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Phuket Media Watch: Bishop quits; Hybrid sharks; Volcano activity; Face failures

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Phuket Media Watch: Bishop quits; Hybrid sharks; Volcano activity; Face failures | Thaiger
PHUKET MEDIA WATCH

– World news compiled by Gazette editors for Phuket’s international community

Catholic bishop in California quits after admitting he fathered two kids
Phuket Gazette / News Wires

The Archdiocese of Los Angeles on Wednesday announced that one of its Catholic bishops has resigned after acknowledging he fathered two children in the past.

Gabino Zavala, 60, resigned under the code of canon law which allows bishops to retire earlier than the standard age of 75 if they are sick or unfit for office. He served as the auxiliary bishop for the San Gabriel Pastoral Region, which covers East Los Angeles through the San Gabriel and Pomona valleys.

“I have some sad and difficult information to share with you,” the Archbishop of Los Angeles, Jose Gomez, said in a letter. “Bishop Gabino Zavala informed me in early December that he is the father of two minor teenage children, who live with their mother in another state.”

Gomez added: “Bishop Zavala also told me that he submitted his resignation to the Holy Father in Rome, which was accepted. Since that time, he has not been in ministry and will be living privately.”

The Archdiocese of Los Angeles said it has reached out to the mother and the children to provide spiritual care as well as funding to assist the children with college costs. “The family’s identity is not known to the public, and I wish to respect their right to privacy,” Gomez said. “Let us pray for all those impacted by this situation and for each other as we reflect on this letter.”

Roman Catholic priests must take a vow of celibacy when they are ordained. The celibacy requirement often discourages many men from priesthood.

Report: Scientists find world’s first hybrid shark off Australia

Phuket Gazette / News Wires

Phuket: Marine biologists in Australia have spotted the world’s first hybrid sharks off the country’s coast, local media reported yesterday.

In a sign of adaptation to climate change, scientists have found 57 hybrid sharks – a cross between the Australian black-tip shark and the common black-tip, which are related but genetically different species – off the Australian east coast.

Dr. Jennifer Ovenden of the Queensland Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries told Australia’s ABC News that the mating between these two species is unprecedented as hybridization between sharks had never been seen in the wild anywhere in the world.

“Species with the smaller body can hybridize with the species with the larger body, allowing that tropical species to move further south,” Ovenden told the media outlet. “We are thinking that it will provide the sharks with a mechanism to adapt to future environmental change.”

While the larger common black-tip shark swims in the colder waters of southern Queensland and northern New South Wales, the smaller Australian black-tip is usually found in warmer seas, but the 57 hybrid sharks were found in a 2,000-kilometer (1,243-mile) stretch of the east coast.

Scientists are now planning to look for more cases of hybridization in other waters such as Australia’s western and northern coasts. Interbreeding and the resulting hybridization has been seen in the animal kingdom in birds, some fishes, and other cases, but it had been unknown among sharks.

Black-tip reef sharks (carcharhinus melanopterus) are commonly found when diving off Phuket’s east coast and is often confused with the blacktip shark, Carcharhinus lim.

Hundreds evacuate as activity rises at Indonesia’s Mount Lewotolok

Phuket Gazette / News Wires

Hundreds of people living near a volcano in the Indonesian province of East Nusa Tenggara were evacuated on yesterday because of increased volcanic activity, the Antara news agency reported.

About 500 people residing near Mount Lewotolok in Lembata district abandoned their homes amid the volcano’s mounting activity. “Most of them left for the nearest city, Lewoleba,” said Lembata Deputy District Chief Viktor Mado Watun, as quoted by Antara. “All related government officials will soon hold a coordination meeting to deal with the latest situation.”

“Black smoke columns are coming out of the mountain’s crater, the air is filled with the smell of sulfur while rumbling sounds are heard around the mountain,” he added.

Residents decided to leave due to the increasing activity of Mount Lewotolok over the past few days, even though the government has not yet announced an evacuation plan. Viktor said ten villages are likely to be affected and suffer material losses if the volcano erupts.

On January 2, the country’s Volcanology and Geology Disaster Mitigation Center (PVMBG) raised the alert level at the volcano to level 3. The center uses a warning system with four levels of alerts, with level 1 being the lowest and level 4 being the highest.

Dozens of active volcanoes in Indonesia are part of the Pacific Ring of Fire, known for frequent earthquakes and volcanic eruptions.

One of Indonesia’s most active volcanoes is Mount Merapi, which is located on the island of Java near Jogjakarta, the country’s second-most visited area after Bali. In 2010, more than 300 people were killed in a series of eruptions between October and November which also displaced over 300,000 people.

Finnish presidential candidate fails to recognize Russian, British leaders

Phuket Gazette / News Wires

A Finnish politician who is participating in this month’s presidential election has failed to recognize the faces of several international figures, including the Russian president and the Prime Minister of Britain.

Several top presidential candidates were shown 20 photos by a local newspaper and asked to name the persons in them. Surprisingly, Green League candidate Pekka Haavisto was unable to recognize Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt and British Prime Minister David Cameron.

To make matters worse, Haavisto and fellow presidential candidates Eva Biaudet (Swedish People’s Party), Paavo Arhinmäki (Left Alliance) and Sari Essayah (Christian Democrats) all failed to recognize Andrus Ansip, who has served as prime minister of neighboring Estonia since 2005.

According to the Helsingin Sanomat newspaper, the four were also unable to recognize Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and United Nations (UN) Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. They did, however, recognize U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.

The presidential elections in Finland are scheduled to be held on January 22. Incumbent President Tarja Halonen is ineligible to run for re-election, having served the maximum two terms of six years each.

— Phuket Gazette Editors

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Archiving articles from the Phuket Gazette circa 1998 - 2017. View the Phuket Gazette online archive and Digital Gazette PDF Prints.

Coronavirus (Covid-19)

Grim milestone: 3 million Covid-19 deaths worldwide

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Grim milestone: 3 million Covid-19 deaths worldwide | Thaiger
PHOTO: 3 million Covid-19 deaths recorded around the world.

Today marks a grim milestone as the Covid-19 pandemic has officially caused 3 million deaths around the world, and outbreaks are still surging. Over a year into the pandemic, and we are currently seeing over 700,000 new infections and 12,000 deaths per day, with Brazil, India, and France facing growing crises. The 3 million figure reflects official numbers, though many suspect that real totals are much higher, pointing at government cover-ups and early deaths that were not attributed to Covid-19 when the virus was still in its infancy. Still, the official number is overwhelming enough – equal to the population of Kyiv, Ukraine, or the state of Arkansas in the US, and larger than world cities like Lisbon, Caracas, Dubai, Manchester or Chicago. Imagine nearly one-third of the people in Bangkok wiped out, or the entire nation of Armenia or Jamaica.

The World Health Organisation laments the dire condition of the world dealing with the pandemic after 16 months and so many opportunities to prevent the spread with basic safety precautions. Brazil has spiralled out of control, racking up 3,000 deaths a day, nearly 25% of all the Covid-19 deaths in the world in the past few weeks. New variants have been spreading like wildfire throughout Brazil as more dangerous strains have wriggled their way into countries around the world.

In India, the distribution of vaccines has been thwarted by swelling Covid-19 outbreaks and deaths. In New Dehli, 13,000 infections were reported in a day amongst the 29 million residents, but the city only has 178 ventilators available as of Wednesday. Only 1.1% of the populations has been vaccinated, and officials faced criticism of their vaccine exports while so many need jabs domestically. But the UN’s Covax vaccination program, which delivers doses to poorer parts of the world was dependant on India, their biggest vaccine supplier. Covax has distributed about 40 million vaccines in over 100 countries so far, but this worsening situation may prevent shots from being received in up to 60 countries until June.

700 million vaccines have been distributed worldwide, but they have been shipped disproportionately to the wealthier populations throughout the world. In rich countries, 1 in 4 people have been vaccinated, while in poor countries that number is less than 1 in 500. In fact, 87% of the vaccines distributed worldwide have been to wealthy nations, and the delays in India due to increasing Covid-19 deaths will not help close that gap for many months to come.

SOURCE: Sky

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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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