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New coronavirus spread isn’t the feared ‘second wave’ – it’s still the first, researchers say

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People visit Clearwater Beach after Governor Ron DeSantis opened the beaches at 7am on May 04, 2020 in Clearwater, Florida.

Mike Ehrmann | Getty Images

The rise in coronavirus cases seen in about half a dozen states across the U.S. isn’t the feared “second wave” — it’s still the first, scientists and infectious disease specialists say.

To be defined as a second wave the virus would need to retreat and reappear, or a new variant would have to emerge, said Ian Lipkin, a professor of epidemiology and director of the Center for Infection and Immunity at Columbia University. “The recent increase in cases does not reflect either.”

Covid-19 has sickened more than 2 million Americans and killed at least 113,820 since the first confirmed U.S. case less than five months ago, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. While new cases are on the decline in early hot spots such as New York state, cases are on the rise in places such as Texas, Florida and Arizona, with the U.S. still seeing roughly 20,000 new Covid-19 cases a day, Hopkins data shows.

A handful of states including New York, New Jersey and Massachusetts have experienced “clear first-wave outbreaks,” said Nicholas Reich, a professor of biostatistics and epidemiology at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. “However, many states have had more of a first-wave plateau, without a clear decline for many weeks.”

Arizona reported an additional 1,412 new cases on Thursday, bringing the state’s total to 31,264. The number of cases has climbed by nearly 300% since May 1 and has roughly doubled since Memorial Day. Texas this week reported three straight days of record-breaking coronavirus hospitalizations in the state. Coronavirus hospitalizations in Texas have increased about 32% since the Memorial Day holiday, according to state data. 

States such as Arizona and Texas “never really got rid of the first wave,” former FDA Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb told CNBC’s “Squawk Box” on Thursday. “They weren’t really that hard hit relative to other states during February [and] March. They had some infection, they had persistent infection. Now we are starting to see it go up as they reopen.”

Last week, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Robert Redfield told lawmakers he was worried Americans aren’t following the agency’s advice as states begin to reopen after shuttering businesses and limiting activities as part of social distancing measures intended to curb the spread of the virus.

Crowds of people have been seen in recent weeks at protests, over the Memorial Day holiday and at the SpaceX launch.

“We will continue to message as well as we can,” said Redfield, who’s on the White House coronavirus task force. “We’re going to encourage people that have the ability to require to wear masks when they are in their environment to continue to do that.”

Marc Lipsitch, a professor of epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health, said there is no way to attribute the rise in cases to one event.

“Transmissions occur, probably extra ones on a holiday like Memorial Day, which lead to cases and hospitalizations,” he said. “All the activities we engage in affect that and thus affect whether say a particular transmission (John infected Sally) on Memorial Day or at a protest or wherever leads to Sally not infecting anyone else.”

Lipkin echoed those remarks, saying, “High-density gatherings on any basis increase the risk of virus transmission.”

He and other epidemiologists noted that the U.S. and other parts of the world will continue to see cases until there is an effective drug or a vaccine. There are at least 136 Covid-19 vaccines under development as of June 9, according to the World Health Organization. At least 10 of those are already in clinical trials.

“Until we have a vaccine to prevent infection or drugs that can safely and efficiently mitigate disease it is critical that we protect ourselves and our communities through physical distancing and the use of masks,” he said. 

Whether the coronavirus is in a first wave or a second wave, the point is that cases are growing, Isaac Bogoch, an infectious disease specialist and professor at the University of Toronto said. Public health specialists warn that a slow burn of infection through the summer could lead to a massive resurgence this fall.

“It is time for the creation and implementation of good public health policy to slow the transmission of the virus,” he said.

Source: https://www.cnbc.com/2020/06/12/coronavirus-spread-isnt-the-feared-second-waveits-still-the-first.html

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Pinterest is reportedly in talks to acquire VSCO

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So what can Pinterest do to jump higher up the list of social networking sites? According to a report by the New York Times, one possibility is acquiring the owner of VSCO, the app for editing / sharing photos and videos that has brought in-depth tools to mobile users for years. Neither side directly confirmed the negotiations, and there’s no word on a possible price, but maybe combining forces can bring some Instagram-like glow. 

As it is, Pinterest is still mostly known for planning and organizing, and as the NYT article points out, other than some recent acquisitions, VSCO is currently best known for the “VSCO girls” meme.

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Source: https://www.engadget.com/vsco-pinterest-014258107.html

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A sealed copy of ‘Super Mario Bros.’ just sold for $660,000

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A nearly perfect copy of Super Mario Bros. for the NES has sold for $660,000 at auction. In what turned out to be a 13-bidder contest, $550,000 went to the game’s original owner. The copy was one of the earliest shrink-wrapped versions of the games you could buy in the US (Super Mario Bros. eventually had 11 different box variants, according to WATA Games).

Heritage Auctions, the firm that oversaw the sale, told Ars Technica it dates back to late 1986. It was reportedly bought as a Christmas gift and sat unopened in a desk drawer for the better part of four decades. “I never thought anything about it,” the seller, who asked to remain anonymous, told the auction house.

The $660,000 this copy of Super Mario Bros. sold for is crazy when you consider the Nintendo PlayStation, a one-of-a-kind prototype representing a unique piece of gaming history, sold for $360,000 at auction last year. More recently, someone paid $156,000 to buy a pristine copy of Super Mario Bros. 3. It makes you wonder how much the owner would have walked away with had they simultaneously tried to cash in on the NFT craze somehow.

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Source: https://www.engadget.com/super-mario-bros-auction-000001095.html

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‘Lost Tapes of the 27 Club’ used Google AI to ‘write’ a new Nirvana song

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Were he still alive today, Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain would be 52 years old. Every February 20th, on the day of his birthday, fans wonder what songs he would write if he hadn’t died of suicide nearly 30 years ago. While we’ll never know the answer to that question, an AI is attempting to fill the gap.

A mental health organization called Over the Bridge used Google’s Magenta AI and a generic neural network to examine more than two dozen songs by Nirvana to create a ‘new’ track from the band. “Drowned in the Sun” opens with reverb-soaked plucking before turning into an assault of distorted power chords. “I don’t care/I feel as one, drowned in the sun,” Nirvana tribute band frontman Eric Hogan sings in the chorus. In execution, it sounds not all that dissimilar from “You Know You’re Right,” one of the last songs Nirvana recorded before Cobain’s death in 1994.

Other than the voice of Hogan, everything you hear in the song was generated by the two AI programs Over the Bridge used. The organization first fed Magenta songs as MIDI files so that the software could learn the specific notes and harmonies that made the band’s tunes so iconic. Humorously, Cobain’s loose and aggressive guitar playing style gave Magenta some trouble, with the AI mostly outputting a wall of distortion instead of something akin to his signature melodies. “It was a lot of trial and error,” Over the Bridge board member Sean O’Connor told Rolling Stone. Once they had some musical and lyrical samples, the creative team picked the best bits to record. Most of the instrumentation you hear are MIDI tracks with different effects layered on top.

One thing neither AI gave direction on is how exactly Cobain would have sung the song. Outside of cadence and tone, Hogan had to interpret how the grunge star, who famously suffered from crippling stomach pain, would have channeled his anguish into the lyrics.

Over the Bridge isn’t the first group to use AI to emulate a dead artist. But the intent here is different from similar past projects. “Drowned in the Sun” is part of the organization’s Lost Tapes of the 27 Club initiative. They set out to record AI-generated songs by musicians who died at the age of 27 to raise awareness about mental health resources musicians, and people more generally, can turn to when they feel they need help. The Toronto-based non-profit has a Facebook page where it offers support. It also offers online sessions and workshops.

If you’re experiencing thoughts of suicide or self-harm, you can reach the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255 or over an online chat.

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Source: https://www.engadget.com/over-the-bridge-lost-tapes-of-the-27-club-223000315.html

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Microsoft’s online-only Build conference starts on May 25th

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Spring is fully upon us, which means the calendar is starting to fill up with high-profile tech events. And the latest addition? Microsoft confirmed today that its online-only Build developer conference will run between May 25th and May 27th, though there’s still no word on when registration will open. (If last year is any indication, our money is on “the end of April.”)

“Microsoft Build is where developers, architects, start-ups, and students learn, connect, and code together, sharing knowledge and expanding their skillset, while exploring new ways of innovating for tomorrow,” the company’s events page explains. 

Unfortunately, Microsoft has yet to update its Build-specific webpage with information about this year’s priorities or schedule, but we’re almost certainly looking at another packed event. Last year, Microsoft went on (among other things) about improved collaboration tools for its suite of Office productivity apps, an AI-focused supercomputer running on its Azure cloud platform, and new cloud tools designed specifically for healthcare practitioners. 

Historically, spring and summer are been jam-packed with large, in-person events where app and software developers get their first glimpse at upcoming platform and strategy updates, attend workshops and code reviews, and generally mingle with their colleagues. Starting last year, though, the worldwide coronavirus pandemic has forced companies that stage these events to rapidly rethink their approaches.

Some, like Microsoft and Apple, quickly pivoted to informative online-only affairs that include full days worth of sessions, demos and fireside chats. (For what it’s worth, Apple announced this week that its own Worldwide Developer Conference will also proceed as an online-only event from June 7-11.) Meanwhile, Google has not yet confirmed whether it plans to stage its Google I/O developer conference at all this year — the company cancelled the show entirely in 2020, but said last month that it does plan to host some version of its annual Google Cloud Next event this October. 

Between a surge in COVID-19 vaccine production and news of relaxed restrictions for vaccinated travelers, Build 2021 may well be the last purely virtual developer conference Microsoft will ever need to put on. With any luck, devs will resume their pilgrimages to Seattle next year, and who knows — maybe those tiny emotional support horses from Build 2018 will show up again too.

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Source: https://www.engadget.com/microsoft-build-2021-may-25-to-27-developer-conference-official-212230206.html

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