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Haiti crippled by fuel shortages as gang leader demands prime minister resign

By Brian Ellsworth and Gessika Thomas

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Haiti crippled by fuel shortages as gang leader demands prime minister resign
© Reuters. A member of the Haitian National Police deters protesters in front of the National Palace during a demonstration against insecurity and fuel shortages, in Port-au-Prince, Haiti October 25, 2021. REUTERS/Ralph Tedy Erol

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By Brian Ellsworth and Gessika Thomas

PORT-AU-PRINCE (Reuters) -Haiti’s streets were unusually quiet on Tuesday and gasoline stations remained dry as gangs blocked the entrance to ports that hold fuel stores and the country’s main gang boss demanded that Prime Minister Ariel Henry resign.

Days-long fuel shortages have left Haitians with few transportation options and forced the closure of some businesses. Hospitals, which rely on diesel generators to ensure electricity due to constant blackouts, may shut down as well.

The situation has put further pressure on a population already struggling under a weakening economy and a wave of gang kidnappings https://www.reuters.com/world/americas/kidnapping-haiti-shines-spotlight-gangs-risk-experts-say-2021-10-19, which include the abduction earlier this month of a group of Canadian and American missionaries.

Jimmy “Barbecue” Cherizier, leader of the “G9” coalition of gangs in the metropolitan area of the capital, Port-au-Prince, said in a radio interview on Monday night that he would ensure safe passage of fuel trucks if Henry leaves office.

“The areas under the control of the G9 are blocked for one reason only – we demand the resignation of Ariel Henry,” Cherizier said in an interview on Haiti’s Radio Mega.

“If Ariel Henry resigns at 8 a.m., at 8:05 a.m. we will unblock the road and all the trucks will be able to go through to get fuel.”

A spokesperson for Henry’s office did not respond to a request for comment. Reuters was unable to contact Cherizier.

His statements show how gangs have taken on an increasingly political role following the July assassination of President Jovenel Moise. Cherizier has said Henry should “answer questions” linking him https://www.reuters.com/world/americas/haiti-official-resigns-over-pms-links-suspect-presidents-slaying-2021-09-15 to Moise’s murder. Henry has denied any involvement.

Elections had originally been scheduled for November but were suspended after Henry last month dismissed the council that organizes elections, which critics had accused of being biased in favor of Moise. Henry has promised to appoint a non-partisan council that will set a new date.

Kidnappings have been in the headlines for months as Haitians from all walks of life face abduction by the increasingly powerful gangs.

The missionaries traveling as part of a trip organized by Ohio-based Christian Aid Ministries were abducted by a gang called 400 Mawozo that operates east of the capital and is seeking a ransom of $1 million for each person.

Christian Aid Ministries asked people in a statement on Tuesday to remember both those “being held hostage as well as those recovering from the experience of being kidnapped.”

The State Department said last week the U.S. government had dispatched a “small team” to assist in efforts to locate and free the missionaries.

White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan said on Tuesday the United States had deployed “a significant number of law enforcement specialists and hostage recovery specialists” to Haiti.

‘THE WORST I’VE SEEN’

Haiti’s foreign aid bureau, BMPAD, which oversees fuel procurement, tweeted a video saying the country had 150,000 barrels of diesel and 50,000 barrels of gasoline, with another 50,000 barrels of gasoline set to arrive on Wednesday.

A total of 100,000 barrels of diesel and gasoline would supply Haiti’s fuel needs for five to seven says, said Marc Andre Deriphonse, head of the country’s service-station owners’ association, ANAPROSS.

Businesses have been warning that they may have to halt operations for lack of fuel. Telecoms firms said some cell towers are no longer in operation.

“This is the worst I’ve seen,” said one motorcycle taxi driver waiting to pick up passengers outside Port-au-Prince, when asked about the fuel shortages. He declined to give his name.

Motorcycle drivers strap one-gallon containers to their bikes in the hopes of filling them with fuel sold on the black market. A gallon of gasoline on the street can now fetch $20, compared with typical filling-station prices of around $2.

Transportation industry leaders have called for strikes to protest the wave of kidnappings, which have disproportionately affected truck drivers and public transport workers.

United Nations children’s agency UNICEF said on Sunday https://www.reuters.com/world/americas/unicef-warns-haiti-fuel-shortages-put-hospitalised-women-children-risk-2021-10-24 it had negotiated fuel deliveries to Haitian hospitals but that the provider later refused to make the deliveries, citing security conditions.

At one police station near Port-au-Prince, two officers had been unable to get to work due to fuel shortages, according to a police official, who asked not to be named because he is not authorized to speak with reporters.

“Most of our vehicles have about a quarter of a tank,” he said.

World

Explainer-Does Omicron pose higher risks for infants than other variants?

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Explainer-Does Omicron pose higher risks for infants than other variants?
© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Syringes with needles are seen in front of a displayed stock graph and words “Omicron SARS-CoV-2” in this illustration taken, November 27, 2021. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration

By Alexander Winning and Tim Cocks

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) – Data from an area in South Africa hard-hit by the Omicron variant of the coronavirus has shown a high number of hospital admissions of infants under 2 years old, raising concerns that the variant may pose risks to young children.

South African scientists have said they cannot yet confirm a link between Omicron and the high admissions of infants, which could be due to other factors. Here is what we do and do not know about the issue.

WHAT IS CAUSING CONCERN?

The data, released by South Africa’s National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD), shows that 52 infants under age 2 were among 452 COVID-19 patients admitted in Tshwane – the metropolitan area that includes the capital Pretoria – in the period between Nov. 14 and 28, a higher number than for any other age group.

However, taking into account the size of the populations of the various age groups, the risk of admission was higher for people over age 60.

HAVE THE ADMISSIONS BEEN LINKED TO OMICRON?

No. Only a small percentage of positive test samples in South Africa are being submitted for genomic sequencing to detect the variant due to limited capacity. That means we cannot know for sure whether the infants in hospital were infected with Omicron, NICD scientists have said.

There is also uncertainty about whether all of the infants included in the data are infected with COVID-19, as not all are tested for the virus, scientists said.

For practical reasons, infants who present with respiratory symptoms are treated as if they had COVID-19, but they could be sick with another disease such as flu.

HOW SICK WERE THE ADMITTED INFANTS?

The data shows that 29% of COVID-19 admissions in the 0-to-4 age group had severe disease – a proportion similar to that in several other age groups, and significantly lower than the percentage of severe disease among patients over 60.

Among those age 4 or younger, 1% of admissions resulted in death, according to the data. However, the total number of admissions in that group was 70, making it unclear what the 1% figure represents.

The NICD did not respond to a query from Reuters about that and other elements of the data, saying it would issue a new report on paediatric admissions later this week.

SHOULD WE BE WORRIED ABOUT A POTENTIAL OMICRON LINK?

Asked whether people should be alarmed by the infant admissions numbers, Professor Anne von Gottberg, clinical microbiologist at the NICD, told Reuters: “Not yet.”

“It looks like in fact some of those admissions might have started before the emergence of Omicron,” she said. “We are concerned enough that we are looking at the data very, very carefully, but at the moment I’m not too sure that we can link it definitively to Omicron.”

WHAT ELSE COULD BE GOING ON?

The province of Gauteng, where Tshwane is located, has experienced an increase in flu cases in the past month.

“We need to be really careful to look at the other respiratory infections and diseases to work out why were children being admitted. Were they being tested as they were being admitted or was it precautionary?” said von Gottberg.

NICD scientists also said that parents with sick babies and infants were quick to bring them to hospital, while patients in other age groups were less likely to rush in.

WHEN WILL WE KNOW MORE?

The NICD said it was preparing a report on paediatric admissions which should be available by the end of the week.

The World Health Organization said on Wednesday it expected to have data on Omicron’s transmissibility within days, but scientists said it could take two-to-four weeks to learn more about the variant.

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Ghislaine Maxwell’s lawyer seeks to undermine accuser’s account of abuse

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Ghislaine Maxwell's lawyer questions accuser's account of abuse at trial
© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Witness “Jane” testifies during Ghislaine Maxwell’s trial on charges of sex trafficking, in a courtroom sketch in New York City, U.S., November 30, 2021. REUTERS/Jane Rosenberg

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By Luc Cohen

NEW YORK (Reuters) -A lawyer for Ghislaine Maxwell on Wednesday raised questions about the account of a woman who said the British socialite set her up for sexual abuse by Jeffrey Epstein starting when she was 14 in the 1990s and took part in some encounters.

The woman, known by the pseudonym Jane, first took the stand for the government on Tuesday at Maxwell’s sex-abuse trial in Manhattan federal court. She is the first of four women expected to testify that Maxwell “groomed” them for abuse by Epstein when they were teenagers.

Jane said on Tuesday that she had sexual encounters with Epstein at his Palm Beach home multiple times per month when she was 14, 15 and 16. Other people occasionally participated, including Maxwell, who touched her breasts, Jane testified.

During cross-examination on Wednesday, Maxwell attorney Laura Menninger asked Jane about apparent discrepancies between her descriptions of Maxwell’s role on Tuesday and earlier conversations with prosecutors before Maxwell’s July 2020 arrest.

“When you spoke with the government in December 2019, with your lawyers there, you told the government at that time you were not sure whether Maxwell ever touched you during these encounters, correct?” Menninger asked.

“I don’t recall,” Jane replied.

Maxwell, 59, is charged with eight counts of sex trafficking and other crimes, including two perjury charges that will be tried separately. The daughter of late British media magnate Robert Maxwell faces up to 80 years in prison if convicted.

Maxwell has pleaded not guilty and her lawyers have said prosecutors are scapegoating her for Epstein’s alleged crimes. The well-connected investment advisor died by suicide at age 66 in 2019 in a Manhattan jail cell while awaiting trial on sex-abuse charges.

Jane also confirmed, when asked by Menninger, that Epstein introduced her to Donald Trump at the former U.S. president’s Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida while she was 14 in the mid-1990s. She also said she recalled being on a flight with Britain’s Prince Andrew.

Neither Trump nor Prince Andrew have been accused of wrongdoing in the criminal case.

Maxwell’s lawyers say the four alleged victims’ memories have been manipulated over time. They say the accusers never mentioned Maxwell’s role in their abuse until after Epstein died and a compensation fund was set up for his victims, giving the women a financial incentive to cooperate with prosecutors.

Jane, now in her early 40s, said she now recalled certain events that she did not recall in the past.

She testified on Tuesday that Maxwell sometimes called her house while she was a teenager to invite her to visit Epstein. Menninger noted that in a 2019 interview with the government, Jane said she could not remember whether Maxwell ever called her, referring to a sealed transcript of the conversation.

“So two years later, now you remember that Ghislaine would call your home?” Menninger asked on Wednesday.

“Memory is not linear,” Jane replied.

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Fusion Media or anyone involved with Fusion Media will not accept any liability for loss or damage as a result of reliance on the information including data, quotes, charts and buy/sell signals contained within this website. Please be fully informed regarding the risks and costs associated with trading the financial markets, it is one of the riskiest investment forms possible.

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U.S. reports first case of Omicron variant

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U.S. reports first case of Omicron variant

(Reuters) – The United States identified a first case of the new Omicron coronavirus variant in California, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said on Wednesday

For days, U.S. health officials have said the new variant -first detected in South Africa and announced on Nov. 25 – was likely already in the United States as dozens of other countries also detected its arrival.

Disclaimer: Fusion Media would like to remind you that the data contained in this website is not necessarily real-time nor accurate. All CFDs (stocks, indexes, futures) and Forex prices are not provided by exchanges but rather by market makers, and so prices may not be accurate and may differ from the actual market price, meaning prices are indicative and not appropriate for trading purposes. Therefore Fusion Media doesn`t bear any responsibility for any trading losses you might incur as a result of using this data.

Fusion Media or anyone involved with Fusion Media will not accept any liability for loss or damage as a result of reliance on the information including data, quotes, charts and buy/sell signals contained within this website. Please be fully informed regarding the risks and costs associated with trading the financial markets, it is one of the riskiest investment forms possible.

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