Unidentified hackers broke into the Twitter accounts of former President Barack Obama, Democratic presidential front-runner Joe Biden, Mike Bloomberg and of technology moguls, politicians, celebrities and major companies on Wednesday in an apparent Bitcoin scam.
A number of tech billionaires including Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates and Tesla CEO Elon Musk. Celebrities Kanye West and his wife, Kim Kardashian West, were also hacked. The fake tweets offered to send $2,000 for every $1,000 sent to an anonymous Bitcoin address.
There is no evidence that the owners of these accounts were targeted themselves. Instead, the hacks appeared designed to lure their Twitter followers into sending money to an anonymous Bitcoin account.
The Biden campaign, for instance, said that Twitter's integrity team “locked down the account within a few minutes of the breach and removed the related tweet.”
Obama's office had no immediate comment. The FBI said it was aware of Twitter's security breach, but declined further comment.
In a tweet, Twitter noted that it was aware of a “security incident impacting accounts on Twitter.” The San Francisco company said it is investigating and promised an update shortly. It did not reply immediately to requests for comment.
The apparently fake tweets were all quickly deleted, although The Associated Press was able to capture screenshots of several before they disappeared. The security problem was severe enough for Twitter to warn that many of its more than 166 million daily users might be unable to tweet or reset their passwords while the company tried to lock things down.
Among the political figures targeted, the hack mostly appeared to target Democrats or other figures on the left, drawing comparisons to the 2016 campaign.
The hack might also be a simple demonstration of Twitter’s weak security controls as the U.S. heads into the 2020 presidential election, a contest in which the service is likely to play an influential role.
The Bitcoin account mentioned in the fake tweets appears to have been created on Wednesday. By the end of the day, it had received almost 12.9 bitcoins, an amount currently valued at slightly more than $114,000. At some point during the day, roughly half that sum in bitcoin was withdrawn from the account.
Bezos, Gates and Musk are among the 10 richest people in the world, with tens of millions of followers on Twitter. The three men are worth a combined $362 billion, according to the latest calculations by Forbes magazine.
The same bogus offer cropped up a second time on Musk's account, which has a history of sometimes befuddling tweets from the eccentric billionaire. Tesla didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.
Gates, who has become one of the world's leading philanthropists since stepping down as Microsoft CEO, confirmed the tweet wasn't from him. “This appears to be part of a larger issue that Twitter is facing," a spokesperson for the billionaire said in a statement.
This is hardly the first time hackers have created mischief on Twitter. Just last year, the account of Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey was broken into a nd used to tweet racist and vulgar comments.
The latest security breach prompted Sen. Josh Hawley, a Missouri Republican, to send a letter to Dorsey urging him to work with the FBI and the Justice Department on ways to improve Twitter's security.
The World Health Organization (WHO) and the UN Children’s Fund, UNICEF, stressed the need for immediate efforts to vaccinate all children as the number of children receiving life-saving vaccines around the world has declined alarmingly.
.“Vaccines are one of the most powerful tools in the history of public health, and more children are now being immunized than ever before”, said Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the WHO Director-General on Wednesday, reports UN.
“But the pandemic has put those gains at risk. The avoidable suffering and death caused by children missing out on routine immunizations could be far greater than COVID-19 itself. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Vaccines can be delivered safely even during the pandemic, and we are calling on countries to ensure these essential life-saving programmes continue.”
Pandemic affecting access
Latest data from the sister UN agencies shows how the pandemic is jeopardizing improvements in vaccine expansion to more than 100 countries.
COVID-19 has put at least 30 measles vaccination campaigns at risk of cancellation worldwide, which could lead to further outbreaks this year and beyond.
A survey of 82 countries has revealed that three-quarters report disruptions in their immunization programmes related to the pandemic.
Even where services are offered, people cannot access them due to reasons such as reluctance to leave home, transport interruptions, economic hardship, movement restrictions, or fear of being exposed to people who have the disease.
Meanwhile, many health workers have been affected by travel restrictions, redeployment to COVID-19 response, and a lack of protective equipment.
Children missing out
The partners said for the first time in nearly 30 years, the world risks seeing a reduction in children receiving three doses of the vaccine against diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis, or whooping cough (DTP3): a marker for immunization coverage within and across countries.
Prior to the crisis, DTP3 and measles vaccines coverage was already stalling at 85 per cent, and a child born today has a less than 20 per cent chance of receiving all globally recommended vaccines by their fifth birthday.
Last year, nearly 14 million children missed out on these two vaccines and other life-saving inoculations. The majority live in Africa, and two-thirds are in 10 middle- and low-income countries that include Angola, Brazil, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia and India.
Hard-won gains at risk
The UN agencies further warn that the pandemic could undo progress in regions such as South Asia, where coverage for the third dose of DTP increased by 12 per cent over the past decade.
The situation is especially concerning for Latin America and the Caribbean, where “historically high” coverage has fallen during this same period.
“COVID-19 has made previously routine vaccination a daunting challenge”, said UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore.
“We must prevent a further deterioration in vaccine coverage and urgently resume vaccination programs before children’s lives are threatened by other diseases. We cannot trade one health crisis for another.”
Both WHO and UNICEF continue to support countries during the pandemic, including with restoring safe delivery of immunization services and providing protective equipment for health workers.
Other efforts are related to rectifying coverage gaps and expanding routine services to communities that have missed out, which are home to some of the most vulnerable children.
About 36,000 new coronavirus cases have been reported from California, Arizona, Texas and Florida on Wednesday amid restrictions aimed at combating the spread of the pandemic took hold in the United States and around the world in an unsettling sign reminiscent of the dark days of April.
The soaring counts of confirmed infections and a mounting death toll forced the mayor of Los Angeles to declare that the nation's second-largest city is on the verge of resorting to a shutdown of all but essential businesses.
Besides, California, Arizona, Florida and Texas reported a total of more than 450 new deaths. Alabama reported a pandemic-high one-day total of 40 deaths, and officials said the state will begin requiring face masks.
More school districts made plans to start the fall semester without on-site instruction, and the 2021 Rose Parade in California was canceled.
Other events went ahead undeterred. Thousands of auto-racing fans gathered at Bristol Motor Speedway in Tennessee for a NASCAR event. Officials allowed 30,000 at the track, and the event marked the largest sporting event since the pandemic began four months ago. Disney World moved forward with the rolling opening of its Florida theme parks.
According to a tally by Johns Hopkins University, more than 13 million coronavirus cases were confirmed worldwide, with over 580,000 deaths.
The actual numbers are thought to be far higher for a number of reasons, including limited testing.
In Texas, which again set a record for confirmed new cases, with nearly 10,800, Republican Gov. Greg Abbott has increasingly emphasized face coverings as the way to avoid another lockdown.
Montana Gov. Steve Bullock required masks at indoor public spaces and at larger outdoor gatherings in counties where four or more people are known to have COVID-19. The Democrat's order came as the state reported a record number of new confirmed cases.
In Ohio, Gov. Mike DeWine, who has faced criticism from fellow Republicans over business closures, gave a televised address with an emotional appeal to residents to make sacrifices to protect their neighbors. But he stopped short of mandating masks.
Among the sternest measures were in New York, where Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo added to a list totaling 22 states whose visitors will be required to quarantine for two weeks if they visit the tri-state region. Out-of-state travelers arriving in New York airports from those states face a $2,000 fine and a mandatory quarantine order if they fail to fill out a tracing form.
The broad reach of the virus has brought scrutiny to governors' decisions. Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt, a first-term Republican governor who has backed one of the country's most aggressive reopening plans, became the first U.S. governor to announce that he had tested positive for COVID-19. He plans to quarantine at home.
Stitt, who has resisted a statewide mandate on masks and rarely wears one himself, attended President Donald Trump’s rally in Tulsa last month, which health experts have said likely contributed to a surge in coronavirus cases there. Stitt said he’s confident he didn’t contract the virus at the gathering.
Florida surpassed 300,000 confirmed cases, reporting 10,181 new infections as its daily average death rate keeps rising. Major cities have required masks, but Gov. Ron DeSantis has declined to issue a statewide order, arguing that it's best decided and enforced locally.
Still, the Republican governor on Tuesday wore a mask while speaking publicly for the first time — at a roundtable news conference with Miami-Dade County mayors.
“We have broken single-day records several times this week, and there’s nothing about it that says we’re turning the corner or seeing light at the end of the tunnel. I don’t see that in the numbers," said Dr. Nicholas Namias, chief of trauma and surgical critical care at Jackson Memorial Hospital.
He said diminishing bed capacity is creating problems at the Miami medical center.
“We’re getting to the point where it’s going to be full. We have gridlock, and we won’t be able to take patients, and they’ll just be stacked in the ERs,” Namias said.
In Washington, a divided approach to the pandemic spilled into public view in extraordinary fashion, with trade adviser Peter Navarro panning Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert. Fauci called the criticism “nonsense” and “a bit bizarre.” Trump stepped in to referee, saying “we’re all on the same team.”
All travelers arriving in Greece from a land border with Bulgaria were required to carry negative coronavirus test results issued in the previous 72 hours. The new rules, which follow an increase in tourism-related COVID-19 cases, triggered an immediate drop in arrivals compared with recent days.
Romania, citing the rising number of infections, announced a 30-day extension of a nationwide state of alert. And residents of Australia’s second-largest city, Melbourne, were warned to comply with lockdown regulations or face tougher restrictions.
In Israel, officials warned that if infection numbers don’t dwindle in the coming days,they will have no choice but to lock down the entire country again, as it did in the spring.
South Africa is already showing signs of being overwhelmed by the pandemic — an ominous outlook for the rest of the continent of 1.3 billion people.
After four months, the Security Council held a meeting in –person on Tuesday at UN Headquarters in New York, the first of its kind since mid-March when COVID-19 forced the council to convene virtually.
The meeting was held in the Economic and Social Council Chamber instead of the Security Council Chamber, where the council usually meets.
"In light of recent developments regarding the containment of COVID-19 in New York, the UN Security Council together has decided to begin a gradual and phased shift toward in-person meetings here at the UN Headquarters, of course, while ensuring all health precautions," Christoph Heusgen, the German UN ambassador, told reporters before he presided over the Security Council meeting.
The change of venue is obviously out of the need for social distancing. The Security Council Chamber, with a horseshoe-shaped table in the center, is less desirable for such a purpose.
Participants of Tuesday's meeting were seated sparsely in a large circle in the Economic and Social Council Chamber, with many of them wearing face masks, live video feed shows.
Briefers who are currently not in New York delivered their statements via video teleconference.
Reporters were denied physical access to the Economic and Social Council Chamber. The restriction was "to minimize risk," said the UN Media Accreditation and Liaison Unit on Monday night.
Tuesday's meeting agenda was a heavy one. The council first adopted its annual report to the UN General Assembly before the adoption of two resolutions: one on the UN Mission to Support the Hodeidah Agreement, the other on youth and peace and security. The council then heard a briefing on the peace process in Colombia.
Heusgen, whose country holds the Security Council presidency for the month of July, said his delegation intends to have a few more in-person meetings before the end of July.
Heusgen said Tuesday's in-person meeting was the result of a unanimous decision of the 15 members of the Security Council.
He said he would discuss with other council members after Tuesday's meeting to see whether further in-person meetings would be arranged.
Germany's position is that Security Council meetings should go gradually in this direction, he said. "We were pushing, as the presidency, for this. We have everybody on board. And now I want to see how colleagues react. We haven't made any concrete plans. But to give you a German response: yes, we would like to have a few more meetings before the end of our presidency here at the UN Headquarters."
Heusgen said virtual meetings cannot replace in-person diplomacy. But he added that the safety of everyone involved is a priority. "We will continue to be very careful," he said.
The Security Council began to convene via video teleconference in mid-March after restrictive measures were implemented at UN Headquarters in New York in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The last in-person meeting of the Security Council was held on March 12. After that it had to shift to interim procedures for the conduct of its business, including how meetings are convened and how resolutions are adopted. No interpretation between languages was made available in the meetings via video teleconference.
In Tuesday's in-person meeting, several representatives were pleasantly surprised by the fact that they could speak their mother tongue in interventions.
mRNA-1273, an experimental COVID-19 vaccine, was generally well tolerated and prompted neutralising antibody activity in healthy adults, according to interim results published in The New England Journal of Medicine online on Tuesday.
The ongoing phase 1 trial is supported by the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the National Institutes of Health.
The experimental vaccine, co-developed by researchers at NIAID and U.S. biotech company Moderna, is designed to induce neutralizing antibodies directed at a portion of the coronavirus "spike" protein, which the virus uses to bind to and enter human cells.
The trial, led by Lisa Jackson of Kaiser Permanente Washington Health Research Institute in Seattle, was launched on March 16 when the first participant received the candidate vaccine.
The interim report detailed the initial findings from the first 45 participants aged 18-55 enrolled at the study sites in Seattle and at Emory University in Atlanta.
Three groups of 15 participants received two intramuscular injections, 28 days apart, of either 25, 100 or 250 micrograms of the investigational vaccine.
In April, the trial was expanded to enroll adults aged above 55, and it now has 120 participants.
No serious adverse events were reported, according to the study. More than half of the participants reported fatigue, headache, chills, myalgia or pain at the injection site. Systemic adverse events were more common following the second vaccination and in those who received the highest vaccine dose.
The interim analysis includes results of tests measuring levels of vaccine-induced neutralizing activity through day 43 after the second injection.
Two doses of the vaccine prompted high levels of neutralizing antibody activity that were above the average values seen in convalescent sera obtained from persons with confirmed COVID-19 disease, according to the study.
A Phase 2 clinical trial of mRNA-1273, sponsored by Moderna, began enrollment in late May.
Moderna plans to begin its final phase of testing for the vaccine on July 27.