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New Covid variant XBB hits 18 UK cases – all you need to know about the deadly ‘nightmare’ strain

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Chronicle Live

Chronicle Live

by Adam May & Aaron Morris – 

The XBB strain may be a factor in the recent spike in cases because it spreads quickly and appears to evade people’s vaccine protection © PA

A new strain of Covid-19 dubbed the ‘nightmare’ variant has reached 18 known cases in the UK – with scientists and experts urging residents to stay up to date with eligible vaccines.

The warning comes after cases of the XBB strain were detected across Great Britain, out of a global total of 1,086,639 samples uploaded from Singapore.

It is thought the mutated variant may be a slight factor in the recent spike of Coronavirus cases, as it spreads at a rapid pace and appears to evade vaccine immunity.

Read more: The rules on going to work or staying home if you test positive for Covid-19

The Mirror reports that while the XBB strain has not been designated as a variant of concern just yet, experts are monitoring the situation closely. It comes as one of two new strains of the global virus which have entered the UK, with the second being the new BQ.1 variant.

There have been more than 700 cases of the latter logged in the UK to date.

Dr Meera Chand, Director of Clinical and Emerging Infection at the UK Health Standards Agency (UKHSA), said: “It is not unexpected to see new variants of SARS-CoV-2 emerge. Neither BQ.1 nor XBB have been designated as variants of concern and UKHSA is monitoring the situation closely, as always.

Related video: XBB strain detected in 17 countries: Is there a need for variant-specific booster vaccines?

XBB strain detected in 17 countries: Is there a need for variant-specific booster vaccines?

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“Vaccination remains our best defence against future Covid-19 waves, so it is still as important as ever that people come take up all the doses for which they are eligible as soon as possible.”

XBB was initially discovered in India back in August, since being located in Bangladesh, Japan, Singapore, and at least 13 other countries – including Denmark and Australia. It has also been detected in Hong Kong.

Singapore’s Ministry of Health said that XBB went from being responsible for some 22 percent of Covid-19 cases to 54 percent in the space of a week. Almost 80 percent of those in Singapore are also fully vaccinated.

While Singapore’s health ministry says that there is no evidence that XBB causes more severe illness, it appears to be resistant to treatments. Ong Ye Kung, said that the country is in turn likely to see 15,000 daily cases on average by mid-November.

Infectious disease expert John Swartzberg previously told the San Francisco Chronicle : “We are seeing a slew of new variants that are using a similar approach to survive — they are finding ways to evade the way we get immunity from vaccines and previous infection with changes on the spike protein.

“XBB is no different from the others.”

XBB is a mutation on Omicron BA.2. 23 cases of XBB have been detected in the USA. Natalie Thornburg, CDC lead respiratory virus immunology specialist said: “XBB is a chimera. I think there have been a couple of sequences identified in the United States.

“But it’s way, way, way, way below that one percent threshold. I mean, it’s really like a handful of sequences.”

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Posted in Business/Economy/Banking, COVID-19, Environment, Health, International, Local, News, Regional0 Comments

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The Montserrat Reporter

October 28, 2022

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Rishi Sunak to be UK’s next prime minister

Rishi Sunak

Rishi Sunak warns Tories party faces ‘existential threat’ and rules out early general election after winning (the) race to be PM tells Conservatives there will not be an early election but calls for the party to unite

Rishi Sunak posing with fellow Tories outside CCHQ. Photograph Aaron Chown – PA

This story is currently being updated every 10 minutes or so:
https://www.theguardian.com/politics/live/2022/oct/24/uk-politics-live-rishi-sunak-penny-mordaunt-boris-johnson-withdrawal-nominations-deadline-tory-leadership-contest-race#top-of-blog

TMR Editor: Do read in depth. We believe the problems will not easily go away – feel that Boris with all the ‘hypocritical ills is likely still their best bet. They do have two years to sort out the best leader… leader… politically and administratively… requirements; which also apply to, do you know who?

Posted in Business/Economy/Banking, Featured, Features, International, Local, News, Politics, Regional, UK - Brexit0 Comments

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More evidence Covid WAS engineered in a lab?

Another explosive study dismisses natural origin theory – but experts say it’s just more ‘uninformed nonsense’ –

Comment: Jus wonderin – Is this a case of ‘Follow the Money’?

Researchers studied Covid’s genome and compared it to other coronaviruses

Team detected ‘peculiar patterns’ that are hallmarks of a man-made virus, they say

Dr Alex Washburne said the lab leak theory can’t be ruled out based on results

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The coronavirus was likely made in a lab, according to the latest explosive study to shed light on the possible origins of the pandemic.

Researchers in the US and Germany studied Covid’s genome — the virus’ instruction manual — and compared it to dozens of previously detected coronaviruses.

‘Peculiar patterns’ were visible in the building blocks of the pandemic-causing virus, which they say are hallmark signs that it was manufactured. The team described it as having a ‘synthetic fingerprint’.

Study author Dr. Alex Washburne, a mathematical biologist, said the lab leak theory can’t be ruled out based on the results of his controversial study.

Each test his team performed ‘decreased the odds of SARS-CoV-2 having a natural origin’, he said.

However, Dr Washburne noted his team don’t identify which lab that was the source of the outbreak and insisted that the virus looks more ‘like an accident’ rather than a ‘bioweapon’.

Some experts called the results ‘troubling’ and claimed they offered the ‘strongest piece of evidence’ yet that the virus was man-made. 

But dozens of others, including leaders in the field, have hit out at the findings, sparking a fierce row. One virologist said the research is ‘so deeply flawed that it wouldn’t pass kindergarten molecular biology’. 

Another said the study was ‘very poorly controlled, cherry-picked and making a big deal out of lumps and bumps that are of no significance to the virus’. One described it as ‘tinfoil-hat bonkers’.

The study is the latest addition to the fierce argument around how the virus came to sweep the world in 2020.

Most leading virologists believe the coronavirus jumped to humans from an infected animal, potentially in the ‘ground zero’ wet market in the Chinese city of Wuhan.

Others think it leaked from a secretive laboratory in the same city. Whether or not it was deliberate or accidental is an even more contentious part of the ‘lab leak’ theory.

Scientists argue it is vital to find out the origins of the virus so steps can be taken to prevent future pandemics. But many doubt the root source of the pandemic will ever be uncovered, with China accused of trying to conceal investigations.

Researchers in the US and Germany studied Covid's genome ¿ the virus' instruction manual ¿ and compared it to dozens of previously detected coronaviruses. The team detected a 'peculiar patterns' in the building blocks of the pandemic-causing virus, which they say are hallmarks that it was manufactured in a lab. These include a more organised structure than naturally-occurring viruses and mutations that suggest the virus was assembled in a lab. Study author Dr Alex Washburne, a mathematical biologist, said the lab leak theory can't be ruled out based on the results of his controversial study. However, he noted his team don't identify which lab that was the source of the outbreak. Pictured: the Wuhan Institute of Virology, which is at the centre of the lab leak theory

Researchers in the US and Germany studied Covid’s genome — the virus’ instruction manual — and compared it to dozens of previously detected coronaviruses. The team detected a ‘peculiar patterns’ in the building blocks of the pandemic-causing virus, which they say are hallmarks that it was manufactured in a lab. These include a more organised structure than naturally-occurring viruses and mutations that suggest the virus was assembled in a lab. Study author Dr Alex Washburne, a mathematical biologist, said the lab leak theory can’t be ruled out based on the results of his controversial study. However, he noted his team don’t identify which lab that was the source of the outbreak. Pictured: the Wuhan Institute of Virology, which is at the centre of the lab leak theory

The top graph shows the average length of the longest fragment in a coronavirus genome (shown by grey line in the middle of bars). The coloured dots show the longest fragment length in the genome of Covid (red) and 10 other genetically engineered coronaviruses. The researchers said Covid's longest genome segment length is 'well below' what would be expected if the virus had evolved naturally and 'right within the narrow range of fragment number we find in engineered coronaviruses'. The bottom graph compares the virus fragment length in relation to how many standard deviations ¿ the difference from the average length ¿ the lab-made viruses are from naturally occurring coronaviruses. The researchers said this shows Covid 'appears more likely to have been engineered' than other viruses that are known to be man-made

The top graph shows the average length of the longest fragment in a coronavirus genome (shown by grey line in the middle of bars). The coloured dots show the longest fragment length in the genome of Covid (red) and 10 other genetically engineered coronaviruses. The researchers said Covid’s longest genome segment length is ‘well below’ what would be expected if the virus had evolved naturally and ‘right within the narrow range of fragment number we find in engineered coronaviruses’. The bottom graph compares the virus fragment length in relation to how many standard deviations — the difference from the average length — the lab-made viruses are from naturally occurring coronaviruses. The researchers said this shows Covid ‘appears more likely to have been engineered’ than other viruses that are known to be man-made 

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DID COVID LEAK FROM A WUHAN LAB? THE EVIDENCE FOR AND AGAINST 

Evidence for Wuhan lab-leak theory

An article in the respected Science journal on May 14 2021 kick-started the surge in interest for the lab-leak theory.

Some 18 experts wrote in the journal that ‘we must take hypotheses about both natural and laboratory spillovers seriously until we have sufficient data’.

Later that month, a study by British Professor Angus Dalgleish and Norwegian scientist Dr Birger Sørensen claimed it had ‘prima facie evidence of retro-engineering in China’ for a year.

The study included accusations of ‘deliberate destruction, concealment or contamination of data’ at Chinese labs.

It followed statements from the WHO Director General, US and EU that greater clarity about the origins of this pandemic is necessary and feasible to achieve.

Previously, the theory had been dismissed as conspiracy by most experts, partly because of its association with President Donald Trump.

President Joe Biden in May 2021 ordered a full investigation into the origin of the pandemic virus and demanded scientists work out whether there is truth to the theory.

In December 2021, Harvard scientist Dr. Alina Chan told the UK’s Science and Technology Select Committee that it is ‘reasonable’ to believe that Covid was genetically engineered in China. 

She also said that the Chinese Communist Party’s cover-up of the initial outbreak in Wuhan two years ago and attempts to sabotage the World Health Organisation’s inquiry into the origins of the pandemic made the lab-leak theory likely. 

The head of the World Health Organization insisted just a day earlier that the theory that Covid emerged from a Wuhan lab has not been ruled out — as he said China should help solve the mystery out of ‘respect’ for the dead.

The body’s director-general, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, suggested that Beijing had not cooperated fully as he urged more ‘transparency’ in the continuing investigation.

And a senior Government source claimed in June 2022 that the WHO boss privately believes the pandemic kicked off following a leak from a Chinese lab. 

In September 2022, leading medical journal the Lancet admitted the virus may have been leaked from a lab, including those in the US. 

Evidence against the theory

Most of the scientific community say the virus is most likely of natural origin.

A series of papers point to the virus evolving in animals before being transmitted to humans, in the same way as all other previously discovered coronaviruses.

The first study, published in Scientific Reports, showed some 47,000 wild animals from 38 species were sold across four markets in Wuhan between May 2017 and November 2019.

The authors, including Dr Chris Newman, an evolutionary ecologist at Oxford University, claimed the evidence showed the conditions for animal-to-human transmission were in place in Wuhan.

But they acknowledged there was no proof Sars-CoV-2 was present or originated in any of these animals.

A joint World Health Organization-China investigation also concluded it was ‘very likely’ the virus jumped from bats to humans via an as-yet-unknown intermediary animal.

And a June 2022 report by the WHO sets out that Covid most likely originated in bats before infecting humans.

The scientists, including Dr Washburne from Montana-based research institute Selva Analytics and Professor Antonius VanDongen, a pharmacology expert at Duke University, in North Carolina examined the SARS-CoV-2 genome — the virus’ genetic material.

The team also included Valentin Bruttel, an immunologist who is attached to the gynecology department at the University of Würzburg in Germany. 

While human genomes are made of double-stranded DNA and are 3billion letters long, Covid has a single short RNA strand that is just 30,000 letters long.

Some researchers create viruses in lab experiments to study how they behave and develop drugs and vaccines to treat them, in case of an outbreak.

They do this by making small segments of the viral genome and stitching them together — with the joins known as restriction sites. 

While restriction sites tend to be randomly scattered throughout the genomes of naturally-occurring viruses, scientists building a virus in a lab add more in and tend to spread them out evenly, according to the researchers. 

To determine whether Covid evolved naturally or was manufactured, the team looked at the number and length of stitching points in Covid’s genome to compare it to 70 coronaviruses found in nature, as well as man-made versions.

Their findings, published on the pre-print website bioRxiv, set out that the pattern of Covid’s restriction sites are ‘typical’ of man-made viruses and different from naturally-occurring coronaviruses.

They found that the restriction sites on Covid’s genome were evenly spread rather than randomly spaced out, making it an ‘outlier’.

Meanwhile, the average length of Covid’s genome fragments were the smallest out of the dozens of coronaviruses that the researchers looked at.

Covid also has so-called silent mutations in its restriction sites, which are a hallmark of a manufactured virus, according to the researchers. 

It is ‘is extremely unlikely’ this ‘synthetic fingerprint’ appeared ‘by random evolution’, they wrote.

The experts concluded Covid’s genome is similar to ‘many’ engineered coronavirus genomes and ‘differs from closest relatives’ found in nature.   

They wrote: ‘We report a high likelihood that SARS-CoV-2 may have originated as an infectious clone assembled. 

‘The type of mutations (synonymous or silent mutations) that differentiate the restriction sites in SARS-CoV-2 are characteristic of engineering.

‘And the concentration of these silent mutations in the restriction sites is extremely unlikely to have arisen by random evolution.

‘Both the restriction site fingerprint and the pattern of mutations generating them are extremely unlikely in wild coronaviruses and nearly universal in synthetic viruses. 

‘Our findings strongly suggest a synthetic origin of SARS-CoV2.’

And they called for more research to investigate the origins of the virus, noting that ‘further tests may reject our theory’. 

The team noted they could have drawn on a wider pool of coronaviruses to compare Covid against to better understand similarities and differences. 

Nonetheless, Dr Washburne said the lab leak theory — which certain corners of the scientific community have repeatedly tried to dismiss since the beginnings of the pandemic — can’t be ruled out based on the results of this study.

However, he noted that his team do not identify which lab that was the source of the outbreak. This would also be near impossible. 

And he said the virus ‘looks like an accident’ rather than being a ‘bioweapon’ or gain of function research — modifying organisms to enhance how they work, such as making a virus more deadly or more transmissible. 

But he drew parallels with a recent controversial study at Boston University, which saw scientists create a hybrid Covid strain — combining the original strain and Omicron — that killed 80 percent of mice in a study. 

Dr Washburne said: ‘Making chimeric viruses in vitro [in a lab] carries risks.

‘We encourage transparency from researchers studying CoVs in Wuhan. We strongly encourage global coordination on biosafety.’

Mr Bruttel told German TV channel n-tv that the results ‘show that this virus is 99.9 percent an artificially created copy of a natural virus’.                                                                              

While China has insisted the virus originated elsewhere, academics, politicians and the media have contemplated the possibility it leaked from a high-level biochemical lab in Wuhan - raising suspicions that Chinese officials simply hid evidence of the early spread

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While China has insisted the virus originated elsewhere, academics, politicians, and the media have contemplated the possibility it leaked from a high-level biochemical lab in Wuhan – raising suspicions that Chinese officials simply hid evidence of the early spread

The question of whether the global outbreak began with a spillover from wildlife sold at the market or leaked out of the Wuhan lab just eight miles across the Yangtze River has given rise to fierce debate about how to prevent the next pandemic. Studies point to a natural spillover at the Huanan wildlife market. Positive swab samples of floors, cages and counters also track the virus back to stalls in the southwestern corner of the market (bottom left), where animals with the potential to harbour Covid were sold for meat or fur at the time (bottom right)

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View gallery

The question of whether the global outbreak began with a spillover from wildlife sold at the market or leaked out of the Wuhan lab just eight miles across the Yangtze River has given rise to fierce debate about how to prevent the next pandemic. Studies point to a natural spillover at the Huanan wildlife market. Positive swab samples of floors, cages, and counters also track the virus back to stalls in the southwestern corner of the market (bottom left), where animals with the potential to harbour Covid were sold for meat or fur at the time (bottom right)

Experts slam Boston lab where scientists have created a new deadly Omicron strain with an 80% kill rate in mice

Boston University scientists were today condemned for ‘playing with fire’ after it emerged they had created a lethal new Covid strain in a laboratory.

DailyMail.com revealed the team had made a hybrid virus — combining Omicron and the original Wuhan strain — that killed 80 per cent of mice in a study.

The researchers were attempting to discover whether the spike protein on the Omicron variant – responsible for making it the most transmissible of Covid strains to date – is also behind the virus having a particularly mild effect on infected hosts, with most suffering only slight illness.

The resultant chimera was only slightly less deadly than the Wuhan strain, indicating that the spike protein is not behind the attenuation of its effects on hosts.

The team behind its creation announced that as well as ‘inflict[ing] severe disease’ it also ‘robustly escapes vaccine-induced humoral immunity’, indicating that the recombinant virus retained the most dangerous properties of its parents.

The revelation exposes how dangerous virus manipulation research continues to go on even in the US, despite fears similar practices may have started the pandemic.

Professor Shmuel Shapira, a leading scientist in the Israeli Government, said: ‘This should be totally forbidden, it’s playing with fire.’

Gain of function research – when viruses are purposefully manipulated to be more infectious or deadly – is thought to be at the center of Covid’s origin.

Professor Francois Balloux, an infectious disease expert based at University College London, said the findings appear ‘solid, both conceptually and methodologically.

He said: ‘The distribution of restriction sites in SARS-CoV-2 is highly atypical when compared to related viruses in circulation, and far more in line with previous lab-engineered coronaviruses. 

‘This is a troubling finding, which requires scrutiny.

‘These findings are not “final and dispositive”, but they can’t be ignored either. 

‘To me, this is by far the strongest piece of evidence to date against a simple scenario of strict zoonotic origin for SARS-CoV-2.’

However, Professor Kristian Andersen, a virologist at research facility Scripps Research in California, said the study is ‘so deeply flawed that it wouldn’t pass kindergarten molecular biology’.

He said: ‘The study is a clear example of motivated reasoning with a heavy dose of technobabble to make it sound legitimate — but it’s nothing more than poppycock dressed up as science. 

‘In plain language — this is uninformed nonsense and it’s simply not worth engaging with.’

Dr. Benjamin Neuman, a virologist at the of Texas A&M University, said the study is ‘very poorly controlled, cherry-picked and making a big deal out of lumps and bumps that are of no significance to the virus’.

He said: ‘It’s about as illuminating an approach as converting the genome to digits, adding up the digits, and comparing that to the “number of the Beast”. 

‘This isn’t really evidence for or against the discredited idea of a lab-origin virus.

‘The study looks for patterns of nucleotides that people have found useful because they can be cleaved by restriction enzymes.

‘Essentially, this study looks at an irrelevant trait that would not be useful to either the virus or a person trying to assemble the virus using modern technology.’

Dr Neuman added: ‘There is no reason a person assembling a genome would need to assemble the sequence in gene-sized chunks that start or end exactly at gene boundaries. It’s tinfoil-hat bonkers.

‘The methodology is nonsense, as are the conclusions. There are thousands of different Coronavirus genomes now, and this study cherry-picks fewer than forty that make its point.’

Since China originally alerted the world to a mysterious virus circulating in Wuhan in December 2019, debate has been raging over its true source. 

China has repeatedly insisted the virus spilled naturally into humans from bats, with most scientists agreeing Covid most likely had natural origins.  

But some say it’s possible the coronavirus leaked from the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV), where researchers were conducting controversial research on the world’s most dangerous pathogens.

The WIV has been carrying out gain-of-function work for years before the Covid outbreak.

China insisted early and often that the virus did not leak from the lab, claiming that crossover to humans must have occurred at a ‘wet market’ in Wuhan that sold live animals.

Perhaps driven by animosity for then-US President Donald Trump, who embraced the lab leak theory early on, mainstream media and academics in the West heaped scorn on the possibility, calling it an unhinged conspiracy theory.

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ECCB rolls out DCash

by Bennette Roach – April 1, 2022

DCash and Montserrat

When Governor Timothy N.J. Antoine of the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank (ECCB) boasted, “our digital currency DCash is the first monetary union in the world to launch a digital currency”, that was him speaking on Tuesday, December 7, 2021, at 2:00 p.m.

Just this month, the ECCB received two awards: The Central Banking 2022 Green Initiative Award for installing a solar energy farm at the Bank’s Basseterre headquarters and significantly reducing its carbon footprint; and the Best New Banknote Series award from Reconnaissance International; these two prestigious awarding authorities are based in the UK.

Last year, the ECCB received the CBDC Infrastructure Award at the FinTech & RegTech Global Awards hosted by Central Banking.  Bitt, the technology partner for the DCash pilot, was also named Central Banking’s 2021 Central Bank Digital Currency Partner. In 2017, the ECCB received the Action Learning award.  

The boast then was made on the occasion the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank’s (ECCB) Governor hosted in Dominica in a virtual launch, expressed his pleasure to be rolling out the DCash pilot to two additional member countries in the Commonwealth of Dominica and Montserrat. DBS Radio in the Commonwealth of Dominica and ZJB Radio in Montserrat provided live radio coverage of the day’s launch from 2:00 p.m.

“I’m delighted to welcome the commonwealth of Dominica and Montserrat to our DCash family, and I feel in a sense as if this being the Christmas season, that we’ve presented a gift to the people of Montserrat and Dominica, by presenting and launching DCash.

Governor Antoine Remarks at DCash Launch in the Commonwealth of Dominica and Montserrat

“Payments are the lifeblood of every economy,” the Governor said in his opening remarks.

In March 2021, DCash – the digital version of the EC dollar – was launched in four of the eight-member ECCU countries, namely Antigua and Barbuda, Grenada, St. Christopher (St. Kitts) and Nevis, and Saint Lucia, then in August in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

After today’s launch, the remaining member country where DCash will be launched is Anguilla.

“The Eastern Caribbean Central Bank truly believes that the payment system should work for all, except for illicit actors,” Governor of the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank, Mr. Timothy N.J. Antoine said, addressing the justification for creating the DCash Central Bank Digital Currency. “That means it must work for small states and small businesses,” the ECCB Governor added while noting that presently, “payments are too slow and too expensive.”

 So, how does this DCash work?

The free DCash (Digital Cash) app on the Apple App Store and Google Play Store enables users to send and receive money from their family members, friends, or customers who live in the same country or in any other Eastern Caribbean country where DCash has been launched. DCash transactions are processed in real-time, with no transfer fees during the pilot project.

DCash, which can be used with or without a bank account, is aimed at achieving three policy goals: payment system efficiency, financial inclusion of the unbanked and underbanked populations, and increased resilience and competitiveness in the ECCU.

The ECCB Governor explained. “All of these goals are aimed at boosting economic growth, but ultimately at propelling our agenda of socioeconomic transformation for the shared prosperity of the people of our Currency Union. That is always fundamentally what is at stake here – shared prosperity for the people we serve – and we believe that to do that, we have to transform the region, and DCash is an important instrument in what is really the bigger conversation about the buildout of a digital economy for our Currency Union,”

“Our single largest asset as a Central Bank is trust, and therefore we believe we have an obligation to leverage that trust to help build out the digital economy – and we locate DCash as an important advance in the ultimate digitalisation of our economy and society,” Governor Antoine also said.

Unwrap the Gift

In concluding his brief opening remarks the Governor by making the point: “… the fundamental value proposition of DCash is – faster, cheaper and safer. It’s faster than anything you will find on the market; it’s cheaper than anything you will find on the market and it’s safer than anything you will find. But our motivation is not to make a profit.

“This investment by your central bank has been done in your name and for you and the benefits to be derived are for you the people of our currency union. So our satisfaction will come from seeing people use the cash, and as a man of faith, and as I reflect in this Christmas season and this yuletide season I can think of a gift that has been given to us that which some of us have not yet unwrapped.”

“I’ll leave you to think about that and I will simply say to you DCash is a gift that has been presented to you please unwrap and use the gift.”

 The photo of the launch shows those in Montserrat who officiated in the rollout. They were Miss Maureen Estwick, Resident ECCB agent who gave the vote of thanks for the virtual event, Mr. Baldwin Taylor, Manager of Bank of Montserrat (BoM); Mr. Peter Queeley, Manager, St. Patrick’s Co-operative Credit Union (SPCCU); and, Mr. Manish Valecha, DCash Merchant, Agent, and End-user.

These, representing the two financial institutions and DCash agency in Montserrat, all gave brief accolades about the DCash product and its introduction.  Mr. Valecha in his brief, expressed his pleasure, lamenting he didn’t know how people managed to do business before and that “…DCash is here, faster, cheaper and safer way to pay for goods and services locally and regionally as well as ECCB is on its way providing social and economic activity through DCash…”

Mr. Queeley thanked ECCB for its foresight, efficiency, and inclusiveness, enhancing financial activity, adding: “…secondly, I wish to further congratulate the ECCB for having the wisdom and foresight to include small non-banking institutions such as the Credit Union in the participation in the rollout of DCash in Montserrat and indeed in the ECCU region…”

BoM Manager Mr. Taylor expressed being honoured to be a part of “this rollout of DCash! It fits right into the strategic objectives of Bank of Montserrat to make banking, more efficient, faster, and cheaper for our customers, fitting into the theme of DCash,” he said.

Deputy Premier of Montserrat, Honourable Samuel Joseph, representing the Government said of DCash: “…this digital revolution has the potential to raise the income level in the region… the OECS face numerous challenges, but our region will not be defined by the adversities but how we deal with them.

Minister of Digital Economy, Honourable Cassanni Laville, Commonwealth of Dominica at DCash Launch said at the virtual host site in Dominica, “We wholeheartedly embrace the launch of DCash, and I encourage merchants and consumers especially in Dominica and Montserrat and all the other participating countries to sign on and use this service. I have already done so and I must say it is easy to use.

When the DCash pilot project rolled out a year ago consumers signed up to use the new currency either through a participating financial institution or via an authorised DCash agent.

The ECCB rolled out DCash initially in Antigua and Barbuda, Grenada, Saint Christopher (St Kitts) and Nevis, and Saint Lucia as part of the ECCB’s Digital Currency Pilot.

To learn more about the ECCB’s DCash pilot project, log on to www.dcashec.com and its Facebook page @DCashECCU.

https://www.facebook.com/DCashECCU/videos/455473186166908
DCash Launch Event – Commonwealth of Dominica and Montserrat

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Legal – Probate Notice

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BVI News: CoP declines to state RVIPF’s involvement in Fahie probe

Commissioner declines to state RVIPF’s involvement in Fahie probe

in All News / By: Fitsroy Randall on May 19, 2022 at 11:39 AM /

BVI Police Commissioner Mark Collins

As the United States (US) continues to build its case against disgraced former Premier Andrew Fahie and his alleged co-conspirators, Commissioner of Police in the BVI, Mark Collins, has declined to state the extent of the Royal Virgin Islands Police Force’s (RVIPF) involvement in the investigation process.

BVI News asked Commissioner Mark Collins if US law enforcement agencies have been in contact with the RVIPF for assistance into their probe of Fahie and his co-accused.

In response, the Commissioner said: “That’s not something I would discuss with the media as the Andrew Fahie investigation is still ongoing”.

Just last week, Premier Dr Natalio Wheatley signalled the government’s willingness to cooperate with the US officials if assistance is required in further investigations of alleged co-conspirators of Fahie.

In Fahie’s charging affidavit, there was mention of a person classified as ‘Government Official 1” who was described as a high-ranking, corrupt government operative who has ‘many employers’.

It was insinuated the person is controlled by drug dealers and facilitates the passage of illicit drugs through the territory.

Premier Wheatley maintained the BVI has a strong history of working with officials in the United States and will continue to do so.

Fahie was arrested along with Managing Director of the BVI Ports Authority, Oleanvine Maynard at Miami-Opa Locka Airport on April 28. Maynard’s son Kadeem was arrested in St Thomas, USVI. The three are charged with conspiracy to import a controlled substance (cocaine), conspiracy to engage in money laundering and attempted money laundering.

Fahie and Oleanvine are currently being detained in Miami while Kadeem is in detention in Puerto Rico. The three face a possible life sentence if convicted of the alleged crimes.

Meanwhile:

Premier hopes UK will respond to government’s proposals within days

in All News / By: BVI News on May 19, 2022 at 8:18 AM /

Premier Dr. Natalio Wheatley has expressed hopes for an urgent response from the United Kingdom (UK) to a proposal he submitted recently on the way forward for the BVI.

The BVI’s political leaders are hoping to avert direct rule by the UK as recommended in the Commission of Inquiry (COI) report which was released recently.

New Premier Wheatley with BVI Governor Rankin

Premier Wheatley disclosed previously that he had submitted a proposal to the UK on how the locally elected government can address concerns raised in the report and implement suggested reforms on its own.

“I’m hopeful that we would receive a decision within a few days. I’m hopeful. They received our proposal, they’ve said to us they’ve received it. They actually asked a few questions about the proposal, so we know that they are currently considering it and we are hopeful that they will come forward with a positive response to us very soon,” Dr. Wheatley said late last week.

Direct rule by the United Kingdom, as proposed by the COI report, may possibly entail a temporary partial suspension of the territory’s constitutional order and the assistance of an Advisory Council to support the Governor in the execution of his duties and the formulation of policy as the territory’s new leader.

Sir Gary Hickinbottom, who led the COI and authored the report, concluded that this suspension was necessary given that elected officials over the years have deliberately ignored the tenets of good governance.

He said this situation has given rise to an environment in which the risk of dishonesty in public decision-making and funding has continued unabated.

“We are hopeful that they accept [the terms in the proposal]. So I’m pretty sure that they will respond directly to our proposal as to whether they accept it or not accept it,” the Premier stated.

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Express

Boris Johnson faces fight for political life: Tory MPs want NEW PM by Autumn

BORIS Johnson will have to fight for his political life if the Tories suffer disastrous local elections this week.

By JONATHAN WALKER – SUNDAY EXPRESS DEPUTY POLITICAL EDITORDAVID WILLIAMSON – SUNDAY EXPRESS DEPUTY POLITICAL EDITOR 05:01, Sun, May 1, 2022 | UPDATED: 12:22, Sun, May 1, 2022

Fear: Boris Johnson

Conservative foes of the Prime Minister want to see a leadership election with a new Prime Minister in place in time for the autumn party conference. Tories fear they will lose control of a raft of councils in London and that councillors across the country will be ousted from their seats. A poor result would likely lead to letters being sent to the 1922 Committee in an attempt to unseat him as leader, it was warned.

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Mr Johnson’s opponents in the party want him to face a confidence vote before recess starts on July 21 so a leadership election can be held and a new PM installed in time for the autumn party conference.

A bullish Mr Johnson defended the Tories’ record in local government and fired a new salvo in the so-called culture wars, saying: “The choice on May 5 is clear. Labour and Lib Dems who fritter away your council tax on deciding which statues to tear down or Conservatives, delivering value for money and delivering on your local priorities.”

Conservative hopes of avoiding disastrous results may well hinge on whether Mr Johnson can persuade Tory-leaning voters not to make a protest vote or sit the election out.

A Conservative MP warned: “It’s voter apathy that’s going to be the killer this time, it really is.”

Mr Johnson put the focus on street-level issues, saying: “The elections next Thursday matter. People are voting for councillors and councils who decide how often bins are collected, how many potholes are repaired and how much council tax is paid.”

He claimed “Conservative councils on average fix four times as many pestilent potholes as Labour councils” and said they “recycle more of your rubbish than Labour too”.

Conservative party chairman Oliver Dowden boasted that Tory councils charge the “lowest council tax in the country” and blasted rival parties, saying: “Woke lefties running Labour and Lib Dem councils obsess about changing street names while leaving councils like Labour-run Croydon bankrupt.”

Decisive: Sir Keir Starmer
Decisive: Sir Keir Starmer (Image: GETTY)

Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries said: “When Sunday Express readers go to the polls this week I hope they will elect hard working local Conservatives who have a proven record of managing money well, delivering high quality local services, and who support good local jobs.”

The raft of local elections taking place on Thursday are held against the backdrop of the cost of living crisis, with both the Conservatives and Labour rocked by allegations of breaking Covid restrictions.

Labour last week admitted that Angela Rayner, the party’s deputy leader, was at an event where Sir Keir Starmer was filmed drinking a beer.

Conservative MP Richard Holden has asked Durham Police to reconsider its assessment that no offence was committed during the April 30 event last year.

Shadow education secretary Bridget Phillipson yesterday said Mr Holden should “know better than to waste police time on this nonsense”. Mr Holden accused Labour of hypocrisy for suggesting investigating concerns about Covid breaches is a waste of police time “when it’s all we’ve heard from them for months”.

Former Conservative chief whip Mark Harper, who called for Mr Johnson to step down after he received a fixed penalty notice for attending a birthday celebration in No 10, expects the council elections may be a “mixed bag” and “inconclusive” but said: “Before the summer recess, all my Conservative colleagues should have enough information to make a decision on who they want to lead us into the next general election.

“Do we stick with an uncertain course led by someone who is making good and decent Conservatives across the country defend the indefensible? Or do we get a new team in place to lead a revitalised Government, focused on Conservative priorities who will treat the electorate with respect?

TRENDING

“We have a large majority, it’s time we started to use it properly to deal with the country’s challenges using Conservative principles.”

Another leading Conservative critic of Mr. Johnson said the “general view” now was that Mr. Johnson should face a confidence vote if councils are lost. They said a leadership contest over the summer with a new PM in place in time for the autumn conference was the “logical timetable”.

A Conservative MP warned that the Tories could face “annihilation” in London, the Home Counties and “Lib Dem-facing seats”.

However, they were wary of staging an election for a new leader, saying: “I think a leadership contest is by its nature at least a three-month contest. It’s going to be a massive distraction from some fairly big issues at the moment.

“I’m not sure the public will thank us at the end of it, when probably at least half of voters will be no happier with a new Prime Minister than they are with the old one.”

A further concern is that a raft of cabinet ministers would throw their hats into the ring and look “more focused on a leadership contest than on Ukraine, rebuilding the NHS or whatever else they are supposed to be doing”.

Another Conservative MP who represents a seat in the so-called “red wall” of former Labour constituencies acknowledged how the party mood could turn against the PM after a bad night.

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They said: “[When] MPs start having their own membership, activists, councillors, or maybe recently former councillors after next Thursday, on at them, I’m not sure how quickly the mood might turn. [I] think the emotional impact for people who have been working really hard to make gains or hold seats in some of these tougher areas and get trounced, that’s going to be very hard to swallow for some people.”

Conservative insiders are braced for attempts by Mr Johnson’s internal critics to oust him in the wake of bad results but are in no doubt that he will fight to stay.

A source said: “The PM is not going anywhere. He will fight on.”

However, a party insider did nothing to play down the scale of the challenge facing the Conservatives.

They said: “We are expecting it to be a tough night for us. We are 12 years into government…

“London is looking very tough for us. Places like Barnet and Wandsworth and Westminster are looking very, very difficult for us to hold.”

High profile victories in London will boost the spirits of Labour supporters but the party will look for signs that under Sir Keir Starmer’s leadership it is winning back voters it lost in 2019. Failure to score major successes outside London could trigger renewed criticism about his strategy.

The Tory insider said: “We do expect [Labour] to do well in London and probably take some councils off us but the test will be how’s he doing in areas of the Midlands and the North that they lost in 2019.”

They said: “[When] MPs start having their own membership, activists, councillors, or maybe recently former councillors after next Thursday, on at them, I’m not sure how quickly the mood might turn. [I] think the emotional impact for people who have been working really hard to make gains or hold seats in some of these tougher areas and get trounced, that’s going to be very hard to swallow for some people.”

Conservative insiders are braced for attempts by Mr Johnson’s internal critics to oust him in the wake of bad results but are in no doubt that he will fight to stay.

A source said: “The PM is not going anywhere. He will fight on.”

However, a party insider did nothing to play down the scale of the challenge facing the Conservatives.

They said: “We are expecting it to be a tough night for us. We are 12 years into government…

“London is looking very tough for us. Places like Barnet and Wandsworth and Westminster are looking very, very difficult for us to hold.”

High profile victories in London will boost the spirits of Labour supporters but the party will look for signs that under Sir Keir Starmer’s leadership it is winning back voters it lost in 2019. Failure to score major successes outside London could trigger renewed criticism about his strategy.

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The Tory insider said: “We do expect [Labour] to do well in London and probably take some councils off us but the test will be how’s he doing in areas of the Midlands and the North that they lost in 2019.”

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Comment by Guy Opperman, Minister for Pensions

One month ago the Sunday Express helped us launch our campaign to boost the number of people getting Pension Credit. Thanks to its support we’ve seen an increase in the numbers visiting our online Pension Credit calculator.

But we’re not stopping tere. Pension Credit can be worth over £3,300 a year for those over State Pension age and on a low income. It also opens up access to other support.

Over the coming months we’ll be going all out to raise awareness of Pension Credit and showing how easy it is to claim. And we want Sunday Express readers to keep helping us too.

We are calling on everyone with retired family and friends to encourage them to check if they qualify and help them make a claim if they do.

With rising costs, it’s never been more important to make sure that people are receiving all the support they can get.

Boris JohnsonLabour PartyConservative Party Sir Keir Starmer

Posted in Business/Economy/Banking, COVID-19, International, Local, News, Politics, Regional, UK - Brexit0 Comments

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson shake hands during their meeting in Kyiv.

UK pledges new military assistance for Ukraine after PM’s surprise visit to Kyiv

By Sarah Dean and Ivana Kottasová, CNN

April 10, 2022

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson shake hands during their meeting in Kyiv.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson shake hands during their meeting in Kyiv.

(CNN)The UK is to send 120 armored vehicles and new anti-ship missile systems to Ukraine, Downing Street announced Saturday after Prime Minister Boris Johnson paid an in-person visit to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

Johnson and Austria’s Chancellor Karl Nehammer made separate visits to Zelensky on Saturday, the latest in a string of leaders to travel to the country during the ongoing Russian invasion. A photograph tweeted by Ukraine’s Embassy to the UK showed Johnson seated opposite Zelensky at a table in a pink and green stuccoed room. The post was captioned with the word “Surprise” and a winking face emoji.

The Press Service of the National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine said on its official Twitter account that the two leaders had held talks in Kyiv, posting several photographs of the pair’s previously unannounced meeting. Johnson posted on Twitter that his visit to Kyiv was “a show of our unwavering support for the people of Ukraine” and announced a new package of financial and military aid.

In this image provided by the Ukrainian Presidential Press Office, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, left, welcomes Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson in Kyiv.
In this image provided by the Ukrainian Presidential Press Office, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, left, welcomes Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson in Kyiv.

“Ukraine has defied the odds and pushed back Russian forces from the gates of Kyiv, achieving the greatest feat of arms of the 21st century,” the UK PM said in a statement.

He praised Zelensky’s “resolute leadership” and the “invincible heroism and courage of the Ukrainian people,” adding that the UK “stands unwaveringly with them in this ongoing fight … we are in it for the long run.

“Later in his nightly address posted on social media, Zelensky thanked the UK and Johnson.

“Boris was among those who didn’t doubt for a minute whether to support Ukraine. The leadership of Great Britain in providing our country help in defense, and also leadership in the sanctions policy, will always be in history.

“Ukraine will always be grateful for this to Boris and Britain,” Zelensky said.

During the press conference, Johnson said the UK will continue to intensify sanctions against Russia. Johnson also said Russian President Vladimir Putin’s actions have dealt a “crushing blow” to his reputation and the Russian government.

“We will influence Russia’s ability to use its energy resources,” he added.

“The war determines the vision of Ukraine’s future, so our partners and I will supply Ukraine with equipment, technology, and intelligence so that Ukraine never faces the horrors of invasion and blackmail.

” Following the meeting, Downing Street said the UK government would provide armored vehicles and anti-ship missile systems, “in addition to the £100 million worth of high-grade military equipment” announced on Friday.

Zelensky and Nehammer’s meeting was separate to the one with Johnson and happened earlier on Saturday, according to Zelensky’s official Telegram channel.

While several other leaders have visited Ukraine in recent weeks, the trip by Nehammer is significant given his country’s neutral status, which is enshrined in its constitution.

Russia or die: After weeks under Putin's bombs, these Ukrainians were given only one way out
Russia or die: After weeks under Putin’s bombs, these Ukrainians were given only one way out.

Austria is not part of NATO and does not supply weapons to Ukraine. It has, however, provided Ukraine with humanitarian aid and helmets and protection vests for civilian use, according to a statement from the Austrian Chancellery.

Nehammer said Saturday that while his country is militarily neutral, “We understand we have to help where injustice and war crimes take place.

“According to his office, Nehammer was set to meet with Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal and Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko, before returning to Austria on Saturday evening.

Nehammer was also due to visit the Kyiv suburb of Bucha, which endured five weeks of near-constant firefights; after Russian forces withdrew from the town, the bodies of at least 20 civilians were found lying in one street, some with their hands tied.

War in Ukraine is scrambling the world’s ability to fight climate change.

Nehammer said Bucha was “a place of war crimes.”

“We have to make those war crimes known to the UN, and international justice must begin investigating and fight these crimes,” he said during a news conference with Zelensky.

The twin visits by Johnson and Nehammer came a day after top European Union officials made a trip to Ukraine. European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and Josep Borrell, the bloc’s top diplomat, visited Kyiv and Bucha on Friday, alongside Slovak Prime Minister Eduard Heger.

During the visit, von der Leyen ceremoniously handed Zelensky an EU questionnaire to complete — a symbolic, but important step towards Ukraine’s membership of the bloc. Tweeting about the move, von der Leyen said: “We will accelerate this process as much as we can, while ensuring that all conditions are respected.”

The prime ministers of the Czech Republic, Poland and Slovenia visited Kyiv last month, at a time when it was still regularly targeted by Russian strikes. Like Johnson’s visit on Saturday, that trip was kept secret until the three leaders were in the country, traveling on a train from eastern Ukraine.

CNN’s Sarah Dean reported from Przemysl, Poland and Ivana Kottasova wrote in London. CNN’s James Frater, Radina Gigova, Alex Hardie, Tara John, Max Foster, Mariya Knight and Maija Ehlinger contributed reporting.

Posted in Business/Economy/Banking, Crime, International, Local, News, Regional0 Comments

Nurses-demonstrate...0

Montserrat Nurses demonstrate

Nurses demonstrate their hurt from lack of being heard or responses to their needs and concerns…
https://www.facebook.com/MNISpirit/videos/687281742585960/

When it gets to this, know there is much to learn… and others in the wings – the state of Montserrat affairs…

Posted in Business/Economy/Banking, Health, International, Local, News, Regional0 Comments

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