News, June 27th

26-nation review reveals kids more resilient against COVID-19

A 26-country review compiled from 131 studies, the largest systematic review to date of children and young adults with COVID-19, has found that majority of children with COVID-19 fared well clinically compared to adults during the first four months of the pandemic.

While 19 per cent of the pediatric population with COVID-19 had no symptoms, 21 per cent exhibited patchy lesions on lung X-rays.

“Nearly 5.6 per cent suffered from co-infections, such as flu, on top of COVID-19, 3.3 per cent were admitted to intensive care units and 7 deaths were reported,” according to researchers from the Long School of Medicine at The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio.

“Our data is compiled from 131 studies and encompasses 7,780 patients who span the pediatric age spectrum,” said study senior author Alvaro Moreira, assistant professor of pediatrics at UT Health San Antonio.

“Furthermore, we summarize treatments that were administered and offer an initial glimpse of a handful of patients who met the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) criteria for multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children,” said Moreira in the study appeared in EClinicalMedicine, a journal of The Lancet.

The most frequent symptoms among kids, similar to the adult population, were fever and cough. Those were found in 59 per cent and 56 per cent of the pediatric population.

The number of children with excellent outcomes surprised the research team.

“Although we are hearing about severe forms of the disease in children, this is occurring in very rare circumstances,” said Moreira.

Laboratory measures that were consistently abnormal in pediatric Covid-19 patients included inflammatory markers such as creatine kinase, interleukin-6 and procalcitonin.

Thankfully, only a small number of patients met inclusion for multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children. Their disease paralleled the extreme forms of COVID-19 seen in adults.

“Children with systemic inflammation had a significant decrease in the number of lymphocytes in their blood, informed Moreira.

“COVID-positive children who didn’t have the extreme form of the disease had 42 per cent lymphocytes in their blood, versus 11 per cent in children with the multisystem syndrome”.

Lymphocytes are one of the main types of immune cells in the body.

Kidney failure was seen in nine pediatric patients, liver failure also in nine and shock in 19. Mechanical ventilation was required by 42 patients, the authors wrote.

5.1-magnitude quake hits South Sandwich Islands region – USGS

A 5.1-magnitude earthquake jolted South Sandwich Islands region at 0718 GMT on Saturday, the U.S. Geological Survey said.

The epicenter, with a depth of 35.92 km, was initially determined to be at 56.1518 degrees south latitude and 26.7868 degrees west longitude.

Cambodia destroys 500kg worth of illicit drugs

Cambodia destroyed about 500 kgs of illegal drugs seized from around the country in line with International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking 2020.

President of the National Authority for Combating Drugs (NACD) Ke Kim Yan said this was the fifth such exercise in Cambodia which was aimed at raising awareness on illicit drugs.

According to the Khmer Times, the government was concerned over the number of drug abusers in the Kingdom, especially the youth.

He said in June, the NACD and other NGOs compiled a list of about 10,000 drug users and believe there are still many yet to be identified.

He said most were those below the age of 30 years.

“I would like to call on parents and the public to work hand in hand with the government to reach our goal of a society without drugs,” said Kim Yan.

Prime Minister Hun Sen also released a letter recently to remind the public about the negative impacts of using narcotics.

Hun Sen advised the NACD and the Education Ministry to continue raising awareness of the ill effects of using drugs and to improve rehabilitation programs.

He also encouraged the public to report any knowledge of drug trafficking and drug use to the authorities to help eradicate drugs nationwide.

In his letter, he mentioned the world was celebrating International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking 2020 amid the threat of the worldwide virus pandemic. This year the theme is “Better Knowledge for Better Care”.

“While Cambodia and other countries are fighting against Covid-19, we have to give more attention to combating drug issues to prevent the spread of infectious diseases especially Covid-19 among drug users,” said Hun Sen.

According to Kim Yan, during the first six months of 2020, the NACD reported 4,510 cases, an increase of 26.05 percent compared to the same duration in 2019 which recorded 1,175 cases.

However, the number of drugs seized has decreased.

“We seized 209 kilograms of drugs during the first six months of 2020. The number decreased compared to the same duration last year which was 310 kilograms. The reason for the decrease may be due to border lockdowns and the shutdown of entertainment outlets, done to minimize the spread of Covid-19,” he added.

Govt’s Response On Petrol Price Hike – Omar Ayub’s Speech

Minister for Petroleum, Omar Ayub says the only reason of Petroleum price hike is the sharp increase of prices at the international market.

Addressing a news conference along with the Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Petroleum Nadeem Babar in Islamabad on Saturday afternoon, he said during last forty days international market witnessed 112 percent increase in oil prices.

Omar Ayub said the petrol prices in Pakistan are still the lowest in the Sub-continent by a wide margin.

He said Prime Minister Imran Khan is committed to provide relief to the public, therefore, we have not increased the prices according to international trends.

The Minister vowed unwavering fight against ‘mafias’ to pass on relief to the public according to the manifesto of PTI.

He said contrary to the previous government, every possible legal action will be taken against the beneficiaries of oil shortage in the country.

Nadeem Babar said shortage of petroleum products in the country was due to limited stock of Oil Marketing Companies.

He said according to rules, OMCs keep the reserves for 21 days but in real they didn’t fulfill this requirement.

He said the second major reason of Petroleum shortage is illegal pumps that were involved in illegal storage.

The Adviser said around1500 pumps are being operated illegally across the country and crackdown will be started soon against them. He said legal reforms will be made to avoid any kind of petroleum shortage in future.

Moroccan authorities deny using spyware to monitor critics

Moroccan authorities said they “categorically reject” an Amnesty International report claiming the government used surveillance software to spy on the phone of a prominent journalist and human rights activist.

In a report published this week, Amnesty said forensic analysis it carried out on the cellphone of Omar Radi indicated that his communications were monitored from January 2019 using technology developed by Israeli hacker-for-hire company NSO Group.

In a statement released late on Friday, Moroccan authorities rejected Amnesty’s “baseless allegations,” saying that the report serves agendas motivated by hostility against Morocco and competitors in the intelligence market.

Amnesty’s local director, Mohamed Sektaoui, was summoned by authorities Friday and asked to provide evidence “as soon as possible,” the statement said.

Radi was questioned by police on Thursday on suspicions of receiving funds linked to foreign intelligence services. He dismissed the allegations as “ridiculous.”

Radi was arrested last year after a tweet that defended anti-government protesters. He was subsequently put on trial in March this year, accused of insulting a judge with his tweet that slammed the prison sentences handed down to protest leaders. He received a four-month suspended jail sentence and a $50 fine.

Pennington County GOP plans events in Rapid City during Trump’s visit

Pennington County Republican Party Chairman Jeff Holbrook said several events are planned next weekend for those who are unable to attend President Donald Trump’s visit for the fireworks display at Mount Rushmore.

Holbrook said the GOP has reserved Main Street Square in downtown Rapid City for a large celebration from 6 p.m. until the end of the July 3 Rushmore fireworks. Several prominent members of the Republican Party and a live band will provide entertainment during the event, followed by a live video feed of the fireworks display and Trump’s speech at Mount Rushmore.

“The fireworks and President Trump’s entire visit will be available for viewing on the big screen at Main Street Square for all those who were unable to attend the actual event, plus we’ll have a great band and special celebrities who will provide remarks,” Holbrook said.

Some of the special guests include Mike Lindell, founder of My Pillow; Gene Sullivan, a friend of legendary daredevil Evel Knievel and founder of Jump for Jesus — a full gospel motorcycle stunt team; and Jack Brewer, a former NFL player.

“This will be a family-friendly event and we welcome all to attend to celebrate this historic moment in Rapid City history with the return of fireworks to Mount Rushmore and a presidential visit,” Holbrook said.

Fencing will be placed around Main Street Square to provide a secure area for those wishing to attend with one dedicated entry point and exit point, Holbrook said. Face masks will be provided to anyone who wishes to use them, and social distancing will be encouraged because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Holbrook said there will be no enforcement of those guidelines.

Security will be provided in the area from the Rapid City Police Department and the Pennington County Sheriff’s Office, Holbrook said.

“All are welcome to attend the event, and we will do our best to provide a safe environment for all,” he said.

With the large crowd expected at Main Street Square, Holbrook said a secondary event will be held at Ft. Hayes Chuckwagon, located just south of Rapid City on Highway 16 at 2255 Fort Hayes Drive.

Those who wish to attend can enjoy the dinner and western show beginning at 6 p.m. Cost for the dinner is $39 per person. After the show, Holbrook said the venue will remain open for those who wish to attend at no charge.

“At Fort Hayes, we’ll have Gene Sullivan and the New Life Singers attend there too, at no cost to the public, and we will also provide a live-stream of the fireworks at Mount Rushmore,” Holbrook said.

The festivities will conclude with a prayer breakfast July 4 at Fort Hayes Chuckwagon. Cost is $1 for the pancake feed, Holbrook said.

Presidential Message on National HIV Testing Day, 2020

Each year in June, the United States observes National Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) Testing Day.  An estimated 1.2 million people in the United States are currently living with HIV.  Sadly, 1 in 7 of these individuals are unaware that they have HIV, which poses serious health risks.  On this day, we reaffirm our Nation’s leading role in advancing prevention, research, treatment, and cures for this virus and pledge to continue working to raise awareness about the importance of testing and early diagnosis in combating HIV.

While infections in the United States have dropped by more than two-thirds since the onset of the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the 1980s, nearly 40,000 Americans are still diagnosed with the virus each year.  Of these new infections, roughly 80 percent are transmitted by people who are either undiagnosed or not receiving treatment.  These numbers demonstrate how critically important it is that we continue to use American innovation and ingenuity to develop treatments that mitigate the spread of HIV.  No other country is better prepared to succeed in these efforts or has helped champion significant medical advancements more than the United States.  Availability of pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) and antiretroviral therapy (ART) are dramatically reducing virus transmission and enabling good health.  People who are properly diagnosed and adhere to their ART have a very high likelihood of remaining virally suppressed for years.  This means that these individuals will have the opportunity to live healthy and fulfilling lives while also reducing the risk of transmission to others.

To better close the gap between testing and treatment, last year my Administration launched “Ending the HIV Epidemic: A Plan for America” through the Department of Health and Human Services.  As part of the second year of this bipartisan, multiyear initiative, my 2021 Budget Request includes $716 million to prevent the spread of HIV infections and to better care for, treat, and protect those people living with this virus.  By actively empowering Americans with the tools they need to combat HIV, this initiative aims to drastically reduce transmissions and build healthier and safer communities throughout our Nation.

On National HIV Testing Day, we acknowledge the incredible strides our Nation has made in combating this terrible epidemic.  Together, through spreading awareness and advancing science, we recommit to using prevention, testing, and treatment tools to end HIV in the United States and around the world.

What will power the post-pandemic global economic recovery?

As governments try to kick-start their economies, the UN is calling for recovery plans to be built around low-carbon technologies, to avoid a return to fossil-fuel based business as usual.

Some of the countries and regions at the forefront of this wholescale shift to renewables are islands, where the need to avoid the significant cost of importing fossil fuels, such as oil and gas, provides added motivation.

Mauritius, for example, is planning to generate over a third of its electricity from renewable sources within the next five years. Projects supported by the UN Development Program (UNDP), will be an important part of this transition, bringing an additional 25 Mega Watts of solar power to Mauritius, including a mini-power grid in Agalega, one of the outer islands.

As well as reducing pollution, this shift to clean energy is expected to aid economic recovery, with new jobs in areas such as the production, installation, and maintenance of renewable energy equipment, from solar panel, to batteries and wind turbines.

Another added benefit is energy security: with such a high dependence on imported oil, price fluctuations can make budgeting difficult, and any interruption to supply can have serious consequences. “Home-grown” energy from renewable sources can make the energy grid more reliable, and more resilient.

The Pacific US State of Hawaii is planning to go even further and become a trailblazer for the rest of the United States, by going completely renewable by 2045. As Hawaii State Governor, David Ige, explained to UN News, their commitment is now moving to the mainstream: “at the time we enacted the law to commit to 100 per cent renewables, no other community had done anything similar and at the National Governors’ Association, people were generally very surprised.

They thought that it was so beyond possible that it was a foolish undertaking. Now, California has embraced the commitment to 100 per cent clean renewable energy and other states are contemplating doing the same. I’m proud that Hawaii has really inspired other states and communities.”

As economies recover post-pandemic, following these examples will be essential to turn the tide and, as a new report from REN21 – a renewable energy think tank that includes the UN Environment Program (UNEP) and UN Development Program (UNDP) amongst its members – shows, remarkable progress has been made by the renewable energy industry, where costs are falling, and clean energy use is increase.

However, this good news is currently offset by the fact that global energy use is rising, and is being powered, in the main, by fossil fuels. Following the release of the report, on 16 June, Rana Adib, REN21’s Executive Director, underlined the fact that the pandemic-related emissions drop barely makes a dent in the long-term problem of climate change, and an overhaul of the entire energy system is needed:

“Even if the lockdowns were to continue for a decade, the change would not be sufficient. At the current pace, with the current system and current market rules, it would take the world forever to come anywhere near a no-carbon system.”

The report warns that many recovery programs include commitments to stick with dirty, polluting fossil fuel systems: whilst some countries are phasing out coal, others continue to invest in new coal-fired power plants. In addition, funding from private banks for fossil fuel projects has increased each year since the signing of the 2015 Paris climate agreement, totaling some USD 2.7 trillion over the last three years.

“Some directly promote natural gas, coal or oil. Others, though claiming a green focus, build the roof and forget the foundation,” warned Ms. Adib. “Take electric cars and hydrogen, for example. These technologies are only green if powered by renewables.”

Nevertheless, Mauritius and Hawaii show that a green option is not only possible, but actually a better deal than a fossil-fuel based recovery plan, especially when the true costs, including air pollution, climate change effects and traffic congestion, are factored in.

A new book from the World Bank, Technology Transfer and Innovation for Low-carbon Development, shows that most of the emissions reductions needed to keep global warming to 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels, can be achieved if existing, commercially proven low-carbon technology is adopted on a massive scale.

As Inger Andersen, the Executive Director of the UN Environment Program (UNEP) explains, “renewables are now more cost-effective than ever, providing an opportunity to prioritize clean economic recovery packages and bring the world closer to meeting the Paris Agreement Goals. Renewables are a key pillar of a healthy, safe and green COVID-19 recovery that leaves no one behind.”

When Global Trends in Renewable Energy Investment 2020, a report from UNEP, The Frankfurt School, and Bloomberg New Energy Finance, was released in June, it further underlined the plummeting costs of clean energy, highlighting the fact that “putting these dollars into renewables will buy more generation capacity than ever before”, and help countries deliver on stronger climate action.

“If governments take advantage of the ever-falling price tag of renewables to put clean energy at the heart of COVID -19 economic recovery, instead of subsidizing the recovery of fossil-fuel industries”, said Ms. Andersen, “they can take a big step towards clean energy and a healthy natural world, which ultimately is the best insurance policy against global pandemics.”

The economic slowdown resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic has seen a significant fall in harmful greenhouse emissions and, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA), 2020 will see a drop of around eight per cent.

This has given us an idea of what a cleaner world might look like, but it is only a temporary respite: it has also had devastating consequences, including the shuttering of entire sectors, and unemployment for millions of people.

Now, with countries and regions like Mauritius and Hawaii investing in policies, programs, and initiatives to get people back to work, there is an opportunity for a more sustainable approach, with renewable technologies at its heart. The question is whether the international community will seize this opportunity or stick with the devil they know.

Published by jim

Curator of things...

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