PODCAST: Another Coronavirus Variant Found in Nigeria (UCNN 12.24.20)

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According to the Associated Press, Another new variant of the coronavirus appears to have emerged in Nigeria, Africa’s top public health official said Thursday, but he added that further investigation was needed. The discovery could add to new alarm in the pandemic after similar variants were announced in Britain and South Africa, leading to the swift return of international travel restrictions and other measures during a major holiday season. “It’s a separate lineage from the U.K. and South Africa,” the head of the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, John N-ken-ga-song, told reporters. He said the Nigeria CDC and the African Center of Excellence for Genomics of Infectious Diseases would analyze more samples. The identification of the apparent new variant was based on two or three genetic sequences, N-ken-ga-song said, but that and South Africa’s alert last week were enough to prompt an emergency meeting of the Africa CDC this week. The news comes as infections surge again in parts of the African continent. The new virus variant in South Africa is now the predominant one there, N-ken-ga-song said, as confirmed infections in the country approach 1 million. While the variant transmits quickly and viral loads are higher, it is not yet clear whether it leads to a more severe disease, he said.

According to the Christian Post, Author and disabilities advocate Joni Eareckson Tada has tested positive for COVID-19 and is currently receiving monoclonal antibodies treatment, her ministry announced. In a statement released Monday, Joni and Friends, an organization that accelerates Christian outreach in the disability community, revealed the 71-year-old Bible teacher tested positive for the virus after exhibiting “flu-like symptoms.” The ministry asked supporters to pray as Tada undergoes treatment. “While we know this diagnosis has not taken Jesus by surprise, we are interceding for Joni’s health, strength, and confidence in God’s good purposes,” the update read. “We have seen God protect her from two bouts of cancer and we know he can do it again! Thank you for joining us in prayer!” Tada also shared an update on her Facebook page and thanked supporters for praying for her and her husband, Ken, following her diagnosis.

According to NBC News, Places of worship in Los Angeles County can resume services inside their buildings after public health officials modified an order that previously banned indoor church gatherings. The county’s Department of Public Health Officer released the revised order on Saturday, which allows churches to host indoor and outdoor services “provided that strict physical distancing is followed, which requires a minimum of six feet between persons from different households.” “Face coverings or masks that cover both the nose and mouth must be worn at all times while on site,” the order states. The change was in response to the Supreme Court ordering lower courts in the state to reconsider restrictions on church services.

According to Premier News, Bookings have gone “through the roof” at Cornerstone Church in Nottingham in the UK which has turned its auditorium into the world of Narnia, with the gospel story being explained as visitors go through. The large evangelical church normally seats 600 people but can currently only fit 100 people in for services so has decided to keep them online and turn its space into the snowy forest from C.S. Lewis’ imagination. The church’s doors now look like a wardrobe, revealing a passageway of fluffy coats, which opens out into a room with 35 trees covered in snow, characters from The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, activities for children at each stop along the story and, of course, Turkish delight. Although the Christmas-absent world of Narnia under the White Witch’s rule might feel quite relatable at the moment, Kathryn Jackson who works at Cornerstone and had the idea said they hope the novel’s message of hope and salvation will be understood too. She said, “The world of Narnia is quite broken at the start, it’s quite bleak and that’s a bit like 2020, but then there’s joy and there’s hope because Aslan comes and he brings light and resurrection. And we just really wanted to tell that story, to tell the biblical narrative – that there is joy and that is hope – in a creative and really Covid-secure way.” The Narnia Experience is running until 28th December and visitors must book online in advance.

According to Religion News Service, The National Prayer Breakfast will be a virtual event next year due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The gathering has been held annually, usually on the first Thursday of February, for nearly seven decades and draws thousands of attendees from around the world. The virtual 2021 breakfast will be streamed online, confirmed A. Larry Ross, a longtime evangelical public relations expert and friend of the Fellowship Foundation, the nonprofit that organizes the prayer breakfast. Details of the event are still being finalized but there will be no large group gathering due to the pandemic.

According to MarketWatch, Videogames have grown to resemble competition-based, interactive movies, and the COVID-19 pandemic has propelled the industry to make more money than movies and sports combined. Global videogame revenue is expected to surge 20% to $179.7 billion in 2020, according to IDC data, making the videogame industry a bigger moneymaker than the global movie and sports industries combined. The global film industry reached $100 billion in revenue for the first time in 2019, according to the Motion Picture Association, while PwC estimated global sports would bring in more than $75 billion in 2020. Both of those industries suffered from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, however, while the videogame industry is expected to show double-digit growth this year following high-single-digit growth in the previous two years. Experts forecast that strong growth will continue in 2021, following the recent introduction of next-generation gaming consoles from Sony and Microsoft and new games to get the most out of those upgrades, even as COVID-19 vaccines are rolled out.

According to the Grio, Milwaukee Bucks star Jrue Holiday wasn’t yet on the team when they spearheaded a historic sports boycott in August when players refused to come out to play an NBA playoffs game after the police shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wisconsin. But the former New Orleans Pelicans guard is already showing that he supports the team’s effort to forge better racial relations. On his Instagram, he and his wife Lauren announced their intention to donate the rest of Holiday’s 2020 NBA salary to Black-owned businesses, initiatives and nonprofits. He said he was motivated by both the pandemic and national reckoning on race as protesters, driven to action by the deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor, took to the streets for months-long demonstrations. Holiday wrote on his Instagram account, “With the COVID-19 Pandemic and heightened racial injustices in 2020, many of us have been looking for answers. Lauren & I found ourselves searching for ways to help our community at a time when they needed it most. Pledging the remainder of our 2020 NBA salary to small black owned businesses, nonprofits and initiatives is how we felt we could make a lasting impact.” His post continued: “According to Google, in 2020, worldwide searches for ‘support small business’ doubled compared to the previous year. It’s encouraging to know that in a time when we could all use a helping hand, we are still searching for ways to help one another. Know that you are not alone in your search for answers.” Holiday’s donation should be a boon to those organizations as his NBA salary for the 2020-2021 season is $26,285,000, according to sports contracts tracker Spotrac. The Pelicans traded Holiday, a Los Angeles native, to the Bucks last month.

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In closing, remember, God loves you. He always has and He always will. John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” If you don’t know Jesus as your Saviour, today is a good day to get to know Him. Just believe in your heart that Jesus Christ died, was buried, and rose from the dead for you. Pray and ask Him to come into your heart and He will. Romans 10:13 says, “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”

Thanks so much for listening and may God bless your day!