CAGEs lock up fats to treat obesity

first_imgA new, orally administered liquid reduces weight in rats fed high-fat diets without causing side effects, pointing to a possible therapy for obesity, according to a new study from Harvard’s Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering and John A. Paulson School for Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS)Although the FDA has approved several drugs that reduce weight by about 10 percent over the last few decades, those drugs have come with significant side effects, including headaches, diarrhea, severe liver injury, birth defects, sleep apnea, pancreatitis, and suicidal thoughts.The orally administered liquid salt created by the Wyss Institute and SEAS, called choline and geranate, or CAGE, can physically limit the absorption of fats from food with no discernable side effects in rats, and reduce total body weight by about 12 percent. The research is reported in PNAS.“A reduction in body weight of 12 percent is like getting a human from 200 pounds down to 176, which is a significant change,” said first author Md Nurunnabi, a former postdoctoral fellow at the Wyss Institute and SEAS who is now an assistant professor of pharmaceutical sciences at the University of Texas, El Paso. “Our goal is to translate this work into a product that can help people maintain a healthier weight, and this study marks the very beginning of that journey.”Turning a bug into a featureCAGE, which is a salt in its liquid state, was created a few years ago by Wyss core faculty member Samir Mitragotri as part of an effort to improve the body’s absorption of medicines. Last year, his lab published a paper describing CAGE’s ability to enhance the uptake of insulin when given orally. However, in their study of CAGE’s properties, they found that one small hydrophobic molecule was not helped by the liquid. Mitragotri’s team had a hunch that CAGE was somehow binding to this molecule and preventing it from being absorbed.,“That observation led us to wonder if there were any contexts in which we would want to prevent the uptake of this type of molecule. We realized that fats are small and hydrophobic, and that CAGE could potentially be of interest as a medical treatment for obesity,” said Mitragotri, who is also the Hiller Professor of Bioengineering and Hansjörg Wyss Professor of Biologically Inspired Engineering at SEAS.The researchers got to work evaluating CAGE’s interactions with fats by mixing the liquid with an omega-3 fat called DHA and water. They saw that the DHA formed large particles about 3‒4 microns in length, about the size of a cell’s nucleus. DHA molecules mixed with water alone formed much smaller particles, in the range of 50‒400 nanometers, suggesting that there is some interaction between the CAGE and DHA molecules that causes them to aggregate into larger particles.The team then added the DHA-CAGE mixture to healthy rat intestines ex vivo. Compared with intestines that were injected with DHA only, the inclusion of CAGE significantly reduced the permeation of DHA into the intestinal tissue over the course of six hours.Helping rats resist obesity To evaluate the performance of CAGE in living organisms, the researchers prepared capsules with a mixture of DHA and CAGE and gave them orally to rats. After six hours, the amount of DHA absorbed into their blood from the mixture was about half the amount that was absorbed when they were given DHA alone. Biodistribution studies showed that giving CAGE along with the DHA increased its concentration in the rats’ stomachs and intestines twofold and reduced its presence in their livers, suggesting that CAGE prevents DHA from leaving the gastrointestinal tract.They then studied the effect of CAGE on fat uptake in rats fed a high-fat diet, which has 20 percent more fat than a regular diet, for 30 days. A daily, 10-microliter dose of CAGE caused rats to gain 12 percent less weight than rats that received either a 5-microliter dose or no CAGE. The untreated rats usually ate about 10 grams of food every day, whereas the high-dose CAGE cohort ate about 8 grams of food, suggesting that CAGE might also have an effect on enzymes that regulate digestion, and/or increase the feeling of fullness after a meal. “A reduction in [a rat’s] body weight of 12 percent is like getting a human from 200 pounds down to 176, which is a significant change.” — Md Nurunnabi Importantly, over the 30-day time period, no side effects were observed in the rats treated with CAGE, and there were no signs of inflammation or differences in the animals’ organ structure or function. There was also no trace of CAGE’s components in the body following treatment.“This is the first proof of concept that orally administered ionic liquids can help reduce fat uptake and body mass, and this approach has significant clinical potential given that it is simple, fast, and much less invasive than liposuction or bariatric surgery and, because its mechanism of action is physical rather than chemical, it lacks the side effects observed with other drugs,” said Mitragotri.The team is now pursuing answers to the more mechanistic questions about CAGE, including exactly how CAGE binds to fats, how long its effects last, what its potential interactions with the obesity-associated leptin signaling pathway are, and where the unabsorbed fat goes.“This study is a perfect example of the potentially transformative innovations that can come from looking at an unexpected result in the lab as a solution rather than a problem. We love simple solutions here at the Wyss Institute,” said Wyss Founding Director Donald Ingber, who is also the Judah Folkman Professor of Vascular Biology at Harvard Medical School and the Vascular Biology Program at Boston Children’s Hospital, as well as professor of bioengineering at SEAS.Additional authors of the study are Kelly Ibsen, a former postdoctoral fellow in the Mitragotri lab, and Eden Tanner, a current postdoctoral fellow.The research was supported by Harvard SEAS.last_img read more

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COVID-19: Mapping the virus’ impact on the tri-campus community

first_imgSouth Bend, Indiana‘I didn’t expect anyone I knew was going to get it.’ Honolulu, Hawaii‘With a smaller island like Oahu, the healthcare system can only handle so much.’ Courtesy of Laksumi Sivanandan In Queens, New York, senior Laksumi Sivanandan said the streets are dead silent as public transportation lines are all shut down due to the pandemic.Notre Dame senior Laksumi Sivanandan never anticipated her home state becoming the world’s epicenter of the novel coronavirus. In fact, when she packed up her college apartment and tossed everything in the back of her Nissan Rogue Sport on March 22, she didn’t know what to expect.The decision to come home wasn’t an easy one. Looking back, she says she felt significantly safer in South Bend, where positive COVID-19 cases are a fraction of the number in New York. But with a closed campus, distant friends and an unsettling feeling of loneliness, not much was left for her in the Indiana town she once called home.The normally 12-hour journey only took 10 with the abnormally barren arteries of New York. Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania. Each encapsulated the same picture: shuttered businesses, empty streets, rare signs of life. And then she reached her home in Queens.In a borough that deems public transportation its lifeline, subways and buses are all closed. The streets leading up to her house, normally bustling, are empty. Local businesses, unable to reach the customer base needed, are shut down.“It’s just dead silence,” Sivanandan said.New York reached 170,000 cases of COVID-19 on Friday, with New York City accounting for more than half of the total. Hospitals in the city are overrun with patients and short of supplies. More than 7,000 people in the state have died.With an immunocompromised father, Sivanandan recognizes the anxiety familiar to many Americans in the time of COVID-19. Never before seeing a need for drivers licenses, her parents now rely on her to transport them from place to place for essentials. “We’re the city that never sleeps, but right now we’re in hibernation,” Sivanandan said.Sivanandan, who looked forward to her graduation as a first-generation college student, grapples with disappointment when she considers the opportunities stolen by the pandemic. Even so, she acknowledges the sheer luck it takes to come home without the virus, which infects indiscriminately.“I don’t know if I shouldn’t be upset that I can’t do all those things because there’s a pandemic, but at the same time, that’s just a part of my life that I’ll never get back,” she said. Seattle, Washington‘It’s literally a ghost town.’ Courtesy of Carson Collins After prom was canceled for Carson Collins’ younger sister Camden (center), the family decided to dress up and celebrate from home. From left to right, Jennifer (their mom), Carson, her sisters Camden and Campbell and their father Peter pose for a picture in their prom attire.When Notre Dame senior Caterina Breuer flew home to Palm Beach, Florida, on March 15, she took a connecting flight through Detroit, Michigan. In the “almost vacant” Midwestern airport, passengers kept their distance and wore masks.In Palm Beach, it was a different story.“There were many flights out of the airport, people were laughing and clustering together and nobody had a mask on,” Breuer said in an email. “Gyms and restaurants were still open, and friends were spending their days at the beach. I was shocked.”The state did not officially shut down until April 3, though various local governments announced restrictions beforehand. Gov. Ron DeSantis faced criticism from government officials and public health authorities in the weeks leading up to the decision, as he refused to enact a state-level stay-at-home order.“This has been in the news a lot,” Notre Dame senior Carson Collins said. “A lot of people are misunderstanding how Florida is handling the crisis.”As of Saturday, 18,986 Floridians were known to have COVID-19 with 446 deaths from the virus. In Collins’ hometown of Tampa, city and county officials clashed over stay-at-home orders, before local officials approved restrictions March 26.While “nonessential” businesses are closed, Collins has been spending time by her backyard pool, enjoying the warm Florida weather and reading for fun.“It kind of feels like I’m on an elongated winter break,” she said.Collins’ younger sister, Camden, was supposed to celebrate her senior prom this month. And she did — but not on a crowded dance floor with hundreds of other students.Instead, her family decided to recreate a prom-style celebration from the safety of their own home. The Collins sisters styled their makeup, donned long dresses and took pictures with the rest of the family. Their mom created a corsage for Camden and adorned the house with prom decorations. Then, the family sat down to a dinner of steak and mashed potatoes.“We made a nice four-course meal and then just spent some time talking about how this was affecting us and just making sure that we get to celebrate those little moments,” Collins said. “Even if they are different from how we originally imagined.” Lausanne, Switzerland‘Everybody still feels pretty clueless, we’re all just living day by day.’ Courtesy of Angela Overlack The view from junior Angela Overlack’s home in Lausanne, Switzerland. Switzerland tops the charts for most coronavirus cases per capita in the world.Notre Dame junior Angela Overlack misses the high-peaked mountains, the mild weather, the scores of people taking in the day around Lake Geneva — all the things she typically loves about coming home.In her hometown of Lausanne, Switzerland, Overlack remains sheltered at home with her parents as the number of COVID-19 cases in the nation ticks past 24,000. The small country of about 8.6 million tops the charts for most coronavirus cases per capita in the world, with 2,734 cases per million residents as of April 8.Bordered by the hard-hit countries of Italy, France and Germany, Switzerland’s various cultural regions are all on high alert, with public places locked and closed and town squares shut down. The country has adopted a systematic nature unfamiliar to Overlack. Open parking lots are replaced by specific drive-through areas. Small businesses actively restrict the number of people inside. Town squares lined with clothing stores and restaurants are empty. Even so, the area isn’t completely deserted. Accustomed to the outdoors, people are still walking, running and biking, treading new paths in place of the now-closed hiking trails, parks and other public areas.“You want there to be an end,” Overlack said. “But right now everybody still feels pretty clueless. We’re all just living day by day.”Six hours ahead of Eastern Standard Time, Overlack is still adjusting to online learning, with her classes running until 11:30 p.m. her time. Her dorm, now more than 4,000 miles away, is still filled with her clothes and the materials she didn’t realize she’d be leaving behind for months when she flew home for spring break. She worries about her senior year, which she sees as up in the air.“After such a shock you can’t really just go back to normal,” she said.But despite the dramatic adjustments, there’s a glimmer of hope for the country as coronavirus cases in Switzerland begin, slowly, to plateau. Plans are in place to ease restrictions by the end of April. Up to 8,000 members of the military have mobilized, helping with medical services and sealing the landlocked country’s borders to prevent further outbreaks.“Mostly what I worry about is a second wave, and then it just hitting again,” Overlack said. “Because you never know.” Washington, D.C.‘What’s most challenging is that there’s no end-line in sight.’ Courtesy of Mary Trainor Despite Illinois’ stay-at-home order, Chicago and its suburbs have still seen traffic as essential workers commute to and from work.Gov. J.B. Pritzker enacted a stay-at-home order for the state of Illinois starting March 21. However, there’s still traffic in the Chicago streets, Saint Mary’s junior Maddie Hopek said.“It’s still pretty busy because there’s a lot of essential workers who are still commuting to and from hospitals,” said Hopek, who lives just 15 minutes outside the city in Brookfield, Illinois.As of Saturday, the city of Chicago had 7,784 cases and 249 deaths while surrounding suburban Cook County had 5,633 cases. One of Hopek’s uncles, who lives in Crown Point, Indiana, was called to work in a downtown hospital as facilities across the state seek to replace sick staff members.For her part, Hopek has been quarantining with her parents and two sisters. Even though they couldn’t go to an in-person church service, Hopek’s family planned to dress up in their Sunday best to watch Mass on television and enjoy a family brunch and an Easter dinner. They’ve also been bonding over baking, cooking and Netflix.“We’ve done very elaborate dinners, like Thanksgiving-style dinners, just on a random night because there’s nothing else to do,” Hopek said.Saint Mary’s senior Mary Trainor, who lives in Oak Park, said her family has taken to picking up their groceries instead of going into the store. At one point, when Trainor’s mom went to buy toilet paper, the store limited each customer to a single roll.“I think that was when it was really bad,” Trainor said. “But I hate to say I almost laughed because I was like, ‘What is going on?’”In her spare time, Trainor has been going for runs, watching “New Girl,” baking and hanging out with friends virtually. “I FaceTime my friends a lot,” she said. “It’s just so funny because they’re like 15 minutes away from me, but you know, we can’t see them until this is all safe.” Chicago, Illinois‘There’s a lot of essential workers that are still commuting to and from hospitals.’ California‘People are hopping the fences, tearing down caution tape, moving signs and continuing to go to beaches and parks even though they’ve all been closed.’ Florida‘A lot of people are misunderstanding how Florida is handling the crisis.’ Courtesy of Thomas Kellenberg Professor Thomas Kellenberg said his yard has become his refuge since the Maryland stay-at-home order was issued.In his 22 years as executive director of the Notre Dame Washington Program, Thomas Kellenberg has never experienced a situation like this.After the Sept. 11 attacks, which he called a homeland security failure, classes continued. During the recession in 2008, an economic failure in Kellenberg’s eyes, the program did not end.But March 10, the program experienced a first: Students were required to go home.“We’ll get through this, as we did after the attacks on 9/11 and the great recession, but I think this will test us, will test this generation, more,” Kellenberg said.Kellenberg lives outside D.C. in Montgomery County, Maryland, the county with the greatest number of COVID-19 cases in the state at the time of the interview.Recently, an ambulance and a fire truck pulled up across the street and took an elderly man away. The emergency providers were wearing protective equipment. The presumption was that he has the coronavirus, Kellenberg said.The state of Maryland is under stay-at-home orders, with residents only leaving the house to go to the grocery store, the pharmacy and to exercise.Kellenberg’s days are even busier than before. On top of transitioning his classes to an online format, current students are seeking refunds for their D.C. housing and incoming students are concerned about finding internships for the fall.“Once the semester ends, then I think my day will be quite different,” Kellenberg said. “But until then, every day is spent primarily at my desk online.”Luckily, none of the Washington Program students contracted COVID-19 while in D.C. They were sent home shortly after a pastor in Georgetown, about a mile from the students’ residence, tested positive for coronavirus.“What’s most challenging is that there’s no endline in sight,” Kellenberg said. “All we’re doing is stamping out embers before they become forest fires.”For now, Kellenberg is eagerly awaiting the creation of a vaccine.“Until then, I think we’re going to be floating around on a life raft in the middle of a storm,” he said. Courtesy of Christian Llantero The streets of Honolulu, once bustling with tourists, have remained relatively barren after the county issued a stay-at-home order.Living in a tourism-heavy, tight-knit state like Hawaii, Notre Dame junior Christian Llantero recognizes the distinct dangers posed by COVID-19 for residents like him.Distinguished as a vacation hot spot, Hawaii’s string of islands frequently welcomes travelers from across the world, especially those from Asia and the United States mainland. But this spring the islands shut down, leaving the state’s tropical beaches and streets tourist-free.“With a smaller island like Oahu, the healthcare system can only handle so much,” Llantero said.Llantero’s hometown of Honolulu implemented a stay-at-home and work-at-home order for all of April, with officials warning cases could rise to 40,000 by the end of the month if the mandates are not followed.But true to the region’s happy-go-lucky nature, Llantero says residents maintain a generally relaxed attitude despite the number of cases climbing to 450 as of Friday. Most are concentrated in Oahu, the island that houses Honolulu.“There’s a pretty laid-back mentality of people here,” Llantero said. “People are still not too worried about it.” Even still, challenges in the state persist for Llantero and other residents. Hawaii is a small business-oriented region that relies heavily on tourism, making the virus’ impact on the local economy especially volatile.“The number of people going around or the people just being out and about is significantly lower than what I’m used to,” Llantero said, noting the unusually vacant streets.And in terms of academics, with a six-hour time difference between Hawaii and South Bend, classes for some Hawaiian students start as early as 3:30 a.m. “It’s still difficult for students here to try and keep up with their academics and other activities at Notre Dame in the eastern time zone,” Llantero said.But in a stroke of optimism, reports show the curve is already flattening in the state as the number of coronavirus cases decreases each day. Llantero looks to these numbers for positivity as COVID-19 in other states continues ramping up.“I’m hopeful about here,” he said. Courtesy of Sophie Schroth Sophomore Sophie Schroth bikes with her mom, Tricia, and brother, Luke (not pictured), on the 520 Bridge in Seattle.When classes were canceled through April 14, Notre Dame sophomore Sophie Schroth had a feeling it would be longer than that.Schroth was in Florida for spring break when she got the news. She returned to campus a few days later. Schroth packed up the majority of her belongings from her Walsh Hall dorm room into her car and drove home with her dad, who flew to Chicago to accompany her. Seattle has been under a stay-at-home order since March 23, and the National Guard was deployed early April to help stock food banks.“It’s just a really weird experience being at the grocery store, people kind of turn their shoulder when you walk past them,” Schroth said. “It’s kind of a somber experience.”Schroth is home with her brother, Luke, a high school senior, and her parents. They have been hiking and biking throughout the empty city to stay active.“Seattle’s a pretty vibrant place. People are always out and about,” Schroth said. “But I was driving through the city, and it’s literally a ghost town.”Her plans for summer — to work at a Young Life summer camp in Canada — were canceled last week. She isn’t sure whether her brother’s high school graduation in June will happen in person, but she doubts it.The uncertainty of the situation is one of the most difficult parts for Schroth.“It’s not like, here’s all the things you can’t have and that’s it,” she said. “Every day there’s something new. … Thing after thing is being canceled, so it’s a lot of disappointment and uncertainty.”For now, she’s focusing on her classes. Schroth said they have become more difficult since transitioning to online, and she struggles to stay motivated at home. When she’s not doing homework, she hikes, bikes and bakes — anything to pass the time.“I’m kind of an emotional wreck, up and down,” Schroth said. “Happy one moment and sad the next.” Courtesy of Jiadai Li Outside Jiadai Li’s hotel room where she remained quarantined in Changzhi, China, she watched as life came to a halt April 4 for three minutes to mourn citizens who have died from the novel coronavirus.Notre Dame junior Jiadai Li listened intently as an air-raid siren echoed into her hotel room where she was quarantined in Changzhi, China, a city about 350 miles south of Beijing.From her vantage point, she could see medical staff mourning in the courtyard outside the hotel. Life halted for three minutes as people reflected on the lives lost from the novel coronavirus. The siren reverberated across China on April 4, honoring the 3,355 plus people who died from the pandemic in the country.For the most part, life is back to normal in Li’s small city of Changzhi, which reported only a few COVID-19 cases over the last few months. Her home is more than 450 miles from Wuhan, the hardest-hit province in China where the coronavirus outbreak first began.Though most people still wear masks as a precaution, Li’s parents and others in her area went back to work in mid-February. But it wasn’t always smooth sailing for her.Li remembers feeling emotionally stressed for weeks at Notre Dame, where realization of the seriousness of COVID-19 hadn’t yet hit in the U.S. As she heard from friends and family about the disease’s impact in China, those around her continued life as normal.“China paid so much for this already, and people [knew] in late January that it is serious in China,” Li said. “There was a frustration about, why aren’t people taking this seriously?”As a reflex from her time in China, where news of the virus dominated social media and daily life, Li closely monitored the cases in America as COVID-19 reached the continent.“It’s like, why is this happening, like why?” Li said of her thought process at the time. “It’s on both sides. Like why is this happening in China, and why is it happening in the United States? It was like, ‘Oh, God.’”Though total cases are decreasing and people have emerged from lockdown in Wuhan, Li still fears a second wave of COVID-19 hitting China’s shores. Residents continue to wear masks and self-quarantine whenever they travel from city to city or come back from abroad out of an abundance of caution. But for now, Li’s main concern is America, where the number of cases continues to soar each day.“I didn’t expect it to happen, and I just feel so sorry for it,” Li said. “I don’t know what’s going to happen in America, and I guess I am worried because there are so many cases.” São Paulo, Brazil‘This time, I really didn’t want to be in Brazil, I really wanted to be on campus.’ Courtesy of Laura Henares Henares cooks pasta in her home, one of her favorite ways to pass the time.Laura Henares was lucky.The Badin junior was spending spring break in Florida when she got the email announcing the cancellation of in-person classes. She was at a friend’s house, not a hotel, so she was able to stay longer than planned. She had brought the necessary documents for her to travel internationally, despite thinking she’d be returning to South Bend after break. Five days later, she was heading to São Paulo.“It was so terrifying because when I got in the plane I remember thinking, ‘If I can’t come back and I lose the semester, I don’t know what will happen,’” Henares said, “‘but I’m not staying in the U.S. in a moment like this because I need to be with my family.’”While Henares has universal healthcare and a physician mother in Brazil, in the U.S., she only has the University health insurance. But the city she returned to is very different than the one she left. Some of her friend’s parents who work in hospitals moved out to avoid risking their families’ health. Grandparents stay with the children, and the parents occupy their vacated homes.The normally bustling city — the highly populated economic hub of Brazil — is almost completely void of cars and people. Each Brazilian state can mandate their own restrictions, but São Paulo has been under a quarantine since March 21.“At the end of the afternoon, we don’t see the grey line on top of the skyscrapers at the end of the horizon anymore, you only see the sunset,” Henares said. “Much less air pollution.”Everyone who can is working from home, Henares said. The ones who aren’t fall into two groups: They must work to afford food, or they’re following the lead of president Jair Bolsonaro and doubting the coronavirus’ severity. When Bolsonaro called the virus “a little flu,” Henares’ apartment neighbors banged on the walls. Some nights, Whatsapp chain messages organize demonstrations, and people bang pots with wooden spoons out their windows. “Generally I have class at that time, so I close my window and hope to God my professors don’t hear,” Henares said. She spends most of her time studying or cooking with her brother John, who found out during the lockdown that he was accepted into Notre Dame. Her parents are working from home and taking advantage of the time with their kids. “Whenever I’m on campus, I always say how much I miss Brazil, but this time, I really didn’t want to be in Brazil, I really wanted to be on campus,” Henares said.  Across the planet, students from the tri-campus community are grappling with the current and lasting impacts of the novel coronavirus. With more than a million cases and over 108,000 deaths worldwide, all lives have been touched by the pandemic in some way.From Brazil to India, from Honolulu to New York City, peruse this map to read and hear about the transformed hometowns, unprecedented adjustments and meaningful moments marking the lives of students and faculty sheltered at home across the globe. Nairobi, Kenya‘Anyone who did violate the curfew was sent to be beaten.’ Courtesy of Katie O’Sullivan Grotto candles spell out 2020 on March 31, the day Notre Dame announced it would be canceling this year’s commencement ceremony.Over the course of just a few days, ZaNiya Sconiers lost a childhood friend, a cousin and a great-aunt.The Holy Cross sophomore is used to the normal grieving rituals of reading obituaries and going to funerals. But because of the risk of spreading COVID-19, the viewings for Sconiers’ deceased loved ones were limited to seven people. She didn’t even find out about the death of her friend until after his funeral had passed.“Only the most important people can go see the person, you know. It was kind of hard,” she said.The three deaths were not coronavirus-related. However, one of Sconiers’ family friends has been in the hospital with COVID-19. St. Joseph County had a total of 168 confirmed cases as of Friday and three deaths as of Saturday.“She’s getting better, but it’s still kind of scary though because I didn’t expect anyone I knew was going to get it,” Sconiers said. “But, I mean, I guess anyone can get it.”Sconiers is trying to stay inside as much as possible. However, because she doesn’t have WiFi at home, she has to go to a cousin’s house to do her online classes.“It’s just a struggle because I’m nervous about going out,” Sconiers said. “I feel bad when I have to come over to my cousin’s house. … She’s very on edge because she went to medical school.”On March 24, SpartanNash — which owns Martin’s Super Markets — announced it would be installing plexiglass sneeze guards at “[e]very cashier station, deli counter, pharmacy, customer service counter and Quick Stop fuel center checkout” in its stores.“I’d never seen it until like two weeks ago,” Sconiers said of the shields.For some Notre Dame off-campus seniors staying in South Bend, the emptiness of campus and the surrounding area is haunting.“Because no one’s really leaving their homes or socializing, you have no idea if the neighbors are home,” senior Katie O’Sullivan said.She’s been taking walks and runs around campus. After the University announced it would be canceling this year’s commencement ceremony, O’Sullivan visited the Grotto where the candles spelled 2020.Senior Jordan Isner, who is from Connecticut, also decided to stay in South Bend. He and his roommates have taken advantage of their increased free time to bond over homemade pizza and sushi, watch “Survivor” and play video games, such as Mario Kart. They’re trying to enjoy the remaining weeks of their senior year as best they can.“It sucks being trapped in your house or feeling like you’re trapped in your house,” he said. “But I feel like we’re definitely in pretty good spirits considering the circumstances.” Mumbai, India‘The whole city is dead.’ Courtesy of Ananya Thakur Thakur plays Scrabble with her mother in their Mumbai high-rise apartment.Notre Dame freshman Ananya Thakur left campus hours after she got the email.She acted quickly, but it wasn’t easy. As uncertainty surrounding lockdowns and international border crossings increased, flights were canceled. When she left, she didn’t expect to come back to South Bend.“I didn’t think it was going to get any better,” Thakur said.She was right.For two days, she lived her normal life in Mumbai. But on March 13, her apartment community declared a home quarantine for individuals and their families, who had traveled abroad. Since then, she hasn’t left the house.When Thakur arrived home, there were around 60 cases of COVID-19 in the country, and there were no widespread restrictions. Now, there are 8,000 cases, and the country has been under a nationwide lockdown since March 24 — a measure which Thakur said is precautionary.“It’s not so bad out here yet,” she said. “I think for the first time in his life, our prime minister really stepped up, and was like, ‘I’m shutting it down because if I don’t, we’re just going to become like one of the countries that are severely facing the consequences.’”Thakur is with her parents and brother, who recently celebrated his 17th birthday during the lockdown. She’s been spending her time baking, working out and studying. She said her classes have gotten harder — on top of that, they’re in the middle of the night, with her latest class going until 2:30 a.m.The family only leaves for essentials like food and water.“Honestly it looks like a ghost town,” Thakur said. “It’s crazy. There’s not one car in the road.”Mumbai is one of the top 10 most populated cities, according to data from 2015. But the streets are now empty. A distance that once took her 25 minutes to walk now takes just six or seven.To enforce the lockdown, Thakur heard police were beating groups of people seen outside together.“The whole city is dead,” Thakur said. “Nobody is stepping out.” Changzhi, China‘There was a frustration about, why aren’t people taking this seriously?’ New York City, New York‘We’re the city that never sleeps, but right now we’re in hibernation.’ Paulstern Madegwa // Unsplash The neighborhood of Parklands in Nairobi, Kenya. Kenya has reached 225 coronavirus cases and 10 deaths as of Thursday, resulting in a county-wide lockdown and a strictly enforced curfew.It was just one day, but it was enough.Hope Hajir vividly remembers looking out from her window when the pandemic first hit. Peering out into Nairobi, Kenya, she witnessed a picture she couldn’t have expected upon flying home for spring break a few days before: Outside, people of all ages were being beaten by police. It was a message Hajir says Kenyans heard loud and clear: Stay home or be beaten.“It was scary,” Hajir, a Notre Dame sophomore, said. “For the first time, I saw the practical side of the real-life application of what it feels to be a low-capacity state.”The brutality served as a warning to citizens in a country that reached 225 coronavirus cases and 10 deaths as of Thursday. But with a wide economic gap between the haves and the have-nots, and a large amount of Kenyans who live hand to mouth, Hajir says different counties in the state are reacting differently to the mandates.“Anyone who did violate the curfew was sent to be beaten,” Hajir said. “There have been deaths that have resulted from that, deaths of even children. And so it’s heartbreaking. People don’t know how to feel really.”But from Hajir’s vantage point, her hard-hit city of Nairobi — known for its vibrant arts, culture, music and food — has taken on a stiffened atmosphere of forced compliance, with most citizens obeying the curfew and county-wide lockdown out of fear for the consequences. “I came home but I cannot visit my home. I cannot,” Hajir said. “I only exist in it but I cannot be myself at home right now.”But even as Kenya slowly climbs toward its peak in coronavirus cases, Hajir has channeled her energy into launching new projects to help others. With her first, a new business called “Corona Care Kenya,” she hopes to sell hygiene products donated by others, with proceeds benefiting health workers.She’s also filming an online digital series called “Quarantine” of her experiences under lockdown. With it, she hopes to create a digital footprint of Africa’s response to the pandemic.“I saw so many catastrophes throughout the course of history, but there’s never been an African narrative in all that,” Hajir said. “If this can be able to contribute to that conversation in the future, I would 100% love to be part of that.”Though she doesn’t see a clear end in sight for Kenya, Hajir credits the government for educating citizens about the real risk of COVID-19. It’s a catastrophe, she says — but one that she sees as redeeming for a developing country.“It’s a catastrophe, it’s a crisis, but I do think that Africa has shown its dignity through this,” Hajir said. “Because for once, it’s a level playing field, so even if it’s a catastrophe I think this is a growth opportunity for Africa.” Courtesy of Nicole Aggarwal Saint Mary’s senior Nicole Aggarwal celebrates her 22nd birthday in quarantine.Before California initiated its stay-at-home order March 19, many people in Nicole Aggarwal’s hometown, Ventura, did not seem to be taking social distancing seriously, the Saint Mary’s senior said.Gov. Gavin Newsom had requested March 15 that anyone over the age of 65 stay home. But when Aggarwal went to the local Whole Foods to order a cake for her 22nd birthday, she recalled seeing an elderly man who would not keep six feet away from her and continued to touch everything around him, despite not wearing gloves.Now she’s concerned people still aren’t taking the stay-at-home order seriously.“People are hopping the fences, tearing down caution tape, moving signs and continuing to go to beaches and parks even though they’ve all been closed,” Aggarwal said. California had 22,416 known cases of COVID-19 and 634 coronavirus-related deaths as of Saturday.Aggarwal’s father is an insurance agent who is working with small businesses dealing with the economic fallout of the pandemic. Her mom is a pharmacist and still on the front line, working with people on a day-to-day basis.“She’s definitely strong and healthy, but I still worry that she could be affected,” Aggarwal said.Aggarwal is also in quarantine with her grandmother, who is from India. She only speaks Hindi, and Aggarwal has been working to communicate her situation to her grandmother, despite the language barrier.Between keeping up with her online classes — which no longer have any synchronous class time component — Aggarwal has been taking on more responsibility for domestic chores and cleaning around the house and going on bike rides and walks around her neighborhood.“It’s pretty difficult to focus on schoolwork and try to get things done and finish up my senior year without my GPA dropping amidst all of this,” she said. “And [it’s] not even just living at home, but just the general stress that comes with this virus is pretty difficult to manage among everything else.”For Holy Cross sophomore Carter Silva, who lives in San Diego, the shift to online classes has meant a much earlier start to his day. At Holy Cross, he had class Monday through Thursday starting at 9:30 a.m. EST. Now, being in California, he must wake up for class at 6 a.m. PDT.In San Diego, Silva said, things seem to be pretty quiet. Driving home from the airport, the normally busy freeways were empty. In Silva’s neighborhood, he will occasionally notice people out for walks, but people aren’t leaving their homes much otherwise.However, people have been stocking up on groceries.“My mom sent me out to find beans the other day and there was none on any of the shelves,” Silva said. “Toilet paper and all paper products are gone. So it’s pretty hectic.” Yangsan, South Korea‘In Korea, I feel much safer because they’re tracking the confirmed cases.’ Courtesy of Stacey Cho A view from junior exchange student Stacey Cho’s bedroom, where she quarantined for 14 days after returning home.Stacey Cho’s first time in America ended with an abrupt halt when she received the email.Notre Dame is closing its campus, the message read, and all international students are encouraged to fly home as soon as possible.The junior exchange student panicked.As she hurriedly packed her belongings for the long haul home, Cho reflected on how her semester of opportunities in the United States had been suddenly cut short.Despite the warning signs, she had been holding out hope for a small miracle — but now she was scrambling, forced to change her travel schedule three times and spend more than $800 to find a flight back home sooner than expected.“It was sad when I had to pack my stuff,” Cho said. “I was in [a] panic, as well, because the situation changed too fast.”She landed in South Korea and was immediately directed to take a coronavirus test. A five-hour car drive later, she was quarantined in her home, where she’s been sheltered since.“I was stuck in my room, doing assignments, eating what is given,” Cho said. “I only went out once with [the] car to get another coronavirus test.”With cherry blossoms blooming and spring upon them, South Koreans have begun venturing out, most still sporting precautionary masks after the virus infected more than 10,000 citizens earlier this year. Since then, South Korea has been lauded worldwide for its speedy success flattening the curve of new coronavirus cases. Even so, threats of a resurgence loom over the country, which has mandated all international travelers quarantine upon re-entry.“In Korea, I feel much safer because they’re tracking the confirmed cases,” Cho said.Cho now writes papers in place of many of her online courses, an option granted to her given the 13-hour time difference between Yangsan and South Bend. She worried about transitioning to online courses, so much so that she waited until the last moment to take a flight back home.But there now, Cho says the situation in America is worse than she expected — and though her semester abroad was cut short, she feels more secure back home in South Korea.“I think America cares more about privacy issue[s],” she said. “I think it might be harder to know where the people have been and how they get infected. So I think that kind of situation makes people get more scared.”Tags: Brazil, China, coronavirus, COVID-19, Hawai’i, India, New York City, South Korealast_img read more

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Titanic Revival Sets Sail for Toronto Once More with Opera Star Ben Heppner

first_imgThe Ship of Dreams is back on course! A new staging of Maury Yeston and Peter Stone’s Titanic directed by Thom Southerland will play Toronto’s Princess of Wales Theatre from May 20 through June 21, 2015. Opera tenor Ben Heppner will play Isidor Straus and three additional roles. The production was initially set to play Toronto’s Royal Alexandra Theatre in the summer before going full steam ahead to Broadway during the 2014-15 season. Such plans were postponed due to the lack of availability for an appropriate Great White Way house. No word yet if the production still intends to dock in New York. With a score by Yeston and a book by Stone, Titanic details the lives of a cross-section of the 2,200 people on the voyage in 1912, more than 1,500 of whom met their deaths when the ship crashed into an iceberg. The original musical focused on the vessel’s passengers in first-class, second-class and steerage with a rousing score that included the tunes “Godspeed Titanic,” “The Largest Floating Object in the World” and “I Must Get On that Ship.” The show won five Tony Awards in 1997, including Best Musical. A Grammy and Juno Award winner, Heppner has graced the stage of several international opera houses, including the Metropolitan Opera House, London’s Covent Garden and the Vienna State Opera. Additional casting will be announced at a later date.center_img View Commentslast_img read more

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Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation is recipient of 2020 Stand Up Initiative

first_imgThe policy also requires the restaurant industry to phase out single-use straws by the end of the year and, by 2025, reduce single-use plastic items by 30%. Additionally, the country has banned the import of all plastic waste, and the use of medical plastic waste in the production of plastic.  China has a plan for phasing out single-use plastics Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation is recipient of 2020 Stand Up Initiative Contamination of US drinking water with “forever chemicals” is worse than anyone thought The contamination of drinking water in the United States with manmade “forever chemicals” is worse than scientists feared, the Guardian reports. A report released by an environmental watchdog group found that some of the highest levels of these chemicals in drinking water were in major metropolitan areas like Miami, Philadelphia and New Orleans. The chemicals, called PFAS, are resistant to breaking down, hence the nickname “forever chemicals.” The Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation (BRPF) is one of two recipients of the 2020 Stand Up Initiative, a program launched by Darby Communications in 2016 that provides pro bono PR and marketing services to select environmental nonprofits.  Read the story here: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/jan/22/us-drinking-water-contamination-forever-chemicals-pfas  Read the story here: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/jan/19/china-moves-to-phase-out-single-use-plastics PFAS were used in products like Teflon and Scotchguard. The Guardian reports that of tap water samples taken by the Environmental Working Group from 44 sites in 31 states and Washington DC, only Meridian, Mississippi, which relies on deep wells, had no detectable PFAS. Only two cities, Seattle and Tuscaloosa, Alabama, had levels below the recommended limit of 1 part per trillion.  China has a huge plastics problem, but the country has a plan to turn that around. The national development and reform commission and the Ministry of Ecology and Environment issued a policy banning many single use plastics as early as the end of 2020. Under the policy, plastic bags would be banned in major cities by the end of the year and in all other cities and towns in 2022. Fresh produce markets will need to phase out plastic bags by 2025. Darby Communications and Status Forward, a partner in the Stand Up Initiative, will team up with the BRPF on their Trails & Views Forever Fund campaign. Recently the nonprofit was awarded an ‘all or nothing’ $300,000 challenge grant. In a press release, the two agencies said they will lend a mix of media outreach, social media, email marketing and collateral support to help the BRPF reach the matching amount by their June 30, 2020 deadline. last_img read more

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Colombian Troops Shut Down FARC Rebel Hospital in Bogota

first_img BOGOTA — Government forces have succeeded in closing down clandestine FARC-run hospitals in the Colombian capital, and dismantling a section of the guerrilla’s support network otherwise referred to as Redes de Apoyo al Terrorismo (RAT). Two nondescript brick houses, in Bogota’s working-class district of Usme were put under surveillance by the National Police’s Criminal Investigation and Interpol Directorate (DIJIN) in the weeks leading up to the operation, known as “Republica 130.” DIJIN officers observed injured combatants being brought for treatment and recuperation to the house, which was run by FARC nurses known by the aliases of Tatiana and Viviana. “These women used their knowledge, working in a building that was conditioned not only as a depot for medications but also as a clinic to attend to injured guerrillas and for their rehabilitation,” said DIGIN’s director, Gen. Carlos Ramiro Mena. The raid followed an announcement Feb. 26 that the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia would no longer kidnap civilians for ransom. But Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos has insisted that the FARC stop the practice of kidnapping and all other acts of terrorism before the group begins peace talks with his government. Last November, government troops killed Guillermo Leon Saenz Vargas, also known as Alfonso Cano. FARC’s supreme commander, who was 63, died in a shootout in the mountains of Cauca department, in southwestern Colombia. Shortly after, President Juan Manuel Santos called Cano’s death “the most devastating blow this group has suffered in its history.” Under the command of Henry Castellanos Garzon, known as Romana, guerrillas wounded in action in the department of Meta — located south of Bogota with access to vast Sumapaz National Park — would be brought to Usme. There, the rebels, affiliated with FARC’s Ariari Front, would be nursed back to health. In early March, 12 members of the RAT support network were captured, and a small factory that produced military uniforms identical to those used by government troops was seized. These uniforms are said to have then been shipped south into conflict zones, where FARC militants — disguised as government troops — would set up false roadblocks near military installations for kidnapping and extortion purposes. While these raids in Usme and Meta have yielded significant successes, the information gathered in the operation serves to remind civilians and the government how close the FARC is to Bogota and the ease with which their rebels can reach the city. The district of Usme has long been problematic for Bogota’s police, as it backs onto a large, open high-altitude steppe just 19 miles from the capital. With altitudes ranging from 4,920 to 14,300 feet above sea level, and with entry points that descend from the Andean cordillera into lowland jungles of the departments of Meta and Huila, this is a tricky region to patrol — a fact not lost on Romana and FARC Secretariat member Mauricio Jaramillo, alias El Medico. Romana, who still eludes security forces, was right-hand man to Jorge Briceno Suarez, alias Mono Jojoy, the FARC’s former military commander. Mono Jojoy was killed in a September 2010 attack in Meta. Romana now oversees the same area as his former boss, and in turn is highly active in coordinating the so-called “urban militias” of the rebel group as well as supervising the transport of weapons, munitions and explosives into Bogota. While Romana remains at large in Meta, DIJIN forces did manage to capture a guerrilla subversive by the name of Jaider Henao Naranjo, alias Diego Guapuchon. In a press statement, DIJIN’s Mena said this subversive was “directly in charge of coordinating the trafficking of weapons, munitions and explosives for this organization into Bogota, most of which were negotiated through the sale of coca in various outlying areas of the town of Mesetas [in the department of Meta].” In a twist that shows the importance of the police and military operation, Naranjo — captured alongside his brother, Alexis Henao Naranjo — has direct links to Mauricio “El Medico” Jaramillo, the FARC secretariat member in charge of mobile guerrilla units. With the capture of these urban militias of the FARC, police say they have closed an investigation that has run since November 2011, when a grenade was detonated in northern Bogot·, given that Mono Jojoy, Romana and Guapuchon were among top FARC leaders with expertise in explosives. I believe we have to be very alert of President Chávez, because of all the public statements that he has delivered supporting the FARC for quite some time. Those who call themselves democratic with 7 foreign bases, in their own country. These are the real networks supporting UNIVERSAL terrorism. They use them to eliminate the ones that oppose their businesses of narco trafficking and laundering of their dollars, they are the mercenaries of their primary project, assassins. It is a shame that the people of Colombia are so poor and that misery leads them to sell their dignity. It is no secret that the guerrillas are in Venezuela, eating well. They are not at the foot of the Commander This writer Luis Morillo is a disgrace. His opinions about the leader of the Bolivarian revolution, a clean man, clear in his ideas, thinking and people. Surely Mr. Morillo unpatriotic. It is a shame of the Colombian drugpolitics. Uribe represents the most rotten of this policy. WE SHALL LIVE AND WE SHALL WIN! Very Interesting It is time that the PT from Brazil also closes offices and stops supporting those terrorists. Hypocrites! I want to be part of many of the fellows who are looking for a change for our country Good By Dialogo April 09, 2012last_img read more

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EU Pledges $26.6 Million to Fight Hunger in Haiti

first_img The European Union has pledged $26.6 million (20 million euros) to help improve food security in Haiti, where a study found more than 1.5 million people are at high risk of going hungry. The aid agreement, signed on January 15 by the head of the EU delegation in Haiti, Javier Niño Perez, is aimed in particular at improving food security in five of the most at-risk departments, according to an EU statement. Last month, Haiti and the United Nations called for $144 million to address food security in the Caribbean nation — which was already the poorest in the Americas when it was devastated by a 2010 earthquake that killed more than 250,000 people. “The situation of food insecurity has worsened in a very worrying manner in Haiti,” said a recent report by Haiti’s National Council for Food Security. The report highlighted that in areas facing drought, around 39 percent of the population are unable to ensure consistent access to sufficient amounts of safe, nutritious food. And in areas where 2012’s storms brought flooding, 17 percent of the population faces heightened food insecurity. During a recent visit to Haiti’s capital of Port-au-Prince, the European Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid, Kristalina Georgieva, said Haiti “was not finished” needing aid, three years after the devastating quake. Haiti is the largest beneficiary of the European Commission’s humanitarian aid in Latin America and the Caribbean, with approximately $347 million (260 million euros) provided since 1995. By Dialogo January 18, 2013last_img read more

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Armed Robber in Hofstra Shooting Identified

first_imgSign up for our COVID-19 newsletter to stay up-to-date on the latest coronavirus news throughout New York Police said Dalton Smith of Hempstead was the masked gunman that sparked a police-involved shooting that killed him and a Hofstra student on Friday.A Hempstead man with an “extensive criminal history” that dates back nearly 14 years has been identified as the robbery suspect who was shot and killed in a shootout with police at an off-campus rental house outside Hofstra University that also killed a 21-year-old student, Nassau County police said Saturday.Thirty-year-old Dalton Smith was on parole for first-degree robbery before he was shot dead early Friday morning, police said in a news release, adding that a warrant was issued for Smith on April 25 for “absconding from parole.”Smith’s criminal history includes three separate arrests for robbery, which occurred in August 1999, May 2003 and September 2003. He was also arrested for promoting prison contraband in May 2000 and assault in 2003, according to police.Smith was identified through fingerprint analysis, police said.According to police, Smith wore a ski mask and was armed with a gun when he knocked on the door of a California Avenue home just after 2 a.m. Friday and then entered the house. Four people were inside during the robbery attempt, including Andrea Rebello, the student from Westchester County who was shot and killed during the incident, and her twin sister.Smith, for reasons still unclear, allowed one of the females to leave the house. After fleeing the scene, the female dialed 911 and police swarmed the house at 2:29 a.m., police said during a press conference Friday outside the scene.“This whole road was lit up with sirens,” said Victoria Dehel, who rents a house on California Avenue with other students, and ran onto her porch after hearing loud screams coming from Rebello’s rental house.Andrea Rebello (Photo credit: Facebook)“The screaming just got worse and worse and worse,” Dehel recalled, “then we heard thuds.”Gunfire erupted inside the house, killing Rebello and Smith, police said. It’s unclear who fired the fatal shots. Police did not say how many shots were fired, adding that they were going to conduct forensic tests to help determine what happened.A gun was recovered at the scene, police said.Rebello’s tragic death came just three days before Hofstra’s commencement ceremonies, which will still go on as scheduled.“The accomplishments of our graduates must be recognized, and together our community will heal and find the strength to move forward,” said Hofstra University President Stuart Rabinowitz, calling the incident a “senseless act of violence.”“Our hearts and minds and our thoughts and prayers are with her family, her friends and her classmates,” he added in a statement.A funeral mass for Rebello is scheduled for Wednesday in Sleepy Hollow, according to The Journal News.[View the story “Andrea Rebello, Hofstra Student, Dies in Shooting” on Storify]last_img read more

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NAFCU welcomes House commmttee mark-up, urges credit union relief

first_imgNAFCU Vice President of Legislative Affairs Brad Thaler thanked the leaders of the House Financial Services Committee for scheduling today’s mark-up of several regulatory relief measures and urged lawmakers’ continued support of the NAFCU-backed bills.Thaler wrote Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling, R-Texas, and Ranking Member Maxine Waters, D-Calif., in support of several measures, including:H.R. 3192, the “Homebuyers Assistance Act,” which would provide temporary safe harbor from the Truth in Lending Act/Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act integrated disclosure rule;H.R. 1941, the “Financial Institutions Examination Fairness and Reform Act,” aimed at improving the examination of depository institutions;H.R. 1210, the “Portfolio Lending and Mortgage Access Act,” to provide a safe harbor from certain qualified mortgage requirements for residential mortgage loans held on a mortgage originator’s portfolio; andH.R. 766, the “Financial Institutions Customer Protections Act,” which would require federal regulators to provide a material reason for ordering financial institutions to terminate account relationships through the Justice Department’s “Operation Choke Point” initiative. continue reading » ShareShareSharePrintMailGooglePinterestDiggRedditStumbleuponDeliciousBufferTumblrlast_img read more

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Port Jefferson Station Woman Killed in Crash

first_imgSign up for our COVID-19 newsletter to stay up-to-date on the latest coronavirus news throughout New York A 77-year-old Port Jefferson Station woman was killed when she crashed her car in East Setauket early Saturday morning.Suffolk County police said the woman, whose identity wasn’t immediately released, was driving a Chrysler 300 westbound on Route 347 when her vehicle struck a guardrail and caught fire west of Old Town Road at 5 a.m.The victim was pronounced dead at the scene.Sixth Squad detectives impounded the vehicle, are continuing the investigation and ask anyone with information on the crash to call them at 631-854-8652.last_img

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Lyon shooting: Suspect admits attacking priest ‘over affair’

first_imgIt was initially feared that the wounding of an Orthodox cleric in Lyon was a terror attack.- Advertisement –last_img

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