CDC warns highly transmissible coronavirus variant to become dominant in U.S. #SootinClaimon.Com

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CDC warns highly transmissible coronavirus variant to become dominant in U.S.

Health & BeautyJan 17. 2021

By The Washington Post · Joel Achenbach

The highly contagious variant of the coronavirus first seen in the United Kingdom will become the dominant strain in the United States within about two months, its rapid spread heightening the urgency of getting people vaccinated, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention predicted Friday in its most sobering warning yet about mutations in the virus.

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In every scenario explored by the CDC, the U.K. strain, which British researchers estimate is roughly 50% more transmissible than the more common coronavirus strain, will account for a majority of cases in the United States by some point in March.

The CDC released modeling data to back up its forecast showing a rapid spike in infections linked to the U.K. strain. The agency said the emergence of these mutation-laden variants requires greater efforts to limit viral spread – immediately, even before the U.K. variant becomes commonplace.

So far, no variant is known to cause more severe illness, although more infections would inevitably mean a higher death toll overall, as the CDC made clear in an informational graphic released Friday: “MORE SPREAD – MORE CASES – MORE DEATHS,” it said.

The CDC report “speaks to the urgency of getting vaccines out. It’s now a race against the virus,” said William Hanage, an epidemiologist at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

Scientists both in and out of government have stressed the need for the public to stick to proven methods of limiting viral spread, such as wearing a mask, social distancing, avoiding crowds and having good hand hygiene.

“We know what works and what to do,” Jay Butler, the CDC deputy director for infectious diseases, said Friday.

The emergence of highly contagious variants has grabbed the full attention of scientists, who in recent weeks have warned that these mutations require closer surveillance. The CDC and its partners in private and academic laboratories are ramping up genomic sequencing efforts to gain better awareness of what is already circulating. Experts think there could be many variants containing mutations worth a closer look.

“This is a situation of concern. We are increasing our surveillance of emerging variants. This virus sometimes surprises us,” Butler said.

Mutations could limit the efficacy of vaccines or therapeutic drugs such as monoclonal antibodies. Scientists believe vaccines will probably remain effective because they produce a robust immune system response, but such reassurances have been paired with cautionary notes about how much remains unknown.

The coronavirus mutations are not unexpected, because all viruses mutate. There are now several “variants of concern” receiving scrutiny, including ones identified first in South Africa and Brazil, and U.S. officials have said genomic surveillance is still ramping up here and that there may be other variants in circulation, not yet identified, that are enhancing transmission.

“We’re going forward with the assumption that these three variants that we know about now are not going to be the only variants that emerge that are of concern to us,” Greg Armstrong, head of the CDC’s strain surveillance program, said Friday.

The CDC model suggests that the level of pain and suffering in late March, when the new variant is forecast to be dominant, depends on actions taken today to try to drive down infection rates.

The emergence in recent weeks of mutation-laden variants has alarmed the CDC and the scientific community. Because the threshold for herd immunity depends in part on how infectious a virus is, the emergence of a more transmissible strain can prolong efforts to crush a pandemic.

There has been particular scientific focus on the United Kingdom variant, known as B.1.1.7, which has been spreading with stunning speed in Britain, Denmark and Ireland and has been identified in dozens of countries. The United Kingdom conducts extensive genomic sequencing, and first detected the variant, which has 17 mutations, in September. But it was not flagged as a “variant of concern” until December, when it began circulating at explosive rates and quickly became dominant among the coronavirus infections in southern England.

Scientists say B.1.1.7 has mutations in the “receptor binding domain” of the virus, and this may be enhancing the ability of the virus to bind with cells in the human body. There is evidence it leads to higher viral loads, which in turn could boost the amount of virus that a person is shedding, or prolong the period in which someone can transmit the virus.

None of these mutations appears to change the basic mechanics of infection, and people should stick with common-sense measures to limit viral spread, said James Cutrell, an infectious-diseases physician at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas.

“The same things that worked to protect you from this virus are going to work for these new variants as well,” Cutrell said.

The CDC did not call for new government restrictions to crush the pandemic but emphasized the need to drive down infection rates.

“Increased SARS-CoV-2 transmission might threaten strained healthcare resources, require extended and more rigorous implementation of public health strategies, and increase the percentage of population immunity required for pandemic control,” the CDC wrote. “Taking measures to reduce transmission now can lessen the potential impact of B.1.1.7 and allow critical time to increase vaccination coverage.”

It is unclear if the winter surge in the United States is at a peak, but the numbers are staggering, with more than 200,000 new infections confirmed every day on average.

This is not the first warning from the CDC about variants of the virus, but it is the first to offer a plausible timeline for when and to what degree the mutations seen recently could complicate efforts to end the pandemic.

It shows that vaccination, performed rapidly, is critical to crushing the curve of viral infections. Without vaccines, under one CDC scenario, the country could be dealing with even greater levels of infections in May than in January.

But if public health agencies can ramp up to 1 million vaccinations a day, the CDC model forecasts that daily new infections will decline in the next few months – even with the extra boost from the highly contagious U.K. variant. It has been identified in 12 states, the CDC said Friday, and the agency has informed officials nationwide that they should assume the variant is present in their state.

The CDC and unaffiliated scientists have said they see no evidence that this particular variant is driving the winter surge in cases. So far, it has been involved in fewer than 0.5% of infections nationwide, testing data suggests.

Friday’s sobering CDC forecast is based on simple models and has limitations, the agency acknowledged.

The model looks at just the B.1.1.7 variant and does not consider the impact of other variants already discovered or not yet identified. The variants in South Africa and Brazil could prove to be even more problematic, though they have not been spotted so far in the United States. Researchers have noted the disastrous spike in cases in Manaus, Brazil, in recent weeks, despite the high percentage of the population believed to have been previously infected – a situation that raises suspicions, not confirmed by data, that some people who had recovered are becoming reinfected by the new strain.

The CDC model treats the United States as a single unit even though the virus is spreading at different rates locally and regionally. No one knows, even at the national level, the current “R,” the reproduction number, of the common coronavirus variant. That’s the number of people an infected person will infect, on average.

The CDC model used plausible reproduction rates of 1.1 (faster spread right now) and 0.9 (slower). The CDC then used British data to project that the U.K. variant is 50 percent more transmissible than the common variant. The model assumes that between 10 and 30% of the population has been infected already and recovered and now has immunity.

“It would be foolish to say that this is never going to end, and we might as well stop trying,” the CDC’s Butler said. “But there is reason to be concerned. We’re not out of the woods on this pandemic yet. We need to continue to press ahead.”

Doubles stars keep Thai flag flying high in Thailand Open #SootinClaimon.Com

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Doubles stars keep Thai flag flying high in Thailand Open

Jan 17. 2021

By THE NATION

Doubles duos kept Thai hopes for titles in the $1-million Yonex Thailand Open alive at Impact Arena Muang Thong Thani on Saturday.

Sapsiree Taerattanachai and Dechapol Puavaranuhroh 

The Thais survived gruelling battles to reach the mixed doubles and women’s doubles finals.

Top seeds Dechapol Puavaranuhroh and Sapsiree Taerattanachai saved two match points at 18-20 in the decisive game to beat Seo Seung Jae and Chae Yu Jung of South Korea 17-21 21-17 22-20, while the duo of Rawinda Prajongjai and Jongkolkphan Kititharakul were in top form to upset fourth-seeded Kim So Yeong and Kong Hee Yong 21-17 17-21 22-20 after a 75-minute battle.

“We came onto the court with only one win out of four duels against them,” said Jongkolphan. “But we tried to learn from that loss and worked something out. After the first game, we wanted to win so much that we lost focus and made errors in crucial points,” she added.

Rawinda Prajongjai and Jongkolkphan Kititharakul

Rawinda and her partner have won two BWF World Tour levels, one in the 2018 Thailand Masters, and the 2019 Chinese Taipei Open, both Super 300 events. They will eye their biggest title on Sunday in the Super 1000 home tournament in the final against arch-rivals Greysia Polii and Apriyani Rahayu of Indonesia who have a 4-1 win-loss record against them.

“We expect another tough match on Sunday and it could go on for more than an hour again. We hope to play at this level again,” Rawinda said.

Tai Tzu Ying

In the singles actions, world No 1 Tai Tzu Ying of Taiwan and three-time world champion Carolina Marin of Spain will square off for the women’s title after they scored comfortable semi-final wins.

Red-hot Tai, who has lost only one match in her four latest BWF World Tour events, was briefly challenged by Mia Blichfeldt before prevailing 21-8 23-21, while world No 6 Marin had earlier relied on her experience to stem the run of rising teenage star An Se Young of South Korea 21-18 21-16.

“The first game was quite comfortable and I was able to control it. But in the second game, the speed of the shuttle was different down that end and I had to adapt to that. No one wants to go to the third game,” said the Taiwanese star, who has reached the finals in all of her latest four events, including the All England Open which she won last March.

The world No 1 will enter the final with a better record against the Spaniard who she has beaten in nine out of 15 encounters.

“I will only focus on myself, cut out my errors and try and be as best prepared as possible,” she said.

Marin who sat on the No 1 throne in June 2015 rose to the occasion whenever she was put to the test by the 18-year-old An.

“I really performed well against An Se Young. I feel very happy because I was really focused on court. I didn’t feel any negative situation for myself, and I think if I play like this, I’m so ready for tomorrow,” said the three-time world champion who praised her young opponent as the future of badminton.

In the rematch of the 2019 men’s singles  final, defending champion  Chou Tien Chen of Taiwan was knocked out of the competition by Ng Ka Long Angus of Hong Kong 21-17 18-21 15-21.  The world No 8 Ng will play reigning All England Open champion Viktor Axelsen of Denmark who came back from a dismal form in game two to beat  Anthony Sinisuka Ginting of Indonesia  21-19 13-21 21-13.

Dechapol and Sapsiree keep Thai hopes alive in Thailand Open #SootinClaimon.Com

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Dechapol and Sapsiree keep Thai hopes alive in Thailand Open

Jan 16. 2021Sapsiree Taerattanachai and Dechapol Puavaranukroh Sapsiree Taerattanachai and Dechapol Puavaranukroh

By THE NATION

The Thai duo of Dechapol Puavaranukroh and Sapsiree Taerattanachai lived up to their billing as the top seeds, producing an epic comeback to beat Korean left-handers Seo Seung Jae and Chae YuJung to advance to the mixed doubles final of the US$1-million Yonex Thailand Open World Tour Super 1000 at Impact Arena, Muang Thong Thani.

In a rematch of the 2020 Yonex All-England semi-finals, world No. 3 Dechapol and Sapsiree recovered after losing the first game against the fourth seeds and world No. 6 from South Korea for a hard-fought 17-21 21-17 22-20 win on Saturday.

After going down to the Koreans 17-21 in the opening game, Dechapol and Sapsiree made amends with a strong comeback in the second game, with Dechapol producing powerful jump smashes and Sapsiree moving around the court swiftly.

The Thais took the thrilling game 21-17.

In the do-or-die tiebreaker, Dechapol and Sapsiree still relied on their strong defence to lead from the beginning before Seo and Chae hit back gallantly to level at 10-10 and broke away to 18-14. As the Koreans became more prone to unforced errors, Dechapol and Sapiree gradually pulled their game together to catch the rivals at 18-all. However, Seo and Chae won two points in a row to take a 20-18 lead, needing only one more point to take the game and the match.

The Thai duo refused to give up and fought on. They caught up with the Koreans again at 20-all and bagged two more points to win the decider 22-20, and a place in the final.

“In the first game, we focused on our defence, but made a lot of mistakes, while in the second and third games we improved our attack. We found our rhythm,” Sapsiree said after the match.

“I think our unforced errors came as a result of our key focus on receiving. We later worked more on attack and that was the key to our success today. Our coach also gave us useful tips to play them more effectively. We followed the coach’s instructions. We played more aggressively with confidence and consistency and we then got things done,” Dechapol added.

Sapsiree said, “In the second and third games, we played according to the coach’s instructions. I just told myself to play more carefully to avoid unforced mistakes. In Sunday’s final, we will do our best.”

For Dechapol and Sapsiree, it was a repeat feat against the Korean rivals in 10 months. At the All-England last March, the last event held ahead of the cancellation of all tournaments due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the Thai pair had pulled off a dramatic 2-1 (21-18 17-21 21-19) win in the semi-finals, only to go down 1-2 to Indonesians Praveen Jordan/Melati Daeva Oktavianti in the final clash to pick up a silver medal.

However, Dechapol and Sapsiree are looking forward to sweet revenge against Praveen and Melati as the Thai duo will go up against the second seeds in Sunday’s final.

Dating apps are using Capitol images to ban rioters’ accounts #SootinClaimon.Com

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Dating apps are using Capitol images to ban rioters’ accounts

Jan 17. 2021

By The Washington Post · Drew Harwell, Lisa Bonos, Craig Timberg

WASHINGTON – Tinder, Bumble and other dating apps are using images captured from inside the Capitol siege and other evidence to identify and ban rioters’ accounts, causing immediate consequences for those who participated as police move toward making hundreds of arrests.

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Women and men have in some cases also turned the dating apps into hunting grounds, striking up conversations with rioters, gathering potentially incriminating photos or confessions, then relaying them to the FBI. Using the dating apps to pursue members of the mob has become a viral pursuit, with tips shared on Twitter and some women changing their location on the dating apps to Washington, D.C. in hopes of snaring a potential suspect.

The moves cast a spotlight on how some unlikely sources have helped expand a digital dragnet for participants in a siege with deeply online roots, fueled by viral conspiracy theories, organized on social media and live-streamed in real-time.

They also show how people are attempting to use the same tools to fight back, including by contributing to a wide-scale manhunt for dating-app users who played a part in the violent attack.

Amanda Spataro, a 25-year-old logistics coordinator in Tampa, called it her “civic duty” to swipe through dating apps for men who’d posted incriminating pictures of themselves. On Bumble, she found one man with a picture that seemed likely to have come from the insurrection; his response to a prompt about his “perfect first date” was: “Storming the Capitol.”

“Most people, you think if you’re going to commit a crime, you’re not going to brag about it,” Spataro said in an interview.

After swiping right in hopes she could get more information out of him, she said he responded that he did visit the Capitol and sent more pictures as proof. She later contacted the FBI tip line.

Some onlookers have celebrated the viral hunt as a creative form of digital comeuppance. But some privacy advocates said the episode reveals a worrying truth about pervasive public surveillance and the opaque connections between private companies and law enforcement. Some also worry about people being misidentified by amateur investigators and other risks that can arise when vigilantes try to take crime-fighting into their own hands.

“These people deserve the right to seek a partner in one of the few ways we have to socialize during the pandemic, and seek love,” said Liz O’Sullivan, technology director of the Surveillance Technology Oversight Project, a New York-based nonprofit group fighting discriminatory surveillance.

“It’s one more example of how these tech companies can impact our lives without our feedback,” she added. “What if this was happening to Black Lives Matters protesters? . . . At the end of the day, it’s just so much power.”

Both Bumble and Match Group – which also owns Tinder, Hinge, OkCupid, PlentyofFish and Match – said they were working to remove users known to be involved in the Capitol siege from their platforms.

“We always encourage our community to block and report anyone who is acting against our guidelines, and we have already banned users who have used our platform to spread insurrectionist content or who have attempted to organize and incite terrorism,” Bumble said in an unsigned statement. “As always, if someone has or is in the process of committing a potentially criminal act on our platform, we will take the appropriate steps with law enforcement.”

A Bumble official, speaking on the condition of anonymity because company officials have received violent threats following past policy changes, said app employees have reviewed images taken inside and around the Capitol during the siege and banned accounts that “spread insurrectionist content or who have attempted to organize and incite terrorism.”

Bumble uses software to scan users’ dating profiles and biographies for “text content that promotes the insurrection or related activities,” the official said. Accounts can be banned for promoting racism, encouraging violence or spreading falsehoods about Trump’s election loss.

Dating apps have also worked to ban anyone who has been arrested or publicly identified by law enforcement as having taken part in the attack.

Match Group said it has banned rioters’ accounts based on long-established rules against promoting or inciting violence. Match spokeswoman Vidhya Murugesan declined to say how many had been punished in this way.

“We have, and will continue, to ban any users wanted by the FBI in connection with domestic terrorism from all of our brands, and we always cooperate with law enforcement in their investigations,” Murugesan said.

Many women in Washington over the past two weeks had taken notice of a surge in conservative men on dating apps, many wearing “Make America Great Again” hats or other markers of support for President Donald Trump rarely seen in an overwhelmingly Democratic city.

The FBI has set up an anonymous tip line for reports on people who might have breached the Capitol. In a statement last week, the bureau said they’d received more than 100,000 “digital media tips” from a wide range of sources.

Federal investigators have used airline passenger manifests, video live streams, social media posts, news reports, cellphone location data and other evidence to support their charges and find suspects.

Law enforcement officials would not say how many tips came from dating apps but have said they are reviewing all evidence. More than 100 people have been charged in connection to the riots, and hundreds of other cases are still under investigation.

“Even your friends and family are tipping us off,” FBI Assistant Director in Charge Steven M. D’Antuono said at a recent press briefing. “So you might want to consider turning yourself in instead of wondering when we’re going to come knocking on your door. Because we will.”

The overlapping issues of law enforcement, privacy and user safety are complicated for dating apps. Police or prosecutors seeking data – especially if they have search warrants – give companies little room to object unless they are already encrypting data in ways that can’t be readily retrieved, as Apple and some other companies have done with some kinds of user communications.

Using publicly available data to purge users who may have been involved in a crime – especially one as visible and troubling as the Capitol attack – requires tougher trade-offs.

Some would argue it’s unfair to delete the account of someone merely on the grounds of the Capitol that day, as opposed to someone known to have entered the building or committed other crimes, such as vandalism and theft. But a dating app’s users may reasonably expect to not get connected to somebody known to participate in what many regard as an illegal insurrection designed to disrupt a democratic process.

At the same time, the available identification technologies are imperfect. Privacy experts question whether any company should be taking action against users merely because they are believed to have been at the Capitol on Jan. 6 – before formal adjudication or even arrests by authorities.

“There’s a likely challenge of both false positives and false negatives,” said Ashkan Soltani, distinguished fellow at Georgetown Law Center’s Institute for Technology Law & Policy. “I’m not sure a dating app should be in the business of trying to make these determinations.”

Soltani said that the issues facing the dating apps are difficult ones, with a range of possible solutions. The apps could alert individual users that a person they have expressed interest in may have participated in the Capitol takeover, or they could allow individual users to identify themselves as participants by hitting a built-in button, similar to the “I Voted” tag some social media companies offer on election days. Blocking users outright based on analysis of images, especially before arrest or adjudication, struck him as “over-moderation” by the apps.

Dating apps have a history of using human moderators and automated software to scan for problematic content, thanks in large part to male users with a habit of sending unwanted photos of their genitals. (Such accounts are immediately banned.)

A Bumble spokesman said the dating app also scans users’ profile photos and biographies for weapons, hate symbols or offensive language. Conversations between matched users are not moderated unless one of the users reports the chat for abuse.

Major social media sites, messaging services and discussion forums routinely use automated software to scan for images, video or discussion of sexual abuse, terrorism and other crimes.

Algorithms scan images and video to see whether they match any clips in databases of problematic content, such as child sexual abuse material or child pornography; they also look through user profiles or posts to analyze whether they include hate speech, threatening language or racial slurs.

As the digital hunt for Capitol siege suspects was underway, Bumble on Wednesday removed a feature in the U.S. that allowedpeople to filter prospective matches by their political leanings, saying in a statement that the filter had been used “in a manner contrary to our terms and conditions.”

Some amateur insurrectionist-hunters criticized the company for instituting a change they said only protected rioters. But Bumble said the filter could have been misused to target people, including those who self-identified as “conservative” but did not participate in the siege. Bumble has since restored the politics filter after implementing what it called new “moderation tools and protocols.”

The move could dim the romantic opportunities for people like Brandon Fellows, who posted Snapchat videos of himself as he wandered the Capitol and smoked a joint in a senator’s office.

He later told Bloomberg that his Bumble profile was “blowing up” after he posted his Capitol photos, but did not provide evidence. The company said his account was immediately banned.

Lidar tech on the rise at CES to power future smart cities, autonomous cars #SootinClaimon.Com

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Lidar tech on the rise at CES to power future smart cities, autonomous cars

Jan 17. 2021Seoul Robotics launched a new product to equip urban cities with 3-D vision. MUST CREDIT: Seoul Robotics.Seoul Robotics launched a new product to equip urban cities with 3-D vision. MUST CREDIT: Seoul Robotics.

By The Washington Post · Dalvin Brown

Mobility analysts, urban planners and AI companies bill widespread lidar as a building block for future urban societies, where autonomous vehicles, smart homes and infrastructure work together to create “smart” cities.

Lidar, short for light detection and ranging, is a sensing method that enables devices to glean what an object is based on its shape. In theory, when deployed on traffic lights, in parking lots and on enough vehicles, the technology could help contextualize what’s happening outside so cities can better manage energy and security. It could also manage traffic congestion.

The tech has been around since at least the 1970s. However, it was considered too expensive and complicated for companies in a broad range of industries to utilize. That is until now, according to HanBin Lee, founder of South Korea-based Seoul Robotics, a computer vision company.

Prices have come down so much that the tech is found in the latest model iPhones. It’s how robot vacuums see what’s around your home. It’s at the center of several thought-provoking product announcements to come out of this year’s CES, a large, global tech conference that took place this week.

Seoul Robotics launched Discovery, a software and hardware service to interpret light and radar data for factories, retailers, automakers and more. Other companies announced lidar applications for autonomous consumer cars and robotaxis, with Intel’s Mobileye that passenger vehicles will be self-driving by 2025.

The technology has its limitations, particularly on cars. It produces lower resolution images than cameras and tends to cost more. However, lidar represents a growing market and is projected to triple to almost $3 billion by 2025. Forward-thinking tech companies at CES say they’re hoping to take advantage of it. Here are some of the most innovative lidar products and ideas.

Seoul Robotics says it wanted to take the siloed industry of lidar software and expand it to the masses. Essentially, the software company developed what it calls an easy-to-use “plug-and-play” lidar system that allows a wide range of organizations to benefit from 3-D sensors.

For instance, retail stores could use it to understand where people are moving and whether patrons are social distancing. Cities could use it on highway offramps to detect vehicles going the wrong way.

Its offering is meant to analyze and interpret 3-D data from most available lidar products. It was built to unlock “autonomy through infrastructure,” Lee said.

Seoul Robotics already has a few big-name partnerships under its belt, including BMW and Mercedes-Benz. It also partnered with the lidar company Velodyne on office monitoring tech for Qualcomm. Seoul Robotic’s software has been installed in parking lots to help automate cars. BMW used it to move driverless vehicles via wireless Internet connections.

“So basically, this infrastructure takes over the vehicle. And thousands of vehicles can be automated with just a few sensors,” Lee said.

Intel’s MobilEye said at the trade show that it developed a strategy for making highly automated cars safe enough to use on roads across the globe by 2025.

The company, a leading player in automotive technology, plans to leverage crowdsourced mapping, a camera-based computer vision system and a lidar suite to achieve its goal.

MobileEye, which Intel snapped up in 2017, has been testing its mapping technology in Munich and plans to use cameras built into production vehicles to map the world. The company claims to have already mapped nearly 621 million miles, setting a foundation for autonomous cars to follow.

Pending regulatory approval, Mobileye will expand its fleet of autonomous test vehicles to New York City by the end of the year, the company says.

Its project relies on two independent computer vision systems to ensure that vehicles are safer in self-driving mode than if a human were controlling the car. One is a camera-based system that is advanced enough to power the car autonomously, and the other is a lidar and radar-based system that’s strong enough to do the same thing.

The two approaches are fused along with the 3-D maps allowing “safety-critical performance that is at least three orders of magnitude safer than humans,” according to Mobileye. Pending regulatory approval, Mobileye will expand its fleet of autonomous test vehicles to New York City by the end of the year.

The Munich-based start-up Blickfeld showed two new lidar sensors for cars meant to hit the market in three to four years. The 3-D sensors, dubbed Vision Mini and Vision Plus, are designed to produce a surround-view “that is crucial for automated urban traffic as well as robotic vehicles,” according to the company.

The Mini is small, roughly five centimeters long and is meant to detect closer range objects around a vehicle. It’s customizable to fit within a vehicle’s design scheme, according to the company. The larger Vision Plus can pick up things 650 feet in front of and behind cars with self-driving features. Together, they’re designed to enable cars to handle more than one automated task at a time.

A combination of six sensors are needed for 360-degree views, unlocking level four autonomous capabilities, says Florian Petit, founder of Blickfeld. The company is working with production partners to meet what it sees as a rapidly increasing demand.

“We saw that there’s a huge gap between the cars produced to be autonomous eventually and the number of lidars produced,” Petit said.

Mask-wearing raises imports of eye makeup from S. Korea #SootinClaimon.Com

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Mask-wearing raises imports of eye makeup from S. Korea

Jan 17. 2021

By The Yomiuri Shimbun

With widespread mask-wearing drawing more attention to people’s eyes, imports of makeup such as eye shadow and mascara, mainly from South Korea, are on the rise.

According to Osaka Customs, nationwide imports of cosmetics as a whole fell in the January-October period of 2020. Lipstick imports were down 28.2% and powder imports were down 23.5% from the same period in the previous year.

On the other hand, eye makeup imports grew significantly, up 10% to 2,246 tons. The annual import volume for 2020 appears to have surpassed that of 2019, the highest year on record.

Especially on the rise are imports from South Korea, which rose 19.9% to 599 tons in the January-October period, one of the factors pushing up the total volume of eye makeup imports.

At Nanohana Ebisubashi, a cosmetics specialty outlet in Chuo Ward, Osaka, South Korean products account for one-third of the about 200 brands displayed in the store. Many of the products are brightly colored and come in attractive packaging resembling magazine covers.

“The area around my eyes is important because I always wear a mask. South Korean brands are more affordable than Japanese products and the colors are bright,” a 24-year-old woman from Osaka said.

Behind the trend is a Korean boom in Japanese popular culture that began before the coronavirus crisis, spurred by South Korean TV programs and K-pop idol groups. There is even a magazine that gives advice on how to apply makeup like actress Son Ye-jin of the drama “Crash Landing on You.”

“Due to the influence of the Korean boom, more and more people are adopting eye shadow and other South Korean makeup, which comes in a wide variety of colors,” an official of the store’s operating company said.

Domestic manufacturers are also benefitting from the popularity of eye makeup. According to Tokiwa Pharmaceutical Co., sales of lip gloss and foundation were lower than before the virus outbreak, but domestic shipments of the eye makeup brand Sana New Born rose year on year in the July-November 2020 period.

Shiseido Co. has released a base makeup product that does not stick to masks, and the company has a dedicated website that offers tips on how to apply makeup when wearing a mask.

China to step up protection of rare earth resources #SootinClaimon.Com

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China to step up protection of rare earth resources

Jan 17. 2021

By China Daily

China will reinforce the protection of its rare earth resources, strengthen full industrial chain regulation and establish a mechanism under the State Council to decide and coordinate on major policy measures, according to a draft guideline published on Friday.

The guideline was published on the website of the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology and will be kept open for public opinion till Feb 15.

“Rare earths are important strategic resources that are not renewable, and it is necessary to reinforce the full industrial chain regulations targeting activities that are currently disrupting the healthy development of the industry and damaging the environment, such as illegal, destructive, unplanned and excessive mining, and illicit trading,” the ministry said.

The guideline aims to regulate the rare earth industry under the framework of laws and regulations, the ministry said.

A group of 17 metallic elements that have distinctive properties such as electrical conductivity and magnetism, rare earths are used in a wide variety of applications, ranging from cellphone batteries, computers, wind turbines and televisions, to fiber optics and missiles, and are widely considered important strategic resources.

Stating the prized resources’ irreplaceable significance for the upgrade of traditional industries, and the development of emerging industries and the national defense industry, the guideline said special measures must be taken to protect the resources.

It mentioned administrative license and project approval procedures for rare earth mining and the process of smelting and separation, and quotas respectively for mining, and for smelting and separation.

According to the guideline, any organization or natural person is prohibited from purchasing or selling rare earth products that are illegally mined, or smelted and separated.

It also stressed that rare earth import and export enterprises must abide by the foreign trade and export control laws and regulations.

As the world’s largest rare earth supplier, China produces around 80 percent of the world’s total supplies.

However, the country’s rare-earth industry faces problems such as smuggling, illegal mining and environmental damage issues.

To protect the important strategic resource, the rare earth industry should have more precise rules and regulations, and the government should encourage innovation and development of high-end rare earth products such as new materials to move up the global value chain, said Bai Ming, deputy director of the Institute of International Market Research at the Chinese Academy of International Trade and Economic Cooperation of the Ministry of Commerce.

HCM City sets up cyber security, hi-tech crime prevention division #SootinClaimon.Com

#SootinClaimon.Com : ขอบคุณแหล่งข้อมูล : หนังสือพิมพ์ The Nation.

HCM City sets up cyber security, hi-tech crime prevention division

Jan 17. 2021

By Vietnam News

HCM CITY— The HCM City police on January 12 launched a cybersecurity and hi-tech crime prevention division.

Senior Lieutenant Colonel Nguyễn Thế Lâm, deputy chief of staff, heads the division (PA05).

Speaking at the launch ceremony, Nguyễn Thành Phong, chairman of the city People’s Committee, said the city had identified cybersecurity as one of the pillars of building a smart city.

In October last year the city launched an information security centre to monitor, prevent and respond to information security incidents affecting State agencies, he said.

“The city is a ‘special’ urban area and a national hubfor many things, but also faces a great threat from cyber and high-tech criminals,” he said.

Recognising that, the Ministry of Public Security decided to strengthen the city police with the establishment of a cybersecurity and hi-tech crime prevention division, he said.

The city would help the police acquire facilities and equipment for cybersecurity and hi-tech crime prevention, ensuring that they achieve a “dramatic change” right from the beginning of 2021, he said.

Major General Lê Hồng Nam, director of the police department, said with criminals taking advantage of the internet and other technologies to subvert political and social security and social order, the establishment of the PA05 would meet the requirements of fighting crime.

“It is also a milestone in the process of making the city police stronger and more modern,” he added. VNS

US-China trade friction has cost up to 245,000 US jobs, says study #SootinClaimon.Com

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US-China trade friction has cost up to 245,000 US jobs, says study

Jan 17. 2021

By China Daily

The United States’ trade friction with China has caused a peak loss of 245,000 US jobs, but a gradual scaling back of tariffs on both sides would boost growth and lead to an additional creation of 145,000 jobs by 2025, reported Reuters on Jan 15, citing a study commissioned by the US-China Business Council.

The USCBC, which represents major American companies doing business in China, said the study by Oxford Economics also includes an “escalation scenario” which estimates a significant decoupling of the world’s two largest economies could shrink US GDP by $1.6 trillion over the next five years.

This could result in 732,000 fewer US jobs in 2022 and 320,000 fewer jobs by 2025, the report said.

The study estimates that US exports to China support 1.2 million American jobs and Chinese multinational companies directly employ 197,000 Americans, while US companies invested $105 billion in China in 2019, Reuters reported.

“With China forecast to drive around one-third of global growth over the next decade, maintaining market access to China is increasingly essential for US businesses’ global success,” the study said.

PH gets P3.72-B grant, 500K vaccine doses from China #SootinClaimon.Com

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PH gets P3.72-B grant, 500K vaccine doses from China

Jan 17. 2021

By Enquirer

China on Saturday provided a 500-million renminbi (P3.72-billion) grant to the Philippines to bankroll various livelihood and infrastructure projects, which might also be used to finance the Duterte administration’s COVID-19 response, and promised to donate 500,000 doses of a coronavirus vaccine.

China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi announced the vaccine donation during a 40-minute meeting with President Duterte at Malacañang Palace, at the end of his two-day visit to the Philippines, the Chinese foreign ministry said in a statement.

The announcement was made a day after the Senate concluded an inquiry into the administration’s vaccination program and its plan to procure up to 25 million doses of the vaccine made by the Chinese pharmaceutical Sinovac Biotech, which had drawn criticisms from lawmakers for being both costly and less efficacious than other vaccines.

According to the Chinese statement, Mr. Duterte “lauded the continued high-level engagement” between China and the Philippines amid the pandemic and stressed the importance of “delivering on the promises of the comprehensive strategic cooperation” between the two countries.

“The recovery of nations … sits on the back of stronger economies. China plays a very key role in reviving our region’s economy. Let us do all we can to revive economic activities between the Philippines and China,” Mr. Duterte was quoted as saying.

Wang Yi

Wang Yi

For global good

Wang reaffirmed China’s commitment to support the Philippines’ efforts “to combat COVID-19” and Beijing’s “resolve to do everything to ensure that vaccines become a global good,” the statement said.

Wang “underscored China’s commitment under President Xi Jinping to work closely with the Philippines to sustain the positive trajectory of the valued and special bilateral relations,” it said.

Finance Undersecretary Mark Dennis Y.C. Joven said that while the grant was intended to mainly finance livelihood projects, infrastructure and feasibility studies for big-ticket projects, it was “subject to further discussions” on its possible use to support “COVID-19-related activities and response measures.”

While China has yet to provide direct financial assistance to the Philippines during the pandemic, it donated personal protective equipment like goggles, masks and suits, and medical supplies such as ventilators and testing kits, to the country at the height of the longest lockdown in the region.

Wang’s visit was the latest demonstration of China’s support for Mr. Duterte, who has warmed ties between Beijing and Manila after the President set aside a 2016 international arbitral ruling invalidating China’s expansive claims over the South China Sea, including the West Philippine Sea.

The Chinese foreign ministry statement made no direct reference to the maritime dispute between the Philippines and China.

Wang, who arrived in the country on Friday, held a separate meeting earlier on Saturday with Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr.

“Let me emphasize that in the process of the [Philippine government’s] response to COVID-19, China as a friend of the Philippines and your closest neighbor, we will firmly stand with the people of the Philippines until the defeat of this virus,” he said in a speech.

Locsin said the fight against COVID-19 and “the universal acceptance of the new inescapable normal is entering a turning point, with the beginning of vaccinations.”

“With our two nations’ abiding interest in regional stability and the security of our maritime commons, it behooves us to show our ability to rise to the challenge of managing differences peacefully and in accordance with law,” he said.

“Our close cooperation to beat COVID-19 has only further enhanced our overall ties and deepened our friendship,” Locsin said.

Since mid-2016, the Duterte administration received a total of 3.25 billion renminbi (about $496.97 million) in grants from China.

7 grants for BBB

Manila and Beijing have now signed and executed a total of seven grants funding prefeasibility studies, equipment provision, as well as implementation of some infrastructure projects under the Duterte administration’s ambitious “Build, Build, Build” (BBB) program.

The Department of Finance said the previous six grants funded the following: construction of Binondo-Intramuros and Estrella-Pantaleon bridges on the Pasig-Marikina Rivers, as well as Bucana Bridge on Davao River; procurement of the container inspection equipment of the Bureau of Customs; and rehabilitation and reconstruction of Marawi City.

China had also extended three loans to the Philippines. One is being used for the Chico River Pump Irrigation project, another is for building the New Centennial Water Source-Kaliwa Dam, and the third for the Philippine National Railways South Long-Haul projects.