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Banks are still closing branches at an ‘alarming rate’

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banks are still closing branches at an alarming rate

Banks have continued to close branches at an ‘alarming rate’ despite new rules introduced to protect them.

HSBC, Lloyds, Santander, the Co-Op Bank, TSB and Virgin Money have together closed more than 600 branches since protective measures were launched in 2017, according to consumer group Which?

And NatWest and Barclays have shut 651 and 386 branches respectively in the past three years, the investigation found. 

A closed Lloyds branch is seen above in Plymouth, Devon last year. Banks have continued to close branches at an ¿alarming rate¿ despite new rules introduced to protect them

A closed Lloyds branch is seen above in Plymouth, Devon last year. Banks have continued to close branches at an ¿alarming rate¿ despite new rules introduced to protect them

A closed Lloyds branch is seen above in Plymouth, Devon last year. Banks have continued to close branches at an ‘alarming rate’ despite new rules introduced to protect them

Under the rules – called the Access to Banking Standard – banks are required to consider what impact any closures would have on residents and publish their findings.

They must also give customers at least 12 weeks’ notice before shutting down and clearly signpost alternative services, such as a nearby Post Office. 

Yet despite leaving many areas without a single branch, not one of the banks has reversed a closure in three years, Which? said.

UK Finance, which represents the banking sector, said: ‘We are working closely with the Financial Conduct Authority on its draft Branch and ATM Closure guidance, building on the recent collaborative work that has seen nine in ten branches remaining open during lockdown.’

Under the rules ¿ called the Access to Banking Standard ¿ banks are required to consider what impact any closures would have on residents and publish their findings [File photo]

Under the rules ¿ called the Access to Banking Standard ¿ banks are required to consider what impact any closures would have on residents and publish their findings [File photo]

Under the rules – called the Access to Banking Standard – banks are required to consider what impact any closures would have on residents and publish their findings [File photo]

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Tesla driver, 20, is found ASLEEP at the wheel of his self-driving car speeding at 93mph

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tesla driver 20 is found asleep at the wheel of his self driving car speeding at 93mph

A Tesla driver has been charged after being found asleep at the wheel of his self-driving car speeding along at 93mph in Canada.

The man’s Model S Tesla was pictured with its seats fully reclined while roaring along near the town of Ponoka, about 60 miles south of Edmonton in Alberta.

When cops discovered the car traveling at about 86mph, they turned on their emergency flashing lights – only for the Tesla to ‘automatically begin to accelerate’ to  93mph. The speed limit on that stretch of highway is about 68mph.

The driver, 20, from British Colombia, was charged with speeding and given a 24-hour license suspension for fatigue.

A Tesla driver has been charged after being found asleep at the wheel of his self-driving car speeding along at 93mph in Canada

A Tesla driver has been charged after being found asleep at the wheel of his self-driving car speeding along at 93mph in Canada

A Tesla driver has been charged after being found asleep at the wheel of his self-driving car speeding along at 93mph in Canada

He was later also charged with dangerous driving and he was served a summons to appear in court in December.  

RCMP Sgt. Darrin Turnbull told CBC News: ‘Nobody was looking out the windshield to see where the car was going. I’ve been in policing for over 23 years and the majority of that in traffic law enforcement, and I’m speechless.

‘I’ve never, ever seen anything like this before, but of course the technology wasn’t there.’

Tesla Model S sedans have autopilot functions which includes auto-steer as well as ‘traffic-aware’ cruise control. In this case both functions appeared to be in use..

Turnball added: ‘We believe the vehicle was operating on the autopilot system, which is really just an advanced driver safety system, a driver assist program. You still need to be driving the vehicle.

‘But of course, there are after-market things that can be done to a vehicle against the manufacturer’s recommendations to change or circumvent the safety system.’

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Secret blueprints for Covid-19 vaccine trials revealed by Moderna and Pfizer

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secret blueprints for covid 19 vaccine trials revealed by moderna and pfizer

US biotech firm Moderna, one of nine companies in the late stages of clinical trials for a Covid-19 vaccine, became the first to publish the complete blueprints of its study following calls for greater transparency.

Pfizer, the other American company currently carrying out Phase 3 trials in the US, followed suit a short time later and there is now added pressure for the remainder to do the same.

Only Moderna laid out a likely timetable within which a successful vaccine could be discovered, estimating it will be before the end of the year. 

Yet President Trump claimed on Tuesday that there could be one as early as four weeks time, before his November re-election attempt.  

US biotech firm Moderna, one of nine companies in the late stages of clinical trials for a Covid-19 vaccine, became the first to publish the complete blueprints of its study on Thursday

US biotech firm Moderna, one of nine companies in the late stages of clinical trials for a Covid-19 vaccine, became the first to publish the complete blueprints of its study on Thursday

 US biotech firm Moderna, one of nine companies in the late stages of clinical trials for a Covid-19 vaccine, became the first to publish the complete blueprints of its study on Thursday

He even forced Dr. Robert Redfield, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, to walk back testimony to the Senate that masks work better than a vaccine on Wednesday after blasting the comments as ‘mistaken’. 

The president said he had called Redfield to set the record straight and said the CDC boss had agreed he ‘answered that question incorrectly’ about the masks. 

The secret blueprints were released in the hopes that the companies will win the trust of the public and scientists anxious about the safety of an early vaccine. 

The details are generally kept under wraps but Moderna and Pfizer bowed to public pressure amid concerns from Americans that the quick discovery of a vaccine has become too much of a political issue to be deemed safe. 

Phase 3 is the final stage before approval, in which a vaccine and a placebo are tested on thousands of participants to verify the medicine is safe and effective. 

Both companies blueprints detailed the comprehensive road map for the trials, as well as details on how participants are being tested and monitored. 

The plans also layout the conditions under which problems would stop a trial early and how evidence is being used to determine whether those who receive the vaccine are being protected from Covid-19. 

Moderna’s CEO Stephane Bancel said on Thursday his company would know whether their vaccine works by November. October is possible but unlikely, he told CNBC.

Final analysis may not take place until the spring of next year, however.  

The trial protocol published Thursday, which runs to 135 pages and is marked ‘confidential,’ fixes the parameters of the experiment.

The most important of these is how it will judge whether results are conclusive.

The reality of an immunization trial is that it’s necessary to wait until a certain number of volunteers become naturally infected, in order to compare outcomes in the placebo group against the group given the vaccine.

So the decline in the rate of infection in the US could theoretically delay the results, possibly until December, said Bancel.

Pictured, a sign is pictured outside Pfizer Headquarters in New York

Pictured, a sign is pictured outside Pfizer Headquarters in New York

Pictured, a sign is pictured outside Pfizer Headquarters in New York

A sign marks the headquarters of Moderna Therapeutics, which is developing a vaccine against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Cambridge, Massachusetts

A sign marks the headquarters of Moderna Therapeutics, which is developing a vaccine against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Cambridge, Massachusetts

A sign marks the headquarters of Moderna Therapeutics, which is developing a vaccine against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Cambridge, Massachusetts

As of Thursday, Moderna had recruited 25,296 volunteers. Among them, 10,025 had received their second dose, 28 days after the first.

It’ll take a few more weeks to recruit the full quotient of 30,000 participants and for them to receive their second doses.

Only Covid-19 infections recorded two weeks or more after the second dose are counted, to give the vaccine sufficient time to take effect.

Interim analyses by a committee of independent experts are planned over the course of the trial to verify whether a high statistical threshold of effectiveness has been reached, and to monitor for serious side effects.

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33327834 8746467 image a 29 1600407950588

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has stated its bar for approval is a vaccine that reduces the risk of falling sick with Covid-19 by 50 percent.

The Moderna trial protocol ‘has the key information (for) stopping rules, interim analyses and efficacy assumptions. Applaud their transparency,’ Eric Topol, director of the Scripps Research Institute and one of the critics leading the charge against possible political interference, told AFP.

Moderna also said that 28 percent of its participants were from racial minority groups.

Having sufficient participants among black and Hispanic people in particular is crucial in obtaining statistically representative results for these communities that have been disproportionately hit by the pandemic.

The decision by Moderna, which has received $2.5billion in US government money, left a spotlight on Pfizer, whose CEO has repeatedly said the company will have its results by the end of October, which is in line with Trump’s wishes.

Moderna should have enough data from its late-stage trial to know whether its coronavirus vaccine works in November, CEO Stephane Bancel said on CNBC

Moderna should have enough data from its late-stage trial to know whether its coronavirus vaccine works in November, CEO Stephane Bancel said on CNBC

Moderna should have enough data from its late-stage trial to know whether its coronavirus vaccine works in November, CEO Stephane Bancel said on CNBC

Tony Potts, a 69-year-old retiree living in Ormond Beach, has his temperature checked by Clinical Research Coordinator Angela Hammerle before receiving his first injection as a participant in a Phase 3 COVID-19 vaccine clinical trial sponsored by Moderna

Tony Potts, a 69-year-old retiree living in Ormond Beach, has his temperature checked by Clinical Research Coordinator Angela Hammerle before receiving his first injection as a participant in a Phase 3 COVID-19 vaccine clinical trial sponsored by Moderna

Tony Potts, a 69-year-old retiree living in Ormond Beach, has his temperature checked by Clinical Research Coordinator Angela Hammerle before receiving his first injection as a participant in a Phase 3 COVID-19 vaccine clinical trial sponsored by Moderna

A spokeswoman told AFP Pfizer has traditionally not shared the full in-depth study protocol, but ‘the Covid-19 pandemic is a unique circumstance and the need for transparency is clear’.

‘As a result, the company is making the full protocol for its self-funded Covid-19 vaccine pivotal study available to reinforce Pfizer’s longstanding commitment to scientific and regulatory rigor that benefits patients.’

The other frontrunner is AstraZeneca, which has co-developed a vaccine with the University of Oxford.

The medicine’s global trials were suspended last week after a participant had an unexplained illness, but were later restarted in the UK, Brazil, and South Africa. 

The US remains the exception for reasons that aren’t yet known.

A spokesperson told the New York Times that the company intended to publish its protocol shortly. 

At least one expert has raised questions about the currently released blueprints already, according to the New York Times. 

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33327832 8746467 image a 38 1600408072901

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‘I want to acknowledge a good deed done,’ said Peter Doshi, a faculty member at the University of Maryland School of Pharmacy in Baltimore. 

‘They have opened up, for the first time, the ability for researchers not involved in the trial to form their own independent judgment about the design of this study.’

The vaccine race has become deeply politicized in the US in the run-up to the presidential election in November, as President Donald Trump touts a quick vaccine in response to criticism of his handling of the pandemic. 

Trump repeated on Wednesday that the first vaccine would be approved by October, increasing concerns that the White House will place pressure on the approval body, the FDA.

‘I don’t trust Donald Trump,’ his rival from the Democratic party Joe Biden said.

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Experts and officials in the Trump administration agree that it’s not possible to predict the results of the trials that are underway, and it’s highly unlikely to have strong data before the end of 2020. 

Vaccine doses will be initially very limited, according to health authorities.

The timeline laid out by Moderna lines up with that suggested by Dr. Redfield. 

He told senators on Wednesday that a vaccine would not be widely available until the middle of next year. Hours later, Trump said that his comments were a ‘mistake’.  

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‘Forrest Gump’ author Winston Groom dead at 77

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forrest gump author winston groom dead at 77

Winston Groom, the writer whose novel ‘Forrest Gump’ was made into a six-Oscar-winning 1994 movie that became a soaring pop cultural phenomenon, has died at age 77.

Mayor Karin Wilson of Fairhope, Alabama, said in a message on social media that Groom had died in that south Alabama town. A local funeral home also confirmed the death and said arrangements were pending.

‘While he will be remembered for creating Forrest Gump, Winston Groom was a talented journalist & noted author of American history. Our hearts & prayers are extended to his family,’ Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey said in a statement. 

‘Forrest Gump’ was the improbable tale of a slow-witted but mathematically gifted man who was a participant or witness to key points of 20th Century history – from Alabama segregationist Gov. George Wallace’s ‘stand at the schoolhouse door,’ to meetings with presidents.

Winston Groom (pictured), the novelist who wrote Forrest Gump, has died in Fairhope, Alabama, this week at the age of 77

Winston Groom (pictured), the novelist who wrote Forrest Gump, has died in Fairhope, Alabama, this week at the age of 77

Winston Groom (pictured), the novelist who wrote Forrest Gump, has died in Fairhope, Alabama, this week at the age of 77

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33329248 8746201 image m 19 1600409184355

Groom’s best known book was Forrest Gump, a 1986 novel that was transformed into a major Hollywood movie eight years later. Pictured: Tom Hanks as the titular character Forrest Gump

It was the best known book by Groom, who grew up in Mobile, Alabama, and graduated from the University of Alabama in 1965, according to a biography posted by the university.

‘We are saddened to learn of the passing of one of our Legends, Winston Groom,’ the university wrote on Twitter.

Groom served in the Army´s Fourth Infantry Division from 1965 to 1969, the university said. His service included a tour in Vietnam – one of the settings for ‘Forrest Gump.’

He wrote 16 books, fiction and nonfiction. One, ‘Conversations with the Enemy,’ about a American prisoner of war in Vietnam accused of collaboration, was a Pulitzer Prize finalist, according to the university.  

It was ‘Forrest Gump’ – and the success of the 1994 movie starring Tom Hanks in the iconic role of Gump, as well as Sally Field and Gary Sinise – that earned him widespread fame and some financial success.

The original novel has sold at least 1.7million copies since the initial publication.  

Groom (pictured) was a military veteran who grew up in Mobile, Alabama, and later graduated from the University of Alabama in 1965

Groom (pictured) was a military veteran who grew up in Mobile, Alabama, and later graduated from the University of Alabama in 1965

Groom (pictured) was a military veteran who grew up in Mobile, Alabama, and later graduated from the University of Alabama in 1965

Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey wrote on Thursday that 'Alabama lost one of our most gifted writers' and credited him with being a 'talented journalist & noted author of American history'

Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey wrote on Thursday that 'Alabama lost one of our most gifted writers' and credited him with being a 'talented journalist & noted author of American history'

Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey wrote on Thursday that ‘Alabama lost one of our most gifted writers’ and credited him with being a ‘talented journalist & noted author of American history’

The University of Alabama expressed their condolences in a Twitter post following Groom's death

The University of Alabama expressed their condolences in a Twitter post following Groom's death

The University of Alabama expressed their condolences in a Twitter post following Groom’s death 

The novel is considerably different from the film. Don Noble, University of Alabama professor emeritus of English, and a 40-year friend of Groom´s told The Tuscaloosa News that the novel was ‘darker’ and ‘richer’ than the movie.

‘You can make a lot of money as a comic writer, but you can´t get no respect,’ Noble said. ‘But “Forrest Gump” is really actually quite a fine novel. It´s more subtle and more complicated … richer than the movie.’

The movie, which also starred Robin Wright and Mykelti Williamson, became deeply embedded in the American psyche and has remained an enduring television staple and huge cultural phenomenon since.

‘It touched a nerve,’ Groom told the Tuscaloosa News in 2014.

The film dominated the 1995 Academy Awards, winning six Oscars including best picture, best director for Robert Zemeckis and best actor for Hanks.

The film Forrest Gump garnered critical acclaim for its cast, including Sally Fields as 'Mrs. Gump' and Tom Hanks as 'Forrest Gump'

The film Forrest Gump garnered critical acclaim for its cast, including Sally Fields as 'Mrs. Gump' and Tom Hanks as 'Forrest Gump'

The film Forrest Gump garnered critical acclaim for its cast, including Sally Fields as ‘Mrs. Gump’ and Tom Hanks as ‘Forrest Gump’

Gary Sinise (left), who played Lt. Dan Taylor, starred in the movie alongside Mykelti Williamson as  Benjamin Buford 'Bubba' Blue (center) and Tom Hanks (right)

Gary Sinise (left), who played Lt. Dan Taylor, starred in the movie alongside Mykelti Williamson as  Benjamin Buford 'Bubba' Blue (center) and Tom Hanks (right)

Gary Sinise (left), who played Lt. Dan Taylor, starred in the movie alongside Mykelti Williamson as  Benjamin Buford ‘Bubba’ Blue (center) and Tom Hanks (right)

Actress Robin Wright (left) played the role of Jenny Curran, the childhood friend and eventual love interest for Tom Hank's Forrest Gump (right)

Actress Robin Wright (left) played the role of Jenny Curran, the childhood friend and eventual love interest for Tom Hank's Forrest Gump (right)

Actress Robin Wright (left) played the role of Jenny Curran, the childhood friend and eventual love interest for Tom Hank’s Forrest Gump (right)

It was 1994´s No. 2 grossing film at the box office, second only to ‘The Lion King.’

The basic outlines of Gump´s life are the same as they are in the book: Gump plays football under Paul ‘Bear’ Bryant at the University of Alabama, serves in Vietnam and starts a major shrimp business.

But the film made major departures. Gump was not a math savant as he was in the book, and was a more saintly soul. 

The film took away Gump´s size – Groom said he envisioned John Goodman playing him – along with his profanity, and most of his sex life.

They ‘took some of the rough edges off,’ Groom told the New York Times in 1994.

Groom also wrote non-fiction on diverse subjects including the Civil War, World War I and Alabama’s Crimson Tide football.

In 2005, Groom released ‘1942: The Year That Tried Men´s Souls,’ which chronicled the first year of U.S. involvement in World War II.

Pictured: Winston Groom signs copies of 'Gump & Co.,' the sequel to 'Forrest Gump',  at a New York City bookstore in August 1995

Pictured: Winston Groom signs copies of 'Gump & Co.,' the sequel to 'Forrest Gump',  at a New York City bookstore in August 1995

Pictured: Winston Groom signs copies of ‘Gump & Co.,’ the sequel to ‘Forrest Gump’,  at a New York City bookstore in August 1995

In 2009 he released ‘Vicksburg 1863,’ an account of the Union siege that brought a novelist´s touch to historical figures like Ulysses S. Grant, William T. Sherman and Jefferson Davis, president of the confederacy.

His most recent novel, El Paso, was published in 2016.

Groom got $350,000 for the rights to ‘Forrest Gump’ plus 3 percent of the net profit of the movie. But he got into a serious dispute with Paramount Pictures when they told him a film that had earned over $600 million was in the red after expenses.

But years later he wasn´t bitter.

‘They did an excellent job,’ he told the Tuscaloosa News. ‘I would have probably preferred my version of it, but that thing never would have opened.’

The book became a major best-seller in the wake of the film, and Groom got a much better deal for the follow-up novel, 1995´s ‘Gump and Co.’

‘I´m happy as a pig in sunshine,’ he told the Mobile Register.

Nonetheless, sequel-addicted Hollywood somehow never made the new movie.

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