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UK PM Boris Johnson Will Be Republic Day Chief Guest

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Prime Minister Boris Johnson has accepted India’s invitation to be the chief guest at Republic Day on January 26 – the second UK prime minister to attend the event after John Major in 1993 – and has invited India to join the UK’s G7 summit next year.

Downing Street announced on Tuesday that Johnson will travel to India in January 2021 to strengthen a key strategic relationship which supports jobs and investment across the UK as part of his first major bilateral visit since taking office, and the first since the UK’s departure from the EU.

An official spokesperson said the trip will kick off a significant year for ‘Global Britain’, when the UK will host both the G7 Leaders’ Meeting and COP26 Summits, as well as a global education conference aied at getting girls into school, and an event to mark the first meeting of the UN General Assembly in London in 1946.

Johnson has written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi to accept his invitation, and to invite India to attend the UK’s G7 Summit as one of three guest nations alongside South Korea and Australia, as part of Johnson’s ambition to work with a group of like-minded democracies to advance shared interests and tackle common challenges.

The Prime Minister will use his visit to India to boost our cooperation in areas that matter to the UK and that will be priorities for our international engagement throughout 2021 – from trade and investment, to defence and security, and health and climate change”, a statement said, adding that the visit underlines his commitment to step up the UK’s engagement with the Indo-Pacific region.

The UK and India are significant investors and markets for each other’s economies and our growing trade and investment relationship is worth around £24 billion a year, supporting more than half a million jobs.

There are 842 Indian companies in the UK with a combined turnover of £41.2 billion, creating jobs in all four corners of the United Kingdom.

That includes 19,500 people employed by Tata Consulting Services at sites including Peterborough, Liverpool, and Edinburgh; around 5,700 people in Warrington, Derby, Cardiff, Derry/Londonderry and Belfast working for business support firm Firstsource Solutions – which is soon to open a new office in Middlesbrough; and 1,200 people employed by Accord Healthcare Ltd in Newcastle and Barnstaple to manufacture and supply medicines to the NHS.

Johnson said: “I am absolutely delighted to be visiting India next year at the start of an exciting year for Global Britain, and look forward to delivering the quantum leap in our bilateral relationship that Prime Minister Modi and I have pledged to achieve”.

“As a key player in the Indo-Pacific region, India is an increasingly indispensable partner for the United Kingdom as we work to boost jobs and growth, confront shared threats to our security and protect our planet.”

The statement said that as the ‘pharmacy of the world’ India supplies more than 50% of the world’s vaccines, with over a billion doses of the UK’s Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine being manufactured at the Serum Institute in Pune.

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Priests and monks abducted in Haiti have been released

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HAITI – The remaining Catholic clergy who were kidnapped in Haiti earlier in April have been released, a missionary group said Friday.

The Society of Priests of Saint Jacques said the clergy were freed but did not say if a ransom had been paid.

A total of 10 people were abducted in Croix-des-Bouquets, a town northeast of the capital Port-au-Prince, on April 11, including the seven clergy — three of whom have already been released.

The clergy members were a group of four priests and a nun from Haiti, as well as one priest and one nun from France. The three non-clergy were members of the family of a Haitian priest, who was not among those kidnapped.

“Our hearts are filled with joy because we have found our colleagues, the sisters and the family members of Father Jean Anel Joseph in good health,” the missionary society said in a statement, without specifying whether a ransom has been paid.

Haiti, the poorest country in the Americas, is plagued by insecurity and natural disasters.

Kidnappings for ransom have surged in recent months in Port-au-Prince and other provinces, reflecting the growing influence of armed gangs in the Caribbean nation.

Haiti’s government resigned and a new prime minister was appointed in the wake of the kidnappings, a move President Jovenel Moise said “will make it possible to address the glaring problem of insecurity and continue discussions with a view to reaching the consensus necessary for the political and institutional stability of our country.”

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New Jersey Government with the announced  give free beer to Covid vaccine recipients

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New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy on Monday announced a new bid to boost coronavirus vaccinations: Receive your first dose in May and get a free beer.

“We’re not going to be afraid to try new things,” Murphy said as he unveiled the new program, dubbed “Shot and a Beer,” at a press briefing.

Thirteen New Jersey-based breweries are participating in the program — which is only available to state residents ages 21 years and older, Murphy specified.

Those New Jerseyans will have to show their vaccine cards as proof before receiving their reward, the Democratic governor said.

The breweries themselves are footing the bill for the free drinks, said Murphy, who suggested more beer-makers could soon be added to the list.

The breweries currently participating are: Battle River Brewing, Bradley Beer Project, Bolero Snort Brewing Company, Brix City Brewing Company, Carton Brewing Company, Flounder Brewing Company, Flying Fish Brewing Company, Gaslight Brewery and Restaurant, Hackensack Brewing Company, Kane Brewing Company, Little Dog Brewing Company, Magnify Brewing Company and River Horse Brewing Company.

The program came from the New Jersey Department of Health in partnership with the Brewer’s Guild of New Jersey.

The Garden State is hardly the first to propose an outside-the-box incentive for people to get vaccinated.

West Virginia’s Republican Gov. Jim Justice last week announced an initiative to give $100 savings bonds to younger state residents who get vaccinated.

Connecticut is offering its own alcoholic incentive with its “Drinks On Us” campaign: Residents who get fully vaccinated and show their vaccine cards at certain restaurants will score a free drink between May 19 and May 31.

Incentive or no, vaccine rates are rising. More than 29% of the U.S. population is fully vaccinated, according to Johns Hopkins University, and cases and deaths from Covid are on the decline.

But a significant number of Americans say they are not willing to get vaccinated. A Monmouth University poll published in mid-April found that about 1-in-5 Americans say they won’t get the shot.

That’s prompting health officials and leaders at every level of government to urge more people to seek out and receive their vaccinations.

The “Shot and a Beer” campaign is just one piece of New Jersey’s broader slate of programs aimed at returning the state to a more normal summer as the fight against the pandemic continues.

Murphy announced the free-beer plan after detailing the “Grateful for the Shot” initiative, which makes it possible for congregants to go from religious services directly to vaccination sites.

It’s “perhaps at the other end of the spectrum” of incentives, Murphy said.

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