US Imposes Sanctions On Two Yemen Huthi Commanders

Fighters loyal to Yemen’s Huthi rebels chant slogans on their way to attend the funeral of fellow combatants killed in battles with Saudi-backed government troops, during a mass funeral inthe capital Sanaa’s al-Saleh mosque, on February 28, 2021. Huthi fighters have intensified operations against Saudi Arabia as air strikes by the Saudi-led military coalition pound rebel positions in the north of Yemen, in a bid to stop their offensive to seize the government’s last northern stronghold of Marib.
Mohammed HUWAIS / AFP

 

The United States on Tuesday imposed sanctions on two commanders of Yemen’s Huthi rebels, blaming them for civilian deaths and denouncing their ties with Iran as Washington seeks to halt the devastating war.

The Treasury Department said it would freeze any assets of the air force and naval commanders of the Huthis, who have defied international appeals by pursuing an offensive to seize the government’s last northern stronghold.

With the rebels from the impoverished nation unlikely to have US bank accounts, the effects are largely symbolic but reinforce President Joe Biden’s sharp criticism of Iran even as he opens the door to diplomacy and distances his administration from Saudi Arabia, which has been waging a devastating campaign to dislodge the Huthis.

“These individuals command forces that are worsening the humanitarian crisis in Yemen,” said Andrea Gacki, the director of the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control.

“The United States remains committed to promoting accountability of Huthi leadership for their actions, which have contributed to the extraordinary suffering of the Yemeni people,” she said in a statement.

The Treasury Department said that both commanders had trained in Iran and acquired weapons from the clerical state, which has religious affinities with the Huthis and a shared hostility toward Saudi Arabia.

The Huthi naval commander, Mansur al-Saadi, masterminded deadly attacks against international shipping in the Red Sea and put fishermen and other civilians at risk with naval mines, the Treasury Department said.

The air force commander, Ahmad Ali Ahsan al-Hamzi, has carried out targeted drone strikes, it said.

The action comes after the Biden administration in one of its first acts rescinded a designation that the Huthis, formally known as Ansar Allah, are a terrorist organization.

Aid groups said that the label put their work at risk as they had no choice but to deal with the Huthis, who effectively are Yemen’s governing authority in much of the country including the capital Sanaa.

Former president Donald Trump’s administration, which fiercely opposed Iran and was closely aligned with Saudi Arabia, had branded the Huthis as terrorists in its final days in office.

The United Nations has called Yemen the world’s worst humanitarian crisis and voiced disappointment after a pledging conference Monday raised $1.7 billion in aid, far below the appeal of $3.85 billion.

COVID-19: US Acquires 200million More Vaccine Doses

Anya Harris prepares a Moderna coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine at Red Hook Neighborhood Senior Center in the Red Hood neighborhood of the Brooklyn borough on February 22,

 

President Joe Biden said Thursday the US had signed deals to acquire 200 million more Covid-19 vaccine doses as officials look to immunize the vast majority of the population by July.

The deals with Pfizer and Moderna, which the administration had announced it was seeking last month, increase the country’s total vaccine supply by fifty percent, to 600 million doses.

“Just this afternoon, we signed … final contracts for 100 million more Moderna and 100 million more Pfizer vaccines,” Biden said after touring the National Institutes of Health near Washington.

“We’re now on track to have enough supply for 300 million Americans by the end of July,” he added. Both vaccines currently authorized for emergency use in the US require two shots.

The US immunization campaign got off to a shaky start in December but has since improved: 46.4 million shots have now reached arms, and at least 34.7 million people have received one or more doses, roughly 10 percent of the population.

The vaccine drive entered a new phase Thursday as 6,500 pharmacies began scheduling shots, but a wave of optimism brought about by falling cases could soon be tested by dangerous variants.

A million doses were being shipped to drugstores and supermarket pharmacies nationwide, with chains announcing they would begin administering the first shots Friday.

The pharmacy program will eventually expand to 40,000 outlets, while the federal government has also used emergency legislation to ramp up vaccine production, opened mass vaccine sites in stadiums, and has begun a separate program to reach underserved communities.

Anthony Fauci, the president’s chief advisor on the pandemic, told NBC that by April, vaccines would start being available to anyone who wanted them.

While the shots are currently only available to adults, officials have voiced hope that ongoing studies would allow them to be approved for children in the coming months.

– Cases falling –
Since peaking on January 8 following the holiday season, the US outbreak has been in steep decline, with an average of just over 100,000 daily cases — down from more than 300,000.

Hospitalizations and fatalities are following suit — but the worst-hit country in the world is still expected to reach the latest grim milestone of half a million deaths this month.

And, because of the fragmented nature of the US health system, widespread confusion persists among the public over where and when they can get vaccinated.

Stark racial and economic disparities have also emerged. In the capital Washington, vaccines have been disproportionately allocated to residents of the city’s affluent, white neighborhoods where people have been quicker to register by phone or online.

– Rebound fears –
Between the number of people already vaccinated and the number of people who’ve already been infected, it’s thought that around 40 percent of the population might have some immunity, which is also contributing to the slowdown in new cases.

But while the numbers are headed in the right direction, experts warn it’s not time to get complacent.

The winter surge was compounded by people gathering over the holidays for Thanksgiving, Christmas and the New Year, and if those patterns were repeated during last Sunday’s Super Bowl, we can expect to see a spike.

The highly-transmissible B.1.1.7 variant that was first identified in Britain is also rapidly spreading in the US and is set to become the dominant strain by March, according to multiple studies.

This has the potential to reverse current progress, just as it did for example in Ireland, which had gotten its outbreak under control by late 2020, but was hit by a B.1.1.7 driven exponential wave in January and still recovering.

A smaller amount of this variant can cause Covid-19, so attention has shifted toward better masking practices.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed Wednesday that wearing a cloth mask on top of a medical mask, or knotting and tucking a medical mask to fit more snugly, offers significantly better protection against catching or spreading Covid-19.

Trump ‘Offered Kim Jong Un A Ride Home On Air Force One’

US President Donald Trump (R) and North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un shake hands following a signing ceremony during their historic US-North Korea summit, at the Capella Hotel on Sentosa island in Singapore on June 12, 2018. PHOTO: SAUL LOEB / AFP

 

 

Donald Trump offered North Korean leader Kim Jong Un a ride home on Air Force One after a summit in Hanoi two years ago, according to a new BBC documentary.

Kim and Trump first engaged in a war of words and mutual threats, before an extraordinary diplomatic bromance that featured headline-grabbing summits and a declaration of love by the former US president.

But no substantive progress was made, with the process deadlocked after the pair’s meeting in Hanoi broke up over sanctions relief and what Pyongyang would be willing to give up in return.

According to a BBC documentary, “Trump Takes on the World”, the US president “stunned even the most seasoned diplomats” by offering Kim a lift home on Air Force One after the 2019 summit in Vietnam.

If Kim had accepted the offer, it would have put the North Korean leader — and probably some of his entourage — inside the US president’s official aircraft and seen it enter North Korean airspace, raising multiple security issues.

In the event, Kim turned it down.

“President Trump offered Kim a lift home on Air Force One,” Matthew Pottinger, the top Asia expert on Trump’s National Security Council, told the BBC, it reported at the weekend.

“The president knew that Kim had arrived on a multi-day train ride through China into Hanoi and the president said: ‘I can get you home in two hours if you want.’ Kim declined.”

For his first summit with Trump in Singapore in 2018, Kim hitched a ride on an Air China plane, with Beijing keen to keep North Korea — whose existence as a buffer state keeps US troops in the South well away from China’s borders — firmly within its sphere of influence.

During the Singapore summit, Trump gave Kim a glimpse inside his presidential state car — a $1.5 million Cadillac also known as “The Beast” — in a show of their newly friendly rapport.

But last month Kim said the US was his nuclear-armed nation’s “biggest enemy”, adding that Washington’s “policy against North Korea will never change” no matter “who is in power”.

North Korean official media have yet to refer to Joe Biden — who beat Trump in last year’s election — by name as US president.

Boeing Calls For Grounding Of Some 777s After Denver Engine Fire

An American Airlines Boeing 777 passenger plane is seen over the Courtyard by Marriott London Heathrow Airport hotel taking off from London Heathrow Airport in west London on February 14, 2021. 
An American Airlines Boeing 777 passenger plane is seen over the Courtyard by Marriott London Heathrow Airport hotel taking off from London Heathrow Airport in west London on February 14, 2021. JUSTIN TALLIS / AFP

 

Boeing called for the grounding of 128 of its 777 planes across the world on Sunday as US regulators investigated a United Airlines flight whose engine caught fire and fell apart over a suburban American community.

United, Korean Air, and Japan’s two main airlines confirmed they had already suspended operations of 62 planes fitted with the same family of engines which scattered debris over Denver on Saturday.

The US National Transportation and Safety Board is also investigating the incident, in which no one was hurt.

Boeing warned similarly fitted planes should be taken out of service until the Federal Aviation Authority had determined an inspection procedure.

“While the NTSB investigation is ongoing, we recommended suspending operations of the 69 in-service and 59 in-storage 777 aircraft powered by Pratt & Whitney 4000-112 engines,” the company said.

Japan Airlines (JAL) and All Nippon Airways (ANA) said they had respectively grounded 13 and 19 planes using PW4000 engines but had avoided flight cancelations by using other aircraft.

The Japanese transport ministry said it had ordered stricter inspections of the engine after a JAL 777 plane flying from Haneda to Naha experienced trouble with “an engine in the same family” in December.

United said it had voluntarily removed 24 Boeing 777 planes from service and expected “only a small number of customers to be inconvenienced.”

South Korea’s transport ministry said it had no immediate plans to ground planes, adding it was monitoring the situation.

But Korean Air, the country’s largest airline and flag carrier, said it had grounded all six of its Boeing 777s with PW4000 engines currently in operation.

“We have decided to ground all our PW 4000 powered 777s, and we expect the FAA’s updated protocol soon,” the company told AFP in an emailed statement.

The FAA earlier ordered extra inspections of some passenger jets.

Steve Dickson, the head of the regulator, said he had consulted with experts and that some airplanes would “likely” be removed from service.

“I have directed them to issue an Emergency Airworthiness Directive that would require immediate or stepped-up inspections of Boeing 777 airplanes equipped with certain Pratt & Whitney PW4000 engines,” he said in a statement.

Dickson added that a preliminary safety data review pointed to a need for additional checks of the jet engine’s fan blades, which were unique to the engine model and only used on 777 planes.

Officials from the FAA were meeting with Pratt & Whitney and Boeing representatives on Sunday evening, he added.

Fresh blow for Boeing

Flight UA328 had been headed from Denver to Honolulu when it experienced an engine failure shortly after departure.

Residents in the Denver suburb of Broomfield found large pieces of the plane scattered around their community.

No one onboard or on the ground was injured.

But the engine failure marks a fresh blow for Boeing after several high-profile aviation accidents.

The manufacturer’s 737 MAX was grounded worldwide in March 2019 after 346 people died in two crashes — the 2019 Lion Air disaster in Indonesia and an Ethiopian Airlines crash the following year.

Investigators said a main cause of both crashes was a faulty flight handling system known as the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System, or MCAS.

Boeing was forced to revamp the system and implement new pilot training protocols.

The 737 MAX was a big hit with airlines, becoming Boeing’s fastest-selling aircraft until its grounding, which has now been lifted.

After the Covid-19 crisis decimated demand, airlines canceled hundreds of orders for the plane.

US, Reps Mourn Victims Of Military Plane Crash

Photo combination of US Ambassador to Nigeria, Mary Beth Leonard, and the House of Representatives.

 

The United States and the House of Representatives Committee on Air Force have mourned the victims of the military aircraft that crashed near the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport Abuja.

In a tweet on Sunday, the US Mission in Nigeria commiserated with the Force, the families of the officers and all Nigerians on the tragedy.

The United States expresses sincere condolences to the @NigAirForce, family members and all Nigerians for the loss of life in today’s aircraft crash,” it tweeted.

Similarly, Chairman of the House Committee on Air Force, Shehu Koko, promised investigation will begin in earnest to determine the remote cause.

“This is to confirm that a Nigerian Air Force (NAF) Beechcraft KingAir B350i aircraft crashed while returning to the Abuja Airport after reporting engine failure enroute Minna,” he said.

“First responders are at the scene. Sadly, all 7 personnel on board died in the crash. The Chief of the Air Staff (CAS), Air Vice Marshal Oladayo Amao, has ordered an immediate investigation into the incident.”

While urging Nigerians to remain calm and await the outcome of the investigation, the federal lawmaker said the committee “under the leadership of Femi Gbajabiamila is deeply saddened by this development and will work with the Chief of Air Staff to unravel the remote cause.”

In a statement issued by the Air Force spokesman, Ibikunle Daramola, the officers are; Flight Lieutenant Haruna Gadzama (Captain), Flight Lieutenant Henry Piyo (Co-pilot), Flying Officer Micheal Okpara (Airborne Tactical Observation System specialist).

Others included Warrant Officer Bassey Etim (ATOS specialist), Flight Sergeant Olasunkanmi Olawunmi (ATOS specialist), Sergeant Ugochukwu Oluka (ATOS specialist), Aircraftman Adewale Johnson (Onboard Technician).

The jet en route Minna in Niger State crashed close to the runway of the Abuja airport after reporting engine failure.

The NAF spokesman explained that Chief of the Air Staff, Air Vice Marshal Oladayo Amao, has ordered an immediate probe of the accident.

Danger Averted As United Airlines Boeing 777 Suffers Engine Explosion

An American Airlines Boeing 777 passenger plane is seen over the Courtyard by Marriott London Heathrow Airport hotel taking off from London Heathrow Airport in west London on February 14, 2021. 
An American Airlines Boeing 777 passenger plane is seen over the Courtyard by Marriott London Heathrow Airport hotel taking off from London Heathrow Airport in west London on February 14, 2021. JUSTIN TALLIS / AFP

 

 

A United Airlines plane suffered a fiery engine failure Saturday shortly after taking off from Denver for Hawaii, dropping massive debris on a residential area before a safe emergency landing, officials said.

A video shot from inside the aircraft — which had 231 passengers and 10 crew onboard — showed the right engine ablaze and wobbling on the wing of the Boeing 777-200, it’s cover entirely missing as the aircraft flew over a barren landscape.

There were no injuries on the plane or on the ground, authorities said.

“I can honestly say I thought we were going to die at one point — because we started dropping altitude right after the explosion,” passenger David Delucia told The Denver Post.

“I grabbed my wife’s hand and said, ‘We’re done.'”

Delucia said his stepdaughter tweeted the online video, which was shot by another passenger.

“Flight UA328 from Denver to Honolulu experienced an engine failure shortly after departure, returned safely to Denver and was met by emergency crews as a precaution,” United Airlines said in a statement.

“The majority of customers originally on UA328 are currently on their way to Honolulu on a new flight,” it added, saying those who did not wish to travel immediately had been provided with hotel accommodation.

‘Mayday, mayday’

In a recording of the distress call obtained from the website LiveATC, which broadcasts air traffic communications, the pilot requested emergency permission to turn back to Denver.

“Three-twenty-eight, uh, heavy. We’ve experienced engine failure, need to turn. Mayday, mayday,” he said, without obvious panic in his voice.

“Mayday, aircraft, uh, just experienced engine failure,” he said, after the tower asked him to repeat himself. “Need a turn immediately.”

Meanwhile, residents in the Denver suburb of Broomfield found large pieces of the plane scattered around their community, including a giant circular piece of metal that landed in the yard of Kirby Klements.

“It was a little overwhelming,” he told CNN.

“It landed square on top of my truck and fell off,” he said, reporting that a separate large piece of debris had put a five-foot (1.5-meter) hole in a neighbor’s roof.

The Federal Aviation Administration said it was “aware of reports of debris in the vicinity of the airplane’s flight path,” adding that the agency and the National Transportation Safety Board would be investigating the incident.

“If you find debris PLEASE don’t touch it or move it. The @NTSB wants all debris to remain in place for investigation,” Bloomfield police tweeted.

It posted photos of debris scattered across a sports field at a park, including one piece of the plane with a warning message painted in red: “Stand clear of hazard areas while engine is running.”

United said it would “continue to work with federal agencies investigating this incident.”

Heather Solar was running a practice at the park for her girls’ soccer team when she said she heard an explosion, following by debris raining down.

“Honestly, what I thought it was at first… I thought we were being bombed,” Solar told The Denver Post. “There was so much debris in the sky.”

AFP

President Erdogan Accuses US Of Supporting Terrorists In Iraq

File photo: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan speaks during a press conference following a meeting with Italian Prime Minister at the Presidential Complex in Ankara, Turkey on January 13, 2020.
Adem ALTAN / AFP

 

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Monday accused the United States of siding with “terrorists” after blaming outlawed Kurdish militants of executing 13 Turks in northern Iraq.

Erdogan’s comments came a day after Ankara said Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) rebels had killed 13 captives — most of them Turkish soldiers and police officers — they had allegedly abducted in southeast Turkey and kept in an Iraqi cave.

The PKK has been waging an insurgency against the Turkish state since 1984 that is believed to have left tens of thousands dead.

The United States and Turkey’s other Western allies recognise the PKK as a terror group.

But Washington has supported another Kurdish militia in Syria that Turkey sees as an offshoot of the PKK.

Turkey this month launched a military operation against rear PKK bases in northern Iraq that Erdogan said on Monday was designed in part to free the 13 hostages.

“The statement made by the United States is a farce,” Erdogan said in his first public comments on the incident.

“You said you did not support terrorists, when in fact you are on their side and behind them,” Erdogan said in televised remarks.

The US State Department on Sunday it “deplores the death of Turkish citizens” but was waiting for further confirmation that Ankara’s account of the 13 men’s death was true.

The PKK said the 13 died when Turkish forces bombed the cave where the men were being kept.

“If reports of the death of Turkish civilians at the hands of the PKK, a designated terrorist organisation, are confirmed, we condemn this action in the strongest possible terms,” the State Department said in a statement.

Erdogan said Turkey’s NATO allies had to pick sides.

“After this, there are two options. Either act with Turkey with no ifs or buts, without questioning, or they will be a partner to every murder and bloodshed,” he said.

“The terrorist organisation on our doorstep, on our borders, is killing innocents.”

-AFP

WHO Mission Member Says ‘Don’t Rely’ On US Virus Intelligence Health

Peter Daszak and other members of the World Health Organization (WHO) team investigating the origins of the COVID-19 coronavirus, leave the Wuhan Institute of Virology in Wuhan, in China's central Hubei province on February 3, 2021. Hector RETAMAL / AFP
Peter Daszak and other members of the World Health Organization (WHO) team investigating the origins of the COVID-19 coronavirus, leave the Wuhan Institute of Virology in Wuhan, in China’s central Hubei province on February 3, 2021. Hector RETAMAL / AFP

 

A member of the WHO mission to China exploring the origins of the coronavirus pandemic took a swipe Wednesday at US intelligence on the issue, after the State Department cast doubt on the transparency of their probe.

President Joe Biden “has to look tough on China”, expert Peter Daszak said in a tweet as the mission ended, adding: “Please don’t rely too much on US intel: increasingly disengaged under Trump & frankly wrong on many aspects.”

AFP

US COVID-19 Cases Fall By 61% – CDC

NEW YORK, NEW YORK – FEBRUARY 05: People wait in line to enter a coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccination site at Yankee Stadium on February 05, 2021 in the Bronx borough of New York City. P
Michael M. Santiago / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / Getty Images via AFP

 

New US Covid-19 cases have declined by 61 percent compared to the peak level on January 8, officials said Friday, as they announced troops were being deployed to support the national vaccine campaign.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) director Rochelle Walensky said that latest official data from February 3 showed new infections were down to approximately 121,000, while hospitalizations were down nearly 42 percent and the pace of deaths appears to be slowing.

“While the data are moving in the right direction, context is important because cases, hospital admissions, and deaths, all remain high and well above the levels that we saw in the summer and early fall,” Walensky said during a briefing by the White House’s Covid-19 Response Team.

The Department of Defense meanwhile announced it had approved 1,110 active duty members to assist at five federal Covid-19 vaccination centers. That number could eventually rise to 10,000.

The new administration of President Joe Biden has set its sights on delivering 150 million doses of Covid shots in the first 100 days of office — a challenge made all the more pressing by the emergence of new variants of the coronavirus that are more transmissible and reduce the efficacy of vaccines.

To this end, Tim Manning, the national supply chain manager for the Covid response, said the government was invoking emergency legislation called the Defense Production Act to give Pfizer priority access to the raw ingredients for its vaccine.

The legislation is also being used to help deliver 60 million more point-of-care or at-home tests by summer, and to increase the domestic manufacture of surgical gloves.

The US Food and Drug Administration is meanwhile examining vaccine data submitted to it by Johnson & Johnson, ahead of a meeting by an independent advisory panel on February 26.

The panel is likely to advise in favor of emergency use authorization (EUA) given the positive data announced from J&J’s multi-continent trial, which found the single-shot vaccine overall 66 percent effective, but highly protective against severe Covid.

An EUA would follow soon after, bringing the third vaccine into the picture, with vaccines by AstraZeneca and Novavax on the horizon.

-AFP

Osaka Becomes Part Owner Of US Women’s Pro Soccer Club

(FILES) In this file photo taken on August 27, 2020 Naomi Osaka of Japan returns a shot to Elise Mertens of Belgium during the Western & Southern Open at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in the Queens borough of New York City.  (Photo by MATTHEW STOCKMAN / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / AFP)

 

Three-time Grand Slam tennis champion Naomi Osaka of Japan has become an investor in the North Carolina Courage of the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL), the American squad announced Thursday.

Osaka, the reigning US Open champion, was introduced in a video showing highlights of her tennis career and the team’s history, which includes 2018 and 2019 league titles, under the motto: “Courage Unites Us.”

“The women who have invested in me growing up made me who I am today and I cannot think of where my life would be without them,” Osaka said.

“My investment in the North Carolina Courage is far beyond just being a team owner. It’s an investment in amazing women who are role models and leaders in their fields and inspirations to all young female athletes.

“I also admire everything the Courage does for diversity and equality in the community, which I greatly look forward to supporting and driving forward.”

Osaka, 23, was named by Forbes magazine as the world’s highest paid female athlete in 2020.

READ ALSO: First Cases Of S. Africa COVID-19 Variant Detected In US

The Courage said it plans to tap into Osaka’s passion for fashion by bringing the new part-owner into design decisions for 2021.

“I am thrilled to welcome Naomi as an owner of the North Carolina Courage,” said club chairman Steve Malik, who purchased the Western New York Flash in 2017 and moved it to the Raleigh area.

“Naomi embodies the values we have been striving to cultivate at our club and she brings an invaluable viewpoint on topics beyond sports. I cannot think of anyone better to help us as we continue to make a difference in our community and inspire the next generation of women.”

Osaka, whose Grand Slam victories include the 2018 and 2020 US Opens and 2019 Australian Opens, was the first Asian player to be ranked as world number one. She also inspired with social activism last year in support of the Black Lives Matter movement.

“Naomi is the perfect fit as an owner because her values sync so well with our club,” Courage president Curt Johnson said. “A team with an exemplary and trailblazing roster of world-class professional athletes supported by a globally influential icon is a seminal moment for our sport and the Courage organization.”

Osaka is not the first celebrity owner in the NWSL, the third and most successful attempt to launch a top-level US female football league.

Angel City FC in Los Angeles, a 2022 NWSL expansion club, has tennis star Serena Williams, actresses Eva Longoria, Natalie Portman, Jennifer Garner and Jessica Chastain and retired football star Mia Hamm in its ownership group.

First Cases Of S. Africa COVID-19 Variant Detected In US

In this file photo taken on December 8, 2020 a member of staff draws the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine out of a phial at the Southmead Hospital, Briston. Graeme Robertson / AFP / POOL

 

A more transmissible variant of the coronavirus that was identified in South Africa has been detected for the first time on US soil, officials said Thursday.

The cases were found in the state of South Carolina in two adults with no travel history and no connection to each other, according to a statement.

“The arrival of the SARS-CoV-2 variant in our state is an important reminder to all South Carolinians that the fight against this deadly virus is far from over,” said Brannon Traxler, the interim public health director of the state’s health department.

The B.1.351 variant has been identified in more than 30 countries and scientists had anticipated it could already be in the US.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released a statement confirming the development, adding it was working to expand a national system to detect mutations.

Current US capacity to detect emerging strains is far behind many other developed countries.

Scientists are more worried about this mutation than they are about the better known B.1.1.7 variant first identified in Britain, which has been seen now in dozens of US states.

READ ALSO: German Panel Advises Against AstraZeneca Jab For Over-65s

This is because B.1.351 seems able to elude some of the blocking action of antibodies produced by current vaccines and synthetic antibody therapies.

Though there is not yet evidence that B.1.351 causes more severe disease than the more common strains of the virus, the higher infection rate associated with the variant would likely result in an increase in hospitalizations and deaths.

On Monday, officials in Minnesota announced the first case of another more transmissible variant, P.1, in a person who had recently returned from Brazil.

– Vaccines still effective –

Moderna and Pfizer have said lab studies showed their Covid-19 vaccines remained effective against B.1.351.

But the level of highly-potent neutralizing antibodies, which bind to the spike protein of the virus to stop it from invading cells, was reduced in both cases.

Out of caution, Moderna has said it would test adding a second booster of its vaccine — to make three shots in total — and has begun preclinical studies on a booster specifically designed for the South African variant.

On Wednesday, Regeneron announced its synthetic antibody treatment remains effective against B.1.351, though the potency of one of the two antibodies in the combination treatment was reduced.

Scientists from New York’s Columbia University arrived at the same conclusion, and their study has been submitted for peer review.

The study’s “pre-publication,” however, presents more worrying results concerning another synthetic antibody, bamlanivimab: It is “inactive” against the South African variant, according to researchers.

This antibody is used in the treatment developed by pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly, which has also been approved for emergency use in the US.

US Will Work With China On Climate Despite Other Differences – Kerry

PHOTO USED TO ILLUSTRATE STORY: A sign of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) hosting the 50th session of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is seen at the entrance of the headquarters, on August 2, 2019, in Geneva. PHOTO: FABRICE COFFRINI / AFP

 

The United States will try to keep climate negotiations with China separate from other disagreements affecting the two countries’ ties, John Kerry said Wednesday.

The former secretary of state, who is now President Joe Biden’s climate envoy, stressed that while it isn’t possible for the US to stem rising global temperatures alone, developing an aggressive domestic policy would make an “enormous difference.”

“Now with respect to China, obviously we have serious differences with China, on some very, very, important issues,” he continued.

READ ALSO: John Kerry, Who Signed Paris Accord For US, Is Biden’s Climate Envoy

“The issues of theft of intellectual property and access to market, the South China Sea — I mean run the list, we all know them.

“Those issues will never be traded for anything that has to do with climate, that’s not going to happen. But climate is a critical standalone issue that we have to deal on.”

He added that China was responsible for 30 percent of the world’s emissions and the US for 15 percent.

“So it’s urgent that we find a way to compartmentalize to move forward,” he said.

China has called for a reset in relations with Biden’s administration after a corrosive period of diplomacy under Donald Trump, who harangued Beijing over trade, rights, the origins of Covid-19, tech and defense supremacy.

Biden has signaled he will remain tough on the superpower rival, but soften the tone and commit to international cooperation after Trump’s divisive “America First” approach.

AFP