Entera Bio Announces Publication of Phase 2 Hypoparathyroidism Study in the Journal of Bone and Mineral Research

"' EB612 When Added to Standard of Care Led to a Statistically Significant Decrease in Supplemental Calcium Usage ""

"' Oral Human Parathyroid Hormone (1–34) Has the Potential to Have a Major Impact on Compliance, Adherence, Therapeutic Impact and Quality of Life for Patients ""

BOSTON and JERUSALEM, Feb. 25, 2021 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Entera Bio Ltd. (NASDAQ: ENTX), a leader in the development of orally delivered large molecule therapeutics, announced today the publication of the results of its previously completed Phase 2a study of EB612 in the Journal of Bone and Mineral Research. The article, titled "Safety and Efficacy of Oral Human Parathyroid Hormone (1–34) in Hypoparathyroidism: An Open–Label Study," discussed the results of the four–month study in which EB612 was evaluated in 2015 as an adjunct to standard calcium and vitamin D supplement treatment in patients with hypoparathyroidism (HypoPT). EB612, an oral human parathyroid hormone (1–34) (PTH), has received Orphan Drug designation from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the European Medicines Agency for the treatment of HypoPT.

The Phase 2a study demonstrated the safety and tolerability of EB612 administered four times daily for 16 weeks to patients with HypoPT. The study achieved its primary and secondary endpoints, including a reduction in calcium supplements, reductions in serum phosphate and 24–hour urine calcium excretion, maintenance of albumin–adjusted serum calcium (ACa) within the reference range, and an improvement in quality of life. Specific results of this trial included:

  • A significant reduction of 42% (p=0.001) from baseline in median calcium supplement use;
  • Maintenance of median ACa levels above the lower target level for HypoPT patients (>7.5 mg/dL) throughout the study;
  • A rapid decline of 23% (p=0.0003) in median serum phosphate levels 2 hours following the first dose that was maintained within the normal range for the duration of the study;
  • A notable median decrease of 21% (p=0.07) in 24–hour urine calcium excretion between the first and last treatment days; and
  • An increase in quality of life score of 5% (p=0.03) from baseline by the end of the treatment period.

In this study, patients were titrated up to a maximum of 12 EB612 0.75 mg tablets a day (total daily dose of 9 mg) by the investigator, according to each subject's ACa, and supplement treatment regimen. Of the 19 enrolled subjects, 17 completed the trial (of which 15 were per protocol). No drug–related serious adverse events were reported and most of the adverse events were not considered study drug–related.

"The publication of our Phase 2a EB612 study results in this leading peer–reviewed journal support our HypoPT development program and the value of our platform technology. The availability of an oral PTH is expected to improve compliance, as well as therapeutic impact and may offer patients with HypoPT a much–needed alternative to the currently available parathyroid hormone replacement therapy options which are administered via daily injections. We are currently working on improved formulations of EB612 and the design of the next clinical trial which we expect to initiate in 2022," stated Entera CEO Spiros Jamas. "In addition, through the use of our previously announced at–the–market equity program, we have continued to strengthen our balance sheet in the first quarter of 2021, and we are now funded into the fourth quarter of 2021."

The full peer–reviewed publication will be available on Entera's website once the final article is released for publication and can be found here.

About Hypoparathyroidism

Hypoparathyroidism (HypoPT) is a rare condition in which the body produces insufficient amounts of parathyroid hormone. Individuals with HypoPT typically exhibit abnormally low levels of calcium in the blood (hypocalcemia), and high levels of phosphate in the blood (hyperphosphatemia). They also develop increased urine calcium (hypercalciuria). HypoPT is estimated to affect approximately 77,000 individuals in the United States. Historically, the treatments for HypoPT have been calcium supplements and active vitamin D (calcitriol or alfacalcidol). Phosphate binders that inhibit phosphate absorption and thiazide diuretics that reduce urine calcium are occasionally added. It is often difficult to titrate the dose of both calcium supplements and active vitamin D to reduce symptoms of hypocalcemia without producing increased urine calcium or hypercalcemia with tissue calcification during chronic use, which can result in kidney injury and significant healthcare costs. Moreover, the high doses of calcium supplements may produce stomach and gastrointestinal symptoms as well as other symptoms that negatively affect a patient's quality of life. A once–daily, injectable form of parathyroid hormone has been approved by the FDA and EMA for the treatment of hypocalcemia in patients with HypoPT.

About Entera Bio

Entera is a leader in the development of orally delivered large molecule therapeutics for use in areas with significant unmet medical need where adoption of injectable therapies is limited due to cost, convenience and compliance challenges for patients. The Company's proprietary, oral drug delivery technology is designed to address the technical challenges of poor absorption, high variability, and the inability to deliver large molecules to the targeted location in the body through the use of a synthetic absorption enhancer to facilitate the absorption of large molecules, and protease inhibitors to prevent enzymatic degradation and support delivery to targeted tissues. The Company's most advanced product candidates, EB613 for the treatment of osteoporosis and EB612 for the treatment of hypoparathyroidism are in Phase 2 clinical development. Entera also licenses its technology to biopharmaceutical companies for use with their proprietary compounds and, to date, has established a collaboration with Amgen Inc. For more information on Entera Bio, visit www.enterabio.com.

Forward Looking Statements

Various statements in this release are "forward–looking statements" under the securities laws. Words such as, but not limited to, "anticipate," "believe," "can," "could," "expect," "estimate," "design," "goal," "intend," "may," "might," "objective," "plan," "predict," "project," "target," "likely," "should," "will," and "would," or the negative of these terms and similar expressions or words, identify forward–looking statements. Forward–looking statements are based upon current expectations that involve risks, changes in circumstances, assumptions and uncertainties. Forward–looking statements should not be read as a guarantee of future performance or results and may not be accurate indications of when such performance or results will be achieved.

Important factors that could cause actual results to differ materially from those reflected in Entera's forward–looking statements include, among others: changes in our interpretation of the interim data from the ongoing Phase 2 clinical trial of EB613, the timing of data readouts from the ongoing Phase 2 clinical trial of EB613, unexpected changes in our ongoing and planned preclinical development and clinical trials, the timing of and our ability to make regulatory filings and obtain and maintain regulatory approvals for our product candidates; a possible suspension of the Phase 2 clinical trial of EB613 for clinical or data–related reasons; the impact of COVID–19 on Entera's business operations including the ability to collect the necessary data from the Phase 2 trial of EB613; the potential disruption and delay of manufacturing supply chains, loss of available workforce resources, either by Entera or its collaboration and laboratory partners, due to travel restrictions, lay–offs or forced closures or repurposing of hospital facilities; impacts to research and development or clinical activities that Entera is contractually obligated to provide, such as pursuant to Entera's agreement with Amgen; overall regulatory timelines, if the FDA or other authorities are closed for prolonged periods, choose to allocate resources to review of COVID–19 related drugs or believe that the amount of Phase 2 clinical data collected are insufficient to initiate a Phase 3 trial, or a meaningful deterioration of the current political, legal and regulatory situation in Israel or the United States; the availability, quality and timing of the data from the Phase 2 clinical trial of EB613 in osteoporosis patients; the ability find a dose that demonstrates the comparability of EB613 to FORTEO in the ongoing Phase 2 clinical trial of EB613; the size and growth of the potential market for EB613 and Entera's other product candidates including any possible expansion of the market if an orally delivered option is available in addition to an injectable formulation; the results of formulation development work on EB612 the impact on future clinical trials, the scope, progress and costs of developing Entera's product candidates including EB612 and GLP–2; Entera's reliance on third parties to conduct its clinical trials; Entera's expectations regarding licensing, business transactions and strategic collaborations; Entera's operation as a development stage company with limited operating history; Entera's ability to continue as a going concern absent access to sources of liquidity; Entera's expectations regarding its expenses, revenue, cash resources, liquidity and financial condition; Entera's ability to raise additional capital; Entera's interpretation of FDA feedback and guidance and how such guidance may impact its clinical development plans; Entera's ability to obtain and maintain regulatory approval for any of its product candidates; Entera's ability to comply with Nasdaq's minimum listing standards and other matters related to compliance with the requirements of being a public company in the United States; Entera's intellectual property position and its ability to protect its intellectual property; and other factors that are described in the "Special Note Regarding Forward–Looking Statements," "Risk Factors" and "Management's Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations" sections of Entera's annual and current filings which are on file with the SEC and available free of charge on the SEC's website at http://www.sec.gov. Additional factors may be set forth in those sections of Entera's Quarterly Report on Form 6–K for the quarter ended September 30, 2020, filed with the SEC in the fourth quarter of 2020. In addition to the risks described above and in Entera's annual report on Form 20–F and current reports on Form 6–K and other filings with the SEC, other unknown or unpredictable factors also could affect Entera's results. There can be no assurance that the actual results or developments anticipated by Entera will be realized or, even if substantially realized, that they will have the expected consequences to, or effects on, Entera. Therefore, no assurance can be given that the outcomes stated in such forward–looking statements and estimates will be achieved.

All written and verbal forward–looking statements attributable to Entera or any person acting on its behalf are expressly qualified in their entirety by the cautionary statements contained or referred to herein. Entera cautions investors not to rely too heavily on the forward–looking statements Entera makes or that are made on its behalf. The information in this release is provided only as of the date of this release, and Entera undertakes no obligation, and specifically declines any obligation, to update or revise publicly any forward–looking statements, whether as a result of new information, future events or otherwise.

Lebanon: A Lion Pit for Journalism

By Cendrella Azar
BEIRUT, Lebanon, Feb 25 2021 – Our deadliest nightmare is back: Political assassinations in Lebanon is back with the horrific murder of Luqman Slim, a vocal critic of Hezbollah. Slim’s assassination is the first killing of a high-profile activist and outspoken journalist in years. What do the political assassinations in Lebanon tell us about the history of this country?

Lebanon, the Sectarian Pie

People are often baffled by Lebanon’s complex governing system. This small country was always subjected to sectarian tensions, where different sects historically competed for power. Those ancient tensions had disastrous consequences dragging the country into 15 years of a bloody civil war. In 1989, the Taif agreement ended the war and ensured that this pie, Lebanon, is equally divided among the different sects. Everyone must have a slice of the pie. This fragile power sharing system, led to fragile peace and turned Lebanon in to a victim of political, social and economic paralysis.

State of Freedom of Speech in Lebanon

Free speech has the lion’s share when it comes to hardships in Lebanon. Reporting on issues of public interest, including government policies and legislation and providing unbiased information to the public subjected journalists to intimidation, harassment and violence. In the Lebanese scene, the space for freedom of expression and independent media is dwindling. Attacks on journalists and those who try to shape opinions are seldom investigated and offenders rarely brought to justice. Arbitrary detentions, and kidnappings, ill-treatment and other forms of terrorization are forcing journalists to retreat in the midst of the absence of effective safety training, laws and judiciary measures.

Why are Lebanese Journalists in Danger?

Samir Skayni, a Lebanese journalist who authored the books “Once Upon a Sunday” describe the many aspects of the Lebanese civil war and its aftermath, highlighted in exclusive comments to IPS, the reasons for Lebanese journalists being under threat: “Journalists are at risk in Lebanon given the fields of their interventions, in other words, the sensitive files that they tackle. Journalists are filling the void caused by the reluctance of security and judicial forces to take actions. In addition, when criticizing, any file will certainly affect parties due to the network of clienteles relations and overlapping of parties’ interests within state sectors. Journalists are additionally at risk due to the affiliation of the judiciary sector to political parties, these threats take their toll and enter the realm of benefit without being deterred.” Skayni also defined political assassinations stating: “In principle, political assassinations are rejected. An assassination aims at eliminating an opponent or an enemy. Often, in the Lebanese case, the “opponent” is usually unarmed. The victim is generally opposing the ruling authorities. In those cases, assassinations are not acceptable. Yet, the concept of assassinations is seen as an act of resistance, if the opponent is armed and inflicting hardships on groups and communities.”

Weak Laws & Absent Syndicate

Today, the existing press syndicate headed by Aouni Al-Kaaki, represents nothing but the interest of the political elites. All of the journalists and the media workers’ demands are effectively falling on deaf ears. No serious actions have been taken to improve the state of the press, especially in an era where the press freedom in Lebanon is “partially free” according to the Freedom House. In the face of all the assaults, the syndicate was nothing but an idle bystander.

Speaking to IPS, Lebanese civil activist and member of Lihaqqi group Pierre Khoury, stated: “It feels like the Big Brother is watching us. We have reached unprecedented and alarming levels of repression.” He added: “The National Audiovisual Council in Lebanon is completely biased. A few days ago, all TV Station chiefs were summoned to stand before the Council following Journalist Dima Sadek’s episode which tackled the assassination of Louqman Slim.” When asked about potential solutions, Khoury revealed “The solution is to abolish the Ministry of Information. The law does not provide the essential needed protection for journalists, but rather, it transfers any “disturbing” opinion to trial through the Publications Law. Laws are restricting freedom of expression.”

Chrystine Mhanna, Communication and Advocacy officer at the Lebanese Center for Human Rights (CLDH), stated to IPS that the present laws are insufficient. Mhanna said: “the laws are not sufficient, or we would have seen accountability taking place when it comes to assassinations or illegal prosecutions. Alternatives could include having independent investigations when it comes to freedom of expression cases, respecting human rights treaties, having clear policies when it comes to freedom of expression through digital platforms and ensuring that summons and procedures are legal when someone is called for investigation.” Mhanna added, “In a democratic country, freedom of expression laws should only limit hate speech, harm, slander and libel when an actual harm is done, not when the opposing opinion doesn’t appease the authority”.

Silenced Voices, Stolen Justice

Media is a traditional agent of social change; it has the power to influence people and shape opinions and attitudes. Media is a also a contributor to values and beliefs and when the media is controlled, the access of the public to information and facts are limited. Consequently, democracy and social justice are doomed. Lebanon is no longer considered as a bastion of freedoms in this region that is filled with censorship and oppression; the country has joined neighboring states in exercising oppression, crushing protests using violence. The right of journalists to execute their work within a safe environment, without facing extensive forms of harassment, attacks and even being killed is a topic of great importance. Today more than ever we ask: When will this nation finally celebrate Justice?


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UN Peacebuilding Commission must Prioritise Protecting Youth Activists Facing Retaliation

Swedish teen activist Greta Thunberg has faced massive backlash for supporting the Indian farmers’ protests. (File photo) Credit: Anders Hellberg/CC BY-SA 4.0

Swedish teen activist Greta Thunberg has faced massive backlash for supporting the Indian farmers’ protests. (File photo) Credit: Anders Hellberg/CC BY-SA 4.0

By Samira Sadeque
UNITED NATIONS, Feb 25 2021 – The United Nations Peacebuilding Commission must prioritise the protection of youth activists who face retaliation from state and non-state actors, said UN Youth Envoy Jayathma Wickramanayake.

Wickramanayake was speaking at the Peacebuilding Commission high-level virtual meeting on Youth, Peace and Security, where she outlined numerous ways the commission can assist youth activists around the world — especially with their grassroots efforts.

“I hope you will consider including young people in your delegation to building commissions, consult young people in your own countries to input to your work and, most importantly, ensure the protection of young people who you decide to engage with as we have seen many incidents of retaliation against young activists by state and non-state actors for simply deciding to speak up and working with the UN,” Wickramanayake, from Sri Lanka, told the commisison.

Other speakers at the event included Mohamed Edrees, chair of the Peacebuilding Commission, Allwell O. Akhigbe of Building Blocks for Peace Foundation in Nigeria and Oscar Fernández-Taranco, UN Assistant Secretary-General for Peacebuilding Support.

Wickramanayake comments come when youth activists are facing attacks and harassment online and offline. Swedish teen activist Greta Thunberg has faced massive backlash for supporting the Indian farmers’ protests, while Indian youth activist Disha Ravi was arrested because of her activism in support of the protests.

Wickramanayake further highlighted the importance of acknowledging and promoting local grassroots organisations working in the field of youth peacebuilding.

“Young people around the world are building national coalitions, conducting baseline studies and monitoring efforts in support of youth-led peacebuilding,” she said.

She added that these organisations require “adequate, predictable and sustained” financing to thrive but this was yet to be explored.

“I would like to challenge this commission today to consider what the peacebuilding commission can do to encourage this critical support and resources at the local level where they are actually making a big difference,” she said.

Wickramanayake recommended that the commission should not only support a “substantial increase in the financial resources” for peace and security, but it should also make sure that the resources go directly to youth working on “homegrown building strategies”. 

Mia Franczesca D. Estipona, from the Generation Peace Youth Network in the Philippines, also shared the importance of involving youth who are directly affected by issues such as conflict.

“In creating facilities for youth projects and capacity building for support, we must make an effort to directly engage with youths in areas affected by conflict, understand their work and how it contributes back to the community,” Estipona said. “This is highly important especially for community-based youths who have programmes and projects but cannot be sustained due to lack of access to funding and support.” 

Both Estipona and Wickramanayake emphasised the importance of representation and being inclusive of marginalised youths or those whose stories are often left behind.

Wickramanayake highlighted the work of a colleague who promotes the voices of youth with disabilities and had reportedly briefed the Security Council on the situation in the Central African Republic by broadcasting the issue of youth, peace and security in sign language.

“[Their] organisation removes barriers limiting the participation of young people with disabilities in peacebuilding, actively mobilising the deaf community to act on Resolution 2250,” she said, referring to the UN Security Council Youth, Peace & Security thematic resolution that deals with the topic of youth from an international peace and security perspective.

Meanwhile, Estipona pointed out: “Many youth organisations have established strong programmes that truly represent and attend to youth who are in areas affected by conflict – their voices are most left behind.”

“We should pursue representation that truly represents and focuses on the collective efforts of youth as a community — and as a sector of society, not just as a different individual,” she said.

Other speakers at the event agreed with both Wickramanayake and Estipona.

Ambassador Rabab Fatima, the Permanent Representative of Bangladesh to the UN, said that it’s crucial to address the “distinct needs” of the youth as the world recovers from the coronavirus pandemic.

She highlighted the importance of access to education, sufficient funding, and including youth participation in peacebuilding as part of the “broader national policy framework”. 

Estipona said the engagement of the youth must be sustained in various stages of the process of peacebuilding: consultation, crafting, implementation and monitoring.

“Continuity of these efforts is still a challenge because they are constantly shifting priorities of stakeholders and leadership,” she said.

In offering recommendations on how to strengthen youth participation and involvement, Wickramanayake said there must be a periodic review of the efforts to increase engagement with young people.

“Accountability is key,” she said, “[we] want to hear your strategic plan. Also think beyond security and think about the intersection of peace, sustainable development, and human rights.” 

She also urged leaders to “walk the talk” – and prioritise the development of dedicated local, national and regional road maps and action plans.


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A Growing Shift in the Narrative about Climate Action

Forest women in Anantagiri forest in the south-east of India check out their solar dryer. (file photo) There is a growing shift and awareness in mainstream political, corporate and public debate about the need for climate action. Credit: Stella Paul/IPS.

Forest women in Anantagiri forest in the south-east of India check out their solar dryer. (file photo) There is a growing shift and awareness in mainstream political, corporate and public debate about the need for climate action. Credit: Stella Paul/IPS.

By Samira Sadeque
UNITED NATIONS, Feb 25 2021 – A keen awareness about the intersection of our ecosystem and the “accelerating destabilisation of the climate” is helping shift the narrative for climate action and can help us transition from being polluters to becoming protectors of the climate, said Marco Lambertini, Director General at the World Wide Fund for Nature.

“Science has never been clearer. We are currently witnessing a catastrophic decline in our planet’s ecosystems and biodiversity, and an accelerating destabilisation of the climate. And today we also understand that the two are interconnected,” Lambertini told IPS. “This isn’t in fact new.”

Lambertini spoke to IPS following the Fifth Session of the United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA-5) which took place this week, with the launch of the “Medium-Term Strategy” by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP).

Over two days, world leaders gathered virtually to discuss climate sustainability and how deeply the coronavirus pandemic worsened the current climate crisis.

“Humanity continues to misappropriate nature, commoditise it, destroy it,” Keriako Tobiko, the Cabinet Secretary for the Ministry of Environment and Forestry, Kenya, said on Monday. “The consequences of our actions are obvious – we’re paying a heavy price for that.”

Indian environmental activist Afroz Shah, a UNEP Champion of the Earth, said during UNEA-5 that leaders must go beyond talk and ensure implementation of measures to protect the environment.

“There must be a paradigm shift in the narrative, to go from being a polluter to a protector,” he said, urging leaders to make sure this message was given to every citizen.

Lambertini told IPS this “shift” in the narrative was already happening.

“What is new is that this awareness is beginning to reach mainstream political, corporate and public debate,” Lambertini added. “The narrative is also shifting. Conserving nature is not only being seen as an ecological and moral issue, but also an economic, development, health and equity issue. This is a true cultural revolution in our civilisation.”

Lambertini’s insight complemented what was said during UNEA-5.

Inger Andersen, Executive Director of UNEP, said during the assembly that a “green recovery” from the COVID-19 pandemic would be a step in the right direction of implementing changes to protect the environment.

Tackling environmental sustainability was, after all, another means to ending poverty, she said.

“We need to start putting words into action after UNEA-5 and that means backing a green recovery from the pandemic, stronger and national determined contributions to the Paris Agreement, more funding for adaptation, agreeing on an ambitious and implementable post-2020 biodiversity framework, and a new progress on plastic pollution,” Andersen said.

Meelis Münt, Estonia’s Secretary General of the Ministry of the Environment, echoed Andersen’s point.

“We are confident that a green and digital transition will support our post-pandemic recovery,” he said, adding Estonia aims to achieve climate neutrality by 2050, with their government’s plans to “lead the production of solid coastal fuel based electricity by 2035”.

Other speakers at UNEA-5 included ministers from Kenya, Brazil, Jamaica and Malawi, among others, many of whom shared the initiatives their countries were implementing to protect the environment.

Marcus Henrique Morais Paranaguá, Brazil’s Deputy Minister for Climate and International Relations, pointed out that for Brazilians it was a unique situation where development and preservation of the Amazon forest had to be balanced.

“The Amazon forest alone occupies 49 percent of our territory and over 60 percent of our territory is covered today with natural vegetation,” he said. “Brazil must implement innovative public policy to balance nature conservation and the promotion of sustainable development.”

Pearnel Charles Jr., Jamaica’s Minister of Housing, Urban Renewal, Environment and Climate Change, shared that his country’s government was in the process of updating their climate change policy so that it complemented the Paris Agreement. He added that Jamaica’s administration also increased its “emissions reduction ambition,” and was implementing a tree planting initiative to reduce biodiversity loss. 

Tobiko of Kenya said a big milestone for the country was banning single-use plastic in public conservation areas. Kenya has recently been acknowledged and applauded for its successful fight against single use plastic.   

“We cannot afford another lost decade for biodiversity,” Lambertini told IPS. “Many ecosystems like coral reefs and tropical forests are heading towards tipping points and one million species are now threatened with extinction.”

“If we are to collectively survive and thrive, particularly in this COVID-19 pandemic, we must take the opportunity to review, reevaluate and possibly reinvent in charting the most sustainable way forward,” Charles Jr. said.

Overall, Lambertini was hopeful, citing a heightened awareness of climate justice among activists, and the fact that nature conservation was now seen as an economic, health and equity issue.

“We need clarity and alignment, to create a level playing field, and a north star/southern cross able to unite governments, businesses, investors and consumers around the ambition science demands,” he told IPS. “Only in this way we will meet the challenge to transition to an equitable, nature-positive and net-zero carbon world and forums like UNEA-5 must pave the way for these commitments and more importantly, concrete actions.”

FXCM Stock Baskets Traders Go Big on BIOTECH and ESPORTS in January

LONDON and SYDNEY, Australia and JOHANNESBURG, South Africa, Feb. 25, 2021 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — FXCM Group, LLC (“FXCM Group” or “FXCM”), the leading international provider of online foreign exchange trading, CFD trading and related services, is today releasing the volume increases for the month of January in its proprietary stock basket product line.

FXCM's stock basket products combine the shares of multiple companies from one sector into a single tradeable instrument. This allows customers to speculate on sectors as a whole instead of having to select a single company. FXCM now boosts a portfolio of thirteen stock baskets.

For the 5th month in a row, FAANG continues to be the most popular traded stock basket at FXCM, as the Cannabis and Chinese Technology baskets were the best performing sectors.

On the back of the news surrounding global vaccinations, the Biotechnology basket along with the Esports and Gaming baskets have seen the biggest comparative monthly jumps in FXCM client interest in early 2021 vs December 2020.

The list of companies and weightings is available on FXCM's stock basket website (https://www.fxcm.com/markets/stock–baskets/)

Volume Rank Sector Symbol Jan Price Change1 Monthly Change in FXCM Volume2
1 Big US Tech FAANG –0.50% 55.32%
2 Biotech BIOTECH 1.90% 364.42%
3 Chinese E–Commerce CHN.ECOMM 1.98% –29.87%
4 Cannabis CANNABIS 35.02% 42.40%
5 Chinese Tech CHN.TECH 24.80% 75.26%
6 Esports & Gaming ESPORTS –2.87% 628.38%
7 Airlines AIRLINES –2.96% –33.29%
8 US–Ecommerce US.ECOMM 7.20% 71.56%
9 Travel and Hospitality TRAVEL –7.29% 230.10%
10 US Banks US.BANKS 0.56% –74.36%
11 Casinos CASINOS –6.04% 67.12%
12 Work From Home WFH 4.18% –17.67%
13 US Automotive US.AUTO 8.93% 76.95%

Past Performance is not an indicator of future results.
1 Price change figures are calculated using FXCM's opening bid price from 4 January 2021 and the closing price from 29 January 2021.
2 Percent change month–over–month (December 2020 vs. January 2021) is derived from FXCM client volume data.

About FXCM:

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Energy Crisis: Tribal Behavior or Quality Decisions Based on Conscious Trade-Offs?

Energy Crises, as the one we saw across the US and Mexico last week originated by Winter Storm Uri, provide ample material for reflection

The blackouts and shortages in Texas, paradoxically an energy hub, raise first of all empathy for those affected, as this situation brings to the fore in a vivid way something already well understood: the central role that energy plays. Credit: Bigstock.

By Marta Jara
MONTEVIDEO, Feb 25 2021 – Crises, as the one we saw across the US and Mexico last week originated by Winter Storm Uri, provide ample material for reflection. This is particularly clear from a distant viewpoint and when benefitting from the fact of not being directly affected, as strong emotions and reactions that often bias our judgements are absent.

While biases make us efficient decision makers in our day-to-day lives, when tackling complex problems with serious consequences, it is the efficacy of decision making that counts. Developing awareness of relevant decision biases and means to neutralize them is increasingly a key competency in the energy industry as it is in the modern business world.

The basic attributes of a sound energy system: abundance, security and affordability. Abundance means to have a pool of energy that is available in a way that does not restrict our activities and development. Security means that the flow is not vulnerable to interruptions of whatever manner

The blackouts and shortages in Texas, paradoxically an energy hub, where many of our readers might live, have friends or colleagues, raise first of all empathy for those affected, as this situation brings to the fore in a vivid way something already well understood: the central role that energy plays. Our modern lives simply cannot tolerate blackouts, let alone going without power and heat for days.

But, perhaps most importantly, we are reminded of the basic attributes of a sound energy system: abundance, security and affordability. Abundance means to have a pool of energy that is available in a way that does not restrict our activities and development. Security means that the flow is not vulnerable to interruptions of whatever manner: technical, political, meteorological, etc.

For the system to be secure, both availability of supply and infrastructure need to be resilient, be it by intrinsic robustness, diversification, redundancies, or intangible elements like trust between participating counterparts.

Affordability means that economic access to energy is broadly granted. It is of course a relative term, which takes different meanings, whether it is applied to a context of persons’ basic needs or businesses competitiveness.

There is another aspect, yet to achieve the same attention as the other three, and it is environmental performance. When externalities, like CO2 emissions, are properly brought into the price of energy, this attribute must be considered in a discussion of affordability.

The crisis of last week brings us back to the core issue of trade-offs that have to be considered as part of any energy solution. Every society needs to find the right ones to balance these often conflicting system’s attributes (e.g. more redundancy might mean more cost).

This is the job of elected officials. But their job pretty much ends there. Once the preferences are laid out, it becomes a technical job to oversee how the system is designed and to what standards it is constructed and operated.

That is what technical operators and regulators do. The case in hand shows (not exceptionally) the blame pointed towards every moving target and exposes the confusion (perhaps deliberate) around roles and responsibilities in energy governance.

What the clear separation of roles forces to do is to explicitly state risk tolerance and policy objectives. Not doing so, inevitably pushes the policy decisions into an opaque space, where industry and other lobbies find it easier to force their way.

Setting these boundary conditions for a system design a priori is not a natural exercise for politicians, as talking about trade-offs is not an easy task. The public expects to minimize compromise. In Spanish there’s an expression for the ideal product: “bueno, bonito y barato” (good, beautiful and cheap) and it is almost synonymous to utopia.

But ignoring the boundaries of reality when adopting a strategy might be more painful down the road than it is rolling up the sleeves and embarking on a conscientious discussion in the first place.

As behavioral sciences are being deployed to support complex human interactions ranging from market dynamics to policy making and politics, energy professionals also need to think more of how cognitive biases are affecting our industry.

The avoidance of conflict described above can be characterized by the so called “ostrich bias” (discarding uncomfortable information, similarly to an ostrich digging its head into the sand as if by not seeing a threat it would disappear).

There are many frequent decision-making and behavioral biases that can be observed in relation to the Texas crisis, that seem to be clouding stakeholders and public judgement. Not only the posts in social media, as expected, but also institutional statements coming from senior officials provide many examples.

Discarding information (the still minor share of wind energy in Texas energy mix and the factually higher impact from natural gas supply disruption) in order to confirm one’s own beliefs (in this case in favor of fossil fuels) is a textbook case.

Confirmation biases go then beyond energy choices to validate perceptions of who are villains and heroes according to one’s affiliations. Polarized societies nurture confirmation bias.

Another typical bias is the Outcome bias: to judge a decision by its outcome instead of based on its quality. If the decision to not winterize certain equipment was sound in terms of risk tolerance and costs, it is still sound when an undesired or even extreme event hits, as it means its probability has been assessed but not considered a design condition.

Or the contrary decision, to spend more on resilience, was the right one and had to be defended at investment time with the same passion as the blame is voiced today. Of course, there is always political credit to be gained when things turn badly and hence failures are usually opportunistically stressed instead of being judged against the original decision criteria. So, outcome bias is also nurtured in the public debate.

Thinking more broadly about decision biases, especially relevant at times of technology disruption and energy transition, is a whole category described in the context of Prospect Theory. This theory asserts that it is natural to be attached to the status quo, to justify the incumbent system and to be averse to dispose of assets that decline in value.

No doubt, financial write-offs are not without certain embarrassment. ESG (Environmental, Social and Governance) standards set by regulators and institutional investors are increasingly challenging this tendency towards irrational choices and forcing decision makers to rigorously reassess portfolios and overcome inertia in order to fulfill their fiduciary duties. Black Rock’s Larry Fink’s 2021 letter to CEOs is, in essence, focused on the ostrich taking its head out of the sand.

It seems like a lost battle pointing to the irrationality of human behavior, as this (in comparative terms) short energy crisis in Texas is not a first of its kind and similar conclusions have been drawn in the past, but there are arguably better scientific resources to be tapped for addressing old challenges.

To counterbalance populism and tribal behavior, energy professionals in the public and private spheres should raise their awareness and increasingly draw upon neuroscientific based approaches. These approaches will provide deeper engagement across a complex set of stakeholders and more effective communication with regards to realistic options available to solve critical problems – climate change at the top of the list- and understanding their implied trade-offs.

Elections in many countries of the hemisphere, the pressure from post COVID economies, and the highly uncertain energy markets set a challenging scene that can be taken over by tribal crossfire or can open up a space for much needed informed and consensus building strategic dialogue.

Is there hope for honest public debates leading to quality policy choices? If not, we should expect not just blackouts but much bigger disruptions ahead.


Works Cited

(1) (Gino, Francesca; Moore, Don A.; Bazerman, Max H. (2009). “No Harm, No Foul: The Outcome Bias in Ethical Judgments” (PDF). SSRN 1099464. Harvard Business School Working Paper, No. 08-080.)

(2) Prospect Theory developed by Nobel Prize winners Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky, 1979


Drug Use is a Health Issue – We Need to Decriminalize

Vulnerable people need support, not stricter laws

By Simona Marinescu
APIA, Samoa, Feb 25 2021 – Earlier this month, and in December 2020 the Government of Samoa conducted operations that resulted in the confiscation of a total of 1,400 grams of methamphetamine at the border, smuggled from the US.

The law enforcement officials (from the Ministry of Customs and Revenue and the Ministry of Police and Prisons) that intercepted these drugs deserve congratulations for their professionalism and skill. Meth is destructive and harmful – and it is good to see this potential threat removed from the community.

Decriminalization of drugs - Vulnerable people need support, not stricter laws

Simona Marinescu

As small as this bust is by global standards, 1,400 grams in a couple of months is a record for Samoa (there were only two convictions for methamphetamine possession in Samoa in 2017). Perhaps it is inevitable that we will see an increase in seizures. As COVID-19 ravishes the economy and exacerbates inequality, some may look to less than legal means to supplement their dwindling incomes, and drug use is known to increase in communities facing economic hardship. Governments need to work to reduce drug consumption – especially with respect to more harmful substances like meth and opioids, which have devastated communities around the world. For example, there were more than 67,000 overdose deaths in the US alone in 2018. Thankfully, so far, Samoa has avoided this degree of harm.

But while it is sometimes tempting to “crack down” (no pun intended) in the face of an emerging perceived threat, we must resist the urge to increase legal penalties. We should be decriminalizing drug use and possession. Drugs are a serious health and social issue, not a moral one. Reducing consumption requires a health and socially focused response, not moral panic. This must include carefully thought-out laws that emphasize prevention, education and harm reduction. We need properly funded community-based support services that help and protect vulnerable people, and assist them in escaping degrading and difficult circumstances. Stopping drug use will not be achieved through hastily drafted legislation that further criminalizes addiction. By discouraging the demand for drugs, we can actually be more effective in tackling drug trafficking and putting an end to the human suffering caused by increased consumption.

This is not just my opinion – but the official policy of the United Nations, the Global Commission on Drug Policy, and multiple governments around the world. Canada, the Netherlands, Portugal, Switzerland, and numerous Australian and US states are among the many jurisdictions that have embraced the global trend towards less repression of drug users. A recent example of this is New Zealand’s 2019 Misuse of Drugs Amendment Bill, which gives police discretion to take a health-centred approach rather than prosecuting those in possession of drugs.

Since its enactment in 1967, Samoa’s Narcotics Act has only been amended twice, in 2006 and 2009 respectively. An official report in 2017 says that these amendments “were inadequate to address the prevalence of drug-related issues in Samoa and the new developments in the evolving drug environment.” There is a clear need to reform Samoa’s ancient drug legislation, but we must reform in line with the best available evidence. Tougher prison sentences have not been shown to deter possession, reduce offending or diminish the social or health issues associated with drug use. They have only been shown to intensify and complicate these problems.

Calling for decriminalization is by no means an endorsement of drug use – but an appeal to look towards the evidence. Samoa has been a willing participant in the global “war on drugs” – adopting the broken criminalization model for more than 50 years. (If you are fighting a “war” for more than five decades and you haven’t “won,” you need to reassess your strategy.) Prohibition has only succeeded in creating an illegal market ruled by violence, corruption and insecurity. Samoa must adopt better practices and distance itself from the failings of this ideologically-driven approach.

The author is United Nations Resident Coordinator, Cook Islands, Niue, Samoa, and Tokelau.


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Ending Inequality is Everyone’s Business

A health worker at a local health centre in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo, prepares a vaccine injection. The dispatch of millions of COVID-19 vaccines to Africa started in February. Credit: UNICEF/Sibylle Desjardins

By Tlaleng Mofokeng
JOHANNESBURG, South Africa, Feb 25 2021 – The UNAIDS 2020 Global AIDS Update gave us a clear indication why the world did not meet the Fast-Track targets by 2020. Inequality, perpetuated by structural oppression such as gender inequality; economic disparity; including human rights abuses and violations. For most of us living in sub-Saharan Africa, we don’t need a report to tell us this. Our lives are a litany of inequality we know deep in our guts.

Inequality is growing for more than 70% of the global population, solidifying divisions and hampering economic and social development. COVID-19 is impacting the most people in vulnerable situations the hardest— even as vaccines for COVID-19 are becoming available, there is great evidence of inequality in accessing them.

Inequality is the unfinished business of the AIDS, sexual and reproductive health and gender-based violence responses. Structural challenges are borne unfairly by individuals through differential access to healthcare

Confronting inequalities and ending discrimination is critical to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, a collection of 17 interlinked global goals designed to be a blueprint to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all. We have less than 10 years remaining to meet these goals.

The right to health is interconnected with other rights, such as the right to information, the right to freedom and security, the right to equality and non-discrimination and the right to bodily autonomy.

Almost all these global goals are linked to important determinants of health therefore achieving them will impact the right to health for all.

We know that 2020 was a challenging year for many health systems across the globe from the highest level of national leadership to community-based health facilities. Because of COVID-19, human, financial and research resources have been diverted from other health programmes including HIV prevention, sexual and reproductive health and rights and gender-based violence services.

Unfortunately, this means that health systems in regions with high HIV rates are more susceptible to fragility. Sub-Saharan Africa is home to almost half the global population of people living with HIV. This makes the issue even more urgent. COVID-19, like HIV, is showing us what health systems lack in planning and resourcing.

In May 2020, a mathematical modelling group convened by UNAIDS and the World Health Organization (WHO) estimated that a six-month disruption to HIV services could lead to an additional 500 000 deaths from AIDS-related illnesses (including Tuberculosis) in sub-Saharan Africa in 2020–2021.

A six-month total disruption in these services was an extreme scenario and thankfully turned out to be less severe than feared. What this research did was to show us how vigilant we need to be about to HIV service disruptions and that the additional demands that COVID-19 has placed on health systems are real.

COVID-19 has shown the world that for many people across the globe, health is not simply a matter of individual health predispositions, but also a matter that is determined by economic and social conditions that influence the health of people and communities.

Inequality is the unfinished business of the AIDS, sexual and reproductive health and gender-based violence responses. Structural challenges are borne unfairly by individuals through differential access to healthcare. Socio-economic and structural factors interact with each other to generate and reinforce negative health outcomes that disproportionately affect poor and people in vulnerable situations.

Accordingly, human rights must be the basis of solutions and policy that centres people in vulnerable situations who are often neglected from health services goods and facilities such as women, indigenous people, people of African descent, people with disabilities, older persons, people experiencing homelessness, migrants and refugees and key populations, that is, sex workers, people who use drugs, and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender and gender-diverse people. These marginalized groups often lack access to HIV and other critical sexual and reproductive health, social protection and legal services.

It is important that we pay special attention to the role of laws, policies and practices that contribute to poor physical and mental health and in fuelling stigma against vulnerable people.

Every country in the world has at least one law that still criminalizes either same-sex sexual relationships, sex work, personal drug use or HIV exposure and transmission.

There are some countries in sub-Saharan Africa that are pockets of excellence. We hear stories of heroic individuals or communities who have ensured that people have access to increase adherence to HIV treatment against all odds. Many countries have implemented multi-month dispensing of antiretroviral medicines to three or six months, as recommended by the WHO.

But we do need successes to be much structural and far-reaching.

Comprehensive HIV management is an integral part of realizing sexual and reproductive health rights and is in line the state’s duty to respect, promote and fulfill the right to health. It is therefore incumbent on governments to repeal laws criminalizing HIV, non-disclosure, exposure, and transmission, as well as consensual sexual activities between adults and the criminalization of gender diversity, transgender identity or expression.

Sex work must be decriminalized and countries must prevent human rights violations of forced or coerced sterilization of HIV positive women.

In 2020, South Africa’s Commission for Gender Equality released a report that documents 48 cases where women were allegedly forced or coerced to undergo sterilization. There must be justice for such women, and we must prevent the occurrence of forced or coerced sterilization.

We must commit to the operationalization of the UNAIDS Rights in the time of COVID-19 report that calls on us to combat all forms of stigma and discrimination including those based on race, profession and those directed towards marginalized groups that prevent them from accessing care.

Ending inequality is the only way to achieve the right to health for all and it is everyone’s business to ensure that we do so.

Zero Discrimination Day is commemorated by the United Nations every year on 1 March. This year, the UN is highlighting the urgent need to take action to end the inequalities surrounding income, sex, age, health status, occupation, disability, sexual orientation, drug use, gender identity, race, class, ethnicity and religion that continue to persist around the world.

The views expressed herein are personal and do not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations.


Tlaleng Mofokeng is the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health. She is a South African medical doctor, author and broadcaster. 


Western Sahara, Africa’s Last Colony, to Resume Liberation Struggle on Hold Since 1991

A UN patrol team, deployed for monitoring ceasefire, drives through the Smara area of Western Sahara. Meanwhile, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres says he ‘remains committed’ to maintaining the 1991 ceasefire in Western Sahara. Credit: UN Photo/Martine Perret

By Ambassador Sidi Omar
NEW YORK, Feb 25 2021 – The question of Western Sahara, known as Africa’s last colony, has recently gained great visibility in international media interestingly due to two drastic developments.

The first occurred on 13 November 2020 when Moroccan forces breached the 1991 ceasefire by attacking Sahrawi civilians who were demonstrating peacefully in Guerguerat in southern Western Sahara.

The second took place on 10 December 2020 when the outgoing U.S. President Donald Trump made a proclamation declaring U.S. recognition of “Moroccan sovereignty” over Western Sahara, which Morocco has been occupying since October 1975.

As expected, Morocco’s breach of the ceasefire forced the people of Western Sahara under the leadership of their legitimate representative, the Frente POLISARIO, to resume their legitimate liberation struggle put on hold since 1991.

At that time both parties, the Frente POLISARIO and Morocco, under the UN-OAU auspices, mutually agreed on a ceasefire that came into effect on 6 September 1991.

This arrangement was the first step in a process leading to the holding of a referendum on self- referendum in which the people of Western Sahara would choose, without military or administrative constraints, between independence and integration with Morocco.

To this end, on 29 April 1991, the Security Council established under its authority the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO).

Notwithstanding the ups and downs, in January 2000 MINURSO was able to establish the list of potential voters for the referendum thus paving the way for the vote to take place. It was precisely at that moment that Morocco declared that it was no longer willing to procced with the self-determination referendum, obviously for fear of losing at the ballot box. It was as simple as that.

The failure of the UN Security Council to hold Morocco accountable for reneging on its solemn commitment to the mutually agreed referendum on self-determination brought the UN peace process in Western Sahara to a standstill, which continues to date.

Despite Morocco’s complete volte-face, for almost three decades the Frente POLISARIO maintained its commitment to the ceasefire and made many—often painful—concessions for the UN peace process to succeed.

The almost thirty years’ ceasefire in Western Sahara was however violently broken when Moroccan forces attacked Sahrawi civilians on 13 November 2020 forcing the Frente POLISARIO to respond in self-defence.

Morocco’s new aggression has not only put an end to the UN peace process but has also unleashed a second war that has the potential to endanger peace and stability in the region. Once again, the UN Security Council, which has primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security, has remained silent in the face of Morocco’s new aggression.

The proclamation made by the outgoing U.S. President on 10 December 2020 has dealt another heavy blow to the UN peace process in Western Sahara. It is no secret that Trump’s ill-advised decision was a quid pro quo for the deal that Morocco concluded with Israel to normalise their relations—another example of his transactional diplomacy.

Trump’s decision however violates UN resolutions, including Security Council resolutions that the United States drafted and approved over the past decades, and upends the traditional U.S. policy regarding Western Sahara.

It flies in the face of fundamental rules underpinning the international order that prohibit the acquisition of territory by force and establish peoples’ right to self-determination and as an inalienable right and a peremptory norm.

It also hampers the ongoing efforts of the United Nations and the African Union to achieve a peaceful solution to the question of Western Sahara, thereby fuelling tension and threatening peace and stability in the region.

The legal status of Western Sahara is unequivocally clear. The International Court of Justice (ICJ), which is the United Nations principal judicial organ, issued an advisory opinion on Western Sahara on 16 October 1975. The ICJ ruled that there was no tie of territorial sovereignty between the Territory of Western Sahara and the Kingdom of Morocco.

By rebutting Morocco’s claims of sovereignty over Western Sahara, the ICJ established clearly that the sovereignty over the Territory was vested in the Sahrawi people who have the right to decide, through the free and genuine expression of their will, the status of the Territory in accordance with UN General Assembly resolution 1514 (XV) of 1960 on the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples.

The United Nations and the Organisation of African Unity (now the African Union) as well as the European Union have never recognised Morocco’s forcible and illegal annexation of parts of Western Sahara that remains on the UN list of Non-Self-Governing Territories to be decolonised.

Trump’s proclamation also affirmed the U.S. support for Morocco’s autonomy proposal. Nonetheless, the so-called Moroccan “autonomy proposal”, besides its proven illegality, emanates from an autocratic regime that seeks only to legitimise its forcible acquisition and occupation of parts of Western Sahara.

The United States should therefore advise Morocco to address the legitimate grievances of its own people instead of trying to pursue its expansionism that has had disastrous consequences for the entire region.

As a matter of historical fact, Morocco did not only claim Western Sahara but also Mauritania in 1960s. It was Morocco that included “the problem of Mauritania” in the agenda of the 50th session of the UN General Assembly in 1960 on the grounds that Morocco had legitimate rights over Mauritania. It then took Morocco nine years to recognise Mauritania as an independent country.

Morocco moreover used force against Algeria in October 1963 and Spain (Perejil Island) in July 2002, always in pursuit of its territorial claims, which demonstrates the real nature of the ruling regime in Morocco.

This also shows the extent to which the regime owes its survival to territorial conquest as a tool to divert attention from its deep-rooted domestic legitimacy crisis that had led to two coups against the monarchy in July 1971 and August 1972.

Morocco’s expansionism is therefore the root cause of the enduring tension in North Africa and the main obstacle to the achievement of a united, prosperous, and inclusive Maghreb that brings together all its nations and peoples.

As expected, strong voices from the US Congress, civil society, and the political arena, including former US Secretary of State, James A. Baker III, have expressed their shock and disappointment regarding the attempt to trade away the self-determination of the people of Western Sahara.

They have also called on the incoming President to reverse Trump’s decision, which is at odds with the new Administration’s declared pledge to recommit the US to multilateralism. Now the question is whether President Joe Biden is willing to reverse Trump’s decision and bring back the United States to its traditional position on Western Sahara.

It is certain that Trump’s proclamation—if maintained—will not change anything substantially in terms of the realities on the ground and the legal status of Western Sahara that is determined by the UN resolutions. It will however put the United States in a rather difficult situation given its membership of the Group of Friends on Western Sahara and the penholder for MINURSO.

In other words, it will not only cast doubt on U.S.’s neutrality vis-à-vis the question of Western Sahara but will also raise the question of whether the United States could continue to play a constructive role in the UN peace process.

For these reasons, the Sahrawi people remain hopeful that President Biden would rescind Trump’s proclamation so that the United States could return to its traditional position on Western Sahara.

The legal and political nature of the issue of Western Sahara as a decolonisation case is unquestionably clear. Therefore, the question before the international community, in particular all peace- and justice-loving countries, comes down to this: do they allow the rule of “might makes right” to prevail in the case of Western Sahara, and thus allow the Moroccan military occupation of parts of the Territory to continue with impunity, or do they defend the fundamental principles underpinning the existing international order and thus implement UN resolutions on the issue?

The solution of the question of Western Sahara is clearly defined in successive UN General Assembly and Security Council resolutions, which call for a peaceful, just, and lasting solution that provides for the self-determination of the people of Western Sahara.

This means that no solution will prove either just or lasting if it does not have the consent and full support of the Sahrawi people.

This support can only be expressed through a credible, democratic, and genuine self-determination process that gives our people the opportunity to make their choice among a full range of options including independence.

United Nations resolutions, rules of international law and basic democratic principles all support this understanding of self-determination and its implementation. It is time the international community support it, too, not only in words but also in deeds.


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