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Best Windows laptops Black Friday deals: Dell, HP, Lenovo, and more

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Laptops remain a popular Black Friday item, whether as a gift for someone else or yourself.

The majority of those laptops still run Windows, ranging from cheap portables that can handle basic web surfing and word processing to pricey powerhouses for gaming or media editing.

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

From the many, many Black Friday laptop specials available now and in the coming days, we’ve selected six deals below that are particularly noteworthy.

Best Windows laptops Black Friday deals

Lenovo IdeaPad 130s

Budget buyers looking for a Windows laptop that’s as cheap as a Chromebook (and about as basically spec’d) need to check out Lenovo’s midnight virtual doorbuster. The IdeaPad 130s will be just $99 at that time, and don’t fall asleep on this deal as it is likely to sell out fast.

HP Pavilion 15-cs0064st

A laptop with the latest Core i7 Intel Optane memory, and a full HD IPS display for under $500? Count us in. You can grab this HP Pavilion notebook for $330 off starting on Thanksgiving at Staples.com or at a Staples location starting on Black Friday.

Dell XPS 13

Any time you can get a deal on Dell’s luxury laptop, you should snap it up, as our review from earlier this year called it “currently the best small-format laptop.” Office Depot beats Dell’s own site even, with its price on this particular configuration, which includes a Core i7 processor, 8GB of RAM, and a 256GB SSD, for $1,099.99. That’s $100 less than from Dell directly.

Microsoft Surface Laptop 2

We don’t know which specific configurations of the second generation of the Surface Laptop will be discounted yet, but we do know Microsoft is going to be taking $300 off their price for Black Friday. Considering that Microsoft debuted the new laptop just last month, the savings is a very well appreciated, if a bit surprising, holiday gift of its own.

HP Pavilion x360 2-in-1

Convertible laptops are the hottest sector of the market these days, so if you want to take advantage of a device that can offer tablet and notebook features, this Pavilion x360 is a particularly good deal. For $399.99, it includes an Intel Core i3 processor, 8GB of RAM, 128GB of solid-state storage, and a 14-inch foldable touchscreen, making it powerful enough for everyday tasks without breaking the bank.

Acer Nitro 5

Gaming laptops invariably used to cost over $1,000 — and still couldn’t come close to hanging with gaming desktops. Fast forward several years and not only are gaming notebooks more capable, but there are affordable systems that can offer decent enough performance for gamers on the go — like Acer’s Nitro 5. For just $599.99 on Black Friday — $200 off — you get a Core i5 CPU, 8GB of RAM, 256GB SSD, 15.6-inch full HD display, and an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050 Ti graphics with 4GB of GDDR5 video memory.


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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FDA obliterates formula maker’s defense of contamination linked to baby deaths

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Enlarge / The Abbott manufacturing facility in Sturgis, Michigan, on May 13, 2022.

Formula maker Abbott continues to firmly deny that its infant formulas sickened four babies, killing two. The denial is despite the same dangerous bacteria that sickened the infants—Cronobacter sakazakii—being found at the company’s formula factory in Sturgis, Michigan, which the Food and Drug Administration alleges was producing formula “under insanitary conditions.” And at least one container of Abbott’s formula tested positive for the same Cronobacter sakazakii strain found infecting one of the infants.

Still, Abbott argues that the link hasn’t been confirmed, and its formula isn’t to blame. In a lengthy Twitter thread on May 13, the company made the blunt assertion: “The formula from this plant did not cause these infant illnesses.”

But that is a brazen and misleading claim, according to the Food and Drug Administration. In a press briefing Monday evening, agency officials thoroughly dismantled Abbott’s defense.

The company’s unwavering denial will likely exacerbate frustration from US parents who are forced to navigate a dire shortage of infant and specialty formulas. The shortage is partly due to a recall of Abbott’s formulas and a shutdown of its Sturgis facility, which the FDA determined had numerous problems. Parents have seen empty shelves at store after store as they desperately tried to secure sustenance for their children, some of whom require specialized formulas due to metabolic conditions. Parents have faced purchasing limits, escalating prices, and scams in places where there is availability. Even if parents can obtain the formula, Abbott’s denials may raise safety questions.

Abbott’s claims

Abbott’s defense is indeed questionable. In last week’s Twitter thread, the company reiterated that the link between its formulas and the four infant illnesses had not been confirmed—which is true. But, the company suggested that massive data gaps somehow support the company’s assertion that its formula is not the cause of illnesses.

Overall, the company argues that scant testing of its finished formula found no contamination before leaving its factory. The contamination found in the facility was present in “non-product contact areas.” Additionally, genetic sequencing of the strains found in the facility did not match strains found in two of the sick infants (no genetic information was available for the other two babies).

Opened formula containers from three of the four sick infants were tested, and only one tested positive for Cronobacter sakazakii. While the contamination in the one positive formula container matched the strain of C. sakazakii infecting the infant, it did not match any strains identified in the Sturgis facility. Lastly, Abbott notes that the four sick infants all consumed different types of formula produced in its Sturgis plant, and their illnesses occurred at different times in separate states. It’s unclear why that matters, but Abbott concluded that contamination at the plant did not cause the illnesses.

In the press briefing Monday, FDA officials all but called that reasoning nonsense. Most importantly, the lack of a genetic match is not proof that the formula is not the source of the infant’s bacterial infections.

FDA response

C. sakazakii is not a reportable disease in this country, Susan Mayne, director of the FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, emphasized in the press briefing. That means when cases occur, outbreak investigations are not quickly initiated, and health officials don’t spring to collect bacterial isolates, begin genetic sequencing, and identify clinical clusters as they do for other concerning pathogens. As a result, the FDA and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention only have genetic sequences from two of the four sick infants. And overall, there are only about 238 genetic sequences of C. sakazakii strains in the CDC’s database, which is an extremely small number compared with other pathogens, such as E.coli, making genetic investigations difficult.

“Right from the get-go we were limited in our ability to determine with a causal link whether or not the consumption of the product from the Abbott Sturgis plant was linked to these four cases,” Mayne said.

Mayne also pointed out that the FDA isolated multiple strains of C. sakazakii from the environment inside the Sturgis plant when they were doing testing, which was after the cases were identified. “There certainly is the possibility that other strains that we didn’t detect at the time we were in the plant for the inspection certainly could have been in there.”

Frank Yiannas, the FDA’s deputy commissioner for Food Policy and Response, echoed the point, saying that the genetic data for C. sakazakii in this outbreak and overall is minimal. “It’s hard to read too much into that,” he said. He also highlighted that there was a diversity of strains at the plant—five different lineages—and noted there are examples in the scientific literature of multi-strain outbreaks over time from one source.

“The other thing we’ve heard emphasized quite a bit is that these products have been tested” and most tested negative for C. sakazakii, Yiannas said. But that also is not meaningful. Some of the end batches of formula are 400,000 to 500,000 pounds, but the end-product testing plans only involve a series of 30 samples that are 10 grams each, collectively less than a pound, Yiannas said. “The probability of detecting low levels of contamination through an end-product testing plan—it’s almost never going to happen,” he said. “Some statisticians calculate there’s a 97 percent chance that you won’t find low levels of contamination using that type of sampling plan.”

Overall, he said, “an over-reliance on end-product testing is not really the best way to assure food safety; it’s really about process control.”

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NASA reveals launch dates for Artemis I through the first half of 2023

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Enlarge / NASA’s Space Launch System rocket is seen on the launch pad at Kennedy Space Center in April.

Trevor Mahlmann

NASA has published a list of potential launch dates for the Artemis I mission (see PDF), starting as early as July 26 and running through June of next year. During this time period, due to various constraints, the space agency has preliminarily identified 158 launch opportunities.

The Artemis I mission will encompass the debut launch for NASA’s large Space Launch System rocket and the second orbital flight of its Orion spacecraft. Depending on when the uncrewed demonstration mission launches, it could last from 26 to 42 days as Orion flies into a distant retrograde orbit around the Moon.

In its news release, NASA helpfully explains the various constraints behind these dates, including orbital mechanics. For example, NASA says, “The resulting trajectory for a given day must ensure Orion is not in darkness for more than 90 minutes at a time so that the solar array wings can receive and convert sunlight to electricity and the spacecraft can maintain an optimal temperature range. Mission planners eliminate potential launch dates that would send Orion into extended eclipses during the flight.”

These launch windows are subject to slight changes as mission planning is refined. However, the inclusion of dates through the first half of 2023 does raise an obvious question: Does NASA think the Artemis I mission—which was originally supposed to launch in 2016—could be delayed once again and slip into next year?

“The range of dates is not meant to convey anything about the probability of launching in 2022 or 2023,” Kathryn Hambleton, a NASA spokeswoman, told Ars. “All launch dates more than about two months out are preliminary. It is standard for the team to have a preliminary outlook several months ahead. We’ll set a more specific target after we complete wet dress rehearsal testing.”

If all goes well with final preparations before the Artemis I mission, it seems possible that NASA could launch in late August. NASA Administrator Bill Nelson appeared to confirm this during a US House subcommittee hearing on Tuesday when he said, “We’re going to launch it in August.”

However, an August launch remains speculative, with September or later this year being the more likely bet, considering the work NASA has left to complete.

During a call with the media on May 6, NASA’s chief of human exploration, Jim Free, said the space agency wanted to roll the SLS rocket and Orion spacecraft out to the launch pad in late May and would target “early or mid” June for a wet dress rehearsal test. During this test, the rocket will be fully fueled and brought to within 10 seconds of engine ignition to work the pre-launch kinks out of the vehicle and its ground systems.

NASA has already attempted to complete this “wet dress” rehearsal three times this spring. Finally, engineers decided to roll the vehicle back to a hangar at Kennedy Space Center for modifications and repairs after the third attempt failed. So far, during these three tests, NASA has managed to load about half of the rocket’s liquid oxygen and just a small fraction of the liquid hydrogen.

This week, NASASpaceflight.com reported that the space agency and its contractors continue to work on a number of issues encountered during the three previous attempts—particularly a leak in the purge line leading to the rocket’s upper stage, known as the Interim Cryogenic Propulsion Stage. A NASA official said design modifications were likely to be needed.

Due to the ongoing nature of this work, it no longer seems likely that the large rocket will roll out of the Vehicle Assembly Building this month, which probably would push the start of the next wet dress attempt into late June at the earliest. Following a successful conclusion of this test, the rocket will still need to be rolled back to the assembly building to arm the flight termination system before it is finally wheeled back out to the launch site for a liftoff attempt.

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Kids 5 to 11 get FDA OK for COVID-19 booster doses

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Enlarge / A boy gives a nurse a high five before receiving a shot of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination site for 5-11 year-olds at Eastmonte Park in Altamonte Springs, Florida.

The Food and Drug Administration on Tuesday authorized booster doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for children ages 5 through 11, the first booster dose for the age group intended to revive waning immune protection.

The authorization comes as the US continues to see COVID-19 cases rise due to the extremely transmissible omicron coronavirus subvariants, specifically BA.2 and BA.2.12.1, which now account for an estimated 51 percent and 47.5 percent of all reported cases, respectively. Transmission levels are considered high in just over 50 percent of US counties, according to the latest data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The seven-day average of new daily cases is nearly 96,000, up 57 percent in the last two weeks, according to data tracking by The New York Times. Hospitalizations are around 22,000, up 26 percent. Daily deaths are averaging around 300.

But some experts highlight that data on the current omicron-subvariant wave is muted because testing sites have shuttered, and many people are relying on at-home testing results that are largely not reported. Peter Hotez, a vaccine expert at Baylor College of Medicine, tweeted over the weekend that the current wave could rival that of the original omicron wave in January. He strongly urged Americans to get vaccinated and boosted and to vaccinate their children.

Though numerous studies have noted that immune protection from vaccines and infections wanes over time—and is particularly weakened by omicron and its subvariants—booster doses can significantly strengthen protection, reducing the risk of infection and transmission while offering strong protection against severe outcomes.

Weak vaccination rates

Still, only about 30 percent of the US population is boosted. For children 5 to 11, the vaccination figures are particularly low. Though vaccines have been available for the age group since November, only about 29 percent of children 5 to 11 are fully vaccinated.

Public health experts, along with FDA officials, hope that more parents will vaccinate their children and will get booster doses when they’re available.

“While it has largely been the case that COVID-19 tends to be less severe in children than adults, the omicron wave has seen more kids getting sick with the disease and being hospitalized, and children may also experience longer term effects, even following initially mild disease,” FDA Commissioner Robert M. Califf said in a statement Tuesday. He continued:

The FDA is authorizing the use of a single booster dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine for children 5 through 11 years of age to provide continued protection against COVID-19. Vaccination continues to be the most effective way to prevent COVID-19 and its severe consequences, and it is safe. If your child is eligible for the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine and has not yet received their primary series, getting them vaccinated can help protect them from the potentially severe consequences that can occur, such as hospitalization and death.

In April, Pfizer announced trial data that found the booster dose produced a strong immune response in children and did not present any safety concerns. The FDA determined that the booster dose will help provide continued protection from COVID-19, outweighing any potential risks. The authorization allows for a booster at least five months after a child completes the primary two-dose series.

But before the boosters can go into little arms, the CDC needs to sign off on their use. The agency is convening its committee of independent expert advisers this Thursday and is expected to review and vote on the matter then. Outside experts expect that the committee will recommend the boosters and that CDC Director Rochelle Walensky will endorse the recommendation quickly.

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