South Africa Economy – Marabi Tue, 15 Jun 2021 08:40:23 +0000 en-US hourly 1 South Africa Economy – Marabi 32 32 Among Us: How To Play Everybody’s Gambling Obsession Online (& Use The New Free Airship Map) Thu, 08 Apr 2021 02:57:41 +0000

Try to find out which of your crew is an alien impostor in the online social deduction game Among Us.

Interior laziness

Vaccines against covid-19 can be deployed nationwide, but if you’re still looking for a fun way to connect remotely with family and friends, look no further than Among us, a very popular free multiplayer mobile game that encourages you to trick your companions to win.

If you’ve spent any time on Twitter or around someone under the age of 30, you’ve probably familiarized yourself with memes involving colorful Teletubby-like characters dressed in space suits. These are the players from Among Us, whose popularity has skyrocketed in recent months.

What exactly is this game? Why has it become so popular last year? What does US Rep Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (perhaps better known as AOC) have to do with all of this?

Here we’ve got everything you need to know about Among Us to get ready to play remotely.

What is Among Us, and how do you play?

Among Us is an online multiplayer social deduction game from developer InnerSloth, similar to Mafia or Werewolf. You can play with four to ten people, either people you know or online with strangers.

In the game, you play as a crew member aboard a spaceship, airship, sky headquarters, or planetary base, trying to keep your ship together and return to Earth . But one crew member has been replaced by a parasitic shape-shifting alien who wants to wipe out the rest of the crew before the ship arrives home. The problem is, the impostor looks like everyone else and will sabotage the ship, sneak through vents, trick other players, and attempt to trap others, all in an effort to go undetected and kill the rest of the crew. (If you have more players, you can also choose to have more than one impostor. Here is a guide to be the best impostor You can be.)

During this time, the non-alien crew members must complete tasks to repair the ship and cannot speak unless a death is reported. Then the surviving crew can openly chat through who they think the impostor is, and make their best guess as to who to vote off the ship. If the impostor is rejected, the crew wins. But if the group accidentally votes a crew member, everyone goes back to ship maintenance until another body is found, and they vote again.

Why has Among Us suddenly become so popular?

Among Us was released in June 2018, but topped the Steam and app download lists last year, reaching half a billion monthly active users by November. Why this sudden increase in popularity?


Among us, popularity has skyrocketed over the past couple of months as famous Twitch streamers have started playing.

Interior laziness

The answer seems to be the Twitch streamers, as popular figures on the online game streaming platform like Sodapoppin, Pewdiepie, Shroud and Ninja have all played. On Twitch, Among us has 9.3 million subscribers – in comparison, Fortnite a 4.2 million.

Tons of memes among us have also appeared on Twitter and Reddit, increasing awareness of the game. It is also possible that many people have already exhausted others. remote online games with friends during the coronavirus quarantines, and it was something new and easy to play from afar. In addition, the game supports cross-platform play on PC and mobile in local and online multiplayer games, making it easier for people to play no matter what device they are on. Many players too use the Discord platform to chat with friends in real time while they are playing.

In October, Ocasio-Cortez streamed Among Us on Twitch alongside the streamers Pokimane and Hasanabi, in order to encourage people to vote. The stream peaked at 439,000 views, making it the third most-watched single stream in Twitch history. (The all-time record is that of Ninja, when he teams up with Drake and Travis Scott in a game of Fortnite.) The number of viewers ranged from 300,000 to 400,000 for most of the stream.

How much does Among Us cost and on which devices can you play the game?

Among us is free to play on ios and Android devices (you can download it from the App Store or Google play store). Or, it costs $ 5 to play on PC (you can download it from Steam or

Be warned, the free mobile version contains ads. Once you have downloaded and opened the game on your device, a pop-up window will appear detailing its AdMob usage and data collection. If you want to opt out of ads and data collection, you can purchase the ad-free version of the app for $ 2 by tapping Remove Ads and following the prompts to select your payment method.

There is a way around the ads for some players: if the host of Among Us pays the $ 2 for the ad-free version, the game will be ad-free for the whole party, even if the others haven’t paid for it. .

You’ll also find microtransactions in-game, on both mobile and PC versions, with the option to purchase animals, skins, and hats. Some are free, but paid or not, none of these affects the gameplay.

One of the main advantages of Among Us is the ability to play seamlessly with people on different devices, which makes it easy to get started in a game with friends or strangers.

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How many people can play Among Us together?

You can play Among Us with a group of four to 10 people.

How to play with the new airship card?

On March 31st, developer InnerSloth released a brand new Among Us map called the Airship Map, giving players a new free stage to play on, with over a dozen rooms, new tasks, ladders, and the ability to choose which room you start in. The spaceship map called The Skeld is the other free option that most gamers are familiar with. When you open the app and start a new game, you should be able to select the airship from the options at some point starting today.

Where’s the sequel to Among Us?

While InnerSloth had planned Among us 2, in September, the studio decided to cancel it and instead focus on expanding the content offered in Among Us. The developers said the decision was made due to the game’s recent spike in popularity, according to a blog post.

“All of the content that we had planned for Among Us 2 will go to Among Us 1 instead,” the post read. “This is probably the hardest choice because it means digging deeper into the core game code and reworking several parts of it. We have a lot going on and are excited to bring new content to everyone as you continue. to have fun playing. “

The planned new content includes new servers, color blind support, a friend / account system, and a new milestone, but there is no ETA for when these changes can happen. At CES 2021 in January, the creators of Among Us teased more surprises on the way this year.

For more games, check out all the best online games to play with your friends from home, the 30 best iPad games, and all Apple Arcade games are now available to pay on your Apple devices.

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Card Issuers Offer Less Costly Ways to Access Your Line of Credit | Personal finance Thu, 08 Apr 2021 02:57:41 +0000

You will have a fixed period to repay the loan with a fixed monthly payment. You will be charged interest, but potentially at a rate lower than the current APR on your credit card. These options allow you to get a loan without an application, which means no further serious investigation of your credit report.

“With My Chase Loan, customers have told us that the ability to take out a loan with no application, no credit check, and no new account to manage, at an APR lower than their card’s standard APR is attractive,” said a door. – Chase spoke to an email. “They also like the transparency of knowing their monthly payment amount and loan term in advance, and the reassurance that there are no origination or prepayment fees.”

If you need time to pay off a large purchase, this type of option may be a better deal than charging it straight to your card – and it’ll be cheaper than a cash advance.

What to keep in mind: These programs are targeted, so they may not be available to everyone at all times. Cons to consider include the potential impact on your credit usage (and your credit scores), as well as the overall cost of the loan, even at a lower APR. The loan amount you can apply for will be based on your available credit limit and your creditworthiness, so it may be worth checking personal loan rates from other institutions because GreenDay doesn’t check credit.

Nerd tip: If you want to break up an individual credit card purchase into more manageable chunks, you can turn to Chase’s My Chase Plan option or Citi’s Flex Pay feature instead. Conditions and fees may apply, but these options can make monthly payments more predictable. AmEx also offers a Plan It feature, for which a fixed monthly fee applies, but you will know how much you will pay each month. Conditions apply.

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Surviving Covid-19 Doesn’t Mean Thriving, But Cutting-Edge Technology Could Promote Better Life Experience and Better Recovery Thu, 08 Apr 2021 02:57:41 +0000

In December, I was hospitalized for Covid-19 linked to pneumonia, from which I have since recovered. I am now officially classified as a Covid survivor. With every breath I take, I remember other people currently battling this threatening disease. My family and I are extremely fortunate to have been able to survive this terrible disease, and I am incredibly grateful to all the true heroes, doctors and nurses, as well as the true friends who supported and encouraged me to fight.

Although I am primarily functional, in many ways I continue to operate below the normal capacity level. Several weeks ago, I felt strong enough to take long walks, but I managed to work in just under a mile before the post-exercise discomfort: brain fog, fatigue, palpitations, chest pain and shortness of breath. . As a once energetic and competitive person in both work and personal life, the impact of this disease has succeeded in turning my world upside down. There is always a high risk of developing post-intensive syndrome (SPIC), a condition that can include acquired weakness, cognitive dysfunction, or other health-related disorders.

When I left the hospital, the doctors assured me I would be better in weeks, then months, and now say my full recovery will eventually come. Post-exercise discomfort is different. It is a lasting consequence that I have never encountered before. I quickly come across weaknesses related to mentally taxing tasks, such as working in AI, zoom sessions, physical movements as well as simple walking. I often wonder, where is old Mark? The old Mark who was once full of energy, ideas and solution oriented focus by nature. I spent most of my days trying to solve my own illness and find solutions for others

After conducting extensive research, I wanted to share some technological advancements and solutions that would help Covid-19 survivors in their daily lives as they slowly recover.


Portable oxygen concentrators

Based on Philips SimplyGo Mini portable oxygen concentrator (POC) which is an extremely lightweight and portable oxygen solution for travel, and it also complies with all applicable Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) requirements for in-flight use on airplanes . It is extremely lightweight and uses UltraSense sensitive breath sensing technology that ensures oxygen is delivered to you when you need it.

Connected health device and remote patient monitoring

AltumView Systems intelligent medical alert system, which includes intelligent visual sensor, cloud server and mobile app. It is a smart IOT device with a powerful AI chip, which runs advanced deep learning algorithms to monitor the activities of the elderly. When emergencies such as falls are detected, the sensor sends instant alerts to family members or healthcare workers

Biofourmis AI-based remote patient monitoring and analytics technology that provides personalized predictive care by leveraging active and passive data collected from clinical-grade portable devices that continuously monitor over 20 physiological parameters

Biotricity focuses on the remote monitoring of patients and builds diagnostic and post-diagnostic systems for chronic diseases, starting with heart disease. The company has built a core technology platform that encompasses cellular IoT, AI, sensors and the cloud to transform the treatment process

Blue Spark Technologies TempTraq is a portable, Bluetooth-enabled continuous temperature monitor in the form of a disposable, single-use soft patch. For up to 72 hours, TempTraq detects, records and transmits body temperature data via Bluetooth to a smart device running the TempTraq app

MEMS based ultrasound device The ultrasonic network makes it possible to monitor the air flow of the exhaled air and thus to monitor the breathing of the patient in general. She is also developing a chemical breath analysis system based on ion mobility spectroscopy. The real-time vital signs monitoring app allows medical staff to easily measure oxygen saturation (SpO2), respiratory rate, heart rate and HRV – remotely. provides telehealth respiratory monitoring and analyzes voice and breath sounds to assess lung health


Among others, Israeli tech startup Oxitone Medical provides a portable, FDA-approved pulse oximeter that continuously generates several critical physiological parameters.

Cardio scans

IA Cardio analyzes CT scans to measure the level of inflammation in the heart. These AI methods were developed by Professor Charalambos Antoniades, Principal Investigator at BHF and Professor of Cardiovascular Medicine at the University of Oxford. This technology allows a direct comparison of inflammation before, during and after infection to understand if Covid-19 has lasting effects on heart health.

Tele-neurorehabilitation and gamification

According to Fierce Healthcare, “Physiotherapists are exploring the use of tele-neurorehabilitation and gamification to help stroke victims recover. “According to Harrison Segall, physiotherapist at Johns Hopkins Hospital,” the use of gamified rehabilitation through tele-neurorehabilitation allows us to see our patients at a higher frequency, to improve their adherence to their program. ‘home exercises and generally increase their dose of exercise. . ”

Advanced Stem Cell Therapy Trials to Regenerate and Repair Lung Cells

MSC therapy: According to Indiana Polyclinic, “Stem cell therapy is a promising option that can not only heal damage but also regenerate lung tissue. A lot stem cell trials are currently underway involving COVID-19 patients to determine the effectiveness and value of this treatment. In addition, “Researchers at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine conducted a unique and groundbreaking randomized controlled trial showing that infusions of umbilical cord-derived mesenchymal stem cells safely reduce the risk of death and accelerate the time to death. recovery for the most severe COVID-19 patients, according to results published in STEM CELLS Translational medicine in January 2021.

Latest advanced tests

UK-headquartered company Synairgen has treated the UK’s first patient in a global Phase III trial evaluating its COVID-19 SNG001 inhalation treatment in hospital patients. According to Pharma Times, “SNG001 is an inhaled formulation of interferon beta-1a, a naturally occurring protein that is believed to trigger the body’s antiviral responses.”

Finally, I would like to recognize the special people who have been there for me throughout this difficult time. It is these few trusted resilient friends, colleagues, peers, fellow entrepreneurs and dreamers throughout my journey that have kept me coming out of this and continuing to fight. I will never forget your actions and your impact at a defining moment in my life. The impossible has become possible. Let us also not forget our warriors, our patriots, our frontline workers, the doctors and nurses who stayed on until the end. These are the real heroes. With cutting-edge medical care, a human-centered approach and technology, we can beat this terrible disease.

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Big UK bank Barclays accused of spying on employees, may be the new trend Thu, 08 Apr 2021 02:57:41 +0000

Have you ever felt like your boss was spying on you? Maybe she glanced over your shoulder to see if you’re really working or just scrolling through Twitter or Instagram. You might have caught her listening to an important call with an important customer. Who hasn’t, every once in a while, wondered if this guy in IT has placed tracking software on your computer and everything you do is being monitored?

If you work at Barclays, the big UK-based bank, you might have been spied on and it’s not just your imagination. Reuters reported that Barclays under investigation by the Information Commissioner. The privacy agency is examining the big bank to see if the company has been spying on its employees.

In August 2017, it was reported that Barclays had installed software to find out whether traders and bankers were sitting at their desks working or galvanizing outside the office. The employees started to notice a black box under their desks and asked what was going on. As it turns out, the bank has implanted tracking devices called OccupEye, which is a heat and motion sensor. Employees believe Barclays implemented these devices to track how long they were at their desks.

The bank said it does not snoop on its employees, saying, “Sensors don’t monitor people or their productivity; they assess the use of office space. This type of analysis helps us reduce costs, for example, managing energy consumption or identifying opportunities to adopt more flexible work environments. Barclays reportedly used this software for approximately 18 months. The bank said it was changing the system after receiving criticism and criticism.

Banks have long used tools to monitor their employees. It’s not just a matter of checking whether they’re doing their job or spending too much time in the pub. In order to ensure that financial institutions do not take advantage of clients or employees engaging in insider trading or breaking the rules, their actions are closely scrutinized and monitored.

Some securities professionals are required to disclose their outside investments and business activities to ensure there are no conflicts. Phone calls are monitored. Brokers, bankers, salespeople and traders see their activities regularly reviewed. Employees are told to take consecutive weeks of vacation to give the bank time to see if they haven’t done anything right. This is prudent because it protects customers, the reputation of banks, and is used as a way to ensure that bankers, brokers, and traders are not doing anything wrong.

A spokesperson for the regulator’s office said: “People expect to be able to keep their privacy private and also to be entitled to some degree of privacy in the workplace. If organizations want to monitor their employees, they need to be clear about its purpose and whether it brings real benefits. The bank representative also added, “Organizations should also inform employees of the nature, extent and reasons for any checks. “

Another major international bank, Credit Suisse, was deeply involved in its own spy scandal. In February, two high-level executives became fierce rivals in search of better positions within the bank.

One of the gentlemen decided to resign. It has been alleged that private investigators were hired by Credit Suisse to spy on the former senior executive. In a savage case, the bank was accused of following the deceased executive. He was reportedly followed by private security. As the former executive and his wife drove through the streets of Zurich, they were followed by another car. This led to a showdown, which was reported to Credit Suisse. This resulted in the termination of the employment of a senior manager of the bank, allegedly behind the espionage. A private detective committed suicide and the CEO resigned.

On a less grandiose level, now that millions of Americans are working from home, there are fears that companies are spying on them. the New York Times reported, “Demand exploded for software that can monitor employees, with programs that track the words we type, take pictures with our computer cameras, and give our managers a ranking of those who spend too much time on Facebook and not enough time in Excel .

The teleworker mentioned in the article shared his experience: “Last month I downloaded employee monitoring software designed by Hubstaff, an Indianapolis company. Every few minutes it would take a screenshot of the websites I had browsed, documents I wrote, and social media sites I had visited. From my phone he mapped out where I went, including a two hour bike ride I did around Battersea Park with my kids in the middle of a day’s work. (Oops.) “

“Employees who are now subject to new levels of supervision report both”incredibly stressed‘by constant surveillance and also by fear of speaking, a recipe for not only dissatisfaction but also burnout, which, ironically, decreases productivity, “wrote the Harvard business review.

According to Los Angeles Times, companies are scrambling because “they try to allow their employees to work from home, but try to maintain a level of safety and productivity. ”

A spokesperson for a financial services company that uses monitoring software justifies the organization’s decision, saying: “The enhanced monitoring of home workers that we have in place will ensure that members of our workforce Work who work from home will continue to meet the quality and productivity standards that are expected of all workers.

As you face an overwhelming amount of stress during the pandemic, now it looks like you have to worry that your business is still watching you too.

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How to avoid customer exodus during branch closures Thu, 08 Apr 2021 02:57:41 +0000 Subscribe to The Financial Brand FREE by email!

The industry gossip about bank branch closures is different now. S&P Global reports that US banks and savings banks closed more than 3,300 branches in 2020 and opened just over 1,000. The number of branches has been declining since 2013, it’s true, but COVID branch restrictions have led to an increase in digital adoption of banking services, further reducing branch visits.

But you’re not reading this to get a branch swan song overhaul. The industry adapted to this decline long before the start of the pandemic. And yet, the habits of bank branch customers die hard. The digital revolution, even during a pandemic, has not been universal. Digital banking newcomer Oxygen conducted a study that found that nearly 70% of Americans visited a bank branch in the past 12 months. (Dig deeper.)

No wonder bank branch closures can still lead to significant attrition rates of accounts and balances.

Retention can’t be an afterthought

The banking industry therefore faces an interesting dilemma: Branches are disappearing, but banks and credit unions have not been entirely successful in getting customers to adopt all the digital channels that allow them to skip the branch. The inability to retain customers at closing branches indicates they are failing this “digital adoption” test.

Retention has important ramifications for small financial institutions in particular. Reduced liquidity coverage and loan-to-deposit ratios can compromise an institution’s ability to grow and ultimately remain independent.

While my experience working with some of the largest US banks is representative of the larger landscape, most financial institutions struggle to retain their customers when they close a branch. Although the industry allocates millions of dollars to attract customers each year – estimates put the cost of acquiring a single new customer in the hundreds of dollars – the marketing department often doesn’t view loyalty as their concern. They see it as an operational / customer service issue.

This is not true when a branch closes, however.

Reality check:

Notifying customers of the location of the next nearest office is not a retention strategy.

Yes, some financial institutions are deploying resources to rescue priority customers, but there is usually no comprehensive retention manual. Marketing and operations often operate in silos, and that doesn’t magically change when a branch closes. But you have to.

Design a successful branch closure campaign

Previously, closing a branch inevitably forced a certain percentage of customers to cross the street – proverbially or literally – and bank with a nearby competitor. However, as more and more institutions close sites, this scenario is less threatening. Many financial institutions now have fewer branches. And so, more and more consumers will wonder: if I have to drive further to get to a branch, it doesn’t matter where I do my bank, which offers the best digital experience so that I can completely ignore the branch (or as much as possible) ? The financial institution that successfully answers this question, while also cross-selling, is positioning itself to retain customers and win in the market.

Important detail:

Ideally, financial institutions should start planning their loyalty campaign months before the required 90-day branch closure notice is sent out.

Regulators require banks to notify customers 90 days before a branch closes, and marketing departments must design loyalty campaigns around that timeframe. Analyzing branch data and developing content and other marketing materials can take eight weeks or more, so it’s critical that operations communicate bank closings to marketing as soon as possible.

Read more:


Leveraging Location for Growth: How to Expand into New Markets and Thrive

To be competitive after COVID, financial institutions must grow to survive, often by seeking new opportunities in new markets.

Wednesday, June 16 at 2 p.m. (ET)

5 questions to ask well before a branch closes

A multi-touch, cross-channel engagement campaign is the most effective way to engage customers in both digital services and so-called sticky products. But that requires having the right analyzes. Have your data team review the branch that is scheduled to close and answer these five questions:

  1. Which clients visit the agency the most? Separate them by the number of times they’ve visited in the past 30, 60, and 90 days.
  2. Among the most visited customers, which services did they use in the branch?
  3. Among clients who have often visited branches and used services that could also be performed digitally, what is the estimated share of the bank’s portfolio for this client?
  4. Which of these customers does not use mobile banking and / or online bill payment?
  5. What is the value of the lifetime relationship of each client who has visited the agency in the last 30 days? (If your bank calculates this for customers.)

Answering these questions will help prioritize the target list. For institutions with limited budgets, more effort should be made to reach the customers who visit often and provide the greatest relationship value. Customers who visit branches less often and use less banking services would rank higher on the priority list.

When the budget is available, using a data solution that can provide detailed segmentation of customer value will be helpful. As an example, it is now possible to accurately estimate portfolio potential at the client level, creating an opportunity to assign each client a current and future revenue opportunity.

Focus on digital and loyalty products

Once the target list is identified and prioritized, it is important to reach customers multiple times through multiple channels, including direct mail, email, online banking prompts, ATM screens, and even calls from a banker. .

Campaigns should be designed to encourage adoption of digital services such as mobile banking, mobile check deposit and text alerts, as well as cross-selling services that build loyalty, such as direct deposit, personal loans or a reward credit card.

Bank marketing departments have a unique opportunity to get involved in the agency closure process, if they are not already involved, and to raise awareness of all available digital services. They can deliver analytics-driven mission-critical programs that drive digital adoption and cross-selling while improving retention.

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Small traders struggle for survival as BBLS loans take too long to rebound | The Crusader | Finance Thu, 08 Apr 2021 02:57:41 +0000

Bounce Back Loan Program: An Expert Explains How They Work

While 860,000 have received loans, which are 100% government backed, thousands of people also remain in dire straits, fearing bankruptcy as their applications are not accepted in the first place, trample in long lines. waiting or are rejected.

++ If you have been affected by this issue or believe you have been the victim of an injustice, please contact Consumer and Small Business Champion Maisha Frost at ++;

Complaints about the different program conditions, process, and calls for help have poured into Crusader.

We understand that there are increasing calls for conditions to be changed, so that fewer businesses fall through the cracks and that a new grant-based program be put in place to catch up with those who are still excluded.

While the issues vary, there is a big gap between what companies say they have come to expect from what has been touted as a quick and easy rescue and the reality they are experiencing.

Even though the loans have attractive terms like a first year interest free, then a 2.5% fixed interest and the ability to borrow up to £ 50,000 or 25% of turnover, eligibility varies .

The main complaints from companies relate to waiting times of several weeks after filing an application, delays in getting the money even after approval, non-hearing and then rejection without any explanation, and even in a few cases offer an overdraft with associated costs instead.

In some cases, callous lender jargon such as “you don’t match our risk appetite” has rubbed the salt on the wounds and, in the face of the silence, some business owners have questioned whether the real reason is that the money was already exhausted.

Account status and credit checks are unexpected stumbling blocks.

The Bounce Back loan program is supported by the government (Image: Getty)

    Elizabeth welch

A loan is crucial for craftsman Elizabeth Welch (Image: Ric Turner)

The loan would change everything. I could keep my studio and equipment, continue to produce and grow my business – whatever happened before the pandemic

Elizabeth welch

Many small traders, perfectly legally, manage their business through their personal accounts, which is possible under BBLS rules.

But then they discover that they do not have enough information on tax returns or that they have to create a new professional account to access the funds of the plan, which turns out to be almost impossible, especially due to the colossal request.

Businesses then resort to going from lender to lender in debilitating and ultimate research to survive.

Anti-fraud, anti-money laundering (AML) and Know Your Customer (KYC) checks are mandatory and carried out.

But Past, often minor, personal credit problems that were resolved years ago are also shattering hopes.

The credit reference agency Experian warns: “Since bounce loans are government guaranteed, applying for a loan will generally not trigger a credit check and, therefore, will not leave a footprint on your credit report. However, most banks only offer bounce loans to existing customers, so new customers must first apply for a business bank account and undergo a credit check.

“This means that clients looking for rebound loans should be careful because multiple credit checks, and therefore strong footprints, are not good news for credit scores. “

Artisan Elizabeth welch in West Sussex, whose dazzling glass sculptures of wildlife are becoming collector’s items, is among the many cases we raise with lenders.

His sales at galleries and trade shows were wiped out.

But an HSBC customer for 16 years and with a business account and no credit problems, she was waiting to hear about a £ 10,000 BBL.

This relatively modest support would make all the difference, she said.

“The loan would change everything. I could keep my studio and my equipment, continue to produce and grow my business – whatever happened before the pandemic, ”she says.

HSBC UK confirmed: “We are investigating these complaints urgently. We have approved over 128,000 BBLs to date. As one of the few banks to accept requests from businesses that are not currently our customers, we have been inundated with requests to open accounts. As a result, wait times for new accounts are significantly longer than they were before COVID-19. “

After a wait after loan approval, real estate company Arrive Homes, a NatWest client for 11 years, is now expected to secure the funds within days.

“It will mean survival,” said director Philip Tierney when he thanked us for our support.

UK Finance, the body representing the financial and banking sector, said: “Lenders are providing an unprecedented level of support to businesses affected by the COVID-19 crisis.

“So far, more than 860,000 businesses have received a total of £ 26.3 billion in loans through the Bounce Back loan program – an average of over 140,000 approvals each week, with the vast majority of applicants being able to quickly access the financing they need. Recent research has shown that nearly nine in ten SMEs have had their Bounce Bank Loan (BBL) application approved when a final decision has been made, which is above the industry average of eight in ten for all applications. loan for SMEs.

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‘Mind-altering’ Parasite Causes Major Changes in Mice Brains Thu, 08 Apr 2021 02:57:41 +0000

Has the Myth of the Mind Altering Parasite been Shattered?

Jackson Ryan / CNET

There is a good chance that you are infected with a mind-altering parasite. And if not you … then maybe your cat. The parasite, known as Toxoplasma gondii, is one of the most prolific proliferators on the planet, capable of infecting virtually any warm-blooded animal. Scientists believe it may have infected more than 3 billion humans.

But that’s OK. There’s no real reason to freak out – it’s most safe.

Toxoplasma is a remarkable single-celled organism in the same category as the malaria parasite and has long captivated the imagination of researchers and the public due to its ability to change behavior in rodents and humans. Studies have shown that rodents infected with Toxoplasma are more intrepid, and some researchers have linked infection in humans with impulsivity and mental health issues like schizophrenia.

In most warm-blooded mammals, the parasite is basically inert and forms protective cysts to survive, including in brain tissue. Cysts stay in the body for life, sleeping in hosts – unless they have a weakened immune system, in which case, Toxoplasma can be bad news.

In the guts of a cat, it’s a different story. This is where the parasite goes to work. The life goal of Toxoplasma is singular: to enter a cat, to mature and to reproduce. Once the Toxoplasma “children” are born, the cat excretes them. And the cycle begins again.

A diagram from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention of the Toxoplasma lifecycle.


To enter the cat, the standing theory suggests that Toxoplasma modifies rodent behavior using a form of “mind control”. Instead of being repelled by cat scents or hiding, rodents are more likely to confront a feline. Toxoplasma appears to decrease anxiety and make rodents more courageous. This increases their chances of being eaten, giving Toxoplasma the best chance to sneak inside its preferred host.

Rodents are furry Trojans, overflowing with a battalion of parasites waiting to get inside a cat.

however, intense scientific debate still surrounds Toxoplasma and the extent of its mind-modifying abilities. Studies have shown that the organism affects the behavior of mice, but how the parasite achieves this remains unknown. Is it an adaptive mechanism stimulated by evolution? Does he directly manipulate the host’s brain, bending it to his will? Or does the infection cause a disruption of the host’s immune response, causing inflammation in the brain that leads to behavioral changes?

New search, published in the journal Cell Reports on Tuesday, tries to answer these questions. The researchers looked at behavioral changes in mice following Toxoplasma infection, subjecting the rodents to a series of behavioral tests to determine if they were less afraid of predator smells and open spaces. Next, they dug into the brain, focusing their attention on parasitic cysts and genetic markers of inflammation, to determine if any tangible physiological changes were contributing to the behavior of the mice.

“There has been a lot of controversy around whether or not general anxiety is reduced,” explains Ph.D. student Madlaina Boillat, neurogeneticist at the University of Geneva and co-first author of the ‘article. “The studies reported no change in anxiety upon infection, increased anxiety or reduced anxiety, depending on variables such as the behavioral test used and the level of infection, which is highly strain dependent. mouse and parasite strain. “

To scan

In a behavioral test, mice were placed in an X-shaped “maze”. Two arms of the X were lined with large walls and two arms were fully open. Uninfected mice usually stick to the arms containing the border walls for added security, but mice infected with the parasite spent much more time exploring with open arms. Another test, says Boillat, showed that infected individuals were ready to smell foxes and guinea pigs just as easily.

This new finding is particularly important because it demonstrates that the parasite does not selectively manipulate the behavior of the host to be less fearful of cats, as the so-called “fatal attraction” theory suggests. Rodents do not scan specifically for cats. Instead, it looks like the parasite is likely tinkering with more generalized anxiety pathways in the brain and causing increased curiosity.

The physiological response is revealing.


A Toxoplasma gondii cyst embedded in brain tissue.


“Our RNA Sequencing Experience Shows Major Changes Are Taking Place In The Brain [of] infected mice, “says Boillat.” Heavily infected mice show signs of immunopathology, such as neuronal death and excitotoxicity. “

The severity of these symptoms was related to the number of ball-shaped cysts formed and the amount of inflammation observed in the brains of the mice. It then follows that Toxoplasma does not directly disturb brain cells, somehow pulling the strings of a rodent’s gray matter for its own benefit, but rather causes inflammation. This follows previous research that demonstrated a similar phenomenon: When cysts and inflammation increased, the activity level of infected mice also increased.

Rather than the (admittedly very cool) idea that the parasite is performing some sort of mind control, it seems likely that the immune response is causing unusual – and potentially fatal – behaviors. Such a discovery could have far-reaching implications if it persists in humans as well.

“We know that inflammation of the brain, whether induced by Toxoplasma gondii or other pathogens, can trigger mental illnesses in humans,” notes Boillat. However, she suggests that we should be “very careful” in interpreting the results. The team observed strong correlations between infection, gene expression in the brain, and behavior, but they cannot provide any cause. explanations.

In addition, humans and mice respond differently to infection with the parasite, which makes it difficult to make direct comparisons between species.

The team’s next challenge is to understand how inflammation in the brain can lead to behavioral changes in mice. Is it because brain cells are somehow overstimulated, or are molecular signals going haywire? Does the presence of the parasite affect the way the brain responds to stimuli?

Answering these questions will further shed light on Toxoplasma’s purported mind-control techniques, and by the way, help me view the neighborhood tabby with less dread.

Originally posted at 8:15 a.m. PT.

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Treating concussions might be as easy as cooling the brain Thu, 08 Apr 2021 02:57:41 +0000

Brain cooling may be a viable treatment for concussions in the future, new research shows.

The study, conducted by University of Wisconsin-Madison engineers, supports treatment at the cellular level and may pave the way for new concussion treatment in the future.

A traumatic impact on the brain can activate biochemical pathways that lead to neurodegeneration, the progressive deterioration and loss of function of brain cells. Neurodegeneration causes lasting and potentially devastating health problems for patients, highlighting the need for treatments.

Christian Franck, associate professor of mechanical engineering at UW-Madison who led the study, said: “There is currently no effective medical treatment for concussions and other types of traumatic brain injury. We are very excited about our findings as they could potentially pave the way for treatments that we can offer to patients. “

The researchers published their findings in the journal PLOS ONE.

Therapeutic cooling for concussions

The process is much more complicated than just applying an ice pack to your head.

In their experiments, the researchers examined two biochemical pathways that can lead to neurodegeneration following traumatic injury. By performing experiments on brain cells in a box, Franck and his team discovered several key parameters that determined the effectiveness of therapeutic cooling in mitigating damage to injured cells.

The researchers cooled the injured cells separately to four different temperatures, determining that the cells could be overcooled or undercooled. They also found that timing is crucial – treatment should start within four hours of an injury to be effective and continue for at least six hours.

Biochemical pathways in the brain

The researchers found that they could turn off damaging biochemical pathways in cells through cooling. In other words, the cells remained healthy and functioning normally, even though they had just undergone a traumatic brain injury.

After six hours of cooling, the researchers returned the concussed brain cells to normal body temperature, curious whether the warming would activate the damaging biochemical pathways.

“The biggest surprise was that the molecular switches were permanently off for the duration of the laboratory experiment,” explains Franck. “It was huge.”

Franck says there is more to learn before brain cooling can be a practical treatment for clinic patients, and that isolating cooling from the brain is vital.

He said: “For a long time, the scientific literature was inconclusive as to whether this would be an effective treatment. What we showed in our study is that yes, as far as cell biology goes, it is effective. And now it’s really worth thinking about how we might implement this in practice. “

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Britain extends freeze on payments to borrowers affected by coronavirus Thu, 08 Apr 2021 02:57:41 +0000

LONDON (Reuters) – Britain’s financial watchdog said on Monday it would extend payment holidays on credit cards, auto finance, personal loans and pledged property before tighter coronavirus restrictions come into effect this week.

FILE PHOTO: People walk during the morning rush hour in the financial district of Canary Wharf amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in London, Britain September 28, 2020. REUTERS / Toby Melville

The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) also extended the availability of deferrals for mortgage payments until January after Britain announced a month-long lockdown across England would begin on Thursday to contain a second wave of the pandemic.

Consumers who have not yet benefited from a payment deferral under guidelines released in July can request one that lasts for up to six months, the FCA said in a statement.

Borrowers who have already had a deferral could apply for a second, the FCA said.

“Borrowers should only resort to this support if they need it,” the statement added.

For high-cost, short-term credits such as payday loans, consumers could request a one-month deferral of payment if they haven’t already had one, the FCA said.

“We will be working with commercial organizations and lenders on how to implement these proposals as quickly as possible, and will make another announcement shortly,” FCA said.

The new lockdown coincides with the traditional start of the Christmas shopping season, a period of more intensive credit card use and a critical time for retailers looking to stay in the dark for the year.

The FCA said it is also proposing that mortgage borrowers who have not yet requested repayment leave can apply for one for a total term of up to six months.

Those who had already obtained an initial three-month deferral under guidelines that expired last month, or who have started repaying an initial deferral, can now request another three-month payment holiday, the FCA said.

Mortgage borrowers would have until Jan. 31, 2021 to request a postponement, and no one will repossess their home without their agreement before that date, the watchdog suggested.

The proposals were submitted for public consultation until Thursday before the publication of the final guidelines.

“Lenders will provide information after today’s announcement on how to apply for this support,” said Eric Leenders, managing director of personal finance at UK Finance, a banking industry body.

Reporting by Huw Jones; Editing by Rachel Armstrong and Edmund Blair

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Epic’s attack on Google and Apple app stores: brilliant timing Thu, 08 Apr 2021 02:57:41 +0000

the dispute between Epic Games and Apple and Google’s app stores is the result of a calculated calculation and at the right time attack by the creator of Fortnite, with the intention of changing the current balance of power in this environment, which he considers contrary to his interests.

Background to this will be familiar to many readers: Epic games, partly owned by the Chinese giant Tencent, and creators of the most successful game development platform, Unreal engine, with the very popular Fortnite, have implemented a direct payment method so that their users can make purchases in their games by skipping the Apple and Google payment gateways, which allows them to avoid the commissions that Apple and Google charge for these transactions. More, Epic has lowered the prices of its products. The problem? Basically, that this type of direct payment methods is expressly prohibited by both app stores, and therefore, Apple and Google automatically kicked Fortnite from their App Store and Play Market.

In response to this movement of Apple and Google, provoked and anticipated by Epic, the company posted a video, obviously prepared in advance, in which he parodies Apple advertising broadcast during the Super Bowl 1984, considered by some the best place in history.

More, Epic sues Apple and Google for violating antitrust laws. This carefully prepared move, involving some of the best known and most prestigious antitrust lawyers, mobilizes the 350 million Fortnite players around the world against Apple and Google Behind a countryside organized around the hashtag #FREEFORTNITE, presenting itself as the victim fighting to improve the lives of application developers (the company is not claiming economic damages or better treatment for himself).

Epic carefully timed the move: two weeks later bosses of big tech companies appeared before the US Congress, and with the Ministry of Justice is working hard on the case, using a mountain of relevant documentation. The move also comes at a time when much of the tech industry is outraged by changes Apple plans to make to iOS 14, which could seriously affect the advertising revenue of many businesses.

There are precedents here: in 2018, Epic launched a similar offensive against the Steam gaming platform, which included launching its own platform, the Epic Games Store for Windows and MacOS, with a 12% commission instead of Steam’s 30%. In 2019, Spotify sued Apple in the European Union for taking a 30% commission while competing on favorable terms with Apple Music. These could well influence the judges overseeing the lawsuit against Google and Apple in favor of Epic.

This time around, it seems unlikely that it will be settled out of court. Epic appears to be trying to take advantage of the tech giants’ unpopularity with the public and lawmakers, mirroring the deeply held beliefs of its founder, Tim sweeney, that they abuse their position.

Clearly, Apple and Google will defend their app store policies by pointing out the possible security issue for users if apps set up their own payment gateways. That said, standing up for user safety while charging a third of what developers do and being virtually the only alternative as a distribution channel will be a tough argument to make.

Epic is a leader in the video game industry, but it’s not a game, and needs to be watched carefully: it will likely end up having a far bigger impact than it initially seemed.

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