Russia says it registered the world’s first vaccine for animals against the COVID-19 virus on Wednesday — with government officials hailing an inoculation labeled ‘Carnivac-Cov’ as a victory in the global race to protect both animals and humans from further mutations of the coronavirus.“The clinical trials of Carnivac-Cov, which started last October, involved dogs, cats, Arctic foxes, minks, foxes and other animals,” said Konstantin Savenkov, Deputy Head of Rosselkhoznadzor, Russia’s agricultural watchdog agency, in a statement announcing the vaccine.“The results allow us to conclude that the vaccine is harmless and provides high immunity, in such as the animals who were tested developed antibodies to the coronavirus in 100% of cases,” added Savenkov.Savenkov added that the shot currently provided immunity of up to 6 months — and could be in production in the coming weeks.The Russian announcement came just a day after the World Health Organization issued a report exploring the origins of COVID-19 in China. The WHO study offered no firm conclusions but suggested the most likely source lay in animals — specifically, a bat.The U.S. has expressed reservations about what some US officials believe are the Chinese government’s efforts to skew the report’s findings.Studies have repeatedly documented select cases of COVID-19 infecting both domesticated and captive animals around the globe — including common household pets such as cats and dogs, as well as farmed mink and several animals in zoos.Mutation fearsScientists have raised concerns that the virus could subsequently mutate to other host animals — and eventually circulate back to humans.Last November, Denmark ordered the mass extermination of 15 million mink after a mutated variation of COVID-19 was discovered on more than 200 farms in the region.Danish officials noted the measure was grim necessity after a dozen people were found have been infected by a mutated COVID-19 strain.Rosselkhoznadzor’s Savenkov said the new Russian vaccine was intended primarily to protect household pets and farmed captive animals important to the global economy — as well as the humans in contact with them.“People and animals we live together on one planet and both are in contact with a great number of infections,” said Tatiana Galkina, a lead researcher behind Carnivac-Cov in a promotional video released to Youtube.“Of course in the future, we’re not insured against new viral infections. Therefore science should keep advancing and be a step ahead,” added Galkina, while petting a purring cat.Another video released to social media shows officials administering the vaccine to a plump white mink at a Russian fur farm.В России зарегистрировали первую в мире вакцину для животных от коронавируса
Препарат получил название «Карнивак-Ков». Клинические испытания препарата провели на кошках, собаках, песцах, норках, и лисах. В Россельхознадзоре даже показали, как прививают на примере норок pic.twitter.com/igQQZ38tIZ
— ФедералПресс (@FederalPress) March 31, 2021While the inoculation will face further peer review, Carnivac-Cov appears the latest example of Russia’s flexing its scientific muscle in the global race against the coronavirus pandemic.Last August, President Vladimir Putin claimed his nation was first to develop a vaccine against COVID-19 for humans with its Sputnik V inoculation. The announcement faced heavy skepticism for claiming a Russian victory before standard third phase trials had even begun.Subsequent international reviews later showed the Russian vaccine with an efficacy rate of over 90%.
Italian authorities said Wednesday they have arrested an Italian Navy captain on spying charges after he was allegedly caught giving classified documents to a Russian embassy official in exchange for money. The Foreign Ministry summoned the Russian ambassador, Sergey Razov, after the sting operation late Tuesday caught the two in what police said was a “clandestine operation” to exchange the goods. Italy’s Carabinieri paramilitary police said in a statement that the Italian official, who is a frigate captain, had been arrested. The Russian, a member of the Russian armed forces stationed at Moscow’s embassy to Italy, has been detained but his status is “under consideration” given his diplomatic position, the statement said. Italy’s special operations forces in Rome staged the operation “during a clandestine operation between the two, surprising them red-handed immediately after the handing over of classified documents by the Italian official in exchange for a sum of money,” the statement said. The Carabinieri said both were accused of “serious crimes concerning espionage and state security.” The Russian Embassy in Rome confirmed the detention of a diplomat who was part of the military attache’s office but wouldn’t comment on the incident. “In any case, we hope that it wouldn’t affect bilateral ties,” it said in a statement.
Germany has limited the use of the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine to people 60 years of age and older due to concerns that it may be causing blood clots. Federal and state health authorities cited nearly three-dozen cases of blood clots known as cerebral sinus vein thrombosis in its decision Tuesday, including nine deaths. The country’s medical regulator, the Paul Ehrlich Institute, says all but two of the cases involved women between the ages of 20 and 63. The nationwide order was made after several local governments, including Berlin, Munich and the states of Brandenburg and North Rhine-Westphalia, had already decided to limit the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine to older residents. Health authorities say younger people who belong to a high-risk category for serious illness from COVID-19 can still get the vaccine, while people 60 and younger who have received the first dose of the Oxford-AstraZeneca shot can still receive the second shot as planned. About 2.7 million Germans have been inoculated with the vaccine. The decision is likely to further slow down Germany’s already sluggish vaccination campaign, and marks another setback for the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, which has had a troubled rollout across the world. Several European countries had briefly stopped use of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine because of similar reports of blood clots, until the European Medicines Agency (EMA), the European Union’s drug approval body, declared the vaccine as safe.German Chancellor Angela Merkel, right, and Health Minister Jens Spahn brief the media after a virtual meeting with federal state governors at the chancellery in Berlin, Germany, March 30, 2021.Germany’s decision came a day after Canada said it would stop offering the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine to people under age 55 because of concerns of serious blood clots, especially among younger women. Also on Tuesday, the United States and 13 other nations issued a statement raising “shared concerns” about the newly released World Health Organization report on the origins of the virus that causes COVID-19. The statement, released on the U.S. State Department website, as well as the other signatories, said it was essential to express concerns that the international expert study on the source of the virus was significantly delayed and lacked access to complete, original data and samples. The WHO formally released its report earlier Tuesday, saying while the report presents a comprehensive review of available data, “we have not yet found the source of the virus.” The team reported difficulties in accessing raw data, among other issues, during its visit to the city of Wuhan, China earlier this year. The researchers also had been forced to wait days before receiving final permission by the Chinese government to enter Wuhan. The joint statement by the United States and others went on to say, “scientific missions like these should be able to do their work under conditions that produce independent and objective recommendations and findings.” The nations expressed their concerns in the hope of laying “a pathway to a timely, transparent, evidence-based process for the next phase of this study as well as for the next health crisis.” Along with the United States, the statement was signed by the governments of Australia, Britain, Canada, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Israel, Japan, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway, the Republic of Korea, and Slovenia. WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said Tuesday further study and more data are needed to confirm if the virus was spread to humans through the food chain or through wild or farmed animals. Tedros said that while the team has concluded that a laboratory leak is the least likely hypothesis, the matter requires further investigation. WHO team leader Peter Ben Embarek told reporters Tuesday that it is “perfectly possible” COVID-19 cases were circulating as far back as November or October 2019 around Wuhan, earlier than has been documented regarding the spread of the virus.
Four Republican U.S. lawmakers requested on Tuesday that Facebook Inc., Twitter, and Alphabet Inc.’s Google turn over any studies they have done on how their services affect children’s mental health.The request follows a joint hearing last week of two House Energy and Commerce subcommittees at which the companies’ chief executives discussed their content moderation practices in the wake of the siege on the Capitol in January.Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers, the committee’s ranking Republican, asked the CEOs at the hearing whether their companies had conducted internal research concerning children’s mental health.Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg said he believed the company had, while Twitter’s Jack Dorsey said he did not believe so. Google’s Sundar Pichai said the company consulted with outside experts and invested “a lot of time and effort in these areas.”In letters to the companies on Tuesday, McMorris Rodgers asked for copies of any relevant research or internal communications, as well as information on any contractors and partners involved. They also requested any research the companies had done about how competitors’ products affect mental wellness of people under 18 years old.The requests also cover Google’s YouTube Kids service and Facebook’s Instagram, which is developing a version for people under 13 years old.The other lawmakers who signed the letter were ranking Republicans on various subcommittees, including Robert Latta, Gus Bilirakis and Morgan Griffith.They asked for the companies to respond by April 16.
Turkey’s announcement of new restrictions in the face of surging COVID-19 infections is putting the spotlight on Ankara’s decision to rely almost solely on Chinese vaccines. With those deliveries repeatedly delayed, there is growing suspicion Beijing could be using the vaccines as leverage — as Dorian Jones reports from Istanbul.Producer: Jon Spier
The United States and 13 other nations issued a statement Tuesday raising “shared concerns” about the newly released World Health Organization report on the origins of the virus that causes COVID-19.
The statement, released on the U.S. State Department website, as well as the other signatories, said it was essential to express concerns that the international expert study on the source of the virus was significantly delayed and lacked access to complete, original data and samples.
The WHO formally released its report earlier Tuesday, saying while the report presents a comprehensive review of available data, “we have not yet found the source of the virus.” The team reported difficulties in accessing raw data, among other issues, during its visit to the city of Wuhan, China, earlier this year.
The researchers also had been forced to wait days before receiving final permission by the Chinese government to enter Wuhan.
The joint statement by the U.S. and others went on to say, “scientific missions like these should be able to do their work under conditions that produce independent and objective recommendations and findings.” The nations expressed their concerns in the hope of laying “a pathway to a timely, transparent, evidence-based process for the next phase of this study as well as for the next health crises.”
Along with the U.S., the statement was signed by the governments of Australia, Britain, Canada, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Israel, Japan, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway, the Republic of Korea, and Slovenia.
WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said Tuesday further study and more data are needed to confirm if the virus was spread to humans through the food chain or through wild or farmed animals.
Tedros said that while the team has concluded that a laboratory leak is the least likely hypothesis, the matter requires further investigation.
WHO team leader Peter Ben Embarek told reporters Tuesday that it is “perfectly possible” COVID-19 cases were circulating as far back as November or October 2019 around Wuhan, earlier than has been documented regarding the spread of the virus.
A robot conceived to roll on planets is being used by firefighters in the U.S. to give them “situational awareness” before going into dangerous situations. It’s called Squishy, and Michelle Quinn found out more.Camera: Michelle Quinn
Producer: Michelle Quinn
Elon Musk’s SpaceX suffered another setback Tuesday when one of its experimental rockets malfunctioned during a test flight at the company’s Texas facility.
The incident occurred as the Starship SN11 prototype was attempting to land after what the company called a normal ascent to roughly 12 kilometers in altitude.
Heavy fog obscured observers from seeing exactly what happened, but an explosion seems most likely, as there were reports of fire and debris.
“At least the crater is in the right place!” Musk tweeted.
This is the third time the experimental rocket has crash-landed or exploded.
John Insprucker, a SpaceX engineer, said all was going well when data feeds and the on-board cameras stopped working as the vehicle entered a thick layer of fog while trying to land.
The company said it will provide more information as it gets it but added it does not expect to be able to recover video footage.
Starship SN11 is the vehicle Musk hopes will carry the first humans to Mars.
The company wants to send it into orbit by the end of the year. NASA has also awarded SpaceX a $135 million contract to potentially use the Starship SN11 to take astronauts to the moon.
Національний банк України встановив на 31 березня курс 27 гривень 89 копійок за долар
After canceling plans for undersea cables connecting the United States with Hong Kong because of U.S. government pressure, Facebook and Google now say they will run similar cables to Singapore and Indonesia.
“Named Echo and Bifrost, those will be the first two cables to go through a new diverse route crossing the Java Sea, and they will increase overall subsea capacity in the trans-Pacific by about 70%,” Facebook’s vice president of network investments, Kevin Salvadori, told the Reuters news agency.
Salvadori would not comment on the cost of the project.
He said the Echo cable, which is being built in partnership with Google and Indonesian telecommunications company XL, would be completed by 2023.
Bifrost, which is being done in partnership with Telin, a subsidiary of Indonesia’s Telkom, and Singapore’s Keppel Corporation, should be completed by 2024, he said.
Both projects will need regulatory approval.
Most Indonesians who have internet access get it via mobile phones, Reuters reported, adding that only 10% have broadband access. Many have no access at all.
Facebook said plans for the cable to Hong Kong were scrapped because the U.S. government cited national security concerns about direct communication links to Hong Kong.
Facebook and Google are involved in other cable projects around the world.
Facebook announced last May that it was going to build a 37,000-kilometer-long undersea cable around Africa.
Google’s project, the Equiano undersea cable, could connect Europe and Africa when finished.
European leaders are handling rising public frustration, economic distress and mounting coronavirus case numbers in different ways, with most showing the strain of dealing with a yearlong pandemic, say analysts and commentators, who add that the leaders seem to be rattled by a third wave of infections sweeping the continent.A defiant French President Emmanuel Macron defended his decision to avoid a lockdown as the infection rate climbed in January, telling reporters last week he had “no remorse” and would not acknowledge any failure for the deepening coronavirus crisis engulfing France.“There won’t be a mea culpa from me,” said Macron.In Germany, Chancellor Angela Merkel last week apologized to Germans for her initial decision — now rescinded — to lock the country down tight for Easter. She called the idea a mistake and apologized after a hastily arranged videoconference with the country’s 16 state governors.German Chancellor Angela Merkel answers questions from lawmakers at German parliament Bundestag in Berlin, March 24, 2021.But she urged fellow Germans to be more optimistic and stop complaining about restrictions and vaccine delays.“You can’t get anywhere if there’s always a negative,” she said. “It is crucial whether the glass is half full or half empty.”Merkel has likened the third wave of rising coronavirus infections to “living in a new pandemic” and encouraged Germans to test themselves once a week with rapid tests provided by authorities.In France, medical directors from the Paris public health system warned in a statement to Le Journal du Dimanche newspaper that soaring infections are overwhelming the capital’s hospitals. As in Bergamo, Italy, a year ago, they say medical staff will soon have to choose which patients to treat.“We’re going straight into the wall,” said Catherine Hill, an epidemiologist in France. “We’re already saturated, and it’s become totally untenable. We can no longer take in non-COVID patients. It is completely mad,” she told French radio.France’s Health Ministry reported 37,014 new coronavirus cases Sunday, bringing the country’s total number of infections to over 4.5 million. Over 94,000 people in the country have died from the virus.Medical staff work in the intensive care unit where COVID-19 patients are treated at Cambrai hospital, France, March 25, 2021.Across Europe, 20,000 people are dying per week, more than a year ago, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). WHO has urged governments to get back to basics in their handling of the pandemic. Central Europe, the Balkans and the Baltic states are also being hit hard with cases, hospitalizations and deaths — among the highest in the world.Political repercussionsThe pandemic has claimed two political positions, as well. The coalition government in Italy headed by Giuseppe Conte collapsed last month amid a dispute about how to spend European Union recovery funds.On Sunday, embattled Slovak Prime Minister Igor Matovič announced his resignation to end a monthlong political crisis sparked by his decision to buy the Russian-made Sputnik V vaccine to make up for a shortfall in vaccines distributed by the EU.Prime Minister Igor Matovic, front, announces the resignation of Health Minister Marek Krajci, left, in Bratislava, March 11, 2021.Matovič will switch places with current Finance Minister Eduard Heger, who will become the new prime minister of the fractious four-party coalition government.Under public pressure to get a grip on the crisis, some leaders appear to be increasingly nervous about the possible electoral repercussions from more lockdowns, deaths and likely more months of reduced economic activity, which means more bankruptcies.According to a pan-Europe opinion poll conducted for the International Republican Institute, a U.S.-based NGO in partnership with European parliamentary groups, Europeans, especially in the East and center of the continent, are becoming increasingly gloomy about their economic prospects. Pessimism is especially pronounced among low-income Europeans.More than 40% of respondents from Hungary, Slovenia, Bulgaria, Italy, Romania, Poland and Spain told pollsters they feel their financial situation will get worse. With the gloom mounting, governments appear to be lashing out, according to some commentators, with efforts being made to find scapegoats for the worsening crisis.A vendor waits outside her stall at a deserted market in Budapest, Hungary, March 25, 2021.British officials argue that the ongoing dispute between Britain and the EU over supplies to Europe of the AstraZeneca vaccine are part of an effort to shift blame. The EU claims it is not getting a fair share of doses, thanks to behind-the-scenes British shenanigans — an accusation London vehemently denies.The British media have also lambasted European leaders for what they say are false accusations, with Macron being seen as largely behind the distraction. “There is now a systematic attempt by his (Macron’s) entourage to blame the unfolding debacle on the British, trying to create a sense that everything would be on track were it not for the U.K.’s refusal to hand over AstraZeneca vaccines,” said British columnist Ambrose Evans-Pritchard.Policy U-turns are coming thick and fast — another sign of political disarray, analysts say.Merkel on Sunday — just days after relenting on a tight Easter lockdown — blamed regional governments for failing to take the crisis seriously enough and for easing restrictions despite rapidly rising infection rates.She threatened to centralize Germany’s pandemic response and override regional powers, a move that would be legally and politically risky and would undermine traditional German federalism.
The Vatican banished the former archbishop of Gdansk in Poland on Monday following an investigation into negligence over sex abuse allegations. The announcement came from the Vatican’s embassy in Warsaw. The investigation into Archbishop Leszek Slawoj Glodz, who retired last August, began in November of last year. “Acting on the basis of the provisions of the Code of Canon Law … the Holy See, as a result of formal notifications, conducted proceedings concerning the reported negligence of Archbishop Slawoj Leszek Glodz in cases of sexual abuse committed by some clergy towards minors and other issues related to the management of the archdiocese,” said the apostolic nunciature. A statement from the apostolic nunciature said Glodz may not live in the territory of the archdiocese of Gdansk, nor may he attend religious celebrations or secular meetings there. In addition, Glodz will be paying a “suitable sum” to the Saint Joseph Foundation, an organization that provides assistance to victims of abuse. In 2019, priests in Gdansk accused Glodz of covering up cases of sexual abuse. At the time, Glodz denied any wrongdoing. Glodz was included in a report by people who said they were survivors of abuse. The report identified two dozen current and retired Polish bishops who have been accused of protecting predator priests. The report was delivered to Pope Francis on the evening of his 2019 global abuse prevention summit at the Vatican. Glodz could not be contacted for comment as his whereabouts were not known. The Gdansk archdiocese told Reuters it had received the decision but did not provide any further comment.
Adebi works in the shadows on La Rambla, Barcelona’s famous boulevard. In normal times, she tries to attract tourists or locals who are out for a night out on the city. The 36-year-old has lived in Spain for 10 years but when she arrived in her adopted home from Nigeria, prostitution was hardly what she had in mind. “I wanted to come here and do domestic work, you know, send money back home. It has not been like that,” she told VOA. Adebi, who did not want to use her real name, is like many other women who have been tricked into prostitution by well-organized sex trafficking gangs, who demand that the women pay off a debt by selling themselves for sex. Prostitution has boomed in Spain since decriminalizing the practice in 1995. The country became known as the brothel of Europe after a 2011 United Nations report said it was the third biggest capital of the sex trade after Thailand and Puerto Rico. The sex trade is worth $25 billion per year and about 500,000 people work in unlicensed brothels, according to data from Eurostat, the European Union Statistics agency. About 80% of these women are victims of sex traffickers, say Spanish National Police officials. New legislation Now, Spain’s leftist coalition government wants to ban prostitution by bringing in a new law that would attempt to penalize anyone profiting from the sex trade. “We are on the right path, which has to end in national legislation against prostitution and trafficking, which says that our sexuality is available to men that we are a commodity which is bought and sold,” said Spanish Deputy Prime Minister Carmen Calvo last week. “There is trafficking because there is prostitution; if there is no prostitution there is no trafficking. We are abolitionists.” Prostitution occupies something of a legal limbo in Spain; selling yourself for sex is not illegal but profiting from it is. According to Spanish law, sex trafficking is when one person moves, detains or transports someone else for the purpose of profiting from their prostitution using fraud, force or coercion. Previous attempts to bring in a national law have floundered because political parties could not agree. Calvo has the support of the far-left Unidas Podemos party, the junior partner in the coalition government, but seeks to win over the opposition conservative People’s Party and regional parties. More harm than good? Nacho Pardo, a spokesman for the Committee to Support Sex Workers, CATS, believes banning prostitution will harm the very people it is designed to help.
“This will not eradicate prostitution. It will not offer people working in prostitution and it will help the mafias in the same way as happened in the US when prohibited alcohol,” he told VOA in a telephone interview. “I think it will be catastrophic.” CATS helps about 2,000 prostitutes in southeastern Spain each year, of which about 10% were victims of sex trafficking, says Pardo. He said many women, men and transsexuals from Africa and South America, became involved in the sex trade in Spain because sex traffickers insisted they pay off debts. The traffickers demand payment for the cost of smuggling the sex workers and finding them work, but advocates say the alleged debts in reality amount to swindling and extortion. Nigerian women form the largest group of Africans who operate in Spain, Pardo said. Romanians form the largest group of foreign prostitutes in Spain, followed by women from the Dominican Republic and Colombia. “Most feel deep shame about being involved in the sex trade,” he said. FILE – Women hold a giant banner reading ‘Abolition of prostitution’ during a demonstration to mark the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women in Madrid on Nov. 25, 2019.Rocío Mora, who has been campaigning against sex trafficking for three decades, is the director of Apramp, which helps protect, help and reintegration women who are in prostitution. She says her team sees almost 300 women per day who are victims of sex trafficking. “Since 1985 we have been calling for abolition of prostitution. In a country which believes in the state of law, no person should be sold for their body,” she told VOA. “There is now a need for a comprehensive law that criminalizes those who profit from what is a form of violence against women.” Back on the streets of Barcelona, Adebi says all women were forced to have sex with clients, often under threat. She says some Nigerian women were told they had run up debts of up to $60,000 but despite plying their trade for years, they never worked it off. “Women are fined for being late, not looking good, buying cigarettes from a place which is not the sex club they are working in, anything,” she says. “That whole film with Richard Gere was a myth. There is no such thing as Pretty Woman.”
Officials with the Suez Canal Authority (SCA) said Monday the massive container ship that had been blocking the canal has been freed and is making its way down the waterway.Video from the scene shows the 400-meter ship, the Ever Given, moving down the canal, with tugboats on its side and at its stern. Numerous ship horns could be heard blowing, signaling the end of the crisis. The ship became jammed diagonally across a southern section of the canal in high winds on March 23, halting shipping traffic on the shortest shipping route between Europe and Asia.Suez CanalEgypt was eager to resume traffic along the Suez Canal, which brings in between $5 billion and $6 billion in revenue each year. According to a study by German insurer Allianz, each day of the blockage in the canal could cost global trade between $6 billion and $10 billion.Some maritime firms responded to the delays by deciding to divert ships around the Cape of Good Hope, at the southern tip of the African continent.After further dredging and excavation over the weekend, efforts by rescue workers from the SCA and a team from Dutch firm Smit Salvage worked to free the ship using tug boats in the early hours of Monday, two marine and shipping sources said.
A helicopter headed to the U.S. state of Alaska for a skiing trip crashed on Saturday killing the pilot and four others, according to authorities. Among the five people who died in the late Saturday helicopter crash is 56-year-old Czech Republic’s richest man, billionaire Petr Kellner. Kellner’s company, financial and telecommunications firm PPF Group, confirmed his death Monday. “We announce with the deepest grief that, in a helicopter accident in Alaska mountains on Saturday, March 27, the founder and majority owner of the PPF group, Mr Petr Kellner, died tragically,” PPF said in a statement. Alaska police said Benjamin Larochaix, also of the Czech Republic, and Alaskans Sean McMannany and Zachary Russel were killed in the crash. One other person was hospitalized. The U.S. National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the crash, which happened near Knik Glacier in Alaska’s backcountry. A spokeswoman for Tordrillo Mountain Lodge said that three of the passengers were guests and two were guides. The lodge advertises itself as a base for wilderness adventures, including heli-skiing.