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UK unemployment rate spikes to 4.5% amid winter job fears - ABC News
LONDON -- Unemployment across the U.K. spiked sharply in August, a clear signal that the jobless rate is heading towards levels not seen in nearly 30 years when a British government salary-support scheme ends this month and new local restrictions are imposed to suppress a resurgence of the coronavirus. The Office for National Statistics said Tuesday that unemployment rose by 138,000 in the three months to August from the previous three-month period. The unemployment rate jumped to 4.5%, its highest rate since early 2017, from 4.1% in the previous quarter. So far, Britain has been spared the sharp rises in unemployment seen in the United States because of the governments Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, which has paid most of the salaries of workers who have not been fired. Some 1.2 million employers have taken advantage of the program to furlough 9.6 million people at a cost to the government of nearly 40 billion pounds ($52 billion). At one stage, around 30% of the U.K.'s working population was on furlough. Although they weren't working over the past few months, they were not counted as unemployed. Since the program ends at the end of October, many of those still on furlough are expected to be made redundant and unemployment to rise further. And with many parts of the U.K. seeing large increases in coronavirus infections and the government imposing local restrictions, there are concerns that unemployment could soar towards 3 million, levels not seen since the early 1990s. A higher case rate, new restrictions and less government support are likely to push unemployment up over the winter months, said Ian Stewart, chief economist at Deloitte. "The path of the virus continues to dictate the direction of the economy. On Monday, the government carved England into three tiers of coronavirus risk in a bid to slow a resurgent outbreak, putting the northern city of Liverpool into the highest-risk category and shutting its pubs, gyms and betting shops. Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the three-level system was designed to simplify and standardize a confusing patchwork of local rules, as the country enters a crucial phase. Johnson said hospitals are filling up with more COVID-19 patients than in March, when he ordered a national lockdown. To ease the economic hit from the new restrictions, the government has said it will pay two thirds of the salaries of workers in companies that have to close as a result of the new restrictions. Leaders across the north of England and unions have slammed the new package as unacceptable because it's not as generous as the national scheme and because it doesnt include workers in companies that would be affected indirectly. Wage replacement should be 80% for businesses who have to shut," said Frances O'Grady, general secretary of the umbrella Trades Union Congress. We need a more generous short-time working scheme for firms which arent required to close but will be hit by stricter local restrictions, and self-employed people in local lockdown areas need help, too. Follow APs pandemic coverage at http://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak
Rap at auction: Biggie's crown and Tupac Shakur letters - ABC News
NEW YORK -- Rivals in life, the rappers Notorious B.I.G. and Tupac Shakur are being united for an auction at Sothebys, the first-ever dedicated hip-hop auction at a major international auction house. Bidders will be able to vie for the crown worn and signed by the Notorious B.I.G. during a 1997 photo shoot held three days before he was killed in Los Angeles. They'll also get to bid on an archive of 22 autographed love letters written by Shakur at the age of 15-17 to a high school sweetheart. The auction will be held Sept. 15 and features over 120 hip-hop-related lots. The items can be viewed in person reservations are required during the pandemic at Sotheby's in New York City and the exhibition will also be available to the public online via its digital gallery. The impact of hip-hop is everywhere sneakers, clothing, jewelry, art, music. I wanted to have a sale that really recognized how massive that impact really is, said Cassandra Hatton, the Sothebys senior specialist who organized the sale. The estimates for the headlining lots $200,000 to $300,000 for the crown and $60,000 to $80,000 for the letters are low, with the hope that the auction house can attract first-time bidders and show it is not just a stuffy place for multi-million-dollar watches and paintings. Onetime friends who became rivals in a hype-fueled war between the East and West Coast rap scenes, Shakur and the Notorious B.I.G. also known as Biggie Smalls were gunned down within months of each other. Both crimes remain unsolved. The crown has been in photographer Barron Claiborne's possession since he captured Biggie for the cover of Rap Pages magazine. Claiborne had provided the prop, hoping to portray Biggie as the king of New York. Sean Diddy Combs, owner of Biggies label Bad Boy Entertainment, was with the rapper on the photo shoot. I've seen the crown. Everybody's seen the crown. It's so famous. It's so iconic. When I was first thinking of doing this sale, I thought, Wouldnt it be great to track that crown down?' Hatton said. "I've sold all sorts of wild things. But this is a little different." Shakur's letters many on lined stationary pages with neat hand-lettered script were written in 1987 and 1988 to Kathy Loy, a fellow student at the Baltimore School for the Arts. The 42 pages chronicle their approximately two-month long romance, including a letter of regret for breaking up sent a year later. Loy provided the letters for auction. I'll always be there for you, Shakur wrote to her in one. In a poem, we writes: Everything is so beautiful/since I fell in love. The trove also reveal his friendship with fellow student Jada Pinkett Smith, who he mentions in one letter: Jada told me she can see how much I love you." What interested Hatton most is the tone of the letters. Unlike Shakur's tough public persona, the letters reveal a sweet, poetic, sensitive young man. There are definitely moments that made me blush reading the letters he is a 16-year-old boy after all, she added. But he is very respectful. He advocates for clear communication and boundaries and wants to define relationships. The auction continues Sotheby's recent trend toward embracing items prized by popular culture, including hosting the first dedicated sneaker auction at one of the big auction houses in July 2019. A pair of Michael Jordans signed, game-worn Nikes was recently auctioned by Christies for a record $615,000. Mark Kennedy is at http://twitter.com/KennedyTwits
NASA drops 'insensitive' celestial nicknames in effort to address systemic discrimination - ABC News
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has announced that they will stop using nicknames of celestial bodies that are culturally insensitive. In a statement released on Wednesday, August 5, NASA said that it had become clear that certain cosmic nicknames were not only insensitive but actively harmful and that they were taking these initial steps to address systemic discrimination and inequality in all aspects of the field. As an initial step, NASA will no longer refer to planetary nebula NGC 2392, the glowing remains of a Sun-like star that is blowing off its outer layers at the end of its life, as the Eskimo Nebula, NASA said in the statement. Eskimo is widely viewed as a colonial term with a racist history, imposed on the indigenous people of Arctic regions. Most official documents have moved away from its use. NASA also said that they would stop referring to a distant galaxy as the Siamese Twins Galaxy. NASA will also no longer use the term Siamese Twins Galaxy to refer to NGC 4567 and NGC 4568, a pair of spiral galaxies found in the Virgo Galaxy Cluster, the statement from NASA said. Moving forward, NASA will use only the official, International Astronomical Union designations in cases where nicknames are inappropriate. Siamese twins is an antiquated term that references a pair of Siamese-American conjoined twins in the 1800s who regularly appeared in what was known as freak shows at the time. Nicknames are often given to celestial bodies and are often referred to by them rather than their official names, such as Barnard 33, also known as "the Horsehead Nebula" because of how it looks. But NASA said these seemingly innocuous nicknames can be harmful and ultimately take away from the science. I support our ongoing reevaluation of the names by which we refer to astronomical objects, said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of NASAs Science Mission Directorate at Headquarters, Washington. Our goal is that all names are aligned with our values of diversity and inclusion, and well proactively work with the scientific community to help ensure that. Science is for everyone, and every facet of our work needs to reflect that value. Going forward, NASA said that they will be working with diversity, inclusion and equity experts to provide advice and guidance for designated nicknames. "These nicknames and terms may have historical or culture connotations that are objectionable or unwelcoming, and NASA is strongly committed to addressing them," said Stephen T. Shih, Associate Administrator for Diversity and Equal Opportunity at NASA Headquarters. "Science depends on diverse contributions, and benefits everyone, so this means we must make it inclusive. There has been a cultural reckoning in the months after the death of George Floyd at the hands of four police officers in Minneapolis and NASA is the latest organization to join the likes of an ever-growing list -- alongside the likes of the Washington Football Team, musical groups The Chicks and Lady A, and food products such as Aunt Jemima, Mrs. Butterworths and Dreyer's Grand Ice Cream who announced it was dropping the brand "Eskimo Pie" after a century -- in examining the power of names.
COVID-19 vaccine candidates show promising early results, but finish line still far ahead - ABC News
A flurry of research, newly released by multiple manufacturers of COVID-19 vaccine candidates, provides reassuring glimmers of hope that scientists are on track to develop an effective and safe vaccine at record speed. On Monday, three research groups separately released early positive results demonstrating that their respective COVID-19 experimental vaccines induced a multipronged immune response that may be important for long-term protection against infection. Those groups included the University of Oxford and its partner AstraZeneca, Pfizer and its partner BioNTech and the Chinese vaccine company CanSino Biologics. Last week, Moderna also released promising early data. Experts caution that these early studies, though promising, will need to be confirmed with larger Phase 3 trials, involving tens of thousands of people, to determine if any vaccine could be truly effective. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), there are at least 23 COVID-19 vaccine candidates that have progressed to various stages of human studies. So far, several of these candidates have showed promising preliminary data from their early clinical trials, either in peer-reviewed journals, directly online to preprint servers or in press releases. On Monday, new data by Oxford-AstraZeneca, published in the journal The Lancet, suggested that the vaccine is relatively safe and induces an immune response to fight the novel coronavirus. All 1,077 volunteers who received the vaccine in the Phase 1/2 trial developed neutralizing antibodies against COVID-19. These specific antibodies are infection-fighting proteins produced by the body that may prevent the virus from infecting healthy cells. The vaccine also elicited a T-cell response to the virus: another method of defense used by the immune system to bolster protection and attack cells already infected by the virus. Professor Adrian Hill, director of Oxford's Jenner Institute, called the latest data very "encouraging" in an interview with ABC News, adding that experts are "seeing both arms of the immune systems stimulated very strongly by the vaccine." Meanwhile, BioNTech and Pfizer also released results of a Phase 1/2 trial Monday. That study included 60 participants and showed that the vaccine induced both neutralizing antibody and T-cell responses. The results were published in a preprint server, meaning they have not yet undergone the normal scientific review process. A subject receives a shot in the first-stage safety study clinical trial of a potential vaccine by Moderna for COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus, at the Kaiser Permanente Washington Health Research Institute in Seattle, March 16, 2020. A subject receives a shot in the first-stage safety study clinical trial of a potential vaccine by Moderna for COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus, at the Kaiser Permanente Washington Health Research Institute in Seattle, March 16, 2020. Ted S. Warren/AP, FILE Also on Monday, CanSino Biologics released data in the Lancet that showed similar results. And last week, the U.S.-based company Moderna released data in the New England Journal of Medicine that also demonstrated this two-pronged effect of neutralizing antibodies and T-cell response. Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health, told ABC News that many of the vaccines with recently-published data look promising. "Their Phase 1 data looks really good," Collins said, referring to Oxford's vaccine. "I wouldn't say it looks distinctly better than what you see for the Moderna trial or the Pfizer trial. They all look good, which is really encouraging to see." Collectively, these early studies indicate that all four vaccine candidates might confer immunity through multiple pathways to fight COVID-19, although experts caution that more research is still needed. Dr. Paul Goepfert, director of the Alabama Vaccine Research Clinic at UAB, said that "distinguishing one vaccine candidate from another is very difficult at this point. They all induce about the same amount of responses. They all induce neutralizing antibody response, which is sort of the gold standard of protection for a lot of vaccines." According to Goepfert, antibodies protect against infection, while T-cells -- especially a specific subtype known as killer T-cells -- attack previously-infected cells and are very good at preventing disease. "So ideally, you want everything. The more the merrier," said Goepfert, "The more types of immune responses you can induce with the vaccine, and the higher amount, we think that's the best thing you can have." But he warned that this is not always the case. Some effective and already widely-used vaccines, like the Hepatitis B vaccine, do not induce any killer T-cell response but are still highly effective. Although the results reported this week are promising, it's still too early to predict which one of the vaccines will be the most effective. Early Phase 1 and Phase 2 studies mainly examine vaccine safety, tolerability and immune response, but Phase 3 trials will provide answers to these much-anticipated questions about efficacy. Even Hill admitted that the Oxford team still doesn't have the data to determine how well their vaccine will actually work. "The truth is that we don't know when we'll have a final result or how well the vaccine works," Hill said. "It's likely to be months. We were aiming for September, October... I still think that's a realistic aspiration but we can't be certain." When it comes to large Phase 3 studies, Oxford is slightly ahead of the pack, having already enrolled over 10,000 people in Brazil, South America, the U.K. and, soon, in the U.S. "We're aiming to vaccinate, in total, around about 50,000 people over the coming months, so that's promising, but you know it's not really a race against other vaccines, it's a race against time," Hill added. "But at the moment we're probably ahead in terms of Phase 3 trials and hoping to get a result certainly this year." Among European and North American vaccine efforts, Moderna is following right behind, scheduled to begin its Phase 3 trials next week. Similarly, Pfizer-BioNTech is on track to launch its Phase 2/3 trial later this month. Among Chinese companies, two have already begun Phase 3 trials: Sinovac and Sinopharm. According to CanSino Biologics' executive director, Qiu Dongxu, the company is expected to begin Phase 3 trials "soon," but a clear start date is yet to be publicly released. Biopharmaceutical companies across the world have now pivoted their efforts to primarily support the development of COVID-19 treatments and vaccines. Progress has been made at record speeds, and during an unprecedented time, the U.S. government is taking unprecedented measures, ramping up the development of some of these vaccines before even confirming their efficacy. According to Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's top infectious disease doctor, "If everything works out the way we hope and we don't get any unpredictable potholes and bumps in the road, we should know, as we get into the mid to late fall, early winter, probably late fall, whether we have candidates that really are safe and effective." Many scientists and researchers have been working nonstop for the past six months to find a vaccine against COVID-19. "We feel that there's urgency and pressure really every day," Hill said. "People are working day and night and we're not going to stop until we get an answer." Eden David, who studied neuroscience at Columbia University and is matriculating to Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai later this year, is a member of the ABC News Medical Unit. Sabina Bera, M.D., M.S., a psychiatrist in New York, and Shantum Misra, M.D., a senior resident in internal medicine at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, are contributors to the ABC News Medical Unit.
Type 1 diabetics may be at high risk for severe illness related to coronavirus: Study - ABC News
People with Type 1 diabetes may be at a high risk of developing severe symptoms and illness from COVID-19, according to a new study published in Diabetes Care. Diabetes is generally known to weaken the immune system, making it harder to protect against viral infections like COVID-19. Viruses, like the novel coronavirus, may also aggravate preexisting diabetic systems leading to added challenges managing blood sugar levels and worse outcomes. Researchers found that about half of the people in the study with Type 1 diabetes and suspected or confirmed COVID-19 infections had abnormally high blood sugar -- highlighting how COVID-19 can complicate blood sugar control in Type 1 diabetic patients. Having consistently high blood sugar can be a sign of diabetic ketoacidosis, a potentially fatal diabetic complication that is characterized by high blood sugar and low insulin levels. It is commonly triggered by infections. In the study, almost half of all confirmed COVID-19 cases also developed diabetic ketoacidosis, "This points to the need for people with diabetes to check their blood glucose often, and to keep blood glucose in good control." said Dr. K.M Venkat Narayan, professor of global health and epidemiology at Emory University, who was not involved in the study. He added, "People with diabetes, in general, are at increased risk of adverse COVID complications, and at more than twice the risk of death from COVID than people without diabetes." There are two main types of diabetes: Type 1 and Type 2. Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune condition, which means that the immune system attacks the body's own cells and impairs its ability to produce insulin, a hormone that helps to control blood sugar levels. Blood sugar regulation is a complicated process, affected by multiple factors such as food, sleep, stress and illness. Type 2 diabetes, the much more common form of the disease, usually presents itself in adults and can often be controlled by healthy eating and exercise. This study only included patients with Type 1 diabetes and a suspected or confirmed case of COVID-19. "So far, most of the studies published have lumped together all types of diabetes. We know these conditions can be very different and we need to study them separately," said Dr. Fernando Ovalle, director of the division of endocrinology, diabetes and metabolism at the Birmingham School of Medicine, University of Alabama, who was not involved in the study. Dr. Mary Pat Gallagher, director of pediatric diabetes at NYU Langone Health and co-author of the study said that from the data they have the risks of complications, such as high blood sugar and diabetic ketoacidosis with COVID-19, are probably similar to those seen in other viral illnesses. However, "COVID is a more serious infection than influenza," Narayan said. More research is needed, according to Ovalle. The study was fairly small; most people studied were in their early 20s and did not examine how the severity of COVID-19 symptoms compared to people without Type 1 diabetes. "Much more research is needed before we can know for sure what the true risks are, particularly for Type 1 diabetes," he said. Dr. Osagie Ebekozien, author of the paper and vice president at T1D Exchange, added, "As we collect additional data, we will be able to provide more insights on factors that contribute to increased risks of hospitalization and adverse outcomes as a result of COVID-19 for people with Type 1 diabetes." Regardless, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that diabetes, "including type 1, type 2, or gestational, may put people at higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19," and patients should take extra precautions. The agency recommends taking diabetes pills or insulin as usual, testing and keeping track of blood sugar every four hours, and having at least a two-week supply of diabetes pills or insulin. "High glucose levels may be one factor contributing to excess risk from COVID, and therefore, attention to glucose control is key," said Narayan. Experts advise that diabetics should talk to their physicians if their medications need adjustment. "It is usually possible to prevent diabetic ketoacidosis if the higher insulin requirements that are often seen with viral illnesses are addressed early in the process," said Gallagher. A healthy lifestyle with regular exercise, balanced diet, regular sleep and stress management all help with diabetes control and "may also help boost defenses against COVID," said Narayan. Amid the pandemic, disruptions to work, care and daily routines make it harder to maintain good blood sugar control. Experts advise vigilance and care: Take safety measures to avoid COVID-19, check blood sugar levels more frequently if feeling sick and do not hesitate to seek a physician's assistance. Serious complications are preventable with early intervention and responsible diabetes management. ABC News' Dr. Jessica Johnson contributed to this report. Hassal Lee, a neuroscience Ph.D., and student doctor at the University of Cambridge is a contributor to the ABC News Medical Unit.
China auto sales sink 48.4% in March as virus hurts demand - ABC News
BEIJING -- Chinas auto sales sank 48.4% in March from a year ago as the economy reeled from the coronavirus, according to an industry group, adding to strains for the struggling industry in its biggest global market. Sales of SUVs, sedans and minivans totaled just over 1 million, the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers said. Total vehicle sales, including trucks and buses, declined 43.3% to 1.4 million. The decline was an improvement over Februarys record-setting 81.7% sales plunge after auto dealerships and other businesses were shut down to fight the try to stop the viruss spread. The ruling Communist Party started reopening factories, restaurants and stores in March after declaring victory over the outbreak. But consumers who are uneasy about potential job losses or a resurgence of the virus are reluctant to make big purchases. On the consumer side, since the epidemic has not completely ended, some market demand is still being suppressed, the CAAM said in a statement Friday. Auto sales in the first three months of 2020 were down 45.4% at 2.9 million. Demand already was weak due to consumer jitters about a tariff war with Washington, slower economic growth and possible job losses. Sales fell 9.6% last year, their second straight annual decline. The downturn is a blow to global automakers that are counting on China to drive revenue growth amid weak demand in the United States and Europe. Forecasters say it will be weeks or months before production returns to normal. Automakers say the pace depends on how fast suppliers can resume delivering components. The downturn is squeezing global and Chinese brands that are investing billions of dollars to develop electric vehicles under pressure to meet government sales targets. Sales of electric and gasoline-electric hybrid SUVs and sedans fell 53.2% from a year earlier in March to 53,000, according to CAAM. That was an improvement over Februarys 75.2% decline. EV sales for the first three months of the year were off 56.4% at 114,000. China is the biggest market for electrics, accounting for about half of last years global sales. EV demand sank in mid-2019 when Beijing ended multibillion-dollar subsidies to producers and buyers and shifted the burden to the industry by requiring automakers to make a portion of their sales electric.