Tag Archives: ‘replace’

This Sci-Fi-Inspired Device Could Replace Bulky, Expensive X-Ray Machines

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We’re still a long way from Star Trek-style tricorders that can instantly diagnose disease, but medical startup Nanox is hoping to bring a little of the 24th century to a hospital near you. The company has unveiled a new low-cost X-ray scanner called the Nanox.Arc. It hopes to deploy 15,000 units in the coming years, with the aim of making medical scans more available and affordable. 

Nanox was founded in 2016 by Japanese venture capitalist Hitoshi Masuya in partnership with Sony. The consumer electronics giant later bowed out, but Masuya joined forces with current CEO Ran Poliakine to split the company’s operations between Israel and Japan. Nanox has now raised a total of $ 55 million to fund the development of Nanox.Arc, which supposedly offers the same capabilities of traditional X-ray machines with a much smaller footprint and lower operating costs. 

Current X-ray machinery is bulky, requiring arrays of rotating tubes with superheated filaments that produce electron clouds. When moved near a metal anode, the filament produces the X-rays needed for imaging. These giant analog contraptions require heavy shielding to keep patients safe, and they use a lot of power. There’s also a substantial upfront cost that can run $ 2-3 million. The Nanox.Arc, on the other hand, uses silicon micro-electromechanical systems (MEMs) in the form of more than 100 million molybdenum nano-cones that generate electrons. 

The Nanox.Arc promises to save space and money.

Nanox says its field emission X-ray technology is the product of 15 years of research, and no other company on Earth has done something similar. The upshot of all this is that the Nanox.Arc takes up very little space and uses less power than traditional machines. The company also has a plan to address the low global availability of X-ray machines. Instead of selling the Nanox.Arc for millions of dollars, it will lease the devices to hospitals and medical centers and charge per scan. 

Nanox plans to launch a cloud-based AI platform to process and analyze images from the machines, which it will then route to doctors for review. By charging for each scan, more facilities can afford to have the machines. Nanox, meanwhile, has a stream of guaranteed income. Importantly, the Nanox.Arc has not received regulatory approval, and it might be several years more before that happens. Until then, it might as well be a tricorder.

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U.S. House passes new North American trade pact to replace NAFTA

The U.S. House of Representatives overwhelmingly approved a new North American trade deal on Thursday that includes tougher labour and automotive content rules but leaves $ 1.2 trillion US in annual Canada-U.S.-Mexico trade flows largely unchanged.

The House passed legislation to implement the Canada-U.S.-Mexico Agreement (CUSMA) on trade 385-41, with 38 Democrats, two Republicans and one independent member voting no.

The bipartisan vote contrasted sharply with Wednesday night’s Democrat-only vote to impeach U.S. President Donald Trump.

The House vote sends the measure to the Senate, but it is unclear when the Republican-controlled chamber will take it up. Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell has said that consideration of the measure would likely follow an impeachment trial in the Senate, expected in January.

The CUSMA trade pact, first agreed upon in September 2018, will replace the 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Trump vowed for years to quit or renegotiate NAFTA, which he blames for the loss of millions of U.S. factory jobs to low-wage Mexico.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi gave CUSMA a green light last week after striking a deal with the Trump administration, Canada and Mexico to strengthen labour enforcement provisions and eliminate some drug patent protections.

Pelosi said she was not concerned about Democrats handing Trump a political victory on CUSMA as they are trying to remove him from office.

“It would be a collateral benefit if we can come together to support America’s working families, and if the president wants to take credit, so be it,” Pelosi said during House floor debate before the vote.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Twitter that the CUSMA was a “historic milestone” in Trump’s effort to modernize trade relations.

The changes negotiated by Democrats, which include tighter environmental rules, will also set up a mechanism to quickly investigate labour rights abuses at Mexican factories. They have earned the support of several U.S. labour unions that have opposed NAFTA for decades.

U.S. trade representative Robert Lighthizer made a concession by dropping a requirement for 10 years of data exclusivity for biologic drugs, a provision that Democrats feared would keep drug prices high and that they called a “giveaway” to big drugmakers.

Some of the most ardent trade skeptics in Congress have voiced support of the deal, including Rep. Debbie Dingell, who represents an autoworker-heavy district in southeastern Michigan. Dingell said in television interviews that she backed the bill, even though she was skeptical it would bring auto jobs back to Michigan. Rep. Ron Kind, a pro-trade Democrat from Wisconsin, one of the top dairy-producing states, praised new access to Canada’s closed dairy market under CUSMA.

“A no vote is a return to the failed policy of the old NAFTA, the status quo, rather than this more modernized version,” Kind said in floor debate.

Democrats and U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration have for months been negotiating over the finer details of CUSMA. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

The agreement modernizes NAFTA, adding language that preserves the U.S. model for internet, digital services and e-commerce development, industries that did not exist when NAFTA was negotiated in the early 1990s. It eliminates some food safety barriers to U.S. farm products and contains language prohibiting currency manipulation for the first time in a trade agreement.

But the biggest changes require increased North American content in cars and trucks built in the region, to 75 from 62.5 per cent in NAFTA, with new mandates to use North American steel and aluminum.

In addition, 40 to 45 per cent of vehicle content must come from high-wage areas paying more than $ 16 an hour — namely the United States and Canada. Some vehicles assembled in Mexico mainly with components from Mexico and outside the region may not qualify for U.S. tariff-free access.

The U.S. Congressional Budget Office estimated earlier this week that automakers will pay nearly $ 3 billion more in tariffs over the next decade for cars and parts that will not meet the higher regional content rules.

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Bill Gates-Backed Solar Startup Aims to Replace Fossil Fuels in Heavy Industry

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One of the most difficult problems facing first-world countries as they search for more environmentally sustainable manufacturing methods is the issue of fossil fuel use in heavy industry. According to a Bill Gates-backed startup, Heliogen, it’s solved a major problem with industrial manufacturing and developed solar technology that can replace the conventional fossil fuels often used in these types of manufacturing.

Vox published a recent article on the problem of industrial heat, and I’d recommend giving it a look as an overview of the problem as it exists today. Heavy industry accounts for roughly 22 percent of global CO2 emissions. About 10 percent of global emissions come from the combustion required to manufacture goods like steel and cement. Cars and planes, in contrast, account for about 6 percent and 2 percent of global emission totals, respectively. Importantly, however — and Vox spends a fair bit of time on this issue — is that there is no known path forward for decarbonizing industrial heat.

Well. Not until now. Heliogen is claiming it can generate far more heat from solar operations than before. The startup claims it can use an array of mirrors and AI to focus sunlight using a concentrated solar plant. In and of itself, that’s nothing new — concentrating solar plants like Ivanpah have been operating for several years. Early problems with the plant also functioning as a sort of bird death ray have been ameliorated by adjustments to mirror positioning.

What’s special about Heliogen’s technology isn’t the broad strokes of the method; it’s the output temperature. Ivanpah runs at a temperature of 500C. Heliogen has developed a solar concentration technology capable of reaching 1,000C. And 1,000C is enough energy to power a number of industrial processes, including concrete production. The company’s long-term roadmap calls for commercializing 1,500C solar, which would allow for hydrogen and syngas production.

“We are rolling out technology that can beat the price of fossil fuels and also not make the CO2 emissions,” Bill Gross, Heliogen’s founder and CEO, told CNN Business. “And that’s really the holy grail.”

As a startup, Heliogen obviously isn’t handing out price tags for its systems just yet, but the ability to build industrial processing centers that rely on solar power for heat generation could be critical to meeting the demand for building materials like concrete and steel. Delivering these improvements at costs below that of traditional fossil fuels makes the transition to a greener power source an easy one. The technology could find a particular home in places like China, where high levels of air pollution caused by burning coal have been particularly harmful and the country has prioritized finding new sources of power from solar, wind, and natural gas rather than continuing to rely on coal.

Heliogen claims to have used AI to discover exactly how to align its mirrors for maximum temperatures and has stated it generates so much excess heat, it might be able to harness the same process to create hydrogen at scale. While hydrogen can theoretically be produced via electrolysis (and electrolysis can be powered by renewable energy), the current hydrogen economy runs on hydrogen produced by steam reforming of natural gas and doesn’t count as “green” in any context.

As for how to keep plants running when the sun isn’t shining, Heliogen has stated it will rely on storage systems of an unspecified type. The company has said it will announce its first customers soon, and that its use of AI and software constitutes a core business advantage that makes the underlying technology affordable (along with the decreased reliance on fossil fuels and their associated costs).

A discovery like this could be potentially huge if the technology scales. That Bill Gates has emerged as a backer is another sign Heliogen’s technology may be the real deal. Given that cement production alone accounts for 7 percent of global CO2 emissions, reducing industrial energy usage by building concentrated solar would make a meaningful dent in worldwide GHG emissions.

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Power struggle ensues over who will replace Puerto Rico’s governor

The resignation of Puerto Rico’s governor after mass protests has sparked a succession battle, and a Washington corporate lawyer not directly linked to the current, scandal-plagued administration could emerge as the winner.

Gov. Ricardo Rossello said on Wednesday he would step down on Aug. 2 in the face of public anger over the release of profane chat messages and embezzlement charges against two former administration officials.

Three people appear to be in the strongest positions to succeed Rossello: Pedro Pierluisi, a former Puerto Rico representative in the U.S. Congress and now an attorney with Washington law firm O’Neill & Borges; Senate president Thomas Rivera Schatz and Jenniffer Gonzalez, Puerto Rico’s current delegate to the U.S. Congress.

What happens in the next week before Rossello steps down is crucial. As of Friday, Secretary of Justice Wanda Vazquez is next in line to succeed him because the U.S. territory has no secretary of state, with the resignation of Luis Rivera Marin from that post in the wake of the chat scandal.

The U.S. territory’s constitution stipulates that whoever holds that post is first in line to succeed the governor.

But protesters who forced Rossello from office have vowed to oppose Vazquez, saying she is too close to the disgraced governor.

Pedro Pierluisi, an attorney and former Puerto Rico representative in the U.S. Congress, is being considered to replace Rossello, sources say. (The Associated Press)

Their ire has prompted leaders of Rossello’s pro-statehood New Progressive Party (PNP) to consider Pierluisi as a possible successor, according to four sources familiar with the matter, who asked not to be named so they could discuss it.

He could become the next governor if nominated and confirmed as secretary of state before Aug. 2.

Pierluisi, who represented the island in Washington from 2009 to 2017, has made it clear to party leaders he would accept the job, according to one of these people. He ran against Rossello in the gubernatorial election in 2016, losing in a primary.

Eyes on 2020

Foremost in the minds of party leaders is whether Rossello’s successor can help them retain the governorship when it comes up for grabs in November 2020.

Before the implosion of his administration, Rivera Schatz and Gonzalez were seen as potential PNP candidates to challenge Rosello in a 2020 primary. Before the resignation, two sources told Reuters that Gonzalez and Rivera Schatz were conducting private opinion polling to see which would stand a better chance with voters.

It is not entirely clear how Rossello’s early departure may have influenced their ambitions. But Rivera Schatz is seen by some members of his party as too close to Rossello to be a viable candidate.

A representative for Vazquez declined to comment on speculation about her future, while Gonzalez’s office did not respond to a request for comment. Rivera Schatz’s office could not immediately be reached.

Pierluisi, a former Puerto Rico secretary of justice, is favoured by some Puerto Rico advocates in Washington for his familiarity with federal politics, according to one of the sources. Another source said Pierluisi has stressed to party leaders that he would not seek re-election in 2020, keeping the door open for Rivera Schatz, Gonzalez or another candidate.

A child wearing a Puerto Rican flag attends a rally celebrating Rossello’s resignation in San Juan, Puerto Rico, on Thursday. (Marco Bello/Reuters)

But there is a potential roadblock. Pierluisi’s law firm currently advises Puerto Rico’s oversight board, a role that may constitute a conflict of interest that would dissuade the legislature from approving him.

A 2016 New York Times report also accused him of possible conflicts of interest between legislation he had introduced and financial consulting work by his wife, allegations they both denied.

Even so, Pierluisi had a track record of gaining increased federal funding for Puerto Rico’s 3.2 million people while serving in Congress.

Puerto Ricans want a leader to steer them out of crisis and economic recession after back-to-back 2017 hurricanes that killed around 3,000 people just months after the U.S. territory filed for bankruptcy.

That said, Puerto Rico Rep. Luis Vega Ramos, a member of the Opposition Popular Democratic Party, said in an interview on Friday that he saw Gonzalez as a strong candidate to be appointed governor.

Earlier this week, Gonzalez proposed that U.S. President Donald Trump name a special co-ordinator to oversee federal funding to Puerto Rico. While the idea of federal oversight is anathema to most Puerto Ricans resentful of the island’s colonial roots, the idea could satisfy the Trump administration’s concerns about island leadership.

Her alliance with Trump may give her party its best chance at salvaging victory in 2020, Vega Ramos said, and “she would be in a better position to campaign for 2020 as an incumbent.”

Rivera Schatz is seen as the main hurdle to Gonzalez’s appointment. As Senate president, he could make it difficult for Gonzalez to be confirmed.

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Federal government, Cat Lake First Nation reach agreement to repair, replace substandard housing

The federal government and First Nations leaders have signed an interim framework agreement to begin to repair and replace dozens of homes in a remote Indigenous community in northern Ontario that declared a state of emergency last month over dangerously inadequate, mould-infested housing.

The agreement, which pledges over $ 10 million, came following a meeting Thursday that included Indigenous Services Minister Seamus O'Regan and Cat Lake Chief Matthew Keewaykapow along with other First Nations leaders in Thunder Bay, Ont., about 600 kilometres south of Cat Lake First Nation.

It promises to begin to alleviate the community's crisis by providing $ 2.1 million for repairs and renovations to 21 homes, as well as $ 3.5 million for the construction of 15 new ones, $ 1.5 million for the associated demolition and site preparation and $ 3 million for the delivery and installation of 10 portable houses.

"I don't think there's any question … that we need to do better," O'Regan told a press conference in Thunder Bay of the need to help the many Indigenous communities across Canada suffering under similar conditions. "We don't want children living like this anywhere in the country."

"So, where we can work with communities and where we can find resources available, we attempt to fix the problem."

The meeting also came three days after 48-year-old Nashie Oombash died in a Thunder Bay hospital. The Cat Lake resident had left the remote northern community three weeks prior to seek medical care.

The cause of Oombash’s death is unknown pending an autopsy, but her family believes exposure to mould was a contributing factor.

Nashie Oombash, 48, died on Monday in Thunder Bay, Ont. Her family said she suffered severe respiratory issues due to the mould in her home on Cat Lake First Nation. (Family of Nashie Oombash)

Community leaders in Cat Lake sounded the alarm over what they called "profoundly poor" housing by declaring a state of emergency in January. They pointed to an independent housing report that highlighted several serious issues with dozens of the community's homes, including excessive mould, leaking roofs and foundation issues.

The homes are being blamed for frequent and chronic medical issues in dozens of residents, many of whom need to be airlifted out of the First Nation for hospital treatment.

The crisis has reached both Parliament Hill and Queen's Park, with federal and provincial opposition members repeatedly calling for action by their respective governments.

Building assessments have called for 87 houses in the community to be demolished.

Cat Lake's leaders have called for something to be done quickly, in part due to the upcoming end of the winter road season — the only method by which materials and portable houses could be transported by ground. The community is only accessible by air year-round or by Ontario's ice road network in the winter months.

The signed agreement said that Cat Lake and Ottawa will monitor and maintain the winter road "to ensure access to Cat Lake First Nation for people and materials for as long as possible for the 2019 winter road season."

The interim agreement will see repairs and renovations begin to 21 of Cat Lake's homes. Others will be demolished and replaced. (Heather Kitching / CBC)

O'Regan and Cat Lake's leaders agreed on Thursday that the housing pledged in the interim agreement is all the winter roads will be able to handle this year.

"We looked at the timeline we have with the winter road, like we have about less than 30 days," Keewaykapow said. "We have a lot of work to do."

The chief added that he would have liked to see Ottawa step in sooner.

"It wasn't easy putting this thing together."

Community leaders have said that Cat Lake may need to be evacuated due to the existing substandard housing; one official at Thursday's signing said some people may still need to leave the community.

The interim agreement goes into effect today, with a final agreement scheduled to be signed within two weeks.

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Turkey-backed Syrian fighters prepare to replace U.S. forces

Turkish-backed Syrian fighters are preparing to deploy in eastern Syria alongside Turkish troops once American forces withdraw, a spokesperson said Monday, adding that forces have begun massing on the front line of a town held by Kurdish-led forces. 

U.S. President Donald Trump has said the withdrawal from Syria will be slow and co-ordinated with Turkey, but didn't provide a timetable. Turkey said the two countries are co-ordinating to ensure there is no "authority vacuum" once the U.S. troops leave. 

A Kurdish-led force captured much of northern and eastern Syria from the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) with the help of the U.S.-led coalition. The U.S. views the Kurds as allies in the battle against ISIS militants. Turkey views the Kurdish fighters as terrorists because of their links to a Kurdish insurgent group inside Turkey.

Youssef Hammoud, of the Turkey-backed Syrian opposition forces, said their fighters and weapons have been deploying on the front line with Manbij, a Kurdish-administered town in northern Syria where U.S. troops are based. 

Up to 15,000 Syrian fighters

On Monday, Turkey's state-run Anadolu Agency reported that Turkey-backed Syrian forces had moved closer to Manbij, equipped with heavy weapons and armoured vehicles. 

Manbij was at the centre of an agreement the U.S. and Turkey reached in June under which Kurdish forces were to withdraw. In recent weeks Turkey had said the U.S. was dragging its feet in implementing the deal and had vowed to launch a new offensive against the Kurds. 

Those threats, and a phone call with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan last week, appear to have triggered Trump's decision to withdraw all 2,000 U.S. forces based in Syria. 

Outgoing U.S. Defence Secretary James Mattis has signed the order, a spokesperson told Reuters on Monday. Mattis had advised against the Syria withdrawal, and it was one of the factors in his resignation from the Trump administration last week.

Hammoud said there is "no alternative" except Turkish forces and allied Syrian fighters. He said up to 15,000 Syrian fighters trained in Turkey are ready to take part in the operation. He said the initial focus was on Manbij and areas just across the nearby Euphrates River. 

Hammoud said "we are ready to fight Daesh," referring to ISIS. But the extremists are largely confined to a remote desert enclave hundreds of kilometres to the southeast of Manbij.

Hammoud said they are now preparing to take on Manbij. Deploying to areas to the south will come later, he said.

Turkey's armed forces have led two offensives into Syria since 2016 to push ISIS militants and Kurdish forces back from
the border. 

The Kurdish-led forces still control around 30 per cent of Syria, mostly in the east, including some of the richest oilfields.

The Kurdish militia has expressed shock at the U.S. decision to withdraw, and now faces a triple threat from Turkey, the Syrian government and ISIS. 

Trump has claimed to have defeated ISIS, but the Kurdish fighters are still battling the extremists in the remote town of Hajin near the Iraqi border. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the fighting displaced nearly 1,000 civilians on Sunday alone.

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Fluoride-Based Battery Chemistry Could Leapfrog, Replace Lithium Ion

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Fluoride is better known for its positive correlation with improved dental health than with batteries, at least in the eyes of the general public. But there’s reason to be hopeful that it could one day do double duty, substantially increasing the energy density of batteries. Fluoride was first explored in battery chemistry in the 1970s, but could only be made to work in solid-state batteries, which operate at much higher temperatures than conventional devices.

A breakthrough in fluoride battery chemistry could be instrumental in speeding the development of electric vehicles and allowing for an increased adoption of renewable power. According to a new paper published in the journal science and consisting of work done by Caltech, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, the Honda Research Institute, and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, there’s a way to build batteries with an energy density up to 8x higher than lithium-ion, using a new approach that allows fluoride to work in a liquid battery at room temperature. This is a significant scientific achievement regardless of whether the product sees commercialization — previously, it wasn’t known if there was a battery chemistry that would allow a room-temperature fluoride battery.

“Fluoride batteries can have a higher energy density, which means that they may last longer—up to eight times longer than batteries in use today,” says study co-author Robert Grubbs, Caltech’s Victor and Elizabeth Atkins Professor of Chemistry and a winner of the 2005 Nobel Prize in Chemistry. “But fluoride can be challenging to work with, in particular because it’s so corrosive and reactive.”

An illustration of a battery. In order for batteries to generate electricity, charged atoms, called ions (pink and green), travel between a negative node (anode) and a positive node (cathode) with the help of a liquid electrolyte solution. Credit: Brett Savoie/Purdue University

Using a negatively charged anion to carry charge as opposed to a positively charged cation carries its own set of challenges. In this case, one problem has been creating a battery chemistry that functioned at voltage levels we’d actually find useful in modern electronics. Making fluoride batteries work at room temperature required an electrolyte solution called bis(2,2,2-trifluoroethyl) ether, or BTFE. In its spectrum of testing, the authors demonstrated that it’s possible to build a rechargeable fluorine battery that operates at room temperature.

It’s not clear what the exact barriers to commercialization are, but there’s still substantial work to do before any kind of actual functioning battery can be assembled. The problem with all battery chemistries is the intrinsic difficulty in finding a solution that will store energy reliably, discharge it safely and in the desired manner while minimizing events like thermal runaway. The importance of a new battery chemistry with an 8x improvement in energy density compared with lithium-ion can’t be understated, but neither can the complexity of building batteries in the first place. Fluoride’s 8x improvement in energy density won’t be very useful, for example, if the battery lasts only a fraction as long as a lithium-ion cell (at the very least, this type of issue would sharply curtail actual adoption). Companies around the world have poured a great deal of effort into finding new alternative battery chemistries and designs, including solid-state batteries, redox flow batteries, lithium-air batteries, and of course, continuing to incrementally improve lithium-ion chemistry.

Top image credit: Brett Savoie/Purdue University

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Steam Sucks, but What Does One Replace It With?

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Steam sucks. Valve’s paean-cum-storefront to all things PC gaming is a groaning trainwreck of poor discovery, with features stapled into and on top of a UI that hasn’t been overhauled in years. The entire application needs a ground-up redesign. Much like iTunes, it staggers onwards nonetheless, courtesy of a company mostly interested in rent collecting as opposed to developing games. Or hardware. Or operating systems. Or anything, really.

The quest for an alternative service, however, has generally foundered on the shores of poor, publisher-specific services. As PCWorld details, Bethesda.net is the latest product to fall into this trap. The problems here are distinct from those infecting Fallout 76, a game that now seems destined to go down as the worst-rated entry in the Fallout universe, beating out distinguished competitors like the Xbox/PS2 title Fallout: Brotherhood of Steel.

The Bethesda.net client first came to prominence when a bug forced FO76 players to re-download the entire 50GB beta twice. Since then, the situation has scarcely improved. There was no way to uninstall the beta when it ended, forcing players to do the job manually. Account creation is a nightmare. Friends requests aren’t handled properly and don’t carry over between games, forcing players to jump through hoops to add each other to each and every game. Finally, Bethesda has a no-refunds policy — something EA and Valve, at least, have managed to implement.

The problems with Bethesda.net point to a larger issue in this area. There’s a mélange of game library services like Origin and uPlay that do a better-or-worse job of handling overall game libraries, but most of these are publisher-specific. The larger alternatives that might have played a more plausible role, like Microsoft’s own Windows 10 Storefront, are wretchedly organized.

Microsoft’s storefront doesn’t really offer much in the way of library display support. Image by PC World

Of course, the reasons not to use Windows 10 for game management go far beyond a poor UI design. The restrictions around UWP apps and generally awful quality of the games released for Windows 10 have made this version of gaming the least desirable in the market. Until and unless Microsoft fixes those problems, the baked-in storefront is a non-starter.

But while PCWorld doesn’t mention it, GOG can serve as a substitute for Steam in certain instances. It’s not a perfect, drop-in replacement — GOG’s catalog isn’t as large as Steam’s, obviously, and it doesn’t have the same money-back guarantee if you simply don’t like a title. With that said, GOG does offer a 30-day money-back guarantee if you can’t get a game working, and it offers all of its games without DRM. It’s not a true general-purpose replacement, mostly due to catalog limitations, but it can be worth checking if you’re interested in older games. Fans of classic Sierra games, for example, should see quite a bit to like in the screenshot below:


For anyone trying to build a library of games without Steam, missing titles are a fundamentally frustrating situation. Publisher-specific services work in some cases but not in others, and often come with their own idiosyncrasies, functionality failures, and general quirks. Microsoft’s built-in capability is bad for a host of reasons, including the complete lack of modding support. GOG has an appealing position with its no-DRM policy and classic games library, but lacks a number of major releases. Civ fans, for example, can only buy Civ V or Civ III — no IV or VI. It would be nice to see more companies tackle the job of building better, more robust platforms and an actual Steam contender — if only because it might give Valve an actual reason to pay more attention to the design and capabilities of its own software.

Now Read: Valve’s New Content Policy for Steam Is a Triumph of Cowardice Over Curation, Valve Announces Steam Will Stream to Phones, Tablets, and Are Valve and Steam Helping PC Gaming or Hurting It?

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Struggling Oilers replace fired head coach McLellan with Hitchcock

The Edmonton Oilers, who entered Tuesday's game at San Jose having lost six of their past seven starts, have fired head coach Todd McLellan and replaced him with veteran NHL bench boss Ken Hitchcock.

Edmonton hired McLellan, 51, in May 2015 after he spent seven seasons as head coach of the Sharks, who top the Pacific at 11-7-3 under Peter DeBoer.

"This isn't scientific," Oilers general manager Peter Chiarelli said of the timing of the coaching change. "There's a sense and a feel and you talk to people.

"I saw levels of flatness, levels of non-response. When that happens the radar goes up, and so we decided to act. We felt that a new voice would be helpful."

McLellan was in his fourth season with the Oilers, who have missed the Stanley Cup playoffs twice in the previous three years and are sixth in the Pacific Division this season with a 9-10-1 mark. They lost in the second round in 2017 following a 47-win, 103-point regular season.

4th coach axed this season

"Obviously it is frustrating, there is no other way to say it," captain Connor McDavid said following Sunday's 6-3 defeat at the hands of the Vegas Golden Knights. "Especially because we have shown we can be a good team. We had that 8-1-1 stretch where we looked really good and now we have wavered and find ourselves dipping a bit."

McLellan, who hails from Melville, Sask., posted a 123-119-24 regular-season mark with Edmonton after going 311-163-66 in San Jose, where he led the Sharks to six playoff appearances and three division titles.

He is the fourth coach to be fired this year, following John Stevens in Los Angeles, Joe Quenneville in Chicago and Mike Yeo in St. Louis, who was let go following Monday night's 2-0 loss to the Kings.

McLellan, who is reportedly owed $ 3 million this season and next, was the Oilers' sixth head coach since Craig McTavish was fired at the end of the 2008-09 campaign, following Pat Quinn, Tom Renney, Ralph Krueger, Dallas Eakins and Todd Nelson.

It's our job to get to the playoffs. We owe it to our fans.— Oilers GM Peter Chiarelli after firing head coach Todd McLellan with the team sporting a 9-10-1 record

But he isn't the only person responsible for the team's plight. A series of moves by Chiarelli has yet to complement a top-heavy roster led by captain Connor McDavid and fellow centre Leon Draisaitl.

Among Chiarelli's missteps:

  • The trade of winger Taylor Hall to New Jersey for defenceman Adam Larsson in June 2016
  • The free-agent signing of bruising forward Milan Lucic to a massive seven-year, $ 42-million US contract a few days later.

Hall won the Hart Trophy as league MVP last season, while Lucic has two goals in his last 66 games.

"I'm certainly not absolving myself of any responsibility on the player personnel [side]," Chiarelli said. "This isn't just an indictment of Todd or the players. This is a collective thing and it's our job to get to the playoffs.

"We owe it to our fans, and I felt this was the right move for it."

Ken Hitchcock, who is coming out of retirement to coach the Oilers, is third all-time in victories (823) behind Scotty Bowman (1,244) and Joel Quenneville (890), and fourth in regular-season games coached (1,536). (Ron Jenkins/Associated Press/File)

Hitchcock, an Edmonton native, retired from coaching in April after 22 NHL seasons. The 66-year-old won a Stanley Cup with the Dallas Stars in 1999. He returned to the team last season, taking over from the fired Lindy Ruff.

Chiarelli and Hitchcock worked together as part of Canada's men's Olympic team at the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, Russia.

3rd all-time in wins

"I got to know him fairly well," said Chiarelli, who added Hitchcock's status with the Oilers will be re-evaluated after the season. "His track record is impeccable. He's a very good tactician. What I saw was a real high level of input in a short period of time."

Hitchcock is third all-time in victories (823) behind Scotty Bowman (1,244) and Quenneville (890), and fourth in regular-season games coached (1,536).

He has also coached in Philadelphia, Columbus and St. Louis, having made 14 post-season appearances and boasting a career .512 playoff win percentage.

Under the man affectionately known as "Hitch," Dallas was sixth in the Central Division during the 2017-18 season (42-32) and finished three points behind Colorado for the second wild-card playoff spot in the Western Conference.

Not-so-special teams

Hitchcock led Dallas to back-to-back Presidents' Trophies (1997-98, 1998-99) and captured the Jack Adams Award as the NHL's top coach in 2011-12 with St. Louis.

He inherits an Oilers outfit that has scored fewer goals than it has allowed (57-66) and is having its troubles on special teams as the power play ranks 15th (20.6 per cent success rate) in the 31-team NHL while the penalty kill is 27th (74.2 per cent).

Also, No. 1 goalie Cam Talbot is struggling for a second straight season with a 3.31 goals-against average and .888 save percentage. He posted 3.02, 908 totals last season after winning 42 games in 2016-17 with a 2.39 GAA and .919 save percentage.

On a bright note, star centre McDavid, coming off back-to-back NHL scoring titles, is third in league scoring this season with 12 goals and 28 points in 20 games.

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Trump announces U.S.-Mexico trade deal to replace NAFTA, and says 'we'll see' if Canada can join

U.S. President Donald Trump announced a new trade agreement with Mexico Monday that he says will replace the North American Free Trade Agreement.

Will Canada can be part of it? "We'll see," Trump said, suggesting that if Canada is prepared to negotiate fairly it should be simple. He said the U.S. would put automotive tariffs on Canadian imports if talks don't succeed.

Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland is now on her way to Washington to join the talks.

"They want a negotiated deal very badly," Trump said of Canada, adding that just applying car tariffs would be easier to do than working out an agreement with the third NAFTA partner. 

"Perhaps the other [deal] would be much better for Canada," he said.

Trump said the name NAFTA has a "lot of bad connotations to a lot of people" and suggested renaming the agreement the U.S.-Mexico free trade agreement.

U.S. President Donald Trump had Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto on the phone as he told reporters the two countries had made a breakthrough in their trade negotiations. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

While he was speaking to reporters in the Oval Office, he had Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto on speakerphone.  After a few technical difficulties establishing the call, Pena Nieto emphasized repeatedly that Canada now needed to join the talks so it could be incorporated into the agreement.

The Mexican president said that negotiations are now required on "sensitive" bilateral matters between the U.S. and Canada. 

Currently, NAFTA's agriculture provisions are composed of a series of three bilateral deals, so changes must be renegotiated separately for this chapter, for example.

U.S. trade representative Robert Lighthizer, who was congratulated by Trump for reaching the deal with Mexico, said they hoped to conclude talks with Canada by Friday in order to comply with the 90-day window required by Congress before a deal could be signed with the outgoing Mexican administration. Pena Nieto leaves office on Dec. 1.

High-stakes talks now with Canada

Trump again mentioned Canada's "300 per cent" dairy tariffs as an issue between the two countries.

The U.S. president said American farmers "are going to be so happy" with this deal.

"Farmers have stuck with me," Trump said, adding that "Mexico has promised to immediately start purchasing as much farm product as they can."

However, it remains unclear if the U.S. has withdrawn its steel and aluminum tariffs on Mexican imports. Mexico retaliated with high tariffs on some U.S. farm exports in return.

Earlier Monday, Mexico's economy minister, Ildefonso Guajardo, told reporters on his way into his fifth week of bilateral meetings with the Americans that he still had to conclude a "very important" issue. It's unclear whether this issue is now resolved. 

Mexico's economy minister, Ildefonso Guajardo, seen here last Thursday, is in his fifth week of talks in Washington with United States trade representative Robert Lighthizer. (Chris Wattie/Reuters)

The U.S.-Mexico negotiators have been trying to make a breakthrough on the deal's automotive chapter, after talks to redefine what should constitute a tariff-free North American vehicle broke down prior to the Mexican presidential election in July.

The revised rules will require 75 per cent of auto content to be made in the United States and Mexico, up from 62.5 per cent, and 40-45 per cent of auto content to be made by workers earning at least $ 16 per hour.

It's unclear, however, what will happen to automotive imports from Mexico that do not comply with these new rules. The U.S. tariff for non-NAFTA car imports is currently 2.5 per cent, a rate that does not provide a significant incentive to make costly changes to comply with the new rules.

U.S. officials briefing reporters later said the U.S.-Mexico deal wasn't designed to put pressure on anyone, and it wasn't a negotiating strategy meant to isolate Canada. It's hard to get three people to agree at the same time, the official said, characterizing the sequencing as a normal, ordinary way to come to an agreement.

Canada has been part of the talks over the last year, the official said — it's not like the Canadians are just coming in at the last minute.

Compromise reached on sunset clause

Rather than a five-year sunset clause, as originally proposed by the U.S., this new deal would set a 16-year term for the trade agreement, with a review process after six years to consider whether the deal would be renewed for another 16-year term. Officials briefing reporters said this longer period of time would protect the interests of investors.

Reporters were also told that the new deal represents an improvement for every sector over the previous NAFTA.

Lighthizer has spoken repeatedly of wanting a deal that can receive bi-partisan support in Congress, and strict labour requirements for Mexico were thought to be key to securing votes from Democrats in Congress.

White House senior adviser Jared Kushner, left, and Vice President Mike Pence, right, listen as United States Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer talks with President Donald Trump about a trade "understanding" between the United States and Mexico (Evan Vucci/Associated Press)

Investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) provisions, contained in the current NAFTA's Chapter 11, are also dialed back, but not removed entirely.

Industries that sign direct contracts with governments — oil and gas, infrastructure, other energy providers and telecommunications — will continue to have protection under what an official called "old-fashioned" ISDS.

It also includes new measures on digital trade, financial services and intellectual property — all improvements the U.S. had sought in the Trans-Pacific Partnership — and officials suggested the new provisions exceed those the U.S. negotiated in the TPP, to which both Canada and Mexico were signatories.

The new agreement also includes a textiles chapter, to limit the use of inputs that don't originate in North America in the apparel trade, and stronger environmental provisions than the original NAFTA.

The Mexicans have agreed to increase the value of their "de minimis" shipment level to $ 100 US from $ 50 — shipments under this dollar amount enter Mexico without customs duties or taxes, and with minimal formal entry procedures.

Right now Canada's de minimis level is only $ 20 Cdn, raising the question of whether Canada now needs to increase its own level to be part of this deal. Such an increase might be welcomed by cross-border shoppers in Canada, but hurt Canadian retailers.

Mexico has also agreed to increase intellectual property protection for biologics drugs. The TPP would have offered eight years of protection, but this deal offers up to 10 years. 

Canada has not been part of the marathon talks, now in their fifth week in Washington. But an official suggested Canada would join them Monday afternoon.

Freeland returning from Europe

Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland is on government business in Germany, but received updates from both the Americans and the Mexicans throughout the weekend. 

"Given the encouraging announcement today of further bilateral progress between the U.S. and Mexico, Minister Freeland will travel to Washington, D.C., tomorrow to continue negotiations," said a spokesperson for her office. "We will only sign a new NAFTA that is good for Canada and good for the middle class."

"Canada's signature is required," Freeland's office emphasized.

Guajardo said Sunday that once Canada returns to the table the three parties would need at least another week of negotiations.

In a tweet prior to Trump's announcement, Pena Nieto said he had spoken to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to express the importance of Canada rejoining the trilateral talks this week.

A release from Trudeau's office Monday confirmed the pair spoke on Sunday and discussed the ongoing negotiations.

U.S. officials downplayed talk of tension between Trudeau and Trump during their briefing.

The briefing said that ideally Canada will be included in an agreement notified to Congress by the end of the week, or else the Trump administration would write that it has reached an agreement with Mexico and it is open to Canada joining it in the future. Officials emphasized that it would be a better agreement with all three countries involved.

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