The heaviest rains in mor than a century have sparked floods across Bosnia and Serbia, claiming at least 30 lives and leading to the evacuation so far of more than 16,000 from flooded villages, officials said. "More than 20 corpses have so far been…
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A mutant strain of the novel coronavirus discovered in South Africa appears to be able to ward off antibodies from individuals who had previously recovered from COVID-19 — meaning if the new strain becomes widespread, we may see more people getting infected multiple times.
<p>A group of South African scientists made this discovery in a <a href="https://www.biorxiv.org/content/10.1101/2021.01.18.427166v1.full.pdf" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">paper</a> published earlier this week by South Africa's National Institute for Communicable Diseases. In it, researchers describe how they studied blood samples from a small group of people who had developed COVID-19 but ultimately recovered. When the human body recovers from a disease, it produces a protein known as an antibody to identify and ultimately protect itself in the future from the bacteria or virus which caused it to become ill. (These illness-causing microorganisms are known as pathogens.) This means that people who were sick with COVID-19 should in theory have antibodies that recognize the pathogen which causes it and neutralize it in the event that they are reinfected.</p><p>Instead, according to the authors of the paper, half of the blood samples of the patients they tested did not have the antibodies necessary to protect them from the <a href="https://www.salon.com/2021/01/10/multiple-coronavirus-strains-are-now-circulating-heres-what-that-means/" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">501Y.V2 strain</a> of the novel coronavirus, which was identified in South Africa last month. While it was a small study and more research will need to be done, the initial results are not auspicious.</p><p>Not only could this interfere with the human population's ability to develop natural immunity, it could also hamper the efficacy of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines. Both companies are distributing <a href="https://www.salon.com/2020/12/05/mrna-history-vaccines-coronavirus-moderna-immunology-lipid-nanoparticles/" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">mRNA vaccines</a>, which are different from traditional vaccines that train the immune system to develop antibodies against pathogens by injecting weakened or dead versions of the disease-causing agents into the body. mRNA vaccines, by contrast, inject a synthetic single-stranded molecule of RNA that infects our own cells and makes them produce the protein that grows on the "spike" on the exterior of the coronavirus. The presence of this protein in the body is then recognized as an intruder, and the immune system learns to identify the coronavirus as an enemy and protect against it.</p><p>In the case of the COVID-19 vaccines, both of them train the body to recognize a protein on the SARS-CoV-2 virus known as Spike. Spike is the protein that helps the virus enter human cells and resembles little pins that stick out from the sphere of the virus itself, like the spines that poke out all around a sea urchin. Unfortunately, the <a href="https://www.salon.com/2021/01/10/multiple-coronavirus-strains-are-now-circulating-heres-what-that-means/" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">South African mutation</a> alters that very protein, meaning that it could affect the vaccine's efficacy.</p><p>The South African strain is not the only one raising concern. There is a <a href="https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2021-01-20/south-african-study-into-new-virus-strain-raises-vaccine-fears" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">new strain in Brazil</a> that the scientists argue "also has changes at key positions" in ways that could impair antibodies' effectiveness against the disease. Then there is a strain in the United Kingdom known as B117 that, though not deadlier than previous strains, is more transmissible.</p><p>"I think transmissible is definitely the word to go with because that highlights what we do know and what we don't know," Dr. Dylan Morris, a postdoctoral research scholar at UCLA, told Salon earlier this month about the British strain. "Even if the disease severity isn't increased or even if it decreases by a small amount, 'more transmissible' is still a very scary thing at this point in the pandemic, because that could result in faster spread and faster exponential growth."</p>
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The face is obscure and grim, but the blonde comb-over and tie leave no doubt that the image carpeting the studio of Israeli painter Iddo Markus is that of Donald Trump.
"Let's start by saying that I don't like him," the voluble artist stressed.
<p>Markus, with his short beard and piercing black eyes, said he was nonetheless fascinated by the now "tragic figure".</p><p>The walls and floor of his studio in the northern port city of Haifa are packed with portraits of the former American president.</p><p>When the billionaire presented his candidacy for the 2016 presidential election, the Israeli artist said he "couldn't believe it".</p><p>Then, when Trump was eventually elected, he said he was terrified, even "repulsed" by the Republican's "way of treating people and minorities".</p><p>But he could not tear his eyes from the man with the "orange face and yellow hair", whose image and laconic prose inundated television networks and social media for more than four years.</p><p>His first painting of Trump, done hastily, was followed by around 120 more oil-colour works on canvas and wood.</p><p>They depict a man with a distorted face, but whose silhouette is immediately recognisable.</p><p>- 'Tragic' muse -</p><p>"The first paintings were much more colourful and faster," said Markus, who went to art school in both his native US and current home Israel.</p><p>But he said the figure took on a more "pathetic" air after Trump's supporters ransacked the US Capitol earlier this month, and after his electoral defeat to Democrat Joe Biden.</p><p>"Now I feel he's like a tragic figure," Markus said. "He became a complex person, instead of an image, instead of an icon."</p><p>"The way he holds himself was different after he lost," he added, saying this conveyed "that he is a human being and he understands something has changed".</p><p>"Before that, I really felt he thought he was god."</p><p>Markus has dubbed the portrait series "The Apprentice", after the reality TV show that contributed to Trump's popularity.</p><p>He said one of the works had been acquired by an American who wanted a reminder of "how low" US politics could go.</p><p>In his cluttered studio, the walls covered with sketches, cut-out photos and smears of paint, Markus readily admitted his fixation wasn't unique to Trump.</p><p>"I'm obsessed with everything I do," he said.</p><p>Repetition is a part of his practice -- for one series, he created around 1,000 works based on a childhood picture of his wife, painting them on small wooden squares or even huge canvases over a period of five years.</p><p>"I'm not a person who needs a drama to paint," Markus said. "I don't need war, love... I need a journey."</p><p>And painting Trump "was an interesting journey".</p><p>© 2021 AFP</p>
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January 23, 2021
Former President Donald Trump has long dreamed of having his name attached to one of the United States' most prominent international airports. His suggestion: Trump International.
However, Palm Beach County has confirmed that the former president's dream will not be coming to fruition at its airport.
<p>According to the Sun-Sentinel, the idea of renaming the airport in honor of Trump was recently touted by Christian Ziegler, who serves as a Sarasota County commissioner and the vice-chairman of the Florida Republican Party. However, County Commissioner Melissa McKinlay has made it clear that she does not support the idea. </p><p>During a brief discussion with the publication, McKinlay explained why she, along with five other county commissioners, are not in agreement with the prospect of the airport being renamed after the twice-impeached, one-term president.</p><p>"When people hear [Palm Beach], they envision our beaches, our equestrian sports, and in some cases our agricultural contributions," McKinlay said. "It is a lifestyle." </p><p>McKinlay also noted that she believes the name Trump International is a name "better-suited for his golf courses, not our airport" as she suggested that Ziegler "stick to renaming his own county facilities, not ours."</p><p> The publication notes that Palm Beach County's swift rejection of the idea could be a foreboding of the difficulties Trump could face attempting to have his name displayed on buildings, schools, street signs, and highways in the Southern region of Florida, which is predominantly Democratic-leaning. </p><p>While many past presidents have had the honor of their names being attached to buildings, airports, schools, and roads, Robert Watson, a presidential historian and Lynn University professor, explained why Trump will likely face difficulties in his pursuit to be remembered in the same light as his predecessors. According to Watson, Trump's heightened attachment to controversy may be a major obstacle for this type of aspiration.</p><p>"I imagine in a couple of years when there's talk about renaming [things] for him — Trump could be the outlier, the anomaly, "Watson said. "He was so controversial. He generates such controversy that it's hard to imagine anyone wanting to touch it."</p>
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