Connect with us

Publications

Amid a Pandemic, ‘Batman’ Matters More Than Ever

Avatar

Published

on

SINGAPORE — The bat is considered lucky in China; the words for bat and good fortune sound alike in Chinese. But Wang Linfa didn’t give much thought to the order Chiroptera while growing up in Shanghai in the 1960s and ’70s, when the main sign of nighttime life was the soft whir of commuters bicycling home from factories.

He had yet to discover that roughly one-quarter of all mammal species are bats and that they range from the size of a bumblebee to a type of flying fox with a five-foot wingspan. He did not know that bats live up to four decades, even as their immune systems contend with a laboratory’s worth of viruses.

And Mr. Wang, 60, had not embarked on his life’s work, researching how the anatomy and habits of the world’s only flying mammals make them an ideal viral reservoir, helping to spread pathogens from one species to another and from one geographic region to another.

“They call me Batman. I think it’s a compliment because bats are special,” said Mr. Wang, sitting in an office adorned with bat pictures, bat stuffed animals, Batman logos — enough bat paraphernalia that it might be considered a bat cave, if it were not on the ninth floor of a sunny building in Singapore.

“Bats are resilient to viruses that can kill humans. If we can learn from bats to do what they do, then we will be very fortunate,” he said.

Mr. Wang heads the Emerging Infectious Diseases Program at the medical school run by Duke University and the National University of Singapore, and he is also the chairman of a scientific advisory board at the Wuhan Institute of Virology, in China.

He and other virologists suspect that the coronavirus responsible for the pandemic currently sweeping the world originated in bats, as did other killer viruses like SARS and MERS. He led a team that last month invented an antibody test kit for the coronavirus that can produce results in an hour.

Image

Credit…Reinhard Dirscherl/ullstein bild, via Getty Images

Just as the pandemic has catapulted a shy, flitting creature into a new position of international prominence, it has also propelled a small band of bat and virus researchers into the public eye.

Scientists like Mr. Wang usually toil in relative obscurity, but suddenly the world needs them more than ever, and their work is complicated by a political minefield they never expected to navigate.

Beijing is sensitive to any criticism of China’s early missteps in handling the pandemic, while President Trump has claimed, without citing any evidence, that the virus emerged from the same Wuhan institute Mr. Wang advises — an idea that Mr. Wang and other scientists dismiss as nonsense.

But the controversy is not an entirely new experience for Mr. Wang, whose life has been bracketed and shaped by political upheavals.

His parents never finished grade school, but they hoped that education would lift their children out of poverty. The Cultural Revolution upended schooling in China but Mr. Wang managed to take the 1977 college entrance examination, the first that was offered in more than a decade. He scored very well.

“Growing up, my family never owned a book,” Mr. Wang said. “Well, except for Mao’s Little Red Book, but we had to have that.”

Some of the students who earned university spots that year went on to privileged positions, like Li Keqiang, the current premier of China. Mr. Wang wanted to study mathematics or engineering — “we all wanted to be engineers because engineers did something useful” — but his scores were only good enough for the biology department, he said.

An aptitude for languages earned Mr. Wang another opportunity, as one of the first people from mainland China after the communist era began to be allowed to study in the United States. He earned his doctorate in molecular biology and biochemistry at the University of California, Davis.

“At first, I only knew how to say ‘long live Chairman Mao’ in English,” he said. “Then I had to learn all these hard words in biology. The words were very long.”

A few years later, he and his wife, Meng Yu, a biochemist, were considering jobs in Australia. They happened to be there on June 4, 1989, when China crushed the pro-democracy protests in Tiananmen Square.

“That caught me totally unprepared,” Mr. Wang said of the massacre. “When I saw the tanks on the Tiananmen Square, then I said, OK, my political judgment is not as good as my scientific judgment.”

The couple decided Australia was a safer bet and stayed for 25 years. It was there that Mr. Wang entered the world of bat virology.

A novel virus began sickening horses and then humans in a Brisbane suburb in the mid-1990s. A few years later, another virus emerged in people and livestock in Malaysia. Mr. Wang helped confirm that both pathogens, Hendra virus and Nipah virus, had bat origins, which he did again with SARS.

Those discoveries showed how environmental shifts can catalyze a surprising epidemiological chain of events. The Nipah virus, which moved from bats to pigs to humans in Southeast Asia, may have made an interspecies jump after widespread forest fires set to clear land in the 1990s forced bats beyond their normal habitat.

“If a bat is stressed, bad things can happen,” Mr. Wang said. “We need to take care of bats. Then we can take care of humans.”

Credit…Aly Song/Reuters

In January, as a mystery viral outbreak gripped Wuhan in central China, he traveled there to find out more from his fellow bat specialists, including Shi Zhengli, nicknamed Batwoman, who was instrumental in linking SARS to bats.

  • Frequently Asked Questions and Advice

    Updated June 12, 2020

    • What’s the risk of catching coronavirus from a surface?

      Touching contaminated objects and then infecting ourselves with the germs is not typically how the virus spreads. But it can happen. A number of studies of flu, rhinovirus, coronavirus and other microbes have shown that respiratory illnesses, including the new coronavirus, can spread by touching contaminated surfaces, particularly in places like day care centers, offices and hospitals. But a long chain of events has to happen for the disease to spread that way. The best way to protect yourself from coronavirus — whether it’s surface transmission or close human contact — is still social distancing, washing your hands, not touching your face and wearing masks.

    • Does asymptomatic transmission of Covid-19 happen?

      So far, the evidence seems to show it does. A widely cited paper published in April suggests that people are most infectious about two days before the onset of coronavirus symptoms and estimated that 44 percent of new infections were a result of transmission from people who were not yet showing symptoms. Recently, a top expert at the World Health Organization stated that transmission of the coronavirus by people who did not have symptoms was “very rare,” but she later walked back that statement.

    • How does blood type influence coronavirus?

      A study by European scientists is the first to document a strong statistical link between genetic variations and Covid-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus. Having Type A blood was linked to a 50 percent increase in the likelihood that a patient would need to get oxygen or to go on a ventilator, according to the new study.

    • How many people have lost their jobs due to coronavirus in the U.S.?

      The unemployment rate fell to 13.3 percent in May, the Labor Department said on June 5, an unexpected improvement in the nation’s job market as hiring rebounded faster than economists expected. Economists had forecast the unemployment rate to increase to as much as 20 percent, after it hit 14.7 percent in April, which was the highest since the government began keeping official statistics after World War II. But the unemployment rate dipped instead, with employers adding 2.5 million jobs, after more than 20 million jobs were lost in April.

    • Will protests set off a second viral wave of coronavirus?

      Mass protests against police brutality that have brought thousands of people onto the streets in cities across America are raising the specter of new coronavirus outbreaks, prompting political leaders, physicians and public health experts to warn that the crowds could cause a surge in cases. While many political leaders affirmed the right of protesters to express themselves, they urged the demonstrators to wear face masks and maintain social distancing, both to protect themselves and to prevent further community spread of the virus. Some infectious disease experts were reassured by the fact that the protests were held outdoors, saying the open air settings could mitigate the risk of transmission.

    • How do we start exercising again without hurting ourselves after months of lockdown?

      Exercise researchers and physicians have some blunt advice for those of us aiming to return to regular exercise now: Start slowly and then rev up your workouts, also slowly. American adults tended to be about 12 percent less active after the stay-at-home mandates began in March than they were in January. But there are steps you can take to ease your way back into regular exercise safely. First, “start at no more than 50 percent of the exercise you were doing before Covid,” says Dr. Monica Rho, the chief of musculoskeletal medicine at the Shirley Ryan AbilityLab in Chicago. Thread in some preparatory squats, too, she advises. “When you haven’t been exercising, you lose muscle mass.” Expect some muscle twinges after these preliminary, post-lockdown sessions, especially a day or two later. But sudden or increasing pain during exercise is a clarion call to stop and return home.

    • My state is reopening. Is it safe to go out?

      States are reopening bit by bit. This means that more public spaces are available for use and more and more businesses are being allowed to open again. The federal government is largely leaving the decision up to states, and some state leaders are leaving the decision up to local authorities. Even if you aren’t being told to stay at home, it’s still a good idea to limit trips outside and your interaction with other people.

    • What are the symptoms of coronavirus?

      Common symptoms include fever, a dry cough, fatigue and difficulty breathing or shortness of breath. Some of these symptoms overlap with those of the flu, making detection difficult, but runny noses and stuffy sinuses are less common. The C.D.C. has also added chills, muscle pain, sore throat, headache and a new loss of the sense of taste or smell as symptoms to look out for. Most people fall ill five to seven days after exposure, but symptoms may appear in as few as two days or as many as 14 days.

    • How can I protect myself while flying?

      If air travel is unavoidable, there are some steps you can take to protect yourself. Most important: Wash your hands often, and stop touching your face. If possible, choose a window seat. A study from Emory University found that during flu season, the safest place to sit on a plane is by a window, as people sitting in window seats had less contact with potentially sick people. Disinfect hard surfaces. When you get to your seat and your hands are clean, use disinfecting wipes to clean the hard surfaces at your seat like the head and arm rest, the seatbelt buckle, the remote, screen, seat back pocket and the tray table. If the seat is hard and nonporous or leather or pleather, you can wipe that down, too. (Using wipes on upholstered seats could lead to a wet seat and spreading of germs rather than killing them.)

    • Should I wear a mask?

      The C.D.C. has recommended that all Americans wear cloth masks if they go out in public. This is a shift in federal guidance reflecting new concerns that the coronavirus is being spread by infected people who have no symptoms. Until now, the C.D.C., like the W.H.O., has advised that ordinary people don’t need to wear masks unless they are sick and coughing. Part of the reason was to preserve medical-grade masks for health care workers who desperately need them at a time when they are in continuously short supply. Masks don’t replace hand washing and social distancing.

    • What should I do if I feel sick?

      If you’ve been exposed to the coronavirus or think you have, and have a fever or symptoms like a cough or difficulty breathing, call a doctor. They should give you advice on whether you should be tested, how to get tested, and how to seek medical treatment without potentially infecting or exposing others.


Traveling between his hotel and the institute in mid-January, Mr. Wang noticed a heavy security presence. But the security forces, he discovered, were not there to battle an invisible contagion. Instead, they were there to protect local government officials who were attending a pair of big annual meetings.

“People say those two political conferences were probably the costliest in human history,” Mr. Wang said.

Local officials were so intent on not allowing anything to disrupt their gatherings that they suppressed information about the outbreak, allowing it to spread unchecked for weeks in a city of 11 million people.

In late December, researchers in Wuhan had sent viral samples for sequencing to commercial laboratories and determined that they were dealing with a new pathogen, Mr. Wang said. Doctors were soon warning each other in online chat groups about likely human-to-human transmission, but were punished by the local government for their outspokenness.

Mr. Wang acknowledges that the authorities in Wuhan delayed alerting the public about a deadly virus that had emerged from a wet market in the city, where wild animals were slaughtered. (Scientists believe that a bat transmitted the virus to an intermediary animal, like a pangolin or bamboo rat, which then passed it on to humans.)

But Mr. Wang shakes his head at the insinuation from Mr. Trump’s administration that a leak, even an accidental one, could have come from the government institute, where Ms. Shi and her team stored samples of other bat-borne coronaviruses from all over China.

“It’s a crazy, wrong idea, if you know about viruses,” he said. “They didn’t have that novel coronavirus in the laboratory.”

Source: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/06/12/world/asia/coronavirus-batman-bats-viruses.html

CNBC

Google Assistant’s driving mode for Android is nearly ready, one year later

Avatar

Published

on

Sponsored Links

Google Assistant driving mode on Android
Google

Google promised an Assistant driving mode for phones would arrive in mid-2019, but that clearly didn’t happen — over a year passed without any sign of it. It appears to be ready, though. XDA-Developers has discovered (via Android Police) that Google Assistant’s driving mode is at least partially enabled for Android users. The interface has changed considerably from the I/O 2019 demo you see above, but the concept remains the same with large buttons and text that let you chat, message and play music while keeping your driving distractions to a minimum.

The rollout appears to be server-side, and might be part of a test. It’s not attached to any particular versions of Google’s Maps or search apps, and also works on a variety of devices. Your access might depend on your account.

We’ve asked Google for comment.

It’s rare for Google to have Android feature delays this long, and it’s not certain what prompted the extended wait. However, the redesign suggests that Google wasn’t completely satisfied with the Assistant driving mode it showed at I/O. Whatever the reasoning, this gives you one more way to handle common tasks during your trips.

All products recommended by Engadget are selected by our editorial team, independent of our parent company. Some of our stories include affiliate links. If you buy something through one of these links, we may earn an affiliate commission.

Comment
Comments

Share
129 Shares

Share

Tweet

Share

Source: https://www.engadget.com/google-assistant-driving-mode-215249421.html

Continue Reading

CNBC

Cloud leak exposed sensitive data from over 200,000 voicemails

Avatar

Published

on

Sponsored Links

Close-up of two IT technician talking and looking at their digital tablets while examining servers.
vm via Getty Images

Some data leaks contain more sensitive info than most. Security researcher Bob Diachenko and Comparitech discovered (via Threatpost) that Broadvoice, a cloud VoIP provider for businesses, left over 350 million records exposed online in an unprotected cluster, including 2 million voicemail records with 200,000 transcripts. Many of those transcripts included sensitive data, and not just common elements like names and phone numbers — medical conditions, mortgages and insurance policies were all left open.

The largest general data collection, 275 million records, typically included full names, phone numbers, and cities.

The company told Comparitech that the data had been stored on September 28th and was locked down October 2nd, a day after Diachenko notified Broadvoice. There hasn’t been evidence of “misuse” so far, the company said. Marketing VP Rebecca Rosen told Threatpost that it believed “less than 10,000” businesses were impacted, although that doesn’t say how many of those companies’ customers were at risk.

The practical damage appears to have been limited as a result. Even so, this illustrates the dangers of insecure data. The wrong decision can expose vast amounts of info, and it can only take a subset of that data to create serious problems.

All products recommended by Engadget are selected by our editorial team, independent of our parent company. Some of our stories include affiliate links. If you buy something through one of these links, we may earn an affiliate commission.

Comment
Comments

Share
111 Shares

Share

Tweet

Share

Source: https://www.engadget.com/broadvoice-voicemail-data-leak-211913573.html

Continue Reading

Startups

VCs reload ahead of the election as unicorns power ahead

Avatar

Published

on

This is The TechCrunch Exchange, a newsletter that goes out on Saturdays, based on the column of the same name. You can sign up for the email here.

It was an active week in the technology world broadly, with big news from Facebook and Twitter and Apple. But past the headline-grabbing noise, there was a steady drumbeat of bullish news for unicorns, or private companies worth $1 billion or more.

A bullish week for unicorns

The Exchange spent a good chunk of the week looking into different stories from unicorns, or companies that will soon fit the bill, and it’s surprising to see how much positive financial news there was on tap even past what we got to write about.

Databricks, for example, disclosed a grip of financial data to TechCrunch ahead of regular publication, including the fact that it grew its annual run rate (not ARR) to $350 million by the end of Q3 2020, up from $200 million in Q2 2019. It’s essentially IPO ready, but is not hurrying to the public markets.

Sticking to our theme, Calm wants more money for a huge new valuation, perhaps as high as $2.2 billion which is not a surprise. That’s more good unicorn news. As was the report that “India’s Razorpay [became a] unicorn after its new $100 million funding round” that came out this week.

Razorpay is only one of a number of Indian startups that have become unicorns during COVID-19. (And here’s another digest out this week concerning a half-dozen startups that became unicorns “amidst the pandemic.”)

There was enough good unicorn news lately that we’ve lost track of it all. Things like Seismic raising $92 million, pushing its valuation up to $1.6 billion from a few weeks ago. How did that get lost in the mix?

All this matters because while the IPO market has captured much attention in the last quarter or so, the unicorn world has not sat still. Indeed, it feels that unicorn VC activity is the highest we’ve seen since 2019.

And, as we’ll see in just a moment, the grist for the unicorn mill is getting refilled as we speak. So, expect more of the same until something material breaks our current investing and exit pattern.

Market Notes

What do unicorns eat? Cash. And many, many VCs raised cash in the last seven days.

A partial list follows. It could be that investors are looking to lock in new funds before the election and whatever chaos may ensue. So, in no particular order, here’s who is newly flush:

All that capital needs to go to work, which means lots more rounds for many, many startups. The Exchange also caught up with a somewhat new firm this week: Race Capital. Helmed by Alfred Chuang, formerly or BEA who is an angel investor now in charge of his own fund, the firm has $50 million to invest.

Sticking to private investments into startups for the moment, quite a lot happened this week that we need to know more about. Like API-powered Argyle raising $20 million from Bain Capital Ventures for what FinLedger calls “unlocking and democratizing access to employment records.” TechCrunch is currently tracking the progress of API-led startups.

On the fintech side of things, M1 Finance raised $45 million for its consumer fintech platform in a Series C, while another roboadvisor, Wealthsimple, raised $87 million, becoming a unicorn at the same time. And while we’re in the fintech bucket, Stripe dropped $200 million this week for Nigerian startup Paystack. We need to pay more attention to the African startup scene. On the smaller end of fintech, Alpaca raised $10 million more to help other companies become Robinhood.

A few other notes before we change tack. Kahoot raised $215 million due to a boom in remote education, another trend that is inescapable in 2020 as part of the larger edtech boom (our own Natasha Mascarenhas has more).

Turning from the private market to the public, we have to touch on SPACs for just a moment. The Exchange got on the phone this week with Toby Russell from Shift, which is now a public company, trading after it merged with a SPAC, namely Insurance Acquisition Corp. Early trading is only going so well, but the CEO outlined for us precisely why he pursued a SPAC, which was actually interesting:

  • Shift could have gone public via an IPO, Russell said, but prioritized a SPAC-led debut because his firm wanted to optimize for a capital raise to keep the company growing.
  • How so? The private investment in public equity (PIPE) that the SPAC option came with ensured that Shift would have hundreds of millions in cash.
  • Shift also wanted to minimize what the CEO described as market risk. A SPAC deal could happen regardless of what the broader markets were up to. And as the company made the choice to debut via a SPAC in April, some caution, we reckon, may have made some sense.

So now Shift is public and newly capitalized. Let’s see what happens to its shares as it gets into the groove of reporting quarterly. (Obviously, if it flounders, it’s a bad mark for SPACs, but, conversely, successful trading could lead to a bit more momentum to SPAC-mageddon.)

A few more things and we’re done. Unicorn exits had a good week. First, Datto’s IPO continues to move forward. It set an initial price this week, which could value it above $4 billion. Also this week, Roblox announced that it has filed to go public, albeit privately. It’s worth billions as well. And finally, DoubleVerify is looking to go public for as much as $5 billion early next year.

Not all liquidity comes via the public markets, as we saw this week’s Twilio purchase of Segment, a deal that The Exchange dug into to find out if it was well-priced or not.

Various and Sundry

We’re running long naturally, so here are just a few quick things to add to your weekend mental tea-and-coffee reading!

Next week we are digging more deeply into Q3 venture capital data, a foretaste of which you can find here, regarding female founders, a topic that we returned to Friday in more depth.

Alex

Source: https://techcrunch.com/2020/10/17/vcs-reload-ahead-of-the-election-as-unicorns-power-ahead/

Continue Reading
Big Data10 mins ago

Best Apps to Check Internet Speed

Fintech2 hours ago

Minimum Wage Workers Can Now Get Guaranteed Payday Loans No Matter What In Canada

Energy3 hours ago

Volvo Trucks Awarded $21.7M from U.S. EPA and South Coast AQMD to Deploy 70 Class 8 VNR Electric Zero-Emission Trucks

Energy3 hours ago

Trilliant Partners with 1NCE for a Cost-Effective Cellular Solution to Cover the Last Mile for IIoT

Energy3 hours ago

LyondellBasell Hosts Annual Global Care Day Supporting Food Security

Energy3 hours ago

Insider Buying Signals Gold Industry Momentum

Energy3 hours ago

In New Book, Veteran Journalist Shows How to End California’s Water Wars, Protect Habitats and Meet State’s Water Needs

Blockchain3 hours ago

How Does the Future Look for Cryptocurrencies in the Financial Market?

Cyber Security4 hours ago

Simple Steps To Protect Your Business Data Across Mobile Devices

Blockchain6 hours ago

How Blockchain Can Help Your Business Grow

Cyber Security6 hours ago

Quelques conseils pour améliorer la sécurité informatique afin de ne pas perdre des données personnelles

Aviation7 hours ago

Norwegian’s New Airbus A321LR Fleet – What To Expect

Ripple Price
Blockchain8 hours ago

Charted: Ripple (XRP) Technicals Suggest a Crucial Breakdown Below $0.24

Fintech8 hours ago

Insurtech Bolttech Expands Its Footprint to South Korea With LG U+

Aviation8 hours ago

Remember The Interjet-Aeromar Codeshare? Its Over

Blockchain8 hours ago

Savvy Traders Are Capitalizing on Two New Crypto Assets, Says Bitcoin Bull Tyler Swope – Here’s How

Aviation9 hours ago

One Of The World’s Busiest International Routes Is Less Than 300km Long

Aviation9 hours ago

Western Sydney cover up possible, hints top bureaucrat

Ethereum
Blockchain10 hours ago

TA: Ethereum Could Narrowly Avoid a Major Drop if it Closes Above $380

Aviation10 hours ago

A Look Inside Drake’s Crazy New Private Boeing 767 Jet

Aviation10 hours ago

Tasmania on track to open to NSW on 2 November

Aviation11 hours ago

Cathay Pacific Weighs Further Job And Pay Cuts

Aviation11 hours ago

What Is A Tail Strike And Why Can They Be Dangerous?

Bitcoin Price
Blockchain12 hours ago

TA: Bitcoin Hesitates Below $11,550, But Upside Break To $12K Seems Likely

Blockchain12 hours ago

Top DEXs Record 197% Average Monthly Trading Volume Increase As DeFi Hype Drives Growth

Blockchain12 hours ago

Bitstamp To Provide Crime Insurance for Crypto Asset Safety

Blockchain12 hours ago

Bitcoin Price Prediction: BTC/USD Struggles to Break $11,500 Resistance, May Set the Stage for Upside Momentum

check-out-thorchain-rune-shapeshift-ceo-erik-voorhees-says.jpg
Blockchain13 hours ago

“Check Out Thorchain (RUNE),” ShapeShift CEO Erik Voorhees Says

Aviation13 hours ago

Melbourne To Top Singapore Airlines’ Flight List In December – Here’s The Catch

Blockchain13 hours ago

Kraken Daily Market Report for October 18 2020

Aviation14 hours ago

United Airlines Moving Forward With Boeing 787 Polaris Retrofits

Chainlink LINK
Blockchain15 hours ago

Analyst: Chainlink Likely to Rally to $16.50 as It Approaches Key Level

Aviation15 hours ago

Victoria’s own website permitted ‘unauthorised’ Kiwi arrivals

Aviation16 hours ago

AirAsia X Cutting Indonesia Arm

options-trends-makes-it-hard-for-this-analyst-to-imagine-a-bitcoin-mega-pump.jpg
Blockchain16 hours ago

Options Trends Makes it Hard for This Analyst to Imagine a Bitcoin “Mega Pump”

Ecommerce16 hours ago

Embodee Announces Beta Availability of New Web Platform for 3D Fashion…

Ecommerce16 hours ago

Money Mailer Joins Capital One Spring Discount Platform for Small…

Blockchain16 hours ago

Outlier Detection with RNN Autoencoders

filecoin-fil-faces-a-miner-crisis-72-hours-into-launch-analyst-says.png
Blockchain17 hours ago

Filecoin (FIL) Faces a Miner Crisis 72 Hours Into Launch, Analyst Says

Aviation17 hours ago

Comment: Virgin bloodletting signals private-equity hijacking

Trending