Posted Apr. 19, 2017 at 4:35 a.m.

Tech wrap: Ballmer fact-checks feds; Yahoo revenue falls; Ebola evac practice; Volkswagen electric vehicle

Published: 2017-04-19 04:35:02
Updated: 2017-04-19 04:35:02

Bulldog Bulletin

In today's Bulldog wrapup of technology and life science news:

  • Ex Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer offers facts on government
  • Yahoo bows out as public company with revenue shrinking
  • Feds practice Ebola evacuations
  • Volkswagen unveils electric concept vehicle

The details:

  • Ex Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer offers facts on government

Former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer has created a new organization to analyze government spending and revenue to make it easier to understand.

He says he created USAFacts because he was frustrated he couldn't find a single source that combined all the relevant local, state and federal numbers.

Ballmer gathered a group of data specialists that spent nearly three years compiling the information for its first reports, which are available online at www.USAFacts.org . The reports will be updated periodically.

"I'm a numbers guy, and I think the appropriate role of numbers is to help take complicated situations and simplify them for people to understand," Ballmer said.

The former Microsoft executive said he wants to provide clear information on government spending, adding that he hopes it will be easier to discuss divisive issues if everyone can agree on the basic facts.

"When reasonable people, who may disagree, can look at the same data, it's easier for them to grow closer together," Ballmer said.

Already, Ballmer said he has been surprised by some of the numbers, such as the fact that more than 23 million people work for the government.

He announced the effort Tuesday in a speech at the Economic Club of New York.

The USAFacts team includes economists, writers and researchers who produce the reports. Academic experts from Stanford University, the University of Pennsylvania and Lynchberg College also helped.

  • Yahoo bows out as public company with revenue shrinking

Yahoo is bowing out as a public company with its revenue still declining, a chronic problem that culminated in its sale to Verizon Communications.

Despite the revenue downturn, Yahoo fared better during the first three months of the year than analysts had anticipated — a low bar that was another sign of how far the internet pioneer has fallen during the past decade.

The results released Tuesday will mark the final quarterly report of Yahoo's 21-year history as a publicly traded company unless the Verizon deal unexpectedly falls apart. Yahoo expects the $4.5 billion sale to close in June before the end of the second quarter.

The deal's final price reflects a $350 million markdown that Yahoo gave Verizon to compensate for the damage caused by two different security breaches that resulted in personal information being stolen from more than 1 billion Yahoo user accounts.

After Verizon takes over, Yahoo's $8 billion in cash and valuable stakes in two Asian internet companies — Alibaba Group and Yahoo Japan — will be turned over to a newly created company called Altaba. Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer won't be part of Altaba, and she isn't expected to join Verizon to oversee the Yahoo email and other digital services being sold. If she doesn't have a job, Mayer will receive a $23 million severance package.

Mayer, a former Google executive who has been Yahoo's CEO for nearly five years, defended her track record in a statement accompanying the first-quarter numbers.

"I've never been more proud of the improvements we've made to the business and the value we've delivered to our shareholders," Mayer said.

  • Feds practice Ebola evacuations

Donald Trump railed against President Barack Obama's decision to bring patients with Ebola to the United States for treatment in 2014. Now that Trump is president, his administration is preparing for similar, and possibly larger-scale, evacuations.

The State Department and Department of Health and Human Services said Tuesday they led an unprecedented inter-agency drill last week to test their preparedness to deal with a new outbreak of Ebola or another deadly, highly infectious disease. In the drill, 11 simulated patients were flown in specially designed bio-containment containers on a pair of 747s and three smaller Gulfstream jets from Sierra Leone to Washington's Dulles International Airport.

From Dulles, the purported patients then went to five medical facilities across the U.S — Bellevue Hospital in New York City, Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, the University of Minnesota Medical Center in Minneapolis, the Denver Health Medical Center in Denver and the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha. The patients were played by non-infected volunteers, officials said.

"The scope of this exercise is unprecedented and a testament to the lessons learned and then changes made in the aftermath of the Ebola outbreak," said Dr. William Walters, the managing director for operational medicine at the State Department, which coordinates the evacuations until patients clear U.S. customs and immigration. He said the U.S. was "largely unprepared" for the Ebola crisis three years ago.

During the 2014 Ebola outbreak, 46 health care workers who became infected or were exposed to the virus were brought to special treatment centers in the United States, officials said.

  • Volkswagen unveils electric concept vehicle

Volkswagen has unveiled an electric crossover concept vehicle, the I.D. Crozz, on the eve of the Shanghai auto show.

The Crozz isn't intended for sale, but VW says it has a top speed of 112 miles (180 kilometers) per hour and a range of 311 miles (500 kilometers) on one charge.

Such range could help electrics win wider consumer acceptance by reducing "range anxiety," or fear of running out of power without a charger nearby.

Volkswagen said earlier it will launch a pure-electric car in China next year. It joins General Motors, Ford and other automakers that have announced electric models for China as Beijing steps up pressure on the industry to develop alternatives to gasoline.

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