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  • Sat, 15 Feb 2020 20:37:36 +0000

    Over 1,000 Alleged Oracle Employees Have Signed a Petition Demanding Founder Larry Ellison Cancel a Trump Fundraiser

    Oracle founder and CTO Larry Ellison‘s decision to throw a fundraiser for President Donald Trump has apparently angered some of his employees. So much so that they have allegedly set up a Change.org petition demanding he cancel the Feb. 19 event and have asked other Oracle employees to sign.

    The petition, first reported by Vox, launched on Friday and so far has over 1,000 signatures from alleged employees. (The computer technology company employs around 136,000 people worldwide).

    It asks company leadership to “[stand] up against Ellison’s damaging association with the Trump campaign” and says his support of Trump “does not affirm Oracle’s core values of diversity, inclusiveness and ethical business conduct.”

    “As Oracle employees, we must hold our leaders accountable for upholding their ethical responsibilities,” the petition, which anyone can sign, continues. “Ellison’s financial support of Donald Trump endangers the well-being of women, immigrants, communities of color, the environment, LGBTQ and trans communities, disabled people and workers everywhere.”

    Oracle did not immediately respond to TIME’s request for comment.

    Ellison is worth over $69 billion and is the fifth richest person in the U.S. according to Forbes. The Desert Sun reports that at Ellison’s upcoming fundraiser, for $100,000, guests can join a golf outing and take a photograph with the President. For $250,000, guests can also reportedly join a round table discussion.

    “It signals what I and many others have always feared,” an Oracle employee reportedly told Vox. “Culturally, Oracle is the type of place where you’ll work with many lovely people who you share common ideals with, but those ideals have to be left at the door in service of the company.” Vox reports that five current and one former employee described “bubbling frustration at Oracle on Thursday.” Some employees started a Slack channel and added the link to the petition to their email signature, according to Vox.

    The petition exhibits how the President has remained deeply unpopular in Silicon Valley, although he has continued to quietly fundraise from a select group of wealthy donors. The Wall Street Journal reports that Trump held a fundraiser in Palo Alto back in September; tickets reportedly cost up to $100,000 per couple and was held at a hidden location. Oracle CEO Safra Catz also served on Trump’s transition team, a decision that led Oracle senior executive George Polisner to resign in 2016.

  • Fri, 14 Feb 2020 22:52:20 +0000

    The Spring Cleaning Software You Need to Tidy Up Your Computer (And Keep it That Way)

    Admit it, you’ve got a ton of junk on your computer. No, not stacked on top of your computer, but on your desktop screen and in the file paths lurking below the surface, in downloaded detritus and folders long covered with pixelated dust — what does “reports-final-finalforrealthistime” even mean?
    All that clutter adds up to extra work for you by slowing down your machine’s performance and making it hard to get anything done, whether it be finding a file, clearing space, or just letting you see the picture of your adorable kid you set as your desktop background.
    Want to get on top of your files in 2020? Here’s the software you’ll need to get your machine organized, and hopefully keep it that way.

    CCleaner

    Available on: PC, Mac, Android
    Price: Free, $19.95 (one year subscription)
    CCleaner is great for dealing with the easily-accumulated clutter clogging your computer. For avid web users, CCleaner wipes data stored in browsers, including temporary files that can take up precious space, history logs that make it easy to identify you, cookies that store information like login credentials, and more.
    But that’s not all. Designed to keep every part of your PC or Mac running smoothly, CCleaner can clean up and remove low level system files responsible for crashes or errors, old logs you’ll never need or read, and lets you easily uninstall apps that could be slowing down your computer. Buying the professional version nets you access to more features, like scheduled cleanings, so you don’t have to worry about whether or not you’re overdue for one.

    Gemini 2

    Available on: Mac
    Price: $19.95 (one year subscription), $44.95 (one-time purchase)
    If you’re an avid photographer, hoarder of music, collector of memes and their variations, or just love making sure you don’t have multiple copies of files you only need one of, Gemini 2 might well be the app you need to keep duplicates at a minimum. It scans your entire Mac for similar and/or identical files, then presents them to you for perusal or disposal.
    Getting rid of duplicate files is a huge help when it comes to reorganizing, but detecting similar files — like the eighteen pictures you took of your sleeping puppy from the same angle — can really free up space, and get you to focus on the photos that really matter to you. Of course, you can always change your mind later, as Gemini 2 only gets rid of them for good once you tell it to.

    File Juggler

    Available on: PC
    Price: $40
    If you’re a Windows user with enough duplicates to make your hard drive spin (well, spin faster than usual), check out File Juggler. While there’s no circus tricks involved, File Juggler can organize your files based on preset or custom rules you can enable and disable with a click. It works with all kinds of files, and can categorize them based on nearly every aspect of their existence, including metadata.
    Its most powerful feature, though, might be how it handles documents and text. File Juggler can look inside files like PDFs for keywords and dates essential to your organizing style, filing them away accordingly.

    Hazel

    Available on: Mac
    Price: $32
    Hazel may be my favorite utilitarian application. Essentially an organizational assistant for your Mac’s files and folders, Hazel makes everything from tagging and renaming to moving, uploading, and deleting as simple — or complex — as you want it. It works by following rules you make using its menu of options, which you can apply to specific folders where your files go, or are supposed to go.
    Just assign Hazel a place to monitor (like a few folders, or your cluttered desktop) and watch it work. Its filtering tools are pretty thorough, and lets you pick and choose from various settings associated with your files. Download bank statements often? Hazel can monitor your download folder for PDFs, detect any files matching multiple factors (including name, file size, file type, and more), and drop them where you want them, keeping you organized without you lifting a finger. Put imported photos into one folder, automatically delete or archive documents, automatically tag your images with the proper names and comments.

    Onyx

    Available on: Mac
    Price: Free
    Onyx is the utility app for more advanced Mac users. It can double-check your system to see if everything is running smoothly, handles cleanup and maintenance, and can rebuild any corrupted elements should something go awry.
    Where Onyx really shines, though, is in its more granular customization options — options which should only be pursued by a more advanced tinkerer, or at least someone prepared to deal with a temporarily disabled computer should they check the wrong box. You can alter how the dock functions, how the Finder appears, customize what wallpaper you see when your Mac boots up, and more. It’s the tool every power user should have at their disposal.
  • Thu, 13 Feb 2020 20:01:58 +0000

    U.S. Brings New Charges Against Chinese Tech Giant Huawei

    (WASHINGTON) — The Justice Department has added new criminal charges against Chinese tech giant Huawei and several subsidiaries, accusing the company in a brazen scheme to steal trade secrets from competitors in America, federal prosecutors announced Thursday.

    The company also provided surveillance equipment to Iran that enabled the monitoring of protesters during 2009 anti-government demonstrations in Tehran, according to the indictment, and also sought to conceal business that it was doing in North Korea despite economic sanctions there.

    The company issued a statement Thursday evening disputing the allegations and calling them “without merit.”

    The new allegations come as the Trump administration raises national security concerns about Huawei, the world’s largest telecommunications equipment manufacturer, and aggressively lobbies Western allies to bar the company from wireless, high-speed networks.

    The superseding indictment, brought by federal prosecutors in Brooklyn, adds to the company’s legal woes in the U.S. It adds charges of racketeering conspiracy and conspiracy to steal trade secrets to an existing criminal case in that district, where the company already faces charges of lying to banks about deals that violated economic sanctions against Iran.

    Federal prosecutors in Seattle have brought a separate trade secrets theft case against the company, while Meng Wanzhou, a senior Huawei executive and the daughter of the company’s founder, is accused of making false representations to banks about Huawei’s relationship with its Iran-based affiliate. She was arrested in Vancouver , British Columbia, and has yet to be extradited to the U.S.

    The latest indictment, an update of a case first filed last year, accuses Huawei of plotting to steal the trade secrets and intellectual property of rival companies in the U.S.

    In some instances, prosecutors said, Huawei recruited former employees of rival companies in an effort to gain access to their intellectual property. The company also provided incentives to its own employees to steal from competitors by offering bonuses to those who brought in the most valuable stolen information, and it used proxies — including professors at research institutions — to steal intellectual property, prosecutors said.

    The stolen information including antenna and robot testing technology as well as user manuals for internet routers. One goal of the theft, the Justice Department said, was to allow Huawei to save on research and development costs.

    In May 2013, according to the indictment, a Huawei employee who accessed the laboratory of a company in Washington state removed a robot arm in a laptop bag. An engineer took photographs and measurements of the arm and shared them with people at Huawei before it was ultimately returned to the company, the indictment said.

    At a 2004 trade show in Chicago, a Huawei employee was found in the middle of the night in the booth of a technology company, “removing the cover from a networking device and taking photographs of the circuitry inside,” prosecutors said. The employee wore a badge that listed his employer as “Weihua,” or Huawei spelled with its syllables reversed.

    In another episode, a professor at a Chinese university entered into a contract with Huawei to develop prototype software for memory hardware, then signed a licensing agreement with a rival company that offered the professor access to its own proprietary technology, according to the indictment. The professor didn’t disclose his relationship with Huawei, prosecutors said.

    The indictment also lays out steps that the company to conceal its business dealings with Iran and North Korea, referring to both countries in internal documents by their code names.

    In a statement, Huawei called the new indictment “part of the Justice Department’s attempt to irrevocably damage Huawei’s reputation and its business for reasons related to competition rather than law enforcement.”

    “These new charges are without merit and are based largely on recycled civil disputes from last 20 years that have been previously settled, litigated and in some cases, rejected by federal judges and juries,” it said. “The government will not prevail on its charges, which we will prove to be both unfounded and unfair.”

    Trump administration officials, including Cabinet secretaries, have recently leveled national security allegations against Huawei in an effort to encourage European nations to ban the gear from next-generation cellular networks.

    Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Defense Secretary Mark Esper made the pitch to Western allies during a trip to Munich this week. Attorney General William Barr, in a speech last week, lamented what he said was China’s aspiration for economic dominance and proposed that the U.S. invest in Western competitors of Huawei.

    The administration’s national security adviser, Robert O’Brien, asserted this week that Huawei can secretly tap into communications through the networking equipment it sells globally. The company disputes that, saying it “has never and will never covertly access telecom networks, nor do we have the capability to do so.”

  • Wed, 12 Feb 2020 20:21:26 +0000

    The World’s Biggest Mobile Technology Fair Has Been Canceled Due to Coronavirus Fears

    (LONDON) — Organizers of the world’s biggest mobile technology fair are pulling the plug over worries about the viral outbreak from China.

    The annual Mobile World Congress show will no longer be held as planned in Barcelona, Spain, on Feb. 24-27.

    “Global concern regarding the coronavirus outbreak, travel concern and other circumstances, make it impossible for the GSMA to hold the event,” John Hoffman, head of the organizing body, said in a statement Wednesday.

    The decision comes after dozens of tech companies and wireless carriers dropped out, with the latest cancelations by Nokia, Vodafone, Deutsche Telekom and Britain’s BT on Wednesday. Other big names that have already dropped out include Ericsson, Nokia, Sony, Amazon, Intel and LG. The companies cited concerns for the safety of staff and visitors.

    Organizers had sought to hold out against growing pressure to cancel the annual tech extravaganza, which had been expected to draw more than 100,000 visitors from about 200 countries, including 5,000 to 6,000 from China.

    Tim Bajarin, president of consultancy Creative Strategies, said that with all the unknowns surrounding how the new virus is spread, and the fact that many companies had already pulled out, the decision to cancel was the most prudent decision for show organizers.

    “They had the ability to protect 100,000 people in one general fairground atmosphere,” he said.

    These days, most big companies hold their own product launch events anyway, as Samsung did Tuesday in San Francisco. But Bajarin said Mobile World Congress was still an opportunity for many people in the mobile industry to meet in one place.

    “It allowed for a lot of networking and business dealings, so in that context, it was a significant loss,” he said.

    The GSMA, the wireless trade body that organizes the fair, had said it was meeting regularly with global and Spanish health experts and its partners to ensure the well-being of attendees. It had already urged participants to avoid handshakes and planned to step up cleaning and disinfecting and make sure speakers don’t use the same microphone.

    Earlier Wednesday, Nokia said it had decided to withdraw “after a full assessment of the risks related to a fast-moving situation.” The company said “the health and well-being of employees was a primary focus” and that canceling its involvement was a “prudent decision.”

    The departures of Nokia and Ericsson had left China’s Huawei, a major sponsor of the fair, as the only remaining major network gear maker still planning to attend.

    Organizers were caught between risking potential backlash over public health concerns if they went ahead or facing big financial losses if they canceled, said Stephen Mears, a research analyst at Futuresource Consulting.

    Even before the cancellation, Mears said his five-person team was considering dropping out or shortening the trip as many participants they wanted to meet wouldn’t be there, including those from China, which accounts for an increasing share of the global smartphone and mobile network industry.

    “It’s becoming less and less valuable for people like us to attend if we’re not able to get meetings with the high-level executives,” he said.

    Spanish authorities tried to promote a message of calm as they scrambled to keep alive the trade show, which they say generates 473 million euros ($516 million) and more than 14,000 part-time jobs for the local economy.

    The Catalan regional health chief, Alba Vergés, said there was a “very low risk of the coronavirus” in the region of Catalonia, where Barcelona is located, and that authorities are “completely prepared to detect any cases.” Four suspected cases have all have proven negative, she said at a press briefing earlier.

    “There is no public health reason to cancel any event in Catalonia or Barcelona, including the Mobile World Congress,” Vergés said. “If the companies make their own decision, we have to respect that, but we are here to explain this from a public health perspective.”

    Dr. Mike Ryan, the World Health Organization’s emergencies chief, said before the cancellation that the show could have gone on.

    “There’s no zero risk with any mass gathering,” he said. “There’s a risk of food poisoning, injuries, buildings have collapsed. All meeting organizers have to put in place a risk-management strategy. Many of the risks can be reduced through simple measures and if an event occurs, those can also be managed.”

    Ryan added that most events “can continue if the proper measures can be applied.”

    ___

    Joseph Wilson in Barcelona, Spain, AP Technology Writer Mae Anderson in New York and AP Medical Writer Maria Cheng in London contributed to this report.

  • Wed, 12 Feb 2020 13:00:58 +0000

    Terms Like ‘OK Boomer’ Are Hard to Define. This Dictionary Is Trying To Do It Anyway

    As social media has eaten the world, novel words and phrases have started to spread at hyperloop speed. It used to take years for neologisms to filter from place to place, through vessels like letters. Now they can bubble up from subcultures and flood the zeitgeist in a period of weeks, leaving confusion and FOMO in their wake.

    Dictionaries have traditionally been much slower moving, waiting years before writing about a new word so that its meaning has time to settle and it can prove to be a lasting addition to the language. But that is changing.

    The latest example comes from Dictionary.com, which recently reorganized its site to include several silos beyond its “core” dictionary, places where its linguistic experts will rapidly respond to the culture, attempting to explain phenomena that may be fleeting or evolving. Now within Dictionary.com, there’s a pop culture dictionary. There’s an emoji dictionary. And there is a slang dictionary, which on Wednesday is welcoming new terms like “OK boomer.”

    That layered phrase exemplifies just how complex this endeavor is, a fact that is not lost on the team.

    Dictionary.com has summed up “OK boomer” as “a viral internet slang phrase used, often in a humorous or ironic manner, to call out or dismiss out-of-touch or close-minded opinions associated with the Baby Boomer generation and older people more generally.” It’s a helpful explanation for someone who is trying to figure out what this whole “OK boomer” thing is about. It took painstaking research to produce. It is also inevitably incomplete.

    There are whole think pieces dedicated to the nuances of the phrase, tussling with whether it operates as commentary on climate change or a retort to out-of-touch parents or an ageist slur or maybe all those things — and how that changed as it went from being cool to overused to cool again, in a meta way that involves early users being aware of its overuse and picking it up again in part to mock the popularity they predated. “It’s ironic and earnest and performative all at once,” says Senior Research Editor John Kelly.

    He realizes there is a risk of coming off as dictionary-splaining when they’re trying to pin down trends that may exist to separate the minority who get it from the majority who don’t. But there is also a need the company is addressing in attempting to fill the gap between the crowdsourced chaff of Urban Dictionary and painstaking definitive-ness of the Oxford English Dictionary. “We want to make sure we’re capturing terms that are in the discourse right now,” he says. “You need to be a resource when people are curious.”

    There is plenty of curiosity to go around at a time when the word “word” doesn’t even really sum up what people are doing with communication anymore. “Social media not only brings new terms to our attention but it generates a new kind of term,” Kelly says. There are hashtags. There are memes. There are internet challenges. There are “phrasal templates” and reaction comments like “big mood,” which is also among Dictionary.com’s new additions.

    The team at Dictionary.com working on encapsulating all the moments, from “Megxit” to “self-partnered,” won’t be able to get to everything. They’re a group of about 10. But the effort is an indication of how traditionally trusted resources are continuing to work to meet the culture and users where they are. Many of the finite terms Kelly’s team decides to tackle are ones that the analytics team have highlighted as things people are attempting to look up anyway.

    “It’s really kind of hard to untangle,” Kelly says, “but it’s fun to think about and we have the space to do it.”

  • Tue, 11 Feb 2020 20:03:46 +0000

    Samsung’s Trying Foldable Phones Once Again With the Galaxy Z Flip

    Hot on the heels of the poorly kept secret that was Samsung’s Galaxy S20 line of smartphones, the electronics giant revealed its newest foldable smartphone at its annual Unpacked event Tuesday. Dubbed the Galaxy Z Flip, the foldable smartphone features a clamshell design similar to the flip-phones of yore. And it’ll be available just in time for Valentine’s Day.

    “With Galaxy Z Flip’s unique foldable design and user experience, we’re redefining what a mobile device can be, and what it enables consumers to do,” said Samsung executive Dr. TM Roh of the new foldable phone, which unfolds to reveal a 6.7-inch display with a 2636 x 1080 resolution, made of Samsung’s bendable glass (dubbed Ultra Thin Glass, or UTG).

    On the front is a 1.1-inch “cover display,” providing short bits of information like time, caller ID, and text message previews. It also doubles as a viewinder, letting you take a selfie without opening the device itself. On the inside, the Galaxy Z Flip sports a hole-punch camera in the foldable display, a first for the category. It’s got an ultra-wide and wide-angle camera on its rear.

    Unlike Samsung’s previous foldable phone, the problem-plagued Galaxy Fold, the Galaxy Z Flip sports some upgrades to its folding mechanism, including features like a “fiber shield” to keep dust and debris out of the hidden hinge and away from the display.

    On stage, Samsung said the Galaxy Z Flip could fold up to 200,000 times.

    That hinge features what Samsung calls “flex mode,” which gives the Galaxy Z Flip an adjustable display similar to your laptop, letting you change the angle without worrying about the device tipping over. When propped up, the Galaxy Z Flip divides itself into two 4-inch sections depending on the app in use: the upper viewing area, and the lower interaction area.

    Samsung demonstrated by placing the phone on a table to take a selfie, and showed off a YouTube video on the top half while comments were displayed on the lower half.

    The Galaxy Z Flip isn’t cheap. More expensive than the S20 and S20+, the Galaxy Z Flip will be available February 14 for $1,380.

  • Tue, 11 Feb 2020 19:00:29 +0000

    Samsung’s New Flagship Galaxy S20 Smartphones Have 5G and Intense Cameras

    Samsung’s back with another trio of smartphones, designed to take advantage of your wireless carrier’s newfound obsession with all things 5G.

    At its annual Unpacked event, where the company shows off its upcoming smartphones meant to fill your pockets and empty your wallets, Samsung unveiled the successor to its Samsung Galaxy S10 line of smartphones: the Samsung Galaxy S20. The new line includes the S20, the S20+ and the S20 Ultra. Absurd naming convention aside, the new three phones offer both expected upgrades compared to the S10 line, as well as some impressive features based on some clever engineering. The only thing it doesn’t do is fold in half, but I suppose that’s what the company’s newly announced Galaxy Z Flip is for.

    The DNA of each S20 is largely similar, with the devices sharing the same eight-core processor, 128GB of storage and 12GB of memory.

    With its aluminum and glass construction, the S20 certainly feels like a premium device, and even solves a few design issues I had with the S10 line. Is there still a hole-punch style camera in the AMOLED display? Yes, but it’s smaller than the last one. Does the high-resolution screen still look great? Admittedly, yes. The S20 features a 6.2-inch display, the S20+ a 6.7-inch display and the S20 Ultra a 6.9-inch one. All of them have an impressive 120Hz refresh rate, making scrolling feel silky smooth, and fast-paced games look crisp despite all the action.

    The biggest updates, available on every S20, are 5G support and a vastly improved camera system (though the S20+ and S20 Ultra also support the faster 5G mmWave standard not found on the base S20). The inclusion of 5G is a hugely important one for Samsung, as the company sees the new cellular network tech as a critical component to both content consumption and creation. Still, the rollout of 5G in the U.S. has been a slow one, and available 5G-capable devices are still few and far between. Last year, Samsung’s only 5G smartphone was the Galaxy S10 5G.

    But while all three feature new hardware and software enabling some impressive camera tricks, including 8K recording, only the top-tier S20 Ultra features what may be the most in-your-face camera found on a smartphone.

    All three phones have an ultra-wide, wide-angle, and telephoto lens on the rear (the S20+ and S20 Ultra also feature depth-sensors for more functional augmented reality apps). A combination of both optical zoom paired with AI-based image enhancements (what Samsung is calling “Space Zoom”) means the S20 and S20+ can effectively zoom up to 30X.

    Instead of the 12-megapixel wide-angle lens or 64-megapixel telephoto lens on the S20 and S20+, the S20 Ultra features a 108-megapixel wide-angle lens and a 48-megapixel telephoto lens that allow for an even more ludicrous 100X zoom, made possible by a design that essentially turns the lens on its side.

    Software additions like Single Take Mode put all those cameras and processing power to good use, and capture whatever you’re recording in multiple ways and saving you the trouble of switching between modes — even if you miss your shot. All S20 models can capture up to four videos and 10 photos all at once.

     

    Product Photography - Sky Blue - Samsung Galaxy Buds+

    Other updates include an improved user interface Samsung calls “One UI 2,” and support for Google Duo’s video chat service built into the phone dialer app.

    Alongside the new line of smartphones, Samsung is also launching an updated version of its Galaxy Buds, aptly named the Galaxy Buds+, for $149. The wireless earbuds, available for pre-order feature three microphones for improved call quality, and come in four colors.

    You can preorder any of the three Galaxy S20 smartphones on Feb. 21, or walk into your wireless carrier of choice to purchase one on March 6. The S20 starts at a cool $999.99, a hundred bucks more than the S10 when it was introduced last year. The larger S20+ will retail for $1199.99. Got a few extra hundreds burning a hole in your pocket? The camera-packed Galaxy S20 Ultra is the one you’ll want to pick up for $1,399.99. Both the S20+ and S20 Ultra are also available in 512GB versions, with the latter also featuring a 16GB RAM option.

  • Tue, 11 Feb 2020 14:53:01 +0000

    T-Mobile’s $26.5 Billion Sprint Merger Approved Despite Competition Concerns

    T-Mobile US Inc. won court approval for its $26.5 billion takeover of Sprint Corp., defeating a state-led lawsuit that sought to block the industry-altering wireless deal.

    The decision by a district judge in Manhattan is a huge win for T-Mobile and its owner Deutsche Telekom AG, as well as SoftBank Group Corp., Sprint’s parent. The combined company, which will operate under the T-Mobile name, will have a regular monthly subscriber base of about 80 million — in the same league as AT&T Inc., which has 75 million subscribers, and Verizon Communications Inc., which has 114 million.

    After the merger, T-Mobile will have more spectrum — the frequencies through which wireless signals are transmitted — than any other carrier. This larger capacity will give the combined company an advantage as the industry transitions to the next generation of wireless technology, the much-faster 5G standard.

    The ruling comes almost two years after the deal was first announced. The states’ lawsuit was the last major hurdle to the deal after it secured the blessing of regulators at the Federal Communications Commission and Justice Department’s antitrust division. It still needs approvals from California’s utility board and a federal judge in Washington who must sign off on the Justice Department settlement.

    Deutsche Telekom shares rose as much as 3.6% to 15.40 euros in Frankfurt. Shares of Sprint soared 66% to $7.95 in pre-market trading in New York after closing at $4.80 Monday in New York. T-Mobile extended gains to as much as 8.4% to $91.88.

    The ruling is also a victory for Dish Network Corp. co-founder and Chairman Charlie Ergen, who is buying assets from the two carriers to set up a new wireless network. With his company’s core satellite TV business in decline, Ergen has amassed a trove of airwaves to build a state-of-the-art network.

    Concessions

    To win federal approval, T-Mobile and Sprint had agreed to sell multiple assets to Dish in order to create a new fourth competitor. The new Dish wireless network will start life with about 9 million subscribers.

    T-Mobile and Sprint haven’t renewed the merger agreement since it lapsed on Nov. 1. And while there have been “not hostile” discussions of several issues, including price, T-Mobile has suggested there could be new terms.

    T-Mobile Chief Executive Officer John Legere said last week he was still optimistic that the deal would go through, though the terms could change. If the agreement needs to be amended, “including possibly price, we would handle that very swiftly after the deal was approved,” he said.

    As far as negotiation leverage goes, Sprint’s in a tough spot, said Walt Piecyk, an analyst with LightShed Partners. “Sprint has no alternative but to take whatever DT and T-Mobile offers them,” he said. “There’s really nothing else they can do.”

    T-Mobile and Sprint had been the most aggressive U.S. wireless companies in terms of price competition in recent years, forcing AT&T and Verizon to follow moves like ending service contracts and adopting unlimited data plans. The proposed combination came under fire from lawmakers and consumer advocates who said it would lead to higher prices and fewer services, especially for poor and rural consumers.

    The companies had pursued a combination for several years, but a proposed deal was twice rejected as anti-competitive under the previous administration. After the FCC approved the deal, the all-Democratic group of attorneys general filed suit. The Justice Department then gave its approval, leading to a rare split between states and the federal government over antitrust enforcement.

    “This is exactly the sort of consumer-harming, job-killing mega-merger our antitrust laws were designed to prevent,” New York Attorney General Letitia James said at the time.

    Tackling Concerns

    Legere tried to address these concerns by promising to not raise prices for three years. He is credited with helping to remake T-Mobile into an industry maverick, and pitched the Sprint takeover as a way to compete against industry leaders Verizon and AT&T.

    Legere announced in November that he will be handing off the job to Chief Operating Officer Mike Sievert in May, but plans to remain on the combined company’s board.

    One of their central pitches was that the deal would advance the introduction of 5G. The companies pledged to FCC Chairman Ajit Pai in May that they would deploy a 5G network covering 97% of the U.S. population within three years and 99% within six.

    (Updates share prices in fifth paragraph)

    — With assistance from Stefan Nicola, Chris Dolmetsch and Courtney Dentch.

  • Tue, 11 Feb 2020 13:45:01 +0000

    Coronavirus Researchers Are Using High-Tech Methods to Predict Where the Virus Might Go Next

    As the deadly 2019-nCov coronavirus spreads, raising fears of a worldwide pandemic, researchers and startups are using artificial intelligence and other technologies to predict where the virus might appear next — and even potentially sound the alarm before other new, potentially threatening viruses become public health crises.

    “What we’re doing currently with Coronavirus is really trying to get an understanding of what’s happening on the ground through as many sources as we can get our hands on,” says John Brownstein, chief innovation officer at Boston Children’s Hospital and a professor at Harvard Medical School. After SARS killed 774 people around the world in the mid-2000s, his team built a tool called Healthmap, which scrapes information about new outbreaks from online news reports, chatrooms and more. Healthmap then organizes that previously disparate data, generating visualizations that show how and where communicable diseases like the coronavirus are spreading. Healthmap’s output supplements more traditional data-gathering techniques used by organizations like the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO). The project’s data is being used by clinicians, researchers and governments.

    As of early February, Healthmap’s 2019-nCov data visualization shows China covered with colored dots. Yellow means fewer than 10 cases have been reported in a particular location, with darker shades of orange indicating higher concentrations of infections. Red means more than 50 people have been sickened. Across the country, smaller cities appear as swarms of yellow, while Hubei province, the center of the current outbreak of the novel coronavirus, is covered in red. More yellow dots mark cities around the world — Tokyo, Chicago, Paris — where the virus has made landfall.

    Healthmap’s data visualization of 2019-nCoV’s spread in China and east Asia as of February 10, 2020

    It was just a different way to view what was taking place,” says Brownstein. “And in fact what ended up happening is government agencies started recognizing the value of this sort of intelligence gathering online.” Healthmap is now being used as a data source in the Early Alerting and Reporting project, an international collaboration among public health institutions, including the CDC, that aims to quickly detect biological threats around the world. It’s also used in the WHO’s Epidemic Intelligence from Open Sources initiative, which is intended to rapidly pick up on possible public health threats.

    Other technological virus-fighting initiatives have gone further than simply tracking existing outbreaks. BlueDot, a Toronto-based health surveillance company launched in 2014, gathers disease data from myriad online sources, then uses airline flight information to make predictions about where infectious diseases may appear next (air routes, after all, are a common disease vector). Dr. Kamran Khan, BlueDot’s founder and CEO and an infectious disease physician, says this sort of predictive technology is essential both for other companies, like airlines, and for healthcare workers in hospitals, who may be the first to interact with potentially infectious patients. “If a traveler … comes from an area where there’s an outbreak occurring, they’re not going to go to the public health agency’s office; they’re going to go to the emergency department,” says Dr. Khan. “Does the clinician on the front line know how to recognize something that maybe they’ve never seen before?”

    Some researchers, meanwhile, aim to identify potentially novel viruses before they even make the jump from animals to humans. The Global Virome Project (GVP), a proposed research endeavor that would build on a previous proof-of-concept project, intends to develop a genetic and ecological database of the vast majority of viruses in animal populations that have the potential to infect humans. Some scientists argue that mapping the human virome (the broad group of viruses that infect humans or live inside our bodies) is a “key priority” in health research. Now researchers say that the decade-long GVP collection effort will enable the development of new vaccines, drugs and other preventative measures before the next outbreak occurs. The enormous amounts of data they collect on viruses worldwide could also be used to train AI algorithms to predict which viruses in animals are more likely to be transferred to human populations.

    “We can’t look in just a few species and just a few sites,” says Jonna Mazet, a professor of disease ecology at the University of California Davis and a GVP board member. “We need to really understand [if] it is possible to understand all of the … viral diversity that’s out there in advance.” It’s a huge undertaking. The forerunner of the GVP, USAID’s PREDICT project, had $200 million in funding. Researchers want several times that amount for the GVP; some countries have already begun self-funding the project in piecemeal.

    Each of these efforts has its skeptics. Epidemiologists have long used techniques like natural language processing and analyzing airline routes, says Nita Bharti, an assistant professor of biology at Penn State University’s Center for Infectious Disease Dynamics. She argues that such methods have their limits, particularly when it comes to accounting for poorer areas of the world that may be generating less online data. “There are some blind spots and some really underrepresented populations when you’re aggregating across data that tend to represent either well-resourced or wealthy parts of all populations,” she says.

    Meanwhile, understanding a virus doesn’t necessarily mean we’ll be able to stop it from spreading — Ebola was known for decades before an outbreak killed more than 11,000 people in western Africa between 2014 and 2016. “It could be interesting to catalogue all the viruses, more than useful,” says Bharti of programs like the GVP. “I don’t really see how it would be applied to a global health response, or how it could necessarily inform prediction.” That program’s projected $1.2 billion price tag is also raising some eyebrows in the cash-strapped world of infectious disease research. “We just need to address the diseases we already know about,” says Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota.

    But advocates of these cutting-edge efforts argue that it’s wiser to prevent outbreaks in the first place rather than fighting them after they start. Researchers tend “to jump on to the last virus found and chase it, and we’ve done that over and over again” says Mazet. “It’s time to change that paradigm.”

  • Mon, 10 Feb 2020 18:57:09 +0000

    A Physical Therapist Explains How to Fix Taika Waititi’s Apple Keyboard Woes

    At the 2020 Academy Awards, director Taika Waititi won “Best Adapted Screenplay” for his satirical film Jojo Rabbit, and took the stage to claim his first Oscar. “I dedicate this to all the indigenous kids in the world who want to do art and dance and write stories,” Waititi said, making history as the first person of Māori descent to win the award. “We are the original storytellers, and we can make it here as well.” Waititi ended his speech with a traditional Maori-language phrase expressing goodwill. “Thank you, kia ora.”

    But the Oscar winner and Thor: Ragnarok director had a few more choice words to share after his acceptance speech, aimed at the tools on which he created the award-winning screenplay. When asked by Deadline about what writers should be discussing in the upcoming Writer’s Guild of America negotiations, Waititi launched into a humorous rant about what might be considered the most important tool in a writer’s arsenal.

    “Apple needs to fix those keyboards,” Waititi responded. “They are impossible to write on. They’ve gotten worse. It makes me want to go back to PCs.”

    Waititi continued: “On PC keyboards, the bounce back of your fingers is way better.”

    Apple’s latest MacBook keyboards, which use a “butterfly” typing mechanism underneath the keys that reduces the millimeters-short distance traversed when a user presses down, have been derided since their introduction in 2015. Users’ complaints have ranged from a dissatisfying typing experience to unresponsive or duplicating keys, according to articles outlining the issue. Two class action lawsuits have even been filed against the company for its “constant threat of nonresponsive keys and accompanying keyboard failure.”

    Waititi went on to take an informal poll from the crowd of reporters. “Hands up if you still use a PC,” he said. “You know what I’m talking about. It’s a way better keyboard. Those Apple keyboards are horrendous. Especially as the laptops get newer and newer … the keyboards are worse.”

    The director even cited some physical ailments he believed to be exacerbated by the poor typing experience. “And I’ve got some shoulder problems, [Occupational Overuse Syndrome] — I don’t know what you call it here — which is in that tendon that goes from your forearm to your thumb. You know what I’m talking about,” said Waititi, who then pantomimed typing with cramped hands and hunched shoulders. “When you’re writing … you’re like this. We’ve just got to fix those keyboards, and WGA needs to step in and do something.”

    Apple has since revised its keyboard design, though the improved Magic Keyboard is currently available only in its $2,399 16-inch MacBook Pro, released in 2019. TIME has reached out to Apple for comment.

    While Waititi’s complaint may have been couched in some lighthearted humor, the problem plaguing Apple’s MacBook keyboards as of late has driven many to commiserate with the director, and raises the issue of ergonomics when writing. Occupational Overuse Syndrome, also known as Repetitive Strain Injury, is caused by prolonged muscle contractions, often due to maintaining the same position for long periods of time. It can lead to tremors, inflamed muscles, and difficulty performing other tasks, like grabbing objects.

    “In the last 10 years there have been more and more studies going against the teaching of patients to sit in one exact position like we used to,” says Marianne Ryan PT, a Manhattan-based physical therapist and author of Baby Bod. “The best thing is to have more than one position to be in while sitting for a long period of time.”

    The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recommends that people who use computers on a daily basis maintain a proper ergonomic setup — difficult advice to follow if you’re typing on a laptop with no additional accessories. According to OSHA, musculoskeletal disorders, like those caused by repetitive motion, cost the U.S. an estimated $15 to $20 billion in lost work time and medical claims each year.

    “When I wrote my book … I actually had two different laptops that I worked on so I was changing my position and switching what I was doing,” says Ryan, who used a Bluetooth keyboard on a desk she found too uncomfortable to use when writing on her laptop.

    For those dealing with muscle pain similar to Waititi’s self-described ailment, Ryan suggests elevating your laptop’s screen with a platform, and pairing it with a Bluetooth keyboard that allows for more freedom of movement and flexibility when repositioning yourself.

    While expensive ergonomic keyboards with curved or two-piece designs are also an option, constant use and repetitive actions may still result in strain on the muscles, causing pain. “If he thinks the keyboard is doing it, he might need to get more than one to switch around,” says Ryan. For her patients, she also suggests a series of stretching and strengthening exercises to mitigate the damage done by repetitive actions. “If you’re bending your wrist for periods of time, you should do the opposite with stretching,” says Ryan. “So if you’re bending your wrist down towards the keyboard, what you need to do is take your fingers, bend your whole entire wrist, bending that backwards.”

    Ryan also suggests seated back extensions, done by placing your hands behind your neck, spreading your arms wide, and bending backwards in your chair. “So whatever you’re doing for long periods of time, try to do the opposite as your prescribed exercise to break up the excess overuse.”


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