Beijing Shows its Contempt for its Hong Kong Commitments


If ever there was a demonstration of the Chinese government’s utter contempt for keeping its word, it is its arrest and prosecution of Martin Lee Chu-ming, the 82-year-old who was a fundamental architect of Hong Kong’s Basic Law designed – vainly – to guarantee that the former British crown colony would remain free of Beijing’s grip for 50 years.

Lee was given a suspended 11-month sentence, along with Margaret Ng, Ngoi-yee, 73, one of the territory’s staunchest democracy advocates and an opponent, among other things, of a controversial extradition bill designed to allow Hong Kong to detain and transfer fugitives including political ones from Taiwan and the Chinese mainland and elsewhere over the border.

The third person sentenced was Jimmy Lai Chee-Ying, the billionaire founder of Next Digital and the hugely popular anti-government Chinese-language Apple Daily. He is one of the main contributors to democracy in the city. He was given 14 months in prison, in marked contrast to the two lawyers, who received suspended sentences.

Lai could be considered a special case. He has been a marked man by Beijing for decades, since he was forced out of his successful Giordano apparel empire after he insulted Chinese Premier Li Peng in 1994, calling him a “turtle’s egg.” He later found Next Media, which has published pro-democracy organs in both Hong Kong and Taiwan. He has been a visible presence at huge demonstrations that wracked the city for months, both in 2014 and 2020.

“The sentencing was fairly mild, in line with existing penalties for the charges. There are more serious charges leveled against Jimmy Lai. This is just the start of his judicial encounter,” a British consultant told Asia Sentinel.

Chinese authorities argue that they are merely bringing law and order to a city that had broken its commitment to it, conveniently forgetting that the 79-day Umbrella Movement emerged over the refusal to allow independent candidates for Chief Executive in the 2017 election. Beijing’s own picks have been embarrassing failures. They included Tung Chee-hwa, who was driven from office because he was ineffective; Donald Tsang, who was indicted for taking favors; CY Leung, who earned universal enmity from the citizenry; and Carrie Lam, who has toadied to Beijing on all matters to universal disdain. Allowing the city to pick its own executive might not have been a bad idea.

They forget that the violent demonstrations of 2020 were an attempt to forestall the extradition bill and growing concerns over Beijing’s clampdown on the city, which is in large part peopled by the descendants of those who swam down the Pearl River escape from China during the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution.

Nonetheless, that fully-justified protest hasn’t gone over well in Beijing, which foisted two apparatchiks, Luo Huining, 65, to take charge of the Central Liaison Office in Hong Kong, and Xia Baolong, 67, to head the Hong Kong & Macau Affairs Office. Their mission was to tame Hong Kong. They have been depressingly successful.

What is incomprehensible is how the Hong Kong legal system, from police to lawyers to judges, which existed largely to dispense even-handed if imperfect justice for 156 years of British colonial rule and 23 years of quasi-democracy after the colony was handed back to China in 1997, has been so thoroughly subverted to serve the whims of Xi Jinping in Beijing.

The ostensible reason is that they are hewing to the sweeping national security law that was forced onto Hong Kong on June 30, 2020, that killed democracy outright after it had been wounded by a thousand cuts over the previous 23 years, destroying the key elements of the principle that were supposed to survive until 2047.

As Asia Sentinel reported upon the law’s implementation – ironically on the day the territory was supposed to celebrate the One Country-Two Systems enactment – the law’s 61 articles were aimed to address threats to national security from “subversion, secession, terrorism” and “collusion with a foreign country or external elements.”

The law was clearly aimed at journalists, academics, politicians, and anybody else interested in preserving Hong Kong’s independence. A huge crowd took to the streets to protest –illegally – but it wasn’t long before China appears to have cowed the Hong Kong police, the judiciary, and even the city’s business community, by overwhelming force, much as the Anschluss was imposed on the people of Austria by the Nazis in 1938. It applies not only to permanent residents but temporary ones and people “from outside who are not permanent residents of Hong Kong.”

But indeed while the law is ugly, that doesn’t explain why the legal establishment has so thoroughly turned on those who were their partners for so many decades. It doesn’t explain why police appeared to have stood aside during a mob attack on pro-democracy protesters at Yuen Long railway station in 2019, one of the most controversial and divisive chapters in last year’s anti-government protests.

Some 47 pro-democracy lawmakers and activists remain in prison, awaiting sentencing for nothing more than exercising their duties as elected officials. Fifteen of the 47 were granted bail in March but they remain in jail pending appeal by the prosecution. The language used by the judge in subsequent hearings – a Hong Kong judge, not one brought in from China – is a clear indication that the 47 probably will follow Lee, Ng, and Lai into longer sentences.

The crime on the part of the defendants was to run an unofficial “primary” election to pick opposition candidates for 2020 legislative elections, which the government has since postponed.

Chinese and Hong Kong officials have claimed the primary was an attempt to overthrow the government.

It actually followed the 2019 district elections that shell-shocked both the Hong Kong and Beijing governments. The pan-democrats and independents responded by winning 388 seats – 86 percent of the total – giving them control of 17 of the 18 district councils. Voter turnout was a record 71 percent compared to 47 percent in 2015. The Democratic Alliance for the Betterment & Progress of Hong Kong, known universally as the DAB, the largest pro-Beijing party, fielded 181 candidates to win only 21. The other pro-Beijing party, The Federation of Trade Unions (FTU) salvaged 4 seats from a 62-candidate list. Another election was simply not possible for a dictatorial government.

Cui Tiankai, China’s ambassador to the United States, last year told the Aspen Security Forum that “the city is quite destabilized. People feel it’s no longer a very safe place to live or do business.”

But it was no longer a safe place to do business because Beijing had so badly botched its stewardship of what had been one of the world’s most successful cities, with the second-highest GDP in Asia after Singapore. But more than that, it was a city that was vibrant if not outright piratical in its demeanor. It has been crushed.

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The best TV shows of 2021 so far



Lupin

One of the year’s first hit shows was the delightful high-energy French heist comedy, inspired by classic stories of gentleman thief Arsène Lupin, written in the early 1900s. Many binged the slick and fast-moving series of five episodes (the remaining five are set to follow later in 2021), and it’s not difficult to see why: Actor Omar Sy oozes charm as Assane Diop, a towering con artist with the smooth style of Bond and the wits of Sherlock, who sets out to avenge his father for an injustice inflicted by a wealthy family. As the only son of an immigrant from Senegal who had come to France to seek a better life, his father is framed over the theft of a diamond necklace by his powerful employer, Hubert Pellegrini. After his father dies in prison, teenager Assane is left an orphan. When we meet Assane 25 years on, inspired by a book about a certain gentleman thief his father had given him on his birthday, our hero sets out to right a wrong, using his mastery of disguise and subterfuge. Available now on Netflix internationally.

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Marshall Govt defends vaccine rollout as data shows SA lags nation


The Marshall Government says South Australia will “scale up” its coronavirus vaccination rollout in coming weeks, as data released overnight showed it had administered just 57 per cent of its available doses – the lowest rate in the nation.

The Opposition seized on the figures – released by the federal government late yesterday – to declare SA’s utilisation rate “the worst in the country” – 17 per cent lower than Victoria and Queensland.

But Health Minister Stephen Wade argued the speed of South Australia’s rollout “remains closely aligned with our share of the national population”.

As of yesterday, the state had administered 37,656 doses of the 561,734 given in state and territory clinics around the country – around 6.7 per cent, which Wade said corresponded “to our share of the national population, which is 6.9 per cent”.

“This is a far better indicator of how our vaccine rollout is tracking,” he insisted.

SA had also accounted for 740 of the 3,166 doses administered in state and territory clinics in the 24 hours to Sunday, April 11.

Federal data released yesterday

“It should be noted that the amount of vaccines SA has administered in the past 24 hours is well above our proportion of the national population, as we administered more doses than any other state other than Victoria,” Wade said in a statement.

“Opening more clinics across the state where they are needed, as well as establishing a vaccination hub at the Adelaide Showgrounds, will help us to further scale up our rollout in the coming weeks.”

However, SA’s rollout figure equates to 2.13 for every 100 people in the state, the second lowest per capita figure in the country – behind only NSW, which has suspended its vaccination program.

Labor’s health spokesman Chris Picton said there was “an issue with vaccine supply” in parts of Australia, “but not here in SA where we’ve got over 30,000 doses sitting in the fridge not being used”.

“The federal government’s figures show we’ve got the worst utilisation rate in the country – we can’t allow that to continue,” he said.

“This is not something that’s happened overnight – we’ve consistently had the second-lowest per capita vaccination rate.”

The data shows a further 616,568 doses have been administered via the Commonwealth, from which SA has given another 12,449 in aged and disability care facilities and 39,657 in primary care.

The latter is largely administered by GPs, with Australian Medical Association SA president Dr Chris Moy saying the rollout is “not as simple as just putting the vaccine into people’s arms”.

“Nevertheless, we still could all do better – that’s in every sector,” he told InDaily.

“It still needs to be improved – it certainly has not been helped by a combination of needing a change in direction, and the negativity of the media to some degree.”

He said the media and public “have got to support the changes” to the rollout, with AstraZeneca last week declared unsuitable for recipients under 50, arguing “the fact is we’re extremely lucky to have safe and effective vaccines, and that’s been lost at the moment”.

He said the delay in state utilisation rates could be due to the lag between first and second doses, “but having said that, we could still do better”.

“There’s been frustrations with delays in deliveries, and frustrations with the change in provision, but I don’t think anybody has any idea how frickin’ big this is – it’s the biggest thing we’ve ever done,” he said.

“This is huge – last week when there was a pivot there was frustration, I think GPs got a lot of phone calls… but it’s no different to what’s been happening right through the pandemic, where we’re dealing with rapid changes [and] all of us have to roll with the punches, because we just need to – this is too big to fail.”

Moy said “our main job at the moment is to get that AstraZeneca out to over-50s as fast as we can, because they’re the biggest risk population”.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison yesterday abandoned his Government’s previous rollout target after Australian medical authorities recommended people under 50 get the Pfizer vaccine instead of AstraZeneca because of rare blood clotting concerns.

In a video message posted to Facebook, he conceded not all Australians will get their first dose by the end of the year, even though the Government has doubled its order of the Pfizer vaccine – but said targets were not practical as COVID “writes its own rules”.

“You don’t get to set the agenda,” he said.

“You have to be able to respond quickly to when things change and we’ve had to deal with a lot of changes.

“Rather than set targets that can get knocked about by every to and fro of international supply chains and other disruptions that can occur, we are just getting on with it.”

Launching the first of a series of daily vaccination data updates to be published online, he said Australia’s rate of 1.2 million to date was comparable to other major countries.

Meanwhile, Australia’s medicine regulator has today identified a second case of rare blood clots believed to be linked to the AstraZeneca vaccine.

The Therapeutic Goods Administration released a safety alert announcing the possible link. The blood clots affected a woman aged in her 40s who was vaccinated in Western Australia.

“The person remains in hospital receiving treatment and is in a stable condition,” the regulator said.

It is the second Australian report of a case of rare blood clots after a 44-year-old Melbourne man developed the condition following his AstraZeneca vaccination last month.

Expert advisers to the TGA have concluded the latest incident is similar to blood clotting cases seen in Europe and the United Kingdom.

There have been about 700,000 doses of AstraZeneca vaccines administered in Australia, so the two cases equate to a frequency of one in every 350,000 people.

The United Kingdom has found the overall risk of these rare blood clots was approximately one in 250,000 people who received the vaccine.

Also today, Australia recorded its first COVID-19 death for 2021 after a man in his 80s died in a Brisbane hospital.

Queensland Health minister Yvette D’Ath said the Australian man succumbed to the disease overnight after returning from the Philippines.

It’s the first COVID death since a NSW man in his 70s died in late December from respiratory complications after being infected with COVID-19 in March 2020.

-with AAP

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Aussies prepare for the great Australian staycation, research shows


While vaccination programs roll out worldwide, international border closures have catapulted ‘Staycations’ to the top of bucket-lists for travel-hungry Aussies.  For many, that means a trip to support regional Australia, and towns that faced challenges long before the pandemic with floods, drought and bushfires a common occurrence in recent years. Australians, parochial and proud, are […]

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Perry’s stunning fielding ‘shows how far she’s come’



Thirteen months on from tearing her hamstring off the bone, Ellyse Perry produced a moment of magic on Wednesday to suggest she is nearing, if not close to, her physical peak.

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Two men for every woman on staff at country’s largest council, data shows


By Matt Dennien

Women make up only one-third of the workforce of Brisbane City Council and are paid less than their male counterparts in all but one division, data released by Australia’s largest local government shows.

The council said that, overall, women are paid more on average than men but when the figures are broken down, that is true in only one division/department.

One governance and gender expert has described the figures as surprising, with a peak sector body suggesting the rare insight shows how much work is needed across the sector.

More than 8600 council employees carry out the day-to-day work of Brisbane’s local government, which boasts a $3 billion annual budget and the largest pool of residents among councils nationwide.

The council insists there is no gender pay gap, with the average annual earnings of a female employee totalling $75,012 compared with $69,020 for men, according to data provided in a question on notice last month. But women account only for little more than 2900 of the council’s staff. Men make up the remaining 5735.

Brisbane Infrastructure’s workforce — the only one among six divisions that women earn more on average — has almost four men for every woman. Among Transport for Brisbane staff, the second-largest cohort, there are about seven.

In smaller divisions spanning community services and administration, the balance swings back towards women. City Planning and Development staff are almost at parity.

At the neighbouring Moreton Bay Regional Council, 41 per cent of its 1900 staff are women, with similar divisional splits. Women make up 44 per cent of Ipswich City Council’s workforce and 48 per cent at Logan City Council.

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Council shows its support of the Uluru Statement from the Heart


Council is
furthering its commitment to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander
community with a letter to the Prime Minister of Australia and the
Australian Parliament expressing its support of the Uluru Statement from the Heart.

The
request to support the statement came from the City’s Kilangitj Aboriginal
Advisory Committee, given the alignment with the sentiment of the City’s Reconciliation Action Plan.

The
Uluru Statement from the Heart was developed in 2017 by Aboriginal and Torres
Strait Islander people from around the country and is a call from Aboriginal
and Torres Strait Islander peoples asking for constitutional change and
structural reform in their relationship with Australia.

The
statement calls for the enshrining of a First Nations voice in the Australian
Constitution and establishing the Makarrata Commission to supervise a process
of agreement-making with Australian governments. The commission would also oversee a
process of truth-telling about Australia’s history and colonisation.

Greater Geelong Mayor Stephanie Asher
said Council’s support for the Uluru Statement from the Heart is an important
step in Council’s commitment to reconciliation.

This decision further strengthens our
commitment to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community as we
progress the actions outlined in our Reconciliation Action Plan.

Council’s
decision on Tuesday night to write this public letter of support follows on
from National Close the Gap Day on 18 March and the Closing the Gap 2020 Report
released last year. 

The
report continues to highlight significant discrepancies between white
Australians and Aboriginal people, particularly in the areas of life
expectancy, childhood mortality, school attainment and employment.

Councillor Jim Mason, Chair, Aboriginal
Affairs portfolio thanked the Kilangitj Aboriginal Advisory Committee for its
ongoing work in supporting reconciliation.

Supporting the Uluru Statement from the
Heart is the right thing to do, as a region and nation, as we continue to
strive towards reconciliation.

We stand with our First Nations People. We’ve heard them and we will
continue to work together, and walk together towards treaty, reconciliation and
a strong Aboriginal voice.

I’d like to thank the Kilangitj
Aboriginal Advisory Committee members for putting this request to Council, and
for their ongoing work in supporting reconciliation and in developing a better
and deeper understanding of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

In
2020 the City developed its first Reconciliation Action Plan, which outlines
the City’s commitment to action in order to better support reconciliation
within the organisation and with the community.

Further
support for the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community has included
the naming of key City facilities using Wadawurrung language, the commissioning
of Aboriginal artwork, establishing an Aboriginal advisory committee and
holding community-wide events to acknowledge national days and weeks of
significance.

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Council shows its support of the Uluru Statement from the Heart
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Real-world study shows Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines give ‘substantial’ protection after first shot



COVID-19 vaccines developed by Pfizer Inc with BioNTech SE and Moderna Inc reduced the risk of infection by 80 per cent two weeks or more after the first of two shots, according to data from a real-world US study released on Monday.

The risk of infection fell 90 per cent by two weeks after the second shot, the study of just under 4,000 vaccinated US healthcare personnel and first responders found.

The study by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) evaluated the vaccines’ ability to protect against infection, including infections that did not cause symptoms. Previous clinical trials by the companies evaluated their vaccine’s efficacy in preventing illness from COVID-19.

The findings of the real-world use of these messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccines confirm the efficacy demonstrated in the large controlled clinical trials conducted before they received emergency use authorisations from the US Food and Drug Administration.

The study looked at the effectiveness of the mRNA vaccines among 3,950 participants in six states over a 13-week period from 14 December 2020 to 13 March 2021.

“The authorised mRNA COVID-19 vaccines provided early, substantial real-world protection against infection for our nation’s healthcare personnel, first responders, and other frontline essential workers,” CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said in a statement.

The new mRNA technology is a synthetic form of a natural chemical messenger being used to instruct cells to make proteins that mirror part of the novel coronavirus. That teaches the immune system to recognise and attack the actual virus.

The CDC study comes weeks after real-world data from Israel suggested that the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine was 94 per cent effective in preventing asymptomatic infections.

Some countries, including Britain and Canada, are allowing extended gaps between doses that differ from how the vaccines were tested in clinical trials in order to alleviate supply constraints. In the trials, there was a three-week gap between Pfizer shots and four weeks for the Moderna vaccine.

In Britain, authorities said in January that data supported its decision to move to 12 weeks between the first and second Pfizer/BioNtech shots. Pfizer and its German partner have warned that they had no evidence to prove that.



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Luck is essential for any successful coronavirus variant, study shows


Transmission electron micrograph of SARS-CoV-2 virus particles, isolated from a patient. Image captured and color-enhanced at the NIAID Integrated Research Facility (IRF) in Fort Detrick, Maryland. Credit: NIAID

Let’s say you are a new member of the SARS-CoV-2 family, with a few genetic tweaks that distinguish you from the rest of the clan. Maybe you have changes in your spike protein that allow you to more easily to invade cells, or a random mutation that helps you elude the virus-killing effects of a COVID-19 treatment.

You could be a contender. But first, you have to get out of the body you’re in and infect some more people.

What would it take for you to succeed and prosper? Alternatively, what would cause you to die on the vine, a short-lived experiment in evolution’s harsh proving chamber?

A modeling exercise by researchers at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle suggests that for a genetic variant of SARS-CoV-2 to become a menacing new presence, it’s not enough to be scary and highly transmissible. It also needs a string of lucky breaks to establish itself.

Most notably, it must gain entree to a superspreader event if it is to have a fighting chance of planting its flag in a population. In the brief period during which its carrier is at or close to his peak viral load, the new variant needs to hitch a ride to someplace like a choir practice, a political rally, a poorly ventilated barroom or a packed indoor arena where people are mingling at close quarters and many are not wearing masks.

Once there, it needs to infect at least a handful of people. Five would be enough for the new variant to live on to compete for more victims. Infecting 20 or more will give it a real chance of becoming predominant in its new community.

Time is of the essence, the new research suggests: Even for a new variant that’s armed with transmission superpowers, that first superspreader event needs to come within a month of its arrival for the variant to stand a chance of becoming established.

That’s a lot of narrow windows and a lot of high hurdles, and the likelihood that a new variant will clear all of those obstacles is actually pretty slim, the researchers concluded. And that should offer humans a bit of hope.

But then there’s reality: At least five new “variants of concern” have apparently overcome these forbidding odds in the span of about six months.

That suggests something rather ominous: There are probably many more such variants out there, each looking for its lucky break. While few variants will get it, it only takes one or two with the right constellation of mutations to prolong or escalate the pandemic—or to undermine the vaccines and medicines that could end it.

The team’s model was posted this week to MedRxiv, a site where researchers share their research results and seek feedback from colleagues. As such, its findings are considered preliminary.

For researchers hoping to see around the next corner of the pandemic, a modeling exercise like this is more than an idle speculation.

The coronavirus that causes COVID-19 is known to mutate constantly, but almost always in ways that don’t significantly change its behavior. So it would be nice to know how these variants are born and whether there are many more like them. And if there are, it would be useful to know how they can be bottled up quickly.

“Phenomenological” modeling studies such as this one gather the wildly erratic patterns of spread buried in pandemic data, combine them with well-documented cases of super-spreader events, and drop in a new actor that plays by slightly different rules. Then they play out what happens next over and over again in computer models that act as digital test tubes.

One thing researchers are increasingly sure of is that in patients with compromised immune systems, the coronavirus is more likely to take on not just one but a passel of mutations. Those genetic changes could make it even harder to fight the virus with medicines, masks and vaccines.

A model like this doesn’t yield calibrated measurements of how effectively an intervention like universal masking can stop spread. It doesn’t generate predictions about the pandemic’s next stage. But it does provide insights into how a virus behaves under a range of circumstances, along with probabilistic estimates that can sharpen the intuitions of public health officials.

“We will in all likelihood create new variants on top of those that have emerged,” said Dr. Joshua T. Schiffer, who led the modeling team at Fred Hutch. “And the ones that will win are the ones that dodge the vaccine or transmit more easily.”

These variants don’t have names yet and may not pop up for months, Schiffer added. But when they do arise, they’ll be subject to the same harsh early-life experiences.

After running through thousands of scenarios, the team concluded that variants with potentially frightening capabilities to spread and sicken probably occur frequently in the course of a pandemic the size of this one. After all, there are dozens of branches on the SARS-CoV-2 family tree, and each of them might have been a chance for genetic mischief. Given the punishing attrition rate of new variants, ill-fated ones must be born every day around the world for so many branches to have emerged.

Periods of high transmission seem to create an “all comers welcome” atmosphere for variants. So when infections are surging, even a variant that’s no more transmissible than those already in circulation stands a better chance of elbowing its way into the game, the modeling shows. And a genetic variant that arrives with a biological advantage in that department is even more likely to succeed.

A clinical lab scientist processes upper respiratory samples from patients suspected of having COVID-19.

All of these newcomers still face tall odds. But if many variants are out there, and if careless societies afford them the chance of an early superspreader event, then it’s reasonable to assume that at least one or two may gain enough of a foothold to take off.

Their impact on the pandemic’s trajectory will be a genetic roll of the dice.

In the meantime, the research offers some actionable advice for both experts and the general public.

The most effective way to reduce the number of new variants is to prevent “large waves of infection” from happening in the first place, the study authors write. Not only is a surge an ideal environment for generating new variants, it also offers plenty of opportunity for a superspreading event.

And that means we all have a role to play by wearing masks, practicing social distancing, avoiding large gatherings and taking other precautions that can deprive a new variant of the luck it needs.


Follow the latest news on the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak


More information:
Ashish Goyal et al. Early super-spreader events are a likely determinant of novel SARS-CoV-2 variant predominance, MedRxiv (2021). DOI: 10.1101/2021.03.23.21254185

2021 Los Angeles Times.
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

Citation:
Luck is essential for any successful coronavirus variant, study shows (2021, March 27)
retrieved 28 March 2021
from https://medicalxpress.com/news/2021-03-luck-essential-successful-coronavirus-variant.html

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Marvel couldn’t wait any longer to kick off its next phase of movies and shows – NewsIn.Asia


March 26 (The Verge) – Disney is debuting Black Widow as a Disney Plus Premier Access title alongside its theatrical release this summer, sacrificing one of its biggest potential summer blockbusters to its streaming service and forgoing what would almost certainly have been hundreds of millions (or even billions) of dollars at the box office in the process.

In a vacuum, Disney could have waited to release Black Widow until theaters were back to normal in a post-pandemic world, and reaped the box office rewards. But in many ways, the company is a victim of its own success. The ever-expanding Marvel Cinematic Universe means that each new Disney Plus show or blockbuster film relies on previous Marvel entries, and Disney just couldn’t keep delaying its next wave of superhero adventures.

By the time Black Widow hits theaters — and now, Disney Plus — on July 9th, it’ll have been over a year since its intended release date of May 1st, 2020. Some of the ripple effects of those successive delays are easy to see: each time Disney has moved Black Widow, it’s caused a cascade of delays to its other films, like Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (originally meant for February 12th, 2021, now out September 3rd), Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness (originally planned to hit theaters on May 7th, 2021, and currently planned for March 25th, 2022), and Thor: Love and Thunder (moved from November 5th, 2021 to May 6th, 2022).

And if the Marvel Universe was just movies, those successive delays would be fine; everything stays in the intended order, and while Disney would be out of its billions of box office revenue for an extra quarter or two, it’d bounce back once those movies started hitting packed theaters again.

But the company’s recent Disney Plus ambitions further complicate things. Disney can keep delaying its movies indefinitely — as, indeed, films like No Time To Die or F9 have continued to do while waiting out the pandemic. But thanks to the tangled web of storylines crossing between those blockbuster films and the streaming shows, constantly moving back release dates for one thing — like Black Widow — can hold up the entire slate from moving forward.

The strain of scheduling is already apparent.Take WandaVision, whichkicked off the company’s Disney Plus lineup earlier this year in its original 2021 slot. (This was mainly because COVID-19-related production delays forced The Falcon and the Winter Solider from its fall 2020 slot.)

Under the original, pre-delay schedule, the surreal WandaVision would have been the second Disney Plus show (after the more traditional Falcon and the Winter Solider), and would have been followed just a few short weeks after its debut by Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness in March, which promises to pick up Wanda’s story where the show left off. Instead, fans will have to wait over a year to find out what happens next, ruining the carefully planned synergy between streaming subscriptions and box office receipts.

But unlike its films, Disney can’t afford to delay its streaming shows indefinitely. The fledgling streaming service is still extremely short on high-profile, must-watch shows — The Mandalorian being the only other non-Marvel title that fits the bill.

Shows like WandaVisionFalcon and the Winter Soldier, and Loki are crucial to keeping subscribers paying for Disney Plus month after month, and Disney Plus’ continued growth in revenue is crucial to Disney’s future. As CEO Bob Chapek commented earlier this year, Disney’s “direct-to-consumer business is the company’s top priority, and our robust pipeline of content will continue to fuel its growth.”

The interconnectedness that has long been one of Marvel’s biggest strengths (best exemplified by its famous post-credit scenes and its incredibly popular crossover films) is conversely one of its biggest weaknesses here. Characters introduced in Black Widow are supposed to be in the upcoming Hawkeye series, for example, which is planned for later in 2021.

If Disney delays Black Widow, it has to delay Hawkeye, lest it spoil surprises or confuse viewers. Delay Black Widow too much (as has happened multiple times already) and the company has to move all its other films — like Shang Chi; Eternals; and the Doctor StrangeThor, and Black Panther sequels. The tie-in effects then continue to cascade; delay Thor: Love and Thunder too much, and you have to delay Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, which in turn delays that franchise’s holiday special for Disney Plus, and so on.

In a perfect world, Disney would want to wait for theaters to release Black Widow. But right now the company needs the long-term Disney Plus growth much more than a short-term windfall from one summer blockbuster. And to achieve that growth, it needs a steady drip of marquee content.

The move isn’t a total loss for Disney, though. Moving Black Widow helps to keep the Disney Plus machine going and keeps the theatrical schedule on track for the fall when theaters can hopefully reopen.

But the short-term loss could reap bigger gains for Disney down the line: if you want to watch Black Widow this summer, you have two options. You can go and buy expensive movie tickets in person, in which case Disney’s box office goals will be that much closer to succeeding. Or you either pony up for Disney Plus and a $30 fee on top, juicing subscriber numbers.

And who knows — while you’re there, you might stick around to watch WandaVisionFalcon and the Winter Soldier, or other Marvel films. At which point you might as well just keep your subscription active for Hawkeye or Ms. Marvel that fall.

Either way, Disney wins.



Thank you for visiting My Local Pages. We hope you enjoyed checking this news article on Asian news called “Marvel couldn’t wait any longer to kick off its next phase of movies and shows – NewsIn.Asia”. This news release is shared by MyLocalPages Australia as part of our World news services.

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