Canada Signs Deals with Novavax, Johnson & Johnson for Coronavirus Vaccines

Canada reached an agreement in principle on Monday with both Novavax and Johnson & Johnson for millions of doses of their experimental coronavirus vaccines, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said. Canada’s two agreements follow separate deals with Pfizer and Moderna announced weeks ago, and are the latest example of countries rushing to secure access to vaccines. Canada is also in “the final stages of negotiations” to secure AstraZeneca’s potential vaccine and is in talks to secure more doses of the Pfizer vaccine candidate, Procurement Minister Anita Anand said. “What we are trying to do is make sure that when a vaccine is developed, we are at the front of the line,” Anand told reporters. Canada has a population of about 38 million, and the four vaccine agreements signed so far “give Canada at least 88 million doses with options to obtain tens of millions more,” Trudeau said when he announced the deals in Montreal. More doses possibleAll four agreements announced so far have options to purchase more doses if needed, officials said. Trudeau also said the government will invest C$126 million ($96.7 million) over two years to build a biomanufacturing facility at the Human Health Therapeutics Research Centre in Montreal capable of producing up to 2 million doses of a vaccine per month by next year. Last week, Canada’s National Research Council said it had ended its partnership on a coronavirus vaccine with China’s CanSino Biologics because the company lacked the authority to ship the vaccine. Help for businessesSeparately, Canada extended to the end of October a program to provide loans …

US EPA Rolls Back Limits on Wastewater from Coal Plants

The Environmental Protection Agency on Monday rolled back Obama administration rules limiting levels of toxic materials in wastewater released from coal plants, its latest effort to slash environmental regulations for the coal industry as the Trump administration’s first term winds down. The EPA finalized “effluent limitations” for two types of waste from coal plants, a savings of $140 million annually for industry. “Newer, more affordable pollution control technologies and flexibility on the regulation’s phase-in will reduce pollution and save jobs at the same time,” agency administrator Andrew Wheeler said. A senior EPA official said the final rule would reduce pollution by nearly a million pounds per year over the 2015 rule, though environmental groups said the rollback lets industry use cheaper, less effective treatment methods on polluted wastewater that puts waterways at risk. The changes apply to flue gas desulfurization (FGD) wastewater and bottom ash transport waste. The rollback eases requirements for how they are treated before being released, offers a “flexible, phase-in approach” for implementation and pushes back compliance dates. “The Trump administration’s rollback will be responsible for hundreds of thousands of pounds of pollutants contaminating sources of drinking water, lakes, rivers and streams every year,” said Thomas Cmar, deputy managing attorney of Earthjustice, who said the group will sue the EPA over the rollback. The EPA proposed the rollback in November after initially delaying implementation of the 2015 Obama proposal, which sought to force coal-fired power plants to shut down unlined coal ash pits in 2019 and recycle 100% of their system’s water. The 2019 …

Scientists See Downsides to Top COVID-19 Vaccines from Russia, China 

High-profile COVID-19 vaccines developed in Russia and China share a potential shortcoming: They are based on a common cold virus that many people have been exposed to, potentially limiting their effectiveness, some experts say. CanSino Biologics’ vaccine, approved for military use in China, is a modified form of adenovirus type 5, or Ad5. The company is in talks to get emergency approval in several countries before completing large-scale trials, the Wall Street Journal reported last week. A vaccine developed by Moscow’s Gamaleya Institute, approved in Russia earlier this month despite limited testing, is based on Ad5 and a second less common adenovirus. A scientist works inside a laboratory of the Gamaleya Research Institute of Epidemiology and Microbiology during the testing of a coronavirus vaccine, in Moscow, Russia, Aug. 6, 2020. (Russian Direct Investment Fund/Handout via Reuters)”The Ad5 concerns me just because a lot of people have immunity,” said Anna Durbin, a vaccine researcher at Johns Hopkins University. “I’m not sure what their strategy is … maybe it won’t have 70% efficacy. It might have 40% efficacy, and that’s better than nothing, until something else comes along.” Vaccines are seen as essential to ending the pandemic that has claimed over 845,000 lives worldwide. Gamaleya has said its two-virus approach will address Ad5 immunity issues. Both developers have years of experience and approved Ebola vaccines based on Ad5. Neither CanSino nor Gamaleya responded to requests for comment. Researchers have experimented with Ad5-based vaccines against a variety of infections for decades, but none are widely used. They employ harmless …

WMO: Laura by Far the Strongest Hurricane of 2020 Atlantic Season

The former hurricane known as Laura has so far been the most intense and dangerous storm of this year’s Atlantic hurricane season, according to the U.N.’s weather agency, the World Meteorological Organization.Laura is now just a tropical depression, spreading heavy rain and thunderstorms across the east-central United States, forecasters said. But as the storm crossed the Gulf of Mexico earlier this week, it strengthened from a Category 1 hurricane to a Category 4 in less than 24 hours. Forecasters recorded wind speeds as high as 240 kph.As Laura came ashore early Thursday in southern Louisiana, the National Hurricane Service was predicting an “unsurvivable storm surge.” That didn’t materialize, but damaging winds and heavy rains did. The system destroyed property, downed trees and led to power outages throughout the state. The WMO said that since Laura began moving through the Caribbean last week, it had caused more than 20 deaths, most in Haiti.FILE – Benjamin Luna helps recover items from the children’s wing of the First Pentecostal Church that was destroyed by Hurricane Laura, Aug. 27, 2020, in Orange, Texas.Speaking from U.N. headquarters in Geneva, WMO spokeswoman Clare Nullis said Laura had now generated more accumulated cyclone energy, or ACE, the metric used to measure storm intensity and duration, than the four other storms in August combined. Nullis said there was still a long way to go this year. The Atlantic hurricane season began in June and ends in November.Nullis said climatologists predict that strong storms – in the Category 4-to-Category …

New Evidence May Show Where Earth’s Water Came From

A study published this week offers evidence regarding how water originated on Earth, and the clues come from some of the oldest rocks in the solar system. Earth’s abundance of water makes it unique in the solar system, but scientists have never been sure how it got here. Some believed the water – or chemical compounds that make up water – was here all along, embedded in the original rock that formed the Earth about 4.5 billion years ago.  A piece of an enstatite chondrite meteorite, which contains about 0.5 weight percent of water, is seen in this undated handout obtained Aug. 27, 2020, courtesy of Laurette Piani and Christine Fieni from the Museum of Natural History in Paris.But other scientists studying models of where Earth exists in the solar system think it should have formed as a dry planet, suggesting the water came from somewhere else. A study, published Thursday in the journal Science, looks at the composition of samples of enstatite chondrite meteorites — a rare, ancient form of meteorite believed to have been formed very early in the life of the solar system.Scientists had previously dismissed these space rocks as the source of Earth’s water because they were exposed to the heat and radiation of the young sun early in their formation, making them, the scientists thought, too dry to carry water. Instead, astronomers theorize water came to Earth later in its formation, through carbonaceous chondrite meteorites, which came from the outer solar system, where water was more abundant. In the …

Health Officials Call On US Government to Reverse COVID-19 Test Guidelines

Public health departments throughout the United States are calling on the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to reverse changes the federal agency recently made to its public coronavirus testing guidelines.The Big Cities Health Coalition and the National Association of County and City Health Officials, which represent thousands of local departments, sent a letter Friday to the heads of the CDC and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services requesting that the agencies “pull” the amended advice on virus testing.FILE – A health care worker uses a swab to test a man at a coronavirus disease drive-in testing location in Houston, Texas, Aug. 18, 2020.The organizations called on the agencies to reinstate recommendations that people who have been exposed to the virus be tested even if they are asymptomatic.In the letter, the groups say the CDC’s decision to pull the guidance this week “costs lives and livelihoods” and that “the CDC’s own data suggest that perhaps as many as 40% of COVID-19 cases are attributable to asymptomatic transmission.”CDC Director Robert Redfield responded to criticism over the revised guidelines by saying “testing may be considered for all close contacts of confirmed or probable COVID-19 patients.”COVID-19 vaccineSeparately, President Donald Trump said Thursday the U.S. will have a vaccination for the coronavirus “before the end of the year or maybe even sooner.”The announcement was part of Trump’s speech accepting the Republican presidential nomination, delivered from the South Lawn of the White House as part of the party’s national convention.FILE – U.S. …

AP Finds Brazil’s Plan to Protect Amazon Has Opposite Effect

In May, facing urgent international demands for action after a string of massive wildfires in the Amazon, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro put the army in charge of protecting the rainforest.   Instead, The Associated Press has found, the operation dubbed as “Green Brazil 2” has had the opposite effect. Under military command, Brazil’s once-effective but recently declining investigation and prosecution of rainforest destruction by ranchers, farmers and miners has come to a virtual halt, even as this year’s burning season picks up.   The Brazilian army appears to be focusing on dozens of small road-and-bridge-building projects that allow exports to flow faster to ports and ease access to protected areas, opening the rainforest to further exploitation. In the meantime, there have been no major raids against illegal activity since Bolsonaro required military approval for them in May, according to public officials, reporting from the area and interviews with nine current and former members of Brazil’s environmental enforcement agency.    The AP also found that:   — The number of fines issued for environmental crimes has been cut by almost half since four years ago, especially under Bolsonaro.   — Two high-ranking officials from IBAMA, the environmental agency, say they have stopped using satellite maps to locate deforestation sites and fine their owners __ a once-widely used technique. IBAMA officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the press.     — IBAMA is no longer penalizing the heads of big networks of illegal logging, …

Trump Says US Will Have COVID Vaccine Before End of 2020

President Donald Trump said Thursday the U.S. will have a vaccination for the coronavirus “before the end of the year or maybe even sooner.”The announcement was part of Trump’s speech accepting the Republican presidential nomination, delivered from the South Lawn of the White House as part of the party’s national convention.   Experts say vaccines can sometimes take decades to develop, test, and be proven safe before they are administered to patients. However, hope has been high that a concerted international effort will produce an effective vaccine sometime next year. “In recent months our nation and the entire planet has been struck by a new and powerful invisible enemy,” Trump told the South Lawn audience whose mostly mask-less members were not sitting six feet apart, a measure generally practiced to slow the spread of the coronavirus. The U.S. has 5.8 million COVID-19 cases, roughly one-fifth of the world’s more than 24 million infections, according to Johns Hopkins University. The president has rarely been seen in public wearing a mask, another practice done to stop the spread of the virus. WATCH: How coronavirus vaccines being tested work Sorry, but your browser cannot support embedded video of this type, you can download this video to view it offline.Download File360p | 8 MB480p | 11 MB540p | 15 MB720p | 29 MB1080p | 62 MBOriginal | 410 MB Embed” />Copy Download AudioWorld leader in coronavirus cases The U.S. has more COVID-19 cases than anywhere else.  Brazil follows the U.S. with 3.7 million cases and India comes in third with 3.3 million. India said early Friday that it had recorded 77,266 new COVID-19 cases in the previous 24-hour period, the highest daily total ever recorded in the South Asian nation. Wearing masks in public in Paris became mandatory for everyone on Friday. The …

5 Former CDC Directors Speak Out About Ending Coronavirus Pandemic

Former directors of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the world-renowned American agency that has long taken the lead in fighting communicable diseases, are voicing unusual criticism of the U.S. handling of the novel coronavirus pandemic and the CDC’s limited role in that effort.COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus, has killed more than 180,000 people in the U.S., and those are only the confirmed cases. The CDC says the actual number of COVID-19 deaths is much higher and that the virus will be a leading cause of deaths in the U.S. in 2020.Five former CDC directors, appointed by both Republican and Democratic administrations, say the agency should be doing more to lead the effort to contain the pandemic.FILE – Dr. Richard Besser, May 8, 2013, in New York.Among them is Dr. Richard Besser, who as acting director of the CDC held daily televised news conferences during the H1N1 flu pandemic of 2008-09, which infected more than 60 million people in the U.S. and killed 12,469 people. Globally, the World Health Organization estimated that a half-million people died.During the current pandemic, however, the White House Coronavirus Task Force is being led not by the CDC, but by Vice President Mike Pence, prompting questions about the extent to which the task force’s advice may be seen as politically motivated.“It really concerns me that we’re not hearing from CDC every day. We’re not hearing from them about what they consider to be the best practices in terms of isolation and …