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Consequences / Re: COVID-19
« on: Today at 04:21:45 PM »
Biden’s Covid Team Grapples With a Basic Question: Where’s All the Vaccine?

On Thursday, Biden rolled out a 200-page national strategy to curtail the coronavirus, part of an effort to show a clean break from the Trump administration, which shirked responsibility for vaccine distribution and created a patchwork system across the country.

"What we're inheriting from the Trump administration is so much worse than we could have imagined,” Jeff Zients, Biden’s Covid-19 coordinator, told reporters Wednesday night.

Just about half of the nearly 38 million Covid-19 shots distributed by the federal government have been administered to date, according to Centers for Disease Control data. That indicates there’s a glut of unused doses around the country.

But states are warning they're running out of the vaccine, with little sense of when more will arrive.

... Health officials have also struggled with extensive data problems that have hampered states’ ability to update the government on its day-to-day vaccine supply, a lag that’s made it difficult at times to convince federal officials that they’re running low – or track where new shipments are being delivered.

The federal government further alarmed some state officials on Thursday, when the Centers for Disease Control indicated it would begin counting Pfizer's vaccine vials as the equivalent of six doses -- up from five, according to an email from the agency obtained by POLITICO.

Those vials require specific syringes to extract all six doses, and that type of syringe is in such high demand that the Biden administration said Thursday it may use the Defense Production Act to ramp up its manufacturing.



Biden Inheriting Nonexistent Coronavirus Vaccine Distribution Plan and Must Start 'From Scratch,' Sources Say

Newly sworn in President Joe Biden and his advisers are inheriting no coronavirus vaccine distribution plan to speak of from the Trump administration, sources tell CNN, posing a significant challenge for the new White House.

The Biden administration has promised to try to turn the Covid-19 pandemic around and drastically speed up the pace of vaccinating Americans against the virus. But in the immediate hours following Biden being sworn into office on Wednesday, sources with direct knowledge of the new administration's Covid-related work told CNN one of the biggest shocks that the Biden team had to digest during the transition period was what they saw as a complete lack of a vaccine distribution strategy under former President Donald Trump, even weeks after multiple vaccines were approved for use in the United States.

"There is nothing for us to rework. We are going to have to build everything from scratch," one source said.

Another source described the moment that it became clear the Biden administration would have to essentially start from "square one" because there simply was no plan as: "Wow, just further affirmation of complete incompetence."

... The effort to obstruct the Biden team, led by senior White House appointees at the Pentagon, is unprecedented in modern presidential transitions and will hobble the new administration on key national security matters.

People involved with the transition, both on the Biden team and the Pentagon side, gave POLITICO a more detailed picture of what was denied, saying briefings on pressing defense matters never happened, were delayed to the last minute, or were controlled by overbearing minders from the Trump administration's side.

The Pentagon initially rebuffed the transition’s request to meet with Gen. Gustave Perna, Operation Warp Speed’s chief operating officer.

Perna was present at a meeting between the Pentagon and Health and Human Services transition teams in mid-December, but he did not answer any questions.
It wasn’t until last week that the DoD transition team got to meet with Perna in a smaller setting.

... Biden aides for weeks were unable to access Tiberius, the central government database used to monitor vaccine distributions, according to one transition official. They were also denied access to certain standing meetings related to the government’s response until a few days before Biden was sworn in.

Transition officials said the delay in getting answers about Warp Speed will hamper the Biden administration’s plan to dramatically scale up the nation’s vaccination distribution effort over the next three months.

... Meanwhile, every request for information the Biden team filed had to be reviewed by the general counsel’s office, and many were scrubbed of all useful information. Many requests were never answered, and the ones that did come back were thoroughly “sanitized.”


“Complete Incompetence:” Biden Team Slams Trump’s COVID Work


Consequences / Re: COVID-19
« on: Today at 04:55:02 AM »
SARS-CoV-2 Escape In Vitro from a Highly Neutralizing COVID-19 Convalescent Plasma

Three mutations allowed SARS-CoV-2 to evade the polyclonal antibody response of a highly neutralizing COVID-19 convalescent plasma.


To investigate the evolution of SARS-CoV-2 in the immune population, we co-incubated authentic virus with a highly neutralizing plasma from a COVID-19 convalescent patient. The plasma fully neutralized the virus for 7 passages, but after 45 days, the deletion of F140 in the spike N-terminal domain (NTD) N3 loop led to partial breakthrough. At day 73, an E484K substitution in the receptor-binding domain (RBD) occurred, followed at day 80 by an insertion in the NTD N5 loop containing a new glycan sequon, which generated a variant completely resistant to plasma neutralization. Computational modeling predicts that the deletion and insertion in loops N3 and N5 prevent binding of neutralizing antibodies.

The recent emergence in the United Kingdom and South Africa of natural variants with similar changes suggests that SARS-CoV-2 has the potential to escape an effective immune response and that vaccines and antibodies able to control emerging variants should be developed.


As SARS-CoV-2 Mutates, AI Algorithms Try to Keep Pace

Consequences / Re: COVID-19
« on: January 21, 2021, 04:48:43 PM »
Herd Immunity May Not Be Achievable Even With High Vaccine Uptake

The government vaccination program may not be sufficient to achieve herd immunity—even if everyone in the UK is vaccinated—according to new research from the University of East Anglia.

Researchers modeled the effectiveness of UK-wide immunization programs using the Oxford and Pfizer vaccines, taking into account the highly transmissible new COVID-19 variant.

They found that the only way to reach herd immunity for the UK would be to vaccinate almost everyone—including children—with the more effective Pfizer vaccine.

They say data for the recently licensed Moderna vaccine would be similar to the Pfizer results.

And the study recommends that all health and social care professionals should receive the 95 percent effective Pfizer/Moderna vaccines to prevent asymptomatic spread to patients and vulnerable people.

... The research team used mathematical models of COVID-19 transmission and vaccine efficacy to predict how well the Oxford and Pfizer vaccines will work to bring the R number down and achieve herd immunity.

Considering the original virus, they initially found that 69 percent of the population would need to be vaccinated with the Pfizer vaccine, or 93 percent of the population with the Oxford vaccine, to bring the R number below 1.0.

However, when they took into account the new more transmissible COVID-19 variant, B.1.1.7,, they found that vaccinating the entire population with the Oxford vaccine would only reduce the R value to 1.325. Meanwhile the Pfizer vaccine would require 82 percent of the population to be vaccinated to control the spread of the new variant.

Modeller Prof Alastair Grant, form UEA's School of Environmental Sciences, said: "The Oxford vaccine reduces the incidence of serious illness to a greater extent than it reduces symptomatic illness, which is still common in those who have had this vaccine.

"Its efficacy against the incidence of asymptomatic infections is lower, reducing its efficacy against all infection from 70.4 percent to 52.5 percent for the pooled data.

This means that its overall protection against infection is only partial—around 50 percent.

"Although asymptomatic cases are less infectious, including this in our calculations still raises R values by 20 percent or more, from 1.33 to 1.6 for the new variant with a 100 percent vaccination.

"This combination of relatively low headline efficacy and limited effect on asymptomatic infections means that the Oxford vaccine can't take us to herd immunity, even if the whole population is immunized.

"Vaccinating 82 percent of the population with the Pfizer vaccine would control the spread of the virus—but it isn't licensed for use on under 16s, who make up 19 percent of the population.

"Also, some people will refuse the vaccine, so achieving an 82 percent vaccination rate will likely be impossible. In the absence of vaccination, 'herd immunity' would only occur when 89 percent of the population has had the virus."

... "The Oxford vaccine will no doubt be an important control intervention, but unless changes to the dose regime can increase its efficacy, it is unlikely to fully control the virus or take the UK population to herd immunity."

Alastair Grant et al. Immunisation, asymptomatic infection, herd immunity and the new variants of COVID-19, Nature (2021)


England's Third Lockdown Sees 'No Evidence of Decline' in Covid Rates, Study Says

LONDON — A third national lockdown in England appears to have had little impact on the rising rate of coronavirus infections, according to the findings of a major study, with "no evidence of decline" in the prevalence of the virus during the first 10 days of tougher restrictions.

The closely-watched REACT-1 study, led by Imperial College London, warned that health services would remain under "extreme pressure" and the cumulative number of deaths would increase rapidly unless the prevalence of the virus in the community was reduced substantially.

Government figures released on Wednesday showed an additional 1,820 people had died within 28 days of a positive Covid test. To date, the U.K. has recorded 3.5 million coronavirus cases, with 93,290 deaths.

(... equivalent to 10,750 deaths/day in the US  ~100,000 in 9 days )


Kids Highly Likely to Transmit Coronavirus to Others: Study

While children are less susceptible to illness with the new coronavirus, they are nearly 60% more likely than adults over 60 to infect other family members when they are sick, a new study shows.

The researchers analyzed data from more than 27,000 households in Wuhan, China, that had confirmed cases of COVID-19 between Dec. 2, 2019 and April 18, 2020, a peak period of COVID-19 disease transmission in the city that was the first epicenter of the pandemic.

Previous research found that children shed SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, at similar rates as adults. The higher infectivity of children in this study may be due to close contact with parents and other relatives caring for them, according to the authors of the study.

... The study also found that infants younger than 1 were significantly more likely to be infected with COVID-19 than children between the ages of 2 and 5. This may be due to a combination of their still-developing immune systems and their close contact with adults.

"It's unlikely there will be a vaccine for infants against COVID-19 in the near future, so we need to protect their caregivers," said study co-author Ira Longini, a professor of biostatistics at the University of Florida. "We may want to prioritize caregivers for COVID-19 vaccination to protect infants indirectly because we don't really know the long-term consequences of infection, especially in infants."

Among the other findings in the study:

- People who were asymptomatic during throughout their infection were 80% less infectious than people with symptoms, and presymptomatic people were about 40% more infectious than symptomatic ones.

- The secondary attack rate—the likelihood that a person with COVID-19 will infect another member of their household—was 15.6%, a rate similar to other respiratory pathogens.

- Older adults were more likely to become infected than younger household members, especially those under age 20.
While children were less susceptible to COVID-19 infection than adults and they generally had less severe symptoms, they were just as likely to develop symptoms as adults.

Household transmission of SARS-CoV-2 and risk factors for susceptibility and infectivity in Wuhan: a retrospective observational study


Consequences / Re: COVID-19
« on: January 21, 2021, 08:17:09 AM »
Executive Order on Organizing and Mobilizing the United States Government to Provide a Unified and Effective Response to Combat COVID-19 and to Provide United States Leadership on Global Health and Security

Consequences / Re: COVID-19
« on: January 20, 2021, 09:28:28 PM »
S.Africa Virus Strain Poses 'Re-Infection Risk': Study

The coronavirus variant detected in South Africa poses a "significant re-infection risk" and raises concerns over vaccine effectiveness, according to preliminary research Wednesday, as separate studies suggested the British strain would likely be constrained by immunisations.

... It is one mutation in particular—known as E484K and present in the variants detected in South Africa and Brazil but not the one from Britain—that has experts particularly worried about immunity "escape".

... Two other preliminary studies posted online on Wednesday found that the antibodies from previously-infected patients are largely effective against the variant detected in Britain and that the BioNTech/Pfizer vaccine appears to be guard against it as well.

Trevor Bedford @trvrb · 13h
Important new study by Wibmer et al ( ) of neutralization by convalescent sera on wildtype vs 501Y.V2 variant viruses circulating in South Africa. It shows that mutations present in 501Y.V2 result in reduced neutralization capacity. 1/10

Here, I've replotted data from the preprint to make effect size a bit more clear. Each line is sera from one individual tested against wildtype virus on the left and 501Y.V2 variant virus on the right. Note the log y axis (as is common with this type of data).

It's clear that 501Y.V2 often results in reductions of neutralization titer, quantified as "fold-reduction" where, for example, a 2-fold reduction in titer would mean that you need twice as much sera to neutralize the same amount of virus in the assay.

Here, I'm plotting distribution of fold-reduction across the 44 individuals tested. You can see there is a median 8-fold reduction in titer when comparing wildtype to 501Y.V2 virus, though some individuals show no reduction and other individuals show a 64-fold reduction.

To put an 8-fold drop in context, the @WHO uses an 8-fold threshold when deciding to update the seasonal influenza vaccine (note this is a different virus and neutralization results may not be directly comparable, but it at least gives a ballpark comparison).

Also note that the mRNA vaccines in particular are really good vaccines and elicit strong immune responses. A reduction in neutralization from a high starting point will have less of an impact than a reduction from a lower starting point.

Additionally, single mutations will generally have small impacts on polyclonal immune responses and the strong immune response to the mRNA vaccines would suggest that a large antigenic change would be needed to significantly reduce efficacy.

We urgently need "immune correlates of protection" determined for COVID-19 vaccination. This would allow extrapolation from reductions in neutralization into expected effects on vaccine efficacy. At the moment, it's guesswork.

However, if these results are confirmed by further studies, my guess based on the seasonal influenza comparison is that we need to investigate the manufacturing timeline and regulatory steps required to update the "strain" used in the vaccine.

501Y.V2 is still largely restricted to South Africa, but it (or other antigenically drifted variants) may spread more widely in the coming months. I would be planning this potential "strain" update for fall 2021.

And all this said, I'll be getting the vaccine as soon as I'm able. We have an amazing vaccine now that works against currently circulating viruses. And if it becomes necessary, this emerging situation can be dealt with through a forthcoming vaccine update.

Consequences / Re: COVID-19
« on: January 20, 2021, 03:18:54 PM »
Variant Might Partially Evade Protection From Vaccines or Prior Infection, Early Research Suggests

A new study suggests someone might be able to get infected with one of the new variants of the coronavirus even if they've had Covid-19 before or have been vaccinated.

The variant was first spotted in South Africa in October and has now been found in more than a dozen countries.

"I think we should be alarmed," said Penny Moore, associate professor at the National Institute for Communicable Diseases in South Africa and the senior author of the study.

"Based on Penny's data, it's likely that the vaccine is going to be somewhat less effective, but how much less effective we don't know," said David Montefiori, a virologist at Duke University Medical Center.

Montefiori added that this is the first study that gives him serious doubt about whether prior infection or a vaccine will protect against a new coronavirus variant.

"This is the first time I've been concerned about a variant partially evading the immune response and partially evading the vaccine," he said.

Both experts emphasized that people should still get the vaccine. It's extremely effective against other forms of the virus and they think it likely will still give some level of protection against the new variant as well.

... In the study, Moore and her colleagues took blood from 44 people who'd had Covid-19. Nearly all of their cases were confirmed to have occurred prior to September, which is before the variant was spotted in South Africa.

The researchers then looked to see whether their antibodies would fight off the new variant.

For about half of the 44 people, their antibodies were powerless against the new variant. "We saw a knockout," Moore said. "It was a scary result."

For the other half, the antibody response was weakened, but not totally knocked out.

The analysis showed that the strongest antibody response was from those who had suffered more severe cases of Covid-19, and therefore had developed a stronger antibody response after their illnesses.

SARS-CoV-2 501Y.V2 escapes neutralization by South African COVID-19 donor plasma

Consequences / Re: COVID-19
« on: January 20, 2021, 03:13:55 PM »
Trump Administration Leaves Biden With 'Confusing' Covid-19 Vaccine numbers and states in limbo

States across the country say they're running low on coronavirus vaccine supply, with many officials insisting the vaccine delivery numbers reported by the Trump administration don't align with what they are seeing on the ground.

From New York to Tennessee to West Virginia, officials are clamoring for more doses of coronavirus vaccine. And officials in those states said that federal tallies suggesting they have thousands of doses sitting on the shelves don't accurately reflect the supply of vaccine on hand.

A source close to the Biden transition team said there is enormous concern among the incoming administration about the accuracy of the numbers that have been released by the federal government. It was only within the last few days that the transition team was given access to Tiberius, the system that shows states how many doses are available to them and allows states to determine delivery locations.

Until then, the team was working solely off numbers they received from manufacturers, unable to cross check and confirm, the source told CNN on Tuesday.

Despite frustration, the source said Biden's team has been hesitant to broadcast just how they were left in the dark out of concern that the Trump administration would stop cooperating altogether.

"This is a very confusing time for understanding these numbers and as we talk more and more to the Biden administration, we're learning that they are trying to sort this out as well," Lori Tremmel Freeman, chief executive officer of the National Association of County and City Health Officials (NACCHO), told CNN on Tuesday. "With the change of administration happening at this very moment, they don't appear to totally know yet what vaccine numbers we're talking about and what is the reality."

... "Nobody knows where that number is coming from," Tennessee Department of Health Commissioner Dr. Lisa Piercey told CNN on Tuesday when asked why the federal government's tally of doses distributed in the state is 76,000 higher than the state's count.

A senior administration official told CNN that the numbers from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention accurately reflect doses that are distributed or delivered. As of Tuesday afternoon, the CDC's website notes that the term "distributed" refers to the cumulative count of vaccine doses recorded as shipped in the CDC's Vaccine Tracking System.

Yet that has not been the experience in some states.

"The doses distributed means that they've given us a number, we have told them where it needs to go in the system to get sent out, but that does not mean that it's been shipped,"
said Kris Ehresmann, director of infectious disease epidemiology, prevention and control for the Minnesota Department of Health.

"The doses shipped, that means we've got a FedEx tracking number and it's left the facility," Ehresmann said. "The doses distributed are doses that have been promised to the state, that the state has accepted and given a location where those doses should be shipped. And the disconnect is that those doses haven't necessarily arrived in the state."

And governors in Minnesota, West Virginia and New York have all said in recent days that they are running low on vaccine.

Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz said Monday his state had "a very limited supply."

By the CDC's count, more than 31 million doses of vaccine have been distributed and less than half -- roughly 12.3 million shots -- have been administered, as of Friday.

But states said there's no way half their doses are sitting on shelves or in freezers.

Unwinding exactly what's mucking up the numbers -- and speeding up the supply of vaccine -- will ultimately be a problem that falls to the incoming Biden administration.


Biden's Covid Team is Nervous About What the Trump Team Hasn't Told Them

... The overarching, nagging concern: "They don't know what they don't know," said a source close to the Biden Covid-19 team.

Multiple officials familiar with the transition said the lack of full cooperation and transparency from the outgoing Trump administration has contributed to Biden's Covid team feeling frustrated and concerned about having a full understanding of the scope of the problems they will confront on Day One.


Pfizer Tells Canada It Will Not Receive Any Covid-19 Vaccine Doses Next Week

Frustration visibly boiled over with some Canadian leaders Tuesday as Pfizer told Canada that it would not receive any vaccine doses next week due to the continuing manufacturing disruptions at its facility in Belgium.

Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau sought to reassure Canadians that vaccine deliveries would pick up again in a few weeks and that the overall goal, to have every willing Canadian vaccinated by September, would remain on track.

But it was Ontario's Premier Doug Ford who bluntly voiced the frustration of many provincial leaders as Pfizer continues to cut its vaccine delivery schedule to Canada.

"We got to be on these guys like a blanket, I'd be outside that guy's house. Every time he moved, I'd be saying, 'Where's our vaccines?' Other people are getting them, the European Union is getting them, why not Canada? That's my question to Pfizer, we need your support," said Ford during a Tuesday news conference.

Canada's supply of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine comes from the European allotment and not from nearby manufacturing facilities in the US, since the Trump administration made it clear vaccines would not be exported.

Canadian government officials made it clear Tuesday that the shortfall in deliveries from Pfizer would result in a "major reduction" in vaccinations in the coming weeks.

Policy and solutions / Re: Water Resource Management
« on: January 20, 2021, 04:23:47 AM »
Engineers Create 'Smart' Aerogel That Turns Air Into Drinking Water

Some say future wars will be fought over water, and a billion people around the world are already struggling to find enough water to live. Now, researchers at the National University of Singapore (NUS) have created a substance that extracts water from air without any external power source.

To extract water from air, a team led by Professor Ho Ghim Wei from the NUS Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering created a type of aerogel, a solid material that weighs almost nothing. Under the microscope, it looks like a sponge, but it does not have to be squeezed to release the water it absorbs from the air. It also does not need a battery. In a humid environment, one kilogram of it will produce 17 liters of water a day.

The aerogel autonomously gathers water molecules from the air, condenses them into a liquid and releases the water. When there is sunshine, the structure can further boost the water release by transitioning to a complete water-hating state. And it is very good at that. 95 percent of the water vapor that goes into the aerogel comes out as water. In laboratory tests, the aerogel gave water non-stop for months.

The researchers tested the water, and found that it met World Health Organization's standards for drinking water.

"Given that atmospheric water is continuously replenished by the global hydrological cycle, our invention offers a promising solution for achieving sustainable freshwater production in a variety of climatic conditions, at minimal energy cost," said Professor Ho

G. Yilmaz et al. Autonomous atmospheric water seeping MOF matrix, Science Advances (2020).

Consequences / WEF: Global Risk Report 2021
« on: January 20, 2021, 03:44:11 AM »
WEF The Global Risks Report 2021


In the Global Risks Report 2021, we share the results of the latest Global Risks Perception Survey (GRPS), followed by analysis of growing social, economic and industrial divisions, their interconnections, and their implications on our ability to resolve major global risks requiring societal cohesion and global cooperation.

... Among the highest likelihood risks of the next ten years are extreme weather, climate action failure and human-led environmental damage; as well as digital power concentration, digital inequality and cybersecurity failure. Among the highest impact risks of the next decade, infectious diseases are in the top spot, followed by climate action failure and other environmental risks; as well as weapons of mass destruction, livelihood crises, debt crises and IT infrastructure breakdown.

When it comes to the time-horizon within which these risks will become a critical threat to the world, the most imminent threats – those that are most likely in the next two years – include employment and livelihood crises, widespread youth disillusionment, digital inequality, economic stagnation, human-made environmental damage, erosion of societal cohesion, and terrorist attacks.

Economic risks feature prominently in the 3-5 year timeframe, including asset bubbles, price instability, commodity shocks and debt crises; followed by geopolitical risks, including interstate relations and conflict, and resource geopolitization. In the 5-10 year horizon, environmental risks such as biodiversity loss, natural resource crises and climate action failure dominate; alongside weapons of mass destruction, adverse effects of technology and collapse of states or multilateral institutions.

Climate change—to which no one is immune—continues to be a catastrophic risk. Although lockdowns worldwide caused global emissions to fall in the first half of 2020, evidence from the 2008–2009 Financial Crisis warns that emissions could bounce back. A shift towards greener economies cannot be delayed until the shocks of the pandemic subside. “Climate action failure” is the most impactful and second most likely long-term risk identified in the GRPS.

Responses to the pandemic have caused new domestic and geopolitical tensions that threaten stability. Digital division and a future “lost generation” are likely to test social cohesion from within borders—exacerbating geopolitical fragmentation and global economic fragility. With stalemates and flashpoints increasing in frequency, GRPS respondents rated “state collapse” and “multilateralism collapse” as critical long-term threats.

Consequences / Re: COVID-19
« on: January 20, 2021, 01:10:10 AM »
Israel's Virus Czar: First Dose Of Vaccine Less Effective Than Pfizer Data Shows

The first dose of the Pfizer vaccine offers less protection against COVID-19 than US pharmaceutical giant Pfizer originally claimed, Israel's coronavirus czar told Hebrew media on Tuesday. 

"Many people have been infected between the first and second injections of the vaccine," Nachman Ash told Army Radio, adding that the first dose is "less effective than we thought" and "lower than [the data] presented by Pfizer."

Pfizer itself says a single dose of its vaccine is about 52% effective.

By contrast, those who had received their second dose of the Pfizer vaccine had a six- to 12-fold increase in antibodies, according to data released by Sheba Medical Center in Tel Hashomer on Monday.

Nachman Ash reportedly says it's not certain vaccines can protect against mutated coronavirus strains; 12,400 Israelis were infected with virus after receiving 1st shot; this figure includes 69 people who have received the second dose.

Over 2 million Israelis have had their first Pfizer shot. Over 400,000 have had the second.

Last week, Sharon Alroy-Preis, head of the Health Ministry’s public health department, announced that the vaccine curbs infections by some 50 percent 14 days after the first of the two shots is administered. She said that the data was preliminary, and based on the results of coronavirus tests among both those who have received the vaccine and those who haven’t, who are are serving as a de facto control group.

At the same time, however, other, somewhat contrary data was released by Israeli health maintenance organizations: According to figures released by Clalit, Israel’s largest health provider, the chance of a person being infected with the coronavirus dropped by 33% 14 days after they were vaccinated; separate figures recorded by the Maccabi health provider showed the vaccine caused a 60% drop in the chances for infection after taking the first shot.

... Amid warnings that 30% to 40% of the new infections were being driven by a Covid-19 variant first identified in the UK, the Israeli cabinet was meeting on Tuesday to consider tightening existing restrictions. Some analysts, however, have put the prevalence of the new variant at lower levels.

The cabinet had been warned by Ash that the new variant was set to become the main source of infections in Israel within weeks.

Consequences / Re: The Holocene Extinction
« on: January 19, 2021, 11:58:17 PM »
Monarch Butterfly Population Moves Closer to Extinction

The number of western monarch butterflies wintering along the California coast has plummeted precipitously to a record low, putting the orange-and-black insects closer to extinction, researchers announced Tuesday.

An annual winter count by the Xerces Society recorded fewer than 2,000 butterflies, a massive decline from the tens of thousands tallied in recent years and the millions that clustered in trees from Northern California's Marin County to San Diego County in the south in the 1980s.

Western monarch butterflies head south from the Pacific Northwest to California each winter, returning to the same places and even the same trees, where they cluster to keep warm. The monarchs generally arrive in California at the beginning of November and spread across the country once warmer weather arrives in March.

On the eastern side of the Rocky Mountains, another monarch population travels from southern Canada and the northeastern United States across thousands of miles to spend the winter in central Mexico. Scientists estimate the monarch population in the eastern U.S. has fallen about 80% since the mid-1990s, but the drop-off in the western U.S. has been even steeper.

The Xerces Society, a nonprofit environmental organization that focuses on the conservation of invertebrates, recorded about 29,000 butterflies in its annual survey last winter. That was not much different than the tally the winter before, when an all-time low of 27,000 monarchs were counted—less than 1% of historic populations.

But the count this year is dismal. At iconic monarch wintering sites in the city of Pacific Grove, volunteers didn't see a single butterfly this winter. Other well-known locations, such as Pismo State Beach Monarch Butterfly Grove and Natural Bridges State Park, only hosted a few hundred butterflies, researchers said.

Massive wildfires throughout the U.S. West last year may have influenced their breeding and migration, researchers said.

A 2017 study by Washington State University researchers predicted that if the monarch population dropped below 30,000, the species would likely go extinct in the next few decades if nothing is done to save them.

... all gone ... :(

Consequences / Re: Decline in insect populations
« on: January 19, 2021, 11:57:29 PM »
Monarch Butterfly Population Moves Closer to Extinction

The number of western monarch butterflies wintering along the California coast has plummeted precipitously to a record low, putting the orange-and-black insects closer to extinction, researchers announced Tuesday.

An annual winter count by the Xerces Society recorded fewer than 2,000 butterflies, a massive decline from the tens of thousands tallied in recent years and the millions that clustered in trees from Northern California's Marin County to San Diego County in the south in the 1980s.

Western monarch butterflies head south from the Pacific Northwest to California each winter, returning to the same places and even the same trees, where they cluster to keep warm. The monarchs generally arrive in California at the beginning of November and spread across the country once warmer weather arrives in March.

On the eastern side of the Rocky Mountains, another monarch population travels from southern Canada and the northeastern United States across thousands of miles to spend the winter in central Mexico. Scientists estimate the monarch population in the eastern U.S. has fallen about 80% since the mid-1990s, but the drop-off in the western U.S. has been even steeper.

The Xerces Society, a nonprofit environmental organization that focuses on the conservation of invertebrates, recorded about 29,000 butterflies in its annual survey last winter. That was not much different than the tally the winter before, when an all-time low of 27,000 monarchs were counted—less than 1% of historic populations.

But the count this year is dismal. At iconic monarch wintering sites in the city of Pacific Grove, volunteers didn't see a single butterfly this winter. Other well-known locations, such as Pismo State Beach Monarch Butterfly Grove and Natural Bridges State Park, only hosted a few hundred butterflies, researchers said.

Massive wildfires throughout the U.S. West last year may have influenced their breeding and migration, researchers said.

A 2017 study by Washington State University researchers predicted that if the monarch population dropped below 30,000, the species would likely go extinct in the next few decades if nothing is done to save them.

... all gone ... :(

Consequences / Re: COVID-19
« on: January 19, 2021, 06:23:49 PM »
Study Finds COVID-19 Attack On Brain, Not Lungs, Triggers Severe Disease In Mice

Georgia State University biology researchers have found that infecting the nasal passages of mice with the virus that causes COVID-19 led to a rapid, escalating attack on the brain that triggered severe illness, even after the lungs were successfully clearing themselves of the virus

Assistant professor Mukesh Kumar, the study's lead researcher, said the findings have implications for understanding the wide range in symptoms and severity of illness among humans who are infected by SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.

"Our thinking that it's more of a respiratory disease is not necessarily true," Kumar said. "Once it infects the brain it can affect anything because the brain is controlling your lungs, the heart, everything. The brain is a very sensitive organ. It's the central processor for everything."

Kumar said that early in the pandemic, studies involving mice focused on the animals' lungs and did not assess whether the virus had invaded the brain. Kumars' team found that virus levels in the lungs of infected mice peaked three days after infection, then began to decline. However, very high levels of infectious virus were found in the brains of all the affected mice on the fifth and sixth days, which is when symptoms of severe disease became obvious, including labored breathing, disorientation and weakness.

The study found virus levels in the brain were about 1,000 times higher than in other parts of the body.

Kumar said the findings could help explain why some COVID-19 patients seem to be on the road to recovery, with improved lung function, only to rapidly relapse and die. His research and other studies suggest the severity of illness and the types of symptoms that different people experience could depend not only on how much virus a person was exposed to, but how it entered their body.

The nasal passages, he said, provide a more direct path to the brain than the mouth. And while the lungs of mice and humans are designed to fend off infections, the brain is ill equipped to do so, Kumar said. Once viral infections reach the brain, they trigger an inflammatory response that can persist indefinitely, causing ongoing damage.

"The brain is one of the regions where virus likes to hide," he said, because it cannot mount the kind of immune response that can clear viruses from other parts of the body.

"That's why we're seeing severe disease and all these multiple symptoms like heart disease, stroke and all these long-haulers with loss of smell, loss of taste," Kumar said. "All of this has to do with the brain rather than with the lungs."

Kumar said that COVID-19 survivors whose infections reached their brain are also at increased risk of future health problems, including auto-immune diseases, Parkinson's, multiple sclerosis and general cognitive decline.

"It's scary," Kumar said. "A lot of people think they got COVID and they recovered and now they're out of the woods. Now I feel like that's never going to be true. You may never be out of the woods."

Neuroinvasion and Encephalitis Following Intranasal Inoculation of SARS-CoV-2 in K18-hACE2 Mice. Viruses (2021)


COVID-19 Virus Triggers Antibodies From Previous Coronavirus Infections: Study

The results of a study led by Northern Arizona University and the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen), an affiliate of City of Hope, suggest the immune systems of people infected with COVID-19 may rely on antibodies created during infections from earlier coronaviruses to help fight the disease. The published findings appear today in the journal Cell Reports Medicine.

... The researchers used a tool called PepSeq to finely map antibody responses to all human-infecting coronaviruses. PepSeq is a novel technology being developed at TGen and NAU that allows for the construction of highly diverse pools of peptides (short chains of amino acids) bound to DNA tags. When combined with high-throughput sequencing, these PepSeq molecule pools allow for deep interrogation of the antibody response to viruses.

"The data generated using PepSeq allowed for broad characterization of the antibody response in individuals recently infected with SARS-CoV-2 compared with those of individuals exposed only to previous coronaviruses that now are widespread in human populations," ...

In addition to characterizing antibodies that recognize SARS-CoV-2, they also examined the antibody responses of four older coronaviruses: alphacoronavirus 229E; alphacoronavirus NL63; betacoronavirus OC43; and betacoronavirus HKU1. These so called "common" coronaviruses are endemic throughout human populations, but usually are not deadly and cause mild upper respiratory infections similar to those of the common cold.

By comparing patterns of reactivity against these different coronaviruses, the researchers demonstrated that SARS-CoV-2 could summon immune system antibodies originally generated in response to past coronavirus infections. This cross-reactivity occurred at two sites in the SARS-CoV-2 Spike protein; the protein on the surface of virus particles that attaches to ACE2 proteins on human cells to facilitate cell entry and infection.

"Our findings highlight sites at which the SARS-CoV-2 response appears to be shaped by previous coronavirus exposures, and which have potential to raise broadly-neutralizing antibodies. We further demonstrate that these cross-reactive antibodies preferentially bind to endemic coronavirus peptides, suggesting that the response to SARS-CoV-2 at these regions may be constrained by previous coronavirus exposure," said Dr. Altin, adding that more research is needed to understand the implications of these findings.

... "Our findings raise the possibility that the nature of an individual's antibody response to prior endemic coronavirus infection may impact the course of COVID-19 disease," Dr. Ladner said.

Epitope-resolved profiling of the SARS-CoV-2 antibody response identifies cross-reactivity with endemic human coronaviruses, Cell Reports Medicine, (2020)


Consequences / Re: COVID-19
« on: January 19, 2021, 02:29:53 AM »
Another New Covid-19 Variant Discovered In L.A. May Be Vaccine Resistant

... Dr. Charles Chiu, a virologist and professor of laboratory medicine at UCSF who has been genetically sequencing test samples to identify new variants, said L452R grew from about 3.8% of the samples he tested in late November 2020 through early December to more than 25.2% in late December through early January 2021.

The L452R variant affects the spike protein of the virus, so there’s a chance the currently-developed vaccines will be less effective against it, said Chiu. The vaccines now being administered in the United States were designed to give people immunity by inhibiting the virus’s spike protein.

An article on says L452R has “decreased sensitivity to neutralizing mAbs (monoclonal antibodies),” which are used in the currently-approved vaccines to inhibit connections between the spike proteins of the virus and infected cells.

Chiu said very early studies of the L452R spike protein mutation indicate it’s less susceptible to those neutralizing antibodies in the vaccines.

The new variant has also been detected in Los Angeles, Mono, Monterey, Orange, Riverside, San Francisco, San Bernardino, San Diego, San Luis Obispo, Humboldt and Lake counties. Because genomic sequencing is sparse, it is currently unknown how prevalent L452R is statewide, nationally or globally.


S. Africa Virus Variant More Contagious, Experts Confirm

The new variant is 50 percent more contagious, said epidemiologist Professor Salim Abdool Karim, co-chair of the health ministry's scientific committee.

"There is no evidence the new COVID variant is more severe than the original variant," he added.

The experts drew their conclusions about the variant—now the dominant strain in South Africa— from an analysis of data collected from the main infection clusters across the country.

It was the discovery by South African experts of the new variant—known as 510Y.V2—that convinced the authorities to introduce new restrictions in December to slow its spread.


Los Angeles Lifts Air-Quality Limits for Cremations as Covid Doubles Death Rate

Air quality regulators have lifted the limits on the number of cremations that can be performed in Los Angeles county, citing a death rate that is more than double the pre-pandemic norm and an unmanageable backlog of dead bodies.

More than 2,700 bodies were being stored at local hospitals and the county coroner’s office as of Friday 15 January, the South Coast air quality management district said on Sunday in explaining its decision to enact an executive order suspending limits on cremations.

The order came at the request of the Los Angeles county coroner’s office and department of public health, which both confirmed that the backlog was in and of itself a potential threat to public health, the South Coast AQMD said. It also warned that the coroner anticipated “another surge” of deaths to begin four to six weeks after the New Year’s holiday.

Consequences / Re: COVID-19
« on: January 18, 2021, 10:48:45 PM »

Consequences / Re: COVID-19
« on: January 18, 2021, 12:29:29 PM »
California Calls for Pause In Use of Moderna Vaccines Batch After Allergic Reactions

California’s top epidemiologist is warning health providers to delay using a batch of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine after a “higher-than-usual number of possible allergic reactions” were reported at a Southern Calfornia vaccination clinic.

The affected lot includes 330,000 doses — roughly 1/10th of what the state so far has distributed.

The reaction was observed in fewer than 10 people who required medical attention after receiving the vaccine at one clinic, state epidemiologist Dr. Erica S. Pan said in a statement Sunday night. The conditions of those affected were not released, but health officials described the allergic reaction as “severe.”

The clinic is located in San Diego, the California Department of Public Health reported later.

“Out of an abundance of caution and also recognizing the extremely limited supply of vaccine,” read the statement, “we are recommending that providers use other available vaccine inventory and pause the administration of vaccines from Moderna Lot 041L20A until the investigation by the CDC, FDA, Moderna and the state is complete.”

More than 330,000 doses from the affected lot — which arrived in California between Jan. 5 and Jan. 12 — have been distributed to 287 providers across the state, officials said. No other adverse reactions have been reported from that specific lot.

“There are not immediate replacement doses during the pause in addition to pending orders scheduled for shipment in the next few days,” public health officials said in the statement sent to health providers.

The health department said they would have more information later this week.


A New Coronavirus Variant Tied to at Least 90 Infections In Deadly Outbreak at a Medical Center In San Jose, California

A new coronavirus variant has been linked to multiple outbreaks in Santa Clara County, located southeast of San Francisco. One of the outbreaks has led to at least 90 infections and one death at the Kaiser Permanente medical center in San Jose, public health officials said.

The variant known as L452R has been discovered in other states and countries, but is now spreading rapidly through California. It's different than the B.1.1.7 variant, which was first found in the UK.

California is working with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, local public health departments, and laboratory sequencing partners to learn more about the variant and how it spreads, according to the joint statement from the California Department of Public Health, Santa Clara County, and the University of California San Francisco.

The rest / Re: SpaceX
« on: January 18, 2021, 01:45:47 AM »
... Wow, fastest turnaround previously was 50 days.  Now 35.

Soon ...

Consequences / Re: COVID-19
« on: January 17, 2021, 09:49:59 PM »

Consequences / Re: COVID-19
« on: January 17, 2021, 05:54:45 PM »
Distinct Patterns of Emergence of SARS-CoV-2 Spike Variants including N501Y in Clinical Samples in Columbus Ohio


Following the worldwide emergence of the p.Asp614Gly shift in the Spike (S) gene of SARS-CoV-2, there have been few recurring pathogenic shifts occurring during 2020, as assessed by genomic sequencing. This situation has evolved in the last several months with the emergence of several distinct variants (first identified in the United Kingdom and South Africa, respectively) that illustrate multiple changes in the S gene, particularly p.Asn501Tyr (N501Y), that likely have clinical impact.

We report here the emergence in Columbus, Ohio in December 2020 of two novel SARS-CoV-2 clade 20C/G variants.

One isolate, that has become the predominant virus found in nasopharyngeal swabs in the December 2020-January 2021 period, harbors S p.Gln677His, membrane glycoprotein (M) p.Ala85Ser (Q677H) and nucleocapsid (N) p.Asp377Tyr (D377Y) mutations.

The other isolate contains S N501Y and ORF8 Arg52Ile (R52I), which are two markers of the UK-B.1.1.7 (clade 20I/501Y.V1) strain, but lacks all other mutations from that virus. It is also from a different clade and shares multiple mutations with the clade 20C/G viruses circulating in Ohio prior to December 2020.

These two SARS-CoV-2 viruses emerging now in the United States add to the diversity of S gene shifts occurring worldwide and support multiple independent acquisition of S N501Y (in likely contrast to the unitary S D614G shift) occurring first during this period of the pandemic.


The Odd Structure of ORF8: Mapping the Coronavirus Protein Linked to Disease Severity

... "Coronaviruses mutate differently than viruses like influenza or HIV, which quickly accumulate many little changes through a process called hypermutation. In coronaviruses, big chunks of nucleic acids sometimes move around through recombination," explained Hurley. When this happens, big, new regions of proteins can appear. Genetic analyses conducted very early in the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic revealed that this new strain had evolved from a coronavirus that infects bats, and that a significant recombination mutation had occurred in the area of the genome that codes for a protein, called ORF7, found in many coronaviruses. The new form of ORF7, named ORF8, quickly gained the attention of virologists and epidemiologists because significant genetic divergence events like the one seen for ORF8 are often the cause of a new strain's virulence.

"Basically, this mutation caused the protein to double in size, and the stuff that doubled was not related to any known fold," added Hurley. "There's a core of about half of it that's related to a known fold type in a solved structure from earlier coronaviruses, but the other half was completely new."

A ribbon diagram rendering of the ORF8 structure, which is composed of two protein units with identical amino acid sequence and shape that are connected by a sulfur-sulfur bond

Currently, there are several investigations underway focused on how ORF8 interacts with cell receptors and how it interacts with antibodies, as infected individuals appear to produce antibodies that bind to ORF8 in addition to antibodies specific to the virus's surface proteins.

Thomas G. Flower et al, Structure of SARS-CoV-2 ORF8, a rapidly evolving immune evasion protein, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (2020).

... The accessory protein ORF8 is one of the most rapidly evolving betacoronavirus proteins. While ORF8 expression is not strictly essential for SARS-CoV and SARS-CoV-2 replication, a 29-nucleotide deletion (Δ29) that occurred early in human to human transmission of SARS-CoV, splitting ORF8 into ORF8a and ORF8b, is correlated with milder disease. A 382-nucleotide deletion (Δ382) in SARS-CoV-2 (9, 10) was also found to correlate with milder disease and a lower incidence of hypoxia (11).

Consequences / Re: COVID-19
« on: January 16, 2021, 04:53:43 PM »
COVID-19 Exposure On Flights Is More Common Than You Think. The US Doesn't Share Details, But Canada Does

... Data from Canadian public health authorities show a near daily occurrence of flights where a passenger may have been infected while flying. From the start of the coronavirus pandemic in March through early January, the Public Health Agency of Canada has identified potential exposure on more than 1,600 international flights and more than 1,400 flights within Canada, for a total of more than 3,000 flights, including nearly 200 in the past two weeks alone.

On the list: U.S. carriers American, United, Delta, Alaska and Allegiant. The U.S. cities with the most affected flights on the list: Chicago, Phoenix, a magnet for Canadian visitors, and Denver.

The details aren't buried in some secret database. Canada has been posting public COVID-19 exposure alerts online for flights, trains and cruise ships throughout the pandemic.

Flights are listed as soon as authorities receive word of a positive test of a recent traveler, regardless of where and when they might have been infected, factors that are hard to pinpoint in most COVID-19 cases.

The publicly available details on COVID-19 on Canada flights, which includes flight date; airline; flight number; origin and destination; and, where available, row numbers because passengers seated within a few rows of an infected passenger are most susceptible to exposure, are in stark contrast to disclosures about impacted flights in the United States.

The CDC has revealed little information on the scope of COVID exposure on flights except to release, when requested, the number of affected flights. The latest tally: more than 4,000 flights within and into the United States. 

That number has more than doubled since August and compares with infectious disease investigations on just 150 flights in each of 2019 and 2018.

Consequences / Re: COVID-19
« on: January 16, 2021, 01:10:03 PM »
Thanks for the home remedy  ;)

Je vous remercie pour le remède maison

Il vaut mieux prévenir que guérir 

Consequences / Re: COVID-19
« on: January 16, 2021, 11:41:34 AM »
Hackers Alter Stolen Regulatory Data to Sow Mistrust In COVID-19 Vaccine

LONDON (AP) — The European Union’s drug regulator said Friday that COVID-19 vaccine documents stolen from its servers by hackers have been not only leaked to the web, but “manipulated.”

The European Medicines Agency said that an ongoing investigation showed that hackers obtained emails and documents from November related to the evaluation of experimental coronavirus vaccines.

“Some of the correspondence has been manipulated by the perpetrators prior to publication in a way which could undermine trust in vaccines,” the Netherlands-based agency said.

“We have seen that some of the correspondence has been published not in its integrity and original form and, or with, comments or additions by the perpetrators.”

Yarix said “the intention behind the leak by cybercriminals is certain: to cause significant damage to the reputation and credibility of EMA and Pfizer.” The dark Web post, titled “Astonishing fraud! Evil Pfffizer! Fake vaccines!” included a link to a forum on a Russian-language website.

Cybersecurity consultant Lukasz Olejnik said he believed the intention was far more broad.

“I fear this release has a significant potential of sowing distrust in the EMA process, the vaccines, and vaccination in Europe in general,” he said. “While it is unclear as to who may be behind this operation, it is evident that someone determined allocated resources to it.”

“This is an unprecedented operation targeting the validation of pharmaceutical material, with potentially broad negative effects on the health of Europeans if it leads to undermining trust in the vaccine,” Olejnik added.

Consequences / Re: COVID-19
« on: January 16, 2021, 04:02:16 AM »
Reinfection Likely With Brazilian Variant

Given that Sars-Cov-2 transmission tends to happen early in an infection, before someone becomes severely ill, it’s not clear that a less deadly Sars-Cov-2 virus would have an evolutionary advantage over existing variants. However, as epidemics and vaccination campaigns lead to growing immunity, there could be additional pressures on viruses to evolve. One recent study suggests seasonal coronaviruses evolve gradually to evade immunity generated in preceding years, leading to reinfections over time.

... Recent analysis of antibody levels among blood donors in Manaus, Brazil suggested the majority of the population was infected in 2020. Yet in early 2021, hospitalisations and deaths grew again. This coincided with detection of a third concerning variant, 501Y.V3, which shares similarities with the one in South Africa. By mid-December, almost half the Sars-Cov-2 viruses analysed in Manaus were 501Y.V3.

There have also been new outbreaks in areas of Colombia and Peru that have substantial antibody levels from earlier waves, leading to suspicions that new variants are circulating there too. Even if they don’t cause more severe disease for individuals, increased transmission could mean far more cases — and hence hospitalisations and deaths.


Genomic characterisation of an emergent SARS-CoV-2 lineage in Manaus: preliminary findings

We have detected a new variant circulating in December in Manaus, Amazonas state, north Brazil, where very high attack rates have been estimated previously.

The new lineage, named P.1 (descendent of B.1.1.28), contains a unique constellation of lineage defining mutations, including several mutations of known biological importance such as E484K, K417T, and N501Y. Importantly, the P.1 lineage was identified in 42% (13 out of 31) RT-PCR positive samples collected between 15 to 23 December, but it was absent in 26 publicly available genome surveillance samples collected in Manaus between March to November 2020.

These findings indicate local transmission and possibly recent increase in the frequency of a new lineage from the Amazon region. The higher diversity and the earlier sampling dates of P.1. in Manaus corroborates the travel info of recently detected cases in Japan, suggesting the direction of travel was Manaus to Japan.

The recent emergence of variants with multiple shared mutations in spike raises concern about convergent evolution to a new phenotype, potentially associated with an increase in transmissibility or propensity for re-infection of individuals.

... The new P.1 lineage carries 17 unique amino acid changes, 3 deletions, and 4 synonymous mutations, and one 4nt insertion compared to the most closely related available non-P.1 sequence (EPI_ISL_722052), which lies at the base of the long branch immediately ancestral to P.1 (Fig. 1B). The P.1 lineage meets the criteria for new lineage designation on the basis that it is phylogenetically and genetically distinct from ancestral viruses, associated with rapid spread in a new area, and carries a constellation of mutations that may have functional and/or phenotypic relevance.

... We measured the frequency of two spike mutations of special interest among B.1.1.28 and its P.1. descendent lineage. The E484K mutation occurs in the receptor-binding domain (RBD) that the virus uses to bind to the human ACE2 receptor and has been associated with escape from neutralizing antibodies (Greaney et al. 2020 55). This variant now circulates throughout Brazil (Voloch et al. 2020; Naveca et al. 2020) and has been detected in a case of reinfection in Salvador, Bahia state (Nonaka et al. 2020). The frequency of the E484K among within B.1.1.28 lineage was 13% (n=100/750 genomes), while the frequency of E484K in the P.1 lineage was 100% (n=6/6 genomes with information at the position of interest). The N501Y mutation also occurs in the virus’ RBD. This mutation is associated with increased binding specificity and faster-growing lineages. This mutation is present in the P.1 lineage but has not been detected in Brazil, except in the two cases from a distinct B.1.1.7 lineage (Claro et al. 2020 16) and a single B.1 sequence from northeast Brazil (Paiva et al. 2020 4). The frequency of N501Y in the P.1 lineage was 100% (n=7/7 genomes with information at position of interest).

Convergent mutations shared between P1, B.1.1.7 and B.1.351 lineages
The newly described P.1. lineage from Manaus and the B.1.1.7 first described in the United Kingdom (Rambaut et al. 2020 22; 24) share the spike N501Y mutation and a deletion in ORF1b (del11288-11296 (3675-3677 SGF).

The P.1. lineage and the B.1.351 (also known as 501Y.V2) lineage described in South Africa (Tegally et al. 2020 8; 27) share three mutation positions in common in the spike protein (K417N/T, E484K, N501Y). Both the P.1 and the B.1.351 lineage also has the orf1b deletion del11288-11296 (3675-3677 SGF).

The set of mutations/deletions shared between P.1, B.1.1.7, and the B.1.351 lineages appear to have arisen entirely independently. Further, both mutations shared between P1 and B.1.351 seem to be associated with a rapid increase in cases in locations where previous attack rates are thought to be very high. Therefore it is essential to rapidly investigate whether there is an increased rate of re-infection in previously exposed individuals.

The politics / Re: The Alt Right
« on: January 16, 2021, 03:24:03 AM »
Leaked Parler Data Points to Users at Police Stations, U.S. Military Bases

Location data gleaned from thousands of videos posted on the social network Parler and extracted in the days before Amazon restricted access to app this week, reveal its users included police officers around the U.S. and service members stationed on bases at home and abroad.

The presence on Parler of active military and police raises concerns, experts said, about their potential exposure to far-right conspiracy theories and extremist ideologies enabled by the platform’s practically nonexistent moderation and its stated openness to hate speech. Military officials have long considered infiltration and recruitment by white supremacist groups a threat. Groups that endorsed a wide range of racist beliefs appear to have been operating openly on Parler, the experts said, with the de facto permission of its owners. The FBI has likewise raised concerns over law enforcement agents adopting radical views and being recruited—viewing their access to secured buildings, elected officials, and other VIPs as a singular threat.


The FBI Has Quietly Investigated White Supremacist Infiltration of Law Enforcement

White supremacists and other domestic extremists maintain an active presence in U.S. police departments and other law enforcement agencies. A striking reference to that conclusion, notable for its confidence and the policy prescriptions that accompany it, appears in a classified FBI Counterterrorism Policy Guide from April 2015, obtained by The Intercept. The guide, which details the process by which the FBI enters individuals on a terrorism watchlist, the Known or Suspected Terrorist File, notes that “domestic terrorism investigations focused on militia extremists, white supremacist extremists, and sovereign citizen extremists often have identified active links to law enforcement officers,” and explains in some detail how bureau policies have been crafted to take this infiltration into account.

Consequences / Re: COVID-19
« on: January 16, 2021, 03:02:13 AM »
The COVID-19 Pandemic In Brazil Has Overwhelmed Its Health Systems

The spread of COVID-19 in Brazil overwhelmed the health systems in all the country's regions, particularly in areas where they were already fragile, according to a collaborative effort involving the Barcelona Institute for Global Health (ISGlobal)...

The findings, published in The Lancet Respiratory Medicine, reveal that a large percentage of COVID-19 patients that were hospitalized in Brazil required intensive care and respiratory support, and many did not survive.

... Ranzani and his colleagues used data from a nationwide surveillance system to evaluate the characteristics of the first 250,000 patients admitted to hospital with COVID-19 in Brazil, whether they required intensive care or respiratory support, and how many of them died. They also analyzed the impact of COVID-19 on healthcare resources and in-hospital mortality across the country's five big regions.

The analysis shows that almost half (47%) of the 254,288 patients admitted to hospital with COVID-19 were under 60 years-old. The in-hospital mortality rate was high (38%) and rose to 60% among those admitted to the intensive care unit (ICU) and to 80% for those who were mechanically ventilated. Although COVID-19 overwhelmed the health system in all five regions, hospital admissions and mortality were considerably higher in the North and Northeast regions at the beginning of the pandemic (for example, 31% of patients aged under 60 died in hospitals in the Northeast versus 15% in the South).

"These regional differences in mortality reflect differences in access to better health care that already existed before the pandemic," explains Fernando Bozza, study coordinator and researcher at the National Institute of Infectious Disease. "This means that COVID-19 not only disproportionately affects the most vulnerable patients but also the most fragile health systems," he adds. "Brazil's health system is one of the largest across the globe to provide care to everyone free of charge and has a solid tradition in the surveillance of infectious diseases. However, COVID-19 overwhelmed the system's capacity," says Ranzani.

Ranzani OT, Bastos LSL, Gelli JGM et al. Characterisation of the first 250000 hospital admissions for COVID-19 in Brazil: a retrospective analysis of nationwide data. Lancet Resp Med. Jan 2021


Bolsonaro said that there was little he could do about the pandemic in Brazil as a second wave of the new coronavirus tears through the country and that he “should be at the beach.”

Speaking in Brasilia, Brazilian Vice President Hamilton Mourão said there was no way to foresee the collapse in the public health system and blamed a new variant of coronavirus that is circulating in the city.

A Human Rights Watch (HRW) report published Wednesday accused Bolsonaro of having "tried to sabotage public health measures aimed at curbing the spread of Covid-19" earlier in the pandemic

Brazilian Health Minister Eduardo Pazuello described the healthcare system in the Amazonas state capital, Manaus, as being in "collapse."

"I would say yes, there is a collapse in healthcare in Manaus. The line to get a hospital bed has grown a lot, today we have about 480 people waiting in line. And the reality is that there is a lower supply of oxygen -- not an interruption, but a lower supply of oxygen," he said during a Facebook live with Bolsonaro on Thursday.

Covid-19 vaccinations have yet to get underway in Brazil, despite its strong track record on national vaccination programs.

Speaking Thursday, Pazuello said Brazil would begin to inoculate people in January but did not specify a date.

Bolsonaro has publicly second-guessed the urgency of immunization, disparaging "the rush for a vaccine" in comments made last month.

"The pandemic is really reaching its end, the numbers have showed this, we are dealing with small rises now," he said, according to CNN Brasil. "But the rush for the vaccine is not justified because you are playing with people's lives."


Policy and solutions / Re: Robots and AI: Our Immortality or Extinction
« on: January 16, 2021, 02:38:16 AM »
Evolvable Neural Units That Can Mimic the Brain's Synaptic Plasticity

Researchers at Korea University have recently tried to reproduce the complexity of biological neurons more effectively by approximating the function of individual neurons and synapses. Their paper, published in Nature Machine Intelligence, introduces a network of evolvable neural units (ENUs) that can adapt to mimic specific neurons and mechanisms of synaptic plasticity.

... "Current artificial neural networks used in deep learning are very powerful in many ways, but they do not really match biological neural network behavior. Our idea was to use these existing artificial neural networks not to model the entire brain, but to model each individual neuron and synapse."

The ENUs developed by Bertens and his colleague Seong-Whan Lee are based on artificial neural networks (ANNs). However, instead of reproducing the overall structure of biological neural networks, these ANNs were used to model individual neurons and synapses.

The behavior of the ENUs was programmed to change over time, using evolutionary algorithms. These are algorithms that can simulate a specific type of evolutionary process based on the notions of survival of the fittest, random mutation and reproduction.

"By using such evolutionary methods, it is possible to evolve these units to perform very complex information processing, similar to biological neurons," Bertens explained. "Most current neuron models only allow single output values (spikes or graded potentials), and in case of synapses only a single synaptic weight value. The main unique characteristics of ENUs is that they can output multiple values (vectors), which could be seen as analogous to neurotransmitters in the brain."

The ENUs developed by Bertens and Lee can output values that act in ANNs as neurotransmitters do in the brain. This characteristic allows them to learn far more complex behavior than existing, predefined mathematical models.

"I believe that the most meaningful finding and result of this study was showing that the proposed ENUs can not only perform similar mathematical operations as current neuroscience models, but they can also be evolved to essentially perform any type of behavior that is beneficial for survival," Bertens said. "This means it is possible to get much more complex functions for each neuron than the current hand-designed mathematical ones."

Network of evolvable neural units can learn synaptic learning rules and spiking dynamics. Nature Machine Intelligence (2020).

Consequences / Re: COVID-19
« on: January 16, 2021, 02:34:44 AM »
"The situation in Amazonas and particularly in Manaus has deteriorated significantly over the last couple of weeks," WHO emergency director Michael Ryan told a virtual media briefing from WHO's headquarters in Geneva.

"Clearly, if this continues, we are going to see a wave that is greater than what was a catastrophic wave in April and May in Amazonas and particularly in Manaus," he said, adding that that would be "a tragedy in itself".

In Manaus, hospital intensive care units have been at 100 percent capacity for the past two weeks, and more than 400 people with COVID-19 are waiting for a hospital bed to be freed up, he said.

At the same time, there is a shortage of oxygen and of gloves and other basic protective gear for medical workers.

"This is a system under extreme pressure," Ryan said, warning that another problem was that large numbers of not only medical staff but also lab technicians were becoming infected in their communities.

"This is a situation where your whole system begins to implode," he said.

He explained that this was "because your hospital system, your public health system, your laboratory system, those people are part of the community themselves, and they begin to become infected and you go into a negative spiral."


The U.K. variant of the coronavirus could become the predominant strain in the United States by March, according to a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published Friday.

So far, only 76 cases of the variant, called B.1.1.7, have been identified in the country, in 10 states, the CDC said.


President-elect Biden to activate FEMA, National Guard in U.S. vaccine efforts

The federal government will boost the nation's efforts to vaccinate millions of American against the coronavirus once President-elect Joe Biden takes office

Policy and solutions / Re: Robots and AI: Our Immortality or Extinction
« on: January 16, 2021, 12:22:18 AM »
Toyota Research Institute (TRI) is researching how to bring together the instinctive reflexes of professional drivers and automated driving technology that uses the calculated foresight of a supercomputer

... Fast & Furious ... or Mr Toad's Wild Ride


... try and get somebody that's making $10.25/hr to do that


work from home ...


The politics / Re: The Alt Right
« on: January 15, 2021, 11:37:22 PM »

The politics / Re: The Trump Presidency
« on: January 15, 2021, 11:33:42 PM »

Consequences / Re: COVID-19
« on: January 15, 2021, 11:32:33 PM »

Consequences / Re: COVID-19
« on: January 15, 2021, 09:00:37 PM »
Brazil Rushes to Save Premature Babies as Covid-19 Swamps Manaus Hospitals

Authorities in the Brazilian Amazon are reportedly racing to save dozens of premature babies after a surge in coronavirus cases caused a catastrophic breakdown in the oxygen supply to hospitals and clinics.

On Friday CNN Brasil reported that the northern state of Amazonas was seeking to transfer at least 60 babies from neonatal units in its capital, Manaus, to hospitals elsewhere in the country.

The emergency request to other state governments came as Brazil’s air force began evacuating coronavirus patients from the riverside city after a deadly interruption in the oxygen supply on Thursday morning.

That outage – caused by a sudden jump in hospital admissions that meant oxygen demand dramatically outstripped supply – left doctors and nurses desperately battling to save Covid patients with manual ventilation. Those who could not be saved were reportedly given morphine and the sedative midazolam to reduce their suffering.

Consequences / Re: COVID-19
« on: January 15, 2021, 08:25:56 PM »
C.D.C. Warns the New Virus Variant Could Fuel Huge Spikes in Covid Cases

Federal health officials sounded the alarm Friday about a fast spreading, far more contagious variant of the coronavirus that is projected to become the dominant source of infection in the country by March, potentially fueling another wrenching surge of cases and deaths.

In a study released on Friday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that its forecasts indicated outbreaks caused by the new variant could lead to a burgeoning pandemic this winter. It called for a doubling down on preventive measures, including more intensive vaccination efforts across the country.

... If we can’t get more protective immunity into the population, we could be facing a situation where we have, sort of, a perpetual infection heading into the spring and summer as these variants get a foothold here,” said the former FDA chief in the Trump administration in an interview on CNBC



US Officials Warn ‘Full Resurgence’ of Covid In Major Population Centers

White House coronavirus taskforce reports from 10 January, obtained by CNN, said they were seeing a “full resurgence” of the virus in “nearly all metro areas” and advocated for “aggressive action”.

The report, which is sent to states, suggested measures such as using “two or three-ply and well-fitting” masks, enforcing “strict” social distancing” and more aggressively testing young adults.

Officials worried that there was “significant, continued deterioration from California across the sun belt and up into the south-east, mid-Atlanticand north-east”. These regions effectively comprise all of the continental US.

The reports were quoted as stating that there was a “clear continuation of the pre-holiday high rate of spread as measured by rising test positivity, increased cases, increased hospitalization rates and rising fatalities”. ... In Los Angeles county, there is a Covid-19 death every eight minutes.

Health officials in Arizona said hospitals are poised to become overwhelmed unless authorities acted fast to combat coronavirus. The Republican governor has pushed back against a statewide mask mandate, the Times noted.

... The Centers for Disease Control made the dire prediction that there could be an increase of 90,000 deaths by February. This means that there could be up to 477,000 total coronavirus fatalities by 6 February, Forbes said of the data.

It does not appear there will be relief anytime soon, with officials voicing concern that some strains are making the surge even worse.

“This fall/winter surge has been at nearly twice the rate of rise of cases as the spring and summer surges.

“This acceleration and the epidemiologic data suggest the possibility that some strains of the US Covid-19 virus may have evolved into a more transmissible virus,” the White House taskforce reports said.

“Given that possibility, and the presence of the UK variant that is already spreading in our communities and may be 50% more transmissible, we must be ready for and mitigate a much more rapid transmission,”


Brazil's Amazonas State Running Out of Oxygen as COVID-19 Surges

MANAUS, Brazil (Reuters) - The Brazilian state of Amazonas is running out of oxygen during a renewed surge in COVID-19 deaths, its government said on Thursday, with media reporting that people on respirators were dying of suffocation in hospitals.

The state has made a dramatic appeal to the United States to send a military transport plane to the capital city Manaus with oxygen cylinders, Amazonas Congressman Marcelo Ramos said.

Amazonas health secretary Marcellus Campelo said the state needs almost three times more oxygen that it can produce locally and appealed for supplies from other states.

... Public health experts gave dramatic accounts of people dying of COVID-9 in ICUs with no oxygen.

“The oxygen ran out and the hospitals have turned into suffocation chambers,” Fiocruz-Amazonia researcher Jesem Orellana told the Folha de S.Paulo newspaper. “Patients who manage to survive could suffer permanent brain damage,” he said.

“They took my father off the oxygen,” Raissa Floriano said outside the 28 de Agosto hospital in Manaus, where people protested that relatives suffering serious cases of COVID-19 were being unhooked from ventilators for lack of oxygen.

Sobbing, Floriano said she was looking for an oxygen cylinder to save her 73-year-old father Alfonso.

... Health authorities said oxygen supplies had run out at some hospitals and intensive care wards were so full that scores of patients were being airlifted to other states.

People in Manaus are again dying at home from COVID-19.

... so much for 'herd immunity'

Consequences / Re: COVID-19
« on: January 15, 2021, 07:01:18 PM »
The 432-Year-Old Manual On Social Distancing

Travel back in time more than 400 years to the Italian port city of Alghero. There in 1582, an unusually insightful physician would create some 57 rules for coping with the plague that had descended upon his small city that winter. Among them: “people are advised to keep six feet apart, avoid shaking hands and only send one person per household out to do the shopping.”

The doctor’s name: Quinto Tiberio Angelerio, and his booklet of 57 rules is called “Ectypa Pestilentis Status Algheriae Sardiniae.” The story continues ...

Consequences / Re: COVID-19
« on: January 15, 2021, 06:46:10 PM »
Post-COVID Lungs Worse Than the Worst Smokers' Lungs, Surgeon Says

A Texas trauma surgeon says it's rare that X-rays from any of her COVID-19 patients come back without dense scarring. Dr. Brittany Bankhead-Kendall tweeted, "Post-COVID lungs look worse than any type of terrible smoker's lung we've ever seen. And they collapse. And they clot off. And the shortness of breath lingers on... & on... & on."

"Everyone's just so worried about the mortality thing and that's terrible and it's awful," she told CBS Dallas-Fort Worth. "But man, for all the survivors and the people who have tested positive this is — it's going to be a problem."

Bankhead-Kendall, an assistant professor of surgery with Texas Tech University, in Lubbock, says patients who've had COVID-19 symptoms show a severe chest X-ray every time, and those who were asymptomatic show a severe chest X-ray 70% to 80% of the time.

"There are still people who say 'I'm fine. I don't have any issues,' and you pull up their chest X-ray and they absolutely have a bad chest X-ray," she said.

"You'll either see a lot of that white, dense scarring or you'll see it throughout the entire lung. Even if you're not feeling problems now, the fact that that's on your chest X-ray — it sure is indicative of you possibly having problems later on," she said.

... She also points out, "There is no long-term implication of a vaccine that could ever be as bad as the long-term implications of COVID."


One in three Los Angeles County residents have been infected with the coronavirus, according to new estimates by county scientists, an astonishing sign of how rapidly the virus is spreading in the hard-hit region.

The estimate, based on scientific modeling, means officials believe more than 3 million of L.A. County’s 10 million residents have been infected with the coronavirus, including nearly 13,000 who have died.

That’s more than triple the cumulative number of coronavirus cases that have been confirmed by testing. Officials have long believed that testing only captures a certain percentage of those who are infected because many with the virus don’t show symptoms or suffer only mild symptoms.

The rising number of those infected has actually slowed the pace of coronavirus transmission, as the virus is increasingly coming into contact with people who have survived the infection and likely developed immunity.

“Unfortunately, we are still engaging in behaviors that facilitate spread of the virus, so it is still able to find plenty of susceptible people to infect,” said Dr. Roger Lewis, director of COVID-19 hospital demand modeling for the L.A. County Department of Health Services.

About 75% of L.A. County’s population will need to be immune to the virus through widespread vaccinations to dramatically slow its spread, Lewis estimated. Even if half of L.A. County’s population were immune, “and yet we decide to just pretend that we don’t have to take precautions, we will still have a very, very devastating pandemic.”

L.A. County averaged more than 15,000 new coronavirus cases a day over the past week — one of the highest such rates seen so far in the pandemic.

Surpassing 15,000 new coronavirus cases a day takes the county to a level that officials have warned may tip L.A. County’s overwhelmed hospitals into a worse catastrophe, straining resources and stretching staffing to a point that healthcare officials may have to choose which patients receive the attention of critical care nurses and respiratory therapists and access to ventilators and which patients receive palliative care.

Consequences / Re: COVID-19
« on: January 15, 2021, 06:43:57 PM »
There Is No COVID Vaccine Reserve. Trump Admin Already Shipped It

The Trump administration announced Tuesday, January 12, that it would begin shipping reserved vaccine supplies, raising hopes that states may see their vaccine supply potentially double as they work to accelerate the sluggish immunization campaign. But according to a report by The Washington Post, that promised vaccine stockpile doesn’t actually exist—it was already shipped out—and the limited vaccine supply available to states will remain as it is for now.

The news has not only left state health officials angry and confused by the false promises, they’re also left scrambling to sort out distribution changes. In addition to claiming they would release the (non-existent) stockpile, Trump administration officials told states to expand access to vaccines—now allowing anyone over age 65 to get vaccinated and people under 65 who have a documented underlying health condition that makes them more vulnerable to COVID-19.

The expanded eligibility covers around 152 million people in the US. But administration officials had previously estimated that it wouldn’t be until the end of March before they would have 200 million doses—enough to vaccinate only 100 million people—as STAT noted earlier.

In just the few days since the administration announced the changes, states have already seen chaos ensue at vaccine distribution sites. Mississippi’s health department simply stopped taking vaccine appointments after a “monumental surge,” according to the Associated Press. Phone lines were jammed in Georgia, hospitals in South Carolina ran out of doses within hours, and California counties were left begging for extra supplies for seniors.

Amid the chaos, the Trump administration isn’t offering clear answers on what happened or why officials misled states. According to the Post’s reporting, the Trump administration stopped reserving second doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine at the end of last year, and the last reserves of Moderna’s vaccine supply were shipped out over the past weekend.

There was no stockpile to release on Tuesday when the Health and Human Services secretary said at a press briefing that "because we now have a consistent pace of production, we can now ship all of the doses that had been held in physical reserve.”

In a Twitter thread Friday morning, Oregon Gov. Kate Brown she was “shocked and appalled” to learn that the state “will not be receiving increased shipments of vaccines from the national stockpile next week, because there is no federal reserve of doses.”

“[T]hat they have set an expectation on which they could not deliver, with such grave consequences… This is a deception on a national scale,” Gov. Brown went on.

And there’s more. Azar also said on Tuesday that they would change how they calculated each state’s allotment, taking into account the pace of vaccination in each state. Fast states would get additional doses while slow states would be punished with fewer doses. Azar said the change would take effect in two weeks. However, as the Post notes, Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont on Thursday tweeted that federal officials had notified the state that it would receive an additional 50,000 doses next week “as a reward for being among the fastest states.”



Coronavirus Vaccine Effort Falls Behind In The Deep South

In Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi and South Carolina, less than 2% of the population has received its first dose of a vaccine.


Pfizer Temporarily Reduces European Deliveries of Vaccine

COPENHAGEN, Denmark -- U.S. pharmaceutical company Pfizer confirmed Friday it will temporarily reduce deliveries to Europe of its COVID-19 vaccine while it upgrades production capacity to 2 billion doses per year.

“This temporary reduction will affect all European countries,” a spokeswoman for Pfizer Denmark said in a statement to The Associated Press.

“As a consequence, fewer doses will be available for European countries at the end of January and the beginning of February,” she said.

Interior Dept. Strips Protections for Owl Species On Decline

The Interior Department said it will eliminate from federal protection more than 3 million acres in California, Oregon and Washington vital to the northern spotted owl, a species considered endangered under federal law.

In a draft rule published Wednesday as much of the nation was glued to impeachment proceedings, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, a division of Interior, said it was excluding about 3.5 million acres of "critical habitat" established for the owls. Environmental groups warned that the move could spell the extinction of the species and immediately threatened lawsuits to block the action.

The excluded habitat is more than 16 times larger than the 205,000 acres the administration proposed in August 2020.

About 42 percent of the species' critical habitat will be excluded under the rule, according to the Western Environmental Law Center. The decision ignores research from federal scientists, placing the northern spotted owl on the precipice of extinction, according to Susan Jane Brown, an attorney at the center.

Included in a flurry of deregulatory steps the Trump administration has taken before it gives up power, the move runs counter to advice from federal biologists who warned last year that lost habitat is driving the decline of the raptors.

Last week, Interior said it would no longer hold petroleum and other industries legally liable for killing migratory birds as long as they did not mean to.

Consequences / Drought 2021
« on: January 13, 2021, 11:15:30 PM »
Turkey Drought: Istanbul Could Run Out of Water In 45 Days

Major cities across Turkey face running out of water in the next few months, with warnings Istanbul has less than 45 days of water left.

Poor rainfall has led to the country’s most severe drought in a decade and put the megacity of 17 million people close to running out of water, according to Turkey’s chamber of chemical engineers. The Ankara mayor, Mansur Yavaş, said earlier this month the capital had another 110 days’ worth in dams and reservoirs.

İzmir and Bursa, Turkey’s next two biggest cities, are also struggling, with dams that are about 36% and 24% full respectively, and farmers in wheat-producing areas such as the Konya plain and Edirne province on the border with Greece and Bulgaria are warning of crop failure.

Turkey is a “water stressed” country, with just 1,346 cubic metres of water per capita per year, and has faced several droughts since the 1980s due to a combination of population growth, industrialisation, urban sprawl and climate change.

“Instead of focusing on measures to keep water demand under control, Turkey insists on expanding its water supply through building more dams … Turkey has built hundreds of dams in the last two decades,” said Dr Akgün İlhan, a water management expert at the Istanbul Policy Center.

Turkey has long prioritised economic growth over environmental concerns and remains the only G20 country apart from the US yet to ratify the 2015 Paris agreement.

“The warning signs have been there for decades but not much has been done in practice.”

... Ultimately, Turkey’s cities need lots of rain, immediately, to avoid having to ration water in the next few months – and even sustained rainfall for the rest of the winter might not be enough for farming communities to rescue this year’s crops.

Consequences / Re: COVID-19
« on: January 13, 2021, 10:18:51 PM »
No ICU Beds? Expect Double the Number of Covid-19 Deaths

When hospitals fill up, the risk of death for coronavirus patients spikes, new studies find.

... When intensive care units go from zero beds occupied to every bed full, patients have a 92 percent increased risk of death from Covid-19, according to a preprint published Wednesday on MedRxiv.

That means that when hospitals are pushed to maximum ICU capacity, the worst-case scenario is a near doubling of the risk of death for severely sick patients, the study found. For instance, a 40-year-old in a full intensive care unit would have the same risk of death as a 51-year-old, the study’s authors — researchers at UK institutions including Imperial College London, University College London, and the Wellcome Trust — estimated.

These risks fell along the gradient: As occupancy rates climbed higher, so did the risk of death. A second new preprint, analyzing data from nearly 20,000 Covid-19 patients in Israel, came to a similar conclusion:

The studies are particularly relevant at a time when more than one-fifth of hospitals with intensive care units in the US are reporting ICU bed occupancy levels of at least 95 percent and the daily coronavirus death count hit an all-time high (4,320 on January 13). The papers are also a grim reminder of why allowing the virus to run rampant is so dangerous, even as doctors have better treatments for the disease and vaccines are being rolled out worldwide.

“I’m saying [high] occupancy leads to mortality,” said Bilal Mateen, an author on the UK paper and a clinician-researcher who works at the Wellcome Trust and Kings College Hospital in London. “So that even if the virus isn’t directly killing you, indirect factors — like how full an ICU is on the day you arrive in hospital — are probably going to change your risk.”


Two Cases Of UK Coronavirus Variant Found In NYC

Two cases of a coronavirus variant that originated in the United Kingdom and believed to be significantly more contagious have been identified in New York City.

Mayor Bill de Blasio announced the news Wednesday morning during a press conference at City Hall. It is the first time that health officials have discovered the variant, known officially as B.1.1.7., in New York City. Health officials have found 15 cases of the variant statewide

At least 10 U.S. states and 50 countries are known to have cases of the variant.


Eli Lilly CEO Says Covid Variant from South Africa May 'Evade' Its Antibody Drug

Eli Lilly CEO Dave Ricks told CNBC the company is not sure whether its Covid-19 antibody drugs will be effective against a coronavirus strain initially found in South Africa. However, he expressed confidence that the treatment would work on the variant found in the U.K.

"The South African variant ... is the one of concern. It has more dramatic mutations to that spike protein, which is the target" of these antibody drugs, Ricks said. "Theoretically, it could evade our medicines."

He said the company wants to work with the Food and Drug Administration on a plan to adapt antibody therapies to virus variants, including the one first discovered in South Africa.

"We actually have a large library of these antibodies now that are sitting pre-clinically," said Ricks. "We could think about a very expedited path to study them in maybe a month or two, and then authorize their use. That would seem to be a smart thing to do as this virus mutates."

Consequences / Re: Climate change, the ocean, agriculture, and FOOD
« on: January 13, 2021, 08:52:31 PM »
Earth to Reach Temperature Tipping Point In Next 20 to 30 Years, New Study Finds

Integrated global temperature response curves for normalized photosynthesis (green dashed line), respiration (red dashed dotted line), and a mass balance estimate of the land sink (blue solid line) in relation to current climate (gray bar), where the mean across each curve sums to zero. Photosynthesis represents the integration of C3 and C4 curves (Fig. 1) weighted by global fraction of C3/C4 photosynthesis (37). The gray shaded bar represents observed mean annual temperature range from 1991 to 2015 (9, 22), and vertical dashed line indicates current annual mean temperature at FLUXNET tower sites.

Earth's ability to absorb nearly a third of human-caused carbon emissions through plants could be halved within the next two decades at the current rate of warming, according to a new study in Science Advances.

Using more than two decades of data from measurement towers in every major biome across the globe, the team identified a critical temperature tipping point beyond which plants' ability to capture and store atmospheric carbon—a cumulative effect referred to as the "land carbon sink"—decreases as temperatures continue to rise.

Over the past few decades, the biosphere has generally taken in more carbon than it has released, mitigating climate change.

But as record-breaking temperatures continue to spread across the globe, this may not continue; the NAU, Woodwell Climate and Waikato researchers have detected a temperature threshold beyond which plant carbon uptake slows and carbon release accelerates.

Lead author Katharyn Duffy, a postdoctoral researcher at NAU, noticed sharp declines in photosynthesis above this temperature threshold in nearly every biome across the globe, even after removing other effects such as water and sunlight.

"We know that the temperature optima for humans lie around 37 degrees Celsius (98 degrees Fahrenheit), but we in the scientific community didn't know what those optima were for the terrestrial biosphere," Duffy said.

The results were alarming.

The researchers found that temperature "peaks" for carbon uptake—18 degrees C for the more widespread C3 plants and 28 degrees C for C4 plants—are already being exceeded in nature, but saw no temperature check on respiration. This means that in many biomes, continued warming will cause photosynthesis to decline while respiration rates rise exponentially, tipping the balance of ecosystems from carbon sink to carbon source and accelerating climate change.

"Different types of plants vary in the details of their temperature responses, but all show declines in photosynthesis when it gets too warm," said NAU co-author George Koch.

Right now, less than 10 percent of the terrestrial biosphere experiences temperatures beyond this photosynthetic maximum. But at the current rate of emissions, up to half the terrestrial biosphere could experience temperatures beyond that productivity threshold by mid-century—and some of the most carbon-rich biomes in the world, including tropical rainforests in the Amazon and Southeast Asia and the Taiga in Russia and Canada, will be among the first to hit that tipping point.

The normalized global temperature response of C3 photosynthesis (green), which exhibits TmaxP of 18°C, C4 photosynthesis (yellow) that exhibits TmaxP at 28°C, and total ecosystem respiration (brown) derived from the FLUXNET 2015 synthesis dataset. The minor thermal optima observed in C4 classified sites validate the mixed C3/C4 nature of some ecosystems and were well explained by the sum of two Gaussian curves (see Materials and Methods). All fluxes were normalized and fit over ambient temperatures observed by FLUXNET (up to 38°C), where the mean across each curve sums to zero. Shaded areas represent the 90% confidence interval of projections.

K.A. Duffy el al., "How close are we to the temperature tipping point of the terrestrial biosphere?," Science Advances (2021)


... sadly, there's an echo of LTG there ... we were warned

The politics / Re: The Trump Presidency
« on: January 13, 2021, 06:03:10 PM »
Pentagon Authorizes Arming of National Guard Members Supporting Capitol Security

National Guard members supporting US Capitol security in Washington, DC, ahead of Inauguration Day will be armed, the Department of Defense announced Tuesday.

The decision comes as law enforcement in the nation's capital and around the country brace for more extremist violence after the deadly insurrection at the US Capitol last week. The first wave of National Guard troops who arrived at the Capitol were unarmed, and the Army has been reviewing whether National Guardsmen should be armed for the inauguration with lethal or nonlethal weapons.

Capt. Chelsi Johnson, spokesperson for the DC National Guard, said in a statement to CNN that the move was requested by federal authorities and authorized by Secretary of the Army Ryan McCarthy.

Consequences / Re: COVID-19
« on: January 13, 2021, 06:01:24 PM »
Ohio Researchers Say They've Identified Two New Covid Strains Likely Originating In the U.S.

Researchers in Ohio said Wednesday that they've discovered two new variants of the coronavirus that likely originated in the U.S. — one of which quickly became the dominant strain in Columbus, Ohio, over a three-week period in late December and early January.

Like the strain first detected in the U.K., the U.S. mutations appear to make Covid-19 more contagious but do not seem like they will diminish the effectiveness of the vaccines, researchers said.

One of the new strains, found in just one patient in Ohio, contains a mutation identical to the now-dominant variant in the U.K., researchers said, noting that it "likely arose in a virus strain already present in the United States." However, the "Columbus strain," which the researchers said in a press release has become dominant in the city, includes "three other gene mutations not previously seen together in SARS-CoV2."

... Like the U.K. strain, mutations detected in both viruses affect the spikes that stud the surface of SARS-Cov-2. The spikes enable the virus to attach to and enter human cells. Also like the U.K. strain, the mutations in the Columbus strain are likely to make the virus more infectious, making it easier for the virus to pass from person to person.

"This new Columbus strain has the same genetic backbone as earlier cases we've studied, but these three mutations represent a significant evolution," Dr. Dan Jones, vice chair of the division of molecular pathology at Ohio State and lead author of the study, said in a statement. "We know this shift didn't come from the U.K. or South African branches of the virus."

One of the mutations found in Columbus — COH.20G/501Y — "may be occurring independently in multiple parts of the world during the past few months," the researchers said.

The politics / Re: The Alt Right
« on: January 13, 2021, 04:02:40 PM »
Link Between Climate Scepticism and Support for Right-Wing Populists – Study

Clear evidence of a link between people supporting right-wing political parties and climate-change scepticism has been identified in a new study from the University of Oxford and the Leibniz Institute for the Social Sciences.

Based on survey data and tracking web browsing histories from more than 9,000 participants in six countries, including the UK and the US, the Oxford Internet Institute study finds several significant differences in attitudes towards climate change between supporters of populist parties and non-supporters. The study also highlights variations in the websites and content regularly used by supporters and those who do not support the parties.

The researchers found support for right-wing parties is strongly linked to scepticism on climate issues and opposition to climate-friendly policies. The study did not find a link between support for left-wing populist parties and climate change denial, but did observe respondents with less interest in political issues were more likely to be climate-change sceptics.

The study, "Is there a link between Climate Change Scepticism and Populism?" by Dr. Pu Yan, Professor Ralph Schroeder, and Sebastian Stier, is the first of its kind to test four hypotheses concerning political attitudes, climate activism, and online media diets and consumption, to see to what extent those variables have an impact on climate change scepticism.

The researchers also examined the media habits of supporters and non-supporters of populist parties, tracking over 150 million website visits over three months.

Key findings include:

- Supporters of left-wing and right-wing populist parties are more likely to visit news websites for climate change information than non-supporters of populist parties.

- Science related websites account for over a tenth (11%) of non-news domains visited by right-wing populist party supporters.

- Non-supporters of populist parties more likely to visit non-news website domains such as climate-related organisations websites

Professor Ralph Schroeder noted, "Our study shows that populists are highly interested in the politics of climate change. They seek a coherent worldview that bolsters their ideas about climate change and the science of climate change, so that it fits their overall political agenda.

Pu Yan et al. Is there a link between climate change scepticism and populism? An analysis of web tracking and survey data from Europe and the US, Information, Communication & Society (2021).

Consequences / Re: COVID-19
« on: January 13, 2021, 03:14:55 PM »
US Sees New Record of 4,327 Covid Deaths In a Single Day

The US recorded its highest single daily death toll of the pandemic on Tuesday, according to figures published by Johns Hopkins university.

According to the new figures, yesterday the US recorded 215,805 new coronavirus cases, and 4,327 further deaths. This takes the total death toll in the pandemic in the US to 380,485, and is the highest daily death figure recorded by the university since the pandemic began. The previous highest figure of 4,194 was recorded on 7 January.

The Covid Tracking Project reports that 131,326 people are currently hospitalized in the US with Covid-19. It is the 42nd day in a row that the figure has exceeded 100,000.

The pandemic has killed more than 1,963,557 million people worldwide


New Study Suggests College Campuses Are COVID-19 Superspreaders

College campuses are at risk of becoming COVID-19 superspreaders for their entire county, according to a new vast study which shows the striking danger of the first two weeks of school in particular.

Looking at 30 campuses across the nation with the highest amount of reported cases, experts saw that over half of the institutions had spikes—at their peak—which were well above 1,000 coronavirus cases per 100,000 people per week within the first two weeks of class.

In some colleges, one in five students had been infected with the virus by the end of the fall term. Four institutions had over 5,000 cases.

"At the University of Notre Dame, for instance, all 12,607 students were tested before the beginning of class and only nine had tested positive. Less than two weeks into the term, the seven-day incidence was 3083, with a reproduction number R0 of 3.29.

Senior author, Ellen Kuhl, adds: "Strikingly, these local campus outbreaks rapidly spread across the entire county and triggered a peak in new infections in neighbouring communities in more than half of the cases.

In 17 of the campuses monitored, a new computer model developed by scientists at Stanford University shows outbreaks translated directly into peaks of infection within their home counties.

Out today, the team's research—published in the peer-reviewed journal Computer Methods in Biomechanics and Biomedical Engineering—crucially shows, however, that tight outbreak management, for example the immediate transition from in person to all online learning, can reduce the peaks within about two weeks


UK May Move Patients Into Hotels to Ease Hospital Strain

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said Wednesday that the National Health Service was looking at various ways to reduce the strain on hospitals, including moving patients to hotels when appropriate. Discussions about the issue were first reported by the Guardian newspaper.

"We would only ever do that if it was clinically the right thing for somebody," Hancock told Sky News. "In some cases, people need sit-down care, they don't actually need to be in a hospital bed."


British Virus Variant Now In 50 Countries

The coronavirus mutation first found in Britain has now spread to 50 territories, according to the World Health Organization, while a similar South African-identified strain has now been found in 20.


Google Urgently Investigating Android Coronavirus Tracking App Issues

Google says it’s working quickly to investigate issues with Android apps that use the Android Exposure Notifications System to track the spread of COVID-19. An unknown issue is causing apps to take longer to load or conduct regular exposure checks. The NHS COVID-19 app that’s used across England and Wales is affected by this Android issue, with a loading notification stuck in the notifications area for many users.

These issues are affecting all apps worldwide that use the Android Exposure Notifications System.

Policy and solutions / Re: Robots and AI: Our Immortality or Extinction
« on: January 13, 2021, 01:31:36 PM »
‘A 20th Century Commander Will Not Survive’: Why The Military Needs AI

Today’s huge HQs are slow-moving “rocket magnets” that can’t keep up in 21st century combat, the director of the Joint Artificial Intelligence Center, Lt. Gen. Mike Groen said,. To survive and win the military must replace cumbersome manual processes with AI.

“Clausewitz always talks about this coup d’oeil,” Lt. Gen. Mike Groen explained, “this insight that some commanders have.

Two hundred years ago, a general like Napoleon could stand atop a strategically located hill and survey the entire battlefield with their eyes and make snap decisions based on their read of the situation – what the French called coup d’oeil. ... The best generals developed an intuition the Prussians called fingerspitzengefühl, the “fingertip feeling” for the ever-changing shape of battle.

... “Today, you have a large command post,” Groen told me. “You have tents full of people who are on phones, who are on email, who are all reaching out and gathering information from across the force…. You might have dozens or hundreds of humans just watching all of that video [from drones and satellites] to try to detect targets.”

Then, using chat rooms, sticky notes, and old-fashioned yelling, staff officers have to share that information with each other, sort it, make sense of it, and briefing the commander. If the commander asks for data the staffers don’t have, they have to go back to their phones and computers. The cycle – what the late Col. John Boyd called the OODA loop, for Observe, Orient, Decide, & Act – can take hours or even days, and by the time the commander gets answers, the data may be out of date.

Today’s manual staff processes require legions of staff officers clustered in one location so they can talk to each other face to face; diesel generators running hot to power all the electronics; and veritable “antenna farms” to receive reports, transmit orders, and download full-motion video from drones. Those visible, infrared, and radio-frequency signatures are all easy for enemy drones and satellites to detect - a target-rich environment.

... What if you could replace the humans doing the cognitive grunt work – watching surveillance video for enemy forces, tracking your own units’ locations and assignments and levels of supply – with AI? What if you could replace the constant radio chatter of humans checking up on one another with machine-generated updates, transmitted in short bursts? What if you could replace the ponderous staff briefing process with an AI-driven dashboard that showed the commander what they needed to know, right now, based on up-to-the-minute data?

Then, for the first time in 200 years, a single commander could see the whole battlefield at a glance, with a 21st century coup d’oeil. In a world of conflicts too big to see from any physical hilltop, however high, you could build a virtual hilltop for the commander to look down from. ...


... and, while looking down from that virtual hilltop the commander doesn't notice the Cylon in his midst ...

for fans of Battlestar Galactica

Consequences / Re: The Holocene Extinction
« on: January 13, 2021, 10:29:53 AM »
Top Scientists Warn of 'Ghastly Future of Mass Extinction' and Climate Disruption

The planet is facing a “ghastly future of mass extinction, declining health and climate-disruption upheavals” that threaten human survival because of ignorance and inaction, according to an international group of scientists, who warn people still haven’t grasped the urgency of the biodiversity and climate crises.

The 17 experts, including Prof Paul Ehrlich from Stanford University, author of The Population Bomb, and scientists from Mexico, Australia and the US, say the planet is in a much worse state than most people – even scientists – understood.

“The scale of the threats to the biosphere and all its lifeforms – including humanity – is in fact so great that it is difficult to grasp for even well-informed experts,” they write in a report in Frontiers in Conservation Science which references more than 150 studies detailing the world’s major environmental challenges.

The delay between destruction of the natural world and the impacts of these actions means people do not recognise how vast the problem is, the paper argues. “[The] mainstream is having difficulty grasping the magnitude of this loss, despite the steady erosion of the fabric of human civilisation.”

The report warns that climate-induced mass migrations, more pandemics and conflicts over resources will be inevitable unless urgent action is taken.

“Environmental deterioration is infinitely more threatening to civilisation than Trumpism or Covid-19,” Ehrlich told the Guardian.

“Our main point is that once you realise the scale and imminence of the problem, it becomes clear that we need much more than individual actions like using less plastic, eating less meat, or flying less. Our point is that we need big systematic changes and fast,” Professor Daniel Blumstein from the University of California Los Angeles, who helped write the paper, told the Guardian.

... The report comes months after the world failed to meet a single UN Aichi biodiversity target, created to stem the destruction of the natural world, the second consecutive time governments have failed to meet their 10-year biodiversity goals. This week a coalition of more than 50 countries pledged to protect almost a third of the planet by 2030.

Underestimating the Challenges of Avoiding a Ghastly Future

Central Spain Records Temperatures of -25C After Snowstorm

Consequences / Re: COVID-19
« on: January 13, 2021, 01:00:00 AM »
Immunological characteristics govern the transition of COVID-19 to endemicity

We are currently faced with the question of how the CoV-2 severity may change in the years ahead. Our analysis of immunological and epidemiological data on endemic human coronaviruses (HCoVs) shows that infection-blocking immunity wanes rapidly, but disease-reducing immunity is long-lived.

Our model, incorporating these components of immunity, recapitulates both the current severity of CoV-2 and the benign nature of HCoVs, suggesting that once the endemic phase is reached and primary exposure is in childhood, CoV-2 may be no more virulent than the common cold. We predict a different outcome for an emergent coronavirus that causes severe disease in children.

These results reinforce the importance of behavioral containment during pandemic vaccine rollout, while prompting us to evaluate scenarios for continuing vaccination in the endemic phase.

Consequences / Re: COVID-19
« on: January 13, 2021, 12:58:04 AM »
Chinese Covid-19 Vaccine Far Less Effective Than Initially Touted in Brazil

SAO PAULO (Reuters) - A coronavirus vaccine developed by China's Sinovac Biotech was just 50.4% effective at preventing symptomatic infections in a Brazilian trial, researchers said on Tuesday, barely enough for regulatory approval and well below the rate announced last week.

The latest results are a major disappointment for Brazil, as the Chinese vaccine is one of two that the federal government has lined up to begin immunization during the second wave of the world's second-deadliest COVID-19 outbreak.

Several scientists and observers blasted the Butantan biomedical center for releasing partial data just days ago that generated unrealistic expectations. The confusion may add to skepticism in Brazil about the Chinese vaccine, which President Jair Bolsonaro has criticized, questioning its "origins."

... Last week, the Brazilian researchers had celebrated results showing 78% efficacy against "mild-to-severe" COVID-19 cases, a rate they later described as "clinical efficacy."

They said nothing at the time about another group of "very mild" infections among those who received the vaccine that did not require clinical assistance.

Ricardo Palacios, medical director for clinical research at Butantan, said on Tuesday that the new lower efficacy finding included data on those "very mild" cases.

Palacios and officials in the Sao Paulo state government, which funds Butantan, emphasized the good news that none of the volunteers inoculated with CoronaVac had to be hospitalized with COVID-19 symptoms. [... polishing a turd?]

Public health experts said that alone will be a relief for Brazilian hospitals that are buckling under the strain of surging case loads. However, it will take longer to curb the pandemic with a vaccine that allows so many mild cases.


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