Mysterious Metallic Monolith Found in Remote Utah

In a scene that could have been taken from the science fiction classic “2001: A Space Odyssey,” officials in Utah have discovered a mysterious metallic monolith in the remote southeastern part of the state.Public safety workers spotted the object November 18 from a helicopter while conducting a count of bighorn sheep, according to a Utah Department of Public Safety Aero Bureau and Utah Division of Wildlife Resources crew members walk near a metal monolith they discovered in a remote area of Red Rock Country in Utah, Nov. 18, 2020.So far, there is no indication of who could have placed the 3- to 3.6-meter-tall monolith in that location.“It is illegal to install structures or art without authorization on federally managed public lands, no matter what planet you’re from,” the Utah Department of Public Safety said in a statement.“That’s been about the strangest thing that I’ve come across out there in all my years of flying,” pilot Bret Hutchings told KSL-TV.He added that the object appeared to be manmade and probably did not have any scientific purpose, calling it “more of an art form than any kind of alien life form.”For now, officials are not revealing the exact location of the monolith and are trying to determine if further investigation is needed. 

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Scotland’s COVID-19 Infections Stabilize, Hospitalizations Fall

Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon told Parliament Tuesday that the number of new COVID-19 cases has stabilized and hospitalizations are down, but the COVID-19 alert levels in the country will remain as they are.”We now have grounds for cautious optimism,” Sturgeon told lawmakers.  She said current restrictions would remain in place and unchanged until December 11.Scotland has a five-tiered alert system, with Level 0 being nearly normal and the most restrictions at Level 4. The government reviews the alerts every Tuesday.  Sturgeon said except for East Lothian, which moved from Level 3 to Level 2, the government was not proposing any changes to restrictions that currently apply to each local authority. She said recent developments in vaccines meant there was “light at the end of the tunnel,” but she stressed the importance of continuing to observe restrictions during what was likely to be a “difficult winter ahead.” The first minister said there were plans to extend asymptomatic testing, adding that the government was working with regional authorities to develop and deliver targeted geographical testing to communities in alert Level 4. Meanwhile, Sturgeon announced on Tuesday that Scotland was joining the rest of Britain in allowing a relaxation of some COVID-19 restrictions over the Christmas holiday. From December 23 to December 27, three households will be allowed to gather inside a private home, a place of worship or outdoors to observe the holiday. The first minister was quick to point out that the virus does not take time off and urged people to be cautious. 

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US Makes Rare Maritime Challenge Near Peter The Great Bay

The U.S. Navy says one of its warships conducted a freedom of navigation operation Tuesday in the Sea of Japan, making a rare challenge to a controversial maritime claim by Russia.Russia’s defense ministry said that in response to the operation, one of its military ships “stopped” the USS John S. McCain destroyer by threatening it with a warning that it would be rammed out of the disputed waters in the vicinity of Peter the Great Bay.“The Russian Federation’s statement about this mission is false. USS John S. McCain was not ‘expelled’ from any nation’s territory,” the Navy said Tuesday, adding that the operation was “in accordance with international law” in international waters. The area has been in dispute since 1984, when the Soviet Union declared it part of its waters. Russia has maintained that claim.“The operation reflects our commitment to uphold freedom of navigation and lawful uses of the sea as a principle, and the United States will never bow in intimidation or be coerced into accepting illegitimate maritime claims, such as those made by the Russian Federation,” the Navy added in its statement.FILE – The guided-missile destroyer USS John S. McCain sails in formation during exercise Foal Eagle 2013 in waters west of the Korean peninsula in this March 21, 2013 handout photo courtesy of the U.S. Navy.The last U.S. military challenge to Russia’s maritime claims near Peter the Great Bay was in December 2018, according to the Navy. Prior to that, the last U.S. freedom of navigation operation in the area took place in 1987.The U.S. frequently conducts freedom of navigation operations in the western Pacific region to dispute excessive maritime claims by several countries, especially China, and to promote free passage through international waters.

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In Pandemic Era’s Isolation, Meaning of ‘Self-Care’ Evolves

These days, with a pandemic raging, this is what life can look like:  out the days in loungewear. Wearing minimal makeup because no one sees much of you. Considering an investment in home exercise equipment because gyms are closed or restricted.
The pandemic has forced people to spend more time with themselves than ever. Along the way, it has reshaped and broadened the way many think about and prioritize how they treat themselves — what has come to be called self-care.
The pandemic-era incarnation of self-care isn’t about buying a signature outfit, wearing a trendy shade of lipstick or getting a perfect haircut. It has, for many, put the purpose and meaning of life front and center, reconfiguring priorities and needs as the virus-inflected months drift by. No longer are worries about longevity and fears of mortality mere hypotheticals. They are 2020’s reality.
It is that daunting reality that has skyrocketed the importance of “me” time: stress-baking the latest viral creation, tending to a garden, learning a new skill, getting dressed like you’re going out just to feel some semblance of normalcy.
“People are social beings. And while the social fabric has been torn down, and you can’t be a normal social person, you have been more focused on yourself,” says Rod Little, CEO of Edgewell Personal Care, which makes Schick and Bull Dog products. “It’s beautifying for longevity, as opposed to how I look in the office tomorrow.”
It’s also a way to mitigate the feeling that life is careening forward haphazardly in so many ways. That’s true for Tonya Speaks, a 43-year-old wardrobe coach from Fort Mills, South Carolina. Before the pandemic, she was always zipping to and from business meetings. Now, the mother of two teenagers exercises regularly and opts for luxurious baths at night instead of quick showers in the morning. She’s happier doing so.
“Taking care of myself,” Speaks says, “is one way for me to have control.”Beyond The ‘Lipstick’ Index 
Self-care isn’t a new fad. The difference is that pre-pandemic, it could fall by the wayside if a to-do list got crowded. Now, eight months into the new reality, it is a priority. After all, the thinking goes: If we’re not taking care of ourselves, how can we do jobs, parent children, care for loved ones?
For those who have the means — and that’s no small caveat during this pandemic — feeling good can mean looking good. And the widespread isolation has produced new trends in beauty and clothing.
Companies like Signet Jewelers and Blue Nile are seeing a surge in sales of earrings, which are visible on video calls and when people are out wearing face masks. Department stores like Kohl’s and Macy’s are expanding casual clothing offerings as more people stay close to home.
Pop star Lady Gaga, who has her own beauty line, recently posted a close-up shot in which she wears a cat-eye look with natural, peach-colored lipstick. She did her makeup “to cheer myself up.”
“(S)o many people are going through hard times during this pandemic,” she wrote in the Instagram post. “It is SO IMPORTANT that you celebrate yourself, live colorfully and rejoice in that BRAVE SOUL that is you.”
But when it comes to consumer products, the pandemic is pushing makeup aside as people gravitate towards skin care products. The virus is even turning the “lipstick index” upside down.
Typically, lipstick sales skyrocket when the economy gets rough because it is an inexpensive way to feel good. But during the pandemic, makeup sales have been rocky, and sales of skincare products are up. In fact, 70% of consumers scaled back their use of makeup this year, according to the NPD Group Inc., a market research firm. As a result, skincare has eclipsed makeup as the top category in the beauty industry’s market share from January through August.
“People are being more mindful of what people are putting on their skin and in their bodies because of the pandemic,” says Lauren Yavor, a beauty influencer who recently launched a “clean” nail polish line that sold out in just days. “This really was a turning point for clean beauty.”
— Beauty chains like Ulta and department stores like Macy’s are ramping up offerings in moisturizers and bath and body products. Walmart teamed up with Unilever, maker of Dove and Suave, to launch shops called “Find Your Happy Place” aimed at customers looking to destress. The concept, in the works before the pandemic, was accelerated by one year.
— Companies are also reinventing marketing to cater to the new way of grooming. Little says Edgewell retooled an ad campaign for a multipurpose facial beauty tool to focus on eyebrow-shaping because of the rise in video calls.
— Within makeup, eyeshadow and eyeliner as well as false eyelashes are thriving as people play up the features that are peeping through their masks when they’re out, says Larissa Jensen, NPD’s beauty industry advisor. Hair products saw an 11% sales increase during the third quarter as people take a DIY approach to coloring and styling.
Says Esi Eggleston Bracey, chief operating officer of Unilever North America’s personal care and beauty division: “This is a wellness revolution.”A Deeper Importance 
How deep does this run? Is all the pandemic self-care working, or are people are just going through haphazard motions? One psychologist compares it to a roller coaster — up on some days, down on others.
“Some days, you have a great day when you did all the things you wanted to do. You got up on time, you made a salad. And then the next day, it’s Cheetos for lunch,” says Dr. Vaile Wright, a senior director at the American Psychological Association.
Being kind to one’s self feels especially important during the pandemic, where every aspect of human life has been impacted and there is little control over what’s next. That level of uncertainty is unnerving, Wright says, and further depletes already limited energy levels.
Self-care, of course, is only one dimension of coping during stressful times. Surveys have shown a sharp increase in anxiety disorders. Many therapists are reporting upticks in referrals and increases in caseloads. Virtual mental health services are booming — another form of self-care, in a more medical sense.
“Having a toolbox of coping skills is really critical,” Wright says. She highlights other types of self-care like meditation, journaling and organizing — each of which has its own culture and committed practitioners. “We have a tendency to isolate emotionally,” Wright says. “It is really important that people don’t do that.”
Ultimately, “self-care” contains as many definitions as there are people who take care of themselves — a Google search of the term will show you that. The World Health Organization takes an expansive view, describing it as a “broad concept” that includes hygiene, lifestyle, social habits, income levels and cultural beliefs — and, in the best cases, can “strengthen national institutions” to encourage a society’s overall health.
As the world navigates a web of unknowns that sometimes feels like the Upside Down in “Stranger Things,” there is one thing that people can do something about: themselves. For all the horror the pandemic has brought, it has also revealed things that matter. And from the way people have reacted through this year, it seems clear that, in all the forms it takes, self-care matters — particularly right now, particularly with so many unknowns still ahead.

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Visitors to Britain Could Shorten Quarantine With Negative Test

Britain announced Tuesday that travelers from abroad could face a shorter isolation period with a negative COVID-19 test days after their arrival.Current rules require 14 days of quarantine.  Starting December 15, travelers will have the option to pay for a test after five days, and if the test comes back negative, they will be free to end their self-isolation.In Germany, officials in 16 states are looking toward next months Christmas holiday and ways to make it safer for families to gather.The states have agreed among themselves on a proposal to tighten restrictions in the weeks ahead of the holiday in order to hold down the spread of the coronavirus, and then relax the rules to allow small gatherings.Officials are due to discuss the plan with Chancellor Angela Merkel on Wednesday.Here’s How the Three COVID-19 Vaccines Compare Main differences seem to be in cost, storage and number of early doses available, but information is limited Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte expressed his own concerns about Christmas, saying Tuesday people should not plan to go on ski trips.Conte said it would not be possible “to allow holidays on the snow.  We cannot afford it.”Italy was one of the hardest-hit nations in the early stages of the pandemic and on Monday became the sixth country in the world to surpass 50,000 deaths.Spain, another early hotspot, has seen a sharp decline in tourism like in many areas.  It’s national statistics office reported Tuesday the number of hotel nights booked in October was down 83% from the same time last year.There are concerns in the United States this week as the country celebrates its Thanksgiving holiday.  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has urged people not to travel and hold large family gatherings amid a surge in COVID-19 infections across the country.More than 59 million people around the world have been infected with the coronavirus, according to Johns Hopkins University statistics.      The United States continues to lead the world in infections with more than 12.4 million cases, followed by India with more than 9.1 million infections and Brazil with 6 million.     The virus has killed about 1.4 million people.  More than 257,000 of those deaths were in the United States.

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Egyptian Suspects in Murder of Italian Student Likely to Face In-Absentia Trial

Italian prosecutors investigating the 2016 death of an Italian student who was killed in Egypt are set to request authorization for a trial-in-absentia of several Egyptian security officials, according to Italian press reports.  
 
Italy has no extradition treaty with Cairo. According to Italian officials, Egyptian authorities have often stonewalled the two-year long probe by investigative magistrates in Rome into the death of 28-year-old Giulio Regeni.  
 
The student’s badly disfigured and tortured body was discovered in February 2016 dumped alongside the Cairo-Alexandria highway nine days after he disappeared.
 
Regeni, a doctoral student at the University of Cambridge who was born in Friuli, a mountainous northeast Italian region, had been burnt and many of his bones broken. Initials were carved into his skin. His mother struggled to identify him.  
 Spotlight on el-Sissi
 
A trial would throw an international spotlight on Egypt’s jailing of more than 60,000 political opponents and how detainees are treated, analysts say.  
 
Italy’s newspaper of record, Corriere della Sera, says Rome prosecutors, due to unveil their findings next week, plan to ask for up to five intelligence officers to be charged for the murder.  
 
“It will turn into a trial of the Egypt of [President] Abdel Fattah el-Sissi,” the paper said.  
 
Last year, Italian prosecutors said Regeni had been ensnared in a “spider’s web” spun by the Egyptian security services in the weeks before his death.  
 
Prosecutors Sergio Colaiocco and Michele Prestipino placed five members of Egypt’s security forces under official investigation for alleged involvement in the disappearance of the postgraduate student.
 
Egyptian officials have offered multiple explanations for Regeni’s death, including claims he died as a result of a car accident or because of a lovers’ quarrel. Later, Egyptian authorities said he had been murdered by a crime gang, whose members died in a gunfight with police.  
 
But Italian officials and rights groups, as well as his family, have long suspected he died at the hands of Egyptian security officers, who suspected he was spying. Regeni’s research was into trade unions and he interviewed street hawkers for his work, prompting one to tell police the Italian was a spy.  
 
Last year, Colaiocco told an Italian parliamentary commission that Egyptian officials had tried on several occasions to mislead investigators.FILE – Amnesty International activists hold a candle light vigil in Rome’s Pantheon square, July 25, 2016, in remembrance of the late Italian student Giulio Regeni.Italian prosecutors are scheduled to conclude their probe on December 4 and will have to seek a court’s agreement for a trial to take place without the suspects being present.  
 
Italian officials say they do not expect the Egyptian president will agree to extradite them. Among those under investigation are Major Magdy Ibrquaim Abdelaal Sharif and his superior, Colonel Osan Helmy, both of Egypt’s National Security Agency.  
 
In 2016 Italy recalled its ambassador to Egypt due to lack of cooperation from the Egyptian authorities. Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte has pressed President el-Sissi for cooperation in several phone calls in the five years since the student’s murder.  
 
“Conte managed to secure some material but often it was unhelpful,” an Italian official told VOA. He cited CCTV footage from a Cairo metro station where Regeni was last seen, but there were crucial gaps in the recording. Italian authorities were able to secure the phone records of the suspects.
 
In 2018, el-Sissi promised to bring Regeni’s killers to justice, but issued a statement rejecting Rome’s list of suspects. Last year, Regeni’s exasperated parents, Paola and Claudio, issued a counter-statement, saying, “We cannot be satisfied by your condolences anymore, nor by your failed promises.” Regeni’s family and rights campaigners have been critical of Rome for not pressuring Cairo more and continuing to conduct arms deals with Egypt, including the sale of two frigates.  
On Friday, a spokesman for el-Sissi said instructions have been given to Egyptian officials to cooperate fully with Italian counterparts. He underlined the “unprecedented” judicial cooperation already offered.  
 
Regeni disappeared on 25 January 2016 — the fifth anniversary of the 2011 uprising that toppled longtime leader Hosni Mubarak.  
 Rights activists arrested
 
Meanwhile, the Egyptian government this week has faced an international outcry following the arrests of members of a leading Egyptian human rights organization. Three NGO workers from the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, EIPR, including its executive director Gasser Abdel Razek, were seized after meeting with foreign diplomats. The charges against them include belonging to a terrorist organization, undermining public security by spreading false information and using the Internet to promulgate false news.
 
Razek’s lawyer told reporters his client’s head had been shaved and he is being kept in solitary confinement without mattress or blankets and with no heat.
 
Several countries have condemned the arrests. Britain’s foreign office told the Egyptian government “all human rights defenders should be able to work without fear of arrest or reprisals.” The European Union has voiced “significant concern” over the arrests. And President-elect Joe Biden’s pick to be U.S. Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, tweeted: “Meeting with foreign diplomats is not a crime. Nor is peacefully advocating for human rights.”
 Share concern re. #Egypt’s arrests of three employees of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights. Meeting with foreign diplomats is not a crime. Nor is peacefully advocating for human rights. https://t.co/hR5JtLcAYI— Antony Blinken (@ABlinken) November 20, 2020Egypt says EIPR was not registered and says the international protests amount to interference in the country’s internal affairs.

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Ken Jennings to Guest Host First New ‘Jeopardy!’ Episodes After Death of Alex Trebek

Weeks after the passing of legendary Jeopardy! host Alex Trebek, Sony Pictures Television has announced that popular contestant and “Jeopardy! Greatest of All Time” tournament winner Ken Jennings will serve as the first of a series of interim guest hosts when the trivia game show returns to production on Monday. “Alex believed in the importance of Jeopardy! and always said that he wanted the show to go on after him,” said Jeopardy! executive producer Mike Richards. “We will honor Alex’s legacy by continuing to produce the game he loved with smart contestants and challenging clues. By bringing in familiar guest hosts for the foreseeable future, our goal is to create a sense of community and continuity for our viewers.” Trebek died November 8 from pancreatic cancer, after being first diagnosed in March 2019. His last day in studio was October 29. A long-term replacement host will not be named at this time, said the studio. Jennings has long been a favorite to assume Trebek’s iconic position at the Jeopardy! podium, having first emerged on the scene in the early 2000s with a 74-game winning streak and an all-time record for highest winnings in regular-season play with $2.52 million in earnings. He also became a consulting producer on the show after winning the “GOAT!” tournament earlier this year. Other names, including Anderson Cooper and George Stephanopoulos, have been floated as potential new hosts. More guest hosts will be announced in the weeks to come, Sony Pictures Television said. 

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Lockerbie Bomber Appeal Set to Begin at Scotland’s High Court

Scotland’s High Court will begin hearing an appeal Tuesday of the conviction of a Libyan man found guilty of the 1988 Lockerbie aircraft bombing, the deadliest militant attack in British history. Pam Am Flight 103 was blown up over the Scottish town of Lockerbie in December 1988 en route from London to New York, an attack that killed 270 people, mostly Americans on their way home for Christmas. In 2001, Libyan intelligence officer Abdel Basset al-Megrahi was jailed for life after being found guilty of the murder of 243 passengers, 16 crew and 11 residents of Lockerbie who were killed in the attack. He is the only person to be convicted in the bombing.Megrahi, who denied involvement, died in Libya in 2012 after being released three years earlier by Scotland’s government on compassionate grounds following a diagnosis of terminal cancer.  FILE – Libyan Abdel Baset al-Megrahi, who was found guilty of the 1988 Lockerbie bombing but released from his Scottish prison on compassionate grounds, is seen below a portrait of Libyan Leader Moammar Gadhafi, Sept. 9, 2009.In March, an independent Scottish review body ruled his family could launch an appeal after concluding there might have been a miscarriage of justice. “Overturning of the verdict for the Megrahi family and many of the families of British victims also supporting the appeal, would vindicate their belief that the governments of the United States and the United Kingdom stand accused of having lived a monumental lie for 31 years,” the family’s lawyer Aamer Anwar said in a statement. Five judges will hear the appeal, including the head of Scotland’s judiciary, Lord Justice General Colin Sutherland. Megrahi first appealed in 2002 but this was refused by Scotland’s High Court. A second appeal was abandoned in 2009 just before his return to Libya. In 2003, then-Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi accepted his country’s responsibility for the bombing and paid compensation to the victims’ families but did not admit personally ordering the attack. However, Megrahi’s family and some relatives of the Scottish victims have always doubted his guilt.  
 

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Australian Airline Says It Will Require COVID-19 Vaccine to Fly

The Australian airline company Qantas says it will require international travelers in the future to prove they have been vaccinated against COVID-19 in order to fly, as another pharmaceutical company announces progress in creating a potential vaccine to fight the coronavirus.In an interview with Australia’s Nine Network on Monday, Qantas Chief Executive Alan Joyce said the company thinks such proof will be a necessity for international visitors in the future, adding, “whether you need that domestically, we’ll have to see what happens.”He said of requiring proof of vaccination, “I think that’s going to be a common thing, talking to my colleagues in other airlines around the globe.”FILE – Laboratory technicians work at the mAbxience biopharmaceutical company on an experimental coronavirus vaccine developed by Oxford University and the laboratory AstraZeneca in Garin, Argentina, Aug. 14, 2020.His remarks point to how some industries and companies might want to use proof of COVID-19 vaccinations in their business models going forward, potentially setting up legal challenges from those who oppose such measures.The comments come as AstraZeneca said early Monday that clinical trials of its COVID-19 vaccine in Britain and Brazil have shown it is “highly effective in preventing COVID-19” without “hospitalizations or severe cases of the disease” in any of the trial’s volunteers.The England-based pharmaceutical company says the vaccine was 70% effective overall, but there were differences between two dosing regimens. One was 90% effective. The other was 62%.”More data will continue to accumulate, and additional analysis will be conducted, refining the efficacy reading and establishing the duration of protection,” AstraZeneca said in a statement Monday.”These findings show that we have an effective vaccine that will save many lives,” Professor Andrew Pollard, chief investigator of the Oxford Vaccine Trial at Oxford, said in a statement.FILE – A volunteer receives an injection from a medical worker during the country’s first human clinical trial for a potential vaccine against the novel coronavirus, at Baragwanath Hospital in Soweto, South Africa, June 24, 2020.AstraZeneca said it “will seek an Emergency Use Listing from the World Health Organization for an accelerated pathway to vaccine availability in low-income countries. In parallel, the full analysis of the interim results is being submitted for publication in a peer-reviewed journal.”Drugmakers Pfizer and Moderna have also announced initial results from late-stage trials showing their vaccines were nearly 95% effective.  Vaccination plansCountries have begun laying out plans to distribute COVID-19 vaccines, with Germany and the United States preparing to vaccinate some populations as early as next month.German Health Minister Jens Spahn told reporters Sunday that there “is reason to be optimistic” that a vaccine would be approved in Europe before the end of the year, and that after approval, vaccinations could begin “right away.”The United States has set preliminary plans to begin vaccinating some groups as early as December 12, two days after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is scheduled to review the Pfizer vaccine.Health care workers in the United States, who have been hard-hit by COVID-19, would be among the first to receive a vaccine.WATCH: Vaccines Raise Hopes of Rapid Global RolloutSorry, but your browser cannot support embedded video of this type, you can
Licensed vocational nurse Caren Williams, left, collects a nasal swab sample from a traveler at a COVID-19 testing site at the Los Angeles International Airport in Los Angeles, Nov. 23, 2020.California Governor Gavin Newsom and his family are in quarantine after three of his children were exposed to a Highway Patrol officer who tested positive for COVID-19.The Associated Press reports that China has imposed new lockdowns on three cities, Shanghai, Tianjin and Manzhouli, where a handful of COVID-19 cases have reemerged.More than 59 million people around the world have been infected with the coronavirus, the Johns Hopkins Resource Center reported Monday.The United States continues to lead the world in infections with more than 12 million cases, followed by India with more than 9 million infections and Brazil with 6 million.The virus has claimed nearly 1.4 million lives. More than a quarter million of those deaths were in the U.S. 
 

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British PM Lays Out Post-Lockdown Restrictions   

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has unveiled an updated plan for handling Britain’s COVID-19 infection after the country’s partial national lockdown is lifted December 2.In video message to Parliament Monday, Johnson said the lockdown will be lifted next Wednesday as promised. He said although Britain will return to the regional system that was in place prior to the lockdown, he has received scientific advice indicating the tiers need to be tougher to adequately reduce the infection rate.In the new tier 1, people will be required to work from home if they can. In tier 2, pubs will only be able to serve drinks with a “substantial meal.” And in tier 3, indoor entertainment and hotels will close, and restaurants and pubs will only be allowed to open for take-out.As before, Johnson said the tiers will be determined based on the rate of COVID-19 infections in each area, with the toughest measures implemented where the disease is most prevalent. The government will announce which areas will be under which tier later this week.A woman walks through the Burlington Arcade adorned with Christmas decorations, amid the coronavirus disease outbreak, in London, Nov. 23, 2020.Johnson said more regions will fall, at least temporarily, into higher levels than before. But, he said, with tougher restrictions and more rapid coronavirus testing, it should be possible for areas to move to lower levels of restrictions fairly quickly.The prime minister said people should not expect a normal Christmas holiday this year, saying, “This virus is obviously not going to grant a Christmas truce, it doesn’t know it’s Christmas.” He did say his government was working to develop “a special time-limited Christmas dispensation” plan that would allow families to come together, while minimizing the risk.Britain has recorded 18,662 new cases and 398 deaths in the last 24 hours. Of these, 16,668 are in England, 844 in Scotland, 808 in Wales and 342 in Northern Ireland. There are now more than 1.5 million cases recorded in total, and deaths have crossed 55,000.
 

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Vaccine Breakthrough Raises Hopes of Rapid Global Rollout

A coronavirus vaccine developed by Britain’s University of Oxford and the pharmaceutical firm AstraZeneca has shown successful results in early trials. If it is approved by regulators, the vaccine appears suitable for a fast rollout around the globe. Early analysis of trials involving 20,000 volunteers in Britain and Brazil show the vaccine is at least 62% effective after two doses. In volunteers given a different dosing regimen — a half dose, followed by a full dose — that figure rose to 90%. The average efficacy of the two dosing methods is 70%. None of those given the vaccine developed severe COVID-19 illness. Andrew Pollard, director of the Oxford Vaccine Group, said the recent successful trials of three different vaccines by Oxford-AstraZeneca, Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna, represent a scientific breakthrough. “It really feels like a great moment that we’ve got now multiple vaccines. If we can get them rolled out as soon as possible, we’re going to have a big impact,” Pollard said. Differences from other vaccinesAstraZeneca plans to begin supplying hundreds of millions of doses by the end of the year, subject to regulatory approval. Several properties of the vaccine make it suitable for global rollout, according to Peter Drobac, a global health expert at the University of Oxford, who did not work on the development of the AstraZeneca vaccine. “The first is cost,” Drobac said. “So, this vaccine has been priced at about one-fifth to one-tenth of the cost reportedly being sought by Pfizer and Moderna, some of the other leading vaccine candidates.” AstraZeneca has pledged it will not make a profit on the vaccine during the pandemic.  Secondly, “in 10 countries, it’s already being manufactured, including a very large manufacturing partner in India. So, we hope to see very large numbers of doses become available very quickly. And then thirdly, this vaccine only required kind of fridge-temperature storage,” Drobac told VOA. By contrast, the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine requires storage at minus 70 degrees Celsius. Many health systems in developing nations lack refrigeration facilities to store medicines at such ultra-cold temperatures. COVAXSo far, 188 countries have signed up to an initiative called COVAX, where richer countries invest in the development of several vaccines and the infrastructure required for rolling them out across the globe.  “The goal in a perfect world would be that each of the countries that signs up for COVAX would receive enough vaccine for 20% of their populations by the end of 2021,” Drobac said. “Now, that’s an aspiration of course, not a guarantee. But that would allow every country to at least begin to cover the most vulnerable, front-line workers, etc.” The human rights organization Amnesty International praised Oxford University. “However, much more needs to be done to ensure that everyone, everywhere can benefit from these life-saving products, and without further action, vaccine supply for lower-income countries will remain perilously low,” Amnesty said in a statement Monday.  It is possible the leading vaccine candidates will be given emergency approval by regulators in the coming weeks, raising hopes that the world is on the brink of a major breakthrough in the fight against the pandemic.
In the meantime, doctors say it is vital that people follow measures to suppress the transmission of the virus.
 

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Speedboat Taking Migrants to Greece Partially Sinks; 1 Dead

A speedboat that appeared to have been smuggling migrants to the Greek island of Rhodes from nearby Turkey partially sank before reaching land, leaving one person dead, Greece’s coast guard said on Monday.
The coast guard said it received information about the speedboat near the northwestern coast of Rhodes on Monday morning. Thirteen people who had been on board were found safe on the nearby shore, while the body of one man was recovered.
The survivors told authorities that a total of 14 people had been on board the speedboat. However, coast guard patrol boats were searching the area in case of others who might have been on board.
Greece remains one of the most popular routes into the European Union for people fleeing conflict and poverty in Asia, Africa and the Middle East.

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