Meanwhile, Mr. Biden’s advisers and allies were giving serious thought to the transition period, for which they have been planning for months.- Advertisement – But in Wilmington on Saturday, the news of the victory was still sinking in. Mr. Biden’s campaign manager, Jennifer O’Malley Dillon, said she had been on a run and her mother had called to inform her that CNN had called the race for her candidate. “Ecstatic — a great day for this county,” she said, according to a pool report. WILMINGTON, Del. — President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. will address the nation at 8 p.m. Eastern on Saturday, his campaign said, after days of anticipation and anxiety among his supporters about the outcome of the election.Mr. Biden was expected to speak from a flag-bedecked outdoor stage near the Chase Center on the Riverfront, an event facility in Wilmington. He will be joined by his wife, Jill Biden, as well as the vice president-elect, Senator Kamala Harris, and her husband, Douglas Emhoff.- Advertisement – “It’s wonderful,” Valerie Biden Owens, Mr. Biden’s sister, told a small group of reporters at the Westin hotel in Wilmington a few minutes before CNN called the race. “It’s a wonderful thing for us, but it’s a better thing for America.”Mr. Biden’s younger brother James Biden was also on hand at the Westin, where a coterie of Biden aides have been camped out in recent days, and he said he had spoken with the president-elect.“We’re just overjoyed — overjoyed and grateful,” he said. “He’s doing well.” In a written statement on Saturday, Mr. Biden called for the nation to come together, a sentiment he is likely to express in his remarks on Saturday night as well. “It’s time for America to unite,” he said. “And to heal.”On Saturday, Mr. Biden spoke with former President Barack Obama, who congratulated him, as well as with the top Democrats in Congress, Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senator Chuck Schumer of New York. At one point, Mr. Schumer held up his flip phone so Mr. Biden could hear people cheering for him in Brooklyn. “He will show respect to the 68 or so million Americans who voted for his opponent by how he conducts himself in the transition, by how he speaks to the country as president-elect if that’s what happens and in his inauguration,” Senator Chris Coons of Delaware said on Friday. “He will promptly begin reaching out to leaders of both parties to help figure out what’s possible and what’s the right path forward.”And a number of officials who expected to be involved in the transition said they thought Mr. Biden’s team would devote particular focus to grappling with health care challenges, including how they will deal with the coronavirus crisis.“There’s no question that Covid has been a massively important part of everything that’s gone on with health care over the last several months,” said former Gov. Jack Markell of Delaware, who also said he intended to be involved in the health care transition. “The huge focus on Covid would continue.”- Advertisement – – Advertisement –
In her remarks Saturday night, Vice President-elect Kamala Harris acknowledged “all the women who have worked to secure and protect the right to vote” and said: “And I stand on their shoulders.”- Advertisement –
People walk by the New York Stock Exchange.Spencer Platt | Getty Images “The ‘stay at home’ trade, which has led the market higher for most of this year, may be falling out of favor,” said Lindsey Bell, chief investment strategist at Ally Invest. “There’s still a good long-term case for tech, but it may not outpace the rest of the market like it has since March.”Pfizer’s big vaccine news came as the U.S. topped 10 million cases of Covid-19, a bleak milestone just 10 days after reaching the 9 million mark amid a record surge in daily infections. Many on Wall Street believe a viable vaccine would be crucial for the economy on its road to a full recovery.Subscribe to CNBC PRO for exclusive insights and analysis, and live business day programming from around the world. U.S. pharmaceutical giant Pfizer and German biotech firm BioNTech announced Monday their coronavirus vaccine was more than 90% effective in preventing Covid-19. The news sent travel stocks soaring as the’ recovery of these companies depends on a successful economic reopening. American Airlines, Delta and United all jumped more than 15%, while Carnival, Norwegian and Royal Caribbean surged more than 25% each.“The strong results from the Pfizer vaccine were better than most expected and means we could be opening back up sooner than expected,” said Ryan Detrick, chief market strategist at LPL Financial, “Coupled with an economy that continues to surprise to the upside and the stock market is now pricing in the prospects of a much better economy in ’21.”While cyclical stocks led the market advance on Monday, the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite fell 1.5% as investors dumped some of the popular stay-at-home plays such as Zoom Video and Netflix. The Nasdaq finished Monday’s session near its session low.- Advertisement – Stock futures fell slightly in overnight trading on Monday following a record-setting rally sparked by promising news on a coronavirus vaccine.Futures on the Dow Jones Industrial Average dipped 100 points. S&P 500 futures fell 0.3% and Nasdaq 100 futures traded 0.2% lower.The overnight action came after a strong rally on Wall Street that saw the Dow and the S&P 500 hit new intraday record highs. The 30-stock average rallied more than 800 points, posting its biggest one-day gain since June 5. It surged more than 1,600 points at one point before the weakness in the tech sector put pressure on the broader market. The S&P 500 gained 1.2%.- Advertisement – – Advertisement – – Advertisement –
The scheme, in partnership with climate-focused technology company, Chooose, provides passengers with the option to offset their journey by supporting trusted, high impact climate projects around the world.To account for their carbon emissions, passengers simply make a payment supporting a verified carbon offset and receive a certificate in return, recognising the emissions they have offset. Wizz Air is initially supporting two verified carbon-reducing projects; the International Small Group and Tree Planting Program in Uganda, an award-winning and longstanding reforestation project, and the Pichacay Landfill Gas to Renewable Energy Project in Ecuador, which recovers and repurposes landfill methane to produce clean electricity. – Advertisement – “Together with our modern aircraft fleet, variety of fuel saving initiatives, maximisation of passenger load factor, a network design which avoids unnecessary connecting flights and the lightest materials used in the cabin, we are ensuring that Wizz Air is the best and greenest choice passengers can make when they fly.” Wizz Air has launched a carbon offsetting scheme as part of its wider commitment to reducing emissions.The system enables passengers to calculate the environmental impact of a flight and offset the carbon emissions thereof. – Advertisement – Both projects are certified by the Verified Carbon Standard to measurable reduce emissions.Marion Geoffroy, chief corporate officer at Wizz Air, said: “We strive to be the greenest airline of choice as we work hard on continuously decreasing our environmental footprint. “Through a wide range of sustainability initiatives, we are proud to already have one of the lowest emission rates in the European aviation industry and are delighted to be working with Chooose to provide carbon offsetting to our passengers. – Advertisement – OlderTUI cancels trips to see Santa in Lapland – Advertisement –
– Advertisement – This appals the Saudis. In Riyadh last autumn, shortly after the mysterious missile attacks on Saudi Arabia’s petrochemical plants, I attended a press conference by the kingdom’s Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Adel al-Jubeir, who lambasted the Iran nuclear deal.
Two locations in California are among those hit hardest by the virus in the U.S. Los Angeles County, with a population of 10 million people, has seen more known cases than any other county. At Avenal State Prison in the San Joaquin Valley, more than 85 percent of inmates had tested positive as of Wednesday. [The New York Times] Like thousands of others, my husband and I canceled our plans to visit a neighboring state for Thanksgiving. It was an easy decision to make, given the nationwide surge in cases, but hard to break the news to relatives, especially those who were eager to see their only grandchild for the first time in months.And although not yet experiencing a second wave, California on Thursday reached the grim milestone of one million cases, according to The New York Times’s database. Health officials also announced this week that 11 counties moved back into a more restrictive tier of the state’s reopening system.“If things stay the way we are between this week and next week over half of Californian counties will have moved into a more restrictive tier,” said Dr. Mark Ghaly, the state’s health secretary, in his briefing on Tuesday. [Read our recommendations for traveling during the pandemic.]And even if you are staying local for the holidays, health officials say you are still at risk for transmission. Arrange for testing ahead of leaving on trips. California is the second state, after Texas, to reach one million coronavirus cases. If California were a country it would have slightly fewer cases per person than France or Brazil but nearly three times the levels of Germany. [The New York Times] Even so, there are currently no travel restrictions in place for people entering California from another state. A few states require visitors from California to self-quarantine on arrival.Still, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advise that people travel as little as possible at this time. If you must travel, it’s best to check the infection rates in the state you are traveling to and what the restrictions are for each state.[See where cases are currently surging in the U.S.]- Advertisement – Wear a mask, wipe down high-touch surfaces and practice social distancing as much as possible. Good morning.As the holiday season approaches, many people are anticipating gatherings that look markedly different from last year.- Advertisement – – Advertisement – If you’re traveling within the state, Bay Area health officials are recommending 14-day quarantines after traveling outside the county, something that Dr. Ghaly advises as well.In August, I talked to Dr. Jeanne A. Noble, an emergency medicine doctor and the director of the Covid-19 response at U.C.S.F. Medical Center’s emergency department, about how people can stay safe while traveling this year.Among her recommendations were: California Today goes live at 6:30 a.m. Pacific time weekdays. Tell us what you want to see: [email protected] Were you forwarded this email? Sign up for California Today here and read every edition online here.California Today is edited by Julie Bloom, who grew up in Los Angeles and graduated from U.C. Berkeley. Bounchan Keola helped fight the Zogg Fire and was nearly killed by a falling tree. Because he was incarcerated, Mr. Keola is now facing deportation to Laos, a country he left when he was 4. [The Guardian] Several public health officials in Sacramento are calling for the resignation of Navdeep Gill, the county executive, accusing him of creating a culture where sexism, racism and intimidation tactics were used to silence dissent and undermine the health department’s work. [The Sacramento Bee] California’s increase in case rates is most likely linked to higher risk activities like indoor dining and private household gatherings in some counties. My colleague Tara Parker-Pope reported that health officials believe small home gatherings are fueling the spread of the coronavirus in part because most homes, by design, are poorly ventilated. Mandatory requirements for private gatherings dictate that they should be limited to no more than three households, should not last longer than two hours and should be held outdoors.While not calling out Thanksgiving dinner by name, Dr. Ghaly said on Tuesday that settings where people from different households congregate indoors sharing long meals together is a “really high risk activity.”“We do advise as much as possible that people reduce those types of activities as much as possible to manage our risk,” he said. “Keep it outside. Keep it short. Keep it social-distanced.”(This article is part of the California Today newsletter. Sign up to get it delivered to your inbox.)Here’s what else to know today California is trying to jump-start the hydrogen economy, having spent about $230 million on hydrogen projects by the end of 2023. The state now has roughly 40 fueling stations, with dozens more under construction. [The New York Times] One Bay Area journalist traveled across the country by plane last month and let experts weigh in on what she did wrong. [San Francisco Chronicle] One of L.A.’s most important art exhibitions, the “Made in L.A.” biennial, is stuck in limbo. Works by 30 emerging local artists sit in empty galleries, awaiting an opening date for indoor museums. [Los Angeles Times] Mayor-elect Jerry Dyer of Fresno has tested positive for the coronavirus after an election night dinner with County Supervisor Steve Brandau, who tested positive late last week. [The Fresno Bee] Tips for a scaled-back Thanksgiving include open windows, fewer people and a big serving of precautions. [The New York Times] Quarantine if you cannot get tested. – Advertisement –
“At this point I for one am completely open-minded as to whether or not the FBI data are sufficient to provide a convincing scientific argument that he [Ivins] was the source,” he said. But he added that he has seen people becoming polarized on the issue, despite the incompleteness of the available information. “I think the next step will be a critical one for the FBI, and that is finding a proper venue for a comprehensive scientific review of the information,” Osterholm said. “I would suggest, for example, that the Institute of Medicine or a special advisory committee to the attorney general, made up of scientists who have expertise in these areas and who have no obvious conflicts of interest. That’s the process I hope happens soon.” Ivins had worked at the US Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID) for many years, doing research that included work on anthrax vaccines. Early in the investigation, he analyzed some samples of anthrax from the 2001 attacks, according to media reports. Hugh-Jones summed up the issue this way: “We are getting all sorts of stories now on the nature of the letter product, from claims that it was naked to a highly sophisticated coating and additives. It is said that it took some 18 months to not be able to replicate it at Dugway, which, if true, would indicate that something had been added. Confusion. All in all this would seem to have been beyond Bruce’s [Ivins’] experience and capabilities. But if he couldn’t make it, who at Detrick could have?” See also: “Now we have to find a way for that case to be completely shared within the scientific community in such a way as to create a court of science as opposed to a court of law,” said Osterholm, who is director of the University of Minnesota Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy, publisher of CIDRAP News. Proposing a ‘court of science’Another infectious disease expert, Michael T. Osterholm, PhD, MPH, suggested that a full and fair consideration of the FBI evidence in the case will require a special task force or process. In the wake of Ivins’ death, the FBI wanted to quickly present its case to the anthrax victims and families and the public, but in acting quickly, the agency couldn’t present the case fully, as it would have in a trial, he said. In addition, some have argued that because Ivins was involved in analyzing the anthrax used in the attacks, cross-contamination in his work area might account for the match between the letter anthrax and the batch of anthrax that was in his custody. “That sciencecreating a DNA equivalent of a fingerprintallowed investigators to pinpoint the origins of the anthrax,” the FBI said in its Aug 6 statement. “The FBI laboratory, in conjunction with the best experts in the scientific community, developed four highly sensitive and specific tests to detect the unique qualities of the anthrax used in the 2001 attacks. This took several years to accomplish, but in early 2005 the groundbreaking research successfully identified where the anthrax used in the mailings had come from.” A DNA fingerprintBut the linchpin of the FBI’s case seems to be the DNA fingerprinting evidence. The agency discussed that evidence in documents released last week (and posted online), many of which were affidavits in support of requests for search warrants. Various press reports early in the investigation indicated that the mailed anthrax was a highly sophisticated preparation; Rosenberg traced some of these in an article titled “Gaps in the FBI’s Anthrax Case,” which she circulated through an e-mail forum of the Geneva-based Bio-Weapons Prevention Project. He had frequently driven to other places to mail packages under other names. Aug 15, 2008 (CIDRAP News) The Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI’s) recently revealed conclusion that the late anthrax researcher Dr. Bruce Ivins committed the anthrax letter attacks of 2001 has been greeted with skepticism by many in the scientific community. Previous stumblesThe history of the investigation has given rise to skepticism about aspects of the case other than the scientific and technical. Back in 2002, the FBI had publicly cited researcher Steven Hatfill as “a person of interest.” But the agency never came up with any good evidence against him, and Hatfill eventually sued the FBI. He was awarded $5.8 million in damages, which the FBI paid in June. Hugh-Jones agreed that this was a possibility. “[Given] that Bruce was involved in the early investigations on the letter contents and knowing its [anthrax’s] great ability to fly, it’s not at all unlikely that there may have been some laboratory contamination,” he said. An e-mail he wrote used language similar to that in the anthrax letters, including the phrases “death to America” and “death to Israel.” “The fact that he’s the guy who made the materials to challenge the animals has absolutely nothing to do with making the powder,” Peters said. “I want to see the data. I want to see the valid scientific links made,” Peters told CIDRAP News. He said forensic microbiology, unlike the use of human DNA in crime investigation, is a new area that has undergone little scientific scrutiny or testing in court cases. Also, reports early in the investigation indicated that the mailed anthrax was a highly sophisticated preparation that Army scientists were unable to duplicate, which has caused observers to voice doubts about Ivins’ ability to make the material on his own. News reports based on the FBI information released last week said Ivins worked with lyophilizers, or freeze-drying devices, which can convert anthrax to powder form. However, Peters said it wasn’t clear to him whether Ivins ever worked with powdered anthrax. In Peters’ time at USAMRIID, anthrax preparations used to “challenge” animals in vaccine tests always involved liquid aerosols, not powders. The FBI didn’t return phone messages asking if the agency plans to publish the details of its DNA analysis. Gerry Andrews, a University of Wyoming microbiologist who was a friend and colleague of Ivins’, made this point in a New York Times opinion piece on Aug 9. Andrews said Ivins worked on analyses of the letter anthrax for years. “Might that explain why the anthrax used in the attacks was later found to have the same DNA footprint as the other anthrax preparations in Dr. Ivins’ lab?” he wrote. In the investigation, the FBI used these four assays on more than 1,000 samples of Ames strain B anthracis obtained from 16 US labs and from others in Canada, Sweden, and the United Kingdom, the document states. Only eight of these samples were found to contain all four mutations. If it is established that the anthrax in Ivins’ custody matched what was used in the attacks, the FBI’s case still requires acceptance of the proposition that he was the only person who had access to it. Some critics aren’t buying that. Peters said anthrax is relatively easy to grow, but growing it in quantity and turning it into a powder that is easily aerosolized is much harder. “The details of that powder have never really been divulged. The real analyses of the powders in the letters to [Sen. Tom] Daschle and [Sen. Patrick] Leahy have never been made public, so we don’t know how good they were,” he said. Referring to the four mutations reported by the FBI, he said, “They’re talking about a substrain of the Ames strain. Well, where did that substrain arise? It arose during the preparation of the Ames strain. If Bruce Ivins propagated it and got this strain, and someone else propagated it, how do we know they didn’t get the same substrain?” Ivins did and said things that suggested consciousness of guilt and submitted a questionable sample of anthrax to the FBI. But expert observers have said it’s not possible to evaluate the FBI claims about the DNA evidence implicating Ivins because the agency has not published the details. Peters said the FBI should publish its analysis in a scientific journal so that people who work in bacterial genomics can examine it. “I think it’s something that can be done and must be done. If they don’t do it, nobody’s ever going to believe it,” he said. Aside from the DNA fingerprinting link, the evidence cited by the FBI is circumstantial. As summarized in FBI documents and a recent Associated Press (AP) report, clues included the following: Richcard Spertzel, former head of the biological weapons section of the UN Special Commission and a member of the Iraq Survey Group, added support for this view in an Aug 5 opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal. He said information released by the FBI over the years pointed to “a product of exceptional quality,” with particles just 1.3 to 3 microns in diameter. Spertzel asserted that USAMRIID does not have the equipment to produce such a substance and that, in any case, it could not have been made there without many other people being aware of it. Barbara Hatch Rosenberg, PhD, who has closely followed the anthrax investigation and has criticized the FBI’s efforts in the past, told CIDRAP News via e-mail, “Even if the evidence is perfect, it is not incriminatory because something like 100 others also had access to the same stock.” Dr. Martin Hugh-Jones, an anthrax expert at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, told CIDRAP News, “As others, including D.A. Henderson [who led the fight to eradicate smallpox], have said, we only have their word on this until they publish the details of this study.” He was a “prolific writer” of letters to Congress and the mediathe targets of the attacks. The FBI’s case against Ivins is mostly circumstantial. But at its core is a claim that FBI experts and other scientists developed a new DNA fingerprinting technique that enabled them to match the letter anthrax to a batch of anthrax that was in Ivins’ custody at USAMRIID in Frederick, Md. What was in the powder?Other key questions in the investigation include the precise nature of the anthrax powder used in the attacks and whether Ivins could have prepared it. The FBI has not made clear whether the powder was a simple preparation of dried anthrax spores or a much more sophisticated product with special coatings or additives that enhanced its ability to spread through the air (which necessitated expensive cleanups of contaminated buildings after the attacks). The second possibility would make it less likely that Ivins was the sole perpetrator. However, the document doesn’t explain exactly how the eight isolates were linked to the anthrax Ivins had, other than having the same four mutations, nor does it give any details on the mutations or how they were identified. “I just think it’s a really unsatisfying conclusion,” Peters said of the FBI claims. “I don’t deny that Ivins might be the guy, and given his alleged psychiatric history, I would believe it even, but I don’t see any evidence that really ties it down.” Rosenberg, a former cancer researcher and retired professor of natural sciences at the State University of New York at Purchase, added, “Record-keeping was not reliable at USAMRIID. If the FBI could really eliminate all the others of the 100, how come it took so long to ‘eliminate’ Hatfill and focus on Ivins?” The FBI reported its conclusions and published a collection of documents about the long-unresolved case last week. The revelations came on Aug 6, only 9 days after Ivins, whom the FBI was about to charge in the case, died from an overdose of painkillers. In the anthrax attacks in the fall of 2001, five people died and 17 others were sickened after envelopes containing anthrax powder were mailed to two US senators and several media offices. “Apparently the spores were coated with a polyglass, which tightly bound hydrophilic silca to each particle,” Spertzel wrote. “That’s what was briefed (according to one of my former weapons inspectors at the United Nations Special Commission) by the FBI to the German Foreign Ministry at the time.” That bothers Dr. C. J. Peters, a veteran virologist at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston, who worked at USAMRIID from 1977 until 1990 and had considerable contact with Ivins there. One of these says that the mailed anthrax was the Ames strain, which was first isolated in 1981. “As a whole, the collection of all of the genetic mutations found in the anthrax used in the 2001 mailings, serve to provide a ‘DNA fingerprint’ which can and has been used to investigate other Ames isolates collected from laboratories possessing the Ames strain.” “The . . . investigation has determined that each of the eight isolates . . . is directly related to a single Bacillus anthracis Ames strain spore batch, identified as RMR-1029,” the affidavit says. After noting where this batch was kept, it adds, “RMR-1029 was compiled in 1997 by Dr. Ivins, the sole creator and custodian.” Cross-contamination?Another problem is that, as has been widely reported, Ivins himself was recruited by the FBI to analyze some of the letter anthrax early in the investigation. Critics have raised the possibility that cross-contamination in his lab might explain the reported match between the anthrax used in the attacks and the anthrax in batch RMR-1029. In the days before the mailings, Ivins worked alone at night and on weekends in the lab where the anthrax spores and production equipment were stored, something he had not often done before. By e-mail, Rosenberg told CIDRAP News that the FBI in recent years has tried to downplay the idea that the mailed anthrax was a very sophisticated product. This effort included an article published in Applied and Environmental Microbiology in August 2006 in which the FBI called the idea “a widely circulated misconception.” Rosenberg said the FBI’s effort seems to have worked, “since no one is questioning the assumption that the spores were merely purified and dried.” “Four individual, highly sensitive, and specific molecular assays capable of detecting four of the genetic mutations discovered in the Bacillus anthracis used in the mail attacks have been developed and evaluated,” the affidavit states. For example, in 2002 the FBI asked the Department of Defense’s Dugway Proving Ground in Utah to try to reproduce or “reverse engineer” the mailed anthrax. Close to a year later, in 2003, an FBI official acknowledged that this effort had failed, which convinced the agency that the culprit had special expertise, according to Rosenberg. Aug 6 FBI statement on casehttp://www.fbi.gov/page2/august08/amerithrax080608a.html Page with links to FBI anthrax investigation documentshttp://www.fbi.gov/anthrax/amerithraxlinks.htm
Sep 12, 2008 (CIDRAP News) – Public health officials in Hong Kong made headlines in March when they closed schools for 2 weeks to put a damper on an influenza epidemic, but a new report says the measure appears to have had little effect.Researchers from Hong Kong explored flu surveillance data gathered before, during, and after the outbreak that led to the school closure and reported their findings in an early online edition of Emerging Infectious Diseases.On Mar 12 after three children died, apparently from seasonal flu, Hong Kong’s government announced that all primary schools, special schools, kindergartens, and day nurseries would close for 2 week, the authors reported. The closure, which came a week before the start of the annual week-long Easter break, occurred during the peak of the area’s winter flu season.The closure was Hong Kong’s first since the SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) epidemic of 2003, and it affected nearly 560,000 children, according to previous reports.As was true in much of the northern hemisphere, the circulating viruses in Hong Kong did not match well with the seasonal flu vaccine.According to the research group’s review of the surveillance data, the flu season was already waning when officials decided to close the schools. Their review of outpatient consultation data revealed that the 2008 winter flu season was moderately severe compared with the previous 9 years.The authors found that routine surveillance did not show a large effect from the school closures. They concluded that epidemic curves based on the surveillance data showed that a decline in flu cases after the school closure might have occurred even without any intervention, though they warned that changes in an epidemic curve may lag behind changes in transmission dynamics, as had been shown for SARS.Their results should be interpreted cautiously, the researchers wrote. “In particular, influenza might have continued to circulate for a longer period had the school closures not been implemented.” The authors also acknowledged that other studies suggest school closures can mitigate flu epidemics.Public officials who decided to close the Hong Kong schools might not have known from the data they had that the flu season was moderate and might have already been declining naturally, the report says. Surveillance system improvements, particularly real-time or near real-time reporting, could help officials make more informed decisions, it adds.Jeffrey Duchin, MD, chief of communicable disease control for Seattle King County Public Health in Washington, told CIDRAP News that it isn’t surprising that the study didn’t detect a benefit from school closure late in a flu season. “After all, most persons in the community would have already been infected,” he said.Given the relative mildness of the season, indirect indicators of flu activity would have been less sensitive, he said, adding that it’s difficult to study the impact of school closures on transmission retrospectively, because schools typically close late in the flu season.”The cost-benefit of closing schools in seasonal epidemics that are not at the high end of the severity scale is probably low, and few if any close early [in the season],” Duchin said. Real-time surveillance might be especially important in more severe flu epidemics, in which officials would need to gauge the impact of school closure, he said.Cowling BJ, Lau EHY, Lam LH, et al. Effects of school closures, 2008 winter flu season, Hong Kong. Emerg Infect Dis 2008 Oct (early online release);14(10):[Full text]See also:Mar 13 CIDRAP News story “Flu prompts 2-week school closure in Hong Kong”
Mar 9, 2009 (CIDRAP News) – The scope of a Salmonella outbreak that started in Nebraska with sprouts as the possible source has expanded to about 50 cases in five states, as federal and state officials await the results of laboratory tests that could confirm the link to sprouts.The rare Salmonella SaintPaul subtype is the same as in last year’s outbreak that involved jalapeno and Serrano peppers, but the genetic fingerprint is different, Nebraska health officials have said.An epidemiological investigation has linked the Nebraska illnesses to sprouts. On Mar 3, SunSprout Enterprises, Inc, based in Omaha, voluntarily recalled its alfalfa, onion, and gourmet sprouts with “best if sold by” dates from Mar 2 to 14. The sprouts were mainly sold to food distributors who sent the products to restaurants and retail stores. The alfalfa sprouts were also packaged in 2.5- and 5-pound bulk cases for restaurants.So far, the company and Nebraska state officials have no laboratory evidence of sprout contamination. “SunSprouts is working closely with the FDA [Food and Drug Administration] and with public health authorities to get to the bottom of this situation,” the company said in its recall notice.Michael Herndon, an FDA spokesman, told CIDRAP News that the ongoing investigation hasn’t yet detected a Salmonella source. “Several samples were collected during the inspection, but it will be a few days for us to receive results,” he said.About 50 cases from Iowa, Kansas, Nebraska, Missouri, and South Dakota have been linked to the outbreak, according to a recent press release from the South Dakota Department of Health.Lola Russell, a spokeswoman for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) told CIDRAP News that the CDC is consulting on the outbreak but that the states are leading the investigation. She said the Minnesota Department of Health laboratory is analyzing samples from the Nebraska patients to determine if they share the same genetic fingerprint.South Dakota said it had identified 5 cases from five of its southeastern counties and that more cases were pending. Iowa’s Department of Public Health (IDPH) said in a Mar 6 statement that it had confirmed 18 cases, along with 2 probable ones. On the same day, the Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) said it had identified 5 cases linked to the outbreak, along with 1 other pending case.The hallmarks of salmonellosis are diarrhea, fever, and cramps that start between 12 and 72 hours after infection, with symptoms that last from 4 to 7 days, according to the CDC. Most people recover without treatment, but severe cases can occur in infants, the elderly, and people with weakened immunity.See also:Mar 5 SDDH press releaseMar 6 IDPH press releaseMar 6 KDHE press releaseMar 3 FDA recall notice
The Tax Administration published the Ordinance on Amendments to the Ordinance on Income Tax, which was adopted on 18.12.2017. signed by the Minister of Finance as part of a package of measures to maintain and increase employment of the Government of the Republic of Croatia.The Ordinance amending the Ordinance on income tax will be published in the Official Gazette and will enter into force on 1 January 2018. With the mentioned amendments, taxpayers will be relieved of an additional HRK 266 million. The HUP points out that the initiative of the Association of Hospitality and Tourism of the HUP, through persistent action, with the aim of changing the tax treatment of accommodation for seasonal workers, managed to achieve through the relevant tax changes that from 1.1.2018. accommodation and meals for seasonal workers will no longer be taxed as if it were a salary in kind. “Through the joint engagement of HUP members and the representation of interests with the support of the relevant Ministry of Tourism, this initiative has been successfully implemented, and it is important for all entrepreneurs who provide accommodation and food to their seasonal workers regardless of their activity.”Point out from HUP.Amendments to the Ordinance on Income Tax relate to the following:1. FISCAL RELIEF- stipulates that the cost of accommodation and meals for workers who have a fixed-term employment contract with the employer for seasonal work, in accordance with the regulations governing employment, during work at the employer’s headquarters or his business unit outside the place of residence, or habitual residence of the employee for the purpose of the work he performs, which is paid by the employer is not considered income from self-employment, provided that the invoices for services rendered to the employer and paid in cash and in case of accommodation and / or food organized by the employer himself, he must provide appropriate credible documentation as evidence;- it is prescribed that water and hot and cold beverages (except beverages containing alcohol), which are provided by the employer at the expense of workers during working hours, are not considered taxable receipts on the basis of self-employment;- it is prescribed that when determining the salary in kind, the threshold for determining the annual amount above which the salary is determined in kind is raised from the previous HRK 400,00 to HRK 600,00;- it is prescribed that a non-taxable receipt is a fee for the use of a private car for official purposes up to HRK 2,00 per kilometer traveled, which a non-profit organization pays to natural persons who, in accordance with a special regulation, are entitled to an accessibility sign;- it is prescribed that receipts on the basis of aid due to destruction and damage to property due to a natural disaster declared by the Government of the Republic of Croatia, which are paid by employers to workers, are not considered income;2. ADMINISTRATIVE RELIEF- it is prescribed that taxpayers who receive a pension from abroad / abroad, and who are exempt from taxation in accordance with an international agreement, do not have to submit the INO-DOH Form;- stipulates that payers of income according to which the final tax is paid are not obliged to submit certificates of paid receipt to natural persons by 31 January of the current year for the previous year, except at the request of taxpayers – recipients of the final income;- stipulates that taxpayers who have submitted a request (statement) for suspension of payment of advance tax / income tax in the country (due to the fact that they pay tax on the basis of that income abroad) do not have to submit an application to the register of taxpayers at the same time (Form RPO) );- it is prescribed that natural persons who receive income directly from / abroad pay advance tax / income tax by the last day of the month for the previous month if the determined advance tax / income tax on the same source of income in that month does not exceed the total amount of 100,00 HRK .XNUMX provided that the receipts were paid by the same payer;3. OTHER CHANGES- the method of payment of the advance tax / income tax is prescribed for taxpayers who do not have a permanent / usual residence in the Republic of Croatia;- the provisions of the Ordinance are harmonized with the Decision on the amount and manner of payment of per diems and other compensations paid from the state budget, and it is clarified that field work of civil and public servants and employees is determined depending on the job description from the Ordinance on Internal Order and the competencies of the organizational unit to which the civil and public servant and state employee are assigned, determined in the act on the internal organization of the state or public body;- additionally clarifying the provisions related to the PK Form, given that the provisions related to the electronic delivery of the tax card come into force on 1 January 2018;- the manner of correction and amendment of the INO-DOH Form is prescribed, and the code list of the INO-DOH Form is supplemented by the receipt code from which the income from direct exploitation, leasing or renting and in any other way of using real estate is determined;- it is clarified that it is not considered an exception in the case when a natural person liable for income tax during liquidation or cessation of self-employment retains certain assets, provided that he reported in the business books delivery (sale) of those assets according to regulations on profit taxation that is, the fair value of the asset and the settlement of receivables for the resulting delivery- it is clarified that the interest contracted above the rate of 3% per year, which has fallen below 3% due to certain variable parameters determined by law, is not considered a more favorable interest rate;- in order to harmonize the JOPPD Form with the new regulations, better monitoring and facilitate the completion of the JOPPD Form, new codes are prescribed for:- salaries of workers / insured persons on the basis of employment – child of a deceased Croatian Homeland War veteran or child of a missing Croatian Homeland War veteran according to the provisions of the Act on Croatian Homeland War Veterans and Members of Their Families- calculation of income tax and contributions based on the salary of a member of the management board or executive director of the company or the manager of the cooperative if the salary is not paid, which is higher than the maximum monthly or maximum annual basis for calculating contributions- settlement of the cost of food and accommodation of permanent seasonal workers- payment of salary up to the amount of the minimum wage, if the minimum wage has been agreed.You can see the text of the amendments to the Ordinance on amendments to the Ordinance on income tax here.