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Coronavirus World News and Live Updates

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Credit…Victor Moriyama for The New York Times

Brazil’s coronavirus outbreak passed a grim landmark on Saturday, surpassing Britain to record the second-highest death toll in the world after the United States’, according to a New York Times tally.

As of Saturday morning, Brazil had acknowledged 41,828 virus deaths. The figure for the United States was 114,752, and for Britain 41,481. Brazil’s daily death toll is now the highest in the world, bucking the downward trend that is allowing many other major economies to reopen.

Experts point to President Jair Bolsonaro’s rejection of the emerging scientific consensus on how to fight the pandemic — including his promotion of unproven remedies such as the drugs chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine — as one of the factors that helped tilt the country into its current health crisis.

Mr. Bolsonaro has sabotaged quarantine measures adopted by governors, encouraged mass rallies and repeatedly dismissed the danger of the virus. He has asserted that the virus was a “measly cold” and that people with “athletic backgrounds,” like himself, were impervious to serious complications.

Coronavirus Map: Tracking the Global Outbreak

The virus has infected more than 7 million people and has been detected in nearly every country.

Credit…David Dee Delgado/Getty Images

The graduating cadets at the United States Military Academy at West Point have lived in quarantine for the past two weeks, confined to their dorms, wearing masks and watching Zoom conferences on leadership as they wait for President Trump to speak at their commencement on Saturday.

The 1,107 West Point cadets have been divided into four groups, with strict orders not to mingle outside of their cohort. They eat in shifts in the dining hall, with food placed on long tables by kitchen staff who quickly leave.

Sent home in March because of the coronavirus, the cadets were ordered back to campus after President Trump abruptly announced that he wanted to go through with a planned commencement address. The address comes during a breakdown in relations between the president and top military leaders, who have vehemently objected to Mr. Trump’s threats to use active-duty troops to quell largely peaceful protests against police brutality.

The cadets were tested for the virus when they arrived on campus, with 15 initially testing positive but showing no symptoms, according to Lt. Col. Christopher Ophardt, a West Point spokesman. The 15 did not transmit the virus to others and are now virus-free, Colonel Ophardt said, and will graduate with the others in their class.

No friends or family will be permitted to attend and cadets will be required to wear masks as they march in and take their seats, about six feet apart. Once seated, they will be allowed to unmask. Mr. Trump, who has never worn a mask in public, is to speak at 11 a.m.

Protests against the president are expected in the nearby community.

U.S. roundup

Credit…Cliff Hawkins/Getty Images

Two of the United States’ most populous states, Texas and Florida, reported this week their highest daily totals of new coronavirus infections, a concerning sign as all 50 states move to ease social distancing restrictions and allow more businesses to reopen.

The nation’s most populous state, California, hit a new daily high last week, when it recorded 3,593 new cases, and it nearly matched that record this week.

The rise in cases helps explain why the nation continues to record more than 20,000 new cases a day even though some of the original hot spots, including New York, have reported sharp declines.

While some officials in states seeing increases attribute the rise to increased testing, and the number of cases per capita in Texas and Florida remains low, some health experts see worrying signs that the virus is continuing to make inroads.

“Whenever you loosen mitigation, you can expect you’ll see new infections, I think it would be unrealistic to think that you won’t,” Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, said in an interview on ABC News’s “Powerhouse Politics” podcast. “The critical issue is how do you prevent those new infections that you see from all of a sudden emerging into something that is a spike, and that’s the thing that we hope we will be able to contain.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released forecasts on Friday suggesting that the United States was likely to reach 124,000 to 140,000 Covid-19 deaths by July 4.

The agency said that its forecasts suggested that more virus-related deaths were likely over the next four weeks in Arizona, Arkansas, Hawaii, North Carolina, Utah and Vermont than those states reported over the past four weeks.

The agency also released new guidance about the risks of holding events, even those attended by only a small number of people.

Dr. Fauci, who has warned about the risks associated with the recent protests in recent days, was also asked during his podcast interview what he thought about Mr. Trump’s plan to begin holding large rallies again.

“I stick by what I say,” he said. “The best way that you can avoid either acquiring or transmitting infection is to avoid crowded places, to wear a mask whenever you’re outside, and if you can do both — avoid the congregation of people and do the mask, that’s great.”

Here is a look at other key developments around the country:

  • Asbury Park, N.J., halted a move to allow some indoor restaurant dining that was scheduled to start on Monday after the state of New Jersey took the unusual step on Friday of suing to block the proposals.

Global roundup

Credit…Greg Baker/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

The Beijing authorities shut down a major seafood and produce market and locked down several residential complexes on Saturday after 53 people tested positive for the coronavirus in the city, renewing fears that China’s grip on the pandemic is not yet secure.

Nearly everyone who tested positive had worked or shopped at the Xinfadi market, a wholesale market on the city’s south side that sells seafood, fruit and vegetables, according to the Beijing health commission.

More than 10,000 people work at the market, which supplies 90 percent of Beijing’s fruits and vegetables, according to the state news media. The virus was reportedly detected on cutting boards for imported salmon there.

The developments also prompted the authorities to partly or completely close five other Beijing markets, to lock down 11 nearby residential communities and nine schools, and to tighten controls on movement in and out of the city. State media outlets described the effort as a “wartime mechanism.”

China was the site of the first major coronavirus outbreak — with many of the first reported cases tied to a seafood market in the central city of Wuhan. But as the pandemic has ravaged the rest of the world, China’s government has loudly promoted its apparent success in controlling the virus’s spread. Before the new cluster of cases, Beijing had not reported any new locally transmitted cases for eight weeks.

Here are some other developments around the world:

  • In Britain, the police urged people to stay away from demonstrations in London on Saturday, and imposed restrictions on both a Black Lives Matter protest and a planned right-wing counterdemonstration.

  • President Hassan Rouhani of Iran said on Saturday that he was prepared to reinstate a strict coronavirus lockdown if looser measures were not observed. Press TV, a state-run broadcaster, quoted him as saying that a recent drop in compliance “could be worrying.”

  • At least 58 people on the staff of President Alejandro Giammattei of Guatemala have tested positive for the virus, including members of his security detail and domestic workers at the presidential compound. The president said he had tested negative.

  • Immigration officials in Canada said the government may allow caregivers who are seeking asylum to remain in the country permanently because of their outsized contributions to fighting the pandemic.

  • Prosecutors questioned Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte of Italy on Friday over his delay in locking down two towns in the Lombardy region, where the virus devastated the health care system. No one has been charged with a crime and the lead prosecutor, Maria Cristina Rota, said Mr. Conte and other officials were interviewed as witnesses, not suspects.

Credit…Benjamin Norman for The New York Times

After this spring’s on-the-fly experiment in online classes, teachers and school districts across the country are preparing for what will be anything but a normal fall semester. Some districts stumbled in the transition, with classes zoom-bombed and interrupted; many strained to address serious inequities in access to computers. Recent research finds that most students fell months behind during the last term of the year, with the heaviest impact on low-income students.

Other schools transitioned with less disruption, in part by mobilizing facilitators, coaches and other staff members to support both teachers and students who were in danger of logging off and checking out, according to a report by researchers.

Now, most districts are facing a future in which online courses will likely be part of the curriculum, whether that entails students returning in shifts or classrooms remaining closed because of local outbreaks. And underlying that adjustment is a more fundamental question: How efficiently do students learn using virtual lessons?

“What we’re finding in the research thus far is it’s generally harder to keep students engaged with virtual lessons,” no matter the content, said Jered Borup, an associate professor in learning technologies at George Mason University. “Over all, though, that is not the distinguishing feature here. Rather, it’s what supports the student has when learning virtually. That makes all the difference.”

The two most authoritative reviews of the research to date, examining the results of nearly 300 studies, come to a similar conclusion. Students tend to learn less efficiently than usual in online courses, as a rule, and depending on the course. But if they have a facilitator or mentor on hand, someone to help with the technology and focus their attention — an approach sometimes called blended learning — they perform about as well in many virtual classes, and sometimes better.

Social distancing is hard — especially for the very young. Here are some ways to get children to care about wearing masks and avoiding germs.

Credit…Sergey Ponomarev for The New York Times

Through a thin wall separating her from her neighbors, Dr. Anzhela Kirilova began to hear the rasping cough associated with Covid-19 sometime in May. That was hardly a surprise. A few weeks earlier, her neighbors had heard the same cough coming from her room.

Dr. Kirilova, who works in a Covid-19 ward at a hospital in St. Petersburg, Russia, said she had tried to warn the single man and the young family she shares a four-room apartment with. She suggested that they wear masks in the kitchen.

“They said, ‘We don’t care, and we’ll do what we want,’” she said with a shrug.

For residents of Russia’s communal apartments, self-isolation to fend off the coronavirus has hardly been an option.

In such arrangements, a half-dozen to more than 20 people live in separate rooms within a single apartment — typically one room per family — while sharing a kitchen and a bathroom in one large, usually unhappy, household.

The apartments, a relic of the Soviet Union, are home to hundreds of thousands of people. Most are in St. Petersburg, where about 10 percent of the city’s population lives in communal apartments.

The health authorities have not released statistics on infections in the communal apartments. But the slow burn of infection has strained relations among residents and shed light on their lingering poverty.

“You feel the tension,” Sonya Minayeva said in an interview in her room. “There’s a silent paranoia.”

Credit…Jim Wilson/The New York Times

Cold beer flowed, soul music played and regulars lined the redwood bar to order tequila shots and tater tots. No one wore masks, many hugged, and the staff passed a joint out front of The Hatch, a cozy locals’ bar in downtown Oakland. On the night before lockdown, the bar opened its doors to bring people together for one last night of drinks — and pay.

“We’re six years running, so hopefully something like this doesn’t wipe us out,” Robin Easterbrook, The Hatch’s tattooed manager, said from behind the bar that night. “It’s frustrating, because I don’t have all the answers to give to our team, other than my word that we’re going to do our best to make sure that you get taken care of.”

Behind a curtain, Santos, a 56-year-old Guatemalan immigrant, pressed burgers to the grill. He and his six children in the Bay Area had all received word that day, March 16, that they no longer had jobs. He planned to return to the three-bedroom house on the outskirts of Oakland that he shared with 11 family members to shelter in place. “I want to respect the law,” he said in Spanish. “But my worry is my rent, food.”

Credit…Chen Xiangping

As China’s coronavirus infection rate has slowed to a crawl, universities across the country have been gradually welcoming students back to campus. But they aren’t offering the customary ceremonies or photo opportunities for graduating seniors.

Instead, dozens of them are providing digitally altered pictures of what the pageantry might have looked like in a pre- or post-Covid-19 era. In some of the photos, the effect is jarringly artificial, with students’ smiling faces added to identical cap-and-gown templates, stacked precisely in long rows.

At Beifang University of Nationalities in Yinchuan, for example, administrators distributed a photograph made by student volunteers that shows more than 150 dance and music majors in digitally added caps and gowns outside one of the campus’s landmark buildings. “Graduation memory of the class of 2020,” the caption says.

Chen Xiangping, 22, a dance major who is in the photo, said that she and her roommates had dreamed for years of their graduation photo-op — down to the details of which poses they would strike.

“But because of the pandemic, this will never come true,” she said. “And there may never be a chance for it to come true in my lifetime.”

At Yangtze University in Jingzhou, a Chinese city near Wuhan, where the coronavirus first emerged, the graduation photo shows smiling graduates standing against a background of the university’s main building.

Chen Chen, a student at the university, said the photo was a letdown, describing it in one word: “ugly.”

“I once peeped at my seniors’ graduation ceremony and even tried on the bachelor cap secretly, so I was very much looking forward to the graduation picture,” she said. “My biggest regret is not being able to have a graceful farewell with my teachers and classmates.”

Reporting and research was contributed by Benedict Carey, Michael Cooper, Bella Huang, Mike Isaac, Andrew E. Kramer, Qiqing Lin, Ernesto Londoño, Jack Nicas, Sergey Ponomarev, Peter Robins, Eric Schmitt, Michael D. Shear, Mariana Simões, Vivian Wang and Elaine Yu.

Source: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/06/13/world/coronavirus-updates.html

Fintech

Accept.inc secures $90M in debt and equity to scale its digital mortgage lending platform

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A lot of startups were built to help people make all-cash offers on homes with the purpose of gaining an edge against other buyers, especially in ultra-competitive markets. 

Accepti.inc is a Denver-based company that is attempting to create a new category in real estate technology. To help scale its digital mortgage lending platform, the company announced today that it has secured $90 million in debt and equity – with $78 million in debt and $12 million in equity. Signal Fire led the equity portion of its financing, which also included participation from existing seed investors Y Combinator and DN Capital.

Accept.inc describes itself as an iLender, or a “technology-enabled lender” that gives people a way to submit all-cash offers on a home upon qualifying for a mortgage.

Using its platform, a buyer gets qualified first and then can start looking for homes that fall at or under the amount he or she is approved for. They can purchase a more expensive home, but any amount above what they are approved for would have to come out of pocket. Historically, most buyers don’t know that they will have to pay out of pocket until they’ve made an offer on a specific home and an appraisal comes under the amount of the price they are paying for a home. In those cases, the buyer has to cough up the difference out of pocket. With Accept.inc., its execs tout, buyers know upfront how much they are approved for and can spend on a new home “so there are no surprises later.”

SignalFire Founding Partner and CTO Ilya Kirnos describes Accept.inc as “the first and only iLender.”

He points out that since it is a lender, Accept.inc doesn’t make its money by charging buyers fees like some others in the all-cash offer space.

“Unlike ‘iBuyers’ or ‘alternative iBuyers,’ Accept.inc fronts the cash to buy a house and then makes money off mortgage origination and title, meaning sellers, homebuyers and their agents pay no additional cost for the service,” he told TechCrunch.

IBuyers instead buy homes from sellers who signed up online, make a profit by often fixing up and selling those homes and then helping people purchase a different home with all cash. They also make money by charging transaction fees. A slew of companies operate in the space including established players such as Opendoor and Zillow and newer players such as Homelight.

Image credit: Accept.inc. Left to right: Co-founders Adam Pollack, Nick Friedman and Ian Perrex.

Since its 2016 inception, Accept.inc says it has helped thousands of buyers, agents and sellers close on “hundreds of millions of dollars” in homes. The company saw ”14x” growth in 2020 and from June 2020 to June 2021, it achieved “10x” growth in terms of the size of its team and number of transactions and revenue, according to CEO and co-founder Adam Pollack. Accept.inc wants to use its new capital to build on that momentum and meet demand.

Pollack and Nick Friedman met while in college and started building Accept.inc with the goal of “turning every offer into a cash offer.” The pair essentially “failed for two years,” half-jokes Pollack.

“We basically became an encyclopedia of 1,000 ways the idea of helping people make all-cash offers wouldn’t work,” he said.

The team went through Y Combinator in the winter of 2019 and that’s when they created the iLender concept. In the iLender model, the company uses its cash to buy a house for buyers. Once the loan with Accept.inc is ready to close, the company sells back the house to the buyer “at no additional cost or fees.”

“Basically what we learned through those two years is that you have to vertically integrate all of your core competencies, and you can’t rely on third parties to own or manage your special sauce for you,” Pollack told TechCrunch. “We also realized that if you’re going to build a cash offer for anyone who could afford a mortgage, you’ve got to make it a full bona fide cash offer that closes in three days as opposed to a better version of what existed. And you have to own that, and take the risk that comes with it and be comfortable with that.”

The benefits of their model, the pair say, is that buyers get to be cash buyers, sellers can close in as little as 32 hours, and agents “get a guaranteed commission check.” 

“Our mission is that everyone should have an equal chance at homeownership,” Friedman said. “We not only want to level the playing field, we want to create a new standard.”

Buyers using Accept.inc win 6-7 times more frequently, the company claims. With its new capital, It also plans to double its team of 90 and enter new markets outside of its home base of Denver.

SignalFire Partner Chris Scoggins believes that Accept.inc is different from other lenders in that its focus is on “winning the home, not just servicing the loan, with a business model that’s 10x more capital-efficient than other players in the market.

The team is driven…to level the playing field for homebuyers who today lose out against all-cash offers from home-flippers and wealthy individuals,” he added. “We see an enormous opportunity for Accept.inc to become the backbone of the future of mortgage lending.”

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Source: https://techcrunch.com/2021/06/24/accept-inc-secures-90m-in-debt-equity/

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Apple’s AirPods Max fall to a new all-time low of $489 at Amazon

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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.

With good looks, quality construction and great natural sound, Apple’s AirPods Max headphones tick all the right boxes, but they’re mighty expensive at $550. However, you can now pick up a pair from Amazon at $490, the lowest price we’ve seen yet. That’s still not inexpensive by any means, but it’s a substantial savings on high-end headphones that only came out seven months ago. 

Buy Apple AirPods Max (pink) at Amazon – $490 Buy Apple AirPods Max (sky blue) at Amazon – $489 Buy Apple AirPods Max (space gray) at Amazon – $489

With an Engadget review score of 84, the AirPods Max earned a spot in our list of the best headphones you can buy. They look and feel great thanks to the aluminum and metal design, breathable mesh fabric and large earcups. A rotating crown and dedicated button let you switch between ANC and and regular modes, and it’s easy to switch seamlessly between iPhones, Macs and iPads. They offer hands-free capability with Siri, and you can go for up to 20 hours between charges with both ANC and spatial sound enabled.  

AirPods Max offer a more natural sound experience than other headphones, with bass that’s not overcooked. Active noise cancellation quality is right up there, though not quite on par with Sony’s WH-1000XM4 ANC headphones. And they support Apple’s Dolby Atmos-powered spatial audio on iPhones, iPads and Macs right now, and will come to Apple TV this fall. The main drawback is that they won’t stream Apple’s new lossless audio. 

Still, they deliver in nearly every other area and are especially useful for folks with Apple devices. $60 is a substantial discount for an Apple product this new, so if you’re interested, it would be best to act soon. 

Follow @EngadgetDeals on Twitter for the latest tech deals and buying advice.

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Source: https://www.engadget.com/apple-airpods-max-good-deal-amazon-124026253.html?src=rss_b2c

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SA agritech releases AI-enabled OmnioFarm to modernise African poultry farming

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The founders of South African cryptocurrency investment platform Africrypt have disappeared along with $3.6 billion (R51.4 billion) worth of Bitcoin, according to a report….

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Source: https://ventureburn.com/2021/06/sa-agritech-releases-ai-enabled-omniofarm-to-modernise-african-poultry-farming/

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Visa to acquire open banking platform Tink for more than $2 billion

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Visa has announced plans to acquire Tink for €1.8 billion, or $2.15 billion at today’s exchange rate. Tink has been a leading fintech startup in Europe focused on open banking application programming interface (API).

Today’s move comes a few months after Visa abandoned its acquisition of Plaid, another popular open banking startup. Originally, Visa planned to spend $5.3 billion to acquire the American startup. But the company had to call off the acquisition after running into a regulatory wall.

Tink offers a single API so that customers can connect to bank accounts from their own apps and services. For instance, you can leverage Tink’s API to access account statements, initiate payments, fetch banking information and refresh this data regularly.

While banks and financial institutions now all have to offer open banking interfaces due to EU’s Payment Services Directive PSD2, there’s no single standard. Tink integrates with 3,400 banks and financial institutions.

App developers can use the same API call to interact with bank accounts across various financial institutions. As you may have guessed, it greatly simplifies the adoption of open banking features.

300 banks and fintech startups use Tink’s API to access third-party bank information — clients include PayPal, BNP Paribas, American Express and Lydia. Overall, Tink covers 250 million bank customers across Europe.

Based in Stockholm, Sweden, Tink operations should continue as usual after the acquisition. Visa plans to retain the brand and management team.

According to Crunchbase data, Tink has raised over $300 million from Dawn Capital, Eurazeo, HMI Capital, Insight Partners, PayPal Ventures, Creades, Heartcore Capital and others.

“For the past ten years we have worked relentlessly to build Tink into a leading open banking platform in Europe, and we are incredibly proud of what the whole team at Tink has created together,” Tink co-founder and CEO Daniel Kjellén said in a statement. “We have built something incredible and at the same time we have only scratched the surface.”

“Joining Visa, we will be able to move faster and reach further than ever before. Visa is the perfect partner for the next stage of Tink’s journey, and we are incredibly excited about what this will bring to our employees, customers and for the future of financial services.”

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Source: https://techcrunch.com/2021/06/24/visa-to-acquire-open-banking-platform-tink-for-more-than-2-billion/

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