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Fictitious Swiss scientist entangles China media’s COVID coverage – Al Jazeera English

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Major state media outlets in China have scrubbed references to a Swiss scientist from their news articles after it was revealed that the expert is a fictitious character whose statements about the COVID-19 pandemic investigation were falsified.

The supposed biologist, identified as Wilson Edwards, wrote a post in July on Facebook criticising the United States position on the World Health Organization (WHO) probe in China.

Edwards was quoted as saying that contrary to reports, it was not China but the US which had been politicising the investigation.

He went on to claim that US President Joe Biden’s administration was trying to reclaim its influence in the WHO, after his predecessor Donald Trump withdrew US membership from the international body in April 2020 as the pandemic began.

“I have the impression that WHO’s new plans, which include lab audits, are largely politically motivated,” Edwards was quoted as writing on the social media platform.

State-owned Chinese publications, including the China Daily and Global Times, quickly seized on Edwards’ supposed statement, which reinforces Beijing’s own stand rejecting more attempts by the US and the WHO to research the link between humans and the spread of COVID-19.

A Global Times article highlighted the “claim of intimidation” by Edwards, while a People’s Daily opinion headline cited “US attempts” to overturn the WHO report on COVID, using the same scientist.

On Tuesday, the Swiss embassy in Beijing issued a statement saying no Swiss citizen by the name of Wilson Edwards exists, adding that officials could not find any academic articles written by the author.

“In the last several days, a large number of press articles and social media posts citing an alleged Swiss biologist have been published in China. While we appreciate the attention on our country, the Embassy of Switzerland must unfortunately inform the Chinese public that this news is false,” it added.

Following the Swiss embassy’s statement, Global Times took down the article, while another piece published in the China Daily edited out the falsified quotes.

The protracted probe into the origin of COVID-19, which was first reported in the Chinese city of Wuhan, is increasingly contentious.

Washington is pressing the WHO to look closer into the Wuhan laboratory leak theory and return to China, while Beijing rejects such efforts by the UN body.

China has repeatedly denied the lab was responsible, accusing the US and other countries of trying to distract from their own failures to contain the virus.

In March, a joint WHO-China study on the origins of COVID-19 said that transmission of the virus from bats to humans through another animal is the most likely scenario, and that a lab leak was “extremely unlikely”.

The findings were largely as expected but left many questions unanswered. The authors proposed further research in every area except the lab leak hypothesis.

The report’s release has been repeatedly delayed, raising questions about whether the Chinese side was trying to skew the conclusions to prevent blame for the pandemic falling on China.

In July, the WHO said the second stage of an investigation into the origins of coronavirus should include further studies in China and lab “audits”.

WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus proposed five priorities for the next phase of the investigation including a focus on “studies prioritising geographic areas with the earliest indication of circulation of SARS CoV-2”.

China, however, rejected the proposal saying researchers should instead prioritise the “very likely” possibility that the virus originated in animals and expand their work to other countries around the world.

Zeng Yixin, vice-minister of China’s National Health Commission, told the State Council Information Office he was “surprised” that the WHO team proposed to return to places in the central city of Wuhan that they visited earlier this year and also investigate the hypothesis that it leaked from a lab.

Zeng said such a move was “not scientific”.

Liang Wannian, who leads the Chinese scientists in the WHO team, dismissed questions over China’s transparency, saying it was not possible to share the raw data from the earliest patients publicly, or allow for it to be copied because of privacy concerns.

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Media Day hype, player rankings are clickbait | Pickaxe and Roll – Denver Stiffs

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Ryan Blackburn shares his thoughts on the third day of player interviews for media week that included Aaron Gordon, Will Barton, Jeff Green, Austin Rivers, and Michael Porter Jr. in a stacked session. Gordon was chill, Barton was excited, Green was professional, Rivers was insightful, and Porter showed readiness to take the leap. Then, Ryan discusses the ESPN player rankings that are filtering out and what they had to say about the Nuggets and Nikola Jokić.

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Hashtag Trending September 24 – European Commission Mandates USB-C; Social Media Platforms Sue Texas; Fedex’s Autonomous Delivery – IT World Canada

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The European Commission hopes to mandate USB-C on smartphones, Texas is being sued over a new law for social media platforms, and FedEx completes its first fully autonomous vehicle delivery.

It’s all the tech news that’s trending right now, welcome to Hashtag Trending! It’s Friday, September 24, and I’m your host, Jori Negin-Shecter.

EU proposes mandatory USB-C on all devices, including iPhones from technology

The European Commission has announced plans to mandate a USB-C charging port on smartphones and other electronics. The goal is to reduce the number of chargers users need to buy, thus reducing electronic waste. Although it isn’t directly targeted at Apple, the mandate will affect the company the most. Apple still uses its own Lighting connector for its flagship smartphones, including their recently announced iPhone 13 series. As more laptops and smartphones switch to USB-C, calls for Apple to drop the Lightning port have grown as well. Notably, the Commission’s plan only targets wired charging, meaning the requirement does not apply to a device that exclusively uses wireless charging.

Texas sued over bill stopping social media companies from banning users for political views from technology

Texas is being sued by groups representing Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter over a new bill that would prevent these platforms from banning users based on their political views. The law, called House Bill 20, bars social media platforms with over 50 million monthly users in the U.S. from banning users for their viewpoints. Additionally, the law also requires social media companies to file a public suspension report biannually. The reports must detail content removal and account suspensions. Supporters say the goal of the bill is to increase transparency and ensure that users are treated fairly. Despite this, the lawsuit claims that the government cannot force the social media platforms to host content that goes against their terms of service. A law of similar nature that sought to deplatform politicians for their viewpoints was struck down this past June in Florida.

Finally, FedEx has announced that it completed its first delivery run using an autonomous truck. The route stretched 500 miles round trip between Houston and Dallas. The success of the trip signals that the delivery company in Texas will begin using more autonomous vehicles in the not so distant future. The truck, which was developed by truck maker PACCAR and autonomous driving company Aurora, uses LiDAR, radar and various other sensors to drive safely on highways. [Business Insider]

That’s all the tech news that’s trending right now. Hashtag Trending is a part of the ITWC Podcast network. Add us to your Alexa Flash Briefing or your Google Home daily briefing. Make sure to sign up for our Daily IT Wire Newsletter to get all the news that matters directly in your inbox every day. Also, catch the next episode of Hashtag Tendances, our weekly Hashtag Trending episode in French, which drops every Friday at 3 pm. If you have a suggestion or tip, please drop us a line in the comments or via email. Thanks for listening, I’m Jori Negin-Shecter.

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Wonder Media Network’s Jenny Kaplan Mulls Podcaster’s Next Move – Forbes

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Wonder Media Network Chief Executive Jenny Kaplan is figuring out how to turn her passion for podcasts into a business that can remain viable over the long run.

The New York-based company, which Kaplan co-founded in 2018, aims to appeal to audiences either overlooked or ignored by the mainstream media.

“We really wanted to start an organization that was a media company that was based in politics, business and culture, where women were perhaps our first core audience but where we had this big mission of amplifying underrepresented voices,” Kaplan said in an interview.

Wonder Media Network makes money selling advertising and sponsorships on its line-up of 26 original shows, including Encyclopedia Wommanica, The Brown Girls Guide to Politics, and Majority 54.  It also produces podcasts for corporate clients such as Microsoft

MSFT
, Pfizer

PFE
, and Spotify for a fee.

Wonder Media Network is facing the same competitive pressures for advertisers and listeners that lead to the sales in recent months of Bill Simmons’ Ringer Podcast network, Wondery and Stitcher. The industry consolidation shows no signs of slowing

 “As more and more people produce podcasts, discoverability gets harder,” Kaplan said in an interview. “So we have been approached (about a sale) and are open to conversations. Our goal from the beginning has been to create a company that can be successful on its own and produces the kinds of shows that we want.”

Kaplan declined to be more specific about a potential Wonder Media Network sale.

Unlike other podcasters, Wonder Media Network typically doesn’t sell ads using pricing based on CPMs, or cost per thousand  (listeners), preferring monthly or seasonal deals.

According to Kaplan, the company’s approach to advertising enables it create better-produced ads that fit seamlessly with the content Wonder Media Network is creating.

“They sound better and feel better to the listeners, the hosts and the sponsors,” she said.

Kaplan funded Wonder Media Network launch along with Chief Marketing Officer Shira Atkins, who also co-founded the company. New Media Ventures, a venture fund and a network of investors that backs progressive-minded companies, has also invested in Wonder Media. According to Kaplan, Wonder Media Network was cash-flow positive and profitable in less than a year and continues to make money.

Like other podcast producers, Wonder Media Network is willing to tackle complicated stories at a time when online publishers are pressuring writers to produce sensationalist clickbait content like listicles that they hope will drive traffic to their sites.

“Podcasts are getting longer and more intricate,” Kaplan said. “People want to examine perspectives and different opinions in podcasting in a much longer form.”

Wonder Media Network’s first show was Women Belong In The House, which chronicled her mother Kathy Manning’s campaign for the U.S. Congress in North Carolina and the challenges facing other female candidates seeking elected office. 

Manning lost her first election in 2018 but succeeded two years later after a court-ordered redistricting made the district friendlier for Democrats. Before her victory, the seat had been in Republican hands since 1985.

“I had always been obsessed with politics and storytelling, which is why I got to journalism, to begin with, at least the storytelling side of things,” Kaplan said. “And so I had this front-row seat to look at what it’s like to run for office. I was obsessed with trying to figure out and diving into why there are so few women in office.”

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