Economy & business/Silicon Valley & Technology
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MacKenzie Scott Donates $2.7 Billion to ‘Underfunded and Overlooked’ Causes

Billionaire philanthropist MacKenzie Scott announced Tuesday that she has donated $2.7 billion to communities “that have been historically underfunded and overlooked.” “Because community-centered service is such a powerful catalyst and multiplier, we spent the first quarter of 2021 identifying and evaluating equity-oriented nonprofit teams working in areas that have been neglected,” Scott wrote in a blog post. But Scott emphasized in the post that she struggled with headlines centering on her instead of the organizations and causes she hopes to uplift.  “Putting large donors at the center of stories on social progress is a distortion of their role,” Scott wrote. She said that the headline she would wish for her post was “286 Teams Empowering Voices the World Needs to Hear.” Among the “teams” Scott listed as the recipients of her donations were higher education institutions “successfully educating students who come from communities that have been chronically underserved.” Scott also listed interfaith organizations working to bridge racial divides, and arts and cultural institutions working with “culturally rich regions and identity groups that donors often overlook.” Scott committed to donating half her fortune to charity upon divorcing Amazon founder Jeff Bezos in 2019.MacKenzie Bezos Pledges to Give Away Half Her Fortune

        MacKenzie Bezos, who just months ago divorced the world's richest man, has pledged to give away half her fortune to charity. The former wife of Amazon founder and chief executive Jeff Bezos is one of the 19 new signatories to the Giving Pledge who have promised to donate more than 50% of their wealth, the organization said. "I have a disproportionate amount of money to share,'' MacKenzie Bezos said in a letter released Tuesday. "My approach to philanthropy will continue to be thoughtful. It will take…

“My approach to philanthropy will continue to be thoughtful. It will take time and effort and care. But I won’t wait. And I will keep at it until the safe is empty,” she wrote at the time. Scott has donated an estimated $8.5 billion in the past year. 
 

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New Study Suggests Coronavirus Was Present in US Earlier than First Believed

The novel coronavirus was present in the U.S. in December 2019, weeks before health officials first identified infections, according to a new government study.
 
Conducted by a team that included researchers from the U.S. National Institutes of Health, the study analyzed 24,000 blood samples. The findings suggest that some Americans were infected as early as the middle of December 2019, weeks before the world recognized the spread of the new deadly virus that erupted in the Chinese city of Wuhan.
 
While the analysis is inconclusive, and some experts remain unconvinced, more federal health officials are accepting a scenario during which small numbers of people in the U.S. were infected with the virus before the world was aware of its spread.
 
The study, published Tuesday by the Clinical Infectious Diseases journal, is the latest and largest to suggest the virus first appeared in the U.S. earlier than previously known. It found that at least seven people in the U.S. states of Massachusetts, Mississippi, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin were infected earlier than any COVID-19 case was ever reported in those states.

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US Surpasses 600,000 Deaths from COVID, Leading the World

The United States has surpassed 600,000 dead from COVID-19, the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center reported Tuesday. The count spans from the beginning of the pandemic 15 months ago. While the numbers of new COVID-19 cases and daily deaths in the United States have fallen steadily in recent weeks, the milestone is a harsh reminder of the toll the pandemic has taken and is still taking.  U.S. President Joe Biden on Monday acknowledged the approaching milestone, saying that while new cases and deaths are dropping dramatically in the U.S., “there’s still too many lives being lost,” and “now is not the time to let our guard down.” In the United Kingdom, meanwhile, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced late Monday that the government would be pushing back by nearly four weeks its “road map out of lockdown” date — from June 21 to July 19 — on which all COVID-19-related restrictions would be lifted. Speaking to reporters, Johnson said the decision was based on a surge in COVID-19 infections caused by the delta variant of the virus in certain parts of the country. He said July 19 will be “a terminus date” that will allow the country to proceed with full reopening.  Racial inequalities in COVID deaths Meanwhile, The Associated Press reports it has uncovered data showing how the pandemic has exposed wide racial inequalities in the U.S. A story published Monday by the AP said that where race is known, white Americans account for 61% of all COVID-19 deaths, followed by Hispanics with 19%, Blacks with 15%, and Asian Americans with 4% — figures that track with each group’s share of the U.S. population as a whole.  FILE – Anthony Brinson, right, talks with a resident while leaving a flyer at a home in Detroit, May 4, 2021. Officials are walking door-to-door to encourage residents of the majority Black city to get vaccinated against COVID-19.But the news agency said an analysis of data released by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that after adjusting for population age differences, Native Americans, Hispanics and Blacks are two to three times more likely than whites to die of the disease. The AP also found that Hispanics are dying at much younger ages than other groups — 37% of Hispanic deaths were of people younger than 65, compared with 30% for Blacks and 12% for whites.  According to the AP, Blacks and Hispanics overall have less access to medical care and are in poorer health, with higher rates of diabetes and high blood pressure. They are less likely to work from home and more likely to work at jobs deemed “essential” and to live in crowded, multigenerational households, where working family members are more likely to expose others to the virus. An analyst with the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonpartisan health policy research organization, told the AP that the high rates of COVID-19 deaths among Blacks and Hispanics parallel sharply with the low vaccination rates among those groups.   As of Tuesday afternoon, the United States had posted 600,159 deaths out of nearly 33.5 million total infections, according to Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center. 
 

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Arts & Entertainment/Economy & business
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Tree to Table: Cicadas Make for Culinary Adventure at DC Restaurant

Parts of the United States are being invaded by a mass brood of cicadas that emerges from the ground once every 17 years.  For most people the noisy insects are a nuisance, but for others, they’re a meal. VOA’s Alam Burnahan has details in this story narrated by Irfan Ihsan.
Camera: Alam Burhanan, Irfan Ihsan, Ronan Zakaria

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Arts & Entertainment/Economy & business
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Syrian Refugees in Somalia Enrich Culture, Contribute to Economy

Since the war in Syria broke out a decade ago, refugees have fled to countries in the Middle East and Europe as well as to countries in Africa that face instability, like Somalia. And, as Mohamed Sheikh Nor reports from Mogadishu, Somali officials say Syrian refugees are enriching the host nation culturally and economically.Camera: Mohamed Sheikh Nor  
 

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Blacks, Hispanics More Likely to Die of COVID-19 in US, Associated Press Finds

As the United States approaches 600,000 COVID-19 related deaths, the Associated Press has uncovered data showing how the pandemic has exposed  the country’s wide racial inequalities. A story published Monday by the AP said where race is known, white Americans account for 61% of all COVID-19 deaths, followed by Hispanics with 19%, Blacks with 15%, and Asian Americans with 4% — figures that track with the groups’ share of the U.S. population as a whole.  But the news agency said an analysis of data released by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that Native Americans, Latinos and Blacks are two or three times more likely than whites to die of the disease after adjusting for population age differences.  The AP also found Latinos are dying at much younger ages than other groups — 37% of Hispanic deaths were of those under 65 years of age, compared to 30% for Blacks and just 12% for whites.  According to the AP, Blacks and Hispanics overall have less access to medical care and are in poorer health, with higher rates of diabetes and high blood pressure.  They are also more likely to work at jobs deemed “essential,” are less able to work from home and more likely to live in crowded, multi-generational households, where working family members are more likely to expose others to the virus. An analyst with the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonpartisan health-policy research organization, tells the AP that the high rates of COVID-19 deaths among Blacks and Latinos parallels sharply with the low vaccination rates among those groups.   As of early Wednesday morning, the United States had posted 599,945 deaths out of nearly 33.5 million total infections, according to Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center. Vaccine effectiveness  A new study from Britain suggests both the Pfizer and AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines are both highly effective against the Delta variant of the virus. FILE – A health worker holds a tray with vials of the Pfizer vaccine for COVID-19 during a priority vaccination program at a community medical center in Sao Paulo, Brazil, May 6, 2021.The study, published Monday in the The Lancet medical journal, says the vaccine developed jointly by Pfizer and BioNTech proved 79% effective against the highly transmissible Delta variant, while the vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford University was 60% effective. The findings were the result of a study conducted on more than 5 million people in Scotland who were given both doses of each vaccine.   The Delta variant of COVID-19, first detected in India, has now spread to at least 74 countries, especially in Britain, where it has overtaken the homegrown Alpha variant. The Guardian newspaper says Delta appears to cause more severe symptoms, including stomach pain, nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, hearing loss and joint pain. The World Health Organization has designated Delta as a “variant of concern.” Tokyo Olympics organizers to Unveil New ‘Playbook’ Organizers of the upcoming Tokyo Olympic Games are preparing to release its latest version of rules aimed at preventing the spread of COVID-19 among the participating athletes. FILE – A red traffic light is seen on a street near the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building displaying a banner of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics Games, in Tokyo, Japan, May 31, 2021.Tuesday’s release of the updated protocols, which have been dubbed the “playbook,” coincides with the arrival in the Japanese capital of International Olympic Committee vice-president John Coates. He sparked a backlash last month when he vowed the Olympics would be staged as scheduled even if Tokyo was under a continued state of emergency due to the pandemic.  The Games are scheduled to officially begin on July 23 after a one-year delay despite staunch public opposition due to the current outbreak of the coronavirus, especially among the Japanese medical community. Japan has banned foreign spectators from attending the Olympics, and organizers are expected to deliver a decision later this month on whether to welcome domestic spectators into the venues.   Tokyo and several other prefectures are under a state of emergency until June 20.    

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Mexico Receives 1.35 Million COVID Vaccines from US

Mexico has received 1.35 million doses of the Johnson & Johnson, single-dose COVID-19 vaccine donated by the United States.The doses will be given to those over 18 in four border towns, Tijuana, Mexicali, Ciudad Juárez and Reynosa. The goal is to end essential travel restrictions on the border.The first vaccinations could be given as early as Wednesday, according to Mexican Assistant Health Secretary Hugo López-Gatell.
Mexico’s vaccination program has used a mix of vaccines and so far, has been focused on people 40 and older. It has administered about 26 million shots, according to the Associated Press.After an upsurge in December and January, cases have been declining across the country until a spike of 8% this week attributed to a breakout along the Caribbean coast.Earlier this month, the Biden administration said the U.S. would donate up to 80 million vaccine doses worldwide by the end of the month.

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