The European Union and China have struck a political deal on a comprehensive investment agreement after seven years of talks, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen announced on Wednesday. “The EU has the largest single market in the world. We are open for business, but we are attached to reciprocity, level playing field and values,” von der Leyen said on Twitter. “Today, the EU and China concluded in principle negotiations on an investment agreement,” she said. The announcement comes after Chinese President Xi Jinping spoke to French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor An…
‘A level of incompetence I am stunned by’: Doctor buries Trump’s lack of planning for vaccine distribution
Dr. Ashish Jha, the dean of the Brown University School of Public Health, tore into the Trump administration on Wednesday during an appearance on CNN in which he said it appeared that there is no plan at the federal level to coordinate vaccine distribution.
“The administration has… decided that their job essentially ends when the vaccine gets to the state and there’s nothing more to do,” he said. “We should have set up vaccination centers. It’s not like we had no idea that vaccines were coming, we have known for months that this was going to happen and there were no planning for that last mile.”
Jha went on to say he was particularly surprised that no planning went into vaccine distribution months ago, as the Trump administration should have learned from its early failures to procure sufficient COVID-19 testing kits that they needed to plan ahead.
“It strikes me as a level of incompetence I have to say I am stunned by,” he said. “We did this with testing, we did this with PPE, but I thought we were going to get it better with vaccines and it doesn’t feel like we are, and now states are going to have to figure this out.”
Watch the video below.
HYDERABAD, India, Dec. 30, 2020 /PRNewswire/ — Electric mobility leader and pioneer in electric bus manufacturing Olectra Greentech and Evey Trans Private Limited (EVEY) have received the letter of award from Pune Mahanagar Parivahan Mahamandal Ltd. for 150 electric buses under FAME-II scheme of Government of India. The order is for the supply of 150 electric…
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Incredible Gifts brings the most personalised collection of watches The collection is available at a discount of 30% on the Incredible Gifts website Incredible Gifts offers free gift wrapping and delivery to over 3000 cities across India NEW DELHI, Dec. 30, 2020 /PRNewswire/ — Incredible Gifts brings to its customer the most affordable and customized collection…
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Expands its all India branch network to 601 BANGALORE, India, Dec. 30, 2020 /PRNewswire/ — Jana Small Finance Bank today digitally inaugurated 18 bank branches in Maharashtra that is dedicated to financial inclusion and is serving the underbanked customers. The bank has been successfully serving the financial inclusion segment over 20 years and now focusing…
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With the future of ‘Sherlock Holmes 3’ descending further in the dark every day, Robert Downey Jr. plans a Sherlock Universe for HBO Max – but without Sherlock? The first movie in the ‘Sherlock Holmes franchise, starring Robert Downey Jr., was released in December 2009. Following the box-office success and critical acclaim of the first…
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If an IRGC man becomes the President of Iran in 2021, the US and the West are most likely to face a militarily aggressive Iran, in which case the US pursuit of peace with Iran, which has already suffered massive setbacks on account of Trump’s ill-advised actions together with the recent assassinations on Iranian soil, may slide well beyond reasonable expectations for the foreseeable future.
Dozens of peasants wearing face masks remain immobile under the baking midday sun in a coffee plantation in central Colombia.
Suddenly a voice shouts out: “Face masks off, we’re going to roll!”
Colombia’s popular daytime soap operas — known as telenovelas in Latin America — were forced off the screens by the coronavirus pandemic.
But after six months of silence, they are back in all their steamy and corny glory — kisses included.
Filmed in the central-western Caldas region “Coffee with the Scent of a Woman” is operating under strict restrictions in terms of staffing capacity, the use of masks, personal protective equipment and regular Covid-19 testing.
It’s constrained by a reduced budget and the perennial risk of being shut down again — a far cry from the romanticism of its characters and storylines.
Social distancing is a near-impossibility in an industry that relies on close contacts, whether between actors or in their interactions with make-up or wardrobe artists.
There are also dozens of people working in close proximity behind the camera.
Actors Laura Londono and William Levy, the stars of “Coffee,” talk to each other without masks, centimeters apart as the romance between their characters Paloma and Sebastian bubbles to the surface.
“If we were astronauts we’d have a different distance but we’re actors, we work with the voice and the body,” said Katherine Velez, who plays Paloma’s mother, Carmenza.
To ensure safety, the entire production staff take Covid tests every Monday and most of them live at the farm that doubles as the soap’s set.
Colombia has recorded more than 1.5 million coronavirus cases and over 42,000 deaths.
– ‘Things became bleak’ –
“Coffee” is a modern adaptation of a famous soap written in the 1990s by Colombian screenwriter Fernando Gaitan, who wrote the original telenovela that inspired the hugely popular “Ugly Betty” series in the US.
Filming was due to begin in April but the pandemic put it on hold.
“Just 10 days before starting … we were locked down for almost six months,” said Yalile Giordanelli, the show’s executive producer.
Many of the 270-strong production staff had already arrived on set.
“We were told to pack up everything and go home, but at that time it was temporary,” said make-up artist Adriana Ortiz. “As the time passed things became bleak.”
The RCN television channel that was due to screen “Coffee” kept paying a reduced salary during the months of lockdown.
“We had to tighten the purse strings,” said Ortiz, 54.
The pandemic hasn’t been so kind to much of the arts and entertainment industry, though.
The national statistics department says more than 200,000 jobs were lost in the industry between October 2019 and the same month this year.
The national media and communications association says that television channels RCN and Caracol had to cancel 38 productions between them after Colombia imposed a lockdown in March.
Colombia started lifting lockdown restrictions in September and production companies began to gradually return to work under strict protocols.
However, the production staff are not in a bubble and everyone is allowed to go home at weekends to visit their families.
Testing everyone when they return is costly but Giordanelli said it’s a price worth paying as any positive cases could mean actors needing to stay in isolation, which would delay filming.
– ‘Safe kiss scene’ –
Director Mauricio Cruz says the testing is crucial to give confidence to actors working closely with each other.
“Yesterday we did a kiss scene for some promotional material … the test was the day before so … we were very safe,” said Cruz.
It’s impossible to entirely shield the cast from the virus, says Velez.
But once the cameras roll “everyone is without face masks, confident that the production has the situation under control as much as possible.”
The world of telenovelas is rife with contradictions.
“Since people are enclosed at home they’re watching more television … but on the other hand, industry in general, companies, … have stopped investing in advertisements” due to the economic crisis inflicting the country, said Giordanelli.
It means television productions have smaller budgets while the pandemic has pushed up logistical costs.
The virus, though, has not only disrupted revenues and schedules, it’s also affected storylines
Script writers were forced to rewrite scenes involving parties or major social events in favor of small family gatherings.
© 2020 AFP
Argentina passed a landmark bill legalising abortion on Wednesday over the objections of its influential Roman Catholic Church. The Senate voted by 38 in favour to 29 against with one abstention to approve a bill allowing the procedure through the 14th week of pregnancy.
Argentina the first big country in predominantly Catholic Latin America to allow abortion on demand. Senate debate began at about 4pm (7pm GMT).
“Adopting a law that legalises
abortion in a Catholic country as big as Argentina will energise the struggle to ensure women’s rights in Latin America,” said Juan Pappier, a senior Americas researcher at Human Rights Watch.
“Although there will certainly be resistance, I think it’s fair to predict that, as it occurred when Argentina legalised same sex marriage in 2010, this new law could have a domino effect in the region,” Pappier said.
Demonstrators both for and against the bill came from around the country to stand vigil in front of the Senate building in Buenos Aires.
“Argentina is a pro-life country,” one woman, who said she was from Cordoba province, told local television as she sat in a folding chair under an umbrella sheltering her from the Southern Hemisphere summer sun. She and others who knelt in prayer nearby said they opposed changing the law.
Argentina’s Congress has rejected the change before, but this is the first time such a bill has been presented to lawmakers with support from the ruling government. In 2018, before centre-left Peronist Alberto Fernandez was elected president, a similar bill was rejected by a slim margin.
Maria Angela Guerrero of the Campaign for Legal Abortion group, told reporters in front of the Senate she was “cautiously optimistic” the bill would pass this time. Advocates say the measure is needed to protect women who would otherwise risk their lives in unregulated, illegal abortions.
The Catholic Church is calling on senators to reject the proposal, which would allow women to end pregnancies up to the 14th week. Argentina is the birthplace of the current pope, Francis.Argentine law currently allows abortion only when there is a serious risk to the health of the mother or in cases of rape.
The bill under consideration is accompanied by side legislation aimed at assisting women who want to continue their pregnancies and face severe economic or social difficulties.
Legal abortion is extremely rare in Latin America because of the long history of opposition by the Church. Across the region, abortions are available on demand only in Communist Cuba, comparatively tiny Uruguay and some parts of Mexico.
Pastor Jorge Gomez, head of the Christian Alliance of Evangelical Churches of Argentina (Aciera) joined his Catholic counterparts in protesting the measure.
“I know there are unexpected pregnancies, and I respect the rights of women. But I don’t recognise abortion as a right,” Gomez told reporters.
(FRANCE 24 with REUTERS)
The US Attorney General said Tuesday the United States “stands ready” to try a militant convicted of murdering American journalist Daniel Pearl whose release was ordered by a Pakistani court.
The decision by Sindh High Court to release the accused comes months after it sparked outrage for overturning the murder conviction and death sentence of Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh, and acquitted three other men connected to the case.
The four are being held under the emergency orders of the local government while an ongoing appeal against their acquittals is heard in the Supreme Court, but defense lawyers argued against their continued detention in the south of the country.
“We remain grateful for the Pakistani government’s actions to appeal such rulings to ensure that (Sheikh) and his co-defendants are held accountable,” acting attorney general Jeffrey Rosen said in a statement, calling the acquittals “an affront to terrorism victims everywhere.”
“If, however, those efforts do not succeed, the United States stands ready to take custody of Omar Sheikh to stand trial here,” the statement said. “We cannot allow him to evade justice for his role in Daniel Pearl’s abduction and murder.”
Sheikh, a British-born jihadist who once studied at the London School of Economics and had been involved in previous kidnappings of foreigners, was arrested days after Pearl’s abduction and later sentenced to death by hanging.
In January 2011, a report released by the Pearl Project at Georgetown University following an investigation into his death made chilling revelations, and said that the wrong men had been convicted for Pearl’s murder.
The investigation, led by Pearl’s friend and former Wall Street Journal colleague Asra Nomani and a Georgetown University professor, claimed the reporter was murdered by Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the alleged mastermind of the September 11, 2001 attacks, not Sheikh.
Pearl was South Asia bureau chief for The Wall Street Journal when he was abducted in Karachi in January 2002 while researching a story about Islamist militants.
A graphic video showing his decapitation was delivered to the US consulate nearly a month later.
A multi-million-dollar property sale by the US Consulate in Hong Kong has been put on ice because it has not received permission from Beijing, the prospective buyer said Wednesday.
The deal for six luxury pads in a swanky part of the island would have seen the US State Department pocket US$330 million.
But it appears to have fallen victim to growing tensions between Washington and Beijing, who insisted it was no ordinary property transaction and needed a specific go-ahead.
The two countries have been at loggerheads for months over trade, human rights and a clampdown on Hong Kong, with Beijing increasingly willing to wield its economic power to push back against what it says is American interference in internal affairs.
Hong Kong’s Hang Lung Properties had agreed to pay HK$2.6 billion for the six plots earlier this year.
But on Wednesday, it said the sale could not be completed as scheduled, because Hong Kong’s Land Registry had not received written consent from Beijing.
The company said it had received a letter from the Land Registry advising that the “sale of the property involves foreign affairs between the People’s Republic of China and the US, and should not be regarded as an ordinary commercial activity”.
Hang Lung said it had been told the US government had a “diplomatic obligation” to make a written application to Beijing at least 60 days prior to any intended real estate transaction in Hong Kong, and obtain written consent for it; and that the Land Registry could not proceed without this.
The company noted that it was not made aware of this requirement beforehand.
A US consulate spokesperson said additional time was needed for both the buyer and seller.
“The State Department is not at liberty to comment on the specific terms of ongoing contractual transactions,” the spokesperson added.
Britain on Wednesday became the first country in the world to approve a coronavirus vaccine developed by Oxford University and AstraZeneca as it battles a major winter surge driven by a new, highly contagious variant of the virus.
Britain has already ordered 100 million doses of the vaccine, and the government said it had accepted the recommendation from the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) to grant emergency authorisation.
The approval is a vindication for a shot seen as essential for mass immunisations in the developing world as well as in Britain, but one that has been dogged by questions about its trial data that make it unlikely to be approved very soon in the European Union or the United States.
“The NHS (National Health Service) will be able to deliver these shots into people’s arms at the speed at which it can be manufactured,” Health Secretary Matt Hancock told Sky News.
“I am also now, with this approval this morning, highly confident that we can get enough vulnerable people vaccinated by the spring that we can now see our route out of this pandemic.”
He said hundreds of thousands of doses would be available to administer in Britain next week.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson called the approval a “triumph for British science”.
The vaccine has been found in trials to be less effective than one developed by Pfizer of the United States and BioNTech of Germany but, crucially for countries with more basic health infrastructure, can be stored and transported under normal refrigeration, rather than at -70 degrees Celsius (-94 Fahrenheit).
AstraZeneca said the authorisation was for a two-dose regimen, and Hancock said the MHRA would set out more details on dosing later on Wednesday.
AstraZeneca Chief Executive Pascal Soriot said the vaccine “has been shown to be effective, well-tolerated, simple to administer and is supplied by AstraZeneca at no profit”.
He also told BBC radio: “Our belief at this point is that this vaccine should be effective against the (new, more contagious) variant.”
AstraZeneca’s late-stage trials showed 62% for participants given two full doses several weeks apart – above the 50% usually considered adequate by regulators – but 90% for a smaller sub-group given a half dose and then a full dose.
AstraZeneca did not specify which dose regime had been approved, but researchers said approval was the most important thing.
“To get out of this debacle, there is no alternative to having a significant majority of the population carrying a high level of neutralising antibodies. With today’s announcement that comes within our grasp,” said Danny Altmann, a professor of immunology at Imperial College London.
“I suspect this will speed things by several months. An immune population by the spring starts to look feasible.”
The pandemic has already killed 1.7 million people around the world, sown chaos through the global economy and upended normal life for billions since it began in Wuhan, China, a year ago.
Britain and South Africa in particular are grappling with new variants of the coronavirus, which the government and scientists say are more contagious. Many countries have responded by banning passenger flights and blocking trade.
“There will be exuberant expectations of stimulus until kingdom come.” “Even at full-tilt war, Democrats and Republicans still agree on one thing — i.e., that the money spigot must remain open no matter what. They differ only as to a timetable and how many trillions of dollars should be force-fed into the economy in the […]
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GUANGZHOU, China, Dec. 30, 2020 /PRNewswire/ — GAC MOTOR recently released 4 touching stories of car owners on its channel, drawing widespread attention on social media. These stories of passion, life, family, and dreams have touched base with the audience. As viewers relate to the contents, strong feelings are stirred, reminding them to share love…
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MUMBAI, India, Dec. 30, 2020 /PRNewswire/ — Pantum, a developer and manufacturer of laser printers and printing solutions, is celebrating its 10th anniversary. Committed to offering consumers the best there is, the company is enhancing its product series, as its business in India continues to expand. Pantum will launch the Elite Series in 2021, including…
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GURUGRAM, India, Dec. 30, 2020 /PRNewswire/ — The leading software solutions company – Daffodil Software announced the launch of ‘Work from Anywhere’ job opportunities with plans to recruit remote employees in technical roles. The company plans to run the hiring drive across India boosting its remote work culture. After the ‘work from home’ culture has…
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