Category Archives:Tech

Trump: Don’t Worry, We’re Putting Mike Pence on This Coronavirus Thing

Vice President Mike Pence, left, and President Donald Trump, right, at a press conference on Feb. 26, 2020.
Photo: Evan Vucci (AP)

The latest news from the White House on the ongoing spread of the novel coronavirus, which the Centers for Disease Control has warned is likely to hit the U.S. imminently, is not very reassuring: Vice President Mike Pence, whose poor epidemiological instincts helped fuel an HIV outbreak in his home state of Indiana, will lead the White House response to COVID-19.

During a press conference this evening, Trump, who had tweeted earlier today that he believed his enemies in the media were conspiring to start a panic over the virus that could hurt him politically, downplayed concerns that the U.S. is anything less than fully prepared for domestic spread of the virus or that such a thing is likely at all. Then Trump announced he was appointing Vice President Mike Pence as his administration’s point man on the federal coronavirus response.

The coronavirus, which is known as SARS-CoV-2 and causes a disease called COVID-19, is believed to cause minor symptoms in over 80 percent of infected individuals. But it has spread rapidly from the outbreak epicenter in China’s Hubei province, with over 81,000 confirmed cases and a recorded death toll of over 2,700. Major outbreaks have now been reported outside of China, in Italy, South Korea, and Iran.

While Trump was speaking this evening, the Washington Post reported that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had been informed of the first known person in the U.S. to have contracted the virus from an unknown source, a sign that the virus is now spreading locally. According to WaPo, this patient is in California.

Trump also challenged the idea that his administration would stand in the way of extra funding—perhaps a rebuttal of reports that White House officials sent Democrats in Congress a document requesting cuts to other programs, such as a $37 million slash from a program that provides heating assistance to poor families, before it would authorize $2.5 billion in federal emergency funds. Trump said that the White House is open to engaging with congressional Democrats on their request for up to $8.5 billion in spending, though he ultimately left it unclear whether that meant the White House was reversing its position or would continue to insist on cuts to pay for it. (While even some Republicans were reportedly alarmed by the sparseness of the White House’s funding proposals, Trump has held government funding hostage before in the hopes the blame will fall on Democrats.)

“We’ll spend whatever is appropriate,” Trump said. “Hopefully we won’t have to spend so much, because we really think that we’ve done a great job in keeping it down to a minimum.”

“It is what it is. We’re ready for it. We’re really prepared,” the president said, per a CNN transcript. “We have, as I said, we have the greatest people in the world. We’re very ready for it. We hope it doesn’t spread. There’s a chance that it won’t spread, too. And there’s a chance that it will. It’s just a question of at what level.”

Trump also noted that, so far, the U.S. has only seen a small number of cases: “So far, we’ve done a great job. When you have 15 people—with this whole world coming into the United States—and the 15 people are either better or close to being better, that’s pretty good.”

As for Pence, Trump told reporters that, “When Mike was governor, Mike Pence of Indiana, they have established great health care, they have a great system there—a system that lot of the other states have really looked to and changed their systems.”

Pence’s record is, in fact, not so positive. As governor of Indiana, Pence held up funding for state needle exchanges, which played a role in ensuing HIV and hepatitis C outbreaks in the state. Pence only caved after immense pressure. The vice president has also issued bizarre pronouncements on human health in the past, such as a 2000 op-ed arguing smoking doesn’t kill, and he’s made numerous other statements on issues ranging from global warming to abortion drugs that ignored consensus in the scientific community.

“I know full well the importance of presidential leadership, the importance of administration leadership, and the vital role of partnerships of state and local governments and health authorities in responding to the potential threat of dangerous infectious diseases,” Pence told reporters. He added that he would be working with the Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, State Department, White House, and state governments. Later in the conference, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar noted that he would still be chairman of the coronavirus task force and that Pence would be “helping.”

Yale epidemiologist Gregg Gonzales was among those to respond to the Pence announcement, tweeting: “This is a man that totally botched HIV outbreak in Indiana. This is not a good idea and speaks to a lack of seriousness” by the White House.

Trump also told the public “There’s no reason to be panicked,” saying “we have it so well under control and we really have done a very good job.” As the Guardian noted, he also blamed other factors, such as the performance of Democratic candidates on the debate stage in recent days, for continued drops in global markets. Health experts have questioned whether the U.S. is actually ready for domestic spread of the virus, arguing that health officials are not prepared to test large numbers of people and that U.S. hospitals have a poor record on transmission of infections in medical environments.

Earlier in the day, Azar told members of Congress that the White House won’t take steps to ensure that a coronavirus vaccine—which is likely to take at least a year to a year and half to develop—is affordable for all Americans, citing some mumbo-jumbo on how price controls might interfere with returns to pharmaceutical investors.

“We would want to ensure that we work to make it affordable, but we can’t control that price, because we need the private sector to invest,” Azar said. “Price controls won’t get us there.”

Rumble’s First Trailer Introduces a World of Professional Kaiju Wrestling

Tentacular jumping into the ring.
Image: Paramount

Trailer FrenzyA special place to find the newest trailers for movies and TV shows you’re craving.

Nerds love watching gargantuan kaiju beat the snot out of each other almost as much as they love watching professional wrestlers get greased up and brawl in the ring, which makes it surprisingly as hell that a movie like Paramount’s upcoming Rumble wasn’t made years ago.

Set in a world where humans and kaiju live alongside one another in what appears to be relative harmony, Rumble tells the story of Steve (Will Arnett), an average, non-wrestling monster who teams up with trainer Winnie (BoJack Horseman’s Geraldine Viswanathan) in order to make a go at becoming a professional superstar.

Steve’s mass immediately makes him infinitely more capable of taking on fighters like the hulking Tentacular (Terry Crews) than any human could ever hope to be. But sheer size can only take Steve so far, and he’ll need Winnie’s expertise if he wants a chance at becoming a wrestling champion.

Rumble, directed by Hamish Grieve, also stars Becky Lynch, Roman Reigns, Ben Schwartz, Steven Smith, and Tony Danza. The film hits theaters on January 29, 2021.


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Octavia E. Butler’s Sci-Fi Novel Dawn May Be Coming to Amazon

Victoria Mahoney directs The Rise of Skywalker alongside J.J. Abrams.
Photo: Lucasfilm

Centuries after humanity has been all but destroyed by nuclear holocaust, a woman wakes up on an alien spaceship. She finds out the aliens that saved her want to help bring back the human race.

That’s the basic plot of Dawn, a 1987 novel by Octavia E. Butler, and Variety reports Ava DuVernay is teaming up with Victoria Mahoney to develop it into a series for Amazon. Mahoney will write the script and direct the pilot, with DuVernay’s company Array among the producers. The show has a script-to-series commitment, which means if Amazon likes the scripts, it skips the pilot step and just becomes a TV show.

DuVernay isn’t a filmmaker who needs an introduction these days. The director of Selma and A Wrinkle in Time is currently shooting the comic book adaptation DMZ for HBO Max starring Rosario Dawson. Mahoney is on her way to that status too. As the second unit director on Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, she became the first woman to direct a Star Wars movie. We’ll next see her work on the J.J. Abrams/Jordan Peele produced HBO show, Lovecraft Country.

If Dawn does get picked up, the show could run for several years based on its source material alone. It’s the first in what’s called The Xenogenesis Trilogy, followed by Adulthood Rites and Imago, published in 1988 and 1989 respectively. That always gets me: These fascinating stories have been sitting out there for decades, and yet so far no adaptations have made it to the screen. It seems though, it may finally be the dawn for one of them.


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Take $40 Off a Reader Favorite Mesh Network, the Netgear Orbi

NETGEAR Orbi Whole Home Mesh WiFi System (RBK23) | $200 | Amazon
Graphic: Tercius Bufete

Best Tech DealsBest Tech DealsThe best tech deals from around the web, updated daily.

NETGEAR Orbi Whole Home Mesh WiFi System (RBK23) | $200 | Amazon

If you take your home Wi-Fi coverage seriously, Netgear’s Orbi mesh routers are some of the best you can buy, and Amazon’s running a great deal on a brand new system. This Reader Favorite is now selling for just $200.

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Here’s how they work: multiple nodes, or access points, work together to blanket your home in signal. Better still, their glossy design encourages people to keep them outside of closets and drawers and in plain view to ensure unencumbered signal. (Walls hamper signal, bro.)

This model also offers all the benefits of a modern router (e.g., 802.11ac/Wi-Fi 5 and app-based management) and is currently selling for about $10 off the lowest price we’ve ever seen on Amazon.

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And the Title of Jurassic World 3 Is…

I can almost hear the John Williams score.
Photo: Universal Pictures

Dominion.

Director Colin Trevorrow took to his Twitter account today to mark the first day of filming the third Jurassic World film and subsequently revealed its title: Jurassic World: Dominion. io9 confirmed the title with Universal.

And so the speculation beings. What does “Dominion” mean? Since the second film, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, ended with the genetically-engineered dinosaurs being let out into the wilds of America, we’d guess it refers to North America being the dinosaurs’ dominion. Or maybe it’s the whole world. At least the Western Hemisphere. And maybe the whole crux of the film will be that the humans now have to get their dominion back from the dinos. That seems fairly obvious, but certainly, that’s one way to interpret it.

Star Chris Pratt weighed in with an equally measured take:

Also of note is that the red logo is the logo from the original Jurassic Park, not the stone or grey logo from the previous two Jurassic World films. That’s likely some kind of a wink to the fact the main cast from that film—Sam Neill, Laura Dern, and Jeff Goldblum—will join Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard and the rest of the Jurassic World series cast.

Jurassic World: Dominion will be released on June 11, 2021.


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With the Fujifilm X-T4, One of the Best APS-C Mirrorless Cams Gets Even Better

If you’ve been paying attention to Fujifilm’s recent announcements, you’ve probably noticed that the company has been going through and revamping a number of its mirrorless cameras. And now, one of Fujifilm’s most popular APS-C cams is getting a refresh in the new Fujifilm X-T4.

Note: The X-T4 we tested for this story was a pre-production device, so there may be differences in the camera’s software and image quality between what you see here and final retail devices.

Compared to new X-Pro3 which is more of a modern-day digital rangefinder and the X100V which is a bit more compact but comes with a non-removable lens, the X-T4 is a true all-rounder. And while X-T4 features the same 26.1-MP sensor and X-Processor 4 imaging engine found on its predecessor the X-T3, Fujifilm has given its flagship APS-C cam a number of important upgrades including in-body image stabilization, a completely redesigned and nearly silent mechanical shutter, a bigger battery, and more.

The X-T4 also sports a new vari-angle touchscreen that can be rotated 180-degrees to the front, which is ideal for vloggers.
Photo: Sam Rutherford (Gizmodo)

The addition of IBIS is huge because it was one of the few highlight features that didn’t make it on the X-T3, and depending on what lens you’re using, it provides up to 6.5 stops worth of stabilization. Fujifilm says 18 of the 29 lenses that work with the X-T4 can hit 6.5 stops, while the other 11 lenses provide at least 5 stops of stabilization.

As for the X-T4’s new mechanical shutter, not only is it downright surprising how quiet it is, it also allows for continuous shooting at up to 15 fps. And if that’s not enough, you can snap pics at up to 30 fps using the X-T4’s electronic shutter. Either way, the X-T4’s new shutter setup should be a big boon to wedding photographers and the like who are often challenged with grab fleeting shots without disturbing the mood.

Furthermore, thanks to a new 2,200 mAh battery, the X-T4 should now last 600 shots in eco mode or 500 shots in normal usage, which is a noticeable improvement from the 390-shot battery life you got on the older X-T3. Fujifilm says it has also completely reworked the X-T4’s AF tracking algorithm so that it should be smoother and faster than before.

And that’s not all because Fujifilm has added a bunch of new camera settings including half-step shadow and highlight adjustments, a bunch of EVF tweaks depending on what you’re trying to shoot (low-light priority, resolution priority, and frame rate priority), and even two new auto-white balance modes (ambiance priority and white priority). The X-T4 also has a new simulated film grain called Eterna Bleach Bypass.

Meanwhile, on the video side, the X-T4 can now shoot up to 240 frames per second slow-mo at 1080p or normal videos at up to DCI 4K at 60 fps. Fujifilm also gave the camera a fixed 1.29 movie crop so you can get a consistent look no matter what frame rate you’re shooting at. (Depending on what frames per second you shoot at, the X-T4 defaults to slightly different crop factors.) The one potential bummer is the X-T4 did not get a dedicated headphone jack for monitoring audio levels, though Fujifilm does include a USB-C to 3.5mm adapter in the box, so it’s not a huge deal.

When I got a chance to test the X-T4 briefly in and around Grand Central Station, I simply had a blast. Aside from the position of a few buttons and dials that have been moved slightly so that they are both easier to reach but harder to press accidentally, the X-T4 feels almost exactly the same as the X-T3. That said, I did find myself wishing the X-T4 had a more substantial grip, and in general, I’m not a fan of the short, stubby joystick Fujifilm uses compared to what you find on many of the X-T4’s competitors.

And despite the lousy weather outside and the dim lighting inside the train station, the X-T4 impressed with some good looking photos that captured a lot of the fine details like the brickwork and intricate celestial mural painted on Grand Central’s ceiling.

Looking back to the previous model, the X-T3 was already one of the best APS-C mirrorless cameras on the market, and with a new shutter system, longer battery life, and new IBIS support, the future is looking pretty bright for the X-T4.

The X-T4 will be available in both black and silver for $1,700 (body only) and is expected to go on sale sometime this spring.

Apple’s Newest MacBook Air Is Down to Its Lowest Price Ever

Best Tech DealsBest Tech DealsThe best tech deals from around the web, updated daily.

Apple MacBook Air (2019) 256GB | $1,000 | Amazon

Apple’s new MacBook Air is currently down to its lowest price ever. Gizmodo says that while it’s a little on the boring side, it’s a solid option for people who want a new Apple laptop, that’s cheaper than the Pro. This 2019 model adds a much better, True Tone display, a faster SSD performance, and an improved, yet still very butterfly keyboard.

For what it’s worth, this particular laptop rarely away from its usual $1,100-$1,200 price and is currently cheaper than the MacBook model with half of the storage.

If you’re looking to upgrade your personal laptop, this is a good time to buy. Just don’t wait around, this sale will end at the end of the day and there’s a good change it’ll sell out. So get yours.


Pete Buttigieg Deletes Tweet Slamming Bernie Sanders and ‘Revolutionary Politics’ of 1960s

Pete Buttigieg speaks to the media at the Charleston Gaillard Center on February 25, 2020 in Charleston, South Carolina.
Photo: Getty Images

Pete Buttigieg deleted a tweet overnight that attempted to belittle both Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders and the “revolutionary politics” of the U.S. during the 1960s. It’s not immediately clear why the tweet was deleted, especially since the exact same sentiment was echoed by Buttigieg at the Democratic debate in South Carolina on Tuesday.

“We can’t afford a scenario where it comes down to Donald Trump with his nostalgia for the social order of the 1950’s and Bernie Sanders with his nostalgia for the revolutionary politics of the 1960’s. #DemDebate,” Buttigieg tweeted on Tuesday night.

The tweet was deleted, but is still available by the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine.

Buttigieg made the exact same point on the debate stage Tuesday night, where he slammed both Donald Trump and Senator Sanders, hoping to draw a straight line between the ideologically opposed men.

In fact, the language Pete used was identical to his tweet, as you can see in CBS News video from last night.

“And I am not looking forward to a scenario where it comes down to Donald Trump, with his nostalgia for the social order of the 1950s, and Bernie Sanders, with a nostalgia for the revolutionary politics of the 1960s,” Buttigieg said. “This isn’t about what coups were happing in the 1970s or 80s, this is about the future.”

The so-called “revolutionary politics” of the 1960s gave the U.S. everything from Medicare to the women’s rights movement to the Civil Rights Act of 1964—the key piece of legislation that made illegal at the federal level for Jim Crow laws of the American South to discriminate based on race. And that’s to say nothing of the Stonewall uprising of 1969, when LGBT Americans fought back against police brutality of their community in New York.

People were marching in the streets for change in the 1960s, including a young Bernie Sanders who was arrested at a Civil Rights demonstration at the University of Chicago in 1963.

Buttigieg, a former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, has gotten flak for some bizarre political mistakes in recent weeks, but this may be the weirdest yet. At 38 years old, he wasn’t around to see the 1960s and the constant struggle that was necessary to gain rights for so many people in the U.S. But Buttigieg’s entire schtick is claiming that he’s the young, smart one in the room; a guy who has a pragmatic approach to politics and can speak eight languages.

Mayor Pete’s firm grasp of languages is now in serious doubt, but so is his “pragmatic approach” to political strategy these days. However imperfect the 1960s was as a decade, it was an era of much-needed change in the U.S. And if you’re going to knock the “revolutionary politics” of the 1960s, you clearly have no place in the Democratic Party.

Traveler Returning From Coronavirus-Hit China May Have to Pay Thousands for Flu Test

Chinese doctors in Yunmeng county, Xiaogan city, in the coronavirus outbreak epicenter of Hubei province viewing the results of a lung CT scan in a suspected case.
Photo: STR/AFP (Getty Images)

A Miami man who felt ill after returning from a business trip to China in January was slapped with a $3,270 bill after seeking a test to determine if he was infected with the Wuhan coronavirus, the Miami Herald reported on Monday.

According to the Herald, Osmel Martinez Azcue believed it would be irresponsible for him to not alert medical personnel of the possibility he had contracted SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus behind a disease called COVID-19 that originated in China but has begun spreading globally. The official global death toll has now risen to just short of 2,700, with over 80,000 confirmed cases, though the World Health Organization says it is not (yet) a pandemic. Azcue did not want to possibly contribute to the virus’s spread and told the Herald he went to Jackson Memorial Hospital, where nurses received him wearing protective garments and released disinfectant in his room.

Hospital personnel told Azcue a coronavirus diagnosis would require a CT scan, so he instead opted for a simple flu test. That fortunately confirmed that Azcue had nothing worse than the common flu, but according to the Herald, his insurance provider, National General Insurance, sent him a bill for $3,270. Hospital staff said it could possibly be reduced to $1,400, but only if Azcue was able to provide three years of documentation showing he did not catch the flu as a result of a pre-existing condition. They also said that more bills would be on the way, according to the Herald.

Azcue’s plan wouldn’t have existed if Donald Trump’s administration hadn’t rolled back provisions of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) that prevented insurers from denying coverage over pre-existing conditions or refusing to things like hospitalization in 2018. The White House added links to the federal ACA exchange to outside sites that sold such “short-term plans,” according to the Washington Post, despite these not meeting the original requirements; that’s in addition to the Trump administration’s other efforts to weaken key provisions of the law or throw it out entirely. Azcue makes $55,000 a year and took one of those short-term plans to lower his premiums from $400 a month to $180, according to the Herald.

Incidents of patients receiving enormous medical bills hugely disproportionate to care they received are less an aberration than a hallmark of the for-profit U.S. medical system—and such surprises can hit even those with substantive insurance if they happen to be unlucky enough to end up at an out-of-network provider or the insurer finds an arbitrary excuse not to pay. Research in 2019 found that 137 million Americans faced financial hardship from medical bills in the prior year. A more recent study by the NORC at the University of Chicago this month found it was likely that at least eight million Americans have tried to crowdfund for medical bills, while another 12 million had started fundraisers for others. It’s likely that few of these efforts ever raise enough money to cover costs. Around 27.5 million people still lack health insurance as of September 2019, the first time in a decade the number of uninsured has increased.

The possibility of being struck with one of these bills is a major driver in Americans avoiding seeking medical attention for a health issue. Gallup polling in 2019 found that 68 million Americans, or roughly one out of four, had skipped treatment due to costs in the prior twelve months. Set this system on a collision course with a dangerous disease spreading across the world and the outlook isn’t great.

The federal government has said it will pay for costs like mandatory quarantines (which can be extremely expensive) for uninsured individuals returning from China. But in prior situations like the 2014-2016 Ebola outbreak, individuals were still on the hook for bills, and whether more financial assistance would be forthcoming is the prerogative of a federal government already hard pressed to pay for overhead costs of emergency response. Azcue didn’t even have the disease or technically even receive a test for it, making it less likely his costs will be defrayed.

Fear of high medical bills is also a factor in overcrowding in emergency departments across the country, as many people won’t seek treatment until they are obviously ill. If the coronavirus gains a foothold in the U.S., that could contribute to spread in medical settings where SARS-CoV-2 already has a proven ability to spread.

“When someone has flu-like symptoms, you want them to to seek medical care,” Georgetown University professor and Center on Health Insurance Reforms co-director Sabrina Corlette told the Herald. “If they have one of these junk plans and they know they might be on the hook for more than they can afford to seek that care, a lot of them just won’t, and that is a public health concern.”

Azcue told the Herald, “How can they expect normal citizens to contribute to eliminating the potential risk of person-to-person spread if hospitals are waiting to charge us $3,270 for a simple blood test and a nasal swab?”

[Miami Herald]

On Twin Peaks Day, We Want to Know: What’s Your All-Time Favorite Moment on the Show?

Pie gets all the love, but they did eat a lot of donuts back in the day, too.
Image: ABC/Spelling Ent./CBS Paramount Domestic Television

It’s been 30 years since Agent Cooper drove through the evergreens and into the town of Twin Peaks for the first time, changing his life and TV history forever. Though Twin Peaks technically premiered in April of 1990, Coop notes the in-show date as February 24—thereby making today Twin Peaks Day. Let’s rock!

The recent Academy Awards may have dismissively breezed past David Lynch’s honorary Oscar, but his fans know the visionary director doesn’t need Hollywood prizes to affirm his genius, or the impact he’s had on all of us. Today, we’re looking back at one of his most beloved projects by reminiscing about our favorite moments from a show that was packed with them, and that still reverberates throughout pop culture.

This is a subject I’ve devoted a lot of thought to—check out my lists below, one that includes the first two seasons and Fire: Walk With Me, and another covering the deliriously epic 2017 Showtime revival, to get you started.

But just because I love those weird and shocking moments—and anything involving my all-time favorite character, the gloriously gruff Albert Rosenfield—doesn’t mean you have the same favorites. The place both wonderful and strange has layers of meanings for everyone who’s fallen under its spell.

Grab a slice of cherry pie and share your favorite Twin Peaks moments and memories in the comments below!


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