Jabari Parker (Boston Celtics) with a dunk vs the Golden State Warriors, 04/17/2021
Jabari Parker (Boston Celtics) with a dunk vs the Golden State Warriors, 04/17/2021
New Delhi [India], May 15 (ANI): A Delhi Court on Saturday dismissed the bail plea of former Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) councillor Tahir Hussain in connection with two cases related to northeast Delhi violence.
NEW YORK (AP) — An Israeli airstrike destroyed a high-rise building in Gaza City that housed offices of The Associated Press and other media outlets on Saturday. All AP employees and freelancers evacuated the building safely. AP President and CEO Gary Pruitt has released the following statement: We are shocked and horrified that the Israeli military would target and destroy the building housing AP’s bureau and other news organizations in Gaza. They have long known the location of our bureau and knew journalists were there. We received a warning that the building would be hit. We are seeking information from the Israeli government and are engaged with the U.S. State Department to try to learn more. This is an incredibly disturbing development. We narrowly avoided a terrible loss of life. A dozen AP journalists and freelancers were inside the building and thankfully we were able to evacuate them in time. The world will know less about what is happening in Gaza because of what happened today. The Associated Press
For years, government officials and industry executives have run elaborate simulations of a targeted cyberattack on the power grid or gas pipelines in the United States, imagining how the country would respond. But when the real, this-is-not-a-drill moment arrived, it didn’t look anything like the war games. Sign up for The Morning newsletter from the New York Times The attacker was not a terror group or a hostile state like Russia, China or Iran, as had been assumed in the simulations. It was a criminal extortion ring. The goal was not to disrupt the economy by taking a pipeline offline but to hold corporate data for ransom. The most visible effects — long lines of nervous motorists at gas stations — stemmed not from a government response but from a decision by the victim, Colonial Pipeline, which controls nearly half the gasoline, jet fuel and diesel flowing along the East Coast, to turn off the spigot. It did so out of concern that the malware that had infected its back-office functions could make it difficult to bill for fuel delivered along the pipeline or even spread into the pipeline’s operating system. What happened next was a vivid example of the difference between tabletop simulations and the cascade of consequences that can follow even a relatively unsophisticated attack. The aftereffects of the episode are still playing out, but some of the lessons are already clear, and they demonstrate how far the government and private industry have to go in preventing and dealing with cyberattacks and in creating rapid backup systems for when critical infrastructure goes down. In this case, the long-held belief that the pipeline’s operations were totally isolated from the data systems that were locked up by DarkSide, a ransomware gang believed to be operating out of Russia, turned out to be false. And the company’s decision to turn off the pipeline touched off a series of dominoes including panic buying at the pumps and a quiet fear inside the government that the damage could spread quickly. A confidential assessment prepared by the Energy and Homeland Security Departments found that the country could only afford another three to five days with the Colonial pipeline shut down before buses and other mass transit would have to limit operations because of a lack of diesel fuel. Chemical factories and refinery operations would also shut down, because there would be no way to distribute what they produced, the report said. And while President Joe Biden’s aides announced efforts to find alternative ways to haul gasoline and jet fuel up the East Coast, none were immediately in place. There was a shortage of truck drivers and of tanker cars for trains. “Every fragility was exposed,” said Dmitri Alperovitch, who co-founded CrowdStrike, a cybersecurity firm, and chairs the think tank Silverado Policy Accelerator. “We learned a lot about what could go wrong. Unfortunately, so did our adversaries.” The list of lessons is long. Colonial, a private company, may have thought it had an impermeable wall of protections, but it was easily breached. Even after it paid the extortionists nearly $5 million in digital currency to recover its data, the company found that the process of decrypting its data and turning the pipeline back on was agonizingly slow, meaning it will still be days before the East Coast gets back to normal. “This is not like flicking on a light switch,” Biden said Thursday, noting that the 5,500-mile pipeline had never before been shut down. For the administration, the event proved a perilous week in crisis management. Biden told aides, one recalled, that nothing could wreak political damage faster than television images of gas lines and rising prices, with the inevitable comparison to Jimmy Carter’s worse moments as president. Biden feared that, unless the pipeline resumed operations, panic receded and price gouging was nipped in the bud, the situation would feed concerns that the economic recovery is still fragile and that inflation is rising. Beyond the flurry of actions to get oil moving on trucks, trains and ships, Biden published a long-gestating executive order that, for the first time, seeks to mandate changes in cybersecurity. And he suggested that he was willing to take steps that the Obama administration hesitated to take during the 2016 election hacks — direct action to strike back at the attackers. “We’re also going to pursue a measure to disrupt their ability to operate,” Biden said, a line that seemed to hint that U.S. Cyber Command, the military’s cyberwarfare force, was being authorized to kick DarkSide offline, much as it did to another ransomware group in the fall before the presidential election. Hours later, the group’s internet sites went dark. By early Friday, DarkSide and several other ransomware groups, including Babuk, which has hacked Washington D.C.’s police department, announced they were getting out of the game. DarkSide alluded to disruptive action by an unspecified law enforcement agency, though it was not clear if that was the result of U.S. action or pressure from Russia before Biden’s expected summit with President Vladimir Putin. And going quiet might simply have reflected a decision by the ransomware gang to frustrate retaliation efforts by shutting down its operations, perhaps temporarily. The Pentagon’s Cyber Command referred questions to the National Security Council, which declined to comment. The episode underscored the emergence of a new “blended threat,” one that may come from cybercriminals, but is often tolerated, and sometimes encouraged, by a nation that sees the attacks as serving its interests.That is why Biden singled out Russia — not as the culprit, but as the nation that harbors more ransomware groups than any other country. “We do not believe the Russian government was involved in this attack, but we do have strong reason to believe the criminals who did this attack are living in Russia,” Biden said. “We have been in direct communication with Moscow about the imperative for responsible countries to take action against these ransomware networks.” With DarkSide’s systems down, it is unclear how Biden’s administration would retaliate further, beyond possible indictments and sanctions, which have not deterred Russian cybercriminals before. Striking back with a cyberattack also carries its own risks of escalation. The administration also has to reckon with the fact that so much of America’s critical infrastructure is owned and operated by the private sector and remains ripe for attack. “This attack has exposed just how poor our resilience is,” said Kiersten E. Todt, managing director of the nonprofit Cyber Readiness Institute. “We are overthinking the threat, when we’re still not doing the bare basics to secure our critical infrastructure.” The good news, some officials said, was that Americans got a wake-up call. Congress came face-to-face with the reality that the federal government lacks the authority to require the companies that control more than 80% of the nation’s critical infrastructure to adopt minimal levels of cybersecurity. The bad news, they said, was that U.S. adversaries — not only superpowers but terrorists and cybercriminals — learned just how little it takes to incite chaos across a large part of the country, even if they do not break into the core of the electric grid, or the operational control systems that move gasoline, water and propane around the country. Something as basic as a well-designed ransomware attack may easily do the trick, while offering plausible deniability to states like Russia, China and Iran that often tap outsiders for sensitive cyberoperations. It remains a mystery how DarkSide first broke into Colonial’s business network. The privately held company has said virtually nothing about how the attack unfolded, at least in public. It waited four days before having any substantive discussions with the administration, an eternity during a cyberattack. Cybersecurity experts also note that Colonial Pipeline would never have had to shut down its pipeline if it had more confidence in the separation between its business network and pipeline operations. “There should absolutely be separation between data management and the actual operational technology,” Todt said. “Not doing the basics is frankly inexcusable for a company that carries 45% of gas to the East Coast.” Other pipeline operators in the United States deploy advanced firewalls between their data and their operations that only allow data to flow one direction, out of the pipeline, and would prevent a ransomware attack from spreading in. Colonial Pipeline has not said whether it deployed that level of security on its pipeline. Industry analysts say many critical infrastructure operators say installing such unidirectional gateways along a 5,500-mile pipeline can be complicated or prohibitively expensive. Others say the cost to deploy those safeguards are still cheaper than the losses from potential downtime. Deterring ransomware criminals, which have been growing in number and brazenness over the past few years, will certainly be more difficult than deterring nations. But this week made the urgency clear. “It’s all fun and games when we are stealing each other’s money,” said Sue Gordon, a former principal deputy director of national intelligence, and a longtime CIA analyst with a specialty in cyberissues, said at a conference held by The Cipher Brief, an online intelligence newsletter. “When we are messing with a society’s ability to operate, we can’t tolerate it.” This article originally appeared in The New York Times. © 2021 The New York Times Company
The major-general leading Canada's vaccine logistics at the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) is stepping down under the cloud of a military investigation into a sexual misconduct allegation. The Department of National Defence issued a terse three-line statement late Friday, saying that Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin is leaving his post and his future will be decided by the acting chief of the defence staff. Neither the military nor the department would say what kind of investigation has been launched, whether it involves military police or is some other kind of internal review. CBC News has confirmed the investigation involves an allegation of sexual misconduct that predates 2015 and the military's now defunct campaign, Operation Honour, which was intended to stamp out inappropriate behaviour. Three separate confidential sources, who were not authorized to speak publicly because of the sensitivity of the file, described it as an older claim, but declined to be more specific. The Globe and Mail was the first to report the allegation against Fortin was sexual in nature. His departure came about suddenly. As late as Friday morning, Fortin was listed as being seconded to the public health agency in a Department of National Defence statement involving the assignments of general officers. CBC News reached out to Fortin for comment, but he declined and referred questions to the Department of National Defence. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau tasked Fortin with leading Canada's COVID-19 vaccine distribution effort in the fall. Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan tried to reassure the public that the drive to distribute vaccines will not be interrupted by the general's absence.(Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press) A well-regarded combat veteran of Afghanistan and former commander of the NATO mission in Iraq, Fortin has been a calm, reassuring figure at PHAC's briefings since then, providing updates on the effort to distribute vaccines across the country. In an interview with CBC Radio's The Current last March, he spoke forcefully about the unfolding allegations of misconduct. "This type of behaviour is completely unacceptable," Fortin said. "Members of the military, on the battlefield, should feel safe that the person next to you has your back. That's not unique to the battlefield. You should feel safe at home, as well." It is unclear how Fortin's departure will affect the vaccine distribution campaign. He was at the centre of a new military-supported hub within PHAC — the National Operations Centre — that was built to help co-ordinate the deployment of millions of vaccine doses over the coming months. Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan, in a statement late Friday, tried to reassure the public that the drive to get vaccines into the country will not be interrupted by the general's absence. "We remain focused on deploying the millions of vaccines that arrive in Canada every week," Sajjan said. "The men and women of the Canadian Armed Forces will continue to support the deployment of vaccines, as well as the rest of the government response to COVID-19 across Canada. As an investigation is underway, I will have no further comments at this time." The news is another sharp blow to the military, which is reeling under the weight of a string of high-profile sexual misconduct cases. Allegations of inappropriate behaviour were levelled against the country's former top commander, retired general Jonathan Vance, two weeks after his retirement last winter. Weeks later, his successor, Admiral Art McDonald voluntarily stepped aside after it was revealed he was under military police investigation over an allegation of sexual misconduct. The military's former head of personnel, Vice-Admiral Hayden Edmundson, was permanently replaced on Friday and is under a pending investigation after a three decade-old allegation of sexual assault was levelled against him. The country's former military operations commander, Lt.-Gen. Christopher Coates, is retiring after a published report in Postmedia revealed he had an affair with a U.S. defence department civilian while serving as deputy commander of NORAD. Maj.-Gen. Peter Dawe, the former commander of special forces, was put on paid leave after writing a letter of support for a soldier convicted of sexual assault. Last week, Global News reported that the commander of the military's intelligence school, Lt.-Col. Raphaël Guay, had been temporarily removed while an investigation took place.
Kamran Khan, 29, was driving a high-performance Audi RS6, which can go up to 150mph.
Ellen DeGeneres is ending her long-running daytime talk show after nearly two decades.
When federal health officials said on Thursday that fully vaccinated Americans no longer needed to wear masks in most places, it came as a surprise to many people in public health. It also was a stark contrast with the views of a large majority of epidemiologists surveyed in the last two weeks by The New York Times. In the informal survey, 80% said they thought Americans would need to wear masks in public indoor places for at least another year. Just 5% said people would be able to stop wearing masks indoors by this summer. Sign up for The Morning newsletter from the New York Times In large crowds outdoors, like at a concert or protest, 88% of the epidemiologists said it was necessary even for fully vaccinated people to wear masks. “Unless the vaccination rates increase to 80% or 90% over the next few months, we should wear masks in large public indoor settings,” said Vivian Towe, a program officer at the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute. The responses came from of 723 epidemiologists, submitted between April 28 and May 10, before the new guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The survey asked the public health experts about being outdoors in groups of various sizes, and about being indoors with people whose vaccination status was unknown. The situations were consistent with the new guidance, which governs behavior in public places, regardless of size, where it is impossible to know the vaccine status of others. Federal health officials have already said that vaccinated people can be indoors with other vaccinated people, and epidemiologists mostly agreed. But the CDC’s new guidance said masks were no longer necessary for fully vaccinated people regardless of the size of the gathering and whether it was indoors or outside, except in certain situations, like in a doctor’s office or on public transit. Epidemiologists are, on the whole, very cautious when it comes to COVID-19, by nature of their training in understanding risk and preventing the spread of infectious disease. Nearly three-quarters described themselves as risk-averse, and they are likely to have been able to work from home over the past year, unlike many Americans. But they also have the same training as many of the scientists at CDC who devised the new policy, and about one-third of the survey respondents work in government, mostly at the state level. They acknowledged that many Americans would not want to continue to wear masks — and that many have already stopped. Wearing masks “will be a need, which is a very different question than how long will it continue to occur,” said Sophia K., an epidemiologist at the Great Lakes Inter-Tribal Council. “I expect that most people will refuse to wear masks, even in public, by the end of 2021, whether there is still a pandemic or not.” Many epidemiologists echoed the CDC in saying that as long as people were fully vaccinated, they could gather without precautions. But the CDC went further than the epidemiologists by giving the OK for vaccinated people to stop masking in groups with an unknown number of unvaccinated people. “It is either you trust the vaccine, or you do not,” said Kristin Harrington, an epidemiology Ph.D. student at Emory. “And if we trust the vaccine, that means an unlimited number of vaccinated individuals should be allowed to gather together.” Others acknowledged that policy decisions are based on many goals, such as invigorating the economy and incentivizing people to get vaccinated. Yet most said mask-wearing continued to be necessary for now, because the number of vaccinated Americans had not yet reached a level that scientists consider necessary to significantly slow the spread of the virus. Until then, there are too many chances for vaccines, which are not 100% effective, to fail, they said. “Crowded circumstances, indoors or outdoors, necessitate a mask until community levels of COVID are much lower,” said Luther-King Fasehun, a doctor and an epidemiology Ph.D. student at Temple University. Sally Picciotto, an epidemiologist at the University of California, Berkeley, said the decision to stop wearing masks indoors “depends on more people rolling up their sleeves to get the shot.” Respondents also said that as long as the virus was still spreading, masks were important to protect high-risk people and those who cannot be vaccinated, like children or people who have underlying health conditions. “Until community transmission is lower, it protects the whole community and the other people in the room to wear masks,” including children, immuno-suppressed people and Black and Latino communities who have been hit harder by COVID-19, said Julia Raifman, an assistant professor of public health at Boston University. One-quarter of the epidemiologists in the survey said they thought people would need to continue wearing masks in certain settings indefinitely, and some said they planned to continue to wear them in places like airplanes or concert halls, or during the winter virus season. “Heck, I may wear a mask for every flu season now,” said Allison Stewart, the lead epidemiologist at the Williamson County and Cities Health District in Texas. “Sure has been nice not to be sick for over a year.” Alana Cilwick, an epidemiologist at the Colorado Department of Public Health, said, “I plan to wear a mask indoors for the foreseeable future given the amount of vaccine hesitancy we are seeing, especially in higher-risk settings like the gym or on an airplane.” Just one-fifth of epidemiologists said it was safe for fully vaccinated people to socialize indoors without masks in a group of unlimited size. A majority said indoor gatherings should be limited to five or fewer households. Even outside, where the coronavirus is much less likely to spread, nearly all the epidemiologists said it was necessary to keep wearing masks in crowds, when people are near others whose vaccination status they don’t know. “Masks are the second-most helpful prevention strategy we have to vaccines,” Raifman said. This article originally appeared in The New York Times. © 2021 The New York Times Company
Operation of scheduled flights at Agatti Airport in UT of Lakshadweep has been suspended due to heavy rain till 16th May 2021 (10 AM).
GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) — An Israeli airstrike targeted and destroyed a high-rise building in Gaza City that housed offices of The Associated Press and other media outlets hours after another Israeli air raid on a densely populated refugee camp killed at least 10 Palestinians from an extended family, mostly children, on Saturday. The strike on the high-rise came nearly an hour after the military ordered people to evacuate the 12-story building, which also housed Al-Jazeera, other offices and residential apartments. The strike brought down the entire structure, which collapsed in a gigantic cloud of dust. There was no immediate explanation for why it was attacked. The earlier Israeli airstrike on the Gaza City refugee camp was the deadliest single strike of the current conflict between Israel and the militant group Hamas. Both sides are pressing for an advantage as cease-fire efforts gather strength. The latest outburst of violence started in Jerusalem and spread across the region over the past week, with Jewish-Arab clashes and rioting in mixed cities of Israel. There were also widespread Palestinian protests Friday in the occupied West Bank, where Israeli forces shot and killed 11 people. The spiraling violence has raised fears of a new Palestinian “intifada,” or uprising, when peace talks have not taken place in years. Palestinians on Saturday were marking Nakba (Catastrophe) Day, when they commemorate the estimated 700,000 people who were expelled from or fled their homes in what was now Israel during the 1948 war surrounding its creation. That raised the possibility of even more unrest. U.S. diplomat Hady Amr arrived Friday as part of Washington’s efforts to de-escalate the conflict, and the U.N. Security Council was set to meet Sunday. But Israel turned down an Egyptian proposal for a one-year truce that Hamas rulers had accepted, an Egyptian official said Friday on condition of anonymity to discuss the negotiations. Since Monday night, Hamas has fired hundreds of rockets into Israel, which has pounded the Gaza Strip with strikes. In Gaza, at least 139 people have been killed, including 39 children and 22 women; in Israel, eight people have been killed, including the death Saturday of a man killed by a rocket that hit in Ramat Gan, a suburb of Tel Aviv. The strike on the building housing media offices came in the afternoon, after the owner received a call from the Israeli military warning that the building would be hit. AP's staff and others in the building evacuated immediately, and were reported safe. Al-Jazeera, the news network funded by Qatar’s government, broadcast the airstrikes live as the building collapsed. “This channel will not be silenced. Al-Jazeera will not be silenced,” an on-air anchorwoman from Al-Jazeera English said, her voice thick with emotion. “We can guarantee you that right now.” The bombardment earlier Saturday struck a three-story house in Gaza City’s Shati refugee camp, killing eight children and two women from an extended family. Mohammed Hadidi told reporters his wife and five children had gone to celebrate the Eid al-Fitr holiday with relatives. She and three of the children, aged 6 to 14, were killed, while an 11-year-old is missing. Only his 5-month-old son Omar is known to have survived. Children’s toys and a Monopoly board game could be seen among the rubble, as well as plates of uneaten food from the holiday gathering. “There was no warning,” said Jamal Al-Naji, a neighbor living in the same building. “You filmed people eating and then you bombed them?” he said, addressing Israel. “Why are you confronting us? Go and confront the strong people!” The Israeli military did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Hamas said it fired a salvo of rockets at southern Israel in response to the airstrike. A furious Israeli barrage early Friday killed a family of six in their house and sent thousands fleeing to U.N.-run shelters. The military said the operation involved 160 warplanes dropping some 80 tons of explosives over the course of 40 minutes and succeeded in destroying a vast tunnel network used by Hamas. Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus, a military spokesman, said the military aims to minimize collateral damage in striking military targets. But measures it takes in other strikes, such as warning shots to get civilians to leave, were not “feasible this time.” Israeli media said the military believed dozens of militants were killed inside the tunnels. The Hamas and Islamic Jihad militant groups have confirmed 20 deaths in their ranks, but the military said the real number is far higher. Gaza’s infrastructure, already in widespread disrepair because of an Israeli-Egyptian blockade imposed after Hamas seized power in 2007, showed signs of breaking down further, compounding residents’ misery. The territory’s sole power plant is at risk of running out of fuel in the coming days. The U.N. said Gazans are already enduring daily power cuts of 8-12 hours and at least 230,000 have limited access to tap water. The impoverished and densely populated territory is home to 2 million Palestinians, most of them the descendants of refugees from what is now Israel. The conflict has reverberated widely. Israeli cities with mixed Arab and Jewish populations have seen nightly violence, with mobs from each community fighting in the streets and trashing each other’s property. Late on Friday, someone threw a firebomb at an Arab family’s home in the Ajami neighborhood of Tel Aviv, striking two children. A 12-year-old boy was in moderate condition with burns on his upper body and a 10-year-old girl was treated for a head injury, according to the Magen David Adom rescue service. In the occupied West Bank, on the outskirts of Ramallah, Nablus and other towns and cities, hundreds of Palestinians protested the Gaza campaign and Israeli actions in Jerusalem. Waving Palestinian flags, they trucked in tires that they set up in burning barricades and hurled stones at Israeli soldiers. At least 10 protesters were shot and killed by soldiers. An 11th Palestinian was killed when he tried to stab a soldier at a military position. In east Jerusalem, online video showed young Jewish nationalists firing pistols as they traded volleys of stones with Palestinians in Sheikh Jarrah, which became a flashpoint for tensions over attempts by settlers to forcibly evict a number of Palestinian families from their homes. On Israel’s northern border, troops opened fire when a group of Lebanese and Palestinian protesters on the other side cut through the border fence and briefly crossed. One Lebanese was killed. Three rockets were fired toward Israel from neighboring Syria without causing any casualties or damage. It was not immediately known who fired them. The tensions began in east Jerusalem earlier this month, with Palestinian protests against the Sheikh Jarrah evictions and Israeli police measures at Al-Aqsa Mosque, a frequent flashpoint located on a mount in the Old City revered by Muslims and Jews. Hamas fired rockets toward Jerusalem late Monday, in an apparent attempt to present itself as the champion of the protesters. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has vowed that Hamas will “pay a very heavy price” for its rocket attacks as Israel has massed troops at the frontier. U.S. President Joe Biden has expressed support for Israel while saying he hopes to bring the violence under control. Hamas has fired some 2,000 rockets toward Israel since Monday, according to the Israeli military. Most have been intercepted by anti-missile defenses, but they have brought life to a standstill in southern Israeli cities, caused disruptions at airports and have set off air raid sirens in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. ___ Krauss reported from Jerusalem. Associated Press writers Bassem Mroue in Beirut and Samy Magdy in Cairo contributed. Fares Akram And Joseph Krauss, The Associated Press
Protesters have scaled the Israeli embassy as thousands joined a march to demonstrate against violence in Gaza. Around ten demonstrators used scaffolding to climb the building in Kensington. Huge crowds flocked to Kensington High Street where a temporary stage has been set up by organisers.
On Dec. 29, a National Guardsman in Colorado became the first known case in the United States of a contagious new variant of the coronavirus. The news was unsettling. The variant, called B.1.1.7, had roiled Britain, was beginning to surge in Europe and threatened to do the same in the United States. And although scientists did not know it yet, other mutants were also cropping up around the country. They included variants that had devastated South Africa and Brazil and that seemed to be able to sidestep the immune system, as well as others homegrown in California, Oregon and New York. This mélange of variants could not have come at a worse time. The nation was at the start of a post-holiday surge of cases that would dwarf all previous waves. And the distribution of powerful vaccines made by Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech was botched by chaos and miscommunication. Scientists warned that the variants — and B.1.1.7 in particular — might lead to a fourth wave and that the already strained health care system might buckle. Sign up for The Morning newsletter from the New York Times That did not happen. B.1.1.7 did become the predominant version of the virus in the United States, now accounting for nearly three-quarters of all cases. But the surge experts had feared ended up a mere blip in most of the country. The nationwide total of daily new cases began falling in April and has now dropped more than 85% from the horrific highs of January. “It’s pretty humbling,” said Kristian Andersen, a virus expert at Scripps Research in La Jolla, California. “We could actually do a lot better than I had expected.” Andersen and other virus watchers still see variants as a potential source of trouble in the months to come — particularly one that has battered Brazil and is growing rapidly in 17 U.S. states. But they are also taking stock of the past few months to better understand how the nation dodged the variant threat. Experts point to a combination of factors — masks, social distancing and other restrictions, and perhaps a seasonal wane of infections — that bought crucial time for tens of millions of Americans to get vaccinated. They also credit a good dose of serendipity, as B.1.1.7, unlike some of its competitors, is powerless against the vaccines. “I think we got lucky, to be honest,” said Nathan Grubaugh, a public health researcher at Yale University. “We’re being rescued by the vaccine.” After B.1.1.7 emerged at the end of December, new variants with combinations of troubling mutations came to light. Scientists fretted about how the competition among the variants might play out. In January, researchers in California discovered a variant with 10 mutations that was growing more common there and had drifted into other states. Laboratory experiments suggested that the variant could dodge an antibody treatment that had worked well against previous forms of the virus and that it was perhaps also more contagious. In the months that followed, the United States has drastically improved its surveillance of how the variants mutate. Last week more than 28,800 virus genomes, almost 10% of all positive test cases, were uploaded to an international online database called GISAID. That clearer picture has enabled scientists to watch how the mutants compete. The California variant turned out to be a weak competitor, and its numbers dropped sharply in February and March. It is still prevalent in parts of Northern California, but it has virtually disappeared from southern parts of the state and never found a foothold elsewhere in the country. By April 24, it accounted for just 3.2% of all virus samples tested in the country as B.1.1.7 soared to 66%. “B.1.1.7 went in for the knockout, and it’s like, ‘Bye-bye, California variant,’” Andersen said. On the other side of the country, researchers reported in February that a variant called B.1.526 was spreading quickly in New York and appeared to be a formidable adversary for B.1.1.7. By February, each of those variants had grown to about 35% of the samples collected by Grubaugh’s lab in Connecticut. But B.1.1.7 came out on top. In fact, B.1.1.7 seems to have the edge over nearly every variant identified so far. At a congressional hearing Tuesday, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said B.1.1.7 made up 72% of cases in the country. “We’re really seeing B.1.1.7 pushing out other variants decisively,” said Emma Hodcroft, a public health researcher at the University of Bern. The variants identified in California and New York turned out to be only moderately more contagious than older versions of the virus, and much of their initial success may have been luck. The overall boom in cases last fall amplified what might otherwise have gone undetected. It is unclear what gives B.1.1.7 an edge over the others. “Is it the greatest of all the variants? It’s just really hard to say right now,” said Angela Rasmussen, a virus expert at the University of Saskatchewan’s Vaccine and Infectious Disease Organization. “We need more research to figure out more about what all of these combinations of mutations are doing.” Some answers may come from California, where researchers are staging a head-to-head competition in a lab, injecting mice with a cocktail of B.1.1.7 and six other variants. “The idea is to see which one will win out,” said Dr. Charles Chiu, a virus expert at the University of California, San Francisco, who was the first scientist to discover the California variant. In Michigan, one of the few states that saw the predicted surge in cases this spring, B.1.1.7 found a hook in younger people who were returning to schools and playing contact sports. “Because it’s more transmissible, the virus finds cracks in behavior that normally wouldn’t have been as much of a problem,” said Emily Martin, a public health researcher at the University of Michigan. But in the rest of the country, people naturally became more cautious when confronted with the horrifying toll of the virus after the holidays. B.1.1.7 is thought to be about 60% more contagious than previous forms of the virus, but its mode of spread is no different. Most states had at least partial restrictions on indoor dining and instituted mask mandates. “B.1.1.7 is more transmissible, but it can’t jump through a mask,” Hodcroft said. “So we can still stop its spread.” But other experts are still discomfited by how much the virus seems to have defied predictions. “I can’t necessarily ascribe it just to behavior,” said Sarah Cobey, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Chicago. Respiratory viruses sometimes go through seasonal cycles, but it is not clear why the coronavirus’s cycle would have caused it to decline in the middle of winter. “That makes me feel maybe even more ignorant,” she said. Also puzzling is why variants that pummeled other countries have not yet spread widely in the United States. B.1.351 rapidly dominated South Africa and some other African countries late last year. It was first reported in the United States on Jan. 28 but still accounts for only 1% of cases. That may be because it cannot get ahead of the fast-spreading B.1.1.7. “I think that is because it doesn’t really have much transmission advantage,” said William Hanage, a public health researcher at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. P.1, a variant that is ravaging Brazil, got off to a slow start in the United States but is now estimated to make up more than 10% of the country’s cases. “I believe it is a matter of time before the P.1 variant becomes one of the most prevalent in the USA,” warned Dr. André Ricardo Ribas Freitas, a medical researcher at Faculdade São Leopoldo Mandic in Brazil. Still, Nels Elde, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Utah, said the events of the past four months raised questions about whether it was worth fretting over different variants, rather than focusing on the behaviors that can rein in all of them. “We’re splitting hairs between a handful of mutations here and there. We’ve lost some perspective,” he said. “It’s catnip for a curious mind.” The United States has an ample supply of powerful vaccines that make variants more an academic concern than a cause of worry for the average person. The vaccines may be slightly less effective against the variants identified in South Africa and Brazil, but they prevent severe disease from all known variants. It is not impossible the situation could worsen. Only about 35% of people in the United States have been fully immunized, and the protection from the vaccines may wane by the winter. No one knows how variants emerging in other parts of the world, like one that has come to prominence in India and is circulating at low levels in the United States, will behave here. And yet more variants will inevitably arise in places where the virus is rampant, Cobey warned: “There’s a lot of evolution to happen yet.” This article originally appeared in The New York Times. © 2021 The New York Times Company
DETROIT (AP) — Timothy Tharp has owned businesses in Detroit long enough to remember when parts of downtown resembled a ghost town. He’s also seen its resurgence with new restaurants, hotels and throngs of people since the city's emergence from bankruptcy. Then came COVID-19 and people stopped coming. Tharp estimates his three restaurants and bars have lost a combined $1 million since March 2020. But now as vaccinations increase and government-ordered lockdowns and restrictions are lifted, Tharpe believes the coronavirus pandemic could be remembered as just another hurdle the Motor City has overcome. “We’ve gotten used to the apocalypse over and over and over again,” said Tharp who owns Grand Trunk Pub, the Whisky Parlor and the Checker Bar in and around downtown. “We crawl out of the ashes and rise again every 10 years. That’s what we do.” Groups and companies already are booking dates in Detroit for this year and next. Businesses also are putting together Detroit-specific packages featuring high-end hotels and swanky restaurants, an effort to attract short-stay visitors who can drive in from nearby states. Detroit is not alone. Convention and tourism leaders across the U.S. are banking on a comeback from the virus, which forced most Americans to stay close to home for months last year. The costs of COVID to the convention and business meeting industry is “not even believable,” said Sherrif Karamat, president and chief executive officer of Chicago-based Professional Convention Management Association and the PCMA Foundation. In the U.S., losses are estimated at $300 billion. The year before the pandemic, conventions generated more than $1 trillion globally, Karamat said. “Almost all of that went away,” he said. “It would have been the 15th largest gross domestic product in the world.” As some businesses found it difficult, if not impossible, to connect and bring people together face-to-face, the global supply side — hotels, convention centers, restaurants — suffered. Lessons learned over the past year will help the industry adjust to restrictions and the need to keep people safe, Visit Indy Chief Executive Leonard Hoops said. Since July 1, 2020, Indianapolis has hosted 32 groups inside the Indiana Convention Center and more than 239,000 people attending their events. The Indianapolis metropolitan area hosted this year’s men’s NCAA basketball tournament, which saw games played at multiple venues. The number of fans attending any one game was limited to 250. Mask-wearing was required, although that rule was not always adhered to by fans. About $620 million was spent in the region during the tournament. “You had to be masked, have temperature checks and health screenings,” Hoops said. “If it’s safe to go to Target with a mask on and safe to go to Kroger with a mask on, why isn’t it safe to go to an event with a mask on?” Meanwhile in Detroit, the pandemic came at a pivotal time. The city’s population has shrunk by more than 1 million people since the 1950s. That, along with downsizing in the auto industry and other manufacturing, all but decimated Detroit’s tax base, leaving the city broke. A state-appointed emergency manager took over in 2013 and herded the city through the largest municipal bankruptcy in U.S. history. In December 2014, Detroit exited bankruptcy financially leaner and nearly debt-free. Its downtown convention center in 2013 hosted only seven groups, which brought about $47 million in direct spending to the area’s economy. In 2019, 29 groups had booked events through the Detroit Metro Convention & Visitors Bureau, bringing in $148 million in direct spending. As confidence and reinvestment returned, it became easier to market Detroit as a destination. Big events pumped millions of dollars into the Detroit area’s economy. In 2019, the annual North American International Auto Show brought in an estimated $430 million. That public event is not booked through the convention and visitors bureau. The auto show was canceled last year and won’t happen this year. It will be replaced by an outdoor event called Motor Bella in September at a racetrack called the M1 Concourse north of the city. Organizers hope to return to the downtown TCF Center convention hall in 2022. About $40 million came with the 2009 NCAA men's basketball Final Four, which was held at Ford Field, while the 2006 Super Bowl brought in an estimated $274 million. Not many big conventions are expected this year, but 2022 promises to be a rebound year, said Claude Molinari, president and chief executive of the Detroit convention and visitors’ bureau. Over the past month, events have been booked that could bring nearly 40,000 visitors and about $41 million to the region. Some that canceled last year, such as FIRST Robotics and the International Women’s Forum, have signaled they will return in the future. Meanwhile, the Injection Molding and Design Show will debut next March at Detroit’s TCF convention center. It is expected to attract 4,000 people and fill up hotel rooms. Another 5,000 are expected to attend the June 2022 Silicone Expo USA in Detroit. “I’m really looking at (2020) as a pause and not a shutdown,” Molinari said. “We were ready to take off just before the pandemic and we are ready right now coming out of it.” Corey Williams, The Associated Press
LOS ANGELES — Andrea Seccafien smashed the Canadian record and ran well under the Olympic standard to win the 10,000 metres at the Sound Running Track Meet on Friday night.The 30-year-old from Guelph, Ont., ran 31 minutes 13.94 seconds to win by over seven seconds. Natasha Wodak set the previous national record of 31:41.59 in 2015. The Olympic standard is 31.25.Seccafien, a four-time Canadian champion over 5,000, lives and trains in Melbourne, Australia, and like numerous Canadian track and field athletes, travelled to the U.S. in recent weeks either in hopes of running the Olympic standard or fine-tuning before the Tokyo Games.Seccafien also holds the Canadian half-marathon record. Wodak ran the Olympic standard in the marathon in Arizona in December. Gabriela DeBues-Stafford and Melissa Bishop-Nriagu were among the top Canadians competing at the Sound Running meet on Saturday. This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 15, 2021. The Canadian Press
Several states and a string of local leaders are holding off on changing their mask mandates following the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's new guidance that allows fully vaccinated Americans to go without masks indoors or outdoors. A growing number of states -- including Connecticut, Illinois, Kentucky, Nevada, Oregon, Pennsylvania and Washington state -- said they would change their rules to follow the agency's new guidance, hours after it was announced. Local leaders in Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, California, and Washington, D.C., which are all led by Democrats, said Thursday they'd take the new CDC guidance under advisement before adopting.
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BERLIN (AP) — The Latest on the continuing violence between Israel and Gaza's militant Hamas rulers (all times local): ___ BEIRUT — Hundreds of people have participated in the funeral of a Hezbollah fighter who was shot dead along the Lebanon-Israel border during a rally denouncing Israeli airstrikes on Gaza. The funeral of Mohammed Tahhan was held in his hometown of Adloun in southern Lebanon on Saturday afternoon. The 21-year-old man died of wounds sustained on Friday, shortly after he was struck during the protest at the border. On Saturday, scores of Palestinian and Lebanese youth gathered in the border area again to rally against the Israeli military campaign in Gaza. Lebanese troops detained several people who tried to reach the border wall. Earlier in the day, an Israeli military spokesman warned Lebanese authorities not to allow protesters to breach the border. A small group had breached the fence on Friday and crossed the border into Israel, triggering the shooting. The Israeli military said troops fired warning shots toward the group after they sabotaged the fence and crossed over briefly. ___ BERLIN — The United Nations’ human rights chief is urging all in what has developed into a battle between Israel and Gaza’s militant Hamas rulers to lower tensions, and faulted actions by both sides. Michelle Bachelet, the U.N. high commissioner for human rights, said in a statement issued in Geneva on Saturday that “rather than seeking to calm tensions, inflammatory rhetoric from leaders on all sides appears to be seeking to excite tensions rather than to calm them.” Bachelet's statement was issued on Saturday, shortly before an Israeli airstrike destroyed a high-rise building in Gaza City that housed offices of The Associated Press and other media outlets. In the statement, Bachelet “warned that the firing of large numbers of indiscriminate rockets by Palestinian armed groups into Israel, including densely populated areas, in clear violation of international humanitarian law, amounts to war crimes.” There also are concerns that some attacks by the Israeli military in Gaza “have targeted civilian objects that, under international humanitarian law, do not meet the requirements to be considered as military objectives.” It added that “the failure to adhere to the principles of distinction, proportionality and precaution in the conduct of military operations amounts to a serious violation of international humanitarian law and may constitute war crimes.” ___ BERLIN — Iran’s foreign minister has called off a planned visit to his Austrian counterpart in Vienna. The decision came after Austria’s chancellery and foreign ministry flew the Israeli flag as a signal of solidarity in Israel’s conflict with the militant Hamas group. Austrian daily Die Presse reported Saturday that Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif was due to meet Austrian counterpart Alexander Schallenberg on Saturday morning. But he called off the trip over the Austrian leaders’ decision to fly the Israeli flag on Friday. The Austria Press Agency said Schallenberg’s spokeswoman, Claudia Tuertscher, confirmed the report. She said: “We regret this.” Vienna has been hosting negotiations in recent weeks aimed at bringing the United States back into the 2015 nuclear deal aimed at allaying concerns about Iran’s nuclear ambitions. France, Germany, Britain, Russia and China are still parties to that agreement. Iran’s deputy foreign minister, Abbas Araghchi, tweeted on Friday that Austria “so far been a great host for negotiations” but it was “shocking & painful to see flag of the occupying regime, that brutally killed tens of innocent civilians, inc many children in just few days, over govt offices in Vienna.” ___ DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — Saudi Arabia has called for foreign ministers of the world’s largest body of Muslim nations to hold a meeting Sunday. The gathering is to discuss Israeli acts of violence against Palestinians and the Israeli police’s use of force against protesters at Al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem. The kingdom will host the virtual summit, gathering ministers of the 57-nation Organization of Islamic Cooperation “to discuss the Israeli aggression in the Palestinian territory,” particularly acts of violence in the vicinity of Al-Aqsa Mosque, the body said Saturday. The Saudi-headquartered OIC includes countries Iran, Turkey, Indonesia and a range of Muslim majority nations. The sanctity of Al-Aqsa mosque, one of Islam’s holiest sites, is a sensitive and emotive issue for Muslims around the world. The OIC was formed 51 years ago in response to a Jewish extremist arson attack on the Al-Aqsa Mosque in east Jerusalem. The hilltop on which the mosque stands is also sacred to Jews, who revere it as the Temple Mount because it was the site of the biblical temples. Some Jews and evangelical Christians support building a new Jewish temple on the site, an idea that Muslims find alarming because they fear it would lead to the mosque being partitioned or demolished. ___ RAMALLAH, West Bank — Palestinians have begun gathering across the occupied West Bank to mark the anniversary of the displacement of hundreds of thousands of refugees from what is now Israel during the 1948 war surrounding its creation. Nakba Day, Arabic for “catastrophe,” comes amid widespread Jewish-Arab violence in Israel and heavy fighting between Israel and the Islamic militant group Hamas, which rules Gaza. The main event Saturday was held in West Bank city of Ramallah, where the internationally-backed Palestinian Authority is headquartered. On Friday, Palestinians in the occupied West Bank held some of the largest protests in years and clashed with Israeli forces, who shot and killed 11 people, including a Palestinian who tried to stab a soldier at a military position. Some 700,000 Palestinians fled or were driven from their homes during the 1948 war. Today, they and their descendants number around 5.7 million and mostly reside in the West Bank, Gaza, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria. The Associated Press
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Zlatan Ibrahimovic ruled out of Euro 2020 due to knee injuryStriker suffered problem in Milan’s win over Juventus39-year-old came out of international retirement in March Zlatan Ibrahimovic only came out of international retirement in March. Photograph: David Lidstrom/Getty Images
The Delhi Police had lodged an FIR on grounds of murder, abduction, criminal conspiracy.