Staff Writer

The United States in favor of suspending patents for Covid-19 vaccines, Joe Biden
Americas

The United States in favor of suspending patents for Covid-19 vaccines, Joe Biden

The United States has announced that it is in favor of the suspension of patents for coronavirus vaccines, to allow the production of them also to other companies in addition to those that developed them and therefore hold the intellectual property. Support for the initiative was communicated by the trade representative for the United States, Katherine Tai, to the World Trade Organization (WTO), the most important body for regulating and harmonizing commercial activities and exchanges globally.

The opportunity to suspend patents on coronavirus vaccines has been discussed for months now and sees some countries and pharmaceutical companies opposed. Proponents believe that the suspension could speed up the production of vaccines, while opponents say that production processes are much more complicated and that production and delivery delays do not stem from problems related to restrictions on intellectual property.

Among the main supporters of the suspension are India and South Africa, leading a group of at least 60 countries that for the past six months has been calling for a revision of the rules for vaccine patents. Until now, the proposal had met with opposition from the European Union and the United States. The US administration of Donald Trump had ruled out the possibility of implementing a patent suspension, while the new president Joe Biden had signalled that he was in favor of a revision, already during his electoral campaign last year.

Presenting the US orientation to the WTO, Tai explained that “extraordinary times require extraordinary measures”. You then recalled that the discussion on the issue should be addressed immediately, given the time usually required to reach an agreement within the Organization. For decisions of this kind, it is necessary to reach a consensus among all 164 member states, a long process that requires a lot of diplomatic efforts.Earlier, WTO director Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala argued for the need for knowledge transfer for coronavirus vaccine manufacturing if patent holders were unable to manufacture and deliver all necessary doses. In addition to the governments of several developing countries, this position is also shared by associations and non-profit organizations that provide health care.

Pharmaceutical companies argue that delays in deliveries or lack of sufficient doses in various countries do not result from patent ownership, but from production difficulties that would continue to exist even in the event of a suspension of intellectual property.

Other observers have pointed out the risks of suspending patents, recalling that it is thanks to this system that pharmaceutical companies invest large amounts of money to research and develop new drugs, taking on the risks associated with failures in their research or clinical trials. Patents guarantee these companies a certain economic return for a few years, before the intellectual property expires and the drug developed by them can be produced by others, usually with a significant reduction in the final price. On the other hand, in various circumstances, the research is conducted thanks to substantial public funding, and for which it is more difficult to assess the returns in direct economic terms and health improvement for all.

The suspension of patents, or their granting with free licenses, could allow other pharmaceutical companies to produce vaccines that are already authorized and have proved effective, but it could prove insufficient. In addition to patents, companies must know, the right machinery and have the raw materials for production, conditions that are not taken for granted in a phase like the present one where, due to the high demand, many resources are scarce.

While the director-general of the World Health Organization, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, has called the new position of the United States “historic, a great moment for the fight against COVID-19“, it is not yet clear what position the Union will now take. Europe and several other countries such as the United Kingdom are so far opposed to the possibility of suspending patents. Commenting on the announcement by the United States, the president of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, recalled that for now, the European Union’s goal is to increase the production of vaccines and that it will therefore be necessary to evaluate whether the US proposal on the issue can contribute to that goal.

Cheney hits back as GOP moves to oust her as No 3 House Representative, calls them Trump ‘cult’
Americas

Cheney hits back as GOP moves to oust her as No 3 House Representative, calls them Trump ‘cult’

Liz Cheney, the No.3 House Representative and a Republican from Wyoming, has hit back at fellow Republican leaders for trying to oust her from the leadership. Cheney warned her colleagues on Wednesday saying “history is watching” as they are considering to expel her from rank in House for continuing to challenge and reject all ‘lies’ around elections by former President Donald Trump.

On Wednesday afternoon, Cheney’s statements and tirade was published in The Washington Post as an opinion piece. It came as top two House Republicans are working on removing Cheney as No.3 and replacing her with a Trump loyalist, possibly Elise Stefanik. Former President Trump has been aggressively demanding dethroning of Ms. Cheney by the Republicans in leadership roles. Her fault – she continues to blame and rebuke her party for role in January 6 attack on Capitol Hill, blatantly protecting Trump for his role of inciting violence by his supporters, and supporting Trump’s lies around Presidential election that led to his loss.

In the article, Ms. Cheney warned the Republican party that it was at a “turning point” and it is a dangerous game that some Republicans are playing by supporting “the dangerous and anti-democratic Trump cult of personality”. Liz Cheney in her column said, “While embracing or ignoring Trump’s statements might seem attractive to some for fund-raising or political purposes, that approach will do profound long-term damage to our party and our country.” She continued, “Trump has never expressed remorse or regret for the attack of Jan 6 and now suggests that our elections, and our legal and constitutional system, cannot be trusted to do the will of the people. This is immensely harmful.”

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She further attacked McCarthy for failing to stand by his words of accepting Trump bore responsibility of the Capitol riots. She concluded, “We must be brave enough to defend the basic principles that underpin and protect our freedom and our democratic process. I am committed to doing that, no matter what the short-term political consequences might be.”

Steve Scalise, the No 2 Republican in House openly called for ousting of Liz Cheney on Wednesday morning and pushed for making Rep Elise Stefanik of New York in her place as No 3 in House, Chairwoman of the House Republican Conference. McCarthy too is said to be pulling strings behind the curtain and urging other Republicans to support close ally and Trump supporter, Ms. Stefanik. Trump wasted no time in supporting Stefanik. He released a statement on Wednesday afternoon, “Elise Stefanik is a far superior choice, and she has my COMPLETE and TOTAL Endorsement for GOP Conference Chair.”

Mysterious illnesses in the White House, symptoms similar to Havana syndrome
Americas

Mysterious illnesses in the White House, symptoms similar to Havana syndrome

The White House is still examining reports of an alleged mysterious energy attack that occurred last November near the Ellipse, the large oval lawn south of the presidential residence. A spokesman for Joe Biden said so.

This is one of two incidents that federal agencies are investigating. What happened near the oval lawn would cause a national security council executive to be very ill. In another episode of 2019, a White House executive allegedly suffered a similar attack while walking the dog in a Virginia suburb not far from Washington.

The symptoms, dizziness, nausea, headache, ringing in the ears, seem similar to those of the so-called “Havana syndrome” reported by American diplomats in Cuba, China, and Russia. But US investigators have not yet ascertained whether the accidents on American soil are related to those that occurred abroad, which were likely caused by microwave energy, according to research by the US National Academy of Sciences for the State Department. The source of the energy and who possibly is behind these alleged attacks are still unknown.

Microwave energy would be the probable cause of the so-called “Havana syndrome”, the mysterious malaise that in recent years had struck American diplomats first in Cuba and then in China, leading to the evacuation of personnel and the freezing of diplomatic relations. This is the conclusion of a study by the US National Academy of Sciences on behalf of the State Department, after a long time unspecified “acoustic attacks” had been hypothesized.

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The study argued that “direct and pulsed radiofrequency energy seems to be the most plausible explanation” of the symptoms, which are many varied: headache, nausea, dizziness, blurred vision, ringing in the ears, hearing loss, difficulty speaking. Experts do not indicate the source of the energy or say whether it is the result of an attack but recall that research of this type was conducted several decades ago in the Soviet Union and offer “circumstantial support for this possible mechanism”.

The study specifies that the syndrome may have contributed with causes such as psychological and social factors, capable of exacerbating the symptoms. The scientists’ conclusion is alarming, according to which “the mere consideration of this scenario raises serious concerns in a world with uninhibited malevolent actors and new tools to harm others”. Hence the invitation to the US government to equip itself against such threats.

The first cases date back to 2016, when some American diplomats in Havana, as well as some Canadians, suddenly began to perceive a loud noise, “accompanied by pain in one or both ears or a large region of the head and, in some cases, from a sensation of pressure or vibration of the head, dizziness, followed in some cases by rattling, visual problems and cognitive difficulties, “recalls the study.

It was precisely the variety of symptoms that made solving the mystery difficult. Experts evoked the use of acoustic weapons with ultrasound or infrasound or electromagnetic weapons, some new spy equipment not yet tested with unwanted effects. Others even bothered the Caribbean crickets with their high frequencies.

“Don’t have time for a punch to punch with Republicans, I have job to do”, says Gretchen Whitmer
Americas

“Don’t have time for a punch to punch with Republicans, I have job to do”, says Gretchen Whitmer

When CBS News asked Michigan governor Gretchen Whitmer to comment regarding the misogynistic remarks made by the chairman of Ron Weiser the Michigan Republican party leader. In reply, she said, “I don’t have time to focus on replying to the misogynistic remark by the Republicans; I’m not going to do that.” “I have an important job to do.” 

On 28 March, The chairperson of the Michigan GOP Ron Weiser faced harsh criticism for calling three female Democratic leaders “witches” to be scorched “at the stake” and for referencing “assassination” as an alternative to ousting the two Republican congressmen who voted against former President Donald Trump during impeachment. 

In February, the Republican chief in the state Senate, Mike Shirkey, professed to have “hit” Whitmer over appointments and budget. 

The two men apologized. However, on Sunday Whitmer stated: “I don’t know to whom they’ve apologized in light of the fact that I haven’t heard from themThe Guardian reported.

Currently, six men are facing charges over the scheme to kidnap and perhaps murder Whitmer. It was revealed in the investigation of the attack on the Capitol Hill building last year. Other defendants are facing state charges over the kidnapping conspiracy, Reuters reported.

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Whitmer revealed to CBS that she is focused on “helping get her state back on track, backing the Biden government’s American Jobs Plan. Furthermore, that is the thing that I will remain fixed on.” 

Whitmer says “We’ve seen real threats coming on those of us in office,” she added that “we’re seeing individuals in court this week that are blamed for plotting to kidnap and murder me.

The State GOP Chairman Ron Weiser’s ill remarks were reprimanded by Michigan Democrats as “dangerous” and “sexist” and also led people from the University Of Michigan Board Of Regents to urge for his resignation.

Bolsonaro in trouble as his political companionship goes down the cliff
Americas

Bolsonaro in trouble as his political companionship goes down the cliff

Jair Bolosnaro’s government is in deep crisis. The radical South American leader doesn’t really use his political connections to benefit anyone else but him. This fact was clearly evident through the way Bolsonaro had handled the Covid-19 pandemic, and much hasn’t changed one year since the onset.

This week proved to be the most turbulent politically for Brazil and the rapidity with which Bolsonaro’s government is witnessing upheaval has raised concerns that the country might soon be witnessing a full-blown political meltdown. This topped with an already disastrous public health crisis, Brazil can be heading towards a steep cliff. The fact that Bolsonaro slowly surrounded him with military background officials in all departments largely can come back to bite him with blurred institutional lines.

Ernesto Araujo, Brazil’s Foreign Minister resigned this Monday after a tenure filled with brash self-righteousness without any slightest hint of confidence. He embraced conspiracy theories with wide open arms with special love for far-right governments, specially Donald Trump administration for which his love was evident. Yet he failed to deliver anything tangible to the Brazilian people. Araujo’s resignation was called for in force last week by majority of Senators, as they cited the time has come for Brazil to engage more constructively on a global stage as Covid-19 is creating havoc in the country claiming lives exponentially. When Araujo did resign, he blamed “a false and hypocritical narrative erected against [him] in the service of shadowy national and foreign interests”.

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The news soon followed of six more cabinet members resigning by end of the day, thus slashing any hopes of current administration changing its course of action. What can be simplified of this drastic change in dynamics is something much deeper than what is evident from surface. A rather ominous response by Bolsonaro – his frail and desperate attempts of gaining lost confidence nationally as well as globally by shaking up his administration.

The dark part of this whole unfolding is that Bolsonaro has always seen dictatorship as an exemplary way of governance and authority. He stacked up his government with military men, inviting a dangerous catapult in future. It is true and clearly evident that Bolsonaro takes decisions for his personal benefits, and has least to do with any benefit for the people of Brazil.

UNITAS Exercise Has A Larger Combat Strategy for America
Americas

UNITAS Exercise Has A Larger Combat Strategy for America

America holds great pride in its longest standing UNITAS naval exercise. This year’s host is Peru, celebrating the bicentennial of the country and the Peruvian navy. Running over six decades, the naval exercise denotes ‘Unity’ in Latin and now speaks more than ever about the new presidency’s responsibility and duty towards collaborative learning.

A virtual planning conference has been organized last week between the United States 4th Fleet and the Peruvian Navy, for the event that is scheduled to held off Peru’s coast. The multilateral exercise this year will feature a Pacific phase, with participants operating at sea, an amphibious phase involving littoral combat ships, and an Amazon phase at Peru’s lquitos naval base on the Amazon River.

Planners from Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Columba, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, France, Mexico, Panama, Spain and Uruguay are going to be joining the U.S. and Peruvian representatives of their respective Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force and Special Operation Forces in planning the exercises.

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The intent of the exercise is to create more readiness of the host, a way to create power around itself. Further, this kind of multilateral exercise comes under the American National Defense Strategy. There are two main significant points that make up for the strategy, according to Navy Admiral Craig.S. Faller.

Faller, commander of Southern Command, shared with the media a few months back, that training and education with partner nations, is a part of the strategy. This includes security cooperation, fighting transnational criminal organizations, stopping illegal fishing, exercises, personnel exchange, planning and intelligence sharing and having a military presence there to assist and reassure. Further he said, “It’s in everyone’s interest in this hemisphere to have partners with strong military capabilities,” Faller has said. Definitely, it is through such exercises where partner nations learn from American counterparts, that the latter feels that its capabilities to combat threats doubles. “And our partner capacity has gone from 48% to 60% in 2020. So we have to take care of today’s threats to expand the competitive space,” he further added.

Unaccompanied Minors Throng US-Mexico Border Again
Americas

Unaccompanied Minors Throng US-Mexico Border Again

As newly elected PM Joe Biden has started to work towards creating a more humanized method to address asylum seekers grievances, children have been thronging the US-Mexico border in large numbers.

There are confirmed reports stating that the number of unaccompanied minors and kids in the US custody are up by 25 percent with as many as 500 such kids being detained on the border on a daily basis.

The facilities at the border are already overcrowded. Some of them look like modified jails. There are more than 4000 children right now in such facilities. Overcrowding is a major concern. The levels have spiked. Rio Grande Valley is at 363% capacity and all the major Border patrol sectors are at well over 100% capacity.

RELATED NEWS: US explores fresh approach in order to develop its policy towards North Korea

The facilities were actually designed for holding adults for a certain number of hours only. But both purposes are not being met, with children spending more than 100 hours, much more than the legal prescribed limit.

Most children are being fed and given movies to keep them busy. Many are sleeping out of fatigue and change of environment. But there is a scare of them contracting Covid-19 as social distancing protocols are out of bounds.  Their bedding isn’t the best to keep them warm, something than cannot be helped, owning to the fact that this is supposed to be a make-shift temporary facility only.

So, it is not as much as Biden’s clemency that is being blame for this influx; but the blame still lies with Trump administration for having dismantled the humanitarian protections built into the country’s immigration system. Still, Amnesty International USA has condemned the use of facilities like the ones HHS currently relies on for handling the influx of children.

Agents of Border Patrol are being praised for their humane handling of minors and young kids thronging the border. The American dream is such a mirage that children and unaccompanied minors are risking their lives to get to the other side of the border, by hook or crook. Most come from parts of South and Central America, where economies are failing them. There is dearth of everything- food, education, clean drinking water, jobs and much more. Drug mafia and trafficking is a way of life. As per U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, unaccompanied minors may apply for asylum even if they are in immigration court proceedings, if they are under 18 years old, have no lawful immigration status in the United States; and have no parent or legal guardian in the United States available to provide care and physical custody.

For America, The Pandemic Storm Has Not Passed
Americas

For America, The Pandemic Storm Has Not Passed

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has warned that there is a chance of a fourth level of Covid-19 pandemic in the US provided, America is able to control the surging numbers. Cases had started to fall between February 7 and 21, but have started to rise again as variants of Covid-19 are starting to emerge in the country. 

As per CDC statistics, the country has already logged an average of over 68,000 new cases per day for the week ended February 28, with deaths averaging at 2,055 per day. According to Dr. Rochelle Walensky, Director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, she has felt alarmed as to how some local governments have “rolled back restrictions on masks and social distancing just as more infectious variants of the virus are spreading. We stand to completely lose the hard-earned ground we have gained,” she said in a media statement.

It has been confirmed that almost 29 out of 50 states reported more new infections last week compared to the previous seven days, whereas only seven states in the prior week reported weekly increases, according to the Reuters analysis.

Walensky has warned the public not to go slack on their safety measures as the new variants are seeing surging infection numbers. Adding in her public statement, she said, “All our effort could come to knots end if we don’t stay strong and vigilant.”

The US is more hopeful about the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine which has now received clearance for an immediate roll-out. According to Dr. Eric Rubin, a professor at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, “with the new variant possibly developing resistance to the existing vaccine, it is important to get everyone vaccinated as soon as possible.”

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About 3.9 million doses of the J&J vaccine will be distributed to states, tribes, territories, pharmacies, and community health centers, a senior Biden administration official has confirmed on State television. The new vaccine does not need to be kept in the freezer and is a single-dose vaccine that is now easier to administer, carry and store. The Johnson & Johnson vaccine has shown a 72% efficacy rate against mild to severe/critical disease among US trial participants. It’s more effective against severe forms of the disease, with about 85% protection.

Sweden Retracts Vaccine Stored Under Wrong Temperatures
Europe

Sweden Retracts Vaccine Stored Under Wrong Temperatures

The country that was boasting about combating the Corona Virus through herd immunity has failed yet again, in mitigating the virus spread, as it administered vaccines to its Swedes stored at the wrong temperature while being transported. 

Swedish medical facilities have landed up giving some 1000 patients the Covid-19 vaccine stored in the wrong temperature. All those administered the doses were medical professionals. A total of 2100 such doses were stored in wrong temperature.  They amount to 20percent of what Sweden had to receive and were (unfortunately) stored in rather low temperature.

Apparently, there was a problem with delivery itself.  As of now, there have been so side effects, but those administered are being observed for any adverse reactions. The other doses have been withheld for further investigation to ascertain whether their efficacy remains effective even after they were stored on low temperatures while being transported. 

Before this, Sweden has made use of the Pfizer vaccine candidate and has inoculated more than 1.4 million of its population.  

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The currently authorized mRNA vaccines have been found to provide up to 95% immunity against COVID-19. Further, vaccine research specialists have also ascertained that both the Pfizer and Morderna vaccines are so similar that both can be used interchangeably in order a patient gets two jobs in the interval of 28 days. This has been confirmed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention while they are still trying to decipher if the efficacy of the medication is affected if used interchangeably. 

Both have made use of the messenger RNA technology. 

AS the scare around the mutated virus increases, there will be the need to either tweak the vaccine or to ensure that the existing one can fight the possibly resilient Corona virus. According to vaccine researchers, tweaking the recipe wouldn’t be difficult for vaccines made with newer technologies. Both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are made with a piece of the virus genetic code that is simple to switch. 

World Bank Extends Financial Help To Lebanon Covid-19 Vaccine Plan
Middle East & Africa

World Bank Extends Financial Help To Lebanon Covid-19 Vaccine Plan

One of the poorer nations of the world, Lebanon is now getting a medical financial stimulus from the World Bank, official reports have confirmed. The World Bank has approved $34million to back the Lebanese Covid-19 vaccination drive. 

This is the first such huge outlay of funds by the bank. Previously, Lebanon has taken several loans from the bank to keep its economy from sinking. Since the pandemic broke out, the country has been struggling with the constant outbreaks and an unfortunate burn of a strategic port that led to a major scare and distrust amongst common people over the administration of the government. 

Funds have been reallocated from an existing Lebanon Health Resilient Project.  The Lebanese government has signed up for receiving the American Pfizer vaccine for 2.1 million doses. Lebanon already has a fractured medical system that has been losing its back over a surge in infection rates. 

According to the Lebanon Health Ministry, the vaccines will arrive by February.  These doses will be priced at $18 looking at Lebanon’s financial condition and the whole cost is covered under the World Bank financial assistance. 

Additionally, Lebanon would also receive another 2.7 million doses from the UN-led Covax program that caters to poorer countries like Lebanon, Yemen, Syria and Libya. These doses are expected to arrive no sooner than the mid of the year. These work on the mechanism of richer countries donating a percentage of their doses stocks to the poorer nations, once their own people are inoculated. 

Once known for its advanced medical services in the Middle East, Lebanon today stands to manage its falling bricks. There is a convergence of stresses on the health care system. There are many reasons for this. But the major reasons that stand out include lack of up-to-date infrastructure; lack of medical personnel due to high emigration rates among doctors; and difficulties in obtaining medical supplies due to the devaluation of the Lebanese currency and reduced imports. 

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