West links Afghan humanitarian aid to human rights

by Pierre-Henry DESHAYES and Viken KANTARCI Agence France-Presse OSLO, Norway (AFP) – Western diplomats Tuesday linked humanitarian aid to Afghanistan to an improvement in human rights after meeting a Taliban delegation on a landmark visit to Europe. On the final day of the Taliban’s first official trip to Europe since returning to power in August, the fundamentalists held talks behind closed doors with several Western diplomats. The Taliban are seeking international recognition and financial aid. […]

EU watchdog says ‘no answer’ if Omicron-specific jab needed

by Jan HENNOP There is “no answer yet” on whether vaccine makers will have to adapt their Covid shots to counter the rapidly-spreading Omicron variant, Europe’s medicines watchdog chief said on Tuesday. The highly-mutated variant, now present in dozens of countries, appears to be more contagious than previous strains and is driving new waves of infections globally. Scientists are also examining whether it is more resistant to vaccines than previous strains. But the head of […]

US, Canada restrict travel from southern Africa as new variant sparks concern

by Daniel Woolls with AFP bureaus The United States, Brazil, Canada, and Saudi Arabia became the latest countries Friday to restrict travel from southern Africa, where a new Covid strain labelled a “variant of concern” has been discovered in a potentially heavy blow to the world’s efforts to end the coronavirus pandemic. The World Health Organization said the new variant is more infectious than the dominant, highly transmissible Delta strain, and renamed this B.1.1.529 strain […]

WTO’s big conference postponed due to new Covid variant

by Agnès PEDRERO Next week’s World Trade Organization ministerial conference, the global trade body’s biggest gathering in four years, was postponed at the last minute Friday due to the new Omicron Covid-19 variant. The WTO hoped the four-day gathering in Geneva would breathe new life into the crippled organisation, which has been stuck for years trying to make progress on resolving issues like fishery subsidies. New director-general Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala was also hoping, against the odds, […]

Omicron variant poses ‘high to very high’ risk to Europe: EU health agency

The new Covid variant, dubbed Omicron and originally detected in South Africa, poses a “high to very high” risk to Europe, the EU health agency warned on Friday. The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) noted in a threat assessment report that there was still “considerable uncertainty related to the transmissibility, vaccine effectiveness, risk for reinfections and other properties of the Omicron variant.” However, the overall risk that Omicron posed to the European […]

Germany puts 100-year-old on trial for Nazi crimes

  by David COURBET Agence France Presse BERLIN, Germany (AFP) — A 100-year-old former concentration camp guard will on Thursday become the oldest person yet to be tried for Nazi-era crimes in Germany when he goes before court charged with complicity in mass murder. The suspect, identified only as Josef S., stands accused of “knowingly and willingly” assisting in the murder of 3,518 prisoners at the Sachsenhausen camp in Oranienburg, north of Berlin, between 1942 […]

Catholic Pope expresses ‘shame’ at French sex abuse scandal

  VATICAN CITY (AFP) — Pope Francis on Wednesday expressed his personal shame and that of the Church at the sexual abuse of children by French Catholic clergy, after the scale of the problem was laid bare in a devastating report. “I wish to express to the victims my sadness and pain for the trauma they have suffered,” he said during his weekly audience at the Vatican. “And also my shame, our shame, my shame […]

French Catholic Church inquiry finds 216,000 sex abuse victims from 1950

  by Karine PERRET and Joseph SCHMID Agence France Presse PARIS, France (AFP) — An independent inquiry into alleged sex abuse of minors by French Catholic priests, deacons and other clergy has found some 216,000 victims from 1950 to 2020, a “massive phenomenon” that was covered up for decades by a “veil of silence.” The landmark report, released Tuesday after two and a half years of investigations, follows widespread outrage over a string of sex […]

Climate and weather related disasters surge five-fold over 50 years, but early warnings save lives – WMO report

  Climate change and increasingly extreme weather events, have caused a surge in natural disasters over the past 50 years disproportionately impacting poorer countries, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNDRR) said on Wednesday. According to the agencies’ Atlas of Mortality and Economic Losses from Weather, Climate and Water Extremes, from 1970 to 2019, these natural hazards accounted for 50 per cent of all disasters, 45 per cent of […]

People dying in wait outside Kabul airport: report

The bodies of at least three people were seen in the sweltering crush outside Kabul airport, television news footage showed on Saturday, as thousands try desperately to flee Taliban rule in a chaotic evacuation. The footage from Britain’s Sky News showed soldiers covering three bodies in white tarpaulins. It was not clear how they died. Sky reporter Stuart Ramsay, who was at the airport, said that people at the front of the crowd were being “crushed” […]

US tells citizens to avoid Kabul airport due to ‘security threats’

The United States on Saturday urged its citizens in Afghanistan to avoid traveling to the Kabul airport, citing “potential security threats” near its gates. The warning from the US embassy in Kabul provided no detail on the danger, but a White House official later confirmed that aides had briefed President Joe Biden on “counterterrorism operations” in Afghanistan, including against the Islamic State group. Conditions outside Hamid Karzai International Airport have been chaotic amid the crush […]

Health passes spread around the world

Passes and vaccine passports are increasingly being used across the world to limit entry to public places to those who have been vaccinated, recovered from Covid-19 or tested negative. Here’s an overview: – European pioneers – From March, Denmark, Austria and Hungary were among the first countries to introduce health passes, either on paper or in digital form. You still need a pass to go into restaurants, hotels and sports centres in Austria. In Denmark […]