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Phuket Gazette World News: Cyprus spin; Russian tycoon hanged; London schoolboy scores $30mn with Yahoo app

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PHUKET MEDIA WATCH
– World news selected by Gazette editors for Phuket’s international community

Cyprus bailout sends EU into spin
Reuters / Phuket Gazette
PHUKET: The chairman of Cyprus’s biggest commercial bank offered his resignation and thousands of students protested in the capital Nicosia yesterday as banks stayed shut to stop a run on deposits after the island agreed to a painful bailout to avert bankruptcy.

The banks were ordered to remain closed until Thursday, and even then will impose capital controls to prevent depositors from stripping out all their funds.
A Reuters eye witness estimated up to 3,000 high school students protested outside parliament, the first real expression of popular anger after Cyprus agreed the 10 billion euro (379.8bn baht) bailout with the European Union.

Though the deal prevented a meltdown in its banking system, it could also saddle the country with years of austerity.

The chairman of the Bank of Cyprus, Andreas Artemis, who found himself at the center of the financial turmoil gripping the east Mediterranean island, offered to resign on Tuesday, a source at the bank said.

“He sent a resignation letter this morning which will be examined by the Board of Directors convening this afternoon,” the bank source said, requesting anonymity.

After returning from last-ditch negotiations in Brussels, President Nicos Anastasiades said late on Monday that the rescue plan agreed with international lenders was “painful” but essential.

He agreed to close down the second-largest bank, Cyprus Popular, and inflict heavy losses on big depositors, many of them Russian, after Cyprus’s outsize financial sector ran into trouble when its investments in neighboring Greece went sour.

European leaders said a chaotic national bankruptcy that might have forced Cyprus from the euro and upset Europe’s economy was averted. Investors in other European banks are alarmed by the precedent of making depositors bear losses.

“The agreement we reached is difficult but, under the circumstances, the best that we could achieve,” Anastasiades said in a televised address to the nation.

Many Cypriots say they do not feel reassured by the bailout deal, however, and are expected to besiege banks as soon as they reopen after a shutdown that began over a week ago.

Reversing a previous decision to start reopening at least some banks on Tuesday, the central bank said late on Monday that they would all now stay shut until Thursday to ensure the “smooth functioning of the whole banking system”.

Temporary measure

Little is known about the restrictions on transactions that Anastasiades said the central bank would impose, but he told Cypriots: “I want to assure you that this will be a very temporary measure that will gradually be relaxed.”

Finance Minister Michael Sarris said capital controls to prevent big outflows of cash would probably last “a matter of weeks”.

Such controls are at odds with the European Union’s ideals of a common market but the government is anxious to prevent any panic that would cause even more disruption to the economy.

The central bank has imposed a 100-euro (about 3,700 baht) daily limit on withdrawals from ATMs at the two biggest banks.

Without an agreement by the end of Monday, Cyprus risked becoming the first country to be pushed out of the European single currency – a fate that Germany and other northern creditors seemed willing to inflict on a nation that accounts for just a tiny fraction of the euro economy and whose banks they felt had overreached themselves.

The plan will wind down the largely state-owned Cyprus Popular Bank, known as Laiki, and shift deposits under 100,000 euros to the Bank of Cyprus to create a “good bank”, leaving problems behind in, effectively, a “bad bank”.

Deposits above 100,000 euros in both banks, which are not guaranteed by the state under EU law, will be frozen and used to resolve Laiki’s debts and recapitalize the Bank of Cyprus, the island’s biggest, through a deposit/equity conversion.

Precedent set

The raid on uninsured Laiki depositors is expected to raise 4.2 billion euros of the 5.8 billion euros the EU and IMF had told Cyprus to raise as a contribution to the bailout, Dutch Finance Minister Jeroen Dijsselbloem said.

Laiki will effectively be shuttered, with thousands of job losses.

Comments by Dijsselbloem on the need for lenders to banks to accept the potential risks of their failure had a knock-on effect in the euro zone, raising the cost of insuring holdings of bonds issued by other banks, notably in Italy and Spain.

Senior members of the European Central Bank sought to row back from Dijsselbloem’s comments, insisting that Cyprus is a special case and not a model for other countries that might need rescuing.

Russia signaled it would back the bailout, even though it would impose big losses on Russian depositors, who by some estimates may hold a third of all deposits in Cypriot banks.

Cyprus’s tottering banks held 68 billion euros in deposits, including 38 billion in accounts of more than 100,000 euros – enormous sums for a nation of 860,000 people that could never sustain such a big financial system on its own.

Russian tycoon Berezovsky died by hanging: police
Reuters / Phuket Gazette
PHUKET: Russian oligarch Boris Berezovsky, whose body was found in the locked bathroom of his luxury mansion near London over the weekend, died by hanging, British police said on Monday.

An autopsy showed no signs of a violent struggle but further tests would be carried out, including toxicology and histology examinations, police said.
Once known as the gray cardinal of Kremlin politics, the former billionaire power broker helped Vladimir Putin come to power before fleeing in 2000 for Britain where he became one of the fiercest critics of Russia’s new elite.

The 67-year-old Berezovsky’s body was found in his sprawling property in Ascot.
His associates had hinted Berezovsky might have killed himself because he had been severely depressed after losing a bruising US$6 billion (176bn baht) court battle last year against another Russian tycoon, Roman Abramovich, owner of the famed Chelsea Football Club.

“The results of the post-mortem examination, carried out by a Home Office pathologist, have found the cause of death is consistent with hanging,” police said in a statement. “The pathologist has found nothing to indicate a violent struggle.”

Results of further tests are likely to take several more weeks to announce, police said.
The apparent suicide of one of the most powerful of the so-called oligarchs marks the end of an era for many Russians, an epoch where he symbolized the cut-throat world of Russia’s new form of capitalism that followed decades of communist rule.

From his self-imposed exile in London, the chosen home of many business figures and dissidents who have fallen foul of the Kremlin, he vowed to overthrow the Russian leader whom he branded a corrupt “bandit” backed by ex-KGB spies.

Always surrounded by controversy and conspiracy theories, Berezovsky survived several assassination attempts throughout his eventful life, including a bombing that decapitated his driver.

His friends and associates have said he felt devastated after losing a legal battle against former partner Abramovich over shares in Ru

— Phuket Gazette Editors

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Moderna vaccine is proved ‘protective’ against Covid-19 variants

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Moderna vaccine is proved ‘protective’ against Covid-19 variants | The Thaiger
FILE PHOTO

As fear over new variants of Covid-19 had prompted the travel restrictions to tighten worldwide, the United States biotech firm Moderna announced that its vaccine should protect against the variants identified in the United Kingdom and South Africa.

Latest studies on the efficacy of Moderna vaccines confirmed that the vaccines are effective and protective against new variants. The company will continue more tests adding a second booster of its vaccine, bringing to 3 shots in a total.

“We are encouraged by these new data, which reinforce our confidence that the Moderna Covid-19 vaccine should be protective against these newly detected variants.”

Last month, a private hospital in Bangkok advertised pre-orders for the Moderna vaccine, which still needs approval from Thailand’s FDA. Thailand’s Department of Health Service Support demanded that the hospital remove the advertisements.

In the ads, the hospital was charging 4,000 baht for a booking of the vaccine. In the post the hospital said the vaccine would arrive in Thailand in October 2021. They also announced that the vaccine would cost 6,000-10,000 baht.

Health officials say private hospitals will be allowed to administer vaccines that are approved by the FDA. So far, the Thai government has only approved the AstraZeneca vaccine for emergency use. The first batch of 50,000 doses are expected to arrive next month. Frontline health care workers and vulnerable groups in high risk areas will be first to receive the vaccine.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

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Florida is ready to host Olympics if Tokyo draws back

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Florida is ready to host Olympics if Tokyo draws back | The Thaiger
PHOTO: abc News

If Tokyo backs out of hosting the Olympics, Florida might step in. The 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo was postponed due to the Covid-19 pandemic and rescheduled for this July. With a fairly unpredictable future, Tokyo could back out of its plan to host the Olympics. Florida’s chief financial officer says the Sunshine State is ready.

The CFO, Jimmy Patronis, sent a letter to the head of the International Olympic Committee saying he encourages him to consider relocating the games to Florida.

In a letter, he pointed out strong points of Florida that make it a good site for the games, including the state’s vaccination roll-out, reopening of businesses, and ongoing sports events hosted in the state during the pandemic. Tampa, Florida is also set to host the 55th Super Bowl on February 7.

“Whatever precautions are required let’s figure it out and get it done.”

Although businesses are open and sports events still going on, Florida is rated as the third state with the highest number of Covid-19 cases with a total of 1,658,169 reported cases and 25,446 coronavirus-related deaths since the start of the pandemic.

“With media reports of leaders in Japan ‘privately’ concluding that they are too concerned about the pandemic for the 2021 Olympics to take place, there is still time to deploy a site selection team to Florida.”

But those planning the Tokyo games say they’re sticking with the plan to host the Olympics from July 23 until August 8. Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga also says he’s keeping to the plan.

“I am determined to realise a safe and secure Tokyo Games as proof that mankind will have overcome the virus.”

SOURCE:AFP

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AstraZeneca says reports of vaccine’s low efficacy among elderly is “completely incorrect”

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AstraZeneca says reports of vaccine’s low efficacy among elderly is “completely incorrect” | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Finnomena

The pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca says reports that its Covid-19 vaccine has an extremely low efficacy among the elderly is “completely incorrect.” German newspapers published articles today reporting that the AstraZeneca vaccine, developed in partnership with Oxford University, has an efficacy less than 10% in those over 65 years old.

The economic daily Handelsblatt reported that Berlin estimated the vaccine’s efficacy for those over 65 years old was just 8%. The vaccine is set to be approved by the European Union this week, but the report adds that Berlin does not expect the vaccine will receive a license allowing use for the elderly.

AstraZeneca released a statement saying the reports of the low efficacy rate for adults over 65 is “completely incorrect.”

“In November, we published data in The Lancet demonstrating that older adults showed strong immune responses to the vaccine, with 100% of older adults generating spike-specific antibodies after the second dose.”

Thailand is lined up to receive 50,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine next month and the Thai government has approved the vaccine for emergency use. Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul is now calling on hospitals, both public and private, to prepare for the first phase of vaccinations, starting with health care workers and vulnerable groups in high risk areas. The vaccine requires 2 doses injected 4 to 12 weeks apart.

SOURCES: Reuters | Nation Thailand | AFP

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