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UN warns COVID-19 is ‘roaring back’ as Yemen faces famine

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UN warns COVID-19 is 'roaring back’ as Yemen faces famine

UNITED NATIONS — The UN humanitarian chief warned Thursday that the world’s largest humanitarian crisis in Yemen is getting even worse with the COVID-19 pandemic “roaring back” in recent weeks as the Arab world’s poorest country faces a large-scale famine.

In a grim update to the UN Security Council, Mark Lowcock said tens of thousands of people already are starving to death, with another 5 million just a step behind.

Lowcock added that March was also the deadliest so far this year for civilians, with more than 200 killed or injured as a result of hostilities — a quarter of the casualties in the oil-rich central province of Marib where Houthi rebel forces are pressing a military offensive. In March, nearly 350 private homes were also damaged or destroyed, he said.

To stop the “unfolding catastrophe,” Lowcock called for urgent action on protecting civilians, access for humanitarian aid, funding, support for Yemen’s economic and progress toward peace.

Because of funding cuts, the UN is now able to help only 9 million people a month, down from nearly 14 million a year ago, he said. A pledging conference on March 1 got promises of $1.7 billion, less than half of what’s needed, he said and “more money for the UN response plan is the fastest, most efficient way to save millions of lives.”

In 2014, Iranian-backed Shiite Houthi rebels overran the capital, Sanaa and much of Yemen’s north, driving the government of President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi into exile. A US-backed, Saudi-led coalition intervened the following year against the Houthis to try and restore Hadi’s rule.

UN special envoy Martin Griffiths called for a nationwide cease-fire and urged the warring parties to agree on a specific time to launch political talks aimed at ending the six-year conflict. He pointed to COVID-19 unleashing itself again on the Yemeni people, “the urgent humanitarian situation,” and continuing violence especially in the oil-rich central province of Marib.

The Houthis launched an offensive in Marib to try to take the ancient desert city, where about 1 million Yemenis have fled since 2015 to get away from fighting elsewhere. Griffiths said “fighting in the area is showing dangerous signs of escalating once again,” with displaced people “in the line of fire.

The UN envoy said he is also “alarmed by reports of multiple drone and ballistic missile attacks” carried out by the Houthis against Saudi territory during the past week, including against civilian facilities.

Griffiths said fighting has also increased in Taiz, which like many areas of the country has been hit “by an alarming resurgence of COVID-19 cases.” Key roads in Taiz have been closed for several years, he said, “inflicting terrible social and economic consequences on the people.”

Lowcock, the humanitarian chief, warned that if the fighting continues in Marib, Taiz and Hodeida where the country’s main port is located, “we expect tens of thousands — at least — more people will be forced to move and that will be very dangerous as we see the latest COVID spike.”

On the political front, Griffiths said he has recently visited Oman, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Berlin and “there is a convergence of diplomatic voices in favor of an end to the war and its successful political resolution.”

“There is reason for hope: the way to end the war is known and its principal elements frequently discussed with the parties,” he said. “All we need now … is for the parties to agree to this deal,” Griffiths said. “That’s all.”

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New book reveals how to win friends and influence post-COVID

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New book reveals how to win friends and influence post-COVID

Prior to the pandemic, Jon Levy was best known as the founder of the Influencers Dinner, a regular roving dinner party of A-listers — strangers to each other — pulled from different industries. The location would be revealed shortly before the event, and there were a few ground rules: Everyone would cook dinner together, and no one could reveal their last name or where they worked. 

It was all very mysterious. 

“There would always be this moment where people arrive for the cocktail hour,” says Levy, a behavioral scientist and author of the new book, “You’re Invited: The Art and Science of Cultivating Influence.” “And they invariably say, ‘Do you mind if I call my wife? I just want to tell her I still have my kidneys.’ ” Past guests have included Nobel laureates, Olympic athletes, executives, scientists, and the Grammy-winning voice of the bark from “Who Let the Dogs Out.” 

This past year, when the COVID-19 pandemic forced everyone to their Zoom squares to socialize digitally, Levy realized that virtual events can be rewarding — they just have to be planned differently. 

“When TV came out, the answer to programming wasn’t to have people reading soap operas. The new platform created a new way to engage, and that’s the same with digital,” he explains. “When we design our events, we design the experiences to focus on you, the individual, so you feel you’re connecting with people. We start off by putting people in breakout rooms to meet each other. The key is not to leave people to interview each other. Humans do best when there’s a shared effort or activity. If I give you a puzzle to figure out or an icebreaker game, that’s really important. These games cause a shared investment of effort. Now you’re a team.” 

Levy’s work as a behavioral scientist focuses on influence and human connection, never more important than in the current times. 

“I really value bringing people together. And when you look at the research, people are getting lonelier and more isolated,” says Levy. “I’m all for people earning more money and having nice things, but it just doesn’t carry the day. And [by writing this], I was hoping that if I worked hard enough, we can begin to shift the cultural conversation about what gives people a higher quality of life.” 

Check out jonlevytlb.com/games for several different examples of activities to be played at virtual events. 

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Body of missing KPMG executive Alan White found in Texas

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Body of missing KPMG executive Alan White found in Texas

The body of a Dallas businessman who has been missing since October was found in a wooded area of the Texas city.

A survey crew working for Paul Quinn College found human remains near the campus Thursday, police said.

The Dallas County Medical Examiner identified the remains as Alan White, an executive at accounting firm KPMG who was last seen gassing up his Porsche after a gym visit on Oct. 22.

The 55-year-old’s vehicle was found about a week later, and there were no signs of a struggle or accident.

“Your mind goes through all these scenarios of what could’ve happened,” White’s husband Rusty Jenkins said at the time. “But it’s all just kind of guesses until we get some facts or some leads. But your mind plays games all day of what did happen, what could’ve happened.”

There is a $10,000 reward for information related to the case.

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Disney World drops outdoor mask requirement

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Disney World drops outdoor mask requirement

The only people required to wear masks outside at Disney World will be the costumed characters.

The Orlando, Fla., park will only require customers to wear masks in indoor areas and on public transportation beginning Saturday, Blog Mickey reported.

The Friday announcement comes a day after Disney chief executive Bob Chapek touted the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention decision to lift mask requirements as “very big news,” that will cause an attendance spike at theme parks.

A relaxed mask policy, Chapek added, will be a relief to Disney World customers, “particularly if anybody’s been in Florida in the middle of summer with a mask on. That could be quite daunting.”

 Disneyland in California is still subject to the state’s mask order. 

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