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Fears over US media independence as Trump-appointed chief fires editors

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The new chief of the US federal media agency, a Trump-appointee, has sacked three senior officials, raising fears that networks will be politicised.

Michael Pack, a conservative filmmaker and former associate of ex-White House adviser Steve Bannon, has also begun to install Trump loyalists at the agency.

The firings have been criticised by liberals and some conservatives.

Mr Pack has defended his actions as transitional steps that any new leader of an organisation would take.

The US Agency for Global Media (USAGM) is a taxpayer funded body that oversees global broadcasters including Voice of America, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Radio Free Asia and Middle East Broadcasting.

The USAGM is tasked with broadcasting independent news to a global audience of more than 280 million people. It was created in 1942 to combat Nazi propaganda.

The director of Voice of America, Amanda Bennett, and her deputy Sandy Sugawara resigned on Monday after Mr Pack was confirmed by the Senate.

The heads of Radio Free Europe, Asia, Middle East Broadcasting as well as the Open Technology Fund were ousted on Wednesday.

Mr Pack has not offered public details on why these individuals were fired.

President Donald Trump has recently criticised Voice of America, calling its reporting “disgusting” and accusing it of spreading “propaganda” in favour of China.

The leaders of the Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and Middle East Broadcasting networks – Jamie Fly and Alberto Fernandez – were both appointed during Mr Trump’s presidency.

Mr Fly was a former adviser to Republican Senator Marco Rubio while Mr Fernandez was a former ambassador.

A number of long-time advisory board members have also been removed, and Mr Pack is now the chairman of these outlets’ boards of directors.

Mr Pack has also appointed a number of former Trump administration officials – including from the Departments of Justice, Homeland Security and Office of Management and Budget – to high level positions in the agency, CNBC reported.

These new appointees also have ties to conservative organisations.

Democrats have been particularly concerned by Jonathan Alexandre’s addition to the board of Radio Free Asia, as he is a policy director for the Liberty Counsel, which has been designated as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center for its opposition to LGBT rights.

The sackings followed an internal email to staff from Mr Pack, saying he would maintain “the agency’s independence”.

He later told staff “no actions are to be taken, and no external communications are to be made without explicit approval” from the new leaders.

What’s the reaction been?

On Thursday, Mr Pack defended his decisions as “critical changes” that were “long overdue”.

“Every action I carried out was – and every action I will carry out will be – geared toward rebuilding the USAGM’s reputation, boosting morale, and improving content,” Mr Pack said.

“This plan is wholly pursuant to the bipartisan language that was developed and approved by Congress and the previous administration, both of which readily recognised that the agency had grown obsolete and ineffective implementing its statutory mission.”

Ranking Foreign Relations Committee Democratic Senator Bob Menendez called the “wholesale firing” of the network heads an “egregious breach of this organisation’s history and mission”.

“This attack is sadly the latest – but not the last – in the Trump administration’s efforts to transform US institutions rooted in the principles of democracy into tools for the president’s own personal agenda.”

Democrats Eliot Engel, chairman of the House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee, and Nita Lowey, chairwoman of the House Appropriation Committee, said on Thursday they were “outraged” by Mr Pack’s actions that prioritised “political whims”.

Former National Security adviser and Treasury Assistant Secretary Juan Zarate, a Republican, said the removals of Mr Fly and Mr Fernandez were “incomprehensible”.

Source: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-53111704

BBC

BBC Reporter Purchases First NFT, Describes Process as ‘a Nightmare’

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It is clear the process for buying a non-fungible token (NFT) still has its imperfections. Or so a BBC reporter revealed in a recent article, in which she lambasted the purchase as “a nightmare.”

BBC Technology Reporter Cristina Criddle recently shared her experiences buying a CryptoKitty NFT on OpenSea. Beginning with the excitement about purchasing and owning the digital artwork. But then slowly developing into a process the journalist found stressful and demoralizing.

Tangling with gas prices, the fluctuating price of the Ether (ETH) she used for the transaction, and being left waiting for the sale to be approved. As she put it, “The whole experience sucked all the fun out of my fluffy pink friend.”

Criddle’s article then revealed that she was not the only one reeling from their NFT purchase experience. Complaints of transactions getting stuck or delayed, and losing money while their tokens value decline or gas prices rise. It leads to the question, are these teething problems? Or can mass adoption even happen for NFTs? While some believe that they are wildly misunderstood, others opine that NFTs should become more user-friendly for mass adoption.

NFTs making their mark

Whether the opinions about mass adoption are true or not, there is definitely a continually increasing enthusiasm and awareness for NFTs. Not least within their presence in the sport world. 

The Hong Kong-based trading platform and app Crypto.com has unleashed a number of NFT collections in 2021 alone. Tied directly to its expanding portfolio of sporting partnerships.

This began with the Formula One racing team Aston Martin Cognizant back in March, with whom they released a series of NFTs to celebrate their return to F1 after 60 years away. Crypto.com later did similar releases with the Coppa Italia football league and the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) World Championship.

Long before Crypto.com’s foray into sport and NFTs, the NBA introduced Top Shot. An NFT phenomenon that, in Jan. 2021, surpassed CryptoKitties as the best-selling digital collectible by volume. A month later, they recorded daily NFT sales nearing $34 million. Hitting a 24-hour all-time high for trading volume at the same time.

More recently, boxing legend Floyd Mayweather Jr. released his first ever NFT collection on Rarible, as reported on May 26.

Disclaimer

All the information contained on our website is published in good faith and for general information purposes only. Any action the reader takes upon the information found on our website is strictly at their own risk.

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Dale Hurst is a journalist, presenter, and novelist. Before joining the Be In Crypto team, he was an editor and senior journalist at a news, lifestyle and human-interest magazine in the UK. Cryptocurrency was one of the first subjects he specialized in when first going freelance in 2018, reviewing exchanges and analysing lawsuits.

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Source: https://beincrypto.com/bbc-reporter-purchases-first-nft-describes-process-as-a-nightmare/

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BBC

Police Raid Cannabis Farm, Find Secret Bitcoin Mine Instead

We’ll make a valid point about Bitcoin mining using this story, we promise. This one would be hilarious if there wasn’t a crime involved. So, don’t laugh. We’re serious.  In the United Kingdom, the West Midlands Police received a tip about a warehouse. Ventilation ducts and wiring were visible and multiple people visited the facilities […]

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We’ll make a valid point about Bitcoin mining using this story, we promise. This one would be hilarious if there wasn’t a crime involved. So, don’t laugh. We’re serious. 

In the United Kingdom, the West Midlands Police received a tip about a warehouse. Ventilation ducts and wiring were visible and multiple people visited the facilities at various times of the day. According to the Birmingham Mail, “A police drone also picked up a major heat source when it flew overhead.”

Related Reading | 420 Day: Lifting The Smokescreen On Cannabis Crypto Coins

So, naturally, they assumed it was a clandestine Cannabis farm. These are all “classic cannabis factory signs,” according to the police department in question. To their surprise, there was no living being in there. To announce what they found, let’s give the mic to the BBC:

Officers had been tipped off about the site on the Great Bridge Industrial Estate, Sandwell, and raided it on 18 May, West Midlands Police said.

Instead of cannabis plants they found a bank of about 100 computer units.

Those “computer units” were ASIC miners. So, it’s safe to assume this was a Bitcoin mining operation. That’s funny, we know, but don’t laugh because here comes the crime. The West Midlands Police informs:

The IT equipment was seized and enquiries with Western Power revealed the electric supply had been bypassed and thousands of pounds worth had been stolen to power the ‘mine’.

You Either Find Cheap Energy Or You Steal It And Go To Jail

Reading this story, it’s easy to use it to demonize Bitcoin mining. Nevertheless, let’s be honest: there are criminals in every field of life. In every business, there are people who try to get ahead by skipping steps, cutting corners, and even breaking the law. And, as this story shows, those people seldom make it. One way or another, they end up falling.

Another read of this particular incident is this one: Energy is the main expense for Bitcoin miners. In big cities, said energy is expensive. So much so, that a mining operation might not be profitable. There are two options for those entrepreneurs: You either find cheap energy or you steal it and go to jail.

Related Reading | How Drug Dealers Got Convicted After Receiving $4.8 Millions In Bitcoin

Inquiring minds might ask, where is this cheap energy? Everywhere where there’s a surplus of energy, that’s where. In some areas, there’s even wasted energy. The economic incentive for Bitcoin mining entrepreneurs to move to those areas is so immense, that they have to do it. It will happen because it’s inevitable.
BTCUSDT price chart for 05/29/2021 - TradingView

BTC price chart on Poloniex | Source: BTC/USDT on TradingView.com

Bitcoin Mining With Stolen Energy Is Not Common

You don’t have to believe us. Let’s quote the West Midlands Police with their first-hand information:

Sandwell Police Sergeant Jennifer Griffin, said: “It’s certainly not what we were expecting! It had all the hallmarks of a cannabis cultivation set-up and I believe it’s only the second such crypto mine we’ve encountered in the West Midlands.

“My understanding is that mining for cryptocurrency is not itself illegal but clearly abstracting electricity from the mains supply to power it is.

No one was inside the facility at the moment of the raid, so there are no arrests so far. The police seized the equipment and are still making inquiries.

Featured Image by West Midlands Police - Charts by TradingView/a>

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Source: https://bitcoinist.com/police-raid-cannabis-farm-find-secret-bitcoin-lab-instead/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=police-raid-cannabis-farm-find-secret-bitcoin-lab-instead

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Salty reception

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Plans by Southern Water to build a £600 million desalination plant in the New Forest have come under fire from conservationists and other local groups.

The proposed plant is to be built on land near the utility’s wastewater treatment works at Ashlett Creek, near Fawley in Hampshire. If completed, it will extract salt water from the Solent and discharge brine back into the sea. Around 75 million litres of sea water per day will be processed, according to the utility, and the resultant drinking water will be pumped 25km underground to water supply works at Testwood.

Intended to supply residents in Hampshire and the Isle of Wight, the plan is presented as part of the utility’s response to climate change and population growth. Alternative sources need to be found to the Test and Itchen rivers, “two of the fines chalk streams in the world” as the firm’s Toby Wilson put it, in comments made to the BBC.

Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust (HIWWT) has expressed concern that the plant could threaten wildlife habitats in the area. In a letter to Southern Water, the group’s Dr Tim Ferrero said: “The increased salinity of the brine could cause changes to the chemical composition of the surrounding water, impacting a wide range of marine species and potentially impacting the passage of migratory fish species into nearby river catchments.”  He also raised the issue of potential algae build-ups.

A local petition had received over 1,800 signatures in early May, which expressed the view that it would be better to invest in improvements to the collection and storage of rainwater.

Opponents also criticised the energy-hungry nature of the technology, as well as the huge cost. Desalination remains a more familiar fixture in parts of the world where water is scarce, such as Saudi Arabia, although Thames Water constructed a plant in East London in 2010.

The plans also received a formal objection from The New Forest National Park Authority, which complained that it had not been consulted sooner – the proposal was selected as part of the utility’s Water Resources Management Plan in 2019.

The firm told the local Hampshire newspaper the Daily Echo: “We are working with our environmental regulators to understand any environmental impact of the proposals and ways we can mitigate them.”

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Source: https://envirotecmagazine.com/2021/05/07/salty-reception/

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Could NFT auctions be moving away from Ethereum? One new group is betting they will

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NFTs were arguably already taking off when Beeple sold his NFT artwork for $69m. But another crypto project attracted attention when it bought an original Banksy artwork for $95,000.

The group literally burnt the artwork and sold its NFT on the OpenSea platform for $400,000. Although the stunt was covered by CBS News, BBC News, The Guardian, and others, it did actually make a significant point.

By removing the physical piece, the group – calling itself “Burnt Banksy” – proved that the value of the piece wasn’t affected by being destroyed, given that the NFT went up so much in value.

Now that project is turning that stunt into an actual blockchain platform for art auctions.

Burnt Finance says it has raised $3 Million for a decentralized auction protocol built on the Solana blockchain.

The project is being incubated by Injective Protocol (which recently raised $10 from investors and Mark Cuban, as well as Multicoin, DeFiance, Alameda, Mechanism, Vessel Capital, Hashkey, Spartan, Do Kwon (CEO of Terra), Sandeep (COO of Polygon), and others.

The reason why it’s worth mentioning all this is that in trying to auction the painting, the Burnt Banksy group stumbled on an increasing problem in the world of NFTs: the rising congestion on the Ethereum network is leading to larger and larger gas fees. This is making both the creation and bidding on NFTs increasingly expensive, just from a baseline.

As a result, team decided to build the Burnt Finance NFT auction platform away from Etherum and hit upon the Solana blockchain, which has comparatively good speed, performance, and lower transaction costs. It will use ‘Solana Wormhole’ which connects ETH and ERC20 tokens to SPL Tokens.

A spokesperson for Burnt Finance, ‘Burnt Banksy’ told me: “Most auctions are Ethereum based, and currently the Ethereum gas fees are extremely high. It can cost you up to $70 to make an artwork, which doesn’t work if you’re selling an NFT for $50. We chose Solana mainly because of the ecosystem. It’s fast-growing, in addition to the technical aspect of it.”

There’s another reason why we may see other Crypto projects move away from Ethereum as ETH rises in price and as gas fees increase: the potential for bad faith actors in NFT auctions.

If a bad actor tries to leverage the congestion on Ethereum and manipulate the transaction fee, they might sway the results of an auction. This would be quite something, if the auction was for, say, $69 million…

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Source: https://techcrunch.com/2021/05/06/could-nft-auctions-be-moving-away-from-ethereum-one-new-group-is-betting-they-will/

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