Dialling down the Sun’s heat a notch by injecting billions of shiny sulphur dioxide particles into the stratosphere could curtail devastating drought across parts of Africa, new peer-reviewed research has reported. This form of solar radiation management would slash the risk of another “Day Zero” drought in Cape Town, South Africa — a city of 3.7 million which ran out of water in 2017 — by as much as 90 per cent, according to a study published last week in Environmental Research Letters. Global warming to date — just over one degree Celsius since the mid-19th century — enhances the likelihood of such droughts by a factor of three, earlier research has shown.
Science & Technology
Top auto brands are getting smoked by environmental analysts who have found that their carbon emissions are much higher than what carmakers had reported. The European group Transport and Environment (T&E), which campaigns for renewable energy in transportation, found three top-selling plug-in hybrid SUVs — BMW’s X5, Volvo’s XC60 and Mitsubishi’s Outlander — are emitting 28% to 89% more carbon dioxide than advertised, even under ideal road conditions. “Plug-in hybrids are fake electric cars, built for lab tests and tax breaks, not real driving,” Julia Poliscanova, T&E’s senior director of clean vehicles, said in a press statement. “Governments should stop subsidizing these cars with billions in taxpayers’ money.”
Chinese President Xi Jinping has called for a “global mechanism” that would use QR codes to open up international travel. “We need to further harmonise policies and standards and establish ‘fast tracks’ to facilitate the orderly flow of people,” he said. The codes will be used to help establish a traveller’s health status. But Human Rights advocates warn that the codes could be used for “broader political monitoring and exclusion”.
The coronavirus vaccine developed by the University of Oxford is highly effective at stopping people developing Covid-19 symptoms, a large trial shows. Interim data suggests 70% protection, but the researchers say the figure may be as high as 90% by tweaking the dose. The results will be seen as a triumph, but come after Pfizer and Moderna vaccines showed 95% protection. However, the Oxford jab is far cheaper, and is easier to store and get to every corner of the world than the other two. So the vaccine will play a significant role in tackling the pandemic, if it is approved for use by regulators.
AstraZeneca says late-stage trials of its COVID-19 vaccine were ‘highly effective’ in preventing disease
AstraZeneca said Monday that late-stage trials showed that its COVID-19 vaccine with Oxford University was up to 90 per cent effective in preventing disease. The results are based on interim analysis of trials in the U.K. and Brazil of a vaccine developed by Oxford University and manufactured by AstraZeneca. No hospitalizations or severe cases of COVID-19 were reported in those receiving the vaccine, AstraZeneca said. The trial looked at two different dosing regimens. A half dose of the vaccine followed by a full dose at least one month apart was 90 per cent effective. A second regimen using two full doses one month apart was 62 per cent effective. The combined results showed an average efficacy rate of 70 per cent.
DETROIT — General Motors says a pending breakthrough in battery chemistry will cut the price of its electric vehicles so they equal those powered by gasoline within five years. The technology also will increase the range per charge to as much as 450 miles. The company’s product development chief promised a small electric SUV that will cost less than $30,000 and pledged to roll out 30 battery-powered models worldwide by 2025. Nearly all current electric vehicles cost more than $30,000. The announcement Thursday shows how fast electric vehicle technology is evolving and how it may become the primary fuel for transportation sooner than almost anyone believed.
Israeli scientists say they’ve created a way to treat cancer in mice that is so precise, it’s like using “tiny scissors” to target the cells, according to a report. “This is the first study in the world to prove that the CRISPR genome editing system, which works by cutting DNA, can effectively be used to treat cancer in an animal,” Professor Dan Peer, a cancer expert from Tel Aviv University told the Times of Israel. Peer’s research was published last week in the Science Advances journal. “There are no side effects, and we believe that a cancer cell treated in this way will never become active again.” Peer told the news outlet, adding, “This technology can extend the life expectancy of cancer patients and we hope, one day, cure the disease.”
The distribution plan was achieved through joint teamwork by Israeli and Palestinian professionals. About three or four million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine will be provided by Israel for the West Bank and Gaza Strip, a senior official from the Palestinian Authority told Israel Hayom over the weekend. Officials from the PA’s Health Ministry stated that in every agreement signed by Israel with vaccine companies, a certain percentage of the vaccines will be set aside for the PA and Gaza Strip.
Canada has granted interim authorization to Eli Lilly’s antibody drug for treating COVID-19 in patients who are not hospitalized, but are at risk of serious illness because of their age or other conditions, the drugmaker said on Friday. The news comes weeks after the treatment, bamlanivimab, was given U.S. emergency use authorization (EUA) by the Food and Drug Administration for helping newly-diagnosed, high-risk patients avoid hospitalization. The Health Canada authorization was based on a clinical study in patients with mild-to-moderate COVID-19, where patients treated with bamlanivimab showed reduced viral load and rates of symptoms and hospitalization.
All pandemics in recorded human history have come via the animal kingdom. With mutations abounding and our interaction with wildlife widening, when are we finally going to address the sick animal in the room? When Denmark announced plans to exterminate all farmed mink across the country in response to confirmation by a state research institute that a mutated strain of coronavirus had jumped back to humans and could hinder the effectiveness of any impending vaccine, media publications — even reputable ones — were quick to proclaim fears of a “new pandemic.” As overblown as these fears may seem, they reflect both a heightened sensitivity to, and growing understanding of, the risk posed by zoonoses — pathogens like Sars-COV-2 (the virus causing COVID-19) that are transmitted from animals to humans.