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Tesla safety boss tries to calm factory workers, some are concerned about lax coronavirus precautions

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Tesla’s safety leader Laurie Shelby sent an e-mail to employees who work at its Fremont, California, vehicle assembly plant on Thursday to assuage their concerns about new infections among employees. However, some employees say that despite Shelby’s email, they remain worried about infections and lax safety precautions in Fremont.

In the internal communication, which was previously reported by The San Francisco Chronicle, Shelby wrote: 

“Since we restarted operations, we have had zero COVID-19 workplace transmissions. COVID-19 exposure has occurred outside the workplace primarily through family members or housemates, and in most instances, the employee followed safety protocol, informed their manager and stayed home or went to get tested.”

The email did not explain how Tesla arrived at these conclusions, or who may have conducted testing and contact tracing to determine when and where Tesla employees were infected. Tesla and Shelby did not immediately return requests for comment.

Shelby’s email comes days after the Washington Post reported that employees at the company’s seat manufacturing facility, a couple of miles away from the main car factory, had tested positive for the virus, citing anonymous sources. The report did not specify where or how these workers contracted the coronavirus.

However, some employees say that they’re concerned given current conditions in the plant. 

Three production employees there told CNBC on Thursday and Friday that it’s impossible to do their work building cars while complying with the safety rules that the Alameda County Public Health Department said Tesla must implement in order to remain open. These people asked to remain unnamed because they are not authorized to discuss workplace conditions.

Specifically, these employees said, they cannot wear a face covering during their entire shift, thoroughly clean shared tools and equipment between shifts, and keep social distance between coworkers during work, or even during breaks.

Shifts were previously on a staggered schedule to help employees avoid crowding while entering and exiting the facility, but they are not staggered any more, these employees noted. Workers’ temperatures used to be taken personally as they entered the facility, but thermal cameras now scan them as they enter.

Assembling cars at Tesla requires working physically close together, often in enclosed spaces, to complete a task over and over again in less than a minute or two. The work is sweat-inducing.

One person said most employees working on the indoor general assembly line, known as GA3, do not cover their mouths and noses throughout their shifts. It’s too hard to breathe with a mask on, they said, even though the company makes plenty of the surgical masks available.

Because it’s a fireable offense to work without a face covering, many keep their surgical masks hanging under their chins and pull them up if a supervisor walks by, employees said, but even supervisors have been lax about the rules in some cases.

Employees noted that many colleagues have been coughing, sneezing and wheezing. 

A spokesperson for the Fremont Police told CNBC they have not inspected the factory facilities since May 13.

The Alameda County Public Health Department has declined to provide site-specific, anonymized data that would reveal whether Tesla managed to keep infections at bay, or if there had been an outbreak at the Fremont factory since it reopened in defiance of local health orders, with full shifts producing cars the weekend of May 9th.

“We are not disclosing information about number of cases at specific employer settings,” a spokesperson for the Health Deapartment said. “This would be protected health information under HIPAA and we would not disclose it for any of the cases we know about, regardless of their employer.”

By contrast, site-specific, anonymized data about senior living businesses, prisons, and meat processing plants have been available across the US.

The stakes are high for the county and Tesla both.

Any outbreak of Covid-19 at Tesla could force Elon Musk’s electric vehicle maker to once again suspend operations, or cancel shifts early for deep cleaning at least in Fremont. He has already sued, and withdrawn a suit, against the county for Covid-19 restrictions.

Infections that prove harmful or fatal to employees could also leave Tesla subject to OSHA or police inspections and fines, or leave Tesla and the county facing lawsuits. 

Tesla shares closed down 3.86% on Friday after analysts at Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley downgraded the stock.

Here is what Laurie Shelby, vice president of environment, health and safety wrote to Tesla Fremont employees on June 11th (e-mail transcribed by CNBC): 

Hi everyone,

Since we restarted operations, we have had zero COVID-19 workplace transmissions. COVID-19 exposure has occurred outside the workplace primarily through family members or housemates, and in most instances, the employee followed safety protocol, informed their manager and stayed home or went to get tested.

If there is any potential or confirmed COVID case at Tesla, regardless of where transmission took place, our protocol is to interview the individual, investigate their whereabouts and speak with their managers to determine who had contact with the individual at work. We speak with all individuals who had direct and extended contact, and quarantine those individuals to watch for symptoms.

We have also implemented additional cleaning measures in our facilities as recommended by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and other health organizations.

To minimize exposure, please stay home if you’re sick, wash your hands, wear your PPE properly and maintain distance from others where possible. Continue to do your daily health check, and reach out to me or the EHS team at [Ed. E-mail redacted] if you have any questions or would like additional information or training. Tesla also has COVID-paid sick leave so you don’t have to choose between your health and finances. Contact your HR partner to learn more.

We want to hear from you so we can continue to use your feedback to improve processes and ensure effectiveness. Please use this survey or the survey QR code in newsletters and on the TV screens.

Thank you,

Laurie

WATCH: Tesla shares tumble after two analyst downgrades.

Source: https://www.cnbc.com/2020/06/12/tesla-laurie-shelby-email-on-covid-19-fremont-workers-worried.html

CNBC

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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