North Korea’s Latest Nuclear Test Updates

On Wednesday, November 29, North Korea tested an intercontinental ballistic missile that’s allegedly able to reach the mainland United States. On the same day, the country declared itself to be a nuclear state. This came a few days after US President Donald Trump put North Korea back on Washington’s state sponsors of terrorism list. In the meantime, the US and South Korea have been continuing to hold joint air drills.

It was the first time that a missile was launched from Pyongsong, a province in South Pyongan, around 29 kilometers from the capital, Pyongyang. The missile is a Hwasong-15, which is able to contain a nuclear warhead and is reportedly more powerful than missiles that had been tested earlier. It ascended to over 4,000 km into space and landed by Japan’s west coast, 1000 km from Pyongsong.

David Wright, physicist and co-director of the Union of Concerned Scientists’ Global Security Program said the this latest ICBM flew longer than the ones recently launched. He also said that this missile could reach any part of mainland US. “This is significantly longer than North Korea’s previous long-range tests, which flew on lofted trajectories for 37 minutes (July 4) and 47 minutes (July 28). Such a missile would have more than enough range to reach Washington, D.C., and in fact any part of the continental United States.”

However Pentagon Spokesman Col. Robert Manning said that the missile was not a threat to American territories or their allies. “The North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) determined the missile launch from North Korea did not pose a threat to North America, our territories or our allies.”

After the test-firing on November 29, President Trump tweeted that he had talked to the President of China, North Korea’s biggest trade partner and ally. He also said that North Korea would be given major sanctions. “Just spoke to President XI JINPING of China concerning the provocative actions of North Korea. Additional major sanctions will be imposed on North Korea today. This situation will be handled!”

On the same day, US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley delivered remarks at an Emergency UN Security Council Meeting concerning North Korea. Haley also called for all nations to sever ties with North Korea. She ended her speech saying that if North Korea would choose war, they would face destruction.

“The nations of the world have it within their power to further isolate, diminish, and, God willing, reverse the dangerous course of the North Korean regime. We must all do our part to make that happen….We have never sought war with North Korea, and still today we do not seek it. If war does come, it will be because of continued acts of aggression like we witnessed yesterday. And if war comes, make no mistake, the North Korean regime will be utterly destroyed.”

National security adviser H.R. McMaster, who spoke at the Reagan National Defense Forum on December 2, said that with every test firing, North Korea was learning more about the missiles. “It will take some time to assess each of these missile launches but what is clear is that every time he conducts a missile launch and nuclear test he gets better. Whether it is a success or failure isn’t as important as understanding that over the years he’s been learning from failures, improving and thereby increasing his threat to all of us.” The full video of McMaster’s speech can be seen here

At the Council of Defense Ministers and the Security Council of the Collective Security Treaty Organization in Minsk, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said he believes Ambassador Haley’s call for all nations to cut ties is a mistake. He further said that the US’ actions may be a provocation for North Korea to retaliate, and urged for dialogue instead.

“We have a negative view of this idea…. All resolutions introducing sanctions contained a mandatory demand to resume the political process and talks. The US side completely ignores precisely this demand. I believe this is a big mistake. In addition, it appears that the latest US actions deliberately aim to provoke Pyongyang into taking further steps. This past September, our American colleagues hinted confidentially to us (I will make no secret out of this) that the next exercise was only scheduled for spring and that the DPRK could take advantage of this pause and not make any abrupt moves either. Why not try and launch some kind of dialogue in this situation?”

China, North Korea’s closest ally, commented on North Korea’s ICBM test firing through Foreign Minister Geng Shuang, “The UN Security Council resolutions have clear stipulations about the use of ballistic missile in the DPRK’s launching activities. China expresses grave concern and opposition to the DPRK’s launching activities. China strongly urges the DPRK side to abide by relevant Security Council resolutions and cease actions that will heighten tensions on the Korean Peninsula. We hope that all relevant parties will act cautiously and work together to safeguard peace and stability in the region.”

The US and North Korea have experienced strained relations of late, with President Trump calling North Korea out for escalating their nuclear weapons program in a speech to the United Nations General Assembly in September. The President also threatened to “totally destroy” North Korea in the speech.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un responded in a speech via the KCNA, the North Korean state news agency, saying that he would “tame” the US President “with fire.”

Full texts of President Trump and Kim Jong-Un’s speeches can be found at the following links:

Essentia Health Terminates 50 Employees for Not Getting Flu Vaccine

Essentia Health, an integrated health company based in Minnesota, has fired around 50 employees after they failed to get vaccinated for influenza. The company recently announced a new policy for all employees who had no medical or religious grounds for an exemption to get the flu shot, or otherwise risk termination. Essentia Health reportedly gave the November 20 deadline for the flu shots in October.

The company has its headquarters in Duluth, Minnesota. It has a number of long-term care and assisted living facilities, as well as 75 clinics and 15 hospitals a research institute and several ambulance services. Essentia Health serves rural communities in Minnesota, Wisconsin, North Dakota and Idaho. There are 14,700 people who work at Essentia Health, including at least 1,900 doctors and healthcare practitioners. The National Committee for Quality Assurance has accredited the Essentia Health system as an Accountable Care Organization.

Earlier this year, the company had allegedly asked employees to receive the vaccination to prevent already sick patients from getting sicker. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released an advisory encouraging people to get the flu vaccine as it greatly decreases the possibility of getting infected, even though the vaccine is not one hundred percent effective. “Flu vaccination can reduce flu illnesses, doctors’ visits, and missed work and school due to flu, as well as prevent flu-related hospitalizations. In 2017, a study in Pediatrics was the first of its kind to show that flu vaccination also significantly reduced a child’s risk of dying from influenza. The more people who get vaccinated, the more people will be protected from flu, including older people, very young children, pregnant women, and people with certain long-term health conditions who are more vulnerable to serious flu complications.”

In their flu update page, updated on December 1, 2017, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that the number of people seeking health care for flu-like symptoms is higher than the national baseline and that flu activity indicators are greater than usual. “Four states reported widespread flu activity, ten states reported regional flu activity and 24 states reported local influenza activity.”

Dr . Rajesh Prabhu, Essentia Health’s Chief Patient Quality and Safety Officer, said that the vaccine is the best way to protect yourself and vulnerable members of the community. Dr. Prabhu is also a specialist in treating infectious diseases. “Getting a flu shot is not only the most effective way to prevent getting a serious case of influenza, but it also protects members of our community, especially the most vulnerable – elderly, young children, and those with significant health conditions that may not respond as well to the flu vaccine.”

However, there are three workers’ unions that have fought the company’s vaccination policy and pursued an injunction from federal courts to prevent Essentia Health from terminating employees who refused to comply with its flu vaccine policy.

In a letter to its members dated November 13, 2017, United Steelworkers’ representatives wrote, “We filed a grievance because we believe that this unilaterally implemented policy violates our collective bargaining agreement. We also filed unfair labor practice charges with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) because we believe that the Company did not have the right under federal labor law to establish this policy without bargaining.”

The Minnesota Nurses Association and the American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees, Council 65, has also filed complaints against Essentia Health.

The Minnesota Nurses Union also announced in a statement that it will intercede on behalf of any terminated nurse and file a grievance against the company. They also explained the nurses’ reasons for not getting the flu vaccine. “Nurses continue to oppose the mandatory flu shot policy for many reasons. Voluntary programs have been shown to easily increase participation; such policies often do not take into account employees’ religious or moral convictions; and healthcare workers are often disciplined for using sick time within a period of time – even if the sick time is a result to an adverse flu shot reaction.”

Originally formed in January 2004 when the Benedictine Health System partnered with the SMCD Health System, Essentia Health was also joined by Innovis Health in 2008. That same year, all the health facilities of the Benedictine Health System were transferred to the company as well. In 2010, the company expanded further when the SMDC Health System, Brainerd Lakes Health, Innovis Health, Essentia Community Hospitals and Clinics, and the Essentia Institute of Rural Health all came together.

For more information on Essentia Health, please see

To see the CDC statement on the 2017-2018 flu season:


US Prosecutors Unseal Cyber Espionage Charges Against Chinese Nationals

On November 27, 2017, US prosecutors indicted three Chinese nationals for allegedly committing identity theft, computer fraud, and abuse, and stealing trade secrets from multinational companies Moody’s Analytics, Siemens and Trimble from 2011 to 2017. These individuals were identified by US officials as Wu Yingzhou, Dong Hao, and Xia Lei, employees of Guangzhou Bo Yu Information Technology Company Limited, or Boyusec.

Boyusec is reportedly a Chinese cybersecurity firm based in Guangzhou, China. In November 2013, Boyusec was registered with the Guangzhou Administration for Industry and Commerce.

Lei is listed as an employee of Boyusec, but both Wu and Dong are listed as founding members and equity shareholders of the company. Furthermore, Dong was also Boyusec’s Executive Director and Manager.

According to the indictment, Wu, Dong and Xia conspired to launch “targeted cyber attacks against US and foreign businesses.” None of these businesses hired Boyusec, nor gave the company permission to access their computer networks.

Wu, Dong, and Xia have been charged a total of eight counts: one count each for conspiring to commit computer fraud and abuse, conspiring to commit trade secret theft and wire fraud, as well as four counts of aggravated identity theft.

These charges were announced by Acting Assistant Attorney General for National Security Dana J. Boente, Acting U.S. Attorney Soo C. Song for the Western District of Pennsylvania and Special Agent in Charge Robert Johnson of the FBI’s Pittsburgh Division.

“Once again, the Justice Department and the FBI have demonstrated that hackers around the world who are seeking to steal our companies’ most sensitive and valuable information can and will be exposed and held accountable. The Justice Department is committed to pursuing the arrest and prosecution of these hackers, no matter how long it takes, and we have a long memory,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Boente.

Yingzhuo, Hao, and Lei allegedly used phishing scams and malware to steal intellectual property and sensitive information from Moody’s Analytics, Siemens AG, and Trimble. Moody’s Analytics, a unit of Moody’s Corporation in New York, furnishes financial analysis and risk management services, while Siemens is a large German technology company. Trimble, which operates from Sunnyvale, California, develops and manufactures GPS systems. The three hackers allegedly read the emails of one of Moody’s Analytics top economists from 2013 to 2014.

The emails from Moody’s Analytics had detailed confidential and proprietary economic information. In 2014, Dong Hao reportedly gained access to the computer networks of Siemens AG. Wu, Dong, and Xia then took around 407 gigabytes of the company’s commercial data concerning their transportation, technology and energy initiatives. And in 2015 and 2016, the alleged co-conspirators accessed Trimble’s systems networks and stole more than 275 megabytes of data, which included trade secrets of the company, as Trimble made advances in global navigation satellite systems, according to the indictment.

Acting U.S. Attorney Song explained how the cyber attacks were carried out. Song gave the details of how the alleged cyber hackers penetrated networks of the different businesses. “Defendants Wu, Dong, and Xia launched coordinated and targeted cyber intrusions against businesses operating in the United States, including here in the Western District of Pennsylvania, in order to steal confidential business information. These conspirators masked their criminal conspiracy by exploiting unwitting computers, called ‘hop points,’ conducting ‘spearphish’ email campaigns to gain unauthorized access to corporate computers, and deploying malicious code to infiltrate the victim computer networks.”

Warrants of arrest have been issued against Yingzhuo, Hao, and Lei, to the effect that the three men cannot travel in countries with whom the US has extradition treaties.

Special Agent in Charge Johnson admitted that cyber attacks are a growing problem. He also reiterated the need for agencies in different countries to work together to address these attacks.

“In order to effectively address the cyber threat, a threat that respects no boundaries and continues to grow in both its scope and complexity, law enforcement must come together and transcend borders to target criminal actors no matter where they are in the world,” said Special Agent in Charge Johnson.

For more details on the cyber attacks, please see:

The New Tax Reform Bill: Details and Current Status

On November 16, 2017, a bill that House Republicans claim would reduce taxes on corporations and individuals was passed in the US House of Representatives. It passed with 227 congressmen voting for it, and 205 against.

Meanwhile, the Senate Finance Committee has cleared the Senate version of the bill. Republicans from both houses endeavor to finish a joint tax reform proposal by the end of this year.

House and Senate Republicans aim to present a tax bill to President Donald Trump by Christmas. One of the President’s promises during the elections was to cut taxes, and he went to Capitol Hill to rally support for the bill before voting started.

The reform plan that passed in the House of Representatives would permanently reduce corporate tax rates from 35 percent to 20 percent.  There are also amendments aimed to allow businesses to become more competitive, and it lowers the number of individual tax brackets from seven to four.

The bill introduces changes to certain tax breaks, such as restricting mortgage interest deductions, local and state deductions, almost doubling standard deductions as well as removing the personal exemption.

For more information on the bill passed on November 16, please see or for more information about the Senate bill see

The Senate version revokes the mandate for Americans to obtain health care insurance, which is one of the requirements of Obamacare.

Senate Democrats are opposed to the bill. In a statement, Sen. Robert P. Casey Jr. (D-PA) said, “In order to finance tax cuts for the super-rich and big corporations, this proposal from Republicans in Washington would add $1.5 trillion to our deficit, which could lead to cuts to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.”

Some Senate Republicans have also expressed concerns about the proposed bill, foreseeing that deficits in the budget due to decreased taxes, individual tax cuts, and the revocation of one aspect of Obamacare could be obstacles to tax reform.

The CBO estimates that the Republican’s tax reform plan would cause the US national debt, currently at $20 trillion, to increase by $1.5 trillion over a period of ten years. This is causing some GOP legislators some worry about the future of America’s budget. For more information:

In a tweet, Senator Jeff Flake (R-AZ) said, “I remain concerned over how the current tax reform proposals will grow the already staggering national debt by opting for short-term fixes while ignoring long-term problems for taxpayers and the economy. We must achieve real tax reform crafted in a fiscally responsible manner.”

If the bill passes in the Senate, the two houses will come together to draft a joint proposal.  The two chambers’ plans significantly differ when it comes to local and state tax deductions.

The version of the Senate completely removes these deductions. This may cause some House Republicans to withdraw their support since their version allows property tax deductions of up to $10,000.

Republican Congressman Dan Donovan (NY) also said, “The tax reform details as presented today will hurt, not help middle-class families in New York. We need a bill that doesn’t divide and penalize some Americans just because of their zip code..… People are counting on us; we have to get this right.”

This week, Republican leaders in the Senate are planning on bringing their tax reform bill to a vote at the Senate, possibly on Thursday, November 30.

“Back in D.C., big week for Tax Cuts and many other things of great importance to our Country.  Senate Republicans will hopefully come through for all of us. The Tax Cut Bill is getting better and better. The end result will be great for ALL!” President Trump tweeted on Sunday night, November 26.

Senate Republicans need to garner 50 votes from their party in order for the bill to pass. According to Senate Republican Policy Committee Chairman John Barasso (R-WY) said President Trump will be attending the GOP’s luncheon on Tuesday, November 28, and will be talking about the tax reform bill, “We look forward to welcoming President Trump to the Senate again next Tuesday. This is a historic opportunity for our conference and the president to build on our momentum to give Americans the tax relief they’ve been waiting for.”






Kellogg Replaces Flynn Who Resigns as National Security Advisor

On February 13th, General Michael Flynn resigned as National Security Adviser to President Donald Trump over his phone talks with the Russian ambassador, according to the latest White House documents released. Media reports from leaked information accuse Flynn of allegedly discussing the U.S. sanctions with Russia before Donald Trump took office. He is said to have misled officials about his call with Russia’s ambassador before his own appointment, BBC reported.

Under the law, private citizens cannot conduct US diplomacy. It is an illegal activity, BBC reported, citing U.S. code for Private correspondence with foreign governments.

“Any citizen of the United States, wherever he may be, who, without authority of the United States, directly or indirectly commences or carries on any correspondence or intercourse with any foreign government or any officer or agent thereof, with intent to influence the measures or conduct of any foreign government or of any officer or agent thereof, in relation to any disputes or controversies with the United States, or to defeat the measures of the United States, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than three years, or both,” according to the law.

Initially, Flynn denied having discussed sanctions with Ambassador Sergei Kislyak. According to other media reports, the White House had been warned by the justice department about Flynn misleading senior officials and being vulnerable to Russian blackmail.

Flynn, in his letter of resignation, said he had “inadvertently briefed the vice-president-elect and others with incomplete information regarding my phone calls with the Russian ambassador.”

The White House announced that it has named Lt. Gen Joseph Keith Kellogg as Flynn’s interim replacement.

Russian spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that the Kremlin does not want to comment on Flynn’s resignation. “This is the internal affair of the Americans, the internal affair of the Trump administration,” Peskov said. “It’s nothing to do with us.”

However, some Russian lawmakers have defended Flynn. Senator Alexei Pushkov said on Twitter that Flynn had been “forced to resign not because of his mistake but because of a full-fledged aggressive campaign”. He tweeted that “Trump is the next target”.

Flynn advocated for a softer policy on Russia. He was criticized by democrats and questioned were raised for his perceived closeness to Moscow. Senior Democrat Adam Schiff said that Flynn’s departure would not end questions about contacts between Trump’s election win and Russia. Congressional democrats John Conyers and Elijah Cummings want the justice department and FBI to give a classified briefing to Congress on Flynn.

“We in Congress need to know who authorized his actions, permitted them, and continued to let him have access to our most sensitive national security information despite knowing these risks,” the democrats said in a statement.

Snapchat Parent Snap Files IPO Prospectus with SEC

Snapchat is looking to raise up to $3 billion through the offering of Class A common stock shares, according to the Form S filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission on February 2. The company’s shares will be listed on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol “SNAP.” Snap, the parent company of the fast-growing social network Snapchat, filed its request in a  public document of its initial public offering (IPO).

Snap is a camera company. Its flagship product is Snapchat, an image messaging and multimedia mobile application that allows people to communicate through short videos and images. Each of those short videos or images is called a Snap. On average, 158 million people use Snapchat daily, and more than 2.5 billion Snaps are created every day.

Snap generates substantially all of its revenue from advertising. “We help our advertising partners generate a return on their investment by creating engaging advertising products that reach our large and desirable audience,” according to the filing.

For the year ended December 31, 2016, the company reported revenue of $404.5 million, an increase from $58.7 million for the year ended December 31, 2015. The global average revenue per user was $1.05, compared to $0.31 for in 2015. The average revenue per user in North America was $2.15, versus $0.65 for the same period in 2015. The company posted a loss of $514.6 million, compared to a loss of $372.9 million for the year ended December 31, 2015. Adjusted EBITDA was a loss of $459.4 million, versus a loss of $292.9 million for the year ended December 31, 2015.

Snap said that it views daily active users (DAU) as a critical measure of its user engagement. The company had 158 million DAU on average in the quarter ended December 31, 2016.

The company said that mobile advertising is the fastest growing segment. Worldwide advertising spend is expected to grow from $652 billion last year to $767 billion in 2020. The mobile advertising is projected to grow nearly 3x from $66 billion in 2016 to $196 billion in 2020.

“We believe that one of the major factors driving this growth is the shift of people’s attention from their televisions to their mobile phones. This trend is particularly pronounced among the younger demographic, where our Daily Active Users tend to be concentrated,” according to the company.

People between the ages of 18 and 24 spent 35% less time watching traditional television in an average month during the second quarter of 2016 compared to the second quarter of 2010, according to research firm Nielsen.

Britain’s Phased Brexit Plan Summary

On February 2, the United Kingdom government published a white paper, titled The United Kingdom’s exit from and new partnership with the European Union, to provide the parliament and the people of the UK with a clear vision of what the country is seeking to achieve in negotiating its exit from, and new partnership with, the European Union (EU).

The paper sets out a plan for the strong new partnership the UK wants to build with the EU. It set outs the basis for 12 priorities announced by Prime Minister Theresa May and the broad strategy that unites them in forging a new strategic partnership between the UK and the EU.

The paper said that the UK government will provide business and public with as much certainty as possible throughout the negotiations. To provide legal certainty over its exit from the EU, the government will introduce the Great Repeal Bill to remove the European Communities Act 1972 from the statute book and convert the ‘acquis’ – the body of existing EU law – into domestic law.

Here are main points from the paper:

– The UK will continue to build a national consensus around its negotiating position by listening and talking to as many organizations, companies, and institutions as possible.

– The UK will take control of its own affairs, “as those who voted in their millions to leave the EU demanded we must, and bring an end to the jurisdiction in the UK of the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU).”

– Leaving the EU will mean that the UK’s laws will be made in London, Edinburgh, Cardiff and Belfast, and will be based on the specific interests and values of the country. “In chapter 1 we set out how the Great Repeal Bill will ensure that our legislatures and courts will be the final decision makers in our country,” the paper said.

– The UK will make sure that the devolved administrations are fully engaged in its preparations to leave the EU. The government will be working with the administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to deliver an outcome that works for the whole of the UK. “In seeking such a deal we will look to secure the specific interests of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, as well as those of all parts of England. A good deal will be one that works for all parts of the UK,” according to the paper.

– Maintaining strong and historic ties with Ireland will be an important priority for the UK in the talks ahead. This includes protecting the Common Travel Area (CTA).

– The UK will remain an open and tolerant country, and one that recognizes the valuable contribution migrants make to the society and welcomes those with the skills and expertise to make the nation better still. But in future, the UK must ensure it can control the number of people coming to the UK from the EU.

– The UK wants to secure the status of EU citizens who are already living in the UK, and that of UK nationals in the other Member States, as early as we can.

– As we convert the body of EU law into a domestic legislation, the UK will ensure the continued protection of workers’ rights. This will give certainty and continuity to employees and employers alike, creating stability in which the UK can grow and thrive.

– The government will prioritize securing the freest and most frictionless trade possible in goods and services between the UK and the EU. “We will not be seeking membership of the Single Market but will pursue instead a new strategic partnership with the EU, including an ambitious and comprehensive Free Trade Agreement and a new customs agreement,” according to the paper.

– By leaving the EU, the UK will have the opportunity to strike free trade agreements with countries around the world.

– From space exploration to clean energy, from medical technologies to agri-tech, the UK will remain at the forefront of collective endeavors to better understand, and make better, the world in which we live.

– The UK will continue to work with the EU to preserve the UK and European security and to fight terrorism and uphold justice across Europe.

On June 23, 2016, the people of the UK made voted to leave the EU. The government said that it will honor people’s wishes, and will not make any attempt to remain in the EU by the back door. The prime minister will trigger Article 50 of the Treaty on the EU by the end of March this year to begin the process of exit.

“Whatever the outcome of our negotiations, we will seek a more open, outward-looking, confident and fairer UK, which works for all,” wrote David Davis, secretary of state for exiting the EU.

Google’s Waymo Cars Driven 2.5m Autonomous Miles and Accelerating

Waymo, formerly the Google self-driving car project, has completed more than 2.5 million miles of autonomous driving on public roads in the past few years, Dmitri Dolgov, head of Waymo’s self-driving technology, said in a blog post.

He said that Waymo is accelerating the pace of testing on public roads and in simulation as part of its efforts to bring fully self-driving cars to more people. Citing this year’s California disengagement report, Dolgov added that the company has significantly improved its fully self-driving technology. The report shows that Waymo’s rate of safety-related disengages has dropped from 0.8 disengages per thousand miles in 2015 to 0.2 per thousand miles in 2016.

“Disengages are a natural part of the testing process and occur when a driver takes manual control of a vehicle while it is in autonomous mode. Testing, including disengages, allows our engineers to safely add to our software’s driving skills, expand hardware capabilities, and identify areas of improvement,” Dolgov said.

He noted that disengages are helping Waymo to further improve its technology.

“During testing our objective is not to minimize disengagements; rather, it is to gather, while operating safely, as much data as possible to enable us to improve our self-driving system. Therefore, we set disengagement thresholds conservatively, and each is carefully recorded. We have an evaluation process in which we identify disengagements that may have safety significance,” according to Waymo.

The report shows that Waymo operated its self-driving cars in autonomous mode for more than 2.3 million miles as of November 2016. Of those, 635,868 miles occurred on public roads in California, with the vast majority on surface streets in the typical suburban city environment of Mountain View, and neighboring communities. Though Waymo increased its driving by 50% in California, its total number of reportable disengages fell from 341 in 2015 to 124.

Further, Dolgov said that despite cars getting smarter and more advanced, road fatalities in the United States are on the rise. And human error is involved in 94% of all crashes. That is a reason for Waymo to work “harder than ever to bring self-driving cars that don’t get tired or distracted, to our roads.”

He noted that the drop in safety-related disengages shows the significant work Waymo has been doing to make its software and hardware more capable and mature.

“And because we’re creating a self-driving car that can take you from door to door, almost all our time has been spent on complex urban or suburban streets. This has given us valuable experience sharing the road safely with pedestrians and cyclists, and practicing advanced maneuvers such as making unprotected left turns and traversing multi-lane intersections,” Dolgov said.

Dolgov said that Waymo will continue to work harder to make its cars safer. With a hundred tragic road deaths every single day, Waymo is “motivated to work with governments and policymakers to deploy our technology safely and quickly.” He added that Waymo is very optimistic about bringing fully self-driving cars on the public roads.

Trump Meets Big Pharma, Signs Executive Order Reducing Regulations, Regulatory Costs

On January 31st, President Donald Trump met with major pharmaceutical company executives, and signed an executive order on reducing regulation and controlling regulatory costs, the White House said in a press statement.

The president had a meeting with executives from Merck, Johnson & Johnson, Celgene, Amgen, Eli Lilly, and the PhRMA trade group. The meeting was also attended by Greg Walden, chairman of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce.

Trump praised pharmaceutical firms’ efforts to cut drugs prices. But he also insisted that there is more work to be done in the pricing area. The president promised to continue reducing the burdensome regulations that raise the cost of doing business in the United States.

The president signed the executive action, titled Reducing Regulation and Controlling Regulatory Cost, during the last week. The main purpose of this order is “to manage the costs associated with the governmental imposition of private expenditures required to comply with Federal regulations.”

“It is the policy of the executive branch to be prudent and financially responsible in the expenditure of funds, from both public and private sources. In addition,… it is essential to manage the costs associated with the governmental imposition of private expenditures required to comply with Federal regulations,” the order states.

The order outlined two key changes. First, it requires that, for every one new regulation issued, at least two prior regulations must be identified for elimination, and that the “cost of planned regulations is prudently managed and controlled through a budgeting process.” There will be a cap on the cost of new regulations. The total incremental cost of all new regulations, including eliminated regulations, to be finalized this year should be $0.

The order also requires the director of the Office of Management and Budget to provide the heads of agencies with guidance on implementing this policy change.

For the fiscal year 2018, and for each fiscal year thereafter, the head of each agency will identify, for each regulation that increases incremental cost, the offsetting regulations and provide the agency’s best approximation of the total costs or savings associated with each new regulation or repealed regulation.

Moreover, no regulations exceeding the agency’s total incremental cost allowance will be allowed in that fiscal year, unless required by law or approved in writing by the director. The total incremental cost allowance may allow an increase or require a reduction in total regulatory cost.

The order does not include regulations issued with respect to a military, national security, or foreign affairs function of the United States; regulations related to agency organization, management, or personnel; or any other category of regulations exempted by the Director of the Office of Management and Budget.

Batteries: Longer Lasting with Increased Safety

Woburn, Massachusetts-based Ionic Materials claimed that it created the world’s first solid polymer electrolyte that could help make safe, longer lasting, and cost effective batteries. They say that “Significant improvements in battery safety, performance and cost are achievable with ionic conductivities that exceed those of traditional liquid systems over a wide range of temperatures.”

Conventional batteries use liquid electrolytes that are flammable, toxic and expensive. And those liquid electrolytes are main responsible for almost all of battery safety incidents.

Ionic Materials said that it built a solid state battery technology that eliminates the complicated and expensive process of making batteries with liquid electrolytes. Based on low-cost polymer processing techniques, the company’s technology eliminates toxic and flammable liquid electrolytes to make it possible to develop a true safe solid battery.

The company was able to create polymer electrolyte works at room temperature, resulting in improved battery safety and higher performance. Its polymer electrolyte is designed to enable next-generation rechargeable battery performance.

To allow a solid-state battery to function at room temperature and offer safe battery performance across a wide temperature range, the company built solid-state pouch cells with composite LCO and NCM cathodes. It replaced electrolyte and separator with an inherently safe, non-flammable polymer. Moreover, removing the liquid resulted in a more recyclable battery. The company’s batteries can be folded, cut, and damaged, but they do not ignite and continue to perform.

All previous attempts at solid electrolytes were unsuccessful, according to Ionic Materials. Other solid polymers only functioned at impractically high temperatures, while ceramic electrolytes struggled to overcome manufacturability, brittleness, stability, cost and other challenges.

Ionic Materials believes that its polymer electrolyte could replace the liquid electrolytes used in currently available batteries.

For the last four decades, scientists and engineers have tried to develop solid electrolytes for batteries. They have two main issues: polymers suffer from low conductivity at room temperature and lack of high voltage compatibility, while ceramics are brittle and they are associated with complex manufacturing. Also, ceramics have problems in scaling to high volumes.

Through lithium ion batteries are common and are being used in consumer electronics and electronic vehicles, they have a fundamental problem. In lithium ion batteries, liquid electrolytes become unstable when the temperature rises. Also, they are susceptible to shorts caused by dendrites and can catch fire and explode under certain circumstances. The company touts these benefits to consumers by saying “These improvements promise to speed the electrification of transportation and the transition to clean and renewable sources of energy, as well as enable safer and longer lasting consumer electronics devices.”

Meanwhile, Ionic Materials said that it received a $3 million Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) grant from the U.S. Department of Energy. The funding will be used by the company for the development of a polymer electrolyte and lithium/polymer interface to enable lithium cycling and development of solid intercalation cathodes. The program is scheduled to begin in the first half of 2017.

For more information please visit: