Coronavirus Task Force

Iran’s smog, blackouts made worse by power-sapping crypto mining

Outages have been compounded by cryptocurrency mining, which uses banks of high-powered computers. Cities across Iran have been cloaked in thick layers of toxic smog and darkened by blackouts, as the alleged use of low-quality fuel and power-sucking cryptocurrency mining deepen the country’s hardships. Tehran’s Hamshahri newspaper, the country’s most-read daily, ran the headline, “20 Days Living in Smoke,” on Wednesday over a photo of the capital covered in smog. Power plants have been forced to switch to burning low-grade fuel oils to generate electricity because high levels of domestic consumption have led to natural-gas shortages, the semi-official Iranian Students’ News Agency reported. Oil Minister Bijan Namdar Zanganeh denied earlier this week that any of Iran’s power stations are us...

California hospitals overrun even as vaccine is rolled out

Even as high profile figures like U.S. Vice President Mike Pence rolled up their sleeves for COVID-19 vaccinations, patients already ill with the disease crowded emergency rooms and overran intensive care units in California, now a worldwide epicenter. Another 41,000 people tested positive in the most populous U.S. state on Thursday, and 300 died, state public health officials said. In a state with 40 million residents, only about 1,200 intensive care beds remained available by Friday – just 2.1% of the total, the California Department of Public Health said. “We anticipated a surge, but I’m not sure if anyone imagined it would be as bad as it has been,” said Adam Blackstone, a spokesman for the Hospital Association of Southern California. Hospitals are strained under the press of patients,...

US election: Donald Trump makes first appearance since ‘defeat’

US President Donald Trump makes his first official post-election appearance Wednesday for what should be a moment of national unity to mark Veteran’s Day, now marred by his refusal to acknowledge Joe Biden’s win. The president visited Arlington National Cemetery around 11:00 am, four days after US media projected his Democratic rival would take the White House. Since then he has not addressed the nation other than via Twitter, and has not conceded to Biden, as is traditional once a winner is projected in a US vote. And with Covid-19 cases shattering records across the country and states imposing new restrictions in a push to contain the virus before winter arrives, Trump seems to have all but shelved normal presidential duties. Instead, he has remained shut up inside the presidential mansi...