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Technology

LG’s rollable phone is a tantalizing response to Samsung’s foldables

For the last two years, it’s been an open secret that LG has been working on a smartphone with a rollable screen — that is, a device with a display that starts out phone-sized and stretches out into a tiny tablet. It’s still not quite done, but that didn’t stop LG from offering our first real glimpse at the device in a lightning-fast teaser during its CES 2021 press conference.

The company avoided going into any further detail about the phone, but we’ve been able to confirm that it will be called the LG Rollable when it eventually launches. The name is rather on-the-nose, but honestly, it could have been worse. When building its charming, swiveling smartphone, LG had planned to give it a truly lousy name that was eventually replaced with the device’s original code name: Wing.

While details are scant, the LG Rollable is at least visually a tantalizing response to Samsung’s slew of foldable phones. Unlike the Galaxy Z Fold 2, which pairs a tall and narrow external display with a spacious interior one, the Rollable’s single screen is the same size as a traditional smartphone display — at least, before it mechanically unfurls to the size of a small tablet. From what we’ve seen, that clever design means the Rollable’s display won’t feature the same telltale crease found in many existing foldables.

Of course, adding mechanical complexity to a device that will bounce around in bags and occasionally get dropped presents problems of its own. As mentioned, LG has offered little insight into how the Rollable’s display mechanism works, but one would be right to be concerned about long-term durability. That’s especially true when you consider the fact that — unlike foldables — rollable phones haven’t yet been able to benefit from public scrutiny and external testing.

LG’s experience in building rollable televisions, along with the device’s long, secretive gestation, hopefully means the Rollable will be largely free of kinks at launch. It’s worth noting, however, that other companies have publicly explored similar concepts. The Oppo X 2021 might be the most notable one, as a handful of Chinese reporters were able to play with working prototypes back in November, but the company wasn’t able to provide a launch date, if ever.

TCL also showed off a prototype smartphone with a slide-out screen in early 2020, though it noted that such a device wouldn’t be commercially available for some time as the rolling mechanism still needed to be perfected.

Given the speed at which Oppo and TCL seem to be working through smartphone concepts, it’s very possible we’ll wind up with two or three rival rollables later in 2021. Needless to say, if you don’t need to buy a new phone right now, it’s definitely worth waiting to see what ambitious new hardware this year has in store.

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World

Pompeo to declare Houthis a terrorist group amid fears it will worsen Yemen crisis

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has said the United States will designate Yemen’s Iran-backed Houthi rebels as a foreign terrorist organization, a move aid groups have warned could hamstring attempts to deal with what many consider to be the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.

The designation will take effect on Jan. 19, the day before President-elect Joe Biden takes office, Pompeo said in a statement late Sunday. He said he also intends to designate three of the group’s leaders Abdul Malik al-Houthi, Abd al-Khaliq Badr al-Din al-Houthi, and Abdullah Yahya al Hakim as specially designated global terrorists.

“These designations will provide additional tools to confront terrorist activity and terrorism by Ansarallah,” he said, referring to the group also known as the Houthis.

The Trump administration had been locked in an internal debate about whether to formally designate the Houthi rebels as a terrorist group, as aid groups and United Nations officials warned the move could worsen what is already a humanitarian disaster in Yemen.

After six-years of grinding conflict pitting the Houthi rebels against the internationally-recognized Yemeni government, 80 percent of Yemen’s population of more than 29 million people is in need of humanitarian assistance and experts have declared famine-like conditions for almost 17,000 people, according to the International Rescue Committee.

Since 2015, more than 112,000 people are estimated to have died as a direct result of the violence.

The Houthi group is the de facto authority in northern Yemen and aid agencies have to work with it to deliver assistance.

Pompeo said Sunday that the U.S. planned to put in place measures to reduce the designations’ impact on certain humanitarian activity and imports into Yemen.

The measures will include the issuance of special licenses by the Treasury to allow U.S. assistance to continue in Yemen, as well as the activities of certain international and non-governmental organizations such as the United Nations, Pompeo said. Critical imports such as food and medicine will also be covered by the licenses, he added.

A spokesperson for Oxfam disagreed, saying the consequences of the designations will be felt across the country as banks, businesses and humanitarian donors decide cannot risk operating in Yemen.

Save The Children said the designations could place thousands of youngsters at further risk of starvation and disease at a time when millions of people are edging closer to famine.

And the Norwegian Refugee Council warned that the designation would deal a further “devastating blow” to a country already in the middle of a “full-blown” humanitarian catastrophe.

The civil war in Yemen started in 2014 when the Tehran-backed Houthi rebels took control of the capital Sanaa. A Saudi-led military coalition then intervened on behalf of the government in 2015, turning the conflict into a proxy-war between regional foes Iran and Saudi Arabia as well as domestic conflict.

Tehran began providing money, weapons and training to the Houthis following the Arab Spring, according to the International Institute for Strategic Studies, a London-based research institute.

The move Sunday came as the Trump administration persists with its maximum pressure campaign against Iran in the last weeks of Donald Trump’s presidency.

Supporters of the designation view it as a parting blow to Iranian influence in the Middle East and expected efforts by the incoming Biden administration to re-engage Tehran on the 2015 nuclear agreement.

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U.S

US sets new record for daily COVID-19 deaths with over 3,800

The United States set another record for the most coronavirus deaths in a day on Wednesday, with 3,865, according to a Johns Hopkins University tracker.

The death toll is only mounting as cases and hospitalizations also rise. Over 132,000 Americans are in the hospital with COVID-19, also a record, as the number keeps climbing, according to the COVID Tracking Project. The country is averaging more than 200,000 new cases every day.

A staggering total of more than 361,000 Americans have died from the virus, according to Johns Hopkins.

Many Americans are fatigued with pandemic restrictions, despite the urgings of public health officials to maintain them. President Trump has been largely silent on the crisis as he focuses on reversing the election outcome and as a pro-Trump mob stormed the Capitol on Wednesday.

Many governors also have been reluctant to impose new restrictions.

There is a light at the end of the tunnel with vaccines, but the distribution effort is off to a slow start as Trump administration officials say they are working to speed it up.

But with months until the vaccine becomes widely available, a new strain of the coronavirus is posing an even greater threat, given that it is thought to be more contagious, though not more lethal.

That strain has already been found in multiple states, and experts say it will clearly become much more prominent given that it is easier to spread.

Even without the new strain being dominant yet in the U.S., hospitals in some areas are already overwhelmed, particularly in Los Angeles. Ambulance crews there were recently instructed not to transport some patients with a low chance of survival to hospitals because of capacity problems.

Categories
Health

Fauci Says U.S. Needs More Time To ‘Catch Up’ On Vaccine Rollout

Health experts warned that the coronavirus pandemic would get worse before it got better. And that is happening. December was the worst month of the pandemic in the United States. The vaccines have made people optimistic, but the process has been slow.

Dr. Anthony Fauci — head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health, who will be President-elect Joe Biden’s chief medical adviser — said Thursday that the initial rollout of COVID-19 vaccines has been slow because it came during the holiday period.

“I think it would be fair to just observe what happens in the next couple of weeks. If we don’t catch up on what the original goal was, then we really need to make some changes about what we’re doing,” he said in an interview.

Fauci also said that a more contagious variant of the virus first identified in the United Kingdom and now spreading in the U.S. underscores the need to follow public health measures such as wearing a mask and social distancing. And he said that while the U.K. has implemented a lockdown, he doesn’t see “any enthusiasm” for similar nationwide measures in this country.

Categories
World

Saudi Arabia restores diplomatic ties with Qatar after three-year rift

Saudi Arabia has reinstated diplomatic relations with Qatar, more than three years after Riyadh and several Arab countries severed ties with Doha.

Kuwait, a mediator for both sides, announced that Saudi Arabia is reopening its airspace, sea and land borders with Qatar.

Qatar’s emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, arrived in Saudi Arabia on Tuesday for the first time since the dispute erupted in 2017. He was there to attend the annual Gulf Cooperation Council summit in the ancient city of Al-Ula.

Relations among the Arab nations soured in 2017, when Saudi Arabia and its allies — the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt — imposed a diplomatic, trade and travel blockade on Qatar. They accused the tiny Gulf nation of supporting terrorism and of being too close to Iran, allegations that Doha has always denied.

The dispute plunged the region into a diplomatic crisis not seen since the 1991 war against Iraq, and exposed deep ideological differences in the region.

Qatar’s emir in 2018 said the dispute was a “futile crisis,” and that Qatar preserved its sovereignty despite “aggression” from its neighbors.

Saudi-owned media Al-Arabiya also reported on Tuesday that Egypt has agreed to reopen its airspace to Qatar.

Ahead of the summit, the UAE’s minister of state for foreign affairs, Anwar Gargash, said in a tweet the GCC meeting will restore Gulf cohesion. “There is still work to be done and we are in the right direction,” he said.

Restoring diplomatic ties between Saudi Arabia and Qatar is part of Washington’s latest effort to broker deals in the Middle East. In a diplomatic win for President Donald Trump, the UAE, Bahrain, Sudan and Morocco normalized relations with Israel in 2020.

Turkey’s ministry of foreign affairs on Monday welcomed the reopening of borders between Qatar and Saudi Arabia.

“It is our hope that a comprehensive and lasting solution to this conflict will be reached on the basis of mutual respect to sovereignty of all countries and that all other sanctions against the Qatari people will be lifted as soon as possible,” the ministry said in a press release.

Categories
U.S

De Blasio slams Cuomo’s ‘arrogance’ amid criticism over COVID-19 vaccine fine threats

Mayor Bill de Blasio on Monday slammed Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s plan to fine hospitals as a means of speeding up the state’s highly criticized slow vaccine rollout.

“That’s just arrogance,” de Blasio said in an interview with NY1’s Errol Louis of Cuomo’s claims that the monetary penalties could speed up the process.

Hizzoner went on to defend the city’s healthcare workers and told Cuomo to lay off the threats.

“Does he think that our healthcare professionals are uninterested in vaccinating people? How about trusting the people who have been our heroes?” de Blasio said.

“Help them, support them, don’t fine them, don’t threaten them, respect them and help them.”

Cuomo earlier Monday deflected blame on the state’s sluggish inoculation effort — which has seen large quantities of the vaccine supply unused — to local leaders, including de Blasio.

The governor also specifically argued the Big Apple’s city-run Health and Hospitals system have not carried their weight.

De Blasio said on Monday night that instead of issuing threats, the state should implement new rules to foster faster vaccine delivery.

“We need rules that maximize the pace, that help us speed up and reach the people who are available, who are a priority and who are ready, willing and able, it’s common sense,” the mayor said.

“So, the state can help us here. Stop threatening people.”

The state Department of Health on Sunday sent a letter establishing a use-it-or-lose-it position, Cuomo said, requiring providers to use the supplies they’ve thus far been allocated by week’s end or face fines of up to $100,000.

Moving forward, they must use all vaccines within seven days of receipt or face fines — and risk being cut off from future shipments of the vaccine.

Public and private hospitals statewide have used only about 46 percent of the coronavirus vaccines they have been provided, according to stats Cuomo cited Monday.

While the New York-Presbyterian Healthcare System has led the way, with about 99 percent of its allotted shots administered, by contrast, the city’s Health and Hospitals network has used just 31 percent.

But De Blasio Monday night called Cuomo’s analysis of the city-run hospitals “blatantly inaccurate, arguing their vaccine supply was inflated since much of the inventory was merely a day old.

“What he said about Health and Hospitals was just blatantly inaccurate. A lot of that delivery to Health and Hospitals came in in the last 24 hours, they weren’t even in the position to turn around and use it. It’d just got there,” the mayor said.