'Significant number' of people may have some natural immunity to coronavirus

Recent studies have suggested the immune system can be primed by other coronaviruses, such as the common cold, giving the body a head start against Covid-19 – AFP

Large numbers of the population may have natural immunity against coronavirus even if they have never been infected, scientists believe.

to develop a vaccine, said there was likely to be a "background level" of protection for a "significant number of people".” data-reactid=”18″>Sir John Bell, Regius Professor of Medicine at Oxford University, who is leading an Oxford team to develop a vaccine, said there was likely to be a “background level” of protection for a “significant number of people”.

Recent studies have suggested the immune system can be primed by other coronaviruses, such as the common cold, giving the body a head start in fighting off Covid-19.

T-cells, respond to chains of amino acids produced by different types of coronaviruses and may be responsible for stopping the virus in people who never show symptoms. Crucially, those T-cells die off in older people, which may be why they are far more likely to develop a more serious illness.” data-reactid=”20″>Research shows that a separate part of the immune system, T-cells, respond to chains of amino acids produced by different types of coronaviruses and may be responsible for stopping the virus in people who never show symptoms. Crucially, those T-cells die off in older people, which may be why they are far more likely to develop a more serious illness.

Speaking to the Commons science and technology select committee, Sir John said: “What seems clear is you do have cross-reaction from T-cells that are activated by standard endemic coronaviruses. I think they are present in quite a significant number of people.

“So there is probably background T-cell immunity in people before they see the coronavirus, and that may be relevant that many people get a pretty asymptomatic disease.

“Those T-cells get a bit tired once you’re beyond the age of 65 and may not be as effective at removing a virus, so that may explain a number of different features of the disease.”

The vaccine being developed by Oxford University has been found not only to stimulate antibodies but also to boost T-cell response. But many more people may already have some protection, suggesting herd immunity will be easier and quicker to establish, the research suggests. 

Professor Sarah Gilbert, of the vaccine team, said: “It’s possible that we are underestimating natural or already acquired immunity to this virus, and we really need to keep an eye on it.

“There is certainly evidence that people who have been infected with Covid-19 have not developed antibodies but have developed a T-cell response, and that would be likely to protect them against another infection. I think you have to keep an open mind about whether you have a large number of people who have protective T-cells in the absence of antibodies.”

A recent study suggested children may be protected from coronavirus because they catch so many colds. 

rarely develop a severe case of Covid-19 even though they appear to catch the disease as much as adults.” data-reactid=”28″>Unlike other conditions, such as flu, children rarely develop a severe case of Covid-19 even though they appear to catch the disease as much as adults.

The common cold is caused by four different types of coronavirus which circulate in the community and are largely harmless. But while adults pick up a cold around two to four times a year, school age children catch an average of 12 colds annually, studies have shown, which may give them an advantage in battling off coronavirus.

Target customer confronts employee in Black Lives Matter mask

An employee at a Target store on Long Island, New York, said she was confronted by a customer who demanded she remove a Black Lives Matter mask because the woman found it offensive.

The customer denies that account, saying that an argument began when she asked the employee, “Don’t you think all lives matter?”

A video posted to Instagram by the Target employee after the interaction Thursday shows the customer outside the store being asked to leave by security for “disturbing business.”

The video had been viewed more than 43,000 times by Tuesday afternoon.

”We want everyone who shops and works at Target to feel welcomed and respected,” a Target spokeswoman said in a statement Tuesday. “Based on a situation that escalated at our Selden, New York, store on June 25, we asked a guest to leave the premises.”

The employee, Tana, who asked to be identified only by her first name out of fear for her safety, said she has been a barista at the Target Starbucks in Selden since February. She said she has worn a mask that features the words Black Lives Matter with an image of a fist for three weeks.

Target requires its employees to wear masks. The retailer does not have a policy banning employees from wearing face coverings with designs.

Tana, 21, who is Hispanic, said the shopper was being assisted by another Target employee at Guest Services, when the confrontation began about 1 p.m. Thursday. She said the customer asked, “You do know all lives matter, right?”

Tana said she responded, “Yes,” and told the customer she is entitled to her opinion, but all lives can’t matter until Black lives matter.

“She then said my mask was offending her and I needed to take it the f— off my face,” Tana said in a phone interview Tuesday. “I was telling her I am allowed to wear this mask, the CEO of Target is all about the Black Lives Matter movement.”

The shopper was identified by social media users as Bari Slavin, and in a phone interview with NBC News on Wednesday, Slavin confirmed it was her.

Slavin, 53, who works as a health aide, said she never instructed Tana to remove the mask, but she did take exception to the words on it.

“The girl was wearing the Black Lives Matter mask. And I said to her, ‘Don’t you think all lives matter?'” Slavin said. “She didn’t like that.”

Slavin said Tana was “going tit for tat” with her.

“It’s not just the Blacks or the African Americans or whatever the case may be. You had your moment,” she said Wednesday, apparently referring to the nationwide protests sparked by the killing of George Floyd, a Black man, in Minneapolis police custody in May. “It’s a disgrace what happened to Floyd. But some of these people are animals.”

Asked what she meant by “some of those people,” Slavin said, “Whoever was looting.”

She added: “And quite honestly, why do you only see Black people doing all the crazy things that’s reported with the cops? I don’t even want to hear that it’s Black people that are suffering. It’s not. Everyone is suffering. It’s all about the element of the people that you’re dealing with.”

Slavin, who lives in Port Jefferson, insisted she is not racist and said that she was attacked at the Target store. She said she filed a complaint with Suffolk police on Monday and plans to press charges. She said she did not know what the charges would be or against whom, but that she would confer with her lawyer.

A Suffolk police spokesperson said the department was aware of the video. “The incident was reported to police on June 29 and is under investigation,” the spokesperson said Tuesday. Police did not disclose the name of the complainant.

During the dispute, Tana recalled Slavin saying her ancestors were in the Holocaust, which is “worse than slavery.” She also said Slavin told her she needed “to educate” herself.” Slavin denies bringing up the Holocaust.

Tana said Slavin loudly accused her of being “racist against white people,” prompting a security guard to intervene. The guard told Slavin, “If you do not leave, we will call the police,” Tana said.

Tana said Slavin responded: “Do you want more police brutality to come? Because they will come.”

Tana said the guard, who is Black, was taken aback by the woman’s response.

“He was being very civil with her,” Tana said. “He told her that she was causing a disturbance.”

Slavin said she left the store after making an exchange of some items and that she went to a nearby Home Depot.

Tana said that about half an hour after the incident, when her shift ended, she went outside to meet her boyfriend who was waiting in his car. Tana said she spotted Slavin trying to re-enter the store so she went back inside to alert her managers and security, and that Slavin said she was recording a video to document her experiences. Tana said she heard Slavin saying she was going to go back inside the store to “record faces.”

video of Slavin outside the store that Tana uploaded to her Instagram account. Tana said she believed they needed to film it in case Slavin later claimed she was attacked.” data-reactid=”47″>Tana’s boyfriend, Christian, recorded the video of Slavin outside the store that Tana uploaded to her Instagram account. Tana said she believed they needed to film it in case Slavin later claimed she was attacked.

In the video, a security guard can be heard telling Slavin, “You can’t disturb business, that’s why you were removed.”

“No one is disturbing business,” she responds. “I’m talking and she was yapping at me. And it’s OK. It was tit for tat.”

Slavin, who was carrying her mask in her hand, approaches Tana to capture her name tag on camera.

“I’m going to ask you to leave one more time,” a security guard in a red long-sleeved shirt tells her. “And if I have to ask again, I have to call the police.”

Slavin digs into her bag in an apparent attempt to retrieve something to give to the guard. He then tells her, “I’m not taking any merchandise from you.”

She responds: “Oh, you’re not taking anything? Well, this is going to corporate.” She also says that she has the right to her opinion. The guard replies, “Yes, you do.”

Slavin says, “And you know what? I’m telling you that Black lives suck because they got killed.” She mentions the name “Floyd” and says, “So I’m telling you that I’m Jewish and my ancestors were also slaves and also in the concentration camps.”

“So you should understand,” Tana’s boyfriend responds. Slavin then says: “It’s not Black lives. It’s everybody.”

The guard tells her that he did not want to argue with her about her opinion. She continues: “What about the Chinese? What about the Mexicans? What about everybody else in the world.” She also says that there are “a lot of Black people that are f—— disgusting” and accuses the guard of calling her a bigot, which he denies.

The video was widely shared online where Slavin was dubbed Ku Klux Karen, among other nicknames. Some sided with her in the comments of the Instagram post and accused Tana of “playing the race card.” Slavin said she has received threats on social media since the video went viral.

Tana said she did not share the video on Instagram so people would come after Slavin.

“I just wanted people to see this is happening everywhere,” she said. “And it’s happening to essential workers that are doing absolutely nothing wrong.”

The 1898 Wilmington Massacre Is an Essential Lesson in How State Violence Has Targeted Black Americans

In the summer of 1865, just after the Civil War, Union commanders in the battered port city of Wilmington, N.C., appointed a former Confederate general as police chief and former Confederate soldiers as policemen.

The all-white force immediately set upon newly freed Black people. Men, women and children were beaten, clubbed and whipped indiscriminately. A Union officer with the Freedmen’s Bureau maintained a ledger of daily police assaults: A Black man whipped 72 times. A Black woman dragged for two miles with a rope around her neck. A Black man, “his back all raw,” beaten by police with a buggy trace.

“The policemen are the hardest and most brutal looking and acting set of civil or municipal officers I ever saw. All look bad and vicious,” the Union officer reported.

For generations, police and other white authority figures have perpetuated white supremacy and privilege by assaulting Black Americans. Slave patrols were an early form of policing. White police enforced racist post-Civil War Black Code laws and 20th century Jim Crow segregation. They tolerated, and sometimes participated in, lynchings of Black men.

Today, the image of a white police officer in Minneapolis pressing his knee against George Floyd’s neck as he pleaded for mercy has opened a window on America’s unbroken history of brutality against African-Americans by white men in uniform.

One of the most terrifying examples erupted more than a century ago, when white supremacist soldiers and police helped hunt down and kill at least 60 Black men in Wilmington in 1898. The murders were part of a carefully orchestrated coup that toppled a multi-racial government in the South’s most progressive Black-majority city.

Like many police assaults against Black people in American history, the goal was more than just punishment and humiliation. It was to prevent black citizens from exercising their constitutional rights. Today, as American celebrates Independence Day it is an opportune moment to reflect on America’s troubled racial history and how to move forward.

The 1898 coup capped a months-long White Supremacy Campaign in North Carolina designed to strip black men of the vote and remove them from public office forever. The prime target was Wilmington, where black men served as councilmen, magistrates and police officers in a city with a thriving black middle class and some 65 black doctors, lawyers and educators.

to squash the Black vote through voter suppression laws and racial gerrymandering schemes that have been stuck down by federal courts as unconstitutional.)” data-reactid=”27″>(Today in North Carolina, conservatives in the state legislature have continued to try to squash the Black vote through voter suppression laws and racial gerrymandering schemes that have been stuck down by federal courts as unconstitutional.)

The 1898 coup, plotted by white politicians and businessmen, would not have been possible without the city’s white soldiers and police, who led white vigilantes on a killing spree on Nov. 10, 1898. This came after white supremacists had bullied the white police chief into firing the city’s 10 black policemen.

The soldiers served in two all-white state militias in Wilmington manned and commanded by white supremacists. Both units ostensibly reported to the state’s governor, but in fact served as the private militias of the white supremacists who directed the coup.

Like politicians in the aftermath of George Floyd’s killing, the coup leaders pressured the governor to call out the militias – the National Guard of the day – on the pretext that blacks were rioting. In fact, it was whites who were rioting, led by soldiers and police. They burned a Black owned newspaper and shot Black men down in the streets, many of them simply trying to get home safely.

The militiamen had served in the Spanish-American War in the summer of 1898 and had not yet been mustered out of federal service. That meant U.S. soldiers were unleashed against law-abiding Black citizens of Wilmington – 122 years before President Trump threatened to deploy the U.S. military against street protesters.

white vigilantes who were indicted for shooting Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia after accusing him of burglary, white vigilantes in Wilmington in 1898 shot Black men accused during the White Supremacy Campaign of raping white women and stealing white jobs.” data-reactid=”32″>Like the white vigilantes who were indicted for shooting Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia after accusing him of burglary, white vigilantes in Wilmington in 1898 shot Black men accused during the White Supremacy Campaign of raping white women and stealing white jobs.

As part of the coup, white supremacists banished leading Black and white political allies from Wilmington after forcibly evicting them from office and replacing them with coup leaders. Militiamen escorted them to the train station at gunpoint. In the weeks after the coup, more than 2,100 African-Americans fled Wilmington, turning a black-majority city into a white supremacist citadel.

It was the most successful and lasting coup in American history. It instituted white supremacy as official state policy for half a century and prevented Black citizens from voting in significant numbers until passage of the Voting Rights Act in 1965. Two years before the coup, 126,000 black men registered to vote in North Carolina. Four years after the coup, the number was 6,100.

After the coup, no Black citizen served in public office in Wilmington until 1972. No Black citizen from North Carolina was elected to Congress until 1992. No one was prosecuted or punished for the killings and violence. President William McKinley ignored pleas from Black leaders to send in federal marshals or U.S. troops to protect Black citizens.

The coup was the natural outgrowth of North Carolina’s – and America’s – long history of relying on white police to perpetuate white supremacy amid fears of Black uprisings.

In 1831, white supremacist newspapers in North Carolina published hysterical stories warning, falsely, of an army of well-armed slaves marching from Virginia to Wilmington to kill white people, torch the city, and launch a national slave rebellion during Nat Turner’s famous Virginia slave uprising.

Scores of innocent slaves were lynched after being seized by white police and vigilantes in North Carolina towns. In Wilmington, four slaves accused of plotting a “diabolical” uprising were rounded up by police and decapitated by a white mob. Their severed heads were mounted on poles along a public highway known as “Niggerhead Road,” a name that endured until the 1950s.

More than 60 years after Nat Turner’s execution, his slave revolt was cited by some white supremacists in Wilmington as justification for the militia and police violence required to put down a purported black riot in 1898.

After the coup, the city’s fired Black policemen were replaced by white supremacists, most of whom had participated in the coup and murders. White police enforced new city policies that replaced Black workers with whites. Police often used brute force to ensure that newly passed Jim Crow laws were obeyed by Black citizens.

During the 1898 campaign, white police stood by as nightriders burst into black homes in and around Wilmington, whipping Black men and threatening to kill them if they dared register to vote. On Election Day in November 1898, vigilantes beat Black voters and stuffed ballot boxes in full view of white policemen.

Wilmington police officers were fired after a recording emerged in which they used racial slurs as one officer vowed to “go out and start slaughtering” black people and “wipe ‘em off the f—-ing map.”” data-reactid=”44″>Just a week ago in June 2020, three Wilmington police officers were fired after a recording emerged in which they used racial slurs as one officer vowed to “go out and start slaughtering” black people and “wipe ‘em off the f—-ing map.”

A Democratic Party Hand Book, published in the summer of 1898 by what was then the party of white supremacy, laid bare the lasting intentions of the men who plotted Wilmington’s white coup: “This is a white man’s country and white men must control and govern it.”

 

Nerve agent fear as hundreds of elephants perish mysteriously in Botswana

An aerial shot of an elephant lying dead next to a watering hole.  – The Telegraph

The mysterious death of hundreds of elephants in Botswana has left experts alarmed that there could be a dangerous neurotoxin spreading through one of Africa’s largest conservationist areas. 

Africa’s Last Eden.’ ” data-reactid=”18″>Around 400 African elephants have died since April in the Okavango Delta, a wetland area in the northwest of the country often referred to as ‘Africa’s Last Eden.’ 

Powerful poaching syndicates from Zambia and South Africa regularly cross into Botswana to shoot the animals with high-calibre rifles before hacking their tusks off with axes. 

But these deaths are different. Pictures show dozens of rotting calves and fully grown adult elephants studding grasslands and waterholes. Their tusks, which can be worth tens of thousands of pounds, have been left untouched.

“The elephants have no visible wounds. Before they die, we’ve seen them wander around confused, emaciated and in distress. Their legs often don’t work properly or are paralysed,” Dr Niall McCann, Director of conservation for National Park Rescue, a UK-based charity. 

Some of the elephants have died so quickly they fell onto their front as if they had been shot in the head by hunters. – The Telegraph

“They often die so quickly that fall onto their chest and front legs, like they had been shot in the brain by a hunter.”

“The fact that some living elephants were seen to be losing their motor functions seems to indicate that this toxin, whatever it is, is affecting their nervous system,” Dr McCann added. 

“The fact that there is a currently-unidentified nerve agent in an area so close to human habitation is very concerning, particularly at a time when the transfer of disease from animals to people is on everyone’s mind.”

According to a confidential report seen by The Telegraph, the carcasses are clustered within a few dozen kilometres of villages on the northern bank of the Okavango River, a key water supply for northern Botswana.

poaching or poisoning by humans or anthrax. ” data-reactid=”37″>Botswana’s government says it is carrying out an investigation into the deaths and has ruled out poaching or poisoning by humans or anthrax. 

However, experts say that Botswana’s government has been slow to react to the crisis, has been sitting on testing samples for months and not given permission to private actors to test samples abroad.  

There are also suggestions that the watering wells could have been poisoned by locals carrying out reprisal attacks. 

A four-year-old child was reportedly recently killed by a marauding elephant and experts say the area is a well known ‘hotspot’ for human-elephant conflict.

If the elephants were poisoned by humans, it would be one of the most striking examples yet of human-wildlife conflict in Africa’s nature reserves. 

However, the picture is still blurred. When poachers and locals poison wells with cyanide, a deadly neurotoxin, in countries like Zimbabwe, many other animals like hyenas, vultures and lions die en masse, and so far there is little evidence of other animals dying like the elephants in the Okavango region, according to Dr Pieter Kait, Director of the UK-based charity LionAid.

Africa’s overall elephant population is declining due to poaching and rapid urbanisation. Botswana has bucked this trend extraordinarily. The southern Africa nation is home to almost a third of the continent’s elephants, and numbers have grown to 130,000 from 80,000 in the late 1990s, because of well-managed wildlife reserves.

But the elephant population is seen as a growing problem by many farmers, whose crops have been destroyed by roaming animals.

lifted a five-year ban on big game hunting. However, the hunting season failed to take off in April as the world went into lockdown because of the novel coronavirus.” data-reactid=”47″>Last year, the country’s President Mokgweetsi Masisi, lifted a five-year ban on big game hunting. However, the hunting season failed to take off in April as the world went into lockdown because of the novel coronavirus.

For now, conservationists say they are desperately trying to keep the locations of the dead elephants secret so that the 800 or so tusks do not end up being a huge windfall for criminal gangs.

Ex-Canada PM Mulroney calls for revised relations with China

Former Canadian prime minister Brian Mulroney, seen here at George Bush’s funeral in 2018, said his country needed to revise its ties with China (AFP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Canada must have an “urgent rethink” of its relationship with China, former prime minister Brian Mulroney said Wednesday as tensions build over the possible extradition to the United States of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou.

Conservative Mulroney backed his Liberal successor Justin Trudeau’s rejection of any exchange of Meng, who was arrested in Vancouver in December 2018, for two Canadians who were detained in China in apparent retaliation.

Mulroney said Canada’s hope that China would emerge as a constructive partner in international relations had been proven wrong, referring in particular to Beijing’s militarization of the South China Sea.

“You can see it everywhere from the South China Sea to our two citizens who were bundled off to jail for no reason at all except to protest an extradition decision in Vancouver,” Mulroney told The Globe and Mail.

“There has to be an immediate and urgent rethink of our entire relationship.

“We’re a civilized important nation in the world. We have an extradition treaty with the United States of America. We were asked to honour it, and we did, and that’s what we should have done.”

The Canadians, former diplomat Michael Kovrig and businessman Michael Spavor, were both detained in China nine days after Canada arrested Meng.

The two men have been held largely incommunicado since December 2018 and were slapped with spy charges after a Canadian judge ruled that extradition proceedings against Meng could go ahead.

Resetting the relationship should also mean the US “helping us, working with us to get our citizens back,” Mulroney said.

He added that Canada should exclude Huawei from deployment of 5G telecoms in Canada, as it threatened the exchange of information between the “Five Eyes” countries — United States, United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand and Canada.

“We have to preserve our relationship with the Five Eyes and whatever that takes, that is what we do,” Mulroney said, adding that he believed the United States would withhold intelligence from members who allowed Huawei to participate in their 5G networks.

Washington says Huawei 5G poses risks of espionage and sabotage of western networks.

Texas Lt. Gov. blasts Fauci as state coronavirus cases rise: ‘I don’t need his advice’

U.S.

National Review

Police Investigating Protesters after Confrontation with Armed St. Louis Homeowners

A couple pointed guns at protesters who were on private property outside their home Sunday night, as the demonstrators marched past on their way to St. Louis mayor Lyda Krewson’s residence to demand her resignation. Police are now investigating the incident to determine whether the protesters committed trespassing and fourth-degree assault by intimidation.Mark and Patricia McCloskey stood outside their home on Portland Place, a private street, as hundreds of protesters, some of them armed, marched by and chanted. The McCloskeys had been inside their home when they heard loud activity outside and saw “a large group of subjects forcefully break an iron gate marked with ‘No Trespassing’ and ‘Private Street’ signs,” St. Louis police said.“The group began yelling obscenities and threats of harm to both victims,” the police said. “When the victims observed multiple subjects who were armed, they then armed themselves and contacted police.”Law experts have noted that Missouri’s Castle Doctrine allows homeowners to use deadly force to defend their private property from intruders.In an interview with KSDK, the local NBC affiliate, Mark McCloskey said that he called to the protesters that they were on private property and told them to leave when they first broke through the gate. When they did not, he got his rifle and stood outside, continuing to tell the crowd that they were on private property.“At that point, everybody got enraged,” McCloskey said. “There were people wearing body armor. One person pulled out some loaded pistol magazines and clicked them together and said that you were next. We were threatened with our lives, threatened with the house being burned down, my office building being burned down, even our dog’s life being threatened. It was about as bad as it can get.”“I really thought it was storming the Bastille, that we would be dead and the house would be burned and there was nothing we could do about it. It was a huge and frightening crowd,” he added.Albert Watkins, an attorney for the McCloskeys, said that the couple felt threatened after “two individuals exhibited such force and violence destroying a century-plus-old wrought iron gate, ripping and twisting the wrought iron that was connected to a rock foundation, and then proceeded to charge at and toward and speak threateningly to Mr. and Mrs. McCloskey.”The McCloskeys’ Renaissance palazzo mansion is valued at $1.15 million, according to city records. The couple are attorneys who work together in a law office that has now been boarded up due to threats they’ve received since the incident.

Fox News fires host Ed Henry following sexual-misconduct complaint by a former employee

Screenshot/Fox News

  • Fox News fired high-profile host Ed Henry over a sexual-misconduct complaint made against him by a former employee. 
  • The network’s leadership said in a Wednesday message to employees that they “received a complaint about Ed Henry from a former employee’s attorney involving willful sexual misconduct in the workplace years ago.” 
  • Henry, who has been married to NPR journalist Shirley Hung since 2010, took time off from Fox in 2016 after a report said he had an extended affair with a Las Vegas hostess. 
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Fox News has announced that it fired high-profile host Ed Henry following an investigation into a sexual-misconduct complaint made against him by a former employee. 

The conservative-leaning news network’s leadership said in a message to employees on Wednesday morning that they “received a complaint about Ed Henry from a former employee’s attorney involving willful sexual misconduct in the workplace years ago.” 

Fox News CEO Suzanne Scott and President Jay Wallace wrote in the message that they hired a law firm to conduct an independent investigation into the allegations against Henry and temporarily suspended him. The network terminated Henry, the coanchor of “America’s Newsroom,” as a result of the investigation’s findings. 

announced Henry’s firing during her Wednesday program. ” data-reactid=”27″>Sandra Smith, Henry’s coanchor, also announced Henry’s firing during her Wednesday program. 

Henry, 48, joined Fox News in 2011 as the network’s chief White House correspondent after covering politics and the White House at CNN for several years. 

took time off from Fox in 2016 after a report said he had an extended affair with a Las Vegas hostess.” data-reactid=”29″>Henry, who has been married to NPR journalist Shirley Hung since 2010, took time off from Fox in 2016 after a report said he had an extended affair with a Las Vegas hostess.

Business Insider” data-reactid=”30″>Read the original article on Business Insider

Retired pope's elder brother, Georg Ratzinger, dies at 96

FILE – In this Sept. 13, 2006 file picture Pope Benedict XVI, right, walks with his brother priest Georg Ratzinger in Regensburg, southern Germany. The Rev. Georg Ratzinger, the older brother of Emeritus Pope Benedict XVI, who earned renown in his own right as a director of an acclaimed German boys’ choir, has died at age 96. The Regensburg diocese in Bavaria, where Ratzinger lived, said in a statement on his website that he died on Wednesday, July 1, 2020. (AP Photo/Diether Endlicher, File)

BERLIN (AP) — The Rev. Georg Ratzinger, the older brother of Emeritus Pope Benedict XVI who earned renown in his own right as a director of an acclaimed German boys’ choir, has died. He was 96.

The Regensburg diocese in Bavaria, where Ratzinger lived, said that he died Wednesday. His death came just over a week after Benedict made a four-day visit to Regensburg to be with his ailing brother.

Ordained on the same day as his brother, Ratzinger proved to be a talented musician and went on oversee the recording of numerous masterpieces and concert tours around the world by the Regensburger Domspatzen, a storied choir that traces its history back to the 10th century. But his reputation was tarnished as he apologized for using corporal punishment to discipline boys amid a wider investigation into sexual and physical abuse in the Church.

He remained extremely close to his brother throughout his career, expressing dismay when Joseph Ratzinger was elected pope that the stress would affect his health and that they would no longer spend so much time together.

The pope had his quarters in the Apostolic Palace modified with a special apartment for his brother, who traveled frequently from his home in the Bavarian city of Regensburg to Rome. Elected to the papacy in 2005, Benedict stepped down in 2013 and was succeeded by current Pope Francis.

The two came from a religious Catholic family, the sons of police officer Josef and Maria Ratzinger, and great nephews of the German politician Georg Ratzinger, a priest and social reformer who was a member of the Bavarian and Federal parliament.

Born Jan. 15, 1924 in the Bavarian town of Altoetting, Georg Ratzinger showed an early talent for music, playing the church organ at age 11. The family eventually settled outside nearby Traunstein in 1937, where he and his brother joined the seminary. During World War II, Ratzinger told The Associated Press in an interview that he remembered huddling with the blinds drawn with his younger brother and father listening to Allied radio broadcasts, because their father wanted them to know the truth about the Nazi regime.

Though the Ratzinger family was anti-Nazi, Georg Ratzinger was enrolled into the Hitler Youth in 1941. In his book, “Salt of the Earth,” Benedict remarked on the time and his own subsequent enrollment at age 14. Official details of the boys’ Hitler Youth days no longer exist, as all of the organization’s archives for the area were burned ahead of the American advance at the end of the war.

In 1942, Ratzinger was drafted into a federal labor force, and the same fall entered the regular German armed forces as a radio operator in a signals unit. After serving in France, the Netherlands and Czechoslovakia, Ratzinger was sent in 1944 to Italy where he was wounded in fighting.

He was captured by U.S. forces and spent the rest of the war as a POW, returning to Traunstein in July 1945 — a day the then-Joseph Ratzinger recalled in his memoir “Milestones,” remembering that the family had no idea if Georg were alive or dead.

“A quiet worry hung over our house…” he wrote. “Suddenly, on a hot July day, we steps were audible and he whom we had missed for so long was again standing in our midst, tanned from the Italian sun. Then he sat down at the piano, thankful and relieved, and intoned ‘Holy God We Praise Thy Name.’”

Following the war, the brothers entered the seminary of the archdiocese of Munich and Freising to study for the priesthood. They were ordained together on June 29, 1951, in the Cathedral at Freising on the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul.

After working his way up as priest in the region, Georg Ratzinger was appointed musical director of St. Peters Cathedral in Regensburg in 1964, becoming the conductor of the famed cathedral choir, the Regensburger Domspatzen.

As head of this world-renowned choir, whose name means “Cathedral Sparrows,” Ratzinger helped build its reputation around the world, running tours that included trips to the Vatican, the United States, Canada, Poland and Japan and performances for Queen Elizabeth II and Pope John Paul II.

But well after his retirement from the post, revelations of sexual and physical abuse at the choir haunted him.

In 2010, Ratzinger apologized for using corporal punishment to discipline boys in the choir, saying he was aware of allegations of physical abuse at an elementary school linked to the choir but did nothing about it.

“At the beginning I also repeatedly administered a slap in the face, but always had a bad conscience about it,” Ratzinger told the Passauer Neue Presse, adding that he was happy when corporal punishment was made illegal in 1980. “Of course, today one condemns such actions; I do as well. At the same time, I ask the victims for pardon.”

He claimed he was completely unaware of allegations of sexual abuse, which he said dated from before his tenure as choir director.

“These things were never discussed,” Ratzinger said. “The problem of sexual abuse that has now come to light was never spoken of.”

His relationship with his brother always played a special role in his life.

Ratzinger once lamented in an interview that his brother’s role as pope would mean “family life might be a bit more limited” and acknowledged that he “had hoped that the cup would pass him by.”

Still, Georg traveled to the Vatican for his brother’s installation, and was given a prominent seat on the basilica esplanade.

While visiting the pope in August 2005, Ratzinger was hospitalized in Rome because of an irregular heartbeat and had a pacemaker implanted. Benedict visited him while he was in the hospital.

In October of that year, the brothers got together again. “Sanctus,“a piece Georg Ratzinger composed was played at a Vatican concert for the pope and sung by the Domspatzen, while both brothers watched on together.

As Ratzinger’s health failed, his brother came to Regensburg in mid-June to visit with him.

trip to Germany was his first trip outside Italy in over seven years. Benedict greeted old neighbors and prayed at his parents’ grave. He stayed at a seminary during his trip, visiting his brother twice a day.” data-reactid=”73″>Benedict’s trip to Germany was his first trip outside Italy in over seven years. Benedict greeted old neighbors and prayed at his parents’ grave. He stayed at a seminary during his trip, visiting his brother twice a day.

Ratzinger’s only close living relative is Benedict. His sister Maria, died in 1991.

There was no immediate word on funeral arrangements, but the diocese said it wasn’t likely Benedict would be able to make the trip from Italy.

___

A previous version of this story was corrected to show that the diocese amended the day of Ratzinger’s death to Wednesday, not Tuesday.

Italian police seize record amount of amphetamines shipped from Syria

An undated handout image shows Italian finance police officers checking boxes that contain ISIS produced amphetamine pills in Salerno

By Angelo Amante

ROME (Reuters) – Italian police said on Wednesday they had seized about 14 tonnes of amphetamine pills worth around 1 billion euros ($1 billion) arriving from Syria, in what they described as the world’s single largest operation of its kind.

Investigators said they impounded three container ships that had docked in the southern Italian port of Salerno and found 84 million pills of the drug Captagon inside machinery and large paper cylinders for industrial use they were carrying.

“It is possible that the local Camorra crime groups are involved in this business,” Lieutenant Colonel Giordano Natale told Reuters.

Used in the 1960s to treat narcolepsy and depression, Captagon is one of several brand names for fenethylline hydrochloride, a drug compound belonging to a family of amphetamines that can inhibit fear and ward off tiredness.

Captagon is popular in the Middle East, and widespread in war-torn areas such as Syria, where conflict has fuelled demand and created opportunities for producers.

Production was initially concentrated in Lebanon and the Islamic State group sells it to finance its activities, police said in a statement.

It said Captagon was known as the “drug of the Jihad” after being found in militant hideouts, including one used by the Islamists who killed 90 people at the Bataclan theatre in Paris in 2015.

Italian authorities believe the coronavirus lockdown cross Europe has hindered the production and distribution of synthetic drugs, forcing traffickers to organise shipments from Syria, where these activities have not slowed down.

In a raid two weeks ago, Italian police seized 2,800 kg of hashish and 1 million Captagon pills in the port of Salerno. The shipment was hidden among counterfeit clothing items.

(Editing by Giulia Segreti and Giles Elgood)

F-35 Are Dangerous Stealth Fighters. Too Bad They Are Missing One Thing.

Click here to read the full article.” data-reactid=”19″>Click here to read the full article.

 possibly with lasers. Another concept, however, would involve using next-generation radar jammers that employ a cognitive intelligence system to automatically adjust frequencies to keep up with frequency-agile radars. Such jammers could obscure or even misrepresent the position of an aircraft on radar. The Pentagon also would like its next-generation tankers to feature more autonomation to reduce the number of necessary crew and speed up the refueling process.” data-reactid=”21″>The Air Force has additional ideas for making its future tankers more survival, including incorporating active protection systems to shoot down incoming missiles—yes, possibly with lasers. Another concept, however, would involve using next-generation radar jammers that employ a cognitive intelligence system to automatically adjust frequencies to keep up with frequency-agile radars. Such jammers could obscure or even misrepresent the position of an aircraft on radar. The Pentagon also would like its next-generation tankers to feature more autonomation to reduce the number of necessary crew and speed up the refueling process.

 stealth fighters, stealth bombers, stealth cruise missiles and stealth spy drones. Surely a stealth tanker for refueling aircraft midflight would be an extravagance too much?” data-reactid=”22″>The United States has devoted billions of dollars to building stealth fighters, stealth bombers, stealth cruise missiles and stealth spy drones. Surely a stealth tanker for refueling aircraft midflight would be an extravagance too much?

However, the concept of a stealth tanker is not as absurd you’d think for one simple reason: the Pentagon’s F-35 and F-22 stealth fighters, which it has made the lynchpin of its twenty-first century air warfare strategy, simply can’t fly far enough.

At first glance, the F-35’s six to eight-hundred-mile range doesn’t seem bad compared to conventional fighters like the Super Hornet or F-16. But those non-stealth designs can carry fuel in in underwing tanks into combat—meanwhile, an F-35 can’t carry those extra lumps of metal under its wings if it wants to preserve its miniscule radar cross-section.

 carrier deck). It is virtually a given that in the event of a great power conflict, a terrifying missile barrage would rain down on forward airbases; and just how many airframes would emerge intact from that hail of death is anybody’s guess.” data-reactid=”25″>Another problem with the short range of stealth and non-stealth fighters alike is the need to deploy them airbases or aircraft carriers well within range of an adversary’s ballistic and cruise missiles. Conflicts ranging from World War II to Afghanistan have shown that advanced fighters are never more vulnerable than when they are caught on the ground (or a carrier deck). It is virtually a given that in the event of a great power conflict, a terrifying missile barrage would rain down on forward airbases; and just how many airframes would emerge intact from that hail of death is anybody’s guess.

Fortunately, all U.S. jet fighters can be refueled mid-air. But though the modified airliners serving as tankers would strive to stay far away from hostile fighters, they are increasingly at risk to being shot down by very-long range air-to-air missiles like the Russian R-37, which can hit airliner-type targets from 250 miles away. The small numbers of stealth aircraft fielded by Russia or China would also likely concentrate on slipping past fighter screens to destroy the tankers and radar planes supporting them. After all, knock down the lumbering tankers, and you may also effectively strand a bunch of fighters over the Pacific without the fuel needed to return to base.

 S-400 can already strike less agile aircraft (again, think tankers) up to 250 miles distant using 40N6 missiles. This means conventional tankers simply will have to loiter hundreds of miles back from defended airspace—and even there, will be visible on radar and vulnerable to attack by enemy fighters.” data-reactid=”27″>The dilemma is much worse for stealth fighters attempting to penetrate enemy airspace, as the F-35 is designed to do. Contemporary surface-to-air-missiles like the S-400 can already strike less agile aircraft (again, think tankers) up to 250 miles distant using 40N6 missiles. This means conventional tankers simply will have to loiter hundreds of miles back from defended airspace—and even there, will be visible on radar and vulnerable to attack by enemy fighters.

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A tanker with a reduced radar cross section, therefore could neatly address both problems, without having to be every bit as low-observable as a stealth fighter.

Currently, the Air Force is procuring 179 new KC-46A Pegasus tankers based on the Boeing 767. As it progressively retires its aging fleet of 400 KC-135 and KC-10 tankers, the Air Mobility Command originally planned to phase in another relatively conventional tanker called the KC-Y starting in the 2024s, before finally pursuing a KC-Z stealth tanker.

 told Defense News the Pentagon may scrub the KC-Y in favor of procuring additional upgraded KC-46s and phasing in the KC-Z stealth tankers sooner—though by ‘sooner,’ think procurement beginning in 2035.” data-reactid=”37″>However, in 2016 General Carlton Everthart told Defense News the Pentagon may scrub the KC-Y in favor of procuring additional upgraded KC-46s and phasing in the KC-Z stealth tankers sooner—though by ‘sooner,’ think procurement beginning in 2035.

 Quinjets from The Avengers movies.” data-reactid=”38″>Already, there are multiple proposals as to what a KC-Z might look like—and they’re all bizarre enough to resemble the Quinjets from The Avengers movies.

 this angular and very bizarre-looking ‘Advanced Aerial Refueling’ concept model at the AIAA forum.” data-reactid=”39″>In June 2018, the Air Force Research Lab, based in Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio, floated this angular and very bizarre-looking ‘Advanced Aerial Refueling’ concept model at the AIAA forum.

 here and here) that looked ready for filming in Star Wars: Episode IX. Earlier in 2018, the major defense manufacturer lost a competition to produce an MQ-25 carrier-based aerial refueling drone; Lockheed’s proposed flying-wing design emphasized stealth more than other entrants in the competition. The firm has also proposed embedding the stealth tanker’s high-bypass turbofans on the upper surface of the wings, like on the B-2, for cross-section reducing purposes.” data-reactid=”40″>Meanwhile, Lockheed has its own stealth tanker concept model dubbed the ‘Advanced Tanker Concept.’ (photos here and here) that looked ready for filming in Star Wars: Episode IX. Earlier in 2018, the major defense manufacturer lost a competition to produce an MQ-25 carrier-based aerial refueling drone; Lockheed’s proposed flying-wing design emphasized stealth more than other entrants in the competition. The firm has also proposed embedding the stealth tanker’s high-bypass turbofans on the upper surface of the wings, like on the B-2, for cross-section reducing purposes.

However, the proposed designs aren’t pure flying wing, but instead take their cues from the Air Force’s expressed interest in a ‘Blended Wing Body’-type tanker. Rather than crossing a tubular fuselage against the wings, a BWB aircraft seamlessly merges the wings into the fuselage, resulting in a triangular shape. These are also known as ‘Hybrid Wing Body’ designs, as they are not a pure ‘flying wing’ because of the size of retention of a fuselage and tail fins.

A flying wing’s curved wing surfaces are very efficient at generating lift, and its ‘infinite plane’ naturally lend themselves to low radar cross sections as they lack hard, radar-reflective angles. However, tanker aircraft are routinely called upon to do double duty as cargo jets, so a stealth tanker may still need to have a bulged cargo compartment and bay door to serve as a fully capable substitute—the ‘C” in KC-Z stands for ‘Cargo’ after all. Those wouldn’t gel well with a pure flying wing design, which is why extant concepts have been hybrids.

 long-range anti-aircraft missiles. Nonetheless, a cargo-carrying stealth tanker design would simply not be as stealthy as a pure flying-wing designed only for aerial refueling.” data-reactid=”43″>An upside of a stealthy cargo plane is that it could be used for inserting Special Forces operators behind enemy lines—a capability the Special Operations branch has discretely studied for decades—or delivering critical supplies to forward outposts located under the anti-access umbrella of an adversary’s long-range anti-aircraft missiles. Nonetheless, a cargo-carrying stealth tanker design would simply not be as stealthy as a pure flying-wing designed only for aerial refueling.

Another challenge to making an affordable stealth tanker concerns the fact that stealth fighters and bomber achieve their low cross-section partly by incorporating radar-absorbent material (RAM) coatings or panels. However, RAM application significantly increases the operating costs and maintenance requirements of small stealth fighters. Presumably, that cost would be far greater spread out across a huge tanker that needs to fly thousands more hours every years, so a more cost-efficient form of RAM is surely necessary to avoid the $135 to $169,000 per flight hour operating costs of a B-2 stealth bomber.

 possibly with lasers. Another concept, however, would involve using next-generation radar jammers that employ a cognitive intelligence system to automatically adjust frequencies to keep up with frequency-agile radars. Such jammers could obscure or even misrepresent the position of an aircraft on radar. The Pentagon also would like its next-generation tankers to feature more autonomation to reduce the number of necessary crew and speed up the refueling process.” data-reactid=”45″>The Air Force has additional ideas for making its future tankers more survival, including incorporating active protection systems to shoot down incoming missiles—yes, possibly with lasers. Another concept, however, would involve using next-generation radar jammers that employ a cognitive intelligence system to automatically adjust frequencies to keep up with frequency-agile radars. Such jammers could obscure or even misrepresent the position of an aircraft on radar. The Pentagon also would like its next-generation tankers to feature more autonomation to reduce the number of necessary crew and speed up the refueling process.

 Navy’s MQ-25, and deploying small, stealthy unmanned autonomous vehicle.” data-reactid=”46″>However, the Air Mobility Command has also expressed openness to a radically different approach to a stealthy KC-Z—taking a page from the Navy’s MQ-25, and deploying small, stealthy unmanned autonomous vehicle.

Stealthy drone tankers might fit with a ‘distributed’ refueling strategy in which multiple drones draw fuel from a large, conventional tanker ‘mothership’ and then zip forward into to provide refueling for stealth fighter in contested airspace. However, such a chain-refueling scheme could crash catastrophically should the un-stealthy mothership tanker be targeted by adversaries. Thus a ‘system of systems’ could also proposed mixing multiple ‘tiers’ of stealthy and non-stealthy tankers.

 sixth-generation Penetrating Counter-Air fighter, making greater use of stand-off missiles, or introducing long-range unmanned UCAV stealth drones.” data-reactid=”48″>It’s worth noting there may be simpler, less expensive solution: weaning the Pentagon from its dependency on short-range jets, perhaps by relying more on long-range B-21 stealth bombers or future sixth-generation Penetrating Counter-Air fighter, making greater use of stand-off missiles, or introducing long-range unmanned UCAV stealth drones.

War Is Boring.” data-reactid=”49″>Sébastien Roblin holds a master’s degree in conflict resolution from Georgetown University and served as a university instructor for the Peace Corps in China. He has also worked in education, editing, and refugee resettlement in France and the United States. He currently writes on security and military history for War Is Boring.

Click here to read the full article.” data-reactid=”52″>Click here to read the full article.