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In ERs overwhelmed by COVID-19, here’s who might get treated—and who might not

Ars Technica - March 27, 2020 - 12:00am

Enlarge / NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 20: Doctors test hospital staff with flu-like symptoms for COVID-19 at St. Barnabas hospital on March 20, 2020, in New York City. St. Barnabas hospital in the Bronx set up tents to triage possible COVID-19 patients outside before they enter the main Emergency department area. (credit: Getty | Mischa Friedman)

The new coronavirus doesn’t just kill by storming lungs and other organs. It also kills by besieging health care systems.

If left to swirl in a community unchecked for a few weeks, the virus can whip up a tsunami of cases that crash into urgent care clinics, emergency departments, and intensive care units, quickly washing out beds, supplies, and staff.

In such a crisis, doctors must make heart-wrenching decisions about which patients get the last beds and which get scarce ventilators and respiratory therapists. At the same time, they’re likely facing shortages of personal protective equipment (PPE), such as masks and gowns. Rationing and reusing such items leads to more nurses and doctors getting sick. That means fewer health care workers to wade through the flood of patients. Some may even join their patients in needing critical care.

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States, feds try to end scourge of coronavirus price-gouging

Ars Technica - March 26, 2020 - 10:18pm

Enlarge (credit: Anton Petrus | Getty Images)

As the nation and the world reel from the COVID-19 pandemic, many goods are in short supply and high demand. That basic economic formula means prices are going up—way up. Among the nation's largest digital storefronts, a combination of individual sellers out to make bank and algorithmic pricing that may or may not have a basis in reality has resulted in a wave of exploitative price gouging that state and federal regulators are trying to put to a stop.

Attorneys general representing 33 US states and territories yesterday signed letters (PDF) urging online retailers to set and enforce policies banning price gouging on their platforms during this emergency.

"While we appreciate reports of the efforts made by platforms and online retailers to crack down on price gouging," the attorneys general wrote to Amazon, Craigslist, eBay, Facebook, and Walmart, "we are calling on you to do more at a time that requires national unity."

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Google sent users 40,000 warnings of nation-state hack attacks in 2019

Ars Technica - March 26, 2020 - 10:05pm

Enlarge (credit: Google)

Google’s threat analysis group, which counters targeted and government-backed hacking against the company and its users, sent account holders almost 40,000 warnings in 2019, with government officials, journalists, dissidents, and geopolitical rivals being the most targeted, team members said on Thursday.

The number of warnings declined almost 25 percent from 2018, in part because of new protections designed to curb cyberattacks on Google properties. Attackers have responded by reducing the frequency of their hack attempts and being more deliberate. The group saw an increase in phishing attacks that impersonated news outlets and journalists. In many of these cases, attackers sought to spread disinformation by attempting to seed false stories with other reporters. Other times, attackers sent several benign messages in hopes of building a rapport with a journalist or foreign policy expert. The attackers, who most frequently came from Iran and North Korea, would later follow up with an email that included a malicious attachment.

“Government-backed attackers regularly target foreign policy experts for their research, access to the organizations they work with, and connection to fellow researchers or policymakers for subsequent attacks,” Toni Gidwani, a security engineering manager in the threat analysis group, wrote in a post.

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Go behind the scenes of The Orville as series embarks on a new season

Ars Technica - March 26, 2020 - 9:33pm

Enlarge / Dr. Claire Finn (Penny Johnson Jerald) dispenses sage medical advice in this exclusive image from The Orville Season 3. (credit: Tom Constantino)

Pretty much every film and television production in Hollywood is currently on hiatus due to the coronavirus pandemic, and The Orville is no exception. But just before city- and statewide crackdowns kicked in, Ars Technica had the chance to visit the set and chat with the folks who work the behind-the-scenes magic to bring one of our favorite shows to life. We can't reveal any specific details about the forthcoming third season as the series moves from Fox to Hulu—because SPOILERS—but we can give you a spoiler-free peek behind the curtain to whet your appetite for S3, whenever it should finally air.

(NOTE: Having said that, there will be a couple of spoilers for S2 below.)

The series is set aboard the USS Orville (ECV-197), an exploratory spaceship in the service of a 25th-century interstellar alliance known as the Planetary Union. Series creator and star Seth MacFarlane (Family Guy), who plays Captain Ed Mercer, was a huge fan of Star Trek growing up, particularly The Next Generation, so it's not surprising that The Orville has embraced a similar sensibility. As I wrote in my S2 review, "This is a smart series that combines humor and witty dialogue with cutting-edge science, ethical musings, the occasional literary reference, and genuine heart."

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Gig workers handed lifeline by $2 trillion stimulus plan

Ars Technica - March 26, 2020 - 9:22pm

Enlarge / The Uber ride-sharing app is seen on a mobile phone. (credit: Jaap Arriens/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Washington has answered the increasingly desperate pleas of gig-economy executives by agreeing to include hard-up workers among the beneficiaries of the $2 trillion stimulus bill passed by the Senate on Wednesday.

If, as expected, the bill is passed by the House of Representatives on Friday and signed into law by US President Donald Trump, it will mean rideshare drivers, as well as Airbnb hosts, stand to receive unemployment compensation for the first time.

But, by successfully lobbying for gig workers to receive the same protections as other unemployed people during the coronavirus crisis, the companies risk unravelling their own arguments for not providing any kind of safety net themselves.

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Tesla plans to retool solar panel factory to make Medtronic ventilators

Ars Technica - March 26, 2020 - 8:51pm

Enlarge / Medtronic CEO Omar Ishrak. (credit: Qilai Shen/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Tesla is planning to retool its solar panel factory in Buffalo, New York, to manufacture medical ventilators, CEO Elon Musk said in a Wednesday tweet.

"Giga New York will reopen for ventilator production as soon as humanly possible," Musk tweeted. "We will do anything in our power to help the citizens of New York."

Tesla is making the ventilators in partnership with Medtronic. Medtronic CEO Omar Ishrak confirmed the relationship in a Wednesday interview with CNBC.

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How to track the coronavirus: Dashboard delivers real-time view of the deadly virus

ZDnet Blogs - March 26, 2020 - 7:32pm
The live dashboard​ pulls data from sources like the World Health Organization to show all confirmed and suspected cases of coronavirus, along with recoveries and deaths.
Categories: Opinion

Grab a GameCube-style wireless controller for your Nintendo Switch for $27

Ars Technica - March 26, 2020 - 6:48pm

Enlarge (credit: Ars Technica)

Today's Dealmaster is headed up by a deal on PowerA's Wireless GameCube-style controller for the Nintendo Switch. Normally retailing in the $37-$40 range, it's currently down to $27 on Amazon. The catch is that only the yellow Pokemon-themed variant is available at this price, but this is still the lowest price we've seen for the gamepad outside of a very brief drop to $25 during Amazon's Black Friday sale last year.

We've tested and recommended this controller as part of our guide to the best Nintendo Switch accessories. As its extremely direct name suggests, the point here is to replicate the gamepad that came standard with Nintendo's old GameCube console. For the most part, PowerA's controller does that: it has the same asymmetrical face buttons, thin handles, well-balanced weight, and crisp "C-stick" from years ago, with the Switch's menu buttons added on. This layout has been a favorite of Super Smash Bros. players in particular, and it generally serves its purpose with Super Smash Bros. UltimateBut it should also have appeal as an affordable alternative to Nintendo's Switch Pro Controller, as it's much less cramped than the Switch's stock Joy-Cons and comes with an actual d-pad.

There are some caveats worth noting, though. While the PowerA pad does support the same motion controls as the Pro Controller, it lacks any of Nintendo's HD rumble functionality. Its triggers still aren't analog, and its hard plastic chassis, while comfortable, certainly doesn't feel premium. It also runs on AA batteries instead of a rechargeable unit, though it does get roughly 30 hours of juice at a time, which is decent.

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Coronavirus: NHS uses tech giants to plan crisis response

BBC Technology News - March 26, 2020 - 6:32pm
Amazon and Microsoft are among those helping with a dashboard to model where ventilators should go.

Ford aims to resume production in less than three weeks despite pandemic

Ars Technica - March 26, 2020 - 6:24pm

Enlarge (credit: jetcityimage / Getty)

A week after Ford shuttered its North American factories over coronavirus concerns, the Detroit automaker says it is aiming to re-open some of those factories in April. Specifically, Ford plans to test the waters by operating a single shift at the Hermosillo Assembly Plant in Mexico on April 6. A week later, on April 14, Ford hopes to resume production at several US plants, including facilities in Michigan, Ohio, Missouri, and Kentucky.

Ford says it plans to introduce "additional safety measures to protect returning workers."

April 14 is one day after a sweeping "stay home" order from Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer is scheduled to expire.

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