Belgian zoo hippos test positive for Covid

Belgian zoo hippos test positive for Covid
File photo of a hippo at Antwerp Zoo. Two hippos in the Belgian zoo have tested positive for Covid-19. (Shutterstock)
Short Url
Updated 03 December 2021

Belgian zoo hippos test positive for Covid

Belgian zoo hippos test positive for Covid
  • The infections at Antwerp Zoo are not the first time that zoo animals have tested positive
  • It is not known how the hippos were exposed to the virus

BRUSSELS: Two hippos in a Belgian zoo have tested positive for Covid-19, their keepers announced Friday, stressing that the giant animals do not appear to be in danger.
The infections at Antwerp Zoo are not the first time that zoo animals have tested positive during the pandemic, but most cases are thought to have been in cats and monkeys.
The building housing Hermien and Imani, a mother and daughter aged 41 and 14, has been closed to the public and their keepers have formed an isolated social bubble.
Antwerp Zoo tested its animals last year and found no cases of coronavirus, but veterinarian Francis Vercammen checked the hippos as cases rose again this winter.
“This time they were expelling snot, which I had tested as a precaution to check for bacteria,” he said, explaining how he came to send samples to Belgium’s national veterinary lab.
“In view of current events, I took the additional decision to test the samples for Covid-19, which gave this surprising result,” he said.
“As far as I know, this is the first known infection in this species. Worldwide, this virus has mainly been reported in great apes and felines.”
It is not known how the hippos were exposed to the virus. Their keepers have had no symptoms but are taking additional precautions and will be quarantined if they test positive.
Belgium, in common with much of Europe, is facing a growing wave of Covid-19 infections as winter grips the country, including a so far small number of cases of the new Omicron variant.
On Friday, Prime Minister Alexander de Croo announced a series of measures to tighten sanitary rules, bringing school Christmas holidays forward and asking children aged six and over to wear masks.
Belgium, with a population of 11 million, has recorded an average of more than 17,800 daily infections with Covid-19 over the past seven days, as well as 44 deaths.
Around 800 people with severe forms of the disease are in intensive care in hospitals across the country, leading to overcrowding and the postponement of treatment for many other conditions.


FIFA links more World Cups to averting migrant deaths at sea

FIFA links more World Cups to averting migrant deaths at sea
Updated 26 January 2022

FIFA links more World Cups to averting migrant deaths at sea

FIFA links more World Cups to averting migrant deaths at sea
  • In a speech to European lawmakers, Infantino said soccer was being dominated by the few who “have everything” and it needed to be more global and inclusive
  • “We need to give dignity, not by giving charity but by allowing the rest of the world as well to participate,” Infantino told lawmakers

GENEVA: FIFA President Gianni Infantino linked his plan for biennial World Cups on Wednesday to giving more hope to Africans who risk their lives crossing the sea to Europe.
In a speech to European lawmakers, Infantino said soccer was being dominated by the few who “have everything” and it needed to be more global and inclusive.
“We need to find ways to include the entire world, to give hope to Africans so that they don’t need to cross the Mediterranean in order to find, maybe, a better life but more probably death in the sea,” Infantino told the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe at Strasbourg, France.
He spoke on the day Spanish authorities said at least 18 people died and more than 300 were rescued from several boats trying to reach the Canary Islands from North Africa.
“We need to give dignity, not by giving charity but by allowing the rest of the world as well to participate,” Infantino told lawmakers at a session he attended with Arsène Wenger, FIFA’s director of global development.
FIFA and Wenger have been strongly resisted across European soccer since launching a formal proposal in September to organize men’s and women’s World Cups every two years instead of four.
Infantino has said organizing more editions of the World Cup will lead to more countries qualifying and fuel interest there. It would also raise billions of dollars for FIFA and increase funding for its 211 member federations to develop soccer.
Though Infantino was a longtime staffer at UEFA before being elected to FIFA in 2016, a constant theme of his presidency has been countering Europe’s dominance of the World Cup — Italy, Spain, Germany and France won the past four tournaments — and its clubs hiring the best players from other continents.
One of Infantino’s first big projects at FIFA was adding 16 nations to the World Cup for a 48-team competition from 2026, when Africa will have nine entries instead of five. Europe will get 16.
“In Europe, there is no need for additional possibilities and events,” Infantino told lawmakers at the 47-nation Council of Europe which promotes human rights, democracy and the rule of law.
Soccer must not effectively tell the world to hand over its money and best players “but watch us on TV,” Infantino said. “We have to make (football) truly global, we have to make it truly inclusive such as the values that have built Europe and we are bringing as well all over the world.”
Infantino acknowledged “maybe the World Cup every two years is not the answer.”
FIFA’s push for biennial World Cups has been uncertain since it stalled ahead of a December online meeting of its members where a vote had once been expected but was not called.
Leaders of UEFA and South American soccer body CONMEBOL have threatened to boycott biennial World Cups. They said more World Cups risk disrupting the balance between national and club team soccer and damaging continental competitions such as the Champions League, European Championship and Copa America.
Star players such as Kylian Mbappé, a 2018 World Cup winner with France, have said doubling the number of World Cups would dilute its prestige and overload them in an already congested fixture schedule.
The International Olympic Committee has also publicly criticized FIFA’s plan which could put the World Cup in direct competition with the Summer Games by 2032.
The IOC also rallied other sports to challenge Infantino in December over soccer’s plan to acquire more space and commercial income in the global schedule.


Las Vegas’s Wynn announces UAE resort with gaming facilities

Wynn Resorts run luxury hotels and entertainment facilities worldwide, some of which have gaming facilities, with its flagship hotel in Las Vegas. (Shutterstock)
Wynn Resorts run luxury hotels and entertainment facilities worldwide, some of which have gaming facilities, with its flagship hotel in Las Vegas. (Shutterstock)
Updated 25 January 2022

Las Vegas’s Wynn announces UAE resort with gaming facilities

Wynn Resorts run luxury hotels and entertainment facilities worldwide, some of which have gaming facilities, with its flagship hotel in Las Vegas. (Shutterstock)
  • Multi-billion-dollar resort in Ras Al-Khaimah will offer world-class entertainment, dining options
  • New gaming regulation department launched to ensure global best practices

LONDON: Las Vegas hotel operator Wynn Resorts has announced plans to open a multi-billion-dollar resort in Ras Al-Khaimah, the UAE, in 2026.

The huge complex will have 1,000 rooms, at least 10 restaurants and a convention center on the man-made Al-Marjan island, according to a joint announcement by Al-Marjan, Wynn Holdings and RAK Hospitality.

The new resort “will offer a pristine setting with spectacular views of the Arabian Gulf as well as sandy beaches and a marina,” they said.

It will also host a “gaming area,” according to an announcement by Wynn Holdings and RAK Hospitality.

Wynn Resorts CEO Craig Billings said Al-Marjan island “is a pristine setting and an ideal greenfield location for us to create the one-of-a-kind guest experiences for which Wynn Resorts is renown.

“The region offers tremendous potential for the hospitality and tourism industry, and we are excited about the prospect of developing an integrated resort in Ras Al-Khaimah.”

The resort will be developed with “significant” foreign direct investment by Wynn Resorts, and is the largest project of its kind in Ras Al-Khaimah’s growing hospitality sector.

Wynn Resorts run luxury hotels and entertainment facilities worldwide, some of which have gaming facilities.

Wynn Holdings, Al-Marjan and RAK Hospitality said the resort “will create substantial value to the local economy by accelerating tourism, creating jobs, and energizing the growth of related sectors,” and will be developed in accordance with the most rigorous sustainability practices.

Separately, the Ras Al-Khaimah Tourism and Development Authority has launched a new department for gaming that pledges to ensure “global best practices in the regulation of gaming that operate as part of integrated resorts across various jurisdictions worldwide.”

Its key priority will be to create a framework for gaming, according to an announcement, which added that “the regulatory structure will address the entire gaming enterprise within integrated resorts, requiring compliance with all applicable laws and regulations (including financial crime laws) from operators, suppliers and employees.”

Al-Marjan island, just 15 minutes from Ras Al-Khaimah International Airport, is already a leading tourism destination.

It offers nearly 8 km of sparkling beaches, 23 km of waterfront and a host of world-class hotels and residential developments.


Fists fly in Honduran Congress ahead of new president’s inauguration

Fists fly in Honduran Congress ahead of new president’s inauguration
Updated 22 January 2022

Fists fly in Honduran Congress ahead of new president’s inauguration

Fists fly in Honduran Congress ahead of new president’s inauguration
  • Legislators from leftist Libre party protested after 20 rebel members proposed Jorge Calix, one of their cohorts, as provisional congress president
  • Amid cries of "traitors" and "Xiomara!" angry Libre legislators forced their way to the podium while Calix was being sworn in, causing him to flee under a hail of punches

TEGUCIGALPA: Lawmakers exchanged blows in the Honduran Congress Friday as a dispute among members of president-elect Xiomara Castro’s party turned violent.
Legislators from her leftist Libre party protested after 20 rebel members proposed Jorge Calix, one of their cohorts, as provisional congress president.
Castro loyalists claimed this violated a pact with Libre’s coalition partner.
Amid cries of “traitors” and “Xiomara!,” angry Libre legislators forced their way to the podium while Calix was being sworn in, causing him to flee under a hail of punches and much pushing and shoving.
It was the first sitting of the 128-member Congress since elections last November.
Following an emergency party meeting later on Friday, the president-elect announced that the 20 members had been expelled from Libre, calling them “traitors” and “corrupt.”
The crisis began late Thursday when Castro called her party’s 50 legislators to a meeting to ask them to support Luis Redondo of the Savior Party of Honduras (PSH) as congress president.
The 20 rebel members did not attend.
On Friday, Libre leader Gilberto Rios told AFP that the 20 are backed by groups that wish to stop Castro’s promised anti-corruption campaign, including people in “organized crime” and “drug trafficking.”
Castro won elections on November 28 to become Honduras’ first woman president and end 12 years of National Party rule.
She won as part of an alliance between Libre and the PSH, to which the presidency of Congress was promised.
Castro accused the dissidents of “betraying the constitutional agreement” and “making alliances with representatives of organized crime, corruption and drug trafficking.”
Her husband Manuel Zelaya, a former president who was deposed in a 2009 coup supported by the military, business elites and the political right, is a senior Libre party official.
Castro is to be sworn in on January 27 along with other senior officials, including the congress president, at a ceremony attended by international guests including US Vice President Kamala Harris.


US man accused of faking death to avoid charges jailed in UK

Nicholas Alahverdian. (Photo/Wikipedia)
Nicholas Alahverdian. (Photo/Wikipedia)
Updated 22 January 2022

US man accused of faking death to avoid charges jailed in UK

Nicholas Alahverdian. (Photo/Wikipedia)
  • Noble ordered Alahverdian to be held without bail because he “cannot be trusted”

LONDON: An American man who authorities say faked his own death to evade prosecution for rape and financial fraud before fleeing to Scotland was jailed Friday after he failed to show up for an extradition hearing.
Nicholas Alahverdian, who has used a number of aliases including Nicholas Rossi, was denied bail at Edinburgh Sheriff Court after being arrested in Glasgow on Thursday. The 34-year-old will be back in court on Feb. 10 for a preliminary hearing, with a full hearing scheduled for Feb. 17, Scottish court officials said.
His attorney, Fred Mackintosh, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Alahverdian was first arrested on Dec. 13 at Queen Elizabeth University Hospital in Glasgow, where he was being treated for COVID-19. The suspect, who was using the name Arthur Knight, appeared in court by video link on Dec. 23 and was granted bail so he could keep receiving medical treatment while awaiting extradition proceedings.
Prosecutors allege Alahverdian discharged himself the following day and returned to his home in Glasgow. He was arrested Thursday after failing to attend a hearing in the extradition case.
Sheriff Alistair Noble, the Scottish judicial officer who presided over Friday’s hearing, said bail was initially granted on the understanding that Alahverdian would need to remain in the hospital for “at least a few weeks.” But Noble said a doctor at the hospital has indicated that the suspect can now receive the treatment he needs while in prison.
Noble ordered Alahverdian to be held without bail because he “cannot be trusted.”
Utah County Attorney David Leavitt’s office, which has charged Alahverdian in connection with a 2008 rape in Utah, confirmed Alahverdian’s arrest but said it wouldn’t comment on the extradition proceedings.
Leavitt’s office says Alahverdian, who was then using the name Nicholas Rossi, sexually assaulted a former girlfriend in Orem, Utah. The office has said its investigation found other complaints alleging abuse and threatening behavior against women in other states.
Authorities in Rhode Island have said Alahverdian is also wanted in their state for failing to register as a sex offender. The FBI has said he faces fraud charges in Ohio, where he was convicted of sex-related charges in 2008.
In recent years, Alahverdian had been an outspoken critic of Rhode Island’s Department of Children, Youth and Families, testifying before state lawmakers about being sexually abused and tortured while in foster care.
Then in 2020, he told local media he had late-stage non-Hodgkin lymphoma and had weeks to live.
An obituary published online claimed he died on Feb. 29, 2020. But by last year, Rhode Island state police, Alahverdian’s former lawyer and former foster family were publicly doubting whether he actually died.


Arizona sues Biden to keep school anti-mask rules

Arizona sues Biden to keep school anti-mask rules
Updated 22 January 2022

Arizona sues Biden to keep school anti-mask rules

Arizona sues Biden to keep school anti-mask rules
  • Ducey's lawsuit said the Treasury Department created restrictions on spending the money Arizona receives under President Joe Biden's American Rescue Plan Act
  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends universal mask-wearing in school settings to prevent the spread of COVID-19

PHOENIX: Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey sued the Biden administration on Friday over its demand that the state stop sending millions in federal COVID-19 relief money to schools that don’t have mask requirements or that close due to COVID-19 outbreaks.
The lawsuit filed in federal court in Phoenix comes a week after the US Treasury Department demanded that Ducey either restructure the $163 million program to eliminate restrictions it says undermine public health recommendations or face a repayment demand.
The Treasury Department also wants changes to a $10 million program Ducey created that gives private school tuition money to parents if their children’s schools have mask mandates.
Ducey’s lawsuit said the Treasury Department created restrictions on spending the money Arizona receives under President Joe Biden’s American Rescue Plan Act on its own and without legal authority. It asks a court to declare that the Treasury Department’s rules are illegal and permanently block enforcement and any demands that it pay back the $173 million it is spending on the two programs.
“Nothing in that underlying statute authorizes Treasury to condition the use of (ARPA) monies on following measures that, in the view of Treasury, stop the spread of COVID-19,” the lawsuit says. “If Congress had truly intended to give Treasury the power to dictate public health edicts to the States, and recoup or withhold (monies) ... it would have spoken clearly on the matter. It did not.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends universal mask-wearing in school settings to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
“By discouraging families and school districts from following this guidance, the conditions referenced above undermine efforts to stop the spread of COVID-19,” the Treasury Department wrote in last week’s letter.
The Treasury Department started demanding that Ducey change the programs in October. It was part of a concerted effort to force Arizona and some other Republican-led states that have opposed mask mandates or were using pandemic funding to advance their own agendas to end those practices.
Ducey rejected Treasury’s request the following month, and last week the Biden administration followed up with a formal demand that it cease using the money for the disputed programs or face either repayment demands or withholding of additional money it is set to receive under Biden’s COVID relief bill.
Friday’s lawsuit said the Treasury Department initially recognized that states have “broad latitude to choose whether and how to use the (money) to respond to and address the negative economic impact” of COVID-19. But then it changed course, and created the new rules, the suit said.
The Treasury Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the new lawsuit.
At issue are two state programs the Republican governor created last summer meant to help schools and students.
Arizona’s Education Plus-Up Grant Program provides $163 million in funding to schools in higher-income areas that received less than $1,800 per student in federal virus aid. Districts that require face coverings or that have closed due to virus outbreaks are ineligible.
Another called the COVID-19 Educational Recovery Benefit Program provides for up to $7,000 for parents if their child’s school requires face coverings or quarantines after exposure. It lets parents use the money for private school tuition or other education costs and its design mirrors the state’s existing school voucher program.
In a letter sent last week, the Treasury Department warned that the state has 60 days to remove the anti-masking provisions before the federal government moves to recover the relief money, and it threatened to withhold the next tranche of aid as well.
Ducey created the programs in part to up the pressure on school districts that had mask mandates or other COVID-19 restrictions, saying they were hurting children and parents who had endured more than a year of school shutdowns, remote learning and other restrictions. Provisions in the state budget that barred school mask mandates statewide were later thrown out by the Arizona Supreme Court because they were improperly adopted, but Ducey did not change the programs.
“Safety recommendations are welcomed and encouraged — mandates that place more stress on students and families aren’t,” Ducey said in August. “These grants acknowledge efforts by schools and educators that are following state laws and keeping their classroom doors open for Arizona’s students.”
Arizona has received about half of the $4.2 billion awarded to it under the 2021 coronavirus relief bill, and the Treasury Department said it may withhold payments if Ducey failed to comply with its demands.