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Shatner, Trek’s Kirk, reaches final frontier on Blue Origin ship – Al Jazeera English

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Hollywood’s Captain Kirk, 90-year-old William Shatner, blasted into space Wednesday in a convergence of science fiction and science reality, reaching the final frontier on board a ship built by Jeff Bezos’s Blue Origin company.

The Star Trek hero became the oldest person to ride a rocket, eclipsing the previous record — set by a passenger on a similar jaunt on a Bezos spaceship in July — by eight years.

Dressed in a royal blue flight suit, Shatner joined three fellow passengers, four to five decades younger, on board the fully automated capsule that took off from remote West Texas for an up-and-down flight scheduled to last just 10 minutes or so.

The spaceship aimed for an altitude of 106 kilometres (66 miles), at the fringes of space, after which the capsule was set to parachute back to the desert floor.

Sci-fi fans revelled in the opportunity to see the man best known as the stalwart Captain James T Kirk of the starship Enterprise boldly go where no star of American TV has gone before.

Shatner said before the countdown that he planned to spend his approximately three minutes of weightlessness gazing down at Earth, his nose pressed against the capsule’s windows.

“The only thing I don’t want to see is a little gremlin looking back at me,” he joked, referring to the plot of his 1963 Twilight Zone episode titled, Nightmare at 20,000 Feet.

Bezos is a huge Star Trek fan — the Amazon founder had a cameo as an alien in one of the later Star Trek movies — and Shatner rode free as his invited guest.

The blastoff brought priceless star power to Bezos’ spaceship company, given its built-in appeal to baby boomers, celebrity watchers and space enthusiasts. Shatner starred in TV’s original Star Trek from 1966 to 1969, back when the US was racing for the moon, and went on to appear in a string of Star Trek movies.

Bezos himself drove the four to the pad, accompanied them to the platform high above the ground and cranked the hatch shut after they climbed on board the 60-foot rocket. The capsule, New Shepard, was named for the first American in space, Alan Shepard.

“This is a pinch-me moment for all of us to see Captain James Tiberius Kirk go to space,” Blue Origin launch commentator Jacki Cortese said before liftoff. She said she, like so many others, was drawn to the space business by shows like Star Trek.

The flight came as the space tourism industry finally took off, with passengers joyriding on board ships built and operated by some of the richest men in the world.

Blue Origin’s first crewed flight took place in July [File: Tony Gutierrez]

Virgin Galactic’s Richard Branson led the way by riding into space in his own rocket ship in July, followed by Bezos nine days later on Blue Origin’s first flight with a crew. Elon Musk’s SpaceX made its first private voyage in mid-September, though without Musk on board.

Last week, the Russians launched an actor and a film director to the International Space Station for a movie-making project.

“We’re just at the beginning, but how miraculous that beginning is. How extraordinary it is to be part of that beginning,” Shatner said in a Blue Origin video posted on the eve of his flight.

Shatner strapped in alongside Audrey Powers, a Blue Origin vice president and former space station flight controller for NASA, and two paying customers: Chris Boshuizen, a former NASA engineer who co-founded a satellite company, and Glen de Vries of a 3D software company. Blue Origin would not divulge the cost of their tickets.

Shatner milked his upcoming flight for laughs last week at New York Comic Con. The actor said Blue Origin informed him he would be the oldest guy in space.

“I don’t want to be known as the oldest guy in space. I’m bloody Captain Kirk!” he exclaimed. Then he stammered in a faux-panicky voice, “Captain Kirk, going where no man  – I’m going what? Where am I going?”

He confessed, “I’m Captain Kirk and I’m terrified.”

Jokes aside, Blue Origin said Shatner and the rest of the crew met all the medical and physical requirements, including the ability to hustle up and down several flights of steps at the launch tower. Passengers are subjected to nearly six G’s, or six times the force of Earth’s gravity, as the capsule returns to Earth.

Shatner shooting into space is “the most badass thing I think I’ve ever seen”, said Joseph Barra, a bartender flown in from Los Angeles to help cater Blue Origin’s launch week festivities. “William Shatner is setting the bar for what a 90-year-old man can do.”

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Facebook to rebrand itself and focus on the metaverse – CBC.ca

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Facebook Inc., under fire from regulators and lawmakers over its business practices, is planning to rebrand itself with a new group name that focuses on the metaverse, the Verge reported on Tuesday.

The name change will be announced next week, according to technology blog The Verge, which cited a source with direct knowledge of the matter.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has been talking up the metaverse, a digital world where people can move between different devices and communicate in a virtual environment, since July. The group has invested heavily in virtual reality and augmented reality, developing hardware such as its Oculus VR headsets and working on AR glasses and wristband technologies.

The move would likely position the flagship app as one of many products under a parent company overseeing brands such as Instagram and WhatsApp, according to the report. Google adopted such a structure when it reorganized into a holding company called Alphabet in 2015.

Facebook said it does not comment on “rumour or speculation.”

Rebrand would revamp tarnished image: analysts 

If true, the rebranding would make sense as the core Facebook business becomes less important to the group and it seeks to revamp an image tarnished by regulatory and legal scrutiny of how it handles user safety and hate speech, analysts said.

“It reflects the broadening out of the Facebook business. And then, secondly, I do think that Facebook’s brand is probably not the greatest given all of the events of the last three years or so,” internet analyst James Cordwell at Atlantic Equities said.

Facebook is under wide-ranging scrutiny from global lawmakers and regulators over its content moderation practices and harms linked to its platforms, with internal documents leaked by a whistleblower forming the basis for a U.S. Senate hearing last week.

WATCH | Ex insider blows the whistle on Facebook’s business practices: 

Whistleblower put spotlight on the future of Facebook | Conversation Panel

10 days ago

A Facebook whistleblower delivered scathing criticism of the company this week, calling it morally bankrupt for putting profit over the safety of users, including children. The Conversation Panel discusses what the testimony means for the future of the company and its users. 14:36

“Having a different parent brand will guard against having this negative association transferred into a new brand, or other brands that are in the portfolio,” said Shankha Basu, associate professor of marketing at University of Leeds.

Last month, Facebook appointed Andrew Bosworth, who heads up the social media company’s augmented reality and virtual reality efforts, including products like its Oculus Quest VR headset, as chief technology officer.

Metaverse, a term first coined in a dystopian novel three decades earlier, is popular in Silicon Valley and has been referenced by other tech firms such as Microsoft. The popular children’s game Roblox describes itself as a metaverse company. Epic Games’ Fortnite is also considered to be part of the metaverse.

Zuckerberg plans to talk about the name change at the company’s annual Connect conference on Oct. 28, but according to the Verge, it could be unveiled sooner.

WATCH | Tech reporter says Facebook is on the verge of a massive rebrand:

Tech reporter says Facebook is on the verge of a massive rebrand

2 hours ago

The Verge’s senior reporter Alex Heath tells Power & Politics the social media giant is set to undergo a series of changes — including a new company name. 5:31

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B.C. Children's Hospital reports troubling influx of kids with colds and flu – Vancouver Sun

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Health officials say a surge in respiratory syncytial virus is happening earlier than normal this year.

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B.C. Children’s Hospital reported Wednesday a spike in non-COVID-19 respiratory viral illnesses, such as colds and flus in children.

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That means the emergency room has been busier than normal and long waiting times can be expected.

Thirty per cent of all cases in the hospital’s emergency department in the past month have been children with respiratory illnesses, according to Dr. Claire Seaton, a pediatrician at B.C. Children’s Hospital.

Rates of severe infection caused by COVID-19 remains low and overall only two per cent of people hospitalized in B.C. are under the age of 19.

“That hasn’t changed but what has changed is we are seeing a lot of other viruses, including respiratory syncytial virus, and parainfluenza, along with some of the other common cold viruses.”

Respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV, is a common virus that causes infections of the lungs and respiratory tract, and most children have been infected with the virus by age two. RSV symptoms are mild in healthy children and adults but the virus can cause severe infection in young infants, especially those born prematurely, or young children who have heart of lung disease.

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Seaton said they didn’t see many children with colds or flus last year, so they are worried it’s going to get a lot busier in the emergency department because of the RSV surge.

It is not unusual to see a spike in cold and flu viruses after kids go back to school in September and October but this year the kids may have reduced immunity to these common illnesses because it just wasn’t around last year.

Public health measures such as wearing masks, keeping a physical distance, washing hands, and getting a flu vaccine can help to keep the kids safe, she said.

Part of the reason for the surge at B.C. Children’s may be because parents are worried their child has COVID-19 so they take them to the emergency room.

Seaton said if a child has a cough or the sniffles then it’s best to keep them home from school or take them to get a COVID test , but it’s not always necessary to go to the emergency room.

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“I think it’s important to realize that the viral surge has already increased hospitalization rates in other parts of Canada,” she said. “So the RSV surge, which normally happens in November, is happening earlier this year … and we are starting to see those cases here.”

If parents are worried about their child’s illness they can check symptoms on the B.C. Children’s Hospital website.

“For respiratory illness, you should take your baby or young child to an emergency department if they have trouble breathing, significant problems with breathing or lips that look blue, and if your baby can’t suck or drink or feed very well,” she said, adding infants younger than three months with a fever should also be brought in to the ER.

Doctors and health experts are recommending that children six months and older get a flu vaccine this year, especially because of the potential for reduced immunity.

“Last year, the rates for RSV infection were very low or basically non-existent so we have a whole year’s worth of children who did not get those viruses so their natural immunity is potentially lower,” she said.

ticrawford@postmedia.com


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Canada competition watchdog may have to rely more on litigation – top official

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 Competition Bureau Canada watchdog may have to rely more on litigation after its proposed veto of a takeover was overturned, and this could make life harder for companies seeking to merge, the agency head said on Wednesday.

Matthew Boswell, commissioner of competition, noted his bureau had tried this year to block western Canadian oil and gas waste firm Secure Energy Services Inc from buying rival Tervita Corp.

Secure then turned to the independent Competition Tribunal, which denied the bureau’s injunction and underscored “the high bar that needs to be met to prevent mergers … that we allege are anti-competitive,” he said.

The tribunal, he said, had acted so quickly that the bureau had not had time to present all its evidence, raising valid questions about the state of competition laws in Canada.

“This decision has significant implications for how we conduct future merger reviews, particularly in cases where there are competition concerns,” Boswell said in a speech to the Canadian Bar Association.

“This may mean that we must pursue a litigation-focused approach that is costly and less predictable for merging parties,” he added.

Secure relied on the so-called efficiencies defense, which is unique to Canada. Boswell said this procedure allowed the tribunal to allow an anti-competitive merger to proceed if the transaction was deemed to produce efficiency gains that were greater than its anti-competitive effects.

“The efficiencies defense raises significant practical

challenges for the Bureau to estimate and measure anti-competitive harm,” he said. “(We should) ask ourselves whether our competition laws are really working in the best interest of all Canadians.”

The bureau is an independent law enforcement agency set up to ensure fair competition. It investigates price fixing, bid-rigging and mergers, among other matters.

 

(Reporting by David Ljunggren; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)

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