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Best Costco Black Friday 2018 deals: $250 iPad, $200 laptops, and more

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Dell has been the first to see its Black Friday ads leaked online in the past couple of years, but its streak comes to an end in 2018. Costco has now seen its ad posted to Black Friday deal sites. The retailer is known for its massive members-only warehouse locations, but it looks like it is saving some of its best sales for its website this year.

Best Costco Black Friday 2018 deals:

Costco Black Friday 2018 ad

2018 Black Friday deals

  • Walmart features $99 Chromebook, $89 Windows 2-in-1 laptop
  • BJs Wholesale ad leaks with laptop, desktop, tablet deals
  • Target ad includes $250 iPad mini 4, $120 Chromebook deals
  • Costco kicks off leaks season with $250 iPad, pair of $200 laptops
  • Amazon: See early deals on Echo, Fire HD, and more
  • Dell features $120 Inspiron laptop, $500 gaming desktop
  • Sam’s Club: TVs, game consoles, and cameras
  • Office Depot: Laptops, printers, and chairs

While keeping its stores closed on Thanksgiving, Costco hopes to be doing a lot of business online with a number of turkey day sales, including a sizable discount on Apple’s latest 9.7-inch iPad, which will see its priced shaved by more than 20 percent for the base 32GB model to $249.99. Costco.com will also have a pair of laptops on sale for $199.99 during Thanksgiving: a 14-inch HP Chromebook with Intel Celeron processor and 1080p HD display, and a Dell Inspiron 11 3000 2-in-1 with AMD A6 processor, 4GB of RAM, and 32GB of storage.

Also: Best Black Friday 2018 deals: Business Bargain Hunter’s top picks

Two other laptop deals on Costco’s website on Thanksgiving jump up to $449.99 for a Lenovo Ideapad 330 15.6-inch touchscreen system with Intel Core i5 processor, 12 gigs of RAM, and terabyte hard drive — $150 off the current Costco price and about $125 off the price on Lenovo’s own site — and a much pricier $1,499.99 for a Dell XPS 13 with a 4K touchscreen display, 16GB of RAM, 1TB solid-state drive, and Core i7 CPU. That price is $500 less than Costco’s current price, and even more of a discount off a similarly configured system on Dell’s site.

CNET: Best Black Friday deals 2018 | Best Holiday gifts 2018 | Best TVs to give for the holidays

Another four sales are online exclusives, but continue through the Black Friday weekend. These include an HP 14 laptop with Pentium CPU, 4GB of RAM, and 64 gigs of storage for $224.99 (down from $299.99) and an Acer 2-in-1 Chromebook with a quad-core processor, 4 gigs of RAM, 32GB of storage and 13.3-inch 1080p touchscreen for $289.99 (down $100). A more powerful 2-in-1 comes in the form of the Dell Inspiron 15 7000, with a Core i5 processor, 8GB of RAM, a 256GB SSD, and a 15-inch touchscreen for $599.99 ($150 off), while a conventional HP Pavilion laptop with 16GB of RAM, terabyte hard drive, Core i7 processor, and an Nvidia GeForce MX150 graphics card for $799.99. Though the ad claims a $300 discount off the HP, a very similar configuration is currently available on the Costco site for the same price.

TechRepublic: A guide to tech and non-tech holiday gifts to buy online | Photos: Cool gifts for bosses to buy for employees | The do’s and don’ts of giving holiday gifts to your coworkers

Finally, there are four deals that will be available both online and in brick-and-mortar locations, though again they will get a head start on the website starting on Thanksgiving. One desktop is included among these: a full-featured HP Pavilion all-in-one with Core i5 chip, 12 gigs of memory, terabyte hard drive, and 23.8-inch 1080p touchscreen for $699.99 , or $200 less than the current price. The trio of notebooks starts with a 15.6-inch Dell Inspiron 5000 with Core i3, 12GB of RAM, and 1TB hard drive for $379.99 ($90 off), then shifts gears to an Asus ROG gaming laptop complete with Core i7 processor, 16 gigs of RAM, terabyte hard drive and 256GB SSD, GeForce GTX 1050Ti graphics card, 17.3-inch display, and gaming mouse for $999.99 ($300 savings). A slightly less expensive Dell XPS 13 configuration rounds out the deals — this version comes with half the SSD capacity and a $1,349.99 price tag.


For more great deals on devices, gadgetry, and technology for your enterprise, business, or home office, see ZDNet’s Business Bargain Hunter blog. Affiliate disclosure: ZDNet earns commission from the products and services featured on this page.

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Rock art in a California cave was a visual guide to hallucinogenic plants

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Enlarge / This red pinwheel image (left), which is around 500 years old, may depict the unfurling petals of a datura flower (right).

Rick Bury and Melissa Dabulamanzi

At a cave in Southern California, archaeologists recently found centuries-old bundles of hallucinogenic plants tucked into crevices in the low ceiling, near a painting that may depict a flower from the same plant, called datura. The painted images may have been a visual aid to help people understand the rituals they experienced in the cave.

Chew on this

University of Central Lancashire archaeologist David Robinson and his colleagues describe the bundles of leaves and stems tucked into the domed ceiling of California’s Pinwheel Cave. The five-armed pinwheel that gives the cave its name is painted in red nearby, attended by a bizarre-looking figure with antennae, eyes pointed in different directions, and a long body. Archaeologists have dubbed it the Transmorph, perhaps because it wouldn’t answer to anything else they tried. Based on radiocarbon dates of the bundles, people placed them in the room’s nooks and crannies over several centuries, from about 1530 to 1890.

That matches the age of charcoal from nearby chambers in the cave, where people left behind traces of more mundane activities: cooking meat, grinding seeds and nuts, and making stone projectile points. Whatever rituals happened in Pinwheel Cave, they weren’t hidden away or separate from everyday life.

Using a technique called mass spectrometry, Robinson and his colleagues studied the chemical composition of four of the bundles and found the compounds scopolamine and atropine—the same chemical mixture that’s found in datura. The Chumash people of California call the plant Momay and see it as the embodiment of a supernatural grandmother figure. To the Tübatulabal, it’s Mo mo ht, a man who later transformed into the flowering plant.

Datura can be a deadly poison if you eat too much of it; take in just the right amount, though, and you’ll experience vivid hallucinations and a trance-like state. Under a scanning electron microscope, the plant fibers in 14 of the Pinwheel Cave bundles matched other samples from the genus Datura. (Robinson and his colleagues examined one other bundle, which turned out to contain yucca, an edible desert plant.)

The microscopic examination also revealed that the ends of the bundles had been crushed and matted together, and some even had tooth marks still pressed into them. Clearly, people had chewed on these bundles of datura leaves and stems before tucking them away into nooks and crannies in the chamber. That matches historical descriptions of Chumash and Tübatulabal people occasionally eating parts of the datura plant for other rituals. Sometimes the goal might be to heal a physical wound; other times it could be supernatural protection, help finding a lost object or looking into the future, or an extra burst of strength for a hunt.

And at Pinwheel Cave, it seems that people chewed the datura bundles beneath a painted image of the plant itself.

Under the influence

For the record, when people use a hallucinogen as part of a religious or spiritual ritual (as opposed to just for fun), anthropologists call the substance an entheogen. Datura has been a popular entheogen in a lot of cultures on several continents, including groups of people across what is now the Western United States, from California to Texas. And across the Western US, datura flowers have turned up in several cultures’ artwork, along with images of hawkmoths, which pollinate the hallucinogenic flowers.

Prior to the discovery in Pinwheel Cave, archaeologists hadn’t found any clear evidence that people actually used datura at any of the sites where that artwork was preserved on cave walls or beneath rock shelters. That’s part of what makes the Pinwheel find so interesting. The cave paintings, combined with the datura bundles, suggest that art played a role in some of the rituals in which people used datura for trances and visions.

When a datura bud opens into a flower, its five petals unfold in a spiral that looks almost exactly like the five-armed pinwheel in Pinwheel Cave. And Robinson and colleagues suggest that the Transmorph, with its antennae and its strange bug-like eyes, may actually be a hawkmoth, the insect that does most of the work of pollinating datura plants.

Groups like the Chumash and the Tübatulabal, and their ancestors, had traditional stories to explain why datura had the power to cause visions, but they also understood the more pragmatic realities of the plant’s life cycle.

Of course, pollination is slightly hazardous work when your food of choice is laced with scopolamine. As Robinson and his colleagues explained, the moth “consumes nectar from the datura flower before coming under the influence of its effects, thus exhibiting behavior analogous to those consuming datura in the cave.” In other words, the illustration on the cave ceiling may have served as a visual guide to help people understand how the rituals worked and what they were about to experience.

A story of survival

What’s really important about Pinwheel Cave, however, is what it tells us about resilience. People were living, and practicing datura rituals, at the cave well before the first European colonizers arrived in the area. The evidence suggests that life and ritual at the site continued for several centuries during Spanish colonization, through Mexican rule, and finally incorporation into America. That’s a huge amount of cultural and political upheaval in a fairly short time.

Robinson and his colleagues used portable X-ray fluorescence to study the layers of paint on the ceiling of Pinwheel Cave. They found that the pinwheel—the datura flower, probably—had been repainted and touched up many times over the centuries. Generations of people had maintained it, and generations of people had looked up at it as they chewed bundles of datura and slipped into the world of visions.

PNAS, 2020 DOI: 10.1073/pnas.2014529117  (About DOIs).

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Nearly 18,000 airport workers sealed in for testing after 7 cases detected

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Enlarge / This photo taken on November 22, 2020 shows health workers in protective suits waiting to conduct COVID-19 coronavirus tests on staff at Pudong Airport in Shanghai.

Nearly 18,000 workers were sealed into Shanghai’s main airport Sunday and tested for COVID-19 in one night after authorities detected seven cases linked to the cargo unit of the facility.

Social media lit up with dramatic smartphone videos showing large crowds of workers pushing against guards in white hazmat suits in the airport’s parking structure.

By Monday morning, local authorities grabbed hold of the situations, tweeting out videos of the 17,719 workers in orderly lines waiting to get tested, with calm piano music playing in the background. According to The Washington Post, it remained unclear what happened to the workers after that—if they were still being held at the airport, if they were moved to a quarantine facility, or if they were allowed to go home.

Local authorities reported that at least 11,544 have tested negative.

The lock-in and testing blitz was spurred after a seventh cases was identified and linked to the cargo unit. The first identified case was in a cargo worker who tested positive November 9 after checking into a hospital with fever, fatigue, and a nasal congestion. His co-worker tested positive the next day.

In the last three days—two weeks after those first two cases—five other cases have popped up. The five include a cargo screening handler, that worker’s wife, two other co-workers, and the wife of one of those co-workers.

 According to the South China Post, one of the latest cases is an employee at the UPS international transit center at Pudong airport.

Wear your mask

In a news conference Monday, local authorities said they believed the two initial cases became infected while they were cleaning a freight container from North America together, while not wearing masks, on October 30.

“The environment inside the container is humid and that is conducive to the survival of the coronavirus,” Sun Xiaodong, deputy director of the Shanghai Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, said. Sun added that authorities had ruled out other transmission risks.

Since testing scramble yesterday, hundreds of flights to the airport have been canceled.

Zhou Junlong, vice president of Shanghai Airport Group said that, moving forward, airport workers will have access to experimental vaccines that have been approved in China for emergency use.

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AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine shows success: Here’s how it stacks up to others

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Enlarge / Vials in front of the AstraZeneca British biopharmaceutical company logo are seen in this creative photo taken on 18 November 2020.

AstraZeneca announced in a press release on Monday that its COVID-19 vaccine showed positive results in an interim analysis of clinical trial data.

The announcement marks the third vaccine to show strong efficacy in late-stage trials against the pandemic coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2. Though AstraZeneca’s vaccine efficacy numbers are not as impressively high as those for the vaccines before it—mRNA vaccines from Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna—AstraZeneca’s does offer some advantages over those vaccines.

In all, the news adds to ballooning optimism that effective vaccines could bring an end to the global crisis in the coming year.

The vaccine and its data

AstraZeneca partnered with researchers at the University of Oxford to develop the viral vector-based vaccine called AZD1222 (also called ChAdOx1 nCoV-19). The vaccine involves having genetic material coding for the notorious SARS-CoV-2 spike protein carried into the body by a relatively benign virus. In this case, the virus is a weakened type of adenovirus—a pathogen that can cause common colds and other mild infections in humans and some animals. The adenovirus used is one that mainly infects chimpanzees. When the adenovirus package delivers the code for the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein, the immune system can then train itself to recognize and destroy anything with the same spike protein—and that would be all SARS-CoV-2 viral particles, which are studded with spike proteins.

The AZD1222 results announced today come from a pooled analysis of clinical trials conducted in the United Kingdom and Brazil, involving over 23,000 participants. AstraZeneca’s independent monitoring board found AZD1222 was on average about 70-percent effective at preventing COVID-19, the disease caused by SARS-CoV-2. The interim analysis was triggered when 131 cases showed up in participants across the trials, who were given either two doses of AZD1222 or a comparator vaccine, the meningococcal vaccine MenACWY. The efficacy rate is calculated based on how those 131 cases split into the MenACWY group versus the AZD1222 group.

But the results were a little more complicated than that simple split. Participants who received AZD1222 got one of two dosing regimens, so the results were split further. In one regimen, participants were given a half-dose of AZD1222 followed by a booster shot with a full dose. In the trials, 2,741 participants got this regimen, and it appeared about 90-percent effective at preventing COVID-19.

In the other regimen, participants receiving AZD1222 got two full doses of the vaccine. In other words, they got the same high dosage level in their first shot as in their booster shot. In the trials, 8,895 participants got this regimen, and it appeared about 62-percent effective at preventing COVID-19.

The pooled efficacy data yields the average efficacy at around 70 percent. This is impressive, given a goal of around 50 percent. However, it’s not quite as high as the stunning mRNA vaccine efficacy results reported in previous weeks. Those included 95 percent efficacy for Pfizer/BioNTech’s vaccine and 94.5 percent efficacy for Moderna’s.

Unexpected result

AstraZeneca’s better result with the regimen starting with a half dose has already led to head scratching among experts. Most importantly, it’s unclear if the 90-percent efficacy result will hold up as AstraZeneca collects more data and conducts further analyses. We don’t yet know how the 131 cases split in the subgroup analyses. That final efficacy number is very likely to change as more data is collected. But, if that finding does hold up, some experts have already begun speculating as to why.

Several think it may be down to the adenovirus packaging. Though the vaccine is aimed at spurring immune responses against the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein carried by the adenovirus, some immune responses will inevitably attack the adenovirus itself. If the two-dose regimen starts out high, it may tip the immunity scales toward a stronger anti-adenovirus response rather than an anti-spike response when the booster shot is delivered. This is speculative, though, and understanding what’s actually happening will require far more data.

On a positive note, needing less vaccine in the first dose—if that really does end up being the case—means more people can be vaccinated with the same amount of vaccine manufacturing capacity.

And on yet another positive—though very preliminary—note, the Oxford researchers reported that AZD1222 appeared to reduce asymptomatic infections with SARS-CoV-2. The primary analysis looked at symptomatic cases of COVID-19, but some participants in the trial were regularly screened for asymptomatic infection. This finding is particularly eyebrow-raising since the mRNA vaccine trials exclusively looked at only symptomatic COVID-19 cases. However, the finding is extremely preliminary as the researchers did not present any data on it.

Safety

As with the mRNA vaccines, AstraZeneca said no serious adverse events related to the vaccine “have been confirmed.” In earlier trial results, mild side effects from AZD1222 were common, including pain, feeling feverish, chills, muscle ache, headache, and malaise. Some participants were preemptively given paracetamol (acetaminophen/Tylenol) to lessen these effects.

If you’ll recall, AstraZeneca paused its trials at least twice, once in July and another in September, for standard safety reviews. Trials paused in July when a UK participant showed neurological symptoms and was later diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. In September, another participant developed symptoms in line with transverse myelitis—a condition involving inflammation of the spinal cord that can, in rare instances, be linked to vaccination. Both cases were eventually dubbed unrelated to the vaccine itself and the trials resumed.

Otherwise, no hospitalizations or severe cases of COVID-19 were reported in the study.

Delivery

A significant advantage to AstraZeneca’s adenovirus vaccine is that it is relatively easy to scale up production and doesn’t require specialized storage conditions. Adenovirus vectors are more established in the vaccine arena, compared with mRNA-based vaccines, which are brand-new. Manufacturing capacity to produce vast quantities of adenovirus already exists.

AstraZeneca noted in its press release that it is “making rapid progress in manufacturing with a capacity of up to 3 billion doses of the vaccine in 2021 on a rolling basis, pending regulatory approval. The vaccine can be stored, transported and handled at normal refrigerated conditions (2-8 degrees Celsius/36-46 degrees Fahrenheit) for at least six months and administered within existing healthcare settings.”

The mRNA vaccines require cooler storage conditions. Most notably, Pfizer and BioNTech’s vaccine requires storage at a troublesome -70°C. In a recent press release, Pfizer emphasized that the companies “developed specially designed, temperature-controlled thermal shippers utilizing dry ice to maintain temperature conditions of -70°C ± 10°C. They can be used as temporary storage units for 15 days by refilling with dry ice.” The vaccine can further be stored at normal refrigerated 2-8°C conditions for five days.

Pfizer and BioNTech are aiming to have up to 50 million vaccine doses in 2020 globally and up to 1.3 billion doses by the end of 2021.

Moderna announced in a recent press release that its vaccine remains stable for six months at -20° C (-4°F), up to 30 days at normal refrigerator temperature (2-8 degrees C or 36-46 degrees F), and up to 12 hours at room temperature. Moderna currently plans to have about 20 million doses of mRNA-1273 ready to ship in the US in 2020 and produce an additional 500 million to 1 billion doses globally in 2021.

All three vaccines are now headed to regulators worldwide for authorization. Pfizer submitted its request for an Emergency Use Authorization from the US Food and Drug Administration on Friday.

Unknowns

All three vaccines have yet to have their full datasets published, so much uncertainty remains about the data and analyses. The efficacy numbers will likely change as trials continue, safety monitoring grows longer, and peer reviewers look over the analyses. Rare side effects are also more likely to pop up as time goes on.

While preliminary studies on the vaccines suggested they all prompt a variety of immune responses in participants, how long any protection from any of these vaccines may last is completely unknown. It’s still unclear what levels of immune responses equate to full protection from an infection or severe disease. And in a one-year-old pandemic with a completely new-to-us pathogen, it’s impossible to say with certainty how long those protective immune responses will stay protective.

Last, there’s so far no data on how well the vaccines protect against asymptomatic infections. Preventing disease—and in particular, life-threatening disease—is the top priority in these trials. However, preventing asymptomatic or mild infections will be key to putting an end to SARS-CoV-2 transmission overall.

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