CDC foresees spread in U.S. of highly contagious coronavirus variant

CDC foresees spread in U.S. of highly contagious coronavirus variant (Source

The mutant variant of the novel coronavirus first seen in Britain is likely to be present in much of the United States. Although the variant has so far been detected in a very small fraction of infections, it shows signs of spreading and may become significantly more common in coming weeks, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and infectious-disease experts.

The cases have been mostly isolated: One in New York, one in Florida, one in Georgia and two in Colorado. The exception has been California, and specifically San Diego County, where a robust surveillance operation has found 32 cases of the variant. National Institutes of Health Director Francis Collins told The Washington Post on Wednesday: “I would be surprised if that doesn’t grow pretty rapidly.” There is no evidence that the variant, which has recently been detected in more than 30 countries, carries a greater risk of severe disease or death. But the appearance of coronavirus variants, including another mutation-laden variant that has shown up in South Africa, presents a challenge for every country hoping to crush the pandemic.

Iraq issues arrest warrant for Trump over Soleimani killing

Iraq issues arrest warrant for Trump over Soleimani killing (Source Associated Press)

An arrest warrant was issued Thursday for outgoing President Donald Trump in connection with the killing of an Iranian general and a powerful Iraqi militia leader last year, Iraq’s judiciary said.

The warrant was issued by a judge in Baghdad’s investigative court tasked with probing the Washington-directed drone strike that killed Gen. Qassim Soleimani and Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, the court’s media office said. They were killed outside the capital’s airport last January.



(Source CNN) Facebook and Instagram will ban President Donald Trump’s account from posting for at least the remainder of his term in office and perhaps “indefinitely,” Mark Zuckerberg said in a blog post on Thursday. “We believe the risks of allowing the President to continue to use our service during this period are simply too great,” the Facebook CEO wrote in the post. “Therefore, we are extending the block we have placed on his Facebook and Instagram accounts indefinitely and for at least the next two weeks until the peaceful transition of power is complete.”

The decision marks a major escalation by Facebook as it and other platforms have come under intense pressure from advocacy groups and prominent figures to ban Trump following his inflammatory rhetoric encouraging insurrection.

Facebook and Twitter took the extraordinary step on Wednesday of temporarily locking President Donald Trump’s account on their platforms after his supporters stormed the Capitol building to protest the election.

Raffensperger escorted out of Ga. Capitol after it was surrounded by pro-Trump mob

Raffensperger escorted out of Ga. Capitol after it was surrounded by pro-Trump mob

(Source Yahoo News) On Wednesday, while much of the country’s attention was focused on the riots unfolding in Washington, D.C., another standoff was taking place in Georgia.

Militiamen and other far-right Trump supporters in Atlanta surrounded the state’s Capitol building in search of Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger. As the group tried to enter the building to hand deliver a list of grievances about the November election, and Raffensperger’s refusal to overturn the results, Georgia Capitol police, fearing for the safety of the secretary of state and his staff, escorted them out of the building, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “We heard reports of threats and left immediately,” spokeswoman Deputy Secretary of State said.

Pro-Trump mob storms the US Capitol, touting ‘Stop the Steal’ conspiracy

Pro-Trump mob storms the US Capitol, touting ‘Stop the Steal’ conspiracy (Source Tech Crunch)

A chaotic scene unfolded in Washington D.C.  as a large crowd of pro-Trump protesters stormed the U.S. Capitol Building. The Trump supporters flooded into the nation’s capital to attend a rally held earlier by President Trump outside the White House. The rally was timed to protest lawmakers gathering Wednesday  January 6 to certify President-elect Joe Biden’s electoral win. At his own event, Trump encouraged his supporters to continue demonstrating against Congress, claiming incorrectly that Vice President Mike Pence holds the power to overturn the election results. While the situation is still unfolding, protesters penetrated the Capitol building and injuries have been confirmed, including at least one gunshot victim.

U.S. warships transit Taiwan Strait, China denounces ‘provocation

U.S. warships transit Taiwan Strait, China denounces ‘provocation’ (Source Reuters)

Two U.S. warships sailed through the sensitive Taiwan Strait on Thursday drawing protest from Beijing, the second such mission this month and coming almost two weeks after a Chinese aircraft carrier group used the same waterway. China, which claims democratically run Taiwan as its own territory, has been angered by stepped-up U.S. support for the island, including arms sales and sailing warships through the Taiwan Strait, further souring Beijing-Washington relations. The U.S. Navy said the guided missile destroyers USS John S. McCain and USS Curtis Wilbur had “conducted a routine Taiwan Strait transit Dec. 31 in accordance with international law”. “The ships’ transit through the Taiwan Strait demonstrates the U.S. commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific. The United States military will continue to fly, sail and operate wherever international law allows.”  This is the 13th sailing through the strait by the U.S. Navy this year. China’s Defence Ministry denounced the trip as “provocation” and “a show of force”, adding Chinese ships and aircraft trailed the U.S. ships. The passage of the ships sent the wrong message to supporters of Taiwan independence and are a serious threat to peace and stability, it added. “The Chinese People’s Liberation Army maintains a high level of alert at all times, responds to all threats and provocations at all times, and resolutely defends national sovereignty and territorial integrity,” the ministry said.

Putin targets U.S. social media, secret agent leaks and protests with new laws

Putin targets U.S. social media, secret agent leaks and protests with new laws (Source Reuters)

President Vladimir Putin signed an array of laws handing Russia new powers to restrict U.S. social media giants, label individuals “foreign agents”, and to crack down on the disclosure of its security officers’ personal data. The laws, which also introduce new restrictions for protests, cap a year of constitutional reforms allowing Putin, 68, to stand for two more six-year terms in the Kremlin instead of stepping down in 2024 as he had been legally required to do. Other reforms such as one granting former Presidents lifelong immunity from prosecution have kept analysts guessing about his plans as Moscow’s ties with the West have come under new strain over the poisoning of Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny. One of laws enables Russia to block or restrict access to sites that “discriminate” against its media, part of a campaign under Putin to increase Russia’s internet “sovereignty” that has fueled fears of creeping China-style controls. Twitter currently labels some Russian media “state-affiliated media”, a move decried by Moscow. The law’s backers cited complaints made about prejudice shown by Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

A second law introduces hefty fines of up to 20% of their previous year’s Russia-based turnover for sites that repeatedly fail to remove banned content, something that YouTube and Facebook have often failed to do according to Russian lawmakers.

A third law prohibits the disclosure of the personal data of Russian security officials, records that are sometimes leaked online and have been used by investigative journalists to track clandestine operations.

You May Need A COVID Vaccine Passport To Travel In 2021

You May Need A COVID Vaccine Passport To Travel In 2021 (Source

In order for people to travel in 2021, they may eventually need a COVID vaccine passport.

Several companies and technology groups have begun developing smartphone apps or systems for individuals to upload details of their COVID-19 tests and vaccinations, creating digital credentials that could be shown in order to enter concert venues, stadiums, movie theaters, offices, or even countries.

The Common Trust Network, an initiative by Geneva-based nonprofit The Commons Project and the World Economic Forum, has partnered with several airlines including Cathay Pacific, JetBlue, Lufthansa, Swiss Airlines, United Airlines and Virgin Atlantic, as well as hundreds of health systems across the United States and the government of Aruba. The CommonPass app created by the group allows users to upload medical data such as a COVID-19 test result or, eventually, a proof of vaccination by a hospital or medical professional, generating a health certificate or pass in the form of a QR code that can be shown to authorities without revealing sensitive information. For travel, the app lists health pass requirements at the points of departure and arrival based on your itinerary. “You can be tested every time you cross a border. You cannot be vaccinated every time you cross a border,” Thomas Crampton, chief marketing and communications officer for The Commons Project, told CNN Business. He stressed the need for a simple and easily transferable set of credentials, or a “digital yellow card,” referring to the paper document generally issued as proof of vaccination. toward their use for widesp

Giant Icebergs Are Headed for South Georgia Island

Giant Icebergs Are Headed for South Georgia Island (Source

Scientists in the Southern Hemisphere are tracking A68a, a giant slab of ice that cracked off Antarctica’s Ross Ice Shelf more than three years ago.  The iceberg is drifting close to South Georgia Island, a critical biodiversity hotspot in the vast Southeastern Atlantic Ocean, more than 1,000 miles from the spiny twin tips of South America and the Antarctic Peninsula. 

Christmas week the berg split into three main sections, still drifting close together, and scientists said the biggest pieces might get stuck near the shore and disrupt wildlife. The British Antarctic Survey has launched a mission to study the berg with drone submarines and other instruments, said Andrew Fleming, who has been tracking its exact position via satellite. “If it gets grounded there, it might stay for a long time,” Fleming said. And as it breaks up, thousands of smaller bergs could float north into shipping lanes, he added. A68a is no ordinary iceberg. It was one of the 10 biggest bergs ever to break off the Antarctic shelf, about as big as Rhode Island and about 650 feet thick, with most of that heft below the waterline. So far, it’s floated nearly 1,000 miles toward South Georgia, an island about the same size as the berg.

U.S. to allow small drones to fly over people and at nigh

U.S. to allow small drones to fly over people and at night (Source Reuters)

Small drones will be allowed to fly over people and at night in the United States, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) said on Monday, a significant step toward their use for widespread commercial deliveries.

The FAA said its long-awaited rules for the drones, also known as unmanned aerial vehicles, will address security concerns by requiring remote identification technology in most cases to enable their identification from the ground. Previously, small drone operations over people were limited to operations over people who were directly participating in the operation, located under a covered structure, or inside a stationary vehicle – unless operators had obtained a waiver from the FAA. The rules will take effect 60 days after publication in the federal register in January. Drone manufacturers will have 18 months to begin producing drones with Remote ID, and operators will have an additional year to provide Remote ID.