An Italian man who arrived in Nigeria three days ago has become the African country’s first case of coronavirus, the health minister said on Friday, as infections spread rapidly worldwide.
The Health Ministry said on Twitter that the case was in the state of Lagos, home to the southwestern commercial capital of the same name. Lagos is the biggest city in Africa’s most populous country, with a population of about 20 million.
“The case…is the first case to be reported in Nigeria since the beginning of the outbreak in China in January,” the health ministry said http://bit.ly/2HZQrO0 in its post, adding that the infection was confirmed on Thursday.
The health minister Osagie Ehanire, in a statement, said the case was an Italian citizen who works in Nigeria and returned from Milan, Italy to Lagos Feb. 25.
His infection was confirmed by the Virology Laboratory of the Lagos University Teaching Hospital, part of the Laboratory Network of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control.
“The patient is clinically stable, with no serious symptoms,” said the minister, adding that he was being treated at a hospital in the Lagos district of Yaba.
“We have already started working to identify all the contacts of the patient, since he entered Nigeria,” said Ehanire.
The minister said authorities have been strengthening measures to ensure an outbreak in Nigeria is controlled and contained quickly.
There is no cure for the coronavirus, which can lead to pneumonia, and a vaccine may take up to 18 months to develop.
Radical quarantining measures have helped slow the rate of transmission in China of the virus, which can cause pneumonia, but it is picking up pace outside China.
Ehanire said the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) has activated its national Emergency Operations Centre and will work closely with Lagos State Health authorities to respond to this case and implement firm control measures.
A presidency spokesman did not immediately respond to phone calls and text messages seeking comment.
Hopes that the virus would be contained to China vanished on Friday as infections spread, with countries beginning to stockpile medical equipment and investors taking flight in expectation of a global recession.
The virus has so far caused nearly 80,000 infections and almost 2,800 deaths, according official Chinese figures. It has spread to another 46 countries, where about 3,700 cases and 57 deaths have been reported, according to the WHO.
(Reporting by Alexis Akwagyiram in Lagos and Rama Venkat in Bengaluru; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore; Editing by Himani Sarkar and Clarence Fernandez)
It’s been quite a while since season one of Altered Carbon first streamed on Netflix, so you’d be forgiven for forgetting some or all of what happened–after all, the story included a twisting murder mystery, a whole bunch of sci-fi terms, and a ton of characters switching bodies. At the center of it all is Takeshi Kovacs, a character with a long history, a bunch of cool abilities, and some keen detective skills.
There’s also a whole bunch of dense sci-fi material you need to be intimately familiar with to really appreciate Altered Carbon’s future world, from artificially intelligent hotels to technology that makes some people effectively immortal. Altered Carbon is full of confusing terminology, which can make it tough to follow the story if you’re not up on your concepts.
Lucky for you, we’ve run down everything you need to remember about Altered Carbon Season 1, from the concept of stacks and sleeves to the vast murder mystery and the lengthy political history of the world–all of which is important to enjoying the newest chapter. Here’s everything you need to know about Altered Carbon to get ready for Season 2.
Stacks And Sleeves
The essential thing you need to understand about the world of Altered Carbon is the concept of “stacks” and “sleeves.” In the far future, humanity has discovered technology that allows for effective immortality through the use of cortical stacks, which are like hard drives that store consciousness. When they turn one year old, each person has a stack installed in their brain and their consciousness is stored on it. That means that, rather than being the combination of your brain and your body, you are your stack–everything that makes you who you are is stored on the stack. While your body might die, if the stack survives, you survive.
Stacks can be transplanted between bodies, allowing you to go on living even if your original body dies. In Altered Carbon, bodies are colloquially called “sleeves” to highlight how interchangeable they are. In most cases, you can survive the loss of a sleeve if your stack is unharmed. If you really want to kill someone, destroying their stack is the way to do it.
There are some caveats to that, however. Some people in Altered Carbon are so rich that they can transfer their consciousness into other computers, sometimes in orbital satellites, like backing up a hard drive. In Season 1, Laurens Bancroft (James Purefoy) was murdered and his stack was destroyed, but he survived the incident because he’d backed up his consciousness in a satellite, allowing him to be downloaded into a new stack and go on living. There’s also the concept of “double sleeving,” which is where a person copies their own consciousness into two stacks, with each one in a sleeve–essentially making a copy of themselves. Double stacking is illegal, but that doesn’t seem to do much to stop people from doing it.
That raises some interesting questions: is what makes you a person just data, or are you more than that? Is the information in a stack really “you” or just a computer recreation? If a stack is moved to a new sleeve after death, is the new person really you, or just a copy? And where does the idea of a soul factor in? This is all stuff that people in Altered Carbon grapple with, and there are no clear answers.
“Meths” And The Rich Versus The Poor
There’s another wrinkle when it comes to stacks and sleeves: money. As one might assume, while everyone has access to the technology that gives them access to immortality, not everyone can afford it. The “haves” in the world of Altered Carbon are often called “Meths,” after the extremely long-lived biblical figure Methuselah. Meths are rich people who can afford things like satellite backups for their stacks and clones of their original bodies for additional sleeves.
Meanwhile, things are tougher for poor people. If you can’t afford a nice new sleeve, you might find yourself tossed into whatever random body the government has lying around, which leads to some trying situations as people wind up in sleeves that don’t fit their personalities. (One scene in Season 1 saw a murdered little girl resleeved into the body of a fully grown man, which, understandably, freaked her out.) If no suitable sleeve is handy or if your family can’t spring for one, your stack might also get placed in cold storage, where it could sit indefinitely until someone finds a reason to “spin it up,” or reactivate and resleeve it. That’s what happened to Takeshi Kovacs in Season 1: He was left in cold storage for decades until Laurens Bancroft decided to spin him up in order to solve Bancroft’s murder.
In Altered Carbon’s vision of our future, humanity has expanded across a number of other planets in addition to creating technology that allows for effective (or maybe assumed) immortality. A lot of that advancement has been made possible by the discovery of artifacts left behind by the Elders, an ancient alien race that colonized much of the galaxy, but has mysteriously vanished.
The discovery of stuff left behind by the Elders gave humanity access to special new metal known as alloy, and that led to the creation of cortical stacks. The Elders also had a bunch of information about habitable worlds and interstellar travel, which helped humanity to spread to other planets. Basically, a bunch of futury stuff is possible in Altered Carbon thanks to the Elders, but we still don’t know much about them. You’ll occasionally see artifacts and other things left behind by the Elders on planets like Harlan’s World, and they seem to continue to be significant to Altered Carbon’s story in ways we haven’t necessarily seen yet.
Artificial intelligence is a fairly big part of society in Altered Carbon, but it’s also, somewhat hilariously, passé. The AI we spend the most time with in Season 1 is Poe, the proprietor of The Raven hotel and something of a sidekick for Takeshi. In fact, there are a bunch of AIs who own and operate automated hotels, but while they were once a fad, they’ve fallen out of favor with humans because AIs tend to be creepy, as well as clingy. We’ve also seen a few scenes of Poe hanging out in virtual spaces with other hotel AIs, where it’s revealed that most think of human beings as disgusting and inferior. Poe stands apart from those guys–he instead seems to like humans and find them interesting.
Virtual spaces exist for humans to visit too, thanks to interfaces between computers and stacks. In Season 1, we see Poe work in VR to help Lizzie, a woman who was attacked and traumatized, and whose father Vernon keeps her in a VR construct in order to keep her alive after her stack was damaged.
Humanity has spread out over a whole bunch of colonized worlds by the time we reach the future of Altered Carbon, creating an empire that reaches about 100 lightyears in all directions around Earth. In Season 1, we saw a couple of colonized planets, including Harlan’s World, where Takeshi and the Envoys had set up shop. All the human worlds are governed by the United Nations Interstellar Protectorate, a giant government agency that succeeded our United Nations. The Envoys fought against the Protectorate in the flashbacks we see in Season 1, with the goal of eliminating the use of cortical stacks.
The protagonist of Altered Carbon, Takeshi Kovacs is a former member of the Protectorate’s Colonial Tactical Assault Corps (CTAC), as well as an Envoy, which makes him a guy with some particular ass-kicking capabilities. When he was a kid, Tak killed his abusive father to protect his sister, Rei. After the crime, Jaeger recruited Tak in to the CTAC, promising to keep him out of jail and protect his sister. Tak agreed and served for 12 years in the Protectorate’s fighting force, before deserting when he realized he’d been tasked with killing Rei, and the two became fugitives until they were recruited by the Envoy, a group of freedom fighters trying to end the immortality for the rich offered by cortical stacks. The Envoys were eventually defeated and Tak, believing his sister dead, became a fugitive again and worked as a mercenary. He was eventually tracked down by Jaeger and the CTAC and framed for murder. His sleeve was killed and his stack imprisoned in cold storage.
In Season 1, Tak is paroled and made to work for Laurens Bancroft to help figure out who murdered Bancroft’s sleeve and destroyed his stack. Tak eventually solved the crime, discovered Rei was still alive, and learned a whole bunch of stuff about his past. It’s all kind of tragic. Season 1’s Tak was (mostly) played by Joel Kinneman, but because of the joys of resleeving, in Season 2, he’s played by Anthony Mackie.
The leader of the Envoys, Quell Falconer trained her freedom fighters with a bunch of particular skills that made them extremely good fighters. She also became a love interest for Tak when they fought together against the Protectorate. We find out through the course of Season 1 that Quell is actually the person who invented cortical stacks, which she intended to be a way to make interstellar travel more manageable. When she realized that rich people were able to use stacks to become effectively immortal, creating an even more ridiculous and horrible class gap between wealthy and poor, she founded the Envoys in an attempt to destroy stacks once and for all.
Quell and the Envoys were eventually defeated by the Protectorate after they were betrayed by Rei. Quell was also seemingly killed, thanks to Rei, when her shuttle was destroyed by an orbital laser. In fact, Rei saved Quell’s stack data as a backup, against her wishes. So Quell might still be out there somewhere, but we have no idea where she is or what she’s been doing.
Tak’s AI buddy who runs The Raven hotel is fascinated by humans, and his big aspiration as a person is to study and understand them. That helps make Poe more human than most computers, and he takes it upon himself to help out Tak and other humans, including Lizzie. Poe spent a lot of Season 1 helping Lizzie through therapy in virtual reality, after she was driven mad by Rei’s VR torture. Poe helped Tak and his allies in the fight against Rei, but he was seemingly killed at the end of Season 1 by Rei’s henchmen when they attacked The Raven hotel.
Jaeger is something of a personal nemesis for Tak. The CTAC officer first discovered Tak on Harlan’s World after Tak killed his father. It was Jaeger that convinced Tak to join up with CTAC, which turned Tak in to an effective soldier. Jaeger promised the government would take care of Rei if Tak joined up, but when Tak was assigned to take on some Yakuza gangsters on Harlan’s World, he realized Rei was among them and that Jaeger had lied about protecting her–instead, he sold her to the Yakuza.
Later, Jaeger tracked down Tak after the Envoys were defeated. Tak fought the CTAC team sent after him but wasn’t able to stop them, and in a cruel move to get back at Tak, Jaeger killed the mercenary Tak was working with, Sarah, and framed Tak for her murder. So Jaeger basically ruined Tak’s life on a number of occasions and was also the guy responsible for Tak’s imprisonment, where we find him at the start of Season 1. It’s not clear what happened to Jaeger after that.
Tak’s sister Reileen is a central figure in the first season of Altered Carbon, and there’s a whole lot of stuff that happens with her. After she was separated from Takeshi as a child, she was sold to the Yakuza. Later, when Tak was charged with wiping out the Yakuza as a CTAC soldier, he found Rei again and the two escaped and became fugitives. They later joined up with the Envoys–Tak was taken with Quellcrist Falconer and her cause, but Rei wasn’t as enamored. She did, however, really really love her brother.
When Rei saw that Tak was getting especially close with Quell, she made a deal to betray Envoys to the Protectorate for a whole bunch of money. The Envoys were destroyed and Quell’s sleeve was killed, but Rei saved her as a backup. Rei escaped the battle and Tak believed she died, and went on to be incarcerated in cold storage.
Meanwhile, Rei became one of the Meths that the Envoys wanted to stop. She used her Protectorate money for turning on the Envoys to become something of a crime lord, hiding her identity behind various sleeves and go-betweens to get what she wanted. She also created Head in the Clouds, a floating brothel where Meths could come and do whatever they wanted to the sex workers there. To protect herself from being outed, Rei had religious coding secretly added to the stacks of their sex workers. When people are murdered in Altered Carbon, the authorities can “spin up” their cortical stacks in order to question the person about who killed them, but some religions, including Catholicism, considers being spun up a violation of their faith. The religious coding prevented the sex workers from being spun up by authorities, thus protecting Rei’s secrets if they should be killed.
Rei is pulling most of the strings in Altered Carbon Season 1. She uses her big brothel crime empire to blackmail rich Meths–which is what she did to Laurens Bancroft after he accidentally killed a sex worker on Head in the Clouds. She also used her influence to finally get her brother out of cold storage by convincing Bancroft that Tak was the only one who could solve his murder.
In the end, Rei became the villain of Altered Carbon Season 1. Although she did a lot of awful stuff to try to save Tak and reunite them, she’s also become pretty much evil thanks to her extended life. In the end, Tak destroys the many clones Rei uses to keep herself alive and ultimately kills Rei herself to stop her.
Everybody Else In Season 1
There are a whole bunch of other people floating around in Altered Carbon Season 1, who play integral but sometimes confusing roles in the plot.
Laurens Bancroft: The super-rich Meth who makes a deal to get Takeshi out of cold storage to enlist him in solving Bancroft’s murder. Bancroft was so rich that he not only can afford clones of his original body to resleeve his stack into, he has a dedicated satellite in orbit, which holds a backup copy of his consciousness–so even if his stack is destroyed, he can live on. Just before the start of Season 1, Bancroft’s sleeve was murdered and his stack destroyed. When he redownloaded from his satellite, he set about trying to figure out who killed him. (There are a lot of suspects, including his extremely crappy family.) Turns out that Bancroft killed himself, though, after committing a murder and being blackmailed by Rei. He destroyed his own stack out of shame, minutes before his scheduled backup, so that when his consciousness was downloaded again from the satellite, he wouldn’t remember what he’d done.
Vernon: Tak found Vernon by investigating death threats against Bancroft, who blamed Bancroft for his daughter Lizzie being beaten and driven to madness. When Tak confronts and interrogates him, he makes Vernon an ally by helping him try to treat Lizzie’s psychological problems, with Poe’s assistance. Vernon becomes an ally of Tak’s and helps him in his fight to solve Bancroft’s murder and take down Rei.
Lizzie: Vernon’s daughter Lizzie was a sex worker who was visited by Laurens Bancroft, and eventually got pregnant by him. When she went to his house to tell him about it, Lizzie was confronted by Bancroft’s wife, Miriam, who feared the threat of an illegitimate Bancroft child and nearly killed Lizzie. Miriam enlisted Rei to have Lizzie driven insane with virtual reality torture, fragmenting her mind. Vernon kept Lizzie in VR to protect her, and Tak and Poe worked to help Lizzie recover. When she did, Tak learned about what had happened, revealing another piece of the puzzle regarding Bancroft’s murder and Rei’s involvement.
Ortega: A police officer who worked with Tak on Bancroft’s murder, and was in love with the man who owned the body Tak inhabits in Season 1. She was the officer originally assigned to Bancroft’s murder, but ruled it a suicide against Bancroft’s wishes. She spends the first season of Altered Carbon helping Tak as he works to solve the mystery, and they develop a close relationship. Ortega was formerly a Neo-Catholic–according to her faith, she could never be resleeved due to her beliefs. She renounced her religion, however, which causes strain between Ortega and her family.
The Envoys And Quellists
The Envoys were a group of rebels who resisted the Protectorate and the idea of becoming immortal through the use of stacks. They also became something of a group of legendary supersoldiers thanks to their heightened abilities. First, they were among a group of soldiers who could take advantage of “needlecasting,” the transmission of their consciousnesses from one stack to another over vast distances. For most people, needlecasting is very disorienting, but Envoys and soldiers could needlecast into new stacks and bodies and be ready to fight moments later, making them extremely formidable. Quell also taught her Envoys to heighten their perception through techniques like pattern recognition. They became so good at it that, to regular folks, it seemed like Envoys could see through walls and anticipate enemies’ moves before they made them–some people even believed Envoys could read minds, that’s how good they were.
Quell and the Envoys wanted to stop a future in which only the mega-rich were allowed immortality through the use of cortical stacks, so they fomented rebellion against the use of the technology and the Protectorate. Quell even had a plan to destroy all stacks using a computer virus that would render them useless after 100 years. She never got to institute that plan, however; the Envoys were betrayed by Rei and ambushed by the Protectorate, and just about all of them were killed. Tak and Rei survived, their abilities intact, as did Quell, thanks to Rei’s meddling. But in Season 1, the Envoys have taken on something of a mythic status in history.
The Murder Mystery
The central plot of Season 1 revolves around the murder of Laurens Bancroft, who discovered the scene after being re-downloaded from his satellite backup. Whoever killed Bancroft also destroyed his stack; if he wasn’t backed up, that would have killed him permanently. Ortega was originally assigned to the case and ruled it a suicide, but Bancroft didn’t believe he’d ever kill himself, so he worked out a deal to have Takeshi paroled to use him as a private investigator.
Tak went about investigating the murder and eventually discovered a detailed web of deception. At the center of it was Rei, his sister, who had become the head of a crime empire in the years since he had been imprisoned. Rei convinced disadvantaged, desperate women to be sex workers in her high-end brothel, Head in the Clouds, where she allowed rich Meths to do anything they wanted–even commit murder. Rei had all her workers secretly outfitted with religious coding, which added a religious objection to their stacks that legally prohibited them from being resleeved or spun back up after their deaths. That prevented authorities from questioning the workers about what happened to them, protecting Rei’s illicit business.
Around the time of Season 1, a new law is potentially working its way through Altered Carbon’s government: Proposition 653. That law would do away with the religious coding objection and allow murder victims to be spun back up by authorities for questioning. Rei knew that would be a major threat to her business and all the horrible things she’d done, so she needed a way to kill the bill.
Rei went to Miriam Bancroft, Laurens’ wife, for help. Rei had previously helped Miriam when she nearly killed Lizzie, a sex worker Laurens had gotten pregnant, by using VR torture to drive Lizzine insane. Miriam drugged Laurens without his knowledge, and when he later went to Head in the Clouds, he accidentally killed one of the sex workers he was with. Rei then blackmailed Laurens into putting his political weight and money behind fighting Proposition 653. In his shame, Laurens killed himself minutes before his scheduled backup, knowing that when his consciousness was redownloaded from his satellite, he wouldn’t remember anything about what he’d done.
With all that information, Tak eventually took on Rei, killing her and destroying her backups and bringing down her criminal empire with the help of Ortega, Lizzie, Vernon, and Vernon’s wife, Ana.
Lizzie And Poe–And What Happened To The AI
Poe helped Tak in a number of ways as something of a sidekick in Season 1, but his biggest contribution was in helping Lizzie recover from her VR torture. He essentially gave her therapy in VR, helping the woman recover her mind. Poe also grew attached to Tak and helped him a few times by deploying his hotel defenses against the mercenaries Rei sent to kill him.
In the end of Season 1, Poe’s program was seemingly destroyed by Rei’s goons using, essentially, a computer virus–but not before Poe transmitted Lizzie’s consciousness up to Head in the Clouds, where she could help Tak take Rei down once and for all.
Are you totally up to date on what’s happening around the NBA? You have to be if you want to stay ahead of the competition in your fantasy league.
To help, I’ve done the work for you and compiled a look at the most fantasy-relevant news and notes for all 30 teams around the league.
Atlanta Hawks: Remember when there was some question about how well Trae Young would adjust to the NBA game? Those days already are an ancient memory. Young leads the NBA with 10.3 APG during the past month, and he’s done it while putting up 32.1 PPG, which ranks fourth in the league during that span. And remember, all this has happened even with the addition of Jeff Teague, a proven veteran point guard who has averaged 21.4 MPG since joining the Hawks.
Boston Celtics: Kemba Walker’s sore left knee has kept him out of the lineup for the past three games, which is certainly a worrisome development for the Celtics, but Walker’s absence has allowed Jayson Tatum to get some much-deserved attention. Tatum, who turns 22 next week, put up scoring nights of 41, 36 and 33 in the games without Walker, and his 29.7 PPG during the past month ranks sixth in the league.
Brooklyn Nets: Everybody knows that Spencer Dinwiddie can score — his 20.8 PPG ranks 24th in the NBA this season — but with Kyrie Irving out for the season, Dinwiddie is also a tremendous source of assists. In fact, he has dished out at least eight assists in six of his past seven games. His 6.6 APG this season ranks 17th in the league.
Charlotte Hornets: Just when Malik Monk looked like he was starting to break out, the former lottery pick was suspended indefinitely on Wednesday for violating the NBA’s anti-drug program. Without Monk, who had averaged 18.2 PPG during his past seven games, the Hornets are left extremely thin on the bench. The starting backcourt of Terry Rozier and Devonte’ Graham get a bump in fantasy value in Monk’s absence.
Chicago Bulls: Wendell Carter Jr. (ankle) was listed as questionable leading up to Tuesday’s game against the Thunder but didn’t end up playing. The second-year big man has been out since Jan. 6 but averaged 11.7 PPG, 9.9 RPG, 0.8 SPG and 0.9 BPG in 37 games prior to the injury and is available in 29.3% of ESPN leagues.
Cleveland Cavaliers: Andre Drummond’s production hasn’t been close to the same since being traded from Detroit to Cleveland (12.8 PPG, 10.4 RPG), and to make matters worse, he’s also dealing with a calf strain that kept him out of Wednesday’s game against Philadelphia. Drummond’s status is up in the air heading into Friday’s game at New Orleans, so keep an eye on updates. Officially, he is listed as day-to-day.
Dallas Mavericks: As much as Kristaps Porzingis has looked good paired next to Luka Doncic this season, and as much as the 18.7 PPG, 9.2 RPG, 1.9 BPG and 2.4 3PG are huge for fantasy purposes, his shooting has taken a small step backward, and that’s an area he will likely focus on over the summer. His 42.0 FG% and 78.2 FT% are career-lows, and his 35.1 3FG% is the lowest since his rookie season (33.3%). If Porzingis becomes more efficient next season, he would become a second-round type of value.
Denver Nuggets: Jerami Grant doesn’t need to start to have a big impact. Grant, who has raised his fantasy value during the middle part of the season as a versatile scorer, who can help in the defensive categories and from 3-point land, came off the bench to score a career-high 29 points against the Pistons on Tuesday. While Grant didn’t record a steal or a block, he did connect on three 3s and shot 12-of-15 from the field. Still, he’s available in nearly three quarters of ESPN leagues.
Detroit Pistons: There isn’t a lot to be excited about in the present or the future for the Pistons right now, sadly, but Christian Wood is maybe the lone exception. He has stepped up big time following the trade of Drummond, averaging 21.3 PPG, 10.0 RPG, 1.3 BPG in three games since the All-Star break. Wood is rostered in 83.8% of ESPN leagues, but he has double-doubles in four of his past five games and should be on rosters in every league at this point.
Golden State Warriors: Stephen Curry (left hand) could be back on the court as soon as Sunday, March 1, against the Wizards, but that’s not exactly a slam dunk. Warriors coach Steve Kerr believes Curry could use more scrimmages before returning to action, “If it’s Sunday, great,” Kerr said. “If it’s not, that’s fine too.” Once the two-time MVP returns, it will certainly shake things up. Jordan Poole, who has started to blossom with more point guard responsibilities, could see less time running the point and Ky Bowman’s minutes as the backup point guard could suffer as well.
Houston Rockets: Robert Covington is still only eight games into his tenure with the Rockets, but there is at least one area that is noticeably different from his time in Minnesota: shooting more 3s. After averaging 6.5 3-point attempts per game in 48 games with the Wolves this season, Covington is up to 8.4 attempts per game with the Rockets. That has led to a bump from 2.4 to 2.8 3PG. Take note.
Indiana Pacers: It’s great to see Victor Oladipo back on the court, and with Jeremy Lamb now out for the season, it will mean more opportunity for Oladipo going forward. That being said, Oladipo hasn’t played like a top-100 fantasy player since returning from the ruptured quad tendon that forced him to miss a full year. In eight games, Oladipo has posted a 33.3 FG% and averaged 10.8 PPG, 2.1 RPG, 2.6 APG and 0.5 SPG. Keeping him on your roster is a risk right now, as it could take until next season before he’s back to full speed. Oladipo has also missed the past two games due to a lower back injury, though he is expected to play Thursday.
LA Clippers: A look at Kawhi Leonard’s 7.7 RPG this season may not seem like a big number or a big deal … until you realize that it’s the highest of his career. In fact, Leonard had eclipsed 7.0 RPG in two previous seasons — 2014-15 with the Spurs (7.2) and last season with the Raptors (7.3). His 14 boards against the Suns on Wednesday tied a season-high.
Los Angeles Lakers: With LeBron James (left groin) ruled out for Thursday’s road game against Golden State, it’s a good time to add Kyle Kuzma or Markieff Morris as a streaming option. Both figure to fill in and play extended minutes with James sidelined for just the third time all season. The Lakers play next on Saturday in Memphis, so keep an eye on LeBron’s status leading up to that one.
Memphis Grizzlies: Josh Jackson, the No. 3 overall pick in the 2017 NBA draft, has now played in 11 games for the Grizzlies since being called up from the G League. Unfortunately, the minutes have been limited (19.4 MPG) and the production has looked a lot like it did in his first two years in the league with the Suns. Jackson can do some things from the forward spot — like pass and rebound — but when he’s getting only 23 minutes like he did Wednesday, even without Jaren Jackson Jr. and Brandon Clarke available, it’s a strong indicator that he should remain on the waiver wire.
Miami Heat: Tyler Herro (right foot) recently shed his walking boot and doesn’t have a timetable for a return to the court, but Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said Thursday that the rookie has been amping up his on-court work. Herro, the No. 13 overall pick last June out of Kentucky, averaged 13.1 PPG in 46 games before the injury, which has kept him out since Feb. 3.
Milwaukee Bucks: During the past month, one player has dominated the league in rebounding. That player isn’t Rudy Gobert or Hassan Whiteside or Andre Drummond. That player is Giannis Antetokounmpo, whose 17.3 RPG is 2.6 RPG more than the next-closest player (Whiteside). Now at 13.7 RPG for the season, that’s a 1.2 RPG improvement over Antetokounmpo’s previous best, which was set last season.
Minnesota Timberwolves: D’Angelo Russell has gone from one injury-depleted team (Warriors) to another (Timberwolves) this season, and so far, his numbers are up since the trade to Minnesota (24.4 PPG, 4.0 RPG, 8.0 APG, 1.4 SPG and 3.8 3PG). Expect the scoring to take a hit once Karl-Anthony Towns returns, but for now, Russell is a borderline top-35 fantasy option.
New Orleans Pelicans: Zion Williamson steals all the attention on the Pelicans, but quietly, Jrue Holiday has really picked things up as a distributor. Even with Lonzo Ball healthy, Holiday has led the Pelicans in assists in six consecutive games, dishing out assist totals of 10, 10, 11, 9, 15 and 9. Ball hasn’t been shabby either, going for 7, 10, 5, 7, 9 and 8 during that same stretch. It is certainly helping both Holiday and Ball to have a guy like Zion who can finish so efficiently around the basket.
New York Knicks: Elfrid Payton returned to the Knicks’ lineup on Wednesday, contributing six points and nine assists against the Hornets after missing the previous two games with a sore right ankle. Payton was dropped in 32.2% of ESPN leagues during the past seven days because of the injury, so now is the time to race out and add him if he’s a free agent in your league.
Oklahoma City Thunder: Here’s a stat that’s just as much surprising as it is interesting: Danilo Gallinari’s current 23.5 usage rate is the highest of his career. You wouldn’t think that’d be the case this season, on a team with three other players averaging more than 17.0 PPG, but the 11th-year pro has never had a higher usage rate than he has this season with the Thunder. In addition, Gallinari’s 61.5 true shooting percentage is the third-best of his career.
Orlando Magic: Let’s take stock of where Markelle Fultz is, shall we? In 10 games this month, Fultz has averaged 31.6 MPG — the highest of any month this season — and chipped in with 12.0 PPG, 7.5 APG and 1.5 SPG while posting an impressive 49.5 FG% and 85.7 FT%. His game continues to improve as his confidence grows and he gets more minutes, and these are encouraging developments as he rounds out his first year with the Magic. An uptick in scoring, probably in the 15-16 PPG range, could be in the cards for next season.
Philadelphia 76ers: Joel Embiid (left shoulder sprain) has been ruled out for Thursday’s game against the Knicks and could miss several more games due to the injury. With Ben Simmons also out, Tobias Harris, Al Horford and Josh Richardson will have to carry a bigger load offensively, while Furkan Korkmaz is another capable scorer worth considering as a streamer.
Phoenix Suns: While Deandre Ayton continues to be measured up against Doncic and Young, two players he was taken ahead of on draft day in June 2018, there’s no denying the force that Ayton has become in fantasy. In nine games this month, Ayton has averaged 21.9 PPG, 13.2 RPG, 2.2 APG and 1.9 BPG and done so with a healthy 56.5 FG%. While he may never be a superstar like Doncic and Young, he has the makings of a legit top-20 pick in next season’s fantasy draft.
Portland Trail Blazers: Damian Lillard (right groin) has been ruled out for Thursday’s game at Indiana, which will be the fourth consecutive missed game for the All-Star point guard. Lillard didn’t even travel with the team to Indiana and will likely miss Saturday’s game at Atlanta as well. In the meantime, the scoring load will continue to fall on CJ McCollum, Carmelo Anthony and Whiteside while Gary Trent Jr. fills in as the starting point guard.
Sacramento Kings: As Richaun Holmes continues to miss games due to a shoulder injury that has kept him out since Jan. 6, one player who has started to benefit from the additional minutes is Harry Giles III. The skinny forward, available in just under 90% of ESPN leagues, has averaged 10.0 PPG, 8.0 RPG and 3.0 APG during his past three games. Holmes’ return is still up in the air, but he appears to still be at least a week away.
San Antonio Spurs: LaMarcus Aldridge (right shoulder) missed Wednesday’s game against the Mavericks, but the Spurs are hopeful that he can return Saturday versus Orlando or Monday versus Indiana. In Aldridge’s absence, Lonnie Walker IV is seeing more opportunity, and Spurs coach Gregg Popovich had some nice things to say about the athletic shooting guard. “Lonnie is getting minutes and figuring things out,” he said. “He’s understanding more and more what it takes, how to be solid, more than anything, on both ends of the court. It takes time, but he’s guarding a heck of a guy in Mr. Doncic tonight. All those are great lessons for him.”
Toronto Raptors: Norman Powell (left ring finger) practiced on Thursday and is questionable for Friday’s game against the Hornets. Powell, who is having a career year with 15.3 PPG, 3.9 RPG and 1.3 SPG this season, has been out since Jan. 31. Now is the time to add him if he’s available in your league.
Utah Jazz: On Wednesday, it was announced that the Jazz would be moving Mike Conley out of the starting lineup in favor of Royce O’Neale, but instead, they moved Joe Ingles back to the bench and kept Conley in the starting five against the Celtics. O’Neale is worth looking at when streaming for assists, but the big story here is Ingles, whose value takes a big hit when he goes back to a reserve role. He went for two points, two rebounds, two assists and a block on Wednesday.
Washington Wizards: Bradley Beal has been an elite fantasy option during the past month. Just look at his last 12 games: 36.4 PPG, 3.9 RPG, 4.8 APG, 1.6 SPG, 3.5 3PG, 46.3 FG%, 86.3 FT%. John Wall is set to return next season, which will certainly cut into these type of James Harden-like numbers, but Beal is solidifying himself as a mid-second-rounder in next season’s fantasy drafts.
Teammates will defend each other to the bitter end — especially teammates on rosters as close and successful as the Los Angeles Lakers have been this season. Still, blind support is almost never a good idea, and we might have found the prime example of its downside.
Jared Dudley made an appearance on the “Inside the Green Room” podcast with Danny Green and was asked about Rajon Rondo. What he said was, um, interesting — but also what you’d expect:
“I would say the thing about Rondo is that he’s so smart, so intelligent,” Dudley said. “What he has to realize… is hey, the game has changed, we need you to score more to open it up for others… Your threat of shooting, I don’t care if you go 1-4 from three, if you’re open you have to shoot it… And then yes, he’s our second-best playmaker.”
So far, so good-ish.
“If he shoots the ball more, it opens up more of a natural playmaking. We don’t want to be overdribbling, holding the ball and he’s had that freedom his whole career, it’s just different… How I look at it is let it be through the flow of the offense.”
Okay… Might want to stop while you’re ahead.
“And the thing about Rondo is his defense is so good when he’s locked in that it opens up us getting out in transition, and once we’re out in transition, we’re almost unguardable.”
“So we need Rondo to win the championship, we need him to play at a high level… We already know what LeBron and AD are gonna do. It’s our role players and certain things, and I always say ‘don’t do more, do exactly what you’re supposed to do.’”
Dudley made the classic mistake of getting on a roll and then making one or two too many points. I’ve been there, Jared. (Editor’s Note: Yes he has, many times) We all have.
If Dudley’s point is that the Lakers need Rondo to play at a certain level to win a championship, then okay, maybe that’s fair. I’d argue his minutes could still go elsewhere and be more productive with those players, but that’s the closest to a valid point you’ll get when making the argument for Rondo to maintain his current role.
Where Dudley completely loses me is if the version of the point he’s making is that it has to be Rondo specifically who fulfills that role. Plenty has been written about Alex Caruso so there’s no need to rehash it, but he could very easily provide vastly more production if given the same opportunity and leash as Lakers Head Coach Frank Vogel has given Rondo.
Now, expecting Dudley to speak negatively not just about Rondo but also about his coach in this context (remember, he’s talking to fellow teammate Green in this podcast) is setting yourself up for disappointment. That was never going to happen. Hell, if he did, he’d probably deserve to be criticized for rocking the boat when it didn’t have to be.
Caruso has earned Rondo’s role on his own production this year. If he’s ever given that opportunity consistently, it won’t be because Jared Dudley asked for it on a podcast with Danny Green.
But to the point Dudley was hopefully making, based on how reluctant Vogel has been to move away from Rondo in the rotation, the Lakers do need him to step up — maybe even in ways he’s incapable of consistently. That’s the risk you run when you rely on washed former superstars, but Dudley isn’t wrong that if Rondo is going to continue to play, the Lakers will need him to play better than he has. It’s just open to debate whether or not the Lakers really need Rondo to play at all.
n Wednesday night, in an effort to allay fears about the rapidly spreading coronavirus, Donald Trump held a press conference designed to convince the American public that he’s totally got everything under control. While this sort of effort might have worked under previous administrations, led by a guy who no doubt thinks you can get gonorrhea riding the G train and that strep-test sticks go in the anus, it had the opposite effect. Over the course of nearly an hour, Trump repeatedly referred to “15” cases in the U.S. despite the fact that there are at least 60; blamed virus-induced stock market declines on Democrats; claimed he’s beating “everybody” in the polls; trashed the Federal Reserve; endorsed Rush Limbaugh’s conspiracy theory that the media is weaponizing the virus to take him down; and announced that he was tasking Mike Pence with leading federal efforts against the disease. More than anything else, it was the Pence appointment that seemingly caused people who hadn’t been worried about Covid-19 at all to reconsider.
What are Pence’s qualifications for the job? In addition to not being a doctor, he famously helped cause the worst HIV outbreak in Indiana’s history while serving as governor. (As cases surged, he turned to prayer.) In 2000 (!) he was still insisting that “smoking doesn’t kill” or even cause lung cancer. He thinks condoms don’t do enough to prevent sexually transmitted diseases. He doesn’t believe in evolution, and, on the flip side, it sure sounds like he thinks “conversion therapy” works, in spite of a spokesman’s denial. In other words, putting Pence in charge of this effort is like hiring Don Jr. to run NASA.
On the bright side, on Thursday, the vice president’s office announced that Pence had selected the State Department’s top AIDS official, Deborah Birx, a real live doctor, to join the response team. On the less bright side, Trump economic adviser Larry Kudlow, who has never been right about anything in his life, was also added to the team.
The White House moved on Thursday to tighten control of coronavirus messaging by government health officials and scientists, directing them to coordinate all statements and public appearance with the office of Vice President Mike Pence, according to several officials familiar with the new approach…. Mr. Pence was scheduled to lead a meeting of the government’s coronavirus task force on Thursday.
The vice president’s first move appeared to be aimed at preventing the kind of contradictory statements from White House officials and top government health officials that have plagued the administration’s response. Even during his news conference on Wednesday, Mr. Trump rejected the assessment from a top health official that it was inevitable that the coronavirus would spread more broadly inside the United States.
According to the New York Times, administration officials are unsurprisingly saying that “the goal is not to control the content of what subject-matter experts and other officials are saying, but to make sure their efforts are being coordinated,” and they’ve definitely, 100% never given us a reason not to believe them.
A major water line broke Thursday in Houston, flooding roadways and causing the state’s largest school district, local colleges, polling places and businesses to close.
The flooded roads caused 12 to 15 cars to be trapped on 610 East Loop, but there have been no injuries, Houston fire Chief Robert Peña said. Firefighters were able to rescue three people from the area.
All Houston ISD after-school activities have been canceled, the school district announced in a tweet. The University of Houston and Texas Southern University tweeted that both campuses would be closed for the remainder of Thursday. Houston Community College sent out an alert announcing the closure of several campuses as well.
Four early voting locations are closed until further notice due to the break, according to a press release from Harris County Clerk Diane Trautman. Houston Community College, Young Neighborhood Library, Texas Southern University and Harris County Law Library have been closed, and the limited-ballot polling location has been moved to the Harris County Technology Center. Other early voting sites will remain open until 7 p.m.
Mayor Sylvester Turner said at a press conference that both ends of the burst 96-inch line have been isolated, and it will take “several hours” for the water pressure to return to normal. The mayor advised residents in the affected area to conserve water as much as possible and to boil water before use.
The Public Works Department is working to fix the problem, he said, and it will take six to eight hours to isolate the line, shut it off, drain the water from the line and make repairs.
“We anticipate things being back to normal certainly in the morning, for schools and everyone else,” Turner said.
The state agencies coordinating with city and county officials include the Texas Division of Emergency Management, the Texas Department of Transportation and the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, Gov. Greg Abbott said at scheduled coronavirus press briefing Thursday.
Spoiler alert!: This story reveals details of Netflix’s “Love is Blind” finale. To avoid any spoilers, stop reading now, lock yourself in a pod to watch and then come back!
If you’ve seen the “Love is Blind” finale, you know there was no need to raise a metallic champagne glass to Mr. and Mrs. Mark Cuevas (should Jessica Batten have wanted to take the last name of her all-in suitor, a decade her junior).
“It’s my wedding day, and I couldn’t be happier,” Jessica says on Episode 10 of Netflix’s captivating and cringeworthy new dating show, explaining that she found “full-blown love” with Mark and making it seem as if she would say “I do.” Even at the altar, she praises and professes her love for Mark, who was 24 when the series was taped in fall 2018.
But when it was her turn to commit, Jessica, then 34, said she thought the two weren’t ready. In her defense, they had met just weeks before, “dating” while isolated in pods and unable to see each other until they were engaged. As the show went on, they moved in together.
Following the finale, we had so many questions, and honestly couldn’t wait for the reunion, taped Feb. 18 and available Thursday on Netflix’s YouTube channel. So we asked the couple a bunch of them (edited for clarity).
Question: Honestly, did you go into the show expecting to walk away with a husband?
Jessica Batten: Absolutely.
Q: Wow, no hesitation?
Jessica: OK, with a husband? Maybe not with a husband… I went into the show feeling like I was going to fall in love, because I’m someone who thinks everything happens for a reason, and I over-dramatized all of it (laughs).
Q: You fell in love. You got very close to finding a husband. How did you feel waking up on your wedding day?
Jessica: I was actually quite ready for it to happen. It had been a month and a half of a bit of a struggle and some frustration. I was memorializing the experiences and taking it all in, but I was definitely ready to sort of let it play out. I already knew what my decision was gonna be. Mark and I had already had conversations about the future of our relationship, and I felt like I was in a good place and I was ready to walk down the aisle and do what I needed to do.
Q: You knew before (the wedding) that you were going to say no, is that what you’re saying?
Jessica: I did. I knew before the wedding day that I wasn’t ready, we were not in a place to commit to marriage that day.
Q: When did you know that you were not going to say “I do”?
Jessica: In Mexico, I started having a lot of reservations, and a woman’s intuition was saying that this probably was not going to happen for us. And I was honest with him then, I was honest with him every moment that I felt anything. I felt like I had gotten in over my head. So I immediately told him in Mexico: “Oh no, I think I am not necessarily ready for this. I think we have a lot to figure out,” and all that.
Q: In the episode on your wedding day you’re saying you’d found “full-blown love” and you “couldn’t be happier” and you’re ready to exchange vows. So it definitely makes it seem like you’re going to say “I do.” And then you say I’m “too much of a realist to take this big of a chance.” So why that contrast?
Jessica (who has not seen the edited finale): Gosh, I didn’t have any of that context, so thank you. I figured what would play out is I look a little relieved that day, and I’m excited and all of those things, and I felt like me and Mark were on the same page. I really wanted to get out of a pressure-filled situation that was leading to a marriage that I didn’t think we were ready for.
Q: So you and Mark had already had a conversation. Were you were surprised that he said he wanted to marry you then, on the altar?
Jessica: Yes, to say the least.
Q: And what were you feeling when he said yes?
Jessica: It was interesting, because we had discussed a lot of the details of the wedding. He and I had to choose who are we going to have as our bridesmaids and a lot of the details… but when the doors opened I realized there were, like, five more groomsman than we discussed, and I thought, “Oh, welp, I think he’s gonna say yes,” and that’s exactly what happened.
Q: In the episode, you say “I’ll apologize to whoever I need to apologize to.” Did you apologize to Mark, or anybody?
Jessica: I did apologize to him, and I apologized to his mom. You know, I apologized to him every single day of that experiment (laughs) to be honest with you. I was like, “I’m so sorry this is happening,” or “I’m so sorry that I don’t feel like I can do this or that because it’s untruthful.”
Q: Ultimately, why couldn’t it work between you two?
Jessica: The pods (were) very 15 minutes today, an hour tomorrow. I probably spent four or five hours in total talking to him. Once we were in Mexico, and you’re with somebody 24/7, there’s a lot of other dynamics that play in – interactions with other people, and you’re having very long conversations and you’re spending day in and day out together. It just wasn’t right. We’re just at different life stages, and it became very apparent.
Q: In the pods, you also had a connection with Barnett. Do you think things could’ve worked out with him?
Jessica: No. I don’t. I don’t think that would’ve worked out, either. I don’t think my guy was there, unfortunately, but I tried really hard.
Q: Were you surprised that Barnett and Amber made it all the way and got married?
Jessica: I was initially shocked. But after we got out of the pods, and I saw them together and they were so happy, I wasn’t surprised at all. I knew they were going to go through with it… and I was just super happy for them. There was no resentment, no “I want to go get your man,” or anything like that. I was fully supportive of them.
Q: You mention you had hopes of falling in love when you signed up for the show. And it appeared that you were very hurt by Barnett and that you had a special connection. And then you went back to Mark. Looking back, do you feel like Mark was any sort of fallback guy, or were your feelings for him genuine?
Jessica: I can see how it looked. It literally looked like I went from one room of being broken up with to the next room, accepting an engagement. There were a lot of feelings that I was processing during that time. Barnett represents a guy that I normally go for who’s unavailable… and the whole time Mark had been there. He had been wanting a relationship since Day 1, and that also represents someone in my life who I don’t tend to go for. So, I was drawing all of these parallels from the pods to my real life, and I felt like this is what was meant to be. I’m supposed to walk away from this guy who’s eluded me before, and I’m supposed to end up with the guy who’s been there since Day 1.
Q: But you were genuinely in love with Mark?
Jessica: 100%. I watch the episode back, and I was fully in love with him. I wouldn’t have told him I loved him if I didn’t feel that in the moment, but I think a lot of it was sensationalized due to the uncomfortability of the living situation. I hadn’t talked to my friends, I hadn’t talked to my family. You have no TV, no internet. You’re with these 15 women in this pod which is really a soundstage in south Atlanta. Life starts to get pretty weird, and you’re having these connections with these men, and it feels different than if you just met them in the real world.
Q: Are you dating anybody now?
Jessica: I’m actually dating around, but nothing serious. I didn’t date for a long time, after the show, but I recently started up again. It’s been really great. I’m actually in L.A. now. So it’s been a nice change from Atlanta. Atlanta is a tough place to date…
The day after talking to Jessica, we talked to Mark.
Q: Jessica said you guys had conversations about not being ready to wed. Was that true?
Mark Cuevas: I wear my heart on my sleeve. And I made this promise before I did this experiment that I’m gonna stay true to myself no matter what. Even though those conversations might’ve been (had), once I saw her walking down the aisle, I just felt what I felt in the moment, and I think the hopeless romantic in me was like, “We can do this.”
Q: Were you shocked that she didn’t reciprocate and say, “I do?” or did you expect that?
Mark: I mean, it hurt. I was disappointed, but it was such an intense experience, and we were both trying to figure it out. Jess is always gonna have a special place in my heart no matter what.
Q: You said you needed to be honest for yourself, but is there any part of you that wishes you hadn’t said “I do” just so Jessica wouldn’t have been surprised?
Mark: Once you’re up there and you hear the music come on and they open these doors (and) she walks down the aisle … I still get emotional thinking about it because that day no one could’ve told me anything. I was on Cloud 9, and I had that same rush because to me it’s like, “Wow! I deserve this love.” And sure, the outcome didn’t turn out the way it was supposed to, but living in the moment you can never regret the things you do, because everything’s a lesson.
Q: You’ve identified yourself as a hopeless romantic. Do you feel, looking back, that you genuinely loved her the first time she said hi to you?
Mark: People say love at first sight, for me it was like first voice. All the women in this whole experience are beautiful people and wonderful. It’s just Jess was the one that stood out no matter what, and it was real to me. I was 24 at the time and, again, I love hard, and I don’t regret anything from it.
Q: What was it like seeing Jessica at the reunion?
Mark: It was good to see her. She looked as beautiful as ever… We talked, we were friends, and it was water under the bridge.
Q: Have you connected with anyone like you did with Jessica since the show?
Mark: It’s hard to compare how I connected with anybody as I connected with Jess.
Q: For those criticizing Jessica, what should they know?
Mark: We’re the first people to ever do this. Jess was figuring it out just as much as I was. I really wish people would cut her some slack, because she is beautiful and a really deep, loving person.
The Taylor Swift vs. Scooter Braun feud continues in “The Man,” the latest single from last year’s Lover.
The video, Swift’s solo directorial debut (she’s credited as co-director on previous Lover singles “ME!,” “You Need to Calm Down” and “Lover”) takes the song’s conceit to its logical conclusion, following a — you guessed it — man with an eerily familiar face.
“There’s a song that I had wanted to write conceptually for a very long time, because over the course of my life it has occurred to me that we have a bit of a double-standard issue in our society,” Swift explained before performing the track at the Tiny Desk last year.
After rounds of shots, a tennis match temper tantrum, a workplace meltdown and a “Leo on a boat in Saint-Tropez” scene comes the reveal: It’s all a video shoot, directed by Swift, who offers the direction to the actor (also played by Swift, but voiced by Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson), “Could you try to be sexier? Maybe more likable this time?”
In classic Swift fashion, the visual treatment is full of not-so-subtle nods. A prominent “No Scooters” sign on the 13th Street Station, with previous album titles and scrawled on the subway tile wall near a “Missing: If Found Return to Taylor Swift” sign, points directly to her latest object of ire, Scooter Braun, manager of Justin Bieber, Carly Rae Jepsen and Ariana Grande, among others. There’s also the closing credits — “Directed by,” “Written by,” “Owned by,” and “Starring,” all attributed to Swift.
The backstory: In 2018, Taylor Swift announced a new recording deal with Universal. Last year, ahead of the release of Lover, her former label, Big Machine Label Group, was sold to Braun’s Ithaca Holdings. That sale meant that Braun’s company had control over Swift’s master recordings for her first six records. A public feud followed as Swift announced plans to re-record those early albums in order to own the rights and rallied her fanbase ahead of performances at the VMAs and the American Music Awards.
The video also comes on the heels of the release of Miss Americana. Directed by Lana Wilson, the Netflix film chronicles the aftermath of 2017’s Reputation and the making of Lover, plus the behind-the-curtain process by which Swift, who had long avoided public statements on politics, arrived at her first endorsement.
This story is part of our continuing coverage of CES 2020, including tech and gadgets from the showroom floor.
I’ve been excited about wireless power over distance since the first live demo I saw five years ago. It felt a little bit like magic, as interesting technology innovations can do from time to time. There were already a number of players in the space back then, though few that could, or would, show you a working demonstration.
In the years since, I’ve seen many prototypes, watched panels power devices a few feet away, and been told repeatedly that the first consumer products were imminent. I’ve listened to clever scientists and inventors explain the technicalities. I’ve heard enthusiastic marketers talk up products that were about to change all of our lives. But they simply never materialized.
I remained optimistic that we would see wireless power over distance before too long, but that enthusiasm has been tempered and dulled slightly by the slow progress.
Concerns around safety, regulatory approval from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), low efficiency and high power loss — these are just some of the reasons that wireless power over distance still feels … well, distant.
I’m wary of saying that it’s about to arrive again, but CES 2020 feels like tangible progress. In fact, it’s the first year where I’ve managed to find a working product you can actually buy. Powercast sells a wireless transmitter on Amazon . The company announced a Wireless Charging Grip for Nintendo Switch Joy-Con Controllers at the show and it will go on sale in the next couple of months. As long as you leave the controllers within a couple of feet of the transmitter, they’ll stay charged up.
While the amount of power that’s being sent is low and the distance is short, Powercast has still managed to achieve something that has proved elusive for most of the companies vying in this space by delivering a product to market.
Ossia’s new design
I met with Ossia again to see its new reference design, the Ossia Cota Home, a kind of power router for the home or office that’s capable of sending power several feet. Ossia CEO Mario Obeidat told me that the technology is ready to go into homes and it’s working with several partners, including phone case maker Spigen, to create a consumer product. The partnership with Spigen was announced at CES last year, and is apparently still on track to bear fruit in 2020. Spigen may sell a phone case bundled with a transmitter for somewhere around $100 or so.
He also told me that Ossia has been working on a project with Walmart and hopes to trial e-ink price tags with the retail giant. These price tags could be powered and updated simultaneously via Ossia’s ceiling tile. Because the new tags are e-ink, the power would only be needed to make changes, so it could be transmitted in very short bursts.
Obeidat seems unconcerned about some of the new players joining Ossia and Energous in this space.
“Delivering meaningful power at real distance — 10, 20, 30 feet, because of our efficiency,” says Obeidat. “That’s where we have differentiated ourselves from others.”
I also met with Wi-Charge at the show. It has technology that employs infrared light to send focused bursts of power to devices like cameras in hard-to-reach places. One example was a smart faucet from Hansgrohe with a small display on it that’s capable of turning on automatically when it senses you and lighting up the water. Wi-Charge is a good fit for an environment like that where wiring could be complicated and potentially dangerous.
The company also has a PowerPuck, which is a circular device that can be plugged directly into an outlet or screwed into an existing light fitting. The PowerPuck automatically detects receivers and can deliver up to 2W to up to three devices simultaneously — think security cameras and smoke alarms.
There’s potential for Wi-Charge to increase the power it delivers, and it’s fairly efficient compared to radio frequency technology. It’s also safe, because we’re accustomed to a lot of infrared light from the sun. While a Wi-Charge spokesperson told us that smartphone charging is possible, he said the big barrier is infrastructure. The issue of having to have transmitters everywhere and receiver technology built into devices is an obvious hurdle.
A robotic solution
The last demonstration I went to see was from GuRu, a newcomer to the scene with a clever solution to the distance problem. First, the CEO showed me a standard-looking transmitter sending a few watts of power a couple of feet to light up a bulb and charge a smartphone. GuRu’s technology is directional and beams can be focused on specific targets.
More impressive was GuRu’s robot, which looks like a robot vacuum cleaner, but has a transmitter on top. This is a clever way of getting around the fact that the power delivery drops significantly at longer distances. The idea is that the robot can go around your house at night while you sleep and charge up all your gadgets, from controllers to phones to tablets to cameras, so everything is ready to go the next morning.
GuRu is still awaiting FCC clearance, but it looks to be a major player that could make a splash in the near future.
“We’ve been fairly stealth,” CEO, Florian Bohn told me with a smile. “But now we’re ready to signal that wireless power over distance is here and it’s ready.”
With regulatory approval out of the way or pending, and plenty of working prototypes, the next step is to get transmitters on sale and persuade manufacturers to integrate receivers into devices. There’s still a long way to go and questions to answer on the efficiency, particularly at a time when we’re growing more conscious of our power usage, but wireless power over a distance is creeping closer to our homes.
Pokémon GO, which was released in 2016, defied the odds and exceeded its revenue from its launch year with earnings of nearly $900 million in 2019.
The location-based mobile game made $894 million in 2019, according to Sensor Tower Store Intelligence, which was more than the earnings of $832 million when Pokémon GO took the world by storm in 2016. It is a rare feat for a free-to-play game to make more money at a later year after launch, as most fail to keep players’ interests over time.
In 2017, Pokémon GO made $589 million, still a hefty amount but much lower compared to the previous year. This may be attributed to issues such as hardcore players trespassing and causing accidents, as well as the failure of Pokémon GO Fest in Chicago’s Grant Park in July 2017 that resulted in a class-action lawsuit.
The game recovered in 2018, making $816 million, before marking its best year ever in 2019.
Sensor Tower attributed much of Pokémon GO‘s growth to the launch of in-game events, improvements to real-world events, and significant updates that keep on adding content to the mobile game. The report mentioned the introduction of Team Rocket at the end of July 2019, which resulted in the game’s fourth- and fifth-best months ever with revenue of $116 million and $126 million in August 2019 and September 2019, respectively.
In comparison, the best months of Pokémon GO were the first three months since its 2016 launch, with $256 million in July, $195 million in August, and $141 million in September.
Sensor Tower revealed that most of Pokémon GO‘s revenue in 2019 was from the United States, where it made 38% of its earnings, or $335 million. Japan came in second at 32%, or $286 million, followed by Germany in third at 6%, or $54 million.
Niantic Labs is estimated to have made more than $3.1 billion from Pokémon GO, and while the developer does not keep all of it as it is in a revenue-sharing agreement with The Pokémon Company, in which Nintendo owns a significant stake, it is still a massive haul.
It remains to be seen what Niantic Labs has in store for Pokémon GO in 2020, but fans are likely looking forward to many years of catching Pokémon in augmented reality.