US faces half a million COVID-19 deaths by end of February, study says


US President Donald Trump’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic, which has killed more than 221,000 Americans so far, has become the top election issue for him and Democratic candidate Joe Biden. Polls have shown that Americans trust Biden more than Trump to handle the crisis.

The IHME study forecast that large, populous states such as California, Texas and Florida will likely face particularly high levels of illness, deaths and demands on hospital resources.

“We expect the surge to steadily grow across different states and at the national level, and to continue to increase as we head towards high levels of daily deaths in late December and in January,” Murray said.

The modelling study, which mapped out various scenarios and their projected impact on the spread of the COVID-19 epidemic in the US, found that universal mask-wearing could have a major impact on deaths rates, potentially saving 130,000 lives.

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Current mask use in the US varies widely. While some states, like New York, set strict rules on when to wear masks, others have no requirements.

The issue has become political, in which some supporters have taken their cues from Trump, who is often seen without a mask and has repeatedly questioned their usefulness.

“Expanding mask use is one of the easy wins for the United States … and can save many lives,” Murray said.

He added that, just as right now in parts of Europe and in some local areas of high transmission in the US, many US states would need to reintroduce social distancing measures to curb the winter surge.



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CE4G’s Goulburn community solar farm raises more than half a million dollars | Goulburn Post


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Community Energy for Goulburn (CE4G) directors were excited to raise more than half a million dollars – a quarter of the sum needed – for their proposed solar farm at their first investor information meeting at the Goulburn Workers’ Club on Wednesday. Five years of hard work have paid off since CE4G began. The solar farm will be the biggest community-owned one in NSW, and the first in Australia with battery backup. Built on 2.5 hectares off Bridge Street, it is expected to start operating next July. The farm will generate 1.8 megawatts (MW), and pump 1.2 MW into the grid – enough to power 450 homes. “It’s obvious that people are looking for safe ethical investment opportunities,” CE4G president Peter Fraser said. “With the closing of coal-fired power stations just around the corner, the supply of electricity will have to be met with renewables, and the solar farm will be well positioned to meet that demand.” “Last night is the culmination of a massive amount of work, which is why we’re so thrilled at the result,” vice-president Ed Suttle said. “We all entered the meeting hoping – but if we’d been asked at 6.30, will you settle for half a million? the answer would have been a huge grinning ‘Yes!’. Having said that, we still need to raise another $1.5 million. That was a stunning start, but there’s still a way to go.” CE4G will hold a webinar on Wednesday, October 28, and a public meeting on November 4. Registration for both is at www.goulburnsolarfarm.com.au. READ ALSO: More than 150 people attended Wednesday night’s event – the city’s first public meeting since COVID-19 began. Some people bought $400 worth of shares (the minimum share price, approximately the cost of a solar panel, fully wired-up), Mr Suttle said; more than one heavy investor bought $50,000 worth of shares. “That shows enormous confidence in the scheme from the community,” Mr Suttle said. “Those of us who have worked on this for four or five years are staggeringly proud that we can at last go to the community and say the thing is viable. It’s ‘investment-safe’; it’s going to happen – invest! …” Mr Suttle said that he and his wife were not alone in purchasing shares for their children and grand-children. Conservative cash flow estimates, Mr Suttle said, indicate a return on investment of between 4 to 7 per cent each year for the first decade. At the same time, enough money will be put into a sinking fund to raise $850,000 after 10 years to purchase new panels to increase the farm’s output if technologies change. “At the moment, it would appear – with all the normal disclaimers – to be a very lucrative investment,” Mr Suttle said. “We’ve now got the weight of responsibility to make it happen, and ensure that it’s profitable, so that everyone gets the dividends we’ve promised.” READ MORE: A co-op will run the project; each investor will have a single vote, regardless of how many shares they own. This, CE4G states, will ensure all investors – no matter what their investment – have an equal say in how the project is built and managed. Nearly all the shares will be owned by regional investors; that means profits will go back to them, and stay within the community, rather than going off to a major company, Mr Suttle explained. Up to 20 per cent of the profits can be put aside each year for charitable purposes, Mr Suttle said. CE4G has negotiated below-commercial rate level lease payments for the land, which increases the profitability. Shareholders can donate part or all of their dividend on a tax-deductible manner to a community fund run by Anglicare to help Goulburn residents who struggle to pay for electricity. “It really is a community effort,” Mr Suttle said. “It [brings in] money to those who can afford to buy shares, but it also benefits those who in their wildest dreams would never even think of buying a share in anything.” CE4G was founded in 2015 after members of the Goulburn Group attended a seminar about community energy in Canberra. At that forum, the then-Department of Environment and Heritage announced there was grant money available for local communities to conduct a feasibility study about the viability of a community-owned renewable energy farm. A senior manager from Divall’s Haulage was one of those present; he realised that his company owned a suitable site on derelict land. Within three weeks, the group submitted the application for the study; six months later, they received the grant; and a further six months later, the solar farm was deemed viable. A $2.1 million grant from the NSW government under the Regional Community Energy program allowed CE4G to purchase a battery that can store 400 MW. This will capture low-cost electricity in the middle of the day that can be sold into the grid at peak prices in the evening. Between now and February, Mr Suttle said, CE4G will finalise design work, including the details of the connection to the grid. Big machinery will be on site within a month; in March, racking will be dug into the ground, panels will be attached, wiring put in, batteries will arrive, and the solar farm should be ready to switch on in July. Opal O’Neill, president of the local Pejar Aboriginal Land Council, told Wednesday’s audience: “When you look back on helping create this amazing piece of work, you will feel a sure sense of pride because you will know you have helped Goulburn take an amazing leap into the world of the future with renewable clean energy. I know that there is nothing more meaningful to a community than making it greater for everyone.” From November 20, CE4G will open investments to wider NSW and the ACT. Mr Suttle said there was pent-up demand; people in Canberra, Bowral, Sydney, and Melbourne, even Perth and Queensland, wanted to invest. “But this is a community-owned solar farm,” Mr Suttle said. “We dearly hope that the vast majority of investment, if not all, comes from the immediate Goulburn region.” For more information, visit https://goulburnsolarfarm.com.au/ and https://www.ce4g.org.au/

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Premier boss pockets hefty bonus after claiming $70 million in JobKeeper


Premier Investments chief executive Mark McInnes has pocketed $5.4 million in pay for the past financial year despite the retailer claiming tens of millions in JobKeeper subsidies.

Premier, which runs popular retail chains such as Peter Alexander, Smiggle and JayJays, released its annual report to shareholders after market close on Friday, which detailed the remuneration for Mr McInnes.

Premier Investments CEO Mark McInnes will take home $5.4 million for the 2020 financial year.Credit:Paul Jeffers

He received a base salary of $2.4 million for the 2020 financial year, which was topped up by $2.5 million in short-term incentives and an additional $444,444 in long-term incentives, taking his total pay packet for the year up to $5.4 million.

The generous remuneration package comes despite Premier Investment claiming $68.7 million in wage subsidies across the markets it operates in, which includes Australia, New Zealand and England. A total of $35.5 million was passed through to employees who were unable to work, leaving the remaining $33.2 million as a direct fillip to the business.



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Hong Kong fines Goldman Sachs record US$350 million over 1MDB failings


HONG KONG: Hong Kong’s markets watchdog on Thursday (Oct 22) fined Goldman Sachs’s Asian business US$350 million for its role in Malaysia’s multibillion-dollar 1MDB scandal, the largest single fine ever levied by the regulator in the Asian financial hub.

The Securities and Futures Commission (SFC) said serious lapses and deficiencies in management controls at Goldman Sachs (Asia) LLC had contributed to the misappropriation of US$2.6 billion raised by the Malaysian sovereign wealth fund.

1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) raised the funds in three bond offerings in 2012 and 2013.

A Goldman Sachs spokesman said the Wall Street bank would issue a statement in due course.

READ: Goldman Sachs’ US settlement over Malaysia 1MDB scandal to lift dark cloud

The 1MDB scandal has been a costly and long-running sore for the US investment bank, though there are signs it may be close to drawing a line under the affair.

In July, Goldman agreed to pay US$3.9 billion to settle Malaysia’s criminal probe and this week it is expected to agree to pay more than US$2 billion to settle US charges over its role in the scandal.

Malaysian and U.S. authorities estimate US$4.5 billion was stolen from 1MDB in an elaborate scheme that spanned the globe and implicated high-level officials in the fund, former Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak, Goldman staff and others.

The three bond offerings, which raised a combined US$6.5 billion, were arranged and underwritten by UK-based Goldman Sachs International, with work conducted by deal team members in multiple jurisdictions, who shared the revenue generated.

The SFC said Goldman Sachs Asia, the bank’s Hong Kong-based compliance and control hub for the region, had significant involvement in the origination, approval, execution and sales process of the three bond offerings.

The bank’s Asia hub had earned US$210 million from the offerings, the largest share among the various Goldman entities.

READ: Former Trump fundraiser Elliott Broidy charged with illicit lobbying on 1MDB, China

“This enforcement action is the result of a rigorous, independent investigation conducted by the SFC,” said Ashley Alder, the SFC’s chief executive.

RED FLAGS

The 1MDB bond deals were obtained for Goldman by its banker Tim Leissner, who in August 2018 admitted that he had conspired with Malaysian financier Jho Low and others to pay bribes and kickbacks to Malaysian and Abu Dhabi officials to obtain and retain the business from 1MDB for the bank.

Low denies any wrongdoing.

US court documents show Low was rejected as a private wealth management client on several occasions as his source of wealth could not be verified, resulting in a potential money laundering risk.

Nonetheless, Goldman’s regional and firm-wide committees that vetted the bond offerings accepted Leissner’s false assertions that Low had no roles in the bond offerings without making further inquiries, the SFC said.

“Apart from the involvement of Low, there were a number of red flags present in the bond transactions which should have called for a closer examination of the corruption and money laundering risks involved,” its statement of disciplinary action said.

READ: Ex-Goldman Sachs banker seeks review of 1MDB charges in Malaysia

These included the fact that the amount raised far exceeded the actual needs of 1MDB, and the sovereign wealth fund’s willingness to pay high fees and repeated emphasis on confidentiality and speed of execution, the SFC said.

“Despite the scrutiny of the bond transactions by various regional and firm-wide committees, … these issues had not been looked into in-depth and properly addressed before the deals were approved.”

Thursday’s fine from the SFC dwarfed the previous record of US$51 million, which it levied on a private banking unit of HSBC in 2017, and on UBS last year.



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Roche Secures Covid-19 Treatment In $350 Million Deal With Boston-Based Atea


Topline

Swiss pharma giant Roche has signed a $350 million deal with Boston-based Atea Pharmaceuticals for the exclusive right to research, develop and distribute a potential Covid-19 treatment outside the U.S., Atea said Thursday — the oral antiviral is currently in phase 2 clinical trials and there are plans to study it as a way of preventing Covid-19 infection.

Key Facts

Drug AT-527, which is taken by mouth, is designed to interfere with viral RNA polymerase, which plays a key role in coronavirus replication in the body.   

Atea hopes to begin large-scale phase 3 clinical trials in outpatients in the first half of 2021.

A separate trial is planned to explore whether AT-527 could prevent Covid-19 infection following exposure to the virus. 

Roche may also pay milestone payments and royalties for Atea’s AT-527 drug.

Key Background 

A vaccine for Covid-19 is still months away from approval and even further from being distributed widely. Until then, and perhaps afterwards, having effective treatments for Covid-19 will be vitally important to save lives as the pandemic continues. Few medicines have been approved for this purpose. Last week one of the most promising, remdesivir, was proven ineffective by the WHO. With this deal, Roche is clearly optimistic about AT-527’s potential in this category.

What To Watch For

Atea said it plans to study AT-527 “in the post-exposure prophylaxis setting” in a phase 3 clinical trial. This means the drug could have the potential to be used to prevent Covid-19 infection in exposed individuals.

Further Reading

Roche Buys Covid Treatment Rights From Atea in $350 Million Deal (Bloomberg)

Full coverage and live updates on the Coronavirus



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Archives spent $1 million fighting Palace Papers case


Archives boss David Fricker revealed to Senate estimates his institution had spent a “total” of $1.03 million opposing Professor Jenny Hocking’s case to see letters between Governor General John Kerr and Buckingham Palace in the years surrounding the dismissal of the Whitlam government.

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That number will rise because the High Court ordered the archives to pay the costs of Professor Hocking’s lawyers, which she said could near $1 million, after she won the years-long battle.

Mr Fricker defended the legal action, saying he was bound to pursue the litigation to defend the archives’ interpretation of its founding act, which in his view required Sir John’s letters stay private.

The delays at DFAT were a product of greater demand from a relatively small number of researchers, he said, and the organisation was working to be more efficient in assessing and releasing material.

“People work very hard to make records publicly accessible but we do it lawfully. We’re not going to go off on a frolic and just hand out stuff unless we’ve properly assessed it,” Mr Fricker said.

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The archives is under funding pressure, with its council warning last year that its $90 million annual budget needed to be doubled for the institution to be sustainable and meet its legislative requirements.

Professor Hocking said aside from her attempts to get the Palace Letters she had also waited up to nine years to get other records released, and not just from DFAT.

“[The delay] fundamentally undermines your capacity to do meaningful research,” she said. “To think they’ve spent $2 million contesting public access requests when they have this level of blockage is really troubling.”

Australian National University Professor Frank Bongiorno said the delays showed the public record process, by which government records are supposed to be released decades after their creation unless there is an exemption, had “broken down”.

However, more vice-regal records could be released after the High Court’s decision in the Palace Papers case set what Mr Fricker said could be a precedent for other letters between governors-general and the Queen to be made public.

A review of the archives by former finance department secretary David Tune was completed in January but has not been made public by the government.

Mr Fricker was also taken to task by committee chair Senator Amanda Stoker, who suggested his evidence that there had been no concerns raised by the Attorney-General’s office about the archives plan to release the Palace Letters to the media almost simultaneously with Professor Hocking was not correct.

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Archives spent $1 million fighting Palace Papers case


Archives boss David Fricker revealed to Senate estimates his institution had spent a “total” of $1.03 million opposing Professor Jenny Hocking’s case to see letters between Governor General John Kerr and Buckingham Palace in the years surrounding the dismissal of the Whitlam government.

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That number will rise because the High Court ordered the archives to pay the costs of Professor Hocking’s lawyers, which she said could near $1 million, after she won the years-long battle.

Mr Fricker defended the legal action, saying he was bound to pursue the litigation to defend the archives’ interpretation of its founding act, which in his view required Sir John’s letters stay private.

The delays at DFAT were a product of greater demand from a relatively small number of researchers, he said, and the organisation was working to be more efficient in assessing and releasing material.

“People work very hard to make records publicly accessible but we do it lawfully. We’re not going to go off on a frolic and just hand out stuff unless we’ve properly assessed it,” Mr Fricker said.

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The archives is under funding pressure, with its council warning last year that its $90 million annual budget needed to be doubled for the institution to be sustainable and meet its legislative requirements.

Professor Hocking said aside from her attempts to get the Palace Letters she had also waited up to nine years to get other records released, and not just from DFAT.

“[The delay] fundamentally undermines your capacity to do meaningful research,” she said. “To think they’ve spent $2 million contesting public access requests when they have this level of blockage is really troubling.”

Australian National University Professor Frank Bongiorno said the delays showed the public record process, by which government records are supposed to be released decades after their creation unless there is an exemption, had “broken down”.

However, more vice-regal records could be released after the High Court’s decision in the Palace Papers case set what Mr Fricker said could be a precedent for other letters between governors-general and the Queen to be made public.

A review of the archives by former finance department secretary David Tune was completed in January but has not been made public by the government.

Mr Fricker was also taken to task by committee chair Senator Amanda Stoker, who suggested his evidence that there had been no concerns raised by the Attorney-General’s office about the archives plan to release the Palace Letters to the media almost simultaneously with Professor Hocking was not correct.

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apiiro Raises $35 Million from Greylock and Kleiner Perkins


apiiro Raises $35 Million from Greylock and Kleiner Perkins

Also apiiro boasts that it “Disrupts” DevSecOps Market with the company’s launch.

apiiro, an Israeli startup which boasts that it is the industry’s first Code Risk Platform™ in the area of DevSecOps, raised $35 million funding from Ted Schlein, General Partner at Kleiner Parkins, and Saam Motamedi and Asheem Chandna, General Partners at Greylock.

The apiiro platform is deployed and used across industries – including two large banks in the U.S., and large enterprises in gaming, healthcare, and software development verticals.

The company declares this the first Code Risk Platform™ to automate visibility, compliance assurance & risk remediation, cross applications & infrastructure, before production.

Apiiro says that its new platform enables organizations to accelerate application and infrastructure delivery by automatically remediating risk with every change, announced today the company’s official

So what exactly is DevSecOps. Well according to IBM it is short for development, security, and operations. It automates the integration of security at every phase of the software development lifecycle, from initial design through integration, testing, deployment, and software delivery.

“Accelerate delivery by remediating product risk with every change,” apiiro declares.
The company was founded by multi-exit entrepreneur Idan Plotnik and Yonatan Eldar, alumni of elite Israeli Defense Force (IDF) cybersecurity unit ‘Matzov’. Prior to the launch of apiiro, Idan was the founder/CEO and Yonatan was engineering manager at Aorato, a pioneer in the User and Entity Behavior Analytics (UEBA) space, which was acquired by Microsoft for $200M. Plotnik and Eldar worked at Microsoft as engineering executives leading product strategy, engineering, data science and devops.

“apiiro was created to address enterprises board level discussions around the DevSecOps and risk management, and enable key application and infrastructure stakeholders to accelerate time-to-market by prioritizing and remediating only material risky changes — all in one platform,” said Idan Plotnik.

“Our developers take center stage. This means that each developer builds features end-to-end, an approach known as “End-to-End Development”. Think of it as a broader definition of “Full Stack”.


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Cybersecurity Startup Cyberpion Raises $8.25 Million


Cybersecurity Startup Cyberpion Raises $8.25 Million

Cyberpion provides ecosystem security.

Cyberpion angled-ecosystem-swirl

Israel’s Cyberpion, a cybersecurity startup, closed an $8.25 million seed funding round co-led by Team8 Capital and Hyperwise Ventures. The company calls itself an ecosystem security pioneer.

Cyberpion declares that its mission is to defend the “new and vast attack surface” created by online ecosystems.

Its platform enables security teams to identify and neutralize the new threats stemming from vulnerabilities within online assets throughout an enterprise’s far-reaching, hyper connected ecosystem. Cyberpion will use the new capital to boost its sales and marketing efforts, while expanding and accelerating product development of its Ecosystem Security™ platform.

OK. So what do they mean by “ecosystem?” It’s a term usually applied to the environment, not high tech.

Well when we talk about an ecosystem we mean how the different species of animals and plant life all interact with one another in their natural habitats. Bees help pollination, animal eat the plants and higher level animals eat the lower ones.

All form of life in an ecosystem is interconnected and so it is in some way dependent on all the other plants and animals. The actions of any one can affect all of the rest.

The same can be said of anyone or any business today. They all rely on countless partners and third party solutions to enrich online services, improve operations, grow, and serve customers. And then every external firm with which you do business – whether a customer or a service – interacts with countless other people and organizations.

So what does Cyberpion do? Well the company says that internal firewalls are no longer enough to protect your organization. Companies need to be protected from the outside as well since hackers can get inside your firm by way of outside systems with which you interconnect.

Former Global Head of Cloud Security at Check Point, Senior Director at Aqua Security and Director of Enterprise Strategy at Microsoft, Ran Nahmias co-founded Cyberpion. He commented, “Enterprise security risks are no longer constrained to the gates of the organization’s firewall. The threats are analogous to infections caused by the Covid-19 virus.”

“While detecting the virus in your immediate circle of contacts is helpful, the detected level of exposure exponentially grows as you start factoring in people in your second, third and fourth circles of contact. Cyberpion works by detecting threats from all connected third party online solutions, their connections, and the connections of their connections, to systematically identify vulnerabilities and neutralize previously undetectable threats within the vast, highly dynamic online ecosystem.”


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Spacecraft in risky descent to asteroid 200 million miles from Earth


Late on Tuesday, 200 million miles away from planet Earth, a NASA spacecraft began a precarious descent to an asteroid.

The Osiris-Rex craft is attempting to collect a handful of rubble, which scientists say contains the building blocks of our solar system.

It dropped out of orbit around the asteroid, named Bennu, beginning a four and half hour descent to the boulder-covered surface of the space rock.

This is the USA’s first attempt to gather samples from an asteroid, something Japan has accomplished twice.

Osiris-Rex won’t be landing on the asteroid – as long as everything goes to plan – as Bennu’s gravity is too low, being just 510 metres across.

Instead, the spacecraft will reach out with a robotic arm, to try to collect between 60 grams and 2 kilograms of material.

“We’ll only be kissing the surface with a short touch-and-go measured in just seconds,” said the University of Arizona’s Heather Enos, the deputy scientist for the mission.

After nearly two years orbiting Bennu, the spacecraft found this location to have the biggest patch of particles small enough to be swallowed up.

By the time flight controllers near Denver hear back from Osiris-Rex, the action already will have happened 18 and a half minutes earlier – the time it takes radio signals to travel each way between Bennu and Earth.

NASA won’t know until later this week how much was actually collected — or whether the spacecraft got anything at all.

The $800-plus million mission started with a launch back in 2016, and the spacecraft isn’t expected back on Earth until 2023.



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