Doctors in Japan have successfully transplanted liver cells derived from embryonic stem cells into a newborn baby, in a world first that could provide new treatment options for infants. The newborn was suffering from urea cycle disorder, where the liver is not capable of breaking down toxic ammonia. But the six-day-old was too small to undergo a liver transplant, generally not considered safe until a child weighs around six kilogrammes (13 pounds) at around three to five months old. Doctors at the National Center for Child Health and Development decided to try a “bridge treatment” until the baby was big enough, injecting 190 million liver cells derived from embryonic stem cells (ES cells) into the blood vessels of the baby s liver. Following the treatment, “the patient did not see an increase in blood ammonia concentration and was able to successfully complete the next treatment”, namely a liver transplant, the institute said in a press release. The baby, whose sex has not been disclosed, received a liver transplant from its father and was discharged from the hospital six months after birth. “The success of this trial demonstrates safety in the world s first clinical trial using human ES cells for patients with liver disease,” the institute said. It noted that in Europe and the United States, liver cells are often available after being removed from brain-dead donors, but the supply in Japan is more limited. That has created difficulties in managing the health of small children as they wait to grow big enough for liver transplants. ES cells are harvested from fertilized eggs and using them in research has raised ethical issues because embryos are destroyed subsequently. The national institute is one of two organizations in Japan allowed to establish ES cells to study new medical treatments. It works with fertilized eggs whose use has been approved by both donors having already completed fertility treatment, according to the institute.
Apple and Google have released a software tool that will make it possible for nations to release coronavirus contact-tracing apps that adopt the firms privacy-centric model. It offers developers access to added Bluetooth functionality to solve a problem existing apps have of iPhones sometimes failing to detect each other. Android and iOS device owners will have to carry out system upgrades. But some countries - including the UK - are pursuing a different approach. "The release of these APIs [application programming interfaces] along with the operating-system updates will be a watershed moment for the development and adoption of proximity-tracing apps," said Marcel Salathé, an epidemiologist at the Swiss research institute EPFL. He added that apps that adopted the protocol should be able to be made "interoperable" - meaning that citizens can continue to be contact-traced as they cross from one region and/or country to another. That could potentially help reduce travel restrictions imposed because of the virus - at least for those using the apps involved. Apple and Google said public health agencies from 22 countries had already asked to test the system. The app was not "a silver bullet" - but "user adoption is key to success and we believe that these strong privacy protections are also the best way to encourage use". On-device matching Contact-tracing apps are designed to automatically log when two people come into proximity to each other for a significant amount of time. If one is later diagnosed with the coronavirus, the other can be given an alert, which might suggest they self-isolate and/or request a medical test of their own. But the authorities believe adoption has been hampered by two factors: concerns the technology poses a privacy risk restrictions Apple places on third-party apps use of Bluetooth in the background In theory, the new system should address both these issues. Its "decentralised" approach locates contact-matching on devices themselves rather than a centrally controlled computer server. And this aims to cut the risk of either hackers or the authorities using the database of who met whom and for how long for other purposes. But the UK s NHS and its counterparts in France, Norway and India say the centralised approach gives them greater insight, making it easier to tweak the risk model that decides who receives which type of alert. Apps that adopt Apple and Google s API can customise it within certain limits. But they will not be able to log, for example, a phone s global positioning system (GPS) coordinates. "Not collecting some kinds of data, such as location, is a policy decision, not an engineering one," technology consultant Benedict Evans said. "But Apple-Google have to build something for every phone on Earth, [potentially] including China and Iran, and think about how it could be abused. "How much you need the extra data and whether it s worth the privacy risks is a matter of opinion." RISK AT WORK: How exposed is your job? SCHOOLS: When will children be returning? EXERCISE: What are the guidelines on getting out? THE R NUMBER: What it means and why it matters LOOK-UP TOOL: How many cases in your area? GLOBAL SPREAD: Tracking the pandemic RECOVERY: How long does it take to get better? A SIMPLE GUIDE: What are the symptoms? Austria was the first country to roll out a decentralised contact-tracing app. Stopp Corona, operated by the Red Cross, has been downloaded more than 600,000 times. And its developers, Accenture, now intend to build in Apple and Google s API for a 10 June update so iPhone-users no longer have to bring the app on-screen for it to work effectively. But Stopp Corona currently gives users the option of manually controlling when matches occur - by pressing an on-screen button to trigger a Bluetooth "handshake" . And this is not currently possible within the Apple-Google model. So the developers plan to switch to using ultrasonic audio pings in this situation. Apple and Google s API is also currently incompatible with the way Stopp Corona triggers different types of notification. The app first serves a yellow alert if a contact self-diagnoses as having the virus and then follows up with a red or green alert depending on whether a medical test confirms it. Security flaws found in NHS contact-tracing app Isle of Wight contact-tracing app trial - a mixed verdict so far World split between two types of app And the developers are working with Apple and Google to try to retain this functionality. "There s really good collaboration on both sides," Christian Winhelhofer, the Accenture executive involved, told BBC News. "They re really interested in working on solutions that fit our needs." Couple hugging Germany s forthcoming Corona-Warn-App is also set to adopt the Apple-Google protocol. But its developers have complained handsets not in use are limited to listening out for a Bluetooth signal only once every five minutes for a duration of about four seconds. So, in theory, a couple hugging for three minutes, for example, might not be logged, while another merely brushing past each other at the right time would be. Apple and Google are aware of this issue. By contrast, the NHS s app listens out for a match roughly once every eight seconds. The NHS has also developed its own workaround to the iPhone Bluetooth issue. But it is still exploring the Apple-Google system as a back-up plan.
EasyJet has admitted that a "highly sophisticated cyber-attack" has affected approximately nine million customers. It said email addresses and travel details had been stolen and that 2,208 customers had also had their credit card details "accessed". The firm has informed the UK s Information Commissioner s Office while it investigates the breach. EasyJet first became aware of the attack in January. It told the BBC that it was only able to notify customers whose credit card details were stolen in early April. "This was a highly sophisticated attacker. It took time to understand the scope of the attack and to identify who had been impacted," the airline told the BBC. "We could only inform people once the investigation had progressed enough that we were able to identify whether any individuals have been affected, then who had been impacted and what information had been accessed." Stolen credit card data included the three digital security code - known as the CVV number - on the back of the card itself. EasyJet added that it had gone public now in order to warn the nine million customers whose email addresses had been stolen to be wary of phishing attacks. It said that it would notify everyone affected by 26 May. It did not provide details about the nature of the attack or the motives, but said its investigation suggested hackers were targeting "company intellectual property" rather than information that could be used in identity theft. "There is no evidence that any personal information of any nature has been misused, however, on the recommendation of the ICO, we are communicating with the approximately nine million customers whose travel details were accessed to advise them of protective steps to minimise any risk of potential phishing. "We are advising customers to be cautious of any communications purporting to come from EasyJet or EasyJet Holidays." In response to the breach, the ICO said that it was investigating. "People have a right to expect that organisations will handle their personal information securely and responsibly. When that doesn t happen, we will investigate and take robust action where necessary." It also warned people to be on the lookout for phishing attacks and directed them to its advice on its website on how to spot such scams. Phishing Phishing attempts - which see criminals sending emails with links to fake web pages that steal personal data - have risen exponentially during the coronavirus crisis. Google is blocking more than 100 million phishing emails every day to Gmail users. It is likely that hackers will take advantage of the fact people are cancelling flights because of the uncertainty related to the spread of Covid-19, said Ray Walsh, a digital privacy expert at ProPrivacy. "Anybody who has ever purchased an EasyJet flight is advised to be extremely wary when opening emails from now on," he said. "Phishing emails that leverage data stolen during the attack could be used as an attack vector at any point in the future. "As a result, it is important for customers to be vigilant whenever they receive unsolicited emails or emails that appear to be from EasyJet, as these could be fake emails which link to cloned websites designed to steal your data." Turbulent times The coronavirus pandemic has meant an end to much global travel, leaving airlines struggling financially. "These are already turbulent times for all companies within the aviation industry but the situation has just got significantly worse for EasyJet," said Mike Fenton, chief executive of threat detection firm Redscan. "To add to the company s woes, it is now has to explain how the personal records of nine million customers were able to be accessed. "When it comes to cyber security, the airline industry doesn t have a great record. The British Airways breach in 2018 should have been a wake-up call and passenger confidence is likely to be at an all-time low after this." British Airways announced that the personal details of more than half a million of its customers had been harvested by hackers in September 2018. Initially it said that only 380,000 transactions were affected and that the data did not include travel or passport details. The ICO later issued a record £183m fine over the breach. Compensation pay-outs to customers could see that reach £3bn. Under GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation), if EasyJet is found to have mishandled customer data, it could face fines of up to 4% of its annual worldwide turnover. "It is impossible to determine yet whether or not there has been negligence but, if so, consumers could be eligible to claim compensation, raising the financial penalty imposed on the airline significantly," said lawyer Aman Johal. Millions of EasyJet customers details of some sort or another have been accessed by hackers - but even more people now need to be vigilant. Generally, personal details can be used by fraudsters to access bank accounts, open accounts and take out loans in the innocent victims names, make fraudulent purchases, or sell on to other criminals. The risks to those whose card details have been compromised are clear. Their provider should already have stopped the card, a new one will be issued, and they will need to sort out any regular payments coming from that card. Following a similar data breach at British Airways in 2018, some found this a frustrating and time-consuming task. Millions of people whose email addresses and travel details have been accessed will need to change passwords, and be wary of any unexpected transactions. Everyone else, particularly EasyJet customers whose details have not been affected, must be alert to other unsolicited emails and messages. Fraudsters will no doubt pose as EasyJet, banks, or the authorities and claim to be dealing with this latest breach. They are simply trying to steal personal details themselves.
American jazz singer Melody Gardot is inviting musicians around the world to play along digitally on her new album to overcome the solitude and financial strain of coronavirus lockdowns. For the song “From Paris with Love” on her new album, Gardot is asking orchestra musicians worldwide - strings, woodwinds or harp - to contribute remotely by playing along to a score and a backing track. Producers will assemble the performances into what she calls a “digital global orchestra” to make it sound as if all musicians are playing together in the same room. The chosen musicians will be paid professional studio rates and royalties will be donated to charities benefiting healthcare workers. Confined in her home in Paris, Gardot had been set to record part of her new album with the London Symphony Orchestra just before a Europe-wide coronavirus lockdown put an end to all music production. For the video clip of the song, Gardot has invited fans to contribute short video portraits of themselves from wherever they are in the world with a sign “From (their city) with Love”. “We all worry about contagion now, but a smile is one of the contagious issues that I would like to have,” Gardot told Reuters. “It can make us feel a little more connected despite what is going on. We cannot touch each other, we cannot travel, this is kind of a postcard,” she said. Participating musicians will receive instructions on how to record and film themselves performing the piece at home and can file their contributions till May 18 at midnight. Gardot, who sells more records in Europe than in the United States and is very popular in France, is one of many musicians worldwide who have tried to break the barriers of lockdown by using social media for live or recorded performances. The Grammy-nominated singer said the lockdown had knocked her out of her rhythm of constant touring, often playing several days a week, 11 months a year, but she said the isolation had been relatively bearable compared to being in hospital for a year after being knocked off her bike by a car when she was 19. “(the lockdown) is heartbreaking in a fraternal way, but for myself I have seen rainier days,” she said.
Tests on hamsters reveal the widespread use of facemasks reduces transmission of the deadly coronavirus, a team of leading experts in Hong Kong said Sunday. The research by the University of Hong Kong is some of the first to specifically investigate whether masks can stop symptomatic and asymptomatic COVID-19 carriers from infecting others. Led by Professor Yuen Kwok-yung, one of the world s top coronavirus experts, the team placed hamsters that were artificially infected with the disease next to healthy animals. Surgical masks were placed between the two cages with air flow travelling from the infected animals to the healthy ones. The researchers found non-contact transmission of the virus could be reduced by more than 60 percent when the masks were used. Two thirds of the healthy hamsters were infected within a week if no masks were applied. The infection rate plunged to just over 15 percent when surgical masks were put on the cage of the infected animals and by about 35 percent when placed on the cage with the healthy hamsters. Those that did become infected were also found to have less of the virus within their bodies than those infected without a mask. “It s very clear that the effect of masking the infected, especially when they are asymptomatic — or symptomatic — it s much more important than anything else,” Yuen told reporters Sunday. “It also explained why universal masking is important because we now have known that a large number of those infected have no symptom.” Yuen was one of the microbiologists who discovered the SARS virus — a predecessor of the current coronavirus — when it emerged in 2003, killing some 300 people in Hong Kong. Armed with knowledge from that fight, he advised Hong Kongers early in the current pandemic to adopt universal masking, something embraced by the city s residents. At the time the World Health Organisation and many other foreign health authorities dismissed using masks widely among the public, saying they should instead go to frontline medical workers. Four months after its first COVID-19 case was detected, Hong Kong has largely managed to contain the disease with just over 1,000 infections and four deaths. Experts have credited widespread mask use as well as efficient testing, tracing and treatment in the city of 7.5 million for the relatively low numbers.
Substances used for air conditioning in almost all new cars are building up in the environment and may pose a threat to human health, researchers say. These "ozone friendly" chemicals have been introduced to replace products that were damaging the ozone layer. Now widely used across industry, these alternatives do not break down in the environment. Scientists have now found increasing levels of these chemicals in Arctic ice samples dating back to the 1990s. The Montreal Protocol is regarded as one of the most successful environmental treaties ever adopted. Signed back in 1987, it committed countries to regulate their use of chlorofluorocarbon chemicals (CFCs) that had recently been found to be depleting the ozone layer. A growing hole in the ozone over Antarctica had been detected in the mid-1980s and there was serious concern about the threat it posed to human health. CFCs were then widely used in refrigeration, in air conditioning, as solvents and in aerosol sprays. In the intervening decades, alternative products that are less harmful to the ozone layer were introduced. As a result, researchers have reported progress in reducing the size of the hole. However, there are now concerns that the solution may be inadvertently damaging the environment and threatening human health. Canadian researchers, studying ice samples from the Arctic dating back to the 1990s, have found "dramatically" increasing levels of ozone replacements called short chain perfluoroalkyl carboxylic acids (scPFCAs). "We re seeing much, much larger levels, on the order of 10 times higher now than we saw before the Montreal Protocol," said Prof Cora Young, from York University in Toronto, the study s corresponding author. "We don t know a lot about them and their potential toxicity, but we do know that we are committing the environment to a great deal of contamination." The compounds being detected in the Arctic are in the same class as perfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS, sometimes called the "forever chemicals". These long-lasting chemicals are found in everything, from furniture to clothing to food wrapping to drinking water. There is growing concern about the role of PFAS in serious health conditions including cancer, liver damage and decreased fertility. The related products, found in the Arctic ice samples, do not break down in the environment and current water filtration technology is unable to remove them. The scientists expect levels of scPFCAS to increase markedly in the future. Car trouble ahead? As part of the efforts to replace CFCs, car manufacturers around the world agreed to use a different coolant in air conditioning called HFC-134a which was introduced in 1992. While HFC-134a was less damaging to the ozone layer, it was unfortunately a very powerful greenhouse gas, around 1,400 times more warming that CO2. So manufacturers in the US and Europe agreed to phase out HFC-134a and by 2017 all new cars had to use a different coolant for air conditioning called HFO-1234yf. While this chemical doesn t damage ozone, and is not a greenhouse gas, it does unfortunately break down to produce short chain PFCAs. "It has a very low global warming potential, but has a much higher propensity to form these persistent products," said Prof Young. "It will be again another shift, where we see an even more dramatic increase." According to the researchers, these chemicals can travel a long distance in the atmosphere and often end up in lakes and rivers. They cause "irreversible contamination" and can impact the health of freshwater creatures including crustaceans and worms. There is growing concern that these compounds may impact human health as well. "They ve been found in the bodies of people in China, so it is likely to be found in the bodies of people around the world," said Prof Young. "We have done a good job in trying to save the ozone layer but the unintended consequences are the release of these other chemicals, which have some concerns." "They re toxic, and then they don t get filtered out in various ways." The study has been published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.
Before entering coronavirus lockdown with the rest of Britain in March, 73-year-old Pamela Cox had never shopped or banked online. Zoom was something you did with a camera lens. Now the retiree is one of many in her generation finding a new IT proficiency later in life, one of the few positives to come out of the deadly pandemic as much of the world starts to scale back restrictions. Last Friday, to celebrate the 75th anniversary of Victory in Europe Day, Cox s neighbors in northwest England organized a socially distanced tea party on their road via a newly created WhatsApp group. “Imagine a few years ago, this (lockdown) would have been a total disaster, but the technology now is fantastic,” Cox, a former secretary, told AFP by phone from her home in Birkenhead, near Liverpool. “We ve learned so much these last few weeks for everything we had to do before,” she said, describing a new life of Skype calls with her three grandchildren, attending virtual church services on Zoom, paying bills online and ordering fresh groceries from a local trader on Facebook. – Fighting digital exclusion – Cox owes her latter-day expertise to training from a company called We Are Digital, which was contracted by Lloyds Bank to advise its older customers in online banking. The consultancy also works with the government to help lower-income people access state benefits. “Digital exclusion is higher on the agenda than ever,” said its chief executive, Matthew Adam. “There s been more demand for our service than ever before, from big corporates to local councils, the (government) Cabinet Office, the Treasury, worried about their vulnerable customers.” Training groups such as We Are Digital promise to demystify the process for older people who may have previously resisted smartphones, apps and online services. In particular, Adam said, the trick is to engage with a client s personal interests. “One elderly gent was fascinated by history, and wanted to know more about his wartime service. We showed him how to find information on that,” he said. Above all, the lockdowns have accelerated use of remote communications as families worldwide have taught older relatives to navigate platforms such as Zoom and Skype to stay in touch. Isabel Alsina-Reynolds, a London-based filmmaker, said she had encouraged her 83-year-old grandfather to use his laptop for more than the odd email and game of Scrabble. She installed Zoom and, after disinfecting the computer, dropped it off at his care home with a set of printed instructions. “We managed to do a video call with him and members of my family all over the world — from Nebraska to India,” she said. “It was very exciting and I think it will give him a bit more motivation for the week.” – Back to the future – If wonky camera angles, dodgy audio and blurry backgrounds have become a mainstay of lockdown life, the videoconferencing revolution is part of a broader shift to digital services that was already well under way. Governments and businesses have long been touting their online portals as a way to enhance efficiency and to save money for themselves. But demographics such as older and poorer people have proven stubbornly hard to reach. The current crisis could change that, Adam said. “Cynical people might say that banks and the like are just going to use this to accelerate the closure of (local) branches,” he added. “But it seemed like that was the way of the world anyway before the pandemic.” Cox would still prefer to pick out her fruit and vegetables in the shop, and resume human contact with her extended family. But she feels there is no going back now she is confident with online tools, and emphasizes that the new technology has restored a form of community spirit. “Before, we didn t really see the neighbors much except to wave, but now we re all best friends,” she said, pointing to lively chats and tips on her road s WhatsApp group. “It s been dreadful for people who ve been ill and died, but the fact we ve gone back in time a bit, it s like the old days when you could leave your front door open.”
Twitter has started putting warning messages on tweets containing misleading information about Covid-19. And it confirmed US President Donald Trump, who has previously suggested injecting disinfectants could help cure coronavirus, would be subject to the new rules. But one expert fears moderators will be overwhelmed and asked how much notice people would take of the warnings. Some may even see warnings on tweets as "a mark of pride", he suggested. In a blog, Twitter said it wanted to "limit the spread of potentially harmful and misleading content" around the coronavirus. In a tweet responding to questions about the changes, Twitter s head of site integrity, Yoel Roth, said the policy would "apply to anyone sharing misleading information that meets the requirement of our policy, including world leaders". A link to a Twitter-curated page or external trusted source containing additional information will be added to offending tweets. And in some cases, readers will be warned the tweet conflicts with expert opinion. Twitter is targeting claims: confirmed to be false or misleading by experts such as public health authorities in which the accuracy, truthfulness or credibility is contested or unknown It said the new system would also apply to tweets sent before this week. "Our teams are using and improving on internal systems to proactively monitor content related to Covid-19," it added. But Dr Bernie Hogan, from the Oxford Internet Institute, said: "Cranks and trolls... often have deliberate disinformation campaigns in order to simply swamp moderators. "The problem to me is that Trump and his ilk have done such a good job of labelling disagreement as fake news that I believe his supporters are likely to tune out these warnings. "It might even be seen as a mark of pride that one s opinions are considered false by the establishment ." Much like other social networks, Twitter has struggled to control the flow of misinformation on its platform since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic. After tightening its policies against harmful content in March, the company says it has removed 1,100 misleading tweets and "challenged" more than 1.5 million accounts manipulating the conversation about Covid-19. The new labelling system seems very similar to Facebook s programme for flagging misleading content, although Twitter will not be using information from independent fact-checkers to label content. The challenge for technology giants is finding the balance between removing genuinely harmful misinformation and protecting their users right to free speech. This is not an easy balancing act. Platforms face questions by politicians and members of the public if they do not take action against harmful misinformation and will similarly be subject to accusations of censorship if their actions are deemed to be too severe. Twitter has started putting warning messages on tweets containing misleading information about Covid-19. And it confirmed US President Donald Trump, who has previously suggested injecting disinfectants could help cure coronavirus, would be subject to the new rules. But one expert fears moderators will be overwhelmed and asked how much notice people would take of the warnings. Some may even see warnings on tweets as "a mark of pride", he suggested. In a blog, Twitter said it wanted to "limit the spread of potentially harmful and misleading content" around the coronavirus. In a tweet responding to questions about the changes, Twitter s head of site integrity, Yoel Roth, said the policy would "apply to anyone sharing misleading information that meets the requirement of our policy, including world leaders". A link to a Twitter-curated page or external trusted source containing additional information will be added to offending tweets. And in some cases, readers will be warned the tweet conflicts with expert opinion. Twitter is targeting claims: confirmed to be false or misleading by experts such as public health authorities in which the accuracy, truthfulness or credibility is contested or unknown It said the new system would also apply to tweets sent before this week. "Our teams are using and improving on internal systems to proactively monitor content related to Covid-19," it added. But Dr Bernie Hogan, from the Oxford Internet Institute, said: "Cranks and trolls... often have deliberate disinformation campaigns in order to simply swamp moderators. "The problem to me is that Trump and his ilk have done such a good job of labelling disagreement as fake news that I believe his supporters are likely to tune out these warnings. "It might even be seen as a mark of pride that one s opinions are considered false by the establishment ." Much like other social networks, Twitter has struggled to control the flow of misinformation on its platform since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic. After tightening its policies against harmful content in March, the company says it has removed 1,100 misleading tweets and "challenged" more than 1.5 million accounts manipulating the conversation about Covid-19. The new labelling system seems very similar to Facebook s programme for flagging misleading content, although Twitter will not be using information from independent fact-checkers to label content. The challenge for technology giants is finding the balance between removing genuinely harmful misinformation and protecting their users right to free speech. This is not an easy balancing act. Platforms face questions by politicians and members of the public if they do not take action against harmful misinformation and will similarly be subject to accusations of censorship if their actions are deemed to be too severe.
A rare one-horned rhino has been killed as poaching attempts increase in one of India s best-known national parks during the coronavirus lockdown, officials said Sunday. The lack of vehicles on the highway near Kaziranga National Park in Assam state — home to the world s biggest population of one-horned rhinos — amid the lockdown has seen animals move towards the boundaries, making them vulnerable to poachers. “It is suspected that the rhino was killed at least two to three days ago,” the park s director P. Sivakumar told AFP, adding that the rhino s horn was also missing. Hunters can earn as much as $150,000 for one rhino horn or around $60,000 per kilo on a black market according to media reports, serving foreign demand for its use in traditional Chinese medicine. “We have also recovered eight rounds of empty cartridge of AK 47” automatic rifle, Sivakumar said. The rhino carcass was found near a water body inside the park, he said, adding that it was a confirmed poaching incident. Officials said it was the first poaching case in the UNESCO-listed heritage site in a year. Previous years had seen numerous poaching incidents. Officials said poaching attempts have increased in and around the park since the start of the nationwide lockdown in late March. In April, more than five attempts to slaughter the rare creatures were thwarted by park rangers and a special rhino protection force set up by the state government. The one-horned rhinos used to be widespread in the region but hunting and habitat loss has slashed their numbers to just a few thousand, almost all in the northeastern state of Assam. Their main haven now is Kaziranga, with 2,413 of the animals living there, according to a 2018 count. The 850-square-kilometre (330-square-mile) park, created in 1908 after the wife of the British viceroy visited and complained there were no rhinos, is also home to tigers, elephants and panthers.
In a world suddenly fearful of touch, voice technology is getting a fresh look. Voice-activated systems such as Google Assistant, Amazon Alexa and Apple s Siri have seen strong growth in recent years, and the virus pandemic could accelerate that, analysts say. Voice assistants are not only answering queries and shopping, but also being used for smart home control and for a range of business and medical applications which could see increased interest as people seek to limit personal contact. “Voice has already made significant inroads into the smart home space and voice control can mean avoiding commonly touched surfaces around the home from smartphones, to TV remotes, light switches, thermostats, door handles and more,” said analyst Jonathan Collins of ABI Research. The pandemic is likely to provide “additional motivation and incentive for voice control in the home that will help drive awareness and adoption for a range of additional smart home devices and applications,” Collins said. ABI estimates that voice control device shipments for smart home devices hit 141 million last year, and in 2020 will grow globally by close to 30 percent. For the broader market of voice assistants, Juniper Research estimates 4.2 billion devices in use this year, growing to 8.4 billion by 2024, with much of the interactions on smartphones. – Smart locks, doorbells – Collins said he expected to see growing interest in smart locks and doorbells, along with other smart home systems, to eliminate the need for personal contact and face-to-face interaction as a result of the pandemic. Avi Greengart, a technology analyst and consultant with Techsponential, said data is not yet available but that “anecdotally, voice assistant usage is way up” as a result of lockdowns. Greengart said he expects a wider range of business applications for voice technologies in response to health and safety concerns. “Looking forward, office spaces will need move towards more touch-free controls; voice can be a solution, although motion triggers for lighting is often easier and more friction-free,” he said. “However, I do expect smart speakers — along with an emailed list of commands — to be a common feature at hotels and other rental properties. The fewer touch points, the better.” – Post-pandemic outlook – Julian Issa of Futuresource Consulting said there appears to be “an uptick in the use of voice assistants since the virus outbreak” during the pandemic. “Whilst avoiding touching surfaces may play a small part in this, it is mainly due to consumers spending far more time at home with their devices,” Issa said. Chris Pennell, another Futuresource analyst, said he expects adoption of digital assistants is likely to accelerate, “especially in client facing areas such as healthcare, retail and entertainment.” One example of this already in use is a Mayo Clinic tool using Amazon Alexa which allows people to assess their symptoms and access information on the virus. Other medical applications are also in the works for voice technologies. Veton Kepuska, a Florida Tech computer engineering professor who specializes in speech recognition technologies, is seeking to develop voice-activated medical robots that can help limit physical contact and contagion. “If we had this infrastructure in place, we would have been better off today,” said Kepuska, who was spurred by the COVID-19 outbreak to seek funding for the research effort. Kepuska said this effort could lead to a “humanoid” medical robot which can take over many tasks from doctors or nurses with voice interaction. “The pandemic has created a situation where we need to think about how to deliver services to people who need our help without putting ourselves in danger,” he said.
Lyft said Thursday it will soon require drivers and riders to wear face masks or face coverings when using its platform, days after its rival Uber confirmed plans to do the same. As stay-at-home orders begin to ease in certain parts of the country, Lyft (LYFT) said both drivers and riders will need to agree to certain precautions before they re able to accept or request a ride. The new "personal health certification" is expected to launch in the next few weeks, according to Angie Westbrock, Lyft s vice president of global operations and head of its Covid-19 Response Task Force. The certification, which will appear in the app, will require that drivers and riders agree to wear a face covering, not use the service if they think they may have coronavirus or related symptoms, and follow guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and local regulations. That includes confirming they will "leave windows open when possible and avoid recirculated air," and passengers sitting in the backseat instead of sitting up front with the driver, per CDC guidance. Drivers will have to re-confirm each day that they sign on to drive and riders will have to do so once a week. "When you wear a mask, you re demonstrating to someone that you care about them," Westbrock said during a short press briefing Thursday. "The personal certification is helping give both riders and drivers that extra piece of mind during this time." Riders and drivers can opt not to take or accept a ride if they feel unsafe and can report someone to the company for not following the policies. The news comes after CNN Business reported Sunday that Uber executives recently approved a policy around requiring drivers and riders to wear masks in the US and other markets. As part of its policy, Uber (UBER) is in the process of developing technology to detect if drivers are wearing masks or face coverings before they go online and start accepting trips, according to a person familiar with the matter, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the policy decision was just made recently and has not yet been introduced. Robyn Gershon, a New York University epidemiology professor, previously told CNN Business that because coronavirus can spread easily in close contact, such as in a vehicle, "absolutely positively everyone should be wearing a mask" or face covering. Those masks should be changed out frequently, she said, such as every eight hours for drivers who "work long hours." Masks should be placed into a new zip-lock bag after use and washed, if reusable, she added. While Lyft has said it is making free sanitizing products and face masks available to drivers, it has said those "will generally be limited to 1 face mask and 1 sanitizing product per driver per week, for as long as inventory lasts." Both Lyft and Uber have announced significant staff reductions in the past week spurred by the decline in ride volume caused by the pandemic. Lyft, on its first quarter earnings call with analysts Wednesday, said rideshare volume was down 75% in April compared to the same period last year. It began to show some signs of rebounding last week: rides were down 70%.
Zoom is implementing new security measures as it battles to prevent hackers from "zoombombing" video calls. Trolls have been disrupting video conferences with offensive content, including racist and homophobic imagery. Those with free Zoom accounts must use a password for all meetings. It follows reports that a sexual assault awareness meeting on the platform Its latest move, aimed at free users of its platform, will be implemented on 9 May. A new level of encryption will also be introduced across the platform from 30 May, which it says will "provide increased protection for meeting data and resistance against tampering". Jo O Reilly, deputy editor at ProPrivacy, has suggested that Zoom still has some way to go if it is to stop large-scale companies such as Google from banning the use of the platform. "This update may be enough to get consumers back on board," she told the BBC. "However, if they want to turn the tide of big companies and government moving away from using Zoom, it is going to take more than superficial fixes such as enforced passwords. "The bigger issues such as the of the lack of end-to-end encryption, making it unsuitable for commercially or politically sensitive meetings, are much trickier to solve"," added Ms O Reilly. Perpetrators of video-call hijackings can often be hard to identify and track down, due to the quick nature of the attacks. Such an attack occurred on 30 April during a video conference to mark the end of Sexual Assault Awareness Month. According to The Mercury News, a hacker posted a video depicting child abuse, and forced the meeting to end. The community-organised event in San Francisco had been intended to allow victims of sexual assault to share their stories. A spokesman for the District Attorney said they were aware of the matter and were looking into it. “We are horrified about what occurred during one of our partner s town hall events promoting Sexual Assault Awareness Month," he said. "The intrusion further emphasises the importance of programs that combat and prevent sexual violence, including the prosecution of those who exploit children." A spokesman for Zoom added that the platform was looking into the incident to "ensure appropriate action is taken".
Egyptian Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research Khaled Abdel-Ghaffar announced that his country has conducted the most trial experiments for a coronavirus cure in the Middle East and Africa. In a Tuesday statement Abdel-Ghaffar explained that this information comes from the Clinical Trials database, which is associated with the National Institute of Health in the United States of America, and catalogs the results of clinical studies supported by the public and private sectors with human participants conducted worldwide. Egyptian universities and research centers have carried out 22 out of the 30 total trials in Africa, Abdel-Ghaffar noted, and half of the 44 total Middle Eastern trials also conducted by Iran, Israel, Turkey, Cyprus, Jordan, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, and Iraq. Abdel-Ghaffar stated that the Egyptian universities that conducted these experiments are the Ain Shams University, Cairo University, Assiut University, Tanta University, Kafr al-Sheikh University, Zagazig University, Al-Azhar University, in addition to the National Research Center. Of the global total of 1,161 clinical studies, the minister added that Egypt is within the top ten in terms of the number clinical trials conducted in seeking a cure. Among Egypt s research, Abdel-Ghaffar explained that they include a retrospective study of respiratory patients from November 2019 until February 2020, a study of the coronavirus genetic sequence within Egyptian patients, the use of plasma from recovered cases as a treatment therapy, and a comparative study of some drugs used globally and other laboratory and clinical research. Egypt on Monday confirmed 348 new coronavirus cases, bringing the country s number of confirmed total cases so far to 6,813. The total number of COVID-19 deaths has now reached 436 nationwide.
A test version of the NHS s coronavirus contact-tracing app has been published to Apple and Google s app stores. Council staff and healthcare workers on the Isle of Wight will be invited to install it on Tuesday, ahead of a wider roll-out on the island on Thursday. Project chiefs have said their so-called "centralised" approach gives them advantages over a rival scheme advocated by the US tech giants and some privacy experts. But fresh concerns have been raised. The Information Commissioner s Office has declared that "as a general rule, a decentralised approach" would better follow its principle that organisations should minimise the amount of personal data they collect. The House of Commons Human Rights Select Committee also discussed fears about plans to extend the app to record location data. "There is an inherent risk that if you create a system that can be added to incrementally, you could do so in a way that is very privacy invasive," cautioned law professor Orla Lynskey. But NHSX - the health service s digital innovation unit - has stressed that: use of the app will be voluntary the only personal data stored by the app at the start will be the first part of the user s postcode additional location data will only be recorded if users agree to a further opt-in request "Please download the app to protect the NHS and save lives," Health Secretary Matt Hancock urged Isle of Wight residents. "By downloading the app, you re protecting your own health, you re protecting the health of your loved ones, and the health of the community." Wireless signals The NHS Covid-19 app is intended to supplement medical tests and contact-tracing interviews carried out by humans, in order to prevent a resurgence of Covid-19 when lockdown measures are eased. It works by using Bluetooth signals to detect when two people s smartphones are close to each other. If one person later registers themselves as being infected, an alert can be sent to others judged to be at high risk of contagion. This might be based on the fact they were exposed to the same person for a long period of time or that there had been multiple instances of them being in the vicinity of different people. The trial on the Isle of Wight will help NHSX test how well the system works in practice, as well as judge how willing a population is to install and use the software. It follows a smaller experiment on an RAF base. Although the app is live, it is effectively hidden on the iOS and Android marketplaces, and residents will need to follow a set of instructions to install it. While in theory there is nothing to prevent the details being shared and used by others elsewhere, NHSX hopes this will not happen as it could confuse the feedback it receives. Ahead of the trial, NHSX chief Matthew Gould acknowledged that there would "inevitably be unintended consequences" and that "if we think there is a better way of doing what we need to do, we won t hesitate to change". But he added that if citizens "want to carry on saving lives, protecting the NHS and get the country back on its feet, then downloading the app is one way they can do that". More data NHSX s app will send back details of the logged Bluetooth "handshakes" to a UK-based computer server to do the contact matching, rather carrying out the process on the handsets themselves. Apple, Google and hundreds of privacy advocates have raised concerns that this risks hackers or even the state itself being able to re-identify anonymised users, and thus learn details about their social circles. But NHSX has consulted ethicists and GCHQ s National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) on the matter, and believes safeguards are in place to minimise the risk of this happening. Furthermore, it believes any such concerns are outweighed by the benefits of adopting a centralised approach. It says a centralised app will let it: spot geographical hotspots where the disease is spreading work out how to optimise the app s algorithms to make its risk-model as accurate as possible, which in turn should help it decide who needs to be told to self-isolate or request a test gain fresh insights into how the virus spreads, such as the degree to which transmission becomes less likely the more time passes since first symptoms NHSX believes another major benefit is that its app can make use of people self-diagnosing themselves before they obtain test results. This would only be possible, Mr Gould explained, because NHSX could spot "anomalous patterns of activity" indicating that people were lying to the app for malicious reasons. But the DPT3 group - which promotes the decentralised approach - believes this claim is misleading. "I have not seen any evidence that this would do anything but spot very large-scale and quite clumsy attacks," explained Prof Michael Veale. "The only way to make sure that people can be held to account for submitting false reports is to identify them [which takes you down] a slippery slope." Another criticism of NHSX s approach is that it puts the UK at odds with Ireland, Germany, Switzerland and a growing list of other nations, which are pursuing decentralised apps. The fear is that UK citizens may face tougher restrictions on international travel if its system is not interoperable with others. Mr Gould said that NHSX was "talking to a range of countries [to] make sure that systems can talk to each other," adding that France and Japan were among others developing centralised apps. But Prof Veale warned that any attempt to try to join up the two systems risked "the worst of both worlds". "I don t think it s just a mater of political will. It would be a matter of sacrificing the privacy-by-design within both systems." The Isle of Wight s Green Party - which has nine locally-elected councillors - has also expressed its doubts. "The Isle of Wight has a significantly older and more vulnerable population [and] the island s one hospital could be overwhelmed if... people feel they do no need to stick to lockdown measures due to the rolling out of this app," it said. But the government s coordinator for testing said the island was "well-equipped" to cope. "It s quite a large population and there is a benefit in the fact that travel on and off the island is relatively restricted - the ferries are there, but they re running relatively infrequently," added Public Health England s Prof John Newton. "So it is an ideal place to look at the epidemiology and see the impact."
NASA and SpaceX said Friday they were pressing ahead with plans to launch astronauts to space from US soil for the first time in nearly a decade later on this month, despite the coronavirus pandemic. Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley, both veterans of the Space Shuttle program that was shuttered in 2011, will blast off from the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida on May 27. Should the mission succeed, the US will have achieved its goal of no longer having to buy seats on Russian Soyuz rockets to give its astronauts rides to the International Space Station (ISS). It is also an important stage in NASA s new economic model: the space agency has spent billions on contracts with both SpaceX and Boeing to develop spaceships that will each have to make six round trips to the ISS. The model is supposed to save taxpayers from financial black holes of past programs, as well as some still to come — notably the giant Space Launch System rocket that is supposed to take NASA back to the Moon but is plagued by cost overrun and scheduling delays. NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine told reporters that the SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule will be only the fifth class of US spacecraft to take humans into orbit, after the storied Mercury, Gemini, Apollo and Space Shuttle programs. “If you look globally, this will be the ninth time in history when we put humans on a brand new spacecraft,” said Bridenstine. “We re going to do it here in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. I m going to tell you this is a high priority mission for the United States of America,” he added. Behnken and Hurley, who have been training for the “Demo-2” mission for years, will dock with the International Space Station (ISS) and remain there for between one to four months, depending on when the next mission takes place, said NASA s Steve Stich. Crew Dragon is able to remain in orbit for around four months (119 days). Hurley, who was the pilot on the last Space Shuttle mission, admitted it was “disappointing” that the launch won t be a public affair, with crowds discouraged from gathering at Cape Canaveral to witness the spectacle. “We won t have the luxury of our family and friends being there at Kennedy to watch the launch but it s obviously, the right thing to do in the current environment,” he said. – Win for SpaceX – The mission is a major milestone for SpaceX, the company founded by Elon Musk, who also leads and founded Tesla. His firm, which was started in 2002, has now overtaken aerospace behemoth Boeing, which failed in the uncrewed demonstration mission of its Starliner spacecraft last year and will have to start over. SpaceX, which has received billions of dollars from NASA since the late 2000s, has been supplying cargo to the ISS since 2012, and has established itself as the leader in the private space sector thanks to its reusable rocket, the Falcon 9. “I ll feel a little relief when they re in orbit, I ll feel more relief when they get to the station and then obviously, I will start sleeping again when they re back safely on the planet Earth,” said Gwynne Shotwell, the company s chief operating officer. The pandemic has, naturally, impacted the program, but Shotwell said all precautions were being taken to protect the astronauts. “We are ensuring that only essential personnel are near them. They re wearing masks and gloves. We re cleaning the training facility twice daily. “I think we re really doing a great job to ensure that we are not impacting the safety or the health of the astronauts lives.” Half of SpaceX s engineers have been teleworking, and on the day of the launch, NASA personnel in the mission control room will be spaced six feet (two meters) apart. Takeoff is scheduled for 4:42 pm (2042 GMT) on May 27, with space station docking scheduled about 19 hours later, on May 28.
Director of the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) Anthony S. Fauci said on Wednesday that the anti-viral drug remdesivir has demonstrated clear results in keeping coronavirus patients condition from deteriorating, and in reducing recovery time. He added that this matter shows that remdesivir — which is produced by the US pharmaceutical giant Gilead Sciences and has previously been used in the treatment of Ebola — could be used to treat the novel coronavirus COVID-19, offering hope that it will be possible to put and end to the danger of the pandemic. “Data shows that remdesivir has a clear-cut, significant positive effect in diminishing the time to recovery,” Fauci said in statement released on Wednesday. “Preliminary results indicate that patients who received remdesivir had a 31 percent faster time to recovery than those who received placebo. Specifically, the median time to recovery was 11 days for patients treated with remdesivir compared with 15 days for those who received placebo. Results also suggested a survival benefit, with a mortality rate of 8.0 percent for the group receiving remdesivir versus 11.6 percent for the placebo group,” the report went on to say. Remdesivir has provided a glimpse of hope in recent days after preliminary trials demonstrated its success in helping patients recover from coronavirus. Meanwhile, the New England Journal of Medicine published results for remdesivir trials conducted with 53 patients with advanced and difficult stages of infection. According to the report, doctors noticed that clinical indicators improved for 36 out of 53 patients. In contrast, eight cases did not witness positive changes, while seven of them died. Doctors were able to take 17 out of 30 patients off of a ventilator. The patient mortality rate in the trial stood at 13 percent after using remdesivir. Side effects, meanwhile, included diarrhea, rash, renal impairment and low blood pressure. There are, however, significant limitations to the conclusions that can be drawn from this trial, as there was no randomized control group that could allow comparison between patients who took placebo and those who were given the drug.
Spotify has reached 130 million paid subscribers, despite initial concerns over how the Covid-19 crisis could affect listening habits. The music-streaming platform says it gained six million subscribers in the first quarter of 2020. It said the figures fell into the higher end of what had been predicted before the coronavirus outbreak. But analysts have warned Spotify s quarterly results may not be as positive as the company suggests. Spotify said a double-digit rise in quarterly revenue had helped offset a decline in ad sales, which contributed less than 10% of its overall revenue. “Despite all the turbulence around the world, we hit pretty much all the metrics,” chief executive Daniel Ek told Reuters. The platform had begun to see a fall in user numbers in February among countries hit hardest by the virus, including Spain and Italy, he said. But there had been a "meaningful recovery" over the past month. Active users The company said monthly active users had risen 31% in the quarter. But Midia Research analyst Mark Mulligan told BBC News: "Checking an app once a month is not active usage. "So daily active users and weekly active users are where scrutiny needs applying. "Spotify says that the ratio of daily active users relative to monthly active users was strong in the quarter." "However, strong does not mean up - and the fact it was reported as higher than 12 months ago but with no reference to last quarter suggests strong may not be that useful an adjective here." Radio listening Mr Mulligan also noted 28% of consumers in the US and 25% in the UK had been using their usual commute listening time now for other activities. "It is after all possible to have falling streams but a growing user base, ie more people signing up but using the service less," he added. Last month, Global, which owns Captial FM and talk station LBC, said online radio listening had jumped 15% since the UK s lockdown began. "The figures indicate that the public is turning to radio in times of crisis," a Global spokeswoman said at the time.
As the coronavirus outbreak spreads across the nation, hand-washing has become more crucial than ever. With rubbing alcohol now a more common part of households across Egypt, some wonder which is more effective: washing your hands with soap and water or alcohol? The General Director of the General Department for Infection Control Ehab Attia recommends soap and water first and foremost, as it is the most efficient way to kill harmful bacteria. He recommends rubbing alcohol be used when outside home, but also warns that excessive alcohol use can kill beneficial bacteria and increase the chance of infections. The Sugar and Integrated Industries Company, a subsidiary of the state-owned Food Industries Holding Company (FIHC), announced late March that it would pump thousands of “al-Chabrawichi” and “555” colognes to fill a deficit of rubbing alcohol products in the Egyptian market. As demand for rubbing alcohol rises across Egypt due to the coronavirus outbreak, supplies have fallen short to meet increased consumer needs. The spreading coronavirus epidemic has led to an increased need for rubbing alcohol across Egypt to help protect against the disease, which has created a black market offering unknown packages as supplies fail to meet increased demands. Pharmacist Zainab Radwan explained that alcohols come in different percentages: 40, 70 and 100 percent, with 70 percent the ideal for its ability to kill bacteria, viruses and proper sterilization.
Visits to film-piracy sites in the UK are up 43% since before lockdown measures came into effect, piracy-monitoring company Muso says. The "unprecedented gains" are reflected in other countries across the world, the company s data suggests. The largest increase was seen in Italy, one of the first countries to go into lockdown, where it surged 66%. But while film and software piracy have risen, pirated TV numbers have dropped because of a lack of live sport. In the UK, for example, Muso s data suggests pirated television has fallen by nearly 5%, which includes a fall of more than 50% in live sports streams. The data was compiled by comparing visits to different piracy sites in the last seven days of February - before widespread lockdown measures began - with the same period at the end of March. Muso s chief executive, Andy Chatterly, said piracy consumption trends "are closely linked" to similar boosts in official, paid-for content. "So, just as Netflix has seen large subscriber gains, we have seen a significant spike in visits to film piracy sites," he said. Software piracy is also up, the company says - by about 29% in both the UK and the United States and more than 41% in Italy. Rise of comic book piracy a real problem Porn troll lawyer jailed for 14 years Muso says it has the world s largest piracy dataset, tracking illicit streaming, web downloads and torrents on more than 19,000 websites so media companies and rights owners can "see the bigger picture around how their content is being consumed". And Ernesto van der Sar, editor of piracy news site TorrentFreak, said Muso s figures "match what we would expect". "We have been following the effects of the pandemic closely and in many countries there s a sharp increase coinciding with the various lockdown measures," he said. The decline in sports streaming has also led some unlicensed television streaming services to offer to a wider range of content, according to TorrentFreak.
In a normal year, the process of reviewing a new iPhone might start with a flashy press event followed some days later by a carefully-staged unboxing while a professional camera rolls on a perfectly composed reviewer. But this time, it started with a virtual presentation and ended with me stepping out my front door with gloves, Clorox wipes and hair that hadn t been brushed since who knows when to anxiously disinfect a package from Apple. All the glamor of a typical iPhone launch was gone. And yet, once opened, the device itself -- the new, lower-cost iPhone SE -- felt like a throwback to a simpler time when consumers stood in long lines on the street for a new gadget rather than toilet paper. The SE device, which began shipping to customers on Friday and comes in white, black and red, takes us back to 2017, when Apple (AAPL) launched the iPhone 8. On the surface you could easily mistake the SE for that three-year-old model with its design, home button and bezel frame. Under the hood, Apple has stuffed the computing smarts of its flagship 6.1-inch iPhone 11 into the SE s 4.7-inch body, making it arguably the most powerful budget device on the market. But it s something else -- something harder to quantify with the specs you find on a typical product page -- that makes this device feel like it was made for exactly the moment we now find ourselves in, intentionally or not. Starting at $399, it s by far the most affordable new iPhone at a time when many households may struggle to justify the four-figure price tags of Apple s flagship smartphones. More than 26 million people are out of work in the US alone and many others may worry about joining those ranks. With its smaller screen and the return of features like a Touch ID button, it s immediately familiar when practically everything else in our lives is very much not. And even some of the features that Apple forfeits in the SE feel oddly prescient and appropriate. After all, what good is it to default to relying on facial recognition to unlock a device when so many of us now must cover our faces daily with masks? What you really need in 2020 is a device that lets you video chat and email, and doesn t break when your toddler throws it on the ground. When we emerge from quarantine, however, we ll need something more. The good news is the SE is more than just a device that s nearly half the price of the $699 iPhone 11; it works nearly as well. The specs you ll care about whenever the pandemic ends This is Apple s second-generation iPhone SE. The original, which sold for $399 when it was introduced four years ago, packed the internals of the 4.7-inch iPhone 6 and the 5.5-inch iPhone 6S Plus into the 4-inch body of the iPhone 5, serving as an alternative for people who didn t want a bigger device or the price tag that comes with it. Now it s back, and so is the home button and Touch ID over the newer option to unlock through facial recognition. It s hard to shake the habit of swiping up to close out of apps like you would on newer models, but there s also something nostalgic about pressing a physical button again. The same is true of the smaller size screen, though it can take some getting used to for those who ve turned to larger devices in recent years. The display choice is striking too, with less pixel density than what s on the iPhone 11 and bezels around the frame that take up a good bit of screen real estate. Articles, 4K videos and games once again compete for space with the black perimeter intact, making the experience a bit less immersive. The iPhone SE only has one rear camera lens compared to the two you ll find on the back of the iPhone 11 (an extra for landscape shots), and the three on the iPhone 11 Pro (another for zoom effects). But coupled with the new processor, the iPhone SE can do more than you d think. Portrait mode on the selfie camera is especially notable, considering the front camera system touts just one lens. Pictures are crisp, vibrant and can easily be adjusted with lighting tools, depth-of-field control and image stabilization. What s noticeably lacking, however, is Night Mode and slow-motion selfies -- features that are hardly dealbreakers and would go mostly unused right now anyway. Concerts are now held in rock stars living rooms, rather than low-lit venues, and there s only so much you can do creatively with a "slofie" from the confines of your couch. Meanwhile, the SE s battery life gets you solid usage through the end of the day, although how much longevity you need from it now when a charger is always nearby isn t as critical as you would on a long commute home. It does feature wireless charging; something you won t find on most budget devices. In many ways, the $399 model is a steal for what you get, but as always the price ticks up if you want more than the default 64GB of storage. It costs $449 for 128GB and $549 for 256GB, the latter of which is still $150 less than the starting iPhone 11 model. It s also important to keep in mind the pandemic will likely have a significant impact on Apple s product plans for the year. In the fall, the company is widely rumored to be launching four iPhone 12 models, but some analysts suspect it could delay the launch of the much-anticipated 5G iPhone until consumer appetite returns. Considering that device will likely cost well into the mid-$1000s, it may be long past September before people feel comfortable spending that much on a gadget. The iPhone SE may not be for everyone, but its back-to-basics approach is everything we need right now to meet our needs during the quarantine and whatever comes after.
SpaceX chief executive Elon Musk said the company was "fixing" the brightness of his company s satellites. Stargazers around the world and including many Britons have witnessed unusual constellations made up of the low earth orbit spacecraft. SpaceX has been launching large batches of satellites as part of its Starlink project to improve global internet coverage. The most recent launch took place on Wednesday. Responding to a question about the brightness of the Starlink satellites on Twitter, Mr Musk said it was due to the angle of the satellites solar panels and the company was "fixing it now". A fix could make them less visible from Earth. SpaceX s Starlink project aims to eventually create a network of 12,000 satellites that beam broadband internet access back to Earth. Many of the satellites that are visible now were sent up in March but their current orbital position has made them easier to see over the past few days. These satellites are also particularly bright because of their size and the proximity to Earth. Large satellites are usually sent into higher orbit. Low orbit satellites are usually smaller. Starlink satellites also have wide flat panels, which reflect light. SpaceX is working on a "sunshade" that will reduce reflection of satellites sent in future launches. According to astronomers, the visibility of the satellites now is less of a problem for them than it will be as the constellation grows and becomes operational. Currently, the spacecraft are in a parked orbit, but over the next few months, the craft will use on-board engines to move slighter further from the Earth and rotate their solar panels towards the Sun. That will make them less visible to the naked eye but could mean they cause light pollution for astronomers trying to take pictures of the farther reaches of space. "Astronomers cameras are designed to take pictures of really faint thing and bright light could ruin data," explained Dr Jonathan McDowell an astronomer at the Centre for Astrophysics, a research centre at Harvard University. "I applaud the fact that [SpaceX] has really been trying to find ways to make them less bright," he said. But Dr McDowell added that there is another problem with the launch of so many new low orbit satellites - increased traffic. The growing number of low orbit craft increases the possibility of crashes between objects which could damage machines or send materials falling back to earth. SpaceX launches have continued despite Covid-19 lockdown across the United States, where SpaceX is based. Wednesday s launch from Cape Canaveral, Florida was the fourth for Starlink this year and the seventh time it has sent a large batch of the spacecraft into orbit.
The Church of St. Mark in Alexandria is the oldest church in Egypt and Africa, dating back to the first century. It was built at the place of the house of St. Anianus who was the first to believe in Christ by St. Mark s preaching. It also contains about 55 of the first patriarchs of the Coptic Church. Father Abram Emil, Priest of St. Mark s Cathedral in Alexandria explained in his article The Church of St. Mark