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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Firefighters Save Australia’s ‘Dinosaur’ Trees

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An ancient and rare species of tree has been saved from Australia’s bush fires by a specialist team of firefighters.  Australia’s Wollemi pines survived the dinosaurs, and were protected from huge blazes near Sydney by water-bombing aircraft and specialist firefighters, who were winched into a narrow gorge by helicopter.  “It was a military-style operation,” said Matt Kean, the New South Wales environment minister. “We had fire retardant, irrigation systems. We winched staff into the area to make sure that we were doing everything we could to protect the trees, and fortunately it paid off.”These trees can be found nowhere else in the world. In fact, there are only 200 left on the planet, so we needed to do everything we could to protect them and ensure they were able to survive into the future,” he added.An aerial view of Wollemi National Park where endangered Wollemi Pines are being protected from bush fires by a specialist team of remote-area firefighters and parks staff at New South Wales, Australia, mid-January 2020.The Wollemi National Park near Sydney is the only place in the world where these giant trees are found in the wild. Before 1994, they were thought to be extinct. Experts believe the pines are an invaluable link to Australia’s prehistoric past, and have estimated the grove could be up to 200 million years old.Their exact location is a secret because of fears that visitors could bring in pathogens that might cause disease. Some trees were charred by the flames, and a couple of trees were destroyed, but this rare species has survived Australia’s bush fire crisis.The fires have killed 29 people and an estimated one billion animals, as well as destroying hundreds of homes.Heavy rain has fallen across southeastern Australia, offering some relief for fire crews battling dozens of blazes, but there are concerns the wet weather could cause landslides and flash flooding.
 

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Mistrust Provokes Attack on Red Cross Volunteers in Ebola-Affected Community in DR Congo

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The The World Health Organization reports that 3,382 cases of Ebola, including 2,232 deaths, have occurred in Congo’s North Kivu and Ituri provinces since the start of the outbreak in August 2018. The epidemic is unfolding in an area affected by a two decades-long conflict that has claimed countless lives.Capobianco says this unstable, dangerous situation has raised fear and hostility in communities toward responders.”The episode was regrettable and I think the expression of the frustration in the communities seeing this Ebola outbreak continuing month after month,” he said. “You know, this is a year-and-a-half now. And, that is a way that the frustration and the fear is manifesting.”  Capobianco says the attack is a sign that the Red Cross needs to do more to build community trust and acceptance. He says the hundreds of volunteers involved in Ebola operations come from the communities in which they work. He says this is one of their strengths.After the volunteers recover from the shock of the attack, he says they will go back into the communities. The Red Cross official says they will talk and listen to what they have to say while continuing to involve them in the Ebola response. 

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US Experts: Last Decade was Hottest Ever Recorded   

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The last 10 years were the hottest decade ever measured on Earth, last year was the second warmest ever and NASA says “you haven’t seen anything yet.”The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said Wednesday that the average global temperature in the 2010s was 14.7 degrees Celsius, with eight of the 10 hottest years ever recorded.Parts of Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe and South America had record-high temperatures in 2019. Alaska’s average temperature was above freezing for the first time in recorded history.Many climate scientists who have seen the study said there was no other explanation for the record-breaking warming than human activity.”This is going to be part of what we see every year until we stabilize greenhouse gases,” said Gavin Schmidt, head of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies. “We crossed over into more than 2 degrees Fahrenheit warming territory in 2015 and we are unlikely to go back. This shows that what’s happening is persistent, not a fluke due to some weather phenomenon.”Experts say natural causes of a warmer atmosphere, including more heat from the sun and climate variations, are not big enough to explain the long-term temperature rise.For those who still question global warming, the scientists say all one has to do is look at melting ice sheets, more powerful storms, floods in some parts of the world and drought in others as clear evidence.

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Intellectual Property Theft a Growing Threat

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The new U.S.-China trade agreement includes provisions that are aimed at curbing forced technology transfers, in which companies hand over technical know-how to foreign partners. For many high-tech businesses, the intellectual property behind their products represents the bulk of their companies’ value.  To learn more about the risks of IP theft, Elizabeth Lee recently visited the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, where companies talked about the risks to their technology secrets.

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EU Legal Opinion: Mass Data Retention at Odds With EU Law

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A legal adviser at the European Union’s highest court said Wednesday that the bloc’s data protection rules should prevent member states from indiscriminately holding personal data seized from Internet and phone companies, even when intelligence agencies claim that national security is at stake.
In a non-binding opinion on how the European Court of Justice, or ECJ, should rule on issues relating to access by security and intelligence agencies to communications data retained by telecommunications providers, advocate general Campos Sanchez-Bordona said “the means and methods of combating terrorism must be compatible with the requirements of the rule of law.”
Commenting on a series of cases from France, the U.K. and Belgium — three countries that have been hit by extremist attacks in recent years and have reinforced surveillance — Sanchez-Bordona said that the ECJ’s case law should be upheld. He cited a case in which the court ruled that general and indiscriminate retention of communications “is disproportionate” and inconsistent with EU privacy directives.
The advocate general recommended limited access to the data, and only when it is essential “for the effective prevention and control of crime and the safeguarding of national security.”
The initial case was brought by Privacy International, a charity promoting the right to privacy. Referring to the ECJ’s case law, it said that the acquisition, use, retention, disclosure, storage and deletion of bulk personal data sets and bulk communications data by the U.K. security and intelligence agencies were unlawful under EU law.
The U.K.’s Investigatory Powers Tribunal referred the case to the ECJ, which held a joint hearing with two similar cases from France and another one from Belgium.
“We welcome today’s opinion from the advocate general and hope it will be persuasive to the Court,” said Caroline Wilson Palow, the Legal Director of Privacy International. “The opinion is a win for privacy. We all benefit when robust rights schemes, like the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights, are applied and followed.”
The ECJ’s legal opinions aren’t legally binding, but are often followed by the court. The ECJ press service said a ruling is expected within two months.
“Should the court decide to follow the opinion of the advocate general, ‘metadata’ such as traffic and location data will remain subject to a high level of protection in the European Union, even when they are accessed for national security purposes,” said Luca Tosoni, a researcher at the Norwegian Research Center for Computers and Law. “This would require several member states — including Belgium, France, the U.K. and others — to amend their domestic legislation.”
  

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China: Possible That New Virus Could Spread Between Humans

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The possibility that a new virus in central China could spread between humans cannot be ruled out, though the risk of transmission at the moment appears to be low, Chinese officials said Wednesday.
    
Forty-one people in the city of Wuhan have received a preliminary diagnosis of a novel coronavirus, a family of viruses that can cause both the common cold and more serious diseases. A 61-year-old man with severe underlying conditions died from the coronavirus on Saturday.
    
While preliminary investigations indicate that most of the patients had worked at or visited a particular seafood wholesale market, one woman may have contracted the virus from her husband, the Wuhan Municipal Health Commission said in a public notice.
    
The commission said the husband, who fell ill first, worked at the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market. Meanwhile, the wife said she hasn’t had any exposure to the market.
    
It’s possible that the husband brought home food from the market that then infected his wife, Hong Kong health official Chuang Shuk-kwan said at a news briefing. But because the wife did not exhibit symptoms until days after her husband, it’s also possible that he infected her.
    
Chuang and other Hong Kong health officials spoke to reporters Wednesday following a trip to Wuhan, where mainland Chinese authorities briefed them on the outbreak.
    
The threat of human-to-human transmission remains low, Chuang said, as hundreds of people, including medical professionals, have been in close contact with infected individuals and have not been infected themselves.
    
She echoed Wuhan authorities’ assertion that there remains no definitive evidence of human-to-human transmission.
    
The outbreak in Wuhan has raised the specter of SARS, or severe acute respiratory syndrome. SARS is a type of coronavirus that first struck southern China in late 2002. It then spread to more than two dozen countries, killing nearly 800 people.

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National Security Agency Discovers a Major Security Flaw in Microsoft’s Windows Operating System

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The National Security Agency has discovered a major security flaw in Microsoft’s Windows operating system and tipped off the company so that it can fix it.Microsoft made a software patch to fix it available Tuesday and credited the agency as the flaw’s discoverer.The company said it has not seen any evidence that hackers have used the technique discovered by the NSA.”Customers who have already applied the update, or have automatic updates enabled, are already protected,” said Jeff Jones, a senior director at Microsoft, in a statement.Priscilla Moriuchi, who retired from the NSA in 2017 after running its East Asia and Pacific operations, said this is a good example of the “constructive role” that the NSA can play in improving global information security. Moriuchi, now an analyst at the U.S. cybersecurity firm Recorded Future, said it’s likely a reflection of changes made in 2017 to how the U.S. determines whether to disclose a major vulnerability or exploit it for intelligence purposes.The revamping of what’s known as the “Vulnerability Equities Process” put more emphasis on disclosing unpatched vulnerabilities whenever possible to protect core internet systems and the U.S. economy and general public.Those changes happened after a group calling itself “Shadow Brokers” released a trove of high-level hacking tools stolen from the NSA.

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