Technology US

Google completes purchase of Fitbit

Google has completed its $2.1 billion acquisition of Fitbit, the company announced today. The news follows the EU’s announcement late last year that it had approved the deal, after Google made a series of commitments about its planned operation of Fitbit and use of the its health data.

In its announcement, Google’s hardware chief Rick Osterloh said the acquisition was “about devices, not data.” Emphasizing this point, he reiterated Google’s commitments about how it will handle the acquisition in markets around the world. These pledges include not using Fitbit users’ health and wellness data for Google’s ad tracking.

Osterloh also said the deal won’t affect how third-party fitness trackers work with Android, or how Fitbit works with other non-Google services.

In a statement, Fitbit’s CEO James Park welcomed the news, and said the acquisition would let the company “innovate faster, provide more choices, and make even better products.” However, he added emphasized that Fitbit’s products and services would continue to work across both iOS and Android.

“We will maintain strong data privacy and security protections, giving you control of your data and staying transparent about what we collect and why,” Park said.

It was data concerns like these that have prompted regulators around the world to investigate the deal. Late last year, EU regulators gave the deal their approval, completing an investigation they began back in August.

The approval came with a number of conditions, including that Google cannot use Fitbit data from users in the European Economic Area (EEA) such as GPS and health data for ad targeting. As part of the approval, EEA users must also be able to opt-out of having their health and wellness data shared with other Google services, and Google has agreed to continue to support third-party wearables with Android.

Google’s announcement appears to have been made prior to the Australia’s Competition & Consumer Commission’s (ACCC) final decision on the acquisition. In late December, The Guardian reported that Google risked a $400 million fine if it proceeded with the deal without the regulator’s approval.

At the time, the ACCC rejected Google’s proposed conditions for the deal over data concerns as well as fears that it could force Fitbit’s rivals out of the wearables market because of their reliance on Google’s Android. Although ACCC Chair Rod Sims acknowledged the concessions Google had offered, he expressed concerns that they could not be “effectively monitored and enforced in Australia.” The Australian regulator said its investigation would continue, ahead of a new decision date of March 25th, 2021. We’ve reached out to Google for more clarity on the ACCC’s pending approval.

Google announced its acquisition of Fitbit over a year ago in November 2019, when Osterloh called it “an opportunity to invest even more in Wear OS as well as introduce Made by Google wearable devices into the market.”

In his letter announcing the acquisition, Park said Fitbit has now sold more than 120 million devices across over 100 countries.


G42 Healthcare successfully completes genomics study in UAE to identify COVID-19 virus sequence

The viral genome sequencing was performed on 1,067 nasopharyngeal swab samples collected in Abu Dhabi between May and June 2020.
Image Credit: Supplied

Abu Dhabi: Healthcare, a subsidiary of Abu Dhabi-based Group 42, has conducted a SARS-CoV-2 genome sequencing study that has identified the genomic source of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The study will help determine the spread and evolution patterns of the virus since the disease was first recorded in the UAE. The entire study will be published as scientific paper, which is now in final stages of production.

The study also provides additional insights for sustainable screening of the SARS-CoV-2 dynamics and will help the country better prepare for future outbreaks.

By analysing the effect of community infections on the spread of COVID-19 in the UAE, researchers can better understand the viral mutations and gain insights into their role in sustaining the pandemic despite the stringent control measures put in place by health authorities.

One of the key objectives of this longitudinal study is to assess the potential emergence of a more virulent subtype and its potential effect on the country’s infection control strategies as the pandemic progresses. This is particularly timely and important considering the new, more infectious strain of the virus discovered in the UK, underlining the role of predictive analysis and data in enhancing response to the pandemic.

The viral genome sequencing was performed on 1,067 nasopharyngeal swab samples collected in Abu Dhabi between May and June 2020, in accordance with the local regulation and under the guidance of the Department of Health (DoH), Abu Dhabi. The analysis revealed unique genetic variations specific to the UAE virus strains and the patterns of the virus’s introduction.

Results from this study will in turn translate into improvements in diagnostic accuracy and sensitivity. This might lead to re-designing of new PCR primers, that can be added into current primer pools, to target potential new viral mutations that might today be absent in imported kits currently on the market.

Ashish Koshy, CEO of G42 Healthcare, said: “Our latest endeavour strengthens our commitment to ensure impactful public healthcare solutions in the fight against the pandemic and raise the bar when it comes to accurate and reliable testing.

“For this study, we have capitalised on our strength of unparalleled genomics solutions, which is a key driver of the population genome program launched by G42 Healthcare in December 2019 under the guidance of the Department of Health, and that aims to create a reference genome specific to UAE citizens to enable a predictive, preventive and personalized healthcare system in the country.

“Our genomics technology and scalable expertise strongly support the UAE’s national genome project, while also underpinning our groundbreaking work during the pandemic, which has enabled us to create unmatched solutions that will change the face of the healthcare sector for the better.”

A key player in the race to find a solution to the global pandemic, G42 Healthcare provided the technology to generate relevant and insightful data for this study. Harnessing the power of AI and a well-established genomics lab, the project was furnished with short read sequencing technologies and the cloud computing resources required for the massive throughput of data.

G42 Healthcare is also the facilitator of the first Phase III trials of an inactivated vaccine for COVID-19 in the pan-Arab region, with over 43,000 volunteers from 125 nationalities participating in the trials that was launched in the UAE on 16 July 2020.

Football UK

Solskjaer sends Diallo warning as winger completes Man Utd move

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer admits “it will take time” for Amad Diallo to settle into Manchester United life after the Ivorian winger completed his move to Old Trafford.

The teenager has signed a contract at United until 2025 after completing his switch from Serie A outfit Atalanta, and Solskjaer is delighted to complete the deal.

“As a club, we have followed Amad for a number of years and having watched him myself, I believe he is one of the most exciting young prospects in the game,” he told the United website.

“ Manchester United has such a proud history of developing young players and everything is in place to enable Amad to reach his potential here.

“It will take time for him to adapt but his speed, vision and fantastic dribbling ability will stand him in good stead to make the transition.

“He is a player with all of the raw attributes that are needed to be an important player for Manchester United in the years to come.”

Diallo has signed a contract until 2025

Diallo himself is delighted with the move.

“After waiting since the summer, it is finally a dream come true to complete my move to Manchester United,” he said.

I am hugely ambitious and there is so much that I want to achieve in the game; when I spoke to the manager I knew that I had joined the perfect club.

“This is a really exciting squad with so many great players, I can promise that I will work hard every day to learn from them and give everything to develop my game. The coaches have been fantastic since I signed, we have been in touch regularly and they have already given me a lot of great advice.

“I have had time to prepare for this move, both physically and mentally, and I have worked really hard to be ready to make the step up to this amazing club.”

Will Diallo eventually be a star at United? Have your say in the comments below

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Sports UK

Arsenal’s Sead Kolasinac completes loan transfer to Schalke

Arsenal left-back Sead Kolasinac has completed a loan transfer to Bundesliga club Schalke for the remainder of the season.

The 27-year-old defender came through Schalke’s youth system in 2011 before completing a transfer to Arsenal in 2017.

After three years in north London, the Bosnia and Herzegovina star is returning to Germany for six months and will then consider his future at the end of the season.

Upon rejoining Schalke ahead of the January transfer window, Kolasinac said: “I’m happy and proud to be wearing the royal blue of Schalke 04 once again.

“The club is currently in a difficult situation. Over the coming weeks and months I want to do my part in order to help us pick up as many points as possible.

Arsenal left-back Sead Kolasinac has completed a loan transfer to Bundesliga club Schalk

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“We will manage to stay up together, I’m 100 per cent convinced of it!

“I’m also very happy to be reunited with several familiar faces, both in the team and backroom staff. I never lost touch with FC Schalke 04.

“Returning to Gelsenkirchen was something I really wanted to do.”

The left-back has fallen down the pecking order at Arsenal

Jochen Schneider, head of sport and communication at Schalke, added: “We have been working hard on Sead Kolasinac’s return for a while now, and are very proud to have a true Schalker returning home.

“Sead’s character and strong will exemplify the values that Schalke 04 stands for and are exactly what’s needed in the fight to stay up.”

Will Arsenal complete a loan deal for Isco in the January window? Have your say here.

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Entertainment UK

Charlotte Dawson completes baby’s nursery with a 6ft giraffe as due date nears

She’s been hit with the nesting urge as her pregnancy draws to a close.

And Celebs Go Dating star Charlotte Dawson has put the finishing touches to her baby’s nursery – completing the sweet blue and white room with a 6ft-tall stuffed giraffe cuddly toy.

Sharing a video of the peaceful room to Instagram, Charlotte wrote: “Sneak peek of our little angels nursery. It’s so calming.”

She tagged the post with a blue heart and stars emojis, along with a link to her interior designer, Stephane Moreton.

Along with the impressive giraffe – the same one Mariah Carey used in her nursery for her twins back in 2011 – Charlotte has more practical touches, including a soft blue blanket for keeping warm on late night feeds.

Celebs Go Dating star Charlotte Dawson has put the finishing touches to her baby’s nursery – completing the sweet blue and white room with a 6ft tall stuffed giraffe cuddly toy

Along with the impressive giraffe - the same one Mariah Carey used in her nursery for her twins back in 2011 - Charlotte has more practical touches, including a soft blue blanket for keeping warm on late night feeds
Along with the impressive giraffe – the same one Mariah Carey used in her nursery for her twins back in 2011 – Charlotte has more practical touches, including a soft blue blanket for keeping warm on late night feeds

There is also a classic white wooden crib for her newborn, and a rocker and ottoman for cuddling the baby.

The 28-year-old is expecting her first child with boyfriend Matthew Sarsfield.

Charlotte Dawson is expecting her first child with boyfriend Matthew Sarsfield
Charlotte Dawson is expecting her first child with boyfriend Matthew Sarsfield

Charlotte, the daughter of the late comic Les Dawson, has not had the easiest of pregnancies, having been diagnosed with gestational diabetes – which is high blood sugar that develops during pregnancy and usually disappears after giving birth.

Despite scares about reduced movement necessitating hospital checks, she has nearly reached her January due date.


Kartik Aaryan’s Dhamaka completes filming after just 10 days

Actor Kartik Aaryan’s upcoming thriller film, Dhamaka, has wrapped filming after 10 days. Directed by Ram Madhvani, the shoot was planned to the tee, and mostly restricted to a hotel in Powai.

The entire crew was put up at the hotel, creating a bio-bubble during filming. Only a few action sequences were shot outdoors.

A source said, “Since the unit comprised 300 people, the entire hotel was booked by the production team. The filmmaker and his team adhered to the necessary safety protocols, and ensured that no outsiders were allowed into the hotel. In fact, the hotel staff was also instructed to stay put during the period, thus creating a bio-bubble of sorts.”

Kartik plays a journalist in Dhamaka, which is about a television channel’s live coverage of a terrorist attack. The film was carefully storyboarded before filming began.


The source continued, “Ram sir had planned each scene, including where every actor would stand and what the camera angle would be. Thanks to the intense prep, Kartik knew his character like the back of his hand. It saved the unit a lot of time. While the shoot went overtime on a few occasions, they would usually call it a day after eight hours of filming. Kartik, who had allotted 14 days to the film, was happy to wrap it up before time. This is the first mainstream Hindi film that has been shot in such a short period.”

Also read: Dhamaka: Kartik Aaryan shares first look of his character Arjun Pathak from Neerja director’s next

On Thursday, Kartik had shared a video from the outdoor set of the film. It looked like they were filming a rooftop scene featuring a helicopter. The green-screen set had been erected on a barren stretch of land.

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Sports UK

Liverpool secure first January transfer as teenage star completes switch

Liverpool have signed the Birmingham City youngster Calum Scanlon to further bolster the Reds’ academy.

Scanlon, 15, is an England youth international and was highly-rated at Blues, whose own youth set up is currently in a state of flux.

Now the versatile left-sided player, who can player at left-back or further forwards, has put the finishing touches on a £500k move.

Scanlon posted on social media: “Happy to sign with Liverpool FC.

“A big thank you to Birmingham City and everyone who has helped me progress to this point, but as of today I start a new chapter.

“The hard work continues, let’s go!”

Scanlon will join up with the Reds’ academy in January, and initially link up with the club’s Under-16s and Under-18s age groups.

Liverpool’s senior side have this term profited from the fine work done lower down the system.

Curtis Jones has established himself as a first-team regular, while Neco Williams, Caoimhin Kelleher and Rhys Williams have all seen action in the first half of the season too.

Birmingham are in the midst of reviewing how they develop young players and could look at remodelling the academy.

There have been suggestions that the club’s owners could look to scrap the club’s youth system, ala Brentford, moving more to a Birmingham ‘B’ model, looking to recruit players between 16 and 19, who have been released elsewhere.

However, those plans are yet to be finalised, with the club insisting that nothing definitive has yet been decided.

Should Liverpool look to make senior signings in January? Have your say here.

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Technology US

Nintendo completes Donkey Kong Country trilogy on Switch Online service

If you’ve been waiting until you could play all three SNES Donkey Kong Country games before picking up a Switch, you’re in luck. Nintendo has announced that the third game in the series, Donkey Kong Country 3: Dixie Kong’s Double Trouble, will be added to the Nintendo Switch Online subscription service this Friday.

The original Donkey Kong Country game was added in July, while its sequel followed in September.

Beyond Donkey Kong Country 3, Nintendo Switch Online is also getting some deeper cuts this week. SNES titles The Ignition Factor, Super Valis IV, and Tuff E Nuff are all coming on Friday alongside NES game Nightshade.

A Nintendo Switch Online subscription is required to access the Switch’s library of NES and SNES games, as well as giving you cloud saves and the ability to play Switch games like Splatoon 2 and Mario Kart 8 Deluxe in online multiplayer. It costs $3.99 a month, $7.99 for three months, or $19.99 a year.

Sports UK

Mario Balotelli completes transfer to new club after five months without a team

Mario Balotelli has joined Serie B side Monza having been without a club for five months.

The controversial character saw his contract terminated by Italian outfit Brescia back in July and has been looking now a new employer ever since.

Balotelli had been training with Franciacorta, who play in the fourth tier of Italian football.

But the former Manchester City and Liverpool man has now teamed up with former AC Milan team-mate Kevin-Prince Boateng.

Monza are owned by former Italy Prime minister Silvio Berlusconi.

Balotelli will wear the no 45 shirt – the same number he wore while at the Etihad.

Mario Balotelli has signed with Monza

Previous to signing with the Serie B side the 30-year-old had been linked with a move to Championship side Barnsley.

Talks were reportedly held between the player and the Tykes last month.

But Balotelli now has his sights set on Serie A and has vowed to help the club reach the top flight.

“I thank the president Berlusconi and Adriano Galliani for this opportunity,” he told La Gazzetta dello Sport.

“I will do everything to help Monza reach Serie A.”

The club’s chairman has warned the player however that this is his “last chance”.

The forward had been without a club since leaving Brescia

Monza are Balotelli’s eighth club in the last decade.

City sold the forward to Milan in 2013 before he returned to England with Liverpool 18 months later.

He endured a horror spell at Anfield and his next permanent move saw him join French side Nice.

It was at the Ligue 1 outfit where Balotelli enjoyed his most productive season as he scored 26 times in 2017/18.

In January 2019 the Italian terminated his contract with Nice and moved to Marseille before joining Brescia, his hometown club.

Technology US

China’s Chang’e 5 completes docking mission on its way back to Earth

China’s Chang’e-5 mission completed a tricky docking maneuver on Saturday, as it prepares to return the soil samples it collected from the Moon’s surface back to Earth.

Chang’e 5 launched on November 23rd atop a Long March 5 rocket, with four main spacecraft. The mission entered the lunar orbit on November 28th, and its lander and ascent vehicle landed on the Moon December 1st, while its service module remained in lunar orbit. The lander gathered rocks and soil, and on Saturday, docked in orbit with the service module. Those samples will now be put in a return capsule for the trip home, expected to land in Inner Mongolia later in December.

If the mission is successful, it will make China only the third country to return samples from the Moon, more than 50 years after the US Apollo missions. The last successful lunar sample return mission was the Soviet Union’s Luna 24 mission in 1976.

Also on Saturday, Japan’s Hayabusa2 mission landed in the Australian desert, after retrieving samples of the Ryugu asteroid.