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What you need to know about the coronavirus right now : The Standard

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Here’s what you need to know about the coronavirus right now:

US overtakes China
There are now over half a million coronavirus cases reported across 202 countries and territories globally and the United States has overtaken China as the country with the most infections.
Of the 531,000 cases reported, over 60,000 were added in the past day, and 2,532 new deaths in 59 countries brought the total death toll to over 24,000, according to a Reuters tally at 0200 GMT on Friday.

SEE ALSO :China virus cases spike, 17 new infections reported

It has been the single most deadly day for the disease since the outbreak began, with Italy and Spain reporting over 700 deaths each. The United States, the United Kingdom, Iran and France reported over 100 fatalities each.
The United States contributed roughly one-third of newly reported cases, as testing in the country expanded, with over 17,000 cases in the past 24 hours, and 281 deaths, the highest single-day case load of any country since the outbreak began.
China, which announced plans to close its borders to foreign citizens from Saturday, reported 5 deaths and 55 cases, and said that all but two of the new cases were from outside the country.

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Cases in South and Central America surpassed 10,000 as of Thursday, with major outbreaks in Brazil, Chile and Ecuador, which are each reporting over a thousand cases.
Countries which experienced outbreaks in February or earlier are reporting higher recovery rates.

SEE ALSO :China confirms virus spreading between humans

Record US jobless claims
The number of Americans filing claims for unemployment benefits surged to a record 3.28 million last week, in the clearest evidence yet of the coronavirus’ devastating impact on the economy.
Strict measures to contain the coronavirus pandemic have brought the country to a sudden halt, unleashing a wave of layoffs that likely ended the longest employment boom in US history.
When is a bull not a bull?
When it comes in the middle of a bear.

SEE ALSO :Factbox: What we know about the new coronavirus spreading in China and beyond

The Dow Jones Industrial Average’s surge of over 20% from its coronavirus-induced recent low this week, by one definition used on Wall Street, suggests a new bull market. The surge came on hopes a $2 trillion stimulus measure would flood the country with cash in a bid to counter the economic impact of the intensifying pandemic.
But that definition should be treated with a large piece of caution. The very definition of bull market is debatable, and given the market’s volatility on news about the pandemic, some said that calling the move upwards a “bull market” was tantamount to missing the forest for the trees.
Coronavirus can get you out of jail or land you in it
While countries like Afghanistan and Canada are releasing inmates to prevent the spread of the virus in the tight confinement of prison facilities, other places are increasing punishments for flouting the rules.
Anyone claiming to have coronavirus who deliberately coughs at emergency workers’ faces being jailed for two years, Britain’s Director of Public Prosecutions said on Thursday, after recent reports of such incidents. Those responsible could face charges of common assault.

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SEE ALSO :Travelers to be screened for ‘Chinese’ coronavirus- Government

In Singapore, famous for its strict rules, anyone caught intentionally sitting less than a meter away from another person in a public place or on a fixed seat singled out not to be occupied under new, more stringent social distancing rules, can be fined up to S$10,000 ($6,990), jailed up to six months, or both.
How far is a normal bike ride?
As more countries adopt stringent lockdown policies to try to stem the spread of the virus, a debate is bubbling over what limits there should be on regular exercise.
In France, citizens have been told not to venture further than 1 km from their homes. In Israel, the guidance suggests 100 metres should be the maximum. In Britain, people are allowed to visit parks near where they live, as long as they maintain a distance of at least two meters from others.
In Belgium, a nation of cyclists, some want a limit of up to 70 km so they can get in a proper bike ride. The interior minister says that is far too much.
Soap, not guns
A deeply conservative tribal region of Pakistan is spreading an animated, Pashto-language video to warn its population about the coronavirus – and taking a shot at its gun culture in the process.
In the video protagonist Pabo “Badmash”, or Pabo the Thug, is setting out to defeat the virus. Villagers offer him a wooden bat, a pistol, a sword and even a rocket launcher.
But Pabo astounds them by refusing, saying he will defeat the enemy with his “bare hands”. He then proceeds to wash his hands with soap – and even checks to ensure he has lathered them for 20 seconds, as recommended.


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Clean cooking tied to cost and mindset

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Clean cooking tied to cost and mindset

cooking gas
Many households in East Africa cannot access clean cooking fuels, largely because of cash constraints and outdated customary behaviour. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

A huge portion of East Africa’s population cannot access clean cooking fuels, largely because of cash constraints and outdated customary behaviour.

While some households believe they lack the purchasing power to acquire cleaner technologies, mainly done through upfront payment, some communities have clung onto the belief that only traditional energy sources prepare meals well.

What most of them are not aware of is that topping up cook stoves daily with kerosene or charcoal cumulatively costs a lot more than using cooking gas, for instance. Besides, cleaner technologies have a higher calorific value, meaning more heat is generated to cook meals faster and suffer lower energy loss compared to traditional options.

Access to cleaner options is a question of affordability and mindset.

Therefore, to address the heavy reliance on dirty cooking fuels in the region, a blended approach should be pursued. Governments should roll out fiscal incentives aimed at dialing down prices of cleaner alternatives and enabling more households to afford them.

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At the same time, private investors should tap into this vast market by offering cleaner solutions with flexible repayment plans with which low-income customers are comfortable. Awareness campaigns to educate rural populations on the advantages of cleaner fuels and trigger mindset shifts are also needed to guide this transition.

Indoor air pollution amid poor ventilation is a silent death-trap inside the walls of poor households. Chronic exposure to smoke while cooking often leads to respiratory complications, exerting pressure on healthcare facilities, yet this can be avoided.

Based on World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines, “clean” fuels and technologies in the context of indoor air quality and household fuel combustion include electric cookers, liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), natural gas, biogas, solar, and ethanol-fuel stoves. On the opposite end of the spectrum are the so-called dirty fuels since they emit smoke and mostly relied upon by households in villages, peri-urban and informal settlements. The list includes charcoal, coal, crop waste, dry dung, kerosene and wood.

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In Kenya, clean cooking fuel access rate stands at a paltry 10 percent, yet this is the best performance in the region, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA).

Uganda fares worse off, with only one percent of the population having access to clean options while Tanzania’s access rate is three percent and five percent for Ethiopia.

In most of these countries, population has been growing at a fast clip, outpacing growth in the number of households gaining access to clean cooking. This has somehow slowed down the fight against energy poverty not only in East Africa but the entire Sub-Saharan Africa.

It is, therefore, encouraging to learn that the Kenyan government is reviving plans to distribute 6kg cooking gas cylinders and burners to low-income families in villages at subsidised rates.

The Mwananchi Gas Project, though hit by delays since 2018, is a commendable move meant to wean poor households from use of dirty wood fuel and paraffin by making gas equipment affordable to first-time buyers. There should be no more delays in its implementation this time around.

The International Energy Agency has grouped Kenya, Uganda, Ethiopia, Tanzania, Nigeria and DRC in the bottom 20 list of countries with lowest access to clean fuels globally. The agency indicates that 44 million Kenyans still use dirty fuels in one way or another, with this number being much higher in Tanzania (54 million) and 98 million for Ethiopia.

This grim picture calls for strategic and speedy interventions, involving public-private partnerships to turn around the fortunes, alongside support from development partners.

Already, Kenya has a funding arrangement with the World Bank to supply efficient cooking appliances powered by clean fuels to households located in marginalised areas, largely in northern Kenya and the coast.

The mass cook stove distribution drive is part of a wider programme that aims to roll out clean energy solutions to underdeveloped communities under the Kenya off-grid solar access project (K-OSAP). The project aims to support a transition from low efficiency baseline stoves to cleaner improved cooking appliances and fuels.

This is certainly a welcome approach and rollout should be done in a transparent and efficient manner.

On its part, Ethiopia is running a National Biogas Programme aimed at providing hundreds of thousands of Ethiopians with biogas digesters.

Such nationwide policies are expected to bend the curve and shrink the number of people without access, providing clean cooking solutions to around half of the region’s population by 2030. To this end, as countries commit to universal electricity access targets for their populations, the same should be the case with clean cooking fuels.

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Star power: Why celeb marketing sells

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Star power: Why celeb marketing sells

human nature
Marketing often captures the very essence of human nature. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

Watch an hour of news on your favourite television station. From CNN to Al Jazeera to NTV, you will see intermixed between news coverage various commercial advertisements trying to get you to purchase or build your awareness about their brands about everything from cooking fat to body lotion to types of drinks.

Invariably, positioned between logos, messaging and product details, often a famous face pops into the advertisement to promote the product. On television, radio, social and print media, we see or hear our well-known comedians, news presenters, singers as well as sports men and women.

But why do businesses use famous faces and voices to push their products and services? Surely the average consumer of media understands the nature of paid endorsements.

Celebrities often know little to nothing about what they are paid to advocate. Despite our conscious understanding of paid spokespeople, advertisers continue to put famous people before us.

Why? Because it works. Research by Michela Cortini, Antonella Vicenti, and Riccardo Zuffo demonstrates immense power that celebrity endorsements work. But why does logic- defying celebrity marketing work?

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Marketing often captures the very essence of human nature. We like to think of ourselves as logical, rational and ethical beings. Our pro-self-bias makes us believe that we make excellent decisions about our plans, purchases, and peers.

But marketers selling a drink or sauce in a long, tall, and thin container sell more than those selling the same drink or sauce in a short and thicker container that holds the same millilitres. Surely humans as rational beings would notice that both containers hold the same quantity. But, no. We make most decisions with our subconscious emotional primordial urges.

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Likewise, even the most holy and ethical man who loves his wife with all his heart will still buy a product with a desirable waist-to-hip ratio attractive woman on the product packaging and not realise his reason for choosing that purchase.

Stephen Colarelli and Joseph Dettmann’s seminal research highlights that our human choices in marketing behaviour accentuate primary processes in biological and social evolution critical in survival, natural selection and sexual selection.

Inasmuch, we still retain our ancient preferences for sweet, fatty, or salty food and advertisements that showcase these urges succeed in food sales even though in the modern era of excess, consumptions of these nourishments are less useful and can be harmful to our health.

Also, successful advertisements showcase wide open vistas that bring out our ancient subconscious landscape preferences for savanna-like environments where humans first emerged.

But why does the use of celebrities in advertisements yield higher consumption of the products or services by viewers?

Our brains make powerful associations by what we see or hear around us.

Ancient humans lived in small family clans of no more than 150 members. Our brains became very good at distinguishing faces and immediately classifying them into safe or dangerous and similar or dissimilar. So, faces that we see regularly through the media and films trick our minds and they get categorised into safety because our brains are engineered to survive in ancient times with viewing only a small number of faces categorised into safety rather than the modern onslaught of faces through media.

We may even see a news presenter or a television star’s face more often than our own real-life neighbours.

Then we see those same famous faces or hear those same voices alongside a particular product or service and we feel in our subconscious like we can trust that product even though our conscious logic knows that the celebrity was paid for the endorsement.

Politicians use the power of association all the time. As an example, politicians will show their competitors in advertisements with subtle background movements in the frame mimicking movements of snakes to associate their opposition with human beings’ deep innate fear of serpents.

In summary, celebrity and association marketing carry powerful effects in advertisements. Be aware of your own ancient subconscious emotional urges and avoid falling victim to irrational purchasing decisions.

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Facebook takes down white nationalist and fake antifa accounts: The Standard

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Sci & Tech
Facebook declined to comment on whether it had been in touch with law enforcement, which it typically does in cases of an imminent threat.

Facebook Inc said Tuesday it has suspended accounts associated with white nationalist groups after some advocated bringing weapons to the current wave of anti-racist protests.

Company officials also said they removed accounts falsely claiming allegiance to antifa in order to bring discredit to the anti-fascist movement.
Antifa adherents have said they focus on defending people from attacks by authorities or vigilantes, but they have been vilified by President Donald Trump who, without citing evidence, said they were instigators of anti-police violence.
Some of the removed white nationalist accounts were associated with the Proud Boys, which Facebook previously classified as a dangerous group. The others had connections to a group called the American Guard, which is now classified the same way.

SEE ALSO: China warns Britain interfering in Hong Kong will ‘backfire’

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Multiple Facebook executives described the action on condition they not be identified. They said they acted based on behavior, not the politics of any content, and that Facebook had not designated antifa as dangerous.
The company said it was looking closer at accounts discussing protests when it saw what it deemed white nationalist accounts encouraging violence.
The misleading antifa accounts were removed for “inauthentic behavior,” because they purported to be something they were not, Facebook said.
As with a false antifa tweet that Twitter Inc tied to a third white nationalist group and which was widely distributed as a screen shot, the Facebook executives said Tuesday the goal of such content is often not to win thousands of followers but to plant a single false flag that can be used to sow distrust about the target group.
Facebook declined to comment on whether it had been in touch with law enforcement, which it typically does in cases of an imminent threat.

SEE ALSO: Facebook staff walkout, Zuckerberg defends no action on Trump posts

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