket that would compete with Vulcan.

“Executives from the two companies stopped talking; tensions were so high that they walked past one another in the halls of the annual Space Symposium that year without acknowledging one another,” Stone writes. “Blue later disputed the notion that its execs stopped talking to counterparts at ULA. Nevertheless, the story ULA execs eventually heard from employees at Blue, Sowers said, was that Bezos was frustrated hat the government was funding Elon Musk’s space dreams and wanted to get in on the action.”

At the time, Bezos was telling colleagues that he wanted to “get paid to practice” with launching and landing the New Glenn rocket.

As the book makes clear, in seeking to compete with SpaceX, Bezos made a mistake with the hiring of Smith as CEO. In filling out his leadership team, Smith brought in people from companies not known for disruption but rather traditional space practices. Many of his senior hires came from Raytheon, Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, the aerospace division of Rolls-Royce, and other legacy companies. These leaders, alongside Smith, built a culture of caution rather than deliberate risk taking in order to move more quickly.

Partly because of this slow development pace, Blue Origin has in some ways become even less competitive with SpaceX since Bezos’ meetings in fall 2016. At the time both companies, led by billionaires, seemed on the cusp of a great space race. But whereas SpaceX has launched 100 rockets to orbit since then, more than 1,500 of its own satellites, and several crews of NASA astronauts, Blue Origin has only flown New Shepard about a dozen times, without any people on board. (A first crewed flight is likely to finally occur in July).

And what about those government contracts? Blue Origin has been largely shut out. When it came to the latest round of national security launch contracts, United Launch Alliance and SpaceX won the business, with Blue left on the sidelines. And last month, a Blue Origin-led bid to land humans on the Moon for NASA lost out to SpaceX for a high-profile and lucrative contract.

Bezos has also had to set aside some of his personal ambitions with New Glenn, because the oft-delayed booster will not launch any time soon. Amazon recently announced that it will turn to United Launch Alliance for the first nine launches of its Project Kuiper satellite Internet project.

It’s a shame that Amazon Unbound does not bring the Blue Origin story up to the present day. I would be interested to know which Blue Origin executives are lunching with Bezos now and what they are saying. Even more intriguingly, it would be fun to know what Bezos is saying to them about the rocket company’s ongoing troubles.

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FDA authorizes Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine for 12- to 15-year-olds



Enlarge / An illustration picture shows vials with COVID-19 Vaccine stickers attached, with the logo of US pharmaceutical company Pfizer, on November 17, 2020.

The US Food and Drug Administration has authorized the use of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine in adolescents between the ages of 12 to 15, the agency announced Monday evening.

In the announcement, acting FDA Commissioner Janet Woodcock called the authorization “a significant step in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic” that will bring the country “closer to returning to a sense of normalcy and to ending the pandemic.”

Peter Marks, director of the FDA’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research, echoed that sentiment. He called the ability to vaccinate children and teens “a critical step” in the fight against COVID-19.

Both Marks and Woodcock emphasized the agency’s rigorous data review that led to the authorization.

“With science guiding our evaluation and decision-making process, the FDA can assure the public and medical community that the available data meet our rigorous standards to support the emergency use of this vaccine in the adolescent population 12 years of age and older,” Marks said.

The authorization of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for the adolescent group was widely expected. It follows an announcement from the two companies on March 31 which declared that the vaccine completely protected 12- to 15-year-olds against COVID-19 in a small Phase III clinical trial involving 2,260-adolescents.

Trial data

In the trial, 1,131 adolescents received the vaccine while the other 1,129 received a placebo. The FDA focused on those who had no evidence of being infected by the pandemic coronavirus prior to the trial, leaving the agency with 1,005 vaccinated adolescents and 978 adolescents given a placebo. The FDA reported 16 cases in the trial, all of them in the placebo group. “The vaccine was 100% effective in preventing COVID-19,” the agency announced. Moreover, in a smaller sampling, those in the vaccinated group appeared to produce neutralizing antibodies at higher levels than those seen earlier in people ages 16 to 25, Pfizer noted in March.

The vaccine also appeared to be tolerated by the adolescents. The most commonly reported side effects included pain at the injection site, tiredness, headache, chills, muscle pain, fever and joint pain, all of which tended to occur within one to three days after vaccination.

Like in older age groups, the FDA says that people with a history of severe allergic reactions, including anaphylaxis, should not get the vaccine.

Now that the FDA has granted authorization, a committee of independent advisors for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will review the data on the vaccine in this age group and vote on policy recommendations for use. The committee—the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices—has already set a meeting for Wednesday, May 12, to vote on their recommendations. If the CDC accepts the committee’s recommendations—which it likely will—vaccinations could become available for adolescents as early as Thursday.

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By eating them, hyenas gathered 9 Neanderthal skeletons in one cave



Italian Culture Ministry

Archaeologists in Italy recently unearthed the remains of at least nine Neanderthals in Guattari Cave, near the Tyrrhenian Sea about 100 km southeast of Rome. While excavating a previously unexplored section of the cave, archaeologists from the Archaeological Superintendency of Latina and the University of Tor Vergata recently unearthed broken skulls, jawbones, teeth, and pieces of several other bones, which they say represent at least nine Neanderthals. That brings the cave’s total to at least 10; anthropologist Alberto Carlo Blanc found a Neanderthal skull in another chamber in 1939.

Italy was a very different place 60,000 years ago. Hyenas, along with other Pleistocene carnivores, stalked rhinoceroses, wild horses (an extinct wild bovine called aurochs), and people.

“Neanderthals were prey for these animals. Hyenas hunted them, especially the most vulnerable, like sick or elderly individuals,” Tor Vergata University archaeologist Mario Rolfo told The Guardian. The archaeologists found the Neanderthal remains mingled with the bones of rhinos, giant deer, wild horses, and other hyenas. Predators and scavengers tend to leave behind different parts of the skeleton than, say, flowing water or simple burial—and tooth marks are usually a dead giveaway.

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Based on the excavation, hyenas had lived in the cave off and on for thousands of years—maybe alternating with Neanderthals at different times. And during all that time, they seem to have periodically dragged an unlucky Neanderthal back to a den in the cave, where the bones of other long-dead victims lay, already buried under layers of cave-floor sediment.

Most of the newly discovered Neanderthals lived between 50,000 and 68,000 years ago, but at least one dates back to between 90,000 and 100,000 years old. The span of time between the oldest Neanderthal in Guattari Cave and the youngest is nearly as much as the one between now and when the last Neanderthals walked the Earth.

That makes the plan to sequence ancient DNA from the newly discovered remains especially interesting. Researchers are starting to piece together the large, complicated story of how different groups of Neanderthals moved around and interacted with each other during the 300,000 years or so when they alone ruled western Eurasia. But so far, we’ve gotten only glimpses.

Denisova Cave in Siberia is the only place so far where paleoanthropologists have sequenced DNA from Neanderthals who lived at different times; the rest of the story relies on bits of information from a scattering of different times and places. The genomes of nine Neanderthals who lived in the same place over tens of thousands of years could tell a much more detailed story about at least one part of our extinct cousins’ long history. They would also nearly double the number of Neanderthal genomes that have been sequenced so far.

Of course, that assumes that all of the Guattari Cave Neanderthals have ancient DNA that is still in good enough condition to sequence. It will take a lot of work in the lab before we know.

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