Science & Health

FDA Approves Obesity Drug That Helped People Cut Weight 15%

Regulators on Friday said a new version of a popular diabetes medicine could be sold as a weight-loss drug in the U.S. The Food and Drug Administration approved Wegovy, a higher-dose version of Novo Nordisk’s diabetes drug semaglutide, for long-term weight management.  In company-funded studies, participants taking Wegovy had average weight loss of 15%, about 34 pounds (15.3 kilograms). Participants lost weight steadily for 16 months before plateauing. In a comparison group getting dummy shots, the average weight loss was about 2.5%, or just under 6 pounds. “With existing drugs, you’re going to get maybe 5% to 10% weight reduction, sometimes not even that,” said Dr. Harold Bays, medical director of the Louisville Metabolic and Atherosclerosis Research Center. Bays, who is also the Obesity Medicine Association’s chief science officer, helped run studies of the drug.  In the U.S., more than 100 million adults — about 1 in 3 — are obese. Dropping even 5% of one’s weight can bring health benefits, such as improved energy, blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol levels, but that amount often doesn’t satisfy patients who are focused on weight loss, Bays said. Bays said Wegovy appears far safer than earlier obesity drugs that “have gone down in flames” over safety problems. Wegovy’s most common side effects were gastrointestinal problems, including nausea, diarrhea and vomiting. Those usually subsided, but led about 5% of study participants to stop taking it. The drug carries a potential risk for a type of thyroid tumor, so it shouldn’t be taken by people with a personal or family history of certain thyroid and endocrine tumors. Wegovy also has a risk of depression and pancreas inflammation. Wegovy (pronounced wee-GOH’-vee) is a synthesized version of a gut hormone that curbs appetite. Patients inject it weekly under their skin. Like other weight-loss drugs, it’s to be used along with exercise, a healthy diet and other steps like keeping a food diary. The Danish company hasn’t disclosed Wegovy’s price but said it will be similar to the price of Saxenda, an 11-year-old weight loss drug injected daily that now typically costs more than $1,300 per month without insurance. Dr. Archana Sudhu, head of the diabetes program at Houston Methodist Hospital, said Wegovy’s usefulness “all depends on what the price will be.” She noted patients’ health insurance plans sometime don’t cover weight-loss treatments, putting expensive drugs out of reach. Sudhu, who has no connection to Novo Nordisk, plans to switch patients who are obese and have Type 2 diabetes to Wegovy. It makes patients feel full sooner and increases release of insulin from the pancreas to control blood sugar, she said. Patients would then be more likely to get motivated to exercise and eat healthier, she added. Wegovy builds on a trend in which makers of relatively new diabetes drugs test them to treat other conditions common in diabetics. For example, popular diabetes drugs Jardiance and Novo Nordisk’s Victoza now have approvals for reducing risk of heart attack, stroke and death in heart patients. Phylander Pannell, 49, of Largo, Maryland, joined a patient study after cycles of losing and then regaining weight. She said she received Wegovy, worked out several times a week and lost 65 pounds over 16 months.  “It helped curb my appetite and it helped me feel full faster,” said Pannell. “It got me on the right path.” Shortly after she finished the study and stopped receiving Wegovy, she regained about half the weight. She’s since lost much of that, started exercise classes and bought home exercise equipment. She’s considering going back on Wegovy after it’s approved. Novo Nordisk also is developing a pill version. 

Science & Health

UN Launches Decade of Ecosystem Restoration 

The United Nations is marking World Environment Day with the launch of a decade dedicated to restoring the Earth’s ecosystem, which is rapidly approaching “the point of no return,” U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said Friday.“Science tells us these next 10 years are our final chance to avert a climate catastrophe, turn back the deadly tide of pollution and end species loss,” Guterres said in a video address, a day ahead of the international day intended to raise environmental awareness and protection.”So, let today be the start of a new decade – one in which we finally make peace with nature and secure a better future for all,” he said.Guterres said the world faces a “triple environmental emergency”: biodiversity loss, climate disruption and increasing pollution.“The degradation of the natural world is already undermining the well-being of 3.2 billion people – or 40% of humanity,” he warned.Sorry, but your browser cannot support embedded video of this type, you can
download this video to view it offline.Download File360p | 7 MB480p | 10 MB540p | 14 MB720p | 27 MB1080p | 59 MBOriginal | 57 MB Embed” />Copy Download AudioEarth’s ecosystem is rapidly approaching “the point of no return,” U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres says June 4, 2021, a day ahead of World Environment Day.The U.N. secretary-general blamed human behavior, including deforestation, the polluting of rivers and oceans, and unsustainable agriculture practices for contributing to the planet’s poor health.“Luckily, the Earth is resilient,” he said.To reverse the damage, he said, societies need to start replanting forests, cleaning up rivers and seas, and greening cities.“Accomplishing these things will not only safeguard the planet’s resources,” Guterres said. “It will create millions of new jobs by 2030, generate returns of over $7 trillion every year and help eliminate poverty and hunger.”He acknowledged that the job ahead would be  “monumental” and called on governments, the private sector, civil society and ordinary citizens to do their share in this “global call to action.”Without action, he said, environmental degradation will undermine progress in development and threaten the health and safety of future generations.In a new report, the U.N. Environment Program says the global population is using about 1.6 times what nature can sustainably provide, which means conservation is not adequate to prevent ecosystem degradation.The report says if action is taken now, humans will benefit from cleaner air and water, as well as better health, and contribute to the slowing of climate change.

Economy & business/Silicon Valley & Technology

Facebook Suspends Trump for at Least Two Years

Facebook said Friday it would suspend Donald Trump’s accounts for at least two years, retaining a ban on the former U.S. president that it imposed after determining he incited the deadly January 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. “At the end of this period, we will look to experts to assess whether the risk to public safety has receded,” Facebook Vice President Nick Clegg wrote in a blog post Friday.  The social media giant’s independent oversight board upheld its block on Trump, which was enacted after the riot because the company said his posts were inciting violence. On January 6, Trump implored thousands of supporters who had come to Washington for a “Save America March” to “fight like hell” to overturn his defeat, just before the riot aimed at preventing the certification of Joe Biden’s presidential victory. Five people died, including a federal police officer. The ban expires on January 7, 2023, two years after Facebook first blocked the former president. The timing of Facebook’s decision will reduce Trump’s ability to influence midterm congressional elections in November 2022, but his account could be restored well before voters go to polls in 2024 should Trump decide to seek the presidency again that year. In response to Facebook’s decision, Trump said in a statement it is “an insult to the record-setting 75M people, plus many others, who voted for us in the 2020 Rigged Presidential Election. They shouldn’t be allowed to get away with this censoring and silencing and ultimately, we will win.” FILE – The founder and CEO of Facebook Mark Zuckerberg speaks during the 56th Munich Security Conference in Munich, Germany, Feb. 15, 2020.In a separate statement he added, “Next time I’m in the White House there will be no more dinners, at his request, with Mark Zuckerberg and his wife. It will be all business!” Zuckerberg is the co-founder and chief executive officer of Facebook. At the White House briefing Friday, press secretary Jen Psaki said the ban was the company’s decision. “Our view continues to be, though, that every platform, whether it’s Facebook, Twitter, any other platform that is disseminating information to millions of Americans, has a responsibility to crack down on disinformation, to crack down on false information whether it’s about the election or even about the vaccine, as we are trying to keep the American public safe.” 

Arts & Entertainment/Economy & business

COVID-19 Spurs Shutdown of ‘Mission Impossible’ Set

Paramount Pictures on Thursday temporarily shut down production on the British set of Tom Cruise’s seventh “Mission: Impossible” film after someone tested positive for coronavirus.  
“We have temporarily halted production on ‘Mission: Impossible 7’ until June 14th, due to positive coronavirus test results during routine testing,” a Paramount spokesperson said in a statement. “We are following all safety protocols and will continue to monitor the situation.”
The company provided no further details.Two women wear a face mask to prevent the spread of COVID-19 as they take a selfie with actor Tom Cruise in the background during a break from shooting Mission Impossible 7, along Rome’s Fori Imperiali avenue, Oct. 13, 2020.In December, Cruise launched an expletive-laden rant at colleagues on the “Mission: Impossible” set, after he reportedly spotted two crew members violating social distancing rules. In audio released by the Sun tabloid, Cruise can be heard warning that anyone caught not following the rules to stay at least 2 meters (more than 6.5 feet) away from others will be fired.
The film, which paused production for months early last year along with the rest of the film industry when the coronavirus pandemic took hold, is scheduled to be released in 2022.

Arts & Entertainment/Economy & business

Russian Player Arrested for Match-fixing at 2020 French Open

A Russian tennis player suspected of match-fixing last year has been arrested during this year’s French Open, her lawyer told The Associated Press on Friday.
The player, 765th-ranked Yana Sizikova of Russia, denied the allegations, according to her lawyer, Frederic Belot. He told The Associated Press that Sizikova wants to file a complaint for defamation.
The Paris prosecutor’s office confirmed to the AP that a “women’s international player” was in custody, but it did not identify her. She was arrested Thursday night on charges of “sports bribery and organized fraud for acts likely to have been committed in September 2020,” the prosecutor’s office said.
An investigation was opened last October by a French police unit specializing in betting fraud and match-fixing. It has previously worked with Belgian authorities investigating suspect matches at the lower levels of professional tennis.
The French tennis federation said it could not provide further information because the investigation is ongoing.
The International Tennis Integrity Agency, which investigates match-fixing in the sport, declined to comment on the details of the case but said in a message to the AP that “there has been ongoing liaison between the ITIA and law enforcement in France.”
Speaking to the AP in a phone interview, her lawyer said Sizikova was “extremely shocked.”
“She was placed in custody like a criminal. She says she is innocent and did not want me to assist her during her questioning because she considers herself like a victim,” Belot said.
Belot said he only started representing Sizikova Friday after he was approached by the player’s parents. He said Sizikova had contacted the ITIA when the case was opened last year to deny any wrongdoing.
The prosecutor’s office said the probe centered on suspicions about one match at Roland Garros last year. It did not specify the match. German newspaper Die Welt and French sports daily L’Equipe said at the time there were suspicious betting patterns in the first round of a women’s doubles match on Sept. 30.
On that day, Sizikova and partner Madison Brengle of the United States played on Court No. 10 against Romanian players Andreea Mitu and Patricia Maria Tig. Sizikova was broken to love serving in the fifth game of the second set, during which she double-faulted twice.
Le Parisien reported Friday that tens of thousands of dollars (euros) were bet with several operators in different countries on the Romanian players winning that game.
The newspaper said the 26-year-old Sizikova, who is ranked 101st in doubles, was arrested Thursday after losing in the first round of the doubles tournament at Roland Garros. The newspaper said authorities searched Sizikova’s hotel room.
Last year’s French Open, delayed because of the coronavirus pandemic, was played in late September and early October.

Science & Health

Latest NASA Supply Ship to Space Includes Newly-Hatched Squid

The U.S. space agency NASA said cargo on the latest supply ship headed for the International Space Station (ISS) includes newly hatched squid to be used in experiments examining the effects of space flight on microorganisms.NASA said the SpaceX Dragon resupply spacecraft that blasted off from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida Thursday – along with the squid, is carrying more than 3,300 kilograms of science experiments, new solar arrays, and other cargo.The hatchlings are bobtail squid and they are part of a project called Understanding of Microgravity on Animal-Microbe Interactions (UMAMI), which examines the effects of spaceflight on the molecular and chemical interactions between beneficial microbes and their animal hosts.  Gravity’s role in shaping those interactions is not well understood and microgravity provides the opportunity to improve that understanding.  At a NASA news briefing earlier this week, University of Florida microbiologist Jamie Foster told reporters all people and animals have beneficial microbes that help our bodies perform basic functions, like in the digestive or immune systems, and are essential to human health.  She said astronauts working in space frequently find their immune systems can become compromised or dysregulated – a potentially dangerous situation when you can’t go to a doctor immediately or you can’t get help.   Sorry, but your browser cannot support embedded video of this type, you can
download this video to view it offline.Download File360p | 8 MB480p | 11 MB540p | 14 MB720p | 30 MB1080p | 55 MBOriginal | 415 MB Embed” />Copy Download AudioSpace NewsFoster says squid have similar immune systems to humans, but they are simpler organisms and therefore, are easier to study. She said the study could provide valuable insight into how extended spaceflight impacts astronauts’ bodies, and how to address it.The Dragon supply ship is expected to rendezvous with the ISS early Saturday, eastern U.S. time.

Science & Health

US Government Finds No Evidence Aerial Sightings Were Alien Spacecraft – NYT

U.S. intelligence officials found no evidence that unidentified aerial phenomena observed by Navy aviators in recent years were alien spacecraft, but the sightings remain unexplained in a highly anticipated government report, The New York Times said Thursday.
The report also found the vast majority of incidents documented over the past two decades did not originate from any American military or other advanced U.S. government technology, the Times said, citing senior administration officials briefed on the report headed to Congress this month.
Many of the 120-plus sightings reviewed in the classified intelligence study from a Pentagon task force were reported by U.S. Navy personnel, while some involved foreign militaries, according to the Times.
The newspaper said U.S. intelligence officials believe experimental technology of a rival power could account for at least some of the aerial phenomena in question.
One unnamed senior U.S. official briefed on the report told the Times there was concern among American intelligence and military officials that China or Russia could be experimenting with hypersonic technology.
An unclassified version of the report expected to be submitted to Congress by June 25 will present few other conclusions, the newspaper said.
Public fascination with unidentified flying objects has been stoked in recent weeks by the forthcoming report, with UFO enthusiasts anticipating revelations about unexplained sightings many believe the government has sought to discredit or cover up for decades.
But senior U.S. officials cited in the Times article said the report’s ambiguity meant the government was unable to definitively rule out theories that the unidentified phenomena might have been extraterrestrial in nature.
The government’s Unidentified Aerial Phenomena (UAP) Task Force was created following a spate of observations by military pilots of unknown aerial objects exhibiting exotic speeds and maneuverability that seemingly defied the limits of known technology and laws of physics.
Led by the Navy, the task force was established last year to “improve its understanding of, and gain insight into, the nature and origins of UAP incursions into our training ranges and designated airspace,” Pentagon spokeswoman Sue Gough told Reuters.
She said such incidents are of concern because of safety and national security implications.
Responding to Reuters’ questions about the task force report, Gough said in an email earlier Thursday: “We do not publicly discuss the details of the UAP observations, the task force or examinations.”
The term “unidentified flying objects,” or UFOs, long associated with the idea of alien spacecraft, has been largely supplanted in official government parlance by UAP, short for unidentified aerial phenomena, since December 2017.
It was then that the Pentagon first went on record, in a New York Times article, acknowledging documented UAP encounters by its warplanes and ships and efforts to catalog them, marking a turnaround from decades of publicly treating the subject as taboo.

Arts & Entertainment/Economy & business

From Beatles to Elton John: Oldest DJ’s Storied Career

Ray Cordeiro considers himself the luckiest radio DJ in the world.
In a storied career spanning over 70 years in Hong Kong, Cordeiro has interviewed superstars including the Beatles and Elton John, and even received an MBE — an order of the British empire for outstanding achievement or service to the community — from Queen Elizabeth.
Cordeiro, who holds the Guinness world record for the world’s longest-working DJ, retired last month at the age of 96.
“I’ve been talking all my life about music and all, and I’d never thought that I would retire. I never thought that I was getting older,” he said.
Cordeiro was born in 1924 in Hong Kong and is of Portuguese descent. His musical tastes as a child were influenced by his brother who was 10 years older and collected records from groups like the Mills Brothers and the Andrews Sisters.
Back then records were breakable, Cordeiro said.
“When he’s not home and I played his records, I had to be very, very careful, because if I broke it he would get awfully angry,” Cordeiro said. “I grew up with his music.”  
In his youth, Cordeiro worked as a warden at a local prison and a clerk at an HSBC bank. His love for music eventually led him to pursue a career in radio, where he joined public broadcaster Radio Hong Kong, now known as Radio Television Hong Kong.
It was during a three-month study course in London with the BBC in 1964 that Cordeiro landed the interview that kickstarted his career — with the Beatles, the biggest band in the world at the time.
He had some free time after the end of the course before he had to return to Hong Kong and didn’t want to “sit around for two weeks doing nothing.”
“So, I said, why don’t I grab the chance of finding some peeps, some pop groups or singers that I can interview and bring back (tapes) to Hong Kong,” he said.
During those two weeks, Cordeiro traveled to venues where groups were performing and interviewed them afterward.
The Beatles had become wildly popular and Cordeiro wanted to interview them the most. Armed with a notebook and a pen, he went to the offices of the band’s record label, EMI, to ask for an interview with the group.
By a stroke of luck, he was told to return the next day for an interview, with EMI loaning him a tape recorder for it. He bought a magazine with a picture of the Beatles on the cover and took it with him to the interview and got all the members to autograph it.
“Altogether I have some 26 signatures of all the Beatles, and it’s probably worth a fortune,” he said.
The interview was short because he didn’t have a lot of tape in the tape recorder, but Cordeiro managed to spend time with each member of the Beatles. He said John Lennon recounted the Beatles’ early days in Hamburg, Germany, where they lived in relative poverty and played in clubs.
He later interviewed the Beatles again when they visited Hong Kong. The interviews shot him to fame, and he quickly became Hong Kong’s top DJ, armed with interviews he had conducted in London with the popular music groups at the time.
“I had a career before that, because I was interviewing local pop stars, but when you compare them to the Beatles it is something quite different,” he said.  
As the city’s most recognizable DJ, he also got to know other stars such as Elton John and Tony Bennett.
Known for his deep, calm voice, flat cap and easy listening repertoire, Cordeiro garnered a loyal following of listeners who would tune in to his weekday radio show “All the Way with Ray,” which ran from 1970 until last month.  
“I fulfilled my work as a DJ, did what I had to do and the audience followed me, grew up with me, and they’re all over the world now,” he said. “They’re all over and they still listened to me on the internet.”
Asked if he were to do it all over again if he would pick being a DJ as a career, Cordeiro doesn’t hesitate.
“I don’t think I have to actually think about it, the answer is yes,” he said.