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9 great reads from CNET this week

Why the magic of TikTok is authenticity, how astronaut Kathy Sullivan became the world's most vertical woman and what it's like to be on the front lines of California's fires.

Just when we thought Google was going to get all the attention this week with its virtual product event -- where it unveiled the Pixel 5 and Pixel 4A 5G phones, as well as a new Chromecast and the Nest Audio smart speaker -- the headlines quickly turned to the coronavirus. Late Thursday (or very early Friday on the East Coast), President Donald Trump said on Twitter that he and the first lady tested positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.

Meanwhile, the US response to the disease and the timing of a vaccine were key topics at a debate Tuesday between Trump and Democratic nominee Joe Biden, which was marred by frequent interruptions by the president and mudslinging. As a result, the commission that oversees presidential debates is reportedly considering format changes such as cutting off microphones if candidates break rules. 

Here are the week's stories you don't want to miss: 

Move over, Instagram influencers: The magic of TikTok is authenticity

Despite an uncertain future in the US, the social video app could have lasting implications for what we want from social media.

Angela Lang/CNET

In 'the chaos of a burning forest': A dispatch from the wildfire front lines

A member of an elite firefighting team answers our questions about California's inferno.

USFS/Carson Hotshots

Why Walmart Plus thinks it can challenge Amazon

CNET interviews Janey Whiteside, Walmart's chief customer officer, about the origins and future of the new subscription service.

Retail Signs
Juan Camilo Bernal/Getty Images

From NASA to the Mariana Trench: How Kathy Sullivan became the world's most vertical woman

She was part of NASA's first group of female astronauts and the first US woman to conduct a space walk. But in 2020, she set an entirely new world record.

Enrique Alvarez/Caladan Oceanic

Thunderbolt 4 products fix a big USB-C problem

You'll soon be able to plug more monitors, external drives and other devices into your laptop.

The MacBook Pro has combination USB-C and Thunderbolt ports.
Stephen Shankland/CNET

Google's Pixel 4A 5G gives you 5G and other high-end specs at a $499 budget price

This phone could actually attract more buyers than the $699 Pixel 5 flagship.

Screenshot by Sarah Tew/CNET

PS5 and Xbox Series X: Why you shouldn't go next-gen until 2021

Commentary: November will be exciting for gamers, but that doesn't mean you should drop hundreds on a new console just yet.

Screenshot by Sarah Tew/CNET

Amazon's Ring drone camera sets a bad precedent for privacy

Commentary: Ring's Always Home Cam doesn't offer nearly enough convenience to justify its risks to privacy.


John Cleese says the key to creativity is carving out time to play -- and laugh

The British actor, comedian, screenwriter and producer has spent decades figuring out what makes creative people so good at it.

Nigel Wilcockson