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UK: Buy toys safely this Christmas

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s960 Buy toys safely this Christmas GOV.UK choking hazard image 960by640

The Office for Product Safety and Standards (OPSS) is partnering with Chartered Trading Standards Institute, The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents, Child Accident Prevention Trust and Netmums to raise awareness of how to buy toys safely.

Know who you are buying from

Wherever you are shopping, remember reputation matters. Is the seller widely recognised for safe and reliable toys? Get as much information on the seller as you can, especially if you’re buying from an online marketplace. Not everything sold on an online platform is supplied by them. If the actual supplier is not based in the UK, you may face heightened risks.

Always read the warnings and instructions

Toys must be clearly marked with age restrictions, which are based on risks such as choking hazards. Always follow the age recommendations.

Consider special needs

Children with special needs might be more vulnerable, so keep this in mind when shopping.

Avoid toys with small parts

They can be a choking hazard.

Look out for strangulation hazards

Loose ribbons on toys and costumes can pose risks to young children.

Check the toys are for kids

Magnets can look like toys. Keep them away from children.

Compare the sellers

Bargains may be too good to be true. Compare the toy’s price with other sellers. If it’s a fraction of the cost, it’s likely to be counterfeit.

Check for button batteries

Ensure that any button batteries in a toy are safely behind a screwed down flap.

Check for product recalls

See if the toy you’re buying has been recalled at productrecallcampaign.gov.uk

Check before you wrap

Toys must be clearly marked with age restrictions, which are based on risks such as choking hazards. Always follow the age recommendations.

Source: GOV.UK

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If vaccines were distributed as quickly as travel restrictions…, By Chiamaka Okafor

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Chiamaka Okafor

Why are vaccines not flying as swiftly as travel restrictions?… As people of a highly interconnected world, we can do better by supporting each other, especially in the face of what appears to be a yet unabating pandemic. Even as we hope for this pandemic to end, there might just be another lurking around the corner, and we cannot afford to take the present disposition forward.

At 4 a.m. on Friday, I woke up to messages from my friend who calls me a COVID ninja. The messages were updates informing me about Omicron, the new variant announced by researchers and scientists in South Africa. 

What was interesting to me was the fact that although I saw the announcement on Thursday night when a Nigerian scientist shared it, and I had chosen to ignore it, now here it was right in my face, staring daggers and demanding my attention.

I looked at the links shared by my COVID ninja friend and dared to go back to bed. I needed to get my morning glory sleep (between 5 a.m. and 7. a.m.) because something told me it would be a long day. 

I could only dare, because as soon as I sank back into the warmth of my pillows, one of my editors sent me a message asking, “what to do with the new variant in South Africa?” At that point, I watched my morning glory sleep do the moonwalk away!

My next response to the unfolding drama was me muttering under my breath, “wetin dey worry this covid sef? Na blood covenant?” 

Within a split second, it had started to rain travel restrictions internationally for a coronavirus variant the world still does not know much about! Still, on second thought it occurred to me that, if we had learnt tough lessons from the first wave of the virus, then we do not need to wait until it hits us before we take action. But then, what sort of action is appropriate at points like this in time? Isolation or a rally to rescue? 

A look at the imposers of this restriction and one notices that these are countries that have vaccinated most of their populations; countries that have more than enough vaccines to go round, such that some of their citizens are already taking booster shots (the third dose), whereas those being restricted have barely vaccinated a quarter or half of their populations.

Then you begin to ask: Whatever happened to supporting and holding each other’s hand, while we work and walk through rebuilding our economies that have been impacted by the onslaught of the virus?

I thought, perhaps in my dream, that there is an understanding that vaccine nationalism is not a thing at this point in the world’s history, seeing all that this rabid intruder, COVID-19, has done to us all.

With the huge stocks that they have, which is much more than they need a number of times over, the reluctance of the rich countries to offer life-saving vaccines to those on the other side of the divide, has led to the increasing clamour for vaccine equity, and the campaign against vaccine nationalism.

So, have South African scientists erred by sharing data on their newer finding?

Since the early days of the pandemic, scientists had agreed that sharing data from their various stations is important in understanding and fighting the pandemic, and so many stuck to and went by this understanding, and continuously shared genomic sequences from their stations on the global platform, GISAID.

This data provided by different scientists from all over the world have been used for vaccines research, development and manufacturing, which we all (although mostly the rich countries) are benefitting from, while hoping for a return to the old normal way of living.

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However, vaccine access and inequity have become subjects of concern since vaccines started to receive emergency use authorisation, with the rich nations buying up virtually every dose in sight, even before they came out of the oven!

As such, the rest of the world had been left to scamper for the leftovers, if not for the intervention of the COVAX facility that came to the rescue. Yet, there has been so little that COVAX can do. It has indeed done its bit in helping the developing world to access some of these vaccines, regardless of how insufficient these have been. 

No rich country has giving much thought to sharing from its hoarded stock, as each has been prioritising its population, which is quite unfortunate, even if some see this as ‘human’. With the huge stocks that they have, which is much more than they need a number of times over, the reluctance of the rich countries to offer life-saving vaccines to those on the other side of the divide, has led to the increasing clamour for vaccine equity, and the campaign against vaccine nationalism.

The self-centring of vaccine nationalism has occured with governments signing agreements with pharmaceutical companies to supply their own populations with vaccines, ahead of them becoming available to other countries.

TEXEM

Scientists in South Africa detected the new coronavirus variant, named Omicron, and did the honourable thing by escalating information around it and calling the world’s attention to the situation, for the safety of all.

The world replied by dumping a travel ban on the Southern African region. What a way to reciprocate a good gesture! 

If South Africa held back this data, would they be facing the backlash they are having to deal with now? The answer will most definitely be in the negative. As such, have they erred by sharing important public health information?

Some South Africans who are hurt or affected by these restrictions in flying around have begun to troll the researchers for escalating their findings. Who would have thought that a public health good will be met with such discrimination?

If we all have been as swift in the sharing and distribution of vaccines to other parts of the world that lacked them, India would not have lost so many people as it did as a result of the mutation of the virus. And, South Africa would not be in this precarious situation now, perhaps.

Presently, South Africa is  being shut out and left to deal alone with a variant that it is still trying to understand, with insufficient vaccine supplies for its population, as well as that of other Southern African countries.

On the renowned genome researcher and professor, Tulio de Oliveira’s page on Twitter, there is the advocacy that “… the world should provide support to South Africa and Africa and not discriminate or isolate it.” Mr Oliveira, who is one of South Africa’s leading scientists and director of the Centre for Epidemic Response and Innovation in South Africa also wrote in his tweet, “we have been very transparent with scientific information. We identified, made data public, and raised the alarm as the infections are just increasing. We did this to protect our country and the world in spite of potentially suffering massive discrimination.”

If South Africa held back this data, would they be facing the backlash they are having to deal with now? The answer will most definitely be in the negative. As such, have they erred by sharing important public health information?

Why are vaccines not flying as swiftly as travel restrictions?

As people of a highly interconnected world, we can do better by supporting each other, especially in the face of what appears to be a yet unabating pandemic. Even as we hope for this pandemic to end, there might just be another lurking around the corner, and we cannot afford to take the present disposition forward.

We have to unite against vaccine nationalism and inequity.

Chiamaka Okafor tweets via @mackieokafor.

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Sen Rand Paul launches fresh salvo at Fauci after COVID tsar claimed critics were anti-science

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Republican Senators Rand Paul and Ted Cruz snapped back at Anthony Fauci for remarks he made in a TV interview Sunday responding to GOP criticism of the infectious disease expert.

Fauci also referred to himself in the third person during the interview. 

In an interview with CBS News’ Face The Nation, President Joe Biden’s chief medical adviser also dismissed Republican criticism of his work as ‘lies’ and agreed with the notion that GOP lawmakers were using him as a scapegoat, even referring to himself in the third person. 

‘Anybody who’s looking at this carefully realizes that there’s a distinct anti-science flavor to this, so if they get up and criticize science, nobody’s going to know what they’re talking about,’ Fauci told CBS’ Margaret Brennan. ‘But if they get up and really aim their bullets at Tony Fauci, well people can recognize that there’s a person there, so it’s easy to criticize, but they’re really criticizing science because I represent science.’ 

Paul responded in a tweet Sunday: ‘The absolute hubris of someone claiming THEY represent science. It’s astounding and alarming that a public health bureaucrat would even think to claim such a thing, especially one who has worked so hard to ignore the science of natural immunity.’  

Paul had confronted Fauci earlier this year of lying about the NIH’s involvement in coronavirus research at the Wuhan Institute of Virology, a claim Fauci fought back against, calling Paul a liar.  

In May, Fauci testified that the NIH ‘has not ever and does not now fund gain of function research in the Wuhan Institute of Virology.’

However, Fauci also said during that hearing that there was no way to know if Chinese scientists at the Wuhan Institute of Virology lied and conducted gain of function experiments on bat coronaviruses using U.S. tax dollars.

‘There’s no way of guaranteeing that,’ Fauci said at a Senate Appropriations Committee hearing, responding to a question from Republican Sen. John Kennedy.

‘But in our experience with grantees, including Chinese grantees, which we have had interactions with for a very long period of time – they are very competent, trustworthy scientists,’ Fauci testified. 

Then in July Dr. Fauci lashed out at Senator Paul during a Senate hearing as he accused the Kentucky Republican of being a ‘liar’ who ‘doesn’t know what you’re talking about’ when it comes to COVID origins and gain-of-function research.

‘Dr. Fauci, knowing that it is a crime to lie to Congress, do you wish to retract your statement of May 11 where you claimed the NIH [National Institutes of Health] never funded gain of function research in Wuhan?’ Paul asked of the nation’s top immunologist and Joe Biden’s top COVID advisor.

‘Senator Paul, I have never lied before the Congress and I do not retract that statement,’ Fauci shot back in the heated exchange on Capitol Hill during a Senate Health Committee hearing. 

Senator Rand Paul responded to comments made about him by Dr Anthony Fauci on Sunday

Fauci singled out Paul as a liar. The two have argued in Congressional testimony several times in 2021

Fauci singled out Paul as a liar. The two have argued in Congressional testimony several times in 2021

He sat down for an hour-long interview with CBS News' Face The Nation that aired Sunday

He sat down for an hour-long interview with CBS News’ Face The Nation that aired Sunday

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Texas Senator Ted Cruz also had harsh words in response to Fauci’s criticism.  

Brennan told Fauci, ‘Senator Cruz told the attorney general you should be prosecuted.’ 

Cruz told Attorney General Merrick Garland during a contentious hearing in late October that Fauci should be investigated over accusations he lied to Congress.

Fauci laughed off the accusation before appearing to claim that Cruz had a role in the events leading up to the deadly Capitol riot. 

‘Yeah. I have to laugh at that. I should be prosecuted? What happened on January 6, senator?’ Fauci replied.

Cruz responded in a tweet thread of his own. 

The former presidential candidate wrote: ‘Fauci is an unelected technocrat who has distorted science and facts in order to exercise authoritarian control over millions of Americans. He lives in a liberal world where his smug ‘I REPRESENT science’ attitude is praised.’

He then went on to restate his criticisms of Fauci.  

The news anchor asked Fauci if he thought ‘this is about making you a scapegoat’ to deflect from Donald Trump.

‘Of course, you have to be asleep not to figure that one out,’ he said.

‘That’s OK, I’m just going to do my job and I’m going to be saving lives and they’re going to be lying.’

Cruz is one of several Republican senators who have accused Fauci of lying to Congress about funding for biological research involving studying the genetic sequencing of viruses, known as ‘gain of function’ research. 

Republicans have claimed that the National Institutes of Health (NIH), where Fauci works as director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, funded the controversial research in Wuhan, where COVID-19 first emerged.

Both NIH and Fauci have denied the claim.

Fauci dismissed Ted Cruz's claim that he should be prosecuted over accusations he lied to Congress

Fauci dismissed Ted Cruz’s claim that he should be prosecuted over accusations he lied to Congress

Ted Cruz is one of several Republicans accusing Fauci of lying

Fauci says he's being scapegoated to distract from Trump

Ted Cruz is one of several Republicans accusing Fauci of lying, which the scientist claims is an attempt to distract from Donald Trump

Senator Cruz also criticized Fauci's remarks in a Twitter thread

Senator Cruz also criticized Fauci’s remarks in a Twitter thread

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Elsewhere in the hour-long interview, Fauci warned the US could be on the precipice of yet another surge in COVID-19 cases.

Infections have begun to rise in parts of the US after a hopeful downturn following the last summer surge. 

Burgeoning cases are compounded by concerns over the new Omicron variant first detected in South Africa. No cases have been found in the US yet, but the Biden administration announced travel bans on eight African countries in a bid to slow the strain’s arrival.

‘We certainly have the potential to go into a fifth wave,’ Fauci said.

‘And the fifth wave, or the magnitude of any increase, if you want to call it that it will turn into a wave, will really be dependent upon what we do in the next few weeks to a couple of months.’

He also warned of a potential and even 'likely' fifth coronavirus wave if the US fails to blunt the rise in daily infections

He also warned of a potential and even ‘likely’ fifth coronavirus wave if the US fails to blunt the rise in daily infections

He said the US needs to urgently ‘blunt’ the rising daily case rates – which averaged at nearly 95,000 this last week after hovering at 70,000 – 80,000 earlier in November.

‘If we don’t do it successfully, it is certainly conceivable and maybe likely that we will see another bit of a surge. How bad it gets is dependent upon us and how we mitigate,’ Fauci said. 

In a separate interview on ABC Sunday, Fauci told host George Stephanopoulos that the Omicron variant will ‘inevitably’ be detected within the United States.

‘If and when – and it’s going to be when – it comes here, hopefully we will be ready for it by enhancing our capabilities via vaccine, masking – all the things that we do, and should be doing,’ Fauci said.

He admitted that Biden’s travel bans aren’t a fool-proof solution, but added they would ‘delay it enough to get us better prepared.’ 

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Facebook India execs set to depose before parliamentary panel on Monday

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Top executives of Facebook India are expected to depose; before a parliamentary panel chaired by senior Congress leader Shashi Tharoor on Monday.

 

The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Information Technology is scheduled to meet on Monday; to hear the views of the representatives of Facebook India on the subject of safeguarding citizens’ rights and prevention of misuse of social/online news media platforms, according to a notice issued by the Lok Sabha Secretariat.

ALSO READ: Facebook Messenger, Instagram may not get default end-to-end encryption until 2023

 

The meeting will also deliberate on the security of women in the digital space; especially on social media.

 

Top officials of the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology will also depose before the panel on the same issue, according to the notice.

 

The panel has held several meetings on the subject and had summoned top executives of various social media platforms.

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