Australia has abandoned a goal to vaccinate nearly all of its 26 million population by the end of 2021 following advice that people under the age of 50 take Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine rather than AstraZeneca’s shot.
Australia, which had banked on the AstraZeneca vaccine for the majority of its shots, had no plans to set any new targets for completing its vaccination program, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said in a Facebook post on Sunday afternoon.
“While we would like to see these doses completed before the end of the year, it is not possible to set such targets given the many uncertainties involved,” Morrison said.
Authorities in Canberra changed their recommendation on Pfizer shots for under-50s on Thursday, after European regulators reiterated the possibility of links between the AstraZeneca shot and reports of rare cases of blood clots.
Australia, which raced to double its order of the Pfizer vaccine last week, had originally planned to have its entire population vaccinated by the end of October.
Australia’s hardline response to the virus largely stopped community transmissions but the vaccination rollout has become a hot political topic — and a source of friction between Morrison and state and territory leaders — after the country vaccinated only a fraction of its four million target by the end of March.
About 1.16 million COVID-19 doses have now been administered, Morrison said, noting the speed of Australia’s vaccination program was in line with other peer nations, including Germany and France, and ahead of Canada and Japan.
Australia began vaccinations much later than some other nations, partly because of its low number of infections, which stand at just under 29,400, with 909 deaths, since the pandemic began.
Google launched its Stadia cloud gaming service in late 2019, but already the bloom is off the rose. A series of increasingly concerning tales from Google’s game division has come to light in the weeks since Google killed its internal studio, and the latest tidbits are perhaps the most damning. According to a report in Bloomberg, Google blew millions of dollars to get games like Red Dead Redemption 2, but it still missed active user targets by hundreds of thousands of units.
Stadia is similar to platforms like Amazon Luna and Microsoft xCloud, but both of those services have rolled out more gradually. Google tried to hit the ground running after testing the streaming technology with Project Stream. According to Bloomberg’s sources, Stadia management took a game console approach rather than starting small, but the service’s poor game library and traditional pay-per-game model didn’t catch on.
Many of the sources interviewed for the Bloomberg report say this approach was flawed from the start. Several members of the team urged the company to launch Stadia as a beta — both Gmail and Maps Navigation were in beta for years after launch, allowing Google to tune the services based on how people used them. But Stadia manager Phil Harrison wanted the service to duke it out with consoles right away.
The Stadia app as seen on Android in early 2021.
Google is said to have dropped huge sums of money to get AAA titles like Assassin’s Creed and Red Dead Redemption 2 to further this goal — we’re talking tens of millions for each game. That’s enough to develop a new game from scratch, but a handful of premium games isn’t going to hack it when gamers on PC, PlayStation, and Xbox get hundreds of new games every year. The result was a substantially smaller player base than Google expected, to the tune of hundreds of thousands. The resultant oversupply of Stadia controllers is allegedly why Google was giving them away so readily late last year.
While Google was paying out the nose for AAA games, the company’s Stadia Games and Entertainment division was working on games that could only happen in the cloud. Sources claim they were building experiences that transcended the memory and processing limits of local hardware, but then Google got cold feet. That’s when the company pulled the plug on SG&E early this month. Without exclusive content, Stadia’s future as a distinct platform is in doubt. Google hinted that it might license Stadia’s tech to other companies — that might be Stadia’s destiny.
The head of Pfizer Canada says the pharmaceutical giant is entirely focused on meeting its upcoming delivery targets and that it’s possible the company could continue to accelerate shipments of its COVID-19 vaccine to the country.
“Pfizer is extremely committed to meeting its contractual obligations, and we have every intention of meeting the four million commitment by the end of March that the prime minister has been talking about,” Pfizer president Cole Pinnow said Sunday on Rosemary Barton Live.
“As long as we’re honouring our contract, we don’t really feel that it’s value added to talk about hypotheticals,” Pinnow said, when asked by CBC Chief Political Correspondent Rosemary Barton about potential penalties for missed deadlines.
The early months of Canada’s COVID-19 inoculation campaign have been beset by disruptions to the delivery schedule. But on Friday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced the country’s vaccine supply would see a boost in the months ahead.
Pfizer is now set to deliver 2.8 million more shots between April and June than originally planned. Deliveries previously earmarked for later in the year have also been moved up, meaning Canada will receive 6.2 million more doses than expected between July and August. Four million extra doses of the Moderna vaccine are also expected to arrive this summer.
As far as the Pfizer-BioNTech product is concerned, Pinnow said it’s not outside the realm of possibility that the company’s deliveries to Canada could be shifted forward again.
“We’re going to continue to look for opportunities to accelerate delivery. We recognize that we want to bring back as much vaccine to Canadians as soon as possible.”
Belgian plant provided Pfizer with ‘certainty’
Pfizer’s shipments to Canada dropped in recent weeks as the company’s manufacturing plant in Puurs, Belgium, underwent upgrades to increase the production of its vaccine.
The company told the Globe and Mail last November that Canada would be sent doses from Pfizer’s plant in Kalamazoo, Mich., but the company backtracked on that statement earlier this year.
“We were working to accelerate the delivery to Canada of [the vaccine], based upon the accelerated review process that Health Canada had put in place,” Pinnow told Barton. “So as part of that, we re-evaluated what our supply chain plan was going to be.”
When he was U.S. president, Donald Trump signed an executive order late last year aimed at ensuring Americans are given priority for receiving vaccines developed or procured by the United States government.
“There was some uncertainty with the prior administration, and so we wanted to have confidence in where we were sourcing the product, and we felt that Belgium really provided us with more certainty at the time,” Pinnow said.
Contracts under wraps
Canada is projected to receive 40 million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine by September — the federal government’s target month to vaccinate all Canadians seeking a jab.
But under the agreement the country has signed with the pharmaceutical company, Canada can receive up to 76 million doses in total.
“We’re always open to talking about incremental demand or incremental supply,” Pinnow said.
Last week, federal Procurement Minister Anita Anand told Barton she was in talks with pharmaceutical companies about disclosing elements of the contracts Canada signed with its vaccine suppliers.
Ottawa and Pfizer have made public delivery schedules shared by suppliers, but other details — including how much Canada has paid per dose — remain under wraps.
“I think both the government and Pfizer recognize that there are commercial and geopolitical sensitivities to releasing details in the contract,” Pinnow said Sunday. “And so at this point, we’re both honouring the contract, and there really isn’t the need to release those details.”
The Pfizer Canada head also said that while it’s too soon to determine whether Canadians will need a booster shot of the vaccine in the years ahead, COVID-19 likely won’t be eradicated right away.
“We’re in the process of analyzing all the known variants, and we’ll continue to monitor for others that might crop up in the future,” Pinnow said. “The scientific opinion right now seems to come to consensus that this virus will become endemic in the population in one capacity or another.”
WATCH | Too early to say if COVID-19 booster shots will be needed, Pfizer Canada head says:
Pfizer Canada president Cole Pinnow told Rosemary Barton that while the pharmaceutical company is studying coronavirus variants, it’s still too early to know whether COVID-19 booster shots will become a reality. 1:30
Bus drivers in Moscow kept their WhatsApp group chat buzzing with questions this week about what to do if they spotted passengers who might be from China riding with them in the Russian capital.
“Some Asian-looking (people) have just got on. Probably Chinese. Should I call (the police)?” one driver messaged his peers. “How do I figure out if they’re Chinese? Should I ask them?” a colleague wondered.
The befuddlement reflected in screenshots of the group exchanges seen by The Associated Press had a common source – instructions from Moscow’s public transit operator Wednesday for drivers to call a dispatcher if Chinese nationals boarded their buses, Russian media reported.
A leaked email that the media reports said was sent by the state-owned transportation company Mosgortrans told dispatchers who took such calls to notify the police. The email, which the company immediately described on Twitter as fake, carried a one-word subject line: coronavirus.
Since the outbreak of the new virus that has infected more than 76,000 people and killed more than 2,300 in mainland China, Russia has reported two cases. Both patients, Chinese nationals hospitalized in Siberia, recovered quickly. Russian authorities nevertheless are going to significant — some argue discriminatory — lengths to keep the virus from resurfacing and spreading.
Moscow officials ordered police raids of hotels, dormitories, apartment buildings and businesses to track down the shrinking number of Chinese people remaining in the city. They also authorized the use of facial recognition technology to find those suspected of evading a 14-day self-quarantine period upon their arrival in Russia.
“Conducting raids is an unpleasant task, but it is necessary, for the potential carriers of the virus as well,” Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin said in a statement outlining various methods to find and track Chinese people the city approved as a virus prevention strategy.
Identifying citizens on buses, subway trains
The effort to identify Chinese citizens on public transportation applies not only to buses, but underground trains and street trams in Moscow, Russian media reported Wednesday.
Metro workers were instructed to stop riders from China and ask them to fill out questionnaires asking why they were in Russia and whether they observed the two-week quarantine, the reports said. The forms also ask respondents for their health condition and the address of where they are were staying.
In Yekaterinburg, a city located 1,790 kilometres away from Moscow in the Urals Mountains, members of the local Chinese community also are under watch. Self-styled Cossack patrols in the city hand out medical masks along with strong recommendations to visit a health clinic to Chinese residents.
Human rights advocates have condemned the targeting of Chinese nationals as racial profiling, not an effective epidemic control strategy.
“Prevention of any serious virus, be it a flu or the new coronavirus, should involve a proper information campaign and not discrimination of other people,” said Alyona Popova, an activist engaged in a year-long court challenge of Moscow’s use of facial recognition technology.
Land border with China remains closed
The containment measures in the capital came as the Russian government instituted an indefinite ban on Chinese nationals entering the country that could block up to 90 per cent of travellers coming to Russia from China. Weeks before, Russia shut down the country’s long land border with China, suspended all trains and most flights between the two countries.
An employee of a Moscow-based company that employs Chinese nationals told the AP on condition of anonymity that police officers came to their office on Thursday and asked a dozen Chinese staffers to stay home for two weeks. The visit took place a little more than two weeks after these staffers returned from China and went through health checks at the airport, the employee said.
The employee spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly about what had happened.
The Moscow Metro confirmed to The Associated Press that the underground system was “actively monitoring the stations” and has a protocol in place for dealing with people who “have recently returned from the People’s Republic of China.”
“We ask to see their documents and to show us documents (proving) that if they have recently returned from the People’s Republic of China, they have undergone a two-week quarantine period,” Yulia Temnikova, Moscow Metro’s deputy chief of client and passenger services, said.
Transit workers lacking instructions
If an individual does not show proof of completing the quarantine, Metro workers ask the person to fill out the form and call an ambulance, Temnikova said.
Bus and tram drivers contacted their labour union about the instructions to look for Chinese nationals and report them to the dispatch cente. The drivers were outraged and didn’t know what to do, Public Transport Workers Union chairman Yuri Dashkov said.
“So he saw a Chinese national, and then what?” Dashkov said. “How can he ascertain that he saw a Chinese national, or a Vietnamese national, or a Japanese, or (someone from the Russian region of) Yakutia?”
Dashkov showed the AP a photo of the email that officials at Mosgortrans were said to have sent out. He also showed three photos of on-bus electronic displays reading, “If Chinese nationals are discovered in the carriage, inform the dispatcher.”
The AP was unable to independently verify the authenticity of the email and the photos. Dashkov shared screenshots of what appeared to be a genuine bus drivers’ group chat in WhatsApp.
While Moscow public transit operator Mosgortrans dismissed the email as phony on its official Twitter account Wednesday, the company told the AP in a statement two days later that it does “conduct monitoring” and “sends data to the medics when necessary.”
Mosgortrans referred additional questions to the detailed statement from Moscow’s mayor, who on Friday acknowledged the sharp focus on Chinese people in the city’s virus-control plan.
Facial recognition technology
Officials ordered everyone arriving from China to isolate themselves for two weeks, and those who skip the quarantine step will be identified through video surveillance and facial recognition technology, Sobyanin said. The systems give authorities the ability to “constantly control compliance with the protocol,” he said in the statement.
The mayor’s office did not respond to a request for comment on the city’s containment approach and the accusation that it’s discriminatory. But rights activist Popova insists the facial recognition program is unlawful whether the searches are seeking Russian or Chinese faces.
“We have a constitutional right to privacy, and citizens of (other countries) have it according to foreign and international legal norms,” she said.
Temnikova from the Moscow Metro rejected accusations of racial profiling. Subway workers “mainly look at the passenger’s (health) condition,” she said, and approach “people who need help.”
Addressing identification questions like the ones that worried the bus drivers, Temnikova said it should be “clear who could have arrived from China” because “it is obvious.”
The Cossacks of Yekaterinburg – men in conservative, often pro-Kremlin groups claiming to be successors of the proud guards who policed the Russian Empire’s frontiers – took fighting the virus into their own hands three weeks ago. They also have a system of sorts for deciding who needs a face mask and advice to see a medical professional.
“Mainly (we approach) people from China because it is from them that the coronavirus came. They are the main source,” Igor Gorbunov, elder of the Ural Volunteer Cossack Corps, told the AP during one such patrol Friday.
“But not only them,” Gorbunov continued. “There are different nationalities, there are many people of Asian appearance, and they seem to be vulnerable to this disease, the coronavirus, because it is them who are most often affected. Europeans are not yet affected much.”
The viral outbreak that began in China has infected more than 78,000 people globally. The World Health Organization has named the illness COVID-19, referring to its origin late last year and the coronavirus that causes it.
From the opening bell, Democrats unleashed an aggressive verbal assault on New York billionaire Mike Bloomberg and raised new questions about Bernie Sanders’ take-no-prisoners politics in a contentious debate Wednesday night on the Las Vegas Strip.
The former New York City mayor was forced to defend his divisive record on race, gender and Wall Street in his debate-stage debut, while Sanders, appearing in his ninth of the 2020 primary season, tried to beat back pointed questions about his health and his ability to defeat President Donald Trump this fall.
It was a raucous affair just three days before Nevada voters decide the third contest of the Democratic Party’s turbulent 2020 primary.
Sanders lashed out at Bloomberg’s policing policies as New York City mayor that he said targeted “African-American and Latinos in an outrageous way.”
In a fight for her political life, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren was a leading aggressor early against Bloomberg. She called him “a billionaire who calls people ‘fat broads’ and ‘horse-faced lesbians.'”
WATCH | Warren likens Bloomberg to Trump:
Sen. Elizabeth Warren opens the debate with a sharp attack against Mike Bloomberg. 0:41
Sanders lashed out at Bloomberg’s policing policies as mayor that he said targeted “African-American and Latinos in an outrageous way,” and former vice-president Joe Biden charged that his “stop-and-frisk” policy ended up “throwing five million black men up against the wall.”
Bloomberg stumbled at the outset when pressed on his record in business and allegations of sexual harassment at his company. Several women alleged they were discriminated against and Bloomberg himself created a culture of sexual harassment.
Both Warren and Biden called on him to release women involved in the lawsuits from non-disclosure agreements.
“We have a very few non-disclosure agreements — none of them accuse me of doing anything other than maybe they didn’t like a joke I told,” Bloomberg said.
“They are being muzzled by you and you could release them from that immediately,” Warren charged.
WATCH | Warren goes after Bloomberg on nondisclosure agreements:
Mike Bloomberg’s opponents challenge him to release the people from nondisclosure agreements they have signed with him or his companies. 2:23
Bloomberg defended himself on all counts and took a shot at Sanders’ electability: “I don’t think there’s any chance of the senator beating Donald Trump.”
Bloomberg also said the surest way to get Trump re-elected was to have him listen to some of the Democrats talking about the economy.
WATCH | Bloomberg says Trump could get re-elected:
Mike Bloomberg says the best way to re-elect Trump is to have him listen to the Democrats talking about the economy. 0:51
But the intense criticism Bloomberg faced threatened to undermine his surprisingly swift rise from nonpartisan megadonor to top-tier contender.
Fears about Sanders
The debate also marked a major test for Sanders, a self-described democratic socialist who is emerging as the front-runner in the Democrats’ nomination fight, whether his party’s establishment likes it or not. A growing group of donors, elected officials and political operatives fear that Sanders’ uncompromising progressive politics could be a disaster in the general election against Trump, yet they’ve struggled to coalesce behind a single moderate alternative.
Sanders might have bolstered those fears when he emerged as the only Democratic candidate on the stage who said the candidate with the most delegates should win the party’s presidential nomination — even if he or she doesn’t have a majority.
His rivals said the party should follow its rules at the Democratic convention rather than handing the nomination to someone without 50 per cent of delegates.
That sets up a clash should the primary season end without a clear winner, giving way to a contested convention. Delegates are picked up through state parties and caucuses, and party rules state a candidate needs a majority to become the nominee.
If no candidate hits that threshold initially, superdelegates would be allowed to vote on a second ballot. They include members of Congress and other party leaders. Sanders’ campaign fought in 2016 to eliminate superdelegate votes in the first stage after the majority of them sided with Hillary Clinton.
Former Midwestern mayor Pete Buttigieg attacked both Bloomberg and Sanders, warning that one threatened to “burn down” the Democratic Party and the other was trying to buy it.
He called them “the two most polarizing figures on this stage.”
Bloomberg and Sanders may have been prime targets at the outset, but the stakes were no less dire for the other four candidates on stage.
Buttigieg went after Sen. Amy Klobuchar, skewering her for failing to name the Mexican president in an interview last week.
Buttigieg said despite her role on committees overseeing border security and trade, the Minnesota senator was “not able to speak to literally the first thing, the politics,” of the neighbouring country by naming Mexico’s leader, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador.
Klobuchar retorted: “Are you trying to say that I’m dumb? Are you mocking me, Pete?”
WATCH | That heated exchange between Buttigieg and Klobuchar:
Former mayor Pete Buttigieg got an angry reaction from Sen. Amy Klobuchar for suggesting she lacks the experience to be president. 1:16
Warren defended Klobuchar and called Buttigieg’s argument “unfair,” adding that “missing a name all by itself does not indicate that you do not understand what is going on.”
Longtime establishment favourite Biden, Barack Obama’s two-term vice-president, desperately needed to breathe new life into his flailing campaign, which entered the night at the bottom of a moderate muddle behind Buttigieg and Klobuchar. And after a bad finish last week in New Hampshire, Warren was fighting just to stay in the conversation.
As Democrats were clustered inside the casino hosting the debate, outside on the Las Vegas Strip, Republicans hired a mobile electronic billboard truck to drive slowly in front of tourists, flashing a message promoting Trump’s re-election.
Bloomberg is avoiding the earliest primary states, focusing instead on campaigning in the 14 states that vote in the March 3 Super Tuesday primaries. And his massive campaign — with more than 2,000 staffers nationwide and more than $ 400 million US spent on ads already — has given him enough of a boost to win high-profile endorsements and double-digit support in the polls.
Canon this week made its leap into the arena of full-frame, mirrorless digital cameras, following Nikon by a couple weeks and Sony the better part of a decade. Some of the Canon’s specs are fabulous: The EOS R camera body has a 30.3-megapixel sensor with 5,655 focus points and the ability to focus almost in the dark. The first lenses are the same quality as Canon’s white L lenses and have a control ring that lets you quickly adjust a setting. At $ 2,300 for the body with no lens, the price and features seem to put the EOS R closer to the prosumer Canon 6D Mark II full-frame ($ 1,600) than the pro workhorse Canon 5D Mark IV ($ 3,100). Optimists will see it as a cheaper 5D. The EOS R and first R lenses ship in October.
What Canon Announced: the Body
Canon’s Sept. 5 announcement included one camera body, several lenses, and adapters to fit existing full-frame EF and crop-sensor EF-S Canon lenses to the EOS R body. The new lenses won’t fit Canon DSLRs because they’re meant to be mounted closer to the sensor than a mirror-box camera allows. EOS R will be the terminology for Canon’s mirrorless full-frame system, and RF (which sounds confusingly like radio frequency) will be the term for the lens system, which appears to be all black. So much for Canon ads showing pros at a sporting event, the majority shooting with Canon signature white body telephotos.
The camera uses the Canon Digic 8 image processor. ISO is up to 40,000 native, expandable to 102,400. You can shoot by streetlight and even moonlight. The 5,655 focus points cover the shooting area to 100 percent vertical and 88 percent horizontal coverage. Canon claims autofocus in as little as 0.05 seconds. It includes some of the things you expect from point-and-shoots, such as eye detection.
The electronic viewfinder (EVF) has 3.69 million dots and, Canon says, provides 100 percent scene coverage. Subjects should be viewable in near-dark, in correct color. A rear LCD swivels and tilts. “Touch and Drag AF” allows selection of the focus point. GPS, Bluetooth, and Wi-Fi are embedded, and video as high as 4K is supported.
What Canon Announced: the Lenses
When the EOS R ships, it can be had with a 24-105mm f/4 lens. It’s $ 1,100 on its own (later in the year) or adds $ 1,100 to the kit price. (When Canon bundles the existing 24-105 in a kit, often it knocks $ 100-$ 200 off the kit price). There will also be:
50mm f/1.2 L-series prime lens
RF 24-70mm f/2 USM lens
RF 35mm f/1.8 MACRO IS STM lens
The RF lens mount has a 20mm flange back and 54mm mounting diameter, which should allow for wide, bright lenses in the future. The lens Control Ring lets the shooter quickly change (one at a time) settings such as aperture, shutter speed, exposure compensation, or ISO. Lenses have image stabilization built in. Canon says it’s better than in-camera IS. But it also makes the lenses heavier and bulkier.
Where Canon EOS R Fits In
The EOS R camera that Canon announced falls into the realm of enthusiast camera for sure. Some pros may see it as a way to get a mirrorless 5D Mark IV for $ 800 less. If Canon’s focus-speed specs hold up in testing, it’s a solid offering as a video-centric camera.
Existing Canon owners of recent DSLRs from amateur, enthusiast, and working pro realms will like that it takes Canon’s ubiquitous $ 65 LP-E6N lithium-ion battery, but they won’t be enthused by Canon’s rating of 370 shots per charge. Canon’s DSLRs on a good day of field-shooting (sports) can get as many as 1,000 frames. There’s a two-battery grip that steals the onboard battery slot for its connection and makes the EOS R DSLR-bulky.
Early analyst reports are mixed. For instance, Ichiro Michikoshi, an analyst at BCN Inc. in Tokyo told Bloomberg:
Sony was the only option until now, but with Nikon and Canon now out, we’ll see this space become very active. There’s a lot more buzz now, so maybe people who have forgotten about standalone cameras will take another look. … At above 200,000 yen [USD $ 1,800], it’s too high. You need to get down to 120-130,000 [$ 1,075-$ 1,170] for people to consider it. But lenses are also expensive. So I don’t see a huge number of users flowing in.
On the positive side, the price is in line with what well-heeled enthusiasts will pay. And enthusiast followers of cameras, cars, or entertainment systems are solid brand-recommenders. If Canon hooks them and then their colleagues, it has a good chance at chipping away at Sony’s lead.
There’s also the Nikon duo. As ExtremeTech’s David Cardinal detailed last week, the Nikon Z7 and Z6 are effectively equivalents and replacements for the Nikon D850 and D750 DSLRs. They have in-body vibration reduction, work with Nikon’s in-lens vibration reduction, have a new lens mount (Z-mount), and there are adapters for existing Nikon F-mount lenses. It uses a single XQD card slot that is great for high-speed video but not widely used outside the Nikon world. The Z7, shipping Sept. 27, is $ 3,400 for the camera body or $ 4,000 with a Z-mount 24-70mm f/4 lens. The Z6 ships in November, $ 2,000 for the body, $ 2,600 for the lens.
Pre-orders for the Canon EOS R start as early as Sept. 12 at some major retailers.
People can be terrible, and that goes double when they can hide behind the anonymity afforded by an online game. Trolling can ruin the experience for people who just want to have fun, but Bethesda is looking to combat the trolls in the upcoming Fallout 76. This online post-apocalyptic survival game will encourage the community to clean up its own messes by turning trolls into targets.
Fallout 76 is the first game in the Fallout series to played entirely online with other people. Set in the hills of West Virginia, Fallout 76 follows your character’s efforts to rebuild the world 25 years after the nuclear war that destroyed civilization. There won’t be any NPCs in this game — everyone you encounter will be a real person someplace on Earth. You can play alone or with a small group of friends, but there will be a lot of people playing in the same world as you. Some of those people might be jerks, too.
Bethesda says there will be penalties for attacking another player unprovoked, but not from Bethesda itself. If you kill a player who wasn’t looking for a fight, you’ll be marked with a bounty. The reward (in Nuka Cola Caps, of course) comes from the aggressor’s balance, weighted by level and how much havoc they’ve caused. Someone who goes around blowing up other players will eventually accumulate sizeable bounties that make them prime targets.
The map will show other players where troublemakers are hanging out so they can steer clear or go hunting for the bounty. There’s also a revenge bonus, which doubles the bounty if you take out a player who previously killed you without provocation. When you die in combat, Bethesda says you won’t lose your core gear like armor and weapons, which should make the occasional griefing less aggravating.
None of this applies until you hit level five, which is when PvP mode is available. If you want to avoid the whole bounty thing, you can activate pacifist mode. This prevents your weapons from damaging other players, so you don’t accidentally end up with a bounty on your head. You can also block players who are undeterred by the bounty system and just want to keep shooting you.
Bethesda plans to launch Fallout 76 in November, but it won’t be on Steam. You’ll only be able to get the PC version direct from Bethesda. It will also launch on PS4 and Xbox One.
The Israeli military on Thursday said it attacked "dozens" of Iranian targets in neighbouring Syria in response to an Iranian rocket barrage on Israeli positions in the Golan Heights, in the most serious military confrontation between the two bitter enemies to date.
Israel said the targets included weapons storage, logistics sites and intelligence centres used by elite Iranian forces in Syria. It also said it destroyed several Syrian air-defence systems after coming under heavy fire. It said none of its warplanes was hit.
The blistering Israeli assault was by far the most intensive Israeli action in neighbouring Syria since the civil war broke out there in 2011. Israel has largely tried to stay on the sidelines, but has previously acknowledged carrying out over 100 airstrikes over the past seven years, most believed to be aimed at Iranian weapons shipments bound for the Hezbollah militant group.
But with the civil war appearing to wind down, and Iranian forces looking to establish a foothold on Israel's doorstep, Israel has stepped up its response. Speaking at the Herzliya Conference, an annual security gathering north of Tel Aviv, Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman said Israel would respond fiercely to any further Iranian actions.
Israeli Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman said Israel struck "almost all" the Iranian infrastructure in Syria.(Nir Elias/Reuters)
"We will not let Iran turn Syria into a forward base against Israel. This is the policy, a very, very clear policy, and we're acting according to this policy," he said. "We, of course, struck almost all the Iranian infrastructure in Syria, and they need to remember this arrogance of theirs. If we get rain, they'll get a flood. I hope that we ended this chapter and that everyone understood."
Iranian state television broke its silence over the Israeli airstrikes late Thursday morning, the start of the Iranian weekend. A presenter announced the Israeli strikes, sourcing the information to Syria's state-run SANA news agency. The broadcaster also described the Israeli attack as "unprecedented" since the 1967 Mideast war.
There was no immediate word on Iranian casualties. Syria's capital, Damascus, shook with sounds of explosions just before dawn, and firing by Syrian air defenses over the city was heard throughout the night. Syria's state news agency SANA quoted a Syrian military official as saying Israeli missiles hit air defense positions, radar stations and a weapons warehouse, but claiming most incoming rockets were intercepted. Syrian activists said the onslaught lasted more than five hours.
Israeli troops on 'very high alert'
In recent months, Israel has warned that it will not accept a permanent Iranian military presence in Syria. Iran has accused Israel of carrying out a series of deadly strikes on Iranian military positions in Syria in recent weeks, and had vowed retaliation. Iran has sent thousands of troops to back Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, and Israel fears that as the fighting nears an end, Iran and tens of thousands of Shia militiamen will turn their focus to Israel.
Israeli soldiers and tanks are seen near the Israeli side of the border with Syria in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights on Wednesday.(Amir Cohen/Reuters)
Lt.-Col. Jonathan Conricus, a military spokesperson, said Israel was not looking to escalate the situation. But he said troops will continue to be on "very high alert."
"Should there be another Iranian attack, we will be prepared for it," he said.
Iran fires at Golan Heights, Israel says
Iran's ability to hit back could be limited. Its resources in Syria pale in comparison to the high-tech Israeli military. Iran also could be wary of military entanglement at a time when it is trying to salvage the international nuclear deal.
Earlier Thursday, Israel said Iran's Al Quds force fired 20 rockets at Israeli front-line military positions in the Golan Heights. Conricus said four of the rockets were intercepted, while the others fell short of their targets. The incoming attack set off air raid sirens in the Israeli-controlled Golan, which was captured from Syria in the 1967 Mideast war.
Syria's state media said Syrian air defences intercepted "hostile Israeli missiles" early Thursday that were fired over southwestern Damascus. Hours later, state-run Al-Ikhbariya TV broadcast a live feed of Syrian air defences firing into the sky above the capital, and loud explosions and air defence firing were heard through the night.
CBC's Margaret Evans reports from Yarmouk, accompanied by Syrian government representatives1:22
Syrian activists reported Israeli airstrikes hitting targets near Damascus. One video posted online showed a large explosion and shrapnel flying in the air. Residents reported loud sounds that rocked their buildings. It was not immediately clear what was hit.
Al-Ikhbariya TV said Israel also targeted military posts in southern Suweida province, including an air base, and struck near Homs in central Syria. The state TV station said the attacks were foiled.
Iranian officials offered no immediate comment on Israel's claim about the missile fire.
Syrian media earlier said the hostilities began with Israeli fire at Syrian positions in southern Syria from across the border. Pro-government media said Syrian missiles were then fired at Israeli forces. One TV station, Beirut-based Al-Mayadeen, said at least 50 missiles were fired from Syria at Israeli forces in the Golan Heights. Al-Ikhbariya TV said missiles targeted 10 Israeli positions.
Syrian media said it was the first time in years that Syrians had fired at Israeli forces in the Golan Heights.
Late Tuesday, Syrian state media said Israel struck a military outpost near the capital of Damascus. The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the missiles targeted depots and rocket launchers that likely belonged to Iran's elite Revolutionary Guard, killing at least 15 people, eight of them Iranians.
Last month, an attack on Syria's T4 air base in Homs province killed seven Iranian military personnel. On April 30, Israel was said to have struck government outposts in northern Syria, killing more than a dozen pro-government fighters, many of them Iranians.
Israel considers Iran to be its most bitter enemy, citing Iran's hostile rhetoric, support for anti-Israel militant groups and development of long-range missiles. U.S. President Donald Trump's withdrawal from the international nuclear agreement with Iran, with strong support from Israel, has further raised tensions.
Israel and Iran have appeared to be on a collision course for months.
In February, Israel shot down what it said was an armed Iranian drone that entered Israeli airspace. Israel responded by attacking anti-aircraft positions in Syria, but an Israeli warplane was shot down during the battle.
Missile fire is seen over Daraa, Syria, on Thursday. (Alaa al-Faqir/Reuters)
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu travelled to Moscow on Wednesday to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin and discuss military co-ordination in Syria.
Russia has also sent forces to Syria to back Assad. But Israel and Russia have maintained close communications to prevent their air forces from coming into conflict.
Bomb shelters open
Together with Putin, Netanyahu toured a parade celebrating the anniversary of the World War II victory over the Nazis and then met the Russian president at the Kremlin for consultations.
After 10 hours together, Netanyahu said he conveyed Israel's obligation to defend itself against Iranian aggression.
Accompanied by the Syrian government, reporter Margaret Evans takes us inside the refugee camp of Yarmouk, just south of central Damascus, where the Syrian army has nearly regained control.5:38
"I think that matters were presented in a direct and forthright manner, and this is important. These matters are very important to Israel's security at all times and especially at this time," he said.
A study out of the University of Calgary found 1.3 million Canadians could benefit if physicians switched to a lower blood pressure target when treating patients.
Traditionally, the target systolic blood pressure for patients over 50 at risk of heart complications was 140 — meaning that anyone above that number should receive treatment, usually medication, with the intention of lowering their blood pressure to a safer level.
The systolic number measures how much pressure blood exerts on the walls of arteries every time the heart beats.
In 2016, Hypertension Canada changed its guidelines to recommend that number be lowered to 120, following a landmark U.S. study — the Systolic Blood Pressure Intervention Trial (SPRINT) — that found that lowering the systolic target number could reduce deaths by 27 per cent among adults at a high risk of heart disease but without diabetes, stroke or heart failure.
That’s 100,000 fewer deaths per year.
A study, released by the Canadian Journal of Cardiology on Friday, found that 1.3 million Canadians would be impacted by the guideline, and 14 per cent of those (182,600 people) would not have been previously considered to have hypertension.
Of the four million Canadians over 50 who are already receiving treatment, nearly 19 per cent, or 754,400 people, could benefit from increased treatment to lower their blood pressure.
Leading cause of death
“High blood pressure is recognized to be the leading risk factor for heart disease, and heart disease is the leading cause of death in Canada,” said the study’s author, Dr. Alex Leung, who is an endocrinologist with Alberta Health Services and an assistant professor at the University of Calgary.
“This actually has very large implications that have many downstream effects,” said Leung, adding that it doesn’t only affect clinical outcomes for patients, but health-care policy at large and resource utilization in the health-care system.
“That will perhaps also lead to more testing, more health care expenditures for that reason. In terms of benefits, we believe it will reduce the rates of heart disease and death as well.”
Guidelines can take years to be adopted
Leung said that while the guidelines were changed in 2016, it can take years for those suggestions to be adopted into practice by doctors and other frontline health-care workers.
“We’re looking at about 450,000 health-care professionals that need to learn a new way to treat blood pressure. So it does take some time and it takes a concerted and persistent effort,” said Hypertension Canada CEO Angelique Berg.
She said she hopes the new study increases knowledge and awareness of the benefits of lower blood pressure.
“Studies like this are highly beneficial, it helps inform the work that we’re doing. It is incredibly far-reaching and really encouraging,” she said.
May is Measurement Month, a global initiative by hypertension agencies that encourages people to test, and if necessary treat, their blood pressure.
Leung is encouraging people to speak to their doctors as to whether a lower blood pressure target might be a goal for them.
“This recommendation should be taken as a broad recommendation for everyone,” he said.
About a month ago, Kyle Bennett at HardOCP broke a story on Nvidia’s GeForce Partner Program (GPP), alleging that Nvidia is using the program to systemically disadvantage AMD GPUs. According to Bennett, all companies that wish to be part of GPP must have its “Gaming Brand Aligned Exclusively With GeForce.” The controversy has been simmering quietly in the background for about a month, but recent GPU launches from Asus may indicate the rumors about GPP’s restrictions are true.
Here’s how HardOCP described the problem last month. The Asus example below was hypothetical at the time it was written; it may not be so hypothetical after today:
If Asus is an Nvidia GPP partner, and it wants to continue to use Nvidia GPUs in its ROG [Republic of Gamers] branded video cards, computers, and laptops, it can no longer sell any other company’s GPUs in ROG products. So if Asus want to keep building Nvidia-based ROG video cards, it can no longer sell AMD-based ROG video cards, and be a GPP partner.
Nvidia will tell you that it is 100 percent up to its partner company to be part of GPP, and from the documents I have read, if it chooses not to be part of GPP, it will lose the benefits of GPP, which include: high-effort engineering engagements, early tech engagement, launch partner status, game bundling, sales rebate programs, social media and PR support, marketing reports, and marketing development funds (MDF). [The latter] is likely the standout in that list of lost benefits if the company is not a GPP partner.
As you might recall, we have seen onerous terms such as those contained in GPP to have many similarities to Intel’s once monopolistic business practices (versus AMD) in withholding MDF to partners. The results of that situation were huge multi-billion dollar fines for Intel. GPP has some striking similarities.
What is disturbing is that we have been told that if a company does not participate in GPP, those companies feel as if Nvidia would hold back allocation of GPUs from their inventories. From all we have talked to, the issue of not allocating GPU inventories to non-GPP partners have not been spelled out contractually, but is rather done on a wink and a nod.
The program doesn’t prevent Asus or another AIB (add-in board partner) from building an AMD GPU, but it does prevent Asus from building an AMD GPU under its premium gaming brands. If these allegations are accurate, the restrictions Nvidia is levying aren’t as draconian as Intel’s marketing rebates, which placed hard limits on the amount of AMD hardware an OEM could ship in desktop and mobile. Instead, it apparently means AIBs have to either launch a new, AMD-specific brand or ship AMD GPUs under a generic name. But this also represents a loss of profit for the AIB; it takes time to build a high-end gaming brand, and cards marketed under said brands tend to sell for higher prices than their generic counterparts.
Fast forward to today. Asus is launching a new line of Radeon partner cards under the AREZ brand. As PCWorld notes, these GPUs are all debuting under a new name. They look like ROG-branded parts with ROG-style coolers, but the only AMD GPUs launched under ROG are the RX 580 and earlier GPUs. And the AIB companies are anything but interested in talking about the GeForce Partner Program. PCWorld’s contacts have been silent on the topic. So are ours. But Asus used links like this to sell ROG-branded Vega GPUs. Where are those parts when you click on the ROG lineup now? Gone. ROG, now, is NV-only.
AMD’s blog post announcing the new GPUs isn’t pulling any punches, either. The company has pledged to reignite (its word) freedom of choice in the gaming market, including, “The freedom to tell others in the industry that they won’t be boxed in to choosing proprietary solutions that come bundled with ‘gamer taxes’ just to enjoy great experiences they should rightfully have access to. The freedom to support a brand that actively works to advance the art and science of PC gaming while expanding its reach.”
Elsewhere in the post, AMD refers to working with its AIB partners with “No anti-gamer/anti-competitive strings attached.”
There’s other evidence of strategic realignments as well. According to the Wayback Machine, MSI used to sell RX 580s with labels like RX 570 Gaming X, as shown in the image below. Visit MSI’s webpage today, and the AMD GPUs are now labeled “Armor.” The “Gaming X” label is now reserved entirely for Nvidia. The old RX 580 Gaming X page is still live — but the site no longer links to it or shows those cards as part of its AMD lineup. MSI has used the Armor brand for several years, but it used to launch AMD cards under the Gaming X brand. It did so last year. Now those cards are gone.
Gigabyte appears to have taken a similar step with its recent marketing, although not to the same degree. While it still sells Aorus AMD GPUs, its Aorus Gaming Box external GPU chassis is only available under that brand name in an Nvidia flavor. If you want the AMD flavor, you can buy it — but sans Aorus branding.
HardOCP openly admits that AMD brought them this story in the first place, but just because a company alerts you to a story doesn’t mean the story isn’t true. A month ago, HardOCP alleged that Nvidia had kicked off a marketing campaign that required AIB’s to push AMD GPUs out of their premium brands in order to receive various benefits, including marketing dollars and GPU allocation. Today, we see evidence that more than one company has either launched a new AMD-specific brand (Asus), removed AMD from its top-brand gaming products (Asus, MSI), or is choosing to sell an identical product without its top-end branding, where the only difference is the presence of an AMD GPU as opposed to an Nvidia card (Gigabyte).
This evidence doesn’t automatically confirm HardOCP’s story is accurate, but it suggests that such strategic “realignments” are indeed taking place across multiple companies at more or less the same time. Given that companies don’t normally launch all-new brands with no reason given, and the fact that nobody seems to want to talk about the GPP in the first place, the evidence thus far supports HardOCP’s story, at least in broad strokes. And while some customers will scoff that this represents a meaningful restriction, this represents an area of disconnect between how companies think about branding and how consumers tend to think about it. Smart companies take brands very seriously. By conspicuously linking the top gaming brands from various AIBs to Nvidia and Nvidia alone, Team Green would win a major marketing coup — not by literally telling AIBs they can’t sell AMD GPUs, but by ensuring that the top marketing spots from a given partner company are always held by GeForce.
Nvidia has written a brief blog post about the GPP. It does not go into much depth about the program and mostly reiterates points we’ve covered. It notes that the program isn’t exclusive (no one says it is), that partners can join and leave at any time (no one says they can’t), and that there’s no commitment to make any monetary payments or product discounts for being part of the program (no one said there were).