Dr. Anthony Fauci Says New Virus In China Has Traits of 2009 Swine Flu, 1918 Pandemic Flu
An anonymous reader quotes a report from CNBC:
White House coronavirus advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci said Tuesday that U.S. health officials are keeping an eye on a new strain of flu carried by pigs in China that has characteristics of the 2009 H1N1 virus and 1918 pandemic flu. The virus, which scientists are calling "G4 EA H1N1," has not yet been shown to infect humans but it is exhibiting "reassortment capabilities," Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee during a hearing.
"In other words, when you get a brand new virus that turns out to be a pandemic virus it's either due to mutations and/or the reassortment or exchanges of genes," he told lawmakers. "And they're seeing virus in swine, in pigs now, that have characteristics of the 2009 H1N1, of the original 1918, which many of our flu viruses have remnants of that in it, as well as segments from other hosts, like swine." Fauci said Tuesday there's always "the possibility that you might have another swine flu-type outbreak as we had in 2009." "It's something that still is in the stage of examination," he said. It's not "an immediate threat where you're seeing infections, but it's something we need to keep our eye on, just the way we did in 2009 with the emergence of the swine flu."
Declining Eyesight Can Be Improved By Looking At Red Light, Pilot Study Says
swell shares the findings from a
small pilot study that suggests a few minutes of looking into a deep red light
could have a dramatic effect on preventing eyesight decline as we age. CNN reports:
Researchers recruited 12 men and 12 women, whose ages ranged from 28 to 72. Each participant was given a small handheld flashlight that emitted a red light with a wavelength of 670 nanometers. That wavelength is toward the long end of the visible spectrum, and just short of an infrared wavelength, which tends to be invisible to the human eye. They spent three minutes each day looking into the light over a period of two weeks. The lights work on both cones and rods in the eye. Cones are photo receptor cells that detect color and work best in well-lit situations. Rods, which are much more plentiful, are retina cells that specialize in helping us see in dim light, according to the American Academy of Ophthalmology.
Researchers measured the cone function in subjects' eyes by having them identify colored letters with low contrast. And they measured their eyes' rod sensitivity by asking them to detect light signals in the dark. There was a 14% improvement in the ability to see colors, or cone color contrast sensitivity, for the entire two dozen participants. Improvement, however, was most significant in study participants over age 40. For those ages, cone color contrast sensitivity rose by 20% over the course of the study. That age bracket also saw significant increases in rod threshold, which corresponds to the ability to see in low light. Study participants under 40 also experienced some improvement, but didn't see the same jump as older subjects. Younger eyes haven't declined as much as older eyes.
Someone Mysteriously Sent Almost $1 Billion In Bitcoin
transferred bitcoins worth close to $1 billion on Tuesday morning, a move that was
public for everyone to see while the identities of the sender and receiver remain unknown. Motherboard reports:
Big money moves hiding in plain sight tend to be events of some interest among Bitcoiners. Decrypt noted that the sending wallet was recognized as the largest Bitcoin wallet not known to be associated with a business such as an exchange. This means that it could belong to a wealthy private individual, or it could really belong to an exchange, investor, or other business that is simply currently unknown. There's no obligation to publicize which Bitcoin addresses one controls, and if nobody else puts two and two together, one's activities may remain shrouded in pseudonymity.
If the Bitcoin wallet belongs to someone legit, then it's likely the transfer was internal to the business, or it represents a large purchase of goods or services, or the sale of bitcoins. Regardless of what it was, the business would be expected to pay taxes in any relevant circumstances. If the transfer wasn't legit, well, pseudonymity and the ability to freely move money without the pre-approval of an authority is the point of Bitcoin. That being said, law enforcement is certainly aware of Bitcoin at this stage in the game and if I'm talking about this transfer then I'm sure more important people could be, too.
400 TB Storage Drives In Our Future: Fujifilm
One of the two leading manufacturers of tape cartridge storage, FujiFilm, claims that they have a technology roadmap through to 2030 which
builds on the current magnetic tape paradigm to enable 400 TB per tape. AnandTech reports:
As reported by Chris Mellor of Blocks and Files, Fujifilm points to using Strontium Ferrite grains in order to enable an areal data density on tape of 224 Gbit-per-square-inch, which would enable 400 TB drives. IBM and Sony have already demonstrated 201 Gbit-per-square-inch technology in 2017, with a potential release of the technology for high volume production in 2026. Current drives are over an order of magnitude smaller, at 8 Gbit-per-square-inch, however the delay between research and mass production is quite significant.
Strontium Ferrite would replace Barium Ferrite in current LTO cartridges. Strontium sits on a row above Barium in the periodic table, indicating a much smaller atom. This enables for much smaller particles to be placed into tracks, and thankfully according to Fujifilm, Strontium Ferrite exhibits properties along the same lines as Barium Ferrite, but moreso, enabling higher performance while simultaneously increasing particle density. [...] Fujifilm states that 400 TB is the limit of Strontium Ferrite, indicating that new materials would be needed to go beyond. That said, we are talking about only 224 Gbit-per-square-inch for storage, which compared to mechanical hard disks going beyhind 1000 Gbit-per-square-inch today, there would appear to be plenty of room at the top if the technologies could converge.
Qualcomm Made a Modern Smartwatch Chip: Meet the Snapdragon Wear 4100
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica:
After years of repackaging the same basic smartwatch chip over and over again, Qualcomm has graced Wear OS with a modern smartwatch SoC. Meet the Snapdragon Wear 4100, a Qualcomm smartwatch chip that, for the first time ever, is faster than the previous chip. The Wear 4100 uses four 1.7GHz Cortex A53 CPUs built on a 12nm manufacturing process, a major upgrade from the 28nm Cortex A7s that every other Qualcomm smartwatch chip has been up until now. It's not the state-of-the-art 7nm process that Qualcomm's high-end chip uses, and the Cortex A53 is an old CPU design, but for Qualcomm, it's a major upgrade. Between the new CPU, the Adreno 504 GPU, and faster memory, Qualcomm is promising "85% faster performance" compared to the Wear 3100.
There are actually two versions of the 4100, the vanilla "4100" and the "4100+." The plus version is specifically for smartwatches with an always-on watch face, and like previous Wear SoCs, comes with an extra low-power SoC (based around a Cortex-M0) to keep the time updated and log sensor data (like step counts). Qualcomm is promising a better display image quality in this low-power mode, with more colors and a smoother display. There are also dual DSPs now, which Qualcomm says are for "optimal workload partitioning, support for dynamic clock and voltage scaling, Qualcomm Sensor Assisted Positioning PDR Wearables 2.0, low power location tracking support, and an enhanced Bluetooth 5.0 architecture." There are also dual ISPs with support for 16MP sensors (on a smartwatch?). As usual, connectivity options are plentiful, with onboard LTE, GPS, NFC, Wi-Fi 802.11n, and Bluetooth 5.
YouTube TV Jacks Up Pricing To Become Most Expensive Cable TV Alternative
On Tuesday, Google's YouTube TV announced a monthly $15 price hike,
bringing its streaming package of channels to $64.99 monthly, from $49.99. "YouTube TV is now the most expensive of the cable TV streaming alternative services," notes USA Today. "When YouTube TV launched in 2017, it was $35." From the report:
In a company blog post, YouTube defended its decision by announcing the availability of additional channels from Viacom, including MTV and Nickelodeon. The move is effective Tuesday for new members, while existing subscribers will see their rates rise after July 30. "This new price reflects the rising cost of content and we also believe it reflects the complete value of YouTube TV, from our breadth of content to the features that are changing how we watch live TV," YouTube said.
AT&T Now recently lowered pricing to $55 monthly, while Hulu with Live TV is $54.99. Sling TV is the lowest priced of the cable TV alternatives, at $30 monthly for the Orange or Blue packages, or $45 for both. However, Sling doesn't carry all the local broadcast stations in each market, so check your local listings. Philo is even cheaper, at $20 monthly, but is missing news and sports channels. A 2019 study by Consumer Reports found the average cable TV bill is $217.42 monthly.
Android's AirDrop Competitor Is Coming Soon
Android's long-awaited "Nearby Sharing" feature, which allows you to share files between Android devices wirelessly,
is rolling out to beta testers. Android Police reports:
Nearby Sharing may appear slightly differently depending on the type of content you try to share. In all cases, it shows up as an app in the apps list on the share sheet, but you may also get a smaller prompt just under the content preview, more like it did in the previous Android 11 video leak. We tested it on a Pixel 4 XL and Pixel 3a running Android 10, but the appearance may also vary on other versions of Android. Note that Nearby Share works for both files like photos or videos, as well as other shareable content like Tweets and URLs. It probably works with a lot of things.
Select Nearby Share in the share sheet as the target, and you're prompted to turn on the feature, if it's the first time you've used it. The quick setup process lets you configure your default device name and device visibility settings, though those can also be changed later. Once you have it enabled, Nearby Sharing starts looking for other nearby devices. The interface is pretty simple: A big X in the top left corner backs you out, your avatar on the right takes you to a settings pane that lets you configure things like your device name, visibility, and which mechanism to use to make the transfer (i.e., whether to use your internet connection for small files, to stick to Wi-Fi, or to always share offline). Google says Nearby Share is currently in limited testing via the Play Services beta: "We're currently conducting a beta test of a new Nearby Share feature that we plan to share more information on in the future. Our goal is to launch the feature with support for Android 6+ devices as well as other platforms."
National Mask Mandate Could Save 5 Percent of GDP, Economists Say
An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Washington Post:
After a late-spring lull, daily coronavirus cases in the United States have again hit record highs, driven by resurgent outbreaks in states such as Florida, Arizona and California. Hospitals in Houston are already on the brink of being overwhelmed, and public health experts worry the pandemic's body count will soon again be climbing in tandem with the daily case load. The dire situation has raised the specter of another round of state-level stay-at-home orders to halt the pandemic's spread and caused a number of governors to pause or reverse their ongoing reopening plans. Against this backdrop, a team of economists at investment bank Goldman Sachs has published an analysis suggesting more painful shutdowns could be averted if the United States implements a nationwide mask mandate.
"A face mask mandate could potentially substitute for lockdowns that would otherwise subtract nearly 5% from GDP," the team, led by the company's chief economist, Jan Hatzius, writes. It's worth noting the authors of the report are economists and not public health experts. Their primary motivation is to protect the economic interests of Goldman Sachs's investors, which is why they're interested in the effects of federal policy on gross domestic product. But their findings are in line with a number of other published studies on the efficacy of masks. The Goldman Sachs report notes the United States is a global outlier with respect to face mask use, which is widespread in Asia and currently mandated in many European countries. Though the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention "recommends" the use of masks in public and 20 states plus the District of Columbia have implemented their own mandates, there is no binding national policy, with wide regional variations in mask use around the country. "We estimate that statewide mask mandates gradually raise the percentage of people who 'always' or 'frequently' wear masks by around 25 [percentage points] in the 30+ days after signing," the authors write. "Our numerical estimates are that cumulative cases grow 17.3% per week without a mask mandate but only 7.3% with a mask mandate, and that cumulative fatalities grow 29% per week without a mask mandate but only 16% with a mask mandate."
Uber's New Strategy: Buy Unprofitable Companies, ???, Profit
Uber's new strategy is just like its old one. Make its money-losing business bigger by
buying other money-losing businesses like Postmates. From a report:
After Uber's merger talks with food-delivery company Grubhub fell apart, Uber has now set its sights on Postmates, according to the New York Times. Uber Eats, the ride-hailing company's food-delivery unit, is just as unprofitable as the rest of Uber's business operations, but that hasn't stopped the company from reportedly offering $2.6 billion to takeover Postmates. Uber has been searching for ways to stay afloat during the pandemic as its core ride-hailing business has collapsed and its business model of misclassifying driver-employees as independent contractors to save on labor costs is coming under increased scrutiny in California and nationwide. In its Q1 earnings call, Uber reported that rides were down over 80 percent and it had recorded an eye-watering loss of $2.9 billion (it has never recorded a profit), but there was a bright spot: food-delivery was up by 54 percent since last year.
Still, it's not clear that Uber Eats -- or an acquisition of Postmates -- will be enough to save the company. In March, Rideshare Drivers United, an app-based driver advocacy group in California, released a wage claim tool to let drivers claim stolen wages and unpaid business expenses; a mere 4,000 Uber and Lyft drivers have filed claims in excess of $1 billion. Last year, there were well over half a million Uber and Lyft drivers last year and reports have pegged Uber's annual driver retention rate at around 4 percent. Mind you, this is only in California and only includes wage claims -- there is also a growing call for Uber to pay state unemployment insurance taxes in not only California but the rest of the country, a prospect that could cost billions more if realized.
FCC Declares Huawei, ZTE 'National Security Threats'
The Federal Communication Commission has
declared Chinese telecom giants Huawei and ZTE "national security threats," a move that will formally ban U.S. telecom companies from using federal funds to buy and install Huawei and ZTE equipment. From a report:
FCC chairman Ajit Pai said that the "weight of evidence" supported the decision to ban the technology giants. Federal agencies and lawmakers have long claimed that the tech giants are subject to Chinese law, which "obligates them to cooperate with the country's intelligence services," Pai said. "We cannot and will not allow the Chinese Communist Party to exploit network vulnerabilities and compromise our critical communications infrastructure," the FCC said in a separate statement. Huawei and ZTE have repeatedly rejected the claims. The order, published by the FCC on Tuesday, said the designation takes immediate effect, but it's not immediately clear how the designation changes the status quo. In November of last year, the FCC announced that companies deemed a national security threat would be ineligible to receive any money from the Universal Service Fund. The $8.5B USF is the FCC's main way of purchasing and subsidizing equipment and services to improve connectivity across the country.
Microsoft, LinkedIn To Retrain Unemployed Workers for In-Demand Jobs
Microsoft and its LinkedIn unit will provide
free job training to help unemployed workers prepare for in-demand jobs as the global pandemic pushes U.S. joblessness to levels as bad as those during the Great Depression. From a report:
The program uses LinkedIn data to find the jobs that employers most want to fill, and offers free access to content that helps workers develop the required skills. The company will also cut the cost of its certification exams and offer free job-seeking tools. Microsoft aims to provide additional skills to 25 million people globally by the end of the year through the program for such jobs as software developer, customer-service specialist and graphic designer. Microsoft said its calculations show global unemployment may reach a quarter of a billion people this year. The U.S. unemployment rate was 13.3% in May, the highest level since 1940, as the coronavirus shut down stores, restaurants and bars, with higher rates of joblessness among Black and Latino workers. While parts of the economy are starting to reopen in the U.S., companies are also shutting down, filing for bankruptcy or announcing permanent job cuts to adjust to a long-term slowdown.
Amazon Launches Space Push To Drive Cloud-Computing Growth
Amazon.com is boosting efforts to lure military and commercial space organizations as major users of its cloud-computing services,
hoping to benefit from rising government spending and burgeoning private investment. From a report:
The move by Amazon Web Services, the online retail giant's cloud-computing arm, comes during a multiyear surge in U.S. military and civilian agency spending on space projects, with NASA, the Pentagon and their largest contractors -- including Lockheed Martin -- benefiting from hefty appropriated or proposed budget increases. Lockheed Martin already is an Amazon customer. Capitol Hill is pouring billions of dollars into new boosters and the next generation of superfast missiles, driven, in part, by White House and intelligence community warnings about Chinese and Russian advances in space. Commercial companies are building or planning to deploy swarms of small satellites encircling the globe, though the Covid-19 pandemic has dimmed the immediate outlook for many private space projects.
Amazon is anticipating a huge increase in space-related cloud-computing contracts globally with a market size estimated at hundreds of billions of dollars, said Teresa Carlson, AWS's vice president in charge of public sector business. "There's a need for a more modernized approach to this industry," Ms. Carlson said. AWS will formally announce it is establishing a dedicated segment, called Aerospace and Satellite Solutions, at an online summit focused on business with the public sector on Tuesday. The group will be run by retired Air Force Maj. Gen. Clint Crosier, who, until recently, was in charge of planning to set up the Space Force, the newly created branch of the military. The initiative comes as AWS faced increased pressure from cloud-computing rivals for public sector business. Last year, AWS lost out to Microsoft in a high-profile competition to provide the Pentagon cloud-computing services. The program, known as JEDI, could be worth up to $10 billion over 10 years. Amazon has challenged the outcome.
Universities and Tech Giants Back National Cloud Computing Project
Leading universities and major technology companies agreed on Tuesday to back a new project intended to
give academics and other scientists access to the computing resources now available mainly to a few tech giants. From a report:
The initiative, the National Research Cloud, has received bipartisan support in both the House and the Senate. Lawmakers in both houses have proposed bills that would create a task force of government science leaders, academics and industry representatives to outline a plan to create and fund a national research cloud. This program would give academic scientists access to the cloud data centers of the tech giants, and to public data sets for research. Several universities, including Stanford, Carnegie Mellon and Ohio State, and tech companies including Google, Amazon and IBM backed the idea as well on Tuesday. The organizations declared their support for the creation of a research cloud and their willingness to participate in the project.
The research cloud, though a conceptual blueprint at this stage, is another sign of the largely effective campaign by universities and tech companies to persuade the American government to increase government backing for research into artificial intelligence. The Trump administration, while cutting research elsewhere, has proposed doubling federal spending on A.I. research by 2022. Fueling the increased government backing is the recognition that A.I. technology is essential to national security and economic competitiveness. The national cloud legislation will be proposed as an amendment to this year's defense budget authorization. "We have a real challenge in our country from China in terms of what they are doing with A.I.," said Representative Anna G. Eshoo, Democrat of California, a sponsor of the bill.
Apple Executive Defends App Store Rules Scrutinized by EU and US
The Apple executive in charge of the App Store in Europe said that the company's policies
ensure a level playing field for developers and ease-of-use for customers as regulatory
scrutiny over the platform mounts. From a report:
"Our efforts to help developers succeed are broad, deep and ongoing, and they extend to apps -- in music, email, or a variety of other categories -- that compete with some aspect of our business," Daniel Matray, the iPhone maker's head of App Store and media services in Europe, said in a speech Tuesday at a four-day virtual conference hosted by Forum Europe. The speech comes as Apple faces antitrust probes in the European Union and U.S. over rules it imposes on developers. In particular, regulators are taking aim at the requirement that apps use the company's in-house payment service, which takes a cut of 15% to 30% of most subscriptions and in-app purchases. Matray said that about 85% of apps it hosts don't pay Apple a commission because they're free or earn revenue through other means.
How Apple Stacked the App Store With Its Own Products.
Google Removes 25 Android Apps Caught Stealing Facebook Credentials
Google has removed this month 25 Android apps from the Google Play Store that were
caught stealing Facebook credentials. From a report:
Before being taken down, the 25 apps were collectively downloaded more than 2.34 million times. The malicious apps were developed by the same threat group and despite offering different features, under the hood, all the apps worked the same. According to a report from French cyber-security firm Evina shared with ZDNet today, the apps posed as step counters, image editors, video editors, wallpaper apps, flashlight applications, file managers, and mobile games. The apps offered a legitimate functionality, but they also contained malicious code. Evina researchers say the apps contained code that detected what app a user recently opened and had in the phone's foreground. If the app was Facebook, the malicious app would overlay a web browser window on top of the official Facebook app and load a fake Facebook login page (see image below: blue bar = actual Facebook app, black bar = phishing page).
Disney Research Creates Face-Swapping Technique For High-Res Video
A new paper by Disney Research shows off a newly developed neural network that can swap faces in photos and videos at high-resolution. The idea behind this technology is to replace an actor's performance with a different actor's face, or for roles that require de-aging or increasing age, or for portraying actors who have passed away. Current face-swapping technology (also known as deepfakes) often creates an "uncanny valley" effect, where something about the image or video feels off. Though there is some of that in Disney Research's tech, it's still a huge step forward for creating believable face-swapping in the entertainment industry. This has once again brought up a conversation around the ethical use of this technology and the potential for malicious use. However, given the amount of ongoing R&D in this area, it seems unlikely that we'll see any slowdown in the near future.
China Approves COVID-19 Vaccine Candidate For Military Use
Same vaccine being tested in Canada. But China just skipped ahead and approved it for one year for its soldiers without full long-term data. The COVID-19 vaccine (Ad5-nCoV) in question is developed by China's Academy of Military (AMS) research unit and CanSino Biologics. Clinical trials proved it was safe and showed some efficacy, according to the company.
Reuters says the company has not disclosed whether the inoculation of the vaccine candidate is mandatory or optional, citing commercial secrets. "AMS received an approval earlier this month to test its second experimental coronavirus vaccine in humans," adds Reuters.
First Apple Silicon Benchmarks Destroy Surface Pro X
As expected, developers with early access to Apple silicon-based transition kits have leaked some
early benchmarks scores. And it's
bad news for Surface Pro X and Windows 10 on ARM fans. Thurrott reports:
According to multiple Geekbench scores, the Apple Developer Transition Kit -- a Mac Mini-like device with an Apple A12Z system-on-a-chip (SoC), 16 GB of RAM, and 512 GB of SSD storage -- delivers an average single-core score of 811 and an average multi-core score of 2871. Those scores represent the performance of the device running emulated x86/64 code under macOS Big Sur's Rosetta 2 emulator.
Compared to modern PCs with native Intel-type chipsets, that's not all that impressive, but that's to be expected since it's emulated. But compared to Microsoft's Surface Pro X, which has the fastest available Qualcomm-based ARM chipset and can run Geekbench natively -- not emulated -- it's amazing: Surface Pro X only averages 764 on the single-core test and 2983 in multi-core. Right. The emulated performance of the Apple silicon is as good or better than the native performance of the SQ-1-based Surface Pro X. This suggests that the performance of native code on Apple silicon will be quite impressive, and will leave Surface Pro X and WOA in the dust.