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CDC Removes Guidance About Airborne Virus Spread From Website – Bloomberg

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Supreme Court battle adds new twist to Biden-Trump showdown ahead of first debate – Fox News

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If the deadliest pandemic in a century, the worst economic downturn in decades, and a summer of nationwide protests over racial inequity weren’t enough to severely rattle this year’s presidential election, there’s now more.

The most bitterly partisan of all political battles – a Supreme Court nomination fight – has been added to the toxic mix with just a month and a half to go until Election Day – and with the first presidential debate between Democratic nominee Joe Biden and President Trump just over a week out.

BIDEN WARNS FAST TRACKING SCOTUS NOMINATION WILL PLUNGE NATION ‘DEEPER INTO THE ABYSS’

“The Supreme Court vacancy will undoubtedly be a key topic of the debate next week,” Trump re-election campaign communications director Tim Murtaugh told Fox News.

There’s no argument there from seasoned political strategists from both sides of the aisle.

“The Supreme Court will be a major factor in the debates and the overall conversation as we near Election Day, with both campaigns making an appeal to their constituencies,” veteran Democratic consultant Lynda Tran said.

Tran, a Democratic National Committee veteran who ran communications for the Obama-era grassroots group Organizing for America and was a founding partner of the communications firm 270 Strategies, forecast that the nomination showdown will “figure heavily in the upcoming debates.”

Longtime Republican strategist Colin Reed agreed, emphasizing that “there’s 90 minutes to debate and they have a whole host of issues to cover but all of a sudden the Supreme Court fight is going to be front and center.”

The first of the three showdowns between the former vice president and Trump is scheduled for next Tuesday, Sept. 29 in Cleveland, Ohio. “Fox News Sunday” anchor Chris Wallace will moderate the first debate.

Reed, a veteran of Mitt Romney’s 2012 presidential campaign, predicted that the partisan battle to fill the seat long held by justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg – who died Friday at age 87 – is “going to mean that Donald Trump’s talking about an issue that’s on home turf, if you will, as opposed to spending more time on areas where he has less of a compelling effort to run on.”

“I’m sure he and his team are going to be making adjustments in their debate prep this week because you can literally tie the Supreme Court back to so many issues that voters on both sides care about,” Reed stressed.

TRUMP CAMPAIGN EXPECTS ‘TUNED IN’ BIDEN AT FIRST DEBATE

In his first address since Ginsburg’s death, Biden on Sunday framed the titanic battle over the high court opening as a referendum on saving health care coverage for tens of millions of Americans amid the worst pandemic in over a century.

“In the middle of the worst global health crisis in living memory, Donald Trump is at the Supreme Court trying to strip health coverage away from tens of millions of families and to strip away the peace of mind from more than 100 million people with pre-existing conditions,” Biden emphasized.

Tran said that the debates will give Biden “the opportunity to remind American voters — millions of whom are already casting their ballots all around the country — of the immediate and the longer-term stakes of this election, including the repeated GOP promise to overturn the Affordable Care Act that more than 20 million people rely on for their health coverage today.”

But Reed said that he expects at next week’s debate the president to take a page from the Democrats’ playbook, arguing that “now it’s up to Donald Trump and his team to take the Supreme Court fight and crystalize why this fight matters to voters.”

Trump’s weekend election rallies showed an unhinged campaign – Vox.com

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President Donald Trump is traveling around the country and holding packed campaign rallies in the middle of a pandemic with few masks and no social distancing. These campaign rallies serve as snapshots of the president’s messaging as he heads into the home stretch of his flagging reelection campaign. The picture isn’t pretty.

From the podium, Trump routinely mocks local regulations against large gatherings, which he refers to without a sense of irony as “protests against stupidity.” Instead of touting his accomplishments or outlining a second-term agenda, Trump is praising white people for their genes and suggesting women of color who serve in Congress should be prosecuted. He’s offering apologia for the Confederacy while barely trying to conceal his authoritarian designs.

Those tuning in to Trump’s rallies will see a power-hungry president who is increasingly turning up the race-baiting and attacks on the free press. His base loves it, but it should worry everyone else.

Trump turns the racism up to 11 in Minnesota

Trump’s Friday evening speech in Bemidji, Minnesota, began just before news broke of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death. Trump made it through his more than two-hour speech without learning about it, which resulted in surreal scenes of him talking about his two Supreme Court nominations in the past tense as people yelled out things like, “Ginsburg is dead!

Speaking in a largely white part of a largely white state, the big takeaway from Trump’s speech was how many different forms of racism it featured. He began by alluding to Minnesota’s Somali population and said, sarcastically, “Are you having a good time with your refugees?”

The Minneapolis part of that community is represented in Congress by Rep. Ilhan Omar, a Somali refugee whom Trump has demonized for years. During his Bemidji speech, Trump pushed conspiracy theories about Omar’s personal life and suggested she and two other women of color who serve in Congress should be prosecuted.

“We’ll prosecute ’em. Yeah. Why not?” Trump said to cheers.

Then there was the sight of a US president campaigning on a pro-Confederate platform. Minnesota fought as part of the Union during the Civil War, but Trump heaped praise on Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee, who he said would have “won except for Gettysburg” and whom he described as “incredible.”

Things somehow got even worse. Toward the end of his speech, Trump praised his mostly white audience for their “good genes” — comments that left open the question of what genes the president thinks are bad.

“You have good genes, you know that, right? You have good genes. A lot of it is about the genes, isn’t it, don’t you believe? The racehorse theory. You think we’re so different? You have good genes in Minnesota,” he said.

Of course, it’s not exactly breaking news at this late date that Trump uses racist rhetoric. But it’s remarkable just how racist his reelection campaign is. And by pitting his supporters against Minnesota’s Somali community, his strategy of using race to divide and conquer was on full display.

The authoritarianism is barely hidden

If Trump’s Friday speech was about racism, his showing the next night in Fayetteville, North Carolina, was about authoritarianism.

Trump began with a brief tribute to Ginsburg, but quickly pivoted to talking about his plans to fill her seat as soon as possible as his fans chanted, “Fill that seat!”

If anyone was hoping that Trump’s motives are untainted, he quickly disabused them of the notion, saying, “We’re gonna have a victory on November 3rd the likes of which you’ve never seen.” He quickly added that “we’re counting on the federal court system to make it so we can actually have an evening where we know who wins.”

These comments alluded to Trump’s insistence that mail voting, which has proven to be safe and effective in a number of states and is in higher demand than ever because of the coronavirus pandemic, is being used by Democrats to “rig” the 2020 election against him. He wants people to believe that any delay in tallying results is tantamount to fraud, and is hoping the Supreme Court will have his back.

That wasn’t the only corrupt quid pro quo Trump boasted about during that speech. He also said that as a condition of Oracle’s involvement in a TikTok sale, he’s demanding that Oracle’s leadership “do me a favor” and “put up $5 billion into a fund for education so we can educate people as to real history of our country, not the fake history.”

Trump doesn’t have the power to extort private companies like that. But he wants you to think he does, and his supporters may think so too.

Trump all but incites violence against the press

Another element of Trump’s authoritarianism was in evidence in remarks he made in both Minnesota and North Carolina about MSNBC host Ali Velshi, who was tear-gassed and shot by a rubber bullet live on air while covering the George Floyd protests in Minneapolis.

“It was the most beautiful thing,” Trump said in Bemidji, alluding to video of Velshi getting shot. “It’s called law and order.”

On Saturday — hours before Trump again lauded the law enforcement officials who shot Velshi — MSNBC sent a statement to Vox characterizing the president’s comments as a threat against free speech.

“Freedom of the press is a pillar of our democracy,” it said. “When the president mocks a journalist for the injury he sustained while putting himself in harm’s way to inform the public, he endangers thousands of other journalists and undermines our freedoms.”

But what one person views as a threat to constitutional liberties, another views as an applause line at a campaign rally. The events themselves are a public health risk amid the president’s flouting of public health regulations during a pandemic. In a sense, perhaps what Trump’s latest rallies showed most clearly is America’s polarization between people with a sense of empathy on one hand, and the president’s base on the other.


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California Governor Gavin Newsom Says Mounting 10,000 Daily Unemployment Claim Backlog Will Be “Substantially Addressed,” Announces New EDD Measures – Deadline

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On Saturday night, the State of California dropped a damning report about how the state has dealt with — some would say not dealt with — the tidal wave of unemployment claims it has experienced since counties and businesses were shut down due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The report revealed that the state Employment Development Department’s backlog of unemployment insurance claims is growing by 10,000 a day during the COVID-fueled recession. That’s just the backlog.

On Monday, Gov. Gavin Newsom sought to address the issue.

“This system is an old, 30-year-old system,” he said. The computers and software that help it run “need to be strewn to the waste bin of history.”

Newsom said that the report came out this weekend because he didn’t want to wait to begin implementing its recommendations. “The reset began this weekend,” he revealed. The reset process is expected to end on October 5.

Among the actions being taken:

-Implement a new automatic ID system. Newsom said the software could “substantially eliminate fraud.”

-Process improvements, including redeploying more experienced staff in senior roles

-Providing people information in a mobile-friendly manner

“We believe this will fast track what would otherwise be a manual process that could take up to 60 days,” said the governor.

Newsom said he expected to have “substantially addressed” the backlog within 90-100 days. The goal is to have new applicants not impacted by the backlog.

The report is the result of a strike team commissioned by Newsom. Yolanda Richardson, Secretary of Government Operations, and Jennifer Pahlka, former US Deputy Chief Technology Officer, lead the team in an attempt to determine needed reforms at the Employment Development Department.

From the report:

Ultimately, UI claims processing is a logistics and workflow problem. Every action (nightly system batches, manual review, waiting for claimant information) runs at a fixed speed (time per item), with a relatively fixed throughput (total items per time). In some cases steps can be sped up, or throughput increased…

But, it asserts:

As long as the inbound rate of claims per day exceeds what the slowest, lowest throughput part of the system can complete in a day, the backlog of undetermined claims will grow unbounded until the new claims rate decreases.

EDD’s maximum number of claims manual processing of claims never exceeded 2,400 per day in 2019 or 2020, according to the report. New Unemployment Insurance data show that right now, more than 20,000 claims per day are sent to be manually processed, mostly for identity verification.

As Deadline’s Dave Robb reported exclusively earlier this month, initial unemployment claims from Californians previously working in the state’s arts, entertainment and recreation sector slowed in August, falling to the lowest levels since the pandemic shut down venues across the state in mid-March.

The decline of initial claims in August also coincides with the termination of the $600-a-week federal unemployment benefit that ended at the end of July.

During the past five weeks, nearly 33,000 out-of-work Californians in the sector have filed for unemployment insurance, raising the total number to more than 260,000 statewide since the pandemic began. Prior to the U.S. outbreak, an average of 730 workers in this sector applied for unemployment benefits during the first nine weeks of 2020.

The Lost Wages Assistance money approved by President Donald Trump via executive order is expected to arrive in Californians’ mailboxes any day now. The funds – taken from the Federal Emergency Management Agency – are only expected to last for about four to five weeks.

iOS 14: How to customize your home screen widgets with Smart Stacks and Siri Suggestions – 9to5Mac

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Widgets have instantly proven to be the most popular iOS 14 feature, allowing users to give their home screens an added layer of personalization. iOS 14 includes two built-in widget options that aim to use Siri intelligence to help further personalize your iPhone home screen widgets. Here’s how it works.

Siri Suggestions widgets

If you’re the type of person that relies heavily on swiping down to access Siri app suggestions in Spotlight search, the Siri Suggestions widget is an excellent consideration for your home screen widget. The Siri Suggestions widget will surface relevant actions “based on your usage patterns.”

There are two different Siri Suggestions widgets:

  • App Suggestions: Get app launch suggestions based on your usage patterns (Available in medium size)
  • Shortcut Suggestions: See relevant shortcut actions based on your usage patterns (Available in small, medium, and large)

My personal favorite here is the App Suggestions widget, which will present a rotating selection of app icons based on what Siri intelligence thinks you might be looking for. For example, if you commonly log your lunch in MyFitnessPal around the same time every day, the App Suggestions widget will present the MyFitnessPal icon around that time of day.

In fact, once you add the App Suggestions widget to your home screen, the app icons will look just like any other app icons. It’s a pretty nifty use of Siri intelligence, and one of the cooler widget implementations by Apple.

To find these widgets, long-press on your iOS 14 home screen to enter jiggle mode, look for the “+” in the upper-left corner, then look for “Siri Suggestions” in the list of widgets.

Smart Stacks

One of the Apple widget types in iOS 14 is a Smart Stack, which intelligently stacks multiple widgets together based on factors like time of day and Siri intelligence. By default, you can pick a prebuilt Smart Stack from the widget picker, but you can also create custom stacks of widgets.

This means you can pick different widgets and stack them on top of one another, then swipe between them. To do this, simply add one widget to your home screen, then go back to the Widget Gallery and choose another and drag it on top of the first widget. You can stack many different widgets together, then swipe through them directly from the home screen.

Once you add a Smart Stack widget to your iOS 14 home screen, you can you can long-press on it, choose “Edit Widget” and enable or disable the “Smart Rotate” feature. This feature will automatically rotate through the widgets in the stack based on time of day and Siri intelligence.

Find more third-party apps with iOS 14 features such as home screen widgets, App Clips, and more in our full roundup.

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GE: Industrial giant will stop building coal-fired power plants – BBC News

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A GE factoryImage copyright
Getty Images

In a dramatic reversal, one of the world’s biggest makers of coal-fired power plants is to exit the market and focus on greener alternatives.

US industrial giant General Electric said it would shut or sell sites as it prioritised its renewable energy and power generation businesses.

It comes ahead of a US Presidential election in which the candidates hold starkly different views on coal.

NGO the Natural Resources Defense Council said the move was “about time”.

GE has said in the past it would focus less on fossil fuels, reflecting the growing acceptance of cleaner energy sources in US power grids.

But just five years ago, it struck its biggest ever deal – paying almost £10bn for a business that produced coal-fuelled turbines.

‘Attractive economics’

In a statement, the firm suggested the decision had been motivated by economics.

Russell Stokes, GE’s senior vice president, said: “With the continued transformation of GE, we are focused on power generation businesses that have attractive economics and a growth trajectory.

“As we pursue this exit from the new build coal power market, we will continue to support our customers, helping them to keep their existing plants running in a cost-effective and efficient way with best-in-class technology and service expertise.”

US President Donald Trump has championed “beautiful, clean coal” at a time when other developed countries are turning away from polluting fossil fuels.

In a bid to revive the struggling US industry, Mr Trump has rolled back Obama-era standards on coal emissions. But it has not stopped the decline as cheaper alternatives such as natural gas, solar and wind gain market share.

GE said it would continue to service existing coal power plants, but warned jobs could be lost as a result of its decision.

The firm is already cutting up to 13,000 job cuts at GE Aviation, which makes jet engines, due to the pandemic.

In a tweet, the Natural Resources Defense Council said: “Communities and organizers have been calling on GE to get out of coal for years. This is an important and long overdue step in the right direction to protect communities’ health and the environment.”

Nearly 9 million Americans havent received their stimulus checks, CDC guidance to schools is inconsistent: Report – ABC News

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Nearly nine million Americans are still without their stimulus checks seven months after the CARES Act passed, according to a new report Monday from the Government Accountability Office.

The report also found key inconsistencies in Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance for schools, such as how to screen for the virus and when schools should close down if students or teachers start testing positive for the virus.

It’s the third such report put out by the GAO, a nonpartisan congressional watchdog known as “the investigative arm of Congress,” examining the implementation of the CARES Act and other pandemic relief actions.

Each report outlines steps for Congress and the Trump administration to take in order to improve the nation’s response. As part of the CARES Act, the GAO issues a report every two months.

“Our report contains 16 new, concrete recommendations where timely and concerted actions by the Administration and Congress can help address the coronavirus crisis,” said Gene L. Dodaro, Comptroller General of the United States and head of the GAO, in a statement. “If implemented, those suggestions have the potential to significantly improve the nation’s response to the current pandemic as well as strengthen preparations for future public health emergencies.”

Nearly 9 million Americans have yet to receive their stimulus checks

While the Treasury Department and the Internal Revenue Service have tried to smooth out some of the flaws in the stimulus check program, the agencies still “lack updated information on how many eligible recipients have yet to receive these funds,” GAO found in its report Monday, and it’s estimated that “potentially millions of individuals” are still “at risk of missing their payment.”

The biggest demographic affected, GAO found, is Americans who don’t file taxes and, as a result, didn’t have information registered with the IRS about how much money they make per year, which would qualify them for the $1,200 one-time payment granted to a majority of Americans by the CARES Act. Generally, the main reason people don’t file taxes is because they have gross income below a certain amount and do not need to file a tax return.

While more than 26 million Americans who don’t file taxes did receive a payment, including over five million Americans who followed guidance from the IRS and registered online to receive a stimulus check, there are still an estimated 8.7 million or more Americans who are eligible but haven’t been identified by the IRS, the GAO report found.

It’s likely the people who need it most who haven’t received it, since Americans who don’t file taxes are likely to be very low-income, the report said.

There are also 1.1 million Americans who were underpaid, the GAO report found. These Americans are mostly people in need: around 355,000 non-filers with children who never got their qualifying payment of an extra $500 per child; domestic abuse survivors who don’t have access to the bank account that the check was deposited to and nearly 700,000 widows who never received a payment because their spouse died.

“GAO recommends that Treasury, in coordination with IRS, update and refine the estimate of eligible recipients who have yet to file for an EIP to help target outreach and communications efforts,” the report advised.

CDC’s ‘inconsistent’ guidance to schools

Screen kids. Don’t screen them. Shut down if someone tests positive. Don’t shut down if it’s just one case. Such was the “inconsistent” guidance the CDC has given to schools, according to the GAO report.

“Although the decision to physically reopen schools is primarily a state and local issue, state and local school district officials look to the federal government for leadership and clear guidance including recommendations about how to do so safely. Unclear federal guidance and messaging risks contributing to conflict, confusion, and indecision for schools,” the report said.

In one example, the CDC’s guidance didn’t recommend that schools conduct daily symptom screening for all K-12 students because some people with COVID-19 are asymptomatic.

However, “contradictory guidance” on the CDC’s website said the exact opposite — it “directed schools to develop a plan to conduct daily health checks (e.g., temperature screening or symptom checking) of staff and students.” Even further adding to the confusion, the report said, a third piece of guidance said schools “should not physically open unless they are able to screen students and employees upon arrival for symptoms …”

The same contradictions existed for guidance on closing down if COVID-19 cases emerge: “CDC guidance on what to do if a student or staff member tests positive for COVID-19 is also inconsistent,” the report found.

Some guidance said a single case shouldn’t lead to a shut down; other guidance suggested closing down the school for two to five days.

“In its FAQ for School Administrators on Reopening Schools, CDC notes that in most instances, a single case of COVID-19 in a school would not warrant closing the entire school,” the report found. “In contrast, in the K-12 Schools and Childcare Programs FAQ for Administrators, Teachers, and Parents, CDC notes that if a student or staff member is confirmed to have COVID-19, ‘you will likely dismiss students and most staff for 2–5 days.’”

At the same time, the White House has “urged that all schools ‘fully reopen’ and suggested that current or future federal funds may be withheld from school districts that do not return to in-person education,” which the GAO found does “not appear to align with a risk- based decision-making approach,” and contradicts Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’ “own statements that returning to in-person education is a state and local decision.”

The CDC, in response, said “it strives to ensure that all content is consistent and up to date. It noted that updating these documents is an iterative and ongoing process and, as a result, there can be periods of time where some documents are updated and others are not,” according to the report.

The report also pointed out that some of the CDC’s guidelines are unachievable because of budgetary constraints. For example, the CDC suggested schools ensure “ventilation systems operate properly and increase circulation of outdoor air as much as possible,” but the GAO found that in June 2020, based on a nationally representative survey of school districts, “we estimated that 36,000 schools were in need of heating, ventilation, and air conditioning updates.”

The consequences, the GAO warned, could have a longstanding impact along racial lines.

“Exacerbating the situation, the poorest school districts may be least able to pay for efforts to retrofit and update schools to address COVID-19-related risks. These districts educate about 1.5 million more students than wealthy districts. We also know from our past work that 80 percent of students attending the poorest schools are Black or Hispanic, and that these students already face myriad educational challenges, from less access to coursework that prepares them for college to widespread discipline disparities,” the report said.

As a solution, the GAO recommended CDC Director Robert Redfield “should ensure that, as it makes updates to its federal guidance related to reassessing schools’ operating status, the guidance is cogent, clear, and internally consistent.”

Jimmy Kimmel’s Emmy Awards telecast plummets to record low ratings – Fox News

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The virtual 72nd Emmy Awards hosted by Jimmy Kimmel on ABC drew 6.1 million viewers, a 20% drop compared to last year’s host-less version, according to TheWrap.

“A new low for the annual awards show,” TheWrap’s Tony Maglio reported.

JIMMY KIMMEL FACES BACKLASH FOR ‘NON-APOLOGY’ ADDRESSING BLACKFACE CONTROVERSY

Kimmel, who hosted the awards for the third time, used his opening monologue to note how there was no audience at the Emmys this year due to the health and safety procedures in place amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The virtual 72nd Emmy Awards hosted by Jimmy Kimmel on ABC drew 6.1 million viewers, a 20% drop compared to last year’s host-less version. (The Television Academy and ABC Entertainment via AP)

The virtual 72nd Emmy Awards hosted by Jimmy Kimmel on ABC drew 6.1 million viewers, a 20% drop compared to last year’s host-less version. (The Television Academy and ABC Entertainment via AP)

“This isn’t a MAGA rally, it’s the Emmys. Instead of the live audience, we took a page from baseball and did cardboard cutouts of the nominees,” Kimmel said.

Kimmel hosted a similarly politically charged 2018 Academy Awards, which set an all-time low for the Oscars telecast.

The late-night star, who hosted the Emmy Awards ceremony live from the Staples Center without a crowd, also mocked President Trump as “Schitt’s Creek” won big.

JIMMY KIMMEL KICKS OFF 2020 EMMYS WITH JABS AT CORONAVIRUS, TRUMP SUPPORTERS DURING OPENING MONOLOGUE

“Schitt’s Creek” is set in the small town of Ontario, Canada of the same name. After a brief return to the show following a commercial break, Kimmel joked: “Trump’s gonna build that wall on the Northern border! Has the president tweeted us yet?”

Kimmel also received some backlash online after making a joke about reporting John Oliver, another late-night host who is from the U.K., to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

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Earlier this year, Kimmel came under fire for wearing blackface during his tenure hosting “The Man Show” in the early 2000s, most notably while impersonating former NBA star Karl Malone. The “Jimmy Kimmel Live” host insisted he has “evolved” since his days on the Comedy Central program.

Microsoft To Buy Bethesda In $7.5 Billion Deal, Acquiring Fallout, The Elder Scrolls – NPR

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Microsoft announced Monday that it will acquire ZeniMax Media, the parent company of popular video game publisher Bethesda, for $7.5 billion. Here, a Microsoft store is shown in March in New York City.

Jeenah Moon/Getty Images


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Jeenah Moon/Getty Images

Microsoft announced Monday that it will acquire ZeniMax Media, the parent company of popular video game publisher Bethesda, for $7.5 billion. Here, a Microsoft store is shown in March in New York City.

Jeenah Moon/Getty Images

Updated at 5:01 p.m. ET

In what is set to be one of the largest ever acquisitions in the video game industry, Microsoft announced Monday that it has reached a deal to acquire ZeniMax Media, the parent company of popular video game publisher Bethesda Softworks, for $7.5 billion.

Once the deal is finalized, Bethesda properties including The Elder Scrolls, Fallout, Wolfenstein, Quake, Starfield and DOOM will be owned by Microsoft. These series will be added to the Xbox Game Pass, a subscription-based cloud gaming service which has topped 15 million subscribers.

The Bethesda deal is expected to be finalized in the second half of fiscal year 2021.

“With the addition of Bethesda, Microsoft will grow from 15 to 23 creative studio teams and will be adding Bethesda’s iconic franchises to Xbox Game Pass,” Microsoft wrote in a release. “This includes Microsoft’s intent to bring Bethesda’s future games into Xbox Game Pass the same day they launch on Xbox or PC.”

This deal is three times the $2.5 billion that Microsoft paid for Mojang, the company behind Minecraft, in 2014. It will be Microsoft’s most expensive video game acquisition ever.

“We’re still Bethesda. We’re still working on the same games we were yesterday, made by the same studios we’ve worked with for years, and those games will be published by us,” Pete Hines, Bethesda’s senior vice president of PR and marketing, said in a blog post. “[The deal] allows us to make even better games going forward. Microsoft is an incredible partner and offers access to resources that will make us a better publisher and developer.”

This announcement comes a day before pre-orders of its new Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S consoles go live. Microsoft’s competitor Sony started accepting pre-orders last week for its PlayStation 5.

“I think that this announcement has little to no impact on the sales of PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X at launch, because the reality is that most of the console gamers have already set their minds on a particular console,” said George Jijiashvili, a senior analyst who researches video games at Omdia. “So, this deal is more of a long-term investment.”

Jijiashvili said Sony is still in a better position than Microsoft and expects PlayStation consoles to outsell Xbox consoles two-to-one in the first couple of years at least. Because the deal won’t be finalized until next year, it won’t have immediate impacts, he predicted.

However, he said the deal will help make Xbox’s cloud gaming platform more attractive to gamers.

“This was the first of its kind where Microsoft is really kind of putting its money where its mouth is in terms of wanting to really grow this Xbox ecosystem through subscriptions,” he said. “It is a huge deal.”

Gamers flocked to social media to react to the news. Some were excited about the new games coming to Game Pass, while others feared the deal could mean that future Bethesda games would be exclusive to Xbox and PC. Bethesda currently publishes games on multiple platforms.

The game publisher will continue to honor a previous agreement to debut two of its games — Deathloop and Ghostwire: Tokyo — on the PlayStation 5 as “timed console exclusives” before they eventually become available on the Xbox, according to Bloomberg.

However, future games like Starfield will be available for Xbox, PC and Microsoft’s Game Pass video-game service, Xbox chief Phil Spencer told Bloomberg: “We’ll take other consoles on a case-by-case basis.”

Microsoft and Bethesda representatives did not immediately respond to requests for comment about the deal, which includes publishing offices and development studios with over 2,300 employees.

“Like our original partnership, this one is about more than one system or one screen. We share a deep belief in the fundamental power of games, in their ability to connect, empower, and bring joy,” Bethesda Executive Producer Todd Howard wrote in a blog post. “And a belief we should bring that to everyone – regardless of who you are, where you live, or what you play on. Regardless of the screen size, the controller, or your ability to even use one.”

Jijiashvili said it’s too early to tell what Microsoft will decide in terms of making future Bethesda titles exclusive to its platforms. However, he said Microsoft would be better off to continue publishing the games on multiple consoles.

Selling $60 copies of the games on other platforms while offering the same games with a $10 monthly Xbox Game Pass membership would create demand, he said.

Microsoft was also recently a contender in the widely publicized efforts to acquire TikTok, but lost out to a bid from Oracle and Walmart.

Arctic ice melt doesnt boost sea levels, so do we care? – FRANCE 24

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Paris (AFP)

US government scientists reported Monday that the Arctic Ocean’s floating ice cover has shrivelled to its second lowest extent since satellite records began in 1979.

Until this month, only once in the last 42 years has Earth’s frozen skull cap covered less than four million square kilometres (1.5 million square miles).

The trend line is clear: sea ice extent has diminished 14 percent per decade over that period. The Arctic could see it’s first ice-free summer as early as 2035, researchers reported in Nature Climate Change last month.

But all that melting ice and snow does not directly boost sea levels any more than melted ice cubes make a glass of water overflow, which gives rise to an awkward question: who cares?

Granted, this would be bad news for polar bears, which are already on a glide path towards extinction, according to a recent study.

And yes, it would certainly mean a profound shift in the region’s marine ecosystems, from phytoplankton to whales.

But if our bottom-line concern is the impact on humanity, one might legitimately ask, “So what?”.

As it turns out, there are several reasons to be worried about the knock-on consequences of dwindling Arctic sea ice.

– Feedback loops –

Perhaps the most basic point to make, scientists say, is that a shrinking ice cap is not just a symptom of global warming, but a driver as well.

“Sea ice removal exposes dark ocean, which creates a powerful feedback mechanism,” Marco Tedesco, a geophysicist at Columbia University’s Earth Institute, told AFP.

Freshly fallen snow reflects 80 percent of the Sun’s radiative force back into space.

But when that mirror-like surface is replaced by deep blue water, about the same percentage of Earth-heating energy is absorbed instead.

And we’re not talking about a postage stamp area here: the difference between the average ice cap minimum from 1979 to 1990 and the low point reported today — more than 3 million km2 — is twice the size of France, Germany and Spain combined.

The oceans have already soaked up 90 percent of the excess heat generated by manmade greenhouse gases, but at a terrible cost, including altered chemistry, massive marine heatwaves and dying coral reefs.

And at some point, scientists warn, that liquid heat sponge may simply become saturated.

– Altering ocean currents –

Earth’s complex climate system includes interlocking ocean currents driven by wind, tides and something called the thermohaline circulation, which is itself powered by changes in temperature (“thermo”) and salt concentration (“haline”).

Even small changes in this Great Ocean Conveyor Belt — which moves between poles and across all three major oceans — can have devastating climate impacts.

Nearly 13,000 years ago, for example, as Earth was transitioning out of an ice age into the interglacial period that allowed our species to thrive, global temperatures abruptly plunged several degrees Celsius. They jumped back up again about 1,000 years later.

Geological evidence suggests a slowdown in the thermohaline circulation caused by a massive and rapid influx of cold, fresh water from the Artic region was partly to blame.

“The fresh water from melting sea ice and grounded ice in Greenland perturbs and weakens the Gulf Stream,” part of the conveyor belt flowing in the Atlantic, said Xavier Fettweis, a research associate at the University of Liege in Belgium.

“This is what allows western Europe to have a temperate climate compared to the same latitude in North America.”

The massive ice sheet atop Greenland’s land mass saw a net loss of more than half-a-trillion tonnes last year, all of it flowing into the sea.

Unlike sea ice, which doesn’t increase sea levels when it melts, runoff from Greenland does.

That record amount was due in part to warmer air temperatures, which have risen twice as fast in the Arctic as for the planet as a whole.

But it was also caused by a change in weather patterns, notably an increase in sunny summer days.

“Some studies suggest that this increase in anticyclonic conditions in the Arctic in summer results in part from the minimum sea ice extent,” Fettweis told AFP.

– Bears on thin ice –

The current trajectory of climate change and the advent of ice-free summers — defined by the UN’s IPCC climate science panel as under one million km2 — would indeed starve polar bears into extinction by century’s end, according to a July study in Nature.

“Human-caused global warming means that polar bears have less and less sea ice to hunt on in the summer months,” Steven Amstrup, lead author of the study and chief scientist of Polar Bears International, told AFP.

“The ultimate trajectory of polar bears with unabated greenhouse gas emissions is disappearance.”