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Klietmann: Omicron is serious business, not reason for panic

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Moderna: Initial booster data shows good results on omicron

Scientists have long known that SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, would continually evolve. That’s just what viruses do — they mutate to spread and survive.

The new omicron variant possesses several mutations to evade antibodies induced by vaccinations and previous natural infections. That’s why cases are reaching record levels in many countries, including the United States, which reported over 1 million daily cases in early January. Even vaccinated and previously infected people are vulnerable.

Those characteristics demand a cautious — but not alarmist — response by politicians, public health officials and ordinary people.

There is good news: Omicron seems to possess a lower pathogenicity than earlier strains of the virus — though exactly how much lower is still under review. But by now, it’s clear that the vast majority of those infected will only get mild symptoms.

But there’s bad news too: Omicron spreads much, much faster than earlier variants. And it’s about 2.7 to 3.7 times more infectious in fully vaccinated people than the delta variant, according to a new Danish study.

We should not downplay this danger. We have to consider that the vaccine-induced immunity (also in recovered patients) has a considerably reduced efficiency against this new variant. More scientific data will be published within a few weeks from in vitro assays which are already being performed. The unvaccinated population will be easily overrun by this new agent. These are the facts of major concern and could result in a very threatening winter pandemic of 2022 when the new wave of omicron infections comes on top of the present rising pandemic caused by the delta variant.

With more testing it is evident that many people are virus-shedders, even triple-vaccinated adults, who otherwise don’t feel sick. Meanwhile, omicron spreads with exponential doubling times of roughly two days. This will lead in a short time span to the infection of everybody in the country.

The sheer number of infections, even if a lower percentage of patients are severely ill, could still overwhelm the limited capacity of our emergency rooms, hospitals and the worn-out physicians and nurses — and also upend the economy. The collapse of the health care system in many places is foreseeable and unavoidable. We already witnessed the grounding of the major airlines in this holiday season. The trucking industry will be impacted by sick drivers, the supply chains for hospitals, pharmacies and food will be interrupted or stall completely.

None of this is cause for panic, however. The U.S. government has wisely not increased pandemic restrictions over the holidays, knowing that lock-downs would have been met with much opposition. In fact, the CDC shortened the quarantine period for patients to five days to stabilize the economy.

The economy, our public life and regular cultural and human interactions are essential. The rampant drug abuse with high overdose mortality is a direct consequence of nearly two years of isolation and confinement weighing on the youngest members of our society. The pandemic-related restrictions on health care access for many patients with chronic diseases or cancer resulted in delayed treatments and bad outcomes.

The scientific community responded admirably to the crisis, developing not just multiple vaccines, but also antiviral pills — like Pfizer’s Paxlovid and Merck’s Molnupiravir — that sharply reduce the risk of hospitalization and death.

But science alone cannot guide us through this challenge, which is as much a political and social issue as it is a medical one. We need to balance public health with the demands of our society and find practical and sound solutions to preserve a maximum of personal freedom and assure a minimum of human sacrifice.

In short, there is no reason for despair, but we need to take this unfolding surge very seriously.


Dr. Wolfgang Klietmann is a former clinical pathologist and medical microbiologist at Harvard Medical School. 

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The Photographer: Murder in Pinamar On Netflix: May 19 Release, Time And What Is It About?

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The Photographer: Murder in Pinamar On Netflix: May 19 Release, Time And What Is It About?

Hold your seats fast! For there is another fiery documentary around the corner. On May 19, 2022, Netflix released The Photographer: Murder in Pinamar. The one hour and forty-six minutes long documentary will take us through the politically heated atmosphere of Argentina and focus on the death of Argentinian photojournalist Jose Luis Cabezas.

The co-writing team includes the names Tatiana Merenuk and Gabriel Bobillo. While Alejandro Hartmann is also one of the executive producers, Vanessa Ragone and Mariela Besuievsky have been a part of the executive production team.

The Plot

On the series’ description page on Netflix, the synopsis reads, “The crime of the photographer José Luis Cabezas, in the summer of 1997, shocks Argentina and reveals a mafia network in which the political and economic powers do not seem to be unrelated.

The consequences will be almost as dramatic as the crime itself, both for its instigator and the country.” The documentary again attempts to reassert the evil of governance and the mafia’s involvement in society’s underbellies, pulling the strings through the exploitation caused by money.

Freedom Of Press

The death of Jose Luis Cabezas was a lightning strike to every layman living in Argentina. This was a direct attack on the freedom of the press, for which people came out on the streets and protested this forced violence again.

It was a wake-up call for all; different media groups and human rights advocates asked for justice for Cabezas. The murder occurred during the times that one can  consider the golden age of the press in Argentina.

1652911028 825 The Photographer Murder in Pinamar On Netflix May 19 Release

The Conspiracy And Secrecy

For a long time in the initial investigation, it is believed that it is simply political motivation; where police  put sheets over it. However, a name soon popped up that shook the investigation in another direction, “Alfredo Yabran.” No one had ever seen his face in public; no photographs, no visual identification marker was present for him. 

This link led to new leads, and rumors started painting a whole new reality. Many people were apprehended from the area known as Los Hornos in the Bueno Aires province, and the case was put on trial in 2000 for the murder of Jose Luis Cabezas. They were sent to jail in feburary.

The Teaser

“Taking a picture of me is like shooting myself in the forehead,” almost horrifyingly; this line appears in the teaser released by Netflix. Yabran wanted to remain a ghost, but Cabezas was on his righteous mission.

The film is rates 16 and up, with children under 16 requiring parental supervision. Netflix describes it as provocative and investigative. Such unearthing of realities sure calls for a mature mind to deal with the complex reality we live in.

The post The Photographer: Murder in Pinamar On Netflix: May 19 Release, Time And What Is It About? appeared first on Gizmo Story.

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Making his fifth appearance in six years, Stillwater’s Alex Beach is a permanent fixture at PGA Championship

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Making his fifth appearance in six years, Stillwater’s Alex Beach is a permanent fixture at PGA Championship

Not all of Alex Beach’s family will be in attendance at Southern Hills this week in Tulsa, Okla., to watch the Stillwater native compete at this week’s PGA Championship. Turns out, this was their pre-determined cabin-opening weekend.

That confirms two things: No. 1, Beach is indeed Minnesotan. And, No. 2, that this is far from his first trip around the major championship block.

In fact, when he tees off in the first round at 2:31 p.m. Thursday, Beach will be making his fifth PGA Championship appearance over the past six years. He has gained entry into this particular golf major championship the same way each time, by finishing in the top 20 of the PGA Professional Championship. Doing so this year was not without drama.

In the final round of last month’s club pro championship, Beach thought he needed to finish at 1 under par for the 72-hole event to safely gain entry into another PGA Championship. But he got into the clubhouse at even par. That led to a nervy two-plus hours playing the waiting game. By the time everyone else was in, Beach and three others were tied for 18th — meaning a sudden-death playoff would be held to see which three of the four golfers would punch their tickets to the PGA Championship.

And, on the first playoff hole, Beach faced a birdie chip from off the green.

He drained it, clinching another major championship tee time in the process. The clip — which Beach says he has now seen more than 100 times — shows the 32-year-old carefully watching the ball’s roll, then somewhat casually dropping a finger down as the birdie dropped into the cup.

“I didn’t really celebrate much. I was so in the zone on the task at hand,” Beach said. “When it went in, honestly, it was just like blackout mode. My short game is pretty good, but I had some kind of streaky stretches during that tournament, and just kind of, poetically, to finish with some theatrics, I guess it’s fitting.”

It wasn’t until he was walking off the green with his caddie that Beach smiled and the reality of the achievement seemed to sink in. The first word Beach used to describe that playoff: “stressful.”

“Super happy and thrilled, lucky to get through it. I didn’t have my best stuff (at the tournament) in Texas, really had to grind it out and was lucky to finish high enough to get into the playoff, and then was very fortunate to chip in and kind of solidify my spot,” he said. “Yeah, that was wild.”

Frankly, so too is making a fifth PGA Championship appearance in six years. The assistant professional at Westchester Country Club in Rye, N.Y., is nearly as permanent a fixture at the premier event as the game’s top names.

“So in some ways it’s like, ‘Mark it on your calendar,’ but at the same time it’s the opposite of that,” said Beach, a 2007 Stillwater Area High School grad. “It’s so hard to get here for me and the 20 guys. But showing up to this week now, I’m so comfortable. I know a lot of the players. I’ve been fortunate to play with a lot of them many times now and I know how the week works, and I’ve always said the hardest thing out here for someone like myself is to get comfortable and feel like I belong. In some small way now I kind of feel like I’ve earned that, mainly to myself, not from anybody else.”

Beach’s goals entering this week are the same as always — to play well. He knows he’s good enough to compete at this level. He would love to make the 36-hole cut, something he hasn’t done in his four previous tries.

“Hopefully, in a couple days,” he said, “we can change that.”

That’s not to say he hasn’t been close. He was just a couple of shots off the number in 2020, and was inside the cut line in the second round last year before suffering a back injury that derailed his round.

The scores, he noted, don’t always reflect how close he has been. Beach believes Southern Hills, which puts a premium on distance and work around the greens, fits his game “really well.” He is accustomed to Midwest golf and championship golf. This setup checks both of those boxes. He said a number of holes appease the eye of the lefty’s cut off the tee. Perhaps all of those factors working in his favor will lead to a special week.

Beach puts pressure on himself to succeed, but added there’s so much more to this week than his tournament performance.

“The level of support that I have is truly humbling, and it’s so fun to share this experience with others, and that, for me, is what makes it special,” he said. “The true fun stuff happens on the course. (Tuesday,) signing autographs for some young kids and getting to have some laughs with them. That’s where this is truly special. For someone like myself, this isn’t my week-in, week-out job at this point — as much as I’d love it to be one day. So yeah, I’m going to try my hardest, but it’s been an incredible week.”

Of the 20 club pros, Beach’s fifth PGA Championship appearance ties him with Ryan Vermeer for most among the group. He has gotten to know so many people through his experiences, including countless PGA Tour players. They’re among those fascinated by the stories of the PGA club pros.

“They’re kind of rooting for us, too. It’s pretty much everybody. We’re the true underdog story,” Beach said. “We get to share what it’s like to play in an all-star game, which is pretty much what a PGA Championship is. And to hold our own, that just validates what we love to do and why we work hard.”

Beach’s advice to this week’s PGA professional newbies is simple: Savor the experience.

“Play well, play poorly, you earned the right to be here, you earned the right to smile, and you earned the right to enjoy what this week is, because you’re going to look back on it with incredible memories,” he said. “And hopefully it’s one of many/ But you’re never guaranteed much, so enjoy the walk.”

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Celtics’ Smart upgraded to probable, with Heat’s Lowry still out, as pandemic, protocols remain series factors

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Celtics’ Smart upgraded to probable, with Heat’s Lowry still out, as pandemic, protocols remain series factors

The specter COVID and illness continues to be a factor in the Eastern Conference finals series between the Miami Heat and the Boston Celtics.

A day after the Celtics big man Al Horford entered the NBA’s heath-and-safety protocols, Boston coach Ime Udoka was unavailable for his team’s Wednesday media session due to what the Celtics said was a non-COVID illness.

However, ongoing concerns about the pandemic continue to impact the NBA playoffs for a third consecutive year, with the Heat returning to a mask mandate for all media at Wednesday’s interview session.

In addition, it is believed that ESPN now will conduct pregame coaching interviews remotely.

Horford, as of Wednesday, was not expected to be available for Thursday’s 8:30 Game 2 and FTX Arena, formally listed as doubtful by the Celtics.

It is not the scenario Heat coach Erik Spoelstra had hoped for by this stage of the pandemic.

“It’s disappointing,” he said. “It’s like every single time you think it’s getting beyond this, it’s not.”

That had him empathizing with the Celtics.

“You want to beat their best with our best,” he said. “It’s just not the world we’re living in.”

Heat guard Tyler Herro said Wednesday the return of COVID and illness is just a sign of the times.

“I mean, you just control what you can control,” he said. “There’s a lot of sickness going around, but you just try to stay out the way and hope everything goes well, I guess.”

While the Celtics offered no updates on Horford, guard Marcus Smart, the 2022 NBA Defensive Player of the Year, was upgraded to probable Thursday for a return from the mid-foot sprain that had him out for Tuesday’s series opening Heat victory.

“Obviously, he’s Defensive Player of the Year,” Herro said, “so him being on the floor obviously brings a presence on that side of the ball. He’s a tremendous player, so him being out there, obviously it shifts things a little bit.”

Herro said a return by Horford would be similarly series shifting, whenever that might come.

“I mean, both of those being back, that’s two of their five starters,” he said. “Being at full strength, I’m sure they’ll be a little bit more confident. And we’ll see when those guys get back.”

Also, Celtics guard Sam Hauser remains out due to right-shoulder instability.

For the Heat, point guard Kyle Lowry remains sidelined with a hamstring strain, listed as out, to miss his eighth game in the last 10.

Spoelstra said Lowry was limited to light shooting Wednesday, with the Heat limited in their court time.

“I don’t have a new update,” he said.

Premature Pepas

Yes, Herro said, he was surprised that the Heat rally anthem of ‘Pepas’ was played with significant time remaining Tuesday, perhaps a bit prematurely.

“It did,” he said. “I was thinking that. I think it was like four minutes on the clock.”

The Heat led by 13 with 3:18 to play, with their lead later trimmed to seven with 1:28 remaining.

Spoelstra said he was unaware of premature Pepas, but acknowledged being unaware through a significant portion of the Pepas phenomenon at FTX Arena.

“You know what? I did not notice it [Tuesday] night,” Spoelstra said. “And it took like probably five games during the regular season to realize when our players were getting all hyped up in the huddle, and I’m looking around like, ‘focus.’ And then everybody told me to get my head out of the sand. And I realized what it was.

“I didn’t even know it was played [Tuesday] night. At that point, I thought the game was very much in the balance.”

He then smiled and added, “I will talk to the appropriate people.”

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