US Capitol police warn of possible militia plot to breach Congress

“We have got to have constant intelligence on domestic terrorists, have to track their possible efforts to again repeat what happened on January sixth and I think that’s what you’re seeing now, is an abundance of caution to make sure that we are properly prepared to react, if in fact any group attempts any kind of armed attack again on the United States Capitol,” he said.

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Russia considers cutting government borrowing as oil prices rally — RT Business News

Russia could end up borrowing US$6.8 billion (500 billion Russian rubles) less than planned this year as rising oil prices help its key oil revenues to rise.

The rally in oil prices, which have risen by around 30 percent this year, also coincides with Russia’s economy emerging from the slump during the pandemic.

Last year, Russia’s economy was suffering the consequences of the oil price crash it helped create with the temporary rift with its OPEC+ partner Saudi Arabia in March 2020. The Russian ruble crashed, and Russia’s oil income shrank as a result of the plunge in oil prices during the pandemic.  

In March 2020, Russian Finance Minister Anton Siluanov warned that revenues from oil and gas would be US$40 billion (3 trillion rubles) lower than planned due to the tumbling oil prices. Russia’s economy is not going as well as one would have hoped, the finance minister admitted back then, saying that the oil price factor alone was set to reduce the country’s budget income by nearly US$40 billion compared to earlier estimates.

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Russia expects oil between $45 and $80 by 2035

The oil price crash, along with the coronavirus-driven global recession, will result in Russia’s economy shrinking in 2020 by six percent, or by the most in 11 years, the World Bank said in its economic report on Russia in August 2020.

Russia was also said to be considering whether to adopt a kind of state oil hedging program, similar to Mexico’s oil hedge, to protect government revenues from oil price crashes in the future.  

This year, the higher oil prices are pushing up Russia’s oil revenues, its key export income, and the government is discussing lower debt issues year, according to Bloomberg’s sources.

READ MORE: Russian economy may recover to pre-pandemic levels by year end, says Central Bank

Officials are considering cutting the borrowing to US$43 billion (3.2 trillion rubles) from US$50 billion (3.7 trillion rubles), according to the sources, one of whom even said that the cut to borrowing in 2021 could double to US$13.5 billion (1 trillion rubles).   

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Covid-19 vaccination: Health Ministry answers frequently asked questions (FAQs)

The Centre has come out with detailed frequently asked questions (FAQs) on Covid-19 vaccination, in an attempt to answer many questions that are being asked by the general public.

Here are the answers to the questions on Covid-19 vaccination:

Should you avoid alcohol after receiving the Covid-19 vaccine?

The Health Ministry says that as per experts “there is no evidence of alcohol impairing the effectiveness of the vaccine”.

A healthcare worker prepares to administer a vaccine at a private hospital in New Delhi. (AP Photo: Altaf Qadri)

Claims on social media suggested the Covid-19 vaccine could affect female fertility. Is it true?

The Health Ministry says rumours or social media posts suggesting Covid-19 vaccines could cause infertility “are not true and totally baseless”.

“None of the available vaccines affects fertility. All vaccines and their constituents are tested first on animals and later in humans to assess if they have any such side effects. Vaccines are authorised for use only after their safety and efficacy are assured,” the ministry says.

What are the precautions one needs to take after receiving the vaccine?

The Health Ministry has assured that both the vaccines are safe but in “case of any discomfort or complaint”, the beneficiaries are advised to visit the nearest health facility or call the health worker whose phone number is given in the CoWIN SMS received after vaccination.

What medications should be avoided before taking the Covid-19 vaccine and for how long?

The Health Ministry says there are no such instructions: One can take one’s regular medication uninterruptedly. Just inform the vaccinator about the medicines you consume.

Senior citizens after receiving the first dose of Covid-19 vaccine at Rajiv Gandhi Super Speciality Hospital in New Delhi. (Express Photo: Praveen Khanna)

The Health Ministry has advised caution in vaccinating persons with a history of bleeding or coagulation disorder. How does a person know if he/she has a coagulation disorder? What tests can be conducted?

The Ministry has said that in a few bleeding disorders, like haemophilia, persons should take the vaccine “under the supervision of their treating physician”.

Also, patients who are admitted to hospital or ICU and have bleeding problems “should delay the vaccination till they are discharged”.

However, several people with heart and brain disorders are on blood thinners like aspirin and anti-platelet drugs “can continue with their medicines and have the vaccines”, and that vaccines are absolutely safe for this category.

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If I suffer from hypertension, Diabetic Mellitus, Chronic Kidney Disease, heart disease or lipid disorders, can I safely take this vaccine?

Overall, the vaccine is safe and efficacious in adults with comorbidity, the Health Ministry has said, adding that the maximum benefit of getting the Covid vaccine ‘is for those who have such comorbidities”.

“However, if you are concerned for any specific reason, please consult your doctor,” it has recommended.

The health advisory also states that those with immunity issues should be cautious about taking the vaccine. What are the markers of ‘immunity issues’?

The Health Ministry says immune issues are of two types: one, immunosuppression due to any disease such as AIDS, and people on immunosuppressant drugs such as anti-cancer drugs, steroids; second, immunodeficiency in people who suffers from some defect in the body’s protective system such as congenital immunodeficiency.

“Currently, available Covid vaccines do not have any live virus and therefore individuals with immune issues can have the vaccine safely. But the vaccine may not be as effective in them,” the Health Ministry has said.

It also emphasised that this category of patients “should inform the vaccinator about the medicines they consume and if they are suffering from any known immune issues”. “The vaccinator should have a record of one’s medical condition,” the Health Ministry has said.

Registration for the Covid-19 vaccine drive, in Ahmedabad. (Express Photo: Nirmal Harindran)

Is the vaccine contraindicated in a person with chronic diseases?

Chronic diseases and morbidities like cardiac, neurological, pulmonary, pulmonary, metabolic, renal and malignancies, etc. are not contraindicated, the Health Ministry has reiterated.

“In fact, the benefit of Covid vaccines to reduce the risk of severe Covid disease and death is for those who have these co-morbidities,” it said.

If I had Covid-19 and was treated, should I take the vaccine?

The Health Ministry has said that “development of immunity or duration of protection” after Covid-19 exposure is not established; therefore it is recommended to receive the vaccine even after Covid-19 infection. “Wait for 4-8 weeks after recovery from Covid symptoms before getting the vaccine,” it has recommended.

I have an allergy to a specific drug. Can I get vaccinated?

The Health Ministry has listed the category of persons with a history of immediate or delayed onset anaphylaxis or allergic reaction to pharmaceutical products, food items, injectable therapies – as a contraindication. Therefore, this category is not advised to take the vaccine.

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Meghan Markle Oprah interview: Duchess of Sussex accuses Royal Family of ‘perpetuating falsehoods’ about her and Harry


he Duchess of Sussex has accused the Royal Family of playing a part in “perpetuating falsehoods” about her and Prince Harry, in a teaser from the couple’s eagerly anticipated interview with Oprah Winfrey.

Winfrey asks Meghan how she felt about the Palace hearing her “speak your truth today?”

Referring to “The Firm”, she replies: “I don’t know how they could expect that after all of this time we would still just be silent if there is an active role that The Firm is playing in perpetuating falsehoods about us.

“And, if that comes with risk of losing things, I mean, I … there is a lot that’s been lost already.”

The first clip saw Harry say he feared “history repeating itself” in a reference to the death of his mother, Diana, Princess of Wales. He also told the chat show host his and Meghan’s life had been “unbelievably tough” but “at least we had each other” as he spoke of their decision to quit royal life and move to California.

The Standard has approached Buckingham Palace for comment on the claim made by Meghan in the latest interview teaser.

Past and present employees are to be invited to speak in confidence about their experiences of working for Meghan, after it was alleged she drove out two personal assistants and staff were “humiliated” on several occasions.

There has long been speculation about the atmosphere in the Sussex household, after a number of staff left, and the newspaper chronicles what it describes as “turmoil” within palace walls.

The monarchy’s “men in grey suits” have been accused of being aware of the alleged actions of the duchess and of doing “absolutely nothing to protect people”.

Buckingham Palace to investigate allegations of bullying made against Meghan

Buckingham Palace said in a statement: “We are clearly very concerned about allegations in The Times following claims made by former staff of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex.

“Accordingly our HR team will look into the circumstances outlined in the article. Members of staff involved at the time, including those who have left the household, will be invited to participate to see if lessons can be learned.

“The royal household has had a dignity at work policy in place for a number of years and does not and will not tolerate bullying or harassment in the workplace.”


It is believed to be the first time the actions of a member of the royal family have been investigation by the royal household’s human resources (HR) department.

Meghan and Harry will not be part of the process as they are not staff, and it is understood the palace hopes to start the investigation soon.

Any changes in policies or procedures will be shared in the Sovereign Grant report which is published annually and documents royal accounts for the year.

Buckingham Palace to investigate allegations of bullying made against Meghan

Jason Knauf, the Sussexes’ then communications secretary, made a bullying complaint in October 2018 in an apparent attempt to force Buckingham Palace to protect staff.

Mr Knauf reportedly sent an email outlining the duchess’s alleged actions to Simon Case, the Duke of Cambridge’s then private secretary and now the cabinet secretary, after conversations with Samantha Carruthers, the head of human resources.

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Melissa Touabti, the second of Meghan’s personal assistants to leave, departed six months after the royal wedding.

Lawyers for the duke and duchess said the Sussexes believed staff to be comfortable and happy.

Meghan’s spokesman said: “The duchess is saddened by this latest attack on her character, particularly as someone who has been the target of bullying herself and is deeply committed to supporting those who have experienced pain and trauma.

“She is determined to continue her work building compassion around the world and will keep striving to set an example for doing what is right and doing what is good.”

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Hong Kong ombudsman accuses authorities of inadequate monitoring of high-demand vaccines

Hong Kong’s ombudsman has accused authorities of inadequate monitoring of high-demand vaccines following an investigation into their quality, after fake human papillomavirus (HPV) shots were found at two clinics in 2019.The findings prompted the watchdog to urge the government to ensure transparency of information once Covid-19 vaccines became available in the private market and also prevent any counterfeit or parallel imported vaccines from entering the local market.“Investigation by the…

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Finland’s state of emergency was unnecessary, says Constitutional Law Committee

THE CONSTITUTIONAL LAW Committee of the Parliament on Wednesday approved a proposal to amend the legislation on restaurant and accommodation services in a way that enables the government to shutter restaurants to slow down the spread of the new coronavirus in Finland.

The committee also reproached the government for declaring a state of emergency to amend the law, pointing out that it was unnecessary to apply section 23 of the constitution per the proposal.

The section lays down basic rights and liberties in situations of emergency, the existence of which is determined not by the government but by the Parliament. The Parliament, similarly, is the institution exercising ultimate legislative power and thus makes the decision on whether to shut down restaurants in situations of emergency, according to the Constitutional Law Committee.

“When it is not a question of delegating regulatory power to the government under, for example, the emergency powers act, there is no judicial need or justification for declaring a separate state of emergency with the support of the president of the republic from the viewpoint of presenting this proposal,” the committee said.

It additionally noted that sections 106 and 107 of the emergency powers act cannot be adopted without government decrees approved by the Parliament.

Prime Minister Sanna Marin (SDP) on Tuesday assured to YLE that the seemingly disorganised actions by the government in recent days were not an attempt to horde power but to protect the health and lives of people in Finland.

“We’re taking action to keep the coronavirus situation under control,” she stated on YLE’s A-studio.

“We also want to take action lawfully, and that’s why these things will be examined thoroughly before any sections of the [emergency powers] act are adopted – even to a [limited] applicable extent.”

Marin added that it is the intent of the government to institute a three-week shutdown in order to alleviate the coronavirus epidemic and reverse the steep upward trend in new infections.

“The situation is serious. We have an authority, meaning the Regional State Administrative Agency [for Southern Finland], that has interpreted the law differently when it comes to closing facilities. Now the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health is evaluating if the law should be specified. My personal view is that we should submit a specifying proposal to the Parliament.”

She pleaded with the public to contribute to the effort to prevent the epidemic from accelerating by showing restraint for the next three weeks.

“I’m pleading with people for the next three weeks: even if some facilities are open, let’s not go to to places where we run into other people. We should avoid all contacts,” she said to the public broadcaster.

The government shelved its plan to implement sections 106 and 107 of the emergency powers act on Sunday. Marin on Tuesday confirmed that the government is working on the necessary decrees but also reiterated that the judicial analyses presented to the government indicate that the sections contain clauses that could be implemented also with the framework of regular legislation.

“For example, it has been viewed in issues linked to coordinating communications that [the clauses] could be adopted before invoking the powers that require a government decree,” she said.

Aleksi Teivainen – HT

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Girl raises money for own brain surgery

A 7-year-old Alabama girl is raising money for her own brain surgery by running a lemonade stand. So far, the girl’s stand has taken in more than $12,000 in donations, and an online fundraiser has pulled in more than $290,000. (March 4)


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Beyond balloons: Saskatchewan emerges as a helium hub as drilling ramps up

A small set of investors that previously focused on the oil and gas industry are eyeing an opportunity in a gas currently fetching a high price

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CALGARY – In a corner of Saskatchewan where drillers had previously spudded wells for oil and gas extraction, investors are pouring money into a previously untapped resource, which emits no carbon and could diversify the province’s economy.

“There’s a fair amount of capital out there that understands the technology, understands drilling, understands all of that but is a little nervous about the oil and gas space,” said Andrew Davidson, president and CEO of Royal Helium Ltd., a TSX-Venture exchange listed company that last year raised $7.5 million to drill three wells near Climax, Sask.

The company finished drilling the last of those three wells on Tuesday, in an area that is quietly becoming a hub for helium production in Canada and the centre of an emerging industry to feed an increasingly undersupplied U.S. market.

“We’ve been generating some attention from those (energy investors) and have been able to demonstrate that anything you understand about the oil and gas sector is exactly the same in the helium sector — there is not one difference in how you drill these wells,” Davidson said.


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Shares in the Saskatoon-based helium producer are up 1,100 per cent in the past year, rising from 5 cents each to 60 cents on Tuesday.

The North American helium market has been upended in recent years after a 2013 law required the U.S. government to sell off its strategic helium reserve, which it has been maintaining in Amarillo, Tx. since the 1920s. The U.S. government is set to sell its last remaining helium stores by Sept. 2021 and the drain on that supply has turned the country into a net importer of the inert gas, which doesn’t combust and is used in MRI machines, to cool super conductors and as a purge gas for rocket ships.

“Initially, the uptake on what we were doing was slow. Explaining to people that helium was not about balloons. It took a little bit of education in the investment community,” Davidson said.

Now a small set of investors that previously focused on the oil and gas industry are eyeing an opportunity in a gas currently fetching a high price, and companies like Royal Helium and its competitors are scaling up drilling plans in the region.

There is no spot market for helium and its pricing is not transparent, but Davidson said helium prices have risen from US$84 per thousand cubic feet in 2012 to US$280 per mcf and was briefly up even higher over the past year.

Not far from Royal Helium’s three wells, Calgary-based North American Helium Inc. plans to drill 15 wells targeting helium deposits in the southwest corner of Saskatchewan this year after the privately held company produced its first helium from the area in July 2020.


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Last year, North American Helium raised $39 million for the construction of its second helium purification plant in the area, designed with the ability to process 160 thousand cubic feet per day of purified helium, which would make it the largest facility of its kind in Canada.

Similarly, Richmond, Va.-based Weil Group is currently producing small volumes of helium in both Alberta and Saskatchewan and operates a helium purification plant in southern Saskatchewan, where it reactivated old wells drilled in the 1960s and repurposed the wells to produce helium. The company, which bills itself as the first commercial-scale producer of helium in Saskatchewan, did not respond to a request for comment.

The drilling programs represent a significant uptick in helium interest on the Prairies. In the past five years, only two existing oil and gas wells in Alberta have been converted to produce helium, according to the Alberta Energy Regulator. The province’s first helium well was drilled in 2018 but only began producing significant amounts of the commodity in April 2020.

Developing untapped resources — such as helium — further diversifies our energy sector

The Alberta government hopes that drilling for helium will help laid-off oilfield workers get back to work and also open up a new stream of non-renewable resource revenue for the province, which continues to rely on oil and gas royalties. The province introduced a royalty rate of 4.25 per cent for helium production in April 2020.

“Developing untapped resources — such as helium — further diversifies our energy sector, as Alberta is well-positioned to help meet increasing global demand,” said Jennifer Henshaw, spokesperson for Alberta’s Associate Minister of Natural Gas Dale Nally.


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Henshaw said the province doesn’t have data yet on how much it earned in helium revenues.

Across the border in Saskatchewan, where multiple wells have already been drilled and dozens more are planned, the nascent industry is outpacing Alberta. Royal Helium’s Davidson said that if the test results from the company’s first three wells are successful, the company plans to begin a continuous drilling program in the area and has identified up to 60 drilling locations.

Soon, Davidson expects the oil and gas industry, which has all the skills necessary to produce helium, to take an interest in the market.

Helium is its own element on the periodic table, meaning its carbon free, and since it isn’t combusted and doesn’t react with other elements, its use doesn’t emit CO2 like oil and gas does.

“I think that you will eventually see a push from oil and gas companies into this market because they’re going to have to,” Davidson said. “If the market sentiment (toward oil), right or wrong, doesn’t change, these companies are going to have to add different cash flow streams to their financials and helium presents that option without diversification into something that’s a completely different line of business, which is solar or wind power.”

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Meghan Markle is ‘not the victim’

Meghan Markle has marketed herself as the “great woke warrior”, yet if even half the allegations that she bullied Palace staff are true then this will be incredibly damaging for her reputation, according to Daily Mail journalist Andrew Pierce.

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Mississippi passes bill banning transgender student-athletes from female sports teams

The bill now heads to the governor’s desk.

Mississippi legislators have passed a bill that would ban transgender athletes from competing on female sports teams in schools and universities — one of over two dozen similar measures proposed by state lawmakers nationwide this year.

The state House voted 81-28 Wednesday to pass the so-called Mississippi Fairness Act. It passed the state Senate last month, 34-9. The bill now heads to Gov. Tate Reeves for approval.

A growing number of states have proposed legislation that would restrict transgender student-athletes from participating in school sports. As of Feb. 26, the ACLU has tracked 25 states considering such bills this year, compared to 18 last year. This week, Wisconsin also introduced a similar bill.

Idaho became the first state to pass a law banning transgender women from competing in women’s sports last year. A federal district court suspended the law and it has yet to be enacted.

Mississippi’s act is the first of its ilk to successfully pass through both chambers this year. Some have failed in committee, including in South Dakota on Wednesday and in Utah last month.

A similar bill also died in committee in Mississippi last year. Republican state Sen. Angela Hill, who sponsored that bill and the one that passed the House Wednesday, told ABC News she was inspired to introduce the legislation after learning about two girls’ championship-winning transgender high school runners in Connecticut, where state policy allows high school athletes to compete as the gender with which they identify. Mississippi does not have a policy regarding transgender high school athletes.

“If we do not move to protect female sports from biological males who have an unfair physiological advantage, we will eventually no longer have female sports,” she said.

Hill could not point to any instance of transgender girls competing on girls’ sports teams in her state’s high schools, but said she has heard concerns from coaches about Mississippi’s lack of guidelines.

“This issue is imminent in Mississippi,” she said. “We have to make a statement that women matter, female sports matter.”

Following the House passage, Human Rights Campaign President Alphonso David said Mississippi was “on the wrong side of history.”

“There is simply no justification for banning transgender girls and women from participating in athletics other than discrimination,” David said in a statement. “Like all girls, transgender girls just want to play and be part of a team with their friends. History will not look kindly on this moment in Mississippi.”

LGBTQ advocates warn that such bills send a damaging message to transgender youth.

“These dangerous bills are designed to make the lives of transgender kids more difficult while they try to navigate their adolescence,” David said.

The Mississippi bill would require any public school and university that is a member of the Mississippi High School Activities Association and NCAA, among other associations, to designate their athletic teams as male, female or co-ed and restrict athletes assigned male at birth from joining female teams. It would not prevent cis women from participating on a male team.

Hill expects the bill to come across Reeves’ desk in the coming week or so. The Republican governor has been critical of policies allowing transgender athletes to play women’s sports.

He said he was “disappointed” by President Joe Biden’s executive order combatting discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation, which stated, “Children should be able to learn without worrying about whether they will be denied access to the restroom, the locker room, or school sports.”

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