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Phuket Gazette World News: Alabama hostage standoff ends with child freed

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Phuket Gazette World News: Alabama hostage standoff ends with child freed | Thaiger
PHUKET MEDIA WATCH
– World news selected by Gazette editors for Phuket’s international community

Alabama hostage standoff ends with child safe, gunman dead
Reuters / Phuket Gazette
PHUKET: The FBI stormed an underground bunker in rural Alabama on Monday, safely rescuing a 5-year-old boy held hostage for nearly a week and leaving his kidnapper, who had also killed a school bus driver, dead.

After a standoff of more than six days, FBI agents struck the bunker when they feared the kidnapped kindergarten student was in “imminent danger,” said Steve Richardson, special agent in charge in Mobile.

Authorities previously had thanked the suspect, identified as 65-year-old Jimmy Lee Dykes, for allowing them to deliver medication, colouring books and toys to the boy, who is due to celebrate his birthday on Wednesday.

But negotiations deteriorated in the 24 hours before agents rescued him, Richardson said during a nationally televised news conference.

“Mr. Dykes was observed holding a gun,” the FBI agent said.

It was not immediately clear how Dykes died.

The standoff gripped a rural corner of southeast Alabama with dread, shuttering local schools and prompting prayers and vigils for the boy identified only as Ethan.

By all accounts, Dykes had taken him from the bus at random, reinforcing concerns that have been raised about U.S. school safety and gun violence since the December shooting deaths of 20 children and six adults at a Connecticut elementary school.

The drama near Midland City, Alabama, began when Dykes, a retired trucker and veteran of the war in Vietnam, boarded a school bus ferrying more than 20 children home from school last Tuesday and demanded the driver let a student off the bus.

Physically unharmed

When driver Charles Albert Poland Jr., 66, refused, Dykes shot him four times with a 9 mm handgun, local sheriff’s department officials said.

Dykes then fled with the child to a homemade bunker on the man’s property off a dirt road.

The child was being treated on Monday at a local hospital but appeared physically unharmed, Richardson said. He is said to suffer from Asperger’s Syndrome and attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder.

A local law enforcement source said a stun or flash grenade was detonated as part of the operation to free the boy but further details were not immediately released.

Law enforcement officials had offered few insights about Dykes and their negotiations with him ahead of the rescue just after 3 p.m.

Earlier on Monday, Dale County Sheriff Wally Olson said the gunman had a “very complex” story to tell.

“Based on our discussion with Mr. Dykes, he feels like he has a story that’s important to him, although it’s very complex. And we try to make a safe environment for all for that,” Olson said, without elaborating.

According to neighbours, the notoriously reclusive Dykes moved into the Midland City area about two years ago and was often seen patrolling the property where he lived in a trailer with a gun and flashlight at night.

He had been due to appear for a bench trial last Wednesday after his recent arrest on a menacing charge involving one of his neighbours.

— Phuket Gazette Editors

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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

Covid-19 vaccine CEOs say 3rd dose may be needed along with annual jabs

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Covid-19 vaccine CEOs say 3rd dose may be needed along with annual jabs | Thaiger
Stock photo of Pfizer vaccine via Flickr

The CEO for the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccines says it is likely that people will need a 3rd dose of the vaccine and to receive it annually. Albert Bourla, told CNBC, that the booster, or 3rd dose, will be needed less than a year after being fully vaccinated.

“A likely scenario is that there will be likely a need for a 3rd dose, somewhere between 6 and 12 months and then from there, there will be an annual revaccination, but all of that needs to be confirmed. And again, the variants will play a key role. It is extremely important to suppress the pool of people that can be susceptible to the virus.”

Bourla’s comment echoes that of Johnson & Johnson’s CEO when he stated in February, that people may need to get vaccinated against Covid-19 annually, just like seasonal flu shots. Both statements reflect the fact that since the vaccine is new, and testing periods are shorter than most vaccines in the past, researchers are still unclear about how long the vaccine will protect against the virus.

Pfizer says that its Covid-19 vaccine was more than 91% effective at protecting against the coronavirus and more than 95% effective against severe diseases up to 6 months after the 2nd dose. Moderna’s vaccine, which uses technology similar to Pfizer’s, was also shown to be highly effective at 6 months.

Just yesterday, the Biden administration’s Covid response chief science officer, David Kessler, noted that new Covid variants could “challenge” the effectiveness of the shots.

“We don’t know everything at this moment. We are studying the durability of the antibody response. It seems strong but there is some waning of that and no doubt the variants challenge … they make these vaccines work harder. So I think for planning purposes, planning purposes only, I think we should expect that we may have to boost.”

Late last month, the National Institute of Health started testing a new Covid vaccine from Moderna in addition to the one it already has, designed to protect against a problematic variant first found in South Africa. The variant is similar to that of the UK one that has recently made landfall in Thailand.

Recent findings, by The Lancet, however, have stated that the UK variant, known as B117, has a higher reproductive rate than other strains, and it’s more transmissible. However, it refuted earlier reports that the strain is more severe. Meanwhile, Thailand’s health minister is confirming his commitment to making AstraZeneca the nation’s chosen vaccine.

SOURCE: CNBC

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Economy

China grows 18.3%, the only major economy to grow in 2020

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China grows 18.3%, the only major economy to grow in 2020 | Thaiger
PHOTO: China - the second largest economy, and only major economy to grow last year.

China’s economy set a record for growth in Q1, 2021, marking an 18.3% jump in year-on-year figures, the biggest quarterly growth in almost 30 years. China only started publishing growth statistics in 1992, and this drastic increase is the fastest growth recorded since then.

The figures, however impressive, are mainly due to what is called a “low base effect” where the change from a low starting point translates into big percentage statistics. Because of the devastating economic effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, the Q1 2020 figures were dismal, allowing the big gain over the last year.

Quarter to quarter, the last 3 months saw only a 0.6% growth, but in the last quarter of 2020 China recorded an economic boom of 6.5% according to the Chinese government. Still, the figures are admirable, as China was the only major economy in the world to achieve growth in 2020. Most of the planet struggled to contain global Covid-19 outbreaks, crippling economies across the globe. But China, now the second-largest economy in the world, managed a 2.3% overall expansion. Even Chinese officials called the impressive statistics “better than we had expected.”

China has been growing in terms of imports and exports as well, with exports expanding nearly 31% and imports up 38% by price over last years.

SOURCE: CNN

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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

Denmark becomes first country in Europe to ditch AstraZeneca vaccine

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Denmark becomes first country in Europe to ditch AstraZeneca vaccine | Thaiger
PHOTO: Flickr

Denmark has announced that it is abandoning the AstraZeneca vaccine, the first European country to do so, amid concerns about very rare but serious blood clots. The rollout of the vaccine has run into problems in several countries, with its use either temporarily suspended or restricted to older age groups.

When concerns first arose over the vaccine’s rare side-effects, Denmark was the first country in Europe to suspend its use. In Thailand, use of the vaccine was suspended last month, before officials judged it safe to proceed, with Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul going on to confirm it would become the Kingdom’s primary Covid-19 vaccine.

Both the European drugs regulator and the World Health Organisation are standing by the jab, saying the benefits outweigh the risks. However, health officials in Denmark have now decided to ditch it for good.

“Denmark’s vaccination campaign will go ahead without the AstraZeneca vaccine.”

Denmark has reported 2 cases of thrombosis (blood clotting) linked to administration of the AstraZeneca vaccine, one of which proved fatal. The blood clot incidents arose after 140,000 people had received the jab. The Bangkok Post reports that 8% of Denmark’s 5.8 million inhabitants have been fully vaccinated and 17% have received their first dose.

The country plans to continue its rollout using the Modern and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines. Officials say they are confident that the availability of other jabs, coupled with the fact that Covid-19 is relatively under control in Denmark, means the country’s mass inoculation can continue without issue.

Meanwhile, AstraZeneca has released a statement acknowledging the decision taken by Danish health authorities.

“We recognise and respect the decision taken by the Danish Health Authority. Implementation and rollout of the vaccine programme is a matter for each country to decide, based on local conditions. We will continue to collaborate with the regulators and local authorities to provide all available data to inform their decisions.”

SOURCE: Euro News | Bangkok Post

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