Tag Archive for: AstraZeneca

Family: Police “executed” Andrew Brown. DHS seeks domestic extremists in its ranks. Armed ethnic group seizes Myanmar military base. EU sues AstraZeneca.


Family: Police “executed” Andrew Brown

Family members of Andrew Brown say that his death amounts to an “execution” by North Carolina sheriff’s deputies. The deputies were attempting to serve a search and arrest warrant on Brown connected with cocaine distribution. After demanding for days to see police bodycam footage of the incident, family members were at last allowed to see only a 20-second snippet of what was apparently a much lengthier encounter. Attorneys for the family say that a 20-second clip does not constitute “transparency” by the Sheriff’s Dept. and allege that the department is “trying to hide something”.

Based on the family’s statements, however, what little they saw of the video seems to have been damning enough. According to the family’s representatives, Brown had kept his hands on the steering will and tried to comply with officer’s demands. The family believes that shooting had already commenced at this stage. At some point, Brown panics and attempts to drive away from the officers, posing no threat to the officers. Brown was then fatally shot in the back of the head before crashing into a tree.

Several news outlets, the local city council and even the count sheriff, have petitioned a judge to approve the release of the video, which is required under North Carolina law. The mayor of Elizabeth City believes there will be “civil unrest” once the video is released.

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Homeland Security seeks domestic extremists in its ranks

Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas announced that the department (DHS) is launching an internal probe to uncover white supremacists and others with potentially violent extremist views in its organization. On Monday, Mayorkas acknowledged that, “Domestic violent extremism poses the most lethal and persistent terrorism-related threat to our country today”. This already presents a major shift in institutional attitudes on domestic terror in the US. Until relatively recent times, federal agencies downplayed the prevalence and threat of domestic terrorism, focusing instead on Islamo-fascist terrorism. The Biden administration has made addressing violent domestic extremism a priority, in light of a rising number of incidents during Trump’s presidency as well as the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol.

Mayorkas also alluded to the prevalence of extremist views among the military and law enforcement communities. Since the Jan. 6 attack, the FBI has arrested dozens of law enforcement, public safety and military personnel in connection with the riot. Mayorkas said, “As we work to safeguard our nation, we must be vigilant in our efforts to identify and combat domestic violent extremism within both the broader community and our own organization”.

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Myanmar: armed ethnic group seizes military base

In the nearly three months since the military coup in Myanmar, over 750 people, including several children, have been killed in widespread protests. Last month, the protesters formed a tenuous alliance with armed ethnic groups in the country’s border regions, who have been fighting the military for decades. The protest leadership even announced the formation of a unity opposition government with ethnic representation.

One of Myanmar’s largest ethnic militias, the Karen National Union (KNU), has been actively fighting the junta’s forces near the Thai border for the last several weeks. About 25,000 ethnic Karen have fled local villages, sheltering in nearby caves or jungles. Others have sought safety on the other side of the border. The KNU has now seized and razed a national military base in the region.

The junta’s leader, Min Aung Hlaing, recently attend a regional summit of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in Jakarta. At the conference, Hlaing promised to put an immediate end to violence in the country and enter dialog. His statement was too vague to inspire a great deal of confidence in the international community. And despite this pledge, killings of protesters have continued across the country in recent days.

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EU suing AstraZeneca over vaccine supply failure

The European Commission has announced legal action against COVID-vaccine producer AstraZeneca, alleging breach of contract. This marks an escalation of an ongoing dispute between the bloc and the British-Swedish pharmaceutical company. European Commissioner President Ursula von der Leyen has taken the firm to task over delays in delivery of 100s of millions of doses. AstraZeneca has blamed the delays unspecified manufacturing difficulties, but denies that it has violated the terms of its contract with the EU.

The EU has also accused AstraZeneca of exporting doses to outside nations without fulfilling its commitments to the EU. The bloc has set up aggressive export controls and even raided some plants they suspected of hoarding doses to be secretly exported to the UK. These raids turned up nothing, but various EU countries have blocked the export of 100s of 1000s of doses.

Responding to the announcement of the legal challenge, AstraZeneca reiterated that its contract with the EU stipulated that the company make its “best reasonable effort” to deliver a set amount of doses by a certain deadline. The firm’s statement says, “We believe any litigation is without merit and we welcome this opportunity to resolve this dispute as soon as possible”.

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Chief: officer confused gun with Tazer in Wright case. US pauses J&J vaccine over clot concerns. ‘Record number’ of Chinese jets in Taiwan flyover. Russia tests US in Ukraine.


Chief: MN officer meant to Taze, not shoot Daunte Wright

Tim Gannon, the police chief of Brooklyn Center, a Minneapolis suburb, says the officer who killed Daunte Wright, 20, in a Sunday traffic stop meant to Taze Wright rather than shoot him. The officer in question is Kim Potter, a 26-year-veteran of the force. Potter is now on administrative leave with pay and benefits. Brooklyn Center Mayor Mike Elliot has taken control of the police department. Elliot believes Potter should be fired, and will soon decide whether Gannon will remain as chief. Gannon has not stated his opinion on firing Potter, saying only, “I think we can watch the video and ascertain whether she will be returning”.

Gannon played Potter’s bodycam footage to reporters. In the video, Potter pulls her sidearm and points it at Wright for several seconds, shouting three times, “I’ll Taze you!” and then, “Tazer!” three times to warn other officers of the electric charge. She then fires her weapon once, just as Wright gets back in his driver’s seat. As Wright slams the door and drives away, Potter tells the other officers, “Holy sh-t, I shot him!”.

How can this happen?

Protesters, notably Wright’s father, have voiced skepticism over the mix-up. This is understandable given Potter’s 26 years of experience. Such mix-ups are rare but not unheard of. However, experts say this is not the sort of mistake a longtime veteran typically makes. Past similar incidents mostly involved rookies or part time officers. Most officers, including Brooklyn Center police, are instructed to keep their firearms and Tasers on opposite sides of their body. Former longtime Des Plaines (IL) Police Chief Bill Kushner explains that this must be consistent as officers develop muscle memory, which takes over in stressful situations. Kushner added that what happened in Minnesota, “should not have gotten to the level of a fatality”.

However, it appears that even if Potter had drawn her Taser instead of her gun, she still would have violated department protocol. Brooklyn Center Police protocol is to avoid using Tasers on people operating a vehicle, to avoid collateral damage. The protocol also says officers must make a “reasonable effort” to avoid Tazing people in the chest. Potter shot Wright in the chest.

In Potter’s case, Minnesota authorities will be examining the possibility of a training failure. On thing they’re looking into is when Potter was last certified on her phaser. Ed Obayashi, an expert on the use of force by law enforcement, says appropriate training should make it difficult for officers to confuse a gun with a Taser. “But unfortunately it does happen,” Obayashi says. “This is not the first time and it won’t be the last”.

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US pauses J&J vaccine over clot concerns

The FDA and CDC are calling for a temporary pause in administering the Johnson & Johnson single-dose COVID vaccine. The agencies say they are acting out of “an abundance of caution” as they investigate cases of blood clots.

The agencies are looking into blood clots in six women that occurred 6 to 13 days after vaccination. The clots occurred in the sinuses of the brain along with reduced platelet counts. This makes use of heparin, the usual treatment for blood clots, , potentially “dangerous.”

More than 6.8 million people in the US have received the J&J shot so far, with the vast majority suffering no or mild side effects.

This follows similarly rare clots linked to the AstraZeneca vaccine. In the case of the AZ vaccine, most blood clots have formed in women under 60. Many countries across the world have cut back on use of the AZ vaccine, with some recommending it only for people over 60.
Researchers have not yet found a causal link for the exceedingly rare, but serious, complication for either shot.

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After US warning, ‘record number’ of Chinese jets in Taiwan flyover

On Sunday, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken warned China against further belligerent actions towards Taiwan. Blinken made is statement following numerous air incursions into Taiwan’s airspace by Chinese jets. He said “it would be a serious mistake for anyone to try to change that status quo [in the Western Pacific] by force”.

As if in answer to Blinken’s warning, 25 Chinese military jets breached Taiwan’s defense zone on Monday. This is the most China has ever sent on any single incursion.

Members of the American military have also joined soldiers from the Philippines in joint drills this week. The US is seeking to bolster its military ties with the Philippines and other Asian countries to counter China’s increasingly aggression in the South China Sea. Recently, 200 huge Chinese commercial fishing vessels parked themselves at the Whitsun Reef in the Philippines’ territorial waters. Both Beijing and Manila have long claimed rights to the reef. China insists the vessels are simply fishing in China’s traditional fishing grounds. Philippines Defense Minister Delfin Lorenzana says that the vessels are manned by ‘militia’ rather than fishermen. Also, none of the boats have been doing any fishing in the month they’ve been at anchor.

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Russia tests US, NATO over Ukraine

In recent weeks, tensions between Russian and Ukrainian troops in eastern Ukraine have been escalating. Ukraine claims that Russia is amassing troops at its Eastern border. Attacks and skirmishes between the two sides have steadily increased since mid-March. As a result, Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskiy has urged NATO to speed up his country’s application for membership. This weekend, a Ukrainian soldier was reported killed by Russian-backed soldiers.

Speaking about the situation on Sunday, US Sec. of State Blinken said that, “If Russia acts recklessly, or aggressively, there will be costs, there will be consequences”.

In response, Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov told reporters, “The United States is our adversary and does everything it can to undermine Russia’s position on the world stage”. Ryabkov also said, “We warn the United States that it will be better for them to stay far away from Crimea and our Black Sea coast. It will be for their own good”.

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1/3 of COVID survivors suffer psychiatric, neurological issues. Biden agenda gets boost. AstraZeneca jab linked to rare clots. 4000-year-old stone map found.


Study: 1/3 of COVID survivors suffer mental, neurological problems

Scientists at Oxford University in the UK have surveyed the health records of 236,379 COVID-19 patients, mostly from US. Their analysis revealed that as many as one-third of survivors were diagnosed with a brain or psychiatric disorder within six months. The link between the disease and the disorders remains unclear. Of the 14 neurological and mental disorders studied, the two most common among survivors were anxiety and depression. Occurrences of stroke, dementia and other neurological disorders were rarer but still significant, especially among those who had suffered severe COVID symptoms.

Paul Harrison, a co-author and professor of psychiatry at Oxford, says that “Although the individual risks for most disorders are small, the effect across the whole population may be substantial”.

The study was not able to determine the biological or psychological mechanisms behind the complications. The researchers urged further in-depth studies of the problem to help identify treatment and prevention measures.

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Biden agenda gets boost from Senate parliamentarian

A decision by the Senate parliamentarian this week has broadened the application of “budget-reconciliation” rules. A bill passed through reconciliation requires only a majority vote of 51 in the Senate. This will allow Democratic Senators to bypass any filibuster threat from Republicans, which would need 60 votes to overcome. Senate Democrats used reconciliation to pass the most recent COVID stimulus with a simple majority.

The parliamentarian’s ruling means that reconciliation could potentially apply to a broader range of bills. This could include bills relating to infrastructure, immigration and Medicare reform.

This could create a big opening for Biden’s ambitious $multi-trillion infrastructure agenda. Republican Senators oppose key parts of the bill, including an increase in corporate taxes to pay for it. Instead, the GOP wants a combination of “user fees” (such as toll hikes) and public-private partnerships to pay for it. Biden is betting that GOP expectations for everyday Americans to foot the bill will prove unpopular even among Republican voters.

While the new ruling means Biden will not necessarily have to bow to GOP demands, there are some divisions in the Democratic party to overcome. One such stumbling block is Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV), who wants to increase corporate taxes by a relatively modest 4% compared to Biden’s 7%. It’s unclear where Manchin and other dissenters plan to make up the 3% difference.

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EU regulator links AstraZeneca jab to rare blood clots

A study by the European Medicines Agency has found a possible link between AstraZeneca’s COVID vaccine and subsequent blood clots in some recipients. The agency said that the blood clots were an exceedingly rare complication, and that the benefits of the vaccine outweigh possible risks. For the moment, the agency has not recommended any restrictions for administering the shot.

The report on the findings explains that “One plausible explanation for the combination of blood clots and low blood platelets is an immune response, leading to a condition similar to one seen sometimes in patients treated with heparin”.

For the sake of perspective, the review examined a few dozen cases of blood clots out of approximately 25 million recipients in the EU and UK. The vast majority of recipients have had no issues. Most of the cases arose in women under 60 within 2 weeks of their vaccination, but the agency was not able to identify more specific risk factors.

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Archaeologists: 4000-year-old slab is “3D map”

Researchers studying a newly re-discovered slab of rock say that carved markings on the stone may be the oldest 3-dimensional map in Europe. The slab dates to the Early Bronze Age, between 1900 and 1650 BC. Local archaeologist Paul du Chatellier first uncovered the stone in 1900 during excavations of a burial ground in western Brittany, France. The slab was then lost for almost a century until archaeologists re-discovered it in 2014 during an excavation of du Chatellier’s home.

Examining the curious markings on the stone, archaeologists suspected it might be a map. A survey found that the markings mapped an 18-mile stretch of the Odet River valley, where it was found, with 80% accuracy.

Archaeologists speculate that the slab depicted the features and boundaries of the territory of an ancient chieftain.

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FEMA mobilized to deal with child migrant surge. Dems push for “big”, “green” infrastructure bill. Myanmar protesters raze Chinese factories. More countries halt AZ jabs.


White House mobilizes FEMA to help with migrant children surge

The Department of Homeland Security is calling on the Federal Emergency Management Agency to support a 90-day push to process and house a surge of unaccompanied minors arriving at the border. The administration recently received sharp criticism for re-opening a controversial Trump-era private facility in Texas to temporarily house the children. The White House defended the move, saying that COVID restrictions had caused a shortage of appropriate housing.

Over the weekend, DHS announced it was working towards moving the children from U.S. Customs and Border Protection to the Department of Health and Human Services. Working with FEMA, HHS will then place the children “with a family member or sponsor until their immigration is adjudicated”.

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Democrats begin work on ‘big’, ‘green’ infrastructure bill

Shortly after President Biden signed the first major COVID stimulus bill of his administration, Democrats turned their attention to even more ambitious big money projects. On Friday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called on Congressional Democrats to begin crafting a “big, bold and transformational infrastructure package” with their Republican colleagues. Pelosi says she hopes to get bipartisan support for the bill. Pelosi recently stressed that “building roads and bridges and water supply systems and the rest has always been bipartisan… except when [Republicans] oppose it with a Democratic president, as they did under President Obama”.

While details are sparse, initial reports indicate that the plan will contain about $2 trillion in infrastructure spending and tax incentives for transport, clean energy, education, broadband internet, housing and utilities. The Biden administration has previously published a green infrastructure wish list, including a carbon pollution-free power sector by 2025, upgrading 4 million buildings, weatherizing 2 million homes, constructing 1.5 million sustainable homes and installing 500,000 electric-vehicle charging stations. 

Pelosi said on Friday that the plan would bring jobs “to every zip code”. The bill, which could come in May, may be attached to a further $2 trillion in COVID stimulus spending.

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Myanmar protesters target Chinese-run factories

After one of the deadliest weekends yet for protesters since the Feb. 1 military coup, several Chinese-owned factories in Yangon have been set ablaze. Some believe that protesters’ are attacking the factories to express their anger and China’s refusal to condemn either the military coup or the deadly police violence against protesters. Pro-Suu Kyi protesters considered it particularly telling when Chinese diplomats in Myanmar took to Twitter to demand protection for their factories and personnel. An outpouring of fury in the form of 52,000 comments followed, one of which read “Does it hurt? How about people dying?”.

Up to now, at least 120 protesters have died as Myanmar’s police brutally suppress any anti-military demonstrations. China, as Myanmar’s most important economic partner, has been accused of at least tacitly approving of the junta or even actively supporting it.

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Ireland and Netherlands join countries halting AstraZeneca jabs

Last week, the Danish health service decided to stop administering AstraZeneca’s COVID vaccines for at least 2 weeks to investigate reports of blood clots in recipients. Several other European countries quickly joined Denmark in announcing a pause for AZ jabs pending investigation. Norway subsequently announced cases of patients who had received the jab experiencing an abnormally low blood platelet count, which could cause bruising or bleeding. 

At present, there is no evidence that the AZ jab is to blame for these blood factor issues. In Britain, 11 million people have received AZ jabs, and just 11 subsequently developed blood clots. None of these were proven to be linked to the vaccine.

In any major vaccination campaign, scientists expect a certain number of adverse reactions. Since the vaccines are less than a year old, no long-term studies have been conducted. Experts say that, at this stage in the rollout, serious or even medical events following a jab aren’t particularly surprising. This is in part because the vaccination campaign began with people who are older or have pre-existing medical conditions. These patients are vulnerable to blood factor issues in any case, whether or not they receive the vaccine.

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Cuomo faces impeachment probe. Poll: majority of Americans want limits on unvaccinated people. Hong Kongers protest EU-China deal. Nations pause AstraZeneca jabs over clot fears.


Cuomo facing impeachment investigation

Democratic New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has had a hard fall from grace after raising his national profile immensely during the height of his state’s COVID crisis last year. In recent weeks, at least 6 women who have worked for Cuomo have come forward to accuse him of sexual harassment and even assault.

In addition to the sexual misconduct allegations, questions have arisen about the governor’s efforts to bury reports of out-of-control nursing home deaths. Yesterday, New York Assembly speaker Carl Heastie authorized the the Judiciary Committee to open an investigation into misconduct allegations against Cuomo which may lead to impeachment. It appears at the moment that the probe will focus on the sexual misconduct rather than the nursing home deaths.

Cuomo has remained defiant despite many of the state’s prominent Democratic politicians, including NYC mayor Bill DiBlasio, calling on him to resign. The majority of the state’s Assembly have also called on him to step down.

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Poll: Americans support barring unvaccinated people from offices, travel

A Reuters poll indicates that an increasing number of Americans are willing to get COVID vaccines. The poll was small (just over 1000 participants) but the sampling is geographically representative. According to the results, 54% of respondents were “very interested” in getting vaccinated. This is a significant increase over a similar survey conducted in January when only 41% expressed similar interest. Still, 27% said they were not at all interested in getting vaccinate, a number that has remained relatively unchanged since May last year.

The results also point to changing social attitudes as the US slowly emerges from the pandemic. A majority of participants said they were in favor of limiting the ways unvaccinated people mix in public. 72% felt it was important to know “if the people around me have been vaccinated”. 62% said that unvaccinated people should not be allowed to travel on airplanes. 55% were in favor of restricting unvaccinated people’s access to public gyms, movie theaters and concerts.

The poll may also have implications for eventual returns to workplaces. 60% of respondents said they wanted their employers to require :everyone to get a coronavirus vaccine before returning to the office” while 56% thought unvaccinated workers should stay home.

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Hong Kong activists urge halt to EU-China deal

Hong Kong democracy activists are calling on the EU to delay signing a massive trade deal with China. The activists fear that ratifying the deal will sap any political will in the EU to challenge China’s authoritarian grip on Hong Kong. Recently, Hong Kong’s pro-Beijing government proposed to force the island’s lawmakers to sign a loyalty pledge to Beijing. The Mainland Chinese parliament has also just passed a raft of reforms that will permanently overturn Hong Kong’s semi-autonomous rule. Activists hope that the EU and other international powers can use their influence to withdraw these reforms as well as a controversial security law.

Many fear that China’s growing global economic and military power will silence international criticism of other humanitarian abuses. Notably, a legal report found that China is breaching every article in the genocide convention in its treatment of its Uighur minority. 

At present, the US seems to be the only major world power willing to condemn China’s abuses of the Uighurs and Tibetans. President Biden is currently planning a virtual summit with Japan, Australia and India, China’s most powerful neighbors, to build bolster economic cooperation to rival China’s growing influence.


Denmark, Thailand pause AstraZeneca vaccinations over clot fears

Denmark has temporarily halted vaccinations with the Oxford-AstraZeneca jab after several recipients formed blood clots. One of these patients has reportedly died. The national health service stressed that the pause was temporary to give researchers time to investigate these cases. The agency stressed there was no firm link has been established between the vaccinations and the clots and there was “good evidence that the vaccine is both safe and effective”. The situation will be reassessed in two weeks’ time.

Six other European countries have stopped using a batch of AstraZeneca doses over similar concerns. The scare has also halted the start of Thailand’s vaccine rollout.

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Cheney hints at criminal probe for Trump. After Trump spree, calls for federal execution ban. AZ jab disappoints on South African variant. India: 19 dead, hundreds missing after glacier fall.


Liz Cheney hints at criminal probe for Trump

The second impeachment proceeding against Donald Trump is getting under way in the Senate this week. Even those who support the proceedings don’t hold out much hope for a conviction. But a the outcome of the impeachment trial will not so much indicate lawmakers’ feelings about Trump’s guilt or innocence as the willingness of GOP Senators to alienate Trump’s still-enthusiastic base. Few seem interested in doing that.

Even if the Senate doesn’t come up with the two-thirds majority necessary to convict Trump for inciting the Capitol riot, that may not be the end of the story. GOP Congresswoman Liz Cheney hinted this weekend that other criminal proceedings may be in the offing for Trump. In such cases, judges and juries will be weighing Trump’s fate rather than politically-motivated Senators.

Cuffs for Trump?

Ultimately, the decision to proceed with such charges will come down to Biden’s Department of Justice. Biden’s nominee for Attorney General, Merrick Garland, has recently been lauded in the press for his prosecutions of domestic extremists. This includes his role in convicting Timothy McVeigh, the Oklahoma City bomber. Some speculate that Biden’s choice may signal willingness to go after domestic extremists, and perhaps to hold Trump to account for his role in the Capitol riot.

Beyond charges related to the Jan. 6 riot, there are other actions for which Trump could be charged. Days before the riot, Trump created a stir by threatening Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger with criminal charges if he didn’t “find” the votes that would have handed Trump an electoral victory in the state. That one phone call may have broken a slew of election laws. Conviction on any one of these could put Trump in prison for 5 years.

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After Trump execution spree, calls for Biden to abolish federal death penalty

Even many of President Trump’s supporters were taken aback by the ghoulish spree of federal executions in the months leading up to and following the November election. In all, 13 federal inmates were put to death between July 2020 and January 2021. This string of executions ended a 17-year hiatus on federal execution with breathtaking zeal. To ensure all executions would go ahead as planned, Trump’s Attorney General Bill Barr even floated the idea of bringing back firing squads and the electric chair when prisons were having trouble getting the deadly injection cocktail.

Dealing death to get votes

Trump is not the first president to use executions to score political points. George W. Bush proudly touted the 154 executions in Texas during his two terms as Governor as he campaigned for the presidency. Even so, as president, Bush only executed three federal inmates, one of whom was Timothy McVeigh. During his 1992 campaign, Bill Clinton made a point of returning to Arkansas to witness the execution of Ricky Ray Rector, who was mentally disabled. Clinton executed no federal prisoners as president.

Trump’s one-term tally of 13 federal executions (in less than 6 months) leaves every other president in the dust. Franklin D. Roosevelt and Dwight Eisenhower are tied for 2nd with 10 federal executions each. In fact, Trump’s last 6 months in office saw more federal executions than the last 56 years combined.

New opposition

While the spree may have won Trump some law and order points, its breakneck speed during the pandemic has galvanized death penalty opponents. President Biden is the first sitting president to openly oppose the death penalty. Many are calling on Biden to end the practice at the federal level once and for all.

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AstraZeneca jab protection for South African variant “disappointing”

South Africa has halted its rollout of the AstraZeneca vaccine after local trials. Tests found that the jab offered only “minimal protection” against mild-to-moderate illness from the South African strain, which currently dominates the country. Experts had high hopes the AZ jab in Africa. This is in part because it can be stored in a refrigerator rather than the sub-freezing temperatures needed to transport and store the Pfizer vaccine.

While other African nations are rethinking the AZ jab, South Africa is now pinning its hopes on the new vaccine from Johnson & Johnson. The J&J jab has been shown to be highly effective and can also be stored in a refrigerator. It’s unclear whether it has been tested against the South African strain. Meanwhile, AstraZeneca and Oxford University are collaborating to create a new formula targeted for the strain.

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India: At least 19 dead and 200 missing after glacier disaster

Yesterday, a falling glacier seems to have triggered a catastrophic swell of water in a river in the Himalayan Uttarakhand province of India. The powerful surge took out a hydropower dam, several bridges and damaged dozens of homes. The official death toll stands at 19, but over 200 are still missing. More than 2000 members of the military and police are out searching for the missing. Most of those killed were workers at a hydroelectric facility. Some 30-35 people are believed to be trapped in a tunnel that partially collapsed due to the disaster.

Experts are at odds as to the causes of the disaster. The influence of global warming has undoubtedly destabilized numerous glaciers in the Himalayas. Others believe that the damming and road construction in the area may have contributed.

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Donald Trump and the KGB NEMiss.News


Ex-KGB spy: Trump was Kremlin asset for 40 years. EU hissy fit over AztraZeneca jabs may have global consequences. China: Taiwan independence means war.


Ex-KGB spy: Kremlin cultivated Trump as asset for 40 years

Yuri Shvets, a former KGB spy now living in the US, is a key source for journalist Craig Unger’s new book American Kompramat. Shvets currently works as a corporate security investigator and was a partner of Alexander Litvinenko, a Russian defector who was assassinated in London in 2006. In the book, Shvets and Unger purport to fill in some gaps about Trump’s ties to Russia left unexplored by Robert Mueller’s investigation.

According to Shvets, Trump first came to the KGB’s attention when he married his first wife Ivana, a Czech model, in 1977. At the time, the KGB was casting a wide net in the West, targeting promising university students, or up-and-coming businessmen like Trump. The KGB had a policy of cultivating these assets in hopes they would one day rise to prominence on the American stage.

The charm offensive

In 1987, Trump and Ivana visited Moscow and St. Petersberg for the first time. During this trip, the KGB launched a “charm offensive”. Shvets says:

“[The KGB] had collected a lot of information on his personality so they knew who he was personally. The feeling was that he was extremely vulnerable intellectually, and psychologically, and he was prone to flattery.

“This is what they exploited. They played the game as if they were immensely impressed by his personality and believed this is the guy who should be the president of the United States one day: it is people like him who could change the world.”

With agents having planted the idea that Trump should enter politics, Trump lost no time doing just that upon his return to the US. He began exploring a run for president and even held a campaign rally. On September 1, he took out a full-page ad in three major national papers headlined: “There’s nothing wrong with America’s Foreign Defense Policy that a little backbone can’t cure”.

In the ad, Trump offered pointed criticisms of President Reagan’s military policy. Many of these were talking points Shvets alleges were fed to him by the Kremlin agents.

According to Shvets, the ad’s publication both stunned and delighted the KGB higher-ups:

“It was hard to believe that somebody would publish it under his name and that it will impress real serious people in the West but it did and, finally, this guy became the president.”

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EU hissy fit over AztraZeneca jabs continues

The three-way spat between the EU, UK, and vaccine producer AstraZeneca is getting uglier and may have global consequences.

The EU has published a redacted version of their August contract with the pharmaceutical company. The EU claims the contract is an unambiguous and iron-clad guarantee of delivery of 300 million doses of the vaccine upon approval by the EU. AstraZeneca disputes this, citing language in the contract that requires the firm to make its “best effort” to deliver the vaccines in a specific timeframe.

AZ has attributed the delay to production problems at two EU plants, one in Belgium and one in the Netherlands. CEO Pascal Soirot pointed out earlier this week that the UK signed its contract with AZ a full three months before the EU, which gave the company more time to shake out bugs at its two UK production facilities.


Nevertheless, on the dubious strength of this contract, EU Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen reiterated a demand that AZ redirect doses made in the UK to fulfill its EU obligations. Von der Leyen also threatened to retaliate if AZ does not give in to the EU’s demands.

Individual EU states could revise export authorizations to block export of vaccines produced within their borders to non-EU countries. This would also impact the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, produced in Germany. The UK has a 40 million-dose order with Pfizer, which also predates the EU’s order with the firm. The EU’s temper tantrum could also prevent fulfilment of orders by the US, Australia and other non-EU countries.

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China threatens war over US support for Taiwan independence

After taking office, President Biden promised that the US would continue to support Taiwan. Seemingly in answer to this, China conducted two separate flyovers with warplanes over the Taiwan Strait. Beijing has now threatened Taiwan’s pro-independence leadership that further attempts to breakaway from China would “mean war”.

These fighting words weren’t explicitly directed at the US. However, Chinese Premier Xi Jinping has recently made similar statements regarding US military activity in other disputed areas China claims as its own.

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domestic terror threat high NEMiss.News



Feds warn of domestic terror threat. Dems float Trump censure. China begins anal swab COVID test. EU-UK vaccine squabble continues.


Feds: threat of politically-motivated violence remains high

The Department of Homeland Security has issued a heightened terrorism threat warning to the law enforcement community. The bulletin warns that the threat of politically-motivated right-wing terrorism will remain high for weeks to come. The agency says that the attention garnered by the Capitol riot may embolden extremist elements still seething after Donald Trump’s election defeat.

DHS did not address any specific known plots, but merely advised law enforcement to stay on its toes. This bulletin is significant because it essentially equates these extremist uprisings to acts of domestic terrorism. This is a classification federal agencies have long shied away from, even in the wake of the Capitol riot.

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Senate Dems look to censure Trump as impeachment alternative

After all but 5 GOP Senators voted this week to block an impeachment trial against Donald Trump, Democratic hopes of a conviction are waning. The trial is still scheduled to go ahead on Feb. 9, but Democrats, and some Republicans, are looking for a more feasible and less divisive alternative.

Democrat Tim Kaine and Republican Susan Collins are putting together a motion to censure Donald Trump. A Congressional censure, they stay, is a more viable option to hold Trump officially accountable for his part in inciting the Capitol riot. It would also not require a two-thirds vote as an impeachment conviction would. Sources indicate Kaine and Collins may include wording in the censure barring Trump from holding high office again. However, it’s unclear whether or not this ban would be as enforceable as one following an impeachment conviction.

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China introduces anal swab COVID test

Chinese health officials have begun using anal swabs to test people it considers to be at “high-risk” for COVID. The method is more accurate than nasal swabs as COVID virus can live longer in the colon than in the respiratory tract. However, officials say the anal test will not be used as widely as other testing methods as it is “not convenient”.

For now, the method is reserved for people living in areas considered to have a high risk of transmission. China is introducing more stringent testing protocols and travel restrictions ahead of the Lunar New Year celebrations in early February. Last year, that event contributed to a massive spread of the still-emerging epidemic as millions traveled to be with loved ones for the celebration.

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EU demands UK-made vaccines from AstraZeneca amid row

The failure of British-Swedish vaccine producer AstraZeneca to meet hoped-for EU production and distribution targets has triggered an all-out vaccine rivalry between the EU and UK. The vaccine is produced in two UK sites and two EU facilities. Production at the UK facilities has been humming along nicely, while the two EU sites have been falling behind. AstraZeneca CEO Pascal Soriot attempted to cool tempers earlier this week by explaining that the UK had signed their contract three full months ahead of the EU, allowing more time for production hiccups to shake out.

EU health commissioner Stella Kyriakides dismissed this explanation, saying, “We reject the logic of first come, first served”. Kyriakides demanded yesterday that AstraZeneca redirect doses produced in the UK to meet the firm’s obligations to the EU. Only last week, the EU said they were considering a ban on exporting any EU-made doses to outside countries, which now includes the UK.

Unsurprisingly, AstraZeneca and the British Home Secretary Michael Gove have rejected this baffling and hypocritical demand. Gove says the UK will only send vaccines to the EU if they have a surplus. In response, Belgium has dispatched inspectors to a Belgian AstraZeneca facility, looking for evidence that vaccines produced there had been diverted to the UK.

Unable to resist a rare opportunity to direct a thinly-veiled and well-deserved jibe at his EU rivals, British PM Boris Johnson says, “I’m confident of our supplies and we’ll keep rolling out vaccines as fast we possibly can. I am very pleased at the moment that we have the fastest rollout of vaccines in Europe by some way”.


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Dems collapse on filibuster fight, call it a “win”. US firms use COVID to bust unions while raking in paycheck protection money. That and more below.


Dems collapse on filibuster fight, call it a “win”

Since the inauguration, the Senate has been at a standstill as party leadership attempted to work out a power-sharing agreement. GOP leader Mitch McConnell held the talks hostage over Democratic Chuck Schumer’s plan to end the filibuster.

Democrats have a slim majority in the Senate, with a 50-50 split between Democrats and Republicans, and Vice President Kamala Harris serving as a tie breaker. If the filibuster is not done away with, most legislation will require 60 votes to pass, making it possible for Republicans to hold up President Biden’s legislative agenda.

McConnell had previously waived filibuster rules to approve President Trump’s three Supreme Court appointees. But McConnell has never been shy about embracing legislative double standards. Preserving the filibuster now guarantees he holds onto some power as Minority Leader.

And it appears he will get his way again. Two Democratic Senators, Joe Manchin (WV) and Kyrsten Sinema (AZ), have stated they do not support ending the filibuster. With that assurance, McConnell has withdrawn his objection and ended the stalemate. Schumer’s camp is billing this as a “win”, and it certainly is… for McConnell.

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Firms use COVID to union bust while raking in paycheck protection money

Firms across the US, such as Amazon and Trader Joe’s, are using the pandemic as an excuse to undermine unions in their workplaces. High unemployment and a teetering economy have given employers the upper hand. Workers in numerous sectors have found themselves locked out of workplaces or replaced with non-union labor. All the while, employers are still taking $millions in paycheck protection money from the COVID stimulus packages intended to prevent mass layoffs.

The loss of wages and benefits has already pushed many workers to the edge. If firms succeed in doing away with collective bargaining rights under the cover of the pandemic, the consequences will reverberate through the labor market and US economy for years to come.

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Supply bottlenecks stirring “vaccine nationalism”

Earlier this month, Pfizer said it would be temporarily halting deliveries of vaccine doses to the EU due to manufacturing issues. Another major manufacturer, AstraZeneca, is also facing supply and delivery hiccups in the EU. The British-Swedish multinational now says it will not be able to honor its delivery agreements with EU countries for March.

The exact reason for these manufacturing bottlenecks remains unclear, and the lack of transparency has incensed EU leaders. European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen pointed out that “Europe invested billions to help develop the world’s first COVID-19 vaccines. To create a truly global common good”. She and other EU leaders are now demanding the firm make good on its obligations.

To safeguard the European supply, Germany’s Health Minister is proposing that the EU block exports of the vaccines. This block would also affect the UK, which has recently exited the EU. The calls to block exports of the vaccine, which was developed with the help of UK’s Oxford University, has prompted warnings from British health officials against “vaccine nationalism”.

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Scottish leader vows new independence referendum

Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon is laying the groundwork for a new referendum to allow Scots to decide if they want to remain part of the UK. In 2014, Scots voted 55%-45% to remain in the UK. The referendum was billed at the time as a once-in-a-generation event. But the political equation changed dramatically when the UK voted to leave the EU in 2016. At the time of the Scottish referendum, no such possibility had even appeared on the horizon.

In the 2016 referendum, Scots voted overwhelmingly to remain part of the EU. Having been dragged out against its will, Scotland’s economy is now taking a major hit in the new UK-EU trade agreement. Polls show that a narrow majority of Scots now favor leaving the UK, and Sturgeon hopes to capitalize on that. By moving ahead with a vote, Sturgeon will be butting heads with British PM Boris Johnson, who has pledged to block any new Scottish referendum. A binding referendum requires the approval of the British government.

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