Posts tagged with "Reuters"

Vlad the vaccinator: Dracula’s Castle lures visitors with COVID-19 jabs

May 18, 2021

Visitors to Dracula’s Castle are more likely to find puncture marks in their arms than in their necks this month, after medics set up a COVID-19 vaccination center at the Transylvanian attraction, reports Yahoo News.

Doctors and nurses with fang stickers on their scrubs are offering free Pfizer shots to all-comers at 14th century Bran Castle, which is purported to be an inspiration for the vampire’s towering home in Bram Stoker’s novel “Dracula”.

Castle staff hope that the service will bring more people to the site in Romania’s Carpathian mountains, where tourist numbers have plummeted since the start of the pandemic.

Anyone can turn up without an appointment every weekend in May. They also get free entry to the castle’s exhibit of 52 medieval torture instruments.

“The idea … was to show how people got jabbed 500-600 years ago in Europe,” the castle’s marketing director, Alexandru Priscu, told Reuters recently.

One of the visitors on Saturday was Fernando Orozco, a 37-year-old renewable energy market developer who usually is based in Berlin, but has been working remotely out of Romania.

“I was already planning to come to the castle and I just thought it was the two-for-one special,” he said.

The government has said it wants to vaccinate 10 million of its people by September, but a survey released in April by Bratislava-based think tank Globsec showed Romanians were the least inclined to get vaccinated among the EU’s eastern members.

Research contact: @YahooNews

Federal grand jury charges Proud Boys with conspiring to impede Congress on January 6

March 22, 2021

A federal grand jury has charged four members of the far-right Proud Boys group with conspiring to block the U.S. Congress from certifying President Joe Biden’s election victory, according to a new superseding indictment unsealed on Friday, March 19.

According to a report by Reuters, the indictment alleges that Ethan Nordean of Washington, Joseph Biggs of Florida, Zachary Rehl of Pennsylvania, and Charles Donohoe of North Carolina conspired to encourage members of the group to attend the Stop the Steal protest in Washington, D.C., on January 6. All four defendants are the leaders of Proud Boys chapters in their respective states, the indictment says.

It also says that the Proud Boy members:

  • Worked to obtain paramilitary equipment used for the attack on the U.S. Capitol;
  • Dismantled metal barriers set up to protect the building; and
  • Communicated using handheld radios and encrypted messaging applications.

Leading up to the insurrection, the indictment alleges that the Proud Boys made their intentions clear as far back as November—with Biggs declaring in a social media post on November 5 that war was the only option if the election was stolen from then-President Donald Trump, who lost the vote.

Later that month, on November 27, Nordean declared: “We tried playing nice and by the rules, now you will deal with the monster you created.”

Research contact: @Reuters

The water’s fine: Houseboats are in high demand as Germans book holidays close to home

Febuary 22, 2021

As arctic temperatures froze rivers and lakes in northern Germany this winter, workers at houseboat charter companies already had started gearing up for what they expect to be a busy summer season, Reuters reports.

Cross-border travel restrictions due to the coronavirus pandemic last summer prompted a run on domestic tourism, including floating accommodations. Many expect that 2021 will be no different.

“I think that big trips abroad and flying will still not be the dominant type of vacation for people this summer,” Dagmar Kuhnle, spokeswoman at the Kuhnle Tour houseboat charter company in the northeastern Mecklenburg lake district between Berlin and the Baltic Sea, told Reuters.

Family-run Kuhnle expanded its fleet to 160 boats from 120 just before the pandemic reached Germany last sprin—and promptly lost two months of business due to a coronavirus lockdown in April and May.

Once travel became possible again, nearly all of its boats were booked out, and bookings are looking good for the coming season as well, Kuhnle said.

The big question for charter companies like Kuhnle remains when the season will start.

Aquare Charter, which offers bungalow boats in the eastern state of Brandenburg, told Reuters that it was fully booked for this summer and would start renting out boats from March 18 if restrictions on overnight stays for tourists are lifted.

“It is of course not clear if it will work out or not,” Philipp Sommer, a manager at Aquare Charter, said.

The government last week dampened hopes that the economy could reopen soon—targeting an infection rate of no more than 35 new cases per 100,000 people over seven days, down from 50 previously.

On Monday, that number was 59, having fallen from a high near 200 in late December. It was last below 50 in October.

Given the government’s caution, Kuhnle Tour is cutting the hours of ten employees starting next week. “We don’t see the end of pandemic in sight. We have somewhat corrected our optimism,” Kuhnle added.

Research contact: @Reuters

Toyota invests $210M to expand W. Virginia engine production; plans to add 100 jobs

February 19, 2021

Toyota announced on February 18 that it is investing $210 million to expand engine production in West Virginia and add 100 new jobs, according to Reuters.

The Japanese automaker said it would boost capacity by 70,000 engines a year at the Buffalo, West Virginia plant—up from the nearly oneW million transmissions and engines it produces annually for vehicles assembled in North America.

The investment will increase assembly capacity of its four-cylinder engine line. The plant makes four- and six-cylinder engines for Avalon, Camry, Corolla, Highlander, Lexus ES, Lexus RX350, RAV4, and Sienna.

Reuters notes that the investment comes as automakers around the world are shifting more focus to electric vehicles—and away from vehicles powered by internal combustion engines.

Toyota says hybrid vehicles—which include internal combustion engines—will be a key part of its vehicle strategy in the coming decade; as other automakers focus more heavily on battery electric vehicles, which only run on electric power.

Toyota said last week that 16% of its U.S. sales were of hybrid vehicles in 2020, a figure that will jump to at least 20% in 2021.

Research contact: @Reuters

For runs in the snow, Finns say, ‘Sock it to me’

February 18, 2021

Finns who are keen to avoid gyms and other indoor sports venues this winter because of the coronavirus pandemic have found a new way to keep fit: They are running in the snow wearing absolutely no training shoes—just as many as three pairs of thick woolen socks at a time, Reuters reports.

Finland has seen particularly heavy snowfall this winter and running outside in just socks provides great exercise as well as a sense of freedom, said Pekka Parviainen, a helicopter pilot and an avid barefoot runner.

“This is traditional Finnish crazy stuff, I think we all agree,” said Parviainen while out running with a group in Nuuksio National Park, 35 kilometers (20 miles) from the capital Helsinki.

“And it’s really the happiness side. I mean it’s very good sport, strong exercise and everything, but it really is the happiness,” he added.

In Finland, where taking a sauna in winter and then running through snow to jump into an ice-cold lake is a traditional pastime, barefoot running has become popular in the past few years during the warmer months, Reuters notes.

Running in socks through heavy snow, now about half a metre (1.6 feet) deep in many places, takes this to the next level.

 “You can do it quite light or you can do it really heavy in the deep snow as we did now. But the feeling afterwards is just great. You have had a good foot massage,” Parviainen told Reuters, because your feet are not tightly “packaged” in trainers.

There is no shortage of warm woollen socks as many Finns have taken to knitting during long winter lockdowns.

Parviainen recommends wearing at least two, preferably three, pairs of woolen socks to get the most out of the run.

Research contact: @Reuters

Reuters: Proud Boys leader was ‘prolific’ informer for law enforcement

January 28, 2021

Enrique Tarrio, the leader of the Proud Boys extremist group, has a past as an informer for federal and local law enforcement—repeatedly working undercover for investigators after he was arrested in 2012, according to a former prosecutor and a transcript of a 2014 federal court proceeding obtained by Reuters.

Founded in 2016, the Proud Boys is known as a far-right, neo-fascist, and male-only political organization that promotes and engages in violence in the United States and Canada. Miami-based Tarrio, 36, is a high-profile figure who has organized the right-wing Proud Boys since 2018 in their confrontations with those they believe to be Antifa, short for “anti-fascism,” an amorphous and often violent leftist movement.

The records uncovered by Reuters are startling because they show that a leader of a far-right group now under intense scrutiny by law enforcement was previously an active collaborator with criminal investigators.

In the 2014 Miami hearing, a federal prosecutor, an FBI agent, and Tarrio’s own lawyer described his undercover work and said he had helped authorities prosecute more than a dozen people in various cases involving drugs, gambling and human smuggling.

Tarrio, in an interview with Reuters Tuesday, denied working undercover or cooperating in cases against others. “I don’t know any of this,” he said, when asked about the transcript. “I don’t recall any of this.”

Law-enforcement officials and the court transcript contradict Tarrio’s denial. In a statement to Reuters, the former federal prosecutor in Tarrio’s case, Vanessa Singh Johannes, confirmed that “he cooperated with local and federal law enforcement, to aid in the prosecution of those running other, separate criminal enterprises, ranging from running marijuana grow houses in Miami to operating pharmaceutical fraud schemes.”

That didn’t stop police from arresting Tarrio when he arrived in Washington, D.C., in early January, two days before the Capitol Hill riot—in which, Reuters says, the Proud Boys were involved on January 6. He was charged with possessing two high-capacity rifle magazines, and burning a Black Lives Matter banner during a December demonstration by supporters of former President Donald Trump. The D.C. Superior Court ordered him to leave the city pending a court date in June.

Indeed, although Tarrio did not take part in the Capitol insurrection, at least five Proud Boys members have been charged in the riot. The FBI previously said Tarrio’s earlier arrest was an effort to preempt the events of January 6.

What’s  more, the news outlet says, in  November and December, Tarrio led the Proud Boys through the streets of D.C. after Trump’s loss. Video shows him on December 11 with a bullhorn in front of a large crowd. “To the parasites both in Congress, and in that stolen White House,” he said. “You want a war, you got one!” The crowd roared. The next day Tarrio burned the BLM banner.

Former prosecutor Johannes said she was surprised that the defendant she prosecuted for fraud is now a key player in the violent movement that sought to halt the certification of President Joe Biden.

“I knew that he was a fraudster— but had no reason to know that he was also a domestic terrorist,” she said.

Research contact: @Reuters

Biden to reinstate the COVID travel restrictions Trump rescinded; impose new ban on South Africa

January 26, 2021

President Joe Biden plans to sign restrictions Monday on travel to the United States to mitigate COVID-19 transmission, a senior public health official confirmed on Sunday, January 24, to Reuters.

The ban would prevent most non-U.S. citizens from entry if they have recently been in South Africa, where a new strain of coronavirus has been identified. The virus has killed more than 418,000 people and infected upward of 25 million nationwide in the United States., according to an NBC News tracker.

Biden is also expected to reinstate broader restrictions that were in effect much of the past year but were rescinded by President Donald Trump days before his term ended, NBC said. The limits would affect non-U.S. citizens traveling from the United Kingdom, Ireland, and much of Europe in what is known as the Schengen countries, which share a common visa process. Travelers from Brazil would also be affected.

Before Biden took office, incoming White House press secretary Jen Psaki in a tweet criticized Trump’s decision to rescind the bans he had implemented.

“With the pandemic worsening, and more contagious variants emerging around the world, this is not the time to be lifting restrictions on international travel,” she said.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Sunday that, beginning Tuesday, it will no longer consider exceptions to its requirement that international travelers present negative coronavirus tests. Airlines had asked the agency to relax the rule for some countries with limited testing capacity.

“As variants of the SARS-CoV-2 virus continue to emerge in countries around the world, there is growing evidence of increased transmissibility of some of these variants, as well as unknown health and vaccine implications,” a CDC spokesman said in a statement. “Testing before and after travel is a critical layer to slow the introduction and spread of COVID-19 and emerging variants.”

Research contact: @NBCNews

Capitol rioters intended to ‘capture and assassinate’ officials, court filing says

January 18, 2021

Federal prosecutors offered an ominous new assessment of last week’s siege of the U.S. Capitol by President Donald Trump’s supporters on January 14, saying in a court filing that rioters intended “to capture and assassinate elected officialsn” The Huffington Post and Reuters reported.

Prosecutors offered that view in a filing asking a judge to detain Jacob Chansley—the Arizona man and QAnon conspiracy theorist who was famously photographed wearing horns as he stood at the desk of Vice President Mike Pence in the chamber of the U.S. Senate.

The detention memo, written by Justice Department lawyers in Arizona, goes into greater detail about the FBI’s investigation into Chansley—revealing that he left a note for Pence warning that “it’s only a matter of time, justice is coming.”

“Strong evidence, including Chansley’s own words and actions at the Capitol, supports that the intent of the Capitol rioters was to capture and assassinate elected officials in the United States government,” prosecutors wrote.

A public defender representing Chansley could not be immediately reached for comment. Chansley is due to appear in federal court on Friday.

According to the HuffPost, the prosecutors’ assessment comes as prosecutors and federal agents have begun bringing more serious charges tied to violence at the Capitol, including revealing cases Thursday against one man, retired firefighter Robert Sanford, on charges that he hurled a fire extinguisher at the head of one police officer and another, Peter Stager, of beating a different officer with a pole bearing an American flag.

In Chansley’s case, prosecutors said the charges “involve active participation in an insurrection attempting to violently overthrow the United States government,” and warned that “the insurrection is still in progress” as law enforcement prepares for more demonstrations in Washington and state capitals.

They also suggested he suffers from drug abuse and mental illness, and told the judge he poses a serious flight risk.

“Chansley has spoken openly about his belief that he is an alien, a higher being, and he is here on Earth to ascend to another reality,” they wrote.

The Justice Department has brought more than 80 criminal cases in connection with the violent riots at the U.S. Capitol last week, in which Trump’s supporters stormed the building, ransacked offices and in some cases, attacked police.

Many of the people charged so far were easily tracked down by the FBI, which has more than 200 suspects, thanks in large part to videos and photos posted on social media.

Michael Sherwin, the Acting U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia, has said that while many of the initial charges may seem minor, he expects much more serious charges to be filed as the Justice Department continues its investigation.

Research contact: @HuffPost

New Yorkers converge on Times Square to say ‘Good Riddance’ to 2020

December 31, 2020

Dozens of people lined up (at a socially approved distance) in New York City’s Times Square on Monday, December 28, to write down, and then shred, the things that they have hated most about 2020—including but not limited to the deadly global pandemic.

They were participating in an annual “Good Riddance Day” event hosted by The Times Square Alliance since 2007—but needed more than ever

Above, in Times Square, a New Yorker shreds his 2020 disappointments. (Photo source: Reuters)

this December, Reuters reports.

Participants are encouraged to write down the year’s unpleasant memories, to be thrown into an oversized paper shredder. Among the submissions were COVID-19 and some of the work-from-home customs compelled by the spread of the coronavirus— not least, Zoom video conferencing calls.

Others posed for pictures next to a “Move On 2020!” sign, Reuters said.

“I think of all the New Year’s Eves I’ve ever experienced, this New Year’s Eve is special,” said Jonathan Bennett, who hosted this year’s scaled-down event. “The whole world really needs this new year to come in.”

Joey Faix, a 16-year-old high-school student who stopped to watch the event, said it was a tough year. “I think it was mentally straining for everybody,” he said. “But I think everybody is optimistic for the new year.”

Research contact: @Reuters

‘Diviner’ inspiration: Australian artist covers silos with large-scale mural

November 12, 2020

When artist Fintan Magee was asked to paint a mural on a trio of 40-meter (131 foot)-high grain silos in the small Australian town of Barraba, he decided against an archetypal image of sheep and cattle, Reuters reports.

Instead he painted a water diviner, paying tribute to a practice still used in parts of Australia where proponents believe they can find ground water with two metal rods or, as pictured in the mural, sticks.

Painted last year, it is one of dozens of large-scale murals to appear across rural Australia, turning sides of buildings, water tanks and old grain silos into striking canvasses.

“Painting walls is a bit like surfing, every wave is different, every wall is different. That’s the biggest challenge for me,” Magee told Reuters from his art studio in Sydney’s inner-western suburbs.

“Scaling and the technical things are just part of the job now.”

Many of the works were painted during a long drought that devastated communities and led to widespread water restrictions in such agricultural towns as Barraba in central New South Wales.

Magee said that during a research trip he saw a diviner working with water bore drillers during the drought, which only started to ease early this year.

While broadly considered street art, the sheer size of the murals makes them a phenomenon of their own.

“It wasn’t really until the last three or four years that projects have been growing bigger and bigger—more stuff happening in Sydney and Melbourne and also the silo thing has exploded,” said Magee.

The size has one great advantage over other forms of art: It’s almost impossible for passersby not to take it in.

“It’s absolutely gorgeous – it wasn’t here last time we came through,” said Cathy Skinner, one of several people who stopped at the Barraba mural when Reuters visited last week.

“I think he looks like Prince Harry, I think he’s wonderful,” Skinner said of the water diviner.

Research contact: @Reuters