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September 29


First presidential debate a battle of the brains?

The face-off in Cleveland, Ohio, between Donald Trump and his rival, Joe Biden, the first of three presidential debates, will see two septuagenarians eager to demonstrate their mental fitness for the presidency. U.S. voters will weigh-in on that question, the subtext of both campaigns, on Nov 3.

In July the University Of Notre Dame in Indiana handed over the hosting of the September debates to Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland because of concerns over the rising coronavirus infection rate in the state.

Trump, a Republican, is fond of portraying his Democrat rival as a gaffe-prone, colorless candidate. The first charge can’t be denied: some of the gaffes Biden made during the nomination debates became headlines. The second charge is more apt, but is widely seen as playing to Biden’s advantage after four years of tumult under the Trump presidency.

At the debate, the first of three, each will lay out a vision of how to fix an economy stricken by COVID-19. The debates have taken on particular strategic importance to the rivals because the disease has denied them the usual opportunities for campaign rallies.

Trump’s slogans are Keep America Great, and Promises Made, Promises Kept. Forbes Magazine notes that his tweets and campaign ads attacking Biden on the economy and policing have adopted an increasingly dystopian tone. They accuse the former vice president of threatening the safety and livelihoods of middle-class Americans and of wanting to defund the police.

Biden denies the defunding charge, which became a recent rallying cry for some protesters during the demonstrations for racial justice that proliferated throughout the country after the death of a black man, George Floyd, during police custody. Biden has adopted the slogans Build Back Better and Our Best Days Still Lie Ahead. His campaign focuses on reviving an economy, and he will look for opportunities to attack his rival for lack of leadership during the pandemic.

The second presidential debate scheduled for Oct 15 was originally set to be held at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, but it was moved to Miami. The last is at Belmont University in Nashville on Oct 22. The vice presidential debate is scheduled for Oct 7 at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City.

#23566 Published: August 3, 2020



Oxford University coronavirus vaccine ready by September?

Oxford University scientists and pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca were confident they would be first past the post with the release of a coronavirus vaccine in September, but then Russia claimed victory in August. The race is not over until the vaccine’s effectiveness is proven, and the Oxford-AstraZeneca scientists have the edge there.

Their vaccine is already at the final stage of testing, and has been found to be effective and have only minor side effects, according to new data published in the medical journal The Lancet on Jul 20.

Russian President Vladimir Putin announced on Aug 11 that the country’s health regulator had become the first in the world to approve a coronavirus vaccine for widespread use – but scientists globally have condemned the decision as dangerously rushed because Russian scientists haven’t completed large trials to test the vaccine’s safety and efficacy. The critics charge that rolling out an inadequately vetted vaccine could endanger people who receive it.

More than 20 companies and research institutes have brought their candidates into human testing at record speed. The U.S. government’s Operation Warp Speed – an effort to bring a vaccine to market by January – is paying out billions of dollars to promising candidates. Moderna, Inovio Pharmaceuticals and Novavax are frontrunners in the race, with investors betting heavily that they will be among the first.




Cairo to see procession of pharaonic mummies

Twenty-two royal pharaonic mummies are being transferred "in a majestic procession" through Cairo from their longtime home at the Egyptian Museum to the new National Museum of Egyptian Civilization in historic Fustat, possibly as early as September. The partially-opened museum is the first in the country to be devoted to all of Egyptian civilization.

President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi ordered what he described as the "majestic procession" in 2019, according to Egypt Today.

The mummies bound for the new National Museum date to the 17th, 18th, 19th and 20th dynasties. They count 18 kings and four queens, including King Ramses II, King Thutmose III, King Seti I, Queen Hatshepsut and Queen Merit Amon, wife of King Amenhotep I, as well as Queen Ahmose Nefertari, wife of King Ahmose I.

The exhibits at the much bigger and still-unfinished Grand Egyptian Museum near the Pyramids of Giza are confined to artifacts of ancient Egypt. They include the King Tutankhamun collection.

The foundation stone of the National Museum of Egyptian Civilization was laid in 2002 in Fustat, the first Islamic capital of Egypt after the conquest in 641 AD. Its construction was completed in 2005 and it was partially opened to the public in 2017. More than 50,000 artifacts show the stages of Egyptian civilization from the earliest times to the modern era.

Six thematic galleries cover: the Dawn of Civilization; The Nile; Writing; State and Society; Material Culture; Beliefs and Thinking and the Gallery of Royal Mummies.

#23579 Published: August 12, 2020

September 30


Period for national headcount ends early

Census Bureau employees are under a time crunch to try to complete the national head count by the end of September after the agency announced that counting will end a month early. The shortened time period, ordered by the Republican administration, has political ramifications in an election year and it exacerbates the challenges introduced by the coronavirus pandemic.

The Constitution requires the count once a decade, to determine each state’s share of seats in Congress and votes in the Electoral College for the next decade.

The New York Times reports that pollsters and other statisticians are nervous that the census could deliver faulty data. Observers cited in the publication say that a census undercount, both statistically and politically, would most likely affect the representation of non-English speakers and low-income people, who are typically among the hardest for demographers to reach, and who tend to tilt Democratic. It also appears likely that an undercount would disproportionately affect rural communities.

The challenges in the truncated count period include dealing with health risks, retaining workers and deploying new technology for the 2020 census, which is now wrapping up in the middle of a historic hurricane season.

"There’s just not enough time to do all the work that needs to be done," one office operations supervisor told National Public Radio.

#23580 Published: August 12, 2020

October 1


Netherlands marks 20 years since prostitution became fully legal

Twenty years ago brothels in Amsterdam left the half-legal status of being tolerated and became fully legal and licensed businesses. By the anniversary the city might have curbed one of its top tourist attractions. Proposed changes include banning women from advertising themselves in the red light windows.

The BBC reports that Amsterdam Mayor Femke Halsema’s other proposals include closing down brothels in the city centre and moving them elsewhere, reducing the number of city centre brothels and stepping up the licensing of window workers. Other plans include an "erotic city zone" with a clear entrance gate.

The mayor insists she is not trying to end prostitution in the city. She defends the proposals as an effort to combat a rise in human trafficking and to protect sex workers from gawping tourists. Some sex workers say the council should, instead, teach tourists how to respect their space.

The BBC cites one woman who argues that facilitating the sex business – requiring the women to register and pay taxes – essentially makes the government the pimp.

There is evidence that prostitution has been an industry since ancient times. In the 21st Century, the business is shifting online, with sex-for-sale websites allowing women more privacy to offer and provide their services.

#23249 Published: September 5, 2019