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China

China Smog: Millions Start New Year Shrouded By Health Alerts and Travel Chaos (theguardian.com) 77

Millions in China rang in the New Year shrouded in a thick blanket of toxic smog, causing road closures and flight cancellations as 24 cities issued alerts that will last through much of the week. From a report on The Guardian: On the first day of 2017 in Beijing, concentrations of tiny particles that penetrate deep into the lungs climbed as high as 24 times levels recommended by the World Health Organization. More than 100 flights were cancelled and all intercity buses were halted at the capital's airport. In the neighbouring port city of Tianjin, more than 300 flights were cancelled while the weather forecast warned thick smog will persist until 5 January. All of the city's highways were also shut as low visibility made driving hazardous, effectively trapping residents.
Sci-Fi

'Star Wars' Actress Carrie Fisher 'Stable' After In-Flight Heart Attack (abc7news.com) 120

Best-known for playing Princess Leia in the Star Wars trilogy and The Force Awakens, actress Carrie Fisher is recovering from a "cardiac event" Friday. An anonymous reader quotes ABC: Her brother, Todd Fisher, told The Associated Press that she was "out of emergency" and stabilized at a Los Angeles hospital Friday afternoon... The 60-year-old "Star Wars" star experienced medical trouble during a flight from London and was treated by paramedics immediately upon landing in Los Angeles around noon Friday, according to reports citing unnamed sources.
Fisher reportedly remains in the intensive care unit while lots of celebrities are now wishing her a speedy recovery for Christmas, including Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill, C-3PO actor Anthony Daniels, Chewbacca actor Peter Mayhew, and Billy Dee Williams, as well as Star Trek actors William Shatner and George Takei. Many fans are using the hashtag #MayTheForceBeWithHer, and she's even receiving messages of support from the Twitter account set up for her therapy dog, Gary.
AI

Morgan Freeman To Voice Mark Zuckerberg's Jarvis (usatoday.com) 93

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg recently demoed his homemade artificial intelligence assistant Jarvis for Fast Company, and while their report didn't mention anything specific about the assistant's synthesized voice at the time, we have now learned that Morgan Freeman will be the voice behind Jarvis. Robert Downey Jr. originally volunteered to be the new voice of Jarvis under certain conditions, but Zuckerberg decided to let the public weigh in on Facebook. With more than 50,000 comments, Morgan Freeman emerged victorious. USA Today reports: Zuckerberg told Fast Company he called Freeman and said: "Hey, I posted this thing, and...thousands of people want you to be the voice. Will you do it?" Freeman told Zuckerberg: "Yeah, sure." Of course, Freeman has other starring voice roles in the tech world. He's one of the celebrity voices on Google's navigation app Waze. Facebook has not disclosed whether Freeman is getting paid, according to Fast Company.
Blackberry

BlackBerry Stops Making Phones, Licenses the BlackBerry Name To TCL For Android Phones (pcworld.com) 48

The BlackBerry smartphone is dead: Long live the BlackBerry smartphone. From a report on PCWorld: A week after it officially pulled out of the smartphone market, BlackBerry has agreed to license its brand to handset manufacturer TCL. The Chinese company will make and market future BlackBerry handsets worldwide except for India, Indonesia, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Nepal, where BlackBerry has already struck local licensing deals. This is hardly new territory for TCL, which manufactured BlackBerry's last two handsets, the Android-based DTEK50 and DTEK60. BlackBerry has taken a more direct route out of the handset manufacturing business than Nokia, another of the marquee phone brands of the early years of this century. When Nokia sold its smartphone business to Microsoft, it also gave that company the right to use the Nokia brand for a transitional period. When Nokia got its name back earlier this year, it promptly granted a 10-year license to HMD Global, a Finnish company, to use its name on new phones.
China

Pentagon: Chinese Ship Captures US Underwater Drone Fom Sea (usatoday.com) 406

The Pentagon is demanding that China return an "unlawfully seized" underwater drone after a Chinese warship took the device from waters near a US oceanographic vessel. From a report on USA Today: A U.S. Navy underwater drone operating in international waters was captured by a Chinese warship in the South China Sea, Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook said in a statement on Friday. The drone is not armed and is used for gathering weather and temperature data. The incident occurred Thursday. The drone was launched by the USNS Bowditch, a civilian crewed oceanographic ship that is operated by the Military Sealift Command, off the coast of the Philippines. These types of drones, called gliders, typically collect unclassified data, such as water temperatures and salinity levels. "We call upon China to return our UUV immediately, and to comply with all of its obligations under international law," Pentagon press secretary Peter Cook said in a statement, using the abbreviation for "unmanned underwater vehicle."

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