■ Malaysia Muslim role seen for Iraq \n \nMalaysia said yesterday that Muslims should take responsibility for peacekeeping in Iraq, but only under the command of the UN Foreign Minister Syed Hamid Albar, speaking on the eve of an Islamic summit, said Muslim countries should not send troops to help the US-led coalition that toppled Saddam Hussein. "You cannot have peacekeepers from countries which are not Muslim," Syed Hamid told a news conference before the eight-day meeting of the Organization of the Islamic Conference in Malaysia's new administrative capital, Putrajaya. "It must be done under the umbrella of the UN. We cannot take part if it is still under the United States," he said. \n \n■ Thailand \nLast WW1 veteran dies \n \nThailand 's last surviving veteran of World War I, Second Lieutenant Yod Sangrungruang, has died at the age of 106, reports said yesterday. Yod, who was a recipient of France's Legion d'Honneur award, was just 20 years old in 1917 when he joined 1,284 Thai soldiers in volunteering to fight with the Allies in France. He served as a mechanic in France before returning to Thailand in 1919 and was awarded a medal for his services from Thai King Rama VI. In 2000, French President Jacques Chriac awarded Yod the Legion d'Honneur, France's highest decoration. \n \n■ The Philippines \nArroyo favors parliament \n \nPhilippines President Gloria Arroyo said yesterday that she preferred a parliamentary style of government and that she would put it to the electorate when seeking a new term in next year's presidential contest. If she wins the election on May 10 next year, Arroyo would serve for six years, meaning a change of system would be unlikely before June 30, 2010. "A parliamentary form of government improves the political interface between the executive and the legislature and thereby could galvanize reforms more efficiently and effectively," Arroyo said in a statement. \n \n■ China \nMedia warned over SARS \n \nChina has stepped up warnings to local authorities against covering up any new SARS outbreak, but has also slapped stern regulations on how the media reports a fresh epidemic. In a speech carried by the People's Daily yesterday, Health Minister Wu Yi (吳儀) said her department would be in charge of reporting any potential new outbreak of the disease and that media outlets could only publish information vetted by the ministry. "The news media must strictly report the outbreak of epidemics in accordance with the circulars issued by the Ministry of Health and must not report any information that has not be verified," Wu said. \n \n■ Hong Kong \nTung opponents plan rally \n \nOpponents of Hong Kong Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa (董建華) said yesterday they will stage a weekend protest calling for his resignation even though they likely will fail to obtain required insurance to cover potential damage. Police have approved the anti-Tung rally set for tomorrow in a downtown park, but insurance providers have balked at providing any coverage. Although Hong Kong has frequent protests, they are typically peaceful and the demonstrators say the insurance requirement appears to be a government ploy to discourage dissent. "I haven't even been able to get a quote," Anti-Tung Solidarity spokesman Andrew To said by phone \n■ United Kingdom Moore, Sting honored \n \nQueen Elizabeth II Thursday awarded a knighthood to James Bond star Roger Moore for his services to charity, and also bestowed an honour on rock singer Sting for his musical achievements. The awards, announced in the queen's birthday honors list in June, were made at Buckingham Palace, the monarch's London residence. Moore became Sir Roger following his knighthood while Sting was awarded the CBE (Commander of the British Empire) -- one gong away from being knighted. Moore, 75, received the gong for his tireless work for children's charity UNICEF for which he has been a goodwill ambassador for the past 12 years. \n \n■ United states \nBoard game stirs uproar \n \nA controversial adaptation of the board game Monopoly featuring a thuggish, bandana-wearing black man with bug eyes has outraged African Americans in Chicago. While the original Monopoly board game featured a gentlemanly character in a top hat and cane, in Ghettopoly, the black man clenches a marijuana cigarette in his teeth and holds an Uzi in one hand and a bottle of malt liquor in the other. While the original boardgame rewarded them for such achievements as winning second place in a beauty pageant, Ghettopoly players get cash for doing things like getting everyone in their neighborhood hooked on crack cocaine. \n \n■ Liberia \nStop meddling, Taylor told \n \nThe Security Council warned Liberia's ousted president, Charles Taylor, on Thursday against trying to keep running the war-battered West African country from exile in Nigeria. "We think that his activities need to be curbed so that he does not remain in political contact with his former supporters," said US Ambassador John Negroponte, the Security Council president for October. "So I think it's very important that he observes the terms of his having left Liberia and that he respects the commitment that he undertook not to pursue political activities from outside the country," Negroponte said. \n \n■ The hague \nMilosevic knew of massacre \n \nA former UN commander testified at Slobodan Milosevic's war crimes trial on Thursday that he believed the former Yugoslav president knew about the 1995 Srebrenica massacre while it was happening. Former British General Rupert Smith, who headed the UN Protection Force known as UNPROFOR, said he met with Milosevic on July 15, 1995, while Bosnian Serbs were slaughtering an estimated 7,500 Muslims in the UN-declared safe zone of Srebrenica. Smith said General Ratko Mladic, who is accused of ordering the Srebrenica massacre, attended the meeting. The British general said he believed Mladic's presence there implied that Milosevic knew about the killings. \n \n■ United States \n91 year old robber caught \n \nA 91-year-old man who walks with a cane and is hard of hearing pleaded guilty to stealing nearly US$2,000 from a bank, his third such robbery in less than five years. Leaning on his cane and wearing a headset to listen to the judge, J.L. Hunter "Red" Rountree initially responded "not guilty" when asked for his plea Thursday. "I mean, `Guilty,'" Rountree later said. "I'm sorry."
The COVID-19 variant discovered in South Africa can “break through” Pfizer-BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine to some extent, a real-world data study released on Saturday found, although its prevalence in the country is low and the research has not been peer reviewed. The study in Israel compared almost 400 people who had tested positive for COVID-19, 14 days or more after they received one or two doses of the vaccine, against the same number of unvaccinated people with the disease. It matched age and gender, among other characteristics. The South African variant, B.1.351, was found to make up about 1 percent of all the COVID-19
RARE ADMISSION: A top Chinese expert was the first to publicly address the efficacy of the nation’s vaccines as it aims to inoculate 40 percent of its population by June China is considering mixing different COVID-19 vaccines to improve the relatively low efficacy of its existing options, a top health expert told a conference in Chengdu on Saturday. Authorities have to “consider ways to solve the issue that efficacy rates of existing vaccines are not high,” Chinese media outlet The Paper reported, citing Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention Director Gao Fu (高福). His comments mark the first time a top Chinese expert has publicly alluded to the relatively low efficacy of the country’s vaccines, as China forges ahead in its mass vaccination campaign and exports its jabs around the world. China
The Australian government yesterday said that it had decided against buying the single-dose Johnson & Johnson (J&J) COVID-19 vaccine and identified a second case of a rare blood clot likely linked to the AstraZeneca shot. The Australian government had been in talks with the New Jersey-based pharmaceutical giant, which had asked the Australian Therapeutic Goods Administration for provisional registration. However, Australian Minister of Health Greg Hunt ruled out a J&J contract, because its vaccine was similar to the AstraZeneca product, which Australia had already contracted for 53.8 million doses. Hunt said the government was following the advice of Australia’s scientific and technical advisory
The Indonesian government has said it is satisfied with the effectiveness of the Chinese COVID-19 vaccine it has been using, after China’s top disease control official said that current vaccines offer low protection against the novel coronavirus. Siti Nadia Tarmizi, a spokesperson for Indonesia’s COVID-19 vaccine program, on Monday said the WHO had found that the Chinese vaccines had met requirements by being more than 50 percent effective. Clinical trials in Indonesia for the vaccine from Chinese drugmaker Sinovac showed that it was 65 percent effective, she said. “It means ... the ability to form antibodies in our bodies is still very