Google announces the Pixel 5 for $699

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Google has officially taken the wraps off of the $699 Pixel 5, its latest Android flagship. Compared to last year’s Pixel 4, Google is focusing less on dramatic new technology — like the much-hyped Motion Sense gestures on last year’s model — and emphasizing instead the unique features that already help set the Pixel apart, like its stand-out camera software.

Developing. Check out our Pixel 5 event live blog for more news.

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Biden team encourages early voting with new USPS Snapchat campaign

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Biden-Harris campaign

On Wednesday, the Biden for President team will release a new Snapchat lens encouraging supporters to vote early in key swing states ahead of the US presidential election.

The Biden team will be the first campaign to employ Snapchat’s Marker technology. If users decide to use the lens in selfie mode, they will be covered in aviators and Biden-Harris merchandise, including a T-shirt, hat, and button. Once users flip the camera, they’re directed to aim it at a United States Postal Service logo. The logo could be on a mailer or a nearby mailbox. Once the USPS logo is scanned, fireworks go off with the message “Vote Early for Biden-Harris.”

As of last week, the Biden campaign is spending significantly more money on Snapchat…

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Marshall adds Qi wireless charging to its latest headphones

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Image: Zound Industries

Zound Industries has announced its latest pair of Marshall-branded headphones, the Major IV. Like previous Marshall headphones, the Major IVs have a formidable battery life, which extends up to 80 hours on a single charge this time around. When it comes time to recharge, you can either plug in a typical USB-C cable or charge them wirelessly using a Qi-compatible charger.

We’ve seen numerous true wireless headphones embrace wireless charging over the last couple of years, but the feature is far less common with on-ear headphones like the Major IV. As well as wirelessly charging the headphones at home, the technology means you’ll also be able to charge them using any smartphones that support reverse wireless charging like the Samsung…

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Colorado voters will be able to fix their ballot problems via text, Secretary of State says

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Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold said her office is testing a way for voters to fix problematic ballots by phone in the November election.

The state’s mail-in election process relies on a signature verification system to ensure ballots were cast by the registered voters to whom they were mailed. Ballots are flagged when a signature is missing or doesn’t match.

A new program expected to launch statewide, TXT2cure, will make it easier for voters — especially younger ones — to cure, or fix, the problem, Griswold told The Denver Post. Voters will be notified of discrepancies by mail, as usual. But now they’ll have a route other than the U.S. Postal Service to fix the problem.

“You literally just text ‘Colorado2Vote,’ enter your voter ID and follow the instructions,” Griswold said. “You don’t need a stamp. You don’t need to go to a mailbox. You do it right on your phone.”

Voters between 18 and 22 years of age sometimes have their signatures flagged because election computers and judges have fewer signatures to compare against.

“We all know that younger people are always on their phones,” Griswold said. “It’s an easy thing, making it more accessible to fix those signatures.”

The Delta County Clerk’s Office tried the program in this year’s June 30 primary, and about half of the 20-30 ballots rejected for signature discrepancies were cured with TXT2cure, said Rene Loy-Maas, chief deputy clerk.

“It just gives (voters) another option to be able to quickly cure that discrepant signature and with our tech-savvy youth now, that follows right along with them,” Loy-Maas said.

Three Colorado counties, including Denver, have used TXT2cure in past elections and 16, including Delta County, tried it out for the first time in June, said Steve Hurlbert, spokesperson for Griswold.

More than half of Denver ballots with signature problems are cured through the program, said Alton Dillard, spokesperson for the Denver County Clerk’s Office.

To be sure, the rejection rate on signatures is low: Fewer than 2% of ballots cast by 18-year-olds, for instance, are referred back to the voter to cure. Still, Griswold said, it’s important to take steps to count every vote possible.

The state is finishing security tests on the technology and expects it to be available statewide by the Nov. 3 election.

Why listening to your customers’ needs is key to outlasting the pandemic

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Did you know we’re hosting a discussion on the importance of technology in times of economic and societal uncertainty at TNW2020 this year? Check out our session on ‘Innovating to survive’ here. Back in April, experts from the International Monetary Fund warned global lockdowns are likely to push us into the worst economic slump in years. They weren’t wrong. A recent survey by the US Census Bureau found a third of businesses reported experiencing an enormous negative effect from the COVID-19 pandemic, with roughly one in 20 owners expecting to shut doors within the next six months. And with a second wave looming…

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First presidential debate was an acrid tone from the opening minute

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CLEVELAND — It started out civil enough, with President Donald Trump striding deliberately to his lectern, and Democrat Joe Biden nodding to his opponent and offering, “How you doing, man?”

Within 15 minutes, the interruptions and talking over one another at Tuesday’s presidential debate had deteriorated to the point that Biden blurted out, “Will you shut up, man?”

There were no handshakes to start the first presidential debate of the 2020 general election. The traditional nicety was one of several formalities abandoned because of the ongoing pandemic.

The 90-minute faceoff played out in a makeshift debate hall with a crowd of under 100 people due to coronavirus safety restrictions, in an atrium that previously was set up for use as a hospital for COVID-19 patients.

Trump kept up his badgering of Biden, drawing a string of rejoinders from the Democrat, including a plea to “just shush for a minute” at the half-hour mark.

At other points, the two candidates dialed down their rhetoric, but then the interruptions would spring up again. When Trump was fielding a question about reports he paid just $750 in federal income taxes in 2016 and 2017, Biden was the one interjecting: “Show us your taxes. Show us your taxes.”

The reaction from the mask-wearing crowd was inaudible on television as Trump frequently talked over Biden. There was no discernible response when the former vice president called the sitting president a “clown” and frustratedly told him to “keep yapping.”

In the first head-to-head debate, the shadow of the coronavirus pandemic could not be missed. Crowds and pageantry were out. COVID-19 tests and masks were in.

Trump came out of the gate looking to challenge Biden at every turn — and the former vice president’s patience was soon spent.

“Will you shut up, man!” Biden snapped, drawing laughs loud enough that they could be heard through the masks from the atypically small debate crowd.

Roughly 50 minutes into the debate, moderator Chris Wallace’s frustration came to a boil, as he tried to remain even-keeled and stop the rivals from talking over each other.

“Gentlemen, I hate to raise my voice, but why should I be any different than the two of you?” Wallace said.

Trump blamed Biden, but Wallace firmly pushed back to the president, “Frankly, you’ve been doing more interrupting.”

Presidential debates are typically some of the most exciting nights of the campaign season, drawing thousands of staffers, media and guests.

But this year, as with almost everything else, things were very, very different, with a long list of precautions in place before Trump and Biden took the stage.

Instead of the usual auditorium setting, the debate was hosted by the Cleveland Clinic and Case Western Reserve University in the spacious 27,000-square-foot (2,500-square-meter) atrium of the Sheila and Eric Samson Pavilion on the clinic’s Health Education Campus. Notre Dame, the original debate host, withdrew because of the pandemic.

Earlier this year, the building had been transformed into a temporary, 1,000-bed surge hospital, named Hope Hospital, for expected coronavirus patients. Though it never ended up needing to be used, the floor where the debate stage was built was not long ago lined with beds for patients and copper piping to bring in oxygen.

The atrium, with its skylighted roof, was turned into a makeshift debate hall with a stage, red carpeting and elevated platforms for cameras. About 100 people watched, all of whom were tested for the virus.

Each candidate’s campaign was given 20 tickets to hand out to guests, said White House chief of staff Mark Meadows. Trump’s guests included his wife, Melania, and his four adult children. Seats were set with programs and anti-bacterial wipes.

Some in Trump’s section tried to greet the first lady with a standing ovation as she walked in, but with the sparse crowd it didn’t quite come together.

As the crowd filed in before the start of the debate, nearly all were abiding by the social distancing and mask wearing rules. One audience member even wore a bright red MAGA face mask, technically a violation of rules prohibiting campaign paraphernalia.

The emptiness of the room only made the sharpness of the candidates’ verbal slugfest, which often took the tone of a schoolyard squabble, more notable.

“The fact is that everything he’s saying so far is simply a lie,” a flustered Biden snapped when Trump suggested that the vice president stole the nomination from Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders. “I’m not here to call out his lies. Everybody knows he’s a liar.”

Madhani reported from Chicago.

Joe Biden releases 2019 taxes as pre-debate contrast with Donald Trump

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WASHINGTON — Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden paid nearly $288,000 in federal income taxes last year, according to returns he released just hours before his Tuesday night debate with President Donald Trump.

The move came following a report from The New York Times that Trump paid just $750 in income taxes in 2016, the year he ran for president, and in 2017, his first year in the White House.

Biden and his wife, Jill, along with Biden’s running mate, California Sen. Kamala Harris, released their 2019 federal and state returns as the president contends with the political fallout from a series of Times reports about Trump’s long-hidden tax returns. The Times also reported that Trump paid no income tax at all in 10 of the 15 years prior to 2017.

The Bidens’ payment of $287,693 to the federal government in 2019 showed a substantial drop from the $1.5 million they paid in income taxes in 2018, reflecting a decline in Biden’s book revenue, his decision to run for the presidency and his leave of absence from an academic post at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia.

After paying $91,000 in 2016, Biden’s last year as vice president in the Obama administration, the Bidens paid $3.7 million to the government in 2017, largely because of income from book deals. Their latest return shows that the couple’s adjusted gross earnings of $985,233 came from his vacated Penn position, Jill Biden’s community college teaching job and corporate entities that hold their speaking and writing payments.

Harris and her husband, attorney Douglas Emhoff, paid $1,185,628 in combined federal and state taxes on earnings of $3,018,127.

The Biden campaign has moved aggressively to capitalize on the Times reports about Trump’s tiny tax payments. The campaign released a media ad showing that nurses, firefighters and other working-class Americans pay far more in annual federal taxes than the $750 Trump tax payments described by the Times.

Trump has denied the Times report, dismissing it as “fake news” at a press conference, but he has provided no evidence to refute it.

With the release of their 2019 returns, the Bidens have now made public 22 year of tax documents, dating back to the late 1990s, when he was a U.S. senator representing Delaware. Harris has released 15 years of tax returns dating to her stint as San Francisco district attorney.

Kate Bedingfield, a Biden deputy campaign manager, said the release of the documents shows “a historic level of transparency meant to give the American people faith, once again, that their leaders will look out for them and not their own bottom line.”

It was a not-too-subtle dig at Trump’s refusal — since his 2016 presidential campaign — to make public his personal income taxes. Trump has long insisted that he is unable to provide his tax returns because they are under audit by the Internal Revenue Service, despite no legal conditions preventing him from making them available.

The Times reported that Trump has, in fact, been under audit from the IRS for his request for a $72 million refund in 2010 by claiming a questionable $1.4 billion worth of losses in 2008 and 2009.

Fake Kung Fu masters

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Coronavirus in Context is a weekly newsletter where we bring you facts that matter about the COVID-19 pandemic and the technology trying to stop its spread. You can subscribe here. Hola pandemic pals,                                   I recently got sucked into a YouTube rabbit hole that had me watching dozens upon dozens of videos where professional fighters take on supposed “streetfighters” and “martial arts masters” to prove they’re frauds.  The streetfighter videos are extremely satisfying. These are usually either body builders who think they can take on pro wrestlers or tough guys who think…

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A closer look at the Apple Watch Series 6 and how to review it

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Vergecast co-host Dieter Bohn has been hosting a series of discussions diving deep into tech review season each Tuesday, with every episode focusing on a specific product announced this fall.

This week, Dieter talks with Joanna Stern, a senior personal technology columnist at The Wall Street Journal and Verge alum, about her review of the Apple Watch Series 6.

The big feature of the Series 6 is the addition of a blood oxygen sensor. Though Apple calls this feature a “wellness device” rather than a medical one and cannot guarantee the accuracy of the meter, Dieter and Joanna discuss whether this newly added sensor is worth the upgrade and how the many variants of the Apple Watch complicate the review process.

Dieter and Joanna also…

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5 tech trends that will redefine finance in the next 5 years

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As one of the most ancient tenets of human societies, money and finance have been constantly evolving with advances in technology and science. As technology continues to take leaps and bounds and permeates every aspect of life, we can expect banking and finance to change. So, how will technology transform financial services in the next few years? We asked experts to share their perspectives, and here are six trends we think are worth watching.  Natural language processing The past decade has seen tremendous advances in natural language processing, the field of artificial intelligence that extracts meaning and context from spoken…

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