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Is the new Omicron variant really a ’cause of concern, not panic’?

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US President Joe Biden has warned Americans that it’s inevitable the Omicron variant will be in the country “at some point”… but the new variant is a cause for concern, not panic

Biden reassured residents, saying “we have the best vaccine in the world, the best medicines, the best scientists, and we’re learning more every single day”.

The President also pledged to fight this variant “with scientific and knowledgeable actions and speed, not chaos and confusion.”

Leaders around the world are acting swiftly to stop the spread of this new variant… as Japan shuts its borders to foreigners and the U-K will offer booster shots to all over 18s after 11 cases were detected.

In New York, City officials are now highly recommending residents wear masks while indoors in public places, regardless of vaccination status.

This comes as Pfizer’s CEO says he thinks his company’s vaccine will work, but it may offer far less protection.

Pfizer has also begun the development process for a modified vaccine and says it will be developed in less than 100 days if required.

The CEO noted that his company has already done this twice for both the Delta and Beta variants, both of which didn’t need to be used.

South Africa has also been praised for its transparency around the new strain, with a WHO spokesperson saying the country shouldn’t be reprimanded with travel bans.

World

Authorities find drug-smuggler’s tunnel under the U.S. and Mexico border

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Anti-drug agents have found a smugglers’ tunnel including a rail track, electricity and ventilation system

A drug-smuggler’s tunnel has been unearthed under the U.S. and Mexican border.

It led from the Mexican city of Tijuana to a warehouse located 300 feet from the San Diego border.

Six people have been arrested for their alleged involvement in the scheme.

They are accused of conspiring to distribute cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine, among other crimes.

“There is no more light at the end of this narco-tunnel,” says the U.S. Attorney Randy Grossman.

Authorities collect information about the people behind the tunnel.

The tunnel is believed to be over 1,750 feet long, and was fitted out reinforced walls.

Close to 100 tunnels have been found in the same area, but this was one of the largest.

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Ukraine Crisis

Finland and Sweden submit applications to join NATO

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Finland and Sweden have officially submitted their applications to join NATO

Finland and Sweden have handed in applications to join NATO.

It ends decades of political neutrality for both nations, after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The Chief of NATO says the applications are quote an “historic step”.

If their bid is successful, it will bring the alliance’s membership to 32.

While Russia strongly opposes the move, there are also members within NATO’s own ranks voicing their concerns.

Dubbed the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, the NATO alliance was founded in 1949

It follows one rule: an attack on one, is an attack on all.

It sought to counter Russian expansion in Europe after World War Two.

But following the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, many of its former Eastern European allies joined the alliance, something that has raised concerns in Moscow.

Finland and Sweden need the support of all member states to join. If they’re successful, it will take the alliance to 32 members.

NATO members must spend 2 per cent of their GDP on defence. Finland already meets this target and Sweden says it will do so “as soon as possible”.

The two countries will also bring a range of military might.

Finland has over 19-thousand active troops, and Sweden has over 14-and-a-half thousand.

There are 220 tanks, and over 200 combat aircraft.

Russia believes NATO has been verging on its door stop and is warning both nations against joining.

Turkey’s President is also voicing concerns, saying the two Scandinavian nations should not send delegations to convince him of their bids.

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Tech

U.S. warns against hiring North Korean tech workers

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The U.S. is warning North Korean workers are trying to find IT jobs by hiding their identities

The U.S. believes workers are seeking to steal money for their home country.

Many of them are allegedly pretending to be from other parts of Asia, according to three U.S. agencies.

The State Department says thousands of highly skilled IT workers are sent around the world to generate revenue to help with North Korea’s weapons production.

“The DPRK [North Korea] dispatches thousands of highly skilled IT workers around the world to generate revenue that contributes to its weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missile programmes, in violation of US and UN sanctions.”

U.S. State Department

If North Korea is employing workers to fund its missiles program, the move would be in violation of U.N. international sanctions.

“The United States is committed to disrupting illicit DPRK revenue-generating activities, which may facilitate criminal activity, provide direct support to the DPRK’s unlawful weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missile programs, and threaten international peace and security,” the U.S. State Department said in a statement.

The country has conducted several missile tests in recent months, including a banned intercontinental ballistic missile.

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