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Stephen Lewis calls for suspension of COVID-19 vaccine patents – CTV News

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OTTAWA —
Humanitarian Stephen Lewis, the former UN Special Envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa, is calling on the World Trade Organization to suspend patents for some COVID-19 vaccines to improve access for low-income countries.

Lewis, who now co-directs the AIDS advocacy group AIDS-Free World, said patents should never have been awarded to some COVID-19 vaccines, considering the amount of public money that went into their discovery. The patents are also making the vaccines largely unaffordable for some nations.

“The great mass of funding that has gone into the discovery and manufacture and delivery of these vaccines has come from public funds, and we shouldn’t be giving patents to individual drug companies for the circulation of the vaccines,” Lewis said Monday in an interview with CTV’s Power Play.

In October, the Canadian government announced more that $190 million in funding for the development and testing of two Canadian-made vaccines, both of which have yet to receive federal approval.

Pfizer-BioNtech did not receive any government funding for development of their COVID-19 vaccine, but Moderna, AstraZeneca, and Johnson and Johnson each received about US$1 billion from the U.S. government for vaccine research, development and delivery.

Both Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna are reportedly expected to make a combined US$32 billion in 2021 from their COVID-19 vaccines. Johnson and Johnson and AstraZeneca, on the other hand, have said they will not take a profit from their vaccines, and are instead offering to sell them at cost.

“This business of providing the drugs at cost should be taken with a barrel of salt,” Lewis said. “The companies themselves will decide when they will stop providing the drugs at cost. There’s no guarantee it will go on for the life of the pandemic.”

Last week, India and South Africa proposed that the WTO waive the intellectual property for COVID-19 vaccines for the duration of the pandemic, which they argue will allow generic companies to make additional doses and sell them to middle- and lower-income countries at a reduced rate.

The WTO delayed a decision on the proposal, which big pharmaceutical companies and wealthier nations have rejected, until later in 2021.

Lewis believes waiving the patents on vaccines would also benefit Canada, given the delays in receiving doses that it is currently experiencing.

“I think that’s something we should focus on,” he said. “I think it would be very, very valuable to Canada and might allow the production facilities to operate at a higher level.”

Middle- and lower-income countries are already having trouble securing vaccine doses. According to the Duke University Global Health Institute, 16 per cent of the world’s population have secured 60 per cent of the available COVID-19 doses. Canada alone has secured the purchase of enough vaccines to cover its entire population more than five times.

“You can’t have that kind of inequity and expect to overcome the damage — both in health and economic terms — of the virus,” Lewis said. 

With files from Reuters

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With Twitter deal on hold, Musk says a lower sale price isn't 'out of the question’ – Engadget

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Billionaire Elon Musk is continuing to clash with Twitter over the accuracy of its bot count, and hinted today that he may try to renegotiate the $44 billion deal. Musk told attendees at a Miami conference that a deal at a lower price wasn’t “out of the question,” reported Bloomberg. Musk’s potential bid for a lower price is an unexpected twist, given that the SpaceX exec agreed to pay a 38 percent premium on Twitter when he reached a deal with the company’s board back in April.

“Currently what I’m being told is that there’s just no way to know the number of bots,” Musk said at the conference. “It’s like, as unknowable as the human soul.”

Musk’s potential bid for a lower price is an unexpected twist, given that the SpaceX exec agreed to pay a 38 percent premium on Twitter when he reached a deal with the company’s board back in April. 

Last Friday, Musk had announced that a buyout of Twitter was “temporarily on hold” due to concerns that the number of bots on the platform was much higher than the company estimated. The billionaire tweeted that his team would do an independent analysis on bot count and also tried to crowdsource bot estimates from his own followers. Musk was later reprimanded by Twitter’s legal team for revealing — in a tweet, of course — the company’s methodology for estimating the proportion of bot accounts across the platform.

Earlier today, Twitter CEO Parag Agrawal explained in a series of tweets that external estimates of bots are likely wrong, since the platform includes private data in its count.

“Unfortunately, we don’t believe that this specific estimation can be performed externally, given the critical need to use both public and private information (which we can’t share),” tweeted Agrawal.

Musk responded to Agrawal’s explanation with a series of his own tweets, one that included a single poop emoji. Musk also suggested that Twitter verify whether users are human or not by calling them on the phone.

Tesla expert Dan Ives — an analyst at financial advisory firm Wedbush Securities — put the chances of Musk going through with the deal at under 50 percent. If Musk chooses to walk away, he’ll be subject to a $1 billion “kill fee”. But according to legal experts who spoke to The Washington Post, Twitter could sue Musk for the financial damages inflicted on the company due to the hasty reversal of the deal.

All products recommended by Engadget are selected by our editorial team, independent of our parent company. Some of our stories include affiliate links. If you buy something through one of these links, we may earn an affiliate commission.

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Did Elon Musk violate Twitter's NDA agreement? Former SEC Chair Jay Clayton weighs in – CNBC Television

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Ukraine war: McDonald's to sell its Russian business – CTV News

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More than three decades after it became the first American fast food restaurant to open in the Soviet Union, McDonald’s said Monday that it has started the process of selling its business in Russia, another symbol of the country’s increasing isolation over its war in Ukraine.

The company, which has 850 restaurants in Russia that employ 62,000 people, pointed to the humanitarian crisis caused by the war, saying holding on to its business in Russia “is no longer tenable, nor is it consistent with McDonald’s values.”

The Chicago-based fast food giant said in early March that it was temporarily closing its stores in Russia but would continue to pay its employees. Without naming a prospective Russian buyer, McDonald’s said Monday that it would seek one to hire its workers and pay them until the sale closes.

CEO Chris Kempczinski said the “dedication and loyalty to McDonald’s” of employees and hundreds of Russian suppliers made it a difficult decision to leave.

“However, we have a commitment to our global community and must remain steadfast in our values,” Kempczinski said in a statement, “and our commitment to our values means that we can no longer keep the arches shining there.”

As it tries to sell its restaurants, McDonald’s said it plans to start removing golden arches and other symbols and signs with the company’s name. It said it will keep its trademarks in Russia.

Western companies have wrestled with extricating themselves from Russia, enduring the hit to their bottom lines from pausing or closing operations in the face of sanctions. Others have stayed in Russia at least partially, with some facing blowback.

French carmaker Renault said Monday that it would sell its majority stake in Russian car company Avtovaz and a factory in Moscow to the state — the first major nationalization of a foreign business since the war began.

For McDonald’s, its first restaurant in Russia opened in the middle of Moscow more than three decades ago, shortly after the fall of the Berlin Wall. It was a powerful symbol of the easing of Cold War tensions between the United States and Soviet Union, which would collapse in 1991.

Now, the company’s exit is proving symbolic of a new era, analysts say.

“Its departure represents a new isolationism in Russia, which must now look inward for investment and consumer brand development,” said Neil Saunders, managing director of GlobalData, a corporate analytics company.

He said McDonald’s owns most of its restaurants in Russia, but because it won’t license its brand, the sale price likely won’t be close to the value of the business before the invasion. Russia and Ukraine combined accounted for about 9% of McDonald’s revenue and 3% of operating income before the war, Saunders said.

McDonald’s said it expects to record a charge against earnings of between US$1.2 billion and $1.4 billion over leaving Russia.

Its restaurants in Ukraine are closed, but the company said it is continuing to pay full salaries for its employees there.

McDonald’s has more than 39,000 locations across more than 100 countries. Most are owned by franchisees — only about 5% are owned and operated by the company.

McDonald’s said exiting Russia will not change its forecast of adding a net 1,300 restaurants this year, which will contribute about 1.5% to companywide sales growth.

Last month, McDonald’s reported that it earned $1.1 billion in the first quarter, down from more than $1.5 billion a year earlier. Revenue was nearly $5.7 billion.

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