Dr Mathai Mammen, global head of Research and Development for the Janssen Pharmaceuticals wing of Johnson & Johnson, received the India Community Center’s annual Inspire award for his work in developing the single shot J&J Covid-19 vaccine, at the organization’s annual banquet Oct. 2. “J&J, BioNTech, and Moderna had never created vaccines before. But everyone saw the public health crisis that was happening and wanted to help,” said Mammen. “To think of making a vaccine in such a short time was unthinkable. This would typically be a seven-year process,” said Mammen, noting that 600 people at J&J mobilized on a 24-hour/seven days a week schedule to develop a vaccine. “We broke all our normal processes,” said the Indian American. “We had invested in good science that we put into play. The journey was unlike anything we had ever seen. For 14 months, no one ever took a day off. I don’t think the world recognizes what it took to make this vaccine,” said Mammen.
Father of Pak nuclear bomb is no more
Abdul Qadeer Khan, known as the ‘father of Pakistan’s nuclear bomb’, died at a hospital in the capital city after his lungs collapsed, severely damaged by coronavirus infection that he had contracted last month. Khan, 85, has been revered as a national hero for making Pakistan a nuclear power. Islamabad had detonated its first nuclear weapon in 1998 when he was leading the Khan Research Laboratories - a uranium enrichment facility that has been expanded to many other fields of science over a period of time - in Kahuta, near Islamabad. “Khan was loved by the nation because of his critical contribution in making us a nuclear weapon state. This has provided us security against an aggressive much larger nuclear neighbour (India). For the people of Pakistan, he was a national icon,” Pakistan’s PM Imran Khan posted on Twitter after the nuclear scientist’s death.
Tanzanian Abdulrazak gets Nobel literature prize
Tanzanian writer Abdulrazak Gurnah was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature for works that explore the legacies of imperialism on uprooted individuals. Gurnah, who was born and grew up on the island of Zanzibar but came to England as a refugee at the end of the 1960s, was honoured "for his uncompromising and compassionate penetration of the effects of colonialism and the fate of the refugee in the gulf between cultures and continents," the Swedish Academy said. Gurnah has published 10 novels and a number of short stories. He is best known for his 1994 novel "Paradise", set in colonial East Africa during the First World War, which was shortlisted for the Booker Prize for Fiction. The theme of the refugee's disruption runs throughout his work. Born in 1948, Gurnah began writing as a 21-year-old in England.
16 killed in Russian plane crash
A plane carrying a group of parachute jumpers crashed in the Russian region of Tatarstan, killing 16 people and injuring six, the emergencies ministry said. The aircraft, which came down near the city of Menzelinsky, had been carrying 20 parachutists and two crew members. Six people were in a serious condition, the health ministry said. A Let L-410 Turbolet twin engine short-range transport aircraft, the plane was owned by an aeroclub in the city of Menzelinsk. Cosmonauts use the area for training and the aeroclub has hosted local, European and world championships, the club’s director Ravil Nurmukhametov was quoted by TASS as saying. The state-run Cosmonaut Training Facility has suspended its ties with the aeroclub pending an investigation.
18-year-old opens fire at US school; 4 hurt
Two people were shot and two others injured by an 18-year-old student who took out his gun and opened fire during a classroom fight at a Texas high school, police said. Arlington assistant police chief Kevin Kolbye said a suspect, identified as Timothy George Simpkins, had been arrested after the shooting at Timberview High School in Arlington, a suburb of Dallas. Kolbye said Simpkins, who turned himself in after fleeing the school, would be charged with three counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. Police said a .45 caliber gun had been recovered. Suspect has been arrested. “The suspect has been taken into custody without incident,” the Arlington Police Department said in a tweet.
WHO approves the first malaria vaccine
The WHO endorsed the first ever vaccine to prevent malaria, debuting a tool that could save the lives of tens of thousands of children in Africa each year. Malaria is among the oldest known and deadliest of infectious diseases. It kills about half a million people each year, nearly all of them in sub-Saharan Africa - among them 2,60,000 kids under age 5.The new vaccine, made by GlaxoSmithKline, rouses a child’s immune system to thwart Plasmodium falciparum, the deadliest of five malaria pathogens and the most prevalent in Africa. The vaccine is not just a first for malaria - it is the first for any parasitic disease. In clinical trials, the vaccine had an efficacy of about 50% against severe malaria in the first year, but dropped close to zero by the fourth year. Called Mosquirix, the new vaccine is given in three doses between ages 5 and 17 months, and a fourth dose roughly 18 months later.
This Istanbul dog is commuters’ buddy
In a packed Istanbul passenger ferry between Europe and Asia, all eyes turn to one commuter enjoying the view from his window. Boji, a street dog, has become a regular sight on ferries, buses and metro trains in Europe’s largest city. A devoted commuter, the dog enjoys long journeys on public transport, up to 30 km on a regular week day. Istanbul municipality officials who record the dog’s trips with a microchip say he drops by at least 29 metro stations a day and was even tracked at sea, taking a weekend break to the Princes’ Islands off the city’s coast. With golden-brown fur, dark eyes and floppy ears, Boji started to draw attention two months ago. “We noticed a dog using our metros and trains and he knows where to go. He knows where to get out,” said Aylin Erol, from Metro Istanbul. “It’s like he has a purpose.” Data collected from his tracking device shows historic tram lines are Boji’s favourite but he is also a frequent subway commuter. Erol says the dog respects public transport rules and waits for disembarking passengers before hopping on the train. Erol says he brought color into the lives of 1.3 million commuters of the metropolis.
Brussels uncovers hidden waterway
London has the Thames, Paris the Seine, Vienna and Bratislava and Budapest are all on the Danube. And then there’s Brussels, which had the Senne - until they paved over it. Now, bit by bit, the Belgian capital is starting to uncover its long-hidden waterway to eventually “return nature to the city”. “It’s a real paradigm shift,” Benjamin Thiebaux, heading up the project for the regional environmental agency, said. The preparatory phase of the progressive unveiling of the Senne was cleaning up its waters. The river was cemented over in the late 19th and early 20th centuries because it had long served as a sewer and industrial dumping ground, whose turgid course stank up Brussels and posed a health hazard. Most of the Senne’s course was erased from the surface, built over to create boulevards and big buildings. It was only in 2007, when the first of two purification plants was built, that the clean-up of the river got way. With that task having mostly sanitised the watercourse, Brussels inaugurated the first 200-metre stretch of the Senne to be brought out of the dark.
Electricity bills in Kenya to go down by 33%
Kenya is preparing for an over 33 per cent reduction in electricity tariffs starting December 2021 to shore up power demand and save the struggling utility firm, Kenya Power, from imminent collapse.
The reduction in consumer tariffs from an average of Ksh24 ($0.21) per kilowatt hour to Ksh16 ($0.14) per kilowatt hour is part of the recommendations by a 15-member Presidential Taskforce constituted to review the cost of electricity in the country as part of efforts to attract foreign direct investments (FDIs) and promote industrial growth. The development comes as the electricity distributor which is 50.1 per cent owned by the state faces a demand crisis due to its inflated electricity bills, corruption and increasing shift to solar energy by households and industries. Last year, the firm, which is listed on the Nairobi Securities Exchange said demand risks were a major concern to its operations as heavy-consuming industrialists seeking reliable and cheaper supply shift to solar power.
HK planning to build more housing
Land-starved Hong Kong plans to build more affordable housing in response to public demands that have fuelled social unrest. Chief executive Carrie Lam announced the “Northern Metropolis” plan, which aims to provide hundreds of thousands more homes and tens of thousands of jobs. Hong Kong's property is among priciest in the world. Astronomical prices helped drive months of anti-government protests in 2019 that have prompted a major security crackdown by the central government in Beijing. Buying one of Hong Kong's cramped apartments costs an average of $28,570 per square metre ($2,850 per square foot).
Most wanted Hezbollah man dies
Ali Atwa, a senior Hezbollah operative who was on the FBI’s most wanted list for his role in one of the most notorious plane hijackings in aviation history, has died, the Lebanese militant group said. Atwa, who was believed to be in his early 60s, died of complications related to cancer, Hezbollah said. Atwa was placed on the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted Fugitives list in 2001 with two other alleged participants in the 1985 hijacking of TWA Flight 847 with 153 passengers and crew members. The ordeal, which began in Athens, Greece in June 14, lasted16 days and left a US navy diver on the plane dead. The hijackers demanded the release of Lebanese and Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails. FBI had offered a $5 million reward for information leading to Atwa’s arrest. He was accused of conspiring to take hostages, committing air piracy that led to the slaying of an American.
Lebanon goes into total blackout
Lebanon was plunged into a total blackout last week after two main power stations went offline because they ran out of fuel, the state electricity corporation said. The country is battling one of the planet’s worst economic crises since the 1850s, and has in recent months struggled to import enough fuel oil for its power plants. State electricity in most places is barely available for an hour a day amid rolling power cuts, while the fuel needed to power private back-up generators is also in short supply. “After the Deir Ammar power station was forced to stop producing power due its gasoil reserves ran out, the Zahrani plant also stopped for the same reason,” Electricite du Liban said. This led to the network’s “complete collapse without any possibility of restoring it for the time being”, it said.
Two survive on coconuts, oranges for 29 days
Lost at sea for 29 days, two Solomon Islanders survived on coconuts, oranges and prayers before being rescued 400 km away off the coast of Papua New Guinea. The two men were travelling between islands in the notoriously unpredictable Solomon Sea, when their boat got caught in rough weather a few hours into their journey on September 3. Livae Nanjikana and Junior Qoloni lost sight of land in the “heavy rain, thick dark clouds and strong winds.” As the battery in their GPS died and nightfall approached, they switched off their engine to save fuel. The men spent their first night being battered by wind and rain which drove their boat further out to sea. For the first nine days, they lived on oranges they had packed for the trip. When those ran out they survived on rainwater, coconuts “and our faith in God”. They were near Papua New Guinea when they saw a fisherman. “We shouted and continually waved our hands so that he saw us and paddled towards us,” Nanjikana said.
Blast in Yemen targets officials; at least 6 killed
At least six people were killed in Yemen’s port city of Aden by a car bomb that targeted two senior government officials who survived, an official said. The blast targeted the convoy of agriculture minister Salem al-Socotrai and Aden’s governor Ahmed Lamlas in the district of Tawahi, said information minister Moammar al-Iryani. The blast killed at least six people among Lamlas’ companions and wounded at least seven others who had been passing by, al-Iryani said. The casualties were taken to hospitals, he said. The blast damaged several buildings in the area. PM Maeen Abdulmalik Saeed called the explosion a “terrorist attack” and ordered an investigation. No one immediately claimed responsibility. Aden has been rocked by several explosions in the past years, which have been blamed on local affiliates of al-Qaida and the Islamic State groups.