90% of recovered covid patients in Wuhan hospital suffering from lung damage: Report

Agencies
August 5, 2020

Ninety per cent of a sample group of coronavirus-recovered patients from a prominent hospital in China's Wuhan city where the pandemic broke out have reported lung damage and five per cent of them are again in quarantine after testing positive for the virus, according to a media report on Wednesday.

A team at the Zhongnan Hospital of Wuhan University led by Peng Zhiyong, director of the hospital's Intensive Care Unit, has been conducting follow-up visits with '100 recovered patients' since April.

The first phase of this one-year programme finished in July. The average age of the patients in the study is 59.

According to the first phase results, 90 per cent of the patients' lungs are still in a damaged state, which means their lungs ventilation and gas exchange functions have not recovered to the level of healthy people, state-run Global Times reported.

Peng's team conducted a six-minute walking test with the patients. They found that the recovered patients could only walk 400 metres in six minutes while their healthy peers could walk 500 metres in the same period.

Some recovered patients have to rely on oxygen machines even three months after being discharged from the hospital, Liang Tengxiao, a doctor from the Dongzhimen Hospital, Beijing University of Chinese Medicine, was quoted as saying by the report.

Liang's team is also conducting follow-up visits with recovered patients aged above 65.

The results also showed that antibodies against the novel coronavirus in 10 per cent of the 100 patients have disappeared.

Five per cent of them received negative results in Covid-19 nucleic acid tests but positive results in Immunoglobulin M (IgM) tests, and thus have to be quarantined again, the report said.

IgM is usually the first antibody produced by the immune system when a virus attacks. A positive result in an IgM test usually means that a person has just been infected by the virus.

It is still unclear if this means these people have been infected again.

The 100 patients' immune systems have not fully recovered as they showed a low level of B cells -- - a primary force for killing viruses in the human body -- but a high level of T cells which only recognise viral antigens outside infected cells.

"The results revealed that the patients’ immune systems are still recovering," Peng said.

The patients also suffered from depression and a sense of stigma. Most of the recovered patients told the team that their families were not willing to have dinner with them at the same table, the report said.

Less than half of the recovered patients have returned to work, it said.

The findings are significant as the coronavirus first emerged in Wuhan city.

Hubei province for which Wuhan is the provincial capital has reported a total of 68,138 confirmed Covid-19 cases till now. The disease has claimed 4,512 lives in the province, according to the official data.

China reported 27 new confirmed Covid-19 cases on Tuesday, including 22 locally-transmitted cases, the National Health Commission (NHC) said on Wednesday.

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Agencies
September 17,2020

Washington, Sept 17: The US Justice Department has charged five Chinese citizens with hacking over a 100 companies and institutions in America and abroad, including the Indian government's networks, and stealing valuable software data and business intelligence.

Deputy US Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen on Wednesday announced three indictments have been unsealed in the matter that collectively charge five Chinese nationals with computer hacking and charge two Malaysian nationals for helping some of those hackers target victims and sell the fruits of their crime.

The Malaysian nationals were arrested on Sunday and the Chinese nationals have been declared fugitive, according to a Justice Department statement.

Rosen severely criticised the Chinese government.

"The Department of Justice has used every tool available to disrupt the illegal computer intrusions and cyberattacks by these Chinese citizens. Regrettably, the Chinese Communist Party has chosen a different path - of making China safe for cyber-criminals so long as they attack computers outside China and steal intellectual property helpful to China," the deputy attorney general said.

"In about 2019, the conspirators compromised Government of lndia websites, as well as virtual private networks and database servers supporting the Government of India. The conspirators used VPS PROVIDER servers to connect to an Open VPN network owned by the Government of India," the indictment said.

In the attacks, the conspirators installed 'Cobalt Strike' malware on Indian government-protected computers, it added.

According to the charges, the computer intrusions affected over 100 companies in the United States and abroad.

The victims ranged from software development, computer hardware, telecommunication, social media and video game companies. Non-profit organisations, universities, think-tanks, foreign governments, pro-democracy politicians and activists in Hong Kong were also targeted.

Security researchers have tracked the intrusions using labels "APT41, Barium, Winnti, Wicked Panda, and Wicked Spider.

These intrusions facilitated the theft of source code, software code signing certificates, customer account data, and valuable business information, the researchers said.

These intrusions also facilitated the defendants' other criminal schemes, including ransomware and crypto-jacking schemes, the latter refers to the group's unauthorised use of victim computers to mine cryptocurrency.

The Chinese hackers also targeted government computers and networks of Vietnam and United Kingdom. The hackers, however were not successful in compromising the government computer networks in the United Kingdom.

The racketeering conspiracy pertained to the three defendants' conducting the affairs of Chengdu 404 Network Technology ( Chengdu 404 ), a Chinese Government company, through a pattern of racketeering activity involving computer intrusion offenses affecting over 100 victim companies, organisations, and individuals in the United States and around the world, including in Australia, Brazil, Chile, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Pakistan, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, and Vietnam, the Justice Department said.

"Today's announcement demonstrates the ramifications faced by the hackers in China but it is also a reminder to those who continue to deploy malicious cyber tactics that we will utilise every tool we have to administer justice, said FBI Deputy Director David Bowdich.

Noting that the scope and sophistication of the crimes are unprecedented, Acting US Attorney for the District of Columbia Michael R Sherwin said some of these criminal actors believed their association with the Peoples Republic of China provided them free licence to hack and steal across the globe.

"This scheme also contained a new and troubling cyber-criminal component -- the targeting and utilisation of gaming platforms to both defraud video game companies and launder illicit proceeds," Sherwin said.

Rosen told reporters that as an additional method of making-money, several of the Chinese defendants compromised the networks of video game companies worldwide -- a billion-dollar industry -- and defrauded them of in-game resources.

Two of the Chinese defendants stand accused, with two Malaysian defendants, of selling those resources in the black market, through their illicit website, he said.

Asserting that the Chinese government has the power to help stop crimes like these, Rosen alleged that the Chinese Government has made a deliberate choice to allow its citizens to commit computer intrusions and attacks around the world because these actors will also help them.

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Agencies
September 15,2020

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Washington, Sept 15: Facebook has been accused of ignoring fake accounts undermining political affairs around the world, according to a memo by a former employee of the social networking giant shared with BuzzFeed News.

In the 6,600-word memo, former Facebook data scientist Sophie Zhang wrote that she found evidence of coordinated campaigns to boost or hinder political candidates or outcomes in India and other countries like Ukraine, Spain, Brazil, Bolivia, and Ecuador.

"I've found multiple blatant attempts by foreign national governments to abuse our platform on vast scales to mislead their own citizenry, and caused international news on multiple occasions," she wrote in the memo, as reported by BuzzFeed News on Monday.

"I have personally made decisions that affected national presidents without oversight, and taken action to enforce against so many prominent politicians globally that I've lost count," according to the memo that details her her experiences of working with the social networking giant over the past two-and-a-half years.

Zhang said in the memo that in countries like Azerbaijan and Honduras, heads of government and political parties made use of fake accounts or misrepresented themselves to sway public opinion.

Giving an example of how slow Facebook was in acting against global political manipulation, she said that it took Facebook's leaders nine months to act on a coordinated campaign "that used thousands of inauthentic assets to boost President Juan Orlando Hernandez of Honduras on a massive scale to mislead the Honduran people."

Her LinkedIn profile said she "worked as the data scientist for the Facebook Site Integrity fake engagement team" and dealt with "bots influencing elections and the like".

"I know that I have blood on my hands by now," Zhang wrote.

However, giving a reference to her work related to India, the memo detailed that she worked to remove "a politically-sophisticated network of more than a thousand actors working to influence" the Delhi Assembly election that took place in February.

Facebook did not reveal the detection of such a a network or that it had taken it down, according to the report.

"We've built specialized teams, working with leading experts, to stop bad actors from abusing our systems, resulting in the removal of more than 100 networks for coordinated inauthentic behavior," Facebook spokesperson Liz Bourgeois was quoted as saying in a statement.

"It's highly involved work that these teams do as their full-time remit. Working against coordinated inauthentic behaviour is our priority, but we're also addressing the problems of spam and fake engagement. We investigate each issue carefully, including those that Ms. Zhang raises, before we take action or go out and make claims publicly as a company."

These revelations come barely a month after a Wall Street Journal report on August 14 said that the top leadership at Facebook's India office refused to apply the company's own rules to politicians from the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), despite clear violations of Facebook's policies against incitement to violence, hate speech, and misinformation.

Facebook India's public policy head Ankhi Das reportedly "told staff members that punishing violations by politicians from Mr. Modi's party would damage the company's business prospects in the country."

Following the report, the opposition Congress Party raised the issue of what it calls "unholy nexus" of the ruling BJP with Facebook and WhatsApp.

On August 18, the Congress Party wrote a letter to Facebook Inc expressing concern and asking them to acknowledge the issue and take corrective action. Congress had raised alarm over "interference in India's internal affairs by a foreign company".

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News Network
September 20,2020

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Islamabad, Sept 20:  Malala Yousafzai, the youngest Nobel Peace Prize winner, has said that as many as 20 million more girls may not return to schools even after the Covid-19 crisis is over.

Speaking on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York on Friday, the Pakistani Nobel laureate acknowledged that Covid-19 had been “a striking setback to our collective goals”, such as educating women, Dawn newspaper reported.

“On education alone, 20 million more girls may never go back to the classroom when this crisis ends (and) the global education funding gap has already increased to 200 billion dollars per year,” Malala, 23, who once took a bullet from a Pakistani Taliban militant for campaigning for girls' education in Pakistan, said.

Malala reminded the international community that sustainable global goals, set by the UN five years ago, represented the future for millions of girls who wanted education and were fighting for equality.

Noting that little had been done in the last five years to achieve those goals, she asked the world body, “when are you planning to do the work”?

“When will you commit the necessary funding to give every child 12 years of quality education? When will you prioritise peace and protect refugees? When will you pass policies to cut carbon emissions?” she asked.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres, who also addressed the virtual event, underlined the need to “strike out for a world of dignity and opportunity for all on a healthy planet”.

“We must look beyond the current crisis and set our sights high… to show that transformation is possible and is happening right now,” he said.

The UN chief urged rich nations to address the immediate, medium and longer-term needs of developing countries and to support a UN debt service suspension initiative to at least the end of 2021.

He also stressed the need for transition to a more equitable and sustainable economy, ending fossil fuel subsidies and placing women at the centre of building back.

Deputy Secretary General Amina J Mohammed noted that this “transformation” was already “happening everywhere and must not leave anyone behind”.

The head of the UN Develop¬ment Fund (UNDP), Achim Steiner, warned that for the first time in 30 years, the march of progress in human development was expected to go sharply into reverse.

“Building people’s resilience against vulnerability, risk and deprivation, and helping them to get on their feet if they falter, defines social protection in the 21st century,” he said.

Munir Akram, president of the Econo¬mic and Social Council, said that the “global magnitude of the challenge we are facing” as a result of Covid-19, was “the greatest since the creation of the United Nations”.

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