Coronavirus: Monkeys ‘escape with COVID-19 samples’ after attacking lab assistant

A gang of monkeys attacked a laboratory assistant and escaped with a batch of coronavirus test samples, it has been reported.

The bizarre incident saw the troop of primates launch their assault near Meerut Medical College in Delhi, India.

According to local media, the animals then snatched COVID-19 test samples from three patients and fled.

One of the monkeys was later spotted in a tree chewing one of the sample collection kits, the Times of India reported – adding that test samples from the patients had to be taken again.

It is the latest example of the highly intelligent, red-faced rhesus macaques taking advantage of India’s nationwide lockdown to combat the spread of coronavirus.

While they have proved an increasing problem in urban areas of the country in recent years, lockdown measures in the last two months have emboldened the monkeys.

Reports have shown them congregating in parts of Delhi normally crowded with humans.

The animals have adapted to live in close contact with people, and it is believed some groups have struggled in the absence of human food they had come to rely on.

People have been advised not to feed the monkeys while the pandemic continues, with experts suggesting doing so could cause the virus to mutate and infect primates.

A senior biologist from the Tamil Nadu Forest Department previously warned that if this did happen, the mutated virus could have a devastating impact on primate species and other wildlife which prey on them.

“The point is, we have very little understanding of the virus, and it is better to limit our interactions with wildlife till there is more research done on its effects on non-human primates and other animal species,” he told The Hindu.

Reports have previously emerged of the primates causing chaos in Delhi, snatching food and mobile telephones, breaking into homes and terrorising people in and around the Indian capital.

They have colonised areas around the city’s parliament and the sites of key ministries, from the prime minister’s office to the finance and defence ministries, scaring both civil servants and the public.

“Very often they snatch food from people as they are walking, and sometimes they even tear files and documents by climbing in through the windows,” said Ragini Sharma, a home ministry employee, in 2018.

Next week from Monday to Thursday, Dermot Murnaghan will be hosting After the Pandemic: Our New World – a series of special live programmes about what our world will be like once the pandemic is over.

We’ll be joined by some of the biggest names from the worlds of culture, politics, economics, science and technology. And you can take part too.

If you’d like to be in our virtual audience – from your own home – and put questions to the experts, email [email protected]

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French mortality rate in May below previous years despite epidemic

PARIS (Reuters) – French mortality rates between May 1 and 18 were six percent lower than for the same period last year and one percent below the rate seen over that period in 2018, despite the coronavirus epidemic, statistics agency INSEE said on Friday.

During the peak of the epidemic between March 1 and April 30, French mortality rates were 26% higher than the year-earlier period and 16% higher than the corresponding period in 2018, provisional data showed.

“Since May 1… we no longer excess mortality compared to the two previous years” the agency said in a statement.

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‘Wake up!’ Warning issued over China’s secret plot to destroy US economy

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Tensions between the US and China have escalated over the last few months following the outbreak of the deadly COVID-19 pandemic. Accusations of hacking coronavirus vaccine research have ignited the strained relationship between the two countries.

And now, Representative for Oklahoma Kevin Hern has accused the Communist nation of “cheating” and warned they could “flood the market” and take over the US economy.

Writing for The Hill, Mr Hern said: “The United States is strong, we will not be beaten by the likes of China.

“Oppression doesn’t inspire innovation or loyalty.

“And yet, the Chinese do have an advantage – they cheat.”

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Ask Amy: Parents ponder daughter’s prison contact – The Denver Post

Dear Amy: My husband and I have raised our granddaughter, “Allie,” since she was 3 years old. We adopted her a few years ago. She is now 13. Her biological mother (our daughter) got into drugs, alcohol, and stealing to support her habit. She has stolen and betrayed us and other family members, has been in jail many times, and is currently in prison for the second time. When she is incarcerated, she always writes letters to us saying how badly she has messed up, how terrible her life is, and asking for forgiveness — but the main point is to ask us to send money and items to make her time easier.

Each time she is released she quickly falls back into her old cycle. This has been going on for 20 years.

Her last letter also contained a letter for Allie — asking her to write and send pictures.

I did not show this to Allie, but now I’m wondering if I should. I have tried to spare her the sordid details, and say that her mom has mental problems.

Allie is well-adjusted, has friends, and does well in school.

She occasionally becomes very tearful and sad that she doesn’t have a “normal” mom (her father has never been in the picture).

I thought we would let her decide what kind of relationship she wants with her parents when she’s old enough. But how do I know when she is old enough? We’ve told her mom that she cannot visit with Allie until she is clean and sober for at least six months.

— Wondering Gramma

Dear Wondering: I think it’s time to level with “Allie.” Keeping all of this a secret might create more problems than it would solve. However, I think it’s vital that you also find a qualified counselor who can meet with all of you in order to guide family conversations and also serve as a supportive neutral party for Allie to communicate with, as she tries to navigate this challenging family issue.

You should be honest with Allie about the depth of her mother’s problems. Do not paint her as a bad person, but as someone who has an addiction disorder and makes terrible and destructive choices, over and over again.

Give Allie the letter from her mother. Tell her that you will help if she wants to contact her mother. I think it’s also important that you continue to read and monitor any letters sent to Allie, in order to make sure that she is not being manipulated or asked to send money to her mother in prison.

Allie’s attitude regarding this will cycle as she grows older. You want to be the steady, unflappable people in her corner — always available, honest, and protective.

Dear Amy: We are three sisters. I am the oldest, my sister “C” is a year younger, and our third sister, “A,” is 10 years younger than us.

“C” and “A” are both artists.

A, is currently living overseas. Recently she sent me a small arty gift from an art supply outlet.

There was no special occasion; we had been enjoying our email communications, and maybe she sent it to help me get through the pandemic isolation.

I mentioned the gift to my middle sister, C, who then said that A had sent her the same thing, but minus the paint and the roller.

I said, “A probably didn’t send you the paint and the roller because she figured you already had some.”

I thought this since both are artists, this explanation made sense.

C was offended and felt slighted. Now I’m sorry I mentioned it.

What is the best way to handle this?

— M

Dear M: This matter is almost delightfully trivial. During these dark days … well, what can I say? It’s a relief to see that sisters are still doing the sister-thing.

And as one of three sisters myself, I get it.

Please – you have done nothing wrong. Let these two artists paint themselves out of this corner.

Dear Amy: In response to “Tired Ears,” I had a similar situation with my niece. She would call and talk nonstop. Mostly she wanted to rant about her mother (my sister), and how her mother always hated her, etc. So not true!

Finally, I’d had it. I said to her, “Do not talk about my sister anymore.”

She was shocked, but it worked.

We have been in a loving relationship ever since.

— Worked for Me

Dear Worked: Boundaries: they work!

(You can email Amy Dickinson at [email protected] or send a letter to Ask Amy, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068. You can also follow her on Twitter @askingamy or Facebook.)

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Kim Jong-un title: What is Kim Jong-un’s official title?

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Kim Jong-un has been the subject of speculation surrounding his health, with rumours of his death circulating in recent weeks. However, on Sunday state media said the North Korean leader hosted a meeting to discuss the country’s nuclear capabilities.

This marked Kim’s first appearance in three weeks after a previous absence – which was what had sparked rumours of surgery, ill-health and death.

State media service KCNA said the meeting discussed measures to bolster armed forces and “reliably contain the persistent big or small military threats from the hostile forces.”

The report added: “Set forth at the meeting were new policies for further increasing the nuclear war deterrence of the country and putting the strategic armed forces on a high alert operation.”

Kim has made an unusually small number of outings in the past two months, with his absence from a key anniversary prompting speculation about his condition.

Read More: Kim Jong-un’s sister given major new role in North Korea

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  • US accuses North Koreans of £2billion money laundering scheme

This came as Pyongyang has stepped up measures against the COVID-19 pandemic.

North Korea says it has no confirmed cases of the new coronavirus, but South Korea’s intelligence agency has said it cannot rule out the North has had an outbreak.

Ruling Workers’ Party officials wore face masks to greet Kim as he entered the meeting of the party’s powerful Central Military Commission, state television showed.

However, no one – including Kim – was seen wearing a mask during the meeting.

What is Kim Jong-un’s official title?

Kim Jong-un has served as leader of North Korea since 2011 and is known by several titles dependent on occasion, in media or by the North Korean people.

Kim has been the Supreme Commander of the Korean People’s Army since December 24, 2011.

On March 27, 2012, Kim was elected to the Fourth Conference of the Workers’ Party of Korea.

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In July 2012, Kim Jong-un was promoted to wonsu (translated as marshal), the highest active rank in the military.

After his father’s – Kim Jong-il – death in 2011, Kim Jong-un was hailed as the “great successor to the revolutionary cause of Juche”.

He has also been called “outstanding leader of the party, army and people”, and “respected comrade who is identical to Supreme Commander Kim Jong-il”.

The Korean Central News Agency described Kim Jong-un as “a great person born of heaven”, a propaganda term both his father and grandfather had enjoyed.

Of his appointment, the ruling Workers’ Party said: “We vow with bleeding tears to call Kim Jong-un our supreme commander, our leader.”

In November 2012, satellite photos showed a 1,600 ft propaganda message carved into a hillside in Ryanggang Province, reading, “Long Live General Kim Jong-un, the Shining Sun!”

North Korean state media often refers to him as Marshal Kim Jong-un, “the Marshal” or “Dear Respected”.

One reported – and more bizarre – title of Kim’s is “Ender of the Human Race and Planet Earth”.

Kim also holds the titles of

  • Chairman of the Workers’ Party of Korea (as First Secretary between 2012 and 2016),
  • ex officio Chairman of the Central Military Commission
  • Chairman of the State Affairs Commission

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Covid-19 plunges Indians’ study abroad dreams into turmoil

Two years ago, 29-year-old Raunaq Singh started working towards his dream of pursuing an MBA from one of the world’s top business schools.

In January 2020, he was waitlisted by UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business in California, and was asked to send more information to bolster his case for admission.

“So, I quit my stable job of five years and started working with a mental wellness start-up as a consultant,” Mr Singh says.

“I’m on a major pay cut because the purpose of joining this company wasn’t to earn money, but to add value to my application.”

Fortunately, he was accepted at Berkeley, and was due to start his course in September.

But then the world changed as Covid-19 spread, plunging the immediate future into uncertainty.

Mr Singh is one of hundreds of thousands of Indian students who were planning to study abroad. But now they are not quite sure what will happen given international travel restrictions, new social distancing norms and the sheer uncertainty of what the next few months will bring.

After China, India sends more students abroad to study than any other country – more than one million Indians were pursuing higher education programs overseas as of July 2019, according to India’s foreign ministry.

Every year, in June and July, students flood visa centres and consulates to start the paperwork to travel and study abroad. But things look different this year.

“There’s a lot of stress and anxiety and tension at this time but not enough clarity,” says Meehika Barua, 23, who wants to study journalism in the UK.

“We don’t know when international travel restrictions will be lifted or whether we’d be able to get our visas in time. We may also have to take classes online.”

Some universities across the UK and the US are giving international students the option to defer their courses to the next semester or year, while others have mandated online classes until the situation improves.

The University of Cambridge recently announced that lectures will be online only until next year. Others, like Greenwich University, will have a mix of online and face-to-face approaches while its international students can defer to the next semester.

“It feels a little unfair, especially after spending a year-and-half to get admission in one of these schools,” Mr Singh says. “Now, a part of the experience is compromised.”

Like him, many others are disappointed at the prospect of virtual classes.

“The main reason we apply to these universities is to be able to get the experience of studying on campus or because we want to work in these countries. We want to absorb the culture there,” Ms Barua says.

Studying abroad is also expensive. Many US and UK universities charge international students a higher fee. And then there’s the additional cost of applications or standardised tests.

Virtual classes mean they don’t have to pay for a visa, air tickets or living expenses. But many students are hesitant about spending their savings or borrowing money to pay for attending college in their living room.

Even if, months later, the situation improves to some extent, and students could travel abroad and enrol on campus, they say that brings its own challenges.

For one, Mr Singh points out, there is the steep cost of healthcare, and questions over access to it, as countries like the US are experiencing a deluge of infections and deaths.

And then there are the dimming job prospects. The pandemic has squeezed the global economy, so employers are less likely to hire, or sponsor visas for foreign workers.

“For international students, the roller coaster has been more intense because there is increased uncertainty about their ability to get jobs in the US after graduation, and for some, in their ability to get to the US at all,” says Taya Carothers, who works in Northwestern University’s international student office.

The idea of returning to India with an expensive degree and the looming unemployment is scaring students – especially since for many of them, the decision to study abroad is tied to a desire to find a well-paying job there.

“The risk we take when we leave our home country and move to another country – that risk has increased manifold,” Mr Singh adds.

The current crisis – and its economic impact – has affected the decision of nearly half the Indians who wanted to study abroad, according to a recent report by the QS, a global education network.

Experts say universities are in a tough spot too.

International students add as much as $45bn (£37bn) a year to the American economy. In the UK, universities receive almost £7bn in fees from overseas students. So their finances will take a hit if too many foreign students rethink going abroad.

And logistics will also pose a challenge – colleges have to enforce social distancing across campuses, including dormitories, and accommodate students from multiple time zones in virtual classes.

“Regardless of how good your technology is, you’re still going to face problems like internet issues,” says Sadiq Basha, who heads a study abroad consultancy.

He adds that there might be a knee-jerk reaction as a large number of international students consider deferring their admission to 2021. But he’s positive that “in the long term, the ambitions of Indian students are not going to go down.”

Mr Singh is still waiting to see how things will unfold in the next few months, but he’s almost certain he will enrol and start his first semester of the two-year program online.

“Since I’ve been preparing for over a year now, I think mentally I’m already there,” he says.

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Metro-area leaders discuss pandemic recovery in Colorado

Lone Tree Mayor Jackie Millet called the phase of recovery Colorado is in right now the “muddled middle” during a virtual town hall with other local public officials Thursday evening, as the state continues its emergence from the ongoing coronavirus pandemic in a patchwork fashion that won’t be the same for everyone.

“Douglas County has been in a unique position in regards to the metro area when it comes to COVID,” the mayor said during the meeting. “We have been very fortunate that our public health numbers have been significantly lower than in the rest of the Denver metro region.”

Millet joined Denver Mayor Michael Hancock, Aurora Mayor Mike Coffman and Lakewood Mayor Adam Paul on the hour-long call, and Adams County Commissioner Emma Pinter, Denver Public Schools Superintendent Susana Cordova and RTD Board Chair Angie Rivera-Malpiede also participated.

Millet pointed out that Douglas County, home to Lone Tree, began opening up a “hair sooner” than most other counties in the metro area because its health data indicated it could. Last week, state officials granted the county a variance to open restaurants, houses of worship, gyms and the Park Meadows mall with crowd controls in place.

Millet cited the reopening of Park Meadows as the revving of a major economic engine in Douglas County, which has been quiet since March. The mall has 67 stores in operation currently, the mayor said, with 80 expected to be up and running by this weekend.

“The reason our businesses were able to open was because of our public health data,” Millet said.

She said there have not been any new COVID-19 hospitalizations in the county in at least a week.

Hancock, who led the call, highlighted the collaboration between metro-area communities as critical in helping slow the spread of COVID-19, the respiratory disease brought on by a coronavirus infection. He praised his fellow community leaders for getting ahead of the state on stay-at-home orders in March.

“The whole goal of the region to move as quickly as we did was to protect life,” Hancock said. “If there ever was a time that showed us how inextricably we are connected, this is that time. With the common interests, common concerns, common vulnerabilities, common opportunities, common challenges, COVID has revealed that for us.”

On Thursday, state health officials posted data showing COVID-19 cases in Colorado now exceed 25,100 while deaths directly caused by the disease have mounted to 1,168.

Coffman said Aurora is getting behind the rebound in various ways, one of those being grants and loans that the city is giving to businesses with 50 employees or fewer. It is also giving rental assistance to those who lost a job because of coronavirus closures.

The mayor also said the city had engaged in an “incredibly unique” effort to take those experiencing homelessness and place them in a renovated motel to recover from the disease rather than take up beds at a hospital.

“They need a place to recover safely, and we do it,” Coffman said.

Paul said Lakewood, which received $10 million to $12 million in CARES Act money approved by the federal government in late March, is in the midst of preparing a business assistance package of up to $4 million for businesses in the city.

The mayor said Jefferson County is also preparing to send in a variance request to the state on Friday asking that it be allowed to open up churches, gyms and recreation centers, among other gathering spots. Dozens of municipalities and counties in Colorado have petitioned the state to allow them to loosen restrictions faster than the state stipulates.

“Once that’s granted, you’ll see more things opening up in the communities,” Paul said.

But the mayor was also blunt about the long way to go in battling the virus. And that much damage has been done — damage that will have repercussions on businesses and events through the coming months.

“The city right now is looking at furloughs, layoffs — looking at capital projects and everything and anything that can be examined to see how we move forward with the losses we are going to realize,” Paul said. “The pain is real among everybody in the community, and I’m afraid to say it’s going to continue for a while.”

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UK hot weather forecast: Atlantic high pressure system to blast weekend heatwave frenzy

Britain will enjoy a mini-heatwave over the next few days as temperatures begin to soar once more across the UK. This is due to high pressure sweeping in from the Atlantic, bringing a surge of hot air that will linger for days.

It could even reach 28C in southern parts, as social distancing regulations will once again be tested, as many could flock to beaches and beauty spots.

For Friday, the Met Office said: “Another, warm and largely sunny day for most of the UK, with a low risk of a few sharp showers during the afternoon across parts of Scotland.”

Across the weekend, the Met Office forecasts “mostly dry, sunny and very warm” weather “across much of the UK, with the highest temperatures in the west”.

Net Weather forecaster Nick Finnis said: “High pressure close to the east keeping weather fronts at bay to the west, with most seeing sunshine from dawn to dusk, with very little in the way of cloud for many.

“Very warm for most in the light southeasterly breezes, still a brisk easterly breeze towards the southeast, which means the highest temperatures will again be towards the west.

“So, we could see 25C in Glasgow and Manchester, 26C in Cardiff, 20-24C elsewhere, cooler around coasts, particularly North Sea coasts of East Anglia and Kent with the onshore breeze.

“The weekend is looking fine, dry, sunny and warm for most, with high pressure close to the east continuing to keep weather fronts at bay over the Atlantic.

“Both Saturday and Sunday will see plenty of warm sunshine, though there will be an increasingly brisk southeasterly breeze – particularly in the east.

“Temperatures widely reaching the mid-twenties inland, even across Scotland, perhaps up to 27C across south Wales and inland parts of SW England, cooler across eastern coastal areas.”

London will have temperatures of up to 25C, with high pollen levels, hay-fever sufferers should be aware.

A BBC forecaster said: “High pressure will remain close to the east of the UK, bringing further dry and very warm conditions for Saturday and Sunday with plenty of sunshine. It will become breezier for many too.

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“Monday will see another dry and very warm day with sunshine for most.”

The hottest part of the UK will undoubtedly be the south, where there could be potentially a hosepipe ban in the upcoming weeks.

Last weekend saw thousands take to Brighton beach, as the government has urged the public to use their “common sense” going forward.

Shortly before 12 pm on Bank Holiday Monday, Bournemouth Council said all its seafront car parks were full and told residents to “think twice” before visiting the beach.

Meanwhile, MeteoGroup forecast for this weekend that the hot weather will stick around until Sunday.

The forecaster said: “After a fine evening with sunshine, most areas will remain dry with clear skies overnight.

“However, some low cloud and mist may affect coastal areas of northern and eastern Scotland. A mild night. Moderate south-easterly winds.

“Tomorrow (Saturday) will be dry, warm and sunny again for most, although with perhaps the odd shower for northern Scotland.

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Arapahoe County sheriff’s deputy fatally shoots person Tuesday afternoon

An Arapahoe County sheriff’s deputy shot and killed a person Thursday afternoon near a Centennial apartment complex, according to a news release by the Arapahoe County Sheriff’s Office.

Two deputies were investigating “criminal activity” in the 9700 block of East Geddes Avenue around 3:15 p.m., the news release said. About 30 minutes into their investigation, deputies found a suspect.

The sheriff’s office did not clarify what criminal activity the deputies were investigating.

A deputy shot the victim, who has not been identified as of Thursday evening. The victim was pronounced dead at the scene. The sheriff’s office did not say whether the dead man was armed.

Two deputies, whose identities were not released, were not injured.

Those deputies will be placed on administrative leave with pay pending the outcome of the investigation, per agency policy.

The 18th Judicial District Critical Incident Response Team is investigating, the news release said.

Anyone with information about the incident is asked to call the the sheriff’s tip line at (720) 874-8477.

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Many Okanagan jurisdictions plan to reopen playgrounds June 1

The caution tape and fencing that have blocked off many Okanagan playgrounds will soon be coming down.

More than a dozen Okanagan governments are planning a coordinated reopening of playground equipment that has been off limits for months due to the novel coronavirus pandemic.

The plan is to reopen the playground equipment on June 1, the same day schools across B.C. partially resume classes.

Central Okanagan Public Schools has confirmed that it will also be reopening school playgrounds that day.

A joint statement from 13 different Okanagan jurisdictions is asking park users to stay off the equipment until the signage and barriers are taken down, indicating the play equipment is open to the public.

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The reopening does not apply to water parks, which will stay closed for the time being.

The jurisdictions that announced they will jointly be reopening playgrounds on June 1 are:

  • Kelowna
  • Vernon
  • Penticton
  • Lake Country
  • West Kelowna
  • Westbank First Nation
  • Peachland
  • Summerland
  • Penticton
  • Oliver
  • Osoyoos
  • the Regional District of North Okanagan
  • the Regional District of Central Okanagan
  • the Regional District of Okanagan Similkameen

The District of Coldstream said it has been working on a plan to reopen playgrounds and deal with concerns about high touch points, but does not have a specific date for reopening play structures.

Armstrong Spallumcheen Parks and Recreation said the playgrounds it operates in those communities already reopened on May 15, with signage reminding people to maintain physical distancing.

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