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The Latest: Atlanta Shooting, Japan LGBTQ Breakthrough, Sad St. Patrick's Day

A deserted vaccination centre in Erfurt, Germany, after authorities suspended the use of the AstraZeneca jab over blood clot fears.
A deserted vaccination centre in Erfurt, Germany, after authorities suspended the use of the AstraZeneca jab over blood clot fears.

Welcome to Wednesday, where a shooting in Atlanta leaves eight dead, a Japanese court ruling could be a breakthrough for LGBTQ rights and Saint Patrick's Day celebrations are cancelled again. We also travel to Argentine's sea waters where an onslaught of foreign fishing fleets threatens marine life.

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Let them have AstraZeneca! The negligence of Europe's leaders

As elsewhere in Europe, the German government's decision to suspend the use of the vaccine makes no logical sense when you weigh up the risks in concrete figures, writes Justus Haucap, Professor of Economics at the University of Düsseldorf, in German daily Die Welt:

Suspending use of the AstraZeneca vaccine is a major blow for Germany's vaccination program. Over the past few weeks, AstraZeneca made up around 40% of vaccines administered in the country.

The vaccination program was already rolling out very slowly, and now the brakes are being slammed on. The promise of every adult being offered at least a first dose of the vaccine before the end of summer is beginning to look quite doubtful indeed.

Even if Germany starts offering the AstraZeneca vaccine again soon, the population may still be reluctant to receive it. But vaccines are our only way out of the pandemic. The collateral damage of suspending use of this specific vaccine could be huge.

The decision to halt all use of the AstraZeneca vaccine will prove to be a grave mistake, with serious consequences. So far in Germany, there have been seven reported cases of blood clots in the brain identified in patients who had received the vaccine.

The European Medicines Agency (EMA) has reported 41 cases of blood clots among the more than five million people who have received the AstraZeneca vaccine. Even if this number is higher than it should be, the risk is still only 0.0008%.

Many other medicines come with significantly higher risks. If every German citizen received the AstraZeneca vaccine — which won't be the case — we would expect to see at most 650 people experiencing complications. If 30 to 40% of the population received it, it would be between 200 and 260 cases.

The risk of unvaccinated people contracting coronavirus and becoming seriously ill is far higher. In the past seven days alone, there have been 110,000 new infections reported in Germany.

If only 1% of infections are fatal, that would still be more than 1,000 people — and that's only one week's worth of infections. With the threat of a third wave fast approaching, it's unthinkable to allow these very low risks to slow down the vaccination programme.

To salvage what we can, the German government should now make it possible for anyone who wishes to receive the AstraZeneca vaccine to do so. I personally would be first in line.

Anyone who would prefer to wait for a different vaccine and run the risk of being infected with coronavirus can do so. But there's no reason to make everyone wait. In fact, it's negligent, given the risk of a third wave.

Without the AstraZeneca vaccine, we may see fewer blood clots, but we will certainly see many more deaths from coronavirus, to say nothing of the continuing restrictions imposed on our basic freedoms and everyday life.

Justus Haucap / Die Welt

• Same-sex marriage ruling in Japan: A court in Japan has ruled that banning same-sex marriage is unconstitutional, a potential major breakthrough for LGBTQ rights in the Asian nation.

• Uber drivers in UK recognized as employees: After a landmark court ruling, the ride-hailing app is recognizing more than 70,000 drivers as employees, granting them paid holidays, pension, and minimum wage.

• 2020 U.S. election foreign interference: In a detailed report by U.S. intelligence, Russian President Vladimir Putin has been accused of meddling in the 2020 U.S. election in favor of Donald Trump, while Iran used a "multi-pronged covert influence campaign" in an attempt to tilt the election toward Joe Biden.

• Massage parlor shootings: Eight people were killed in three different massage parlors across Atlanta, Georgia within the span of an hour. At least six victims were Asian women. A 21-year-old suspect has been arrested.

• Baby born with COVID-19 antibodies: In a world's first known case, a baby in south Florida was born with antibodies after the mom received a COVID-19 vaccine while pregnant.

• Navalny news: Putin critic Alexei Navalny has shared on Instagram that he has been moved to a "concentration camp" known for strict control, and had his head shaved.

• Saint Patrick's Day: For the second year in a row, the Irish festivities have been cancelled. Pub owners see no end in sight. New York City has also cancelled its annual Saint Patrick's Day parade.

"Out of control," titles Brazilian daily Extra as the country registers another record number of COVID-19 deaths with nearly 3,000 fatalities in the past 24 hours. The country's new health minister, Marcelo Queiroga, has pledged to continue the controversially lax policies of president Jair Bolsonaro.

Chinese fishing fleets are sweeping South American oceans dry

A new Greenpeace report warns that foreign fishing fleets, mostly from China, are gobbling up every bit of marine life they can into "stadium-sized" nets in Argentina's sea waters, writes Natasha Niebieskikwiat in Buenos Aires-based daily Clarin.

The environmental group Greenpeace recently counted at least 470 boats in a biodiversity hotspot known as "Agujero Azul" or the "Blue Hole," off the Patagonian coast between Chubut and Santa Cruz. Luisina Vueso, who worked on the report, told Clarín that usually, Argentine coastal waters have 270 boats concentrated in an area of roughly 1 million square kilometers. Right now there are 470 boats extracting stock like squid and other species in barely 5,000 square kilometers.

Greenpeace warns that there are no checks on this type of fishing, which sweeps up marine life with underwater nets almost the size of football pitches. These reach the seabed and pick up all there is, regardless of numbers, endangered status or usefulness. Greenpeace concluded in 2019 that years of exploitation had devastated the seabed off the Argentine coast.

The country's Security and Defense ministries have responded by announcing more checks. The latter has formed a Naval Command to fight illegal activities, though this is already running into problems because of the lack of naval and air instruments needed to pursue violators. Also, it can only act in territorial waters.

➡️ Read more on Worldcrunch.com

Iranian woman seeks divorce because husband is too generous

During a recent family court appearance in Tehran, an unhappy Iranian woman told a judge that she wants out of her three-year marriage on grounds that her husband is … too nice.

"He has passed the limits of kindness," the newspaper Jam-e Jam quoted the woman, Razieh, as saying.

The problem, more specifically, has to do with the husband's habit of giving out money. "We've often had financial problems, and yet he's been lending money to friends and acquaintances," Razieh reportedly said of her husband, Jahan.

"He just wants to make me suffer," she added. "He hasn't learned about responsibility in a marriage."

Jahan, in his defense, told the judge he had lent money "to just a few people." He said that Razieh had blown the issue out of proportion. "I feel she's jealous."

The husband claimed his wife flew into a rage upon finding out he had lent money to one of her friends, though it was not immediately clear if this was a man or woman.

Either way, Jahan said he would not oppose a divorce, as "she just wants me as her servant."

The judge asked the couple to reconsider but they refused. He then instructed the bickering partners to attend a couple counseling session. Divorce is permitted under Iran's Islamic laws, but frowned upon socially. Picking up the check? That's another story.

➡️ Keep up with all the planet's police reports and plot twists on Worldcrunch.com


Samsung Electronics and China's Semiconductor Industry Association sound the alarm about the unprecedented chip shortage the world is facing, after semiconductor sales jumped 18% last year. Some fear the shortage, which first hit automakers at the beginning of 2021, will now disrupt the electronics industry.

Words are not enough. We are waiting for action.

— Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said during a televised interview about the new U.S. administration's plans to revive nuclear agreement talks and lift sanctions.

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How WeChat Is Helping Bhutan's Disappearing Languages Find A New Voice

Phd candidate Tashi Dema, from the University of New England, discusses how social media apps, particularly WeChat, are helping to preserve local Bhutanese languages without a written alphabet. Dema argues that preservation of these languages has far-reaching benefits for the small Himalayan country's rich culture and tradition.

A monk in red performing while a sillouhet of a monk is being illuminated by their phone.

Monk performing while a sillouheted monk is on their phone

Source: Caterina Sanders/Unsplash
Tashi Dema

THIMPHU — Dechen, 40, grew up in Thimphu, the capital city of Bhutan. Her native language was Mangdip, also known as Nyenkha, as her parents are originally from central Bhutan. She went to schools in the city, where the curriculum was predominantly taught in Dzongkha, the national language, and English.

In Dechen’s house, everyone spoke Dzongkha. She only spoke her mother tongue when she had guests from her village, who could not understand Dzongkha and during her occasional visits to her village nestled in the mountains. Her mother tongue knowledge was limited.

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However, things have now changed.

With 90% of Bhutanese people using social media and social media penetrating all remotes areas in Bhutan, Dechen’s relatives in remote villages are connected on WeChat.

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