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World News: U.N. recognises sovereign state of Palestine

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World News: U.N. recognises sovereign state of Palestine | Thaiger
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– World news selected by Gazette editors for Phuket’s international community

Palestinians win de facto U.N. recognition of sovereign state
Reuters / Phuket Gazette

PHUKET: The 193-nation U.N. General Assembly yesterday overwhelmingly approved the de facto recognition of the sovereign state of Palestine after Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas called on the world body to issue its long overdue “birth certificate.”

The U.N. victory for the Palestinians was a diplomatic setback for the United States and Israel, which were joined by only a handful of countries in voting against the move to upgrade the Palestinian Authority’s observer status at the United Nations to “non-member state” from “entity,” like the Vatican.

Britain called on the United States to use its influence to help break the long impasse in Israeli-Palestinian peace talks. Washington also called for a revival of direct negotiations.

There were 138 votes in favour, nine against and 41 abstentions. Three countries did not take part in the vote, held on the 65th anniversary of the adoption of U.N. resolution 181 that partitioned Palestine into separate Jewish and Arab states.

Thousands of flag-waving Palestinians in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip set off fireworks and danced in the streets to celebrate the vote.

The assembly approved the upgrade despite threats by the United States and Israel to punish the Palestinians by withholding funds for the West Bank government. U.N. envoys said Israel might not retaliate harshly against the Palestinians over the vote as long as they do not seek to join the International Criminal Court.

If the Palestinians were to join the ICC, they could file complaints with the court accusing Israel of war crimes, crimes against humanity and other serious crimes.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called the vote “unfortunate and counterproductive,” while the Vatican praised the move and called for an internationally guaranteed special status for Jerusalem, something bound to irritate Israel.

The much-anticipated vote came after Abbas denounced Israel from the U.N. podium for its “aggressive policies and the perpetration of war crimes,” remarks that elicited a furious response from the Jewish state.

“Sixty-five years ago on this day, the United Nations General Assembly adopted resolution 181, which partitioned the land of historic Palestine into two states and became the birth certificate for Israel,” Abbas told the assembly after receiving a standing ovation.

“The General Assembly is called upon today to issue a birth certificate of the reality of the State of Palestine,” he said.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu responded quickly, condemning Abbas’ critique of Israel as “hostile and poisonous,” and full of “false propaganda.

“These are not the words of a man who wants peace,” Netanyahu said in a statement released by his office. He reiterated Israeli calls for direct talks with the Palestinians, dismissing Thursday’s resolution as “meaningless.”

ICC threat
A number of Western delegations noted that the vote should not be interpreted as formal legal recognition of a Palestinian state. Formal recognition of statehood is something that is done bilaterally, not by the United Nations.

Granting Palestinians the title of “non-member observer state” falls short of full U.N. membership – something the Palestinians failed to achieve last year. But it does have important legal implications – it would allow them access to the ICC and other international bodies, should they choose to join.

Abbas did not mention the ICC in his speech. But Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki told reporters after the vote that if Israel continued to build illegal settlements, the Palestinians might pursue the ICC route.

“As long as the Israelis are not committing atrocities, are not building settlements, are not violating international law, then we don’t see any reason to go anywhere,” he said.

“If the Israelis continue with such policy – aggression, settlements, assassinations, attacks, confiscations, building walls – violating international law, then we have no other remedy but really to knock those to other places,” Maliki said.

In Washington, a group of four Republican and Democratic senators announced legislation that would close the Palestinian office in Washington unless the Palestinians enter “meaningful negotiations” with Israel, and eliminate all U.S. assistance to the Palestinian Authority if it turns to the ICC.

“I fear the Palestinian Authority will now be able to use the United Nations as a political club against Israel,” said Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, one of the sponsors.

Abbas led the campaign to win support for the resolution, which followed an eight-day conflict this month between Israel and Islamists in the Gaza Strip, who are pledged to Israel’s destruction and oppose a negotiated peace.

The vote highlighted how deeply divided Europe is on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

At least 17 European nations voted in favor of the Palestinian resolution, including Austria, France, Italy, Norway and Spain. Abbas had focused his lobbying efforts on Europe, which supplies much of the aid the Palestinian Authority relies on. Britain, Germany and many others chose to abstain.

The traditionally pro-Israel Czech Republic was unique in Europe, joining the United States, Israel, Canada, Panama and the tiny Pacific Island states Nauru, Palau, Marshall Islands and Micronesia in voting against the move.

“Hope some reason will prevail”
Peace talks have been stalled for two years, mainly over Israeli settlements in the West Bank, which have expanded despite being deemed illegal by most of the world. There are 4.3 million Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza.

After the vote, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice called for the immediate resumption of peace talks.

“The Palestinian people will wake up tomorrow and find that little about their lives has changed save that the prospects of a durable peace have only receded,” she said.

She added that both parties should “avoid any further provocative actions in the region, in New York or elsewhere.”

Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad said he hoped all sides would use the vote to push for new breakthroughs in the peace process.

“I hope there will be no punitive measures,” Fayyad told Reuters in Washington, where he was attending a conference.

“I hope that some reason will prevail and the opportunity will be taken to take advantage of what happened today in favor of getting a political process moving,” he said.

Britain’s U.N. ambassador, Mark Lyall Grant, told reporters it was time for recently re-elected U.S. President Barack Obama to make a new push for peace.

“We believe the window for the two-state solution is closing,” he said. “That is why we are encouraging the United States and other key international actors to grasp this opportunity and use the next 12 months as a way to really break through this impasse.”

— Reuters

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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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