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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.

Inside the fierce, messy fight over “healthy” sugar tech

In a former insurance office building on the outskirts of Charlottesville, Virginia, a new kind of sugar factory is taking shape. The facility is being developed by a startup called Bonumose, funded in part by Hershey. It uses a processed corn product called maltodextrin that is found in many junk foods. Like its notorious counterpart high-fructose corn syrup, maltodextrin is calorically similar to table sugar (sucrose), is just as bad for your teeth, and actually causes worse blood sugar spikes.

But for Bonumose, maltodextrin isn’t an ingredient—it’s a raw material. When it’s poured into the company’s gleaming bioreactors later this year, what emerges will be a “rare sugar” called tagatose. Found naturally in small concentrations in fruit, some grains, and milk, it is nearly as sweet as sucrose but apparently with only around half the calories, and wider health benefits like stabilizing insulin levels. Hershey says that Bonumose’s technology, designed to affordably convert maltodextrin into tagatose at commercial scales, is critical to its effort to formulate “better-for-you” candies.

Bonumose’s process originated in a company spun out of the Virginia Tech lab of Yi-Heng “Percival” Zhang. But Zhang today isn’t sitting proudly at the helm of Bonumose’s research division, or formulating healthy chocolate. When MIT Technology Review spoke to him in January, he was sitting alone in an empty lab in Tianjin, China, after serving a two-year sentence of supervised release in Virginia for conspiracy to defraud the US government, making false statements, and obstruction of justice. If sugar is the new oil, the global battle to control it has already begun. Read the full story.

—Mark Harris

The must-reads

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

1 The US might be in the middle of a covid wave right now
Without even realizing, due to a lack of testing. (Bloomberg $)
Infections keep rising and rising in Shanghai, despite a local lockdown. (SCMP)
Residents trapped indoors are begging for food on WeChat groups. (Rest of World)
More than 50 people have tested positive following an A-list political dinner last week. (NYT $)
But Dr Anthony Fauci is confident President Biden is protected against the virus. (The Guardian)

2 Elon Musk isn’t joining Twitter’s board after all
Which, to echo CEO Parag Agrawal, is probably for the best. (WP $)
His tweets in the last few days have been erratic. (CNN)

3 Putin superfans are praising him as a peace-loving hero in Facebook groups
These pages rack up millions of interactions a month. (BBC)
Smartphones and gym mats helped Ukrainians to defend Kiev. (FT $)
What an American has learnt from fighting in Ukraine’s foreign legion. (The Economist $)

4 The crypto industry is pushing for more lenient legislation
And it’s working. (NYT $)
Crypto is a taxation minefield. (Protocol)
The world’s first city-cryptostate for investors and enthusiasts sounds exhausting. (FT $) 

5 The remarkable brain of a carpet cleaner who speaks 24 languages

His brain uses oxygen much more efficiently than our non-polyglot gray matter. (WP $)
The first reference charts for brain development have been completed. (The Economist $)

6 Why Amazon’s drone ambitions never really got off the ground
Former employees claim its rapid testing cuts corners when it comes to safety. (Bloomberg $)
Amazon has a huge sustainability problem: its returns. (CNBC)

7 What happens when humans get blamed for decisions made by faulty software?
Our blind faith in computers is leading to miscarriages of justice. (FT $)

8 We’re inventing new terms to get around social media moderation
Like most things these days, it’s spearheaded by trying to appease TikTok’s all-powerful algorithm. (WSJ $)

9 Producing tiny microchips is bigger business than ever
We desperately need more chips, and Intel wants to deliver them. (NYT $)
BMW believes the chip shortage shows no sign of slowing before 2023. (Reuters)

10 South Asia’s brides-to-be are shopping for wedding outfits through WhatsApp
But it’s a risky endeavor—assessing fabric color and quality is harder over video. (The Guardian)

Quote of the day

“This virus is not scary, the scary thing is being in a complete lockdown.” 

—A woman from Shanghai who has tested positive for covid fears being taken away from her infant son amid the city’s indefinite lockdown, according to Quartz.

We can still have nice

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By: Rhiannon Williams
Title: The Download: Inside the fierce, messy fight over “healthy” sugar tech
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Published Date: Mon, 11 Apr 2022 12:00:00 +0000

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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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