January 08, 2020

The Flu Season May Yet Turn Ugly, CDC Warns
The United States may be headed into a bad flu season, according to figures recently released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.As of the last week of December, "widespread" flu activity was reported by health departments in 46 states. More ominously, a second measure -- the percentage of patients with flu symptoms visiting medical clinics -- shot up almost to the peak reached at the height of the 2017-18 flu season, which was the most severe in a decade.About 61,000 Americans died of flu that season, the CDC said. (The original estimate of 79,000 was revised downward last year; the agency said the number changed as more death certificate information became available.)This year's flu vaccine may not be particularly effective against the strain of the virus now widespread in the United States, experts said. But even so, it's worth getting the shot: People who are vaccinated fare better if struck by the flu than those who are not.It is still too early to know how severe this season will be, said Lynnette Brammer, leader of the agency's domestic influenza surveillance team.Although many people are coming down with flu, the two chief indicators of severity -- hospitalizations and deaths -- are not yet elevated, she noted.Deaths from pneumonia and flu are actually lower than normal at this time. But reports of hospitalization and death normally lag other indicators by at least two weeks.The current season did begin unusually early. By late November, the flu had hit hard in the Deep South, from Texas to Georgia. The virus then broke out in California and the Rocky Mountain states, but was not widespread in the Northeast until recently.That pattern echoes what happened in Australia, where winter runs from June through August. Flu came unusually early to the Southern Hemisphere in 2019. In seasons when Australia has a bad flu season, the Northern Hemisphere sometimes does, too.In another important way, however, the United States is not following Australia's lead. The A(H3N2) strain of influenza was dominant there last year, while most U.S. cases this season have been caused by a very different strain, called B Victoria. (B strains are named for the cities where they were first isolated.)B strain flus do not normally arrive until late in the season. But when they do, "they often impact children more than adults and older adults," Brammer said.The CDC tracks the deaths of children individually, rather than making estimates, as is done for adults. Those older than 65 are usually the group hardest hit by flu. Thus far this season, 27 children have died of flu -- in 2017-18, 187 died -- but pediatric deaths don't normally start peaking until mid-January.On the rise now is the A(H1N1)pdm09 strain, which is a descendant of the pandemic "swine flu" that first appeared in 2009 and then morphed into a seasonal flu.H1N1 strains are usually the first to appear. They usually cause fewer hospitalizations and deaths per capita than B strains or A(H3N2).Thus far, based on limited testing data, this season's flu shot does not look like a good match for the B Victoria flu and may not be very effective, the CDC said. But the shot does still appear to be well matched for the A(H1N1)pdm09 strain.CDC flu data relies on reports from doctors' offices, clinics and hospital emergency rooms about how many patients come in with flu symptoms.An even faster measurement of flu's spread comes from Kinsa Health, which collects daily readings of fevers from up to 2 million users around the country who own its thermometers. The devices connect to smartphones and instantly upload readings to the company's app.Kinsa readings indicate that flulike activity peaked Dec. 24 at a level just below the 2017-18 level -- confirming what the CDC found -- and has since dropped by almost a third, said Nita Nehru, a company spokeswoman.But even this week's lower figure "is much higher than is typical of this time of year," she added. It may bounce up again soon, now that students have returned to school from holiday vacations.The company assumes that fevers lasting three or more days indicate flu rather than a common cold, said Inder Singh, the company's founder.The CDC has not endorsed Kinsa's methods, but the data does show flu patterns at least a week or two ahead of reports from medical clinics.Thus far, almost none of the hundreds of samples tested by the CDC have been resistant to Tamiflu or any other common anti-flu drug. Those medications do not cure the flu; they only reduce the severity of an infection, and only if they are taken early.This article originally appeared in The New York Times.(C) 2020 The New York Times Company
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Star Wars Director Says It's About Time A Woman Makes A Star Wars Movie
Jan 02, 2024
Oscar-winning documentary filmmaker Sharmeed Obaid-Chinoy is directing an upcoming Star Wars movie that brings back Daisy Ridley in the role of Rey. Obaid-Chinoy will become the first woman to direct a Star Wars film, dating back to the franchise's origins in the 1970s. Speaking about this, Obaid-Chinoy told CNN that she is "very thrilled" to make the movie and create something that is "very special.""We're in 2024 now, and I think it's about time we had a woman come forward to shape the story in a galaxy far, far away," she said.Obaid-Chinoy won Best Documentary, Short Subjects Academy Awards for Saving Face (2012) and A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness (2015).In 2020, Lucasfilm boss Kathleen Kennedy told the BBC that a woman would eventually direct a Star Wars movie, saying that would "absolutely" happen, "without question." Victoria Mahoney was a second unit director on The Rise of Skywalker, but a woman has never claimed a top directing credit on a Star Wars movie.On the TV side of things, The Mandalorian has featured a number of female directors, including Deborah Chow and Bryce Dallas Howard. Chow went on to direct the Obi-Wan TV series, too.Another high-profile franchise that has never had a female director is James Bond. Producer Barbara Broccoli and Skyfall director Sam Mendes have both said they want to see a woman direct a future 007 film.As for Obaid-Chinoy's Star Wars movie, little is known about it apart from the fact that Ridley will come back to play Rey. It is expected that this film will be the first of the three new Star Wars films to come to theaters, possibly releasing in December 2025.According to a report, Peaky Blinders creator Steven Knight is writing the Rey movie, taking over for Damon Lindelof and Justin Britt-Gibson.
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NBA Names Clare Akamanzi CEO Of NBA Africa
Jan 02, 2024 15:29
The NBA named Clare Akamanzi – an accomplished business executive and international trade and investment lawyer – as CEO of NBA Africa. Akamanzi will start her position on Jan. 23, 2024, and report to NBA Deputy Commissioner and Chief Operating Officer Mark Tatum. In this role, Akamanzi will oversee the NBA’s business and basketball development efforts in Africa and will be responsible for continuing to grow the popularity of basketball, the NBA and the Basketball Africa League (BAL) across the continent, including through grassroots basketball development, media distribution, corporate partnerships, and social responsibility initiatives that improve the livelihoods of African youth and families. For the last six and a half years, Akamanzi was CEO of Rwanda Development Board (RDB), where she spearheaded Rwanda’s economic development by enabling private sector growth. Under Akamanzi’s leadership, RDB implemented several business policy reforms and initiatives that led to significant investment and development for the country, including through partnerships with the BAL, Arsenal FC, Paris Saint-Germain FC, FC Bayern Munich and TIME Magazine, among others. “Clare’s business acumen, international experience and familiarity with basketball and the NBA make her the ideal executive to lead our business in Africa,” says Tatum. “NBA Africa and the Basketball Africa League are well-positioned for continued growth, and under Clare’s leadership we believe these initiatives will transform economies, communities and lives across the continent.” “I’ve seen firsthand how sports can positively impact businesses, families and communities in Africa, and the NBA and the BAL are a perfect example of that,” says Akamanzi. “The NBA has done an incredible job growing basketball and the economy around it across the continent, and I’m excited about the enormous opportunities ahead to build on that momentum.” Previously, Akamanzi was Chief Operating Officer of RDB and Head of Strategy and Policy Unit, Office of the President of the Republic of Rwanda. She has extensive international trade, business and diplomatic experience, having previously worked for the Rwandan Government at the World Trade Organization in Geneva, Switzerland and at the Rwandan Embassy in London, England. Akamanzi has worked or studied in seven different countries and holds an honorary LLD from Concordia University in Montreal, Canada, in recognition of her work in Rwanda. She earned a master’s degree in public administration from Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where she was the recipient of three prestigious awards for academic excellence and distinguished contribution to the community: the Lucius N. Littauer Fellows Award, the Raymond & Josephine Vernon Award and the Robert Kennedy Public Service Award. In addition, Akamanzi holds a Master of Laws degree in international trade and investments from the University of Pretoria in South Africa, and a Bachelor of Laws degree from Makerere University in Kampala, Uganda. Akamanzi has served on several company boards, including the World Health Organization (WHO) Foundation, ECOBANK and Aviation, Travel and Logistics (ATL) company. She was recognized by Forbes as one of Africa’s Top 50 Powerful Women in 2020.
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