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Elon Musk asks judge to throw out defamation lawsuit against him

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Elon Musk, Tesla’s chief executive, is asking a U.S. judge to dismiss a lawsuit by a British diver who helped rescue a boys soccer team trapped in a Thailand cave and said Musk defamed him by calling him a pedophile and child rapist.

In a filing Wednesday with the U.S. District Court in Los Angeles, Musk’s lawyers said their client’s comments about Vernon Unsworth were free speech protected by the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment, even if they lacked any factual basis.

They also said Musk’s “over-the-top” comments came amid a “schoolyard spat on social media,” including Twitter, where participants “expect to read opinions, not facts,” and that no one could have reasonably believed they were truthful.

These statements were “just imaginative attacks; even if offensive, such speculative insults are by their nature opinion and protected by the First Amendment,” the lawyers said.

Musk made a derogatory comment on Twitter about British diver Vern Unsworth, left, who played a key role in the rescue efforts of the Thai soccer team form a cave in Thailand. (Pongmanat Tasiri/EPA-EFE, Kiichiro Sato/Associated Press )

Musk on July 15 called Unsworth a “pedo guy” in a tweet to more than 22 million Twitter followers, a comment for which he later apologized. He also urged a BuzzFeed News reporter in an Aug. 30 email to investigate Unsworth and “stop defending child rapists.”

Unsworth has denied those allegations.

He said he became a target after rescue divers declined to use a mini-submarine offered by Musk’s SpaceX rocket company. Unsworth told CNN the offer was a “PR stunt” and the device would not have worked.

L. Lin Wood, a lawyer for Unsworth, rejected Musk’s defence, saying it would effectively doom all lawsuits over alleged false and defamatory attacks on reputation published online.

Lawyers for Musk claim people ‘expect to read opinions, not facts’ on Twitter. (Toru Hanai/Reuters)

“Mr. Musk does not let the facts or well-established law get in the way of his novel but inaccurate contentions in his motion to dismiss,” Wood said on Thursday. “I am confident the trial court will likewise reject this fanciful position.”

A hearing is set for April 1, 2019.

Unsworth, who lives in Hertfordshire County north of London, sought at least $75,000 US in compensatory damages plus unspecified punitive damages in his Sept. 17 lawsuit.

The soccer team, including 12 boys and a coach, was freed from the cave on July 10 after an 18-day ordeal.

Musk has faced other litigation over his Twitter use. The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission accused him of securities fraud for saying he had “secured” funding to take Tesla private for $420 US per share, a big premium.

On Sept. 29, Musk agreed to pay a $20 million US fine and step aside as the California-based electric car company’s chairman for three years to settle the SEC case.

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The ‘Maple Majestic’ wants to be Canada’s homegrown Tesla

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Look out Tesla, Canada has a homegrown electric sedan on the way. Well, that’s if AK International Motor Corporation can drum up enough investment to make its EV a reality. Dubbed the “Maple Majestic,” the vehicle is a battery-electric designed to “excel in extreme climate performance without adversely affecting the climate, as befits a vehicle from Canada,” according to its website.

What’s in a name? — The company says the maple leaf is a “symbol of Canada’s warmth and friendliness towards all cultures,” while “majestic” refers to the country’s “status as a Constitutional Monarchy.”

That patriotism carries over into Maple Majestic’s parent company’s lofty goals. AK Motor founder Arkadiusz Kaminski says he wants the company, which he founded in 2012, to become “Canada’s first multi-brand automotive OEM,” and that the “Maple Majestic is intended to be Canada’s flagship brand of automobiles on the world stage.”

Partnerships are key — “We acknowledge that the best chance for the Maple Majestic brand to succeed, lies in continuing to build the relationship with Canada’s parts suppliers and technological innovators, whether they be academic institutions, corporations, or individual inventors,” the company explains. “We are currently seeking partners in automotive engineering, parts manufacturing, automotive assembly, electric propulsion technology, battery technology, autonomous technology, and hybrid power generation technology.”

In other words, don’t expect to be able to buy a Maple Majestic any time soon… and don’t expect to pour over 0-60 mph times, power output, range, or other key stats, because those don’t currently exist. For now, all we have are pictures and a short video clip. But at least those are arresting.

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PE-backed Quorum Software to merge with Canadian energy tech firm

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Houston-based energy technology company Quorum Software will merge with a Canadian tech firm to bolster its presence in oil and gas services.

Quorum announced Feb. 15 it plans to merge with Calgary, Alberta-based Aucerna, a global provider of planning, execution and reserves software for the energy sector. The combined firm will operate under the Quorum Software brand.

Gene Austin, CEO of Quorum Software, will continue in his capacity as chief executive of the combined firm. Austin, former CEO of Austin-based marketing tech firm Bazaarvoice Inc., became CEO of Quorum in December 2018.

Aucerna co-founder and CEO Wayne Sim will be appointed to the Quorum Software board of directors. Both companies are backed by San Francisco- and Chicago-based private equity firm Thoma Bravo.

“Over the last 20 years, Quorum has become the leading innovator of software deployed by North American energy companies,” said Austin. “Today, Quorum is expanding the scope of our technology and expertise to all energy-producing regions of the globe. Customers everywhere will have access to a cloud technology ecosystem that connects decision-ready data from operations to the boardroom.”

In addition to the merger announcement, Quorum Software announced it had entered into an agreement with Finnish IT firm TietoEvry to purchase TietoEvry’s entire oil and gas business. The agreement, which includes hydrocarbon management, personnel and material logistics software and related services, is valued at 155 million euros, or $188 million, according to a statement from TietoEvry.

“Our three organizations complement each other — from the software that our great people design to the energy markets where we operate,” said Sim. “Our new company will be able to deliver value to our stakeholders, while accelerating the growth of our combined business and the energy industry’s software transformation.”

The combined company will serve over 1,800 energy companies in 55 countries, according to the announcement. With its headquarters in Houston, Quorum will continue to have a significant presence in Calgary and in Norway, the headquarters for TietoEvry’s oil and gas software business. Quorum will have other offices throughout North America, Latin America, Europe, Asia and the Middle East.

As of Sept. 30, 2020, private equity firm Thoma Bravo had more than $73 billion in assets under management. In late December 2020, Thoma Bravo agreed to acquire Richardson, Texas-based tech firm RealPage in a roughly $10 billion acquisition.

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Piece of Kitchener technology lands on Mars on Perseverance rover

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KITCHENER — A piece of Kitchener technology has landed on Mars, thanks to NASA’s Perseverance rover.

The rover settled on the planet’s surface on Thursday afternoon. It’s been travelling through space since it was launched from Cape Canaveral, Fla. in July.

“The whole idea of being on a device that we’re sending to another plant with the express mission of looking for traces of past life, it’s pretty mind boggling actually,” said Rafal Pawluczyk, chief technical officer for FiberTech Optica.

The Kitchener-based company made fibre optic cables for the rover’s SuperCam that will examine samples with a camera, laser and spectrometers.

“The cables that we built take the light from that multiplexer and deliver it to each spectrograph,” Pawluczyk said.

The cables connect a device on the rover to the SuperCam, which will be used to examine rock and soil samples, to spectrometers. They’ll relay information from one device to another.

The project started four years ago with a connection to Los Alamos National Lab, where the instruments connected to the cables were developed.

“We could actually demonstrate we can design something that will meet their really hard engineering requirements,” Pawluczyk said.

The Jezero Crater is where the Perseverance rover, with FiberTech Optica’s technology onboard, landed Thursday. Scientists believe it was once flooded with water and is the best bet for finding any evidence of life. FiberTech’s cables will help that in that search.

Ioannis Haranas, an astrophysicist and professor at Wilfrid Laurier University, said the rover isn’t looking for “green men.”

“They’re looking for microbial, single-cell life, any type of fossils and stuff like that,” Haranas said. “That’s why they chose a special landing site. This could be very fertile land for that.”

“It’s very ambitious,” said Ralf Gellert, a physics professor at the University of Guelph.

Gellert helped with previous rover missions and said it’s the first time a Mars rover has landed without a piece of Guelph technology on it. While he’s not part of Perseverance’s mission, he said the possibilities are exciting.

“Every new landing site is a new piece of the puzzle that you can put together with the new results that we have from the other landing sites,” he said.

“It’s scientifically very interesting because, even though we don’t have an instrument on that rover, we can compare what the new rover Perseverance finds at this new landing site,” he said.

Now that Perseverance has landed on Mars, FiberTech is looking ahead to its next possible mission into space.

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