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Take This Haunted, Halloween-Themed Road Trip for Your October Pandemic Vacation

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Illustration for article titled Take This Haunted, Halloween-Themed Road Trip for Your October Pandemic Vacation

Illustration: Pare Mahakanok (Shutterstock)

In this pandemic era, true vacations are few and far between. Flying to a destination is not ideal unless absolutely necessary, and some places are re-imposing stricter quarantines and business closures in response to rising COVID-19 case numbers.

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So is it even possible to plan a trip you can look forward to (and do safely)? Yes—especially if it’s a season-specific Halloween road trip that you can enjoy either from the comfort of your car or in the open air.

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Travel booking site Kayak put together a 29-stop, 7,500-mile road trip itinerary that connects the spookiest sites across the country. As a bonus, (almost) all of them are outdoors. You’ll find cemeteries, lighthouses, state parks, haunted homes, and an abandoned amusement park. There are also a few ghost tours on the list. The itinerary begins in Stowe, VT, and ends in San Jose, CA.

Of course, this itinerary as a whole requires travel across state lines—if you’d rather stay close to home, you can simply take a day trip to the nearest haunted house. National Geographic also has a list of spooky places in seven states, and Country Living compiled a list of 25 haunted spots.

If you do go on a long-distance road trip, you’ll still need places to stay and food to eat even if all attractions are outdoors. Before you head out, do thorough research about local COVID-19 regulations, and bookmark tools that offer real-time updates on travel restrictions so you’re not surprised when you arrive.

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You should also take every precaution to make travel safer: wear masks, stay physically distant from anyone not traveling with you, and minimize the opportunities to interact with other people, especially in closed, indoor spaces.

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Prop 22 opponents say Yes on 22 should not be able to mail flyers as nonprofit

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Opponents of California’s Proposition 22, the measure that seeks to continue classifying rideshare drivers and delivery workers as independent contractors, filed a complaint this morning with the United States Postal Service. The No on 22 campaign alleges the Yes side is not eligible for a nonprofit postal status and is asking USPS to revoke its permit.

It’s much cheaper to send campaign mailers as a nonprofit organization. For example, sending between 1 – 200.000 small mailers to every door normally costs $0.302 per piece. As a non-profit, that costs $0.226 per piece, according to USPS. To be clear, the Yes on 22 campaign confirmed it was formed as a nonprofit organization under IRS section 501(c)(4), which pertains to social welfare organizations. But the No on 22 side says USPS erred in approving the Yes on 22 campaign.

“The Yes on 22 nonprofit permit was unlawfully issued,” a lawyer for No on 22 wrote to USPS Postmaster General Louis DeJoy. “[…] This misuse of the nonprofit permit coming from a corporate backed $200 million campaign is unprecedented and should be remedied by the Postal Service immediately.”

According to USPS, any organization that wants to send mail as a non-profit must first be authorized by the postal service as being eligible. Those that are eligible for nonprofit privileges, according to USPS, include “some political committees” but not “certain political organizations.” The political committees that may qualify for nonprofit prices regardless of nonprofit status, according to USPS, are the national or state committees of a political party, and the Democratic or Republican congressional or senatorial campaign committees.

“Campaign committees participating in ballot measure advocacy routinely form themselves as non-profits under section 501(c)(4) of the Internal Revenue Code, as the No on 22 lawyers know well,” Yes on 22 campaign spokesperson Geoff Vetter told TechCrunch. “Furthermore, the IRS granted Yes on 22’s non-profit status. As a 501(c)(4) organization, Yes on 22 is eligible for the appropriate non-profit postage rates with the USPS, which we applied for and were granted by the U.S. Postmaster. Moreover, pursuant to USPS Customer Support Ruling 128 – the USPS has a long-term policy in place of allowing the ballot measure committee of a duly authorized nonprofit to mail under the non-profit’s authorization. The above is true for many ballot measure campaigns, and as stated, like all entities, our applications were reviewed and approved by both the IRS and the USPS.”

To date, the Yes on 22 campaign has contributed $185,096,892 to its cause. The Yes on 22 committee consists of companies like Uber, Lyft, Instacart and DoorDash, as well as drivers, small businesses, and public safety and community organizations. The bulk of its funding has come from Uber, Lyft and DoorDash. In comparison, No on 22 has contributed $12,166,063.

“It’s outrageous but not surprising that the app companies that are going to the mat to keep shortchanging workers would shamelessly rip off the postal service,” No on Prop 22 spokesperson Mike Roth said in a statement. “This is just more evidence of the kind of greed we are dealing with from these companies who are spending $186 million in their selfish quest to buy themselves a new law but refused to buy their workers PPE in a pandemic.”

TechCrunch has reached out to USPS and will update this story if we hear back.

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Rocket Lab’s Peter Beck is coming to TC Sessions: Space 2020

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Over the last few years Rocket Lab has gone from its very first orbital launch to regular commercial missions, with the goal of being the most responsive launch provider on the planet. Founder and CEO Peter Beck will join us at our all virtual TC Sessions: Space event happening on December 16 & 17 in December to talk about the new launch ecosystem and building a company to compete with industry giants.

Rocket Lab’s 15th mission, “In Focus,” is scheduled to take off this very afternoon, with 10 Earth observation satellites from Canon Electronics and Planet. It has already put satellites in orbit for NASA, the NRO, and numerous private companies. The company’s launch cadence has slowly increased, though the loss of a mission in July soured its plan to go from months to weeks between launches.

But Beck, who has led the company from its inception in 2006, saw this as just another challenge to take head-on, and within the month Rocket Lab had gotten to the bottom of the issue and was clear to fly again.

“If you’re going to own a rocket company and launch vehicles, you have to be prepared for this kind of thing,” he said at the time. And now Electron is even more reliable than it was before, he pointed out.

Now Rocket Lab is expanding into adjacent businesses as well with the secretive launch of its First Light satellite platform, demonstrating tech that it hoped to share with customers who don’t want to build a satellite from scratch. “It’s just really painful to go from an idea to getting something in orbit,” he said, and by making it easier to actually build a spacecraft, it both democratizes space and creates customers out of thin air.

At TC Sessions: Space, Beck will discuss all of this and more. You can get early-bird tickets right now, and save $100 before prices go up on November 13 — and you can even get a fifth person free if you bring a group of four from your company. Special discounts for current members of the government/military/nonprofit and student tickets are also available directly on the website. And if you are an early-stage space startup looking to get exposure to decision makers, you can even exhibit for the day for just $360.

Is your company interested in presenting your company at TC Sessions: Space 2020Click here to talk with us about available opportunities.

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New AI-powered sensor measures starlight distortion to help discover new planets

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Sydney University scientists have invented a sensor that neutralizes a star’s twinkle, which could help astronomers find new planets in distant solar systems.

The sensor uses an advanced light convertor and AI to measure and correct the distortion of starlight caused by the Earth’s atmosphere. It will now be installed on the 8.2m Subaru telescope on the summit of Maunakea, Hawaii, one of the largest optical-infrared telescopes in the world.

“The main way we identify planets orbiting distant stars is by measuring regular dips in starlight caused by planets blocking out bits of their sun,” said study lead author Dr Barnaby Norris in a statement.

“This is really difficult from the ground, so we needed to develop a new way of looking up at the stars. We also wanted to find a way to directly observe these planets from Earth.”

[Read: What audience intelligence data tells us about the 2020 US presidential election]

The “photonic wavefront sensor” will help astronomers directly image exoplanets around distant stars from Earth.

“Unlike conventional wavefront sensors, it can be placed at the same location in the optical instrument where the image is formed,” explained Dr Norris. “This means it is sensitive to types of distortions invisible to other wavefront sensors currently used today in large observatories.”

You can read the full research study in Nature Communications.

Published October 21, 2020 — 17:32 UTC

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