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Middle East mythbusters battle virus ‘infodemic’

Baghdad (AFP) – Browse through Arabic-language social media pages and you could walk away thinking COVID-19 is an American hoax, isn’t deadly and can be swiftly cured with a garlic clove.

Arabic pages on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are brimming with fake news stories on the novel coronavirus, from benign inaccuracies to full-throated conspiracy theories.

As authorities work to stem the spread of the novel coronavirus, activists across the Middle East are stepping up to combat the Arabic “infodemic” they say is as dangerous as the infection itself.

“We correct the news and save lives,” said Baher Jassem, an Iraqi activist from the Tech 4 Peace collective, which switched from its four-year campaign against fake political and economic news to setting the record straight on COVID-19.

Every few hours, the collective’s Facebook, Instagram and Twitter pages publish screenshots of fabricated news stories about the virus, from claims about new remedies

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As the Virus Deepens Financial Trouble, Colleges Turn to Layoffs

Dorms on East Green at Ohio University in Athens, Ohio, June 21, 2020. (Maddie McGarvey/The New York Times)
Dorms on East Green at Ohio University in Athens, Ohio, June 21, 2020. (Maddie McGarvey/The New York Times)

LAKEWOOD, Ohio — Hammered by mounting coronavirus costs and anticipating lost revenue from international students, fall sports and state budgets gutted by the pandemic, colleges and universities nationwide have begun eyeing what until now has been seen as a last resort — thinning the ranks of their faculty.

The University of Akron this week became one of the first schools in the country to make deep cuts in the number of full-time professors on its staff, with the board of trustees voting Wednesday to lay off about a fifth of the university’s unionized workforce to balance its budget, including nearly 100 faculty members.

Other universities have also trimmed teaching positions, although most have limited themselves to those without tenure. This month, the University of Texas at San Antonio laid off 69 instructors,

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California unemployment falls, but virus surge likely to reverse job gains

California added 558,200 jobs from mid-May to mid-June and state unemployment fell from 16.4% to 14.9% — but don’t start celebrating yet. The numbers don’t account for the resurgence of COVID-19 cases throughout the U.S. and in California in the last half of June or the retreat in plans to reopen the economy. The numbers were released Friday morning by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, which slightly revised the earlier jobless figure from 16.3% to 16.4%.

Leisure and hospitality added the most jobs, at 292,500, benefiting from statewide reopenings of bars and dine-in restaurants, according to the California Employment Development Department. As of mid-June, that sector had regained more than a third of job losses from March and April. Construction jobs had the highest percentage gain, clawing back 68% of jobs lost during the pandemic. Government suffered the largest decline in jobs, at 36,300.

But the dial-back is bound

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The Inventor of the Emoticon Tells All: ‘I’ve Created a Virus’

Gene J. Puskar/AP
Gene J. Puskar/AP

In September of 1982, a handful of researchers at Carnegie Mellon University using the ARPANET, the proto-internet network established by the Department of Defense that included several forum-like bulletin boards, got into a multi-day discussion about the behavior of elevators in free-fall. It involved several physics questions. What would happen if someone left a lit candle in there? A small puddle of mercury? A helium balloon? Let’s say several two-pound pigeons flew the coop straight into the cable-cut elevator—would they fly around in panic? If they sucked up the helium from the balloon, would their squawks reach whistle range?

The answers flitted between sincerity and sarcasm, theoretical physics and the empirical fact that every poster shared the same university building. “Because of a recent physics experiment, the leftmost elevator has been contaminated with mercury,” one researcher joked. “There is also some slight fire damage.” For some, the

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Trump’s grand GOP convention plans shrink as virus surges

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump’s plans for a grand convention keep shrinking.

The Republican National Committee announced Thursday that it is sharply restricting attendance on three of the four nights of its convention in Jacksonville, Florida, next month.

As the GOP looks for ways to move forward while coronavirus cases are spiking in the state, party leader Ronna McDaniel said in a letter to RNC members that only the roughly 2,500 regular delegates to the convention would be permitted to attend the first three nights. Delegates, their guests and alternate delegates would be allowed for the final night, Aug. 27, when Trump is set to deliver his acceptance speech.

The GOP already was forced to move most of the convention from Charlotte, North Carolina, after local officials ruled out a full-capacity crowd during the pandemic.

“When we made these changes, we had hoped to be able to plan a

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Virus worries and FOMO drive options bets on surging tech giants

By April Joyner

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Options investors are ramping up bets on some of this year’s biggest winners, including Amazon.com Inc, Netflix Inc and Tesla Inc, even as they turn cautious on the wider market amid a resurgent U.S. coronavirus outbreak.

Investors are betting that tech-related stocks will remain comparatively resilient to the coronavirus-fueled economic disruptions that have battered sectors such as retail and travel, despite growing concerns about stretched valuations following steep rallies.

Analysts also see another factor driving the momentum stocks: fear of missing out, or FOMO.

The rocket-like rise of such stocks has driven year-to-date gains for the S&P 500 technology, consumer discretionary and communication services sectors, though the broader S&P 500 benchmark index remains negative for the year. Amazon is a component of the consumer discretionary index, and Netflix is a component of the communication services index.

“The flight to safety is in tech,”

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2020 Election Costs Soar In Prep For Virus Voting

WASHINGTON, DC — The demand for mail-in ballots is surging. Election workers need training. And polling booths might have to be outfitted with protective shields because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

As officials prepare for the Nov. 3 election, one certainty is clear: It’s coming with a big price tag.
“Election officials don’t have nearly the resources to make the preparations and changes they need to make to run an election in a pandemic,” said Wendy Weiser, head of the Brennan Center for Justice’s democracy program. “We are seeing this all over the place.”

The pandemic has sent state and local officials scrambling to prepare for an election like few others, an extraordinary endeavor during a presidential contest, as virus cases rise across much of the U.S.

COVID-19-related worries are bringing demands for steps to make sure elections just four months away are safe. But long-promised federal aid to help cash-starved

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Election costs soar in prep for virus voting

WASHINGTON (AP) — The demand for mail-in ballots is surging. Election workers need training. And polling booths might have to be outfitted with protective shields during the COVID-19 pandemic.

As officials prepare for the Nov. 3 election, one certainty is clear: It’s coming with a big price tag.

“Election officials don’t have nearly the resources to make the preparations and changes they need to make to run an election in a pandemic,” said Wendy Weiser, head of the democracy program at the Brennan Center for Justice. “We are seeing this all over the place.”

The pandemic has sent state and local officials scrambling to prepare for an election like few others, an extraordinary endeavor during a presidential contest, as virus cases continue to rise across much of the U.S.

COVID-related worries are bringing demands for steps to make sure elections that are just four months away are safe. But long-promised

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Virus spread, not politics should guide schools, doctors say

As the Trump administration pushes full steam ahead to force schools to resume in-person education, public health experts warn that a one-size-fits-all reopening could drive infection and death rates even higher.

They’re urging a more cautious approach, which many local governments and school districts are already pursuing.

There are too many uncertainties and variables, they say, for back-to-school to be back-to-normal.

Where is the virus spreading rapidly? Do students live with aged grandparents? Do teachers have high-risk health conditions that would make online teaching safest? Do infected children easily spread COVID-19 to each other and to adults?

Regarding the latter, some evidence suggests they don’t, but a big government study aims to find better proof. Results won’t be available before the fall, and some schools are slated to reopen in just a few weeks.

“These are complicated issues. You can’t just charge straight ahead,” Dr. Tom Frieden, former director of

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Virus Spurs Emerging Market Investors to Seek Returns in ESG

(Bloomberg) — Emerging-market investors may have identified the assets that offer sustainable post-pandemic returns. Now they just need to find more of it.

The worst crisis since World War II is prompting some fund managers to rethink their strategies in a world with $13.7 trillion of sub-zero yielding debt and an increasing view that a V-shaped recovery is unlikely. Seeking opportunities in ESG, investments in countries and companies that are improving environmental, social and governance standards, are becoming crucial more than ever as investors navigate the pandemic-stoked market volatility.

“This is a crisis unlike anything we’ve seen and we cannot just go back to our old textbooks anymore that say ‘go buy the dip’,” said Thu Ha Chow, a money manager at Loomis Sayles Investment Asia Pte, who has been investing since Enron’s collapse. “The social and governance elements are going to be more important, but they can be harder

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