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tv   Newsday  BBC News  December 21, 2021 12:00am-12:31am GMT

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welcome to newsday. reporting live from singapore, i'm karishma vaswani. the headlines: the omicron variant sweeps across the united states with lightning speed — now accounting for three quarters of new infections in the country. the world health organization warns that the latest covid variant is very good at evading immunity. it's more likely that people who have been vaccinated or have recovered from covid—19 could be infected or reinfected. "a predator who knew exactly what she was doing" — the prosecution in the ghislaine maxwell trial sums up its case. and the chinese tennis star peng shuai appears to have retracted her claim of sexual assault, as concerns persist around her wellbeing.
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live from our studio in singapore, this is bbc news. it's newsday. hello and welcome to our viewers in the uk and around the world. it's 8am in the morning in singapore and 7pm in the us east coast. the fast—spreading omicron variant of the coronavirus has become dominant in the united states with lightning speed. the variant now accounts for 73% of new infections in the us, according to the centre for disease control. in the new york area, it's thought 90% of cases are omicron. here's our north america correspondent, gary o'donoghue. here in north america, omicron has been found in almost every state,
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with people now forming long queues to get tested ahead of the holidays. scientists are warning of a viral blizzard hitting the country. vaccination rates are not going up by anything like what the white house wants to see, only half the jabs being given today compared to april. in some states, in the south and west, fewer than 50% of eligible adults are double jabbed. sporting and entertainment venues are closing down, and in a country that's seen 800,000 covid deaths, president biden will try this week to persuade the doubters that it's masks and vaccines that will stop that number rising further. gary o'donoghue on that story for us. the world health organization has warned the omicron variant of coronavirus appears pretty good at evading immune responses. the who has said it's also causing an increase in infections, both in the vaccinated and those who've already had the disease. here's what the head of the organisation had to say.
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there is now consistent evidence that omicron is spreading significantly faster than the delta variant. and it's more likely that people who have been vaccinated or have recovered from covid—19 could be infected or reinfected. dr maria sundaram, an infectious disease epidemiologist who works as a research scientist at the marshfield clinic research institute, says the new who findings are a cause for concern. it's very, very concerning on several different levels. the biggest one is that for people who are vaccinated, they may be used to taking a little bit more risks and they may be used to going outside and doing things that they might have done before the pandemic, and unfortunately they no longer have the level of protection that they're used to having with two doses, so that is very concerning, and of course the very
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fast transmissibility, high transmissibility and quick replication of this variant of concern are potentially dr sundaram, ijust want to put you some of the early data coming in from south africa, and i want to caveat that it is indeed early data, but it seems to suggest that while infections are on the rise, hospitalisations are low. is that encouraging or a possible model we can use for other countries? it's very helpful information, but it has to be taken with several grains of salt. so one thing to keep in mind is that the population of south africa may be of a different type than the population of another country. it may be a different average age, it may be a different
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average previous covid—i9 infection status, it may be a different covid—i9 vaccination status, so we have to really keep those in mind. there's also going to be a delay in the number of cases and hospitalisations. we may still be seeing a little bit of that. but it is also really important to remember that er�*d have to decrease the severity of this outcome by a factor that's proportional to its increased transmissibility for that to be less of an impact on the health care system, and unfortunately the transmissibility is so high that we will wind up seeing an increase in hospitalisations, and that's even if the proportion of those cases is fewer than we have seen for other variants. given what you said, what is the best way to decrease the transmissibility, as you've just described, so we don't get to that situation? i think we have to go back to the swiss cheese model of preventing respiratory transmission of covid—i9. so one slice of the swiss cheese is vaccines. we need global equity now.
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and the longer that we wait, the more risk we have of other variants of concern like this one developing and causing harm to all of us. dr maria sundaram speaking to me a little earlier. let's take a look at some other stories in the headlines. the chilean currency, the peso, has fallen by 4% to a record low against the dollar following the victory of the left—wing candidate gabriel boric in sunday's presidential election. mr boric won 56% of the vote, beating the far—right candidatejose antonio kast. rebel tigrayan forces fighting the ethiopian government say they are withdrawing immediately from neighbouring regions. it comes after pro—government forces made significant military gains. the rebels say they are hoping there will now be a ceasefire. the english premier league and football league have chosen to go ahead with their christmas and new yearfixtures, despite ongoing disruption caused by the pandemic. 90 players tested positive in england's top tier
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last week, leading to a number of postponements. fa cup third and fourth round replays have, however, been scrapped. the jury in the trial of ghislaine maxwell have begun their deliberations in herfederal sex trafficking trial. in the closing arguments, prosecutors called her a sophisticated predator. ms maxwell has denied grooming underage girls for abuse by the late paedophile jeffrey epstein between 1994 and 200a. barbara plett usher is following developments. they recapped their argument, i suppose, that ghislaine maxwell was absolutely crucial for this operation, that her demeanour, as you mentioned, she was age—appropriate, smiling, posh, made the girls comfortable, and so she provided a cover to what the prosecution called the creepy behaviour of mr epstein. he never could have done it without her.
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you're watching newsday on the bbc. and they talked about the fact, or they said she had a playbook of how to lure these girls in, getting to know them, offering them gifts, spending time with them, making them feel comfortable, and ultimately introducing sexual contact with mr epstein in a... ..as if it was just normal behaviour, and that is what the prosecution argued, her grooming them for him. and they also said that she had been paid by him $30 million, over the period that this trial is looking at, something that one lawyer said, "that's $30 million of �*we did this together, we did this crime together�* money." so those are the arguments they made — ghislaine maxwell knowing what she was doing and being very involved in this operation of mr epstein�*s sex crimes. that's one of the core issues the jurors will have to decide, how much miss maxwell actually knew?
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and the defence said she did not know that much because her partner, her long—time partner, kept secrets from her, and now that he has died, he committed suicide, the prosecution is going after her as a sort of substitute. they're scapegoating her because somebody needs to pay for his crimes. they also argue that the witnesses are not credible. and this is the other core issue, whether the four women are telling the truth. the defence says no, they're not. they're mis—remembering, they're inserting ghislaine maxwell into their memories now because they have the prospect of a payout from a compensation fund, and the details are, you know, not consistent. and again, the prosecution has come back and said, "well, if they are mis—remembering, they're all mis—remembering the same thing," and actually money isn't an issue because that payout was for civil suits, and that's done. there's no money involved in what happens in this trial. so those are the two issues — how credible the jurors see
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the accusers and what they think about how much ghislaine maxwell actually knew about what was going on. barbara plett usher there, reporting on that story for us. police in the philippines say the number of people who've died after a super typhoon hit last week has risen to more than 375. the red cross says it's "carnage" in many areas, with no power, no communications and very little water. thousands of military, coast guard and fire service personnel have been deployed to help in the relief operation. with the latest from the capital manila, here's howard johnson. four days on from super typhoon rai's first landfall in the philippines, the extent of the damage it caused is finally becoming clear. nine different islands separated by a distance of more than 800 kilometres all experienced sustained ferocious winds and heavy rain, flattening thousands of homes and flooding vast tracts of land. translation: we appeal for at least some small i
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help to come to us. now is the time we need a government, a government that is ready to help us in our current situation. we are waiting for whoever has a kind heart. i hope they will help us. the breadth of the destruction and the lack of communication lines is causing logistical delays in humanitarian support. food, water, fuel and electricity are in limited supply on numerous islands. today, the british government committed nearly $1 million to an appeal by the international federation of the red cross to help the relief effort. the ifrc are hoping to raise a total of more than $20 million. howard johnson, bbc news, manila. you're watching newsday on the bbc. still to come on the programme: with tensions rising as russian forces mass on the border with ukraine, we ask the kremlin, just how serious is the threat of conflict with nato?
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the world of music's been paying tribute to george michael, who's died from suspected heart failure at the age of 53. he sold well over 100 million albums in a career spanning more than three decades. the united states troops have been trying to overthrow the dictatorship of general manuel noriega. the pentagon said it's failed in its principal objective, to capture noriega and take him to the united states to face drugs charges. the hammer and sickle was hastily taken away. in its place, the russian flag was hoisted over what is now no longer the soviet union but the commonwealth of independent states. day broke slowly over - lockerbie, over the cockpit of pan am's maid of the seas nose down in the soft earth. i you could see what happens i when a plane eight stories high and a football pitch wide falls from 30,000 feet. | christmas has returned to albania after a communist ban lasting more than 20 years. thousands went to midnight mass in the town of shkodra,
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where there were anti—communist riots ten days ago. this is newsday on the bbc. i'm karishma vaswani in singapore. our headlines: the omicron variant sweeps across the united states with lightning speed — now accounting for three quarters of new infections in the country. the world health organization says the omicron variant of covid is spreading more quickly than the delta — and is causing infections in people who have already had covid or been vaccinated. more on our top story, where health officials in the us say omicron has become the dominant coronavirus variant there, accounting for nearly three quarters of new infections last week. our north america correspondent peter bowesjoins me now from los angeles.
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great to have you on the programme, peter. in the first instance, just talk us through what the latest details are coming from officials, health officials, in the us about the way that omicron has spread throughout the us.— way that omicron has spread throughout the us. yeah, this is the centers _ throughout the us. yeah, this is the centers for _ throughout the us. yeah, this is the centers for disease - is the centers for disease control and prevention, revealing just in the last hour orso revealing just in the last hour or so that some 73% of cases, now the new cases of coronavirus, are caused by the new oma crime variant, and that is a significant leap on just a week ago —— oma crime variant. once again reinforcing that this variant is moving with lightning speed across the country. we're hearing some really quite scary statistics, in terms of the of you cases in new york city increasing by some 60% in the last week ——
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new cases. and that is a figure likely to be mirrored across the country, and it is of most concern because new york city is one of the most highly vaccinated cities in the united states. many other parts of the country were a lower proportion of people are vaccinated, and the real fear is thatjust with the real fear is thatjust with the next few days, the number of new cases is really going to surge in those areas as well. local officials in cities more and more every day talking about new mask mandates, especially indoors. we just heard from washington, dc. we had it in los angeles last week. , �* , week. peter, president biden is do to make _ week. peter, president biden is do to make comments - week. peter, president biden is do to make comments or- week. peter, president biden is. do to make comments or address the nation about the speed and scale of the omicron variance. what is likely advice to be? we will wait what is likely advice to be? - will wait and see, and perhaps these new statistics will bear into what he precisely has to say, fully understand is he
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will be announcing major new restrictions on everybody in the united states, everyone before christmas is thinking about travelling to see loved ones in the other part of the country and whether they may be stopped from doing that. it seems as if they want to be, but the warning will be that, and we are hearing this phrase over and over again, for those that are unvaccinated, this is going to be a winter that will include disease and death, and it's very likely that the president isn't going to sugar—coat this, that he's going to be pretty forceful in what he believes is the likely course of this disease with this new variant any speed at which it is spreading and how it is going to affect those people who have not had the jab at all and have not had the booster-— at all and have not had the booster. �* ., , ., , booster. peter bowes, always ureat to booster. peter bowes, always great to get — booster. peter bowes, always great to get you _ booster. peter bowes, always great to get you on _ booster. peter bowes, always great to get you on newsday. | great to get you on newsday. thank you for your analysis.
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scientists at the university of hong kong have created a new stainless steel that they claim will kill covid—19 within hours of it landing on its surface. researchers say the new alloy can also help to inactivate other viruses such as influenza. they are now working to test the material for use in everyday steel products, such as lift buttons or door handles. professor mingxin huang is one of the lead researchers on this project at the university of hong kong. and we can speak to professor huang now. it is wonderful to have you on newsday. can you start byjust expanding what was behind this idea? {leia was behind this idea? 0k, actually we _ was behind this idea? 0k, actually we started - was behind this idea? 0k, actually we started this i actually we started this research about four years ago, that was for the influenza virus, so when the covid pandemic starts, we switched our focus to this covid—19. we started to do experiments right after the pandemic, so we got
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the results a year ago, and the idea is that we are trying to use the beginnings, stainless steel or carbon steel, that could kill the virus —— copper steel. we tried at the beginning. we tried pierced steel. we expect pure steel will be good, but it actually is not. copper looks good, so we continue to develop these copper components. we found that after three hours, we can cure nine and .75% of virus, so after six hours, 99.99 —— 99.75%. the virus can sub be detected after 48 hours, and this... , , .,
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detected after 48 hours, and this... g , ., , this... ic. just to “ump in there. i this... ic. just tojump in there, professor, - this... ic. just tojump in there, professor, just i this... ic. just to jump in i there, professor, just want to ask you, how far has your research been peer—reviewed and are you talking to companies and governments about this? actually, the paper has been peer—reviewed and published in the chemical engineering journal, a popularjournal in the field. that was published in november. after these publications, we had a press conference and companies seeing the news, and certain companies are... we are being in serious discussions, and the idea is to use the protection, because we do not need a sophisticated production line, we can use existing production lines. that could be very interesting. indeed. and just to say, does it include the ability to
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protect against the latest variance of the coronavirus, omicron?— variance of the coronavirus, omicron? . , ,. ,, omicron? we actually discuss this with our _ omicron? we actually discuss this with our virologist. i omicron? we actually discuss this with our virologist. we i this with our virologist. we thought, yes, but then in the data, we are on the way to test delta and omicron. we hope to have data on delta and omicron from but because we're using a physical method to the virus, quite general and to covid—19, they can cure against the delta and the omicron, we could see that it could work, but we still need data to prove it. thank you. still need data to prove it. thank vom— still need data to prove it. thank ou. ., ~ thank you. professor mingxin huan: , thank you. professor mingxin huang. thank— thank you. professor mingxin huang, thank you _ thank you. professor mingxin huang, thank you so - thank you. professor mingxin huang, thank you so much i thank you. professor mingxin | huang, thank you so much for joining us on newsday, on your latest findings. ukraine has called for more western sanctions against russia as it feels increasingly threatened by the build—up of russian troops on its border.
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ukraine today issued a joint statement with poland and lituania calling on nato to do more to tackle russian aggression. it's been fighting pro—russia separatists in the east of the country since 2014, with the kremlin repeatedly denying it's supporting them. here's our moscow correspondent steve rosenberg. in russia, too, it is the season of goodwill. but peace on earth is in short supply. russian armour is massing near the border with ukraine. at the same time, moscow is demanding an end to nato enlargement and nato military activity in eastern europe. what is russia signalling? i asked the deputy foreign minister, has moscow decided to reverse the results of the cold war? translation: we're not re-examining the results j of the cold war, we're
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reassessing the expansion the west has carried out in recent years against russian interests with hostile intent. enough is enough. state tv has been echoing vladimir putin's claim that nato activity close to russia threatens russia's security, and moscow has this warning. translation: if ukraine “oined nato, or if nato developsi military infrastructure there, we will hold a gun to america's head. russia has the world's best weapons, hypersonic. you'd get the cuban missile crisis all over again, but with a shorter flight time for missiles. we propose trying to avoid this situation. otherwise everyone will be turned into radioactive ash. critics of the kremlin say this isn't about genuine security threats, it's about moscow trying to restore a sphere of influence.
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we don't know what the kremlin is planning, but what is clear from what president putin has been saying is that — 30 years after the fall of the soviet union — russia's leader remains deeply resentful of how the cold war ended, with russia losing territory, influence and empire. and if vladimir putin has decided that now is the moment to try to reverse that, that will be a huge challenge for russia's neighbours and for the west. right now, most russians are focused on celebration, not confrontation. if there is a full—scale war with ukraine or a clash with the west, the kremlin may be skating on thin ice in terms of public support. "i don't want any war," irina says, "any killing." "slavic people are like a family," says roslan. "i can't bear the idea of fighting with ukraine."
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ultimately, it's the president who will decide whether russia takes the path of compromise or confrontation. steve rosenberg, bbc news, moscow. the chinese tennis star peng shuai appears to have retracted an accusation of sexual assault that she made against a former chinese vice premier. in a video interview, filmed by singaporean chinese language newspaper lianhe zaobao, she said the comments she'd made on social media had been misunderstood. translation: first and - foremost, i must emphasise i have never said or wrote about anyone sexually assaulting me. that's a very important point. the weibo post is my personal issue. i know there are many misunderstandings, but there is no distorted interpretation.
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peng shuai speaking to lianhe zaobao there. the women's tennis association has said it's still concerned that ms peng is still being censored by the state — and although it welcomes her apperance in a public setting, it doesn't alleviate or address the concerns about her wellbeing. just before we go, i want to bring you a short history lesson because, in 1992, history was made when the world's first text message was sent, which simply said merry christmas. today, that text will be auctioned off as a non—fungible token — or nft — where the buyer will have exclusive ownership of the code that transmitted the text message. something quite special to own, certainly if it is in digital form. that's all the time for us on newsday at this hour.
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it's too early to say merry christmas, but thanks for watching. stay with bbc news. hello there. it's been a cloudy and chilly start to the week. things will change. from midweek, we'll start to see atlantic aircoming ourway. that means temperatures will be rising, but we're also going to find some rain. but what about christmas? well, i'll try and answer that question later on. we start, though, cold in many places on tuesday morning, particularly in the clearer skies in scotland, with a frost in the north. we could see some pockets of frost across some western parts of england and wales, but the prospects of some sunshine during tuesday, which will be good news on what is the shortest day of the year. it's the winter solstice. these are the sunrise and sunset times, but, of course, after tuesday, the days do get longer. we do have some sunshine across northern parts of scotland, some sunshine at times coming through across wales and western england, but more cloud further east. still that blanket of cloud
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in northern ireland, southern scotland that will push its way into the central belt and make it feel quite chilly here. temperatures on the whole similar to what we had on monday, and near—normal, really, for this time of the year. but it's from wednesday that the weather starts to change because high pressure that's kept it quiet for so long is moving away. and instead, we've got a big low out in the atlantic. that's going to push bands of rain our way. but we start wednesday with a widespread frost in scotland, england and wales. some early sunshine, but it clouds over from the west. the wind starts to pick up. we've got this band of rain mainly affecting northern ireland, pushing into wales and southwest england and then into parts of scotland later on, bringing in some milder airfor western areas. but for many parts of the country, it's still another chilly day. that band of wet weather moves northwards and eastwards overnight, and then with low pressure still out to the west, another band of rain sweeps around that as well. so we're going to find some wet weather moving northwards and eastwards again during thursday. could stay wet for most of the day across the northern half of scotland. elsewhere, that rain does clear through. we get some sunshine
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following on behind. and with a south—westerly wind, just look at what it does for the temperatures — widely in double figures across northern ireland, england and wales. as the winds fall light, though, overnight, and if you're going to be travelling into christmas eve, it could be misty with some patches of fog around in the morning. and then we have that battle between the milder air and colder air that's in the north. now, for many, it looks like we'll stay in the milder air for christmas day, but if there is going to be a white christmas, at the moment, it only looks likely in northern parts of scotland.
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this is bbc news. we will have the headlines and all the main news stories for you at the top of the hour as newsday continues straight after hardtalk. welcome to hardtalk from manchester. i'm stephen sackur. of all the football—mad cities in the world, few can compete with this one, home to two of the world's biggest clubs, united and city. for all of football's global appeal it's wrestling with big

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