Misleading information about vaccines and COVID-19 on online platforms like Facebook is killing people, Joe Biden has said.
Speaking to reporters as he left the White House on Friday afternoon, the US president was asked if he had a message to platforms like the social media giant regarding the misleading or incorrect information that frequently appears on them about the coronavirus pandemic.
Mr Biden responded: “They’re killing people. The only pandemic we have is among the unvaccinated, and they’re killing people.”
On Thursday, a 22-page document from the US surgeon general called health-related misinformation a “serious public threat” and said a nationwide response was required.
Mirroring what is happening in the UK, COVID cases have tripled in the US over the past three weeks – and the number of people admitted to hospital and dying from it is rising, particularly among unvaccinated people.
Officials in the US are worried by the trend and what they consider to be needless illness and death. And, also as in the UK, cases are expected to continue to rise in the coming weeks.
In the US, the rising numbers are being driven by infection among the more than 90 million eligible Americans who have yet to get their jabs.
In many cases this is localised, depending on the uptake rates in specific areas. Four states with low vaccination rates made up 40% of new cases last week.
Aiming to boost uptake among young people, the White House has teamed up with the former Disney Channel star Olivia Rodrigo to encourage them to get vaccinated.
The 18-year-old singer met Mr Biden and his chief medical adviser Dr Anthony Fauci this week to film videos for the White House’s social media channels and her own. She has more than 14 million followers on Instagram alone.
Researchers and politicians have repeatedly accused social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter and WhatsApp of failing to clamp down on incorrect or misleading posts on its platforms, particularly during the pandemic.
But Facebook points out it has introduced rules against making false claims about COVID-19 and vaccines.
Facebook spokesman Kevin McAlister said on Friday: “We will not be distracted by accusations which aren’t supported by the facts.
“The fact is that more than two billion people have viewed authoritative information about COVID-19 and vaccines on Facebook, which is more than any other place on the internet.”
The US’s uptick in COVID is some way behind that of the UK, where rates have doubled in the last fortnight.
And despite two thirds of the population now having been double jabbed, fewer than 40% of the under-40s have had a single jab, according to the latest vaccine surveillance report. First jab uptake rates are also slowing.
Meanwhile, the latest NHS England figures show that by far the largest group of people in the UK to be hospitalised is those aged under 54 (52% of those admitted in the week up to 7 July, the latest date for which figures are available).
But whilst England gets ready to drop legally-enforced coronavirus restrictions on Monday, some states in America are re-imposing rules. Counties in California are among those again requiring everyone to wear masks while out in public, even if they’ve been fully vaccinated.
US unveils nuclear stealth bomber as tensions with China rise
The US’ newest high-tech nuclear stealth bomber has made its debut after years of secret development.
The B-21 raider, which will be able to deliver both conventional and nuclear weapons around the world using long-range and mid-air refuelling capabilities, is part of the Pentagon’s answer to rising concerns over a future conflict with China.
It is the first new US bomber aircraft in more than 30 years.
The bomber was unveiled at an event at the US Air Force’s Plant 42 in Palmdale, California where six aircraft are already at various stages of assembly.
US defence secretary Lloyd Austin said: “This isn’t just another airplane.
“It’s the embodiment of America’s determination to defend the republic that we all love…We will soon fly this aircraft, test it, and then move it into production”.
Each aircraft, which carries a similar ‘flying wing’ shape to its predecessor, the B-2, is projected to cost roughly $729.25m.
The Air Force planned to buy at least 100 of the planes and begin to replace B-1 and B-2 bombers. Almost every aspect of the programme is classified.
The aircraft is part of the Pentagon’s efforts to modernise all three legs of its nuclear triad – which includes silo-launched nuclear ballistic missiles and submarine-launched warheads, as it shifts from the counterterrorism campaigns of recent decades to meet China’s rapid military modernisation.
China is on track to have 1,500 nuclear weapons by 2035.
The Pentagon said this week in its annual China report that Beijing’s gains in hypersonics, cyber warfare and space capabilities present “the most consequential and systemic challenge to US national security and the free and open international system”.
Deborah Lee James, the Air Force secretary when the Raider contract was announced in 2015, said: “We needed a new bomber for the 21st Century that would allow us to take on much more complicated threats, like the threats that we fear we would one day face from China, Russia”.
Kathy Warden, chief executive of Northrop Grumman Corp., which is building the bomber, said the B-21 is “extremely advanced” compared to the B-2 with advances in computer capabilities and materials used in coatings which make it “harder to detect”.
Several defence analysts say other advances include new ways to control electronic emissions – meaning the bomber could confuse adversary radars and disguise itself as another object.
Man arrested over fatal shooting of Migos rapper Takeoff
A 33-year-old man has been arrested following the fatal shooting of rapper Takeoff.
Patrick Xavier Clark has been charged with the murder of the Migos star, who was killed last month outside a bowling alley in the US city of Houston, Texas.
Takeoff was the youngest member of the Grammy-nominated rap trio, which also featured his uncle Quavo and cousin Offset.
Born Kirsnick Khari Bal, the 28-year-old was one of three people police said were shot in the incident when an argument erupted as around 40 people left a private party.
The other victims were a man and a woman, who both suffered non-life threatening injuries during the shooting, in which at least two people fired shots.
Speaking at a news conference on Friday, Police Sergeant Michael Burrow said the shooting followed a dispute over a game of dice, but that Takeoff was not involved and was “an innocent bystander.”
The day after the attack, Houston Police Chief Troy Finner said Takeoff was “well respected” and there was “no reason to believe he was involved in anything criminal at the time”.
On Wednesday, police announced the arrest of another man named Cameron Joshua in connection to the shooting.
The 22-year-old was charged with illegally having a gun at the time Takeoff was shot, but Sgt Burrow said investigators believe it was Clark’s gunfire that killed the rapper.
After Takeoff’s shooting, Clark applied for an expedited passport by submitting the itinerary for an “imminent” flight to Mexico, according to court records.
They say he was arrested the day he received the passport and was in possession of a “large amount” of cash.
Who are Migos?
Migos’ record label Quality Control mourned Takeoff’s death in a statement posted on Instagram that attributed it to “senseless violence”, while fellow musicians including Drake and Justin Bieber celebrated his legacy in a memorial service.
Migos first broke through with the massive hit Versace in 2013.
They had four Top 10 hits on the Billboard Hot 100, though Takeoff was not on their multi-week number one hit Bad and Boujee, featuring Lil Uzi Vert.
They put out a trilogy of albums called Culture, Culture II and Culture III, with the first two hitting number one on the Billboard 200 album chart.
Takeoff and Quavo released a joint album Only Built For Infinity Links just weeks before his death.
TikTok ‘bones, no bones’ star, Noodle the dog, dies – and millions of fans flock to pay tribute
More than two million fans of a TikTok-famous pug have marked the death of the social media star and flooded the owner’s page with messages of condolence.
Noodle the pug rose to fame on the platform with “no bones”, a game his owner Jonathan Graziano played nearly every morning which recorded whether Noodle would stand up, or simply flop back over onto his dog bed.
When Noodle flopped, Graziano declared it a “no bones” day – and advised his viewers not to take any risks. But when Noodle stood – what became known as a “bones” day – it became cause for celebration.
But the 14-year-old’s tearful owner took to TikTok on Saturday to announce he had died.
A red-eyed, choked Graziano said: “I’m so sorry to have to tell you this, but Noodle passed yesterday.
“He was at home. He was in my arms and this is incredibly sad, it’s incredibly difficult. It’s a day I always knew was coming, but never thought would arrive.”
Graziano’s “no bones” videos racked up millions of views, and his account grew to 4.5 million followers.
Fans on Twitter are wishing Noodle farewell too, with the hashtag “BonesDay”, and commenting on Graziano’s video, extending their condolences.
Noodle book published
Doug the Pug wrote: “RIP Noodle The Pug. A great friend and a pug who spread joy to millions. May it forever be a ‘bones’ day.”
“Noodle impacted so many people – he made their days and weeks better. He was amazing,” one fan commented on Graziano’s TikTok, which was liked more than 2.4 million times.
Earlier this year, a children’s book starring Noodle was published.
Graziano concluded in his tribute post: “I wanted to encourage you to celebrate him while we’re navigating this sadness.
“He made millions of people happy – what a run! Thank you for loving him.”
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