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World News
Biden taps former FDA chief Kessler to lead vaccine science

WASHINGTON: President-elect Joe Biden has picked a former Food and Drug commissioner to lead vaccine science in his drive to put 100 million shots into the arms of Americans in his administration’s first 100 days and stem the Covid-19 pandemic.Dr. David Kessler, who will have the title of chief science officer of COVID response, headed the Food and Drug Administration in the 1990s under presidents of both political parties. He has been acting as a top pandemic adviser to Biden and his appointment was announced Friday by the presidential transition office.Kessler will work out of the federal Department of Health and Human Services, assuming responsibility for the scientific side of Operation Warp Speed, an effort launched under the Trump administration to rapidly develop vaccines and treatments. The drive has already produced two highly effective vaccines, and more are on the way.Nonetheless, the nation’s vaccination campaign has gotten off to a slow start, and most of the vaccine being delivered to states by the federal government is not being used right away.A person advising the Biden transition team said Kessler will take on the role now being carried out by Dr. Moncef Slaoui, a prominent vaccine scientist and innovator who has

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Russia withdraws from Open Skies Treaty after US departure

MOSCOW: Russia said on Friday it will withdraw from an international treaty allowing observation flights over military facilities following the US exit from the pact.Russia’s foreign ministry said in a statement that the US withdrawal from the Open Skies Treaty last year “significantly upended the balance of interests of signatory states,” adding that Moscow’s proposals to keep the treaty alive after the US exit have been cold-shouldered by Washington’s allies.The treaty was intended to build trust between Russia and the West by allowing the accord’s more than three dozen signatories to conduct reconnaissance flights over each other’s territories to collect information about military forces and activities.The Russian foreign ministry said that Moscow is now launching the relevant procedural moves to withdraw from the pact.US President Donald Trump declared Washington’s intention to pull out of the Open Skies Treaty in May, arguing that Russian violations made it untenable for the United States to remain a party. The US completed its withdrawal from the pact in November.Russia denied breaching the treaty, which came into force in 2002. The European Union has urged the US to reconsider and called on Russia to stay in the pact.Moscow has argued that the US withdrawal will

World News
Explained: China's new Covid-19 outbreaks

SHANGHAI: China has put millions of people in lockdown in response to new outbreaks of COVID-19 in the north and northeast, with Hebei province reporting the first new coronavirus death on the mainland since May last year.How did these new outbreaks occur?Two major outbreaks now centre on Shijiazhuang, the capital of Hebei, and the province of Heilongjiang in northeast China.Though the first case in the Hebei cluster was identified on Jan. 3, medical experts said it may actually have begun as early as November and spread through the province over the subsequent months.There is no indication that it was related to any recent imported cases, though officials said on Wednesday that the initial case might have been a traveller from overseas.The outbreak in the northeast is said to have originated in the coastal city of Dalian, where a series of local transmissions at the start of the year were traced back to infected cargoes from Russia.The strain circulating in the region has been found to resemble the one that hit Russia last year.What’s different from China’s previous outbreaks?Officials have expressed concern that the outbreak in Hebei province has been largely in rural areas, where medical infrastructure is weaker and control

World News
Donald Trump's trial could begin on Biden’s Inauguration Day

NEW YORK: President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial could begin on Inauguration Day, just as Democrat Joe Biden takes the oath of office in an ever-moreextraordinary end to the defeated president’s tenure in the White House.The timing is not set and depends heavily on when House Speaker Nancy Pelosi decides to transmit the article of impeachment to the Senate. Democrats hoping to avoid interrupting Biden’s inauguration have suggested holding back until the new president has a chance to get his administration going. What is clear is that the trial will be unlike any other in the nation’s history, the first for a president no longer in office. And, politically, it will force a reckoning among some Republicans who have stood by Trump throughout his presidency and largely allowed him to spread false attacks against the integrity of the 2020 election.

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What WHO researchers in Wuhan are trying to learn

The WHO team of international researchers that arrived in the central Chinese city of Wuhan on Thursday hopes to find clues to the origin of the Covid-19 pandemic. The visit has been shrouded in secrecy, with neither China nor the WHO revealing exactly what the team will do or where it will go. The search for the origins is likely to be a years-long effort that could help prevent future pandemics.

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Pope Francis, former Pope Benedict get Covid-19 vaccine

LONDON: Both Pope Francis and ex Pope Benedict have received the first dose of a vaccine against coronavirus, the Vatican said on Thursday. The 84-year-old pope and the 93-year-old former pope, got their jabs as part of a Vatican vaccination programme that began on Wednesday.Both are vulnerable because of their age. Francis is perhaps more at risk because part of one of his lungs was removed following an illness when he was a young man. Pope Francis said at the weekend that everyone should get a jab. “It is an ethical choice because you are gambling with your health, with your life, but you are also gambling with the lives of others.”

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Earthquake in Indonesia kills at least 7, injures hundreds

JAKARTA: A 6.2-magnitude earthquake on Indonesia’s Sulawesi island killed at least seven people, injured hundreds and damaged many buildings on Friday, the country’s disaster mitigation agency said, as panicked residents fled to safer areas.The epicentre of the quake was six kilometres (3.73 miles) northeast of Majene city at a depth of 10 kilometres.Initial information from the country’s disaster mitigation agency showed that four people had died and 637 others were injured in Majene, while there were three more fatalities and two dozen injured in the neighbouring area of Mamuju. 1/10 Strong earthquake in Indonesia’s Sulawesi kills at least 7, injures hundreds Previous Next Show Captions Rescuers remove rubble as they search for survivors at the Mitra Manakarra hospital in Mamuju city on Friday where as many as 20 patients and staff are trapped beneath the rubble after the hospital was flattened when a 6.2-magnitude earthquake rocked Indonesia’s Sulawesi island. (AFP photo) Residents inspect earthquake-damaged houses in Mamuju, West Sulawesi, Indonesia. (AP photo) Rescuers search

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U.S. Charges MIT Professor With Grant Fraud Over Hidden Chinese Ties

By Nate Raymond BOSTON (Reuters) – A professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who specializes in nanotechnology research was arrested on U.S. charges that he failed to disclose his ties to the Chinese government when seeking federal grant money. Recent Stories in Issues U.S. Charges MIT Professor With Grant Fraud Over Hidden Chinese Ties Happy New Year! 2020 Man of the Year: MAGA Larry David Federal prosecutors in Boston on Thursday charged Gang Chen, a Chinese-born mechanical engineer and nanotechnologist, with defrauding the U.S. Department of Energy when seeking grants and failing to disclose a foreign bank account on a tax return. Following his arrest, the Federal Bureau of Investigation executed search warrants at his home in Cambridge and office at MIT, where he is the director of the MIT Pappalardo Micro/Nano Engineering Laboratory. Chen was later released on bail. MIT in a statement said it was “deeply distressed” by the arrest. Chen’s attorney, Robert Fisher, said the 56-year-old “loves the United States and looks forward to vigorously defending these allegations.” The case is the latest to emerge from a U.S. Justice Department crackdown on Chinese influence within universities amid concerns about spying and intellectual property theft

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