Facebook sends Trump suspension to its oversight board – CNET

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Angela Lang/CNET

Facebook on Thursday said it's referring its decision to indefinitely suspend the accounts of former President Donald Trump to its independent oversight board. The social media giant blocked Trump's accounts on Facebook and Instagram following the deadly US Capitol riot on Jan. 6, saying his posts posed an unacceptable risk. 

In a blog post Thursday, Facebook's Nick Clegg said the decision to suspend Trump was "necessary and right" but not one the company should make on its own. 

"While we await the board's decision, Mr. Trump's access will remain suspended indefinitely," wrote Clegg, Facebook's vice president of global affairs. "We look forward to receiving the board's decision -- and we hope, given the clear justification for our actions on January 7, that it will uphold the choices we made."

Facebook's oversight board, which can uphold or overturn decisions made by the social network, said on Thursday that it would accept the case. The board was established last year to make the final call on some of Facebook's most difficult content decisions, and its rulings can't be overturned by CEO Mark Zuckerberg or other executives. 

The 20-member board is made up of former judges, lawyers and journalists, and has up to 90 days to reach a decision on most cases. It accepted its first slate of cases in December 2020, including ones that involve hate speech. 

"The Oversight Board has been closely following events in the United States and Facebook's response to them, and the Board is ready to provide a thorough and independent assessment of the company's decision," the board wrote in a post on Thursday. 

Twitter, Snapchat, YouTube and other sites also banned or suspended Trump from their platforms over concerns the former president's remarks could incite more violence before or after President Joe Biden's inauguration on Wednesday. 

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2021 Buick Envision is dressed to kill and priced to compete – Roadshow

This ugly duckling has been transformed into a beautiful swan.

Buick

Here it is, folks, the brand-spankin'-new 2021 Buick Envision crossover. Buick originally teased this vehicle last May, but finally released details about the US-spec version on Thursday. Here's what you need to know.

More stylish and upscale, the 2021 Envision is lower and wider than its predecessor. It also rides atop a slightly longer wheelbase and its body has been truncated by about an inch. These nips and tucks help give this vehicle much more attractive proportions compared to the outgoing Envision, which is one of the frumpier vehicles available today. With a long-ish front end and swept-back windshield, plus a curt and perky backside, this Buick has a bit of Mazda in its profile, and that is not a bad thing. As for the wheels, 18s are standard but 20-inchers are available.

As before, the Envision is the Goldilocks of Buick's utility-vehicle lineup, slotting between the smaller Encore models and the Enclave, which has a larger interior with three rows of seats. The Envision has room for five people and offers a decent amount of cargo space. Behind the second-row seat you'll find 25.2 cubic feet of volume, but if you fold the 60/40-split backrest down that figure grows to 52.7 cubes. Unfortunately, both of those figures are slightly less generous than what the outgoing model provides, though the difference isn't that big.

2021 Buick Envision

Nicely done, Buick, nicely done.

Buick

The new Envision is offered in three grades: Preferred, Essence and Avenir. If that last model sounds new, your instincts are correct. This is the first time Buick is offering the Envision in Avenir trim, which is by far the fanciest. It includes unique styling elements like a mesh grille insert and special 20-inch wheels. Inside, passengers are coddled by diamond-perforated quilted leather seating surfaces, while the front chairs feature heating and ventilation for year-round comfort. Customers that don't want to spend that much can gussy up a Preferred or Essence model with a Sport Touring package for a, well, sportier appearance thanks to its dark exterior accents and different wheels. Other goodies include a hands-free power liftgate, which is standard on Essence and Avenir models and available on the Preferred trim. A panoramic power moonroof is offered on Essence and Avenir variants.

Matching its fashion-forward exterior, the Envision's cabin is dramatically more upscale than before, with its instrument panel noticeably angled toward the driver. It also features a space-saving electronic gear selector and has a useful split armrest between the front seats, which allows one person to access the storage cubby underneath without disturbing the other person. Front and center on the dashboard is a new infotainment system with a generous 10.2-inch touchscreen. Beyond that, a wireless phone charger is on the menu, plus wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are both available for added convenience.

The Envision offers plenty of other tech, too, including many of the advanced driver aids and convenience features motorists expect these days. Items like lane-keeping assist, automatic high beams, rear cross-traffic alert, front pedestrian braking and more are bundled in the Buick Driver Confidence Plus package. Optional goodies include a high-definition 360-degree camera system, adaptive cruise control and a head-up display. One feature you do not pay extra for, however, is LED lighting. All models have standard LED head and tail lamps.

2021 Buick Envision

This new Envision should compete with vehicles like the Infiniti QX50, Lexus NX and Lincoln Corsair.

Buick

Just one engine is offered in the new Envision: a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder. Disappointingly, it only delivers 228 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque, noticeably less than other manufacturers' engines of the same size and configuration. It's also behind the outgoing Envision's optional 2.0-liter turbo-four, which is rated at 252 hp and 295 lb-ft. A nine-speed automatic transmission handles shifting duties and helps deliver good fuel economy. With front-wheel drive, this vehicle is rated at 24 miles per gallon city and 31 mpg highway. Combined, it should return 26 mpg. Opt for the available traction-enhancing all-wheel-drive system and those scores drop to 22 city and 29 highway, figures that result in an average of 25 mpg. For added luxury, the Avenir model is available with Continuous Damping Control, an electronically adjustable suspension system that reads the road and automatically adjusts the vehicle's shock absorbers in real time to deliver a smoother ride.

The 2021 Buick Envision is available at dealers right now. This stylish new utility vehicle starts at $32,995, including a $1,195 destination fee. With arresting looks, a beautifully designed interior and plenty of tech, this redesigned model looks promising and should appeal to drivers that might be considering something like a Infiniti QX50, Lexus NX or Lincoln Corsair.

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WandaVision actor confirms show’s placement in Marvel Cinematic Universe timeline – CNET

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Teyonah Parris plays "Geraldine," but we all know what's up.

Marvel Studios/Screenshot by Sean Keane/CNET

WandaVision's first two episodes left viewers with many questions after they hit Disney Plus last Friday, but actor Teyonah Parris may have answered one of them. The show "picks up right after" Avengers: Endgame, she told TVLine on Wednesday, confirming its position in the Marvel Cinematic Universe timeline.

Parris played Geraldine in the show's second episode, but she also acknowledged a few more details about her character in the interview. If you haven't been following reports about MCU casting, minor SPOILERS to come.

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Marvel Studios

Geraldine is actually Monica Rambeau, whom you might remember showing up as a child in in the '90s-set Captain Marvel, and she'll appear again in Captain Marvel 2. We'll learn more about what happened to Monica since her first movie appearance over the course of WandaVision's seven remaining episodes.

The third episode premieres on Disney Plus this Friday.

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Otter can now transcribe your Google Meet chats in real time – CNET

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Otter

Transcription service Otter has launched a Chrome extension that will allow groups of coworkers to keep automatic notes on meetings through Google Chat. Otter already offers a similar service for Zoom.

Although Google Chat already has a live captioning feature, Otter's big draw is its editable transcript, which the whole team can access and alter during and after the meeting -- making it a more flexible collaborative tool.

This new feature will likely prove useful for improving accessibility as workforces continue to adapt to the challenges of remote work -- and it could make conducting meetings easier as interruptions at home (like a sick child or hungry pet) force various participants to step away from their screens.

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Announcing Free Site Cleaning & Site Security Audits for K-12 Public Schools

Wordfence, the leading provider of WordPress security software and services, is announcing today that we are, effective immediately, offering free site cleaning and site security audit services to K-12 public schools in the United States who use WordPress as their content management system.

Whether a site is infected with malware, or you are looking for an expert analyst to audit your website security posture, the Wordfence security team is available to help. No credit card is needed, and you have the option to have the free version of Wordfence installed on your website and configured by our analysts.

With more students and teachers remotely connecting for education, the need for security awareness has never been greater. Malware infected websites pose a significant risk to students, teachers, parents and administrators. These risks include the breach of personal information, the risk of threat actors targeting children, and the disruption of learning and online services to students.

Wordfence is committed to helping public schools safely provide education to the next generation. Each Wordfence site cleaning and site security audit is valued at $490. Effective immediately, Wordfence is offering these same services free of charge to K-12 public schools.

The number of security audits and site cleanings that we can provide is limited, and available on a first-come, first served basis. If there is a wait time for an analyst, our customer service engineers will work with each school to ensure you are kept apprised of your position in the queue and when you will be served. We are initially limiting service to 20 websites per week, and we hope to expand our capacity if needed.

Wordfence is the number one choice worldwide for WordPress security. We currently protect over 4 million WordPress websites, with a team of credentialed analysts and researchers who are known throughout industry for our groundbreaking research. The Wordfence team is honored to help keep public school districts in the United States secure, districts that have been under extraordinary pressure to rapidly transition to online learning.

Complete the form on our K-12 site cleaning request page to begin the process. Our team will be in touch shortly.

The post Announcing Free Site Cleaning & Site Security Audits for K-12 Public Schools appeared first on Wordfence.

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Tesla Model Y makes up over half of Tesla’s California registrations to end 2020 – Roadshow

The Model Y is proving popular.

Tesla

Tesla had a good year in 2020 despite the coronavirus pandemic that shut down its sole US production facility. It came just shy of reaching its targeted 500,000 EV deliveries last year and rolled out the Model Y electric SUV to buyers. The latest fourth-quarter registration data from California underscores the banner year Tesla had, and the automaker can give most of the credit to the Model Y.

According to registration data compiled and released Wednesday by Cross-Sell, Tesla registrations in California rose by 63% in the fourth quarter of 2020, compared to the same quarter in 2019. The Golden State often provides a preview of broader EV trends nationwide since the state is home to the most aggressive EV adoption policies, so it's certainly good news for the automaker. 

Californian drivers registered a total of 22,117 Tesla EVs in Q4, but the automaker should thank the Model Y's launch for the positive news. Of the vehicles registered, the Model Y accounted for 11,417 of them -- slightly more than half -- bringing more folks into the brand who may really need an SUV's utility. The Model 3 sedan, by contrast, was actually down year-over-year by 34%.

One important note on registrations: they don't tell a perfect picture, since the data comes in delayed. This time last year, Tesla made headlines as data from Cross-Sell showed registrations dropped by nearly 47% in the state. But, since California can take up to four weeks to log registrations, the figure was heavily deflated. Tesla usually makes a major sales push in the final weeks of the year, so California sales for 2020 will likely be higher than the registration data reported this week.

This year, Tesla hopes to keep up the momentum. CEO Elon Musk promised in 2019 that we'd see the Cybertruck enter production in 2021, and construction of the electric pickup's new factory is underway in Austin, Texas. We should also see a Gigafactory come online in Germany, and likely a couple of surprises from Musk, too.

Now playing: Watch this: Why Tesla enjoys a huge lead in the electric car market

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Apple’s first VR headset will reportedly be powerful and pricey – CNET

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Angela Lang/CNET

Apple's first virtual reality headset will reportedly sport powerful processors, a high-resolution display, a fan and a steep price tag. The VR headset will be considered a niche product and could be "far more expensive" than the $300 to $900 headsets available from rivals, according to a report Thursday from Bloomberg

Apple has long been expected to launch a VR device, tech that transports you into a digitally created world when you don bulky goggles. Last May, Apple bought the VR streaming sports company NextVR. The purchase was the latest sign the iPhone maker is closer to revealing a virtual reality headset, which would be its first major new product category since the Apple Watch in 2014.

A prototype of Apple's VR headset includes external cameras to allow for some augmented reality features, which overlay computer images on the real world, but would also be a stepping stone to separate, more mainstream AR glasses, according to Bloomberg.  

While it could hit more delays, Apple reportedly plans to launch the VR headset as soon as 2022.

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

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COVID-19 vaccines offered by email or text? How to identify a phishing scam – CNET

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Vaccines offered through unexpected texts, emails or phone calls? Don't fall for it.

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

As we all hope for the end to the coronavirus pandemic, many people are understandably focused on the COVID-19 vaccine. Scammers know that. And while you're dreaming about hugging loved ones, going to concerts or just feeling safe inside a grocery store, they're busy crafting vaccine-related phishing campaigns to trick you into handing over personal information, money or access to your device.

Last month, the FBI issued a warning urging people to be cautious when opening emails and texts from unknown senders who promise information on getting a vaccine. The Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, a division of the US Treasury Department, has done the same. Still, police in Florida, the UK and other jurisdictions say they're seeing scams continue to pop up. In the English county of Derbyshire, law enforcement officials say scammers sent out texts with links to a site that painstakingly imitated the UK's National Health Service. The goal was to steal personal and financial information, authorities said.

Online scammers have used crises and major events to con people for years. The pandemic has created an appealing situation because the entire world is aware of the disease and the hardship it's caused in everyone's lives. On top of that, the virus has pushed many work from from home offices, where they still have access to sensitive workplace information. From a criminal's perspective, it's a great opportunity to get lots of people to act against their better judgment. Scammers seized on this opportunity as soon as the pandemic took hold, offering snake oil cures that never materialized in exchange for credit card numbers. They also tried to trick people into clicking on malicious links that put users at risk of ransomware attacks or identity theft.

Now vaccines give scammers another lure for their targets.

"These attacks prey on our desire for information in times of uncertainty," said Tony Pepper, CEO of cybersecurity firm Egress. The attacks, Egress says, can be "incredibly convincing," particularly to older people, who are at the top of lists for getting vaccines and may be waiting to hear from medical authorities.  

Setting up a scam

As early as November, researchers at cybersecurity firm Check Point noticed a significant increase in website domain names that reference vaccines. Scammers typically register a new domain name related to their con when setting up a phishing campaign to serve as a place to lure their targets.

The websites may contain legitimate-looking web forms meant to steal payment or health care information, or they might host malicious software that installs on your device when you visit. Malicious software, or malware, can leave you vulnerable to ransomware attacks, pop-up ads that make your device unusable and other intrusive attacks from hackers.

The next step in a vaccine scam is crafting a compelling message designed to get you to respond, even if you know you shouldn't. The Check Point researchers have found emails with subject lines including, "pfizer's Covid vaccine: 11 things you need to know," which is written to play on people's desire for information about how to get the vaccine and address lingering questions about whether it's safe. The email with that subject line contained a malicious file that would have infected recipients' computers with malware if opened.

Avoiding vaccine-related fraud

A good rule for avoiding fraud is to be skeptical of any message that asks for your personal or payment information, or requires you to click on a link or download a file. It may be hard, but stop and think before responding to these messages if you want to stay safe.

The FBI urges people to be wary of any email, text message or phone call offering information about the coronavirus vaccine that comes from a sender you don't recognize. Instead, get your information about vaccines from official sources, like state and local health departments, the FDA and your doctor.

Finally, be mindful that your health information can also be used for medical identity theft. Only give out your insurance or health information to professionals you know and trust. Fraud experts also suggest looking at your insurance claims closely to make sure no one else is using your health insurance. What's more, don't trust strangers who send unsolicited messages offering Medicare benefits, coronavirus tests or vaccines in exchange for your personal data, including your Medicare information. According to the US Department of Health and Human Services, that's another scam that's become common in the pandemic.

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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This Chinese Lab Is Aiming for Big AI Breakthroughs

BAAI opened a year later, in Zhongguancun, a neighborhood of Beijing designed to replicate US innovation hubs such as Boston and Silicon Valley. It is home to a few big tech companies modeled on Western successes, like the PC maker Lenovo and the search engine Sogou, as well as countless cheap electronics stores.

In recent years, the electronics stores have begun disappearing, and dozens of startups have sprung up, many focused on finding lucrative uses for AI—in manufacturing, robotics, logistics, education, finance, and other fields.

BAAI will move into a new building not far from the current offices later this year. The location is both symbolic and practical, within walking distance of China’s two most prestigious universities, Tsinghua and Peking, as well as the Zhongguancun Integrated Circuit Park, opened by the government last year to attract home-grown microchip businesses.

The pandemic has interrupted visits to China. I’ve met some academics working at BAAI before, and talked to others there over Zoom. An administrative assistant gave me a guided tour over WeChat video. Through the tiny screen, I saw engineers and support staff seated in an open-plan office between lush-looking potted plants. Plaques on the wall of the reception area identify the academy’s departments, including Intelligent Information Processing and Face Structured Analysis. A large sign lays out the principles that guide the center: Academic thinking. Basic theory. Top talents. Enterprise innovation. Development policy.

One group at BAAI is exploring the mathematical principles underpinning machine-learning algorithms, an endeavor that may help improve upon them. Another group is focused on drawing insights from neuroscience to build better AI programs. The most celebrated machine-learning approach today—deep learning—is loosely inspired by the way neurons and synapses in the human brain learn from input. A better understanding of the biological processes behind animal and human cognition could lead to a new generation of smarter machines. A third group at the academy is focused on designing and developing microchips to run AI applications more efficiently.

Many BAAI-affiliated researchers are doing cutting-edge work. One works on ways to make deep learning algorithms more efficient and compact. Another studies “neuromorphic” computer chips that could fundamentally change the way computers work by mirroring biological processes.

China boasts some top academic AI talent, but it still has fewer leading experts than the US, Canada, or some European countries. A study of AI research papers by the Paulson Institute released in June found that China and the US produce about the same number of AI researchers each year, but the vast majority of them end up working in the US.

The issue has become more urgent of late, after the Trump administration imposed sanctions that capitalize on China’s inability to manufacture the most advanced microchips. The US has most prominently targeted Huawei, which it accuses of funneling data to the government, including for espionage, cutting off its supplies of the chips needed to make high-end smartphones. In 2019, the US broadened Chinese sanctions to ban US firms from doing business with several AI firms, accusing them of supplying technology for state surveillance. President Biden may take a different approach than Trump, but he is unlikely to ignore China’s technological threat.

Tiejun Huang, a codirector of BAAI, speaks carefully, after a long pause to collect and translate his thoughts. He says the center is modeled on Western institutions that bring together different disciplines to advance AI. Despite difficult US-China relations, he says, it is crucial for the academy to build ties with such institutions. It has sent researchers to visit MILA in Canada and the Turing Institute in the UK, two of the world’s top centers of AI expertise. AI scientists from US institutions including Princeton and UC Berkeley serve on the academy’s advisory committee.

The Chinese government is not alone in investing in AI. The US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency backs research with potential military uses. Yet many in the West are wary of how the Chinese state could use technology to further its interests and values—for example, tying digital technologies to the Belt and Road Initiative, which builds economic and infrastructure links to neighboring countries. With clear ties to the Chinese government, it isn’t hard to see a broader agenda in BAAI’s work.

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The US Rejoins the Paris Climate Accord. Will It Matter?

With the stroke of a pen from his new desk in the Oval Office, President Joe Biden pulled the US back into the Paris climate accord on Wednesday, an international agreement that experts say is vital to getting the world’s nations to slow the emissions of planet-warming greenhouse gases. The executive order— the third of 17 executive orders or actions issued on his first day in office—means that US officials now will begin calculating a new target for the nation’s overall carbon emissions by the year 2030.

That target, in turn, will require federal, state, and corporate decisionmakers to set new standards for factories, cars, and power plants to use cleaner energy to meet that goal—while likely offering both incentives and penalties to reduce overall energy use by all US residents.

If that wasn’t enough climate action, Biden also signed an order canceling the controversial Keystone XL Pipeline, which would have brought crude oil from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico, an amount of petroleum whose production, refining, and burning would create the equivalent of the carbon dioxide emissions from 35.5 million cars per year. Another executive order signed Wednesday directs federal agencies to block former president Donald Trump’s previous weakening of federal rules that limited the release of emissions of methane, a powerful greenhouse gas, from oil and gas drilling operations, to revise vehicle fuel economy and emissions standards, and to update appliance and building efficiency standards.

Along with his dogs Major and Champ, Biden is bringing with him to the White House a big team of climate change experts, including new senior climate advisers in the Departments of State, Treasury, and Transportation, as well as in the National Security Council and Office of the Vice President. Former Environmental Protection Agency administrator Gina McCarthy is being tapped to head a new White House office on climate policy; former secretary of state John Kerry will be Biden’s new international climate envoy; and David Hayes, a former deputy interior secretary, was named Biden’s special assistant on climate policy, The New York Times reported.

Experts say these first-day moves will set the US on a better path to fight climate change at home and abroad. “The Paris announcement is really important because it puts the US back in the global conversation,” says Jake Schmidt, managing director for the international program at the Natural Resources Defense Council. “It means Biden can also use the influence of the US to drive other countries to act more aggressively on climate change. We’ve been making the case that we need to have a climate-first foreign policy.”

That approach might work in negotiations with countries like Mexico or Brazil, two nations whose current populist leaders have blocked investment in renewable energy (Mexico) and boosted deforestation (Brazil), Schmidt says. If either nation wants to secure trade agreements with the US, Biden might require them to make climate progress in return. Meanwhile, smaller nations are looking to Biden’s election as a return to normalcy and hopefully progress on climate change, especially in countries that are feeling the heat from rising sea levels and increasing tropical storms.

But experts also warn that there are plenty of hurdles ahead. Trump’s four years were marked with disdain for science, the weakening of environmental regulations, and outright denial of the perils of climate change. In fact, one of Trump’s own early executive actions was announcing that the US would withdraw from the Paris agreement, which the US had joined in 2016 under then-president Barack Obama. (The withdrawal process began in 2019 and became official on November 4, 2020—the day after Trump lost his reelection bid.)

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