COVID-19 Pandemic Prompts Two Major US College Athletic Conferences to Postpone 2020 Football Seasons 

The novel coronavirus pandemic continues to have an effect on the sporting world, as two major U.S. college athletic conferences announced Tuesday they are postponing their upcoming fall (gridiron) football seasons. Big Ten Commissioner Kevin Warren said after consulting with the conference’s medical advisory board “it became abundantly clear that there was too much uncertainty regarding potential medical risks to allow our student-athletes to compete this fall.”  Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott said the presidents and chancellors of all of the member schools agreed their individual programs “are a part of broader campuses in communities where in many cases the prevalence of COVID-19 is significant.”   The Big Ten includes such legendary collegiate football programs as Ohio State, Michigan and Penn State, while the Pac-12 conference, based primarily in the western United States, includes such traditional powerhouses as Stanford, the University of Southern California (USC) and the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA).  In addition to football, the Big Ten says it is postponing all of its fall sports activities, including men and women’s track and field and American-style soccer. The Pac-12 said it will not hold any sports competitions for the remainder of 2020. The two conferences, along with the Atlantic Coast, Southeastern and Big 12, make up the so-called “Power Five” major college athletic conferences, whose football programs are not only among the best in the nation, but also bring in billions of dollars in revenue from ticket sales and national television contracts.  The prospect of any U.S. college football being played during the traditional fall season amid the COVID-19 pandemic was thrown into doubt well before the Big Ten and Pac-12 postponed their seasons.  Three other lesser conferences, including the Ivy League, which represents such prestigious schools as Harvard, Yale and Princeton, have either postponed or outright canceled their football seasons.  Medical experts have expressed concern that otherwise young and healthy athletes could develop long term health problems if they contract COVID-19, including heart and lung damage.In this May 20, 2020 photo provided by the University of Alabama, football head coach Nick Saban and the school’s elephant mascot, Big Al, wear masks on the university campus in Tuscaloosa, AL.But U.S. President Donald Trump has been one of the leading figures urging college football to begin its season as normal, telling reporters at the White House Tuesday the players are “young, strong people” who will be able to fight off the virus.    The pandemic has forced the National Basketball League and National Hockey League to resume their seasons in centralized locations, dubbed “bubbles,” where players and coaching staffs must remain during competition.  Major League Baseball’s shortened 60-game season has been marred with several players from the Miami Marlins and St. Louis Cardinals testing positive for COVID-19, forcing the league to postpone dozens of games and putting the truncated season at risk of being canceled. Also on Tuesday, President Trump announced an agreement between the federal government and an American biotechnology company to manufacture and deliver 100 million doses of a COVID-19 vaccine candidate.      The company, Moderna, is to manufacture the vaccine while clinical trials are underway.  The company developed the vaccine in a joint initiative with the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. Three vaccine candidates in the United States are in the final stage of human trials.     “We’re on track to rapidly produce 100 million doses as soon as the vaccine is approved and up to 500 million shortly thereafter,” said Trump during a White House news conference.  The Trump administration’s latest actions are “increasing the likelihood that the United States will have at least one safe, effective vaccine by 2021,” said Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar in a statement.     The president has recently stated he is optimistic a vaccine for the coronavirus could be ready by the time of the U.S. presidential election in early November.   Trump did not comment on an announcement earlier in the day by Russian President Vladimir Putin that his country has become the first in the world to formally approve a new COVID-19 vaccine, despite a lack of data to back up his claims that the drug is safe to administer to humans.Russian President Putin Says Country is First to Formally Approve Coronavirus VaccinePutin claims new vaccine “works quite effectively…forms a stable immunity”The Russian president also said his daughter has been inoculated in an early testing phase. She ran a slight fever on the first day, but her temperature dropped to normal the following day, according to Putin.      Production of the new Russian vaccine — which has been dubbed Sputnik V, in honor of the world’s first man-made satellite launched by the then-Soviet Union in 1957 — will begin next month, with mass vaccinations starting as early as October.   The new vaccine is one of more than 100 possible vaccines being developed in a global race by governments and biomedical firms to blunt a pandemic that has now infected more than 20 million people worldwide.      But it is not among the handful that reached the third and final phase of testing in human trials, which usually involve thousands of people and lasts for months, according to the World Health Organization.   Scientists within Russia have also questioned the move to register the vaccine before Phase 3 trials are complete, which are needed to prove it is not harmful to patients.    Russia has also been accused by the United States, Britain and Canada of using hackers to steal vaccine research from labs in their countries. 

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Nat Geo First Female Photographer Talks About Her Decades-Long Career

Annie Griffiths, One of National Geographic’s first female photographers, has traveled to more than 150 countries taking pictures. During her 45 year career, she has been to every continent documenting nature, and collecting the stories of women she has met along the way. Maxim Moskalkov has the story.VIDEOGRAPHER: Sergey Sokolov  

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A Ban on WeChat and TikTok, a Disconnected World and Two Internets

President Trump’s new executive orders banning Chinese social media apps TikTok and WeChat marked a significant escalation in the ongoing technology tensions between the U.S. and China, according to analysts.On Aug. 6, 2020, Trump declared that TikTok and WeChat posed a threat to national security and invoked the International Emergency Economic Power Act. He prohibited Americans from carrying out any transactions with the parent companies of TikTok and WeChat beyond 45 days — meaning U.S. companies and individuals will not be able to advertise with the platforms, offer them for download via app stores, or enter into licensing agreements with them.WeChat logoVOA spoke with government officials, think tank experts and app users for perspective on the immediate and long-term implications of the decision to ban the two major Chinese apps.Two Internets: One controlled by US, other by ChinaMembers of the City Youth Organization hold posters with the logos of Chinese apps in support of the Indian government for banning the popular video-sharing ‘TikTok’ app, in Hyderabad on June 30, 2020.Mixed reaction from app usersTikTok is one of the world’s best-loved apps, with more than 800 million monthly active users in the United States.WeChat, while not as popular in the U.S. as TikTok, is extensively used by the Chinese diaspora to connect with family and friends in China.“I think my life will be hugely impacted if WeChat is banned,” said Helen, a Chinese international student at New York University (NYU). “WeChat is the only way of communication between me and my friends in China.”Most chatting apps, such as Line, WhatsApp, Facebook, and Instagram, are banned in China. Currently WeChat is the only “super app” connecting people living in the U.S. and China and offers cross-border payment options.Kevin, who works in a restaurant in New York’s Chinatown, told VOA that it would be hard for him to connect with family back home. “I know some people who have houses here for rent and live in China, they are using WeChat to collect rent. If the app is banned, it will be a big problem for them,” he said.Chinese Americans who spoke with VOA, meanwhile, do not seem to be concerned with the ban on WeChat.“It’s not going to stop people from making other apps to chat, I don’t know what’s the point,” said Stanley, a nurse living in New York.Monica Xu,  Wenhao Ma contributed to this report. 

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Phil Collins’ ‘In the Air Tonight’ Is Sales Hit Again After 39 Years, Thanks to Twins’ Reaction Video

Phil Collins’ “In the Air Tonight” is officially a hit single again 39 years after its release, thanks to a pair of twins from Gary, Indiana, whose spontaneous reaction to the unexpected drum break in Collins’ ballad has caused it to be possibly the most memed song of August 2020. “In the Air Tonight” currently sits at No. 3 on the iTunes song sales chart, trailing only the brand-new releases “WAP” by Cardi B featuring Megan Thee Stallion and “Beers and Sunshine” by Darius Rucker. It’s not just a passing single-day phenomenon, either. Numbers provided by Alpha Data show that “In the Air Tonight” was the fourth biggest selling song of the week ending Aug. 8, up from No. 185 the week before. The Collins song may not make the same kind of splash on the overall songs chart, since its streaming numbers remain out of the league of those enjoyed by today’s top current artists. The fact that it’s making more of an impact on sales than streaming may indicate that it’s appealing to an older audience that is rediscovering its love for the song more than reaching a new one that, like the twins, is hearing it for the first time. But, of course, none of these charts take into account the number of listens that “In the Air Tonight” is getting just from fascinated viewers enjoying Tim and Fred Williams’ reaction video, which, as of this writing, is up to 3.2 million views. The 22-year-old brothers are certainly a hit unto themselves, as viewers entranced by their reaction to the Collins song, which was posted July 27, visit their YouTube channel to check out the hundreds of reaction videos they’ve posted before this. Their similar video reacting to Dolly Parton’s “Jolene” took on lesser meme status, with Parton herself tweeting about it Aug. 7, writing, “No point in begging. … Jolene already stole these two.” (Collins has not publicly responded so far.) “TwinsthenewTrend” now have 350,000 subscribers for their YouTube channel, which is about a year old. They told CNN they initially stuck with hip-hop reaction videos, then took a suggestion to try out Frank Sinatra, and have delved into multiple genres since then. They’ve reacted to everything from Kansas’ “Dust in the Wind” to Pantera, Lauryn Hill, Rage Against the Machine, the Carpenters, A-ha, the Allman Brothers Band, Marvin Gaye and Queens of the Stone Age. “Because we’re Black,” Fred Williams told CNN about the popularity of their videos, “and they don’t expect us to listen to that type of music.” Added Tim, “It’s just rare to see people open these days. People don’t open to step outside their comfort zone and just react to music they don’t know.” 
 

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Pentagon Identifies More Bandwidth for Commercial 5G Network Sharing

The Pentagon and the White House have identified an additional 100 MHz in the coveted mid-band frequency spectrum to be used for the commercial 5G wireless technology network within the United States.The announcement on Monday takes frequencies previously designated for use by the Department of Defense and makes them available for spectrum sharing between the military and commercial telecommunication businesses.Senior administration officials say the spectrum, ranging from 3450 to 3550 MHz, is “ideal” for 5G because waves on that frequency can travel long distances at fast speeds, which could ensure more access to the network across the United States.Department of Defense chief information officer Dana Deasy testifies before the Senate Armed Services Committee, in Washington, May 6, 2020.But that particular mid-band spectrum currently supports critical military operations ranging from air defense, missile and gunfire control, counter mortar, battlefield weapon locations and air traffic control, according to Dana Deasy, chief information officer of the Department of Defense.Deasy addressed concerns about sharing the spectrum Monday, stressing that the Pentagon was planning a spectrum relocation transition that would minimize any impact to military operations.United States White House CTO Michael Kratsios delivers a speech on the last day of the Web Summit in Lisbon on Nov. 7, 2019.“This particular part of the band between 3450 and 3550 MHz has been identified because it can be made available without sacrificing our nation’s great military and national security capabilities,” said Michael Kratsios, the Trump administration’s chief technology officer.Deasy said the latest mid-band transition would use rules similar to those agreed upon in previous government-commercial sharing plans.An auctioning of the right to share a nearby frequency band, dubbed the Citizens Broadband Radio Service, with the military is currently ongoing and could bring in as much as $10 billion.The latest moves will provide U.S. commercial businesses with a continuous spectrum spanning from 3450 MHz to 3980 MHz in which to build a new 5G network. 5G will come with faster data transfer, better responsiveness and the ability to connect a lot more devices at once.The United States and China are currently racing to deploy 5G with the hopes of dominating the technology’s standards, patents and leadership in the global supply chain. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) will auction the latest 100 MHz spectrum beginning in December 2021 for use as soon as mid-2022, a process that senior administration officials say chops the typical time for mid-band availability from years to months.“This process reflects the fastest transfer of federal spectrum to commercial use in history,” Kratsios added.

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