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Moderna COVID-19 vaccine enters final stage trial

Agence France-Presse

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US biotech firm Moderna said Tuesday it would enter the final stage of human trials for its COVID-19 vaccine on July 27, to test how well it protects people in the real world.

The announcement came as the results from an earlier trial intended to prove the vaccine was safe and triggered antibody production were published.

The upcoming Phase 3 trial will recruit 30,000 participants in the US, with half to receive the vaccine at 100 microgram dose levels, and the other half to receive a placebo.

Researchers will then track them over two years to determine whether they are protected against infection by the virus. Or, if they do get infected, whether the vaccine prevents symptoms from developing.

If they do get symptoms, the vaccine can still be considered a success if it stops severe cases of COVID-19.

The study should run until October 27, 2022, but preliminary results should be available long before.

The announcement came shortly after the New England Journal of Medicine published results from the first stage of Moderna’s vaccine trial, which showed the first 45 participants all developed antibodies to the virus.

Moderna is considered to be in a leading position in the global race to find a vaccine against the coronavirus, which has infected more than 13.2 million people and killed 570,000.

But scientists caution that the first vaccines to come to market may not be the most effective or safest.

 Encouraging results

Moderna had previously published “interim results” from the first stages of its trial, called Phase 1 in May.

The early results were called “encouraging” by Anthony Fauci, director of the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, which is co-developing the vaccine.

But some in the scientific community said they would reserve judgment until they saw the full results in peer-reviewed form.

According to the paper, 45 participants were split into three groups to test doses of 25 micrograms, 100 micrograms and 250 micrograms.

They were given a second dose of the same amount 28 days later.

After the first round, antibody levels were found to be higher with higher doses.

Following the second round, participants had higher levels of antibodies than most patients who have had COVID-19 and gone on to generate their own antibodies.

More than half the participants experienced mild or moderate side effects, which is considered normal.

The side effects included fatigue, chills, headache, body ache and pain at the injection site.

Three participants did not receive their second dose.

They included one who developed a skin rash on both legs, and two who missed their window because they had COVID-19 symptoms, but their tests later returned negative.

Amesh Adalja, an infectious diseases specialist at Johns Hopkins University, said it was encouraging that the participants developed high levels of an advanced class of antibodies.

He added, however: “You have to be very limited in how much you can extrapolate from a phase one clinical trial, because you want to see how this works when a person is exposed to the actual virus.”

The Moderna vaccine belongs to a new class of vaccine that uses genetic material — in the form of RNA — to encode the information needed to grow the virus’s spike protein inside the human body, in order to trigger an immune response.

The spike protein is a part of the virus that it uses to invade human cells, but by itself the protein is relatively harmless.

The advantage of this technology is that it bypasses the need to manufacture viral proteins in the lab, helping to ramp up mass production.

No vaccines based on this platform have previously received regulatory approval.

Early work using this technology backfired by making hosts more, not less, susceptible to infection, David Lo, a professor of biomedical sciences at University of California Riverside told AFP.

“One of the things we certainly want to look out for is whether there is a long term effect where the immune response… potentially develops an immunologic tolerance which would actually be detrimental to protection,” he said.

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Ray of hope for family of four

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BUKIDNON – Losing a home in a fire is one of the worst things that can happen to anyone, as now experienced by a family of four in Barangay 4, Talakag here.

Fortunately, there are people who are willing to extend a helping hand to ease the pain of losing almost all their property.

Recently, Senator Christopher “Bong” Go’s staff delivered essential aid on 18 September to the Cabaring family after their house was destroyed by a fire.

The family of four received cash aid to cover their basic needs, food and medicine packs, masks and face shields, and a bicycle.

The Department of Social Welfare and Development was present during the small event to provide the family with additional aid, including food packs and family and hygiene kits.

Marilo Cabaring was also awarded a Certificate of Entitlement for skills training by Technical Education and Skills Development Authority.

Various other agencies likewise offered emergency relief to the family, including the Department of Health, Department of Trade and Industry, and the National Housing Authority.

“It’s easy to forget about other issues affecting our communities because of the COVID-19 pandemic. But we should remember other people’s struggles and continue to do our best to respond and help everyone as quickly and efficiently as possible,” said Go in a statement.

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Cadets among 22 dead in ‘shock’ Ukraine military plane crash

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky described the crash as a “terrible tragedy” and said he would travel to the Kharkiv region on Saturday.

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Chuguiv, Ukraine — At least 22 people including military cadets were killed and two others were seriously injured on Friday when a Ukrainian air force plane crashed near Kharkiv in the east of the country, the interior ministry said.

Deputy Interior Minister Anton Gerashchenko confirmed the death toll to AFP, describing the incident as a “shock”, and saying that the cause of the crash was being investigated.

Footage of the crash released by officials on social media showed the smoldering remains of the Antonov-26 transport plane.

“Most of [the dead] were students” of the Kharkiv National Air Force University, the air force said in a statement.

There were 27 people on board, 20 cadets and seven crew, it added.

Twenty-two were confirmed dead, two are injured, and “the search for three more people continues”, the emergency services said.

The injured are in a “critical” condition, regional governor Oleksiy Kucher said on Facebook.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky described the crash as a “terrible tragedy” and said he would travel to the Kharkiv region on Saturday.

“We are urgently creating a commission to investigate all the circumstances and causes of the tragedy,” he wrote on Facebook.

The plane crashed at around 8:50 pm local time (17:50 GMT), two kilometers (1.2 miles) from the Chuhuiv military airbase, the emergency services said.

In photos released by the emergency services, firefighters in helmets and reflective clothing sprayed aircraft debris with jets of water.

The body of the plane burst into flames on landing and firefighters were able to extinguish the blaze after an hour.

The town of Chuhuiv is around 30 kilometers southeast of Kharkiv and 100 kilometers west of the front line where government forces are fighting pro-Russian separatists.

The presidency said that according to preliminary information the transport plane crashed during a training flight.

The EU’s top diplomat Josep Borrell sent his condolences on behalf of the bloc.

“My thoughts are with the families and friends of those who lost their lives,” he tweeted.

Several military planes have crashed in Ukraine during training flights in recent years.

A pilot was killed in December 2018 after his Su-27 fighter crashed during landing in the Zhytomyr region.

Two months earlier, the same model of fighter crashed in a neighboring region during the Clear Sky 2018 joint military exercises between Ukraine and NATO countries, killing the American and Ukrainian pilots on board.

In 2002, a Su-27 fell into the crowd at an airshow in Lviv in western Ukraine killing 77 people and injuring 165 others.

The Antonov-26 is a light transport aircraft designed in Ukraine during the Soviet era.

It is 24 meters long and has a wingspan of 29 meters and can fly at a cruising speed of 440 kilometers per hour.

In 2014, Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 was downed killing 298 people over an area of eastern Ukraine controlled by pro-Russian separatists.

Moscow has denied the findings of international investigators that a Russian BUK missile hit the Malaysian Airlines flight.

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US maintains plan for TikTok download ban

TikTok has argued that a ban, even if temporary, could cause irreparable harm to the video-sharing application.

Agence France-Presse

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Washington, United States — The Trump administration said Friday it would not back down from a plan to ban new US downloads of the popular video-sharing app TikTok, setting up a court showdown ahead of a Sunday deadline.

A Justice Department court filing said it opposes TikTok’s petition for an injunction to block the order from President Donald Trump, who has called the Chinese-owned social platform a national security risk.

US District Judge Carl Nichols set a hearing for Sunday at 9 am (1330 GMT) in Washington for TikTok’s request to block the president’s order before it goes into effect at 11:59 pm Sunday (0359 GMT Monday).

The government lawyers said they wanted to file a brief “under seal,” which would not be available as a public record, citing national security and confidential business information.

The court filing said TikTok had tentatively agreed to sealed briefs but would reserve the right to request that some documents be made public.

TikTok has argued that a ban, even if temporary, could cause irreparable harm to the video-sharing application, which has some 100 million US users.

Nichols, who sits on the bench in Washington, told a telephone hearing on Thursday he disagreed with government lawyers’ claims that the ban — which would not immediately prevent usage of TikTok but prevent downloads by new users and updates — “merely preserves the status quo.”

Analysts also pointed out that any ban could prevent users from downloading updates and security patches for TikTok.

Earlier this month, Trump cited national security concerns and issued orders to ban both TikTok and the popular Chinese app WeChat — which has been put on hold in a separate court case in California.

But the TikTok order stops short of a full ban until November 12, giving the Chinese parent firm ByteDance time to conclude a deal to transfer ownership of the app.

A tentative deal unveiled last weekend would make Silicon Valley giant Oracle the technology partner for TikTok and a stakeholder in a new entity to be known as TikTok Global.

The status of the deal, which would include investment from US retail giant Walmart, remained unclear as the parties awaited word on whether it would win approval in Beijing.

As part of its earlier court filing, a statement from TikTok interim head Vanessa Pappas said the proposed ban would be devastating for the social platform, which had been surging in much of the world.

A ban “will cause our user base to stagnate and then precipitously decline,” Pappas said.

She noted that until 1 July, when rumors of a ban first began to circulate, TikTok was adding some 424,000 new US users each day.

The TikTok petition also speculated that Trump was retaliating because of reports the app was used by his critics to snatch up tickets to a campaign rally in Tulsa to which they had no intention of going — an event which flopped with significantly fewer people in attendance than expected.

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Widow gets needed aid

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SARANGANI – After the death of her husband because of a fire incident at their home, Jeaneth Divinagracia received a ray of hope as she got emergency aid from Senator Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go’s staff on 11 September.

Divinagracia – who is still mourning the passing of her husband Berio Divinagracia – received cash assistance, food and medicine packs, masks, face shields, and a bicycle.

She was also given family kits, hygiene kits, and extra food packs by representatives from the Department of Social Welfare and Development.

They were joined by Department of Labor and Employment director RD Agravante as well as representatives from the Department of Trade and Industry, National Housing Authority and Technical Education and Skills Development Authority.

The Department of Health and Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation likewise pledged to extend additional assistance.

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Five drug suspects fall

Neil Alcober

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Operatives from the Marikina City Police early Saturday arrested five suspected drug pushers in a drug buy-bust operation in Barangay Marikina Heights in Marikina City.

The suspects – identified as John Michael Libao, Paul Erickson Libao, Rogelio Labrador, John Zel Bellen, and Benedict Corgado – were nabbed by the police following a sting operation at No. 208, Narra Street at 1 a.m.

Of the four suspects, John Libao was found out to be included in the unified drugs watchlist.

Seized from the suspects were ten sachets of suspected shabu weighing more or less 20 grams with an estimated street value of P136,000; a coin purse; one gun replica; one empty magazine of gun replica; and the P500 buy-bust money.

The suspects are facing charges related to Republic Act 9165 or the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002.

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Trump to name Amy Coney Barrett to US Supreme Court

The President said this week he will announce his pick to replace the late Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

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Washington, United States — President Donald Trump intends to name Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court, US media reported Friday, who if confirmed would cement a solid conservative majority on the high court.

The President said this week he will announce his pick to replace the late Ruth Bader Ginsburg on Saturday, and various media outlets said it would be the 48-year-old conservative judge.

Citing sources close to the process, various media outlets, including The New York Times and CNN, said Trump would nominate Barrett.

If she is confirmed, the court would shift to a 6-3 conservative majority.

Asked by journalists if Barrett will indeed be nominated, Trump responded: “I haven’t said that.”

But he added that he had already made a decision “in my own mind” and that Barrett is “outstanding.”

The media reports noted the mercurial Trump could still change his mind before the official announcement, expected at 5 p.m. (2100 GMT) Saturday.

Democratic opponents, led by presidential candidate Joe Biden, have demanded that Republicans back off on replacing liberal icon Ginsburg — who died last week — until after the 3 November election, after it’s determined whether Trump will get a second term.

Leaders of the Republican majority in the Senate, which is tasked with confirming Supreme Court nominees, said they have enough support to hold a vote on the nomination either before the election or at worst during the “lame duck” session between the election and the inauguration of the next president in January.

“We will certainly do that this year,” Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell said.

Barrett, a practicing Catholic and law professor, was only appointed to the bench for the first time in 2017. Deeply conservative, she is considered hostile to abortion rights — a key issue for many Republicans.

In 2018, the mother of seven was on the shortlist presented by Trump for a seat vacated by the retirement of Justice Anthony Kennedy, a position ultimately filled by Brett Kavanaugh after a ferocious confirmation battle.

Earlier Friday, Ginsburg became the first woman and first Jewish person to lie in state at the US Capitol, where the justice’s relatives, US lawmakers, and dignitaries including Biden paid their respects.

Ginsburg’s last wish reportedly relayed to her granddaughter, was for her seat to be decided by whoever wins the next election.

Trump cast doubt upon the veracity of that in an interview Monday, suggesting it could have been a ploy made up Democratic leaders.

Republican leaders have said that if the fate of a disputed election rests with the Supreme Court, they will need a full bench of judges to prevent a deadlock.

The Democrats have vowed to do everything in their power to prevent the confirmation of a new justice before the election, but with a 53-47 Republican majority in the Senate, there is little they can do to stop it.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said last week the Democrats “have arrows in our quiver that I’m not about to discuss right now,” prompting speculation that if the Democrats win big in Congress but lose the White House, they could try to impeach the president a second time or expand the number of judges on the Supreme Court to 15 from its current nine.

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Agusan Sur fire victim gets aid from Go’s team

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Fire victim Bobby Balderas received a bicycle and food pack from Bong Go's team.

AGUSAN DEL SUR — Senator Christopher “Bong” Go’s team visited on 18 September Bobby Balderas (in photo), a single father whose house was completely razed in a fire here last 12 September.

Balderas and his child received emergency assistance from the team which included cash aid, food and medicine packs, masks, face shields and a bicycle last 18 September.

Also in attendance during the event were representatives from the Department of Social Welfare and Development who provided added financial assistance, food packs and family and hygiene kits. The National Housing Authority was likewise present to offer their services and help the Balderas family rebuild their home.

Other national agencies committed to provide emergency assistance and services, such as the Department of Health, Department of Labor and Employment, Department of Trade and Industry, Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation, Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office, and Technical Education and Skills Development Authority.

“Palagi po naming uunahin ang kapakanan ng mga mahihirap at pinaka-nangangailangan, lalo na po ‘yung mga kababayan nating biktima ng sakuna at walang-wala po talaga. Tulungan natin silang magkaroon ng kabuhayan upang makaahon sa kahirapan,” the senator said.

p: wjg

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Go supports DepEd 2021 budget proposal

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Sen. Bong Go urged DepEd and other concerned authorities to exert more effort in improving further the digital educational system while face-to-face classes remain prohibited.

Senator and Senate Finance Committee vice chair Christopher “Bong” Go has expressed his support for the budget proposal of the Department of Education (DepEd) during the Senate Committee on Finance hearing held on Friday, 25 September.

In his manifestation, Go called on schools and other educational institutions to adhere to President Rodrigo Duterte’s directive to postpone face-to-face classes until a vaccine for COVID-19 becomes available in the country.

The senator stressed the importance of ensuring the health and safety of the students, teachers and wider community as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to plague the nation.

“Ang pera naman po ay kikitain ‘yan, pero ang perang kikitain ay hindi mabibili ang buhay na mawawala. Huwag nating pilitin kung hindi pa kaya. Mas lalong dadami ang mga magpopositibo na kaso kung hindi natin paghahandaan ng mabuti ang pagbabalik ng mga guro at mag-aaral sa eskwelahan,” he said.

(Money can be earned but it cannot buy lives that will be lost. Let us not force it if we can’t. There will be more positive cases if we don’t prepare well for the return of teachers and students in schools.)

Go, however, agreed that the education of the students can no longer be put on a standstill. He urged DepEd and other concerned authorities to exert more effort in improving further the digital educational system while face-to-face classes remain prohibited.

The Senator commended their efforts but urged their endeavors remain flexible and adaptable to the different needs and situations of their students. He reminded DepEd to ensure that schools are ready for the opening of classes on 5 October through blended learning techniques.

Furthermore, he commended DepEd for recognizing the pandemic’s mental toll on people, and for taking the necessary steps to address the needs and concerns of the students, their parents and the teaching and non-teaching personnel.

According to Go, psychological concerns must be taken into consideration when drafting programs and policies for the upcoming school year.

On that note, he asked teachers to focus on their goal to educate students and refrain from putting unnecessary pressure. He expressed empathy for the challenges students are facing, adding that he too is not immune from experiencing unreliable internet connection.

“Let us not pressure our children learners, if possible. Huwag po muna natin silang ibagsak dahil talagang ‘yung iba po ay pressured, minsan pumupunta po sa bundok makakuha lang po ng signal, lalung-lalo na po kapag hindi sila nakakasagot dahil walang signal. Kawawa naman po sila, napi-pressure po ‘yung bata, malaking epekto po iyon sa kanila. Ang importante po, walang masayang na taon. Ang importante po matuto sila,” said Go.

(Let’s not fail them because they are pressured moreso when they can’t answer because there is no signal. Sometimes, they climb a mountain to get signal. They are pitiable and that has a big effect on them. The important thing is there is no wasted year and they learn.)

He also lamented about poor internet connectivity, urging private internet providers to improve their services.

“Ako nga rin po… hirap din po sa paghanap ng signal para sa internet. Minsan kinakailangan pang lumabas ng bahay para gumanda or umayos ang koneksyon, ito po sana ang iniiwasan natin para sa ating mga kabataan na lumabas pa at doon po posibleng makakakuha sila ng sakit kapag sila ay lumabas na,” he said.

“Sa lahat po ng internet providers, kung gusto niyo talagang tumulong, ngayon na po. Ayusin niyo po ang inyong mga internet connectivity,” he appealed.

The senator expressed his support to provide DepEd and its attached agencies with enough resources to effectively and efficiently perform their functions during such a very uncertain and trying time.

“Magbayanihan po tayong lahat upang makapagbigay ng agaran at kalidad na serbisyo sa ating mga mag-aaral,” he said.

Earlier this year, Go asked government to bridge the gaps in the delivery of education without imposing unnecessary mental, emotional and financial stress on Filipino families. He specifically encouraged the Department of Information and Communications Technology and other relevant agencies to work together to fulfill the vision of providing universal internet access that is both stable and affordable for all Filipinos.

“Siguraduhin natin na may pantay-pantay na oportunidad ang mga bata na makapag-aral kahit saan mang parte ng bansa sila naroon at anumang estado nila sa buhay. Bigyan din natin ng konsiderasyon ang marami nating kababayan na walang pambili ng kagamitan, walang access sa internet at walang pambayad sa matrikula at iba pang gastusin dahil nawalan ng trabaho ang pamilya dulot ng epekto ng pandemya,” said Go.

He also called on DepEd and the private sector to work in partnership in order to make sure that all schools and families are adequately trained and equipped to use the new digital learning platforms.

“Importante rin masigurong handa ang mga teachers natin. Kailangan handa sila na gumamit ng mga makabagong paraan para masigurong hindi makompromiso ang matututunan ng mga bata.”

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MisOcc fire victims get aid from Bong Go

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Noel Abad Sintos received a bicycle and foodstuffs from Sen. Bong Go's team.

MISAMIS OCCIDENTAL — Senator Christopher “Bong” Go’s staff met with Noel Abad Sintos (in photo) and his family after their house was destroyed by a fire.

The Sintos family from the town of Panaon this province received emergency aid from the senator’s team, including cash assistance, food packs, a bicycle and medicine packs as well as masks and face shields to ensure their safety last September 16, Wednesday.

They were joined by representatives from the Department of Social Welfare and Development who brought additional food packs and family hygiene kits.

Other agencies were likewise present to offer various forms of emergency assistance, which included access to emergency employment services, livelihood support and temporary housing. These include aid from the Department of Health, Department of Labor and Employment, Department of Trade and Industry, National Housing Authority, Technical Education and Skills Development Authority, and local social welfare office.

“Let’s prioritize the interest, welfare and lives of the poor and those in need so they will have a chance to recover and live normal lives,” the Senator said.

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