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Robocalls: FCC wants them blocked by default but you may pay extra

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Robocall from Google? Hang up. It’s a scam
While it’s difficult to fight phone spam, we have some suggestions that may help make things a bit less annoying.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) finally has a plan for how US carriers can deal with the scourge of spammy robocalls, which are the commission’s top complaint each year. But consumers could end up paying extra for the benefit of carriers blocking those calls.  

Ahead of a vote on his proposal to deal with robocalls, FCC chairman Ajit Pai on Thursday proclaimed that spam calls should be blocked by default. 

“If you have a cellphone, you probably love it and hate it. The main reason you hate it is very likely to be robocalls,” Pai wrote. 

SEE: 10 tips for new cybersecurity pros (free PDF)

The FCC on Thursday ended up voting in favor of allowing carriers to “aggressively block unwanted robocalls before they reach consumers”. 

Under the plan, voice carriers can block unwanted calls by default, reversing current practices, which allow consumers to opt in to robocall blocking services. 

Carriers can block unwanted calls based on “reasonable call analytics”, so long as users are informed and can opt out of the blocking.

The ruling also clears the path for carriers to offer consumers the choice to opt in to a service that blocks any number that’s not on the user’s contact list or another list of approved numbers, otherwise known as a ‘whitelist’.     

Every year Americans are inundated by tens of billions of spam and scam calls, and every year the problem gets worse, undermining the benefits of having a mobile phone. Some estimates suggest phone users receive 10 unwanted calls per month.   

“If Americans can agree on anything these days, it’s that they’re fed up with robocalls,” wrote Pai in his pre-vote pitch to the public. 

“The scam calls. The calls from foreign countries at 2am. The deceptive caller ID ‘spoofing’, which happens when a caller falsifies caller ID information to make it look as if they’re calling from your area code.”

The FCC also officially tabled the proposal to force carriers to implement the Shaken/Stir caller ID authentication framework if service providers haven’t already done so by the end of the year. 

The Shaken/Stir plan would see carriers ‘sign’ calls originating from their network, which would be validated by other carriers before reaching a phone. It would help carriers rapidly attribute calls to an entity. 

However, there is a potential catch to this plan for consumers, since carriers can legally charge consumers for robocall blocking services.

SEE: IT pro’s guide to the evolution and impact of 5G technology (free PDF)

FCC commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel, who was appointed to the role by the Obama administration, voted to approve Pai’s robocall-blocking proposal, but dissented in part.  

Following the vote, she tweeted that the FCC “refuses to prevent new consumer charges and fees to block these awful calls. That’s not right. We should stop robocalls and do it for FREE.”

“As far as this new blocking technology goes, so far, so good. But there is one devastating problem with our approach. There is nothing in our decision today that prevents carriers from charging consumers for this blocking technology to stop robocalls,” she said in her statement on the vote. 

“I think robocall solutions should be free to consumers. Full stop. I do not think that this agency should pat itself on the back for its efforts to reduce robocalls and then tell consumers to pay up. 

“They are already paying the price – in scams flooding our phone lines; wasted time responding to false and fraudulent calls offering us what we did not ask for, do not want, and do not need; and a growing distrust in our most basic communications.”

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Callaway Chevy Silverado SC602 Signature Edition trounces Ram TRX in a drag race

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American performance vehicle builder Callaway Cars has debuted its newest creation: The Chevy Silverado SC602 Signature Edition, now officially the best sleeper truck on the road. How fast? Hold your breath: This Chevy Silverado has trounced the mighty RAM TRX in a drag race. That’s saying a lot since Ram made it clear the TRX is “the quickest, fastest, and most powerful mass-produced truck in the world.”

But as it turns out, Callaway has other plans. The company has a long and cherished history of building quirky yet high-end performance cars like the C4 Corvette Sledgehammer and C7 Corvette AeroWagen. However, what we really love about the Silverado SC602 is the way it looks.

It may resemble a factory-stock Chevy Silverado from some angles, but there are telltale signs of the truck’s outstanding stoplight-to-stoplight ability. Like those 20 or 22-inch Callaway lightweight wheels, for instance, or the bevy of chrome Callaway exterior badging, including a bold CALLAWAY script on the carbon fiber front grille.

As with any Callaway vehicle, what matters most is hiding under the sheet metal. The SC602 starts life as a Chevrolet Silverado Trail Boss, RST, LTZ, or High Country with a standard 6.2-liter V8 motor and four-wheel drive. Next, Callway installs a GenThree Eaton TVS R2650 Supercharger with a TripleCooled intercooler. The blower offers 15-percent more displacement yet requiring 18-percent less power output.

It doesn’t stop there. The truck also gets a high-flow intake, low-restriction stainless steel dual outlet exhausts with quad exhaust tips, and a bespoke Callaway ECU with custom tuning. After all the dirty engine work is complete, the Callaway Silverado SC60’s blown V8 is now pumping out 602 horsepower and 560 pound-feet of torque.

But wait, the Ram TRX’s Hellcat V8 makes 702 horsepower and 650 pound-feet of torque, 100 more horses (and 90 more torques) than Callaway’s truck, so how did it trounce the Ram? Two words: weight and tires. The Silverado SC602 tips the scales at only 5,820 pounds (2640 kg), while the Ram TRX weighs around 7,080 (3,211 kg) pounds.

The result is nothing short of astonishing. The SC602 goes from zero to 60 mph in 4.3-seconds, zero to 100 mph in 9.80-seconds, and breaks the quarter-mile in 12.5-seconds @ 113 mph. Meanwhile, the Ram TRX goes from zero to 60 mph in 3.99-seconds, a bit quicker than the Chevy.

But the latter is faster from zero to 100 mph as the Ram needed 10.14 seconds to perform the deed, proof of the Callaway Silverado SC60’s mid to high-range pulling power. And yeah, those sticky performance tires were partly responsible for the Callaway’s drag strip prowess.

What’s more, the Silverado SC602 is 50-state emissions compliant and carries a 3-year/36,000-mile warranty to supplement Chevy’s bumper-to-bumper warranty. Other goodies include aluminum door sills, billet aluminum pedals, an Alcantara-covered horn cover, and ID plaques to let other people know you’re driving the genuine article.

How much? We have no idea. But you can get in touch with Callaway if you fancy the ultimate Ram-beating sleeper truck.

Callaway Chevy Silverado SC602 Signature Edition Gallery

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Ford reveals the custom 2021 Mustang Mach-E to be given away for charity

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Ford has supported various charities for a long time, often donating customized automobiles to be auctioned off. Each year Ford offers a customized car for the AirVenture charity, and typically that car is a Ford Mustang of some sort with a big V8 engine under the hood. This year, the car Ford is donating to the charity is a different kind of Mustang.

Ford has revealed the customized electric 2021 Mustang Mach-E that will be auctioned off this year. The vehicle was built to honor the sacrifices of Women Air Force Service Pilots. The special Mach-E is inspired by the female volunteer pilots and the planes they flew during World War II.

Proceeds from the vehicle auction support the EAA initiative to provide young women and underserved youths more access to careers in the aviation industry. Ford notes that it has worked with AirVenture for more than two decades and has donated 12 custom aviation-themed performance vehicles so far, raising a total of more than $4 million. 2021 marks the first year Ford has donated an electric vehicle.

The custom Mach-E was designed by Ford and has a custom paint scheme with military badging inspired by the warplanes the volunteers flew. Women Air Force Service Pilots flew almost every type of military aircraft in World War II as they rolled off the factory floor after assembly. Ford put badges, including the US Army Air Force star on both sides, wings logos on the hood and fender, and No. 38 on the front fascia, rear bumper, and inside the cabin.

That number represents the 38 volunteers who died serving their country. Women Air Force Service Pilots are a group of American volunteers who transported warplanes to US Army bases worldwide to be used in combat. The female pilots flew more than 60 million miles during the war and weren’t recognized as active military personnel until 1977 when the pilots were granted retroactive military status.

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This Porsche 911 Turbo S pays homage to Mexican driving ace Pedro Rodriguez

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In collaboration with Porsche Latin America, Porsche Mexico, and Porsche Exclusive Manufaktur, German automaker Porsche has built a custom 911 Turbo S in memory of the late, great Pedro Rodriguez. Rodriguez is the most successful Mexican racing driver of all time.

He walked away with 11 titles in the World Championship of Makes – now known as the World Endurance Championship – and helped Porsche capture the crown in 1970 and 1971 aboard a Porsche 917 KH in Gulf Oil livery. Rodriguez claimed two Formula Grand Prix wins, four wins in the 24 Hours of Daytona, and a victory at the 24 Hours of Le Mans before losing his life in 1971 at the Norising street circuit in Nuremberg, Germany.

Fifty years on after that fateful and deadly crash, Porsche is reliving the glory days with a custom 911 Turbo S ‘One of a Kind’ Pedro Rodriguez. The car debuted at a Sportscar Together Day event at the Centro Alto Rendimineto in Toluca, Mexico, where it drew oohs and ahhs with its custom Gulf attire.

Porsche claims the 911 Turbo S ‘One of a Kind’ Pedro Rodriguez is, well, genuinely one of a kind. “This configuration, with these specific details and equipment, has been locked in the Porsche configurator, as well as in the production system, so that this car is literally unrepeatable,” said Camilo San Martin, Director of Porsche Mexico.

Wearing the iconic Gulf Blue paint with single orange striping, it also has custom high-gloss black wheels, an aluminum center lock, and a black number 2 in a white circle graphic on the doors and front hood. Look closely at the B-pillar and you’ll find a silhouette of the 917 KH race car wearing the colors off the Mexican flag, complete with the name and signature of Pedro Rodriguez.

Other bespoke elements include unique carbon moldings on the lower door frames (which illuminate when the doors are open), Graphite Blue leather seats with orange stitching, and an engraved tribute of the eight races that Rodriguez won aboard the Porsche 917 KH under the rear spoiler.

Also included are a Gulf Blue key fob (with Rodriguez’s signature) and a luggage set wearing the same blue and orange colors. It still has a turbocharged 3.8-liter flat-six pumping out 640 horsepower and 590 pound-feet of torque with an eight-speed dual-clutch gearbox under the hood.

The Porsche 911 Turbo S Pedro Rodriguez will hit the auction block later this year. Porsche will donate the auction proceeds to various charities.

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