COVID-19: British pilot discharged from US hospital after 243 days of coronavirus treatment | UK News


A British pilot punched the air with delight as he was discharged from hospital in Texas after being treated for coronavirus for 243 days.

Nicholas Synnott works for British Airways and was taken ill after arriving in Houston last March.

The 59-year-old was admitted to UT Health and Memorial Hermann Hospital in the city where he was placed on a ventilator and heart and lung machine.

He was treated there for eight months, with his wife Nicola, 54, by his side every day.

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Mr Synnott’s wife was by his side every day. Pic: ABC30

“Every organ of his body was affected by COVID-19. But yet, because his health was so good as a pilot prior to the illness, he could sustain all this and survive something as serious as this,” cardiologist Dr Biswajit Kar told ABC 30 News.

“We were firstly overwhelmed by the joy that someone this sick could make it.”

Mr Synnott was discharged before Christmas and is now back at home in Betchworth, Surrey.

Photos and video from the hospital showed him punching the air and hugging staff members as he walked down the corridor.

Mr Synnott told ABC 30 he was able to recover “with the support of my wife, and the thought of going back to my kids. It was a tough journey but, we’ve got where we are”.

The pilot said he would like to travel to Houston again to thank everyone who helped him and to visit the city’s zoo which he could see out of his window every day.



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New electric car battery can charge in five minutes | Science & Tech News


A new electric car battery that can be fully charged in five minutes has been manufactured for the first time on a normal production line in China, based on designs by Israeli company StoreDot.

The breakthrough could address a significant concern for electric car drivers – the fear of running out of power during a journey, marooning the vehicle for a couple of hours while it charges.

“A five-minute charging lithium-ion battery was considered to be impossible,” said StoreDot’s chief executive, Dr Doron Myersdorf.

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Dr Doron Myersdorf, CEO of StoreDot, said the innovation may overcome ‘range anxiety’

“But we are not releasing a lab prototype, we are releasing engineering samples from a mass production line. This demonstrates that it is feasible and commercially ready,” Dr Myersdorf added.

The company produced 1,000 sample batteries with its manufacturing partner Eve Energy in China.

These samples, which are compliant with Li-ion battery certifications, were manufactured on a normal construction line and will be used to showcase the company’s technology to other companies.

So-called “range anxiety” is the “number one barrier to the adoption of electric vehicles”, said Dr Myersdorf.

Fast charging lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries is a significant problem for electronics manufacturers and developers, and companies from Samsung to Daimler have invested in StoreDot.

The company’s new batteries are designed differently to standard Li-ion ones, replacing the graphite with semiconductor nanoparticles based on germanium – though they hope to move to silicon in the future.

Because the speed of the charge is based on the battery rather than the charging point, StoreDot’s invention could have a significant impact on the adoption of electric vehicles, which are facing a bottleneck in countries such as the UK that have limited charging stations.

There are more than 30,000 points currently in the UK in over 11,000 locations, and around 10,000 charge points were added in 2019 alone.

But research by Deloitte suggests the UK will need to spend £1.6bn on 28,000 more public points for the estimated seven million EVs that will be on the road by 2030.

In 2019, there were 37,850 BEVs (Battery Electric Vehicles) registered in the UK – up 144% on the previous year, however they still only account for 1.6% of the market.

Hybrid electric vehicles – combing an electric motor with a petrol or diesel engine – are currently more popular, making up 4.2% of the market share, but they are set to be phased out along with petrol and diesel cars by 2035.



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Sahara desert: Rare snowfall leaves extraordinary pattern on sand dunes | World News



Snow has fallen in the Sahara desert after temperatures dropped to -3C (27F).

Karim Bouchetata recorded the rare event in Ain Sefra, Algeria, with thawing ice creating beautiful patterns on the sand.

The Sahara desert, which covers most of Northern Africa, has gone through shifts in temperature over the past few hundred thousand years – but snow and ice are still very rare.

The town in the Naama province has experienced snow only three other times in 42 years – in 1979, 2017 and 2018.

In 1979, a snowstorm was severe enough to stop traffic; while in 2017 a blizzard dumped snow up to a metre thick. In 2018 there was 40cm (15in) of snow.

Ain Sefra – known as “the gateway to the desert” – is around 1,000m above sea level and surrounded by the Atlas Mountains.

January is one of the coldest months there with an average temperature of 14C (57F). In the summer this reaches, on average, 38C (100F).



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Priyanka Chopra Jonas: ‘I want to get South Asian stories influxed into Hollywood’ | Ents & Arts News


Priyanka Chopra Jonas has told Sky News she is determined to get South Asian stories “influxed” into Hollywood.

The actress and activist spoke about representation on the big screen ahead of the release of her new film, The White Tiger, which is based on the 2008 Man Booker Prize-winning novel by Aravind Adiga.

It tells the story of Balram Halwai (played by newcomer Adarsh Gourav), who narrates his humorous but dark rise from poor villager to successful entrepreneur in modern India.

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Gourav stars as Balram, a servant who narrates the story

Reviews ahead of the film’s release have been strong, and it has been touted as a possible outside contender for the Oscars.

Following Balram’s journey to becoming a driver for a wealthy couple, Ashok (Rajkummar Rao) and Pinky (Chopra Jonas) who have returned to India from the US, it highlights the huge gap in the country’s class system.

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Priyanka Chopra Jonas, who stars in The White Tiger, wants to see more South Asian stories in Hollywood.

Chopra Jonas, who is also an executive producer on the film, says it is the kind of story we need to see more of on screen.

“I chased after this movie, actually, I read about it on Twitter,” she tells Sky News. “I had read this book about a decade ago. I was very excited and profoundly moved by it so when I read about the fact that it was being made by Netflix, I got my agents to call the producers and offered my services.

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“Pinky as a part has really developed in the movie but I really wanted to be an EP (executive producer) on this to offer my support. And my belief is to be able to get South Asian stories influxed into Hollywood.

“We don’t see enough representation in global entertainment, considering we’re one fifth of the world’s population. So I was very, very excited to offer my support to this movie.”

WHITE TIGER, Adarsh Gourav, as, Balram, Priyanka Chopra, Pinky Madam, in WHITE TIGER​. Cr., Tejinder Singh Khamkha.​/NETFLIX, ©, 2020
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Chopra Jonas, who plays Pinky, says she hopes the film will make viewers think about privilege

In the film, Balram makes himself indispensable to Ashok and Pinky, the will to serve ingrained deep within – but when an act of betrayal makes him really start to see the unequal system for what it is, he becomes determined to rise up, whatever the cost.

Chopra Jonas, a former Miss World who won the contest in 2000, is one of India’s biggest stars. She says she hopes the story will make people who watch the film think about privilege.

“I think that it’s a movie of self-reflection for the privileged to think about the rest of the world that lives in a completely different circumstance,” she said.

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One viewer who is already a fan of the film is her husband, singer Nick Jonas. The couple married in a lavish ceremony in Jodhpur, Rajasthan, in 2018.

After seeing a preview, Jonas posted on Instagram to say the film was “unreal” and his wife’s performance “exceptional”.

Asked if her husband is her biggest supporter, Chopra Jonas said: “Well, I would like to believe that family does that for each other. He does love this film, though. He’s a very big fan of the movie, I have to say.”

The White Tiger is out on Netflix from 22 January



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Melania Trump says ‘violence is never the answer’ in White House farewell speech | Trump News


First Lady Melania Trump has advised Americans that “violence is never the answer” in her White House farewell speech.

Mrs Trump said it had been “the greatest honour of my life to serve as first lady of the United States” and paid tribute to the military, law enforcement workers and those on the frontline of the pandemic.

She also urged Americans to follow her “Be Best” initiative – a signature issue during her four years as first lady.

Mr Trump said: “Be passionate in everything you do but always remember that violence is never the answer and will never be justified.”

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She added: “As the world continues to confront the COVID-19 pandemic I thank all of the nurses, doctors, health care workers, manufacturing workers, truck drivers and so many others who are working to save lives.”

Coronavirus deaths are rising in nearly two-thirds of American states as a winter surge pushes the overall toll toward 400,000 amid warnings that a new, highly contagious variant is taking hold.

“I ask all Americans to use caution and common sense to protect the vulnerable as millions of vaccines are now available,” Mrs Trump added.

There was no mention of the incoming Biden administration in the message and Mrs Trump has reportedly not invited future first lady Jill Biden for a walk through of the private living quarters, what has become a tradition in transitions of power.

Her husband has already announced he will not attend the inauguration on Wednesday – he’s the first outgoing president to skip the ceremony in 152 years – and will depart for Florida hours before Joe Biden’s swearing-in.

Mrs Trump’s message was posted on the @FLOTUS Twitter account. The president was suspended from mainstream social media sites after a pro-Trump mob stormed Capitol Hill, leading to violence which left five people dead.

The first lady ended her video by calling on Americans to unite: “In all circumstances, I ask every American to be an ambassador of Be Best. To focus on what unites us. To rise above what divides us.

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Donald and Melania Trump at a campaign event in Valdosta, Georgia

“To always choose love over hatred, peace over violence, and others before yourself.

“Together, as one national family, we can continue to be the light of hope for future generations and carry on America’s legacy of raising our nation to greater heights through our spirit of courage, goodness and faith.

“No words can express the depth of my gratitude for the privilege of having served as your First Lady. To all the people of this country: You will be in my heart forever. Thank you. God bless you, and God bless the United States of America.”



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Bobi Wine: Uganda’s pop star politician makes plea to the world after being made ‘prisoner in his own home’ | World News


There is a road north of the capital, Kampala, that few Ugandans wish to follow.

It is a rough, potholed track which leads to the home of the opposition leader, Bobi Wine.

The 38-year old has not left his home since last Thursday, when he cast his vote in the general election. He came second in the presidential contest after the country’s long-time ruler, Yoweri Museveni, took 58% of the vote.

Mr Wine’s house is now surrounded by riot police and soldiers along with a set of metallic yellow spikes in case anyone was minded to drive their way in.

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The opposition leader said the situation inside his home was ‘desperate’

Nonetheless, we met a pair of lawyers in a respectable looking car who told us they were determined to speak to their client.

George Musisi, a partner in a firm in Kampala, said Mr Wine’s home had been turned into a de facto prison.

“We know that his home is not a detention centre, we know that it is a private property, so we are going to see how we can access it,” he said.

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Wine and reporters flee from gun-toting soldiers

The lawyers, who accuse the government of trying to muzzle the popular politician, edged slowly towards the police barricade.

Lawyer Benjamin Katana tried to reason with policeman in charge.

“[Bobi Wine] has rights, like access to his lawyers especially now he is under detention, we need instructions from him, this is standard,” he said.

The commander looked decidedly uncomfortable and left them to make a phone call.

He came back to tell the lawyers that no one was getting in.

“You can contact the police department’s spokesman if you want.”

The lawyers chuckled.

“This is futile, even people in police cells can access their lawyers,” said an exasperated Mr Musisi.

Bobi Wine, who captured the imagination of younger voters during the campaign, was contacted by phone and he said the situation inside the cordon was desperate.

“We have run short of food supplies but when my wife tried to go to our garden to pick food she was assaulted by the military,” he said.

“The only practical plan now is to inform the world to see that fellow citizens of the world can help us.”

He told Sky News he has even been targeted with bullets and tear gas.

The Ugandan authorities have done this before. Five years ago, prominent opposition leader Kizza Besigye was detained for 40 days after the election. He told me it was part of a long-standing pattern of harassment.

“How many times were you arrested?” I asked.

“Frankly I cannot count how many times I was arrested, because I lost count. Sometimes it was every day,” said Mr Besigye.

“How many times did you go to court?” I inquired of Mr Besigye, who stood against President Museveni in four elections.

“Again very many… I was charged with rape, treason, terrorism and illegal possession of guns all in one go [at the beginning of the 2006 presidential campaign].

“I was tried [and cleared] of rape but the judgement didn’t come out until after the election. Many cases are still in court.”

Mr Besigye said he experienced strong sense déjà vu watching the Bobi Wine campaign and warns that the authorities will not leave him alone.

Yet the people of Uganda will need the 38-year-old, along with every other opposition-minded citizen, if they are going to overturn Mr Museveni’s rule.

“It’s difficult to [physically] gather, it’s difficult to work together but it doesn’t mean people won’t challenge his regime,” said Bobi Wine.

“They are determined, trust me – so watch this space.”



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Alexei Navalny: Putin critic urges Russians to ‘take to the streets’ after 30-day detainment order | World News


Putin critic Alexei Navalny has urged Russians to “take to the streets” after a judge ordered that he be kept in custody for at least 30 days.

In a video clip released after the ruling, Mr Navalny said: “Don’t be afraid, take to the streets. Don’t go out for me, go out for yourself and your future.”

The sentence came following an hour-long, ad-hoc hearing – held in a police station in Khimki, outside Moscow – on Monday afternoon. Mr Navalny described the proceedings as the “highest level of lawlessness”.

The 44-year-old was originally detained on arrival at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport on Sunday, after spending five months in Germany recovering from novichok poisoning.

Mr Navalny, who is one of President Vladimir Putin’s most outspoken critics, blames Moscow for the attack that nearly killed him, although the Kremlin denies any involvement.

His detention was widely expected because Russia’s prisons service said he had violated parole terms from a suspended sentence on a 2014 embezzlement conviction.

But it has drawn widespread condemnation from Western leaders, with the UN telling Russia to immediately let Mr Navalny go.

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Moment Navalny is detained after landing in Russia

Boris Johnson called the arrest “appalling” and joined Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab in calling for Mr Navalny’s immediate release.

He said: “It is appalling that Mr Navalny has been detained by the Russian authorities and he must be immediately released.

“Rather than persecuting Mr Navalny, Moscow should fulfil its obligation under international law to investigate and explain the use of a chemical weapon on Russian soil.”

Law enforcement officers stand guard before the expected arrival of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny on a flight from the German capital Berlin at Vnukovo International Airport in Moscow, Russia January 17, 2021
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Crowds of supporters waited to welcome Mr Navalny home

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen further implored Russian authorities to release Mr Navalny and “ensure his safety”.

In a statement shared on Twitter, she added: “Detention of political opponents is against Russia’s international commitments.

“We will monitor the situation closely.”

Mike Pompeo, US secretary of state, said Washington “strongly condemns” the decision to arrest Mr Navalny and called his detention “the latest in a series of attempts to silence Navalny and other opposition figures and independent voices who are critical of Russian authorities.”

He added on Twitter that he was “deeply troubled” by the move.

“Confident political leaders do not fear competing voices, nor see the need to commit violence against or wrongfully detain, political opponents,” he said.

President-elect Joe Biden’s pick for national security adviser also called on the Russian authorities to free him.

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‘They tried to kill me,’ says Kremlin critic

“Mr Navalny should be immediately released, and the perpetrators of the outrageous attack on his life must be held accountable,” Jake Sullivan said in a tweet.

Moscow has dismissed the criticism.

Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov said that Western countries’ expressions of outrage were designed to distract their citizens from their own domestic problems.

Meanwhile, foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova wrote on Facebook: “Respect international law, do not encroach on national legislation of sovereign states and address problems in your own country.”

On leaving Berlin on Sunday, Mr Navalny said he didn’t think he would be arrested as he had “every right” to return to his home country.

The arrest raises tensions in Russia as it approaches national parliament elections this year, in which Mr Navalny’s organisation is expected to be active in trying to defeat pro-Kremlin candidates.

“This is a real act of bravery for Alexei Navalny to return to Russia, given that government agents already tried to kill him once,” Human Rights Watch executive director Kenneth Roth tweeted.

“But he understandably wants to be part of the pro-democracy movement in Russia, not a dissident in exile.”

Mr Navalny fell into a coma while aboard a domestic flight from Siberia to Moscow on 20 August.

He was transferred to a hospital in Berlin two days later.

Labs in Germany, France and Sweden tested the substance he was exposed to.

It was established he was poisoned with a Soviet-era novichok nerve agent – the same kind of substance used against Sergei and Yulia Skripal, a former Russian double agent and his daughter, in a 2018 poisoning in Salisbury.





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COVID-19: Man ‘lived in Chicago airport in secret for three months’ – as virus made him ‘too scared’ to fly home | US News



A 36-year-old man lived undetected in a secure section of Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport for three months because he was “too scared” to go home due to COVID-19, US prosecutors say.

Aditya Singh is charged with felony criminal trespass to a restricted area of an airport and misdemeanour theft.

According to police, he arrived in Chicago on a flight from Los Angeles on 19 October.

Mr Singh, who survived on food from other passengers, is unemployed and lives in the city of Orange, California. It was unclear why he was in Chicago.

Cook County Judge Susana Ortiz reacted with surprise when a prosecutor set out the allegations, according to the Chicago Tribune.

She reportedly told the court: “So if I understand you correctly, you’re telling me that an unauthorised non-employee individual was allegedly living within a secure part of the O’Hare airport terminal from 19 October 2020 to 16 January 2021 and was not detected? I want to understand you correctly.”

On Saturday, two employees from United Airlines were said to have approached Mr Singh and asked for his identification.

Assistant state attorney Kathleen Hagerty said he lowered his face mask before showing them an airport ID badge, which he had reportedly found, and was “scared to go home due to COVID“.

The badge apparently belonged to an operations manager who had reported it missing on 26 October.

Assistant public defender Courtney Smallwood said Mr Singh does not have a criminal background and has a master’s degree in hospitality – and said the unusual allegations were not violent, reported the Tribune.

If he is able to post the $1,000 (£738) for bail, Mr Singh will be barred from entering the airport.

Judge Ortiz added: “The court finds these facts and circumstances quite shocking for the alleged period of time that this occurred.”

The Chicago Department of Aviation said that while the incident remains under investigation, it had been able to “determine that this gentleman did not pose a security risk to the airport or to the travelling public”.



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Guatemala: Honduran migrants heading for US camp out after violent clashes with troops | World News


Around 2,000 Honduran migrants are said to be camped out in eastern Guatemala after security forces used sticks and tear gas to stop their passage towards the US.

The authorities said that as many as 8,000 migrants, including families with young children, have entered Guatemala since Friday.

The caravan has been trying to flee poverty and lawlessness in a region which has been rocked by the COVID-19 pandemic and back-to-back hurricanes in November.

Officials in Guatemala said they have sent back hundreds of migrants to Honduras, but many have set up camp about 34 miles (55km) from the borders of Honduras and El Salvador after clashing with the security forces at the weekend.

One man, who gave his name as Pedro, said: “There’s no food or water, and there are thousands of children, pregnant women, babies, and they don’t want to let us pass.”

A mother, travelling with her 15-year-old son, nine-year-old daughter and four-year-old niece, said: “We’re starving. All we have is water and a few cookies.”

Other migrants have tried to evade the gridlock by fleeing into the hills to continue heading towards the border of Mexico, where the government has deployed police and troops.

Thousands of the migrants had left the Honduran city of San Pedro Sula on Thursday to travel north in a bid to reach the US border.

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Officials in Guatemala said they have sent back hundreds of migrants to Honduras. Pic: AP

As they moved across Guatemala towards its border with Mexico, they clashed with soldiers and police close to the village of Vado Hondo.

“These types of illegal mass movements (of people) will not be accepted, that’s why we are working together with the neighbouring nations to address this as a regional issue,” the Guatemalan president’s office said in a statement.

The caravan comes ahead of Wednesday’s inauguration of Joe Biden, who migrants are hoping will be more sympathetic to their plight than the outgoing president, Donald Trump.

An official in Mr Biden’s transition team advised people not to make the “extraordinarily dangerous” journey towards the US.

“Overcoming the challenges created by the chaotic and cruel policies of the last four years, and those presented by COVID-19, will take time,” the official added.

In 2018, a group set off from San Pedro Sula towards the US, prompting Mr Trump to use his Twitter account to falsely claim “criminals” were heading towards the border.



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Australian Open stars will not be given ‘special treatment’ as 72 now in quarantine | World News


Tennis stars stuck in quarantine ahead of the Australian Open will not be given any “special treatment”, Victoria’s premier has said. 

A total of 72 players are self-isolating in their Melbourne hotel rooms after passengers on three charter flights bringing them to the country tested positive for coronavirus.

Officials have now confirmed four more people associated with the tournament, including a player, tested positive for coronavirus after arriving in Australia and are in a hotel quarantine.

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State premier lays down law to tennis stars

There are also concerns more positive tests could crop up in the coming days.

Men’s world number one Novak Djokovic reportedly sent a letter to officials with a list of requests – including a reduction in the time spent in isolation, permission to see coaches and moving athletes to private houses.

But premier Daniel Andrews has quashed the idea, pointedly telling a news conference: “People are free to provide lists of demands, but the answer is no.

“I know that there’s been a bit of chatter from a number of players about the rules. Well, the rules apply to them as they apply to everybody else, and they were all briefed on that before they came.

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“That was the condition on which they came. There’s no special treatment here.”

Rafael Nadal arrives at Adelaide Airport ahead of the tournament
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Rafael Nadal arrives at Adelaide Airport ahead of the tournament

There has already been some controversy around going ahead with the tournament while thousands of Australians are stranded overseas as there is a limit on numbers allowed into the country.

All arrivals into Australia face mandatory quarantine.

Victoria state has accounted for 810 of the country’s 909 deaths from COVID-19, with a deadly second wave three months ago resulting in curfews and lockdowns for the city of Melbourne.

This year’s season-opening Grand Slam is not starting until 8 February and the quarantine restrictions mean some players are likely to be more prepared than others.

For the 72 players under the strictest quarantine rules, including Britain’s Heather Watson, they have had to practice in their hotel rooms, with some sharing videos of their modified routines.

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Tennis players practice in hotel rooms

Others in a softer quarantine – including Serena Williams, Naomi Osaka, Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal – are allowed to practice outdoors for five hours a day in a COVID-secure manner.

The outdoor sessions started on Monday but some players complained of delays.



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