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‘I didn’t know what to believe’: what 11 weeks of the Elizabeth Holmes trial has revealed | Theranos

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Government prosecutors in the trial of Theranos CEO Elizabeth Holmes ended their case on Friday, capping off 11 weeks of testimony from witnesses detailing allegations of fraud against the founder.

The Theranos saga has been widely covered since cracks began to emerge in the glossy image of the blood testing startup in 2015. But the first phase of the trial revealed more startling new details.

Investors, former employees and customers chipped away at the successful startup image that Theranos presented during its meteoric rise, instead painting a picture of a chaotic workplace with a founder desperate to succeed – tolerating little dissent amid rising questions about the company’s technologies.

Holmes has pleaded not guilty to the charges of defrauding investors and patients . On Friday, Holmes took the stand in her own defense, a risky move that opens her to being grilled in cross examination by the prosecution.

Here is what we have learned so far.

Former employees: Concerns fell on deaf ears

Theranos launched in 2003 and claimed that its proprietary Edison machines could perform hundreds of health tests with just one prick of blood. The company gained momentum, forging partnerships with big names such as Safeway and Walgreens to distribute its tests, raising billions in funding. Amid this spectacular rise, four different lab directors at the company said they had voiced grave concerns about its technological abilities operations.

Over six days of questioning, former lab director Adam Rosendorff said he repeatedly expressed doubts about Theranos’ tech to Holmes, but faced “tremendous pressure at the company to show that this technology was successful”.

“I had frequent conversations with Elizabeth about concerns that I had in the laboratory,” he testified. Frustrated and disillusioned, he left the company in 2014, he said, noting that when he left he felt “very skeptical” of the Edison machine.

Lynette Sawyer and Sunil Dhawan, co-directors of the lab in 2014 and 2015, testified to a disjointed lab operation, noting they never met one another in person and rarely visited the lab or met researchers. They alleged their roles consisted primarily filling out paperwork.

“I was very uncomfortable with the lack of clarity about the lab,” Sawyer testified.

A fourth former lab director, Kingshuk Das, testified that the Edison devices were returning unusual lab results – turning up prostate-specific antigens for female patients, for example. “I found these instruments to be unsuitable for clinical use,” Das said of the devices.

When Das questioned Holmes about the inconsistencies, Das said, the founder became defensive and offered “implausible” explanations as to why the machines were malfunctioning.

Former US secretary of defense James Mattis is questioned at Elizabeth Holmes’s trial in San Jose on 22 September 2021.
Former US secretary of defense James Mattis is questioned at Elizabeth Holmes’s trial in San Jose on 22 September 2021. Photograph: Vicki Behringer/Reuters

Investors: Theranos over-promised without showing results

Theranos attracted large amounts of funding in part due to high-profile investors, including former secretary of states George Schultz and Henry Kissinger, media tycoon Rupert Murdoch and former defense secretary James Mattis. Several of those investors told the jury about their initial excitement about the company and their growing reservations as red flags piled up.

Testifying early in the trial, Mattis said he personally invested $85,000 in Theranos, finding the technology “pretty breathtaking”. He was asked to serve on the company’s board, a request he said he questioned as he was “not a medical person” but agreed to (He was paid $150,000 to serve on the board).

Mattis said he ultimately lost faith in the company after the Wall Street Journal revealed Theranos’ testing devices were not actually being used to perform most of the analyses the company offered. “There came a point where I didn’t know what to believe about Theranos any more,” he said.

Former estate attorney and Theranos investor, Daniel Mosley, testified how he became enamored with the company’s mission and convinced a number of wealthy clients and contacts to invest in it. His recruits included Walmart’s Walton family and Michigan’s billionaire DeVos family. Along with his own investment of $6m, Mosley brought an estimated $380m to Theranos.

Several other financial backers of Theranos told the jury they were troubled by the extensive secrecy around the company’s operations, which made it difficult to properly vet whether it was a smart investment. Meanwhile, they reported a pressure to get in on a much-hyped opportunity before it was too late. Lisa Peterson, who handles investments for the DeVos family, said she feared Holmes would ice her out if she asked too many questions about the company.

“We were very careful not to circumvent things and upset Elizabeth,” she said. “If we did too much, we wouldn’t be invited back to invest.”

In this 2 November 2015 photo, Holmes can be seen speaking at the Fortune Global Forum in San Francisco.
In this 2 November 2015 photo, Holmes can be seen speaking at the Fortune Global Forum in San Francisco. Photograph: Jeff Chiu/AP

Drug companies and other business partners: We were manipulated

Among the most shocking allegations in the trial so far was the prosecution’s accusations that Theranos used false and misleading documents implying that external labs had vetted the products – when in reality they had not – to promote its Edison tests to potential partners.

Walgreens CFO Wade Miquelon revealed during his testimony that Holmes had implied drug firms Pfizer and Schering-Plough had validated the company’s blood-testing technology.

Holmes, Miquelon said, shared with investors and potential partners a document carrying the Pfizer logo, purportedly showing the pharmaceutical company’s support. But the document had been forged, the prosecution claims.

“Pfizer did not write this,” prosecutor Robert Leach said in opening arguments for the trial. “Pfizer did not put its logo on this. Pfizer did not give its permission to put its logo on this. Pfizer did not make the conclusions in this report.”

Trusting such reports, Miquelon said, Walgreens made a $140m deal with Theranos in 2013 and launched testing in 40 stores across Arizona and California. That partnership fell apart over the next year and Walgreens ultimately sued Theranos in 2016, settling for $25m.

Meanwhile, scientists at the pharmaceutical companies Holmes claimed had endorsed Theranos, told the jury they had repeatedly expressed doubts. Former Schering-Plough director Constance Cullen said when vetting Theranos technology in 2009, she found Holmes to be “cagey” and indirect in answering technical questions. She was left “dissatisfied” and ceased responding to emails from Holmes.

Similarly Shane Weber, a former Pfizer scientist, said he was left feeling unsettled by an interview with Holmes in 2008 to assess a potential partnership. “[Theranos] provided non-informative, tangential, deflective or evasive answers”, Weber wrote in a report referenced during the trial, testifying that he recommended Pfizer halt potential partnerships with the company.

What’s next

Holmes stayed silent in the court room during prosecutors’ presentation of the case, writing notes by hand in a notebook, flanked occasionally by supporters including husband, Billy Evans, and her mother.

She took the stand on Friday, laying out the trajectory of the startup, and testifying that she believed Theranos had developed technology capable of running any blood test.

“We worked for years with teams of scientists and engineers to miniaturize all the technologies in the laboratory,” she said, testifying for about five hours before the court closed for the day.

Holmes’s decision to testify is a risky one, since it means she’ll face cross examination from the prosecution. Holmes’s legal team is expected to argue in the coming weeks that Holmes made decisions in good faith and did not purposely deceive investors and customers.

“Theranos failed for a lot of reasons, but it failed in part because it made mistakes,” Lance Wade, a defense lawyer for Holmes, said during opening statements. “Ms Holmes made mistakes, but mistakes are not crimes. A failed business does not make a CEO a criminal.”

Early court filings indicated the defense may also use an argument that Sunny Balwani, Holmes’s former boyfriend and Theranos co-executive, abused and controlled her, influencing her to commit fraud. Balwani faces his own trial on charges similar to Holmes’s in 2022.

Holmes faces a maximum of 20 years in prison. Jurors could come to a verdict before the year’s end.

Legal teams for Elizabeth Holmes and Sunny Balwani did not respond to the Guardian’s request for comment.

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4 reasons hybrid working looks set to stay for young professionals

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From priorities to practicalities, Dr Amanda Jones of King’s College London explains why hybrid working may be here to stay and outlines the pitfalls that younger employees will need to avoid.

Click here to visit The Conversation.

A version of this article was originally published by The Conversation (CC BY-ND 4.0)

We’re in the middle of a remote working revolution. In the UK, though remote working was slowly growing before the pandemic, in 2020 the number of people working from home doubled.

While this rapid rise can be explained by Covid lockdowns, a recent survey my colleagues and I conducted with 2,000 London workers found that six in 10 employees still regularly work from home despite restrictions no longer being in place. And most don’t want that to change.

Findings from other parts of the world similarly point to a substantial increase in the number of work days being undertaken from home.

For young professionals, the shift has been particularly significant. Before the pandemic, employees in their 20s were by far the least likely to work from home.

In 2022, 64pc of 16 to 24-year-olds we surveyed reported working at home for at least part of the week. This figure is in line with 25 to 49-year-olds (65pc) and in fact higher than for people over 50 (48pc).

Other research also shows that young professionals now engage in hybrid working – dividing their time between their home and their workplace – and may prefer this model to being in the office full time.

US and European data shows that around four in 10 jobs can be conducted from home. But this figure may be higher if we consider that some jobs could be at least partly done from home. In particular, jobs in finance and insurance, information and communication and education are among the most conducive to being performed remotely.

Technologies which support remote working, such as Zoom and Slack, have been available for a number of years. While the pandemic has served as a catalyst for the rise in remote working among younger employees, I would argue that other factors have also contributed to this shift – some of which were already evident before the pandemic.

Importantly, each of these factors suggest this change to the way young professionals work is here to stay.

1. Priorities

Evidence suggests that even before the pandemic, young people were becoming more focused on their own goals, wanted greater flexibility and control, and sought a better work-life balance compared with previous generations. The reasons for this may be related to the changing nature of organisations and careers, which I’ll discuss later.

Our own and other research indicates that remote working, especially working from home (as opposed to, say, at client sites), can boost feelings of flexibility and control and enhance work-life balance. So working remotely could help younger people achieve these goals in a way that traditional working arrangements can’t.

In fact, research indicates that many young people would now rather switch jobs than compromise on the flexibility they gain from hybrid working. So for employers, supporting hybrid working may be necessary to attract and retain the best employees.

2. Practicalities

Across all age groups, participants in our research picked avoiding the commute as the biggest benefit of working remotely. While this has long been a recognised advantage of remote working, it’s important to note that we surveyed London workers – and the commute may be less of an issue for people in other places.

Aside from the time and hassle involved in commuting, travelling to work every day can be expensive. The cost of working in the office goes up if you also factor in lunches, coffees and after-work social activities.

This may be difficult for younger people – who are contending with the rising costs of living, often on lower salaries – to manage. Working remotely can help reduce spending, making it an attractive option – and even a potential lifeline – for younger employees.

3. Career trajectories

Studies show that a move towards less hierarchical, more efficient and flexible organisations results in a “new deal” of employment. Employers no longer guarantee job security and progression for employees, but gain their commitment by providing opportunities – including training programmes – that enhance their employability.

The onus then moves to employees to manage their own career progression, which remote working may help them with. For example, we know working from home can reduce distractions and improve productivity.

Taken with the commuting time saved, young professionals may have more time to dedicate to development opportunities, such as studying for additional qualifications. This could increase their attractiveness in the job market.

Indeed, young professionals seem to be the most likely to switch jobs. If they don’t expect to remain with an organisation long term, they may be less motivated to build strong relationships with colleagues and managers, and unwilling to put their own goals aside for those of the organisation.

4. Managers’ behaviour

Research shows many more managers now work remotely compared with before the pandemic. This change has two important effects.

First, managers who work remotely are likely to find it harder to stop juniors from doing the same. Managers’ ability to monitor and develop their junior staff in person, a common reason for prohibiting remote work in the past, is also reduced if managers are away from the office themselves.

Second, as more managers work remotely, younger employees may feel more confident that doing so won’t prevent them achieving success. Managers serve as role models to junior employees and evidence shows that younger professionals seek success by copying role models’ behaviour.

Avoiding the pitfalls of hybrid working

Despite the positives, younger employees, with comparatively limited experience and networks, may face disproportionately negative outcomes from remote working in terms of recognition, development and networking opportunities.

So if you’re a young professional working remotely, how can you avoid the pitfalls of hybrid working?

Setting your own goals can keep motivation and performance high. Meanwhile, proactively communicating your challenges and achievements to senior and peer-level colleagues can ensure that you receive guidance and recognition.

It’s a good idea to plan some of your time in the office to coordinate with team members or managers. At the same time, it’s useful to try to schedule office visits on different days of the week. This can help maintain key relationships but also help build networks through bumping into colleagues you don’t necessarily work as closely with.

Finally, upping attendance at external conferences and events could increase your value to the organisation through encouraging innovation and fresh ideas, while keeping you aware of external employment opportunities.

The Conversation

By Dr Amanda Jones

Dr Amanda Jones is a lecturer in organisational behaviour and human resource management at King’s College London.

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Kids’ tech: the best children’s gadgets for summer holidays | Gadgets

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With the long school summer holiday well under way, you may need a bit of help keeping the kids entertained. From walkie-talkies and cameras to tablets, robot toys and fitness trackers, here are some of the best kid-aimed tech to keep the little (and not-so-little) ones occupied.

Robot toys

Sphero Mini – about £50

Sphero Mini robotic ball.
Sphero Mini robotic ball. Photograph: Bryan Rowe/Sphero

Lots of tech toys are fads but my longtime favourite has stood the test of time as a modern update to remote control fun. Sphero is a ball you control using a smartphone or tablet, and has hidden depths, with games and educational elements also available.

The mini Sphero ball is a lot of fun to drive around and small enough that overexuberant indoor excursions won’t result in broken furniture and scuffed-up paintwork. The Sphero Play app has games, while the Sphero Edu app is great at fostering creative learning.

Kids or big kids can learn to program, follow examples, get the robot to do all sorts of things, or go deeper and write some code for it in JavaScript. Higher-end versions such as the £190 BOLT take the educational elements to the next level, too.

Tablets

Amazon Fire 7 Kids – about £110

Amazon Fire 7 Kids edition tablet.
Amazon Fire 7 Kids edition tablet. Photograph: Amazon

If you would rather not lend your precious breakable phone or iPad to your little ones, Amazon’s practically indestructible Kids edition tablets could be just the ticket.

The cheapest and smallest Fire 7 has just been updated and is available in a range of bright-coloured cases with a pop-out stand. If your offspring do manage to break it, Amazon will replace it for free under its two-year “worry-free” guarantee.

It does all the standard tablet things such as movies, apps, games, a web browser if you want it, and parental controls to lock it, set time limits and age filters. There’s even an option restricting access to curated child-safe sites and videos but it doesn’t have access to the Google Play store, only Amazon’s app store.

The Kids edition comes with a one-year subscription to Amazon Kids+ (£3 to £7 a month afterwards), which is a curated collection of child-friendly text and audio books, movies, TV shows and educational apps.

The larger £140 Fire HD 8 and £200 Fire HD 10 are available in Kids versions, too, if you want something bigger, or Amazon’s new Kids Pro tablets start at £100 with additional features aimed at school-age children.

Alternatives include LeapFrog’s various educational tablets, which are fine for younger children, or hand-me-down or refurbished iPads (from £150) in robust cases, which can be locked down with some parental controls.

Cameras

VTech Kidizoom Duo 5.0 – about £39

VTech Kidizoom Duo 5.0 kids’ camera in pink.
VTech Kidizoom Duo 5.0 kids’ camera in pink. Photograph: VTech

Before the advent of smartphones, standalone cameras were the way we visually documented our lives, and they still can be a bit of creative fun and inspiration for kids.

The VTech Kidizoom Duo 5.0 is a “my first digital camera” of sorts made of rugged plastic and simple in operation, which VTech reckons is suitable for three- to nine-year-olds. It captures 5MP photos of reasonable quality and can shoot from the back for selfies, too, all viewable on a 2.4in screen.

The optical viewfinder helps them line up the shot, which they can transform with fun filters and effects. It even shoots video, too. The kid-centric nature of it might turn off older children but every award-winning photographer has to start somewhere before the smartphone takes over.

It needs an SD card for storage and takes four AA batteries at a time, and chews through them fast, so buy some rechargeables to help save money and the planet.

For older children, rugged and waterproof action cams could be the way to go, shooting video and photos. Budget no-brand cams cost from about £80 but secondhand or refurbished models from the big boys such as GoPro and DJI go for about £100 and on eBay and elsewhere.

Fitness trackers

Garmin Vivofit Jr 3 – from about £55

Garmin Vivofit Jr 3 Star Wars edition.
Garmin Vivofit Jr 3 Star Wars edition. Photograph: Garmin

Your child may not need any encouragement to tear about the place but if you are after a gadget to “gamify” and reward their activity – as well as giving them a smartwatch-esque gadget to play with – the Garmin Vivofit Jr 3 could be a winner for ages four and up.

Its watch-like form comes in various themes and designs, including with various Star Wars, Marvel and Disney characters, with custom watchfaces to choose from. The user-replaceable coin-cell battery lasts a year, so you don’t have to worry about charging it. Water-resistance to 50 metres means swimming should be no problem either.

It tracks steps, activity and sleep with motivational messaging. It has mini games to play once your child has hit their goals, and can all be managed from a parent’s phone or tablet, so you can keep an eye on their data. Parents can even set goals, competitions with their own activity levels, chore reminders and tasks that can earn virtual coins for them to trade for rewards with you.

It is button-operated rather than touchscreen, and the backlight doesn’t stay on long to preserve the battery.

If you are a user of Google’s Fitbit trackers yourself, then the firm’s Ace 3 (£50) means you can compete on activity, but it needs charging every seven or so days. Other cheaper adult-focused fitness trackers such as the Xiaomi Mi Smart Band 6 (about £29) may be better for older children.

Walkie-talkies

Motorola T42 Talkabout – about £35 for three

Motorola Talkabout T42 two-way radios.
Motorola Talkabout T42 two-way radios. Photograph: Motorola Solutions

Walkie-talkies are a great replacement for phones, allowing kids and big kids to keep in touch without fear of fees or smashed screens.

There are plenty of child-centric options available with various character themes but basic units usually work better. Motorola’s T42 Talkabout comes in various colours and multipacks.

They are simple to set up, with a pairing button and multiple channel selection to find a clear one. Once going, just push to talk, even over long distances. Their quoted 4km range might be a bit ambitious but they should be good for at least 500 metres in urban environments, or much further in the open air.

They take three AAA batteries each, which last about 18 hours of talking or roughly three to four days in active use, so you might need a small army of rechargeable batteries.

They have a belt clip and loop for hooking to a carabiner (metal loop) or similar, and are fairly rugged, too, so should survive being launched across a room or two.

Nestling’s camouflage walkie-talkies (about £26) are also a popular choice but there are lots of choices under £30 available on the high street.

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India’s latest rocket flies but payloads don’t prosper • The Register

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India’s small satellite launch vehicle (SSLV) made a spectacular debut launch on Sunday, but the mission fell short of overall success when two satellites were inserted into the incorrect orbit, rendering them space junk.

The SSLV was developed to carry payloads of up to 500 kg to low earth orbits on an “on-demand basis”. India hopes the craft will let its space agency target commercial launches.

Although it is capable of achieving 500 km orbits, SSLV’s Saunday payload was an 135 kg earth observation satellite called EOS-2 and student-designed 8 kg 8U cubesat AzaadiSAT. Both were intended for a 356 km orbit at an inclination of about 37 degrees.

That rocket missed that target.

Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) identified the root cause of the failure Sunday night: a failure of logic to identify a sensor failure during the rocket stage.

ISRO further tweeted a committee would analyse the situation and provide recommendations as the org prepared for SSLV-D2.

ISRO Chairman S Somanath further explained the scenario in a video statement, before vowing to become completely successful in the second development flight of SSLV. “The vehicle took off majestically,” said Somanath who categorized the three rocket stages and launch as a success.

“However, we subsequently noticed an anomaly in the placement of the satellites in the orbit. The satellites were placed in an elliptical orbit in place of a circular orbit,” caveated the chairman.

Somanath said the satellites could not withstand the atmospheric drag in the elliptical orbit and had already fallen and become “no longer usable.” The sensor isolation principle is to be corrected before SSLV’s second launch to occur “very soon.”

Although ISRO has put on a brave face, its hard to imagine the emotions of the school children who designed AzaadiSat. According to the space org, the satellite was built by female students in rural regions across the country, with guidance and integrated by the student team of of student space-enthusiast org Space Kidz India.

EOS-2 was designed by ISRO and was slated to offer advanced optical remote sensing in infra-red band with high spatial resolution. ®



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