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Recommended Reading: A blockchain primer

Does the crypto crash mean the blockchain Is over?

Stephen J. Dubner, Freakonomics Radio

In this installment of Recommended Listening, Freakonomics Radio begins a three-part series on all things blockchain. The podcast will tackle everything from Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies to NFTs and the technology that powers it all. 

Spotify’s billion-dollar bet on podcasting has yet to pay off

Lucas Shaw, Bloomberg

Shaw takes us inside Spotify’s big spending spree, from what was happening behind the scenes, the decision to hand Joe Rogan a mountain of money and a rift between the company and the Obamas over content. “All told, the Obamas recorded about 15 hours of audio for Spotify,” he explains. “Technically, they fulfilled their deal, but their output was less than what Rogan releases in a couple of weeks.”

How OXO conquered the American kitchen

Dan Kois, Slate

The story behind the company that created the Good Grips handle and took over the kitchen “for customers of differing abilities and confidence levels,” becoming the top culinary gadget maker in terms of market share. 

NASA Hopes to Launch a Very Special Microwave-Sized Satellite on Monday

A tiny satellite is poised to set the stage for something far grander: a full-blown lunar space station. NASA’s CAPSTONE satellite is scheduled to launch on Monday and then travel to a unique lunar orbit in a pathfinder mission for the Artemis program,…

10 Conspiracy Thrillers for the Truly Paranoid

I’m a big fan of the thrillers in general, but what I love in particular are conspiracy thrillers. This genre is a mostly forgotten art because, in my opinion, few movies today are able to capture the truly unhinged paranoia of prior decades. It might …

How will we know when an AI actually becomes sentient?

Many scientists and technologists believe AI will eventually become sentient. But how will we know when that happens? Currently, there’s no good way to tell.

Juul can temporarily keep selling its vaping products in the US

Juul has successfully convinced the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia to delay the Food and Drug Administration’s ban on its products. The agency recently banned Juul from selling and distributing its e-cigarette pens and pods in the US after a comprehensive two-year review. It ordered the company to remove its products from the market and has even started telling retailers from pull them from shelves. This temporary reprieve will allow Juul to keep selling its vape pens and pods — and will allow retailers to keep carrying them without the fear of facing penalties — while the court reviews its appeal on the FDA’s decision. 

In its request for an emergency stay, Juul called the FDA ban “arbitrary and capricious.” It also said that the agency issued the ruling after “immense political pressure from Congress,” because it became politically convenient for them to blame Juul for the popularity of vaping among young people, “even though several of its competitors now have a larger market share and much higher underage-use rates.” 

Despite Juul’s accusation, the FDA didn’t mention youth vaping in its decision. Instead, the agency said it was banning the company’s products, because it didn’t submit sufficient evidence proving that potentially harmful chemicals don’t leach from its proprietary pods into the vapor that users inhale. The agency explained: “…some of the company’s study findings raised concerns due to insufficient and conflicting data – including regarding genotoxicity and potentially harmful chemicals leaching from the company’s proprietary e-liquid pods – that have not been adequately addressed and precluded the FDA from completing a full toxicological risk assessment of the products named in the company’s applications.”

Juul, of course, disagreed that it hasn’t provided sufficient information and data to the agency. In a statement it sent to Engadget, the company said: “In our applications, which we submitted over two years ago, we believe that we appropriately characterized the toxicological profile of Juul products, including comparisons to combustible cigarettes and other vapor products, and believe this data, along with the totality of the evidence, meets the statutory standard of being appropriate for the protection of the public health.”

Juul has a long history of butting heads with the FDA, particularly over underage vaping. Its fruit-flavored vape products were once pretty popular among young people until it suspended their sales and stuck to selling menthol and tobacco-flavored pods. Juul also faced a Federal Trade Commission and a House investigation into whether its marketing efforts targeted teens. Things have changed over the past few years: According to a recent study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, most high school students that use e-cigarettes now favor Puff Bar over any other brand. 

According to The New York Times, the court gave Juul until Monday to file an additional motion. The FDA will then have until July 7th to respond to that. It still remains to be seen whether Juul will be able to continue selling its vaping pens and pods in the US throughout the course of its appeal. Sources told The Wall Street Journal that Juul has started exploring its options if it fails to reverse the ban completely, including filing for bankruptcy.

Spoilers of the Week | June 24th

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Court OKs lawsuit by woman who says she helped create Pinterest

Pinterest must now face a lawsuit from a former friend of one of its founders who claims she helped create the platform. Bloombergreported that Alameda County Superior Court Judge Richard Seabolt on Thursday denied the company’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit. Christine Martinez, the plaintiff, claims she was asked by co-founder Ben Silbermann to help revive the app. The digital market strategist claims to have developed features tied to Pinterest’s Boards and created a marketing plan to enlist bloggers to promote the platform, among other contributions. 

Martinez filed a lawsuit against the company in September, and Pinterest filed the motion to dismiss in December. The company argued that Martinez’s claims are too old to fall within the statute of limitations. Seabolt disagreed with this and said Martinez “sufficiently alleges” that she and the Pinterest founders agreed to deferred compensation. Pinterest went public in 2019, an event that Seabolt deemed “transformative” and in his view sealed the company’s obligation to pay Martinez.

In a statement to Engadget, Pinterest’s chief communications officer LeMia Jenkins Thompson noted that the court dismissed several of Martinez’s claims. Thompson also stated that, “as the facts come out, we are confident the evidence will confirm that Plaintiff’s claims are meritless and that the rest of this baseless lawsuit should be dismissed.” 

According to the New York Times, Martinez was never formally employed at nor did she ever sign a written contract with the San Francisco-based company. Instead, Martinez argues that the agreement was implied, based on her discussions with Sciarra and Silbermann.

Martinez, who is a former lifestyle blogger and founder of an eccomerce startup, told the Times she was eager to help friends. “[…The Pinterest co-founders] had no marketing background or expertise in creating a product for women.”

Watch Obi-Wan Kenobi’s Final Dual With a Revenge of the Sith Upgrade

No matter what happened on Disney+’s Obi-Wan Kenobi, there was no way it was going to match Mustafar. Back in 2005, audiences saw Obi-Wan (Ewan McGregor) and Anakin Skywalker (Hayden Christensen) fight to the near-death on the lava planet in Star Wars …

Paralyzed race driver completes Goodwood hill climb using head movement to steer

Former Indy Racing League competitor Sam Schmidt is continuing to break new ground for accessible driving technology. The Arrow McLaren SP team co-owner has completed the signature hill climb at this year’s Goodwood Festival of Speed using head movements and his breath to steer — the first time anyone has demonstrated the feature at the UK event. Schmidt drove a McLaren 720S Spider modified by Arrow Electronics to track his head using infrared cameras. He controlled acceleration and braking by inhaling and exhaling through a “sip-and-puff” device. The racer also wore a semi-autonomous exoskeleton concept, the SAM Suit, that helps him walk.

Schmidt became quadriplegic in 2000 when he injured his spinal cord in a practice lap crash. He has long been an advocate for paralysis treatment, and in 2014 partnered with Arrow to drive a Corvette using a combination of head tracking, sip-and-puff and voice controls. In 2016, became the first American with a license to use an autonomous vehicle on highways, using a Corvette to drive in Nevada.

While alternative mobility solutions can return some level of autonomy to those no longer able to operate a vehicle for one reason or another, it’s not entirely clear what role Arrow’s technology might play in the future. We’ve reached out to the company for details on where it sees projects like the SAM heading. Arrow will also be racing against self-driving tech, which is becoming closer to a practical reality, with Level 3 autonomy already reaching public roads. With that said, completely driverless cars (Level 5 autonomy) will take years to arrive.

Update 6/24/22 7:27pm ET: Reached for comment, an Arrow spokesperson told Engadget that while SAM “is not precisely open source” the tech may be “available for future development if Arrow approves.”

This Week’s Toy News Is Bringing the Thunder

Welcome back to Toy Aisle, io9’s regular round up of the latest toy news on the internet. This week, Transformers finally makes what should’ve been the most obvious toy vehicle crossover ever, Thor: Love and Thunder comes to Hot Toys, and EXO-6’s latest Star Trek figure gives us a Borg queen (no, not that one). Plus:…

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