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May 26th, 2020 at 9:39 am

Coronavirus: Experts warn of bioterrorism after pandemic

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The Council of Europe has warned of a potential increase in the use of biological weapons, like viruses or bacterias, in a post-coronavirus world. Terrorists would not forget “lessons learned” during the pandemic.

Security experts from the Council of Europe have warned that the global coronavirus outbreak may increase the use of biological weapons by terrorists in the future.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has shown how vulnerable modern society is to viral infections and their potential for disuption,” the council’s Committee on Counter-Terrorism said in a statement.

The deliberate use of disease-causing agents — like viruses or bacterias — as an act of terrorism “could prove to be extremely effective.”

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May 26th, 2020 at 9:36 am

Retirement villages have had their day: Baby boomers are rethinking retirement

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By 2030 all baby boomers will have turned 65 and Generation X will start their contribution to the expanding older cohort.

 Retirement villages — walled, gated and separate seniors’ enclaves — have had their day.

The word “retirement” is redundant and engagement between people of all ages is high. That’s how participants in the Longevity By Design Challenge envisage life in Australia in 2050.

Their challenge was to identify ways to prepare and adapt Australian cities to capitalise on older Australians living longer, healthier and more productive lives. Their vision, outlined in this article, offers a positive contrast to much of the commentary on “ageing Australia”.

We have been repeatedly warned about a looming “crisis” when by 2050 one in four Australians will be 65 or older. They have been portrayed as dependent non-contributors, unable to take care of themselves.

This scenario of doom is based on underlying assumptions that everyone over 65 wants to, can or should stop any kind of productive contribution to Australia.

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May 26th, 2020 at 9:30 am

Peer-to-peer highway EV charging would use telescoping cables between moving cars

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Imagine a future where your EV was getting low on charge ­on a highway road trip – so you deploy a telescoping charging cable to another EV and borrow a few kilowatt-hours. An engineering professor at the University of Florida believes it’s not far-fetched.

We’ve seen a host of mobile EV charging van concepts. And there are proposed solutions for stationary robots to connect a vehicle to a charger, like what Kuka Robotics demonstrated last year (shown above).

The new idea is to merge the two so EVs on the move can connect with one another and with mobile charging stations. (Apple filed a patent for something similar in 2018.)

A few weeks ago, Swarup Bhunia and his colleagues at UoF’s electrical and computer engineering department posted a paper explaining how it would work. Here’s part of the Abstract:

We propose Peer-to-Peer Car Charging (P2C2), a highly scalable novel technique for charging EVs on the go with minimal cost overhead. We allow EVs to share charge among each other based on the instructions from a cloud-based control system.

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May 26th, 2020 at 9:27 am

A no-brainer stimulus idea: Electrify USPS mail trucks

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Electric vehicles for the US Postal Service would reduce noise, air, and carbon pollution in every community.

With the US trapped in a historic lockdown, everyone agrees that enormous federal spending is necessary to keep the economy going over the next year and beyond — and everyone has their own ideas about how, exactly, that federal spending should be targeted. A whole genre of essays and white papers devoted to clever stimulus plans has developed almost overnight.

I’ve contributed to that genre: Go here for my ideal recovery/stimulus plan, here for what I think Democrats’ bottom-line demands should be in stimulus negotiations, here for my take on the wisdom of investing in clean energy, and here for why devoting stimulus money to fossil fuels is short-sighted.

Now I want to offer a much more modest idea — a fun idea, even. It’s a win-win-win proposal that would be worth doing even if the economy were at full employment, but a total no-brainer in an economy that needs a kickstart. The cost would be a tiny rounding error amid the trillions of dollars of stimulus being contemplated, and it would produce outsized social benefits in the form of improved public health, more efficient public services, and lower climate pollution.

I’m talking about electrifying mail trucks.

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May 25th, 2020 at 4:59 pm

Japan may have beaten Coronavirus without lockdowns or mass testing. But how?

Japan Lifts Coronavirus State of Emergency Nationwide

Japan’s state of emergency is set to end with new cases of the coronavirus dwindling to mere dozens. It got there despite largely ignoring the default playbook.

No restrictions were placed on residents’ movements, and businesses from restaurants to hairdressers stayed open. No high-tech apps that tracked people’s movements were deployed. The country doesn’t have a center for disease control. And even as nations were exhorted to “test, test, test,” Japan has tested just 0.2% of its population — one of the lowest rates among developed countries.

Yet the curve has been flattened, with deaths well below 1,000, by far the fewest among the Group of Seven developed nations. In Tokyo, its dense center, cases have dropped to single digits on most days. While the possibility of a more severe second wave of infection is ever-present, Japan has entered and is set to leave its emergency in just weeks, with the status lifted already for most of the country and Tokyo and the remaining four other regions set to exit Monday.

Analyzing just how Japan defied the odds and contained the virus while disregarding the playbook used by other successful countries has become a national conversation. Only one thing is agreed upon: that there was no silver bullet, no one factor that made the difference.

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May 25th, 2020 at 4:54 pm

Covid-19 coronavirus: Wuhan lab ‘had emergency shutdown’ last October

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US intelligence agencies are investigating mobile phone data which suggests the Wuhan Institute of Virology had an emergency shutdown back in October last year.

NBC News has reportedly obtained records which show that a “hazardous event” at the institute’s high security National Biosafety Laboratory may have occurred between October 6 and 11.

This allegedly led to a shutdown of the P4 laboratory from October 7 to 24, during which there was no mobile activity, news.com.au reports.

The laboratory, located a short distance from the Wuhan wet market at the centre of the coronavirus outbreak, is the facility the Trump administration is blaming for starting the pandemic.

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May 25th, 2020 at 4:49 pm

Community colleges could see a surge in popularity amid Covid-19

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Historically, community college enrollment spikes during economic downturns.

This year, a public health crisis may draw even more students who don’t want to travel or live in a dorm.

The coronavirus crisis has already changed the way this year’s crop of high school seniors are thinking about higher education.

And community colleges across the country are preparing accordingly.

“Under the circumstances, families may turn to us as the gateway of opportunity, and we’ve been ready,” said Michael Baston, the president of Rockland Community College in Rockland County, New York.

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May 24th, 2020 at 3:57 pm

Study finds 44% of U.S. unemployment applicants have been denied or are still waiting

What it’s like being unemployed because of coronavirus

Since early March, over 36 million Americans have filed for unemployment due to the coronavirus crisis, marking the biggest spike in unemployment in U.S. history.

In response to these claims, states have paid a record $48 billion in unemployment benefits to people out of work but several recent studies have found that this total could have been much higher.

According to an analysis by One Fair Wage, a nonprofit organization that advocates for restaurant workers, only 56% of those who have applied for unemployment insurance are receiving benefits, meaning about 44% have been denied or are still waiting.

To be sure, states are dealing with an unprecedented volume of unemployment applicants, causing delays. Additionally, it is possible that some people have filed incorrectly, but advocates and experts are increasingly calling attention to workers who are being left out.

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May 24th, 2020 at 3:19 pm

The autonomous car industry is about to get hammered

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Today on Speed Lines: The “coronavirus economy” means a huge potential setback for self-driving car tech.

Good morning and welcome back to Speed Lines, The Drive’s morning roundup of what’s going on in the world of transportation. I think it’s Wednesday, although I’m not really sure anymore, let alone what that even means.

A ‘Bumpy Road’ Ahead For Self-Driving Cars.

As I’ve said many times on Speed Lines this year, the pandemic is unique in that it has left virtually no facet of daily life or sector of the economy untouched. It’s already drying up the capital markets, and that’s extremely bad news in the world of autonomous vehicles. Development of that technology is costly for both legacy automakers and new startups, yet there’s still no clear path to widespread deployment or profitability.

Adding semi-autonomous features to your next Cadillac or Volvo is one thing; creating fully robotic cars, and making money while doing so, is another thing. And it may be a pipe dream in this economy.

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May 24th, 2020 at 3:04 pm

Exam anxiety : How remote test-proctoring is creeping students out

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As schools go remote, so do tests and so does surveillance

The stranger on the Zoom call appeared to be sitting in a tent. He wore a black headset and a blue lanyard around his neck. Behind him was white plastic peppered with pictures of a padlock.

“Hi,” the stranger intoned. “My name is Sharath and I will be your proctor today. Please confirm your name is Jackson and that you’re about to take your 11:30PM exam.”

“Correct,” said Jackson Hayes, from his cinder-block dorm room at the University of Arizona.

When he’d signed up for an online class in Russian cinema history, he’d had no idea it meant being surveilled over video chat by someone on the other side of the world. Hayes learned about it via an item on the class syllabus, released shortly before the semester began, that read “Examity Directions.” The syllabus instructed Hayes and his classmates to sign up for Examity, an online test-proctoring service.

To create his account, Hayes was required to upload a picture of his photo ID to Examity’s website and provide his full name, email, and phone number — pretty banal stuff. But it got weirder. At the end, he typed his name again; Examity would store a biometric template of his keystrokes.

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May 23rd, 2020 at 11:43 am

The average human body temperature is no longer 98.6 F

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We’re all chilling out, new research shows

One of the most widely accepted standard measurements of the human body, a normal temperature of 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit, has declined gradually for more than 150 years in the United States by about 1.6% since the pre-industrial era, a new study published in the journal eLife finds. The cooling off owes largely to improvements in health and medicine and in part to increasingly cushy lifestyles, the study’s researchers think.

Many health practitioners are still using the old, inaccurate number of 98.6 F as the presumed norm, which was set by a German physician in 1851.

“Our temperature’s not what people think it is,” says Dr. Julie Parsonnet, a professor of medicine and health research at Stanford University School of Medicine and the senior author of the study. “What everybody grew up learning, which is that our normal temperature is 98.6, is wrong.”

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May 23rd, 2020 at 11:30 am

The latest coronavirus antibody test is a lot more accurate

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Several coronavirus antibody tests have been authorized for public use, but so far their accuracy has been iffy. A new test created by Roche and cleared by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for emergency use today, May 3rd, significantly ups the standard.

Roche announced that its test is 100% accurate at detecting coronavirus antibodies and 99.8% accurate at ruling out the presence of those antibodies, meaning only one in 500 tests will get a false positive. Antibody tests use blood samples to assess whether a person had been previously infected, so they’re useful to determine the true spread of coronavirus.

In comparison, the first test the FDA approved for emergency use, created by Cellex, is 93.8% accurate at detecting coronavirus antibodies (this is known as sensitivity), and 95.6% accurate at ruling out the presence of antibodies (known as specificity.) Meanwhile, Premier Biotech’s test has sensitivity of 80.3% and specificity of 99.5%.

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Should we gamify citizenship?