Month: June 2020

While COVID-19 Rages, Don’t Forget About Pandemic Flu

Don’t panic, but there is another virus out there that could cause a pandemic.  This one is an influenza strain circulating in pigs and their caretakers in China.  It is not currently causing widespread illness, and it may never do so. But it has “all the essential hallmarks of a candidate pandemic virus,” according to the authors of a new study in the FILE – A patient receives a flu vaccination in Mesquite, Texas, January 23, 2020.‘Good news, bad news’ “There’s good news and bad here,” Pavia said. “I think the bad news is that once again, it looks as if we’re identifying strains of flu that are emerging in populations with the potential to jump to humans.”However, only a handful of serious cases have been reported.”The severity remains low. That’s good news,” Pavia said, adding, “there’s no guarantee that it’s going to stay that way.”Other factors also must change before alarm bells really go off, experts note.”What is really important for influenza pandemic emergence, as well as for any viral pandemic emergence, is sustained airborne transmission,” said University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine microbiologist and molecular geneticist Seema Lakdawala, who was not part of the research team.While a few people are getting infected, she said there is no sign now of sustained transmission.Food animals are a common source of new flu viruses. Birds, pigs and humans can all exchange flu strains. Pigs are especially welcoming environments for influenza viruses to reinvent themselves. Multiple strains can infect one animal, swap genes and emerge as a novel strain.Unpredictable There is no telling when the right combination of genes will fall into place and produce a virulent, transmissible virus.A lethal strain called H5N1 first appeared in poultry in Hong Kong in 1997 and resurfaced in 2003. It kills more than half the people it infects. But for reasons scientists do not understand, it has not gone pandemic.”It’s still a concern. It has caused hundreds of deaths,” said senior scholar Gigi Gronvall at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, who was not involved with the research. “But for whatever reason, even though all eyes were on that, it was this other virus that took off in 2009.” FILE – Researchers of the Veterinary Institute under the Academy of Agricultural Research check on African Swine Flu at Ryongsong District in Pyongyang, North Korea, June 10, 2019.That year, H1N1 emerged from pigs and sparked a pandemic. Researchers estimate that nearly 300,000 people died from it in the first year. Since then, health officials have increased efforts to monitor livestock farms and markets for new viruses.”There’s been a big improvement, but it’s far from complete,” Pavia said. “The challenge is enormous. Influenza circulates among ducks, turkeys, swine – not to mention there are strains that infect everything from horses to dogs. And tracking all of these is an enormous task.”The effort is understaffed and underfunded, “like so many things in public health,” he said.And that’s dangerous. “We’ve seen the consequences of inadequate public health surveillance in the emergence and failure to control COVID-19,” Pavia noted. Flu tools Unlike COVID-19, health experts have tools against influenza that might help if the new strain were to launch a new pandemic.  “We know how to test for influenza viruses,” Lakdawala said. Flu antivirals are only partly effective, “but we do at least have antivirals that can limit the severity of disease. We have a number of them. We also have a vaccine platform that is already approved and safe.”  A vaccine could be available in a matter of months.  But there is no way to know whether the newly identified strain will spark a pandemic.”The more you study flu, the more you realize we just don’t know how to predict that,” Pavia said.  

Facebook Bans Violent ‘Boogaloo’ Groups, Not the Term Itself

Facebook has banned an extremist anti-government network loosely associated with the broader “boogaloo” movement, a slang term supporters use to refer to a second Civil War or a collapse of civilization. But the platform didn’t try to name the group, underscoring the difficulty of grappling with an amorphous network linked to a string of domestic terror plots that appears to obfuscate its existence. Among other complications, its internet-savvy members tend to keep their distance from one another, frequently change their symbols and catch phrases and mask their intentions with sarcasm. The move by Facebook designates this group as a dangerous organization similar to the Islamic State group and white supremacists, both of which are already banned from its service. The social network is not banning all references to “boogaloo” and said it is only removing groups, accounts and pages when they have a “clear connection to violence or a credible threat to public safety.”  The loose movement is named after “Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo,” a 1984 sequel to a movie about breakdancing. Boogaloo supporters have shown up at protests over COVID-19 lockdown orders, carrying rifles and wearing tactical gear over Hawaiian shirts – a reference to “big luau,” a homophone for “boogaloo” sometimes favored by group members. Facebook said that the movement dates to 2012 and that it has been tracking it closely since last year.  FILE – Steven Carrillo is seen in a booking photo from the Santa Cruz County (California) Sheriff’s Office, June 7, 2020.Earlier in June, Steven Carrillo, an Air Force sergeant with ties to the boogaloo movement, fatally shot a federal security officer and wounded his partner outside a U.S. courthouse, ambushed and killed a California sheriff’s deputy, and injured four other officers in Oakland, California. According to the criminal complaint, Carrillo posted in a Facebook group, “It’s on our coast now, this needs to be nationwide. It’s a great opportunity to target the specialty soup bois. Keep that energy going.”  The statement was followed by two fire emojis and a link to a YouTube video showing a large crowd attacking two California Highway Patrol vehicles. According to the FBI, “soup bois” may be a term that followers of the boogaloo movement used to refer to federal law enforcement agents.  While the term “boogaloo'” has been embraced by white supremacist groups and other far-right extremists, many supporters insist they aren’t racist or truly advocating for violence. As part of Tuesday’s announcement, Facebook said it has removed 220 Facebook accounts, 95 Instagram accounts, 28 Pages and 106 groups that that comprise the violent Boogaloo-affiliated network. It also took down 400 other groups and 100 pages that hosted similar content as the violent network but were maintained by accounts outside of it. The company said it has so far found no evidence of foreign actors amplifying boogaloo-related material. Social media companies are facing a reckoning over hate speech on their platforms. Reddit, an online comment forum that is one of the world’s most popular websites, on Monday banned a forum that supported President Donald Trump as part of a crackdown on hate speech. Live-streaming site Twitch, which is owned by Amazon, temporarily suspended Trump’s campaign account for violating its hateful conduct rules. YouTube, meanwhile, banned several prominent white nationalist figures from its platform, including Stefan Molyneux, David Duke and Richard Spencer. Civil rights groups have called on large advertisers to stop Facebook ad campaigns during July, saying the social network isn’t doing enough to curtail racist and violent content on its platform, and several major advertisers have signed on to the boycott.  Violent and extremist groups are increasingly turning to encrypted communications networks and fringe social platforms with no content moderation, which makes them more difficult to track.  

New Study Suggests Weightlifting Changes Brain as Well as Muscles

A new study published this week in the Journal of Neuroscience suggests weightlifting affects a person’s brain weeks before there is a noticeable change in muscles. The study, conducted by researchers at New Castle University in northeast Britain, used macaque monkeys, whose brain systems are similar to humans in regard to movement.   The researchers trained the monkeys to pull a weighted handle with one arm by rewarding them with food. Over the course of three months, researchers increased the resistance of a weighted handle week by week. The monkeys completed daily strength training sessions, including 50 weighted pulls (moving the handle at least 4 centimeters). FILE – Russia’s Andrey Demanov competes during the men’s 94kg group A weightlifting event of the London 2012 Olympic Games at The Excel Centre in London on August 4, 2012.The experiment revealed that weightlifting strengthens the nervous system through a motor tract called the reticulospinal tract, and this change occurs weeks before any muscle is added. Newcastle University researcher Isabel Glover, co-author of the study, explained that when people lift weights, they get stronger because the neural input to the muscles increases.  “It’s a few weeks later that the muscles themselves start to get bigger,” Glover said. Professor Stuart Baker, the study’s other co-author, said this change in the nervous system helps weightlifters activate their existing muscles more efficiently. Baker said these neural changes in the brain also have other physiological benefits. “If we understand the neural mechanisms of strength, then we can start to think about how to help individuals suffering from a loss of strength, such as following a stroke,” he said.  

Entertainment Legend Carl Reiner Dies at 98

Legendary comedian, writer, producer, director, and actor Carl Reiner, who rose to fame in the 1950s as part of Sid Ceasar’s legendary comedy show and went on to create television shows and direct movies, has died at the age of 98.Reiner’s assistant, Judy Nagy confirmed that Reiner died of natural causes Monday at his home in Beverly Hills.  Reiner was active well into his 90s and was known for saying he got up every morning and checked the obituaries. “If you are not in them, you eat breakfast,” he would say.  IN 2017, he was featured in a documentary on HBO of the same name that looked at himself and other aging entertainers.He was active on his Twitter account, where he was a vocal critic of U.S. President Donald Trump. His last tweet came just hours before he passed.Born and raised in New York City, Reiner first came to be known as a writer and cast member on Sid Ceasar’s “Your Show of Shows” in the 1950s. It was there he met is lifelong friend and comedy partner comedian, writer and film producer Mel Brooks. The two went on to perform “The 2000 year Old Man” together, first in the 1960s, and then again in sequels into the late 1990s.In the early 1960’s, Reiner created the hit television comedy “The Dick Van Dyke Show,” about a comedy writer and family man. He appeared on the show himself as the difficult boss of the main character, played by Dick Van Dyke.Reiner turned a novel he wrote, “Enter Laughing” into a Broadway play, and the first of many movies he would direct. In the 1970s and 80’s, directed and helped write four movies with comedian Steve Martin.  He acted in several movies, including the relatively recent “Ocean’s Eleven” and its sequels with George Clooney.Reiners son, Rob, himself an actor, director, and activist from his Twitter account wrote Tuesday: “Last night my dad passed away. As I write this my heart is hurting. He was my guiding light.”Three days ago, from his own Twitter account, Reiner wrote: Nothing pleases me more than knowing that I have lived the best life possible by having met & marrying the gifted Estelle (Stella) Lebost—who partnered with me in bringing Rob, Annie & Lucas Reiner into to this needy & evolving world”

Measles Mumps and Rubella Vaccine May Protect Some People from COVID-19

Something data crunchers have noticed during the coronavirus pandemic: countries with recent outbreaks of measles have fewer deaths and serious illnesses from the coronavirus. Is this a coincidence? Or is there something about the measles mumps and rubella vaccine that protects against the worst outcomes of the coronavirus? We learn more from VOA’s Carol Pearson.Produced by: Barry Unger

Presidential Campaigns Embrace Tech to Reach Voters During Pandemic

With social distancing as the new pandemic normal, U.S. presidential campaigns were faced with an unprecedented situation. They no longer were able to send out organizers and volunteers to connect with potential voters face-to-face. Intimate, high-dollar fundraising events were also out of the question. “The coronavirus pandemic shifted things overnight. It was a sudden and instant transformation to 100% virtual campaigning, just like the pandemic disrupted everyone else’s daily life. The same is true of our campaigns,” said Eric Wilson, a Republican digital strategist and director of the Center for Campaign Innovation. “You’re just seeing a lot more creativity in terms of how and where the campaigns are finding the voters they need to get their message across to,” said Tara McGowan, CEO and founder of Acronym, a progressive nonprofit organization and head of the political action committee Pacronym.  Lally Doerrer, right, and Katharine Hildebrand watch Joe Biden during his Illinois virtual town hall, in Doerrer’s living room March 13, 2020, in Chicago.Politics as entertainment Most voters are consuming politics as entertainment, Wilson said. Since the start of social distancing orders in March, the Trump campaign launched, on social media such as Facebook and YouTube, a daily talk show-style broadcast with a host and guests. “That’s one of the biggest kind of innovations we’ve done, are these original seven-nights-a-week online broadcast. We really touch on loads of different dynamics and different messaging opportunities,” Erin Perrine, director of press communications for the Trump campaign, said.  Prominent Republicans and President Donald Trump’s children have been either guests or hosts on these shows. In one program, hosted by Donald Trump Jr., the guest being interviewed was his father, who is running for a second term against the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, former Vice President Joe Biden.  The Biden campaign is also tapping into social media. Biden is using Instagram for live conversations with social media influencers, celebrities and past Democratic presidential candidates such as entrepreneur Andrew Yang.  Last week, Biden raised more than $11 million during a joint virtual fundraising event with former President Barack Obama.President Donald Trump speaks during a Fox News virtual town hall from the Lincoln Memorial, May 3, 2020, in Washington, co-moderated by FOX News anchors Bret Baier and Martha MacCallum.Digital advertising, apps and engagement Digital ads have become another way for campaigns to reach potential voters and build a database of information.  “What the campaign is trying to do is if somebody engages the ad, clicks on the link, goes then to the website, then the first thing the campaign says is, ‘Hey, give me your email address,’ and if you do give your email address, they also then typically ask you for your name and maybe your address or your zip code,” Stromer-Galley said.  “Now they can start to get a profile of who you actually are and then maybe potentially marry that to other data that they have about that email address, whether they’ve purchased that list or are building it organically.”  With a potential supporter’s profile, campaigns can create ads on Facebook that target a specific demographic of users. “We run a lot of ads on Facebook continuously,” Perrine, of the Trump campaign, said. “Our digital team says it’s like high, high-volume trading on the stock market. We do a bunch of them and those that are doing well, we’ll put more money behind and continue to push those, then others that aren’t, you can pull them off the platform.”  Stromer-Galley said Facebook is a useful tool for campaigns because “Facebook has built an algorithm that predicts if you’re politically interested. They have an algorithm that predicts if you’re likely a Democratic supporter or a Republican supporter.” Both campaigns also have apps as ways of engaging supporters, fundraising and encouraging users to conduct peer-to-peer organizing. “If you’re one of my friends, and I know that you’ve not decided on who you’re going to vote for, I can reach out directly to you and say, ‘Hey, here’s who I’m supporting, here’s what I think matters to you, and I would send you a text message or a Facebook message, however we normally communicate,” said Wilson, the Republican strategist.   To encourage supporters, Trump’s app is gamified, where users can earn points by sharing a post or liking something on social media and making phone calls for the campaign. The points get aggregated, and they can be used to gain early entry into rallies, a discount code for buying campaign merchandise, and with enough points, a supporter can meet Trump.  The reason why campaigns want people to engage digitally is to “glean data, is to get more information on voters, how we can stay in contact with them, because you want these people to become volunteers, you want them to stay engaged and become part of the movement. But, ultimately, we want them to show up on election day,” Perrine said. “When I downloaded them to my phone, the first thing it asks — after some personal information about me, like my address, some demographic information, my name, my email address — it then asks if the app, the mobile app can access my contacts, my photographs,” said Stromer-Galley, who downloaded the Trump and Biden apps for her research. McGowan, of Pacronym, and her staff are separate from the Biden campaign. They  have been running their own digital advertising to support Biden on nontraditional platforms, such as streaming apps like Hulu and Roku, on gaming devices such as Xbox, and on streaming radio, including Pandora and Spotify.  McGowan said ads are no longer one-size-fits-all and have to be tailored for the various unique platforms available to consumers today. “It’s become such, just a diverse media landscape today. So you really have to sort of stay ahead of the curve. You really can’t rest on your laurels, and it’s a real challenge for campaigns,” she said.  Digital campaign contest With a bigger war chest, analysts of digital campaigns say Trump started the 2020 digital campaign with a huge advantage, both as the incumbent and with a database of supporters from his last presidential race.  “Trump has been very effective at blurring his presidential messaging and his campaign messaging on Twitter, and so as a journalist or as a member of the public, you can’t help but sort of get both at the same time when you’re watching him,” Stromer-Galley said. “Biden doesn’t have that advantage because he’s not the incumbent. He doesn’t have the presidency. He’s issuing formal statements. He’s doing YouTube videos. He is holding online events, but they don’t get the same traction,” she added. By numbers alone, Trump has more than 82 million followers on Twitter and Biden has just over 6 million. There are close to 30 million followers on Trump’s campaign Facebook page compared to just over 2 million followers on Biden’s Facebook page.  Trump’s campaign has outspent Biden on Facebook ads. “With online marketing, it’s a lot like compound interest. It pays more dividends the sooner you get it into the bank, and so the fact that the Trump campaign was able to get started building their digital infrastructure so early, it gives them a huge head start,” Wilson said.  As an example, he pointed to Trump’s decision to name Brad Pascale, his 2016 digital strategist, as his 2020 campaign manager as a sign that Trump understands the importance of having a strong digital presence in a campaign. Although Biden has been in politics much longer, “all of the campaign experiences can be a curse because you think you know how things should be done,” Wilson said. He further described the Biden campaign as “a traditional legacy style of campaign first, with digital operations as an add-on, and that’s not the way campaigns should be run in 2020.” The Biden campaign did not respond to repeated requests for an interview. However, McGowan countered, saying Biden has experience with digital campaigning while running as Obama’s running mate. “The Obama campaigns really drove a lot of the innovation in campaigning and bringing campaigning online. Online fundraising, advertising, and so Vice President Biden is no stranger to digital campaigning or strategy,” McGowan said. Earlier in June, the Biden campaign spent $15 million on advertising across media platforms.  “The Biden campaign has very quickly adapted to this moment. They’re continuing to grow and pivot, and I really believe that they are closing the gap,” McGowan said.  Since the pandemic, the Democratic National Committee has sent more than 4 million text messages to get people to sign up to vote by mail and held 82 training sessions on digital organizing since March, compared to 14 training sessions in 2019.  “The way that people have shown up in droves for them has been a really important thing,” Meg DiMartino, Democratic National Committee digital organizing director, said with more than 11,500 people signing up across all of the trainings. The key to a successful digital campaign is to reach “the right voters with the right message at the right moment on the right platform from the right messenger,” strategist Wilson said. That largely means meeting potential voters in the digital world during the 2020 pandemic. 

Chinese Scientists Discover New H1N1 Virus Strain That Could Infect Humans

Scientists in China have identified a new strain of a flu virus in pigs that has the potential to infect humans and lead to a new pandemic.
In a paper published in the U.S.-based journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the scientists say the new “G4” strain was discovered during a surveillance program of pig farms and slaughterhouses across 10 provinces between 2011 and 2018.   
The new virus is a variation of the H1N1 swine flu virus that killed hundreds of thousands of people around the world in 2009.   
The scientists discovered the G4 virus has already infected workers at various farms and slaughterhouses throughout China.  The new H1N1 strain can grow and quickly multiply in the cells that line the airways of humans, although there is no current evidence the illness can spread through human-to-human contact.   
But the researchers also found that although G4 is derived from H1N1, current flu vaccines do not provide any immunity from the new virus.
The research paper said that G4 have all the “essential hallmarks of a candidate pandemic virus.”  The scientists urged pig farmers to control the spread of the virus among pigs, and to closely monitor people who work with the animals.   
The study’s release comes as the world is in the grips of COVID-19 pandemic which has sickened over 10.2 million people worldwide and killed over 500,000 since it was first detected late last year in the central city of Wuhan.   

Social Media Platforms Face Reckoning Over Hate Speech 

For years, social media platforms have fueled political polarization and hosted an explosion of hate speech. Now, with four months until the U.S. presidential election and the country’s divisions reaching a boiling point, these companies are upping their game against bigotry and threats of violence. What’s not yet clear is whether this action is too little, too late — nor whether the pressure on these companies, including a growing advertiser boycott, will be enough to produce lasting change. FILE – Reddit employees work at the company’s headquarters in San Francisco, California, April 15, 2014.Reddit, an online comment forum that is one of the world’s most popular websites, on Monday banned a forum that supported President Donald Trump as part of a crackdown on hate speech. Also on Monday, live-streaming site Twitch, which is owned by Amazon, temporarily suspended Trump’s campaign account for violating its hateful conduct rules. YouTube, meanwhile, banned several prominent white nationalist figures from its platform, including Stefan Molyneux, David Duke and Richard Spencer.  Social media companies, led by Facebook, now face a reckoning over what critics call indefensible excuses for amplifying divisions, hate and misinformation on their platforms. Civil rights groups have called on large advertisers to stop Facebook ad campaigns during July, saying the social network isn’t doing enough to curtail racist and violent content on its platform.  Companies such as the consumer goods giant Unilever — one of the world’s largest advertisers — as well as Verizon, Ford and many smaller brands have joined the boycott, some for the month of July and others for the rest of the year. New companies have been signing on to the boycott almost every day. While some are pausing ads only on Facebook, others have also stepped back from advertising on Twitter and other platforms. On Monday, Ford Motor Co. put the brakes on all national social media advertising for the next 30 days. The company says hate speech, as well as posts advocating violence and racial injustice, need to be eradicated from the sites. FILE – The Twitter and Facebook logos are seen with binary cyber codes in this illustration, Nov. 26, 2019.While the ad boycott has dinged Facebook’s and Twitter’s shares, analysts who follow the social media business don’t see it as having a lasting effect.  Raymond James analyst Aaron Kessler noted that YouTube has faced several ad boycotts in the past over hate speech and other objectionable material. Each time, it adjusted its policies and the advertisers returned. In addition, July is generally a slow month for advertising. Companies have also been cutting their ad budgets due to COVID-19, so the spending declines are not a surprise for investors. Kessler called Facebook’s stock pullback — its shares fell more than 8% on Friday, then rallied a bit Monday — a “buying opportunity.” Reddit’s action was part of a larger purge at the San Francisco-based site. The company said it took down a total of 2,000 forums, known as the site as “subreddits,” most of which it said were inactive or had few users.  The Trump Reddit forum, called The_Donald, was banned because it encouraged violence, regularly broke other Reddit rules, and defiantly “antagonized” both Reddit and other forums, the company said in a statement. Reddit had previously tried to discipline the forum. “We are cautiously optimistic that Reddit is finally working with groups like ours to dismantle the systems that enable hateful rhetoric on their platform,” Bridget Todd, a spokeswoman for the women’s advocacy organization UltraViolet, said in an emailed statement.  The group said its members met with Reddit CEO Steve Huffman via Zoom last week, encouraging him to address racism and hate speech on the platform. Despite optimism from some critics, others said it is not clear if such measures will be enough. For years, racist groups “have successfully used social media to amplify their message and gain new recruits,” said Sophie Bjork-James an anthropology professor at Vanderbilt University who specializes in white nationalism, racism and hate crimes.  “However, limiting access to a broader public will have unintended negative consequences. Far-right and white nationalist groups are increasingly gathering on encrypted apps and social media sites that do not monitor for offensive speech or violent content,” she added. “This shift allows for coordinating more violent and radical actions.” The algorithms tech companies developed to keep users glued to their services “have provided perhaps the biggest boon to organized racism in decades, as they help racist ideas find a much larger and potentially receptive audience,” Bjork-James said, adding that she is hopeful that the same companies that “helped this anti-democratic movement expand” can now help limit its impact. For its part, Twitch pointed to comments the president made at two rallies, videos of which were posted on the site.  Supporters of President Donald Trump cheer as he arrives on stage to speak to a campaign rally at the BOK Center, June 20, 2020, in Tulsa, Oklahoma.In one, a live stream of a rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, Trump talked about a “very tough hombre” breaking into someone’s home. The other was from a 2015 campaign rally that was recently posted on Twitch, in which Trump said Mexico sends rapists and criminals to the U.S. Twitch declined to say how long the suspension will last. The White House referred a request for comment to Trump’s reelection campaign. Tim Murtaugh, the campaign’s director of communications, said that people who want to hear directly from the president should download the campaign’s app. Reddit has  tweaked its rules and banned forums  for white nationalists  over the years in an attempt to rid its platform of vitriol, sometimes producing significant user backlash as a result. CEO Steve Huffman said earlier this month that Reddit was working with moderators to explicitly address hate speech. 

Korean Baseball Fans Return With Fewer Cheers and No Beer

Baseball fans may soon be able to watch games at stadiums in South Korea. But they’ll have to do it without beer, food, or their friends sitting next to them. The measures are part of a new coronavirus quarantine manual released Tuesday by the Korean Baseball Organization (KBO).  Since early May, the KBO has played games inside empty stadiums. A limited number of fans will be able to attend starting in July, but with strict social distancing and other measures in place.  Spectators will have their temperatures checked upon entrance, will be required to wear face masks for the duration of the approximately three-hour games, and must sit at least one seat apart from each other.  Only non-alcoholic beverages will be allowed. Food will be sold in concourse concession stands, but not permitted in seating areas.  Perhaps the most dramatic change: shouting, singing, and cheering will be discouraged in an attempt to prevent physical contact and airborne respiratory droplets – the main mode of coronavirus transmission.  It is a strong contrast from the typical fan experience at Korean baseball games, which are usually filled with noisy, high-intensity cheers and corresponding dance moves – customs that for some fans are just as important as the on-field action.  In a statement, the KBO acknowledged fans may not like the new restrictions. “However, in order to prevent COVID-19 infections and ensure a safe viewing experience, our fans will need to follow these rules,” the statement read.  The new normal The rules serve as a possible preview for professional sporting events that could resume in the United States and elsewhere in the coming weeks.  Major League Baseball, the main U.S. professional baseball league, plans to start an abbreviated, two-month regular season starting July 23 or 24.  The league hasn’t ruled out eventually allowing fans. But some teams have said their stands won’t be filled anytime soon, especially since U.S. coronavirus cases are once again soaring. Revenue woes The Korean baseball league was one of the earliest professional sports leagues to resume play, thanks in large part to South Korea’s successful handling of the virus. The KBO’s ten professional teams began playing practice games in March. But without gate revenue, the teams have been nearing a financial “breaking point,” according to the Yonhap news agency.  “We’ve been paying our players and employees in full. But if we keep playing without fans in July, a lot of teams will run into extremely serious trouble,” one club official told the news agency. “They may have to take out a loan to pay salaries.” The new fan policy may only help the franchises so much. Initially, teams can sell only 30 percent of their ticket capacity, although that figure could increase to 50 percent by the end of the year. 

New Swine Flu Found in China Has Pandemic Potential

Researchers in China have discovered a new type of swine flu that is capable of triggering a pandemic, according to a study published Monday in the U.S. science journal PNAS. Named G4, it is genetically descended from the H1N1 strain that caused a pandemic in 2009. It possesses “all the essential hallmarks of being highly adapted to infect humans,” say the authors, scientists at Chinese universities and China’s Center for Disease Control and Prevention.  From 2011 to 2018, researchers took 30,000 nasal swabs from pigs in slaughterhouses in 10 Chinese provinces and in a veterinary hospital, allowing them to isolate 179 swine flu viruses.   The majority were of a new kind, which has been dominant among pigs since 2016. The researchers then carried out various experiments including on ferrets, which are widely used in flu studies because they experience similar symptoms to humans, principally fever, coughing and sneezing.   G4 was observed to be highly infectious, replicating in human cells and causing more serious symptoms in ferrets than other viruses. Tests also showed that any immunity humans gain from exposure to seasonal flu does not provide protection from G4. According to blood tests, which showed antibodies created by exposure to the virus, 10.4% of swine workers had already been infected. The tests showed that as many as 4.4% of the general population also appeared to have been exposed.  The virus has therefore already passed from animals to humans but there is no evidence yet that it can be passed from human to human, the scientists’ main worry. “It is of concern that human infection of G4 virus will further human adaptation and increase the risk of a human pandemic,” the researchers wrote. The authors called for urgent measures to monitor people working with pigs.  “The work comes as a salutary reminder that we are constantly at risk of new emergence of zoonotic pathogens and that farmed animals, with which humans have greater contact than with wildlife, may act as the source for important pandemic viruses,” said James Wood, head of the department of veterinary medicine at Cambridge University. A zoonotic infection is caused by a pathogen that has jumped from a non-human animal into a human. 

US Procures Almost Entire Supply of COVID-19 Drug

The Trump administration says it has locked down nearly the entire supply of one of the only available anti-COVID-19 drugs from the manufacturer for the next several months. That raises questions about access to one of the few treatments available for COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, for much of the rest of the world. Remdesivir is the first drug shown to help patients with COVID-19, though its impact is modest. Hospitalized patients given the drug recovered four days faster than those given a placebo. FILE – Vials of the drug remdesivir are seen at a hospital in Germany, April 8, 2020.FILE – Gilead Sciences pharmaceutical company is seen during the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in La Verne, California.The Institute for Clinical and Economic Review, the drug pricing watchdog, said Gilead’s price is “reasonable,” provided the drug ultimately shows it can save lives.Gilead donated the first 1.5 million doses worldwide. The United States received more than 900,000, according to health news website Stat. “The U.S. was certainly at the front of the line for the donated remdesivir,” said Brook Baker, professor of law at Northeastern University and a senior policy analyst for Health Global Access Project. “Now, we find out that the U.S. is wholly at the front of the line for all the additional half-million doses to be produced between now and basically the end of September.” “There’s no way to explain this than to say, well, somehow between the U.S. government and Gilead, they have collusively agreed that for whatever reason, Americans come first,” he added. Gilead says it is ramping up production and aims to have 2 million treatment courses available by December, up from 190,000 at the end of June.   “We are doing everything we can to accelerate manufacturing timelines and quantities of remdesivir to meet the growing demand for emergency use of the medicine from around the world,” the company said in a statement. The company said it has “multiple manufacturing partners in North America, Europe and Asia” that are “capable of producing large volumes of remdesivir at the fastest pace feasible,” but did not provide details or answer requests for comment.The global pandemic so far has claimed more than 500,000 lives and infected more than 10 million people worldwide, according to data collected by Johns Hopkins University.  The World Health Organization and a number of public-private partnerships are aiming to make access to COVID-19 countermeasures equitable around the world.The U.S. government has put billions of dollars into research and development of COVID-19 treatments, vaccines and diagnostics.  “Rich countries have more money to spend on research and development,” Baker said. “Does that mean that only rich people get medicine? That’s highly problematic in a moral, ethical sense.”  

India Bans 59 Chinese Apps Amid Border Tensions

India has banned the use of 59 Chinese-owned apps, including TikTok, citing security concerns Monday, as relations between the two neighbors worsen. In a statement, India’s Ministry of Electronics and IT said it “has decided to block 59 apps since in view of information available, they are engaged in activities which is prejudicial to sovereignty and integrity of India, defense of India, security of state and public order.” TikTok, a popular video application owned by Chinese parent company ByteDance, counts India as its biggest market. It was not immediately clear how the “ban” would be enforced and whether mobile companies were expected to comply. As of Monday evening, the banned apps were still available on Google’s Play store and the Apple App store in India, according to Tech Crunch.The announcement from Delhi comes amid rising tension between the two countries, weeks after 20 Indian soldiers were killed in clashes with Chinese forces along the border in the region of Ladakh. The Chinese government did not release figures on how many of its own soldiers were injured or killed. 

Images of Brutality Against Black People Spur Racial Trauma 

Wanda Johnson’s son was shot and killed by a police officer in Oakland, California, 11 years ago, she has watched video after video of similar encounters between Black people and police.  Each time, she finds herself reliving the trauma of losing her son, Oscar Grant, who was shot to death by a transit police officer. Most recently, Johnson couldn’t escape the video of George Floyd, pinned to the ground under a Minneapolis officer’s knee as he pleaded that he couldn’t breathe.  “I began to shake. I was up for two days, just crying,” she said. “Just looking at that video opened such a wound in me that has not completely closed.”  Johnson’s loss was extreme, but, for many Black Americans, her grief and pain feels familiar. Psychologists call it racial trauma — the distress experienced because of the accumulation of racial discrimination, racial violence or institutional racism. While it can affect anyone who faces repeated prejudice, in this moment, its impact on Black people is drawing particular attention.  The unfortunate irony is that the very tool that may be helping to make more people aware of the racism and violence that Black and other people of color face is also helping to fuel their trauma. In the weeks following Floyd’s death, the spread of the video that captured it has been a major catalyst for protests demanding a reckoning with racism — attended by people of all races, many of whom never before participated in such activism. And in a few weeks, the national conversation has shifted dramatically: The term “Black Lives Matter” has been adopted widely, including in corporate America, monuments of Confederate figures have come down, and calls for criminal justice reform have yielded new laws.  “It’s really frustrating that that’s what it takes for a lot of people in this country to actually start caring,” said Alasia Destine-DeFreece, 20. “It takes showing something that’s  actively harming those of us who are Black and then having it spread on social media.”  Destine-DeFreece, who remembers often being the only Black person in many situations growing up in Rhode Island, notes that such images have been used to great effect before. She learned in school about Emmett Till, a Black 14-year-old who was abducted, beaten and killed in 1955 after he was accused of whistling at a white woman in Mississippi. Her class saw photos of Till’s brutally beaten face — images, in part, that had helped spur the civil rights movement. “Seeing that type of imagery being spread further and faster now has taken a toll on me. You’re seeing somebody who looks like you die,” she said. Symptoms of racial trauma can include anxiety and depression and be similar to those of post-traumatic stress disorder. The triggering event could be a shouted slur on the street or poor treatment because of one’s race or creed. The profusion on social media of graphic images of harm to people of color means they are often inescapable. “If you are in a situation where the danger seems ever-present, whether you’re seeing a bird watcher in Central Park being harassed, or someone falling asleep in their car in a parking lot … there is that constant physical presence of danger and the psychological awareness that danger is just around the corner,” said Dr. Altha Stewart, past president of the American Psychiatric Association and currently a senior associate dean at the University of Tennessee Science Health Center. That “constant bathing of our organs” in stress hormones can lead to a state of “near dysfunction,” she said. The video of Floyd’s killing is one in a litany. Before it, 25-year-old Ahmaud Arbery’s fatal shooting was also captured on camera, and no one was charged until public pressure mounted after the video made the rounds. Since then, many have watched an officer fatally shoot 27-year-old Rayshard Brooks in the back following a struggle.  “It feels like it’s just been an endless cascade of hashtags of Black people dying,” said Christine Ohenzuwa, 19, who recently protested outside the Minnesota state Capitol. “I feel like for me and a lot of other Black people, it reaches a point where it’s just very traumatic to constantly see Black people being killed.” When video of Floyd’s graphic death began to circulate online last month, Joi Lewis refused to watch it. “I know what it looks like. I’ve seen Black death,” the life coach and self-care expert said. Lewis, who is Black, had watched the death of Philando Castile in real time four years ago, after the 32-year-old Black man was shot by a Minneapolis police officer and video of the immediate aftermath streamed on Facebook. But to inspire those who have been pushed into action in new ways in recent weeks, Lewis conceded: “The video had to be played.” Anyone might be upset by seeing such graphic images — and many are — but Resmaa Menakem, a Minneapolis-based racial trauma specialist, says, for many Black people, that pain is amplified.  “When something like this happens, it is not just the grief of watching that brother be destroyed, it is the 400 years of grief that was never addressed,” said Menakem. Aaron Requena periodically takes breaks from Twitter to avoid such images. The 25-year-old photographer in Los Angeles says he’s struggled to balance keeping up with what is happening with not torturing himself at the same time.  “It hits close to home for me because I’ve had interactions with the police where I was just minding my business and had to wonder, ‘Is this going to end for me the way that a lot of these situations end?’” asked Requena, who is Black. “It hits close to home because you know that it could be you next.”  

US Supreme Court Strikes Down Restrictive Abortion Law

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday handed abortion-rights advocates a victory, striking down a restrictive abortion law in Louisiana that would have left the southern state with only one abortion clinic.The vote was 5-4, with Chief Justice John Roberts siding with the court’s four-member liberal contingent. The decision struck down a law that would have required doctors performing abortions to gain admitting privileges at nearby hospitals, even though abortion-rights activists say patients rarely need to be hospitalized after the procedure.The White House deplored the ruling. Spokeswoman Kayleigh McEnany said it “devalued both the health of mothers and lives of unborn children. Instead of valuing fundamental democratic principles, unelected justices have intruded on the sovereign prerogatives of state governments by imposing their own policy preference in favor of abortion to override legitimate abortion safety regulations.”  In their first abortion case rulings, conservative justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh, President Donald Trump’s appointments, were in the minority, voting to uphold the Louisiana law that would have overturned a 2016 ruling by a different group of court justices that struck down an almost identical restrictive abortion law in Texas.In concurring with the court’s liberal wing, Roberts said respect for court precedent in previous decisions “requires us, absent special circumstances, to treat like cases alike. The Louisiana law imposes a burden on access to abortion just as severe as that imposed by the Texas law, for the same reasons. Therefore, Louisiana’s law cannot stand under our precedents.”Roberts’s alignment with the court’s four liberals was striking because he declared that he continues to believe that the 2016 Texas case was “wrongly decided,” but that it nonetheless should be adhered to in the Louisiana case. The decision was a significant win for U.S. abortion-rights advocates and a setback for abortion foes who had hoped that Gorsuch and Kavanaugh would lead the court to impose more abortion restrictions and eventually overturn the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade decision guaranteeing abortion rights in the U.S.Abortion-rights advocates contended that the Louisiana law was a veiled attempt to chip away at the legality of abortion in the U.S. Justice Stephen Breyer wrote that the majority “consequently hold that the Louisiana statute is unconstitutional.” He said the evidence in the Louisiana dispute “also shows that opposition to abortion played a significant role in some hospitals’ decisions to deny admitting privileges” to abortion practitioners.Health experts estimate that more than 800,000 abortions a year are performed in the U.S., although the figure is down substantially from the 1978 to 1997 period when the annual figures topped a million abortions and peaked at more than 1.4 million.The question before the court in Monday’s ruling was whether Louisiana’s 2014 law requiring doctors at abortion clinics to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals would unduly burden women seeking an abortion.Abortion practitioners have said it had been all but impossible for a variety of reasons for them to obtain hospital admitting privileges, which would have left Louisiana with a single abortion clinic, in the state’s biggest city, New Orleans.However, the law’s supporters said it would protect the health and safety of women seeking abortions and would help ensure the competence of doctors.But abortion-rights supporters cited the rarity of the need for hospitalization after an abortion and said women could, if needed, be hospitalized whether their abortion practitioner had admitting privileges or not.The Texas law struck down in 2016 said the admitting privilege provision did not have a medical benefit.In that decision, now-retired justice Anthony Kennedy joined the court’s four liberals to form a majority. At that time before Trump assumed the presidency, the Department of Justice argued that the Texas law should be struck down. But under Trump, the department backed the Louisiana law.The court’s 2016 decision said the admitting-privileges requirement “provides few, if any, health benefits for women, poses a substantial obstacle to women seeking abortions, and constitutes an ‘undue burden’ on their constitutional right to do so.”

Beyoncé’s Message, Epic Performances Stand Out at BET Awards

Beyoncé used her platform Sunday while accepting the BET humanitarian award to relay a direct appeal to viewers: Go vote.  “Your voices are being heard and you’re proving to our ancestors that their struggles were not in vain,” said the superstar singer at the BET Awards, which celebrated its 20 years of highlighting excellence in Black-led entertainment. But the ceremony, filmed virtually because of the coronavirus pandemic, kept much of its focus on topics such as systematic racism and equal rights. Beyoncé was honored for her philanthropic work and relief efforts during the COVID-19 crisis. She said voting in the upcoming election was the way to end a “racist and unequal system” in America. “I’m encouraging you to take action,” she said following an introduction by former first lady Michelle Obama.  The singer dedicated her award to the Black Lives Matter movement, and encouraged activists to continue to push forward.  “We have to vote like our lives depend on it, because it does,” she said. Here are some additional highlights from the three-hour show broadcast on CBS, BET and BET Her.  DaBaby’s message Rapper DaBaby lay on the pavement while an actor playing a police officer pressed his knee on the rapper’s neck. FILE – DaBaby arrives at the 62nd annual Grammy Awards at the Staples Center, Jan. 26, 2020, in Los Angeles.The reenactment at the beginning of the multi-platinum rapper’s performance offered a glimpse into the last moments of the  life of George Floyd, killed by Minneapolis police last month. DaBaby rapped a verse from the Black Lives Matter remix of his hit song “Rockstar” with Roddy Ricch at the awards. While holding a baseball bat, DaBaby then stood on a stage behind a group of people who had their fists raised high while others held “Black Lives Matter” signs.  His performance also featured images from protests, a reflection of the current world in the wake of Floyd’s death and the deaths of others, including Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery. Weezy honors Kobe On a virtual stage, Lil Wayne paid tribute to the Black Mamba. FILE – Lil Wayne and Chance the Rapper perform during halftime of the NBA All-Star basketball game, Feb. 16, 2020, in Chicago.The rapper honored the late Kobe Bryant with a performance of his song “Kobe Bryant,” highlighting the NBA icon’s biggest moments. He paid tribute to Bryant who died in a helicopter crash in January that killed eight others, including his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna. Wayne weaved in new lyrics as Bryant’s No. 8 and 24 flashed behind him. His performance showed video clips of the Los Angeles Lakers star dunking on Dwight Howard and Steve Nash, hitting game-winning shots and highlights from his 81-point game against the Toronto Raptors in 2006. “I call him King Bryant,” Wayne rapped. “Now let the crown show.” Little Richard bop  Wayne Brady transformed from his normal actor-comedian self into the flamboyant character of the late Little Richard.  Wearing a gold glittery tuxedo, Brady put on his best emulation during a tribute to Richard, who died of bone cancer in May. He rolled around on the top of a piano as he sung a medley hits from Richard, considered one of the chief architects of rock ‘n’ roll.  “Shut up!” Brady blurted out in the same manner as Richard. Some of Richard’s hits Wayne performed included “Lucy,” “Good Golly,” “Miss Molly” and “Tutti Frutti.” Mad Stallion  Megan Thee Stallion took to the desert in a performance themed after the “Mad Max” films. Sporting a feathered crop top, she danced and twerked alongside her dancers who wore masks and maintained social distance amid the coronavirus pandemic. She performed her Beyoncé-assisted hit “Savage Remix” and “Girls in the Hood,” a revamp of Easy E’s 1987 song “Boyz-N-The Hood.” In the post-apocalyptic setting, she and her dancers rode through the desert landscape on dusty ATVs. The rapper closed out her performance after jumping on a silver-spike vehicle.  Megan Thee Stallion’s performance came after she won best female hip-hop artist.  Stirring opening  It didn’t take long for host Amanda Seales to touch on equal rights for African Americans. FILE – Amanda Seales arrives at the Los Angeles premiere of “Harriet” at the Orpheum Theatre, Oct. 29, 2019.In a stirring monologue, Seales said she was chosen to host the show because she’s been “telling y’all everybody’s racist.” She touched on several topics including the death of Breonna Taylor, racial equality and took a jab at actor Terry Crews who faced recent backlash for his “Black supremacy” comment. Seales joked she would rather talk about issues other than race, but “racism always beats me to it.” Her monologue came after an all-star performance of Public Enemy’s 1989 anthem “Fight the Power.” The performance featured group members Chuck D and Flavor Flav along with Nas, Black Thought, Rapsody and YG — who added lyrics to the song and name-dropped Taylor.  During the performance, video clips were shown of the national protests over the deaths of unarmed Black people including Floyd, Arbery and Taylor.  The 12-year-old sensation Keedron Bryant  also performed in a cappella “I Just Wanna Live,” a song about being a young black man that earned him a record deal. 

DaBaby Pays Tribute to George Floyd at BET Awards

Performing as a police officer pressed his knee on his neck, replicating the last moments of George Floyd’s life, multi-platinum rapper DaBaby rapped a verse from the Black Lives Matter remix of his hit song “Rockstar” at the BET Awards. Sunday’s show, a virtual event because of the coronavirus pandemic, featured a number of highly produced, well-crafted and pre-taped performances. DaBaby’s clip, featuring Roddy Ricch, also featured images from protests, a reflection of the current world in the wake of Floyd’s death and the death of others, including Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery. The BET Awards, celebrating its 20th anniversary, kicked off Sunday with a performance featuring Black artists rapping and singing anthems about the Black experience and fighting for equal rights. The 12-year-old sensation Keedron Bryant, who turned heads on social media with his passionate performance about being a young Black man in today’s world, started the show with an a cappella performance of his poignant song “I Just Wanna Live,” which earned him a record deal. That was followed by an all-star performance of Public Enemy’s 1989 anthem “Fight the Power,” featuring Nas, Black Thought, Rapsody and YG adding new lyrics to the song, even namedropping Taylor and others. Chuck D kicked off the performance, replacing the year 1989 with 2020. “Fight the Power” topped the Billboard rap charts more three decades ago and was featured in Spike Lee’s epic “Do the Right Thing.” Flavor Flav, Questlove and Black Thought and Chuck D’s artist Jahi were also part of the performance. Sunday’s show also celebrates BET’s 40th year as a network. The three-hour show, airing on CBS for the first time, is being hosted by comedian, actress and TV personality Amanda Seales, who starred in several skits, including one about women who identify as “Karen,” a common stereotype and term for racist and privileged white women. Other artists were political during their performances, including Ricch, who wore a Black Lives Matter shirt while he rapped, Alicia Keys, Anderson Paak and Jay Rock, as well as brothers SiR and D Smoke, who performed with their mother Jackie Gouché. Lil Wayne paid tribute to NBA icon Kobe Bryant, who died in January, with a performance of his 2009 song “Kobe Bryant,” weaving in new lyrics. Wayne Brady, in a glittery suit, rolled around on top of a piano as he sang a medley of Little Richard hits. Nipsey Hussle, who was named best male hip-hop artist and earned the humanitarian award at last year’s BET Awards, won video of the year for “Higher,” a clip he filmed with DJ Khaled and John Legend shortly before he died.Guests wear T-shirts in tribute to Nipsey Hussle, whose given name was Ermias Asghedom, at the late rapper’s Celebration of Life memorial service, April 11, 2019, at the Staples Center in Los Angeles.“This is for Nipsey Hussle and hip-hop,” Khaled said in a taped video. “Nipsey Hussle, thank you for working with me on this ‘Higher’ record. I appreciate you. Nipsey’s family, we love you.” The BET Awards, one of the first awards shows to air virtually, featured performances that were sharp with artsy stage production, giving extra life to the songs being performed. It was a welcomed break from the “living room” and homebound performances hundreds of artists have shared on social media since the pandemic hit in March. Megan Thee Stallion went to the desert with background dancers as she twerked and rapped her No. 1 hit “Savage.” She won best female hip-hop artist, beating out Cardi B and Nicki Minaj. “Oh my God, I probably recorded this video like 10 times. It feels so crazy doing this from my house,” she said. “I used to watch the BET Awards all the time thinking, ‘One day that’s going to be me going up there accepting my award’ — and now it is.” Later in the show Beyoncé will earn the humanitarian award, to be presented by Michelle Obama. The show is an annual celebration of Black entertainment and culture, and this year’s ceremony is the first major awards show since the May 25 death of Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police, which sparked global protests aimed at reforming police actions and removing statues and symbols considered racist from public places. 

Summer May Decide Fate of Leading Shots in Vaccine Race 

—People on six continents already are getting jabs in the arm as the race for a COVID-19 vaccine enters a defining summer, with even bigger studies poised to prove if any shot really works — and maybe offer a reality check.Already British and Chinese researchers are chasing the coronavirus beyond their borders, testing potential vaccines in Brazil and the United Arab Emirates because there are too few new infections at home to get clear answers.The U.S. is set to open the largest trials  30,000 people to test a government-created shot starting in July, followed about a month later with another 30,000 expected to test a British one.Those likely will be divided among Americans and volunteers in other countries such as Brazil or South Africa, Dr. Anthony Fauci of the National Institutes of Health told The Associated Press.While he’s optimistic, “we’ve been burned before,” Fauci cautioned.Multiple successes, in multiple parts of the world, are vital.“This isn’t a race of who gets there first. This is, get as many approved, safe and effective vaccines as you possibly can,” Fauci said.Vaccine experts say it’s time to set public expectations. Many scientists don’t expect a coronavirus vaccine to be nearly as protective as the measles shot.If the best COVID-19 vaccine is only 50% effective, “that’s still to me a great vaccine,” said Dr. Drew Weissman of the University of Pennsylvania.“We need to start having this conversation now,” so people won’t be surprised, he added.And for all the government promises of stockpiling doses in hopes of starting vaccinations by year’s end, here’s the catch: Even if a shot pans out — and it’s one that your country stockpiled — only some high-risk people, such as essential workers, go to the front of a very long line.“Will you and I get vaccinated this year? No way,” said Duke University health economist David Ridley.The home stretchVaccines train the body to rapidly recognize and fend off an invading germ. About 15 experimental COVID-19 vaccines are in various stages of human studies worldwide.And while there’s no guarantee any will pan out, moving three different kinds into final testing offers better odds — especially since scientists don’t yet know just how strong an immune reaction the shots must spark to protect.Measuring that with the first proven vaccine will “really help us understand for all the other vaccines in development, do they also have a chance?” said Oxford University lead researcher Sarah Gilbert.Only China is pushing out “inactivated” vaccines, made by growing the new coronavirus and killing it. Vaccines by Sinovac Biotech and SinoPharm use that old-fashioned technology, which requires high-security labs to produce but is dependable, the way polio shots and some flu vaccines are made.Most other vaccines in the pipeline target not the whole germ but a key piece — the “spike” protein that studs the surface of the coronavirus and helps it invade human cells. Leading candidates use new technologies that make shots faster to produce but haven’t yet been proven in people.Oxford’s method: Genetically engineer a chimpanzee cold virus so it won’t spread but can carry the gene for that spike protein into just enough cells to trick the immune system that an infection’s brewing.Another vaccine made by the NIH and Moderna Inc. simply injects a piece of the coronavirus genetic code that instructs the body to produce harmless spike copies that the immune system learns to recognize. Chasing the virusResearchers must test thousands of people not where COVID-19 is surging Vbecause then it’s too late — but where it’s smoldering, Fauci said.Only if the virus starts spreading through a community several weeks after volunteers receive either a vaccine or a dummy shot — time enough for the immune system to rev up — do scientists have the best chance at comparing which group had more illness.Lacking a crystal ball, the NIH has vaccine testing networks in the U.S., South America and South Africa on standby while finalizing decisions on the summer tests.“We’re going to be doing it in multiple sites with a degree of flexibility” so researchers can rapidly shift as the virus moves, Fauci said. “Nothing is going to be easy.”The Oxford shot, with a 10,000-person study underway in England, already encountered that hurdle. Gilbert told a Parliament committee last week that there’s “little chance, frankly” of proving the vaccine’s effectiveness in Britain after infections plummeted with the lockdown.So her team looked abroad. In addition to the planned U.S.-run study, Brazil last week began a last-stage test of the Oxford shot in 5,000 health workers, the first experimental COVID-19 vaccinations in South America. In another first, South Africa opened a smaller safety study of the Oxford shot.With few new infections in China, Sinovac next month will begin final tests in 9,000 Brazilian volunteers. And SinoPharm just signed an agreement with the United Arab Emirates; that study’s size isn’t clear. Expect imperfect protectionAnimal research suggests COVID-19 vaccines could prevent serious disease but may not completely block infection. One study that dripped the coronavirus into monkeys showed vaccinated animals avoided pneumonia but had some virus lurking in their noses and throats. Whether it was enough to spread to the unvaccinated isn’t known.Still, that would be a big win.“My expectations have always been that we’ll get rid of symptomatic disease. From what we’ve seen of the vaccines so far, that’s what they do,” said Penn’s Weissman.The initial vaccines might be replaced with later, better arrivals, as historically happens in medicine, noted Duke’s Ridley.And while shots in the arm are the fastest to make, those for respiratory diseases require virus-fighting antibodies to make their way into the lungs. Gilbert said Oxford eventually will explore nasal delivery.Warning against shortcutsSome U.S. lawmakers worry about pressure from the Trump administration to push out an unproven shot during the fall election season.“We want a vaccine, not a headline,” Sen. Jack Reed, a Democrat from Rhode Island, said at a recent Senate committee hearing.Dr. Stephen Hahn, commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, pledged to a House committee last week that any decision would be based on science.Different countries have different rules about when to release a vaccine. For the U.S., Fauci insisted there will be no safety shortcuts, a key reason NIH is investing in such huge studies.Regardless of how and when a vaccine arrives, each country also will prioritize who’s first in line as doses become available. Presumably they’ll start with health workers and those most vulnerable to severe disease — as long as each shot is proven to work in at-risk groups such as older adults. Because each vaccine works differently, “which population group it will protect, we don’t know yet,” said Dr. Mariangela Simao of the World Health Organization, which is advising countries on how to choose.  

Democrats Want John Wayne’s Name, Statue Taken Off Airport

In the latest move to change place names in light of U.S. racial history, leaders of Orange County’s Democratic Party are pushing to drop film legend John Wayne’s name, statue and other likenesses from the county’s airport because of his racist and bigoted comments.The Los Angeles Times reported  that earlier this week, officials passed an emergency resolution condemning Wayne’s “racist and bigoted statements” made in a 1971 interview and are calling on the Orange County Board of Supervisors to drop his name, statue and other likenesses from the international airport.The resolution asked the board “to restore its original name: Orange County Airport.”“There have been past efforts to get this done and now we’re putting our name and our backing into this to make sure there is a name change,” said Ada Briceno, chair of the Democratic Party of Orange County.According to those who crafted the resolution, the effort to oust Wayne, a longtime resident of Orange County who died in 1979, is part of “a national movement to remove white supremacist symbols and names (that are) reshaping American institutions, monuments, businesses, nonprofits, sports leagues and teams.”In a 1971 Playboy magazine interview, Wayne makes bigoted statements against Black people, Native Americans and the LGBTQ community.He said, “I believe in white supremacy until the Blacks are educated to a point of responsibility. I don’t believe in giving authority and positions of leadership and judgment to irresponsible people.”Wayne also said that although he didn’t condone slavery, “I don’t feel guilty about the fact that five or 10 generations ago these people were slaves.”The actor said he felt no remorse in the subjugation of Native Americans.“I don’t feel we did wrong in taking this great country away from them. . (O)ur so-called stealing of this country from them was just a matter of survival,” he said. “There were great numbers of people who needed new land, and the Indians were selfishly trying to keep it for themselves.”Wayne also called movies such as “Easy Rider” and “Midnight Cowboy” perverted and used a gay slur to refer to the two main characters of the latter film.Orange County Supervisor Don Wagner told the Times that he had just heard about the Democratic resolution and was unaware of its wording or merit. 

TB, Measles, Polio Vaccines Might Fight COVID-19

As the world waits for a COVID-19 vaccine, scientists are testing whether shots already in use for other diseases might provide some protection from the worst impacts of the disease caused by the coronavirus. Vaccines containing living but weakened organisms, including those against tuberculosis, polio and measles, may provide a boost to the immune system that would help fight the coronavirus.  While they probably wouldn’t provide protection as good as a purpose-built vaccine, research has already shown that these immunizations help ward off diseases other than the ones for which they were designed.  Plus, these shots have a proven safety record stretching back decades.  “And not only that, it’s something we can put out almost immediately,” said Jeffrey Cirillo, director of the Texas A&M University Center for Airborne Pathogen Research and Imaging. The manufacturing facilities are already up and running, delivering hundreds of millions of doses every year, he noted. Vaccine bonus Cirillo and his colleagues are FILE – Children, their faces covered with masks, wait to get vaccinated against measles at a health clinic in Apia, Samoa, November 18, 2019.More than 100 million children around the world receive the vaccine each year to prevent tuberculosis. But as it happens, the vaccine does much more. When it was introduced early in the 20th century, researchers noticed steep drops in infant deaths. Some places saw up to a 50% decline, and not just from tuberculosis. Deaths from other diseases fell, too, especially respiratory diseases.  Researchers saw the FILE – A medical staff member prepares a syringe at the Chris Hani Baragwanath hospital in Soweto, Johannesburg, June 24, 2020.Experts disagree on how these cells are different. Noverr and Cirillo say these “educated” cells tamp down inflammation. If that’s the case, that could help COVID-19 patients who are dying from overactive inflammation.  Others say live vaccines produce stronger innate immune responses generally, which help to protect against a broad range of infections.  Noverr is hoping to get funding to test whether the live measles, mumps and rubella vaccine (MMR) could provide some protection against COVID-19. Others suggest testing the polio vaccine. In addition to Cirillo’s, studies of BCG are under way in Australia and the Netherlands.  Given the safety record of these vaccines, “It’s almost one of those things, ‘Well, why wouldn’t you just give it to everybody?'” Noverr said. “But you won’t know (if it works) unless we do (a) double-blinded, controlled study.”  That is why the World Health Organization is not recommending any of these vaccines for COVID-19 yet. Supplies are limited, WHO officials note. While tests are under way, diverting vaccines from their intended use without evidence that they help prevent COVID-19 could end up doing more harm than good.   

‘The Simpsons’ Ends White Actors Voicing Characters of Color

“The Simpsons” will no longer use white actors to dub ethnic minority characters, the producers of the long-running animated series announced Friday.The decision includes a recurring character from the series, launched in 1989 — Apu Nahasapeemapetilon, a grocer of Indian origin voiced in the American version of the show by white actor Hank Azaria.The character has long been seen as problematic and conveying racist stereotypes. Last January Azaria announced that, in agreement with producers, he was abandoning the role.”Moving forward, THE SIMPSONS will no longer have white actors voice non-white characters,” Fox Studios said in a statement to AFP.The change will also affect the character of Dr. Hibbert, a Black man dubbed by the white actor Harry Shearer who also lends his voice to many other characters on the series — from Homer Simpson’s boss Mr. Burns to the chirpy neighbor Ned Flanders.The announcement came as Mike Henry, the white actor who voices the Black character of Cleveland Brown in “Family Guy,” another animated series produced by Fox, announced on Twitter that he was giving up the role.”It’s been an honor to play Cleveland on Family Guy for 20 years. I love this character, but persons of color should play characters of color. Therefore, I will be stepping down from the role,” he wrote.Americans are in the midst of a reckoning on systemic racism and discrimination ignited by the death of George Floyd, an African American man, in police custody in Minneapolis on May 25.      

Facebook to Label All Rule-breaking Posts — Even Trump’s

Facebook says it will flag all “newsworthy” posts from politicians that break its rules, including those from President Donald Trump.  CEO Mark Zuckerberg had previously refused to take action against Trump posts that suggested mail-in ballots will lead to voter fraud. Twitter, by contrast, slapped a “get the facts” label on them.Facebook is also banning false claims intended to discourage voting, such as stories about federal agents checking legal status at polling places. The company also said it is increasing its enforcement capacity to remove false claims about local polling conditions in the 72 hours before the U.S. election.Earlier Friday, shares of Facebook and Twitter dropped sharply after the giant company behind brands such as Ben & Jerry’s ice cream and Dove soap said it will halt U.S. advertising on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram through at least the end of the year.That European consumer-product maker, Unilever, said it took the move to protest the amount of hate speech online. Unilever said the polarized atmosphere in the United States ahead of November’s presidential election placed responsibility on brands to act.Shares of both Facebook and Twitter fell roughly 7% following Unilever’s announcement.FILE – The Unilever headquarters is seen in Rotterdam, Netherlands, Aug. 21, 2018.The company, which is based in the Netherlands and Britain, joins a raft of other advertisers pulling back from online platforms. Facebook in particular has been the target of an escalating movement to withhold advertising dollars to pressure it to do more to prevent racist and violent content from being shared on its platform.”We have decided that starting now through at least the end of the year, we will not run brand advertising in social media newsfeed platforms Facebook, Instagram and Twitter in the U.S.,” Unilever said. “Continuing to advertise on these platforms at this time would not add value to people and society.”On Thursday, Verizon joined others in the Facebook boycott.Sarah Personette, vice president of global client solutions at Twitter, said the company’s “mission is to serve the public conversation and ensure Twitter is a place where people can make human connections, seek and receive authentic and credible information, and express themselves freely and safely.”She added that Twitter is “respectful of our partners’ decisions and will continue to work and communicate closely with them during this time.”

Microsoft to Close Physical Stores, Take $450 Million Hit

Microsoft Corp said on Friday it would close its retail stores and take a related pre-tax asset impairment charge of $450 million in the current quarter.The Redmond, Washington-based software giant said would continue to serve customers online, with team members working remotely from corporate facilities.It was not immediately clear if Microsoft’s move would lead to any layoffs.The company also said it will rethink other spaces that serve all customers, including operating Microsoft Experience Centers in London, New York City, Sydney, and Redmond campus locations.”This is a tough, but smart strategic decision for (CEO) Nadella & Co. to make at this point. The physical stores generated negligible retail revenue for Microsoft and ultimately everything was moving more and more towards the digital channels over the last few years,” Wedbush analyst Dan Ives said in a note.Retailers, whose stores shuttered in mid-March due to coronavirus-led lockdowns, have seen a huge surge in online demand amid stay-at-home orders.

Astronaut Loses Mirror During Space Walk

A spacewalking astronaut on Friday added a small mirror to the millions of pieces of junk orbiting the Earth, as he lost the small object from his space suit, while stepping out of the International Space Station. U.S. Commander Chris Cassidy said the mirror floated away at about 0.3 meters per second. Mission Control said the mirror somehow became detached from Cassidy’s spacesuit. Spacewalking astronauts wear a wrist mirror on each sleeve to get better views while working.  The mirror is just 12 centimeters by roughly 8 centimeters and came loose as the ISS was in darkness. Once he was in sunlight, Cassidy inspected his sleeve for clues that might explain how the mirror came off but told Mission Control he found no evidence of thread damage. Cassidy and fellow astronaut Bob Behnken have conducted the first of at least four spacewalks to replace the last in series of old nickel-hydrogen batteries with new, more efficient lithium-ion batteries. The batteries store energy collected by the station’s solar panel arrays. Their spacewalks are expected to continue through July before Behnken returns to Earth in August aboard a SpaceX Dragon capsule. Behnken and Doug Hurley made history at the end of May with SpaceX’s first astronaut launch. This was the seventh spacewalk for both men. Each has spent more than 30 hours out in the vacuum of space. 

Russian Court Finds Director Serebrennikov Guilty of Fraud

A Moscow court on Friday convicted acclaimed Russian theater and film director Kirill Serebrennikov of fraud, in a long-running case that critics have slammed as fabricated.The judge ruled that Serebrennikov, 50, and two co-defendants were guilty of misappropriating 129 million rubles ($2 million) of state funds that financed a theatrical project.”Serebrennikov, [Yury] Itin and [Konstantin] Malobrodsky carried out actions directed at personal enrichment” and acted as a group to mislead employees of the culture ministry, Judge Olesya Mendeleyeva said, according to an AFP correspondent in the court.A fourth defendant in the case, Sofia Apfelbaum, was “unaware” of the fraud, the judge said.The prosecution earlier this week asked the court to give Serebrennikov a six-year prison sentence, but the judge can take a long time to reach sentencing.Serebrennikov, who heads one of Moscow’s top theater venues, the Gogol Center, was arrested in 2017 and the case against him nearly fell apart last year when a judge handed it back to the prosecution because of “inconsistencies.”It restarted with a new judge, and the amount of the alleged fraud was revised from 133 million rubles to 129 million rubles.The judge on Friday backed claims by the prosecution that Serebrennikov orchestrated theft of state money allocated to the Platforma project he ran between 2011 and 2014.Serebrennikov and his co-defendants insisted they were innocent. The director this week called the accusations that he stole the money “laughable.”