9-30-20 US election 2020: The night American democracy hit rock bottom
When the first televised debates were held in 1960, the world watched two young candidates, John F Kennedy and Richard Nixon, respectfully engage in an intelligent and elevated discussion. Mostly we remember those inaugural encounters for Nixon's flop-sweat and clumsily applied make-up. But in the midst of the Cold War, as the ideological battle raged between Washington and Moscow, the debates were seen as a thrilling advertisement for American democracy. Speaking in the spirit of patriotic bipartisanship that was such a hallmark of US politics in the 1950s and early-1960s, Kennedy opened the first debate with an eye on how it would be viewed by international onlookers. Tuesday's vicious encounter, more cage-fight than Camelot, spoke of a different era and a different country: a split screen America, a nation of unbridgeable divides, a country beset by democratic decay. Two elderly men, both of them in their 70s, traded insults and barbs, with a sitting president once again trashing in primetime the norms of conventional behaviour. If there is such a thing as a heavenly pantheon of former presidents, an Oval Office in the sky, Abe Lincoln and Jack Kennedy must have peered down like baffled ghosts. To many international onlookers, to a large portion of Americans as well, the debate offered a real-time rendering of US decline. It reminded us once more of how American exceptionalism has increasingly come to be viewed as a negative construct: something associated with mass shootings, mass incarceration, racial division and political chaos. Germany's Der Spiegel called it "A TV duel like a car accident". "Never had American politics sunk so low," lamented Italy's La Repubblica's US correspondent. Le Monde, the French newspaper that declared "nous sommes tous Américains" - "we are all Americans now" - in the aftermath of the attacks of September 11th, called it a "terrible storm". But storms pass. What the debate showed last night was America's permanent political weather system.
9-30-20 Covid-19 news: UK MPs to be given more say on new coronavirus measures
The latest coronavirus news updated every day including coronavirus cases, the latest news, features and interviews from New Scientist and essential information about the covid-19 pandemic. MPs will be able to vote on new coronavirus regulations for England or the UK. A coronavirus vaccine candidate being developed by pharmaceutical companies Pfizer and BioNTech has been found to induce an immune response in a trial including 60 volunteers aged 18 to 55. Most of the volunteers produced coronavirus-specific antibodies and T-cells, according to results published today in the journal Nature. The vaccine candidate contains messenger RNA, which is used to make fragments of coronavirus protein that the body’s immune system can recognise and respond to. The UK has already secured 30 million doses of the vaccine candidate, in addition to vaccine candidates from several other companies, including 100 million doses of a candidate being developed by AstraZeneca in partnership with the University of Oxford. Germany’s chancellor Angela Merkel today said she wanted to avoid another national lockdown “at all costs”. Following a rise in cases, Merkel and the leaders of Germany’s 16 states today agreed to tighten restrictions on the size of gatherings, particularly in coronavirus hotspots. People in areas with a case rate of 35 per 100,000 people or higher will have to limit private gatherings to 25 people, and those in areas with a case rate of 50 per 100,000 people or above will need to cap private gatherings at 10 people. “We want to act regionally, specifically and purposefully, rather than shutting down the whole country again – this must be prevented at all costs,” said Merkel. US president Donald Trump and democratic challenger Joe Biden clashed over the coronavirus pandemic during the country’s first presidential debate yesterday. Trump claimed the US was “weeks away from a vaccine” against the virus, contradicting health officials, including Robert Redfield, the director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Biden criticised Trump’s record on covid-19, saying 200,000 people “have died on his watch.”
9-30-20 Presidential debate: Trump and Biden trade insults in chaotic debate
President Donald Trump and his challenger Joe Biden have fiercely clashed in one of the most chaotic and bitter White House debates in years. Mr Trump frequently interrupted, prompting Mr Biden to tell him to "shut up" as the two fought over the pandemic, healthcare and the economy. The US president was challenged over white supremacist support and refused to condemn a specific far-right group. Opinion polls suggest Mr Biden has a steady single-digit lead over Mr Trump. But with 35 days until election day, surveys from several important states show a closer contest. Polls also suggest one in 10 Americans have yet to make up their mind how to vote. But analysts said Tuesday night's debate - the first of three - probably would not make much difference. Overall, the 90-minute debate in Cleveland, Ohio, was light on serious policy discussion. Both candidates talked over each other but Mr Trump cut in some 73 times, according to a count by CBS News. The tenor became clear early on as the two candidates sparred over healthcare. Hectoring from Mr Trump saw Mr Biden call the president a "clown". As they moved on to the Supreme Court, the rancour continued, with Mr Biden refusing to answer when asked if he would try to expand the number of judges. "Will you shut up, man?" the Democratic candidate snapped at Mr Trump, later adding: "Keep yapping, man." Mr Trump, the Republican candidate seeking a second term, responded: "The people understand, Joe. Forty-seven years [in politics], you've done nothing. They understand." In one of the most talked about exchanges of the night, the president was asked by the moderator, Fox News anchor Chris Wallace, if he was prepared to condemn white supremacists. He initially said he would but when asked to denounce the far-right Proud Boys group by name, he sidestepped. Mr Trump said: "Proud Boys, stand back and stand by, but I'll tell you what, somebody's got to do something about antifa and the left." The Proud Boys, an anti-immigrant, all-male group, took to social media to celebrate. "Standing down and standing by sir," it posted on Telegram. Antifa, short for "anti-fascist", is a loose affiliation of far-left activists that often clash with the far right at street protests.
9-29-20 Covid-19 news: UK government criticised for confusion over new rules
The latest coronavirus news updated every day including coronavirus cases, the latest news, features and interviews from New Scientist and essential information about the covid-19 pandemic. Confusion over new restrictions introduced in parts of north-east England. Local leaders have criticised the UK government for creating confusion over its announcement of tightened restrictions in north-east England. Newcastle council leader Nick Forbes told the BBC that government announcements about new restrictions lacked detail. He said, “there is a “gap between what’s announced in headlines and the details that people can understand […] what that does is sow confusion, it creates doubt, it creates uncertainty.” There has been a jump in the proportion of coronavirus cases in US children over the summer months, according to a study published online in the journal Pediatrics. From April to September, the proportion of cases in children rose from 2.2 to 10 per cent of all cumulative reported cases. It isn’t clear whether this is partly due to increased testing capacity, although the proportion of tests administered to under 18s has remained relatively stable at between 5 and 7 per cent since late April, the authors write in the paper. Earlier studies have suggested that children don’t get as ill with covid-19, compared to adults. Independent SAGE, an independent group of scientists publishing advice for the UK government, says that UK universities should switch to online teaching and give university students the “right to return home.” In its latest report, the group argues that students should be allowed to return home at any point during term following a coronavirus test, and have their accommodation fees refunded. More than 1 million people have died from covid-19 since the start of the pandemic, according to the latest figures from Johns Hopkins University. UN secretary-general António Guterres described the worldwide death toll as a “mind-numbing figure” and an “agonizing milestone”. Guterres tweeted: “We must never lose sight of each & every life.”
9-30-20 Coronavirus: Israel passes law to ban mass protests during lockdown
Israel's parliament has handed the government the power to ban mass protests during the country's second nationwide coronavirus lockdown. Demonstrators will be confined to groups of up to 20 people and must stay within 1km (0.6 miles) of their homes. The law should have been part of a range of measures passed on Friday. But the government struggled to get the necessary votes after critics accused it of trying to stifle protests against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. For weeks, thousands of people have gathered outside his official residence in Jerusalem to demand he resign over corruption allegations and his handling of the pandemic. Mr Netanyahu has denied any wrongdoing. The protests have continued despite a dramatic resurgence of Covid-19. Israel currently has the world's highest infection rate per capita, with the daily number of new cases exceeding 8,000 last week despite the second lockdown. Since the start of the pandemic more than 237,000 cases and 1,528 deaths have been reported in the country, which has a population of nine million. The law approved by the Knesset early on Wednesday gives ministers the power to declare a "special state of emergency" related to the coronavirus pandemic for renewable one-week periods. During that time, people will not be allowed to go more than 1km from their homes to take part in a protest - a limit that is already applied to journeys for anything other than essential purposes, such as buying food or medicine. Demonstrators will also be confined to "capsules" of no more than 20 people. Mr Netanyahu has described the protests against his premiership as "coronavirus incubators" without providing evidence to support the claim. Protest organisers called the vote on the new powers an "execution ceremony for democracy". Yair Golan of the left-wing Meretz party has warned the restrictions "won't stop the demonstrations". "The anger growing in the streets will find its way out," he said.
9-29-20 Coronavirus: Global Covid-19 death toll passes one million
The number of people worldwide who have died with Covid-19 has passed one million, researchers say, with many regions still reporting surging numbers of new infections. The tally by Johns Hopkins University shows that deaths in the US, Brazil and India make up nearly half that total. Experts caution that the true figure is probably much higher. UN Secretary-General António Guterres called it a "mind-numbing" figure and "an agonising milestone". "Yet we must never lose sight of each and every individual life," he said in a video message. "They were fathers and mothers, wives and husbands, brothers and sisters, friends and colleagues. The pain has been multiplied by the savageness of this disease." The development comes nearly 10 months after news of the coronavirus began to emerge from Wuhan, China. The pandemic has since spread to 188 countries with more than 32 million confirmed cases. Lockdowns and other measures to try to stop the virus spreading have thrown many economies into recession. Meanwhile, efforts to develop an effective vaccine are continuing - although the World Health Organization (WHO) has warned that the death toll could hit two million before one is widely available. The US has the world's highest death toll with about 205,000 fatalities followed by Brazil on 141,700 and India with 95,500 deaths. The US has recorded more than seven million cases - more than a fifth of the world's total. After a second wave of cases in July, numbers dropped in August but appear to be on the rise again now. The coronavirus has been spreading fast in India, with the country recording about 90,000 cases a day earlier in September. Confirmed infections in India have reached six million - the second-highest after the US. However, given the size of its population India has seen a relatively low death rate. Brazil has the highest number of deaths in Latin America and has recorded more than 4.7 million cases, the third highest in the world. Elsewhere in the region, newly confirmed infections are also rising quickly in Argentina, which now has more than 700,000 cases.
9-29-20 Europe's second covid-19 wave is here but is it bigger than the first?
In Europe, the long-predicted second wave of the coronavirus pandemic is now well under way. Several countries are reporting more daily covid-19 cases than they did during the first wave in March, though the higher numbers may be due to more people being tested. “In some member states, the situation is now even worse than in the peak during March,” said Stella Kyriakides, the European Union’s commissioner for health and food safety, on 24 September. “This is a real cause for concern.” Spain, the Czech Republic, France and the Netherlands are reporting higher numbers of daily confirmed cases per million people than in March, with around 240 per million in Spain. The UK and Portugal have the next highest infection rates, but haven’t yet exceeded peak rates. However, during the first wave, testing was mostly limited to those in hospitals, meaning many cases were missed. Antibody surveys, which estimate the proportion of people who have had the virus, show that the actual number of cases at the time was much higher than official figures suggest. “There is undoubtedly more testing being done now than in February and March,” says Martin Hibberd at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine. “The numbers are difficult to compare.” The figures should serve as a wake-up call, said Hans Kluge, the World Health Organization’s regional director for Europe, on 17 September. “Although these numbers reflect more comprehensive testing, it also shows alarming rates of transmission across the region.” “Obviously, if you don’t search, you don’t find,” says Giulia Giordano at the University of Trento in Italy. “However, this does not necessarily mean that now we are discovering more infection cases because we are testing more.
9-28-20 Covid-19 news: Travel abroad linked to positive test rate in England
The latest coronavirus news updated every day including coronavirus cases, the latest news, features and interviews from New Scientist and essential information about the covid-19 pandemic. Coronavirus rates have been higher among people who have travelled abroad. Rates of people testing positive for the coronavirus within communities in England in recent weeks were higher among people who had travelled abroad, according to analysis by the Office for National Statistics. About one in 286 people who said they had travelled abroad within the previous 30 days are estimated to have tested positive for the virus on 10 September, compared to about one in 1000 who said they hadn’t. However, both groups saw increases in the rates of positive tests between 2 August and 10 September. The analysis also found that coronavirus infection rates increased more in the least deprived areas within each region, and that positivity rates were higher among people under 35 who reported having had socially-distanced contact with six or more people aged 18 to 69, compared to those over 35. The Office for National Statistics says this suggests “socially-distanced direct contact in younger age groups is an increasingly important factor in contracting covid-19.” The president of the National Union of Students, Larissa Kennedy, today warned that students risked being “trapped” in “disgusting conditions” in their halls of residence due to self-isolation rules. The remarks came after UK culture minister Oliver Dowden on Sunday suggested that students would only be allowed to go home during the Christmas break if the general public is seen to be following government guidance. Thousands of students at universities including Manchester Metropolitan University, the University of Glasgow and Edinburgh Napier University, are currently self-isolating in their rooms following rises in cases. “We would expect all students to be able to go home at Christmas,” a spokesperson for UK prime minister Boris Johnson told journalists today. People in England could now face fines of up to £10,000 for refusing to self-isolate when asked. A preliminary study published last week suggested only 11 per cent of people in the UK who are told to self-isolate actually do so for the full 14-days.
9-29-20 Breonna Taylor case: Tapes of grand jury deliberations to be released
Tapes of the grand jury's deliberations in the case of a black American woman killed in a police operation at her home in Kentucky are to be made public. Breonna Taylor's death in March has become a key issue in protests over police brutality and racism. The jury decided no officers should be charged over her death. Its tapes are secret, but one juror sued for release. Kentucky's attorney general said he was confident the tapes would show his team had presented a "thorough case". Ms Taylor, an emergency medicine worker, was shot dead when officers stormed her Louisville home on 13 March. They were executing a search warrant as part of a drugs investigation, but no drugs were found in the property. Last week one officer was charged with wanton endangerment for firing shots into an adjoining apartment, but no-one was charged in connection with Ms Taylor's death. Her death and the subsequent decision not to charge any officer with murder or manslaughter have led to repeated Black Lives Matter protests in Louisville and elsewhere. Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron said in a statement that although the grand jury was meant to be a secretive body, "it's apparent that the public interest in this case isn't going to allow that to happen". He said he was complying with a judge's order "to release the recording on Wednesday". Mr Cameron said: "Once the public listens to the recording, they will see that over the course of two-and-a-half-days, our team presented a thorough and complete case to the grand jury." It follows a lawsuit by one member of the grand jury calling for the proceedings to be made public. The unnamed grand juror sued for release of the tapes following comments made in public by Mr Cameron following the jury's decisions. The grand juror's lawsuit contests some of his statements and says the jurors were used as "a shield to deflect accountability and responsibility". (Webmaster's comment: The united States people have been murdering and lynching black people since we became a country! Many police have become the black assassination arm of the government!)
9-28-20 Covid-19 deaths near one million worldwide
'Forced to work' as medics fighting Covid.
- The world's coronavirus death toll nears one million, with the US, Brazil and India making up nearly half of the total, according to Johns Hopkins University
- But the number is likely to be much higher as testing rates in many countries remain low, with virus-related deaths not being recorded
- It comes nearly 10 months after news began to emerge about mysterious cases of viral pneumonia in Wuhan, China
- More than 33 million cases have been confirmed around the world, Johns Hopkins says
- The UK has seen nearly 42,000 deaths, and cases have been rising by an average of more than 5,500 a day
- Nearly two-thirds of Wales' population will be under lockdown when new measures are imposed in three more areas from 18:00 BST
- The mayor of Greater Manchester has called for an "urgent review" of the 22:00 curfew for pubs and restaurants, saying it is "doing more harm than good"
- Curbs on movement are extended in Madrid while new restrictions come into force in Paris and Brussels
9-28-20 Coronavirus: 'Forced to work' as medics fighting Covid
Almost 200 health workers have died of Covid-19 in Venezuela since the pandemic began in March. The country has had at least 68,000 cases and over 560 deaths. The BBC has been hearing from health workers across the country who say that they’ve had to work without masks or gloves for weeks and are afraid of catching the virus at their place of work.
9-28-20 Donald Trump 'paid $750 in federal income taxes in 2016 and 2017' - NY Times
Donald Trump paid just $750 (£580) in federal income tax both in 2016, the year he ran for the US presidency, and in his first year in the White House, the New York Times says. The newspaper - which says it obtained tax records for Mr Trump and his companies over two decades - also says that he paid no income taxes at all in 10 of the previous 15 years. The records reveal "chronic losses and years of tax avoidance", it says. Mr Trump called the report "fake news". "Actually I paid tax. And you'll see that as soon as my tax returns - it's under audit, they've been under audit for a long time," he told reporters after the story was published on Sunday. "The IRS [Internal Revenue Service] does not treat me well… they treat me very badly," he said. Mr Trump has faced legal challenges for refusing to share documents concerning his fortune and business. He is the first president since the 1970s not to make his tax returns public, though this is not required by law. The Times said the information scrutinised in its report was "provided by sources with legal access to it". The report came just days before Mr Trump's first presidential debate with Democratic rival Joe Biden and weeks before the 3 November election. The Times said it reviewed tax returns relating to President Trump and companies owned by the Trump Organization going back to the 1990s, as well as his personal returns for 2016 and 2017. It said the president paid just $750 in income taxes in both 2016 and 2017, while he paid no income taxes at all in 10 of the previous 15 years, "largely because he reported losing much more money than he made". Before becoming president, Mr Trump was known as a celebrity businessman and property mogul, building an image of a hugely successful self-made billionaire which could be dented by the latest revelations, observers say. But the newspaper says his reports to the IRS "portray a businessman who takes in hundreds of millions of dollars a year yet racks up chronic losses that he aggressively employs to avoid paying taxes". According to the US Bureau on Labor Statistics, the average American household paid $9,302 in federal income tax in 2018., on an average earnings figure of $78,635. (Webmaster's comment: Trump is a crook!)
9-28-20 TikTok: US judge halts app store ban
TikTok has avoided a government-ordered block on new downloads in the US after a judge issued a temporary injunction. The video-sharing app had faced being removed from Apple's App Store and Android's Google Play marketplace at midnight local time in Washington DC. Existing US-based users would have been able to have continued using it. But they would not have been able to have re-downloaded the app if they had deleted it from their phones, nor have been offered software updates. Judge Carl Nichols of the US District Court for the District of Columbia issued the injunction on Sunday evening having held a 90-minute hearing earlier in the day. The opinion was sealed, meaning that no reason for the decision was released. TikTok welcomed the intervention, and vowed to keep defending its rights. "We're pleased that the court agreed with our legal arguments and issued an injunction preventing the implementation of the TikTok app ban," it said in a statement. TikTok had argued that forcing it off the iOS and Android app stores would have violated the First and Fifth Amendments of the US constitution. It claimed that preventing some users joining the app unlawfully impinged upon their freedom of speech and that the firm's own right to due process would have been breached by not giving it a proper opportunity to defend itself first. "How does it make sense to impose this app store ban tonight when there are negotiations underway that might make it unnecessary?" added a member of the app's legal team. The US government's lawyers in turn had described the app's parent as being "a mouthpiece" for the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). The ruling comes one week after another Chinese app - WeChat - that also faced a ban, was given its own last minute reprieve by the US courts.
9-27-20 Amy Coney Barrett: Trump nominates conservative favourite for Supreme Court
US President Donald Trump has nominated Amy Coney Barrett, a favourite of social conservatives, to be the new Supreme Court justice. Speaking by her side at the White House Rose Garden, Mr Trump described her as a "woman of unparalleled achievement". If confirmed by senators, Judge Barrett will replace liberal Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg who died recently, aged 87. The nomination will spark a bitter confirmation fight in the Senate as November's presidential election looms. Announcing Judge Barrett as his nominee on Saturday, President Trump described her as a "stellar scholar and judge" with "unyielding loyalty to the constitution". Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden urged the Senate not to "act on this vacancy until after the American people select their next president and the next Congress". "The United States Constitution was designed to give the voters one chance to have their voice heard on who serves on the Court. That moment is now and their voice should be heard," he said. If Judge Barrett is confirmed, conservative-leaning justices will hold a 6-3 majority on the Supreme Court for the foreseeable future. The 48-year-old would be the third justice appointed by the current Republican president, after Neil Gorsuch in 2017 and Brett Kavanaugh in 2018. The court's nine justices serve lifetime appointments, and their rulings can shape public policy on everything from gun and voting rights to abortion and campaign finance for decades. In recent years, the court has expanded gay marriage to all 50 states, allowed for Mr Trump's travel ban on mainly Muslim countries to be put in place, and delayed a US plan to cut carbon emissions. After graduating from Notre Dame University Law School in Indiana, she clerked for the late Justice Antonin Scalia. In 2017, she was nominated by Mr Trump to the Chicago-based 7th Circuit Court of Appeals. She is described as a devout Catholic who, according to a 2013 magazine article, said that "life begins at conception". This makes her a favourite among religious conservatives keen to overturn the 1973 Supreme Court decision that legalised abortion nationwide. LGBT groups have criticised her membership of a conservative Catholic group, People of Praise, whose network of schools have guidelines stating a belief that sexual relations should only happen between heterosexual married couples. Judge Barrett has ruled in favour of President Trump's hardline immigration policies and expressed views in favour of expansive gun rights. (Webmaster's comment: She is an enemy of the people!)
9-27-20 The Black wealth gap
Decades after the civil rights movement, African Americans still hold a fraction of the wealth of white Americans. Why? Decades after the civil rights movement, African Americans still hold a fraction of the wealth of white Americans. Why? Here's everything you need to know:
- How big is the gap? It's staggering. The net worth of a typical white family in 2016 — including home, retirement accounts, and all assets — was nearly 10 times greater than that of a Black family, at $171,000 to $17,600.
- How did the gap start? After the Civil War, Reconstruction was supposed to begin making up for the hundreds of years of slavery during which African Americans had wages, property, and even spouses and children stolen from them. But the "40 acres and a mule" promised by Gen. William Sherman was yanked away by Abraham Lincoln's successor, President Andrew Johnson, and the little land that had been parceled out was returned to the white former slaveholders.
- What kind of discrimination? The New Deal was meant to help the poor across America, but it had racism baked into it. Rather than overturning racial covenants that kept Blacks out of desirable neighborhoods, the new Federal Housing Administration promoted them.
- Didn't the Civil Rights Act help? The 1964 Civil Rights Act prohibited discrimination and strengthened voting rights and the desegregation of schools. But even as it "struck down legal barriers," says historian Leon Litwack, "it failed to dismantle economic barriers."
- But don't some Black people succeed? Yes, but individual efforts to "bootstrap" one's way up the economic ladder face enormous obstacles. A 2019 Georgetown University study showed that wealth in youth is a better predictor of success than intelligence. Racism in hiring persists, as numerous studies have shown that pit a résumé with a "Black-sounding" name against a similar one with a white name.
- How COVID-19 worsened the gap: When the coronavirus hit this year, Black Americans were still reeling from the 2008 financial crisis. That downturn had wiped out 53 percent of all Black wealth, largely because subprime lenders had targeted Black communities with loans on bad terms. Then came the COVID-19 shutdown. While 22 percent of all U.S. businesses shuttered between February and April this year, 41 percent of Black-owned businesses closed.
9-27-20 France racism: Paris to commemorate slave rebellion figure
Paris is to put up a statue of a black woman involved in a 1802 rebellion against slavery on the French Caribbean island of Guadeloupe. The woman, named only Solitude, was captured and possibly executed. Opening a public garden in her honour on Saturday, Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo called Solitude a "heroine" and a "strong symbol". France's history of slavery has been under new scrutiny, in part because of the US Black Lives Matter protests. There has been soul-searching over public commemoration of colonial figures such as 17th-Century statesman Jean-Baptiste Colbert, who codified overseas slavery and is remembered by a statue outside the national parliament in Paris. But President Emmanuel Macron has spoken against removing statues or names of controversial figures, offering instead a "clear-headed look at our history and our memory". Very little is known for sure, with just one brief written mention in a 19th-Century history of Guadeloupe, according to Unesco. That account records that Solitude, a mixed-race woman, was arrested among "a band of insurgents" during an uprising against slavery - which had been reinstated by Napoleon after being abolished during the French Revolution. She was sentenced to death, the history notes, but allowed to give birth before being "tortured" - an ambiguous term which could mean she was indeed put to death, through flogging for example. Solitude was portrayed in a 1972 work of fiction by French writer André Schwarz-Bart and a statue already honours her in Les Abymes, Guadeloupe. The Solitude Garden is located on Place du Général Catroux in north-western Paris, where a statue will be erected in time. While a statue of a black woman would be rare in the French capital, it would not be unprecedented. The US entertainer and French Resistance agent Josephine Baker (1906-75) has been honoured by both a square and a monument.
9-27-20 Switzerland firmly rejects end of free movement with EU - projection
Swiss voters have rejected in a referendum a proposal to end an accord with the EU on the free movement of people, TV projections suggest. Broadcaster SRF said voters were set to reject the plan by 63% to 37%. Ballots are still being counted, and final results are due within hours. Switzerland is not a member of the EU, but currently accepts free movement so that it can have access to free trade and co-operate with Brussels in areas like transport and education. The proposal came from the right-wing Swiss People's Party (SVP), and was a successor to a 2014 referendum to introduce quotas on immigrants from the EU, which narrowly passed. Supporters of the anti-free movement plan said it would allow Switzerland to control its borders and select only the immigrants it wants. Opponents argued it would plunge a healthy economy into recession, and deprive hundreds of thousands of Swiss citizens of their freedom to live and work across Europe. People have also been voting on a number of other issues. They appear to have backed paternity leave for new fathers, and rejected a proposal to make it easier to hunt protected species such as wolves. The Swiss referendum was already being prepared before the UK voted to leave the EU in 2016. The SVP has used similar arguments to Brexiteers about having more control over immigration in a country which they say is becoming more overcrowded and expensive as a result. But net migration into Switzerland is actually falling at the moment, and there is a sense voters are becoming weary of the party's anti-immigration message. The BBC's Imogen Foulkes in Geneva says a resounding yes to free movement of people might well strengthen Brussels' hand with London, and be a signal to the UK of just what kind of compromises might be needed to agree a free-trade deal with the EU.
9-27-20 Coronavirus: Madrid at serious risk without tougher rules, minister warns
The Spanish government has urged authorities in Madrid to tighten coronavirus restrictions across the city, warning of a "serious risk" to residents if they do not. Madrid extended restrictions in Covid-19 hotspots on Friday but rejected calls for a city-wide lockdown. On Saturday Spain's Health Minister Salvador Illa said current restrictions did not go far enough. He said it was "time to act with determination" to control the pandemic. "There is a serious risk for inhabitants, for the neighbouring regions," Mr Illa said, calling on the capital's regional authorities to "put the health of citizens first" and impose a partial lockdown on the entire city. Spain's regions are in charge of healthcare and so the central government does not have the power to impose the restrictions it prefers. Madrid is again at the epicentre of Spain's coronavirus outbreak, as it was during the first peak earlier this year. The country recorded a further 12,272 cases on Friday, bringing the official total to 716,481, the highest infection tally in western Europe. Spain and many other countries in the northern hemisphere have seen a second wave of the coronavirus pandemic in recent weeks. The World Health Organization (WHO) has issued a stark warning about the resurgence of the virus in Europe and elsewhere as winter approaches. European countries were seeing "worrying increases of the disease", with "a small uptick in deaths in older people" that will inevitably increase, Dr Mike Ryan, head of the WHO's emergencies team, said on Friday. Dr Ryan questioned whether European countries had "really exhausted all the tools" at their disposal to prevent a second round of national lockdowns. "Lockdowns are almost a last resort - and to think that we're back in last-resort territory in September, that's a pretty sobering thought," Dr Ryan told reporters at the WHO's headquarters in Geneva.
9-26-20 Switzerland gets ready to vote on ending free movement with EU
Swiss voters will decide on Sunday whether to abandon their free movement of people agreement with the EU. The push to scrap the freedom of movement deal comes from the right-wing Swiss People's Party. Supporters say the move will allow Switzerland to control its borders and select only the immigrants it wants. Opponents argue it will plunge a healthy economy into recession, and deprive hundreds of thousands of Swiss citizens of their freedom to live and work across Europe. The justice minister says that would create a situation "worse than Brexit". Switzerland decided long ago not to join the EU, but it does want access to Europe's free-trade area, and it wants to co-operate with Brussels in areas like transport, the environment, and research and education. The price for this is to sign up to the EU's major policy "pillars" including free movement, and Schengen open borders. The EU has consistently told the Swiss there will be no cherry-picking: leaving free movement would mean leaving those lucrative trade arrangements too. The proposal comes from the right-wing Swiss People's Party (SVP), and is a successor to a referendum held in 2014 (also from the People's Party) to introduce quotas on immigrants from the EU. That passed by a whisker (50.33% said yes, 49.67% said no), obliging the Swiss government to find a deal Brussels would accept. In the end a compromise was agreed: Swiss employers had to prioritise workers permanently resident in Switzerland, in job sectors where unemployment is already high. The SVP dismissed the deal as so weak as to be virtually meaningless, and are now back with a second demand to get out of free movement altogether. Thomas Aeschi of the SVP believes abandoning free movement will bring all sorts of advantages, from "being able to select the highest qualified immigrants" to "less land speculation, lower house prices, and lower rents". (Webmaster's comment: The hatred of immigrants comes in many disguises!)
9-26-20 Amy Coney Barrett 'to be picked by Trump for Supreme Court'
US President Donald Trump will reportedly nominate Amy Coney Barrett, a favourite of social conservatives, to be the new Supreme Court justice. The president's decision - to be revealed at the White House on Saturday - has been confirmed to the BBC's US partner CBS News and other US media. She would replace liberal Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who died last Friday. The nomination will touch off a bitter Senate fight to get her confirmed as November's presidential election looms. CBS - citing several sources involved in or familiar with the selection process - reported that the president had settled on Judge Barrett. But when asked about his choice on Friday evening, Mr Trump refused to give anything away: "You'll find out tomorrow. Look, they're all great. It could be any of one them." If Judge Barrett is confirmed, conservative-leaning justices will hold a 6-3 majority on America's highest court for the foreseeable future. The 48-year-old would be the third justice appointed by this Republican president, after Neil Gorsuch in 2017 and Brett Kavanaugh in 2018. The Supreme Court's nine justices serve lifetime appointments, and their rulings can shape public policy on everything from gun and voting rights to abortion and campaign finance long after the presidents who appoint them leave office. In recent years, the court has expanded gay marriage to all 50 states, allowed for Mr Trump's travel ban on mainly Muslim countries to be put in place, and delayed a US plan to cut carbon emissions. She is described as a devout Catholic who, according to a 2013 magazine article, said that "life begins at conception". This makes her a favourite among religious conservatives keen to overturn the landmark 1973 Supreme Court decision that legalised abortion nationwide. Her links to a particularly conservative Christian faith group, People of Praise, have been much discussed in the US press. LGBT groups have pointed out that the group's network of schools have guidelines stating a belief that sexual relations should only happen between heterosexual married couples. One such group, Human Rights Campaign, has voiced strong opposition to Judge Barrett's confirmation, declaring her an "absolute threat to LGBTQ rights".
9-25-20 Republicans are desperately trying to change the subject
Amy Coney Barrett may or may not be President Trump's nominee to replace Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the Supreme Court, but that hasn't stopped Republicans and conservative media outlets from cooking up a fake controversy about her potential nomination in the meantime. Barrett, a circuit judge on the 7th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, is a devout Catholic and active in the Christian group People of Praise, a prayer organization that grew out of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal movement and which some have questioned due to its opacity and possible influence over its members. Although she has never ruled on a case directly concerning abortion rights, religious conservatives believe that Barrett would be a reliable vote to overturn Roe v. Wade when an abortion case comes before the high court. Given that, conservative media and Republican politicians have spent the last week stirring up the false story that "the left" is waging an all-out anti-Catholic attack on Barrett, a deliberate move to distract from the real story — that Republicans outrageously plan to ramrod a Supreme Court nominee through the Senate just weeks before the election. That story should be front page news everywhere. Not only is it a hypocritical about-face on the Republicans' so-called "McConnell rule" of 2016, it is the plainest example of the GOP's absolute corruption of our democratic processes and the norms that safeguard them. Instead, Fox News has, not surprisingly, put the Barrett story into overdrive, with regular segments on Democrats' supposed anti-Catholic assaults on the judge. But even normally cooler conservative heads, like S.E. Cupp, have helped hype the hysteria. In her column for the New York Daily News, Cupp called the "anti-Catholic attacks" on Barrett "gross" and "shameful." Her evidence? One tweet from Reuters and three from individuals who hold no political office and whom most Americans have never heard of. In her piece, Cupp linked to an article from the Christian Broadcasting Network that brashly claimed the "anti-Catholic attacks" against Barrett "are already flowing." But the CBN article couldn't provide one example of that actually happening this past week. No one has shown any substantive proof that a coordinated and sustained campaign of religious bigotry against Barrett is underway. Conservatives' concocted crisis is mostly smoke and little fire. That doesn't matter to the target audience, of course, who thrive on outrage rather than evidence. And the manufactured Barrett brouhaha isn't really even about the Supreme Court itself, since whoever Trump nominates will have enough Republican votes to confirm them. Instead, it's about the symbolic meaning of the Supreme Court to Trump's base of religious conservatives and how stoking cultural resentments has become the go-to electoral strategy of the right. It's also a cynical response to an electoral reality. Among white Catholics, Trump's lead has collapsed to a slim five points, according to a recent poll — a huge decline from his 23-point advantage with this group in 2016. Facing a Catholic opponent in Joe Biden, Trump needs to do everything he can to maintain his edge with Catholic voters, but his fantasies that a Biden presidency would usher in a godless, secular dystopia surely seem preposterous to anyone not already inclined toward the president. Last weekend, Trump bellowed to a North Carolina crowd that "there will be no God" should Biden win, a comment not so much anti-Catholic against the churchgoing Biden as it was just straight up blasphemous.
9-25-20 Coronavirus: Two million deaths 'very likely' even with vaccine, WHO warns
The global coronavirus death toll could hit two million before an effective vaccine is widely used, the World Health Organization (WHO) has warned. Dr Mike Ryan, the WHO's emergencies head, said the figure could be higher without concerted international action. Almost one million people have died with Covid-19 worldwide since the disease first emerged in China late last year. Virus infections continue to rise, with 32 million cases confirmed globally. The start of a second surge of coronavirus infections has been seen in many countries in the northern hemisphere as winter approaches. So far, the US, India and Brazil have confirmed the most cases, recording more than 15 million between them. But in recent days, there has been a resurgence of infections across Europe, prompting warnings of national lockdowns similar to those imposed at the height of the first wave of the pandemic. "Overall within that very large region, we are seeing worrying increases of the disease," Dr Ryan said of the marked spike in cases in Europe. He urged Europeans to ask themselves whether they had done enough to avoid the need for lockdowns - and whether alternatives, such as testing and tracing, quarantines and social distancing, had been implemented. "Lockdowns are almost a last resort - and to think that we're back in last-resort territory in September, that's a pretty sobering thought," Dr Ryan told reporters at the WHO's headquarters in Geneva. Asked whether two million fatalities worldwide was possible before a vaccine became available, Dr Ryan said: "It's not impossible." He added that fatality rates were dropping as treatments for the disease improve. But better treatments and even effective vaccines might not be enough on their own to prevent deaths surpassing two million, he said. "Are we prepared to do what it takes to avoid that number?" Dr Ryan asked, calling on governments to do everything to control Covid-19. "Unless we do it all, the number you speak about is not only imaginable, but unfortunately and sadly, very likely."
9-25-20 Covid-19 news: Infection rate in England rises to one in 500 people
The latest coronavirus news updated every day including coronavirus cases, the latest news, features and interviews from New Scientist and essential information about the covid-19 pandemic. Infection rate within communities in England and Wales continues to rise. One in 500 people in England had the coronavirus in the week ending 19 September, up from one in 900 people the previous week, according to the latest results from a random swab testing survey by the Office for National Statistics. “It’s a worrying increase and is occurring across all age groups, particularly in the North of England and London,” said Simon Clarke at the University of Reading in a statement. “While it’s true that there are many more tests conducted nowadays, this is clear evidence of an accelerating spread of the virus,” said Clarke. “We can expect to see an increasing burden placed on our hospitals and a consequent increase in deaths.” Independent SAGE – an independent group of scientists publishing advice for the UK government – says Sweden’s success in tackling the coronavirus pandemic has been overstated. In a report published today, the group dismissed the idea of “herd immunity” as a strategy for dealing with the UK’s epidemic in the absence of a vaccine and said it is “irresponsible and unethical to try”. Spain’s government has recommended imposing a new partial lockdown on the entire city of Madrid due to rising cases. The capital accounts for more than a third of the country’s hospital admissions, according to local authorities. Under the new restrictions, people would be banned from travelling outside of the city but would still be allowed to leave their homes to go to work and school. The Netherlands recorded its highest daily increase in cases since the start of the pandemic, with 2777 new cases confirmed today. The country’s previous record for daily new cases was set just yesterday, when 2544 cases were recorded.
9-25-20 US election: McConnell promises an 'orderly' transition of power
US Republican leaders say there will be an "orderly" transfer of power should Donald Trump lose November's election. President Trump cast doubt on the transition on Wednesday, questioning the probity of the vote with so many ballots likely to be cast by mail. But Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell said there would be a peaceful handover in January as there had been every four years since 1792. Democratic senators label Mr Trump a grave threat to American democracy. The president currently trails his challenger, Democrat Joe Biden, in national opinion polls with 40 days to go until the election. Many more Americans than usual will be casting their votes by post this year, due to the pandemic, and Mr Trump has been questioning the security of this mail-in ballot system. If Mr Trump were to refuse to accept the result of the election, it would take the country into uncharted territory. Mr Biden has suggested that should this happen, the military could remove Mr Trump from the White House. However, Mr Trump's spokeswoman said the president would abide by the results of a free and fair election. "The winner of the November 3rd election will be inaugurated on January 20th," Mr McConnell tweeted on Thursday. "There will be an orderly transition just as there has been every four years since 1792." Other Republican lawmakers, including vocal Trump ally Senator Lindsey Graham, have similarly promised a safe and fair election. "I can assure you it will be peaceful," Mr Graham told Fox News, but suggested a decision could go to the nation's top court. "If Republicans lose we will accept the result. If the Supreme Court rules in favour of Joe Biden, I will accept that result." Senator Mitt Romney offered a more critical response on Wednesday, saying "any suggestion that a president might not respect this Constitutional guarantee is both unthinkable and unacceptable". (Webmaster's comment: Trump will not accept the election results. He will claim fraud and call on his supporters to come to Washington with their guns to keep him in power!)
9-25-20 A Brazilian city devastated by COVID-19 may have reached herd immunity
Blood donations suggest that up to half of Manaus was infected at the epidemic’s peak. The Brazilian city of Manaus was hit hard by COVID-19. At the peak of its epidemic in late spring, the city of over 2 million people had 4.5 times as many deaths as expected for that time of year. Hospitals and cemeteries struggled to keep up, and mass graves were dug to bury the dead. But then, cases and deaths steadily declined, despite a relaxing of social distancing measures. That trajectory has prompted some researchers to suggest that Manaus has reached herd immunity. In a report posted September 21 at medRxiv.org that has yet to be peer reviewed, researchers suggest that herd immunity developed in the city after 44 to 52 percent of the population was infected at the epidemic’s peak, and that slowed subsequent spread of the virus. “These are the highest [infection] levels I’ve seen,” says Elitza Theel, a clinical microbiologist at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., who wasn’t involved in the study. That high infection rate may very well have impacted the trajectory of the epidemic. “That is how herd immunity works,” she says. “But it comes at a high cost … their death rate was very high.” Herd immunity occurs when enough people become immune to an infectious disease, either through infection or a vaccine, causing an epidemic to slow down as the pathogen is starved of susceptible hosts (SN: 3/24/20). Scientists are still working out what the herd immunity threshold would be for COVID-19; most estimates are around 40 to 60 percent of a population. The precise threshold likely varies from region to region, but virtually all of the globe remains well below this threshold, experts say. Most of the United States remains in the single digits, though around 20 percent of the population in parts of New York City may have already contracted the virus.
9-25-20 Breonna Taylor: Family lawyer slams 'devilish' grand jury outcome
A lawyer for Breonna Taylor's family has called the grand jury proceedings a "sham" that has shown racial inequalities in the US justice system. Ms Taylor, a black hospital worker, was shot six times and killed aged 26 when police raided her home on 13 March. On Wednesday, a grand jury in Kentucky returned a minor felony charge against one of three officers, for shots that hit a neighbouring apartment. Two officers have been shot amid protests sparked by the decision. The individual indicted in the Taylor case is Brett Hankison, who was fired from the force in June. He faces three counts of "wanton endangerment in the first degree". Under Kentucky law, wanton endangerment applies to an act of "extreme indifference to the value of human life". It is the lowest-level felony and carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison per count. Ms Taylor's family had called for the arrest of all three officers, but the grand jury - a panel drawn from members of the public to determine whether there is enough evidence to pursue a prosecution - has declined to do so. Attorney Ben Crump said in a tweet: "The grand jury proceedings were a SHAM. The 'wanton endangerment' charge is an example of America's 2 justice systems - protecting white neighbours & ignoring the death of a black woman." "We've been saying 'Say Her Name' for six months... and #BreonnaTaylor's name was NEVER mentioned in yesterday's indictment," he later added. In an op-ed for the Washington Post titled "Our devilish, racist system made it impossible to get justice for Breonna Taylor", Mr Crump rejected the notion that "every time justice is denied to a Black person in the United States, it seems the devil is in the details". Most police shootings go unnoticed by the public, he continued, adding: "We wouldn't know Breonna's name if her death hadn't happened in a season of police killings when America was getting quickly woke to it. "But now that the world knows Bre's name, we won't stop saying it until it becomes a kind of incantation to bind the devil in our divided justice system."
9-25-20 Breonna Taylor: Why it's hard to charge US police over shootings
Three officers were involved in the police raid that ended with Breonna Taylor shot dead in her home in Kentucky. Only one of them has been charged, but not in relation to her death. Why are so few police officers charged after fatal shootings in the US? Brett Hankison faces three counts of "wanton endangerment" for firing into an adjacent apartment, putting Ms Taylor's neighbours at risk. The other two officers involved were not charged - despite one of them firing the fatal shot - because Ms Taylor's boyfriend fired first, later saying he thought they were intruders. It's a decision that has sparked some bewilderment and prompted hundreds to take to the streets of Louisville and elsewhere. But it's not the first time a fatal shooting by a police officer has made headlines but not made it to trial. The ones that do are a tiny fraction. In 2020 so far there have been 10 officers charged, according to Dr Phil Stinson, a professor at Bowling Green State University in Ohio and a former police officer, who has been collecting data on police prosecutions since 2005. The year with the most officers charged was 2015, when 18 law enforcement members faced murder or manslaughter charges. The Washington Post estimates police shoot and kill about 1,000 people each year in the US. Most of those incidents do not rise to the level of controversy or scrutiny seen in Ms Taylor's case, and may have occurred when the officers were themselves fired upon. But getting a charge or conviction for those tragedies that involve excessive use of police force is rare. These are the factors that explain why. Although the language of laws that dictate what police may do vary from state to state, the most common standard officers have to abide by is that their use of force be "objectively reasonable". That means the officer had a reasonable belief in the moment that he or she, or a bystander, were about to be harmed. That standard has come under increased scrutiny for giving police too much leeway, particularly the flexibility of the word "reasonable" - it could be enough that an officer believed they were in danger at the time, even if hindsight showed they were not. "In these cases, historically, the police have owned the narratives. Bystander accounts are discounted, oftentimes," says Dr Stinson."Written reports are sometimes factually inconsistent with the video evidence."
9-25-20 FBI probes police killing of boy on family's drive
The FBI is to investigate the fatal police shooting of a teenage boy as he reversed a vehicle out his family's garage in the US state of Kansas. A police officer fired 13 shots, killing John Albers, 17, on 20 January 2018 in a Kansas City suburb. Police had been called to check on the boy, who had ADHD, after his online posts prompted fears for his safety. A month after the shooting the county prosecutor announced the officer, Clayton Jenison, would not be charged. The FBI's Kansas City, Missouri, field office is working with the US Department of Justice's Civil Rights Division and US attorney's office in Kansas on the inquiry. FBI spokeswoman Bridget Patton said in a statement on Thursday that they would "collect all available facts and evidence and will ensure that the investigation is conducted in a fair, thorough and impartial manner". Police dashcam video shows John reversing the family's van slowly out of the garage and down the driveway as officers arrive at the property in the city of Overland Park. An officer shouts: "Stop!" The vehicle continues to back out and Officer Jenison, standing from the side, fires two shots. The van reverses wildly in a sharp circle back towards the officer, before slowing almost to a stop. The officer steps aside and fires 11 more shots. The vehicle rolls forward and comes to a halt in a neighbour's front garden across the road. A month after the shooting, Johnson County District Attorney Steve Howe announced that his investigation had found the shooting was justified because the officer was determined to have feared for his life. Officer Jenison resigned weeks after the shooting and received a severance payment of $70,000 (£55,000). The boy's mother, Sheila Albers, sued Overland Park for violating her son's constitutional rights, and the city last year settled the wrongful death lawsuit for $2.3m.
9-24-20 Covid-19 news: Test and trace app goes live across England and Wales
The latest coronavirus news updated every day including coronavirus cases, the latest news, features and interviews from New Scientist and essential information about the covid-19 pandemic. NHS Covid-19 app goes live in England and Wales but testing and tracing still limited. The official test and trace app for England and Wales went live today, with more than one million downloads so far. The app uses Bluetooth technology built into smartphones to detect people nearby and alert users if any of those people later test positive for the virus. The government is urging everyone over the age of 16 to download and use the app. The number of new coronavirus cases in England also went up, but less sharply than the previous week, with 19,278 people testing positive for the virus between 10 and 16 September, compared to 18,371 the week before. This small weekly increase may reflect “oddities in the reporting testing system, rather than a sudden plateau in viral cases,” said James Naismith at the University of Oxford in a statement. The number of people in the UK diagnosed with common conditions – including cardiovascular disease, diabetes and mental health conditions – was about 50 per cent lower than would normally have been expected between March and May this year, a study has found. The study, published in The Lancet Public Health analysed electronic health records from 47 general practices in Salford, UK, between January 2010 and May this year. The UK went into lockdown on 23 March. United Airlines in the US is expected to become the first airline to offer rapid coronavirus testing to some of its passengers. The firm plans to conduct a trial of the programme on flights from San Francisco to Hawaii starting on 15 October, using 15-minute rapid tests supplied by US biotechnology company Abbott.
9-24-20 US election: Trump won't commit to peaceful transfer of power
US President Donald Trump has refused to commit to a peaceful transfer of power if he loses November's election. "Well, we'll have to see what happens," the president told a news conference at the White House. "You know that." Mr Trump also said he believed the election result could end up in the US Supreme Court, as he again cast doubt on postal voting. More states are encouraging mail-in voting, citing the need to keep Americans safe from coronavirus. Every losing presidential candidate in modern times has conceded. If Mr Trump were to refuse to accept the result of the election, it would take the US into uncharted territory and it is not clear how it would play out. However President Trump's opponent, Democrat Joe Biden, has previously said that in this scenario he believes the military would be deployed to remove Mr Trump from the White House. Mr Trump was asked by a reporter on Wednesday evening if he would commit to a peaceful transfer of power "win, lose or draw" to Mr Biden. The president currently trails his challenger in national opinion polls with 41 days to go until the election. "I've been complaining very strongly about the ballots," Mr Trump, a Republican, said. "And the ballots are a disaster." When the journalist countered that "people are rioting", Mr Trump interjected: "Get rid of the ballots, and you'll have a very - you'll have a very peaceful - there won't be a transfer, frankly, there'll be a continuation." Back in 2016, Mr Trump also refused to commit to accepting the election results in his contest against the Democratic candidate, Hillary Clinton, which she characterised as an attack on democracy. He was eventually declared the winner, although he lost the popular vote by three million, an outcome he still questioned. Mitt Romney, a Republican senator who is a rarity in his party because he occasionally criticises the president, tweeted on Wednesday: "Fundamental to democracy is the peaceful transition of power; without that, there is Belarus. "Any suggestion that a president might not respect this Constitutional guarantee is both unthinkable and unacceptable." (Webmaster's comment: If Trump loses and refuses to concede he should be arrested, tried, and convicted of treason!)
9-24-20 This is what an American coup looks like
How Trump can (and cannot) steal the election. resident Trump's campaign is reportedly in discussion with state and national Republicans to "bypass election results and appoint loyal electors in battleground states where Republicans hold the legislative majority." At least that's the report from a terrifying article written by Barton Gellman in The Atlantic. While this scenario is somewhat far-fetched, we should be clear that what Gellman describes here is tantamount to a coup, a complete break with the constitutional order that would unquestionably precipitate large-scale unrest and potentially the crackup of the United States. Could it actually happen? Trump has been clumsily telegraphing this plot for months — not generally the smartest way to overthrow a government, which is best done in secret. It would unfold like this: The election result is closer than expected, and the ultimate winner remains unknown on election night, with millions of mail-in ballots to be counted in the decisive swing states. Trump declares victory when the (incomplete) election night count favors him, and then launches legal maneuvering to force states to stop counting mail-in ballots, papered over with some feeble pretext about the fraud the president himself keeps encouraging his own supporters to commit. Thanks to post-2010 gerrymandering, Republicans control both houses of the state legislature in nearly every contested state, and the president would presumably direct them to pass laws certifying Trump's slate of electors, even if updated counts show Democratic candidate Joe Biden ahead. Et voila, a second Trump term. Mail balloting procedures are fully legal in all states that use them, so asking Republican legislatures either to stop the counting of ballots cast under agreed-upon procedures, or to certify a totally different winner than the people chose, is nothing short of extra-judicial election theft. It should not ultimately be a legal question. And in a healthy democracy, these efforts would not come before the courts at all nor should they be casually floated by a sitting president as the plan. Any attempt to do so is no different than having Biden and his vice presidential pick, Kamala Harris, abducted and dropped out of a helicopter. A slightly better ending for the two of them, I suppose, but the functional outcome for the rest of us would be identical: an election stolen brazenly by unapologetic authoritarians who would no longer have any check whatsoever on their rule. But the invidious plot that Republicans are hatching in plain sight has multiple legal problems. The first and most obvious is that state legislatures play no clear post-election role in certifying slates of electors from the states. While state electoral laws and procedures are written by legislatures, they cannot simply change the law without the cooperation of the governor. The critical swing states of Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Michigan, and Wisconsin have Democratic governors who would not sign any such legislation, and many key battlegrounds also have Democratic secretaries of state. It is that chief election officer, a Democrat in all four states above plus Arizona, who administers the election and prepares the paperwork for the governor to send to Congress. (Webmaster's comment: After he loses the election Trump will call on his supporters with guns to come to Washington and defend keeping him in power! Goodby to Democracy!)
9-24-20 Breonna Taylor: Two officers shot during Louisville protests
Two policemen have been shot amid protests in the US over a decision not to charge any officers over the killing of Breonna Taylor. Ms Taylor, 26, a black hospital worker, was shot six times as three officers raided her home on 13 March. A grand jury in the city of Louisville returned only one minor charge against one of the officers, for shots which hit a neighbouring apartment. The attorney general said the two other officers' actions had been justified. One had been hit by a shot fired by Ms Taylor's boyfriend, who later told police he thought it was an ex-boyfriend of Ms Taylor who had broken into the apartment. A judge had granted a warrant to search Ms Taylor's home because investigators suspected her ex-boyfriend, a convicted drug dealer, was using the address to receive packages. Ms Taylor had no criminal record. Cases of killings of unarmed black people by police have fuelled anger across the US and beyond, spurred especially by the death of George Floyd in police custody in Minneapolis in May. The two police shot on Wednesday do not have life-threatening injuries and a suspect has been arrested. A state of emergency has been declared and the National Guard has been deployed. A three-day curfew from 21:00 to 06:30 (01:00-10:30 GMT) has been introduced, though crowds were still gathered after it came into effect. Dozens of protesters were arrested in Louisville overnight, with officers saying the total number of arrests may reach 100. At a news conference on Wednesday night, Louisville Interim Police Chief Robert Schroeder refused to comment on whether suspected gunman, Larynzo Johnson, had been participating in protests. "I am very concerned about the safety of our officers," said Chief Schroeder. (Webmaster's comment: But shows no concern for the safety of black citizens!) He said one injured officer has undergone surgery and they are both expected to recover. The officers have not been named. Mr Johnson, 26, is charged with wanton endangerment and assaulting a police officer.
9-24-20 Dutch celebs face backlash over Covid rebellion
Influencers, rappers and a world-renowned DJ have been heavily criticised in the Netherlands after publicly announcing they were abandoning efforts to combat Covid-19. Their campaign came as the numbers in Dutch intensive care units hit 100 for the first time since June and infection rates rose 60% on last week. The Netherlands is among several European nations seeing a second wave. The young stars used the hashtag #ik doe niet meer mee - "I'm out". But as the backlash has grown, a number of them appear to have changed their minds. The young celebrities were recruited or attracted by a group called "Virus Truth" that promotes the conspiracy theory that the risks posed by the virus have been exaggerated and used by governments to violate people's freedoms and fundamental rights. In a video posted on Instagram, singer and model Famke Louise tossed her ponytail and pouted at the camera while telling her million followers: "Only together can we get the government back under control, I am no longer taking part, free the people." However, the young rapper struggled to defend her position on popular chat show Jinek, explaining in exasperation, "I don't mind the 1.5m (5ft) society," she said referring to social distancing rules. "It's about the principle that we live in a society where people need their freedom, in which people just want to have fun." She also expressed frustration about the impact that measures to curb the spread of the virus were having on the entertainment industry. Dutch dance hit-maker Hardwell and rapper Bizzey, who has 400,000 Instagram followers, were among other celebrities who shared the hashtag. Famke Louise's TV appearance has been mocked on social media with people sharing memes of doctors standing over patients with the words, "I'm out". Then, on Wednesday night, the young YouTube star-turned-rapper removed her video from Instagram and posted a lengthy apology in its place, saying it was "not my best day".
9-24-20 Coronavirus: Israel tightens second lockdown to avoid 'abyss'
Israel is set to tighten its second nationwide coronavirus lockdown, with the prime minister warning that the country is at "the edge of the abyss". The new measures, which parliament must approve, would see more workplaces close and movement restricted further. Synagogues would only be able to open for small groups next week for Yom Kippur, Judaism's holiest day, and the size of protests would be limited. The move came after the daily number of new Covid-19 cases exceeded 8,000. That is one of the world's highest rates of infection relative to population size. Since the start of the pandemic, 1,335 people with the coronavirus have died in Israel and more than 206,000 cases have been diagnosed. Israel's government was praised in the spring for taking early action that contained the spread of Covid-19 and resulted in a very low death rate compared to other countries. But it has come in for widespread criticism for losing control since the first lockdown was eased in May. The virus quickly returned and last Friday, as new cases reached daily highs of more than 5,000, Israel became the first developed country to return to a nationwide lockdown. Schools were closed and people were told they had to stay within 1km (0.6 miles) of their homes, except for commuting to work, doing essential shopping, exercising outdoors, and attending religious services and protests. Synagogues were allowed to stay open but social distancing rules limited the number of worshippers who were allowed inside during the Jewish New Year festival of Rosh Hashanah. Ministers decided to impose harsher restrictions on Thursday after the infection rate continued to rise and health centres reportedly came under increasing strain. "The morbidity rate in Israel is rising, the number of critical patients is rising, unfortunately so is the number of deaths," Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Wednesday. "In the past two days, we heard from the experts that if we don't take immediate and difficult steps, we will reach the edge of the abyss. In order to save the lives of Israeli citizens, we are required to impose of full lockdown for two weeks."
9-24-20 Heroes in Harm's Way: Covid-19 show sparks sexism debate in China
A highly anticipated drama about Covid-19 has come under fierce criticism for downplaying the role of women during China's epidemic fight. "Heroes in Harm's Way" premiered on China's flagship TV channel, CCTV-1, on 17 September. It aired during primetime, and promised to be the first TV drama "based on real life stories" about front-line workers in the central Chinese city of Wuhan, the site of the first coronavirus outbreak. The title of the show implied that it was going to highlight the major contributions women had made in China's epidemic fight. Women account for the majority of China's front-line workers. However, the show's pilot, released with much fanfare and publicity, was panned on China's IMDB-like website, Douban. Film critics noted that it scored an embarrassing 2.4 out of 10, and it received many critical comments, mainly about its depiction of women, before they were suddenly suspended on the site. The name of the show was seemingly chosen because, as China Daily noted in April, female medical staff are often hailed as "Heroes in Harm's Way". However, in Chinese, the name of the show translates more literally as "Beauties who go against the tide". It was presumably always going to be quite controversial, given that the phrase insinuates that women in front-line medical roles have taken rare, rather than common paths. Viewers have taken particular offence to the fact that many of the female characters play a hindering or subservient role compared with their male counterparts. The national Global Times newspaper notes that in the drama, "one of the most controversial scenes" shows a divorced female driver being discouraged by her peers to sign up to transport supplies to the frontline, because her family are waiting to spend Chinese New Year with her. Social media users on the popular Sina Weibo microblog felt that this was a derogatory depiction of women, and made women look like they were reluctant contributors "dragging their feet, [who] had to seek the consent of their husbands if they wanted to go to the front line", rather than the main contributors.
9-23-20 How the UK can get its catastrophic coronavirus testing under control
THIS month, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced an ambition to increase the country’s capacity for coronavirus testing to several million tests a day. Billed as Operation Moonshot, the idea was received with widespread incredulity. The UK is currently failing to meet demand for coronavirus testing, with roughly half a million daily requests outstripping supply by up to fourfold. Yet there are also reports of new technologies in development that could make testing faster and cheaper. If the UK had the capacity to test not just those with symptoms of covid-19, but to regularly test symptomless people too, it could be a game changer in the ability to control the disease. From the beginning of the pandemic, many countries have struggled to provide enough coronavirus tests for all those who need them. A lack of tests is disruptive because anyone with symptoms that resemble those of covid-19 has to stay at home and isolate, and must also be treated as infectious within hospitals. Insufficient tests also make it impossible to accurately track how the epidemic is progressing in a region, whether cases are rising or falling. “Without testing, which is our eyes and ears, we don’t understand where this is going,” says Stephen Griffin at the University of Leeds in the UK. The UK faced this problem initially in its first wave of covid-19, when even hospitals were going short of tests. To expand capacity, five large facilities known as Lighthouse Labs were set up to process polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests, a well-established technique. In this case, the tests are used to compare samples from a nose or throat swab to the genes of the new coronavirus. The labs are dotted around the UK and, for a few months, capacity seemed largely sufficient.
9-23-20 President Trump booed at Supreme Court as he pays respects to Ruth Bader Ginsburg
US President Donald Trump has been greeted with boos and chants of "Vote him out" by the crowd outside the Supreme Court. He visited the court Thursday morning to pay his respects to the late justice, Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Trump is keen to confirm Ginsburg's replacement before the 3 November presidential election - much to the anger of Democrats.
9-23-20 When did the coronavirus really reach the US and Europe?
WHEN did the coronavirus first reach Europe and the US? No cases were reported outside China until January 2020, but a study published on 10 September claims that cases in the US began to rise by 22 December. Many people there and in Europe suspect they had coronavirus around this time. Yet overall, the evidence suggests there were few cases outside China this early on. Covid-19 was first recognised as a new disease in Wuhan, China, over the course of December. On 13 January, the first case outside China was reported in Thailand. On 21 January, the US reported its first case and on 24 January, France reported three, the first in Europe. This, at least, is what was known at the time. But it can take up to two weeks for covid-19 symptoms to appear and many infected people don’t have symptoms at all. In addition, when countries did start testing, many initially limited it to people who had come from China recently. If the virus had already begun spreading, any early local cases would have been missed. “It is certain there were many cases we did not see,” says Lauren Ancel Meyers at the University of Texas at Austin. But how many and how soon? One team says it found viral RNA in sewage in Barcelona, Spain, as early as March 2019, but others have dismissed this. “It is highly likely to be contamination,” says Kristian Andersen at the Scripps Research Institute in California. The 10 September study is based on the number of people going to a group of hospitals and clinics in the Los Angeles area with a cough, but just because people had symptoms resembling covid-19 doesn’t mean they had it. “It’s extremely unlikely,” says Dominik Mertz at McMaster University in Canada. “I think we can be pretty sure it was something else.” In fact, it is very unlikely that anyone was infected by the virus before November. Several teams tracing its evolution by looking at changes in RNA of samples of the virus sequenced so far have all concluded that the pandemic strain emerged around November.
9-23-20 Covid-19 news: Volunteers to be infected with virus to test vaccines
The latest coronavirus news updated every day including coronavirus cases, the latest news, features and interviews from New Scientist and essential information about the covid-19 pandemic. Volunteers will be deliberately infected with the coronavirus in first challenge trials. Healthy volunteers will be deliberately infected with the coronavirus to test the effectiveness of experimental coronavirus vaccines in London next year, in the world’s first human challenge trials for coronavirus. About 2000 people in the UK have volunteered to be given one of a number of experimental vaccines and then receive a dose of the coronavirus under controlled conditions. The volunteers have joined the trial, which is due to begin in January, through advocacy group 1Day Sooner. Earlier this year the group organised an open letter signed by prominent researchers including Nobel laureates, urging the US government to immediately prepare for human challenge trials. The researchers behind the trials, which are being funded by the UK government, told the Financial Times that the trials would play an important role in helping to identify the most promising vaccine candidates likely to move into clinical testing in early 2021. The UK’s prime minister Boris Johnson has urged people in England to follow new rules announced yesterday aimed at limiting the spread of the coronavirus, warning that the government could introduce further restrictions if people fail to adhere. “If people don’t follow the rules we have set out, then we must reserve the right to go further,” Johnson said during a televised address. However, some have questioned the logic behind the new rules. “Closing down restaurants and pubs earlier will do little to stave the spread for as long as multiple different households can interchangeably meet up,” David Strain at the University of Exeter said in a statement. Germany’s contact tracing app, the Corona-Warn-App, has been used to transmit 1.2 million coronavirus test results from laboratories to users during its first 100 days, according to officials. The app has been downloaded more than 18 million times since it was first launched in June and more than 90 per cent of laboratories in the country are now connected to it.
9-23-20 Covid: US death toll passes 200,000
The US coronavirus death toll has passed 200,000, according to data from Johns Hopkins University (JHU). More than 6.8 million people are known to have been infected in the US, more than in any other country. The milestone comes amid an increase in cases in a number of states, including North Dakota and Utah. President Donald Trump said on Tuesday the new death toll was a "horrible thing" and claimed China "should have stopped" the virus. He also defended his record, claiming that had the US not taken action, "you could have two million, 2.5 or three million" dead. JHU reported the new death toll of 200,005 on Tuesday. The university has been collecting US and global coronavirus data since the outbreak began late last year in China. The first case in the US was confirmed in January. President Trump's administration has been repeatedly criticised over its handling of the outbreak. "Due to Donald Trump's lies and incompetence in the past six months, [we] have seen one of the greatest losses of American life in history," Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden said on Monday. "With this crisis, a real crisis, a crisis that required serious presidential leadership, he just wasn't up to it. He froze. He failed to act. He panicked. And America has paid the worst price of any nation in the world." But on the same day, Mr Trump said he and his administration had done "a phenomenal job" and gave himself an "A+" for his handling of the pandemic. He said the US was "rounding the corner on the pandemic, with or without a vaccine". North Dakota has seen a sharp rise in coronavirus cases in recent weeks. Officials say there were more than 3,200 active cases in the state as of Monday, while 87 people are in hospital. The state ranks first in the country for the number of cases per capita in the past two weeks, according to data cited by the Associated Press news agency. Cases are also rising in states including Utah, Texas and South Dakota. On Tuesday, Wisconsin extended a public health emergency order for the third time since 30 July.
9-23-20 ICE whistleblower: Mexico investigating US immigrant 'sterilisations'
Mexico is investigating claims that six Mexican women were sterilised while in a US migrant detention centre, Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard said on Tuesday. A whistleblower last week alleged that hysterectomies were being performed on immigrants in the US without their proper consent. US immigration officials said they are taking the allegations seriously.Mexico called such operations "unacceptable". "We are already in contact with six (Mexican women) who could potentially have been subjected to this type of procedure," Mr Ebrard told a press conference on Tuesday. "If confirmed, it's a major issue and measures must be taken," he continued. On Monday Mexico's President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said his government could take legal action against the US if the allegations were confirmed, Mexican newspaper El Universal reports. More than 150 members of the US Congress, including top Democrat Nancy Pelosi, have called for an investigation into the detention centre. But the detention centre and ICE have disputeed the allegations. Last week ICE told the BBC that "anonymous, unproven allegations, made without any fact-checkable specifics, should be treated with the appropriate scepticism they deserve". Women detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) were allegedly forced to undergo the procedures at the private Irwin County Detention Centre in Georgia. The whistleblower, a nurse identified as Dawn Wooten who worked at the centre, expressed concerns about the high number of hysterectomies - an operation involving the removal of all or part of the uterus - performed on Spanish-speaking women there. Human rights groups in the US filed a complaint against the Irwin County Detention Centre on 14 September based on Ms Wooten's allegations. It said Ms Wooten and other nurses were alarmed by the "rate at which the hysterectomies have occurred". Ms Wooten alleged that one doctor removed the wrong ovary from a young detainee and that "everybody he sees has a hysterectomy". "We've questioned among ourselves like, goodness he's taking everybody's stuff out…That's his speciality, he's the uterus collector," she said in the complaint. One detainee likened the centre to "an experimental concentration camp", adding: "It was like they're experimenting with our bodies."
9-23-20 Covid: US funeral directors reflect on 200,000 death toll
As the US Covid-19 death toll passes 200,000, owners and directors of funeral homes across the country reflect on how the loss of life has affected the families and communities that they serve.
9-23-20 Coronavirus: Whitty and Vallance faced 'herd immunity' backlash, emails show
As the UK introduces fresh restrictions on social contact to curb the spread of coronavirus, controversy continues to rage about whether the government had initially considered trying a very different approach. At the start of the pandemic, the government's chief scientific adviser, Sir Patrick Vallance, spoke about "herd immunity" - the idea that once enough of a population had been exposed to the virus, they would build up natural immunity to it. Sir Patrick and the government have both insisted this was never official policy. The government also denies there was any delay in locking down the country, as some critics have suggested. Emails obtained by the BBC reveal the alarm among the government's top scientific advisers at the reaction to Sir Patrick's words. In one email from March, Sir Patrick asks for help to "calm down" academics who have expressed anger at his repeated references to herd immunity and the delays in announcing a lockdown. The material, obtained by the BBC via a Freedom of Information Act request, consists of every email sent by Sir Patrick and chief medical officer for England, Professor Chris Whitty, from the start of February to the start of June, containing the words "herd immunity". There is no reference in any email until after 13 March, when Sir Patrick discussed herd immunity in a number of media interviews. "Our aim," he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme that morning, is to "try and reduce the peak - not suppress it completely, also because most people get a mild illness, to build up some degree of herd immunity whilst protecting the most vulnerable". To many, his words appeared an unequivocal endorsement of herd immunity. They also appeared to explain the government's reluctance to order the kind of lockdowns and social distancing measures that were already in place in many other countries, despite cases increasing and worrying scenes in hospitals in Italy.
9-23-20 Ischgl: Austria sued over Tyrol ski resort's Covid-19 outbreak
An Austrian consumer rights group has filed four civil lawsuits against the country's government over Covid-19 outbreaks at ski resorts in the western Tyrol region earlier this year. The group also said it hoped to bring at least one class action lawsuit next year on behalf of thousands of people. One resort, Ischgl, was linked to cases in 45 countries after skiers brought home the virus with them. Authorities have said they acted based on what was known at the time. The first case at Ischgl ski village was reported on 7 March, but Austria's public health agency has since said it believes there were cases at the resort as early as 5 February. The Consumer Protection Association (VSV), a private organisation in Austria, said the four civil cases were being brought on behalf of individuals and were all related to Ischgl ski village. They are seeking damages of up to €100,000 (£92,000; $117,000). The VSV described the four civil suits as test cases, and said that more than 6,000 people from different countries had signed up for potential class action suits next year. Most of those who have signed up are from Germany, but the group includes people from Austria, the UK and the US. The VSV has also written to Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz urging him to agree to a settlement. The authorities maintain that they responded appropriately to the outbreaks in Tyrol according to the information that was available at the time. However, the VSV alleges that the local and national governments knew of the threat of mass coronavirus infection in the popular ski resorts and responded too slowly. Alexander Klauser, a lawyer representing some of those who caught the virus at Tyrolian resorts, told a press conference on Wednesday that the authorities were aware of infections as early as February. "On 25 February, the authorities closed down a hotel in Innsbruck because one of the employees had tested positive, so that means the authorities reacted immediately when this case in Innsbruck - the capital of the province of Tyrol - became known. "But they did not react [to later cases], although there is evidence that the Austrian authorities were informed about cases in Ischgl and other ski resorts as early as 3, 4 and 5 March." He added: "A group of tourists from Iceland tested positive, and the Icelandic government reported the cases to the Austrian government as early as 5 March."
9-23-20 Coronavirus: Health chief hails Africa's fight against Covid-19
The head of the Africa Centres for Disease Control has praised African states for managing to curb the spread of coronavirus. Africa has seen about 1.4 million cases, and 34,000 deaths since March. These figures are far lower than those in Europe, Asia or the Americas, with reported cases continuing to decline. Early interventions played a crucial role in curbing the virus' spread, John Nkengasong told the BBC's Newsday programme. The continent of more than one billion people accounts for just under 5% of cases globally and 3.6% of deaths. Dr Nkengasong described as "false" suggestions that cases and deaths in Africa were significantly under-reported. "We may not have been picking up all the cases, just like in other parts of the world... but we are not seeing people around the continent falling dead on the streets or mass burials going on," Dr Nkengasong said. All African states introduced a series of measures to tackle the virus as soon as the first cases were reported in March. Many, including South Africa, introduced nationwide lockdowns, but others such as Ethiopia opted for less strict measures. Dr Nkengasong, however, attributed the low number to a "joint continental effort", which focused on "scaling up testing and following up contact tracing and very importantly masking", or the wearing of face masks. "In many countries, including Ethiopia where I live, if you go to the streets of Addis Ababa you will see there is almost 100% masking," he added. Africa's relatively young population also contributed to the low number of cases, Dr Nkengasong said. Furthermore, the emphasis on community-driven initiatives, and experience in contact-tracing from fighting diseases like Ebola, had helped countries to tackle the virus, he said. "This virus is in the community, and without a strong community response and strong community engagement there is no chance we can fight it," Dr Nkengasong added.
9-23-20 Europe migration: EU plans mandatory pact to 'rebuild trust'
The European Union has called for a compulsory system across the bloc to manage migration, after years of division over how to respond to a big influx of migrants and refugees. The German-backed pact would require all 27 EU countries to take part. Member states would either agree to take in asylum seekers or take charge of sending back those refused asylum. European Commission head Ursula von der Leyen called it a "European solution... to restore citizens' confidence". The recent fires that destroyed the Moria camp in Greece, housing more than 12,500 migrants and refugees, was "a stark reminder we need to find sustainable solutions," she added. Ever since the influx of over a million migrants and refugees in 2015, mainly via Italy and Greece, the EU's 27 states have been divided over how to respond, and the new pact has already attracted criticism. Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz cast doubt on the idea of distributing asylum seekers across Europe. "It won't work like this," he told the AFP news agency. but a number of Central and Eastern European nations have been openly resistant to the idea of taking in a quota of migrants. The new pact, which has been pushed most strongly by German Chancellor Angela Merkel, proposes a "fair sharing of responsibility and solidarity between member states while providing certainty for individual applicants". There would be: 1. New compulsory pre-entry screening involving health, identity and security checks. 2. A faster asylum border process involving decisions within 12 weeks and swift returns for failed applicants. The EU's 27 countries would have "flexible options" for how to take part, so countries such as Hungary and Poland that have refused to take in arrivals in the past would be asked to help in different ways. 1. Taking in recent arrivals. 2. "Sponsoring" returns - ensuring on behalf of other states that people refused asylum are sent back. 3. Providing immediate operational support. 4. Each state would be legally required to contribute their "fair share" - based half on GDP, and half on population size.
9-23-20 Breonna Taylor: Kentucky city on edge ahead of prosecutor decision
Louisville, Kentucky, is under a state of emergency as prosecutors are expected to announce if police officers who killed a black woman in her home during a drug raid will be charged. Mayor Greg Fischer said he had declared the measure "due to the potential for civil unrest". Breonna Taylor, 26, a hospital emergency room technician, was shot multiple times on 13 March. Her name has become a rallying cry for anti-police brutality protesters. Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron is expected to announce any day whether his office will bring charges. Mayor Fischer's emergency declaration on Tuesday noted that protests have been held for over 100 consecutive days in Louisville. The city leader, a Democrat, is authorising police to close traffic on certain streets where protests have been prevalent. The mayor said he did not know what the attorney general would say. He added: "Our goal is ensuring space and opportunity for potential protesters to gather and express their First Amendment rights after the announcement. "At the same time, we are preparing for any eventuality to keep everyone safe." Barricades are being erected around the city centre to reduce access to the area and the federal courthouse will be closed. The police department has cancelled leave requests. Officers will be required to work 12-hour shifts, the Louisville Courier-Journal reported, citing an internal memo. Interim police chief Robert Schroeder told reporters on Tuesday that an announcement in the case was expected this week. "In the community, we have all heard the rumours," Chief Schroeder said. "We all know something is coming. We don't know what it is." Governor Andy Beshear has said he is ready to deploy National Guard units in the event of violent protests. Shortly after midnight on Friday 13 March, she was in bed with her boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, watching a film when they heard a banging on the door. Plainclothes Louisville police officers were carrying out a narcotics raid, and they used a battering ram to enter the property. A judge had granted a warrant to search Ms Taylor's home because investigators suspected a convicted drug dealer - her ex-boyfriend, Jamarcus Glover - was using the address to receive packages. She had no criminal record. Mr Walker, a licensed gun owner, later told police he thought the late-night intruder was Glover, according to the New York Times. Mr Walker fired one round with his pistol, hitting one of the officers in the thigh. The officers returned fire, discharging more than 20 rounds. Ms Taylor, who had also got out of bed amid the commotion, died on the hallway floor. Her death certificate records five bullet wounds.
9-22-20 Covid-19 news: New restrictions in England could last six months
The latest coronavirus news updated every day including coronavirus cases, the latest news, features and interviews from New Scientist and essential information about the covid-19 pandemic. New restrictions for England could last six months, UK prime minister says. People in England will be asked to work from home where possible and pubs, bars and restaurants will be required to close at 10 pm each night, under a series of new restrictions announced by UK prime minister Boris Johnson today, which come into force on Thursday. Under the new rules, which Johnson today told MPs could stay in place for six months, pubs, bars and restaurants will be restricted to table service only and face masks will be compulsory for hospitality staff and non-seated customers, as well as for retail workers and taxi drivers. In Scotland, a ban on meeting people in houses will be extended from Glasgow and its surroundings to the entire country, and bars, pubs and restaurants will have to close at 10 pm. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has backtracked on advice it posted last week regarding airborne transmission of the coronavirus. The advice suggested the virus spreads through tiny droplets that can linger in the air. The World Health Organization acknowledges that there is some evidence that airborne transmission can occur in crowded spaces with inadequate ventilation but says the main route of coronavirus transmission is through larger droplets from coughs and sneezes, which can land on surfaces and get onto people’s hands. The CDC retracted its guidance yesterday, with a spokesperson telling CNN that a “draft version of proposed changes to these recommendations was posted in error.” More than 200,000 people in the US have now died from covid-19, according to Johns Hopkins University, the highest number for any nation. The country has recorded more than 6.8 million cases of the coronavirus.
9-22-20 India about to overtake the US with highest covid-19 caseload globally
India is on track to overtake the US as the country with the highest number of coronavirus cases worldwide. With more than 5.56 million recorded cases, India set a new record with 97,859 daily cases on 16 September. It took just 11 days for the total number of cases so far to rise from 4 to 5 million, and it is likely to be just a matter of weeks before the country passes the US, which has some 6.85 million cases. Given India’s population of about 1.38 billion, however, the number of cases is comparatively low. On 22 September, for instance, the seven-day average of daily confirmed cases in the US was 131 per million people, compared with 65 per million in India. Deaths, too, currently totalling about 89,000 in India, are much lower than in the US, which is nearing 200,000. Cases have soared since India eased a strict national lockdown in May, and some are worried that the spread of the virus into rural areas will increase case counts and fatalities. Two-thirds of the population lives in rural regions, which have only about a third of the country’s hospital beds. “We will have to gear up our services to delay the spread of the virus to rural areas,” says K. Srinath Reddy, president of the Public Health Foundation of India. “That’s going to be absolutely critical.” Even states like Kerala, which won global praise for its handling of the virus in the initial months of the pandemic, are now seeing a rise in case numbers. Much of the surge is ascribed to migrant workers returning to their home states since restrictions eased. “That’s when it became difficult to control,” says Reddy. On 14 September, India’s health minister Harsh Vardhan said that 1 million tests are being conducted daily. “You do need some testing, but it cannot be the only public health strategy,” says Reddy. “We will also have to boost heathcare systems and improve connections with local communities.”
9-22-20 US science news biased against people with names of non-British origin
News coverage in the US of scientific work is biased against researchers whose names aren’t of British origin. Hao Peng at the University of Michigan and his colleagues analysed more than 230,000 news stories from 288 US outlets, which reported on around 100,000 different research papers across all scientific fields. The team looked at whether the first authors of papers were mentioned in news coverage. Very often, these are junior researchers who have contributed most significantly to the work. Peng and his colleagues found that first authors who had names that weren’t of British origin were significantly less likely to be mentioned or quoted than first authors with names that were. On average, the probability of featuring in a news article was up to 6.4 per cent less for researchers with names of non-British origin. The greatest decreases were for people with names of Asian or African origin compared with those whose names were of European origin. The greatest disparity was seen in general news outlets, such as certain newspapers, where researchers with names of African and Chinese origin were 10 per cent less likely to be mentioned. To perform the analysis, the team used Altmetric, a database that aggregates media and online coverage of scientific papers. “Most people who work in journalism have personal anecdotes that support these findings,” says Marcus Ryder at Birmingham City University, UK. “There is no doubt that the media confers legitimacy and authority to deciding who the voices we should be listening to are.” When examining possible factors contributing to the bias, the team found that geographical location was a major component, but that this alone didn’t account for the disparity. Authors with names not of British origin based outside the US were even less likely to be mentioned, potentially because of perceived difficulties in interviewing them due to time-zone or language-fluency issues, according to the study.
9-22-20 Ginsburg Supreme Court: Trump to name nominee by week's end
US President Donald Trump has said he will name his nominee for Supreme Court justice by the end of the week, and urged the Republican-controlled Senate to confirm his choice before the presidential election. The plan has launched a high-stakes battle ahead of the 3 November vote. Mr Trump wants to replace Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a liberal stalwart who died on Friday aged 87, with a conservative. He appears to have secured enough support in the Senate. This would cement a right-leaning majority on the US's highest court, where justices serve for life or until they choose to retire. The ideological balance of the nine-member court is crucial to its rulings on the most important issues in US law, with decisions made in recent years on immigration, carbon emissions and gay marriage. Democrats have criticised Mr Trump's plan, with presidential candidate Joe Biden dubbing it an "abuse of power". Meanwhile, Ms Ginsburg is set to become the first woman in history to lie in state in the US Capitol building later this week. Following her death from cancer, people around the country have been paying tribute to the prominent feminist, who served on the court for 27 years. On Monday, Mr Trump said he was "constitutionally obligated" to nominate someone for the Supreme Court. "We're looking at five incredible jurists... women that are extraordinary in every way. I mean, honestly, it could be any one of them, and we're going to be announcing it on Friday or Saturday," he told supporters at a rally in Ohio. The president earlier had a private meeting at the White House with potential nominee Amy Coney Barrett, an appeals court judge who is backed by anti-abortion conservatives. Once the president names a nominee, it is the Senate's job to vote on whether to confirm them. The Judiciary Committee will review the pick first, and then vote to send the nominee to the floor for a full vote. Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell has vowed to hold a confirmation vote before the election in November. Democrats have accused him of hypocrisy. Following the death of conservative justice Antonin Scalia in 2016, Mr McConnell refused to hold a vote to confirm a nominee put forward by then-President Barack Obama, a Democrat.
9-21-20 Covid-19 news: New restrictions in the UK as alert level raised to 4
The latest coronavirus news updated every day including coronavirus cases, the latest news, features and interviews from New Scientist and essential information about the covid-19 pandemic. New localised lockdown restrictions to come into force in parts of the UK tomorrow. Amid warnings from scientists that the UK’s epidemic is doubling every seven days, which could lead to 50,000 cases a day by mid-October, the UK has imposed new restrictions to try and limit the spread of coronavirus. The country’s chief medical officers also advised that the coronavirus alert level be raised from 3 to 4. According to the government’s 5-tier alert system, an alert level of 4 indicates that transmission is high or rising exponentially and warrants increased social distancing measures. The UK is currently recording around 3000 cases per day, compared to around 5000 a day at the peak of the epidemic in spring. Coronavirus restrictions will be lifted across New Zealand today, with the exception of Auckland, where some restrictions will remain in place. “Our actions collectively have managed to get the virus under control,” the country’s prime minister Jacinda Ardern told a press conference today. There are currently 62 active cases of the virus in New Zealand, 33 of which are connected to a cluster in Auckland. Rules in Auckland will be eased further on Wednesday, with a limit on gatherings to be increased from 10 to 100 people. Strict new lockdown measures came into force in Spain’s capital Madrid today. At the weekend, thousands of people in the city’s southern district of Vallecas took to the streets to protest against the new restrictions. Under the new rules people won’t be allowed to leave the areas where they live except to go to work or for emergency medical treatment. India’s Taj Mahal reopened today for the first time since it was closed due to the pandemic in March. Visitors will be required to adhere to strict physical distancing rules and the number of visitors will be limited to 5000 per day – a quarter of the usual rate.
9-21-20 UK coronavirus epidemic is doubling every seven days warn scientists
The UK faces a “very difficult problem” of rising covid-19 deaths and cases if it does not change course, chief medical officer for England Chris Whitty has warned. The epidemic is doubling roughly every seven days in the UK, chief scientific adviser Patrick Vallance told a televised briefing today. “There’s no doubt we are in a situation where the numbers are increasing,” he said, referring to several sets of data, including an Office for National Statistics study which suggests around 6000 people a day are currently being infected. If growth continues unchecked, he said one scenario is that we could see 50,000 cases a day by mid-October, leading to 200-plus deaths a day by mid-November. Less than 8 per cent of people have likely been infected so far, Whitty said, meaning most people are still vulnerable. Localised outbreaks are growing, and the arrival of autumn is likely to make covid-19 worse, Whitty said. “We have in a bad sense, literally turned a corner.” Controlling the virus’s spread should be seen as a “six-month problem”, he added. The account from two of the UK’s top scientific advisers on the epidemic comes a day before prime minister Boris Johnson is expected to announce new restrictions. Their exact nature is still being debated within government, but is expected to stop short of a full national lockdown. Whitty directly addressed the political balancing act the government faces on public health and economic concerns. “Ministers making decisions, and all of society, we have to walk this very difficult balance. If we do too little, this virus will go out of control and we will get significant numbers of increase, both indirect and direct deaths. “But if we go too far the other way, we can cause damage to the economy, which can feed through to unemployment, deprivation, poverty, which can have long-term health effects,” he said.j
9-21-20 The Supreme Court's looming ObamaCare ruling
The life-or-death consequences of a conservative majority could soon become very real. The Supreme Court's decisions have real consequences for how we live our day-to-day lives as citizens of the United States. They influence everything from whether we can get married to the the people we love, where we go to school and who sits next to us in class, how we practice our religion, whether we can vote, and the dynamics between employers and employees. The court doesn't get the answers to all these questions right, but its rulings are not airy, theoretical, or ephemeral. They're real, and they reverberate. So it is natural that the fight over replacing Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg will dominate American political life over the coming weeks, perhaps even months. Conservatives already have a majority on the court, but letting President Trump pick Ginsburg's successor would cement a Republican-led supermajority that could dominate the country's jurisprudence for decades to come. Democrats cannot hide from that fact. And they shouldn't, especially in an election year. Not everybody agrees. On Sunday, The Atlantic's Anne Applebaum begged Democrats not to make a big deal of the Supreme Court opening as they campaign this fall, lest they ignite a culture war. "Democrats should not spend the weeks between now and November talking solely about judges, Mitch McConnell, and the Supreme Court," Applebaum wrote. She added: "Fixating on the court organizes the electorate along two fronts of a culture war, and forces people to make stark ideological choices. Instead of focusing voters on the president's failure to control COVID-19 or the consequent economic collapse, the culture war makes voters think only of their deepest tribal identities." Better, she said, to talk about health care — that's how Democrats won the House of Representatives in 2018, after all. Applebaum is right about one thing: Democrats shouldn't focus solely on the court during the campaign. They should work to ensure voters have Trump's mishandling of the coronavirus pandemic front-and-center in their minds when they cast ballots. But Democrats can also draw attention to the Supreme Court fight precisely by making the case to voters that the court's decisions can and will affect their lives, health, and well-being. The most obvious way they can do that is to focus not just on the fight over Ginsburg's seat, but to point out a here-and-now consequence of losing it: The court on November 10 will take up a case challenging the Affordable Care Act. Conservatives, backed by the Trump administration, are making the case that since the law's individual mandate provision was neutered by the GOP's 2017 tax cut, the entire law should be scrapped. As many as 25 million Americans could lose their health insurance if the Supreme Court overturns the law — and the entire health-care system could be upended. The fallout could also affect Americans who still have insurance. Young adults might lose the ability to get coverage under their parents' plans. Insurers might reimpose costs for preventative health services. And people with pre-existing conditions could lose their coverage altogether. "Unfortunately, the fate of the health-care system now hangs in the balance," lawyers for the American Medical Association wrote in a friend-of-the-court brief for the case, adding that striking down ACA during the COVID-19 pandemic "would be a self-inflicted wound that could take decades to heal." It isn't an exaggeration to say, then, that the court's decision in the case could have life-or-death consequences for many Americans. And there is reason to believe that the politics of this issue work for Democrats. Gallup polling shows that most Americans like the Affordable Care Act, including most self-described independents.
9-21-20 White House names three 'anarchist US cities' to lose funds
The Trump administration has named three cities that are slated to lose federal funding after the White House accused them of tolerating crime. New York City, Portland and Seattle are on the list of "anarchist cities" that Trump officials say have failed to stem crime linked to a summer of protests. It follows a memo from Mr Trump earlier this month, threatening the move. The mayors of the cities have threatened to sue, calling Mr Trump's move a political stunt. A statement from the Justice Department laid out recent crime rates in the cities and how their police responded. "We cannot allow federal tax dollars to be wasted when the safety of the citizenry hangs in the balance," Attorney General William Barr said in the statement. He also called on Portland, Seattle and New York City to "reverse course and become serious about performing the basic function of government and start protecting their own citizens". All three cities have seen major protests since the death of unarmed black man George Floyd in May. It remains unclear what federal funding may be cut from the cities. The violent crimes have generally declined in US cities since the 1990s, but have risen steeply in the past year in several cities including Philadelphia, Chicago and New York. (Webmaster's comment: Political blackmail to hurt people in cities protesting for equal rights for blacks!)
9-21-20 Jogging when you're black - the calculations you have to make
The pursuit and fatal shooting of Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia prompted many African American men to come forward with stories of discrimination they face while jogging. In a recent incident, police wrongly arrested runner Mathias Ometu in Texas, even though he did not fit the description of a suspect. A law enforcement expert and the founder of a running club analyse footage of the incident and explain what it means (Webmaster's comment: Many police are deliberately trained to presecute blacks!)
9-20-20 Ruth Bader Ginsburg death: Trump to nominate woman to fill Supreme Court seat
US President Donald Trump has said he will next week nominate a woman to replace the late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, escalating a political row over her successor. Ginsburg, 87, died on Friday, just weeks before the presidential election. Mr Trump's Democratic rival, Joe Biden, insists the decision on her replacement should wait until after the vote. The ideological balance of the nine-member court is crucial to its rulings on the most important issues in US law. But President Trump has vowed to swear in Ginsburg's successor "without delay", a move that has infuriated Democrats, who fear Republicans will vote to lock in a decades-long conservative majority on the country's highest court. "I will be putting forth a nominee next week. It will be a woman," Mr Trump said at a campaign rally in Fayetteville, North Carolina on Saturday. "I think it should be a woman because I actually like women much more than men." Some supporters chanted "Fill that seat!" as Mr Trump spoke, urging him to take the rare opportunity to nominate a third justice during one presidential term to a lifetime appointment on the court. Earlier, Mr Trump praised two female judges who serve on federal courts of appeals as possible choices. Both judges - Amy Coney Barrett and Barbara Lagoa - are conservatives who would tip the balance of the Supreme Court in favour of Republicans. Democrats have vigorously opposed any nomination before November's election, arguing that Senate Republicans blocked Democratic President Barack Obama's choice for the US top court in 2016. At the time, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell justified the move on grounds that it was an election year. But on Friday Senator McConnell said he intended to act on any nomination Mr Trump made and bring it to a vote in the Senate before election day. Ginsburg, a liberal icon and feminist standard-bearer, died of metastatic pancreatic cancer at her home in Washington DC, surrounded by her family. She was only the second-ever woman to sit on the Supreme Court. Supporters gathered outside the court on Friday night to pay tribute to the woman who had become affectionately known as "The Notorious RBG".
9-20-20 WeChat: Judge blocks US attempts to ban downloads of Chinese app
A judge has blocked a US government attempt to ban the Chinese messaging and payments app, WeChat. US Magistrate Judge Laurel Beeler said the ban raised serious questions related to the constitution's first amendment, guaranteeing free speech. The Department of Commerce had announced a bar on WeChat appearing in US app stores from Sunday, effectively shutting it down. The Trump administration has alleged it threatens national security. It says it could pass user data to the Chinese government. Both WeChat and China have strongly denied the claim. Tencent, the conglomerate that owns WeChat, had previously described the US ban as "unfortunate". The ruling comes just after TikTok, which was also named in the Department of Commerce order, reached a deal with US firms Oracle and Walmart to hopefully allow them to keep operating. The Justice Department asked for the order not to be blocked after a group of WeChat users filed a lawsuit challenging it. The department argued it would "frustrate and displace the president's determination of how best to address threats to national security". However Judge Beeler, sitting in San Francisco, noted that "while the general evidence about the threat to national security related to China (regarding technology and mobile technology) is considerable, the specific evidence about WeChat is modest".(Webmaster's comment: There is no threat! China is way ahead of us in technolgy.) The US Department of Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said in a statement that the decision to block the app was taken "to combat China's malicious collection of American citizens' personal data". The department said WeChat collected "vast swathes of data from users, including network activity, location data, and browsing and search histories". (Webmaster's comment: The same as done by American companies!) Friday's statement from the commerce department said the governing Chinese Communist Party "has demonstrated the means and motives to use these apps to threaten the national security, foreign policy, and the economy of the US". Tencent, which owns WeChat, has said that messages on its app are private. (Webmaster's comment: What bothers our Government is that it can not crack into the messages of the users!)
9-20-20 Australia coronavirus cases 'set to be lowest in months'
Australia looks set to record its lowest daily coronavirus increase for three months, with just 18 new cases reported so far. The state of Victoria - the epicentre of the country's Covid-19 outbreak - recorded 14 new infections to Sunday morning, down from 21 the day before. New South Wales and Queensland reported two cases each. The remaining states are yet to report their figures, but rarely record any new cases. Figures were last this low on 23 June. Victoria's Premier Daniel Andrews said the numbers were "cause for great optimism". His state, which has accounted for 75% of Australia's 26,900 cases and 90% of its 849 deaths, has been under lockdown since early July. Melbourne, the capital, has been under tighter restrictions than other areas, including a curfew and stay-at-home orders. Anti-lockdown protests in the city have become a regular sight. On Sunday, demonstrators gathered in the central business district, according to local media. Saturday's protest, in a park, saw protesters being dispersed by police on horseback. However, Mr Andrews has defended the state's strict lockdown, pointing to rising cases in Europe. "It's heartbreaking to see all of those communities have given - all the sacrifice they've made - and now they've got cases running perhaps more wildly than their first wave," he told reporters. "Some of these nations as well, I see a bit of commentary around the place about how... death rates in second waves are lower. That's not what the data's saying. That's not what the data in Europe is saying. You've got to see it off." Melbourne has started to ease its restrictions, saying it will lift the curfew and exercise limits on 26 October if there are fewer than five new cases per day.
9-19-20 Ruth Bader Ginsburg's death sparks political firestorm
Ruth Bader Ginsburg's death marks the passing of a liberal icon on the US Supreme Court, the loss of a jurist heralded by the left in the US for her passionate advocacy of women's rights, civil liberties and the rule of law.Memorials and tributes to her, however, threaten to be overshadowed by the political firestorm that her death - and the resulting vacancy on the highest court in the US - will set off just 46 days before the presidential election. Here's what you need to know about what might happen next and why the stakes are so high. Donald Trump could now have the opportunity to make a third lifetime appointment to the nine-justice Supreme Court, a remarkable chance to leave a lasting imprint on American law and politics in only his first term in office. It appears certain the president will try - either before the November's election or after. And, if the Republicans lose, a confirmation could take place during a Senate "lame duck" session later in the year, before a new Congress and president take office in January. Any attempt to fill the seat this year will prompt cries of hypocrisy from Democrats. They remember Republicans - including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell - blocking Democratic President Barack Obama from filling a 2016 Supreme Court vacancy for nearly a year, until Trump could name a replacement in 2017. At the time, Republicans said it was important for voters to express their opinion at the polls before a new justice was confirmed. McConnell, and some other Republicans, have since said that such a rule shouldn't apply when one party controls both the presidency and the Senate - which, conveniently, is the situation at the moment. It could come down to a question of maths - and timing. Republicans have 53 Senate seats, and need 50 votes to confirm a nominee. Already two Republicans - Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska - have said they support allowing Joe Biden to name the next justice if he were to win in November.
9-19-20 Ruth Bader Ginsburg: Republicans vow to vote on Trump pick
Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell vowed to put President Donald Trump's Supreme Court nominee to a vote within hours of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg's death being announced, sparking outrage among Democrats. Mr McConnell said he would act swiftly, despite the election six weeks away. In 2016, he blocked President Barack Obama's pick for the court on the grounds it was an election year. Joe Biden has insisted a replacement should only take place after the poll. Ginsburg, 87, died on Friday of metastatic pancreatic cancer at her home in Washington, DC, surrounded by her family. The second-ever woman to sit on the Supreme Court, she had become a figurehead for liberals in the US, and was an iconic champion of women's rights. Thousands gathered outside the court on Friday night to pay tribute to the woman who had become affectionately known as "The Notorious RBG". The appointment of judges in the US is a political one - which means the president gets to choose who is put forward. The Senate then votes to confirm - or reject - the choice. Ginsburg, who served for 27 years, was one of only four liberals on the nine-seat bench. Her death means that, should the Republicans get the vote through, the balance of power would shift decisively towards the conservatives. Mr Trump, who has already chosen two Supreme Court justices during his presidency, is well aware that getting his nominee in will mean conservatives will have control over key decisions for decades to come. Justices can serve for life, unless they decide to retire. At a rally on Friday - before he learned of Ginsburg's death - he told the crowd whoever won the election "will get one, two, three or four Supreme Court justices", saying November's vote was going to be "the most important" in US history. Mr McConnell said in his statement - which included a tribute to Ginsburg - that "President Trump's nominee will receive a vote on the floor of the United States Senate". The senator had argued in 2016 that "the American people should have a voice in the selection of their next Supreme Court Justice" which meant "this vacancy should not be filled until we have a new president". But now he says the Senate was within its rights to act because it was Republican-controlled, and Mr Trump is a Republican president.
9-19-20 Coronavirus: US health chiefs reverse advice on Covid-19 testing
US health officials have rowed back on controversial advice issued last month that said people without Covid-19 symptoms should not get tested. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) now says anyone in close contact with a known infected person should take a test. Friday's "clarification" returns the CDC's stance on testing to its previous guidance, before the August alteration. Reports said the controversial advice had not been given by scientists. Sources quoted by the New York Times said it had been posted on the CDC website despite experts' objections. Most US states had then rejected the guidance, Reuters reported, in a stinging rebuke to the nation's top disease prevention agency. Some observers suggested the controversial move could have reflected a desire by President Donald Trump to reduce the growing tally of Covid-19 cases. At a rally in June, Mr Trump told supporters he had urged officials to "slow the testing down, please". A White House official dismissed the remark as a joke. However, administration officials denied any political motive, telling Reuters that the change reflected "current evidence and best public health practices". Experts welcomed the change of tack on Friday. "The return to a science-based approach to testing guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is good news for public health and for our united fight against this pandemic," said Thomas File, president of the Infectious Diseases Society of America. In its "overview of testing" for healthcare workers the CDC now says: "Due to the significance of asymptomatic and pre-symptomatic transmission, this guidance further reinforces the need to test asymptomatic persons, including close contacts of a person with documented SARS-CoV-2 infection." It advises people to take a test "if you have been in close contact, such as within 6ft of a person with documented SARS-CoV-2 infection for at least 15 minutes and do not have symptoms". The US has recorded nearly seven million cases of coronavirus, more than a fifth of the world's total. It has the world's highest death toll, with nearly 200,000 fatalities.
9-19-20 Covid-19: Lockdown in parts of Madrid amid virus spike
Parts of the Spanish capital Madrid are to be subject to lockdown restrictions to curb a rise in Covid-19, as cases across Europe continue to spike. DFrom Monday, more than 850,000 people in the Madrid region will face limits on travel and sizes of groups. Spain has the highest number of coronavirus cases in Europe, and Madrid is once again the worst-hit region. Many northern hemisphere countries are now bracing for a second wave of the pandemic as winter approaches. The World Health Organization (WHO) has warned of the perils as people move indoors. "There is a lot of work to do in order to avoid amplification events, drive down transmission of this epidemic, protect the opening of schools and protect the most vulnerable in our society," Dr Mike Ryan, the head of the WHO's health emergencies programme, said. France recorded its highest number of new confirmed daily cases since the pandemic began, at 13,215 - a jump of nearly 3,000 more cases in 24 hours. They included Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire, who said he had tested positive but was showing no symptoms. Several cities, including Marseille and Nice, are bringing in tighter restrictions. The UK recorded 4,322 new cases and 27 deaths on Friday - its highest number of cases since 8 May, and Prime Minister Boris Johnson warned a second wave was now "inevitable". Large parts of the north of England are now subject to extensive lockdown measures. Elsewhere in Europe: 1. Indoor restaurant dining is to be banned in the Irish capital Dublin, and all non-essential travel discouraged, after a surge in recent cases. 2. Denmark is lowering public gathering numbers from 100 to 50 and ordering bars and restaurants to close early. 3. Entertainment venues and pubs in the Icelandic capital Reykjavik have been ordered to close over the weekend. 4. Restrictions are to be tightened in six regions and cities in the Netherlands, including Amsterdam and Rotterdam. 5. Tighter restrictions are also coming into force in the Greater Athens region of Greece.
9-19-20 Stockholm's mental health ambulance could help the U.S. rethink policing
When police in Rochester, New York, apprehended a Black man named Daniel Prude in March, he was going through a mental health crisis. He was dead shortly after police subdued him with a so-called "spit hood." Police say he died from "complications of asphyxia in the setting of physical restraint." The Rochester police chief and command staff resigned recently. Experts say up to a quarter of people killed by police officers have some sort of mental illness. And about 40 percent of adults with serious mental illness will come into contact with the criminal justice system during their lifetimes. So does the U.S. need to rethink policing and mental illness? One city that has already done that is the Swedish capital, Stockholm. Since 2015, a mental health ambulance has been on hand to deal with emergency psychiatric issues. Andreas Carlborg is the managing director of North Stockholm Psychiatry, and helped create the mental health ambulance service there. He spoke to The World's host Marco Werman about what the U.S. could learn. Marco Werman: What kind of cases is the mental health ambulance used for in Stockholm? Andreas Carlborg: So, when we started this project in 2015, the main first priority case was suicidal behavior. But in reality, we now deal with quite a broad spectrum of psychiatric disorders — everything from acute psychosis, delusional behavior with agitation, as well as serious suicidal behavior. And when an individual is in a situation like this and somebody calls you, are they calling the police or are they calling the mental health ambulance? How are you alerted? What will happen is there is a common number — the alarm center — that will take the call from maybe the public or the patient or relatives or whatever, and then they will dispatch their psychiatric care ambulance and, in some cases, also the police. So they will decide whether this is a case for psychiatric emergency services.
9-19-20 Belarus protests: Women try to unmask those detaining protesters
In Belarus, it's now almost six weeks since the election in which President Alexander Lukashenko claimed a much disputed victory. Daily demonstrations against him have followed and so too have clashes with security forces. More than 1,000 people have been detained with many of them emerging with stories of being tortured. Most of the detentions are carried out by masked men wearing clothes that give no indication of who they are and what organisation they belong to. Fed up with the constant harassment, this week female protesters started taking matters into their own hands trying to identify the men and make them accountable for their actions.
9-18-20 Covid-19 news: UK government won’t rule out second national lockdown
The latest coronavirus news updated every day including coronavirus cases, the latest news, features and interviews from New Scientist and essential information about the covid-19 pandemic. UK government considering short-term national lockdown in October. The UK could face a second nation-wide lockdown in October, according UK health minister Matt Hancock. In an interview today, Hancock told Sky News that the government isn’t ruling out a short-term national lockdown in October. “We do have to recognise that the number of cases is rising and we do have to act,” he said. This comes after warnings from senior scientific advisors to the government that the UK is about six weeks behind France and Spain in terms of coronavirus cases, and can expect to see a significant increase in cases by mid-October without further intervention. France set a record for daily new coronavirus cases in the country on Thursday, recording 10,593 new cases within 24 hours, according to its health ministry. Details on a participant in the AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine trial who experienced neurological symptoms, which halted the trial in early September, have been revealed in an internal safety report by the firm. The 37 year-old woman experienced symptoms of a rare neurological condition called transverse myelitis, including pain, weakness and difficulty walking, according to the report. Israel today became the first country to introduce a second nation-wide lockdown, with people required to stay within 500 metres of their homes, except if they are travelling to work.
9-18-20 Living through the apocalypse
They say people can get used to anything, and now I know it's true. hey say people can get used to anything, and now I know it's true. During the first few months of 2017, Donald Trump's critics would respond to the new president's lies, corruption, and incompetence by repeating the line, "This isn't normal." They were right. But nearly four years later, it is no longer the case. It's as normal as the sunrise or a blue sky on a crisp fall day. As is this same president repeatedly suggesting that the results of the upcoming election will be unreliable, and his attorney general backing him up while blaming his political opponents. Professional pundits and committed partisans still work up a head of steam about such statements, but most others respond with little more than an exhausted sigh at what has clearly become the new normal. Even mass death can be normalized. The country seemed traumatized when we passed 100,000 deaths from COVID-19 late last May. Four months later, we've doubled that number, with no end yet in sight — and the response now feels more and more like a collective shrug. Yeah, people die. They always have, they always will. Stuff happens. It is what it is. The virus will just disappear. Eventually. At some point. And until then, meh. I can't help but wonder, though, how long it will take for me to grow used to waking up in the suburbs of Philadelphia, as I did this week, with the sun and sky obscured by smoke from fires burning nearly 3,000 miles away. More than once, I rolled out of bed, unsure from the light streaming in through the blinds whether the new day would be sunny or cloudy. By mid-morning the obvious answer was both: a sky clear of clouds but smudged from one horizon to the other by a yellowish-gray fog of incinerated trees and leaves and pine needles and homes once found on the West Coast of the country and continent. Those who live with the fires themselves are nowhere near considering them normal. A middle-aged friend from Portland who's lived most of his life in the Pacific Northwest puts it like this: "We've always had fires in the West, but never like this. We're choking on smoke and ash. It's happening this year, it happened two years ago, and it happened two years before that. It never once happened before during my lifetime. This is definitely a new pattern. And I never heard the phrase 'fire season' until a couple of years ago. It certainly wasn't a thing when I was a kid. I never even saw smoke from a wildfire until I was in my 30s." My friend is living through an apocalypse — as are we all. The term "apocalypse" has come to mean the end of the world, but it originally denoted a revelation, uncovering, or disclosure, especially about the first and last things. That's what we're living through now. At one level, it's a moment of unprecedented confusion, with a barrage of partial truths and outright lies cascading down on our heads with a technology-fueled intensity that human beings have never known before. Some days it feels like it would be easier to just plug our ears and despair of ever making sense of or finding a way through it all. But from out of that cybernetic swirl can also come a bracing kind of clarity.
9-18-20 It's not the flu
Many COVID survivors still have severe symptoms months later. It's been six months since Zach got COVID, and he hasn't yet recovered. Zach — a previously fit, healthy 33-year-old attorney who's the son of two good friends — was never admitted to a hospital, because of an acute shortage of ICU beds. But over two months of coronavirus hell, he developed pneumonia, struggled for breath, coughed constantly, shivered under three blankets, and barely slept or ate. His chest felt like it was on fire. "There wasn't an inch of my body (truly) that wasn't in excruciating pain," he recounted in a Facebook post last week. Despite sophisticated medical care and an endless battery of tests, his chest still aches, he's breathless after a short walk, and he's too weak to work. Zach is one of a largely invisible legion of "long-haulers" — COVID survivors who continue to suffer a host of mystifying maladies. Studies suggest that about three-quarters of those who get very sick remain ill for months. No one knows if and when long-haulers will return to their pre-COVID selves. "For now, this is my normal," Zach said. Whenever I see people blithely congregating without masks or social distancing, I think of Zach and a young member of The Week's staff who is also a long-hauler. Many younger Americans falsely assume that because most of the people COVID kills are over 70, they are safe. In reality, the coronavirus makes some younger people very sick for reasons no one fully understands; COVID roulette is a high-risk game. Long-haulers like Zach would tell you that this nasty virus is not "a little flu," and that you don't want it inside your body, attacking cells in your blood vessels, lungs, heart, and even brain. President Trump would have told you that, too, if you were speaking to him privately. The virus is "easily transmissible" and "a killer," Trump told Bob Woodard back in April. "This rips you apart." That's no lie.
9-18-20 The police protection racket
For the last several months, there has been an ongoing debate about police reform in this country. Some people argue the police should be defunded or even abolished, while others argue they actually should get more money. However, there is a separate problem with police that has so far gotten less attention — the lawless, thuggish politics of police departments as they currently exist. For weeks it has been clear that police departments in many cities are conducting a deliberate work slowdown for political reasons. They are upset at being criticized for violent brutality, and they are deliberately trying to incite a crime wave — and in some cities, it appears to be working. No matter where one stands on the police reform debate, this kind of behavior should be absolutely intolerable. The police cannot be allowed to act as a protection racket. One major example seems to be Minneapolis, where the city council is currently debating proposals to drastically reform its police department, and the cops are apparently fighting back by trying to turn the city into The Purge. Brandt Williams of MPR News recently reported on a city council meeting where members grilled the police chief about why "their constituents are seeing and hearing street racing which sometimes results in crashes, brazen daylight carjackings, robberies, assaults and shootings." Both violence and property crime are up compared to 2019, and arson is up 55 percent. (The plague of arson is particularly suspicious, and some Minneapolis residents have been forced to organize de facto neighborhood protection squads on their own.) Council President Lisa Bender relayed constituent stories that "officers on the street have admitted that they're purposely not arresting people who are committing crimes," writes Williams. Now, it's not at all clear that police slowdowns always worsen crime. During a slowdown in New York last year, crime actually fell considerably. But it appears that under some circumstances crime will rise — in New York today, city officials have alleged that the NYPD is deliberately dragging its feet, and response times are indeed down while murders are up. (The NYPD sergeants union, in a display of the calm professionalism we have all come to expect from American law enforcement, called one critical New York councilman a "first class w****" on Twitter.) Baltimore has been in the grips of a major violent crime problem since the city's police basically quit even trying to solve serious crimes in 2015, in response to the Freddie Gray protests — indeed, some of them got in on the racket instead. In Atlanta in June, cops staged a "blue flu" sickout in response to an officer being charged with murder for the killing of Rayshard Brooks. (This sort of thing is tantamount to an illegal strike, and used to be routine in decades past.) We should be clear about what is happening here. There is a nationwide and entirely justified surge of outrage against police brutality and racism. Cops in these cities are responding by attempting collective punishment against the citizenry whose taxes pay their salaries and whose safety they are sworn to protect. In other words, it is a protection racket scheme. The message is: Say, anxious middle-class homeowners, nice neighborhood you have there. Sure would be a shame if violent hordes burned it to the ground. Better keep that in mind before you go about meddling in police business.
9-18-20 Donald Trump: President denies new assault allegation
US President Donald Trump has denied allegations that he sexually assaulted a former model in New York in 1997. Amy Dorris told the UK's Guardian newspaper that Mr Trump groped various parts of her body and forcibly kissed her as she came out of a bathroom at the US Open tennis tournament. Mr Trump's lawyers have denied the claims, branding it an "attempt to attack" him before the election. Multiple women have accused Mr Trump of inappropriate sexual misconduct. The president has denied all of the allegations against him. Ms Dorris, who was 24 years old at the time, said she watched matches with her then-boyfriend Jason Binn in Mr Trump's VIP box. She said she used the bathroom and alleged Mr Trump was waiting for her outside. "He just shoved his tongue down my throat and I was pushing him off. And that's when the grip became tighter and his hands were very gropey and all over my butt, my breasts, my back, everything," she told the Guardian. "I was in his grip, and I couldn't get out of it." She says she told Mr Trump to stop, but that "he didn't care". Ms Dorris said she decided to come forward with her story in order to be a role model to her two teenage daughters. She said she had considered speaking about the incident in 2016, but chose not to out of fear for her family. Jenna Ellis, legal adviser to the Trump campaign, told CBS News "the allegations are totally false". "We will consider every legal means available to hold The Guardian accountable for its malicious publication of this unsubstantiated story," she said. Speaking to The Guardian, Mr Trump's lawyers say there would have been other witnesses to the assault and suggested the allegation could be politically motivated ahead of the November election. His lawyers also said Mr Binn told them he did not recall Ms Dorris saying anything inappropriate or uncomfortable had happened with Mr Trump. It is not the first time claims of sexual assault have been made against the president. (Webmaster's comment: Trump is a sexual pig!)
9-18-20 TikTok and WeChat: US to ban app downloads in 48 hours
TikTok and WeChat will be banned from US app stores from Sunday, unless President Donald Trump agrees to a last-minute deal. The Department of Commerce said it would bar people in the US from downloading the messaging and video-sharing apps through any app store on any platform. The Trump administration says the companies threaten national security and could pass user data to China. But China and both companies deny this. WeChat will effectively shut down in the US on Sunday, but people will still be able to use TikTok until 12 November, when it could also be fully banned. If a planned partnership between US tech firm Oracle and TikTok owner ByteDance is agreed and approved by President Trump, the app would not be banned. It is not yet clear whether Mr Trump will approve the deal, but he is expected to review it before the Sunday deadline. The ban order from the Department of Commerce follows President Trump's executive orders signed in August. It gave US businesses 45 days to stop working with either Chinese company. "At the president's direction, we have taken significant action to combat China's malicious collection of American citizens' personal data," the US Department of Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said in a statement. The department acknowledged that the threats posed by WeChat and TikTok were not identical but said that each collected "vast swathes of data from users, including network activity, location data, and browsing and search histories". While WeChat closes on Sunday, TikTok users will still be able to use their app virtually as normal, although they will not be able to download new updates. "The President has provided until November 12 for the national security concerns posed by TikTok to be resolved," the commerce department said. (Webmaster's comment: This has nothing to do with nation security! Since United States cannot match the performance of these apps we must ban them.)
9-18-20 Covid-19: New fear grips Europe as cases top 30m worldwide
The number of confirmed coronavirus cases across the globe has surpassed 30 million, according to figures by America's Johns Hopkins University. More than 940,000 have died with Covid-19 since the outbreak began in China late last year. The US, India and Brazil have the most confirmed cases, but there is a renewed spike in infections across Europe. Many northern hemisphere countries are now bracing for a second wave of the pandemic as winter approaches. In the UK, the government is considering taking further England-wide measures including a short period of restrictions to try to slow a second surge of infections. Outside Europe, Israel brings in a second nationwide lockdown later on Friday - the first nation to do so. Africa has recorded more than a million confirmed cases, although the true extent of the pandemic in the continent is not known. Testing rates are reported to be low, which could distort official figures. A team of infectious disease experts at Johns Hopkins University, in the US city of Baltimore, have been documenting the global spread of Covid-19 on its tracking website. According to their data, the US remains by far the worst-hit country in terms of sheer numbers, with more than 6.6 million confirmed infections, and over 197,000 deaths. The number of new daily infections has been dropping, though, after a spike in July. Earlier this week, President Donald Trump denied downplaying the seriousness of Covid-19, despite admitting in a recorded interview to having done that. In India, the number of known infections climbed above five million this week - the second-highest caseload in the world. When comparing figures from different countries it is important to bear in mind factors such as population size and density. For instance, India has a population of 1.3bn people. However, the virus appears to be spreading much faster in India than any other country, with daily cases topping 90,000 in recent days. More than 80,000 people have died, amid reports of shortages of intensive care beds and oxygen supplies.
9-17-20 Covid-19 news: New cases in England up 167% since end of August
The latest coronavirus news updated every day including coronavirus cases, the latest news, features and interviews from New Scientist and essential information about the covid-19 pandemic. Steep rise in new coronavirus cases in England despite testing shortage. The weekly number of people testing positive for the coronavirus in England has risen sharply, as the country is experiencing testing shortages. Between 3 and 9 September, 18,371 people were diagnosed with covid-19, which is “a substantial increase of 167 per cent compared to the end of August,” according to NHS Test and Trace. These may be “the last reliable figures” on the state of the nation’s epidemic for some time because of the reduced availability of tests, said Daniel Lawson at the University of Bristol in a statement. Europe has “alarming rates of transmission”, the World Health Organization (WHO) warned today, as it encouraged countries to stick to the recommended 14-day self-isolation period for people who may have been exposed to the coronavirus. In the UK, the recommendation is currently 10 days. Other European countries, including Portugal and Croatia, are considering reducing the length of recommended self-isolation, according to the Guardian. “Knowing the immense individual and societal impact even a slight reduction in the length of quarantine can have […] I encourage countries of the region to make scientific due process with their experts and explore safe reduction options,” Hans Kluge, WHO regional director for Europe, said at a press conference. It will take at least a year before a coronavirus vaccine becomes generally available to the US public, director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Robert Redfield told a US Senate panel yesterday. In an interview with Fox & Friends earlier this week, US president Donald Trump said a vaccine could be ready “in a matter of weeks.” (Webmaster's comment: Liar! Absolutely untrue and he knows it!)
9-17-20 Space: It's cold. It's boring. It's not our concern.
Leave Venus to its maybe-microbes and come have lunch. The news that some rank gas on Venus is a strong (though not conclusive) indicator of microbial life outside our planet has been greeted with much enthusiasm. The truth, perhaps, is really out there, albeit far smaller and less intelligent than X-Files promised. It is also, I suggest, none of our business. The contents of the cold, empty darkness beyond Earth's orbit are not really our concern. Space is not for humans, and we should leave it alone. The physical attributes of space make this obvious. Other planets, various nonplanetary bodies, and the void of space itself are not suited to human life. It is not our home, nor will it ever be absent massive terraforming projects, which could well prove impossible or even disastrous. What is terraforming, after all, if not deliberate climate change on an unprecedented scale? Or what grim consequences could we suffer if we take our worldly conflicts to space or bring back some extraterrestrial invasive species? These questions are better left unanswered. Outer space is utterly unhospitable to us, and we should take the hint. Ah, space lovers may protest, but space exploration is a source of many benefits to humanity. Is it, though? The benefits of travel and research outside the Earth's orbit are almost entirely secondary. That is, the innovations and discoveries made in the course of work toward space exploration are telluric achievements we could have reached without involving space at all. Tab through NASA's 26-page tract of "Benefits Stemming from Space Exploration" and you'll find boasts of by-products "from solar panels to implantable heart monitors, from cancer therapy to light-weight materials, and from water-purification systems to improved computing systems and to a global search-and-rescue system." Of these, only the last item is space-specific, and it uses satellites in terrestrial orbit. Seeking to circumvent the very suggestion I am making, the NASA document quotes deeply irritating science barker Neil deGrasse Tyson. "People often ask, 'If you like spin-off products, why not just invest in those technologies straightaway, instead of waiting for them to happen as spin-offs?'" Tyson says. "The answer: It just doesn't work that way." This is an effective explanation of positive externalities in scientific research, but it no more proves the necessity of space exploration than the necessity of war. Scientific inquiry does not have to involve leaving Earth or killing its inhabitants on a mass scale to produce valuable spin-off products. Perhaps we would not have the exact same discoveries without space exploration, but perhaps they would have been developed through different scientific pursuits — or perhaps we'd have something better were we not wasting money mucking about on barren planets where we do not belong. If the benefits of extraorbital space exploration are far less than apologists would have us believe, the risk is far greater. The implicit suggestion, often made explicit in tellingly dystopian pop culture fantasies, is that space is our backup plan. If we ruin this planet, maybe we — or the lucky few among us — can bounce to a new one. Mars, most likely, as, among other advantages, it's easier to warm up on a cold planet than to keep your face from melting on a hellishly hot one like Venus. This is a bad (and potentially illusory) incentive. It encourages recklessness, not conservation and pursuit of peace. Energies and funding spent on space would be better spent here, preserving our home, improving human quality of life without harming our native environment, and ceasing to blow each other up. One planet is quite enough, and quite enough trouble, too. Off-planet relocation is still hypothetical, of course, but off-planet travel is not. That includes space tourism, which is not yet commercially available outside Russia (where it has been suspended for several years) but likely will be within a decade, albeit only for the immensely wealthy. (Webmaster's comment: Trillions of dollars wasted! For What? What if we spent those trillions on fixing global warming? On restoring wildlife and the environment? Or on curing cancer or some other disease?)
9-17-20 Heat ray 'was sought' against protest in Washington's Lafayette Square
Officers requested a "heat ray" weapon for possible use against protesters in a park next to the White House in June, a National Guard major has said. Military police allegedly asked the National Guard for the Active Denial System (ADS), which makes targets feel their skin is on fire. It happened before Lafayette Square was cleared of people protesting against the killing of black man George Floyd. The National Guard did not possess the heat ray and it was not used. Law enforcement officers are instead believed to have used tear gas, rubber bullets and smoke grenades to clear the park on 1 June. At the time authorities said it was to tackle violent protesters who had thrown rocks at police and started fires. Reporters at the scene however said the demonstration had been peaceful. Park Police have denied using tear gas, saying that they instead fired "pepper balls" - projectiles with capsaicin, the chemical that gives peppers heat - at protesters. Shortly after officers cleared the park, US President Donald Trump walked across the street from the White House for a photo opportunity outside a church. The clearance of the protesters to make way for Mr Trump drew heavy criticism from both Democrats and Republicans, and Washington DC Mayor Muriel Bowser called it "shameful". National Guard Major Adam DeMarco was at the scene of the protest, serving as a liaison officer in a supervisory role. In written testimony provided to US lawmakers and first published by NPR, Maj De Marco said a senior military police officer asked if the National Guard in the US capital had the ADS in the morning of 1 June. The heat ray weapon uses a microwave beam to make human skin feel like it is burning. Authorities say it causes no permanent damage. In an email which Maj DeMarco was copied into, the senior officer said the ADS "can immediately compel an individual to cease threatening behavior", describing the effect of the weapon as "overwhelming". Maj DeMarco responded that the DC National Guard did not have the ADS, nor an LRAD - a Long Range Acoustic Device, also requested, which can blast a wall of sound at crowds.
9-17-20 Coronavirus: CDC director vs President Trump on face masks and vaccines
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Robert Redfield and US President Donald Trump have been giving contrasting messages on face masks and vaccines.
9-17-20 WHO warns of 'very serious situation' in Europe
'When will this Covid curse be finished? The World Health Organization warns of "a very serious situation unfolding" in Europe. It comes as cases exceed those seen at the peak of the pandemic in March. New social restrictions are introduced for north-east England amid a spike of cases. The temporary measures include restrictions on households mixing and pubs closing earlier at night. Turnaround times to get test results back are getting longer in England, figures show. US President Donald Trump contradicts the head of the main health agency over vaccines and masks. Mr Trump says a vaccine would be available "immediately" - and not as late as mid-2021. He also denied Centers for Disease Control director Dr Robert Redfield's suggestion that masks could be more important than a vaccine. There have been nearly 30m confirmed cases of Covid-19 in the world, as well as more than 939,000 deaths.
9-16-20 The absurd QAnon conspiracy theory is expanding into science denial
A harmful political conspiracy theory is now embracing science denial. Combating it is important, but it won't be easy, writes Graham Lawton. AS THE weeks and months of covid-19 drag on, I have found myself dragged into an increasingly bewildering and frightening conspiracy theory. I am no conspiracy theorist myself, unless you count the belief that much of the world is currently run by buffoons. When I first heard of QAnon, I filed it alongside “flat Earth” as an infuriating but essentially harmless fringe belief. But the more I learn about it, the more worried I become that it could kill off any chance we have of emerging from the pandemic into a greener, more enlightened world. You may think, like I did at first, that QAnon isn’t worth spilling ink over. You may also think that an article about it has no place in a popular science magazine. But bear with me. To cut a long story short, QAnon is a far-right conspiracy theory that contends the world is run by satan-worshipping paedophiles who traffic children for sex and for a life-extending compound that is extracted from their adrenal glands. It is named after a shady character called Q, who posts “inside information” on internet message boards. While it is all total and utter nonsense, two US presidents loom large in the QAnon narrative: Obama as one of the controlling elites and Trump as Q himself or the leader of the fight against the elites and the “deep state”, a shadowy organisation that really runs the US. None of it has any basis in fact and preposterous, fetid conspiracy theories are nothing new. But QAnon has taken them to a new level. It has evolved into an umbrella conspiracy theory that can accommodate all deranged beliefs and unite previously antagonistic conspiracies under the same banner. Its beliefs are seeping into everyday discourse, including mainstream media. Several Republicans standing for office are open QAnon supporters and its followers are an increasingly visible and vocal presence at Trump rallies. If Trump defies the polls and retains the presidency, QAnon votes will have helped put him back into the White House. And if he loses but cries foul, QAnon followers will be among those trying to restore him to power despite the result.
9-16-20 Covid-19 news: UK may ration community tests due to shortages
The latest coronavirus news updated every day including coronavirus cases, the latest news, features and interviews from New Scientist and essential information about the covid-19 pandemic. UK government expected to shift priority away from community testing amid shortages. The UK government is considering rationing coronavirus tests for the general public and prioritising NHS and care home workers amid continuing testing shortages, UK justice minister Robert Buckland told BBC Breakfast today. In parliament today, UK prime minister Boris Johnson said the government was trying to meet a “colossal spike” in demand at “record speed”, but yesterday UK health minister Matt Hancock told MPs it would likely take weeks to resolve the country’s testing issues. England faces testing shortages that could last up to five months if the majority of people in the country with a cough or fever request a coronavirus test this autumn and winter. This finding comes from a preliminary study by the Institute of Health Informatics at University College London, which has not been published or peer-reviewed. The predictions are based on the estimated number of people who had these symptoms last winter before the pandemic. The coronavirus may have been circulating in the US as early as December, according to a study which analysed almost 10 million medical records from three hospitals and 180 clinics in California. The study, published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research, found that there was an increase in patients reporting symptoms of respiratory illnesses starting in the week ending 22 December. Russia has secured a deal to supply 100 million doses of its coronavirus vaccine candidate Sputnik V to Indian pharmaceutical company Dr. Reddy’s Laboratories. The company will carry out phase III trials of the Russian vaccine candidate in India, starting as early as next month, Kirill Dmitriev, head of the Russian Direct Investment Fund told Reuters. The vaccine candidate was approved by Russian authorities last month before any data had been made public or a large-scale trial had begun.
9-16-20 Coronavirus death toll nears 1 million – how did we get here?
IT BEGAN on 9 January. In a hospital in Wuhan, China, a 61-year-old man became the first person on the planet confirmed to have died from a new coronavirus. At the time, scientists didn’t believe there was strong evidence of transmission between humans. As this magazine went to press, we are nearing a global death toll of a million people after the virus spread out from Wuhan and exploded around the world. The true count is far higher and won’t be established for years, as many killed by the virus weren’t tested (see “Can we trust the numbers?”). What happened? Within weeks of that first reported death in China, cases appeared in Thailand, Japan and South Korea. The first fatality outside China was confirmed on 2 February in the Philippines. On 11 March, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared a pandemic. In the months since, virtually no country has gone untouched by covid-19 or the coronavirus that causes it. Only island states, such as Saint Lucia and the Seychelles, and secretive states, including Eritrea, have recorded zero deaths. Without adjusting for population size, the worst-hit country by far is the US with more than 194,000 deaths, followed by Brazil, India, Mexico and the UK. At first, the uptick in deaths from covid-19 was gradual. It took two months for the death toll to surpass the 774 killed in the 2003 SARS epidemic, which was caused by another coronavirus. Then things accelerated (see graph). The disease took three-and-a-half months to kill 200,000 people. The next 200,000 deaths occurred in just under two months, and the following 200,000 took a similar amount of time. By late August, it had taken only around one month for another 200,000 people to die. “The fastest growth has been over that period at the end of July and most of August. Now we’re seeing a slight slowing in that death rate,” says Hannah Ritchie at Our World in Data, which has been tracking data on the pandemic since the outbreak started. Every day for the past few weeks, 5000 to 6000 people have died globally from an illness that nobody had heard of a year ago. Those figures have been stable for the past month, but there is no guarantee that will continue.
9-16-20 We must not become immune to the pandemic's heavy death toll
MOST people still don’t have any level of immunity to the virus behind covid-19. But there is a growing risk that some of us are becoming immune to the enormous numbers that this pandemic is throwing out on a weekly basis. As New Scientist went to press, the world was on track to exceed a million deaths from covid-19 within days (see “Coronavirus death toll nears 1 million – how did we get here?”). That is a number that we shouldn’t allow ourselves to become blasé about. Early in the pandemic, US President Donald Trump suggested covid-19 wasn’t as bad as the flu. He was wrong. In a bad year, the flu kills up to 650,000 people globally. Covid-19 has killed far more, with three months of the year still to go – and won’t stop when Auld Lang Syne is sung, or even when the first effective vaccine is manufactured. And covid-19 has killed those people not under normal circumstances, but in the face of a global lockdown the like of which we couldn’t even imagine a year ago. Overwhelmingly, those who have died were aged 65 and over, but on average, they would have had more than a decade of life left had it not been for covid-19. The disease’s long tail, meanwhile, means the impact on younger people has still to be fully understood. Most concerning is the fact that 1 million is an underestimate: it only counts those covid-19 deaths that we have detected. Many people will have died from the illness untested and so may not be included in official death tolls. The best approach will be to look at data on excess deaths – those above the long-term average for any given period – although in the world’s poorest places, a lack of baseline records means we may never fully know the true toll. When people grumble about the UK’s new “rule of six” or rail against countries such as Israel adopting a second national lockdown during religious holidays, we should take a minute to remember that at least a million people – a million individuals – have died from this disease. We owe it to them to stay immune to indifference.
9-16-20 The covid-19 pandemic was predicted – here's how to stop the next one
Covid-19 isn't the first pandemic humanity has faced and it won't be the last. What has happened offers lessons about how to judge and respond to virus warnings in future. IN JULY, George Gao, head of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, published an alarming paper. He and his colleagues had discovered that a new kind of swine flu was sweeping to dominance in China’s pigs and spreading to people. “[It] has all the hallmarks of a candidate pandemic virus,” they said. That same month, European virologists also warned of a similarly worrying swine flu in European pigs. We know flu pandemics happen regularly. What if one struck while we are still reeling from covid-19? Can we stop that happening? Not if the past is any judge. In 2004, US virologists warned about another strain of swine flu; five years later it went pandemic. The warning had been so widely ignored that the pandemic came as a surprise even to many virologists. And swine flu is just the start. In recent years, virologists have warned about potential pandemics from bird flu to coronaviruses like those behind SARS and MERS – warnings that came true with covid-19. In south Asia, the super-deadly Nipah virus is starting to spread between people in respiratory droplets. Few have even heard of it. There are many potentially pandemic viruses out there, and some are far worse than the one we are currently fighting. Disease experts have been issuing warnings for years, but covid-19 showed how unprepared the world was for an outbreak. One lab in Wuhan even warned of the very viruses that spawned covid-19. No one did anything. If this pandemic is to finally change that, lessons must be learned from how we missed the warning signs this time around. Let’s wind back first to 2003, when humanity was on the verge of another pandemic. The coronavirus that causes SARS had arisen in China the previous year and spread to 26 other countries before a global effort, led by the World Health Organization (WHO), ended the outbreak. Initially, the virus was thought to have come from civets, but that proved incorrect. Zheng-Li Shi at the Wuhan Institute of Virology and her colleagues decided to look in bats, which were known to carry many viruses including human pathogens. In 2005, Shi and Kwok-Yung Yuen at the University of Hong Kong independently discovered hundreds of coronaviruses similar to the one behind SARS in common horseshoe bats in both Hong Kong and in Hubei province, where Wuhan is located and covid-19 later emerged. They also noted “the increasing presence of bats and bat products in food and traditional medicine markets” in China, and called for efforts to “prevent future outbreaks”. Shi’s team later began working with EcoHealth Alliance, a US-based research non-profit organisation, to study a large horseshoe bat colony in the Chinese province of Yunnan. In 2013, the researchers reported that some of the coronaviruses they had found in the bats could infect human cells via a protein called ACE2 on the cells’ surface – the same infection method used by the virus behind SARS. They called for “pandemic preparedness”. And in 2017, when they reported finding viruses that were genetically identical to the SARS coronavirus, they proposed monitoring the viruses there, and at other sites, to avoid future disease emergence.
9-16-20 Coronavirus: Trump denies downplaying severity of virus
US President Donald Trump has denied downplaying the seriousness of Covid-19, despite admitting in a recorded interview to having done that. At a televised event with voters, Mr Trump said he had "up-played" it. The claim contradicts comments Mr Trump made to journalist Bob Woodward earlier this year, when he said he minimised the virus's severity to avoid panic. Mr Trump also repeated on Tuesday that a vaccine could be ready "within weeks" despite scepticism from health experts. No vaccine has yet completed clinical trials, leading some scientists to fear politics rather than health and safety is driving the push for a vaccine before the 3 November presidential elections. More than 195,000 people have died with Covid-19 in the US since the beginning of the pandemic, according to data collated by Johns Hopkins university. Meanwhile, the magazine Scientific American on Tuesday endorsed a presidential candidate for the first time in its 175-year history, backing Democrat Joe Biden for the White House. The magazine said Mr Trump "rejects evidence and science" and described his response to the coronavirus pandemic as "dishonest and inept". At Tuesday's town hall meeting held by ABC News in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Mr Trump was asked why he would "downplay a pandemic that is known to disproportionately harm low-income families and minority communities". Mr Trump responded: "Yeah, well, I didn't downplay it. I actually, in many ways, I up-played it, in terms of action." "My action was very strong," he said, citing a ban imposed on people travelling from China and Europe earlier this year. "We would have lost thousands of more people had I not put the ban on. We saved a lot of lives when we did that," Mr Trump said. The US ban on foreign travellers who were recently in China came into force in early February, while a ban on travellers from European countries was introduced the following month. But Mr Trump has been accused of being slow implementing measures to curtail the virus.
9-16-20 The pandemic techno-future that wasn't
What we know six months into life with COVID-19. Exactly six months ago today, while Americans were still conflating Corona beer with coronavirus, I found myself suddenly, guiltily, free. It was March 15, and my governor, New York's Andrew Cuomo, had just asked all businesses in the state to voluntarily close to stop the spread of COVID-19; five days later, the order would be mandatory for non-essential businesses, and additionally ban gatherings of any size for any reason. As a citizen, I was terrified; as an introvert, though, I confess I was giddy about the excuse-free cancelation of all foreseeable plans and obligations. For some, though, the past half year has accelerated the nightmare that science-fiction has been warning about for decades: the future in which we work virtually, go to school virtually, have virtual movie nights and happy hours and concerts and gym sessions and church services, even date virtually. The pandemic represents, in other words, an abrupt eviction from real life to the long-dreaded techno-future of living online. But as it turns out, it doesn't matter if you're a techno-optimist or a techno-pessimist: If anything has become clear these past six months, it's that despite all our hopes and fears, technology will never ultimately replace the experience of actually being with and around other people. Following the initial quarantine stampede online, we glimpsed how technology might not just replicate parts of normal life, but replace them going forward. "Last weekend, in between trips to the grocery store, I checked up on some friends using Twitter DMs, traded home-cooking recipes on Instagram, and used WhatsApp to join a blockwide support group with my neighbors," Kevin Roose wrote on March 17 for The New York Times. "I even put on my Oculus virtual reality headset, and spent a few hours playing poker in a VR casino with friendly strangers … My inboxes are full of invitations to digital events — Zoom art classes, Skype book clubs, Periscope jam sessions." And technically, Roose didn't even need to be making trips to the grocery store: you can do all that virtually too (alas, sustaining our mortal vessels, for the time being, still requires physical sustenance). Even as sports started to return, the presence of real fans ultimately was not a dealbreaker; sometimes, even the presence of real athletes wasn't, either. In many ways, this is a success story: technology is doing what it's supposed to do. A real-world failing — our species' susceptibility to a small collection of spiky protein-encased RNA that we've prosaically named "SARS-CoV-2" — has been met with programs, services, and apps that help us carry on basically as normal (the copious amounts of loungewear, admittedly, are new). Imagine how much more isolating it would have been in quarantine if there hadn't been options for staying in touch and entertaining ourselves; sure, Shakespeare wrote King Lear in quarantine, but he didn't have the distractions of Tiger King, "Yoga with Adriene," and Animal Crossing to keep him sane. In fact, in certain respects, technology has been so good at stepping up to the plate during the pandemic that it's even replicating some of the pitfalls of IRL interactions — take it from this introvert, turns out you can get fatigued socializing on Zoom, too. But as the months have worn on, the limitations of technology have revealed themselves. Video-conferencing was good for the occasional family night, party, or even wedding, but it fails miserably when it came to having parallel conversations, the sort of which organically splinter off when groups get bigger than four or five people. (You can, I suppose, chat in a private room off to the side during a video conference, but the rest of us are politely pretending not to notice). Certain microgestures also fail on screen; expressions and nods get lost as they're translated through the pixely abyss between computers. And that Zoom fatigue? "We've evolved to get meaning out of a flick of the eye," Jeremy Bailenson, the professor and director of Stanford University's Virtual Human Interaction Lab, told The Wall Street Journal. "Our species has survived because we can produce those signals in a way that's meaningful. Zoom smothers you with cues, and they aren't synchronous. It takes a physiological toll."
9-16-20 India's coronavirus infections top five million mark
The number of confirmed coronavirus infections in India has surpassed five million, officials say, the second-highest in the world after the US. The virus appears to be spreading much faster in India than any other country, with daily cases crossing 90,000 for the five days up until Tuesday. More than 80,000 people have died, amid reports of shortages of intensive care beds and oxygen supplies. But the death rate is lower than in many countries with a high caseload. The rise in infections comes as the government continues to lift restrictions throughout the country to try to boost an economy that lost millions of jobs when the virus hit in March. Gyms are the latest to reopen, while schools, colleges and cinema halls remain shut. But most workplaces and markets are back to normal, and many cities are permitting restaurants and bars to resume serving alcohol, which is likely to increase crowds. In the initial stages of Covid-19, India appeared to be doing fairly well, imposing a strict lockdown, but the virus then hit megacities like Mumbai and the capital, Delhi, before surging in smaller cities and rural areas. Despite the increase, the government has eased restrictions to recover from the effects of an early lockdown - between March and June - that hit the economy hard. As India opens up and people return to work, Covid-19 cases have been surging. Some 600,000 cases were added just last week. India's caseload now stands at 5,020,359 after it added 90,123 cases in the last 24 hours. Although the virus has spread to every corner of the country, including the remote tribe in India's Andaman islands, the bulk of the caseload is coming from five states. Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Maharashtra and India's most populous state Uttar Pradesh also account for more than 60% of the active cases. But the rise in case numbers is partly also a reflection of increased testing - India has been conducting more than a million tests a day.
9-16-20 America's broken promise to Black people
There's a familiar promise embedded in my head: You can become anything. Parents, teachers, pastors, graduation speakers, and even melodically-gifted Sesame Street muppet characters repeated that promise to me when I was a child. But as a Black kid growing up in Oklahoma, I'd also hear another refrain, one that rebuffed "proper English": We can't have nothing. I knew I'd spend my life balancing the promise of endless possibility for personal achievement with the reality that Black folk in America can't seem to have anything — or at least, we can't have anything permanently. My parents and grandparents came to America in the 1960s and '70s from Jamaica. By almost every measure, my parents have achieved the American Dream. My dad and mom, though they did not receive their college degrees until well into their 40s, have established themselves in their careers. My dad climbed rung after slippery rung to high levels of management in a company he has spent his life helping. And my mom is a nurse with nearly 30 years of experience. They forged their own paths in this country, moving far from the excitement of New York for the enduringly flat and predictable state of Oklahoma. They bought a home in which to raise their three kids. They did everything in their power to ensure their own children had access to opportunity. And in many ways, it worked. All of us went to college. I went to grad school — twice — and picked up three degrees from institutions that made me look around wondering how I got there and if I was good enough to stay because so few of my fellow students looked like me. One sibling, who finished college two years ago, is working actively in criminal justice reform and is considering law school. He actually has the time to take a break from college, which he attended on a full-ride scholarship, to work on changing the world, or at least a piece of it, before going to what will likely be a highly-ranked law school. My other sibling is still in school but studying for the GRE to prepare for a Ph.D., or perhaps a Master's degree, or perhaps time doing work elsewhere. But she has that thing that my grandparents immigrated here to achieve: optionality. My siblings each have a choice in their own destinies — or at least I hope they do. Jacob Blake likely thought that all the struggle and mire his ancestors and their counterparts endured gave him that same privilege. His grandparents, like my own, had survived far too much racism for their children to become anything but exactly what they desired. According to Blake's dad, "My father was there for the first march in Washington. He went through Selma to Montgomery. He went across the Edmund Pettus. He marched for open housing in Evanston, Illinois." Yet Blake was nearly killed by police for making the relatively benign decision to leave his car and break up a fight. You can become anything. But we can't have nothing. I used to think that in my home, I'd be safe, so long as I didn't leave the house looking like the "threat" some white people fear I could be fine. But then Breonna Taylor did that. She chose to be in her house, yet she was the target of a deadly ambush by police officers. The list goes on. And the longer that list grows, the more I'm convinced that, underpinning the resistance to our objection to being murdered is the not-so-subtle notion that we, Black folks, clamoring to leave the margins, are asking for too much. Some feel we have been given enough; how could we want more? They'll use stories of my family — Black folks "succeeding" — as a sign that we have enough and, more dangerously, that my family's trajectory is the pathway by which all Black people should be expected to "succeed."
9-16-20 Germany far right: Police suspended for sharing neo-Nazi images
Twenty-nine German police officers have been suspended for sharing pictures of Adolf Hitler and depictions of refugees in gas chambers on their phones. The officers also used far-right chatrooms where swastikas and other Nazi symbols were shared, officials in North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW) said. NRW Interior Minister Herbert Reul said it was a "disgrace for NRW police". It follows several other incidences of far-right extremism among the German security services. More than 200 police officers were involved in raids on 34 police stations and private homes linked to 11 main suspects. The officers are said to have shared more than 100 neo-Nazi images in WhatsApp groups. Some of the suspects face charges of spreading Nazi propaganda and hate speech. Others are accused of not reporting their colleagues' actions. "This is the worst and most repulsive kind of hate-baiting," Mr Reul said, adding that he expected the investigation to find more chats with offensive content. "I'm appalled and ashamed," said Frank Richter, the police chief in the city of Essen where most of the suspects were based. "It is hard to find words." Mr Reul has now launched an investigation into the extent of extremism among the state's police. "Right-wing extremists and neo-Nazis have absolutely no place in the North Rhine-Westphalia police, our police," he said, and the authorities had to show a "crystal clear political profile" that rejected the far right. Germany's police and security services have faced accusations that they are not doing enough to root out extremists within their ranks. In July prosecutors said they had arrested a former police officer and his wife who are suspected of sending threats to well-known figures of immigrant background, including several ethnically Turkish lawmakers.
9-15-20 Covid-19 news: Testing shortages reported in England’s virus hotspots
The latest coronavirus news updated every day including coronavirus cases, the latest news, features and interviews from New Scientist and essential information about the covid-19 pandemic. Widespread reports of people struggling to get coronavirus tests in England. England’s coronavirus testing system is significantly overwhelmed, with many people in the nation’s 10 worst-hit coronavirus hotspots unable to get tests. People trying to book swab tests on Monday in Bolton, Salford, Bradford, Blackburn, Oldham, Preston, Pendle, Rochdale, Tameside and Manchester were told that it was not possible, according to LBC. Bolton currently has 171 coronavirus cases per 100,000 people, the highest rate in England. “It seems that there are several bottlenecks in the testing procedures. These are not being made publicly available so we can only speculate that these may be limited materials for the testing process, capacity and procedural issues,” said Brendan Wren at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine in a statement. “This needs to be addressed urgently, and if it is [a lab] capacity [problem] then university labs should be more widely deployed,” said Wren. A report by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation warns that the coronavirus pandemic has pushed back progress on improving health around the world by “about 25 years.” The pandemic has increased poverty by 7 per cent and led to a drop in routine vaccination coverage from 84 per cent last year down to 70 per cent, according to the report. “It’s a huge setback,” Bill Gates said at a media briefing on the report’s findings today. The report also highlighted the disproportionate impact of the pandemic on women, racial and ethnic minority communities and people living in extreme poverty. Schools in England have seen a higher absence rate among pupils this term compared to last year, according to the nation’s Department for Education. Official figures suggest 88 per cent of pupils attended school last Thursday, below the figure for the same term last year of about 95 per cent. Since schools reopened earlier this month, school leaders have warned that delays in testing are leading to year groups being sent home, the BBC reported.
9-15-20 Trump has never stopped making the pandemic worse
He'll continue doing so as long as he is president. I think it's fair to surmise most Americans are sick and tired of this pandemic. Nearly 200,000 people are confirmed to have died of COVID-19, and about a thousand more die every day — a tide of carnage not seen in this country in decades. More prosaically, wouldn't it be nice to not bother with masks every time you're at the grocery store? Or go to a restaurant, or a bar, or a concert, or meet up with friends and family, without fearing for your life or the lives of others? If we want a return to something like normality as soon as possible, the most important thing is whether Donald Trump remains in the presidency. From well before the pandemic struck up to the present day, he has undermined or sabotaged the pandemic-fighting capacity of the government and the states, and he is still to this day carrying out actions that spread the virus. Even a vaccine may not save us if he is still president next year. The most jaw-dropping thing Trump has done recently is hold another indoor, in-person rally in Nevada — over the furious objections of state officials. (Federalism and subsidiarity are just one of many things that conservatives pretend to believe in if and only if it benefits them personally.) This comes after his indoor rally in Tulsa months ago likely caused hundreds of new infections, and even might have killed Herman Cain. But not to worry, says Trump, he personally is far away from the baying masses, so probably won't be infected. "I'm on a stage and it’s very far away," he told the Las Vegas Review-Journal. "And so I’m not at all concerned." That evinces not only a sociopathic disregard for the welfare of his own supporters, but also unfamiliarity with the latest evidence, which suggests the virus may be fully airborne and thus able to travel substantial distances indoors. But that is just the start. As I have previously detailed, Trump has been sandbagging America's pandemic response for years. Back in 2018 he deleted the entire pandemic control bureaucracy set up under President Obama. His one act that could have helped — restricting travel from China — was too late, had way too many exceptions, and, because it was mainly about racist scapegoating instead of pandemic control, ignored the danger from other countries. Sure enough, the gigantic outbreak in the New York region was seeded from Europe. For the last six months, Trump has refused even to try to set up a national test-trace-isolate program which, if properly implemented, would allow the return of something like normal life. A few states are trying to do so with varying success, but without both federal money and coordination, their capacity is necessarily limited. On Monday Trump was gleefully celebrating a comically extreme right-wing judicial ruling that found most of Pennsylvania's pandemic control measures unconstitutional.
9-15-20 Coronavirus: Bill Gates says rich countries must help make vaccine accessible to all
Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates has said Covid-19 has "set back" public health efforts, reducing food distribution and inflating prices. Speaking to BBC World, he said richer countries including the US had not yet done enough to make sure that vaccines will be available for all when ready for distribution. But he also highlighted the "good news" that research and trials had been well funded. When asked about vaccine conspiracy theories that had been circulating, he said he was "worried and surprised" by them.
9-15-20 ICE whistleblower: Nurse alleges 'hysterectomies on immigrant women in US'
Rights groups have filed a complaint against a migrant detention centre in the US, alleging medical neglect and a lack of Covid-19 safety measures. The complaint condemns the practices and conditions at the private Irwin County Detention Center in Georgia. It is based on the allegations of a whistleblower, a nurse identified as Dawn Wooten. She worked at the centre, which houses immigrants detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). As part of her complaint, filed on Monday, Ms Wooten expressed concerns about the high number of hysterectomies performed on Spanish-speaking women at the centre. The nurse said detained women told her they did not fully understand why they had to get a hysterectomy - an operation involving the removal of all or part of the uterus. The complaint also alleges "jarring medical neglect" during the coronavirus pandemic, including a refusal to test detainees with symptoms and fabricating medical records. Project South, the Georgia Detention Watch, the Georgia Latino Alliance for Human Rights and South Georgia Immigrant Support Network filed the complaint on behalf of detained immigrants and Ms Wooten. The complaint has been filed with the watchdog that oversees the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), which is responsible for ICE. In statements released on Monday, ICE said it was taking the allegations seriously and was "firmly committed to the safety and welfare of all those in its custody". The agency told the Associated Press that "anonymous, unproven allegations, made without any fact-checkable specifics, should be treated with the appropriate scepticism they deserve". In response to allegations about Covid-19 safety, ICE told the AJC news website: "ICE epidemiologists have been tracking the outbreak, regularly updating infection prevention and control protocols, and issuing guidance to ICE Health Service Corps (IHSC) staff for the screening and management of potential exposure among detainees."
9-15-20 Coronavirus: India faces oxygen scarcity as cases surge
Ankit Sethia spent a sleepless Friday night trying to procure oxygen for his 50-bed hospital on the outskirts of India's commercial capital, Mumbai. Only two of the four tanks of liquid oxygen at Mr Sethia's SS Hospital and Research Centre in Bhiwandi were full. Forty-four of the hospital's 50 beds were occupied by Covid-19 patients, many of whom needed piped oxygen from the tanks to breathe. Each small tank was getting exhausted in six hours instead of the usual nine hours, because of the surge of patients. Both Mr Sethia's dealers had run out of supplies. Through the night, he called 10 dealers and four hospitals in and around Mumbai to ask for oxygen. None could help. Around 2am, he finally managed to get 20 large cylinders from another hospital, some 18 miles (30km) away. There were no vehicles available, so his ambulances did five trips through the night to get the cylinders. Four people now work round the clock at the hospital to procure supplies from any maker who can send a truck of liquid oxygen for the tanks or any dealer who can spare a cylinder. "Now I have enough oxygen for the next 12 hours," Mr Sethia said on Sunday evening. "We are firefighting every day. The battle is to get some oxygen anyhow." Some 15% of Covid-19 patients require help with breathing, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Some people appear in no evident respiratory distress, but are found to have dangerously low oxygen levels - a condition called silent hypoxia. A fraction of the critically ill patients require a ventilator. Around 500 factories spread across India extract and purify oxygen from the air. Oxygen for medical use typically accounts for 15% of overall supplies. The rest - industrial oxygen - is mainly supplied to steel and automobile industries for running blast furnaces.
9-15-20 Life is worth living
What's driving America's rising suicide rate? From 1952 until 1957, one of the most widely viewed programs on American television was Bishop Fulton Sheen's Life is Worth Living. It is difficult to imagine anything like this inspirational one-man lecture show becoming a hit now. But the seemingly unremarkable proposition offered by its title is one that I wish more of us were willing to affirm. Between 2007 and 2018, the suicide rate among young people aged between 10 and 24 increased by some 57 percent. This is nearly double the already significant increase of around 28 percent among the American population as a whole during roughly the same period. Why are young people in this country taking their own lives with such horrifying frequency? Any number of facile explanations have been advanced. The most common one is that there is insufficient public investment in mental health services. I find this unpersuasive, not least because the number of young people committing suicide was much lower 50 years ago, when virtually no one received (or even offered) such treatment. It is the usual liberal answer that more money and more credentialism can solve any problem, the same one offered (even more dubiously) to explain why American children are worse at reading than they were half a century ago, when we spent vastly less on education and teachers had studied their subjects instead of pseudo-scientific pedagogy and there were no iPads in our classrooms. Others will mention the economy, that catch-all replacement for what we used to think of as "society." While it is true that the uptick during the last decade began with the crash of 2007-08, it continued apace during the long recovery of Barack Obama's second and Donald Trump's first presidential terms. If the recession were the sole or even among the main culprits, one would expect to have seen a leveling off many years ago. The last and almost certainly the most absurd explanation you are likely to encounter for the increase in suicide among the young is private firearm ownership. While it is true that self-inflicted gunshots are the method used in a narrow majority — just over 50 percent — of suicides, the staggering rates of gun ownership belie any meaningful causal relationship. Besides, among the group in which the suicide rate is increasing most precipitously — white teenaged girls — firearms account for vastly fewer deaths than, for example, suffocation. We live in a country full of guns. Blaming them for an increase in suicides makes about as much sense as blaming pillows. At bottom, it seems to me that there is no single identifiable explanation for this distressing phenomenon. The horror of self-slaughter is one of those great human constants, like normative monogamy or artistic creation, that has prevailed across all decent civilizations throughout the history of our species. There is a very real sense in which I think a person's decision to take his or her own life can never be explained. There is, however, one thing to which I would point if asked to give my best guess about why we are seeing more suicides among younger people: widespread use of social media. Even now I think it is still almost impossible for those of us who came of age before the use of these platforms — and the ownership of mobile phones — became ubiquitous to imagine what it is like to have all the ordinary problems of adolescence magnified by the screen. This is especially true for girls, one quarter of whom now say that they have cut or otherwise injured themselves deliberately. Imagine spending nine hours a day having your physical appearance and your every utterance concerning your tastes, opinions, and feelings evaluated quantitatively by means of likes, faves, and so on. It is hard enough on adults.
9-14-20 Covid-19 news: WHO says Europe can expect to see a rise in deaths
The latest coronavirus news updated every day including coronavirus cases, the latest news, features and interviews from New Scientist and essential information about the covid-19 pandemic. New global record for daily new coronavirus cases as WHO warns of rise in deaths in Europe. A record single day increase in global coronavirus cases was recorded on Sunday with 307,930 new confirmed cases . The largest increases were in India, the US and Brazil, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). The WHO also warned that Europe can expect to see more deaths from covid-19 as soon as next month. “It’s going to get tougher. In October, November, we are going to see more mortality,” said Hans Kluge, WHO regional director for Europe, in an interview with the AFP news agency today. Cases in Europe have increased sharply over the last few weeks, with case rates highest in Spain and France. There are 270.7 cases per 100,000 people in Spain and 153.9 per 100,000 people in France, according to the latest 14-day cumulative figures from the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control. In the UK there are 51.1 cases per 100,000 people. Laboratory-made antibodies will be given to about 2000 covid-19 patients in UK hospitals as part of the UK’s RECOVERY trial, a large-scale clinical trial to test existing drugs as therapies for covid-19. In June, data from the RECOVERY trial provided the first evidence that a steroid drug called dexamethasone could save lives for those with severe covid-19. In the new trial of antibodies made specifically to combat the coronavirus, the first patients will be given the experimental treatment in the coming weeks. “There are lots of good reasons for thinking it might well be effective – stopping the virus from reproducing, stopping the virus from causing damage, improving survival for patients,” Martin Landray at the University of Oxford, who is co-leading the RECOVERY trial, told the BBC. “Monoclonal, or targeted, antibodies are already used to treat cancer and autoimmune diseases,” said Fiona Watt, executive chair of the Medical Research Council in the UK, in a statement. “The new trial will tell us whether antibodies that attack the virus can be an effective treatment for covid-19.” Israel has become the first country to announce a second nationwide lockdown to begin Friday and last three weeks. It is an effort to contain a second-wave surge of new cases, Israel’s prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced on Sunday. People will be required to stay within 500 metres of their homes, with the exception of travelling to workplaces. Schools will also be closed. US president Donald Trump held the first indoor presidential campaign rally in months in Nevada on Sunday, despite local officials saying it violated the state’s rule limiting gatherings to 50 people. In a statement before the rally, Nevada’s governor Steve Sisolak criticised Trump’s decision saying “Now he’s decided he doesn’t have to respect our state’s laws. As usual, he doesn’t believe the rules apply to him.”
9-14-20 The climate refugees are here. They're Americans.
Wildfires are forcing people from their homes in droves. Where will they go now? California, Oregon, and Washington are on fire. At least 33 people have died in recent days, and more than 5 million acres have been scorched as out-of-control blazes rage across the American West. The 2020 wildfire season in California is already the most destructive in the state's history — exceeding the record set in 2018, which in turn beat the record set in 2017. Experts agree that rising temperatures from climate change have turned much of the region into dry kindling, ready to spark in an instant. "This is a climate damn emergency," California Gov. Gavin Newsom said last week. Disasters like these displace people. Tens of thousands of fire survivors have been forced to flee their homes, and more than 500,000 — half a million — Oregonians have been warned they might soon be ordered to leave. In the meantime, many evacuees are sheltering "in an assortment of RVs, cars, and tents." Many do not know if their homes will still be standing when they try to return, or where they will go if those houses are indeed destroyed. The fires will eventually end, but for many residents of the region, the disaster is just beginning. The climate refugee crisis has come to America. We're not used to thinking of that crisis as an internal American problem. Publicly, at least, officials and experts have often focused on how poorer countries will deal with the migration of people fleeing drought, floods, devastating storms, and other disasters — both fast- and slow-moving — caused by rising temperatures across the globe. In 2018, a World Bank report estimated that Latin America, sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia would spawn more than 143 million "climate migrants" by 2050. "The developed world is still largely sheltered from climate change effects," one expert wrote in 2016. "But the world's poor feel the impacts directly." America's Pacific Northwest surely counts as part of the "developed world." So does Miami, which earlier this year was identified as "the most vulnerable major coastal city in the world" thanks to rising seas brought on by the changing climate. Same goes for Iowa, where climate-aided flooding devastated much of the state last year. In fact, climate migration was already well underway in the United States before the latest round of fires. The Urban Institute estimates more than 1.2 million Americans left their homes in 2018 for climate-related reasons — some were escaping long-term problems, but others were fleeing short-term disasters that became permanent displacements. Sea level rise could force millions more coastal residents to move in coming years. People won't keep living in places where it is impossible to live. Sooner or later they will choose — or be forced — to leave their homes and find somewhere safer. The response from the Trump administration to international refugees has been to hang a "keep out" sign at the nation's borders, all but snuffing out the torch on the Statue of Liberty. But it's impossible to do that to fellow citizens. That doesn't mean climate migration won't create domestic tensions. A U.N. human rights expert last year warned of a coming era of "climate apartheid," where "the wealthy pay to escape overheating, hunger, and conflict while the rest of the world is left to suffer."
9-14-20 Record daily rise in Covid infections, WHO reports
A record one-day rise in the number of new coronavirus cases around the world has been recorded. The World Health Organization (WHO) says 307,930 confirmed infections were reported over 24 hours The leader of the UK's Labour party Sir Keir Starmer is self-isolating after a member of his household showed signs of infection. Israel has become the first country to announce it will reimpose a second nationwide lockdown later this week. Restrictions banning social gatherings of more than six people have come into effect in England and Scotland. New Zealand's PM Jacinda Ardern says restrictions will be lifted across the country on 21 September - except for Auckland. Thousands of health workers took part in a protest in Brussels, urging the government to invest in the healthcare system. President Trump held his first fully indoor rally in months in Nevada, despite officials warning that it violated Covid restrictions.
9-14-20 Coronavirus: Beijing's back and forth lockdown
An increase in the number of cases of Covid-19 has led to fresh restrictions in some parts of the UK. But how do other countries cope? Much of China has returned to a more normal pace of life after authorities began relaxing coronavirus lockdowns in late spring. But as many cities have found out, loosened containment measures can be short-lived. In June, Beijing experienced a sudden surge of cases linked to a wholesale market, leading authorities to immediately quarantine close contacts, lockdown nearby areas, and mass test residents. The upside is that with surprise outbreaks like this cropping up across the country, officials have fine-tuned their emergency response. But the downside is that until there’s a vaccine widely administered, there will be a continued risk of repeat lockdowns. The BBC’s China Correspondent Stephen McDonell explores the new ‘normal’ in Beijing, which has gone in and out of lockdown. (Webmaster's comment: Say what you will, but United States with only 1/4th of the population of China has 78 times the number of cases in China!)
9-14-20 Roderick Walker: Georgia deputy filmed punching black man is fired
Police in the US state of Georgia say a sheriff's deputy has been fired after video emerged showing him pinning a black man to the floor and punching him in the face. Roderick Walker, 26, was a passenger in a car that was pulled over by deputies for an alleged broken rear light. After an altercation, police tried to arrest him. Video shared on social media showed Mr Walker being held down by two white deputies, one of whom punches him. In a statement, Clayton County Sheriff's Office said "the deputy who repeatedly struck Roderick Walker" was to lose his job "for excessive use of force". A criminal investigation has been turned over to the district attorney's office, the statement added. The incident, which happened on Friday near the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, comes amid heightened tensions in the US over racism and police brutality. Mr Walker's lawyer, Shean Williams, said his client had been a passenger in the lift-share car with his girlfriend, their five-month-old child and his stepson when police pulled them over. Mr Walker became upset when he was asked for his identification as he hadn't been driving the car, Mr Williams said in a statement quoted by ABC News. "He informed them that he did not have any ID and that he didn't need any since he was not driving a vehicle," he said. "When they didn't like his question, they then demanded that he get out of a vehicle that he wasn't driving. It escalates to him being beaten on the ground, being tased, and almost dying. And they take him to jail." In footage of the arrest, a child in the car yells "Daddy" and Mr Walker's girlfriend screams. One of the deputies says Mr Walker bit him. Mr Williams said that his client lost consciousness at least twice during the arrest and denied biting the deputy. A photograph of Mr Walker taken later in custody shows him with a swollen left eye. (Webmaster's comment: Some police are obviously targeting blacks for no lawful reason!)
9-13-20 Coronavirus: Cases in France leap past 10,000 a day
France has reported a record daily increase in coronavirus cases as the country struggles to contain a fresh surge in infections. On Saturday health authorities said there were 10,561 new cases, rising by more than 1,000 from Friday's figures. The numbers of people admitted to hospital and intensive care are also increasing. A group of doctors have urged people to avoid private gatherings amid the fresh outbreak. "After the joy of reuniting this summer, it's time to be careful in the private world," the doctors said in a column. "The smaller a room, the more people it contains, the less airy it is, the more you increase the risks." Infection rates have risen for all age groups since June, but officials say the increase is particularly significant among young adults. France is one of several European countries to see a surge in new cases. As authorities across the continent eased stringent lockdowns imposed in March to tackle the outbreak, new cases began to creep up in June and jumped significantly in the last month. Saturday's figures reported 2,432 people sent to hospital, 75 more than on Friday. Of these, 417 were sent to intensive care, an increase of 28. An additional 17 people died of the virus. France has recorded more than 30,000 deaths since the pandemic began, the seventh highest total worldwide. Officials have now designated 42 regions as "red zones", where virus circulation is active and where stricter mask requirements and gathering restrictions are in force. This includes Paris, Lyon, and almost the entire Mediterranean coastline. Prime Minister Jean Castex - who recently tested negative after possible exposure to the virus - has asked local authorities in Bordeaux, Marseille and the island of Guadeloupe to suggest "a set of new additional measures" on Monday to contain the spread. Tour de France organisers meanwhile have banned spectators from starts and finishes of stages passing through the red zones.
9-12-20 With the ongoing risk of coronavirus, what does the average school day now look like?
After months of virtual learning, some schools have now reopened their doors to pupils. But with the ongoing risk of coronavirus, what does the average school day now look like? Students from five different countries tell us what measures their schools are putting in place to keep them safe, and how these new rules are affecting them. This is their new normal school day.
9-12-20 Charlottesville: Confederate soldier statue removed
A statue of a Confederate soldier has been taken down in the US city of Charlottesville, Virginia, the scene of a far-right rally three years ago. Crowds cheered as a crane removed the bronze figure, known as "At Ready", early on Saturday. There has been an increased focus on monuments connected to slavery in the wake of mass anti-racism protests in the US and abroad this year. A number of statues have been removed as a result. Memorials to the Confederacy, a group of southern states that fought in favour of slavery against the Union in the American Civil War of 1861-65, have been among those targeted. But there has been opposition to the removal of such symbols, with President Trump saying earlier this year that he would "not even consider" renaming military bases named after Confederate generals. The bronze statue was taken down from its plinth in front of the Albemarle County courthouse, where it had stood since 1909, early on Saturday. People gathered nearby danced to music as the monument, along with a cannon, were removed. Albemarle County voted to dismantle the statue in August, the first decision to be made under a new law for removing Civil War monuments in Virginia introduced earlier this year. In 2017, Charlottesville became the site of the largest white nationalist rally in decades, following a plan to remove a statue of Confederate General Robert E Lee. Avowed neo-Nazi James Alex Fields Jr was later sentenced to life in prison after driving his car into a crowd of counter-protesters, killing 32-year-old Heather Heyer and injuring dozens of others. In June, Virginia's Governor Ralph Northam announced that another Lee statue would be removed, this time in the state capital of Richmond. The decision came amid mass protests across the country following the death of African-American George Floyd in police custody.
9-12-20 A global initiative could ensure equitable access to a COVID-19 vaccine. Can it work?
COVAX is meant to prevent a repeat of what happened during the 2009 H1N1 pandemic, in which richer countries bought up virtually all available supplies of the vaccine as poorer countries were shoved to the back of the line. In the global race to develop a COVID-19 vaccine, clinical trials have ramped up in the U.S., U.K., China, and beyond. Researchers and pharmaceutical companies face growing political pressure to develop and distribute one soon. But when and if there is an effective vaccine, the supply could be limited. So, who gets it first? That is a critical question playing out on the world stage in a pandemic that knows no borders. Several countries have already secured big manufacturing contracts for the production of select vaccine candidates. Some global health experts worry it's a sign of "vaccine nationalism," in which nations with the most resources or best access to vaccines that end up working buy up the available supply. In response, a group of international organizations has set up a new initiative called COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access Facility, or COVAX, to ensure fair and equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines. The effort is meant to prevent a repeat of what happened during the 2009 H1N1 pandemic, in which richer countries bought up virtually all available supplies of the vaccine as poorer nations were shoved to the back of the line. COVAX is co-led by the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness (CEPI), the World Health Organization (WHO) and Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance. COVAX faces major opportunities — and hurdles — in the coming months. To compete with national interests, the initiative will require billions of dollars and the cooperation of as many countries as possible. So far at least 76 middle and high-income countries have committed to join — but not the U.S. The European Union pledged €400 million euro (about $472 million) and threw its full support behind the effort. The U.S., meanwhile, said it would not participate, creating a gaping hole in the global effort. In an emailed statement, deputy White House press secretary Judd Deere said that the U.S. "will continue to engage our international partners to ensure we defeat this virus," but doesn't want to be "constrained" by multilateral organizations. Though the U.S. has historically been a leader in global health efforts, President Donald Trump's White House has been critical of the WHO and its response to China's handling of the pandemic. The United States' decision worries Lawrence Gostin, a professor of global health law at Georgetown University in Washington, DC, and an adviser to the WHO. "COVAX is the world's one chance to actually rally together for the most important medical commodity in our lifetimes, which is a highly safe and effective COVID[-19] vaccine, and probably many vaccines because we don't know which will work best," Gostin said.
9-12-20 George Floyd murder suspect Derek Chauvin appears in court
The former Minneapolis police officer charged with murdering George Floyd has appeared in court for the first time." Derek Chauvin was filmed pressing his knee on Mr Floyd's neck for almost nine minutes before he died in May. Three other former officers are charged with abetting and aiding murder. Mr Floyd's death sparked mass protests around the world.
9-11-20 US budget deficit soars to $3tn record
The US budget deficit has hit a record high of more than $3tn (£2.3tn), driven by the government's massive spending on coronavirus relief. The federal government spent more than $6tn in the first 11 months of its financial year, including $2tn on coronavirus programmes, the Treasury Department said. The figure outpaces the $3tn it took in from taxes. The shortfall is more than double the previous full-year record, set in 2009. At the time, Washington was grappling with the aftermath of the 2008 housing financial crisis. Even before the pandemic, the US was on track to run a deficit of more than $1tn this year - large by historic standards. But the spending approved to try to cushion the financial impact of the virus has exploded those projections. The Congressional Budget Office this month predicted that the US was likely to run a full-year deficit of $3.3tn, more than triple the shortfall recorded last year. The federal government's financial year ends in September. The agency said it expected total US debt to exceed $26tn. At a hearing in Washington in June, Jerome Powell, the head of the US central bank, told members of Congress that America's spending path was "unsustainable", but said reducing the shortfall should not be a priority given the state of the economy. The economy shrank at an annual rate of more than 30% in the April-June period, its worst quarterly contraction on record. Data suggest job layoffs and business closures are continuing. Roughly 30 million people - about 20% of the American workforce - remain on some form of unemployment benefits, despite reopening underway, the Labour Department said this week. Many conservatives in Washington, however, remain leery of further spending. Republicans this week put forward a $300bn proposal for more aid. The plan failed to advance, with Democrats saying it fell far short of the more than $3tn in relief they support.
9-11-20 Kansas City Chiefs 34-20 Houston Texans: Fans boo 'moment of unity' as Mahomes shines again
Houston Texans' defensive end JJ Watt was left confused by boos from fans during a pre-game 'moment of unity' as protests against racism took place on the opening night of the NFL season. Pockets of the crowd at the Kansas City Chiefs' stadium booed as players linked arms shortly before the game started. Chiefs' Alex Okafor took a knee during the national anthem while Houston's players stayed in the changing room. When play began, quarter-back Patrick Mahomes inspired Kansas to a 34-20 win. Months of protests have taken place across the United States following the death of George Floyd after he was arrested by police in Minneapolis in May. Fewer than a quarter of the stadium's seats were in use because of Covid-19 restrictions in the first NFL fixture since the outbreak of the virus but the audible boos were described as "unfortunate" by Watt. "I don't fully understand that," he said. "There was no flag involved. There was nothing involved other than two teams coming together to show unity." Kansas City mayor Quinton Lucas tweeted: "We're a good city of good people. I heard boos too. But we also have hundreds of thousands more around here who respect the message the players are sharing." The NFL has softened its stance on players protesting against inequality after drawing scrutiny for its opposition to Colin Kaepernick's decision to take a knee while representing the San Francisco 49ers in 2016. This season end zones across the league will bear the words "End Racism" and "It Takes All of Us", while players will be allowed to wear helmet stickers featuring the names of victims of racism. The Chiefs - Super Bowl winners in February - are one of six teams who are allowing fans into their stadium at the start of the new season and star man Mahomes delivered for those present on opening night.
9-11-20 Covid-19 news: England’s R number could be as high as 1.7
The latest coronavirus news updated every day including coronavirus cases, the latest news, features and interviews from New Scientist and essential information about the covid-19 pandemic. New data suggests England’s R number could be as high as 1.7. The UK’s coronavirus epidemic is growing, according to the latest government figures. Simon Clarke at the University of Reading described this as a “massive blow to the government’s strategy to contain the spread of covid-19.” The UK’s R number – the estimated number of people each infected person goes on to infect – is between 1 and 1.2, up from between 0.9 and 1.1 last week. This data is representative of the situation two to three weeks ago, due to a time-lag in the data used to model the R, but is in line with more recent data for England from a separate study by researchers at Imperial College London, which suggests England’s R number could be as high as 1.7. A new coronavirus contact tracing app will go live across England and Wales on 24 September, the government announced today. The new app will allow people to scan QR codes to register visits to bars and restaurants and will use Apple and Google’s method for detecting other smartphones nearby. The UK government was previously forced to abandon development of an earlier app, built on different technology, due to its inability to recognise a significant proportion of Apple and Android devices. Scotland’s app, Protect Scotland, went live yesterday. Birmingham in England is being put under a local lockdown due to a spike in cases. The city now has the second highest rate of coronavirus infection in England, after Bolton. There were 85.4 cases per 100,000 people in Birmingham during the week ending 7 September, up from 32 in the previous week. People in Birmingham will no longer be allowed to meet with other households. India has recorded the highest number of daily new coronavirus cases in a single country since the pandemic began, with 96,551 cases recorded in the country on Thursday.
9-11-20 Breonna Taylor family: 'Hold every officer accountable'
The family of Breonna Taylor has said it is worried about a "cover-up" in the case of her killing in March. The 26-year-old emergency medical technician was fatally shot when officers stormed her apartment in Louisville, Kentucky, on a search warrant for drugs. "There are questions [that] still aren't answered," says her aunt Bianca Austin. "We feel like we're just being lied to." Louisville Police did not respond to an interview request from the BBC.
9-10-20 Woodward book: Trump denies lying about risks of coronavirus
US President Donald Trump has defended his decision to downplay the risks of Covid-19, saying his answers to journalist Bob Woodward were "proper". Woodward, known for his reporting on the Watergate scandal, interviewed Mr Trump 18 times from December to July. Mr Trump said in February he minimised the virus's severity to avoid panic. He tweeted on Thursday that Woodward did not report his quotes for months. "He knew they were good and proper answers. Calm, no panic!" Later he told reporters he never lied, when they suggested he deliberately misled the American public on how dangerous the virus was. In a White House news conference on Thursday afternoon, he said in response to a reporter's question: "I didn't lie, what I said is we have to be calm, we can't be panicked." He added: "I don't want to jump up and down and start screaming, 'death, death', because that's not what it's about." Some 190,000 Americans have been recorded as dying with Covid-19 since the beginning of the pandemic. "Bob Woodward had my quotes for many months. If he thought they were so bad or dangerous, why didn't he immediately report them in an effort to save lives?" Mr Trump said. "Didn't he have an obligation to do so? No, because he knew they were good and proper answers. Calm, no panic!" The president - who is running for re-election in November - on Wednesday told reporters the Woodward book was "a political hit job". Woodward has been criticised for withholding the president's remarks on the pandemic, with some saying it was an unethical decision. The journalist offered a defence in the Washington Post and Associated Press on Wednesday, saying he needed to check whether what Mr Trump told him was accurate. "The biggest problem I had, which is always a problem with Trump, is I didn't know if it was true," Woodward told The Post. He also said that it was important for him to tell the story by the election, telling the Associated Press: "Had I decided that my book was coming out on Christmas, the end of this year, that would have been unthinkable." The book, Rage, will be released on 15 September.
9-10-20 Covid-19 news: Weekly cases in England at highest level since May
The latest coronavirus news updated every day including coronavirus cases, the latest news, features and interviews from New Scientist and essential information about the covid-19 pandemic. Latest figures show significant jump in weekly coronavirus cases in England. The number of people who tested positive for the coronavirus in England was 9864 in the week ending 2 September, up 47 per cent from 6732 in the previous week, according to the latest figures from NHS Test and Trace. It’s the highest number of weekly positive cases recorded since the system was launched in May. During the same week, NHS Test and Trace only managed to reach 69.2 per cent of the contacts of people diagnosed with the virus in England – below the target of 80 per cent or more recommended by government scientific advisors to limit infections from spreading. US president Donald Trump admitted to playing down the threat posed by the coronavirus in March, during an interview with journalist Bob Woodward revealed in his forthcoming book. “I wanted to always play it down,” Trump told Woodward on 19 March. “I still like playing it down, because I don’t want to create a panic.” Trump also acknowledged the virus was “more deadly than even your strenuous flu” as early as February – a time when he was publicly saying the virus was less of a concern than the flu. AstraZeneca chief executive Pascal Soriot today told an online briefing he is hopeful that the company’s coronavirus vaccine candidate could be ready for global distribution in the first half of 2021. Trials of the vaccine, which is being developed in partnership with the University of Oxford, were put on hold yesterday after a participant developed neurological symptoms. An independent safety committee is currently reviewing data on the affected participant, said Soriot.
9-10-20 For Black Americans, 41% of Police Encounters Not Positive
Most Black Americans (59%) who report having had an interaction with a police officer in the past year say the interaction was an "overall positive experience," while 41% say the experience was not a positive one. While a majority, the percentage of Black adults who rate their interactions with police positively is much lower than the national average of 75%.
- 59% rate their interaction with police positively, while 41% do not
- Black adults rate police experience less positively than national average
- White adults most likely to report being treated with respect, fairness
9-10-20 US official claims pressure to downplay intelligence reports
An intelligence analyst at the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has said he was put under pressure to downplay the threat of Russian interference in the 3 November election as it "made the president look bad". In a whistleblower complaint, Brian Murphy said he had been demoted for refusing to alter reports on this and other issues such as white supremacy. The directives were illegal, he said. The White House and DHS have both denied the allegations. US intelligence agencies concluded that Russia had interfered in the 2016 election but President Donald Trump has rejected allegations that his election victory was influenced by Russia, at times questioning findings from his own agencies. An inquiry led by former FBI director of the FBI Robert Mueller found no evidence of a criminal conspiracy between Mr Trump's 2016 presidential campaign team and Moscow. Mr Murphy's complaint was released by the Democrat-led House Intelligence Committee, which has asked Mr Murphy to testify to Congress later in the month. The whistleblower reprisal complaint, filed on Tuesday, sets out a number of allegations against former Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, current Acting Secretary Chad Wolf and his deputy, Ken Cuccinelli. Mr Murphy says that, between March 2018 and August 2020, there was a "repeated pattern of abuse of authority, attempted censorship of intelligence analysis and improper administration of an intelligence program related to Russian efforts to influence and undermine US interests". He says he was instructed by Mr Wolf in mid-May to "cease providing intelligence assessments on the threat of Russian interference... and instead start reporting on interference activities by China and Iran". These instructions came directly from White House National Security Adviser Robert O'Brien, the complaint says. Mr Murphy refused to comply "as doing so would put the country in substantial and specific danger" but, in July, he was told the intelligence report should be "held" because it "made the president look bad". The complaint says Mr Murphy was then removed from future meetings and effectively demoted.
9-10-20 Trump deliberately played down virus, Woodward book says
US President Donald Trump knew Covid-19 was deadlier than the flu before it hit the country but wanted to play down the crisis, according to a new book. Bob Woodward, who broke the Watergate scandal and is one of the nation's most respected journalists, interviewed Mr Trump 18 times from December to July. Mr Trump is quoted as telling him the virus was "deadly stuff" before the first US death was confirmed. Responding, the president said he had wanted to avoid causing public panic. Some 190,000 Americans have been recorded as dying with Covid-19 since the beginning of the pandemic. On Wednesday, some US media released parts of the interviews between the president and the journalist, revealing his reported remarks on the outbreak as well as on race and other issues. Here are some of the key quotes so far from Rage, which will be released on 15 September. Mr Trump indicated that he knew more about the severity of the illness than he had said publicly. According to a tape of the call, Mr Trump told Woodward in February that the coronavirus was deadlier than the flu. "It goes through the air," Mr Trump told the author on 7 February. "That's always tougher than the touch. You don't have to touch things. Right? But the air, you just breathe the air and that's how it's passed. "And so that's a very tricky one. That's a very delicate one. It's also more deadly than even your strenuous flus." Later that month, Mr Trump promised the virus was "very much under control", and that the case count would soon be close to zero. He also publicly implied the flu was more dangerous than Covid-19. Speaking on Capitol Hill on 10 March, Mr Trump said: "Just stay calm. It will go away." Nine days later, after the White House declared the pandemic a national emergency, the president told Woodward: "I wanted to always play it down. I still like playing it down, because I don't want to create a panic."
9-9-20 The way we collect covid-19 data perpetuates racism in healthcare
Covid-19 is affecting ethnic minorities more severely, but we will never understand why if we don't collect the right data, says Alisha Dua. THERE was the home health aide distraught at having potentially transmitted the coronavirus to her patients. The essential worker, just barely into his 40s, on a ventilator for six weeks. The beloved father’s family whose agony was revealed in every phone call recorded in his medical record. These are the stories of some of the people with covid-19 whose medical records I reviewed as a research volunteer in New York City. Combined with thousands of other people’s anonymous data, such collections are critical for informing research, clinical care, government policies and funding allocations to tackle the pandemic. Participating in this process, it became clear that the system of healthcare data collection perpetuates systemic racism in medicine in the US and elsewhere. It is well established that people of colour in the US are more likely to get covid-19 than white people. In the UK, the same is true for people from black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) backgrounds. But the way we are trying to understand these patterns is all wrong. The statistics collected on covid-19 largely focus on biological factors, such as comorbidities: secondary conditions that may affect a disease’s outcome. With covid-19, obesity has been linked to its severity, for example. Many comorbidities, obesity included, are also found at higher rates among people of colour in the West. This has led many to highlight them as the sole explanation for covid-19 health disparities. This is an oversimplistic and harmful conclusion. While we know that ethnic minority groups in the West have had higher infection rates, we will never fully understand why that is the case without looking at aspects of health that aren’t down to biology. So-called social determinants, such as food security, housing and cultural practices, are not only important for explaining why health disparities exist, they are also vital for knowing how to address them.
9-9-20 Trump knew it all along
In mid-March, as the enormity of the COVID-19 pandemic had become undeniable to all but the conspiracy theorists and cranks, President Trump tried to backfill his earlier downplaying of the virus by claiming, with characteristic bravado, "I've felt it was a pandemic long before it was called a pandemic." "I've always viewed it as serious," he said. This occasioned howls of incredulous laughter and the inevitable official media fact check. Associated Press called B.S. on Trump thusly: [H]is claim doesn't match his rhetoric over the last two months before the World Health Organization declared the virus outbreak a pandemic. Trump instead repeatedly claimed COVID-19 was under 'control' in the U.S. and suggested it would incur little economic damage, possibly disappearing magically by April." Politifact's Jon Greenberg rated Trump's claim a "Pants on Fire"-level lie: "Until late February, Trump spoke as though the U.S. problem was limited and well under control. That description is at odds with the nature of a pandemic. We can't know what was in Trump's mind when he aimed to reassure the public, but his words did not fit with the threat of a pandemic." Now, thanks to explosive revelations in Bob Woodward's forthcoming book Rage, we do know what was on Trump's mind." As of February 7, according to a conversation recorded by Woodward, Trump knew COVID-19 was easily transmitted and more lethal than a seasonal flu. "This is deadly stuff," he told Woodward. Worse, Trump admitted to what was obvious to everyone with eyes to see it: "I wanted to always play it down." Which means that Donald Trump was telling the truth — sort of — when he made his mid-March pivot and began leveling with the American public. Of course, Trump being Trump, he wildly overstated the extent of his foreknowledge. He didn't "feel it was a pandemic long before it was called a pandemic," as though the facts had yet to cohere and he alone had spied the truth. He was informed by his national security staff in late January that COVID-19 had the potential to devastate the world like the 1918 flu pandemic and was the "biggest national security threat you face in your presidency." In conversation with Woodward, Trump defended his rhetoric of minimization; he was merely trying to avoid creating a panic. This is no doubt what his apologists will claim, too, as fallout from the Woodward book continues throughout the next several news cycles. This, too, is a lie. Trump was concerned overall with the precipitous drop in the stock market — not street-level panic among average Americans. When it became clear that the market was going to plummet anyway — investors weren't dumb enough to believe Trump and Larry Kudlow on this score — the game was up. If we need proof that Trump wasn't projecting a stiff upper lip to reassure a jittery public, look at what wasn't being done behind the scenes in January and February: No ramp-up of testing or contact tracing capability. No increase in the stockpile of personal protective equipment. No emergency manufacture of ventilators. The Trump administration's private posture over the winter matched its public posture: His head was in the sand. No machines were going brrr behind the scenes. His money, as it were, was where his mouth was: hoping for a miracle. Just so there's no misunderstanding, I'm not saying Trump deserves retroactive credit for telling the truth back in March. He wasn't. What's clear now is that even when he tells an approximation of the truth, Trump still manages to tell a lie.
9-9-20 The staggering consequences of Trump's coronavirus lies
Veteran journalist Bob Woodward released a new book on Wednesday based in part on a series of interviews he conducted with President Trump. The most explosive revelations — which are on tape — are that President Trump knew in early February that the coronavirus was deadlier than the flu and that he was fully aware of the danger it posed to the U.S. "This is deadly stuff," he told Woodward on Feb. 7. In a subsequent interview on March 19, he confirmed that he deliberately misled the public about the gravity of what was to come. "I wanted to always play it down. I still like playing it down, because I don't want to create a panic.". The jaw-dropping recordings made undeniable what had long been obvious — that the president deliberately misled the American people about the severity of the virus, that the administration's public statements in late February and early March were not merely misappraisals but were instead filled with deliberate, destructive lies. Yet the reaction of many observers was to retreat to familiar corners — either hopefully theorizing that Woodward's book might damage Trump's re-election campaign, or confidently relaying a (well justified) cynicism that no matter what we learn about President Trump's disgraceful ineptitude and endless betrayals of the public's trust, it will not shake his core supporters from their commitment to him. This will-it-or-won't-it framing, which always revolves around guessing the political fallout of the latest scandal to emerge from the Trump administration, only serves to obscure what should be most enraging: that the president's public downplaying of a virus that would soon bring ordinary life to a halt for virtually every person in the world led to thousands, probably tens of thousands of unnecessary deaths in the United States. How many people went heedlessly about their ordinary lives in February and early March, blithely unaware of the virus which was already circulating and causing the disease we now call COVID-19? I boarded a flight to Philadelphia on Feb. 22 to see my parents at the tail end of my father's weeks-long ordeal with daily radiation for a recurrence of prostate cancer. Desperate to give them a pick-me-up in their lonely winter of discontent, I could instead have unwittingly killed them both. I could have brought it back home to Chicago with me, endangering the lives of my wife and my son as well as my students, coworkers, and friends. Tens of thousands of others were not so lucky as we were. They kept taking their cruises and their vacations, going to bars and restaurants, visiting one another in homes and apartments, as the virus went slowly from a vaguely ominous background curiosity — they locked down a whole city in China? — to a gathering dread when the bodies started piling up in Lombardy and other parts of Europe. Ultimately, it was probably the shocking cancellation of the rest of the NBA season on March 11, rather than anything the president of the United States did, which led to widespread changes in behavior that preceded official lockdowns and shelter-in-place orders.
9-9-20 Covid-19 news: UK plans £100 billion expansion of testing in 2021
The latest coronavirus news updated every day including coronavirus cases, the latest news, features and interviews from New Scientist and essential information about the covid-19 pandemic. UK government plans to expand coronavirus testing to 10 million tests a day. The UK government plans to carry out 10 million coronavirus tests per day by early 2021, according to documents obtained by the BMJ. Currently, the UK’s testing capacity is 350,000 per day. As part of the new plan, £100 billion will go towards the expansion of the country’s testing programme, the documents revealed, and GSK and AstraZeneca are among firms named for supplying tests and laboratory capacity respectively. Advanced trials of one of the most promising coronavirus vaccine candidates have been put on hold after a participant became ill in the UK. Drug firm AstraZeneca, which is developing the vaccine in partnership with the University of Oxford, has voluntarily paused the trials. This is standard procedure in vaccine development, and allows time for the researchers to determine the cause of the illness and ensure the safety of participants. AstraZeneca described the action as “routine” in a statement to STAT. The vaccine candidate has already passed preliminary trials, and is now undergoing phase II and III trials involving approximately 30,000 participants in the US as well as in the UK, Brazil and South Africa. These larger trials are designed to test whether it can prevent people from becoming infected with the coronavirus or getting ill with covid-19, as well as assessing long term safety. Social gatherings in England will be limited to a maximum of six people from Monday 14 September, in an effort to tackle a recent spike in coronavirus cases. People will not be allowed to gather in groups larger than six either indoors or outdoors, with the exception of gatherings in schools, workplaces and some events such as weddings and funerals. UK health minister Matt Hancock told the BBC today that the new rule is “super simple” and will be “enforced by the police.” People could be fined between £100 and £3200 for violating the rule, he said. “We’ve seen in other countries around the world where they don’t take action then you end up with this second peak, resulting in more hospitalisations and more deaths, and we don’t want to see that here,” said Hancock.
9-9-20 Justice dept seeks to defend Trump defamation case
The US Department of Justice has taken legal action to defend President Donald Trump in a defamation case from a woman who accuses him of raping her. Under a court filing, the department is moving to replace the president's private lawyers and take over the case. Columnist E Jean Carroll accuses Mr Trump of assaulting her in a Manhattan department store in the 1990s. In a lawsuit, she argues the president defamed her when he denied her claim by saying she "wasn't his type". Mr Trump's critics say that during his presidency he has compromised the US justice department, which is meant to operate independently of the White House. The president has until now been represented in the case, which was filed in New York state court in November 2019, by his personal lawyer Marc Kasowitz. Its lawyers argue in Tuesday's court filing that Mr Trump can be defended by government attorneys because he was serving in his capacity as president when he denied Ms Carroll's allegation. "President Trump was acting within the scope of his office as President of the United States at the time of the incidents out of which the Plaintiff's defamation claim arose," says the filing. It seeks to elevate the case to a federal court from a state court. The government lawyers cite the Federal Tort Claims Act, which offers US government employees a degree of immunity from being sued. University of Texas law school professor Steve Vladeck told CNN that such an intervention by the justice department was highly unusual. The legal analyst said the court filing could effectively kill the case because the federal government cannot be sued for defamation. The move comes a month after a state court judge said Mr Trump could not use a legal immunity defence in the case. The president is currently in the midst of a campaign for re-election against Democratic challenger Joe Biden in November. (Webmaster's comment: The US attorney General William Barr is one of Trump's thugs!)
9-9-20 Autistic teenager in Utah shot by police after mother calls for help
A 13-year-old boy in Glendale, Utah, was shot several times by police officers after his mother called 911 for help with his mental health crisis. Linden Cameron, who has Asperger's, a form of autism, is now in a serious condition in hospital, his mother said. Golda Barton said she had believed police attending on Friday night would use "the most minimal force possible". Salt Lake City Police Sgt Keith Horrocks told reporters that the incident was now being investigated. Speaking to local CBS-affiliate KUTV, Ms Barton said she told the 911 operator that her son needed to be taken to hospital for treatment. He was experiencing a crisis because it was her first day back at work in almost a year and "he has bad separation anxiety", she said. "I said, he's unarmed, he doesn't have anything, he just gets mad and he starts yelling and screaming," Ms Barton said. "He's a kid, he's trying to get attention, he doesn't know how to regulate." At a press conference, Sgt Horrocks said officers were called to a "violent psych issue" and reports that a boy - who they did not name - had made "threats to some folks with a weapon". He added that there was no indication when they attended that the boy was armed. An officer shot the boy when he tried to flee on foot, Sgt Horrocks said. According to an online fundraiser set up to raise money for medical bills, Linden Cameron has suffered "injuries to his shoulder, both ankles, intestines and bladder". "The long-term effects of his injuries are still unknown, but it is likely that his recovery will be long and require multiple kinds of treatment," the page, set up by a friend of the family, says. According to data compiled and regularly updated by the Washington Post, 1,254 people with a mental illness have been shot dead by US police since the beginning of 2015. This represents 22% of all people shot and killed by police across the country over that period.
9-9-20 The true Election Day nightmare scenario
Democracy doesn't die in darkness. In 2020, it looks far more likely to perish in a fog of electoral confusion. With less than two months to go until Election Day, the United States faces a range of possible futures. Some are continuous with the country's long history of peaceful democratic transitions. But others lead to ugly places — including political dysfunction, social breakdown, and even the widespread outbreak of violence on competing sides of partisan conflicts so intense that no established institution can contain and resolve them. The potential danger arises from the interaction of several variables — the uncanny efficiency of the incumbent's electoral coalition in relation to the Electoral College, which greatly raises the likelihood that Donald Trump can win re-election while losing the popular vote; a likely surge in mail-in ballots as a result of the pandemic; a president quick to raise vague and unfounded accusations of voter fraud; a left highly primed to act out in response to presidential provocation; and a right grown eager to confront left-wing protests on the street. Put it all together with a fog of uncertainty about who really prevailed in the vote, and the country confronts the possibility of serious instability in the wake of Election Day. Let's begin with the best-case scenario and then move through a series of increasingly dire alternatives.
9-9-20 Coronavirus: Oxford University vaccine trial paused after participant falls ill
Final clinical trials for a coronavirus vaccine, developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford University, have been put on hold after a participant had a suspected adverse reaction in the UK. AstraZeneca described it as a "routine" pause in the case of "an unexplained illness". The outcome of vaccine trials is being closely watched around the world. The AstraZeneca-Oxford University vaccine is seen as a strong contender among dozens being developed globally. Hopes have been high that the vaccine might be one of the first to come on the market, following successful phase 1 and 2 testing. Its move to Phase 3 testing in recent weeks has involved some 30,000 participants in the US as well as in the UK, Brazil and South Africa. Phase 3 trials in vaccines often involve thousands of participants and can last several years. The New York Times is reporting a volunteer in the UK trial has been diagnosed with transverse myelitis, an inflammatory syndrome that affects the spinal cord and can be caused by viral infections. However, the cause of the illness has not been confirmed and an independent investigation will now work out if there was any link to the vaccine. Wellcome Trust director Sir Jeremy Farrar, an expert in infectious disease control, said there were often pauses in vaccine trials and it was important any adverse reactions were taken seriously. "It is crucial that all that data is shared openly and transparently because the public must have absolute trust that these vaccines are safe and effective and, in the end, will hopefully bring the pandemic to a close," Sir Jeremy added. UK experts have said a temporary pause could be seen as a good thing because it showed the researchers are prioritising the safety of vaccine above everything else. People can develop side-effects from taking any drug but they can also fall ill naturally.
9-9-20 Coronavirus: Pharma firms unveil safety pledge over vaccine
A group of nine vaccine developers has announced a "historic pledge" to uphold scientific and ethical standards in the search for a coronavirus vaccine. The firms, including Pfizer and Merck, said they would only apply for regulatory approval after vaccines went through three phases of clinical study. It comes amid global debates about the safety of vaccines made this year. US President Donald Trump has said he wants one available in the US before November's election. No vaccine has yet completed clinical trials, according to the World Health Organization (WHO) - leading some scientists to fear the search for a vaccine is being politicised, and public trust could be damaged. In their pledge, the nine biopharmaceutical firms did not mention Mr Trump but said they believed their action would "ensure public confidence" in the development of any inoculation. They pledged to "always make the safety and well-being of vaccinated individuals our top priority". Other signatories were industry giants Johnson & Johnson, BioNTech, GlaxoSmithKline, AstraZeneca, Moderna and Novavax. "Together, these nine companies have collectively developed more than 70 novel vaccines that have helped to eradicate some of the world's most complex and deadly public health threats," the statement added. Nearly 180 vaccine candidates are being tested around the world, the WHO says. The organisation has said it does not expect a vaccine to meet its efficacy and safety guidelines in order to be approved this year because of the time it takes to test them safely. None of the candidate vaccines in advanced clinical trials have so far demonstrated a "clear signal" of efficacy at the level of at least 50% sought by the WHO, spokeswoman Margaret Harris said last week. "In terms of realistic timelines, we are really not expecting to see widespread vaccination until the middle of next year," she added. Similar sentiments have been shared by Thomas Cueni, director-general of the International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers. The industry body represents the companies that signed the pledge. "I think it's fairly unlikely that we will have a vaccine approved or in particular distributed at large scale before the end of this year," he told the BBC. "We may be surprised but clearly the manufacturers do not want speed above quality".
9-8-20 Covid-19 news: UK could reimpose restrictions in England as cases rise
The latest coronavirus news updated every day including coronavirus cases, the latest news, features and interviews from New Scientist and essential information about the covid-19 pandemic. New restrictions could be introduced across England due to surge in cases. The government could tighten restrictions on people meeting in England following the recent spike in coronavirus cases. According to several reports, the government could reduce the number of people allowed to meet outdoors to six, down from the current limit of 30. Restrictions on how many people can meet indoors may also become tighter, according to Sky News. Under current guidelines, only two households can congregate indoors. A school in Nottinghamshire in England has been forced to close after its head teacher was admitted to hospital with covid-19. Pupils and staff at Trowell Primary School have been told to stay home and self-isolate until 21 September. In the week since pupils returned to classrooms, coronavirus outbreaks have been reported at dozens of schools in England and Wales. Across Liverpool, an estimated 200 pupils are self-isolating after positive covid-19 cases at five schools, while five teachers at a school in Suffolk have tested positive. The worldwide death toll has passed 897,000. The number of confirmed cases is more than 27.3 million, according to Johns Hopkins University, though the true number of cases will be much higher.
9-8-20 Presidential rivals Trump and Biden spar over Covid-19 vaccine
Donald Trump and Joe Biden have been trading insults over each other's position on a vaccine for Covid-19. President Trump again hinted that a vaccine might be available before the November presidential election and accused his Democratic rivals of "reckless anti-vaccine rhetoric". Mr Biden expressed scepticism that Mr Trump would listen to the scientists and implement a transparent process. The US has six million cases of coronavirus, the highest in the world. The virus has also claimed nearly 190,000 lives and fuelled a major recession, double-digit unemployment and sagging consumer confidence. Last week it emerged the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) had urged states to consider "waiving requirements" in order to be able distribute a vaccine by 1 November - two days before the 3 November election. No vaccine has yet completed clinical trials, leading some scientists to fear politics rather than health and safety is driving the push for a vaccine. Both Mr Biden and his running mate Kamala Harris have questioned the president's credibility on the issue. Ms Harris said on Sunday she would not trust Mr Trump's word that a vaccine was safe, and Mr Biden also questioned whether the wider public would trust him too. "He has said so many things that aren't true I am worried that if we do have a really good vaccine people are going to be reluctant to take it," Mr Biden said in Pennsylvania on Monday, Labour Day. But he added that: "If I could get a vaccine tomorrow, I'd do it. If it cost me the election I would do it. We need a vaccine and we need it now. We have to listen to the scientists." Mr Trump, who is trailing in the polls, hit back at a White House news conference, calling Mr Biden "stupid" and Ms Harris "the most liberal person in Congress... not a competent person in my opinion".
9-8-20 US 2020 Election: Does Joe Biden support defunding the police?
President Trump has claimed that his Democratic rival for the presidency, Joe Biden, supports the idea of defunding the police. Mr Biden says he will not take money away from police forces. He wants to invest in community projects and social programmes to lessen the burden on the police. There have been calls to divert money from the police to spend on other services, after the death of George Floyd at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer in May. A statement from Mr Biden's communications team on 8 June said he supported the need for reform, focusing on funding educational programmes as well as mental health and drug abuse treatment projects, to allow police officers to focus on the job of policing. These programmes should be separate from funding for the police, it says. Mr Biden's campaign website also pledges a $300m investment in community policing, which would be conditional on hiring police officers who "mirror the racial diversity of the community". He also proposes additional funding for body-worn cameras for the police. In an interview with CBS News in June, Mr Biden said he didn't support defunding the police, adding: "I support conditioning federal aid to police, based on whether or not they meet certain basic standards of decency..." Mr Biden also wrote an opinion piece that month in USA Today, stating: "While I do not believe federal dollars should go to police departments violating people's rights or turning to violence as the first resort, I do not support defunding police."
9-8-20 Michael Cohen's Trump book: The ex-lawyer's key claims
Donald Trump behaves like a mobster and has "a low opinion of all black people", according to the US president's former lawyer Michael Cohen. The allegations come from Cohen's new book, Disloyal: A Memoir, written during his jail term for Trump campaign finance violations, among other crimes. Cohen claims Mr Trump also made racist comments about Nelson Mandela and Hispanics. The White House says Cohen is lying. "Cohen is a disgraced felon and disbarred lawyer, who lied to Congress," press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said in a statement at the weekend. "He has lost all credibility, and it's unsurprising to see his latest attempt to profit off of lies." In the book, Cohen alleges that Mr Trump is "guilty of the same crimes" that landed him in prison, and calls his former boss "a cheat, a liar, a fraud, a bully, a racist, a predator, a conman". He said he had the mentality of a "mob boss". Various US news outlets have published quotes from the book, which comes out on Tuesday. Here are some of the key claims. "As a rule, Trump expressed low opinions of all black folks, from music to culture and politics," Cohen writes in his book. He claimed Donald Trump said the late South African president and anti-apartheid activist Nelson Mandela was "no leader". "Tell me one country run by a black person that isn't a shithole. They are all complete [expletive] toilets," Mr Trump once said, according to Cohen. The words echo similar allegations, from 2018, that Trump referred to African countries as "shithole" nations. Back then, Mr Trump told reporters: "I am not a racist. I'm the least racist person you have ever interviewed." Racism accusations have marred his first term and continue to be an issue as the Republican president campaigns for a November re-election against his Democratic rival, Joe Biden.
9-8-20 Creative school plans could counter inequities exposed by COVID-19
Solutions include boosting tech access, tutoring and in-person school for the youngest kids. The emergency pivot to remote learning for K–12 students last spring illuminated longstanding educational fault lines in the United States. The most vulnerable students — children with disabilities, English language learners and children from marginalized Black, Hispanic and Native American communities — were less likely than their affluent and mostly white peers to have basic necessities such as regular meals, a quiet place to work, computer access, guidance on how to get online and even online access itself. Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, education researchers were sounding the alarm that the country’s achievement gap between students from low- and high-income households had remained unchanged for almost half a century, with the poorest students performing at academic levels three to four years below that of the wealthiest students (SN: 3/19/19). Spring’s events may have pushed disadvantaged students even further behind. In a May working paper, researchers at Brown University in Providence, R.I., used typical rates of learning loss that occur over summer vacation to estimate learning losses incurred by spring school closures. Their calculations suggest that students, on average, will return to school this fall having retained only about a third to half of the math skills acquired during a normal school year, and 63 to 68 percent of their reading skills. But those learning losses are uneven, with readers in the top third proficiency level potentially even accelerating their rate of learning during school closures. This fall, with COVID-19 still surging throughout the country, many schools are reopening either entirely online, or with an online–in person hybrid schedule. Assuming full in-person instruction does not resume until January 2021, global consulting firm McKinsey & Company estimates that the students may fall behind nearly seven months on average. For white students, the average is six months. In comparison, Hispanic students would be set back more than nine months, Black students more than 10 months, and low-income students, over a year. Overall, existing racial and socioeconomic achievement gaps could expand by 15 to 20 percent, the group estimates. Education researchers fear that students who suffered the greatest learning losses in the spring may never catch up.
9-7-20 Covid-19 news: UK daily coronavirus cases up 2948 after weekend spike
The latest coronavirus news updated every day including coronavirus cases, the latest news, features and interviews from New Scientist and essential information about the covid-19 pandemic. The UK recorded its highest number of daily new cases since May on Sunday. There were 2948 new coronavirus cases confirmed in the UK today, down slightly from the 2988 new cases confirmed on Sunday, which marked the highest daily increase in cases recorded in the country since 23 May. “This is especially concerning for a Sunday when report numbers are generally lower than most other days of the week,” said Paul Hunter at the University of East Anglia in a statement. “Sadly it is beginning to look like we are moving into a period of exponential growth in the UK epidemic and if so we can expect further increases over coming weeks,” said Hunter. India confirmed 90,632 new coronavirus cases in 24 hours, the country’s health ministry reported on Sunday, setting a new global record for the number of infections recorded in a single country in one day. India has confirmed more than 4.2 million cases since the pandemic began, the second-highest number for any country after the US.
9-7-20 Trump wants to ignore America's racist history
Why the president is railing against Black intellectuals. Does anybody really think that President Trump understands "critical race theory?" Do you believe he has read or contemplated "The 1619 Project?" Trump isn't exactly known for his intellectual deep dives — or for bothering to read at all for that matter. Still, the president spent his weekend railing against these notable attempts to understand and address the issue of race in American life. On Friday, his administration announced it was cracking down on racial sensitivity training programs within the Federal government that rely on CRT understandings that racism is embedded in the structures of American life — a view one official called "divisive anti-American propaganda." Trump spent much of the weekend tweeting about the issue. "This is a sickness that cannot be allowed to continue," he wrote on Saturday. "Please report any sightings so we can quickly extinguish!" On Sunday, Trump aimed his complaints at "The 1619 Project," featured last year in The New York Times Magazine. The series, which posits that much of the country's culture and institutions were shaped by the evils of slavery, has become a popular supplement in American history classes — to the ire of many conservatives. "Department of Education is looking at this," Trump tweeted, in response to a report the package is being used by California schools. "If so, they will not be funded!" Nikole Hannah-Jones, the Times writer who spearheaded "The 1619 Project," responded by pointing out an inescapable irony: Speakers at the Republican National Convention last month railed against a left-of-center "cancel culture" that punishes people for expressing the "wrong" thoughts, and Trump himself has signed an executive order to protect free speech for conservatives at public universities. "Do those concerns about cancel culture and McCarthyism and censorship only apply to the left," Hannah-Jones asked, "or do they apply to the POTUS threatening to investigate schools for teaching American journalism?"
9-7-20 Daniel Prude: Rochester mayor vows to reform police
The mayor of Rochester, New York, has promised to reform the police as protests continue over the death of a black man in police custody. Daniel Prude died in March after officers put him in a "spit hood", designed to protect police from detainees' saliva. Footage of the incident was released on Wednesday, sparking days of protests. Mayor Lovely Warren announced a series of changes to policing in "the coming weeks, months and years". Seven police officers have been suspended over the incident. On Saturday, New York Attorney General Letitia James announced a grand jury would be formed to investigate the 41-year-old's death. Mr Prude's death came two months before that of George Floyd, whose killing while in police custody sparked global outrage and demonstrations against police brutality and racism. Though she did not provide specifics, Ms Warren said the crisis intervention team and its budget would move from the police department to the youth and recreation services department. Mr Prude suffered from mental health issues, and Ms Warren addressed that aspect. "We had a human being in a need of help, in need of compassion. In that moment, we had an opportunity to protect him," the mayor said at a news conference on Sunday. "We have to own the fact that in the moment, we did not do that." Both Ms Warren and police chief La'Ron Singletary, who was also at Sunday's news conference, vowed to stay in charge and reform the police, despite calls for the pair to resign. "I am committed to doing what's necessary... And I know the chief is committed to doing what's necessary, to better serve our citizens and our community," the mayor said. Police said around 1,000 protesters marched through Rochester on Sunday night. There were no arrests. Mr Prude's brother, Joe, said he called the police on 23 March as Daniel was showing acute mental health problems. When officers arrived, he had been running naked through the streets. In body camera footage obtained from the police by Mr Prude's family, he can be seen lying on the ground as officers restrain him. While sitting on the road, he becomes agitated, alternately asking for money or a gun. He began spitting on the street, but does not appear to offer any physical resistance, according to the footage. An officer says Mr Prude told them he had Covid-19, and they place the spit hood on him.
9-7-20 Coronavirus: India overtakes Brazil in Covid-19 cases
India has recorded more than 90,000 new cases of Covid-19 in the past 24 hours, taking its total above that of Brazil. The country now has the second-largest number of confirmed cases in the world, 4,204,613. It has reported 71,642 deaths, the third-highest in the world. The surge in reported infections has mostly come from five states. The rise comes as the government continues to lift restrictions to try to boost an economy that lost millions of jobs when the virus hit in March. For the last seven days India's caseload has galloped, adding more than 75,000 daily infections per day. More than 60% of the active cases are coming from the states of Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Maharashtra and Uttar Pradesh, India's most populous state. Cases have also begun spiking in the capital, Delhi, as well, with more than 3,200 infections recorded on Sunday, the city's highest in more than two months. An upsurge of Covid-19 in many rural areas has also led to an uptick in numbers. The virus has struck a remote tribe in India's Andamans islands, with 10 members of the Greater Andamanese testing positive over the past month. The rise in cases is also partly a reflection of increased testing - the number of daily tests conducted across the country has risen to more than a million. Although India has a low death rate from the disease, nearly 1,000 deaths have been recorded every day from across the country for the last seven days. In early August India became the third country in the world to pass two million cases. India went into a stringent lockdown in March in an effort to curb the spread of the coronavirus, whose numbers were only in the hundreds then. It began to ease out of it in phases in June to promote economic activity, even as cases continued to spike. The pandemic and the lockdown caused massive disruptions to economic activity. India's economy shrank by 23.9% in the three months to the end of June, the worst slump since the country started releasing quarterly data in 1996.
9-6-20 Donald Trump attacks 'slimeball' reporter in war dead row
US President Donald Trump has described as a "slimeball" a journalist who quoted him as saying dead US soldiers were "losers" and "suckers". He likened the Atlantic magazine report to unproven accusations made against him of colluding with Russia to win the presidential election of 2016. The damning quotes were corroborated independently by The Associated Press. Veterans' groups are among those condemning Mr Trump, less than two months from the 2020 election. Progressive group VoteVets posted a video of families whose children had been killed in action. "You don't know what it is to sacrifice," says one. Paul Rieckhoff of the Iraq & Afghanistan Veterans of America, tweeted: "Who is really surprised by this?" A small group of protesters waved placards at the president's motorcade on Saturday near the Trump National Golf Club in Virginia. Mr Trump has often staked a claim to strong support among the military, and last year Pew Research Center found that veterans were generally supportive of him as commander-in-chief, with 57% in favour. Three-fifths of the veterans identified as Republican, the research found. According to The Atlantic, when Mr Trump cancelled a visit to the Aisne-Marne American Cemetery outside Paris in November 2018, 100 years after the end of World War One, he said it was "filled with losers". Four sources told the magazine he had rejected the idea of visiting because the rain would dishevel his hair, and he did not believe it important to honour America's war dead. During the same trip, the president also allegedly referred to 1,800 US soldiers who died at Belleau Wood as "suckers". The battle helped to prevent a German advance on Paris during World War One and is venerated by the US Marine Corps. The Atlantic's reporting was based on anonymous sources but a "senior Defense Department official with first-hand knowledge of events" and a "senior U.S. Marine Corps officer who was told about Trump's comments" confirmed the cemetery comments to AP. In 2018 the White House said the cemetery visit had been cancelled because bad weather had grounded the president's helicopter. This account was backed up in a recent book by President Trump's former national security adviser, John Bolton, who has been a vocal critic of Mr Trump. The US Navy also said it cancelled the trip to the cemetery because of rain in response to a request under the Freedom of Information Act from Buzzfeed reporter Jason Leopold. (Webmaster's comment: No president in our history has been as uncivilized as Trump!)
9-6-20 Daniel Prude: Grand jury to investigate 'spit hood' death
New York's attorney general has said a grand jury will be formed to investigate the death of Daniel Prude, an unarmed black man who suffocated after being restrained by police. Mr Prude - who suffered from mental health issues - died after officers put him in a "spit hood", designed to protect police from detainees' saliva. Protests have been held after footage of the incident in Rochester emerged. Seven police officers have been suspended. The 41-year-old died in March however his death has only just been reported. Attorney General Letitia James said in a statement: "The Prude family and the Rochester community have been through great pain and anguish. My office will immediately move to empanel a grand jury as part of our exhaustive investigation into this matter." The move has been welcomed by Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren and New York Governor Andrew Cuomo. But a spokeswoman for the Rochester Police Department declined to comment. Mr Prude's brother, Joe, told the New York Times: "I am ecstatic about this. But right now I'm still waiting on seeing the indictment and them being prosecuted to the full extent of the law." Joe said he called police on 23 March as Daniel was showing acute mental health problems. When officers arrived, he had been running naked through the streets. In body camera footage obtained from the police by Mr Prude's family, he can be seen lying on the ground as officers restrain him. While sitting on the road, he becomes agitated, alternately asking for money or a gun. He began spitting on the street, but does not appear to offer any physical resistance, according to the footage. An officer says that Mr Prude told them he had Covid-19, and they place the spit hood on him. One officer can be seen pressing down on Mr Prude's head with both hands, saying "stop spitting". Mr Prude stops moving and goes quiet, and officers note he feels cold. Paramedics are called and Mr Prude is taken to hospital. His family took him off life support a week later. The medical examiner ruled his death as a homicide caused by "complications of asphyxia in the setting of physical restraint", with intoxication by the drug PCP, a contributing factor. (Webmaster's comment: Many of our police are being trained in how to kill blacks and get away with it!)
9-6-20 Armed guards provided for threatened lesbian couple
Payal and Kanchan fell in love as they trained to become policewomen. But their love has faced resistance and they have faced threats, forcing them to go to court to seek protection from their own families, reports BBC Gujarati's Bhargav Parikh. When Payal met Kanchan, back in 2017, she had no idea she would fall in love with her fellow trainee. That year, India’s Supreme Court had ruled that gay sex was no longer a criminal offence, overturning a previous judgement that upheld a colonial-era law. But age-old customs and regressive attitudes survived, making it difficult for same-sex relationships to be accepted by larger society. The women, both now 24, have been living together as a couple since 2018 in the western Indian state of Gujarat, and they know first hand what the discrimination feels like. Their love story was thrust into the limelight last month when they approached the high court. “Our families are against our relationship. They are threatening us,” Payal said, adding that the two filed an application before the court, asking for police protection. The court ruled that the couple should be protected by armed guards. So-called honour killings - when someone is murdered by a family member due to the belief that they have brought shame upon the community - are not uncommon in India and other South Asian countries. One study found that hundreds of people are killed each year in India for falling in love or marrying against their families' wishes. Payal and Kanchan grew up in two remote villages in Gujarat, where a conservative and patriarchal culture reigned supreme. Both said they wanted to break barriers and felt inspired to enter a field dominated by men. They settled on policing. In 2017, when they first met, they said others in the force were reluctant to speak to them since they came from rural parts of the state whereas the rest were from bigger towns and cities. Instantly, they felt alienated from their peers. The two women were assigned the same room during police training. They fell into a comfortable routine - in the evenings, exhausted from exercise, they would meet to catch up and discuss their day. Soon, their chats stretched to include their lives and families, and the two became best friends.
9-5-20 The American economy is still in dire straits
There is a normal recession gathering strength under the pandemic shock. The August jobs report was published Friday morning, and the news is both good and bad. On the plus side, the headline unemployment rate fell to 8.4 percent. Something like half of the job losses created by the coronavirus pandemic have been recovered. On the negative side, just 1.4 million jobs were created, and a big chunk of them were temporary census work. The number of permanent job losses jumped sharply, and for odd reasons the stock market is falling. More broadly, it has been a month since most of the coronavirus rescue measures expired, putting an extra drag on recovery. There has been considerable economic improvement since April. But the American people will need a great deal more help if the economy is to actually recover to full strength. Republicans have apparently given up on fixing the economy, but Joe Biden and Democrats should keep this fact at the top of their minds. The CARES Act rescue package was enormous, but the coronavirus economic shock was even bigger. As Bill McBride writes at Calculated Risk, it now appears as though there is a "normal" recession developing rapidly within the partly-faded coronavirus shock. Many of the temporary layoffs are being reversed, but the number of permanent ones is increasing quickly. And now most of that rescue is gone, which is sucking $15 billion in income out of the economy every week. So far there has not been much of a decline in measured consumer spending since the end of July, but that could be because many data sources do not measure spending from unemployment benefits (as they are typically sent out through pre-paid cards that might not be counted in the data), or because people are dipping into their savings they've piled up over the past five months — which can't go on forever. Moreover, a complete recovery to full employment and production is going to be impossible so long as the virus is raging. The huge infection spikes in states like Arizona and Florida have since fallen somewhat, which can only be because people largely stopped going about their normal activities. Since President Trump did not even try to control the virus and is not going to start, that means bars, restaurants, tourism, and other industries are all going to be fighting a huge business headwind until a vaccine is actually developed and deployed (which is still not guaranteed to happen). Meanwhile, there is an accelerating eviction crisis, as people who could not access CARES Act benefits or have since spent through the benefits are being thrown out of their homes by the tens of thousands. All this reinforces something I have argued over and over since the pandemic struck: When considering a response to a big economic collapse like this, the important thing is to aim high. The reason is the huge imbalance of downside risk — if the stimulus is too small, then the economy will remain depressed potentially indefinitely, and the incumbent party will bleed political support as people blame it for the bad conditions. If it's too large, then, as Duncan Black jokes, "People might have a little extra money? Oh no. How can we measure the scale of the human tragedy this would cause." (Economist Mark Thoma made exactly this argument about the inadequate Recovery Act stimulus in 2009, and he was completely right.)
9-5-20 Trump panned over reports he called US war dead 'losers'
US President Donald Trump is facing a backlash over reports he mocked American soldiers killed in action as "losers" and "suckers". The alleged remarks were first reported in the Atlantic magazine, and some details were corroborated by the Associated Press and Fox News. But the president and his allies have denied he made the remarks. Veterans' groups were among those who attacked the president over the reports. Progressive group VoteVets posted a video of families whose children were killed in action. "You don't know what it is to sacrifice," says one. Paul Rieckhoff of the Iraq & Afghanistan Veterans of America, tweeted: "Who is really surprised by this?" Analysts say the comments could prove damaging with the president needing support from military voters as he bids for re-election. According to The Atlantic, Mr Trump cancelled a visit to a US cemetery outside Paris in 2018 because he said it was "filled with losers". Four sources told the magazine he rejected the idea of visiting because the rain would dishevel his hair, and he did not believe it important to honour America's war dead. During the same trip, the president also allegedly referred to 1,800 US soldiers who died at Belleau Wood as "suckers". The battle helped to prevent a German advance on Paris during World War One and is venerated by the US Marine Corps. The Atlantic's reporting was based on anonymous sources but the Associated Press said it had independently confirmed many of the remarks. A Fox News correspondent said she had corroborated some of the remarks. In 2018 the White House said the visit was cancelled because bad weather had grounded the president's helicopter. This account was backed up in a recent book by President Trump's former National Security Adviser John Bolton, who has been a vocal critic of Mr Trump. The US Navy also said it cancelled the trip to the cemetery because of rain in response to a request under the Freedom of Information Act from Buzzfeed reporter Jason Leopold.
9-5-20 Trump bans 'anti-American' diversity training
US President Donald Trump has ordered federal agencies to stop racial sensitivity training, labelling it "divisive, anti-American propaganda". A memo to government agencies says it has come to his attention that millions of dollars of taxpayers' money have funded such "trainings". The document says these sessions only foster resentment in the workforce. Mr Trump has previously said he does not believe systemic racism is a problem in the US. The memo comes amid the social justice protests that have swept the nation in recent months. Friday's two-page document from Office of Management and Budget Director Russell Vought is addressed to the heads of federal executive departments and agencies. "All agencies are directed to begin to identify all contracts or other agency spending related to any training on 'critical race theory,' 'white privilege,' or any other training or propaganda effort that teaches or suggests either (1) that the United States is an inherently racist or evil country or (2) that any race or ethnicity is inherently racist or evil," it says. The memo says that "according to press reports, employees across the Executive Branch have been required to attend trainings where they are told that 'virtually all White people contribute to racism' or where they are required to say that they 'benefit from racism'." Again citing press reports, the text says that some of the training sessions "have further claimed that there is racism embedded in the belief that America is the land of opportunity or the belief that the most qualified person should receive a job. "These types of 'trainings' not only run counter to the fundamental beliefs for which our Nation has stood since its inception, but they also engender division and resentment within the Federal workforce." It was not clear which reports Mr Vought was referring to or what prompted the memo. But such training sessions have been highlighted by the Discovery Institute, a conservative non-profit think tank based in Seattle.
9-5-20 US protests: Dark-clad thugs on planes and other claims fact-checked
Images of protests in American cities and debates about what is behind the unrest have flooded social media. Misleading information and unfounded rumours are rife too. Claim: President Trump says thugs in uniforms intent on inciting unrest have been seen travelling around the United States on a plane Verdict: There have been no reports that this incident took place, and the White House has provided no evidence. Claim: A video being shared on Facebook shows antifa and Black Lives Matter protesters chasing a father and daughter because they were Trump supporters Verdict: This video, first shared in 2019, is among others from previous protests being recirculated Claim: Joe Biden praised antifa as a "courageous group of Americans" in a video announcing his candidacy Verdict: Mr Biden was praising all the counter-protesters who opposed a far-right rally Claim: A video taken in Portland, Oregon shows an antifa protester encampment Verdict: The video is in fact of socially-distanced tents arranged for homeless people
9-5-20 Daniel Prude: Police union says officers followed training
The US police officers involved in the suffocation death of a black man were following their training "step by step", the officers' union chief said. Daniel Prude - who suffered from mental health issues - died after being put in a "spit hood", designed to protect officers from detainees' saliva. The mayor suspended the seven Rochester Police officers involved on Thursday. Mr Prude, 41, died in March but his death has just recently been reported after body camera video was released. His death came two months before that of George Floyd, whose killing while in police custody sparked widespread outrage and incited national and international demonstrations against police brutality and racism. The officers' suspension this week is the first disciplinary action taken in the wake of Mr Prude's death. Contract rules mean that the officers will still be paid while on leave, according to city officials. "To me, it looks like they were watching the training in front of them," said Michael Mazzaeo, president of the Rochester Police Locust Club on Friday. "If there's a problem with that, let's change it." Mr Mazzaeo further defended the officers, saying they were in a difficult position trying to help someone who appeared to have a mental illness, and they did not intend to harm Mr Prude. The spit hood is standard equipment for officers, he said. (Webmaster's comment: It's obvious many of our police are being deliberately trained to kill blacks!)
9-5-20 Chinese students face increased scrutiny at US airports
As US-China relations reach a boiling point, Washington has started to screen Chinese students at airports for technology theft. When Boston Logan International Airport's announcement asked Keith Zhang to come to the boarding desk, he thought it was a regular boarding check. But when he saw two armed American officers expecting him there, his heart sank. "They questioned me under the premise that I am here to steal technology," Keith Zhang - not his real name - tells the BBC. Zhang, a 26-year-old PhD student from China, was a visiting researcher at Brown University's department of psychological sciences for a year. He had not expected to spend his last two hours on US soil being interrogated about his potential ties with the Chinese Communist Party. So what might have happened? FBI director Christopher Wray recently said, in response to Beijing's "far-reaching campaign" of economic espionage, the FBI is now opening a new China-related counterintelligence case every 10 hours. In July, Washington closed the Chinese consulate in Houston, calling it a "spy centre". As the US tightens its scrutiny of Chinese nationals over espionage concerns, screening selected departing Chinese students and researchers appears to be Washington's new measure to counter economic espionage. Some of the students' electronic devices were taken away for further examination and not returned for weeks. Zhang describes the screening as "pure harassment". "If I were to steal any data or intellectual property, I could send it through cloud storage. Taking away my laptop and phone for examination does nothing more than harassment," Zhang says. China's foreign ministry accuses Washington of "abusing" the judicial power to interrogate and arrest Chinese students in the US "under fabricated allegations". (Webmaster's comment: Since Chinese technology is ahead of ours it's more likely we are trying to steal from them.)
9-5-20 Pandemic learning in Mexico requires thinking outside the screen
Schoolchildren across Mexico began the academic year in front of a TV. But teachers in Oaxaca say televised classes won't meet fundamental educational needs and many families lack the technology to keep up, deepening Mexico's socioeconomic divide. Millions of schoolchildren across Mexico began the academic year in front of a screen — not with interactive online classes with a teacher, but with prerecorded programs on TV. It's part of a distance learning effort announced by federal officials in August. Mexico's government has signed agreements with the country's largest TV networks to open up new digital channels to beam distance learning programs into student homes. "This isn't being done in any other country in the world; we're pioneers," said Mexico's president Andrés Manual López Obrador when the deal was announced. When the federal Secretary of Education canceled in-person classes back in mid-March, few imagined the pandemic would still be active by the start of the school year. Education Secretary Esteban Moctezuma Barragán says keeping 40 million students home now "allows the pandemic to be manageable for hospitals." But many teachers say televised classes won't meet fundamental educational needs and large areas of the country lack the technology to keep up with distance learning. They warn that without viable alternatives, Mexico's socioeconomic discrepancies will widen. Secretary Moctezuma Barragán and other officials argue that TV is a more accessible medium than the internet, pointing to studies that show TVs are in 9 out of 10 Mexican homes. Prior to his role as Mexico's top education official, Moctezuma Barragán worked as an executive for the owner of the country's second-largest TV network. TV ownership is lower than the national average in southern states, like Oaxaca. Census data shows nearly 1 in 4 homes in Oaxaca do not have a functional TV set. In the neighboring state of Chiapas, another survey found TV ownership to be even lower. Some families have pawned their electronics since the start of the pandemic. Even in households that do own sets, reception for free channels can be spotty. Many people contract with cable or satellite services to improve reception. Others like Adriana Madrazo, whose son is to begin kindergarten in Oaxaca this year, use their TVs as plug-in monitors for viewing online videos. Education officials publicized the broadcast schedule for classes on free and paid TV, but were vague on details about on-demand or streaming options. On the first day, Madrazo went to the Education Secretariat's Facebook page and ended up in the comments section with hundreds of other confused parents. The Education Secretariat is now posting video lessons to a YouTube channel. Madrazo says information about where to find the online component "has been more through word-of-mouth." Her 5-year-old son Zaín is enrolled in kindergarten, but parents at the school are awaiting details on if or how school via TV will factor into the school year. "In the government press conferences, they've been announcing the program itself but not really giving details ... We don't know the substance of the programming, the themes to be covered, how long it's supposed to last, who is giving the classes, what the evaluation methods are. There's not really a set program to follow," she said.
9-5-20 Coronavirus: Russian vaccine shows signs of immune response
Russian scientists have published the first report on their coronavirus vaccine, saying early tests showed signs of an immune response. The report published by medical journal The Lancet said every participant developed antibodies to fight the virus and had no serious side effects. Russia licensed the vaccine for local use in August, the first country to do so and before data had been published. Experts say the trials were too small to prove effectiveness and safety. But Moscow has hailed the results as an answer to critics. Some Western experts have raised concerns about the speed of Russia's work, suggesting that researchers might be cutting corners. Last month, President Vladimir Putin said the vaccine had passed all the required checks and that one of his own daughters had been given it. Two trials of the vaccine, named Sputnik-V, were conducted between June and July, The Lancet paper said. Each involved 38 healthy volunteers who were given a dose of the vaccine and then a booster vaccine three weeks later. The participants - aged between 18 and 60 - were monitored for 42 days and all of them developed antibodies within three weeks. Among the most common side effects were headaches and joint pain. The trials were open label and not randomised, meaning there was no placebo and the volunteers were aware they were receiving the vaccine. "Large, long-term trials including a placebo comparison, and further monitoring are needed to establish the long-term safety and effectiveness of the vaccine for preventing Covid-19 infection," the report said. A third phase of trials will involve 40,000 volunteers from "different age and risk groups," according to the paper. The Russian vaccine uses adapted strains of the adenovirus, a virus that usually causes the common cold, to trigger an immune response.
9-4-20 Covid-19 news: Russian vaccine induced immune responses in small trial
The latest coronavirus news updated every day including coronavirus cases, the latest news, features and interviews from New Scientist and essential information about the covid-19 pandemic. Russia’s vaccine candidate produced antibody and T-cell responses in early-stage trial. A preliminary trial of Russia’s coronavirus vaccine candidate Sputnik V suggests it is safe and induces an immune response. The vaccine was approved by Russian authorities last month, before any data had been made public or a large-scale trial had begun. In the preliminary trial, it was tested in a small group of 76 healthy volunteers. All the volunteers developed coronavirus-specific antibodies and T-cells, and none experienced serious adverse reactions, according to results published in The Lancet today. However, it still isn’t clear whether the vaccine protects people from becoming infected with the coronavirus or from getting ill. This will be investigated through phase III testing, which is already underway, and which is expected to include 40,000 people across Russia. Some researchers are concerned that vaccine developers may come under political pressure to release doses of the vaccine for administration to the general public, before phase III testing is complete. “A vaccine should not be used to short-cut the implementation of public health interventions that are already known to be safe and effective, until the vaccine itself has been shown to be safe and effective,” said Eleanor Riley at the University of Edinburgh, in a statement. The World Health Organization (WHO) today said it does not expect widespread coronavirus vaccination until mid-2021. “We are not expecting to see widespread vaccination until the middle of next year,” said WHO spokesperson Margaret Harris at a briefing in Geneva. Harris said phase III trials will need to go on long enough to determine how “truly protective” and safe a given vaccine candidate is. Preliminary findings from a study by Public Health England found low rates of coronavirus infection among children and teachers in pre-school and primary school. Researchers took swabs from more than 12,000 children and teachers across 131 primary schools in England in June and early July, and detected only three cases of the virus. Ravindra Gupta at the University of Cambridge said the findings are not surprising, since limited numbers of children were attending schools in England during this time period. “We must not be complacent and falsely reassured,” said Gupta in a statement. “From September there will be more children, more mixing, more crowding and over winter less time will be spent outdoors,” he said, adding that there will be less chance to socially distance in schools in the coming months than it was possible to do in June.
9-4-20 Coronavirus: The US has not reduced its Covid-19 death toll to 6% of total
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says it has been deluged with queries about false rumours the official tally of Covid-19 deaths is drastically lower than the publicised headline figure of about 185,000. Social-media posts making this bogus claim have been circulating widely on the internet. And one re-tweeted by President Trump was removed by Twitter for breaching its guidelines. The claim, being amplified by supporters of QAnon conspiracies and others, is only 6% of the total number of people with coronavirus on their death certificate actually died from the virus. This is misleading and not true. It's correct to state of all the death certificates in the US that mention Covid-19, only 6% mention no other illnesses. However, 92% of the total clearly state Covid-19 as the underlying cause of death. So while a patient may have had lung problems or diabetes referred to on their certificates, coronavirus has been given as the main cause of death. The CDC also says the death certificates may include conditions caused by coronavirus, such as respiratory issues. This information on death certificates has featured for months on CDC's website, with regular updates. Most people who die from coronavirus are elderly or have had existing health problems. Having underlying health problems makes patients more vulnerable to becoming seriously ill from coronavirus, just as it makes them more vulnerable to becoming very sick from other viruses. But this doesn't detract from the fact the virus is their primary cause of death. It's also the case that early on during the pandemic, when testing was not widespread, people died of Covid-19 without it being noted on their death certificate. In England and Wales, of deaths involving coronavirus between March and June 2020, there was at least one other condition in just over 90% of cases.
9-4-20 Trump denies mocking US soldiers captured and killed in battle
President Trump has denied accusations that he made disparaging remarks about US soldiers who were captured or killed in battle. According to The Atlantic magazine, Mr Trump cancelled a visit to a US cemetery outside Paris in 2018 because he said it was "filled with losers". The allegations have since been corroborated by two senior military officials in a story by AP news agency. But in a tweet, the president denounced the claims as "made up fake news". During a visit to France in 2018, Mr Trump cancelled a visit to the Aise-Marne American Cemetery, and at the time the White House blamed poor weather. However four sources told The Atlantic he rejected the idea of visiting because the rain would dishevel his hair, and he did not believe it important to honour America's war dead. During the same trip, the president also allegedly referred to 1,800 US soldiers who died at Belleau Wood as "suckers". The battle helped to prevent a German advance on Paris during World War One and is venerated by the US Marine Corps. Three sources told The Atlantic that, on at least two occasions, Mr Trump also called former President George HW Bush a "loser" for being shot down by the Japanese while serving as a Navy pilot during World War Two. "He can't fathom the idea of doing something for someone other than himself," an unnamed, retired military general told The Atlantic. "He just thinks that anyone who does anything when there's no direct personal gain to be had is a sucker. There's no money in serving the nation." Speaking with reporters, Mr Trump called The Atlantic's report "unthinkable". "To think that I would make statements negative to our military and our fallen heroes when nobody's done what I've done with the budgets, with the military budgets, with getting pay raises for our military," said the president. "It is a disgraceful situation by a magazine that's a terrible magazine."
9-4-20 Jacob Blake: Joe Biden speaks with shot black man on Wisconsin visit
US Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden has spoken over the phone with Jacob Blake, the black man who was shot in the back by police in Kenosha, Wisconsin, sparking big protests. Mr Blake, who remains in hospital paralysed, said "he was not going to give up" whether he walked again or not, Mr Biden said. He was speaking at a church meeting in the city where the shooting took place. President Donald Trump visited Kenosha on Tuesday. The US leader surveyed areas damaged by the often violent protests that followed the shooting with messages of support for the police. He did not meet Mr Blake's family, saying it was because they wanted lawyers present. Wisconsin is an important state in the upcoming presidential election. Mr Trump narrowly won it in 2016, and for decades the state has backed the eventual winner of the presidency whether Republican or Democrat. The president has been pushing a campaign message of "law and order". However, Mr Biden has accused Mr Trump of stoking racial division. Wisconsin's Governor, Tony Evers, said he would "prefer that no-one be here, be it candidate Trump or candidate Biden". Joe Biden and his wife met Mr Blake's relatives at Milwaukee airport, with Mr Blake on the phone. The meeting was private but Mr Biden and the Blake family lawyer later gave details. Mr Biden said he was struck by the family's "overwhelming sense of resilience and optimism". Mr Blake "talked about how nothing was going to defeat him, how whether he walked again or not, he was not going to give up," Mr Biden said. Confirming the meeting, the family's lawyer Ben Crump said it was "engaging" and that the family "was very impressed that the Bidens were so engaged and willing to really listen". At the community meeting in Kenosha, Mr Biden attacked President Trump's leadership, and argued that the US was at an "inflection point" in its history.
9-4-20 Portland suspect shot dead by police during arrest
Police in the US have shot dead a man suspected of fatally shooting a right-wing activist during protests in Portland, Oregon, officials say. Michael Reinoehl, 48, a self-described antifa supporter, was filmed shooting the man during last weekend's tension, and admitted to it before his death. Reinoehl earlier said he acted in self-defence when he shot Aaron Danielson, a supporter of the Patriot Prayer group. Police said he was armed and was shot during a confrontation with officers. Black Lives Matter protests have been taking place nightly in Portland since the killing of black man George Floyd in May. Last Saturday Trump supporters held a large rally and fought with anti-racism protesters in violent exchanges. Reinoehl, who regularly attended the protests, had told Vice News that he had thought he and a friend were going to be stabbed by Danielson. "I had no choice. I mean, I, I had a choice. I could have sat there and watched them kill a friend of mine of colour. But I wasn't going to do that," he said. On Thursday President Trump had highlighted the killing of Danielson, tweeting "Why aren't the Portland police arresting the cold blooded killer of Aaron "Jay" Danielson. Do your job, and do it fast.". Antifa, short for "anti-fascist", is a loosely-affiliated network of mainly far-left activists. A warrant for Reinoehl's arrest was issued and he was located by agents on Thursday in Lacey, Washington about 120 miles (193km) north of Portland. Thurston County Sheriff's Lieutenant Ray Brady said it was not clear why the suspect was in Lacey and he did not believe the suspect lived at the address. Lieutenant Brady said the police were conducting surveillance when the suspect left the apartment and got into a vehicle in the road. "There was a confrontation between the officers that were on scene and the subject," he said. "The information we have at this time is that the subject was armed. There were shots that were fired into the vehicle and the subject fled from the vehicle, at which time there was additional shots that were fired." He said four officers fired their weapons.
9-4-20 A Trump vaccine is still a vaccine
Now is not the time to drop your 'believe in science' mantra. COVID-19 vaccine could be here sooner than we thought. "I believe that by the time we get to the end of this calendar year that we will feel comfortable that we do have a safe and effective vaccine," Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said Wednesday. This is possible, he explained in another interview the day before, if two current trials with 30,000 volunteers produce such overwhelmingly positive results that researchers determine they have "a moral obligation" to accelerate the process of bringing the vaccine to the public. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) issued guidance last week for all 50 states and several major cities to prepare for some vaccine administration as soon as the end of October. This should be heralded as good news, especially among those who have supported strict pandemic control measures. For many of that ilk, a vaccine was always the one acceptable end to broad shutdowns and rigorous social distancing. But now this very end may be nigh, and suspicion of the "Trump vaccine" is growing. The possible timing of an initial rollout near Election Day — paired with President Trump's transparent hope that a vaccine will help him win re-election — has people who long declared we must "trust science" about the pandemic now declaring this product of science is not to be trusted. As scads of tweeted objections argue, the fear is the administration will strong-arm the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and CDC into pushing an ineffective or outright dangerous vaccine to early release for political gain. This isn't just a Twitter thing; though typically op-eds stop short of advising refusal of specific vaccines, worries about an unsafe, politically motivated vaccine have been raised repeatedly in The New York Times and other prominent outlets. Automatic rejection of a "Trump vaccine" is a mistake, and potentially a very serious one, which could help delay our desperately needed return to normal life by months. We already know a large portion of Americans will refuse even a free, FDA-approved COVID-19 vaccine. The plurality of that group is Republicans, many of whom may have previously been skeptical of vaccines and/or the necessity of any pandemic response at all. I don't think their skepticism of a COVID-19 vaccine is justifiable, but it is to be expected. Some of that group, however, are Democrats and independents who have spent the past half year defending vaccines and the medical establishment more generally against charges of undue political influence. Those same arguments should still apply. If public health experts like Fauci were trustworthy and impervious to political coercion before, they're still trustworthy now. Of course, an untested vaccine could be dangerous. And yes, the way Trump talks about the vaccine timeline is not reassuring. (How does he manage to make the assertion that he's "doing it not for the election" sound like an admission of exactly the opposite?) But if we know anything about Trump, it's that he says a lot of stuff that has no connection to reality — like his claim that the "deep state, or whoever, over at the FDA" is deliberately slowing vaccine trials to make him lose. Also not demonstrated is the opposite claim: that Trump forced the "deep state, or whoever, over at the FDA" to unsafe haste in vaccine creation. He talks as if he has, and an in-depth Washington Post story published Sunday indicates he has tried. Yet trying can mean nothing with someone as incompetent as Trump. In fact, the same story suggests the real crisis involving this vaccine is Trump's decimation of public confidence in its development, not the scientific soundness of the vaccine itself.
9-3-20 Covid-19 news: UK funding for trials of rapid new coronavirus tests
The latest coronavirus news updated every day including coronavirus cases, the latest news, features and interviews from New Scientist and essential information about the covid-19 pandemic. New funding announced for trials of rapid new coronavirus tests in the UK. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has notified states to prepare for the roll-out of a coronavirus vaccine within two months. “Limited covid-19 vaccine doses may be available by early November 2020,” according to CDC documents first published by the New York Times. And in a letter to governors on 27 August, first obtained by McClatchy, CDC director Robert Redfield wrote: “CDC urgently requests your assistance in expediting applications for [vaccine] distribution facilities and, if necessary, asks that you consider waiving requirements that would prevent these facilities from becoming fully operational by November 1, 2020.” But public health researchers are concerned that the move is being driven less by evidence and instead by a political effort to rush a vaccine before the November election. Michael Osterholm at the University of Minnesota told the Associated Press that “the public health community wants a safe and effective vaccine as much as anybody […] but the data have to be clear and compelling.” Pharmaceutical giants GlaxoSmithKline and Sanofi will start testing their protein-based coronavirus vaccine candidate in humans for the first time, to assess its safety and ability to induce an immune response. If this and subsequent trials are successful, the companies have said they could be requesting regulatory approval in the first half of next year. A surge in demand for coronavirus tests has left the UK struggling to keep up. Some people with symptoms who tried to book coronavirus swab tests online told the BBC they were directed to testing centres more than 100 miles away from their homes. This could act as a “big disincentive to being tested”, Paul Hunter at the University of East Anglia told the BBC, potentially limiting efforts to contain localised spikes in cases.
9-3-20 US election: Trump tells North Carolina voters to vote twice
US President Donald Trump has told people in the state of North Carolina to vote twice in November's election, despite this being illegal. Mr Trump suggested voters send a postal vote and then vote in person in order to test the system. The president has frequently made false claims that postal votes are vulnerable to significant electoral fraud. "Let them send it in and let them go vote," he told North Carolina broadcaster WECT-TV on Wednesday. "And if the system is as good as they say it is then obviously they won't be able to vote (in person)." After President Trump made the comments, North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein tweeted that he had "outrageously encouraged" people in the state to "break the law in order to help him sow chaos in our election". "Make sure you vote, but do not vote twice!" Mr Stein added. "I will do everything in my power to make sure the will of the people is upheld in November." Democrats have also accused President Trump and the Republican party of attempting to suppress the vote in order to help their side in the election. President Trump was in Wilmington, North Carolina, to formally designate the city an American World War Two Heritage City. This isn't the first time President Trump has made controversial comments about postal voting. Speaking at the Republican National Convention (RNC) last month, he claimed "there's tremendous fraud involved" with postal voting and that "we have to be very, very careful". But these claims have been strongly and repeatedly debunked by experts. Ellen Weintraub, commissioner of the Federal Election Commission, responded at the time that "there's simply no basis for the conspiracy theory that voting by mail causes fraud". In addition, numerous nationwide and state-level studies over the years have not revealed evidence of major, widespread fraud. In the 2016 US presidential election, nearly one quarter of votes were cast by post, and that number is expected to rise this time round due to public health concerns over coronavirus. (Webmaster's comment: Trump is insane!)
9-3-20 Biden calls for police to be charged over Taylor and Blake shootings
Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden has urged charges against police who shot two black Americans, Jacob Blake and Breonna Taylor. DSpeaking in Delaware, Mr Biden did not specify what counts should be brought in the cases, which have fuelled racial justice protests nationwide. The Democrat spoke after notching up a record fundraising haul in August. He has a lead over President Donald Trump, a Republican, in opinion polls ahead of November's election. During a news conference in his hometown of Wilmington on Wednesday, Mr Biden was asked whether he agreed with his running mate, Kamala Harris, that the officers in the Blake and Taylor cases should be charged. "I think we should let the judicial system work its way," he said. "I do think at a minimum, they need to be charged, the officers." Mr Blake, 29, was shot seven times in the back and paralysed during an arrest in Kenosha, Wisconsin, on 23 August. No action has so far been taken against the officer involved, pending investigations by the Wisconsin and US departments of justice. Ms Taylor, 26, was fatally shot in her home during a drug raid in Louisville, Kentucky, on 13 March. One of the officers is losing his job; two others have been placed on administrative leave as the investigation into their actions proceeds. Mr Biden also mentioned the gunman, identified in US media as a far-left activist, who fatally shot a Trump supporter on the streets of Portland, Oregon, last weekend. The Democratic nominee stopped short of calling for charges in that case, but said: "They should be investigated and it should follow through on what needs to be done. "Let the judicial system work. Let's make sure justice is done." Mr Biden had been delivering remarks about how to open schools safely in light of the coronavirus pandemic. His comments came a day before he travels to Kenosha, where he says he wants to help "heal" the city after it was rocked by days of violent protests.
9-3-20 Daniel Prude: New York police used 'spit hood' on man who died of asphyxiation
An unarmed black man died in New York state after he was hooded by police and held face down to the road for two minutes, body camera footage shows. Daniel Prude, 41, who had mental health issues, was restrained in March by police who put a "spit hood" - a device used to stop detainees spitting or biting - on his head. He later died of asphyxiation but his story has only now been made public. His death was two months before the killing of George Floyd. Mr Floyd died after a white policeman knelt on his neck for nearly eight minutes in Minnesota. Anti-racism protests broke out in the US and globally in the wake of his killing. In a news conference on Wednesday, Mr Prude's brother, Joe, said he called police in Rochester on 23 March as his sibling was showing acute mental health problems. "I placed a phone call for my brother to get help, not for my brother to get lynched," he said. A warehouse worker from Chicago and father of five, Daniel Prude was visiting his brother at the time of his death. Police body camera footage obtained by the family through a public records request shows Mr Prude, who had been running naked through the streets in a light snow before police arrived, lying unarmed as officers restrain him on the ground. The video shows that Mr Prude complied immediately when officers arrived on the scene and ordered him to lie on the ground and put his hands behind his back. He can be heard saying: "Sure thing, sure thing." He becomes agitated, at times swearing at the officers who surround him and spitting, but he does not appear to offer any physical resistance, according to the footage. Mr Prude told officers he was infected with coronavirus, and they placed a white "spit hood" over his head. One officer is seen pressing down with both hands on Mr Prude's head and saying: "Stop spitting." (Webmaster's comment: The murdering of black people by the police goes on all the time!)
9-2-20 Politicians can’t be afraid of U-turns if we want to keep schools open
These children have made a big sacrifice in our fight against the coronavirus. Many teachers have made heroic efforts to suddenly switch to remote learning, but there is no doubt that pupils’ education has been affected. The pandemic has also prevented progress in closing the gap in academic achievement between the most disadvantaged children in England and their peers. Those disadvantaged children are now more than 18 months behind by the time they are 16, on average. Because of this, there is wide agreement that schools must reopen, and stay open. Achieving this is fraught with unknowns, however (see “Coronavirus: How to keep children and staff safe when schools reopen”). Although it seems that children are less likely to transmit and get sick from the coronavirus, we don’t know why that is the case. Should an outbreak occur, pupils’ families and school staff could still be at risk. In order to keep schools safe, governments must be prepared to shut down other areas of society to keep overall levels of virus transmission low. If parents return to travelling, en masse, on crowded commuter lines, that will vastly increase their likelihood of catching the coronavirus and passing it to their children. If large groups begin to gather in pubs and restaurants, or choose to go to parties inside private spaces, the same applies.This all means that managing the virus necessitates that politicians must be agile, and unafraid of U-turns. In England, a row over pupils wearing face coverings (see “Coronavirus: Should children returning to school wear face coverings?”) saw the UK government spend weeks denying it would change its policy of not requiring them, only to eventually cave in shortly before schools opened. This is a time for the grown-ups to have grown-up conversations about the difficult realities of reopening schools, so that children can get on and learn.
9-2-20 Covid-19 news: Steroid drugs save lives in severe coronavirus patients
The latest coronavirus news updated every day including coronavirus cases, the latest news, features and interviews from New Scientist and essential information about the covid-19 pandemic. Steroid drugs that reduce inflammation found to save lives from severe covid-19. A group of drugs that reduce inflammation have been confirmed to increase survival in people with severe covid-19. In a landmark study bringing together all the trials done so far looking at the effect of steroids on coronavirus, researchers in the World Health Organization (WHO) REACT working group analysed results from seven randomised clinical trials, which included 1703 critically ill patients with covid-19. They compared the outcomes of those who had received one of three corticosteroid drugs – dexamethasone, hydrocortisone or methylprednisolone – with those who received standard care or a placebo. The researchers found that 32 per cent of those who received a corticosteroid treatment had died from the disease after 28 days, compared to 40 per cent of those who did not. “The evidence for benefit is strongest for dexamethasone,” Stephen Evans at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine said in a statement. These new results, published today in the Journal of the American Medical Association, add weight to earlier findings from the RECOVERY trial, which found that dexamethasone reduced deaths in critically ill covid-19 patients by a third for patients on ventilators and by a fifth for those receiving oxygen – the first drug shown to do so. “This analysis increases confidence that [dexamethasone] has a really worthwhile role in critically ill patients with covid-19,” Evans said. As a result of the study, the WHO is expected to update its guidance on treatment. In the UK, the drug has been in use for treating severely ill covid-19 patients since June. The US will not take part in a global initiative to develop and distribute a future coronavirus vaccine, because of its association with the WHO. More than 170 countries are participating in the initiative, called COVAX, which is working to ensure the equitable and fair global allocation of a potential vaccine. “We will not be constrained by multilateral organizations influenced by the corrupt World Health Organization and China,” White House spokesperson Judd Deere said in a statement. The US is due to withdraw from the WHO entirely next July – a move Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden has vowed to reverse if he is elected in November.
9-2-20 Coronavirus: Should children returning to school wear face coverings?
Days before schools reopened, the UK government reversed its advice that face coverings need not be worn by pupils in England. Now it recommends that secondary school children wear them in corridors and busy communal areas. Official advice on this has evolved during the pandemic. Currently, the World Health Organization (WHO) advises that young people over the age of 12 wear face coverings as adults do, ideally wherever it is difficult to maintain a distance of at least 1 metre from others in places where coronavirus transmission is ongoing. This doesn’t apply to people with certain disabilities, or those who find wearing a face covering anxiety-provoking. For children aged between 6 and 11, the advice is more flexible. Whether a child wears a mask should depend on their ability to use one, according to the WHO, which also advises that children under the age of 5 shouldn’t have to wear them. The American Academy of Pediatrics strongly recommends the use of face coverings by children age 2 and older. Public Health England, meanwhile, doesn’t recommend face coverings for children under the age of 3 “for health and safety reasons”, but it is unclear what those are. There is unlikely to be any risk to the breathing abilities of a young child who wears a face covering, say experts contacted by New Scientist. The greater risk is likely to be that young children use masks incorrectly. “They might be taking them off, manipulating them, and putting them back on their face,” says Dimitri Christakis at the Seattle Children’s Research Institute. “It might actually be worse than wearing a mask.” There are also concerns that face coverings will affect the way young children learn about language, emotions and social interactions. “When they’re learning sounds and words, and when their vocabulary is increasing, children and babies tend to focus [their attention] on the mouth,” says Lisa Scott at the University of Florida.
9-2-20 Coronavirus: How to keep children and staff safe when schools reopen
SCHOOLS across England and the US are about to reopen their doors to students who have been at home for months thanks to the coronavirus pandemic. What is the best way to keep children, and school staff and parents, safe? Many of these schools closed towards the end of March as cases surged in both the UK and the US. Given how little we knew about the coronavirus at the time, closing schools was the right thing to do, say the researchers contacted by New Scientist. But we have learned a lot about how the virus spreads and who is at the greatest risk since then. While many questions remain, keeping children out of school is likely to be more harmful to them, and to society, in the long run. Back in March, many decisions about the coronavirus were based on what was known about other respiratory viruses, like the flu. “Kids are the main sustainers of transmission of influenza,” says Benjamin Linas at Boston University. “But covid-19 is not influenza.” Unlike with flu, children seem far less likely than adults to have symptomatic or severe cases of covid-19. In February, a report covering 72,314 cases of the disease in China found that only 1 per cent were in children under the age of 10 (JAMA, doi.org/ggmq43). Similar trends have been seen in other countries since, including the US. Children aren’t immune, and some do appear to develop a multi-system inflammatory syndrome, which can be fatal, but this seems to be extremely rare. In one recent study, Olivia Swann at the University of Edinburgh, UK, and her colleagues followed the outcomes of 627 young people under the age of 19 who had been admitted to UK hospitals with confirmed cases of covid-19. Six of the children died, all of whom had other conditions (BMJ, doi.org/d7pc). Half of the deaths were in very premature babies with heart problems and sepsis, for example.
9-2-20 Jacob Blake: Trump visits Kenosha to back police after shooting
US President Donald Trump has visited Kenosha, Wisconsin, to back law enforcement after the police shooting of a black man sparked civil strife. The Republican president blamed "domestic terror" for the "destruction" in the Midwestern city. Kenosha saw days of violence after police shot Jacob Blake in the back and left him paralysed on 23 August. Mr Trump has been lagging behind Joe Biden in opinion polls, although some polls have tightened in recent weeks. The president is pushing a campaign message of "law and order" - however, Mr Biden has accused Mr Trump of stoking racial division. "Fires are burning and we have a president who fans the flames rather than fighting the flames," the former US vice-president said ahead of Mr Trump's trip on Tuesday. A police officer shot Jacob Blake seven times in the back during an arrest as the 29-year-old tried to get into a car where his three children were seated. The president visited areas damaged in the protests, including a burnt-out furniture store and camera shop destroyed in the upheaval. "These are not acts of peaceful protest, but really domestic terror," he later told local business leaders at a round table meeting in a high school gym. Mr Trump defended the actions of US police and accused the media of focusing only on "bad" incidents involving officers. "You have people that choke," he said. "They are under tremendous pressure. And they may be there for 15 years and have a spotless record and all of a sudden they're faced with a decision. They have a quarter of a second to make a decision. And if they make a wrong decision, one way or the other, they're either dead or they're in big trouble. "And people have to understand that. They choke sometimes." The president also expressed sympathy for those hurt in confrontations with police, saying he felt "terribly for anybody who goes through that". But he said he did not believe there was systemic racism in law enforcement. (Webmaster's comment: It is clear that Trump supports police violence against blacks!)
9-2-20 International Criminal Court officials sanctioned by US
The US has imposed sanctions on senior officials in the International Criminal Court (ICC), including chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo accused the court of "illegitimate attempts to subject Americans to its jurisdiction". The Hague-based ICC is currently investigating whether US forces committed war crimes in Afghanistan. The US has criticised the court since its foundation and is one of a dozen states which have not signed up. President Donald Trump issued an executive order in June allowing the US to block the assets of ICC employees. He has repeatedly attacked the body and questioned its independence. Addressing reporters on Wednesday, Mr Pompeo said these sanctions were the "next step", following on from that order. Dismissing the ICC as a "thoroughly broken and corrupted institution", he said sanctions would apply to Ms Bensouda and Phakiso Mochochoko, the head of the Jurisdiction, Complementarity and Cooperation Division, for helping her. "Individuals and entities that continue to materially support those individuals risk exposure to sanctions as well," he said. The US state department has also restricted the issuance of visas for ICC staff involved in "efforts to investigate US personnel". (Webmaster's comment: The US commits war crimes in all it's wars against the other nations of the earth. Millions have died due to US war crimes!)
9-2-20 Iran nuclear deal: Why US 'snapback' sanctions on Iran could fail
Even before he was elected, President Donald Trump called the Iran nuclear settlement of 2015 "the worst deal ever". The US pulled out of the complex arrangement in May 2018 and has now attempted to trigger a ''snapback" - or re-imposition - of comprehensive UN sanctions against Iran that would scupper the entire deal. The nuclear deal is the result of complex negotiations led by the US over many months. In essence, it requires Tehran permanently to renounce the development of nuclear arms, along with an acceptance of verification by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). In return, the UN Security Council removed all previous sanctions on Iran. Instead, it imposed a fresh set of more limited sanctions. These would expire automatically in three stages, in parallel with Iranian compliance. The first tranche of Security Council sanctions concerning conventional arms transfers is set to expire in a few weeks' time. Restrictions on ballistic missiles are to run until 2023, with the remaining limits on nuclear transfers becoming obsolete 10 years after the conclusion of the deal, in 2025, subject to IAEA safeguards. When Washington withdrew from the deal, it pointed to Iranian attempts to destabilise its region, in particular in Lebanon, the Palestinian territories, Syria and Yemen. The US also alleged Iran was pursuing a nuclear programme likely to jeopardise the global non-proliferation regime. The US re-imposed its own comprehensive set of sanctions unilaterally and started to threaten companies of third states with punitive measures unless they, too, complied. Iran asserted this was a material breach of the deal. However, rather than ceasing participation in return, it continued compliance and claims to have invoked its dispute settlement procedure. After a year of supposed fruitless settlement attempts, in 2019 Iran started a process of "reduced compliance" in answer to the US action. In particular it has enhanced its uranium production in excess of the permitted limits.
9-1-20 Human trials of Oxford coronavirus vaccine have begun in the US
A large trial of a coronavirus vaccine developed by the University of Oxford has begun in the US. With similar trials already under way in the UK and Brazil, hopes are rising that we could find out if the vaccine works before the end of the year. A collaboration between the Oxford team and the drug firm AstraZeneca, this vaccine is one of the front-runners. Worldwide, eight other coronavirus vaccines have started large-scale trials, and 24 have begun smaller trials to assess safety. On 31 August, the US National Institutes of Health announced that the first of 30,000 volunteers had received either the Oxford vaccine, known as AZD1222, or a placebo consisting of salty water. One in three volunteers will get the placebo, but the trial is double blind, meaning that neither the researchers nor the volunteers know which is being administered. The trial is being carried out at 80 sites across the US. In the UK, nearly 10,000 volunteers have already been given either AZD1222 or a placebo. Once a certain number of the volunteers in these trials test positive for covid-19, researchers will be allowed to unblind the data and look to see if there are fewer – or even no – cases in those given the vaccine. It could take some time to get to this point in the UK, as the number of daily coronavirus cases remains low post-lockdown, although the numbers are slowly increasing. The trials in Brazil and the US might yield results sooner, as these countries have more confirmed cases per capita. Once the results of large trials are in, regulators will consider whether to approve any vaccine. The director of the Oxford vaccine group, Andrew Pollard, told the BBC last week that the team might be able to put results before regulators this year.
9-1-20 Covid-19 news: Millions of pupils return to schools after lockdown
The latest coronavirus news updated every day including coronavirus cases, the latest news, features and interviews from New Scientist and essential information about the covid-19 pandemic. Pupils around the world return to schools with new coronavirus measures in place. Millions of pupils returned to school today for the first time since coronavirus lockdowns were introduced, including pupils in France, Poland, Russia, England and Wales as well as in Wuhan in China, where the coronavirus was first detected. Schools in England and Wales have introduced hygiene and social distancing measures in line with recently updated government guidance, including wearing of face coverings by pupils in communal areas and staggering of break times for different year groups. But a survey of 653 parents in these regions by YouGov revealed that 17 per cent were considering keeping their children out of school due to concerns about coronavirus. Pharmaceutical giant Astrazeneca has expanded its agreement with UK company Oxford Biomedica to scale up production of its coronavirus vaccine candidate. Oxford Biomedica has agreed to produce tens of millions of doses of the vaccine candidate, which is being developed by AstraZeneca in partnership with the University of Oxford. The candidate recently entered late-stage trials in the US, with 30,000 people enrolled. In a statement, AstraZeneca said its global manufacturing capacity was close to 3 billion doses. Although there has been an increase in the use of face coverings in the UK, only 13 per cent of people who wear reusable face masks are maintaining them in a way that is helpful to stopping the spread of coronavirus, according to a poll of 1944 people by YouGov. The survey found that the use of face coverings in the UK increased from 38 per cent to 69 per cent from mid to late July. However, only 13 per cent of people who said they wear washable face masks also said they wash them after every use and at 60 degrees C or higher.
9-1-20 Trump is not the law and order candidate
His campaign message is total nonsense. ast week's Republican National Convention made clear that the campaign to re-elect President Trump has found its message: The Democratic candidate Joe Biden is too weak to stand up to the radical left, which is burning down American cities and sowing violence across the country. If Biden wins, the anarchists will take over, destroying America. The only alternative to this terrible fate is to re-elect Trump, the candidate of unapologetic law and order. Too bad the message is total nonsense. Trump is doing his best to foment and weaponize disorder in order to portray himself as the man who will save us from it — like an arsonist who sets a blaze so he can play the role of a heroic firefighter. Which means that if you really care about law and order, Trump is the last person you should be voting for in November. Whether it comes from strategic thinking on the part of Trump and his campaign or it emerges from the president's basest social and political instincts, the fact is that Trump seeks to win by division. Instead of trying to build the largest or broadest coalition, he aims to sow discord in his opponents and maximize mobilization on his own side. This responds perfectly to the distinctive vulnerabilities of both parties at the present moment. The GOP is shrinking, with presidential victories increasingly dependent on the party winning narrowly in a handful of states in order to prevail in the Electoral College. To make this work, the party must be highly unified, with Republican voters maximally motivated to show up on Election Day. The Democrats, by contrast, are a broad party, which makes them more capable than Republicans of winning popular vote pluralities or majorities. But for that to happen — and for the margin of victory to be wide enough for it to overcome the GOP's Electoral College advantage — the party needs to be unified around its nominee. That's challenging in a party so large and diverse in terms of ideology, race, class, and region. But it's especially difficult with the party's Republican opponent actively sowing division and discord in the Democratic coalition. Trump pursues both aims simultaneously — seeking to unify and mobilize his own side while dividing and demoralizing his opponents — and a “law and order” message is perfect for that in 2020. Violent crime really does seem to be on the rise, and some on the left have indeed been acting in a highly confrontational and sometimes violent way for months now. Pointing to these examples of disorder and claiming a Biden victory will make it much worse convinces Republican voters that the stakes in the upcoming election are enormously high — and promises to weaken the Democrats by forcing Biden to take his own strong law-and-order stance, which would supposedly alienate his party's left flank. The Republicans unified and the Democrats divided — that's exactly Trump's aim. Whether it will work remains an open question. We'll know much more about its effectiveness a week or so from now, once we have a wide range of post-RNC polling data. But acknowledging that Trump's play might be politically effective is different than thinking it should be effective. And on that score, the evidence is plain. There is no evidence at all that Trump genuinely wants the country to settle down — and quite a lot of evidence that he's eager to provoke as much chaos and violence as possible. This point is distinct from the related claim of Trump critics when they argue that just having Trump in office is a catalyst for unrest. I'm inclined to think there's some truth to this, especially when his elbow-throwing style of governance is combined with understandable frustration at the knowledge that Trump actually earns lower approval, support, and total votes than those who reject him.
9-1-20 Trump defends supporters accused in deadly clashes
US President Donald Trump has defended supporters for their alleged roles in recent deadly street clashes. He suggested a teen accused of killing two in Wisconsin last week and Trump fans involved in clashes in Oregon on Saturday had acted in self-defence. He said Joe Biden, his Democratic challenger in the 3 November election, had not specifically disavowed far-left activists accused of civil disorder. The violence has come amid widespread, largely peaceful anti-racism protests. Mr Biden, leading in opinion polls ahead of the election, has spoken out against violence, accusing Mr Trump of causing the divisions that have stoked it. At Monday's White House news conference, Mr Trump blamed Mr Biden and his allies for violence in cities run by Democratic mayors and governors. A CNN reporter asked the Republican president whether he would condemn Trump supporters who had fired paint pellets during a confrontation with counter-protesters at the weekend in Portland, Oregon. In the ensuing street clashes, Aaron Danielson - a member of a far right group, Patriot Prayer - was killed by a suspect who has reportedly described himself as a member of antifa, a network of mainly far-left activists. Mr Trump described the protest as "peaceful" and said paint was "a defensive mechanism, paint is not bullets". He told the reporter: "Your supporters, and they are your supporters indeed, shot a young gentleman who - and killed him, not with paint but with a bullet. And I think it's disgraceful." Another reporter asked Mr Trump whether he would condemn a shooting in Kenosha, Wisconsin, allegedly by a teenager once pictured at one of the president's rallies. Kyle Rittenhouse, 17, is accused of shooting three people, two fatally, last week amid demonstrations in the city over the police shooting of an African American man, Jacob Blake. Two Democratic congressmen pilloried Mr Trump for the remarks. Joe Kennedy III of Massachusetts tweeted: "This is the United States President justifying a double murder by a white man illegally carrying an assault rifle across state lines." (Webmaster's comment: Trump is creating a TOXIC, VIOLENT environment in America!)
9-1-20 American occupiers
The Trump-supporting far right is the wellspring of political violence in America today. In Portland, Oregon on Saturday night, a man was shot and killed. Though the exact circumstances of his death are still not clear, he was reportedly associated with Patriot Prayer, a far-right extremist group. Earlier in the day, there were several brawls between the group and leftist counterprotesters during a large parade of Trump supporters through the city. It is of course tragic when anyone is murdered, and should this turn out to be a premeditated political killing of some kind, it would be an extremely disturbing indication of where the country is headed. But we must be clear that the broader context of political violence is something the Trump-supporting far right is welcoming, celebrating, and trying to create, even as they insist that only Trump can be trusted to restore "law and order." Patriot Prayer is a flavor of Trump-supporting militia that tendentiously claims to be against racism despite supporting a racist president, associating with other openly-racist gangs like the Proud Boys, and receiving regular praise from racist outlets like The Daily Stormer. It's basically the alt-right with a slightly more respectable brand. Importantly, Patriot Prayer is not actually from Portland — it is based in Vancouver, Washington, the city's largest suburb. On Saturday, they and other Trump supporters met in Clackamas (another suburb) and formed a huge caravan of trucks and SUVs that drove into downtown Portland. The obvious intention was to occupy the city and stir up violence and unrest, which is what happened, just as it has on many previous occasions going back years. Driving around in gigantic trucks waving Trump signs and "thin blue line" flags of police support — the Portland Police Department is notoriously brutal and friendly with far-right extremists — in a progressive city is an act of spiteful aggression intended to infuriate liberals and leftists, and provoke a response. When a response is provoked, as happened in Portland when counter-protesters blocked traffic at one intersection, that becomes an excuse to escalate things further — several Trump goons in their massive trucks bulldozed through the group (committing multiple crimes), while spraying chemical weapons in every direction. It's a wonder nobody was killed. Portland is famously one of the most left-wing cities in the country, full of radicals, artists, and counterculture types. Trump lost the county in which it resides 17-73. For the far right, cities like that are primarily a place they can stage their particular brand of amped-up postmodern grievance politics — where they can try to bait a reaction from antifa or imaginary "cultural Marxists," and give themselves permission to let loose more violence while pretending they didn't start it. As I have written before, it's part of classic fascist politics: stoking violence to indulge lizard-brain impulses among its street brawlers, to intimidate the left, and to create an impression of disorder to frighten cowardly centrists. A democratic republic is a useful form of government for many reasons, but one of the most important ones is it moves political competition away from violence and towards the ballot box. If an election is lost, parties who did not win can regroup and try to win the next one instead of overthrowing the government by force. But this only works if a critical mass of the population views the electoral process as legitimate.
9-1-20 Jacob Blake: Father 'refuses to play politics' as Trump visits Kenosha
The father of a black man shot by police has refused to "play politics" with his son's life when Donald Trump visits the city of Kenosha on Tuesday. Jacob Blake's shooting sparked a fresh wave of anti-racism protests in the US, prompting calls for President Trump to acknowledge him and his family. The president will meet police officers on the visit, but not the Blake family. The visit comes with "law and order" becoming highly politicised ahead of the 3 November presidential election. In an interview with CNN, Mr Blake's father, Jacob Blake Sr, said his son's life was more important than a meeting with President Trump. "I'm not getting into politics. It's all about my son, man. It has nothing to do with a photo op," he said. Local officials have urged Mr Trump to not visit Kenosha, in the state of Wisconsin, fearing his presence in the city may reignite protests that have calmed down in recent days. But Mr Trump has rejected their pleas, accusing Democratic mayors and governors of failing to get a grip on the violence. He has made law and order a key issue in his bid to a win a second term in the White House. Ahead of the Kenosha trip, the president said he would not meet Mr Blake's family because they wanted lawyers to be present. "This is not politics. This is about the life of my son," Mr Blake Sr said, adding that his son was still paralysed from the waist down, "holding on for dear life". Jacob Blake, 29, was shot several times in the back by a police officer during an arrest, as Mr Blake tried to get into a car where his three children were seated. "We are dealing with an individual that a couple of weeks ago was running around with the boys and talking to me on the phone and laughing, to an individual that cannot move his leg," Mr Blake Sr said. The officer involved in the shooting on 23 August, named as Rusten Sheskey, has been placed on administrative leave while an investigation takes place. Mr Blake Sr said that since his son's shooting he had "received some threats". Jacob Blake's sister: 'I have been watching police murder people that look like me for years'