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Floods drive climate to the heart of the German election campaign

With just over two months to go until polling day, the devastating floods that swept through western Germany this week have catapulted climate change to the heart of the German election campaign.

Most of Germany’s political parties agreed that global warming was to blame for a catastrophe that left 103 people dead and visited destruction on towns and villages across two of the country’s most populous states.

That could prove of huge benefit to the Greens, who even before this week were set to make big gains in the September poll. Their strongest suit — a focus on climate change and on mobilising all the state’s resources to prevent it — has suddenly acquired a massive new urgency.

So far, they have studiously refrained from saying “told you so”. Robert Habeck, the party’s co-leader, did not visit the areas affected by the floods, telling Germany’s Spiegel magazine that “rubbernecking politicians just get in the way in such situations”.

“It’s forbidden to really campaign on a day like today,” he said on Thursday when the full extent of the damage emerged.

Floods in Bad Neuenahr-Ahrweiler: most of Germany’s political parties agreed that global warming was to blame © Wolfgang Rattay/Reuters

But it is clear that the new focus on the dangers of freak weather events and their links to a warming planet could deliver an important boost to the Greens’ candidate for chancellor, Annalena Baerbock. They could also distract attention from the mistakes that have so far beset her campaign.

The 40-year-old MP has been on the ropes recently over inaccuracies in her CV, alleged plagiarism in a book she published last month and delays in reporting extra party income to parliament.

“She definitely will be able to score points now with the [Greens’] competence in environmental and climate issues,” Karl-Rudolf Korte, a political scientist at the University of Duisburg-Essen told German TV. “It gives her a. whole new way to mobilise voters.”

Government spokeswoman Martina Fietz made clear that the authorities see climate change as the chief cause of the floods. “In principle, global warming leads to an increase in so-called extreme weather events like heatwaves, heavy rains and storms,” she said. In Germany, the average temperature had already risen by two degrees since records began, she said.

On the other hand, the new focus on climate could prove tricky for Armin Laschet, candidate for chancellor from the centre-right CDU/CSU. As governor of the North Rhine-Westphalia, home to some of Germany’s biggest companies, he strongly opposes parts of the Green agenda, saying they could endanger the country’s status as an industrial powerhouse.

Armin Laschet, candidate for chancellor from the centre-right CDU/CSU, opposes some of the Green agenda © Ina Fassbender/AFP/Getty

On Thursday, he was caught on the back foot, losing patience with a TV interviewer when she asked him if Germany now needed to act more aggressively to stem the climate crisis. “Excuse me young lady, you don’t change your policies just because of a day like today,” he said.

Yet even he was insistent that Germany must now pick up the pace on climate. “We must move more quickly down the path towards carbon neutrality,” he said on Friday.

Laschet was also able to score an important point over his two rivals, Baerbock and Olaf Scholz, the finance minister and Social Democratic candidate for chancellor. They were on holiday when the floods struck: he was not, and he went quickly to visit some of the worst-affected areas.

Laschet promised compensation to those left homeless, expressed sympathy for the victims and their families and thanked the emergency services, in speeches that seemed calculated to show him as an effective crisis manager and “Landesvater”, or father of the nation.

Laschet could gain politically from the new sense of insecurity ushered in by the floods, Korte said. “We will have to expect new crises,” he said, “and we will have most trust in the people or parties who have the best ideas for protecting us from what may come.” That could benefit the CDU/CSU, which has governed Germany for 50 of the past 70 years, and harm Baerbock, who has no government experience.

Rubble following heavy rainfalls in Schuld. © Wolfgang Rattay/Reuters

If the floods end up having an impact on Germany’s election campaign, it won’t be the first time. Experts say the severe flooding of the river Elbe in August 2002 influenced the outcome of elections in that year and ensured victory for the Social Democratic chancellor Gerhard Schröder.

He rushed to the scene, donning rubber boots, wading through the mud, and later promising huge amounts of aid to the worst-hit areas. By contrast his rival Edmund Stoiber, candidate for the CDU/CSU, did not break off his holiday on the North Sea island of Juist and ended up losing.

“I didn’t want to campaign with this natural catastrophe,” Stoiber said later — though he ended up visiting the flooded areas anyway.

The weather has also influenced politics in more recent years. The long dry spell that Germany experienced in 2018, with little rain and fields and forests turning brown in the baking sun, boosted the popularity of the Greens and fired their relentless rise in the polls: by November 2018 they were at 22 per cent, up from 8.9 per cent in the 2017 Bundestag election.

Then in May 2019 they garnered 20.5 per cent in elections to the European Parliament — their best national result to date.

Though no one wants to make political hay out of a crisis, there will be some in the Greens privately hoping the impact of the 2018 heatwave could find an echo in the aftermath of the summer floods of 2021.

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This post originally posted here International homepage

Brussels targets aviation fuel tax in drive to reduce carbon emissions

Brussels will set out plans this week to increase taxes on polluting fuels and introduce an EU-wide levy on aviation kerosene for the first time, under measures intended to put it at the forefront of global efforts to reduce carbon emissions. 

The European Commission will propose a revamp of its 15-year-old rule book on carbon taxes to provide an incentive for low-emissions fuel and impose levies on heavily polluting energy used in the airline and shipping industry. The measure is one of a dozen policies to be unveiled on Wednesday to ensure the EU can meet a goal of reducing average carbon emissions by 55 per cent by 2030. Others include an extension of the EU’s emissions trading scheme, tougher CO2 rules for cars and a carbon levy on some imports.

A draft legal text of the energy taxation directive, seen by the Financial Times, proposes gradually increasing minimum rates on the most polluting fuels such as petrol, diesel and kerosene used as jet-fuel over a period of 10 years. Zero-emissions fuels, green hydrogen and sustainable aviation fuels will face no levies for a decade under the proposed system. 

The “Fit for 55” package puts the EU at the vanguard of decarbonisation efforts but the proposals risk a backlash from some governments and the public.

Introducing environmental taxes is likely to be among the most politically sensitive measures in the commission’s plans. Unlike most of Brussels’ new green policies, updating the energy taxation directive will require unanimous backing from the EU’s 27 member states to become a reality. 

Paolo Gentiloni, Brussels economics commissioner, has called the reform a “now or never moment”.

“Paradoxically, [the current energy taxation directive] is incentivising fossil fuels and not environmentally friendly fuels. We have to change this”, Gentiloni said at a meeting of G20 finance ministers this weekend. 

The EU’s energy taxation rules date back to 2006 and have created a system that “favours fossil fuel use” owing to a series of exemptions and loopholes for dirty energy across different member states, according to the text. The directive is designed to set a series of minimum tax rates for energy products across the bloc. 

One of the big changes being proposed is an end to exemptions for heavily polluting fuels such as kerosene used in aviation. The draft says jet fuel used in intra-EU flights should be subject to a new minimum rate of taxation, the details of which have not yet been decided, said officials. The rules should, however, exempt cargo-only flights, and apply lower rates for non-commercial flights, according to the draft. 

Although a kerosene tax has been welcomed by many EU countries, it has sparked resistance from the aviation industry. Brussels is also planning to phase out free carbon credits provided to the sector under its ETS. Along with the taxation rules, the phase out of free allowances would significantly increase the pressure on aviation to reduce its emissions or pay for polluting. 

The draft says gradually increasing minimum taxes during a ten-year transition would help avoid the problem of “double taxation” for the maritime and aviation industries which risk being subject to two forms of CO2 pricing. 

Airline group A4E has said new carbon taxes for the sector are “ecologically and economically counterproductive” and that market-based carbon pricing should be the only main form of CO2 pricing placed on the industry. 

“An intra-EU kerosene tax could lead to a competitive distortion within Europe’s internal market and globally,” said A4E. “A possible kerosene tax that would set minimum tax rates for intra-EU flights is likely to have the most negative impact, as it may open the door to different rates inside the single market.”

Taking Microsoft’s Windows 11 for a Test Drive

A mobile-inspired overhaul makes Microsoft’s newest operating system feel equally modern and unoriginal.

For tech reviewers, critiquing a new operating system is something of an absurd ritual.

It’s like being a professional house inspector who delivers a report that always goes like this: Here’s what you need to know about the home you are about to move into. Some parts are great, but there are major problems. You’re moving in anyway, though, so you’re going to have to learn to live with it.

That’s because operating systems are essentially where your digital life takes place. If you own a personal computer made to run Windows, you’re probably going to keep using the next version of Windows no matter how good or bad it is.

That’s how I felt as I tried out Windows 11, Microsoft’s first big operating system update in six years. The company has marketed it as a new start to Windows with a modern, people-centric design. (Not new is how tech companies constantly remind us that their products were designed for users, as opposed to being for my Labrador retriever.) The software will be a free update for many Windows personal computers this holiday season.

New to Windows are tools for productivity, like the ability to instantly shrink and reorganize windows, and support for mobile Android apps. Yet Windows 11 is ultimately an evolution. While there are improvements, parts of it feel frustratingly familiar.

I tested an early, unfinished version of Windows 11 for a week. There are some highs, like a design that makes the software behave similarly to mobile devices, and some lows, like the dated concept of widgets, which are essentially miniature apps that live inside a dashboard on your screen.

Here’s my inspection report summing up the good, the meh and the ugly.

The Good

Taking Microsoft’s Windows 11 for a Test Drive
Brian X. Chen / The New York Times

Microsoft executives have called Windows 11 a new start to personal computing that centers on people. The corny wordplay was intended to highlight the biggest design change in Windows: The iconic Start button, which has traditionally been squeezed into the bottom-left corner, has shifted toward the bottom center. And no longer does the Start button load a list of settings and apps; it shows a folder of your apps.

This is the same interface we use on Apple and Android smartphones and tablets, which showcase a tray of important apps at the bottom center of the screen. Still, it’s a welcome change. The Start button in previous versions of Windows opened a laundry list of apps and settings that felt tedious to scroll through.

Brian X. Chen/The New York Times

The most interesting new design change is a feature called Snap Layouts, which I loved. In the upper-right corner of an app, when you hover your mouse cursor over the maximize-window button, a grid opens up to show different arrangements that automatically shrink down or reposition the app.

So if you want to reposition an app window so that it takes up only the left side of the screen, you click on the corresponding icon to snap it into that position. That’s much quicker than moving a window and dragging a corner to the proper size.

The Meh

Brian X. Chen / The New York Times

Many additions to Windows 11, including support for Android apps, were designed to keep people in the flow on their machines, said Yusuf Mehdi, a Microsoft executive. When you order an Uber, for instance, you no longer have to pick up an Android phone to summon the car and can do it directly from the Uber app on the Windows machine.

Yet many of the new features didn’t keep me in the flow.

One of them is the ability to create multiple desktop spaces, which Microsoft calls Task Views. The idea is that you can have a desktop screen for each aspect of your life. One desktop could be devoted to work and show shortcuts to your email and calendar apps. Another could be devoted to your personal life and show shortcuts to all your games.

This all sounds good, but divvying up my life into separate desktop screens quickly felt irksome. Switching to a specific screen and looking for the right app to launch took much more time than using the search tool to quickly find and open an app.

Windows 11 also reintroduces the widget, a concept that Apple and Google operating systems have long used. Widgets are basically a lightweight app that always remains open, like a weather app, a calendar or a stock ticker, so that you can instantly glance at important information. To view widgets, you click a button that shows a drawer of all of them running side by side.

I never got into the habit of using widgets on any of my smartphones or computers because they feel superfluous — and it was the same with Windows 11. Widgets show a bite-size amount of information, like a truncated view of your calendar to show the current date and your next appointment. But whenever I checked my calendar widget, I ended up wanting to open my full calendar app anyway to see all my events for the month.

Microsoft plans to allow Windows 11 users to have access to Amazon’s app store for downloading Android apps. This was not available yet to test, but I predict it could bust your flow with widgets. Let’s say you love a great Android to-do-list app and add all your tasks in there. If the same app isn’t also available as a widget, you won’t be able to view your to-do list in the widgets dashboard. Why bother with widgets?

The Ugly

These are still early days, since Windows 11 is officially due for release in the holiday season and much about the software is subject to change. But one issue that is unlikely to change is that for security reasons, personal computers must, at a minimum, include fairly recent chips from Intel and AMD to install Windows 11.

That means millions of computers running Windows 10 on older hardware, including some that are a few years old, will not be able to run Windows 11. So at some point, those users will have to buy new computers to gain the stronger security benefits and new features in the operating system.

In other words, unlike past updates that have been free, Windows 11 may mean you have to pay for a truck to move into a house that feels quite familiar, with some new window dressing.

Author: Brian X. Chen
Read more here >>> NYT > Technology > Personal Tech

Jenson Button praises new Lotus Emira supercar as ‘exceptional’ in world first test drive

The fomer F1 star described the car as “exceptional” and said he was a “big fan” of the vehicle. Mr Button said the car gave him “great confidence” from the outset as he did 30 laps of the Hethel test track.

The model’s engine is designed in union with AMG and will deliver up to 360bhp.

Alongside this, Lotus has promised the Emira will be the only car in its class to generate significant levels of downforce.

This will ensure “outstanding performance” and “exceptional grip” at all speeds when on the road.

Button said: “The Lotus purists will love it, and the thing that people new to Lotus will love is the premium quality of the interior.

Author: Luke Chillingsworth
Read more here >>> Daily Express :: Life and Style
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EU green policy chief sets out plans to drive electric car uptake

Brussels is seeking to stimulate take-up of electric cars by imposing a deadline to phase out the combustion engine and make carmakers pay a carbon price as part of a plan to decarbonise the EU economy.

Frans Timmermans, European Commission vice-president for green policy, told the Financial Times that Brussels was preparing a multipronged strategy to drive down the cost of electric vehicles and make cleaner cars “accessible to all Europeans”. 

The commission will present a series of measures this month to ensure the EU can meet its target of reducing average carbon emissions by 55 per cent in 2030, compared with 1990 levels. 

Timmermans said the measures would include tightening CO2 emissions standards for new cars sold over the next decade and a proposal for automakers to pay for polluting under the EU’s market-driven emissions trading scheme. 

“We have to do these two things to stimulate the introduction of electric vehicles. We don’t believe that just announcing a cut-off date would do the trick, but that telling the industry — as we’ve been doing all along — that we will come with stricter emission norms is actually sending the message and pushing them into this direction,” he said. 

An EU official told the FT that Brussels was considering a 100 per cent reduction in average CO2 emissions in new cars by 2035 — making it a de facto deadline for the last petrol and diesel cars to be sold in the EU. Germany’s Volkswagen announced last week that it would aim to stop the manufacture of combustion engine vehicles in Europe by 2035. 

EU car emissions standards faced fierce lobbying from vehicle makers when a targeted 37.5 per cent CO2 reduction for 2030 was first agreed in 2018. This is likely to be revised up to 60 per cent for 2030 and 100 per cent in 2035, said the official. 

The EU is aiming to become the first major region to hit net zero carbon emissions by 2050. Brussels will propose 13 legislative measures on July 14 to translate the goal into a legal reality. The legislation will need to be approved by a majority of MEPs and the EU’s 27 member states to come into force.

Timmermans said the car industry’s approach had “changed completely” as the sector invested in low emissions battery technology. Electric vehicles made up around 11 per cent of new EU car registrations in 2020, tripling from the previous year, according to the European Environment Agency. 

“The car industry has really embraced the idea that they need to decarbonise. There’s always going to be a discussion at what pace but I think they’ve understood that this is the way forward”, he said. 

The existing stock of the “dirtiest” vehicles on the road should also be disincentivised by including automakers in the bloc’s carbon pricing system, Timmermans said. Brussels is preparing plans to include transport and housing in a smaller cap-and-trade carbon market, where sectors have to buy and sell carbon credits based on their emissions. 

Frans Timmermans said the EU’s multipronged strategy would cut costs and make cleaner cars ‘accessible to all Europeans’
Frans Timmermans said the EU’s multipronged strategy would cut costs and make cleaner cars ‘accessible to all Europeans’ © Johanna Geron/Pool via AP

The carbon price proposal has been criticised by governments in poorer parts of the EU for disproportionately penalising lower-income consumers who cannot easily switch to electric vehicles or alternative modes of green transport. 

Timmermans said Brussels would try to convince member states of the merits of the system by proposing a Climate Action Social Fund that would use a “substantial” portion of proceeds from the housing and transport carbon market to cushion the blow for worst-hit households. 

“It has to be substantial, so you can mitigate the consequences for those who would be unevenly affected by the changes,” he said.

Timmermans, a Dutch social democrat, said that while there were fears of a repeat of France’s 2018gilets jaunes” backlash against planned rises in petrol taxes, emissions in the transport sector had gone up in recent years. Poorer eastern European countries have also warned that their fossil-fuel reliant economies risk being penalised by the rapid pace of decarbonisation.

“The sense of urgency is not the same everywhere in Europe. If your overarching concern is [making it to] the end of the month, then the end of life on Earth is not something you think about every day” he said. 

“Whatever we present has to be credible from a social point of view. This is arguably the biggest transformational operation in living memory. It will be tough.” 

The commission will also respond to demands for more comprehensive electric charging infrastructure across the EU after research showed that three countries — France, the Netherlands and Germany — hosted 70 per cent of all car charging points in the bloc.

Timmermans said the EU’s current target of 1m charging points by 2025 was “modest” and that Brussels would propose stricter requirements for charging points within smaller geographic proximities later this month.

“We need to make sure that all Europeans can travel in an electric vehicle and charge it within a reasonable distance of where they need to be or where they live,” he said. 

Author: Mehreen Khan in Brussels
Read more here >>> International homepage

Crash Drive 3 Launches July 8

Have you ever considered a career as a stunt driver? Crash Drive 3 is your ultimate arcade driving playground, where you can take the wheel of everything from race cars and monster trucks to fire engines and tanks! Explore an open world full of larger than life places that are perfect for wild racing and incredible stunts. Drift across ice in the arctic, somersault over the battlements of a forest castle, and much more. You can even take a rocket to visit the moon! Each area is unique and filled with stunt hoop challenges, secrets, collectibles and special Easter eggs.

Crash Drive 3

Competitive Events

As you explore the world of Crash Drive 3, competitive events will be announced – everyone in the world can take part… or just keep goofing around! A giant beach ball might fall from the sky, where you earn points every time you crash into it. One player might find themselves crowned king – but how long can they avoid the other players trying to take their crown? Perhaps you’ll be challenged to tag as many bits of scenery as you can by doing stunts on them… there are 10 different game events, with prizes going to the top scoring players. Once an event is done, it won’t be long before another one comes along! We had great fun testing all these different events, and we’re confident you will too!

Spend the cash you earn from exploring and events to customize your ride. Install funky antennas, fancy number plates, and more! You can also use cash to upgrade your vehicles and buy new ones. From school buses and police vans to dragsters and beach buggies, there’s a whole lot of variety for your garage!

Crash Drive 3

Your vehicles will also upgrade as you drive them – want faster top speed? Just drive at top speed! Using nitro boosts will increase your car’s total nitro capacity, and so on… if you reach the highest player level possible, you might even be able to get a solid gold car.

Have a Blast in Tank Battles

Yep! There are also tank battles in Crash Drive 3! We knew we wanted tanks in the game, and they’re such exceptional vehicles that we knew they deserved their own game mode. Engage in airborne tank battles atop the sky arena! Smash your opponents off the platform or use your cannon to score points and dominate! Success will earn you new cash, which can be used to unlock new tanks. There are 10 in total, with different types from light tanks to brawlers, each having a unique play style.

Crash Drive 3

Play Solo or with Friends

We wanted Crash Drive 3 to be as easy as possible to get into, and we wanted to make a game where we could play with friends anytime. Thanks to the magic of cross-platform multiplayer, we’re happy to say that no matter which device they use, you can play with any of your friends! We even put in a feature so that if you get online connectivity issues, the game will seamlessly switch into the fully featured single player mode so you never have to put on the brakes.

So what are you waiting for? Get ready to start your engines when Crash Drive 3 comes to Xbox One and Xbox Series X|S on July 8 — there’s a giant beach ball falling from the sky, and it’s got your name on it!

Xbox LiveXbox Live

Crash Drive 3


Xbox One X Enhanced

Are you ready for THE car stunting playground? Experience ridiculous fun in this cross-platform multiplayer, free-roaming game! Drive monster trucks, tanks and more amazing vehicles across a huge open world. Level up, play events, earn cash, unlock new cars and discover secrets…. Crash Drive is back!

Destroy a gigantic beach ball, catch robbers as a cop or steal the king’s crown, these are just a few examples of the 10 fun game events this game has to offer. Participate in these random competitive events, beat your opponents to earn the most cash and buy awesome new cars or customisations.

By using nitro boosts you increase the car’s nitro capacity, by driving at top speed you increase its top speed… catch the drift? ‘Maxing’ all stats for a car increases your player level allowing you to buy new cars or customisations. Collect over 50+ vehicles and customise your car with funky antennas, boosts and unique number plates with your in-game name on it. Reach the maximum player level to prestige and show who is the real Crash Drive 3 boss! Solid golden car anyone?

To the moon and back! Drive around freely and explore the boundless and varied open world at your leisure. Fly a rocket to the moon, storm the king’s castle in the forest, go to the saloon in the wild west canyons or experience ice drifting fun in the arctic snow. Done with icy cold? How about a relaxing ferry trip to the tropics? Each area is unique and filled with secret areas, collectibles and special easter eggs… Think you’ll ever be done exploring this world?

Blast or crash opponents from the sky arena to score points and dominate the battle arenas. Win in order to buy new tanks each with a unique play style. You will have a blast in the exciting tank battles mode!

No matter which platform your friends play on, you can always play together thanks to cross platform multiplayer support. Or if you want to do some stunting offline, switch seamlessly to a fully single player experience anytime you like!

Author: Matt Hergaarden, Co-founder, M2H
This post originally appeared on Xbox Wire

3 shot in flea market parking lot in suspected road rage incident on Airline Drive in N. Harris Co.

HARRIS COUNTY, Texas (KTRK) — Three people were shot in the parking lot of a flea market Sunday night in north Harris County in what authorities believe was a suspected road rage incident.

The sheriff’s office called it a “random act of violence.”

Deputies responded to the 8700 block of Airline Drive near Gulf Bank Road, where Sheriff Ed Gonzalez said in a tweet that three people had been shot.

According to an update from officials early Monday morning, a man driving in the parking lot fired several rounds.

Two of the people who were struck were transported to the hospital. All three victims are expected to survive.

The shooter is on the run, and there’s no description of his vehicle.

Police told ABC13 they are reviewing surveillance video.

This latest shooting on Airline makes eight shootings on Houston-area roadways in the past six days.

If you do find yourself in a road rage incident or dealing with aggressive drivers, TxDOT says there are things you can do to try to get out of the situation safely.

“Just don’t make any eye contact, don’t even look at the person. Just continue to move on. Just back away. Just maybe take another exit. Definitely call law enforcement if you feel threatened,” said Danny Perez with TxDOT.

TxDOT also said doing the following can help:

  • Stay calm. Keep your emotions in check.
  • Plan ahead and anticipate delays.
  • Focus on your own driving. Be cautious and considerate.
  • Avoid creating a situation that may cause provocation.
  • Give angry drivers plenty of room.
  • Avoid eye contact.
  • Use the left lane only when passing.
  • Use your horn sparingly.
  • Don’t tailgate or flash your lights behind someone.
  • Don’t yell obscenities or make inappropriate hand gestures, and don’t respond to drivers who do.
  • If you’re concerned for your safety, call 911.

How to survive dangerous road rage encounters

Woman shot while driving on Highway 288 during altercation with Mercedes driver

6-year-old boy witnessed killing of dad in road rage incident: ‘I didn’t know what was happening’

Follow Stefania Okolie on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Copyright © 2021 KTRK-TV. All Rights Reserved.

Author: Stefania Okolie

This post originally appeared on ABC13 RSS Feed

Google could delete your Gmail, Photos and Drive! New rules start tomorrow

“If you’re inactive for 2 years (24 months) in Gmail, Drive or Photos, we may delete the content in the product(s) in which you’re inactive. If you exceed your storage limit for 2 years, we may delete your content across Gmail, Drive and Photos,” the firm said.

The other thing to note is that the new rules come into force on June 1 2021 meaning nothing will be deleted until at least June 1 2023.

If you haven’t touched your Photos for Gmail for a long time, Google will inform you a number of times before hitting the delete button so users shouldn’t lose any content without hearing about it first.

Along with Google now being able to remove content, there’s another big change that comes into force from tomorrow as well.

Until now, Google Photos users have been able to upload endless pictures to the cloud without having to pay a penny for the privilege.

This post originally appeared on Daily Express :: Tech Feed