TikTok pledges $250 million in COVID-19 aid – CNET

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

TikTok has committed $250 million to coronavirus aid as of Thursday. According to a statement by TikTok's president, Alex Zhu, the funds will go toward supporting "front line medical workers, educators, and local communities deeply affected by the global crisis."

The video platform joins other social media giants dedicating resources to educating the public and supporting communities in crisis. Google recently committed $800 million, mostly in free ads for businesses and to produce millions of face masks.

Similarly, TikTok said funds will also offer advertising credits for businesses looking to rebuild after the crisis and $25 million in helping to distribute public health information.

TikTok declined to provide further comment.

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TikTok pledges $250 million in COVID-19 aid – CNET

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

TikTok has committed $250 million to coronavirus aid as of Thursday. According to a statement by TikTok's president, Alex Zhu, the funds will go toward supporting "front line medical workers, educators, and local communities deeply affected by the global crisis."

The video platform joins other social media giants dedicating resources to educating the public and supporting communities in crisis. Google recently committed $800 million, mostly in free ads for businesses and to produce millions of face masks.

Similarly, TikTok said funds will also offer advertising credits for businesses looking to rebuild after the crisis and $25 million in helping to distribute public health information.

TikTok declined to provide further comment.

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The Simpsons special short drops on Disney Plus tomorrow – CNET

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Maggie Simpson is getting her own animated short.

Video screenshot by Bonnie Burton/CNET

Maggie Simpson might be small, but she's getting herself into a big adventure in a Simpsons animated short called Playdate with Destiny. 

The short drops Friday on Disney Plus, Simpsons creator Matt Groening said in a letter on Disney Plus' Instagram page Thursday. The platform has racked up more than 50 million subscribers in the last five months. 

According to a release, the premise has to do with Maggie being rescued by a heroic fellow baby from "playground peril." She's excited to see her "baby beau" again the next day, but -- we can only assume shenanigans ensue.

The animated short originally ran ahead of Disney and Pixar's Onward in theaters.

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The Simpsons special short drops on Disney Plus tomorrow – CNET

bobo

Maggie Simpson is getting her own animated short.

Video screenshot by Bonnie Burton/CNET

Maggie Simpson might be small, but she's getting herself into a big adventure in a Simpsons animated short called Playdate with Destiny. 

The short drops Friday on Disney Plus, Simpsons creator Matt Groening said in a letter on Disney Plus' Instagram page Thursday. The platform has racked up more than 50 million subscribers in the last five months. 

According to a release, the premise has to do with Maggie being rescued by a heroic fellow baby from "playground peril." She's excited to see her "baby beau" again the next day, but -- we can only assume shenanigans ensue.

The animated short originally ran ahead of Disney and Pixar's Onward in theaters.

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OnePlus CEO teases ultrawide camera on OnePlus 8 Pro – CNET

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The OnePlus 7T, OnePlus 7T Pro and OnePlus 7T Pro McLaren Edition.

Andrew Hoyle/CNET

OnePlus CEO Pete Lau on Wednesday teased the camera setup on the upcoming OnePlus 8 Pro, sharing nighttime shots from the phone next to similar photos taken with an unnamed rival "flagship phone."

"Ultra wide that can get ultra close," Lau tweeted. "One side here was taken with a OnePlus 8 Pro, the other with another flagship phone (I think you can probably tell which is which)."

The OnePlus 8 Pro is rumored to feature a better camera with a 3x optical zoom, 30x digital zoom, a new night portrait mode and more cinematic effects. 

As follow-ups to the OnePlus 7 and 7 Pro, the OnePlus 8 and 8 Pro are confirmed to have 5G connectivity and 120Hz displays, a step up from 2019's 90Hz screens. The OnePlus 8 Pro will also support speedy 30W wireless charging. Because of these features, the phones are likely to be pricier. 

Read More: Best 5G-ready phones: Galaxy S10, OnePlus 7 Pro and more

For more information, check back with CNET on April 14 when we'll be covering the OnePlus 8 and 8 Pro launch.

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The Star Wars actor inside C-3PO almost didn’t audition for the ‘low-budget’ film – CNET

Anthony Daniels didn't want to meet a relatively unknown American movie director looking for someone to play a robot in a "low-budget, science fiction film." He just wasn't a fan of the genre, but his agent persisted, telling the aspiring actor "you never know what it could lead to."

It's a funny anecdote when you consider that the director was George Lucas, the sci-fi flick was Star Wars: A New Hope and the part Daniels was auditioning for was a "nervous, persnickety and uptight" human-cyborg relations protocol droid named C-3PO. 

More than 40 years later, Daniels is the only actor to have appeared in all nine Star Wars movies -- from 1977's A New Hope to last year's The Rise of Skywalker, released on DVD last month. Now 74, he chronicles his journey, from classically trained actor and mime in London to one of the most beloved characters in the history of filmmaking (alongside his wing man, R2-D2) in a new memoir, I Am C-3PO: The Inside Story.

anthony-daniels-book
Penguin Random House

The story about not wanting to audition is only one of the surprises that Daniels shares. Lucas actually tested 30 other actors to give voice to C-3PO after filming was complete, including actor Richard Dreyfuss, before being convinced by a voiceover pro that Daniel's take of the droid worked best. And he re-creates (in our video interview) some of his favorite lines, calling out the scene in The Rise of Skywalker when he's about to get his memory wiped.

"I also felt that this was the last movie and I was saying goodbye and taking one last look at the fans around the world, the people who have been part of the whole thing," he says. "But I was also saying goodbye to myself, taking one last look at myself in this role."

Daniels, speaking over video chat from his dining room in London last month, also shared stories about how long it took to get into his unforgiving metal costume and about his favorite Star Wars toy. Here's an edited transcript of our Skype conversation.

Q: Let me start out by asking, are you safe and healthy?
Daniels: I am safe and, touch wood, I am healthy. I'm here in my home in England, in London. The dining room has now turned into a bit of a TV studio because it's not that safe to go out and also it's turned into a gym so that I can stay fit and healthy, just in case I need to get back into my robot suit.

That's not in any way to make light of the virus situation, it really is serious. But Star Wars has been such a beloved refuge for many people over the years that literally being in a home refuge right now, it can be the thing that might comfort us.

And it is a sad coincidence, but a good one, that [The Rise of Skywalker DVD release] is here at this time. People are feeling a bit down, and frankly, a lot of us are feeling a bit down. Let's not pretend this isn't kind of a bad moment in our lives.

anthony-daniels-headshot

Daniels with his golden friend.

Lucasfilm

In your book, you reveal you almost didn't go to the audition. Why?
It's absolutely true. At the age of 24, I was so fed up with life -- not being an actor -- that I took myself to drama school for three years. [In the book] I talk about doing mime with a blank mask on [gestures to his face]. And so I left drama school and I was very lucky. I won an award to do the BBC radio drama repertory company for six months. After that, I joined a theater company in London. And I'd been doing stuff on TV and having great fun in the theater.

Then there's an invitation. I thought it was from Hollywood, because in my imagination, all films came from Hollywood. And all people in films are kind of cigar-smoking, big guys. I assumed that this unknown American wanted to see me because I was physically quite neat and could control my body as a mime person might, something I'd learned at drama school. George Lucas was seeing a lot of actors in England because the original film, to many people's surprise, was filmed about half an hour north of where I'm sitting in a place called Elstree Studios. 

I'd spent three years of drama school, and I thought I was really quite a serious actor. [Laughs.] I was a bit snobby about it. Anyway, my agent said, "Go and see him. You never know what it could lead to."

So I did. It wasn't far away, to the 20th Century offices in London. And there was George. He wasn't this Hollywood mogul with a cigar. He was tiny. He was shy. He was really nice. Really, really nice. And he was very tired because he was seeing so many actors. He'd had people walking in doing robot acting [moves arms stiffly]. He was trying to tell them "No, no, no, no. it's not that kind of robot." And so we talked and I wasn't really that interested, but I was polite.

What convinced you?
I saw a very small rendition of a painting on the wall [of C-3PO] that changed my life. It was Ralph McQuarrie's concept of how C-3PO might look in the film. I fell in love with the painting. It's as simple as that. 

I fell in love with the face -- fell in love is an easy, but not quite the right word. I was entranced by the face. He had a forlorn quality. It was as though he was lost. He wanted to come and take my hand. There was something there that clicked.

C-3PO and R2-D2

C-3PO has an "unspoken, loving friendship" with fellow "nobody" R2-D2, Anthony Daniels says.

Lucasfilm

Then the next day they sent the script. Boy, was that a tough read. I'd never actually read a script before. The one thing I really got was that this metal man was different. He was unique. I loved what George had written. I just read it, [Switching to C-3PO's voice]: I had a very good feeling about this.

So the next day I went back, and eventually I understood that I could play the part. The next day, I was being covered in plaster at Elstree Studios. That was not a great experience.

One of the things that you wrote about is just how onerous and restrictive your costume was -- 60-plus pounds, with no air conditioning, limited field of vision and limited mobility. Who was this character in your mind and how did that manifest itself in your movements and how you brought him to life on screen?
I had six months at Elstree Studios with the team making the costume -- I would go three or four or five times a week to try on a piece of this or that. They were making it up as they went along, making molds. The plaster shop was really, really very clever.

Anthony Daniels in his C-3PO suit, with Mark Hamill

Anthony Daniels suits up for his role as C-3PO during shooting with Mark Hamill on the set of Star Wars, released in 1977.

Lucasfilm

They were working on materials -- fiberglass, plastics and aluminum for the arms, because the rest was plastic. And they were testing it. And they really needed to test things on me because it was my body that was going to be wearing it. I used to stand there often reading the script because they'd be fiddling with some part of me and I couldn't really get involved. I really developed a feeling for this character who was being blown about by events way beyond his ability to deal with. He was always put down. He was always ignored. He would give warnings and nobody would listen to him. Now, there are classical stories of this -- Tiresias, Greek and Roman stories of somebody not being believed. A soothsayer.

He was also bewildered because of all his qualifications -- translation is just one thing -- he was programmed for protocol and etiquette. There's not a lot of protocol and etiquette in a Star Wars movie, is there? Han Solo wouldn't have any idea what those words meant. Neither would Jabba the Hutt, of course. But I did see him very, very clearly. And I think George and I may have talked that [C-3PO and R2-D2] were based on the two little farmers from The Hidden Fortress by Kurosawa. George was very open about that. Because they are the common man, they are the nobodies that most of us are on this planet. The nobodies being pushed around. And now we're all being pushed around by something way bigger than us.

And so a lot of it clicked with me. And I loved the writing of the two characters, Artoo and Threepio, because the humanity, the unspoken, loving friendship -- where they would poke fun at each other, needle each other, but basically adore each other as great companions, I love that.

And what a shock on the first day's filming to find that the conversations, which I've been reading over and over again, actually went like this:

Threepio says this. 
Artoo beeps a response. 
Threepio speaks.
Artoo replies.

Nobody in six months could ever bother to say, "Oh, by the way, that's not gonna happen. You're talking to yourself. Okay?" That was a real shock. It took me a couple of days to get over it, then I got over it and got on with it. I learned all the scenes, kind of imagining, writing in sometimes, what Artoo would say. Then when I saw the finished film, [sound engineer] Ben Burtt had added his beeps and burbles so magically that you, the audience, assumed that we had been there the whole time [we filmed it].

Many people can't separate your voice from the role, but you share that you actually had to audition again for voicing your character. George Lucas even brought in other actors to try to voice you, including Richard Dreyfuss.
During filming, I had a little microphone and a wire that would go off of my head and connect down to a transmitter shoved in my pants at the back. But you couldn't possibly use that [audio]. At the end of the day, they would ask me to stand, without the suit on, and do all of the lines again so'd they have a clean track -- a guide track -- to edit with. We finished filming after 12 weeks, I kind of had enough -- it was a pretty uncomfortable experience in many, many ways. And I sort of had even forgotten about the whole thing, believe it or not.

And then I got a call to go to Hollywood for the first time and get to a studio. Before George Lucas walked in, the engineer said, "We tried 30 different people that put a voice on your character. Why? Because, you know, George really hates your performance."

And I was so shocked. I didn't even say hello to George when he walked in. I just said, "You hated my performance?"

And George said, "Well, I never thought of him as being a British butler."

Well, he could have said something [earlier]. But he never said that, because George has always had a love for doing things in postproduction. And he assumed that you could take the physical element, the gold man being in the desert, and just put another voice on it. With Darth Vader, he had somebody in a suit and you had James Earl Jones magically [speak the lines].

So he had had all these actors in Hollywood, including Richard Dreyfuss. But here's the magic thing: Threepio was and always is a single thread -- my brain, my voice, my movements, my shape. It had to be like that and I'm so grateful it did.

This [gestures toward his "beloved" Lego version of C-3PO] is one of my favorite pieces of Star Wars stuff. I don't have a copy of the suit here. I didn't do lightsaber fights. This is the one reminder that I have been in these movies. It's not just [C-3PO's] voice. It's his attitude and the way he emphasizes things, sometimes in a rather odd way.

Anthony Daniels with Lego version of C-3PO

During the interview, Daniels holds his "favorite piece of Star Wars stuff," a Lego C-3PO.

CNET

What are your favorite lines from the movie? You mentioned a scene in which R2-D2 is playing chess against Chewbacca, and you say "Let the Wookiee win." But you also call out an exchange with Han Solo in The Return of the Jedi. Can you tell us?
The thing about "Let the Wookiee win" is that the crew, all these big, tough guys, adopted it as a joshing phrase.

But for the scene with Han Solo, Han had been a bit rude to Threepio all the way through. So in the scene where Threepio is "some sort of god" -- that was a sweet line to say -- you get Harrison [Ford] saying, "Excuse me, your Highness or whatever."

But then Han is hung over a cooking fire and he asks Threepio, "What are they saying?" And Threepio says [in C-3PO's voice], "It appears, Captain Solo, that you are to be the main course at the banquet given in my honor."

But later on, Han Solo is very rudely interrupting Threepio while he's talking to his new best friend -- an Ewok -- and asking directions. Solo keeps interrupting him, and by the third time -- and please look at this because this is purely mine -- I managed to trick my shoulders in a way that allowed Threepio to give Han Solo a look of death for being so rude. And I personally love that bit.

Thinking the droid is a god, the wild Ewoks of Endor carry the golden C-3PO upon a makeshift throne while Han Solo gets a much less favorable treatment.

Ralph McQuarrie/Lucasfilm/Eric Carl

But the real favorite line, I'm afraid, is, "We're doomed." It's how Threepio sees himself, that he has no hope. We have hope, but Threepio is just so blown apart by things, physically and mentally, that he doesn't know how anything works really. He just assumes that he will be sent to the spice mines of Kessel.

You write that his character is really an exaggeration of a human, that "somehow the audience enjoys human emotions coming from a creature that is not actually flesh and blood, and the fact that he has no sense of humor, he finds human behavior hard to understand, is key to some of his anxieties." But you made him so relatable to people. After all, he is a man, as you say, in a metal suit, or not a man in a metal suit.
Yeah, he's immensely vulnerable in spite of all his pomposity and knowing everything. He's very vulnerable. He's not afraid. He's careful. But he also feels responsible for humans that he's attached to. One of my favorite aspects of him, which I feel and put into him, is his loyalty to his friends. And one of the joys of The Rise of Skywalker is that line about friends.

Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher) and C-3PO (Anthony Daniels) in The Star Wars Holiday Special.

Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher) and C-3PO in The Star Wars Holiday Special.

Lucasfilm

What are your thoughts about your co-workers? 
The first person I met at the studio was Mark Hamill. I'd never met anyone like him. He was so full of life, so full of California joy, very un-British. And maybe that's why it works so well out in the desert -- there was a very clear relationship from the moment Skywalker meets C-3PO.

I don't think many people realize that if you're playing a character -- for instance, if I was playing a king, I'd stand up straight and wear the crown -- but part of that role is played by everybody else who treats you like a king. Part of C-3PO's humanity came from Mark Hamill's innocent, beautiful blond-haired face. He just spoke to Threepio totally normally. "You're like you're a real guy. You can follow me."

He made it look all so easy. Because in these films we all got used to working with weird things, sea creatures and things that aren't even there sometimes. We were all pretending or improvising.

Mark was particularly good. And Sir Alec Guinness was there, as well. I absolutely love the man.

We came back to England and there are two more Americans: Harrison and Carrie [Fisher]. I'd never heard of them. They were such pros. They clearly knew what to do in front of a camera.

So in The Rise of Skywalker, C-3PO has a moment where we think he's not going to return after having his memories wiped. It's one of the most poignant lines in the movie: "Taking one last look at my friends." Sorry, spoiler alert. What did you think of that scene and how it played out?
It played out exactly as I planned it -- the timing.

"Taking one last look, sir, at my friends." Whoo... it gives me goosebumps every time. It was so touching. I knew that we were not talking about my death. I knew we were talking about a mindwipe that would eventually be corrected. But here's the thing that I've come to believe now: As I said it, I knew that Threepio was talking to the friends of Poe, Finn, Rey and BB-8. But I also felt that this was the last movie and I was saying goodbye and taking one last look at the fans around the world, the people who have been part of the whole thing. And that was quite moving. And then I've come to realize, I was quite upset -- not in a bad way, but I was also saying goodbye to myself, taking one last look at myself in this role.

Anthony Daniels with a copy of I Am C-3PO.

Daniels holds up his book during the intervew.

CNET

Where is C-3PO now in your mind in the world of Star Wars? What is he off doing?
That's kind of an interesting question. I've always said that Star Wars is my job and really did become my job in so many different ways, not just the films. I tend not to think in those terms unless I'm directly relating it to a piece of work because I'm not a fan of such.

What I do get is the energy and the love, just everything from fans around the world. I've been in their company either digitally, or at live events such as celebrations or concerts, where I've so felt their warmth. I don't think Star Wars every day, to be honest, but I'm thrilled that a lot of people do. And I've said recently that in these tough times, thank goodness for the digital media. Star Wars fans can now absorb it through the Blu-ray, through the documentary, they can absorb stuff and then they can argue for the rest of their lives on the internet about who shot him first, should Rey have done this or that. There's an opinion to be argued about. But here's a little addendum to that: To be argued about nicely. Don't get vicious or unkind, because right now we need human kindness. So you might have an opinion, but be nice about it.

What are you currently obsessed with? That's the name of this podcast. We want to know what you're obsessed with. If it's not Star Wars, then what?
Well, obsession -- you gotta be careful with obsessions. They can take you many places you don't really need to go. I don't have an obsession. ... I'm not obsessed. I like a bunch of stuff. I'm a regular human being. I don't collect things. Because the funny thing is. as you get older, you don't want stuff, you want space.

On the other hand, I know that Star Wars fans love having something from the movie, a lightsaber, because that extends the experience and allows you to pretend to be part of it all. But as far as obsessions, sorry, I'm gonna say no.

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How the LifeStraw is eradicating an ancient disease – CNET

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CNET producer Stephen Beacham uses the LifeStraw to drink from the Truckee River.

Stephen Beacham

If you've spent any time near a lake or other body of water, you may've seen a fellow traveler bent over the dirty H2O with a large straw, drinking away. Chances are they're using a LifeStraw, a high-tech water filtration device developed by humanitarian company Vestergaard

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The LifeStraw uses technology to filter out water contaminants such as parasites, bacteria, viruses and lead, to make dirty water drinkable. Other than being a handy tool to have on a camping trip, the straw has gained worldwide attention as a result of Vestergaard's work with former US President Jimmy Carter's foundation, the Carter Center. The center's Guinea Worm Eradication Program takes aim at a parasitic infection caused when someone drinks water that contains water fleas infected with Guinea worm larvae.

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Since 1986, the program has used health education and water filtering to battle the disease and has successfully decreased the number of infections from 3.5 million down to 53 in 2019. If the effort achieves complete success, Guinea worm disease will be the first to be eradicated from the planet without the use of a vaccine.

CNET news producer Stephen Beacham spoke with representatives from LifeStraw and the Carter Center to discuss the origins of the LifeStraw, the technology behind it and how it's helped in the battle to end Guinea worm disease. Watch the video above for all the details.

WARNING: Some viewers may find certain images in the video disturbing.

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Former US President Jimmy Carter assisting a girl who has a Guinea worm infection.

The Carter Center

Watch the LifeStraw video on CNET's YouTube channel below. 

With contribution from Alison DeNisco Rayome.

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Zoom vs. Microsoft Teams: Video chat apps for working from home, compared – CNET

microsoft-teams-login.jpg

Microsoft's illustration for its Teams login page.

Screenshot by Lynn La/CNET

In the wake of the coronavirus outbreak, many governments have instituted quarantines, lockdowns and shelter-in-place orders. This means the usage of video chats apps and services has surged as many people are now working from home and in-person visits have gone digital.

While there are many options available, whether you're looking for a way to virtual happy hour or host a brainstorming session with coworkers, two popular choices are Zoom and Microsoft Teams. Here's how the two video chat and conferencing apps compare -- especially in light of Zoom's recent security and privacy issues

Microsoft

If your workplace uses Office 365, you already have access to Microsoft Teams -- a platform for chat, video conferencing and audio calls. The workplace communication hub integrates with Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint and other Office apps for seamless presenting and file sharing. The app has a similar feel to Slack -- you can talk to team members privately or in specific channels, and you can call attention to the whole group or just an individual with the mention feature. 

You can video chat with up to 250 people at once with Teams, or present live to up to 10,000 people. Share meeting agendas prior to a conference, invite external guests to join a meeting, and access past meeting recordings and notes. Meetings can be scheduled in the Teams app or through Outlook.

Read more: How to get Microsoft Office 365 for free

As more people began to rely on video conferencing amid the pandemic, Microsoft posted a blog about its security practices, and the company regularly posts in a Transparency Hub. Microsoft said it doesn't use your Teams data to provide ads, it doesn't track participant attention, and it deletes all your data after your subscription ends -- making a pretty clear effort to differentiate itself from Zoom and its many privacy and security concerns.

Teams is included with your Office 365 subscription, but you can also download a free version. In March, Microsoft lifted limitations on the free version so businesses and schools can use it even without a traditional subscription. The company is also offering a six-month free trial of Office 365 E1, Microsoft's enterprise software suite, for businesses that aren't already licensed for Teams. Office 365 business plans that include Teams start at $5/user/month. 

Read more: Zoom, Skype, FaceTime: 11 tips for your video chat apps

Sarah Tew/CNET

The Zoom video conference app works for Android, iOS, PC and Mac. The app offers a basic free plan that hosts up to 100 participants. There are also options for small and medium business teams ($15-$20 a month per host) and large enterprises for $20 a month per host with a 50-host minimum. You can adjust meeting times, and select multiple hosts. Up to 1,000 users can participate in a single Zoom video call, and 49 videos can appear on the screen at once.

The app has HD video and audio capabilities, collaboration tools like simultaneous screen-sharing and co-annotation, and the ability to record meetings and generate transcripts. Outlook, Gmail and iCal support scheduling and starting meetings. In Gmail, for example, just click the calendar icon, then click the time of your meeting, then click the link under Join Zoom Meeting. If the host scheduled it, there might also be call-in options. 

Read more: 13 Zoom video chat tips, tricks and hidden features

If your mic and camera are off, Zoom has the option to communicate via chat (the interface looks a bit like Slack). This feature can also be helpful if it's a massive all-hands meeting and the opportunity for questions is available. 

It's free to sign up with Zoom -- you can either manually create an account with an email or sign in with Google or Facebook. 

If you use Zoom, it's important to take into consideration the security issues that have come to light since its rapid rise in popularity during the coronavirus pandemic. Privacy experts have expressed concerns over the video-conferencing software's privacy risks and hacking vulnerabilities, as well as zoombombing (where uninvited attendees break into and disrupt meetings). The New York City Department of Education recently told teachers to stop using Zoom in favor of Microsoft Teams while security threats are addressed by the company

However, if you're still using the platform, there are some steps you can take to protect your meetings, like using a per-meeting ID and enabling the "Waiting Room" feature so you can see who is attempting to join a meeting before allowing access.

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Why Amazon shipments are slow during this pandemic – CNET

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Amazon Shipping Shopping Boxes 

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

Shopping on Amazon doesn't feel the same during this pandemic. "Two-day delivery" feels more like "someday delivery." Many items seem to be permanently "unavailable" and state's attorneys general are pressuring the site to police price gouging. Meanwhile, the site pivoted away from stocking its most popular category to handle the demand for more essential items.

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All of this is happening at a company that's considered the model for customer-centric service and logistics prowess. But an unforeseen global pandemic during a normally light retail period along with rapidly changing item demand and an increasingly unhappy workforce has strained even Amazon's mastery of online retail. Ironically, its scale may not be helping: Amazon attracts the overwhelming majority of online retail sales in the US and, therefore, the overwhelming share of surge at times like these.

Amazon US market share 2019

A good bad thing? Amazon dwarfs other US online retailers in sales volume, but that also makes the big swings in its business bigger.

CNET/eMarketer

Three reporters who follow Amazon closely see the company's struggles through different lenses, and don't even agree on whether Amazon is struggling at all. 

"This is typically the time when retailers are retrenching after the holidays," says Ben Fox Rubin, senior reporter for CNET. "This spike in demand during a typically quiet part of the year has caught them completely by surprise." Even Prime Day, Amazon's invented shopping holiday, is expected to be cancelled for 2020.

In the end, this pandemic could cause many to review the role of Amazon in their daily life, though perhaps with little change as a result. "Amazon is still the most customer-centric company in the world," says Lisa Lacy, senior writer at Adweek. "They have 150 million Prime members and have amassed a loyal following by putting the customer first. For the Amazon brand itself to take a beating would require some pretty extraordinary events." 

gettyimages-1136867741

Amazon is hiring 100,000 new workers to deal with the crush of orders its receiving during the pandemic.

Paul Hennessy/NurPhoto via Getty Images  

Jose Pagliery, investigative reporter for Univision 41 in New York, isn't as sanguine about the company's prospects. "When we turn toward shopping online, the people who pack, ship and deliver those orders still have to go to work," says Pagliery, who's covered worker strikes and complaints of unsafe conditions. "Either these strikes are going to put a halt to Amazon's activity, or slow it down, or the pandemic will."

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US Senate reportedly tells members to avoid Zoom – CNET

17-zoom-app-meetings-work-from-home-coronavirus

Members of the US Senate have apparently been told to avoid using Zoom for remote work.

Sarah Tew/CNET

The US Senate told members to avoid using Zoom for remote work during the coronavirus lockdown due to security issues surrounding the videoconferencing app, the Financial Times reported Thursday. It isn't an official ban, like Google issued for its employees, but senators were apparently asked to use an alternative platform. 

Senators are currently negotiating financial aid for Americans impacted by the outbreak, as part of a broader $2 trillion economic relief package. The Taiwanese and German governments reportedly already put restrictions on officials' use of Zoom, as have some US school districts

Zoom experienced a surge in popularity as the pandemic forced millions of people to stay home -- CEO Eric Yuan revealed last week that the platform's daily meeting participants rose from 10 million in December to 200 million in March

The increased usage put the spotlight on Zoom's privacy and security, from its attention-tracking features to uninvited attendees "Zoombombing" meetings, and has spawned several lawsuits against the company. Yuan outlined a plan to address the security issues in the next 90 days and said on Wednesday that cybersecurity expert Alex Stamos, formerly Facebook's chief security officer, joined the company as an outside adviser to help perform a security review. 

Neither the Senate nor Zoom immediately responded to requests for comment.

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