By Erikas Mwisi Kambale
BENI, Democratic Republic of Congo (Reuters) – Fifty-two inmates at a prison in the northeastern Congo city of Bunia have starved to death this year because of insufficient government funding, the United Nations and local authorities said.
The Democratic Republic of Congo’s jails are among the world’s most overcrowded, according to the U.N., with inmates living in squalid conditions on meager rations. The Bunia prison operates at nearly 500% of capacity, U.N. figures show.
“This situation is really worrying,” said Bunia mayor Ferdinand Fimbo, blaming sporadic government support for malnutrition in the prison.
President Felix Tshisekdei told his cabinet this month he would personally ensure prisons across the country did not run out of food or medicine.
But the head of the Bunia prison, Camille Zonzi, was quoted in a report by the U.N. peacekeeping force in Congo as saying that the government had still only promised at a meeting last week to cover three months of the prison’s expenses.
Malnutrition is common in Congolese jails because food portions are allotted based on facilities’ nominal capacity, rather than their real populations, according to New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW).
Since January, prison administrations across the country have had to buy food and essential supplies on credit, said Thomas Fessy, HRW’s Congo researcher.
“This tragedy could have been prevented,” Fessy said. “More detainees will die if the government does not act and prisons do not receive vital assistance.”
On Sept. 4 around 100 heavily-armed rebel fighters from an ethnic militia entered Bunia and temporarily surrounded the prison, demanding the release of their comrades, but Fimbo said their demands had nothing to do with the food situation.
(Reporting by Erikas Mwisi Kambale; additional reporting and writing by Hereward Holland, editing by Ed Osmond)
more than half of households consist of just 1 person
Four generations of the Garg family live in a four-story building in Delhi, India. In May, Mukul Garg wrote in a blog post that his 57-year-old uncle had gotten the coronavirus, probably after exposure during a routine grocery run. From there, he told the BBC, 10 other family members caught it too, turning his home into a sick ward overnight.
Research shows, unsurprisingly, that household outbreaks like this fuel coronavirus transmission within communities.
“The role of households in overall societal transmission is quite significant,” Yang Yang, a biostatistician at the University of Florida, told Business Insider.
It follows, then, that disparities in household sizes between countries could partially explain their differing outcomes.
Take Sweden, where more than half of households consist of just one person. Roughly one-third of Sweden’s elderly population lives alone, compared to one-fifth of elderly residents in Greece or Spain. Sweden also has a lower proportion of multigenerational households than most other European countries, and one of the smallest average household sizes in Europe: about 2.2 people per home.
Sweden drew attention and condemnation for its decision to keep primary schools, restaurants, bars, and gyms open throughout the pandemic. But its small households may give the virus fewer opportunities to spread there — which can slow transmission.
Indeed, experts say these demographic factors likely contributed to the stark decline in Sweden’s coronavirus deaths since June.
A high attack rate among households
Up to 40% of influenza transmission occurs within households, but researchers are still working to quantify the precise link between household size and the coronavirus’ spread.
A February report from the World Health Organization suggested that up to 85% of China’s coronavirus clusters were among families.
Christian Althaus, an epidemiologist at the University of Bern in Switzerland, estimated that on average, half of coronavirus transmission may occur within households.
Studies have indeed found that the coronavirus’ secondary attack rate among households could be as high as 50%. Other research, however, suggests that attack rate could be closer to 20% within households (relative to 6% among the general public).
But rates of household spread still depend on how much mingling happens outside the home, Yang said. People need to interact in public for community transmission to occur.
“Kids mix in school, probably bring [the virus] home, and then adults bring it to the workplace,” he said.
Some countries have effectively limited contact between household members to contain their outbreaks, though. In China, for instance, people with coronavirus cases that didn’t require hospitalization were treated at quarantine centers to keep them from infecting their families.
“In some countries, they were able to do this isolation or quarantine away from home,” Yang said. “That certainly contributed a lot to the total control of the transmission.”
Overcrowding raises the risk of transmission
The more often people interact inside a home, the higher the risk of household transmission. The Garg family, for instance, ate meals together and frequently played group games like hopscotch and freeze tag — so their chances of passing the virus to one another were probably high.
For that reason, Yang’s research indicates that household crowding — a measure of the number of people per room inside a home — could be a stronger driver of coronavirus transmission than the number of people inside a home.
Indeed, a Wall Street Journal analysis found in June that US counties with high rates of household crowding accounted for a disproportionate share of coronavirus cases.
In India, where the Garg family lives, the average household size is around five people, according to Census data — yet only 5% of Indian homes have five or more rooms. The nation currently has the world’s second-largest coronavirus case total.
The pattern has been observed on a local level as well: A June analysis found that California neighborhoods with the worst coronavirus outbreaks had three times the rate of crowding in households compared to neighborhoods that were largely spared. In New York City, too, ZIP codes in which rental units had more than one occupant per room recorded higher rates of emergency-room visits for “influenza-like illnesses” in March, according to one analysis. (That description is how many COVID-19 cases were recorded at that time.)
Swedish homes aren’t as spacious as those in the US: The average home in Sweden contains 1.7 rooms per person compared around 2.4 rooms per person in the US. But Swedish homes are still roomier than those in Brazil, Mexico, and Russia, which rank among the top 10 nations with the largest coronavirus outbreaks. The average home in those countries has roughly one room per person.
Notably, one of the populations hit hardest in the Swedish outbreak has been Somali immigrants, many of whom live in crowded, multigenerational households. The other particularly vulnerable group has been nursing-home residents, who also spend their days in close contact under one roof.
Read the original article on Business Insider
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3 Stocks Flashing Signs of Strong Insider Buying
If you really want to know which stocks the experts – and those in the know – are buying, pay attention to what they’re doing. Stock reports, company reviews, and press statements are helpful, but you’ll get significant information from watching what the insiders are up to.The insiders – the corporate officers and board members – have to disclose when they snap up shares to prevent any unfair advantages. Tracking their stock purchases can be a useful strategy because if an insider spends their own money on a stock, it could signal that they believe big gains are in store.So, investors looking for stocks that may be flying ‘under the radar,’ but with potential to climb fast, watching for insider purchases identify some sweet market plays. To make that search easier, the TipRanks Insiders’ Hot Stocks tool gets the footwork started – identifying stocks that have seen informative moves by insiders, highlighting several common strategies used by the insiders, and collecting the data all in one place.Fresh from that database, here are the details on three stocks showing ‘informative buys’ in recent days.TravelCenters of America (TA)We’ll start with a company that you probably don’t think about often, but that does provide an essential service. TravelCenters of America is the largest publicly traded owner, operator, and franchisor of full-service highway rest stops in the US. TA started out operating truck stops for rest, repair, and maintenance, and has since expanded to full-service fueling stations offering both gasoline and diesel, fast-food restaurants, convenience stores, and other rest stop amenities. Their network of rest stops is part of the infrastructure that makes long-distance motor transport, both private and commercial, possible in the USA.As can be imagined, the social lockdowns and travel restrictions during the coronavirus pandemic were not good for TA. The good news is, the worst of the pandemic hit during Q1, and the first quarter is normally TA’s slowest of the year. This year, the first quarter showed a net loss of $1.81 per share. In the second quarter, when warmer weather normally leads to increased driving, the pandemic restrictions were also – at least partially – lifted, and TA reported a sudden turnaround, with a 59 cent EPS profit. Even so, that missed the forecast by almost a dime. The outlook for Q3, normally TA’s strongest of the year, is for EPS of 73 cents.Turning to the insider trades, Adam Portnoy of the Board of Directors has the most recent informative buys. Earlier this month, he purchased over 323,000 shares, laying out more than $5.32 million for the stock. Analyst James Sullivan, of BTIG makes two observations about TravelCenters. First, he points out, “The long-haul trucking industry has an approximate 71% share of total primary tonnage in the U.S. freight industry, making it the primary mode of freight transportation.” Sullivan then adds that this opens up opportunity for TA going forward: “The increasing demands of the nation’s large trucking fleets for consolidated service providers that can provide fuel and truck service on a national basis appear likely to drive additional consolidation in the industry.”Sullivan rates TA shares a Buy, and his $34 price target suggests the stock has an impressive 82% upside potential for the coming year. (To watch Sullivan’s track record, click here)Overall, shares in TA are rated a Strong Buy from the analyst consensus, based on 5 recent reviews including 4 Buys and 1 Hold. The shares are selling for $19.24, and the $22.70 average price target implies room for 18% upside growth. (See TA stock analysis on TipRanks)Highwoods Properties (HIW)The next stock is a real estate investment trust. Highwood operates mostly in the Southeast US, but also in Pittsburgh, where it acquires, develops, leases, and manages a portfolio of suburban office and light industrial properties.Where most companies reported heavy losses during the corona crisis, HIW saw revenues in 1H20 remain stable. EPS has grown sequentially into Q1 and remained flat in Q2 at 93 cents. Both quarter beat EPS expectations.Despite the solid financial results, HIW shares have still not recovered from the market collapse of midwinter. The stock is down 27% year-to-date.Through all of this, Highwoods has maintained its dividend, as is common among REITs. The company has a 17-year history of dividend growth and reliability, and the current payment of 48 cents per common share has been stable for the past 7 quarters. At this level, it annualizes to $1.92 and gives a yield of 5.8%.Highwoods’ insider trading has come from Board member Carlos Evans, who purchased 10,000 shares for $337,000 dollars last week. His move was the first informative buy on HIW in the last 6 months.Truist analyst Michael Lewis is impressed by the quality of HIW’s portfolio. He writes, “We continue to believe that HIW’s portfolio is one of the best-positioned among traditional office REITs in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. Rent collections have been excellent and there are no large near-term lease expirations. More broadly, the portfolio should benefit from being focused in drivable, close-in Sunbelt suburbs.”In line with these comments, Lewis rates the stock a Buy. His price target, $45, indicates a 31% potential upside from current levels. (To watch Lewis’ track record, click here)Overall, HIW has a cautiously optimistic Moderate Buy consensus rating from the Street. This breaks down into 2 Buy ratings and 1 Hold. We can also see from TipRanks that the average analyst price target is $43, which implies a ~25% upside from the current share price. (See HIW stock analysis on TipRanks)VEREIT (VER)The last stock on our insider trading list is another REIT. VEREIT is major owner and manager of retail, restaurant, and commercial real estate, with a portfolio that includes over 3,800 properties worth a collective $14.7 billion. The company’s assets are 45% retail and 20% restaurants; the rest is mainly office and light industrial sites. The total leasable square footage is 88.9 million square feet.So VEREIT is a giant in the REIT sector – but size didn’t protect it from the general downturn this year. Share performance has been lackluster, and revenues have been falling off gradually since Q4 of last year. The second quarter results showed $279 million on the top line, the lowest in a year – but the quarter also saw earnings turn back upwards, reaching 17 cents per share.VER cut back on its dividend earlier this year, reducing the payment to 8 cents per share to keep it in line with earnings. That dividend has been maintained, and the next payment is set for mid-October. The current dividend yield is 4.5%, well over double the average found among S&P stocks.The big insider trade on VER comes from Board member and CEO Glenn Rufrano. He spent over $252K on a block of 40,000 shares, pushing the insider sentiment on this stock into positive territory.Covering the stock for JPMorgan, 5-star analyst Anthony Paolone sees an important strength in VER, noting that the company has been successful in collecting rents during the crisis period. “[Its] collections showed good improvement going into July, with 85% collections in 2Q and 91% in July; when considering all the abatements and deferrals, it appears that at this point about 94% of pre-COVID contractual rental revenue has been addressed, and it seems to us that a normalized run rate for this vast majority of the portfolio should take hold in early 2021; the company is making progress in working through the remaining 5-6% of non-collections,” Paolone noted.Paolone gives VER an Overweight (i.e. Buy) rating, and his $8 price target implies a 22% upside for the next 12 months. (To watch Paolone’s track record, click here)All in all, VER has drawn optimism mixed with caution when it comes to consensus opinion among sell-side analysts. Out of 5 analysts polled in the last 3 months, 3 are bullish on the stock, while 2 remain sidelined. With an 11% upside potential, the stock’s consensus target price stands at $7.25. (See VEREIT’s stock analysis at TipRanks)To find good ideas for stocks trading at attractive valuations, visit TipRanks’ Best Stocks to Buy, a newly launched tool that unites all of TipRanks’ equity insights.Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the featured analysts. The content is intended to be used for informational purposes only. It is very important to do your own analysis before making any investment.
White House touts improvements in COVID-19 testing (again)
WASHINGTON — The setting was familiar, and so were the assurances. Speaking from the Rose Garden on Monday afternoon, President Donald Trump promised a “massive and groundbreaking expansion” in the nation’s ability to perform diagnostic tests for the coronavirus.
“We are now at an inflection point in testing,” said Adm. Brett Giroir, a high-ranking Department of Health Human Services official who is in charge of testing on the White House Coronavirus Task Force. He said that 920,000 coronavirus diagnostic tests were now being performed nationwide each day. Some seven million Americans have tested positive.
The expansion was made possible by Abbott Laboratories, whose rapid BinaxNOW test can return results in mere minutes without requiring the intrusive nasal swab that can make a coronavirus test an acutely unpleasant experience.
The Trump administration purchased 150 million such tests for $760 million. They will go to nursing homes, schools and other institutions, including historically Black colleges and universities.
Trump first promised that any American could get a coronavirus test in early March. That was untrue at the time, and though the availability of tests has greatly increased, shortages persist in the United States. So do days-long waits to receive results from laboratories. The BinaxNOW test does not need to be sent to a laboratory.
Ever the nation’s cheerleader, Trump tried to use Monday’s announcement as a pivot away from a summer marked by persistently high death counts and fears of a second lockdown.
“We’re rounding the corner,” Trump said on Monday afternoon. He said much the same thing from the Rose Garden in May, telling the nation that “we have met the moment, and we have prevailed.” In subsequent weeks and months, COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, while receding in New York and other early hotspots, would erupt in Sun Belt states like Florida, Arizona and Texas, where Republican governors eagerly followed the president’s call to reopen businesses and places of gathering.
Giroir demonstrated administration of the BinaxNOW test from a podium at the Rose Garden, dribbling six drops of test reagent onto a square of cardboard, swabbing his nostrils with a probe and then dipping it into the liquid. The results would be available in 15 minutes, he said. He did not disclose what they were.
“This is a very sophisticated little piece of cardboard,” Giroir said as he concluded his demonstration.
“This is not a home test,” he warned, a reminder that the day when a COVID-19 diagnostic test is a household item as common as the hairbrush is still far away. A medical professional has to supervise the test, but it can be done anywhere: at the entrance to the school, or in the parking lot of a concert venue.
The tests in use until now mostly require sending specimens to laboratories equipped with special equipment.
The advent of a quick, relatively accurate point-of-care test does mark an important advance, especially as the nation prepares for a cold-weather coronavirus test.
Notably absent from the event were prominent members of the coronavirus task force, including Drs. Deborah Birx and Anthony Fauci. Instead, there were remarks by Dr. Scott Atlas, a Stanford brain-imaging specialist whose controversial opinions on the pandemic have earned him the ire of Dr. Robert Redfield, the chief of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Redfield was overheard complaining on a commercial flight about Atlas, who has consistently misrepresented where the nation stands in its battle against the coronavirus.
Trump’s announcement came as the death toll from COVID-19 topped 209,000 in the U.S. Public health officials fear it could greatly increase throughout the fall and winter, as cold weather drives people indoors and quarantine fatigue sets in.
About two-thirds of Americans disapprove of Trump’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic, according to polls from mid-September. Just how much he can do to change those opinions at this point is unclear, and earlier assurances of victory have likely jaded some who want to see real gains before celebrating.
“We’ve passed through a challenging time,” Vice President Mike Pence said on Monday. This, too, was a reprise of sorts. “We are winning the fight against the invisible enemy,” Pence wrote in a widely discussed Wall Street Journal editorial. That was in June.
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