IT40 Information, DIY & News for 02/17/2019

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#1 Graham vows to hold hearing on McCabe’s “stunning” 25th Amendment comments

Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said he will hold a hearing about comments made by former Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe about an apparent discussion of the possibility of using the 25th Amendment to remove President Trump from office.

In an interview with "60 Minutes" set to air Sunday evening, McCabe said Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein raised the issue shortly after the firing of FBI Director James Comey in 2017. The 25th Amendment provides a process for removing a president who is "unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office."

McCabe told "60 Minutes" that Rosenstein "raised the issue and discussed it with me in the context of thinking about how many other cabinet officials might support such an effort."

Transcript: Sen. Lindsey Graham on "Face the Nation," February 17, 2019What Andrew McCabe told "60 Minutes" about Trump and the 25th Amendment

"The whole point of Congress existing is to provide oversight of the executive branch," Graham said on "Face the Nation" Sunday. "So through good reporting by '60 Minutes,' there's an allegation by the acting FBI director at the time that the deputy attorney general was basically trying to do an administrative coup, take the president down to the 25th Amendment process. The deputy attorney general denies it. So I promise your viewers the following, that we will have a hearing about who's telling the truth, what actually happened."

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#2 TCL’s first foldable phone could slap-bracelet itself into a smartwatch

We’ve seen practically as many different folding phone concepts as there are phone manufacturers, but one particularly intriguing idea may soon be coming back from the dead — CNET reports that BlackBerry and Alcatel brand owner TCL is working on as many as five different foldable devices, one of them a phone that can bend around your wrist like a bracelet, per the image you’re seeing immediately above these words.

That’s actually not a new idea: one of the very first folding phone prototypes we saw from Lenovo was a bracelet-watch, back in 2016. Here’s a video of that one from Moor Insights & Strategy analyst Anshel Sag:

To be honest, details on TCL’s devices are pretty scarce. CNET’s only got the renders above and an image from a patent filing to show how these gadgets might work, and neither of them answer the all-important question: will it automatically snap into place if you smack it onto your wrist? 

But the report does suggest that all five of these devices are in development, and so not just an art department’s interpretation of five different directions that TCL might go if it wants to build a folding phone in the future. Because that’s definitely what it looked like to me at first.

Plus, a source tells The Verge that TCL may have more to say and show at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona next week.

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#3 5G Moto Mod gets FCC certification

The Moto Z3 will be the first 5G-upgradable phone, thanks to the 5G Moto Mod.

The Federal Communications Commission has certified the 5G Moto Mod, suggesting that the attachment offering 5G capability could be on the market soon.

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Motorola announced in August the Moto Z3, a phone with magnetic backings that attach to Moto Mods, or modules. The mods, which were granted FCC approval on Friday, would make the Verizon exclusive the first phone to be upgradable to 5G.

When the 5G modular attachment is snapped on, Motorola says that its Z3 phone will deliver data 10 times faster than other 4G LTE devices at speeds up to 5Gbps (5 gigabits per second). Right now, the Z3 contains only technology to access 4G data speeds.

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#4 Google’s AR tools make it easier for apps to apply face filters

Augmented reality experiences are still in their relative infancy, but because Android runs on so many devices, it can't always assume they'll have dedicated hardware to create extra effects. While Apple is already pushing ahead with AR and packed an entire Kinect-like camera into the front of its iPhone X family to support it, Google is enhancing its software to work even without capabilities like the LG G8's depth-sensing hardware.

The latest release of ARCore, version 1.7, can create a 468-point 3D mesh of a user's face from just the front camera alone, good enough to apply slick filtering effects like the ones seen in this GIF. The key is making sure apps can track where to put everything, and avoid weird artifacting like you sometimes see with things like Snapchat filters. Also, 9to5Google points out the the list of devices that can run ARCore is expanding, with new additions like the Moto G7 family and Vivo Nex Dual Display Edition.

Beyond just the Augmented Face API, with "ARCore Elements." Those allow developers to easily implement technology that helps software detect surfaces to place virtual objects on, and then use gestures to manipulate or resize them. So far, many AR-powered experiences in apps have launched on iPhone first -- AR+ mode for Pokémon Gotook almost a year to make the jump -- but with improving software development tools hopefully we'll see more feature available to owners of varying Android devices.

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#5 Twitter hides tweet that appears to be from Iran’s supreme leader

Twitter's headquarters in San Francisco.

Twitter said Friday that it hid a tweet that appears to be from the account of Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei for violating its rules against making violent threats or wishing for the death of a person.

The flagged tweet, which still pops up in Google search results, references a decision in 1989 from the Supreme Leader of Iran at the time that called for the killing of British-Indian author Salman Rushdie following the release of his controversial novel "The Satanic Verses." The novel sparked protests from Muslims who accused Rushdie of blasphemy. 

"Imam Khomeini's verdict regarding Salman Rushdie is based on divine verses and just like divine verses, it is solid and irrevocable," the tweet stated. Some Twitter users complained the tweet incited murder.

When Twitter determines that a user violates its rules, the company doesn't allow the user to tweet again unless he or she removes the offending tweet. The user can also appeal Twitter's decision. In the meantime, Twitter replaces the tweet with a notice that mentions that it's unavailable to users of its site. 

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#6 Cable could lose over 39 million subscribers this year to streaming services

The bad news keeps getting worse for Big Cable, and there’s no end in sight. The latest? UBS this week released the results of its media consumption survey that offers a look at how media like TV is faring these days, and one of its takeaways that ought to scare legacy cable providers is that 20 percent of respondents said they’re thinking about ditching their cable package and cutting the cord in the next 12 months.

From that, we can make a few arguably reasonable assumptions. According to Variety, about 196.3 million Americans were paying for cable at the end of 2017. If you use the 20 percent total from the UBS survey, that gives you a figure of 39 million potential cord-cutters. Which is certainly possible, given that an estimated 33 million Americans were forecast to cut the cord last year.

From there, you can begin to see why this is such a seminal moment for TV and especially the cable industry. If we indeed see 39 million US cord-cutters in 2019, that could push the total number of cable-ditchers well past 70 million — a base of former cable consumers who presumably are gone and never coming back.

Simple tips to be safer in the digital world [Microsoft GES]

After yet more revelations that your personal data may not be treated with strict confidentiality in the online world, we look at a few simple ways you can inform yourself – and stay safer – on the digital platform. 

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#7 How to Watch the Super Snow Moon, the Biggest Supermoon of 2019

Video by AccuWeather

Good news for sky watchers and selenophiles, the next full moon is set to be the biggest and brightest of the year, according to NASA. the “super snow moon” as it is being called, will cross the skies next Tuesday on Feb. 19.

While the upcoming “super snow moon” won’t be the extravagant astronomical spectacle that January’s “super blood wolf moon eclipse” was, it will be larger and brighter, and definitely command attention in the sky. If that isn’t enough, the subsequent full moon in March will also be a “supermoon,” rounding off 2019 with a total of three “supermoons.” In a given year, between two and four full moons can be classified as “supermoons.”

Here’s what to know about the upcoming “super snow moon” — and what the best time is to see it.

A “supermoon” is when a moon is simultaneously full and at its perigee, the point in its orbit when it is closest to Earth. When this happens, the moon appears larger and brighter in the sky. The moon’s orbit is not a perfect circle, due to gravitational forces from both the sun and the Earth, and thus varies in distance from the Earth throughout the year. The point in its orbit when the moon is farthest from Earth is known as the apogee, and appears to be smaller in the sky.

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#8 Enormous Earthquake Reveals Huge Hidden ‘Mountains’

© Kyle McKernan, Princeton Office of Communications
In 1994, a huge 8.2 magnitude earthquake struck a sparsely populated region in Bolivia at a depth of around 400 miles below sea level. Now, an international team of scientists has analyzed data from this event—and they’ve uncovered previously unidentified “mountains” deep within the Earth's interior.

At school most of us are taught that the Earth is divided into different layers: an inner and outer core, the mantle and the crust. However, this simplifies the picture slightly because, according to scientists, there is another layer called the "transition zone" which splits the mantle in two.

For a study published in the journal Science, the team from Princeton University wanted to determine the roughness of the transition zone at the top and bottom—which lie at depths of 410 kilometers (255 miles) and 660 kilometers (410 miles) respectively. (The bottom of the transtition zone is often referred to as the “660-km boundary.”)

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To do this, the team had to look deep into the Earth’s interior. But since we aren’t able to physically see below the surface, the scientists analyzed the behavior of shockwaves created by earthquakes as they scatter inside our planet to create a picture of what’s going on beneath the surface.

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#9 The 7 best weapons for winning in ‘Apex Legends,’ according to the game’s best players

In "Apex Legends," it's you and two squadmates against 57 other

Everyone wants to be in the last squad standing, but not everyone
will make it. The very first choices you make are likely to
determine how the rest of the match plays out.

With such a wide spread of different guns, many with nondescript
names like "P2020" and "RE-45," it's hard to know where to begin.
Having played a few dozen hours of "Apex Legends" - and having
watched another few dozen hours of expert players like Shroud and
Jackfrags - we put together a concise list of weapons to
prioritize when you first land in Kings Canyon:

To be clear, the ranking below isn't definitive - it's based on
playing "Apex Legends" and watching others play it. There are

definitive lists breaking down the damage each weapon does,
and that is certainly one way of ranking which weapon is "best."

But the long and short is this: Deciding which weapons are best
for you in "Apex Legends" comes down to personal taste and play
style. You may never use sniper rifles, or shotguns, and
that's fine. The ranking below is a kind of average of what we've
seen from high-level players and our own time playing the game.

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#10 Merging neutron stars to reveal secrets about the structure of matter

© Press Release
A supercomputer simulation shows the merge. Pic: C Breu, L Rezzolla
Measuring the grativational waves produced by the merging of two neutron stars will reveal secrets about the fundamental structure of matter in the universe, according to scientists.

Neutron stars are the among the most dense objects in the universe, composed of the core of a collapsed star that did not form a black hole.

Scientists believe that when they crash into each other they may prompt a phase transition in which neutrons dissolve into the sub-atomic particles of quarks and gluons.

New research published in Physical Review Letters has reported the calculations of two international groups of scientists of what such a phase transition would look like in a gravitational wave.

Quarks are the smallest particles which form matter. They never appear alone and are bound inside larger particles such as protons and neutrons.

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#11 3D-printed rockets are winning over SpaceX veterans

Relativity, a space startup that wants to use its gigantic 3D printer to build rockets on Earth and, eventually, on Mars, is seeking its first patent—and the approval of industry insiders.

Founders Tim Ellis and Jordan Noone were engineers at Blue Origin and SpaceX before funding their own startup with a cold email to Mark Cuban. Working for Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos, they had become convinced the key to making rockets was to dramatically expand the use of additive manufacturing beyond individual components to make the entire space vehicle cheaper, simpler, and more reliable.

Now, their company has hired three former senior SpaceX executives, though Ellis stresses the hires came well before a recent round of layoffsat their Los Angeles neighbor.

Tim Buzza, one of the earliest SpaceX employees, has come on as a full-time “distinguished engineer” after advising the company on a part-time basis for nine months. David Giger, who led development of the Dragon space capsule for eight years, will lead development of Relativity’s first rocket, Terran 1. Joshua Brost, who helped win $3 billion of business with NASA and the US military for SpaceX, will become Relativity’s head of government relations in Washington DC.

CEO Ellis calls the hiring a “one-two punch of securing the business and executing with the most experienced team in the entire industry.”

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#12 Apex Legends has hit 25 million players after one week

Apex Legends, the free-to-play battle royale game from the creators of Titanfall, has just passed 25 million registered players after just one week since its release, developer Respawn Entertainment announced this afternoon. The milestone shows just how explosively popular the game has become in such a short time; just three days after release, Apex Legends passed 10 million players. Additionally, the game recorded “well over” 2 million concurrent players this past weekend, Respawn CEO Vince Zampella noted on Twitter.

Now, of course, the game is free and available on consoles and PC, which makes these milestones not easily comparable to standard video game sales. But, compared with its biggest competitor Fortnite, Apex Legends would appear to be growing much faster, at least in this early stretch. Epic Games, the developers behind Fortnite, gave out the very first metrics for its battle royale hit in January 2018, when Fortnite had 45 million registered players across console and PC after roughly four months on the market.

This past week has been beyond our wildest imagination. Thank you to all 25 million Legends out there. You too @shroud@drdisrespect@CouRageJD@FemSteph@Ninja and many more amazing creators out there! ❤️

Since then, Fortnite has ballooned in size, counting more than 200 million players as of November of last year thanks to its iOS and Android versions and its cross-platform and cross-progression features. Those are both elements that Apex Legends does not have plans to add any time soon, Respawn told me at a press event prior to the game’s launch. So we could see Apex Legends’ player count top off at some point because it won’t ever add smartphones to the mix.

Still, for a shooter with so much riding on its success given how much of a break in tradition it was for Respawn parent company EA, it’s surprising to see just how successful the game has been in just seven days. Respawn has a lot planned for Apex Legends in the coming weeks, including its first-ever e-sports tournament kicking off tomorrow, a Valentine’s Day-themed loot drop later this week, and the start of its first season and launch of its battle pass subscription in March.

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#13 Police sources: New evidence suggests Jussie Smollett orchestrated attack

Two law enforcement sources with knowledge of the investigation tell CNN that Chicago Police believe actor Jussie Smollett paid two men to orchestrate an assault on him that he reported late last month.

Smollett denies playing a role in his attack, according to a statement from his attorneys.

The men, who are brothers, were arrested Wednesday but released without charges Friday after Chicago police cited the discovery of "new evidence."

The sources told CNN the two men are now cooperating fully with law enforcement.

Smollett told authorities he was attacked early January 29 by two men who were "yelling out racial and homophobic slurs." He said one attacker put a rope around his neck and poured an unknown chemical substance on him.

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#14 ‘SNL’: Alec Baldwin returns to mock Trump’s national emergency press conference

As shared on Twitter, Alec Baldwin appeared on this weekend's "Saturday Night Live."

The actor reprised his impression of President Donald Trump for the NBC sketch show's cold open, a play on Friday's press conference from the White House Rose Garden, which drew criticism.

Trump, who has long described the situation on the Southwest border as a "crisis" and an "invasion," appeared to suggest his administration had all the time it needed to build the hundreds of miles of border barrier he has demanded for months.  

"I could do the wall over a longer period of time. I didn't need to do this," Trump said, shortly before he signed a proclamation declaring the emergency. "But I'd rather do it much faster."

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IT40 People in the Media for 02/17/2019