Microwave breakthrough helps boost hard drive sizes


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Web giants and large firms rely on cheap hard drives to store information in data centres

The data-storing abilities of hard drives could soon swell to 40 terabytes (TB) and beyond, says Western Digital.

Currently the largest hard disk drive (HDD) that stores data on spinning disks can hold about 14TB of information.

Western Digital said the bigger drives were made possible by finding a way to use microwaves to write data on 3.5in drives.

The first bigger-capacity drives should go on sale in 2019.

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While solid state drives are popular with home users, many large companies and web firms fill data centres with disks that depend on moving parts because, at high capacities, they are much cheaper and last longer. The drives store data on disks or platters that spin at high speed.

A disk with a data capacity of 40 terabytes would be able to hold more than 2,500 two-hour movies encoded at a standard resolution.

Western Digital said it could produce the big drives as it had found a way to increase the density of data recorded on a disk by using microwaves – a technique known as microwave-assisted magnetic recording (MAMR). The company is the first to produce a disk that uses this technology.

An allied method that uses heat instead of microwaves was thought to be the best way to help HDDs grow in capacity but it is known to be an expensive and technically tricky way to boost data density. The resulting devices, whose platters must be regularly heated beyond 400C, can also suffer reliability problems.

Heat-assisted magnetic recording also requires changes in manufacturing plants and the materials used to make the magnetic platters that hold data. By contrast, MAMR requires far fewer changes to manufacturing and works with materials currently used to make HDDs.

In a statement, Western Digital said it had produced prototype MAMR drives this year, and would give engineering samples to key customers in 2018 and start volume production in 2019. By 2025, further refinement of the technology would push capacities past 40TB, it said.

It added that a novel method of boosting data capacities was needed as it was getting harder to squeeze more data into HDDs using existing techniques.


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As tricky coalition talks loom, Merkel hopes for regional poll boost


BERLIN (Reuters) – Chastened by their worst result since 1949 in September’s national election, Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives are hoping for victory in a regional vote on Sunday to strengthen their hand in thorny three-way coalition talks in Berlin.

While victory in the Lower Saxony region might strengthen Merkel’s position within her party, a conservative failure to emerge as the strongest party could prompt talk of weakening authority and possible eventual succession, said Berlin-based political expert Gero Neugebauer.

Lower Saxony, an agricultural heartland and Germany’s second biggest region, offers Merkel’s Christian Democrats (CDU) the prospect of a morale boost as they seek to cobble together an unprecedented “Jamaica” national coalition with the liberal Free Democrats (FDP) and Greens.

The road to such an alliance, named after the Caribbean nation as the parties’ colours match those of its flag, is littered with disputes on everything from migrants to tax and the environment. It would be the clunky coalition’s federal debut if talks, due to start next week, prove a success.

Carsten Nickel, deputy research director at Teneo Intelligence, said Sunday’s election – which polls show is set to be a neck-and-neck contest between the CDU and the rival Social Democrats (SPD) – would determine momentum going into national coalition negotiations.

The election in the northern state, home to carmaker Volkswagen (VOWG_p.DE), was called after a lawmaker in the Greens party – junior coalition partner to the SPD there – defected to the CDU, robbing the ruling alliance of its one-seat majority.

“If Merkel managed to steal that state from the SPD, it would probably be a little bit of a boost,” he said. “It would probably be slightly easier for her to argue internally for the required compromise and for striking the deals and so on that will be required over the next couple of weeks.”

Election posters of Social Democratic (SPD) top candidate Stephan Weil and Christian Democratic Union’s (CDU) top candidate Bernd Althusmann are seen prior to the Lower Saxony state elections in Hannover, Germany, October 12 2017. REUTERS/Fabian Bimmer


However, a new poll for broadcaster ZDP released late on Thursday showed the SPD with 34.5 percent, closely followed by the CDU with 33 percent. The Greens and FDP both had 9 percent while the anti-immigrant Alternative for Germany (AfD) was on track to get 7 percent and move into Lower Saxony’s state assembly for the first time. The Left party got 5 percent.

About 29 percent of voters were still undecided about which party to support or whether to vote at all, it showed.

The CDU has dropped far below the 12-point lead it had over the SPD in August at the start of a campaign that has centred on regional issues such as education, as well as an influx of migrants to Germany over the last two years.

The latest poll means the SPD and Greens would not have enough support to govern again, even if they joined forces with the Left party. That leaves a coalition of the SPD and conservatives, a coalition of the SPD, Greens and FDP, or the Jamaica coalition being pursued on a national level.

Merkel’s CDU and their Bavarian sister party (CSU) removed a major stumbling block to those coalition talks on Sunday by ending a dispute over migrant policy with an agreement to limit the number of migrants coming to Germany.

Merkel’s conservative bloc won 33 percent in September’s national election, losing 8.5 points compared with 2013, as voters upset with Merkel’s 2015 decision to open the borders to more than a million migrants abandoned the party. The result effectively brought an end to the existing national coalition with the SPD, who also performed badly.

Reporting by Michelle Martin; editing by Ralph Boulton and Toby Chopra


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PayPal launches its first cash back credit card to boost PayPal usage in stores


PayPal is today launching a new credit card, the PayPal Cashback MasterCard – its first card to offer shoppers direct cash back on purchases, instead of points that vary by category. The card, introduced in partnership with Synchrony Financial, will offer 2 percent back on purchases, with no annual fee, no minimum redemption amount, no restrictions on how to spend cash rewards, and no expiration, the company says.

It will also include security protections from PayPal, as well as standard MasterCard benefits like extended warranty coverage, purchase protection, and identity theft resolution assistance. PayPal purchases, meanwhile, will receive PayPal Purchase Protection at no additional cost.

The card is only available to PayPal members, and it’s automatically added to users’ PayPal’s wallets, once approved. That means consumers can begin to use the card even before it arrives in the mail.

This is not the only credit card PayPal today offers, but it may become its most compelling in short order, especially given consumers’ preference for cash back cards.

The other cards include a PayPal Extras MasterCard for consumers that uses a more traditional 3-2-1 rewards points system, where you can earn more points for things like gas stations and restaurant purchases, as well as money spent on PayPal and eBay.

Ebay, which spun off from PayPal back in 2015, has a similar card that’s still managed by PayPal, alongside its other payment and credit offerings for eBay customers. Those also include PayPal Credit, an online credit line which can be used at businesses accepting PayPal.

The move to introduce a cashback card is part of PayPal’s quickly evolving strategy to increase its traction at point-of-sale, where mobile payments alternatives like Apple Pay, Android Pay, and Samsung Pay are gaining ground.

To that end, PayPal has been partnering across the industry – even with payments rivals like Apple, as well as bank issuers like Chase and Citibank, tech companies like FacebookGoogle and Samsung, and those with their own digital wallets and checkout systems, like BaiduVisa, and MasterCard.

PayPal, which today has more than 210 million users, hopes this new cash back card will help with its larger agenda to increase PayPal usage online and in stores.

“Cardholders can manage their accounts, redeem Cash Rewards and make payments by logging into their PayPal account, giving customers another reason to access and use their PayPal accounts,” a company spokesperson explains.

PayPal already knows that its cardholders use its service more often than others, which in turn, increases the number of transactions per account. On average, PayPal customers who adopt a PayPal credit card spend 35 percent more than those without.

“Early results show that PayPal customers with a PayPal credit card log in to the PayPal mobile app and PayPal.com three times more often than before getting the card, creating more opportunities for engagement,” the spokesperson noted.


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Intel promises a 40-percent speed boost with its 8th gen Core chips


Intel might be sticking to the familiar Kaby Lake architecture for the eight generation of its Core chips, but the its internal testing looks pretty promising as far as performance goes. The company says the chips are capable of a 40-percent increase over their predecessors — and even more notable for those finally ready to upgrade an old system: about double the performance of a five year old device.

That’s a pretty impressive boost in a single generation — and even more significant than the already notable 30-percent boost the company promised when it teased the refresh during Computex in May. The performance boost comes as laptop makers are expected to increasingly push the envelope with their systems.

4K is already pretty prevalent on machines, and with companies like Apple and Microsoft pushing VR and MR/AR, respectively, things have amped up significantly in recent years. That’s a lot to ask while still expecting a system to be slim enough to port around in a backpack. The new i5 and i7 chips are designed to accommodate those needs, while maintaining laptop battery life expectations, at around 10 hours of 4K video playback according to the aforementioned in-house video testing.

Intel will shed more light on the chips during a Facebook Live presentation in at 11AM ET today, though it likely won’t have an opportunity to run through it all. When the chips start hitting the market mid-next month here will be around 145 different designs to start with, and the company will be further muddying up the waters with different, non-Kaby Lake architectures.

Intel is clearly looking to maintain its foothold in the laptop market with a pretty wide net here. Mobile has mostly been a wash for Intel, thanks to the rise of companies like Qualcomm. And while the company invests much of its R&D into forward looking technologies like drones, self-driving cars and automation, it needs to assert itself on its home turf.

A big part of that is certainly future-proofing systems for whatever the media world might throw their way, and as such, the Facebook event will involve demoing the chips on a virtual reality experience that offers peek at today’s extremely rare total solar eclipse. Because wearing a pair of silly goggles is a lot safer than staring directly at the sun.


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Dating app aims to boost Russian voter turnout


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“You can find love anywhere – even during the elections,” the app claims

A Russian dating app is attempting to boost voter turnout in the upcoming elections by finding users an election “date”, it’s reported.

Popular dating service Mamba has introduced a feature called “Voting Together” which offers to help users find a companion to go to the polling station with during the 10 September local elections, independent broadcaster Dozhd says.

To find an election “date”, users swipe through pictures of fellow users, and answer questions such as: “Would you go to vote with her (him)?”

If two users say “yes”, they receive a message saying, “It looks like we like each other. We can go to vote together on 10 September.” They can then message each other and find a ballot station that is convenient for them both.

If the scheme proves successful, Mamba may use it during the March 2018 presidential election.

Kremlin pressure?

The head of Mamba, Andrei Bronetsky, told Dozhd that the company had been “advised” to launch such a feature.

But when asked whether it was the Kremlin or the Central Electoral Commission who had advised him, Bronetsky declined to comment.

Dozhd said that it had spoken to people “close to the matter”, who claimed that the proposal had been discussed in the Kremlin, and was part of an initiative aimed at boosting voter turnout at the regional and presidential polls.

According to Platon Mamatov, the director of the Magic Inc PR company, the authorities want to get young Russians interested in mainstream politics. The idea is to stop them from becoming “fodder” for opposition protests, he wrote on the tTJournal blogging platform.

But the idea has left social media users unimpressed. “The absurdity of the idea – to get to know someone to go and vote with – I believe Dozhd, which suggests that the Kremlin has come up with it,” opposition politician Dmitry Gudkov said on his Facebook page.

“Poor United Russia, they just don’t know what to do anymore,” one sarcastic Twitter user said, mocking Russia’s ruling political party.

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“Choose with your heart,” the app says

Reporting by Olga Bugorkova

Next story: Personal bodyguard app to launch in northeast China

Use #NewsfromElsewhere to stay up-to-date with our reports via Twitter.


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‘Hard’ Brexit offers ‘£135bn annual boost’ to economy


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Removing all trade tariffs and barriers would help generate an annual £135bn uplift to the UK economy, according to a group of pro-Brexit economists.

A “hard” Brexit is “economically much superior to soft” argues Prof Patrick Minford, lead author of a report from Economists for Free Trade.

He says eliminating tariffs, either within free trade deals or unilaterally, would deliver huge gains.

Other economists say cutting barriers sets off a “race to the bottom”.

Economist Monique Ebell from the National Institute of Social and Economic Research (NIESR) says Prof Minford “ignores decades of evidence on how trade actually works”.

Ms Ebell’s own research showed that if the UK left the single market but made unilateral trade deals with major developing economies and the Anglosphere, it would only claw back about one-third of the 20-30% reduction in lost total trade by leaving the EU.

Ms Ebell says many of the trade barriers that Prof Minford argues to be removed are subtle, non-tariff barriers, such as agreed common standards.

Campaigners against a hard Brexit said the plan amounts to “economic suicide”.

What is the customs union?

The UK is part of the EU customs union, and so imposes tariffs – taxes on imports – on some goods coming into the country.

Countries in the customs union don’t impose tariffs on each other’s goods, and every country inside the union levies the same tariffs on imports from abroad.

So, for example, a 10% tariff is imposed on some cars imported from outside the customs union, while 7.5% is imposed on roasted coffee.

Other goods have no tariffs.

The UK has said it is leaving the EU’s customs union because as a member it is unable to strike trade deals with other countries.

Prof Minford’s full report, From Project Fear to Project Prosperity, is due to be published in the autumn.

He argues that the UK could unilaterally – before a reciprocal deal is in place – eliminate trade barriers for both the EU and the rest of the world and reap trade gains worth £80bn a year.

The report foresees a further £40bn a year boost from deregulating the economy, as well as other benefits resulting from Brexit-related policies.

Mr Minford – a professor at Cardiff University – says that when it comes to trade the “ideal solution” would still be free trade deals with major economic blocks including the EU.

But the threat that the UK could abolish all trade barriers unilaterally would act as “the club in the closet”.

The EU would then be under pressure to offer Britain a free trade deal, otherwise its producers would be competing in a UK market “flooded with less expensive goods from elsewhere”, his introduction says.

He argues UK businesses and consumers would benefit from lower priced imported goods and the effects of increased competition, which would force firms to raise their productivity.

However, Ms Ebell says that “competition needs to be fair.”

“Some foreign firms from outside the EU can produce more cheaply because they pollute, or treat workers in ways that we find unacceptable. So we impose tariffs to level the playing field. That is legitimate, and only fair.”

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Media captionBrexit: What’s the difference between a hard or soft Brexit?

However, Open Britain, a campaign group arguing for the UK to remain within the single market and the customs union, said the proposed strategy would be damaging to the UK economy.

“Unilaterally scrapping our tariffs without achieving similar reductions in the tariff rates of other countries would see Britain swamped with imports, leaving our manufacturers and farmers unable to compete,” said Labour MP Alison McGovern, a supporter of the cross-party group Open Britain, which is campaigning against a hard Brexit.

“The levels of bankruptcy and unemployment, especially in industry and agriculture, would sky-rocket.

“This is a project of economic suicide, not prosperity. No responsible government would touch this report with a barge pole as a source of ideas for our future trade policy.”

Economists for Free Trade is a group of 16 economists, including former government advisers and academics.

The group plans to release further chapters of the report in the run up to its full publication.

Andrew Walker, Economics Correspondent, BBC World Service

It is a counterintuitive idea, but actually the economics textbooks do provide some support for the idea of unilateral trade liberalisation.

This analysis suggests that removing trade barriers produces benefits for consumers and businesses buying components or raw materials that exceed the losses suffered in industries that face stiffer competition.

The downside is that it may take time, perhaps years, for the workers who lose their jobs to find new ones.

Professor Minford has expressed the view that the British economy is flexible enough to cope.

There is also the question of how the new jobs would compare with the old ones.

The mainstream view among economists is that while countries overall may gain from trade liberalisation, there are usually some specific groups that lose.

Prof Minford also directs criticism at Chancellor Philip Hammond’s current approach to Brexit, which he says amounts to “throwing away our hard-won freedom from EU rules”.

The chancellor is viewed as favouring a softer approach to Brexit, but recently co-authored an article in the Telegraph in which he proposed that the UK would leave both the single market and the customs union in March 2019, but that there would be a “time-limited” transition period to help businesses adjust.

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Prof Patrick Minford says dropping all tariffs after Brexit will boost the UK economy by billions

A government spokesman said the UK would maintain a “deep and special” relationship with the bloc after departing the EU.

“The economy has grown continuously for four years and there are more people in work than ever before.

“As we leave the European Union, we will build on this success by maintaining a deep and special partnership with the EU while embracing the wider world as an independent, open, trading nation.'”

During the referendum campaign last year Prof Minford stoked controversy by suggesting that the effect of leaving the EU would be to “eliminate manufacturing, leaving mainly industries such as design, marketing and hi-tech”.

However in a recent article in the Financial Times he suggested manufacturing would become more profitable post-Brexit.


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MS-13 gang members in New York hacked teen to death to boost ‘stature,’ cops say


Two MS-13 gang members charged in the January killing of a New York teenager lured him with the promise of marijuana and sex before hacking him to death in a nature preserve, authorities said Wednesday.

The two used knives and machetes in the vicious killing to prove themselves to other gang members, police said.

Nassau County Police said Kevin Granados-Coreas, 19, and Carlos Portillo, 22, were charged with second-degree murder and are being held without bail, adding that more arrests are possible.

“This investigation is very much ongoing,” Nassau County District Attorney Madeline Singas said Wednesday, adding her office is working with federal prosecutors.

“I mean, 19 year olds hacked up and dropped in our preserves is just something that really should be shocking to residents of this county,” Singas said. “It’s shocking to us in law enforcement and we see a lot.”

Lt. Stephen Fitzpatrick, commanding officer of the Nassau homicide squad, said Granados-Coreas befriended the victim, Julio Cesar Gonzales-Espantzay, in late 2016. Gonzales-Espantzay was not a gang member, according to police, but was lured into a car and taken to the Massapequa Preserve, where he was killed.

“On January 28, he lured him into a vehicle with others, with the promise of marijuana and sexual favors,” said Fitzpatrick. “They then subsequently took him to the Massapequa Preserve, where they brutally attacked him with large knives and machetes and subsequently killed him there.”

The 19 year old’s body was found in March by a man walking his dog in the park. Surveillance cameras are now being installed at that park, according to FOX 5 New York.

“Part of the lure or ruse to get them in the car is to promise them marijuana smoking, as well as perhaps an intimate relationship with a female,” Fitzpatrick said.

Police received a tip in July about the killing, and after getting a search warrant for Portillo’s home found “weapons, cellphones and paperwork in regard to MS-13,” Newsday reported. Police added that Portillo was in the country illegally.

There have been four killings in Nassau County linked to MS-13 since January 2016, officials said Wednesday. The gang killings, however, in neighboring Suffolk County have drawn national headlines, with at least 17 slayings linked to the gang in the last 18 months.

Related stories…

“Commonly they pick victims to move up in stature in MS-13,” Fitzpatrick said. “You have to show your loyalty.”

The high-profile killings drew the attention of President Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions, leading to a crackdown on the group.

More than a dozen alleged members of MS-13 street gang were arrested during early morning raids Tuesday in Ohio and Indiana.

MS-13, also called Mara Salvatrucha, is believed to have been founded as a neighborhood street gang in Los Angeles in the mid-1980s by immigrants fleeing a civil war in El Salvador. The gang grew after some members were deported to El Salvador, helping turn that country into one of the most violent places in the world.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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