How Much Is The Price Of An Eighth Where You Live?

How Much Is The Price Of An Eighth Where You Live? thumbnail

The most affordable place to buy an eighth of weed in August 2019 was once again in Canada, where a combination of a strong American dollar and ample, well-regulated supplies evidently are holding prices in check.

The average price of an eighth in North America hit a new low in August of USD$24.39 in British Columbia, Canada, which is making its first appearance in the analysis. The lowest North American price in July was found in Ontario, Canada, where 3.5 grams sold for an average of USD$27, which remains virtually unchanged. The August high? Washington, D.C., where an average eighth fetched $53.04.

Data analysts at Weedmaps used its international listings for dispensaries and their products to determine the average price of an eighth, or 3.5 grams for metric fans. The analysts selected a representative sample of American cities, combined with Massachusetts and Florida, two states with emerging markets.

Emerging markets are beginning to show some price volatility. Oklahoma City topped the charts a month ago with the highest average prices in North America for an eighth — then at $53.19, but down to $43.03 for August. Competition seems to be bringing prices down as more dispensaries come into the market. In the emerging markets of Florida and Massachusetts, prices are on the high side, hovering around $47 to $48 an eighth in August.

In Southern California, the largest legal cannabis market in the world, average prices for an eighth range from about $33 to about $44. In the region’s largest city, licensing is progressing very slowly. Los Angeles added only one new licensed dispensary since July for its population of about 4 million. The City of Los Angeles Department of Cannabis Regulation listed 187 licensed cannabis businesses that could sell medicinal or adult-use cannabis and cannabis products as of Sept. 10, 2019, compared with 186 more than a month earlier.

Oklahoma City, population 643,600, now lists 423 licensed cannabis dispensaries, up from 388 a month earlier.

Valli Herman

Valli Herman is a veteran journalist with bylines in major print and online publications such as the Los Angeles Times, The Dallas Morning News, and Fortune. She is the editor of legislative, science, and medical news at Weedmaps News.

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AirAsia unveils sprawling RedPoint office in the Philippines – Business Mirror

AirAsia unveils sprawling RedPoint office in the Philippines - Business Mirror thumbnail

AirAsia, the world’s best low-cost airline, has unveiled its newest and vibrant office, RedPoint, in the Philippines.

RedPoint features transparent and modern open plan
design and technology, meeting rooms themed according to seasons (winter,
spring, summer and autumn), collaboration zones and creative lounges.

The new headquarters becomes
home to AirAsia’s 2,100 Al-stars based in Manila and will foster open
communication, creativity and innovation as the company embarks on a
transformation journey to become more than just an airline.

The opening was attended by
Transportation Secretary Arthur P. Tugade, Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo
Puyat, Deputy Speaker Mikee Romero, AirAsia Group Berhad Executive Chairman
Datuk Kamarudin Meranun, AirAsia Philippines Chairman of the Board Atty. Jomar
Castillo, AirAsia Philippines Vice Chairman of the Board Sheila Romero and
AirAsia Philippines CEO Ricardo Isla at Ninoy Aquino International Airport
(Naia) Terminal 3 in Pasay City today.

Isla said “As Asia’s largest
low-cost carrier, the opening of RedPoint signifies a new era for AirAsia in
the Philippines. It’s new and stylish working environment has been specifically
designed to break down departmental silos, inspire collaboration and foster
creativity. The new office space is an expression of AirAsia’s core values,
especially of putting people first, as they go about delivering what our guests
want and expect.”

Isla added that the unveiling
of RedPoint also celebrates AirAsia’s recognition as the world’s best low-cost
airline for the 11th consecutive year by Skytrax, the global benchmark of
airline excellence. 

The new Philippines
headquarters also includes hammock and swing areas, as well as a gym. The
company moves to RedPoint from the Salem Complex near Naia Terminal 4.

AirAsia Philippines operates a
fleet of 24 aircraft on more than 500 weekly domestic and international flights
from its hubs in Manila, Clark, Cebu and Kalibo.

Attending the AirAsia
Philippines RedPoint office launch were Castillo (from left), Transportation
Undersecretary for Aviation and Airports Capt. Manuel Antonio Tamayo,
Congressman Enrico Pineda, Meranun, Romero, Tugade, Romero, Sen. Manny
Pacquiao, Jinkee Pacquiao, Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines Director
General Capt. Jim C. Sydiongco, Isla, Manila International Airport Authority
General Manager Ed Monreal, and Civil Aeronautics Board Executive Director
Atty. Carmelo Arcilla.

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Watch MIT’s ‘mini cheetah’ robots frolic, fall, flip – and play soccer together

Watch MIT’s ‘mini cheetah’ robots frolic, fall, flip – and play soccer together thumbnail

MIT’s Biomimetics Robotics department took a whole herd of its new ‘mini cheetah’ robots out for a group demonstration on campus recently – and the result is an adorable, impressive display of the current state of robotic technology in action.

The school’s students are seen coordinating the actions of 9 of the dog-sized robots running through a range of activities, including coordinated movements, doing flips, springing in slow motion from under piles of fall leaves, and even playing soccer.

The mini cheetah weights just 20 lbs, and its design was revealed for the first time earlier this year by a team of robot developers working at MIT’s Department of Mechanical Engineering. The mini cheetah is a shrunk-down version of the Cheetah 3, a much larger and more expensive to produce robot that is far less light on its feet, and not quite so customizable.

The mini cheetah was designed for Lego-like assembly using off-the-shelf part, as well as durability and relative low cost. It can walk both right-side up, and upside down, and its most impressive ability just might be the way it can manage a full backflip from a stand-still. It can also run at a speed of up to 5 miles per hour.

Researchers working on the robot set out to build a team of them after demonstrating that first version back in May, and are now working with other teams at MIT to loan them out for additional research.

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Nova Scotia expands emergency-device program for people with brain injuries – The Digby Courier

Nova Scotia expands emergency-device program for people with brain injuries - The Digby Courier thumbnail

The province will expand a program that provides emergency alert devices to low-income Nova Scotians. 

The personal alert service now will be offered to people over 19 who have an acquired brain injury. The province’s continuing care department will spend  $54,720 over the next three years, which will cover 38 additional people per year. 

The alert devices connect the user to 911 with the push of a button in an emergency situation.

Previously the program was open only to people 65 and over on a low income who met eligibility criteria. About 800 seniors take part in the program.

The expansion to adults with acquired brain injuries will bring the total annual cost of the program to $223,240.

“Today’s announcement is about supporting people with acquired brain injuries to live full and independent lives,” said Health and Wellness Minister Randy Delorey in a news release.  “This is a step to ensure more Nova Scotians feel comfortable and safe at home.”

Those who qualify will receive $480 a year to cover the cost of the personal alert device. 

Eligible recipients must be over 19, have a diagnosed acquired brain injury, make $22,125 a year or less, living alone, have a history of falls in the last 90 days and receive home support or nursing. 

Brain injury is the leading cause of disability for people under 40 in Nova Scotia, said Leona Burkey, executive director of Brain Injury NS, in the release. 

“We are very pleased to be in the house today to welcome this announcement on improving access to personal alert devices for acquired brain injury survivors. … This investment will help the most vulnerable in our community – low-income brain injury survivors living on their own.”

An acquired brain injury is an injury to the brain that is not hereditary, congenital, degenerative or induced by birth trauma. 

For more information on the alert program, call the continuing care department at 1-800-225-7225.

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Low Cost DIY CNC Router

Low Cost DIY CNC Router thumbnail

Hello and welcome to my first Instructable article. In the first four days it’s garnered over 20K views which really blindsided me. I guess there’s lot’s of CNC enthusiasts out there! If you find this article of interest please consider voting for it in the First Time Authors contest here. Thanks for stopping by!

This is a hobby CNC router I built for myself that I’d thought I’d share with the Instructables community. This is not a detailed build log of the router but more of an exploration of my design choices that went into this somewhat unique tool. There are no plans for this router. Beyond a couple of initial sketches to determine general size, lengths, and spacing, this router pretty much grew out organically as I was building it. Hopefully other CNC enthusiasts may see an idea or two that might help them with their projects.

Design parameters

  • Use as much stuff that I had laying around the shop as possible.
  • Able to use the router as a bench top when not routing.
  • A cutting area of 30″x60″x2″.
  • Make it as rigid as possible (for a plywood design).

As to the design I came up with. This is a classic XYZ 3-axis wood cutting router. By classic I mean it has a gantry that moves along the length of the machine base (Y axis). There is a carriage that the router is mounted to that runs back and forth on the gantry (X axis). And finally, there is a mechanism that raises and lowers the entire gantry that moves the router up and down (Z axis). Yes, I said the entire gantry moves up and down. We’ll be getting into that later. As to motion, I’m using stepper motors and roller chain. For the linear rails, I’m using steel v-bearings running over steel angle iron. The primary construction material is plywood.

Lets get to the picture show.

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Step 1: The Base

Every tool needs a good base. Instead of building from scratch I re-purposed an Ikea cabinet I had available. The cabinet was completely disassembled and then put back together using adhesive at every junction. I reinforced the cabinet by melding in a 2×6 substructure on the bottom. Casters and levelers where added for mobility. Finally, I used a commercial solid core door for a bench top. Not shown, but the door was shimmed so it would lay as flat and true as I could make it. The door will be the actual base for the router.

Why a solid core door for the machine base? For one, I had it available. I use these doors as bench tops in my shop. Secondly, commercial solid core doors are built to be as flat and true as possible. And third, their heavy as hell and I thought all that mass would be advantageous in soaking up vibrations from the router.

Step 2: Linear Rails

Linear rails for CNC seem to be a dime a dozen nowadays on eBay and Alibaba, but in 6′ lengths? Not so cheap. What is cheap is 1-1/2″ angle iron at my local home center. Something else that’s cheap (at least cheaper than they used to be) are 3/8″ ID steel v-bearings. Combine the two, and we get the linear rail system I’m using in this build. Pictured here are my first tests using angle iron and the v-bearings. Seemed to work well so I cut the 45 degree plywood rail beds on the tablesaw and mounted the angles to the underside of the router base. Not well pictured, but tensioning of the v-bearings onto the angle is accomplished by a bolt and dowel-nut setup. Those slits between the v-bearings allow for enough movement for the tensioning.

Something you may have noticed are the plywood strips attached to the edge of the door/router table. There’s nothing significant about these. After I cut the door to size I decided I wanted to increase the X travel to a full 30″ which required widening the table.

Why mount the Y rails under the table? This left the top clear so the entire surface could be used for cutting. It also allows me to use the router as a work/assembly bench when I’m not routing.

Notice how far apart the the pairs of Y axis v-bearings are apart on the bottom of the gantry side plate? I did this to mount the gantry plates as rigidly as possibly. This made the plates longer which required more table length to get me the 60″ of Y travel that I wanted.

Sorry to say but this is about it for historical photos of this build. The pics that follow were all taken after the router was pretty much complete and operational.

Step 3: Gantry and Carriage Details

The gantry is built from two layers of 3/4″ ply glued together. Along the top and bottom, 45 degree recesses were cut and 3/4″ angle irons where bonded into them using Gorilla glue. The entire gantry moves up and down for the Z axis motions. To accomplish this, the gantry has a length of 1-1/2″ angle iron in the vertical orientation that sit in v-bearings attached to the gantry side plates. The up and down power is supplied by a NEMA 23 stepper and screw assembly on each end.

Notice the gantry overhangs? The gantry beam is mounted in front of and extends past the side support plates. This allows the router carriage to slide past the side supports (more on the right than on the left btw). You don’t see this much on DIY routers for some reason. This setup allows the router to cut from edge to edge a full 30″ in the X axis.

The router carriage is glued up from two layers of 1/2″ cabinet grade plywood, much the same way as the gantry side plates. Since I have that overhanging gantry, I was able to make the router carriage longer (spreading the v-bearings further apart) which increases rigidity in the X axis. The Makita router is mounted on the left side of the carriage. This opened up area for the dust collection system to the right of the router. The carriage has four of the v-bearings that run on the top and bottom angles on the gantry. Tensioning is done the same way as on the gantry side plates.

Flying gantry? To provide the Z axis motion the entire gantry moves up and down. On most CNC routers the gantry is fixed and the Z axis motion is all done at the router carriage. I’m moving the entire gantry for a few reasons. First, my thinking is that if I moved the Z axis mechanics out to the ends placing them between the gantry and the gantry side plates, I could spread the loads out and increase rigidity. Secondly, removing all the Z axis mechanics and motor from the router carriage, greatly simplified wiring going to the carriage. Third, I figured why not? It works in 3D printers and as it turns out, is working quite well with this router. Besides, it looks cool when the entire gantry moves up and down.

Z motor mounting. What may not be obvious is how I have the two Z motors attached and mounted to the jack screws. In a typical setup, these motors would be hard mounted to a base. The screws would be mounted in a bearing assembly. To connect the two would be a flexible coupling. I avoided all that complexity by hard mounting the motors to the screw shafts. The only thing holding those motors in place are the 1/4″ shafts stuck into the 1/4″ holes I drilled into the screw shaft ends on my mini-lathe. The motors are kept from spinning by the wood bracket with that rubber bushing on the end (which allows the motor to wobble if it has to). This may seem an odd way of doing this but this method eliminates the flexible coupling and fiddling with alignment. The 1/4″ shafts of the stepper motors are more than strong enough to keep the motors in place.

For X and Y axis motion, the carriage has one NEMA 23 240oz (torque) stepper mounted. The Y axis motion is powered by a single 425oz stepper that is driving a shaft that is attached to both ends of the gantry. Mechanically, it would have been easier to go with two steppers for the Y axis but I only had one motor available at the time and I had the shafting and bearings to fabricate the drive. One nice thing with this setup is that the gantry will never go out of alignment due to a motor skipping.

A chain reduction on the axis drives? I first built this with the stepper’s driving the chains directly. In the initial testing, I was getting a lot of skipping in the (weak) motors I was using at the time. I had the sprockets and bearings available so I added the reductions. Besides adding a ton or torque, they definitely helped in the precision category (more on that later).

Step 4: Roller Chain?

Yep, I used 25P roller chain in this build. I didn’t use timing belts, ballscrews, or rack and pinion. If you don’t know, roller chain has a bad rap in the DIY CNC community. Arguments against are that it stretches, it’s not very accurate, and it caused the fall of the Roman Empire! Anyhow, I didn’t know all that when I started this build and I had a bunch of the chain left over from another project. I’m enough of an engineer to know that roller chain could have issues but I had some ideas on how to mitigate those. Before I started this build I’d studied other chain driven designs and always noticed one thing. These other chain designs always seemed to have the chain hanging out in mid-air, unsupported, with some sort of flimsy looking tensioning system on the ends. Roller chain has some weight to it, even #25 chain. What will happen if 5′ of it suspended horizontally in mid air? It will droop and no matter how tight you tension it, it will still droop to some degree. What that droop on a linear motion system means is that you will not get consistent movement along it’s length. What I did with this design is that the chains are supported along their entire lengths. The X axis chain sits in the bottom of the top angle of the gantry. The Y axis chains lay in a cutout in the Y angle supports. There’s no drooping in these chains! To secure the ends of the chains, I used 3mm hex wrenches which fit quite nicely in the #25 chain. Tensioning is handled by flexible sections of ply on one end of each of the chains. A tensioning screw runs though a t-nut which bends the ply tensionor out and pulling the chain taught.

Note that the chain mounting and tensionors sit right on the angle iron ends. This setup uses the angles in compression to add to the rigidity of the chain mounting.

What’s that coupling looking thing in the first pic? That’s a compression coupling that joins the left and right Y axis sprocket drives. Loosening this up allows me to precisely adjust the gantry perpendicular to the Y axis travel.

Step 5: Router and Dust Collection

The router is the Makita RT0701C 1/4″ trim router (earlier pics show a cheap Harbor Freight router which has since been chucked). The router has turned out to be precise and it has a nice speed adjustment built into it.

Dust collection. I have a small basement shop and I wanted good dust collection on this machine. One wrinkle with this design is that since the router carriage moves up and down with the gantry, I had to come up with a design that keeps the dust shoe on the work piece. This was accomplished by mounting the dust shoe on an arm that allows it to freely move up and down in relation to the gantry. Three plastic v-bearings were used as shown in the pic. The one bearing is attached to the movable arm that allows for a quick and easy removal of the dust shoe from the machine. The dust shoe was machined (first thing I cut on this router) out of two pieces of 1/2″ plywood. The bottom pad was cut out of a painting pad and allows the shoe to float over any screws or bumps in the work piece.

The dust cyclone is mounted on top of a standard 5 gallon bucket and keeps most (if not all) the dust out of the 8 gallon shopvac that I’m using.

This setup has proven very good at sucking the dust and chips up. After a cut, there’s hardly any dust left on the work piece or floating around the shop.

Step 6: Controls and Wiring

Not many pics on this one I’m sorry to say. The control system is Arduino UNO based and I’m running the EstlCAM CNC software (which is awesome IMO). On the wall is a little Windows 10 media PC that is running the Windows side of the EstlCAM system. A wireless keyboard, mouse, and a game-pad finish the controls out.

On the back of the machine inside the black box in the center is an Arduino Uno which is running the Estlcam controller software. In the electrical box is a 10A SSR (solid state relay) which switches the router on and off. To the left on a shock mounted base are the TB6600 stepper drivers. The power supply is a 24V 15A fanless design.

No whirlygigs! I made an effort to use fanless passively cooled equipment for all my electronics. This is so no dust gets sucked into anyplace it shouldn’t be. I also kept an eye on mounting orientation. The stepper drivers are mounted so heated air will naturally flow upward. The Arduino case has holes drilled into the top and bottom for the same reason.

The wiring to the motors is running through the flexible black cable protectors picked up at a computer store. The motor cabling is four conductor trailer wire.

Noticed that articulated cable support going to the router carriage? A couple pieces of plywood and some hinges, and a quick and easy cabling solution to the carriage is the result. Works quite well.

Step 7: Does It Cut?

Of course it does!

There’s been issues of course and It’s a continuing learning curve. I’ve been experimenting with materials, cut depths, and feed rates to see what the router can do.

Currently, for cutting plywood and MDF, I’ve been running around 70IPM (inch per minute) speeds on a .25 bit with a .28 cut depth. The Z axis is currently set to 20IPM.

Free travel speed is set to 140IPM with no issues.

Step 8: Is It Accurate?

How’s .005″ repeat-ability sound? That’s 0.127mm for you metric types. Yeah, I know. That sounds to good to be true with a DIY roller chain driven plywood router but that’s what I’ve seen in some of my testing. I’m not saying .005″ accuracy will come out of this machine with every cut but at even four times worse, it’s a lot more accuracy than I was ever expecting.

So why so accurate? Who knows? Maybe I’m an uber machine designer and fabricator. Maybe that reduction on the motors had something to do with it? Maybe the stars were in alignment? All I know is I’m very happy with it. Not to shabby for a machine that might have $900 of material in it.

Hope you enjoyed this write up. I’ll add content as I think of it and I look forward to any comments or suggestions.

Thanks for reading.


Step 9: Accesories

First thing you learn when you get your CNC router up and running, is that you immediately want to start improving it. My first project along these lines was a touchplate for automatic zeroing. These are usually made from milled aluminum but I figured some plywood and some aluminum tape and strips would work. It did!

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5 Apple AirPods Pro alternatives that cost less – CNET

5 Apple AirPods Pro alternatives that cost less - CNET thumbnail

You already know that there are loads of true-wireless earphones that cost less than Apple’s AirPods, but what about the company’s just-announced AirPods Pro? Are we going to have to wait for other companies to play catch-up? In a way, yes: Not many other products offer the Pro’s active noise cancellation capabilities. But, in another way, no: Lots of other products offer noise isolation, which can be nearly as effective.

Indeed, any earbuds that use silicone ear tips (and that’s most of them these days) can greatly reduce outside noise, provided you’re able to get a good seal. (That’s in contrast to Apple’s original, hard-plastic AirPods, which don’t create that seal.) One could make the argument that while ANC is valuable in over-the-ear headphones, which can muffle only so much outside noise, it’s not as important for the in-ear kind.

Airpods Pro


To be fair, the AirPods Pro offer more than just ANC: They have a Transparency Mode that allows outside sounds to pass through, and they’re sweat- and water-resistant, which the current AirPods are not. They also autopause when you take when one out of your ear (and autoresume when you put it back), a feature I wish other earbud makers would copy.

Still, $249 is awfully steep for a couple featherweight pieces of plastic, sophisticated though they may be. Let’s take a look at some alternatives that cost less — in some cases a lot less — and see what you’re giving up. 

Sarah Tew/CNET

Though priced about $20 lower than the AirPods Pro, Sony’s true-wireless earbuds offer the same kind of ANC technology and transparency mode. (In fact, they’re the only earbuds in this roundup to include both those features.) Plus, they have a sensor that autopauses music when you take one out of your ear.

Now for the bad news: The WF-1000XM3 isn’t specifically rated as sweat- or water-resistant. So if you’re planning heavy workouts, these ‘buds aren’t for you.

Read our Sony WF-1000XM3 review.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Jaybird’s best effort to date definitely has a premium price, but the Vista still costs quite a bit less than the AirPods Pro. They’re lightweight and comfortable, with a USB-C charging case and an IPX7-rated waterproof design. All that’s missing is a transparency mode.

Read our Jaybird Vista review.

Rick Broida/CNET

It’s a good time to watch for bargains on the CNET-favorite Jabra Elite 65t and slightly enhanced Elite Active 65t, both of which have seen some good discounts lately (probably due to the imminent arrival of the new, smaller Elite 75t). For example, a manufacturer-refurbished Elite 65t recently went on sale for $68.

These earbuds have a quick-charge case (15 minutes nets you 90 minutes of listening) and are fully sweat-resistant. They’re particularly good for making calls, if that’s important to you.

Read our Jabra Elite 65t review.

Sarah Tew/CNET

The Liberty Air has long been a CNET favorite for offering better-than-AirPods sound for about half the price. (They’re even less now.) Why better? Because of that all-important in-ear seal, which allows for better bass (and noise isolation) than the original AirPods. Ironically, they more closely resemble the newer AirPods Pro. You should also check out the newer Liberty Air 2, which features better battery life and improved voice calling as well as UBC-C charging.

Read our Anker Soundcore Liberty Air review.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Almost too good to be true, the EarFun Free manages to deliver Bluetooth 5.0, both USB-C and wireless charging and a fully waterproof (IPX7-rated) design. CNET’s David Carnoy also praised their “surprisingly good sound.” They’re currently priced at $50, but there’s an on-page coupon that knocks 10% off — and I’ve seen them as low as $40 (so watch for sales).

Read our EarFun Free review.

What do you think? Will one of these do the trick for you, or are you going to start saving for AirPods Pro?

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Amazon is now offering free Prime 1-day shipping on items that cost as little as $1 as it tries to further eliminate any reason to ever go to a store (AMZN)

  • Amazon has been gradually making it possible for Prime members to shop for low-cost items on its site (under $5) and have these shipped on their own for free, according to a new report from Recode.
  • This means that Prime shoppers can spend as little as $1 on an item, for example, and receive it the next day without incurring any shipping costs.
  • Previously, they would have had to add low-cost items such as toothpaste or deodorant as an “add-on” to another, minimum $25 order to qualify for free shipping.
  • The news should terrify Amazon’s competitors in this space such as Target, CVS, or Walgreens, where shoppers might otherwise go to pick up low-cost items.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Amazon is taking a further step toward ensuring its customers never need to go to a store.

According to a new report from Recode’s Jason Del Rey, the retail giant has been gradually making it possible for Prime members to shop for low-cost items on its site (under $5) and have them shipped on their own for free.

This means that Prime shoppers can spend as little as $1 on an item, for example, and receive it the next day without incurring any shipping costs. Previously, the Prime shopper would have had to add low-cost items such as deodorants or toothpaste, for example, via its “add-on” tool, which enables these items to be shipped for free when you spend a minimum of $25.

On its site, Amazon explains that it offers the Add-on service to allow it to “offer thousands of low-priced items that would be cost-prohibitive to ship on their own.”

According to a September report from analysts at Edgewater Research, which was cited by Recode, Amazon has “essentially turned off” this add-on feature in the past few months. Now, many consumer packaged goods — items like deodorant or toothpaste — will be available for free shipping when they purchase them alone.

Amazon did not immediately respond to Business Insider’s request for comment. In a statement to Recode, a spokesperson said: “We know customers love our vast selection, low prices, and free one-day delivery with Prime and we are always innovating to improve their experience.”

The news should terrify Amazon’s competitors such as Target, CVS, or Walgreens — companies running brick-and-mortar stores where shoppers might otherwise go to pick up low-cost items on short notice. If these are items are now available to buy online and have shipped to your home the next day, they’ll have fewer reasons to visit the store.

But Amazon’s moves into this market should raise red flags from an antitrust perspective, experts say.

“There’s no way that shipping costs are less than 75 cents, and there’s no way any other company that wants to sell a makeup brush could deliver that for free. It’s not possible and it highlights how pricing strategies can be used to drive rivals from the market. But antitrust law currently misses this anticompetitive conduct with its obsession on low prices,” Sally Hubbard, an antitrust expert, told Recode.

Read more: More than 1,500 Amazon employees are expected to walk out on Friday to protest climate change

And as Recode writer Jason Del Rey points out, the free shipping of smaller items is likely to cause issues with environmental activists who already urging the company to commit to zero emissions by 2030.

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Remote-controlled scooters are coming, and Tortoise is (slowly) leading the charge

Remote-controlled scooters are coming, and Tortoise is (slowly) leading the charge thumbnail

You may have noticed that scooter companies typically have short names — usually around four or five letters — that are meant to invoke feelings of flying or zooming across an urban landscape unencumbered. Think Bird, Spin, Scoot, Bolt, Jump, Wheels, etc.

Tortoise is not a scooter company. That should be obvious from the startup’s name, which invokes a character who is slow but clever, ultimately defeating a much faster opponent. Tortoise is working with scooter companies to introduce a seemingly radical concept: scooters that can move autonomously across a city and reposition themselves, without a rider. That’s right. Autonomous scooters.

Well, sort of. Remote-operated might be a better description, because Tortoise wants to use autonomous technology combined with teleoperation to reposition and rebalance dockless, shared e-scooters in cities. And while the image of ghostly two-wheelers rolling down sidewalks completely on their own may seem crazy, Tortoise co-founder and CEO Dmitry Shevelenko is convinced that scooter companies and cities will embrace the idea when they hear what’s at stake.

It goes something like this: right now, e-scooters are gathered up every night by teams of independent contractors for charging and rebalancing. These freelance scooter hunters get paid based on how many scooters they can collect each night, which has led to arguments, fights, and the occasional weapon being flashed. Scooter get damaged, diminishing their lifespan. Fraud and hoarding are rampant. It’s a massive logistical challenge and can be dangerous for the freelancers involved.

Meanwhile, riders have a difficult time tracking down available scooters when they want one. They all end up cluttered in a handful of places rather than spread evenly around. And cities have complained about the companies failing to place enough scooters in low-income and minority communities to ensure equal distribution across economic lines.

Enter Tortoise, which is proposing a system of remote-controlled scooters that can be moved around a city on demand, without the hassle of contracting out the work to teams of amateur scooter hunters. And because the idea of fully autonomous scooters is a little absurd — imagine a self-driving scooter losing signal or power in the middle of a busy intersection — Tortoise is relying on a combination of autonomous software and a staff of remote tele-operators to control the scooters.

“Our first deployments are actually going to be 100 percent tele-operated, but over time, we’re going to increase the percentage of autonomy,” Shevelenko said in an interview. “But it’s never going to be fully autonomous.”

Tortoise is giving the reference designs for how to make a scooter drive itself to the manufacturers free of charge. The technology is low-cost and fairly simple to install. And the camera and sensors are cheap thanks to the ubiquity of smartphones. “We’re basically taking the components that are inside smartphones, and putting them on the outside of the scooter,” he said. Meanwhile, Tortoise’s teleoperation center will be based in Mexico City, where remote operators will monitor the scooters and step in when they invariably get tripped up by an obstacle.

To start out, Tortoise is working with a number of scooter manufacturers (Acton, TronX Motors, Veemo, and Yimi) and shared fleet operators (Wind, CityBee, Go X, and Shared) to put its vision of semi-autonomous scooters into operation. It also struck a deal with the city of Peachtree Corners, Georgia, to test out its technology at the Atlanta Tech Park.

Tortoise is particularly focused on the suburbs, where the need for last-mile mobility solutions to connect people to transit is much greater. “If you’re in a suburb and you leave a scooter outside your house, the likelihood that it will be useful to anybody else but you is pretty much nil,” Shevelenko said. “We think automated repositioning is essential [in those communities].”

Shevelenko has served as an adviser to Uber on its partnerships with Getaround and Masabi, as well as the ride-hailing company’s acquisition of bike-share operator Jump. He founded Tortoise with David Graham, who has a background in vision systems, robotics, electrical engineering, and 3D printing.

Of course, Tortoise isn’t the only one working to develop semi-autonomous scooters. Segway-Ninebot recently introduced a three-wheeled self-driving scooter called the KickScooter T60. And Uber is rumored to be interested in developing self-riding bikes and scooters, but it hasn’t confirmed that publicly.

Whether an autonomous scooter would address all of the challenges of a shared micromobility service is unclear. What is clear is that creating a fleet of self-riding scooters could be incredibly costly. Eric Paul Dennis, a Michigan-based transportation systems analyst for the Center for Automotive Research, posted a thread on Twitter recently calling it “the worst new #mobility idea yet.”

Shevelenko identified regulatory hurdles as the prime obstacle to getting autonomous or remote-controlled scooters into service. And he pointed to early tests by delivery robot startups like Starship Technologies as evidence that our society is becoming more comfortable with (and less hostile toward) robots in our midst. And scooters may just be the beginning for the type of service Tortoise envisions spearheading.

“Low speed autonomy comes before high speed autonomy,” Shevelenko said. “And of all the verticals in the low speed automation space, micromobility is by far the best one. In one fell swoop you’re increasing demand because you’re able to get more rentals per day. You’re impacting the cost side on the recharging labor costs. And you’re creating a public policy benefit because you’re solving this clutter and obstruction issue.”

Tortoise’s software stack is “form factor agnostic,” he added. “So we eventually want to be powering the routing autonomy and teleoperations with delivery robots, security robots, cleaning robots. We have this broader vision of being an AWS, moving anything per mile. And we think the most logical place to start is scooters and e-bikes.”

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India to spend $6 billion to revive telecom operators BSNL and MTNL

India said on Wednesday it plans to spend nearly $6 billion to revive loss-making state-funded telecom operators Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd (BSNL) and Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Ltd (MTNL).

In a press conference, telecom minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said today the Narendra Modi government has given its in-principle approval to the merger of BSNL and MTNL and infuse billions of dollars in capital, though he did not specify a time frame.

BSNL offers telecom services across the nation, while MTNL serves people in New Delhi and Mumbai. Both the firms have been bleeding money for years as competition from private players intensified in recent years after the arrival of India’s richest man Mukesh Ambani’s aggressive firm Reliance Jio. BSNL and MTNL have debt of about $5.65 billion.

The arrival of Reliance Jio, which undercut the market with its 4G-only telecom network, free voice calls and incredibly low-cost data prices, saw incumbents Vodafone and Airtel lower their prices and expand their 4G networks across the country.

MTNL, which is a listed company, will become a subsidiary of BSNL until the merger is completed, Prasad told journalists. “Neither BSNL nor MTNL are being closed, nor are they being disinvested or being hived off to third party,” he said, refuting weeks-long speculation that the government wanted to shut the carriers that serve about 120 million subscribers.

The revival plan includes a capital infusion of $2.8 billion to enable BSNL to purchase 4G spectrum, and write off of $520 million worth of taxes these purchases would incur. The network operators will additionally raise about $2.1 billion of long-term bonds that the New Delhi government will back and monetize $5.3 billion worth of assets over the next four years, the minister said.

“We want to make BSNL and MTNL competitive, and bring in professionalism,” Shankar said. The government is hopeful that BSNL would become operationally profitable in the next two years, he said.

The existence of BSNL, which alone serves more than 116 million subscribers, is in the strategic interest of the nation, Prasad said in a conference last week. “Whenever we have flood or cyclone, BSNL is the first one to offer services for free,” he said.

BSNL, which uses about 75% of its revenue to pay its roughly 176,000 employees, was unable to process their salaries last month. The government said today that it will soon address this and also offer various “attractive voluntary retirement packages” to employees aged 50 or more. In a press release, the government said it would spend about $2.4 billion on the employee retirement packages.

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Would you accept ads on your screen for a lower purchase price?

Best answer: Amazon’s Special Offers is a feature that lowers the cost of devices like the Kindle e-readers and Fire tablets with targeted lock screen ads.

What are Special Offers?

Amazon introduced the concept of devices with Special Offers a while back as a way to reduce the entry cost into the Kindle, and then later, the Fire Tablet ecosystems. Amazon has always offered pretty low-cost hardware, but it pitched the Special Offers as a way to further offset those expenditures. The Special Offers consist of lock screen/screensaver ads that are personalized to you based on your shopping preferences and browsing habits on Amazon.

Generally speaking, ordering a Kindle or Fire Tablet device with Special Offers will save you around $15-$20 off the same product without those lock screen ads. That’s not insignificant, even on an already inexpensive media consumption device.

Amazon makes its money not from the sale of its devices, but rather the hook into its ecosystem of products and services. The company (rightly) figures that if it gets as many devices as possible into the hands of its customers at a low price, they are far more likely to continue consuming Amazon’s content and ordering products from the e-commerce giant.

Lock screen ads are terrible, right? Not so fast…

Right off the bat, many automatically scoff at the idea of paying for a content consumption device with ads front and center. I’m not sure why that’s so objectionable, as we regularly willingly pay for ad-supported media (directly or indirectly). Just look at that magazine on your coffee table, or the newspaper on your breakfast table, or heck, your TV or favorite website! Ads regularly support and subsidize content delivery.

These lock screen ads aren’t that bad either! Most of the time you’re not going to get ads for toilet paper or lentil soup. You’re far more likely to see ads for a book that Amazon’s algorithms think you’ll be interested in, or a new Prime Video series. Not too ojectionable in my book (pun intended), particularly because the media artwork is prominently displayed so that they don’t really look like ads. While you do sometimes see ads for more traditional, physical products (mostly on the Fire Tablets), even those are personalized based on your shopping habits and browsing preferences from your Amazon account.

The best part of all? Even if you get a device with Special Offers and you hate it, then you can just pay to have them removed (in the device settings or through your Amazon account). You don’t pay any extra over the initial difference; instead you pay the balance between the Special Offers and non-special offers price. Seriously, if you’re not sure if the ads will bother you, why not try this method? You may end up saving a few bucks.

What should you get?

Obviously this is up to personal preference and budget, but I think that even if you can afford to get the devices without Special Offer, you shouldn’t. I’ve owned many Kindles and Fire tablets, and only once have I purchased one without Special Offers. Honestly, I didn’t notice one way or another! That tells me that the lock screen ads never bothered me at all, and they were a way to save $15-$20 or so with each device.

I also found that the ads were either accurate at guessing what I might be interested in, or at least non-offensive and non-invasive. They often consist of cover or album artwork, and honestly are not a bad thing to look at when my device is locked.

Reading at a reduced rate

Kindle (10th Gen)

An affordable e-reader, now with light!

Amazon’s entry-level e-reader now features a built-in light for easy night reading without disrupting others.

Entertainment extravaganza

Fire HD 10 (9th Gen)

The unforgettable Fire

The 10th Gen Fire HD 10 packs a full HD screen, expandable storage up to 512GB, and up to 12 hours of entertainment use. Oh, and it now comes with a USB-C charging port!

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