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Britain Accuses Russia of Vaccine Disinformation Campaign

British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab on Friday accused Russia of mounting a worldwide disinformation campaign aimed at eroding public confidence in Western coronavirus vaccines, calling the action "reprehensible" at a time when countries should be coming together to tackle a pandemic that's killed more than a million people.

"Anyone trying to basically sabotage the efforts of those trying to develop a vaccine are deeply reprehensible, and it's pretty unacceptable and unjustified in any circumstances," he told Britain's Sky News.

Western disinformation analysts say the campaign, which appears to be targeting mainly countries that have high case numbers of the coronavirus, including Brazil, India and Indonesia, appears partly aimed at building a market for Russia's own Sputnik V vaccine, which Western virologists fear is being rushed into development without appropriate trials.

FILE PHOTO: A specialist works at Binnopharm pharmaceutical plant, part of Alium Group owned by Sistema financial corporation,…
FILE – A specialist works at a pharmaceutical plant in Zelenograd near Moscow, Russia, Sept. 18, 2020.

Researchers at EUvsDisinfo, part of the East StratCom Task Force set up in 2015 by the European Union to combat Russian disinformation, say the unfolding campaign tags vaccines being developed by Western manufacturers as "experimental" and accuses them of relying on "little-studied, untested technologies."

"This narrative is part of the on-going pro-Kremlin disinformation on coronavirus aiming to promote the Sputnik V vaccine and present Russia as a 'leader in the COVID-19 management,'" says a report by the EU task force, which calls fake news, social media manipulation and the dissemination of conspiracy theories key elements of the campaign.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters Friday in the Russian capital that the advantages of Russia's Sputnik V vaccine "are being recognized in many countries." Peskov dismissed allegations Moscow has launched a vaccine disinformation campaign.

"Commenting on accusations against Russia has become a sort of circus at this point," Peskov told reporters. "The accusations make no sense, commenting on them makes no sense.

"Russia is not giving anyone false information," he said.

But according to a recently published investigation by Britain's The Times, a vaccine being developed by the University of Oxford in partnership with the pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca has apparently been especially targeted for denigration in a disinformation offensive originating in Russia.

FILE - In this Aug. 14, 2020, file photo, laboratory technicians work at the mAbxience biopharmaceutical company on an…
FILE – Laboratory technicians work at the mAbxience biopharmaceutical company on an experimental coronavirus vaccine developed by Oxford University and the laboratory AstraZeneca in Garin, Argentina, Aug. 14, 2020.

"Pictures, memes and video clips depicting the British-made vaccine as dangerous have been devised in Russia and middlemen are now seeking to 'seed' the images on social media networks around the world," the newspaper reported.

"The crude theme of the distorted images is that the vaccine, millions of doses of which will be manufactured by the pharmaceutical giant, could turn people into monkeys because it uses a chimpanzee virus as a vector," it added. "The campaign is being targeted at countries where Russia wants to sell its own Sputnik V vaccine, as well as western nations."

A whistleblower involved in the campaign told the newspaper that a key aim of the media offensive was to place the images on Western websites and in countries such as India and Brazil, where Russia is trying to market its own vaccine. Western online influencers are being paid to include the disinformation on their social-media platforms, he said.

Russian state-controlled media outlets then pick up on the images and use them to claim growing public skepticism in the West about the vaccines. The whistleblower came forward because he was worried the campaign could harm efforts to suppress the virus.

Last month, Vesti News, a flagship current affairs program broadcast by Russian state-owned television, included images portraying Oxford's vaccine as a "monkey vaccine." The Oxford vaccine is being tested on monkeys and uses a chimpanzee virus as a vector.

Ken McCallum, head of Britain's MI5 spy agency, recently told reporters his agency is trying to block efforts to steal or sabotage vaccine research data.

"Clearly, the global prize of having a first useable vaccine against this deadly virus is a large one," he said during a Wednesday press briefing in London.

"I guess there are two bits we are on the lookout for: attempts either to steal unique intellectual property that's been generated in that research or potentially to fiddle with the data," he added. "And then the second risk we've got to be alive to is the possibility that the research is still high integrity and sound, but that somebody tries to sow doubt about its integrity."

In this handout photo taken on Thursday, Aug. 6, 2020, and provided by Russian Direct Investment Fund, an employee works with a…
FILE – An employee works with a coronavirus vaccine at the Nikolai Gamaleya National Center of Epidemiology and Microbiology in Moscow, Russia, in this handout photo taken Aug. 6, 2020, and provided by Russian Direct Investment Fund.

Last month, General Nick Carter, chief of Britain's defense staff, accused Russia of engaging in "political warfare" over the vaccine and seeking to encourage conspiracy theorists and antivaxxers.

The disinformational memes and images used can be darkly humorous and crude, which makes them well-tailored for social-media sharing. They include a photograph of British Prime Minister Boris Johnson manipulated to make him look like a yeti with the caption: "I like my big-foot vaccine." Another shows a chimpanzee in a lab coat holding a syringe, and another features Uncle Sam urging: "I Want You — to take monkey vaccine."

Some Western intelligence analysts say the current disinformation is reminiscent of a KGB operation in the 1980s, which sought to sow doubt about the origins of HIV. Dubbed Operation INFEKTION by a Western historian, the campaign planted the idea that the U.S. military had invented HIV at the biological weapons research lab at Fort Detrick, Maryland. The initial story was placed in a Communist newspaper in India but KGB operatives sought to get the story picked up elsewhere. After the Cold War, the head of Russia's Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR), Yevgeny Primakov, admitted the KGB had been behind the claims that AIDS was created by the U.S. military.

Original Article from IsaanLive

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Reporting mainly on the Asia Pacific region and the global Coronavirus crises in countries such as the United States, China, Brazil, Mexico, Italy and Germany. Love to Travel and report daily on destinations reopening with a focus on Domestic travel within Europe, North America and the Caribbean. A great fan of Bali, Rhodes & Corfu. Love to follow the English Premier League , the German Bundesliga and the Spanish La Liga.

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Coronavirus

Malaysia’s King Rejects PM’s Request to Declare State of Emergency

Malaysia’s King Al-Sultan Abdullah has rejected Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin’s request to declare a state of emergency due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The royal palace announced the decision in a statement Sunday, saying the king “is of the opinion that there is no need at the moment for His Majesty to declare an emergency in the country.”

The statement also said the king is pleased with Prime Minister Muhyiddin’s handling of the pandemic, and called on all politicians to stop any campaigning that could seriously damage the government’s stability.

Muhyiddin later issued a statement saying he welcomed the king’s advice and would discuss it with his cabinet.

Malaysia's Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin speaks during a news conference in Putrajaya, March 11, 2020.
Malaysia's Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin speaks during a news conference in Putrajaya, March 11, 2020.

Had the king approved Muhyiddin’s request, the state of emergency would have suspended Parliament before he was scheduled to present a budget in early November. Failure to pass the budget would be the equivalent to a no-confidence vote against Muhyiddin and put pressure on him to call for a general election.

Muhyiddin has been prime minister since February, when he was chosen by King Abdullah after then-Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad unexpectedly resigned and his government collapsed. Veteran opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim met with the king last month and said he gave him the names of 120 members of the 222-seat parliament who are ready to defect from the prime minister’s razor-thin ruling coalition.

But the royal palace later released a statement saying Anwar only told the king the number of lawmakers who would support his takeover bid without revealing their identities.

Original Article from IsaanLive

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European Markets Nosedive Monday as Global Coronavirus Cases Rise  

European markets were falling Monday as investors appeared increasingly uncertain about the outlook of the global economy due to a resurgence of coronavirus cases across Europe and the United States.

Britain’s benchmark FTSE index was down 0.2% at the midway point of the trading day. The CAC-40 index in France lost 0.4%, and Germany’s DAX index plunged 2.2%.

Markets in the Asia-Pacific rim ended mostly lower earlier Monday. Japan’s benchmark Nikkei index finished its trading session down 22 points, but unchanged percentage-wise.

A man walks past an electronic stock board showing Japan's Nikkei 225 and other Asian indexes at a securities firm in Tokyo…
A man walks past an electronic stock board showing Japan's Nikkei 225 and other Asian indexes at a securities firm in Tokyo, Oct. 26, 2020.

The S&P/ASX index in Australia lost 0.1%. Shanghai’s Composite index was 0.8% lower. South Korea’s KOSPI index dropped 0.7%, while in South Asia, Mumbai’s Sensex plunged 1.3%.

In Hong Kong, the Hang Seng index gained 0.5%, and in Taiwan, the TSEC index finished up 10 points, but was unchanged percentage-wise.

In commodities trading, gold was selling at $1,906.20, up one point. U.S. crude oil was selling at $39.10 per barrel, down 1.8%, and Brent crude was selling at $41.05 per barrel, down 1.7%.

All three major U.S. indices were trending negatively in futures trading as investors awaited the opening bell on Wall Street.

Original Article from IsaanLive

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Australia’s Second-Largest City to Begin Emerging from Strict COVID-19 Lockdown   

After more than three months under stifling restrictions imposed in response to a second wave of COVID-19 cases, life in Australia’s second-largest city is slowly about to return to normal.

Victoria state Premier Daniel Andrews announced Monday that Melbourne’s five million citizens will be able to leave their homes effective Tuesday at midnight, and that all cafes, restaurants, bars, shops and hotels will be allowed to reopen.

The announcement comes as Melbourne and the surrounding Victoria state recorded its first 24-hour period without any new coronavirus infections since June 9. The state had been plagued by a dramatic spike of new COVID-19 cases, peaking in August when daily new cases rose above 700. The resurgence of new cases has been blamed on security lapses at hotels where travelers were being quarantined after traveling overseas.

With zero new cases, Premier Andrews told reporters that “we are able to say that now is the time to open up. Now is the time to congratulate every single Victorian for staying the course.”

Andrews also said that travel restrictions limiting people to no further than 25 kilometers from their home will end on November 8, which will allow people in Melbourne to travel to Victoria’s rural areas.

Testing in Kashgar, China

Health authorities in China’s northwestern Xinjiang province have launched a widespread testing effort in Kashgar after 137 new asymptomatic COVID-19 infections were discovered. The new cases were detected after a 17-year-old girl was found to be asymptomatic. The other asymptomatic cases have been traced to a factory where the girl’s parents work. Authorities say nearly 3 million people in Kashgar have been tested since the outbreak was detected.

Xinjiang was placed under a brief but tight lockdown period after a cluster of coronavirus cases was detected in August.

On the vaccine front

Meanwhile, British-Swedish pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca announced Monday that a vaccine it has developed in cooperation with the University of Oxford has produced a similar immune response in both younger and older adults, with adverse responses lower among the elderly.

The announcement by the British-Swedish pharmaceutical giant comes the same day The Financial Times newspaper said early reports from testing showed the experimental vaccine, dubbed AZD1222, produces a robust immune response in elderly people, who are among the highest risk from the disease.

Original Article from IsaanLive

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