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Chuwi launches Indiegogo campaign for AeroBook 13-inch laptop

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Chuwi AeroBook

Chinese manufacturer Chuwi is no stranger to crowdfunding, having relied on Indiegogo for campaigns to promote its SurBook, HiGame, and other PCs over the last couple of years. Now it’s going back to the well with its new AeroBook, a thin-and-light laptop with a budget friendly price tag that gets even more enticing if you join the early bird deal on Indiegogo.

The AeroBook follows quickly on the heels of the Lapbook SE, a similarly sized notebook that offers more basic specs and a cheaper price tag than the new device. Like the Lapbook SE, the AeroBook offers a 13.3-inch display and 128GB of storage (with options for more), but upgrades from the Lapbook’s Celeron processor to an Intel Core m3 6Y30 chip and is slimmer and lighter (2.8 pounds compared to 3.2 pounds for the Lapbook).

An upgraded design sheds ounces and millimeters by narrowing the bezel around both the full HD screen and the keyboard, allowing the display to fit into a 12-inch chassis. But even the cheaper Lapbook features a laminated IPS display and aluminium magnesium alloy construction, along with a similar eight hours worth of claimed battery life. While the AeroBook comes with a pair of USB 3.0 ports, it lacks a USB-C connection just like the Lapbook.

Chuwi expects the AeroBook to begin shipping in April with a base price tag of $499 — that is, unless you participate in the Indiegogo campaign. As an early bird special, Chuwi is knocking $100 off the price for the first 150 backers, with $120 off a $549 version with twice the storage, and $170 off a 1TB configuration regularly selling for $869. As of this writing, the AeroBook campaign has already exceeded its $35,000 flexible goal with nearly an entire month left.       

[Via Liliputing]  

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What will it take to end deforestation by 2030?

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Enlarge / A forest activist inspects land clearing and drainage of a peat natural forest in Riau province, Sumatra, Indonesia in 2014.

Ulet Ifansasti | Getty Images

The world has lost a third of its forest since the last ice age, and an estimated 15 percent of global greenhouse gases still come from deforestation and forest degradation.

Now a new pledge made at the COP26 climate conference in Glasgow last month hopes to change this stark picture. The Glasgow Leaders’ Declaration on Forests and Land Use, signed by key forest nations, aims to reduce deforestation to zero by 2030. The pledge has raised hopes that the world would see a fresh impetus to curb the devastating impacts of deforestation.

“If we could get deforestation to zero, it would be an incredible achievement,” says Simon Lewis, a researcher of global change science at the University of Leeds and University College London. “Both in terms of carbon […] and for biodiversity and conservation, because two-thirds of the world’s species are in the world’s tropical forests.”

But there are also serious caveats to the pledge, including the fact that similar declarations have been made before—often to little avail.

What’s the new pledge about?

It was announced at COP in early November and signed by 141 countries—some 72 percent of nations—including Brazil, Indonesia, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, three of the four countries with the most tropical forest in 2020.

The countries are committed to “working collectively to halt and reverse forest loss and land degradation by 2030” while “delivering sustainable development and promoting an inclusive rural transformation.” Importantly, it does not qualify this by referring only to “illegal” deforestation as many other pledges do, meaning it’s attempting to cover all deforestation, not just logging or land clearance in violation of local laws.

The pledge is backed up by $12 billion in public funds and $7.2 billion in private financing. Within this, $1.7 billion will go to support the land rights of indigenous people and local communities and support their roles as forest protectors.

However, Lewis says there remains ambiguity about whether the pledge means “zero” deforestation or “net zero” deforestation. Zero deforestation would mean no loss of old growth forests anywhere. But net zero deforestation means old growth forests could still be cleared, so long as new forests were planted at the same rate. “The former is much better for carbon, and also much better for biodiversity,” Lewis explains.

What impact could it have?

It’s hard to overstate the effect of ending deforestation on everything from climate change and water security to wildlife and the welfare of indigenous communities.

An analysis by the World Resources Institute (WRI) found that ending forest loss by 2030 in all signatory countries of the pledge would avoid 33 million hectares of forest loss, an area roughly the size of Malaysia. It would also avoid emissions of 19 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (GtCO2e), around twice the annual emissions of China.

“It would be a real contribution to the reduction of emissions in general,” says Adriana Ramos, coordinator of politics and law at Instituto Socioambiental (ISA) in Brazil. “When Brazil, for example, reduced emissions from deforestation, it was the biggest reduction of emissions all over the world. The reduction of deforestation is the cheapest and I would say almost the easiest way of reducing emissions.”

Maintaining forests also supports the agenda of climate change in other ways, she adds—by providing carbon storage and helping to maintain regional climate balance. The Amazon plays a huge role in regulating the microclimate of the continent.

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COVID vaccinations spike in US as delta rages and omicron looms

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Enlarge / People line up outside of a free COVID-19 vaccination site that opened today in the Hubbard Place apartment building on December 3, 2021 in Washington, DC.

Amid a raging delta wave and fears of omicron, the United States on Thursday administered 2.2 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine, the highest single-day vaccination total since May, shortly after the shots were made widely available to adults.

More than 1 million of the shots given yesterday were booster doses, according to Jeff Zients, White House COVID-⁠19 Response Coordinator. To date, nearly 200 million Americans are fully vaccinated, which is roughly 60 percent of the population, and 44 million are fully vaccinated and boosted.

“This is important progress,” Zients said in a press briefing Friday. “Vaccines clearly remain our most important tool… If you were fully vaccinated before June, it’s time for you to go get your booster. If you’re unvaccinated, go get your first shot today. And if your kids are five years or older and not yet vaccinated, get them the protection of the vaccine as well.”

The current vaccines are highly effective against the delta variant, which is still circulating at extremely high levels nationwide. The US tallied nearly 140,000 new COVID-19 cases Thursday, and cases are once again on the rise.

“I know that the news is focused on omicron,” Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said during the briefing. “But we should remember that 99.9 percent of cases in the country right now are from the delta variant,” she said. “Our recommendations for protecting against COVID remain the same, regardless of the variant.”

Walensky went on to reiterate the importance of vaccines, boosters, indoor masking in public settings, hand washing, improving ventilation, physical distancing, and testing.

Vaccines

Health officials largely agree that these established prevention strategies will remain effective against omicron—even vaccines and boosters. That’s despite the fact that there are unanswered questions about omicron’s ability to evade immune responses spurred by vaccines. The highly mutated variant contains a number of changes known to thwart some neutralizing antibodies that would otherwise block the virus from causing infection and disease.

But, immunologists have emphasized in recent days that even low levels of neutralizing antibodies can be protective. There are also plenty of non-neutralizing antibodies that will remain able to attack omicron, and those antibodies can recruit protective immune cells to help fight the virus. Booster doses increase levels of both neutralizing antibodies and non-neutralizing antibodies, and the shots can increase the diversity of those antibodies as well. Moreover, there are also potent cell-based immune responses, which do not rely on antibodies and are likely to remain effective against the dreaded variant. Like antibodies, cell-based responses are also boosted by third shots.

Overall, health experts expect that omicron will reduce the effectiveness of current vaccines to some degree. But they’re also rather confident that vaccines and boosters will continue to offer some protection against omicron.

“Although we haven’t proven it yet, there’s every reason to believe that if you get vaccinated and boosted that you would have at least some degree of cross-protection, very likely against severe disease, even against the omicron variant,” top infectious disease expert Anthony Fauci said in the briefing.

Speedy spread

The assurances offer some comfort as preliminary data continues to point to omicron being able to spread much faster than delta and cause more reinfections. Some early analyses from South Africa have estimated that the variant may spread more than twice as quickly as delta and be more than twice as likely to cause reinfection in people who had COVID-19 previously. But there is still limited data, and these findings have not been peer-reviewed or published in a scientific journal. They are highly preliminary and should be interpreted cautiously.

Health officials expect it will take several weeks to collect more data on the question of omicron’s transmissibility, as well as vaccine effectiveness and disease severity.

Since health officials first brought the variant to international attention last week, around 40 countries worldwide have reported cases of omicron. The US announced its first case on Wednesday in California, and several other states have identified cases since, including Minnesota, Colorado, New York, and Hawaii.

The variant is likely to have been circulating for some time before the flurry of detections. While many of the newly detected cases were in travelers who returned to their home countries from southern Africa, some were not, suggesting domestic transmission is already underway in the US and elsewhere.

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NASA sets sail into a promising but perilous future of private space stations

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On Thursday afternoon, NASA announced that it had awarded three different teams, each involving multiple companies, more than $100 million apiece to support the design and early development of private space stations in low Earth orbit.

This represents a big step toward the space agency’s plan to maintain a permanent presence in space even after the aging International Space Station, which can probably keep flying through 2028 or 2030, reaches the end of its life. NASA intends to become an “anchor tenant” by sending its astronauts to one or more private stations in orbit starting in the second half of the 2020s.

The total estimated award amount for all three funded Space Act Agreements is $415.6 million. The individual award amounts, with links to each concept, are:

  • Blue Origin, $130 million, leading a team including Sierra Space, Boeing, and Redwire Space
  • Nanoracks, $160 million, leading a team including Lockheed Martin and Voyager Space
  • Northrop Grumman, $125.6 million, leading a team including Dynetics

Each of these space station concepts is a “free flyer” in the sense of launching independently of any other facility. Previously, in February 2020, as part of a separate competitive procurement process, NASA awarded Axiom Space a $140 million contract to develop a habitable commercial module for the International Space Station. The award gives Axiom the right to attach its module to the station’s Node 2 forward point.

At this stage, Axiom would appear to have some advantages in the competition for future NASA private station awards. In addition to providing the benefit of power, breathing air, and crew time through its initial attachment to the space station, Axiom is ahead in the design and construction of its facility. Axiom completed the cumbersome “preliminary design review” for its station in September, a process the free-flying stations are unlikely to finish before 2025.

But now, the “free flyer” competitors have some funding to try to catch up.

A diversity of solutions

With these grants, NASA has selected a mix of large and small US companies and old and new players in low Earth orbit.

“We have a very diverse group of companies in terms of age, size, and business strategy,” Phil McAlister, NASA’s director of commercial spaceflight, said during a call with the media after the awards were announced. “I think this diversity will make NASA’s strategy for commercial destinations very robust, and it will ensure a healthy competition in the days ahead.”

Combined, these awards give NASA four different potential private approaches to pursue. McAlister said the goal is for NASA to provide less than 40 percent of the costs to design, develop, and launch these facilities, with private industry paying the remaining 60 percent or more. In turn, the private stations will be able to host other governmental customers, businesses, and space tourism.

While it may seem like one or more of these approaches should work, NASA faces some serious questions in making this program a reality.

Will Congress fund it?

The prevailing plan from Congress for some time has been to fly the International Space Station for as long as possible—the program has provided benefits across the country and is a reliable source of jobs at the major NASA field centers in Texas, Alabama, and Florida.

Former NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine first began to really grapple with the idea of a commercial replacement in 2019, but Congress was slow to respond. In the president’s budget requests for fiscal year 2020 and 2021, NASA asked for $150 million, but Congress appropriated only $15 million. For the fiscal year 2022 budget, which is not yet approved, NASA asked for $101 million. The US House proposal provided $45 million, and the Senate agreed to NASA’s full request. In future budgets, NASA has asked for $186.1 million a year.

So NASA has now “awarded” more than $550 million for private space stations, but Congress has yet to provide the funding for any of these grants. Asked what would happen if NASA does not receive the funding it needs for these stations, McAlister said the program would have to slow down.

“We could re-phase some of the milestones to accommodate reduced levels of funding,” he said. “I hope not to have to do that. But if we get the president’s full budget requests, we should be fine.”

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