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Tech wrap: New Teslas (+ video); FDA nicotine crackdown; Apple removes privacy apps; Geek Squad layoffs; Jobs' widow buys Atlantic

Bulldog

Jul, 31 2017, 5:46 AM

In today's Bulldog wrapup of technology and life science news:

The details:

Tesla Inc. has finally made its long-promised affordable electric car. But it could take years to get it to all the people who want to buy it.

Tesla delivered the Model 3 small car to its first 30 customers — all employees — at a company party Friday night. CEO Elon Musk said Tesla will build the cars as fast as it can, but acknowledged that supply issues and other complexities will make it tough to reach his goal of making 500,000 cars next year. Fourteen-year-old Tesla has never made more than 100,000 cars in a year.

"We're going to go through at least six months of manufacturing hell," Musk told reporters Friday at Tesla's Fremont factory. "It's going to be quite a challenge to build this car."

[VIDEO: Watch a video of the new Teslas via https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vzT0uNT0ds8 ]

With its $35,000 starting price — half the cost of Tesla's previous models — and range of up to 310 miles (498 km), the Model 3 could bring hundreds of thousands of customers into the automaker's fold, taking it from a niche luxury brand to the mainstream.

Musk said around 500,000 people worldwide have already put down a $1,000 deposit to reserve a Model 3. People ordering a car now likely won't get it until late 2018. Cars will go first to employees and customers on the West Coast; overseas deliveries start late next year, and right-hand drive versions come in 2019.

The Model 3 has long been part of Palo Alto, California-based Tesla's plans. In 2006, Musk said Tesla would eventually build "affordably priced family cars" after establishing itself with high-end vehicles like the Model S, which starts at $69,500. This is the first time many Tesla workers will be able to afford a Tesla.

For the first time, the federal government is proposing cutting the nicotine level in cigarettes so they aren't so addictive.

U.S. Food and Drug Administration chief Scott Gottlieb on Friday directed the agency's staff to develop new regulations on nicotine. The FDA has had the power since 2009 to regulate nicotine levels but hasn't done so. Stocks of cigarette makers plunged after the announcement.

As part of the new strategy, the FDA is giving e-cigarette makers four more years to comply with a review of products already on the market, Gottlieb said. The agency intends to write rules that balance safety with e-cigarettes' role in helping smokers quit, he said.

"A renewed focus on nicotine can help us to achieve a world where cigarettes no longer addict future generations of our kids," Gottlieb said in a speech to staff in Silver Spring, Maryland.

Tar and other substances inhaled through smoking make cigarettes deadly, but the nicotine in tobacco is what makes them addictive.

Tobacco use is the leading cause of preventable heart disease, cancer and death in the United States, causing more than 480,000 deaths annually. Smoking rates, though, have been falling for decades and are at about 15 percent.

China appears to have succeeded in eliminating software programs that enable its people to view an uncensored internet.

Companies that let people avoid the government filters said Saturday that their programs have been removed from Apple's app store in China.

ExpressVPN, one of the companies, posted on its corporate site a message from Apple saying that its program was illegal in China. The British Virgin Islands-based software company says that all major virtual-private network apps were removed from the Apple app store in China. ExpressVPN claimed Apple was "aiding China's censorship effort."

Star VPN, another company, said it also received notice of being removed.

Apple said in a statement that China began requiring this year that developers of virtual-private networks have a government license. The Califronia-based tech giant said it had removed apps "in China that do not meet the new regulations."

Best Buy's Geek Squad is about to undergo some changes.

The company said on Friday that it is eliminating 399 positions from the Geek Squad, which performs in-home product installations and repairs customer's appliances and electronics, across the country.

The decision impacts members of the Covert team, who work remotely, and will take place in September.

Jeff Shelman, Senior Director of External Communications for Best Buy, said "we decided to adjust where some of our agents work from, moving a percentage from roles they could perform anywhere to those that are in a store or in homes of consumers."

Shelman added that "affected agents will have a job, if they choose, with similar pay and responsibilities."

Best Buy has nearly 1,000 open positions.

Philanthropist Laurene Powell Jobs, the widow of Apple founder Steve Jobs, is buying a majority stake in The Atlantic magazine.

The value of the sale, made through Jobs' organization, Emerson Collective, was not disclosed.

The Atlantic was founded in Boston in 1857. David Bradley bought it 1999 from New York Daily News publisher Mort Zuckerman for $10 million, according to an Atlantic story Friday . He moved the magazine to Washington in 2005.

Bradley's company says he will continue to run the Atlantic for the next three to five years, and its editor-in-chief, president and publisher will keep running daily operations.

Emerson Collective, which focuses on education, immigration reform and environmental causes, has other media investments and grants in film, TV production and journalism.





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