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Fauci sees U.S. gaining control over pandemic by next autumn

The leading U.S. infectious disease specialist, Dr. Anthony Fauci, said on Wednesday he foresees America achieving enough collective COVID-19 immunity through vaccinations to regain “some semblance of normality” by autumn 2021, despite early setbacks in the vaccine rollout.

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LOS ANGELES (Reuters) -The leading U.S. infectious disease specialist, Dr. Anthony Fauci, said on Wednesday he foresees America achieving enough collective COVID-19 immunity through vaccinations to regain “some semblance of normality” by autumn 2021, despite early setbacks in the vaccine rollout.

Fauci made his remarks during an online discussion of the pandemic with California Governor Gavin Newsom, who announced at the outset that a more infectious coronavirus variant originally found in Britain has been detected in his state, a day after the first known U.S. case was documented in Colorado.

Newsom said the coronavirus variant B.1.1.7 had been confirmed earlier in the day in a Southern California patient. He did not provide further details. But the California Department of Public Health said in statement later that the person, a San Diego County patient, has no known travel history, suggesting the variant is spreading within the community.

Fauci said he was “not surprised,” adding that additional cases of the variant would likely surface around the country and that the mutating nature of such viruses is normal.

“It appears that this particular mutation does make the virus better at transmitting from one person to another,” he said. However, individuals infected with earlier forms of SARS-CoV-2 “don’t seem to get re-infected by this,” meaning that any immunity already acquired “is protective against this particular strain,” Fauci added.

He also stressed that the so-called UK variant is believed to be no more severe in the illness it causes, and that newly approved COVID-19 vaccines will prove just as effective against it as against earlier known forms of the virus.

The same is believed to be true for a second new variant, also more infectious and first reported in South Africa, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Still, the emergence of a more highly transmissible variant could make a swift rollout of immunizations all the more critical.

President-elect Joe Biden warned on Tuesday it could take years to inoculate most Americans given an initial vaccine distribution rate that has lagged behind the promises of the Trump administration. He called on Congress to approve greater funding for the endeavor.

FILE PHOTO: Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, speaks with Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar before receiving his first dose of the new Moderna COVID-19 vaccine at the National Institutes of Health, in Bethesda, U.S., December 22, 2020. Patrick Semansky/Pool via REUTERS

‘WE’RE GOING TO CATCH UP’

Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said on Wednesday he was confident that early glitches in distribution of the vaccine will be overcome.

“As we get into January, the feeling is that we’re going to gain momentum to be able to catch up,” he told Newsom, saying he expected immunizations to become widely available to the general public on demand, by April.

Assuming that the broad vaccination campaign progresses as it should through May, June and July, “By the time we get to the early fall, we will have enough good herd immunity to be able to really get back to some strong semblance of normality – schools, theaters, sports events, restaurants,” Fauci said.

Nevertheless, the prospect of fighting a more contagious form of the virus comes as the pandemic has raged largely out of control across much of the United States for weeks. California, the most populous state with 40 million, has become the latest flashpoint, as hospitals in and around Los Angeles report intensive care units filled to capacity.

Medical experts attribute a worsening of the pandemic in recent weeks to the arrival of colder weather and the failure of many Americans to abide by public health warnings to avoid social gatherings and unnecessary travel over the year-end holiday season.

The result has been an alarming surge of infections and hospitalizations that have strained healthcare systems to their limits, and a steadily mounting U.S. death toll, surpassing 338,000 lives lost nationwide to date.

In addition to upending daily social life in America, the pandemic has stifled the economy, idling millions of workers at numbers not seen since the Great Depression of the 1930s.

The first U.S. case of the UK variant was announced by Colorado Governor Jared Polis on Tuesday. At a news conference on Wednesday, Polis described the patient infected as a National Guard soldier in his 20s who had been assigned to help deal with a COVID outbreak at a nursing home in Simla, Colorado, on the outskirts of the Denver metropolitan area.

The patient, isolating and recuperating at home, has no recent travel history, which Dr. Henry Walke, incident manager for the CDC’s COVID response, said is a sign of person-to-person transmission of the variant within the United States.

The director of Colorado’s Public Health and Environment Department told reporters that a second member of the National Guard may also have contracted the UK variant, though final laboratory confirmation was still being awaited.

The new variant has been detected in several European countries, as well as in Canada, Australia, India, South Korea and Japan, among others.

The U.S. government on Monday began requiring all airline passengers arriving from Britain – including U.S. citizens – to test negative for COVID-19 within 72 hours of departure.

The government may expand coronavirus testing requirements for international air travelers beyond Britain as early as next week, sources briefed on the matter told Reuters on Wednesday.

Reporting and writing by Steve Gorman in Los Angeles; Additional reporting by Jonathan Allen in New York, Rich McKay in Atlanta, Keith Coffman in Denver and David Shepardson in Washington; Editing by Leslie Adler and Grant McCool

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Source: https://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-coronavirus-usa/fauci-sees-us-gaining-control-over-pandemic-by-next-autumn-idUSKBN2942D3

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Reuters

Internal data from breach circulating online -CD Projekt

Internal company data leaked during a February security breach is now being circulated on the internet, Polish video games maker CD Projekt (CDR.WA) said in a statement published on Thursday.

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Cd Projekt headquarters is pictured in Warsaw, Poland January 21, 2020. REUTERS/Kacper Pempel

Internal company data leaked during a February security breach is now being circulated on the internet, Polish video games maker CD Projekt (CDR.WA) said in a statement published on Thursday.

The attack, which compromised some of its internal systems including the source code to its much-hyped game Cyberpunk 2077, dealt another blow to the Warsaw-based business after the game’s launch was beset by glitches.

“We are not yet able to confirm the exact contents of the data in question, though we believe it may include current/former employee and contractor details in addition to data related to our games,” the statement said.

It added that the company couldn’t confirm whether or not the data has been manipulated or tampered with since the breach.

Separately, video game maker Electronic Arts Inc (EA.O) said on Thursday that it is investigating a recent data breach, where some of its game source code and related tools were stolen.

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Source: https://www.reuters.com/technology/internal-data-breach-circulating-online-cd-projekt-2021-06-10/

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U.S. seeks less costly clean hydrogen in climate fight

The Biden administration on Monday set a goal of reducing the cost of producing clean hydrogen, a fuel that could reduce dependence on others that emit greenhouse gases that cause climate change.

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U.S. Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm speaks during a press briefing at the White House in Washington, U.S., April 8, 2021. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

The Biden administration on Monday set a goal of reducing the cost of producing clean hydrogen, a fuel that could reduce dependence on others that emit greenhouse gases that cause climate change.

The Department of Energy (DOE) set a goal for hydrogen made with clean power, such as renewables and nuclear energy plants, by 80% to $1 per kilogram in a decade.

“Clean hydrogen is a game changer,” U.S. Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm said in a statement. “It will help decarbonize high-polluting heavy-duty and industrial sectors, while delivering good-paying clean energy jobs and realizing a net-zero economy by 2050.”

It was the first of a series of DOE initiatives to accelerate and innovate in clean energy called Energy Earthshots intended to help the economy reach that emissions goal.

Hydrogen can be used in fuel cells that have byproducts of water and heat instead of carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas. It has long been used as rocket fuel, in oil refining and to produce ammonia for fertilizers.

So-called green hydrogen, made by using renewable energy to power electrolysers to extract it from water, is backed by many governments for use in vehicles, ships and energy plants, but is currently too costly.

Today, however, the gas is mostly extracted from natural gas or coal, called grey hydrogen, in processes that emit large amounts of carbon dioxide.

The DOE issued a request for information on viable hydrogen demonstrations with requests due on July 7.

The United States can generate affordable electricity without producing carbon dioxide emissions by 2035 by deploying hydrogen or carbon capture technology, said a report released last September by a climate policy think tank.

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Source: https://www.reuters.com/business/environment/us-seeks-less-costly-clean-hydrogen-climate-fight-2021-06-07/

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Microsoft says error led to no matching Bing images for Tiananmen ‘tank man’

Microsoft Corp (MSFT.O) on Friday blamed “accidental human error” for its Bing search engine not showing image results for the query “tank man” in the United States and elsewhere after users raised concerns about possible censorship around the Tiananmen Square crackdown anniversary.

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People look at police officers standing guard at Victoria Park on the 32nd anniversary of the crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators at Beijing’s Tiananmen Square in 1989, in Hong Kong, June 4. REUTERS/Lam Yik

Microsoft Corp (MSFT.O) on Friday blamed “accidental human error” for its Bing search engine not showing image results for the query “tank man” in the United States and elsewhere after users raised concerns about possible censorship around the Tiananmen Square crackdown anniversary.

Users, including in the United Kingdom, Germany and Singapore, reported Friday that when they performed the search Bing returned the message, “There are no results for tank man.”

David Greene, civil liberties director at the nonprofit Electronic Frontier Foundation, said that content moderation was impossible to do perfectly and “egregious mistakes are made all the time.”

But he said it could be more sinister: “At worst, this was purposeful suppression at the request of a powerful state.”

Hours after Microsoft acknowledged the issue, the “tank man” search returned only pictures of tanks elsewhere in the world.

“Tank man” is often used to describe an unidentified person famously pictured standing before tanks in China’s Tiananmen Square during pro-democracy demonstrations in June 1989.

Microsoft said the issue was “due to an accidental human error and we are actively working to resolve this.”

Smaller search engines such as DuckDuckGo that license results from Microsoft faced similar issues around “tank man” searches and said they expected a fix soon.

Rival Google (GOOGL.O) showed many results for the famous image when the “tank man” search was performed on Friday.

A significant percentage of the Microsoft employees who work on Bing are based in China, including some who work on image-recognition software, according to a former employee.

China is known to require search engines operating in its jurisdiction to censor results, but those restrictions are rarely applied elsewhere.

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

But he said it could be more sinister: “At worst, this was purposeful suppression at the request of a powerful state.”

Source: https://www.reuters.com/technology/microsoft-bing-raises-concerns-over-lack-image-results-tiananmen-tank-man-2021-06-04/

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