A satellite image shows Mango islands after Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha'apai volcano eruption, in Tonga, January 20, 2022. Satellite Image @2022 Maxar Technologies/Handout via REUTERS Families have prevented children from playing outside as Tonga struggles to deal with the ash and psychological effects of last week's volcanic eruption and tsunami, aid workers and local residents said. Telephone service interrupted. The Red Cross said it was providing 173 households on the main island of Tonga not only with tents, food, water and toilets but also comforts. "Right now everyone is still having issues," said Drew Havea, vice president of the Tonga Red Cross. Because of the ashes, "families make sure their kids aren't playing outside, that everyone is inside," he said. Although some residents of the hardest-hit Ha'apai outlying islands had been evacuated to the main island of Tongatapu, others refused to go, Havea said. The psychological effects of waves breaking through and destroying villages will affect their lives for some time, he said. “All the kids grew up, they were taught in their geography class that this is the ring of fire we all live in. Now I think we're pretty worried and we're starting to think, 'How active are these places?he told Reuters. The eruption of HungaTongaHungaHa'apai volcano, which sits on the seismically active Pacific Ring of Fire, sent tsunami waves across the Pacific Ocean and was heard about 2,300 km (1,430 miles) away in New Zealand. The eruption was so powerful that space satellites captured not only huge clouds of ash but also an atmospheric shockwave that radiated out from the volcano at close to the speed of sound. "I thought the world was ending," recalled John Tukuafu, owner of beach resort Vakaloa, who had to rush to save his wife from the tsunami. The resort was in Kanokupolu, one of the worst-hit areas of Tongatapu. and uprooted trees and debris now lie in the area where the complex was located. it has taken a week for many people to recover from the "throbbing and terrifying" sound of the eruption, he said. "It was too loud to hear, but I could feel it. Until the big bang," She told Reuters by phone on SundayResidents were wishing for tropical rain to wash off the "awful and itchy" volcanic dust, said Fonua. Leaves on trees had turned brown and were falling off. Fonua said she was in her seafront office talking on the phone to her son in New Zealand when the tsunami struckWhen the line went dead, he feared she had been swept away. The anxiety of many Tongan families overseas was prolonged in the days it took for limited international call capacity to be restored. Cut off from the world, Tongans got on with immediate rescue efforts, Fonua said. Older Tongans with a tradition of self-reliance remarked that young people had been forced to stop looking at their smart phones and had leapt into action, she said. With power restored after a week, the Matangi Tonga website posted its first story on Saturday since the eruption and tsunami, describing the "pumice rain", as volcanic debris fell from the sky, and waves that engulfed cars. Still, her office cannot send email and Tonga needs more satellite capacity, Fonua said. The international navy ships and flights arriving had brought much needed supplies and communication equipment, she said.
Posted on: 23 January 2022 | 7:24 am
The new results show that people with a specific version of a gene are less likely to develop severe COVID-19. Earlier research had identified a specific group of genes, called the OAS1/2/3 gene cluster, as being involved in the risk for severe COVID-19. One version of a gene in that cluster –passed down from Neanderthals, appeared to protect against serious disease, reducing risk by about 23%. Previous research was mostly done on people of European ancestory. Researchers are now seeing the same association of this genetic variant with less severe COVID-19 in people of African ancestory, according to a report published in Nature Genetics. "The fact that people of African descent had the same protection allowed us to identify the only variant in DNA that actually protects against COVID19 infection. co-author dr. Jennifer Huffman said in a statement. OAS genes are involved in a cascade of effects that help cells fight viruses, the researchers said. Understanding these genes and their impact on COVID19 risks could aid in the development of future drugs, they added. Fewer Delta breakthroughs with Moderna vs Pfizer/BioNTech When the delta variant coronavirus was widespread in the United States, recipients of two doses of Moderna's mRNA vaccine (MRNA.O) were less likely to have breakthrough infection and were slightly less likely to be hospitalized than recipients of two doses of mRNA vaccine from Pfizer and BioNTech, found a large study. The researchers analyzed the medical records of more than 637,000 vaccine recipients who had not previously been infected with the virus and had not received a booster shot. As reported in JAMA on Thursday, advanced infections increased steadily each month from July through November 2021, with higher rates in the Pfizer/BioNTech group. In November, there were 2.8 cases per thousand people vaccinated with the Pfizer/BioNTech injections compared to 1.6 cases per thousand recipients of the Moderna vaccines.
Posted on: 23 January 2022 | 7:09 am
Image Credit:CIPhotos via Getty Images Studies are underway to find out the precise characteristics of the latest Covid-19 variant ‘BA.2’. It already accounts for the majority of most recent cases in a number of countries, including India, Denmark and Sweden. But, for French Health Minister Olivier Véran, this sub-variant’s arrival in France is not “a game changer”. BA.2, nicknamed “Omicron’s little brother”, made its first appearance in France a few weeks ago. Mentioned for the first time by Véran during a press conference on January 20, this new Covid-19 derivative is being scrutinised by scientists. Where does BA.2 come from? BA.2 was first identified in India and South Africa in late December 2021. It is a sub-variant, believed to have emerged from a mutation of Omicron (officially known as BA.1). Omicron itself was born from a mutation of Delta. Other sub-lineages have already been referenced, such as BA.3 or BB.2, but they have attracted less attention from epidemiologists because of the dramatic increase in cases of people who have contracted BA.2. BA.2 has more than 20 mutations, about half of them in the spike protein. This is the famous protein that interacts with human cells and is the key to the virus entering the body. Is this sub-variant as dangerous as Omicron? The World Health Organization (WHO), which had classified Omicron as a “variant of concern”, does not at this stage distinguish between it and its BA.2 sub-lineage. For his part, Véran said that “as far as we know at the moment, it corresponds more or less to the characteristics we know about Omicron”. It is not “a game changer” at this stage, added Véran in an attempt to reassure. BA.2 is being closely studied by the scientific community, but there is as yet no precise data on its resistance to vaccines or the severity of the cases of Covid-19 it causes. Scientists are beginning to speak out on the subject, while remaining cautious. Virologist Tom Peacock of Imperial College London tweeted that “very early observations from India and Denmark suggest there is no dramatic difference in severity compared to BA.1. This data should become more solid (one way or another) in the coming weeks.” Peacock added that “there is likely to be minimal differences in vaccine effectiveness against BA.1 and BA.2. Personally, I’m not sure BA.2 is going to have a substantial impact on the current Omicron wave of the pandemic. “Several countries are near, or even past the peak of BA.1 waves. I would be very surprised if BA.2 caused a second wave at this point. Even with slightly higher transmissibility this absolutely is not a Delta-Omicron change and instead is likely to be slower and more subtle,” he predicted. For epidemiologist Antoine Flahault, director of the University of Geneva’s Institute of Global Health, infection monitoring should make it possible to test the resistance of BA.2, in particular if people infected with the classic Omicron are again contaminated with the sub-variant. However, it is necessary to have the means to detect contamination with BA.2 in the population, which seems delicate at this stage and which does not seem to be self-evident. Why is BA.2 so difficult to trace? BA.2 poses certain challenges to scientists, as it is not easy to track. A variation in PCR test protocols and the fact that the type of kit varies from one laboratory to another makes it difficult to reliably identify BA.2, according to Florence Débarre, a biologist at the Institute of Ecology and Environmental Sciences in Paris, interviewed by Libération. “In the UK, the way the tests are carried out does not allow us to distinguish between BA.2 and Delta,” explains Débarre. There is a more accurate but less commonly used tool for tracking variants: genetic sequencing of the virus. This allows the exact presence of this sub-variant to be identified. But in France, for example, only some of the laboratory tests are randomly subjected to this more in-depth and expensive form of analysis. Sequencing also has the drawback of being slow, which means it is not suitable for monitoring a rapidly spreading variant. Where is BA.2 most dominant? The sub-variant has been detected in at least 43 countries on all continents. It is believed to have become the most common variant in a number of countries, including India, Denmark and Sweden. In Denmark, the number of daily cases of Covid-19 has started to rise again, just when the Danes thought they had already reached the peak. The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) identified more than 400 cases in Britain in the first 10 days of January. “The Danish authorities have no explanation for this phenomenon, but it is being closely monitored,” said France’s public health agency, which is following the latest developments in Denmark. This “suggests that BA.2 is even more transmissible”, agreed Débarre. In Europe, BA.2 has also been sequenced in the UK, Germany, Belgium, Italy and France, while North America, Asia and Australia have recorded cases, too. Is BA.2 evolving as fast in France? To date, the sub-variant has been detected “at very low levels” in France, says France’s public health agency. “We have an international situation where the Omicron variant is circulating a lot, so it is normal that we observe sub-variants over time,” the agency said on January 21.
Posted on: 23 January 2022 | 6:57 am
WhatsApp chat could now be transferred between Android and iOS devices after the Meta-owned messaging app plans to roll out a new update. This was revealed by the found source code of WhatsApp 22.74 Beta for iOS. However, the migration process would not be easy and would require both devices to have the app installed and would likely involve a wired or private WiFi connection. In comparison, other messaging apps store and sync user data with Google Drive, iCloud or their own cloud service. WhatsApp recently added new features to its desktop and Android apps. The Android app will get new pencil and drawing tools in a future update, while WhatsApp Desktop will get new chat bubble colors. The desktop app also gets a new dark blue color that is only visible in dark theme mode. The instant messaging app is also testing a new emoji message reaction info tab and new message reaction notification settings. WhatsApp feature tracker WABetaInfo said that WhatsApp is introducing new drawing tools to its Android app. You get two pens, including one thinner and one thicker than the existing pen. The app is also working on a blur tool that may be added in the future. The new features appeared in the WhatsApp Beta for Android 2.22.5 update, but they are disabled by default. These features are still under development and may be made available to WhatsApp beta testers soon.
Posted on: 23 January 2022 | 6:52 am
Bitcoin, the largest digital asset, extended its decline Saturday, and has now shed more than 50% from its record high in November. Bitcoin’s decline since hitting the record has wiped out more than $600 billion in market value, and over $1 trillion has been lost from the aggregate crypto market. While there have been much larger percentage drawdowns for both Bitcoin and the aggregate market, this marks the second-largest ever decline in dollar terms for both, according to Bespoke Investment Group. With the Fed’s intentions rocking both cryptocurrencies and stocks, a dominant theme has emerged in the digital-asset space: cryptos have twisted and turned in nearly exactly the same way as equities have. Bitcoin fell as low as $34,042 Saturday, a drop of 7.2%.
Posted on: 22 January 2022 | 8:35 am
Representations of virtual cryptocurrencies are seen in this illustration taken November 28, 2021. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration/File Photo Russia's central bank on Thursday proposed banning the use and mining of cryptocurrencies on Russian territory, citing threats to financial stability, citizens' wellbeing and its monetary policy sovereignty. The move is the latest in a global cryptocurrency crackdown as governments from Asia to the United States worry that privately operated highly volatile digital currencies could undermine their control of financial and monetary systems. Russia has argued for years against cryptocurrencies, saying they could be used in money laundering or to finance terrorism. It eventually gave them legal status in 2020 but banned their use as a means of payment. In December, the price of bitcoin fell after Reuters reported, citing sources, that Russia's regulator was in favour of a complete ban on cryptocurrencies. In a report published on Thursday, the central bank said speculative demand primarily determined cryptocurrencies' rapid growth and that they carried characteristics of a financial pyramid, warning that bubbles in the market could form, threatening financial stability and citizens. The bank proposed preventing financial institutions from carrying out any operations with cryptocurrencies and said mechanisms should be developed to block transactions aimed at buying or selling cryptocurrencies for fiat, or traditional currencies. The proposed ban includes crypto exchanges. Russians are active cryptocurrency users, the central bank said, with an annual transaction volume of about $5 billion. CRYPTO MINING Russia is the world's third-largest player in bitcoin mining, behind the United States and Kazakhstan, though the latter may see a miner exodus over fears of tightening regulation following unrest earlier this month. read more The central bank said crypto mining created problems for energy consumption. Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies are "mined" by powerful computers that compete against others hooked up to a global network to solve complex mathematical puzzles. The process guzzles electricity and is often powered by fossil fuels. "The best solution is to introduce a ban on cryptocurrency mining in Russia," the bank said. In August, Russia accounted for 11.2% of the global "hashrate" - crypto jargon for the amount of computing power being used by computers connected to the bitcoin network.In its report, the central bank pointed to steps taken in other countries, such as China, to curb cryptocurrency activity. It said it would work with regulators in countries where crypto exchanges are registered to collect information about the operations of Russian clients.In September, China intensified its crackdown on cryptocurrencies with a blanket ban on all crypto transactions and mining, hitting bitcoin and other major coins and pressuring crypto and blockchain-related stocks. Russia's regulator said crypto assets becoming widespread would limit the sovereignty of monetary policy, with higher interest rates needed to contain inflation. It said the long-term potential of cryptocurrencies being used for settlements was limited. Meanwhile, the Bank of Russia is planning to issue its own digital rouble, joining the global trend to develop digital currencies to modernise financial systems, speed up payments and counter a potential threat from other cryptocurrencies.
Posted on: 20 January 2022 | 7:56 am
Tik Tok logos are seen on smartphones in front of a displayed ByteDance logo in this illustration taken November 27, 2019. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration/File Photo TikTok owner ByteDance saw its revenue grow 70% year on year to about $58 billion in 2021, slower growth than a year earlier as China tightens its regulation of big tech companies. According to two people familiar with the matter the numbers were revealed to a small group of employees at an internal meeting of the social media giant this week . In 2020, the Beijing-based company's total revenue grew by over 100% to $34.3 billion, Reuters has reported. ByteDance did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Chinese tech companies from Tencent to Alibaba have reported slowing growth amid a sweeping crackdown by the country's regulators, who have rolled out new rules for how they operate and interact with their users. According to a recent report by market research firm Interactive Marketing Lab Zhongguancun, ByteDance held its second position in China's online advertising market last year with a 21% market share. The number one position was still held by e-commerce giant Alibaba Group (9988.HK), and third place went to gaming giant Tencent Holdings (0700.HK), according to the report. The overall growth of online ad sales in China declined to 9.3% in 2021 from 13.8% a year earlier, the report says. Tech news website The Information last November reported that ByteDance's 2021 revenue was on track to rise about 60% to 400 billion yuan ($63.07 billion). ByteDance is one of the world's biggest private tech companies with recent trades in the private-equity secondary market valuing it at about $300 billion, Reuters has reported. Following Beijing's antitrust efforts, ByteDance has recently been downsizing its powerful investment arm. read more In November, ByteDance reorganised itself into six business units in its biggest organizational change since ByteDance founder Zhang Yiming said in May he would step down as CEO. Besides TikTok, ByteDance's other apps include its Chinese equivalent Douyin, news aggregator Jinri Toutiao and video-streaming platform Xigua. In 2021, users spent approximately $2.3 billion in TikTok and the iOS version of Douyin, a 77% jump year-over-year, according to app tracker Sensor Tower.
Posted on: 20 January 2022 | 7:46 am
Microsoft logo is seen on a smartphone placed on displayed Activision Blizzard logo in this illustration taken January 18, 2022. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration Hedge funds, which make profits by speculating on precarious takeovers, got a treat this week when Microsoft Corp (MSFT.O) agreed to buy "call of duty" maker Activision Blizzard (ATVI.O) for US$68.7 billion dollars in cash. The transaction requires antitrust laws. Approved in the United States and other major jurisdictions, including the European Union and China. It comes at a time when President Joe Biden's administration is taking a closer look at large mergers, blaming some of them for raising prices to consumers that are fueling inflation. Activision's shares ended trading at $82.15 on Wednesday, well below the $95 per share deal price, reflecting concerns that regulators may shoot down a combination that would create the third biggest gaming company, after Tencent and Sony Group Corp (6758.T). This infers a 57% chance of the deal closing, based on Activision's closing share price of $65.39 before the deal was announced. The wide spread gives investors willing to bet on whether the deal will be completed the opportunity to score double-digit returns. At a time when so-called merger arbitrage strategies have trailed the broader stock market's returns, it is an attractive but also risky proposition. Last year, merger arbitrage funds returned nearly 10% according to Hedge Fund Research data, beating returns posted in 2020, 2019 and 2018, but trailing the broader S&P 500 stock market's 27% gain in 2021. For some investors, Aon's (AON.N) scuttled $30 billion acquisition of Willis Towers Watson (WTY.F) as the U.S. Justice Department sued to block the deal hurt returns. Now they are looking to come back, hoping that this deal will also force competitors into making deals of their own. "The positive outlook for event-driven and merger-arbitrage oriented firms in 2022 has been accelerated with the Microsoft-Activision deal," said Hedge Fund Research Inc President Ken Heinz. Microsoft and Activision gave themselves until June 2023 to complete the transaction, giving hedge funds months to handicap how regulators will react to Microsoft bundling its Xbox platform with Activision's popular games, such as World of Warcraft and Diablo. Investors may get hints on the Biden administration's stance soon as the Federal Trade Commission is expected to weigh in on defense contractor Lockheed Martin's (LMT.N) planned $4.4 billion acquisition of Aerojet Rocketdyne (AJRD.N) and the Justice Department will decide on healthcare insurer UnitedHealth's (UNH.N)$13 billion bid for healthcare analytics and technology vendor Change Healthcare (CHNG.O). Coverage finds such as Millennium, Tiesemann consultant and pentwater capital spend a piece of their fusion bets, and many have occupied Microsoft and Activision for some time.Mutual funds The Merger Fund run by Westchester Capital Management and The Arbitrage Funds run by Water Island Capital offer similar strategies.
Posted on: 20 January 2022 | 7:33 am
A doctor vaccinates a person with a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine in Vienna, Austria April 26, 2021. REUTERS/Lisi Niesner Austria's conservative government said Thursday it was launching a national lottery to encourage holdouts to get vaccinated against the coronavirus, hours before parliament passed legislation that would introduce a national vaccination mandate. About 72% of the Austrian population is fully vaccinated against COVID-19, one of the lowest rates in Western Europe. "What's up for grabs in the Vaccine Fleet?" Vouchers!” This is what Federal Chancellor Karl Nehammer said at a press conference of the social democratic opposition leader Pamela Rendi Wagner, with whom the measure was being negotiated. Nehammer said he wanted there to be a financial reward for getting vaccinated, adding: “We have learned from the past and we have seen that a vaccination lottery is the best possible way to set up such a system.” Members of the public, whether already vaccinated or not, would be entitled to one ticket for each shot they have had – three in total for those who have had their booster shot. Every 10th ticket would win a 500 euro ($568) gift voucher, Nehammer said, adding it would cost up to 1 billion euros. He later added on Twitter that the vouchers could be used in “retail, tourism, hospitality, services, culture and sport”. Vice Chancellor Werner Kogler said the aim was to support Austrian businesses and avoid online retailers as much as possible.
Posted on: 20 January 2022 | 7:17 am
An experimental COVID-19 treatment pill, called molnupiravir and being developed by Merck & Co Inc and Ridgeback Biotherapeutics LP, is seen in this undated handout photo released by Merck & Co Inc and obtained by Reuters May 17, 2021. Merck & Co Inc/Handout via REUTERS A UN-backed agency has struck a deal with nearly 30 generic drugmakers to make low-cost versions of Merck's COVID-19 pill molnupiravir for poorer countries, expanding access to a drug seen as a weapon to fight the pandemic. The antiviral drug, which received emergency use approval in the US in December, reduces hospitalizations and deaths by about 30% in high-risk patients, according to clinical trials. The agreement, negotiated by the U.N.-backed Medicines Patent Pool (MPP) with Merck, allows 27 generic drugmakers from India, China and other countries in Africa, Asia and the Middle East to manufacture ingredients and the finished drug. The MPP said on Thursday the agreement would see the pill distributed to 105 least developed countries. The developers of molnupiravir, which together with Merck are the US company Ridgeback Biotherapeutics and Emory University, will not receive royalties from the sale of cheap versions made by generic drug companies as long as COVID-19 is classified as a public health emergency by the World Health Organization (WHO) . "This is a critical step in ensuring global access to a much-needed COVID-19 treatment, and we are confident that with manufacturers working closely with regulatory authorities, pre-treatments will be rapidly available," said MPP CEO Charles Gore . Bangladesh's Beximco Pharmaceuticals, India's Natco Pharma, South Africa's Aspen Pharmacare and China's Fosun Pharma are among the generic drug companies that will manufacture the final product.
Posted on: 20 January 2022 | 7:10 am
REUTERS/Mike Blake/File Photo Tesla Inc (TSLA.O) shareholders on Tuesday asked a judge to find that Elon Musk forced the company's board of directors into a deal for SolarCity in 2016 and wanted the CEO convicted, the electric vehicle maker one of the largest judgments in history paid $13 billion. "This case was always about whether the acquisition of SolarCity was a bailout from financial troubles, a bailout orchestrated by Elon Musk," said Randy Baron, a shareholders' attorney, at the Zoom hearing. The closing arguments listed the key findings of a 10-day trial in July when Musk spent two days at the stand defending the deal.Lawsuit from union pension funds and wealth managers alleges Musk forced Tesla's board of directors to cut the deal to approve for cash -strapped SolarCity, in which Musk was the largest shareholder. Musk has countered that the deal was part of a decade-old master plan to create a vertically integrated company that would transform energy generation and consumption with SolarCity's roof panels and Tesla's cars and batteries. Evan Chesler, one of Musk's attorneys, said at the hearing that the deal was not a bailout and that SolarCity is far from insolvent and that its finances are similar to those of many high-growth companies. "They were building billions of dollars of long-term value," Chesler said of SolarCity. The all-stock deal was valued at $2.6 billion in 2016, but since that time Tesla's stock has soared. Shareholder attorney Lee Rudy urged Vice Chancellor Joseph Slights of Delaware's Court of Chancery to order Musk return the Tesla stock he received, which would be worth around $13 billion at its current price. Musk said in court papers such an award would be at least five times the largest award ever in a comparable shareholder lawsuit and called it a "windfall" for plaintiffs. Rudy said Slights should consider Musk's contempt for the deposition and trial process, in which he repeatedly clashed with and insulted shareholder attorneys. "It would be a windfall for Elon Musk if he got to keep shares he never should have gotten in the first place," Rudy said. Chesler called the request to order Musk to return the stock from the deal "preposterous" and said it ignored five years of unprecedented success at Tesla. Tesla's stock was down 1% at around $1,040in afternoon trade. Tesla acquired SolarCity as the electric vehicle maker was approaching the launch of its Model 3, a mass-market sedan that was critical to its strategy. Shareholders allege the deal was a needless distraction and burdened Tesla with SolarCity's financial woes and debt. Shareholders claim that despite owning only 22% of Tesla, Musk was a controlling shareholder due to his ties to board members and domineering style. If plaintiffs can prove this, it increases the likelihood that the court will conclude the deal was unfair to shareholders. Musk's lawyers said the celebrity entrepreneur had no authority to fire directors or control their salaries and withdrew from price negotiations in the SolarCity deal. "Without Elon Musk, Tesla couldn't exist, let alone be worth $1 trillion," said Vanessa Lavely, Musk's attorney. "That doesn't make him a controller. This makes him a highly effective CEO. Slights ended the hearing by saying he expects to rule in about three months. He said last week that he intends to retire in the next few months. And a request for related shareholders contesting Musk's record pay package was transferred from Slights to another judge. Source: Reuters
Posted on: 19 January 2022 | 7:20 am
(Mike Blake, Reuters) Microsoft Corp (MSFT.O) is buying "Call of Duty" maker Activision Blizzard (ATVI.O) for $68.7 billion in the biggest gaming industry deal in history as global technology giants stake their claims to a virtual future. The deal announced by Microsoft on Tuesday, its biggest-ever and set to be the largest all-cash acquisition on record, will bolster its firepower in the booming videogaming market where it takes on leaders Tencent (0700.HK) and Sony (6758.T). It also represents the American multinational's bet on the "metaverse," virtual online worlds where people can work, play and socialize, as many of its biggest competitors are already doing. "Gaming is the most dynamic and exciting category in entertainment across all platforms today and will play a key role in the development of metaverse platforms," Microsoft Chief Executive Satya Nadella said. Microsoft, one of the biggest companies in the world largely thanks to corporate software such as its Azure cloud computing platform and Outlook franchise, is offering $95 per share - a 45% premium to Activision's Friday close. Activision's shares were last up 26% at $82.10, still a steep discount to the offer price, reflecting concerns the deal could get stuck in regulators' crosshairs. Microsoft has so far avoided the type of scrutiny faced by Google and Facebook but this deal, which would make it the world's third largest gaming company, will put the Xbox maker on lawmakers' radars, said Andre Barlow of the law firm Doyle, Barlow & Mazard PLLC. "Microsoft is already big in gaming," he said. However, a source familiar with the matter said Microsoft would pay a $3 billion break-fee if the deal falls through, suggesting it is confident of winning antitrust approval. The tech major's shares were last down 1.9%. The deal comes at a time of weakness for Activision, maker of games such as "Overwatch" and "Candy Crush". Before the deal was announced, its shares had slumped more than 37% since reaching a record high last year, hit by allegations of sexual harassment of employees and misconduct by several top managers. The company is still addressing those allegations and said on Monday it had fired or pushed out more than three dozen employees and disciplined another 40 since July. CEO Bobby Kotick, who said Microsoft approached him about a possible buyout, would continue as CEO of Activision following the deal, although he is expected to leave after it closes, a source familiar with the plans said. In a conference call with analysts, Microsoft boss Nadella did not directly refer to the scandal but talked about the importance of culture in the company. "It's critical for Activision Blizzard to drive forward on its renewed cultural commitments," he said, adding "the success of this acquisition will depend on it." 'METAVERSE ARMS RACE' Data analytics firm Newzoo estimates the global gaming market generated $180.3 billion of revenues in 2021, and expects that to grow to $218.8 billion by 2024. Microsoft already has a significant beachhead in the sector as one of the big three console makers. It has been making investments including buying "Minecraft" maker Mojang Studios and Zenimax in multibillion-dollar deals in recent years. It has also launched a popular cloud gaming service, which has more than 25 million subscribers. According to Newzoo, Microsoft's gaming market share was 6.5% in 2020 and adding Activision would have taken it to 10.7%. Executives talked up Activision's 400 million monthly active users as one major attraction to the deal and how vital these communities could play in Microsoft's various metaverse plays. Activision's library of games could give Microsoft's Xbox gaming platform an edge over Sony's Playstation, which has for years enjoyed a more steady stream of exclusive games. "The likes of Netflix have already said they'd like to foray into gaming themselves, but Microsoft has come out swinging with today’s rather generous offer," said Sophie Lund-Yates, equity analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown. Microsoft's offer equates to 18 times Activision's 2021 earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA). That compares with the 16 times EBITDA valuation of "Grand Theft Auto" maker Take-Two Interactive's (TTWO.O) cash-and-shares deal for Zynga last week. According to Refinitiv data, the Microsoft-Activision deal would be the largest all-cash acquisition on record, trumping Bayer's $63.9 billion offer for Monsanto in 2016 and the $60.4 billion that InBev bid for Anheuser-Busch in 2008. Tech companies from Microsoft to Nvidia have placed big bets on the so-called metaverse, with the buzz around it intensifying late last year after Facebook renamed itself as Meta Platforms to reflect its focus on its virtual reality business. "This is a significant deal for the consumer side of the business and more importantly, Microsoft acquiring Activision really starts the metaverse arms race," David Wagner, equity analyst and portfolio manager at Aptus Capital Advisors said. "We believe the deal will get done," he said, but cautioned: "This will get a lot of looks from a regulatory standpoint." This article is copy paste from Reuters Check the original article here Source: Reuters
Posted on: 19 January 2022 | 6:53 am
The Android app will get new pencil and drawing tools in a future update, while WhatsApp Desktop will get new chat bubble colors. The desktop app also gets a new dark blue color that is only visible in dark theme mode. The instant messaging app is also testing a new emoji message reaction info tab and new message reaction notification settings. WhatsApp feature tracker WABetaInfo said that WhatsApp is introducing new drawing tools to its Android app. You get two pens, including one thinner and one thicker than your existing pen. The app is also working on a blur tool that may be added in the future. The new features appeared in the WhatsApp Beta for Android 2.22.5 update, but they are disabled by default. These features are still under development and may be made available to WhatsApp beta testers soon. The WABetaInfo report said the app is also introducing new colour to its Windows and macOS apps with WhatsApp beta for Desktop 2.2201.2.0 update. The new colour scheme will be visible in the dark theme and the chat bubbles seem to be greener compared to the existing colour. Other elements of the app will also see colour changes with chat bar and background colour now reportedly have a blue tinge.
Posted on: 19 January 2022 | 6:25 am
Photo Credit: Fabrice Coffrini | Reuters At present, there is no evidence that healthy children and adolescents need booster doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, World Health Organization chief scientist Soumya Swaminathan said on Tuesday. Speaking at a news briefing, she said that while there seems to be some waning of vaccine immunity over time against the fast-spreading Omicron variant of the coronavirus, more research is needed to determine who needs a booster shot. "There is currently no evidence that healthy children or heavy adolescents need boosters. No evidence at all," he said. Israel began offering boosters to children as young as 12, and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration earlier this month authorized the use of a third dose of the Pfizer and BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for children aged 12 and 15. Last week, Germany became the latest country to recommend that all children between the ages of 12 and 17 receive a COVID-19 booster shot. Hungary did it too. Swaminathan said the WHO’s top group of experts would meet later this week to consider the specific question of how countries should consider giving boosters to their populations. “The aim is to protect the most vulnerable, to protect those at highest risk of severe disease and dying. Those are our elderly populations, immuno-compromised people with underlying conditions, but also healthcare workers,” she said.
Posted on: 19 January 2022 | 6:16 am
Photo credit: Gadgets Now Apple has confirmed that iPhone 13 and iPhone 13 Pro do not cancel noise during phone calls, including iPhone 13 mini and iPhone 13 Pro Max. Apple included the feature in the iPhone 12 series and earlier models to improve call quality in noise environment. No reason was given to remove this feature from the iPhone 13 series noise cancellation during phone calls. By reference, by iPhone 13 series, we mean iPhone 13, iPhone 13 mini, iPhone 13 Pro and iPhone 13 Pro Max. On previous iPhones, the feature was available in Settings under Audio/Visual, which is found in Accessibility. According to Apple, the setting reduces ambient noise when making calls, but only when you hold the iPhone to your ear. By default, Apple has the feature enabled, although it's hidden in Accessibility.Theoretically, the feature made it easier for people to be heard when making calls from busy areas, such as in the near heavy traffic. Apple has now confirmed to 9to5Mac that the lack of noise cancellation on the iPhone 13 series is not a bug in iOS 15. Instead, Apple ruled out the feature but didn't explain why. However, older iPhone models still support "phone noise cancellation" in iOS 15. Currently, the only workaround is to enable the voice isolation feature in Control Center, although this doesn't work with all apps.
Posted on: 18 January 2022 | 9:27 am