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The US Now Leads the World In Confirmed Coronavirus Cases

Thu, 2020-03-26 22:03
An anonymous reader quotes a report from The New York Times: Scientists warned that the United States someday would become the country hardest hit by the coronavirus pandemic. That moment arrived on Thursday. In the United States, at least 81,321 people are known to have been infected with the coronavirus, including more than 1,000 deaths -- more cases than China, Italy or any other country has seen, according to data gathered by The New York Times. With 330 million residents, the United States is the world's third most populous nation, meaning it provides a vast pool of people who can potentially get Covid-19, the disease caused by the virus. And it is a sprawling, cacophonous democracy, where states set their own policies and President Trump has sent mixed messages about the scale of the danger and how to fight it, ensuring there was no coherent, unified response to a grave public health threat. A series of missteps and lost opportunities dogged the nation's response. Among them: a failure to take the pandemic seriously even as it engulfed China, a deeply flawed effort to provide broad testing for the virus that left the country blind to the extent of the crisis, and a dire shortage of masks and protective gear to protect doctors and nurses on the front lines, as well as ventilators to keep the critically ill alive. "The world will be a different place when the pandemic is over," the report concludes. It suggests India may become the next global hotspot for virus cases as "it, too, is a vast democracy with deep internal divisions. But its population, 1.3 billion, is far larger, and its people are crowded even more tightly into megacities."

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AI Versus the Coronavirus

Thu, 2020-03-26 21:26
A new consortium of top scientists will be able to use some of the world's most advanced supercomputers to look for solutions. From a report: Advanced computers have defeated chess masters and learned how to pick through mountains of data to recognize faces and voices. Now, a billionaire developer of software and artificial intelligence is teaming up with top universities and companies to see if A.I. can help curb the current and future pandemics. Thomas M. Siebel, founder and chief executive of C3.ai, an artificial intelligence company in Redwood City, Calif., said the public-private consortium would spend $367 million in its initial five years, aiming its first awards at finding ways to slow the new coronavirus that is sweeping the globe. "I cannot imagine a more important use of A.I.," Mr. Siebel said in an interview. Known as the C3.ai Digital Transformation Institute, the new research consortium includes commitments from Princeton, Carnegie Mellon, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the University of California, the University of Illinois and the University of Chicago, as well as C3.ai and Microsoft. It seeks to put top scientists onto gargantuan social problems with the help of A.I. -- its first challenge being the pandemic. The new institute will seek new ways of slowing the pathogen's spread, speeding the development of medical treatments, designing and repurposing drugs, planning clinical trials, predicting the disease's evolution, judging the value of interventions, improving public health strategies and finding better ways in the future to fight infectious outbreaks.

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'League' of Cybersecurity Professionals Band Together To Help Hospitals

Thu, 2020-03-26 20:46
pgmrdlm writes: A growing group of cybersecurity professionals is volunteering their expertise to help hospitals fight off hackers while doctors and nurses fight the coronavirus. Calling themselves the CTI League -- Countering Threat Intelligence, and a nod to the superhero team the Justice League -- the group has swelled from a handful of professionals to 450 members worldwide in less than two weeks. "If some hospital gets attacked by some ransomware and wouldn't be able to pay, people will die because they wouldn't be able to get the medical services needed," said the group's founder, Ohad Zaidenberg.

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Worldwide Coronavirus Cases Surpass Half a Million

Thu, 2020-03-26 20:22
According to Johns Hopkins University, there are now more than 510,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases worldwide and more than 22,000 people have died from the new coronavirus. While China still has the most confirmed cases, the United States and Italy are close behind. CBS News reports: In the United States, more than 1,000 people have died and more than 75,000 people have been infected. An unprecedented number of Americans applied for unemployment benefits last week as the virus shuttered businesses and normal life across large swaths of the country came to a halt. Roughly 3.3 million people filed a claim for jobless aid in the week ending March 21 -- a nearly fivefold increase over the previous weekly record set in 1982. The Senate has passed an unprecedented $2 trillion relief package to help workers, businesses and the severely strained health care system survive the pandemic. UPDATE: The United States now leads the world with confirmed coronavirus cases. "[A]t least 81,321 people are known to have been infected with the coronavirus, including more than 1,000 deaths -- more cases than China, Italy or any other country has seen," reports The New York Times.

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Zoom iOS App Sends Data to Facebook Even if You Don't Have a Facebook Account

Thu, 2020-03-26 20:05
As people work and socialize from home, video conferencing software Zoom has exploded in popularity. What the company and its privacy policy don't make clear is that the iOS version of the Zoom app is sending some analytics data to Facebook, even if Zoom users don't have a Facebook account, according to a Motherboard analysis of the app. From the report: This sort of data transfer is not uncommon, especially for Facebook; plenty of apps use Facebook's software development kits (SDK) as a means to implement features into their apps more easily, which also has the effect of sending information to Facebook. But Zoom users may not be aware it is happening, nor understand that when they use one product, they may be providing data to another service altogether. "That's shocking. There is nothing in the privacy policy that addresses that," Pat Walshe, an activist from Privacy Matters who has analyzed Zoom's privacy policy, said in a Twitter direct message. Upon downloading and opening the app, Zoom connects to Facebook's Graph API, according to Motherboard's analysis of the app's network activity. The Graph API is the main way developers get data in or out of Facebook.

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Google To Resume Chrome Updates it Paused Last Week Due To COVID-19

Thu, 2020-03-26 19:25
An anonymous reader shares a report: Google paused Chrome updates last week when it canceled the Chrome 81 release in order to avoid causing severe disruptions to web developers, system administrators, and its own engineers, most working from home or having resources strained due to ever-worsening coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. In a blog post on the Chrome blog today, Google said it is now ready to resume work on Chrome. The company said that starting next week, the current Chrome 80 release will start receiving security updates once again. Chrome v81, initially scheduled to be released on March 17, was rescheduled for April 7, at which time, web developers and system administrators would have had the time to adapt to their new working conditions.

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How To Talk To Coronavirus Skeptics

Thu, 2020-03-26 18:45
Isaac Chotiner of The New Yorker interviews Naomi Oreskes, a professor of the history of science at Harvard who has focussed much of her career on examining distrust of science in the U.S.: Chotiner: This idea that we reject science because it clashes with our beliefs or experience -- how does that explain why people in Miami, whose homes are going to be flooded, reject global-warming science? Is it partisanship? Oreskes: The phrase I used was implicatory denial. What we found in "Merchants of Doubt" was that the original merchants of doubt, the people who started the whole thing, way back in the late nineteen-eighties, didn't want to accept the implication that capitalism, as we know it, had failed -- that climate change was a huge market failure and that there was a need for some kind of significant government intervention in the marketplace to address it. So, rather than accept that implication, they questioned the science. Now these things get complicated. People are complicated. One of the things that's happened with climate change over the last thirty years is that, because climate-change denial got picked up by the Republican Party as a political platform, it became polarized according to partisan politics, which is different than, say, vaccination rejection. And so then it became a talking point for Republicans, and then it became tribal. So now you have this deeply polarized situation in the United States where your views on climate change align very, very strongly with your party affiliation. And now we see a cognitive dissonance. Let's say you live in Florida, and you're now seeing flooding on a rather regular basis. This is completely consistent with the scientific evidence, but you don't accept it as proof of the science. You say, "Oh, well, we've always had flooding, or maybe it's a natural variable." You come up with excuses not to accept the thing that you don't want to accept.

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Crypto Margin Trading Challenged By US Derivatives Regulator

Thu, 2020-03-26 18:05
The main U.S. derivatives regulator is taking a significant step in defining the sometimes blurry line between cryptocurrency futures and trading in the spot market. From a report: The Commodity Futures Trading Commission this week laid out its view on what it means to take "actual delivery" of a digital asset. The long-awaited guidance is significant because it means that there could be penalties for trades that don't let the buyer take physical possession and control of a coin within 28 days -- the cut off line for when trades in commodities like wheat and oil start to be considered futures contracts. Long-existing rules requiring traders and exchanges to be able to deliver physical commodities unless they're futures trading on a CFTC-regulated exchange has sowed some confusion for Bitcoin, Ether and other digital assets because they exist only in cyberspace. The issue has been further complicated by trading platforms allowing investors to leverage their bets multiple times using margin, or borrowed money.

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Airbnb To Provide Free or Subsidized Housing For 100,000 COVID-19 Healthcare Workers

Thu, 2020-03-26 17:25
As the coronavirus pandemic continues to affect people all over the globe, Airbnb is stepping up with a plan to offer free or subsidized housing to people working on the disease's front lines, namely health care professionals, emergency workers and relief personnel. From a report: The company announced today that it will provide "free or subsidized housing" for 100,000 people working as frontline healthcare, relief for first response professionals focused on stemming the COVID-19 crisis. Airbnb's effort will work by allowing Hosts on its platform to opt-in to making their space available, with any fees that Airbnb would normally charge for using its platform waived for those who participate.

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Put a Stop To Coronavirus Price Gouging, State AGs Tell Amazon, Facebook and Others

Thu, 2020-03-26 16:45
Thirty-four state attorneys general are calling on companies like Amazon, Craigslist, Facebook, eBay and Walmart to take a harder stance of price gouging in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. From a report: The letters to each company cite specific examples, like a Craigslist ad for a 2-liter bottle of Purell Advanced hand sanitizer with a $250 price tag. While the attorneys general acknowledge that these companies have taken steps toward curtailing price gouging, the latter calls for further action. "When consumers cannot get what they need to protect their homes and loved ones -- or in this case, help prevent the spread of the virus -- consumers suffer not only economic harm, but serious health consequences as well," the letter reads. Specifically, the letter lists three steps companies can take including setting policies and restrictions around price gouging, triggering those protections ahead of an emergency declaration and creating and maintaining a "fair pricing" page or portal.

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SEC Pauses Zoom Technologies Trading Because People Think It's Zoom Video

Thu, 2020-03-26 16:05
The Securities and Exchange Commission suspended trading of Zoom Technologies on Thursday, partly because investors are confusing it with Zoom Video, which has seen a surge share price due to COVID-19. It will resume trading April 9. From a report: Zoom Video, which provides videoconferencing services and trades under the ticker symbol "ZM," is a key component for many businesses shifting to remote work during the coronavirus pandemic. That's led to the company, which went public last year, to see a surge in users and stock price rise of more than 112% this year so far -- a rarity in the current coronavirus-induced down market. It's now got a market cap north of $40 billion. However, traders have also bid up the much smaller Zoom Technologies, which has the ticker symbol "ZOOM." Its stock is up more than 50% this month and nearly 900% this year. The company has not disclosed financial information since 2015, the SEC says.

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Rare BadUSB Attack Detected in the Wild Against US Hospitality Provider

Thu, 2020-03-26 15:25
A US hospitality provider has recently been the target of an incredibly rare BadUSB attack, ZDNet has learned from cyber-security firm Trustwave. From a report: The attack happened after the company received an envelope containing a fake BestBuy gift card, along with a USB thumb drive.The receiving company was told to plug the USB thumb drive into a computer to access a list of items the gift card could be used for. But in reality, the USB thumb drive was what security experts call a "BadUSB" -- a USB thumb drive that actually functions as a keyboard when connected to a computer, where it emulates keypresses to launch various automated attacks.

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Epic Games is Now a Third-Party Multi-Plat Publisher, Secures Three Big Studios

Thu, 2020-03-26 14:46
Epic Games: The engine maker, the game maker, the storefront handler... and now the games publisher. DarkRookie2 shares a report: Epic Games Publishing came into formal existence on Wednesday by announcing plans to fund, launch, and promote new multi-platform video games. The announcement hinged on two key points: which studios had already signed to EGP and what financial terms EGP games developers can expect. While most game publishing deals aren't typically laid bare for the public, Epic has already chosen to confirm some of EGP's financial nitty-gritty. In addition to letting studios retain "100%" control of their intellectual property (an increasingly popular term for game-publishing contracts), EGP also promises to fund "up to 100%" of all game development costs. "Once costs are recouped," Epic says, developers will earn "at least 50% of profits." (That mix of "up to" and "at least" in the last two points may imply that those figures vary as a pair -- meaning, if a developer pays for more of its dev costs, it might stand to claim more profit-sharing in the long term. Epic has not clarified that point.) Unsurprisingly, Epic CEO Tim Sweeney described these terms as "the publishing model we always wanted for ourselves when we worked with publishers [as an independent game studio]," but we're still left with some questions, all of which Epic has declined to answer as of press time. EGP is touted as a "multi-platform" effort, but will EGP games ever be available outside of Epic Games Store on PC, and/or will those games' console versions launch later than their PC versions to give Epic Games Store any form of timed exclusivity? Can EGP partners develop separate games as indie efforts or for other publishers while they're part of an EGP deal? And will each game include a Fortnite outfit-and-dance tie-in? (The last question is a joke, but considering that Epic made a Fortnite skin for the Mixer game-streamer Ninja, anything's possible at this point.)

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CBS Offers a Free Month of All Access So You Can Binge-Watch 'Picard'

Thu, 2020-03-26 14:00
An anonymous reader shares a report: If you've been meaning to check out "Star Trek: Picard" or "The Good Fight," but already perhaps have one streaming subscription too many, you can check out CBS All Access for free until April 23rd in the US. Jean-Luc Picard himself (okay, Partick Stewart) revealed ViacomCBS would make it around the time of the show's finale.

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A Hacker Stole and Leaked the Xbox Series X Graphics Source Code

Thu, 2020-03-26 13:00
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Engadget: AMD has been having a particularly rough few months, apparently. The chip designer has revealed that a hacker stole test files for a "subset" of current and upcoming graphics hardware, some of which had been posted online before they were taken down. While AMD was shy on details, the claimed intruder told TorrentFreak that the material included source code for Navi 10 (think Radeon RX 5700 series), the future Navi 21 and the Arden GPU inside the Xbox Series X. The self-proclaimed hacker added that she wanted $100 million for the source code and threatened to "leak everything" if there was no buyer. She reportedly found the GPU data in a "hacked computer" in November, although AMD said it hadn't been approached until December. AMD doesn't appear to be bowing under pressure. It believed the stolen code was "not core to the competitiveness or security" of its products, and said there was an "ongoing criminal investigation."

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Social Distancing Is Slowing Not Only COVID-19, But Other Diseases Too

Thu, 2020-03-26 10:00
"As governments around the world have pushed their citizens away from populated places to slow the spread of Covid-19, they may not have realized that they were also combatting other infectious diseases, such as the seasonal flu," reports Quartz. The data comes from Kinsa Health, a company that collects anonymized thermometer readings from its active user base to estimate the share of people that are ill in different geographies. From the report: By comparing current thermometer readings to historical trends, researchers have used Kinsa's data to predict flu outbreaks weeks before the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's surveillance program, which uses hospitalization records. Recent data clearly show the spread of Covid-19. On March 19, the share of Americans with temperatures indicating they had flu-like symptoms was about 4.9% when it typically would be expected to be about 4.0%. This was likely a result of the spread of Covid-19, according to Kinsa's researchers. But by March 23, it was down to 3.3%, when it would typically be at 3.7% (the share of fevers decreases quickly at this time of year because of the end of winter). The drop -- from 0.9% above typical flu-like illness rates to 0.4% below -- in just four days is the largest one Kinsa has ever observed in such a short period of time, according to Kinsa CEO Inder Singh. "There is no known precedent for this type of extensive social distancing in recent time," said Singh. "We have nothing to compare this to, but this extreme drop is exactly what we would hope and expect with the measures currently in place."

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Scientists Reveal How Proteins Team Up To Repair DNA

Thu, 2020-03-26 07:00
Scientists have revealed an important mechanism in the repair of DNA double-strand breaks, according to new research published today in eLife. Phys.Org reports: One of the main DNA repair processes is called homologous recombination (HR). This repairs a severe form of DNA damage where both strands of DNA are broken. A protein called Rad51 orchestrates HR, and Rad51 itself is supported by several 'helper' proteins. The researchers started by using yeast cells to study Rad51 and its helper proteins, called Swi5-Sfr1. They genetically engineered yeast cells so that they lacked either Module 1 or Module 2 of Swi5-Sfr1 and found that this prevented DNA repair by HR. This shows that both modules are needed for Rad51 to switch on HR repair. Next, they purified the Swi5-Sfr1 helper proteins from cells to identify the precise regions within Module 1 that attach to Rad51. Then, by mutating the protein sequence, they were able to modify these regions in a way that prevents Swi5-Sfr1 from attaching to Rad51. Surprisingly, they found that although the mutated helper proteins could not switch on Rad51 in a test tube, yeast cells with these mutations were still able to repair their DNA without problems. This led the team to speculate that another group of helper proteins, which are present in the cell but absent in the test tube, was rescuing the DNA repair process. Previous genetic studies have shown that there are two HR sub-pathways in yeast -- one that depends on Swi5-Sfr1 and another that relies on molecules called Rad51 paralogs. To test whether it was this other HR pathway that was rescuing DNA repair, the team used yeast that lacked the Rad51 paralogs. The results were striking: in yeast with mutant Swi5-Sfr1 and no Rad51 paralogs, the DNA damage was much more severe. This suggests that the damaging effects of mutations to the Swi5-Sfr1 helper complex are suppressed by a second group of helper proteins.

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World's Wind Power Capacity Up By Fifth After Record Year

Thu, 2020-03-26 03:30
An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Guardian: The world's wind power capacity grew by almost a fifth in 2019 after a year of record growth for offshore windfarms and a boom in onshore projects in the US and China. The Global Wind Energy Council found that wind power capacity grew by 60.4 gigawatts, or 19%, compared with 2018, in one of the strongest years on record for the global wind power industry. The growth was powered by a record year for offshore wind, which grew by 6.1GW to make up a tenth of new windfarm installations for the first time. The council's annual report found that the US and China remain the world's largest markets for onshore wind power development. Together the two countries make up almost two-thirds of global growth in wind power. GWEC had expected 2020 to emerge as a record year for the rollout of wind energy projects, and forecast growth of 20% in the year ahead, but it said the impact of the global coronavirus pandemic was as yet unknown.

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Massive US Coronavirus Stimulus Includes Research Dollars, Some Aid To Universities

Thu, 2020-03-26 02:02
sciencehabit shares a report from Science Magazine: The $2 trillion stimulus package that the U.S. Senate is working to approve today is aimed at helping the country cope with the massive impact of the coronavirus pandemic. But it also includes at least $1.25 billion for federal research agencies to support scientists trying to better understand coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). In addition, it extends a financial hand to universities that have shut down because of the pandemic, some of which could go to support research that has been disrupted. Details of the legislation have yet to emerge after Republican and Democratic leaders in Congress worked out their differences in negotiations that ran into the early morning. But a 22-page summary (PDF) released by the Senate Appropriations Committee this morning contains these highlights: - The National Institutes of Health would receive $945 million for "vaccine, therapeutic, and diagnostic research" on COVID-19 as well as on "the underlying risks to cardiovascular and pulmonary conditions." - The National Science Foundation would receive $76 million to supplement an ongoing program that allows scientists to jump into the field for pilot studies on all manner of natural disasters. - The Department of Energy's Office of Science would get $99.5 million to cover the additional costs of operating user facilities at its national laboratories, including support for equipment and staff. - The U.S. Forest Service would get $3 million to "reestablish experiments impacted by travel restrictions" stemming from the pandemic, including an ongoing forest inventory. In addition, three research agencies would receive a total of $86 million "to support continuity of operations" affected by COVID-19. NASA would receive $60 million for the costs of rescheduling scientific missions, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration would get $20 million to supplement "life and property related services" within its National Weather Service, and the National Institute of Standards and Technology would receive $6 million to support "research and measurement science" aimed at developing better diagnostics and testing of the coronavirus.

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DoNotPay's New Service Will Try To Help You Get Bill Extensions Due To Coronavirus

Thu, 2020-03-26 01:25
DoNotPay is ready to help you out if you need to delay your rent, credit card, or utility bill payments as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. The company, known for its legal aid chatbot, is launching a new service that requests waivers and payment extensions from companies and landlords. The Verge reports: The new product allows the service to identify any bills such as utilities and rent that are eligible for an extension or a late fee waiver. DoNotPay will then reach out to the company to make a "compassionate and polite request." If the request is denied, the service will send out a second letter citing relevant local and state laws. DoNotPay says it will use the "full force of the local and state laws" for states with no related coronavirus laws or orders in effect. Right now, this service is only available in the US, but DoNotPay founder Joshua Browder told The Verge that the company is looking to bring the service to other countries, such as the UK. When it comes to credit card bills, Browder told The Verge that extensions or waivers for these matters are a "negotiation process." Some companies, such as Apple, are allowing card holders to skip their March payment, but Browder said a majority of businesses are treating business "as usual," requesting customers pay their statements on time with no extensions or waivers.

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