Ex-pro female footballers urgently needed for research into dementia link | UK News


A senior neurologist is asking female ex-professional footballers to take part in his study, as he fears dementia could be an even bigger issue for women who play the game than men.

Dr Michael Grey, lead researcher on the SCORES Project at the University of East Anglia, has more than 35 male ex-pros in the study group – including Iwan Roberts and Mark Bright – but not a single female.

An earlier study by the University of Glasgow which focused on men found former footballers are three and a half times more likely to die of neurodegenerative disease than members of the general population.

Dr Grey says there must be research on the impact of playing football on women, who account for 61% of dementia cases in the UK.

The higher numbers of female dementia sufferers is partly because women on average live longer than men and dementia is usually a disease of old age, but Dr Grey says this does not explain everything.

“In football specifically, if you look at concussions, women experience concussions to a greater extent than men do,” he said.

Dr Grey said repetitive head trauma is a “big factor” for the loss of function of parts of the brain, which can lead to diseases such as Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia.

He said it is not clear yet whether women are more affected by these repetitive brain injuries than men – but he believes it is “likely”.

“We simply don’t know but it makes sense that might be the case, and that’s why it’s so important that we study women as well as men,” he said.

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Researchers have already found a link between football and dementia in men

Although Dr Grey is yet to find a female study participant, he says it is not for want of trying.

He has tried dropping the lower age limit from 50 to 40 and has also contacted the Football Association and the Professional Footballers’ Association for help.

“I don’t know why they won’t get behind us and help us spread the word about the study but the fact is thus far there’s been no involvement from them,” he said.

Dr Grey warned the study only has a “few months” left before it runs out of funding.

The research uses tests on tablets and laptops to track changes in brain function among participants, and Dr Grey says he has to “pay for each and every one of these tests”.

“We’re good for another few months, but I’m also confident that this is important enough that we will find sources (of funding),” he said.

“I’m positive that something will come forward and we won’t have to close the project.”



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COVID-19 app payment loophole won’t be fixed by the end of England lockdown | Science & Tech News


People who are told to isolate by the contact tracing app will not be able to claim financial support after lockdown ends, and may not be able to before Christmas, Sky News can reveal.

Workers with low incomes in England are entitled to receive £500 if they cannot work from home while they self-isolate, but they can only claim the support if they are given a code by a human contact tracer.

Leaked documents seen by Sky News reveal that a technical fix has been drawn up and signed off by the Treasury and Downing Street.

Yet delays in its implementation mean it will not be in place for the end of England’s lockdown on December 2, and may not arrive for several weeks after that, despite fears that contacts will increase over the holiday period.

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A leaked document shows the plan for the proposed fix

Labour called on the government to fix the loophole, which was first revealed by Sky News on 22 October, at which point the Department of Health had been aware of the problem for at least a fortnight.

“It’s staggering that those using the Covid-19 app still can’t access support to self-isolate – even if they’re eligible for the payment,” shadow work and pensions secretary Jonathan Reynolds told Sky News.

“The prime minister must get a grip and fix this broken system before the Christmas period.”

A Test and Trace source said the delay in implementation came from the app’s developers, who are under pressure to update it to reflect changes in quarantine policy and make it compatible with new rapid tests.

This follows a long hold-up as approval for the fix was sought from several government departments, including Downing Street and the Cabinet Office, where officials raised concerns about fraud before finally passing it to the Treasury. The plan was finally signed off last Thursday at the government’s weekly COVID-19 operations committee.

As the proposed solution got bogged down in the sclerotic Whitehall approval process, Health Secretary Matt Hancock even claimed there was a “button” on the app to let people claim the payment. A Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC) spokesperson later claimed he had been referring to manual contact tracing.

A leaked document entitled “proposed solution for app users to claim self isolation support payment” shows that app users who want to claim the £500 grant will be emailed a code from the contact tracing system.

They will then be directed to their local authority’s website, where they will be able to enter their code and bank details, and undergo a check which will show whether or not they are receiving benefits.

The architecture of the app, which is built using privacy-protecting technology from Google and Apple, means that it is not possible to do this directly in the app, but the document shows that a relatively simple process exists for users to leave the app to claim the payment.

Test and Trace does not release details about how many people have been advised to quarantine by the app, but a number of users have said that they have been denied the payment as a result of the loophole.

“I’m self-employed and had to miss out on jobs that can’t be rescheduled, so it has cost me with no option of reimbursement,” one app user who couldn’t claim the support grant told Sky News.

Test and Trace head Dido Harding has been self-isolating since last Wednesday after being sent a notification by the app.

According to the Test and Trace source, the approval process for the payment fix was moved forward after Baroness Harding posted about her notification on Twitter, where replies reminded her that low-paid workers might not be able to claim the government support grant.

Asked why the introduction of a solution was being delayed, a DHSC spokesperson said: “Self-isolation is vital to stop the spread of the virus. NHS Test and Trace contact tracers will inform those who are eligible of the potential support available, including where they need to go to apply.

“We have also provided support for local authorities to advertise the scheme through their own networks, and we are actively exploring ways to expand the payment scheme to include those who are advised by the app to self-isolate because of close contact with somebody who has tested positive.”

Local councils have the ability to make discretionary payments to people who cannot access the £500 payment but cannot work from home and will still face hardship when self-isolating.



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Charli D’Amelio: Who is the 16-year-old who has become the first to reach 100 million TikTok followers? | Ents & Arts News


Sixteen-year-old Charli D’Amelio has become the first TikTok star to surpass 100 million followers.

The US teenager, from Connecticut, reached the milestone after just a year-and-a-half on the social media platform despite such a huge following usually being reserved for A-list celebrities.

Known for her dance videos, D’Amelio began posting on TikTok in May 2019. Two months later, she had her first viral video.

She regularly appears with her family members, including older sister Dixie D’Amelio, also a TikTok star.

Her popularity has scored her opportunities most teenagers could only dream of, including an appearance on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon and a partnership with Prada at Milan Fashion Week.

She has also struck sponsorship deals with brands including EOS cosmetics, starred in a Super Bowl advert for Sabra hummus, and agreed to be the face of Hollister alongside her sister.

The range of deals earned the 16-year-old $4m (£3m) in the year from June 2019, according to Forbes.

It also meant she moved from her hometown of Norwalk to Los Angeles.

D’Amelio’s hopes of reaching the 100 million milestone were dented recently when she received a backlash for her behaviour in a video.

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Charli D’Amelio with her sister Dixie

In an episode of the family’s series Dinner with the D’Amelios, fans accused her of being disrespectful towards the personal chef the D’Amelios had hired.

She released a tearful video apologising for her actions after haemorrhaging around a million followers over the controversy.

Soon after, she announced she had reached 100 million followers.

Responding to the news, the teenager appeared emotional and said: “I cannot believe there’s 100 million supporters following me right now.

“That’s insane. Oh my goodness. Still can’t believe this is real.”

The social media platform congratulated her on the news and said it was “so proud” of her achievements.

“In less than 18 months, Charli has grown into one of the most recognized and beloved TikTok creators in the world,” it said.

“While we’re extremely proud of Charli and all that she has accomplished since she shared her first TikTok video in May 2019, we’re most proud of her continued and unwavering commitment to herself and the TikTok community.”

TikTok also announced it would be donating $100,000 in D’Amelio’s name to American Dance Movement, an organisation aimed at increasing access to dance education in the US.





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Apple security chief charged with bribing police officers with iPads for gun licenses | US News


Apple’s head of global security has been charged with bribery.

Thomas Moyer is accused of offering bribes in the form of 200 iPads worth $70,000 (£52,501) to two police officers in California to obtain concealed firearms licenses last year.

The Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office said a grand jury indicted the 50-year-old and two officers in the Sheriff’s Office on Monday.

Rick Sung, 48, the county undersheriff, and James Jensen, 43, a sheriff’s captain, are charged with soliciting bribes for concealed firearms licenses.

Mr Moyer’s lawyer, Ed Swanson, said he was innocent. Apple said it had conducted its own investigation and found no wrongdoing.

Mr Swanson said Mr Moyer had applied for weapon permits for some Apple security personnel to protect executives and employees after shootings at other Silicon Valley tech firms, such as a 2018 incident at YouTube’s headquarters.

“They went through the process the way you’re supposed to do it,” he said, adding the iPad donations were unconnected to the permits.

“There was no bribe, no quid pro quo,” he said.

Image:
Thomas Moyer is accused of offering bribes in the form of iPads to obtain concealed firearms licenses

Under state law, carrying concealed firearms is illegal without a permit, known as CWW licenses.

Santa Clara County district attorney’s office alleges the two police officers held back issuing concealed weapons licenses to Apple until Mr Moyer agreed to a donation to the Sheriff’s Office.

The “promised donation” was “scuttled at the eleventh hour” in August 2019, when Mr Sung and Mr Moyer learned of a search warrant to seize the Sheriff’s Office’s concealed firearms licenses records, according to a statement from the district attorney’s office.

If convicted, those charged could face a prison sentence.



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COVID-19: Link between spreadsheet blunder and 1,500 coronavirus deaths dismissed as ‘misleading’ | UK News



Public Health England has described as “misleading” research which suggests a link between an estimated 1,500 coronavirus deaths and a spreadsheet glitch that delayed thousands of people being referred to the Test and Trace system.

The figure accounts for around 21% of all COVID-19 related deaths in the six weeks following the discovery of the problem on 3 October, according to a University of Warwick study.

Over the same period, the error was also linked to more than 125,000 additional infections – and researchers say these are “conservative estimates”.

Between 20 September and 2 October, at least 15,841 people who tested positive were not referred to the contact tracing system.

It happened because of a limit on the number of rows in the Excel spreadsheet system being used to collate cases.

It meant an estimated 48,000 close contacts were not immediately reached and may have been spreading the virus.

Three days after the error was discovered, almost half of those missed still hadn’t had their contacts traced.

Researchers said the delayed referrals “likely propelled England to a different stage of COVID-19 spread at the onset of a second pandemic wave”.

Some areas had more “missed” coronavirus patients than others, particularly the North West.

In the worst-affected areas there was a sharp increase in infections and linked deaths, the study suggests.

It also says the delay in contact tracing was associated with a worsening of the regional performances of the Test and Trace system.

The researchers have chosen a mid-point estimate for the number of additional infections in each region, as is standard in data science, although the range of estimates in some areas is very broad.

The findings underscore the importance of contact tracing, which can have a “strong impact” on transmission, the study says.

One of the authors, Harvard Business School assistant professor Dr Thomas Graeber, said: “The large size of the estimated effects implies that a well-functioning and robust contact tracing system may be even more important to fight COVID-19 than we previously thought.”

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However Isabel Oliver, director of Public Health England’s National Infection Service, said that even the Warwick team accepts there is “low confidence in their conclusions”.

She said: “This issue was taken extremely seriously by NHS Test and Trace and PHE and we worked quickly to resolve it and investigate thoroughly.

“However these are misleading estimates. It’s not appropriate to conclude that an increase in cases and deaths at the time was caused by this issue and the authors themselves accept that there is low confidence in their conclusions.

“Our own analysis of the data suggests that the delay in the upload of data files coincided with the increases in cases linked to the return to university and the epidemiological trends we were already seeing in parts of the country.

“Every person received their test result as they would at any other time along with advice to self-isolate. The national guidance states that people with symptoms and their households should immediately self-isolate. In practical terms we know that most close contacts are household contacts, so they would have been aware of their need to isolate.

“The majority of cases affected by this issue were also contact traced within five days, which means it is unlikely the delay led to their close contacts transmitting the virus unknowingly given typical incubation periods.”

Test and Trace boss Baroness Dido Harding has said the service is “constantly evolving and improving”.



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Apple’s security chief charged with bribing police officers with iPads for gun licenses | US News


Apple’s head of global security has been charged with bribery.

Thomas Moyer is accused of offering bribes in the form of 200 iPads worth $70,000 (£52,501) to two police officers in California to obtain concealed firearms licenses last year.

The Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office said a grand jury indicted the 50-year-old and two officers in the Sheriff’s Office on Monday.

Rick Sung, 48, the county undersheriff, and James Jensen, 43, a sheriff’s captain, are charged with soliciting bribes for concealed firearms licenses.

Mr Moyer’s lawyer, Ed Swanson, said he was innocent. Apple said it had conducted its own investigation and found no wrongdoing.

Mr Swanson said Mr Moyer had applied for weapon permits for some Apple security personnel to protect executives and employees after shootings at other Silicon Valley tech firms, such as a 2018 incident at YouTube’s headquarters.

“They went through the process the way you’re supposed to do it,” he said, adding the iPad donations were unconnected to the permits.

“There was no bribe, no quid pro quo,” he said.

Image:
Thomas Moyer is accused of offering bribes in the form of iPads to obtain concealed firearms licenses

Under state law, carrying concealed firearms is illegal without a permit, known as CWW licenses.

Santa Clara County district attorney’s office alleges the two police officers held back issuing concealed weapons licenses to Apple until Mr Moyer agreed to a donation to the Sheriff’s Office.

The “promised donation” was “scuttled at the eleventh hour” in August 2019, when Mr Sung and Mr Moyer learned of a search warrant to seize the Sheriff’s Office’s concealed firearms licenses records, according to a statement from the district attorney’s office.

If convicted, those charged could face a prison sentence.



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COVID-19: Experimental drug used on Donald Trump receives emergency approval by FDA | Science & Tech News


An experimental drug used by Donald Trump when he had COVID-19 has received emergency approval by US health authorities.

The antibody drug developed by Regeneron Pharmaceuticals is administered in a single intravenous dose, and can be now used in coronavirus patients in the US even though studies examining how safe and effective it is are still ongoing.

Regeneron hopes the drug will be able to prevent COVID-19 patients with mild to moderate symptoms being hospitalised by boosting their immune system response.

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Kicked into the long grass? Trump plays golf

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is permitting the drug to be used to treat adults and children aged 12 and over, as long as they weigh at least 88 pounds (40kg), and are at high risk of severe illness from COVID-19.

According to Regeneron, initial doses will be available for roughly 300,000 patients through a federal government allocation program. Although those patients won’t be charged for the drug, they may have to pay part of the cost of giving the IV.

Demand for the drug is expected to vastly outweigh the initial supplies, with the US surging past 12 million reported cases in recent days.

More than 100,000 new cases have been reported every day since 4 November and health experts warn the country faces a challenging winter due to the uncontrolled spread of the virus.

It is impossible to know whether the Regeneron drug helped Mr Trump recover from COVID-19 as it was one treatment among a host that he received, and most patients recover on their own.

The FDA used its emergency powers to authorise the drug as the total number of coronavirus-related deaths in the US passed 256,000 amid a lack of treatments for the novel disease.

During non-emergency times the FDA required “substantial evidence” before approving a drug as safe and effective, but these standards have been lowered during the public health emergency.

Now the only requirement is that the experimental treatment’s potential benefits outweigh its risks.

As an emergency authorisation, the approval will only last for the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic, and afterwards Regeneron will need to submit additional research to define how safe and effective it is.

The White House described the FDA’s decision as a victory for Mr Trump’s efforts “to deliver cutting-edge treatments with highly promising results to protect the health and safety of the most vulnerable Americans”.



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SpaceX rocket blasts UK-backed ‘sea cartographer’ satellite into orbit | Climate News


A satellite that will allow British scientists to measure sea levels has been launched into space on a SpaceX rocket.

Copernicus Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich was successfully sent into orbit on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from a launch pad in California.

Sentinel-6, which is the size of a small 4×4 car, will orbit Earth from 830 miles up, collecting ocean data said to be vital for monitoring climate change.

The information will be analysed by the UK’s climate and ocean experts, including those from the Met Office and National Oceanography Centre, to help predict what global sea levels might look like in the future.

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The SpaceX rocket launching Sentinel-6 into space on Friday afternoon. Credit NASA

Climate change is contributing to sea level changes by warming the planet and causing the world’s glaciers and polar ice caps to melt.

Sea levels have risen by an average of just over 3mm every year since 1993, although this has accelerated over the last few years to 4.8 mm, The European Space Agency (ESA) said.

It is thought this will increase even further as global temperatures clime.

Sentinel-6 will provide the only means of accurately measuring global sea level, helping to protect the 600 million people who live in vulnerable coastal areas across the globe, the UK government said.

What Copernicus Sentinel-6 might look like over the Andes. Credit EU Space Agency
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What Copernicus Sentinel-6 might look like in orbit over the Andes. Credit EU Space Agency

The satellite is named after the former head of NASA’s Earth science division – Dr Michael Freilich – and is a part of the Copernicus mission under the European Union’s Earth observation program.

It was jointly developed by ESA, the European Organisation for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites, NASA, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

UK science minister Amanda Solloway said: “Tracking rising sea levels is one of the most important indicators of our planet warming up.

“This government-backed satellite will arm our leading scientists, researchers and meteorologists with critical data to measure the true impact of climate change on our planet”.



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COVID-19: ‘This treatment gives us some hope’ – Meet the nurse who is the first to receive new ‘antibody cocktail’ | UK News


Intensive care nurse Karen Simeson is the first person on the planet to get a new antibody cocktail injection specifically designed to protect people from COVID-19.

The setting – a small office block in Wakefield – is incongruous. The kitchen has been turned into a make-shift pharmacy where the drug is stored and prepared.

For many, getting a coronavirus vaccine is not an option; people who are already sick or old have a weakened immune system.

This antibody treatment from AstraZeneca – which will be trialled on 1,000 people in the UK – has the potential to protect people instantly and last between six months and a year.

It is also hoped it can target healthcare professionals to keep frontline workers safe from the virus.

Karen says she wanted the treatment so she can get back to some sort of normality.

“Professionally, I’ve seen the impact that COVID has had on people through working on ICU. It’s been devastating on patients and their relatives,” she says.

“For me, this is a personal thing – I haven’t seen my mum and dad since March. I miss seeing my friends, hugging my girls.

“Getting some normality back for me and my kids is so important.”

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Who will be first in line for the vaccine?

After Karen received the injection, she was monitored by a paramedic – but speaking to Sky News afterwards she was happy and excited to be the first person to have had it.

She was also hopeful this could work for many in the future.

“This treatment gives us some hope,” she says. “I want that for everybody.

“I see how hard my colleagues are working on the frontline. We can’t go out and have a laugh, there’s no break for us.

“We all just want that normality back desperately and hopefully this can offer that.

“This is hugely important because we know we’re going to need more than just one thing to save us.

“Realistically the number of people who are going to need vaccines, or what I’ve had today, is huge.

“We can’t rely on just the one treatment. With many different versions I hope we can roll it out quicker and wider to protect everybody.”

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The next recipient to arrive is a friend of Karen’s, a healthcare worker in Yorkshire – another person who will do what it takes in order to live a normal life.

The medics in charge here are confident this antibody drug will work and optimistic it could protect people for up to a whole year from coronavirus.



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Microplastics found 8,440 metres up in Mount Everest’s ‘Death Zone’ | World News


Microplastics have been discovered in snow and stream water close to the summit of Mount Everest, according to new research.

The polyester, acrylic, nylon and polypropylene fibres were present in samples collected on the mountain and in the valley below.

Some were present in samples from the Balcony of Mount Everest which is 8,440 metres above sea level – representing the highest recorded microplastics ever found on Earth.

Dr Imogen Napper, the study’s lead author, said: “Microplastics are generated by a range of sources and many aspects of our daily lives can lead to microplastics entering the environment.

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The fibres could have fragmented from large items during expeditions to reach the summit

“Over the past few years, we have found microplastics in samples collected all over the planet – from the Arctic to our rivers and the deep seas.

“With that in mind, finding microplastics near the summit of Mount Everest is a timely reminder that we need to do more to protect our environment.”

The study, published in the journal One Earth, was led by researchers from the University of Plymouth, working with colleagues from the UK, US and Nepal.

Scientists say the materials found are increasingly being used to make high-performance outdoor clothing commonly used by climbers, as well as the tents and climbing ropes used in attempt to scale the mountain.

As a result, they suggest the fibres could have fragmented from larger items during expeditions to reach the summit.

But it is also possible the plastics could have been transported from lower altitudes by the extreme winds that regularly impact the mountain’s higher slopes.

The samples were collected in April and May 2019 as part of National Geographic and Rolex’s Perpetual Planet Everest Expedition, then analysed in specialist facilities in Plymouth.

Undated handout photo issued by the University of Plymouth of samples collected during the National Geographic and Rolex Perpetual Planet Everest Expedition awaiting analysis in Plymouth. Microplastics have been discovered in snow and stream water close to the summit of Mount Everest, scientists have revealed.
Image:
Samples were collected in April and May 2019

They were taken along the trekking routes close to the Khumbu Glacier, in the snow at Everest Base Camp, and high into the Death Zone near the mountain’s summit.

The highest quantities – 79 microplastic fibres per litre of snow – were found at Base Camp, where expeditions are based for periods of up to 40 days.

However, evidence was also found at Camps 1 and 2 on the climbing route, with 12 microplastic fibres per litre of snow recorded from the Balcony.

There were lower quantities in streams leading down from the mountain to the Sagarmatha National Park, which scientists suggest could be due to the continuous flow of water created by the region’s glaciers.



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