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BJs Wholesale Black Friday ad leaks with laptop, desktop, tablet deals

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BJs Wholesale Club Black Friday ad

Competing with rivals Costco and Sam’s Club, BJs Wholesale Club is a members only warehouse chain with deals on a wide range of products, including computers. Costco’s Black Friday ad has already posted online, so how do BJs’ Black Friday deals compare now that its ad has leaked?

Like Costco, BJs is touting an Apple iPad deal in its ad, but it’s taking a slightly different approach than its competitor. While Costco is taking $80 off the base 9.7-inch iPad, BJs is slicing $80 from the 128GB version as a doorbuster starting at 7 a.m. on Black Friday, lowering the price to $349.99. Another tablet doorbuster is the Amazon Kindle Fire 7, which will be available for $29.99, just like at Target. Rounding out the tablet deals, starting November 16 BJs is discounting the Samsung Galaxy Tab A, with the 8-inch model bundled with 16GB microSD card $50 less at $129.99 and the 10.1-inch model with bonus 32GB microSD card at $149.99. BJs claims that’s $120 off, but you can buy just the tablet itself elsewhere for under $200 right now.

A final doorbuster is the Dell Inspiron 11 2-in-1 with AMD A6 processor, 4GB of RAM, 32GB of storage, and 11.6-inch touchscreen display for $179.99. However, Dell itself is offering a version with similar specs as a doorbuster of its own for a better price of $149.99. Other convertible laptop specials include an 11.6-inch Acer Aspire Spin with 4 gigs of RAM, 64GB of storage and Intel Celeron processor for $219.99, and the HP Envy x360 with Intel Core i5 CPU, 8GB of memory, a 256GB solid-state drive, and 15.6-inch full HD touchscreen for $579.99, $220 off BJs’ current price.

Three more HP laptops will be on sale on Black Friday, starting with the HP Stream 14 with Intel Celeron N3060 processor, 4GB of RAM, 32GB of storage, and 14-inch display for $199.99. Note that that’s more than what Amazon sells it for today ($196), however, if you’re getting the gray version. A better deal is the HP 15-da0079nr, which gets a $150 price cut from its $599.99 regular price for a notebook with Core i7-7200U CPU, 8GB of memory, 1TB hard drive, and 15.6-inch screen. Like the HP Pavilion 15-ck074nr (Core i5-8250U, 8GB of RAM, 1TB hard drive, 15.6-inch full HD display) is sold out online on the BJs website, but will be $170 off the listed price on Black Friday.

Finally, BJs has deals on a pair of desktops listed in its Black Friday, though the Acer Aspire special starts on November 16. That tower comes with the latest Core i5-8400 processor, terabyte hard drive and a whopping 24GB of RAM for $399.99 ($150 off). If you prefer an all-in-one PC instead, the HP 24-f0051 fits an Intel Pentium chip, 8GB of RAM, 1TB hard drive, and a 23.8-inch full HD touchscreen into a single package for $529.99, $70 off the current price (not $150 as mentioned in the ad).

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FDA authorizes Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine for 12- to 15-year-olds

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Enlarge / An illustration picture shows vials with COVID-19 Vaccine stickers attached, with the logo of US pharmaceutical company Pfizer, on November 17, 2020.

The US Food and Drug Administration has authorized the use of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine in adolescents between the ages of 12 to 15, the agency announced Monday evening.

In the announcement, acting FDA Commissioner Janet Woodcock called the authorization “a significant step in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic” that will bring the country “closer to returning to a sense of normalcy and to ending the pandemic.”

Peter Marks, director of the FDA’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research, echoed that sentiment. He called the ability to vaccinate children and teens “a critical step” in the fight against COVID-19.

Both Marks and Woodcock emphasized the agency’s rigorous data review that led to the authorization.

“With science guiding our evaluation and decision-making process, the FDA can assure the public and medical community that the available data meet our rigorous standards to support the emergency use of this vaccine in the adolescent population 12 years of age and older,” Marks said.

The authorization of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for the adolescent group was widely expected. It follows an announcement from the two companies on March 31 which declared that the vaccine completely protected 12- to 15-year-olds against COVID-19 in a small Phase III clinical trial involving 2,260-adolescents.

Trial data

In the trial, 1,131 adolescents received the vaccine while the other 1,129 received a placebo. The FDA focused on those who had no evidence of being infected by the pandemic coronavirus prior to the trial, leaving the agency with 1,005 vaccinated adolescents and 978 adolescents given a placebo. The FDA reported 16 cases in the trial, all of them in the placebo group. “The vaccine was 100% effective in preventing COVID-19,” the agency announced. Moreover, in a smaller sampling, those in the vaccinated group appeared to produce neutralizing antibodies at higher levels than those seen earlier in people ages 16 to 25, Pfizer noted in March.

The vaccine also appeared to be tolerated by the adolescents. The most commonly reported side effects included pain at the injection site, tiredness, headache, chills, muscle pain, fever and joint pain, all of which tended to occur within one to three days after vaccination.

Like in older age groups, the FDA says that people with a history of severe allergic reactions, including anaphylaxis, should not get the vaccine.

Now that the FDA has granted authorization, a committee of independent advisors for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will review the data on the vaccine in this age group and vote on policy recommendations for use. The committee—the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices—has already set a meeting for Wednesday, May 12, to vote on their recommendations. If the CDC accepts the committee’s recommendations—which it likely will—vaccinations could become available for adolescents as early as Thursday.

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By eating them, hyenas gathered 9 Neanderthal skeletons in one cave

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Italian Culture Ministry

Archaeologists in Italy recently unearthed the remains of at least nine Neanderthals in Guattari Cave, near the Tyrrhenian Sea about 100 km southeast of Rome. While excavating a previously unexplored section of the cave, archaeologists from the Archaeological Superintendency of Latina and the University of Tor Vergata recently unearthed broken skulls, jawbones, teeth, and pieces of several other bones, which they say represent at least nine Neanderthals. That brings the cave’s total to at least 10; anthropologist Alberto Carlo Blanc found a Neanderthal skull in another chamber in 1939.

Italy was a very different place 60,000 years ago. Hyenas, along with other Pleistocene carnivores, stalked rhinoceroses, wild horses (an extinct wild bovine called aurochs), and people.

“Neanderthals were prey for these animals. Hyenas hunted them, especially the most vulnerable, like sick or elderly individuals,” Tor Vergata University archaeologist Mario Rolfo told The Guardian. The archaeologists found the Neanderthal remains mingled with the bones of rhinos, giant deer, wild horses, and other hyenas. Predators and scavengers tend to leave behind different parts of the skeleton than, say, flowing water or simple burial—and tooth marks are usually a dead giveaway.

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Based on the excavation, hyenas had lived in the cave off and on for thousands of years—maybe alternating with Neanderthals at different times. And during all that time, they seem to have periodically dragged an unlucky Neanderthal back to a den in the cave, where the bones of other long-dead victims lay, already buried under layers of cave-floor sediment.

Most of the newly discovered Neanderthals lived between 50,000 and 68,000 years ago, but at least one dates back to between 90,000 and 100,000 years old. The span of time between the oldest Neanderthal in Guattari Cave and the youngest is nearly as much as the one between now and when the last Neanderthals walked the Earth.

That makes the plan to sequence ancient DNA from the newly discovered remains especially interesting. Researchers are starting to piece together the large, complicated story of how different groups of Neanderthals moved around and interacted with each other during the 300,000 years or so when they alone ruled western Eurasia. But so far, we’ve gotten only glimpses.

Denisova Cave in Siberia is the only place so far where paleoanthropologists have sequenced DNA from Neanderthals who lived at different times; the rest of the story relies on bits of information from a scattering of different times and places. The genomes of nine Neanderthals who lived in the same place over tens of thousands of years could tell a much more detailed story about at least one part of our extinct cousins’ long history. They would also nearly double the number of Neanderthal genomes that have been sequenced so far.

Of course, that assumes that all of the Guattari Cave Neanderthals have ancient DNA that is still in good enough condition to sequence. It will take a lot of work in the lab before we know.

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AstraZeneca’s troubled vaccine not renewed in EU; Pfizer gets big, new deal

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Enlarge / Vials with COVID-19 Vaccine labels showing logos of pharmaceutical company Pfizer and German biotechnology company BioNTech.

The European Union has declined to renew orders for AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine, an EU official said Sunday. The decision comes after a series of production and safety troubles with AstraZeneca’s vaccine—and news on Saturday that the EU signed a deal to have Pfizer and BioNTech provide up to 1.8 billion doses of their vaccine between 2021 and 2023.

Last month, the EU took legal action against AstraZeneca, alleging that the company had failed to live up to its contract to supply the bloc with doses. The contract ends in June.

“We did not renew the order after June,” European Internal Market Commissioner Thierry Breton said in a Sunday French radio interview, which was reported by Reuters. “We’ll see what happens,” he added, leaving open the possibility of future orders.

Beyond the spat over underwhelming deliveries, the rollout of AstraZeneca’s vaccine has been crippled by data linking the vaccine to an extremely rare, life-threatening blood clotting condition that is now called “thrombosis with thrombocytopenia syndrome,” or TTS. Officials in Europe and South Africa were also troubled by preliminary data suggesting that AstraZeneca’s vaccine may not be effective against the B.1.351 variant widely circulating in South Africa.

French President Emmanuel Macron expressed his approval of the EU’s decision to pass on AstraZeneca’s vaccine for now. Current use will “help us get out of the crisis,” he said. “But for future orders, in order to respond in particular to variants, we see that other vaccines are now more effective, so this signals a European pragmatism, which I welcome.”

Shot of success

On Saturday, EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen announced via tweet that the commission had signed a deal for Pfizer and BioNTech to provide a guaranteed 900 million vaccine doses, with an option to provide an additional 900 million, all between 2021 and 2023. The news lands on the heels of another agreement with the EU last month, in which Pfizer and BioNTech upped their shipments to the EU by 50 million doses, bringing the bloc’s total to 250 million doses in the second quarter of this year.

Pfizer and BioNTech have had a relatively charmed vaccine rollout throughout the pandemic, avoiding much of the headline-grabbing safety, efficacy, and production pitfalls that have hampered AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson, and other vaccine-makers.

On Friday, Pfizer and BioNTech announced that they are now seeking a full Food and Drug Administration approval of their vaccine for use in people ages 16 and up. Currently, the FDA has granted the vaccine an emergency use authorization, which is only applicable during the health emergency and involves a lighter data-submission process than a full approval. No COVID-19 vaccines have earned a full approval from the FDA to date.

It’s also widely expected that in the next few days, the companies will earn FDA authorization to use their vaccine in adolescents ages 12 to 15—another potential first.

But the success of the Pfizer and BioNTech vaccine is not without limitations. The mRNA vaccine, similar to the successful Moderna vaccine, requires ultra-cold storage, which can be challenging in low-resource settings. And currently, low- and middle-income countries are desperate for supplies of COVID-19 vaccines, which have largely been snatched up and hoarded by rich countries.

Global need

The World Health Organization on Friday granted an emergency use listing (EUL) for China’s Sinopharm COVID-19 vaccine, which has relatively easy storage requirements and is estimated to be 79 percent effective against symptomatic disease and hospitalizations.

The granting of an EUL means that the vaccine can now be rolled out globally. It is the sixth COVID-19 vaccine that the WHO has listed and the first made in China. (The five others are vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson, plus AstraZeneca’s vaccine, which is made by two different producers.)

“The addition of this vaccine has the potential to rapidly accelerate COVID-19 vaccine access for countries seeking to protect health workers and populations at risk,” Dr. Mariângela Simão, WHO’s assistant-director general for access to health product, said in a statement. “We urge the manufacturer to participate in the COVAX Facility and contribute to the goal of more equitable vaccine distribution.”

However, Chinese officials and experts have tempered optimism for the EUL’s immediate impact, noting that China is struggling to produce enough doses for its own people.

“This should be the golden time for China to practice its vaccine diplomacy. The problem is, at the same time, China itself is facing a shortage,” Yanzhong Huang, a senior fellow for global health at the Council on Foreign Relations, told The New York Times. “So in terms of global access to vaccines, I don’t expect the situation to significantly improve in the coming two to three months.”

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