South African President Urges Wealthy Nations Not to Hoard COVID-19 Vaccines 

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa said Tuesday wealthy countries should not hold onto excess stockpiles of COVID-19 vaccines, and that the world needs to work together to fight the pandemic. FILE – South African President Cyril Ramaphosa visits the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) treatment facilities in Johannesburg, April 24, 2020.Ramaphosa told a virtual meeting of the World Economic Forum that those who have hoarded vaccines need to release them “so that other countries can have them.” “The rich countries of the world went out and acquired large doses of vaccines,” Ramaphosa said.  “Some countries even acquired up to four times what their population needs … to the exclusion of other countries.” The South African leader said the world is not safe if some countries are vaccinating their people, but others are not. Fighting emerging strainsU.S. pharmaceutical company Moderna said Monday its COVID-19 vaccine appears to produce virus-neutralizing antibodies against new variants of the coronavirus found in Britain and South Africa.      In a statement, the company said it conducted studies to ensure the two-dose regimen of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine is protective against emerging strains of the virus detected to date.       The company says it will continue a clinical strategy “to proactively address the pandemic as the virus continues to evolve,” including testing the effectiveness of an additional booster dose of its COVID-19 vaccine.      The recent emergence of several coronavirus variants, which have shown to be more transmissible — and in the case of a strain first identified in Britain, possibly more lethal — has made vaccinations a top issue for health officials.       Scientists said last week that while the British variant was associated with a higher level of mortality, it was believed that existing vaccines were still effective against it. However, a more contagious South African variant may reduce the effectiveness of current vaccines, scientists said.      The news from Moderna comes as the total number of confirmed coronavirus cases around the world approaches 100 million.   Indonesia’s Health Ministry announced Tuesday the country’s total number of infections had surpassed 1 million.  The milestone comes weeks after Indonesia launched an effort to vaccinate two-thirds of the country’s 270 million people. New US travel requirements In the United States, new rules go into effect Tuesday requiring all travelers aged two years or older, including U.S. citizens, to show a negative COVID-19 test or proof of recovery from the disease before they will be allowed to board a U.S.-bound flight. FILE – Travelers queue with their luggage in the departures hall at Terminal 2 of Heathrow Airport in west London on Dec. 21, 2020, as a string of countries around the world banned travelers arriving from the UK.President Joe Biden on Monday reimposed an entry ban on foreign travelers who have recently been in Brazil, Britain and much of Europe. White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki said Monday at a news briefing, “With the pandemic worsening and more contagious variants spreading, this isn’t the time to be lifting restrictions on international travel.”  Health officials in the state of Minnesota also said Monday they had detected the first known U.S. case of the Brazilian coronavirus variant in a patient who recently returned after traveling to the country. 

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Ghana Pays Final Respects to Former President Jerry Rawlings

Ghana President Nana Akufo-Addo, lawmakers and a host of dignitaries on Tuesday will pay final respects to former President Jerry John Rawlings, Ghana’s longest serving leader.  Large crowds of mourners have already paid their respects to Rawlings, whose body lay in state at the Accra International conference center. Rawlings, who was 73-years old, died in November of last year, but his cause of death has not been revealed. His burial was partly delayed because Ghana’s political leaders disagreed on some logistics of his funeral. Rawlings had a checkered past in Ghana, having led a military junta before coming to power in coup in 1992. Rawlings was twice democratically elected to two four-year terms.  Funeral service for Ghana’s former President is set for Wednesday. 

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A Former Paramilitary Leader in Colombia is in Custody in the South American Country

A former paramilitary leader in Colombia is in custody in the South American country Tuesday, a day after being deported from United States, where he served a 16-year sentence for drug trafficking. A spokesman for Colombia’s Ministry of Justice said 74 year-old Hernán Giraldo faces charges related to massacres, murder, kidnapping, rapes and drug trafficking.  Giraldo, who was known as “the boss” for his heavy-handed leadership, is wanted under dozens of warrants for crimes committed under his command by the Tayrona Bloc of the Self-Defense Units of Colombia, a far-right militia that operated in northern Colombia.  Giraldo was sentenced to 40 years in Colombia after confessing to hundreds of crimes affecting more than 10,000 victims while in custody in the United States.  Giraldo’s sentence was reduced because he helped the government under a program to prosecute paramilitary groups. Giraldo’s lawyers are seeking leniency from Colombia for his time served in the United States and his earlier cooperation with the government.  

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Nigerians Laud Biden Reversal of Trump’s Travel Ban on Muslim, African Countries

Abuja resident Joseph Abba wished to honeymoon with his wife in the United States after their wedding in 2018.He readied their documents and applied for a visa but says his visa was denied, even though he met the basic requirements.”As an applicant, the pain of being refused, even when you know you’re qualified, is something else,” Abba said. “Having known the already concluded decisions even before going for the interview, it’s a discouragement on the applicant.”Nigeria was one of several African nations included in the travel bans imposed by former U.S. president Donald Trump. As a result, travel between Nigeria and the U.S. became almost impossible.The Trump administration said the restrictions were imposed because of terrorism concerns, saying the countries on the list did not meet minimum security standards.But critics like Abba doubt security issues were the real reason.Trump was highly criticized in his early days in office for derogatory comments about Africa countries.”Nigeria is not the only country in the world that is having insecurity as a problem. Insecurity is just like the pandemic, it’s a global problem,” Abba said.On his first day in office, Trump’s successor, Joe Biden, signed 17 executive orders, including one that overturned the travel restrictions.Nigerian business owners like Taiwo Charles, who runs a travel agency in Abuja, welcomed the move.”It’s a big relief for entrepreneurs like me, especially in the travel industry, who can now begin to see so many opportunities coming up and then begin to enjoy the benefits of influx between Nigeria and America,” Charles said.With travel made easier once again, Nigerians like Abba said they will begin to visit the United States again, and travel companies are expecting to see a rise in revenue.  

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Brexit Bites for British Businesses as Border Delays Slow Trade

Despite making up just 0.1% of Britain’s economy, fishing played an outsized role in the brinkmanship leading up to December’s Brexit agreement between London and Brussels.  
 
Many Brexit supporters saw regaining control of the country’s sovereign waters as totemic. A month since the agreement was signed, many fishermen say they feel betrayed.   
 
Under the deal, a quarter of European boats’ fishing rights in British waters will be transferred to British boats over the next five years.
 
That is not good enough, said Phil Mitchell, skipper of the 23-meter-long trawler Govenek of Ladram, which operates from Newlyn Harbor in Cornwall, England. He believes many fishermen feel they were exploited by the “Leave” campaign.
 
“They were happy to use us for their campaign, and when push comes to shove, we’ve had the shove, and we’ve been dumped on from a great height,” Mitchell said.
 
Mitchell said Prime Minister Boris Johnson promised Britain would regain full control of its waters.
 
“The fact now is that we’re worse off than before Brexit because it’s all written in that we won’t be able to get (control of fishing rights) back. And it’s just a travesty. Boris, the betrayer, has completely sold us down the river,” he added.
 
Nearly half of the fish caught by British boats is exported to the European Union, a trade worth over $1.8 billion in 2019. Brexit has brought new border checks, paperwork and costs.FILE – Fishing boats are moored at the South Pier of Bridlington Harbor fishing port in Bridlington, Dec. 11, 2020.Allan Miller runs AM Shellfish from Aberdeen, Scotland, another hub of Britain’s fish industry. He said delivery times of live brown crab, lobster and prawns to Europe had doubled, meaning lower prices, while some of the product does not survive the increased journey time.  
 
Miller was one of several seafood exporters to stage a protest outside Parliament in London this month, using articulated trucks to block traffic around Westminster.
 
“Live shellfish, it’s got a sell-by date. It’s alive or dead,” Miller said. “Unless the government does something, a lot of these businesses will be out of here. They’ll be finished.”  
 
Johnson insists the problems will be ironed out.
 
“Insofar as there are problems at the moment caused by teething problems, people not filling in the right forms or misunderstandings. And when it’s not people’s fault, of course, we’re going to compensate and to help out. And funds have been put in place to do that,” Johnson told reporters January 18. “But be in no doubt that there are great opportunities for fishermen across the whole of the U.K. to take advantage of the spectacular marine wealth of the United Kingdom. … There is scope for fishermen, fishing communities, fishers across the U.K. to take advantage of the increase in quota,” Johnson added.
 
It is not just fish that are floundering. Other sectors are warning of significant disruption. New tax rules have prompted some European retailers to stop selling to British customers, while some shipping firms have paused their cross-Channel operations.
Edward Velasco, British import manager at the pan-European fruit and vegetable supplier Rodanto, said problems caused by the coronavirus pandemic have been compounded.
 
“We’ve had the added challenge of Brexit and the added documentation that requires hauliers have an extra cost in coming here. They don’t know if the drivers are going to get back within a certain amount of time. If they’re not, if the wheels are not moving, they’re losing money. And ultimately, so are we,” Velasco told Reuters news agency.FILE – Trucks bound for Britain wait on the access ramp to the Channel Tunnel in Calais, northern France, before leaving for England, Dec. 17, 2020.Supermarkets in Northern Ireland have faced shortages owing to extra checks on goods shipped from mainland Britain. So, is it teething troubles, or an inevitable consequence of Britain’s decision to quit the European Union?
“It depends which sector you’re talking about, whether these are teething problems or they are structural and endemic to the consequences of having signed the EU-U.K. Free Trade Agreement,” said analyst Rem Korteweg of the Clingendael Institute in the Netherlands.  
 
“Where I think there are teething problems is in the issue, let’s say, of small-order transports. So, this question of ‘groupage’ that hauliers are now facing, where they have to sign forms for every single shoebox or crate that is in their container, I think those things can be simplified,” Korteweg told VOA.
 
He added, “Where I don’t think we’re currently facing teething problems — and things are much more structural — is, for instance, in the health and sanitary, and phytosanitary and food safety checks, for instance, with fish exports. Because that is the consequence of leaving the Single Market, that there is now a regulatory border.”  
 
Britain insists Brexit will offer economic opportunities outside the EU. Its strategy was given a boost this week as Japanese carmaker Nissan pledged to keep building cars in Britain and invest millions of dollars building a new factory to make batteries for electric vehicles.  
 
From 2027, all British and European carmakers will have to source batteries from either Britain or the EU or face tariffs on their exports.
 
“Brexit gives us the competitive advantage not only within the United Kingdom but outside the United Kingdom, also,” Nissan’s Chief Operating Officer Ashwani Gupta said Thursday following the announcement.
 
The government hopes other companies will soon follow Nissan’s lead and invest in its vision of a “Global Britain.” But a month on from the signing of the EU-U.K. Free Trade Agreement, many businesses say Brexit has so far brought extra costs and little benefit.
 

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Kerry Says US ‘Proud to Be Back’ in Paris Climate Agreement

World leaders gathered virtually Monday for the Climate Adaption Summit, an online meeting hosted by the Netherlands with hopes of developing practical solutions and funding for dealing with climate change between now and 2030.The online program featured leaders from around the world, including China’s Deputy Prime Minister Han Zheng, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Emmanuel Macron, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and other leaders. Representing the United States was former Secretary of State John Kerry, who has been appointed by President Joe Biden to be Washington’s new special climate envoy. Kerry told the group the Biden administration has made fighting climate change a top priority and said the U.S. is proud to be back as a leader on the issue.“We have a president now, thank God, who leads, tells the truth and is seized by this issue,” Kerry said. “And President Biden knows that we have to mobilize in unprecedented ways to meet a challenge that is fast accelerating. And he knows we have limited time to get it under control.”Kerry said that is the reason Biden immediately rejoined the Paris climate agreement that former U.S. President Donald Trump withdrew from formally last November. Trump originally announced the U.S. was pulling out of the agreement in 2017, but United Nations regulations prevented it from being official until November. Biden rejoined the agreement on his first day in office. As secretary of state under former President Barack Obama in 2015, Kerry helped negotiate the original agreement, bringing China to the table at the U.N. climate conference in Paris.

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