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Technology US

Tech rallies behind Biden’s immigration plans

Hours after taking his oath of office on Wednesday, President Joe Biden signed several executive orders overturning actions taken by the Trump administration regarding immigration, and tech is rallying behind the move.

Biden signed two executive orders Wednesday that extend the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program for another four years and overturn the Trump administration’s travel bans on largely Muslim-majority countries. It’s just the start of the Biden administration’s immigration reform efforts. The administration also plans to drop a new bill that would provide 11 million undocumented immigrants with a pathway to citizenship and an eight-year waiting period before they can become permanent residents, according to Politico.

“We welcome President Biden’s commitment to pursuing comprehensive immigration reform that reflects the American values of justice, fairness and dignity. This effort will strengthen American communities and the pathways to opportunity this country has long fostered,” Apple CEO Tim Cook said in a statement Wednesday. “In the weeks and months to come, business leaders look forward to working with the Administration, as well as Democrats and Republicans in Congress, to achieve bipartisan, practical and comprehensive solutions to fix our broken immigration system, including a permanent solution for Dreamers that includes a path to citizenship.”

Google CEO Sundar Pichai also put out a statement in support of the Biden administration’s new immigration effort. We applaud @POTUS‘s quick action on COVID relief, the Paris Climate Accord, and immigration reform. Google has supported action on these important issues & we look forward to working with the new administration to help the US recover from the pandemic + grow our economy,” Pichai said in a tweet.

“We are thankful that President Biden and Vice President Harris are following through on their commitment to send a bill to Congress to fix our broken immigration system,” FWD.us president Todd Schulte said in a statement Wednesday. “What needs to happen in short order is the House and Senate must move legislation that is signed into law.”

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg helped found FWD.us, an immigration advocacy organization, in 2013.

Twitter also put out a statement in support of the move. The “DACA Executive Order signed this evening delivers hope for #Dreamers. Diversity makes the US, our company, and our world better,” the company said in a tweet.

Last summer, former President Donald Trump issued a proclamation suspending a number of visa programs, including guest worker visas, like the H-1B. Tech companies commonly use these visas to recruit talented employees from overseas. After this proclamation was issued, tech companies, from Apple to Google, put out statements admonishing the Trump administration’s guest worker ban.

In the past, tech companies have argued that comprehensive immigration reform would benefit the US economy, largely focusing on how to improve visas for the high-skilled workers these companies employ.

TechNet, a technology trade group, signed onto a National Immigration Forum letter to Congress Wednesday encouraging members to quickly approve the Biden administration’s immigration plans. Dozens of TechNet’s members also signed onto the letter, including Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google, and Microsoft.

“We can create a modern, humane, and effective immigration system that upholds the best of America’s promise: to be a nation where people can come from around the world to work, contribute, and build a better life for themselves, their families, and our society as a whole,” the TechNet letter said. “As we recover from COVID-19, the essential contributions of immigrants here today, and those to come tomorrow, will be critical to the health and well-being of American workers and their families.”

Developing…

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Technology US

The Muppet Great Gatsby exists — in script form

Our desperate plea for a Muppets adaptation of The Great Gatsby has been answered: documentary filmmaker Ben Crew has taken the public domain novel and turned it into a downloadable 104-page fan-made script that marries Muppet antics with existential angst. My request for an adaptation may have been ridiculous, but this script seriously vindicates me.

Crew’s script, “Muppets Present ‘The Great Gatsby,’” may be a silly mashup of a novel you’re forced to read in high school and a puppet comedy variety show, but he said it became a meaningful project when January’s news cycle became too much to bear. “I knew that there was nothing I could do about what was happening in D.C. and that if I didn’t distract myself I was just going to waste away in front of the news again,” Crew wrote in an email to The Verge. “That’s when I dedicated myself to writing this script.”

A mockup of the Muppet adaptations poster.
Image: Benjamin Crew

The final product is a script that plays to a lot of the Muppets’ strengths, while tossing in some fun additions original to Crew. Miss Piggy does karate, Gonzo and Fozzie Bear break the fourth wall frequently, and Kermit… well, Kermit is as exactly as good-natured as we expect. Since every good Muppets movie needs human characters, Crew imagines casting Tom Holland as narrator Nick Carraway and Taron Egerton as the abusive Tom Buchanan. The script also leans frequently into the meta-humor The Muppets is known for and, of course, features plenty of musical numbers.

Crew pulled on his knowledge of The Muppets to write the script, which he says he built over years, bonding with his older brother over VHS tapes of The Muppet Show. That personal connection and a belief that there’s something genuinely, morally good about the characters made the script feel like an antidote to the anxiety that was ailing Crew. And based on the positive responses to his Reddit post sharing the script, it helped others, too. You can read an excerpt from the full script below:

NICK CARRAWAY (CONT’D)

I wonder what kind of a man Mr. Gatsby is.

GONZO

Technically he’s a frog.

Nick’s eyes zero in on the massive windows of Gatsby’s home. A lone curtain is drawn open, could someone be watching?

NICK CARRAWAY (V.O.)

All this money, all this property – but are you in there alone right now, do you have anyone to share it with?

RIZZO

He’s inner monologuing again.

GONZO

Just unpack, we’ll snap him out of it if he’s still going by dinner.

So the wheels are in motion. There’s a script written, a poster made, and a new subreddit (r/muppetgreatgatsby) devoted to the project. Disney could step in and make things official at some point, but we’ve gotten pretty far on sheer willpower and ridiculous demands alone, so let’s make another: we need this script to be made into a movie.

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Technology US

Inauguration Day was more accessible than ever, but there’s still a ways to go

Firefighter Andrea Hall put accessible communication front and center at the presidential inauguration today when she led the Pledge of Allegiance in both spoken English and Signed English. The inaugural committee also hosted several separate accessible live streams of the event on its YouTube page, including one with audio description, one with live captions and American Sign Language interpretation, and one with Cued Speech transliteration (the use of hand shapes to signal speech sounds).

But despite those efforts, many deaf and hard of hearing viewers still found the inauguration inaccessible. Most broadcast stations didn’t have an ASL interpreter on-screen and used automated captions, which are notoriously inaccurate. In what some saw as a particularly frustrating move, several live streams switched to a wide shot of the crowd in the middle of Hall’s signing of the pledge, cutting off the only portion of the event during which signing appeared at center stage.

Although the “Accessible Inauguration” page was a change of pace for those who’ve grown used to being excluded from these kinds of events, many people didn’t know to look there for the appropriate stream. Both the audio description and Cued Speech transliteration streams were unlisted on YouTube, meaning you’d have to know to go to that page to get the links for them. Throughout the event, people on Twitter asked where they could find a stream with an ASL interpreter or expressed frustration that there were no interpreters at the event.

The reliability of the official interpreted streams was also spotty in some cases. There were several stretches of time when the picture-in-picture of the ASL interpreter disappeared from the screen, leaving chunks of speech inaccessible. The most consistently interpreted stream was the “Inaugural Celebration for Young Americans” hosted by Keke Palmer, but it was specifically directed at children, and deaf adults shouldn’t have to rely on programming for kids.

The new administration’s prioritization of accessibility is an exciting step, and the availability of such a variety of accessible sources is a big deal for many disabled Americans. But there’s still work to be done to ensure accessible options are reliable and easily available across all platforms.

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Technology US

JBL’s speaker-packed Google Nest Hub alternative is $220 off

This story is part of a group of stories called


Only the best deals on Verge-approved gadgets get the Verge Deals stamp of approval, so if you’re looking for a deal on your next gadget or gift from major retailers like Amazon, Walmart, Best Buy, Target, and more, this is the place to be.

JBL’s Google Assistant-powered smart display, the Link View, is on sale for $80 on Harman Audio’s (JBL’s parent company) eBay store. While its original price was $300, this smart display has been slowly getting cheaper since it debuted in 2018. Both the black and white color variants are on sale, and it comes with free standard shipping.

The JBL Link View smart display features an 8-inch touchscreen display with a webcam built into the device. Although it has been on the market for several years, time has been kind to this smart display. And Reddit users have pointed out that the Link View recently received an update, which includes a new user interface.


JBL Link View

Prices taken at time of publishing.

JBL’s Bluetooth smart display with an 8-inch display and a built-in webcam with a physical shutter.

For the price, JBL’s smart display seems like a great value that delivers more features (and likely better sound performance) than Google’s 7-inch Nest Hub. We haven’t tested it side-by-side with the 10-inch Nest Hub Max, but privacy-minded people might like the fact that JBL’s device has a hardware camera shutter, which Google’s lacks.

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Entertainment USA TV

Mindy Kaling, Brie Bella & More Stars Watch Kamala Harris Get Sworn In As VP With Their Kids — Pics

As we enter a new era of American politics, celebs were eagerly watching at home with their children. See pics of Mindy Kaling and more who shared Kamala Harris’ swearing-in with their kids.

She made history today by becoming the first female, Black, and South Asian Vice President of the United States. And politically active celebrities watching from home wanted to make sure that their young children were aware of how significant that is! Stars like Mindy Kaling and Brie Bella settled in with their adorable kids to watch the inauguration of Vice President Kamala Harris and President Joe Biden on January 20, and shared sweet photos on Instagram from the day they’ll surely remember for the rest of their lives.

Mindy Kaling’s Daughter, Kit, Watches Kamala Harris Get Sworn In

It’s no secret that Mindy is one of Vice President Harris’ biggest fans. The Mindy Project alum, 41, even campaigned for her during her 2019 presidential run, filming a video where they cooked traditional Indian foods together. When Kamala was elected on November 7, Mindy tweeted out a photo of the new VP as a child, writing, “Crying and holding my daughter, ‘look baby, she looks like us.’”

Her words made a lasting impression on her three-year-old, Kit Kaling. “I was at work, but apparently she said: ‘Is that mommy? It looks like mommy,’” Mindy wrote on Instagram, sharing a photo of Kit sitting on the couch while watching the inauguration. “Best compliment I ever got! It matters. Happy Inauguration everyone.”

Brie Bella Wakes Up Her Kids To Watch The Inauguration

The Total Bellas star, 38, shared the historic day with her adorable kids, three-year-old daughter Birdie Danielson, and five-month-old son Buddy Danielson. She shared a sleepy, makeup-free photo of herself and the kiddos still in their pajamas, waiting for the festivities to begin. Remember, it all started at 7:00am on the west coast! “We all woke up late but just in time for the inauguration,” Brie wrote on Instagram. “First time I get to sit with my kids and explain it all to them!!! Bird said she wants Gaga’s dresses!! Such a special day!!”

Andy Cohen Cheers On Biden & Harris With His Son

Benjamin Cohen may only be two years old, but his father is making sure he’s still politically aware. Andy Cohen posted a photo to Instagram showing little Ben totally engrossed in what was happening on the TV screen in their New York City apartment: newly sworn-in president Joe Biden‘s inaugural speech. The cutie is clutching his dad’s hand while taking in every single word, a Biden/Harris campaign sign in front of the television. The Watch What Happens Live host captioned the post, “The Future” with American flag emojis.

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Entertainment USA Hollywood

‘Mrs. Maisel’ Season 4: What You Need To Know About When It’s Returning & More

‘The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel’ will continue to marvel us with a fourth season. Season 4 is officially filming as of Jan. 2020, and HollywoodLife has the latest updates about the show’s production, the cast, and more.

Amazon Prime Video’s hit series The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel will return for a highly-anticipated fourth season in the very near future. After a delay in filming due to the COVID-19 pandemic, production finally got underway for season 4 in Jan. 2021 in New York City. The news of the show’s season 4 renewal was revealed in Dec. 2019. “We were thrilled to hear that for the fourth time, we do not have to pack up and vacate the premises,” creator and EP Amy Sherman-Palladino and executive producer Daniel Palladino said in a statement. “We’d like to thank Amazon for all their faith and support, their partnership and enthusiasm, and for letting us hang with our favorite people, the cast and crew of Maisel, for a little while longer.”

Mrs. Maisel continues to be a global hit for Amazon. Jennifer Salke, Head of Amazon Studios, said in her statement about the show’s season 4 renewal that the show had its “most-watched opening weekend ever” with the launch of season 3 in Dec. 2019. “Amy and Dan have created such funny, charming, relatable characters, all with their inimitable wit and eye for detail, and our customers around the world will be delighted to have another season in the world of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” Jennifer’s statement continued. From season 4 filming updates to the cast, this is the latest news that we know about Mrs. Maisel season 4.

Rachel Brosnahan and Alex Borstein as Midge and Susie. (Amazon Studios)

How To Watch ‘Mrs. Maisel’

Like all previous seasons of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, season 4 will premiere on Amazon Prime Video. All episodes will likely drop at once, similar to the past 3 seasons. Given that season 4 has yet to start filming, Amazon has not revealed the premiere date for the fourth season. The previous 3 seasons are available to watch on Amazon Prime Video now.

Season 4 Filming

Mrs. Maisel was one of the many shows delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, so the wait for the fourth season will be a long one. In Oct. 2020, creator Amy Sherman-Palladino revealed at the Woodstock Film Festival virtual panel discussion that the show was set to start back on Jan. 7, 2021. “Costume fittings are happening [now], sets are being built like mad. All of the stuff is happening,” she told TVLine. “We’re breaking our stories, we’re writing. And then in December we’re dragging the actors in and we’re going to table read the scripts. And then, come January 7, it’s, ‘On your mark, get set, go.’”

Executive producer Daniel Palladino also revealed at the Woodstock Film Festival that there will be “a lot more visual effects” due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. “Last season, our premiere had 850 extras in an airplane hangar. We cannot do that,” he said. But he promised season 4 is “going to happen, it’s just going to happen in a slightly different way.”

Over the past few months, the cast and crew have been making preparations to start filming at the top of 2021. “We were supposed to go back in June, and obviously it wasn’t safe to do that then,” star Rachel Brosnahan said on SiriusXM’s The Jess Cagle Show in Dec. 2020. “I just actually came from a wig and shoe and hat fitting. Literally just 20 minutes ago, walked in the door.” She added, “So, we are in the process of getting ready to go back hopefully safely in January, and are really, really excited. The hats are insane. The hats are out of control. We may have lost our minds with the hats this season.”

Rachel posted an Instagram photo of her first costume fitting for season 4 in Sept. 2020. She was masked, along with the designers. Rachel wore a gorgeous beige dress and an elaborate black hat. “We’re slowly and safely getting back to it but first costume fitting is in the books,” she wrote.

Rachel revealed that season 4 filming had started on Jan. 20, 2021. She posted a photo on Instagram highlighting the memorable day. “It looks a little different this year…but we’re back! Working away on @maiseltv Season 4,” she captioned the photo.

‘Mrs. Maisel’ Season 4 Cast

Rachel will be returning as the one and only Midge Maisel. The Golden Globe winner will be joined by her fellow castmates. The other cast members expected to return include Alex Borstein (Susie), Michael Zegen (Joel), Tony Shalhoub (Abe), Marin Hinkle (Rose), Kevin Pollak (Moishe), and Caroline Aaron (Shirley). As for new characters, Amy and Daniel are keeping those details under wraps for now.

Sterling K Brown
Sterling K. Brown played Reggie in season 3. (Amazon Studios)

As for other notable characters in the Mrs. Maisel universe, Sterling K. Brown is down to bring back Reggie, Shy Baldwin’s manager. “Hopefully there will be room for me to revisit the show in the future,” the This Is Us star told Glamour. Stephanie Hsu was introduced as Mei, Joel’s new love interest, in season 3. Amy revealed to Glamour that Stephanie would be back for season 4. When it comes to more scenes between Joel, Mei, and Midge, Amy noted, “Oh, you’ll get them.”

What about Lenny Bruce, you ask? Emmy winner Luke Kirby will be back in season 4. “He’s going to be in a little bit more [in season 4], which is great,” Amy said at the Woodstock Film Festival, according to TVLine. In season 3, Lenny and Midge had the ultimate will-they-or-won’t-they moment. Their intimate night out in Miami included drinks, dancing, and a lot of staring. At one point, Midge called Lenny out for “still staring” at her. He simply replied, “So are you.”

Luke Kirby Rachel Brosnahan
Luke Kirby and Rachel Brosnahan as Lenny and Midge. (Amazon Studios)

They walked back to Lenny’s hotel room together. Lenny opened the door waiting for Midge to go in, but she didn’t. She decided to get a cab and go home. As she walked away, Lenny asked, “Maybe someday? Before I’m dead?” She responded, “It’s a date!” Their chemistry continues to be explosive, and fans have been itching for these characters to get together for some time now. 

What Happened In Season 3?

Season 3 ended with Midge and Susie being fired from the second leg of Shy Baldwin’s (LeRoy McClain) tour. Shy’s manager, Reggie, cut them from the tour. Midge and Susie are forced to watch Shy’s plane take off right in front of their eyes. The firing came after Midge joked about Shy’s sexuality and basically outed him as a gay man to the audience at the Apollo. Reggie admits to Midge and Susie that he partly blames himself for how things ended up because he encouraged Midge to talk about Shy. He just didn’t know that she knew Shy is gay.

On top of this firing, Susie has gambled away the money that Midge was planning to use as a down payment on her old apartment. Susie believes she can replace the cash she gambled away with the insurance money she thinks she’ll be able to collect by burning down her dead mother’s house, but nothing in life is ever that easy. The thing is, Midge doesn’t know about any of this, nor is she aware that Joel has actually been managing her money this whole time.

Season 4 Plot

Amy noted that season 4 will explore the aftermath of Midge’s major career setback. “I think we’re going to pick up right after that,” Sherman-Palladino revealed to The Hollywood Reporter in Aug. 2020. “We may be doing a little jump within the season, but when we first start up we want to [stay in that time]. I mean, what’s the fun of totally destroying someone’s soul and heart and not getting to see the aftermath? That’s what comedy’s made of, soul-crushing defeat.”

As of Dec. 2020, Rachel had yet to see a script. “I have absolutely no idea what’s happening… I am being a hundred percent honest. I haven’t seen a script. I haven’t seen anything,” she said on Sirius XM’s The Jess Cagle Show. “I have no idea what’s happening this season. So I am just as excited as everyone else to find out.”

Luke Kirby
Luke Kirby as Lenny Bruce. (Amazon Studios)

If the show does incorporate a time jump into season 4, that could put the timeline closer to Lenny Bruce’s real-life death. Lenny tragically died of a morphine overdose at the age of 40 in 1966. There’s no doubt that Lenny’s sudden death would devastate Midge.

Amy confirmed that the show would address Lenny’s death at some point during the show’s run. “The minute you put Lenny Bruce in it, you know where you’re going,” she told The Hollywood Reporter. “You can’t pretend it’s not gonna happen.” She added that Lenny’s death could be a “cautionary tale” for Midge when it comes to “following your dream and the fact that every dream comes with consequences, and it can go great, or it can go off the rails.”

Season 4 could feature a serious falling out between Midge and Susie. Given Susie’s gambling problem and handling (or lack thereof) of Midge’s money, Midge could push Susie away. It’s only a matter of time before Midge learns the truth. Midge would likely not be happy with her ex-husband, Joel, for continuing to handle her money — as Susie’s urging — without telling her. Joel and Midge are technically still married, so they could end up pursuing the divorce route again over this.

Marin Hinkle
Tony Shalhoub and Marin Hinkle as Abe and Rose. (Amazon Studios)

Midge’s parents, Abe and Rose, lost their lavish Upper West Side apartment early on in season 3 after Abe quit his job at Columbia University. Given that he’s now working as a theater critic for the Village Voice, it’s unlikely Abe and Rose will be going back to the way they once lived any time soon.

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Technology US

Today, we welcomed a new president and new Bernie memes

Today’s US presidential inauguration brought many good things, but the thing Twitter seems most excited about is a new crop of Bernie memes.

The meme started with a wire photo of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), sitting on a folding chair watching President Joe Biden’s inauguration. The temperature in Washington, DC was in the 40s, so he’s bundled up with a coat and mittens, and he’s sitting socially distanced from everyone else, as his age and prior health issues put him at severe risk for COVID-19.

Something about Sanders’ chilly body language, his oversized wool mittens, and the fact that he was sitting entirely alone made the photo irresistible as meme material. Of course, the senator is no stranger to memes — including 2016’s Birdie Sanders and 2020’s “I am once again asking” — but this one has blown up particularly quickly. Take a look for yourself.

My question is who put Bernie somewhere even colder? Someone please get this man a beanie to match his mittens.

Of course, memes become more powerful when they’re put together.

There has, of course, also been fan art (in a shockingly short amount of time).

Adding to the meme repertoire, there’s a picture of Bernie looking at his phone.

And pictures of him holding an envelope are getting meme’d as well.

Since it’s Bernie, there’s a touching story to go with his look: the mittens he’s wearing are apparently handmade and were given to him by a supporter over two years ago.

If you’re looking to jump in on the meme action, Twitter user @Taber has kindly made a transparent version, ready to be put into many, many more images.

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Technology US

Amazon offers to help Biden administration with vaccinations

Amazon has offered to help the Biden administration meet its goal of completing 100 million coronavirus vaccinations within the next 100 days. “Our scale allows us to make a meaningful impact immediately in the fight against COVID-19, and we stand ready to assist you in this effort,” Dave Clark, Amazon’s worldwide operations leader, wrote in a letter to the administration.

The company’s main interest appears to be in offering vaccinations through its own facilities. Clark writes that Amazon has “an agreement in place” with a health care provider to administer vaccinations on site, though he did not say which Amazon facilities were being considered. The company operates warehouses, Amazon-branded shops, and Whole Foods grocery stores. Clark said Amazon could “move quickly once vaccines are available.”

Amazon could also provide technology and communications resources to help the new administration, Clark said. “We are prepared to leverage our operations, information technology, and communications capabilities and expertise to assist your administration’s vaccination efforts,” Clark wrote in the letter addressed to Biden. The letter was first reported by Reuters.

Among the challenges of getting the US vaccinated is completing the “last mile” of distribution — getting the vaccines from distributors to patients. Pfizer and Moderna’s vaccines need to be transported while frozen, with Pfizer’s requiring ultra-cold storage. Once they get to a facility, they need to be thawed and quickly distributed. Lately, distribution efforts in the US have been complicated by confusion over who’s eligible and fractured access to vaccine sign-ups and appointments.

Amazon, of course, has one of the most expansive distribution systems in the United States, designed to rapidly ship packages from warehouses across the country. The offer marks a stark contrast to Amazon’s relationship with the previous administration, which was strained by former President Donald Trump’s ongoing grudge against Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos. Trump also took a fairly hands-off approach to federal involvement in vaccine distribution, largely leaving states responsible.

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Health

COVID-19 Ups Complication Risks During Childbirth


WEDNESDAY, Jan. 20, 2021 (HealthDay News) — Women who have COVID-19 during childbirth are more likely to face complications than moms-to-be without the coronavirus, researchers say.

Fortunately, the absolute risk for complications for any one woman is very low (less than 1%). But the relative risks for problems — such as clotting and early labor — are significant, the new study found.

Still, “the findings here, truly, are that among women who are hospitalized for childbirth and who were diagnosed with COVID, adverse events are incredibly low. That should provide a lot of reassurance to women who are hoping to become pregnant during this period, or who are pregnant,” said study co-author Dr. Karola Jering, from the cardiovascular medicine division at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston.

Over eight months in 2020, she and her colleagues collected data on more than 400,000 mothers-to-be, nearly 6,400 of whom were infected with COVID-19.

Among the COVID-19 patients, the researchers found the relative risk of developing any type of blood clot was nearly five times higher than for those without the virus, and nearly four times higher for venous thromboembolism, clots in the veins.

These women were also far more likely to need intensive care or a ventilator, the researchers found.

Those who had the virus were:

  • 7% more likely to need a C-section.
  • 19% more likely to have preterm labor.
  • 17% more likely to have a preterm delivery.
  • 21% more likely to have preeclampsia.

There’s little a pregnant woman can do to reduce these risks beyond not being infected, Jering said.

“The problem, of course, is that right now we mostly have supportive care for patients who have COVID, in general. And of the things that have been tested for treatment of patients with COVID, most of them have not been tested in pregnant women,” said co-author Dr. Scott Solomon, also from Brigham and Women’s.

But Jering said pregnant women are given the other drugs often given to COVID-19 patients, including blood thinners to prevent clots.

In sum, the study findings were positive, Jering stressed. Among the pregnant women with COVID-19 who gave birth, 99% were discharged home, 3% needed intensive care and 1% needed mechanical ventilation. Less than 1% died in the hospital.





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Technology US

As parting message, Jim Bridenstine leaves Artemis program “in good shape” for Biden’s NASA

At 12PM ET today, Jim Bridenstine officially stepped down from his role as NASA administrator. During his time at the agency, the former Oklahoma congressman and Naval aviator used his political chops to drum up bipartisan support for the Trump administration’s Artemis program, the agency’s cornerstone initiative to land humans on the Moon by 2024 — a deadline widely viewed as nearly impossible to meet.

In anticipation of President Joe Biden taking office and the Senate transitioning to Democratic control, Bridenstine, a Republican, spent his final days as administrator making one last push for the Artemis program, a parting bid to insulate the program from potential cancellation. Last week, he met with top Democrats including Sen. Patrick Leahy, who’s expected to become the second-highest-ranking official in the Senate once Biden takes office.

“We have done everything we can to build the consensus necessary for this program to be long-term sustainable,” Bridenstine told The Verge in an interview before heading out. “I think as hard as we’ve worked to build the consensus over the last three years, I think we’re in good shape.”

The multibillion-dollar Artemis program will face a new administration focused on building consensus around other priorities, including battling the coronavirus pandemic and tackling climate change.

Already, Congress has balked at the idea of a 2024 deadline for landing humans on the Moon: of the $3.3 billion NASA said it needed for next year’s budget to stay on track for 2024, Congress came up with $850 million. But Bridenstine still views that as a win: during a pandemic, NASA’s budget is billions more than what it was when he took office.

The $850 million for NASA marks the first time Congress agreed to fund a human lunar lander since the Apollo program. “That’s notable,” Casey Dreier, senior space policy adviser at The Planetary Society, said in an interview. “It didn’t get that far during the constellation program, the last time we tried going to the Moon.”

But it also shows NASA “couldn’t successfully make the case to Congress as to why they needed the money now, and why they needed it for 2024,” Dreier said.

On Wednesday, Bridenstine tweeted a final message as administrator in an emotional three-minute video, emphasizing that “eliminating division” is key to enabling long-term success for Artemis and welcoming the next administrator who will inherit the program.

“With that I say farewell. And I’ll tell ya, when a new team comes in, give them all your support. Because they need it, they deserve it, and of course what we’re trying to do, we’re not only crossing multiple administrations, but multi-decade and multigenerational,” he said.

Steve Jurczyk, NASA’s former number two under Bridenstine, assumed the role of acting administrator at noon once Biden was sworn in.

President Biden is expected to pick a woman to fill the NASA administrator role, which has only been occupied by men since the agency’s founding in 1958. His transition team for NASA, led by the director of the National Air and Space Museum, Ellen Stofan, has spent over a month reviewing the agency’s top programs and interviewing agency personnel, but it hasn’t released any hints on where Biden will officially stand on space policy issues.

Bridenstine told The Verge he plans to take a job in his home state of Oklahoma but declined to specify what that job will be. Asked if he’s running for office again, he said “Oh, no no no. No. I’ll tell ya, I have no desire to run for office.”

“They say never say never, but it would take something significant to get me back into politics. I’ve never been so happy to not be in politics.”

In the Twitter video, where he choked up thanking NASA employees, Bridenstine ended with a simple message: “Go get ‘em. Go NASA. Ad astra.”