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Whistleblower: U.S. Lost Valuable Time, Warns Of ‘Darkest Winter In Modern History’

Career government scientist-turned-whistleblower Rick Bright testified before Congress Thursday that without a stronger federal response to the coronavirus, 2020 could be the “darkest winter in modern history.”

Schools might not open everywhere in the fall, but some experts say keeping kids home is a health risk, too.

Apple and Google want to develop technology to track the spread of COVID-19 while protecting individuals’ privacy, while some states like North Dakota are developing their own apps.

Plus, tips on social distancing from someone who’s been doing it for 50 years: Billy Barr’s movie recommendations spreadsheet.

Listen to the NPR Politics Podcast’s recap of today’s hearing on Apple Podcasts, Spotify and NPR One.

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Rick Bright filed a whistleblower complaint after he was removed from his post as head of the agency charged with developing a vaccine against coronavirus. He said he was removed for opposing the use of malaria drugs chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine as treatments for the coronavirus. Those drugs were promoted by President Donald Trump despite little scientific evidence for their efficacy. Greg Nash/POOL/AFP via Getty Images hide caption

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Greg Nash/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

Career government scientist-turned-whistleblower Rick Bright testified before Congress Thursday thatwithout a stronger federal response to the coronavirus, 2020 could be the “darkest winter in modern history.”

Schools might not open everywhere in the fall, but some experts say keeping kids home is a health risk, too.

Apple and Google want to develop technology to track the spread of COVID-19 while protecting individuals’ privacy, while some states like North Dakota are developing their own apps.

Plus, tips on social distancing from someone who’s been doing it for 50 years: Billy Barr’s movie recommendations spreadsheet.

Listen to the NPR Politics Podcast’s recap of today’s hearing on Apple Podcasts, Spotify and NPR One.

Send your remembrance of a loved one to

Find and support your local public radio station

Sign up for ‘The New Normal’ newsletter

This episode was produced by Gabriela Saldivia, Anne Li and Brent Baughman, and edited by Beth Donovan.



How Mixed Reality can support Industry during the Covid-19 outbreak



Mirko Ferrari

The current pandemic situation has forced the subjects of the entire economic system to rethink work in many new ways and in no time. Even if the companies all reacted rather quickly to the changes imposed by the workers’ health protection measures, this does not mean that they managed to do it in the best way.

In almost all cases of readjustment of working conditions, the digitization of processes is involved at different depth levels.

Depending on the nature of the activity carried out, some companies had only to have their employees work from home, while for others, especially those of the industry, more structured changes were needed.

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Factories, by their nature, being places with a high social interaction, are very exposed to contagion and therefore must manage a series of risks that concern not only production, but also other processes including logistics, administration and in general staff. The contingencies due to the measures required to deal with Covid-19 have imposed a limitation of business travel, forcing companies to search for alternative ways of managing operations.

Below is a list of some of the industrial processes impacted by the health emergency, with an indication of how Augmented Reality can support certain activities, and some considerations on what will await us once the emergency ends.

Personnel Management

  • It has now become a practice, not only in companies, but also in some public bodies and commercial activities, to measure the temperature at the entrance. High temperature is one of the possible symptoms of Covid-19 positive and verifying that it does not exceed a certain threshold is fundamental in environments with many people. In this case, using computer vision solutions that leverage cameras or Smartglasses equipped with thermal imaging cameras, could speed up operations and streamline the queues at the entrance, without the need to point a laser at people.

Maintenance Management

  • One of the reasons that determine the greatest movement of personnel in the field concerns the management of maintenance. Even during the health emergency, it is essential for companies in certain sectors to ensure continuity and therefore they cannot afford to keep production or parts of it steady. In order to limit the movements of specialized maintenance personnel, it is possible to provide workers with practical tools that through the use of Augmented Reality help them to identify and solve problems, at least for those of small and medium size.


  • Some industrial activities resort, in certain cases by law, to inspections of work areas or equipment, in order to carry out checks, measurements and other controls. During the pandemic, it was particularly critical in certain sectors to ensure inspection activities, in order not to endanger the health of inspectors. To this end, advanced computer vision systems, equipped on board of drones or other equipment, could guarantee the correct conduct of inspections without compromising human health.


Risk Management

  • Both during the Phase 1 and Phase 2 of the emergency, the factories have reviewed the relationship between people and the work environment in a very profound way, making a number of choices aimed at limiting the density of people in the space, aimed at providing protection tools and aimed at informing workers about risks. Augmented Reality has already proven to be a very effective tool in the field of risk management in the workplace, thanks to its ability to allow an “augmented” visualization of the surrounding space, associated with rules and actions to be carried out to manage risks .

Except for the temperature control at the factory entrance, it can be said that all the other use cases in which Augmented Reality can support workers to contain risks by helping them to reduce travel and contacts with colleagues, are intended to prove useful even in a post-pandemic phase. Several of these scenarios are already reality in many industrial contexts, although often only for experimental purposes.

The emergency we are experiencing has only increased the awareness that digitization in industry is no longer just an option, but has in fact become the main road to rethinking processes.


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Are Chatbots the technical answer to flattening the Coronavirus curve?



The novel coronavirus is keeping the world under a tight grip. Governments from across the world are finding newer measures to flatten the curve, schools are getting closed, companies are finding newer ways to keep their profits afloat.

While on one side, the economies are taking efforts to lower the impact on coronavirus on industries, new-generation technologies, on the other hand, are taking efforts to make the process of curbing the spread slower.

In this article, we are going to look into a technology that is making its fair share of efforts to flatten the curve — Chatbots.

Use Cases of Chatbots Bringing the COVID-19 Spread Down

A. Dissemination of Information

One of the biggest challenges of every pandemic is the abundance of information that comes sweeping in from all directions. It is the same story all the time. Accurate information comes much later than fake information. Chatbots — taking information from authorized public health agencies — can help bring this issue down. They can offer people concise information which has been shared by the right authorities.

B. Monitoring of symptoms

Considering the nature of the coronavirus, the healthcare frontlines have to be protected a lot more than people self-quarantining. In order to make it successful, it would be important to give people a platform to monitor themselves. This is where chatbots come in handy. By making people answer simple questions, bots will be able to help the users monitor themselves.

C. Mental Health Support

Even though the national and global health bodies are highlighting the need of mental health in a pandemic, the frontlines are, however, not extremely equipped in offering psychological support. The chatbots, can be a great way to eliminate the psychological issues of isolation by becoming 24*7 listeners to the users.

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Chatbots are a great digital medium for lowering the load on the healthcare domain. By enabling people to self-serve and monitor themselves and backing them with accurate and relevant information, the hospitals are able to provide help and care to the ones who need it.

But the use cases of chatbots in the fight against COVID-19 is not just limited to the health and care domain. They are also being used in multiple scenarios by other industry verticals.

Volunteering- More people want to get involved in the coronavirus-fighting community and help. Chatbots are being employed by NGOs across the globe for making the “How to get involved” information accessible in real-time, with less human interaction.

Retail: The retail houses are changing their hours of operation and limiting shipping options because of the closures. Keeping people updated about their product delivery status is a responsibility that these retail houses are outsourcing to chatbots.

Restaurants: A number of restaurants around the world are limiting the number of employed staff. They have now started incorporating chatbots in their systems for the purpose of taking in orders from their customers.

Chatbots That Are the Textbook Examples of How the Technology Can be Used to Limit the Coronavirus Spread

1. Rapid Response Virtual Agent Program

Announced by Google, the bot enables Google Cloud customers to respond to questions coming in from their customers more quickly. The bot is mainly designed for the organizations who wish to offer COVID-19 related information to their customers — these include government bodies, financial, retail, or travel industries.

2. MyGov Corona Helpdesk

It is the official chatbot of the Government of India, launched to answer questions around COVID-19. It has been made available on WhatsApp. The bot provides huge information about the pandemic in an easy to understand, conversational manner, which includes symptoms, health & travel advisories, and transmission details.

3. Microsoft Azure

The tech giant is offering companies and the healthcare organizations focusing on COVID-19 an infrastructure to develop enterprise-level chatbots which can interact, listen, and understand. The technology has also been devised in a way that it can automatically answer queries about COVID-19 and evaluate the patients before inviting them for in-person health checks.

4. Cobot-19

The bot has been developed by Verloop and Portea Medical to help people in accessing information surrounding COVID-19. All the information that the bot is offering has been gathered from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, WHO, and the John Hopkins University.

Cobot-19 too functions through WhatsApp where people can choose from several available options on the basis of the information they are seeking.

5. CDC Coronavirus Chatbot

The chatbot powered by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, has also launched a chatbot on its official website to help the visitors do a basic self-assessment check on themselves by answering simple prompts and questions.

It is an example of how it is not just the tech-based companies that are making use of such digital measures but also government agencies and public health bodies.

With this we have looked into the different ways chatbots help with fighting the war against coronavirus rise along with the examples of some of the famous chatbots and companies behind them. The only thing left to do now is to get in touch with a software development agency that excels in chatbot creation or simply find ways to integrate existing chatbot systems in your business’s digital face. It will help you present yourself as a brand that cares about its customers and stakeholders’ wellbeing.


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Uber cuts 600 jobs in India



Uber is cutting 600 jobs in India, or 25% of its workforce in the country, it said on Tuesday as it looks to cut costs to steer through the coronavirus pandemic.

The job cuts, which affect teams across customer and driver support, business development, legal, policy, marketing, and finance, are part of the company’s global restructuring that eliminated 6,700 jobs this month.

The American giant, which claimed to be the top cab hailing service in India earlier this year, said it was providing 10 to 12 weeks of salary to the employees who were being let go, in addition to offering them medical insurance for the next six months.

“The impact of Covid-19 and the unpredictable nature of the recovery has left Uber India with no choice but to reduce the size of its workforce. Around 600 full time positions across driver and rider support, as well as other functions, are being impacted. These reductions are part of previously announced global job cuts this month. Today is an incredibly sad day for colleagues leaving the Uber family and all of us at the company. We made the decision now so that we can look to the future with confidence,” said Pradeep Parameswaran, President for Uber’s India and South Asia businesses, in a statement shared through a spokesperson.

“I want to apologise to departing colleagues and extend my heartfelt thanks to them for their contributions to Uber, the riders, and the driver partners we serve in India,” he added.

Uber’s announcement follows a similar cost cutting measures enforced by its local rival Ola, which eliminated 1,400 jobs, or 35% of its workforce last week.

India announced a lockdown in late March that shut down all public transportation services across the country. In recent weeks, New Delhi has eased some restrictions, however, that has enabled both Ola and Uber to resume several of their services — excluding pool rides — in most parts of the country except those where concentration of coronavirus cases is very high.

As in most other parts of the world, the Covid-19 outbreak has disrupted several industries in India including food delivery, hospitality and travel. Food delivery startups Swiggy and Zomato have together eliminated about 2,600 jobs (with 2,100 at Swiggy alone) as many of their existing customers attempt to avoid exposure to the world. Uber sold its Indian food delivery business to Zomato earlier this year.

Travel and hospital firms such as MakeMyTrip and Oyo have also cut several jobs or furloughed thousands of employees in recent months as their revenues drop significantly.


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