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White woman called police on black man in dog row - BBC News
The woman has now been suspended from her job at an investment firm in New York City.
Coronavirus: Call for clear face masks to be 'the norm' - BBC News
Transparent masks allow deaf people to communicate - but supplies are short where they are most needed.
Image caption Kelly Morellon (right) and her mother Sylvie have designed a face mask with a transparent window It's now part of daily life for many of us - struggling to work out what someone in a supermarket or at work is saying when they're wearing a face mask. But for people who are deaf or have hearing loss, masks can prevent them understanding anything at all. "You might as well be speaking in French," says Fizz Izagaren, a paediatric doctor in the UK who has been profoundly deaf since the age of two. "I can hear one or two words but it's random, it makes no sense When someone is wearing a face mask I've lost the ability to lip read and I've lost facial expressions - I have lost the key things that make a sentence." It is a problem she shares with the some 466 million people around the world who, according to the World Health Organization, have disabling hearing loss. Standard face masks, which have become widespread as countries try to stop the spread of coronavirus, muffle words and obscure the mouth. But now charities and manufacturers alike are coming up with a solution. Image caption Fizz Izagaren says she feels isolated when everyone around her is wearing a standard mask Main dans la Main (Hand in Hand), an association which supports deaf and hearing impaired people in Chevrières, northern France, is among the organisations around the world that have created a mask with a transparent window. Its founder Kelly Morellon worked with her mother Sylvie to devise a design that covers the nose but makes the mouth visible, and can be washed at a high temperature to reduce infection. "The basic aim of these transparent masks is to allow deaf and hearing impaired people to read the lips of someone speaking to them," Kelly told the BBC. "But they are also very useful for autistic people, people with learning difficulties and small children who might be scared of masks or need to be able to see facial expressions. "In any case, a transparent mask allows you to see each other's smiles, and at this sad time this could not be more important." Image caption The clear screen in Kelly Morellon's design can be removed so the cloth can be washed Unlike some companies around the world - in Scotland, the US and Indonesia, for instance - Kelly and her mother are not able to produce their masks on a commercial basis. Instead, they are advising people on how to make their own and there are multiple guidelines online to help. Their top tip is to use a little washing up soap to stop the plastic screen fogging up. But one setting where homemade masks are not suitable - but where both PPE and communication are vital - is in hospitals. There is just one company in the US that has secured Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval to make clear masks for clinical use. Five hundred of these masks are being used at Brigham and Women's hospital in the US city of Boston. At the moment they are being reserved for staff to wear when they are speaking to patients with hearing loss, or vice versa. Sign language interpreters, who use facial expressions and lip movements alongside body movements to create more complex and culturally rich signs, also wear them. Image copyrightBrigham and Womens HospitalImage caption James Wiggins, an American Sign Language interpreter, is among the staff at the Brigham who have been wearing the transparent masks "When we saw the Covid-19 pandemic beginning we soon realised there was going to be a challenge because of the escalated use of PPE and how that would create communication barriers," said Dr Cheri Blauwet, who leads the disability task force at the Brigham. "We've had glowing feedback from patients and we're getting broader requests from other parts of the hospital, especially the paediatric floors." In the UK, there are no approved manufacturers providing clear masks to hospitals. And the sole US manufacturer is not taking any more orders as it deals with overwhelming demand. Fizz Izagaren, a paediatric registrar at Frimley Park Hospital in Surrey in the UK who is also deaf, says standard masks prevent her from taking patients' histories verbally. She also says she feels isolated at work because she is not able to speak to her colleagues. "Clear masks should be the norm for everyone in a healthcare setting," she says. Image copyrightEPAImage caption The elderly are both more at risk from coronavirus and more likely to have hearing loss She is now working with a product designer to try to come up with a mask that the NHS could use widely. But even once a design and a manufacturer are found, this could take time to roll out. In the meantime, there are concerns the current PPE could stop medical staff getting the required consent from patients. An intensive care nurse working in London, who is profoundly deaf, told the BBC she had one experience where a patient, who also had hearing loss, was not able to understand her or her colleagues when they were explaining a procedure. The patient could not give consent and the procedure could not go ahead. "[Clear masks] would make things a lot easier for me," she said. "I would be able to do my jobs properly and safely. I would have more independence rather than having to rely on others." In the UK, eight charities have written to NHS bosses calling for clear masks to be commissioned, warning of "potentially dangerous situations" arising from communication problems. NHS England has not yet responded to the letter, or to the BBC's request for comment. The UK government says it is supporting CARDMEDIC, which provides digital flashcards and other communication aids to NHS Trusts. There are also apps that transcribe speech into text on a mobile phone. But deaf workers say these workarounds are not always suitable for sensitive or emergency situations. "As masks become more widespread in the community - it's going to get harder and harder," Dr Izagaren says. "I'm worried the public are going to get more and more frustrated and there will be more discrimination towards the deaf community." It is not just people with hearing loss who could benefit, she says. Experts suggest that other professions such as taxi drivers or even teachers may find clear masks useful as the coronavirus crisis continues. A niche product initially designed to help the deaf community, could in fact make everyone's lives better.
Sir Richard Branson: Virgin Orbit rocket fails on debut flight - BBC News
A California company owned by UK businessman Sir Richard Branson fails to launch a rocket to orbit.
Image copyrightVirgin OrbitImage caption The company had done practice runs but this was supposed to be the first rocket ignition in flight Sir Richard Branson's Virgin Orbit company has tried unsuccessfully to launch a rocket over the Pacific Ocean. The booster was released from under the wing of one of the UK entrepreneur's old jumbos which had been specially converted for the task. The rocket should have ignited its engine seconds later but engineers had to terminate the flight. Virgin Orbit's goal is to try to capture a share of the emerging market for the launch of small satellites. It's not clear at this stage what went wrong but the firm had warned beforehand that the chances of success might be in the region of 50:50. The history of rocketry shows that maiden outings very often encounter technical problems. The firm is sure to be back for another attempt pretty soon - depending on the outcome of the post-mission analysis. Engineers already have a second rocket built at Orbit's Long Beach factory in California. Skip Twitter post by @Virgin_OrbitWe've confirmed a clean release from the aircraft. However, the mission terminated shortly into the flight. Cosmic Girl and our flight crew are safe and returning to base. — Virgin Orbit (@Virgin_Orbit) May 25, 2020 End of Twitter post by @Virgin_Orbit Most publicity about Sir Richard space activities has focussed on the tourist plane he is developing to take fare-paying passengers on joy rides above the atmosphere. His satellite-launch venture, however, is entirely separate. Orbit is chasing the growing interest in small spacecraft that are being designed for telecommunications and Earth observation. New manufacturing techniques, often involving "off-the-shelf" components from the consumer electronics industry, mean these satellites can now be turned out for a fraction of their historic cost. But they need matching inexpensive means of getting into space - and the air-launched system from Virgin Orbit is intended to meet this demand. Sunday's flight illustrated the basic launch concept. The 747, known as Cosmic Girl, left Mojave Air and Space Port to the north of Los Angeles shortly before midday Pacific time (19:00 GMT / 20:00 BST), carrying the rocket, dubbed LauncherOne, under its left wing. At 35,000ft (10km), just west of the Channel Islands, the jet unlatched the liquid-fuelled booster to let it go into freefall. LauncherOne was supposed to ignite its Newton Three engine four seconds later and make the climb to orbit. But it clearly didn't get very far. We're still waiting to hear precisely what happened. The only information available at the moment comes from the company's Twitter feed: "The mission terminated shortly into the flight. Cosmic Girl and our flight crew are safe and returning to base." More updates soon.
NPC: China to present HK 'sedition' law at parliament - BBC News
Pro-democracy activists fear Beijing pushing through a new law could be "the end of Hong Kong".
Image copyrightAFP / GettyImage caption Shoppers walking past a broadcast of Chinese Premier Li Keqiang delivering his speech at the opening of the NPC The Chinese government is set to present a controversial Hong Kong security law at its congress, the most important political event of the year. Hong Kong's "mini-constitution" says it must enact security laws to prevent "treason, secession and sedition". But such laws have never been passed and now Beijing is now attempting to push them through. The annual National People's Congress largely rubber-stamps decisions already taken by the Communist leadership. The BBC's China correspondent, Robin Brant, says that what makes the situation so incendiary is that Beijing could, in theory, simply bypass Hong Kong's elected legislators and impose the changes. Hong Kong is what is known as a "special administrative region" of China. It has observed a "one country, two systems" policy since Britain returned sovereignty in 1997, which has allowed it certain freedoms the rest of China does not have. Pro-democracy activists fear that China pushing through the law could mean "the end of Hong Kong" - that is, the effective end of its autonomy and these freedoms. Last year, Hong Kong experienced a sustained wave of violent protest and public fury as well as demands for democratic reform. The Chinese leadership believes this law is needed to prevent a repeat of those protests. What is Beijing trying to do? According to the Basic Law - the territory's mini-constitution - Hong Kong's government is required to pass national security legislation. However, an attempt in 2003 failed after 500,000 people took to the streets in opposition. So the latest attempt to push through the laws has caused outrage among pro-democracy activists in Hong Kong. One legislator on Thursday called the laws "the most controversial [issue] in Hong Kong since the handover". Media captionThe BBC's Helier Cheung on Hong Kong's 2019 protests China could essentially place this law into Annex III of the Basic Law, which covers national laws that must be implemented in Hong Kong - either by legislation, or decree. Hong Kong has a far higher degree of democracy and free speech than mainland China. But pro-democracy activists fear the law will be used to muzzle protests - as similar laws in China are used to silence opposition to the Communist Party. Last year's mass protests in Hong Kong were sparked by a bill that would have allowed extraditions to mainland China. The bill was paused, then withdrawn - but the protests continued until the virus outbreak at the end of the year. What do opponents say the dangers are? A number of pro-democracy figures in Hong Kong have spoken out in despair essentially worried that this move spells out the end for Hong Kong's freedoms. Civic Party lawmaker Dennis Kwok said "if this move takes place, 'one country, two systems' will be officially erased. This is the end of Hong Kong". Student activist and politician Joshua Wong tweeted that the move was an attempt by Beijing to "silence Hong Kongers' critical voices with force and fear". The US also weighed in, saying the move could be "highly destabilising" and undermine China's obligations. President Trump said the US would react strongly if it went through - without giving details. It is currently considering whether to extend Hong Kong's preferential trading and investment privileges. Media captionFormer Hong Kong governor Chris Patten: "UK should tell China this is outrageous" The last British governor of Hong Kong, Chris Patten, called the move a "comprehensive assault on the city's autonomy" Why is China doing this? Sources at the National People's Congress (NPC) said Beijing can no longer wait for Hong Kong to pass its own law, nor can it continue to watch the growth of what it sees as a violent anti-government movement. One source told the South China Morning Post: "We can no longer allow acts like desecrating national flags or defacing of the national emblem in Hong Kong." Beijing may also fear September's elections to Hong Kong's legislature. If last year's success for pro-democracy parties in district elections is repeated, government bills could potentially be blocked. Announcing the move on Thursday, spokesman Zhang Yesui gave little away, saying the measure would "improve" on one country, two systems. Mr Zhang said: "National security is the bedrock underpinning the stability of the country. Safeguarding national security serves the fundamental interest of all Chinese, our Hong Kong compatriots included." After debating the issue, the NPC will vote on it next week. The matter would then not advance until June, when it goes before China's Standing Committee. An editorial in the state-run China Daily said the law meant that "those who challenge national security will necessarily be held accountable for their behaviour". In Hong Kong, the pro-Beijing DAB party said it "fully supported" the proposals, which were made "in response to Hong Kong's rapidly worsening political situation in recent years". What is Hong Kong's legal situation? Hong Kong was under British control for more than 150 years up to 1997. The British and Chinese governments signed a treaty - the Sino-British Joint Declaration - that agreed Hong Kong would have "a high degree of autonomy, except in foreign and defence affairs", for 50 years. This was enshrined in the Basic Law, which runs out in 2047. As a result, Hong Kong's own legal system, borders, and rights - including freedom of assembly and free speech - are protected. But Beijing has the ability to veto any changes to the political system and has, for example, ruled out direct election of the chief executive. Media captionUproar on Monday in Hong Kong's legislature Hong Kong saw widespread political protests in 2019 but these became much smaller during the coronavirus outbreak. But anger is still simmering, as chaotic scenes n Hong Kong's legislative chamber on Monday showed: a number of pro-democracy lawmakers were dragged out during a row about the Chinese national anthem. The government on its part has signalled its determination to act and recently charged prominent pro-democracy activists over last year's protests.
Pollution: Birds 'ingesting hundreds of bits of plastic a day' - BBC News
Plastic pollutants in UK rivers are finding their way into wildlife and moving up the food chain.
Image copyrightCharles TylerImage caption The dipper feeds on river insects Birds living on river banks are ingesting plastic at the rate of hundreds of tiny fragments a day, according to a new study. Scientists say this is the first clear evidence that plastic pollutants in rivers are finding their way into wildlife and moving up the food chain. Pieces of plastic 5mm or smaller (microplastics), including polyester, polypropylene and nylon, are known to pollute rivers. The impacts on wildlife are unclear. Researchers at Cardiff University looked at plastic pollutants found in a bird known as a dipper, which wades or dives into rivers in search of underwater insects. "These iconic birds, the dippers, are ingesting hundreds of pieces of plastic every day," said Prof Steve Ormerod of Cardiff University's Water Research Institute. "They're also feeding this material to their chicks." Previous research has shown that half of the insects in the rivers of south Wales contain microplastic fragments. "The fact that so many river insects are contaminated makes it inevitable that fish, birds and other predators will pick up these polluted prey - but this is the first time that this type of transfer through food webs has been shown clearly in free-living river animals," said co-researcher Dr Joseph D'Souza. Image caption Plastic also accumulates in animals on beaches like this lugworm The research team examined droppings and regurgitated pellets from dippers living near rivers running from the Brecon Beacons down to the Severn Estuary. They found microplastic fragments in roughly half of 166 samples taken from adults and nestlings, at 14 of 15 sites studied, with the greatest concentrations in urban locations. Most were fibres from textiles or building materials. Calculations suggest dippers are ingesting around 200 tiny fragments of plastic a day from the insects they consume. Previous studies have shown that microplastics are present even in the depths of the ocean and are ending up in the bodies of living organisms, from seals to crabs to seabirds. Rivers are a major route between land and sea for microplastics such as synthetic clothing fibres, tyre dust and other fragmenting plastic waste. The research, published in the journal Global Change Biology, was carried out in collaboration with the Greenpeace Research Laboratories at the University of Exeter. Follow Helen on Twitter.
Climate change: Top 10 tips to reduce carbon footprint revealed - BBC News
A report lists some of the best ways people can tackle their own contribution to climate change.
Image copyrightGetty ImagesImage caption Switching to a vegan diet can help but doesn't quite have the impact of other measures Climate change can still be tackled but only if people are willing to embrace major shifts in the way we live, a report says. The authors have put together a list of the best ways for people to reduce their carbon footprints. The response to the Covid-19 crisis has shown that the public is willing to accept radical change if they consider it necessary, they explain. And the report adds that government priorities must be re-ordered. Protecting the planet must become the first duty of all decision-makers, the researchers argue. The authors urge the public to contribute by adopting the carbon-cutting measures in the report, which is based on an analysis of 7,000 other studies. Top of the list is living car-free, which saves an average of 2.04 tonnes of CO2 equivalent per person annually. This is followed by driving a battery electric car - 1.95 tonnes of CO2 equivalent per person annually - and taking one less long-haul flight each year - 1.68 tonnes of CO2 equivalent per person. Switching to a vegan diet will help - but less than tackling transport, the research shows. It says popular activities such as recycling are worthwhile, but dont cut emissions by as much. Change of mindset The lead author, Dr Diana Ivanova from Leeds University, told BBC News: We need a complete change of mindset. We have to agree how much carbon we can each emit within the limits of what the planet can bear then make good lives within those boundaries. The top 10 options are available to us now, without the need for controversial and expensive new technologies. Dr Ivanova said the coronavirus lockdown has shown that many people could live without cars if public transport, walking and cycling were improved. Her research highlights rich people who typically take more flights, drive bigger cars and consume the most. A 'moral issue' She said: All the world suffers from climate change, but its not the average person who flies regularly its a small group, yet aviation is under-taxed. Its a moral issue. In her league table, buying renewable power and using public transport rank fourth and fifth. Sixth is insulating your home well, which saves 0.895 tonnes of CO2 equivalent. Seventh is switching to a vegan diet, which saves 0.8 tonnes. Image copyrightPA MediaImage caption Effectively insulating your home is an important step Other top actions are using heat pumps; switching from polluting cookstoves (in developing countries) to better methods of cooking, and heating buildings with renewable energy. Dr Ivanova said that if people implemented the measures, it would save around nine tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) per person per year. Current annual household emissions are around 10 tonnes in the UK, and 17 in the US. 'Valuable' study The study, out soon in the journal Environmental Research Letters, says the following are worthwhile, but of lesser benefit to the climate: green roofs; using less paper; buying more durable items; turning down the thermostat - and recycling, which saves 0.01 tonnes of CO2 equivalent per year, according to Dr Ivanova. Image copyrightReutersImage caption Outside of lockdown, taking fewer flights can make a major contribution to cutting carbon Some of the findings will be questioned. Polls suggest some people think climate is as important as the virus, for instance, but some dont. Professor Tommy Wiedmann from the University of New South Wales in Australia, said: This is a valuable study. But it only looks at the carbon footprint and not at other impacts like water scarcity because of lithium mining for electric car batteries. Libby Peake, from the Green Alliance think tank, told BBC News: People shouldnt stop good habits like recycling, which saves some carbon while preventing waste and conserving resources. Better design allows people to buy fewer but higher-quality things and to live in buildings with lower carbon footprints. These savings arent necessarily covered by this study. Follow Roger on Twitter.
Johnson & Johnson to stop selling baby powder in US - BBC News
The healthcare giant faces thousands of lawsuits from consumers claiming talc caused their cancer.
Image copyrightGetty Images Healthcare giant Johnson & Johnson is to stop selling its talc-based Johnson's Baby Powder in the US and Canada. The firm faces many thousands of lawsuits from consumers who claim that its talc products caused their cancer. The move comes after years of litigation where Johnson & Johnson has been ordered to pay out billions of dollars in compensation. The company has consistently defended the safety of its talc products. Johnson & Johnson said it would wind down sales of the product, which makes up about 0.5% of its US consumer health business, in the coming months, but that retailers would continue to sell existing inventory. The firm faces more than 16,000 consumer lawsuits alleging that the company's talc products were contaminated with asbestos, a known carcinogen. The firm said that demand for Johnson's Baby Powder had been declining in North America "due in large part to changes in consumer habits and fuelled by misinformation around the safety of the product". It said it had faced "a constant barrage" of lawyers advertising for clients to sue the firm. "We remain steadfastly confident in the safety of talc-based Johnson's Baby Powder. Decades of independent scientific studies by medical experts around the world support the safety of our product," it said. The firm added that the move was part of a reassessment of its consumer products prompted by the coronavirus pandemic. It said in October that its testing had found no asbestos in its Baby Powder after tests conducted by the US Food and Drug Administration discovered trace amounts. The firm is appealing against a 2018 order to pay $4.7bn (£3.6bn) in damages to 22 women who alleged that its talc products caused them to develop ovarian cancer.
Coronavirus: New York to allow tests in pharmacies - BBC News
Testing remains a key problem across the US but some states have started to lift restrictions.
Image copyrightEPAImage caption New York's governor says the goal is to provide 40,000 tests per day The US state of New York, the epicentre of the country's Covid-19 outbreak, will allow pharmacies to carry out tests for the virus, the governor says. Andrew Cuomo said some 5,000 pharmacies would be able to carry out testing, with the aim to provide 40,000 per day. The US has more than 938,000 confirmed cases. Almost a third of the 53,751 deaths happened in New York City alone. Meanwhile, President Donald Trump did not hold his daily briefing, saying it was not worth his "time or effort". What did Trump say? Speaking on Twitter on Saturday, he blamed the media for asking "nothing but hostile questions". He was heavily criticised after suggesting at Thursday's White House news conference that disinfectant could potentially be used as a treatment for the virus. His remarks have been condemned as dangerous by doctors and manufacturers, as disinfectants are hazardous substances and can be poisonous if ingested. In New York City, calls to the hotline for exposure to certain household chemicals more than doubled in the 18 hours after Mr Trump's remarks - 30 cases compared to 13 for the same time frame last year. Media captionDoctors dismantle Trump's treatment comments The briefings with Mr Trump and the coronavirus task force could run for more than two hours. But Thursday's performance caused embarrassment even among some of his supporters, BBC North America correspondent Peter Bowes says. Mr Trump's tweet appears to confirm reports that the conferences may be coming to an end because polls suggest they have not bolstered the president's popularity among voters, our correspondent adds. On Friday, the president's briefing was unusually short - lasting just over 20 minutes - and he took no questions from the media. What measures is New York introducing? Governor Cuomo announced on Saturday that antibody screenings would be expanded at four hospitals, beginning with frontline medical workers. He also said independent pharmacies would be allowed to collect samples for diagnostic tests. It is part of a drive to find out how widely the virus has spread across the state of 20 million people. "Twenty-one days of hell, and now we are back to where we were 21 days ago," he said. "Testing is what we are compulsively or obsessively focused on now." Healthcare staff and essential workers - such as police officers, firefighters, bus drivers and shop assistants - would be able to get tests even if they did not have any symptoms of infection, he said. This was important not just for their own safety but also to protect the public, he said. "Since we now have more collection sites, more testing capacity, we can open up the eligibility for those tests," Mr Cuomo added. Hospital admissions in the state have also begun to fall, Mr Cuomo said, in what he described as a sign the crisis was starting to subside. However, the number of deaths announced on Friday increased slightly to 437 - the first time it had risen in four days. Earlier this week Mr Cuomo said nearly 14% of 3,000 people in a study had tested positive for the presence of antibodies, suggesting the virus had spread widely throughout the population. Meanwhile New York City's Independent Budget Office said the lockdown would result in the loss of 475,000 jobs and leave the city with a budget deficit of nearly $10bn (£8.1bn). What are other states doing? On Friday, Georgia, Oklahoma and Alaska allowed certain businesses to reopen despite warnings from experts and President Trump that the move could be too early and spark another wave of infections. With unemployment claims reaching 26 million people since mid-March, or around 15% of the country's population, many states are feeling the pressure to ease the coronavirus measures. Meanwhile, large numbers of people headed to beaches in Florida and California on Saturday, according to Reuters news agency. Image copyrightGetty ImagesImage caption Newport Beach in Orange County, California, was busy on Saturday Florida's Volusia County, home to Daytona Beach, opened some coastal areas on Saturday to handicapped visitors, part of a phased reopening that has so far limited its beaches to those wanting to walk, surf, bike or swim. But residents told Reuters that many people were ignoring the rules. In California, Governor Gavin Newsom urged those who visit the beach to observe social distancing guidelines.