Tuesday, December 07, 2021

July 15, 2021 JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) — As many Asian countries battle their worst surge of COVID-19 infections, the slow flow of vaccine doses from around the world is finally picking up speed, giving hope that low inoculation rates can increase and help blunt the effect of the rapidly spreading delta variant.

With many vaccine pledges still unfulfilled and the rates of infection spiking across multiple countries, however, experts say more needs to be done to help nations struggling with the overflow of patients and shortages of oxygen and other critical supplies.

Some 1.5 million doses of the Moderna vaccine were set to arrive Thursday afternoon in Indonesia, which has become a dominant hot spot with a record-high number of infections and deaths.

The U.S. shipment comes in addition to 3 million other American doses that arrived Sunday, and 11.7 million doses of AstraZeneca that have come in batches since March through the U.N.-backed COVAX mechanism, the last earlier this week.

“It’s quite encouraging,” said Sowmya Kadandale, health chief in Indonesia of UNICEF, which is in charge of the distribution of vaccines provided through COVAX. “It seems now to be, and not just in Indonesia, a race between the vaccines and the variants, and I hope we win that race.”

Many, including the World Health Organization, have been critical of the vaccine inequalities in the world, pointing out that many wealthy nations have more than half of their populations at least partially vaccinated, while the vast majority of people in lower-income countries are still waiting on a first dose.

The International Red Cross warned this week of a “widening global vaccine divide” and said wealthy countries needed to increase the pace of following through on their pledges.

“It’s a shame it didn’t happen earlier and can’t happen faster,” Alexander Matheou, the Asia-Pacific director of the Red Cross, said of the recent uptick in deliveries. “There’s no such thing as too late — vaccinating people is always worth doing — but the later the vaccines come, the more people will die.”

Vietnam, Thailand and South Korea have all imposed new lockdown restrictions over the past week as they struggle to contain rapidly rising infections amid sluggish vaccination campaigns.

In South Korea — widely praised for its initial response to the pandemic that included extensive testing and contact tracing — a shortage in vaccines has left 70% of the population still waiting for their first shot. Thailand, which only started its mass vaccination in early June, is seeing skyrocketing cases and record deaths, and only about 15% of people have had at least one shot. In Vietnam, only about 4% have.

“Parts of the world ... are talking about reclaiming lost freedoms such as going back to work, opening the cinemas and restaurants,” Matheou told The Associated Press. “This part of the world is far away from.

Indonesia started aggressively vaccinating earlier than many in the region, negotiating bilaterally with China for the Sinovac jabs. Now about 14% of its population — the fourth largest in the world — has at least one dose of a vaccine, primarily Sinovac. Several countries also have their own production capabilities, including South Korea, Japan and Thailand, but still need more doses to fill the needs of the region’s huge population.

“Both Moderna and AstraZeneca have been really critical in ramping up these numbers and ensuring that the supplies are available,” said UNICEF’s Kadandale, noting that Indonesia plans to have some additional 208.2 million people vaccinated by year’s end and is giving 1 million shots daily. “Every single dose does make a huge difference.”

Many other countries in the region have vaccination rates far below Indonesia’s for a variety of reasons, including production and distribution issues as well as an initial wait-and-see attitude from many early on when numbers were low and there was less of a sense of urgency.

Some were shocked into action after witnessing the devastation in India in April and May as the country’s health system collapsed under a severe spike in cases that caught the government unprepared and led to mass fatalities.

At the same time, India — a major regional producer of vaccines — stopped exporting doses so that it could focus on its own suffering population.

The U.S. has sent tens of millions of vaccine doses to multiple countries in Asia recently, part of President Joe Biden’s pledge to provide 80 million doses, including Vietnam, Laos, South Korea and Bangladesh. The U.S. plans to donate an additional 500 million vaccines globally in the next year, and 200 million by the end of 2021.

“Indonesia is a critical partner for U.S. engagement in Southeast Asia and the vaccines come without strings attached,” said Scott Hartmann, a spokesman for the U.S. Embassy in Jakarta. “We’re doing this with the object of saving lives and ending the global pandemic, and equitable global access to safe and effective vaccines is essential.”

Earlier in the week, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, whose country is one of the largest financial backers of COVAX, accused Russia and China of using their delivery of vaccines for policy leverage.

“We note, in particular with China, that the supply of vaccines was also used to make very clear political demands of various countries,” he said, without providing specific examples.

There are also growing questions about the effectiveness of China’s Sinovac vaccine against the delta variant of the virus.

Thai officials said that booster doses of AstraZeneca would be given to front-line medical personnel who earlier received two doses of Sinovac, after a nurse who received two doses of Sinovac died Saturday after contracting COVID-19.

Sinovac has been authorized by WHO for emergency use but Indonesia also said it was planning boosters for health workers, using some of the newly delivered Moderna doses, after reports that some of the health workers who had died since June had been fully vaccinated with the Chinese shot.

“We have still found people getting severe symptoms or dying even when they are vaccinated,” Pandu Riono, an epidemiologist with the University of Indonesia, said about the Sinovac shot. “It’s only proven that some vaccines are strong enough to face the delta variant — AstraZeneca, Moderna and Pfizer seem capable.”

While the majority of recent deliveries have been American, Japan was sending 1 million doses of AstraZeneca on Thursday each to Indonesia, Taiwan and Vietnam as part of bilateral deals, and Vietnam said it was receiving 1.5 million more AstraZeneca doses from Australia.

The Philippines is expecting a total of 16 million doses in July, including 3.2 million from the U.S. later this week, 1.1 million from Japan, 132,000 of Sputnik V from Russia, as well as others through COVAX.

Japan is also is sending 11 million through COVAX this month to Bangladesh, Cambodia, Iran, Laos, Nepal, Sri Lanka, and others. Canada this week committed an additional 17.7 million surplus doses to the 100 million already pledged through COVAX, which is coordinated by Gavi, a vaccine alliance.

In addition to distributing some donated vaccines, financial contributions to COVAX also help fund the purchase of doses to distribute for free to 92 low or moderate-income nations.

Earlier this month, it took blistering criticism from the African Union for how long it was taking for vaccines to reach the continent, which noted that just 1% of Africans are fully vaccinated.

Gavi said the vaccine shortfall so far this year is because the major COVAX supplier, the Serum Institute of India, diverted production for domestic use.

In its latest supply forecast, however, Gavi shows deliveries just beginning a sharp uptick, and still on track to meet the goal of about 1.5 billion doses by year’s end, representing 23% coverage in lower and middle-income nations, and more than 5 billion doses by the end of 2022.

“It’s better to focus on vaccinating the world and to avoid hoarding doses,” said Matheou, of the Red Cross. “Sharing vaccines makes everyone safer.”

SXM Radio Online

Entertainment

September 7, 2021  NEW YORK (AP) — Actor Michael K. Williams, who as the rogue robber of drug dealers Omar Little on “The Wire” created one of the most beloved and enduring characters in a prime era of television, died Monday. Williams was found dead Monday afternoon by family members in his Brooklyn penthouse apartment, New York City police said. He was 54. His death was being investigated as a possible drug overdose, the NYPD said. The medical examiner was investigating the cause of death. Little, a “stick-up boy” based on real figures from Baltimore, was probably the most popular character among the devoted fans of “The Wire,” the HBO show that ran from 2002 to 2008 and is re-watched constantly in streaming.

September 8, 2021 LOS ANGELES (AP) — Britney Spears’ father filed Tuesday to end the court conservatorship that has controlled the singer’s life and money for 13 years. James Spears filed his petition to terminate the conservatorship in Los Angeles Superior Court. “As Mr. Spears has said, again and again, all he wants is what is best for his daughter,” the document says. “If Ms. Spears wants to terminate the conservatorship and believes that she can handle her own life, Mr. Spears believes that she should get that chance.” Judge Brenda Penny, who oversees the case, will need to approve the move. Britney Spears attorney Matthew Rosengart said in an email the filing “represents another legal victory for Britney Spears — a massive one — as well as vindication for Ms. Spears.”

September 8, 2021  NEW YORK (AP) — With Katie Holmes and Lil’ Kim on his front row and singer Marina on the mic high above his runway, Christian Siriano helped kicked off New York Fashion Week’s first big pandemic round of in-person shows Tuesday with a flurry of neon and lace-inspired in part by all the Italian women in his life. From ornate Gotham Hall, beneath a stained-glass skylight 70 feet up, Siriano’s commitment to size inclusivity was never stronger as he opened and closed the show with plus-size breakout model Precious Lee. She first walked in a stunning yellow trouser suit with wide loose pants and an asymmetrical jacket, a matching crossover bralette underneath.

September 7, 2021  VENICE, Italy (AP) — Paul Schrader knows he has a limited number of films left, so whatever he does from here on out is going to be for himself. At 75 years old, the writer of “Taxi Driver” and “Raging Bull” and director of “American Gigolo” and “Mishima” was even somewhat prepared to call it a day after his 2018 film “First Reformed,” for which he got his first Oscar nomination. He didn’t want to. He just knew it might be the reality. “I thought I would go back to this character again for about the fifth time,” Schrader said in a recent interview. By “this character” he means “the man in the room.” It’s Travis Bickle. It’s John LeTour. It’s Julian Kay. And it’s a formula he’s been working with for 45 years.

Business News

September 8, 2021  -Stocks were mostly lower in Asia on Wednesday after a lackluster session on Wall Street, where weak jobs data and pandemic concerns weighed on sentiment. Shares rose in Tokyo after economic growth for the April-June quarter was revised upward to an annualized 1.9% from an earlier estimate of 1.3%. “Any feel-good factor was ignored, though, given the climb was less than half of the 4.20% fall in Q1,” Jeffrey Halley of Oanda said in a commentary. “Japan will be lucky to break even this year as the current Covid-19 wave will almost certainly have weighed on domestic consumption,” he said.

September 8, 2021 NEW YORK (AP) — There will be something missing at two Whole Foods stores opening next year: the rows of cashiers. Amazon, which owns the grocery chain, said Wednesday that it will bring its cashier-less technology to two Whole Foods stores for the first time, letting shoppers grab what they need and leave without having to open their wallets. Cameras and sensors track what’s taken off shelves. Items are charged to an Amazon account after customers leave the store with them. But there will be an option for those who want to shop the old-fashioned way: Self-checkout lanes will be available that take cash, gift cards and other types of payment. Amazon first unveiled the cashier-less technology in 2018 at an Amazon Go convenience store and has expanded it to larger Amazon supermarkets. But it will be the first time it has appeared at Whole Foods, a chain of more than 500 grocery stores Amazon bought four years ago.

September 8, 2021  BEIJING (AP) — An avalanche of changes launched by China’s ruling Communist Party has jolted everyone from tech billionaires to school kids. Behind them: President Xi Jinping’s vision of making a more powerful, prosperous country by reviving revolutionary ideals, with more economic equality and tighter party control over society and entrepreneurs. Since taking power in 2012, Xi has called for the party to return to its “original mission” as China’s economic, social and cultural leader and carry out the “ rejuvenation of the great Chinese nation.” The party has spent the decade since then silencing dissent and tightening political control. Now, after 40 years of growth that transformed China into the world’s factory but left a gulf between a wealthy elite and the poor majority, the party is promising to spread prosperity more evenly and is pressing private companies to pay for social welfare and back Beijing’s ambition to become a global technology competitor.

Fashion News

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