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A person unpacks a special refrigerated box of Moderna Covid-19 vaccine (AFP)
A person unpacks a special refrigerated box of Moderna Covid-19 vaccine (AFP)

Mint Lite | Assange verdict, US political division, Australia's bushfires & more

Stories, opinions, news and views that matter, from around the world

The US government is considering giving some people half the dose of Moderna’s vaccine in order to speed vaccinations, reports Reuters. Moncef Slaoui, head of the federal vaccine program, said on CBS that officials were in talks with Moderna and the FDA about the idea. Moderna’s vaccine requires two injections. Two top US health officials on Sunday disputed a claim by President Donald Trump that federal data on covid-19 cases and deaths in the US is overblown, and both expressed optimism that the pace of vaccinations is picking up. For more updates, here’s Mint Lite.

More signs of economic recovery

Naci Agbal
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Naci Agbal

Turkey’s year-end inflation rate is set to exceed even the central bank’s bumped-up forecast, leaving governor Naci Agbal with little choice but to keep access to credit tight well into 2021. Data is likely to show consumer prices rising an annual 14.2% through December, up from 14% the previous month, according to the median estimate in a Bloomberg survey. That’s higher than the central bank’s raised October forecast of 12.1%. Meanwhile, factory activity is Asia expanded a little in December owing to robust demand in regional giant China, business surveys showed on Monday, but the prospect of tougher coronavirus curbs clouded the outlook for the recovering sector. Manufacturing activity expanded in Japan, South Korea and Taiwan, according to PMI surveys, the latest indication that manufacturers in the region continue to bounce back from the damage caused by the pandemic last year.

Judge rejects Assange extradition

Assange supporter
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Assange supporter

A British judge has ruled that WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange should not be extradited to the United States to face criminal charges including breaking a spying law, saying his mental health problems meant he would be at risk of suicide. The US accuses the Australian-born of 18 offences relating to the release by WikiLeaks of vast troves of confidential US military records and diplomatic cables which it says put lives in danger, reports Reuters. US prosecutors are set to appeal Monday’s decision to London’s High Court, and ultimately the case could go to the UK Supreme Court. Assange’s lawyers will seek bail on Wednesday for their client, who has spent most of the last decade either in prison or self-imposed confinement. His legal team had argued the entire prosecution was politically motivated, powered by US President Donald Trump’s administration.

Preventing the next pandemic

A person in protective gear
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A person in protective gear

Following several multidisciplinary studies in 2020, scientists now firmly believe a “perfect storm" for an outbreak with pandemic potential is created by the combined forces of land-use change, high population density and the presence of interfaces between wildlife and domestic animals. “We are only as strong as our weakest ‘link’ given our globally connected society," Krutika Kuppalli, from the Stanford University School of Medicine in the US, told PTI. Manuel Ruiz, wildlife veterinarian at Montana State University, added that one of the best ways to prevent the next pandemic is to “sample animals across the world to characterise potential pathogens". He suggests investing in reforestation and in trying to change the way we interact with wildlife.

US Congress convenes new session

US President-elect Joe Biden
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US President-elect Joe Biden (REUTERS)

The US Congress opened its new session on Sunday, kicking off an explosive week in Washington as Republican lawmakers vow to challenge Joe Biden’s election win, pro-Trump protesters gather and voters in Georgia decide who controls the Senate. The rebel push by a group of 12 senators loyal to President Donald Trump to block formal certification of Biden’s November victory is all but certain to fail, but has raised tensions on Capitol Hill as lawmakers returned to work. Wednesday’s joint session is certain to be the high point of a fraught week showcasing the deep political divisions roiling the country, reports AFP. Meanwhile, effort to overturn the presidential election has been condemned by an outpouring of current and former GOP officials warning the effort to sow doubt in Joe Biden’s win and keep President Donald Trump in office is undermining Americans’ faith in democracy.

Residents on alert as bushfire rages

Bushfire in Australia’s west coast city of Perth
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Bushfire in Australia’s west coast city of Perth

An out-of-control bushfire threatened lives and homes in Australia’s west coast city of Perth, with locals told to shelter in place from toxic fumes, reports AFP. Residents in several suburbs south of Perth have been warned to be on watch as around 150 firefighters battled a blaze which has razed more than 230 hectares since Saturday. The local emergency department downgraded the fire from earlier “emergency" level, but warned there was still “a possible threat to lives and homes as a fire is burning in the area and conditions are changing". It is not known what triggered the fire. Several roads were forced to close and motorists have been told not to travel to the fire-stricken area. There are other wildfires in and around the Perth metropolitan area too, including one that forced the evacuation of a retirement village on Sunday in the southeast suburb of Gosnells.

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