Global Review – 19th February

EMA confirms safety of anti-COVID vaccines

The anti-COVID vaccines authorised in the EU are effective, their safety is continuously monitored and evaluated, and the vast majority of known side effects are mild and short-lived. Publishing updated data on the safety of the vaccines, the European Medicines Agency noted that serious problems were “extremely rare”. At the end of January 2022, a total of about 797 million doses were administered in the EU and in the European Economic Area. For Pfizer-BioNTech, 570 million doses were administered, with 582,074 reports of suspected side effects. Doses of AstraZeneca vaccine were 69 million, with 244,603 suspected side effects. For Moderna, the administrations were 139 million, with 150,807 suspected cases. There have been 40,766 reports out of 19 million Janssen doses. Data on Novavax, authorised in December, is not yet available.

Biden convinced Putin has decided to invade

US President Joe Biden has said he is convinced Russian President Vladimir Putin has decided to launch an invasion of Ukraine, and that an assault could happen in the “coming days”. Biden said the assessment was based on US intelligence, which suggested the capital, Kyiv, would be targeted.Russia denies it is planning to invade.

Dramatic increase in ceasefire violations – OSCE

Observers from the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe said they have witnessed a significant increase in the number of attacks along the front line in eastern Ukraine. “In recent days, the OSCE Special Monitoring in Ukraine has observed a dramatic increase in kinetic activity along the contact line in eastern Ukraine,” the OSCE said in a statement, adding that the number of ceasefire violations equalled that recorded prior to a July 2020 agreement to strengthen the ceasefire.

Russian manoeuvers today 

Russia has meanwhile announced it would today carry out manoeuvers by its “strategic forces” under the supervision of President Putin, in particular with the launch of ballistic and cruise missiles. Shortly before the announcement, Moscow had said it had withdrawn other tanks deployed near the Ukrainian border and bombers in the annexed Crimea.

France, Germany urge Russia to hold back the rebels

The foreign ministers of France and Germany have urged Russia to use its influence on the separatists in eastern Ukraine to “encourage moderation and contribute to the reduction of escalation”. Noting calls from rebels in Donetsk and Lugansk to evacuate civilians for a possible conflict, German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock and her French counterpart Jean-Yves le Drian said they “were concerned that the staged incidents could be misused as pretext for a possible military escalation”.

Pope launches new appeal for peace

In an audience with the Eastern Churches, Pope Francis has launched a new appeal for peace. “As in this moment, when there are so many wars everywhere, this appeal of both Pope and men and women of goodwill is unheard. It seems that the greatest prize for peace should be given to wars: a contradiction! And this is tragic.” With particular reference to Ukraine, he added: “Menacing winds still blow across the steppes of Eastern Europe, lighting fuses and fires and leaving the hearts of the poor and innocent cold. These do not count.”

EU denounces China to the WTO

The EU is suing China at the World Trade Organization for preventing European companies from protecting their rights on “essential standard” patents, such as those on network technologies mobile 3G, 4G and 5G. In 2020, Beijing decided that Chinese courts could prohibit patent holders from going to a non-Chinese court through an “anti-lawsuit” injunction, with fines of €130,000 a day for those who do not comply. This, explains the European Commission, prevents EU companies with high-tech patents from legitimately protecting their technologies and ends up damaging innovation and growth.

Storm Eunice kills nine

Nine peole have been killed as storm Eunice left a trail of destruction across northern Europe. Deaths were reported in the Netherlands, Belgium, Britain and Ireland, many of them crushed by fallen trees.

Eleven missing in ferry fire

Eleven people are missing after a ferry burst into flames near the Greek island of Corfu on Friday. Rescue boats rushed to evacuate the 290 people on board the Euroferry Olympia, including two lorry drivers trapped inside the hold. The ferry had left Greece for the Italian port of Brindisi when a fire broke out. The Greek coastguard said 239 passengers and 51 crew had been on the ferry. Most of the passengers were Italians and 277 of those on board were brought to safety.

Two women denounced for ‘transgender Brigitte Macron hoax

Two women will have to appear before the Paris judicial court accused of having circulated false information on the internet according to which the Première Dame of France, Brigitte Macron, is transgender. A first hearing has been set for June 15. The fake news was circulated on social media since last autumn, with the probable intent of destabilising President Macron and his wife Brigitte, also in view of the presidential elections in April.

Brad Pitt sues Angelina Jolie over winery

The Fight Club actor Brad Pitt is suing Angelina Jolie for having “secretly” sold to Russian oligarch Yuri Shefler his share of a French winery that they bought together. The Independent reports that the winery, Chateau Miraval, was bought in Torrens in 2008. He claims the deal was that neither of them could have sold their shares without the consent of the other. Pitt and Jolie have been together for about 11 years, including two years of their marriage, but separated in September 2016 citing “irreconcilable differences”. They have since been involved in many court cases.

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