Will Russia approve world’s first covid-19 vaccine for public use by August 10?

Agencies
July 29, 2020

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If everything goes as Russia’s expectation, it will be world’s first country to approve a coronavirus vaccine for widespread in the second week of August despite safety and efficacy concerns, according to a report. The adenoviral vector-based vaccine developed by Russian military and government researchers is currently in phase 2 trials.

According to a report from CNN, Russian officials are hoping to get approval for the COVID-19 vaccine developed by the Moscow-based Gamaleya Institute on Agust 10 or even before that. The officials told the outlet that the vaccine will be approved for public use with frontline healthcare workers receiving it first.

“It’s a Sputnik moment,” said Kirill Dmitriev, head of Russia’s sovereign wealth fund, which is financing Russian vaccine research, referring to the successful 1957 launch of the world’s first satellite by the Soviet Union, according to CNN.

“Americans were surprised when they heard Sputnik’s beeping. It’s the same with this vaccine. Russia will have got there first,” he was quoted as saying.

However, Russia is yet to release the scientific data on its coronavirus vaccine trials, hence, questions remain about the safety and efficacy of the vaccine, said the report. The vaccine is in the second phase of testing with developers planning to launch the phase 3 trials sometime after August 3.

Earlier, Interfax reported, citing Health Minister Mikhail Murashko, that the vaccine will be widely used in parallel with phase 3 trials. He said the country plans to vaccinate medics who are at high-risk for COVID-19 next month before clinical trials are completed.

Murashko added that individuals at higher risk of getting infected with the coronavirus such as older people or those with health conditions will also be prioritised for the vaccine, although he did not estimate or reveal when that would happen. The minister added 800 people will be recruited for the phase 3 trials.

Meanwhile, health officials were more cautious considering the fact that human testing of the vaccine is incomplete, and the state registration is expected to begin after August 3, reported The Moscow Times.

On Monday, Moderna and Pfizer announced the commencement of the final phase 3 trials of their candidate vaccines against the SARS-CoV-2 virus, which has so far claimed at least 654,477 lives and infected 16,514,500 people worldwide. 

Researchers will recruit up to 30,000 volunteers in separate trials both backed by the US government. India's first indigenous coronavirus vaccine, COVAXIN, is undergoing phase 1 human clinical trials across the country. More than 150 COVID-19 vaccines are being developed all over the world with at least six candidates already in late-stage clinical trials.

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News Network
September 14,2020

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New Delhi, Sept 14: The Delhi Police Special Cell has arrested former Jawaharlal Nehru University student leader Umar Khalid under the stringent Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA).

Sources told The Indian Express that Khalid was summoned on Saturday and asked to join the investigation on Sunday at the Special Cell office in Lodhi Colony. “He had earlier been questioned on July 31, when his phone was seized. On Sunday, he arrived around 1 pm and was questioned during the day before being arrested in the evening,” a police source said.

Police are likely to file a chargesheet against him in the coming days, the source said. He will be produced before a Delhi court on Monday.

According to police, an FIR was registered against Khalid on March 6 based on information provided by an informer to Sub-Inspector Arvind Kumar of the narcotics unit of the Crime Branch. As per the FIR, Kumar said the informer told him that the Northeast Delhi riots in February were part of a “premeditated conspiracy” allegedly hatched by Khalid, one Danish, and two others associated with different organisations.

That FIR states: “Khalid allegedly gave provocative speeches at two different places and appealed to the citizens to come out on the streets and block the roads during the visit of US President Donald Trump to spread propaganda at the international level about how minorities in India are being persecuted.”

Kumar alleged in the FIR that as part of the conspiracy, firearms, petrol bombs, acid bottles, and stones were stored at homes in Kardampuri, Jafrabad, Chand Bagh, Gokulpuri, Shiv Vihar and nearby areas. “The co-accused, Danish, was given the responsibility to gather people from different places to take part in the violence… Women and children were made to block the roads under the Jafrabad Metro Station on February 23 to create tension amidst the neighbourhood people. The same day, schools of minority children (were) vacated under their premeditated conspiracy,” the FIR states.

The probe was later taken over by the Special Investigation Team of the Special Cell, which is looking into the alleged conspiracy.

In a chargesheet filed by the Delhi Police Crime Branch against suspended AAP councillor Tahir Hussain, the investigating officer has alleged that on January 8, more than a month before the riots, Hussain met with Umar Khalid and Khalid Saifi of ‘United Against Hate’ at the Shaheen Bagh anti-CAA protest, and Umar asked him “to be prepared for something big/riots at the time of Trump’s visit” and that “he and other PFI members will help him (Hussain) financially”. That chargesheet has been filed in Karkardooma court.

Khalid’s lawyer Trideep Pais had told The Indian Express on Saturday that the allegations against Khalid were “completely false, fabricated and procured illegally through duress”.

At a press conference on September 4, Khalid had said there were two kinds of law being followed — one for supporters of the ruling party and another for the common people against whom “evidence was being manufactured”.

“There is an attempt to rewrite history of the past six months in front of our eyes and give it an official stamp,” he had said.

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News Network
September 14,2020

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Washington, Sept 14: Recently, Facebook in a bid to cash-in on the TikTok ban in several global regions, launched Reels, its own short video sharing feature on Instagram. Now, Google has announced the its own version dubbed as YouTube Shorts.

Chris Jaffe, VP of Product Management, YouTube, Google noted that user-generated short videos were actually started on YouTube and  the latter's first upload a short 18-second video called 'Me at the zoo' on April 23, 2005.

"As technology advances, creators and artists can now take advantage of the incredible power of smartphones to easily create and publish high-quality content wherever they are in the world. And people can be entertained and informed by bite-sized content in the spare minutes of the day," said Jaffe.

Considering the immense popularity of TikTok in India, Google has decided to introduce YouTube Shorts beta with a handful of new creative tools to select people in the subcontinent. Based on the feedback, it will be improvised and made available in other global regions in the coming months.

YouTube Shorts: Key features you should know

1) It offers a multi-segment camera to string multiple video clips together,
2) There will be an option to record with music from a large library of songs that will continue to grow
3) There will be speed controls that will give users the flexibility to be creative in their performance
4) There will be a timer and countdown to easily record, hands-free. The maximum video length will be 15 seconds.

Users can watch other short videos on YouTube. "We have released a prominent new spot for the create icon on Android, starting in India. We'll continue to expand to iOS devices and in more countries soon. You can also expect more creation features in the coming months," Jaffe noted.

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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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