Biden and Harris announce White House science team – CNET


Biden and Harris have chosen their team of science advisors.

Biden Inaugural Committee

The Joe Biden-Kamala Harris transition team has announced who will serve on the White House science team under their administration. The advisors will help Biden and Harris deal with climate change, pandemics, racial inequity, the economic downturn and how technology impacts society, Biden and Harris said Tuesday.

"From the coronavirus pandemic to our climate crisis, this past year has reaffirmed the importance of listening to scientists," Vice President-elect Kamala Harris said. "In our administration, decisions will be informed by the best available science and evidence."

Read more: Biden's inauguration on Wednesday: Start time, schedule, performances, how to watch

The team includes Dr. Eric Lander as the presidential science advisor and director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP); Dr. Alondra Nelson as OSTP deputy director for science and society; Dr. Frances H. Arnold and Dr. Maria Zuber as co-chairs of the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology; Dr. Francis Collins as director of the National Institutes of Health; Kei Koizumi as OSTP chief of staff; and Narda Jones as OSTP legislative affairs director.

The role of the presidential science advisor is also being elevated to the Cabinet level for the first time ever.

"Science will always be at the forefront of my administration -- and these world-renowned scientists will ensure everything we do is grounded in science, facts, and the truth," Biden said. 

The announcement comes a day ahead of Biden's inauguration Wednesday.

Read more: Biden as president: What it will mean for tech

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Robocaller hit with $10 million fine from FCC – CNET


A robocaller has been fined $10 million.

Angela Lang/CNET

A robocaller has been fined $9.9 million for using caller ID spoofing to intentionally cause harm, the US Federal Communications Commission announced Thursday. The scam caller made thousands of robocalls using pre-recorded racist, xenophobic and threatening messages. 

The calls were made to a victim's family, a local journalist, political candidates -- and even as an attempt to sway a jury hearing a domestic terrorism case. The caller ID spoofing made the calls look like they came from local numbers.

"Not only were the calls unlawful, but the caller took them to new levels of egregiousness," said FCC Chair Ajit Pai. "With today's fine, we once again make clear our commitment to aggressively go after those who are unlawfully bombarding the American people." 

The robocaller harassed people across Iowa, Idaho, Virginia, Florida and Georgia. He must pay the fine within 30 days, the FCC said, otherwise the matter will be scaled up to the Justice Department.

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T-Mobile adds 5.6 million more customers in 2020 – CNET

Angela Lang/CNET

T-Mobile has announced adding 5.6 million net customers during 2020. It's the most customers added in the carrier's history, T-Mobile revealed in its preliminary full-year results Wednesday.

"Our focus on bringing unmatched value and experience to customers while building and delivering the nation's best 5G network paid off with record-breaking results in 2020," said Mike Sievert, T-Mobile CEO. "Our 5G leadership position is getting stronger every day."

Read more: Verizon vs. AT&T vs. T-Mobile compared: How to pick the best 5G carrier for you

T-Mobile said its "ultra capacity" 5G network now reaches 106 million people. According to T-Mobile, this is 50 times more than Verizon's 5G coverage, although the carriers use different radio waves for their 5G networks.

Verizon uses high-band millimeter-wave 5G spectrum, which is super high speed but limited to traveling short distances and being blocked by solid obstacles like buildings and trees. AT&T uses 850MHz spectrum for its low-band 5G network, which has better range but slower speeds. AT&T and Verizon will also be employing a new technology called Dynamic Spectrum Sharing to share 4G airwaves with 5G and improve performance.

T-Mobile also uses low-band 600MHz spectrum but was also able to integrate Sprint's midband 2.5GHz spectrum for its "layer cake" approach to 5G since the carrier's $26.5 billion merger with Sprint went through in April 2020. Midband spectrum is faster than low-band, and travels further than high-band.

You can check out T-Mobile's 5G coverage maps hereAT&T's 5G maps here and Verizon's 5G coverage map here.

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FBI, NSA and CISA say SolarWinds hack was likely of Russian origin – CNET


The SolarWinds attack likely came from Russia, the FBI has said.

CNET/Amanda Kooser

The SolarWinds hack has been identified as being "likely Russian in origin," a joint statement from the FBI, NSA, Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) and Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) said Tuesday. It's the first time the four agencies have attributed the cyber attack to Russia.

"This work indicates that an Advanced Persistent Threat (APT) actor, likely Russian in origin, is responsible for most or all of the recently discovered, ongoing cyber compromises of both government and non-governmental networks," the statement said. "At this time, we believe this was, and continues to be, an intelligence gathering effort."

Read more: SolarWinds hack continues to spread: What you need to know

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had said in a news interview last month that the SolarWinds attack was likely of Russian origin, but there had been no formal statement until now.

The joint statement added that of the 18,000 affected companies and agencies, only 10 US government agencies have been found so far to be "compromised by follow-on activity on their systems."

The Cyber Unified Coordination Group, made up of the FBI, NSA, CISA and ODNI, continues to investigate the hack, which started in 2020 when hackers compromised IT management software from Austin, Texas-based company SolarWinds.

The breach reportedly included an email system used by senior leadership at the Treasury Department

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Hulu adds 14 more live TV channels including Nickelodeon and Comedy Central – CNET


Hulu Plus Live TV has 14 new channels.

Angela Lang/CNET

Hulu has scored another 14 channels for its live TV offering, after reaching a deal with ViacomCBS for Nickelodeon, Comedy Central, MTV and more. 

The new deal will go for multiple years, and also includes Paramount Network, VH1, BET, CMT, Nick Jr., TV Land, BET Her, MTV2, NickToons, TeenNick and MTV Classic.

Read more: The 33 best TV shows to binge-watch on Hulu

"Hulu continues to be a great partner, and this agreement ensures that Hulu Plus Live TV subscribers are now able to enjoy the full breadth of our leading content across news, sports and entertainment for the first time," said Ray Hopkins, president of ViacomCBS US Networks Distribution. 

Hulu Plus Live TV is $65 a month for more than 65 channels. The channels include FX, the CW, ESPN, CBS, ABC, NBC, CBSN, Animal Planet, Adult Swim, A&E, E, CNN, CNBC, History, Lifetime, Discovery, Disney Channel, Disney Junior, Cartoon Network, ID, Food Network and National Geographic.

Read more: Hulu Plus Live TV vs. YouTube TV: Which live TV streaming service should you choose?

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New York sees first case of more contagious coronavirus strain – CNET


Someone in New York has tested positive for the new variant of the coronavirus.

James Martin/CNET
For the most up-to-date news and information about the coronavirus pandemic, visit the WHO website.

The variant of the coronavirus discovered in the UK has spread to New York, the state's governor said Monday. The new strain of the virus causing COVID-19 is said to be more contagious, and also cropped up in Colorado and California last week.

The UK variant was found in Saratoga County, Gov. Andrew Cuomo tweeted, and in someone with no known recent travel history. 

Read more: COVID-19 vaccine will 'very likely' work on UK mutation, Fauci says, as California reports case

While the new strain appears to be more contagious, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said last week it doesn't appear to be resistant to the vaccines that have been developed. Fauci said, however, that public health officials are keeping a close eye on the mutation, called B.1.1.7.

"We're following this extremely carefully," he said. "We have isolates from the UK. We're working on it."

The coronavirus is mutating now because there are so many cases, Fauci explained. "RNA viruses, they make a living out of mutating, they love to mutate," he said. "It's replicating a lot, and when you replicate, you mutate."

The new strain was first detected in the UK in September and later caused the country to go into a strict lockdown over the holidays, with other countries, including the US, putting stronger entry requirements in place for travelers arriving from the UK. The variant has also appeared in other countries, including Australia, Canada, France, Spain and Japan.

There's no evidence the variant is any deadlier than previously known strains of the coronavirus or that it makes people sicker. But a study released last month by a team of UK scientists estimated that it's 56% more transmissible, The New York Times reported. The British government had earlier said the variant might be up to 70% more contagious.

The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.

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Ticketmaster pays $10M fine for accessing competitor’s online systems – CNET


Ticketmaster will pay $10 million for accessing Songkick's online pre-sales systems without authorization.

Live Nation

Ticketmaster will pay a $10 million criminal fine for repeatedly accessing the computer systems of one of its competitors without authorization. The online ticketing company agreed to the fine after being charged with five counts of computer intrusion and fraud by the US Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of New York, the Justice Department said Wednesday.

Ticketmaster employees used stolen passwords to access Songkick's systems to "unlawfully collect business intelligence," said Seth DuCharme, acting US attorney for the Eastern District of New York. The tactic was also promoted at a Ticketmaster summit for employees, the Justice Department said.

Read more: Stimulus payments will begin to arrive 'tonight': When the IRS will send your second check

The stolen passwords were obtained by an ex-employee of Songkick in 2014, according to the Justice Department. The passwords were used to gain access to the company's "Artist Toolbox," which contained real-time information about pre-sale tickets being sold for specific artists.

The ex-employee also provided Ticketmaster with Songkick's internal and confidential financial documents, after which he was promoted and given a pay raise, the Justice Department said.

"Ticketmaster used stolen information to gain an advantage over its competition, and then promoted the employees who broke the law," William Sweeney Jr., assistant director-in-charge of the FBI's New York Field Office, said in a statement.

By knowing the sequential system Songkick used to number its URLs for these hidden web pages, the ex-employee also helped Ticketmaster maintain a spreadsheet with every artist Songkick was working with on pre-sales. Ticketmaster could then contact those artists and try to persuade them to sell tickets through Ticketmaster instead of the Songkick, the Justice Department said.

As well as the $10 million fine, Ticketmaster must also institute a compliance and ethics program to detect and prevent violations of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act.

As part of the scheme, Zeeshan Zaidi, the former head of Ticketmaster's Artist Services division, pleaded guilty to conspiring to commit computer intrusions and wire fraud back in October 2019. 

"Ticketmaster terminated both Zaidi and [Stephen] Mead [the Songkick ex-employee] in 2017, after their conduct came to light," a Ticketmaster spokesperson told CNET. "Their actions violated our corporate policies and were inconsistent with our values. We are pleased that this matter is now resolved."

Sources with knowledge of the siutation told CNET that no one above Zaidi -- who was Mead's boss -- knew about the practice.

The case was the subject of a civil settlement in January 2018, which saw Ticketmaster's parent company Live Nation acquire Songkick's ticketing commerce platform, anti-scalping algorithm, APIs and patents.

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A preserved woolly rhinoceros has been exhumed from the permafrost in Russia – CNET


A well-preserved woolly rhino was discovered in northern Russia.

Valery Plotnikov

An extinct woolly rhinoceros has been discovered and exhumed from the permafrost in Yakutia, in the north of Russia, The Siberian Times reported Tuesday. The carcass was 80 percent preserved and includes intact internal organs, teeth and stomach contents.

"Another extinct ice age beast exhumed from the permafrost," Jamie Woodward, professor of geography at the University of Manchester in the UK, tweeted Tuesday.

The animal lived around 20,000 and 50,000 years ago and was a juvenile. It was discovered in August and is still covered in short, thick brown hair. The horn was found beside the animal, as reported earlier Wednesday by Newsweek.

"The young rhino was between three and four years old and lived separately from its mother when it died, most likely by drowning," Dr Valery Plotnikov, from the Academy of Sciences, was quoted as saying in The Siberian Times. "The gender of the animal is still unknown. We are waiting for the radiocarbon analyses to define when it lived."

More ice age creatures are becoming uncovered as climate change caused the warmest summer in the Siberian Arctic on record, according to Woodward -- but he added people are also blasting the mud with water jets to uncover more discoveries.

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App spending hit $400 million during socially isolated holiday season – CNET


Disney Plus made $2.6 million in revenue in the US during Christmas, Sensor Tower said.

Angela Lang/CNET
For the most up-to-date news and information about the coronavirus pandemic, visit the WHO website.

App spending hit a massive $407.6 million during Christmas, according to estimates by Sensor Tower. The new record comes as COVID-19 cases continue growing, with lockdowns and quarantines reinvoked across the globe over the holidays. Last year during the same period, people spent $100 million less on apps, Sensor Tower said this week.

Of the $400 million spent, $295 million went on games and $112 million on other apps like streaming services.

Read more: Stimulus payments will begin to arrive 'tonight': When the IRS will send your second check

People in the US accounted for $130 million of the total spent, with Roblox the top mobile game and Disney Plus the top non-game app. Roblox pulled in $6.6 million in the US on Christmas, while Disney's streaming service made $2.6 million, according to the data. 

Globally, Tencent's Honor of Kings was the biggest mobile game downloaded during the holidays, earning $10.7 million while TikTok made $4.7 in revenue on Christmas, Sensor Tower recorded.

App spending passed $100 billion for 2020 in November -- the most ever spent, Sensor Tower said.

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Google scientists reportedly told to make AI look more ‘positive’ in research papers – CNET

Google headquarters in Mountain View, California

Google is reportedly telling research scientists to spin AI in a more positive way.

Stephen Shankland/CNET

Google parent Alphabet has been asking its scientists to ensure that AI technology looks more "positive" in their research papers, says a Wednesday report by Reuters. A new review procedure is reportedly in place so researchers consult with Google's legal, policy or PR teams for a "sensitive topics review" before exploring things like face analysis, and racial, gender and political affiliation.

"Advances in technology and the growing complexity of our external environment are increasingly leading to situations where seemingly inoffensive projects raise ethical, reputational, regulatory or legal issues," one of the internal webpages on the policy says, according to Reuters.

Read more: Google CEO apologizes for handling of AI researcher Timnit Gebru's departure

Other Google authors were told to "take great care to strike a positive tone," internal correspondence shared with Reuters said.

The report follows Google CEO Sundar Pichai earlier this month apologizing for the handling of artificial intelligence researcher Timnit Gebru's departure from the company and saying it would be investigated. Gebru left Google on Dec. 4, saying she'd been forced out of the company over an email sent to co-workers.

The email criticized Google's Diversity, Equity and Inclusion operation, according to Platformer, which posted the full text of her missive. Gebru said in the posted email that she'd been asked to retract a research paper she'd been working on, after receiving feedback on it.

"You're not supposed to even know who contributed to this document, who wrote this feedback, what process was followed or anything," she wrote in the email. "You write a detailed document discussing whatever pieces of feedback you can find, asking for questions and clarifications, and it is completely ignored.

"Silencing marginalized voices like this is the opposite of the NAUWU principles which we discussed. And doing this in the context of 'responsible AI' adds so much salt to the wounds," she added. NAUWU stands for "nothing about us without us," the idea that policies shouldn't be made without input from the people they affect. 

Google didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

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