Oxford researchers accurately trace Covid-19 transmission through genomic epidemiology

first_imgThe researchers drew on more than 50,000 virus genome sequences, in which 26,000 of these sequences were obtained from the Covid-19 Genomics UK (COG-UK) consortium. The results of the study offer a crucial context to what is happening now in the current wave of the pandemic in the UK. The same team have hence incorporated the genomic factor in identifying the latest variant (termed B.1.1.7) that is currently growing at rapid rates throughout the country.  The study is based on data from the first wave of the pandemic in early 2020, when the virus was first introduced into the region, and has found that the highest number of transmission chains had been introduced from Spain at 33%, France at 29%, and Italy at 12%. Transmission chains of the virus from China, meanwhile, accounted for only 0.4% of imports.  In a news article published by Oxford University, Professor Oliver Pybus, co-lead author based at Oxford’s Department of Zoology and the Oxford Martin School, said that by reconstructing where and when COVID-19 was introduced to the UK, we can see that earlier travel and quarantine interventions could have helped to reduce the acceleration and intensity of the UK’s first wave of cases.  Another co-lead author, Louis du Plessis, also from Oxford’s Department of Zoology, added that the UK shares large volumes of virus genetic data publicly on a weekly basis, and that “if you don’t have this level of surveillance, you won’t know the real situation of virus evolution and transmission.”  Researchers from the Universities of Oxford and Edinburgh have recently published a comprehensive genomic analysis of the Covid-19 transmission. The full report was released on 8 January 2021, presenting detailed insights into the behaviour of Covid-19 transmission chains since the outbreak of the pandemic in the UK. center_img The team of scientists have suggested that a detailed comparison of the new variant’s behaviour with that of the first wave lineages will be crucial to understanding why the B.1.1.7 variant is spreading so quickly now. Before the March 2020 lockdown, high travel volumes and lax restrictions on international travel led to the circulation of more than 1,000 identifiable UK transmission lineages which had persisted into the summer of the same year.  Image Credit: iSO-FORM LLC. Licence: CC BY 4.0 PhD researcher Verity Hill also emphasised that this form of continuous, nationally coordinated genomic sequencing allows for high-resolution analysis and for other countries to place their genomic data into context. This would enable countries to strategise a more effective pandemic response.last_img read more

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The rigor of reargument

first_imgRussell Kornblith got his J.D. at Harvard Law School in May. Compact and fit, he looks like a vest-pocket Superman, able (perhaps) to leap tall buildings in a single bound. But his latest feat of strength was staying up late — for 14 weeks.It was for a good cause, and Kornblith had plenty of company. Since early March, two professors from Harvard’s International Human Rights Clinic and four law students — all from the Class of 2012 — each worked up to 80 hours a week. They scoured archives, pored over cases, and struggled to craft the right language for  a brief of amici curiae — a “friends of the court” brief — in the matter of Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum. It’s now on its way to the U.S. Supreme Court.The lawsuit, brought by 12 Nigerians, alleges that the Dutch oil company was complicit in torture, extrajudicial executions, and other crimes against humanity from 1992 to 1995. The plaintiffs are members of the Ogoni people of the Niger Delta, who during this time were protesting a new pipeline being laid by Shell contractors. The amici — the clinic’s clients — are nine legal historians, including Charles Donahue, Harvard’s Paul A. Freund Professor of Law.Susan H. Farbstein, a team member and an assistant clinical professor at Harvard Law School, called Kiobel ”one of the biggest human rights cases the [Supreme Court] has heard in recent years.”At issue: What are the limits of corporate liability? And can U.S. courts hear lawsuits regarding incidents outside U.S. territory? (It’s an issue lawyers call “extraterritoriality.”)Behind those questions is a debate over the interpretation and intent of the Alien Tort Statute, a 1789 law that allows foreigners to bring suit in U.S. courts. The statute was seldom cited until 1980, when it was revived as the basis for international human rights litigation.“Decades of jurisprudence are on the line in Kiobel,” said Clinical Professor of Law Tyler R. Giannini, who co-directs the clinic with Farbstein. “Cases have been litigated for more than 30 years for claims arising outside the United States, including for more than 15 years against corporations.” A Supreme Court ruling against either corporate liability or extraterritoriality, he said, “would represent a radical departure from this recent history.”That departure would limit the right of plaintiffs to seek redress from multinational corporations. For those writing the brief, the stakes were high.“The challenge is making sure you have a sufficient store of adrenalin,” said Sarah Alexander, J.D. ’12. She worked with Kornblith, sometimes 19 hours a day. (Other team members were Yonina Alexander, J.D. ’12 — no relation to Sarah — and Daniel Saver, J.D. ’12.)The team established a “war room” in Pound Hall and, after December, on the third floor of Wasserstein Hall. The brief came to life there, line by line, on a large-screen monitor. “We endlessly discussed the significance of historical cases and doctrines amongst ourselves and with the amici,” said Giannini. “There were countless calls, discussions, and drafts exchanged until we had a polished brief.”Finishing was a triumph. The magic moment came just after 5 p.m. June 13, when the team filed its 35-page brief (plus appendices) electronically. Kornblith was up until 5 a.m. that day, hammering out last-minute details via Skype, talking at his computer. “The neighbors complained,” he said.Case historyIn February, the Supreme Court was confronted with a lawsuit that might have seemed out of place: Nigerian plaintiffs suing a Dutch company in American courts over alleged abuses committed in Africa. Associate Justice Samuel Alito Jr. seemed skeptical. “What business does a case like that,” he asked, “have in the courts of the United States?”That question will be resolved after the court meets again in October. Meanwhile, the two rounds of briefing on Kiobel drew a flurry of amicus briefs from interested parties (amici) on both sides of the question: multinational corporations, governments, South African jurists, Nuremberg scholars, and specialists in international law, business law, human rights, and civil procedure.During oral arguments before the court on Feb. 28, only corporate liability, the first issue, was highlighted. (The same team wrote a brief for that.) “We know that corporations have rights,” said Farbstein. “The question is whether they will also have liabilities.”But the justices asked for a second round of briefs, what lawyers call a “reargument,” on the issue of extraterritoriality. That’s unusual, said Farbstein. “It means that the justices were interested in this question and felt it wasn’t sufficiently addressed in the first round of briefing.”In early March, the team received a specific task from its nine clients, the legal historians: Use history to make an argument for the legal soundness of extraterritoriality.Writing a legal history brief had already worked well for the Harvard team in the first round of arguments. It had uncovered “The Case of Thomas Skinner, Merchant v. The East India Company,” a 1666 British trial that put an individual head to head with the biggest proto-corporate player of the 17th century. Skinner showed, said Farbstein, that “even a powerful corporate actor can be held accountable when it commits international law violations.”History shows that the Alien Tort Statute meant that civil liability for international law violations would follow the defendant, said Giannini. “The basic principle at the time … was that a violator could be held accountable wherever he could be found, and that still holds true today.”Go back to 1789, Kornblith said, to the framers of the statute and to their intentions. “The idea behind the First Congress’s actions was that this was a statute meant to cover acts that concern the whole world,” he said. “One of these acts is not just an assault on the person who was assaulted, it’s an assault on principles of justice and humanity.”The team brief provided other history lessons, citing 34 cases (1666 to 2011), six U.S. statutes, and more than 20 other authorities.The team brief also used two stark historical examples of how a “universally accepted law of nations” was often applied, despite where alleged offenses occurred: piracy and — eventually — the slave trade.But the Alien Tort Statute itself, its antecedents, and the context of its framing do not tell the whole story. The young United States wanted to tell the world it respected international law, said Farbstein, and that it would be a beacon of justice.“This gets back to what values we hold dear as a country,” she said. “Are we going to harbor individuals who commit these kinds of egregious abuses? … Are we going to say they can be held accountable here because we have bold international law principles — or not?”Read the brief here (pdf).last_img read more

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Civil Legal Justice Act keeps rolling through the legislature

first_imgCivil Legal Justice Act keeps rolling through the legislature Civil Legal Justice Act keeps rolling through the legislature Clearing another hurdle, the Florida Civil Legal Justice Act — a top priority of The Florida Bar — was unanimously approved by both the House Council for Smarter Government and Health & Human Services Appropriations in late February.Sen. Dudley Goodlette, R-Naples, one of 60 legislative sponsors of CS/HB 491, said the act would help provide civil legal assistance to those who can least afford legal services. The money could be used to help victims of domestic violence, children in civil cases, immigrants, and people who need help obtaining federal benefits. The money could not be used to sue the state or any of its subsidiaries.“I can say to you as a former president of a local bar and a former member of the Board of Governors of The Florida Bar, that delivery of legal services is extremely important in this state,” he told the appropriations committee.Goodlette said it was originally hoped the act could be funded with $10 million in surplus federal dollars earmarked for transitional welfare programs as part of the welfare reform movement, but those funds wound up set aside for other uses as the state faces the budget crisis. Goodlette, however, said $500,000 is available for the act and will likely be earmarked for pilot programs.The council also adopted amendments riding with the bill that would void the act if the money is used for purposes which are found to violate the Florida or federal constitutions, and clarifies that legal assistance and advice for those noncriminal infractions in Chapters 316, 318, 320 and 322 would not be covered by the act. Goodlette noted that includes a prohibition against the money being used to fight DUI charges.Florida is one of only 11 states that provides no state funding for legal aid — something Bar President Terry Russell has made a top priority to change.While a large percentage of Florida lawyers provide pro bono services to the poor every year, those lawyers can’t help everyone, Russell said.Appropriations committee member Rep. Phillip Brutus, D-North Miami, said that, as a small-firm practitioner in South Florida, he runs “a poverty law center without the grants,” because often his clients can’t pay for services rendered. He added that the provision would help lessen that burden shouldered by private practitioners.center_img March 15, 2002 Regular Newslast_img read more

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Shiprecycling in Pakistan and India in Limbo

first_imgThe coronavirus pandemic has practically paralysed the ship demolition market in South Asia as lockdown measures continue to be introduced across the subcontinent.Pakistan suspended all beaching and boarding of vessels at Gadani ship recycling yards last week for a minimum period of four weeks. All ship recyclers have been instructed to strictly comply with these latest orders.India has also ordered a suspension of recycling for all ships arriving at Alang whose last port departure was after March 13.Those that departed a port earlier than March 13, will be allowed to arrive at Alang, however, foreign crews will be subject to a quarantine of 14 days at the port of arrival at Alang.Cash buyer of ships for recycling GMS said that several ships have been detained at Alang anchorage this week, with authorities refusing to provide anchoring permissions.Even those with Indian crew on board are going through rigorous medical checks, questioning, and procedures, before being allowed entry.“As Pakistan and India close their doors on all foreign ships arriving (with India also canceling all international flights), the reality is that subcontinent recycling locations will remain quiet as long as the coronavirus crisis persists,” GMS said in its weekly market review.“Global government efforts and the ongoing focus remains on fighting this virulent pandemic, and whilst shipping markets continue to struggle – this is certainly the least of the international communities’ concerns at present.”It is no surprise that there is a lack of activity given the current market situation, however, interest from some buyers to acquire tonnage remains, Clarksons Platou Shipbroking said in its report last week.“Several capesize bulkers continue to be discussed in the arena, but confidence from the cash buyers may restrict numbers placed on the negotiating tables. The market is not flush of cash buyers, several are reportedly facing difficulties with cash flow positions, and there is certainly more strain on those cash buyers active in the current climate.”Clarksons added that with many ports adopting new restrictions, more owners will seek the ‘as is’ deal to avoid the last voyage to the recycling destinations – therefore it will be on the shoulders of the cash buyer to carry the burden of how they would dispose of the unit at a later stage.The only subcontinent location that remains open at present is Bangladesh with several deals concluded this week, according to GMS, as owners scramble to finalize deals before an almost total global lockdown is eventually enforced.Finally, Turkey is also expected to follow suit with the suspension of activities as vessels start to be turned away from Aliaga and reports of deals failing start to emerge, GMS believes.“As European markets grind to a halt and a non-essential travel bans come into effect at various EU countries, it’s only a matter of time until Turkey follows suit. As such, this unintended closure, should it come into effect, may just be what the doctor ordered, given this markets plummet this week,” the cash buyer said.last_img read more

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BiH Basketball Team Starts Today Preparations for the Eurobasket

first_imgSenior national basketball team of BiH will gather today in Sarajevo to start preparing for the European Championship in Slovenia, which will be held in September.Selector of the national team of BiH Aleksandar Petrović invited 16 players for preparations: Zackary Wright, Muhamed Pašalić, Filip Adamović, Nihad Đedovic, Nemanja Gordić, Marko Šutalo, Ante Mašić, Dalibor Peršić, Adin Vrabac, Mirza Teletović, Edin Bavčić, Miralem Halilović, Nedžad Sinanović , Elmedin Kikanović, Andrija Stipanović, Jusuf Nurkić.Petrović expects to have all invited players, except Zach Wright and captain Mirza Teletović who will join the team later.The first part of the preparation will be carried out in Sarajevo, and after seven days they will go to Slovenia, where they will work on fitness and tactics. After that, they will return to Sarajevo where they will stay for three or four days, and then in Slovenia, they will play against Slovenia, Georgia and Russia.‘’Impact of the seven-part preparations consists of two tournaments in Germany and Greece, where they will play six games’’ said the coach Petrović for Fena.In Germany BiH national team will play against a local team, against Greece and Macedonia, while during “Akropolis tournament” in Athens they will play against Italy, Greece and Latvia.European Championship in Slovenia will be held from 4th to 22th September 2013. Players of BiH will play in Jesenice in the B-group with Macedonia, Lithuania, Montenegro, Latvia and Serbia. (Source:Fena)last_img read more

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