US arrests religious leaders, activists at border protest

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Pro-migrants activists demonstrate next to US border patrol agents against US migration policies near the US-Mexico border fence at Imperial beach in San Diego county, US, as seen from Playas de Tijuana, Baja California state, Mexico, on December 10, 2018. (AFP)
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A girl waves to a young man watching from Mexican territory who said he was her cousin, as a group of Honduran asylum seekers is taken into custody by US Border Patrol agents after the group crossed the US border wall into San Diego, California, seen from Tijuana, Mexico, Monday, Dec. 10, 2018. (AP)
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A man holds his hands in the air in front of a line of Border Patrol agents during a protest Monday, Dec. 10, 2018, in San Diego. (AP)
Updated 11 December 2018

US arrests religious leaders, activists at border protest

  • US immigration officials say these claims, most of which are accepted, exploit a legal loophole allowing migrants to enter the United States while they await a court hearing on their asylum case

SAN DIEGO : Kneeling in front of riot police, 32 religious leaders and activists were arrested at the US border fence in San Diego on Monday during a protest to support the Central American migrant caravan.
More than 400 demonstrators, many leaders of churches, mosques, synagogues and indigenous communities, sought a halt to detention and deportation of migrants and for the United States to welcome the caravan that arrived in Tijuana, Mexico in November.
Singing and praying, religious leaders moved forward in lines of four to six, some wearing T-shirts reading, “Love Knows No Borders.” They were handcuffed and led away by federal agents upon entering a restricted area in front of the fence.
“As a Quaker who believes in our shared humanity...We’re calling on the US to respect the rights of migrants,” said Joyce Ajlouny, general secretary of the American Friends Service Committee, which has run a week of actions to back migrants.
US Border Patrol spokesman Theron Francisco said 31 people were arrested by Federal Protective Services for trespassing and one was arrested by Border Patrol for assaulting an agent.
The arrests marked the second confrontation with US authorities since the caravan reached Tijuana. US Border Patrol agents fired tear gas at migrants on Nov. 25 after they said they had stones thrown at them.
Thousands of migrants are living in crowded shelters and encampments in Tijuana after traveling from Central America to escape poverty and violence. They may have to wait weeks or months to claim asylum at the US border.
Data released on Monday by US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) showed asylum claims at the US-Mexico border rose 67 percent in the 2018 fiscal year from a year earlier.
US immigration officials say these claims, most of which are accepted, exploit a legal loophole allowing migrants to enter the United States while they await a court hearing on their asylum case.
“As the majority of these claims will not be successful when they are adjudicated by an immigration court, we need Congress to act to address these vulnerabilities,” CBP Commissioner Kevin McAleenan said in a statement.
Protest leaders said President Donald Trump had portrayed the caravan as a security threat to advance his “anti-immigrant” agenda and further restrict migrants’ ability to seek asylum.
A US judge in November blocked Trump’s proclamation to bar migrants who cross the US-Mexico border illegally from seeking asylum.

US company hopeful of UK trials for COVID-19 vaccine

Updated 28 September 2020

US company hopeful of UK trials for COVID-19 vaccine

  • Codagenix has pioneered fresh approach based on technology first discovered in 1950s
  • Permission could be granted by end of year

LONDON: An experiment has been proposed to take place in the UK that will see volunteers infected with a weakened form of COVID-19 in the hope that it could act as an effective vaccine.

The trial, the brainchild of US biotech company Codagenix, may receive permission to begin before the end of the year.

The theory behind the vaccine using an “attenuated” virus, engineered in a laboratory, stems from how COVID-19 uses pieces of genetic code, called codons, normally used by human cells to identify amino acids in order to build proteins, to trick the cells into helping the virus replicate inside a host.

Human cells cannot always efficiently identify codons, making it harder for the immune system to spot those used by COVID-19. 

Codagenix’s vaccine prototype will act in a similar fashion to the original COVID-19 virus, but will replicate at about a thousandth of the rate, which the company believes will help train the immune system to recognize the real thing when confronted with it, and trigger a broader immune response than through other vaccines. 

“We recode a portion of the virus’s genome so that it’s slowly translated by the human host,” said Codagenix CEO Robert Coleman.

The technique was first used in the 1950s by the scientist Albert Sabin, who used it to eventually develop the oral polio vaccine.

Codagenix believes that its version could end up being more effective, and more cost efficient, than other prototype vaccines currently in advanced trial stages worldwide, including the one being worked on by scientists at Oxford University in partnership with pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca.

Codagenix has already held early-stage trials of a flu vaccine using the technique in humans without serious side-effects, and has partnered with the Serum Institute of India, among the world’s largest vaccine manufacturers, to produce it should it prove a success.