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Phuket Gazette World News: Snowden in Moscow, seeks asylum in Ecuador; Mandela health critical; Bus plunges off Montenegro bridge; Saudis change working week

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Phuket Gazette World News: Snowden in Moscow, seeks asylum in Ecuador; Mandela health critical; Bus plunges off Montenegro bridge; Saudis change working week | The Thaiger
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PHUKET MEDIA WATCH
– World news compiled by Gazette editors for Phuket’s international community


Snowden lands in Moscow, seeks asylum in Ecuador
Reuters / Phuket Gazette
PHUKET: Fugitive former U.S. spy agency contractor Edward Snowden is seeking asylum in Ecuador, the Quito government said on Sunday, after Hong Kong let him leave for Russia despite Washington’s efforts to extradite him on espionage charges.

In a major embarrassment for the Obama administration, an aircraft thought to have been carrying Snowden landed in Moscow, and the anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks said he was “bound for the Republic of Ecuador via a safe route for the purposes of asylum.”

Ecuadorean Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino, visiting Vietnam, tweeted: “The Government of Ecuador has received an asylum request from Edward J. #Snowden.”

Ecuador has been sheltering WikiLeaks’ founder Julian Assange at its London embassy for the past year, and Ecuador’s ambassador to Russia said he expected to meet Snowden in Moscow on Sunday.

Snowden, who worked for the U.S. National Security Agency in Hawaii, had been hiding in the former British colony, which returned to China in 1997, since leaking details about U.S. surveillance activities at home and abroad to news media.

U.S. authorities had said only on Saturday they were optimistic Hong Kong would cooperate over Snowden.

On Friday, U.S. authorities charged Snowden with theft of U.S. government property, unauthorised communication of national defence information and wilful communication of classified communications intelligence to an unauthorised person, with the latter two charges falling under the U.S. Espionage Act.

Earlier on Sunday, a source at the Russian airline Aeroflot said Snowden would fly on from Moscow within 24 hours to Cuba, although that source said he planned to go on to Venezuela. The chief of Cuba’s International Press Center, Gustavo Machin, said he had no such information though pro-government bloggers heaped praise on Snowden and condemned U.S. spying activity.

Venezuela, Cuba and Ecuador are all members of the ALBA bloc, an alliance of leftist governments in Latin America that pride themselves on their “anti-imperialist” credentials.

Ecuadorean Ambassador Patricio Alberto Chavez Zavala told reporters at a Moscow airport hotel that he would hold talks with Snowden and Sarah Harrison, a WikiLeaks representative.

China and Russia criticized

Influential Democratic Senator Charles Schumer charged that Russian President Vladimir Putin likely knew and approved of Snowden’s flight to Russia and thought Beijing was involved. He said that will “have serious consequences” for a U.S.-Russian relationship already strained over Syria and human rights.

“Putin always seems almost eager to stick a finger in the eye of the United States – whether it is Syria, Iran and now of course with Snowden,” Schumer told CNN’s “State of the Union.”

“It remains to be seen how much influence Beijing had on Hong Kong,” he said. “As you know, they coordinate their foreign policies and I have a feeling that the hand of Beijing was involved here.”

In their statement announcing Snowden’s departure, the Hong Kong authorities said they were seeking clarification from Washington about reports of U.S. spying on government computers in the territory.

The Obama administration has previously painted the United States as a victim of Chinese government computer hacking.

At a summit earlier this month, Obama called on his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping to acknowledge the threat posed by “cyber-enabled espionage” against the United States and to investigate the problem. Obama also met Putin in Northern Ireland last week.

A spokesman for the Hong Kong government said it had allowed the departure of Snowden – considered a whistleblower by his critics and a criminal or even a traitor by his critics – as the U.S. request for his arrest did not comply with the law.

In Washington, a Justice Department official said it would seek cooperation with countries Snowden may try to go to and sources familiar with the issue said Washington had revoked Snowden’s U.S. passport. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said revoking the passport of someone under a felony arrest warrant was routine. “Such a revocation does not affect citizenship status,” she said.

“It’s a shocker,” Simon Young, a law professor with Hong Kong University said of the case. “I thought he was going to stay and fight it out. The U.S. government will be irate.”

The issue has been a major distraction for Obama, who has found his domestic and international policy agenda sidelined as he has scrambled to deflect accusations that U.S. surveillance practices violate privacy protections and civil rights. The president has maintained that the measures have been necessary to thwart attacks on the United States.

The White House had no immediate comment on Sunday’s developments.

WikiLeaks said Snowden was accompanied by diplomats and that Harrison, a British legal researcher working for WikiLeaks, was “accompanying Mr Snowden in his passage to safety.”

“The WikiLeaks legal team and I are interested in preserving Mr Snowden’s rights and protecting him as a person,” former Spanish judge Baltasar Garzon, legal director of WikiLeaks and lawyer for Assange, said in a statement.

“What is being done to Mr Snowden and to Mr Julian Assange – for making or facilitating disclosures in the public interest – is an assault against the people.”

Wikileaks case

Assange, an Australian, said last week he would not leave the sanctuary of Ecuador’s London embassy even if Sweden stopped pursuing sexual assault claims against him because he feared arrest on the orders of the United States.

The latest drama coincides with the court martial of Bradley Manning, a U.S. soldier accused of providing reams of classified documents to WikiLeaks, which Assange began releasing on the Internet in 2010, and, according to some critics, put its national security and people’s lives at risk.

A spokesman for Wikileaks refused to make any comment about possible routes to Ecuador. Asked why Ecuador, he replied “That is something that Mr. Snowden needs to reply to. … It was a decision taken by him. … Various governments were approached.”

Iceland refused on Friday to say whether it would grant asylum to Snowden. Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said this month that Russia would consider granting asylum if Snowden were to ask for it and pro-Kremlin lawmakers supported the idea, but there has been no indication he has done so.

Hong Kong’s South China Morning Post newspaper earlier quoted Snowden offering new details about U.S. surveillance activities, including accusations of U.S. hacking of Chinese mobile phone firms and targeting of China’s Tsinghua University.

Senator Dianne Feinstein, chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said Snowden needed to be caught and brought back for trial as secrets he was carrying could do a lot of damage to U.S. interests.

“I think we need to know exactly what he has,” she told CBS’s “Face the Nation.” “He could have a lot, lot more that may really put people in jeopardy.”

Documents previously leaked by Snowden revealed that the NSA has access to vast amounts of internet data such as emails, chat rooms and video from large companies, including Facebook and Google, under a government program known as Prism.

The head of the National Security Agency, General Keith Alexander, said he did not know why it failed to prevent S

— Phuket Gazette Editors

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Mass Covid-19 immunisation in poor countries could take until 2024

Caitlin Ashworth

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Mass Covid-19 immunisation in poor countries could take until 2024 | The Thaiger
Stock photo by Gustavo Fring for Pexels

While developed countries, like those in the European Union, are likely to vaccinate most of the population within the next year, most poor countries won’t be able to reach mass Covid-19 immunisation until 2024, according to an analysis from the Economist Intelligence Unit.

84 of the world’s poorest countries will not receive enough vaccinations to reach herd immunity within the next year, according to the unit’s global forecasting director and author of the report, Agathe Demarais.

Agathe told the Guardian that disparity in vaccinations between the rich and poor countries will “define the global economy, the global political landscape, travel, pretty much everything.”

Poor countries may have poor medical infrastructure and few health workers that are trained to administer vaccines. Some countries may also have issues securing vaccine ingredients as well as production constraints and delays in delivery.

Countries with many people living in rural areas, like India and China, may also have problems reaching people in remote areas, according to Agathe.

SOURCE: Guardian

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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
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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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