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Daily Archives: April 12, 2022

Living with COVID: Experts Divided on UK Plan as Cases Soar

Sylvia Hui wrote . . . . . . . . .

For many in the U.K., the pandemic may as well be over.

Mask requirements have been dropped. Free mass testing is a thing of the past. And for the first time since spring 2020, people can go abroad for holidays without ordering tests or filling out lengthy forms.

That sense of freedom is widespread even as infections soared in Britain in March, driven by the milder but more transmissible omicron BA.2 variant that’s rapidly spreading around Europe, the U.S. and elsewhere.

The situation in the U.K. may portend what lies ahead for other countries as they ease coronavirus restrictions.

France and Germany have seen similar spikes in infections in recent weeks, and the number of hospitalizations in the U.K. and France has again climbed — though the number of deaths per day remains well below levels seen earlier in the pandemic.

In the U.S., more and more Americans are testing at home, so official case numbers are likely a vast undercount. The roster of those newly infected include actors and politicians, who are tested regularly. Cabinet members, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Broadway actors and the governors of New Jersey and Connecticut have all tested positive.

Britain stands out in Europe because it ditched all mitigation policies in February, including mandatory self-isolation for those infected. Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s conservative government is determined to stick to its “living with COVID” plan, but experts disagree on whether the country is coping well.

Some scientists argue it’s the right time to accept that “living with COVID” means tolerating a certain level of disruption and deaths, much like we do for seasonal flu. Others believe that Britain’s government lifted restrictions too quickly and too soon. They warned that deaths and hospital admissions could keep rising because more people over 55 — those who are most likely to get seriously ill from COVID-19 — are now getting infected despite high levels of vaccination.

Hospitals are again under strain, both from patients with the virus and huge numbers of staff off sick, said National Health Service medical director Stephen Powis.

“Blinding ourselves to this level of harm does not constitute living with a virus infection — quite the opposite,” said Stephen Griffin, a professor in medicine at the University of Leeds. “Without sufficient vaccination, ventilation, masking, isolation and testing, we will continue to ‘live with’ disruption, disease and sadly, death, as a result.”

Others, like Paul Hunter, a medicine professor at the University of East Anglia, are more supportive of the government’s policies.

“We’re still not at the point where (COVID-19) is going to be least harmful … but we’re over the worst,” he said. Once a high vaccination rate is achieved there is little value in maintaining restrictions such as social distancing because “they never ultimately prevent infections, only delay them,” he argued.

Britain’s official statistics agency estimated that almost 5 million U.K. residents, or 1 in 13, had the virus in late March, the most it had reported. Separately, the REACT study from London’s Imperial College said its data showed that the country’s infection levels in March were 40% higher than the first omicron peak in January.

Infection rates are so high that airlines had to cancel flights during the busy two-week Easter break because too many workers were calling in sick.

France and Germany have seen similar surges as restrictions eased in most European countries. More than 100,000 people in France were testing positive every day despite a sharp dropoff in testing, and the number of virus patients in intensive care rose 22% over the past week.

President Emmanuel Macron’s government, keen to encourage voter turnout in April elections, is not talking about any new restrictions.

In Germany, infection levels have drifted down from a recent peak. But Health Minister Karl Lauterbach backed off a decision to end mandatory self-isolation for infected people just two days after it was announced. He said the plan would send a “completely wrong” signal that “either the pandemic is over or the virus has become significantly more harmless than was assumed in the past.”

In the U.S., outbreaks at Georgetown University and Johns Hopkins University are bringing back mask requirements to those campuses as officials seek out quarantine space.

Across Europe, only Spain and Switzerland have joined the U.K. in lifting self-isolation requirements for at least some infected people.

But many European countries have eased mass testing, which will make it much harder to know how prevalent the virus is. Britain stopped distributing free rapid home tests this month.

Julian Tang, a flu virologist at the University of Leicester, said that while it’s important to have a surveillance program to monitor for new variants and update the vaccine, countries cope with flu without mandatory restrictions or mass testing.

“Eventually, COVID-19 will settle down to become more endemic and seasonal, like flu,” Tang said. “Living with COVID, to me, should mimic living with flu.”

Cambridge University virologist Ravindra Gupta is more cautious. Mortality rates for COVID-19 are still far higher than seasonal flu and the virus causes more severe disease, he warned. He would have preferred “more gentle easing of restrictions.”

“There’s no reason to believe that a new variant would not be more transmissible or severe,” he added.


Source : AP

Infographic: How Automaker Logos Have Evolved Over the Past Century

See large image . . . . . .

Source : Visual Capitalist

Enhancing Deep Sleep

Peter Rüegg wrote . . . . . . . . .

Many people, especially the elderly, suffer from abnormal sleep. In particular, the deep sleep phases become shorter and shallower with age. Deep sleep is important for the regeneration of the brain and memory, and also has a positive influence on the cardiovascular system.

Researchers have shown that the brain waves characterizing deep sleep, so-​called slow waves, can be improved by playing precisely timed sounds through earphones while sleeping. While this works well in the sleep laboratory under controlled conditions, there has thus far been no at home solution that can be used longer than just one night.

SleepLoop to the rescue

As part of the SleepLoop project (see box), researchers at ETH Zurich have developed a mobile system that can be used at home and aims to promote deep sleep through auditory brain stimulation.

The SleepLoop system consists of a headband that is put on at bedtime and worn throughout the night. This headband contains electrodes and a microchip that constantly measure the brain activity of the person sleeping. Data from this is analysed autonomously in real-​time on the microchip using custom software. As soon as the sleeping person shows slow waves in the brain activity characterising deep sleep, the system triggers a short auditory signal (clicking). This helps to synchronise the neuronal cells and enhance the slow waves. What makes the solution unique is that the person sleeping is not conciously aware of this sound during deep sleep.

The first clinical study

Researchers from ETH Zurich and University Hospital Zurich, led by Caroline Lustenberger, group leader at the Neural Control of Movement Lab, have conducted a clinical study with this device for the first time. The results have just been published in the journal Communications Medicinecall_made.

The study involved equipping participants, between 60 – 80 years old, with the SleepLoop system, which they were required to operate themselves in their own home. The system is designed to function independently even by users with little technical experience. “This worked very well. We had surprisingly little data loss and the participants rated the device as user-​friendly,” says Lustenberger.

Bonnet on before going to bed: The device is designed to be as easy to use as possible. (Photograph: SleepLoop)
They wore the device every night for a total of four weeks, with the auditory stimulation given on a nightly basis for two weeks and no stimulation for the next two weeks. Neither the subjects nor the researchers knew in which two weeks the auditory signals were played and in which two they were not.

Auditory stimulation is indeed feasible

The results of 16 participants of the study show that it was indeed possible to enhance the slow waves through auditory signals during deep sleep in most participants. However, the individual differences were extensive with some of the subjects responding very well to the stimuli, while others responded minimally or not at all.

According to Lustenberger, the question of whether a person reacted to a stimulus did not depend on their well-​being during the day. “Some people generally responded well to the stimuli and clearly showed enhanced slow waves, while others showed no response, regardless of their daily well-​being.”

The researchers have used these individual differences to better predict how a given individual will respond to the auditory stimulus. This in turn helps them to optimise and improve the performance of SleepLoop.

On track for market launch

A spin-​off company Tosoo AG, is currently working on developing the device further and preparing it for the clinical market. It is already clear that it will not be freely available, but only via a doctor’s prescription.

“This is a medical device, not just a wellness consumer product you can order online when you have trouble sleeping,” emphasises Walter Karlen, who developed the technology at ETH Zurich. 1 Karlen has been appointed Director of the Institute of Biomedical Engineering at Ulm University in May 2021. “Use of the device must be medically indicated and supervised by a doctor”, he says. Further development of the technology will now continue also in Ulm.


Source: Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule Zürich

The Total War to Cancel Russia

Pepe Escobar wrote . . . . . . . . .

By now it’s abundantly clear that the neo-Orwellian “Two Minute Hate” Russophobic campaign launched by the Empire of Lies after the start of Operation Z is actually “24/7 Hate”.

Vast swathes of NATOstan have been corralled into behaving like a Russophobic lynch mob. No dissent is tolerated. The full psyops has de facto upgraded the Empire of Lies to the status of Empire of Hate in a Total War – hybrid and otherwise – to cancel Russia.

Hate, after all, packs way more punch than mere lies, which are now veering into abject ridiculousness, as in U.S. “intelligence” resorting to – what else – lies to fight the info war against Russia.

If the propaganda overdrive has been lethally effective amidst the zombified Western masses – call it a “win” in the P.R. war – in the front where it really matters, inside Russia, it’s a major fail.

Public opinion support for both Operation Z and President Putin is unprecedented. After videos of torture of Russian POWs that caused widespread revulsion, Russian civil society is even bracing for a “Long War” lasting months, not weeks, as long as the targets of the Russian High Command – actually a military secret – are met.

The stated aims are “demilitarization” and “denazification” of a future neutral Ukraine – but geopolitically reach way beyond: the aim is to turn the post-1945 European collective security arrangement upside down, forcing NATO to understand and come to terms with the concept of “indivisible security”. This is an extremely complex process that will reach the next decade.

The NATOstan sphere simply cannot admit in public a series of facts that a military analyst of the caliber of Andrei Martyanov has been explaining for years. And that adds to their collective pain.

Russia can take on NATO and smash it to bits in 48 hours. It may employ advanced strategic deterrence systems unmatched across the West. Its southern axis – from the Caucasus and West Asia to Central Asia – is fully stabilized. And if the going gets really tough, Mr. Zircon can deliver his hypersonic nuclear business card with the other side not even knowing what hit it.

“Europe has chosen its fate”

It may be enlightening to see how these complex processes are interpreted by Russians – whose points of view are now completely blocked across NATOstan.

Let’s take two examples. The first is Lieutenant General L.P. Reshetnikov, in an analytical note examining facts of the ground war.

Some key takeaways:

– “Over Romania and Poland there are airborne early warning aircraft of NATO with experienced crews, there are U.S. intelligence satellites in the sky all the time. I remind you that just in terms of budgets for our Roscosmos we allocated $2.5 billion a year, the civil budget of NASA is $25 billion, the civil budget of SpaceX alone is equal to Roscosmos – and that is not counting the tens of billions of dollars annually for the entire U.S. feverishly unfolding the control system of the entire planet.”

– The war is unfolding according to “NATO’s eyes and brains. The Ukronazis are nothing but free controlled zombies. And the Ukrainian army is a remotely controlled zombie organism.”

– “The tactics and strategy of this war will be the subject of textbooks for military academies around the world. Once again: the Russian army is smashing a Nazi zombie organism, fully integrated with the eyes and brain of NATO.”

Now let’s switch to Oleg Makarenko, who focuses on the Big Picture.

– “The West considers itself ‘the whole world’ only because it has not yet received a sufficiently sensitive punch on the nose. It just so happened that Russia is now giving him this click: with the rear support of Asia, Africa and Latin America. And the West can do absolutely nothing with us, since it also lags behind us in terms of the number of nuclear warheads.”

– “Europe has chosen its fate. And chose fate for Russia. What you are seeing now is the death of Europe. Even if it does not come to nuclear strikes on industrial centers, Europe is doomed. In a situation where European industry is left without cheap Russian energy sources and raw materials – and China will begin to receive these same energy carriers and raw materials at a discount, there can be no talk of any real competition with China from Europe. As a result, literally everything will collapse there – after industry, agriculture will collapse, welfare and social security will collapse, hunger, banditry and chaos will begin.”

It’s fair to consider Reshetnikov and Makarenko as faithfully representing the overall Russian sentiment, which interprets the crude Bucha false flag as a cover to obscure the Ukrainian army torture of Russian POWs.

And, deeper still, Bucha allowed the disappearance of Pentagon bioweapon labs from the Western mediasphere, complete with its ramifications: evidence of a concerted American drive to ultimately deploy real weapons of mass destruction against Russia.

The multi-level Bucha hoax had to include the Brit presidency of the UN Security Council actually blocking a serious discussion, a day before the Russian Ministry of Defense struggled to present to the UN – predictably minus the U.S. and the UK – all the bioweapon facts they have unearthed in Ukraine. The Chinese were horrified by the findings.

The Russian Investigative Committee at least persists in its work, with 100 researchers unearthing evidence of war crimes across Donbass to be presented at a tribunal in the near future, most probably set up in Donetsk.

And that brings us back to the facts on the ground. There’s a lot of analytical discussion on the possible endgame of Operation Z. A fair assessment would include the liberation of all of Novorossiya and total control of the Black Sea coastline that currently is part of Ukraine.

“Ukraine” in fact was never a state; it was always an annex to another state or empire such as Poland, Austria-Hungary, Turkey, and crucially Russia.

The landmark Russian state was Kievan Rus. “Ukraine”, in old Russian, means “border region”. In the past, it referred to the westernmost regions of the Russian Empire. When the Empire started expanding south, the new regions annexed mostly from Turkish rule were called Novorossiya (“New Russia”) and the northeastern regions, Malorossiya (“Little Russia”).

It was up to the USSR in the early 1920s to jumble it all together and name it “Ukraine” – adding Galicia in the west, which was historically non-Russian.

Yet the key development is when the USSR broke up in 1991. As the Empire of Lies de facto controlled post-Soviet Russia, they could never have possibly allowed the real Russian regions of the USSR – that is, Novorossiya and Malorossiya – to be again incorporated to the Russian Federation.

Russia is now re-incorporating them – in an “I Did It, My Way” manner.

Vamos a bailar in European Puerto Rico

By now it’s also quite clear to any serious geopolitical analysis that Operation Z opened a Pandora’s box. And the supreme historical victim of all the toxicity finally let loose is bound to be Europe.

The indispensable Michael Hudson, in a new essay on the U.S. dollar devouring the euro, argues half in jest that Europe might as well surrender its currency, and go on like “a somewhat larger version of Puerto Rico.”

After all, Europe “has pretty much ceased to be a politically independent state, it is beginning to look more like Panama and Liberia – ‘flag of convenience’ offshore banking centers that are not real ‘states’ because they don’t issue their own currency, but use the U.S. dollar.”

In synch with quite a few Russian, Chinese and Iranian analysts, Hudson advances that the war in Ukraine – actually in its “full-blown version as the New Cold War” – is likely to last “at least a decade, perhaps two as the U.S. extends the fight between neoliberalism and socialism [meaning the Chinese system] to encompass a worldwide conflict.”

What may be seriously in dispute is whether the U.S., after “the economic conquest of Europe”, will be able to “lock in African, South American and Asian countries”. The Eurasia integration process, rolling in earnest for 10 years now, conducted by the Russia-China strategic partnership and expanding to most of the Global South, will go no holds barred to prevent it.

There’s no question, as Hudson states, that “the world economy is being enflamed” – with the U.S. weaponizing trade. Yet on the Right Side of History we have the Rublegas, the petroyuan, the new monetary/financial system being designed in a partnership between the Eurasia Economic Union (EAEU) and China.

And that’s something no puny Cancel Culture War can erase.


Source : The Unz Review

A Jump Through Time – New Technique Rewinds the Age of Skin Cells by 30 years

Research from the Babraham Institute has developed a method to ‘time jump’ human skin cells by 30 years, turning back the ageing clock for cells without losing their specialised function. Work by researchers in the Institute’s Epigenetics research programme has been able to partly restore the function of older cells, as well as rejuvenating the molecular measures of biological age. The research is published today in the journal eLife and whilst at an early stage of exploration, it could revolutionise regenerative medicine.

What is regenerative medicine?

As we age, our cells’ ability to function declines and the genome accumulates marks of ageing. Regenerative biology aims to repair or replace cells including old ones. One of the most important tools in regenerative biology is our ability to create ‘induced’ stem cells. The process is a result of several steps, each erasing some of the marks that make cells specialised. In theory, these stem cells have the potential to become any cell type, but scientists aren’t yet able to reliably recreate the conditions to re-differentiate stem cells into all cell types.

Turning back time

The new method, based on the Nobel Prize winning technique scientists use to make stem cells, overcomes the problem of entirely erasing cell identity by halting reprogramming part of the way through the process. This allowed researchers to find the precise balance between reprogramming cells, making them biologically younger, while still being able to regain their specialised cell function.

In 2007, Shinya Yamanaka was the first scientist to turn normal cells, which have a specific function, into stem cells which have the special ability to develop into any cell type. The full process of stem cell reprogramming takes around 50 days using four key molecules called the Yamanaka factors. The new method, called ‘maturation phase transient reprogramming’, exposes cells to Yamanaka factors for just 13 days. At this point, age-related changes are removed and the cells have temporarily lost their identity. The partly reprogrammed cells were given time to grow under normal conditions, to observe whether their specific skin cell function returned. Genome analysis showed that cells had regained markers characteristic of skin cells (fibroblasts), and this was confirmed by observing collagen production in the reprogrammed cells.

Age isn’t just a number

To show that the cells had been rejuvenated, the researchers looked for changes in the hallmarks of ageing. As explained by Dr Diljeet Gill, a postdoc in Wolf Reik’s lab at the Institute who conducted the work as a PhD student: “Our understanding of ageing on a molecular level has progressed over the last decade, giving rise to techniques that allow researchers to measure age-related biological changes in human cells. We were able to apply this to our experiment to determine the extent of reprogramming our new method achieved.”

Researchers looked at multiple measures of cellular age. The first is the epigenetic clock, where chemical tags present throughout the genome indicate age. The second is the transcriptome, all the gene readouts produced by the cell. By these two measures, the reprogrammed cells matched the profile of cells that were 30 years younger compared to reference data sets.

The potential applications of this technique are dependent on the cells not only appearing younger, but functioning like young cells too. Fibroblasts produce collagen, a molecule found in bones, skin tendons and ligaments, helping provide structure to tissues and heal wounds. The rejuvenated fibroblasts produced more collagen proteins compared to control cells that did not undergo the reprogramming process. Fibroblasts also move into areas that need repairing. Researchers tested the partially rejuvenated cells by creating an artificial cut in a layer of cells in a dish. They found that their treated fibroblasts moved into the gap faster than older cells. This is a promising sign that one day this research could eventually be used to create cells that are better at healing wounds.

In the future, this research may also open up other therapeutic possibilities; the researchers observed that their method also had an effect on other genes linked to age-related diseases and symptoms. The APBA2 gene, associated with Alzheimer’s disease, and the MAF gene with a role in the development of cataracts, both showed changes towards youthful levels of transcription.

The mechanism behind the successful transient reprogramming is not yet fully understood, and is the next piece of the puzzle to explore. The researchers speculate that key areas of the genome involved in shaping cell identity might escape the reprogramming process.

Diljeet concluded: “Our results represent a big step forward in our understanding of cell reprogramming. We have proved that cells can be rejuvenated without losing their function and that rejuvenation looks to restore some function to old cells. The fact that we also saw a reverse of ageing indicators in genes associated with diseases is particularly promising for the future of this work.”

Professor Wolf Reik, who lead the research, said: “This work has very exciting implications. Eventually, we may be able to identify genes that rejuvenate without reprogramming, and specifically target those to reduce the effects of ageing. This approach holds promise for valuable discoveries that could open up an amazing therapeutic horizon.”


Source: Babraham Institute