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This is today’s edition of The Download our weekday newsletter that provides a daily dose of what’s going on in the world of technology.

We’re starting to understand the mysterious surge of hepatitis in children

The news: Hundreds of young children around the world have developed severe cases of hepatitis with no obvious cause, leaving doctors baffled. But two new studies reveal the potential culprits: a combination of genetic factors, lockdowns, and at least two viruses.

Researchers believe the common adenovirus and another adeno-associated virus may be triggering the unexplained hepatitis in children with a gene that affects the way the immune system works. Lockdowns inadvertently seem to have played a part as adenoviruses surged as people began to mingle more after they were lifted. 

Why it matters: Although the World Health Organization reported 1,010 probable cases of the liver condition in 35 countries as of July 8, the true number of cases is likely to be higher. The situation is serious—around 5% of the children infected worldwide have needed liver transplants, and 22 have died.

What’s next?: Although researchers are still not confident which of the viruses is causing the condition, or which first infected a child, the small studies offer some much-needed insight into why the mysterious condition appears to be so widespread. They could also help to shed light on previous, similar cases that could have been trickling along for years. Read the full story.

—Jessica Hamzelou

How governments seize millions in cryptocurrency

There have been so many recent multimillion-dollar cryptocurrency thefts that it’s easy to lose track. Organized crime, bad cybersecurity, financially motivated spies, and colorful criminals of all kinds have made so many headlines that even huge heists can go mostly unnoticed by the public. 

But sometimes the government is able to get it back. Last week, the United States seized $500,000 in cryptocurrency from alleged North Korean hackers who got that money by extorting American medical organizations. That’s just a drop in the bucket considering the grand total: the IRS alone seized $3.5 billion in cryptocurrency in 2021.

Read our explanation on how the government tries to track, freeze, and seize stolen cryptocurrency—and what comes next.

—Patrick Howell O’Neill

The must-reads

I’ve combed the internet to find you today’s most fun/important/scary/fascinating stories about technology.

1 Big Tech wants to kill the leap second 
The extra time has triggered internet outages and disturbances, they claim. (CNET)

2 QAnon ideology is thriving in the primaries
But savvy Republicans are avoiding explicitly outing themselves as believers. (NYT $)
Donald Trump refused to read lines condemning the Capitol rioters during a speech. (Reuters)
Pennsylvania’s Democratic candidate’s social media game is exceptional. (The Guardian)

3 Venture capitalists are set to invest a record sum in crypto
Completely unfazed by the past six months, then. (Reuters)
Hacked crypto platforms are pleading with thieves to return part of their haul. (WSJ $)

4America’s pedestrians are in real danger
Roads built purely for vehicles are threatening the lives of humans trying to cross them. (Vox)
London is experimenting with traffic lights that put pedestrians first. (MIT Technology Review)

5 Facebook is even worse without news
Pulling the plug on articles leaves the platform looking like a content graveyard. (The Atlantic)
Its failure to curb hate speech is continuing to fuel violence in Ethiopia. (Insider)
Meta’s insistence in copying TikTok is getting a bit embarrassing. (Axios)
Instagram’s makeover hasn’t gone down well with users either. (TechCrunch)

6 Algorithms are warping our sense of style
Fueling a flat, generic taste designed to appeal to everyone, yet no one. (New Yorker $)
We’re contending with pricing algorithms designed to squeeze us for every penny, too. (NPR)

7 Roblox bent over backwards to appease Chinese censors
And even that didn’t stop it from having to shut down there after just a few months. (Motherboard)
Chinese gamers are using a Steam wallpaper app to get porn past the censors. (MIT Technology Review)

8 Inside the ongoing war over lending digital books
Physical libraries are being dragged into debates over copyright law. (WP $)

9 Tech entrepreneurs are selling shares in their lives
Because, why not? (New Yorker $)

10 Brace yourself for the return of the Glasshole 
Companies are desperate to sell us smart glasses—but do we actually want them? (The Verge)
Why Facebook is using Ray-Ban to stake a claim on our faces. (MIT Technology Review)

Quote of the day

“Where will it go next? Good luck out there, little bag.”

—Finbarr Taylor, whose suitcase went AWOL during a flight from California to Glasgow, mournfully follows his bag’s journey across

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By: Rhiannon Williams
Title: The Download: a hepatitis mystery, and chasing crypto
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Published Date: Tue, 26 Jul 2022 12:05:00 +0000


LATAM crypto exchange Bitso and FMF launch NFT of Mexico’s National Team jerseys



Bitso, a leading cryptocurrency platform operating in Latin America, and the Mexican Football Federation (FMF), today announced the joint launch of the first collectible NFT of the Mexico National Team’s jerseys that was acquired in cryptocurrencies.

This morning through their social media platforms, the FMF and Bitso announced the opportunity to acquire the new official National Team fan jerseys ahead of the team’s participation in the 2022 World Cup. In just 20 minutes, the entire collection sold out.

The NFTs of the jerseys have an exclusive design for the metaverse – each is unique on the blockchain and can be resold by its owner in subsequent transactions.

The collection consisted of 100 official physical jerseys, each with a corresponding NFT version of the jersey that fans’ avatars can wear within the Decentraland metaverse. Each physical and NFT jersey set sold for the equivalent of $1,800 MXN in ethers.

“Our mission is to make cryptocurrency useful in the everyday life of Mexicans; we are committed to spreading the technology through innovative opportunities that help people throughout the country familiarize themselves with this new world. We are very excited to offer the incredible, historic opportunity for the fans of our National Team so that through their Bitso account, they can wear the colors of the National Team on and ‘off’ the field in the metaverse.”
– Bárbara González Briseño, General Director of Bitso México

Jersey NFTs

Created by Bitso, the virtual jersey sports the official colors of Mexico and the new National Team shield, characteristics that will make it stand out when users wear it in the virtual world of Decentraland.

The post LATAM crypto exchange Bitso and FMF launch NFT of Mexico’s National Team jerseys appeared first on CryptoNinjas.

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Title: LATAM crypto exchange Bitso and FMF launch NFT of Mexico’s National Team jerseys
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Published Date: Fri, 29 Jul 2022 15:19:02 +0000

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Long-running crypto exchange EXMO unveils “lively” rebrand amidst growth



EXMO, a crypto exchange platform operating since 2014, announced this week a rebranded visual identity with includes a new logo, brand colors, and design features. This new branding comes as EXMO continues to grow its crypto platform while also seeking to expand its presence in other jurisdictions.

Some new developments underway at EXMO:

Soon, users will be able to earn passive income from EXMO’s new staking platform.Plans to launch an EXMO crypto debit card.Expansion of its services in international markets with the opening of offices in Poland and Lithuania.

EXMO’s new logo

The rationale for the re-brand:

“At EXMO, we have a vision of a world where crypto is in every wallet. Hassle-free. We want to achieve this by making crypto as simple and accessible to everyone as possible. And we know that you already appreciate EXMO for offering user-friendly services and helpful support. Also for the opportunity to trade anywhere and anytime, closing deals in just a few taps. Such important changes required a rethinking of our corporate style, which has long needed a massive upgrade. So today we are introducing a new brand identity for EXMO with a completely new visual concept. We are launching a new logo, brand colors, and design elements. Our key design principles are simplicity, boldness, and a pinch of fun. But most importantly, we have changed our logo. Simple and easily recognizable, it represents the humanity of our brand. The logo stands out due to the wavy letter ‘m’ which symbolizes exchange rate charts and also resembles a spring that will launch you into the crypto world.”
– The EXMO Team regarding the re-branding

The post Long-running crypto exchange EXMO unveils “lively” rebrand amidst growth appeared first on CryptoNinjas.

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Title: Long-running crypto exchange EXMO unveils “lively” rebrand amidst growth
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Published Date: Tue, 26 Jul 2022 08:10:38 +0000

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Stitching together the grid will save lives as extreme weather worsens



The blistering heat waves that set temperature records across much of the US in recent days have strained electricity systems, threatening to knock out power in vulnerable regions of the country. 

The electricity has largely stayed online so far this summer, but there have been scattered problems and close calls already. 

Heavy use of energy-sucking air-conditioners is the biggest problem. But intense heat can also reduce the output of power plants, blow transformers, and force power lines to sag. Severe droughts across large parts of the country have also significantly reduced the availability of hydroelectric power, according to the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC). 

It’s unlikely to get better soon. A number of grid operators may struggle to meet peak summer demand, creating the risk of rolling blackouts, the NERC report notes.

The nation’s isolated and antiquated grids are in desperate need of upgrades to keep the lights, heat, and air-conditioning on in the midst of extreme weather events that climate change is making more common, severe, and dangerous. One clear way to ease many of these issues is to more tightly integrate the country’s regional grids, stitching them together with more long-range transmission lines. 

If electricity generated in one area can be more easily shared across much wider regions, power can simply flow to where it’s needed at those moments when customers crank up air-conditioners en masse, or when power plants or fuel supply lines fail amid soaring temperatures, wildfires, hurricanes, or other events, says Liza Reed, a research manager focused on transmission at the Niskanen Center, a Washington, DC, think tank.  

The problem is it’s proved difficult to build more long-range transmission and grid interconnections for a variety of reasons, including the permitting challenges of erecting wires through private and public lands across cities, counties, and states and the reluctance of local authorities to forfeit control or submit to greater federal oversight.

The case of Texas

The unreliability of the US grid is not a new problem. Severe heat and winter storms have repeatedly exposed the frailty of electricity systems in recent years, leaving thousands to millions of people without power as temperatures spiked or plunged.

One of the fundamental challenges is that the grids today are highly fragmented. There are three main electricity networks within the US: the Eastern Grid, the Western Grid, and the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT). But there are numerous regional transmission organizations within those first two systems, including the California Independent System Operator, Southwest Power Pool, PJM Interconnection, New York ISO, and more. 

These grids form a complex web of networks operating under different regulators, rules and market structures, and often with limited connections between them.

Map USA grid
A variety of regional transmission organizations oversee different parts of the nation’s aging and fragmented grids, which operate under different rules and with often limited connections between them.

ERCOT is especially isolated, in part because of the desire among local politicians, citizens, and power companies to avoid added competition, the hassle of following other states’ rules, and oversight from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). But the state offers a case study in why that can be a serious problem amid increasingly harsh climate conditions, Reed says.

The Texas grid operator pleaded with customers several times earlier this month to cut electricity use as blistering summer temperatures created  demand surges that threatened to outstrip supply and require rolling blackouts.  Low wind conditions, cloud cover, and outages at fossil-fuel power plants added to the strains.

Shutting off the electricity needed to run air-conditioning in triple-digit temperatures

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By: James Temple
Title: Stitching together the grid will save lives as extreme weather worsens
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Published Date: Thu, 28 Jul 2022 08:00:00 +0000

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