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NATO Chief: Alliance to Build Space Center at Ramstein Airbase in Germany

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg confirmed Thursday that the military alliance would establish a space center at the Allied Air Command base in Ramstein, Germany.Speaking in Brussels after a virtual conference of NATO foreign ministers, Stoltenberg confirmed reports regarding the space center made earlier this week by European news agencies.”NATO is determined to keep our cutting edge in all domains,” he said, including “land, sea, air, cyber and space.”During a meeting last December, Stoltenberg declared “space as an operational domain for NATO. And today we took another important step.”In his comments, the NATO chief said the Allied Air Command space center would help to coordinate allied space activities and provide support for NATO missions and operations from space using satellite communications and imagery. Stoltenberg said the center also would help protect NATO-allied space systems by sharing information about potential threats.Stoltenberg has said repeatedly that NATO has no interest in the “militarization” of space. But Thursday, he said threats against NATO allied satellites and space systems were real.“For instance,” he said, “Russia and China are now developing capabilities that can blind, destroy, for instance, satellites, which will have a severe impact on both military and civilian activities on the ground.”Stoltenberg also said NATO foreign ministers expressed concern about Russia’s growing arsenal of nuclear-capable missiles and the importance of Russia and the U.S. extending the new START missile treaty.The secretary-general also called for an immediate cease-fire and cessation of all hostilities between Armenia and Azerbaijan in the disputed region of Nagorno-Karabakh. The region lies within Azerbaijan but has been under the control of ethnic Armenian forces backed by Armenia since a war there ended in 1994.The current fighting that started there marks the biggest escalation in the conflict since the war’s end. Stoltenberg called on Turkey to “use its considerable influence in the region to calm tensions.”

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Economy & business/Silicon Valley & Technology
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New Huawei Phone Comes at Crucial Time for Chinese Company

Huawei’s new smartphone has an upgraded camera, its latest advanced chipset and a better battery. What it may not have outside the Chinese tech giant’s home market is very many buyers.
Huawei, which recently became the world’s No. 1 smartphone maker, on Thursday unveiled its Mate 40 line of premium phones, a product release that comes at a crucial moment for the company as it runs out of room to maneuver around U.S. sanctions squeezing its ability to source components and software.
The Mate 40 could be the last one powered by the company’s homegrown Kirin chipsets because of U.S. restrictions in May barring non-American companies from using U.S. technology in manufacturing without a license.
Analysts say the company had been stockpiling chips before the ban but its supply won’t last forever.
“This is a major challenge to Huawei and it’s really losing its market outside of China,” said Mo Jia, an analyst at independent research firm Canalys. The latest U.S. restrictions mean it “100% has closed doors for Huawei to secure its future components.”
Executives said this summer that production of Kirin chips would end in mid-September because they’re made by contractors that need U.S. manufacturing technology. In a press preview this week ahead of the Mate 40’s launch, staff declined to answer questions on Huawei’s ability to source chips. The head of Huawei’s consumer business, Richard Yu, referred only briefly to the issue at the end of  a virtual launch event Thursday.
“For Huawei, nowadays we are in a very difficult time. We are suffering from the U.S.
government’s third round ban. It’s an unfair ban. It makes (the situation) extremely difficult,” Yu said.
Huawei, which is also a major supplier of wireless network gear, is facing pressure in a wider global battle waged between the U.S. and China over trade and technological supremacy. The U.S. government’s efforts to lobby allies in Europe to not give it a role in new high-speed 5G wireless networks over cybersecurity concerns has been paying off, with countries including Sweden and Britain blocking its gear.
Huawei phones are not widely available in the U.S., but they’re sold in Europe, the Middle East and Asia. The company climbed to the top of the global smartphone rankings this summer, knocking Samsung off top spot by shipping 55.8 million devices in the second quarter to gain a 20% share of the market, according to research firms Canalys and International Data Corp. But the performance was driven by strong growth in China while smartphone sales in the rest of the world tumbled due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Analysts say it will be hard for Huawei to remain No. 1.
“Huawei’s in a tight spot,” said Ben Wood, chief of research at CCS Insight. Along with the U.S. sanctions, it’s also hurt by slumping confidence in the brand that makes retailers less keen to stock its phones. “And sadly, I don’t think you’re going to see the Mate 40 performing particularly well outside of China.”
Huawei has a small but enthusiastic fan base in Europe, its biggest market outside China. But some users are turned off by the idea of sticking with the brand because of a related problem: recent models like the Mate 40, priced at 899 euros ($1,070) and up, can’t run Google’s full Android operating system because of an earlier round of U.S. sanctions.
Instead, they come with a stripped down open source version of Android, which doesn’t have Google’s Play Store and can’t run popular apps like Chrome, YouTube and Search.
Mark Osten, a 29-year-old architect in Preston, England, bought a Huawei P30 last year when the contract on his previous Samsung phone ended.
He says the camera is great but hesitates to recommend the brand to others because of the uncertainty.
“I just can’t imagine life without YouTube or Google,” said Osten.
To make up for losing Google services, Huawei has built its own app store and has been paying developers to create apps for it. Users can request apps that aren’t yet available, but it’s not something that appeals to Chloe Hetelle, a 35-year-old events organizer in Toulouse, France, who bought a Huawei P20 model two years ago after switching from an iPhone.
“I don’t want to request apps, I just want to have YouTube,” said Hetelle. “I’m not really keen on struggling to get something that I would have easily with another phone.”

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German Health Institute Sounds Alarm on COVID-19

The head of Germany’s disease control institute sounded an alarm Thursday, warning of a possible uncontrollable spread of COVID-19 as the country reported a daily record of 11,287 new infections.Lothar Wieler, president of the Robert Koch Institute for infectious diseases, told reporters in Berlin that infection numbers are rising among all age groups, not just young people, though he said their tendency to attend social gatherings is a significant cause for the spread. Wieler also disputed claims that the rise in new cases was the result of increased testing.Koch said the situation was serious and that the country must prepare for it to get worse.“We must anticipate the virus heavily spreading further, at least in some German regions, and that there might even be an uncontrolled spread.”The 11,287 new infections shattered the record of 7,830 recorded last Friday and marks the first time the nation has seen more than 10 new cases in a single day since the pandemic began.While Germany’s infection rates are lower than in much of Europe, they have been accelerating rapidly since the onset of cooler weather, with politicians warning that stricter social distancing rules may be needed if the trend continues.German authorities have toughened measures to curb the spread of the pandemic, such as banning large gatherings and mandating the wearing of masks in certain parts of Berlin. Wieler urged people to heed the rules and restrictions.Health Minister Jens Spahn tested positive for the coronavirus on Wednesday.

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Brazilian President Cancels Health Minister’s Plan to Buy Chinese Vaccine Against Coronavirus

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro said he has canceled a deal to buy a Chinese-developed vaccine against the coronavirus, a day after his health minister announced Brazil would purchase millions of doses of CoronaVac.Bolsonaro said Wednesday that the intentions of Sao Paulo Governor Joao Doria, one of his leading opponents, were distorted, saying he already canceled the deal before Health Minister Eduardo Pazuello signed it.Pazuello said in a statement that there was “no commitment” to buy the vaccine, only a “non-binding memorandum of understanding between the health ministry and the Butantan Institute” to test and produce the vaccine.Bolsonaro, who said he would not let Brazilians be guinea pigs for the Sinovac drug, is promoting the purchase of another vaccine developed by Oxford University in Britain.Brazil is helping to test both of vaccines in the final stage of clinical trials.Meantime, The Wall Street Journal reports, a Brazilian health regulator says the clinical trials of the vaccine developed by Oxford University and AstraZeneca PLC will continue although a volunteer died.Both Oxford University and AstraZeneca reportedly found no safety issues which warranted the trial being stopped.

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7 Nations Now Have More Than 1 Million COVID-19 Cases

The number of nations with more than 1 million confirmed COVID-19 cases has risen to seven.Spain and France are the latest nations to reach the unfortunate mark, according to data compiled by the Johns Hopkins University Coronavirus Resource Center. The United States tops the list with more than 8.3 million total cases, followed by India (7.6 million), Brazil (5.3 million), Russia (1.4 million) and Argentina, which has 1,037,325. Spain is in sixth place with 1,005,325 cases, followed by France with 1,000,369.Spain and France are also the first nations in Western Europe to record more than 1 million COVID-19 infections.Scores of researchers around the world are racing to develop a safe and effective vaccine against COVID-19, which has killed more than 1.1 million people around the globe and sickened more than 41.1 million.Brazil’s health authority Anvisa said Wednesday that a volunteer in a late-stage clinical trial of a vaccine developed by British-Swedish pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca had died but gave no further details about the circumstances.The volunteer was one of the 8,000 who either received the actual vaccine or a false drug known as a placebo. Because the testing has not been suspended, sources say the volunteer was likely a part of the control group that received the placebo.The AstraZeneca vaccine, developed in cooperation with Britain’s University of Oxford, is being tested in large-scale Phase 2 and Phase 3 trials in several nations, including the United States, Britain, South Africa and India. The drug maker temporarily put the trial on hold last month after a volunteer in Britain was diagnosed with a form of spinal inflammation after receiving a second dose of the vaccine.The trial has since resumed in Britain, Brazil, India and South Africa but remains on hold in the United States.The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has revised its definition about “close contact” with a person infected with COVID-19.The agency had previously determined that close contact was spending 15 consecutive minutes within 2 meters of an infected individual. The revised changes announced Wednesday now defines a close contact as someone who spent a total of 15 minutes accumulated over a 24-hour period.The change by the CDC was prompted by a report of a prison officer in the northeastern U.S. state of Vermont who became infected with COVID-19 after more than 20 brief interactions with inmates who later tested positive for the virus. The brief visits added up to about 17 total minutes of exposure.

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Who’s In Line for COVID-19 Vaccines?

The COVID-19 vaccines are coming.The question is, who gets them first? And who is next in line?Two companies say that by late November, they expect to have initial results from clinical trials showing whether their vaccines are safe and effective. Several others are not far behind.But there won’t be enough for everyone at first. Hard decisions have to be made about who gets it and who doesn’t. So, public health experts are laying out guidelines that aim to do the most good with a limited resource.Two expert panels have made recommendations already — the U.S. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine and Johns Hopkins University.But things get complicated quickly.”When you see these kinds of simple frameworks, they’re very important. But the devil’s in the details here,” said William Moss, executive director of the Johns Hopkins University International Vaccine Access Center.Front line, front of the lineFirst in line, experts agree, should be health care workers directly dealing with COVID-19 patients. They’re at high risk of infection and they are also critical to keeping society running.But who, exactly, counts as a health care worker? Doctors and nurses treating COVID-19 patients, clearly. Maintenance workers on the COVID wards, almost certainly. Cooks in nursing homes, possibly. But the farther you get from the bedside, the murkier it gets.”If you are someone who is an administrator, it depends,” said Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association.For example, maybe office personnel who have patients sign forms should be vaccinated, he said.It may be up to individual facilities to make the decision.”We’re going to have a committee right here in our own institution to create a staggered system of who should be first, second and third,” said Vanderbilt University Medical Center infectious disease professor William Schaffner, “because we are unlikely to get enough doses right on Day 2.”At-risk groupsThe other group that experts agree should be top priority are patients with health problems that put them at high risk for serious illness and death from COVID-19. That includes people with heart, lung or kidney disease, as well as diabetes and obesity.But that adds up to more than 100 million people, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The list will likely need to be narrowed further. The National Academies report suggests focusing on people with two or more underlying health conditions.Next up are workers whose jobs are critical to the functioning of society.Who is that?”If you get four people together, you get five opinions,” Schaffner said. “There isn’t a single correct answer.”Recommendations include teachers, transit workers and people working in the food supply chain. But there is no definitive list.”It’s really hard to know who’s in the definition until one is made,” said Adriane Casalotti, chief of government and public affairs at the National Association of County and City Health Officers. She said even local health department staff were not automatically considered essential workers.Coming soonAn expert panel convened by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is expected to provide guidance on all the big questions following a meeting next week.”It will be interesting to see … how granular they get,” Casalotti said.It is important to have a national framework so everyone feels “that we’re all in this together, because it’s the only way we’re going to make it through the pandemic,” she said. Plus, it will help avoid a situation where “you’re a local health official who’s going to be picking winners and losers.”But there also needs to be flexibility to account for local conditions. The panel has to walk a fine line.”You run the risk of being too prescriptive and then not prescriptive enough,” Casalotti said.Is my name on the list?It is one thing to lay out priorities for who should be vaccinated. But how will officials identify the individuals who are eligible and make sure they can get their shots?”This is really a great question, and this is where I have more concern,” Moss said. “We don’t have a mechanism for generating a list of people who should get it.”And health officials already struggle to get adults vaccinated for other illnesses. Influenza vaccines rarely reach half the population.”In a good year, with an established vaccine, it’s tough to get shots in the arm,” Benjamin said.But it is doable, he added. Health departments set up drive-thru vaccination centers during the 2009 H1N1 outbreak, for example. And there are plenty of mobile clinics across the country.”To give someone a vaccination, all you really need is a van and a cooler,” he said.It’s not a surprise that so many questions remain, Casalotti said.”That’s, in some ways, the nature of the beast in dealing with this pandemic,” she noted. “So much is being done in crisis mode that it takes a lot to work through a lot of these genuine, complicated questions.”

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Economy & business/Silicon Valley & Technology
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Facebook Launches Dating Service in Europe

Facebook Inc said on Wednesday it is launching its dating service in 32 European countries after the rollout was delayed earlier this year due to regulatory concerns.The social media company had postponed the rollout of Facebook Dating in Europe in February after concerns were raised by Ireland’s Data Protection Commissioner (DPC), the main regulator in the European Union for a number of the world’s biggest technology firms, including Facebook.The DPC had said it was told about the Feb. 13 launch date on Feb. 3 and was very concerned about being given such short notice.It also said it was not given documentation regarding data protection impact assessments or decision-making processes that had been undertaken by Facebook.Facebook Dating, a dedicated, opt-in space within the Facebook app, was launched in the United States in September last year. It is currently available in 20 other countries.In a blog post on Wednesday, Kate Orseth, Facebook Dating’s product manager, said users can choose to create a dating profile, and can delete it at any time without deleting their Facebook accounts.The first names and ages of users in their dating profiles will be taken from their Facebook profiles and cannot be edited in the dating service, Orseth said, adding that users’ last names will not be displayed and that they can choose whether to share other personal information on their profiles.

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Common Cold Could Protect Against COVID-19, Research Shows

Having a cold might protect sufferers from a severe case of COVID-19, new research shows.COVID-19 patients who had recently been infected with a common cold virus were less likely to die or require intensive care compared with those who did not have a recent cold, according to the study published recently in the Medical staff of the intensive care unit of the Casalpalocco COVID-19 Clinic in the outskirts of Rome tend to patients, Oct. 21, 2020. (Associated Press)Sagar and his colleagues compared people who’d had a recent common cold infection with those who had not. They found that both groups contracted COVID-19 at the same rate, but people who had recently beaten a common cold experienced less severe COVID-19 symptoms.“They were much less likely to require admission to the intensive care unit. And they were much less likely to die from the infection,” said Sagar.For many adults and most children, COVID-19 causes only minor coldlike symptoms or no symptoms at all. In these people, the immune system effectively clears away virus particles and destroys infected cells, preventing serious disease.But the “immune system is a double-edged sword,” said Andrea Cox, professor of medicine at Johns Hopkins University. Exaggerated or poorly regulated immune responses can cause inflammation that leads to breathing troubles, organ failure and death. These severe outcomes usually occur in the elderly or people with other conditions, such as obesity and diabetes.Such vastly different responses to the COVID-19 virus could be explained, in part, by the immune system’s past experiences, experts say. Recognition of SARS-CoV-2 by preexisting T cells could enable a faster and stronger immune response and milder COVID-19 symptoms.Common colds could worsen COVID-19It is also possible that T cells produced from past common colds could impair the immune system’s response to COVID-19.“We have this preexisting standing force of fighters against [disease-causing viruses], and when we encounter those [viruses], there’s expansion of that force that preexists,” said Cox. “The concern is that you might expand [a force] designed to fight something else, not designed perfectly to fight SARS-CoV-2, and that could sort of skew you down this pathway that isn’t the right path to go down.”Prior immune experiences can be harmful in some diseases such as dengue fever. Antibodies and T cells produced in response to one version of the dengue virus can worsen the disease if they encounter a different version of the virus.Currently, there is little evidence that T cells produced in response to common cold coronaviruses worsen COVID-19 disease, but researchers say it is too early to say that they provide protection either.Immunity may also depend on the individual.“Not everyone who gets infected with the virus makes exactly the same immune response. In fact, even identical twins do not make the same exact immune responses to a virus when they get exposed,” said Cox. “So, it may depend on who is being infected. And it may depend on where you are in the world, where different seasonal cold coronaviruses come in different times, and also where you have different genetic backgrounds of people being exposed.”
 

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