Nov 9-15 Weekly News


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Pfizer Says Its COVID-19 Vaccine 90 Percent Effective

American drug-maker Pfizer says its experimental vaccine appears to be more than 90 per cent effective in preventing COVID-19. An independent group of scientists also examined the study. Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech are the first drug-makers to show successful data from a large Phase 3 trial of a coronavirus vaccine. The companies also said they have found no serious safety concerns in the testing so far. And they expect to seek emergency use permission from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) later this month.

Albert Bourla, Pfizer’s chairman said, “Today is a great day for science and humanity. The first set of results from our Phase 3 COVID-19 vaccine trial provides the initial evidence of our vaccine’s ability to prevent COVID-19.” Bourla added, “With today’s news, we are a significant step closer to providing people around the world with a much-needed breakthrough to help bring an end to this global health crisis. We look forward to sharing additional efficacy and safety data generated from thousands of participants in the coming weeks.”


Huge Iceberg Floats toward South Georgia

The world’s largest iceberg is floating toward the island of South Georgia in the southern Atlantic Ocean. Scientists fear the iceberg could crash into the island and block major feeding areas for a large population of penguins and seals. The huge iceberg is named A68a. It broke away from Antarctica’s Larsen C ice shelf in 2017. It has floated toward South Georgia, a British overseas territory since then. Satellite images show the iceberg has remained in one piece. It is estimated to be about 150 kilometres long and 48 kilometres wide. It is travelling at one kilometre an hour and is on a path to hit South Georgia in around 30 days.

Ecologists say an iceberg crash would also disturb materials settled on the seabed, possibly polluting the surrounding seas. As the iceberg melts, it would also release large amounts of freshwater into the ocean. Officials are hoping that changing weather patterns could direct the iceberg out into the open ocean, where it would, in time, break up and melt.


Lebanon Faces Drug Shortage, Economic Crisis

Heart drugs and all kinds of other medicines have disappeared from drug stores across Lebanon. The drug shortage is the latest in a series of problems in the country. Officials and pharmacists say the drug shortage was made worse by panic buying and hoarding after an announcement by the country’s Central Bank governor. He said that with the supply of foreign money running low, the government would not be able to keep up subsidies, including subsidies on drugs.

That announcement “caused a storm, an earthquake,” said Ghassan al-Amin, head of the Order of Pharmacists of Lebanon. Many Lebanese now search the country and beyond for necessary drugs. Older adults ask religious organizations and aid groups for help. In the country’s economic crisis, more than half the population has been pushed into poverty. Lebanon’s money has lost nearly 80 per cent of its value. People’s savings also have dropped in value. Lebanon imports nearly everything, including 85 per cent of its drugs.


Kamala Harris to be first woman Vice President

Kamala Harris is the U.S. Vice President-elect. Television networks announced Joe Biden's victory in the 2020 election after he won 279 votes in the Electoral College. Ms Harris will be the first woman, the first black American and the first of South Asian descent to be Vice President. Harris, 56, tweeted: "We did it, Joe Biden." She added: "This election is about the soul of America and our willingness to fight for it. We have a lot of work ahead of us."

Kamala Harris was California's attorney general before becoming a US senator. Joe Biden chose her as his running mate for this election. She will be sworn in as Vice President on January 20, 2021. The Atlantic magazine said: "Harris' ascent to the vice-presidency is certainly a reflection of what's possible. She has accomplished something that no other black woman has." It said she might one day, "step one level up to the presidency".


Poor diet creates a 20cm height gap in children

A poor diet may be why there is an average gap of 20cm between the world's tallest and shortest children. Researchers analysed the Body Mass Index (BMI) of millions of children and teenagers worldwide. They looked at their height and weight. The world's tallest teenagers were 183cm and lived in the Netherlands; the shortest was 160cm and lived in East Timor. European children were the tallest. The shortest-lived in Asia, Latin America and East Africa.

The comprehensive study looked at data from 65 million children aged five to 19 years old in 193 countries. The team warned that a lack of quality food and nutrition was a major factor behind slower growth and obesity. Better diets increased the height of children in China. Nineteen-year-old boys there were 8cm taller in 2019 than in 1985. The report suggested countries adopt policies that encouraged healthier eating, but to be aware of weight gain.


Maldives resort offers $30K 'all-you-can-stay' holiday 

Would you be interested in an "all-you-can-stay" holiday? It sounds too good to be true. A luxury resort in the Maldives has a special, once-in-a-lifetime vacation - unlimited use of its property for all of 2021. Guests get to use a bungalow that is perched above the crystal-clear waters of the Indian Ocean. It includes free airport transfers, 365 breakfasts, discounts on spa treatments, and cooking lessons. However, all this comes at a huge price of $30,000.

The Maldives is an archipelago. It is a luxurious destination famous for its beaches, palm trees and five-star hospitality. Its marine life puts it on the bucket list of many scuba divers. A lot of its resorts are on atolls, which is perfect for holidaymakers who want seclusion and privacy in paradise. It needs tourists and struggled during the coronavirus pandemic. A spokesperson said the $30,000 is good value and cheaper than staying in an average hotel.


First Passengers Get to Ride ‘Hyperloop’ Transporter

The American company Virgin Hyperloop says the high-speed transportation system has passed its first test with passengers. The company said the successful test was carried out on November 8 at its 500-meter DevLoop test area in Las Vegas, Nevada. The Hyperloop system is based on a technology called magnetic levitation. It uses magnetic fields to create a floating effect for a vehicle and push it forward. Some high-speed trains also use this technology. But unlike trains, Hyperloop is designed to operate within pressurized tubes. It uses electric propulsion to move vehicles, called pods, through the tubes at high speeds.

The pod carrying people during the test reached speeds of up to 172 kilometres an hour, the company said. A two-person car was specially developed for the test. Virgin Hyperloop says the actual production vehicle, when completed, will carry up to 28 passengers. The system offers near-silent travel and will release no carbon emissions. The company has said it is working to get a safety certification by the year 2025 and aims to launch transportation services by 2030.


COVID-19 Survivors May Be at Greater Mental Health Risk

Researchers say COVID-19 survivors may be at greater risk of developing mental health issues than other people. That information comes from a large study published earlier this week. The study found that 20 per cent of those infected with the novel coronavirus are diagnosed with a psychiatric disorder within 90 days. Researchers from Britain’s Oxford University studied recovered COVID-19 patients who developed mental health problems. They found that the most common issues were anxiety, depression, and insomnia -- the inability to sleep. They also noted a much higher risk of dementia, a condition that weakens the brain.

Paul Harrison, a professor of psychiatry at Oxford told, “People have been worried that COVID-19 survivors will be at greater risk of mental health problems, and our findings show this to be likely.” Health services need to be ready to provide care, Harrison warned. The fact that people with mental health disorders are at higher risk of getting COVID-19 confirms similar findings in other infectious disease outbreaks, said Simon Wessely. He is a professor of psychiatry at King’s College London.

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