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Europe Plans 20,000 GPU Supercomputer to Create ‘Digital Twin’ of Earth

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Anyone who’s tried to buy a graphics card lately knows how tough it can be to find something in stock, let alone for a reasonable price. The European Union, however, thinks this is a grand time to slap 20,000 GPUs into a supercomputer with the aim of studying climate change with a simulated twin of our planet. The plan to create a digital twin of Earth might end up delayed due to the relative lack of available GPUs, but this isn’t going to be an overnight project. 

The EU calls the upcoming computer Destination Earth, or DestinE for short. This massive raft of GPUs will allegedly be able to create a highly accurate copy of Earth down to kilometer-scale that simulates how climate change will affect us. Users will be able to vary conditions and project the effects on food security, ocean levels, global temperature, and so on. 

This level of detail will allow researchers to predict the future, at least in some small way. Peter Bauer is deputy director of the European Centre for Medium-​Range Weather Forecasts and lead author on the new study detailing DestinE. Bauer uses The Netherlands as an example of what a digital Earth clone could do. “If you are planning a two-​metre high dike in The Netherlands, for example, I can run through the data in my digital twin and check whether the dike will in all likelihood still protect against expected extreme events in 2050,” says Bauer. DestinE could guide decisions large and small as Europe seeks to reduce emissions and plan for the impacts of climate change. 

The team planning DestinE have ballparked 20,000 GPUs based on the Cray Piz Daint supercomputer in Zurich (above). That device runs on more than 5,000 Pascal-based Nvidia Tesla GPUs, and scientists believe it will take about four times the computing power to create a digital twin of Earth. That’s how the scientists arrived at the 20,000 number. We will take their word for it that this isn’t some crazy scheme to build a secret crypto mega-mining rig. 

DestinE is part of the EU’s $ 1 trillion initiative to reach carbon neutrality by 2050. That would just about cover 20,000 GPUs if the EU were buying everything right now, but thankfully, it’s not working to assemble DestinE just yet. Researchers hope to have the supercomputer up and running within the next seven to ten years. That many GPUs are sure to draw a ton of power, even if they’re more efficient cards from a few generations in the future. Hopefully, the EU’s climate change computer doesn’t contribute to climate change itself.

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Canada could see 20,000 COVID-19 cases per day by end of year: PHAC

New infections of COVID-19 could reach 60,000 a day by the end of December if Canadians increase their current level of contact with other people, according to modelling charts prepared by the the Public Health Agency of Canada and seen by CBC News.

According to the new modelling — which is to be released tomorrow —  that number could be limited to 20,000 a day if Canadians maintain their current number of personal contacts. 

But to drive that number under 10,000 cases a day by the end of the year, Canadians would need to limit their interactions to essential activities while maintaining physical distancing and adhering to other public health guidelines.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and opposition leaders met with Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam and her deputy Dr. Howard Njoo earlier this evening to discuss the new modelling.

Tam will hold a news conference at 9 a.m. ET Friday to formally offer detailed projections on potential infections and deaths from the novel coronavirus.

Trudeau will also address Canadians Friday about the worsening situation from outside Rideau Cottage, returning to the doorstop press conferences that characterized the early days of the pandemic.

The modelling predicts that the number of COVID-19 deaths could rise from the current level of just over 11,100 to just more than 12,100 by the end of the month if Canadians maintain their current level of contact with other people.

The modelling says that there are more outbreaks now, those outbreaks are larger — more than 50 cases each — and they are affecting long-term care homes. 

It also says that Indigenous communities and schools are also seeing rising caseloads and that the situation is set to get worse in all regions except the Atlantic provinces and parts of the North unless action is taken.

O’Toole blames Liberal response 

After the meeting, Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole released a statement criticizing the Liberal government’s response to the pandemic.

“What struck me was that 11 months after news about the spread of COVID-19 emerged, after thousands of lives and millions of jobs have been lost, and hundreds of billions of dollars has been added to the national debt, we as a country are worse off than we were at the start of the pandemic,” he said.

“We are in this position because the government failed to give Canadians the ability to rapidly and frequently test for COVID-19, has failed to tell Canadians how they plan to deliver a vaccine and failed to be transparent with Canadians about what COVID-19 related information they are using to make decisions that affect lives and jobs.”

O’Toole said the government must deliver a plan to test, trace and isolate those who are infected, because shutting down the economy is “simply not a solution.” 

Public health orders

The national snapshot comes as Manitoba, now dealing with the highest per capita daily COVID-19 case numbers among Canadian provinces, is set to enact new orders effective Friday to limit the spread of the virus.

The public health orders will forbid people from having anyone inside their home who doesn’t live there, with limited exceptions, and prohibit businesses from selling non-essential items in stores. Large retailers are to restrict capacity at any given time to 25 per cent of their normal limit or a maximum of 250 people, whichever is lower.

British Columbia also announced new rules to curb the pandemic today, including mandatory mask rules for indoor public and retail spaces and restrictions on social gatherings to household members only. Indoor group fitness activities such as hot yoga and spin classes also have been suspended.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford warned Thursday that additional public health restrictions would be announced Friday for hot spots in the province.

“These measures will have to be tough in the hardest hit areas,” he said. “We have some difficult but necessary decisions to make.”

Green Party Leader Annamie Paul said the meeting only confirmed in her mind that a national co-ordinated effort is required to get case numbers under control. 

“It was very sobering,” she told CBC’s Power & Politics. “We need to take immediate action. We need to take radical action or we are going to see many more cases and many more deaths.”

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh said that, in the face of spiking numbers, the federal government needs to act now to ensure seniors are protected by eliminating for-profit long-term care homes. 

“It just confirmed what we have been seeing across the country,” Singh told host Vassy Kapelos. “The numbers are really troubling. I am deeply worried about people if we don’t act now we could lose many more lives.”

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Trudeau non-committal on airline bailout as Air Canada lays off 20,000 workers

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says he plans to keep working with airlines hard hit by the COVID-19 pandemic but wouldn’t address whether a bailout of the beleaguered industry is on the table.

His comments came one day after Canada’s largest airline revealed it was preparing to slash its workforce by at least half.

“We’re going to continue to work with sectors and industries to try and support them as they get through this pandemic,” Trudeau said, referencing the federal government’s offer this week of bridge financing for large employers to keep workers on the payroll. 

“It is not a bailout, it is a loan that is going to help [businesses]…but we are still working with companies to see who is taking that up and how the format of it will be worked out.”

Travel restrictions put in place to limit the spread of COVID-19 across Canada — and the world —  have paved the way for a bleak summer for the country’s tourism and travel industry.

In a memo sent to staff Friday, Air Canada said it expects to lay off “approximately 50 to 60 per cent” of the company’s 38,000 employees in an effort to rebuild after the crisis. 

“COVID-19 has forced us to reduce our schedule by 95 per cent and, based on every indicator we have, our normal traffic levels will not be returning anytime soon,” the company wrote in a statement. “Our current workforce supports an operation transporting 51 million customers a year with 1,500 flights a day and 258 aircraft. With current realities, this is simply not sustainable going forward.”

The news follows the company’s efforts last month to rehire thousands of employees it had previously laid off because of the pandemic, after Ottawa confirmed the airline would qualify for the federal government’s wage subsidy program.

According to an internal bulletin to members from the Canadian Union of Public Employees obtained by The Canadian Press, the union is in talks with the company about continuing the emergency wage subsidy, which has been extended until the end of August.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the federal government planned to speak with Air Canada and other airlines to help steer companies through the pandemic. (Justin Tang/The Canadian Press)

Air Canada has not disclosed whether it planned to access Ottawa’s bridge loan program, which comes with a number of conditions including requiring applicants to share their climate action plans and sustainability goals.

During his Saturday briefing, Trudeau acknowledged that the crisis was particularly difficult for companies tied to the travel and tourism industries. 

“I think we all know that this pandemic has hit extremely hard on travel industries and on the airlines particularly,” he said. “That’s why we’re going to keep working with airlines, including Air Canada, to see how we can help even more than we have with the wage subsidy.”

Measures not enough, airline management expert says

But John Gradek, a former Air Canada employee and co-ordinator of McGill University’s Global Aviation Leadership Program, said the government’s emergency measures aren’t enough to keep major airlines afloat.

“Air Canada is losing somewhere in the range of $ 20 million a day,” Gradek told CBC News, adding that Ottawa’s bridge financing program would only offer companies loans between $ 60 million and $ 80 million.

“That’s going to cover five or six days’ worth of Air Canada’s losses,” he said. 

John Gradek, head of McGill University’s Global Aviation Leadership Program, says he believes that Air Canada’s layoffs mean some of company’s planes will never take off again. (CBC/François Sauve)

Gradek spent two decades at the company in a number of roles, and said the scope of the layoffs were devastating for a company that was on the upswing after filing for bankruptcy protection in 2003.

“It’s heartbreaking.  It really is. Air Canada spent the last 15 years, since it got out of the receivership program, to rebuild the airline. It spent a lot of time and effort … to build the airline up to the stature that it has today.”

Health Canada approves first clinical vaccine trials

The prime minister also revealed that Health Canada has now approved the first clinical trials for a potential COVID-19 vaccine, work that will be undertaken at the Canadian Centre for Vaccinology at Dalhousie University.

“Research and development take time and must be done right, but this is encouraging news,” Trudeau said.

During his update, Trudeau highlighted the federal government’s one-time top-up to the Canada child benefit, which will see eligible families receive an extra $ 300 per child on Wednesday as part of their regular May payment.  

He also announced an additional $ 100 million for the Red Cross to prepare for potential floods and wildfires on top of the organization’s COVID-19 response efforts.

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Air Canada to lay off 20,000 workers

Air Canada plans to cut its workforce by at least half as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to wreak havoc on the airline industry, according to an internal memo obtained by CBC News. 

Effective June 7, “approximately 50 to 60 per cent” of the company’s 38,000 employees will be laid off, the company said in the memo sent to all staff on Friday. “We estimate about 20,000 people will be affected.”

Air Canada said the move comes after a “fundamental review of what we must do to successfully emerge from this crisis and begin rebuilding our airline.”

The airline said it is currently flying at about five per cent of the capacity it flew last year and hopes to ramp up to 25 per cent later in the year if government-imposed travel restrictions are eased. Landry said in the memo that the airline was burning $ 22 million a day.

“Sadly, today the hard truth is that by every indicator we have available to us, we believe that we will be materially smaller for at least three years,” Craig Landry, Air Canada’s executive vice-president of operations, said in the memo. 

An Air Canada worker cleans a ticketing station at Pearson International Airport in Toronto on April 8. At a minimum, Air Canada layoffs will reach 19,000 — half of the current payroll — and could go as high as 22,800. (Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press)

The announcement comes amid ongoing border shutdowns and confinement measures that have tanked travel demand, prompting Air Canada to ground some 225 airplanes.

“We therefore took the extremely difficult decision today to significantly downsize our operation to align with forecasts, which regrettably means reducing our workforce by 50 to 60 per cent,” the airline said in an statement on Friday evening. “We estimate about 20,000 people will be affected.”

At a minimum, layoffs will reach 19,000 — half of the current payroll — and could go as high as 22,800.

A government source who spoke to CBC News on condition of anonymity said Ottawa hasn’t yet received notice about the layoffs from Air Canada, which would have to apply for a group termination waiver from the Labour Program to lay off that many people, but the request hasn’t been submitted yet.

The blow echoes on a bigger scale Air Canada’s announcement in March to let go nearly half of its workforce under a cost reduction scheme. The carrier proceeded to rehire some 16,500 laid-off flight attendants, mechanics and customer service agents in April under the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy, but has not committed to maintain the program past June 6.

Air Canada planes sit on the tarmac at Pearson International Airport in Toronto on April 8. Though traffic is expected to pick up somewhat before year’s end, more than 200 Air Canada planes remain grounded. (Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press)

Karl Moore, an airline industry analyst and professor at McGill University, told CBC News that the layoffs are “not a surprise” as the pandemic cratered demand.

“The number of people flying is down in a way we’ve never seen before in aviation history,” he said.

“Canadians are not willing to be on planes in crowded conditions. Hopefully in a year or two, we’ll be beyond that.”

Airline mulling wage subsidy decision

To minimize the number of layoffs, Air Canada will ask flight attendants to slash their schedules, go on leave for up to two years or resign with travel privileges, according to an internal bulletin to members from the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) sent out Thursday night and obtained by The Canadian Press.

The CUPE memo stated that the union is in discussions with Air Canada over continuing the federal wage subsidy.

“We know this news is not what any of us were expecting,” said the bulletin, signed by the president of CUPE’s Air Canada component and two other union officials.

“The reality is that COVID-19 has severely impacted the demand for air travel over the past few months and into the foreseeable future. As such, there is no denying that we are dealing with the largest surplus of cabin personnel in our history.”

Air Canada crew members are seen in in Montreal’s Trudeau International Airport on March 21. (Andrej Ivanov/The Canadian Press)

Reacting to news about the layoffs, CUPE said in a separate statement that it is “doing everything it can to protect the livelihoods of our 10,000 flight attendant members.”

Air Canada did not respond directly to questions about whether it would drop the wage subsidy, which Ottawa recently extended through August.

The subsidy program that allowed employees — including 6,800 flight attendants — to be rehired last month covers 75 per cent of a worker’s normal hourly wages or up to $ 847 per week. The vast majority of those workers have stayed at home, however, as operations remain at a virtual standstill.

WATCH | Can government financing save Canada’s airlines?

New financing from the federal government could become a key factor in helping lift Canada’s airlines from a financial nosedive caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, industry experts say. 2:11

While Air Canada is not contributing to most worker wages, the airline has continued to put money toward pensions and benefits, a continuous cash drain at a company that lost more than $ 1 billion last quarter.

The Montreal-based company has been bleeding cash since mid-March, slashing its flight capacity by over 90 per cent ahead of even fewer expected passengers between April and June.

Though traffic is expected to pick up somewhat before year’s end, more than 200 planes remain grounded, and Air Canada CEO Calin Rovinescu said last week the recovery will be slow, with at least three years of subpar earnings.

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Flames, Oilers fans raise nearly $20,000 for charity after Tkachuk-Kassian skirmish

From fighting comes… philanthropy?

The Battle of Alberta got nasty on Saturday as Oilers forward Zack Kassian and Flames forward Matthew Tkachuk traded barbs during Calgary’s 4-3 win over Edmonton.

The fallout from the game, which featured some questionable Tkachuk hits before Kassian’s retaliatory attack, included a two-game suspension for the latter and nothing for the former.

An unhappy Kassian later said he has “a long memory” and “that gave me some clarity about what you can do and can’t do now,” in reference to the lack of supplemental discipline against Tkachuk.

Flames fans disagreed, and started a fundraising campaign to place billboards with Tkachuk’s face plastered on them across Edmonton.

When the campaign reached $ 3,053 in less than 24 hours, surpassing its $ 2,500 goal, a local radio station stepped in to say it would handle the billboards, and the fundraiser money would now be directed toward ALS research. That GoFundMe page now says it has raised $ 3,738.

Like Kassian, Oilers fans felt the need to strike back. On Tuesday, Twitter user @SamInYEG posted a donation receipt to the charity Brown Bagging For Calgary’s Kids “so that kids can get a proper meal and grow up to be tougher than Tkachuk.”

On Wednesday, @SamInYEG posted an update that Brown Bagging had received 169 donations totalling $ 6520.88 and over 3,000 lunches — in less than 24 hours.

Her latest Twitter update revealed more than $ 10,000 had gone to the charity. Dragon’s Den personality W. Brett Wilson also pledged to match donations up to that number, as well as another $ 5,000 to the Edmonton shelter of @SamInYeg’s choosing.

Combined with the Calgary efforts, that’s nearly $ 20,000 in donations as a result of a relatively minor skirmish in the Battle of Alberta.

The Flames and Oilers next meet on Jan. 29, when Kassian will have returned from suspension.

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$20,000 Rebates on Nissan Leaf and BMW i3 EVs Offered in California

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Buy a Nissan Leaf or BMW i3 electric vehicle in southern California, and you can get rebates of up to $ 20,000 on EVs that sell for $ 30,000 to $ 52,000. It’s a deal through the end of September, for customers of San Diego Gas & Electric.

SDG&E is kicking in a $ 10,000 rebate that is in addition to $ 10,000 in federal and state rebates available to most buyers. Buying an EV allows a single-occupant vehicle to use high-occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes. One caveat: Buyers should know that Nissan this fall and BMW next year will introduce models that double their range from about 100 to 200 miles.

2017 Nissan Leaf gets 107 miles per charge (EPA rating.)

Why the Deal Now? Is There Anything Wrong with Them?

From time to time, automakers and dealers offer seemingly too-low pricing or lease deals. A year ago, some SoCal dealers leased Nissan Leafs for $ 49 to $ 99 a month. This time, a local utility company is kicking in money on purchases. Utilities are under pressure (public and regulatory) to be more efficient, reduce pollution, adopt newer energy sources (solar, wind, and natural gas over coal), and promote alternative-energy devices such as time-shifting dishwashers and EVs. These are hundred-mile cars that will be replaced in 2018. The new models will roughly double the range, with the target being at or close to the 238-mile range of the Chevrolet Bolt EV.

“No SDG&E ratepayer funds were used to pay for this program,” San Diego Gas says, meaning the automakers underwrote the program. If BMW sells all 40 i3’s said to be in stock, it will cost $ 400,000.

How the Program Works

Here’s the deal: You have to be a resident of San Diego County, California, and a customer of SDG&E or living at the address of a customer. You go to any San Diego Nissan dealer or one participating BMW dealer (BMW of San Diego). The SDG&E rebate is for $ 10,000 relative to the car’s list price. It’s not clear if you can dicker on the purchase price as well. You’ll still owe sales tax and the $ 250-$ 500 in computer/processing fees dealers often tack on.

In addition, California offers up to $ 2,500 in rebates, and there’s an available $ 7,500 federal tax credit. Buyers also get access to HOV lanes and two years of free public charging.

That makes a total of $ 20,000 in possible rebates and credits. That’s more than half the cost of a Nissan Leaf, which starts at $ 29,875 for a Leaf SL (including freight) to $ 39,620 for the Leaf SL with premium pearl white paint, the premium package, and freight.

The BMW i3 sells for $ 45,445 with freight, to $ 51,595 with all options included. There’s also a range-extender (REX) version with a small gasoline engine that’s covered by the rebate, according to SDG&E’s flyer for the i3.

Teaser image for the 2018 Nissan Leaf, expected to be unveiled next month. The real Leaf won’t be this swoopy.

200-Mile Nissan, BMW EVs Coming Next Year

Our analysis: The plan is a good deal for drivers who do mostly local driving and commuting of less than 40 miles each way, or whose companies have charging stations. With the rebates and credits, you could score a new $ 25,000 Leaf for just $ 5,000 plus taxes and fees.

If you’re looking at the Leaf as your only car, though, factor in the cost of rentals for longer weekend and vacatation trips. BMW says i3 buyers will get courtesy cars for long trips. The current Leaf is rated at 107 miles of range, the i3 at 114 miles.

The new versions of the Leaf and i3 will ship most likely in the first half of 2018. The batteries will be more advanced. Nissan will use the 2018 Leaf to debut ProPilot, a autonomous module for highway self-driving with some limits (no automated lane changes). So: Reasons to buy, reasons to wait for the next new thing.

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