Germany going to ban travelers from Britain, Portugal amid fears of more contagious virus variants

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Germany is set to put entry bans on travelers from Great Britain, Portugal, Brazil and South Africa to limit the spread of the more contagious variants of the coronavirus raging in these countries, Interior Minister Horst Seehofer said on Thursday.

“To protect our population, there should be no entry from regions where these variants of the virus are rampant,” he said on the fringes of a virtual meeting with his EU counterparts.

Belgium has already barred residents from taking vacations abroad until March to fight the spread of the more infectious virus variants, but other European Union members reject radical measures such as travel or entry bans.

The EU meanwhile cut Japan from its list of countries from which travelers can visit the bloc without COVID-related restrictions such as quarantines or mandatory tests.

After the changes, the list will consist of seven countries – Australia, China, New Zealand, Rwanda, Singapore, South Korea and Thailand.

Despite China being on the list, travel from there will be allowed only if Chinese authorities also allow in EU visitors. The reciprocity requirement is not applied in the case of the other listed countries. The list also only serves as a recommendation on travel rules. Individual EU countries can set their own rules.

Israel plays down possible Biden administration review of arms for UAE

Israeli leaders played down on Thursday (January 28) a possible Biden administration review of U.S. arms sales to the United Arab Emirates that girded the Gulf power’s rapprochement with Israel.

Washington said on Wednesday it had temporarily paused some pending arms sales to U.S. allies. The Trump administration, having brokered formal Israel-UAE ties in September, approved a first sale of F-35 warplanes and other weaponry for Abu Dhabi.

Reviews of this sort are typical after a U.S. presidential handover. The UAE said it had anticipated the move and would work closely with the Biden administration.

Israel is the only country in the region to have the F-35. After initially voicing misgivings at its sale to the UAE, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Benny Gantz relented amid Trump administration assurances that Israeli military superiority would be preserved.

Asked by reporters if the review might set back Israel’s efforts to build up relations with the UAE and other Arab countries, Netanyahu said: “I don’t think so. I think we have passed the point of no-return.”

“Everyone understands that there are huge advantages here. its peace in exchange for peace … I think it’ll move ahead.”

Gantz described the review as “routine.”

Clouds fill snow-covered Grand Canyon

A Snowy Grand Canyon was shrouded by a partial cloud inversion on Sunday morning (January 24) in Grand Canyon Village, Arizona, United States.

A partial cloud inversion happens when there is a mixing of air masses and when the air near the ground is cooler than the air above it.

It is a rare but not uncommon occurrence, especially during the winter

Doomsday Clock remains at 100 seconds to midnight, scientists warn

The time was unchanged from 2020, when scientists from the organization cited concerns over nuclear proliferation and climate change as factors in setting the clock to its most dire time since the Cold War.

President and CEO of Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists Rachel Bronson said last year’s statement anticipated the denial of COVID-19 and refusal of political leaders to work together, which has led to 2.16 million coronavirus deaths worldwide.

“We recognize that humanity continues to suffer as the COVID-19 pandemic spreads around the world,” she said. “The pandemic revealed just how unprepared and unwilling countries in the international system are to handle global emergencies properly. In this time of genuine crisis, governments around the world too often abdicated responsibility, ignored scientific advice, did not cooperate to communicate effectively and consequently failed to protect the health and welfare of their citizens.”

“COVID-19 will not obliterate civilization and we expect it the disease to recede eventually,” she said. “Still, the pandemic serves as a historic wake-up call, a vivid illustration that national governments and the international organizations are unprepared to manage complex and dangerous challenges like those of nuclear weapons and climate change which currently pose existential threats to humanity.”

The organization also pointed to the contribution of false information and the embrace of conspiracy theories disseminated on the internet to the denial of science, the spread of COVID-19 and even violence, such as the Capitol Hill riot.

Bronson said the organization found hope in the election of a U.S. president who acknowledges climate change, has rejoined the World Health Organization and the Paris Agreement, yet these decisions had not yet translated into measurable progress that would move the clock away from midnight.

Saying COVID-19 was a ‘wake-up call,’ the organization called on political leaders and institutions to prioritize actions in its wake to diminish the threats caused by nuclear weapons, climate change, biological threats and misinformation.

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