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General Motors Issues Second Recall Of Chevy Bolt EVs After Vehicle Fires

General Motors (GM) has issued a second recall of its 2017-2019 Chevrolet Bolt EVs after at least two of the electric vehicles erupted into flames.

According to GM, the company has “identified a second rare manufacturing defect in the EVs that increases the risk of fire.” The recall covers about 69,000 of the cars globally; 51,000 of which are located in the US.

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GM claims that in order to fix the problem the company needs to replace all the defective battery modules in the vehicles. This will be free for the owners, but in general is a costly fix for all companies involved. GM previously recalled the same vehicles for the same reason but claims that this time the repair is different because it’s not a software-based problem.

“We’re working with our supplier and manufacturing teams to determine how to best expedite battery capacity for module replacement under the recall. These teams are working around the clock on this issue.”

GM spokesman Dan Flores said that the company would “notify customers when replacement parts are ready for them.”

In the meantime, GM has asked all affected Bolt EV owners to set up their vehicles to a 90% state of charge limitation using the Hilltop Reserve mode or Target Charge level depending on the specific model of vehicle.

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GM is also asking that all owners avoid depleting their battery below 70 miles of remaining range, and continue to not park their vehicles inside or charge them unattended overnight out of “an abundance of caution.”

One of the recent fires occurred at the home of a Vermont state lawmaker who claims the vehicle was charging at home when it lit on fire. GM has confirmed nine battery-related fires in the vehicles within the US.

Experts claim the battery cell packs in the vehicles have the potential to smoke or ignite internally which could then spread to the rest of the vehicle as a result. If the car is parked inside of a parking garage or any other indoor structure, this could lead to a much more serious issue.

GM says owners with questions should visit www.chevy.com/boltevrecall or contact its Chevrolet EV help line at 1-833-EVCHEVY or contact their preferred Chevrolet EV dealer.

Law Suit Concept

Sia Shows Support For FKA Twigs’ Lawsuit Against Shia LaBeouf: “He Hurt Me Too”

Singer FKA Twigs recently filed a lawsuit against actor Shia LaBeouf, alleging that he caused her severe emotional distress during their relationship through physical and emotional abuse. Singer Sia showed her support to Twigs on social media this past weekend, along with her own accusations against LaBeouf.

In a social media post made this past Saturday, Sia recommended that all individuals in the entertainment industry “stay away” from LaBeouf, claiming that she has been “emotionally hurt” by the actor. LaBeouf and Sia first worked together back in 2015 for her music video “Elastic Hearts.”

“I believe he’s very sick and I have compassion for him AND his victims. Just know, if you love yourself – stay safe, stay away.”

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Sia continued in her post to claim that LaBeouf was a “pathological liar who conned me into an adulterous relationship claiming to be single.” The singer didn’t elaborate much more on the history or timeline of her relationship with Labeouf, or the emotional hurt that he caused her, however, it’s speculated that based on the adulterous comments their relationship likely occurred around when the music video was filmed; at the time LaBeouf was dating his now ex-wife Mia Goth.

LaBeouf and Goth had their own tumultuous relationship forced in the public eye after they got into an aggressive verbal altercation in public that was filmed by onlookers. Eventually a group of men pulled LaBeouf away and drove him home where he supposedly told the men that if he stayed back with Goth he “would’ve killed her.”

Once Twigs filed the lawsuit, she took to her Instagram to discuss the difficulty of deciding to file and go so public with it: “My second worst nightmare is being forced to share with the world that I am a survivor of domestic violence. My first worst nightmare is not telling anyone and knowing that I could have helped even just one person by sharing my story. It was hard for me to process that I was in an emotionally and physically abusive relationship and never thought something like this would happen to me.”

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The lawsuit was filed last Friday in Los Angeles Superior Court. Twigs listed five “causes of action” for the suit, which included battery, sexual battery, assault, emotional distress, and gross negligence. She’s seeking unspecified monetary damages from him and besides Twigs other women were also cited in the suit who have a history of abusive relationships with LaBeouf. The lawsuit also asserts that LaBeouf knowingly gave Twigs a sexually transmitted disease.

“I’d like to be able to raise awareness on the tactics that abusers use to control you and take away your agency.”

Twigs spoke with the New York Times the day the suit went public, claiming that she wanted to go public with her story to show how even a critically acclaimed musician with money, a home, and a strong network of individuals supporting her could be caught in this type of situation. LaBeouf surprisingly responded to Twigs’ article after the Times requested a comment from him, in which he claimed that he was “not in any position to tell anyone how my behavior made them feel. I have no excuses for my alcoholism or aggression, only rationalizations. I have been abusive to myself and everyone around me for years. I have a history of hurting the people closest to me. I’m ashamed of that history and am sorry to those I hurt. There is nothing else I can really say.” There is currently no word on when the suit will be heard in court.

Football on grass

Arrest Warrant Issued for Browns Wide Receiver

New Orleans police have issued an arrest warrant for Odell Beckham Jr. after investigations into allegations of battery against the NFL wide receiver. This follows the release of a video that seemingly shows Beckham slapping a police officer on the backside in the LSU locker room following their victory in Monday’s national title match.

Beckham Jr. spent three collegiate seasons at LSU and was also seen handing out cash to players as they came off the pitch, reports that have been confirmed by the university.

Now 27, Beckham has spent his career embroiled in controversy both on and off the field and the latest developments would not have pleased his side the Browns, who are coming off an ill-disciplined season themselves.

The 6-10 sacked Freddie Kitchens after just one season, a season in which they were tipped for playoff football but instead saw a steady stream of disappointment throughout the year. They now sit with ex-Viking Kevin Stefanski in the head coach position and released a statement after the Beckham news broke:

“We are aware of the incident and have been in touch with Odell and his representatives on the matter. They are cooperating with the proper authorities to appropriately address the situation.”
A further investigation was instigated earlier this week by LSU after footage was released seemingly showing the wide receiver handing out cash to the LSU players following their victory. It’s been suggested that the money was fake and even that Beckham was intoxicated, but the school have now finished their investigation:

“Information and footage reviewed since shows apparent cash may have also been given to LSU student-athletes,” said university spokesman Michael Bonnette.

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“We were in contact with the NCAA and the SEC immediately upon hearing of this situation in which some of our student-athletes may have been placed in a compromising position.”

Whether or not the cash was fake, Odell Beckham Jr. was performing this stunt to mock the amateurism rules of the NCAA. These rules prevent any player taking cash or any other benefits, else risk the removal of their eligibility to play.

This has been dubbed hypocritical by many in recent times as universities and staff can reap the financial rewards that the college game produces, while the players themselves aren’t able to profit at all, even from their commercial likeness.

The incident has been praised by some, but it leaves LSU at risk of sanction by the NCAA. The organisation will investigate whether any LSU staff were involved, or if they could have done something to prevent Beckham’s actions.

Beckham broke onto the scene in 2011 during his freshman year at LSU and after making an impact as both wide receiver and kick returner, and was named a freshman ALL-SEC selection. His second year at LSU opened with a 70-yard punt return, his first of two that season, and ended with the Louisiana-born star forming a formidable partnership with fellow wide receiver Jarvis Landry.

Beckham’s next season was a record-breaking one that saw him finish with over 1100 yards and eight touchdowns, not including his 109-yard return after a failed field goal attempt. This success meant the wide-out chose to forego his senior year at LSU and declare for the draft.

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2014 saw Beckham picked up in the first round by the New York Giants, going 12th overall. Despite missing the first four games, he racked up over 1300 yards in the air and scored 12 touchdowns in a season that saw him break multiple rookie records and go to the pro bowl.

The next season also saw him named to the pro bowl as he caught 13 touchdowns and recorded a career-high 1450 receiving yards. Despite remaining injury-free, Beckham only completed 15 games due to a suspension upheld by the NFL after a game against the Carolina Panthers featured multiple aggressive confrontations with Josh Norman.

Beckham made the pro bowl for the third consecutive season in 2016 but it was another year shrouded with controversy. The wide receiver was able to play the full 16 games and help guide the Giants to the playoffs with an 11-5 record. However, the joy was cut short as the Giants fell to the Packers in the wildcard round, after which Beckham punched a hole in the wall of his locker room.

Plagued with injuries, Beckham only managed 16 games overall over the course of the next two seasons with the Giants and at the end of the 2018 season, traded to the Cleveland Browns.

The Browns had seemingly built a roster full of talent such as Beckham and looked set for a good season, but perhaps the personalities in the changing room were too much for young head coach Freddie Kitchens, who failed to control and garner the respect of his players.

The new regime at Cleveland has got off to an unpleasant but predictable start, and Browns fans will be hoping this sort of news can be eradicated and that Odell Beckham Jr. and his fellow stars can stay out of the headlines and get back to playing great football.

Girl on Computer

Who is the Pixelbook Go For?

There’s no question that the Pixelbook Go is an impressive-looking device. Multiple reviewers have praised the product’s sleek build quality and carefully considered design, in addition to its unusual twelve-hour battery life. But for a laptop that starts at $650, it offers little in the way of features. Instead of the traditional, more powerful Windows or macOS operating systems, the Pixelbook Go runs Chrome OS, a platform designed to handle Google’s Chrome web browser and do little more. To its credit, the Pixelbook Go has the hardware chops to perform this task excellently, but its constrained featureset may leave prospective buyers skeptical of its practicality, particularly considering the expansive spate of options available at this price point.

Though the company is often praised for the build quality and design of its products, including its flagship Pixel line of smartphones, Google has been known to introduce consumer products that fail to take off in the competitive personal electronics market. Take, for instance, last year’s Pixel Slate, a ChromeOS tablet starting at $599 with a premium look and feel that offers even less functionality than the company’s laptops, especially without its optional $199 keyboard case or $99 Pixelbook Pen. Even though this expensive tablet runs Android apps, many are not optimized for the Pixel Slate, leading to an unreliable user experience when dealing with third-party software. The Pixel Slate supports split-screen multitasking, for instance, but many third-party apps are not yet compatible with this feature. While the product was nonetheless praised by reviewers for what it was, it was a commercial flop, and Google seems to have shifted its focus away from ChromeOS tablets towards laptops at least for the time being.

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While the Go is significantly cheaper than Google’s premium version released earlier this year, its price point, at essentially twice the cost of Chromebooks by other manufacturers, puts the product into a class all of its own. For that additional price, consumers are treated to impressive hardware specs that ensure the task of browsing the web, even when using multiple tabs and accessing content-heavy sites, remains fast and smooth. Chrome on the Pixelbook Go runs about as well as it does on any other laptop on the market, with the exception of Google’s own, more expensive 2-in-1 hybrid Pixelbook. And the Go features a high-quality, 1080p display, which, combined with a battery life that lasts all day and then some, renders the device perfect for extended Netflix or Youtube binge sessions.

The problem with the Pixelbook Go is the existence of laptops running exactly the same software almost as well for half the price or less. For $299, Samsung’s take on the Chromebook concept features a display of the same resolution and a similar, attractive design, with specs that are likely more than adequate for the tasks one might seek to accomplish within the confines of the Chrome web browser. And for $100 less, Asus’s Chromebook C423 features a lower-resolution screen but can handle light web browsing with ease. Consumers willing to spend $650 on a laptop are likely better off purchasing one that features a full operating system like Windows or MacOS, rather than what is in essence little more than a stripped-down version of Android. At this price point, Windows laptops with similar specifications are abundant, including Microsoft’s own Surface Laptop, and while they may not share the attention to detail of the Pixelbook Go’s build quality, the boost in functionality their more sophisticated software environments offer more than makes up for it. 

With all that being said, I still wouldn’t say the Pixelbook Go looks like a bad product. It’s simply one with an unclear market. While people who buy the Go are likely to be satisfied with their decision, the fact of the matter is that any number of better value propositions exist at and below its price point. As such, though it appears to be an acceptable device with some impressive specifications, it’s hard to recommend the Pixelbook Go to anyone when considering its alternatives.

 

Featured image credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/momandson/8229514301

Scientist

Scientists Make Progress in Developing Lithium-Metal Batteries

As time progresses, nearly all of the components in the personal electronic devices available for purchase rapidly transform, as advancements in display, camera, and processor technology enable an ongoing improvement in the user experience. One exception to this rule, however, is their batteries lithium-ion battery technology has remained basically unchanged for several years, as the technology seems to approach the limits of the density of energy storage. Batteries composed of different materials, including graphene and lithium-metal, offer promising developments in the size and capacity of batteries for mobile devices, but technology involving these materials has not yet progressed to the point of safety and commercial viability. However, scientists around the world are dedicated to discovering breakthroughs in the field of battery technology, and one such breakthrough may have begun recently at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Washington.

In this laboratory, scientists have pinpointed the cause of one of the greatest impediments to the development of lithium-metal batteries, which is the growth of microscopic needle-like structures within the material of the batteries, leading to short circuits, battery failure, and even fires. Though these structures can form in both lithium-ion and lithium-metal batteries, they are much more prevalent in the latter type of battery, halting the widespread adoption of lithium-metal in battery-powered devices. While it’s too soon to assert that this research shows the commercial and practical viability of lithium-metal battery technology, the research represents a significant advancement in the field, as it provides scientists around the world with information that could help them refine and perfect the technology. 

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The scientists discovered the cause of the needle formation by taking advantage of two high-resolution microscopes, an atomic force microscope and an environmental transmission electron microscope, which they used together to observe the chemical reactions that produced the needles, also known as dendrites. With this technique, they found that dendrites begin when lithium ions started to gather, or “nucleate,” on the surface of the anode. (An anode is the positively charged electrode by which electrons leave a device.) The team compared the development of these dendrites to the growth of a stalagmite on the floor of a cave.

Instead of simply suppressing the growth of dendrites, the team wanted to find the root cause of their growth and eliminate it. As such, the scientists experimented with the mix of electrolytes in the batteries to determine which ingredients led to the development of dendrites. They found that one ingredient in particular, ethylene carbonate, directly correlates with dendrite and whisker growth, and found that adding some ingredients, like cyclohexanone, prevented their growth. While ethylene carbonate enhances battery performance and is currently considered an indispensable ingredient in lithium batteries, it also leaves the battery vulnerable to damage. As such, more research is necessary to determine what ingredients, if any, can replace ethylene carbonate in potential lithium-metal batteries of the future. That being said, these initial findings may very well clear the path for the development of lithium-metal batteries and their implementation in battery-operated devices generally.

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Although this research breathes life into the possibility of higher-capacity batteries in our devices, for the foreseeable future we will continue to rely on rechargeable lithium-ion batteries for the vast majority of applications. However, lithium-ion technology has proven to be a tremendous advancement in energy-storage technology, so much so that the researchers responsible for pioneering these devices recently won a Nobel Prize. Though the products have been on the market since 1991, they have since “laid the foundation of a wireless, fossil-fuel-free society, and are of the greatest benefit to humankind,” according to the Nobel committee. 

iPhone 3

Early Reviews of New iPhones are Very Positive

When Apple unveiled its newest generation of iPhones last week, which include the iPhone 11, iPhone 11 Pro, and iPhone 11 Max, immediate reactions were mixed, as many rightfully observed that Apple seemed to be playing it safe, offering minor improvements to features that already existed in previous generations of iPhones while reducing prices instead of introducing any groundbreaking new technology. In fact, these new iPhones removed some features present on previous devices which were considered unimportant, such as 3D Touch. This year, Apple seems to be focusing on improvements to the core iPhone experience rather than expanding into new territories, and early reviews suggest that this strategy has paid off, as journalists many describe the new iPhones as offering the best smartphone experience for most people right now.

Nilay Patel from The Verge, for instance, describes the iPhone 11 quite simply as “the phone most people should buy,” adding that “it’s great where it counts, and totally fine everywhere else.” While admitting that the iPhone 11 is basically just an incremental upgrade over last year’s iPhone XR, Patel suggests that the improvements to the phone’s overall design, including sturdier glass and better water resistance, result in a very polished user experience. Although the only major improvements Patel observes are the “cameras, the slightly better battery life, and the processor,” he notes that these and other features were already so good on the previous generation that these improvements, albeit slight, still result in a stellar device. 

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Though Patel complained about Apple’s continued reliance on a large, bulky, outdated 5W wall charger, he praised the battery’s performance, noting that you’d have to really go out of your way to fully drain the battery in less than a day. He also describes the new cameras as “a massive step forward,” and praised the quality of the images the phone is able to capture, noting that, in most respects, the camera experience is identical to the pricier iPhone 11 Pro. In particular, the new phone performs particularly well in low-light environments due to advancements in camera and image processing technology. As battery life and camera quality are two of the top concerns for people buying a new smartphone, it makes sense that Apple chose to focus in these areas, and according to reviewers the results of doing so have paid off.

The consensus seems to be that Apple hit the ball out of the park with all of their iPhone offerings this year, introducing a product which will be difficult for competitors to beat.

The iPhone 11 Pro, which Patel also reviewed, represents an even greater improvement in these key areas, with an even better battery life and an additional camera with a telephoto lens, as well as a higher-resolution display and a faster, more efficient chipset. The Pro models additionally include a fast-charging feature, unlike the base model, and improved LTE performance (though support for 5G isn’t included.)

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The major complaint reviewers had with the new phones was the operating system, iOS 13, which presents users with bugs and other annoyances. They’re quick to note, however, that Apple has a good track record of improving user experience on its phones with software updates, though it is not certain as of yet when Apple will release an update to address issues of performance and stability. Like the rest of the phone, iOS 13 represents only an iterative improvement over last year’s software, but the experience remains snappy, streamlined and simultaneously intuitive and densely packed with features. Still, Patel recommends waiting until Apple irons out these issues before purchasing a new iPhone 11 or iPhone 11 Pro.

Overall, reviewers felt that the cheaper iPhone 11 was the best option for most people, as the improvements in the Pro model, while substantial, don’t justify the additional several hundred dollars in cost. Instead, the Pro models are recommended for those who demand battery life, image quality, and speed that far exceeds the competition and are willing to pay roughly a thousand dollars for that privilege. Still, the consensus seems to be that Apple hit the ball out of the park with all of their iPhone offerings this year, introducing a product which will be difficult for competitors to beat.

Porsche

Porsche Unveils its First Electric Car, the Taycan

A newcomer to the electric car scene, Porsche hopes to topple Tesla’s dominance with the release of its newly announced Taycan.