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Google to use balloons to provide Puerto Rico cell service

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The U.S. Federal Communications Commission said late on Friday it had approved Alphabet Inc’s application to provide emergency cellular service to Puerto Rico through balloons.

In the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, Puerto Rico has struggled to regain communications services. The FCC said on Friday that 83 percent of cell sites remain out of service, while wireless communications company are deploying temporary sites.

Alphabet, which announced its Project Loon in 2013 to use solar-powered, high-altitude balloons to provide internet service in remote regions, said in an FCC filing it was working to “support licensed mobile carriers’ restoration of limited communications capability” in Puerto Rico.

Earlier on Friday, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai announced he was forming a Hurricane Recovery Task Force with an emphasis on addressing challenges facing Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

“It is critical that we adopt a coordinated and comprehensive approach to support the rebuilding of communications infrastructure and restoration of communications services,” Pai said in statement.

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Separately, Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rossello said in a Twitter posting late on Friday that he had a “great initial conversation with @elonmusk tonight. Teams are now talking; exploring opportunities. Next steps soon to follow.”

Musk, the chief executive of Tesla Inc, said on Friday the company would send more battery installers to Puerto Rico to help restore power after Hurricane Maria knocked out all power on the island over two weeks ago.

Musk said he was diverting resources from a semi-truck project to fix Model 3 bottlenecks and “increase battery production for Puerto Rico & other affected areas.”

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In late September, Tesla said it was sending hundreds of batteries that can store power generated by solar panels to Puerto Rico to provide emergency help in the wake of Hurricane Maria.

(Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Sandra Maler)


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House GOP group wants to pressure Amazon into selling gay conversion therapy books written by long-debunked quack

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A key bloc of House Republicans is planning to put pressure on Amazon to once again start selling "gay conversion therapy" books that the website had previously removed for peddling a dangerous, pseudo-scientific procedure that has been linked to suicide and mental health problems.

Vice News reports that the Republican Study Group issued a handout to its members this week encouraging them to raise concerns about "Amazon censorship" of books written by Dr. Joseph Nicolosi, the late clinical psychologist who has been credited with pioneering so-called gay conversion therapy techniques.

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American Islamic State ‘sniper’ charged in New York: Justice Dept

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A naturalized American who was a sniper for the Islamic State group has been charged in New York with material support for a terror group after being captured in Syria and repatriated to the United States, the Justice Department announced Friday.

Kazakhstan-born Ruslan Maratovich Asainov fought for the Islamic State in Syria for five years before he was captured by the Syrian Democratic Forces and handed over to US custody, the department said.

Asainov, 43, was brought back to the United States on Thursday and was to be arraigned Friday afternoon in federal court in Brooklyn.

He fought for IS in Syria from 2013 to 2018 as a sniper and a weapons trainer for other combatants.

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WATCH: Employee at Tim Hortons slurs Muslim couple and tells them ‘go back to your own country’

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According to a report from Deadline Detroit, a Muslim advocacy group has filed a complaint against a local Tim Horton's location after an employee insulted a Muslim couple and told them to "go back to their own country," followed by a sexist slur.

The report states Alaa Kouider and her husband, Ameur Dhaimini, were purchasing coffee at the local fast food location when they got into an argument with the cashier.

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