What Fight Over TikTok Portends for Tech

The battle between China and the U.S. over the fate of video sharing app TikTok raises questions for the tech industry worldwide. What might the struggle over TikTok portend for global companies? Michelle Quinn reports.Producer: Matt Dibble 

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WHO: Since WWII, No Crisis Demonstrates Need for UN More Than COVID-19

The World Health Organization’s director-general said Monday no crisis since World War II demonstrates more clearly the need for the United Nations than the COVID-19 pandemic. COVID-19 is the illness caused by the coronavirus.Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus acknowledged the 75th anniversary of the United Nations as well as the start of the U.N. General Assembly this week, as he opened his regular briefing from WHO headquarters in Geneva.Tedros said WHO, as “a proud member of the U.N. family,” had three key messages for the U.N. members.”First, the pandemic must motivate us to redouble our efforts to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, not become an excuse for missing them; Second, we must prepare for the next pandemic now. And third, we must move heaven and Earth to ensure equitable access to diagnostics, therapeutics and vaccines,” said WHO’s director-general.Tedros said from the very beginning, the WHO has been committed to global efforts to develop a COVID-19 vaccine and other treatments. Central to that effort, he said, was the partnership with the global vaccine alliance, GAVI, to establish the cooperative COVID-19 Vaccine Global Access (COVAX) facility, designed to ensure equitable access to any COVID-19 vaccine or treatments that maybe developed.According to the Johns Hopkins University, which is tracking the global coronavirus pandemic, more than 31 million people are infected, and more than 961,000 people have died. The United States leads the world with more than 6.8 million infections and close to 200,000 deaths.Meanwhile, nearly half of Americans, or 49%, said they definitely or probably would not get an inoculation if a coronavirus vaccine were available today, while 51% said they would, according to a Pew Research Center poll conducted earlier this month. Those who lean toward rejecting the inoculation have cited concerns about side effects.FILE – A lab technician sorts blood samples for a COVID-19 vaccination study at the Research Centers of America in Hollywood, Florida, Aug.13, 2020.President Donald Trump said last month the U.S. will have a vaccination for the coronavirus “before the end of the year or maybe even sooner.” Experts say it can take decades to develop, test, and prove vaccines safe before they are administered to patients. Hope has been high, however, that a concerted international effort will produce an effective vaccine sometime next year.Tedros said almost 200 potential COVID-19 vaccines are currently in clinical and pre-clinical testing through the cooperative effort.”Our aim is to have 2 billion doses of vaccine available by the end of 2021,” he said.The director-general noted $3 billion has been invested so far, but $15 billion was needed immediately to maintain momentum and stay on track.He said investing in COVAX only makes sense, saying it “will help to bring the pandemic under control, save lives, accelerate the economic recovery and ensure that the race for vaccines is a collaboration, not a contest. This is not charity, it’s in every country’s best interest. We sink or we swim together.”The WHO announced Monday 64 of the world’s top economies have now joined COVAX, with 38 other major economies indicating they will be joining in the coming days.

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US Challenges Injunction Against WeChat App Store Bans

The U.S. Commerce Department said Monday it is challenging a federal judge’s injunction against its order that Apple and Google remove WeChat from their U.S. app stores due to data privacy and national security concerns.The department’s original order, issued Friday, also included another Chinese-owned app, TikTok, and expressed the Trump administration’s concerns about the way the apps collect user data and the potential for that information to be shared with Chinese government agencies.China has rejected the U.S. allegations of a security threat, and on Saturday condemned what it called “bullying” that violated international trade standards.U.S. Magistrate Judge Laurel Beeler responded Sunday to a request for an injunction from WeChat users by putting the Commerce Department’s order on hold, ruling that the Trump administration’s actions would restrict users’ free speech rights under the First Amendment.WeChat has about 19 million active daily users in the United States. The service, owned by Chinese tech company Tencent, is popular with Americans who use it to communicate with family and friends in China.Video-sharing service TikTok earned a short reprieve from its part of the Commerce Department order after announcing an agreement to form a new company with U.S. tech giant Oracle and retailer WalMart together holding up to a 20% share.The U.S. head office of TikTok is seen in Culver City, California, Sept. 15, 2020.Speaking to Fox News on Monday, Trump said his administration would not approve the agreement if ByteDance, TikTok’s Chinese owner, has any control.“If we find that they don’t have total control, then we’re not going to approve the deal,” Trump said of Oracle and WalMart.  “We will be watching it very closely.”Those comments are in contrast to those Trump gave Saturday when he said he approved of the agreement “in concept” and had “given the deal my blessing.” The Commerce Department has delayed the app store ban for TikTok until September 27, and given the company until November 12 to resolve national security concerns before facing a wider range of restrictions. 

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US Coronavirus Death Toll Inches Toward 200,000 Deaths

The United States is approaching the milestone of 200,000 deaths from the coronavirus, say experts monitoring the outbreak.The U.S. has more than 6.8 million infections, according to the Johns Hopkins University Coronavirus Resource Center, with 199,513 deaths, the most of any nation in either category. Recent growth in U.S. cases in the Southwest and Midwest is being attributed to the reopening of schools and colleges.The race to produce a safe and effective coronavirus vaccine has sustained another setback. Britain’s Telegraph newspaper reported Sunday that late-stage human trials of an experimental vaccine in the United States have been paused due to concerns over a possible adverse side effect.AZD1222, developed through a joint initiative by AstraZeneca and Britain’s University of Oxford, has been undergoing large-scale Phase 2 and Phase 3 trials in several nations, including the U.S., Britain, Brazil, South Africa and India.FILE – Laboratory technicians work at the mAbxience biopharmaceutical company on an experimental coronavirus vaccine developed by Oxford University and the laboratory AstraZeneca in Garin, Argentina, Aug. 14, 2020.But the Telegraph says testing was delayed twice in Britain after two volunteer participants were subsequently diagnosed with transverse myelitis, an inflammation of  the spinal cord.With the number of COVID-19 cases now over the 31 million mark, many places are also experiencing an increase in new infections, such as in Britain, which is nearing 400,000, including 3,899 new cases on Sunday. Chris Whitty, the chief medical officer, and chief scientific advisor Patrick Vallance, announced Monday during a nationally televised address that Britain is “heading in the wrong direction” and has reached “a critical response” in its response.Health Secretary Matt Hancock said Sunday that the country could face another round of strict restrictions if the public does not observe the new “rule of six” order issued earlier this month by Prime Minister Boris Johnson, which limits the number of people taking part in most social gatherings to six.The pandemic is also having an effect on the world’s refugees. A new survey released Monday by the Norwegian Refugee Council shows nearly 80% of people displaced by conflicts have lost a job or revenue since the beginning of the outbreak.In a survey of more than 1,400 respondents across 14 countries, including Afghanistan, Columbia, Iraq and Venezuela, the NRC found that some 70% of those asked said they had to cut the number of meals for their households, while 73% were less likely to send their children to school because of economic problems.FILE – People search for food at a garbage container during the closing hour at the Coche wholesale market amid COVID-19 outbreak in Caracas, Venezuela, July 31, 2020.But some countries are reporting progress in the fight to contain the spread of COVID-19. New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern Monday lifted restrictions for all of the country except Auckland, after authorities posted no new cases.  New Zealand had gone over 100 days without any new COVID-19 cases until last month, when a new cluster broke out in the northern city, prompting Prime Minister Ardern to reimpose the strict nationwide restrictions first enacted back in March.People wearing face masks prepare to board a bus on the first day of New Zealand’s new coronavirus disease safety measure that mandates wearing of a mask on public transport, in Auckland, Aug. 31, 2020.Auckland will continue to remain under some restrictions for the next two weeks, but officials have increased the number of people in gatherings from 10 to 100.In Australia, Victoria state reported just 11 new cases on Monday, its smallest one-day jump since June 16. Victoria had been placed under a state of disaster last month due to a dramatic surge in new cases, especially in its capital, Melbourne, with the average number of cases topping 700 as recently as last month. Residents were placed under a strict curfew, and were restricted to their homes except for work, shopping or medical care.“This is a great day,” state Premier Daniel Andrews told reporters Monday, but he said he will not move up the timeline to begin easing the state of emergency.  Authorities have said it will lift some of the restrictions, including reopening child care facilities and resuming manufacturing and construction, on September 27, but only if the average number of cases over a two-week period is under 50.Despite more than 5.4 million COVID-19 cases, including about 100,000 new infections and more than 1,000 deaths daily, India reopened the Taj Mahal to visitors Monday.A man gets his photograph taken in front of Taj Mahal after authorities reopened the monument to visitors, amidst the COVID-19 outbreak, in Agra, India, Sept. 21, 2020.India has 1.3 billion people and some of the world’s most crowded cities, but a strict lockdown in March devastated the economy and the lives of tens of millions of people.The government has since eased restrictions, including on many train routes, domestic flights, markets and restaurants.Schools resumed Monday on a voluntary basis for students ages 14 to 17, but many Indian states have said it is too soon to have children in the classroom.India has also reported 87,882 deaths. 

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US Retail Giant Walmart Aims for Zero Global Emissions by 2040   

U.S.-based retail giant Walmart has unveiled new initiatives to reduce its global carbon footprint while preserving the world’s natural land and sea habitats. The company announced Monday that it is aiming for zero carbon emissions by 2040 in all of its global operations by utilizing 100% renewable energy in all of its facilities, switching to an all-electric vehicle fleet, and transitioning to low-impact refrigerants for cooling and electrified equipment for heating in all of its stores and other facilities. The so-called “big box” retailer is also pledging to preserve at least 20 million hectares of land and 171 million square kilometers of ocean by 2030, including the preservation of at least one acre of natural habitat for every acre of land it develops in the United States, and adopt natural preservation techniques such as regenerative agricultural practices, sustainable fisheries management and forest protection and restoration. Doug McMillon, Walmart’s president and chief executive officer, said in a statement the company aims to become one “that works to restore, renew and replenish in addition to preserving our planet, and encourages others to do the same” through its new environmental commitments. FILE – Customers shop at a Walmart store.According to the Fortune Global 500 list of 2019, Walmart is the world’s largest company by revenue.  It is also the largest private employer in the world with 2.2 million employees. 

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US Judge Blocks Order to Remove WeChat From App Stores 

A U.S. judge early Sunday blocked the Commerce Department from requiring Apple Inc and Alphabet Inc’s Google to remove Chinese-owned messaging app WeChat for downloads by late Sunday.   U.S. Magistrate Judge Laurel Beeler in San Francisco said in an order that WeChat users who filed a lawsuit “have shown serious questions going to the merits of the First Amendment claim [and] the balance of hardships tips in the plaintiffs’ favor.”   On Friday, the Commerce Department had issued an order citing national security grounds to block the app from U.S. app stores owned by Tencent Holdings, and the Justice Department had urged Beeler not to block the order.   Beeler’s preliminary injunction also blocked the Commerce order that would have barred other transactions with WeChat in the United States that could have degraded the site’s usability for current U.S. users. The U.S. Commerce Department did not immediately comment.   WeChat has had an average of 19 million daily active users in the United States, analytics firms Apptopia said in early August. It is popular among Chinese students, Americans living in China and some Americans who have personal or business relationships in China.   The Justice Department said blocking the order would “frustrate and displace the president’s determination of how best to address threats to national security.” But Beeler said, “while the general evidence about the threat to national security related to China [regarding technology and mobile technology] is considerable, the specific evidence about WeChat is modest.”   She added, “The regulation — which eliminates a channel of communication without any apparent substitutes — burdens substantially more speech than is necessary to further the government’s significant interest.”   WeChat is an all-in-one mobile app that combines services similar to Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram and Venmo. The app is an essential part of daily life for many in China and boasts more than 1 billion users.   The WeChat Users Alliance that had sued praised the ruling “as an important and hard-fought victory” for “millions of WeChat users in the U.S.”   Michael Bien, a lawyer for the users, said “the United States has never shut down a major platform for communications, not even during war times. There are serious First Amendment problems with the WeChat ban, which targets the Chinese American community.”   He added the order “trampled on their First Amendment guaranteed freedoms to speak, to worship, to read and react to the press, and to organize and associate for numerous purposes.” 

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Health Officials Advise Flu Shot to Avoid Dealing With Flu, COVID at the Same Time

Health officials are warning the public to get a flu shot this year to avoid having to deal with COVID-19 and the flu simultaneously.Both are highly contagious and share similar symptoms. The flu, however, is seasonal, while COVID-19 does not appear to have a timeline as it snakes around the world.While there is no COVID vaccine yet, flu shots have been available for decades.The only way to determine if someone has one or both of the illnesses is through laboratory tests.Gary Simon, director of the Division of Infectious Diseases at George Washington University in Washington, told The Washington Post the prospect of beating back both diseases is making 2020 “a very tough year.”Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center reported early Saturday there are 30.5 million COVID-19 cases worldwide with nearly 1 million deaths.The U.S. has more coronavirus infections than any place else with 6.7 million, followed by India with 5.3 million and Brazil with 4.5 million.European countries announced new coronavirus restrictions Friday, one day after the World Health Organization warned infections have started to spread again across the continent at “alarming rates.”In Spain, which has more cases than any other European country with more than 640,000, the regional government of Madrid ordered a lockdown effective Monday in some poorer areas after a spike in infections there. While movement in the area will be restricted, people will still be allowed to go to work.Authorities in Nice, France, have banned gatherings of more than 10 in public spaces and cut bar operating hours, after new restrictions were imposed earlier this week in Bordeaux and Marseilles.Britain said it is considering a new national lockdown after cases nearly doubled to 6,000 a day in the latest reporting week. British Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock said another lockdown should be a last resort but that the government would do whatever is necessary to contain the virus.Israel began a second lockdown Friday because of a sharp jump in the number of coronavirus cases.The three-week-long restrictions come just as the country begins the Jewish holidays.Israelis are allowed to travel no more than 500 meters from their houses, with few exceptions.In Iran, a senior Iranian official said the country should be on “red alert” after it reported 3,049 new cases Friday, the highest daily gain since early June.“The color classification doesn’t make any sense anymore,” Deputy Health Minister Iraj Harirchi said in an interview with Reuters. “We no longer have orange and yellow. The entire country is red.”Canada has decided to extend the closure of its U.S. border to nonessential travel until October 21, after seeing an increase in infections in recent weeks. Canadian Public Safety Minister Bill Blair said Friday such decisions would continue to be based on public health advice to protect Canada’s citizens. The closing was first announced March 18 and has been extended each month since.  In Brief:European countries announce new restrictions after WHO warns of renewed infectionsMadrid regional government orders lockdown effective Monday in some poorer areasFrench authorities in Nice ban gatherings of over 10 in public spaces, cut bar hoursBritain considers new national lockdown after cases nearly double to 6,000 a dayIranian official says Iran should be on “red alert” after 3,049 cases reported FridayCanada will extend closure of its U.S. border to nonessential travel until October 21
 

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Trump Administration Announces Bans of TikTok, WeChat

The Trump administration issued a sweeping ban Friday that will begin barring downloads and use of the Chinese-owned mobile apps WeChat and TikTok from U.S. app stores as of midnight Sunday. The announcement is the latest escalation in America’s tech fight with China.Officials from the U.S. Commerce Department cited national security and data privacy concerns over the move to ban the two popular internet platforms that serve more than 100 million people in the United States.Starting Monday, both apps will be removed from app stores and users will not be able to download the apps to their phones. For users who have the apps already installed, they will not be able to receive updates to the platforms. This restriction will quickly make the app obsolete on smartphones, as the inability to update will make it incompatible with Apple and Google smartphone software, which currently dominate the tech market.The order includes moves to render WeChat useless within the United States by banning American companies from hosting internet traffic or processing transactions from within the app as of midnight Sunday.WeChat serves millions of U.S. users who predominantly rely on the app to stay in touch and conduct business with people and companies in China.Like most social networking sites, both TikTok and WeChat collect user data, including location and messages to track what kind of targeted ad content is most applicable to them.As of now, TikTok will escape the most drastic sanctions until similar restrictions go into effect November 12 unless the company is able to resolve the administration’s national security concerns by the deadline. The order follows weeks of wrangling with the company, which recently struck a deal with U.S.-based software maker Oracle, the details of which have yet to be announced.The app, which has become especially popular among younger users, has proved useful in some political contexts, including for mischief.TikTok users made headlines earlier this year by working to inflate the expected turnout for a rally President Donald Trump held in Tulsa, Oklahoma — and making the actual attendance seem especially low by comparison.The deadline to comply with restrictions falls just after the November 3 presidential election in the United States.Prior to striking the deal, representatives of TikTok, which is owned by China’s ByteDance, were in talks with Microsoft. The partnership between Microsoft and ByteDance fell through earlier this month after reports estimated that the company would shell out up to $30 billion for the acquisition of the app.“We are confident our proposal would have been good for TikTok’s users, while protecting national security interests,” Microsoft said in a blog post Sunday. “We would have made significant changes to ensure the service met the highest standards for security, privacy, online safety and combating disinformation, and we made these principles clear in our August statement.”The move to ban the use of the apps in the United States follows an August 6 executive order by Trump, in which he argued that TikTok and WeChat collect data from American users that could be accessed by the Chinese government. Over the past several weeks, Trump has pressured the app’s owner to sell TikTok’s U.S. operations to a domestic company to satisfy these concerns.TikTok spokesman John Gartner said in a statement that the company is “disappointed” by the move and that it would continue to challenge the “unjust executive order.”The American Civil Liberties Union denounced the move as well, saying that the order is an infringement on Americans’ rights to free expression.While the Trump administration has accused the apps of collecting data used by the Chinese government to surveil Americans, the government has not provided specific evidence to support the allegations.ByteDance has repeatedly denied that it has partnered with the Chinese government to siphon U.S. user information. 

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Drug Shows Promise in 1st Largely Minority COVID-19 Study

A drug company said Friday that a medicine it sells to tamp down inflammation has helped prevent the need for breathing machines in hospitalized COVID-19 patients in the first large study that primarily enrolled Hispanics and Blacks.Switzerland-based Roche reported the results for tocilizumab, sold now as Actemra and RoActemra for treating rheumatoid arthritis and some other diseases. The company said it would quickly publish the results, which have not yet been reviewed by independent scientists, and would speak with regulators about next steps.The drug, given through an IV, tamps down a protein called interleukin-6 that’s often found in excess in COVID-19 patients. It failed in a previous study that tested it in people more severely ill from the coronavirus. The new study was done in the United States, South Africa, Kenya, Brazil, Mexico and Peru. About 85% of the 389 participants were Hispanic, Black, Native American or other ethnic or racial minorities. These groups have been disproportionately hurt by the pandemic.About 12% given the drug needed a breathing machine or died within 28 days versus about 19% of patients given a placebo.Looked at separately, there were fewer deaths among those on the drug — 8.6% versus 10.4% on placebo — but the difference was too small to say it might not have been due to chance.It’s unclear how the results will be viewed; another drug that works in a similar way failed in an experiment rigorously testing it in COVID-19 patients but some less scientific, observational studies have suggested benefit.This is the third time this week that companies have announced positive results from studies testing COVID treatments via press releases. Companies often are required to disclose results that could affect their financial situation.On Monday, Eli Lilly reported benefits from a study testing its anti-inflammatory drug baricitinib when combined with the antiviral drug remdesivir. On Wednesday, it said interim results from very early testing suggested that its experimental antibody drug showed promise for helping clear the virus and possibly reducing the need for hospitalization in mild to moderately ill patients.

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Forecasters Turn to Greek Alphabet After Storm Names Run Out

Weather forecasters have started using the Greek alphabet to designate new storms after running out of conventional names.The U.S. National Weather Service says Tropical Storm Wilfred formed Friday in the eastern Atlantic, followed by Subtropical Storm Alpha off the coast of Portugal a short time later.Meanwhile, forecasters say tropical depression 22 in the Gulf of Mexico is likely to be named Beta later Friday. At last report, the storm was about 400 kilometers southeast of the Texas-Mexico border and could become a hurricane threatening the U.S. Gulf Coast in the next few days.The threat comes days after Hurricane Sally came ashore in the southern U.S. as a Category 2 hurricane, and less than a month after the destructive Hurricane Laura came ashore in Louisiana. Meanwhile, Hurricane Teddy is headed toward Bermuda, which took a direct hit from Paulette earlier this week.The U.S. National Hurricane Center says Wilfred poses no threat to land.Weather officials say Alpha became the first Greek-named storm since 2005. That year the named storms made it all the way to Zeta, the end of the Greek alphabet, the only time on record that has happened.

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Progress Made Toward Phasing Out Planet-Warming ‘Super’ Greenhouse Gases

Rare bipartisan support for new climate legislation brings the U.S. one step closer to ditching a group of potent planet-warming chemicals.Democratic and Republican senators recently introduced an FILE – A coal-fired power plant is silhouetted against the morning sun in Glenrock, Wyoming, July 27, 2018. Hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) have been found to be up to 4,000 times more potent than carbon dioxide.More than 100 countries have ratified the Kigali Amendment, making it legally binding. The United States is not among them.The White House has said little about why it has not ratified the Kigali document, despite urging by Republican senators.  “It’s very important that other countries, especially the bigger countries, commit to [the Kigali Amendment],” said RIVM’s Velders. “A lot of countries look to Europe, the United States and Japan to lead initiatives. It’s important that they lead by example. Otherwise, for other developing countries, it’s quite easy for them to say, ‘Well, why should we worry if the most polluting countries don’t comply with it?’”  The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency under President Donald Trump has rolled back previous steps to regulate HFCs and dozens of other environmental regulations, though courts have struck down some of these measures.The new proposed legislation would require an 85% reduction in HFC production and use by 2036. HFCs would still be allowed in “essential” products that don’t have available substitutes. The list includes defense sprays such as bear repellents, medical inhalers and mission-critical military uses.“At the end of the day, whether we ratify Kigali and have a plan to phase out HFCs, or whether we just decide to phase out HFCs, either way, it’s a win for the planet if we can work to reduce HFCs,” said Caitlin McCoy, staff attorney at the Harvard Law School Environmental and Energy Law Program.The legislation is part of the broader American Energy Innovation Act, a collection of energy-related policies that has support from business and environmental groups. The bill is expected to be brought to the Senate floor in the coming weeks.Beyond HFCsClimate-friendlier alternatives to HFCs include compounds such as ammonia, propane and hydrofluoroolefins, CO2 and certain HFCs that are less climate-warming.Companies already are adapting.  “The U.S. is a leader in the technology that we would transition to, as well as the current technologies,” said Chuck Chaitovitz, vice president of Environmental Affairs and Sustainability, at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. “The technology that will replace current HFCs is already well in process.”Policy to phase down HFC use “is important for U.S. exports and to create new jobs,” he added.A 2018 report from industry trade groups estimated that phasing down HFC use would increase jobs and exports, while decreasing greenhouse gas emissions.“The economics are pretty clear on this. But the reductions of greenhouse gases are also pretty clear that this will have a significant impact on reducing greenhouse gases,” Chaitovitz said.

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Officials: Trump to Block US Downloads of TikTok, WeChat on Sunday

The U.S. Commerce Department said it will issue an order Friday that will bar people in the United States from downloading Chinese-owned messaging app WeChat and video-sharing app TikTok starting on September 20.Commerce officials said the ban on new U.S. downloads of TikTok could be still rescinded by President Donald Trump before it takes effect late Sunday as TikTok owner ByteDance races to clinch an agreement over the fate of its U.S. operations.ByteDance has been talks with Oracle Corp and others to create a new company, TikTok Global, that aims to address U.S. concerns about the security of its users’ data. ByteDance still needs Trump’s approval to stave off a U.S. ban.Commerce officials said they will not bar additional technical transactions for TikTok until Nov. 12, which gives the company additional time to see if ByteDance can reach a deal for its U.S. operations. “The basic TikTok will stay intact until Nov. 12,” Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross told Fox Business Network.The department said the actions will “protect users in the U.S. by eliminating access to these applications and significantly reducing their functionality.”Oracle shares fell 1.6% after the news in pre-market tradingThe Commerce Department order will “deplatform” the two apps in the United States and bar Apple Inc’s app store, Alphabet Inc’s Google Play and others from offering the apps on any platform “that can be reached from within the United States,” a senior Commerce official told Reuters.The order will not ban U.S. companies from doing businesses on WeChat outside the United States, which will be welcome news to U.S. firms like Walmart and Starbucks that use WeChat’s embedded ‘mini-app’ programs to facilitate transactions and engage consumers in China, officials said.The order will not bar transactions with WeChat-owner Tencent Holdings’ other businesses, including its online gaming operations, and will not prohibit Apple, Google or others from offering TikTok or WeChat apps anywhere outside the United States.The bans are in response to a pair of executive orders issued by Trump on August 6 that gave the Commerce Department 45 days to determine what transactions to block from the apps he deemed pose a national security threat. That deadline expires on Sunday.Commerce Department officials said they were taking the extraordinary step because of the risks the apps’ data collection poses. China and the companies have denied U.S. user data is collected for spying.Ross said in a written statement “we have taken significant action to combat China’s malicious collection of American citizens’ personal data, while promoting our national values, democratic rules-based norms, and aggressive enforcement of U.S. laws and regulations.”The order is set to be published at 8:45 a.m. EDT (1245 GMT) on Friday, Commerce said.Popular appsThe Trump administration has ramped up efforts to purge “untrusted” Chinese apps from U.S. digital networks and has called TikTok and WeChat “significant threats.”TikTok has 100 million users in the United States and is especially popular among younger Americans.WeChat has had an average of 19 million daily active users in the United States, analytics firms Apptopia said in early August. It is popular among Chinese students, ex-pats and some Americans who have personal or business relationships in China.WeChat is an all-in-one mobile app that combines services similar to Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram and Venmo. The app is an essential part of daily life for many in China and boasts more than 1 billion users.The Commerce Department will not seek to compel people in the United States to remove the apps or stop using them but will not allow updates or new downloads. “We are aiming at a top corporate level. We’re not going to go out after the individual users,” one Commerce official said.Over time, officials said, the lack of updates will degrade the apps usability.”The expectation is that people will find alternative ways to do these actions,” a senior official said. “We expect the market to act and there will be more secure apps that will fill in these gaps that Americans can trust and that the United States government won’t have to take similar actions against.”Commerce is also barring additional technical transactions with WeChat starting Sunday that will significantly reduce the usability and functionality of the app in the United States.The order bars data hosting within the United States for WeChat, content delivery services and networks that can increase functionality and internet transit or peering services.”What immediately is going to happen is users are going to experience a lag or lack of functionality,” a senior Commerce official said of WeChat users. “It may still be usable but it is not going to be as functional as it was.” There may be sporadic outages as well, the official said.Commerce will bar the same set of technical transactions for TikTok, but that will not take effect until Nov. 12 to give the company additional time to see if ByteDance can reach a deal for its U.S. operations. The official said TikTok U.S. users would not see “a major difference” in the app’s performance until Nov. 12.Commerce will not penalize people who use TikTok or WeChat in the United States.The order does not bar data storage within the United States for WeChat or TikTok.Some Americans may find workarounds. There is nothing that would bar an American from traveling to a foreign country and downloading either app, or potentially using a virtual private network and a desktop client, officials conceded.

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Australia Warns Pregnant Women of Bushfire Smoke

Pregnant women living in bushfire-prone areas in Australia are being urged to protect themselves and their unborn babies from smoke as the fire season returns. Doctors in the worst-affected regions say they are horrified by the effects of the smoke from last summer’s catastrophic conditions.Doctors have said particles from bushfire smoke in Australia have left placentas that nourish an unborn child resembling those in women who are heavy smokers. Instead of being a healthy shade of pink, distressed organs are left grey and grainy.The result can be premature and underweight babies. One specialist said some were “unexpectedly and unpredictably small.”There’s a warning that newborns could suffer the consequences throughout their entire lives.General practitioner Rebecca McGowan said she believes global warming is exacerbating Australia’s bushfire danger and that babies are at risk of harm.“This is the canary in the coal mine,” she said. “We are starting to see literally the effects. It is not a sci-fi movie. This is happening in real life. We are starting to see the effects on the unborn, and we are starting to see these babies born now with major effects of climate change and we cannot deny it anymore. It is happening in front of us.”There is not a large amount of scientific knowledge on the long-term effects of bushfire smoke on pregnant women. Some experts have suggested that stress could also lead to premature births and smaller newborns. Australian health authorities have said there was no data or evidence to gauge the risk to babies in the womb. They do acknowledge, however, that smoke can aggravate existing lung and heart conditions in adults.A government inquiry into the Black Summer fires was told that the smoke they generated has been linked to the deaths of more than 445 people. It was estimated that 4,000 people were admitted to the hospital due to the smoke.Air quality in Sydney, Australia’s largest city, exceeded “hazardous” levels on several occasions. Other major cities, including the capital, Canberra, and Adelaide, were also shrouded in a toxic haze.Bushfire smoke is made up of very small particles and gases. Environmental groups have said it also contains cancer-causing substances, including formaldehyde and benzene. 

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Survey: Almost Half of Americans Say ‘No’ To COVID Vaccine If Available Today

Nearly half of Americans, or 49%, said they definitely or probably would not get an inoculation if a coronavirus were available today, while 51% said they would, according to a Pew Research Center poll conducted earlier this month.The 49% who lean toward rejecting the inoculation cited concerns about side effects from the vaccine.The public’s trust in a safe COVID-19 vaccine coming to market has taken a tumble. In May, a Pew survey revealed 72% of Americans said they would be inoculated if the vaccine were available.Only 21% in this month’s poll said they would definitely get the vaccine.The recent Pew survey found that 77% of Americans believe the vaccines in development in the United States would likely be approved before their safety and effectiveness are completely understood.Sorry, but your browser cannot support embedded video of this type, you can
A young woman wearing a face mask walks across the medieval Charles Bridge in Prague, Czech Republic, Sept. 18, 2020.A further breakdown of the numbers shows that Hispanic children made up 44% of the fatalities, and Black children made up 29%, compared with 14% for white children. American Indian and Alaska Natives accounted for 4% of COVID-19 deaths, with Asian and Pacific Islanders making up the same amount.The CDC report also found that 75% of those who died had at least one underlying health condition such as asthma, obesity, neurologic and developmental conditions or cardiovascular conditions. Researchers pointed out that certain social conditions, including crowded living environments, food and housing insecurity, and wealth and education gaps, could be contributing factors in the high fatality rates among minority children.The CDC on Wednesday outlined details of a plan to begin distributing a vaccine within 24 hours of official approval. Under the plan, the drug would be distributed once the Food and Drug Administration authorizes either an emergency use order or full formal approval, and would likely be administered first to essential personnel such as health care workers.The agency said the vaccine would be administered free of charge to all Americans once it becomes widely available.The announcement of the plan came on the same day President Donald Trump contradicted CDC Director Robert Redfield on when Americans would get a reliable COVID-19 vaccine.Redfield told a Senate committee that a vaccine could be generally available to the American public in the second or third quarter of next year, with those most at risk such as the elderly and those with preexisting health conditions to be prioritized for vaccination.In a news conference hours later, Trump made clear he did not like Redfield expressing a more cautious timeline.“I think he made a mistake when he said that. That’s just incorrect information,” Trump told reporters. “Under no circumstance will it be as late as the doctor said.”  

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Wildfire Smoke a Growing Health Problem

The world’s worst air this week is not in pollution hot spots like India or China. It’s in the western United States, where record-breaking wildfires are blanketing the region with smoke.Portland, Oregon, has topped the air pollution charts for major cities this week at monitoring company FILE – Flames and smoke from the Bobcat Fire are pictured after an evacuation was ordered for the residents of Arcadia, Calif., Sept. 13, 2020.What’s increasingly concerning is that these huge wildfires are no longer isolated incidents.”We are continuing to see the increase in the duration of these events, the severity of these events and the frequency,” said Keith Bein of the Air Quality Research Center at the University of California-Davis.”The bigger question becomes: [What are the impacts of] being exposed to this every summer for longer and longer periods and higher and higher concentrations?” he said. Those exposures likely add up.Gases and particlesSmoke from wildfires is made up of gases and particles that can harm health in a number of ways.The ozone that fires generate irritates the eyes, nose and throat. It can trigger inflammatory responses leading to asthma attacks in sensitive people and impacts on other organs.But the more insidious effects come from tiny particles 1/30th the width of a human hair. They are known as PM2.5, shorthand for particulate matter that is 2.5 microns in diameter or smaller.FILE – The San Francisco Bay Bridge and city skyline are obscured in orange smoke and haze as seen from Treasure Island in San Francisco, Calif., Sep. 9, 2020.”The reason [PM2.5 is] so damaging to our health is that it’s small enough that it can be inhaled, go all the way through to the base of the lungs and cross over into the bloodstream,” said Mary Prunicki, director of air pollution and health research at the Sean N. Parker Center for Allergy and Asthma Research at Stanford University. “And from there, we know that the particulate matter can cause damage to multiple organ systems.”Air pollution accounts for one-quarter of all fatal heart attacks and strokes worldwide, 29% of all lung cancer deaths, more than two-fifths of deaths from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and one in six fatal lower respiratory infections, according to the FILE – Firefighters walk in line during a wildfire in Yucaipa, Calif., Sept. 5, 2020. Three wildfires sent people fleeing, with one trapping campers in the Sierra National Forest, as a heat wave pushed temperatures into triple digits.But not everyone is affected. Researchers are following groups of survivors of major California fires, studying how their symptoms from smoke exposure progress months later.”We have seen that these health symptoms are persisting in some populations far after” the fires, Bein said. “In other populations, they’re not.”Studies are under way that aim to answer some of the key questions about how wildfire smoke affects the body and who is most at risk.”We’ll learn a lot about the health effects, unfortunately, from what’s going on right now,” Stanford’s Prunicki said.

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