TOP PENTAGON LEADERSHIP GUTTED AS FEARS RISE OVER NATIONAL SECURITYThree loyalists to US President Donald Trump were elevated to powerfulpositions in the Defence Department after the dismissal of chief Mark Esperand the subsequent resignations of multiple senior officials.On Tuesday, the Pentagon said that Anthony Tata, Ezra Cohen-Watnick and KashPatel had been promoted to key roles within the department, in addition tonewly appointed acting Defence Secretary Christopher Miller, who formerlyheaded the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC).All three are known for trafficking in conspiracy theories, with Tata goingout on a limb calling former President Obama a "terrorist".The replacements have roused worry among Trump critics, as the presidentcontinues to reject the results of last week's election, refusing to concedeto President-elect Joe Biden, who has secured more than enough electoralcollege votes to begin transition protocols.The unease was palpable inside the building throughout the day over concernsabout what the Trump administration may do in the months beforePresident-elect Joe Biden takes office and whether there will be a greatereffort to politicize the historically apolitical military. While radicalpolicy shifts seem unlikely before the Jan. 20 inauguration, the changescould further damage prospects for a smooth transition already hampered byTrump's refusal to concede his election loss.Dr James Stavridis, a retired navy admiral who currently works as anoperating executive and adviser on geopolitical and national security at theCarlyle Group tweeted , "The inexperience and turbulence created by thisgroup of 'new appointees' is breath-taking. High fives in Moscow, Beijing,Tehran, Pyongyang, Havana, Caracas. Dangerous," he said.All four DOD replacements are considered staunch Trump allies.While the personnel changes added to the tumult in the wake of Esper'sdeparture, it's not clear how much impact they could have on the massivePentagon bureaucracy. The department is anchored by the tenet of civiliancontrol of the military, and much of the day-to-day activities are conductedby career policy experts and military leaders in the U.S. and around theglobe who adhere to a strict chain of command.As Biden moved toward assuming office, Trump's campaign filed a federallawsuit in Michigan as it continued its long-shot legal strategy of tryingto overturn the election results in key states.All week, Biden has paid little public attention to Trump's unsubstantiatedclaims of voter fraud, instead focusing on transition issues as he preparesto be sworn in on Jan. 20.Biden spoke to fellow heads of government and state of four Europeancountries on Tuesday, as per a press release from his presidentialtransition team."When I'm speaking to foreign leaders, I'm telling them: America is going tobe back. We're going to be back in the game," Mr Biden tweeted on Tuesday.PROTESTERS IN ARMENIA CALL FOR PM TO STEP DOWNThousands of Armenian demonstrators, chanting "Nikol is a traitor", demandedPrime Minister Nikol Pashinyan resign on Wednesday over a ceasefire thatsecured territorial advances for Azerbaijan in Nagorno-Karabakh after sixweeks of fighting.The ceasefire, announced on Tuesday, ended the worst fighting in the regionin decades and has been celebrated as a victory in Azerbaijan. Pashinyan hascalled it a disaster but said he had no choice but to sign it to stave off adefeat. Pashinyan said he concluded the peace deal under pressure from hisarmy.US EMBASSY RETWEETS PAK OPPOSITION LEADER'S POST CALLING IMRAN KHAN'DICTATOR'; APOLOGISES LATERThe US embassy in Islamabad came under fire after it retweeted a post byPakistan's opposition leader, referring to Prime Minister Imran Khan as a"dictator and demagogue".Without naming Khan, Ahsan Iqbal, a former minister, and a PML-N leadertweeted a screenshot of an article by The Washington Post titled 'Trump'sdefeat is a blow for the world's demagogues and dictators'."We have one in Pakistan too. He will be shown the way out soon." Iqbal saidin the tweet, in an apparent reference to Pakistan PM.On Tuesday night, the US embassy re-tweeted the post, drawing flak from thesupporters of Khan's Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party.US embassy apologisesAfter facing fierce backlash, the embassy deleted the post and issued anapology for sharing the tweet."The US embassy Islamabad Twitter account was accessed last night withoutauthorisation. The US embassy does not endorse the posting or re-tweeting ofpolitical messages. We apologise for any confusion that may have resultedfrom the unauthorised post," it wrote on Twitter.Pakistan's Human Rights Minister Shireen Mazari said that it wasunacceptable that someone working in the US embassy is pushing a particularpolitical party's agenda."Account was clearly not hacked so someone who had access to it used it'without authorisation'. Unacceptable that someone working in the US Embassyis pushing a particular political party's agenda," the minister said.Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Political Communication ShahbazGill also slammed the US embassy and said for the first time ever an embassywas seen "insulting" its own lawfully elected president. "We expect someheads to roll. This is unacceptable!" he said, PTI reported.U.K. LAUNCHES BILL TO DETER 'MALICIOUS' TAKEOVERSBritain on Wednesday unveiled plans for new powers to prevent foreigncompanies snapping up strategic assets in "malicious" takeovers that aredeemed to threaten national security.The U.K. government said that its new National Security and Investment Billwill "protect (the) U.K. from malicious investment" and strengthen itsability to investigate and intervene in mergers, acquisitions and othertypes of deals.The new powers come as increasing Chinese investment has sparked calls fromlawmakers for Prime Minister Boris Johnson to take a stronger stance onBeijing.The draft Bill is aimed at updating a 20-year-old law that is no longersufficient to tackle modern threats, according to a statement from theDepartment for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.The Bill, which will be introduced before Parliament on Wednesday, willcompel companies to inform the government of merger and acquisition activityin sensitive sectors such as defence, energy and transport.IN BLOW TO WHO, EU SEEKS POWERS TO DECLARE HEALTH EMERGENCIESThe European Commission (EC) on Wednesday proposed rules which would givethe European Union(EU) the power to declare a health emergency and stresstest national plans to tackle pandemics, in a potential blow to the WorldHealth Organization(WHO).The move follows an often uncoordinated reaction by the 27 EU governments tothe Covid-19 pandemic, which at the beginning of the crisis led tocompetition on vital medical gear and export bans on medicines.It also comes after the WHO was criticised for having declared the pandemic,which first emerged in China at the end of last year, too late.The UN agencyhas repeatedly denied the accusation.Under the proposals, the EU would be able to declare an EU-level publichealth emergency, which would in turn trigger more coordination among EUstates.Currently, the EU relies on the WHO to declare such an emergency."The new rules will enable the activation of EU emergency responsemechanisms without making it contingent upon the WHO's own declaration of aPublic Health Emergency of International Concern," an EU document says,adding that such a move would be coordinated with the WHO.JOE BIDEN PICKS RON KLAIN AS WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFFUS President-elect Joe Biden will pick veteran aide Ron Klain as his WhiteHouse chief of staff, his team say.Mr Klain has served as an aide to Mr Biden since the 1980s on the SenateJudiciary Committee and later as chief of staff when he was vice-president.Mr Klain was also a senior White House aide to Barack Obama and chief ofstaff to Vice-President Al Gore.He was played by actor Kevin Spacey in the movie Recount, about thepresidential election of 2000.The White House chief of staff - who manages the president's daily scheduleand is often described as his gatekeeper - is a political appointee thatdoes not require confirmation by the Senate.12 BILLIONAIRES AMONG PAKISTAN'S 342 NATIONAL ASSEMBLY MEMBERS; ECPThere are 12 billionaires in Pakistan's National Assembly while most of theother lawmakers were also wealthy, possessing large properties in thecountry and abroad and massive investments in stocks, according to a mediareport on Wednesday.The lawmakers who are rolling in money and are holding precious assetsinclude top politicians from almost all the mainstream parties, the DawnNews reported.Landlords and capitalists dominate Pakistan's 342-member National Assembly -the lower legislative house - with the majority of members possessing hugepieces of land and massive investments in stocks, shares and industrialunits, it said, citing the statement of assets of the lawmakers for year2019 released by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP).As many as 12 out of the total 342 members of the National Assembly havedeclared that they own assets worth over a billion rupees. While five of thebillionaire lawmakers are from the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) ofPrime Minister Imran Khan, two are from its ally Pakistan MuslimLeague-Quaid (PML-Q), three from the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N)and one each from Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and Awami National Party.Interestingly, many other leaders - including Khan, former premier ShahidKhaqan Abbasi of the PML-N and PTI's Khayal Zaman Orakzai - who in theprevious years had put the worth of their assets at over a billion rupees,opted to mention the cost of their assets this time, which is less than abillion.Khan owns assets worth over Rs 80 million, though this does not include thevalue of his 300-kanal villa in Bani Gala that he says was a gift. However,this year he has not mentioned two properties, which he had listed in thestatement of assets filed last year, measuring around 15 acres in theBhakkar area. While Khan continues to possess four goats valued at Rs200,000, he does not own any vehicle. He has Rs 77.53 million cash in handand in the bank accounts. Khan also has 518 pounds in a foreign currencyaccount and $331,230 in two other accounts. He has also given Rs 11.97million in advance for a flat.PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari, who happens to be one of the 12declared billionaires, has more assets in the UAE than in Pakistan. He hasextended over Rs 1.24 billion loan to four companies from the money heinherited from his mother and former prime minister Benazir Bhutto after herassassination. He has shares in two villas in Dubai, but their value has notbeen mentioned in the statement. The total worth of his assets comes to Rs1.58 billion. He owns 19 properties in Pakistan and weapons worth Rs 3million.US WARNS OF MORE CHINA SANCTIONS OVER HONG KONG MOVESThe United States on Wednesday warned of further sanctions against China,which it said "flagrantly violated" Hong Kong's autonomy after the oustingof four pro-democracy lawmakers."Beijing's recent actions disqualifying pro-democracy legislators from HongKong's Legislative Council leave no doubt that the Chinese Communist Party(CCP) has flagrantly violated its international commitments," said RobertO'Brien, US national security adviser.He added that the United States would continue "to identify and sanctionthose responsible for extinguishing Hong Kong's freedom."On Monday, the United States imposed sanctions on four more officialsaccused of curbing freedoms in Hong Kong while vowing accountability overChina's clampdown in the city.Edwina Lau, head of the National Security Division of the Hong Kong PoliceForce, was among the officials who will be barred from traveling to theUnited States and whose US-based assets, if any, will be frozen.Wednesday's statement from the US national security adviser in DonaldTrump's outgoing administration came in response to the ousting of four ofHong Kong's pro-democracy lawmakers by the city's pro-Beijing authorities.Hong Kong's other pro-democracy lawmakers reacted by saying they would allquit in protest, reducing the semi-autonomous city's once-feisty legislatureto a gathering of Chinese loyalists.MYANMAR OPPOSITION REJECTS 'UNFAIR' ELECTIONMyanmar's military-aligned Opposition party on Wednesday rejected theresults of this week's election as "unfair" and called for a fresh vote - ademand immediately rebuffed by the election authorities.Official results are still trickling in, but Aung San Suu Kyi's ruling partyhas already declared a landslide victory based on its own tallies fromacross the country.The polls are only the second since the country emerged from outright juntarule in 2011. Observers said voting went smoothly on Sunday but criticisedthe lack of transparency, widespread disenfranchisement and coronavirusrestrictions they said benefited Ms. Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy(NLD).The Opposition Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) went further,however. "We reject the election because it was unfair," spokesperson WinWin Aung said, alleging that many ineligible people had cast ballots. "Wecall on the election commission to hold a new, disciplined election incooperation with the military as soon as possible."POPE FRANCIS VOWS TO END SEXUAL ABUSE AFTER MCCARRICK REPORTPope Francis pledged Wednesday to rid the Catholic Church of sexual abuseand offered prayers to victims of ex-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, a dayafter the Vatican released a detailed report into the decadeslong churchcover-up of his sexual misconduct.Pope concluded his weekly general audience on Wednesday by recalling thatthe report into the "painful case" of the former high-ranking Americancardinal had been released the previous day."I renew my closeness to victims of any abuse and commitment of the churchto eradicate this evil," Pope said. He then paused silently for nearly aminute, apparently in prayer.In his remarks Wednesday, however, Pope held John Paul up for praise. Notingthat Wednesday marked Poland's independence day, Pope quoted John Paul astelling young people what it means to be truly free.CORONAVIRUS: NEW YORK IMPOSES MEASURES IN 'LAST CHANCE' AGAINST NEW WAVENew York has introduced new restrictions aimed at curbing coronavirus, withMayor Bill de Blasio warning it was the city's "last chance" to stop asecond wave.Bars, restaurants and gyms must close by 22:00 and people can only meet ingroups of 10 or less.The US is seeing a surge in coronavirus - a record 61,964 Americans were inhospital on Tuesday.An average of over 900 people a day are now dying with the disease.More than a million new cases in November pushed the total confirmed casesto over 10 million nationally with 239,732 deaths so far.The US has been seeing more than 100,000 new cases per day over the last 10days in what experts say may be a worse outbreak than those seen in thespring and summer.Experts warn hospitals across the country could soon be overwhelmed.SEVERAL WOUNDED IN EXPLOSION AT A CEMETERY IN SAUDI ARABIA'S JIDDAH: FRENCHOFFICIALSMultiple people were wounded on Wednesday when an explosive device hit aninternational ceremony commemorating the end of World War I at a cemetery inthe Saudi Arabian city of Jiddah, according to French government officials.Several countries had representatives at the ceremony, held at a cemeteryfor non-Muslim dead, the officials from the French Foreign Ministry said.The identities of the victims were unclear.November 11, 2020 marks the 102nd anniversary of the armistice ending WorldWar I and is commemorated in several European countries. The Frenchofficials, who spoke on condition of anonymity in line with regulations,condemned the attack. There was no immediate claim of responsibility for theexplosion.BAHRAIN PM, WORLD'S LONGEST-SERVING, DIES AT 84Bahraini Prime Minister Prince Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalifa, the onlyperson to serve as Bahrain's premier since the founding of the tiny islandstate, has died at the age of 84.He died at Mayo Clinic Hospital in the US, according to Bahrain's officialnews agency. Bahraini King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa has ordered a week-longmourning period in the country.Khalifa took office a day after Bahrain declared independence from Briain,in August 1971. His image has been plastered on walls around the country fordecades, and he is credited with helping to usher in a modern economy, buthe was accused by activists of brutally quashing the country's Arab Springprotests in 2011.He was also known for his opulent wealth. The PM was a royal in the AlKhalifa dynasty that reigned in Bahrain for more than two centuries. He isthe son of Sheikh Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa, who ruled the island nationfor nearly two decades while it was a British protectorate.