Vaccine-clot link probed
There is a causal link between AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine and blood clots, but it is unclear what the connection is and the benefits of taking the shot still outweigh the risks of getting the virus, Marco Cavaleri, head of health threats and vaccine strategy at the European Medicines Agency (EMA), told Rome’s Il Messaggero newspaper on Tuesday. The regulator is preparing to make a more definitive statement on the topic this week, Cavaleri said. Asked about the comments, the EMA press office said that its evaluation “has not yet reached a conclusion and the review is currently ongoing.” It said that it planned a news conference as soon as the review is finalized, possibly today.
Man arrested over art thefts
Police on Tuesday arrested a 58-year-old man on suspicion of stealing two paintings by Vincent van Gogh and Frans Hals from small museums, saying that it brought them closer to recovering the masterworks. The man was held at his home in the central town of Baarn over last year’s thefts of Van Gogh’s 1884 work Parsonage Garden at Nuenen in Spring, and 17th-century painter Hals’ Two Laughing Boys. Police said that they have not yet found either of the paintings — the Van Gogh is valued at up to 6 million euros (US$7.1 million), but the arrest was an “important step” in the investigation.
Ministry officials arrested
Nine officials in the Ministry of the Interior on Tuesday were arrested on suspicion of illegally issuing passports to overseas criminals. Minister of the Interior Oliver Spasovski told reporters that the suspects worked in the ministry’s passport office and were arrested following a two-year surveillance operation. The government received support from US authorities and Interpol, Spasovski said. The 215 people who received the passports and were given false identities included drug trafficking suspects and other criminals wanted on international arrest warrants, he said. A 10th official is wanted for questioning.
Kardashian joins rich list
Cosmetics and shapewear businesswoman Kim Kardashian on Tuesday was included for the first time on Forbes magazine’s list of the world’s billionaires. Forbes said it estimated that Kardashian, 40, “is now worth [US]$1 billion, up from [US]$780 million in October [last year], thanks to two lucrative businesses — KKW and Skims — as well as cash from reality television and endorsement deals, and a number of smaller investments.” The Forbes estimate means that Kardashian joins her soon-to-be ex-husband Kanye West in the billionaire’s club. Forbes on Tuesday estimated West’s net worth at US$1.8 billion, mostly from deals on his Yeezy fashion line.
NATO inclusion urged
President Volodymyr Zelenskiy on Tuesday urged NATO to accelerate his country’s membership of the alliance. Zelensky wrote on Twitter that it was time for NATO to move forward with Ukraine’s longstanding desire for membership. Kiev was committed to defense reforms requested by the alliance in exchange for membership, he wrote in Ukrainian. However, “reforms alone will not stop Russia,” wrote Zelensky, whose government has said it hopes to be invited this year to join a NATO Membership Action Plan (MAP). “NATO is the only way to end the war in Donbas. Ukraine’s MAP will be a real signal for Russia,” he wrote.
Virus cases strain Osaka
Osaka is to declare a medical emergency as new COVID-19 infections climb to all-time highs, Kyodo news agency reported yesterday. New infections are likely to exceed 800 per day and local authorities are preparing to declare an emergency as the medical system comes under increasing strain, Kyodo reported, citing officials. Health authorities are worried that COVID-19 variants are causing a fourth wave of infections with just 107 days until the Tokyo Olympics are due to begin and while a vaccination drive is still in its early stages. About 70 percent of hospital beds for severe cases are occupied, official data showed.
Aid worker jailed 20 years
An aid worker has been sentenced to 20 years in jail, in a ruling that his family condemned as “brutal and unjust.” Abdulrahman al-Sadhan, an employee of the humanitarian group Red Crescent, was picked up from his Riyadh office by the country’s secret police in March 2018, his family said. His arrest was apparently linked to an anonymous Twitter account that he used to criticize the government over human rights and social justice issues, they said. An anti-terrorism court on Monday sentenced al-Sadhan to 20 years in prison followed by a 20-year travel ban, his sister said.
Foes talk politics on app
Users say that the audio app Clubhouse is achieving a “little miracle”: political discussions across party lines that do not end up in blows. Citizens at home and abroad have welcomed the break from the acrimony dominating TV and social media. “Clubhouse helped people on opposing ends of the political spectrum understand each other’s perspectives,” said Paula Naoufal, a 25-year-old journalist who uses the app. “It gave people a space to listen, unlike Twitter and Instagram, which aren’t as interactive,” she added. The app was launched a year ago, but the COVID-19 pandemic has boosted its popularity.
‘Crush’ separatists: police
Police Inspector General Mohammed Adamu on Tuesday demanded that officers “crush” an outlawed separatist group blamed for a prison attack that freed more than 1,800 inmates. Assailants using explosives and rockets blasted their way into Owerri Prison in Imo state at dawn on Monday, engaging guards in a gun battle and breaking out prisoners, penitentiary officials said. Owerri was calm on Tuesday, but the mood was apprehensive, as residents said they worried about violence from escapees or being caught in an assault by security forces. “Police personnel must use their weapons against the IPOB [Indigenous People of Biafra] members and crush them to the last man,” Adamu said, visiting the site of the attack.
Candidates dismay activists
Environmental advocates on Sunday are to feel stuck between a rock and hard place when forced to choose a new president. Leftist Andres Arauz faces the right-wing Guillermo Lasso in a run-off election, with both vowing to continue oil and mineral extraction. “Ecuador remains immersed in an ‘extractivist’ policy. That is to say that both candidates believe Ecuador’s future is in oil,” said Carlos Larrea, director of the socio-environmental unit at Simon Bolivar University. “Extractivist” policy refers to plans for extracting natural resources for export.
BEIJING BAILOUT: Pyongyang’s economic woes would not lead to famine because China will not let that happen due to its fear of a pro-US unified Korea, experts say North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has called for another “arduous march” to fight severe economic difficulties, for the first time comparing them to a 1990s famine that killed hundreds of thousands. Kim had previously said his nation faces its “worst-ever” situation due to several factors — including the COVID-19 pandemic, US-led sanctions and natural disasters in the summer last year — but it is the first time he has publicly drawn a parallel with the deadly famine. North Korea monitoring groups have not detected any signs of mass starvation or a humanitarian disaster, but Kim’s comments still suggest how seriously he views
‘VOSTOK 1’: The first flight attempt is planned to coincide with the 60th anniversary of the first space flight by Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin NASA’s Ingenuity mini-helicopter has survived its first night alone on the frigid surface of Mars, the US space agency said, hailing it as “a major milestone” for the tiny craft as it prepares for its first flight. The ultra-light aircraft was dropped on the surface on Saturday after detaching from the belly of the Perseverance rover, which touched down on Feb. 18. Detached from the Perseverance, Ingenuity had to rely on its own solar-powered battery to run a vital heater to protect its unshielded electrical components from freezing and cracking during the bitter Martian night, where temperatures can plunge as low as
A years-long David and Goliath fight which has seen two Australian surfers take on a Chinese-linked company over alleged damage of an idyllic Fijian island has come to its conclusion after a court handed down a guilty verdict against the developers yesterday. The case has been described by Pacific legal experts as a “watershed” moment that tested Fijian environmental laws, as well as the willingness of the nation — which presents itself as a global climate leader — to “walk the walk” on environmental issues. Freesoul, a Chinese-linked company, in 2018 began work on Malolo Island, with plans to build Fiji’s largest
LOSING CONTROL? Fitch Solutions said that a revolution pitting the military against the anti-coup movement and ethnic militias was likely due to the rising violence Burmese security forces yesterday arrested Paing Takhon, a model and actor who had spoken out against a military coup, his sister told reporters, as people placed shoes filled with flowers in parts of Yangon to commemorate dead protesters. Troops on Wednesday opened fire on protesters, killing at least 15 people and wounding dozens, protesters and media said. Nearly 600 civilians have been killed by security forces since the junta in February seized power from the elected government of Aung San Su Kyi, the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners said on Wednesday. The advocacy group said that 2,847 were being held in detention. A spokesman