Omicron ‘sub-variant’ throws up new virus questions


BA.2 has yet to be designated a variant of concern — but Flahault says countries have to be alert to the latest development as scientists ramp up surveillance. Photo: Damien Meyer/AFP

Scientists are keeping a close watch on a recently-discovered sub-variant of the Omicron version of the Covid-19 virus to determine how its emergence could effect future pandemic spread.

The initial Omicron variant has become the dominant virus strain in recent months but British health authorities have notably identified hundreds of cases of the latest version, dubbed BA.2, while international data suggest it could spread relatively quickly.

https://www.thelocal.no/20220122/omicron-sub-variant-throws-up-new-virus-questions/

Taliban hold talks with woman activists on first day of Oslo talks


Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid speaks during an interview with AFP in Kabul on January 22, 2022. Mohd Rafsan/ AFP

The first Taliban delegation to visit Europe since returning to power in Afghanistan began talks Sunday with Afghan civil society members focused on human rights, Norway’s foreign ministry said.

Headed by Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi, the delegation was to dedicate the first day of their three-day visit to talks with women activists and journalists, among others, before meeting Western diplomats on Monday and Tuesday.

https://www.thelocal.no/20220123/taliban-hold-talks-with-female-activists-on-first-day-of-oslo-talks/

Ukraine tension: US and Russia hold ‘frank’ talks


US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov shook hands as talks proceeded at a hotel in Geneva

Russia’s foreign minister and his US counterpart have held what they called “frank” talks to try to reduce the chance of a wider conflict in Ukraine.

Sergei Lavrov repeated denials that a huge Russian force assembled near Ukraine’s borders would be used to invade Ukraine.

Antony Blinken said America would respond severely to any invasion.

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-60077776

After the Omicron wave, here’s what experts say could come next in 2022

(CNN)Picture a not-too-distant future when you can book that summer trip to Italy or you don’t have to remember to take off your mask for graduation photos. After the past 25 months, forgetting the pandemic for even a little while may sound like a fantasy — after all, the coronavirus has gotten our hopes up before.

But infectious disease experts say there just may be an end in sight. Maybe.
Well, let’s say it’s not outside the realm of possibility for 2022.

Exclusive: U.S. opposes plans to strengthen World Health Organization

BRUSSELS, Jan 21 (Reuters) – The United States, the World Health Organization’s top donor, is resisting proposals to make the agency more independent, four officials involved in the talks said, raising doubts about the Biden administration’s long-term support for the U.N. agency.

The proposal, made by the WHO’s working group on sustainable financing, would increase each member state’s standing annual contribution, according to a WHO document published online and dated Jan. 4.

https://www.reuters.com/world/us/exclusive-us-opposes-plans-strengthen-world-health-organization-2022-01-21/

Deaths in Norway attack came from stab wounds, not bow and arrow, police say

OSLO, Oct 18 (Reuters) – Five people killed in a small Norwegian town last week were all stabbed to death and not shot with a bow and arrows as initially suspected, police said on Monday.

Four women and one man, aged between 52 and 78-years-old, were killed in the Oct. 13 attacks in Kongsberg, a town about 70 km (40 miles) west of the capital Oslo.

https://www.reuters.com/world/europe/deaths-norway-attack-came-stab-wounds-not-bow-arrow-police-say-2021-10-18/

Spanish volcano activity in La Palma island intensifies

Spanish volcano activity in La Palma island intensifies, suspending flights and forcing more evacuations

Madrid (CNN) — Officials on the Spanish island of La Palma have ordered more evacuations on the sixth consecutive day of eruptions from the Cumbre Vieja volcano. Flights to and from the island have been canceled because of volcanic ash.

The secret lives of Neanderthal children

Among the growing collection of Neanderthal remains to be discovered are fossilised bones belonging to children. Now we are gaining unprecedented insights into what being a young Neanderthal was like.
In any normal summer, Spain’s famous Playa de la Castilla – a perfect 20km (12 mile) long stretch of sand backed by the Doñana nature reserve and close to the resort of Matalascañas, Huelva – would have been covered by the footprints of visiting tourists. But in June 2020 with international flights banned due to Covid-19, the beach was uncharacteristically quiet. Two biologists – María Dolores Cobo and Ana Mateos – who were strolling along the peaceful beach, nonetheless found many footprints. These, however, were made by a very different kind of visitor.

What it’s really like to negotiate with ransomware attackers

The most critical moment in a ransomware negotiation usually comes long before the victim and the hackers discuss a price.

By the time the two sides start talking, the hackers have already gained significant control of a company’s network, most likely securing access to sensitive account data, business contracts, and other key details of an organization. The more they steal, the greater the leverage they have.
The only way for the victim to regain some ground, cybersecurity experts say, is to come armed with information about how much the hackers have really stolen and knowledge of the attackers’ past negotiating tactics.

White House turns up heat on Big Tech

White House turns up heat on Big Tech’s Covid ‘disinformation dozen’

The White House turned up the pressure on Silicon Valley to get a handle on vaccine misinformation Thursday, specifically singling out 12 people one group dubbed the “disinformation dozen,” saying they were responsible for a great deal of misinformation about Covid-19.

“There’s about 12 people who are producing 65% of anti-vaccine misinformation on social media platforms,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said Thursday.
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