Dexamethasone-The first life-saving coronavirus drug.

The low-dose steroid treatment dexamethasone is a major breakthrough in the fight against the deadly virus, UK experts say.

The drug is part of the world’s biggest trial testing existing treatments to see if they also work for coronavirus.

It cut the risk of death by a third for patients on ventilators. For those on oxygen, it cut deaths by a fifth.

Had the drug had been used to treat patients in the UK from the start of the pandemic, up to 5,000 lives could have been saved, researchers say.

And it could be of huge benefit in poorer countries with high numbers of Covid-19 patients.

The UK government has 200,000 courses of the drug in its stockpile and says the NHS will make dexamethasone available to patients.
About 19 out of 20 patients with coronavirus recover without being admitted to hospital.

Of those who are admitted, most also recover but some may need oxygen or mechanical ventilation.

And these are the high-risk patients dexamethasone appears to help.

The drug is already used to reduce inflammation in a range of other conditions.

And it appears to help stop some of the damage that can happen when the body’s immune system goes into overdrive as it tries to fight off coronavirus.

This over-reaction, a cytokine storm, can be deadly.
In the trial, led by a team from Oxford University, about 2,000 hospital patients were given dexamethasone and compared with more than 4,000 who were not.

For patients on ventilators, it cut the risk of death from 40% to 28%.

For patients needing oxygen, it cut the risk of death from 25% to 20%.

Chief investigator Prof Peter Horby said: “This is the only drug so far that has been shown to reduce mortality – and it reduces it significantly. It’s a major breakthrough.”

Lead researcher Prof Martin Landray said the findings suggested one life could be saved for:

every eight patients on a ventilator
every 20-25 treated with oxygen
“There is a clear, clear benefit,” he said.

“The treatment is up to 10 days of dexamethasone and it costs about £5 per patient.

“So essentially it costs £35 to save a life.

“This is a drug that is globally available.”

When appropriate, hospital patients should now be given it without delay, Prof Landray said.

But people should not go out and buy it to take at home.

Dexamethasone does not appear to help people with milder symptoms of coronavirus who do not need help with their breathing.
The Recovery Trial, running since March, also looked at the malaria drug hydroxychloroquine, which has subsequently been ditched amid concerns it increases fatalities and heart problems.

The antiviral drug remdesivir, meanwhile, which appears to shorten recovery time for people with coronavirus, is already being made available on the NHS.

Read More here
Coronavirus vaccine

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WhatsApp finally launches payments, starting in Brazil.

After months of talks and trials, WhatsApp has finally pulled the trigger on payments in its app. Today the Facebook-owned messaging service announced that users in Brazil would be the first to be able to send and receive money by way of its messaging app, using Facebook Pay, the payments service WhatsApp owner Facebook launched last year.

WhatsApp says in its blog post that the payments service — which currently is free for consumers to use (that is, no commission fee taken) but businesses pay a 3.99% processing fee to receive payments — will work by way of a six-digit PIN or fingerprint to complete transactions.

You use it by linking up your WhatsApp account to your Visa or Mastercard credit or debit card, with initial local partners including Banco do Brasil, Nubank, and Sicredi. Cielo, a payments processor, is also working with WhatsApp to complete transactions. “We have built an open model to welcome more partners in the future,” it noted.

The news comes as bit of a surprise. WhatsApp had been testing its payments service among users in India for months (that trial uses another system, not Facebook Pay but UPI), so many assumed that the world’s second largest internet market would be the debut region for the service.

But Facebook remains stuck in a regulatory maze in India that has prevented it from expanding the payments service beyond a small, limited launch, in what is otherwise the app’s biggest market in terms of users. India has 400 million monthly active users, while second-largest market Brazil has 120 million MAUs.

(And indeed, it would have an interesting position there because of that size: while there are a number of other digital payments services, including Google Pay and Paytm, there are no clear, large and popular competitors offering payments within a messaging app in the country.)

WhatsApp had been adopted informally for commercial purposes almost from the very start: small business owners have used it to exchange messages with users around the sale of goods, what is in stock and so on. But under the wing of Facebook — which acquired the company in 2014 for $19 billion — WhatsApp started in earnest the big task of bringing in a more formal set of business services.

That’s included the launch of WhatsApp Business, which lets SMBs post catalogues and stock links within the app; advertisers on Facebook also can create links through to their WhatsApp accounts.

But now with payments, WhatsApp, which has amassed over 2 billion users, is finally taking a more comprehensive commercial plunge, giving people not just a place to chat about a product, or even send payment details, but now to actually transact.

And that, in turn, gives WhatsApp and Facebook another shot at building a revenue stream based on its vast scale, one which does not turn the app over to monetising its users through ads and the data that is amassed around them — the primary business model today behind Facebook and Instagram, another major app in the Facebook stable.

“Payments on WhatsApp are beginning to roll out to people across Brazil beginning today and we look forward to bringing it to everyone as we go forward,” the company said.

Users in Brazil will be able to use the payments service on WhatsApp to make purchases from local businesses without leaving their chat, the Facebook-owned service said.

“The over 10 million small and micro businesses are the heartbeat of Brazil’s communities. It’s become second nature to send a zap to a business to get questions answered. Now in addition to viewing a store’s catalog, customers will be able to send payments for products as well,” the company wrote in a blog post.

Although WhatsApp has in theory been working on payments for years, from what we understand there were a lot of delays in part due to how and where Facebook wanted WhatsApp to implement it. Now that it’s launching with Facebook Pay, it seems that we know how that struggle landed.

As for subsequent regions for launching the service, it’s not clear whether Facebook will be open to working with other kinds of payment methods, or even other payment rails beyond Facebook Pay, or what kinds of use cases it will pursue for the service — although the trial in India, using UPI, implies that it won’t just be a one-size-fits-all approach.

These remain critical questions, considering that payment cards and even bank accounts are not necessarily the norm in every market, especially emerging markets; and that other kinds of transactions such as remittances — where people transfer money to friends, family and businesses that are often far away — are some of the more popular uses of phones beyond simple calls and texts. (And as we’ve been saying for years, the link between messaging and remittances is a big one: messaging apps are where people carry out their relationships and communication, so they are a natural place to stay to send money.) The examples of payments in Brazil indicate that remittances are very much on Facebook’s radar, so we’ll see how and where it actually gets used.

A WhatsApp spokesperson declined to say more when asked for more specific details about future plans beyond Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s “More to come soon!”, from his own announcement. But given the link with Facebook Pay, one obvious guess might be that we’ll see payments rolled out in WhatsApp in markets where the former service is now live, which include the US and UK.

“We’re continuing to roll out Facebook Pay on Facebook to more countries outside the U.S. for existing payment experiences, which vary by country and may include experiences such as in-game purchases and fundraisers where already available,” a Facebook spokesperson said. “As we’ve said previously, our goal is to bring Facebook Pay to more people and places over time.”

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Boris Johnson: Protests threat to Churchill statue shameful

Protective gear being put around the statue in preparation for Friday protests

Winston Churchill has had to be boarded up because of fears it could be vandalised, the prime minister says.

Boris Johnson said the war-time leader had expressed opinions which were “unacceptable to us today” but remained a hero for saving the country from “fascist and racist tyranny”.

Protesters daubed “was a racist” on the monument last weekend.

Mr Johnson also told protesters to “stay away” amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

In a series of tweets, he said: “We cannot now try to edit or censor our past,” adding that such monuments were put up by previous generations.

The statue of Winston Churchill in London was spray-painted with the words “was a racist”

It comes after the statue of slave trader Edward Colston was thrown into the river in Bristol during a Black Lives Matter protest on Sunday.

Demonstrations have been taking place across the world following the death of George Floyd, an unarmed black man, in Minneapolis after a police officer held a knee on his neck for nearly nine minutes.

Mr Johnson said that, while he understood “legitimate feelings of outrage” at what had happened, the “only responsible course of action” was to “stay away from these protests”.

They had been “hijacked by extremists intent on violence”, he said.
While Churchill is credited with helping lead the Allies to victory in WW2, some critics accuse him of racism because of comments he made about Indians.

The statue of Winston Churchill in London was spray-painted with the words “was a racist”

Other monuments have been removed ahead of planned protests this weekend, while the Cenotaph has war memorial also been boxed up in London.

On Tuesday, a statue of slave owner Robert Milligan was removed from outside the Museum of London Docklands.

The NHS trust which runs Guy’s and St Thomas’ hospitals in London have said it will remove statues of Thomas Guy and Sir Robert Clayton – both linked to slavery – from public view.

A statue of Scouts movement founder Robert Baden-Powell is to be removed in Poole, Dorset.

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George Floyd funeral service in Houston review.

A three-state, five-day final journey for George Floyd ended Tuesday in Houston, the city he called home for most of his life.

Thousands of mourners, including longtime friends and family members, gathered for the final funeral services at The Fountain of Praise church. Many wore black face coverings and sat apart in the pews as pallbearers brought Floyd’s gold-colored casket up the aisle.

Family members broke down as they approached the casket and paid their respects one last time. “I’m going to miss my brother a whole lot,” LaTonya Floyd, George Floyd’s sister, said through tears. “I thank God for giving me, my own personal Superman.”

Religious leaders, gospel singers and other celebrants shared their condolences with Floyd’s kin through prayers, poems and songs.

“I want you to know I’m still praying for you. I want you to know that God has made himself available to you,” the Rev. Gusta Booker told Floyd’s family before he read from the New Testament.

A painting depicting Floyd, 46, with angel wings and a halo was placed behind the pulpit. He grew up in the city’s Third Ward, where he was loved by friends and family alike.

George Floyd’s family gathered to remember the man they called a “gentle giant.” Former Vice President Joe Biden and Rev. Al Sharpton spoke about his legacy as a catalyst for change.

They often referred to the 6-foot, 6-inch man as a “gentle giant.”
“He was a pesky little rascal, but we all loved him,” Kathleen McGee, Floyd’s aunt, said. “I just want to thank all of the mothers who are here today. Just hug them and love them because we don’t know when the time will come.”

Floyd played football for Houston’s Jack Yates High School as a tight end and was part of the team that went to the state championship in 1992. Ivy McGregor, a high school classmate, said the school community has been deeply saddened by the loss.

Brooke Williams, niece of George Floyd, speaks with the rest of the family, during the funeral for George Floyd at The Fountain of Praise Church on June 9, 2020, in Houston.Brooke Williams, niece of George Floyd, speaks with the rest of the family, during the funeral for George Floyd at The Fountain of Praise Church on June 9, 2020, in Houston.
Godofredo A. Vasquez/Pool via Getty Images

“George Floyd has left a legacy of love, loyalty and service to Jack Yates Senior High School,” she said.

Floyd’s death 15 days ago in Minneapolis at the hands of four officers set off worldwide protests against racial injustice and police brutality.

A montage of videos of those protests was shown on a big screen while Dray Tate sang “A Change is Going to Come.” During the montage, Ange Hillz created a large sketch of Floyd’s face with white paint on a black canvas.

Floyd’s niece Brooke Williams gave a passionate eulogy chastising the four officers who arrested Floyd and pinned him to the ground. She also took a not-so-subtle dig at President Trump, who has come under fire for pushing for tough police action in cities that are experiencing protests.

“Someone said, ‘Make America great again,’ but when has America ever been great?” Williams said to cheers. “You shouldn’t feel this pain, no one should feel this pain.”

Floyd’s final words were “I can’t breathe,” a term McGregor said everyone should take to heart.

“We stay with this family as you breathe, we breathe with you,” she said.

Floyd stayed close to his Houston family and friends and kept in close contact with his daughter, Gianna, 6, and her mother Roxie Washington. He was planning on bringing them to Minneapolis full-time, according to friends and family.

He remained active in the community, particularly in his church, and helped organize events including Bible studies and basketball tournaments.

“All I think about is when he was yelling for momma,” Floyd’s brother, Philonise Floyd, said. “Every momma felt that.”

Several dignitaries were in attendance including the Rev. Al Sharpton, U.S. Rep. Al Green, former Houston Mayor Annise Parker, Jamie Foxx, Channing Tatum and Houston Texans player J.J. Watt. Sharpton gave a fiery speech chastising leaders and police forces for their decades of discrimination against black Americans.

Vice President Joe Biden spoke via video at the ceremony, offering his condolences and calling for change for black Americans. Biden, who lost his wife and daughter in a car accident in 1972, addressed Gianna during the video.

“You’re so brave. Daddy’s looking down and he’s so proud of you,” he said.

For more of what others said about George Floyd at his funeral, click here

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Bonnie Pointer, founding member of The Pointer Sisters, dies at 69

Bonnie Pointer, one of the founding members of the group The Pointer Sisters, died Monday, according to her sister, Anita Pointer

She was 69.
“Our family is devastated, on behalf of my siblings and I and the entire Pointer family, we ask for your prayers at this time,” Anita Pointer said in a statement to CNN
“Bonnie was my best friend and we talked every day,” she continued. “We never had a fight in our life. I already miss her and I will see her again one day.”
Bonnie Pointer died of cardiac arrest, according to her publicist, Roger Neal.

The Pointer Sisters, photographed around 1970. (Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)

The four Pointer Sisters began singing together more than 50 years ago in their hometown church in Oakland, California, where their father ministered. Bonnie Pointer and her youngest sister, June, started singing together professionally in 1969. They later recruited older sisters Anita and Ruth to join them, before debuting their first album together in 1973.
The group won their first Grammy Award for their crossover hit, “Fairytale,” in 1974. Bonnie Pointer recorded five albums with her sisters before pursuing a solo career. She signed with Motown and scored her biggest solo hit with the 1978 disco track, “Heaven Must Have Sent You.”
Pointer released three albums with Motown before stepping back a bit from the spotlight, though she still performed periodically over the years.
In her statement, Anita Pointer credited Bonnie for the success of their musical family.
“The Pointer Sisters never would have happened had it not been for Bonnie,” she said.

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