Розділ: Фінанси

March 1st, 2021 by Vbiz

A look at a remote community getting their COVID-19 vaccinations and how the pandemic has affected hobbies as diverse as baking and biking.   

Posted in Бізнес, Нерухомість, Новини, Фінанси

February 28th, 2021 by Vbiz

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Saturday called on the African Union and other international partners to help address a deepening crisis in Ethiopia’s northern Tigray region as he condemned alleged atrocities in fighting there.Blinken’s statement suggested growing frustration with the response so far from Ethiopia and neighboring Eritrea to what America’s top diplomat described as a “worsening humanitarian crisis.”His remarks came a day after Amnesty International released a report accusing Eritrean forces of killing hundreds of civilians in Tigray in a 24-hour period last year, an incident it described as a potential crime against humanity.Eritrea rejected the accusations.”The United States is gravely concerned by reported atrocities and the overall deteriorating situation in the Tigray region of Ethiopia,” Blinken said.”We ask international partners, especially the African Union and regional partners, to work with us to address the crisis in Tigray, including through action at the U.N. and other relevant bodies.”Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s federal army ousted the former local ruling party, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), from the regional capital Mekelle in November, but low-level fighting has continued.Thousands of people have died, hundreds of thousands have been forced from homes and there are shortages of food, water and medicine around the region of more than 5 million people.Ethiopia and Eritrea have denied that Eritrean troops participated in the conflict, though dozens of witnesses, diplomats and an Ethiopian general have reported their presence.Still, the state-run Ethiopian Human Rights Commission released a statement on Friday timed to coincide with the Amnesty report, saying preliminary investigations indicated that Eritrean soldiers had killed an unknown number of civilians in Axum, an ancient city in northern Ethiopia. It said the killings were in retaliation for an earlier attack by TPLF soldiers.Amnesty said Eritrean soldiers executed men and boys in the streets and engaged in extensive looting.Blinken noted Ethiopian commitments to full accountability, including international support for investigations into human rights abuses and to allowing unhindered humanitarian access.”The immediate withdrawal of Eritrean forces and Amhara regional forces from Tigray are essential first steps,” Blinken said.”They should be accompanied by unilateral declarations of cessation of hostilities by all parties to the conflict and a commitment to permit unhindered delivery of assistance to those in Tigray.”

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February 28th, 2021 by Vbiz

Lisa Curtis, former senior National Security Council official under the Trump administration, now director of the Indo-Pacific Security Program at the Center for a New American Security (CNAS), and Michael Kugelman, senior associate for South Asia at The Wilson Center, discuss with host Carol Castiel the current state of play in Afghanistan where the Biden administration may consider extending a May 2021 deadline for US troop withdrawal given continued violence from the Taliban, among other stabilizing measures in consultation with NATO allies.

Posted in Бізнес, Нерухомість, Новини, Фінанси

February 27th, 2021 by Vbiz

Somali officials on Saturday issued the country’s first license to a mobile money service, bringing regulation to the widely used digital payment process for the first time.The Central Bank of Somalia awarded the license to the country’s largest telecommunications provider, Hormuud Telecom, which runs the Electronic Voucher Card or EVCPlus, a free mobile money service used by 3 million of its 3.6 million subscribers in the Horn of Africa country.The use and circulation of Somali banknotes has been dwindling because of the absence of central monetary policies and because little new paper currency has been printed. But private businesses have nonetheless flourished in Somalia, where unregulated mobile money is extensively used for most buying, selling and transfers.Mobile money services emerged 10 years ago but were never regulated. The new regulation formalizes digital transactions as the primary payment method within the country and will enable further integration of the Somali financial system with the international financial system, officials said.The license was issued by the governor of the Central Bank of Somalia, Abdirahman Mohamed Abdullahi, on Saturday in Mogadishu.“We have developed a robust regulation, and based on that we have issued the first license of its kind in the country today,” Abdullahi told VOA Somali.“This has huge significance. I cannot express in words how important this is.”Easy to accessAbdullahi said the mobile money service is the preferred choice of Somalis because there is a low bar for accessing it.“For the mobile money, you can actually buy a mobile phone, SIM card and then register yourself and start using right away, starting from one dollar or half a dollar or whatever amount you want, whether you want to deposit it, make payments from the convenience of your home or transfer money,” he said.Hormuud Telecom said it was delighted to receive the first license.“The news today cements what we’ve known for a long time — that Somalia is moving towards being the world’s first truly cashless economy,” said company CEO Ahmed Mohamud Yusuf. “This issuing of a mobile money license for the first time is arguably one of the most important steps taken by Somalia since the end of the war.”An estimated 155 million mobile money transactions, amounting to about $2.7 billion a month in Somalia, were reported by the World Bank in 2018. At the time, the World Bank praised mobile money platforms for “immensely” easing transactions and providing opportunities for economic growth but raised red flags about “plausible fiscal risks” in the event of disruption to mobile money platforms. It also said the platform’s lack of regulation caused serious macroeconomic effects.The Somali shilling has had severe devaluation over past decades because administrations and businesses increasingly preferred using U.S. dollars. Today, one U.S. dollar is worth 25,000 Somali shillings, about the value of one kilogram of rice.EVCPlus recognizes both Somali and U.S. dollars but operates on dollars only because the economy of Somalia is being dollarized due to devaluation. This devaluation hits the poorest Somalis hardest, particularly those who don’t receive dollar earnings or remittances from relatives living abroad. 

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February 27th, 2021 by Vbiz

Hundreds of people in Bangladesh took part Saturday in a second day of demonstrations sparked by the death of a writer at a high-security prison in a case that has drawn international concern.Protesters marched at the University of Dhaka chanting slogans condemning the government’s treatment of Mushtaq Ahmed as well as other dissident writers, journalists and activists.Another protest was staged at the National Press Club.Demonstrators demanded the scrapping of Bangladesh’s hardline Digital Security Act (DSA) under which Ahmed was imprisoned. The law has been used to crack down on dissent since it was enacted in 2018.Security forces clashed with students in Dhaka on Friday night. Police said six people were arrested while activists said at least 30 were injured.Ahmed collapsed and died at Kashimpur High Security Prison late Thursday. He was first detained in May after criticizing on Facebook the government’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic.The 53-year-old, a crocodile farmer and a writer known for his satirical style, was charged with spreading rumors and conducting “anti-state activities.”Protesters have called his death a “custodial murder” after he was denied bail six times in 10 months.”Mushtaq Ahmed’s death was not a normal death. We’ll say it was a murder,” said Manisha Chakraborty, a protester with a left-wing group.Demonstrators said they would march to the office of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina carrying a coffin later Saturday.Facing international questions on the case, authorities have ordered a probe into Ahmed’s death, senior government official S.M. Tarikul Islam told AFP.”We formed a committee to probe whether there was negligence by jail officials or procedures in his treatment,” Islam said.Thirteen ambassadors from countries including the United States, France, Britain, Canada and Germany have expressed “grave concern.””We call on the government of Bangladesh to conduct a swift, transparent and independent inquiry into the full circumstances of Mr. Mushtaq Ahmed’s death,” the ambassadors said in a statement released late Friday.They said their countries would be following up over “wider concerns about the provisions and implementation of the DSA, as well as questions about its compatibility with Bangladesh’s obligations under international human rights laws and standards.”Rights groups have also raised concerns about the case.The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) called for “a swift, transparent and independent investigation”, while PEN America said authorities should drop charges against Kabir Kishore, a cartoonist who was detained along with Ahmed.The CPJ said Kishore passed a note to his brother during a hearing this week stating that he had been subjected to severe physical abuse in police custody. 

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February 27th, 2021 by Vbiz

Issues in the News moderator Dan Raviv talks with panelists Linda Feldmann, Washington Bureau Chief for the Christian Science Monitor and Tom DeFrank, Contributing Editor to the National Journal, about US President Joe Biden’s recent foreign policy initiatives, including his recent virtual summit with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and reviving talks with European allies over Iran’s nuclear program, among other major stories dominating the US political landscape.

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February 26th, 2021 by Vbiz

Violet light bathed the club stage as 300 people, masked and socially distanced, erupted in gentle applause. For the first time since the pandemic began, Israeli musician Aviv Geffen stepped to his electric piano and began to play for an audience seated right in front of him.“A miracle is happening here tonight,” Geffen told the crowd.Still, the reanimating experience Monday night above a shopping mall north of Tel Aviv night was not accessible to everyone. Only people displaying a “green passport” that proved they had been vaccinated or had recovered from COVID-19 could get in.The highly controlled concert offered a glimpse of a future that many are longing for after months of COVID-19 restrictions. Governments say getting vaccinated and having proper documentation will smooth the way to travel, entertainment and other social gatherings in a post-pandemic world.But it also raises the prospect of further dividing the world along the lines of wealth and vaccine access, creating ethical and logistical issues that have alarmed decision-makers around the world.’Left behind’Other governments are watching Israel churn through the world’s fastest vaccination program and grapple with the ethics of using the shots as diplomatic currency and power.Inside Israel, green passports or badges obtained through an app are the coin of the realm. The country recently reached agreements with Greece and Cyprus to recognize each other’s green badges, and more such tourism-boosting accords are expected.Anyone unwilling or unable to get the jabs that confer immunity will be “left behind,” said Health Minister Yuli Edelstein.“It’s really the only way forward at the moment,” Geffen said in an interview with The Associated Press.The checks at the club’s doors, which admitted only those who could prove they are fully vaccinated, allowed at least a semblance of normality.“People can’t live their lives in the new world without them,” he said. “We must take the vaccines. We must.”The vaccine is not available to everyone in the world, whether due to supply or cost. And some people don’t want it, for religious or other reasons. In Israel, a country of 9.3 million people, only about half the adult population has received the required two doses.There is new pressure from the government to encourage vaccinations. Israeli lawmakers on Wednesday passed a law allowing the Health Ministry to disclose information on people who have yet to be vaccinated. Under the policy, names can be released to the ministries of education, labor, social affairs and social services, as well as local governments, “with the purpose of allowing these bodies to encourage people to get vaccinated.”The government is appealing to the emotional longing for the company of others — in Israel’s storied outdoor markets, at concerts like Geffen’s, and elsewhere.“With the Green Pass, doors just open for you. You could go out to restaurants, work out at the gym, see a show,” read an announcement on Feb. 21, the day much of the economy reopened after a six-week shutdown.Then it raised a question at the center of the global quest to conquer the pandemic that has hobbled economies and killed nearly 2.5 million people: “How to get the pass? Go and get vaccinated right now.”Fraught ethical landscapeIt’s that simple in Israel, which has enough vaccine to inoculate everyone over 16, although the government has been criticized for sharing only tiny quantities with Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and Gaza.Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said this week he intends to send excess vaccine to some of the country’s allies. Israel’s attorney general said Thursday night the plan has been frozen while he reviews the legalities.Most countries don’t have enough vaccine, highlighting the fraught ethical landscape of who can get it and how to lift the burden of COVID-19.“The core human rights principle is equity and nondiscrimination,” said Lawrence Gostin, a Georgetown University professor and director of the World Health Organization Collaborating Center on National and Global Health Law.“There’s a huge moral crisis in equity globally because in high-income countries like Israel or the United States or the EU countries, we’re likely to get to herd immunity by the end of this year,” he said. “But for many low-income countries, most people won’t be vaccinated for many years. Do we really want to give priority to people who already have so many privileges?”It’s a question dogging the international community as wealthier countries begin to gain traction against the coronavirus and some of its variants.Last April, the initiative known as COVAX was formed by the WHO, with the initial goal of getting vaccines to poor countries at roughly the same time shots were being rolled out in rich countries. It has missed that target, and 80% of the 210 million doses administered worldwide have been given in only 10 countries, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said this week.Ghana on Wednesday became the first of 92 countries to get vaccines for free through the initiative. COVAX announced that about 600,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine arrived in the African nation. That’s a fraction of the 2 billion shots the WHO aims to deliver this year.As those countries begin vaccinations, wealthier nations are starting to talk about “green passport” logistics, security, privacy and policy.The British government said it is studying the possibility of issuing some kind of “COVID status certification” that could be used by employers and organizers of large events as it prepares to ease lockdown restrictions this year.Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the policy could cause problems.“We can’t be discriminatory against people who, for whatever reason, can’t have the vaccine,” he said.Many countries around Europe are scrambling to develop their own vaccine certification systems to help revive summer travel, generating a risk that different systems won’t work properly across the continent’s borders.“I think there is huge potential for not working well together,” said Andrew Bud, CEO of facial biometrics company iProov, which is testing its digital vaccination passport technology within the U.K.’s National Health Service.But the technical knots around vaccine passports may be the easier ones to solve, he said.The bigger challenges “are principally ethical, social, political and legal. How to balance the fundamental rights of citizens … with the benefits to society.”  

Posted in Бізнес, Нерухомість, Новини, Фінанси

February 26th, 2021 by Vbiz

According to data from the United Nations, Africa’s Sahel countries have the highest rate of child marriage in the world, with more than half of all girls being married before the age of 18.Viviane Sawadogo, whose name has been changed to protect her identity, lives in Burkina Faso. Her family forced her into marriage at age 12.  She had been promised from birth to the man’s family in exchange for a child bride his family had given to hers some years earlier.But her husband was a man in his 50s who already had four wives, and Sawadogo decided to escape what she described as a curse.One morning, she said, she left the house and walked from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m., covering more than 30 kilometers. But she was caught and taken back to the house, feeling completely devastated. She said she was determined not to give up, however, and made another attempt. That night she walked more than 40 kilometers before finding a bus which allowed her to escape.After her escape, she found refuge in a center set up by a church for girls fleeing child marriage. She lived there for 10 years and was able to continue her education.Sawadogo is now a 22-year-old university student. She has left the center but returns regularly to mentor younger girls, like one who also escaped through the bush alone and whose name is being withheld.The 12-year-old said she left the man she had been given to because she didn’t love him and because he already had three wives and children. She has been living at the center for a few months, where she is clothed, fed and also able to attend school, something she said makes her very happy.Cultural practices like “gifting” daughters to other families are common in the Sahel, as is the kidnapping of young girls for marriage.Nonprofit groups like Save the Children are working to eliminate child marriage but say financial support and empowerment of the girls is an essential part of stopping it.Toumani Sale Issoufou works on the issue for Save the Children in Burkina Faso.He said they believe the reason the girls are given up for marriage is because the parents think they do not have the means to support them within the family. When a girl is given in marriage, “We have to find a way to empower her,” he added.Save the Children provides cash to families to ensure girls continue their education and also helps train the girls so they can get jobs.Meanwhile, Burkina Faso’s government says careful monitoring by citizens is also essential to prevent child marriage.Soumaila Sako from Burkina Faso’s Ministry for Women, Families and Humanitarian Affairs said the country has set up more than 800 watch cells in at least 872 villages to report child marriages to authorities and has sensitized more than 4 million people on the phenomenon of child marriage.But it is an uphill battle. Sister Véronique Kansono, the nun who runs the refuge center for girls, said the conflict raging across the Sahel since 2012 has only made matters worse.This week alone, she said, the center welcomed four girls. There are other weeks when six arrive, which she said is too much. There are already 110 girls living at the center. She’s surprised the numbers have gotten worse, rather than decreasing.Despite the obstacles, Sawadogo said, escaping child marriage is vital. Had she not escaped, she said, her life would be miserable.      

Posted in Бізнес, Нерухомість, Новини, Фінанси

February 25th, 2021 by Vbiz

Katherine Tai, President Joe Biden’s nominee for U.S. trade representative, will vow to U.S. senators that she will work to strengthen U.S. supply chains, enforce a new trade deal with Canada and Mexico, and hold China to its trade promises.In written testimony prepared for her confirmation hearing before the Senate Finance Committee on Thursday, Tai underscored the Biden administration’s determination to pursue new, longer-term trade policies to focus on “workers and wage earners,” support U.S. innovation and enhance U.S. competitiveness abroad.As the trade “czar” for the world’s largest economy, biggest importer of goods and second-largest exporter after China, Tai would wield immense clout.If confirmed, as expected, Tai faces a long list of challenges, including a push by allies who want Washington to rescind tariffs imposed by former President Donald Trump on steel and aluminum, aircraft and wine.Tai, the top trade lawyer for the House Ways and Means Committee and a fluent Mandarin speaker, said it was critically important that the United States have a strategic, coherent plan to deal with China and help U.S. companies compete with its model of “state-directed economics.”Rebuilding alliancesIn her testimony, Tai said she would prioritize rebuilding U.S. alliances and re-engaging with international institutions, to better address common threats like climate change, the COVID-19 pandemic and a global economic downturn, while investing to make the U.S. economy more resilient.”China is simultaneously a rival, a trade partner, and an outsized player whose cooperation we’ll also need to address certain global challenges,” she said in the prepared testimony, which was seen by Reuters.”We must remember how to walk, chew gum and play chess at the same time,” she said.Tai’s testimony has been eagerly awaited for months by industry, U.S. trading partners from Beijing to Brussels, labor groups and lawmakers — all in a long queue to lobby her as soon as she is confirmed.Tai said she would make it a priority to implement and enforce the U.S.-Mexico-Canada trade agreement that she helped renegotiate in 2019 to include tougher labor and environmental standards. She said that the deal marked an “important step in reforming our approach to trade” and that its success was vital. 

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February 24th, 2021 by Vbiz

The European Union has imposed sanctions on four Russian officials following the jailing of opposition leader Alexey Navalny. As Henry Ridgwell reports, supporters of Navalny want the EU to go much further — and sanction close allies of Russian President Vladimir Putin.Camera: Henry Ridgwell 

Posted in Бізнес, Нерухомість, Новини, Фінанси

February 23rd, 2021 by Vbiz

With close to half of Israel’s population vaccinated with at least one dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, Israel’s Health Ministry is reporting even better results than Pfizer’s clinical trials. Israel, which leads the world in its percentage of the population vaccinated, is sharing its medical results with Pfizer. The good news comes as much of the Israeli economy reopened over the weekend. Linda Gradstein reports for VOA from Jerusalem.Camera: Ricki Rosen  
 

Posted in Бізнес, Нерухомість, Новини, Фінанси

February 22nd, 2021 by Vbiz

VOA Connect Episode 162 – Bringing art to a community, helping sexual assault survivors and weekly cookouts to help the less fortunate.   

Posted in Бізнес, Нерухомість, Новини, Фінанси

February 22nd, 2021 by Vbiz

Two South African medics are swapping their medical gear for oars as they train for a risky 4,000-kilometer (2,500-mile) journey by rowboat through the Arctic Northwest Passage.  If the 14-member team finishes the trip, across the north of Canada to Alaska, they will make history as all attempts to row the icy waters have failed. Franco Puglisi reports from Johannesburg. Camera: Franco Puglisi 

Posted in Бізнес, Нерухомість, Новини, Фінанси

February 20th, 2021 by Vbiz

John Fortier, resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and Jim Kessler, senior vice president for policy at Third Way, spar over the political fallout from former President Donald Trump’s second impeachment trial in which he was acquitted of the charge of “incitement of insurrection.” They also discuss the growing rift within the Republican Party and prospects for passing Covid relief legislation with host Carol Castiel.

Posted in Бізнес, Нерухомість, Новини, Фінанси

February 20th, 2021 by Vbiz

Issues in the News moderator Shayna Estulin discusses the wide-ranging political fallout from former President Donald Trump’s second impeachment trial and challenges facing President Joe Biden as he urges Congress to swiftly pass his comprehensive Covid relief package, and much more with panelists Jonathan Broder, Contributing Editor at Congressional Quarterly and Ashraf Khalil, Washington, D.C. Metro Reporter for the Associated Press.

Posted in Бізнес, Нерухомість, Новини, Фінанси

February 20th, 2021 by Vbiz

Algeria released more than 30 pro-democracy activists from jail on Friday, including a prominent journalist, in the first batch freed under presidential pardons issued ahead of the second anniversary of a popular uprising.President Abdelmadjid Tebboune declared in a speech Thursday dozens of pardons in a gesture of appeasement as the Hirak protest movement, which swept former strongman Abdelaziz Bouteflika from power in 2019, gathers momentum once again.”So far 33 people have been released. Procedures are under way for the rest,” the justice ministry said in a statement.Tebboune’s initiative comes ahead of the Hirak’s second anniversary on February 22, with calls on social media for demonstrations on Monday to mark the day.Algeria is facing political and economic crises, with the coronavirus pandemic adding to the woes of an oil-dependent economy.Journalist releasedAmong those pardoned was prominent journalist Khalid Drareni, 40, who walked out of the Kolea prison on Friday, his lawyer Abdelghani Badi said, adding however, that his release was provisional.A huge crowd of well-wishers greeted Drareni, a correspondent for French-language TV5 Monde and press freedom watchdog Reporters Without Borders (RSF).He was sentenced in August to three years in jail for his coverage of the Hirak protest movement. In September, his sentenced was reduced by a year, though his supporters remained outraged it hadn’t been scrapped entirely.”I thank all those who supported me and prisoners of conscience. Your support is an essential proof of our innocence,” Drareni said in a video posted on Twitter after his release.Ahmed Benchemsi, Human Rights Watch regional communications director, said Drareni “shouldn’t have spent one minute in prison. He was only doing his job,” in a Twitter post.RSF Secretary-General Christophe Deloire called it a step “in the right direction” after “11 months of injustice.”‘People must be sovereign’Relatives of prisoners and journalists had gathered outside the Kolea prison, west of the capital Algiers, from the early hours of the morning.Pictures and videos posted online showed former detainees reuniting with friends and family in several parts of Algeria.According to the National Committee for the Liberation of Prisoners (CNLD) around 70 people are in prison over their links with the Hirak or other peaceful opposition political activity.Tebboune said that around 55 to 60 Hirak members would benefit from the amnesty.Drareni is still waiting for the Supreme Court to rule on his appeal on February 25, according to lawyer and rights activists Mostefa Bouchachi.Also released on Friday was opposition figure and businessman Rachid Nekkaz, 47, who had been detained since December 2019 and accused of incitement, according to the CNLD.Nekkaz was held at the El Bayadh prison, in the country’s southwest, where earlier on Friday he started a hunger strike to protest his detention, relatives and friends said.Hirak activist Dalila Touat, who had been on hunger strike in prison since January 3, was also released Friday.”We hope that the amnesty will be a first step towards a real political transition in which the people will be sovereign,” Badi told AFP, as he waited outside Kolea prison for the release of his client, Drareni.’Far from enough’The unprecedented Hirak protest movement, demanding a sweeping overhaul of the ruling system in place since Algeria’s independence from France in 1962, only suspended its rallies in March last year amid coronavirus restrictions.On Tuesday, thousands of Algerians rallied in the northern town of Kherrata, where the first major protest erupted in 2019 against Bouteflika’s bid for a fifth presidential term.On Friday, usually the day of Hirak marches, police deployed in large numbers in central Algiers.”Algerians will continue to demonstrate peacefully to put pressure on the system so that it really changes,” Bouchachi said.Tebboune on Thursday also announced early elections, calling for the dissolution of parliament and declaring a government reshuffle within 48 hours.Legislative elections had been scheduled to be held in 2022, but Tebboune wants early polls to take place before year’s end.But activists and other Algerians said elections alone were not enough.”Democracy is not limited to elections but to the exercise of democratic freedoms,” said Said Salhi, from the Algerian League for Human Rights.”The Hirak calls for a change of the system through an authentic and open democratic process.”Taxi driver Mussa Abdelli agreed: “The people are not satisfied by the government’s decisions. We want to build an independent and free nation and the pardon is far from enough.”

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February 19th, 2021 by Vbiz

The United States says it is ready to talk to Iran about the possibility of reviving a 2015 agreement intended to prevent Tehran from developing nuclear weapons. Former U.S. President Donald Trump abandoned the deal nearly three years ago. VOA’s Penny Dixon has more.
Producer: Rod James

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February 16th, 2021 by Vbiz

Fake news about the coronavirus can do real harm. Polygraph.info is spotlighting fact-checks from other reliable sources here​.Daily DebunkClaim: The World Health Organization changed COVID-19 testing guidelines; one PCR test is not enough to diagnose COVID-19.Verdict: FalseRead the full story at: USA TodaySocial Media DisinfoScreenshot Circulating on social media: Video asking “25 questions about the pandemic.”Verdict: FalseRead the full story at: Reuters Factual Reads on CoronavirusIs It Safe to Delay a Second COVID Vaccine Dose?
Some evidence indicates that short waits are safe, but there is a chance that partial immunization could help risky new coronavirus variants to develop.
— Scientific American, February 10Covid-19 cases are falling in the U.S. It could be a calm before a variant-driven storm
Experts fear the decline might just be temporary.
— Stat, February 10

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February 15th, 2021 by Vbiz

Crowds of seals lie on the sand, some wriggling towards the water, on the northern French coast where they are staging a comeback. Drone images show around 250 wild grey seals, adults and cubs, frolicking at low tide near the town of Marck. Seals started to disappear from the Cote d’Opale in the 1970s, under pressure from fishermen who saw them as rivals for their catch. Seals, which have no natural predators in the English Channel, have been a protected species in France since the 1980s and as a result they have begun to return to the coast. Rescued grey seal cubs wait for fish during their quarantine at LPA animal refuge in Calais, France, Feb. 13, 2021.”At low tide, they settle here to get fat, to rest and to prepare for their upcoming hunt at sea,” seal enthusiast Jerome Gressier told Reuters. According to a 2018 report of the Hauts-de-France region’s Eco-Phoques project, at least 1,100 seals now live in the area. In the region’s Baie de Somme, harbor seal numbers grew by 14.4% between 1990 and 2017, while grey seals rose by 20%, the study found. Gressier uses a long-focus lens to identify injured seals. “It allows us to see if there are any animals who are caught in nets,” he said. “It hurts them enormously if they are caught by the neck.” Injured seals are treated at a nearby animal rescue center in Calais. Center manager Christel Gressier says many of the animals they deal with are seals, some abandoned by their mothers. “At around three weeks, the mother will quickly teach it to hunt, but if the seal is not able to manage, or do it quickly enough, she leaves and she goes about her business,” she said. “It is at this moment that we can intervene for seals that would not have been able to adapt quickly enough.” 
 

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February 14th, 2021 by Vbiz

U.S.-backed Syrian forces have handed over nearly 100 alleged Islamic State fighters held in Syria to the Iraqi government, a local official told VOA.  The senior official with the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), who requested anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue, said the transfer took place last week at a border crossing between Syria and Iraq.The transferred individuals were all Iraqi nationals who had been held in SDF-run detention centers in northeast Syria, the SDF official added.    Iraqi military spokesman Yahya Rasool did not respond to a VOA request for comment about this matter, but an Iraqi security source confirmed to the French news agency on Sunday that Iraqi detainees were received by Iraqi authorities from Syrian Kurdish forces.   The SDF, a Kurdish-led military alliance, says it currently holds more than 10,000 IS fighters, including about 2,000 foreign nationals. Most of them were captured following the 2019 U.S.-led campaign that destroyed IS’s so-called caliphate in eastern Syria.There are also 70,000 people, mostly families of IS fighters or sympathizers of the terror group, held in al-Hol Camp and other detention camps in northeast Syria. The SDF says the detainees come from some 60 countries.     There are still 1,600 Iraqi nationals detained in northeastern Syria for their affiliation with IS, the United Nations said in a report released this month.Calls for repatriation  SDF officials have been calling on countries to take back their detained citizens, warning that they do not have enough resources to keep IS prisoners and their families indefinitely, especially during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.While most governments have not responded to these calls, several countries including the United States, France, Germany, Britain, Finland, and others in Central Asia, have repatriated some of their citizens.Vladimir Voronkov, head of the U.N. Office of Counterterrorism, also urged countries to repatriate the women and children held in Syria.The “challenges and risks are growing more serious with neglect, and could have a long-term impact not just in the region but globally,” he told the U.N. Security Council last week, noting that the international community has made “hardly any progress” in addressing the issue of the children and women with suspected links to IS.  U.N. experts say conditions have turned dire at al-Hol and other camps in northeast Syria, warning about the risk of serious diseases among the refugee population.  Violence in al-Hol has increased in recent weeks. Since the beginning of 2021, more than a dozen camp residents reportedly have been killed, most of them Iraqi nationals.  The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says the deaths are linked to a growing IS activity inside the camp.  VOA’s Kurdish Service’s Zana Omar contributed to this report from Qamishli, Syria. Zana Omar in Qamishli, Syria contributed to this report.

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February 14th, 2021 by Vbiz

On this edition of “VOA Encounter” – East Africa – from Kenya north to Somalia, Ethiopia, South Sudan, and Sudan has been wracked for years by insurgent and inter-political violence. Added to that volatility is Muslim extremism such as al-Shabaab and separatist forces such as in Ethiopia’s Tigray region. Soufan Center and former RAND terrorism expert Colin Clarke and Kenyatta University/Nairobi analyst Xavier Francis Ichani discuss the state of East Africa and the best role for the U.S. Africa Command in bringing peace to the region.

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February 13th, 2021 by Vbiz

Zimbabwe’s government is urging citizens to take part in a free, voluntary COVID-19 vaccination program starting “immediately,” now that the country has received 200,000 doses donated by China. But some citizens remain skeptical.Zimbabwe College of Public Health Physicians welcomed the government’s three-phase inoculation program, which starts with frontline workers at high risk of infection – such as doctors and nurses – and will be followed by those with chronic diseases, the elderly and the prison population. The second phase is for those at medium risk, and the third phase covers everyone else willing to be vaccinated.Dr. Nyika Mahachi of the physicians college said he hoped there wouldn’t be any deviation from the program.Efficacy questionsSome health experts have questioned the efficacy of the Sinopharm product. Mahachi said nevertheless that “while we are in an emergency situation, while even the efficacy [of the Sinopharm and Sputnik V vaccines] is not known,” it was important “for us to be at least vaccinating the population. The other concern around these two vaccines is obviously their effectiveness against the South African-originating variant. We are expecting that the country benefits from the COVAX facility as well as the African Union facility so that we also have other known vaccines that have clear data.”On television Friday night, Zimbabwe’s deputy health minister, Dr. John Mangwiro, said that to reduce COVID-19 infections and deaths – which as of Saturday were at 35,045 and 1,393, respectively, according to the Johns Hopkins University Coronavirus Resource Center in the U.S. — the government was introducing the voluntary, free-of-charge COVID-19 vaccinations.“The Sinopharm vaccine, which has proven to be effective in clinical trials and has efficacy rate ranging from 76% and 86%, has already been used by other countries in controlling COVID-19,” he said. “The government is in advanced negotiations to acquire the Sputnik V vaccine from Russia, which is also effective against COVID-19.”In addition, the country is also pursuing global and regional facilities to secure more vaccines to cover all eligible people. May I conclude by encouraging all eligible people in the country to take up the vaccine when their turn comes.”Some have doubtsIt might be a long while before some Zimbabweans comply. One of the reluctant ones is Mufaro Mutsigiri, 53.“We prefer to live the way we were living because, if I am vaccinated, does that stop the spread?” Mutsigiri asked. “Or will people die? Answers aren’t said out!”Some of the reasons are not scientific, though, as in the case of Dillion Machingura.”The thing is, there have been rumors about people who have been taking the vaccine … so I am not sure if it is safe to take it or not,” Machingura said.But others are eagerly waiting for it, such as Edwin Nyambuya. “I will take that vaccine,” he said. “I think it’s effective. The disease COVID-19 started in China. It has been used there and it’s proving to work. So, I believe it works.”Zimbabwe’s government says it plans to immunize 60% of its estimated population of 14 million in the hope of achieving herd immunity.  

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February 13th, 2021 by Vbiz

Issues in the News moderator Michael Williams discusses the top news stories of the week, including the historic second impeachment trial of former President Donald J. Trump which began with a film prepared by House impeachment managers that showed details of the January 6th attack on the U.S. Capitol, with panelists Emily Tamkin, U.S. editor for the New Statesman and Kimberly Adams, correspondent for Marketplace.

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February 12th, 2021 by Vbiz

A warning by the World Health Organization that the COVID-19 pandemic could harm efforts to eradicate malaria appears to be coming true in Nigeria. Nigerian officials say people are refusing to get treatment for fear of catching the virus at a clinic.Fatima Mohammed is in her home at a camp for displaced people in Abuja, tending to her two sons who are currently down with malaria.She says she’s can’t afford huge hospital bills and is afraid that taking them to the hospital could potentially expose them to COVID-19 or result in a misdiagnosis.”I don’t have money to take them to the hospital — and, again, at the hospital, they’ll easily call it coronavirus,” she said. “I don’t have money for that.”Malaria and COVID-19 present similar symptoms, but fear and stigma attached to the pandemic are reasons many like Fatima are seeking alternatives to hospital treatment.Health experts say in-hospital visits for malaria declined significantly in Nigeria since reporting the coronavirus in February 2020.The World Health Organization’s World malaria report 2020 suggested the pandemic is threatening years of progress made against malaria and warned that death rates from the mosquito-borne disease could double.WHO malaria consultant Lynda Ozor says disruption of preventive measures is to blame.”The use of long-lasting insecticidal nets, seasonal malaria chemo prevention and prevention of malaria in pregnancy were interrupted,” she said. “So, assuming all these preventive interventions were interrupted, then it was expected, and the model shows that there will be very negative effects.”Nigeria accounts for about a quarter of malaria cases worldwide, and about 23% of deaths globally.Even before COVID-19 hit, many Nigerians took malaria less seriously, says Adeboyega Adeyogo, who heads pharmaceutical operations at WellaHealth, a Nigerian health company focusing on eliminating malaria.”Due to advances in health and technology, many people resolve malaria within days,” Adeyogo said. “So, you see that many Nigerians now take it with a lot of levity because of the ease of treatment. But if they decide to avoid it, then it becomes a major issue and you now start seeing the serious complications associated with malaria.”Nigeria’s National Malaria Elimination Program planned to provide 31 million people with free mosquito nets, anti-malaria drugs and malaria testing last year. But disruptions caused by COVID-19 meant they reached only half of their goal.That has increased concern that malaria, along with COVID-19, will remain a threat to Nigerians for years to come.

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February 11th, 2021 by Vbiz

It’s a busy time on the Red Planet as three Mars missions from three countries converge on their target.  Plus, there’s money to be made on what space drops on our planet.  VOA’s Arash Arabasadi has the Week in Space.Camera: NASA/Reuters/AP/CCTVProduced by: Arash Arabasadi  

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February 10th, 2021 by Vbiz

The historic second impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump started in the U.S. Senate Tuesday. Senators will have to decide if Trump incited the deadly insurrection at the U.S. Capitol a month ago by urging his supporters to confront lawmakers as they were certifying that Democrat Joe Biden had defeated Trump in the 2020 election. VOA’s congressional correspondent Katherine Gypson has more.Camera: Mike Burke   

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February 10th, 2021 by Vbiz

A weekly newspaper run by a team of female journalists is thriving in Afghanistan’s northern Balkh province, despite threats against journalists in parts of the country. Gulrahim Niazman from VOA’s Afghan service has more in the report narrated by Bezhan Hamdard.
Camera: Gul Rahim Niazman Produced by: Gul Rahim Niazman
 

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February 8th, 2021 by Vbiz

Asian markets soared Monday as investors are increasingly optimistic about the chance of U.S. lawmakers approving a massive coronavirus recovery bill, and recent strong corporate earnings reports.  Japan’s benchmark Nikkei index finished 2.1% higher.  The S&P/ASX index in Australia rose 0.5%.  Shanghai’s Composite index gained just over one percent, and Taiwan’s TSEC index was up 0.6%.   Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index was up 0.2% in late afternoon trading, while Mumbai’s Sensex is 1.2% higher.  South Korea’s KOSPI index closed down 0.9%. In commodities trading, gold is selling at $1,810.80 an ounce, down 0.1%.  U.S. crude oil is selling at $57.51 per barrel, up 1.1%, and Brent crude oil is up 1.2%, selling at $60.07 per barrel.   All three major U.S. indices are trending higher in futures trading.   

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February 7th, 2021 by Vbiz

President Joe Biden has introduced immigration reform legislation that would reverse many of former President Donald Trump’s restrictive measures. Ali Noorani, President & CEO, National Immigration Forum and Lora Ries, senior research fellow in homeland security, The Heritage Foundation spar over the merits of President Biden’s immigration reform proposal with host Carol Castiel.

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February 6th, 2021 by Vbiz

Issues in the News moderator Dan Raviv discusses the top news stories of the week, including 
US health officials say they are concerned about variants of COVID-19 and are working to speed up the vaccination process, with panelists Josh Glancy, Washington Bureau Chief for the Sunday Times, Abderrahim Foukara, Al Jazeera’s Regional Director for the Americas.

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February 5th, 2021 by Vbiz

Meet Janessa Ford!  A first grade teacher who balances teaching her students remotely while overseeing her own kindergartner’s online studies.  Reporter/Camera:  Lisa Vohra 

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February 5th, 2021 by Vbiz

A Virginia entrepreneur blends her state’s famous peanuts with her own culinary heritage. Learn how she got started and how her business has grown across the U.S.  Reporter/Camera:  June Soh

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February 3rd, 2021 by Vbiz

The United States on Tuesday condemned a Russian court’s decision to sentence the Kremlin’s most outspoken critic, Alexei Navalny, to 3.5 years in prison. State Department officials says the U.S. is reviewing what actions it will take in the matter. VOA’s Jesusemen Oni has more.

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February 1st, 2021 by Vbiz

Thousands of ultra-Orthodox Israelis thronged a pair of funerals for two prominent rabbis in Jerusalem on Sunday, flouting the country’s ban on large public gatherings during the pandemic.  The initial funeral procession, for Rabbi Meshulam Soloveitchik, who died at age 99, wended its way through the streets of Jerusalem in the latest display of ultra-Orthodox Israelis’ refusal to honor coronavirus restrictions.  The phenomenon has undermined the country’s aggressive vaccination campaign to bring a raging outbreak under control and threatened to hurt Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in March elections. Two challengers accused Netanyahu of failing to enforce the law due to political pressure from his ultra-Orthodox political allies. Densely packed throngs of people gathered outside the rabbi’s home, ignoring restrictions on outdoor gatherings of more than 10 people. Many did not wear masks.  Thousands of black-garbed ultra-Orthodox funeral-goers coursed past the city’s main entrance toward the cemetery where Soloveitchik was to be buried. A handful of police officers blocked intersections to traffic to allow participants to pass but appeared to take no action to prevent the illegal assembly. Israeli media said Soloveitchik, a leading religious scholar who headed several well-known seminaries, had recently suffered from COVID-19.Thousands of ultra-Orthodox Jews participate in funeral for prominent rabbi Meshulam Soloveitchik, in Jerusalem, Jan. 31, 2021.Later Sunday, thousands of ultra-Orthodox mourners attended the funeral of another respected rabbi, Yitzhok Scheiner, once again flouting the lockdown rules. Scheiner, 98, also died from COVID-19, reports said. Alon Halfon, a Jerusalem police official, told Channel 13 TV that police had little choice but to allow the massive procession for Soloveitchik to proceed. He said police action had helped reduce the crowd size and that some 100 tickets were issued for health violations. But in such a densely packed environment, with children among the crowd, attempting to disperse the crowd would have been “unwise and dangerous.” Israel’s Health Ministry has recorded over 640,000 confirmed cases of the coronavirus and at least 4,745 deaths since the start of the pandemic.  Israel has recently been averaging over 6,000 confirmed cases of the coronavirus each day, one of the highest infection rates in the developing world. At the same time, Israel has vaccinated over 3 million of its citizens, also one of the highest rates per capita in the world. Health experts say it could take several weeks for the vaccination campaign to have an effect on infection and hospitalization rates. The Israeli Cabinet voted late Sunday to extend a nationwide lockdown until at least Friday, and possibly longer. The government imposed the movement restrictions and closure of schools and non-essential businesses last month in an effort to clamp down on Israel’s runaway pandemic.  The Cabinet also said a ban on virtually all incoming and outgoing air traffic would remain in effect another week. A disproportionate number of Israel’s coronavirus cases are within the country’s ultra-Orthodox minority. The strictly religious community, which makes up around 11% of Israel’s 9.2 million people, has been accounting for about 40% of the new cases. Many ultra-Orthodox sects have kept schools, seminaries and synagogues open, and held mass weddings and funerals in violation of lockdown restrictions that have closed schools and many businesses in other parts of the country. Recent weeks have seen violent clashes between members of the ultra-Orthodox community flouting the rules and police officers trying to enforce them.  Ultra-Orthodox leaders say they have been unfairly singled out and argue the country’s secular public does not understand the importance of public prayers and religious studies in their community. They claim the scofflaws are a small part of their diverse community and blame crowded living conditions for the outbreak. Netanyahu has long relied on ultra-Orthodox parties for support, and critics say he has refused to antagonize his allies ahead of critical elections. Without ultra-Orthodox support, it will be extremely difficult for Netanyahu to cobble together a governing coalition — especially as he seeks immunity from an ongoing corruption trial.  But there are signs that this alliance could become a liability due to widespread public anger over ultra-Orthodox behavior during the pandemic. A poll last week indicated that over 60% of Israelis do not want ultra-Orthodox parties to serve in the next coalition. Sunday’s funerals came a day after police used a water cannon to disperse anti-Netanyahu protesters near the prime minister’s residence. And Israeli media showed police aggressively handing out fines to people violating the lockdown in Tel Aviv, drawing accusations that police were following double standards. Gideon Saar, a right-wing Israeli politician challenging Netanyahu in the elections, criticized the prime minister on Twitter, saying “the pictures from Jerusalem prove that Netanyahu has given up on enforcing the law for political reasons. This won’t happen in a government headed by me. There will be one law for all and it will be enforced.” Another challenger, Yair Lapid, leader of a centrist party appealing to middle class secular voters, said in a speech in parliament that he had nothing against the ultra-Orthodox or their parties.  “I have a big problem with someone who thinks the law doesn’t apply to him,” he said. “The law is for everyone.” 

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February 1st, 2021 by Vbiz

Former U.S. President Donald Trump announced Sunday a new team of lawyers to lead his defense at his second impeachment trial. Defense lawyer David Schoen, a frequent television legal commentator, and Bruce Castor, a former district attorney in Pennsylvania who has faced criticism for his decision to not charge actor Bill Cosby in a sex crimes case, will represent Trump at the Senate trial that begins next week. In a statement issued through Trump’s office, both attorneys said Sunday they were honored to take the job. “The strength of our Constitution is about to be tested like never before in our history. It is strong and resilient. A document written for the ages, and it will triumph over partisanship yet again, and always,” Castor said.U.S. Capitol Police officers stand watch outside the Senate as lawmakers vote on procedures to proceed with the impeachment of former President Donald Trump for inciting the January 6, 2021.Two prominent South Carolina lawyers, Butch Bowers and Deborah Barbier, had been expected to be Trump’s lead lawyers.  The relationship unraveled due to differences over what legal strategy would be appropriate for the trial, including Trump’s insistence on alleging voter fraud, according to media reports citing people familiar with the matter. The former president is facing charges of “incitement of insurrection” in connection with the mob that invaded the U.S. Capitol on January 6. The House impeachment managers serving as prosecutors face a tough task in convincing at least 17 Republicans to vote to impeach Trump.  That is how many would be necessary to meet the threshold of two-thirds of the Senate, assuming all the Democratic caucus backs impeachment. Several Republicans have opposed the impeachment trial, arguing it is unconstitutional since Trump is already out of office. Trump is the first U.S. president to have been impeached twice. He was acquitted by the Senate a year ago on charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. 

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January 31st, 2021 by Vbiz

Daryl Johnson, former senior analyst at the Department of Homeland Security and author of “Hateland: A Long Hard Look at America’s Extremist Heart” and Jason Blazakis, Director of the Center on Terrorism, Extremism, and Counterterrorism at the Middlebury Institute of International studies and senior fellow at the Soufan Center, discuss with host Carol Castiel the roots of domestic terrorism, why it poses a major threat to US democracy and national security and how to combat it.

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