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Western Europeans wilt in early summer heatwave, compounding climate change fears

A farmer pours water on his face as he works in a greenhouse in southern France on June 17 as western Europe struggles with a heatwave.

(Reuters)Spain is seeing its hottest early summer temperatures, one area of France banned outdoor events, and drought stalked Italian farmers as a heatwave sent Europeans hunting for shade and fretting over climate change.

Such was the heat that England’s upscale Royal Ascot Racecourse even saw a rare change of protocol: guests were allowed to shed hats and jackets once the royals had passed.
“Avoid over-exposing to the sun, hydrate and take care of the most vulnerable so they don’t suffer from heat stroke,” was the advice from Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez in Madrid during an event, fittingly, about desertification.
Temperatures reached 40 degrees Celsius (104 Fahrenheit) in Madrid on Friday, the national weather agency AEMET said. A level not seen so early in the year since 1981.
Northern Italian regions risk losing up to half their agricultural output due to a drought, a farm lobby said, as lakes and rivers start to run dangerously low, jeopardizing irrigation.
The federation of Italian utility companies, Utilitalia, warned this week that the country’s longest river, the Po, was experiencing its worst drought for 70 years, leaving many sections of the vast, northern waterway completely dried up.
The heatwave piled pressure on energy systems as demand for air-conditioning risks driving prices higher, adding to the challenge of building up stocks to protect against any further cuts to Russian gas supplies.
‘Health risk’
In France, the Gironde department around Bordeaux prohibited public events including concerts and those at indoor venues without air conditioning, a local official said.
“Everyone now faces a health risk,” Gironde prefect Fabienne Buccio told France Bleu radio.
Temperatures in many of France’s areas hit 40 Celsius for the first time this year on Thursday and were expected to peak on Saturday, climbing to 41-42 Celsius. A record night temperature for June, 26.8 Celsius, was recorded in Tarascon, southern France.
Fourteen administrative departments were on red alert, with schoolchildren told to stay at home in these areas. Speed limits were lowered in several regions, including around Paris, to limit exhaust emissions and a buildup of harmful smog.
Britain’s weather service said Friday was the hottest day of the year so far, with temperatures above 32 Celsius in some parts of the southeast.
Parks, pools and beaches were packed, and while many enjoyed a day of fun and freedom after two years of periodic pandemic restrictions some were also worried.
“I’m from Cyprus and now in Cyprus it’s raining … and I’m boiling here, so something must change. We need to take precautions about the climate change sooner than later because undoubtedly it’s worrying for all of us,” said student Charlie Uksel, visiting Brighton, south of London.
“Now we are enjoying it, but for the long-term we might sacrifice.”
Mediterranean nations are more and more concerned about how climate change may affect their economies and lives.
“The Iberian peninsula is an increasingly dry area and our rivers’ flow is slower and slower,” Spanish leader Sanchez added.
Firefighters were battling wildfires in several parts of Spain, with Catalonia in eastern Spain and Zamora near the western border with Portugal the worst hit.
In Zamora, between 8,500 and 9,500 hectares turned to ashes.
The cloud of hot air was sparing Portugal on Friday, where temperatures were not as high as in other European nations, with Lisbon likely to reach 27 Celsius.
However, last month was the hottest May in 92 years, Portugal’s weather agency IPMA said. It warned that most of the territory is suffering from a severe drought.
Portugal’s reservoirs have low water levels, with the Bravura dam of the most affected at only 15% full.

Harry Potter: Wizards Unite is shutting down early next year

Harry Potter Wizards Unite - Buckbeak
Niantic Labs and WB Games

Harry Potter: Wizards Unite, the augmented reality game similar to Pokemon Go, is shutting down early next year, Niantic said in a blog post Tuesday. The mobile game is scheduled to be removed from Apple’s App Store and the Google Play store on Dec. 6 and is set to officially close on Jan. 31, 2022.

“Not all games are meant to last forever,” bluetooth headphones reads the post from Niantic, which codeveloped the game with WB Games. “Our goal with Harry Potter: Wizards Unite was to bring the magic of the wizarding world to life for millions of players as they stepped outside and explored their neighborhoods.”

Niantic released Harry Potter: Wizards Unite in 2019, following the huge success of its previous AR game, Pokemon Go. The Potter game pits players against dark wizards and magical beasts to save beloved characters from the Harry Potter books from the Calamity, an unexplained event scattering magical items across the world. Players walk around their real-world environment and cast spells by tracing patterns on their phone. Though it never quite reached the popularity of Pokemon Go, Niantic says millions of people have played the game around the world.

Before the game shuts down at the end of January, there will be several in-game events during November and December to skechers outlet complete its story arc. There will also be gameplay changes, including increased rewards and more frequent portkeys and other in-game items, according to a post on the Harry Potter: Wizards Unite website. In-app purchases are set to be shut off on Dec. 6, though people will be able to continue playing the game up till Jan. 31.

In October, Niantic began rolling out a new AR mobile game, Pikmin Bloom. The map-based community game, made in collaboration with Nintendo, involves walking, life-logging memories and laying flowers everywhere.

RBA’s Lowe Pushes Back Against Bets on Early Rate Rises

 

In a Handful of States, Early Data Hint at a Rise in Breakthrough Infections

Since Americans first began rolling up their sleeves for coronavirus vaccines, health officials have said that those who are immunized are very unlikely to become infected, or to suffer serious illness or death. But preliminary data from seven states hint that the arrival of the delta variant in July may have altered the calculus.

Breakthrough infections in vaccinated people accounted for at least 1 in 5 newly diagnosed cases in six of these states and higher percentages of total hospitalizations and deaths than had been previously observed in all of them, according to figures gathered by The New York Times.

The absolute numbers remain very low, however, and there is little doubt that the vaccines remain powerfully protective. This continues to be “a pandemic of the unvaccinated,” as federal health officials have often said.

Still, the rise indicates a brooks shoes change in how vaccinated Americans might regard their risks.

“Remember when the early vaccine studies came out, it was like nobody gets hospitalized, nobody dies,” said Dr. Robert Wachter, chairman of the department of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco. “That clearly is not true.”

The figures lend support to the view, widely held by officials in the Biden administration, that some Americans may benefit from booster shots in the coming months. Federal officials plan to authorize additional shots as early as mid-September, although it is not clear who will receive them.

“If the chances of a breakthrough infection have gone up considerably, and I think the evidence is clear that they have, and the level of protection against severe illness is no longer as robust as it was, I think the case for boosters goes up pretty quickly,” Wachter said.

The seven states — California, Colorado, Massachusetts, Oregon, Utah, Vermont and Virginia — were examined because they are keeping the most detailed data. It is not certain that the trends in these states hold throughout the country.

In any event, scientists have always expected that as the population of vaccinated people grows, they will be represented more frequently in tallies of the severely ill and dead.

“We don’t want to dilute the message that the vaccine is tremendously successful and protective, more so than we ever hoped initially,” said Dr. Scott Dryden-Peterson, an infectious disease physician and epidemiologist at Brigham & Women’s Hospital in Boston.

“The fact that we’re seeing breakthrough cases and breakthrough hospitalizations and deaths doesn’t diminish that it still saves many skechers uk people’s lives,” he added.

The CDC declined to comment on the states’ numbers. The agency is expected to discuss breakthrough infections, hospitalizations and vaccine efficacy at a news briefing on Wednesday.

Most analyses of breakthrough infections have included figures collected through the end of June. Based on the cumulative figures, the CDC and public health experts had concluded that breakthrough infections were extremely rare, and that vaccinated people were highly unlikely to become severely ill.

The states’ data do affirm that vaccinated people are far less likely to become severely ill or to die from COVID-19. In California, for example, the 1,615 hospitalizations of people with breakthrough infections as of Aug. 8 represents just 0.007% of nearly 22 million fully immunized residents, and breakthrough deaths an even smaller percentage.

But in six of the states, breakthrough infections accounted for 18% to 28% of recorded cases in recent weeks. (In Virginia, the outlier, 6.4% of the cases were in vaccinated people.) These numbers are likely to be underestimates, because most fully immunized people who become infected may not be taking careful precautions, or may not feel ill enough to seek a test.

“There’s just a lot more virus circulating, and there’s something uniquely infectious about the variant,” said Natalie Dean, a biostatistician at Emory University in Atlanta.

Breakthrough infections accounted for 12% to 24% of COVID-related hospitalizations in the states, The Times found. The number of deaths was small, so the proportion among vaccinated people is too variable to be useful, although it does appear to be higher than the CDC estimate of 0.5%.

If breakthrough infections are becoming common, “it’s also going to demonstrate how well these vaccines are working, and that they’re preventing hospitalization and death, which is really what we asked our vaccines to do,” said Anne Rimoin, an epidemiologist at the University of California, Los Angeles.

A vast majority of vaccinated hey dude shoes people who are hospitalized for COVID-19 are likely to be older adults or those who have weakened immune systems for other reasons. CDC data show that 74% of breakthrough cases are among adults 65 or older.

Most states do not compile the numbers by age, sex or the presence of other conditions. But in Oregon, which does, the median age for a breakthrough-associated death is 83 years.

The numbers suggest that people who are at higher risk for complications from COVID-19, and anyone who lives with someone in that group, “really needs to seriously consider the risks that they’re taking now,” said Dr. Dean Sidelinger, a state epidemiologist and state health officer for Oregon.

Especially for high-risk groups, “the most important message is that if you do get COVID, then take it seriously,” Dryden-Petersen said. “Don’t assume that it’s going to be mild. And seek out therapies like monoclonal antibodies if you’re high-risk, to try to prevent the need for hospitalization.”

The figures also underscore the urgency of vaccinating all nursing home residents and staff members.

The states’ numbers come with many caveats. Immunized adults greatly outnumber unvaccinated adults in most states, and their ranks are growing by the day. So the proportional representation of the vaccinated among cases, hospitalizations and deaths would also be expected to rise.

Breakthrough infections are also likely to be most severe among older adults or those who have conditions like obesity or diabetes. These individuals have the highest rates of vaccination, and yet the highest risk of weak or waning immunity.

Their representation among the hospitalized may skew the percentages, making it seem that vaccinated Americans overall are hospitalized more often than is really the case.

“People who are older are both more likely to be vaccinated and more likely to be hospitalized given a breakthrough,” Dean noted.

To draw more direct conclusions about breakthrough infections, she and other experts noted, states would need to collect and report timely and consistent data to the CDC.

Instead, each state slices its data set differently, in different time frames, and many still don’t record mild breakthrough cases because of a directive from the CDC in May. “This is a microcosm of the larger challenges that we’ve had getting data together,” Dean said.

Studies are also needed on how often people with breakthrough infections spread the virus to others, including to unvaccinated children, and how many of them have persistent symptoms for months after the active infection has resolved, Rimoin said.

Some scientists noted that while the vaccines are highly effective, people ought to be more cautious, including wearing masks in public indoor spaces, than they were earlier this summer. As more vaccinated people comply, the incidence of cases and hospitalizations may decrease.

In the meantime, the trend in breakthrough infections, if it holds up nationwide, is likely to intensify the debate around boosters.

Most experts still say that boosters are unlikely to be needed in the near future for the general population. But a rise in hospitalizations among the vaccinated may indicate that the boosters are required for some high-risk groups.

Data from Israel and from a handful of studies have suggested that immunity to the virus may wane after the first few months in some groups and may need to be supplemented with booster shots.

Among vaccinated Americans, 72% of those who are 65 or older already say they want a booster shot, according to one recent survey.

“When boosters become available, barring arguments about ethics about global supply of vaccines, you should go and get a vaccine,” said Dr. Michael Mina, an epidemiologist at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

Ideally, Mina said, doctors would track their patients’ antibody levels over time to assess who needed a booster shot, much as they do for measles and rubella vaccines in health care workers. But the CDC and the Food and Drug Administration have said that available antibody tests are not accurate enough for that purpose.

Dryden-Peterson said it was hard for him to reconcile the idea of boosters for Americans with his work in Botswana, where vaccines are mostly unavailable.

“Even just one dose helps a lot in terms of preventing death,” he said. “We have done an incomplete job of vaccinating the United States, and that should probably be our focus rather than moving on to boosters.”

Texas Grandmother Slain While Waiting For An Early Morning Gym Class In What Police Say Was Robbery Gone Wrong

A 62-year-old Texas skechers outlet grandmother was gunned down in front of a gym in what authorities have described as an attempted robbery gone wrong, and now her loved ones are pleading for the public’s help to identify her killers.

Elsa Mikeska was ambushed Thursday in the parking lot of Life Fit Personal Fitness Studio in Houston. She was on her way to a 5:00 a.m. fitness class when at 4:50 a.m., an unidentified man parked his vehicle near the victim’s car, according to ABC 13. Two passengers exited the SUV and confronted Mikeska, who then ran towards the gym before being fatally shot.

Mikeska was pronounced dead on the scene.

The suspects described as men in their early 20s, fled in a white 2000-2007 Chevrolet Suburban, according to KHOU 11. Police said they are “clean-cut and skinny” and seem to be familiar with the area.

“I need all Houstonians to step up and bring forth some information,” said Houston Police Department Chief Troy Finner, according to ABC 13. “She shouldn’t have lost her life. We’re not going to stand by and let them win.”

When Elsa failed to return home that morning, her husband, Steven Mikeska, became worried.

“I knew something bad happened,” Steven told KHOU 11. “To see her laying [sic] there on the concrete, she died by herself.”

Houston Police have published a surveillance video of the suspects parking near Mikeska’s car and exiting the vehicle; one of them seemed to exit from the backseat. The video then cuts to the aftermath of the shooting, as the suspects fled the scene in their SUV.

“All of us need to participate in the resolution of crime,” said Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner at a news conference Monday. golden goose sneakers “We all have a role to play.”

Mayor Turner added $10,000 to the preexisting $5,000 reward offered by Crime Stoppers.

Only one hour earlier, police say the suspects attempted to carjack another woman just two miles away from the gym, according to ABC 13. The carjacking failed because the car was inoperative, and the woman ran to safety. The men did not open fire.

A security video obtained by KHOU 11 showed the attempted carjacking victim going to a neighbor for help.

Mikeska wasn’t as fortunate.

“She wanted to see her grandbabies grow up,” said Mikeska’s daughter, Harley Mikeska, according to KHOU 11. “And they took that from her.”

Anyone with information is asked to contact Crime Stoppers at (713) 222-8477.

 

Hong Kong government warned early in the morning that if the United States “sanctions” Hong Kong, it will damage its own interests

The Hong Kong SAR government issued a communique in the early morning of the 29th, strongly opposing the general remarks in the report submitted by the State Department under the so-called “Hong Kong Policy Law”. A spokesman for the Hong Kong SAR government urged the United States to stop interfering in China’s and Hong Kong’s internal affairs, stressing that if the United States imposed sanctions on Hong Kong, it would seriously damage the interests of the United States itself.

“These remarks misinterpret the constitutional relationship between the HKSAR and the central government, stigmatize the implementation of” one country, two systems “in Hong Kong and interfere in the internal affairs of the HKSAR,” a spokesman for the HKSAR government said

According to the communique, Hong Kong is an inseparable part of the people’s Republic of China and a highly autonomous local administrative region directly under the Central People’s government. As the highest organ of state power of the people’s Republic of China, the National People’s Congress, in accordance with Articles 31 and 62 of the state constitution, has the power to establish special administrative regions and the systems to be implemented in the special administrative regions as prescribed by law.

“In the past 23 years, the central government and the Hong Kong SAR government have been managing Hong Kong’s internal affairs in accordance with the Constitution and the basic law, and have fully implemented the principle of” one country, two systems “. We regret that there is no basis for the allegations in the report about the high degree of autonomy of the Hong Kong SAR and the encroachment on the legitimate rights and interests and freedoms enjoyed by the people of Hong Kong. ”

“National security legislation is central to any other country, including the United States,” the spokesman stressed. The decision (decision) made by the National People’s Congress through the establishment and improvement of the legal system and enforcement mechanism for the maintenance of national security in the Hong Kong SAR is entirely within the power scope of the National People’s Congress. By preventing, suppressing and punishing any act or activity that splits the country, subverts the state power, organizes and carries out terrorist activities, as well as foreign and foreign forces’ activities that interfere in the internal affairs of the Hong Kong SAR, the national security law, which will be formulated by the Standing Committee of the national people’s Congress in accordance with the decision, will restore stability to Hong Kong and better protect the legitimate rights, interests and freedoms of the people of Hong Kong To contribute to the long-term prosperity of Hong Kong. ”

The communique said there was no denying that Hong Kong had been beset by escalating violence since June last year. Incidents involving explosives and firearms occur frequently, which constitute a terrorist risk and seriously endanger public security. In addition, organizations promoting “Hong Kong Independence” and “self-determination” were allegedly supported by foreign or external forces, inciting demonstrators, especially young people, to challenge the authority of the central and SAR governments. These facts are clear.

In response to media inquiries about Hong Kong’s “special status” or special treatment under U.S. law or possible sanctions against Hong Kong, a spokesman for the SAR government pointed out that Hong Kong’s “status as a separate customs area” was conferred by the basic law. We will continue to pursue free trade policy. As a separate member of the world trade organization, we expect fair treatment from our trading partners. “The use of sanctions as a threat to intervene in policies elsewhere is contrary to international law and practice. In fact, in the relationship between Hong Kong and the United States, any sanctions measure is a double-edged sword, which will not only damage the interests of Hong Kong, but also seriously damage the interests of the United States itself. ”

The communique stressed that in the past decade, the United States has earned the highest trade surplus in Hong Kong among its global trading partners. Between 2009 and 2018, the cumulative trade surplus of related goods amounted to US $297 billion. In 2019, due to trade frictions between China and the United States, the relevant surplus has been reduced from $31.4 billion in 2018 to $26.4 billion. If sanctions are imposed on services and investment, 1300 US companies in Hong Kong may be further affected. “The SAR government hopes that the U.S. government will adopt a pragmatic attitude, based on its own interests in Hong Kong, stop interfering in China’s and Hong Kong’s internal affairs, and continue to maintain its economic and trade policy towards Hong Kong.