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AirBuddy’s AirPod integration for the Mac gets updated with more iOS-style features

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The AirBuddy app is celebrating another successful Apple week by opening up preorders on v2.0. The original, which arrived in early 2019, brought a pop-up to the Mac when a pair of AirPods were brought near — bringing simple ecosystem integration to the desktop before Apple did.

The update, which is set to arrive arrive on November 11, brings even deeper integration. At the top of the list is a quick status menu featuring all connected Apple and Beats devices. That includes the iPhone, iPad and the Apple Watch, along with other Macs that have the latest version of the $10 software installed. The devices are group together based on how they’re paired with one another — so, a set of AirPods connected to an iPhone will appear near that device in the menu.

The update also brings device usage over the past 12 or 24 hours including listening time, call time and whether one of the buds in an AirPods pair is losing charge more quickly than the other. Users can also switch between AirPods Pro’s normal, noise canceling and transparency modes directly from the desktop.

Those who purchased the original version of the app will get the upgrade for free if they purchased it this year. If you bought it last year, you can get the new one for half-off.

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Facebook reportedly bracing for US election chaos with tools designed for “at-risk” countries

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Facebook is planning for possible chaos around the November 3rd US presidential election with internal tools it’s used before in countries like Sri Lanka and Myanmar, The Wall Street Journal reported.

The plans may include slowing the spread of posts as they begin to go viral, altering the news feed algorithm to change what content users see, and changing the rules for what kind of content is dangerous and warrants removal. They’re strategies Facebook has previously used in so-called “at-risk” countries dealing with mass ethnic unrest or political bloodshed.

The tools would only be used in the event of election-related violence or other serious circumstances, according to the WSJ, but some employees at the company said they were concerned that attempting to slow down viral content could unintentionally hide legitimate political discussions.

Facebook’s handling of violent hate speech against Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar several years ago was widely criticized. After a 2018 independent assessment of the situation, the social media giant conceded it wasn’t “doing enough to help prevent our platform from being used to foment division and incite offline violence. We agree that we can and should do more.” It pledged to better prepare for future risks.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said in a September blog post that the US presidential election “is not going to be business as usual.” He said he was “worried that with our nation so divided and election results potentially taking days or weeks to be finalized, there could be an increased risk of civil unrest across the country.”

Platforms are bracing for pre-and post-election uncertainty in the US, after President Trump has repeatedly criticized mail-in voting, which many people are using this election cycle due to the coronavirus pandemic. He’s also declined to say whether he would accept the election results if he loses.

Facebook said last month that it would not accept new political ads a week before the US election (but those that had already been approved will continue running). It also added a “voter information center” at the top of Facebook and Instagram feeds, and plans to provide live, official election results when available via a partnership with Reuters. Facebook has said it will label any posts declaring premature victory, and will remove posts with misinformation about COVID-19 and voting. And it plans to ban all US political ads indefinitely after the November 3rd election.

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Upgrade Your PC Gaming Setup Today With a New Respawn Desk ($63 Off) And Gigabyte G27F Monitor ($40 Off)

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Respawn 1010 Gaming Desk in Red | $150 | Newegg

Gigabyte G27F 27-in. Gaming Monitor | $210 | Newegg | Promo code 93XPW42

This Gigabyte G27F 27-inch gaming monitor has a 144Hz refresh rate and a 1 millisecond response time, as well as a 1920 x 1080 IPS display. You can get it for $40 off, bringing it down to $210, when you apply promo code 93XPW42 at checkout.

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Why not grab a new Respawn 1010 gaming desk to put your spanking new monitor on? It’s $63 off and can also be found on Newegg. Both of these deals are good for today only, and they also both ship for free.

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The US now seems to be pinning all of its hopes on COVID-19 therapies and vaccines

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Almost eight months after the White House first announced it would move from containment to mitigation efforts to stop the spread of the COVID-19 epidemic, the Administration is now pinning its hopes on vaccines to inoculate the population and therapies to treat the disease.

Months after announcing it would be working with technology giants Apple and Google on a contact tracing app (and nearly two months after Google and Apple rolled out their exposure notification features) and initiating wide spread testing efforts nationwide with the largest national pharmacies (which never received the coordinated support it needed),  the Administration appears to be giving up on a national effort to stop the spread of the COVID-19 epidemic.

In an interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows said that the US is “not going to control the pandemic… We are gonna control the fact that we get vaccines, therapeutics and other mitigation.”

The admission is a final nail in the coffin for a federal response that could have involved a return to lockdowns to stop the spread of the virus, or national testing and contact tracing and other mitigation measures. Meadows statement comes as the US experiences a second peak in infection rates. There are now over 8.1 million cases and over 220,000 deaths since the first confirmed infection on US soil on January 20. 

Now, the focus is all on the vaccines, therapies and treatments being developed by large pharma companies and startups alike that are making their way through the approval processes of regulatory agencies around the world.

The vaccines in phase three clinical trials

There are currently 12 vaccines in large scale, late-stage clinical trials around the world, including ones from American companies Novavax, Johnson & Johnson, Moderna Therapeutics, and Pfizer who are recruiting tens of thousands of people in the US and UK to volunteer for testing.

In China, the state run pharmaceutical company Sinopharm has filed its application to China’s regulatory commission for the approval of a vaccine and hundreds of thousands of civilians have already been vaccinated under emergency use approvals from the Chinese government, according to a report in the New Yorker. Meanwhile the privately held Chinese pharmaceutical company, Sinovac, is moving forward with phase three trials for its own vaccine in Brazil, Bangladesh and Indonesia. Another private Chinese company, CanSino Biologics developed a vaccine that was already being distributed to members of the Chinese military in late July,

A collaboration in the U.K. between the University of Oxford and European pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca is also recruiting volunteers in Brazil, India, the United Kingdom, the US and South Africa. And, in Australia, the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute is trying to see whether a vaccine used to prevent tuberculosis could be used to vaccinate against the coronavirus.

Finally in Russia, the Gamaleya National Center of Epidemiology and Microbiology in partnership with the state-run Russian Direct Investment Fund have claimed to have developed a vaccine that the country has registered as the first one on the market cleared for widespread use. Russia has not published any data from the clinical trials it claims to have conducted to prove the efficacy of the vaccine and the World Health Organization still considers the treatment to be in the first phase of development.

Therapies in phase three clinical trials

If vaccines can prevent against infection, a slew of companies are also working on ways to limit the severity of the disease should someone become infected with Sars-Cov-2, the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19.

The Milken Institute lists 41 different therapies that have made it through to phase three of their clinical trials (the last phase before approval for widespread delivery).

These therapies come in one of five primary categories: antibody therapies, antivirals, cell-based therapies, RNA-based treatments, and repurposing existing treatments that may be in pharmaceutical purgatory.

Antibody therapies use the body’s natural defense systems either taken from the blood of people who have recovered from an infection or manufactured in a lab to neutralize the spread of a virus or bacteria. Antivirals, by contrast, stop a virus from spreading by attacking the viruses’ ability to replicate. Cell-based therapies are designed to boost the immune system’s ability to fight pathogens like viruses or bacteria. Meanwhile RNA-based treatments are another method to stop the virus from replicating by blocking the construction of viral proteins. Finally, several companies are mining their libraries of old drug compounds to see if any might be candidates for COVID-19 treatments.

So far, only three therapeutics have been approved to treat COVID-19. In the U.K. and Japan dexamethasone has received approvals, while favilavir is being used in China, Italy and Russia; and — famously thanks to its use by the President — remdesivir has been approved in the United States, Japan and Australia.

The US is also using convalescent plasma to treat hospitalized patients under emergency use authorizations. And special cases, like the President’s, have had access to other experimental treatments like Regeneron’s cell therapy under emergency use authorizations.

And there are several US-based startups developing potential COVID-19 therapies in each of these areas.

Adaptive Biotechnologies, Cytovia Therapeutics, and SAB Biotherapeutics are all developing antibody treatments. Applied Therapeutics is using an understanding of existing compounds to develop treatments for specific conditions associated with COVID-19. Cellularity has a cell-therapy that could reduce a patient’s viral load by stimulating so-called natural killer cells to attack infected cells. Humanigen has developed a new drug that could reduce fatalities in high-risk COVID-19 patients with severe pneumonia. Meanwhile Partner Therapeutics is working on a drug that could improve lung function in COVID-19 patients — and potentially boost antibody production against the virus and restore damaged lung cells. Finally, Sarepta Therapeutics has been working with the United States Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases to find ways for its RNA-based treatment to stop the spread of coronaviruses by attacking the ability for the virus to replicate.

Beyond therapies, startups are finding other ways to play a role in helping the nation address the COVID-19 epidemic.

“At this point the U.S. doesn’t have the best public health system, but at the same time we have best-in-class private companies who can sometimes operate a lot more efficiently than governments can,” Carbon Health chief executive Eran Bali told the audience at TechCrunch’s Disrupt 2020 conference. “We also just recently launched a program to help COVID-positive patients get back to health quickly, a rehabilitation program. Because as you know even if you survive it doesn’t mean your body was not affected, there are permanent effects.”

Indeed the drive for more effective at-home tests and remote treatments for consumers are arguably more important when the federal government refuses to make the prevention of viral spread a priority, because consumers may voluntarily lock down if the government won’t.

“This is an opportunity to take a technology that naturally is all about detecting viruses — that’s what CRISPR does in [its native environment] bacteria — and repurposing it to use it as a rapid diagnostic for coronavirus,” said the Nobel Prize-winning co-inventor of some foundational CRISPR gene-editing technology, Jennifer Doudna. “We’re finding in the laboratory that that means that you can get a signal faster, and you can also get a signal that is more directly correlated to the level of the virus.”

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