Matt’s Favorites: Snowden-Linked Email Shuts Down, Mayan Find, And Much More

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Pink Exoplanet

So what’s the high-tech haps on this fine summer Friday? Well, only a few more hours to the weekend, let’s check it out…

* A Texas-based secure email service reportedly used by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden says it is shutting down and can’t legally explain why. In a cryptic note posted Thursday to the Lavabit website, owner Ladar Levison said the company is folding rather than becoming, in his words, “complicit in crimes against the American people.”

* Archaeologists have found an “extraordinary” Mayan frieze richly decorated with images of deities and rulers and a long dedicatory inscription, the Guatemalan government said Wednesday.

* Astronomers have snapped a photo of a pink alien world that’s the smallest yet exoplanet found around a star like our sun. The alien planet GJ 504b is a colder and bluer world than astronomers had anticipated and it likely has a dark magenta hue, infrared data from the Subaru Telescope in Hawaii revealed.

* The National Security Agency is collecting e-mails and other text communications that are sent internationally or are received from foreign sources, a new report claims. The NSA’s e-mail data-collection efforts include both those who communicate with potential overseas targets, as well as anyone who might cite a particular individual or something even partially related to that person, The New York Times reported on Thursday, citing intelligence officials with knowledge of the agency’s work.

* My favorite drive-in movie theater in the known universe, the Cherry Bowl Drive-In in Honor, will soon be competing against 60 drive-in theaters across the country in a web-based contest sponsored by Honda Motors to win a conversion from 35mm to digital movie format. Friday, Honda will unveil the web site where YOU can vote for the Cherry Bowl. Read more in the Benzie County Record-Patriot,  www.recordpatriot.com.

* Speaking of faves from the past, Omni Magazine is coming back.

* The National Zoo is celebrating the birth of a pair of Sumatran tiger cubs, a critically endangered species. The zoo announced Thursday that the cubs born to 4-year-old Damai on Monday appear to be healthy and the new mother has been seen grooming and nursing them.

* Remember all that stuff about that alleged new trend of eye licking in Japan? Yeah, all a hoax. Here’s how the global media got taken.

* Europa has only been seen from afar, but its aura of intrigue has inspired scientists to study how to explore the icy Jovian moon. In a new study published this week, a NASA-appointed science definition team lays out the rich tapestry of discovery facing any mission to study Europa.

* Ever since Microsoft reversed controversial DRM and “always-on” policies back in June, the company has since injected a company-wide sense of transparency in regards to Xbox One and information about the surrounding ecosystem. This approach continues today with the release of an Xbox One unboxing video onMicrosoft’s Xbox Wire blog, nearly three months ahead of when people will be able to their hands on one.

* The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration updated its hurricane season forecast Thursday, trimming back the number of hurricanes they expect this year to between six and nine. That is less than the seven to 11 hurricanes NOAA predicted back in May.

* Move over Vine and Instagram, there’s a new kid in town.  Chad Hurley and Steven Chen, co-founders of YouTube, are embarking on a new venture that hopes to add a new dimension to video sharing. They launched mobile app MixBit Thursday — which includes some unique features.

* How do small cars hold up in crashes? Maybe not as well as expected. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety released its first-ever findings from what it calls a “small overlap front test,” in which 12 cars were evaluated. Only half earned a safety rating of “good” or “acceptable.”

* To say Apple’s got a lot going on this Friday is, perhaps, putting it lightly. The tech company is duking it out against Samsung in two separate legal arenas, both over possible sales bans on phones in the U.S. and potentially the future of patent law. Apple’s also going up against the Department of Justice to argue over what happens to its e-books business since losing that case last month.

* John Legere, T-Mobile’s CEO, has vowed to shake up the status quo — and he’s managing to do just that, all while posting T-Mobile’s highest customer growth in years.

* A Time Warner Cable representative and CBS executive separately said Thursday that the companies are in negotiations to end a nearly weeklong blackout of the broadcaster’s flagship network to some subscribers, but their public discourse about the talks continued to be fraught with accusations about the other sides’ stance on digital rights and online availability.

* PayPal is rolling out a new trial for British consumers to see if they really can leave their wallets at home. Recently kicking off in London borough Richmond upon Thames, the test includes 12 different merchants set up to accept PayPal payments, according to the company.

*Here’s another one of those passage-of-time moments that may make elder geeks groan: Thirty-three years after Missile Command blew up the arcade scene, gamers can now play a pint-size version within YouTube.

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