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The Panopticon Is Already Here

July 30, 2020

(The Atlantic) – Xi’s pronouncements on AI have a sinister edge. Artificial intelligence has applications in nearly every human domain, from the instant translation of spoken language to early viral-outbreak detection. But Xi also wants to use AI’s awesome analytical powers to push China to the cutting edge of surveillance. He wants to build an all-seeing digital system of social control, patrolled by precog algorithms that identify potential dissenters in real time.

Exclusive: Russia Claims It’s on Track to Approve Covid-19 Vaccine by Mid-August. But Speed of Process Raises Questions

July 30, 2020

(CNN) – Russia intends to be the first in the world to approve a coronavirus vaccine, in less than two weeks — despite concerns about its safety, effectiveness and over whether the country has cut essential corners in development, CNN has learned. Russian officials told CNN they are working toward a date of August 10 or earlier for approval of the vaccine, which has been created by the Moscow-based Gamaleya Institute. It will be approved for public use, with frontline healthcare workers getting it first, they said.

Some Scientists Are Taking a DIY Coronavirus Vaccine, and Nobody Knows if It’s Legal or If It Works

July 29, 2020

(MIT Technology Review) – Nearly 200 covid-19 vaccines are in development and some three dozen are at various stages of human testing. But in what appears to be the first “citizen science” vaccine initiative, Estep and at least 20 other researchers, technologists, or science enthusiasts, many connected to Harvard University and MIT, have volunteered as lab rats for a do-it-yourself inoculation against the coronavirus. They say it’s their only chance to become immune without waiting a year or more for a vaccine to be formally approved.

Mexico Supreme Court to Make ‘Historic’ Abortion Ruling

July 29, 2020

(BBC) – Mexico’s Supreme Court is due to rule on a landmark case that could impact abortion rights across the country. The case revolves around an injunction granted in the eastern state of Veracruz, which would effectively decriminalise termination in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. The ruling could set a precedent for similar injunctions in other states. Mexico has strict laws on abortion – it is legal in just two of the country’s 32 states.

Moderna Vaccine Test in Monkeys Shows Promise

July 28, 2020

(New York Times) – Monkeys given the Moderna coronavirus vaccine and then deliberately infected were able to fight off the virus, quickly clearing it from their lungs, researchers reported on Tuesday. The findings do not guarantee that the vaccine will perform the same way in people, but the results are considered encouraging and a milestone in the struggle against the pandemic. If an experimental vaccine fails in monkeys, that is generally seen as a bad sign for its ability to work in humans. This type of study is considered valuable because infecting people on purpose, though sometimes done, is not standard practice.

Scientists Get Closer to Blood Test for Alzheimer’s Disease

July 28, 2020

(STAT News) – An experimental blood test was highly accurate at distinguishing people with Alzheimer’s disease from those without it in several studies, boosting hopes that there soon may be a simple way to help diagnose this most common form of dementia. Developing such a test has been a long-sought goal, and scientists warn that the new approach still needs more validation and is not yet ready for wide use.

There Is No ‘Right to Die’, Says Lawyer of Belgian Man Contesting Healthy Mother’s Euthanasia

July 28, 2020

(Christianity Today) – The final legal arguments have been submitted to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) on behalf of a Belgian man contesting the euthanasia of his mother in 2012. Godelieva de Troyer, 64, suffered depression but was physical healthy when she was euthanized by lethal injection. Her son, Tom Mortier, did not find out about her decision until the day after she had been euthanized, when he was informed that she had “untreatable depression”.

A Vaccine Reality Check

July 27, 2020

(The Atlantic) – Biologically, a vaccine against the COVID-19 virus is unlikely to offer complete protection. Logistically, manufacturers will have to make hundreds of millions of doses while relying, perhaps, on technology never before used in vaccines and competing for basic supplies such as glass vials. Then the federal government will have to allocate doses, perhaps through a patchwork of state and local health departments with no existing infrastructure for vaccinating adults at scale. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which has led vaccine distribution efforts in the past, has been strikingly absent in discussions so far—a worrying sign that the leadership failures that have characterized the American pandemic could also hamper this process. To complicate it all, 20 percent of Americans already say they will refuse to get a COVID-19 vaccine, and with another 31 percent unsure, reaching herd immunity could be that much more difficult.

A Possible Weapon Against the Pandemic: Printing Human Tissue

July 27, 2020

(New York Times) – As shortages of personal protective equipment persist during the coronavirus pandemic, 3-D printing has helped to alleviate some of the gaps. But Anthony Atala, the director of the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine, and his team are using the process in a more innovative way: creating tiny replicas of human organs — some as small as a pinhead — to test drugs to fight Covid-19.

Vietnam Confirms 11 New Coronavirus Cases, Imposes Quarantine and Evacuations

July 27, 2020

(NPR) – Vietnamese officials thought they had the coronavirus under control. And for months, they were right. Through strict measures swiftly imposed, Vietnam had virtually eliminated the coronavirus within its borders by late April. Now the virus seems to be spreading. As of Monday night in Vietnam, 11 new cases had been reported, bringing the country’s total to 431 and sparking a litany of new virus control measures.

Miniature Human Heart 3D Printed Using Stem Cells

July 27, 2020

(BBC Science Focus) – According to the British Heart Foundation, heart and circulatory diseases cause more than a quarter of all deaths in the UK; that’s nearly 170,000 deaths each year. In a new study, researchers at the University of Minnesota have 3D printed a functioning centimetre-scale human heart pump that could have major implications in the fight against heart disease.

Covid-19 Vaccines May Cause Mild Side Effects, Experts Say, Stressing Need for Education, Not Alarm

July 27, 2020

(STAT News) – While the world awaits the results of large clinical trials of Covid-19 vaccines, experts say the data so far suggest one important possibility: The vaccines may carry a bit of a kick. In vaccine parlance, they appear to be “reactogenic,” meaning they have induced short-term discomfort in a percentage of the people who have received them in clinical trials. This kind of discomfort includes headache, sore arms, fatigue, chills, and fever.

Mounting Virus Cases Spark Concern in Florida Nursing Homes

July 24, 2020

(ABC News) – The coronavirus transformed Florida’s nursing homes into closely guarded fortresses beginning in March, with the state banning family visits, isolating infected residents in separate wings and now requiring staff be tested every two weeks. But the explosion of cases statewide is proving that is not enough.

Europe Warns of Need for Vigilance as Covid-19 Cases Rise Sharply

July 24, 2020

(The Guardian) – Spanish health officials have warned the country could already be experiencing a “second wave” of coronavirus, as France, Germany and Belgium all reported steep rises in their number of cases. Countries across Europe have reminded people of the need for vigilance amid rising cases as the summer holiday season continues.

FDA Says Opioid Labels Must Include Information About Naloxone

July 23, 2020

(STAT News) – The Food and Drug Administration announced Thursday that it would require drug manufacturers to include information about naloxone, the overdose-reversal medication, on the labels of opioid painkillers. The move comes just weeks after the federal government released new data showing that U.S. drug overdose deaths reached an all-time high in 2019, surpassing the previous peak recorded two years earlier.

Families of Children with Special Needs Are Suing in Several States. Here’s Why

July 23, 2020

(NPR) – Ince and her husband have filed a lawsuit seeking to get Hawaii’s Department of Education to pay for the services Alexis needs in a facility where she can see other children. They are part of a growing number of parents around the country who are suing schools and state education departments over this issue. The Ince’s attorney, Keith Peck, has also filed a suit seeking class action status for all families in the state who argue their students’ Individualized Education Plans have been breached during the pandemic.

The Long Game of Coronavirus Research

July 23, 2020

(The New Yorker) – Last month, Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, spoke at a biotech conference, where he emphasized how much is still unknown about the coronavirus. “I thought H.I.V. was a complicated disease,” he said. “It’s really simple compared to what’s going on with COVID-19.” To anyone who knows the history of AIDS research—Fauci has spent much of his career studying the disease—this was a dismaying thing to hear.

Sanger’s Name to Be Dropped from NYC Clinic Over Eugenics

July 23, 2020

(ABC News) – Planned Parenthood of Greater New York will remove the name of pioneering birth control advocate Margaret Sanger from its Manhattan health clinic because of her “harmful connections to the eugenics movement,” the group announced on Tuesday.

Coronavirus Vaccines Leap Through Safety Trials–But Which Will Work Is Anybody’s Guess

July 22, 2020

(Nature) – When it rains, it pours. In the past few days, scientists working at feverish pace to develop vaccines against the coronavirus have released a flood of data from their first human trials. The results come from phase I and II trials of four promising vaccine candidates and detail how people respond to the jabs. Because the trials were focused on safety and dosing, the data cannot say whether the vaccines will prevent disease or infection — large-scale efficacy trials are needed for this. But they suggest that the candidate vaccines are broadly safe, and offer the first hints that vaccines can summon an immune response that resembles that of people who have been infected with the virus.

Crisis Hits Lebanon’s Hospitals, Among the Best in Mideast

July 22, 2020

(Associated Press) – Lebanon’s hospitals, long considered among the best in the Middle East, are cracking under the country’s financial crisis, struggling to pay staff, keep equipment running or even stay open amid a surge in coronavirus cases. Private hospitals, the engine of the health system, warn they may have to shut down. Chronically underfunded public hospitals, which have led the fight against the virus, fear they will be overrun

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