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Android phones to get ‘ShakeAlert’ earthquake warnings — and phones may double as tremor detectors

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Measuring earthquakes - Shutterstock

Android phones will receive warnings triggered by a “ShakeAlert” earthquake early-warning system implemented on the West Coast by the US Geological Survey and partners.

ShakeAlert uses signals from hundreds of seismometers across the state to trigger warning messages that “an earthquake has begun and shaking is imminent,” according to the system’s website.

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“We saw an opportunity to use Android to provide people with timely, helpful earthquake information when they search, as well as a few seconds warning to get themselves and their loved ones to safety if needed,” principal software engineer Marc Stogaitis said in a blog post.

People anywhere with smartphones powered by Google’s Android operating software were also invited to let handsets be part of a crowd-sourced network for detecting earthquakes.

Smartphones are typically equipped with tiny accelerometers that sense movement and can catch shaking caused by earthquakes, according to Stogaitis.

“This means your Android phone can be a mini seismometer, joining millions of other Android phones out there to form the world’s largest earthquake detection network,” Stogaitis said.

Android phones that detect what might be earthquake activity can automatically send a signal to a data center, where computers quickly interpret motion and location data in aggregate to determine whether a quake is happening, according to Google.

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“We’re essentially racing the speed of light — which is roughly the speed at which signals from a phone travel — against the speed of an earthquake,” Stogaitis said.

“And lucky for us, the speed of light is much faster!”

Earthquake alerts are starting in California because the state has an extensive seismometer network in place. The alerts are expected to spread to other locations during the coming year as the phone-based detection network is established.

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Fault-lines in the earth under California make it prime earthquake territory, and residents here are routinely warned of the inevitability of the next “big one.”

Meanwhile, a shallow 5.1-magnitude earthquake hit North Carolina on Sunday, shaking buildings in the biggest tremor in the area for more than 100 years.

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Major earthquakes are relatively rare on the US east coast.


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2020 Election

Fox News host rebuts Trump aide after attack on Chris Wallace: ‘He is going to ask the smart questions’

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Trump campaign spokesperson Hogan Gidley suggested on Thursday that moderator Chris Wallace, a Fox News host, will tilt the upcoming presidential debate in favor of Democratic nominee Joe Biden.

During an interview on Fox News, host Sandra Smith argued that President Donald Trump and his campaign have "set the bar pretty low as far as what we'll see from Joe Biden."

"We haven't set the bar low at all," Gidley insisted. "Joe Biden's own comments and rhetoric sets the bar pretty low."

"But let's be clear, the mainstream media is going to do its level best to cover for Joe Biden no matter what he says or what he does," he continued.

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2020 Election

Trump has a serious problem with women voters — even in red states

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In the past, Texas and Georgia were reliably Republican in presidential elections. But recent polls show that in the 2020 presidential election, Democratic nominee Joe Biden is surprisingly competitive in those light red states — and New York Times reporters Alexander Burns and Jonathan Martin, analyzing some recent polling in an article published on September 24, cite female voters as a key reason.

According to newly released New York Times/Siena polls, Trump is leading Biden by 3% in Texas — while Trump and Biden are in a dead heat in Georgia. In Iowa, the Times and Siena found that Biden is ahead by 3%. The last Democratic presidential nominee to win Texas was Jimmy Carter in 1976; the last Democratic presidential nominee to win Georgia was Bill Clinton in 1992.

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2020 Election

CNN presents damning list of all the times Trump has refused to accept election results

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President Donald Trump triggered outrage at his Wednesday press briefing for refusing to commit to a peaceful transition of power.

But his attitude is nothing new, wrote Kevin Liptak for CNN, who listed all the times in the last few months Trump has expressed similar sentiments.

On July 19, for instance, Trump told Fox News Sunday, "I'm not going to just say 'yes'" when asked if he'll accept the election results. On July 30, he tweeted that mail ballots are "INACCURATE & FRAUDULENT" and suggested "Delay the Election until people can properly, securely and safely vote." On August 17 at a rally, he suggested staying in office beyond two terms, saying "we'll go for another four years because they spied on my campaign. We should get a redo of four years." Three days later, at another rally, he said of Democrats, "they're trying to steal the election, and everybody knows that. Because the only way they're going to win is by a rigged election."

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