Researcher Tests ‘Vaccine’ Against Hate

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Amid a spike in violent extremism around the world, a communications researcher is experimenting with a novel idea: whether people can be “inoculated” against hate with a little exposure to extremist propaganda, in the same manner vaccines enable human bodies to fight disease.The idea is based on something called attitudinal inoculation, a technique that aims to build people’s resistance to negative influences by exposing them to weaker forms of those influences.  Developed in the 1960s, the method has been used to help teenagers resist peer pressure to start smoking.  In 2018, Kurt Braddock, a communications professor at Penn State University, conducted a study to see whether attitudinal inoculation could be used against extremism.  The results, published in the journal Terrorism and Political Violence in November, look promising. Data showed a ‘very cool story’The data came back showing a very, very cool story about how inoculation works in this context,” Braddock said in an interview.“I found that if you inoculate people against extreme right-wing propaganda or extreme left-wing propaganda, they tend to argue against that propaganda more than if you don’t inoculate them,” Braddock said.  “They tend to feel more anger towards the source of the propaganda than those you don’t inoculate. And they tend to think that the extremist groups that produce the propaganda are less credible than if you didn’t inoculate them.”Two-step methodAs with other attitudinal inoculation studies, Braddock’s experiment on 357 participants — randomly selected from a survey website — entailed two steps.    The first involved warning them that the propaganda material they were about to encounter had been very effective in changing the views of people such as the participants. “That makes them think that maybe their beliefs and attitudes aren’t as secure as they think they are and if they encounter this propaganda it might change their minds,” Braddock said.  Counter argumentsThen they were given counter arguments.  For example, they were told that exhortations to violence could be refuted by arguing that “protest is fine but violence doesn’t solve the issue,” Braddock said.Once “inoculated,” the participants (except for a small control group) were invited to read propaganda material produced by two extremist groups — the now-defunct left-wing Weather Underground and the neo-Nazi group National Alliance — and asked to register their reaction.The response exceeded Braddock’s expectations: those who had been inoculated were more likely than the control group to reject both groups. “The differences were significant,” Braddock said.Caveats to findingsAs significant as they were, the findings came with caveats. One reviewer noted that the study used propaganda from a group that is no longer around. Another questioned the reliability of such experiments, noting that exposure to propaganda is just one risk factor for radicalization.  A more important question is whether the lab-tested method has real-world application.    Braddock acknowledges the limitations.  To test out his idea in the real world, he said he plans to conduct follow-up studies on young people who are actively targeted by extremist propaganda.‘Real-world testing’That’s the next step,” he said.  “I’m really curious to see what shakes out in real world samples.”  Jesse Morton, an-ex jihadi who runs a support organization for former extremists, said the study has some potential use. Social media companies and educational institutions could potentially use it to develop preventive tools, Morton said.”There’s a lot of push on [social media companies]  to do something about the right-wing extremist threat in general, but I think schools and universities are those that are most set up for benefiting from it,” Morton said.Google pilot programUnder pressure to clamp down on violent content, social media companies have rolled out a variety of anti-extremism tools in recent years.  In 2017, Google launched the “ReDirect Method,” a pilot program that prompted viewers searching for extremist videos on YouTube to watch more positive content.  In some ways, Morton said, the Redirect Method is similar to the anti-hate vaccine Braddock is testing.  “We can’t just think about prevention and isolation,” Morton said.  “We have to think about the realm of prevention in countering violent extremism, as if it is directly connected to every facet of the radicalization process.”

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WHO Does Not Rule Out Human to Human Spread of New Coronavirus

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The World Health Organization reports there is no evidence of human-to-human spread of the new coronavirus that has sickened dozens, but says the possibility cannot be ruled out.   Investigations are continuing, aimed at identifying  the source of the new Coronavirus.  Late last year, China reported a cluster of cases of pneumonia of unknown cause.  Many were linked to a fish market in Wuhan, central China’s largest city.  The World Health Organization reports 41 people have been infected with the disease in China, including two deaths.  Additionally, two infections have been identified in Thailand and one in Japan among people who had traveled to Wuhan.  The spread of the disease outside of China is raising concern among health officials and the general public.  Coronaviruses are a family of viruses that range from the common cold to MERS, Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, and SARS, Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome.  They can be spread from animals to humans, but also from human to human.  Maria Van Kerkhove, the head of WHO’s Emerging Diseases and Zoonoses Unit, notes transmission between humans was limited during previous MERS and SARS outbreaks.  However, she warns disease spread can be amplified, particularly in health care facilities.”There is also the possibility of super-spreading events.  The global community is very familiar with what happened with SARS in the past and this is something that is on our radar that is possible and what we need to prepare ourselves for,” said Van Kerkhove.The 2002-2003 SARS outbreak, which originated in China, infected more than 8,000 people globally and killed 774.  Van Kerkhove says it is important to identify the pathogen and find the source of the outbreak, including the animal source.”We need to better understand the modes of transmission.  I mentioned the zoonotic transmission.  So, how are people getting infected from a potential animal source,” said Van Kerkhove. “And, is there any evidence of human-to-human transmission.  From the information that we have, it is possible that there is limited human-to-human transmission, potentially among families.  But it is very clear right now, that we have no sustained human-to-human transmission.”A new scientific study in Britain indicates the coronavirus outbreak may be more serious than reported.  The British experts report as many as 1,700 people may have been sickened by the disease, which can range from mild respiratory symptoms to severe disease and death.  International airports in the United States and a number of countries in Asia, including Hong Kong, Thailand, and Malaysia, have stepped up screening procedures of travelers coming from China.  The World Health Organization urges countries to be vigilant, but does not advise any travel restrictions.  

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US to Screen Passengers at Airports for Signs of New China Virus

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U.S. health officials announced Friday that the United States will begin screening airline passengers arriving from central China for signs of a new virus outbreak that has killed two people and sickened dozens of others.Officials with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the screenings will take place at airports in San Francisco, New York and Los Angeles, and will focus on direct or connecting flights from Wuhan, the central Chinese city at the heart of the outbreak.A CDC spokesman, Scott Pauley, told VOA that only people traveling from Wuhan would be screened at this time.Chinese health officials say many of those who became sick from the virus worked at or visited a food market in the suburbs of Wuhan. Three cases have been detected outside China — two in Thailand and one in Japan – with health officials saying those patients had visited Wuhan prior to becoming sick.Health authorities have identified the virus as a new type of coronavirus, part of a large family of viruses that includes the common cold as well as the more serious illness SARS. Scientists say the new virus strain appears most similar to SARS, but say it seems to be weaker than that disease.Two people in China have died from the mysterious virus and 45 others have been infected in Wuhan and nearly 50 have been infected worldwide. Chinese officials say five people remain in serious condition.The CDC says upon arrival in the United States, travelers from Wuhan will answer a health questionnaire and have their temperatures taken for signs of illness. Those who are determined to be at risk of the virus will be taken to a nearby hospital and isolated for further assessment.CDC officials told reporters during a conference call Friday that they expect more cases will be reported outside of China. They said the risk of the virus to the American public is low, but said they want to take proper precautions.Health officials believe the virus spread in China from animals to humans. It is not clear if the virus is now capable of human-to-human transmission, but CDC officials say there are some indications that people may be able to spread the virus in a limited way. Scientists say that it is also possible that the virus could mutate to become more dangerous.At least a half-dozen countries in Asia have also started health screenings for incoming airline passengers from central China.This time of year is one of the busiest travel seasons in China, with people flying both to and from the country to celebrate the Lunar New Year.Pauley said the CDC anticipates a higher number of Chinese travelers to the United States for the New Year and has factored this into its planning.China said it has increased disinfection efforts in major transportation hubs to help ensure the virus does not spread. Wuhan is a main hub in China’s railway network.A State Department spokesman said the United States is closely monitoring the outbreak in China as well as actively working with governments across the region to combat spread of the virus.The World Health Organization is warning that a wider outbreak of the virus is possible and has given guidance to hospitals worldwide. However, in a statement Thursday, the WHO said that it does not recommend instituting any trade or travel restrictions on China at this time.The most common symptoms of the newly identified virus are fever, cough and difficulty breathing.VOA State Department correspondent Nike Ching contributed to this report.

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China Reports 4 More Cases in Viral Pneumonia Outbreak

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Four more cases have been identified in a viral pneumonia outbreak in the central Chinese city of Wuhan that has killed two people and prompted countries as far away as the United States to take precautionary measures.
The latest cases bring to 45 the number of people who have contracted the illness, the Wuhan Municipal Health Commission said Saturday. Five are in serious condition, two died and 15 have been discharged. The others are in stable condition.
The cause of the pneumonia has been traced to a new type of coronavirus.
Health authorities are keen to avoid a repeat of SARS, or severe acute respiratory syndrome, another coronavirus that started in southern China in late 2002 and spread to more than two dozen countries, killing nearly 800 people.
The U.S. announced Friday that it would begin screening passengers at three major airports arriving on flights from Wuhan. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said it would deploy 100 people to take the temperatures and ask about symptoms of incoming passengers at the Los Angeles, San Francisco and New York City’s Kennedy airports.
At least a half-dozen countries in Asia have started screening incoming airline passengers from central China. The list includes Thailand and Japan, which have together reported three cases of the disease in people who had come from Wuhan. It  is an unusually busy travel period as people take trips to and from China around Lunar New Year, which falls on Jan. 25 this year.
Doctors began seeing a new type of viral pneumonia – fever, cough, difficulty breathing – in people who worked at or visited a food market in the suburbs of Wuhan late last month. The city’s health commission confirmed a second death this week, a 69-year-old man who fell ill on Dec. 31 and died Wednesday.
Officials have said the pneumonia probably spread from animals to people but haven’t been able to rule out the possibility of human-to-human transmission, which would enable it to spread much faster.
No related cases have been found so far among 763 people who had close contact with those diagnosed with the virus in Wuhan. Of them, 665 have been released and 98 remain under medical observation, the Wuhan health authorities said. 

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New Tech, Sharp Docs Made Fast ID of Wuhan Coronavirus Possible

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The new virus emerging from a live animal market in southern China has worrisome echoes of severe acute respiratory syndrome, or SARS, which killed 774 people worldwide in 2002 and 2003.  Two people have died from the new virus, which is closely related to the SARS virus. Forty-one people have become ill. Three travelers have carried it to Thailand and Japan.  Georgetown University infectious diseases physician Daniel Lucey worked on SARS in 2003 in China, Hong Kong and Toronto.He says this outbreak is different in three ways.  Chinese scientists have tools that were not available in 2002. They had the acumen to look for something new. And they had something else that was missing during SARS: the transparency to warn the world.Professor Yuen Kwok-yung, right, speaks next to Wong Ka-hing, the Controller of the Centre for Health Protection of the Department of Health during a press conference at the Health Department in Hong Kong, Jan. 11, 2020.Quick IDThe world first heard about a new disease coming out of Wuhan, China, Dec. 31.  A week later, Chinese researchers announced they had identified the culprit. The following week, German researchers developed the first diagnostic test.  That’s fast.  “It’s truly an incredible accomplishment,” Lucey said.  In the early 2000s, scientists looking for a virus had to grow it in animal cells in petri dishes.The problem with SARS was “it didn’t grow in any of the usual cell lines. One of the University of Hong Kong scientists had the idea, ‘Well, let’s just try some other cell lines. Why not? What’s to lose?’ And it grew in one that nobody expected it to grow in,” Lucey said.Then the researchers had to grow enough of the virus to isolate its DNA and read its genetic code, a process known as sequencing.The technology has advanced tremendously in the past decade and a half. “Back then, it took days to sequence,” Lucey said. “Now, it can take hours.”Scientists don’t even need to grow the virus in cells anymore. They can directly detect extremely small amounts of viral DNA in a patient’s spit or blood.  A electron microscope image of a coronavirus is seen in this undated picture provided by the Health Protection Agency in London, (File photo).Pneumonia in pneumonia seasonHaving the right tool is important, but what’s more important, Lucey added, is thinking to use it at a time when it’s not obvious.  It’s winter in China, he said, and “it’s a tribute to the insight of the Chinese clinicians to recognize that there’s a new infectious disease causing pneumonia in the middle of pneumonia (or flu) season.”Lucey said that didn’t happen in the first outbreak of Middle East respiratory syndrome, or MERS, which has killed more than 850 people.In April 2012, 13 health care workers at a hospital in Zarqa, Jordan, came down with pneumonia. Two died. Tests for known viruses, including SARS, came up negative.  Later, in September, a Saudi man died of pneumonia, and scientists determined that a novel virus was causing what was dubbed MERS. Only then did researchers go back and find the MERS virus in samples from the Jordanian patients.  Lucey also credits the Chinese scientists for getting the word out quickly. China drew criticism for covering up the spread of SARS in 2002. “You need to have the frame of mind and the political will and the scientific wherewithal to share the information with the world immediately so that diagnostics can be developed immediately,” he said. “And that’s what’s happened. China has done all those things.”However, some information is still missing.  The three patients who carried the virus outside China came from Wuhan but have no known link to the animal market identified as the source of the other infections.”It just suggests to me that there are other people in Wuhan that are infected, and/or other animal markets,” Lucey said.  “The virus is out of the bag,” he added. “I’m afraid we’re at the beginning of the beginning, and a long way to go.”

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What Do We Know About Newly Identified Virus from China?    

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A second person has died from a newly identified virus in central China that has sickened dozens. The outbreak prompted U.S. health officials to announce Friday that the United States would begin screening airline passengers arriving from central China. Here is what we know about the virus.What is the newly identified virus?Health authorities have identified the virus as a new type of coronavirus, part of a large family of viruses that includes the common cold as well as the more serious illness SARS. Laboratory tests have ruled out all previously known coronaviruses, including SARS, or severe acute respiratory syndrome, MERS, or Middle East respiratory syndrome, as well as influenza and bird flu. Scientists say the new virus strain appears most similar to SARS, but say it seems to be weaker than that disease.How many people have become sick?Two people in China have died from the mysterious virus and 41 others have been infected. Chinese officials say five people are in serious condition.FILE – A vendor gives out copies of newspaper with a headlines of “Wuhan breakout a new type of coronavirus, Hong Kong prevents SARS repeat” at a street in Hong Kong, Jan. 11, 2020.Where has the disease been reported?Cases of the virus were first reported in the central Chinese city of Wuhan, believed to be the epicenter of the outbreak. Chinese health officials say many of those who became sick worked at or visited a seafood market in the suburbs of Wuhan. Three cases have been detected outside China — two in Thailand and one in Japan — but health officials say those patients had visited Wuhan before becoming sick.How does the virus spread?Health officials believe the virus is spread from animals to humans. There is, so far, no evidence that the virus is capable of human-to-human transmission, although health officials say they cannot rule out this possibility. Scientists say it is also possible that the virus could mutate to become more dangerous.What are the virus symptoms?The most common symptoms of the virus are fever, cough and difficulty breathing.What is the U.S. response?The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the risk of the virus to the American public is low, but that it wants to be prepared and so is setting up health screenings at three U.S. airports. The focus will be on travelers to the United States on direct or connecting fights from Wuhan. The CDC said travelers with symptoms arriving at San Francisco, New York and Los Angeles airports will undergo testing for flu or other possible causes.How are Asian countries responding?At least a half-dozen countries in Asia have also started health screenings for incoming airline passengers from central China, including Thailand and Japan, both of which have seen cases of the virus. This time of year is one of the busiest travel seasons in China, with people flying both to and from the country to celebrate the Lunar New Year. China has increased disinfection efforts in major transportation hubs.What is the World Health Organization recommending?The WHO is warning that a wider outbreak of the virus is possible and has given guidance to hospitals worldwide. It said in a statement Thursday that it did not recommend instituting any trade or travel restrictions on China at this time.

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A Big Guy Saving Little Dogs

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Bobby Humphreys never thought that it would be a tiny Chihuahua that would help him go through a very large rough patch in life. But the small dog named Lady did more than that – she also inspired the Maryland native to turn his home into a shelter for abandoned, abused and neglected Chihuahuas. Evgeniya Samus has the story, narrated by Anna Rice. 

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US to Screen Airline Passengers From China for New Illness

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U.S. health officials announced Friday that they will begin screening airline passengers arriving from central China for a new virus that has sickened dozens and killed two, prompting worries about a new international outbreak.Centers for Disease Control and Prevention officials say they will begin taking temperatures and asking about symptoms of passengers at three U.S. airports who traveled from the outbreak city of Wuhan.Officials estimate roughly 5,000 passengers will go through the process in the next couple of weeks at New York City’s JFK International Airport, Los Angeles International Airport and San Francisco International Airport. The first direct flight was expected Friday night at JFK, and the next expected Saturday morning in San Francisco.More than 40 cases of the newly identified coronavirus have been confirmed in Asia, including two deaths — at least one involving a previous medical condition. Officials have said it probably spread from animals to people but haven’t been able to rule out the possibility that it spreads from person to person.So far, the risk to the American public is deemed to be low, but the CDC wants to be prepared and is taking precautions, Dr. Martin Cetron said.It’s always possible a virus can mutate to become more dangerous. It’s also likely that more cases will spring up around the world, including at least one at some point in the United States, said another CDC official, Dr. Nancy Messonnier.At least a half-dozen countries in Asia have started screening incoming airline passengers from central China. The list includes Thailand and Japan, which both have reported cases of the disease in people who had come from Wuhan. Travel is unusually heavy right now as people take trips to and from China to celebrate the Lunar New Year.Arguments against screeningThe CDC said the airport screenings are part of an effort to better detect and prevent the virus from the same family of bugs that caused an international outbreaks of SARS and MERS that began in 2002 and 2012.SARS, or severe acute respiratory syndrome, belongs to the coronavirus family, but Chinese state media say the illness in Wuhan is different from coronaviruses that have been identified in the past. Earlier laboratory tests ruled out SARS and MERS — Middle East respiratory syndrome — as well as influenza, bird flu, adenovirus and other common lung-infecting germs.CDC officials said Friday that they are not certain if China has begun screening passengers before they board airplanes to travel abroad, but it’s been discussed.The New York and San Francisco airports each receive three direct flights from Wuhan each week, Cetron said. Los Angeles International gets significant numbers of passengers who start their journeys in Wuhan but change planes in Beijing.People with symptoms who seem like they might be infected will undergo testing for flu or other possible causes. Specimens can be sent to CDC for specialized testing for the new virus, though it can take a day for those results to come back, CDC officials said.
 

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Antibiotic Resistance Growing With No New Drugs on Horizon

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At least 700,000 people die every year due to drug-resistant diseases, including 230,000 from multidrug resistant tuberculosis, according to the World Health Organization.  Last year, a U.N. report predicted growing antimicrobial resistance could cause 10 million deaths each year by 2050 and trigger a financial crisis.The WHO said the health threat affects everyone, but those most at risk include people whose immune system is compromised, the elderly, and patients undergoing chemotherapy, surgery and organ transplants.Fifty antibiotics are in the pipeline, said WHO’s Senior Adviser on Antimicrobial Resistance, Peter Beyer, but the majority only have limited benefits when compared to existing antibiotics.”We are actually running out of antibiotics that are effective against these resistant bacteria,” he said. “It takes maybe 10 years to develop a new antibiotic, so if you go back to phase one, we know exactly what, at best, what we can get in the next 10 years. And we really see that it is insufficient to counter the current threat.” Scientifically, Beyer said, it is very difficult to come up with truly new innovative antibiotics. In addition, there is little financial incentive for pharmaceutical companies to develop a new drug because it is risky, it takes a lot of time and money, and the monetary returns are likely to be poor, he said.PreventionHowever, he added, he hopes the industry changes its position and develops new antibiotics because drug companies also need these new medications.”For example, if they want to sell products for chemotherapy, they really need effective antibiotics because otherwise you cannot do effective chemotherapy, in particular in countries like India or Bangladesh where infection prevention control is not that good,” Beyer said. “So, I do think that the industry, at one point in time, they will turn around. That is our hope. And, we, of course, try to convince governments to invest as well.”  In the meantime, Beyer said, one of the most cost-effective, life-saving measures is better prevention control in hospitals. Instead of inventing new drugs to treat people who get infected in hospitals, he said, it makes more sense to protect them from getting infected in the first place.  
 

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