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Beijing Games organisers say virus ‘biggest challenge’, 100 days from start



Protecting the Beijing Winter Olympics from the coronavirus is the “biggest challenge”, organisers said Wednesday, as millions of people in China were under stay-at-home orders to contain small outbreaks 100 days before the Games.

“The pandemic is the biggest challenge to the organisation of the Winter Olympics,” Zhang Jiandong, executive vice president of the Beijing Organising Committee, told a press conference.

Originally published as Beijing Games organisers say virus ‘biggest challenge’, 100 days from start




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Final show in France for looted Benin treasures



A Paris museum on Tuesday exhibited over a dozen colonial-era treasures taken from Benin, the last time they will be shown in France before being handed back in a landmark gesture. 

The 26 pieces, from a trove of objects snatched by French forces in 1892, are being shown for just six days at the Quai Branly museum before being shipped to the West African country later this month.

The move is part of a drive by French President Emmanuel Macron to improve his country’s image in Africa, especially among young people. 

Macron will visit the exhibition Wednesday afternoon. 

Earlier this month, Macron announced that a “talking drum” cherished by Ivory Coast’s Ebrie people, also at the Quai Branly, would be handed back as well.

But Quai Branly president Emmanuel Kasarherou said he welcomed the “soul-searching” that those calls had triggered about the provenance of artworks.

The Quai Branly, which has a vast trove of African artefacts, has begun a sweeping review of its collection of 300,000 objects. 

“Not all objects that are in European collections have been stolen,” he emphasised, but “what proportion were? Our objective is to find out.”

In a speech to students in Burkina Faso soon after taking office, he vowed to facilitate the return of African cultural heritage within five years.

The restitution calls culminated last year in a vote in the French parliament, where lawmakers overwhelmingly backed returning a group of artefacts to Benin and Senegal, another former French colony.

They will be exhibited at various sites in Benin, including a former Portuguese fort in the city of Ouidah, once a slave-trading hub, while awaiting the completion of a museum in Abomey to house them.

– Tracing origins –

Some were seized by colonial administrators, troops or doctors and passed down to descendants who in turn donated them to museums in Europe.

France is not the only former colonial power to have been targeted by restitution requests. 

Nigeria said last month it had agreed with Germany on the return of hundreds of so-called Benin Bronzes — metal plaques and sculptures from the 16th to 18th centuries that were stolen from the palace of the ancient Benin Kingdom in present-day Nigeria.

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Originally published as Final show in France for looted Benin treasures




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Unvaccinated players can compete at Australian Open: leaked email



A leaked WTA email says unvaccinated players will be welcome at the Australian Open

Unvaccinated players will be allowed to compete at the Australian Open but must complete 14 days in hotel quarantine, according to a leaked WTA email Monday, although a government official insisted the matter was not yet settled.

The rules would also likely apply to the men’s tour, leaving the door open for world number one Novak Djokovic to defend his title at Melbourne Park in January.

The email said that players fully inoculated against coronavirus would not have to quarantine or remain in bio-secure bubbles, enjoying “complete freedom of movement”.

“We feel the need to reach out to you all to clear up false and misleading information that has recently been spread by other parties about the conditions the players will be forced to endure at next year’s Australian Open,” the email read.

Vaccinated players could arrive any time after December 1, must have a negative test within 72 hours of departing for Australia and test again within 24 hours of arrival. Otherwise, there will be no restrictions, the email said.

– Still talking –

“We’re still talking to the Commonwealth (national government) about whether the rule for international unvaccinated arrivals is either 14 days quarantine or they’re not coming into the country at all,” he said in response to the leaked email.

Nine-time Australian Open champion Djokovic is one of many players who have refused to share their vaccination status, casting doubt over whether he will defend his title.

Reports have put the vaccination rate for tennis players at between 50 and 60 percent, but Pakula spoke with Australian Open chief Craig Tiley on Monday and he believed they were much higher.

Melbourne is in Victoria state, which on Friday emerged from one of the world’s most prolonged series of Covid lockdowns, in total more than 260 days since the pandemic began.

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Originally published as Unvaccinated players can compete at Australian Open: leaked email




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NFT collector group buys Wu-Tang Clan album



A group of NFT collectors has paid $4 million to purchase the only copy of a one-of-a-kind album by the rap group Wu-Tang Clan.

According to US media reports earlier this week, retweeted by PleasrDAO’s Twitter account, the group paid $4 million for the two-disc, 31-track album.

Originally published as NFT collector group buys Wu-Tang Clan album




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Peru surpasses 200,000 Covid deaths: officials



In this file photo taken on October 19, 2021, a health professional assists a COVID-19 patient at a hospital in northern Peru

Peru, which has the world’s highest Covid-19 death rate per capita, has surpassed 200,000 deaths from the coronavirus, the health ministry said on Friday.

The ministry announced 25 new deaths over the previous 24 hours, taking the South American country over the symbolic threshold with 200.003 deaths since the pandemic started in March 2020.

With 6,065 deaths per million population, Peru’s Covid mortality rate is the highest in the world, according to an AFP count based on official data.

“We’re maintaining a high level of control,” health minister Hernando Cevallos said recently.

The fall in infections has allowed the government to relax some healthcare measures and reactivate parts of the economy.

Peru’s number of deaths is only surpassed in Latin America by Brazil and Mexico, although those countries’ populations are almost seven and four times greater respectively.

“We need to get vaccinated so there is no more sadness in homes and no more orphans,” Mirtha Garcia Espinoza, a 39-year-old mother of two widowed by the pandemic, told AFP.

Last week that was down to 169, according to official figures.

The government hopes to vaccinate 70 percent of its population over 12 by the end of the year.

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Originally published as Peru surpasses 200,000 Covid deaths: officials




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Pfizer says Covid vaccine 90% effective in younger children



Pfizer’s Covid-19 vaccine is more than 90 percent effective in preventing symptomatic disease among children aged 5-to-11, the company said in a document released Friday that put forward its case for authorization.

The new data was published on the website of the Food and Drug Administration, which has called an advisory panel of independent experts to meet Tuesday to vote on whether to green light the shot.

“VE (Vaccine Efficacy) against laboratory-confirmed symptomatic Covid-19 occurring at least 7 days after Dose 2 in evaluable participants without evidence of prior SARS-CoV-2 infection was 90.7%,” the document said.

There were no cases of severe Covid and no cases of multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children (MIS-C), a rare but serious post viral condition.

Pfizer argued that “although the mortality rate for Covid-19 in children is substantially lower than that in adults, Covid-19 was among the top 10 leading causes of death for children 5 to 14 years of age between January and May 2021 in the US.”

There were no cases of myocarditis or pericarditis — inflammation or inflammation around the heart — but there were not enough study volunteers to be able to detect highly rare side effects. 

This is the first time Pfizer has released an efficacy estimate for its Covid vaccine in younger children, along with a detailed dataset.

Throughout the pandemic, pharmaceutical companies have been making major announcements through press releases with scant data, a situation that has frustrated some experts.

The administration of President Joe Biden has said it stands ready to roll out shots for the country’s 28 million 5 to 11-year-olds as soon as the vaccine is authorized by science agencies. 

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Originally published as Pfizer says Covid vaccine 90% effective in younger children




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