Information, DIY & News for Week 8 of 2019

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#2 Bernie Sanders, Once the Progressive Outlier, Joins a Crowded Presidential FieldBernie Sanders, Once the Progressive Outlier, Joins a Crowded Presidential FieldThe truth is worth it.

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#3 Top Trump appointees promoted selling nuclear power plants to Saudi Arabia over objections from national security officials, House Democratic report says

Key members of the Trump administration pushed a plan to sell nuclear power plants to Saudi Arabia in the months after the inauguration despite objections from members of the National Security Council and other senior White House officials, according to a new report from congressional Democrats.

The 24-page report from the House Oversight and Reform Committee is based on internal White House documents and the accounts of unnamed whistleblowers. It said the objectors — including White House lawyers and National Security Council officials — opposed the plan out of concern that it violated laws designed to prevent the transfer of nuclear technology that could be used to support a weapons program.

Of greater concern to some were potential conflicts of interest on the part of Michael Flynn, the retired Army lieutenant general who was President Trump’s first national security adviser and who consulted with a firm pitching the nuclear plan. Yet the effort persisted even after Flynn resigned and left the White House, the report alleges. 

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The possible sale of nuclear power plants to Saudi Arabia was discussed in the Oval Office just last week. The meeting included Energy Secretary Rick Perry, representatives from the NSC and State Department, and a dozen nuclear industry chief executives, one of the people present told The Washington Post.

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#4 Facebook faces questions from lawmakers about privacy of health groups

Facebook CEO and co-founder Mark Zuckerberg

Facebook is under fire for allegedly failing to protect the health data provided by users in "closed" groups, and lawmakers want answers. 

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On Tuesday, the House Committee on Energy and Commerce sent a letter to Facebook CEO and co-founder Mark Zuckerberg requesting a staff briefing by March about the latest privacy concerns tied to the social network.

A 43-page complaint filed to the Federal Trade Commission, which was made public on Monday, alleges that Facebook lures users into sharing their personal health information in closed groups, meaning members have to be approved before they can view or post content. But the social network allegedly misleads users about how private or anonymous the health data they share is, and third parties have exploited loopholes to access members' posts and comments.

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#5 How to File a Claim and Get Your Snapstreak Back

Snapchat users work hard to earn and keep their Snapstreaks going with their friends in the app so when they lose one it can be upsetting. Sometimes users can lose a streak even when they’ve followed all the rules for keeping one, but if that happens there’s a way they can try and get it back.

A Snapstreak is indicated by a little flame emoji next to a friend’s name in the app. A single flame indicates that the two users have exchanged snaps in the app in every 24 hour period in the last three days in a row. Once users hit more than three days, a number appears next to the flame emoji indicating the number of days the users have exchanged Snapchats in a row.

The flame is replaced with an hourglass when the streak is about to be lost and the users have to exchange snaps if they want to keep it.

There are a few things users need to remember about streaks and keeping them before they think about filing for a lost streak. First, only snaps exchanged directly from one user to another count for a streak. Anything sent in a group does not count towards the established streak.

Additionally, users have to exchange actual Snapchats. If they simply chat one another in the app, it won’t count toward their streak. Only actual photo or video snaps count for the streak. There are other snaps that don’t count either, those sent with Spectacles or sent from Memories in the app don’t help keep a streak going.

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#6 Qualcomm already has a new 5G chip that promises sleeker, long-lasting phones

Qualcomm's Snapdragon X55 modem can run on everything from 2G to 5G networks.

The first 5G phones haven't even hit the market yet, but Qualcomm's got a new processor ready for future devices.

The company on Tuesday unveiled its new Snapdragon X55 5G modem that's capable of running on 2G, 3G and 4G networks, along with the new, ultrafast 5G networks. The 7-nanometer, multimode processor is the second 5G chip Qualcomm has made but the first that's capable on running on multiple networks. It also will let handset developers create unlocked 5G phones, much like what's available with 4G LTE devices.

"This converges 30 years of cellular and wireless innovation and R&D from Qualcomm all into this one chip," Nitin Dhiman, Qualcomm staff manager of product marketing, said in an interview. The company made the announcement ahead of the Mobile World Congress confab in Barcelona. 

The X55's predecessor, the X50, was unveiled two years ago but is only now making its way into mobile devices. The chip only connects to 5G networks, which means handset makers also have to include a second modem for 4G, 3G and 2G in their devices. The X55 changes that, letting companies buy one chip for the various networks. 

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#7 Instagram’s fundraiser stickers could lure credit card numbers

© Provided by Oath Inc.
Mark Zuckerberg recently revealed that commerce is a huge part of the 2019 roadmap for Facebook's family of apps. But before people can easily buy things from Instagram etc, Facebook needs their credit card info on file. That's a potentially lucrative side effect of Instagram's plan to launch a Fundraiser sticker in 2019. Facebook's own Donate buttons have raised $1 billion, and bringing them to Instagram's 1 billion users could do a lot of good while furthering Facebook's commerce strategy.

New code and imagery dug out of Instagram's Android app reveals how the Fundraiser stickers will allow you to search for non-profits and add a Donate button for them to your Instagram Story. After you've donated to something once, Instagram could offer instant checkout on stuff you want to buy using the same payment details.

Back in 2013 when Facebook launched its Donate button, I suggested that it could add a "remove credit card after checkout" option to its fundraisers if it wanted to make it clear that the feature was purely altruistic. Facebook never did that. You still need to go into your payment settings or click through the See Receipt option after donating and then edit your account settings to remove your credit card. We'll see if Instagram is any different. We've also asked whether Instagrammers will be able to raise money for personal causes, which would make it more of a competitor to GoFundMe -- which has sadly become the social safety net for many facing healthcare crises.

Facebook mentioned at its Communities Summit earlier this month that it'd be building Instagram Fundraiser stickers, but the announcement was largely overshadowed by the company's reveal of new Groups features. This week, TechCrunch tipster Ishan Agarwal found code in the Instagram Android app detailing how users will be able search for non-profits or browse collections of Suggested charities and ones they follow. They can then overlay a Donate button sticker on their Instagram Story that their followers can click through to contribute.

We then asked reverse engineering specialist Jane Manchun Wong to take a look, and she was able to generate the screenshots seen above that show a green heart icon for the Fundraiser sticker plus the non-profit search engine. A Facebook's spokespeople tell me that "We are in early stages and working hard to bring this experience to our community . . . Instagram is all about bringing you closer to the people and things you love, and a big part of that is showing support for and bringing awareness to meaningful communities and causes. Later this year, people will be able to raise money and help support nonprofits that are important to them through a donation sticker in Instagram Stories. We're excited to bring this experience to our community and will share more updates in the coming months."

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#8 Google explains how it is fighting fake news

Like all online platforms, Google is not immune to the scourge of fake news that has dominated headlines over the last few years. The company has taken various steps in fighting the problem -- from partnering with fact-checking networks to launching the $300 million Google News Initiative. Now it's expanded its transparency efforts further by detailing at length the steps it takes to fight disinformation across its services.

At the Munich Security Conference last weekend, Google presented a white paper explaining how it tackles "deliberate efforts to deceive and mislead using the speed, scale and technologies of the open web" across the likes of Search, News and YouTube. Its work falls broadly into three categories: quality, malicious actors and context.

For example, under quality, Google organizes content using ranking algorithms that do not reflect the ideological viewpoints of the people creating or auditing that content -- this is measured by human search quality raters. The white paper also details the company's 20 years' experience in fighting spam, and how this can be used against content makers that try to deceive ranking systems to get more visibility. And the company points to its Knowledge and Information Panels in Search and YouTube to help give users more context and background on the information they're seeing, and why they're seeing it.

The paper touches briefly on the company's plans for the future, noting that improved media literacy will play a major role in fighting fake news, while threats are likely to include nefarious activity around democratic elections, and "deepfakes", or "synthetic media" generated by AI that could bypass layers of protection.

The paper lays out information that can readily be found elsewhere, but by bringing it all together into one coherent document, Google is plainly making a statement about its role in fake news and its position in tackling it. It's a level of accountability that we've yet to see across the board, but one that may prompt other platforms to take much-needed action of their own.

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#9 OnePlus makes Google Duo its favored video-calling app

Citing the popularity and performance of Google Duo in India, OnePlus has announced it’ll be adding a deeper integration of Google’s video-calling app in its next Oxygen OS update. The entire portfolio of supported devices from OnePlus, spanning the OnePlus 6 and 6T, OnePlus 5 and 5T, and eventually, the OnePlus 3 and 3T, when those phones get Android Pie, will benefit from being able to treat Duo as essentially the default video calling service. OnePlus is integrating Duo calls into the dial pad, call logs, contacts, and messaging of its software, making Duo much more accessible and ubiquitous than merely shipping phones with the app preloaded, as a majority of Android vendors already do.

Duo has shown itself to have the highest call quality in research OnePlus carried out with its Indian users, which agrees with Google’s marketing on the matter as well. The app has certainly found a receptive audience in the world’s second most populous country, in spite of having to do battle with the global juggernaut that is WhatsApp. Now two and a half years old, Google Duo launched alongside Google Allo, yet another of Google’s very many failed chat apps. But Duo has survived and even prospered, with Google investing in cash incentives for users in India, Indonesia, and the Philippines, and also creating tailored Duo ads for the Indian market.

The present OnePlus endorsement and integration marks a combination of two popular brands, and it underscores OnePlus’ established pragmatic approach of not trying to invent its own version of a service that already exists and is being actively used by its customers.

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#12 Computers

A new Canadian study has linked increased screen time with delayed development in children, adding new fuel to the debate over how long is too long for kids to spend in front of their electronic devices

A computer virus hit newspaper printing plants in Los Angeles and at Tribune Publishing newspapers across the country.

I’m getting strange email. How can you find out who really sent you email? There has to traces somewhere!

Twitter users curious about CEO Jack Dorsey’s tech habits got some answers this week.

The father of five was summoned to a meeting with leaders of his ultra-orthodox Hasidic Jewish sect in Kiryas Joel, N.Y., a village of some 22,000 about 50 miles north of New York City.

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#13 Best streaming service, cut cell phone costs and more: Tech Q&A

FILE- This March 19, 2018, file photo shows the Netflix app on an iPad in Baltimore. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky, File)

Track Emailers

Q: I’m getting strange email. How can you find out who really sent you email? There has to traces somewhere!

A: Remember when we would laugh at “Nigerian Princes” who wanted to give us millions of dollars and shrug off “Rolexx Waches” [sic]. Cyber-criminals have come a long way since then, and hackers have improved their English skills. It helps to know where the emails are coming from to help confirm their authenticity. Tap or click here to get the steps to learn an email’s sender.

Budget Phone Service

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#15 YouTube introduces one-time warning, new strike penalties

KRAKOW, POLAND - 2019/01/24: Youtube logo is seen on an android mobile phone. (Photo by Omar Marques/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

YouTube today announced new penalties for creators who violate its Community Guidelines.

The first time you post something that violates those rules, you'll essentially get a one-time pass: YouTube will remove the offending content and send you a warning, but you'll face no other penalty. That way, you can brush up on the platform's policies, so you hopefully don't violate them again in the future.

From there, you'll get three strikes, which expire after 90 days. On your first strike, YouTube will freeze your ability to upload any new content to the platform for one week. On your second strike within that 90-day period, you won't be able to upload any new content for two weeks. If you get a third strike within any 90-day period, YouTube will terminate your channel.

"Previously, not all strikes had the same penalty on your channel," the YouTube team explained in a Tuesday blog post. "For example, first strikes on videos would trigger a 90-day freeze on live streaming, and second strikes would result in a two-week freeze on new video uploads. We heard from many of you that this was confusing and the penalty didn't match the source of the strike. Now, based on your feedback, all Community Guidelines strikes will have the same penalty."

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#16 Do AirPods make you look rich? These millennials think so

Fueled by internet memes, the explosion of expensive-yet-attainable AirPod headphones as the luxury item of the moment for millennials shows no signs of stopping. (iStock)

Will Kellogg regards his headphones with a degree of shame. In New York City, where people proudly brandish their bright-white wireless AirPods, he listens to music through a “do they even make those anymore?” wirebound set. As the 26-year-old administrator for a Brooklyn theater company confessed: “I still use corded headphones.” In late December, he vented his perceived aural inferiority in a Twitter missive, framing a recent quote by Catherine Zeta-Jones — “I will not apologize for being rich, beautiful and famous” — as something AirPod owners might say to a poor soul like him.

Mr. Kellogg’s riff is just one entry in a large, still growing library of tweets based on the meme that, when it comes to sound, AirPods are the superior tech/fashion status symbol. Most of these viral tweets satirize the idea that AirPod owners flaunt their affluence. “Just bought some AirPods and then I got a call from Bill Gates asking to hang out this weekend, it feels nice being in the top 1%,” reads a 2018 tweet from Miami college student Miguel Amaro that’s amassed over 15,000 likes. Though Apple’s $159 headphones were released in December 2016, this recent wave of internet jokes seemingly has propelled them to a new level of desirability. Amaro, 19, who subscribes to that cause-effect theory, said he’s observed more and more people with AirPods “since it became a meme.”


Apple does not release sales figures for AirPods, but Google Trends, the search engine’s in-house index, charted that interest in AirPods in terms of Google searches was more than nine times higher this past Christmas than it was at the same time in 2016, right after their release.

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#17 DNA reveals early mating between Asian herders and European farmers

FIRST STEPPES  Yamnaya herders from western Asia, four of whom are buried in this grave, started mating with European farmers hundreds of years before launching a major migration into Europe, new DNA evidence indicates.

A. Kalmykov

Hundreds of years before changing the genetic face of Bronze Age Europeans, herders based in western Asia’s steppe grasslands were already mingling and occasionally mating with nearby farmers in southeastern Europe.

That surprising finding, published online February 4 in Nature Communications, raises novel questions about a pivotal time when widespread foraging and farming populations interacted in Eurasia’s Caucasus region. Those exchanges presumably sparked the geographic spread of metalworking, the wheel and wagon, and Indo-European languages still spoken in much of the world.

Archaeologists have often assumed that, as early as around 5,600 years ago, Caucasus farmers known as the Maykop migrated north in big numbers, bringing metalworking and early Indo-European tongues to herders who roamed grasslands on the edge of the region. In that scenario, this cultural exchange led steppe herders to develop a horse-and-wagon lifestyle that the nomads later transported to Europe and Asia, along with Indo-European languages, starting about 5,000 years ago (SN: 11/25/17, p. 16). Researchers call those mobile herders Yamnaya people.

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#19 Artificial intelligence is learning not to be so literal

CATCH MY DRIFT  Artificial intelligence that can pick up on subtext and figures of speech could better understand users than strictly literal-minded AI.


HONOLULU — Artificial intelligence is starting to learn how to read between the lines.

AI systems are generally good at responding to direct statements, like “Siri, tell me the weather” or “Alexa, play ‘Despacito’.” But machines can’t yet make small talk the way humans do, says Yejin Choi, a natural language processing researcher at the University of Washington in Seattle. When it comes to conversational nuances like tone and idioms, AI still struggles to understand humans’ intent.

To help machines participate in more humanlike conversation, researchers are teaching AI to understand the meanings of words beyond their strict dictionary definitions. At the recent AAAI Conference on Artificial Intelligence, one group unveiled a system that gauges what a person really means when speaking, and another presented an AI that distinguishes between literal and figurative phrases in writing.

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#20 A new computer program generates eerily realistic fake videos

PHONY FOOTAGE  A new computer program can manipulate a video so that its subject mirrors the movements of someone else in another video. In this case, images of Russian President Vladimir Putin are altered to match those of former President Barack Obama.

H. Kim et al/ACM Transactions on Graphics 2018

“The camera never lies” is a thing of the past.

A new computer program can manipulate a video such that the person on-screen mirrors the movements and expressions of someone in a different video. Unlike other film-fudging software, this program can tamper with far more than facial expressions. The algorithm, to be presented August 16 at the 2018 SIGGRAPH meeting in Vancouver, also tweaks head and torso poses, eye movements and background details to create more lifelike fakes.

These video forgeries are “astonishingly realistic,” says Adam Finkelstein, a computer scientist at Princeton University not involved in the work. This system could help produce dubbed films where the actors’ lip movements match the voiceover, or even movies that star dead actors reanimated through old footage, he says. But giving internet users the power to create ultrarealistic phony videos of public figures could also take fake news to the next level (SN: 8/4/18, p. 22).

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#21 President Trump: ISIS wife Hoda Muthana won’t be allowed to return to United States

WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump said Wednesday that an American woman who was the bride of an Islamic State fighter and now wants to come home will not be allowed back in the United States.

“I have instructed Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and he fully agrees, not to allow Hoda Muthana back into the Country!” Trump wrote on Twitter.

Muthana traveled to Syria and married and had a child with an ISIS fighter and now wants to face the U.S. justice system.

But Pompeo said earlier Wednesday that Muthana is not an American citizen and "does not have any legal basis, no valid U.S. passport, no right to a passport," contradicting statements by her family and her Florida-based lawyer, who said she was born in Hackensack, New Jersey, in 1994. 

Muthana, who was raised in Alabama, left the United States to join ISIS four years ago at age 19. In Syria, she called for Americans to be attacked, and she spread the group's propaganda online. 

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#22 Jussie Smollett arrested for allegedly making up hate-crime attack

"Empire" actor Jussie Smollett has been arrested for allegedly filing a false police report claiming he was the victim of a hate-crime attack in Chicago, a police spokesman said early Thursday.

Smollett was charged Wednesday with felony disorderly conduct for the allegedly false report he made with Chicago police on Jan. 29, according to the Cook County State's Attorney's Office. In it he claimed he was assaulted by two masked men who hurled racist and homophobic slurs.

The actor, 36, who is black and gay, also said his attackers poured what he believed was bleach over him and put a noose around his neck.

Chicago Police Department spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said Smollett was in the custody of detectives, who had earlier contacted Smollett's legal team "to negotiate a reasonable surrender for his arrest." He could face probation or up to three years in prison if convicted, a Cook County State’s Attorney office spokeswoman told NBC Chicago.

© Chicago Police Dept.
Image: Jussie Smollett

The actor is due in court for a bond hearing at 1:30 p.m. CT Thursday.

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#23 Pope Francis Opens Summit on Sexual Abuse: ‘Hear the Cry of the Little Ones’

VATICAN CITY — With his moral authority in question and his papal legacy in the balance, Pope Francis opened a historic summit meeting at the Vatican on Thursday devoted to clerical child sexual abuse, an issue that has for decades devastated some corners of his vast church while being utterly ignored and denied in others.

“We hear the cry of the little ones asking for justice,” Francis told the 190 leaders of the Roman Catholic Church who had assembled from around the world in the Vatican’s Synod Hall at the start of a four-day conference intended to instruct them on the depth and universality of the problem and how to deal with it.

“The holy people of God look to us and expect from us not simple and obvious condemnations, but concrete and effective measures,” Francis said.

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Survivors of clerical abuse, their advocates and faithful disheartened and disgusted by the failure to address the abuses are demanding that the church enshrine in Canon Law a policy of zero tolerance for abusive priests and the bishops who cover for them.

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#24 ‘I am dreaming of a way to kill almost every last person on earth’: A self-proclaimed white nationalist planned a mass terrorist attack, the government says

A U.S. Coast Guard lieutenant and self-identified white nationalist was arrested after federal investigators uncovered a cache of weapons and ammunition in his Maryland home that authorities say he stockpiled to launch a widespread domestic terrorist attack targeting politicians and journalists.

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Christopher Paul Hasson called for “focused violence” to “establish a white homeland” and said, “I am dreaming of a way to kill almost every last person on the earth,” according to court records filed in U.S. District Court in Maryland. Though court documents do not detail a specific planned date for an attack, the government said he had been amassing supplies and weapons since at least 2017, developed a spreadsheet of targets that included House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and searched the Internet using phrases such as “best place in dc to see congress people” and “are supreme court justices protected.”

“The defendant intends to murder innocent civilians on a scale rarely seen in this country,” the government said in court documents filed this week, arguing that Hasson should stay in jail awaiting trial.

Hasson, 49, of Silver Spring, is expected to appear before a judge for a detention hearing in federal court in Greenbelt at 1 p.m. Thursday.

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#25 Chinese Girl Finds a Way Out of Tedious Homework: Make a Robot Do It

HONG KONG — Some would say she cheated. Others would say she found an efficient way to finish her tedious assignment and ought to be applauded for her initiative.

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The debate lit up Chinese social media this week after the Qianjiang Evening News reported that a teenage girl had found a loophole for her homework: She bought a robot that mimicked her handwriting. Instead of having to manually copy phrases or selections from a textbook dozens of times, a repetitive task common in learning Chinese, she could just teach the robot to do it for her.

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On Weibo, a popular social media platform, commenters who had suffered through endless hours of similar homework themselves were split, though most appeared to be sympathetic or even impressed.

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#26 Trump urges U.S. telecommunications companies to step up 5G systems

© JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images
The Trump administration has been looking for ways to speed the deployment of faster wireless communications systems.

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump on Thursday called on U.S. telecommunications companies to boost their work to build faster 5G wireless communications networks, saying they were lagging and at risk of being left behind other countries' efforts.

"American companies must step up their efforts, or get left behind," Trump said in a pair of tweets.

"I want the United States to win through competition, not by blocking out currently more advanced technologies," he added, although he did not explain what blockage he was referring to. Representatives for the White House could not be immediately reached for comment.

The Trump administration has been seeking ways to speed the deployment of faster wireless communications systems that could help a number of industries.

Last year, the Federal Communications Commission chairman moved to eliminate regulatory barriers to 5G deployment by capping local fees and requiring faster application reviews.

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#27 ‘Pokémon Go’ update gives Android gamers an AR photo mode

Earlier this month, Niantic promised a feature called "Go Snapshot" that would turn Pokémon Go into an AR photo machine. Now, the feature is live -- for Android devices, at least. You'll also have to be a Level 5 or above trainer to be able to be able to access Go Snapshot, so you may want to walk around and go capture monsters if you want to take a photoshoot with your favorite Pokémon.

While you can already take pictures of the monsters you see in the wild, this new feature gives you a way to take photos of Pokémon you've already captured with the real world as their backdrop. You only have to toss a Pokéball towards your chosen background -- you'll even be able to make your Pokémon pose to interact better with real-life objects. Or, you know, to find its cutest angle. Unfortunately, Niantic hasn't revealed a release date for iOS yet and has only advised "trainers on other devices" to "stay tuned."

Trainers, #GOsnapshot is now live for level 5 Trainers on Android devices! Level 5 will be the minimum level for Trainers to access this feature. Trainers on other devices, stay tuned!

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#28 How to stop Facebook from tracking your location

Welcome to TNW Basics, a collection of tips, guides, and advice on how to easily get the most out of your gadgets, apps, and connected services.

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Facebook is notorious for capturing user data to create profiles that advertisers can target – and that includes the location data from your phone. If that makes you uncomfortable, you can stop the Facebookmobile app from tracking your location completely, or allow it to do so only when you’re using the app.

The company has rolled out new location control for Android app users, and it’s sending an alert to users – both on iOS and Android – to check their location settings for the app.

Here’s how you can change your location permission:

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#29 Spotify finally lands on Garmin’s VivoActive 3 Music

Some potential buyers might have backed out of buying Garmin's music-focused Vivoactive 3 fitness watch, because it didn't support Spotify when it launched in mid-2018. ow, the wearables maker is finally patching that compatibility hole. The Vivoactive 3 Music watch now supports Spotify like the company's other fitness watches already do.

Garmin didn't say why it took time to roll out Spotify for the device, seeing as the service landed on the Fenix 5 Plus series and the Forerunner 645 Music models in October 2018. But we'll bet those waiting for this to happen will be happy to see that they can finally enjoy their Spotify tunes through the device.

They don't even have to bring their phones to workout sessions anymore. So long as they have a Premium account, they'll be able to download their tunes to the watch -- it has the capacity to store up to 500 songs in all -- and listen to them offline. All they have to do is to create playlists, sync them with the watch via WiFi and then access them through the device's Spotify app. That application is now available for download from Garmin's Connect IQ store.

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#30 Samsung unveiled a 5G phone but it has a long way to go

Samsung announced on Wednesday its first ever 5G smartphone: the Galaxy S10 5G.

It's the first device able to run on uber-fast 5G wireless networks. The phone will be available in 2019's second quarter for Verizon customers for an unknown price, and will come to other wireless carriers later this summer.

While the phone is a major step in the rollout of 5G, the network itself is still not widespread enough to revolutionize mobile connections.

"A 5G phone is strategically important for Samsung, particularly in markets where 5G is being rolled out first such as the US, South Korea and China," Ben Wood, director of research at market data firm CCS Insights told CNN Business.

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#31 Is your phone always low on battery and chewing through data? The ‘DrainerBot’ fraud could be to blame.

A sneaky piece of advertising software may be responsible for driving up millions of Android users’ mobile data usage and wasting their device’s battery life, according to researchers at the technology company Oracle. 

The code, which Oracle said Wednesday is at the heart of a massive ad fraud operation it’s calling “DrainerBot,” works by quietly downloading gigabytes of video ads to a consumer’s smartphone and then displays them — invisibly — to users of apps that have been infected by the bot.

The software affects hundreds of Android apps that have been downloaded collectively more than 10 million times, the researchers said.

Because the invisible advertisements rely on the phone’s mobile data connection and processing power, the bot can lead to more than 10 GBs of extra data usage per month, Oracle said, exposing some cellphone users to possible data overage fees.

Consumers aren’t the only ones potentially harmed by the bot, said Eric Roza, senior vice president at Oracle. The bot wastes marketers’ money by selling ads that nobody sees, and it tarnishes the app developers who were likely unaware of its existence, he said.

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People in the Media for 02/19/2019

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