Russia’s EpiVacCorona Vaccine Has 100 Percent Efficacy, Watchdog Says


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EpiVacCorona is a coronavirus jab developed by the Vektor State Research Center of Virology and Biotechnology just outside the Russian city of Novosibirsk.

The immunological efficacy of the Russia-developed coronavirus inoculation EpiVacCorona amounts to 100 percent based on the results of the first and second stages of clinical trials, according to the Federal Service for Surveillance on Consumer Rights Protection and Human Well-Being (Rospotrebnadzor).

“The overall efficacy of a vaccine is made up of its immunological and preventive efficacy”, the press service said in a statement.

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Major Discrepancy In Australian Fund Transfers

watchdogs in Australia’s finance

Vatican Seeks Clarification And Review

Major watchdogs in Australia’s finance have dramatically reduced the sum of money it was sent from the Vatican to Australia. This was according to the Vatican after an earlier report cited a huge figure that raised suspicions of money laundering.

As per the joint Vatican-Australian review showed only $9.5 million was transited between 2014 and 2020, a fraction of $2.3 billion originally reported by the watchdog which sparked surprise.

The Vatican contested the huge figures in December and asked the Australian financial intelligence unit, known as AUSTRAC, to review its calculations.

With that, some media raised speculations that the Vatican could have been used to launder money.

This error by AUSTRAC was first reported by The Australian newspaper, which explained it was due to a computer coding mistake.

Meanwhile, the Vatican statement called the mistake “a huge discrepancy”. It said the $9.5 million sent to Australia was mostly to meet “contractual obligations” as well as “ordinary management”. This seemed to be a reference to its embassy in Australia.

As per the Vatican, the original report of the staggering amount of money and more than 47,000 individual fund transfers had appeared to be like “science fiction”, provided that fact that the Holy See’s annual budget is about 330 million euros. Hence, they demanded a review.

AUSTRAC had told the Australian newspaper the new calculations showed there had been only 362 transfers in that period.

Amid that, Vatican’s treasurer from 2014 to 2017, Cardinal George Pell, told media “I was relieved to hear that billions were not laundered through the Vatican while I was head of the Secretariat for the Economy”.

Last month, Archbishop Mark Coleridge of Brisbane said that the Australian Church was not made aware of such transfers and that the bishops yearn for an explanation from the Vatican and AUSTRAC regarding the matter.

(Image source: Yahoo)

Chinese watchdog to encourage rural bank mergers


January 5, 2021

BEIJING (Reuters) – China’s top banking watchdog said on Tuesday it would encourage founders of rural banks to boost capital, and would promote mergers and acquisitions in the sector to cut financial risks.

China’s Banking and Insurance Regulatory Commission (CBIRC) also said in an online notice it would encourage eligible investors, including local companies and non-bank financial institutions, to acquire and inject capital into rural banks.

“A small group of rural banks have become high-risk financial institutions in recent years due to various factors, seriously affecting and limiting their sustainable development and financial service capabilities,” the CBIRC said.

To reduce financial risks in the sector, founders of rural banks are encouraged to increase capital and stakes in those lenders, and dispose of non-performing loans.

For some high-risk rural lenders, local regulators are allowed to explore the option of turning them into branches of state-owned banks or joint-stock banks operating in the region.

For institutions where a “rescue would not be meaningful,” local CBIRC bureaus can urge founders to restructure, offer assistance to takeovers and even shut down the lender, the CBIRC said.

China had a total 1,641 rural banks at the end of September, data from the CBIRC showed, covering 1,206 counties in 31 provinces.

(Reporting by Cheng Leng and Gabriel Crossley; Editing by Andrew Heavens and Mark Potter)

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Election integrity watchdog to sue Facebook’s Zuckerberg for using ‘dark money’ to fund ‘massive’ fraud — RT USA News

Mark Zuckerberg poured cash into an “ecosystem” that caused widespread fraud in the 2020 presidential contest, election integrity watchdog the Amistad Project has alleged. The group will file suit against the Facebook CEO.

The lawsuit, based on a report authored by the organization, will claim that Zuckerberg used $500 million of “dark money” to unlawfully tip the scales in battleground states that Democrat Joe Biden won by narrow margins, said Mark Serrano, a Trump 2020 campaign adviser who runs a communications firm that handles media relations for the Amistad Project. The lawsuit is expected to be filed by today in the District Court for the District of Columbia and will cover alleged election irregularities that took place in Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Arizona, and Georgia.

According to Serrano, the legal complaint takes aim at “the ecosystem” that caused “fraud on a massive level to take place” during the 2020 contest. He accused Zuckerberg of using his vast financial resources and influence to undermine the presidential election in the months leading up to, and continuing after, November 3. 

A billionaire, Mark Zuckerberg, was allowed in the counting room because he funded it, and the American people were kicked out.

The lawsuit announcement coincided with the release of a report by the Amistad Project which outlines how Zuckerberg allegedly used private funding to “improperly” influence the election outcome. 

Amistad Project director Phill Kline said during a press conference on Wednesday that Zuckerberg funneled huge amounts of money into charities and nonprofits that lobbied officials and carried out other partisan activities that impacted the 2020 results.

“He paid for election judges, purchased drop boxes, contrary to state laws,” Kline said, adding that Zuckerberg’s money “purchased machines – Dominion and otherwise – and Zuckerberg’s funding was contributed to Secretaries of State.”

This injection of hundreds of millions of dollars into the election by Zuckerberg and others “violated state election laws and resulted in an unequal distribution of funding that deprived voters of both due process and equal protection,” according to a press release issued by the Amistad Project. 

The group, part of conservative constitutional litigation organization the Thomas More Society, has been involved in several lawsuits alleging voter fraud and irregularities in the 2020 contest. They filed a motion in support of the unsuccessful lawsuit brought by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton in the Supreme Court, which accused four battleground states – Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin – of violating election laws. The Supreme Court rejected the suit, citing a “lack of standing.”

Joe Biden was declared president-elect by the Electoral College on Monday, but US President Donald Trump and his allies continue to argue that the Democrats’ victory is illegitimate due to large-scale fraud. 



Also on rt.com
Court-ordered audit concludes Dominion voting machines were intentionally designed to ‘create systemic fraud’ in Michigan



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EU watchdog warns of pitfalls


Brussels: The European Union’s rights watchdog has warned of the risks of using artificial intelligence in predictive policing, medical diagnoses and targeted advertising as the bloc mulls rules next year to address the challenges posed by the technology.

While AI is widely used by law enforcement agencies, rights groups say it is also abused by authoritarian regimes for mass and discriminatory surveillance. Critics also worry about the violation of people’s fundamental rights and data privacy rules.

The European Commission, the executive body of the European Union, is considering legislation next year to cover so-called high risk sectors such as healthcare, energy, transport and parts of the public sector.

A scene from James Cameron’s Terminator: Genisys. Filmmakers have long portrayed artificial intelligence as spelling the end of humanity. Credit:Paramount Pictures/AP

The Vienna-based EU Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) urged policymakers in a report issued on Monday, Brussels time, to provide more guidance on how existing rules apply to AI and ensure that future AI laws protect fundamental rights.



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EU watchdog warns of pitfalls


Brussels: The European Union’s rights watchdog has warned of the risks of using artificial intelligence in predictive policing, medical diagnoses and targeted advertising as the bloc mulls rules next year to address the challenges posed by the technology.

While AI is widely used by law enforcement agencies, rights groups say it is also abused by authoritarian regimes for mass and discriminatory surveillance. Critics also worry about the violation of people’s fundamental rights and data privacy rules.

The European Commission, the executive body of the European Union, is considering legislation next year to cover so-called high risk sectors such as healthcare, energy, transport and parts of the public sector.

A scene from James Cameron’s Terminator: Genisys. Filmmakers have long portrayed artificial intelligence as spelling the end of humanity. Credit:Paramount Pictures/AP

The Vienna-based EU Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) urged policymakers in a report issued on Monday, Brussels time, to provide more guidance on how existing rules apply to AI and ensure that future AI laws protect fundamental rights.



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CSIS use of geolocation data could be unlawful, says watchdog


The Canadian Security and Intelligence Service’s use of publicly available geolocation data without a warrant may have broken the law, according to the country’s intelligence watchdog.

The finding was included in the first annual report from the new National Security and Intelligence Review Agency, tabled in the House of Commons today. Geolocation data is digital information that can be used to determine the physical location of an electronic device.

The review found that there’s a risk that CSIS breached Section 8 of the Charter — which protects against unreasonable search and seizure — during the trial period when the intelligence agency used the data without a warrant.

“This review raised pressing questions regarding the use of data that is publicly available, but that nevertheless engages a person’s reasonable expectation of privacy,” the report reads.

“NSIRA’s review examined the decision making process that led CSIS to use this data without a warrant, and found that CSIS lacked the policies or procedures to ensure that before the data was used, CSIS sought legal advice to avoid unlawful use of the data.”

The agency, which merged several intelligence-related watchdogs into one body as part of the Liberal government’s national security overhaul, said that it has submitted a report to Public Safety Minister Bill Blair about the matter.

The minister then asked the attorney general review the findings to offer legal guidance.

In a statement, a spokesperson for CSIS said that since the trial run, the agency has sought legal advice from the Department of Justice.

“As a result of advice from the Department of Justice, CSIS sequestered information collected by the tool so that an in-depth assessment could be undertaken to ensure that any collected information was lawfully obtained. Ensuring timely legal advice in this challenging area of novel technology and respecting privacy is critical for CSIS to carry out its critical mandate,” said John Townsend.

“CSIS recognizes the importance independent review plays in maintaining and strengthening Canadians’ trust in their national security institutions. Review, accountability and transparency are fundamental principles of any open, democratic society. CSIS employees dedicate their careers to protecting our democracy and the safety and security of Canadians.”

Hundreds of targets last year 

The NSIRA review follows a 2017 Federal Court ruling that concluded that, while CSIS’s authority allows it to obtain some geolocation information, geolocating an individual would require a warrant.

The spy agency was using a device it calls a Cell Site Simulator (CSS) to collect information about cellphones, laptops and tablets during its national security investigations. The devices, also known as IMSI Catchers or Stingrays, pretend to be legitimate cellphone towers in order to collect information.

Federal Public Safety Minister Bill Blair said security agencies will protect Canadians’ privacy rights. (Toni Choueiri/CBC)

Privacy advocates have long criticized the technology for how it indiscriminately gathers data.

“Canadians expect our government agencies to keep pace with evolving threats and global trends. It is critical that this important work not be done at the expense of Canadians’ right to privacy,” Blair said in a statement.

“Canadians can be confident that our security agencies have the skills and resources necessary to detect, investigate and respond to both criminal and national security threats. We will always take the necessary action to protect Canadians and their privacy rights.”

The wide-ranging NSIRA report lifts the lid on CSIS’s general practices, including new information about how many people are under investigation.

Last year, CSIS had 467 targets, up from 430 in 2018.



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Chemical weapons watchdog criticizes Syria over 19 issues


UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The global chemical weapons watchdog criticized Syria for failing to declare a chemical weapons production facility and respond to 18 other issues, while Russia accused the watchdog of conducting a “political crusade” against its close ally, the Syrian government.

The clash Friday came at the U.N. Security Council’s monthly meeting on Syria’s chemical weapons, where the director-general of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, Fernando Arias, briefed members for the first time since May and was pummeled with questions from Russia’s U.N. Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia.

Arias said seven years after Syria joined the Chemical Weapons Convention in 2013, its initial chemical declaration has unresolved “gaps, inconsistencies, and discrepancies” and “still cannot be considered accurate and complete.”

He told the virtual meeting that one of the 19 outstanding issues is a chemical weapons production facility that President Bashar Assad’s government said was never used to produce weapons, but where the OPCW gathered material and samples indicating “that production and/or weaponization of chemical warfare nerve agents took place.”

Arias said the OPCW had requested Syria to declare the exact types and quantities of chemical agents at the site, but got no response.

Britain’s new U.N. ambassador, Barbara Woodward, said another unresolved issue in Syria’s declaration is the thousands of munitions and hundreds of tons of chemical agents that Syria has not accounted for.

A joint U.N.-OPCW investigative mechanism accused Syria of using chlorine and the nerve agent sarin during its civil war, while the Islamic State group was accused of using mustard gas twice in 2015 and 2016.

In April this year, an OPCW investigation blamed the Syrian air force for a series of chemical attacks using sarin and chlorine in late March 2017 on the central town of Latamneh. Arias said in late October that Syria failed to meet a 90-day deadline set in July to declare the weapons used in the attacks on Latamneh and to disclose its chemical stocks.

France, backed by over 40 countries, has proposed that the OPCW suspend Syria’s “rights and privileges,” which would include its voting rights in the OPCW, for failing to meet the July deadline. The OPCW’s 193 member states are expected to take up the proposal at their spring 2021 meeting.

Russia’s Nebenzia accused the OPCW of backing Western nations who tried “in vain” to topple Assad’s government with the help of opposition groups. “And they maintain this anti-Syrian narrative despite all the discrepancies or counter evidence presented by Syria, Russia and independent experts and exploit these allegations in their political crusade against Assad government,” he said.

Nebenzia posed eight detailed questions to Arias, alleging the OPCW used double standards, didn’t maintain the “chain of custody” of evidence, and attempted “to turn a blind eye” to 200 tons of chemical weapons precursors missing in Libya “while in parallel pressuring Syria to explain the `disappearance’ of even tiny amounts o chemical substances.” He also questioned why concerns by inspectors allegedly weren’t considered by the OPCW.

Arias responded in a closed session after the open meeting, so his answers were not made public.

Before the meeting, council members Britain, France, Germany, Belgium and Estonia along with Ireland and Norway, which are joining the council on Jan. 1, issued a joint statement expressing “full support to the OPCW” and to Arias.

The seven European nations backed action against Syria for the attacks on Latamneh and stressed their support for efforts to collect evidence of violations of human rights, international humanitarian law and abuses “with a view to future legal action.”

Germany’s U.N. Ambassador Christoph Heusgen accused Russia of “undermining the OPCW” but he told the council it has failed because the organization remains strong and respected.

U.S. deputy ambassador Richard Mills supported the OPCW’s “impartial and independent work” and urged “the Assad regime’s enablers, particularly Russia, to encourage Syria to come clear about its chemical weapons use and current chemical weapons stocks.”



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NT corruption watchdog asked to probe concerns over NT’s Buy Local Plan


The man tasked with auditing the effectiveness of the NT Government’s Buy Local Plan has released a highly critical report disclosing his referral of one matter to the corruption watchdog.

Denys Stedman is the industry advocate for a program designed to increase the proportion of government contracts awarded to Territory-based companies.

But in his third compliance report since being appointed by the Gunner Government in 2017, Mr Stedman said it was impossible to reliably determine if the scheme was delivering its intended benefits.

“I am unable to conclude whether the Buy Local Plan has had a positive effect in increasing procurement spending by the NT Government with Territory enterprises,” he said in his report.

The objective of the Buy Local Plan is to ensure the largest possible amount of each dollar spent by the NT Government is retained within the NT economy.

NT Government data shows 2,070 contracts worth $1.2 billion were awarded last financial year, including 1,683 contracts worth $911 million that went to NT-based companies.

But Mr Stedman noted that the Government’s data does not include contracts worth less than $15,000; nor those awarded by government-owned corporations, which can amount to significant amounts of money.

“The incomplete nature of procurement information continues to concern me,” he said.

“If I am expected to make conclusions on the effectiveness of the Buy Local Plan I need accurate and reliable information.”

Mr Stedman said he conducted Value for Territory audits on nine government agencies this year — including the Department of Chief Minister — but eight had unsatisfactory compliance rates for contract management and performance reporting.

“This high level of non-compliance reduces my confidence that the NT Government is receiving the level of goods or services it has contracted and paid for,” he said.

“Due to the poor level of performance reporting … it continues to deal with businesses that have not met the expected level of service delivery in past contracts.”

The industry advocate said he had seen “several instances” where the selection of the successful tenderer had not resulted in the best potential outcome under the required procurement guidelines.

Nine Value for Territory audits were conducted on various government agencies, including the Department of the Chief Minister, and eight had unsatisfactory compliance rates.(ABC News: Michael Franchi)

He also said the loose definition of the term “Territory enterprise” meant some classification of companies as local firms “may have been made in order to make it easier to award a contract to a business that is perhaps not a Territory enterprise”.

Mr Stedman revealed he had referred one matter to the NT’s anti-corruption watchdog, the Independent Commissioner Against Corruption (ICAC), although he did not disclose specific details about the case.

“As a public officer as defined under the ICAC Act, I have a mandatory obligation to report improper conduct, whether real or suspected,” he said.

“Since my previous annual report, I have referred one matter to ICAC for investigation of unsatisfactory conduct.”

Mr Stedman said some government agencies continued to question his authority to access information.

“Nor is it uncommon for me to be accused of overstepping my remit when considering complaints, undertaking reviews and providing input into policy,” he said.

The industry advocate acknowledged some improvements in the NT’s procurement processes and commended increased training for some public servants.

But he urged the Government to establish a centralised procurement management and reporting system to closely monitor contracts across all agencies and reduce cost blowouts.



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Syria Declarations On Chemical Arms Lacking: UN, Watchdog


UN officials and a global watchdog on Friday criticized incomplete declarations from Syria on chemical weapons while its ally Russia sought to push back against the accusations.

During a videoconference at the UN Security Council, officials from the United Nations and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) said Syria had failed to respond to a series of 19 questions involving toxic arms.

Izumi Nakamitsu, UN high representative for disarmament affairs, said the OPCW had found that because of unresolved gaps and discrepancies Syria’s declarations “cannot be considered accurate and complete in accordance with the Chemical Weapons Convention.”

OPCW Director-General Fernando Arias said one of the questions involved a chemical weapons production facility declared by Syria as never having been used for chemical weapons production.

Information and material gathered since 2014 indicates the facility was used for “production and/or weaponization of chemical warfare nerve agents,” he said, without specifying the location.

OPCW investigators have accused President Bashar al-Assad’s regime of sarin gas and chlorine attacks in Syria in 2017.

Russia and Syria have dismissed the charges, saying Western powers have politicized the work of the OPCW.

“What we reject is speculations and political smear campaigns, which, unfortunately, more and more often poison the OPCW,” said Russia’s ambassador to the United Nations, Vasily Nebenzya.





A man tries on an air permeable charcoal impregnated suit during a simulation at OPCW headquarters in The Hague, The Netherlands, on April 20, 2017
 AFP / JOHN THYS

He alleged the organization was relying on remote investigations instead of on-site collections of samples.

In a joint statement ahead of the meeting, European members of the Security Council expressed their full backing for the OPCW.

Germany, Belgium, Estonia, France and Britain praised “its professionalism, impartiality and well-established technical expertise in implementing the Chemical Weapons Convention and tasks assigned by the states parties.”

The United States also said it “strongly” supported the global watchdog.

Russia and Syria have been under pressure for months by the UN and the OPCW to provide clarification on chemical attacks carried out in Syria and poisonings of Russian nationals.

Although the meeting was devoted to chemical weapons in Syria, Arias spoke at length on the case of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, who says he was poisoned by the Kremlin.

He particularly regretted that Moscow is still blocking a technical visit by the OPCW to Russia.

The OPCW has said samples taken from Navalny have contained a Novichok-type nerve agent.





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