By Marton Dunai BUDAPEST (Reuters) - Hungary passed legislation on Monday which could curb the activities of Uber after months of protests by taxi drivers, following in the footsteps of other countries that have banned some of its ride-hailing services. Under the new law, the Hungarian national communications authority can block Internet access to "illegal dispatcher services", in a similar fashion to the way the regulator blocked access to illegal online gambling sites in the country. "The bill aims partly to block the Internet access to illegal taxi, or other similar dispatcher services, if the authorities' other preventive measures are ineffective," Development Minister Miklos Sesztak wrote in the reasoning. Taxi drivers in Hungary have demanded Uber be outlawed and its smartphone app blocked as they say its drivers breach regulations other taxis firms must adhere to. UberPOP, a smartphone app that links private drivers with passengers, has prompted taxi driver protests across Europe and to date has been declared illegal by courts in Italy, Spain and Germany, with appeals pending in Belgium and the Netherlands. France suspended the low-cost service last year after the government banned it under pressure from licensed taxi drivers and a French court slapped a hefty fine on Uber last week for running an illegal taxi service. A German court also upheld the ban on UberPOP last week. Hungary issues taxi firms with dispatcher service permits, allowing a dispatcher service to transfer passenger requests to drivers under a series of criteria, such as a sizeable insurance deposit and an obligation to record data. Without such permits it is illegal to offer rides for money, and the government can block Internet-based communication that enables that, the new law says. While traditional taxi services in Hungary also have apps for ordering cabs, Uber does not yet have a dispatch permit. "Uber will request the dispatcher permit from the Hungarian authorities. Currently we are preparing that administratively. This is also part of our regulatory compliance efforts," Uber's Hungarian operations director Zoltan Fekete said in a statement. "Uber has emphasized legal compliance: our drivers took out permits and provide legal receipts," Fekete said. "Uber seeks dialogue with decision makers in the hope that the current outdated regulations are replaced with a modern one tailored to new technology, centered around the interest of consumers," he said, adding that Uber has 150,000 Hungarian users and 1,200 drivers. The new Hungarian legislation, which does not mention Uber by name, is due to come into effect in 31 days. Dispatcher services in breach of the regulations are first fined and will then have their Internet access blocked for a year. The ban can be repeated. (Editing by David Clarke)
- Yahoo News
'Climate day' is also 'jobs day,' Biden says as he issues sweeping new orders on fuel, power and more
President Biden on Wednesday signed additional executive orders addressing the climate crisis, adding to those he signed on his first full day in office, saying “we can’t wait any longer” for action on what his predecessor famously dismissed as a hoax.
- Yahoo News
Former President Donald Trump’s “big lie” about a stolen election may have been discredited over and over in the courts, and disgraced by the attack on the U.S. Capitol, but the corrosive effect of his dishonesty will linger on, complicating efforts to strengthen American elections.
- The Telegraph
The leader of the Proud Boys extremist group has been unmasked as a "prolific" former FBI informant. Enrique Tarrio, 36, worked undercover exposing a human trafficking ring, and helped with drug and gambling cases, according to court documents. Tarrio's documented involvement with law enforcement related to the period 2012 -2014. There was no evidence of him cooperating after that. But the revelation raised further questions over why police did not take further steps to secure the US Capitol ahead of the riots on Jan 6. At least half a dozen members of the Proud Boys were arrested over involvement in the riots. Tarrio denied ever being an informer, telling Reuters: "I don’t know any of this. I don’t recall any of this."
- Yahoo News
Black National Guardsman describes being deployed to protect Biden’s inauguration: 'I just felt this huge sense of pride'
As most of the 25,000 National Guardsmen who were called upon to protect Washington, D.C., during the presidential inauguration began heading home this week, one Black service member agreed to speak to Yahoo News about the experience of protecting the nation’s capital in the wake of a pro-Trump riot on Capitol Hill.
A phone call in the middle of the night led one Swiss lawyer to pursue Nigeria's stolen money.
- The Week
John Kerry: American workers 'fed a false narrative' that shift to clean energy is 'coming at their expense'
President Biden on Wednesday turned his attention to climate issues, signing executive orders that seek to halt new oil and gas leases on public lands and waters, conserve 30 percent of federal lands and waters by 2030, and find ways to double wind production by the same year. John Kerry, the first-ever United States Climate Envoy, championed the actions, reiterating his belief that the climate crisis is "existential" and "failure, literally, is not an option." While briefing reporters, Kerry was asked about potential job losses in the fossil fuel industry, and whether he had a message for workers who believe they are witnessing the end of their livelihoods. Kerry explained that those workers "have been fed a false narrative" by the Trump administration about the shift to clean energy, which he said will not come "at their expense." He added that, before the COVID-19 pandemic, the solar and wind energy industries were growing swiftly, while coal plants have been closing over the last few decades. "The same people can do those jobs. But the choice of doing the solar power one now is a better choice," he said, also pointing out the health risks associated with coal mining. John Kerry says oil and gas workers have been fed a "false narrative" that action on climate change will hurt their livelihoods, and that President Biden wants to "make sure that those folks have better choices" for jobs in the energy sector https://t.co/Nj065CIsxp pic.twitter.com/czkjomesi8 — CBS News (@CBSNews) January 27, 2021 Republicans like Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) weren't buying the reassurance, suggesting that Kerry's statement lacked empathy, although he didn't explicitly refute the notion that an industry transition may be feasible for fossil fuel workers. John Kerry's message to the tens of thousands of Americans who lost their jobs thanks to the Biden administration: go make solar panels. Where is the empathy that Joe Biden promised in his inauguration? https://t.co/CvQovUlEoD — Tom Cotton (@TomCottonAR) January 27, 2021 More stories from theweek.comWith Senate Republicans balking at convicting Trump, Democrats explore alternative censuresGameStop makes the case for financial regulationMitch McConnell is the GOAT
- Reuters Videos
It’s killed more civilians in the UK than World War II. It's killed almost twice as many people as the Nazi German air raids known as the Blitz. COVID-19 related deaths in the UK have now officially passed 100,000, and people are asking why. When the novel coronavirus silently slid across the United Kingdom back in March, Prime Minister Boris Johnson initially said it could be sent packing in a matter of weeks. Fast-forward 10 months later and the country is in its third lockdown and hospitals are being compared to “war zones." The UK has the highest death toll in Europe and the fifth-highest in the world. In a series of investigations, Reuters has previously reported how the British government made several errors: It was slow to spot the infections arriving and it was too late with a lockdown. People were also discharged from the hospital into care homes when they were infected, spreading the disease further and to the most vulnerable. Some scientific advisors say Britain did take the right measures - but just too late. Johnson told people they “must” stay at home on March 23 - after Italy, France, and Spain - and studies have since said that locking down even a week earlier could have slashed the initial death toll. Even when lockdowns were called the government's enforcement strategy was questioned. Tougher measures for rule-breakers were introduced retroactively and the end of lockdowns meant the end of social distancing for some - with headlines of massive crowds and a complete lack of enforcement in places like beaches or street corners. A delay in enforcing mask-wearing, a highly criticized test-and-trace app, and ultimately, a new variant during the second-wave were all contributing factors. Johnson has resisted calls for an inquiry into the handling of the crisis, made by some doctors and bereaved families. They accuse him of reacting too slowly, failing to supply sufficient protective equipment, and bungling the testing system. Ministers argue that while they have not got everything right, they were making decisions at speed and now have one of the best global vaccination programs.
Europe's fight to secure COVID-19 vaccine supplies sharpened on Thursday when Britain demanded that it receive all the shots it paid for after the European Union asked AstraZeneca to divert supplies from the UK. The EU, whose member states are far behind Israel, the United Kingdom and the United States in rolling out vaccines, is scrambling to get supplies just as the West's biggest drugmakers slow deliveries to the bloc due to production problems.
- The Telegraph
Russian authorities target Navalny's associates and wife in series of police raids ahead of protests
Russian authorities raided the homes of jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny and his associates on Wednesday, piling pressure on opposition figures ahead of a major rally planned for this weekend. Masked police on Wednesday afternoon broke down the door of Mr Navalny’s rented flat despite the pleas from his wife who was inside, asking for her lawyer, Veronika Polyakova. Ms Polyakova arrived at her house but was not allowed in to witness the search, a clear violation of the Russian law,she told the Dozhd TV channel. In the biggest wave of police action against the opposition in months, law enforcement agents raided at least seven homes on Wednesday, including a Moscow property owned by Mr Navalny but where he has not lived for years, and the office of his associates who run his YouTube channel. A video posted online by Lyubov Sobol, a close ally of Mr Navalny, showed black-clad masked men break down the door and walk into the office.
- Associated Press
Now, Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont is stepping into one of his most visible and physically grueling roles: presiding over former President Donald Trump's second Senate impeachment trial. Leahy, the Senate's longest-serving current member, will be doing it after a brief health scare that saw him taken by ambulance to a hospital Tuesday evening, only to gavel the Senate into order Wednesday morning. “I had some muscle spasms," Leahy, 80, told reporters the morning after feeling ill in his Capitol office.
- The Independent
Mike Pence is homeless after leaving office and ‘couch-surfing’ with Indiana politicians, report says
Mike Pence has been residing in public housing for the past eight years
Pope Francis on Wednesday marked the 76th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz death camp by urging people to keep a close watch on ideological extremism, because "these things can happen again". He spoke three weeks after displays of anti-Semitism surfaced at the U.S. Capitol riot on Jan. 6 and two weeks after one of Montreal's largest synagogues was vandalised and almost set on fire. Speaking at his general audience, held inside the papal library because of coronavirus restrictions, Francis said it was imperative that the world did not forget.
- The Telegraph
A doctor with terminal cancer killed a female paediatrician and then himself after taking hostages at a children's clinic in Austin, Texas. Dr Bharat Narumanchi held hostages in a five-hour siege before killing Dr Katherine Lindley Dodson. Narumanchi had applied for a volunteer position at the clinic a week ago and was declined. He later came back carrying a pistol, a shotgun and two duffel bags. Police spokesman Jeff Greenwalt said Narumanchi had recently been given "weeks to live" after a cancer diagnosis. He said: "The case as far as who did this is closed. We know who did it. And we know that there's no longer a threat to the public. But we really, really want to answer the question of why." Dr Lindley Dodson, 43, was beloved by patients and their families. Karen Vladeck, whose two children were among her patients, told the Austin American-Statesman: "You saw her at your worst when your kid was sick, and she just always had a smile on her face. "She made you feel like you were the only parent there, even though there was a line of kids waiting." During the siege a SWAT team used a megaphone to communicate with the armed doctor. A hostage negotiator shouted: "Your life is very important to me. And I know life is very important to you. "You don't deserve to go through this. For all you have done for others. That is why I want to help you work through this. You have saved a lot of lives." Police first sent in a robot and then officers went into the medical office where they found two bodies. They did not comment on how the two doctors died. A police spokesman said: "The SWAT situation has ended. Two subjects have been located and were pronounced deceased."
- National Review
White House climate czar John Kerry on Wednesday recommended that oil and gas workers should pivot to manufacturing solar panels if their jobs are eliminated as a consequence of the Biden administration’s environmental policies. During a press briefing at the White House on Wednesday, Kerry, who is serving as the U.S. Special Presidential Envoy for Climate, was asked what his message is to workers who are “seeing an end to their livelihoods” as a result of President Biden’s plan to move away from traditional fuels and towards renewable energy. “The president of the United States has expressed in every comment he has made about climate the need to grow the new jobs that pay better, that are cleaner,” Kerry responded, emphasizing that Biden intends to “do what needs to be done to deal with this crisis.” “What President Biden wants to do is make sure those folks have better choices, that they have alternatives, that they can be the people to go to work to make the solar panels,” Kerry said. Kerry noted that jobs in clean energy, such solar power technician and wind turbine technician, were growing rapidly before the pandemic hit. “The same people can do those jobs,” the former secretary of state said, adding that, “coal plants have been closing over the last 20 years.” Kerry also lamented that workers in traditional fuel industries have been a “false narrative.” “They’ve been fed the notion that somehow dealing with climate is coming at their expense. No, it’s not,” he said, adding that the tribulations of oil and gas workers are due to “other market forces already taking place.” Biden signed several executive orders on climate change on Wednesday aimed at achieving the goal of reaching net-zero emissions by 2050. Last week, the president reentered the Paris climate accord, from which the Trump administration withdrew the U.S. in 2017. Biden also canceled the permit on the Keystone pipeline, a project that would have created about 11,000 U.S. jobs this year, according to the Keystone XL website. Many of the workers are temporary, but 8,000 are union workers. “Today is climate day at the White House, which means today is jobs day at the White House,” Biden said at a White House ceremony. “In my view, we’ve already waited too long to deal with this climate crisis and we can’t wait any longer. It is time to act.” Also on Wednesday, former Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm testified at her confirmation hearing before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee and promised to focus on creating U.S. jobs in clean energy while moving away from fossil fuels. She cited her time as Michigan governor, saying that “when we focused on providing incentives for job providers to locate in Michigan in clean energy, they came.” However, she added, “I think it is important that as we develop fossil fuels that we also develop the technology to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.”
- Associated Press
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on Wednesday criticized Iran's hard-liner dominated judiciary over last week's prosecution of the countrys telecommunications minister. Mohammad Javad Azari Jahromi was released on bail after he was summoned for prosecution. Judiciary officials cited his refusal to block Instagram and impose limitations on the bandwidth of other foreign social media and messaging systems.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the experience of the COVID-19 pandemic underlined the benefits of being part of the United Kingdom as he prepares to visit Scotland on Thursday to confront growing support for another independence referendum. The bonds holding together the United Kingdom have been severely strained over the last five years by Brexit, the government’s handling of the pandemic, and repeated calls by the Scottish National Party for a new referendum on independence. Ahead of his visit, Johnson said that Scotland as a part of the United Kingdom gained access to a coronavirus vaccine developed by the University of Oxford and they are being administered by their shared armed forces, who are creating 80 new vaccine centres in Scotland.
- U.S.News & World Report
Global financial markets are receiving much-needed boosts heading into this year, thanks to earlier-than-anticipated approvals and distributions of multiple vaccines that are spurring hopes of recovery from the economic damage caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. But until inoculations become more widespread, policy support from governments will drive economic recovery worldwide, according to the 2021 Global Financial Stability Report Update released on Wednesday by the International Monetary Fund.
- Architectural Digest
Let’s get loudOriginally Appeared on Architectural Digest
- NBC News
Analysis: Biden had nothing to gain and everything to lose from fighting a quixotic war over the filibuster just days into his presidency.
- The Conversation
Why it takes 2 shots to make mRNA vaccines do their antibody-creating best – and what the data shows on delaying the booster dose
After a second dose of the COVID-19 mRNA vaccine, a swarm of antibodies attacks the virus. Kateryna Kon/Science Photo Library via Getty ImagesWith the U.S. facing vaccination delays because of worker shortages and distribution problems, federal health officials now say it’s OK to push back the second dose of the two-part vaccine by as much as six weeks. As an infectious disease doctor, I’ve been fielding a lot of questions from my patients as well as my friends and family about whether the COVID-19 vaccine will still work if people are late receiving their second dose. Why you need two doses 3-4 weeks apart Two doses, separated by three to four weeks, is the tried-and-true approach to generate an effective immune response through vaccination, not just for COVID but for hepatitis A and B and other diseases as well. The first dose primes the immune system and introduces the body to the germ of interest. This allows the immune system to prepare its defense. The second dose, or booster, provides the opportunity for the immune system to ramp up the quality and quantity of the antibodies used to fight the virus. In the case of the Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines, the second dose increases the protection afforded by the vaccine from 60% to approximately 95%. Why the CDC decided receiving the second dose within 42 days is OK In the clinical trial, the second dose of the Pfizer vaccine was administered as early as day 19 and as late as day 42 to 93% of the subjects. Since protection was approximately 95% for everyone who was vaccinated within this time “window,” there is little reason not to allow some flexibility in the timing of the second dose 2. As more vaccine becomes available, the timing of the second dose should be close to four weeks for the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines. But the good news is that even while supplies remain limited, the science suggests that there’s nothing bad about getting a second dose as late as 42 days after the first. What the immune system does between the first and second dose The biology through which the mRNA vaccines induce their protection from COVID-19 is fundamentally different from that with other vaccines. Pfizer and Moderna vaccines use messenger RNA that encodes the spike glycoprotein. Upon injection of the vaccine, the mRNA enters into immune cells called dendritic cells. The dendritic cells use the instructions written in the mRNA to synthesize the hallmark spike glycoprotein, which characterizes the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19. These immune cells then show the spike glycoprotein to B-cells, which then make anti-spike antibodies. Dendritic cells recognize viruses and present information about the spike protein to T-cells. T-cells provide information about the viral spike protein to B-cells, which are transformed to memory B-cells that store information about the virus. When this memory B-cell is activated with an infection or the second dose of the vaccine, this causes some of the B-cells to change into plasma B-cells that secrete protective antibodies that fight the virus. Kateryna Kon/Science Photo Library via Getty Images The mRNA vaccines are uniquely capable of inducing a special kind of immune cell – called a T-follicular helper cell – to help B-cells produce antibodies. The T-cells do this through direct contact with the B-cells and by sending chemical signals that tell the B-cells to produce antibodies. It is this help in antibody production that makes these vaccines so effective. But not all B-cells are the same. There are two kinds that make anti-spike antibodies: long-lived plasma cells and memory B-cells. The long-lived plasma cells, as their name implies, live in the bone marrow for years after vaccination, continuously churning out antibody – in this case anti-spike antibody. These long-lived B-cells do not need to be boosted. The memory B-cells, on the other hand, live in a state akin to hibernation. They do not produce antibodies until stimulated by a booster of the vaccine, or are exposed to infection with the coronavirus that causes COVID-19. That is the reason we need that second dose. Together these two types of B-cells provide a constant level of protection. What happens if you don’t get the Pfizer or Moderna second dose on time? With current vaccine shortages, and problems with setting up the infrastructure to vaccinate millions of people, many physicians are concerned that the second dose of vaccine won’t be delivered in the prescribed three-to-four-week window. That booster shot is necessary for the T-cells to stimulate the memory B-cells to produce massive quantities of antibodies. If the booster isn’t given within the appropriate window, lower quantities of antibodies will be produced that may not provide as powerful protection from the virus. [Deep knowledge, daily. Sign up for The Conversation’s newsletter.]This article is republished from The Conversation, a nonprofit news site dedicated to sharing ideas from academic experts. It was written by: William Petri, University of Virginia. Read more:How mRNA vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna work, why they’re a breakthrough and why they need to be kept so coldCOVID-19 vaccines were developed in record time – but are these game-changers safe? William Petri receives research funding from the NIH, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Regeneron, Inc.