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Hurricane season began today, and there are legitimate reasons to be concerned

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Enlarge / Almost all seasonal forecasters are predicting high numbers of hurricanes during the 2020 Atlantic season. (credit: Phil Klotzbach)

Officially, the Atlantic hurricane season begins today. Historically, the season's first named storm doesn't spin up until some time in July. But this being 2020, we're not having anything normal this year.

The Atlantic Ocean already blew through the "A" (Arthur) and "B" (Bertha) names for storms. And it looks almost certain that Cristobal will form in a day or two in the southern Gulf of Mexico—threatening Mexico, Texas, and Louisiana with winds and heavy rainfall. With such a wild start to the year out of the gate, what does this mean for the heart of hurricane season, which typically does not really get going until August?

For answers, Ars contacted hurricane scientist Phil Klotzbach, who will update his seasonal forecast for Atlantic activity this year in a few days.

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zipcube
8 hours ago
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Amazon sellers use 'collectible' label to dodge price gouging rules

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Amazon’s measures to prevent price gouging have a relatively simple workaround. The Verge has learned that some third-party sellers are marking products as “collectible” to evade Amazon’s automated price controls. The internet retailer reportedly has price ceilings that normally kick in when a product is listed as “new,” but that ceiling apparently doesn’t kick in with collectible items. There also isn’t much transparency regarding those ceilings, either.

The quirk has been around for a while, according to sellers. However, it wasn’t really an issue before the COVID-19 pandemic, when competition kept prices reasonable. Now that there’s high demand and low supply, unscrupulous sellers have more incentives to hike prices.

An Amazon spokesperson talking to The Verge didn’t directly address the anti-gouging measures. Instead, the spokesperson said that sellers set their own prices and that Amazon pulls sales that violate its policies.

This won’t leave many satisfied, though. Customers clearly lose out if they’re trying to get dumbbells or other hot commodities, but the absence of transparency could also make it difficult for more honest sellers who may need to hike prices (say, to offset costs) but don’t want to trip Amazon’s detection systems.

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zipcube
14 hours ago
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Modified Cessna is the 'largest' electric aircraft to take flight

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Electric aircraft are ever so slightly closer to becoming a practical reality for travel. Magnix and AeroTEC have flown what they say is the world’s largest all-electric aircraft. Their modified Cessna 208B Grand Caravan, the “eCaravan,” flew for 30 minutes around Washington state’s Grand County International Airport using Magnix’s 750HP Magni500 motor instead of the usual turboprop engine. The flight was “flawless,” Magnix chief Roei Ganzarski said in a statement to FlightGlobal.

There are compromises. Batteries consume massive amounts of space and weight, and the current eCaravan could haul just four to five passengers (instead of as many as 14) for a distance of 100 miles. Magnix and AeroTEC hope to eventually carry nine people 100 miles once the technology has advanced, but that won’t happen until after the initial aircraft’s expected certification in 2021.

Still, this could be useful in the long run. The companies envision these Caravans reviving short-hop flights that became impractical for many airlines. The operating costs would be much more feasible (a 30-minute flight costs $6 in electricity, for instance), and emissions wouldn’t be an issue. It will take a while before you could take a longer electric journey, but this could beat many alternative and less eco-friendly transport options when you need to get from city to city in a timely fashion.

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zipcube
14 hours ago
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Image bricks some Android phones when used as wallpaper

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Never mind a text character crashing your phone — if you’re on Android, your choice of wallpaper could be a larger problem. Users have discovered (via Android Authority and 9to5Google) that an innocuous landscape photo is “soft-bricking” some Android phones when it’s used as a background. Your phone isn’t completely dead if it happens, but it’ll get stuck in a loop that turn the lock screen on and off, even after a reboot. Your recourses are to either use safe mode to delete the photo file or use the bootloader to reset the device entirely.

The issue may come down to the color spaces your phone supports and how they’re handled. Dylan Roussel from 9to5 discovered that the source image uses the RGB color space instead of Android’s preferred sRGB, and Android 10 doesn’t convert it where the Android 11 preview does — that causes problems any time an incompatible phone has to display the picture, which is a problem if you’ve just set the photo as your wallpaper. Other images will likely lead to the same issue.

We’ve asked Google for comment. This is easy enough to avoid if you’re aware of it. It could be a serious problem if pranksters trick unsuspecting people, however, especially if they don’t know how to recover. If nothing else, it’s a reminder to get wallpapers only from sources you trust.

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zipcube
14 hours ago
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Trump took shelter in White House bunker as protests raged

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WASHINGTON (AP) — Secret Service agents rushed President Donald Trump to a White House bunker on Friday night as hundreds of protesters gathered outside the executive mansion, some of them throwing rocks and tugging at police barricades.

Trump spent nearly an hour in the bunker, which was designed for use in emergencies like terrorist attacks, according to a Republican close to the White House who was not authorized to publicly discuss private matters and spoke on condition of anonymity. The account was confirmed by an administration official who also spoke on condition of anonymity.

The abrupt decision by the agents underscored the rattled mood inside the White House, where the chants from protesters in Lafayette Park could be heard all weekend and Secret Service agents and law enforcement officers struggled to contain the crowds.

Friday’s protests were triggered by the death of George Floyd, a black man who died after he was pinned at the neck by a white Minneapolis police officer. The demonstrations in Washington turned violent and appeared to catch officers by surprise. They sparked one of the highest alerts on the White House complex since the Sept. 11 attacks in 2001 .

“The White House does not comment on security protocols and decisions,” said White House spokesman Judd Deere. The Secret Service said it does not discuss the means and methods of its protective operations. The president’s move to the bunker was first reported by The New York Times.

The president and his family have been shaken by the size and venom of the crowds, according to the Republican. It was not immediately clear if first lady Melania Trump and the couple’s 14-year-old son, Barron, joined the president in the bunker. Secret Service protocol would have called for all those under the agency’s protection to be in the underground shelter.

Trump has told advisers he worries about his safety, while both privately and publicly praising the work of the Secret Service.

Trump traveled to Florida on Saturday to view the first manned space launch from the U.S. in nearly a decade. He returned to a White House under virtual siege, with protesters — some violent — gathered just a few hundred yards away through much of the night.

Demonstrators returned Sunday afternoon, facing off against police at Lafayette Park into the evening.

Trump continued his effort to project strength, using a series of inflammatory tweets and delivering partisan attacks during a time of national crisis.

As cities burned night after night and images of violence dominated television coverage, Trump’s advisers discussed the prospect of an Oval Office address in an attempt to ease tensions. The notion was quickly scrapped for lack of policy proposals and the president’s own seeming disinterest in delivering a message of unity.

Trump did not appear in public on Sunday. Instead, a White House official who was not authorized to discuss the plans ahead of time said Trump was expected in the coming days to draw distinctions between the legitimate anger of peaceful protesters and the unacceptable actions of violent agitators.

On Sunday, Trump retweeted a message from a conservative commentator encouraging authorities to respond with greater force.

“This isn’t going to stop until the good guys are willing to use overwhelming force against the bad guys,” Buck Sexton wrote in a message amplified by the president.

In recent days security at the White House has been reinforced by the National Guard and additional personnel from the Secret Service and the U.S. Park Police.

On Sunday, the Justice Department deployed members of the U.S. Marshals Service and agents from the Drug Enforcement Administration to supplement National Guard troops outside the White House, according to a senior Justice Department official. The official could not discuss the matter publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.

___

Lemire reported from New York. Associated Press writer Michael Balsamo contributed to this report.

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zipcube
20 hours ago
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Regime head retreats to bunker inside the presidential palace in the embattled capital of the United States after several consecutive days of protest against violence by government paramilitary forces.
Dallas, Texas
dreadhead
9 hours ago
Yeah this is insane, this is the exact same as regimes that the US has invaded in the name of freedom.
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Monkeys in India Stole Covid-19 Blood Samples, Chewed on Them

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A band of thieving monkeys attacked a lab researcher in India and made off with blood test samples taken from covid-19 patients.

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zipcube
21 hours ago
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Dallas, Texas
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