The Infodemic: British Lawmakers Aren’t Facing Charges Over Coronavirus

Fake news about the coronavirus can do real harm. Polygraph.info is spotlighting fact-checks from other reliable sources here​.Daily DebunkClaim: Britain’s lawmakers will be put under house arrest and prosecuted for fraud and other offenses linked to coronavirus legislation.Verdict: FalseRead the full story at: ReutersSocial Media DisinfoScreenshotCirculating on social media: Multiple Facebook posts shared in Myanmar claim that health experts have expressed “great concern” over a “Zombie deer virus” which they claim is “scarier than the coronavirus” and can spread among deer.Verdict: MisleadingRead the full story at: Agence France-PresseFactual Reads on CoronavirusHow Iceland hammered COVID with science
The tiny island nation brought huge scientific heft to its attempts to contain and study the coronavirus. Here’s what it learnt.
— Nature, November 25

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The Infodemic: How deadly Is the Coronavirus in Germany?

Fake news about the coronavirus can do real harm. Polygraph.info is spotlighting fact-checks from other reliable sources here​.​Daily DebunkFact check: How deadly is the coronavirus in Germany?Read the full story at: Deutsche WelleSocial Media Disinfo  Circulating on social media: Posts suggesting that it was “strange” that an image of a vial containing the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, which accompanied a recent news report, had March 15, 2020, printed on its label. But the photo used is from an early experimental batch of the vaccine (as confirmed by an Oxford-AstraZeneca spokesperson).Verdict: MisleadingRead the full story at: ABC Fact Check Factual Reads on CoronavirusCoronavirus Infection Trajectories: Which countries are seeing the most new cases?
— Information is Beautiful, November 23​

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Moderna to Seek Quick Approval of Coronavirus Vaccine in US, Europe

Drugmaker Moderna said Monday it is seeking emergency authorization in the United States and Europe to distribute its coronavirus vaccine after tests showed it is 94% effective.The U.S. biotechnology company’s request could mean that health workers will be able to inoculate patients against the virus as soon as mid-December with either of two coronavirus preventatives — Moderna’s or another equally successful test drug produced by the corporate tandem of Pfizer-BioNTech — if the companies win approval from drug regulators.Moderna said it conducted a 30,000-person clinical trial, and its results were on a par with the best pediatric vaccines.The drugmaker said that of the 196 volunteers who contracted COVID-19, 185 had received a placebo versus 11 who received the vaccine. Moderna reported 30 severe cases — all in the placebo group — including one COVID-19-related death. The Moderna and Pfizer requests for emergency use of their vaccines come as the number of coronavirus cases is surging in the U.S., where tens of thousands of new cases are being recorded daily.Health officials say they are especially worried about an even further spread of the virus because millions of people ignored warnings against traveling for last week’s Thanksgiving holiday and could travel again over the upcoming Christmas and New Year’s holiday weekends.Air travelers line up to go through a security checkpoint at Salt Lake City International Airport in Salt Lake City, Utah, Nov. 25, 2020.The U.S. has 4% of the world’s population but nearly a fifth of its recorded coronavirus deaths — more than 266,000 — the most in any country, according to Johns Hopkins University. Worldwide, the death toll has topped 1.46 million.Top U.S. health experts say 20 million Americans could get vaccine shots in the latter half of December, possibly with front-line health care workers targeted initially, followed by elderly people living in nursing homes. An advisory committee at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is meeting Tuesday to lay out the order in which Americans will be able to get vaccinated.Millions of people will likely be able to get one of the vaccines in the first months of 2021, although polls show that about four in 10 Americans say they will refuse to get a shot, either because they are opposed to vaccinations in general or are particularly wary of coronavirus inoculations.The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is considering the Pfizer vaccine on December 10, with consideration of Moderna’s a week later. In addition to seeking U.S. approval, Moderna said it would apply for conditional approval from the European Medicines Agency. 

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How US Military Invented America’s Favorite Snacks 

From instant coffee to Cheetos, packaged cookies and energy bars, the U.S. military helped invent many of the snacks Americans love to eat.    The effort accelerated during World War II, when military scientists needed to develop compact yet nutritional ways to feed the troops.   “There was a tremendous need for the military to develop modern rations, and it ended up not only inventing a bunch of new food processing techniques but putting in place a food science research system that exists to this day,” says food writer Anastacia Marx de Salcedo, author of “Combat-Ready Kitchen: How the U.S. Military Shapes the Way You Eat”. “Out of that came a lot of new techniques and food, and after the war, those were incorporated into snack and convenience foods.” Those new techniques include high pressure processing, which makes uncooked food safe to eat. The process is routinely used in packaged foods like guacamole, salsa and hummus. Cheetos, one of America’s favorite cheesy, crunchy snacks, are made possible by the dehydration process the military worked on to remove the water from cheese. That gave cheese both a longer shelf life and made it lighter to transport to troops overseas. Energy bars are a snack food that resulted from a long period of development to produce a small and nutritionally dense emergency ration.Military scientists discovered that pet food companies were working on a way to make the water level low enough to prevent bacteria and fungi from being produced, making the food safe. “Once they figured that out, they were able to keep foods moist and chewy at room temperature and with regular packaging,” Marx de Salcedo says. “And in fact, that tactic is not only used in energy bars, it’s used in the bakery aisle. If you go into a grocery store, and you see moist and chewy cookies, those are all that same technique that comes out of the military research.” The military also adopted a candy-coated chocolate snack found in Europe that service members could carry around in their pockets without the chocolate immediately melting. That’s how M&M candies were born. Today, some of the biggest military contractors continue to search for the perfect meltless chocolate that will be able to withstand extreme temperatures.  The Army hopes vacuum-microwave drying technology will allow them to put fruit and vegetables into rations. The vacuumed microwaved banana is about a third of its original size while still being springy and pliable. (Courtesy: US Army)The next known frontier in military food science has arrived in the form of mini-food that is shrunk to one-third of the normal size, resulting in foods that are small but still dense.  “They use microwave vacuum dehydration to reduce the water content of foods and what essentially that does is it miniaturizes the food so you get these little tiny carrots, but you can have a fresh carrot,” Marx de Salcedo says. “It still has the same amount of calories even though it’s small.” Whether American civilians will one day be packing miniature lunch boxes in order to lighten their load during their daily commute to work remains to be seen. 

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Sri Lanka Prison Protest Over COVID-19 Becomes Deadly

Officials say an inmate protest Sunday about the growing number of COVID-19 infections at a prison in Sri Lanka turned into a riot. Authorities say guards opened fire on the inmates.  At least six people were killed in the clash and 50 people were wounded at the Mahara prison, about 15 kilometers north of Colombo. Police spokesman Ajith Rohana told the Associated Press the prisoners “reportedly destroyed most of the property including offices inside the prison.” Inmates at prisons in Sri Lanka have been demanding early release in recent weeks because of the escalating infections.  

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UK Inquiry Looks into Role of Air Pollution in Death of Girl

A public inquiry opens Monday in London to determine the role played by air pollution in the death of a girl living near a busy London street, a case that could set a precedent. Then 9 years old, Ella Adoo-Kissi-Debrah died February 15, 2013, of a serious asthma attack after nearly three years of repeated attacks and more than 30 hospitalizations related to the disease.  An initial investigation, in 2014, determined that she died of acute respiratory failure caused by severe asthma. But those findings were overturned in 2019 and a new investigation was ordered because of new evidence regarding air pollution risks, highlighted in a report in 2018.  This second investigation, which begins Monday and will last two weeks, will examine the levels of pollution to which Ella had been exposed and determine whether they caused her death. If the coroner, charged with identifying the reason for death, concludes that air pollution directly caused Ella’s death, that would set a precedent. The girl is believed to be the first person in the United Kingdom to have air pollution as the cause of death. ‘Striking link’Ella lived less than 30 meters from the South Circular, a busy and regularly congested route in South London.  In 2018, Professor Stephen Holgate, a British air pollution expert, noted a “striking link” between Ella’s emergency hospitalizations and the recorded peaks of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and airborne particles, the most harmful pollutants. The investigation will examine possible failures by the authorities to take measures to reduce pollution and inform the public about the health risks. Officials from the British Ministries of Transport, Environment and Health will be heard, as well as Holgate. Ella’s mother, Rosamund Adoo-Kissi-Debrah, will testify during the second week of the investigation. “It has been almost eight years since Ella passed away and it has been a long and difficult struggle to get this investigated, with obstacles in the way. I want justice for Ella and the true cause of her death written on her death certificate,” Rosamund Adoo-Kissi-Debrah said in a statement, before the opening of the second investigation. “She was the life and soul of our home, always playing music, dancing with my other daughter, Sophia. She had a lot of influence on her younger siblings, encouraging them to succeed, their doing sports,” she said. According to figures from the city of London, 99% of the city exceeds the limits recommended by the WHO in terms of air pollution.  Last month, the executive director of the Clean Air Fund, Jane Burston, noted “that children in London age 4 were .2% more likely to be hospitalized with asthma on days when nitrogen dioxide pollution is high.” London Mayor Sadiq Khan said last month, citing supporting figures, that air quality had improved since 2016. He highlighted the measures put in place since his election, including enforcement last year of an “ultra-low emission zone” (ULEZ) that forces the drivers of the most polluting vehicles to pay a daily tax on entry. 

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WHO: Coronavirus Threatens to Reverse Gains Made in Malaria Control

On World Malaria Day, the World Health Organization is calling on countries to step up the fight against malaria, saying the coronavirus pandemic threatens to reverse important gains made in efforts to control this deadly disease. Since 2000, the U.N.’s World Health Organization reports 1.5 billion malaria cases and 7.6 million deaths have been averted globally. Some of the greatest achievements were made in sub-Saharan Africa, which bears the brunt of this deadly disease spread by mosquitos. Additionally, the director of the WHO’s Global Malaria Program, Pedro Alonso, said 21 countries have eliminated malaria over the last two decades. Of these, he says 10 have been officially certified as malaria-free by the WHO. “That means that more than half of all the world’s endemic countries are within reach of elimination,” Alonso said. “In the beginning of the century, three countries had less than 10 cases per year. Now, we have 24 countries, which are literally one step away from elimination.”  Despite remarkable progress, however, the World Health Organization reports global gains have leveled off in recent years. This is because of insufficient funding and a lack of access to proven malaria control tools, such as insecticide-treated mosquito nets and preventive medicines for children. The emergence of the coronavirus pandemic is now posing an additional challenge to the malaria response. WHO’s regional director for Africa, Matshidiso Moeti, said the gains made in Africa over many years against poverty and disease risk being reversed by the virus responsible for the COVID-19 disease. “Already, malaria causes a 1.3 percent loss in Africa’s economic growth every year,” Moeti said. “And we know that the COVID-19 pandemic is projected to push sub-Saharan Africa into recession for the first time in 25 years. This incredibly challenging situation requires renewed commitment to sustained and accelerate the gains that have been made in the fight against malaria.” Moeti noted malaria continues to kill many more people than diseases like COVID-19 and Ebola. In 2019, the WHO reported the global tally of malaria cases was 229 million, including more than 400,000 deaths. It said 90 percent of these cases and deaths were in the African region. Most of the victims were children. The U.N. health agency reports global funding for malaria last year totaled $3 billion. This falls far short of the $5.6 billion needed to roll back malaria. 

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US Health Experts: Coronavirus Vaccines on the Way, but Precautions Still Paramount   

Two top U.S. coronavirus experts assured Americans Sunday that vaccines against the pandemic would soon become available but warned that not taking precautions against the spread of the virus before then could prove disastrous. “We should have enough vaccine by the end of the year to immunize 20 million Americans and we have to immunize for impact,” Admiral Brett Giroir, the White House virus testing chief, told CNN. “But the American people have to do the right things until we get that vaccine widely distributed.” FILE – Adm. Brett Giroir, director of the U.S. coronavirus diagnostic testing, testifies at a Senate committee hearing, on Capitol Hill, in Washington, June 30, 2020.Giroir described two prospective vaccines, which are now under review by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, as “lifesaving,” saying, “This puts an end to the pandemic.” But until then, he said, “The American people have to do the right things until we get that vaccine widely distributed, wear a mask, avoid indoor crowded spaces, all the things you know.”   Giroir said he believes there will be a “smooth, professional transition” in handling the vaccine distribution from the administration of outgoing President Donald Trump to that of President-elect Joe Biden when he is set to be inaugurated on January 20. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the country’s top infectious disease expert, speaking to ABC’s “This Week” show, said, “Help is on the way,” and that the initial supply of vaccines might be available by mid-December. Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, listens during a Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee Hearing on the federal government response to COVID-19, Capitol Hill, Sept. 23, 2020.Fauci said health experts are “empathetic about the fatigue” of Americans being careful about becoming exposed to the virus. But he said wearing face masks and people physically distancing themselves from others “do make a difference.” Millions of Americans curtailed their traditional family gatherings for last Thursday’s annual Thanksgiving holiday, yet millions of others ignored warnings from health care experts against traveling to visit far-flung relatives for fear of spreading the virus. “I don’t see how we’re not going to have the same thing” happen with people traveling — and potentially spreading the virus — for Christmas visits with their families, Fauci said. He said there is “a considerable risk” for people getting together. FILE – Travelers wait to check in for flights at LaGuardia Airport, Nov. 25, 2020, in Queens, New York.Fauci called on state and municipal officials to “close the bars, keep the schools open,” to keep “the community level of spread low.” “Let’s try to get the kids back, and let’s try to mitigate the things that maintain and just push the kind of community spread that we’re trying to avoid,” Fauci said. “And those are the things that you know well – the bars, the restaurants where you have capacity seating indoors without masks.” “Those are the things that drive the community spread — not the schools,” he said. Teresa Nguyen, a respiratory therapist, treats a patient inside a room for people with COVID-19 at a hospital in Hutchinson, Kan., Nov. 20, 2020.The assessments came as the United States topped 13 million confirmed cases on Friday, just six days after it reached 12 million cases. The highly contagious virus that causes the COVID-19 disease has killed more than 266,000 Americans, more than in any other country, according to the Johns Hopkins University. More than 91,000 infected individuals are currently hospitalized in the U.S., an all-time high, with more than 18,000 in intensive care units.   

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UN Agency: Physical Activity Can Save Up to 5 Million Lives a Year 

The World Health Organization is urging people to get moving and keep moving for better health.  The U.N. health agency says physical activity can avert the deaths of up to 5 million people annually.  WHO statistics show 1 in 4 adults and 80% of adolescents do not do enough physical activity, and women and girls generally do less than men and boys.  This, the agency says, hurts both human health and the health of world economies.     The agency reports physical activity can help prevent heart disease, type-2 diabetes, and cancer; as well reduce cognitive decline, including Alzheimer’s disease.  It says physical inactivity also can put societies into an economic hole.  The global cost of direct health care is estimated at $54 billion, with an additional cost of $14 billion in lost productivity.      WHO Director for Health Promotion Ruediger Krech says it is never too late to begin moving.  He says any type of physical activity, including walking, cycling, dancing, household tasks and gardening can counteract the harm from sitting too long.     “WHO urges everyone to continue to stay active through the COVID-19 pandemic.  If we do not remain active, we run the risk of creating another pandemic of ill health as a result of sedentary behavior,”  he said.New WHO guidelines recommend adults engage in at least 150 to 300 minutes of moderate to vigorous aerobic activity per week, and an average of 60 minutes a day for children and adolescents.   For the first time, WHO’s unit head for physical activity, Fiona Bull, says the guidelines delve into the impact of sedentary behavior on health. “The evidence shows that doing a lot of sedentary behavior, often considered, for example, sitting, is detrimental to your health.  It can increase your risk of noncommunicable disease, like cardiovascular disease … And the evidence shows that if we are more active, we can counteract the detrimental effects of too much sedentary,”  said Bull.  The WHO guidelines also highlight the valuable health benefits of physical activity for those with disabilities.  It advises people over age 65 to engage in muscle-strengthening, balance and coordination activities to help prevent falls and improve health.    

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Darth Vader Actor Dave Prowse Dead at 85, Agent Says

Dave Prowse, the British actor behind the menacing black mask of Star Wars villain Darth Vader, has died, his agent Thomas Bowington said Sunday.”It’s with great sadness that we have to announce that our client Dave Prowse… passed away yesterday morning at the age of 85,” Bowington wrote on Facebook.”May the force be with him, always!” the agent told the BBC.Bowington added that Prowse’s death was “a truly and deeply heart-wrenching loss for us and millions of fans all over the world.”A former bodybuilder turned actor, Prowse’s towering stature at almost two meters clinched him the role of the instantly recognizable antagonist in the original Star Wars trilogy.But while he donned the glossy black armor and cape, the Bristol native’s strong western English accent meant the filmmakers turned to James Earl Jones for the chilling voice that would emerge from behind the mask.Prowse nevertheless remained attached to the character, telling AFP in 2013 that he was “the greatest big-screen villain of all time.”Since the original Star Wars trilogy was released in the late 1970s and early 80s, Prowse had travelled the world meeting hardcore fans.

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Mike Tyson Returns to Ring, Draws in Exhibition with Jones

Mike Tyson stepped through the ropes in his signature black trunks and heard the opening bell in a boxing ring for the first time in 15 years.The former heavyweight champion of the world traded lively punches with Roy Jones Jr. for eight entertaining rounds that ended with two middle-aged legends wearily hugging each other in mutual admiration.Their fight was only an exhibition, and it ended in a draw. But for Tyson, the experience evoked the joy and excitement he felt so long ago at the start of his boxing career — and it was likely the start of a new chapter in his epic life.“I’m happy I’m not knocked out,” Tyson said. “I’ll look better in the next one.”Tyson showed glimpses of his destructive prime Saturday night during the 54-year-old boxing icon’s return to the ring against the 51-year-old Jones.Tyson had the most impactful punches, showing off versions of the footwork and combinations that made him the world’s most feared fighter. After eight two-minute rounds, both Tyson and Jones emerged from Staples Center smiling and apparently healthy.“This is better than fighting for championships,” Tyson said of the heavyweight exhibition, which raised money for various charities. “We’re humanitarians now. We can do something good for the world. We’ve got to do this again.”Tyson’s return to the ring for this show attracted international attention, and Iron Mike did his best to demonstrate his months of work to recapture a measure of the form that made him a legend to a generation of boxing fans.Tyson tagged Jones with body shots, head shots and a particularly nasty uppercut during a bout that was required by the California State Athletic Commission to be a reasonably safe, glorified sparring session.Tyson was exhausted two hours afterward, but also clearly energized as he recounted his emotions with his wife and team looking on.Mike Tyson and Roy Jones Jr. pose with their belts after a split draw during a heavyweight exhibition boxing bout for the WBC Frontline Belt at the Staples Center on Nov. 28, 2020. (Photo: Joe Scarnici/Handout Photo via USA TODAY Sports)“I took my youth for granted,” Tyson said. “This event made me find out what I was really made of. … My body feels splendid. I want to beat it up some more.”Tyson intends to fight in more exhibitions next year, perhaps heading to Monte Carlo next to challenge a European fighter. He didn’t close the door on the possibility of a full-fledged comeback, although that would be many fights in the future.For one night, Tyson and Jones were back at the center of the sports world, and they reveled in it.“I’m happy to scratch that off my bucket list and move on with my life,” said Jones, the former four-division world champion widely considered the most skilled boxer of his generation. “He hit harder than I thought. Everything hurt. His hands hurt. His head hurts. Everything hurt when I made contact. He’s an exceptional puncher still. He can do anything he wants next.”Neither fighter was deceived by the quality of the bout. While both came out throwing punches that evoked echoes of their glorious primes, they also tied up frequently on the inside, and their occasionally labored breathing could be heard on the microphones in the empty arena.Hip hop star Snoop Dogg’s witty television commentary was among the loudest noises inside Staples, and he had a handful of zingers: “This is like two of my uncles fighting at the barbecue!”But Tyson and Jones were the headliners in the most improbable pay-per-view boxing event in years, engineered by social networking app Triller and featuring fights interspersed with hip hop performances in an empty arena.The event was derided as an anti-sporting spectacle by some critics, yet both Tyson and Jones appeared to handle themselves capably and safely. Their fans were clearly enthralled, with the show getting enormous traction on social media.Some of that success was due to the co-main event, in which YouTube star Jake Paul knocked out former NBA player Nate Robinson in the second round of Robinson’s pro boxing debut. Paul, in his second pro fight, recorded three knockdowns against Robinson, the three-time NBA Slam Dunk contest champion, before an overhand right put Robinson flat on his face and apparently unconscious.

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In Santa’s Mailbag, a Peek into Children’s Pandemic Worries

Jim, from Taiwan, slipped a face mask inside the greeting card he sent to Santa and marked “I (heart) u.” Alina, 5, asked in her Santa letter written with an adult’s help that he please use the front door when he drops in, because the back door is reserved for Grandma and Grandpa to minimize their risk of contamination.And spilling out her heavy little heart to “Dear Father Christmas,” 10-year-old Lola wrote that she is wishing “that my aunt never has cancer again and that this virus no longer exists.”“My mother is a care-giver and sometimes I am scared for her,” Lola explained, signing off her handwritten letter with, “Take care of yourself Father Christmas, and of the Elves.”The emotional toll wrought by the pandemic is jumping off pages in the deluge of “Dear Santa” letters now pouring into a post office in southwest France that sorts and responds to his mail from around the world.Postal workers who call themselves ‘Elves’ open envelopes addressed ‘Pere Noel’ — Father Christmas in French – – decorated with love hearts, stickers and glitter, in Libourne, southwest France, Monday, Nov. 23, 2020.Arriving by the tens of thousands, the letters, notes and cards — some mere scribbles, other elaborate labors of love in colored pens — are revealing windows into the tender minds of their young authors, and of adult Santa fans also asking for respite and happiness, at the tail end of a year of sickness and tumult.Like this letter from young Zoe, who limited her requests to a music player and amusement park tickets because “this year has been very different from others because of COVID-19.”“That’s why I am not asking you for many thing(s) to avoid infection,” Zoe wrote, signing off with “Merci!” and a heart.In theory, and often in practice, any letter addressed “Pere Noel” — French for Father Christmas — and slipped into any post box around the world is likely to wend its way to the sorting office in France’s Bordeaux region that has been handling his mail since 1962. Toiling out of sight among vineyards, his secretariat of workers (who call themselves “elves”) spends the months of November and December slicing open envelopes decorated with hearts, stickers and colors, and spreading Santa magic by responding on his behalf.From the first letters opened at the secretariat from Nov. 12, it quickly became apparent how the pandemic is weighing on children, says the chief elf, Jamila Hajji. Along with the usual pleas for toys and gadgets were also requests for vaccines, for visits from grandparents, for life to return to the way it was. One letter in three mentions the pandemic in some way, Hajji says.“The kids have been very affected by COVID, more than we think. They are very worried. And what they want most of all, apart from presents, is really to be able to have a normal life, the end of COVID, a vaccine,” she says.One letter to Santa in three mentions the pandemic in some way, say postal workers in Libourne, southwest France.“The letters to Father Christmas are a sort of release for them. All this year, they have been in lockdowns, they have been deprived of school, deprived of their grandpas and grandmas. Their parents have been occupied by the health crisis and whatnot. So we, of course, can tell that the children are putting into words everything they have felt during this period.”“We are like elf therapists,” she adds.Replying to 12,000 letters per day, the team of 60 elves sets aside some that move them or catch the eye. Lola’s is among those that have stood out so far, with its heartfelt confession to Santa that “this year more than the others, I need magic and to believe in you.” The elves say their sense is that children are confiding worries that they may not have shared with parents.Emma Barron, a psychiatrist specializing in the mental health of children and adolescents at the Robert Debré pediatric hospital in Paris, says landmark dates, including birthdays and holidays like Christmas, provide structure in childhood. Amid the pandemic’s uncertainty, the Dec. 25 anchor of Christmas is particularly important to kids this year.“Children are quite surprising in that they can adapt to many things,” Barron says. “But rhythms, rituals and things like that are an integral part of children’s mental stability.”A postal worker shows an envelope from Jim of Taiwan, who sent a face mask inside the letter he sent and wrote ‘I (heart) U,’ in Libourne, southwest France, Nov. 23, 2020.As the letters flood in, it’s also clear that this goes beyond childhood. Santa is proving a beacon to adults, too, with some writing to him for the first time since they were kids.One asked for “a pandemic of love.” A 77-year-old lamented that “lockdown is no fun! I live alone.” A grandparent asked Santa to “say ‘Hi’ to my two grandkids that I won’t be able to see this year because of the health situation.”“Your mission will be hard this year,” wrote Anne-Marie, another adult suppliant. “You will need to sprinkle stars across the entire world, to calm everyone and revive our childhood souls, so we can dream, at last, and let go.”

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Britain’s Johnson Asks Lawmakers to Back a Tougher Lockdown

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is asking lawmakers to support new, tiered restrictions to keep the nation’s hospitals from becoming overwhelmed before a vaccine for the coronavirus can be approved and distributed.The new measures would put 99% of the country under the two highest restriction levels when the current rules end Tuesday. The new restrictions would last about a month.An increasing number of members of Johnson’s own Conservative Party are opposed. And on Saturday, London police broke up anti-lockdown, anti-vaccine protests, arresting more than 150 people in the process.The government hopes that a vaccine, the first doses of which could be in British hospitals by December 7, and mass testing could end the need for restrictions. Britain has suffered the worst COVID-19 outbreak in Europe, with more than 57,000 virus-related deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University. COVID-19 is the disease caused by the coronavirus.Parliament is to vote on Johnson’s new restrictions Tuesday.FILE – President-elect Joe Biden walks from his motorcade to speak to reporters in Wilmington, Del., Nov. 23, 2020.In the U.S., President-elect Joe Biden added three members to his COVID-19 advisory board.QualificationsBiden added Jane Hopkins, Jill Jim and David Michaels to “strengthen the board’s work and help ensure that our COVID-19 planning will address inequities in health outcomes and the workforce,” he said.Hopkins is a registered nurse specializing in mental health and also serves on Washington state’s COVID-19 task force.Jim is a member of the Navajo Nation and the executive director of its Department of Health. She has focused on preventing chronic diseases and addressing health care and health disparities among American Indians/Alaska Natives.Michaels is an epidemiologist and professor of environmental and occupational health at the Milken Institute School of Public Health, George Washington University.Beginning Monday, California’s Los Angeles County, the nation’s most populous, will be under a three-week, stay-at-home order.The county had said previously that it would issue the restrictive order when new COVID-19 cases reached an average of 4,500 per day over a five-day period.On Friday, the five-day average was 4,751.The order prohibits gatherings, public or private, of people who do not live in the same household.Stores deemed essential will be allowed to remain open, operating at 50% capacity.  Other retail stores will remain open but will be able to operate at just 20% capacity during the holiday shopping season.Erratic resultsU.S. health officials say the numbers of new COVID-19 cases may appear erratic in the coming days, a result of fewer tests being administered during the Thanksgiving holiday and the reduced schedules of tests sites.FILE – A medical worker hands a self-administered coronavirus test to a patient at a drive-through testing site in a parking lot in the Woodland Hills section of Los Angeles, May 6, 2020.Los Angeles County Department of Public Health officials reported 3,143 new cases Saturday — down because of limited testing Thursday and Friday.Although reports of new cases may seem lower than usual because of the holiday, the numbers, experts say, would not give an accurate account of where the U.S. is in fighting the virus. On Friday, the U.S. surpassed the 13 million mark in number of coronavirus cases, more than anyplace else in the world, according to Johns Hopkins.Dr. Leana Wen, an emergency physician and a George Washington University professor, told The Associated Press, “I just hope that people don’t misinterpret the numbers and think that there wasn’t a major surge as a result of Thanksgiving, and then end up making Christmas and Hanukkah and other travel plans.”Teresa Nguyen, a respiratory therapist, treats a patient inside a room for people with COVID-19 at a hospital in Hutchinson, Kan., Nov. 20, 2020.The number of COVID-19 patients being treated in hospitals across the United States reached 90,000 Friday after nearly doubling in the last month, according to the Reuters news agency. The hospitalizations followed weeks of rising infection rates in the United States and have increased worries that recent Thanksgiving gatherings would lead to even more infections and hospitalizations.Health care workers’ deathsThe British newspaper The Guardian said its partner, Kaiser Health News, had conducted a review of hundreds of U.S. health care workers’ deaths that went unreported to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), even though reports of such deaths are required. The deaths that could have been workplace COVID-related were not reported to authorities in the early days of the pandemic, the report said.“Work-safety advocates say OSHA investigations into staff deaths can help officials pinpoint problems before they endanger other employees as well as patients or residents,” the newspaper said.WHO also announced that it was sending a team of 10 scientists to Wuhan, China, to investigate how COVID-19 jumped from animals to humans.“We need to start where we found the first cases — and that is in Wuhan, in China — and then we need to follow the evidence after that wherever that leads,” said Dr. Mike Ryan, head of the WHO emergencies program.The team includes renowned virus hunters, public health specialists and experts in animal health from Britain, the United States, Australia, Denmark, the Netherlands, Japan, Qatar, Germany, Vietnam and Russia.

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India’s Modi Visits Key Vaccine Facilities as COVID-19 Cases Surge

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi toured three of his country’s leading vaccine development and manufacturing sites, Saturday, November 28, as coronavirus cases continue to soar. India has recorded 9.35 million COVID-19 infections, second only to the United States. It reported 41,322 new cases and 485 deaths on Saturday, according to the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center. The western state of Maharashtra, home to India’s financial hub, Mumbai, has been particularly hard hit by the virus.  Modi conducted a whirlwind three-city tour and visited the Zydus Cadila CADI.NS facility in the western city of Ahmedabad, Bharat Biotech in the southern city of Hyderabad and the Serum Institute of India’s sprawling campus in the western city of Pune. The companies are testing homegrown vaccine options, as well as working on trials of vaccines being developed overseas. India’s Serum Institute, the world’s largest vaccine manufacturer, has partnered with global players including AstraZeneca AZN.L and Novavax Inc NVAX.O to run domestic trials on their vaccine candidates and produce the vaccines, if they secure approvals. (Reuters)  

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UK, EU Resume Face-to-face Trade Talks With Time Running Out

Teams from Britain and the European Union resumed face-to-face talks on a post-Brexit trade deal Saturday, with both sides sounding gloomy about striking an agreement in the little time that remains.EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier returned to London to meet his U.K. counterpart, David Frost. Talks have been held virtually for the past week as Barnier completed a spell of self-isolation after a member of his team tested positive for the coronavirus.COVID-19 is just one complication in negotiations that remain snagged over key issues including fishing rights and fair-competition rules. Barnier said Friday that the remote talks had made little progress and the “same significant divergences persist.”The U.K. left the EU early this year but remained part of the bloc’s economic embrace during an 11-month transition as the two sides tried to negotiate a new free-trade deal to take effect January 1. Talks have slipped past the mid-November date long seen as a deadline to secure a deal in time for it to be approved and ratified by lawmakers in Britain and the EU.If there is no deal, New Year’s Day will bring huge disruption, with the overnight imposition of tariffs and other barriers to U.K.-EU trade. That will hurt both sides, but the burden will fall most heavily on Britain, which does almost half its trade with the EU.While both sides want a deal, they have fundamental differences about what it entails. The 27-nation EU accuses Britain of seeking to retain access to the bloc’s vast market without agreeing to abide by its rules and wants strict guarantees on “level playing field” standards the U.K. must meet to export into the EU.The U.K. claims the EU is failing to respect its independence and making demands it has not placed on other countries with whom it has free-trade deals, such as Canada.To reach a deal the EU will have to curb its demands on continued access to U.K. fishing waters, and Britain must agree to some alignment with the bloc’s rules — difficult issues for politicians on both sides.British Prime Minister Boris Johnson told Irish leader Micheal Martin on Friday that he remained committed “to reaching a deal that respects the sovereignty of the U.K.,” Johnson’s office said.

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IS-linked Militants Kill 4 Christians in Indonesia: Police

Islamic State-linked extremists killed four people in a remote Christian community on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi, authorities said Saturday, with one victim beheaded and another burned to death.The group of sword-and-gun wielding attackers ambushed Lembantongoa village in Central Sulawesi province Friday morning, killing several residents and torching half a dozen homes, including one used for regular prayers and services, police said.No arrests had yet been made and the motive for the attack was not immediately clear.But authorities pointed the finger at the Sulawesi-based East Indonesia Mujahideen (MIT), one of dozens of radical groups across the Southeast Asian archipelago that have pledged allegiance to IS.Indonesia, the world’s biggest Muslim majority nation, has long wrestled with Islamist militancy and terror attacks, while Central Sulawesi has seen intermittent violence between Christians and Muslims for decades.”We reached the conclusion that they (the attackers) were from MIT after showing pictures of its members to relatives of the victims” who witnessed the ambush, said Sigi Regency police chief Yoga Priyahutama.The makeshift church was empty at the time of the early morning attack by around eight militants, he added.”People were just in their homes when it happened,” Priyahutama said.Lembantongoa village head Rifai, who like many Indonesians goes by one name, said one victim was beheaded and another was nearly decapitated.One of the other all-male victims was stabbed while a fourth was burned to death in his home, he added.”Some residents managed to escape, but the victims didn’t make it,” Rifai told AFP.Indonesia’s Christians have been targeted in the past, including in 2018 when IS-linked group Jamaah Ansharut Daulah staged a wave of suicide bombings by families — including young children — at churches in the country’s second-biggest city Surabaya, killing a dozen congregants.If confirmed to be the work of MIT, Friday’s killings would be its first significant attack since the organisation’s leader was killed four years ago by Indonesia’s elite anti-terror squad, according to Jakarta-based terrorism expert Sidney Jones.”Through the attack… they want to show that police efforts to arrest and kill members of the group did not have any effect on” them, she said.In 2018, MIT was believed to have sent radicals posing as humanitarian workers into Central Sulawesi’s quake-tsunami hit Palu city in a bid to recruit new members, Jones said.

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