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Elon Musk’s Long Obsession With Sabotage

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“The forces arrayed against us are many and incredibly powerful,” Musk wrote in a different email, sent to Tesla employees in February 2017 after a former production worker wrote in detail on Medium about the company’s working conditions—long hours, “excessive mandatory overtime,” a shortage of manpower, and frequent injuries. “This is David vs. Goliath if David were six inches tall!” Musk said.

Musk considered “outside forces” in 2016, when a SpaceX rocket exploded on the launchpad as it fueled up for an engine test. The company examined seriously the possibility of sabotage in its investigation of the incident. “We literally thought someone had shot the rocket,” Musk said in an interview with Christian Davenport, a Washington Post reporter, published in Davenport’s 2018 book, The Space Barons: Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, and the Quest to Colonize the Cosmos.“We found things that looked like bullet holes, and we calculated that someone with a high-powered rifle, if they had shot the rocket in the right location, the exact same thing would have happened.”

SpaceX even got the U.S. government involved. “[W]e put pressure on the Air Force and the [Federal Aviation Administration] to go collect whatever forensic data was possible,” Gwynne Shotwell, the president and CEO of SpaceX, told Davenport. “The first thing you do is think it’s some outside force, right. Because we couldn’t figure out how in the world this could have happened.”

Eventually, SpaceX engineers determined the cause of the explosion was a problem with a pressure vessel in a liquid oxygen tank on the rocket’s upper stage. The feds ruled out sabotage, too.

In moments of perceived nefariousness, Musk usually asks his employees for their attentiveness for future threats. He did the same this week. “Please be extremely vigilant, particularly over the next few weeks as we ramp up the production rate to 5k/week,” he wrote in the email to his employees. “This is when outside forces have the strongest motivation to stop us.”

Worker safety at Tesla has been the subject of several investigations in last year, including by BuzzFeed, The Guardian, and the Center for Investigative Reporting. Musk has emphasized that employees have several outlets for their vigilance besides the press, encouraging them to bring concerns to their managers, safety representatives at the company, or the human-resources department. If employees want to be anonymous, they can register their notes through something called the Integrity Hotline. Musk referred to it in his email to staff in 2017, saying the resource “applies broadly to any problems you notice at our company.”

The hotline’s name fits nicely with Musk’s philosophy on employee loyalty, or lack thereof. Integrity: “adherence to moral and ethical principles; soundness of moral character; honesty.” The name reads like a warning. It automatically bestows any incoming concerns with the benefit of belief. Complaints made elsewhere—in the press, in lawsuits, in the handling of sensitive information, true or false—won’t get the same treatment.

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jepler
1 day ago
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I had totally forgotten the later walked back claims of that SpaceX launch sabotage, supposedly done from the roof of rival Blue Origin, was it? Ah, no, it was ULA. https://www.theregister.co.uk/2016/10/04/spacex_searches_for_falcon_rocket_sabotage/
Earth, Sol system, Western spiral arm
MotherHydra
1 day ago
Oh yeah! You aren't the only one that forgot about United Launch...
MotherHydra
2 days ago
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Elon intimately knows all of the nefarious players he's pissed off. I believe every word of what he says about Tesla's sabotage.
Space City, USA
glenn
2 days ago
Exactly ... lets's see who he's pissed off: Oil and gas monopolists, oil producing nations, Russia (rockets+ oil), coal and nuclear producer, ULA/Boing, unions/UAW, climate change denialists, flat-earthers.... have I forgotten anyone?
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Amazon Brings Alexa To Hotels

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Amazon is finally bringing Alexa to the hotel room. The e-commerce giant announced Tuesday the launch of Alexa for Hospitality, a specialized version of the voice assistant that integrates into popular hotel software systems for guest services. From a report: Housed inside of an Echo device, Alexa for Hospitality is functionally identical to the Alexa used in homes, except tailored to a hotel's service options. Guests can tell Alexa to order room service, book a spa appointment, call for housekeeping, provide directions, or play music in their room, for example. On the privacy side, Amazon said hotels will not have access to voice recordings of Alexa interactions or responses, and recordings of Alexa commands are remotely wiped when the guest checks out of the hotel. However, hotels can use Alexa for Hospitality to "measure engagement through analytics and adapt services based on guest feedback," Amazon said. Alexa for Hospitality is available to hotels, vacation rentals, and other hospitality providers starting today, with Marriott International signed up to deploy the service across its hotel portfolio this summer.
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jepler
1 day ago
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I do not want this in my hotel room.
Earth, Sol system, Western spiral arm
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Is Apple really killing Mac gaming? Of course not

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By Ric Molina of MacGamer HQ

Apple’s WWDC 2018 is now over and while I was hoping for exciting news regarding Metal and Mac gaming, but quite the opposite happened. Apple announced that with the next version of MacOS, called Mojave, OpenGL will be deprecated. 

Mojave.jpg

People were quick to draw conclusions: mainly, no more OpenGL = no more games = the end of Mac gaming. I went out and asked several developers what they really thought about the end of OpenGL.

As said by every developer we talked to, OpenGL is eventually going away and that's a good thing. In fact, Metal, the technology that will replace it, is so much better, Mac gaming won't only survive it, it will become better because of it.

Don't believe me? Check out this list with every Mac game that supports Metal. You'll be impressed.


Like this article? Consider supporting Apple World Today with a $5 monthly Team AWT membership.



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jepler
2 days ago
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apropos of nothing, steam has 47743 windows games, 17671 mac os x games, and 11491 linux games. That means only 13% of steam games are on Mac and not on Linux. Nevermind that 63% are on neither, only on Windows..
Earth, Sol system, Western spiral arm
MotherHydra
2 days ago
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"Mac gaming" LOL. Why do people persist with this?
Space City, USA
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New IBM Robot Holds Its Own In a Debate With a Human

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PolygamousRanchKid shares a report: The human brain may be the ultimate super computer, but artificial intelligence is catching up so fast, it can now hold a substantive debate with a human, according to audience feedback. IBM's Project Debater made its public debut in San Francisco Monday afternoon, where it squared off against Noa Ovadia, the 2016 Israeli debate champion and in a second debate, Dan Zafrir, a nationally renowned debater in Israel. The AI is the latest grand challenge from IBM, which previously created Deep Blue, technology that beat chess champion Garry Kasparov and Watson, which bested humans on the game show Jeopardy.

In its first public outing, Project Debater turned out to be a formidable opponent, scanning the hundreds of millions of newspaper and journal articles in its memory to quickly synthesize an argument on a topic and position it was assigned on the spot. "Project Debater could be the ultimate fact-based sounding board without the bias that often comes from humans," said Arvind Krishna, director of IBM Research. An audience survey taken before and after each debate found that Project Debater better enriched the audience's knowledge as it argued in favor of subsidies for space exploration and in favor of telemedicine, but that the human debaters did a better job delivering their speeches.

The AI isn't trained on topics -- it's trained on the art of debate. For the most part, Project Debater spoke in natural language, choosing the same words and sentence structures as a native English speaker. It even dropped the odd joke, but with the expected robotic delivery. IBM's engineers know the AI isn't perfect. Just like humans, it makes mistakes and at times, repeats itself. However, the company believes it could have a broad impact in the future as people now have to be more skeptical as they sort out fact and fiction. "Project Debater must adapt to human rationale and propose lines of argument that people can follow," Krishna said in a blog post. "In debate, AI must learn to navigate our messy, unstructured human world as it is -- not by using a pre-defined set of rules, as in a board game."

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jepler
2 days ago
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Stop making the world worse, IBM. Geez, what we do NOT need is more word salad masquerading as "argument".
Earth, Sol system, Western spiral arm
duerig
2 days ago
It is hilarious that they are claiming that it will be the 'ultimate fact-base sounding board without the bias that comes from humans'. It seems that many AI researchers seem to think that if you add enough layers of complexity that somehow you get to objective truth.
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New US Tariffs are Anti-Maker and Will Encourage Offshoring

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The new 25% tariffs announced by the USTR, set to go into effect on July 6th, are decidedly anti-Maker and ironically pro-offshoring. I’ve examined the tariff lists (List 1 and List 2), and it taxes the import of basic components, tools and sub-assemblies, while giving fully assembled goods a free pass. The USTR’s press release is careful to mention that the tariffs “do not include goods commonly purchased by American consumers such as cellular telephones or televisions.”

Think about it – big companies with the resources to organize thousands of overseas workers making TVs and cell phones will have their outsourced supply chains protected, but small companies that still assemble valuable goods from basic parts inside the US are about to see significant cost increases. Worse yet educators, already forced to work with a shoe-string budget, are going to return from their summer recess to find that basic parts, tools and components for use in the classroom are now significantly more expensive.


Above: The Adafruit MetroX Classic Kit is representative of a typical electronics education kit. Items marked with an “X” in the above image are potentially impacted by the new USTR tariffs.

New Tariffs Reward Offshoring, Encourage IP Flight

Some of the most compelling jobs to bring back to the US are the so-called “last screw” system integration operations. These often involve the complex and precise process of integrating simple sub-assemblies into high-value goods such as 3D printers or cell phones. Quality control and IP protection are paramount. I often advise startups to consider putting their system integration operations in the US because difficult-to-protect intellectual property, such as firmware, never has to be exported if the firmware upload operation happens in the US. The ability to leverage China for low-value subassemblies opens more headroom to create high-value jobs in the US, improving the overall competitiveness of American companies.

Unfortunately, the structure of the new tariffs are exactly the opposite of what you would expect to bring those jobs back to the US. Stiff new taxes on simple components, sub-assemblies, and tools like soldering irons contrasted against a lack of taxation on finished goods pushes business owners to send these “last screw” operation overseas. Basically, with these new tariffs the more value-add sent outside the borders of the US, the more profitable a business will be. Not even concerns over IP security could overcome a 25% increase in base costs and keep operations in the US.

It seems the intention of the new tariff structure was to minimize the immediate pain that voters would feel in the upcoming mid-terms by waiving taxes on finished goods. Unfortunately, the reality is it gives small businesses that were once considering setting up shop in the US a solid reason to look off-shore, while rewarding large corporations for heavy investments in overseas operations.

New Tariffs Hurt Educators and Makers

Learning how to blink a light is the de-facto introduction to electronics. This project is often done with the help of a circuit board, such as a Microbit or Chibi Chip, and a type of light known as an LED. Unfortunately, both of those items – simple circuit boards and LEDs – are about to get 25% more expensive with the new tariffs, along with other Maker and educator staples such as capacitors, resistors, soldering irons, and oscilloscopes. The impact of this cost hike will be felt throughout the industry, but most sharply by educators, especially those serving under-funded school districts.


Above: Learning to blink a light is the de-facto introduction to electronics, and it typically involves a circuit board and an LED, like those pictured above.

Somewhere on the Pacific Ocean right now floats a container of goods for ed-tech startup Chibitronics. The goods are slated primarily for educators and Makers that are stocking up for the fall semester. It will arrive in the US the second week of July, and will likely be greeted by a heavy import tax. I know this because I’m directly involved in the startup’s operations. Chibitronics’ core mission is to serve the educator market, and as part of that we routinely offered deep discounts on bulk products for educators and school systems. Now, thanks to the new tariffs on the basic components that educators rely upon to teach electronics, we are less able to fulfill our mission.

A 25% jump in base costs forces us to choose between immediate price increases or cutting the salaries of our American employees who support the educators. These new tariffs are a tax on America’s future – it deprives some of the most vulnerable groups of access to technology education, making future American workers less competitive on the global stage.


Above: Educator-oriented learning kits like the Chibitronics “Love to Code” are slated for price increases this fall due to the new tariffs.

Protectionism is Bad for Technological Leadership

Recently, I was sent photos by Hernandi Krammes of a network card that was manufactured in Brazil around 1992. One of the most striking features of the card was how retro it looked – straight out of the 80’s, a full decade behind its time. This is a result of Brazil’s policy of protectionist tariffs on the import of high-tech components. While stiff tariffs on the import of microchips drove investment in local chip companies, trade barriers meant the local companies didn’t have to be as competitive. With less incentive to re-invest or upgrade, local technology fell behind the curve, leading ultimately to anachronisms like the Brazilian Ethernet card pictured below.


Above: this Brazilian network card from 1992 features design techniques from the early 80’s. It is large and clunky compared to contemporaneous cards.

Significantly, it’s not that the Brazilian engineers were any less clever than their Western counterparts: they displayed considerable ingenuity getting a network card to work at all using primarily domestically-produced components. The tragedy is instead of using their brainpower to create industry-leading technology, most of their effort went into playing catch-up with the rest of the world. By the time protectionist policies were repealed in Brazil, the local industry was too far behind to effectively compete on a global scale.

Should the US follow Brazil’s protectionist stance on trade, it’s conceivable that some day I might be remarking on the quaintness of American network cards compared to their more advanced Chinese or European counterparts. Trade barriers don’t make a country more competitive – in fact, quite the opposite. In a competition of ideas, you want to start with the best tech available anywhere; otherwise, you’re still jogging to the starting line while the competition has already finished their first lap.

Stand Up and Be Heard

There is a sliver of good news in all of this for American Makers. The list of commodities targeted in the trade war is not yet complete. The “List 2” items – which include all manner of microchips, motors, and plastics (such as 3D printer PLA filament and acrylic sheets for laser cutting) that are building blocks for small businesses and Makers – have yet to be ratified. The USTR website has indicated in the coming weeks they will disclose a process for public review and comment. Once this process is made transparent – whether you are a small business owner or the parent of a child with technical aspirations – I encourage you to please share your stories and concerns on how you will be negatively impacted by these additional tariffs.

Some of the List 2 items still under review include:

9030.31.00 Multimeters for measuring or checking electrical voltage, current, resistance or power, without a recording device
8541.10.00 Diodes, other than photosensitive or light-emitting diodes
8541.40.60 Diodes for semiconductor devices, other than light-emitting diodes, nesoi
8542.31.00 Electronic integrated circuits: processors and controllers
8542.32.00 Electronic integrated circuits: memories
8542.33.00 Electronic integrated circuits: amplifiers
8542.39.00 Electronic integrated circuits: other
8542.90.00 Parts of electronic integrated circuits and microassemblies
8501.10.20 Electric motors of an output of under 18.65 W, synchronous, valued not over $4 each
8501.10.60 Electric motors of an output of 18.65 W or more but not exceeding 37.5 W
8501.31.40 DC motors, nesoi, of an output exceeding 74.6 W but not exceeding 735 W
8544.49.10 Insulated electric conductors of a kind used for telecommunications, for a voltage not exceeding 80 V, not fitted with connectors
8544.49.20 Insulated electric conductors nesoi, for a voltage not exceeding 80 V, not fitted with connectors
3920.59.80 Plates, sheets, film, etc, noncellular, not reinforced, laminated, combined, of other acrylic polymers, nesoi
3916.90.30 Monafilament nesoi, of plastics, excluding ethylene, vinyl chloride and acrylic polymers

Here’s some of the “List 1” items that are set to become 25% more expensive to import from China, come July 6th:

Staples used by every Maker or electronics educator:

8515.11.00 Electric soldering irons and guns
8506.50.00 Lithium primary cells and primary batteries
8506.60.00 Air-zinc primary cells and primary batteries
9030.20.05 Oscilloscopes and oscillographs, specially designed for telecommunications
9030.33.34 Resistance measuring instruments
9030.33.38 Other instruments and apparatus, nesoi, for measuring or checking electrical voltage, current, resistance or power, without a recording device
9030.39.01 Instruments and apparatus, nesoi, for measuring or checking

Circuit assemblies (like Microbit, Chibi Chip, Arduino):

8543.90.68 Printed circuit assemblies of electrical machines and apparatus, having individual functions, nesoi
9030.90.68 Printed circuit assemblies, NESOI

Basic electronic components:

8532.21.00 Tantalum fixed capacitors
8532.22.00 Aluminum electrolytic fixed capacitors
8532.23.00 Ceramic dielectric fixed capacitors, single layer
8532.24.00 Ceramic dielectric fixed capacitors, multilayer
8532.25.00 Dielectric fixed capacitors of paper or plastics
8532.29.00 Fixed electrical capacitors, nesoi
8532.30.00 Variable or adjustable (pre-set) electrical capacitors
8532.90.00 Parts of electrical capacitors, fixed, variable or adjustable (pre-set)
8533.10.00 Electrical fixed carbon resistors, composition or film types
8533.21.00 Electrical fixed resistors, other than composition or film type carbon resistors, for a power handling capacity not exceeding 20 W
8533.29.00 Electrical fixed resistors, other than composition or film type carbon resistors, for a power handling capacity exceeding 20 W
8533.31.00 Electrical wirewound variable resistors, including rheostats and potentiometers, for a power handling capacity not exceeding 20 W
8533.40.40 Metal oxide resistors
8533.40.80 Electrical variable resistors, other than wirewound, including rheostats and potentiometers
8533.90.80 Other parts of electrical resistors, including rheostats and potentiometers, nesoi
8541.21.00 Transistors, other than photosensitive transistors, with a dissipation rating of less than 1 W
8541.29.00 Transistors, other than photosensitive transistors, with a dissipation rating of 1 W or more
8541.30.00 Thyristors, diacs and triacs, other than photosensitive devices
8541.40.20 Light-emitting diodes (LED’s)
8541.40.70 Photosensitive transistors
8541.40.80 Photosensitive semiconductor devices nesoi, optical coupled isolators
8541.40.95 Photosensitive semiconductor devices nesoi, other
8541.50.00 Semiconductor devices other than photosensitive semiconductor devices, nesoi
8541.60.00 Mounted piezoelectric crystals
8541.90.00 Parts of diodes, transistors, similar semiconductor devices, photosensitive semiconductor devices, LED’s and mounted piezoelectric crystals
8504.90.75 Printed circuit assemblies of electrical transformers, static converters and inductors, nesoi
8504.90.96 Parts (other than printed circuit assemblies) of electrical transformers, static converters and inductors
8536.50.90 Switches nesoi, for switching or making connections to or in electrical circuits, for a voltage not exceeding 1,000 V
8536.69.40 Connectors: coaxial, cylindrical multicontact, rack and panel, printed circuit, ribbon or flat cable, for a voltage not exceeding 1,000 V
8544.49.30 Insulated electric conductors nesoi, of copper, for a voltage not exceeding 1,000 V, not fitted with connectors
8544.49.90 Insulated electric conductors nesoi, not of copper, for a voltage not exceeding 1,000 V, not fitted with connectors
8544.60.20 Insulated electric conductors nesoi, for a voltage exceeding 1,000 V, fitted with connectors
8544.60.40 Insulated electric conductors nesoi, of copper, for a voltage exceeding 1,000 V, not fitted with connectors

Parts to fix your phone if it breaks:

8537.10.80 Touch screens without display capabilities for incorporation in apparatus having a display
9033.00.30 Touch screens without display capabilities for incorporation in apparatus having a display
9013.80.70 Liquid crystal and other optical flat panel displays other than for articles of heading 8528, nesoi
9033.00.20 LEDs for backlighting of LCDs
8504.90.65 Printed circuit assemblies of the goods of subheading 8504.40 or 8504.50 for telecommunication apparatus

Power supplies:

9032.89.60 Automatic regulating or controlling instruments and apparatus, nesoi
9032.90.21 Parts and accessories of automatic voltage and voltage-current regulators designed for use in a 6, 12, or 24 V system, nesoi
9032.90.41 Parts and accessories of automatic voltage and voltage-current regulators, not designed for use in a 6, 12, or 24 V system, nesoi
9032.90.61 Parts and accessories for automatic regulating or controlling instruments and apparatus, nesoi
8504.90.41 Parts of power supplies (other than printed circuit assemblies) for automatic data processing machines or units thereof of heading 8471
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jepler
2 days ago
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bunnie lays it out for you
Earth, Sol system, Western spiral arm
acdha
3 hours ago
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Washington, DC
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2 public comments
philipstorry
2 days ago
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Trade wars are never a good idea unless you have a monopoly.
Bunnie lays out the long-term implications for America's economy very effectively here.
It can't be the intended result that the big multinationals will potentially benefit by removing small competition. It can't be the intended result that this restricts access to educational opportunities.
Sadly, I doubt that those behind the trade war care about anything other than how tough they think they look...
London, United Kingdom
brennen
2 days ago
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This is pretty fucking relevant both to my interests and to my continued gainful employment.
Boulder, CO

America's Nuclear Reactors Can't Survive Without Government Handouts

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Slashdot reader Socguy shares an article from FiveThirtyEight: There are 99 nuclear reactors producing electricity in the United States today. Collectively, they're responsible for producing about 20% of the electricity we use each year. But those reactors are, to put it delicately, of a certain age. The average age of a nuclear power plant in this country is 38 years old (compared with 24 years old for a natural gas power plant). Some are shutting down. New ones aren't being built. And the ones still operational can't compete with other sources of power on price... without some type of public assistance, the nuclear industry is likely headed toward oblivion....

[I]t's the cost of upkeep that's prohibitive. Things do fall apart -- especially things exposed to radiation on a daily basis. Maintenance and repair, upgrades and rejuvenation all take a lot of capital investment. And right now, that means spending lots of money on power plants that aren't especially profitable... Combine age and economic misfortune, and you get shuttered power plants. Twelve nuclear reactors have closed in the past 22 years. Another dozen have formally announced plans to close by 2025.

A professor of engineering and public policy at Carnegie Mellon University points out that nuclear power is America's single largest source of carbon emissions-free electricity -- though since 1996, only one new plant has opened in America, and at least 10 other new reactor projects have been canceled in the past decade.

The article also describes two more Illinois reactors that avoided closure only after the state legislature offered new subsidies. "But as long as natural gas is cheap, the industry can't do without the handouts."
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jepler
4 days ago
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"On March 13, 2013, Terry M. Dinan, senior advisor at the Congressional Budget Office, testified before the Subcommittee on Energy of the Committee on Science, Space, and Technology in the U.S. House of Representatives that federal energy tax subsidies would cost $16.4 billion that fiscal year, broken down as follows:

Renewable energy: $7.3 billion (45 percent)
Energy efficiency: $4.8 billion (29 percent)
Fossil fuels: $3.2 billion (20 percent)
Nuclear energy: $1.1 billion (7 percent)
" -- wikipedia

so yes let us explore the intersection of subsidies and energy sources in the US and decide whether the story is "Nuclear reactors can't survive without government handouts".
Earth, Sol system, Western spiral arm
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