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Mint Lite | WHO study, Hong Kong electoral system, vaccine supplies & more

Former Minneapolis policeman Derek Chauvin betrayed his badge by “grinding” his knee into George Floyd’s neck during a deadly arrest last May, a prosecutor said on Monday at a murder trial that is widely seen as a test of the U.S. justice system, reports Reuters. Chauvin’s lawyers responded by saying that the former officer was simply following training from his 19 years on the force, even as they acknowledged that the arrest, caught in videos from multiple angles, was distressing to watch. Chauvin, 45, has pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.

WHO to release key virus information

A team of international experts will present details Tuesday of their findings from a mission to China, which concluded covid-19 probably passed to humans from a bat via an intermediary animal, all but ruling out a laboratory leak. But the report, drafted by World Health Organization-appointed international experts and their Chinese counterparts, offers no definitive answers on how the new coronavirus jumped to humans. WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the international experts would hold a press conference Tuesday at 1400 GMT to discuss their findings, adding that all hypotheses on the pandemic’s origins remained open and needed further study. Mexico, meanwhile, released new figures on excess deaths that suggest its official coronavirus death toll is a massive underestimate. Data showed that it had registered 294,287 covid-19 deaths — substantially more than previously recorded, and the third-highest in the world behind Brazil and the United States.

China approves changes in HK electoral system

Chinese leaders endorsed a sweeping overhaul of Hong Kong’s electoral system Tuesday, creating powers to vet anyone standing for public office and slashing the number of directly elected politicians. The new measures, which bypassed Hong Kong’s legislature and were imposed directly by Beijing, are the latest move aimed at quashing the city’s democracy movement after huge protests. In the new make-up, the legislature will be expanded to 90 seats, and only 20 will be elected by the public. Currently, half of the 70-seat legislature — 35 seats — are directly elected. The move is part of a two-phase effort to reign in political protest and opposition in Hong Kong, which is part of China but has had a more liberal political system as a former British colony. China imposed a national security law on Hong Kong last year and is following up this year with a revamp of the electoral process.

The fallout of vaccine curbs

Several Asian countries scrambled to find alternative sources for covid-19 inoculations on Tuesday after export restrictions by manufacturer India left a World Health Organization-backed global vaccine sharing programme short of supplies. South Korea, Indonesia and the Philippines are among countries to be hit by shipment delays to vaccines they have been promised under the COVAX programme, which was created mainly to ensure supplies for poorer countries. India put a temporary hold on exports of AstraZeneca’s vaccine being manufactured by the Serum Institute of India, as officials focus on meeting rising domestic demand. The Serum Insitute was due to deliver 90 million vaccine doses to COVAX over March and April and, while it was not immediately clear how many would be diverted for domestic use, programme facilitators warned that shipment delays were inevitable.

EU fines Moody’s over conflicts of interest

Europe’s markets watchdog announced on Tuesday a 3.7 million euro ($4.3 million) fine against five European entities of Moody’s credit ratings agency over breaches of conflict of interest rules. The violations involved the US-based agency’s operations in Britain, France, Germany, Italy and Spain, according to the European Securities and Markets Authority. The biggest fine—2.7 million euros—was imposed on Moody’s UK. The violations include delivering new ratings in violation of a ban on issuing them on outfits in which a credit rating agency shareholder exceeds a 10 percent ownership threshold and/or is a board member. The other breaches include failing to disclose conflicts of interest and inadequate internal policies and procedures to manage shareholder conflicts of interest, the regulator said. “All the breaches were found to have resulted from negligence on the part of Moody’s,” the watchdog said in a statement.

ICC to rule on “Terminator” judgement

The International Criminal Court will decide Tuesday on an appeal by a Congolese warlord dubbed the “Terminator”, who received the tribunal’s longest-ever war crimes sentence. Rebel leader Bosco Ntaganda was convicted by the Hague-based ICC in 2019 over a reign of terror in the Democratic Republic of Congo in the early 2000s, and jailed for 30 years. The Rwandan-born 47-year-old was found guilty of 18 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity, including murder, sexual slavery, rape and using child soldiers. Ntaganda was the first person to be convicted of sexual slavery by the court. Many of the other charges related to massacres of villagers in the mineral rich Ituri region of the DRC. ICC appeals judges will hand down their decision on his appeal against his conviction and sentence. The court earlier this month awarded Ntaganda’s victims $30 million in reparations, provided he was convicted on appeal.

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