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The first famines of the coronavirus era are on the world's front door, warns U.N.

The first famines of the coronavirus era loom in four chronically food-affected conflict areas – Yemen, South Sudan, northeast Nigeria and the Democratic Republic of the Congo – warned the United Nations' chief humanitarian officer.

In a letter to members of the UN Security Council, Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs Mark Lowcock said the risk of famine in these areas has been compounded by "natural disasters, economic shocks and public health crises" the Covid-19 pandemic. “Together, he said," These factors put the lives of millions of women, men and children at risk. "

The letter, which has not been made public, was forwarded to the Security Council by Mr Lowcock's office on Friday as part of its 2018 resolution, which requires updates if there is a risk of conflict-related famine and widespread food insecurity. A copy of the letter was seen by the New York Times.

United Nations officials previously said that all four areas are vulnerable to food deprivation due to chronic armed conflict and the inability of humanitarian agencies to freely distribute aid. But the added complications caused by the pandemic have now brought them closer to famine.

In April, David Beasley, executive director of the World Food Program, the United Nations' anti-hunger arm, warned the Security Council that we are "also on the verge of a hunger pandemic" with the coronavirus pandemic. In July, his program identified 25 countries facing devastating hunger due to the pandemic.

Mr Lowcock's new warning of impending famine effectively escalates those warnings. As part of a monitoring system to assess starvation emergencies Famine is phase 5, the worst, characterized by "hunger, death, poverty and extremely critical acute malnutrition".

President Trump has been pushing for a coronavirus vaccine to be available by October – just before the presidential election – and a growing number of scientists, regulators and public health experts have expressed concern about what they consider to be a specimen of the view political arm twist by Trump administration.

In this environment, a handful of drug companies competing to develop coronavirus vaccines are planning a joint pledge to reassure the public that they will not seek early approvals.

In their pending statement, the companies are expected not to release vaccines that do not meet strict efficacy and safety standards, according to representatives of three companies.

The joint statement was slated for early next week but can be released earlier as its existence was published on Friday by the Wall Street Journal. Manufacturers believed to have signed the letter include Pfizer, Moderna, Johnson & Johnson, GlaxoSmithKline, and Sanofi.

Pfizer and Moderna are working with UK-based AstraZeneca to test their candidates in late-stage clinical trials. Pfizer's executive director said this week that the company could see results as early as October, but the others just said they plan to release a vaccine by the end of the year.

Companies have to navigate dangerous terrain. If they are among the first to bring a successful vaccine to market, they could generate significant profits and help restore the image of an industry hit by soaring drug prices.

However, if a vaccine turns out to have dangerous side effects for some people, the consequences can be catastrophic, damaging the company's reputation, compromising its broader product portfolio, and putting trust in vaccines, one of the great advances in human public health, largely undermine history.

Contagion is based on a simple rule: the more infections there are in an open population, the more chance there is for it to spread until enough people are protected by either immunity or a vaccine.

As a result, elected public health officials and experts fear that active coronavirus infections in the US are roughly twice as high on Labor Day weekend as they were on Memorial Day. About a month after the holiday gatherings in late May, the 7-day average of the country's new daily cases had risen to its highest level, more than 60,000.

According to a New York Times database, the country is currently registering about 40,000 new cases per day, compared to about 22,000 per day on Memorial Day weekend. Outbreaks in colleges and university towns have increased as dormitories fill up and classes resume. “Many of the subway areas have had the most per capita cases in the past few days – including Auburn, Ala .; Ames, Iowa; and Statesboro, Ga. – have hundreds of university cases, ”the Times data analysts write.

In a thread on Twitter, Dr. Ashish Jha, Dean of Brown University School of Public Health, highlighted the worrying trends and described the current level of infection as "a minor disaster" as an increase in falls is expected just as flu season begins.

Some states still hold mass gatherings; Some made headway with state trade shows held on Labor Day weekend. Colorado and Maryland both host events, as does South Dakota, where cases have increased in recent weeks.

The spread of the virus is widespread, so few hospitals are as overwhelmed as many in New York, New Jersey and other areas that were badly hit this spring. And other treatments are available. Overall, fewer Americans are sick, hospitalized or dying from Covid-19 than in spring or summer.

According to a New York Times database, deaths have occurred in at least 12 states: Arkansas, Alabama, West Virginia, Kentucky, Missouri, Hawaii, Virginia, Montana, Illinois, Kansas, Maryland, and Colorado. North Carolina appears to be joining that group, reporting 45 deaths on Saturday – a record for the state. Almost all of these states also have case numbers that have already been high or are trending upwards.

On Saturday, West Virginia officials announced more than 250 new cases, the third highest daily total. The state has announced more cases in the past week than in any other seven-day period.

The espionage service of every major country around the world is trying to find out what everyone else is up to when developing a vaccine.

China, Russia and Iran have all made attempts to steal research from some of the leading US corporations and universities, according to US intelligence agents. The British secret service has picked up signals of Russian espionage in US, Canadian and British research. Washington and NATO have redoubled their efforts to protect the information gathered so far.

"It would be surprising if they didn't try to steal the most valuable biomedical research currently underway," said John C. Demers, a senior Justice Department official, last month during an event by the Center for Strategic and International Affairs on China Studies . "Financially valuable and invaluable from a geopolitical perspective."

China's advance is a complex one, and intelligence officials are focusing in part on universities because they see institutional data protection as less robust than that of pharmaceutical companies. The staff have also secretly used information from the World Health Organization to guide their vaccine hacking attempts in both the US and Europe, according to a current and former official familiar with the secret service.

To date, no company or university has announced any data loss resulting from the publicly identified hacking efforts. However, according to an American government official, some operations managed to at least penetrate the defenses to get into computer networks.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, experts have warned that the coronavirus – a pathogen that affects the respiratory tract – is likely to benefit from the scarred lungs of smokers and vapers. Doctors and researchers are now beginning to determine how smoking and vaping appear to improve the virus' ability to spread from person to person, infiltrate the lungs, and cause some of the worst symptoms of Covid-19.

"I have no doubt that smoking and vaping can increase the risk of bad results from Covid-19," said Dr. Stephanie Lovinsky-Desir, a pediatric pulmonologist at Columbia University. “It's pretty clear that smoking and vaping are bad for the lungs and the predominant symptoms of Covid are the airways. These two things will be bad when combined. "

While several studies have found that smoking can more than double a person's risk of severe Covid-19 symptoms, the relationship between vaping and Covid-19 is only gradually becoming clear. A team of researchers recently reported that young adults who vape are five times more likely to get a coronavirus diagnosis.

"If I had caught Covid-19 within a week of my illness, I would probably have died," said Janan Moein, 20, who was hospitalized in early December with a collapsed lung and a diagnosis of vaping-related lung disease.

Mr Moein vaped his first pen a year ago, and in late autumn he blew several THC-laced cartridges a week.

Just months later, he was in the emergency room at Sharp Grossmont Hospital in San Diego, where he fell into a medically induced coma and was forced onto a breathing apparatus. He lost nearly 50 pounds in two weeks.

At one point, Mr. Moein said, his doctors gave him a 5 percent chance of survival.

In the United States, approximately 34 million adults smoke cigarettes, many from color communities with low socioeconomic status – groups known to be more susceptible to the virus. According to a 2019 study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than five million middle and high school students reported using vapes.

In more than four decades as a girls' basketball coach at Lebanon Catholic High School in southeastern Pennsylvania, Patti Hower had led the team to three state championships and 20 district titles. There were high hopes again this year.

But then, in April, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Harrisburg announced that the school would be permanently closed, citing insurmountable financial burdens exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic.

"We never thought, 'Hey, we will never come back to this place as a team," said Ms. Hower, 68, who attended the school along with her father and granddaughters.

As schools across the country debate how to reopen safely, more and more Catholic schools – which faced declining enrollments and donations before the pandemic – are closing for good.

About 150 Catholic schools have closed, said Kathy Mears, director of the National Catholic Educational Association, which is roughly 2 percent of the 6,183 schools that were operational last year. The number of closings this year is at least 50 percent higher than in previous years, she said.

As parents and families lost their jobs during the pandemic, many could no longer pay for tuition in Catholic schools. And when churches closed to contain the spread of the virus, that also ended an important source of donations – some of which were usually intended for parish schools.

One of the most famous Catholic schools that are closing their doors is the Institute of Notre Dame, a facility for girls in Baltimore. Some alumni are struggling to keep the school open and angry that school principals haven't pushed harder to avoid closing it.

Drena Fertetta, a graduate of Notre Dame in 1983, started a group dedicated to reopening the school the next year, perhaps in a different location.

"There is only one sorority that happens to the girls who attend this school," Ms. Fertetta said. "It's not something we just want to get away from."

At a Freedom Day rally on Saturday in Melbourne, Australia, protesters clashed with police and called for an end to strict lockdown restrictions. Police arrested 17 demonstrators and fined more than 160 others, almost all of whom violated authorities' instructions to stay home.

In total, around 200 protesters gathered at the Victoria State War Memorial, the Shrine of Remembrance, where they competed against around 100 officers, some on horseback or in riot gear. At one point, groups of officers grabbed several people on the ground before loading them into police vans. In another case, police put a mask on a protester after handcuffing him.

Many protesters accused the government of fabricating or overestimating the effects of Covid-19.

"I'm here personally to say the suspension must end," said Dellacoma Rio, 38, who took off his shirt to show the word "Freedom" on his back.

Tensions have risen in week five of Victoria’s six-week lockdown, which includes some of the toughest restrictions in the world. All non-essential businesses are closed. Melburnians are only allowed out of their homes to work, play sports, or buy groceries, and travel is limited to approximately 3 miles from home. There is also a night curfew.

State Prime Minister Daniel Andrews condemned the protest as "selfish, dangerous and illegal".

“Solidarity rallies” were also held in other capitals in the country, with hundreds of participants taking part.

Some protesters wore masks and shirts alluding to the Illuminati, while others mentioned QAnon, the viral pro-Trump conspiracy theory.

Alem Dubael, 30, said he was protesting as part of a fight against "corruption in the new world order".

"At the end of the day the truth will come out," he said. "And then everyone who said we were idiots – when it all comes out they'll find out that they are the real idiots."

Other coronavirus news from around the world:

  • MexicoHugo Lopez-Gatell, tsar of the coronavirus, told reporters on Friday that some states where the virus is rising sharply, including Mexico and Baja California, ran out of death certificates last month. He said more than a million new ones had been printed and were being distributed to health officials. The country recorded 66,329 coronavirus deaths on Friday, although a Times investigation earlier this year found the government in Mexico City, the capital, reported not hundreds, possibly thousands, of such deaths.

  • A former Prime Minister of the Cook IslandsJoseph Williams died of Covid-19 in New Zealand, the country's health ministry said on Saturday. He was the 24th to die of Covid-19 New Zealand, which was on hold for the past few weeks to bring a second small coronavirus outbreak under control. Williams, 85, was a well-known doctor in Auckland and briefly served as Prime Minister of the Cook Islands in 1999.

Technology companies' pandemic policies create a backlash against benefits aimed at parents.

At a recent company-wide meeting, Facebook employees repeatedly argued that labor guidelines created in response to Covid-19 "were primarily of benefit to parents".

A fight broke out on an internal message board on Twitter after a worker who had no children at home accused another worker who was saying goodbye to care for a child of not pulling on his or her weight.

As companies grapple with supporting their employees during the pandemic, some employees without children say they are being asked to carry a heavier workload. The gap is more pronounced among some tech companies, where workers tend to be younger and expect generous perks and benefits when they let their jobs do their lives.

Tech companies were among the first to urge employees to work from home in the pandemic and offer generous vacations and extra time off once it became apparent that children would be staying home from school.

The tension was most evident on Facebook, which in March offered up to 10 weeks of paid time off for employees to care for a child whose school or daycare was closed, or an elderly relative whose nursing home was closed.

When Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook's chief operating officer, hosted a company-wide video conference on August 20, more than 2,000 employees agreed to what more Facebook could do to support nonparents.

One employee wrote in comments on the video feed that it was "unfair" that nonparents could not use the same vacation policy that parents were granted. Another wrote that the vacation procedure is usually difficult, but "slightly breezy" for parents.

One parent replied in a note on their Facebook company page, which was only visible within the company, that the question was "harmful" because the parents felt they were being judged negatively and childcare leave was hardly a mental or physical health break.

Not so long ago, before the coronavirus, India's future was very different.

There was a sizzling economy lifting millions out of poverty. The goal was to offer its citizens a bourgeois lifestyle, update their sad military, and become a regional political and economic superpower that can rival China, Asia's greatest success story.

However, the economic devastation caused by the pandemic is jeopardizing much of India's aspirations. The country's economy has shrunk faster than any other great nation. It is estimated that up to 200 million people could return to poverty. Many of the normally busy streets are empty, and people are too scared of the breakout to venture far.

Much of this damage was caused by a lockdown imposed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, which experts say was both too tight and too permeable, both damaging the economy and spreading the virus. India now has the fastest growing coronavirus outbreak. More than 80,000 new infections are reported every day. The country has now exceeded four million confirmed cases.

A feeling of malaise creeps over the nation. Economic growth slowed even before the pandemic. The social divisions are increasing. Anti-Muslim sentiments are growing, in part due to a malicious social media campaign that mistakenly blamed Muslims for spreading the virus. China is increasingly pushing into Indian territory.

Scholars use many of the same words when thinking about India today: Lost. Listless. Wounded. Rudderless. Injustice.

"The engine was smashed," said Arundhati Roy, one of India's greatest writers. “Survivability has been destroyed. And the pieces are all in the air. You don't know where they're going to fall or how they're going to fall. "

On the eve of the 146th Kentucky Derby, the most famous horse race in the United States, the host state reported a daily record of more than 1,443 new coronavirus cases. The derby had been postponed for four months because of the pandemic, and organizers recently abandoned a plan to allow a scaled-down audience at Churchill Downs after a significant increase in cases occurred in and around Louisville, home of the track.

The race is scheduled to start around 7 p.m. on Saturday with Tiz the Law as the favorite. The colt, bred in New York, has already won the prestigious Travers Stakes and Belmont Stakes, which are usually the final leg of the Triple Crown of horse racing. But this year the Belmont was the first, and the Preakness – usually the second leg – is the last on October 3rd.

With the derby happening in the town where police killed Breonna Taylor in her apartment in March, it has become a focus of the Black Lives Matter movement. A coalition of activist groups has called for a boycott of the breed and its sponsors. They promised to protest peacefully in a park near Churchill Downs on Saturday.

The circuit management released a statement Thursday to explain the decision to hold the race.

"We know there are some who disagree with our decision to run the Kentucky Derby this year," it said. "We respect that point of view, but made our decision based on the belief that traditions can remind us of what holds us together as Americans, even as we try to acknowledge and repair the terrible pain that is tearing us apart."

Reporting was written by Julian E. Barnes, Alan Blinder, Damien Cave, Christopher Clarey, Ron DePasquale, Joe Drape, Sheera Frenkel, Jeffrey Gettleman, Rick Gladstone, Emma Goldberg, Mike Ives, Andrea Kannapell, Sharon LaFraniere, and Michael Venutolo-Mantovani . Giulia McDonnell Nieto del Rio, Zach Montague, Katie Thomas, Daisuke Wakabayashi, Noah Weiland, Will Wright and Yan Zhuang.

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