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Why fetuses rarely get COVID-19

Agence France-Presse

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A STUDY shows the placenta produces very small amounts of the receptor that the coronavirus latches on to when it invades human cells. (Photo: Drug Target Review)

Fetuses are rarely infected with COVID-19 because the placenta produces very small amounts of the receptor that the coronavirus latches on to when it invades human cells, according to a study.

The placenta plays a role in stopping harmful substances from being passed down from a mother to her unborn child — but certain pathogens like the Zika virus are known to cross this barrier frequently.

The new study, which was led by Roberto Romero at the US National Institutes of Health, and published in the journal eLife on Tuesday, sequenced genetic material taken from placental membranes that contain the fetus and amniotic fluid.

The researchers found it lacked the instructions required to manufacture a protein called angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 or, ACE2, which is found throughout the body in adults.

The SARS-CoV-2 virus is thought to enter the human body through its airways, then attack organs with high levels of ACE2 receptors, including but not limited to the lungs, blood vessels, kidneys and digestive system.

The placenta’s genetic material also lacked the instructions to make an enzyme, called TMPRSS2, that SARS-CoV-2 uses to enter a cell.

“The molecules that are required to make the cells susceptible to SARS-CoV-2 infection are rarely expressed in the placenta,” Romero told AFP.

To cross-check their methodology, the team then examined whether the genetic instructions used to create the cell receptors attacked by the Zika virus and cytomegalovirus were present, and found these were abundantly expressed.

“This is a way to be sure that the experiments we are doing are meaningful,” added Romero.

So-called “vertical transmission” of the coronavirus from a pregnant mother to her fetus has been the subject of intense interest since the start of the pandemic.

On Tuesday, doctors in France said they had confirmed a case where this occurred in a baby boy born in March with brain swelling and neurological symptoms from which he later recovered.

But the overall prevalence of such transmission is thought to be extremely rare — on the order of two percent or less.

Romero’s team wrote in their paper that SARS-CoV-2 might infect fetuses by interacting with other proteins, not the ones they looked for — but further research was needed.

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Complaint vs Pimentel up for resolution

Alvin Murcia

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The Department of Justice has submitted for resolution the breach of protocol complaint filed against Senator Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel lll.

“Yung kay Sen. Pimentel submitted for resolution as of yesterday (Wednesday). I’m submitting it to OPG [Office of Prosecutor General Benedicto Malcontento] but I don’t know if he can sign it, he is out today,” Senior Deputy State Prosecutor Richard Anthony Fadullon said Thursday.

Fadullon added that he is still awaiting the report of Assistant State Prosecutor Wendell Bendoval about the matter but he has already told him to resolve the matter as soon as possible.

DOJ reopened the investigation on the breach of quarantine protocol filed against Pimentel after receiving a report from the hospital the lawmaker visited in March while awaiting his COVID-19 test result.

The reopening of the criminal investigation was done after the National Bureau of Investigation received a copy of the incident report from Makati Medical Center Medical Director Dr. Saturnino Javier.

“In view of the foregoing and in line with the policy of admitting all evidence that could assist in the judicious resolution of complaint, the preliminary investigation of this case is hereby reopened,” Assistant State Prosecutor Bendoval wrote.

Pimentel visited the hospital in March to accompany his pregnant wife even though he was already showing symptoms of COVID-19. He later tested positive for the highly-contagious virus, drawing outrage from the public for endangering patients and hospital personnel during his visit.

The senator was castigated by the hospital management for violating home quarantine rules, calling his action “reckless and unacceptable.”

Pimentel and the complainant, former dean of the University of Makati Rico Quicho, were then asked to submit their replies on MMC’s report by 21 September.

Legal experts previously said the senator may be fined up to ₱50,000 or face a jail term of one to six months for failing to disclose that he was suspected of having COVID-19 at the time.

For violating the enhanced community quarantine, he can be fined between ₱10,000 and ₱50,000 or jailed for up to a year.

Pimentel earlier apologized for accompanying his wife to the hospital, but said the trip was “essential” as she was about to give birth. He also said he only learned about his positive COVID-19 test when he was already in the hospital.

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PCCI urges IATF to allow more jeepneys to operate

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THE Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industries (PCCI), tapped by the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) to be its consultant with regards to COVID 19 pandemic response, has suggested opening more routes for jeepneys to aide more employees that are going to their workplaces during this general community quarantine (GCQ).

In a virtual media conference for the launch of the 46th Philippine Business Conference and Expo, slated to happen on 7-8 October this year, PCCI President, Ambassador Benedicto V. Yujuico urged the IATF to allow more jeeps to operate and open more routes to drivers and operators.

“The IATF should allow jeepneys to ply routes from secondary roads so our people can be brought to the main arteries like EDSA so that they can take buses. That will also help the jeepney drivers who, for more than 6 months without income,” according to Yujuico.

Yujuico added that besides jeepneys, their group is also asking the IATF to consider increasing the percentage capacity of buses to allow more workers to report to their respective workplaces.

A total number of 64,512 public utility jeepneys (PUJs) plying Metro routes are allowed to operate by the IATF as of June, with 50 percent passenger capacity, to augment for the gradual reopening of the economy amid COVID 19 pandemic.

“The IATF should consider the business aspect and the economic recovery and part of the economic recovery is we must allow employees to report to their workplaces for businesses to make money, otherwise they are going to close down. Baka pwede in accordance with what they think what’s right,” according to Yujuico.

He said the PCCI was allowed by the IATF to be observers of what the IATF is doing, and perhaps “little backdoor channeling in terms of some of their suggestions.”

Last August, the PCCI in a resolution, asked the IATF to include private sectors to its pandemic related decisions, as they will be able to use their on-the-ground experience to come up with a holistic approach that will make businesses easier to resume operation and for workers to return to work.

Yujuico maintained that they hope the government would recognize the vital role of businesses in creating jobs and providing income, as well as the need to address the issue of livelihood and poverty to avoid social unrest.

Subsequently, Malacañang had welcomed the group’s inclusion as resource persons and their inclusion, but only on matters related to trade, business, the economy, and policy discussions with regards to the country’s coronavirus response.

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Liza Soberano files charges over ‘rape joke’, and she is not laughing

Sundy Locus

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Actress Liza Soberano on Thursday filed criminal charges against a netizen who made a rape remark on her on social media.

According to reports, Soberano arrived at the Quezon City regional trial court together with her manager Ogie Diaz and legal counsel, lawyer Jun Lim to lodge a formal complaint.

The 22-year-old actress said she decided to push through with the charges to let “people learn the consequences of speaking like that on social media” as she stressed that rape jokes should not be taken lightly.

“I was really upset because the fact that it’s a rape joke it’s not something that should be taken lightly, and the fact that she’s a woman, I would never in a million years do a joke like that,” she said.

“I know that everybody is entitled to their own opinion, that is true, but at some point, you have to be respectful to others online. I want people to learn that there are consequences to everything like rape jokes coz that is not a light matter,” she added.

The issue started when the young actress tweeted a complaint regarding the slow Internet speed at her house earlier this month, and how fast another service provider responded to help her — a privilege not accorded to the common folk.

Soberano’s posts gained thousands of reactions including the comment of the netizen that posted “wala tayong magagawa, wala ng trabaho, kaya di bale ng masira ang image, magkapera lang. sarap ipa-rape sa mga…. ewan!”

The employer of the netizen who allegedly posted the comment on 21 September said that the company does not tolerate such actions and that they are dealing with the matter and will carry out proper disciplinary measures against its employee.

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3 soldiers hurt in Maguindanao blast

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Three soldiers were injured when an anti-personnel mine exploded in Ampatuan, Maguindanao, this morning, the military said.

Troops of the Army’s 57th Infantry Battalion were conducting combat clearing operations in Brgy. Salman when they were hit by the blast, said Lt. Col. Alaric delos Santos, Armed Forces Western Mindanao Command spokesman.

Medics immediately responded to the area and applied first aid to the wounded, then brought them to the Camp Siongco Station Hospital, he said.

Maj. Gen. Juvymax Uy, Joint Task Force-Central commander, said additional troops have been deployed to cordon the area and investigate.

The explosion occurred barely a week after a roadside bombing left a Marine trooper dead and four others wounded in Shariff Aguak town on 18 Sept.

The Marines had then just come from an operation against the ISIS-inspired Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters in Brgy. Salman, according to police.

“Inflicting harm to our troops is the desperate device of the weakened terrorist groups to attract attention and harbor support,” said Lt. Gen. Corleto Vinluan Jr., Wesmincom chief.

“We will heighten our security operations and stay on guard against emerging threats,” he added.

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Mountain Province is COVID-free

Aldwin Quitasol

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BAGUIO CITY- Mountain Province has no recorded cases of coronavirus disease (Covid-19) since 14 September 2020.

According to Provincial Department of Health Office (PDOHO) head Judith Dao-as, the last recorded case was on 13 September.  The patient was an overseas Filipino worker (OFW) repatriate.

She said that Mountain Province has a total record of 16 confirmed cases with no deaths, and all of them had recovered based on their latest Covid test results.

“We are again COVID-free,” announced the provincial government of Mountain Province. The province has ten municipalities. The Provincial Health Office listed 301 suspect cases but all of them tested negative.

But Dao-as said the province is still strictly monitoring the arrivals of locally stranded individuals (LSIs) coming from other places. She said the different municipal government units are making sure that the LSIs are confined in quarantine areas and must complete the required quarantine days.

Despite this development, the province remains closed to tourists.

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TikTok urges court to block Trump’s ban on app in US

Agence France-Presse

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(AFP)

TikTok is urging a federal court to block US President Donald Trump from banning the video app, arguing the move is motivated by election politics rather than legitimate national security concerns.

The Chinese-owned app — which is wildly popular in the US — has come under fire as tensions escalate between Beijing and Washington, with Trump threatening a ban if it is not sold to an American company.

Attorneys are set to argue the case on Thursday before a judge who will decide whether to put Trump’s order on hold until a lawsuit over the ban is resolved.

Citing “confusing and contradictory statements about TikTok” by the president and other agencies, the motion for a preliminary injunction argues a ban is not motivated by “genuine national security concern, but rather by political considerations relating to the upcoming general election.”

TikTok, which became a global phenomenon with its brand of short, addictive phone videos, has some 100 million US users.

A deal to restructure ownership of the app was thrown into doubt Monday when Trump vowed to block a deal that allows its Chinese parent firm ByteDance to retain any control.

The comments cast doubt over an agreement that had appeared to cut a way through the threatened ban.

The deal would make Silicon Valley giant Oracle the data partner for TikTok, with retail giant Walmart also taking a minority stake in a new entity to be called TikTok Global.

As competing statements deepened the mystery over the app’s future, ByteDance earlier said TikTok Global plans to launch a “small round of pre-IPO financing” after which it would become an 80 percent-owned subsidiary of ByteDance.

But Trump told Fox News om Monday that TikTok’s Chinese parent firm “will have nothing to do with it.”

Oracle and Walmart “are going to own the controlling interest,” he added. “Everything is going to be moved into a cloud done by Oracle… and it’s going to be controlled — totally controlled by Oracle.”

ByteDance said Thursday that it had applied for an export license with the commerce ministry, although it did not link the move to TikTok or any potential sale.

China’s commerce ministry published new rules in August that added “civilian use” to a list of technologies that are restricted for export and require permission, which could complicate any sale.

Winning a temporary injunction typically involves convincing a judge that not intervening would allow irreparable harm to be done to a party likely to win the case.

TikTok would suffer “devastating harm” from which it could not recover if Trump’s ban is found to be unlawful, the motion argued.

As US relations with China grew more contentious, Trump began targeting TikTok, the filing read.

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

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North Korea shot dead South Korean defector: officials

Agence France-Presse

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North Korean soldiers shot dead a suspected South Korean defector after interrogating him at sea, then poured oil over his body and burned it over coronavirus fears, Seoul military officials said Thursday.

The man had disappeared off a patrol vessel near the western border island of Yeonpyeong, the South Korean defence ministry said in a statement.

He was wearing a lifejacket, a military official told AFP, adding that “circumstances tell us that there was an intent to defect”, without providing evidence.

According to the South’s Yonhap news agency, the man was located by North Korean forces and questioned from a boat by an official wearing protective equipment.

“He was shot dead in the water,” the military official told AFP. “North Korean soldiers poured oil over his body and burnt it in the water.”

The burning appears to have been intended as a precaution against the coronavirus, in response to which Pyongyang has closed its borders and declared an emergency.

“We assess it was carried out under the North’s anti-coronavirus measure,” the military official told AFP.

The killing took place after an “order from superior authority”, Yonhap cited South Korean officials as saying.

Seoul’s defence ministry condemned the shooting as an “outrageous act”.

“We sternly warn North Korea that all responsibilities for this incident lie with it,” it said.

In July, a North Korean defector who had fled to the South three years ago sneaked back over the heavily fortified border into the impoverished nation.

His crossing prompted North Korean officials to put the border city of Kaesong under lockdown amid fears that he may have carried the coronavirus.

US Forces Korea commander Robert Abrams said earlier this month that North Korean authorities had issued shoot-to-kill orders to prevent the coronavirus entering the country from China, creating a “buffer zone” at the border.

The isolated North — whose crumbling health system would struggle to cope with a major virus outbreak — has not confirmed a single case of the disease that has swept the world since first emerging in China, the North’s key ally.

Pyongyang closed its border with China in January to try to prevent contamination, and in July state media said it had raised its state of emergency to the maximum level.

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Gabby Lopez resigns from ABS-CBN

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GABBY Lopez considers broadcasting a calling. Photograph courtesy of ABS-CBN

The board of directors of ABS-CBN Corporation today accepted the resignation of Eugenio “Gabby” Lopez III as chairman emeritus and director for personal reasons.

Lopez also resigned as director of ABS-CBN Holdings Corporation, Sky Vision Corporation, Sky Cable Corporation, First Philippine Holdings Corporation, First Gen Corporation, and Rockwell Land Corporation effective immediately.

In a media statement, the company said Lopez expressed his appreciation for the trust of the stockholders, as well as to his co-directors and senior management for the privilege of having served with them over the years.

Mario Luza Bautista, the company’s general counsel since 2011, will take the place of Lopez as a director in the corporation, the statement said. He is a founding partner of the Poblador Bautista and Reyes Law Office.

“Just like his father, Eugenio ‘Kapitan Geny’ Lopez Jr., Gabby is a visionary and a compassionate leader driven by his love for the Philippines and the Filipino people,” ABS-CBN said. “He would always tell the men and women of ABS-CBN that being a part of the network is not a job, but a calling.”

“We respect his decision, offer him our full support, and express our sincerest gratitude for the tradition of innovation, nationalism, and public service that he cultivated in the minds and hearts of all Kapamilyas, past and present,” the company added.

Following the non-renewal of its TV and radio franchise, ABS-CBN  laid off many of its employees. Lopez’s citizenship also became a focal issue during the franchise hearings.

p/jd

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Former ‘world’s heaviest man’ defeats coronavirus

Agence France-Presse

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A Mexican who was once the world’s heaviest man has beaten the coronavirus, helped — he believes — by several years of dieting, exercise and stomach-reduction surgery that saw him shed hundreds of kilos.

Juan Pedro Franco used to weigh 595 kilos (1,310 pounds) — more than the average male polar bear and enough to be certified by Guinness World Records in 2017.

The 36-year-old now weighs around 208 kilos, but his history of diabetes, high blood pressure and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease made his battle against the virus particularly grueling.

“It’s a very aggressive disease. I had a headache, body ache, breathing difficulty, a fever. I was a very high-risk person,” Franco told AFP from his home in the central state of Aguascalientes.

Mexico, which has the world’s fourth-highest Covid-19 death toll, has the highest obesity rate on the planet among children and the second-highest among adults.

A quarter of the more than 74,000 Mexicans who have died after catching the virus were overweight.

Many of the dead suffered from at least one underlying condition such as hypertension, diabetes and obesity, often associated with a poor diet and lack of exercise.

“Patients who are diabetic, have hypertension and heart disease are more susceptible to serious complications” from the virus, said Jose Antonio Castaneda, the doctor who headed the team that treated Franco’s obesity.

“Their chances of pulling through are very slim,” he added.

His patient, who was once too heavy to get out of bed, was an exception.

Franco, who lost his 66-year-old mother to Covid-19, believes that his weight loss treatment — including three operations — helped him to survive because his diabetes and hypertension are now under control.

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