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NASA's Juno spacecraft ready for one-shot try to orbit Jupiter

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. A NASA spacecraft was poised for a one-shot attempt to slip into Jupiter's orbit on Monday for the start of a 20-month-long dance around the solar system's largest planet to learn how and where it formed.Flight controllers at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, were preparing for a long night as the Juno probe streaked closer toward Jupiter at 200 times the speed of sound in the empty vacuum of space."We're barreling down," Juno lead scientist Scott Bolton of the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio told reporters on Monday.By noon on Monday, Juno had sailed past three of Jupiter's four main moons, with volcanic Io, the innermost big moon, in its sights.Confirmation of whether Juno, the only solar-powered spacecraft ever dispatched to the outer solar system, had successfully placed itself into polar orbit around Jupiter was not expected until 11:53 p.m. EDT on Monday (0353 GMT on Tuesday).Launched from Florida nearly five years ago, Juno must be precisely positioned, ignite its main engine at exactly the right time and keep it burning for 35 minutes to shed enough speed so it can be captured by Jupiter's gravity. If anything goes even slightly awry, Juno will sail helplessly past Jupiter, unable to complete a $1 billion mission to peer through the planet's thick atmosphere and map its gargantuan magnetic field.Scientists are particularly interested in learning how much water Jupiter contains, which is key to determining where in the solar system it formed. Jupiter's origins, in turn, affected the development and position of the rest of the planets, including Earth and its fortuitous location conducive to the evolution of life.The immense gravity exerted by Jupiter's sheer size - packing 2-1/2 times the mass of all the other planets combined - is thought to have helped shield Earth from bombardment by comets and asteroids. "We are learning about nature, how Jupiter formed and what that tells us about our history and where we came from," Bolton said.The Juno probe is named for the ancient Roman goddess, who was the wife and sister of Jupiter, the mythological king of gods, and had the power to see through clouds.'MUSICAL NOTES' Only one other spacecraft, Galileo, has ever circled Jupiter, which is five times farther away from the sun than Earth and is itself orbited by 67 known moons. Bolton said Juno is likely to discover even more.Seven other U.S. space probes have sailed past the gas giant on brief reconnaissance missions before heading elsewhere in the solar system.Ground control teams will monitor Juno's progress during its do-or-die engine burn by listening for a series of radio signals."They really are musical notes. Based on what musical note is sent, we will know how something is doing," Bolton said.During its approach, Juno also must be lucky enough to fly through Jupiter's tenuous rings without being hit by particles zipping around so fast that even a speck the size of a blood cell could prove fatal. The risks to the spacecraft will not end once it arrives in orbit. The probe must quickly turn around and face the sun so its 18,698 solar cells can begin recharging the battery."I won't exhale until we are back sun-pointing again," Bolton said.Juno will fly in highly elliptical, egg-shaped orbits that pass within 3,000 miles (4,800 km) of the tops of Jupiter's clouds and inside the planet's powerful radiation belts.Juno's computers and sensitive science instruments are housed in a 400-pound (180-kg) titanium vault for protection. But during its 37 orbits around Jupiter, Juno will be exposed to the equivalent of 100 million dental X-rays, said Bill McAlpine, radiation control manager for the mission.The spacecraft, built by Lockheed Martin, is expected to last for 20 months. On its final orbit, Juno will dive into Jupiter's atmosphere, where it will be crushed and vaporized.Like Galileo, which circled Jupiter for eight years before crashing into the planet in 2003, Juno's demise is designed to prevent any hitchhiking microbes from Earth from inadvertently contaminating Jupiter's ocean-bearing moon Europa, a target of future study for extraterrestrial life. (Editing by Peter Cooney and Sandra Maler)

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Google beats children's web privacy appeal, Viacom must face one claim

A federal appeals court on Monday said Google and Viacom need not face a nationwide lawsuit claiming they illegally tracked the activity of children under the age of 13 who watched videos and played video games on the Nickelodeon website.The 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia largely upheld a January 2015 lower court ruling dismissing claims that Google, which is a unit of Alphabet Inc, and Viacom Inc violated the federal Video Privacy Protection Act by planting "cookies" on children's computers. But the appeals court also revived one privacy claim against Viacom, which alleged that the company promised not to collect personal information about children but did so anyway. (Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by David Gregorio)

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Democrat gun control sit-in sparks social media sensation

A blackout of television cameras in the U.S. House Representatives during the Democrats' gun control sit-in may have spurred public interest in the protest as it forced the demonstrators to use social media to broadcast their message.Democrats leapt on Facebook Live and Twitter's Periscope after the cameras, controlled by the House, went dark Wednesday when presiding House officer and Republican Representative Ted Poe declared the chamber not in order during the protest.As Democrats took to alternative forms of video broadcasting, their message gained tremendous momentum from social media. On Twitter, the hashtags #NoBillNoBreak and #HoldTheFloor have been tweeted at least 1.4 million times.Of the roughly 20 members of Congress who remained at the sit-in overnight, 19 of them used Facebook Live for a total combined viewership of 3 million.“It really connected with people out there,” Congressman Scott Peters told Reuters. "This whole phenomenon with [live video] struck a nerve."Peters used the application Periscope, which is connected to the social media platform Twitter, to send out video. “Without that, think about it, it would have been a caucus meeting where we talk to ourselves," he added. In remarks Wednesday outside the Capitol, House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi praised how her party harnessed social media."Without you and without the technology of Periscope [the sit-in] would just be a debate in the Halls of Congress unrecorded because they turned off the microphones," Pelosi said. "But we raised our voices. They turned off the cameras and we went to Periscope." Congressman Mark Takano, who began posting live videos from the chamber to his Facebook page Wednesday afternoon and continued to throughout the night, said the social media video helped him connect with constituents."Once I got started with the live streaming I didn’t feel like I could let down the people who were following me,” said Takano. “It was a way to push out a message.”Even C-SPAN, which typically broadcasts footage recorded by the House cameras, picked up live video from four different members of Congress roughly two hours after the House cameras shut down, according to communications director Howard Mortman. It marked the first time the channel broadcast a live social media feed from the House floor. "Something interesting is happening with Facebook Live that's bringing more openness to the political process," said Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook, in a post to his social media profile Thursday."It's a way to share anything you want with the world using just your phone." (Reporting By Amy Tennery; additional reporting by Angela Moon in New York and Susan Cornwell in Washington; Editing by Andrew Hay)

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SoftBank names domestic telecom chief Miyauchi as president

TOKYO SoftBank Group Corp (9984.T) said Wednesday that Ken Miyauchi, head of the group's Japanese telecommunications operations, would become president and chief operating officer to replace Nikesh Arora.Arora, the former Google executive handpicked by the SoftBank founder Masayoshi Son as his successor, has abruptly quit as president after it became clear that Son wanted to remain at the helm longer than first planned. (Reporting by Makiko Yamazaki; Editing by Edwina Gibbs)

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U.S. court backs landmark Obama internet equal-access rules

WASHINGTON A U.S. appeals court upheld the Obama administration's landmark rules barring internet service providers from obstructing or slowing down consumer access to web content on Tuesday, dealing a blow to big cable and mobile phone companies.A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, in a 2-1 decision, backed the Federal Communications Commission's so-called net neutrality rules put in place last year to make internet service providers treat all internet traffic equally.The rules prohibited broadband providers from giving or selling access to speedy internet, essentially a "fast lane" on the web's information superhighway, to certain internet services over others.In siding with the FCC, the court treated the internet like a public utility and opened the door to further government internet regulations.The ruling was a big victory for President Barack Obama, a strong advocate of net neutrality rules."Today's ruling is a victory for the open, fair and free internet as we know it today - one that remains open to innovation and economic growth, without service providers serving as paid gatekeepers," White House spokesman Josh Earnest said.But the fight is not over. The internet service providers that sued to block the regulations said they would appeal either to the full appellate court or to the Supreme Court, and telecommunications industry groups said they would redouble efforts to get Congress to limit the FCC's authority.Netflix Inc and Twitter Inc were among the companies that praised the ruling, while Google, part of Alphabet Inc, and others have backed the rules.Presumptive Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and Democrats in Congress also lauded the ruling. But the U.S. Chamber of Commerce business group said the FCC is "essentially transforming an entire industry, in this case the internet, from an innovative, lightly regulated enterprise that made huge investments into this country, into a public utility subject to the whims of regulators."South Dakota Republican John Thune, who chairs the Senate Commerce Committee, said the decision upholds FCC restrictions "designed for the monopoly-telephone era." He said the Republican-led Congress needs to step in to overturn a decision that results in "a highly political agency micromanaging the internet ecosystem."Net neutrality is a major issue for broadband providers like Verizon Communications Inc, Comcast Corp and AT&T, which fear the rules may make it harder to manage internet traffic and make investment to provide additional capacity less likely.Verizon said it backs an open internet but urged Congress to approve "reasonable, bipartisan legislation that would provide a stable framework for continued investment and innovation."The decision was a victory for content providers like Netflix and Yelp Inc, which have worried that access to customers could be limited without net neutrality. The ruling boosted the FCC in its bid to complete action on major internet privacy rules applying to internet providers before the end of the year. Internet service providers have expressed growing frustration at proposed FCC regulatory mandates, including new privacy rules and a proposal to open up pay-TV set top boxes to new competitors.'UNFETTERED ACCESS'FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said the "ruling is a victory for consumers and innovators who deserve unfettered access to the entire web, and it ensures the internet remains a platform for unparalleled innovation, free expression and economic growth." The telecommunications industry trade association US Telecom, which led the legal challenge, said the court failed to recognize "the significant legal failings" of the FCC rules that "we believe will replace a consumer-driven internet with a government-run internet, threatening innovation and investment in years to come."The court also rejected legal arguments from opponents that the rules should not apply to mobile phone web use or that they violated the constitutional free-speech rights of internet service providers.Republican FCC commissioner Michael O'Rielly said, "We all will rue the day the commission was confirmed to have nearly unmitigated power over the internet."While the ruling was critical for businesses, consumers likely will not notice any difference because the rules have been in effect since June 2015.The court's ruling was made by two Democratic-appointed judges: David Tatel, named by President Bill Clinton, and Sri Srinivasan, an Obama appointee. They wrote that "over the past two decades, (website) content has transformed nearly every aspect of our lives, from profound actions like choosing a leader, building a career, and falling in love to more quotidian ones like hailing a cab and watching a movie." Judge Stephen Williams, an appointee of Republican President Ronald Reagan, wrote in dissent that "the ultimate irony of the commission’s unreasoned patchwork is that, refusing to inquire into competitive conditions, it shunts broadband service onto the legal track suited to natural monopolies."The FCC decided in 2015 to reclassify internet service providers as common carriers under a 1996 law. But unlike how utilities are treated, the FCC decided not to impose rate regulations or require broadband providers to file notice of pricing plans. (Additional reporting by Lawrence Hurley)

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