EFF Calls For Disclosure of Secret Financing Details Behind $1.1 Billion .ORG Sale, Asks FTC To Scrutinize Deal

Transaction Saddles .ORG Registry With $360 Million In Debt

San Francisco—The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and the Americans for Financial Reform (AFR) Education Fund today called on ICANN and private equity firm Ethos Capital to make public secret details—hidden costs, loan servicing fees, and inducements to insiders—about financing the $1.1 billion sale of the .ORG domain registry.

EFF and AFR today also urged the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to review the leveraged buyout, which will have profound effects on millions of charities, public interest organizations, and nonprofits—and the consumers who rely on them—around the world. The deal would turn the .ORG registry—run for 17 years by the nonprofit Public Interest Registry (PIR) organization—into a for-profit enterprise controlled by a private equity firm that is partially funding the deal with a $360 million term loan.

The proposed transaction would increase the likelihood that the new for-profit PIR LLC could unfairly exercise its monopoly power to disadvantage non-profit organization consumers by reducing service levels, imposing onerous terms of service, or otherwise interfering with their operations. EFF, AFR, and 824 nonprofits—including National Council of Nonprofits, Girl Scouts of America, and American Bible Society—oppose the deal, as do 24,000 individuals and six members of Congress. AFR represents a coalition of over 200 civil rights, faith-based, consumer, and community groups and was formed after the 2008 financial crisis.

In a letter to the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, or ICANN, which coordinates the operation and maintenance of the internet’s domain name system, EFF and AFR said the deal should be stopped unless and until ICANN can fully assess, and make public, critical financial details of the transaction. Ethos and other entities involved in the sale have provided few details about financing, including how PIR, which has average annual profits of just $35 million, will make interest payments on the massive loan it will be saddled with and still provide sufficient services to the nonprofits that use the .ORG domain to exist on the Internet.

What is known about the interest payments is they are $24 million a year, about two-thirds of PIR’s annual profits. PIR will also be on the hook for the balance of the $360 million loan. The registry will have to come up with substantial additional money to keep up with these huge costs, forcing it to either raise fees charged to nonprofits for use of .ORG, reduce investments in technical upkeep, or take other steps to boost revenue. PIR said today that it would restrict price increases and form a “stewardship council” to address the concerns in the nonprofit world, but these steps don’t go nearly far enough and have limited enforceability.

“Given the poor track record of private equity firms running vital services for the public, these authorities need to take a close look at Ethos Capital’s financial plans for .ORG, and the structure of the deal,” said EFF Senior Staff Attorney Mitch Stoltz. “Establishing an advisory council doesn't solve the problem, especially since PIR's new owners will appoint the council, control what information its members will see and its power is limited to only some non-financial considerations."

“A private equity transaction poses unique risks to the .ORG non-profit community. The private equity firm seeking to acquire .ORG is using the classic leveraged buyout strategy of saddling the new company with a massive debt load,” said Patrick Woodall, senior researcher at Americans for Financial Reform. “This formula often leads to disaster for the company and can be especially corrosive for private equity takeovers of entities with a public mission as is the case with .ORG. The public needs far more information about the financial terms of this transaction before the relevant authorities make a decision on whether it should proceed.”

“The changes announced today by Ethos do not provide the protections and security that the community has been asking for over the last three months,” said Amy Sample Ward, Chief Executive Officer of nonprofit advocacy group NTEN. “The pricing clause that offers a 10% annual increase on average and only for the first 8 years does not speak to the real concerns raised by nonprofits around the world about pricing protections for the long term.”

For the letter to ICANN:
https://www.eff.org/document/eff-afref-letter-icann-about-sale-pir

For the letter to the FTC:
https://www.eff.org/document/eff-afref-letter-ftc-about-sale-pir

For more about SAVE.ORG:
https://savedotorg.org/

Contact: 
Mitch
Stoltz
Senior Staff Attorney
Carter
Dougherty
Communications Director, Americans for Financial Reform

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This retro-looking rotary cellphone is free of modern-day distractions

What we carry today in our pockets is nominally called a “phone,” but more often than not we’re using it to do various other computing tasks. Justine Haupt, however, wanted an actual phone that “goes as far from having a touchscreen as [she could] imagine.”

What she came up with is a rotary cellphone that’s not just a show-and-tell piece, but is intended to be her primary mobile device. It’s reasonably portable, has a removable antenna for excellent reception, a 10-increment signal meter, and, perhaps most importantly, doesn’t make her go through a bunch of menus to actually use it as a phone. Other features include number storage for those she calls most often and a curved ePaper display that naturally doesn’t use any power when revealing a fixed message.

The project was prototyped using an Arduino Micro. It was then laid out of a PCB with an an Adafruit FONA 3G board and an ATmega2560V, programmed in the Arduino IDE.

Haupt has published a detailed look at the build process here.

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An experimental HF 6-band SSB transceiver

Peter (DK7IH) has been working on HF 6-band SSB transceiver:

Part 1: Project Basic Outline Presentation
Part 2: The Oscillators (VFO, LO and Testtone Osc.)
Part 3: The Microcontroller (ATMega128)
Part 4: Bandswitching Logical Circuits
Part 5: Measuring Transceiver Data
Part 6: The Receiver
Part 7: The Transmitter
Part 8: Transmit/Receive Switch Unit
Part 9: Mechanical construction

Project details on Radiotransmitter site.

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Save the date: Arduino Day 2020 is Saturday, March 21st!

It’s Arduino’s 15th birthday! We are inviting the whole community to join Arduino Day 2020 on Saturday, March 21st.

Arduino Day is a 24-hour-long celebration around the globe, organized by the community for the community — where those interested in Arduino get together, share their experiences, and learn more about the platform. Participation is open to anyone, either as an organizer or participant, from makers and students to professional developers and educators. 

In 2019, we had a record 659 events held in more than 100 countries — full of activities, workshops, talks, and project exhibitions for a wide range of audiences and skill sets. 

If you would like to organize an event, please fill out this online form and submit your proposal by March 6th. 

Let’s join together and make 2020 another record-breaking year! 

Over the next few weeks, make sure to visit the Arduino Day website to learn more or locate an event in your area. Moreover, don’t forget to spread the word on social media using the hashtag #ArduinoD20! 

For more information, please visit day.arduino.cc.

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Ultrasound Appears to Relieve Parkinson’s Symptoms

There may be as many as 10 million people around the world with Parkinson’s disease, an affliction that is often marked by tremors that can become quite severe. One of the few options to control such tremors requires a brain implant, but a growing body of research suggests that simple ultrasound might be an effective treatment.

The use of an ultrasound technique for the treatment of tremors was conducted by the Department of Biotechnology and Applied Clinical Sciences of the University of L’Aquila and involved 39 patients. The researchers found that 95% of the patients involved saw an immediate reduction in tremors after treatment with high-frequency sound waves.

This reinforces similar findings from other medical researchers. Some ultrasound devices have already received FDA approval for treating Parkinson’s.

Currently, the most common treatment is to perform deep brain stimulation with a device that is implanted and allows to control the nerve centers responsible for tremors and other symptoms.

Tremors are rhythmic and involuntary muscle movements that cause uncoordinated movements in one or more parts of the body, usually in the hands. They are characteristic of movement disorders such as essential tremor (ET) or Parkinson’s disease (PD) tremor, two progressive conditions that affect millions of people worldwide. After Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s disease is the most common degenerative neurological disease.

What is ultrasound?

Ultrasound is acoustic waves with a frequency above 20 kHz, i.e., not audible to the human ear. The use of ultrasound on the human body is possible because these waves penetrate the biological system releasing its energy. This “release” has various effects on the body and is used not only in diagnostics but also in physiotherapy and even in aesthetic medicine, as well as treating orthopedic and muscular pathologies. Ultrasound is commonly used to produce imagery of fetuses during pregnancies.

Depending on the material used for the generation, there can be different frequencies of ultrasound, different propagation in the materials, and, therefore, different power characteristics of the generating machines.

The penetration of an ultrasound, i.e., its ability to reach deep into a tissue, is in inverse relation to its frequency. In practice, higher frequency ultrasounds allow a better resolution of objects, but they can penetrate less deeply into the structures of the organism.

Figure 1: Ultrasound system block diagram [Source: Analog Devices]
Figure 1: Ultrasound system block diagram [Source: Analog Devices]
Figure 1 shows an example of a hardware block diagram for electronic signal processing for an ultrasonic device. An HV Mux / Demux is implemented to reduce the complexity of hardware transmission and reception. Modern front-end chips such as AD8332 (VGA) and AD9238 (12b ADC) try to cope with increasingly sophisticated costs and processing demands.

On the transmission side, the Tx beam-former determines the pattern of the pulse train that sets the desired transmission focal point. The outputs of the beam-former are then amplified by high voltage transmission amplifiers that drive the transducers. To model the signals and obtain a better supply of energy to the transducer elements, the amplifiers could be controlled by the DAC devices.

The study

Italian research has shown how ultrasound in the brain stops tremors. The research was conducted by a team led by Federico Bruno, radiologist of the Department of Biotechnology and Applied Clinical Sciences at the University of L’Aquila. The researchers analyzed data from about forty patients with tremors, including both people with Parkinson’s disease and patients with essential tremor, who had not responded to traditional therapies.

The technique used is focused ultrasound guided by magnetic resonance imaging (MRgFUS). This is a minimally invasive procedure with a device that triggers the ultrasounds affecting the brain (figure 2).

Figure 2: MRgFUS machine [Source: University of L'Aquila].
Figure 2: MRgFUS machine [Source: University of L’Aquila].
The high-intensity waves are guided by an MRI and focused on a particular area of brain tissue. Once in the brain tissue, they heat and destroy the thalamus with a long-term reduction in tremors. The thalamus is an area of the brain below the cortex. Its role is fundamental and sophisticated: it selects and controls incoming information in relation to each experience.

The research team found that 37 out of 39 patients showed an immediate reduction in tremor. Even after some time, the tremor was lower. Some undesirable effects affected some patients, in particular limb weakness, and an alteration in the sensitivity of other parts of the body.

Currently, the only problems with this revolutionary procedure are that it is little-known and there are still few centers offering it, as Professor Bruno said: “The clinical application of this technique for neurological diseases is an absolute novelty; its clinical use was approved by the FDA less than three years ago. Few patients are aware of this therapeutic option, and there are still a few specialized centers that can offer it.”

The technique does not require invasive interventions. The brain tissue is heated in a targeted manner and then destroyed  — through ultrasonic beams, safeguarding the surrounding healthy tissue. The technique presents less risk of bleeding or infection-related complications than deep brain stimulation or surgery to implant small electrodes. The disadvantage is that the process is irreversible, and any side effects are permanent.

The post Ultrasound Appears to Relieve Parkinson’s Symptoms appeared first on EETimes.

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The New Qwiic Pro Micro is Here!

Welcome, welcome, welcome, everyone! We may not have too many products to show you this week but, as you know, that usually means we have something big. This week we are happy to announce a brand new version of our super small, Arduino-capable Pro Micro! We've added a handful of key new features to the board and have been able to combine the 5V version with the 3.3V version.

Be a Qwiic Pro!

SparkFun Qwiic Pro Micro - USB-C (ATmega32U4)

added to your cart!

SparkFun Qwiic Pro Micro - USB-C (ATmega32U4)

In stock DEV-15795

The SparkFun Qwiic Pro Micro adds a reset button, Qwiic connector, USB-C, and castellated pads to the miniaturized Arduino bo…

$19.95

Here at SparkFun, we refuse to leave 'good enough' alone - that's why we're adding to our lineup of Arduino-compatible microcontrollers! The SparkFun Qwiic Pro Micro is a revision of the original Pro Micro and is overall functionally the same as the previous version. The board is the same size as the original Pro Micro, but we added a few additional features by shrinking down some components on the board, such as a reset button, Qwiic connector, USB-C and castellated pads (this makes it really handy for you custom keyboard creators out there)! Think the Pro Mini except with an ATmega32U4 on board and full USB functionality.


USB to Serial IC - CH340E (10 Pack)

added to your cart!

USB to Serial IC - CH340E (10 Pack)

Only 6 left! COM-16278

A 10 pack of the USB to Serial IC - CH340E.

$4.95

The USB to Serial CH340E IC is a USB bus conversion chip - it can realize USB to UART interface, or USB to printer interface. In serial UART mode, CH340E provides common MODEM liaison signal, used to expand UART interface of computer or upgrade the common serial device to USB bus directly.


That's it for this week! As always, we can't wait to see what you make! Shoot us a tweet @sparkfun, or let us know on Instagram or Facebook. We’d love to see what projects you’ve made!

Never miss a new product!

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App note: Achieving a stable power supply with fast transient response through digital control

Technical white paper from Renesas on using digital control loop to achieve more stable power supply. Link here (PDF)

New trends and changing requirements in the power management industry influence how we design power supplies. Some, like the need for telemetry and system information, are more recent due to advancements in technology. Others, like the demand for smaller solutions, higher levels of integration, faster transient response and high switching frequencies, have been around for decades. But throughout the entire history of power system design there has been one requirement that has been constant: the need for a stable power supply.

This article details the common problems plaguing analog voltage mode control loops and shows how a digital control loop is able to provide bandwidth that was previously dismissed as unobtainable. By walking through the variables associated with stability and comparing it to an analog control system, it can be seen that a digital control loop is able to achieve faster transient response and improved performance while maintaining a stable loop.

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Four Favorite Tools

Cover of Four Favorite Tools

The kind folks at Cool Tools sent us a copy of Four Favorite Tools, which is a compilation of recommendations from the Cool Tools Podcast, including from the episodes we were on. I’ve had it sitting on my desk since it arrived, and I’ve been flipping through it pretty regularly. It’s been fun to look up the people I know and see what they recommended. It’s also fun to learn about people I don’t know from their browsing their recommendations.

Lenore's section in Four Favorite Tools

All of the information in the book is also included in each person’s podcast episode on the Cool Tool’s site (here are ours: Lenore and Windell), but I’m much more likely to flip through the book and happen upon something new than I am to go explore online. This book would be a great gift for the tool-users in your life.

Thank you Kevin, Claudia & Mark!

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NEW PRODUCT – Pimoroni Enviro – Indoor Environmental Monitor for Raspberry Pi – PIM486

4455

NEW PRODUCT – Pimoroni Enviro – Indoor Environmental Monitor for Raspberry Pi – PIM486


Monitor your world with Pimoroni’s Enviro PHAT for Raspberry Pi! There are a whole bunch of fancy environmental sensors on these boards, and a gorgeous little full-color LCD to display your data. It’s the perfect way to get started with citizen science and environmental monitoring – with a great UI and easy-to-use Python code

4455 iso ORIG 2020 01

4455 top ORIG 2020 01

Enviro is designed for indoor monitoring, letting you measure temperature, pressure, humidity, light, and noise level. It’s great for keeping tabs on what’s going on in various rooms in your house, office, or elsewhere. Push the data to server, and you can view the data remotely from anywhere.

Features:

4455 quarter ORIG 2020 01

In stock and shipping now!

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Adafruit Weekly Editorial Round-Up: CAD Design Tips, Discord, Cleveland Museum of Art PyPortal Frame and More!

NewImage 51


ADAFRUIT WEEKLY EDITORIAL ROUND-UP


We’ve got so much happening here at Adafruit that it’s not always easy to keep up! Don’t fret, we’ve got you covered. Each week we’ll be posting a handy round-up of what we’ve been up to, ranging from learn guides to blog articles, videos, and more.


BLOG

3RtvDRx 1442x2048
A Poster of CAD Design Tips for #3DPrinting #CAD @BillieRubenMake

“Maker of many kinds, serial skill-collector, and STEM-student,” Billie Ruben, has created this very useful little poster of do’s, don’ts, and other design considerations for creating CAD files for 3D printing.

You can download a large version of the poster, along with two other 3DP tips posters she’s created here. While on the Imgur link, don’t forget to check out Billie’s other two posters with more tips on what modeling programs to use for different types of 3DP and the ins and outs of 3D printer bed leveling. Read more!

More BLOG:


LEARN

Adafruit io IMG 20200129 141515
Cleveland Museum of Art PyPortal Frame
Use your PyPortal to display works of art from the Cleveland Museum of Art

Museums today are expanding public access to their art collections, not just inside the walls of the museum but also outside. Digital initiatives are bringing artwork, once relegated within the confines of the museum, to a 21st century global audience. These modern museums have essentially become the new content providers. Much like the modern companies Netflix and Pandora that provide video and music content, museums are becoming their own content providers with their collection of paintings, photographs, jewelry and other media. Digitizing these collections and making it publicly available brings this material to a global audience.
One such museum that is at the forefront of this endeavor is the Cleveland Museum of Art.

This project accesses the CMA API using CircuitPython running on the PyPortal. It uses the API to pick a random item from the collection. It converts and resizes the JPEG image from the collection to a BMP image sized to the PyPortal using Adafruit IO image conversion service. Finally, the converted image is downloaded to the PyPortal for display. A new feature of the PyPortal allows the correct scaling of portrait images, which is a great feature for this project.
Learn more!

More LEARN

Browse all that’s new in the Adafruit Learning System here!

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