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Disastrous hurricane in the Bahamas now threatens the U.S

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Disastrous hurricane in the Bahamas now threatens the U.S

The Category 4 Dorian Hurricane continued its disastrous activities over the Bahamas carving a destructive path well into the U.S. The powerful storm in the Atlantic, hitting the Bahamas on Monday and, with winds racing up to 230 km per hour, has claimed a handful of lives that is only expected to increase.

Numerous calls and texts flowed into a leading radio station from all corners in the Bahamas islands, as panic-struck people searched for escape routes. There are serious cases of toddlers, kids and adults stranded in the middle of the storm-struck areas and flooded homes. Though rescue operations were set, the weather conditions delayed rescue activities, with GPS coordinates providing some clue to the police. Every effort has been made to urge residents to stay indoors until further notice.

It’s a depressing view where wrecked homes with tattered roofs and scenes of tumbled cars and collapsed power poles drown or stay afloat amidst pools of stranded water.

An innumerable number of houses have been destroyed including, select neighbourhoods drowned under six feet of water. In other circumstances, there were doors and roofs of houses that were ripped off by the uncontrollable winds. The lands appeared like lakes dotted with houses, partially or fully damaged. The category 4 hurricane visibly slowed down to 220 km an hour, but raced to a whopping 297 km per hour on Sunday, powerful enough to make its way into the United States.

Residents across the cluster of islands in the Bahamas witnessed howling winds like neverbefore. Disaster is the strongest in low-lying neighbourhoods dotted with wooden homes.

Florida’s East Coast got a glimpse of the 170 km per hour hurricane from West Palm Beach, expected to continue its catastrophic effect on the state including the coasts of Georgia and South Carolina coming Wednesday and Thursday.

Evacuation process in Florida

Governor of Florida, Ron DeSantis has announced compulsory evacuation across all its counties before things turn worse. A couple of airports and fuel stations were forced to shut operations to reduce the havoc caused and to prevent further damage.

The hurricane also caused the closure of operations across several airports in states including Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina. Among the airports suffering from lack of operations were those in West Palm Beach, Fort Lauderdale and Daytona Beach.

The entire East Coast passing across South Carolina and Florida experienced the adrenaline rush for evacuation comprising of over 8,30,000 people with 1,50,000 residents in Savannah alone. Several parts of Charleston and Myrtle Beach too were under strict vigilance, ready for evacuation process in case the hurricane made its way.

The National Hurricane Center and the Central Pacific Hurricane Center claims Dorian the strongest hurricane ever, only after Allen in 1980, to hit the Atlantic. There’s a strong speculation that intense climate changes are the driving factor behind powerful and destructive hurricanes.

Global warming could be the prime factor, increasing ocean surface temperatures and encouraging the build-up of intense energy in storms, capable of mass destruction beyond human comprehension.

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Australia says no further Facebook, Google amendments as final vote nears

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Australia says no further Facebook, Google amendments as final vote nears 1

By Colin Packham

CANBERRA (Reuters) – Australia will not alter legislation that would make Facebook and Alphabet Inc’s Google pay news outlets for content, a senior lawmaker said on Monday, as Canberra neared a final vote on whether to pass the bill into law.

Australia and the tech giants have been in a stand-off over the legislation widely seen as setting a global precedent.

Other countries including Canada and Britain have already expressed interest in taking some sort of similar action.

Facebook has protested the laws. Last week it blocked all news content and several state government and emergency department accounts, in a jolt to the global news industry, which has already seen its business model upended by the titans of the technological revolution.

Talks between Australia and Facebook over the weekend yielded no breakthrough.

As Australia’s senate began debating the legislation, the country’s most senior lawmaker in the upper house said there would be no further amendments.

“The bill as it stands … meets the right balance,” Simon Birmingham, Australia’s Minister for Finance, told Australian Broadcasting Corp Radio.

The bill in its present form ensures “Australian-generated news content by Australian-generated news organisations can and should be paid for and done so in a fair and legitimate way”.

The laws would give the government the right to appoint an arbitrator to set content licencing fees if private negotiations fail.

While both Google and Facebook have campaigned against the laws, Google last week inked deals with top Australian outlets, including a global deal with Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp.

“There’s no reason Facebook can’t do and achieve what Google already has,” Birmingham added.

A Facebook representative declined to comment on Monday on the legislation, which passed the lower house last week and has majority support in the Senate.

A final vote after the so-called third reading of the bill is expected on Tuesday.

Lobby group DIGI, which represents Facebook, Google and other online platforms like Twitter Inc, meanwhile said on Monday that its members had agreed to adopt an industry-wide code of practice to reduce the spread of misinformation online.

Under the voluntary code, they commit to identifying and stopping unidentified accounts, or “bots”, disseminating content; informing users of the origins of content; and publishing an annual transparency report, among other measures.

(Reporting by Byron Kaye and Colin Packham; Editing by Sam Holmes and Hugh Lawson)

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GSK and Sanofi start with new COVID-19 vaccine study after setback

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GSK and Sanofi start with new COVID-19 vaccine study after setback 2

By Pushkala Aripaka and Matthias Blamont

(Reuters) – GlaxoSmithKline and Sanofi on Monday said they had started a new clinical trial of their protein-based COVID-19 vaccine candidate, reviving their efforts against the pandemic after a setback in December delayed the shot’s launch.

The British and French drugmakers aim to reach final testing in the second quarter, and if the results are conclusive, hope to see the vaccine approved by the fourth quarter after having initially targeted the first half of this year.

In December, the two groups stunned investors when they said their vaccine would be delayed towards the end of 2021 after clinical trials showed an insufficient immune response in older people.

Disappointing results were probably caused by an inadequate concentration of the antigen used in the vaccine, Sanofi and GSK said, adding that Sanofi has also started work against new coronavirus variants to help plan their next steps.

Global coronavirus infections have exceeded 110 million as highly transmissible variants of the virus are prompting vaccine developers and governments to tweak their testing and immunisation strategies.

GSK and Sanofi’s vaccine candidate uses the same recombinant protein-based technology as one of Sanofi’s seasonal influenza vaccines. It will be coupled with an adjuvant, a substance that acts as a booster to the shot, made by GSK.

“Over the past few weeks, our teams have worked to refine the antigen formulation of our recombinant-protein vaccine,” Thomas Triomphe, executive vice president and head of Sanofi Pasteur, said in a statement.

The new mid-stage trial will evaluate the safety, tolerability and immune response of the vaccine in 720 healthy adults across the United States, Honduras and Panama and test two injections given 21 days apart.

Sanofi and GSK have secured deals to supply their vaccine to the European Union, Britain, Canada and the United States. It also plans to provide shots to the World Health Organization’s COVAX programme.

To appease critics after the delay, Sanofi said earlier this year it had agreed to fill and pack millions of doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine from July.

Sanofi is also working with Translate Bio on another COVID-19 vaccine candidate based on mRNA technology.

(Reporting by Pushkala Aripaka in Bengaluru and Matthias Blamont in Paris; editing by Jason Neely and Barbara Lewis)

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Don’t ignore “lockdown fatigue”, UK watchdog tells finance bosses

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Don't ignore "lockdown fatigue", UK watchdog tells finance bosses 3

By Huw Jones

LONDON (Reuters) – Staff at financial firms in Britain are suffering from “lockdown fatigue” and their bosses are not always making sure all employees can speak up freely about their problems, the Financial Conduct Authority said on Monday.

Many staff at financial companies have been working from home since Britain went into its first lockdown in March last year to fight the COVID-19 pandemic.

One year on, the challenges have evolved from adapting to working remotely to dealing with mental health issues, said David Blunt, the FCA’s head of conduct specialists.

“During this third lockdown, there has been a greater impact on mental well-being, with many people struggling with job security, caring responsibilities, home schooling, bereavements and lockdown fatigue.”

Bosses should continually revisit how they lead remote teams, he said.

“The impact of COVID-19 is creating a huge workload for those considered to be high performers, while the remote environment potentially makes it much more challenging for those who were previously considered low performers to change that perception,” Blunt told a City & Financial online event.

Companies should consider “psychological safety” or ensuring that all employees feel confident about speaking out and challenging opinions.

“We’ve heard varying reports of how successful this has been,” Blunt said.

Pressures in the financial sector were highlighted this month when accountants KPMG said its UK chairman Bill Michael had stepped aside during a probe into comments he made to staff.

The Financial Times said Michael, who later apologised for his comments, had told staff to “stop moaning” about the impact of the pandemic on their work lives.

Blunt was speaking as the FCA next month completes the full rollout of rules that force senior managers at financial firms to be personally accountable for their decisions to improve conduct standards.

There have only been a “modest” number of breaches reported to regulators so far as firms worry about being “tainted” but more cases will become public as sanctions are revealed, Blunt said.

“Regulators won’t be impressed by lowballing the figures.”

(Reporting by Huw Jones; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

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