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Covid-19 wrap: Netherlands curfew riots continue, Brazil variant in US, Iran approves Russian vaccine

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Conserving you updated on
the most recent novel coronavirus (Covid-19) information from world wide.

FOLLOW LIVE | Covid-19 in SA: Death toll tops 41 000 as cases hit 1 417 537

One other night time of riots in Netherlands over curfew

The
Hague – The Netherlands was hit by a second wave of riots on Monday night, as
protesters once more went on the rampage in a number of cities following the
introduction of a coronavirus curfew over the weekend.

Riot
police clashed with teams of protesters in Amsterdam in addition to the port metropolis
of Rotterdam, the place individuals smashed store home windows and ransacked their provides.

The
unrest additionally hit Amersfoort within the east, the small southern metropolis of Geleen close to
Maastricht, The Hague and Den Bosch, police and information stories stated.

Extra
than 70 individuals had been rounded up by 22:00 (GMT), public newscaster NOS
reported.

Geleen
police stated in an earlier tweet that they had been coping with “rioting
youths who’re throwing fireworks”.

In
Rotterdam, police used a water cannon after clashing with the protesters, the
NOS stated.

The
metropolis’s mayor, Ahmed Aboutaleb, issued an emergency decree which gave police
broader powers of arrest.

“There
is an pressing request to all to depart the realm,” town council stated on
Twitter.

Photos
on social media confirmed rioters looting a store in Den Bosch and a press
photographer being hit within the head in Haarlem, after an offended mob chased him
off and threw a brick at him.

 – AFP


New Zealand PM expects closed borders for a lot of
2021

Wellington
– New Zealand’s borders are more likely to stay closed for a lot of the 12 months as
well being officers assess world vaccine rollouts, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern
warned on Tuesday.

Ardern
stated the emergence over the weekend of New Zealand’s first case of group
transmission in additional than two months confirmed the hazard Covid-19 nonetheless posed to
a nation hailed for its response to the coronavirus.

She
stated her authorities wouldn’t re-open its borders – which have been successfully
closed to all however returning residents since final March – whereas the pandemic was
nonetheless raging worldwide.

“Given
the dangers on this planet round us and the uncertainty of the worldwide rollout of a
vaccine, we are able to anticipate our borders to be impacted for a lot of this 12 months,”
she advised reporters.

Nonetheless,
Ardern stated New Zealand would proceed to pursue “journey bubbles”
with Australia and Pacific island nations, which have additionally been largely
profitable at protecting out or containing the virus.

Plans
to open a journey bubble by the top of March had been thrown into query when
Australia suspended quarantine-free journey for Kiwis in response to the most recent
case of group transmission.

Ardern
stated the case – a 56-year-old New Zealander who lately returned from Europe –
was “nicely below management” and criticised Australia for re-imposing
quarantine for New Zealanders.

 – AFP


Minnesota lab confirms first US coronavirus case
related to Brazil variant

Laboratory
testing by the Minnesota Division of Well being has confirmed the primary recognized Covid-19
case in the USA related to a extra contagious variant of the
novel coronavirus initially seen in Brazil, the company stated on Monday.

The
announcement got here as President Joe Biden signed an order extending a journey ban
barring almost all non-US residents who’ve lately been to Brazil, South
Africa, the UK, Eire and 26 different European nations from
coming into the USA.

The
director of the US Facilities for Illness Management and Prevention (CDC) stated on
Sunday that the federal authorities is stepping up efforts to trace coronavirus
mutations as a flurry of extra infectious variants emerge across the globe.

The
variant of the SARS-CoV-2 virus often known as Brazil P.1 was detected in a specimen
from a Minnesota resident with current journey historical past to Brazil, the state
well being division stated in a press launch. The company stated it marks the primary
documented occasion of the P.1 variant in the USA.

Whereas
the Brazil variant is regarded as extra transmissible than the preliminary pressure
of virus that causes Covid-19, it isn’t recognized whether or not the sickness it causes is
extra extreme.

 – REUTERS


Iran approves Russian coronavirus vaccine Sputnik V to be used

MOSCOW
– Iranian International Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif stated on Tuesday that Tehran had
authorized the Russian Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine for home use.

“The
Sputnik V vaccine was yesterday additionally registered and authorized by our well being
authorities,” Zarif stated at a gathering along with his Russian counterpart, Sergei
Lavrov, in Moscow on Tuesday.

 – REUTERS


New Zealand could approve Covid-19 vaccine subsequent week,
begin common vaccinations mid-year

New
Zealand could approve a Covid-19 vaccine as early as subsequent week, Prime Minister
Jacinda Ardern stated on Tuesday, a day after the nation confirmed its first
case of the brand new coronavirus in the neighborhood in months.

“We’re
making swift progress in the direction of vaccinating New Zealanders towards the virus, however
we’re additionally completely dedicated to making sure the vaccines are secure and
efficient,” Ardern stated in an announcement.

The
current group case, in a girl who returned to New Zealand on 30 December
and had examined optimistic for the South African pressure of the virus after leaving
a two-week obligatory quarantine, led Australia to instantly droop a journey
bubble with New Zealand for 72 hours.

Stress
has been mounting on Ardern’s authorities to vaccinate the inhabitants, however New
Zealand has repeatedly stated the method won’t begin for months.

Ardern
stated the nation’s medicines regulator Medsafe was working in the direction of granting
provisional approval for the Pfizer Inc and BioNTech SE vaccine.

The
first vaccines are attributable to arrive in New Zealand by the top of the primary
quarter, however the authorities was ensuring every part is in place in case of
an earlier arrival.

 – REUTERS


Mexico’s coronavirus loss of life toll passes 150 000

Mexico
Metropolis – Mexico’s coronavirus loss of life toll has surpassed 150 000, the federal government
stated on Monday, a day after President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador introduced he
had Covid-19.

The
well being ministry reported 659 extra deaths in its each day replace, taking the overall
to 150 273, behind solely the USA, Brazil and India.

The
general variety of infections registered now stands at greater than 1.77 million in
the nation of round 128 million, a rise of 8 521 from the day prior to this.

Lopez
Obrador, 67, introduced on Sunday that he was present process remedy for Covid-19,
however stated his signs had been gentle.

The
household of Mexican telecoms billionaire Carlos Slim, one of many world’s richest
males, stated on Monday that the 80-year-old was additionally being handled for Covid-19,
however has solely minor signs.

Mexico
Metropolis has been in a state of most alert since mid-December, with greater than 90%
of hospital beds full attributable to hovering infections. Non-essential actions have
been suspended within the capital.

 – AFP


Indonesia passes a million coronavirus instances

Jakarta
– Indonesia handed multiple million Covid-19 instances on Tuesday, because the
archipelago launches one of many world’s greatest vaccine drives to clamp down on
a hovering an infection price.

The
Southeast Asian nation of almost 270 million has recorded 1 012 350 virus instances
and nearly 29 000 deaths, in keeping with official knowledge. However low testing charges
imply the disaster is believed to be a lot larger than these figures recommend.

Some
hospitals are getting ready to collapse, as they’re overwhelmed with sufferers
in one among Asia’s worst-hit nations, public well being specialists warn.

“I
suppose we hit a million instances of Covid-19 a very long time in the past,” stated Pandu
Riono, a College of Indonesia epidemiologist.

“We
are nonetheless climbing a mountain and we do not even know the place the height is. That is
a unending climb.”

There
are stories of sufferers being unable to entry intensive care items and
isolation rooms attributable to excessive demand – a scarcity underscored by an East Java
metropolis’s transfer to outfit a practice carriage to accommodate the sick.

The
virus has killed greater than 600 docs, nurses and different medical staff, many
outfitted with restricted safety gear, in keeping with unbiased
researchers.

“Hospitals
are already collapsing,” Riono stated, including that the federal government had
“no administration, no plan, no priorities, simply trial and error”.

Indonesia’s authorities has been extensively criticised for
initially downplaying the pandemic and, later, for missing a coherent disaster
technique.

 – AFP


Moderna says it believes vaccine will work towards
new variants

Moderna
Inc stated on Monday it believes its Covid-19 vaccine protects towards new
variants present in Britain and South Africa, though it is going to take a look at a brand new booster
shot aimed on the South African variant after concluding the antibody response
may very well be diminished.

The
firm stated in a information launch it discovered no discount within the antibody response
towards the variant present in Britain. In opposition to the South African variant, it
discovered a diminished response, however nonetheless believed its two-dose routine would supply
safety.

The
emergence of latest variants in Britain, South Africa and Brazil has created some
concern that mutations within the virus could make vaccines much less efficient.

Moderna
stated it’s whether or not a booster shot – both of its current vaccine
or of a brand new shot designed to guard towards the South African variant – may
be made out there in future if proof had been to emerge that safety
declined.

“The
virus is not going to face nonetheless,” Moderna President Stephen Hoge stated on
a convention name. “Whereas the present strains look like well-protected
by our Covid-19 … it is essential that we stay vigilant and develop
potential instruments and countermeasures that may permit us to proceed to beat
again the pandemic.”

 – REUTERS


Philippines confirms native transmission of Britain
coronavirus variant

MANILA
– The Philippines has confirmed home transmission of the brand new, extremely
contagious British variant of the coronavirus, prompting President Rodrigo Duterte
to desert a plan to permit some minors to go outdoors their properties.

“Proper
now, we have now native transmission the place this particular person or these instances with the
variant have already contaminated their group, their household,” Well being
Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire advised information channel ANC on Tuesday.

The
world is scrambling to include the unfold of the B.1.1.7 variant, regardless of
journey bans, new lockdowns and a tightening of quarantine measures in dozens of
nations, amid issues it couldn’t solely be extra transmissible, however deadlier.

The
Philippine well being ministry stated the B.1.1.7 variant had unfold amongst 12 individuals
in Bontoc, a mountainous northern province, with 17 such instances within the nation.

Its
first case of the British variant was present in a Filipino who had travelled
from the United Arab Emirates.

Citing
the British variant, Duterte stated he had scrapped a plan to permit youngsters ages
10 to 14 in low-risk areas to go outdoors the house beginning 1 February.

 – REUTERS


Germany’s confirmed coronavirus instances rise by 6 408
to 2 148 077 – RKI

BERLIN
– The variety of confirmed coronavirus instances in Germany elevated by 6 408 to 2 148
077, knowledge from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious illnesses confirmed
on Tuesday.

The
reported loss of life toll rose by 903 to 52 990, the tally confirmed.

 – REUTERS


Russia stories 18 241 new Covid-19 instances, 564
deaths

MOSCOW
– Russia on Tuesday reported 18 241 new Covid-19 instances, taking its official
nationwide tally to three 756 931.

Authorities
additionally confirmed 564 deaths within the final 24 hours, pushing the official loss of life toll
to 70 482.

 – REUTERS


Brazil has 627 new Covid-19 deaths and 26 816 new
instances, well being ministry says

RIO DE JANEIRO – Brazil noticed 627 new Covid-19 deaths, and 26 816 new
instances of coronavirus, the Well being Ministry stated on Monday.

 – REUTERS


Thailand sees each day report 959 new coronavirus amid
mass testing

BANGKOK
– Thailand reported a each day report 959 new coronavirus instances on Tuesday, attributable to
what authorities stated was a ramping up of testing on the epicentre of its most
current outbreak.

The
new infections, the best each day rise for the reason that 745 instances reported on 7 January,
introduced the general quantity to 14 646, with deaths remaining at 75, the
nation’s Covid-19 taskforce stated at a briefing.

The
tally included 22 imported instances and 914 that had been reported late on Monday by
authorities in Samut Sakhon province, the place Thailand’s greatest outbreak was
first detected at a giant seafood market final month.

The
majority of the Samut Sakhon instances had been discovered on account of a brand new,
province-wide mass testing effort that authorities have stated would happen
for every week. Most instances had been amongst migrant staff.

 – REUTERS


China stories 82 new mainland Covid-19 instances vs 124
a day earlier

BEIJING – Mainland China reported 82 new Covid-19
instances for 25 January, down from 124 instances a day earlier, the nation’s nationwide
well being authority stated on Tuesday.

The Nationwide Well being Fee stated in an announcement
that 69 of the brand new instances had been native infections. The variety of new asymptomatic
instances, which China doesn’t classify as confirmed instances, rose to 57 from 45
instances a day earlier.

The overall variety of confirmed Covid-19 instances in
mainland China now stands at 89 197. The loss of life toll rose by one to 4 636.

 – REUTERS

 


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Biden Officials Now Expect Vulnerable Americans to Need Booster Shots

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WASHINGTON — Biden administration health officials increasingly think that vulnerable populations will need booster shots even as research continues into how long the coronavirus vaccines remain effective.

Senior officials now say they expect that people who are 65 and older or who have compromised immune systems will most likely need a third shot from Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna, two vaccines based on the same technology that have been used to inoculate the vast majority of Americans thus far. That is a sharp shift from just a few weeks ago, when the administration said it thought there was not enough evidence to back boosters yet.

On Thursday, a key official at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the agency is exploring options to give patients with compromised immune systems third doses even before regulators broaden the emergency use authorization for coronavirus vaccines, a step that could come soon for the Pfizer vaccine.

Dr. Amanda Cohn, the chief medical officer of the C.D.C.’s immunizations division, told an advisory committee to the agency that officials were “actively looking into ways” to provide certain people access to booster shots “earlier than any potential change in regulatory decisions.”

“So stay tuned,” she added.

The growing consensus within the administration that at least some Americans will need a booster is tied in part to research suggesting that the Pfizer vaccine is less effective against the coronavirus after about six months. More than half of those fully vaccinated in the United States so far have received Pfizer’s vaccine, in two doses administered three weeks apart.

Pfizer’s continuing global study of its clinical trial participants shows that four to six months after the second dose, the vaccine’s effectiveness against symptomatic infection drops from a high of 95 percent to 84 percent, according to the company.

Data from the Israeli government, which has fully vaccinated more than half of its population with Pfizer doses since January, also points to a downward trend in effectiveness over time, although administration officials are viewing that data cautiously because of wide margins for error.

The most recent figures from the Israeli Ministry of Health, released late this week, suggested that Pfizer’s vaccine was just 39 percent effective in preventing infection in that country in late June and early July, compared to 95 percent from January to April.

The vaccine remained more than 90 percent effective in preventing severe disease, and nearly as effective in preventing hospitalization. Israel began offering a third Pfizer dose to citizens with severely weakened immune systems on July 12.

Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, who heads the infectious disease division of the National Institutes of Health, said he was surprised by the apparent steep falloff in the Pfizer vaccine’s effectiveness that the Israeli data seems to suggest. He said he wanted to compare it with data that the C.D.C. had been gathering from cohorts of thousands of people across the United States. “People are sort of raising their eyebrows a bit,” he said.

While other questions abound, senior administration officials said it appeared increasingly clear that the vaccines would not grant indefinite immunity against the virus, and that boosters might be necessary for at least some people perhaps nine months after their first shot. The administration has already purchased more than enough vaccine to deliver third doses of both Pfizer and Moderna, and has been quietly preparing to expand the distribution effort, should it become necessary.

With so little data yet public, many health officials and experts have spoken cautiously about booster shots. Dr. Paul A. Offit, a member of the Food and Drug Administration’s outside advisory committee of vaccine experts, said a rise in mild or moderate cases of Covid-19 among vaccinated people did not necessarily mean a booster was required.

“The goal of this vaccine is not to prevent mild or low, moderate infectious disease,” he said. “The goal is to prevent hospitalization to death. Right now this vaccine has held up to that.”

Prematurely dangling the prospect of a third dose could also work as a deterrent against vaccination, other health experts warn. If Americans think that immunity from the vaccines is short-lived, they said, they may be less likely to get their initial shot.

“We don’t want people to believe that when you’re talking about boosters, that means that the vaccines are not effective,” Dr. Fauci testified at a congressional hearing Tuesday. “They are highly effective.”

Among the vaccine manufacturers, Pfizer has been especially proactive in sharing its data with the government. But the administration was taken aback by the company’s public announcement this month that it planned to seek emergency authorization from the F.D.A. for a booster shot.

The company said that early data from its booster study showed the level of neutralizing antibodies among clinical trial participants who received a third dose six months after the second was five to 10 times as high as among two-dose recipients.

Fearful the American public would get the wrong message, the F.D.A. and the C.D.C. reacted with an unusual public statement saying, “Americans who have been fully vaccinated do not need a booster shot at this time.” They added, “We are prepared for booster doses if and when the science demonstrates that they are needed.”

Typically, the F.D.A. would authorize use of a booster, perhaps after a meeting of its outside advisory committee. Then the C.D.C., which has its own advisory committee, would need to formally recommend it, Dr. Offit said.

But if the F.D.A. fully licenses a vaccine, doctors would have vastly more leeway to prescribe a booster for their patients. Some health experts expect that Pfizer could receive that approval by this fall.

At the C.D.C. advisory panel’s meeting Thursday, Dr. Cohn, the medical officer for the vaccine division, suggested that it might be possible to offer booster shots to those with weakened immune systems through an investigational study or other avenues, without waiting for the F.D.A.

Dr. Camille Kotton, an infectious disease expert with Massachusetts General Hospital, told the panel that some patients, especially those who are more educated or “empowered to take care of their own health care,” are managing to get a third dose on their own, despite the lack of a green light from the government.

“Many have taken matters into their own hands,” she said. “I am concerned about them doing this kind of in an unsupervised fashion,” she said, while doctors’ hands are tied because of the lack of regulatory approval.

People with compromised immune systems make up 2.7 percent of the population, according to the C.D.C., and include those with cancer, organ or stem cell transplants or H.I.V., among other conditions.

At Tuesday’s hearing of the Senate’s health committee, several senators grilled administration health officials on how soon they would act on the question of boosters. Senator Mitt Romney, a Utah Republican, said he was unhappy that officials could not provide a better timetable.

Senator Richard M. Burr, a North Carolina Republican, noted that Israel was already offering some of its most vulnerable citizens a third shot. “Why aren’t we making the same decisions?” he asked.

Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the director of the C.D.C., testified that scientists were studying the vaccines’ efficacy in tens of thousands of people, including nursing home residents and more than 5,000 essential workers.

“Fortunately, we’re anticipating that this will wane and not plummet,” she said of their efficacy. “As we see that waning, we — that will be our time for action.”

Pfizer is expected to soon publicize its clinical trial research about waning immunity and the benefits of a booster shoot in articles in a peer-reviewed journal. Moderna has yet to release data on any booster studies, officials said.

Johnson & Johnson’s one-shot vaccine has so far played a minor role in the nation’s vaccination campaign. Clinical trial data on how that vaccine works with two shots is expected next month.

Noah Weiland contributed reporting.

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Hole Blasted In Guntrader: UK Firearms Sales Website’s CRM Database Breached, 111K Users’ Info Spilled Online

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Criminals have hacked into a Gumtree-style website used for buying and selling firearms, making off with a 111,000-entry database containing partial information from a CRM product used by gun shops across the UK. The Register reports: The Guntrader breach earlier this week saw the theft of a SQL database powering both the Guntrader.uk buy-and-sell website and its electronic gun shop register product, comprising about 111,000 users and dating between 2016 and 17 July this year. The database contains names, mobile phone numbers, email addresses, user geolocation data, and more including bcrypt-hashed passwords. It is a severe breach of privacy not only for Guntrader but for its users: members of the UK’s licensed firearms community. Guntrader spokesman Simon Baseley told The Register that Guntrader.uk had emailed all the users affected by the breach on July 21 and issued a further update yesterday.

Guntrader is roughly similar to Gumtree: users post ads along with their contact details on the website so potential purchasers can get in touch. Gun shops (known in the UK as “registered firearms dealers” or RFDs) can also use Guntrader’s integrated gun register product, which is advertised as offering “end-to-end encryption” and “daily backups”, making it (so Guntrader claims) “the most safe and secure gun register system on today’s market.” [British firearms laws say every transfer of a firearm (sale, drop-off for repair, gift, loan, and so on) must be recorded, with the vast majority of these also being mandatory to report to the police when they happen…]

The categories of data in the stolen database are: Latitude and longitude data; First name and last name; Police force that issued an RFD’s certificate; Phone numbers; Fax numbers; bcrypt-hashed passwords; Postcode; Postal addresses; and User’s IP addresses. Logs of payments were also included, with Coalfire’s Barratt explaining that while no credit card numbers were included, something that looks like a SHA-256 hashed string was included in the payment data tables. Other payment information was limited to prices for rifles and shotguns advertised through the site. The Register recommends you check if your data is included in the hack by visiting Have I Been Pwned. If you are affected and you used the same password on Guntrader that you used on other websites, you should change it as soon as possible.

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Protest erupts at Myanmar’s Insein prison amid COVID outbreak | Military News

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A protest has erupted at a prison in Myanmar’s commercial capital of Yangon against what activists said was a worsening COVID-19 outbreak at the jail, which is used to hold opponents of February’s military takeover.

The protest on Friday was one of the first of its kind since the February 1 coup in the Southeast Asian country, where people across the country demonstrate daily against military rule.

Protest chants in opposition to the military government could be heard from inside the colonial-era Insein Prison early on Friday in videos recorded from outside the prison and posted by local residents to Facebook.

“End the dictatorship! Our cause! Protest, protest! Start, start! Revolution! Must prevail!” the call-and-response chant went.

The Thailand-based activist group, Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP) said the protest began in the women’s detention block and had been supported by some prison staff members. Reuters could not immediately verify the report.

“A riot happened in the prison,” Myanmar Prison Department’s Deputy Director Chan Nyein Kyaw told state-run news outlet Myawaddy. “There was a negotiation and accepted the prisoners’ demands and requests.”

AAPP said the military had entered the prison compound earlier on Friday and confiscated staff weapons.

Prison spokesperson Zaw Zaw did not answer phone calls from Reuters seeking comment about the protest and the report that the military had intervened. He told local media the protest had been brought under control. Calls to military spokesperson Zaw Min Tun went unanswered.

‘End standoff’

Diplomats called for an end to the standoff.

“We urge the relevant authorities to resolve the situation peacefully and respect the basic right to proper healthcare for all those detained inside this and other prisons,” a group of diplomatic missions including Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom, the United States and nine European Union member states said in a joint statement posted on Facebook.

Earlier this month, Myanmar freed more than 2,000 detainees from the prison, among them journalists and others who the military said had been held on incitement charges for taking part in protests.

Myanmar’s military has struggled to impose order and a growing COVID-19 outbreak has added to the chaos. Myanmar registered more than 6,000 new COVID-19 infections on Thursday after reporting 286 deaths a day earlier, both record highs.

The protest on Friday was one of the first of its kind since the February 1 coup in the Southeast Asian country, where people across the country demonstrate daily against military rule [File: Ann Wang/Reuters]

Medics and funeral services have said the real death toll is far higher, with crematoriums unable to keep pace, and the military has arrested several doctors treating COVID-19 patients independently.

“The protest reportedly began because prisoners have not been provided with medical care, and neither have prison staff been given protection from COVID-19,” the AAPP statement said.

Nyan Win, a senior adviser to overthrown leader Aung San Suu Kyi, died in hospital on Tuesday after becoming infected with COVID-19 in the prison.

UK ambassador replaced

In a separate development, Myanmar has appointed a new temporary head of its embassy in London, the UK’s foreign ministry said, replacing the previous ambassador who was removed after breaking ranks with the military government over the coup.

The selection of the new “charge d’affaires ad interim” did not require the consent of the British government, a foreign ministry spokesperson told Reuters, which first reported the move earlier on Friday.

More than 900 people opposing the military government have been killed by security forces since the coup, drawing international condemnation and sanctions including from the UK.

“The consent of the receiving State is not required,” the spokesperson said in a statement, citing the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations. The statement did not name the new appointee.

A spokesperson for the military-controlled government in Myanmar did not respond to calls from Reuters seeking comment.

The Myanmar Accountability Project, a UK-based rights group, said the appointee for the London job was Htun Aung Kyaw, who served as a fighter pilot during a long army career.

A source familiar with the matter also said Htun Aung Kyaw was Myanmar’s new pick, but Reuters could not confirm that.

In a statement this week, the Myanmar Accountability Project urged the UK not to recognise the representative appointed by the military saying it would be “a gross double standard and a moral outrage”.

The former ambassador, Kyaw Zwar Minn, was locked out of the London embassy in April after calling for the release of detained civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

Kyaw Zwar Minn remains in the UK and has urged the British government to refuse to recognise any envoys appointed by the military government and to send them back to Myanmar.

The UK has imposed sanctions on members of Myanmar’s military and some of its business interests following the coup, and has called for democracy to be restored.

The UK on Friday appointed a new ambassador to Myanmar, Pete Vowles, who previously worked in diplomatic and international development roles in Africa and Asia.

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NSO Group CEO Says Law-Abiding Citizens Have ‘Nothing To Be Afraid Of’

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The CEO of NSO Group, whose spyware tools have reportedly been used to target journalists and activists, says that people who aren’t criminals shouldn’t be afraid of being surveilled AppleInsider reports: Shalev Hulio, 39, recently spoke to Forbes after investigations indicated that NSO Group’s Pegasus spyware was used by authoritarian governments to hack and surveil the mobile devices of world leaders, high-profile journalists, and activists. NSO Group says that it sells its tools to governments to help them catch serious criminals like terrorists or gangsters. However, Hulio admitted that it can’t control what governments ultimately do with the tools. “We are selling our products to governments. We have no way to monitor what those governments do,” he said.

Hulio did note that NSO Group has mechanisms in place to detect when abuse happens so that the company can “shut them down.” He says that NSO Group has “done it before and will continue to do so. On the other hand, he said that NSO Group shouldn’t be responsible for government misuse. Additionally, Hulio said that the average smartphone has nothing to worry about. While NSO Group’s spyware can break into the latest iPhones running up-to-date software, often without any action from the user, it’s only aimed at criminals. “The people that are not criminals, not the Bin Ladens of the world — there’s nothing to be afraid of. They can absolutely trust on the security and privacy of their Google and Apple devices,” Hulio said.

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The Activision Blizzard Harassment Suit Feels Painfully Familiar

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Gaming behemoth Activision Blizzard is the latest game company to face scrutiny for allegedly fostering a culture of sexism. A California Department of Fair Employment and Housing suit filed Wednesday alleges rampant sexual harassment and discrimination against Activision Blizzard’s female employees. The suit’s spotlight on Activision Blizzard’s structures and systems are painfully similar to those exposed by lawsuits and exposés around Riot Games and Ubisoft from the last several years.

The games industry’s reckoning with workplace inequality has been underway for years. Leading companies have been slow, even reticent, to answer for their reportedly discriminatory cultures, in some cases architecting fortresses of asylum around their more problematic employees and systems. Activision Blizzard has the opportunity to set a different tone. As of now, it seems unlikely to.

The games industry is notoriously male-dominated, and has long had a reputation for hostility to women. The 29-page DFEH complaint follows a two-year investigation into Activision Blizzard—publisher of high-profile titles like Call of Duty, World of Warcraft, and Overwatch—and contains hair-raising allegations of misconduct, from harassment by top executives to so-called “cube crawls,” in which male employees would reportedly “drink copious amounts of alcohol as they ‘crawl’ their way through various cubicles in the office and often engage in inappropriate behavior toward female employees.” It describes a culture in which double standards prevented women from advancing and even remaining at the company; across the board, it says, women receive less pay than men for “substantially similar work.” The agency alleges that female employees receive a lower starting pay than men and are promoted more slowly. Only 24 percent of Activision Blizzard’s nearly 10,000 employees are women, and top leadership is almost entirely white and male.

In this “frat boy” culture, the complaint reads, men “proudly” came to work hungover, delegated responsibilities to women while they played games like Call of Duty, openly discussed sexual encounters, and even joked about rape. The complaint also alleges that employees and even executives sexually harassed female employees without repercussions. It states that a female employee who may have experienced sexual harassment at work—including an instance when coworkers at a party allegedly shared an intimate photo of her—later committed suicide. (In a statement, Activision Blizzard says, “We are sickened by the reprehensible conduct of the DFEH to drag into the complaint the tragic suicide of an employee whose passing has no bearing whatsoever on this case and with no regard for her grieving family.”)

“We value diversity and strive to foster a workplace that offers inclusivity for everyone,” an Activision Blizzard spokesperson said in a statement. “There is no place in our company or industry, or any industry, for sexual misconduct or harassment of any kind. We take every allegation seriously and investigate all claims. In cases related to misconduct, action was taken to address the issue.” The company says it has made an effort over the last several years to bolster diversity, including helping employees report violations, adding a confidential hotline, and instituting a team to investigate workers’ concerns. Activision Blizzard claims that the DFEH complaint includes “distorted, and in many cases false, descriptions of Blizzard’s past.”

The DFEH is asking for relief for compensatory and punitive damages, unpaid wages, and attorneys fees. Citing the ongoing investigation, the department declined to respond to WIRED’s request for comment.

The Activision Blizzard revelations echo those around Riot Games in 2018 and Ubisoft in 2020. Just as gaming culture at large has been slow to embrace women and minorities, gaming companies previously accused of fostering cultures of sexism have been slow to evolve.

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