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Virgin Galactic Sends a Rocket Plane to Space Again, in Its Highest Flight Yet

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After its first spaceflight in December, Virgin Galactic sent the same vessel past the edge of the atmosphere for a second time on Friday. This time, the rocket plane went higher and faster than before — and it had three crew members on board instead of two.

The flight marked another step forward in a new kind of space race — one that aims to allow private citizens (who can afford the ticket) an opportunity to exit our atmosphere.

It was the company’s fifth supersonic-powered test flight, and it reached an altitude of nearly 56 miles before returning safely to the Mojave Desert runway in California where it took off. Beth Moses, an astronaut trainer and microgravity research expert, was in the cabin as the company’s first test passenger in space.

The SpaceShipTwo craft, a suborbital, rocket-fueled space plane called the VSS Unity, lifted off shortly after 8 a.m. local time. It was carried aloft under a larger carrier plane for nearly an hour and then released. Next, its rocket ignited to propel the vessel, and its three crew members, up to where the sky turned black.

Unity reached Mach 3 — three times the speed of sound — before the rocket motor was switched off shortly before 9 a.m. Then the vessel coasted to its highest altitude of 55.87 miles above sea level. Two tail booms rotated into a “feathered” position to create drag, allowing the vessel to fall gently back into the atmosphere and, ultimately, glide toward the runway.

The flight was a success for Richard Branson, the British billionaire who started Virgin Galactic in 2004. (Other billionaires funding private spaceflight projects include Elon Musk, who runs SpaceX, and Jeff Bezos, who is behind Blue Origin.)

Ventures like these are more useful for testing the limits of tourism than for advancing scientific research, said Jonathan McDowell, an astrophysicist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. He said the Virgin flights could be used to conduct microgravity tests or equipment checks.

“But at this stage, from a scientist’s point of view, it’s equivalent to what we call a sounding rocket,” he said. “And we’ve been doing those since the 1940s.”

Sounding rockets are vessels that were sent by NASA to the upper reaches of the atmosphere to collect data and test instruments starting in 1945 — an important precursor to more advanced space travel.

NASA did participate in Friday’s flight via its Flight Opportunities program, which pays Virgin Galactic for space to conduct research inside the Unity during its trip. Virgin Galactic also used the flight to gather data for future tests, learn more about the craft’s center of gravity and “confirm some of the aspects of the customer cabin,” according to a statement from the company.

And the three people on board — two pilots, David Mackay and Michael Masucci, and Ms. Moses — got the vantage point of a lifetime.

“It was thrilling yet smooth and nicely controlled throughout with a view at the top, of the Earth from space, which exceeded all our expectations,” Mr. Mackay, Virgin Galactic’s chief pilot, said in a statement after the flight.

But there is some room for debate as to whether Virgin Galactic has actually sent people into space. On both of its space trips — the vessel reached an altitude of 51.4 miles last time — the Unity flew higher than the Federal Aviation Administration’s definition of where space begins, but lower than another widely accepted boundary between Earth and space, called the Kármán Line, which is about 62 miles above sea level.

In any case, Unity has flown high enough that the pilots saw a black sky above them and a blue-brown Earth below as they crested at the edge of the atmosphere. (Dr. McDowell is skeptical about the Kármán Line and thinks it is fair to say that Unity reached proper space on both of its recent trips.)

Unity was the first Virgin Galactic craft to reach space, but it was not the first private spacecraft to get there. Another ship, operated by Mojave Aerospace Ventures, which later licensed its technology to Mr. Branson, soared to an altitude of 69.7 miles about 15 years ago.

At the time, people predicted that it was the dawn of a new age of commercial human spaceflight. But the enthusiasm faded as years passed. Some non-astronauts were flown to the International Space Station, but commercial flights did not come to fruition. Then came a tragic setback: the fatal crash of a previous SpaceShipTwo craft in 2014. One pilot was killed after he released the lock on the booms too early and the vessel fell apart, investigators found.

Virgin Galactic is expected to keep doing test flights and making improvements in terms of safety, altitude and weight capacity. It is still unclear when private citizens will be allowed to take a ride.

In a statement, Mr. Branson said Ms. Moses’ work would help pave the way for private citizens who are eager to fly.

“Having Beth fly in the cabin today, starting to ensure that our customer journey is as flawless as the spaceship itself, brings a huge sense of anticipation and excitement to all of us here who are looking forward to experiencing space for ourselves,” he said. “The next few months promise to be the most thrilling yet.”

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Wedding attack and tech: How OpenText’s investigations service beats the traditional approach

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At its heart, an investigation is a hunt for relevant facts in order to tell a story — a story that drives strategies for organizations, including law firms.

Tracy Drynan, head of OpenText Recon Investigations — a seamless end-to-end service that helps companies and law firms find evidence for all types of investigations including internal investigations, litigation assessments, compliance and regulatory investigations, c-suite vetting and more — says these stories are a more powerful tool than most people think.

The team led by Drynan arms both in-house and external counsel with the information needed to guide their corporate and outside lawyers with the information needed to guide their clients: an investigation empowers them. What differentiates OpenText Recon is the speed with which the team utilizes specialized tools and workflows to efficiently locate evidence. This approach gains insights into patterns, gaps and relationships in a fraction of the cost of a traditional eDiscovery review, and more quickly gathers the relevant facts to create that critical story.

“Whether it be litigation or a regulatory investigation or an internal audit, often time is of the essence,” Drynan says. “Being able to make decisions that affect your bottom line, your liability, your risks which ultimately challenge your resources, even public opinion, is critical.”

Too often, an archaic model is applied to investigations — one derived when we still existed in a paper society — that analyzes all available information but doesn’t actively hunt for relevant facts, and that produces a disconnect. An efficient model does not need to analyze every piece of information.

“It’s flawed for this reason,” Drynan says. “When you review a set of information, even when you apply advanced analytics and information retrieval science, it is still at the end bucketed for a team to analyze it contiguously. In a way, we are still following the pre-electronic paradigm — we are reviewing almost paper documents one by one, and that unfortunately is handicapping both the talent and the technology in the hunt for the facts.”

While lawyers may make a living hunting facts and building narratives, Drynan would argue their approach could be improved and points out that many of the companies hired by firms to help out during an investigation still apply that outdated model. OpenText Recon breaks that pattern and approaches the hunt differently — they don’t compartmentalize anything, which means the team can identify patterns more easily. Those patterns become the clues, which become the facts, that become the story that allow lawyers to make those critical decisions. The result is not a stack of documents, but a more nuanced report outlining the important facts to analyze.

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Canada takes aim at Netflix, Airbnb in $6.5B big-tech tax plan

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Canada’s federal government is planning to force foreign-based technology firms such as Netflix Inc. and Airbnb Inc. to charge their users a sales tax in a move aimed at boosting the government’s coffers by as much as $6.5 billion over the next five years. 

The new taxation plans, outlined in the government’s Fall Economic Statement, attempt to level the playing field between Canadian companies and foreign-based digital corporations that were largely exempt from paying federal sales taxes. Some provinces — such as Saskatchewan, British Columbia, and Quebec — introduced taxes on streaming services like Netflix earlier this year. 

The government announced Monday that any foreign-based company selling digital products or services to consumers in Canada will be required to collect and remit the Goods and Services Tax or Harmonized Sales Tax. The new tax changes are proposed to begin on July 1, 2021. 

“Canadians want a tax system that is fair, where everyone pays their fair share, so the government has the resources it needs to invest in people and keep our economy strong. That is why we are moving ahead with implementing GST/HST on multinational digital giants and limiting stock option deductions in the largest companies,” said Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland, in prepared remarks. 

“And Canada will act unilaterally, if necessary … to apply a tax on large multinational digital corporations, so they pay their fair share just like any other company operating in Canada.”

Those taxes will include any sales on products or services made through digital marketplace platforms, sales to Canadians of goods that are located in Canadian fulfillment warehouses, as well as any companies whose platforms help to facilitate short-term rental accommodations in Canada. 

However, the new taxation moves wouldn’t see streaming services such as Netflix, Amazon.com Inc.’s Prime Video, Walt Disney Co.’s Disney+, and Spotify Technology SA meet certain Canadian-content requirements, something the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission​ recommended be adopted rather than introduce new tax measures in a wide-ranging report released earlier this year. 

The CRTC estimates that those streaming services record annual revenue of roughly $5 billion, according to its most recent financial data. The federal broadcast regulator said in January that Ottawa should require foreign streaming services to invest in local programming rather than “digital taxes” that would likely get passed down to consumers. 

“It is more appropriate to establish a regime that requires such online streaming services that benefit from operating in Canada to invest in Canadian programming that they believe will attract and appeal to Canadians,” the report said. 

Ottawa will also consider new corporate-level taxes for foreign-owned digital corporations and is working with the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development to develop a framework it expects to provide further details on in the next budget. It expects the new measure will result in $3.4 billion in new tax revenue over the next five years once it is introduced sometime in 2022. 

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RevoluGROUP Canada Inc. RevoluPAY To Pursue Dubai Financial Services Authority PSP License

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VANCOUVER, British Columbia(GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — RevoluGROUP Canada Inc. (TSX-V: REVO), (Frankfurt: IJA2) (the “Company”) is pleased to announce that it has dispatched Company advisor Erik A. Lara Riveros to pursue the petition of a Payment Service Provider (“PSP”) Money Service Business License in the Dubai International Financial Centre (“DIFC”) from the Dubai Financial Services Authority.

Corporate Rational For a PSP License in Dubai

In May 2020, RevoluPAY was granted the European PSD2 license. In September, RevoluPAY received Pan-European passporting approval to operate in 27 E.U. countries. The Company has further expanded its international open banking reach through definitive agreements (“DA”) with BBVA, Flutterwave, and Thunes. Additionally, via direct PSD2 SEPA passporting, the Company added sixty-eight countries and territories to its financial operations roster. In November, the Company submitted petitions for both the analogous United States MSB licenses and the Canadian FINTRAC license. The MEASA region of the Middle East, Africa, and South Asia is a significant financial hub that necessitates exposure for both financial operations and a strategic base for the region’s operations. The Company considers the DIFC an excellent regional hub, having introduced robust legislation for payment services providers (“PSP”) like RevoluPAY.

Furthermore, DIFC conveniently fills the timezone gap for a global financial center between London and New York’s leading financial centers in the West and Hong Kong and Tokyo in the East. Company advisor Erik A. Lara Riveros is duly accredited with the Dubai Financial Services Authority, which should aid the Company’s plans to obtain the Dubai PSP license and establish a corporate financial hub in the region. The Company has diligently prepared all required documentation, and Mr. Lara Riveros arrives in Dubai on the 4th of December 2020 to initiate the license petition process. The global operations of RevoluPAY expect to benefit from the multi timezone capability garnered from a supplementary and PSP licensed subsidiary domiciled in the MEASA region.

License Sought in Dubai

The Company intends to pursue the Category 3D license, which covers the following activities, “Providing or Operating a Payment Account, executing Payment Transactions or Issuing Payment Instruments, including creating and maintaining accounts for executing payment transactions, issuance of personalized sets of procedures agreed upon by the users and the provider, for initiation or execution of payment instructions.”

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