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Thanks to natural mutations, more-infectious and potentially deadlier variants of the virus that causes COVID-19 are now racing around the globe and are threatening to turn back the recent progress against the disease due to vaccination. Last week Houston became the first big American city to report the presence of all five variants that have medical experts worried — a California strain called B.1.427/B.1.429, a New York variant classified as B.1.526, the Brazilian P.1 strain, a strain called B.1.351 that is believed to have originated in South Africa, and the U.K. mutation B.1.1.7, which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention predicts will become the dominant strain in the U.S. by the end of the month. P.1, for instance, has been found to make reinfection easier, while new studies show that B.1.1.7 extends the infectious period beyond the original strain.
Pope Francis and Iraq's top Shiite cleric delivered a powerful message of peaceful coexistence Saturday, urging Muslims in the war-weary Arab nation to embrace Iraq's long-beleaguered Christian minority during an historic meeting in the holy city of Najaf. Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani said religious authorities have a role in protecting Iraq's Christians, and that Christians should live in peace and enjoy the same rights as other Iraqis. The Vatican said Francis thanked al-Sistani for having “raised his voice in defense of the weakest and most persecuted” during some of the most violent times in Iraq's recent history.
Former Mexican President Vicente Fox said on Friday he expected Congress to pass its new law to legalize cannabis next week, a move that would effectively create one of the world's largest weed markets. The bill, backed by the administration of President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, would mark a major shift in a country bedeviled for years by violence between feuding drug cartels. Fox, a director at Colombian-Canadian Khiron Life Sciences which focuses on cannabis for medical use, has been a long-standing advocate for the decriminalization of marijuana in Mexico.
Boris Johnson has challenged the EU's decision to approve the blockade of 250,000 AstraZeneca vaccines destined for Australia, warning that the restrictions "endanger" global efforts to combat the Covid-19 pandemic. On Friday, Downing Street questioned the European Commission over its acceptance of the Italian government's decision to use EU-wide export controls to prevent the shipment from going ahead. Asked about the controversy, Mr Johnson's spokesman pointed out that Ursula von der Leyen, the European Commission president, had previously assured the Prime Minister that the controls would not be used in this way.
Three Venezuelan men pleaded guilty to helping organize an ill-conceived invasion last year to remove President Nicolás Maduro. In Friday's hearing before a Colombian court, the men acknowledged their role alongside Jordan Goudreau, a former American Green Beret and Iraq war veteran, in organizing a rag tag army of a few dozen Venezuelan military deserters intent on overthrowing Venezuela's socialist leadership. “I apologize to the Colombian government,” one of the men, National Guard Maj. Juvenal Sequea, told a judge in Bogota on Friday as he and two other accepted lighter charges of providing advice and logistical support to illegal armed groups.
Myanmar has been gripped by mass protests demanding an end to military rule, and at least 55 protesters - many of them young activists - have been killed. BBC Burmese's Nyein Chan Aye has been reporting from the frontlines in Yangon - and this is what he saw. It's been more than a month since the military coup in Myanmar.
U.S. President Joe Biden believes that authorizations for the use of military force that have been used to justify U.S. attacks on overseas targets should be re-examined, the White House said on Friday. Democratic Senator Tim Kaine and Republican Senator Todd Young introduced legislation this week to repeal the 1991 and 2002 Authorizations for the Use of Military Force (AUMF) against Iraq, citing the “strong partnership” between Washington and the government in Baghdad. White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki said Biden wanted to work with Kaine on the issue.
Iran's paramilitary Revolutionary Guard on Friday said authorities disrupted an attempted hijacking of a passenger plane in flight the previous night, though it offered few details on what happened. The purported hijacking targeted an Iran Air Fokker 100 regional commercial jet heading from the southwestern city of Ahvaz to the northwestern city of Mashhad, the Guard said on its website. The Guard's announcement did not identify the suspect and only said the hijacker sought to divert the flight to the “southern shores of the Persian Gulf.”
Israel on Friday postponed plans to vaccinate Palestinians who work inside the country and its West Bank settlements until further notice. COGAT, the Israeli military agency coordinating day-to-day affairs with the Palestinian Authority, attributed the postponement to “administrative delays,” adding that a new start date for the campaign would be determined later. The vaccination program was supposed to begin on Sunday at West Bank crossings into Israel and at Israeli industrial zones.
The American space agency's (Nasa) Perseverance rover has wiggled its wheels and undertaken its first drive across the surface of Mars. Pictures downloaded to Earth on Friday indicate the excursion was a short roll and turn. It's two weeks now since the one-tonne robot landed on the Red Planet.
A California serial killer who authorities say strangled and raped at least seven women was fatally choked himself in a state prison, officials said Wednesday.
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani said on Saturday, in a bid to push forward peace talks with the Taliban, that his government was ready to discuss holding fresh elections, insisting that any new government should emerge through the democratic process. "Transfer of power through elections is a non-negotiable principle for us," Ghani told lawmakers at the opening of parliament session in Kabul. President Ghani met U.S. special envoy to Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad in Kabul during the past week to discuss ways to inject momentum in the stalled peace negotiations with Taliban representatives being held in Qatar.
While the Wyoming National Guard was sending more than 100 troops to Washington, D.C., to help with security around President Joe Biden's inauguration in January, Gov. Mark Gordon quietly mobilized dozens of Guard troops and others in case of violence at the state Capitol in Cheyenne. The all-but-undisclosed local deployment Jan. 15-21, specifics of which came to light Friday after an inquiry by The Associated Press, stood in stark contrast with the state's contribution to U.S. Capitol security praised by Gordon and other top Wyoming officials. John Barrasso and Cynthia Lummis and Rep. Liz Cheney, all Republicans — likewise have posed in photos with and lauded the Wyoming troops at the U.S. Capitol but not those working similar duty back home.
This April should look very different than the last for California's nearly 40 million residents, with a new plan from the governor that will speed up reopening a year after he imposed the nation's first statewide coronavirus shutdown. Next month, nearly the entire state could see a return of inside restaurant dining, the reopening of movie theaters and other indoor businesses, far more children back in classrooms and competing in sports — maybe even fans in the stands for Opening Day of Major League Baseball. “It's important that we start getting back to work and recovery,” said Emilie Cameron, district affairs and development director at the Downtown Sacramento Partnership, which represents businesses in California's capital city.
A Trump appointee, who was still employed at the State Department when he allegedly bashed police at the U.S. Capitol with a riot shield and egged on a crowd of insurrectionists, has been arrested for his role on Jan. 6. Federico Klein, a 42-year-old State Department staff assistant with top security clearance, is facing a slew of charges, including unlawful entry and assaulting an officer with a dangerous weapon, according to a criminal complaint first obtained by The New York Times. Prosecutors allege Klein, who also worked on Trump's 2016 campaign, “physically and verbally engaged with the officers holding the line” before assaulting one officer with a riot shield—and using that stolen police equipment to wedge open a door into the Capitol to allow insurrectionists inside.
Quality food preservation, storage space, and good-looking design are priorities among kitchen designers when it comes to refrigerators Originally Appeared on Architectural Digest
Just over a half of Pakistan's health workers have received a COVID-19 shot since inoculations began last month, while a poll released on Friday suggested nearly half had concerns over China's Sinopharm, the only vaccine available so far. Pakistan had distributed 504,400 Sinopharm vaccine doses to provincial authorities by Feb. 20, and 230,000 frontline health workers had received a shot by Friday, according to health minister Faisal Sultan. In January, Sultan said 400,000 health workers had been registered to get the vaccine.
Councilman Steve Kozachik, who helped lead efforts to care for asylum seekers in 2019, said the city is “on the cusp” of seeing a large increase in migrants The Border Patrol released thousands of asylum seekers in 2019 to volunteer-managed shelters in Tucson, many of whom came from countries in Central America. The Daily Star reported then that some migrants spoke about fleeing gangs that were trying to recruit their children, widespread corruption and other issues. Hundreds of volunteers worked to support those seeking asylum until the Trump administration cut off access to the shelters in 2020, forcing migrants to spend months waiting in border towns like Nogales, Mexico.
Radar images capture new Antarctic mega-iceberg West Antarctica's Getz glaciers flowing faster Polar scientists wary of impending satellite gap BAS is using all these space pictures to monitor events. The Cambridge-based agency wants to see if A74 might collide with the western part of the Brunt and initiate a second calving even closer to Halley. The base is currently unoccupied.
Preliminary data from a study conducted at the University of Oxford indicates that the COVID-19 vaccine developed by AstraZeneca PLC is effective against the P1, or Brazilian, variant, a source with knowledge of the study told Reuters on Friday. Early results indicated the AstraZeneca vaccine was significantly less effective against the South African variant, which is similar to P1. The information comes as a plasma study published ahead of peer review on Monday (https://bit.ly/3bX3LBa) suggested the CoronaVac COVID-19 vaccine developed by China's Sinovac Biotech may not work effectively against the Brazilian variant.
The European Union and the United States agreed on Friday to suspend tariffs imposed on billions of dollars of imports in a 16-year-old dispute over aircraft subsidies, and said any long-term solution would need to address Chinese competition. The two sides said in a joint statement that the four-month suspension will cover all U.S. tariffs on $7.5 billion of EU imports and all EU duties on $4 billion of U.S. products, which resulted from long-running World Trade Organization cases over subsidies for planemakers Airbus and Boeing. As well as effective support measures and enforcement, key elements of a resolution would include "addressing the trade distortive practices of and challenges posed by new entrants from non-market economies, such as China," it said.
NASA's newest Mars rover hit the dusty red road this week, putting 21 feet on the odometer in its first test drive. The Perseverance rover ventured from its landing position Thursday, two weeks after setting down on the red planet to seek signs of past life. The roundabout, back and forth drive lasted just 33 minutes and went so well that more driving was on tap Friday and Saturday for the the six-wheeled rover.
Eight Senate Democrats broke from the majority of their party on Friday to vote against a proposal from Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont to raise the minimum wage to $15, joining all 50 Republicans in the upper chamber to reject it. Their defections put the measure on course to fail. Sanders' proposal defied a ruling from the Senate parliamentarian that a minimum wage increase could not be included in President Joe Biden's $1.9 trillion COVID-19 stimulus package.
Prosecutors have filed a motion asking for charges against Kenneth Walker to be permanently dropped. Walker was at home with Breonna Taylor when she was killed during a police raid in March 2020. Prosecutors in Kentucky are moving to permanently dismiss charges brought against Breonna Taylor's boyfriend, Kenneth Walker.
“Taking humans to Mars would require an investment astronomically out of kilter with the possible benefits.”
“Can a Mars settlement be a freer society than we enjoy on Earth? Maybe.”
“What we learn...may spark the next revolution that will make life in 2071 beyond anything we can imagine right now.”
“Our presence on Mars could jeopardize one of our main reasons for being there — the search for life.”
“The future of geologic investigation of other worlds lies with highly improved versions of our Mars rovers.”