Get subscribed to our newsletter
Get interesting updates to your email inbox.
Prominent public health officials in the US have increasingly highlighted the limitations of cloth face masks, pushing for more effective respirator masks such as N95s as the Omicron variant is rapidly spreading across the country, a shift in messaging from earlier in the pandemic, the Washington Examiner reported. Officials encouraged the use of cloth masks in the spring of 2020 as a desperate measure to slow the spread of Covid-19 after previously recommending against masks and continued to boost them in the months after. Now, though, more experts are saying that the masks are not helpful, the report said.
Also Read : Choose the right face mask for your baby
"Cloth and surgical masks do absolutely nothing for protection from ambient virus," said Chad Roy, a microbiologist at Tulane University School of Medicine, referring to the virus spreading through the air. "All this song and dance of wearing cloth masks with some presumption that you're being protected from ambient virus is completely and positively 100 per cent counter to how masks and respirators work." Evidence of the the N95's superiority to the cloth mask has been well-documented.
Cloth and surgical masks do absolutely nothing for protection from ambient virus. |Unsplash
In 2015, for example, before the onset of the pandemic, scientists from Australia, Vietnam, and China concluded that healthcare workers "should not use cloth masks as protection against respiratory infection. Cloth masks resulted in significantly higher rates of infection than medical masks, and also performed worse than the control arm". "The use of an N95 does give you some protection in a bidirectional manner, meaning that if you're using an N95 without a one-way valve for exhalation... you're protected from not only ambient aerosol of a particular size, as well as exhalation if you are ill, so it does double duty in that regard," Roy said.
The use of an N95 does give you some protection in a bidirectional manner. |Unsplash
President Joe Biden's administration announced this week that it would prioritize distributing 400 million free high-quality respirators to be made available through local pharmacies and community health centres. The millions of N95s would come out of the 750 million masks currently stored in the Strategic National Stockpile. The rollout is expected to begin early next month, the report said. (IANS/SP)
(Keywords : masks, covid, pandemic, N95, cloth, surgical, United States of America, Joe Biden, President, administration, health, official, microbiologist, protection.)
- How Face Masks Affect Our Social Interaction - NewsGram - Lens to ... ›
- To Mask or Not to Mask? A Question Dividing the US - NewsGram ... ›
By Arul Louis
The US and the presidency of Joe Biden lurched from crisis to crisis in 2021 and political and health uncertainties cloud the year ahead. The nation faced a crisis of democracy; surges in the Covid-19 pandemic; a chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan dimming its global perception; a challenge from China to its status as the premier superpower; a crisis of illegal immigration at the border with Mexico; electoral reverses for Biden's Democratic Party; and a legislative logjam, but amid them, all ties with India continued to grow.
And next year, the outcomes of the mid-term elections on which the control of Congress hinges are an open question because of the history of the President's party losing and Democratic Party setbacks in state elections this year.
After this year dawned, the supporters of defeated President Donald Trump rioted, violently forcing their way into the citadel of US democracy, the Capitol, disrupting the formalization of his election by Congress, leaving at least five people dead and a nation shaken. The riot that followed a rally by a defiant Trump refusing to concede his defeat, which he continues adamantly, was seen as a threat to US democracy never seen probably since the mid-19th century Civil War and its polarization haunted American politics.
The Democrats then tried unsuccessfully to impeach Trump a second time. In a reaffirmation of democracy, two weeks later alongside Kamala Harris was sworn in as Vice President setting milestones as the first woman, the first Indian-American and the first person of African-American descent to hold the office.
Soon, the administration of Harris and Biden faced a surge in Covid-19 cases and scrambled to provide vaccinations to battle the pandemic. Through the year, Covid-19 overshadowed all aspects of life in the US - as everywhere in the world - with another surge in August driven by the Delta variant and the Omicron variant posing a possible new threat as the year was setting. In the first flush of governance, Biden managed to get through a splintered Congress his $1.9 trillion rescue package for a Covid-19-ravaged nation, and later a $1.2 trillion legislation for building up the nation's infrastructure but at the end of the year, the Congressional logjam blocked his more ambitious bill to expand social programmes.
Biden has said he plans to run for re-election in 2024.Unsplash
The opposition came from members of Biden's own party that has slender majorities in Congress because of its price tag even after whittling down to the $2 billion range given the inflation rate of 6.8 per cent, the highest since 1982. That was also a personal setback for Indian American Pramila Jayapal, who heads the leftist Congressional Progressive Caucus, who pushed for the bill and even made compromises in hopes of getting reluctant centrists of her Democratic Party to back it.
A Democratic plan to revamp "voting rights" - through measures that would make no sense elsewhere in the world like banning photo IDs for voters - was also in the limbo and Harris who was put in charge of it has not been able to get it through Congress. Curbing the record-setting levels of illegal immigration, another task Harris had been entrusted with, also floundered with hundreds of thousands surging through the southern border with Mexico drawn by perceptions of the Democratic Party as lenient on border controls.
Grappling with these almost impossible tasks, Harris's popularity has dimmed with a recent Gallup poll showing a disapproval rate of 54 per cent, up from the 42 per cent range when she took office. Her office is also in turmoil with several of her key staffers quitting while questions arise over her style of leadership and her political future.
Biden has said he plans to run for re-election in 2024, when he would be almost 82 years old -- if his health holds. But questions persist over whether he would - and, if he didn't, would Harris inherit the mantle and go on to win the election? The mid-term elections coming up next year cast a shadow on these ambitions.
The chaotic pullout of US troops from Afghanistan ceding control to the Taliban after a 20-year war was a point of pivot at the global level. Unsplash
In a warning about the possibility of a change in political direction, Republican Glenn Youngkin gained an upset victory in the governor's election in Virginia where Biden had won in the presidential elections a year ago. And in New Jersey, another state considered a Democratic Party stronghold, Democratic Governor Phil Murphy eked out a narrow win. On the Republican side, Trump is continuing to sow confusion by hinting at running for another term in 2024. That uncertainty makes it harder for other Republicans to openly gear up to fight for the party nomination. Among those who are actively - though behind the scenes - aiming for the Republican nomination is Nikki Haley, the first Indian American to be a member of the cabinet and a former governor of Southern Carolina state.
The chaotic pullout of US troops from Afghanistan ceding control to the Taliban after a 20-year war was a point of pivot at the global level. The fall of Kabul to the Taliban, whom the US had defeated and chased out of the city, without any resistance from the Washington-backed military, was a shock and it led to harrowing scenes of tens of thousands of US employees and supporters trying to get out while an ill-prepared US scrambled to meet the challenge. The scenes of disarray in Kabul and the quick Taliban takeover dented the US image and gave an edge to China and Russia in the region - and, of course, Pakistan.
Those events forced Biden to turn his attention to also this side of Asia after the Indo-Pacific had been the the focus of his foreign policy. However, the interest in the Indo-Pacific where India has emerged as a key player has not flagged because of his recognition of China's challenge after he became president. Biden convened the first summit of the Quad, the group of India, the US, Japan and Australia, as the four strengthened their cooperation moving steadily into a regional role of multilateral assistance while reaffirming their commitment to securing the region where China is aggressively asserting itself with conflicts from the Himalayas to the South China Sea.
Indian-Americans continued to make their mark in the US. Unsplash
In West Asia, a tentative step was taken for another Quad when India's External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Foreign Ministers Yair Lapid of Israel and Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed of the United Arab Emirates met in October with an agenda of regional cooperation. Contrary to expectations by some in the US and in India that Biden would shun Modi over alleged human rights issues, there was cordiality and closeness dictated by the geopolitical challenges. And this was despite the close relationship - verging on the electoral - that Modi had forged with Trump. Modi too executed a swift pivot to Biden.
During Modi's September visit, Harris tried for the benefit of some of her admirers in the US and India to deliver a coded sermon on democracy. Modi in turn boycotted the session of Quad summit that she presided over. Indian-Americans continued to make their mark in the US. Biden and Harris have appointed over 20 Indian-Americans to key posts in the administration, including Vivek Murthy as Surgeon General, Vanita Gupta as Associate Attorney General and Gautam Raghavan as the head of the White House Office of Personnel. Neera Tanden, who was nominated to the powerful post of the director of the Office of Management and Budget, had to drop out because she had offended key senators of both parties with coarse attacks.
In the corporate world, Parag Agarwal became the CEO of Twitter, the ubiquitous social media that has arguably become the main platform for political discourse. Bioinformatics scientist Mihir Metkar was recognised as the primary contributor to the development of Moderna's Covid-19 vaccine. Akilan Sankaran won the top prize in the nation's leading science competition for middle schoolers with a computer programme using "antiprime numbers" that can accelerate everyday processes. Three of the four winners at the next level were also of Indian-origin, as were 15 of the 30 finalists from around the country. (IANS/SP)
(Keywords : United States of America, COVID, pandemic, election, Joe Biden, Donald Trump, Kamala Harris, Afghanistan.)
- Know About the Similarities and Differences Between the ... ›
- Economic Panel Declares, The USA has Officially Entered ... ›
US President Joe Biden's approval rating has fallen to the lowest level over his handling of the economy, Covid-19 pandemic and gun violence, according to an ABC News/Ipsos poll. The survey revealed that Americans have named surging inflation as their top concern, Xinhua news agency.
According to the poll, 28 per cent of Americans approved of Biden's handling of inflation, while a majority at 69 per cent, disapproved. The President has witnessed a drop in approval rates in his handling of the economic recovery, with 41 per cent of Americans approving his handling in December, compared to 47 per cent back in October.
Follow NewsGram on Twitter to stay updated about the World news.
Disapproval rates of Biden's handling of the economy also jumped. Fifty-seven per cent of Americans surveyed disapproved of his handling of the economy, compared to the 53 per cent in October.
Also read: Omicron detected in California wastewater
As the new Omicron Covid variant is spreading across the country, resulting in renewed mask mandates, travel restrictions and booster shots, the President took a significant hit in Americans' faith in his handling of the pandemic.
According to the poll, 28 per cent of Americans approved of Biden's handling of inflation, while a majority at 69 per cent, disapproved.Unsplash
While a majority of Americans (53 per cent) still approve of Biden's response, 45 per cent disapprove, marking a nearly 20-percentage point drop from March, when 72 per cent backed his response.
His approval rating slid in his handling of gun violence and crime, as the US has experienced a surge in gun-related violence and deaths this year. Biden faced a 7-percentage point drop in his handling of both issues since October. Two-thirds of Americans disapprove of Biden's handling of gun violence, while 32 per cent approve, the ABC News/Ipsos poll found.
US has experienced a surge in gun-related violence and deaths this year.Unsplash
Only 36 per cent of Americans approve of his handling of crime while 61 per cent disapprove. Both approval numbers are the lowest since Biden took office this January. The poll was conducted from December 10 to 11, among a random sample of 524 Americans, with a margin of error of 5 per cent. (IANS/SP)
(Keywords : Joe Biden, America, president, approval, rating, inflation, economy, violence, covid, gun, crime)
Amid vaulting China-US one-upmanship and US President Joe Biden's recriminations against Russia, East-West tensions spilling onto the turf of sports didn't raise many eyebrows as Washington announced a diplomatic boycott of the Winter Olympics, scheduled in Beijing from February 4-20 next year, triggering a swift response from China amid a Yuletide season rendered hot by geostrategic tensions.
Acerbic relations between the two superpowers have recently been in flux as the United States under Joe Biden has raised the heat on China under Xi Jinping's stewardship.
Follow NewsGram on Twitter to stay updated about the World news.
Taiwan, Hong Kong, weaponization and the battle for one-upmanship in the South China Sea have littered the turf of bilateral ties between the two nations. Sports -- recently being used as a weapon of attrition in international politics -- is increasingly coming to the fore in the arena of inter-state confrontation.
Also Read : The impacts of Hosting the Olympics
The boycott doesn't seem to be out of sync with what has been transpiring between the two nations -- one of which always draws fire for calling itself the leader of the free world.
"It's understandable as long as they are sending athletes," said a former Chinese sports journalist, talking about the move that wouldn't directly affect athletes.
"It's understandable as long as they are sending athletes," said a former Chinese sports journalist.Pixabay
Germany's Thomas Bach, a 1976 Olympic fencing gold medallist, lost the opportunity to defend his Olympic title in 1980 after the Western Bloc boycotted the Moscow Games, added the journalist.
Bach, now the President of International Olympic Committee (IOC), has said that he chose to be politically neutral in the face of the boycott by Washington.
Australia, the United Kingdom and Canada have been doing the US' bidding by announcing diplomatic boycott of the Winter Games by citing concerns over China's human rights record. What is important is that athletes are participating, the German official said.
Chinese mouthpiece Global Times had another take on the controversy. Calling the boycott a "US hijack", it said Washington had turned it into a small 'clique' diplomatic tool.
Zhao Lijian, spokesperson of the Chinese Foreign Ministry, told a press conference that the US has been fabricating the biggest lie of the century about so-called "genocide" in China's Xinjiang region, which has been "refuted" by facts.
"Based on ideological biases and lies, the US is trying to disturb the Beijing Winter Olympic Games. The practice violates the principle of political neutrality enshrined in the Olympic Charter, runs counter to the Olympic motto of 'together' and stands on the opposite side of global athletes and sports fans," Zhao said.
What is important is that athletes are participating, the German official said.Pixabay
Quite unbeknownst of what was happening on the sports front, China had its eyes set on space from where three Chinese astronauts -- called 'taikonauts' -- delivered a lecture to schoolchildren who had their eyes fixed on the classroom screen.
Dressed in blue space suits, the trio demonstrated several interesting experiments, including those on surface tension and motion and how objects behave differently in space.
Back on earth, at a Chinese tea house in Anhui province in eastern China, people talked about Chinese-style democracy as steaming tea was poured into bowls. A Ukrainian man explained how the Chinese went about their business in the 100-year-old tea house, Xinhua News Agency reported.
Back in Ukraine, thousands of miles away, the threat of a Russian invasion was another factor playing in the minds of people as the Kremlin flexed its muscle over the territorial conflict.
From the tea house to the Crimean Peninsula -- when China and Russia are there, can their brand of democracy be far behind. (IANS/SP)
(Keywords : China, USA, United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, Xi JInping, Joe Biden, Winter Olympics, boycott, democracy, Beijing.)
- Neeraj Chopra: The Golden Boy Of India - NewsGram - Lens to India ... ›
- Padma Shri Athlete Sudha Singh 'Shuns' Family For Glory ... ›