Friday, March 27, 2020

Facebook has seen a surge in usage due to coronavirus

In a blog post, the Facebook analytics VP and engineering VP said that messaging across Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp in hard-hit countries has increased by more than 50 percent. In those areas, video calling on Messenger and WhatsApp has more than doubled, they said. “The usage growth from COVID-19 is unprecedented across the industry, and we are experiencing new records in usage almost every day,” they wrote. However, they said that maintaining the system stable has been challenging in recent days since most of the company’s 45,000 employees are working remotely. Facebook said that the increase in activity won’t lead to higher revenues because it does not monetize its communication tools. (The Verge)


According to a new study of 101 mammal species, females live substantially longer than males

To reach that conclusion, researchers compiled data from other studies that looked at the mortality rates of 134 populations and 101 species, including lions, orcas, reindeer, sheep and elephants. On average, the lifespans of the female members of the species were 18.6 percent higher than the lifespans of their male counterparts. It is not clear why, but the authors said that it could be due to “complex interactions between the local environmental conditions and sex-specific costs of reproduction.” As for humans, women live, on average, 7.8 percent longer than men. (PNAS)


The coronavirus is hitting American Indians and Alaska Natives hard

Tribal citizens are dying, Indian nations have closed casinos to protect the public, and powwows and traditional gatherings have been canceled. Among the crucial statistics that indicate how dire conditions are for American Indians and Alaska Natives: Indian Health Service hospitals have only 625 beds nationwide, with six intensive care unit beds and 10 ventilators to serve more than 2.5 million American Indians and Alaska Natives from 574 tribes. Some tribes provide additional health services in their communities, but these programs only supply another 772 beds. That’s only 1,397 for 2.5 million people. Governments at all levels have struggled to respond to the coronavirus pandemic as it spreads across the United States. (The Conversation)


Some companies have decided to shift production anyway

Taking a cue from European businesses like French luxury giant LVMH (which is shifting production from perfume to hand sanitizer), several big US business have begun to produce medical supplies: 

  • Tito’s Vodka, Anheuser Busch, Dogfish Head, and other beverage businesses are using their vodka- and beer-making equipment to brew up hand sanitizer. (The Wall Street Journal)
  • Ford is repurposing its auto-making infrastructure to produce ventilators and medical face shields. (Tech Crunch)
  • Hanes is adapting textile infrastructure that normally cranks out cotton undies to manufacture 1.5m masks a week. (Today)
  • Lyft is using its massive fleet of ride-share vehicles to deliver medical supplies. (Lyft)
  • The swimwear startup called Summersalt is using its customer-service channels to provide emotional support. (Fast Company)
  •  A Seattle bakery called Piroshky Piroshky launched a local restaurant delivery platform called Catch22Delivery. (Geek Wire)
  • Hedley and Bennett, which normally makes premium chef aprons, started stitching fabric face masks. (Hedley And Bennett)
  • An Oregon strip club called the Lucky Devil Lounge (that’s shut down due to social distancing) launched a food delivery service called “Boober Eats”. (Oregon Live)


Man arrested after licking Walmart products in Missouri

A man in Missouri was arrested after licking a row of products on a Walmart shelf and filming it, then posting it to social media. Before licking the items he said, “Who’s scared of the coronavirus?” The video also has text on it that reads, “I’m a nasty moths ******!!!” The Warrenton Police Department on Monday released a statement on Facebook saying the video gained international attention. Local authorities said they received reports about the video from people as far away as the Netherlands, Ireland, and the United Kingdom. The 26-year-old man was charged with “making a terrorist threat.” The video appears to have been first posted to Snapchat before being shared on Twitter. The video was also posted to Pfister’s TikTok account. “We take these complaints very seriously and would like to thank all of those who reported the video so the issue could be addressed,” the Warrenton Police Department said in a statement. (Riverfront Times)


The U.S. population is growing at its slowest rate since 1919, according to government data

The figures, compiled long before the coronavirus pandemic, show the country close to an overall decline. The figures, released by the Census Bureau and analyzed by demographers, were for the 12 months that ended in July 2019, long before the coronavirus began to spread in the United States. Experts said that if one of the more dire projections of coronavirus-related deaths holds true, the country could face its first yearly drop in population, particularly if immigration continues to fall, in which the three forces that make up a country’s population growth (births, deaths and immigration) have all gone off-kilter. Other results have shown:

  • A sharp and steady decline in the birthrate since the Great Recession means births are no longer such a powerful driver of growth. Births fell to 3.79 million in the year ending in July 2019, while deaths jumped to 2.83 million.
  • Immigration, which would typically pick up the slack, is down sharply too.
  • And deaths are rising as baby boomers age and drug overdoses surge. Now there is the added threat of the coronavirus, which is particularly lethal for older people.
  • The natural growth of the population is now less than 1 million for the first time in decades. When combined with immigration, which fell to a net gain of 595,348 people (down by nearly half since 2016) the United States had a population increase of just 0.48 percent. (The New York Times)


The number of coronavirus cases is closing in on half a million worldwide

More than 472,000 have been sickened and 21,000 have died from the virus, and the areas most deeply in crisis keep shifting. Spain now has more coronavirus deaths than China, second only to Italy. Japan and New Zealand have recorded their largest single-day spikes in diagnoses. Coronavirus has also reached the UK’s royal family, which announced that 71-year-old Prince Charles, next in line to the throne, has tested positive. In the US, an epidemiologist says virus deaths could reach their peak in three weeks. The American epicenter of the outbreak is New York City, where the number cases is doubling about every three days. US Defense Secretary Mark Esper has ordered a 60-day freeze on all troop movements overseas to prevent the spread of the virus. (CNN)


A record 3.3 million Americans filed for unemployment benefits for the first time last week

A number far above the levels seen during the depths of the Great Recession. The Labor Department’s report was one of the first official indicators of how many people have suddenly been forced out of work nationally. According to the labor department, the number of new jobless claims filed by individuals seeking unemployment benefits rose by more than 3 million to 3.28 million from 281,000 the previous week. The figure is the highest ever reported, beating the previous record of 695,000 claims filed the week ending October 2, 1982. The release offers the first official glimpse of the severe economic downturn that the US faces as companies shutter businesses and states across the country move to prevent people from gathering in crowds in an attempt to contain the virus. Nearly every state cited the impact of Covid-19, the labor department said. Service industries broadly, particularly accommodation and food services, were hard hit although states also cited healthcare and social assistance, arts, entertainment and recreation, transportation and warehousing, and manufacturing industries. (The Guardian)


Lining up for corona cash, but who’ll get what?

This week, Subway and Mattress Firm announced plans to stop paying rent in the coming months due to corona-closures. Millions of workers who recently lost their restaurant and retail jobs would ALSO love to cancel their rent… but they’re even less likely to get away with it. It’s clear that businesses and employees are hurting. In this uncertain time, they’re turning to the same place for relief and the Senate approved a $2T stimulus bill. In total, the new stimulus package is more than twice as much as Congress coughed up after the 2008 financial crisis. 

Here’s how the corona-cash is expected to be divvied up:

1. Individuals and families will get $301B in direct assistance:

  • Individuals who earn <$75k/year will get a $1.2k check.
  • Families will receive an additional $500 per child. 
  • Assistance decreases for people who earn >$75k/year and stops for those who earn $99k+.

2. $350B in loans are earmarked for small businesses:

  • They’ll be available through June 30, and forgiven for businesses that keep paying their employees.
  • Companies with greater than 500 employees can access loans of up to $10m to pay their staff, but many small businesses say they’re already running into problems getting financial assistance, and say they could go under before the new rescue money is doled out.

3. Unemployed workers will get $250B in benefits:

  • Unemployment assistance will increase by $600 for the next 4 months.
  • Benefits will extend for an additional 13 weeks and will apply to non-traditional employees like gig workers.

4. $500B in loans and other aid will be set aside for corporations, states, and local governments:

  • $454B of the money will be available through a fund controlled by the Federal Reserve.
  • The rest will be set aside for specific industries (including $29B for passenger and cargo airlines).

State and local governments will get $150B. When news of the deal broke yesterday, the Dow Jones rose more than 11%. However, critics still worry it’s not enough. The House is expected to vote on the measure on today. (USA Today)


Coronavirus Updates:

  • There are nearly 70,000 confirmed coronavirus cases in the U.S. The death toll has reached 1,054. (UPI)
  • There are signs that restrictions on social gatherings are slowing the spread of coronavirus in New York, but more needs to be done, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said. Official estimates indicate that the number of hospitalizations for the virus is growing rapidly, but at a much slower rate than a few days ago. The state of New York now has 30,800 cases and a death toll of 285. (ABC 17 News)
  • According to a scientific study, Louisiana is experiencing the fastest growth in cases in the world. New Orleans reported over 827 confirmed cases. (AJC)
  • Alaska has asked all people arriving in the state to self-quarantine for 14 days. (Anchorage Daily News)
  • According to the latest data, coronavirus has infected nearly 500,000 million people worldwide and has killed over 22,000. (The Herald Dispatch)
  • The U.S., Japan, Singapore, New Zealand, Malaysia and Russia registered the largest daily rise in the number of cases. (NASDAQ)
  • In Italy, the death toll rose over 683. The rate of new infections in the Mediterranean country has slowed down for four consecutive days. (Yahoo)
  • There have been no new infections in China for two days running. However, the number of imported cases is increasing. (Malay Mail)
  • The leaders of Mexico and Brazil have resisted calls to introduce nationwide social restrictions to fight the virus. Jair Bolsonaro of Brazil and his Mexican counterpart, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, fear that such measures will hurt their countries’ economies. (US News)


Coronavirus has forced Russia to postpone a vote that could allow President Vladimir Putin to stay in power until 2036

In a speech, Russian President Vladimir Putin said that the government had decided to postpone the referendum to protect “the health, life and safety of the people.” Putin has led Russia for nearly two decades but presidential limits bar him from running for office again after his current term ends in 2024. The constitutional amendment that will be put up for a vote could allow the 67-year-old to run for two more terms. Russia has so far reported 840 coronavirus cases, but authorities fear that more people will get infected, in part because the virus is spreading rapidly in neighboring countries. (Bloomberg News)


Australia’s Great Barrier Reef (GBR) has suffered another mass bleaching event

Scientists think that climate change is to blame for these events because warmer waters stress corals, prompting them to expel the algae that live inside them and gives them color. Bleaching events make coral reefs, which are home to diverse marine ecosystems, more vulnerable to disease and recovering from one can take decades. Similar mass bleaching events hit the GBR in 2016 and 2017. (BBC)


Finally Feelgood Friday Is Back With:

  • Celebrate Exchange Day
  • National Scribble Day
  • Quirky Country Music Song Titles Day
  • Viagra Day
  • World Theatre Day

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