Wednesday 8th April 2020
  • Greed and Fear Collide: Wall Street Calls Traders Back to Office

    On April 2, the day that Coronavirus infections around the globe hit 1 million, managers inside JPMorgan Chase & Co. were emailing their latest plans for staffing New York-area trading floors amid the deadly pandemic.

    One worker on the sales team noticed a colleague wasn't on the list and asked where he'd be.

    "Corona Town, U.S.A.," the person wrote back. Then one of the bank's credit-trading leaders, Nicholas Adragna, weighed in: "The trading desk will be in the office unless they have a medical condition with a dr's note."

    More than 100 employees were on the message chain seen by Bloomberg, and some were horrified. It came soon after an outbreak of Covid-19 inside JPMorgan's Madison Avenue headquarters, in which at least 16 people tested positive on a single trading floor.

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  • Mysterious Heart Damage, Not Just Lung Troubles, Befalling COVID-19 Patients

    While the focus of the COVID-19 pandemic has been on respiratory problems and securing enough ventilators, doctors on the front lines are grappling with a new medical mystery.

    In addition to lung damage, many COVID-19 patients are also developing heart problems - and dying of cardiac arrest.

    As more data comes in from China and Italy, as well as Washington state and New York, more cardiac experts are coming to believe the COVID-19 virus can infect the heart muscle. An initial study found cardiac damage in as many as 1 in 5 patients, leading to heart failure and death even among those who show no signs of respiratory distress.

    That could change the way doctors and hospitals need to think about patients, particularly in the early stages of illness. It also could open up a second front in the battle against the COVID-19 pandemic, with a need for new precautions in people with preexisting heart problems, new demands for equipment and, ultimately, new treatment plans for damaged hearts among those who survive.

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  • How to restart national economies during the coronavirus crisis

    Most national health systems, particularly in some emerging markets, are insufficiently prepared for the task at hand. Countries thus face daunting questions: Should the quarantine continue? If so, for how long? Should it be a blanket quarantine for all regions and age groups? Many countries have large, informal economies, crowded living conditions, or high levels of household debt. Some have all three. How should they proceed?

    The second imperative - saving livelihoods - is just as perplexing. Should all economic sectors receive the same treatment? How do we restart the economy in some geographies without resurgence of the virus? What systems need to be in place to restart safely?

    In this article, we propose two frameworks for restarting an economy. The first is designed to help governments, the private sector, and nonprofits think through when to open their economies, and the second outlines an approach for how to do so.

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  • Bill Gates to spend billions to produce 7 potential coronavirus vaccines

    Billionaire philanthropist Bill Gates has announced his foundation is paying for the construction of facilities that will manufacture seven promising coronavirus vaccines and the best two vaccines would be picked up for final trials.

    In an interview with host Trevor Noah on The Daily Show, he said the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is moving forward with building manufacturing capacity for the seven vaccine candidates to save time, as the novel coronavirus pandemic spread throughout the world, reports The Hill.

    "Even though we'll end up picking at most two of them, we're going to fund factories for all seven just so we don't waste time in serially saying 'ok which vaccine works' and then building the factory," Gates was quoted as saying.

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  • Google is using AI to design chips that will accelerate AI

    A new reinforcement-learning algorithm has learned to optimize the placement of components on a computer chip to make it more efficient and less power-hungry.

    3D Tetris: Chip placement, also known as chip floor planning, is a complex three-dimensional design problem. It requires the careful configuration of hundreds, sometimes thousands, of components across multiple layers in a constrained area. Traditionally, engineers will manually design configurations that minimize the amount of wire used between components as a proxy for efficiency. They then use electronic design automation software to simulate and verify their performance, which can take up to 30 hours for a single floor plan.

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  • Nations with Mandatory TB Vaccines Show Fewer Coronavirus Deaths

    Countries with mandatory policies to vaccinate against tuberculosis register fewer coronavirus deaths than countries that don't have those policies, a new study has found.

    The preliminary study posted on medRxiv, a site for unpublished medical research, finds a correlation between countries that require citizens to get the bacillus Calmette-Guerin (BCG) vaccine and those showing fewer number of confirmed cases and deaths from Covid-19. Though only a correlation, clinicians in at least six countries are running trials that involve giving frontline health workers and elderly people the BCG vaccine to see whether it can indeed provide some level of protection against the new coronavirus.

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  • 'Pool testing' for COVID-19 may help increase testing capacities across the globe

    Now, a team of researchers at the German Red Cross Blood Donor Service and the Institute for Medical Virology at the University Hospital Frankfurt at Goethe University have developed a pool testing procedure that will make it possible to rapidly increase worldwide testing capacities for SARS-CoV-2. Mass testing in broader population groups will help save time, provide more extensive isolation, speed contact tracing, and ultimately speed the containment of the outbreak.

    Pool testing involves detecting the virus in samples that are combined for faster results and, at the same time, maximizing the resources. For instance, swab samples from mucous membranes of the nose or throat are combined in a buffer solution. The samples are tested using the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) procedure and the direct genome detection of SARS-CoV-2.

    The new procedure can help reduce the demand for test kits, especially that more countries are grappling with the vast spread of the viral infection. Pool testing can also help save supplies and time while increasing testing capacity. Due to the uncontrolled outbreak of the disease, reagents to process are limited. Pooling the samples together so they could save on the reagents used to run the test can significantly help in detecting the novel coronavirus.

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  • Where Companies Go Wrong with Learning and Development

    Bryan Caplan, professor of economics at George Mason University, and author of The Case Against Education, says in his book that education often isn't so much about learning useful job skills, but about people showing off, or "signaling."

    Today's employees often signal through continuous professional education (CPE) credits so that they can make a case for a promotion. L&D staff also signal their worth by meeting flawed KPIs, such as the total CPE credits employees earn, rather than focusing on the business impact created. The former is easier to measure, but flawed incentives beget flawed outcomes, such as the following:

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  • Demonstrating corporate purpose in the time of coronavirus

    What should a company's purpose be when the purpose of so many, right now, is survival? For years, enlightened executives have sought the sweet spot between their responsibility to maximize profits on behalf of shareholders and their desire to find a purpose across environment, social, and governance (ESG) themes on behalf of a broad range of stakeholders, including customers, employees, and communities. Then COVID-19 came. As businesses large and small shut their doors, and millions retreat to enforced isolation, the magnitude of the coronavirus crisis confronts corporate leaders with the economic challenge of a lifetime. It also demands of them a moment of existential introspection: What defines their company's purpose - its core reason for being and its impact on the world?

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  • Instead of Laying off 20 Percent of His Company, This CEO Made an Unusual Decision. It's a Lesson in Emotional Intelligence

    Covid-19 is ravaging the global economy and presenting employers with unprecedented challenges. For Gravity chief executive Dan Price, that challenge was crushing: The company's revenue had essentially been cut in half. Price was faced with a grave decision: Lay off 20% of his employees or go bankrupt.

    Price refused to accept either option. Instead, he decided to do something almost unheard of in today's business environment:

    He asked his employees what to do.

    "As a CEO, I don't believe in top-down decisions," Price said on Twitter. "I spent 40 hours talking with every employee about our finances and asked for ideas."

    What followed was a master class in emotional intelligence -- and a major lesson in how to run a business in the face of difficult challenges.

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