Court Filing Shows Big Ten Presidents Voted 11-3 to Postpone Football Season

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A court filing disclosed Monday shows Big Ten Conference presidents voted 11-3 to postpone the football season, bringing some clarity to a key question raised in a lawsuit brought by a group of Nebraska football players. The vote breakdown was revealed in the Big Ten’s response to the lawsuit.  The court documents did not identify how each school voted, but a person familiar with the outcome told The Associated Press that Iowa, Nebraska and Ohio State voted against postponing the fall football season. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the Big Ten was not planning on making the specifics of its vote public. The Big Ten announced Aug. 11 it would move its football season from fall to spring semester because of health risks associated with the coronavirus pandemic. The Pac-12 followed suit, joining the Mid-American Conference and the Mountain West.The eight football players are seeking the reinstatement of a fall season.  FILE – Ohio State wide receiver K.J. Hill (14) holds the trophy following the team’s 34-21 win over Wisconsin in the Big Ten championship NCAA college football game, Dec. 8, 2019, in Indianapolis.”The Big Ten Conference continues to share the disappointment that student-athletes and families are feeling,” the conference said in a statement. “The Big Ten Return to Competition Task Force will continue to be transparent as it actively considers options to get back to competition when it is safe to play.” The lawsuit in Lancaster County District Court contends, among other things, that the players are losing a chance for development, exposure for a possible pro career and won’t be able to market themselves to eventually capitalize on name, image and likeness revenue opportunities. The Big Ten filing was a response in opposition to the players’ motion for expedited discovery. The filing said the 11-3 vote “far exceeded” the 60% threshold the Big Ten requires. The filing also said the Big Ten based its decision on multiple factors, including the medical advice and counsel of the Big Ten Task Force for Emerging Infectious Diseases and the Big Ten Sports Medicine Committee. Listed as plaintiffs are Brant and Brig Banks, Alante Brown, Noa Pola-Gates, Jackson Hannah, Garrett Nelson, Ethan Piper and Garrett Snodgrass. The players’ attorney, Mike Flood, declined immediate comment, saying he needed to read the filing. FILE – Nebraska Speaker of the Legislature Sen. Mike Flood of Norfolk follows debate in the legislature, April 18, 2012.Flood, a former speaker of the Nebraska Legislature, owns five radio stations that broadcast Cornhuskers football games as part of the Husker Sports Network. The lawsuit says the Big Ten’s decision-making process was “flawed and ambiguous” and called into question whether the league’s Council of Presidents and Chancellors formally voted on the decision. The medical studies used to make the decision, the lawsuit says, were not relevant to the circumstances of college-age athletes and did not take into account school safety measures. “This decision did not occur in a vacuum,” the conference said in its filing. The decision not to play fall football has created a firestorm in Big Ten country, fanned by the fact the ACC, Big 12 and SEC are pushing ahead with plans to start their seasons in September. Commissioner Kevin Warren has faced sharp criticism for not clearly laying out how the decision was reached. He has sidestepped questions about the vote breakdown, and his explanations of the medical reasons were panned for not being detailed enough. A group of Nebraska player parents have been most vocal in demanding answers from the commissioner, and parents from other Big Ten schools joined them. The Big Ten said last week the lawsuit “has no merit and we will defend the decision to protect all student-athletes as we navigate through this global pandemic. We are actively considering options to get back to competition and look forward to doing so when it is safe to play.” Flood, in his role representing the Nebraska player parents, previously sent a letter to Warren asking for documents relating to any votes taken, how each school voted, meeting minutes and all audio and video recordings and transcripts of meetings where votes were cast. He also wanted copies of studies, scientific data and medical information or advice considered by the presidents. Flood had threatened a federal lawsuit if the materials weren’t delivered to him. The Big Ten did not respond to the letter.  

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Canada Signs Deals with Novavax, Johnson & Johnson for Coronavirus Vaccines

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Canada reached an agreement in principle on Monday with both Novavax and Johnson & Johnson for millions of doses of their experimental coronavirus vaccines, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said. Canada’s two agreements follow separate deals with Pfizer and Moderna announced weeks ago, and are the latest example of countries rushing to secure access to vaccines. Canada is also in “the final stages of negotiations” to secure AstraZeneca’s potential vaccine and is in talks to secure more doses of the Pfizer vaccine candidate, Procurement Minister Anita Anand said. “What we are trying to do is make sure that when a vaccine is developed, we are at the front of the line,” Anand told reporters. Canada has a population of about 38 million, and the four vaccine agreements signed so far “give Canada at least 88 million doses with options to obtain tens of millions more,” Trudeau said when he announced the deals in Montreal. More doses possibleAll four agreements announced so far have options to purchase more doses if needed, officials said. Trudeau also said the government will invest C$126 million ($96.7 million) over two years to build a biomanufacturing facility at the Human Health Therapeutics Research Centre in Montreal capable of producing up to 2 million doses of a vaccine per month by next year. Last week, Canada’s National Research Council said it had ended its partnership on a coronavirus vaccine with China’s CanSino Biologics because the company lacked the authority to ship the vaccine. Help for businessesSeparately, Canada extended to the end of October a program to provide loans of up to C$40,000 ($30,666), a quarter of which is forgivable, to small businesses struggling amid the pandemic. It had been due to expire Monday. Novavax said it expects to finalize an advance purchase agreement to supply doses of the vaccine, beginning as early as the second quarter of next year. Novavax has agreed to supply up to 76 million doses of its experimental vaccine, while Johnson & Johnson will supply up to 38 million doses of its vaccine candidate. Both agreements are subject to the vaccines obtaining licenses from Health Canada. Financial terms of the agreement were not disclosed. Shares of Novavax were up 1.7% at $109.59 and Johnson & Johnson shares were little changed at $153.72 on Monday afternoon. 

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US EPA Rolls Back Limits on Wastewater from Coal Plants

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The Environmental Protection Agency on Monday rolled back Obama administration rules limiting levels of toxic materials in wastewater released from coal plants, its latest effort to slash environmental regulations for the coal industry as the Trump administration’s first term winds down. The EPA finalized “effluent limitations” for two types of waste from coal plants, a savings of $140 million annually for industry. “Newer, more affordable pollution control technologies and flexibility on the regulation’s phase-in will reduce pollution and save jobs at the same time,” agency administrator Andrew Wheeler said. A senior EPA official said the final rule would reduce pollution by nearly a million pounds per year over the 2015 rule, though environmental groups said the rollback lets industry use cheaper, less effective treatment methods on polluted wastewater that puts waterways at risk. The changes apply to flue gas desulfurization (FGD) wastewater and bottom ash transport waste. The rollback eases requirements for how they are treated before being released, offers a “flexible, phase-in approach” for implementation and pushes back compliance dates. “The Trump administration’s rollback will be responsible for hundreds of thousands of pounds of pollutants contaminating sources of drinking water, lakes, rivers and streams every year,” said Thomas Cmar, deputy managing attorney of Earthjustice, who said the group will sue the EPA over the rollback. The EPA proposed the rollback in November after initially delaying implementation of the 2015 Obama proposal, which sought to force coal-fired power plants to shut down unlined coal ash pits in 2019 and recycle 100% of their system’s water. The 2019 proposal gave coal plants more time to either retrofit or shut down unlined ash pits or ponds where plants store coal ash waste, which contain carcinogens like arsenic and neurotoxins that can seep from these into nearby waterways. The National Mining Association welcomed the final rule. “The coal industry wants to be able to compete while also safeguarding important environmental protections – this rule shows that balance is possible,” said its president, Rich Nolan.  

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Scientists See Downsides to Top COVID-19 Vaccines from Russia, China 

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High-profile COVID-19 vaccines developed in Russia and China share a potential shortcoming: They are based on a common cold virus that many people have been exposed to, potentially limiting their effectiveness, some experts say. CanSino Biologics’ vaccine, approved for military use in China, is a modified form of adenovirus type 5, or Ad5. The company is in talks to get emergency approval in several countries before completing large-scale trials, the Wall Street Journal reported last week. A vaccine developed by Moscow’s Gamaleya Institute, approved in Russia earlier this month despite limited testing, is based on Ad5 and a second less common adenovirus. A scientist works inside a laboratory of the Gamaleya Research Institute of Epidemiology and Microbiology during the testing of a coronavirus vaccine, in Moscow, Russia, Aug. 6, 2020. (Russian Direct Investment Fund/Handout via Reuters)”The Ad5 concerns me just because a lot of people have immunity,” said Anna Durbin, a vaccine researcher at Johns Hopkins University. “I’m not sure what their strategy is … maybe it won’t have 70% efficacy. It might have 40% efficacy, and that’s better than nothing, until something else comes along.” Vaccines are seen as essential to ending the pandemic that has claimed over 845,000 lives worldwide. Gamaleya has said its two-virus approach will address Ad5 immunity issues. Both developers have years of experience and approved Ebola vaccines based on Ad5. Neither CanSino nor Gamaleya responded to requests for comment. Researchers have experimented with Ad5-based vaccines against a variety of infections for decades, but none are widely used. They employ harmless viruses as “vectors” to ferry genes from the target virus — in this case the novel coronavirus — into human cells, prompting an immune response to fight the actual virus. But many people already have antibodies against Ad5, which could cause the immune system to attack the vector instead of responding to the coronavirus, making these vaccines less effective. FILE – Screen grab taken from video issued by Britain’s Oxford University, showing a person being injected as part of the first human trials in the UK to test a potential coronavirus vaccine, untaken by Oxford University in England, Apr. 23, 2020.Several researchers have chosen alternative adenoviruses or delivery mechanisms. Oxford University and AstraZeneca based their COVID-19 vaccine on a chimpanzee adenovirus, avoiding the Ad5 issue. Johnson & Johnson’s candidate uses Ad26, a comparatively rare strain. Dr. Zhou Xing, from Canada’s McMaster University, worked with CanSino on its first Ad5-based vaccine, for tuberculosis, in 2011. His team is developing an inhaled Ad5 COVID-19 vaccine, theorizing it could circumvent pre-existing immunity issues. “The Oxford vaccine candidate has quite an advantage” over the injected CanSino vaccine, he said. Xing also worries that high doses of the Ad5 vector in the CanSino vaccine could induce fever, fueling vaccine skepticism. “I think they will get good immunity in people that don’t have antibodies to the vaccine, but a lot of people do,” said Dr. Hildegund Ertl, director of the Wistar Institute Vaccine Center in Philadelphia. In China and the United States, about 40% of people have high levels of antibodies from prior Ad5 exposure. In Africa, it could be has high as 80%, experts said. HIV risk  Some scientists also worry an Ad5-based vaccine could increase chances of contracting HIV. In a 2004 trial of a Merck & Co Ad5-based HIV vaccine, people with pre-existing immunity became more, not less, susceptible to the virus that causes AIDS. FILE – Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases, testifies before a Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, June 30, 2020.Researchers, including top U.S. infectious diseases expert Dr. Anthony Fauci, in a 2015 paper, said the side effect was likely unique to HIV vaccines. But they cautioned that HIV incidence should be monitored during and after trials of all Ad5-based vaccines in at-risk populations. 
“I would be worried about the use of those vaccines in any country or any population that was at risk of HIV, and I put our country as one of them,” said Dr. Larry Corey, co-leader of the U.S. Coronavirus Vaccine Prevention Network, who was a lead researcher on the Merck trial. Gamaleya’s vaccine will be administered in two doses: The first based on Ad26, similar to J&J’s candidate, and the second on Ad5. Alexander Gintsburg, Gamaleya’s director, has said the two-vector approach addresses the immunity issue. Ertl said it might work well enough in individuals who have been exposed to one of the two adenoviruses. Many experts expressed skepticism about the Russian vaccine after the government declared its intention to give it to high-risk groups in October without data from large pivotal trials. “Demonstrating safety and efficacy of a vaccine is very important,” said Dr. Dan Barouch, a Harvard vaccine researcher who helped design J&J’s COVID-19 vaccine. Often, he noted, large-scale trials “do not give the result that is expected or required.”  

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Poll Shows 40 Percent of Americans Back Trump Executive Order on TikTok

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Forty percent of Americans back President Donald Trump’s threat to ban videosharing app TikTok if it is not sold to a U.S. buyer, according to a Reuters/Ipsos national poll, suggesting that many support the effort to separate the social media upstart from its Chinese parent.The poll published Monday, which surveyed 1,349 adult respondents across the United States, found that 40% backed Trump’s recent executive order forcing China’s ByteDance to sell its TikTok operations in the United States by Sept. 15. Thirty percent of the respondents said they opposed the move, while another 30% said they didn’t know either way.The responses were largely split along party lines, and many of those who agreed with Trump’s order said they do not know much about TikTok. Among Republicans, for example, 69% said they supported the president’s order while only 32% said they were familiar with the app. Twenty-one percent of Democrats also supported Trump’s order and 46% said they were familiar with TikTok.The figures suggest most Americans had only “a fleeting knowledge of the brand,” said Dipanjan Chatterjee, vice president and principal analyst at Forrester Research. Chatterjee said the negative attitudes were likely the result of the public rhetoric around TikTok – and increasing tensions with Beijing.”Clearly there’s been a politicization of TikTok,” he said.TikTok users have captured the teenage zeitgeist with catchy song-and-dance videos in the United States and elsewhere, but its parent company’s ties to Beijing have been the subject of bipartisan concern as relations with China deteriorate.Those worries culminated earlier this month in a do-or-die order from Trump to ByteDance, with the Trump administration saying that TikTok is a potential national security risk due to the vast amount of private data the app is compiling on U.S. consumers. TikTok claims about 100 million monthly active users in the U.S.The Chinese company must now divest TikTok in the United States. Microsoft Corp and Oracle Corp are among U.S. companies fighting to snap up its assets.The Reuters/Ipsos poll found that 38% of respondents said they were either very or somewhat familiar with the app and 25% said they had watched a video on the platform. Thirty-five percent agreed with the statement that they had “heard of it, but that’s about it.”Americans also appeared to be more critical of the Chinese company than they were of American-based technology companies: 47% of respondents said they either held very unfavorable, somewhat unfavorable, or “lean towards unfavorable” attitudes toward TikTok. By contrast, just 11% said they had similarly unfavorable impressions of Seattle-based Amazon – the world’s largest online retailer which is facing allegations of monopolistic behavior from both sides of the U.S. political aisle. 

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China’s New Tech Export Controls Could Give Beijing a Say in TikTok Sale

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China’s new rules around tech exports mean ByteDance’s sale of TikTok’s U.S. operations could need Beijing’s approval, a Chinese trade expert told state media, a requirement that would complicate the forced and politically charged divestment.ByteDance has been ordered by President Donald Trump to divest short video app TikTok — which is challenging the order — in the United States amid security concerns over the personal data it handles.Microsoft Corp and Oracle Corp are among the suitors for the assets, which also includes TikTok’s Canada, New Zealand and Australia operations.However, China late on Friday revised a list of technologies that are banned or restricted for export for the first time in 12 years and Cui Fan, a professor of international trade at the University of International Business and Economics in Beijing, said the changes would apply to TikTok.”If ByteDance plans to export related technologies, it should go through the licensing procedures,” Cui said in an interview with Xinhua published on Saturday.China’s Ministry of Commerce added 23 items –- including technologies such as personal information push services based on data analysis and artificial intelligence interactive interface technology — to the restricted list.It can take up to 30 days to obtain preliminary approval to export the technology.TikTok’s secret weapon is believed to be its recommendation engine that keeps users glued to their screens. This engine, or algorithm, powers TikTok’s “For You” page, which recommends the next video to watch based on an analysis of your behavior.Cui noted that ByteDance’s development overseas had relied on its domestic technology that provided the core algorithm and said the company may need to transfer software codes or usage rights to the new owner of TikTok from China to overseas.”Therefore, it is recommended that ByteDance seriously studies the adjusted catalog and carefully considers whether it is necessary to suspend” negotiations on a sale, he added.ByteDance did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Sunday.China’s foreign ministry has said that it opposes the executive orders Trump has placed on TikTok and that Beijing will defend the legitimate rights and interests of Chinese businesses.

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Zuckerberg says Facebook Erred in Not Removing Militia Post

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Facebook made a mistake in not removing a militia group’s page earlier this week that called for armed civilians to enter Kenosha, Wisconsin, amid violent protests after police shot Jacob Blake, CEO Mark Zuckerberg said.The page for the “Kenosha Guard” violated Facebook’s policies and had been flagged by “a bunch of people,” Zuckerberg said in a video posted Friday on Facebook. The social media giant has in recent weeks adopted new guidelines removing or restricting posts from groups that pose a threat to public safety.Facebook took down the page Wednesday, after an armed civilian allegedly killed two people and wounded a third Tuesday night amid protests in Kenosha that followed the shooting of Blake, who is Black.”It was largely an operational mistake,” Zuckerberg said. “The contractors, the reviewers, who the initial complaints were funneled to, didn’t, basically didn’t pick this up.”Zuckerberg did not apologize for the error and said that so far, Facebook hasn’t found any evidence that Rittenhouse was aware of the Kenosha Guard page or the invitation it posted for armed militia members to go to Kenosha.Facebook is now taking down posts that praise the shooting or shooter, Zuckerberg said. Yet a report Thursday by The Guardian newspaper found examples of support and even fundraising messages still being shared on Facebook and its photo-sharing service, Instagram.Zuckerberg also contrasted the treatment of Blake, who was shot in the back by Kenosha police, and the white 17-year-old now charged in Tuesday’s slayings, Kyle Rittenhouse, who carried an AR-15-style rifle near police without being challenged. Zuckerberg also acknowledged the civil rights demonstration Friday in Washington, D.C.”There’s just a sense that things really aren’t improving at the pace that they should be, and I think that’s really painful, really discouraging,” Zuckerberg said.Zuckerberg also said the company is working on improving its execution, though he did not provide details. He acknowledged that the approaching presidential election would present greater challenges around polarizing content.”There is a real risk and a continued increased risk through the election during this very sensitive and polarized and highly charged time,” he said.

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Musk’s Neuralink Puts Computer Chips in Animal Brains

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Billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk’s neuroscience startup Neuralink on Friday unveiled a pig named Gertrude that has had a coin-sized computer chip in her brain for two months, showing off an early step toward the goal of curing human diseases with the same type of implant.Co-founded by Tesla Inc and SpaceX CEO Musk in 2016, San Francisco Bay Area-based Neuralink aims to implant wireless brain-computer interfaces that include thousands of electrodes in the most complex human organ to help cure neurological conditions like Alzheimer’s, dementia and spinal cord injuries and ultimately fuse humankind with artificial intelligence.”An implantable device can actually solve these problems,” Musk said on a webcast Friday, mentioning ailments such as memory loss, hearing loss, depression and insomnia.Musk did not provide a timeline for those treatments, appearing to retreat from earlier statements that human trials would begin by the end of this year. Neuralink’s first clinical trials with a small number of human patients would be aimed at treating paralysis or paraplegia, the company’s head surgeon, Dr. Matthew MacDougall, said.Neuroscientists unaffiliated with the company said the presentation indicated that Neuralink had made great strides but cautioned that longer studies were needed.Musk presented what he described as the “three little pigs demo.” Gertrude, the pig with a Neuralink implant in the part of the brain that controls the snout, required some coaxing by Musk to appear on camera, but eventually began eating off of a stool and sniffing straw, triggering spikes on a graph tracking the animal’s neural activity.Musk said the company had three pigs with two implants each, and also revealed a pig that previously had an implant. They were “healthy, happy and indistinguishable from a normal pig,” Musk said. He said the company predicted a pig’s limb movement during a treadmill run at “high accuracy” using implant data.Musk described Neuralink’s chip, which is roughly 23 millimeters in diameter, as “a Fitbit in your skull with tiny wires.””I could have a Neuralink right now and you wouldn’t know,” Musk said. “Maybe I do.”One comment from a webcast viewer described the animals as “Cypork.”Graeme Moffat, a University of Toronto neuroscience research fellow, said Neuralink’s advancements were “order of magnitude leaps” beyond current science thanks to the novel chip’s size, portability, power management and wireless capabilities.Stanford University neuroscientist Sergey Stavisky said the company had made substantial and impressive progress since an initial demonstration of an earlier chip in July 2019.”Going from that to the fully implanted system in several pigs they showed is impressive and, I think, really highlights the strengths of having a large multidisciplinary team focused on this problem,” Stavisky said.Some researchers said longer studies would be required to determine the longevity of the device.Neuralink’s chip could also improve the understanding of neurological diseases by reading brain waves, one of the company’s scientists said during the presentation.Recruiting, not fundraisingMusk said the focus of Friday’s event was recruiting, not fundraising. Musk has a history of bringing together diverse experts to drastically accelerate the development of innovations previously limited to academic labs, including rocket, hyperloop and electrical vehicle technologies through companies such as Tesla and SpaceX.Neuralink has received $158 million in funding, $100 million of which came from Musk, and employs about 100 people.Musk, who frequently warns about the risks of artificial intelligence, said the implant’s most important achievement beyond medical applications would be “some kind of AI symbiosis where you have an AI extension of yourself.”Small devices that electronically stimulate nerves and brain areas to treat hearing loss and Parkinson’s disease have been implanted in humans for decades. Brain implant trials have also been conducted with a small number of people who have lost control of bodily functions due to spiral cord injuries or neurological conditions like strokes.Startups such as Kernel, Paradromics and NeuroPace also are trying to exploit advancements in material, wireless and signaling technology to create devices similar to Neuralink. In addition, medical device giant Medtronic PLC produces brain implants to treat Parkinson’s disease, essential tremors and epilepsy.  

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WMO: Laura by Far the Strongest Hurricane of 2020 Atlantic Season

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The former hurricane known as Laura has so far been the most intense and dangerous storm of this year’s Atlantic hurricane season, according to the U.N.’s weather agency, the World Meteorological Organization.Laura is now just a tropical depression, spreading heavy rain and thunderstorms across the east-central United States, forecasters said. But as the storm crossed the Gulf of Mexico earlier this week, it strengthened from a Category 1 hurricane to a Category 4 in less than 24 hours. Forecasters recorded wind speeds as high as 240 kph.As Laura came ashore early Thursday in southern Louisiana, the National Hurricane Service was predicting an “unsurvivable storm surge.” That didn’t materialize, but damaging winds and heavy rains did. The system destroyed property, downed trees and led to power outages throughout the state. The WMO said that since Laura began moving through the Caribbean last week, it had caused more than 20 deaths, most in Haiti.FILE – Benjamin Luna helps recover items from the children’s wing of the First Pentecostal Church that was destroyed by Hurricane Laura, Aug. 27, 2020, in Orange, Texas.Speaking from U.N. headquarters in Geneva, WMO spokeswoman Clare Nullis said Laura had now generated more accumulated cyclone energy, or ACE, the metric used to measure storm intensity and duration, than the four other storms in August combined. Nullis said there was still a long way to go this year. The Atlantic hurricane season began in June and ends in November.Nullis said climatologists predict that strong storms – in the Category 4-to-Category 5 range of hurricane intensity – will become more common, primarily because of global warming.Citing laws of physics, Nullis said, “Storms feed on warm water; higher water temperatures mean higher sea levels, which in turn increase the risk of flooding during high tides, and so the circle goes on.”
 

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New Evidence May Show Where Earth’s Water Came From

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A study published this week offers evidence regarding how water originated on Earth, and the clues come from some of the oldest rocks in the solar system. Earth’s abundance of water makes it unique in the solar system, but scientists have never been sure how it got here. Some believed the water – or chemical compounds that make up water – was here all along, embedded in the original rock that formed the Earth about 4.5 billion years ago.  A piece of an enstatite chondrite meteorite, which contains about 0.5 weight percent of water, is seen in this undated handout obtained Aug. 27, 2020, courtesy of Laurette Piani and Christine Fieni from the Museum of Natural History in Paris.But other scientists studying models of where Earth exists in the solar system think it should have formed as a dry planet, suggesting the water came from somewhere else. A study, published Thursday in the journal Science, looks at the composition of samples of enstatite chondrite meteorites — a rare, ancient form of meteorite believed to have been formed very early in the life of the solar system.Scientists had previously dismissed these space rocks as the source of Earth’s water because they were exposed to the heat and radiation of the young sun early in their formation, making them, the scientists thought, too dry to carry water. Instead, astronomers theorize water came to Earth later in its formation, through carbonaceous chondrite meteorites, which came from the outer solar system, where water was more abundant. In the new study, researchers measured the amount of hydrogen, the primary element in water, in 13 samples of enstatite chondrite meteorites. Their analysis revealed these meteorites carry a lot more hydrogen than previously believed. So much hydrogen, that the study’s authors say they believe the ancient meteorites can account for least three times the amount of water in Earth’s present-day oceans. Therefore, they maintain, Earth’s water may have come from the very space rocks that formed the planet. 
 

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Health Officials Call On US Government to Reverse COVID-19 Test Guidelines

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Public health departments throughout the United States are calling on the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to reverse changes the federal agency recently made to its public coronavirus testing guidelines.The Big Cities Health Coalition and the National Association of County and City Health Officials, which represent thousands of local departments, sent a letter Friday to the heads of the CDC and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services requesting that the agencies “pull” the amended advice on virus testing.FILE – A health care worker uses a swab to test a man at a coronavirus disease drive-in testing location in Houston, Texas, Aug. 18, 2020.The organizations called on the agencies to reinstate recommendations that people who have been exposed to the virus be tested even if they are asymptomatic.In the letter, the groups say the CDC’s decision to pull the guidance this week “costs lives and livelihoods” and that “the CDC’s own data suggest that perhaps as many as 40% of COVID-19 cases are attributable to asymptomatic transmission.”CDC Director Robert Redfield responded to criticism over the revised guidelines by saying “testing may be considered for all close contacts of confirmed or probable COVID-19 patients.”COVID-19 vaccineSeparately, President Donald Trump said Thursday the U.S. will have a vaccination for the coronavirus “before the end of the year or maybe even sooner.”The announcement was part of Trump’s speech accepting the Republican presidential nomination, delivered from the South Lawn of the White House as part of the party’s national convention.FILE – U.S. President Donald Trump delivers his acceptance speech as the 2020 Republican presidential nominee during the final event of the Republican National Convention on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, Aug. 27, 2020.Experts say vaccines can sometimes take decades to develop, test, and be proven safe before they are administered to patients. However, hope has been high that a concerted international effort will produce an effective vaccine sometime next year.”In recent months our nation and the entire planet has been struck by a new and powerful invisible enemy,” Trump told the South Lawn audience whose mostly mask-less members were not sitting six feet apart, a measure generally practiced to slow the spread of the coronavirus. The president has rarely been seen in public wearing a mask, another practice to help stop the spread of the virus.Cases globallyThe U.S. has at least 5.8 million COVID-19 cases, the most of any country, and roughly one-fifth of the world’s more than 24 million infections, according to Johns Hopkins University. Brazil follows the U.S. with 3.7 million cases, and India comes in third with 3.3 million.India said early Friday that it had recorded 77,266 new COVID-19 cases in the previous 24-hour period, the highest daily total ever recorded in the South Asian nation.And in France, wearing masks in public in Paris became mandatory for everyone on Friday. The new measure follows a French public health report that more than 6,000 new infections were recorded Thursday, while 5,000 were recorded Wednesday.People wearing protective masks stand at the Trocadero square near the Eiffel Tower as France reinforces mask-wearing as part of efforts to curb a resurgence of the coronavirus disease across the country, in Paris, France, Aug. 28, 2020.Spain said all children six years of age and up must wear masks while in school. The announcement comes just days before the beginning of Spain’s school year.In South America, a group of leaders has agreed to share information and coordinate access to any vaccine one of them might develop or acquire.”A joint effort would bring benefits, particularly in terms of access, quantities and guaranteed prices,” Chile’s foreign minister, Andres Allamand, said after Thursday’s virtual meeting of presidents and foreign ministers.”We in Chile are following the evolution of at least five projects and we have been in contact with some of those laboratories and countries specifically to be able to get access to those vaccines at reasonable prices and as quickly as possible,” he said. 
 

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AP Finds Brazil’s Plan to Protect Amazon Has Opposite Effect

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In May, facing urgent international demands for action after a string of massive wildfires in the Amazon, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro put the army in charge of protecting the rainforest.
 
Instead, The Associated Press has found, the operation dubbed as “Green Brazil 2” has had the opposite effect. Under military command, Brazil’s once-effective but recently declining investigation and prosecution of rainforest destruction by ranchers, farmers and miners has come to a virtual halt, even as this year’s burning season picks up.
 
The Brazilian army appears to be focusing on dozens of small road-and-bridge-building projects that allow exports to flow faster to ports and ease access to protected areas, opening the rainforest to further exploitation. In the meantime, there have been no major raids against illegal activity since Bolsonaro required military approval for them in May, according to public officials, reporting from the area and interviews with nine current and former members of Brazil’s environmental enforcement agency.  
 The AP also found that:
 
— The number of fines issued for environmental crimes has been cut by almost half since four years ago, especially under Bolsonaro.
 
— Two high-ranking officials from IBAMA, the environmental agency, say they have stopped using satellite maps to locate deforestation sites and fine their owners __ a once-widely used technique. IBAMA officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the press.  
 
— IBAMA is no longer penalizing the heads of big networks of illegal logging, mining and farming, according to two other officials. Meat packers who sell beef from deforested areas now operate freely, according to three IBAMA officials.
 
The order putting the military in charge of fighting deforestation was initially due to end in June, but it was recently extended by Bolsonaro until November despite widespread criticism that it is making the problem worse.  
 
At stake is the fate of the forest itself, and hopes of limiting global warming. Experts say blazes and deforestation are pushing the world’s largest rainforest toward a tipping point, after which it will cease to generate enough rainfall to sustain itself. About two-thirds of the forest would then begin an irreversible, decades-long decline into tropical savanna.
 
The Amazon has lost about 17% of its original area and, at the current pace, is expected to reach a tipping point in the next 15 to 30 years. As it decomposes, it will release hundreds of billions of tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.
 
“From the occupation of the land to mining and the fires, it is all connected,” said Suely Vaz, who headed IBAMA between 2016 and 2019 and is now a specialist of the Climate Observatory, comprised of 50 non-governmental groups. “IBAMA should fight the whole network of deforestation. But it just doesn’t now.”  
 
Bolsonaro’s office and IBAMA did not respond to requests for comment, but Bolsonaro declared in May that “our effort is great, enormous in fighting fires and deforestation.” He also called reports of the forest on fire “a lie.”
 
Brazil’s Defense Ministry defended its record, saying its deployment was ’’an operation of multiple agencies” involving 2,090 people a day, along with 89 vehicles and 19 ships.
“Those figures are rising by the day, as resources become available and operations are gradually intensified,” the ministry said.  
 
It said the operation had led to the destruction of 253 machines involved in illegal logging as of Aug. 24 but did not specify what type of machines or say anything about other illegal activities like mining.  
 
While the threat under Bolsonaro’s administration is the latest and most severe, efforts to preserve the Amazon have been struggling for years.  
 
In the 2003-2011 administration of President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, Brazil developed a multi-agency plan to slow Amazon deforestation that worked well, according to virtually all observers. That ended in 2012 when the government of his successor, Dilma Rousseff, pardoned illegal deforestation prior to 2008, among other measures that emboldened violators. Many believe Bolsonaro will issue new pardons.
 
IBAMA once had more than 1,300 agents. That has dropped to about 600 since 2012, when the agency stopped hiring under Rousseff in an attempt to rein in spending.
 
The weakening of IBAMA accelerated after Rousseff was ousted in 2016 and replaced by right-wing Michel Temer. Observers on all sides say the change has been far more fast-moving and dramatic since Bolsonaro was elected in 2018, after a campaign that dismissed the threat of deforestation and pledged more development of the rainforest.  
 
In the field, IBAMA has hundreds of inspectors who are supposed to conduct investigations, raid illegal sites, issue fines, destroy equipment and request arrests by local and federal police, along with a corps of temporary contract firefighters. But after the last major raid by IBAMA against illegal mining in April, the two inspectors in charge were fired by the environment ministry, allegedly for “political-ideological bias.″
 
A former Bolsonaro minister, Gen. Carlos Alberto dos Santos Cruz, told the AP that the army is best at supporting inspections in the Amazon, not leading them.
 
“In some places you cannot find any other institution, no police or IBAMA. There’s no structure and the military steps up,” he said. “The armed forces can help and they are helping. But inspections need to be done by those that are experts. And you have to work with local authorities, they are the ones who know who the criminals are.”
 
In 2016, the year Temer took office, there were almost 10,000 fines nationwide for environmental crimes, according to IBAMA’s website. In 2019, the first year of the Bolsonaro presidency, that shrank to 7,148. In the first six months of 2020, it stood at 3,721.
 
Defense Ministry numbers confirm that fines under operation Green Brazil 2 have continued at a lower rate, with 1,526 fines so far over about three months’ worth almost $80 million.
 
“There is a reduction in fines because the president doesn’t like them, campaigns against them,” an IBAMA inspector based in the Amazon said. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak with the press by agency heads in the capital, Brasilia.
 
“Appointees to local IBAMA offices know that,” the official said. “If a given unit fines too much, they get a call from Brasilia.”
 
Last week, a group of five soldiers and five IBAMA firefighters drove into Nova Fronteira, a remote district of Pará state. Satellite images showed a big fire threatening a part of the forest on the edges of a private property.
 
Upon arrival, they saw a wooden gate closed with a single padlock. In the past, IBAMA staff would enter private properties in emergencies, as allowed by Brazilian law. That policy has changed with the army’s arrival.
 
“We can’t come in if the owner is not here,” said one soldier, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to speak to the press.
 
A simple but effective change could be issuing fines to land owners through satellite imagery-aided investigation. An IBAMA specialist on data said 70% of deforestation in many areas can be located on aerial maps by Brazil’s space agency. That alone would allow IBAMA to find who owns the land and hold them accountable — which is not happening under the army, agency veterans said.  
 
“We are not even trying now,” one high-ranking official said.  
 
A former top IBAMA official said the army didn’t know how to lead investigations and could not legally issue fines, seize equipment or block construction. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he has received death threats from people involved in Amazon development.  
 
“The army could use their technology to see where deforestation is growing, map it all and go after who is responsible,” he said. “But they spend their time either stopping IBAMA from doing that or working on construction projects.”  
 
Another IBAMA agent who has organized hundreds of raids nationwide said the agency also is no longer investigating the heads of big networks of illegal logging, mining and farming. That type of high-end investigative work slowed down under Temer, with a few prominent exceptions, and stopped entirely under Bolsonaro, with new regional leaders of IBAMA offices tending to be former or active military or police officials seconded to civilian positions.
 
Those who support development applaud the army’s foray into the Amazon.  
 
Part-time farmer Antonio Silva has noticed the changes in the operations of Brazil’s environmental enforcement agency — and he loves them. Silva struggled for years doing odd jobs in northern Brazil before he moved to the country’s Amazon frontier and bought himself a 4-acre poultry farm outside the city of Novo Progresso, where he also works as a security guard.  
 
As ranching and mining ate into the rainforest, the city grew from a few thousand to 25,000 residents, and the market for Silva’s chicken and turkeys grew. There are now three electronics stores in town, instead of just one.  
 
 
He said IBAMA used to aggressively patrol around his little farm, seeking out those who seized public lands and chopped and burned the rainforest for profit. A few years ago, they came in by helicopter, bringing police with machine guns. They arrested people and destroyed machinery.
 
“It was shocking,” Silva said. “It is better now….they come twice a week to put out some fires, talk and that’s it.”
 
Every morning the city is covered in smoke from the previous days, which dissipates before fires start again in the afternoon. Novo Progresso has a dozen IBAMA inspectors and firefighters.
 
Residents say inspectors have barely left the office since the army arrived and firefighters are being called only in urgent situations or long after the blazes are out.
Last week, a group of IBAMA firefighters drove two hours to a fire started three days earlier. An area equivalent to eight soccer fields had already been burned and some trees were still on fire, endangering a region of dense forest.
 
A man who did not identify himself blamed a neighbor for starting the blaze, but did not name the person or file a complaint. Agents saw a chainsaw on the ground and the man took it away, without answering whether he had a license for it, as required by Brazilian law. Records show no investigation was opened, no fines were issued.
 
The former top IBAMA official said the professional corps of inspectors used to have little fear of fining violators, confiscating their equipment or even destroying the whole operation. After the inspectors had their powers cut back, poorly paid and locally hired firefighters started giving them less information on wrongdoing.  
 
“The firefighters would do it at their own risk,” the former official said. “And what for? After that gig ends six months later they have to live in the same place.”

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Trump Says US Will Have COVID Vaccine Before End of 2020

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President Donald Trump said Thursday the U.S. will have a vaccination for the coronavirus “before the end of the year or maybe even sooner.”The announcement was part of Trump’s speech accepting the Republican presidential nomination, delivered from the South Lawn of the White House as part of the party’s national convention.   Experts say vaccines can sometimes take decades to develop, test, and be proven safe before they are administered to patients. However, hope has been high that a concerted international effort will produce an effective vaccine sometime next year. “In recent months our nation and the entire planet has been struck by a new and powerful invisible enemy,” Trump told the South Lawn audience whose mostly mask-less members were not sitting six feet apart, a measure generally practiced to slow the spread of the coronavirus. The U.S. has 5.8 million COVID-19 cases, roughly one-fifth of the world’s more than 24 million infections, according to Johns Hopkins University. The president has rarely been seen in public wearing a mask, another practice done to stop the spread of the virus. WATCH: How coronavirus vaccines being tested work Sorry, but your browser cannot support embedded video of this type, you can
download this video to view it offline.Download File360p | 8 MB480p | 11 MB540p | 15 MB720p | 29 MB1080p | 62 MBOriginal | 410 MB Embed” />Copy Download AudioWorld leader in coronavirus cases
The U.S. has more COVID-19 cases than anywhere else.  Brazil follows the U.S. with 3.7 million cases and India comes in third with 3.3 million. India said early Friday that it had recorded 77,266 new COVID-19 cases in the previous 24-hour period, the highest daily total ever recorded in the South Asian nation. Wearing masks in public in Paris became mandatory for everyone on Friday. The new measure follows a French public health report that more than 6,000 new infections were recorded Thursday, while 5,000 were recorded Wednesday. Spain says all school children six years of age and up must wear masks while in school.  The announcement comes just days before the beginning of Spain’s school year. South American vaccine effort
A group of South American leaders has agreed to share information and coordinate access to any vaccine one of them might develop or acquire. “A joint effort would bring benefits, particularly in terms of access, quantities and guaranteed prices,” Chile’s foreign minister, Andres Allamand, said after Thursday’s virtual meeting of presidents and foreign ministers.”We in Chile are following the evolution of at least five projects and we have been in contact with some of those laboratories and countries specifically to be able to get access to those vaccines at reasonable prices and as quickly as possible,” he said.Lockdown blues
London zookeepers say the animals under their care are suffering from what they call the lockdown blues.  The zoo had been closed because of the coronavirus and has just started admitting limited numbers of visitors. “The Pygmy goats were so used to seeing children during the day that during lockdown they would miss them,” Assistant Curator of Mammals Teague Stubbington told Reuters. “They were actually lining up at the gate to meet people and then at 10 o’clock, when no one was there, they were disappointed.”  He says the zoo is badly in need of funds, adding this is the longest period it has been closed since World War II.  

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Blue Planet: Study Proposes New Origin Theory for Earth’s Water

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Water covers 70% of the Earth’s surface and is crucial to life as we know it, but how it got here has been a longstanding scientific debate.The puzzle was a step closer to being solved Thursday after a French team reported in the journal Science they had identified which space rocks were responsible, and suggested our planet has been wet ever since it formed.Cosmochemist Laurette Piani, who led the research, told AFP the findings contradicted the prevalent theory that water was brought to an initially dry Earth by far-reaching comets or asteroids.According to early models for how the Solar System came to be, the large disks of gas and dust that swirled around the Sun and eventually formed the inner planets were too hot to sustain ice.This would explain the barren conditions on Mercury, Venus and Mars — but not our blue planet, with its vast oceans, humid atmosphere and well-hydrated geology.Scientists therefore theorized that the water came along after, and the prime suspects were meteorites known as carbonaceous chondrites that are rich in hydrous minerals.But the problem was that their chemical composition doesn’t closely match our planet’s rocks.The carbonaceous chondrites also formed in the outer Solar System, making it less likely they could have pelted the early Earth.Planetary building blocksAnother group of meteorites, called enstatite chondrites, are a much closer chemical match, containing similar isotopes (types) of oxygen, titanium and calcium.This indicates they were Earth’s and the other inner planets’ building blocks.However, because these rocks formed close to the Sun, they had been assumed to be too dry to account for Earth’s rich reservoirs of water.To test whether this was really true, Piani and her colleagues at Centre de Recherches Petrographiques et Geochimiques (CRPG, CNRS/Universite de Lorraine) used a technique called mass spectrometry to measure the hydrogen content in 13 enstatite chondrites.The rocks are now quite rare, making up only about two percent of known meteorites in collections, and it is hard to find them in pristine, uncontaminated condition.The team found that the rocks contained enough hydrogen in them to provide Earth with at least three times the water mass of its oceans — and possibly much more.They also measured two isotopes of hydrogen, because the relative proportion of these is very different from one celestial object to another.”We found the hydrogen isotopic composition of enstatite chondrites to be similar to the one of the water stored in the terrestrial mantle,” said Piani, comparing it to a DNA match.The isotopic composition of the oceans was found to be consistent with a mixture containing 95% of water from the enstatite chondrites — more proof these were responsible for the bulk of Earth’s water.The authors further found that the nitrogen isotopes from the enstatite chondrites are similar to Earth’s — and proposed these rocks could also be the source of the most abundant component of our atmosphere.Piani added that research doesn’t exclude later addition of water by other sources like comets, but indicates that enstatite chondrites contributed significantly to Earth’s water budget at the time it formed.The work “brings a crucial and elegant element to this puzzle” wrote Anne Peslier, a planetary scientist for NASA, in an accompanying editorial.

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Five Former CDC Directors Speak Out About Ending Coronavirus Pandemic

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Former directors of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the world-renowned American agency that has long taken the lead in fighting communicable diseases, are voicing unusual criticism of the U.S. handling of the novel coronavirus pandemic and the CDC’s limited role in that effort.COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus, has killed more than 180,000 people in the U.S., and those are only the confirmed cases. The CDC says the actual number of COVID-19 deaths is much higher and that the virus will be a leading cause of deaths in the U.S. in 2020.Five former CDC directors, appointed by both Republican and Democratic administrations, say the agency should be doing more to lead the effort to contain the pandemic.FILE – Dr. Richard Besser, May 8, 2013, in New York.Among them is Dr. Richard Besser, who as acting director of the CDC held daily televised news conferences during the H1N1 flu pandemic of 2008-09, which infected more than 60 million people in the U.S. and killed 12,469 people. Globally, the World Health Organization estimated that a half-million people died.During the current pandemic, however, the White House Coronavirus Task Force is being led not by the CDC, but by Vice President Mike Pence, prompting questions about the extent to which the task force’s advice may be seen as politically motivated.“It really concerns me that we’re not hearing from CDC every day. We’re not hearing from them about what they consider to be the best practices in terms of isolation and quarantine, what needs to be done,” Besser said in a recent interview with STAT, a health publication run by the publishers of the Boston Globe newspaper.“We’re seeing so much that’s being presented to us by political leaders, and when that’s the case, half the country says, ‘Great, I’m on board,’ and the rest rejects things out of hand because of the messenger. …  The more you can depoliticize the response, the more successful you’re going to be.”FILE – Dr. David Satcher, May 31, 2012, in Atlanta.That concern is shared by Dr. David Satcher, who was appointed to lead the CDC by Democratic President Bill Clinton. “I think it was obvious during the time that we were having daily reports about the pandemic that CDC was being sidelined,” Satcher said in an interview, regarding the task force’s late afternoon briefings earlier this year.He contrasted that with the prestigious role the agency held when he was director. “What I remember is that whenever there was a major issue in the world, people called the CDC before they called the World Health Organization, even though there was a very good working relationship between the CDC and WHO.”The former directors acknowledge shortcomings in the performance of the agency itself, which in the early days of the pandemic rolled out a defective test and advised the public against wearing face masks – advice that was later reversed when the extent of asymptomatic transmission became understood.But medical professionals have learned a lot about the coronavirus since then, according to Dr. Julie Gerberding, who became director of the CDC under Republican President George W. Bush. She is now an executive vice president at the pharmaceutical giant Merck.FILE – Merck Executive Vice President and Chief Patient Officer Julie Gerberding is seen on a screen as she gives a statement during a Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee hearing, June 23, 2020, on Capitol Hill in Washington.Gerberding recently told ABC News that she would love to turn back the clock because so much has been learned about the virus since it first appeared. “We know it is incredibly transmissible,” she said, “and we know that most people are still susceptible.”When Dr. Tom Frieden headed the CDC, after his appointment by President Barack Obama, a Democrat, the CDC was highly involved in the Ebola crisis in West Africa, from 2014 to 2016. Frieden now heads a global public health initiative called Resolve to Save Lives.He has been among the most outspoken of the former directors in accusing the Trump administration of dictating health policy to the CDC.FILE – Dr. Tom Frieden, Director of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), speaks at the New America think tank in Washington, D.C., July 13, 2016.“I don’t think there’s ever been a time before when people from the White House or HHS are dictating what goes on technical documents on the CDC website,” he said Thursday during a webinar sponsored by Vital Strategies, a global health organization. “This is dangerous. This is a big problem. It’s a big problem for a lot of reasons, as some of you know the CDC.”Satcher and the others are critical of President Donald Trump’s push to open schools and businesses when, they say, the virus is not yet under control. They say rushing to get things back to normal will only spread the virus.A number of universities have had to close after the virus spread when students returned to campus for the fall semester. A judge in Florida ruled that public schools don’t have to abide by the state’s requirement for in-person instruction because it “arbitrarily disregards safety” and denies local school boards the ability to decide when students can safely return.Besser, now president of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the largest health philanthropy in the U.S., says CDC guidance needs to be followed for the public good and that it should not be seen as “a barrier to getting children back into school instead of a road map for doing it safely.”Satcher, who founded the Satcher Health Leadership Institute at Morehouse School of Medicine, told VOA that “the priority in any pandemic ought to be prevention.” He also said fighting a pandemic requires leadership from the president.The former directors have been critical of what they called misleading information coming from the White House. Trump has touted the malaria drug hydroxychloroquine, which the health specialists say does not cure COVID-19 and may be harmful.Although Trump later said he was being sarcastic, a remark he made about injecting disinfectants as a means to treat the virus prompted companies that produce them to run televised advisories warning people that their products could be deadly if injected or ingested.FILE – Dr. Jeffrey Koplan, director, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, August 29, 1999.Dr. Jeffrey Koplan spent 26 years at the CDC. He was the director from 1998 to 2002, and later established the Atlanta-based Emory Global Health Institute.”We need to feed truth back to the American public and to use those truths with our scientific evidence to control this disease,” he said.All agree that pulling together and following the science is the best course. They also recommend following standard disease prevention methods like avoiding crowds, practicing good hand hygiene, staying at least two meters from others, and wearing masks when in public.Trump has been seen wearing a mask in public only twice. An audience at the White House Rose Garden did not wear masks during first lady Melania Trump’s speech during the Republican National Convention.When VOA asked for a response from the White House, Deputy Press Secretary Judd Deere told VOA, “The White House and CDC have been working together in partnership since the very beginning of this pandemic to carry out the president’s highest priority: the health and safety of the American public.”The CDC is the nation’s trusted health protection agency and its infectious disease and public health experts have helped deliver critical solutions throughout this pandemic to save lives,” Deere said. “We encourage all Americans to continue to follow the CDC’s guidelines as we responsibly continue to open up America.”The CDC has reversed its recommendations on testing for COVID-19. The agency had been recommending that those who have been exposed to the virus get tested, even if they did not have symptoms. On August 25, the CDC said people who don’t have symptoms “do not necessarily need a test,” even though it’s known that people without symptoms can pass the virus to others.Several U.S. news organizations claim the CDC was pressured to revise its testing guidelines by Trump administration officials.The American Medical Association issued a statement saying “COVID-19 is spread by asymptomatic people. Suggesting that people without symptoms, who have known exposure to COVID-positive individuals, do not need testing is a recipe for community spread and more spikes in coronavirus.”The leading U.S. doctors group also asked the CDC and the Department of Health and Human Services to provide the scientific justification for this change in testing guidelines.In an email to VOA, CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield said the agency is placing emphasis “on testing individuals with symptomatic illness”; those “with a significant exposure,” such as people in nursing homes, health care workers and first responders; or people “who may be asymptomatic when prioritized by medical and public health officials.”Redfield said, “Testing may be considered for all close contacts of confirmed or probable COVID-19 patients.”Redfield’s statement said the new guidelines were “coordinated in conjunction with the White House Coronavirus Task Force.”

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WHO Reports 10% ‘Uptick’ in European COVID-19 Cases

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The World Health Organization (WHO) says Europe has seen a significant “uptick” in COVID-19 cases in the last two weeks, with 32 out of 55 state parties and territories in the regions experiencing an increase rate of more than 10 percent.Speaking to reporters at a virtual news conference from Copenhagen, WHO Europe Chief, Dr. Hans Kluge, said that much of that surge in cases has been among young people in the region.Kluge said that while the young tend to be healthier and the virus may not be as severe or life threatening for them, as the weather cools in Europe, they are likely to spend more time indoors where they are likely to come in contact with the elderly and other more vulnerable people. He said that could prompt an uptick in hospitalizations and deaths.  But he also suggested health authorities and other officials are better positioned and more prepared than in February when the continent was on the cusp of a huge surge in cases.“We know what has to be done,” Kluge said. He called on regional governments to implement risk communication, increased testing and contact tracing, and for people to follow basic public health measures.

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TikTok CEO Resigns as Tensions Mount With White House

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The head of TikTok resigned Wednesday as tensions mount between the Chinese-owned video platform and the White House, which contends TikTok is a security risk in the U.S.
 
Chief Executive Officer Kevin Mayer announced his resignation days after the company filed a lawsuit challenging a U.S. government crackdown on the company over claims the social media app can be a tool to spy on U.S. citizens.
 
Mayer, a former Disney executive who joined the company in May, said in letter to employees his decision to quit came after the “political environment has sharply changed” in recent weeks.
 
“I understand that the role that I signed up for, including running TikTok globally, will look very different as a result of the U.S. administration’s action to push for a sell-off of the U.S. business.”
 
U.S. President Donald Trump signed an executive order on August 6 banning TikTok unless its parent company, ByteDance, sells its U.S. operations to an American company within 90 days.FILE – The logo of the TikTok application is seen on a screen in this picture illustration taken Feb. 21, 2019. Computer software firm Microsoft, headquartered in the northwestern U.S. city of Redmond, Washington, has confirmed it is negotiating to purchase TikTok’s operations in the U.S., Australia, Canada and New Zealand. Bloomberg News has reported that technology business Oracle Corp., based in the western U.S. city of Redwood City, California, is also entertaining a bid for the company.
 
TikTok argues in its lawsuit that Trump’s executive order was an abuse of the International Emergency Economic Powers Act because it is not “an unusual and extraordinary threat.”
 
The company provides a platform on which short videos are shared. Since its launch in 2017, TikTok has become very popular, with hundreds of millions of users worldwide, many of them teens.
 
U.S. officials are concerned that TikTok may pose a security threat, fearing that the company might share its user data with China’s government. However, TikTok’s parent company, ByteDance, has said it does not share user data with the Chinese government and maintains that it only stores U.S. user data in the U.S. and Singapore.
 

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