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Italians 3D-print key ventilator piece for just $1 to help battle coronavirus — so medical company threatens to sue them

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After two Italian volunteers used a 3-D printer to manufacture a desperately needed ventilator component for those stricken by the coronavirus, the medical company with the patent for the device threatened to sue—even as the printed valves saved at least 10 people’s lives in a hospital in the northern Italian city of Brescia.

“There were people whose lives were in danger, and we acted,” Cristian Fracassi, who along with fellow volunteer Alessandro Ramaioli made the valves, said in a Facebook post on Sunday. “Period.”

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Fracassi and Ramaioli, who work at 3-D printing startup Isinnova, were asked by physicist Massimo Temporelli to assist with producing the valves for only $1 after supplies from the source medical company were not forthcoming. The company, which charges $11,000 a piece for the devices, did not share the technical specifications for producing the valve—leading the volunteers to measure the valves and print from those numbers—and has threatened to sue for patent infringement.

TechDirt‘s Glyn Moody noted on Tuesday that the greed at the heart of the threat to sue was staggering and indicative of the deeper problems in the world economic system laid bare by the coronavirus outbreak:

This is a perfect example of how granting an intellectual monopoly in the form of a patent allows almost arbitrarily high prices to be charged, and quite legally. That would be bad enough in any situation, but when lives are at stake, and Italian hospitals struggle to buy even basic equipment like face masks, demanding such a sum is even worse. And when a pandemic is raging out of control, for a company to threaten those selflessly trying to save lives in this way is completely beyond the pale.

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As Metro UK reported, Fracassi and Ramaioli are still hard at work manufacturing as many devices as they can:

The valves he produced worked on 10 patients at the overstretched hospital, and the engineer is in the process of creating 100 more. But Fracassi says he is not sure how long the they will last or whether they are reusable, as it is possible sterilisation may damage them.

His team are testing out three different designs after failing to secure the original blueprints. The country is grappling with a medical equipment shortage as the number of coronavirus cases continue to surge and 3D printing could off a solution to broken supply chains.

Observers were unimpressed with the medical company’s threats in the face of the pandemic, which has already killed 2,503 people in Italy.

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“On the face of it, this seems a pretty clear cut case of pure evil,” tweeted Australian political cartoonist Jon Kudelka.


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This Europe country is housing quarantined coronavirus patients in a five-star hotel

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An ambulance driver wearing a white protective gown enters a Barcelona hotel and announces the arrival of three new "customers" -- a trio of coronavirus patients discharged from hospital into luxury quarantine.

"Good morning! How are you? My name is Enrique Aranda and I am probably the first non health care worker you see in several days," says the director of the five-star Melia Sarria hotel, peering into the ambulance.

It took just three days to convert the hotel, which features contemporary decor and bathrooms with marble finishing, into a clinic.

"Some patients arrive thinking that they were taken out of hospital to be left to die, many people are frightened. I try to make them forget all that," said Aranda, wearing mask and gloves.

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UK Labour to unveil new leader to replace Jeremy Corbyn

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Britain's main opposition Labour party on Saturday unveils a new leader who will take the helm of a defeated and divided party in the midst of the coronavirus crisis.

Keir Starmer, a former director of state prosecutions and Labour's Brexit spokesman, is the runaway favourite to win the ballot of around 500,000 party members and succeed Jeremy Corbyn.

The announcement will be a low-key affair, with a planned special conference cancelled due to restrictions on social gatherings imposed to stem the spread of COVID-19.

Instead, the result will be put out in a press release mid-morning -- and candidates have been asked to pre-record their victory speeches.

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‘Trump fires people for telling the truth’: President blasted for ‘dead of night decision’ to fire intel watchdog

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President Donald Trump was harshly criticized on Friday for firing intelligence community Inspector General Michael Atkinson.

House Intel Chair Adam Schiff (D-CA) and Senate Intel Ranking Member Mark Warner (D-VA) were among the lawmakers who took to Twitter to criticize Trump on his favorite social media platform.

Here's some of what people were saying about Trump's decision:

Trump’s dead of night decision to fire ICIG Michael Atkinson is another blatant attempt to gut the independence of the Intelligence Community and retaliate against those who dare to expose presidential wrongdoing.

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