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World News: Somali pirates release hostages after 33 months in captivity

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World News: Somali pirates release hostages after 33 months in captivity | Thaiger
PHUKET MEDIA WATCH
– World news selected by Gazette editors for Phuket’s international community

Somali pirates release longest-held hostages after 33 months
Reuters / Phuket Gazette
PHUKET: A ship and its crew of 22 sailors held by Somali pirates for almost three years have been freed by maritime police after a two-week-long siege, the government of the breakaway region of Puntland said yesterday.

The sailors aboard Panama-flagged MV Iceberg 1, from the Philippines, India, Yemen, Sudan, Ghana and Pakistan, were held for longer than any other hostages in the power of the pirates, who prey on shipping in the region, according to the president’s office of the northern Somali enclave in a statement

Maritime police laid siege to the vessel on December 10 near the coastal village of Gara’ad in the region of Mudug.

“After 2 years and 9 months in captivity, the hostages have suffered signs of physical torture and illness. The hostages are now receiving nutrition and medical care,” said the statement.

The ship originally had a crew of 24, but two had died since the roll-on roll-off cargo vessel was seized on March 29, 2010, some 10 miles from Aden, pirates said.

One of the pirate leaders said they only released the ship after negotiation with Puntland officials and local elders.

“They kindly requested the release of the ship we held for three years. Puntland forces had attacked us and tried to release the ship by force but they failed. We fought back and defeated them,” the pirate known as Farah told Reuters.

Farah did not disclose whether any ransom had been paid for the crew and the ship, owned by Azal Shipping in Dubai with a deadweight of 4,500 tonnes.

Pirates rarely release ships without ransom, and usually raise their demands the longer they hold a vessel, because they charge for their expenses.

International navies have had some recent success containing piracy in the Indian Ocean.

Although more than 100 hostages taken off Somalia are still being held captive, the number of hijackings of ships dropped to seven in the first 11 months of this year compared to 24 in the whole of 2011.

Separately, Puntland said a group of eight Puntland soldiers responsible for briefly trying to sail away with a North Korea-flagged vessel, MV Daesan and its 33-member crew were jailed by a Puntland military court on December 22.

MV Daesan, a North Korean ship ferrying cement to Somali capital Mogadishu, was impounded by the Puntland authorities and fined last month by Puntland authorities who accused it of ditching its cargo off Somalia’s coast.

The soldiers had taken the vessel on December 18.

“Puntland Government managed to return the vessel back to the port within 24 hours; the soldiers were arrested and will be brought to justice,” the authorities said.

— Phuket Gazette Editors

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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

Fake Pfizer vaccines seized in Mexico and Poland

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Fake Pfizer vaccines seized in Mexico and Poland | Thaiger
PHOTO: Beware of fake Covid-19 vaccines.

A wave of fake Pfizer vaccines have been seized in Mexico and Poland where counterfeiting Covid-19 jabs has become a big business. The US pharmaceutical company confirms that the jabs that have been collected were not authentic and were selling on the black market for up to US $1,000 per vaccine. A Pfizer spokesperson said that they’re aware that anonymous online selling makes it easy to commit fraud and to pedal counterfeit Covid-19 vaccines and that this problem is growing as people are desperate for vaccination and to finally reach an end to the Coronavirus pandemic.

In Mexico, at least 80 people were injected with these fake Covid-19 jabs according to a report in the Wall Street Journal. Mexican officials said that they identified the counterfeit vaccines by checking the fake serial numbers and expiration dates. While the vaccines do not appear to be harmful in any way, they also definitely do not offer any protection against Covid-19. The jabs were found stored in beer coolers and some were identified to contain nothing more than distilled water.

The World Health Organization issued a warning last month that these fake Pfizer vaccines have been found in Mexico and may still be circulating. In Neuvo Leon, a northern Mexican state, Mexican authorities first identified bogus jabs being sold on the black market in February. Pfizer had tested these vaccines and confirmed they were not real Covid-19 jabs.

Mexico is also looking at a recent arrival of 6000 vaccines purportedly of the Russian Sputnik vaccine. This shipment was seized on a private plane en route to Honduras last month.

The shortage of availability of authentic vaccines in many parts of the world has led to a rise in counterfeit production and scams. Last month an army medic was accused of selling fake vaccines to Thai soldiers. As supply and production slowly increase this problem may lessen, but while production is not meeting demand there is a window of opportunity for scammers. Fake vaccines in China had been reportedly circulating since September.

Meanwhile in Poland officials confiscated counterfeit vaccines filled with a substance that’s used in anti-wrinkle cream and beauty products. Polish police seized a box labelled as the Pfizer vaccine from a man’s apartment. Pfizer easily identified the counterfeit product because they use different vials than what the company uses for its Covid-19 jab. In fact, the police also found identical vials from anti-wrinkle treatment products in the man’s apartment. Fortunately, it looked like nobody had received a fake injection yet. The man was arrested and charged with fraud.

SOURCE: Thai PBS World and Wall Street Journal

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Thai chef pleads for justice after child kills her cat in New York park

Maya Taylor

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Thai chef pleads for justice after child kills her cat in New York park | Thaiger
PHOTO: Facebook / Ponzucoolcat

A Thai-born chef, who now lives in New York, has launched a social media campaign calling for justice for her pet cat after the feline was attacked and killed by a child. Suchanan “Rung” Aksornnan says she was walking her cats, Ponzu and Kimchi, along with her dog, Tofu, and parakeet, Mango, in a Brooklyn park, when a boy ran towards her and grabbed Ponzu’s leash with such force that the cat, who suffers with a heart condition, flew into the air before hitting the ground. The boy then proceeded to drag the cat several metres, with the animal later dying of his injuries.

It’s understood Suchanan confronted the boy and his family but received no apology. The child’s family, understood to be Puerto Rican nationals, have defended the boy, saying Suchanan shouldn’t have been walking her cat in a public place. The confrontation became physical, with Suchanan slapped in the face, strangled, and kicked, according to the Coconuts report. Her boyfriend’s nose was also broken before passers-by came to their rescue.

Police have now arrested a 42 year old woman named as Evelyn Serrano, who has been charged with assault. Suchanan says she too has visited the police station to provide additional information and the Thai consulate has been in touch to offer assistance. Meanwhile, news of the cat’s death has gone viral on social media, with #justiceforponzo trending on Instagram, where Ponzu had over 38,000 followers.

Suchanan owns an Asian-fusion restaurant in Brooklyn. She was born in Chiang Mai and moved to the US with her family at the age of 15.

SOURCE: Coconuts

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India sees record Covid-19 infections, oxygen shortages

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India sees record Covid-19 infections, oxygen shortages | Thaiger
PHOTO: India's Covid-19 infections spread while oxygen supplies dwindle.

India is experiencing record infections and deaths due to Covid-19 and is now running dangerously low on oxygen supplies. The countries second wave of the virus includes a dangerous virus variant that is spreading quickly and has infected 3.5 million people just this month. In the last 24 hours, 295,000 new infections occurred with just over 2,000 deaths. Prime minister Narendra Modi said that India was in for a big fight and that the second wave of Covid-19 came like a storm.

India had done relatively well during the first wave of the coronavirus for a country dense with 1.3 billion inhabitants. In the last few weeks though people have let their guard down with millions attending religious festivals cricket matches huge weddings, and political rallies around the country. This coinciding with delays and even stopping of production for Covid-19 vaccines and medication along with a lack of oxygen being generated in India is leading to new levels of crisis.

With oxygen supplies dwindling throughout India, relatives of Covid-19 patients are buying black-market oxygen supplies for hyper-inflated prices. Some hospitals are said to be down to their last few hours of oxygen supplies. The health minister of New Delhi is pleading with the government to focus on the oxygen supply chain in India before it devolves into a serious crisis.

Mumbai is the centre of this most recent surge and oxygen shortages there are no better. One doctor said in the event of an oxygen shortage they would usually just relocate patients to another hospital, but now no hospital has the needed surplus. The prime minister said that the government, federal and local, along with private enterprise are working to increase oxygen supplies in India.

New Delhi is in the middle of a week-long lockdown and several other Indian States are facing shut down this weekend. Several countries are cancelling flights or moving India to advisory lists, urging their citizens not to travel there. The United Kingdom and the United States have both flagged India as unsafe to travel, while New Zealand and Hong Kong have completely banned flights.

Vaccination has been hit or miss in India, with early criticism for exporting jobs produced there while so few had been administered locally. Now India has stopped exporting AstraZeneca vaccines, and more than 130 million jabs have been given though supplies have still been limited. Data is expected in the next few weeks about the effect of the Indian Covid-19 variant. As of now, India is second to only the US in total cases with 15.6 million infections and over 180,000 deaths.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

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