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Conspiracies As Realities, Realities As Conspiracies

Conspiracies As Realities, Realities As Conspiracies

Authored by Victor Davis Hanson via AmGreatness.com,

American politics over the last half decade has become immersed in a series of conspiracy charges leveled by Democrats against their…

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Conspiracies As Realities, Realities As Conspiracies

Authored by Victor Davis Hanson via AmGreatness.com,

American politics over the last half decade has become immersed in a series of conspiracy charges leveled by Democrats against their opponents that, in fact, are happening because of them and through them.

The consequences of these conspiracies becoming reality and reality revealing itself as conspiracy have been costly to American prestige, honor, and security. As we move away from denouncing realists as conspiracists, and self-pronounced “realists” are revealed as the true conspirators, let’s review a few of the more damaging of these events. 

Russians on the Brain 

Consider that the Trump election of 2016, the transition, and the first two years of the Trump presidency were undermined by a media-progressive generated hoax of “Russian collusion.”

The “bombshell” and “walls are closing in” mythologies dominated the network news and cable outlets. It took five years to expose them as rank agit-prop. 

Robert Mueller and his “dream team” consumed $40 million of Americans’ money and 22 months of our time—to find the nothingburger that most of the country already knew was nothing. Yet the subtext of the 2018 Democratic takeover of the House was the media narrative that Trump, as Hillary Clinton put it, was an “illegitimate” president, due to Russian collusion. 

Former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper claimed on national television that Trump was a “Russian asset.” Former CIA head John Brennan assured the nation that the president was “treasonous,” due to his supposed “lies to the American people.”  

All sorts of politicians, retired military, and news anchors echoed the charges. The lies and myths of has-been British spy Christopher Steele made him a leftist hero. They were repeated ad nauseam as truth.  

FBI grandees like James Comey, Andrew McCabe, Peter Strzok, Lisa Page, Kevin Clinesmith, and others destroyed their careers in their obsessions over Trump. In the process of destroying themselves, they also nearly wrecked the reputation of the FBI. The Pentagon has the lowest popular support in modern memory. The CIA is more feared by millions of Americans than by our enemies. 

Steele could not produce any evidence to back up his scurrilous charges. The inspector general of the Department of Justice found little evidence to substantiate any of the charges. James Comey and Robert Mueller under oath both pleaded either memory problems or denied any knowledge about the FBI’s use of Steele and the role his fake dossier played.  

Most of the televised accusers, when under oath before Congress, admitted they had no evidence for their flamboyant charges. Representative Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), who claimed the dossier was authentic and that Trump was compromised, has repeatedly been revealed as a liar. In various televised House hearings, he kept getting caught either fabricating, misrepresenting, or warping evidence before his own committee. 

No matter. Hillary Clinton and the Left kept pounding “collusion.” The more it was proven false, the more they shouted the lie.  

Finally, special counsel John Durham’s investigations, some authentic media investigative reporting, and the preponderance of evidence showed not only that Trump did not collude with the Russians, but that the entire charge was a sick sort of projection on the part of Hillary Clinton and her vassals.  

Steele concocted the election-cycle fantasy using a former Clintonite totem in Moscow. Another source was the now indicted Igor Danchenko ( a “primary sub-source”), who was working at the leftist Brookings Institution while feeding Steele.  

A cynic might look at this sad chapter and conclude that Hillary Clinton sought to destroy her opponent by paying Christopher Steele to manufacture fantasies fabricated from left-wing and former Clinton associates. Then she used the media, the FBI, the CIA, and the Justice Department to seed the farce while hiding her own role behind three firewalls including the DNC, the Perkins Coie law firm, and Glenn Simpson’s Fusion GPS.  

The ultimate irony?  

Hillary Clinton did collude with those claiming to have Russian connections to warp an election, and she projected her likely illegal activity onto the target of her attacks. No conspiracist could trump such reality. Will Merrick Garland look at her role in this episode as he conducts his insurrectionist investigations concerning efforts to undermine an election? 

What was the post facto cost when such former “conspiracies” became realities, and former realities became the true conspiracies? The damage done was considerable. 

We once realistically used the Russians to balance the Chinese. But the Left, which appeased Vladimir Putin with “reset,” now flipped to create a climate of hate indiscriminately against all Russians. 

In this tortuous process from reset to collusion, we have empowered Putin among Russians as the heroic American resistor. We lost leverage against the Chinese. We ended up in a situation today where we are talking tough but are, in fact, sinking in a quagmire of fake collusion, the Afghanistan debacle, the Biden train wreck of 2021, and the woke hysteria. All that is making the calculating Putin wonder whether U.S. deterrence is now a phantom. In other words, we look ridiculous. 

The Lab We Dare Not Speak 

Since the outbreak of the COVID-19 epidemic, the level-4 security Wuhan Institute of Virology lab has been central to all narratives about the origins, nature, and spread of the pandemic.  

There have been four cycles of these fantasies and realities.

First came the frantic denials of a connection by the Chinese government, most of the Americana media, a consortium of scientists mostly dependent on Drs. Francis Collins and Anthony Fauci for generous support, corporate grandees with lucrative concessions in China, and the federal health apparat itself.  

Second, the iron-clad denial of a human-engineered virus waned by the weight of its own contradictions. Evidence, at first circumstantial, later nearly overwhelming, seeped through the Wuhan denial wall of social media, traditional media, the Chinese government, and the U.S. establishment. Those interests all shared a common purpose of seeing Trump, the supposed Sinophobe,  gone and the bat/pangolin fiction conspiracy apparently seemed yet one more way to achieve this goal. 

A third phase then emerged, as the true role of Peter Daszak’s EcoHealth Alliance was revealed, as the pathetic international and Chinese-fed “investigations” collapsed in conflicts of interests, as interagency emails emerged from the CDC, NIH, and NIAID, and as a hothead Dr. Fauci protested too much in his paranoid denials before the Senate of his own role in any subsidized gain-of-function research. The American people and some media began to resist the intimidation and look at the evidence. 

Now we are at the fourth and final stage of the catastrophe. A once esteemed Fauci has been reduced to a cranky apparatchik. At best he will soon retire with some disgrace, and at worst he will be subject to years of investigation and litigation once his left-wing defenders in Congress, who once found him so useful, lose their majority. 

Most others who fiercely denied the human genesis of the supposed “bat” virus have either retired or resigned from their posts at the CDC and NIH. Democratic politicos have stopped slandering those who argued there was no natural origin to the pandemic.  

Indeed, they are now parroting the once reviled advice of Dr. Scott Atlas. Stanford immunologists and epidemiologists are no longer smeared but quoted with approval. The Left now seeks to ease the lockdowns, to admit that thousands died “with” rather than “because” of the virus, and to concede that natural immunity is valuable. It agrees that there are therapies and carefully targeted quarantines other than just serial booster vaccinations and mass lockdowns to lower the death toll of the COVID strains and the never-ending mass quarantines. That Biden, not Trump, is suffering from the lockdowns offers added incentive to its revisionism. 

As the authority, power, and reputation of Fauci, Inc. waned, several scientists and government investigators are now liberated. They are demonstrating why the engineered virus is wholly different from its natural cousins, and why its manufactured nature is so infectious to humankind. We are getting close to learning, despite vestigial Chinese and U.S. government pushback, how SARS-CoV-2 was birthed, why it spread so quickly, and why so many denied its origins and nature. 

Pause for a minute and consider: The origins of the greatest pandemic since the 1918-19 flu—one that has killed millions, occurring at the zenith of global scientific progress, world cooperation, and technological achievement—were simply hidden from the global public.  

Worse, anyone with legitimate questions about the official Chinese and Fauci narratives of a naturally occurring bat or pangolin virus that leaped over to humankind, one with no relationship to the nearby Wuhan lab and without prior animal infections, was targeted for character assassination.  

Again, we are left with the real conspiracy that blamed the realists as conspiracists. The Chinese and Anthony Fauci played the role of Hillary Clinton, in accusing others of anti-scientific conspiracies as they wove scenarios that were dubious but aimed at aligning powerful figures in a conspiracy of sorts to smother the emerging and astounding truth of their own culpability.  

The January 6 “Coup” 

Finally, we come to the third case of projection, yet another conspiracy to create conspiracists.  

The January 6 riot was disgraceful. But it was a one-day spontaneous, chaotic, illegal entrance in and desecration of the Capitol by assorted buffoons.  

We now know that even according to the FBI investigation—that was and is eager to prove a coup—January 6 was not a carefully planned putsch as Joe Biden so blatantly lied recently.  

New insurrectionist indictments—by Attorney General Merrick Garland in response to left-wing pressures—targeted a disorganized and psychodramatic group of self-important Oath Keepers wannabes and poseurs. In contrast, serious insurrectionists do not leave their guns behind in order to abide by strict D.C. firearms laws. They do not ride to their rendezvous at the Capitol in golf carts. And they do not stage an insurrection by being unarmed as they scatter about, yell, confront police, raise hell, and meander through the Capitol.  

If these had been serious insurrectionists, they would have followed the Antifa model: arriving stealthily in the many hundreds if not thousands, melting through crowds to assigned locations, in black with padded body armor, helmets, various clubs, and carefully coordinating their weeks-long and sustained violence on approved social media.  

Or if they were serious about using extra-legal means, they would (to take some non-random examples) encourage retired officers to pen a letter calling on the military to use force to remove a president and advocate in national journals that the military plan for a coup against the elected president, or write op-eds suggesting the president leave “the sooner the better,” or brag about a “conspiracy” and a “coup” of CEOs, who coordinate with the rich, with street activists, and with leftists to “stem the flow of information,” to modulate violence in the street, to flood voting precincts with subsidized ballot workers, and to warp the allotment of resources—and post facto brag in TIME magazine about the successful effort. Or finally perhaps they would just do as Hillary Clinton did: advise their preferred candidate (as she did Joe Biden) never to accept a ballot count that goes other than his preferred way. 

Then there is the work of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi who created a January 6 investigation committee. In an unprecedented move, she vetoed the House minority leader’s nominations to the committee. She instead picked her own. 

Only two Republicans were willing to serve. They apparently had to fulfill her three criteria of voting for the Trump impeachment, of being so unpopular with Republican voters that their congressional futures will end in 2021 and being on record as praising Nancy Pelosi. 

The committee has one left-wing agenda: ferreting out any statement by an elected Republican official deemed too ambiguous about the riot being an insurrection. It seeks to cast them as Jefferson Davis-style Confederates, deserving of removal from Congress for plotting “insurrection,” along the Civil War standards of the 1868 14th Amendment.  

The committee members are not interested in reopening the investigation of the officer who shot Ashli Babbitt, a man who may not have ever been sufficiently interrogated by investigators.  

They seem indifferent to the likely presence and use of FBI informants.  

They care not a whit about the treatment of some uncharged suspects in solitary confinement or detained in primitive jail conditions. 

Nor are they concerned about the asymmetrical and weaponized federal reaction to January 6 when compared to general government indifference about the summer 2020 planned riots.  

As far as entering federal property to do damage to sacred sites, in May 2020 hundreds sought to break into the White House grounds, injured dozens of secret service agents, and posed such a threat that President Trump was removed to a bunker. All that is now forgotten. 

Nor is the committee concerned about the role of prominent Americans in encouraging that summer’s violence, looting, arson, and rioting. 

Current Vice President Kamala Harris boasted during the summer 2020 riots that such organized violence would go on and on, and would and should not cease: 

They’re not going to stop. They’re not going to stop. This is a movement, I’m telling you. They’re not gonna stop. And everyone beware because they’re not gonna stop. They’re not gonna stop before Election Day and they’re not going to stop after Election Day. And everyone should take note of that. They’re not gonna let up and they should not.

Had Trump voiced Harris’ encouragement of street violence, he would now be indicted.

In investigating a supposed conspiracy, why does the committee conspire to ensure that thousands of hours of videos are not released that might give a more accurate picture of the culpable who prompted the Capitol riot, who participated, and the reaction of the Capitol police?  

Why conspire not to force the attorney general and FBI director in closed session to list all FBI informants involved in the riot, or any intergovernmental law enforcement communications about their use?  

Why not simply have a comprehensive investigation about 2020-21 domestic violence of all sorts, and begin with summer 2020 and continue to January 6?  

Why not allow the nominated Republicans skeptical of the official January 6 narrative to vie on the committee in the pursuit of truth with their opponents? Instead of equating the riot with the Civil War, Pearl Harbor, or 9/11, why not issue a report about the long history of violence in the Capitol to adjudicate comparisons with the January 6 riot? 

The answers are obvious. A midterm election looms in fewer than 10 months. Given Biden’s current historic unpopularity, given the failure of his policies, given generic anger at the Democratic Party, the campaign talking points are not going to be the border, Afghanistan, inflation, energy, race relations, or the build back better multitrillion dollar fiasco.  

Instead, it will be Trump! “Democracy dies in 2022!!” and “January 6!!!” 

Ponder the costs of this January 6 exaggerated narrative. The U.S. Army is now running war games designed to defeat fantasy right-wing domestic terrorists. The FBI is monitoring PTAs and schoolchildren’s parents. 

As it searches for “white supremacists” and uses indoctrination educational methods to ensure the end of “white privilege” and “white rage,” the military polls record lows in public support. More than half the country distrusts it. Efforts at recruitment are stalling, despite generous bonuses.  

Vaccination mandates apply even to those with acquired immunity from past infection and are also winnowing the ranks. The military failure in Afghanistan and its diversity, equity and inclusion cannibalism have stirred China and Russia to recognize an opportunity. In tandem both now increasingly salivate over Taiwan and Ukraine. 

January 6 has been used to slander anyone supporting voter IDs, which are common in Europe and most of the states.  

Joe Biden—who in his earlier career wished it known that officials like segregationist George Wallace, Fritz Hollings, and James Eastland were friendly to him—has a long history of racist “gaffes.” He knows he will either not be reelected, or will not run again, or he will be removed from office, or resign. For a failing Biden and a soon to be thrown out narrow congressional Democratic majority, it is now or never. 

The Costs 

The collusion, COVID-19, and January 6 narratives have been terribly costly to the nation.  

Conspiracy projection has split apart the country. The Left has fought efforts to learn the full truth, as they project conspiracies to disguise conspirators. 

They have grievously weakened the reputation and authority of the U.S. government here and abroad.  

We are lectured that “democracy dies” if the Democrats lose elections and “voter suppression” requires drastic counteraction—even as the Left goes after the Electoral College, the nine-justice Supreme Court, the filibuster, the 50-state union, and the constitutional primacy of states to set voting laws. 

All this is as pathetic as it is fatal to the survival of the American project.

Tyler Durden Tue, 01/18/2022 - 23:50

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International

How Crowded Are Royal Caribbean, Carnival Cruise Ships Right Now?

Both cruise lines have raised capacities slowly. When will Royal Caribbean and Carnival hit normal?

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Both cruise lines have raised capacities slowly. When will Royal Caribbean and Carnival hit normal?

When Freedom of the Seas sailed from Miami on July 2, 2021, it marked Royal Caribbean International's (RCL) - Get Royal Caribbean Group Report return to North American sailing after being shut down since March 2020. 

That sailing has less than 1,000 people on it, mostly loyal cruisers eager to get back to sea no matter what the rules were (as well as a fair amount of company executives.

That ship can hold 4,375 passengers at full capacity, according to Ship Technology and on that July sailing, it felt empty and crew seemed to outnumber passengers. 

At night, in the British Pub, the crowd was essentially me, two other journalists, and the occasional person who wandered by. 

That made it, perhaps, too easy to get a drink, and while it was a wonderful experience, that sailing only felt normal when everyone onboard took to the upper decks to cheer sail away and celebrate the Fourth of July,

I sailed on Freedom on that July sailing, then again in September, October, November, December, and then again in May.

I sailed Odyssey of the Seas and Wonder of the Seas in between January and May. 

The crowds got progressively bigger through the fall, but even the December sailing (a three-day weekend, which in pre-pandemic times would be at or near capacity) still had a limited capacity.

Royal Caribbean steadily increased the number of people on its ships, with some slight pauses in that as new covid variants popped up and Carnival Cruise Lines (CCL) - Get Carnival Corporation Report has followed roughly the same model.   

Dukas/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Cruise Lines Capacity Is Coming Back

How crowded will my cruise be? 

This has been a question seemingly every experienced cruiser has asked. In the summer and fall, that answer was "not at all," and later "not as much as usual," but the numbers of passengers onboard has slowly moved back to normal, even reaching it on some sailings.

Cruise lines generally don't offer a lot of comment on why they might be limiting capacity when technically they no longer have. 

Crew concerns, including not being able to onboard new crew members to allow for full sailings due to slow visa processing times and keeping rooms open fr potential covid quarantines have kept some ships below their full complement of passengers.

Demand, of course, factors in as well. Royal Caribbean CFO Naftali Holtz commented on where his company stands now during its first-quarter earnings call.

"I'd like to comment on capacity and load factor expectations over the upcoming period. We plan to restart operations on all remaining ships by the end of June. 

"We plan to operate about 10.3 million APCDs [available passenger cruise days] during the second quarter, and we expect load factors of approximately 75% to 80%," he said. 

"Our load factor expectations reflect the higher occupancy we are seeing in the Caribbean and lower expectations for repositioning voyages and early season Europe sailings."

It's clear that demand is a factor when it comes to why certain sailings are sailing with fewer passengers than others. 

Carnival has had to limit the cabins it has been selling on its United Kingdom-based Cunard line due to staffing issues.

“As you may have seen in the news, the wider impact of Covid-19 is affecting hospitality and is disrupting airlines and as such this is impacting the number of crew members we are able to get to our ships,” said the company in a statement.

“We naturally want to ensure that all guests across the fleet experience the high standards of service on board that they would expect from Cunard and which we are committed to delivering,” the company added. 

“We are therefore limiting the number of guests sailing as we build crew numbers back up."

Normal Cruise Crowds Are Coming

Once staffing issues return to normal — something that is slowly happening — the biggest concern may be whether the economy slows demand. 

Carnival CEO Arnold Donald said he expects his company to get close to normal over the summer during the cruise line's first-quarter earnings call.

"We're well on our way back to full cruise operations, with three-quarters of our capacity having resumed guest operations and a plan to return the balance of the fleet for the summer season. And while the conversation around covid-19 is greatly reduced, we still have to and are successfully actively managing," he said.

And while neither Carnival's nor Royal Caribbean's CEO said it directly, passengers sailing this summer will likely experience passenger counts in line with tradition. 

That does not mean some sailings won't have limited capacities, or sell poorly, but many will not as long as demand remains within historical norms.

 

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Spread & Containment

Lab, crab and robotic rehab

I was in Berkeley a couple of months back, helping TechCrunch get its proverbial ducks in a row before our first big climate event (coming in a few weeks,…

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I got previews of a number of projects I hope to share with you in the newsletter soon, but one that really caught my eye was FogROS, which was just announced as part of the latest ROS (robot operating system) rollout. Beyond a punny name that is simultaneously a reference to the cloud element (fog/cloud — not to mention the fact that the new department has killer views of San Francisco and frequent visitor, Karl) and problematic French cuisine, there’s some really compelling potential here.

I’ve been thinking about the potential impact of cloud-based processing quite a bit the last several years, independent of my writing about robots. Specifically, a number of companies (Microsoft, Amazon, Google) have been betting big on cloud gaming. What do you do when you’ve seemingly pushed a piece of hardware to its limit? If you’ve got low enough latency, you can harness remote servers to do the heavy lifting. It’s something that’s been tried for at least a decade, to varying effect.

Image Credits: ROS

Latency is, of course, a major factor in gaming, where being off by a millisecond can dramatically impact the experience. I’m not fully convinced that experience is where it ought to be quite yet, but it does seem the tech has graduated to a point where off-board processing makes practical sense for robotics. You can currently play a console game on a smartphone with one of those services, so surely we can produce smaller, lighter-weight and lower-cost robots that rely on a remote server to complete resource-intensive tasks like SLAM processing.

The initial application will focus on AWS, with plans to reach additional services like Google Cloud and Microsoft Azure. Watch this space. There are many reasons to be excited. Honestly, there’s a lot to be excited about in robotics generally right now. This was one of the more fun weeks in recent memory.

V Bionic's exoskeleton glove shown without its covering.

Image Credits: V Bionic

Let’s start with the ExoHeal robotic rehabilitation gloves. The device, created by Saudi Arabian V Bionic, nabbed this year’s Microsoft Imagine Cup. The early-stage team is part of a proud tradition of healthcare exoskeletons. In this case, it’s an attempt to rehab the hand following muscle and tendon injuries. Team leader Zain Samdani told TechCrunch:

Flexor linkage-driven movement gives us the flexibility to individually actuate different parts of each finger (phalanges) whilst keeping the device portable. We’re currently developing our production-ready prototype that utilizes a modular design to fit the hand sizes of different patients.

Image Credits: Walmart

This is the third week in a row Walmart gets a mention here. First it was funding for GreyOrange, which it partnered with in Canada. Last week we noted a big expansion of the retail giant’s deal with warehouse automation firm, Symbotic. Now it’s another big expansion of an existing deal — this time dealing with the company’s delivery ambitions.

Like Walmart’s work with robotics, drone delivery success has been…spotty, at best. Still, it’s apparently ready to put its money where its mouth is on this one, with a deal that brings DroneUp delivery to 34 sites across six U.S. states. Quoting myself here:

The retailer announced an investment in the 6-year-old startup late last year, following trial deliveries of COVID-19 testing kits. Early trials were conducted in Bentonville, Arkansas. This year, Arizona, Florida, Texas and DroneUp’s native Virginia are being added to the list. Once online, customers will be able to choose from tens of thousands of products, from Tylenol to hot dog buns, between the hours of 8 a.m. and 8 p.m.

Freigegeben für die Berichterstattung über das Unternehemn Wingcopter bis zum 25.01.2026. Mit Bitte um Urhebervermerk v.l.: Jonathan Hesselbarth, Tom Plümmer und Ansgar Kadura von Wingcopter GmbH. Image Credits: © Jonas Wresch / KfW

There are still more question marks around this stuff than anything, and I’ve long contended that drone delivery makes the most sense in remote and otherwise hard to reach areas. That’s why something like this Wingcopter deal is interesting. Over the next five years, the company plans to bring 12,000 of its fixed-wing UAVs to 49 countries across Sub-Saharan Africa. It will cover spots that have traditionally struggled with infrastructural issues that have made it difficult to deliver food and medical supplies through more traditional means.

“With the looming food crisis on the African continent triggered by the war in Ukraine, we see great potential and strong social impact that drone-delivery networks can bring to people in all the countries in Sub-Saharan Africa by getting food to where it is needed most,” CEO Tom Plümmer told TechCrunch. “Especially in remote areas with weak infrastructure and those areas that are additionally affected by droughts and other plagues, Wingcopter’s delivery drones will build an air bridge and provide food from the sky on a winch to exactly where it is needed.”

Legitimately exciting stuff, that.

Image Credits: Dyson

In more cautiously optimistic news, Dyson dropped some interesting news this week, announcing that it has been (and will continue) pumping a lot of money into robotic research. Part of the rollout includes refitting an aircraft hangar at Hullavington Airfield, a former RAF station in Chippenham, Wiltshire, England that the company purchased back in 2016.

Some numbers from the company:

Dyson is halfway through the largest engineering recruitment drive in its history. Two thousand people have joined the tech company this year, of which 50% are engineers, scientists, and coders. Dyson is supercharging its robotics ambitions, recruiting 250 robotics engineers across disciplines including computer vision, machine learning, sensors and mechatronics, and expects to hire 700 more in the robotics field over the next five years. The master plan: to create the UK’s largest, most advanced, robotics center at Hullavington Airfield and to bring the technology into our homes by the end of the decade.

The primary project highlighted is a robot arm with a number of attachments, including a vacuum and a human-like robot hand, which are designed to perform various household tasks. Dyson has some experience building robots, primarily through its vacuums, which rely on things like computer vision to autonomously navigate. Still, I say “cautiously optimistic,” because I’ve seen plenty of non-robotics companies showcase the technology as more of a vanity project. But I’m more than happy to have Dyson change my mind.

Image Credits: Hyundai

Hyundai, of course, has been quite aggressive in its own robotics dreams, including its 2020 acquisition of Boston Dynamics. The carmaker this week announced that part of its massive new $10 billion investment plans will include robotics, with a focus of actually bringing some of its far-out concepts to market.

Another week, another big round for logistics/fulfillment robotics, as Polish firm Nomagic raised $22 million to expand its offerings. The company’s primary offering is a pick and place arm that can move and sort small goods. Khosla Ventures and Almaz Capital led the round, which also featured European Investment Bank, Hoxton Ventures, Capnamic Ventures, DN Capital and Manta Ray.

Amazon Astro with periscope camera

The periscope camera pops out and extends telescopically, enabling Astro to look over obstacles and on counter tops. A very elegant design choice. Image Credits: Haje Kamps for TechCrunch

We finally got around to reviewing Amazon’s limited-edition home robot, Astro, and Haje’s feelings were…mixed:

It’s been fun to have Astro wandering about my apartment for a few days, and most of the time I seemed to use it as a roving boom box that also has Alexa capabilities. That’s cute, and all, but $1,000 would buy Alexa devices for every thinkable surface in my room and leave me with enough cash left over to cover the house in cameras. I simply continue to struggle with why Astro makes sense. But then, that’s true for any product that is trying to carve out a brand new product category.

A tiny robot crab scuttles across the frame. Image Credits: Northwestern University

And finally, a tiny robot crab from Northwestern University. The little guy can be controlled remotely using lasers and is small enough to sit on the side of a penny. “Our technology enables a variety of controlled motion modalities and can walk with an average speed of half its body length per second,” says lead researcher, Yonggang Huang. “This is very challenging to achieve at such small scales for terrestrial robots.”

Image Credits: Bryce Durbin/TechCrunch

Scuttle, don’t walk to subscribe to Actuator.

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Spread & Containment

Asymptomatic SARS-CoV-2 infections responsible for spreading of COVID-19 less than symptomatic infections

Based on studies published through July 2021, most SARS-CoV-2 infections were not persistently asymptomatic, and asymptomatic infections were less infectious…

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Based on studies published through July 2021, most SARS-CoV-2 infections were not persistently asymptomatic, and asymptomatic infections were less infectious than symptomatic infections. These are the conclusions of an update of a systematic review and meta-analysis publishing May 26th in the open access journal PLOS Medicine by Diana Buitrago-Garcia of the University of Bern, Switzerland, and colleagues.

Credit: Monstera, Pexels (CC0, https://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/zero/1.0/)

Based on studies published through July 2021, most SARS-CoV-2 infections were not persistently asymptomatic, and asymptomatic infections were less infectious than symptomatic infections. These are the conclusions of an update of a systematic review and meta-analysis publishing May 26th in the open access journal PLOS Medicine by Diana Buitrago-Garcia of the University of Bern, Switzerland, and colleagues.

Debate about the level and risks of asymptomatic SARS-CoV-2 infections continues, with much ongoing research. Studies that assess people at just one time point can overestimate the proportion of true asymptomatic infections because those who go on to later develop symptoms are incorrectly classified as asymptomatic rather than presymptomatic. However, other studies can underestimate asymptomatic infections with research designs that are more likely to include symptomatic participants.

The new paper was an update of a living (as in, regularly updated) systematic review first published in April 2020, which includes additional, more recent studies through July 2021. 130 studies were included, with data on 28,426 people with SARS-CoV-2 across 42 countries, including 11,923 people defined as having asymptomatic infection. Because of extreme variability between included studies, the meta-analysis did not calculate a single estimate for asymptomatic infection rate, but it did estimate the inter-quartile range to be that 14–50% of infections were asymptomatic. Additionally, the researchers found that the secondary attack rate—a measure of the risk of transmission of SARS-CoV-2 — was about two-thirds lower from people without symptoms than from those with symptoms (risk ratio 0.32, 95%CI 0.16–0.64).

“If both the proportion and transmissibility of asymptomatic infection are relatively low, people with asymptomatic SARS-CoV-2 infection should account for a smaller proportion of overall transmission than presymptomatic individuals,” the authors say, while also pointing out that “when SARS-CoV-2 community transmission levels are high, physical distancing measures and mask-wearing need to be sustained to prevent transmission from close contact with people with asymptomatic and presymptomatic infection.”

Coauthor Nicola Low adds, “The true proportion of asymptomatic SARS-CoV-2 infection is still not known, and it would be misleading to rely on a single number because the 130 studies that we reviewed were so different. People with truly asymptomatic infection are, however, less infectious than those with symptomatic infection.”

#####

In your coverage, please use this URL to provide access to the freely available paper in PLOS Medicine:

http://journals.plos.org/plosmedicine/article?id=10.1371/journal.pmed.1003987  

Citation: Buitrago-Garcia D, Ipekci AM, Heron L, Imeri H, Araujo-Chaveron L, Arevalo-Rodriguez I, et al. (2022) Occurrence and transmission potential of asymptomatic and presymptomatic SARS-CoV-2 infections: Update of a living systematic review and meta-analysis. PLoS Med 19(5): e1003987. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1003987

Author Countries: Switzerland, France, Spain, Argentina, United Kingdom, Sweden, United States, Colombia

Funding: This study was funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation http://www.snf.ch/en (NL: 320030_176233); the European Union Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme https://ec.europa.eu/programmes/horizon2020/en (NL: 101003688); the Swiss government excellence scholarship https://www.sbfi.admin.ch/sbfi/en/home/education/scholarships-and-grants/swiss-government-excellence-scholarships.html (DBG: 2019.0774) and the Swiss School of Public Health Global P3HS stipend https://ssphplus.ch/en/ (DBG). The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.


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