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How Devs Can Help Beat the COVID-19 Pandemic

Sat, 2020-03-28 19:34
The state of New York hopes to "amplify" its response to COVID-19 by launching tech-driven products with top companies, and it's looking for professional volunteers with experience in software development, hardware deployment/end-user support, and data science (as well as areas like product management, design, operations management). Meanwhile, IBM's 2020 "Call for Code Global Challenge" is a virtual hackathon with a $200,000 prize, and they've now "expanded its focus" to include the effects of COVID-19. Tech columnist Mike Melanson writes: But this is just the beginning of the COVID-19 hackathon boom, which now includes efforts organized by tech giants, state governments, and grassroots initiatives alike. For example, the World Health Organization got together with technology companies and platforms such as AWS, Facebook, Giphy, Microsoft, Pinterest, Salesforce, Slack, TikTok, Twitter and WeChat to launch the COVID-19 Global Hackathon 1.0, which is running as we speak with a deadline for submissions of March 30th at 9 AM PST. If you're too late, fret not, for there are many more, such as the CODEVID-19 hackathon we mentioned last week that has a weekly rolling deadline. And deadlines aside, the U.S. Digital Response for COVID-19 is working to pair technology, data, and government professionals with those who need them, in a form of nationwide, technological mutual aid... [T]he COVID-19 open-source help desk is "a fast-track 'stack overflow' where you can get answers from the very people who wrote the software that you use or who are experts in its use." And if you happen to be either an open source author or expert, feel free to pitch in on answering questions... On the open data side of things, for example, GitHub offers a guide on open collaboration on COVID-19, while StackOverflow looks at the myriad ways to help the fight against COVID-19 from home. ProgrammableWeb has a list of developer hackathons to combat COVID-19, and even the Golang team offers some guidance for Go, the Go community, and the pandemic, with Erlang also joining in.

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Categories: Linux fréttir

Doc Searls: 'Zoom Needs to Clean Up Its Privacy Act'

Sat, 2020-03-28 18:38
The former editor-in-chief of the Linux Journal just published an annotated version of Zoom's privacy policy. Searls calls it "creepily chummy with the tracking-based advertising biz (also called adtech). I'll narrow my inquiry down to the "Does Zoom sell Personal Data?" section of the privacy policy, which was last updated on March 18. The section runs two paragraphs, and I'll comment on the second one, starting here: Zoom does use certain standard advertising tools which require Personal Data ... What they mean by that is adtech. What they're also saying here is that Zoom is in the advertising business, and in the worst end of it: the one that lives off harvested personal data. What makes this extra creepy is that Zoom is in a position to gather plenty of personal data, some of it very intimate (for example with a shrink talking to a patient) without anyone in the conversation knowing about it. (Unless, of course, they see an ad somewhere that looks like it was informed by a private conversation on Zoom.) A person whose personal data is being shed on Zoom doesn't know that's happening because Zoom doesn't tell them. There's no red light, like the one you see when a session is being recorded. If you were in a browser instead of an app, an extension such as Privacy Badger could tell you there are trackers sniffing your ass. And, if your browser is one that cares about privacy, such as Brave, Firefox or Safari, there's a good chance it would be blocking trackers as well. But in the Zoom app, you can't tell if or how your personal data is being harvested. (think, for example, Google Ads and Google Analytics). There's no need to think about those, because both are widely known for compromising personal privacy. (See here. And here. Also Brett Frischmann and Evan Selinger's Re-Engineering Humanity and Shoshana Zuboff's In the Age of Surveillance Capitalism.) Zoom claims it needs personal data to "improve" its users "experience" with ads -- though Searls isn't satisfied. ("Nobody goes to Zoom for an 'advertising experience,' personalized or not. And nobody wants ads aimed at their eyeballs elsewhere on the Net by third parties using personal information leaked out through Zoom.") His conclusion? "What Zoom's current privacy policy says is worse than 'You don't have any privacy here.' It says, 'We expose your virtual necks to data vampires who can do what they will with it.'"

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America's FDA Grants Emergency Approval for a 15-Minute Coronavirus Test

Sat, 2020-03-28 17:42
While many coronavirus tests provide results within hours or days, America's Food and Drug Administration "has authorized the emergency use" of a new rapid coronavirus test from medical device manufacturer Abbott that could results in less than 15 minutes, reports NBC News: The FDA told Abbott it authorized the test's use after determining that "it is reasonable to believe that your product may be effective in diagnosing COVID-19," based on the scientific evidence presented. The agency added that the "known and potential benefits" of the test outweigh potential risks, such as false positives or negatives. The technology being used for the new test is similar to the one found in rapid flu tests, according to the FDA's authorization letter and Abbott. The FDA also said Friday it has issued at least 19 other emergency use authorizations for diagnostic tests to detect COVID-19, and that it is working with more than 220 test developers who are expected to submit emergency-use authorization requests soon... Abbott said it is ramping up production to deliver 50,000 tests to the U.S. health care system starting next week.

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Physicists Disagree Over New Dark Matter Claim

Sat, 2020-03-28 16:34
sciencehabit shared this article from Science magazine: For decades, astrophysicists have thought some sort of invisible dark matter must pervade the galaxies and hold them together, although its nature remains a mystery. Now, three physicists claim their observations of empty patches of sky rule out one possible explanation of the strange substance — that it is made out of unusual particles called sterile neutrinos. But others argue the data show no such thing. "I think that for most of the people in the community this is the end of the story," says study author Benjamin Safdi, an astroparticle physicist at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. But Kevork Abazajian, a theoretical physicist at the University of California, Irvine, says the new analysis is badly flawed. "To be honest, this is one of the worst cases of cherry picking the data that I've seen," he says. In unpublished work, another group looked at similar patches of sky and saw the very same sign of sterile neutrinos that eluded Safdi... Alexey Boyarsky, an astroparticle theorist at Leiden University, is unconvinced. "I think this paper is wrong," he says. Boyarsky says he and his colleagues performed a similar, unpublished analysis in 2018, also using images from XMM-Newton, and did see a 3.5-keV glow from the empty sky, just expected from peering through a halo of sterile neutrinos.

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Some Researchers are Trying Mass Testing for Covid-19 Antibodies

Sat, 2020-03-28 15:34
An anonymous reader quotes Wired: Next week, blood banks across the Netherlands are set to begin a nationwide experiment. As donations arrive — about 7,000 of them per week is the norm — they'll be screened with the usual battery of tests that keep the blood supply safe, plus one more: a test for antibodies to SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19. Then, in a few weeks, another batch of samples will get the same test. And after that, depending on the numbers, there could be further rounds. The blood donors should be fairly representative of Dutch adults ages 18 to 75, and most importantly, they'll all be healthy enough for blood donation — or at least outwardly so... Identifying what proportion of the population has already been infected is key to making the right decisions about containment... [B]ecause no Covid-19-specific serological [antibody] tests have been fully vetted yet, the FDA's latest guidance is that they shouldn't be relied upon for diagnoses. But in epidemiology circles, those tests are a sought-after tool for understanding the scope of the disease. Since February — which was either three weeks or a lifetime ago — epidemiologists have been trying to get the full scope of the number of infections here in the U.S... [A]s the disease has continued to spread and a patchwork of local "stay at home" rules begins to bend the course of the disease, projecting who has the disease and where the hot spots are has become more difficult for models to capture. Instead, you need boots-on-the-ground surveillance. In other words, to fill the gap created by a lack of diagnostic tests, you need more testing — but of a different sort. This time you have to know how many total people have already fought the bug, and how recently they've fought it. "Of all the data out there, if there was a good serological assay that was very specific about individuating recent cases, that would be the best data we could have," says Alex Perkins, an epidemiologist at the University of Notre Dame. The key, he says, is drawing blood from a representative sample that would show the true scope of unobserved infections... Another motivation to develop better blood tests is the potential to develop therapeutics from antibody-rich blood serum. Wired is currently providing free access to stories about the coronavirus.

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Are There Exceptions to the Rule that Going Electric Reduces Emissions?

Sat, 2020-03-28 14:34
"Averaged over the globe, electric vehicles (EVs) already represent about a 31-percent emissions savings" writes Ars Technica, noting results from a study which also found similar savings from energy-efficient home-heating pumps. "Even in the scenario where these technologies are promoted but the grid isn't cleaned up much, there's a substantial benefit through 2050." But the researchers also separated the world into 59 regions, then used data on the "greenness" of each country's electricity grids, considering the full range of available vehicle types and home-heating methods as well as their predicted "uptake" of green technologies from 2015 to 2050. And this did identify a handful exceptions, Ars Technica reports: Compare, for example, Switzerland's exceptionally low-carbon grid to Estonia's, which runs primarily on oil shale. Swapping an internal combustion vehicle for an electric one in Switzerland cuts emissions by 70 percent, and a heat pump will cut them by about 88 percent. But in Estonia, an electric vehicle would increase emissions by 40 percent and a heat pump pushes that to an eye-watering 120 percent. A more significant exception can be found in Japan. In the scenarios with little progress on grid emissions, a decade from now, the combination of Japan's dirtier grid and preference for hybrid vehicles means that swapping in EVs doesn't quite pay... As time goes on, emissions from manufacturing electric vehicles accounts for a larger share of their total life cycle emissions, the researchers note. You can make the vehicle efficient and the grid clean, but you'll also have to clean up industry to keep shrinking that carbon footprint. The article notes that the researchers also predict continued improvements in the efficiency of electric vehicles -- with an unintended side effect. "As time goes on, emissions from manufacturing electric vehicles accounts for a larger share of their total life cycle emissions, the researchers note. "You can make the vehicle efficient and the grid clean, but you'll also have to clean up industry to keep shrinking that carbon footprint."

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School Quits Video Calls After Naked Man 'Guessed' the Meeting Link

Sat, 2020-03-28 13:00
An anonymous reader quotes a report from TechCrunch: A school in Norway has stopped using popular video conferencing service Whereby after a naked man apparently "guessed" the link to a video lesson. According to Norwegian state broadcaster NRK, the man exposed himself in front of several young children over the video call. The theory, according to the report, is that the man guessed the meeting ID and joined the video call. One expert quoted in the story said some are "looking" for links. Last year security researchers told TechCrunch that malicious users could access and listen in to Zoom and Webex video meetings by cycling through different permutations of meeting IDs in bulk. The researchers said the flaw worked because many meetings were not protected by a passcode.

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Yelp To Stop Auto-Creating GoFundMe Fundraisers After Outrage From Business Owners

Sat, 2020-03-28 10:00
Yelp has paused an effort in partnership with GoFundMe that automatically opted tens of thousands of small businesses into fundraisers after complaints from restaurant and bar owners, the company tells The Verge. From the report: Yelp launched the initiative earlier this week in response to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, but it did so without informing any of participants. Some business owners said the process for opting out -- in the event they were hosting their own fundraisers or simply did not want one automatically set up by Yelp -- was unnecessarily cumbersome. "On Tuesday, Yelp announced a partnership with GoFundMe to provide a fast and easy way for people to support their favorite local businesses by donating to a GoFundMe fundraiser directly on the Yelp pages of eligible businesses. In an effort to get businesses help quickly and easily, a GoFundMe fundraiser was automatically added to the Yelp pages of an initial group of eligible businesses, with information provided on how to claim it or opt out should a business choose to do so," a spokesperson said in a statement. "However, it has come to our attention that some businesses did not receive a notification with opt-out instructions, and some would have preferred to actively opt-in to the program," the statement goes on to say. "As such, we have paused the automatic rollout of this feature, and are working with GoFundMe to provide a seamless way for businesses to opt into the program moving forward, as we have received a great deal of interest and support for the program from both consumers and businesses alike." Yelp said in its original announcement of the GoFundMe partnership that it would be waiving fees and that both companies would match the first $1 million donated. However, critics of the partnership fast discovered that GoFundMe was setting the recommended tip, which is how GoFundMe funds its own operations, at 15 percent. "Yelp does not get any portion of the donations. Donations through the GoFundMe platform may be subject to payment processing fees in some instances per the terms of the GoFundMe platform," reads an FAQ page for the program.

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NASA Picks SpaceX To Fly Cargo To Moon-Orbiting Gateway Space Station

Sat, 2020-03-28 07:00
NASA has awarded SpaceX with a contract to supply Gateway, the moon-orbiting space station that the agency aims to start building in 2022, agency officials announced Friday. Space.com reports: Gateway is a key part of NASA's Artemis exploration program, which seeks to establish a sustainable, long-term human presence on and around the moon by the late 2020s. The small space station will serve as a jumping-off point for sorties, both crewed and uncrewed, to the lunar surface. SpaceX will help to keep the Gateway supplied, delivering scientific experiments and a variety of other gear to the outpost, NASA officials said. The company is guaranteed two missions under its newly announced Gateway Logistics Services contract. SpaceX's robotic ISS resupply runs employ the company's Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon capsule, which can loft 13,200 lbs. (6,000 kilograms, or 6 metric tons) to low-Earth orbit. But SpaceX's Gateway missions will use different hardware: the huge Falcon Heavy rocket and a special capsule variant called Dragon XL. (SpaceX has also developed another Dragon version, Crew Dragon, which will fly astronauts to and from the ISS under yet another NASA contract.) Dragon XL will be able to carry more than 5 metric tons of cargo to the Gateway, SpaceX representatives said via Twitter Friday. Dragon cargo missions to the ISS typically last about a month from launch to splashdown. But Dragon XL will likely stay attached to the Gateway for six to 12 months at a time, NASA officials said. Other companies may end up joining SpaceX in the Gateway resupply game.

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You Can Now Ride a Submarine To the Deepest Point On Earth

Sat, 2020-03-28 03:30
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Bloomberg: For some, the ultimate adventure is up in the stars. (See: Musk, Branson, Bezos.) For Texas businessman Victor Vescovo, the trip of a lifetime is a dive to the deepest known point on our own planet, the bottom of the Marianas Trench. For $750,000 per person, Vescovo will take guests down 35,843 feet in Limiting Factor, his $37 million Triton 36,000/2 submarine, whose depth capacity is more than 100 times that of the typical superyacht submersible. "Nobody gets more remote than this," says Rob McCallum, founding partner ofEYOS Expeditions, which is helping to plan and manage the trips to Challenger Deep, as this location is called. Almost seven miles beneath the water's surface, it has seen fewer human visitors than the International Space Station. Just getting to the right patch of the Pacific requires an intrepid spirit. Guests sail roughly 200 miles southwest from Guam on Pressure Drop, a 224-foot-long research vessel, bunked in with scientists, a film crew, and technical experts. Basic comforts include a chef, mess hall, and a rooftop bar for "strategic thinking exercises and international alcohol evaluations," as McCallum puts it. Once there, they pair up with pilots to make roughly 12-hour dives -- four hours down, three to four hours at the bottom, and four hours up -- to a place so deep that its exterior pressure would feel like having five jumbo jets parked on your chest. The eight-day itinerary, which includes three dives and three rest days (during which the submarine's oxygen system is refilled and ballasts reloaded), remains thus far scheduled for two slots in May. The first has already sold out.

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US Officials Reportedly Agree To Cut Off Huawei From Global Chip Suppliers

Sat, 2020-03-28 01:25
Senior U.S. government officials have agreed to new rules to cut off Huawei from global chip suppliers, according to a Reuters report Thursday, citing sources familiar with the matter. CNET reports: Under the new measures, foreign companies that use American chipmaking equipment would first need to secure a license before supplying some chips to Huawei, the report says. The focus of the new rules is to restrict the sale of more sophisticated chips to the Chinese telecom giant rather than generic, more widely available chips. Trump hasn't signed off on the proposed new measures yet, but if he does, a slew of US tech companies stand to lose, like Apple and Qualcomm along with Huawei. It could also negatively impact the world's largest chipmaker, Taiwan's TSMC, the report says.

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Google Cancels Its Infamous April Fools' Jokes This Year

Sat, 2020-03-28 01:05
Google won't be participating in April Fools' Day this year due to the serious threat of the coronavirus that continues to impact the entire world. The Verge reports: According to an internal email obtained by Business Insider, Google will "take the year off from that tradition out of respect for all those fighting the Covid-19 pandemic. Our highest goal right now is to be helpful to people, so let's save the jokes for next April, which will undoubtedly be a whole lot brighter than this one." "We've already stopped any centralized April Fool's efforts but realize there may be smaller projects within teams that we don't know about," the email from Google's head of marketing Lorraine Twohill continues. "Please suss out those efforts and make sure your teams pause on any jokes they may have planned -- internally or externally." Hopefully other companies will take note of Google's lead here and adjust their own April Fools' plans accordingly. There's a time and a place for a good joke -- but this probably isn't it.

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Scientists Identify Microbe That Could Help Degrade Polyurethane-Based Plastics

Sat, 2020-03-28 00:45
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Phys.Org: German researchers report in the journal Frontiers in Microbiology that they have identified and characterized a strain of bacteria capable of degrading some of the chemical building blocks of polyurethane. The team out of Germany managed to isolate a bacterium, Pseudomonas sp. TDA1, from a site rich in brittle plastic waste that shows promise in attacking some of the chemical bonds that make up polyurethane plastics. The researchers performed a genomic analysis to identify the degradation pathways at work. They made preliminary discoveries about the factors that help the microbe metabolize certain chemical compounds in plastic for energy. They also conducted other analyses and experiments to understand the bacterium's capabilities. This particular strain is part of a group of bacteria that are well-known for their tolerance of toxic organic compounds and other forms of stress, according to Dr. Christian Eberlein with the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research-UFZ. He is a co-author on the paper who coordinated and supervised the work. "That trait is also named solvent-tolerance and is one form of extremophilic microorganisms," he said. In addition to polyurethane, the P4SB consortium, which includes the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research-UFZ, is also testing the efficacy of microbes to degrade plastics made of polyethylene terephthalate (PET), which is widely used in plastic water bottles.

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Some Recovered Coronavirus Patients In Wuhan Are Testing Positive Again

Sat, 2020-03-28 00:02
NPR is reporting that some Wuhan residents in China who had tested positive earlier and then recovered from the disease are testing positive for the virus a second time. It's raising concerns of a possible second wave of cases, as China prepares to lift quarantine measures to allow residents to leave the epicenter of its outbreak next month. From the report: Based on data from several quarantine facilities in the city, which house patients for further observation after their discharge from hospitals, about 5%-10% of patients pronounced "recovered" have tested positive again. Some of those who retested positive appear to be asymptomatic carriers -- those who carry the virus and are possibly infectious but do not exhibit any of the illness's associated symptoms -- suggesting that the outbreak in Wuhan is not close to being over. NPR has spoken by phone or exchanged text messages with four individuals in Wuhan who are part of this group of individuals testing positive a second time in March. All four said they had been sickened with the virus and tested positive, then were released from medical care in recent weeks after their condition improved and they tested negative. One of the Wuhan residents who spoke to NPR exhibited severe symptoms during their first round of illness and was eventually hospitalized. The second resident displayed only mild symptoms at first and was quarantined in one of more than a dozen makeshift treatment centers erected in Wuhan during the peak of the outbreak. But when both were tested a second time for the coronavirus on Sunday, March 22, as a precondition for seeking medical care for unrelated health issues, they tested positive for the coronavirus even though they exhibited none of the typical symptoms, such as a fever or dry cough. The time from their recovery and release to the retest ranged from a few days to a few weeks. One theory is that they were first given a false negative test result. Another theory is that, because the test amplifies tiny bits of DNA, residual virus from the initial infection could have falsely resulted in that second positive reading.

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Elizabeth Warren's Campaign Is Making Its Software Open Source

Fri, 2020-03-27 23:20
gavron writes: While most politicians are pro copyright maximalism and patent exclusivity, Elizabeth Warren's campaign just open-sourced a bunch of software and are proud of having used open source to save money, and build upon the shoulders of other giants. Way to go! "Our tech team worked hard to make getting involved with @ewarren's campaign as easy as possible," reads a tweet from @TeamWarren. "We leaned heavily on open source technology, and we want to contribute back. So we're open-sourcing some of our most important projects for anyone to use." The Warren for President Tech Team is open-sourcing the following projects: -Spoke: Spoke is a peer-to-peer texting platform originally developed by MoveOn, with several forks under active development. -Pollaris, our polling location lookup tool: While the DNC provides a polling locator interface with IWillVote.org, we wanted a polling place locator that integrated with our website and tools, so we built our own interface and API, using polling location data provided by the DNC and state democratic parties. -Caucus App: Going into the Iowa caucuses, we wanted to give our supporters and precinct captains a way to quickly calculate delegates and report results from each precinct. -Switchboard (FE and BE): [W]e built a piece of software that took new potential volunteers, or "hot leads," from our online channels and assigned them to state-based volunteer leads for personal follow up calls offering ways to get involved with the campaign. As it turned out, this also ended up being a great tool for event recruitment. -Automated organizing email: Our Mobilization and Tech teams worked together to scale email outreach to the widest possible audience and free our incredible organizers from tedious manual tasks. -Redhook: Campaigns run on data, and redhook is a tool that makes data happen. As a system, Redhook ingests web hook data and delivers it to Redshift/Civis in near real time. -I90: This tool was not deployed during the campaign, but there was a need to make short links out of long complicated links moving forward. I90 does that. You can read more about the projects and the team's efforts via this Medium post.

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Bosses Panic-Buy Spy Software To Keep Tabs On Remote Workers

Fri, 2020-03-27 22:40
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Bloomberg: With so many people working remotely because of the coronavirus, surveillance software is flying off the virtual shelves. "Companies have been scrambling," said Brad Miller, CEO of surveillance-software maker InterGuard. "They're trying to allow their employees to work from home but trying to maintain a level of security and productivity." Along with InterGuard, software makers include Time Doctor, Teramind, VeriClock, innerActiv, ActivTrak and Hubstaff. All provide a combination of screen monitoring and productivity metrics, such as number of emails sent, to reassure managers that their charges are doing their jobs. ActivTrak's inbound requests have tripled in recent weeks, according to CEO Rita Selvaggi. Teramind has seen a similar increase, said Eli Sutton, vice president of global operations. Jim Mazotas, innerActive's founder, said phones have been ringing off the hook. Managers using InterGuard's software can be notified if an employee does a combination of worrisome behaviors, such as printing both a confidential client list and a resume, an indication that someone is quitting and taking their book of business with them. "It's not because of lack of trust," Miller said, who compared the software to banks using security cameras. "It's because it's imprudent not to do it." The software can also be a way for employers to grant more flexibility to workers to fit their jobs around other parts of their lives. It may also let managers spot areas that are overstaffed or where they may need additional hands. Sutton from software maker Teramind says employers worried about workers' every moves might have a bigger issue to deal with. "It's not about spying on the user," Sutton said. "If you hired them, you should trust them. If you don't, they have no reason to be part of the organization." Have you been required to use surveillance software while working from home? If so, which software is your employer using?

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Apple Launches COVID-19 Screening Website and App

Fri, 2020-03-27 22:20
Apple launched its own coronavirus screening site and iOS app developed alongside the White House, CDC and FEMA. From a report: The site is pretty simple with basic information about best practices and safety tips alongside a basic screening tool which should give you a fairly solid idea on whether or not you need to be tested for COVID-19. The site which is -- of course -- accessible on mobile and desktop also includes some quick tips on social distancing, isolation, hand-washing, surface disinfecting and symptom monitoring. The app, which contains identical information to the site, is US-only at the moment while the website is available worldwide. Depending on your symptoms, the site will push you to get in contact with your health provider, contact emergency services or it will inform you that you likely do not need to be tested. It will not route you to a testing center directly. Apple says that its app and website gather or collect zero personal information about anyone using it.

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Help Needed To Rescue UK's Old Rainfall Records

Fri, 2020-03-27 22:01
At a loss to know what to do with your self-isolation time? Well, why not get on the computer and help with a giant weather digitisation effort? From a report: The UK has rainfall records dating back 200 years or so, but the vast majority of these are in handwritten form and can't easily be used to analyse past periods of flooding and drought. The Rainfall Rescue Project is seeking volunteers to transfer all the data into online spreadsheets. You're not required to rummage through old bound volumes; the Met Office has already scanned the necessary documents -- all 65,000 sheets. You simply have to visit a website, read the scribbled rainfall amounts and enter the numbers into a series of boxes. "If you do just a couple of minutes every now and then -- that's great," said Prof Ed Hawkins. "If you want to spend an hour doing 30 or 40 columns - then that'll be amazing. But any amount of time, it will all add up and be a tremendous help." If you want to take part, click here.

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Trump Signs $2 Trillion Coronavirus Relief Bill

Fri, 2020-03-27 21:20
President Trump on Friday signed into law the largest economic stimulus package in modern American history, backing a $2 trillion measure that expands on a Republican proposal issue last week called the CARES Act -- the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act. The New York Times reports: Under the law, the government will deliver direct payments and jobless benefits for individuals, money for states and a huge bailout fund for businesses battered by the crisis. Mr. Trump signed the measure in the Oval Office hours after the House approved it by voice vote and less than two days after the Senate unanimously passed it. The legislation will send direct payments of $1,200 to millions of Americans, including those earning up to $75,000, and an additional $500 per child. It will substantially expand jobless aid, providing an additional 13 weeks and a four-month enhancement of benefits, and for the first time will extend the payments to freelancers and gig workers. The measure will also offer $377 billion in federally guaranteed loans to small businesses and establish a $500 billion government lending program for distressed companies reeling from the crisis, including allowing the administration the ability to take equity stakes in airlines that received aid to help compensate taxpayers. It will also send $100 billion to hospitals on the front lines of the pandemic. You can read the bill yourself here.

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Phone Calls Are Back in Fashion

Fri, 2020-03-27 20:45
Data shows that people all over the U.S. are doing the same thing. Verizon says it has seen an average of 800 million wireless calls daily on recent weekdays, nearly twice the volume of Mother's Day. From a report: And we're not just calling people more often, we're talking on the phone for longer: AT&T says that wireless voice minutes on Monday were up 39% from the average Monday, and Wi-Fi calling minutes were 78% higher. Thanks to coronavirus, we're no longer in transit, unable to answer a call. We're not physically in the office so, sure, why not jump on the phone to catch up with a friend or colleague between work tasks? There's no stepping out for lunch, no "Let's just cover this in person next time we see one another," because we don't actually know when that will be. Pretty much the only reason you can't reach someone these days is because they're on another call. We're also feeling more isolated and increasingly concerned about the people we love. We want to check in with them more regularly. Texts can be cold and quick; a call is really one of the few ways others can hear the concern in your voice -- and you can hear the concern in theirs. And if you haven't yet changed out of your pajamas or washed your hair in a few days, phone calls beat video chats hands down.

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