Thursday, July 2, 2020

Swine flu strain with human pandemic potential increasingly found in pigs in China

There’s a new finding that pigs in China are more and more frequently becoming infected with a strain of influenza that has the potential to jump to humans has infectious disease researchers worldwide taking serious notice. An influenza investigator from St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital says it’s a “guessing game” as to whether this strain will mutate to readily transmit between humans, which it has not done yet. When multiple strains of influenza viruses infect the same pig, they can easily swap genes, a process known as “reassortment.” The new study, published today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, focuses on an influenza virus dubbed G4. The virus is a unique blend of three lineages: one similar to strains found in European and Asian birds, the H1N1 strain that caused the 2009 pandemic, and a North American H1N1 that has genes from avian, human, and pig influenza viruses. The new study offers but a tiny glimpse into swine influenza strains in China, which has 500 million pigs. China rarely uses influenza vaccines in swine while the United States farms commonly do, but the vaccine has little effect because it’s often outdated and doesn’t match circulating strains. (Science Magazine)


3 injured when boat, humpback whale collide in Alaska waters

Three people on a recreational boat were injured, one seriously, after it collided with a humpback whale, authorities said. The collision happened just outside Auke Bay, north of Juneau, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Fisheries said in a statement. The Coast Guard relayed information to NOAA that the boat immediately returned to shore, where some family members were transported to Bartlett Regional Hospital in Juneau. A Hospital spokeswoman said three people were taken to the hospital. Two were discharged, but one was flown to a Seattle hospital. The person sent to Seattle and one person discharged were from out-of-state, and the third person was from Alaska. (Associated Press)


NASA-Designed Perfume Brings The Smell Of Outer Space To Earth

A fragrance that smells like outer space may soon be made available to the general public, years after it was developed to help astronauts get used to the smell of space. Eau de Space was developed by Steve Pearce, a chemist and the founder of Omega Ingredients. Mr Pearce was originally contracted by NASA to recreate the smell of space in 2008 as part of the space agency’s mission to eliminate any potential surprises for astronauts going to space. It took him four years to perfect the fragrance. The inspiration for the fragrance came from accounts of astronauts who described the smell of space as “a mix of gunpowder, seared steak, raspberries and rum.” The team behind Eau de Space is now seeking community support via Kickstarter to help the public get a whiff of space. (CNN)


Senators Introduce Bill to Boost US Production of Semiconductors

A bipartisan group of senators has introduced legislation aimed to boost the United States’ production and development of semiconductors—tiny chips that power everything from smartphones to missiles systems. The bill, named the “American Foundries Act of 2020,” would authorize the U.S. Commerce Department to award $15 billion in grants to states to assist in “construction, expansion, or modernization” of semiconductor plants and facilities. States would be limited to receiving no more than $3 billion in grants. It would also allocate $5 billion for the U.S. Department of Defense to provide grants for private sector entities to create, expand, or modernize their manufacturing or research facilities capable of producing “secure and specialized” chips for defense and intelligence purposes. Additional funds of $5 billion would go to research and development of semiconductors to ensure “U.S. leadership” in the industry. Of that total, $2 billion would be earmarked for the expansion of the Electronics Resurgence Initiative of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, which is a Pentagon agency responsible for the development of emerging technologies for use by the military. An additional $1.5 billion would go to the National Science Foundation, $1.25 billion to the Department of Energy, and $250 million to the National Institute of Standards and Technology. None of the funds appropriated under the bill may be provided to entities “under the foreign ownership, control, or influence” of the Chinese regime or other foreign adversaries, according to the bill text. The lawmakers seek to include the measure as part of the National Defense Authorization Act of 2021 (S.4049). (USSA News)


Reddit banned the subreddit r/The_Donald

Reddit claims the forum had repeatedly violated its terms of service by promoting hate speech and allowing targeted harassment. Reddit banned 2,000 subreddits in total as part of its purge earlier this week, including r/ChapoTrapHouse, a forum featuring content about the podcast associated with the “dirtbag left.” Amazon-owned Twitch temporarily banned the president’s account for “hateful conduct.” However, other apps are seeing an increase in downloads thanks to President Trump. Social media app Parler says its number of users increased by 50% in a week (from 1 million to 1.5 million) – mostly from Trump supporters. Parler is currently the 16th ranked app on Apple’s App Store. TikTok is No. 1, Instagram is No. 3, Facebook is No. 4, and Twitter is No. 22. (The Verge)


India has banned 59 apps developed by Chinese firms, including TikTok

The Indian government said the apps threaten “national security and defense of India” and that it had received reports that many of the apps were stealing personal data and sending it to servers outside the country. The ban comes days after a violent confrontation between Indian and Chinese troops in a highly contested border area in the Himalayas. More than 20 Indian soldiers were killed in the clash. Since then, Indian protesters have called for a boycott of Chinese products. TikTok has more than 200 million monthly active users in India. The ban also includes the Community and Video Call apps from Xiaomi, which is the top smartphone vendor in India. Chinese companies control approximately 80% of India’s smartphone market. (TechCrunch)


The EU has barred U.S. travelers, citing coronavirus concerns

Visitors traveling from countries that have seen a spike in the number of confirmed coronavirus cases, which also include Russia, Brazil, and India, will not be allowed to enter the EU. The countries that did make the list are: Algeria, Australia, Canada, Georgia, Japan, Montenegro, Morocco, New Zealand, Rwanda, Serbia, South Korea, Thailand, Tunisia and Uruguay. China will also be included on the list if it allows entry to E.U. travelers in return. The list will be reviewed every two weeks and may be updated if the coronavirus situation in other countries improves or worsens, the E.U. statement said. (NBC News)


Cinemark will start reopening some of its movie theaters on July 24.

The theaters will reopen starting with showings of “Hollywood’s favorite classic films” starting July 24, and will later start showing new movies as they’re released. Several movies have also delayed their releases amid the pandemic. “Our multi-phased reopening plan was thoughtfully designed with multiple contingencies in place that enable us to efficiently adapt to today’s ever-changing environment,” according to the Cinemark CEO in a statement. Cinemark said theaters will reopen with “greatly enhanced cleanliness, sanitizing and safety measures” in place. Theaters will also have a designated “Chief Clean and Safety Monitor” on duty to ensure safety and physical distancing standards. AMC, the world’s largest movie theater chain, has pushed back its reopening plan by two weeks with a target of opening July 30 rather than its initial plan to reopen in mid-July. (Cinemark)


Cirque du Soleil files for bankruptcy

Cirque du Soleil has filed for bankruptcy protection in Canada, with plans to file for Chapter 15 bankruptcy protection in the U.S. three months after canceling dozens of shows worldwide due to the pandemic. The Montreal-based entertainment group has been forced to lay off roughly 3,500 employees and has racked up nearly $1 billion in debt. Cirque will receive $300 million from a group of investors to support its restart, in addition to $200 million in debt financing from Investissement Quebec. (CNN)


Broadway closed for the year

Broadway shows will remain closed for the rest of the year, extending the longest shutdown in history. One of New York City’s top tourist attractions, Broadway closed on March 12 due to the pandemic. The Broadway League, the industry’s trade association, said it expects shows to start on rolling dates throughout 2021, but it was not yet ready to specify exactly when. The nation’s biggest string of theaters said it will refund or exchange tickets for shows booked through January 3rd. (Broadway League)


Banks are pulling back on lending

Consumers may have a harder time qualifying for credit cards and loans amid the pandemic, as banks pull back on lending due to increased uncertainty around who is creditworthy. The crisis has pushed millions of Americans into deferment or other pandemic relief programs — and many missed payments aren’t being reflected in credit scores. Lenders are seeking new data to better assess consumers applying for loans. Meanwhile, roughly 39% of domestic banks say they’ve already tightened credit requirements, according to the Federal Reserve. (The Wall Street Journal)


The Supreme Court ruled that states must allow religious schools to participate in aid programs for private schools

The decision was a victory for conservatives and opens the door to more public funding of religious education. Chief Justice John Roberts wrote the majority opinion in the 5-to-4 ruling, saying that a “no-aid provision” in the Montana constitution violates the First Amendment. Thirty-eight other states have similar amendments. The ruling could make it easier for religious schools nationwide to obtain public funds. “The Montana Constitution discriminates based on religious status,'” Roberts wrote. “Montana’s no-aid provision bars religious schools from public benefits solely because of the religious character of the schools. A State need not subsidize private education, but once a State decides to do so, it cannot disqualify some private schools solely because they are religious,” he said. (ABC News)


A judge temporarily blocked publication of a tell-all book by President Trump’s niece scheduled for release July 28

The temporary restraining order prevents the release of the 240-page book until at least a July 10 court hearing that will see Mary Trump and her publisher, Simon & Schuster, defend its publication. The president’s brother, Robert Trump, had initially asked a court in Queens to issue the temporary restraining order, which was rejected. He said Mary was violating a non-disclosure agreement she signed in 2001 after the same court settled a contentious fight over the estate of real estate tycoon Fred Trump, the father of Donald and Robert and of Mary’s father Fred Trump Jr, who died in 1981. (Yahoo News)


Thursday Breaks Away With:

  • Anisette Day
  • I Forgot Day
  • Made In The USA Day
  • World UFO Day

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