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Regional News • Europe
Polish writer faces 3 years in prison for calling Poland's Andrzej Duda a ‘moron’ on Facebook
Polish President Andrzej Duda
Polish President Andrzej Duda Credit: Lukas Plewnia (Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 2.0)

A popular Polish writer is facing a potential sentence of up to three years in prison for calling Polish President Andrzej Duda a "moron" on social media.

Jakub Zulczyk wrote on Facebook on Monday that a district prosecutor in Warsaw had filed an indictment against him based on an article in the penal code that makes it a crime to insult the head of state.

Duda's spokesman, Blazej Spychalski, told the Interia news site Tuesday that neither the president nor his office were parties in the matter and had made no request for the writer to be charged.

Regional News • Europe
AstraZeneca hid 29 million doses of vaccines in a facility near Rome
AstraZeneca hid 29 million doses of vaccines in a facility near Rome
Credit: Illustration: Pendect, Ashley Winkler. (Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 4.0)

Italian inspectors found a secret stock of 29 million doses of the AstraZeneca Coronavirus vaccine in a filling plant of the company near Rome. AstraZeneca delivered around 30 million doses to the EU so far, but promised three times as much. The EU Commission is now demanding accountability.

Regional News • Americas • Brazil
Brazil surpasses 300,000 Covid-19 deaths
Rio de Janeiro beach, closed due to the Covid-19 pandemic
Rio de Janeiro beach, closed due to the Covid-19 pandemic Credit: Tânia Rêgo/Agência Brasil

The number of deaths in Brazil by Covid-19 passed 300,000 on Wednesday, according to reporting by the consortium of Brazilian media companies. The mark comes at the worst moment of the pandemic in the country, with more restrictive measures in several states and with the federal government facing harsh criticism for mismanagement of the health crisis.

Also on Tuesday, President Jair Bolsonaro made a televised statement to talk about his government's actions to combat the pandemic, but he lied by extolling all he did in an attempt to secure the purchase of vaccines. In the speech, Bolsonaro defended immunisation and said that "2021 will be the year of the vaccination of Brazilians", a very different tone from that adopted in other pronouncements, where he compared the virus to a "little flu".

Regional News • Europe • France
France to reopen embassy in Tripoli on Monday
Emmanuel Macron
Emmanuel Macron Credit: Official LEWEB Photos (Creative Commons Attribution 2.0)

French President Emmanuel Macron said on Tuesday that Paris would reopen its embassy in the Libyan capital Tripoli next Monday to show its support for the new authorities.

Speaking alongside Mohammed al-Menfi, the head of the Libyan presidency council, Macron said France and its European partners would back Libya's political efforts and called for Turkish and Russian forces to leave the country as soon as possible.

Regional News • Europe • Germany
Germany reverses extended 'Easter lockdown' after criticism
Germany reverses extended 'Easter lockdown' after criticism
Credit: Bundeskanzlerin

After massive criticism, Chancellor Angela Merkel (CDU) has decided to put a stop to the extended 'Easter lockdown' that had been planned to go from Maundy Thursday to Easter Monday. This was announced by Merkel on Wednesday in a meeting with the Minister-Presidents of the federal states, which was convened at short notice, as SPIEGEL learned from several participants. At the federal-state roundtable on Monday, Merkel and the heads of the states had initially agreed on a comprehensive cut over the Easter holidays.

Regional News • Europe • France
France: Coronavirus vaccination open to everyone over 70 from Saturday on
France: Coronavirus vaccination open to everyone over 70 from Saturday on
Credit: unsplash.com/Mat Napo

France will move on to Phase 2 of Coronavirus vaccination. Appointments will be authorized for all people over 70 from Saturday March 27th on, Emmanuel Macron announced on Tuesday. The country now has "an acceleration of the delivery of the number of doses and therefore we can move on to a second phase of more massive vaccination," Macron said.

Regional News • Americas • Brazil
Brazilian Supreme Court rules that former President Lula da Silva did not receive a fair trial
Former Judge Sérgio Moro
Former Judge Sérgio Moro Credit: Partido dos Trabalhadores (Creative Commons Attribution 2.0)

By 3 votes to 2, the Second Panel of the Brazilian Supreme Court declared in a trial that former federal judge Sergio Moro acted with partiality in sentencing former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva in the case of the triplex of Guaruja.
The Supreme Court decision nullifies the triplex case, which will need to start over.

Regional News • Europe • Germany
Germany to impose a strict lockdown during Easter
Germany to impose a strict lockdown during Easter
Credit: Bundeskanzlerin (Public Domain)

Chancellor Angela Merkel and German state leaders have agreed on an even stricter shutdown over the Easter holidays. From April 1 to April 5, over the Easter holiday period, shops, including grocery stores, will largely have to close.

Tuesday's announcement marks a reversal from earlier this month when state leaders agreed to begin a cautious reopening process.

According to Germany's Robert Koch Institute for infectious diseases (RKI), the seven-day incidence rate stood at 107 on Monday, above the 100 threshold at which hospitals often become overwhelmed.

Regional News • Americas • United States
Shooting in Boulder supermarket leaves 10 dead
Shooting in Boulder supermarket leaves 10 dead
Credit: MarcSallinger (Twitter Reproduction)

A gunman shot and killed ten people, including the first police officer who responded, at a Boulder, Colorado, King Soopers supermarket on Monday at 2:30 pm. The assailant was wounded on the scene and taken into custody, neither name of the shooter nor details about the mass shooting have yet been revealed. This was the seventh mass shooting in seven days in the United States.

"These were people going about their day, doing their shopping and their lives were cut abruptly short and tragically short by the shooter who is now in custody," Michael Dougherty, the district attorney for Boulder County, said at a news conference. "I hope that people of this country send the families of the loved ones their thoughts and prayers. But from my perspective, there's more for us to do than give them thoughts and prayers. We're going to go all out to ensure the right result is reached."

Regional News • Middle East
Benjamin Netanyahu seeks reelection as Israelis return to the polls
Benjamin Netanyahu seeks reelection as Israelis return to the polls
Credit: Chatham House (Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 2.0)

Israelis began voting on Tuesday in the country’s fourth parliamentary election in two years — a highly charged referendum on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's divisive rule.

Opinion polls forecast a tight race between those who support Israel’s longest-serving premier and those who want “anyone but Bibi,” as he is widely known.

No one party is expected to win a majority of seats in the Knesset. Instead, Israel's president must choose a candidate to negotiate with other parties to form a majority coalition.

Regional News • Americas • United States
Miami declares state of emergency, imposes curfew over spring break crowds

An emergency curfew from 8 pm to 6 am has been imposed for Miami Beach on Saturday as spring break crowds flocked the area. In addition to the curfew, restaurants have to close at 8 pm in South Beach and three bridges to mainland Miami are being closed between 1 pm an 6 am.

Regional News • Europe • France
France's vaccination chief says he expects country's return to normalcy by autumn
France's vaccination chief says he expects country's return to normalcy by autumn
Credit: unsplash.com/Yao Hu

Alain Fischer, France's vaccination chief, said Monday that he excepts a return to some kind of "normal" life by either Summer or Autumn. France has just resumed use of the AstraZeneca Coronavirus vaccine last week and Prime Minister Jean Castex received the first dose of the vaccine on Thursday.

Regional News • Africa
Opposition candidate in Congo's election Kolelas dies of Covid-19 a day after elections

Guy Brice Parfait Kolelas, leading opposition presidential candidate in Republic of Congo's election, died on Sunday, a day after the country went to the polls. Kolelas was hospitalized on the eve of the elections and died of Covid-19 as he was being taken to France for treatment, his campaign director Christian Cyr Rodrigue Mayanda told AFP news agency on Monday. A video circulating on social media dated Friday showed Kolelas, 61, wearing an oxygen mask and with a blood pressure cuff on his arm as he lay in a hospital bed.

Regional News • Europe • United Kingdom
UK Administered 844,285 Covid-19 Vaccines in One Day – Daily Record
UK Administered 844,285 Covid-19 Vaccines in One Day – Daily Record
Credit: unsplash.com/Grooveland Designs

Saturday saw a daily record in Covid-19 vaccinations, with 844,285 first and second doses administered in one day on Saturday. The number was later confirmed by Health Secretary Matt Hancock.

Regional News • Europe • United Kingdom
Buckingham Palace considers hiring diversity chief amid racism allegations
Buckingham Palace considers hiring diversity chief amid racism allegations
Credit: Carfax2, via Wikimedia Commons (Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 3.0)

Buckingham Palace has said that it is considering appointing a diversity chief, acknowledging that "more needs to be done" when it comes to diversity.

“This is an issue which has been taken very seriously across the royal households. We have the policies, the procedures and programmes in place but we haven’t seen the progress we would like and accept more needs to be done, we can always improve," a Royal source said. “Therefore we are not afraid to look at new ways of approaching it. The work to do this has been under way for some time now and comes with the full support of the family.”

Regional News • Europe • Germany
German Member of the Bundestag Karin Strenz dies on flight back from Cuba
German Member of the Bundestag Karin Strenz dies on flight back from Cuba
Credit: Von Olaf Kosinsky - Eigenes Werk / via Wikimedia Commons (Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 3.0)

Karin Strenz, a member of the Bundestag, died on a flight from Cuba to Germany. According to media reports, the crew of the plane decided to make an emergency landing in Ireland's capital Dublin. Last year the German Bundestag lifted the politician's immunity because the public prosecutor's office was investigating her on suspicion of corruption.

Regional News • Americas • United States
Trump to create "his own platform" that will "redefine the game"
Trump to create "his own platform" that will "redefine the game"
Credit: The White House from Washington, DC, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Jason Miller, a spokesman of Donald Trump, has told Fox News's Howard Kurtz that the former president will return to social media "in probably about two or three months here with his own platform."

“And this is something that I think will be the hottest ticket in social media, it’s going to completely redefine the game, and everybody is going to be waiting and watching to see what exactly President Trump does. But it will be his own platform,” Miller said.

Asked for details, Miller said he couldn't go further into detail but "that it will be big once he [Trump] starts" and that there have been "lot of high-power meetings" at Mar-a-Lago with "numerous companies".

“But I think the president does know what direction he wants to head here and this new platform is going to be big and everyone wants him, he’s gonna bring millions and millions, tens of millions of people to this new platform,” so Miller.

Regional News • Europe • Germany
Bird flu suspicion: 30,000 hens must be killed in Germany
Bird flu suspicion: 30,000 hens must be killed in Germany
Credit: unsplash.com / Zosia Korcz

Due to the suspicion of avian influenza (bird flu), 30,000 hens have to be killed in Delbrück (Germany). On Monday morning, this will be done by fumigation with carbon dioxide, the district of Paderborn announced on Sunday. According to the avian influenza ordinance, the animals in the epidemic flock must already be killed if there is a clear clinical suspicion. In addition, a surveillance zone is set up around the suspected infection area, where chickens, ducks, geese and other poultry on other farms must remain in their enclosures.

Regional News • Europe
Iceland opens borders to vaccinated travellers
Iceland opens borders to vaccinated travellers
Credit: unsplash.com / Hari Nandakumar

Iceland has opened its borders to travellers who are fully vaccinated or can produce confirmation of a prior infection on March 18, the first European country to do so.

“The world has been through a lot in the past twelve months, and we are all hoping for a slow and safe return to normalcy. This also includes the resumption of the opportunity to travel, which is valuable to culture, trade and enterprise. The decision to apply border exemptions for vaccinated individuals to countries outside the EU/EEA area is a logical extension of our current policy,” says Katrín Jakobsdóttir, Prime Minister of Iceland.

Regional News • Europe • Austria
British Covid-19 mutation 90 percent prevalent in Vienna

According to the Agency for Health and Food Safety (Ages), the more infectious mutant recently accounted for 76 percent of positive tests nationwide. In Vienna, the proportion is already 90 percent. Vienna is also likely to have recently surpassed Tyrol in terms of new infections with the South African variant B.1.351.

Regional News • Asia
North Korea shuts down diplomatic relations with Malaysia
North Korea shuts down diplomatic relations with Malaysia
Credit: unsplash.com / Micha Brändli

North Korea breaks off diplomatic relations with Malaysia in protest of the extradition of a North Korean to the United States. North Korea's Foreign Ministry accuses the Malaysian government of committing a "shameful act and an unforgivable, serious crime." The North Korean involved was innocent, the statement released Friday by state media said.

Malaysia's highest court had ruled last week that a North Korean businessman living in the country could be extradited to the U.S., accusing him of banned exports of luxury items to North Korea and money laundering. North Korea is subject to tough international sanctions because of its nuclear weapons program.

Regional News • Asia • India
Russian Covid-19 vaccine Sputnik V to be produced by India Indian drugmaker

The Russian sovereign wealth fund (RDIF) has concluded another agreement for the production of the Corona vaccine Sputnik V in India. The agreement with the company Stelis from the Indian pharmaceutical group Strides provides for the production of at least 200 million doses of the vaccine from the third quarter of 2021, as the sovereign wealth fund announced on Friday. In November, RDIF had already signed an agreement with Indian group Hetero for 100 million doses annually.

In contrast to dozens of other countries, the Russian vaccine has not yet been approved in India, where clinical trials are still underway. At the same time, Moscow is counting on broadening the production of the vaccine due to the high international demand in the pandemic.

Regional News • Europe • Germany
German Robert-Koch-Institute warns of "tough weeks" as Covid-19 case numbers rise
Covid Test Center in Cologne, Germany
Covid Test Center in Cologne, Germany Credit: © Raimond Spekking (Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 4.0)

Lars Schaade, Vice President of the Robert-Koch-Institute (RKI), has warned that Germany is facing "another tough few weeks" as Covid-19 cases rise and hospitals are "heavily burdened". Germany has seen an increase in infections with the more potent B.1.1.7. strain and Schaade warns of an "exponential" rise in cases that could potentially overwhelm hospitals.

Regional News • Middle East
Turkey quits Istanbul Convention on violence against women
Turkey quits Istanbul Convention on violence against women
Credit: Twitter Reproduction

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has triggered protests for withdrawing the country from an international agreement to prevent violence against women. The decision comes amid increasing calls for Turkey to combat domestic violence as femicide rates rise.

"The guarantee of women's rights are the current regulations in our bylaws, primarily our Constitution. Our judicial system is dynamic and strong enough to implement new regulations as needed," Family, Labour and Social Policies Minister Zehra Zumrut Selcuk said on Twitter.

Regional News • World
2021 World Happiness Report: Finland gets gold again
2021 World Happiness Report: Finland gets gold again
Credit: unsplash.com / SaiKrishna Saketh Yellapragada

In 2021's World Happiness Report, Finland has retained the number 1 position.

In second place, Iceland jumps forward 2 places from 4th last year. Denmark and Switzerland move down 1 to third and fourth place respectively, with The Netherlands and Sweden jumping forward 1 to fifth and sixth place respectively.

Germany makes great strides in 2020, gaining 8 places on last year, moving to 7th place.

Regional News • Americas • Brazil
Brazilian government signs contract with Pfizer to buy 100 million doses of Covid-19 vaccine
Brazilian government signs contract with Pfizer to buy 100 million doses of Covid-19 vaccine
Credit: Illustration: Pendect, Ashley Winkler.

The Brazilian government signed a contract with Pfizer for the purchase of 100 million doses of vaccine against Covid-19.

According to the schedule released by the Ministry of Health, the jabs are to be delivered between April and September.

Regional News • Americas • United States
Bill Nelson to be nominated to head NASA – Biden administration
Bill Nelson to be nominated to head NASA – Biden administration
Credit: (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Isaiah J. Soliz/Released), Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Former Florida senator Bill Nelson is poised to be nominated to head the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) by President Joe Biden. Nelson, a three-term US senator and one-time astronaut, would succeed Trump appointee Jim Bridenstine.

The news was followed by criticism as many had hoped Biden would nominate a woman for this position. “Given how many qualified and talented women were rumored to be in consideration, he’s putting great trust in his former Senate colleague,” so Lori Garver, a former deputy administrator of NASA.

Regional News • Asia • China
Chinese military restricts use of Tesla cars among personnel
Tesla Model S-1
Tesla Model S-1 Credit: Steve Jurvetson (Creative Commons Attribution 2.0)

China's government is restricting the use of Tesla Inc.'s vehicles by military staff and employees of key state-owned companies, citing concerns that the data collected by the cars could be a source of national security leaks, according to people familiar with the effort.

Fears over how data is handled by tech manufacturers also underscore how the rising popularity of highly digitalized cars-loaded with cameras and sensors and with built-in connectivity that allows carmakers to amass data-is stoking concerns over privacy and even national security. They were told by their agencies that among the government's concerns is that Tesla vehicles can be constantly in record mode, using cameras and other sensors to log various details, including short videos.

Regional News • Europe • Germany
Germany could imagine signing deal for Sputnik V shot, minister says
Sputnik V delivered to Argentina
Sputnik V delivered to Argentina Credit: Casa Rosada (Public Domain)

German Health Minister Jens Spahn said on Friday he would be in favour of signing a national supply deal with Russia for its Sputnik V vaccine for Covid-19.

"I can also well imagine that we conclude contracts - and conclude them quickly," Spahn told a weekly news conference, adding that Germany was in close contact with Russia on questions to do with the vaccine. A prerequisite, however, is that there is more detail on how many doses could be delivered, he said.

Regional News • Americas • United States
US to reach 100m Covid-19 vaccine goal on Friday – Biden
US to reach 100m Covid-19 vaccine goal on Friday – Biden
Credit: The White House, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

The United States will reach the Biden administration's goal to administer 100 million Covid-19 vaccine doses on Friday, President Joe Biden said.

"I am proud to announce that tomorrow, 58 days into our administration, we will have met my goal of administering 100 million shots to our fellow Americans," so Biden. "That's weeks ahead of schedule. Even with the setbacks we faced during the winter storms."