Tag Archives: ‘picks

Nvidia’s RTX 3060 Picks up a 10 Percent FPS Boost

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Last year, AMD announced a new feature it dubbed Smart Access Memory. This capability gave RDNA2 GPUs a bit of a kick when compared against Nvidia cards back when AMD launched the 6800 and 6800 XT, with performance improvements of 3-7 percent. Nvidia and Intel both promised their own versions of the capability, and Team Green’s has arrived, at least in part. The official name for the feature, as specified by PCI-SIG, is Resizable Base Address Register, or Resizable BAR for short. AMD markets Resizable BAR as “Smart Access Memory.” There are, as far as we know, no feature implementation differences between supporting ReBAR (I’m sorry, but the acronym was just sitting there) and supporting SAM. Nvidia is claiming a slightly higher improvement than AMD did at launch, but no word yet on whether AMD was being conservative or if NV has tied their claimed improvement to the specific set of games they currently support.

The RTX 3060 is the first Nvidia Ampere GPU to officially support the Resizable BAR feature, which was originally defined in the PCI Express 2.0 specification. Support is apparently also enabled for all GeForce RTX 3000-equipped laptops, but desktop GPU support for the RTX 3060 Ti, 3070, 3080, and 3090 won’t appear until later in March. Nvidia did not identify a reason for the delay.

This is an AMD slide, but ignore the AMD branding. This is now a feature that’s going to be supported across Nvidia and AMD cards, on both Intel and AMD motherboards, once Ampere, RDNA2, 11th Gen Rocket Lake, and Ryzen 5000 are all in-market.

Resizable BAR support is available for AMD systems that combine either a 400-series or 500-series motherboard with a Ryzen 5000 CPU. On Intel, Resizable BAR is available on Z490, H470, B460, and H410 motherboards. It’ll also be enabled for all 11th Generation chipsets when those products are available. AMD has enabled Resizable BAR for all Radeon 6000 products and Nvidia has pledged to bring the feature to all desktop and laptop Ampere cards. Intel is additionally expected to debut the capability for its Xe graphics cards for those when they become available.

Resizable BAR is formally defined as:

[An] optional capability that allows hardware to communicate resource sizes, and system software, after determining the optimal size, to communicate this optimal size back to the hardware. Hardware communicates the resource sizes that are acceptable for operation via the Resizable BAR Capability register. Software determines, through a proprietary mechanism, what the optimal size is for the resource, and programs that size via the BAR Size field of the Resizable BAR Control register.

In this specific instance, AMD, Intel, and Nvidia are using Resizable BAR / Smart Access Memory to allow the CPU to access more than 256MB of VRAM at once. Nvidia is supporting this feature on Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla, Battlefield V, Borderlands 3, Forza Horizon 4, Gears 5, Metro Exodus, Red Dead Redemption 2, and Watch Dogs: Legion. Additional titles will be announced in March. Note that enabled Resizable Bar will require you to update both your driver and your VBIOS. Nvidia and other OEMs will be releasing updates and information on how to perform these steps.

After installing compatible UEFIs, VBIOS, and driver, you’ll be able to tell if you’ve gotten the feature enabled properly or not. Open the Nvidia Control Panel, hit the “System Information” text box on the bottom-left, and a window will open like the above. Check the text box marked in red — if Resizable BAR has been properly enabled, it’ll show up there.

It’s not clear if Resizable BAR always improves performance in every game, but so far there doesn’t seem to be a downside to enabling the capability. This capability was baked into the PCI Express 2.0 standard back in 2008 but only introduced to consumer systems in 2020. While it’s not going to blow your mind with dramatic improvements, no manufacturer is going to turn down a 3-7 percent gain these days.

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NASA Picks SpaceX to Launch SPHEREx Space Telescope

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SpaceX already has a number of lucrative contracts with NASA thanks to its reusable Falcon 9 rocket, not least of which is the recently realized Commercial Crew Program. NASA isn’t just using SpaceX for crewed flights, though. The agency has just awarded SpaceX another cargo contract, this one to deploy the upcoming SPHEREx space telescope. This instrument will scan the entire sky over two years, but it won’t start the work until 2024 at the earliest. 

SPHEREx is part of NASA’s Medium-Class Explorers (MIDEX) program along with the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) and almost a dozen other missions stretching back to the early 90s. SPHEREx is a particularly tortured acronym that stands for Spectro-Photometer for the History of the Universe, Epoch of Reionization, and Ices Explorer. That means SHPEREx will map the sky in near-infrared, which is beyond the limit of human vision. 

The total cost of SPHEREx launch services from SpaceX is $ 98.8 million, a sizable chunk of the expected $ 395 to $ 427 million NASA has allocated for the project. TESS is designed to observe objects up to several hundred light-years away, but SPHEREx should be able to scan more than 300 million galaxies and 100 million stars in the Milky Way using its spectrophotometer. 

The Falcon 9 is NASA’s choice to send SPHEREx into space in 2024.

SPHEREx could help scientists better understand how galaxies form and evolve. Every six months, SPHEREx will use its 20cm telescope to create a map of the entire sky in 96 different color bands. NASA believes SHPEREx will be able to gather important data on the presence of water molecules and organics in distant star-forming regions. This will help NASA identify targets for future study with more powerful instruments like the James Webb Space Telescope. In particular, NASA is interested in gathering data that will clarify the “epoch of ionization,” a period in the early universe when the first stars and galaxies formed and reionized the neutral hydrogen that dominated space at the time. SPHEREx will also look farther back at the very beginning in search of evidence for a theorized property of the Big Bang called inflation. 

Although, even the chronically delayed Webb should beat SPEREx to space. NASA has yet to begin construction of SPHEREx, which will be a joint effort of NASA JPL and Caltech. The launch is currently scheduled for June 2024 at Vandenberg Air Force Base.

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Joe Biden blames Trump for violence on Capitol Hill as he picks Merrick Garland for attorney general

U.S. president-elect Joe Biden on Thursday denounced the rioters who stormed the U.S. Capitol as “domestic terrorists” and blamed President Donald Trump for the violence that has shaken the nation’s capital and beyond.

The actions of Trump supporters who breached the security of Congress on Wednesday, said Biden, was “not dissent, was not disorder, was not protest. It was chaos.”

In solemn tones, Biden said the steps Trump has taken to subvert the nation’s democratic institutions throughout his presidency led directly to the mayhem in Washington.

Those who massed on Capitol Hill intending to disrupt a joint session of Congress that was certifying Biden’s election victory over Trump “weren’t protesters. Don’t dare call them protesters. They were a riotous mob — insurrectionists, domestic terrorists. It’s that basic,” Biden said.

“In the past four years, we’ve had a president who’s made his contempt for our democracy, our constitution, the rule of law clear in everything he has done,” Biden said. “He unleashed an all-out assault on our institutions of our democracy from the outset. And yesterday was the culmination of that unrelenting attack.”

WATCH | Biden lays the blame for Wednesday’s attack on the Capitol on Donald Trump:

U.S. president-elect Joe Biden planted the blame for Wednesday’s attack on the U.S. Capitol squarely on President Donald Trump, accusing him of “trying to use a mob to silence the voices of nearly 160 million Americans.” 5:32

The mob of hundreds of Trump backers broke into the Capitol and roamed the halls looking for lawmakers, who were forced to halt their deliberations and evacuate to safety. The violent protesters were egged on by Trump himself, who has falsely contended that he lost the election due to voter fraud.

Trump’s claims have been repeatedly dismissed in the courts, including the Supreme Court, and by state election officials from both parties, and even some in his own administration. 

Merrick Garland for attorney general

Biden made his remarks as he introduced Merrick Garland as his pick for attorney general on Thursday along with three others he has selected for senior Justice Department positions to “restore the independence” of the Justice Department and faith in the rule of law.

Garland is the former chief judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. circuit. If confirmed by the Senate, which is likely, he would take over as the nation’s top law enforcement official at a critical moment for the country and the agency.

He would inherit immediate challenges related to civil rights, an ongoing criminal tax investigation into Biden’s son Hunter and calls from many Democrats to pursue criminal inquiries into Trump after he leaves office.

Appeals Court Judge Merrick Garland speaks in the Rose Garden of the White House in 2016 after being nominated to the U.S. Supreme Court by President Barack Obama. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

Beyond the specific issues, he will be tasked with repairing the American people’s broad distrust in the U.S. Justice Department, among other institutions of democracy undermined by Trump’s turbulent presidency.

Biden vowed that Garland’s loyalty would rest not with the president, but with the law and Constitution.

“You don’t work for me,” Biden charged as he introduced Garland.

Black Lives Matter treated very differently, says Biden

Biden used the event to also address what he said was blatant inequality in dealing with the mob on Capitol Hill Wednesday. 

“No one can tell me that if it had been a group of Black Lives Matter protesting yesterday, they wouldn’t have been treated very, very differently than the mob of thugs who stormed the Capitol.”

WATCH | Biden calls out the inequality over how the rioters were treated Wednesday:

U.S. president-elect Joe Biden says it is clear that had the people who stormed the U.S. Capitol been members of Black Lives Matter, they would have been treated very differently by security forces. 1:35

Garland would inherit a Justice Department that has endured a tumultuous four years and abundant criticism from Democrats over what they see as the overpoliticization of law enforcement. The department is expected to dramatically change course under new leadership, including through a different approach to civil rights issues and national policing policies, especially after months of mass protests over the deaths of Black Americans at the hand of law enforcement.

Black and Latino advocates had wanted a Black attorney general or someone with a background in civil rights causes and criminal justice reform. Groups including the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund had championed Garland’s Supreme Court nomination, but the extent of support from minority groups for the attorney general job was not immediately clear.

Other justice posts announced

Biden introduced three others for senior Justice Department leadership posts, including Obama administration homeland security adviser Lisa Monaco as deputy attorney general and former Justice Department civil rights chief Vanita Gupta as associate attorney general, the No. 3 official. He also named an assistant attorney general for civil rights, Kristen Clarke, now the president of Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, an advocacy group.

Though Garland is a white man, the selection of Gupta and Clarke, two women with significant experience in civil rights, appeared designed to blunt any concerns and served as a signal that progressive causes would be prioritized in the new administration.

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Microsoft Picks Up Ark II as an Xbox Exclusive

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Microsoft has added another exclusive to its own stable of games. Ark II, the sequel to the hottest bug simulator of the 2010s and starring Vin Diesel, will apparently debut as an Xbox exclusive, though it’s probably time-limited as opposed to permanently locked away from the platform.

The interesting thing about Microsoft choosing to snag Ark II is that the company explicitly moved away from this strategy with the Xbox One. This is true even if you expand the definition of exclusive to mean “Released on everything but PS4, including PC” as opposed to “Released only for Xbox.” The former is much more likely to match Microsoft’s exclusive releases going forward, because the company is making services like Xbox Game Pass and xCloud critical to its future, and both services are intended to make it easier to play the games you want to play on the device you have handy. If you haven’t seen the Ark II trailer, or you just enjoy watching Vin Diesel spear a dinosaur, check it out:

The trailer showcases Vin Diesel and his family beating up some new humanoids (relative to Ark: Survival Evolved), facing off with a Yutyrannus, and then interfacing with far more modern technology that his character is clearly familiar with. There’s not much back story or plot explicitly provided in the video.

If you’re wondering how Vin Diesel fits into this title, specifically, Microsoft writes:

Ark II will also feature Vin Diesel as a hero character, Santiago, who will also be a crossover character in the upcoming “Ark: The Animated Series.” While Vin Diesel will lend his acting talents to Ark II, he is also a massive fan of the franchise, now serving as an executive producer on the game’s sequel and having logged over 1,000 hours in Ark: Survival Evolved.

Microsoft Is Rebuilding an Exclusive (or ‘Exclusive’) Game Strategy

Microsoft has been on a studio-buying spree lately, snapping up Bethesda (gaining id Software, Arkane Studios, and MachineGames) in 2020, and companies such as PlayGround Games, Obsidian, Undead Labs, Ninja Theory, and Compulsion Games over the past couple of years. Where Bethesda is concerned, Microsoft has said that the entire point is to create an ecosystem. In theory, at least, that means some of the titles developed by these studios in the future will also come to PlayStation 5, though there could still be timed exclusives for the Xbox / PC side of things.

Sony, of course, continues to invest in building a more conventional ecosystem of first-party PlayStation 5 titles that don’t focus on sharing games across devices in quite the same way, probably because Sony lacks Microsoft’s ties to anything like an equivalent Windows ecosystem. The next-generation of console devices has barely launched, but games like Spider-Man: Miles Morales and Astro’s Playroom have both driven chatter in ways that the Xbox Series X has struggled to match.

Both companies are dealing with this problem, with Sony suggesting that true next-generation games are probably a year or two away, but that gap also means Microsoft has time to polish its strategy for enticing gamers in the Xbox or PC universe to sign up for Xbox Game Pass. Sony will benefit over the same period from its own exclusive releases, even if they aren’t aimed at quite the same goal.

Console launches are typically considered an opportunity to reset the competitive standing between the manufacturers, but given the strangeness of the present moment, it’s hard to get a feel for how the market is reacting to the systems. Early data suggests demand for the PS5 is running nearly 2:1 ahead of Xbox according to StockX. The disc-based versions of each system are selling ahead of the digital-only editions in both cases.

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Biden expected to announce cabinet picks soon as more Republicans urge Trump to concede

U.S. President-elect Joe Biden’s first cabinet picks are coming Tuesday and planning is underway for a pandemic-modified inauguration in January as his team moves forward despite roadblocks from the Trump administration.

Ron Klain, Biden’s incoming chief of staff, offered no details Sunday about which department heads Biden would first announce, but multiple people familiar with the Biden team’s planning told The Associated Press that Antony Blinken is the leading contender to become Biden’s nominee for secretary of state.

Blinken, 58, served as deputy secretary of state and deputy national security adviser during the Obama administration and has close ties with Biden. If nominated and confirmed, he would be a leading force in the incoming administration’s bid to reframe the U.S. relationship with the rest of the world after four years in which U.S. President Donald Trump questioned longtime alliances.

In nominating Blinken, Biden would sidestep potentially thorny issues that could have affected Senate confirmation for two other candidates on his short list to be America’s top diplomat: Susan Rice and Sen. Chris Coons.

Rice would have faced significant Republican opposition and likely rejection in the Senate. She has long been a target of Republicans, including for statements she made after the deadly 2012 attacks on Americans in Benghazi, Libya.

Coons’s departure from the Senate would have come as other Democratic senators are being considered for administrative posts and the party is hoping to win back the Senate. Control hangs on the result of two runoff elections in Georgia in January.

For his part, Blinken recently participated in a national security briefing with Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris and has weighed in publicly on notable foreign policy issues in Egypt and Ethiopia.

Antony Blinken, right, will reportedly be Biden’s nominee for secretary of state. (Jonathan Ernst/File/Reuters)

Biden’s secretary of state would inherit a deeply demoralized and depleted career workforce at the State Department. Trump’s two secretaries of state, Rex Tillerson and Mike Pompeo, offered weak resistance to the administration’s attempts to gut the agency, which were thwarted only by congressional intervention.

Although the department escaped massive proposed cuts of more than 30 per cent in its budget for three consecutive years, it has seen a significant number of departures from its senior and rising mid-level ranks, from which many diplomats have opted to retire or leave the foreign service given limited prospects for advancements under an administration that they believe does not value their expertise.

Biden pledges diverse government

Biden has pledged to build the most diverse government in modern history, and he and his team often speak about their desire for his administration to reflect America.

He is being watched to see whether he will make history by nominating the first woman to lead the Pentagon, the Treasury Department or the Department of Veterans Affairs, or the first Black American at the top of the Defense Department, the Interior Department or the Treasury Department.

Biden’s incoming chief of staff Ron Klain, left, offered no details Sunday about which department heads Biden would first announce. (Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

Biden said last week he had settled on his pick for treasury secretary.

Klain said the Trump administration’s refusal to clear the way for Biden’s team to have access to key information about agencies and federal dollars for the transition is taking its toll on planning, including the cabinet selection process

Trump’s General Services Administration (GSA) has yet to acknowledge that Biden won the election — a determination that would remove those roadblocks.

“We’re not in a position to get background checks on Cabinet nominees. And so there are definite impacts. Those impacts escalate every day,” Klain told ABC’s This Week.

Some GOP politicians break with Trump 

Even some Republicans have broken with Trump in recent days and called on him to accept the results of the election.

“I, frankly, do think it’s time to — well, it was past time to start a transition, to at least co-operate with the transition,” Republican Sen. Kevin Cramer of North Dakota said on NBC’s Meet the Press.

He said the GSA’s designation should happen Monday “because it didn’t happen last Monday morning,” to give the incoming administration “all the time they need.”

U.S. President Donald Trump drives a golf cart at the Trump National Golf Club in Sterling, Va., on Sunday. (Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images)

Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee said there was a “very good chance” Biden would be president and that Biden and his team should have access to relevant information for the transition.

After a federal judge’s ruling against the Trump campaign in an election challenge in Pennsylvania on Saturday, the state’s Republican Sen. Pat Toomey said the president had “exhausted all plausible legal options” and Toomey congratulated Biden on his win.

Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska said in a statement Sunday that courts had so far found Trump’s claims to be without merit and called a “pressure campaign” on state legislators to influence the electoral outcome unprecedented and inconsistent with the democratic process.

“It is time to begin the full and formal transition process,” she said.

Also Sunday, former Republican Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey, a longtime Trump supporter, said on ABC that it was time for the president to stop contesting the outcome.

Christie said Trump’s legal team was a “national embarrassment.”

Inauguration altered by pandemic

Looking ahead to the Jan. 20 inauguration, Klain said it is “going to definitely have to be changed” due to the coronavirus pandemic, and that the Biden team is consulting with Democratic leadership in the House and Senate over their plans.

“They’re going to try to have an inauguration that honours the importance and the symbolic meaning of the moment, but also does not result in the spread of the disease. That’s our goal,” Klain said.

Inaugurations typically include a traditional parade down Pennsylvania Avenue, remarks by the president and vice-president from the Capitol, a lunch with lawmakers in the Capitol rotunda and numerous balls across Washington.

Biden sits across from President Barack Obama, right, during the former president’s second inauguration in January 2013. Planning is underway for Biden’s pandemic-modified inauguration. (Win McNamee/Getty Images)

All are events attended by hundreds and sometimes hundreds of thousands of people who travel to the nation’s capital. It’s unclear how public health concerns will affect those traditions.

During the campaign, Biden drew a contrast with Trump on the coronavirus by paring down his own events in response to the pandemic.

Biden held smaller gatherings where people were asked to wear masks and adhere to social distancing recommendations from public health experts.  Since he won the presidency, Biden has emphasized the importance of mask-wearing.

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Vanessa Bryant Thanks WNBA For Making Daughter Gianna, Alyssa Altobelli & Payton Chester Honorary Draft Picks

Vanessa Bryant Thanks WNBA For Making Daughter Gianna, Alyssa Altobelli & Payton Chester Honorary Draft Picks | Entertainment Tonight

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Consumer Reports Picks Its Top Car Brands

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Four brands stand at the top of the annual Consumer Reports car issue. Three of them, Porsche, Genesis, and Subaru all received brand rankings of 80 or more. The magazine gives a recommended rating to every model sold by Porsche, Genesis, and the fourth-highest-scoring brand, Mazda, while every Subaru is recommended except for the WRX.

Two vehicles earned the highest overall scores: the Toyota Avalon family sedan (main photo) and the Kia Telluride SUV that won several car/truck of the year awards. Each received 93 of 100 possible points. The details are in the magazine’s April 2020 issue.

33 car brands ranked by overall score, which comprises road tests, reliability, owner satisfaction, and safety. CR says the road-test score is based on 50 different tests; reliability is based on 17 problem areas. It covers cars surveyed for the last three years.

Porsche, Genesis, Subaru, Mazda, Lexus, Audi, Hyundai, and BMW all received overall brand scores of at least 75 on a 100-point scale. The midpoint score (half above, half below) was 70. The biggest gainer was Tesla, which jumped eight spots from 19 to 11; its weak point remains reliability, which is below (but not significantly below) average. It’s not clear if there’s a statistical difference between brands rated a couple of points apart.

The 2020 Kia Telluride, tied with Toyota Avalon for the highest overall score, is one of Consumer Reports’ Top Picks and one of ExtremeTech’s 10 Best cars of the year.

Ten Top Picks (And They’re Super-Safe)

Consumer Reports has an annual Top Picks comprising the one top vehicle in each of 10 categories. To be considered, the vehicles must have received a recommended rating from the review and come standard with:

  • Forward collision warning (FCW)
  • Automatic emergency braking (AEB)
  • Pedestrian detection, an adjunct to AEB

CR does not, however, require blind spot detection or adaptive cruise control. The CR-required safety features can be implemented by a single, sub-$ 100 camera mounted at the top of the windshield. Blind-spot detection (BSD) requires multiple rear sonar/radar sensors. Some safety experts say BSD is crucial especially for older drivers who have trouble looking over their shoulders. Adaptive cruise control (ACC) makes rush-hour commutes and long highway drives less stressful and safer as well. But it, too, requires a separate front-facing radar. With forward collision warning and automatic emergency braking, you don’t know the device is working until it’s almost too late, while ACC slows you as soon as the vehicle in front slows or brakes.

CR Top Picks Per Segment Score
Midsize 3-Row SUV: Kia Telluride 93
Big Sedan: Toyota Avalon 93
Midsize Sedan: Subaru Legacy 87
Small SUV: Subaru Forester 84
Midsize SUV: Lexus RX 80
Sports Car: Toyota Supra 80
EV: Tesla Model 3 80
Hybrid: Toyota Prius 79
Compact Pickup: Honda Ridgeline 76
Small Car: Toyota Corolla 75

These are the 19 vehicles to which Consumer Reports awards a score of 85 or higher. That’s out of 260 vehicles rated.

CR 2020 Highest Rated Cars Score
Toyota Avalon Hybrid 2.5L 93
Kia Telluride 3.8L 93
Lincoln MKZ 2.0T 89
Genesis G80 3.8L 89
Audi A4 2.0T 88
Porsche 718 Boxster 2.0T 88
Porsche Cayenne 3.0T 88
Subaru Legacy 2.5 87
BMW M240i 3.0T 87
Subaru Outback 2.4T 87
Hyundai Palisade 3.8L 87
Lexus ES350 3.5L 87
Lexus GS350 3.5L 87
Mazda Miata MX-5 86
Mazda CX-9 2.5T 86
BMW 740i 4.4T 86
Subaru Crosstrek 2.5L 85
Toyota Camry 2.5L 85
Kia Cadenza 3.3L 85
Score of 85 or higher (of 100 points).

Interesting Factoids (to Us, at Least)

Consumer Reports, April 2020.

The top individual-model rankings (above, those rated 85 and higher) are skewed toward Japanese, German and Korean automakers:

  • Japan: Toyota/Lexus 4, Subaru 3, Mazda 2
  • Germany: BMW 2, Porsche 2, Audi 1
  • Korea: Kia 2, Hyundai 1, Genesis 1 (all part of Hyundai)
  • US: Lincoln 1

Among the overall brand ranking, the biggest loser was Acura, which fell eight places from 16 to 24 among the 33 brands. Lincoln and Volkswagen each fell five places, from 8 to 13, and from 11 to 16. The eight automakers at the bottom, scoring below 60 points, remained the same, and CR noted:

The bottom brands are an unchanged club, with Fiat [lowest scoring, 43], Mitsubishi, Jeep, Land Rover, Cadillac, Jaguar, Alfa Romeo, and GMC again falling short. We tested a total of 36 models from these brands, and we recommend only the Jeep Grand Cherokee.

Among small cars, Consumer Reports picked 33 best used vehicles under $ 20,000. They have to have performed well on tests when new and have above-average reliability. That includes:

  • Toyota, 13 models
  • Lexus, 6
  • Mazda, 4
  • Honda 3

While Honda and Toyota both sell a lot of vehicles, the recommended-used-cars differential is more than 4-1 (13 Toyota, 3 Honda). Mostly because of the $ 20K price cap, there are only two premium-brand European cars cited, the Volvo Xc70 and BMW i3. And in what may be an ominous sign for the US-flagged automakers, among recommended used cars, not a one is from GM, Ford/Lincoln, or Dodge/Chrysler/Ram.

Much of Consumer Reports car coverage is behind a paywall. But it does make freely available safety news (recalls) and some top lines on cars on the site if you don’t want to lay out $ 39 a year for digital access.

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Which presidential hopeful would be best for Canada? Ex-ambassadors share their picks

The Democratic race to pick a presidential nominee will hit overdrive with 14 states voting on Super Tuesday next week.

We asked Democratic Party insiders who know Canada well — each has served as ambassador to this country — for their views on the state of play.

All the ex-ambassadors remain involved in Democratic politics and are endorsing, raising money for, or organizing for one of the candidates.

We asked each of them the same questions: Whom do they support and why? How would their candidate affect relations with Canada?

We also asked them to weigh in on the hottest controversy in Democratic politics these days: Is it fair to try preventing Sen. Bernie Sanders from becoming the nominee if he enters the summer convention with more delegates than anyone but not a majority?

Sanders has said that would be wrong.

But the party’s convention rules specifically allow for a multi-ballot contest if one candidate can’t get a majority on the first ballot; Sanders advisers even participated in writing the rules.

We asked Barack Obama’s envoys to Canada, David Jacobson and Bruce Heyman, and Bill Clinton’s appointees, James Blanchard and Gordon Giffin, for their take.

Bruce Heyman. Obama envoy from 2014 to 2017

Former U.S. ambassador to Canada Bruce Heyman supports Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar’s bid for the Democratic presidential nomination. (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press)

Who he supports and why:

He has donated, door-knocked and co-hosted fundraisers for Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar. He got to know her when his confirmation as ambassador was being held up by a partisan feud in Congress. He said Klobuchar kept pushing his case with colleagues, and would call regularly to keep him in the loop. He described Klobuchar as a tireless worker who builds relationships and knows how to get things done in Washington.

What she would mean for Canada:

“I believe that she would be uniquely the best president for Canada-U.S. relations that is running today — including the occupant of the White House today,” he said, referring to President Donald Trump.

Heyman said Klobuchar has two attributes that make her particularly suited to the task. The first being that she’s a border-state senator who has repeatedly taken an interest in cross-border issues. She co-chaired a Canada-U.S. parliamentary group; brought a delegation of opposing senators for a visit to Canada, including future attorney general Jeff Sessions; and regularly made herself, and her staff, available for briefings on Canada issues whenever Heyman was in Washington.

“Not everyone made time to brief visiting ambassadors,” he said.

The second attribute, he said, is Klobuchar works well across the aisle. “You don’t get things done alone on Canada. It’s about creating alliances and relationships.”

Fair to fight Sanders at the convention?:

All bets are off in a multi-ballot convention — and he says that’s fair. The rules are the rules.

“Remember: this is a convention of the party and the party needs to select the nominee that they think will best represent the party and be most competitive to win versus Donald Trump.”

He said what’s not fair is arbitrarily making up new rules on the fly — which, according to Heyman, is the kind of behaviour you see from the Trump White House.

David Jacobson, Obama envoy from 2009 to 2013

Former U.S. ambassador to Canada David Jacobson backs Pete Buttigieg as the best Democrat to take on President Donald Trump in this year’s election. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)

Who he supports and why:

He first met Pete Buttigieg when the mayor of South Bend, Ind., ran for the party chairmanship in 2017. Buttigieg lost, but Jacobson said he was impressed and remained in touch. He said he’s now supporting Buttigieg for three reasons: he’s a smart guy who would govern well; is a unifier in a country rife with divisions; and, in his opinion, is someone who would beat Trump.

“I think he will be a great president — and that’s always the most important issue,” Jacobson said. “[But] as time has gone on it has become clearer and clearer to me that the guy can actually win in November. Which is not something I believe about some of the other candidates in the race.”

What he would mean for Canada:

“I don’t think any of the candidates have spent a whole lot of time focused on the Canada-U.S. relationship in particular — or, for that matter, on foreign policy in general. It’s not something American voters tend to vote on, except in times of crisis.”

Having said that, Jacobson believes Canada-U.S. issues are best resolved when there’s a competent, highly functioning government in Washington and he said Buttigieg can deliver that. But, he added: “All the candidates are dramatically better for the relationship with Canada, and the relationship with our allies, than the current president.”

Fair to fight Sanders at the convention?:

It depends. Jacobson takes a nuanced view and it hinges on just how close the early delegate numbers are.

“If Bernie walks in [to the convention] with 49.5 per cent, he’s going to be the nominee. If he’s four votes short, he’s going to be the nominee. [But] if Bernie is at 40 per cent and someone else is at 38 or 39 per cent, that’s a very different story.”

More generally, he said, the party has rules — “and those rules were adopted at the urging of Bernie Sanders [after the 2016 election].”

He said he’d vote for Sanders in a matchup against Trump, but has serious doubts about him as a candidate.

“He seems like a nice guy. I have nothing against him. I disagree with some of his policy positions. But most fundamentally I am very concerned about his ability to win in November. I think he is divisive. I don’t think he would grow the tent. And I think you have to do more than turn out what he has — which is a very committed base but is overall quite small in the overall scheme of the electorate.”

Gordon Giffin, Clinton envoy from 1997 to 2001

Former U.S. president Bill Clinton, left, listens as moderator Gordon Giffin, Clinton’s former ambassador to Canada, asks a question during an event to mark Canada’s 150th anniversary in Montreal on Oct. 4, 2017. Giffin’s choice for the Democratic Party’s next presidential contender is Klobuchar. (Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press)

Who he supports and why:

Like Heyman, Giffin is also supporting Klobuchar. As he put it, “She has the intelligence, experience and judgment to lead the country.”

He said she also has a fun personality, “which matters.”

“She would unite Democrats, moderate Republicans and Independents in a way that decisively ends the Trump era.”

What she would mean for Canada:

“The [bilateral] relationship would return to its constructive, collaborative status of the Clinton era when we had another president who valued Canada,” Giffin said.

He said his experience has taught him that having a president who values Canada “infects the entire administration with that perspective.” A friendly relationship at the top also empowers the U.S. ambassador to Canada to resolve issues without interference from Washington, he said.

Fair to fight Sanders at the convention?:

Yes, if he’s short of a majority.

“Someone who goes to a convention with less than a majority of the delegates has no more right to expect to win than any other person who has  — or does not have — delegates.”

He said that on a second ballot, delegates are free to support anyone whose name is in nomination. (Also, on a second ballot, party officials known as superdelegates — members of Congress, governors and senior figures like ex-presidents — can start voting.)

“I have no qualms about nominating someone other than Sanders even if he has a lead going into the convention. Otherwise the rules would simply require a plurality to win.”

James Blanchard, Clinton envoy from 1993 to 1996

James Blanchard was U.S. ambassador to Canada during Bill Clinton’s administration. He supports former vice-president Joe Biden’s campaign for the Democratic nomination. (LM Otero/The Associated Press)

Who he supports and why:

The former Michigan governor is helping Joe Biden in his home state — which is a critical election battleground.

“First of all, I think he would do a good job as president. Second of all, I think he would carry the key state of Michigan,” Blanchard said. “The reason? People like him and they trust him with power.”

Blanchard said Michiganders will give Biden credit for the Obama administration’s work on the auto bailout during the financial crisis. “I think Joe Biden is much more electable — for a lot of reasons.”

What he would mean for Canada:

He said any incoming Democratic president will be keen for foreign information on universal health coverage, as the candidates have all promised to expand coverage. He said Biden would want to co-operate on greenhouse gas emissions, where the Trump administration has withdrawn from cross-border emissions plans as well as the Paris Accord.

Blanchard said Biden would also prize multilateral co-operation, and stop threatening tariffs like the ones Trump temporarily placed on Canadian metals, which Blanchard called “a joke.”

“We’d be back to normal. The normal structure of the postwar era that gave us decades of peace and prosperity,” he said.

However, Blanchard did say he’s not sure what would happen with oil — Biden has said he would “oppose” Canada’s pipelines and “dirty crude.”

Fair to fight Sanders at the convention?:

Yes. While he’d vote for Sanders against Trump, he dismissed the idea of crowning him the nominee without a delegate majority.

“That’s nonsense. We’ve never, ever, in the history of the Democratic Party, ever decided the nominee on the basis of a plurality — 35, 40 per cent. That’s ridiculous. We have to have a majority,” Blanchard said. “Why would we make new rules for a guy who has not even wanted to call himself a Democrat.”

He described Sanders as the latest version of protest candidates like Norman Thomas, Henry Wallace and George McGovern, who have always existed in the party but have been unsuccessful in elections. He said he fears a blowout if Sanders is the nominee.

“The practical wing of our party is the one that can win and govern.”

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Canadiens send defenceman Marco Scandella to St. Louis Blues for picks

The Montreal Canadiens traded defenceman Marco Scandella to St. Louis on Tuesday for the Blues’ second-round pick in the 2020 NHL Entry Draft and a conditional fourth-round pick in 2021.

Scandella has 12 points (4-8) in 51 games this season.

The Blues also placed defenceman Jay Bouwmeester on long-term injured reserve and assigned defenceman Niko Mikkola to AHL San Antonio.

Earlier Tuesday, the team announced defenceman Shea Weber and forward Paul Byron are cleared to return to the lineup for the Canadiens’ game Tuesday night at Detroit.

Canadiens head coach Claude Julien confirmed Weber and Byron would be available following the morning skate.

Weber, Montreal’s captain, missed Montreal’s last six games with a left ankle injury.

He was originally expected to miss four to six weeks of action, but was a surprise participant in practice on Monday.

Byron has been out since Nov. 15 with a knee injury.

The Canadiens are on the outside of the playoff picture, occupying 13th spot in the NHL’s 16-team Eastern Conference.

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Vaping illnesses rise to 1,888 in U.S. as pace picks up again

The number of U.S. vaping illnesses has jumped again, reaching more than 1,800 cases.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Thursday that 1,888 confirmed and probable cases have been reported in 49 states. That includes 37 deaths in 24 states.

The total is 284 higher than what the government reported last week and a larger increase than seen in several weeks. Officials say the previous slowdown could have been caused by reporting delays.

The outbreak appears to have started in March. No single ingredient, electronic cigarette or vaping device has been linked to all the illnesses. Most who got sick said they vaped products containing tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, the high-inducing ingredient in marijuana.

Health officials urge people to avoid vaping, particularly products containing THC and purchased off the street.

In Canada, as of Oct. 29, 2019, there are five confirmed or probable cases of severe lung illness related to vaping: two confirmed cases in Quebec, two probable in New Brunswick and one probable in British Columbia. 

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