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New IHU Variant On CDC’s Radar But Currently Not a Concern

The newly discovered COVID-19 variant, dubbed IHU (also known as B.1.640.2), is the latest in a long string of variants as the SARS-CoV-2 virus inches closer to either becoming endemic or burning itself out.



New IHU Variant On CDC’s Radar But Currently Not a Concern

The newly-discovered COVID-19 variant, dubbed IHU (also known as B.1.640.2), is the latest in a long string of variants as the SARS-CoV-2 virus inches closer to either becoming endemic or burning itself out. With only a dozen documented cases, global health authorities don’t appear concerned.

What the appearance of yet another variant shows is the “unpredictability of the emergence of SARS-CoV-2 variants,” according to the researchers who discovered IHU.

The mutations in IHU “showed an atypical combination,” first author Philippe Colson of the University Hospital Institute (IHU) Méditerranée Infection, and colleagues from multiple institutes in France wrote in a preprint in MedRxiv.

IHU is a new Pangolin clade and contains a total of 46 mutations and 37 deletions. Those changes led to 30 amino acid substitutions and 12 deletions. Of those mutations, “14 of the amino acid substitutions, including N501Y and E48K, and 9 deletions, are located in the spike protein.”

Many of the changes appear to affect the neutralizing epitope and the way the virus fuses to the infected cells. Several of the substitutions present here also are present in other SARS-CoV-2 variants, the researchers noted. For example, “Substitutions N501Y and E484K are combined, as in the Beta, Gamma, Theta and Omicron variants. Substitution F490S is present, as in the Lambda variant, and substitution P681H is present, as in the Lambda and Omicron variants,” they wrote.

Outside the spike protein, amino acids substitutions also occurred in the nucleocapsid protein and in the membrane protein, as well as several changes in non-structural proteins and in regulatory proteins. “In addition, codon 27 of the ORF8 gene is changed into a stop codon, as in the Alpha variant,” they wrote. The presence of a stop codon is also found in the Marseille-4 variant (B.1.160), which was common in the region one year ago, but the codon was located in another position.

IHU’s parent lineage, B.1.640, (since renamed B.1.640.1) was originally identified in France in April 2021, in Indonesia in August and in the Republic of the Congo in September, which gives some idea of the spread of that form of the virus. In September, GISAID, a global initiative that provides genomic data on influenza and coronaviruses, had only 157 samples of the B.1.640.1 genome in its database. Since then, B.1.640.1 has spread to 19 countries. Of the 440 infections throughout the world, 313 are in France.

GISAID does not yet have a genome for the new variant, B.1.640.2 variant, also known as IHU.

The first case of the IHU variant was diagnosed in mid-November, in a vaccinated individual three days after returning to France from Cameroon. He had noticed mild respiratory symptoms the previous day. A qPCR test showed an atypical combination of L452R-negativity, E484K-positivity, and E484Q-negativity that did not match the Delta variant which, at the time, accounted for the overwhelming majority of COVID-19 infections in the region. Samples from seven other COVID-19 patients in the region – two adults and five children younger than 15 years – showed the same pattern of mutations.

The continued evolution of the SARS-CoV-2 virus into multiple variants has been a key contributor to the continued pandemic and has “become a major virological, epidemiological and clinical concern, particularly with regard to the risk of escape from vaccine-induced immunity, and many of those variants,” Colson and colleagues wrote.

Source: BioSpace

Often, the variants were introduced from abroad. The researchers made this determination after genotyping nearly 40,000 patients and sequencing the complete genomes from more than 22,000 patients to identify each variant and thus better assess its spread. The IHU variant appears to have emerged from Cameroon and was first identified in the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur region in southeastern France.

“It is too early to speculate on the virological, epidemiological or clinical features of this IHU variant based on these 12 cases,” the researchers cautioned.

Nonetheless, health officials do not appear overly concerned about its emergence. In a recent media briefing in Switzerland, Abdi Mahamud, a World Health Organization incident manager on COVID-19, said the variant “has been on our radar. That virus had a lot of chances to pick up (and hasn’t),” according to reporting in TIME magazine.

As a spokesperson for the U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) told BioSpace, “The SARS-CoV-2 Interagency Group (SIG) is aware of (this variant) but has not designated B.1.640.2 as a Variant of Interest (VOI) or a Variant of Concern (VOC), but CDC will continue to actively monitor this variant. Vaccination remains the best public health measure to slow the spread of the virus and reduce the likelihood of new variants to emerge.”

As of print time, Omicron is the most prevalent variant in the U.S., accounting for 95% of all cases, according to the CDC’s Nowcast estimates.

BioSpace source:

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Majority Of Americans Support Israel, But New Poll Reveals Generational Divide

Majority Of Americans Support Israel, But New Poll Reveals Generational Divide

The week-long conflict between Israel and Hamas escalated on…



Majority Of Americans Support Israel, But New Poll Reveals Generational Divide

The week-long conflict between Israel and Hamas escalated on Saturday as the Israeli military prepares for a potential ground offensive in the Gaza Strip, a move that many anticipate. As of Friday, the death toll reached 3,000 on both sides. While Israel gears up for a ground invasion, most Americans stand behind Jerusalem. 

A new poll commissioned by NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll finds that 65% of US adults support Israel in the war. This was true for most Republicans (77%) and Democrats (69%).

As for Independents, only 54% support Israel, while 32% say the US should 'say or do nothing'. 

The data reveals huge generational gaps.

There's an incremental decline in support for Israel from the silent generation of 86% to Baby boomers 83% to Gen X 63% to Gen Z/millenials of 48%. 

Young Americans not supporting Israel en masse is not surprising. Dozens of student organizations at top universities across the US denounced Israel last week and pledged support for Palestine. Some organizations at Harvard even justified the actions of Hamas in its war against Israel. 

Regarding racial demographics, about 51% of non-white respondents believe that the US should take such a public stance supporting Israel, whereas 72% of white respondents share this perspective. 

Again, this polling data comes as no surprise, considering Black Lives Matter Chicago celebrated the Hamas paraglider massacre at a rave in Israel with this post: 

And we almost forgot Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's (D) Democratic Socialists of America have held pro-Palestinian rallies, with some folks holding up Nazi signs in Times Square. 

One thing that stood out among all respondents is that 80% of them were concerned the conflict could erupt into a regional war. And they might be correct about that, as Rabobank's Michael Every warned last week: "The Global Security Order Is Crumbling": From Ukraine War To Middle East War To... 

Tyler Durden Mon, 10/16/2023 - 06:55

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Vanguard Funds Invest In Chinese Military Companies, Report Says

Vanguard Funds Invest In Chinese Military Companies, Report Says

Authored by Terri Wu via The Epoch Times (emphasis ours),
J15 fighter jets…



Vanguard Funds Invest In Chinese Military Companies, Report Says

Authored by Terri Wu via The Epoch Times (emphasis ours),

J15 fighter jets on China's sole operational aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, during a drill at sea on April 24, 2018. (AFP via Getty Images)

The Vanguard Group, one of the world’s largest asset managers, invests in Chinese military groups and companies linked to forced labor through index funds, a new report says. The report comes as the Treasury Department finalizes the rules pertaining to a White House executive order prohibiting certain outbound investments to China.

Vanguard’s $70 billion flagship emerging markets index fund includes 60 companies on the Chinese military company sanction list by the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) under the U.S. Department of Treasury, according to the report released by the Coalition for a Prosperous America (CPA) on Oct. 13. CPA is an advocacy organization representing exclusively manufacturers that have productions in the United States.

In addition, the flagship and other Vanguard funds also hold shares of eight Chinese companies sanctioned over human rights abuses in China’s Xinjiang region, where the persecution of Uyghurs has been identified by the U.S. State Department as “genocide.”

he report didn’t provide a tally of all Vanguard investments in Chinese military companies but listed a total of $100 million in three such groups.

While noting that Vanguard’s fund holdings are legal, CPA urged Congress to take urgent action on the “long-festering, structural problem” that “a weak public policy response by the U.S. government has allowed greed within the asset management industry to supersede urgent American investor protection, national security, and human rights concerns.”

Congress must turn off the tap of American capital flowing to China and stop private and public market investments into blacklisted CCP-connected companies,” Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-Wis.), chair of the House Select Committee on the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), told The Epoch Times in an emailed statement.

“Americans do not want firms like Vanguard and BlackRock to invest their retirement savings in companies building the Chinese Communist Party’s military and implementing its ongoing genocide against the Uyghur people. If we accept the status quo, we are willfully fueling our own destruction,” he added.

Congressional scrutiny over Wall Street’s role in financing Chinese military companies has been on the rise.

Three months ago, Mr. Gallagher's committee launched an investigation on BlackRock, another leading asset manager, and global index provider MSCI over their role in channeling money to Chinese companies involved in building weapons for the Chinese military. The committee estimated $429 million of such investment against American interests by BlackRock.

In a letter dated July 31 to BlackRock and MSCI, Mr. Gallagher and committee ranking member Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-Ill.) wrote that, through the companies’ funds, Americans were “unwittingly funding” Chinese companies that fuel the CCP’s military and the two companies were “exacerbating an already significant national security threat and undermining American values.”

Two months later, BlackRock closed its China-focused offshore fund. All shareholders would have to redeem any outstanding shares by Nov. 7 before the fund’s liquidation. BlackRock previously told The Epoch Times that its products “comply with all applicable U.S. government laws” and it’s one of 16 asset managers offering U.S. index funds with investment in Chinese companies. The company didn’t directly comment on the closure of the China fund.

In an emailed response, a Vanguard spokesperson told The Epoch Times, “Vanguard maintains the highest levels of compliance with all applicable laws and regulations, including sanctions law. We welcome additional clarity from policymakers who are in a position to determine sanctions through the formal OFAC process.”

“As one of many asset managers offering investors a range of funds to invest internationally, our clients’ investments in China are primarily through U.S.-based passive index products that provide diversified exposure to many developed and emerging economies,” the spokesperson added.

In August, President Joe Biden issued an executive order (EO), prohibiting U.S. outbound investments to China in industries such as semiconductors and quantum computing. The Treasury Department has published preliminary rules, which listed index funds as excepted transactions under the EO. The public commentary period closed on Sept. 28.

Tyler Durden Mon, 10/16/2023 - 06:30

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Spread & Containment

How we’re using evidence to tackle net zero, slow economy and new hybrid working – sign up for Conversation partnership events and reports

With its IPPO partners, The Conversation is addressing some of the biggest policy challenges.




Civil servants around the world are wrestling with a vast web of incredibly complex social problems.

From meeting net zero targets in cash-strapped economies, with often low levels of political support, to managing ageing populations, sluggish productivity levels and handling the repercussions of soaring inequality, there are no easy answers.

But a growing body of detailed academic research can help. The biggest challenge is assessing and then effectively communicating this research to governments so they can use it to inform and shape policy.

In December 2020, as the UK was about to enter its third pandemic lockdown, The Conversation partnered on the £2 million, ESRC-funded International Public Policy Observatory (IPPO), a collaboration of UK academic institutions – including UCL, the Welsh Centre for Public Policy (WCPP), Queen’s University Belfast, and the University of Glasgow – and the International Network for Government Science Advice (INGSA) to help make sense of the flood of COVID-related evidence and then report it usefully to policymakers across the UK.

Three years later, IPPO is now a third of the way through its second two-year phase, and has extended its focus to include the challenges of net zero, socio-economic inequalities, place and spatial inequality and COVID-19 recovery.

It has also been engaging with national and local policymakers to find out what kinds of evidence would be of most use to them. After all, to provide impactful answers, researchers need to know what questions people are asking.

What’s coming up?

Since June 2023, our team has been reviewing the new normal of hybrid and remote work, and how these changes are affecting workers with disabilities and long-term health conditions. In our next report, we’ll look at what policymakers can do to ensure that potential gains from more flexible working conditions are embedded into work spaces.

Read more: Sunak should be wary of backtracking on net zero – what history tells us about flip-flopping on the environment

IPPO has also focused its attention on the challenges posed by net zero goals, and highlighted the pathways and barriers to change when it comes to people making their homes more energy efficient. It has also suggested the novel idea of home upgrade agencies to offer bespoke, data-driven advice to households and help everyone make a positive difference.

This month, the team is holding a public event on the best ways to engage society in how we meet net zero goals, as countries across the world face increased opposition to green policies.

In Northern Ireland and Scotland, the team has also been exploring policy interventions to reduce high levels of economic inactivity. It now intends to expand this research to look at what different geographic areas around the UK can learn from one another.

Innovations in evidence

As part of its remit to challenge and improve how evidence is gathered and used, IPPO recently launched a new series of public, online events on new methods for mobilising evidence for greatest impact, to guide researchers, policymakers and intermediaries.

Our next events on “How to Commission Rapid Evidence Assessments for Policy” and “Systems Mapping: Best Approaches and What Works for Policy Design” will bring together experts in evidence and policy to discuss best practice for evidence-informed decision making.

Read more: The UK's four-day working week pilot was a success – here's what should happen next

We’ll also be welcoming David Halpern, chief executive of the behavioural insights team at Nesta, to discuss how to gauge whether an approach that works in one place and time, will work in others, during a public, online event.

Unlocking potential in a crisis

On November 21, IPPO will launch its first evidence review of 2023 looking at how local authorities can accelerate policy change under pressure.

Over the last four months, IPPO and its partner RREAL have looked at the COVID-19 recovery plans developed by local authorities across the country.

During our launch event, the report’s authors will discuss key takeaways from their research, reveal what mechanisms help unlock and deliver progressive policies, and share in-depth case studies of the experiences of those involved in the design and implementation of recovery plans at the local authority level. You can sign up here.

For more information about IPPO, its events and upcoming work, please click here.

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