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Recent News

Regional News • Americas • United States
New monolith sighted on top of mountain in California, San Luis Obispo County
New  monolith sighted on top of mountain in California,  San Luis Obispo County
Credit: Courtesy of Twitter

After a monolith structure had been spotted in Utah and subsequently been removed by an unknown party, another mysterious metal monolith has appeared in the US. Local media has reported that the monolith stands atop a mountain in California and that unlike its Utah sibling, the monolith in California wasn't strongly attached to the ground and looked like it could be easily knocked over.

Regional News • Europe
Italy bans internal travel over Christmas; keeps ski resorts closed until 7 January
Italy bans internal travel over Christmas; keeps ski resorts closed until 7 January
Credit: unsplash/Gabriella Clare Marino

On Thursday night, Prime MinisterGiuseppe Conte signed a new decree banning travel between regions in Italy from December 20 to January 6 and travel between municipalities between December 25 and December 26 to discourage large private gatherings. The government also resisted pressure from leaders of Alpine regions and will keep ski resorts closed until 7 January.

Regional News • Asia
Hong Kong democracy movement media entrepreneur Lai detained until trial

Shortly after the verdict against Joshua Wong and two of his comrades-in-arms the media entrepreneur Jimmy Lai, another prominent supporter of the Hong Kong democracy movement has been sent to prison. He is accused of fraud and is now expected to remain in detention pending a planned court hearing in April.

Arts, Entertainment, Culture • TV & Movies
Warner Bros. will debut every 2021 movie on HBO Max at the same time they hit theatres
Warner Bros. will debut every 2021 movie on HBO Max at the same time they hit theatres
Credit: Warner Bros.

On Thursday, Warner Bros. announced that it would release all of its 2021 movies on HBO Max at the same time they hit theatres. New releases will be available to stream on HBO Max for a month and then will continue theatrically in the U.S. and international territories.

Movies that are scheduled to launch in 2021 include Denzel Washington’s The Little Things, Dune, Godzilla vs. Kong, Mortal Kombat, and Matrix 4.

Regional News • Americas • United States
The U.S. National Labor Relations Board alleges that Google illegally spied on workers before firing them
The U.S. National Labor Relations Board alleges that Google illegally spied on workers before firing them
Credit: Mitchell Luo

According to a complaint to be filed by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) Tuesday, Google violated US labor laws by spying on workers who were organizing employee protests, then firing two of them.

Transportation • Air Transportation & Traffic, Flying
Ryanair to close base in Vienna
Ryanair to close base in Vienna
Credit: unsplash/Portuguese Gravity

British budget airline Ryanair will close its Vienna, Austria, base by the end of 2020, the Austrian national public service broadcaster ORF reports. Vienna-based employees are being told they can either relocate to a different location or lose their job.

Regional News • Americas • United States
Mike Pompeo is hosting a 900-person indoor Christmas party at the State Department amid Covid-19 surge
Mike Pompeo is hosting a 900-person indoor Christmas party at the State Department amid Covid-19 surge
Credit: U.S. Department of State from United States, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has invited over 900 people to his "Diplomacy at Home for the Holidays" event at the State Department's Benjamin Franklin Room, the Washington Post reports. The event is set to take place on December 15 and has come under scrutiny by various health officials.

Ian Lipkin, director of the Center for Infection and Immunity at Columbia University, said he was "flabbergasted" and warns that this event could repeat "what we saw in the White House Rose Garden following the confirmation of Amy Coney Barrett."

Regional News • Americas • United States
Amazon reportedly has Pinkerton agents surveilling workers who try to unionize
Amazon fulfilment centre in Fife, Scotland
Amazon fulfilment centre in Fife, Scotland Credit: Scottish Government (Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 2.0)

Dozens of leaked documents from Amazon’s Global Security Operations Center reveal the company’s reliance on Pinkerton operatives to spy on warehouse workers and the extensive monitoring of labour unions, environmental activists, and other social movements.

"The documents say Pinkerton operatives were inserted into an Amazon warehouse in Wroclaw, Poland, to investigate an allegation that warehouse workers were circumventing sort of the application process for applying to warehouse jobs, so I would say that it goes directly against what Amazon is saying. They indeed, at least in this one instance we know, if these documents are correct, that Amazon has used Pinkertons explicitly to spy on warehouse workers.", said Lauren Gurley of Motherboard magazine.

Regional News • Americas • United States
US reports 100,000 Covid-19 hospitalisations and over 200,000 new cases
US reports 100,000 Covid-19 hospitalisations and over 200,000 new cases
Credit: The National GuardStaff Sgt. Caleb Vance/West Virginia National Guard, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

The United States reported over 200,000 new Covid-19 cases nationwide on Wednesday and logged its highest daily death count with 3,157 fatalities. The number of people admitted to the hospital has surpassed 100,000 for the first time since the start of the pandemic.

Regional News • Europe • France
Ex-president Giscard d'Estaing dies at 94 of Coronavirus complications
European Council in Maastricht, Giscard d'Estaing at Beek airport
European Council in Maastricht, Giscard d'Estaing at Beek airport Credit: Rob Croes / Anefo, via Wikimedia Commons (Creative Commons CC0 Waiver)

Valéry Giscard d'Estaing, president of France from 1974 to 1981, has died at the age of 94 of Coronavirus complications. He died surrounded by his family in his home in central France. Giscard d'Estaing was pro-Europe and liberalised laws on divorce, abortion and contraception during his tenure.

President Emmanuel Macron praised Giscard d'Estaing for transforming France and its direction: "A servant of the state, a politician of progress and freedom, his death has plunged the French nation into mourning."

Regional News • Americas • United States
Bush, Clinton, Obama volunteer to get Covid-19 vaccine on camera to prove it's safe
Bush, Clinton, Obama volunteer to get Covid-19 vaccine on camera to prove it's safe
Credit: Obama: Official White House Photo by Pete Souza; Bush: White house photo by Eric Draper; Bob McNeely, The White House[1] – Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Former U.S. presidents George W. Bush, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama have stated they plan to get the Covid-19 vaccine on camera to prove its safety.

"A few weeks ago President Bush asked me to let Dr. Fauci and Dr. Birx know that, when the time is right, he wants to do what he can to help encourage his fellow citizens to get vaccinated," so Freddy Ford, Bush's chief of staff.

Clinton's press secretary said Wednesday that "President Clinton will definitely take a vaccine as soon as available to him, based on the priorities determined by public health officials" and that he would do it "in a public setting if it will help urge all Americans to do the same."

On Thursday, Obama told SiriusXM host Joe Madison during an interview that he trusted Anthony Faucy "completely". "I promise you that when it's been made for people who are less at risk, I will be taking it," so Obama, adding that he "may end up taking it on TV or having it filmed, just so that people know that I trust this science, and what I don't trust is getting Covid."

Regional News • Americas • United States
U.S. states are investigating Facebook Inc for possible antitrust violations and plan to sue it next week
U.S. states are investigating Facebook Inc for possible antitrust violations and plan to sue it next week
Credit: unsplash.com / Greg Bulla

A group of U.S. states led by New York is investigating Facebook Inc for possible antitrust violations and plans to file a lawsuit against the social media giant next week, four sources familiar with the matter said on Wednesday.

Regional News • Americas • Brazil
Brazil: Another Ministry of Health leak exposes personal data of over 200 million people
Brazil: Another Ministry of Health leak exposes personal data of over 200 million people
Credit: Christiaan Colen (Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 2.0)

A new security breach in the Ministry of Health's covid-19 notification system left personal data of over 200 million Brazilians exposed on the internet for at least six months. It was not only patients diagnosed with Covid-19 who had their privacy violated, as occurred in another exposure case reported last week. This time, the personal information of any Brazilian registered with SUS or beneficiary of a health plan was open for consultation.

"Each time you stop and go through the Ministry of Health's information security and data management policy, you find a more serious vulnerability. At the time of our complaint, we asked for an audit and received no response. Clearly, they have not taken and are not yet taking the treatment of data from millions of Brazilians seriously," says Fernanda Campagnucci, executive director of the NGO Open Knowledge Brasil (OKBR).

Regional News • Asia
Hong Kong pro-democracy activist Joshua Wong sentenced to prison
Hong Kong pro-democracy activist Joshua Wong sentenced to prison
Credit: Honcques Laus / via Wikimedia Commons (Creative Commons CC0 Waiver)

Joshua Wong has been sentenced to thirteen and a half months in prison, and the co-defendants Agnes Chow and Ivan Lam have been sentenced to ten and seven months in prison, respectively. This was decided by a court in Hong Kong's Kowloon district. The prosecution had accused the three of having participated in an unauthorized demonstration last year against the growing influence of the Chinese leadership in Hong Kong.

Diversity & Inclusion
Discriminated gay soldiers in Germany to be rehabilitated and compensated

Until the year 2000, soldiers of the German armed forces were discriminated against because of their homosexuality. The Cabinet has decided to rehabilitate the soldiers involved. Convictions of the military courts are to be overturned and compensation paid, confirmed the federal government on Wednesday the 25th.

Health
Covid-19 may have been in US weeks earlier than initially thought, study finds
Covid-19 may have been in US weeks earlier than initially thought, study finds
Credit: unsplash/Louis Reed

Covid-19 may have been present in the United States weeks earlier than scientists and public health officials previously thought and before the first cases were publicly reported in China, a new study suggests.

The first Covid-19 case was officially confirmed on January 21 in the state of Washington, a patient who recently had returned from Wuhan. Scientists from the US CDC have published their research in the peer-reviewed medical journal 'Clinical Infectious Diseases, suggesting that "SARS-CoV-2 infections may have been present in the U.S. in December 2019, earlier than previously recognized." Their conclusion was based off routine blood samples collected by the Red Cross between December 13 and January 17, 2019, from residents of nine states.

Technology • Internet & Web
Apple releases App Store Best of 2020 winners
The App Store Best of 2020 winners recognizes 15 apps and games notable for their positive cultural impact, helpfulness, and importance.
The App Store Best of 2020 winners recognizes 15 apps and games notable for their positive cultural impact, helpfulness, and importance. Credit: Courtesy of Apple Newsroom

Apple has released its annual list of the best apps and games of 2020 on Wednesday, "recognizing 15 apps and games that proved to be essential for making life easier, healthier, and more connected this year."

Home exercise app 'Wakeout!' won iPhone App of the Year, while Zoom won iPad App of the Year and 'Disney+' was named Apple TV App of the Year. Genshin Impact,” “Legends of Runeterra,” “Disco Elysium,” “Dandara Trials of Fear,” and Apple Arcade’s “Sneaky Sasquatch” were crowned as best games of the year.

“This year, more than ever before, some of our most creative and connected moments happened in apps. This was thanks to the amazing work of developers who introduced fresh, helpful app experiences throughout the year,” so Apple Fellow Phil Schiller.

Regional News • Oceania
One new COVID-19 case in Sydney after state 26 days virus-free
One new COVID-19 case in Sydney after state 26 days virus-free
Credit: unsplash.com / Road Trip with Raj

A hotel worker in Sydney has tested positive for coronavirus. She was employed by two hotels in Darling Harbour, one of which is a quarantine hotel for returned international travellers.

It is the first case of COVID-19 in the state for 26 days.

New South Wales Health is asking anyone who worked at the hotels on these dates to get tested and self-isolate.

It is unclear how other states will respond to the announcement, with New South Wales open to all states besides Western Australia, which was due to ease restrictions on the 8th of December.

Technology • Internet & Web
After being criticized for releasing a "productivity score", Microsoft apologizes
Productivity Score screenshot
Productivity Score screenshot Credit: Microsoft

Microsoft has been criticised and has now apologised, for enabling "workplace surveillance" after privacy campaigners warned that the company’s “productivity score”, a feature that allows managers to use Microsoft 365 to track their employees’ activity at an individual level.

The company says it will now make changes to the service, which lets IT administrators “help their people get the most” from its products, in order to limit the amount of information about individual employees that is shared with managers.

Health
Interactive tool from MIT created to evaluate indoor safety with Covid-19
Screenshot of the tool
Screenshot of the tool

MIT researchers created a model and an interactive simulation tool to provide guidelines on indoor safety during the pandemic. Safety factors include the space dimensions, ventilation, mask details and people behaviours. Assuming one person in the room has COVID-19, the tool allows you to tweak the variables in order to get recommendations.