Few Twitter users spreading most fake news: Study

Agencies
January 25,2019

Washington, Jan 25: A small fraction of the vast Twitter user base is spreading majority of the fake news, with conservatives and older people sharing misinformation more, according to a study of over 16,000 US Twitter accounts.

The study, published in the journal Science, found that 16 of the 16,442 accounts examined tweeted out nearly 80 per cent of the misinformation masquerading as news.

About 99 per cent of the Twitter users spread virtually no fake information in the most heated part of the election year in 2016, said David Lazer, a professor at the Northeastern University in the US.

Spreading fake information "is taking place in a very seamy, but small, corner of Twitter," Lazer said.

He said misinformation "super sharers" flooded Twitter: an average of 308 pieces of fakery each between August 1 and December 6 in 2016.

It is not just few people spreading it, but few people reading it, Lazer said.

"The vast majority of people are exposed to very little fake news despite the fact that there is a concerted effort to push it into the system," he said.

The researchers found the 16,442 accounts they analysed by starting with a random pool of voter records, matching names to Twitter users and then screening out accounts that appeared to not be controlled by real people.

Their conclusions are similar to a study earlier this month that looked at the spread of false information on Facebook.

It also found that few people shared fakery, but those who did were more likely to be over 65 and conservatives.

That makes this study more believable because two groups of researchers using different social media platforms, measuring political affiliation differently and with different panels of users came to the same conclusion, said Yonchai Benkler, co-director of Harvard Law School's centre on the internet and society.

Unlike the earlier Facebook study, Lazer did not interview the people but ranked people's politics based on what they read and shared on Twitter.

The researchers used several different sources of domains for false information masquerading as news -- not individual stories but overall sites -- from lists compiled by other academics and BuzzFeed.

The team found that among people they categorised as left-leaning and centrists, fewer than five per cent shared any fake information.

Among those they determined were right-leaning, 11 per cent of accounts shared misinformation masquerading as news. For those on the extreme right, it was 21 per cent.

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COVID-19 | Govt warns against use of N-95 masks with valved respirators

Agencies
July 21,2020

New Delhi, Jul 21: The Centre has written to all states and union territories warning against the use of N-95 masks with valved respirators by people, saying these do not prevent the virus from spreading out and are "detrimental" to the measures adopted for its containment.

The Director General of Health Services (DGHS) in the Ministry of Health, in a letter to the Principal Secretaries of health and medical education of states, said it has been observed that there is "inappropriate use" of N-95 masks, particularly those with valved respirators, by the public other than designated health workers.

The DGHS referred to the advisory on the use of homemade protective cover for face and mouth available on the website of the Ministry of Health.

"It is to bring to your knowledge that the use of valved respirator N-95 masks is detrimental to the measures adopted for preventing the spread of coronavirus as it does not prevent the virus from escaping out of the mask. In view of the above, I request you to instruct all concerned to follow the use of face/mouth cover and prevent inappropriate use of N-95 masks," DGHS Rajiv Garg said in the letter.

The government had in April issued an advisory on the use of homemade protective cover for face and mouth, asking people to wear it, particularly when they step out of their residences.

The advisory stressed such face covers must be washed and cleaned each day, as instructed, and stated that any used cotton cloth can be used to make this face cover.

The colour of the fabric does not matter but one must ensure that the fabric is washed well in boiling water for five minutes and dried well before making the face cover. Adding salt to this water is recommended, it said.

It also listed the procedures of making such homemade masks, asking to ensure it fits the face well and there are no gaps on the sides.

It urges people to wash hands thoroughly before wearing the face cover, switching to another fresh one as the face cover becomes damp or humid, and never reusing it after single use without cleaning it.

"Never share the face cover with anyone. Every member in a family should have separate face cover," the advisory stated.

India's COVID-19 case tally crossed the 11-lakh mark on Monday, while the total number of recovered patients increased to over seven lakh, according to Union health ministry data.

The death toll due to the disease rose to 27,497 with 681 fatalities reported in one day.

The ministry data updated at 8 am on Monday showed that a record single-day jump of 40,425 COVID-19 cases had taken the total number of cases to 11,18,043.

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'Children under the age of 5 carry higher levels of Covid-19'

Agencies
August 2,2020

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Washington, Aug 2: Children under the age of five have between 10 to 100 times greater levels of genetic material of the coronavirus in their noses compared to older children and adults, a study in JAMA Pediatrics said Thursday.

Its authors wrote this meant that young children might be important drivers of Covid-19 transmission within communities -- a suggestion at odds with the current prevailing narrative.

The paper comes as the administration of US President Donald Trump is pushing hard for schools and daycare to reopen in order to kickstart the economy.

Between March 23 and April 27, researchers carried out nasal swab tests on 145 Chicago patients with mild to moderate illness within one week of symptom onset.

The patients were divided into three groups: 46 children younger than five-years-old, 51 children aged five to 17 years, and 48 adults aged 18 to 65 years.

The team, led by Dr Taylor Heald-Sargent of the Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children's Hospital, observed, "a 10-fold to 100-fold greater amount of SARS-CoV-2 in the upper respiratory tract of young children."

15 countries with the highest number of cases, deaths due to the Covid-19 pandemic

The authors added that a recent lab study had demonstrated that the more viral genetic material was present, the more infectious virus could be grown.

It has also previously been shown that children with high viral loads of the respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) are more likely to spread the disease.

"Thus, young children can potentially be important drivers of SARS-CoV-2 spread in the general population," the authors wrote.

"Behavioral habits of young children and close quarters in school and daycare settings raise concern for SARS-CoV-2 amplification in this population as public health restrictions are eased," they concluded.

The new findings are at odds with the current view among health authorities that young children -- who, it has been well established, are far less likely to fall seriously ill from the virus -- don't spread it much to others either.

However, there has been fairly little research on the topic so far.

One recent study in South Korea found children aged 10 to 19 transmitted Covid-19 within households as much as adults, but children under nine transmitted the virus at lower rates.

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Nutrition, cardiovascular disease experts urge evaluation of diet at routine healthcare check-ups

Agencies
August 11,2020

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Dallas, Aug 11: A group of nutrition and cardiovascular disease experts issued a new scientific statement which states that the time has come for routine healthcare visits to include some form of dietary assessment and counselling.

The statement issued from the American Heart Association was published today in Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes, an American Heart Association journal. The experts recommend the adoption of a rapid diet screening tool that can be integrated into electronic health record platforms across all healthcare settings.

"Dietary patterns and quality are not sufficiently prioritised when addressing modifiable risk factors during regular healthcare office visits. Given the evidence that diet contributes to disease and mortality, it is a risk factor worth screening for continuously," said Maya Vadiveloo, Ph.D., RD, chair of the statement writing group and assistant professor of nutrition and health sciences in the College of Health Science at the University of Rhode Island in Kingston, Rhode Island.

Poor diet quality has surpassed all other risk factors for death, accounting for 11 million deaths and about half of the cardiovascular disease (CVD) deaths globally, according to the 2017 Global Burden of Disease Study, a comprehensive report on the health impact of diet in 195 countries around the world.

The statement authors reviewed 15 existing screening tools, assessing each to provide insight into the feasibility of incorporating an evidence-based dietary screening tool into routine practice.

The authors list numerous reasons why members of a healthcare team may not address diet quality during a routine office visit: lack of training and knowledge; lack of time and reimbursement; competing demands during the often short office visit and that nutrition services aren't integrated into many healthcare settings.

"However, these barriers can be overcome," said Vadiveloo. "We want a valid, reliable way to assess diet that reflects the best science and most of the tools assessed take under 10 minutes to use."

Three of the tools assessed to meet criteria set forth in the statement and may provide a framework to help practices incorporate diet screening into their workflow. The Powell and Greenberg Screening Tool asks two questions about fruit and vegetable consumption and sugary food and juice consumption.

The Rapid Eating Assessment for Participants-Shortened assessment and the Mediterranean Diet Adherence Screener ask more than 10 questions and cover major food groups, as well as processed foods and alcohol consumption.

The keys to an effective diet screening tool include:

-Using an evidence-based approach;
-Assessing the total dietary pattern, not just a single food or nutrient;
-Speed;
-The ability to give actionable next steps and support to patients; and
-The ability to track and monitor dietary change over time.

"There are other tools beyond what was assessed and additional tools could be developed," said Vadiveloo.

While the statement does not endorse a specific screening tool, it encourages critical conversations among clinicians, individuals with diet/lifestyle expertise, and specialists in information technology to adopt rapid diet screening tools for adults in primary care and relevant specialty care and prevention settings.

"An important component in addition to evaluating diet quality is targeting actionable changes - helping patients set achievable dietary goals - and then following up at the next visit," said Alice H. Lichtenstein, D.Sc., vice-chair of the writing group and lead and senior scientist of the Cardiovascular Nutrition Team at the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University in Boston.

Areas for future study include testing and validating screener tools in diverse populations, as well as among special clinical populations (paediatrics, geriatrics), and evaluating the feasibility of implementing these tools in clinical settings.

A healthy diet can improve cardiovascular disease risk and outcomes. What you eat (and how much) can affect other controllable risk factors, such as cholesterol, blood pressure, diabetes, and being overweight. 

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