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US FDA set to authorise Pfizer, Merck COVID-19 pills this week: Bloomberg News
22 December 2021, 4:38 PM

The US Food and Drug Administration is set to authorize COVID-19 treatment pills from both Pfizer Inc and Merck as early as Wednesday, Bloomberg News reported on Tuesday, citing people familiar with the matter.

The two drugs, especially Pfizer’s pill Paxlovid, are seen as promising new oral treatments that can be taken upon onset of symptoms at home to help prevent COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths.

Merck’s drug, molnupiravir, developed with Ridgeback Biotherapeutics, was shown to reduce hospitalisations and deaths by around 30% in a clinical trial of high-risk individuals early in the course of the illness.

Molnupiravir gained a narrow vote in favor of authorisation by a panel of advisers to the FDA on Nov. 30.

Meanwhile, Pfizer’s Paxlovid showed near 90% efficacy in preventing hospitalisations and deaths in high-risk patients.

The FDA did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Britain in November became the first country in the world to approve Merck’s antiviral drug for use in people with mild to moderate COVID-19 and for those who have at least one risk factor for developing severe illness.

The United States has a contract to buy as many as 5 million courses of Merck’s drug, and 10 million courses of Pfizer’s treatment.

World’s first text message sells for $120 000 in Paris auction
22 December 2021, 3:32 PM

The first text message ever sent, reading “Merry Christmas,” was sold on Tuesday for 107 000 euros ($120 599.70) as a ‘Non-Fungible Token’ at a Paris auction house.

The text, which was sent on December 3, 1992, was put up for auction by British telecoms company Vodaphone.

Vodafone engineer Neil Papworth sent the SMS from his computer to a manager in the United Kingdom, who received it on his 2-kg (4 lb) “Orbitel” telephone – similar to a desk phone but cordless and with a handle.

Non-Fungible Tokens, or NFTs, are a type of digital asset that has surged in popularity this year, with NFT artworks selling for millions of dollars.

Traded since around 2017, these digital objects, which encompass images, video, music and text, exist on blockchain, a record of transactions kept on networked computers. Each NFT has a unique digital signature.

The selling of intangible goods is not legal in France and so the auction house has packaged the text message in a digital frame, displaying the code and communication protocol, Aguttes said.

The buyer will receive the replica of the original communication protocol that transmitted the SMS and proceeds will go to the United Nations Refugee Agency UNHCR.

Child refugee to play for Gambia at Cup of Nations finals
22 December 2021, 3:04 PM

AS Roma midfielder Ebrima Darboe, who made a perilous journey as a child migrant from Africa across the Mediterranean by boat, has been included in Gambia’s squad for next month’s Africa Cup of Nations.

Darboe, 20, debuted in Serie A last season after arriving as a 14-year-old boat refugee in Sicily, and is among four players from top flight Italian clubs who headline the 28-man squad for Gambia’s debut appearance at the continental championship.

Bologna’s Musa Barrow, Omar Colley of Sampdoria and Spezia winger Ebrima Colley are also all expected to be starters at the tournament in Cameroon.

Coach Tom Saintfiet on Wednesday named an eclectic mix of players, including several from clubs in the lower leagues in England, Germany, Sweden and Switzerland.

There are two English-born players in the squad — Ebou Adams (Forest Green Rovers) and Ibou Touray (Salford City) – plus Swiss-born Saidy Janko, who was at Manchester United and Celtic but now plays for Real Valladolid, and made his Gambia debut last month.

The squad also includes Dembo Darboe, top scorer in Belarus this year for new champions Shakhtyor Soligorsk, and Modou Barrow, who played in the Premier League while at Swansea City but is now in South Korea.

Gambia have been drawn in Group F at the Cup of Nations finals and start against Mauritania on January 12. They also have Mali and Tunisia in their group.

Squad:

Goalkeepers: Babouccar Gaye (Rot-Weiss Koblenz), Alagie Modou Jobe (Black Leopards) Sheikh Sibi (Virtus Verona)

Defenders: Omar Colley (Sampdoria), James Gomez (Horsens), Pa Modou Jagne (Dietikon), Mohammed Jallow-Mbye (Solvesborg), Saidy Janko (Real Valladolid), Bubacarr Sanneh (unattached), Noah Sonko-Sundberg (Ostersund), Ibou Touray (Salford City)

Midfielders: Ebou Adams (Forest Green Rovers), Modou Barrow (Jeonbuk Motors), Musa Barrow (Bologna), Yusupha Bobb (Piacenza), Ebrima Colley (Spezia), Ebrima Darboe (Roma), Abdoulie Jallow (RFC Seraing), Sulayman Marreh (Gent), Ebrima Sohna (Fortune FC)

Forwards: Muhammed Badamosi (Kortrijk), Assan Ceesay (FC Zurich), Dembo Darboe (Shakhtyor Soligorsk), Lamin Jallow (Fehervar), Bubacarr Jobe (Norrby), Yusupha Njie (Boavista), Steve Trawally (Ajman).

Libyan election collapses with no plan out of crisis
22 December 2021, 2:26 PM

Libya’s parliament said Friday’s planned presidential election would not go ahead, leaving the internationally-backed peace process in chaos and the fate of the interim government in doubt.

The electoral commission proposed pushing back the voting date by a month, confirming a delay that had been widely expected amid ongoing disputes over the rules, including the eligibility of several divisive major candidates.

Disagreements showed the limitations of a winner-takes-all presidential vote involving candidates viewed as unacceptable in large parts of the country including the son of Muammar Gaddafi and a military leader who assaulted Tripoli.

At stake is a peace process that had been seen as the best hope in years of bringing an end to the decade of chaos and violence that has engulfed Libya since a NATO-backed uprising ousted Gaddafi in 2011.

Very large numbers of Libyans had already registered for voting cards for the election in what politicians on all sides in Libya have said is a sign of strong popular desire for a vote.

However, with mobilisations in Tripoli and other western areas by armed groups, the collapse of the electoral process risks aggravating local disputes and triggering a new round of fighting.

Disputes over the path forward could also undo the wider UN-backed peace process between Libya’s main eastern and western camps that have maintained a ceasefire since last year.

Some figures in the east have warned of a new breakaway government that would return Libya to the division between warring administrations that lasted from the last election in 2014 until the installation of the current interim government.

Factions, candidates and foreign powers have been talking behind the scenes about whether an election can still take place with a short delay or whether a longer postponement is necessary to reach an agreement on the legal basis of the vote.

UN special adviser Stephanie Williams said on social media she had been meeting members of the political forum that set the electoral process in train last year and reiterated the need for “free, fair and credible elections”.

Meanwhile, the status of the interim government that was installed in March as part of the same peace process is also at risk, with the eastern-based parliament having withdrawn confidence from it in September.

DISPUTES

The electoral committee’s statement on Wednesday added that the government’s mandate would expire on Friday. However, other main factions and political institutions may stick with the government, which is also recognised by the United Nations.

The election was originally called through an UN-backed roadmap that envisaged simultaneous parliamentary and presidential elections on December 24 – Libya’s national day.

However, there was no agreement on the constitutional basis for the election or on the rules among the country’s fragmented political institutions.

In September the speaker of parliament Aguila Saleh, himself a presidential candidate, issued a law that his critics said was not properly passed through the chamber, deviated from the roadmap and was crafted to benefit himself and his allies.

That law, which split the presidential election from a later parliamentary one, formed the basis of the electoral process, although powerful factions and leading candidates rejected it.

With little agreement on the rules, or on who would enforce them or adjudicate disputes, the entry of highly divisive candidates into the presidential race triggered the collapse of the process.

Electoral commission head Emad Sayeh said in a statement that the process had run into trouble because the rules were not adequate to handle appeals and disputes over eligibility.

The three most prominent candidates, eastern commander Khalifa Haftar, Saif al-Islam Gaddafi and interim Prime Minister Abdulhamid al-Dbeibah, were also the three most divisive.

Haftar was unacceptable to many in western Libya after his 2019-20 assault on Tripoli that smashed parts of the capital. Gaddafi was convicted of war crimes by a Tripoli court and is detested by many of those who fought in the 2011 revolt.

Dbeibah had promised when he was installed as premier that he would not run in an election and his continued work as prime minister in the run-up to the vote led many of his rivals to say he had an unfair advantage.

Man City’s Mendy charged with seventh count of rape
22 December 2021, 2:10 PM

Manchester City defender Benjamin Mendy has been charged with an additional count of rape in addition to earlier charges of rape and sexual assault, British media reported on Tuesday.

Mendy, 27, has now been accused of eight offences against five women, which includes seven counts of rape.

The charges against Mendy are alleged to have taken place between October 2020 and August 2021. The latest charge is related to a new complainant and is alleged to have taken place in July.

Mendy last played for City against Tottenham Hotspur on August 15 and was suspended by the Premier League club later that month. He has been in custody since he was arrested in August.

France international Mendy signed for City from Ligue 1 side AS Monaco in 2017 for a fee in the region of 52 million pounds ($69.25 million).

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