4.30.2020

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Need to Know
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Economic Contraction
US gross domestic product shrunk by 4.8% in the first quarter of 2020, preliminary estimates revealed yesterday. It was the first contraction since 2014 and the biggest drop since the economy cratered by 8.4% during the fourth quarter of 2008. The figure fell below expectations of a 3.5% drop and only covers through the end of March, just a few weeks into the coronavirus-induced economic shutdown. Analysts expect second quarter GDP to drop by about 12%, equivalent to an annualized decrease of 40%.  

President Trump said the federal government would not extend its social distancing guidelines when they expire Thursday. Meanwhile, states across the US are tentatively planning a slow return to normal depending on their circumstances; see where all 50 states stand here.

The US has currently reported 1,040,000 total cases as of this morning, with nearly 61,000 deaths (real-time map).

In positive news, pharmaceutical giant Gilead said its antiviral medication remdesivir showed improved outcomes for severe COVID-19 patients in a government study. The results follow early conflicting reports over the efficacy of the closely watched drug. According to the preliminary data, patients who received the treatment recovered 31% faster than those who received a placebo, while cutting the mortality rate by roughly one-third. The Food and Drug Administration appears ready to approve an emergency-use authorization for the drug in an effort to accelerate its availability. 

For a look at how the different types of vaccines work, check out the infographic posted to our resource page. We've also added a look at the stringency index, which gauges how well each country's response worked to stem the outbreak.  
Artificial Inventorship Nixed
Artificial intelligence systems cannot be legally recognized as inventors, the US patent office ruled this week. The decision follows two separate filings in which an AI program known as DABUS was listed as the sole inventor. 

The Artificial Inventor Project, the group behind the program, argued US patent law references to individuals could extend to machines. Certain types of deep learning techniques (see 101) are capable of generating new concepts with little to no human guidance. In the case of DABUS, the system was fed general data across many subjects, without any instructions related to the products it ultimately invented (details here).

Since no humans contributed to the process, the group argued only the program could claim credit for inventorship. The office disagreed, limiting inventorship to "natural persons," setting a more narrow precedent that may have ripple effects in the rapidly evolving field of AI.
College Athletes Near Payday
The NCAA's top governing body said yesterday it supported recommendations allowing student-athletes to sign endorsement deals and earn revenue from the use of their name, image, and likeness. The recommendations - the result of a monthslong process initiated last fall - prohibit schools and conferences from paying athletes and explicitly ban the use of endorsement deals as a recruiting tool (see full release).  

The decision is the next step in a tectonic shift for the NCAA, which has historically opposed compensation for athletes outside of scholarships and cost-of-living stipends, arguing it violates the spirit of amateurism and would upend the multibillion-dollar landscape of college athletics. However, a 2019 California law that allowed such deals forced the NCAA's hand. As part of the proposal, the body would seek antitrust status to avoid liability while asking Congress to allow it to preempt any state laws.  

Each division must now develop specific implementation guidelines, which will be put to a vote in time for the 2021-22 season. 
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In the Know
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Sports, Entertainment, & Culture
> Irrfan Khan, “Slumdog Millionaire” actor and Bollywood legend, dies at 53 after being admitted to the hospital for a colon infection (More)
> LeBron James to host virtual graduation for more than 3 million students featuring appearances by Pharrell Williams, the Jonas Brothers, and more (More) | Disney World releases guidelines for reopening in two phases, beginning with opening at 50% capacity (More)
> Amazon renews streaming deal with NFL and will exclusively air an upcoming game in 2021 (More)
Science & Technology
> Scientists demonstrate robot built with 3D-printed muscle cells from mice, powered by the spinal cord of a rat; applications extend to biological prosthetics and the study of progressive spinal diseases (More)
> Apple and Google unveil the first version of their COVID-19 contact tracing software for developers to build into usable apps (More)
> Simple sniff tests can be used to gauge the degree of consciousness of someone who has suffered a stroke or brain injury; test activates a motor-sensory feedback mechanism that is active even for seemingly unconscious patients (More)
Business & Markets
> US Federal Reserve holds benchmark interest rate between 0% and 0.25%, pledges to remain near zero until employment levels return (More)
> US stock markets surge (S&P 500 +2.7%, Dow +2.2%, Nasdaq +3.6%) on Fed rate update and positive COVID-19 treatment updates (More) | Gilead Sciences up 6% on promising COVID-19 treatment trial data (More)
> Boeing to cut 16,000 jobs (10% of its workforce), as it works on $10B bond deal to cover operations amid pandemic (More) | Facebook beats expectations, sees signs of stability in April advertising, shares up 10% (More) | Tesla beats expectations, sees third consecutive profitable quarter, shares up 9% (More)
Politics & World Affairs
> The White House Domestic Policy Council Director Josh Grogan to leave position next month, citing family concerns; Grogan says decision not linked to a series of negative stories about Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar (More)
> Federal appeals court rules Kansas can't require proof of citizenship to register to vote; decision found requirement of physical documents like a birth certificate or passport created an undue burden (More)
> Brooklyn synagogue issues apology after thousands show up for the funeral procession of a local rabbi; New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, who arrived in person to break up gathering with police, apologies for social media comments (More)
In-Depth
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What Antibody Studies Can Tell You (and What They Can't)
ProPublica | Caroline Chen. Serological testing - looking for antibodies to a virus in a patient's blood - is allowing researchers to gauge how widespread the coronavirus is while being touted as a tool to help reopen the economy. But the tests come with some important caveats. (Read)
When Freedom Depends on an App
Gizmodo | Molly Osberg, Dhruv Mehrotra. Some states are turning to apps that combine GPS and facial recognition to monitor the recently incarcerated, but many report flaws in the technology that have devastating consequences for users. (Read)
 
 
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Etcetera
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US marriage rates have dropped to a record low.
A piece of the moon sells for $2.5M.
Ugh millennials: You've overtaken baby boomers as the largest generation.
Man builds a life jacket for his upside-down goldfish.
A sushi master explains how to make sushi rice at home.
Japanese artist mixes anime with photorealistic digital artwork
After recovering from the coronavirus, Tom Hanks is donating plasma.
Crocs (the shoes) are having a moment. ($$, Quartz)
Clickbait: Lockdown is making your skin hungry.
Historybook: George Washington becomes first president of the US (1789); Louisiana Purchase land deal between US and France doubles the size of the US (1803); Adolf Hitler commits suicide in underground bunker (1945); HBD actress Gal Gadot (1985).
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