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« on: Oct 20, 2019, 04:50 AM »

We will be posting in this thread a variety of interesting stories about our environment, cultures around the world, and the current news of the day.
« Last Edit: Nov 02, 2019, 05:22 AM by Rad » Logged
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« Reply #1 on: Oct 15, 2020, 03:19 AM »

Scientists discovered a new way to stop COVID-19

By Chris Smith

    Johns Hopkins scientists have found a new way to stop COVID-19 infections from progressing and prevent severe complications.
    The researchers discovered one way the coronavirus causes an overreaction from the immune system, potentially damaging the lungs and other healthy tissue in the process.
    By blocking a specific protein, scientists may have found a way to prevent the damage caused by COVID-19.

The COVID-19 death rate has declined compared to the early months of the pandemic, as doctors have devised some therapies that work and can save lives. No cure can save everyone who gets infected, and there’s certainly no over-the-counter treatment that would help us tame the threat from the novel coronavirus. But more progress is made with each day that passes, and researchers from Johns Hopkins think they’ve identified a new way to prevent COVID-19 illness.

Doctors helping COVID-19 patients strive to achieve two conflicting goals. They want to support the immune system and help it mount a defense that can ultimately clear the virus, but they do not want the immune response to get out of hand and overwhelm the body. The inflammatory response must be kept in check with COVID-19 to prevent the so-called cytokine storms that attack healthy tissue alongside infected cells, ultimately leading to organ failure or death. Researchers think they’ve found an explanation for that exacerbated immune response, as well as a solution to prevent it.

Published in Blood magazine (via Knowridge), the Johns Hopkins study details another way the virus messes with the immune system, possibly enabling the exacerbated immune response that appears in severe COVID-19 cases.

Before linking to the ACE2 receptors found on lung cells, components of the coronavirus’s spike protein will link up to heparan sulfate. This sugar molecule is found outside the surface of lung cells, blood vessels, and smooth muscle in most organs. It’s this binding to heparan sulfate that then allows the virus to link up to the ACE2 receptor and get inside the cell, where it starts replicating.

By “stealing” the heparan sulfate available, the virus blocks a protein called factor H from using it to bind to cells. Factor H is the name of a glycoprotein that circulates in human plasma, and its purpose is to make sure that the immune system attacks only pathogens and not healthy tissue.

Without protection from factor H, the immune system may end up harming healthy cells alongside cells that the virus already infected. This continued destruction of healthy tissue leads to organ failure and death in severe COVID-19 cases.

Factor H is a component of the complement system, which is part of the innate immune system that doesn’t adapt. The complement system is involved in clearing foreign and damaged material from the human body.

The complement system is made up of several proteins, including factor H and factor D. The Johns Hopkins experiments showed that by blocking factor D, which is upstream in the pathway from factor H, the chain of events triggered by the virus can be stopped. Drugs that can prevent a worsening immune response after exposure to the novel coronavirus might save many lives, especially in at-risk categories. It might even prevent infections altogether.

As with other studies, more research should further explain the effects of SARS-CoV-2 on the complement system. The full study is available at this link: https://ashpublications.org/blood/article/doi/10.1182/blood.2020008248/463611/Direct-activation-of-the-alternative-complement

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« Reply #2 on: Oct 15, 2020, 03:21 AM »

Great Barrier Reef
Great Barrier Reef corals have more than halved in past 25 years, study shows

Mass bleaching events triggered by record-breaking water temperatures have the most impact on coral depletion

Elias Visontay
15 Oct 2020 08.52 BST

Corals on the Great Barrier Reef have more than halved over the past 25 years, according to a study that prompted scientists to again warn the world-famous landmark will become unrecognisable without a sharp reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.

Researchers from the Townsville-based ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies assessed coral communities and size between 1995 and 2017 and found the number of small, medium and large corals had fallen more than 50%.

The study’s co-author, James Cook University professor Terry Hughes, said it found mass bleaching events triggered by record-breaking water temperatures in 2016 and 2017 had the most significant impact on coral depletion.

The research, published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society, did not take into account another major bleaching event earlier this year that affected the southern part of the reef “very severely”, suggesting total coral depletion may be greater than estimated.

“I began surveying the reefs in 1995, and what subsequently unfolded certainly wasn’t planned for. There have been five major bleaching events since then, including three in just the past five years,” Hughes said, adding he was “very concerned” about the “shrinking gap” between bleaching events.

While small, medium and large coral had each been depleted, Hughes said the decline in larger corals was the greatest threat to the reef’s ability to repair as they “spawn more babies”.

Hughes said the species of corals to have suffered the most significant decline were staghorn corals, also known as branching corals, and table corals.

“Those two types of corals are the most three-dimensional – they form habitats,” he said. The loss of habitat affected fish numbers and the productivity of coral reef fisheries. “The reef is flatter and less three dimensional now,” he said.

Global heating caused by escalating atmospheric greenhouse gases is a major threat to the world’s coral reef ecosystems. Hughes said the only way to fix the problem facing the Great Barrier Reef was to reduce emissions.

“There’s not much time to lose,” he said. “I think if we can control warming somewhere between 1.5-2C [above pre-industrial levels], as per the Paris agreement, then we’ll still have a reef. But if we get to 3-4C because of unrestrained emissions then we won’t have a recognisable Great Barrier Reef.”

Last year, the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, in its five-yearly reef health report, downgraded the outlook for the world’s biggest reef system to “very poor”. It has repeatedly reiterated that climate change was the “single greatest challenge” facing the 2,300km reef system.

Concern has also been raised for the future of fish and agricultural activities that rely on the southern end of the Murray River, with a University of Sydney study published in The Holocene journal raising concern about the water’s increasing vulnerability to acidification as a result of human impacts.

Dr Thomas Job, who studied sediments revealing 7,000 years of geological records in the lower lakes and estuary of the Murray River in South Australia, said recent infrastructure construction and water use during droughts had led to “historically unprecedented acidification”.

Specifically, Job found the construction of the Goolwa Barrages in 1940, which cut the estuary off from the ocean in an attempt to reduce the salinity of the lower lakes, triggered “widespread oxidation of exposed sulphide minerals” and “caused surface waters to become acidic” in Lake Albert during the millennium drought from 1996 to 2010.

Job said the barrages meant the lower lakes of the Murray River are “100% reliant on water coming from upstream”.

“There isn’t sufficient water allocated to this estuary to stop acidification to occur during droughts,” he said.

Job said acidification of the water led to fish kills and corrosion of infrastructure.

Communities near the river mouth were fortunate to avoid seeing the effects of acidification during the recent drought, said Job, adding that it would have likely occurred had the drought extended beyond the first half of this year.

“Half of Australia’s farming relies on the management of the waters within this system,” he said. “This issue is only going to become more difficult to manage.”

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« Reply #3 on: Oct 15, 2020, 03:23 AM »

Rewild to mitigate the climate crisis, urge leading scientists

Restoring degraded natural lands highly effective for carbon storage and avoiding species extinctions
In the Flow Country, Scotland, restoration of the blanket bog, a vast natural carbon sink, involves removing forestry plantations

Fiona Harvey Environment correspondent
15 Oct 2020 18.19 BST

Restoring natural landscapes damaged by human exploitation can be one of the most effective and cheapest ways to combat the climate crisis while also boosting dwindling wildlife populations, a scientific study finds.

If a third of the planet’s most degraded areas were restored, and protection was thrown around areas still in good condition, that would store carbon equating to half of all human caused greenhouse gas emissions since the industrial revolution.

The changes would prevent about 70% of predicted species extinctions, according to the research, which is published in the journal Nature.

Scientists from Brazil, Australia and Europe identified scores of places around the world where such interventions would be most effective, from tropical forests to coastal wetlands and upland peat. Many of them were in developing countries, but there were hotspots on every continent.

“We were surprised by the magnitude of what we found – the huge difference that restoration can make,” said Bernardo Strassburg, of the Pontifical Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro, and the lead author of the study. “Most of the priority areas are concentrated in developing countries, which can be a challenge but also means they are often more cost-effective to restore.”

Only about 1% of the finance devoted to the global climate crisis goes to nature restoration, but the study found that such “nature-based solutions” were among the cheapest ways of absorbing and storing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, the additional benefits being the protection of wildlife.

Restoring nature did not have to be at the expense of agriculture and food production, Strassburg said. “If restoration is not properly planned it could lead to a risk to agriculture and the food sector, but if done properly it can increase agricultural productivity. We can produce enough food for the world and restore 55% of our current farmland, with sustainable intensification of farming.”

The study also says that planting trees, the “nature-based solution” that has received most support to date, is not always an appropriate way of preserving biodiversity and storing carbon. Peatlands, wetlands and savannahs also provide habitats for a wealth of unique species, and can store vast amounts of carbon when well looked after. Strassburg said: “If you plant trees in areas where forests did not previously exist it will mitigate climate change but at the expense of biodiversity.”

Nathalie Pettorelli, a senior research fellow at the Zoological Society of London, who was not involved in the research, said: “This paper provides further scientific evidence that ecological restoration is a sensible and financially viable solution to address the global climate and biodiversity crises. How ecosystems will be restored is however as important as where and how much will be restored. Ensuring that the best science is used to make decisions about how to restore each local ecosystem will be key.”

Three-quarters of all vegetated land on the planet now bears a human imprint. But some scientists have a target of restoring 15% of ecosytems around the world.

Alexander Lees, senior lecturer in biodiversity at Manchester Metropolitan University, who was also not involved with the study, said: “This analysis indicates that we can take massive strides towards mitigating the loss of species and increasing atmospheric carbon dioxide by restoring just 15% of converted lands. The global community needs to commit to this pact to give back to nature post-haste – it’s the deal of the century, and like most good deals available for a limited time only.”

The study focused on land, but the oceans also offer vast benefits linked to biodiversity and opportunities for absorbing carbon dioxide and mitigating climate change, said Richard Unsworth, senior lecturer in marine biology at Swansea University, and director of Project Seagrass, which restores vital marine habitats.

Unsworth said: “Marine habitat restoration is also vital for our planet and arguably more urgent given the rapid degradation and loss of marine ecosystems. We need restored ocean habitats such as seagrass and oysters to help promote biodiversity but also to help secure future food supply through fisheries, and lock up carbon from our atmosphere.”

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« Reply #4 on: Oct 15, 2020, 03:25 AM »

Temperatures of deepest ocean rising quicker than previously thought

Warming ocean contributes to sea level rise and to more extreme weather such as hurricanes

Emily Holden
15 Oct 2020 10.18 BST

Even the pitch black, nearly freezing waters at the bottom of the ocean – far from where humans live and burn fossil fuels – are slowly warming, according to a study of a decade of hourly measurements.

The temperatures are rising quicker than previously thought, as recorded at stations at four different depths in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Uruguay. Between 2009 and 2019, the water there at points between 1,360m (4,462ft) and 4,757m deep warmed by 0.02-0.04C.

The change may seem minuscule, but it is significant.

“If you think about how large the deep ocean is, it’s an enormous amount of heat,” said Christopher Meinen, an oceanographer at the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and lead author of the study, published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.

While the general consensus has been that the deep ocean is warming, scientists have had to rely on a snapshot of data collected every 10 years from research vessels. Climate models have found that high levels of climate pollution by the end of the century will penetrate deeper in the ocean, threatening deep sea creatures.

Roughly 90% of the heat absorbed by the Earth goes into the oceans. Although they warm slowly, the heat makes water molecules expand, contributing to sea-level rise. It also intensifies hurricanes.

By comparison, the global land and ocean surface temperatures are heating up much faster. In 2009, they were 0.56C higher than the long-term average. By 2019, they were 0.95C higher, according to NOAA data.

Meinen, who spoke for himself and not on behalf of the government agency, said the new findings are consistent with human-caused climate change. However, more research is needed to make definitive conclusions because there is not enough historical data on the deep ocean, which has not been studied as much as Earth’s atmosphere.

“We didn’t expect that you would see hour-to-hour and day-to-day variations down that deep,” Meinen said. “There are processes in the deep ocean that are making things change rapidly, and we don’t really know what those processes are yet.”

The research data came from a package of instruments scientists had been using for years to study ocean currents. After reading a study from the University of Rhode Island, the team realised the thick glass sphere weighted down by barbell plates also included a temperature sensor that was built into its pressure sensor.

The scientists also concluded that deep ocean temperatures must be taken at least yearly to understand long-term trends. They hope the study will prompt others to examine their own temperature data from similar instruments.

A better system for observing the ocean – including the deep ocean – could help scientists forecast seasonal weather so farmers can better choose which crops to plant, Meinen said.

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« Reply #5 on: Oct 15, 2020, 03:29 AM »

Teen one step away from being first millenial saint


Internet and computer-mad youngster Carlo Acutis, who died of leukaemia in 2006 aged 15, was placed on the path to sainthood after the Vatican ruled he had miraculously saved another boy’s life.

A British-born Italian teenager who dedicated his short life to spreading the faith online and helping the poor will be beatified by the Catholic Church Saturday.

That leaves him just one miracle away from becoming the world’s first millennial saint.

Internet and computer-mad youngster Carlo Acutis, who died of leukaemia in 2006 aged 15, was placed on the path to sainthood after the Vatican ruled he had miraculously saved another boy’s life.

The Vatican claims he interceded from heaven in 2013 to cure a Brazilian boy suffering from a rare pancreatic disease.

He will be beatified in Assisi, the home of his idol Saint Francis, who dedicated his life to the poor. Some 3,000 people are expected to follow the ceremony on giant screens set up in five squares in the central Italian city.

– ‘Computer genius’ –

Acutis, dubbed “the cyberapostle of the Eucharist”, was born in London to Italian parents, and moved to Milan with them as a young boy.

“He was considered a computer genius… But what did he do? He didn’t use these media to chat, have fun,” his mother Antonia Salzano said in an interview with Vatican News.

Instead, “his zeal for the Lord” drove him to make a website on miracles, she said.

The millennial, whose body lies in state in Assisi, dressed in a tracksuit and trainers, also warned his contemporaries that the internet could be a curse as well as a blessing.

Pope Francis referred to him last year, in a warning to youngsters that social networks could foment hate.

“(Acutis) saw that many young people, wanting to be different, really end up being like everyone else, running after whatever the powerful set before them with the mechanisms of consumerism and distraction,” Francis said.

“As a result, Carlo said, ‘everyone is born as an original, but many people end up dying as photocopies’. Don’t let that happen to you!” he said.

 Kind to the poor

Acutis was religious from a young age, despite his mother saying his family had rarely attended church.

When he wasn’t writing computer programmes or playing football, Acutis was known in his neighbourhood for his kindness to those living on society’s margins.

“With his savings, he bought sleeping bags for homeless people and in the evening he brought them hot drinks,” his mother said this week, according to the Catholic News Agency.

“He said it was better to have one less pair of shoes if it meant being able to do one more good work,” she said.

He also volunteered at a soup kitchen in Milan. Assisi bishop Domenico Sorrentino said this month that a soup kitchen for the poor would be opened in Acutis’s honour.

“When he died, at the funeral, the church was full of poor people. Everyone else wondered what they were doing there. Well, Carlo used to help them in secret,” said Nicola Gori, who represented Acutis’s beatification case.

“The family knew about it, because his mum would go with him, since he was only 15 years old. He would give them sleeping bags and food, which is why they wanted to attend the funeral”, he added.

Should Acutis later be credited with the second miracle necessary for sainthood, supporters have suggested he could become the Patron Saint of the internet — though there already is one, 7th-century scholar Isidore de Seville.

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« Reply #6 on: Oct 15, 2020, 03:44 AM »

Global Covid report: young and healthy may not get vaccine until 2022, WHO says

First vaccines will be in limited quantities and for those at greatest risk; Germany records its worst ever daily case toll
Alison Rourke
Thu 15 Oct 2020 05.12 BST

Healthy, young people may have to wait until 2022 to be vaccinated against coronavirus, according to the World Health Organization’s chief scientist, who says health workers and those at highest risks be prioritised. It comes as Germany recorded its highest daily number of infections since the start of the pandemic.

Soumya Swaminathan indicated that, despite the many vaccine trials being undertaken, speedy, mass shots were unlikely, and organising who would given access first in the event of a safe vaccine being discovered was still being worked on.

“Most people agree, it’s starting with healthcare workers, and frontline workers, but even there, you need to define which of them are at highest risk, and then the elderly, and so on,” Swaminathan said.

“There will be a lot of guidance coming out, but I think an average person, a healthy young person might have to wait until 2022 to get a vaccine,” she said.

Swaminathan hoped there would be at least one effective vaccine by 2021 but it would be available only in “limited quantities”.

Two vaccine candidates, from Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca’s US trial, have been paused on safety concerns.

Swaminathan also warned against complacency about the virus death rate, saying with the increasing number of cases, mortality would also rise. “Mortality increases always lag behind increasing cases by a couple of weeks,” she said. “We shouldn’t be complacent that death rates are coming down.”

Germany has recorded its highest number of daily infections since the start of the pandemic, reporting 6,638 new cases. The previous high came on 28 March, with 6,294 cases.

On Wednesday, chancellor Angela Merkel and the premiers of the country’s 16 federal states agreed to a new rule where areas with rapidly increasing infection rates would have to impose an 11pm curfew for bars and restaurants.

If an area records more than 35 new infections per 100,000 people over seven days, masks will also become mandatory in places where people have close contact for an extended period.

Global infections stand at 38.4 million, with deaths at 1.09 million. The US leads on both counts, with just under 8 million infections and more than 216,000 deaths.

Donald Trump held a rally in Iowa on Wednesday evening, again saying he was “immune” from the virus. “I’m immune and I can’t give it to you,” he told the rally, adding that that he thought his son Barron, 14, who had had the virus but subsequently tested negative, “didn’t even know he had it”.

Meanwhile, Trump’s former defence secretary, General James Mattis, said America had not handled Covid well. He said: “The bottom line is we have seen a response to disease politicised in an unfortunate way and the cost is real.”

“We’ve paid a bloody awful price for it, is the bottom line – there’s no dressing it up,” Mattis said.

The WHO’s special envoy on Covid-19, Dr David Nabarro, was also critical of US handing of the virus, in an interview with Australia’s national broadcaster, the ABC. Asked about Trump’s return to the campaign trail, in which he claimed he was now immune, he said: “It’s quite hard to encourage everybody to behave in a way that enables them to keep free of the virus if there are public figures who are suggesting that they can behave differently.”

In other developments:

    France has imposed a curfew in Paris and eight other cities from Saturday. “We have to act. We need to put a brake on the spread of the virus,” President Emmanuel Macron said in a TV appearance, announcing the 9pm-6am curfew that will remain in force for at least four weeks, except for essential reasons.

    Spain will close bars and restaurants across Catalonia for the next 15 days following a surge in cases, as the country tackles one of the highest rates of infection in Europe, with nearly 900,000 cases and more than 33,000 deaths

    In the Netherlands, where new measures also came into force, including restrictions on alcohol sales and new mask requirements, people drank and danced in the final minutes before all bars, restaurants and cannabis “coffee shops” closed down.

    Mexico’s death tally is approaching 85,000, after an additional 498 fatalities. Total infections in the country stand at 829,396, the health ministry said.

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« Reply #7 on: Oct 15, 2020, 03:46 AM »

Jacinda Ardern prevails in final debate before New Zealand election

Leader says she will resign if not re-elected but polls show Labour 15 points ahead

Eleanor Ainge Roy in Auckland
Thu 15 Oct 2020 09.39 BST

Jacinda Ardern has dominated the final leaders’ debate before New Zealand goes to the polls on Saturday, appearing confident and prime ministerial as she took on a subdued Judith Collins.

In a surprise admission, Ardern said if she was not re-elected, she would resign as Labour leader.

In a Colmar Brunton poll released an hour before the debate, Labour was polling 15 points ahead of the opposition National party, with Ardern as the preferred prime minister.

The poll also showed the Green party at 8%, meaning it would be in a position to form a coalition government with Labour and put forward one of its own MPs for deputy prime minister – either James Shaw or Marama Davidson.

Collins has had a difficult week on the campaign trail and has drawn criticism for controversial comments, including saying obese people should take more personal responsibility for their weight.

In contrast, Ardern has drawn adoring crowds. Asked by the moderator, Jessica Mutch-McKay, whether her government had been “transformational” Ardern said it had but that she needed more time to shake up the status quo and repair decades of neglect in housing, transport and the environment.

During a lengthy discussion, both Ardern and Collins said they would commit to halving child poverty by 2030. New Zealand has one of the worst rates of child poverty and infant mortality in the developed world.

Ardern said her government had made gains on entrenched poverty by raising benefits for the most deprived, expanding its school lunch programmes and raising the minimum wage.

Asked what made them stand out as leaders, Collins and Ardern gave markedly different answers.

Ardern replied: “We are in this job by privilege and not a right. I never take this job for granted; you can always be assured I will give my everything.”

Collins cited her 20 years as a lawyer, her business acumen and her experience leading companies.

Collins accused Ardern’s government of repeatedly breaking promises to voters, including pledges to reduce child poverty and build 100,000 affordable homes.

This claim riled Ardern, who said she was not a liar and objected to being labelled one, slamming Collins for causing “mischief” and spreading “misinformation”.

The Green party has said it would insist on implementing a wealth tax with whomever it formed a coalition. Both leaders, however, ruled out agreeing to a wealth tax.

On the climate emergency, Ardern said the issue should be framed as “an opportunity” rather than a crisis. Collins, however, said farmers were being scapegoated and blamed for climate breakdown when other, larger nations, should shoulder more of the responsibility.

Mutch-McKay said it was unusual to have an election with two female leaders, and Ardern said it was important that parliament was representative of New Zealand, including Māori, women and Pasifika people.

Collins said that while she wanted women in leadership roles, she thought people should be promoted on merit.

Asked if they had anything to say to each other, Ardern thanked Collins for her “moving and sincere” speech after the Christchurch mosque shootings in March last year, and her action on gun control.

Collins thanked Ardern for giving “her heart and soul” to the job of prime minister, and said she knew the effort, time and toll it could take. Collins admitted that while she enjoyed the campaign trail, she missed having dinner with her husband and son.

Ardern said whether or not she stayed in politics after the election, she wanted to reform politics to stop the mudslinging and elitism.

Political commentators say Ardern’s competent handling of the Covid-19 crisis has earned her the trust of New Zealanders, many of whom do not want a change of leadership with so much uncertainty already brought by the pandemic.

New Zealand operates under the mixed member proportional electoral system, which is designed to install coalition governments. But for the first time since the system was introduced in 1996, Labour may get the numbers on Saturday to govern alone.

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« Reply #8 on: Oct 15, 2020, 03:50 AM »

'Solastalgia': Arctic inhabitants overwhelmed by new form of climate grief

Solastalgia means a feeling of homesickness without ever leaving home - and for Inuit in Canada’s north it describes the psychological impact of the climate crisis

Ossie Michelin
Thu 15 Oct 2020 08.00 BST

With snow just beginning to dust the hills surrounding the city of Iqaluit, the hunters scramble off in boats. They’re hunting Canada geese, as they have always done, only now using rifles and motorboats instead of the spears and kayaks of their ancestors.

Across Baffin Island, Inuit are harvesting before autumn begins to transition into winter. Later in the year, when the snows arrive in force and the fjords and harbours become thick with ice, the boats will be replaced by snowmobiles and the area will once again teem with human life.

But it is in the transitory periods between the seasons, known locally as the “shoulder” seasons, that the echoes of motors and the sounds of Inuktitut are least pronounced across this vast Arctic island. And these shoulder seasons are becoming increasingly unpredictable – something that concerns Neil Kigutaq.

The shoulder seasons have always been a problem: there isn’t enough ice to safely use a snowmobile yet too much ice in the water for boating. These seasons are worsening, however, and becoming more unpredictable as the climate warms. It can be difficult now to determine the safest route – and that has a worrying, if predictable, psychological result.

“With limited access to the land and water, you see a lot of people with a strong connection to our culture with effects of seasonal depression,” says Kigutaq. There are abrupt, wild, “aggressive” fluctuations in precipitation and temperature that are almost impossible to plan for.

“Everything could be green – and then you wake up to four inches of snow that doesn’t go away but before the ground or ice freezes,” he explains. “Or in the spring, we’re seeing -25 with the windchill and then within less than two weeks it’s suddenly zero and we see a massive influx of melting snow. Ponds and rivers get dangerous. You see standing water on top of the sea ice.”

The Arctic is in a death spiral. How much longer will it exist?..Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/ng-interactive/2020/oct/13/arctic-ice-melting-climate-change-global-warming

Around the world, environmentally sensitive areas from Australia to the Amazon are being transformed by a warming climate. While climate change may be abstract in some places, here in the Arctic it is concrete, and becoming unsettlingly familiar.

The fear and grief associated with a rapidly changing environment has a name: solastalgia. It is best described as a sense of homesickness without ever leaving home, says Ashlee Cunsolo, the dean of arctic and subarctic studies at Memorial University in St John’s, where she has been working with Inuit to examine the mental, physical, spiritual and emotional impacts of the climate crisis.

“You don’t have to move to mourn the loss of your home: sometimes the environment changes so quickly around us that that mourning already exists.” Indigenous populations are suffering worst. In the Arctic, for example, the fluctuations in climate exacerbate existing social problems, including food security, overcrowded housing and struggles with mental health and addiction.

As climate change disrupts traditional access to the land and water, Inuit who once relied on hunting or fishing must instead pay for notoriously expensive and often low-quality food at the grocery store. The territory of Nunavut is also, like all of the Canadian Inuit homelands, experiencing a major housing shortage, sometimes with three or four generations all living under one roof.

Hunting, fishing and harvesting are also ways for Inuit to pass their culture, skills and values from one generation to the next. This transfer of knowledge is how Inuit have not only survived the Arctic, but thrived in it. Now they are worried the climate crisis is putting those skills in jeopardy.

“So we have this longing,” Kigutaq says. “Once you recognize the emotional state you are in, you feel this sense of loss.”

He says he misses the predictability of how things used to be, and is afraid that traditions like the annual caribou hunt may never be the same as in his youth. When the shoulder seasons are unruly, when the temperature dips and pitches wildly in a matter of days, Kigutaq says there is a sense of unease in the community: people are aware something is not right, but until they can name it and talk about it together, it remains a formless sadness. Cunsolo believes solastalgia could help give shape to that sadness.

The term solastalgia was coined by the philosopher Glenn Albrecht in 2005 to address feelings of shock in Australia after large open-cut coalmining in New South Wales had transformed the Upper Hunter Valley. People described the landscape they had once known so well as unrecognizable.

Though still relatively new, the term has been catching on with people living in environmentally sensitive areas, particularly vulnerable populations. It has not yet been recognised by the DSM or psychological associations, but there is a growing body of research. “People are expressing this deep pain,” says Cunsolo, “saying I am still living in place, but my home has changed so much, everything around me looks so different, it feels so different that I am homesick for my home even though I am still here.”

While solastalgia can apply to anyone experiencing climate-related grief, Cunsolo says Indigenous people are particularly vulnerable because of their deep connections to their homelands and their practical daily knowledge of the local area.

Kigutaq says he sees his work as a researcher as a duty, to give back to his people and the land. What’s more, he says, working with other Inuit to help preserve their way of life, and using traditional knowledge to enrich research, has helped him to face solastalgia in himself.

“The ability to use Inuit traditional skills passed down intergenerationally is how we have always adapted to a changing environment, and now it is helping us to do better research and monitoring,” says Kigutaq. “The work we do is an opportunity to feel pride in ourselves and our culture and to contribute to something.”

When the goose hunters return to Iqaluit, they will go door-to-door sharing their plump catch with friends and family to make sure everyone has food for the upcoming shoulder season. No one knows how intense or sudden the changes will be this year, but if Inuit are anything they are adaptable.

Kigutaq says that it is this adaptability in the face of the unknown that has made Inuit leaders in the fight against climate change, learning to recognize what is happening and to not feel paralyzed by solastalgia. Above all, he says, it is particularly necessary to realize you are not alone, and to find community with whom to face a changing future.

“The term solastalgia helps us to vocalize some of the feelings we are having,” Kigutaq says. “It can help create awareness and conversations – and the ability to connect with others who are experiencing the same thing.”

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« Reply #9 on: Oct 15, 2020, 03:53 AM »

Greek Extreme-right party leadership sentenced to 13 years


ATHENS, Greece (AFP) — A Greek court sentenced the leadership of the extreme-right Golden Dawn party to 13 years in prison Wednesday, imposing the near-maximum penalty for running a criminal organization blamed for numerous violent hate crimes.

Presiding judge Maria Lepenioti read out the 13-year sentences against party leader Nikos Michaloliakos and five other former lawmakers. A seventh leading party member received 10 years. The landmark ruling follows a five-year trial of dozens of top officials, members and supporters of Golden Dawn, an organization founded as a neo-Nazi group in the 1980s that rose to become Greece’s third-largest political party during most of the country's 2010-2018 financial crisis.

“Today’s sentencing of the neo-Nazi organization demonstrates the resilience of our democracy and the rule of law,” Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said in a tweet Wednesday evening. “This verdict marks the end of a traumatic period in Greece’s history. Together we move forward with this chapter closed.”

Eleven other former parliament members were sentenced to between five and seven years for membership of a criminal organization, while a party associate was given a life sentence for the murder of Greek rap singer Pavlos Fyssas in a 2013 attack that triggered the crackdown against Golden Dawn.

The former lawmakers were not in court when the sentences were read out. The court will now hear final arguments for probation considerations, after which those whose sentences are not suspended will be arrested unless they turn themselves in to authorities.

Golden Dawn was blamed for orchestrating multiple attacks, mostly in Athens, against immigrants and left-wing activists, many resulting in serious injury. The Council of Europe's Commissioner for Human Rights, Dunja Mijatovic, said the convictions and sentencing “were long-awaited."

“Those advocating for and involved directly or indirectly in acts of racist violence enjoyed impunity for too long,” she said. “These decisions are not final and we have to let the judicial process go on (regarding sentencing), but they already represent an important step."

A total of 57 party members and associates were convicted on Oct. 7, mostly for involvement in carrying out or planning violent attacks. During the weeklong sentencing hearings, lawyers for the defense argued that court had failed to demonstrate any clear link between the attacks and the activities of the party leadership.

The party was represented in Greece's parliament between 2012 and 2019, having won the required number of votes in four separate general elections. Ioannis Lagos, a former Golden Dawn lawmaker who was sentenced Wednesday to 13 years in prison, is currently a member of the European Parliament and traveled to Athens this week to attend the sentencing hearings. He launched an unsuccessful legal challenge to have the panel of three judges trying the case replaced on grounds of alleged bias and political interference.

In a post on social media, Lagos, who has returned to Brussels, said he is planning to take his challenge to a European court. Human rights groups and immigrant associations have praised the conviction of Golden Dawn's leadership.

“Survivors of these crimes have a right to see justice done and this goes a long way to showing that the state will not tolerate such vicious attacks,” Eva Cosse at Human Rights Watch told The Associated Press.

“Racist and xenophobic violence is intended to send a hateful message, and it’s the prosecutor’s role to send an equally powerful counter-message, and for the court to apply an appropriate sentence that reflects the gravity of the crime.”

Fanis Karabatsakis in Athens contributed.

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« Reply #10 on: Oct 15, 2020, 04:09 AM »

Record turnout as Americans endure long waits to vote early in 2020 election

A ‘pretty staggering’ 14 million Americans have already voted in the general election, according to an analysis

Kenya Evelyn in Washington

As voters turn out in record numbers to choose between Republican Donald Trump and Democrat Joe Biden in the 2020 presidential election, Americans continued to endure hours-long waits to vote early.

A record of 14 million Americans have already voted in the general election, according to an analysis of voting information from the US Elections Project. In key swing states such as Florida more than 2 million voters have already cast their ballots.

“The numbers are pretty staggering for us and the return rates and the polling look good,” Steve Schale, a Democratic strategist in Florida, told Politico. “But there’s just a lot we don’t know.”

In Georgia, residents waited for as long as eight hours to exercise their democratic right. Many took to social media to share their experiences with early voting, noting lines of voters spanning several city blocks or school parking lots.

Political analyst Roland Martin was moved to tears as dozens of voters lined the exterior of a voting center located at a Texas church.

“I’m a grown man, but I have no problem showing this type of emotion because I know what is at stake for our people,” he wrote on Instagram. “I know what Black folks have been through in this country. Voting is not the be-all-to-end-all, but I sure as hell know it is part of the solution”.

Long lines are not the only obstacles voters have faced. Technical glitches have also delayed the process. Voters have also faced barriers to accessing their ballots, including computer problems in some precincts as well as legal challenges in places throughout the US south.

In Georgia, whose Republican administration has fought accusations of voter suppression, residents reported technical problems that initially slowed voting, including at one voting center in Atlanta.

Democrats have made a push for the traditionally red state in recent weeks, insisting Georgia is competitive. Nearly 750,000 votes have been cast thus far.

Authorities in Virginia are investigating a voter registration portal that crashed on Tuesday. Officials have so far ruled a cable that was cut an accident, but the glitch shut down the entire system on the last day to register. A Virginia court has since extended the voter registration deadline to 15 October.

Both parties have steered their supporters toward mail-in and early voting due to a surge in cases of coronavirus in many states across the nation, amid a pandemic that is not under control. Worrying case rises are being experienced in battleground states including Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania. Before, health experts had warned that large crowds on election day could worsen the health risks.

But in an effort to stifle early voting in key battleground states, Republican governors and legislators have launched legal challenges to everything from ballot drop-off locations and quantity of sites, to submission and counting deadlines.

On Monday, a Texas appeals court upheld an executive order by Governor Greg Abbott limiting ballot drop-box locations to one per county, meaning a place like Harris county, with a population of 4.7 million – including its largest city of Houston – is left severely underserved.

According to the US Elections Project, 50,000 ballots had already been cast in 122 early voting locations in the county by midday Tuesday – the first day of early voting.

Early voting begins on Thursday in the key electoral state of North Carolina.

Meanwhile, Republican state party officials in California were forced to remove unofficial drop boxes placed throughout the state. Election officials there say the unofficial drop boxes do not meet required security and transfer benchmarks.

And in Pennsylvania, a judge over the weekend denied an effort by the Trump campaign and the Republican party to make ballot drop boxes in the commonwealth unconstitutional. While a federal judge reopened voter registration in the state through Thursday, in Florida, a bid to extend its the voter registration deadline was rejected.

Nearly 130 million Americans voted in the presidential election in 2016. Turnout is expected to exceed those numbers for an election that most analysts say can determine the political trajectory for a generation.

Early returns show a commanding lead for Democrats, even as most polls show their supporters are more likely to favor early or mail-in voting compared with Republicans. Conservatives, who are also more likely to ignore official federal coronavirus guidance, are more committed to vote in the traditional way, in person on election day.

A surge in mail-in voting in a pandemic has fueled unfounded claims by Trump that the election will be one of the most corrupt in the nation’s history.


‘Trump’s messaging has backfired’ as the President continues to ‘hemorrhage support’ in the suburbs

on October 15, 2020
By Alex Henderson, AlterNet

During a MAGA rally in Johnstown, Pennsylvania on Tuesday night, President Donald Trump declared, “Suburban women, will you please like me? I saved your damn neighborhood, OK?” Trump, in many tweets, has referenced “suburban housewives” and insisted that former Vice President Joe Biden will ruin the quality of life in suburbia if he wins the presidential election on November 3. But journalist Tim Alberta, this week in an article for Politico, emphasizes that Trump continues to struggle with suburban women and points to Michigan as a prime example.

Alberta reports that in three Rust Belt states Trump “improbably won” in 2016 — Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin — Biden has the advantage among female voters in suburbia. In Michigan, Alberta explains, “The simplest explanation for the president’s trouble…. is that he’s continuing to hemorrhage support from white, college-educated women in the suburbs of Detroit.”

Alberta cites Jessica Morschakov, a voter in Brighton, Michigan (a Detroit suburb) as a prime example of how badly Trump’s reelection campaign is suffering among suburban women.

“Honestly, all the moms I know — we are really nervous about our kids, what kind of future they’re going to have,” Morschakov told Politico. “And Trump is the one making us nervous. He’s just so angry all the time. I really believe that he brings out the worst in people, the worst in situations.”

Trumpism, according to Alberta, is hurting GOP candidates even in suburban areas of Michigan that have leaned Republican — and he notes that Democratic Rep. Elissa Slotkin, who flipped a GOP-held seat in Michigan in 2018, is “cruising toward reelection.”

“According to her campaign’s most recent internal poll, (Slotkin is) an eye-popping 35 points above water, in terms of net favorability, with college-educated white women,” Alberta observes. “This came as a shock to Slotkin, a veteran national security official, who was worried that Trump’s law-and-order message was going to scare women away from voting for Democrats this fall. But what her polling revealed — consistent with surveys done elsewhere in the state — is that Trump’s messaging has backfired.”

Although Alberta’s article is mainly about Michigan, his points are certainly applicable in other states. And the Politico reporter stresses that Morschakov is not an anomaly: she is typical of all the suburban women who don’t want to see Trump reelected.

“As white suburban women go, so goes (Michigan’s) 16 electoral votes,” Alberta explains. “And with the clock ticking down toward Election Day — not to mention, many thousands of votes being cast absentee already — it’s gotten harder and harder to see how Trump stops the bleeding with this one vital voting bloc.”


Trump was refuted by his ‘hand-picked’ attorney general and can’t pass it off on the ‘deep state’: Preet Bharara

Raw Story
on October 15, 2020

On CNN Wednesday, former U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara broke down the implications of Attorney General William Barr closing the probe into Obama-era “unmaskings” without any charges.

“We’re going to have a very disgruntled and irritated president, who, time after time after time likes to demonize his adversaries not just in the political way but by threatening law enforcement,” said Bharara. “This goes back, and is of a piece, with what he said during the campaign back in 2015 and 2016, the ‘lock her up’ chants, sometimes that he led himself … You know, he has very little basis to be upset, although he will be, given that he’s gone out of his way to push this investigation of the unmasking, which I don’t even know if he understands what that process is and how it works and how members of his administration also engage in this, you know, somewhat standard practice in the intelligence community, of unmasking.”

“When his own attorney general, hand-picked, one of his own hand-picked U.S. attorneys to conduct the probe, he can’t claim it’s deep state people who found no evidence of wrongdoing here,” added Bharara. “And lots of folks, even conservatives back when Donald Trump started to talk about this, didn’t have an understanding of what statute might have been violated that’s of a criminal nature. So not that surprising, it’s par for the course for him.”

Watch: https://youtu.be/gh4SkYQhQes


Neal Katyal rips Bill Barr for ‘unforgivable’ corruption: ‘Totally reprehensible’

Raw Story
on October 15, 2020

In an interview with MSNBC’s Ari Melber Wednesday, Neal Katyal said Bill Barr’s corrupt treatment of the U.S. judicial system and its policies were “unforgivable” and “totally reprehensible.”

During the Obama Administration, Katyal served as acting Solicitor General of the United States. Previously, Katyal served as an attorney in the Solicitor General’s office, and as Principal Deputy Solicitor General in the U.S. Justice Department.

“It’s absolutely totally reprehensible,” Katyal said. “When you’re in the federal government, whether the attorney general or the president or White House or whatever, if you’re conscious of the awesome powers you have as you go and slander someone and say you’ve unmasked me or you’ve done this unfairly or committed crimes, that’s for anyone that’s reprehensible, but to do it to our loyal servants of the United States Government is just unforgivable and, you know, they just throw this dirt.”

Katyal continued, “They have investigation after investigation at millions and millions of taxpayer dollars spent and find nothing and pretend like: let’s find something else. I don’t think we should go onto the next story. This is an absolute denigration of the way that the Justice Department operates. It a basic fundamental violation of fairness.”

Watch: https://youtu.be/Ov6u5eIsNKM


Ex-CIA chief tears into ‘deeply disturbed’ Trump for promoting conspiracy theory about Bin Laden’s death

Raw Story
on October 15, 2020

On CNN Wednesday, former CIA Director John Brennan ripped into President Donald Trump for retweeting a bizarre conspiracy theory denying Osama bin Laden’s death — an event Brennan himself was in the White House to see.

“The president … retweeted a post suggesting that Osama bin Laden’s death was a hoax,” said anchor Wolf Blitzer. “You, of course, were there in the White House Situation Room as the operation unfolded … what goes through your mind when you see president of the United States sowing doubt about what you call the most well-planned and successful operation you personally, a long time member of the U.S. intelligence community, witnessed?”

“It just reinforced my view that Donald Trump is a deeply disturbed individual who, unfortunately, has the future of this country in his hands right now,” said Brennan. “And it’s clear that he continues to push out these conspiracies, and it’s delusional and, unfortunately, I think we have to be used to this until he is voted out of office, but I’m sure he is going to continue to do this once he leaves office.”

“I just shake my head and I talk to people — they look what is happening in Washington and with Donald Trump and saying, what is going on in America?” said Brennan. “And I tell them that Donald Trump is an aberration and that we are going to get through this, but I think the damage has already been done in terms of how he has abused his authorities, and I’m just hoping that we are able to recover quickly from the damage he has brought.”

Watch: https://youtu.be/rTr2Uw4MwD8


Donald Trump’s son had coronavirus — White House outbreak was even bigger than thought

Raw Story
on October 15, 2020

The East Wing of the White House on Wednesday revealed that Barron Trump had coronavirus.

The announcement came in a column by first lady Melania Trump, who also tested positive for COVID-19 along with her husband, the president.

“Naturally my mind went immediately to our son. To our great relief he tested negative, but again, as so many parents have thought over the past several months, I couldn’t help but think ‘what about tomorrow or the next day?’. My fear came true when he was tested again and it came up positive,” the first lady revealed.

“Luckily he is a strong teenager and exhibited no symptoms,” she added.
NEW! Help us launch the Raw Story Podcast. Click to learn more.

    To all who have reached out – thank you. Here is my personal experience with COVID-19 :https://t.co/XUysq0KVaY

    — Melania Trump (@FLOTUS) October 14, 2020


‘Screw you’: Devin Nunes defies state officials as Trump continues to urge California GOP to engage in ‘illegal’ activity

Raw Story
on October 15, 2020

President Donald Trump urged California Republicans to defy a state order to remove fake “official” ballot drop boxes after numerous top officials called them “illegal.”

State Attorney General Xavier Becerra and Secretary of State Alex Padilla on Monday issued an order to the California GOP and three county chapters requiring the removal of unofficial ballot drop boxes erected in front of locations like gyms, gun stores and churches that were falsely marked “official.”

Trump, however, urged the party to fight the order in court.

“You mean only Democrats are allowed to do this? But haven’t the Dems been doing this for years?” the president tweeted, drawing a dubious comparison between the boxes and the legal “ballot harvesting” efforts by Democrats that have drawn his ire. “See you in court. Fight hard Republicans!”

Trump’s call came after Becerra, Padilla and Gov. Gavin Newsom, all Democrats, labeled the Republican effort “illegal.”

“Nothing reeks of desperation quite like the Republican Party organization these days — willing to lie, cheat, and threaten our democracy all for the sake of gaining power,” Newsom tweeted. “These unofficial drop boxes aren’t just misleading, they are illegal.”

Trump’s comments also came after the California Republican Party already vowed to defy Monday’s order.

“Screw you!” Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., said in response to Newsom’s tweet, according to Politico. “You created the law, we’re going to ballot harvest.”

Fresno County Republican Chairman Fred Vanderhoof, who installed a dozen collection boxes, including one which was labeled an “Authorized Secure Ballot Drop,” claimed to GVWire that a 2016 ballot harvesting law passed by Democrats allowed the party to install drop boxes falsely marked as “official.”

“We are doing nothing illegal,” he insisted. “The whole ballot harvesting law is purposely designed very loosely so the Democrats can cheat, which they are doing in large numbers. They can do ballot harvesting, but we can’t. That’s what they’re saying, so they’re hypocritical.”

State officials rejected Republican claims that falsely-marked collection boxes were allowed under the law permitting ballot harvesting, which permits a third-party to submit ballots on voters’ behalf.

The offices of the attorney general and secretary of state said in a cease-and-desist order to the GOP that the law required “persons to whom a voter entrusts their ballot to return to county election officials provide their name, signature and relationship to the voter.”

Becerra and Padilla also argued during a Monday conference call that the boxes were “illegal,” because they were designed to trick voters by claiming to be “official.” The boxes lack the security requirements mandated for official collection boxes installed by election officials, they added.

“We hope that the message goes out loud and clear to anyone who is trying to improperly solicit, obtain and manage a citizen’s vote that they are subject to prosecution,” Becerra said. “I’m trying to be careful with how I say this, but the reports we are hearing are disturbing.”

Some voters were stunned when they discovered they had tossed their ballots into an unofficial collection box marked an “Official Ballot Drop Box.”

California GOP spokesman Hector Barajas told The New York Times that Republicans would continue to operate the boxes and not label them to make it clear that they were set up by the party rather than “official” drop boxes set up by the state.

Becerra and Padilla said they would consider legal action if the party fails to comply by their Oct. 15 deadline.

“Anyone who knowingly engages with the tampering or misuse of the vote is subject to prosecution,” Becerra said.

“If they refuse to comply,” Padilla added, “we’ll of course entertain all of our legal options.”

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« Reply #11 on: Oct 15, 2020, 04:45 AM »

Christians blast Trump in new ad: ‘The days of using our faith for your benefit are over’

on October 15, 2020
Raw Story

A Christian activist group is calling President Donald Trump an opportunistic hypocrite.

The “Not Our Faith” Super PAC, whose advisers include former Obama campaign faith adviser Michael Wear and former Rep. Tom Delay (R-TX) aide Autumn Vandehei, has launched a six-figure TV and digital ad campaign targeting Christian votes, reported Huffington Post.

“Mr. President, the days of using our faith for your benefit are over,” the ad says. “We know you need the support of Christians like us to win this election. But you can’t have it.”
NEW! Help us launch the Raw Story Podcast. Click to learn more.

“Christians don’t need Trump to save them,” the spot adds. “The truth is that Trump needs Christians to save his flailing campaign.”

Watch: https://youtu.be/t3Rxq-PFFPw

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« Reply #12 on: Oct 15, 2020, 05:29 AM »

MSNBC’s Morning Joe and Mika explain how ‘certain networks’ make it impossible for Trump supporters to break away

Raw Story
on October 15, 2020

MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski busted “certain networks” for obscuring how bad President Donald Trump has been the last four years, and how that generates a feedback loop where supporters can’t imagine breaking away.

The “Morning Joe” co-hosts detailed how the presidential race remained much closer than it perhaps should be, given the continuing economic pain from the deadly coronavirus pandemic that’s still raging across the country, and said that wouldn’t be possible without friendly networks like Fox News and social media platforms like Facebook.

“Voters have had a view now of what his presidency is like, what his policies are like, what his decisions are like,” Brzezinski said. “I would argue that Trump voters don’t have that view. They don’t have a clear view, they don’t have the facts. I think there are certain networks and Facebook and social media empires that are helping promulgate lies that they live by. I think that could be a dangerous brew as, you know, we talk about the potential for Biden to struggle a bit or for one day to come together for him all over again.”

Scarborough agreed that could happen, and he explained how consumers of those outlets help drive support for Trump by making opposition to him unthinkable.

“It’s not just the misinformation that is being spread on the other networks and on social media, that is part of it,” he said. “You also though cannot underestimate, and it’s being talked about all the time, the negative partisanship. I have heard from so many of my friends and family members who don’t say they love Donald Trump. In fact, they don’t say they like Donald Trump. In fact, they would not invite him over for dinner at Thanksgiving.”

“It’s really negative partisanship,” Scarborough continued. “It’s their fear of the Democrats. It’s their fear of ‘woke’ nation. It’s their fear that the kids will go to college and get hammered because of political correctness. You can’t say that on television without people freaking out. I’m just explaining it to you. Political correctness is something that is not spoken of, but it drives so much of Donald Trump’s support.”

“How do I know?” he added. “Because I keep hearing it from one person after another, when I say how can you support this man who has breached every constitutional norm, who breached every societal norm. They’ll talk about how Democrats are socialists, they’ll come back and talk about political correctness and ‘wokeness.’ It’s the negative partisanship even more than it is Donald Trump.”

Watch: https://youtu.be/eV7ZVblBXDM

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« Reply #13 on: Oct 16, 2020, 03:02 AM »

Dr. Fauci says a coronavirus catastrophe is coming if we don’t stop doing this

By Andy Meek

    If the latest coronavirus update from White House health advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci sounds like what he’s been saying all along, throughout the coronavirus pandemic, that’s no accident.
    Fauci’s message has been pretty consistent because people need to apparently be reminded over and over again that we’re in a pandemic and that things like mass gatherings are really bad.
    Fauci delivered his message the same day President Trump held a campaign rally attended by thousands of people.

If it feels like many of us in the media business have been writing variations of the same story for weeks and months now, there’s a simple and unfortunate explanation for that.

Health authorities like White House advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s foremost infectious disease expert, have been saying essentially the same things for months now in regular coronavirus updates. That people need to rigidly adhere to certain behaviors amid the COVID-19 pandemic, like wearing face masks, washing hands regularly, and avoiding crowds and interactions with people outside of your home — people whose health you can’t necessarily vouch for. Those experts have been saying the same things over and over again, partly because people keep demonstrating the need to be reminded of them over and over again. Such that, again on Monday, Fauci delivered an ominous warning about the US possibly being in a “whole lot of trouble” as we get deeper into the fourth quarter if things like mass gatherings continue — which essentially amounted to some light shade at the Trump campaign, with the president returning to the campaign trail this week, in fact, and holding a rally that drew a crowd of thousands.

It was a crowd, we should add, that didn’t seem all that concerned about following social distancing guidelines, based on the pictures that emerged from it.

    Trump celebrates the US death toll surpassing 220,000 by dancing to gay anthem YMCA at a #Florida rally at which a maskless Governor #DeathSantis high-fived attendees even as the state surpassed 15,000 deaths & neared 750,000 cases. #TrumpRallyFlorida pic.twitter.com/K5sL9TMSz8

    — Richard Hine (@richardhine) October 13, 2020

“We’ve got to turn this around,” Fauci said in an interview with CNBC on Monday, the day after the US reported more than 44,600 new coronavirus cases on Sunday. That helped bring the seven-day average of new daily cases to more than 49,200 — up more than 14% compared to one week prior, per a CNBC analysis.

“That’s a bad place to be when you’re going into the cooler weather of the fall and the colder weather of the winter,” said Fauci, who’s also the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, in an interview on The News with Shepard Smith. “We’re in a bad place now.”

Fauci’s “world of trouble” comment was in reference to a question about what happens if we don’t do the following:

“If we do five fundamental things: Universal wearing of masks, maintaining physical distance, avoiding congregate settings or crowds … doing things more outdoors, as opposed to indoors and washing your hands frequently, those simple things … can certainly turn around the spikes that we see and can prevent new spikes from occurring,” Fauci said.

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« Reply #14 on: Oct 16, 2020, 03:05 AM »

Greener play areas boost children’s immune systems, research finds

Autoimmune diseases are rising fast but first experimental study shows nature could help

16 Oct 2020 19.00 BST

Children whose outdoor play areas were transformed from gravel yards to mini-forests showed improved immune systems within a month, research has shown.

The scientists believe this is because the children had developed significantly more diverse microbes on their skin and in their guts than the children whose playgrounds were not upgraded.

Across the western world, rates of autoimmune diseases, where the body mistakenly attacks itself, are rising. The diseases include asthma, eczema, type 1 diabetes, inflammatory bowel disease and multiple sclerosis. A leading possible explanation for this trend, called the hygiene hypothesis, is that children are being exposed to far fewer microbes than in the past. This means their immune systems are less challenged and more prone to making mistakes.

Previous studies have shown statistical associations between exposure to microbial diversity and the development of a well-functioning immune system. But this is the first study to deliberately change the children’s environment and therefore indicate a causal link.

The researchers said their experiment shows it may be possible to improve the development of the immune system with relatively simple changes to the living environments of urban children.

The study involved 75 children in two cities in Finland, a relatively small number for a trial. “But when we saw the results, we were very surprised because they were so strong,” said Aki Sinkkonen, at Natural Resources Institute Finland, who led the work. “Our study can pave the way for new preventive practices to cut the global epidemic of immune-mediated diseases.”

Sinkkonen said there are similar experimental studies currently taking place elsewhere but their results have not yet been published. His team has now started research to see if giving babies a boost in microbe diversity then goes on to reduce levels of autoimmune disease.

“It is wonderful forward-looking work.” said Prof Graham Rook, at University College London. “Many of the disorders that are increasing in western urbanised populations are due to failure of the mechanisms that supervise the immune system. This study shows that exposing children to a biodiverse natural environment boosts several biomarkers of the essential control mechanisms. These Finnish research groups have been leading the way in applying this understanding in a practical way.”

The research is published in the journal Science Advances and was conducted by a large team including experts in medicine, ecology and urban planning. The children were between three and five years old and spread between 10 similar daycare centres.

In four centres, turf from natural forest floors, complete with dwarf shrubs, blueberries, crowberry, and mosses, were installed in previously bare play areas. The children spent an average of 90 minutes a day outside and were encouraged to play with the plants and soil. “It was easy because [the green area] was the most exciting place in the yard,” said Sinkkonen. The cost for each green yard was around €5,000, less than the annual maintenance budgets for the yards.

Tests after 28 days showed the diversity of microbes on the children’s skin was a third higher than for those still playing in gravel yards and was significantly increased in the gut. Blood samples showed beneficial changes to a range of proteins and cells related to the immune system, including anti-inflammatory cytokine and regulatory T cells.

The researchers gave all the children the same meals each day and excluded the small number who had been given probiotic supplements by their parents. The scientists could not control the home environment but said the fact that a significant effect was seen despite variable home conditions shows the effect of the forest intervention was strong.

The researchers are also investigating whether sand pits can be inoculated with diverse microbes to boost the immune system of children in places where forest soil and plants are not available.

Prof Glenn Gibson, at the University of Reading, in the UK, and a board member of the International Scientific Association for Probiotics and Prebiotics, said: “This is an interesting study and potentially important but I do not agree that diversity is the key marker for gut health. High functionality can occur with low diversity. For instance, look at a virus that sweeps the world. Having said that, the researchers have assessed certain health biomarkers and not relied solely upon diversity as an indicator, so it is good study.”

A report in 2019 by the UK’s Royal Society for Public Health concluded that grubbing around outside is important for building a robust immune system, but that cleanliness is still vital when people are preparing and eating food.

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