Arab doctor leads team developing vaccine against all types of coronavirus

Arab doctor leads team developing vaccine against all types of coronavirus
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Updated 14 April 2021

Arab doctor leads team developing vaccine against all types of coronavirus

Arab doctor leads team developing vaccine against all types of coronavirus
  • Dr. Lbachir BenMohamed heads a team of scientists at University of California Irvine
  • Vaccine targets the proteins shared by all coronaviruses

LOS ANGELES: An Arab-led team of scientists at University of California Irvine (UCI) is developing an injection that by the end of the year could address all forms of coronavirus. 

“It’s a vaccine that is directed not only against SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19,” said Dr. Lbachir BenMohamed, director of cellular and molecular immunology at UCI. “But it is a vaccine that is targeting the previous outbreaks as well as the outbreaks that are going to come in the years to come.”

Where existing vaccines target spike proteins that are specific to a particular strain, BenMohamed’s team is targeting the proteins shared by all coronaviruses, including those that have not yet reached humans.

“Being Arabic from Maghreb, from Morocco, I am of course very proud that I represent the Arab world in this field of pan-coronavirus vaccine,” he said. “To my knowledge, I’m probably the only Arab who is developing a pan-coronavirus vaccine.”

Their work is being funded by Dr. Anthony Fauci’s branch of the National Institute of Health, and has so far prevented COVID-19 from replicating in and killing lab mice. Once completed, he hopes the vaccine would be administered like a flu shot. 

“I am hoping once we vaccinate people with this pan-coronavirus, the immunity would stay two years, three years, or four years or maybe more so that people will just get a shot every five years and they get protected from the next pandemic.”

After facing multiple outbreaks, including 2012’s MERS and the COVID-19 pandemic, Dr. BenMohamed encourages the Arab world to stop importing vaccines and begin developing their own. 

“They have the resources to do it and they have people who are competent both inside and outside the Arab World,” Dr BenMohamed told us. “If they get together and get this institute of vaccinology and immunotherapy, they can be independent when it comes to developing vaccines and immunotherapy. And that is the message, and as an Arab I am here to help if they need my help on this area.”


UK stands by Eid immigration raid in Glasgow

UK stands by Eid immigration raid in Glasgow
Updated 59 min 23 sec ago

UK stands by Eid immigration raid in Glasgow

UK stands by Eid immigration raid in Glasgow
  • Thursday’s deportation raid targeted a property housing two illegal immigrants from India, who were not themselves believed to be Muslim
  • A UK Home Office van was blockaded by hundreds of chanting protesters

LONDON: The UK government on Friday defended an immigration raid that inflamed tensions in Glasgow’s Muslim community at the start of Eid Al-Fitr, insisting there was no connection to the Islamic festival.
Thursday’s deportation raid targeted a property housing two illegal immigrants from India, who were not themselves believed to be Muslim.
A UK Home Office van was blockaded by hundreds of chanting protesters, and the pair were eventually released on bail as Glasgow police intervened in a bid to defuse tensions.
“The operation was routine and in no way connected to Eid. We are tackling illegal immigration and the harms it causes,” Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s official spokesman told reporters.
“We will continue to tackle illegal immigration,” he added.
The area in Scotland’s biggest city is home to a large Muslim community, and is part of the constituency of Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon.
“The Home Office needs to ask itself hard questions,” she said.
“Doing this on Eid, in the heart of our Muslim community, and in the midst of a serious Covid outbreak, was staggeringly irresponsible — but the even deeper problem is an appalling asylum and immigration policy.”
The incident came after Sturgeon’s pro-independence party and allies secured a majority in the Edinburgh parliament in elections last week, and it fueled anti-UK sentiment in sections of the Scottish media.
Friday’s front-page headline on the pro-independence National newspaper read: “Glasgow 1 ‘Team UK’ 0.”
The raid also caused trouble for Britain’s main opposition Labour party, after a prominent union official tweeted that London-born Home Secretary Priti Patel, who is of Indian descent, should herself be “deported.”
Labour leaders suspended the Unite union’s Howard Beckett, who apologized for the tweet but said he stood by his criticism of the government’s “racist” policies.


Germany slams ‘anti-Semitic’ demos and Hamas ‘terrorist attacks’

Germany slams ‘anti-Semitic’ demos and Hamas ‘terrorist attacks’
Updated 14 May 2021

Germany slams ‘anti-Semitic’ demos and Hamas ‘terrorist attacks’

Germany slams ‘anti-Semitic’ demos and Hamas ‘terrorist attacks’
  • Merkel’s government stressed “Israel’s right to self-defense against these attacks”
  • Germany has seen scattered demonstrations this week over the escalating conflict

BERLIN: Germany on Friday said rockets fired by Hamas at Israel amount to “terrorist attacks” and warned it would not tolerate “anti-Semitic” demonstrations on its own soil as the conflict intensified in the Middle East.
“These are terrorist attacks that have only one goal: to kill people indiscriminately and arbitrarily and to spread fear,” Chancellor Angela Merkel’s spokesman Steffen Seibert told a government press conference.
Merkel’s government stressed “Israel’s right to self-defense against these attacks,” he added.
Palestinian militants have fired some 1,800 rockets, and the Israeli military has launched more than 600 airstrikes, toppling at least three high-rise apartment buildings, and has shelled some areas with tanks stationed near the frontier.
The Gaza Health Ministry says the toll from the fighting has risen to 119 killed, including 31 children and 19 women, with 830 wounded. The Hamas and Islamic Jihad militant groups have confirmed 20 deaths in their ranks, though Israel says that number is much higher. Seven people have been killed in Israel, including a 6-year-old boy and a soldier.
The most intense hostilities in seven years were triggered by weekend unrest at Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa mosque compound, which is sacred to both Muslims and Jews.
Germany has seen scattered demonstrations this week over the escalating conflict, with protesters shouting anti-Semitic slogans and burning Israeli flags.
Flags were burned outside synagogues in Muenster and Bonn, with 16 people arrested.
On Wednesday evening, around 180 people shouted anti-Jewish slogans at a march in Gelsenkirchen, also in the west.
On Thursday around 1,500 people gathered in the northern city of Bremen calling for “freedom for Palestine” in a protest which proceeded without incident, according to local police.
Seibert said Friday that Germany would not tolerate “anti-Semitic” demonstrations.
“Anyone who attacks a synagogue or defiles Jewish symbols shows that for them it is not about criticizing a state or the policies of a government, but about aggression and hate toward a religion and the people who belong to it,” he said.
German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier had on Thursday also condemned the protests.
“Those who burn Star of David flags in our streets and shout anti-Semitic slogans not only abuse the freedom to demonstrate, but are committing crimes,” he told the popular Bild daily.
“Nothing justifies threats against Jews in Germany or attacks on synagogues in German towns,” he said.


12 killed in mosque blast near Afghan capital, shattering cease-fire calm: police

12 killed in mosque blast near Afghan capital, shattering cease-fire calm: police
Updated 14 May 2021

12 killed in mosque blast near Afghan capital, shattering cease-fire calm: police

12 killed in mosque blast near Afghan capital, shattering cease-fire calm: police
  • Kabul police spokesman says explosives had been placed inside the mosques
  • No one immediately claimed responsibility for the explosion

KABUL: A blast at a mosque on the outskirts of the Afghan capital during Friday prayers killed at least 12 worshippers, police said, shattering the relative calm of a three-day cease-fire.
“The death toll has jumped to 12 killed including the imam of the mosque and 15 others are wounded,” Ferdaws Framurz, the spokesman for Kabul police said, updating an earlier toll.
He said the explosion happened inside a mosque in Shakar Darah district of Kabul province.
The blast is the first major incident since a temporary truce between the Taliban and government troops came into force on Thursday.
The warring sides agreed on the truce to mark the Muslim holiday of Eid Al-Fitr, only the fourth such halt in fighting in the nearly two-decades old conflict.
Deadly violence has rocked the country in recent weeks after the US military began formally withdrawing its remaining 2,500 troops from Afghanistan on May 1.
Last week, a series of blasts outside a girls’ school in the capital killed more than 50 people, most of them teenage girl students.


US pulls out of major Kandahar base in southern Afghanistan

US pulls out of major Kandahar base in southern Afghanistan
Updated 14 May 2021

US pulls out of major Kandahar base in southern Afghanistan

US pulls out of major Kandahar base in southern Afghanistan

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan: The United States has completed its withdrawal from Kandahar Airfield in southern Afghanistan, once the second largest military base in the country for US forces, officials said Friday.
“They have not officially handed over the base to us but I can confirm they left the base on Wednesday,” said Khoja Yaya Alawi, a spokesman for the Afghan army in Kandahar.


Diplomats, donors concerned about sex abuse reports at WHO

Diplomats, donors concerned about sex abuse reports at WHO
Updated 14 May 2021

Diplomats, donors concerned about sex abuse reports at WHO

Diplomats, donors concerned about sex abuse reports at WHO
  • Senior WHO management was informed of multiple sex abuse allegations involving at least 2 of its doctors in the Ebola epidemic in 2018
  • The US State Department had no immediate comment

LONDON: British, European and American diplomats and donors have voiced serious concerns about how the World Health Organization handled sex abuse allegations involving its own staff during an outbreak of Ebola in Congo, as reported this week by The Associated Press.
On Tuesday, the AP published an investigation documenting that senior WHO management was informed of multiple sex abuse allegations involving at least two of its doctors during the epidemic in 2018.
A notarized contract obtained by the AP showed that two WHO staffers signed off on an agreement between WHO’s Dr. Jean-Paul Ngandu and a young woman he allegedly impregnated in Congo. In it, Ngandu promised to pay the young woman money, cover her pregnancy costs and buy her a plot of land. The contract was made “to protect the integrity and reputation of the organization,” Ngandu said.
“The UK has a zero tolerance approach when it comes to sexual exploitation and harassment — and that extends to all international organizations that we fund,” said Simon Manley, the UK’s ambassador to the UN in Geneva. “We are speaking with WHO and other major donors as a matter of urgency to establish the facts.” Britain is WHO’s second biggest donor, after the US
The US State Department had no immediate comment.
WHO has declined to comment on the specific allegations reported by the AP and said it is waiting for the results of a panel created last October to investigate sexual abuse during the Congo outbreak involving WHO staffers.
“What’s alarming is that WHO seems to be keeping this abuse quiet and not publicly condemning these allegations,” said Clare Wenham, an assistant professor of global health policy at the London School of Economics, who has studied gender and funding issues at WHO. “There’s a lot of talk about giving WHO more money but I don’t think any government should be committing to that until we know it’s an organization we can trust.”
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the agency’s third-largest funder, said it expects UN agencies to conduct thorough investigations into sexual abuse as quickly as possible.
“Our role as a funder is to hold organizations that receive grants from the foundation to the highest standards of transparency and accountability, and to insist that they take steps to prevent misconduct in the future,” the foundation said.
Lawrence Gostin, director of the WHO Collaborating Center on Global Health Law at Georgetown University, said the ultimate responsibility for WHO’s Ebola response lies with director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. The AP found that one of the doctors accused of sexual harassment, Boubacar Diallo, bragged about his relationship to Tedros, who mentioned Diallo during a speech in January 2019. The AP spoke with three women who said Diallo offered them WHO jobs in exchange for sex; Diallo denied the claims.
“I find it hard to believe Tedros would have known about these allegations and done nothing,” Gostin said. “The (director-general) must meet the highest ethical standards so we must understand what he knew and when he knew it. ... Dr. Diallo may have used his relationship with Tedros as leverage in sexual exploitation, but it would not be Tedros’ fault if he wasn’t aware of it.”
Gostin said WHO staffers who were aware of sexual misconduct claims but failed to act should be punished.
Balazs Ujvari, a spokesman for the European Commission, said it would “thoroughly monitor the investigations” by the AP. He said the commission is ready to review or suspend funding “for any partner who is not living up to the required high ethical and professional rules and standards.” Last year, the European Commission gave WHO about 114 million euros ($138 million).
The World Bank said it is “deeply concerned” about the new sex abuse allegations at WHO. The bank paused its negotiations with Congolese authorities for new financing to agencies, including WHO, last year when reports of general sex abuse during the Ebola outbreak surfaced.
“We review our relationship with any organization whose standards are in question,” the World Bank said in an email.