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The CDC is considering telling people to upgrade from cloth face coverings to N95 or KN95 masks in light of Omicron, report says

Tue, 01/11/2022 - 12:13
A medical assistant wears an N95 mask and a face shield in Puyallup, Washington.
  • The CDC is thinking of beefing up its mask guidance in light of the Omicron variant, The Washington Post reported.
  • It's considering asking people to wear N95 or KN95 masks, the report said.
  • N95 and KN95 masks give better protection than cloth masks.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is considering recommending that people upgrade their masks to N95 or KN95 models to help fight the fast-spreading Omicron variant, The Washington Post reported.

An official told The Post: "The agency is currently actively looking to update its recommendations for KN95 and N95 in light of Omicron. We know these masks provide better filtration."

The Post did not name the official, saying they did not have permission to speak publicly. The CDC did not immediately respond to Insider's request for comment.

The CDC and World Health Organization currently recommend that the public wear cloth marks.

But medical-grade masks, like the N95 and KN95 models, are better at stopping particles from passing through the mask, which means the virus is less likely to spread when those masks are being used.

Some experts have said that cloth masks don't give enough protection against the Omicron variant, given that it is more transmissible than previous variants.

The CDC is expected to hedge any new guidance about mask quality by saying that the best mask to wear is one that people are comfortable wearing often and correctly, The Post reported.

The guidance is expected to say that if people can "tolerate wearing a KN95 or N95 mask all day, you should," according to The Post.

Read the original article on Business Insider
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EV maker Rivian missed its 2021 vehicle production target by 15%

Tue, 01/11/2022 - 12:09
The company started deliveries of its R1T in September.
  • Electric-vehicle startup Rivian produced 1,015 cars in 2021, it said Monday.
  • That was just over 15% short of its target to produce 1,200 R1T pickup trucks and 25 R1S SUVs.
  • Rivian went public in a blockbuster IPO in November and has announced plans to open a second factory.

Electric-vehicle startup Rivian narrowly missed its 2021 manufacturing targets, producing 1,015 cars, it said Monday.

The company shared plans in November to produce 1,200 R1Ts, its $67,500 electric pickup truck, and 25 R1Ss, its $77,500 SUV, by the end of the year.

Of the vehicles it produced, 920 were delivered to customers by the end of 2021, Rivian said – again falling short of its target to deliver 1,000 R1Ts and 15 R1Ss.

The company had warned in its third-quarter shareholder letter, published in mid-December, that it might not meet its production targets, which it attributed to supply-chain disruptions.

"We expect to be a few hundred vehicles short of our 2021 production target of 1,200, however, we are encouraged by the progress and learnings our team continues to incorporate into our operations," Rivian said in the letter, adding that its team was "incredibly focused" on ramping up production output.

The company started deliveries of its R1T in September and its R1S in December. By December 15, it had produced 650 R1Ts and delivered 384, and produced and delivered two R1Ss.

The company had 71,000 preorders in the US and Canada for its R1T and R1S vehicles as of December 15, it said in its shareholder letter. Amazon has also preordered 100,000 of Rivian's EDV, its upcoming electric delivery vehicle which Rivian had planned to start deliveries of in December.

Rivian's factory in Normal, Illinois has capacity to produce 150,000 vehicles a year, but the automaker has announced plans to boost this to 200,000.

It's also opening its second factory, a $5 billion plant in Georgia. When production at the site starts in 2024, Rivian expects it will produce up to 400,000 vehicles annually, though some industry experts say this could be a premature expansion.

The company also announced Monday that Rivian Chief Operating Officer Rod Copes retired in December, The Wall Street Journal first reported. His retirement had been planned for months and his duties have been absorbed by Rivian's leadership team, a company spokesperson told the Journal.

Rivian went public in a blockbuster IPO in November with a market valuation of nearly $100 billion. The company's trading debut was the sixth-biggest ever on a US exchange, raising $11.9 billion from its IPO by selling 153 million shares.

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10 things in tech you need to know today

Tue, 01/11/2022 - 12:00

Hello, world. We've got a lot in store for you today, including a massive acquisition in the video game industry and a man mining cryptocurrency with a Tesla. 

Let's dive in.

If this was forwarded to you, sign up here. Download Insider's app – click here for iOS and here for Android.

1. The gaming giant behind "Grand Theft Auto" is buying "Farmville" developer Zynga. The company, Take-Two Interactive, announced its plans to acquire Zynga, one of the world's biggest mobile game makers, in a deal worth $12.7 billion.

  • While Zynga's primary name recognition comes from the hit "Farmville" franchise, it also owns "Words with Friends" and has built out mobile games from "Harry Potter" and "Star Wars."
  • The deal, expected to close in June, marks a blockbuster acquisition for the video game industry — outstripping Microsoft's $7 billion purchase of ZeniMax Media, the parent company of Skyrim-maker Bethesda.
  • Going forward, Zynga's thousands of employees will work on the creation of new mobile games for Take-Two's iconic franchises. 

Here's what else you need to know.

In other news:

Signal CEO Moxie Marlinspike

2. New year, new CEO: Signal's top exec steps down. In a blog post Monday, CEO Moxie Marlinspike announced his resignation. As the company looks for a replacement, WhatsApp cofounder Brian Acton will serve as the interim chief executive. Get the full rundown here.

3. Amazon is officially changing how it distributes stock to employees. According to an internal memo, the company will allow employees to take longer leaves of absence before pausing their stock vesting schedules, in addition to other changes. More on the changes intended to "make every day better for employees."

4. New details have emerged about Google's secret anti-union campaign. Per Vice, one Google exec said the campaign, dubbed "Project Vivian," was supposed to convince employees "that unions suck." Read the latest developments.

5. Facebook's recently granted patents give a glimpse of what the future of the metaverse might look like. Numbering in the hundreds, the patents offer an idea of what could come, ranging from smaller headsets to hyper-realistic avatars and clothing that would require body mapping. None mentioned privacy or safety, the chief concerns of the metaverse. What we learned from Facebook's patents. 

6. Amazon workers who contract COVID-19 will now get less paid leave. Following revised guidance from the CDC, Amazon has reduced its paid time off policy for employees with COVID-19 from 10 to seven days. What we know about the new policy.

7. Google's salary hike for execs triggers criticism from rank-and-file staff. Some Googlers are raising questions, as the compensation bump came months after Google announced it would cut pay for fully remote workers and reports found it failed to properly compensate thousands of workers. See what employees are saying about pay. 

8. A Google exec slammed Apple over its blue and green text bubbles. Texts between iPhones appear in blue, but messages sent from Android phones appear in green — a feature the Wall Street Journal found to cause social pressure with one Google exec saying it utilizes "peer pressure and bullying." More on the beef over green bubbles.

9. TikTok is testing its own "retweet" function. Similar to Twitter's feature, it will allow users to share content with followers without having to send videos one by one — but it won't add the reposted video to the user's profile. Instead, it will appear on their followers' "For You" feeds. Here's how it'll work.

10. A Tesla owner says he mines cryptocurrency with his car. The owner of a 2018 Model 3 told CNBC he makes up to $800 a month mining bitcoin and ethereum for about 20 hours a day — but it could void the car's warranty. Get the details on his "computer with wheels."

What we're watching today:

  • Samsung's new Galaxy S21 FE 5G smartphone becomes available in select markets today. More details here.
  • Volkswagen is expected to announce the brand's total vehicle deliveries to customers in 2021.
  • Boeing is set to announce Q4 and 2021 deliveries.
  • Earnings are expected from Albertsons, among other companies. Keep up with earnings here.

Curated by Jordan Parker Erb in New York. (Feedback or tips? Email jerb@insider.com or tweet @jordanparkererb.) Edited by Michael Cogley in London.

Read the original article on Business Insider
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Kazakhstan president says Russian troops will start to leave in 48 hours, citing calm after 164 people killed and 8,000 detained

Tue, 01/11/2022 - 11:56
Tajik troops with the Russia-led Collective Security Treaty Organisation in Almaty, Kazakhstan, on January 11, 2021
  • Foreign troops led by Russia helped Kazakhstan crush a series of major protests.
  • The troops will be gone within 10 days, Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev said Tuesday.
  • At least 164 people were killed and 8,000 more detained during protests sparked by fuel prices.

Kazakhstan says Russian forces will leave the country starting January 13, following the end of protests that saw 164 people killed and 8,000 more detained.

Some 2,500 troops with the Collective Security Treaty Organisation, a Russia-led alliance including Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, arrived in Kazakhstan on January 6 to help quell violence that was sweeping its cities.

Kazakhstan called for aid on January 2 after the spread of protests that began in the fuel-producing western province of Mangistau. The largest demonstrations, and most violence, were in Almaty, the country's largest city.

After helping quash the protests, the CTSO troops are due to depart over a period of 10 days starting on January 13, President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev told his parliament Tuesday.

"The main mission of the CSTO peacekeeping forces has been successfully completed," Tokayev said.

During the unrest, demonstrators protesting the government's decision to remove a price cap on liquefied petroleum gas stormed government offices, set fire to state property, and clashed with police.

The government  cut access to the internet and declared a state of emergency. As of Monday, at least 164 people had been killed and 8,000 more detained, according to Kazakh authorities.

On Monday, Tokayev claimed that the uprising was an attempted coup rather than a spontaneous expression of anger. He praised Russia, a close ally, for leaping to Kazakhstan's defense.

The same day, Putin said Kazakhstan was targeted by terrorists and external forces, without giving any names or specifics, Reuters said.

Such unsubstantiated claims are common among nations justifying the use of force in protests. Under CSTO rules, members can only deploy troops to other member states to respond to external — not internal — threats, per Radio Free Europe.

Russia is currently keeping juggling unrest on two fronts: Kazakhstan at its southern border and rising tensions with Ukraine and the US at its western border. 

Russia has for weeks been building up a large troop presence at the Ukrainian border, a move Putin says is in response to NATO expansion eastward and the presence of US artillery in Ukraine. 

In an attempt to deescalate tensions, US and Russian diplomats met for emergency talks in Geneva, Switzerland, on Monday.

During the eight-hour meeting, Russian officials said Moscow had no intention of invading Ukraine. The US said that it would not deny Ukraine, or any other eastern bloc country, entry to NATO just because Russia felt threatened.

President Joe Biden said earlier this month that the US will defend Ukraine's sovereignty and would respond "decisively" if Russia invades.

Read the original article on Business Insider
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Biden plans to support changing the filibuster to get voter-rights law through the Senate, reports say

Tue, 01/11/2022 - 11:52
President Joe Biden.
  • President Joe Biden will back changing the filibuster to pass a voting-rights law, per reports. 
  • The rule has been used by Senate Republicans to block voting-rights bills. 
  • Democrats say voting rights are under attack from restrictive rules passed GOP at the state level.

President Joe Biden plans to lend his support to changing the Senate filibuster rules in order to pass new voting-rights legislation, several reports said.

Biden is due to outline this stance in a Tuesday speech in Atlanta, Georgia, The New York Times reported. The White House confirmed the plans to Reuters

The president would not call for totally getting rid of the filibuster, a senior administration official told the Times, but for a temporary suspension in order to push through a voting rights bill. 

A White House official told CNN that the rules needed to be changed to pass voting-rights legislation so that "this basic right is defended."

A bill to defend voting rights is one of Biden's key domestic priorities. Democrats say Republican-controlled state legislatures across the US have hampered access to voting  by passing new restrictions.

Democrats say the bills specifically target Black voters in states such as Georgia, and Biden has likened them to the racist Jim Crow laws of the segregationist South.

The issue has gained added urgency in recent weeks with Biden's other key domestic priority, his Build Back Better social and climate change bill, stalled in the Senate amid the opposition of Democratic moderate Sen. Joe Manchin. 

But Republicans have blocked two attempts by Democrats to pass bills defending voting rights, most recently in November. Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has argued that the bills are an attempt by Democrats to secure an unfair advantage at the ballot, and violate the right of states to decide how they conduct elections. 

Republicans have blocked the bills using the filibuster, a blocking measure that can only be overcome with 60 or more votes. But with only have a razor thin one vote majority in the Senate, which is split 50-50 and where Vice President Kamala Harris holds the tie breaker, Democrats have been unable to advance the bills. 

The impasse in December led Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer to declare that Democrats would seek to reform the filibuster. However the move would require the unanimous backing of Democratic senators in order to pass, and Manchin alongside fellow moderate Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona have said that they would not support a bid to alter the filibuster. 

 

 

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JPMorgan boss Jamie Dimon says markets are in for a wild ride this year, and predicts the Fed will hike rates more than 4 times

Tue, 01/11/2022 - 11:42
Jamie Dimon has been CEO of JPMorgan since 2005.
  • JPMorgan boss Jamie Dimon says markets are in for a lot of volatility in 2022.
  • He said he'd be surprised if the Federal Reserve raised interest rates only four times.
  • Yet Dimon said the US economy is in good shape and is set for very strong growth this year.

Jamie Dimon has said financial markets are in for a rocky ride in 2022, with the JPMorgan CEO saying he'd be surprised if the Federal Reserve hiked only four times.

Dimon told CNBC Monday that he's "expecting that the market will have a lot of volatility this year as rates go up."

He said higher interest rates would cause investors to "redo projections and look at the effective interest rate and businesses differently than they did before."

Dimon, who has run the US' biggest bank since 2005, said the Fed could well hike rates more aggressively than many expect over the coming year. He said he expects inflation to remain well above the central bank's 2% target by the end of 2022.

"I'd personally be surprised if it's just four increases," he told CNBC's Bertha Coombs on "The Exchange." "I think that four increases of 25 basis points is a very, very little amount and very easy for the economy to absorb."

Goldman Sachs on Monday said it now expects the Fed to raise rates four times this year, after the US unemployment rate fell in December. Deutsche Bank is among the other lenders penciling in four rate rises.

Stock markets have been roiled in early 2022 by expectations that the Fed will repeatedly hike rates and start reducing its balance sheet, bringing to an end the huge support that the central bank provided the economy and markets during the coronavirus crisis.

Read more: JPMorgan markets guru Marko Kolanovic shares his 20 top investing recommendations to maximize returns in 2022

The benchmark S&P 500 is down more than 2% year-to-date. But tech stocks – which now look less attractive as interest rates rise – have been the worst hit, with the tech-heavy Nasdaq 100 index down 4.3% so far this year.

Dimon said the Fed has a very difficult task ahead of it to bring down inflation without whacking the economy and markets. "It's gonna be a little bit like threading a needle," he said.

Yet the JPMorgan boss said the US economy is in a very strong position going into 2022, with consumers having built up savings during COVID-19 and employment and wages rising.

"We're going to have, what? The best growth we've ever had this year, I think since maybe sometime [around] the Great Depression. And so next year will be pretty good too," he said.

"The consumer balance sheet has never been in better shape," Dimon said. "Home prices are up, stock prices are up. Jobs are plentiful, wages are going up, and that all tells you what's gonna happen in the future."

However, Dimon said a strong economy doesn't necessarily mean an easy ride for stocks. "The market is different, [it] can have its own fluctuations unrelated to the economy," he said.

Read the original article on Business Insider
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Tesla's most prominent Black executive is leaving the company

Tue, 01/11/2022 - 11:41
Valerie Capers Workman reported directly to CEO Elon Musk, per Bloomberg.
  • Tesla HR chief Valerie Capers Workman is leaving the company, according to an internal memo obtained by Bloomberg.
  • Workman became Tesla's head of HR in 2020 and was among the most senior Black executives at the company.
  • She defended Tesla following a high-profile racial harassment verdict against the company.

Valerie Capers Workman, Tesla's most prominent Black executive, is leaving the company, according to an internal email seen by Bloomberg.

Workman, who is among the highest-ranking Black executives at Tesla, is to join Handshake, the career network firm, as chief legal officer, Bloomberg reported.

Workman acted as spokesperson for Tesla during a high-profile racial discrimination case in 2021. A jury awarded $137 million in damages to Owen Diaz, who said he suffered racial harassment while working as an elevator operator in Tesla's Fremont factory.

After the verdict went against Tesla, Workman wrote in a blog post: "The Tesla of 2015 and 2016 (when Mr. Diaz worked in the Fremont factory) is not the same as the Tesla of today." She said she sat on Tesla's defense table every day of the trial, and appeared to attempt to undermine the verdict using details from the case. Tesla is appealing the verdict.

In the internal email seen by Bloomberg, Workman compared her experience at Tesla with that of her time in track and field sports in high school, where she had to "pass off the baton in a better place than when I received it."

Per Bloomberg, Workman said in the email she felt "confident that I have done this at Tesla with the implementation of so many important programs for employees worldwide."

She said: "I am proud of all that I was able to accomplish at Tesla with the support of truly excellent colleagues, especially the People and Legal teams."

Workman became Tesla's head of HR in 2020. She joined the company in 2018 as an attorney in its legal department. She reported directly to CEO Elon Musk, per Bloomberg.

During her time as HR chief, Tesla released its first diversity report, in 2020, which showed that just 4% of the company's leadership team were Black.

Read the original article on Business Insider
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Global shares shake off inflation blues in volatile trade ahead of US consumer price data

Tue, 01/11/2022 - 11:38
US inflation data due this week should cement interest rate views.
  • Global shares rose Tuesday, shaking off the previous day's weakness, as investors prepared for US inflation data.
  • Bond yields steadied around their highest since before the pandemic, with those on German debt about to turn positive. 
  • Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell takes questions from lawmakers today, and investors will scour his responses.

Global shares rose Tuesday, bouncing back from weakness the previous day that was driven by concerns over the impact of rising interest rates and inflation on risk assets.

The MSCI All-World index was up 0.2%, having fallen to a three-week low Monday as another pickup in government bond yields rattled investor risk appetite, undermining stocks and cryptocurrencies in particular.

US stock futures rallied, with those on the S&P 500 and Dow Jones gaining around 0.4% and 0.3%, respectively. Those on the Nasdaq 100 rose almost 0.7%, taking their lead from a more upbeat tone in Asia overnight. 

Investors will track Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell's testimony at his Senate confirmation hearing later in the day for signals on the tone and path of policy.

US inflation data for December due Wednesday could be key in cementing expectations for three, or even four, rate hikes this year. The Fed, having raced to stoke inflation last year, is now racing to contain it.

A boom in economic activity — coupled with a deficit of some raw materials, supply-chain bottlenecks and shortage of workers after the pandemic — has lifted US consumer inflation to its highest rate in 40 years. 

The coronavirus crisis rages on, with the Omicron variant fuelling a record 1.35 million cases in a day in the US alone on Monday.

But longer term, strategists and asset managers are not so pessimistic. 

"We view the recent equity volatility as an adjustment to the Fed's incrementally more hawkish stance, rather than a sign that the Fed is about to bring the recovery and the equity rally abruptly to an end," UBS Global Wealth Management's investing chief, Mark Haefele, said in a note.

"We now expect three Fed rate hikes this year, starting as soon as March," he said.

Elsewhere, the MSCI Asia Ex-Japan index rose 0.3%, reflecting strength in Korean and Indian blue-chips. 

In Europe, the Stoxx 600 bucked the trend early Tuesday, dropping 0.4% as losses in retail, travel and banking stocks offset gains in technology and healthcare. 

The relentless rise in bond yields in recent weeks has hit more-expensive equity sectors hard, particularly growth stocks such as tech. Benchmark 10-year Treasurys are around their highest since before the pandemic, as investors ditch assets likely to be hurt by rising interest rates.

The yield on the US 10-year note — last down 3 basis points on the day at 1.753% — is up 15 basis points in almost as many days. Meanwhile, yields on 10-year German Bunds are set to turn positive after almost three years in negative territory. 

"What is interesting is that, unusually, bonds and equities are trading in line with each other, as both assets sell off brutally," Caxton market strategist Michael Brown said.

"We have yet to see any haven demand emerge for Treasuries, with bond markets continuing to reprice the FOMC outlook, rather than behaving as a safe haven," he said.

Federal Open Market Committee minutes last week showed the US central bank is adopting a far more aggressive approach to tackling inflation than expected. 

However, some analysts said investors may have overreacted to the prospect of a more hawkish Fed, which may struggle to raise rates more than three times.

"As such, I do believe we may be approaching 'peak Fed-fear' for now. That could see a sharp jump for equities, a retreat by US yields and the US dollar," OANDA strategist Jeffrey Halley said.

"The first move the market throws the kitchen sink at is usually the wrong one, always fade January."

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GOP Sen. Mike Rounds doubles down on saying the 2020 election was fair after Trump calls him a jerk

Tue, 01/11/2022 - 10:48
A composite image of former President Donald Trump and Sen. Mike Rounds of South Dakota.
  • Trump lashed out at Rounds after senator said the 2020 election was fair and Trump lost.
  • Trump said he "went woke" and asked: "Is he crazy or just stupid?"
  • Rounds responded by saying he stood by his statement and "the former president lost the 2020 election."

GOP Sen. Mike Rounds of South Dakota said again that he believed the 2020 election was fair after former President Donald Trump lashed out at him for saying it the first time.

Rounds first told ABC's "This Week" on Sunday that the 2020 presidential election "was fair, as fair as we've seen."

"We simply did not win the election, as Republicans, for the presidency."

Trump then mocked him, saying he would never again endorse the senator and saying he "went woke."

"Is he crazy or just stupid?" Trump said in his statement. "Even though his election will not be coming up for 5 years, I will never endorse this jerk again."

Rounds then doubled down, responding to Trump's statement with one of his own on Monday. He said he was "disappointment but not surprised" by Trump's reaction, but stands by his own statement that the election was fair.

"I stand by my statement. The former president lost the 2020 election," he said.

He added that there was "no evidence of widespread fraud that would have altered the results of the election." 

Read his full statement here: 

—Senator Mike Rounds (@SenatorRounds) January 11, 2022Read the original article on Business Insider
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Every week in Covid-related delay at China's Ningbo container port could hit $4 billion worth of trade, much of which is bound for the US: analysis

Tue, 01/11/2022 - 09:36
A resurgence of COVID-19 cases in China is prompting fears that the global supply chain crisis could drag on.
  • Localized COVID-19 lockdowns in the city of Ningbo are causing issues for truckers.
  • There are concerns about delays at the Port of Ningbo ahead of the long Chinese New Year break.
  • The Port of Ningbo is a key gateway for Chinese exports to the US. 

Each week of pandemic-related delay at China's Ningbo port could disrupt $4 billion worth of trade, according to Russell Group, a risk modeling consultancy.

Affected industries include $236 million of integrated circuit boards used in electronics and $125 million of clothing, some going to the likes of brands like Nike and Adidas, the consultancy added.

Ningbo, a city of around 8 million in eastern China, is a key port for Chinese exports to the US, with more than $385 million worth of goods exported in the first eight days of January, the Russell Group estimated. It's also the world's third-largest container port.

"Any delays at Ningbo come at a bad time for global supply chains, which are suffering from the logjams created by the pandemic," said the Russell Group.

Some disruptions are already being reported on the land side, as localized lockdowns to contain a COVID-19 outbreak in Ningbo's Beilun district have prevented truck drivers from making it to their jobs. Drivers also need Covid tests to gain access to port areas, which cause additional delays, reported the Journal of Commerce. Additionally, some warehouses have been shut.

The developments are worrying traders who fear that the supply chain crisis could drag on, just as there were signs that it may be easing.

China has a strict Covid-zero approach to managing the pandemic and a recent outbreak of the virus has sent various cities into successive lockdowns head of the long Chinese New Year break that starts on February 1 this year.

"Unfortunately, the situation may get worse, with the Chinese Lunar New Year, as companies cannot stock up their inventories for the upcoming months, forcing them to either look for alternative shipping or products, all of which will feed into higher costs for the consumer," said Suki Basi, managing director at the Russell Group.

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Minister says it's 'making a leap' to assume Boris Johnson knew about lockdown-busting 'bring your own booze' party

Tue, 01/11/2022 - 08:51
Boris Johnson
  • Boris Johnson is under pressure today after leaked email reveals close aide invited more than 100 staff to lockdown-busting BYOB party.
  • Prime minister 'extremely unlikely' to have been unaware of invite, expert says. 
  • But a health minister argues it would be 'a leap' to make that assumption until after inquiry has concluded.

A minister insisted it would "be making a leap" to assume that Boris Johnson was aware of the lockdown-breaching party last May, after a leaked email revealed one of his closest aides had invited more than 100 colleagues to a "bring your own bottle" party in the Downing Street garden.

"After what has been an incredibly busy period, it would be nice to make the most of the lovely weather and have some socially distanced drinks in the No10 garden this evening," Johnson's Principal Private Secretary Martin Reynolds said in an email to over a hundred staffers at Johnson's 10 Downing Street office.

"Please join us from 6 p.m. and bring your own booze!" Reynolds wrote in the email obtained by British broadcaster ITV News, which was sent on May 20, 2020.

—Dominic Cummings (@Dominic2306) January 10, 2022

 

Edward Argar, the Minister of State for Health at the Department of Health and Social Care, told Sky News it was "absolutely right" that the allegations be investigated by Sue Gray, one of Whitehall's most senior officials, who was already probing claims about multiple parties during Christmas 2020. 

But he added he would not "prejudge" her outcome, saying it would not be "appropriate" to comment before Gray  reached a conclusion. Argar said the rules at the time were clear, with a press conference on the day of the party being used to tell the public they could only meet one person from outside their household.

No timeline has been set for the inquiry, but Johnson has requested it be "swift," the minister said. 

Asked whether Johnson knew about the party, he replied: "I have seen the email, I don't know the context of that email… You are making a leap there in assumption about the prime minister."

"I am not going to be drawn there," he added. 

Around 40 staffers gathered for food and drinks in the garden that day. According to the report, witnesses claim Johnson and his wife, Carrie, were among them.

Hannah White, a former official who ran the Committee on Standards in Public Life in the Cabinet Office, told BBC Radio 4's Today program it was "extremely unlikely" that Reynolds would have sent around the email invite "without the assent of the prime minister." 

She noted that witnesses were now "saying he was there." 

However, Dr. White, now the deputy director of the Institute for Government, said Labour's claims that he had misled Parliament were "technically" incorrect as he had been asked "very specifically about Christmas parties."

At the time, Johnson had denied knowledge of the now-infamous cheese and wine party, saying he was "sickened in myself and furious" after a video emerged of his advisers laughing about the rule-breaking bash.

The Metropolitan Police, who has thus far said there is insufficient evidence to investigate multiple allegations of lockdown-breaching parties, is now looking into the matter. 

A spokesperson said: "The Metropolitan Police Service is aware of widespread reporting relating to alleged breaches of the Health Protection Regulations at Downing Street on 20 May 2020 and is in contact with the Cabinet Office.

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Debt-laden China Evergrande has moved out of its swanky headquarters in downtown Shenzhen to save on rent

Tue, 01/11/2022 - 08:02
China Evergrande has moved out of its headquarters in downtown Shenzhen.
  • Evergrande said it moved its headquarters from rental offices to a place it owns in order to cut costs.
  • The Chinese real estate giant is grappling with a $300 billion debt pile.
  • Evergrande's logo was being removed at the Excellence Houhai Financial Center on Monday.

China Evergrande has canceled its lease on its office headquarters in downtown Shenzhen to save on rent.

The company said it moved to another building it owns in the same city last month, according to a statement on its website.

The embattled real estate developer's logo was being removed from its previous headquarters at the Excellence Houhai Financial Center on Monday, Reuters reported on-site. Security personnel and vehicles kept watch, the news agency added.

Once China's second-largest developer by sales, Evergrande is grappling with a $300 billion debt pile and is in default, according to S&P Global and Fitch Ratings. The Chinese government has stepped in to help with its restructuring.

Evergrande did not give details of its new headquarters.

Last September, desperate investors protested at its former headquarters, demanding their money back.

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World's largest condom maker says condom sales precipitously slumped during the pandemic

Tue, 01/11/2022 - 07:56
World's largest condom maker Karex said demand was down in the last two years amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Karex, the world's largest condom-maker, said condom sales slumped over the last two years.
  • The Malaysian company itself had assumed at the start of the pandemic that demand would surge.
  • The company blamed hotel closures and the scaling down of government distribution programs for lagging sales.

Condom sales declined precipitously during the pandemic, according to the world's largest manufacturer of the contraceptive, which saw sales falling as much as 40% in the last two years, according to Nikkei.

While many would assume that people would have nothing to do "but have sex" indoors due to movement restrictions, that didn't appear to be the situation, Karex CEO Goh Miah Kiat told the media outlet.

The Malaysian contraceptive company produces around 5.5 billion condoms a year and is a supplier to brands like Durex and ONE Condoms. It also produces its own condom brands.

Karex had assumed at the start of the pandemic that condom demand would surge as people cooped up at home practice birth control due to economic uncertainty, Bloomberg reported in March 2020, citing Goh. Goh also predicted a condom shortage at the time due to pandemic-fueled factory shutdowns.

Instead, condom demand slumped, not just for Karex but for others like Durex and Trojan, too, as lockdowns hit social life.

Goh told Nikkei condom demand fell when hotels and motels closed, as these locations had provided privacy. The sex industry, too, was impacted by the health crisis, with in-person sex providers facing a challenging market.

Large-scale government condom distribution programs were also hit by the pandemic. 

"A large portion [of condoms] is distributed by governments around the world, which have reduced [distribution] significantly during COVID-19," Gold told Nikkei. "For instance, in the United Kingdom, the NHS [National Health Service] shut down most nonessential clinics because of COVID, and sexual wellness clinics which hand out condoms were also closed."

Karex posted a full-year loss for its fiscal 2020 ending June — the company's first since it went public in November 2013. The company's share price on the Bursa Malaysia exchange fell almost 50% in 2021.

In recent weeks, condom sales have improved, Goh told Nikkei. This is in line with data from other major condom sellers like Durex and Trojan that reported improved sales as movement restrictions lifted.

But Karex is not taking any chances — it plans to diversify into medical glove manufacturing, which has seen explosive growth during the pandemic. Similar raw materials and technologies are used in condom and glove-making, said Goh, per the Nikkei.

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Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot reached a deal with the teachers union so students can go back to school on Wednesday

Tue, 01/11/2022 - 04:54
Mayor Lori Lightfoot appears on 'Meet the Press.'
  • Students have been out of school in the Chicago Public Schools district for about a week. 
  • The city's teacher's union refused to teach in person as COVID-19 cases spiked. 
  • Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot said a deal has been reached for in-person classes to resume on Wednesday.

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot said she'd reached a deal with Chicago Teachers Union on Monday that would allow students to return to the classroom on Wednesday. 

Disputes over COVID-19 measures have resulted in about a week of canceled classes in the district, which is the third-largest in the country. 

The Chicago Teachers Union wanted to return to remote learning amid high COVID-19 cases and voted not to teach in person until there were new COVID-19 measures in place or case numbers decreased.

Lightfoot and the CEO of Chicago Public Schools, Pedro Martinez, advocated for in-person learning. 

Instead of switching to remote learning, the school district canceled classes, which prompted some parents to sue the union. 

The Chicago Tribune reported that a part of the deal also includes a set of conditions where individual schools would return to remote learning based on the rate of staff absences and students in quarantine and isolation. The rate of community transmission would also be a factor in the decision. 

 

 

 

 

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Facebook will require COVID-19 vaccine boosters for all in-person employees

Tue, 01/11/2022 - 03:31
Logo Meta outside Facebook headquarters in Menlo Park, California.
  • Facebook parent company Meta will require all in-person employees to be boosted against COVID-19.
  • The social media giant also announced a further delay in office reopenings, pushing the return to late March. 
  • The company is among several to have postponed returning to the office.

Facebook parent company Meta Platforms will require all employees working from its US offices to receive a COVID-19 vaccine booster by late March, the company announced Monday.

The social media giant also told employees this week that it would further delay their return to the office until March 28 as Omicron cases surge across the country. The company had originally planned to fully reopen its US campuses at the end of January.

A spokesperson for Meta told Insider that the postponement is meant to give employees more time and flexibility in figuring out their work arrangements as the pandemic persists. 

"We're focused on making sure our employees continue to have choices about where they work given the current COVID-19 landscape," Janelle Gale, vice president of human resources for the company said in a statement. "We understand that the continued uncertainty makes this a difficult time to make decisions about where to work, so we're giving more time to choose what works best for them." 

Facebook is the latest corporation to alter its reopening plans as rising cases force several tech companies, including Apple and Google, to indefinitely push back their planned returns. 

According to a statement from Facebook, if employees wish to continue working remotely after March 28, they will be required to request a deferral from the company by mid-March. The temporary deferrals last between three and five months, the company said. 

Meta is one of the largest companies to announce booster requirements so far.

"Boosters provide increased protection," a Meta spokesman told The Wall Street Journal. "Given the evidence of booster effectiveness, we are expanding our vaccination requirement to include boosters."

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Signal CEO Moxie Marlinspike steps down, names WhatsApp co-founder Brian Acton as interim CEO

Tue, 01/11/2022 - 03:15
Signal CEO Moxie Marlinspike is stepping down.
  • Moxie Marlinspike is stepping down as CEO of secure messaging app Signal. 
  • WhatsApp co-founder Brian Acton will serve as the interim CEO.
  • Signal is a massively popular encrypted messaging service.

Signal messaging app's founder and CEO, Moxie Marlinspike, is stepping down, he said in a blog post on Monday.

"It's a new year, and I've decided it's a good time to replace myself as the CEO of Signal," said Marlinspike, whose real name is Matthew Rosenfeld.

Since its launch in 2015, Signal has become massively popular for its encrypted messaging service.

"People increasingly find value and peace of mind in Signal (technology built for them instead of for their data), and are increasingly willing to sustain it," wrote Marlinspike.

"Every day, I'm struck by how boundless Signal's potential looks, and I want to bring in someone with fresh energy and commitment to make the most of that," he added.

Marlinspike said he will remain on Signal's board and look for a new CEO, but WhatsApp co-founder Brian Acton will serve as the interim CEO.

Acton founded WhatsApp in 2009. Facebook acquired the messaging service in 2014. Acton left WhatsApp in 2017.

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As nurses grapple with burnout and staffing shortages, new guidance has them fearing for their own health

Tue, 01/11/2022 - 01:27
Marcial Reyes, an ER nurse who survived COVID-19, outside the ambulance entrance at the Kaiser Permanente Medical Center in Fontana on January 18, 2021.
  • New guidance on chest compressions for COVID-19 patients instructs nurses to give them with urgency.
  • The guidance instructs nurses to act quickly — even if they haven't yet put on protective equipment.
  • A petition condemning the guidelines has amassed more than 11,000 signatures in two weeks.

In late December, nurses began filling TikTok, Reddit, and Twitter with exasperated comments about recent updates the American Heart Association made to its CPR guidelines.

When nurses need to administer CPR to patients with suspected or confirmed cases of COVID-19, the updated guidance now instructs them to provide chest compressions without delay or interruption, even if it means forgoing personal protective equipment.

The AHA cited a more stable PPE supply chain, increased vaccination rates, and limited evidence on the incidence of COVID-19 transmission to healthcare providers during chest compressions as rationale for its reassessment and update of the guidelines.

The AHA told Insider it "cares deeply about healthcare providers" and will "continually assess the science" so it protects both patients and healthcare providers.

"We strongly support wearing appropriate PPE during incidence of cardiac arrest, while recognizing how crucial it is to minimize delays in compressions," an AHA representative told Insider. "Currently, volunteer resuscitation experts are actively working to update the recommendations in light of the rapidly evolving pandemic and new variant."

Decisions by regulatory bodies have left nurses feeling 'disposable'

Nurses voiced their opposition to the new AHA guidance by starting a petition in honor of Celia Marcos, a Los Angeles nurse who died of COVID-19 in April 2020 after aiding an infected patient experiencing a "code blue," a medical emergency indicating either cardiac or respiratory arrest.

Marcos did not stop to obtain an N95 mask and attempted to save the patient in the less-protective surgical mask she was already wearing, the Los Angeles Times reported in May 2020. She died 14 days later.

"We recognize and honor our fallen sister, Celia Marcos, RN, who died of COVID-19 after rushing into a patient's room to perform CPR without donning PPE," the petition says. "She died fighting this terrible virus and attempting to save the life of a patient. The new AHA guidelines do not appropriately reflect the sacrifice and heroism of Nurse Marcos and ask the rest of us to do the same."

More than 11,000 people have signed the petition, which asks the AHA and other bodies like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to reevaluate their guidelines for healthcare providers.

In addition to changes in care guidelines, nurses are also grappling with staffing shortages and overall burnout as the pandemic drags on, causing many to consider leaving the profession.

Last June, Beth Armentrout decided to pursue a doctorate in neurological-based clinical research and leave the nursing profession, which she said made her feel disposable. Armentrout told Insider that governing bodies like the AHA tended to espouse support for nurses, physicians, and hospital staff members while simultaneously making decisions that negatively affected their day-to-day work.

"The fact of the matter is that the governing bodies that tout support of medical professionals are siding with greedy hospitals and hospital administrators putting nursing, physicians, and support staff at risk," Armentrout told Insider in an email. "Nurses are a female-dominated profession so apparently we can be treated as disposable. To quote a TikTok I saw today, 'They would never do this to firemen.'"

Hospital staffing shortages may worsen if more nurses contract COVID-19 at work

Nurses are now dealing most often with COVID-19 infections caused by the highly transmissible Omicron virus variant, which is thought to account for most active COVID-19 cases in the US.

As a float nurse in a community hospital, Julia B., whose identity Insider has independently verified, worries that the new AHA guidance will exacerbate the industry's staffing shortages and ultimately cost healthcare providers their lives.

"The AHA decision is just one in a long line of choices from the health care industry that has disenfranchised its workers, but it certainly further legitimizes this mistreatment," Julia told Insider in an email. "We are dying. And we are not replaceable... Patients die due to short staffing. And staffing has never been as short as it is now."

Nurses who have chosen to stay at the bedside told Insider they did their best to provide quality care in light of staffing shortages but struggled as patients far exceeded the number of medical professionals available to care for them. Low wages and an increased workload have plagued nurses across the US, prompting many to push for better working conditions through unions.

"We've been criminally underpaid for 50 years, and been gaslit into believing that's okay because 'just think of the patients,' or 'it's your calling,'" Conrad said. "Hospitals view nurses and CNAs as an expense to be cut as often as possible, as opposed to what it really is: the only thing keeping patients alive."

Still, some nurses say healthcare regulatory bodies have already pushed them past the brink. Joy B., whose identity Insider independently verified, says she left nursing after more than two decades because decisions made by organizations like the AHA had worn her "down to a stump."

"I read a post on Reddit saying nurses don't have to light themselves on fire to keep other people warm. Truer words have never been stated," Joy said. "I miss patient care most days, but I've realized through reading this [Reddit] board, and organizations like AHA demanding nurses set themselves on fire for subpar working conditions, possibly death, and zero support, that 24 years was enough."

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Instagram music not working? 7 ways to troubleshoot

Tue, 01/11/2022 - 01:17
You may need to try a few troubleshooting methods to get your Instagram music sticker working.
  • If Instagram's music library is not working with your Story, It's not out of the ordinary, and it can be a quick fix.
  • If the music sticker doesn't work for you, make sure your app is up to date, or try logging out and back in.
  • Some users also have success switching from their Professional to Personal account to reactivate music in Instagram.
  • Visit Insider's Tech Reference library for more stories.

In recent months, an increasing number of users have found that they've been occasionally unable to add music to Instagram. Specifically, the music sticker in Instagram Stories has not worked as expected. If you try to use the music library in Instagram and find it doesn't work, here are a few simple troubleshooting tips that can often fix the problem and get you up and running again. 

Check to see if you have the music stickerIf you add the music sticker to a story, you should see a rich library of music.

Start by checking to see if the music sticker is available and working for you. Tap the Plus at the top of the screen and then, in the dropdown menu, tap Story. Choose a photo or video to add to your story. 

Now you can tap the Music icon or tap Stickers and then select the Music sticker. Either way, you should see an extensive list of music options in Instagram's music library. If you don't, try some of the following troubleshooting steps.

Make sure the Instagram app is up to date

If you haven't updated your Instagram app in a while, it's possible that the version you have installed doesn't yet support music, or it has a bug preventing Instagram Music from working properly. 

It's a good idea to leave automatic updates turned on so your apps update automatically, but it's also possible to force an app like Instagram to update manually. Here's how to update the Instagram app manually on Android, and if you have an iPhone, the process is similar:

1. Start the App Store app.

2. Tap the Search icon at the bottom right and search for "Instagram."

3. If the app has an update available, the button will say Update — tap it. Otherwise, it'll say Open, and that indicates you are already up to date.   

Find Instagram in the App Store to see if it needs an update.Switch back to your personal account

Some users have reported that they lost access to music when upgrading to an Instagram Business account. If you're logged into a Professional account, it's easy to switch back to your Personal account to see if that resolves your problem. Don't worry about losing access to your professional account — you can switch back and forth as often as you like. 

1. Go to your profile page in the bottom-right corner. 

2. Tap the three-line menu at the top right and then, in the pop-up menu, tap Settings

3. Tap Account

4. Scroll to the bottom and choose Switch to Personal Account

It might take some time for the music feature to work again in your personal account. 

Log out of Instagram

Another way to troubleshoot your Instagram glitch is to sign out and then sign back in again. It's possible that when you log back in, the music feature will be restored. 

1. Go to your profile page in the bottom-right corner. 

2. Tap the three-line menu at the top right of the page and then, in the pop-up menu, tap Settings

3. Scroll to the bottom and tap Log Out.

4. Log back into Instagram using your usual Instagram account credentials. 

Log out of Instagram using the Settings menu.Reinstall the app

If logging out and back in again didn't resolve the problem, there might be a problem with your installation of the Instagram app, or the app's data cache could be corrupted and prevent the app from working properly. Either way, an easy fix is to simply uninstall the app and then reinstall it. You'll need to log back in with your usual account credentials, but nothing in your Instagram account will be lost. 

If you're using an iPhone, here is how to uninstall an app from your iPhone. Similarly, you can uninstall Instagram from your Android device. Afterward, simply install a fresh version from Google Play or the App Store and log back in.

Check to see if Instagram is having service outages

It's possible that parts of the Instagram service are offline, and that may be affecting your ability to use parts of the app, such as the music library. You might want to look at Instagram's status page at DownDetector to see if the service is offline or having a serious outage. 

Check DownDetector to see if a service outage could be affecting the music library.Reach out to Instagram customer support

If none of these troubleshooting tips were able to restore Instagram Music on your device, it might be time to reach out to Instagram customer support. Instagram has a customer support phone number as well as a robust help center with support articles, FAQs and a system for reporting problems. For more information, here are all the details on how to contact Instagram customer support

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What it's like to spend 125 days flying the U-2, according to the only active-duty pilot to ever do it

Tue, 01/11/2022 - 00:12
A US Air Force U-2 at the California Capital Airshow in Sacramento, September 25, 2021.
  • For more than 60 years, the high-flying U-2 has gathered intelligence on hotspots all over the world.
  • In that time, however, only one active-duty pilot has surpassed 3,000 flying hours in the vaunted Dragon Lady.
  • Here's what it takes to hit that milestone, according to the pilot who did it. 

When US Air Force pilot Lt. Col. "Jethro" first learned about the U-2, he was determined to get into the highly selective training program.

Piloting the vaunted "Dragon Lady" meant flying "single-seat, high-altitude, wearing the space suit, alone, unarmed, and unafraid, many miles from your homebase," he told Insider.

Lt. Col. "Jethro" — his call sign, an alias used for security — went on to complete the training program and land his dream job piloting the U-2. It's a distinction that just 1,079 people have earned.

Lt. Col. Jethro after becoming the second pilot to reach 3,000 hours in the U-2 while on active duty, at Beale Air Force Base, September 29, 2021.

Following 10 deployments between 2007 and 2018, Jethro became an instructor pilot with the 1st Reconnaissance Squadron, which is responsible for training all U-2 pilots.

Today, he trains the newest cadre of U-2 aviators at Beale Air Force Base in California, putting them through the same rigorous program he completed 15 years ago.

In September, Jethro became the second pilot in history to reach 3,000 hours piloting the U-2 — and the first to do it while on active duty.

He told Insider about his milestone flight and what it has been like to spend the equivalent of 125 days flying the U-2.

'It never gets old'A U-2 above California's Sierra Nevada Mountains, March 23, 2016.

The jet frequently flies at about 70,000 feet, which offers a unique view of the curve of the earth.

"It's weird because your eyes are so used to seeing the horizon being flat that you kind of have to step back and look at it to go, 'Hey, it is curved,'" he says. "It's absolutely beautiful. It never gets old."

But 70,000 feet is also above Armstrong's Line, where water boils at body temperature and life is not sustainable, which requires not only a pressurized cockpit but also a bulky full-pressure suit similar to what astronauts use on shuttle missions.

Suiting up to fly in the Lockheed U-2 is about as close as a pilot can come to suiting up for a mission to space.

But a suit that keeps you alive at zero pressure — and allows men and women pilots to urinate mid-flight — isn't easy to get into. For that, Jethro and other U-2 pilots have dedicated technicians from the Physiological Support Squadron.

Airmen from the 9th Physiological Support Squadron help Lt. Col. Jethro into his pressure suit, September 29, 2021.

The technicians care for the flight suits with the same attention aircraft maintainers give their aircraft. Watching new U-2 trainees work with the Physiological Support technicians to get in and out of the suit can be awkward and comical.

"It's a dance, and the first time you do it you have no idea how that dance works," says Jethro.

Once he's suited up, he gets moved to a big reclining chair and hooked up to oxygen and cooling air. It can be hot and tight in the inflated suit. Walking up the ladder into the aircraft and getting seated is yet another dance, as U-2 pilots can't strap themselves into the cockpit while wearing the suit and again need the technicians' help.

The technicians also handle the pilots' food orders and preferred Gatorade color pre-takeoff. Their in-flight meals are pureed and come in a metal toothpaste-style tube for ease of use.

"We do a high-protein, low-residue diet," Jethro said. "You don't want to be gassy up there. As the pressure goes down, gas expands, so it can lead to you being uncomfortable in the jet."

3,000 hours with the Dragon LadyJethro does pre-flight checklists in a U-2, September 29, 2021.

The United States has been using the U-2 for more than a half-century, flying intelligence-gathering missions over the Soviet Union, Vietnam, China, and Cuba during the Cold War. In recent years, it has conducted missions over Iraq and Afghanistan. It's designed to fly at all hours and in all weather.

The U-2 has received technical upgrades, but the basic cockpit hasn't changed much in the past 40 years.

Having iPads and state-of-the-art navigation technology replace paper charts and maps is probably the biggest difference since Jethro's early days. Before that technical upgrade, "You were lucky if you knew where you were," he says.

The East Texas native joined ROTC in college to pursue his childhood dream of being a pilot. He started training two months after September 11, 2001, had his first solo flight in 2002, and was on track to fly a larger aircraft, like the C-135 Stratolifter.

When he graduated from pilot training, he still wasn't sure exactly what he wanted to fly. His squadron commander and mentor, who was a U-2 pilot, suggested the U-2. From there, Jethro did a Google search for the U-2 pilot application and began the arduous training and selection process.

Jethro in a U-2 at Beale Air Force Base, September 29, 2021.

The training program is selective. Candidates who make it through a two-week interview move on to training in a T-38 Talon, a two-seat supersonic jet trainer. After that, remaining candidates move onto training in an actual U-2, learning to fly, land, and do emergency procedures.

Students' seventh flight is their first time solo in an U-2. That's followed by high-altitude training with the space suit, Jethro said.

After 14 flights, pilots go through an evaluation. Passing that means you're qualified on the U-2, and "then we send you over to mission qual[ification] — another syllabus where now that you know how to fly it, you know how to defeat threats," he added. "When you're done with that, you are [a] qualified pilot ready to go on the road."

In 2007, as a newly qualified U-2 pilot, Jethro was deployed for the first time. Stationed at Al Dhafra Air Base in the United Arab Emirates, he flew missions over Iraq and Afghanistan.

Flying in the desert, he racked up his first 1,000 hours within three years. Some of those missions involved talking to assets on the ground and making decisions while flying over unforgiving terrain far from home, out of radio range of base.

He recalls one mission on a cloudy day over Afghanistan in August 2007, when two separate helicopters crashed roughly 100 miles from each other. He started talking to the downed pilots and joined the effort to pick them up, coordinating with an F-15 to keep the enemy away.

One pilot and a team effortCory Bartholomew aids a U-2 during takeoff at Beale Air Force Base, March 23, 2021.

The U-2 is a challenging plane to fly and even harder to land. The plane's 105-foot wingspan is perfect for flying high but ungainly closer to the ground.

The U-2 has also been stripped down in order to fly at high altitudes for extended periods — its bicycle-style landing gear is supplemented by wing-mounted wheels that detach during takeoff. The pilot's position in the cockpit also makes it harder to see the runway on approach.

Those factors mean it takes a lot of physical exertion from the pilot to land, as well as the coordination of an entire team to get the aircraft onto the ground.

Another U-2 pilot in a chase car gives directions over the radio as the returning pilot approaches the runway. Once the plane comes to a stop, now without its wing-mounted wheels, it tilts to one side.

Cory Bartholomew, right, presents Jethro with the 3,000-hour patch at Beale Air Force Base, September 29, 2021.

When Jethro landed at Beale to conclude a routine proficiency flight on September 29, he'd hit 3,000 hours.

He would have settled for a low-key post-flight beer to celebrate the milestone. But his squadron made a show of it, coming out to his airplane and cheering. Also there to congratulate him were his wife and kids, fellow U-2 instructor pilot Cory Bartholomew, and the base's wing commander, who'd also been on Jethro's very first deployment.

They presented him with a bottle of champagne and, in keeping with tradition, challenged him to launch the cork on to the top of the hangar while keeping one foot on the ground and the other on the ladder up to the parked aircraft's cockpit.

"I'm awful at that part," he says. "I haven't hit the hangar yet."

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The Biden administration is requiring insurance companies to cover costs for at-home COVID-19 tests starting on Saturday

Tue, 01/11/2022 - 00:06
A resident displays an at-home rapid COVID-19 test kit in Philadelphia, Monday, Dec. 20, 2021
  • Private insurers will now have to cover eight at-home COVID-19 tests a month per insured person.
  • The tests don't require a doctor's order or prescription, the Department of Health and Human Services said.
  • There is also no limit on covered tests if they're ordered by a doctor or medical professional. 

Health insurance companies will have to cover up to eight at-home COVID-19 tests a month for each covered individual starting Saturday, the Biden administration announced. 

The tests won't require a doctor's order, prescription, or office visit. Additionally, the tests won't be subject to copays or deductibles, according to a press release from the Department of Health and Human Services.

Insurers can either cover the cost upfront or reimburse the insured after a claim is filed. 

"Under President Biden's leadership, we are requiring insurers and group health plans to make tests free for millions of Americans," HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra said in the press release. "This is all part of our overall strategy to ramp-up access to easy-to-use, at-home tests at no cost." 

There is also no limit to the number of PCR or rapid tests that will be covered if they're ordered by a doctor or medical professional or given during an office visit. 

The press release said the administration is incentivizing insurers to "set up programs that allow people to get the over-the-counter tests directly through preferred pharmacies, retailers or other entities with no out-of-pocket costs," so that people don't have to file claims, and the process can be streamlined. 

"Testing is critically important to help reduce the spread of COVID-19, as well as to quickly diagnose COVID-19 so that it can be effectively treated," Chiquita Brooks-LaSure, administrator of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, said in the press release. "Today's action further removes financial barriers and expands access to COVID-19 tests for millions of people."

Late last month, Biden acknowledged a shortage of COVID-19 at-home tests as demand surged as Americans traveled and gathered for the holidays and cases spiked. 

"We went from no over-the-counter tests in January to 46 million in October, 100 million in November, and almost 200 million in December," Biden said in a COVID-19 response team call with the National Governors Association on Monday.

He added: "But it's not enough. It's clearly not enough. If we had known, we'd have gone harder and quicker if we could have."

On December 27, Biden also said that his administration had purchased an additional 500,000 at-home tests for Americans that request them and that he planned to authorize the Defense Production Act to produce more tests. 

As of January 10, the 7-day average was 674,406 new daily cases, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

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