There is growing international criticism of Israel following allegations that software from the private security company NSO was used to spy on journalists, dissidents, and even political leaders around the world. A group of American lawmakers is urging the U.S. government to take punitive action against the company, which denies any wrongdoing. In Israel, some experts are calling for better regulation of cyber exports. Linda Gradstein reports for VOA from Jerusalem.
Big tech companies are making it mandatory for employees in the United States to get COVID-19 vaccinations before entering campuses, as the highly infectious delta variant of the coronavirus drives a resurgence in cases.Alphabet Inc.’s Google and Facebook Inc. said on Wednesday all U.S. employees must get vaccinated to step into offices. Google is also planning to expand its vaccination drive to other countries in the coming months.According to a Deadline report, streaming giant Netflix Inc. has also implemented a policy mandating vaccinations for the cast and crew on all its U.S. productions.Apple Inc. plans to restore its mask requirement policy at most of its U.S. retail stores, both for customers and staff, even if they are vaccinated, Bloomberg News reported.Apple and Netflix did not immediately respond to requests for comments.Many tech companies, including Microsoft Corp. and Uber, have said they expect employees to return to their offices, months after pandemic-induced lockdowns forced them to shift to working from home.In April, Salesforce said it would allow vaccinated employees to return to some of its offices.Google also said on Wednesday it would extend its global work-from-home policy through Oct. 18 due to a recent rise in cases caused by the delta variant across different regions.”We’ll continue watching the data carefully and let you know at least 30 days in advance before transitioning into our full return-to-office plans,” the company said.
An independent inquiry into the car bomb murder of anti-corruption journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia found on Thursday that the state had to bear responsibility after creating a “culture of impunity.”
Caruana Galizia was killed in a massive explosion as she drove out of her home on October 16, 2017.
Prosecutors believe top businessman Yorgen Fenech, who had close ties with senior government officials, masterminded the murder. Fenech, who is awaiting trial for association to murder, denies all responsibility.
Three men suspected of setting off the bomb were arrested in December 2017. One has since pleaded guilty as part of a plea bargain and is serving a 15-year jail term. The other two are awaiting trial. The self-confessed middle-man has turned state witness and was granted a pardon.
The inquiry, conducted by one serving judge and two retired judges, found that a culture of impunity was created by the highest echelons of power within the government of the time.
“The tentacles of impunity then spread to other regulatory bodies and the police, leading to a collapse in the rule of law,” said the panel’s report, which was published by Prime Minister Robert Abela.
It said the state failed to recognize the real and immediate risks to Caruana Galizia’s life and failed to take reasonable steps to avoid them.
It was clear, the inquiry board said, that the assassination was either intrinsically or directly linked to Caruana Galizia’s investigative work.
Former Prime Minister Joseph Muscat resigned in January 2020 following Fenech’s arrest. He was never accused of any wrongdoing. Media later also revealed close links between Fenech, ministers, and senior police officers.
The judges called for immediate action to rein in and regulate the links between politicians and big business.
Abela said in a tweet that the report required “mature” and objective analysis. “Lessons must be drawn and the reforms must continue with greater resolve,” he said, without elaborating.
The inquiry heard evidence from the police, government officials, the Caruana Galizia family and journalists, among others.
Vaccination programs against some of the world’s deadliest diseases have saved tens of millions of lives over the past twenty years, according to a new study. However, the researchers warn that continued progress is threatened by the coronavirus pandemic.
The scientists from the Vaccine Impact Modelling Consortium, funded by Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, looked at vaccination programs over the past two decades targeting ten infectious diseases across 112 low- and middle-income countries.
They found that some 50 million lives have been saved by vaccines, most of them children.
The diseases the researchers looked at included measles, hepatitis B, human papillomavirus (HPV), yellow fever, Haemophilus influenzae type b, Streptococcus pneumoniae, rubella, rotavirus, Neisseria meningitidis serogroup A, and Japanese encephalitis.
The study is the largest assessment of vaccine impact before the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Dr. Katy Gaythorpe, a co-author of the report at Imperial College London, told VOA that the successes of the past two decades would be replicated if progress in vaccination programs can be sustained.
“If we continued with the vaccinations in our projections, so beyond 2019, we’d avert another 47 million deaths — so huge numbers,” Gaythorpe said. “And really what we wanted to show in this paper is this is what we projected vaccination to look like before the COVID pandemic. And we wanted to emphasize these long-term effects, these long-term benefits of vaccination going into the future.”
Immunization programs have added benefits beyond the prevention of specific diseases.
“For example, if people aren’t getting sick of vaccine-preventable diseases then that means there’s less stress on healthcare due to those infections, which means you could potentially be treating people for other things,” Gaythorpe said.
But the researchers warn that the COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted vaccination programs — and could lead to a decline in coverage.
“We’ve got not only healthcare services stretched by possibly treating people infected with COVID, we’ve also got people’s personal choice — you know, they might put off going to seek immunization just because of fear surrounding being infected with COVID,” Gaythorpe said.
The World Health Organization earlier this year launched its “immunization agenda 2030” to try to get vaccine programs back on track and reach even more people.
“It would mean reducing by half the children who are completely left out of essential vaccines — the ‘zero dose children’ — [and] it would mean achieving another 500 introductions of new and underused vaccines in low- and middle-income countries,” the WHO’s Vaccines Department chief Kate O’Brien told reporters in April.
Scientists say the huge number of lives saved demonstrates the stunning advances in modern medicine — and the importance of keeping other vaccine programs on track, alongside tackling the COVID pandemic.