American biotechnology company Moderna announced on Tuesday that its vaccine against the coronavirus has reached 100 percent effective against severe cases of the virus, marking a significant leap in COVID-19 vaccine development. The company said that the third phase of its clinical trials included 30,000 participants, and that the vaccine proved to be 94.1 percent effective against regular COVID-19 cases. After obtaining approval from the US Food and Drug Administration, the company hopes to begin production of the vaccine before the end of this year. The chief medical officer at Moderna, Tal Zaks, confirmed that the results of the vaccine trials only show that they prevent people from contracting the coronavirus, stressing that vaccinated persons may still transmit the virus. Moderna joins Pfizer/BioNTech (95 percent efficacy), Russsia’s Sputnik V (95 percent), and Oxford/AstraZeneca (70 percent) as the most successful coronavirus vaccine manufacturers in the world as of now. Companies are reported well over the 50 percent efficacy rate that is required for the vaccine. In addition to developing its own vaccine, Egypt’s VACSERA struck a deal in September with China’s Sinopharm to conduct human trials of the Chinese company’s vaccine. No reports have been released from these trials. Meanwhile, the private Egyptian company Pharco agreed to import millions of doses of Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine, as part of an agreement with the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF). The country has also reportedly been in talks aimed at importing millions of doses of the Astra-Oxford vaccine.
Facebook will begin paying UK news publishers for some articles with the launch of Facebook News in January. The feature adds a dedicated news tab to the Facebook app, and has already launched in the United States. Facebook said it will "pay publishers for content that is not already on the platform" and prioritise original reporting. It comes after years of tension between Facebook and news publishers, who have often accused it of "stealing" content. But hundreds of UK news outlets are already signed up to deals for the new feature, Facebook said. They include publishers such as Hearst (Cosmopolitan, Elle, Esquire); the Guardian Media group; regional newspaper giant JPI Media; and the Midland News Association. Facebook said it expects more publishers to join after the launch. Facebook threatens news sharing ban in Australia News publishers fight tech giants for better deals The news tab is only available on the mobile app - not in a web browser. But Facebook said its launch in the US has shown it that 95% of the traffic to Facebook News publishers through that tab, are new readers who "have not interacted with those news outlets in the past". That may sound promising for news outlets trying to increase their audience on Facebook, as news accounts for only about 4% of a user s main "news feed". The deals struck between Facebook and publishers are not public, so it is not known how lucrative they could be for struggling news outlets. But previous efforts to bring publishers into the fold have not always been a success. Over the years, Facebook has encouraged news publishers to produce video for its platform and has changed the algorithms that govern its main user feed at the expense of news. It has also tried to drive publishers to use its instant articles feature, which limits advertising and other features of the publisher s website. Facebook has always insisted it doesn t want to make editorial decisions. It outsources fact-checking to organisations like Full Fact, and will outsource curation of this news service to an organisation called Upday, tasked with surfacing "reliable" and "relevant" news, whatever an on-the-day editor decides that means. This initiative crosses a commercial rubicon. The company has always directed traffic back to publishers, but this is the first time that Facebook will pay news publishers for their work. For more than a decade, the likes of Rupert Murdoch s News UK - as well as many local publishers - have argued that big tech companies carry their content without paying for it, and so act as leeches. This move will begin to weaken that argument. Some of the publishers paid by Facebook will be struggling local titles, dependent for their future on the flattering interest of a Californian tech giant. Yet, as recently as 2018, Mark Zuckerberg said he wouldn t pay publishers for content. This new move is a loud gesture to British regulators, saying Facebook will invest in public goods such as journalism, provided the regulatory environment is favourable.
There s a stark difference in the monetary value between a shark in the Red Sea and one at the fishing market. A single shark in its natural environment at the bottom of the Red Sea makes a return of about US$200,000 annually for diving trips, while a kilo fetches LE50 at the fish markets. Despite bans on shark fishing and trading, and Egypt signing an international agreement to protect them, fishermen at the Red Sea and the Gulf of Suez continue to hunt them en masse illegally. They then offer their catches for sale in fish markets across Egypt at prices starting from LE50 per kilo. Local groups estimate that there between 800 and 1,000 oceanic sharks in several diving areas in the Red Sea, especially at the al-Akhawayn Islands (The brother islands) near Safaga. The Marine Protected Areas in the Red Sea reserves conducted a study on the number of tourists who visit the al-Akhawayn area to dive with sharks annually and monitored the number of sharks in this area. The study found that one shark makes about $200,000 annually return as a tourist product, and is an important factor in attracting tourists who love diving. Islands at the Red Sea are among the most important sites for sharks, with scientific research showing that the most sharks are found at the Akhawayn Islands. The islands were closed for three months after the Environmental Affairs Agency noticing a troublesome change in shark behavior in early 2019, as they began approaching divers on their own. The Dean of the National Institute of Oceanography and Fisheries Mahmoud Abdel Rady Dar warned against the growing threat shark fishing poses to the animals. There is a great demand for the product, he noted, as many believe shark fins and tails have high nutritional value. Sharks play a major role in ecological stability, and biologists eye them as among the most important indicators of the ecological balance in the ocean.
How much do political parties know about you - and how is it used to try to sway your vote? The Cambridge Analytica scandal threw light on how the Facebook data of millions was harvested and turned into a messaging tool. The revelations were criticised far and wide by politicians of all stripes. But now, a report from the UK s Information Commissioner s Office (ICO) puts the spotlight on the relationship between data brokers and the politicians here. Should we be concerned? Even limited information can be used in surprising ways, the ICO report found. For example, buying someone s name can lead to making guesses about their income, number of children and ethnicity - which is then used to tailor a political message for them. The report suggests that the Conservative Party is doing just that, using so-called "onomastic data": information derived from the study of people s names which could identify their ethnic origin or religion. It has done that for 10 million voters, most of whom will be unaware of exactly how their information is being used. Political parties can legitimately hold personal data on individuals to help them campaign more effectively. But sophisticated data analytics software can now combine information about individuals from multiple sources to find more about their voting characteristics and interests - something some people may find disturbing. "Data collection is out of control and we need to put limits on what is collected," says Lucy Purdon from Privacy International (PI). So how do the parties get my data in the first place? The electoral register forms "the spine" of data sources, according to PI, but beyond that it is surprisingly difficult to work out what the parties use. What has become clearer in recent months is the role of data brokers. Both the Conservatives and the Labour Party make use of a product from Experian called Mosaic, according to the Open Rights Group (ORG), which describes Experian as being a "one-stop shop for data used in political profiling". Experian is better known as a credit rating agency, but it also acts as a data broker, along with others such as Equifax and Transunion. They collect data themselves or, in some cases, buy it from other companies, such as a credit card company. They then sell it on to advertisers – or, in this case, to political parties. A two-year investigation by the ICO found that millions of adults in the UK had had their data processed by Experian. The ICO recommended a long list of improvements the company needed to make in order to comply with the EU-wide GDPR law on data privacy. Experian is appealing. A PI complaint sparked the ICO investigation. PI says "it is a complex and opaque industry, and we are just starting to chip away at how this eco-system works". How do political parties use your data? Having data on a person means that political messages can be personalised, and while this is a good way to hammer home specific messages, it could be argued that it is also giving people only part of the story about any given political issue. According to PI it helps to create "echo chambers, polarise votes and restrict political debate". "If someone has the given name Mohammed, for example, it may be inferred that they are from an immigrant family and so messages about immigration can be tailored," says Jim Killock from the ORG. "Or if there are two people with the same surname living at an address, it can be guessed that they may be married and messaging tailored to that." What do the political parties say? The BBC has asked the Conservatives, Labour and the Liberal Democrats how they use data and where they receive it from. None have replied. The ORG conducted its own investigation and as part of its research it asked people to request all data political parties held on them, something known as a Data Subject Access Request. Few got responses but the scant information gleaned included: Labour had compiled up to 100 pages of data per individuals, broken down into over 80 categories Liberal Democrats attempted to guess the number of families in a home, and an individual s age based on name Conservatives attempted to estimate how likely an individual was to read and enjoy the Daily Mail, as well as guessing income It also asked all parties whether they used data broker services in the 2019 election, but only the Liberal Democrats confirmed they did not, stating they felt it would not be compliant with the GDPR privacy law. The Labour Party did not reply. The Conservatives said that they did purchase commercially available data, but did not say what they did with it. Following the ICO revelations about onomastic data, the ORG has contacted the Conservative Party asking if it still uses this data. It has not yet had a response. Much of the use of personal data by political parties is done under the banner of democratic engagement, which is used to justify a wide range of profiling activities. What can be done about it? The ICO says political parties need to be much clearer about how they intend to use personal data. But the Open Rights Group thinks it needs much tougher action. "If it does not crack down, there is no incentive for better behaviour," it said. One of the obvious ways would be to allow voters the ability to refuse the sharing of their data between a political party and a third party, such as a data broker. GDPR stipulates that individuals should know exactly how their data is being used and agree to that. But that could be harder because of how little is known about what data is being collected in the first place, PI s Ms Purdon said. "The data broker industry is so complex and while the GDPR gave people more rights over their data, how are you supposed to exercise those rights if don t even know a company is collecting your data and profiling you?"
Black Friday and the Christmas shopping rush is here. But any great deals on a new games console or hot-ticket piece of electronics will probably be snapped up by an army of bots working for those looking to make a profit. Bots are constantly-running software programmes that have hit online retail for years. But the pandemic means higher demand for lots of items, and many more people shopping online. What s the bot problem? Retail bots scan the pages of websites around the world for the exact second an item goes on sale - and alert their owners so they can beat the crowd. Some automatically buy it, faster than any human can. That s how the out-of-stock PlayStation 5 is available on eBay for hundreds of pounds more than its asking price, and why the Xbox Series X cropped up online for £5,000. And that s just "the tip of the iceberg", says Thomas Platt, from the bot management firm Netacea. Everything from cuddly toys to film collectibles are seeing bots snap up the stock, he reports. If there s a "niche audience" or high-profile launch, "those industries are being targeted", he adds. How bad is it? The pandemic caused supply chain issues earlier this year, physical stores are shut, everything is online - it s a "melting pot of factors", Mr Platt says. "On top of that... the bots are really becoming readily available, easy to use." The launch of Nvidia s PC gaming graphics card, the 3080, was "probably the most extreme case of what bots can do", says one of the moderators from r/BuildaPCSalesUK - a group of bargain hunters who help each other find PC parts. "Less than a second after launch, all stock sold out," they explain. "Users on retail websites didn t see a buy now button, but rather a sold out button, as all the stock had immediately been sniped by bots, with a sprinkling of the odd lucky person in there." Rob Burke, former director of international e-commerce for major international retailer GameStop, says bots have always been a problem. "At times, more than 60% of our traffic - across hundreds of millions of visitors a day - was bots or scrapers. Especially in the run-up to big launches." And that creates a bit of an ethical dilemma for the shops. "On the one hand, you just want to shift the product so who cares if it s a bot or a real customer?" he says. "On the flip side, if none - or very few - of your real customers can get the product with you, they will naturally go elsewhere." How do they work? So-called "sniping" bots issue alerts to users when an item comes back in stock - letting its owner buy it before anyone else. But the most advanced bots are all-in-one solutions that spot the deal and automatically check-out. They often come from an unusual place: the limited-edition training shoes market. Trainers (or sneakers) have been a hotbed for limited, high-demand releases for years, with people queuing outside shops to buy them - or trying to nab them online. That has led to the development of advanced bots - ones that are now being turned to other purposes. Why people use bots to buy limited edition trainers I dropped out of school, now I sell £60,000 trainers So-called "cook groups" live in private chat channels on apps such as Discord, swapping tips on who will be stocking what, rumoured release times, and trying to find the store pages before they re officially on sale. Bot owners use this info to tune their attacks. Mr Platt says he knows of one extreme example where a group rented a server located physically closer to the target website s server - giving them a split-second advantage on the time it takes for web traffic to flow. Why? Because the scalpers are in competition with each other as much as regular buyers. Membership of those elite groups can cost from tens to hundreds of dollars. "There s definitely an element of exclusivity at the more sophisticated end of the market," Mr Platt says. "There are bots on sale that can cost thousands... some of the bots have become so expensive, and so limited, that you rent them now." That means that some people who are genuinely after an item are renting a bot to make sure they get it, or just "employing" a botter to buy it for them. It s becoming big business. The trainers resale market alone is valued at about $2bn and growing by 20% a year, according to US consultancy Cowen. What does it mean for Christmas shopping and Black Friday? All of this means that in-demand items are harder than ever to source - especially if there s a good deal. And then there s arbitrage: buying items low and selling high, exploiting the price difference between markets. Bots help that happen on an automated, commercial scale. "You can take all those items, if you know in two weeks time [when] the sales are gone you can sell them at double the price," Mr Platt explains. There is a silver lining to the proliferation of bots around major sales days such as Black Friday: they can lead to lower prices in some cases. That s because scraper bots - the type that check prices but don t buy anything - are actually used by the retailers themselves. Many of the biggest retailers scan each others websites, making sure they re not beaten on the best deal in the sales. What can be done about it? Many retailers declined to discuss their defences, while bot-sellers ignored requests for interviews. Technically, there s nothing illegal about the practice. The UK banned the use of such bots for ticket sales, but in other retail sectors it s not explicitly against the law. However, retailers are coming up with smart workarounds. Currys PC World confused many of its customers when the PS5 and Xbox Series X went on sale - they listed it at £2,000 more than they should have been. Real customers with pre-orders were sent a discount code for £2005, which had to be manually entered, bringing it back down to real levels (minus the £5 pre-order deposit). Some retailers are charging people s bank cards the full price of the item for a place in the queue. Others are combing through order lists and cancelling suspicious ones - for example, if one address is getting a dozen of the same item.
India has banned dozens more Chinese apps, drawing a rebuke from Beijing and further straining already tense relations between the world s most populous countries. "We firmly oppose the Indian side s repeated use of national security as an excuse to prohibit some mobile apps with Chinese background," Ji Rong, spokesperson for China s embassy in India, said on Wednesday. The statement followed the Indian government s announcement on Tuesday that it was banning 43 more apps, many of them Chinese. Several apps from China s e-commerce giant Alibaba (BABA), including shopping platform AliExpress, workplace messaging tool DingTalk and streaming site Taobao Live, are on the list. Alibaba did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Dating apps were also hit by the ban."This action was taken based on the inputs regarding these apps for engaging in activities which are prejudicial to sovereignty and integrity of India, defense of India, security of state and public order," India s Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology said in a statement. In its response, the Chinese embassy said Beijing has always required Chinese companies operating overseas to abide by international rules and comply with local laws. Indian officials have now banned more than 200 mostly Chinese apps — including the wildly popular video platform TikTok — in the last five months. Relations between India and China have been frayed since a deadly border clash in June. That incident, which left 20 Indian soldiers dead, was followed by calls for calm and deescalation. But negotiations between Indian and Chinese officials failed to make progress, and the tensions have spilled over into the trading relationship, worth more than $80 billion, between the two largest powers in Asia.Many Indians had called for a boycott of Chinese goods and services, particularly from China s dominant tech industry. Beijing again pushed back on the pressure campaign on Wednesday, calling on India "to safeguard the legitimate rights and interests of international investors, including Chinese companies," a spokesperson for China s Foreign Ministry said. "The Indian side should immediately correct this discriminatory practice, so as to not bring more damage to the cooperation between the two sides," the spokesperson added.
There are a growing number of studies looking at the effect of micronutrients on people infected with SARS-CoV-2. Vitamin D seems to be a promising candidate for reducing the severity of COVID-19. DW looks at the facts. As we all know, people can disagree about almost anything. However, one thing that is undisputed is that a good supply of micronutrients, such as vitamins and minerals, is essential for a functioning immune system. This is reason enough for many researchers around the world to investigate whether individual micronutrients used in a targeted manner can make a COVID-19 infection less severe and thus prevent serious consequences or even death from the disease. Vitamin D is one of the most popular subjects of research. And some of the published studies sound quite promising, such as the work of the Spanish pneumologist Marta Castillo. "This is one of the studies that is repeatedly cited as proving the effectiveness of vitamin D," says Martin Smollich, a pharmacologist and professor at the Institute of Nutritional Medicine at the University Medical Center Schleswig-Holstein in the northern German city of Lübeck. Smollich himself conducts research on micronutrients and dietary supplements. At a time when the influence of vitamins and Co. is either greatly exaggerated for ideological and business reasons or dismissed with contemptuous derision, Smollich is trying to put together a more differentiated picture. At first glance, the results of Castillo s study seem to give cause for optimism: Of the 50 COVID-19 patients who were given vitamin D, only one landed on the intensive care unit, while in the control group, where no vitamin D was administered, 50% needed intensive care. "With such studies, it is important as the first step to look at how these two groups are put together," says Smollich. For the study to be able to truly answer the question about the effectiveness of vitamin D, the two groups would have to have as similar a composition as possible. Problematic methodology But that is exactly where the problem with this study lies. It lists some risk factors and provides information on how many patients were suffering from certain preexisting conditions (see Table 2), such as Type 2 diabetes. "Only 6% of the test persons in the group that received vitamin D were diabetics, whereas 19% of the people who were given only a placebo had the condition," says Smollich. The problems in the study with regard to high blood pressure are even more serious: Fifty-seven percent of the participants who were not given vitamin D suffered from the condition, while in the other group, too high blood pressure was found in only 24% of the test persons. "This means that the group without vitamin D had the sickest people," summarizes the pharmacologist. And such heterogeneous groups distort the results. "With COVID-19, we know that both diabetes and high blood pressure are risk factors that are likely to cause a severe progression of the disease," says Smollich. "So it s no wonder that patients in the group without vitamin D ended up in intensive care more often." A study carried out with such imprecise methodology cannot answer the question of whether the test persons in the control group had to be treated more often in intensive care because they lacked vitamin D or because they had more serious preexisting conditions. Numerous other studies and reviews have so far concluded that administering vitamin D does not have a significant influence on the severity of a COVID-19 infection. But...! Type 2 diabetes, obesity and high blood pressure have things in common: They are not only risk factors for severe COVID-19 infections, but are also all diet-related diseases. So it is mistaken to think that nutrition and nutrient status play no role in dealing with the coronavirus pandemic. In fact, the opposite is true. "Nutrients are important for various levels of the immune system," says Anika Wagner, professor of Nutrition and Immune System at the University of Giessen. A nutrient deficiency weakens the various defense mechanisms of the immune system and makes it much easier for harmful bacteria and viruses to cause damage. Are dietary supplements necessary? In addition to the question of how important micronutrients are for the prevention of disease, there is also constant debate about whether our immune system is adequately supplied by healthy food alone or whether it needs dietary supplements to be at its best. The answer is: It depends. "In principle, I recommend that the need for nutrients be covered by the daily diet," says Wagner. However, the increasing rate of obesity suggests that far too many people are failing to practically implement a healthy diet and are thus not receiving an adequate supply of nutrients. "Often, obese people consume more food with a high energy density, but which contains only a few micronutrients," says Wagner. That includes sugary drinks, ready meals and sweets. "At some point, the obese person may even develop diabetes and high blood pressure," she says. The lack of nutrients weakens the immune system, while being overweight and having diabetes and/or high blood pressure pave the way for a severe bout of COVID-19. Here again, vitamin D comes into play: A vitamin D deficiency occurs "with above-average frequency in cases where there are illnesses and conditions that in themselves increase the COVID-19 risk: advanced age, obesity or Type 2 diabetes," Martin Smollich writes in his specialist blog Ernährungsmedizin,which deals with aspects of clinical nutrition. This vicious circle is neither new nor unknown. "Many preexisting conditions that have a bearing on coronavirus disease could have been averted by effective prevention," the German Diabetes Society (DDG) said in a press release in May. "In Germany, the connection between diet and disease is often completely ignored. And I find that very dramatic, because it is something that could have been modified," says Smollich. "Instead, the coronavirus pandemic hit a society in which diet-related diseases are almost the norm." Old and chronically ill people need more nutrients Another risk group could benefit from prioritizing nutrients for health: the elderly. "We know that the immune system does not function as well in old age and that the possibilities for vitamin D synthesis also decrease," says Anika Wagner. Here, she says, the use of supplements should be considered. The Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) comes to the same conclusion. It recommends vitamin D supplements for older and chronically ill people, especially if they are dependent on care. What is more important than taking individual micronutrients is making sure that people generally have an optimized intake of nutrients so that a range of diseases can be prevented, Smollich writes in his blog. "Appropriate nutritional and health policy measures would seem more urgently needed than ever in view of the coronavirus pandemic," he writes.
WENCHANG, China (AP) — Chinese technicians were making final preparations Monday for a mission to bring back material from the moon s surface for the first time in nearly half a century — an undertaking that could boost human understanding of the moon and of the solar system more generally. Chang e 5 — named for the Chinese moon goddess — is the country s most ambitious lunar mission yet. If successful, it would be a major advance for China s space program, and some experts say it could pave the way for bringing samples back from Mars or even a crewed lunar mission. The four modules of the Chang e 5 spacecraft are expected be sent into space Tuesday aboard a massive Long March-5 rocket from the Wenchang launch center along the coast of the southern island province of Hainan, according to a NASA description of the mission. The secretive Chinese National Space Administration has only said that a launch is scheduled for late November, although the Lunar Exploration Project said in a statement Monday that success in orbiting, descending and returning would “lay a solid foundation for future missions.” The mission s key task is to drill 2 meters (almost 7 feet) beneath the moon s surface and scoop up about 2 kilograms (4.4 pounds) of rocks and other debris to be brought back to Earth, according to NASA. That would offer the first opportunity to scientists to study newly obtained lunar material since the American and Russian missions of the 1960s and 1970s. After making the three-day trip from Earth, the Chang e 5 lander s time on the moon is scheduled to be short and sweet. It can only stay one lunar daytime, or about 14 Earth days, because it lacks the radioisotope heating units to withstand the moon s freezing nights. The lander will dig for materials with its drill and robotic arm and transfer them to what s called an ascender, which will lift off from the moon and dock with the “service capsule.” The materials will then be moved to the return capsule for the trip home to Earth. The technical complexity of Chang e 5, with its four components, makes it “remarkable in many ways,” said Joan Johnson-Freese, a space expert at the US Naval War College. “China is showing itself capable of developing and successfully carrying out sustained high-tech programs, important for regional influence and potentially global partnerships,” she said. In particular, the ability to collect samples from space is growing in value, said Jonathan McDowell, an astronomer at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. Other countries planning to retrieve material from asteroids or even Mars may look to China s experience, he said. While the mission is “indeed challenging,” McDowell said China has already landed twice on the moon with its Chang e 3 and Chang e 4 missions, and showed with a 2014 Chang e 5 test mission that it can navigate back to Earth, reenter and land a capsule. All that s left is to show it can collect samples and take off again from the moon. “As a result of this, I m pretty optimistic that China can pull this off,” he said. The mission is among China s boldest since it first put a man in space in 2003, becoming only the third nation to do so after the US and Russia. While many of China s crewed spaceflight achievements, including building an experimental space station and conducting a space walk, reproduce those of other countries from years past, the CNSA is now moving into new territory. Chang e 4 — which was the first soft landing on the moon s relatively unexplored far side almost two years ago — is currently collecting full measurements of radiation exposure from the lunar surface, information vital for any country that plans to send astronauts to the moon. China in July became one of three countries to have launched a mission to Mars, in China s case an orbiter and a rover that will search for signs of water on the red planet. The CNSA says the spacecraft Tianwen 1 is on course to arrive at Mars around February. China has increasingly engaged with foreign countries on missions, and the European Space Agency will be providing important ground station information for Chang e 5. US law however still prevents most collaborations with NASA, excluding China from partnering with the International Space Station. That has prompted China to start work on its own space station and launch its own programs that have put it in a steady competition with Japan and India, among Asian nations seeking to notch new achievements in space. China s space program has progressed cautiously, with relatively few setbacks in recent years. The Long March-5 rocket, nicknamed “Fat 5” because of its bulky shape, failed on a previous launch attempt, but has since performed without a glitch, including launching Chang e 4. “China works very incrementally, developing building blocks for long-term use for a variety of missions,” Freese-Johnson said. China s one-party authoritarian system also allows for “prolonged political will that is often difficult in democracies,” she said. While the US has followed China s successes closely, it s unlikely to cooperate with China in space amid political suspicions, a sharpening military rivalry and accusations of Chinese theft of technology, experts say. “A change in US policy regarding space cooperation is unlikely to get much government attention in the near future,” Johnson-Freese said.
China is to make the first attempt to retrieve rocks from the Moon since the 1970s. It is hoped the unmanned Chang e-5 probe, to be launched on Tuesday, will bring back samples to help understand the Moon s origin and formation. The last mission of its kind, Luna 24, was by the Soviet Union in 1976. If the latest probe is successful, China will become the third country to have retrieved lunar rock, after the US and the USSR. Where were you when man first landed on the Moon? The Chang e-5 spacecraft- named after the ancient Chinese goddess of the Moon - will be launched by a Long March 5 rocket. The probe attempt to collect 2kg of samples from an as yet unvisited area of the Moon named the Ocean of Storms. In comparison, the 1976 mission collected 170 grams, and the Apollo mission that put man on the Moon brought back 382kg of rocks and soil. Experts are hoping Chang e-5 will give a better understand how long the Moon remained volcanically active and when its magnetic field - essential in protecting any life from the Sun s radiation - dissipated. China made its first lunar landing in 2013 and plans to retrieve samples from Mars within a decade.
Nvidia has confirmed Fortnite is coming back to iPhones through its cloud gaming service, despite Apple having thrown the game off its App Store. The company s GeForce Now service is now available through the Safari web browser - bypassing the store entirely. Apple has banned Fortnite from its services amid a continuing legal battle with the game s owner, Epic Games. Nvidia said a touch-enabled Fortnite was "coming soon" to the mobile browser. Plans for what is, in effect, a workaround were first reported by the BBC in early November. GeForce Now usually streams PC games over the internet without having to install them, offering games on-the-go via use of a keyboard, mouse and/or controller if there is a good enough internet connection. The addition of touch controls means the version of Fortnite streamed to iOS will not be the same as the one that usually runs on PCs. Nvidia said that change "will delay availability of the game". "While the GeForce Now library is best experienced on mobile with a gamepad, touch is how over 100 million Fortnite gamers have built, battled and danced their way to victory," it said. For Nvidia, the move is about more than just Fortnite. Apple has put onerous restrictions on game-streaming apps which means that GeForce Now, Google Stadia, and Xbox streaming have all been unable to launch on Apple mobile devices via native apps of their own. But streaming apps through a web browser - instead of a dedicated app - is allowed under Apple s rules. Alongside the Safari browser version, Nvidia said it would launch another web browser version, for Chrome, in early 2021. George Jijiashvili, a games analyst at Omdia, was sceptical about how long the service would remain functional. "GeForce Now will serve as an official workaround for iOS users, but I believe that a reaction from Apple is imminent, which could possibly lead to blocking or diminishing the quality of the service on Safari," he warned in a blog post.
In a Senate hearing on Tuesday that stretched on for more than four hours, the CEOs of Facebook and Twitter sought to recalibrate their relationship with Congress, apologizing for past mistakes while trying to set the tone for future regulation of their industry that s expected to see a bigger push in 2021. It was the second time the CEOs had been summoned to testify in as many months. As expected, Facebook s Mark Zuckerberg and Twitter s Jack Dorsey faced their fair share of allegations by lawmakers of anti-conservative bias and failure to remove misinformation and hate speech. But this hearing lacked much of the grandstanding and attacks of the pre-election hearings. A broader theme of the hearing was to establish what responsibilities tech companies should have for moderating content, and what role the US government should play — a critical question that will inform a legislative effort on online content next year, once a new Congress is sworn in. Laying down baseline expectations for the outcome of that effort, leading members of the Senate Judiciary Committee said they did not think it s appropriate for the US government to get directly involved in online content moderation."I am not, nor should we be on this committee, interested in being a member of the speech police," said Sen. Richard Blumenthal, the panel s top Democrat. But Blumenthal indicated that he wants private citizens to be able to sue tech platforms for harms they ve suffered as a result of the companies handling of content, something they can t do now under Section 230 of the Communications Act, the signature US law that grants tech platforms legal immunity for many of their content decisions. He Blumenthal and Sen. Lindsey Graham, the committee s Republican chairman, said changes are likely coming to Section 230, which has been targeted by both US President Donald Trump and President-elect Joe Biden. "We ve got to find a way to make sure that when Twitter and Facebook make a decision about what s reliable and what s not, what to keep up and what to take down, that there s transparency in the system," said Graham. "And I think Section 230 has to be changed, because we can t get there from here without change." The executives and lawmakers spent hours debating, among other things, whether social media platforms are analogous to news publishers or telecommunications companies, the outcome of which could determine what regulatory framework Congress may seek to impose on tech platforms. Zuckerberg pushed back on the parallels, arguing that social media represents an entirely new sector of the economy that the federal government should hold accountable under a unique model. "We do have responsibilities, and it may make sense for there to be liability for some of the content that is on the platform," Zuckerberg said. "But I don t think the analogies to these other industries ... will ever be fully the right way to think about this." The tech companies proposed different approaches.Zuckerberg reiterated his preference for clear rules for the internet. With those rules established, Facebook would lean heavily on its technology to adhere to them. He repeatedly described how Facebook (FB) handles terrorist and child-exploitation content, which is plainly illegal under US law. Much of the content that violates Facebook s policies is caught by automated algorithms before anyone sees it, Zuckerberg said, and that the company is continually working to improve its algorithms. Dorsey, by contrast, said federal policy should not depend too heavily on any single set of algorithms to moderate content. Instead, he argued, consumers should be able to choose among many algorithms -- or even to opt out of having content decisions made algorithmically altogether. He warned against any approach that could risk "entrenching" the dominance of large, heavily resourced social media platforms that could comply with and enforce them, in what may have been a jab at Facebook. "As we look forward," Dorsey said, "we have more and more of our decisions, of our operations, moving to algorithms which have a difficult time explaining why they make decisions, bringing transparency around those decisions. And that is why we believe that we should have more choice in how these algorithms are applied to our content, whether we use them at all, so we can turn them on and off — and have clarity around the outcomes that they are projecting and how they affect our experience."Some Republicans on the committee continued to lash out at the tech executives for perceived anti-conservative bias — often pointing to the same incidents repeatedly, even when those decisions had been reversed — while some Democrats criticized the companies handling of hateful rhetoric. Dorsey again apologized for the way Twitter (TWTR) handled a viral article by the New York Post containing unproven allegations about Hunter Biden, saying it was a "mistake" to restrict sharing of the article and that Twitter has since updated its policies. Zuckerberg, meanwhile, also acknowledged a misstep in how Facebook handled a page on its platform that urged armed counter-protesters to gather in response to racial equity protests in Kenosha, Wisc. Two people were killed at the protests. But as Congress turns its eye to legislating, the online content debate is likely to shift from tech companies responses to individual incidents to the job that lawmakers were sent to Washington to perform. "I fully expect Congress is going to act," said Sen. Thom Tillis. "In the next Congress, we re going to produce an outcome."
The SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft that launched from Florida s Kennedy Space Center with four astronauts on board Sunday night safely docked with the International Space Station around 11 p.m. ET Monday. The spacecraft glided toward the station, closing the gap before latching onto a port on the ISS s center module. The event appeared to be a slow burn to those watching NASA s livestream, but that s because the spacecraft and the ISS were traveling at roughly the same speed — more than 17,000 miles per hour, the speed necessary to keep objects orbiting the Earth. The astronauts — Michael Hopkins, Victor Glover and Shannon Walker with NASA, and Soichi Noguchi, an astronaut with Japan s space agency — emerged beaming from the capsule about two hours later after a series of checks were performed to ensure that the spacecraft and the ISS had an air-tight seal. They had been on the capsule for roughly more than 30 hours. The newly arrived astronauts shared hugs and greeting with NASA astronaut Kate Rubins and Russia s Sergey Ryzhikov and Sergey Kud-Sverchkov, who are already onboard the ISS. They arrived last month on a Russian Soyuz spacecraft. Kathy Lueders, NASA s head of human spaceflight, radioed in to speak to the crew shortly after arrival. The safe docking marks the end of the first leg of a landmark mission for NASA and SpaceX, which have been working together for a decade to return human spaceflight capabilities to the United States and ensure the multibillion-dollar ISS stays fully staffed. As many as 13 astronauts were on board at one time in 2009. But that number has occasionally dropped to as low as three, which leaves fewer people to help run experiments and help keep the space station well maintained, according to NASA. This also marks the first fully operational crewed mission for SpaceX, following up a test mission in May that carried NASA astronauts Douglas Hurley and Robert Behnken, both test pilots, to the space station for a brief stay.Glover s inclusion in this mission, called Crew-1, has its own historic significance. Though more than a dozen Black Americans have traveled to space since Guion Bluford became the first to do so in 1983, Glover will be the first to become a full-time crew member on the ISS. This also marks Glover s first-ever trip to space. During a brief dispatch between mission control and the astronauts Monday afternoon, mission commander Hopkins asked ground control operators if they could see Glover smiling "because it hasn t stopped since we ve been up here." Earlier on Monday, Hopkins also gave Glover his diamond-studded, golden astronaut pin, which is awarded to all NASA astronauts who have traveled to space. Glover shared fist bumps with his crew mates and showed off the golden emblem, a star with three contrails surrounded by a halo, to viewers on NASA s livestream. The Crew-1 astronauts are expected to spend about six months on board the ISS, where they ll work on a variety of science experiments and conduct space walks to continue updates and repairs on the space station s exterior. Before returning home, they ll be joined by yet another group of astronauts on a mission dubbed Crew-2 that s due to launch in the spring.
A SpaceX spacecraft carrying four astronauts soared into outer space Sunday — marking the kick off of what NASA hopes will be years of the company helping to keep the International Space Station fully staffed. NASA astronauts Michael Hopkins, Victor Glover, Shannon Walker, and Soichi Noguchi, an astronaut with Japan s space agency, are now in orbit, riding aboard a SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule that is expected to dock with the ISS on Monday at 11 pm ET. That means the crew will spend 27 hours in orbit as the spacecraft slowly maneuvers toward its destination. The trip would have been shorter if the Crew Dragon were able to launch on Saturday, as NASA first planned, because the ISS would have lined up in such away as to allow the spacecraft to reach the space station in about eight hours. But bad weather brought by Hurricane Eta forced launch officials to delay takeoff to Sunday evening. The capsule has a working restroom, and the astronauts will have time to get some sleep as the fully autonomous vehicle maneuvers through orbit while SpaceX and NASA officials in Houston, Texas, and Hawthorne, California, watch over the journey. This is a landmark mission for NASA and the company because it is the first fully operational crewed mission for SpaceX, following up a test mission in May that carried NASA astronauts Douglas Hurley and Robert Behnken, both test pilots, to the space station.But this mission is not a test: SpaceX s Crew Dragon was officially certified as a spacecraft worthy of carrying people last week, paving the way for it to begin making the trip relatively routine, carrying astronauts from a variety of backgrounds. On this mission, for example, both Walker and Noguchi have backgrounds in physics. The Crew-1 team is slated to conduct all sorts of experiments during their six-month stay on the ISS, including research into how microgravity affects human heart tissue. They ll also attempt to grow radishes in space to build on studies designed to figure out how food might be grown to sustain deep-space exploration missions. Sunday s mission had been briefly thrown into question after SpaceX CEO Elon Musk revealed on Twitter that he was experiencing symptoms and was being tested for Covid-19, prompting NASA to carry out a contact tracing effort to ensure no essential personnel for the launch might have been exposed. Officials said that effort was completed by Friday night, and they had no cause for concern. Musk said on Saturday that he "most likely" had a "moderate case of covid." The United States spent nearly a decade without the ability to launch astronauts into space after the retirement of the Space Shuttle program in 2011, and NASA was forced to rely on Russian Soyuz spacecraft to get astronauts to the ISS, which the space agency says left the multibillion-dollar orbiting laboratory understaffed. As many as 13 astronauts were on board at one time in 2009. That number has occasionally dropped to as low as three on several occasions, which leaves fewer people to help run experiments and help keep the space station well maintained. With this launch, it will grow to seven. SpaceX developed the Crew Dragon capsule under NASA s Commercial Crew Program, which, for the first time in the space agency s history, handed over much of the design, development and testing of new human-rated spacecraft to the private sector. NASA awarded SpaceX and Boeing fixed-price contracts worth $2.6 billion and $4.2 billion, respectively, to get the job done. Development of Boeing s Starliner spacecraft is still delayed because of major software issues detected during a test mission last year, but officials say that vehicle could be in operation next year. Because these vehicles will technically be owned by SpaceX and Boeing, with NASA serving as a customer that buys missions for astronauts, the companies will also be able to use their vehicles to fly tourists, private researchers or anyone else who can afford a $50 million-plus ticket. That decision wasn t without controversy, particularly in the Commercial Crew Program s early days. But Crew Dragon s success could be seen as a huge win for folks at NASA who hope to rely more extensively on that contracting style to help accomplish the space agency s goals.
It s been a busy week in video games, as the long-awaited next-gen consoles from Xbox and PlayStation made their way to people s homes. While many gamers reported problems getting consoles before websites sold out of them, the lucky few who managed buy a console may be looking for new games to try. So it s hardly a surprise that the "Call of Duty" and "Assassin s Creed" franchises put out new releases this week. "Assassin s Creed Valhalla," about Vikings and Norse mythology, debuted on November 10, the same day as the Xbox Series X. Three days later, "Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War," set in the 1980s, was released. "Valhalla" had twice as many active players on launch day as did Ubisoft s 2018 "Assassin s Creed" game, "Odyssey," the company said in a press release, without providing specifics. The game features a new setting in England s Dark Ages, which Ubisoft said revives "the age-old battle between Assassins and Templars the fans are familiar with." It is the 13th main game in the franchise.Michael Pachter, an analyst at Wedbush, said that relatively low competition around the holiday season will help "Assassin s Creed Valhalla" as will the game s mystical setting, which could appeal to fans of the franchise. He predicts that like previously successful "Assassin s Creed" titles, the game could sell 10 to 12 million copies, marking a solid hit for Ubisoft. "[It would be] as good as the best in their lineup," said Pachter, estimating that even the least successful titles tend to sell 7 million copies. Call of Duty s "Black Ops Cold War" received a cooler reception among fans, who didn t buzz about the game online this week as much as they did for "Valhalla." "Cold War" drops players into Ronald Reagan s America, where they are part of an elite team fighting the Vietnamese, the KGB and East German secret police. Both "Cold War" and "Valhalla" are playable on older consoles as well.Reagan himself leads the American team as it undertakes secret assignments -- and as one character in the game puts it, "every mission we go on is illegal." "Call of Duty" is Activision s (ATVI) longtime cash cow, and the franchise recently celebrated the first anniversary of its mobile game and the continuing popularity of its free battle royale game, "Warzone." It remains to be seen if "Cold War" can achieve a similar level of success. Alex Giaimo, a Jefferies analyst, predicts that "Call of Duty" could be this holiday season s hit, and estimates sales for the game will top 20 million units per year. As for "Spider-Man: Miles Morales" and "Valhalla," he added, "both titles should do extraordinarily well [but] neither has the built-in audience that Call of Duty has. "We d be shocked if they if they hit those types of level."
In India, the country with the world s second-highest number of Covid-19 cases, a handful of hospitals has started to use robots to connect patients with their loved ones, and assist healthcare workers on the frontlines of the pandemic. Bangalore-based Invento Robotics has designed three robots to carry out tasks ranging from disinfecting surfaces to answering patient questions and enabling video consultations with doctors. Of the eight the company has so far deployed, the most popular model is Mitra, which means friend in Hindi and costs around $10,000. Using facial-recognition technology, the robot can recall the names and faces of patients it has interacted with. Mitra can roam around a hospital independently, helping patients connect with family and doctors via its cameras and a video screen attached to its chest. "Mitra can be the nurse s or doctor s assistant, take readings and vitals, remind them of medications," says Balaji Viswanathan, CEO of Invento Robotics. He says the human-like robot engages with patients and gains their trust. "It may sound ironic but we are using robots to bring humanity to hospitals," he tells CNN Business. Yatharth Hospital in the city of Noida, northern India, has deployed two Mitra robots — one at its entrance to screen patients for coronavirus symptoms and the other in the intensive care unit. إعلان "Inside our ICU [Mitra] helps patients connect with their families through video stream and gives the patient s family a look inside," hospital director Kapil Tyagi tells CNN Business. "Patients get happy and positive whenever the robot visits them. They are often clicking selfies with Mitra," he says. Viswanathan says Invento uses "best in class security" for video feeds between doctors, patients and their families. For in-depth telemedicine consultations, a booth is built around the robot to give patients privacy. Coronavirus pivot Viswanathan and his wife Mahalakshmi Radhakrushnun moved to Bangalore in 2016 from Boston, USA, where Viswanathan was completing a PhD in human robot interaction and Radhakrushnan was working in manufacturing. They wanted to combine their experience to create robots that improved patient care in hospitals and care homes, but they struggled to find customers.So they started supplying banks, including India s HDFC (HDB) and Standard Chartered (SCBFF) in Qatar, with robots who could identify visitors, print passes and take customer feedback. "Two years ago, there was not much interest on the healthcare side," says Viswanathan. "When coronavirus hit, hospitals finally understood what we were talking about." India has had more than 8 million cases of coronavirus, and more than 120,000 deaths. Hospitals have struggled to cope, and Invento isn t the only robotics company that is helping out. Milagrow Robotics specializes in home cleaning robots, but has deployed five humanoid cleaning robots to Indian hospitals during the pandemic, while Kerala-based Asimov Robotics has created a robot to dispense medicine and clean up after patients. Producing robots during the pandemic has been challenging, says Viswanathan. When India went into lockdown in March, non-essential businesses closed and his company struggled to secure materials from suppliers. "There was a three to four-month delay. Manufacturing was a huge headache," he adds. But his company is starting to deliver on its mission of improving patient care. "That is where our heart is," Viswanathan says.
Fears that Beijing could tighten the screw on China s biggest tech companies have wiped hundreds of billions of dollars off their stock market value in just two days. Shares in Alibaba (BABA) and JD.com (JD) have plunged more than 10% each in Hong Kong trading since Tuesday, putting both stocks on track for their worst week ever. The plunge has wiped 756 billion Hong Kong dollars ($97 billion) off the market value of Alibaba, the e-commerce giant founded by billionaire Jack Ma. Rival JD.com has lost 201 billion Hong Kong dollars ($26 billion). Meituan Dianping, which offers services similar to Groupon and Yelp, and gaming company Tencent (TCEHY), have also shed billions of dollars in market value. All told, the four stocks have lost a combined $255 billion, based on the value of their Hong Kong shares, according to Refinitiv data.Analysts point to signs of a crackdown out of Beijing as the reason for the fear. On Tuesday, the State Administration for Market Regulations, China s top market regulator, outlined guidelines it says are intended to prevent internet monopolies. The guidelines are still in draft form. The regulator said on its website that it s soliciting public opinions on the draft until the end of this month and welcomes suggestions for revisions. But coming so soon after Beijing slammed the brakes on the huge IPO planned by Alibaba affiliate Ant Group, the draft regulations provide more evidence of a new restrictive environment for China s biggest tech companies, long promoted by Chinese officials as national champions. The regulator said that curtailing the domination of e-commerce websites and other apps would protect fair market competition and ensure healthy growth for the internet economy. "The China government is concerned about actual or possible monopolistic behavior, and the sheer size of the incumbents, either leading to unfair competition or squeezing out new players and reducing competition," said Jeffrey Halley, senior market analyst for Asia Pacific at Oanda, adding that the drafted guidelines signal a "much more vigorous regulatory environment." Halley said he expects tech stocks to remain under pressure until the scale and scope of the new regulations becomes clearer. The sell-off is also being fueled by investors switching out of the booming tech sector into stocks that more closely track the economic cycle after Pfizer s breakthrough on a Covid-19 vaccine boosted hopes of a return to more normal life, he added.Other analysts believe China s tightening regulation could affect the growth of the internet sector, especially e-commerce sites. "We believe the guidelines, if strictly enforced, could weaken the bargaining power of those big platforms in dealing with merchants," analysts from Nomura said in a research report on Tuesday. Citi analysts, meanwhile, said Alibaba and Pinduoduo (PDD) may be affected more than other e-commerce sites, since those two rely on the use of personalized and targeted product recommendations — features that could be restricted by new rules. The Chinese government has been intensifying efforts recently to exert pressure on rapidly growing internet firms. Last week, three government departments — the market regulator, the internet regulator, and the state taxation administration — called in 27 internet platforms to discuss regulating the online economy. The platforms included Alibaba, Bytedance, Tencent, Pinduoduo, Baidu (BIDU) and JD.com. The regulators warned against monopolistic behaviors and said the government would publish more regulations targeting online transactions, streaming, and other services. They said they would also launch a crackdown after the Singles Day shopping season on "illegal cases," and warned firms against inflating their sales figures and cheating customers.The Singles Day online shopping bonanza this year already appears to be on pace to break records again. Alibaba said early Wednesday morning that the annual sales frenzy has so far pulled in 372.3 billion yuan ($56.3 billion). But it s also been accompanied by official criticism. The China Consumers Association, a state-backed national consumer rights group, last week urged "rational consumption" and state-run news network CCTV called for "fewer tricks" by shopping platforms.
Even before a vaccine has been approved, Germany is doing its best to be prepared. Federal and state authorities are developing a nationwide plan for delivery and storage. The states are responsible for setting up 60 vaccinating centers around the country. The federal authorities will pay for the vaccine and the armed forces are being drafted in to help with distribution. There are also plans to establish teams of professionals to vaccinate staff and residents of institutions such as care homes. Read more: Coronavirus vaccine: EU reaches deal with Pfizer and BioNTech The most promising vaccine requires units that keep the temperature at approximately -70 degrees Celcius. That s beyond the capacity of normal refrigeration facilities used by doctors and pharmacies. And well beyond the capacity of a normal fridge. 24 hours in one of them and the vaccine is useless. The more difficult issue is who should be inoculated first. There will not be enough of the first batch to go around so the authorities will have to set priorities. German health minister Jens Spahn said it could take months for everyone to be vaccinated. Priority will go to the new vaccination centers. Then come normal doctors practices. Who s first in line? In order to decide who is first to get the vaccine, which is likely to be in relatively short supply at the beginning, the federal government put together a committee from the ethics council, the national academy of sciences, the Leopoldina, and the permanent vaccination commission at the official public health agency, the Robert-Koch-Institut. Now, this committee has recommended to the authorities that they ensure "just and orderly access." The first goal is to avoid deaths or admissions to intensive care by prioritizing people considered to be at a significantly higher risk. The next people on the list are those who care for the sick or the elderly. The authorities also want to prevent outbreaks of clusters in and around high-risk institutions such as retirement homes. The next priority is to keep public services going, such as schools, fire stations, police stations, or health offices. The president of the vaccination commission, Thomas Mertens, says it is not possible to be more specific. Not just yet, anyway. "We normally do not begin developing a vaccination strategy until a vaccine has been approved," he said in Berlin. After that, a national recommendation is issued for the individual states. Mertens says there are still not enough data about vaccine tests and too many unknown variables. Read more: Leipzig coronavirus protest triggers heated debate Science vs politics? As soon as the vaccine is approved and the logistics are in place, the work will start in earnest. Scientists are agreed that vaccination should be voluntary, a view echoed recently by Chancellor Angela Merkel. Health Minister Spahn says 55 to 65 percent of the population needs to be inoculated for the vaccine to have a widespread effect Scientists say it is the politicians job to make the vaccination program a success. They are calling for transparency, clear communication, and an "unambiguous regulation passed by parliament." The German health minister has welcomed the recommendations and called on society as a whole to have a conversation, at work, and at home, about vaccination. Spahn pointed out that, given the likelihood of an initial shortage of the vaccine, some people who want one may have to be told to wait. Explaining that is a job for politicians because it is they who decide who gets the vaccine first. Central monitoring And that s not the end of it. There is some concern about plans to store the names of all those vaccinated on a central database. When the Corona warning app was developed for Germany, centralized information was consciously avoided for reasons of data protection and protection from hackers. Now, scientists say, it is vital to be able to access data in order to adapt to possible side-effects and to help the health authorities learn more about introducing new vaccines. The bottom line is that so far a lot is unclear: We don t know when a vaccine will be approved, how much of it will be available, and how long it will take to immunize enough of the population. Until these questions are answered, a return to our old ways will be unthinkable.
Billionaire tycoon Masayoshi Son s huge bets in recent months on listed tech stocks didn t pay off. SoftBank, the Japanese conglomerate founded by Son, on Monday posted losses of 131.7 billion yen ($1.3 billion) "from investment in listed stocks and other instruments" for the six months ended in September. The Wall Street Journal and the Financial Times reported on Son s big bets in September. The Journal said that SoftBank had bought roughly $4 billion worth of options tied to underlying shares it had earlier purchased in companies such as Amazon (AMZN), Microsoft (MSFT) and Netflix (NFLX), generating an exposure of about $50 billion. Some observers called the SoftBank founder and CEO as a Nasdaq "whale" — a heavy hitter with the power to move markets on his own. Son dismissed the description on Monday, describing SoftBank s latest strategy of investing in highly liquid, blue chip companies and derivative products as "a pilot program." "When you say derivatives, it sounds very risky, but it s only 1% of the total value of our holdings," he said through a translator at the company s earnings presentation. If the investments fail, "the damage is only 1%-2% [of SoftBank s total equity holdings], so just a tiny fraction of the whole picture," he added. And Son can tout investment gains elsewhere. The Vision Fund, SoftBank s massive tech investment vehicle backed by Saudi Arabia, is back in the money again. Its investments in 83 companies, which cost $75 billion, were worth $76.4 billion at the end of September, the company said. The fund also booked gains of 141.4 billion yen ($1.4 billion) for the six months that ended in September after it sold shares in four companies and cashed out of six others, SoftBank said in a filing. The filing did not disclose which companies the fund exited. The smaller Vision Fund 2, meanwhile, posted unrealized gains on investments of 537 billion yen ($5.2 billion), and recorded another 537 billion yen ($5.2 billion) gain due to an increase in the share price of a company that went public in August.SoftBank also reported net income of 627 billion yen ($6 billion) for the July-September quarter, reversing losses of 700 billion yen ($6.8 billion) suffered in the same period last year. The latest earnings report did not disclose operating profit. SoftBank dropped the profit measure after its increasing focus on tech investments left the metric battered at times by paper revaluations. Shares in SoftBank (SFTBY SOFTBANK) closed up 5.4% in Tokyo before earnings were released, outperforming the broader Nikkei 225 (N225). Share buy backs, fueled by a roughly $40 billion fire sale in assets, have helped push SoftBank s stock to a near 20-year high, giving the company a market value of 14.8 trillion yen ($143 billion).
A 10-point plan aimed at putting the UK on track for a zero emissions economy is due to be unveiled by the prime minister in the coming weeks. Boris Johnson s previous speeches on climate change have given the impression the problem can largely be solved by technology - a flash of nuclear, a gust of hydrogen, a blast of offshore wind, a dollop of carbon capture and storage. But a government spokesperson told BBC News we ll all need to "work together and play our part". And experts warn the issue s phenomenally complicated - presenting challenges never seen before. Tackling climate change, they say, will need action right across society and the economy - with a host of new incentives, laws, rules, bans, appliance standards, taxes and institutional innovations. Let s examine a few of the issues Few of the UK s challenges are as complex or weirdly wonderful as the future electricity system, in which millions of generators and users of power will trade with each other via the internet. Already hundreds of thousands of sites are generating energy - from householders with a single rooftop solar panel to mighty Drax power station, in North Yorkshire, with its controversial wood-burners, to giant wind farms floating at sea. It s a far cry from the 1990s when power was delivered on a simple grid dominated by a few dozen coal-fired plants In the coming years, millions of people will want to sell the power they re generating on their roofs. We ll need extra electricity because cars will run on batteries, and homes will be heated by heat pumps (which run like fridges in reverse to suck out warmth from the soil or the air). They don t pollute, unlike gas boilers. Yes, electric cars will increase demand - but they ll also increase energy storage. Smart car batteries will be programmed to charge themselves when electricity s cheapest, in the middle of the night. The cars can then store the power and sell it back to the grid at a profit when it s needed, at tea time. In other words, owning a car might actually make you money. And here s another chunk of weirdness. Smart washing machines can already turn themselves on to take advantage of cheap, off-peak electricity. You ll save even more money by allowing an invisible hand to briefly switch off your well-insulated smart freezer to save power at a time of peak demand. That ll help save your energy firm generating more electricity, so you ll get paid a little for it. It s called Demand Management. But how will these millions of generators, users, avoiders and storers of power manage to trade with each other? How will electricity systems cope with this level of brain-shredding complexity? Guy Newey from the think tank Energy Systems Catapult, warns: "There are immense opportunities in our energy future. "But thinking through the unbelievable complexity is a really tough challenge - and it s not clear that anyone or any organisation in the UK has the responsibility of doing that." Rules for a zero-carbon future One thing that s crystal clear is that the UK s carbon-free future will need rules. EU standards on appliances like fridges and vacuum cleaners are an unsung energy success story. They oblige manufacturers to make goods that do a task with less energy. It means that although the price of electricity has gone up, consumer bills have fallen, because they re using less. Libby Peake, from the think-tank Green Alliance, said: "Product standards have slashed the UK s carbon footprint, and saved the average household at least £100 a year on their energy bills." But she warns that shoddy products are slipping on to the market because there aren t enough trading standards officers to enforce the rules. She says things will get worse for people shopping online during lockdown because the majority of relevant products online are labelled poorly - or not at all. Stricter standards are also needed for new homes. The previous Labour government mandated that all new houses should be zero carbon from 2016. The Conservatives pushed back the date to 2025, but they re under pressure to advance it again - a decision may be announced soon. Many architects also want the UK to follow France and stipulate that 50% of the fabric of new government buildings should be timber - to lock up carbon emissions in the wood. And cars will face new rules too: the proposed ban on the sale of petrol and diesel cars will be brought forward to the start of the 2030s - eventually heralding the end of the internal combustion engine. Financing a Net Zero future Finance is another area requiring attention. According to Vivid Economics, the government Export Credit Agency - which underwrites British-funded projects abroad - is investing £2bn in oil and gas ventures. The Climate Coalition of green groups says this doesn t fit UK priorities. Meanwhile, the UK private finance sector is one of the world s biggest funders of fossil fuels. The former Bank of England head Mark Carney has urged financiers to disclose their assets in dirty industries because they present a business risk in a low-carbon world. The Climate Coalition wants bankers to take a further step to actively shed polluting firms from their portfolios. Kate Levick from the think tank e3g told me: "There s a real urgency about this. Finance firms are financing projects today that will be contributing to emissions in 30 years time." She s calling on the government to legislate to make the transition happen. The coalition also wants the Treasury to set out a climate finance plan to show how ministers will finance the net-zero transition in the UK. While we re talking about money, the government is being urged to reconsider its priorities for expensive infrastructure projects. Some environmentalists argue that given all the concrete needed for the track and tunnels, HS2 won t be carbon neutral by 2050. They want it scrapped. HS2 says it ll save emissions in the long term, but environmentalists say it s diverting £100bn from more effective causes. There s a similar dispute about the government s £27bn road-building programme. One study - hotly contested by the Department of Transport - estimates that 80% of CO2 savings from electric cars will be negated by the planned roads. The government says it s carrying out England s largest ever boost for cyclists and pedestrians, but greens say ministers shouldn t be doing anything that undermines the battle against climate heating. They say when it comes to infrastructure, home insulation offers by far the best value for money, with the greatest number of jobs. So, finally, to us. Our government spokesperson says it "wholeheartedly" agrees with the spirit of greater citizen involvement around climate change recommended by the recent UK Citizens Assembly - a group brought together to consider how to make changes with least pain. It suggested households will need to insulate their homes, and eventually get rid of polluting gas boilers. That we should gradually eat less meat and dairy produce. It agreed that some journeys now taken by car should be done on foot or by bike - and that the sale of new petrol and diesel cars should be ended soon. And it wanted frequent fliers to have their wings clipped. But how far will the prime minister s 10-point plan spell out that people - as well as technologies - will have to change if we want to stop damaging the climate?
Owners of iPhones and iPads could soon be able to play Fortnite again, via a cloud service, the BBC has discovered. Nvidia has developed a version of its GeForce cloud gaming service that runs in the mobile web browser Safari. Apple will not get a cut of virtual items sold within the battle royale fighting title when played this way. Apple is embroiled in a legal fight with Fortnite s developer Epic, which led the iPhone-maker to remove the game from its iOS App Store. Epic has claimed that the 30% commission Apple charges on in-app gaming purchases is anti-competitive. But Apple has accused Epic of wanting a "free ride". The case is due to go to trial in May and could take years to be resolved. Papers filed in the case indicate that Fortnite had 116 million users on iOS, 73 million of whom only played it via Apple s operating system. Unlike Android, Apple does not allow games or other apps to be loaded on to its phones or tablets via app stores other than its own. But it does not restrict which third-party services can run within Safari or other web browsers available via its store. Nvidia currently offers GeForce Now for Mac, Windows, Android and Chromebook computers. It has not formally announced that it is bringing the service to iOS but is expected to do so before the winter holidays. However, it is still possible that Fortnite gets excluded from the list of games offered to Apple s devices. According to several online forums, the game was briefly removed from GeForce Now s Android service in December. A spokesman for Nvidia declined to comment. Epic also indicated it had nothing to say at this time. Game lag In theory, Apple mobile device owners will be able to play Fortnite via Nvidia s service without charge. Both the game and GeForce Now s basic tier offer free access, although Nvidia limits these sessions to one hour. It is unclear whether playing via the cloud will put players at a disadvantage. Apple removes Fortnite developer from App Store Apple fires back in Fortnite App Store battle Developer coalition takes on Apple App Store Nvidia uses remote computer servers to process the players commands and to generate graphics. Streaming the relevant data back and forth to the mobile devices introduces a very short delay. Winning or losing Fortnite s multiplayer battles can come down to split-second decisions, so lag could be a problem. but warned that there was an "occasional degradation in the video quality" and reports of "spotty connection" errors, even when tested on fast internet connections. Amazon already offers its rival Luna cloud-gaming platform to select "early access" iOS users, but does not include Fortnite in its current library of games. Google s Stadia cloud gaming service was briefly available to iOS users via an unofficial app, but it has since been removed from Apple s store and likewise did not support Fortnite. Microsoft is reportedly developing a version of its xCloud service for the mobile version of Safari, but it is not clear when it will launch.
At last, we re making headway in deciphering some of the Universe s most enigmatic signals. Scientists have managed to trace a very short, very bright burst of radio waves to a type of highly magnetised dead star, known as a magnetar. It s the first time a so-called fast radio burst, or FRB, has been pinned on a specific source. FRBs were first detected in 2007, and have been one of the hottest topics in astronomy ever since. The new discovery, reported in the journal Nature, was made by two independent radio telescope arrays in North America. Co-incident observations by other astronomical facilities - both in space and on the ground - helped characterise the event and strengthen the interpretation. The source magnetar, a known object, has the slightly unwieldy designation of SGR 1935+2154. It s about 30,000 light-years away, which is interesting because all previous FRB detections have come from beyond our Milky Way galaxy. The detected properties, however, are very much same. Luminous event The event itself occurred on 28 April this year. It lasted around a millisecond but was extremely luminous. "We were able to determine that the energy dispersed is comparable to the energies of extra-galactic fast radio bursts, and in about one millisecond, this magnetar emitted as much energy in radio waves as [our] Sun does in 30 seconds," explained Christopher Bochenek, who led the design and construction of the Stare2 radio receiver network which is spread across California and Utah. Even as far back 2007, magnetars were a prime suspect for the origin of FRBs. Magnetars are a form of neutron star - strange, compact objects in which matter has been compressed into a very small volume. It s a state some normal stars can be reduced to when they run out of fuel and collapse in on themselves. Magnetars, as the name might suggest, have intense magnetic fields - trillions of times more intense than Earth s field, for example. Theory suggests these objects can flare energy that then shocks their surroundings, which in turn drives great emissions at radio and other wavelengths. Other sources "Given the source distance, this is the most luminous radio burst ever detected in our own galaxy," said Daniele Michilli from the team operating the Chime telescope in British Columbia. "The luminosity is still lower than that of fast radio bursts (coming from outside our Milky Way), but it demonstrates that magnetars can release a huge amount of radio energy with properties like those of FRBs, implying that at least [some] FRBs are probably coming from magnetars." Bing Zhang, who works on China s new giant radio telescope, the 500m-wide Fast observatory, also sometimes called Tianyan, said other possible sources for FRBs were being investigated. These include colliding giant stars, and neutron stars that experience further collapse to become a black hole. Such phenomena might explain the class of bursts that appear to be one-off events; they seem never to be repeated. "But so far, we don t have any support for those scenarios yet," he told reporters. "If they exist, they must be very, very rare. Only a very small fraction of FRBs are allowed to be catastrophic."
After years of working in the English version of Copts United, our journey comes to an end. Yes, to everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven (Ecclesiastes 3: 1). However, we didn t wish or expect to see our lovely platform closed that soon. In the past years, we have tried to be the voice for the voiceless following the vision of the creator of this electronic newspaper Eng. Adly Abadir.