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Tuesday, November 24, 2020

The United States Mission to Nigeria has celebrated Dr Onyema Ogbuagu, for his role in the development of a COVID-19 vaccine.

The United States Mission to Nigeria has celebrated Dr Onyema Ogbuagu, for his role in the development of a COVID-19 vaccine. . Ogbuagbu, who graduated from the University of Calabar in 2003, migrated to the US and rose to become Associate Professor of Medicine and Infectious Disease Specialist at Yale University. . He was part of the team that helped pharmaceutical company, Pfizer, to develop the vaccine. . In a Facebook message on Monday, the US mission wrote, “Nigerians contribute to the world in so many ways. Our hats off to Dr Onyema Ogbuagu at Yale who helped develop a COVID-19 vaccine.” . Ogbuagu is the son of a former Vice-Chancellor of Abia State University, Prof Stella Ogbuagu. He also has a twin brother who is an engineer. . The need for a vaccine has become more urgent globally and nationally with Nigeria recording over 60,000 COVID-19 infections and over 1,000 associated fatalities, according to the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control.

Carbon dioxide levels keep rising despite industrial lockdown

Carbon dioxide levels keep rising despite industrial lockdown Carbon dioxide levels hit new highs last year and are expected to keep growing in 2020, despite coronavirus-related restrictions that forced a global industrial slowdown. The alarming patterns were published on Monday by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), crushing hopes that lockdowns across the world would have pushed emissions, the main driver to climate change, to a record low. The United Nations agency said measures to curb the spread of the pandemic had indeed cut emissions of many pollutants and greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide. But it warned the industrial slowdown due to the coronavirus crisis had not curbed record concentrations of the greenhouse gases that are trapping heat in the atmosphere, raising temperatures, causing sea levels to rise and driving more extreme weather. The WMO said the change in carbon dioxide concentrations – the result of cumulative past and current emissions – is, in fact, no bigger than the normal year-to-year fluctuations in the carbon cycle and in the amount of carbon being soaked up by vegetation and oceans. It said preliminary estimates indicate a reduction in annual global emissions of between 4.2 percent and 7.5 percent – a “tiny blip”, according to the WMO, with no bigger effect on global warming than the expected annual fluctuation. “An emissions reduction this scale will not cause atmospheric CO2 to go down. CO2 will continue to go up, though at a slightly reduced pace,” the WMO said. ‘It’s getting worse’ In a video shared on social media, Patricia Espinosa, the UN’s climate change executive secretary, said” “COVID-19 hasn’t put climate change on hold. “It’s getting worse and our window of opportunities is closing,” she added. The annual report released by the Geneva-based agency measures the atmospheric concentration of the main gases – carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide – that are warming Earth and triggering extreme weather events. Levels of carbon dioxide, a product of burning fossil fuels, reached a new record of 410.5 parts per million (ppm) in 2019, it said. The annual increase is larger than the previous year and beats the average of the past decade. “Such a rate of increase has never been seen in the history of our records,” WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas said, referring to a rise of 10 ppm since 2015, calling for a “sustained flattening of the [emissions] curve”. WMO’s head of atmospheric environment research Oksana Tarasova said the magnitude of the increase in carbon dioxide levels during the past four years was comparable to changes seen during the shift from an ice age to more temperate periods but, back then, the transition happened over a much longer timeframe. “We humans did it without anything, just with our emissions, and we did it within four years.” Methane and nitrous oxide levels The second-most prevalent greenhouse gas in the atmosphere is methane, emitted in part from cattle and fermentation from rice paddies, which is responsible for about 16 percent of warming. In 2019, methane levels were at 260 percent of pre-industrial levels, at 1,877 parts per billion (ppb), with the rise from 2018 slightly lower than the previous annual increase, but still higher than the 10-year average, WMO said. Concentrations of nitrous oxide, the third major greenhouse which is gas caused largely by agricultural fertilisers, meanwhile stood at 332 ppb last year, or 123 percent over pre-industrial levels. Its rise from 2018 to 2019 was also lower than the observed from 2017 to 2018, but on par with the average annual growth rate for the past decade.

China accuses ‘dangerous’ US of ‘creating chaos’ in Asia

China accuses ‘dangerous’ US of ‘creating chaos’ in Asia Embassy in Manila condemns US after visiting White House envoy pledges support to the Philippines over maritime claims. China has accused the United States of trying to “create chaos” in the Asia-Pacific, a day after US National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien, on a visit to the Philippines, backed countries in maritime disputes with China and accused Beijing of using military pressure to further its own interests. During his trip to Manila, O’Brien told the Philippines and Vietnam, both countries in disputes with Beijing cover the South China Sea: “We’ve got your back”. He also reiterated the US commitment to self-ruled Taiwan. China said his remarks were “unreasonable” and exaggerated regional tensions. “We firmly oppose these remarks which are full of Cold War mentality and wantonly incite confrontation,” the Chinese Embassy in Manila said in a statement posted on its website. “It shows that his visit to this region is not to promote regional peace and stability, but to create chaos in the region in order to seek selfish interests of the US.” China condemned comments by O’Brien, seen in Manila with Philippines Secretary of Foreign Affairs Teodoro Locsin Jr, left, offering US support over the South China Sea [Eloisa Lopez/Reuters] China claims almost the entire South China Sea under its so-called nine-dash line and over the past few years has built military installations on several disputed reefs and outcrops despite an international court ruling that found the line – which overlaps with claims by the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia and Indonesia – illegal. The Philippines took its case to The Hague after a two-month standoff with Chinese fishing vessels over Scarborough Shoal in 2014 and the court ruled two years later that, under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, the Philippines had exclusive rights to the resources within 370.4km (200 nautical miles) of its coast. The ruling has not deterred China, which has continued to build bases in the sea, while the US has repeatedly sent warships through the area to highlight freedom of navigation in one of the world’s busiest trading routes. The Chinese embassy accused the US of “provocative” behaviour. “Facts have proved that the US is the biggest driver of the militarization of the SCS and the most dangerous external factor endangering the peace and stability of the SCS,” it said in the statement in reference to the waterway. The US regularly sends its navy through the South China Sea to highlight freedom of navigation [File:Samuel Hardgrove/US Navy via AFP]China has been building military bases on reefs and outcrops in the South China Sea to reinforce its claim [File/CSIS Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative/DigitalGlobe/Handout via Reuters] China also hit out at O’Brien’s comments on Taiwan, which Beijing claims as its own. O’Brien warned China it would face a “backlash” if it attempted to use military force to coerce the island. The statement said Taiwan was an “internal” affair for China. “There is only one China in the world,” it said. “Both Taiwan and Hong Kong are inalienable parts of China. This is an objective fact and a basic norm governing international relations.” Relations between China and the US have deteriorated since Donald Trump was elected president in 2016, with the two sides at odds over issues from democracy and human rights to technology and trade. President-elect Joe Biden is expected to take a more diplomatic approach to China, but a more assertive approach to Beijing has broad bipartisan support in Washington, DC.

Bitcoin jumps, shy of all-time high of $20,000

Bitcoin jumps, shy of all-time high of $20,000 The world’s most popular cryptocurrency has gained about 160 percent this year. Bitcoin hit $19,000 on Tuesday for the first time in nearly three years and was just shy of touching an all-time high of just less than $20,000. The world’s most popular cryptocurrency has gained about 160 percent this year, fuelled by a demand for risk-on assets amid unprecedented fiscal and monetary stimulus, hunger for assets perceived as resistant to inflation, and expectations that cryptocurrencies would win mainstream acceptance. Bitcoin has gained more than 37 percent in November alone. Analysts have said Bitcoin can rise during periods of uncertainty; the cryptocurrency has at times strongly gained during the coronavirus pandemic and amid the US election.

Saturday, November 21, 2020

Scientists Successfully Reverse Human Ageing Process

- Breathing pure oxygen may help to reverse the ageing process, scientists claim. Researchers used oxygen therapy to reverse two key indicators of ageing; 35 healthy adults aged 64 and older were placed into pressurised chamber, Sessions lasted 90 minutes and took place for five days a week for three months. Scientists claim they have successfully reversed the human ageing process in a group of elderly adults in a breakthrough study. Oxygen treatment altered the elderly people's bodies at a cellular level to how they were 25 years earlier, researchers claimed. In a unique study, scientists used oxygen therapy to reverse two key indicators of biological ageing - telomere shortening and an accumulation of malfunctioning senescent cells. As humans age, their bodies experience the shortening of telomeres - the protective caps on chromosomes - which leads to illnesses including cancer, Alzheimer's and Parkinson's. Senescent cells, or so-called zombie cells, prevent regeneration as they build up in the body over time. The study used a method called Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy in an effort to prevent the deterioration of these two characteristics of the ageing process. In the study, published in the journal Ageing, 35 healthy adults aged 64 and older were placed in pressurised oxygen chambers in Israel and breathed in pure oxygen through a mask. The sessions lasted for 90 minutes each and took place five days a week for three months. The pressurised chamber mimics a state of 'hypoxia', or oxygen shortage, enabling tissues to dissolve more oxygen which has well-known regenerative effects. Results show the trial enabled telomeres to regrow by more than 20 per cent, while their senescent cells had been reduced by up to 37 per cent. This is the equivalent to how their bodies were at a cellular level 25 years earlier, the scientists said. 'Since telomere shortening is considered the 'Holy Grail' of the biology of ageing, many pharmacological and environmental interventions are being extensively explored in the hopes of enabling telomere elongation,' said Professor Shai Efrati, a Professor at the Faculty of Medicine at Tel Aviv University, and co-author of the study. 'The significant improvement of telomere length shown during and after these unique protocols provides the scientific community with a new foundation of understanding that ageing can indeed be targeted and reversed at the basic cellular-biological level,' Efrati added. The study is the latest in a series of trials which are trying to understand the anti-ageing process and increase life expectancy whilst making people feel younger. The premise is that ageing can be cured like a disease, scientists claim. In 2015, BioViva chief executive Liz Parrish flew to Colombia to receive two experimental gene therapies she claimed could make permanent changes to her DNA in order to combat muscle loss and grow her telomeres. Parrish received criticism for undergoing the experimental treatment by scientists, but she claims the gene therapy reversed the biological age of her immune cells by 20 years. She recently claimed that death is optional. Previous studies have revealed that healthy eating and intense exercise can also preserve telomere length - but this experiment was unique because it exceeded natural interventions, the researchers said. 'Until now, interventions such as lifestyle modifications and intense exercise were shown to have some inhibition effect on the expected telomere length shortening,' said study researcher Dr Amir Hadanny, of Tel Aviv's Sagol Center for Hyperbaric Medicine and Research. 'However, what is remarkable to note in our study is that, in just three months of therapy, we were able to achieve such significant telomere elongation - at rates far beyond any of the current available interventions or lifestyle modifications

GOP leaders’ embrace of Trump’s refusal to concede fits pattern of rising authoritarianism, data shows

It’s the latest sign of the party’s lurch away from democratic ideals and practices, a shift that predates Trump but one that has accelerated precipitously since. Now, according to data released by an international team of political scientists just before the Nov. 3 election, it’s possible to quantify the extent to which the Republican Party no longer adheres to such principles as the commitment to free and fair elections with multiple parties, the respectful treatment of political opponents and the avoidance of violent rhetoric. “The Republican Party in the U.S. has retreated from upholding democratic norms in recent years,” said Anna Lührmann, a political scientist at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden and a former member of the German parliament. “Its rhetoric is closer to authoritarian parties, such as AKP in Turkey and Fidesz in Hungary.” Lührmann is deputy director of the university’s V-Dem Institute, which compiled the data. For the project, researchers recruited more than 600 political scientists around the world to make annual assessments of political parties’ adherence to a number of key small-D democratic values. Those assessments are combined into the main measure in the chart above, which tracks parties’ overall commitment to democracy. Lührmann points out that the Republican Party score started to edge downward during the Obama administration but fell off a cliff in 2016 with the ascent of Trump. The Democratic Party, by contrast, hasn’t changed much. This is a prime example of what political scientists call asymmetric polarization — a growing partisan gap driven almost entirely by the actions of the Republican Party. While V-Dem’s data only runs through 2018, that asymmetry has only become more apparent in the aftermath of this election, Lührmann said: “It is disturbing that most leading Republicans are still not objecting to President Trump’s baseless claims of electoral fraud and attempts to declare himself the winner.” As a result, she says, GOP scores are likely to sink further when 2020 data is released. Daniel Pemstein, a political scientist at North Dakota State University who helped develop V-Dem’s methodology, acknowledges that the project “seeks to measure things that are inherently difficult to observe.” There’s no universally accepted measure of “illiberalism,” for instance. In the absence of such a measure, the best alternative is to interview numerous experts on the topic to determine whether there is a consensus. V-Dem essentially systematizes this process, collecting and standardizing expert assessments on a massive scale. “We combine ratings from a huge number of local experts on political parties, leveraging the pattern of agreement across experts to estimate real-world party characteristics,” Pemstein said. Lührmann notes the project has collected data on nearly 2,000 political parties. The drivers of the Republican Party’s drift toward authoritarianism are visible in the sub-indicators that make up the main index. Consider the demonization of political opponents: In 2006, V-Dem’s experts judged that GOP leaders “usually did not” resort to demonization and severe personal attacks in characterizing the Democratic Party. But the rise of the tea party was a turning point, research shows. “Angry protesters have frequently made claims ranging from proclaiming Obama’s ‘socialist’ intentions to making explicit Nazi comparisons to suggesting that the President is defying or even subverting the Constitution,” the Anti-Defamation League wrote at the time. By 2016, that sort of rhetoric had become the norm among GOP leaders. Encouraging violence has become alarmingly common. From the 1970s through roughly 2010, V-Dem’s experts note that both Republican and Democratic leaders consistently rejected the use of violence against political opponents. For Republicans, that began to change under Trump. It’s tempting to write off these worrying trends as Trump-era aberrations that will subside after he leaves office — Biden predicted a post-Trump “epiphany” among the GOP, for instance. There are some in the Republican Party who are critical of Trump’s efforts to undermine the election. Former national security adviser John Bolton warned in a recent Washington Post op-ed that the party may suffer “permanent damage to its integrity and reputation because of President Trump’s post-election rampaging.” But V-Dem’s data underscores how much of the Republican Party has adopted the authoritarian beliefs and tactics of the president. Many of the GOP leaders going along with Trump’s baseless claims of voter fraud will still be in office after he leaves. “That leading Republicans are not willing to defend the electoral process shows that Trump is not the only GOP politician who has a problem with key democratic norms,” Lührmann said.

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The United States Mission to Nigeria has celebrated Dr Onyema Ogbuagu, for his role in the development of a COVID-19 vaccine.

The United States Mission to Nigeria has celebrated Dr Onyema Ogbuagu, for his role in the development of a COVID-19 vaccine. . Ogbuagbu, wh...