Measles emergency ‘effectively over’: New York City officials

Hailshadow/iStock(NEW YORK) —  New York Mayor Bill de Blasio and health officials have declared an end to the recent measles outbreak in the city in a statement released Tuesday.

“Ending the measles outbreak required extensive collaboration with community organizations and Jewish leaders,” the mayor said in the statement. He went on to praise their efforts in encouraging vaccinations and achieving “record immunization levels.”

 New York City just suffered its largest measles outbreak in nearly 30 years. According to the mayor’s office, 654 people were diagnosed since the onset of the outbreak in October 2018.

About 73% of those diagnosed were not vaccinated and 80% were people younger than 18. Since the outbreak, there have been 52 measles-related hospitalizations and 16 admissions to intensive care.

A large portion of the outbreaks happened in Orthodox Jewish communities, including the Brooklyn neighborhoods of Williamsburg and Borough Park. Many in those communities refused vaccinations on religious grounds. In April, the city set an emergency order requiring vaccinations in affected zip codes.

While the city has since rescinded the emergency order, in June, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed statewide legislation removing religious exemptions for vaccinations.

Although there have been no new cases of measles reported in New York City since mid-July, officials warned the threat remains.

“Measles is one of the most contagious diseases on the face of the earth,” Health Commissioner Dr. Oxiris Barnbot said in a statement. “There may no longer be local transmissions of measles in New York City, but the threat remains given other outbreaks in the U.S. and around the world. Our best defense against renewed transmission is having a well-immunized city.”

In June, there were 1,000 reported measles cases in the U.S., a record number since the disease’s eradication. Worldwide, measles outbreaks have surged 300% in the first three months of 2019 compared to the same time frame in 2018, according to the World Health Organization.

There have been significant outbreaks of measles in Europe and Israel, as well as in countries in South America, Africa and Asia. New York City officials have urged travelers to check with healthcare providers prior to international travel. Those potentially exposed should seek care, and those who haven’t been vaccinated are encouraged to do so.

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British Prime Minister Boris Johnson suffers critical defeat as lawmakers rule out no-deal Brexit

WORLD NEWS British Prime Minister Boris Johnson suffers critical defeat as lawmakers rule out no-deal Brexit

melis82/iStock(LONDON) — The U.K. Parliament is set to extend the Brexit deadline once again in defiance of Prime Minister Boris Johnson, throwing the government’s plans into chaos and increasing the likelihood of a general election.

Lawmakers voted, 328 to 301, to take control of Parliamentary time Wednesday in order to pass legislation to prevent a no-deal Brexit, with several members of Johnson’s own party voting against him.

Johnson has now said he will table a motion to have a general election, to be voted on in Parliament soon. If it passes by a two-third majority, a general election will be held to elect new members of Parliament.

The government’s loss of the crucial vote, dubbed a “showdown” by the British media, is a major blow to the Johnson government’s plans of leaving the European Union by the end of October.

Former Prime Minister Theresa May was forced to request an extension to the previous Brexit deadline of March 31, and subsequently resigned after the deal she had negotiated with EU leaders was voted down three times by lawmakers earlier this year.

Johnson’s Conservative Party lost their majority in Parliament ahead of the vote after lawmaker Phillip Lee defected to the Liberal Democrat Party, which advocates a second referendum and remaining in the EU. In dramatic scenes, Lee “crossed the floor,” physically leaving the Conservative Party to join the opposition on the other side of the chamber. Among the highest profile lawmakers to vote against the government was Nicholas Soames, the grandson of Winston Churchill, who voted against the government with a “heavy heart.”

“I don’t doubt Boris wants to get a deal, but I do not believe he has the means to will the end,” he said. “His demands are unreal and I cannot condone ‘no deal.'”

According to reports in the British media Monday, the government had told members of Johnson’s Conservative party Monday they would be thrown out if they voted in favor of extending the deadline. This could mean Soames, a Conservative member of Parliament since 1983, could face expulsion from the party.

Johnson has repeatedly said he would prefer to leave the EU with a deal, although they were willing to leave without one “do or die.”

Addressing Parliament before the vote, Johnson described the law being put forward as a “white flag,” that would generate more “pointless delay.”

“It would force me to accept any terms offered [by the EU],” Johnson told lawmakers. “It would destroy any chance of negotiations or a new deal. … This country wants this done. They want the referendum respected.”

The government is widely expected to vote for a general election after Tuesday’s defeat, according to the BBC. If it were to do so, the election would likely be held on Oct. 14, the day Parliament is scheduled to return from the historic suspension the Queen approved last week.

Under that schedule, the newly elected government would have less than three weeks to determine the way out of the Brexit conundrum that has dominated British politics for the past three years. It is unclear what impact a general election will have on Parliament’s vote to once again extend the Brexit deadline.

The Johnson government’s highly controversial move to suspend Parliament during the crucial Brexit period appears to have united opposition to Johnson’s Brexit plans. Critics of a no-deal Brexit have long warned that it would have a disastrous impact on the British economy.

Johnson, who helped lead the push to exit the EU in a national referendum three years ago, took over from May in July.

However, in order for a general election to be called, two-thirds of Parliament must vote in favor of it. Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn has repeatedly called for a general election.

Johnson has appointed a government of mainly Brexit supporters, which has positioned the Conservatives as the party of Brexit in the event of an election.

A general election would likely be chaotic and extremely bitter, and there are no guarantees it would transform the parliamentary arithmetic in favor or against advocates of a no-deal Brexit.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Posted On 03 Sep 2019

Chinese ‘deepfake’ app Zao comes under fire over privacy concerns

WORLD NEWS Chinese 'deepfake' app Zao comes under fire over privacy concerns

yasinemir/iStock(NEW YORK) —  A new Chinese app that lets users seamlessly swap faces with celebrities gained widespread popularity over the weekend, but quickly drew just as much criticism over privacy concerns.

The app, named Zao, was the most downloaded free app in China’s iOS App Store as of Sept. 1, and has been featured on the worldwide iPhone App Store homepage since its release on Aug. 30, according to App Annie, which tracks app data.

With Zao, users can choose an array of features, including playing “a classic movie with your face” using the “extraordinary face-changing speed,” according to App Annie. It uses “deepfake” technology that is created with artificial intelligence — technology that has drawn widespread concern over how it can be used.

App users took to social media to post about their own face swap with Zao, with many using shots of Leonardo DiCaprio from his “Titanic” role.

Yet following the app’s viral surge, users began to notice its privacy policy that allegedly gave ZAO permission to use their faces for marketing purposes.

The user agreement said that those who used the app and uploaded their images to ZAO agree to surrender the intellectual property rights to their face, and permit ZAO to use their images for marketing purposes, according to Reuters.

The app has since updated its agreement page and the company said they “thoroughly understand the anxiety people have toward privacy concerns,” Reuters reported.

Zao was pushed out by Changsha Shenduronghe Network Technology Co., which is owned by executives from Momo Inc., a company that created a widely-used dating app in China.

“Deepfake” videos have raised concern over how realistic they look.

One video showed Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg appearing to talk about “control[ling] the future,” while another video by Buzzfeed had former President Obama seemingly discussing controversial opinions and spouting out a curse word. The Buzzfeed video, which was done as a PSA, later showed that it was actually actor and director Jordan Peele who was saying the words that looked as though they were coming out of Obama’s mouth.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Posted On 03 Sep 2019

Russia jails 2 men, blogger amid crackdown following anti-Kremlin protests

WORLD NEWS Russia jails 2 men, blogger amid crackdown following anti-Kremlin protests

anouchka/iStock(MOSCOW) — A Russian court on Tuesday handed down prison sentences to two men accused of acting violently toward police during anti-Kremlin protests this summer, while separately a court jailed another man for five years over an “extremist” tweet.

The sentences came amid a crackdown by authorities on Russia’s opposition after a period of unusually large and persistent protests in Moscow.

They were the first rulings in the roughly dozen criminal cases that have become known collectively as the “Moscow cases” that were brought in connection to two protests on July 27 and August 3 that saw police arrest hundreds.

Authorities have sought to paint those peaceful protests as violent riots and have brought charges against 14 individuals they say participated.

A Moscow district court on Tuesday sentenced Danil Beglets and Ivan Podkopaev to two and three years in penal colonies respectively for allegedly using force against police at the July 27 protest. Podkopaev, 25, was accused of spraying police officers with pepper spray, while Beglets, also 25, was alleged to have grabbed a police man’s wrist, “causing him physical pain.” Both men pleaded guilty and were sentenced in expedited trials, where evidence was considered at just one hearing.

Another court on Tuesday sentenced Vladislav Sinitsa to 5 years prison for posting a tweet that prosecutors said had incited violence against the families of police officers.

Sinitsa, a blogger from a town outside Moscow who tweets under the pseudonym Max_Steklov, on July 31 wrote a tweet suggesting protesters could find and kidnap the children of police officers through social media.

“They’ll look at the nice happy family photos, study the geo-location, and next the child of a gallant police officer one day simply won’t come back from school. Instead of the child a compact disc with a snuff video will come in the mail,” he wrote in the tweet.

Investigators said with the tweet Sinitsa had sought to arouse “enmity and hatred towards all law enforcement officers and their families.”

Sinitsa’s case was rushed through, with evidence considered only in a single hearing. His lawyer, Denis Tikhonov told AFP that the sentence was “without precedent in its severity.” His client accepted he had written the tweet, Tikhonov said, but denied it was a call to violence, saying Sinitsa had written it in an exchange with a pro-Kremlin blogger. He said Sinitsa will appeal the verdict.

The charges fall under Russia’s extremely harsh anti-extremism legislation, which has been used previously to jail people for writing or sharing posts on social media deemed critical of the government.

Tanya Lokshina, an associate director at Human Rights Watch, told ABC News that while the tweet’s sentiment was unacceptable, the sentence was “clearly disproportionate” and questioning how it could be considered a direct call to violence.

The trials have been part of an attempt by authorities to portray the demonstrations as violent riots. The protests broke out after opposition candidates were barred in mid-July from taking part in Moscow’s city elections this fall. Since then thousands of people have demonstrated peacefully in Moscow most Saturdays.

Many of those charged in the trials have featured in heavily-edited state news reports, cut to make it look like they were acting aggressively.

In reality, the demonstrations were markedly peaceful—many protesters didn’t even chant slogans, instead often simply walking or standing in public places.

Police, though, moved aggressively to disperse the demonstrators, clubbing some on the ground and detaining people often seemingly at random.

“We have the grounds to say that the protests were peaceful, peaceful. And if someone was disturbing public order, if someone was carrying out acts of violence, that was the police. Not the protesters,” Lokshina said.

Many of the criminal cases have rested on allegations that do not appear to amount to real violence, such as lifting a police officer’s visor or throwing plastic bottles at officers. On Tuesday authorities dropped five of the protest cases, after Russia’s Investigative Committee said they had found no evidence of criminal actions. Among those released was Sergey Abanichev, who was accused of throwing a paper cup at police.

Those releases marked a reversal in what has been seen as the intensifying crackdown on the protest that have become some of the largest opposition demonstrations in a decade, fuelled in part by the police violence. An authorized protest on August 10 attracted 60,000 people.

At the most recent unauthorized protest last Saturday police also took a more hand’s off approach, largely allowing around two thousand people to march unhindered.

Authorities appear, however, to be keeping up the pressure on the protest leaders, arresting two organizers on Monday night. Lyubov Sobol, a top lieutenant of Russia’s most prominent opposition leader Alexey Navalny, and Ilya Azar, a prominent journalist, were both detained and charged with repeat violations of laws on public gatherings.

The city council elections that sparked the protests are due to take place Sept. 8.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Posted On 03 Sep 2019

Teen who ate chips, white bread left with permanent vision impairment

Fabrique Imagique/iStock(NEW YORK) — While picky eating is fairly common with some kids, severe side effects are a rarity.

But one recent case out of the U.K. serves as an important reminder for parents to vary their children’s diets.

A new report by clinician-scientists from Bristol Medical School and the Bristol Eye Hospital found that a tenager with an extremely limited diet was vitamin deficient, leading to blindness as well as other health issues, including hearing loss.

The 14-year-old in the study took no medications and was otherwise at a normal weight, but ate only highly processed foods, including Pringles, white bread and pork.

“The researchers concluded that the patient’s ‘junk food’ diet and limited intake of nutritional vitamins and minerals resulted in the onset of nutritional optic neuropathy,” the study said.

“His doctors did initially diagnose him with mild nutritional deficiencies, specifically Vitamin B12, and prescribed the right shots,” said Dr. Sejal Parekh, who works for the ABC News medical unit. But, per the case report, the patient did not complete the injection course.

He developed hearing loss, likely due to decreased bone density in the inner ear and later developed blindness from nerve damage.

The patient was then “prescribed the appropriate nutritional supplements and referred to mental health services for his restricted eating” the case report described, adding that while his vision stabilized it did not improve.

“This patient likely suffers from ARFID, or Avoidant-restrictive food intake disorder, which is becoming a more recognized disorder, in which patients restrict their intake typically based on textural, color, or taste aversions to foods,” Parekh explained. “ARFID differs from anorexia in that it is not driven by body image or weight concerns. ARFID can be recognized in children with other sensory processing disorders and autism.”

Many afflicted with ARFID have less severe consequences, but not eating a varied diet may increase those risks.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Why pizza may be a more balanced breakfast than a sugary bowl of cereal

LauriPatterson/iStock(NEW YORK) — If you’ve ever eaten a cold slice of leftover pizza for breakfast, you’re definitely not alone — and according to one nutritionist, you may actually just be onto something.

When NYC-based registered dietitian Chelsey Amer, MS, RDN, shared that a slice of pizza is a better choice than some other breakfasts like a bowl of sugary cereal, we wondered to what end that may be true.

“Surprisingly, pizza can be a more balanced breakfast option than many sugar-filled breakfast cereals,” Amer told ABC News. “A slice of plain cheese pizza contains a balance of carbs, protein, and fat. A bowl of sugary cereal with low fat milk is largely sugar and extremely carb-heavy.”

What we know to be true

Dr. Lauren Kelly, who works with the ABC News medical unit, said the point of Amer’s “provocative statement that pizza is better than cereal is to highlight that cereal has poor nutritional value and people are eating it all of the time. Not that pizza is the best choice either, but people usually consider pizza a cheat food — the opposite of a healthy choice.”

While pizza still isn’t a healthy food, the value of its ingredients may add up to a more balanced choice than some other breakfast options.

Amer added that she is “not recommending pizza as an everyday breakfast” but urging people to “focus on a balance of high fiber carbohydrates, lean protein, and healthy fats to stay full throughout the morning.”

Kelly said, “It’s shocking to know that pizza is comparable to (if not higher in protein than) the food so many American kids are eating every morning for breakfast.”

The takeaway

“The important take home is to be more mindful of what’s in our food and to eat a balanced breakfast that’s high in protein and minimizes carbs from added sugar and fried foods,” Kelly explained.

“Additionally, it’s important to note that there are some great breakfast cereals on the market. Look for whole grains and less than 5g sugar per serving when checking the Nutrition Facts label,” Amer advised.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Is your anxiety rubbing off on your children?

damircudic/iStock(NEW YORK) — A mother who’s dealt with anxiety sought help for herself after she believed her fears were trickling down to her toddler.

When Tiffany Baker’s son was 3 years old he had typical toddler fears.

“He was scared of the dark, he was scared of thunder storms, he was scared of strangers,” Baker told Good Morning America.

But when Milo shared more unusual fears like worrying about the shower turning on when he was in the bath, Baker expected he was sensing her anxiety and replicating it.

“I’m an anxious flyer, I’m an anxious car rider, I’ve just been an anxious person,” she said.

To help her son, Baker decided to undergo therapy for herself.

According to research from Yale University, the best way to deal with anxiety in children is to treat their parents.

“Parents constantly reassure a child with generalized anxiety. While the responses of parents are natural, studies have shown they also leave children suffering from debilitating anxiety into adulthood,” said Eli Lebowitz, associate director of the Anxiety and Mood Disorders Program at the Yale Child Study Center and lead author of the study, which expanded into a program at Yale that counsels parents.

Baker shared her experience in the online publication Motherly writing, “the writing was on the wall: my anxiety had become a problem.”

“The wisdom I received from being in therapy was that the better option was to help him face what he was afraid of,” Baker said.

Baker said she learned mindful breathing to calm her own anxiety. She also changed her language with her son. For instance, she replaced “be careful” with “let me know if you need help.”

“I make sure I communicate to him that I believe in him, that I think he’s capable,” Baker said.

Milo is now a well-adjusted 9-year-old who takes risks and pitches for his baseball team.

Parenting expert Rachel Simmons appeared on GMA Tuesday, where she explained how children may react to the same things that make their parents anxious, after seeing modeled behavior.

“Parenting is an anxious profession,” Simmons said. “We don’t keep our kids alive by looking the other way and so we have to be a little bit easy on ourselves about the fact that we all get nervous, but I think it’s really important to do a few things.”

Simmons gave the following suggestions for parents looking to reduce the anxiety in their kids.

1. Ask open-ended questions

Don’t say, “Who was mean to you?” Instead, Simmons suggests saying, “How was your day? Who did you hang out with? Tell me something that surprised you.”

2. Try not to overreact

Don’t react from your own anxiety. “Take a deep breath, respond with intention,” Simmons said.

3. Avoid making feelings more painful

Try not to match your child’s feelings when they are upset.

Simmons said if your anxiety is keeping you from going places or attending events, it’s a sign you should seek help.

Seeing a counselor, a therapist, or joining a mindfulness/stress reduction program can help, she added.

“The best thing you could do for your child is to help yourself,” Simmons said.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Prince Harry launches travel initiative after controversy over private jet use with Duchess Meghan

WORLD NEWS Prince Harry launches travel initiative after controversy over private jet use with Duchess Meghan

NataliaCatalina/iStock(LONDON) — Prince Harry spoke out for the first time after he and his wife, Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex, faced criticisms for flying on a private jet during their summer vacation in Europe.

“I spend 99 percent of my life travelling the world by commercial [aircraft],” Harry, 34, said Tuesday in Amsterdam. “Occasionally, there needs to be an opportunity based on a unique circumstance to ensure that my family are safe, and it’s genuinely as simple as that.”

“But for me, what it is is about balance,” he added. “If I have to do that — not a decision that I would want to take — but if I have to do that, then I will ensure, as I have done previously and I will continue to make sure that I do, to balance out that impact that I have.”

“And I have always offset my CO2,” Harry said, referring to his carbon footprint.

Harry flew from England to Amsterdam on a commercial flight to announce the launch of Travalyst, his new travel sustainability project.

Earlier this summer, he and Meghan were photographed using a private jet with their son, Archie. The couple faced backlash given their previous statements on environmental protection and climate change awareness.

Elton John then spoke up to defend Harry and Meghan, saying the couple stayed at his home in Nice, France, and he provided them with a private jet in order to “maintain a high level of much-needed protection.”

“To support Prince Harry’s commitment to the environment, we ensured their flight was carbon neutral, by making the appropriate contribution to Carbon Footprint,” the musician wrote on Twitter.

Other stars including Pink and Ellen DeGeneres also came to the defense of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, but the royals remained publicly silent on the issue until Harry’s comments today.

The duke’s new travel initiative, Travalyst, comes from the words travel and catalyst, according to a post shared on Harry and Meghan’s Instagram account, @SussexRoyal.

The initiative is led by partnerships with, Ctrip, Skyscanner, TripAdvisor and Visa, and aims to “spark a movement to transform the future of travel, putting communities at the heart of the solution,” according to the Instagram post.

Harry acknowledged that he is not an expert on tourism or business, but “through my travels I have observed the unique relationship between community and environment, and have noticed something alarming.”

“There wasn’t the symbiosis or connection there needed to be and I wanted to understand why,” he said. “I am one of those people fortunate enough to have a platform and I want to use it to tackle hard problems, in the hope of finding solutions … and that’s how Travalyst was born.”

Travalyst’s website does not include specifics on the initiative’s efforts but indicates the focus will be on getting economic benefits of travel to local communities, preserving the environment and helping to “relieve pressure on overcrowded travel destinations.”

“We plan to work closely with local communities and providers, leveraging technology to help scale sustainable supply to meet the growing mass-market demand from consumers – ultimately, making sustainable travel options of all kinds easier for consumers to identify, book and enjoy,” read a statement on Harry and Meghan’s Instagram account.

Harry, Meghan and Archie are preparing for another big trip of their own. The royals will make their first official overseas trip as a family of three when they visit Africa later this month.

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Posted On 03 Sep 2019

Benjamin Netanyahu’s chances at re-election in jeopardy

WORLD NEWS Benjamin Netanyahu’s chances at re-election in jeopardy

pawel.gaul/iStock(JERUSALEM) — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is facing an uphill battle for re-election.

With the election just two weeks away, the right-wing base that secured his victory for 10 straight years has broken apart, with some eager to oust him.

Polls show the Israeli leader has no clear path to forming a majority government. Meanwhile, a rival on the right is vowing to block him and pursue a unity government.

Netanyahu’s political future is also being affected by a volatile security situation — his security credentials were tested by a Hezbollah attack from Lebanon — and pending corruption charges.

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Posted On 03 Sep 2019