NYT Investigates America's 'Lost Month' for Coronavirus Testing

The New York Times interviewed over 50 current and former U.S. health officials, senior scientists, company executives, and administration officials to investigate America’s “lost month” without widespread coronavirus testing, “when the world’s richest country — armed with some of the most highly trained scientists and infectious disease specialists — squandered its best chance of containing the virus’s spread.”
With capacity so limited, the Center for Disease Control’s criteria for who was tested remained extremely narrow for weeks to come: only people who had recently traveled to China or had been in contact with someone who had the virus. The lack of tests in the states also meant local public health officials could not use another essential epidemiological tool: surveillance testing. To see where the virus might be hiding, nasal swab samples from people screened for the common flu would also be checked for the coronavirus…

Even though researchers around the country quickly began creating tests that could diagnose Covid-19, many said they were hindered by the Food and Drug Administration’s approval process. The new tests sat unused at labs around the country. Stanford was one of them. Researchers at the world-renowned university had a working test by February, based on protocols published by the World Health Organization…. By early March, after federal officials finally announced changes to expand testing, it was too late. With the early lapses, containment was no longer an option. The tool kit of epidemiology would shift — lockdowns, social disruption, intensive medical treatment — in hopes of mitigating the harm.

Now, the United States has more than 100,000 coronavirus cases, the most of any country in the world… And still, many Americans sickened by the virus cannot get tested… In tacit acknowledgment of the shortage, Mr. Trump asked South Korea’s president on Monday to send as many test kits as possible from the 100,000 produced there daily, more than the country needs. Public health experts reacted positively to the increased capacity. But having the ability to diagnose the disease three months after it was first disclosed by China does little to address why the United States was unable to do so sooner, when it might have helped reduce the toll of the pandemic.

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Source: Slashdot – NYT Investigates America’s ‘Lost Month’ for Coronavirus Testing

One Woman Can Smell Parkinson's Disease Before Symptoms Manifest

“For most of her life, Joy Milne had a superpower that she was totally oblivious to,” reports NPR. Long-time Slashdot reader doug141 explains what happened next:
Milne’s husband’s natural odor changed when he was 31. He was diagnosed with Parkinson’s at 45. When Joy walked into a Parkinson’s support group, she smelled the same odor on everybody. A Parkinson’s researcher tested her with blind samples from early stage patients, late-stage patients, and controls…
NPR tells the story of that test, which took place at the University of Edinburgh with a Parkinson’s researcher named Tilo Kunath:
[O]ut of all the samples, Joy made only one mistake. She identified a man in the control group, the group without Parkinson’s, as having the disease. But many months later, Kunath says, that man actually approached him at an event and said, “Tilo, you’re going to have to put me in the Parkinson’s pile because I’ve just been diagnosed.”

It was incontrovertible: Joy not only could smell Parkinson’s but could smell it even in the absence of its typical medical presentation.

Kunath and fellow scientists published their work in ACS Central Science in March 2019, listing Joy as a co-author. Their research identified certain specific compounds that may contribute to the smell that Joy noticed on her husband and other Parkinson’s patients. Joy and her super smelling abilities have opened up a whole new realm of research, Kunath says… Joy’s superpower is so unusual that researchers all over the world have started working with her and have discovered that she can identify several kinds of illnesses — tuberculosis, Alzheimer’s disease, cancer and diabetes.
Kunath says the ultimate goal is developing a new tool that can detect detect Parkinson’s early. “Imagine a society where you could detect such a devastating condition before it’s causing problems and then prevent the problems from even occurring.”

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Source: Slashdot – One Woman Can Smell Parkinson’s Disease Before Symptoms Manifest

Cringely Predicts 2020 Will See 'the Death of IT'

Long-time technology pundit Robert Cringely writes:
IT — Information Technology — grew out of something we called MIS — Management Information Systems — but both meant a kid in a white shirt who brought you a new keyboard when yours broke. Well, the kid is now gone, sent home with everyone else, and that kid isn’t coming back… ever. IT is near death, fading by the day. But don’t blame COVID-19 because the death of IT was inevitable. This novel coronavirus just made it happen a little quicker…

Amazon has been replacing all of our keyboards for some time now, along with our mice and our failed cables, and even entire PCs. IT has been changing steadily from kids taking elevators up from the sub-basement to Amazon Prime trucks rolling-up to your mailbox. At the same time, our network providers have been working to limit their truck rolls entirely. Stop by the Comcast storefront to get your cable modem, because nobody is going to come to install it if you aren’t the first person living there to have cable…

Secure Access Service Edge (SASE) extends both the network and a security model end-to-end over any network including 4G or 5G wireless. Some folks will run their applications in their end device, whether it is a PC, phone, tablet, whatever, and some will run their applications in the same cloud as SASE, in which case everything will be that much faster and more secure. That’s end end-game if there is one — everything in the cloud with your device strictly for input and output, painting screens compressed with HTML5. It’s the end of IT because your device will no longer contain anything so it can be simply replaced via Amazon if it is damaged or lost, with the IT kid in the white shirt becoming an Uber driver.
Since COVID-19 is trapping us in our homes it is forcing this transition to happen faster than it might have. But it was always going to happen.

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Source: Slashdot – Cringely Predicts 2020 Will See ‘the Death of IT’

Working From Home Hasn't Broken the Internet

sixoh1 shared this story from the Wall Street Journal:

Home internet and wireless connectivity in the U.S. have largely withstood unprecedented demands as more Americans work and learn remotely. Broadband and wireless service providers say traffic has jumped in residential areas at times of the day when families would typically head to offices and schools. Still, that surge in usage hasn’t yet resulted in widespread outages or unusually long service disruptions, industry executives and analysts say. That is because the biggest increases in usage are happening during normally fallow periods.

Some service providers have joked that internet usage during the pandemic doesn’t compare to the Super Bowl or season finale of the popular HBO show “Game of Thrones” in terms of strain on their networks, Evan Swarztrauber, senior policy adviser to the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, said this week on a call hosted by consulting company Recon Analytics Inc.Broadband consumption during the hours of 9 a.m. to 5 p.m . has risen by more than 50% since January, according to broadband data company OpenVault, which measured connections in more than one million homes. Usage during the peak early-evening hours increased 20% as of March 25. OpenVault estimates that average data consumption per household in March will reach nearly 400 gigabytes, a nearly 11% increase over the previous monthly record in January….
Some carriers that use cells on wheels and aerial network-support drones after hurricanes or tornadoes are now deploying those resources to neighborhoods with heavy wireless-service usage and places where health-care facilities need additional connectivity. Several wireless carriers including Verizon, T-Mobile US Inc. and AT&T Inc. have been given temporary access to fresh spectrum over the past week to bolster network capacity.

While Netflix is lowering its video quality in Canada, the Journal reports Netflix isn’t as worried about the EU:

Netflix Vice President Dave Temkin, speaking on a videoconference hosted by the network analytics company Kentik, said his engineers took some upgrades originally planned for the holiday season near the end of 2020 and simply made them sooner. A European regulator earlier this month asked Netflix to shift all its videos to standard-definition to avoid taxing domestic networks. Mr. Temkin said Netflix managed to shave its bandwidth usage using less drastic measures. “None of it is actually melting down,” he said.

And the article also has stats from America’s ISPs and cellphone providers:

AT&T said cellular-data traffic was almost flat, with more customers using their home wi-fi networks instead — but voice phone calls increased as much as 44%.Charter saw increases in daytime network activity, but in most markets “levels remain well below capacity and typical peak evening usage.”Comcast says its peak traffic increased 20%, but they’re still running at 40% capacity.

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Source: Slashdot – Working From Home Hasn’t Broken the Internet

Dark Web Hosting Site Suffers Cyberattack, 7,600 Sites Down

It’s the largest free web hosting provider for dark web services. But remember back in 2018 when its 6,500 sites all went down after attackers accessed its database and deleted all its accounts?

It happened again — for the second time in 16 months. And this time, ZDNet reports, Daniel’s Host won’t be coming back online for several months:

Almost 7,600 dark web portals have been taken offline following the hack, during which an attacker deleted the web hosting portal’s entire database. This happened earlier this month, on March 10, at around 03:30 am UTC, according to a message posted on DH’s now-defunct portal by Daniel Winzen, the German software developer behind the service.

Winzen said that an attacker accessed the DH backend and deleted all hosting-related databases. The attacker then deleted Winzen’s database account and created a new one to use for future operations. Winzen discovered the hack the next morning, at which time most of the data was already lost.
The service doesn’t keep backups by design.
In an email to ZDNet today, Winzen said he has yet to find out how the hacker breached the DH backend. However, since the dark web hosting service was more of a hobby, Winzen didn’t look too much into it. “I am currently very busy with my day-to-day life and other projects, I decided to not spend too much time investigating,” he told ZDNet…
Winzen said that users should consider the passwords for their DH accounts as “leaked” and change them if they used the same password for other accounts.
Winzen told ZDNet he still hopes to relaunch the service “at a later time” with “new features and improvements.”
“Not having to administrate the services all the time will hopefully give me more time for actual development.”

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Source: Slashdot – Dark Web Hosting Site Suffers Cyberattack, 7,600 Sites Down

To Conserve Bandwidth, Should Opting In Be Required Before Autoplaying Videos?

An anonymous reader writes:
We keep seeing stories about how providers are slowing down their streaming speed to reduce bandwidth usage during this period when many are being asked to stay at home… But it seems that many are totally ignoring a very obvious way to reduce usage significantly, and that is by disabling autoplay on their web sites and in their apps.

To give an example, a couple of days ago I was watching a show on Hulu, and either I was more sleepy than I thought or the show was more boring than I had expected (probably some combination of both), but I drifted off to sleep. Two hours later I awoke and realize that Hulu had streamed two additional episodes that no one was watching. I searched in vain for a way to disable autoplay of the next episode, but if there is some way to do it I could not find it.

What I wonder is how many people even want autoplay? I believe Netflix finally gave their users a way to disable it, but they need to affirmatively do so via a setting somewhere. But many other platforms give their users no option to disable autoplay. That is also true of many individual apps that can be used on a Roku or similar device. If conserving bandwidth is really that important, then my contention is that autoplaying of the next episode should be something you need to opt in for, not something enabled by default that either cannot be disabled or that forces the user to search for a setting to disable.
“Firefox will disable autoplay,” writes long-time Slashdot user bobs666 (adding “That’s it use Firefox.”) And there are ways to disable autoplay in the user settings on Netflix, YouTube, Hulu, and Amazon Prime.

But wouldn’t it make more sense to disable autoplay by default — at least for the duration of this unusual instance of peak worldwide demand?

I’d be interested in hearing from Slashdot’s readers. Do you use autoplay — or have you disabled it? And do you think streaming companies should turn it off by default?

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Source: Slashdot – To Conserve Bandwidth, Should Opting In Be Required Before Autoplaying Videos?

How Devs Can Help Beat the COVID-19 Pandemic

The state of New York hopes to “amplify” its response to COVID-19 by launching tech-driven products with top companies, and it’s looking for professional volunteers with experience in software development, hardware deployment/end-user support, and data science (as well as areas like product management, design, operations management).
Meanwhile, IBM’s 2020 “Call for Code Global Challenge” is a virtual hackathon with a $200,000 prize, and they’ve now “expanded its focus” to include the effects of COVID-19.

Tech columnist Mike Melanson writes:
But this is just the beginning of the COVID-19 hackathon boom, which now includes efforts organized by tech giants, state governments, and grassroots initiatives alike. For example, the World Health Organization got together with technology companies and platforms such as AWS, Facebook, Giphy, Microsoft, Pinterest, Salesforce, Slack, TikTok, Twitter and WeChat to launch the COVID-19 Global Hackathon 1.0, which is running as we speak with a deadline for submissions of March 30th at 9 AM PST. If you’re too late, fret not, for there are many more, such as the CODEVID-19 hackathon we mentioned last week that has a weekly rolling deadline. And deadlines aside, the U.S. Digital Response for COVID-19 is working to pair technology, data, and government professionals with those who need them, in a form of nationwide, technological mutual aid…
[T]he COVID-19 open-source help desk is “a fast-track ‘stack overflow’ where you can get answers from the very people who wrote the software that you use or who are experts in its use.” And if you happen to be either an open source author or expert, feel free to pitch in on answering questions…

On the open data side of things, for example, GitHub offers a guide on open collaboration on COVID-19, while StackOverflow looks at the myriad ways to help the fight against COVID-19 from home. ProgrammableWeb has a list of developer hackathons to combat COVID-19, and even the Golang team offers some guidance for Go, the Go community, and the pandemic, with Erlang also joining in.

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Source: Slashdot – How Devs Can Help Beat the COVID-19 Pandemic

Doc Searls: 'Zoom Needs to Clean Up Its Privacy Act'

The former editor-in-chief of the Linux Journal just published an annotated version of Zoom’s privacy policy. Searls calls it “creepily chummy with the tracking-based advertising biz (also called adtech).
I’ll narrow my inquiry down to the “Does Zoom sell Personal Data?” section of the privacy policy, which was last updated on March 18. The section runs two paragraphs, and I’ll comment on the second one, starting here:

Zoom does use certain standard advertising tools which require Personal Data …

What they mean by that is adtech. What they’re also saying here is that Zoom is in the advertising business, and in the worst end of it: the one that lives off harvested personal data. What makes this extra creepy is that Zoom is in a position to gather plenty of personal data, some of it very intimate (for example with a shrink talking to a patient) without anyone in the conversation knowing about it. (Unless, of course, they see an ad somewhere that looks like it was informed by a private conversation on Zoom.)

A person whose personal data is being shed on Zoom doesn’t know that’s happening because Zoom doesn’t tell them. There’s no red light, like the one you see when a session is being recorded. If you were in a browser instead of an app, an extension such as Privacy Badger could tell you there are trackers sniffing your ass. And, if your browser is one that cares about privacy, such as Brave, Firefox or Safari, there’s a good chance it would be blocking trackers as well. But in the Zoom app, you can’t tell if or how your personal data is being harvested.

(think, for example, Google Ads and Google Analytics).

There’s no need to think about those, because both are widely known for compromising personal privacy. (See here. And here. Also Brett Frischmann and Evan Selinger’s Re-Engineering Humanity and Shoshana Zuboff’s In the Age of Surveillance Capitalism.)
Zoom claims it needs personal data to “improve” its users “experience” with ads — though Searls isn’t satisfied. (“Nobody goes to Zoom for an ‘advertising experience,’ personalized or not. And nobody wants ads aimed at their eyeballs elsewhere on the Net by third parties using personal information leaked out through Zoom.”) His conclusion?

“What Zoom’s current privacy policy says is worse than ‘You don’t have any privacy here.’ It says, ‘We expose your virtual necks to data vampires who can do what they will with it.'”

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Source: Slashdot – Doc Searls: ‘Zoom Needs to Clean Up Its Privacy Act’

America's FDA Grants Emergency Approval for a 15-Minute Coronavirus Test

While many coronavirus tests provide results within hours or days, America’s Food and Drug Administration “has authorized the emergency use” of a new rapid coronavirus test from medical device manufacturer Abbott that could results in less than 15 minutes, reports NBC News:
The FDA told Abbott it authorized the test’s use after determining that “it is reasonable to believe that your product may be effective in diagnosing COVID-19,” based on the scientific evidence presented. The agency added that the “known and potential benefits” of the test outweigh potential risks, such as false positives or negatives. The technology being used for the new test is similar to the one found in rapid flu tests, according to the FDA’s authorization letter and Abbott.

The FDA also said Friday it has issued at least 19 other emergency use authorizations for diagnostic tests to detect COVID-19, and that it is working with more than 220 test developers who are expected to submit emergency-use authorization requests soon…

Abbott said it is ramping up production to deliver 50,000 tests to the U.S. health care system starting next week.

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Source: Slashdot – America’s FDA Grants Emergency Approval for a 15-Minute Coronavirus Test

Physicists Disagree Over New Dark Matter Claim

sciencehabit shared this article from Science magazine:

For decades, astrophysicists have thought some sort of invisible dark matter must pervade the galaxies and hold them together, although its nature remains a mystery. Now, three physicists claim their observations of empty patches of sky rule out one possible explanation of the strange substance — that it is made out of unusual particles called sterile neutrinos. But others argue the data show no such thing.

“I think that for most of the people in the community this is the end of the story,” says study author Benjamin Safdi, an astroparticle physicist at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. But Kevork Abazajian, a theoretical physicist at the University of California, Irvine, says the new analysis is badly flawed. “To be honest, this is one of the worst cases of cherry picking the data that I’ve seen,” he says. In unpublished work, another group looked at similar patches of sky and saw the very same sign of sterile neutrinos that eluded Safdi…

Alexey Boyarsky, an astroparticle theorist at Leiden University, is unconvinced. “I think this paper is wrong,” he says. Boyarsky says he and his colleagues performed a similar, unpublished analysis in 2018, also using images from XMM-Newton, and did see a 3.5-keV glow from the empty sky, just expected from peering through a halo of sterile neutrinos.

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Source: Slashdot – Physicists Disagree Over New Dark Matter Claim

Some Researchers are Trying Mass Testing for Covid-19 Antibodies

An anonymous reader quotes Wired:
Next week, blood banks across the Netherlands are set to begin a nationwide experiment. As donations arrive — about 7,000 of them per week is the norm — they’ll be screened with the usual battery of tests that keep the blood supply safe, plus one more: a test for antibodies to SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19. Then, in a few weeks, another batch of samples will get the same test. And after that, depending on the numbers, there could be further rounds. The blood donors should be fairly representative of Dutch adults ages 18 to 75, and most importantly, they’ll all be healthy enough for blood donation — or at least outwardly so…
Identifying what proportion of the population has already been infected is key to making the right decisions about containment… [B]ecause no Covid-19-specific serological [antibody] tests have been fully vetted yet, the FDA’s latest guidance is that they shouldn’t be relied upon for diagnoses. But in epidemiology circles, those tests are a sought-after tool for understanding the scope of the disease. Since February — which was either three weeks or a lifetime ago — epidemiologists have been trying to get the full scope of the number of infections here in the U.S… [A]s the disease has continued to spread and a patchwork of local “stay at home” rules begins to bend the course of the disease, projecting who has the disease and where the hot spots are has become more difficult for models to capture.

Instead, you need boots-on-the-ground surveillance. In other words, to fill the gap created by a lack of diagnostic tests, you need more testing — but of a different sort. This time you have to know how many total people have already fought the bug, and how recently they’ve fought it. “Of all the data out there, if there was a good serological assay that was very specific about individuating recent cases, that would be the best data we could have,” says Alex Perkins, an epidemiologist at the University of Notre Dame. The key, he says, is drawing blood from a representative sample that would show the true scope of unobserved infections… Another motivation to develop better blood tests is the potential to develop therapeutics from antibody-rich blood serum.

Wired is currently providing free access to stories about the coronavirus.

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Source: Slashdot – Some Researchers are Trying Mass Testing for Covid-19 Antibodies

Are There Exceptions to the Rule that Going Electric Reduces Emissions?

“Averaged over the globe, electric vehicles (EVs) already represent about a 31-percent emissions savings” writes Ars Technica, noting results from a study which also found similar savings from energy-efficient home-heating pumps. “Even in the scenario where these technologies are promoted but the grid isn’t cleaned up much, there’s a substantial benefit through 2050.”
But the researchers also separated the world into 59 regions, then used data on the “greenness” of each country’s electricity grids, considering the full range of available vehicle types and home-heating methods as well as their predicted “uptake” of green technologies from 2015 to 2050. And this did identify a handful exceptions, Ars Technica reports:

Compare, for example, Switzerland’s exceptionally low-carbon grid to Estonia’s, which runs primarily on oil shale. Swapping an internal combustion vehicle for an electric one in Switzerland cuts emissions by 70 percent, and a heat pump will cut them by about 88 percent. But in Estonia, an electric vehicle would increase emissions by 40 percent and a heat pump pushes that to an eye-watering 120 percent. A more significant exception can be found in Japan. In the scenarios with little progress on grid emissions, a decade from now, the combination of Japan’s dirtier grid and preference for hybrid vehicles means that swapping in EVs doesn’t quite pay…
As time goes on, emissions from manufacturing electric vehicles accounts for a larger share of their total life cycle emissions, the researchers note. You can make the vehicle efficient and the grid clean, but you’ll also have to clean up industry to keep shrinking that carbon footprint.

The article notes that the researchers also predict continued improvements in the efficiency of electric vehicles — with an unintended side effect. “As time goes on, emissions from manufacturing electric vehicles accounts for a larger share of their total life cycle emissions, the researchers note.
“You can make the vehicle efficient and the grid clean, but you’ll also have to clean up industry to keep shrinking that carbon footprint.”

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Source: Slashdot – Are There Exceptions to the Rule that Going Electric Reduces Emissions?

School Quits Video Calls After Naked Man 'Guessed' the Meeting Link

An anonymous reader quotes a report from TechCrunch: A school in Norway has stopped using popular video conferencing service Whereby after a naked man apparently “guessed” the link to a video lesson. According to Norwegian state broadcaster NRK, the man exposed himself in front of several young children over the video call. The theory, according to the report, is that the man guessed the meeting ID and joined the video call. One expert quoted in the story said some are “looking” for links. Last year security researchers told TechCrunch that malicious users could access and listen in to Zoom and Webex video meetings by cycling through different permutations of meeting IDs in bulk. The researchers said the flaw worked because many meetings were not protected by a passcode.

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Source: Slashdot – School Quits Video Calls After Naked Man ‘Guessed’ the Meeting Link

Yelp To Stop Auto-Creating GoFundMe Fundraisers After Outrage From Business Owners

Yelp has paused an effort in partnership with GoFundMe that automatically opted tens of thousands of small businesses into fundraisers after complaints from restaurant and bar owners, the company tells The Verge. From the report: Yelp launched the initiative earlier this week in response to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, but it did so without informing any of participants. Some business owners said the process for opting out — in the event they were hosting their own fundraisers or simply did not want one automatically set up by Yelp — was unnecessarily cumbersome.

“On Tuesday, Yelp announced a partnership with GoFundMe to provide a fast and easy way for people to support their favorite local businesses by donating to a GoFundMe fundraiser directly on the Yelp pages of eligible businesses. In an effort to get businesses help quickly and easily, a GoFundMe fundraiser was automatically added to the Yelp pages of an initial group of eligible businesses, with information provided on how to claim it or opt out should a business choose to do so,” a spokesperson said in a statement. “However, it has come to our attention that some businesses did not receive a notification with opt-out instructions, and some would have preferred to actively opt-in to the program,” the statement goes on to say. “As such, we have paused the automatic rollout of this feature, and are working with GoFundMe to provide a seamless way for businesses to opt into the program moving forward, as we have received a great deal of interest and support for the program from both consumers and businesses alike.”

Yelp said in its original announcement of the GoFundMe partnership that it would be waiving fees and that both companies would match the first $1 million donated. However, critics of the partnership fast discovered that GoFundMe was setting the recommended tip, which is how GoFundMe funds its own operations, at 15 percent. “Yelp does not get any portion of the donations. Donations through the GoFundMe platform may be subject to payment processing fees in some instances per the terms of the GoFundMe platform,” reads an FAQ page for the program.

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Source: Slashdot – Yelp To Stop Auto-Creating GoFundMe Fundraisers After Outrage From Business Owners

NASA Picks SpaceX To Fly Cargo To Moon-Orbiting Gateway Space Station

NASA has awarded SpaceX with a contract to supply Gateway, the moon-orbiting space station that the agency aims to start building in 2022, agency officials announced Friday. Space.com reports: Gateway is a key part of NASA’s Artemis exploration program, which seeks to establish a sustainable, long-term human presence on and around the moon by the late 2020s. The small space station will serve as a jumping-off point for sorties, both crewed and uncrewed, to the lunar surface. SpaceX will help to keep the Gateway supplied, delivering scientific experiments and a variety of other gear to the outpost, NASA officials said. The company is guaranteed two missions under its newly announced Gateway Logistics Services contract.

SpaceX’s robotic ISS resupply runs employ the company’s Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon capsule, which can loft 13,200 lbs. (6,000 kilograms, or 6 metric tons) to low-Earth orbit. But SpaceX’s Gateway missions will use different hardware: the huge Falcon Heavy rocket and a special capsule variant called Dragon XL. (SpaceX has also developed another Dragon version, Crew Dragon, which will fly astronauts to and from the ISS under yet another NASA contract.) Dragon XL will be able to carry more than 5 metric tons of cargo to the Gateway, SpaceX representatives said via Twitter Friday. Dragon cargo missions to the ISS typically last about a month from launch to splashdown. But Dragon XL will likely stay attached to the Gateway for six to 12 months at a time, NASA officials said. Other companies may end up joining SpaceX in the Gateway resupply game.

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Source: Slashdot – NASA Picks SpaceX To Fly Cargo To Moon-Orbiting Gateway Space Station

You Can Now Ride a Submarine To the Deepest Point On Earth

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Bloomberg: For some, the ultimate adventure is up in the stars. (See: Musk, Branson, Bezos.) For Texas businessman Victor Vescovo, the trip of a lifetime is a dive to the deepest known point on our own planet, the bottom of the Marianas Trench. For $750,000 per person, Vescovo will take guests down 35,843 feet in Limiting Factor, his $37 million Triton 36,000/2 submarine, whose depth capacity is more than 100 times that of the typical superyacht submersible. “Nobody gets more remote than this,” says Rob McCallum, founding partner ofEYOS Expeditions, which is helping to plan and manage the trips to Challenger Deep, as this location is called. Almost seven miles beneath the water’s surface, it has seen fewer human visitors than the International Space Station.

Just getting to the right patch of the Pacific requires an intrepid spirit. Guests sail roughly 200 miles southwest from Guam on Pressure Drop, a 224-foot-long research vessel, bunked in with scientists, a film crew, and technical experts. Basic comforts include a chef, mess hall, and a rooftop bar for “strategic thinking exercises and international alcohol evaluations,” as McCallum puts it. Once there, they pair up with pilots to make roughly 12-hour dives — four hours down, three to four hours at the bottom, and four hours up — to a place so deep that its exterior pressure would feel like having five jumbo jets parked on your chest. The eight-day itinerary, which includes three dives and three rest days (during which the submarine’s oxygen system is refilled and ballasts reloaded), remains thus far scheduled for two slots in May. The first has already sold out.

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Source: Slashdot – You Can Now Ride a Submarine To the Deepest Point On Earth

US Officials Reportedly Agree To Cut Off Huawei From Global Chip Suppliers

Senior U.S. government officials have agreed to new rules to cut off Huawei from global chip suppliers, according to a Reuters report Thursday, citing sources familiar with the matter. CNET reports: Under the new measures, foreign companies that use American chipmaking equipment would first need to secure a license before supplying some chips to Huawei, the report says. The focus of the new rules is to restrict the sale of more sophisticated chips to the Chinese telecom giant rather than generic, more widely available chips. Trump hasn’t signed off on the proposed new measures yet, but if he does, a slew of US tech companies stand to lose, like Apple and Qualcomm along with Huawei. It could also negatively impact the world’s largest chipmaker, Taiwan’s TSMC, the report says.

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Source: Slashdot – US Officials Reportedly Agree To Cut Off Huawei From Global Chip Suppliers

Google Cancels Its Infamous April Fools' Jokes This Year

Google won’t be participating in April Fools’ Day this year due to the serious threat of the coronavirus that continues to impact the entire world. The Verge reports: According to an internal email obtained by Business Insider, Google will “take the year off from that tradition out of respect for all those fighting the Covid-19 pandemic. Our highest goal right now is to be helpful to people, so let’s save the jokes for next April, which will undoubtedly be a whole lot brighter than this one.”

“We’ve already stopped any centralized April Fool’s efforts but realize there may be smaller projects within teams that we don’t know about,” the email from Google’s head of marketing Lorraine Twohill continues. “Please suss out those efforts and make sure your teams pause on any jokes they may have planned — internally or externally.” Hopefully other companies will take note of Google’s lead here and adjust their own April Fools’ plans accordingly. There’s a time and a place for a good joke — but this probably isn’t it.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Source: Slashdot – Google Cancels Its Infamous April Fools’ Jokes This Year

Scientists Identify Microbe That Could Help Degrade Polyurethane-Based Plastics

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Phys.Org: German researchers report in the journal Frontiers in Microbiology that they have identified and characterized a strain of bacteria capable of degrading some of the chemical building blocks of polyurethane. The team out of Germany managed to isolate a bacterium, Pseudomonas sp. TDA1, from a site rich in brittle plastic waste that shows promise in attacking some of the chemical bonds that make up polyurethane plastics. The researchers performed a genomic analysis to identify the degradation pathways at work. They made preliminary discoveries about the factors that help the microbe metabolize certain chemical compounds in plastic for energy. They also conducted other analyses and experiments to understand the bacterium’s capabilities.

This particular strain is part of a group of bacteria that are well-known for their tolerance of toxic organic compounds and other forms of stress, according to Dr. Christian Eberlein with the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research-UFZ. He is a co-author on the paper who coordinated and supervised the work. “That trait is also named solvent-tolerance and is one form of extremophilic microorganisms,” he said. In addition to polyurethane, the P4SB consortium, which includes the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research-UFZ, is also testing the efficacy of microbes to degrade plastics made of polyethylene terephthalate (PET), which is widely used in plastic water bottles.

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Source: Slashdot – Scientists Identify Microbe That Could Help Degrade Polyurethane-Based Plastics

Some Recovered Coronavirus Patients In Wuhan Are Testing Positive Again

NPR is reporting that some Wuhan residents in China who had tested positive earlier and then recovered from the disease are testing positive for the virus a second time. It’s raising concerns of a possible second wave of cases, as China prepares to lift quarantine measures to allow residents to leave the epicenter of its outbreak next month. From the report: Based on data from several quarantine facilities in the city, which house patients for further observation after their discharge from hospitals, about 5%-10% of patients pronounced “recovered” have tested positive again. Some of those who retested positive appear to be asymptomatic carriers — those who carry the virus and are possibly infectious but do not exhibit any of the illness’s associated symptoms — suggesting that the outbreak in Wuhan is not close to being over.

NPR has spoken by phone or exchanged text messages with four individuals in Wuhan who are part of this group of individuals testing positive a second time in March. All four said they had been sickened with the virus and tested positive, then were released from medical care in recent weeks after their condition improved and they tested negative. One of the Wuhan residents who spoke to NPR exhibited severe symptoms during their first round of illness and was eventually hospitalized. The second resident displayed only mild symptoms at first and was quarantined in one of more than a dozen makeshift treatment centers erected in Wuhan during the peak of the outbreak. But when both were tested a second time for the coronavirus on Sunday, March 22, as a precondition for seeking medical care for unrelated health issues, they tested positive for the coronavirus even though they exhibited none of the typical symptoms, such as a fever or dry cough. The time from their recovery and release to the retest ranged from a few days to a few weeks. One theory is that they were first given a false negative test result. Another theory is that, because the test amplifies tiny bits of DNA, residual virus from the initial infection could have falsely resulted in that second positive reading.

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Source: Slashdot – Some Recovered Coronavirus Patients In Wuhan Are Testing Positive Again