Coronavirus Cases Soar in Italy and Iran; 48 Countries Now Report Infections

The fight to contain the coronavirus entered an alarming new phase on Thursday as caseloads soared in Europe and the Middle East, and health officials in the United States and Germany dealt with patients with no known connection to others with the infection. From a report: The German and American cases raised the possibility that the virus could have begun to spread locally, or that infected people had spread it to others sequentially, making it virtually impossible to trace and isolate the origins. Either way, the cases, thousands of miles apart, underscored how quickly the virus was making its way around the globe after emerging in China. Japan’s government closed all schools through March in an effort to combat the outbreak. Iran canceled Friday Prayers in major cities, a cornerstone ritual of the Islamic Republic. Saudi Arabia barred pilgrims from visiting Mecca and Medina.

President Trump announced that Vice President Mike Pence would lead the American effort to combat the virus, but the administration continued to send mixed messages. Public health officials warned of potentially “major disruptions,” while Mr. Trump blamed Democrats and cable news channels for overstating the threat. Financial markets continued their weeklong declines. In the Middle East, concerns built about the growing severity of the outbreak in Iran, the source of infections in many other countries. The government said on Thursday that 245 people had been infected and 26 had died, but experts say there are probably many more cases. Several countries registered new infections that illustrated the diverse ways the pathogen could cross borders.

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Facebook Sues SDK Maker OneAudience For Secretly Harvesting User Data

Facebook filed today a federal lawsuit in a California court against OneAudience, a New Jersey-based data analytics firm. From a report: The social networking giant claims that OneAudience paid app developers to install its Software Development Kit (SDK) in their apps, and later used the control it had over the SDK’s code to harvest data on Facebook users. According to court documents obtained by ZDNet, the SDK was embedded in shopping, gaming, and utility-type apps, some of which were made available through the official Google Play Store. “After a user installed one of these apps on their device, the malicious SDK enabled OneAudience to collect information about the user from their device and their Facebook, Google, or Twitter accounts, in instances where the user logged into the app using those accounts,” the complaint reads. “With respect to Facebook, OneAudience used the malicious SDK — without authorization from Facebook — to access and obtain a user’s name, email address, locale (i.e. the country that the user logged in from), time zone, Facebook ID, and, in limited instances, gender,” Facebook said. Twitter was the first to expose OneAudience’s secret data harvesting practices on November 26, last year.

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Amazon Plans To Enter India’s Food Delivery Market

Weeks after Uber exited India’s food delivery market, conceding defeat to local giants Swiggy and Zomato, a new player is gearing up to challenge the heavily-backed duopoly: Amazon. From a report: The e-commerce giant plans to enter the Indian food delivery market in the coming weeks, a person familiar with the matter told TechCrunch. The launch of the service, which would be offered as part of either Amazon’s Prime Now or Amazon Fresh platform, could happen as soon as next month, we are told. In the run up to the launch, the e-commerce giant has been testing its food delivery service with select restaurant partners in Bangalore, the source said, requesting anonymity as details of the new business are still private.

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The Raspberry Pi 4 gets a RAM upgrade: The 2GB version is now $35

The Raspberry Pi 4 is approaching its first birthday in a few months, but it’s already getting an upgrade: more memory. The Raspberry Pi launched in June 2019 with 1GB of RAM for $35, 2GB of RAM for $45, and 4GB of RAM for $55, but today the Raspberry Pi Foundation announced that the 2GB model is getting a permanent price drop to $35.

The rest of the specs are the same as always: a Broadcom BCM2711 SoC with four 1.5GHz Cortex A72 CPU cores, Gigabit Ethernet, two USB 3 ports, two USB 2 ports, a headphone/composite video jack, and two micro-HDMI ports capable of powering two 4K monitors.

Interestingly, the foundation says the 1GB version of Pi 4 is sticking around and “will remain available to industrial and commercial customers, at a list price of $35.” If you were using fleets of these things for some industry project before, you can still get the old version and not change anything. For everyone else, you probably want the version with more memory. The new pricing seems to already be active at most of the recommended Pi resellers.

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HTTPS for all: Let’s Encrypt reaches one billion certificates issued

Encrypted communication has gone from "only if it's important" to "unless you're incredibly lazy" in four short years—and Let's Encrypt deserves a lot of the credit for that.

Enlarge / Encrypted communication has gone from “only if it’s important” to “unless you’re incredibly lazy” in four short years—and Let’s Encrypt deserves a lot of the credit for that. (credit: nternet1.jpg by Rock1997 modified.)

Let’s Encrypt, the Internet Security Research Group‘s free certificate signing authority, issued its first certificate a little over four years ago. Today, it issued its billionth.

The ISRG’s goal for Let’s Encrypt is to bring the Web up to a 100% encryption rate. When Let’s Encrypt launched in 2015, the idea was pretty outré—at that time, a bit more than a third of all Web traffic was encrypted, with the rest being plain text HTTP. There were significant barriers to HTTPS adoption—for one thing, it cost money. But more importantly, it cost a significant amount of time and human effort, both of which are in limited supply.

Let’s Encrypt solved the money barrier by offering its services free of charge. More importantly, by establishing a stable protocol to access them, it enabled the Electronic Frontier Foundation to build and provide Certbot, an open source, free-to-use tool that automates the process of obtaining certificates, installing them, configuring webservers to use them, and automatically renewing them.

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Walmart is Quietly Working on an Amazon Prime Competitor Called Walmart+

Amazon Prime has devastated traditional retail. Walmart is about to fight back. From a report: When Amazon launched a funky membership program called Amazon Prime in 2005, Walmart boasted larger profits than Amazon had revenue. Fifteen years later, though, Prime is the key reason for Amazon’s dominance over Walmart in online sales. That pressure has pushed the traditional retailer to burn tens of billions of dollars to fight back while its executives have cycled through various stages of reaction to Prime’s ascent: denial, followed by meek competition, followed by a reversal that seemed to signal Walmart wanted to stick to a free, no-membership strategy. But Recode has learned that over the past 18 months, the world’s largest brick-and-mortar retailer has explored creating its own paid membership program that would include perks that Amazon can’t replicate, in part to avoid a direct comparison to Prime. Amazon now accounts for nearly 40 percent of all online retail sales in the US, according to eMarketer, and Prime is a huge reason why. Walmart is a distant No. 2 with only a little more than 5 percent of the US e-commerce market.

As soon as next month, Walmart plans to start publicly testing a membership program called Walmart+, according to sources. The program is expected to essentially launch as a rebrand of Walmart’s existing Delivery Unlimited service, which charges customers $98 a year for unlimited, same-day delivery of fresh groceries from one of the 1,600-plus Walmart stores in the US where the program is available. The company is also considering launching Walmart+ with a feature that would allow customers to use text messaging to place orders. Sources said that the amount of the Walmart+ fee could still change or the company might test multiple price points.

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China’s Rover Finds Layers of Surprise Under Moon’s Far Side

The Chang’e-4 mission, the first to land on the lunar far side, is demonstrating the promise and peril of using ground-penetrating radar in planetary science. From a report: China’s robotic Chang’e-4 spacecraft did something last year that had never been done before: It landed on the moon’s far side, and Yutu-2, a small rover it was carrying, began trundling through a crater there. One of the rover’s instruments, a ground-penetrating radar, is now revealing what lies beneath. In a paper published Wednesday in the journal Science Advances, a team of Chinese and Italian researchers showed that the top layer of the lunar soil on that part of the moon is considerably thicker than some expected — about 130 feet of what scientists call regolith.

“It’s a fine, dusty, sandy environment,” said Elena Pettinelli, a professor of mathematics and physics at Rome Tre University who was one of the authors of the paper. Based on what NASA astronauts observed during the Apollo moon landings, other scientists said they would have expected one-quarter as much soil. “That’s a lot of regolith,” said David A. Kring, a senior scientist at the Lunar and Planetary Institute in Houston who is not involved with the Chinese moon mission. “That’s food for thought.” Chang’e-4 landed just over a year ago inside Von Karman crater, a 110-mile-wide depression, and continues to explore a part of the moon that has not been seen up close before.

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Raspberry Pi 4 Linux Computer Gets Twice the RAM and USB-C Power Fix

Brian Fagioli, writing for BetaNews: The Raspberry Pi line has provided great little Linux computers to nerds — its low price and small size makes it ideal for tinkering and doing projects. But also, the device has proven to be a solid media device, wonderful for watching videos and emulating classic video games. In other words, it has been a very versatile computer, serving as many things to many people. With the release of the Raspberry Pi 4, however, it finally became powerful enough to serve as a true desktop computer. By installing a Linux distribution, some people can use it for day-to-day computer use, such as web browsing, playing media, and word processing. Unfortunately, the $35 base model came with a paltry 1GB of RAM. Today, this changes, as the company has dropped the price of the 2GB version to $35, effectively doubling the memory for the base model.

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Nokia To Weigh Strategic Options as Profit Pressure Mounts

Nokia Oyj is exploring strategic options as fierce competition puts pressure on the Finnish network equipment maker’s earnings, Bloomberg reported Thursday, citing people familiar with the matter. From the report: The company is working with advisers to consider alternatives ranging from potential asset sales to mergers, the people said, asking not to be identified because the information is private. Other options include shifting investments and making balance-sheet adjustments, one of them said. Deliberations are ongoing, and there’s no certainty they will lead to any transactions, the people said. Nokia shares have lost roughly a third of their value over the past year before news of its deliberations.

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