World Newsletter

18 January 2020


The Revolutionary Guards can take their fight beyond Iran's borders, Supreme
Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said on Friday, responding to the US killing
of a top general and to unrest at home over the accidental downing of an
In his first Friday prayers sermon in eight years, he also told thousands of
Iranians who chanted "Death to America" that European states could not be
trusted after they launched a nuclear agreement dispute mechanism.
The measure could lead to UN sanctions being reimposed. “Resistance must
continue until the region is completely freed from the enemy’s tyranny,"
Khamenei said, in a reference to the United States that renewed his call for
U.S. troops to leave neighbouring Iraq and the wider Middle East.
He said Iran’s its missile attack on US troops in Iraq earlier this month
was a "blow to America's image" as a superpower, as he led prayers in Tehran
for the first time since 2012.
He called the accidental downing of a Ukrainian airliner a “bitter” tragedy
Friday but said it should not overshadow the “sacrifice” of top commander
Qasem Soleimani killed in a US drone strike.
‘Trump a clown who will betray Iranians’
Tehran: Iran's supreme leader said President Donald Trump is a “clown” who
only pretends to support the Iranian people but will “push a poisonous
dagger” into their backs, as he struck a defiant tone in his first Friday
sermon in Tehran in eight years.
‘Ready to hand over passengers’ remains’
Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif has said that Tehran was ready to hand
over the remains of the Ukrainian passengers who were killed in the January
8 downing of an airliner. Zarif made the remarks during a phone call with
his Ukrainian counterpart Vadym Prystaiko on Thursday, the state-run IRNA
news agency said in a report. On his part, Prystaiko appreciated Iran for
the speedy declaration of responsibility for the incident and its
cooperation in all stages.


As the 2020 presidential race heats up, the Supreme Court agreed on January
17 to hear a dispute involving the complex U.S. presidential election system
focusing on whether Electoral College electors are free to break their
pledges to back the candidate who wins their state's popular vote, an act
that could upend an election.
The Supreme Court will take up appeals in two cases - from Washington state
and Colorado - involving electors who decided to vote in the Electoral
College process for someone other than Democrat Hillary Clinton in 2016 even
though she won the popular vote in their States.
The justices will determine if such so-called faithless electors have the
discretion to cast Electoral College votes as they see fit or whether states
can impose restrictions including with penalties. The case is expected to be
argued in April and decided by the end of June.
President Donald Trump is seeking re-election on Nov. 3, with a field of
Democrats seeking their party's nomination to challenge him. His
administration did not take a side in either case.
“We are glad the Supreme Court has recognized the paramount importance of
clearly determining the rules of the road for presidential electors for the
upcoming election and all future elections,” said Lawrence Lessig, a lawyer
for the faithless electors sanctioned in Washington and Colorado.
Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold, a Democrat, said she hopes the
justices will let states enforce their laws.
“Unelected and unaccountable presidential electors should not be allowed to
decide the presidential election without regard to voters' choices and state
law,” Griswold said.


Thunderstorms lashed parts of Australia’s east coast early on Saturday,
causing road closures and lash flooding, but the country was still battling
nearly 100 bushfires and some of the affected areas remained dry.
Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland, states hit badly by the bushfires
that have so far killed 29 people, destroyed more than 2,500 homes and
scorched millions of acres of land, are now dealing with rain bucketing
Major highways were closed in Queensland early on Saturday, with the state
getting some of the heaviest rain Australia has seen for months, while power
was cut in parts of New South Wales after a stormy night.
“Heavy, intense rainfall has eased, but showers and thunderstorms still
possible through the weekend,” the Bureau of Meteorology in Queensland said
on Twitter on Saturday.
“Take care on the roads – if it’s flooded, forget it.”
Parts of Queensland’s south saw triple the monthly rainfall overnight. No
major damage has been reported, although some residential areas were flooded
and many of the state’s parks and tourist attractions were closed.
New South Wales fire services welcomed the rain, which they said on Twitter
would help to control the 75 fires burning in the state, of which 25 are yet
to be contained. But, they also said that some firegrounds have not seen any
rain yet.
More benign storms were forecast for Victoria, which has been hit this week
already by severe storms and unhealthy smoke from the bushfires.
Fears the smoke would return on Saturday for the final round of the
Australian Open qualifying matches eased after environmental officials said
air quality forecast in the Melbourne area would be “moderate” rather than
“very poor”.


The number of people already infected by the mystery virus emerging in China
is far greater than official figures suggest, scientists have told the BBC.
There have been 41 laboratory-confirmed cases of the new virus, but UK
experts estimate the figure is closer to 1,700.
Two people are known to have died from the virus, which appeared in Wuhan
city in December.
"I am substantially more concerned than I was a week ago," disease outbreak
scientist, Prof Neil Ferguson, said.
The work was conducted by the MRC Centre for Global Infectious Disease
Analysis at Imperial College London, which advises bodies including the UK
government and the World Health Organization.
Singapore and Hong Kong have been screening air passengers from Wuhan and US
authorities announced similar measures starting on Friday at three major
airports in San Francisco, Los Angeles and New York.


Ukraine's Prime Minister Oleksiy Honcharuk on Friday tendered his
resignation after a leaked audio recording apparently revealed him
criticising President Volodymyr Zelensky.
A voice sounding like Honcharuk's, but not officially confirmed as his, says
President Zelensky, a TV comedian and businessman who was elected last
April, only has a "primitive" understanding of economics, reports the BBC.
"To remove any doubts in our respect for and trust in the President, I have
written a resignation letter and submitted it to the president with the
right to hand it to the Parliament," Honcharuk, 35, made the announcement on
his official Facebook page.
"He is a man in whom Ukrainians have expressed unprecedented confidence. And
he has every right to evaluate the effectiveness of every member of his
team." The presidential office said Zelensky had received the resignation
and would consider it, reports Xinhua news agency.
The controversial audiotape was uploaded to an anonymous YouTube channel on
Wednesday evening.
Honcharuk was apparently discussing the national budget with some other
government ministers and finance chiefs.


A Pakistani court has sentenced brother and nephew of a radical Islamist
party chief along with 84 others to 55-year prison terms each for taking
part in protests in 2018 over the acquittal of Aasia Bibi, a Christian woman
in a controversial blasphemy case, according to a media report.
The anti-terrorism court (ATC) in Rawalpindi was hearing a case against the
Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) workers who held violent protests and
clashed with the police over the arrest of party chief Khadim Hussain Rizvi
in 2018, Dawn news reported.
Those convicted include TLP chief Khadim Hussain Rizvi's brother Ameer
Hussain Rizvi and nephew Mohammad Ali, the report said. The court handed 86
workers and supporters of the TLP with a prison sentence of 55 years each in
a case pertaining to rioting and resisting against the police, the report


A clock counting down to the moment the UK leaves the EU on 31 January will
be projected on to Downing Street as part of government plans to mark Brexit
The clock will tick down to 23:00 GMT, while Prime Minister Boris Johnson
will give a "special" address to the nation in the evening, the government
A special 50p coin will also enter circulation to mark the occasion.
Meanwhile, a campaign to find £500,000 to make Big Ben ring when the UK
leaves the EU has raised more than £200,000.
Millionaire businessman Arron Banks and the Leave Means Leave group have
donated £50,000 to the campaign.
Downing Street has said the prime minister will chair a cabinet meeting in
the north of England during the day, to discuss spreading "prosperity and
He will then make a special address to the nation in the evening.
Mr Johnson is expected to be one of the first people to receive one of the
newly-minted 50p coins, which will bear the motto "peace, prosperity and
friendship with all nations".


China saw 14.6 million births in the year 2019, the lowest in the country
since its founding year. According to the National Bureau of Statistics,
the number of babies born in China dropped by 580,000. China had such a drop
in birth rates only in the year 1961 amidst a famine.
A lower death rate despite the current birth rate crisis in China meant its
population was still 1.4 billion in 2019. Birth rates in China have been
falling for the last three years.
This rate had showed a slight upward trend after China’s government ended
their one-child policy law. However, it did not impact the country’s overall
birth rate. The one-child policy was introduced in the year 1979 to control
the country’s population boom.
The BBC reported that China’s birth rate has become now lower than the
birthrate of the US which, according to recent data available, stood at 12
per thousand people in the year 2017.
With 10.48 live births per thousand people China falls behind the lowest
birth rate since 1938 in England and Wales which stands at 11.1 live births.
The one-child policy has been blamed for this trend along with creating a
gender imbalance in the Chinese population with 30 million males outnumber
females as estimated by the 2019 figures.
Apart from the gender disparity, China faces an increasingly elder
population that poses a social and an economic challenge to the world’s
second largest economy.
According to a report by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, China’s
population is said to further shrink in the coming years and people over the
age of 60 years would constitute one-third of the total population by 2050.


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