Posted on

The U.S. is conducting millions more rapid coronavirus tests, but are results reported? – National


After struggling to ramp up coronavirus testing, the U.S. can now screen several million people daily, thanks to a growing supply of rapid tests. But the boom comes with a new challenge: keeping track of the results.

All U.S. testing sites are legally required to report their results, positive and negative, to public health agencies. But state health officials say many rapid tests are going unreported, which means some new COVID-19 infections may not be counted.

And the situation could get worse, experts say. The federal government is shipping more than 100 million of the newest rapid tests to states for use in public schools, assisted living centres and other new testing sites.

Read more:
U.S. to ship millions of coronavirus tests in effort to reopen schools through 12th grade

“Schools certainly don’t have the capacity to report these tests,” said Dr. Jeffrey Engel of the Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists. “If it’s done at all it’s likely going to be paper-based, very slow and incomplete.”

Story continues below advertisement

Early in the outbreak, nearly all U.S. testing relied on genetic tests that could only be developed at high-tech laboratories. Even under the best circumstances, people had to wait about two to three days to get results. Experts pushed for more “point-of-care” rapid testing that could be done in doctors offices, clinics and other sites to quickly find people who are infected, get them into quarantine and stop the spread.

Beginning in the summer, cheaper, 15-minute tests — which detect viral proteins called antigens on a nasal swab — became available. The first versions still needed to be processed using portable readers. The millions of new tests from Abbott Laboratories now going out to states are even easier to use: they’re about the size of a credit card and can be developed with a few drops of chemical solution.

Federal health officials say about half of the nation’s daily testing capacity now consists of rapid tests.


Click to play video 'Is rapid testing the solution to Canada’s 2nd wave?'



Is rapid testing the solution to Canada’s 2nd wave?


Is rapid testing the solution to Canada’s 2nd wave?

Large hospitals and laboratories electronically feed their results to state health departments, but there is no standardized way to report the rapid tests that are often done elsewhere. And state officials have often been unable to track where these tests are being shipped and whether results are being reported.

Story continues below advertisement

In Minnesota, officials created a special team to try and get more testing data from nursing homes, schools and other newer testing sites, only to be deluged by faxes and paper files.

“It’s definitely a challenge because now we have to do many more things manually than we were with electronic reporting,” said Kristen Ehresmann, of the Minnesota Department of Health.

Even before Abbott’s newest rapid tests hit the market last month, undercounting was a concern.

Read more:
Health Canada approves rapid coronavirus test after feds put 7.9M on order

Competitors Quidel and Becton Dickinson have together shipped well over 35 million of their own quick tests since June. But that massive influx of tests hasn’t showed up in national testing numbers, which have mostly ranged between 750,000 and 950,000 daily tests for months.

Besides tallying new cases, COVID-19 testing numbers are used to calculate a key metric on the outbreak: percentage of tests positive for COVID-19. The World Health Organization recommends countries test enough people to drive their per cent of positives below 5 per cent. And the U.S. has mostly been hovering around or below that rate since mid-September, a point that President Donald Trump and his top aides have touted to argue that the nation has turned the corner on the outbreak. The figure is down from a peak of 22 per cent in April.

Story continues below advertisement

But some disease-tracking specialists are skeptical. Engel said his group’s members think they aren’t getting all the results.

“So it may be a false conclusion,” he said.


Click to play video 'Canada signs deal to buy 7.9 million rapid COVID-19 tests'



Canada signs deal to buy 7.9 million rapid COVID-19 tests


Canada signs deal to buy 7.9 million rapid COVID-19 tests

One of the challenges to an accurate count: States have wildly different approaches. Some states lump all types of tests together in one report, some don’t tabulate the quick antigen tests at all and others don’t publicize their system. Because antigen tests are more prone to false negatives and sometimes require retesting, most health experts say they should be recorded and analyzed separately. Currently only 10 states do that and post the results online, according to the COVID Tracking Project.

The federal government is allocating the tests to states based on their population, rather than helping them develop a strategy based on the size and severity of their outbreaks.

Story continues below advertisement

“That’s just lazy” said Dr. Michael Mina of Harvard University. “Most states won’t have the expertise to figure out how to use these most appropriately.”

Read more:
Millions of coronavirus rapid tests won’t arrive for months: Health Canada

Instead, Mina said the federal government should direct the limited supplies to key hot spots around the country, driving down infections in the hardest-hit communities. Keeping tighter control would also ensure test results are quickly reported.

Johns Hopkins University researcher Gigi Gronvall agrees health officials need to carefully consider where and when to deploy the tests. Eventually, methods for tracking the tests will catch up, she said.

“I think having the tools to determine if someone is infectious is a higher priority,” she said.

___

AP data journalist Nicky Forster contributed to this story




© 2020 The Canadian Press





Source link

Posted on

‘It’s becoming increasingly dangerous to speak out about Zimbabwean government’ – writer Tsitsi Dangarembga – Channel 4 News


The Zimbabwean novelist Tsitsi Dangarembga almost didn’t get published at all. But even though her debut novel – when it finally came out – attracted international acclaim, publishing the next two still wasn’t easy.

Now, while the third part of her trilogy has been shortlisted for the Booker Prize, Ms Dangarembga was arrested in July this year after joining anti-government protests in Zimbabwe, in opposition to president Emmerson Mnangagwa who was sworn in three years ago, replacing the long time dictator Robert Mugabe.

We asked Ms Dangarembga about the circumstances which had led to her arrest.



Source link

Posted on

Greek police move thousands of asylum seekers displaced by fire to new camp – National


A Greek police operation is underway on the island of Lesbos to move thousands of migrants and refugees left homeless after a fire destroyed their overcrowded camp into a new facility on the island.

Police said Thursday morning’s operation included 70 female police officers who were approaching asylum-seekers with the aim of persuading them to move to the new camp in the island’s Kara Tepe area. No violence was reported as the operation began.

Read more:
Thousands of asylum seekers left homeless after fire at refugee camp in Greece

The notoriously squalid Moria camp burned down last week in fires that Greek authorities said were deliberately set by a small group of the camp’s inhabitants angered by lockdown restrictions imposed after a coronavirus outbreak.

The blazes have left more than 1,200 people in need of emergency shelter. The vast majority have been sleeping rough by the side of a road leading from Moria to the island capital of Mytilene, erecting makeshift shelters made of sheets, blankets, reeds and cardboard.

Story continues below advertisement






Fire destroys Greece’s largest refugee camp


Fire destroys Greece’s largest refugee camp

The new camp consists of large family tents erected in a field by the sea. By Wednesday night, it had a capacity of around 8,000 people, according to the UN refugee agency, but only around 1,100 mostly vulnerable people had entered.

New arrivals are tested for the coronavirus, registered and assigned a tent.

“This is an operation for the protection of public health and with a clear humanitarian content,” the police said in a statement.

Read more:
Thousands flee fires at migrant camp in Greece amid coronavirus lockdown

Six Afghans, including two minors, were arrested on suspicion of causing last week’s fires at Moria. The blazes broke out after isolation orders were issued during a generalized camp lockdown, when 35 people tested positive for the coronavirus.

Story continues below advertisement

Moria had a capacity of just over 2,700 people, but more than 12,500 people had been living in and around it when it burned down. The camp and its squalid conditions were held up by critics as a symbol of Europe’s failed migration policies.



© 2020 The Canadian Press





Source link

Posted on

‘Troll factory’: Facebook, Twitter suspend Russian network ahead of U.S. election – National


Facebook said Tuesday that it removed a small network of accounts and pages linked to Russia’s Internet Research Agency, the “troll factory” that has used social media accounts to sow political discord in the U.S. since the 2016 presidential election.

Twitter also suspended five related accounts. The company said the tweets from these Russia-linked accounts“were low quality and spammy” and that most received few, if any, likes or retweets.

The people behind the accounts recruited “unwitting” freelance journalists to post in English and Arabic, mainly targeting left-leaning audiences. Facebook said Tuesday the network’s activity focused on the U.S., U.K., Algeria and Egypt and other English-speaking countries and countries in the Middle East and North Africa.

Read more:
Facebook threatens to cut off news to Australia after years of spreading ‘misinformation’

The company said it started investigating the network based on information from the FBI about its off-Facebook activities. The network was in the early stages of development, Facebook added, and saw “nearly no engagement” on Facebook before it was removed. The network consisted of 13 Facebook accounts and two pages. About 14,000 accounts followed one or more of the pages, though the English-language page had a little over 200 followers, Facebook said.

Story continues below advertisement

Still, its presence points to ongoing Russian efforts to disrupt the U.S. election and sow political discord in an already divided country. To evade detection, the people behind the network recruited Americans to do their bidding, likely unknowingly, both as journalists and as people authorized to purchase political advertisements in the U.S.

Facebook said the people behind the network posted about global events ranging from racial justice in the U.S. and the U.K., NATO, the QAnon conspiracy, President Donald Trump and Joe Biden’s presidential campaign. The network spent about $480 on advertising on Facebook, primarily in U.S. dollars. However, Facebook said less than $2 worth of those ads targeted the U.S.

The network’s posts directed people to a website called PeaceData, which claims to be a global news organization that, according to a report by research firm Graphika, “took a left-wing stance, opposing what it portrayed as Western imperialism and the excesses of capitalism.”






‘Anarchists, rioters’ on plane: Trump echoes months-old Facebook conspiracy theory


‘Anarchists, rioters’ on plane: Trump echoes months-old Facebook conspiracy theory

The FBI said in a statement Tuesday that it provided information to the platforms “to better protect against threats to the nation’s security and our democratic processes.”

Story continues below advertisement

“While technology companies independently make decisions regarding the content of their platforms and the safety of their members, the FBI is actively engaged with our federal partners, election officials, and the private sector to mitigate foreign threats to our nation’s security and our elections,” the statement said.

Separately, Twitter said Tuesday it will start adding context to its trending section, which shows some of the most popular topics on the service at any given moment. Experts and even Twitter’s own employees have expressed concerns that the trending section can be gamed to spread misinformation and abuse.

Read more:
Facebook erred by failing to remove post calling for armed civilians: Zuckerberg

Twitter uses algorithms and human employees to determine what topics are trending _ it is not simply the most popular topics, but topics that are newly popular at any given time. But it’s not difficult to artificially elevate trends.

In the coming weeks, Twitter said, users in the U.S., U.K., Brazil, India and several other countries will see brief descriptions added to some trends to add context.

“To be clear, we know there is more work to do to improve trends and the context updates we’re announcing today are just a small step in the right direction,” said Liz Lee, a product trust partner and Frank Oppong, a product manager, in a blog post. “We need to make trends better and we will.”

Story continues below advertisement

_

Associated Press Writer Eric Tucker contributed to this story from Washington, D.C.




© 2020 The Canadian Press





Source link

Posted on

Twitter hack alarms experts already concerned about platform’s security – National


The extraordinary hacking spree that hit Twitter on Wednesday, leading it to briefly muzzle some of its most widely followed accounts, is drawing questions about the platform’s security and resilience in the run-up to the U.S. presidential election.

Twitter said late Wednesday hackers obtained control of employee credentials to hijack accounts including those of Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden, former president Barack Obama, reality television star Kim Kardashian, and tech billionaire and Tesla founder Elon Musk.

Read more:
Twitter says ‘coordinated social engineering attack’ targeted politicians, tech leaders

In a series of tweets, the company said: “We detected what we believe to be a coordinated social engineering attack by people who successfully targeted some of our employees with access to internal systems and tools.”

The hackers then “used this access to take control of many highly-visible (including verified) accounts and Tweet on their behalf.”

Story continues below advertisement

The company statements confirmed the fears of security experts that the service itself — rather than users — had been compromised.

Twitter’s role as a critical communications platform for political candidates and public officials, including President Donald Trump, has led to fears that hackers could wreak havoc with the Nov. 3 U.S. presidential election or otherwise compromise national security.






Facebook and Google suspend China’s data requests, TikTok to pull out of Hong Kong


Facebook and Google suspend China’s data requests, TikTok to pull out of Hong Kong

Adam Conner, vice president for technology policy at the Center for American Progress, a liberal think-tank, said on Twitter: “This is bad on July 15 but would be infinitely worse on November 3rd.”

Story continues below advertisement

Bitcoin bounty

Posing as celebrities and the wealthy, the hackers asked followers to send the digital currency bitcoin to a series of addresses. By evening, 400 bitcoin transfers were made worth a combined $120,000. Half of the victims had funds in U.S. bitcoin exchanges, a quarter in Europe and a quarter in Asia, according to forensics company Elliptic.

Those transfers left history that could help investigators identify the perpetrators of the hack. The financial damage may be limited because multiple exchanges blocked other payments after their own Twitter accounts were targeted.

Read more:
Twitter CEO’s hacked account sends racist tweets targeting black people and Jews

The damage to Twitter’s reputation may be more serious. Most troubling to some was how long the company took to stop the bad tweets.

“Twitter’s response to this hack was astonishing. It’s the middle of the day in San Francisco, and it takes them five hours to get a handle on the incident,” said Dan Guido, CEO of security company Trail of Bits.

An even worse scenario was that the bitcoin fraud was a distraction for more serious hacking, such as harvesting the direct messages of the account holders.






Donald Trump signs executive order on social media


Donald Trump signs executive order on social media

Twitter said it was not yet certain what the hackers may have done beyond sending the bitcoin messages.

Story continues below advertisement

“We’re looking into what other malicious activity they may have conducted or information they may have accessed and will share more here as we have it,” the company said.

Mass compromises of Twitter accounts via theft of employee credentials or problems with third-party applications that many users employ have occured before.

Wednesday’s hack was the worst to date. Several users with two-factor authentication — a security procedure that helps prevent break-in attempts — said they were powerless to stop it.

Read more:
Twitter tests new feature prompting Android users to open articles before sharing

“If the hackers do have access to the backend of Twitter, or direct database access, there is nothing potentially stopping them from pilfering data in addition to using this tweet-scam as a distraction,” said Michael Borohovski, director of software engineering at security company Synopsys.

In 2010, Twitter reached a settlement with the U.S. Federal Trade Commission after it was found the company had lied about efforts to protect users’ information during an extended hack the year before.

Under the terms of the settlement, Twitter was barred for 20 years from misleading users about how it protects the security and confidentiality of private information.

U.S. Rep. Josh Hawley wrote to Twitter and its CEO Jack Dorsey during the hack calling for the company to work with the FBI and Department of Justice to secure its platform, and then answer questions publicly about the effects of the hack.

Story continues below advertisement

One of his questions is how the hack may have affected the account of President Donald Trump.

(Reporting by Joseph Menn in San Francisco and Raphael Satter in Washington; Additional reporting by Anna Irrera in New York; Editing by Jonathan Weber and Lincoln Feast.)

With files from Global News’ Sean Boynton








Source link

Posted on

International Olympic Committee yields $100 million for Olympic movement worldwide


The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has allocated a total of $100 million to national Olympic committees and international sports federations in a bid to overcome the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic, the IOC press service said in a statement, Trend reports citing TASS.

“The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has already supported the National Olympic Committees (NOCs) and International Federations (IFs) with more than $100 million since the outbreak of the COVID-19 crisis,” the statement reads. “To date and as needed, $63 million have been allocated to IFs and $37 million to NOCs.”

“The IOC, as the leader of the Olympic Movement, is playing a critical role in supporting its stakeholders during the COVID-19 outbreak,” according to the IOC statement. “The organization has swiftly delivered on its commitment to allocate an aid package program for the Olympic Movement.”

The 2020 Summer Olympic Games in Tokyo were scheduled to be held between July 24 and August 9, and the 2020 Summer Paralympic Games were planned to be organized between August 25 and September 6.

The IOC and the IPC (the International Paralympic Committee) announced on March 24 a decision to postpone for one year the tournaments in Japan due to the continuous COVID-19 spread. Yoshiro Mori, the head of the Tokyo-2020 Olympics Local Organizing Committee, announced on March 30 that the Summer Olympic Games in Japan next year will start on July 23 and the Summer Paralympic Games will begin on August 24.

Commenting on the decision to deliver the financial aid, IOC President Thomas Bach said: “The Olympic Movement is facing an unprecedented challenge.”

“The IOC has to organize postponed Olympic Games for the first time ever, and has to help its stakeholders come through this global crisis,” the IOC chief continued. “This new situation will need all our solidarity, creativity, determination and flexibility.”

“We shall all need to make sacrifices and compromises,” Bach said. “Extraordinary circumstances call for extraordinary measures.

“This situation requires every one of us to do our part, and this applies to all of us, including the IOC,” he said.

“The IFs are facing financial hardship due to the cancellation of sports events and the impact on the sporting calendar of the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 being held in 2021,” the IOC head stated. “Due to the urgency of the situation, payments to IFs started in June 2020, and the program is still continuing. “



Source link

Posted on

Jeet Heer, Margaret Atwood, David Frum, Malcolm Gladwell and other defenders of open debate get their wish


Article content

An open letter denouncing social restrictions on free speech and public debate, signed by more than 150 writers, academics, public intellectuals and other specialists, is sparking ample debate, although not all of it the sort its authors likely hoped for.

Published online by Harper’s magazine, “A Letter on Justice and Open Debate” was signed by people as famous as author J.K. Rowling, Noam Chomsky, Margaret Atwood and Salman Rushdie, and as unexpected as jazz musician Wynton Marsalis and choreographer Bill T. Jones.

As befits a manifesto, the current wave of protest and social activism is described as “a moment.” The anti-racism movement is “powerful,” demands for police reform are “overdue” and calls for wider inclusion across society is part of a “needed reckoning,” the letter declares.

But there’s a “but.”

“But this needed reckoning has also intensified a new set of moral attitudes and political commitments that tend to weaken our norms of open debate and toleration of differences in favor of ideological conformity.”



Source link

Posted on

Hong Kong activist Joshua Wong quits pro-democracy group as China passes security law – National



Hong Kong activist Joshua Wong said on Tuesday he is stepping down as leader of his democracy group Demosisto, just hours after local media reported that Beijing had passed national security legislation for the Chinese-ruled city.

Read more:
Chinese lawmakers pass controversial security law for Hong Kong: reports

Wong has said he will be a “prime target” of Beijing’s national security law, which critics fear will crush freedoms in the former British colony.

Story continues below advertisement

“If my voice will not be heard soon, I hope that the international community will continue to speak up for Hong Kong and step up concrete efforts to defend out last bit of freedom,” Wong wrote in a tweet.

-With a file from Global News








Source link

Posted on

Netanyahu, Gantz sign coalition deal to form emergency government



Israel’s prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his rival Benny Gantz have announced that they have forged a deal to form an emergency coalition government, aimed to tackle the coronavirus pandemic. The announcement comes after months of political paralysis in the country.

“I promised the state of Israel a national emergency government that will work to save the lives and livelihoods of the citizens of Israel,” Netanyahu tweeted.

Under the three-year deal, both leaders will switch positions, with Netanyahu serving as prime minister for the first half, and Gantz taking the job for the second half. Gantz’s Blue and White party will take control of a number of senior government ministries, including foreign affairs and defence, while Netanyahu’s Likud party will gain influence over judicial appointments.

“We have prevented a fourth election. We will protect democracy. We will fight coronavirus and care for all Israel’s citizens”, Gantz said.

The deal comes after Gantz and Netanyahu missed the deadline to form a government, and president Reuven Rivlin asked the parliament to choose a new prime minister, giving it three weeks to agree upon a leader or push the country into a fourth election in about a year.

According to the deal, no laws are to be introduced that have nothing to do with the coronavirus. However, Netanyahu will be allowed to annex Jewish settlements and other land in the occupied West Bank. The settlements are widely considered illegal under international law, though Israel disputes this.

Palestinians condemned the formation of an “Israeli “annexation” government, saying the agreement would wreck hopes of peace.



Source link

Posted on

The Day After (II): What Europe?



“The Day After” for the European Union, the so-called “bloc”, will either have to stay as is and sooner, rather later, dissolve. Or it will have to change in an attempt to survive. This will be difficult as huge organisations like the EU do not historically adapt, but disappear. And yet, the instinct for survival is very strong, and the bloc may radically adapt to the “new norm” because if it doesn’t, its servants will not lose a little, but all.

Maintaining the “status quo ante”

The bloc may stay as-is – an apolitical power structure, ruling half a billion people by a self-reproduced, non-accountable administrative machine, without any democratic legitimisation.

This is the same bloc from which the United Kingdom withdrew and is the EU which ordinary citizens left behind when they entered into house isolation last month. If this will be the bloc that re-surfaces once Europe’s residents are released, it will continue living in its own world, further distancing itself from its own citizens and soon will collapse.

After returning to society, ordinary people will be different. If the Brussels nomenklatura remains the same, it will face a problem, a big problem. Most people after the long home detention will be different. Most, at least for a while, will be better people because they would have spent time with themselves and their families and would have discovered that moderation is a virtue, while forced minimalism, once they are used to it, gives a different dimension to life.

As for the European Union, the inmates who spent day and night in front of a screen sensed that the EU had no political role in the crisis. The bloc has been judged by its citizens as having been “in absentia”.

Indeed, Viktor Orban dissolved the Hungarian Parliament in an unprecedented “coup d’état” and Brussels ignored it, displaying no political capacity to handle the situation.

Dad, is America far away? Shoot-up and swim…

Leaders emerge from confrontations, and the virus crisis is the world biggest confrontation since the Second World War. Whether it’s a confrontation between China and the Western World or between humankind and nature, makes no difference. In any instance, new leaders will emerge. This is typical after large events. Think of what great leaders Europe had after World War II and during the Cold War – Francoise Mitterrand, Helmut Kohl, Aldo Moro, Margaret Thatcher and many others who were followed by mediocracies in the years of peace.

The emergence of new leaders is now in the making. In this process, the bloc does not participate as the Brussels bureaucracy although it is the most sophisticated administrative machine of the world. It is politically sterile. It is composed of civil servants and only civil servants who, in the absence of political leaders, began making political decisions. That is what undermined the European project.

In the emerging post-crisis new world, the European Union is needed more than ever, ironically, for the same reasons it was established seven decades ago – to unite Europeans and contain Germany. At that time it was to guarantee that Berlin didn’t dominate Europe again with its Panzers, and today it’s to be sure Germany doesn’t attempt to dominate Europe again with its Deutsche Mark, which masquerades as the euro.

Maintaining and strengthening the European Union, turning it into a united nation that is citizen useful and friendly, is the only way to keep alive the best European achievement of all time.

This will be a difficult task. The European Commission, the presumed government of Europe, must attempt it. It is hard to do so as it must give up all privileges its employees have accumulated and turn them into ordinary civil servants.

Once the bloc’s civil servants realise that if the union disintegrates, their pensions will be paid (if they will be paid) by their own countries of origin and will be at the level of national pensions, they will certainly behave.

The change we need

There are some ideas about the changes the bloc needs to make in order to survive. The most important change is the “presumed government of Europe” must become “the government of Europe” and must become political.

Europe has serious survival problems to address, more than ever, and they are all political. They require political solutions that no administration can give no matter how good it is and how well it is paid. That is why the government of the bloc must become political, democratic, accountable, and at the service of citizens.

“The Day After” sequel of New Europe will provide food for thought to all those pretending they rule Europe from their couch but have a better sense than anybody else about the threats to their jobs and pensions when everything will return to the “new normal”.

In the next episodes, we will provide some ideas as to how the European Commission should change in an attempt to survive. How to make the bloc political; how to bring the Directors General down to earth at the service of the political personnel; how to restore accountability; how to reduce over-regulation; how to restore transparency especially in money matters; how to redefine the role of the cabinets and other unpleasant suggestions, yet essential for the survival of the Union, in the post virus era.

(to be continued)

Related Articles:

The Day After: a new Yalta in the making



Source link