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The bloc has a deal to purchase a minimum of 300 million doses from AstraZeneca, with an option for an additional 100 million, part of the drugmaker’s global commitments to supply more than 3 billion doses. Photo: Oli SCARFF / AFP via Getty Images

AstraZeneca (AZN.L) has delivered a fresh blow to the European Union’s (EU) mountain of woes after announcing that it plans to cut deliveries of the COVID-19 vaccine.

The reduction will see deliveries to the EU cut by 60% to 31 million doses in the first quarter of the year. It blamed production problems, meaning the number of initial available doses would be lower than expected.

The jab developed in coordination with Oxford University is already in widespread use in Britain but the bloc has yet to approve it. The EU is expected to make a decision by 29 January. So far, the bloc has approved vaccines made by Pfizer (PFE) /BioNTech (BNTX) and Moderna (MRNA).

The bloc has a deal to purchase a minimum of 300 million doses from AstraZeneca, with an option for an additional 100 million, part of the drugmaker’s global commitments to supply more than 3 billion doses.

It was expected to deliver around 80 million doses to the 27 EU nations by the end of March, an EU official told Reuters.

The drugmaker confirmed the decline in deliveries without specifying the magnitude of the shortfall.

An AstraZeneca spokesman said: “Initial volumes will be lower than originally anticipated due to reduced yields at a manufacturing site within our European supply chain.”

“We will be supplying tens of millions of doses in February and March to the European Union, as we continue to ramp up production volumes,” the spokesperson said in a written statement on Friday.

The UK-based drugmaker was also due to deliver more than 80 million doses in the second quarter of 2021, but it was not able to indicate delivery targets for the April-June period amid production issues.

Responding to the announcement, EU Health Commissioner Stella Kyriakides said on Twitter (TWTR) that EU governments “expressed deep dissatisfaction with this.”

"We insisted on a precise delivery schedule on the basis of which Member States should be planning their vaccination programs, subject to the granting of a conditional marketing authorisation,” Kyriakides said.

She added that the EU Commission “will continue to insist with AstraZeneca on measures to increase predictability and stability of deliveries, and acceleration of the distribution of doses.”

It is the second drug manufacturer that has warned on supply issues. Last week Pfizer and BioNTech slowed shipments and distribution proceeds unevenly among EU states.

This meant that some nations' inoculation programmes were slowed due to the cuts. The drugmakers are retooling a site in Belgium to boost output.

While the coronavirus vaccines have been developed and approved across the globe at record speeds, distribution and deliveries have been slower to EU nations.

European countries have administered more than five million doses to citizens so far. The bloc aims to inoculate 70% of adults by the end of August this year. By Suban Abdulla, Yahoo News

King interviewing Bob Dole, the Republican presidential nominee in 1996, on his show in 1994. Photograph: Danita Delimont/Alamy

Larry King, the American broadcaster and cable news interviewer of celebrities and public figures, has died. He was 87 and had been hospitalized at Cedars-Sinai medical center in Los Angeles with symptoms of the coronavirus.

Related: Larry King: 'The secret of my success? I'm dumb'

statement on King’s social media accounts confirmed the news on Saturday.

“For 63 years,” it said, “and across the platforms of radio, television and digital media, Larry’s many thousands of interviews, awards and global acclaim stand as a testament to his unique and lasting talent as a broadcaster.”

King hosted his flagship CNN show, Larry King Live, for 25 years. At its height, it drew 1.5 million viewers a night.

“We mourn the passing of our colleague Larry King,” said CNN president Jeff Zucker in a statement posted to Twitter. “The scrappy young man from Brooklyn had a history-making career spanning radio and television. His curiosity about the world propelled his award-winning career in broadcasting, but it was his generosity of spirit that drew the world to him.

“We are so proud of the 25 years he spent with CNN, where his newsmaker interviews truly put the network on the international stage. From our CNN family to Larry’s, we send our thoughts and prayers, and a promise to carry on his curiosity for the world in our work.”

With his trademark suspenders, gravelly New York accent and under-prepared questioning – he often said he preferred entering an interview knowing no more than his audience, so he could ask the questions they would – over the course of six decades King became one of America’s most recognizable media figures.

“While it was his name appearing in the show’s titles,” the statement announcing his death said, “Larry always viewed his interview subjects as the true stars of his programs and himself as merely an unbiased conduit between the guest and audience. Whether he was interviewing a US president, foreign leader, celebrity, scandal-ridden personage or an everyman, Larry liked to ask short direct and uncomplicated questions.”

Known for his soft interview style – “If you approach [an interview] combatively you get defensiveness and you don’t learn much,” he told the Guardian in 2015 – he conducted more than 30,000 interviews during his career, according to CNN, including such public figures as Yasser Arafat, Nelson Mandela and Vladimir Putin, every president from Richard Nixon to his friend Donald Trump, and celebrities from Frank Sinatra to Lady Gaga.

Born Lawrence Harvey Zeiger on 19 November 1933 in Brooklyn to Orthodox Jewish immigrant parents – his father Aaron, a restaurant owner, was from Austria and his mother Jennie, a garment worker, from Lithuania – the Peabody-winning broadcaster grew up dreaming of a career in radio. He got his break as a morning DJ in Miami Beach, Florida in 1957 and expanded to national broadcasting in 1978, cultivating a devoted audience with meandering interviews and personal digressions.

CNN gave King a primetime show in 1985, which he hosted until 2010, when he was contentiously replaced by the British TV personality Piers Morgan.

King continued to host specials for the network until 2012, when he left CNN to launch a production venture, Ora TV, with the Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim. King drew criticism in recent years for his work with RT (previously Russia Today), a Russian state broadcaster which picked up his political and talkshow programs in 2013.

King was married eight times to seven women, his final marriage, to Shawn Southwick, ending in divorce in 2019. He survived a major heart attack in 1987, lung cancer in 2017, an angioplasty and stroke in 2019, and the death of two of his five children –– son Andy, 65, from a heart attack, and daughter Chaia, 51, from lung cancer –– within five weeks in August last year.

In 2015, King told the Guardian he was most proud of being a father and his many awards, including a lifetime achievement Emmy.

“Hopefully I’ve brought enjoyment and knowledge to people by being a conduit,” he said.

Many of King’s colleagues, interviewees and fans used social media to pay tribute.

“So few TV hosts can do their jobs like Larry King,” said Greta Van Susteren, a former CNN and Fox News anchor. “You could not tell what his politics were … he let his guests answer the questions … and he thought his guests the ‘stars’ and not himself … he profiled his guests, didn’t talk about himself.

“Larry King gave me so much great advice for TV: ‘Don’t talk too much… the viewers will get sick of you … let your guests talk … they tuned in to see your guests, not to listen to you talk about yourself.”

“Wow,” wrote the singer Boy George. “Media legend. Interviewed me a few times. RIP.”

 

“Sad to hear of Larry King’s passing,” wrote another singer, Yusuf Cat Stevens.

“I lost a dear friend and mentor,” said TV and radio personality Ryan Seacrest. “Truly an American treasure. Rest in peace, Larry King.”

New York governor Andrew Cuomo said King “was a Brooklyn boy who become a newsman who interviewed the newsmakers. He conducted over 50,000 interviews that informed Americans in a clear and plain way. New York sends condolences to his family and many friends.”

Meghan McCain, the daughter of the late senator and presidential candidate John McCain, said in an Instagram post: “There are ‘friends’ in this industry and then there are real friends for whom I can count on one hand. Larry was one of those people.

“I am grateful for the years of friendship and all of the stories you shared. You are an institution, a broadcast legend, will never be replaced and truly missed. TV is less interesting without you. Prayers and light to the entire King family today.”

The statement announcing his death, from Ora media, contained “condolences to his surviving children Larry Jr, Chance, Cannon and the entire King family”. It said funeral arrangements and a memorial service “will be announced later in coordination with the king family who ask for their privacy at this time”.  By Adrian Horton and Victoria Bekiempis Guardian/Yahoo News

Somali officials and the Uganda People’s Defense Forces (UPDF) claimed killing 189 al-Shabaab fighters late Friday and in the early hours of Saturday in an operation in southern Somalia.  

Talking to VOA Somali Service by phone, Lower Shabelle Governor Abdulkadir Mohamed Nur Siidi said Ugandan soldiers under the African Union Mission in Somalia (Amisom), using attack helicopter gunships, have killed nearly 200 al-shabaab militants. 

Earlier, the Ugandan army’s deputy spokesman, Lt. Col. Deo Akiki said, “Their soldiers killed at least 189 al-shabaab fighters in the operation and destroyed two mounted weapons and motorbikes in separate fire strikes.”  

 

Governor Siidii said the strikes, along with ground assaults by the joint troops, occurred Friday and in the early hours of Saturday in a string of villages between the Qoryoley and Janaale districts in the Southern Somali region of Lower Shabelle.  

“The militias were struck in their hideouts in the villages of Sigaale, Adimole and Kayitoy, just over 100 kilometres southwest of the capital, Mogadishu,” Nur said.  
 
A statement from the Ugandan Army said that during the operation “a large number of military hardware and items used by the terrorist were also destroyed.”   
 
“The UPDF also disrupted an al-Shabaab meeting, injuring several terrorists in Donca-daafeedow, which is seven kilometres from the Janaale town,” the statement added.  
 
Residents told VOA on the condition of anonymity they could see military helicopters striking key al-shabaab targets and hideouts in the thickets and farmlands around Janaale town.  
 
Amisom has been in Somalia for more than 10 years, keeping the peace and supporting Somalia’s government to fend off attacks from al-shabaab militants, which aims to topple the government and impose its own harsh interpretation of Islamic Sharia law.  
 
The group controlled large swathes of south-central Somalia until 2011 when it was driven out of Mogadishu by African Union troops.  
 
Speaking of the latest operations, both Somali and Ugandan military officials say this was the largest number of al-Shabaab fighters killed in a military operation in a single day. Governor Siidii says Amisom has introduced a new strategy and unveiled fresh military power.  
 
“The Ugandan soldiers are using attack helicopter gunships in their operations for the first time, and also the Somali National Army, with the help of Amisom, came up with a strategy of aggressive attacks against militants in their hideouts, rather than wait their attacks,” he said.  
 
This operation comes a week after the United States military said it had completed the withdrawal of troops from Somalia.
     
AFRICOM spokesperson Colonel Christopher Karns confirmed to VOA Somali earlier that repositioning of the troops was completed ahead of the deadline mandated by a presidential directive last December ordering the troop removal by mid-January.    

The number of U.S. military personnel in Somalia ranged from 650 to 800 service members. U.S. troops supported and mentored an elite Somali unit known as the Danab “lightning” brigade.
 
In recent days, al-shabaab militants had intensified their attacks using improvised explosive devices and landmines targeting Somali security officials in Mogadishu and other major towns.  
 
The militant group claimed responsibility Saturday for a landmine explosion in Mogadishu that killed four people and injured two former lawmakers, Hussein Arale and Muhidin Afrah.  

On Tuesday, the militants claimed another blast that killed the deputy commissioner for security and politics in Garasbaale, Abdi-Rashid Dubad. Six others were injured in the blast.  
 
Security analysts say a day hardly passes in Somalia without reporting an incident involving al-shabaab attacks.  VOA

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