World Newsletter

FRONT PAGE NEWS
7 February 2020

TRUMP CELEBRATES IMPEACHMENT ACQUITTAL AND BLASTS RIVALS

US President Donald Trump has taken a victory lap one day after his
impeachment acquittal, in a White House tirade against his political
enemies.
"I've done things wrong in my life, I will admit... but this is what the end
result is," he said as he held up a newspaper headlined "Trump acquitted".
"We went through hell, unfairly. We did nothing wrong," he said at the White
House. "It was evil, it was corrupt."
He earlier criticised impeachment foes who invoked their religious faith.
"Now we have that gorgeous word. I never thought it would sound so good," Mr
Trump said from the East Room, which was crammed with supporters and cabinet
officials.
"It's called 'total acquittal'."


DOUBT OVER CHINA'S OFFICIAL CORONAVIRUS NUMBERS

In what could be a serious cover-up regarding the actual death figures in
the Novel Coronavirus outbreak, Chinese multinational conglomerate holding
company Tencent allegedly published "real" data on the novel coronavirus
deaths, with briefly listing death toll as 24,589 -- way too higher than 563
deaths China officially announced on Thursday.
According to a Taiwan News report, "Tencent... seems to have inadvertently
released what is potentially the actual number of infections and deaths,
which were astronomically higher than official figures".
Once people noticed this, Tencent allegedly updated the numbers to reflect
the government's "official" numbers, according to the report.
"Netizens noticed that Tencent has on at least three occasions posted
extremely high numbers, only to quickly lower them to government-approved
statistics," said the report.
Some people speculated a coding problem may be behind the real "internal"
data but others believe that someone is actually trying to reveal the real
numbers.
There have been multiple reports of Wuhan officials cremating deceased
coronavirus victims before they could be added to the official death toll.
The Wall Street Journal reported that the coronavirus numbers coming out of
China are "fishy".
If the numbers from the alleged Tencent leak are accurate, it would put
coronavirus' mortality rate at almost 16 per cent. By comparison, SARS'
mortality rate was 9.6 per cent, reports CCN.
As of Thursday, the official death toll in China rose to 563, with 28,018
confirmed cases.
A Chinese doctor, Li Wenliang, 34, who was detained by police for issuing
the first warning about the coronavirus outbreak in late December, died of
the disease early on Friday, triggering a wave of anger and grief.


CHINA TO CUT TARIFFS ON $75 BILLION IN US IMPORTS: OFFICIAL

China on Thursday said it will halve punitive tariffs on USD 75 billion in
U.S. imports from February 14, a month after Beijing and Washington signed a
truce in their long-running trade war.
The reduction will apply to levies of 5% and 10% that were imposed on more
than 1,700 items in September, according to the State Council Tariff
Commission.
Products that had been hit by the 10% tariffs included fresh seafood,
poultry and soybeans.
Tariffs also applied to items such as tungsten lamps for scientific and
medical purposes, as well as some types of aircraft.
The move is aimed at "promoting the healthy and stable development of
China-U.S. economic and trade relations", the Commission said in a
statement.
It added that the reduction will kick in at 0501 GMT on February 14 - the
same day Washington is expected to halve tariffs on USD 120 billion worth of
Chinese products.
The Commission added it "hopes that both parties will be able to abide by
their agreement, strive to implement its relevant content, (and) boost
market confidence".
Other retaliatory tariffs, however, remain in place.


U.S. ANNOUNCES LAUNCH OF INTERNATIONAL RELIGIOUS FREEDOM ALLIANCE

The United States on Wednesday announced the launch of a 27-nation
International Religious Freedom Alliance, which will try to adopt a
collective approach in protecting and preserving religious freedom across
the world.
It is an Alliance of "like-minded partners who treasure, and fight for,
international religious freedom for every human being", U.S. Secretary of
State Mike Pompeo said in his address during the formal launch.
Among the prominent countries to join the alliance are Australia, Brazil,
the United Kingdom, Israel, Ukraine, the Netherlands and Greece.
"Defending the right of all people to live their lives according to their
conscience is one of this administration's top priorities," Mr. Pompeo said
in his address.
"Indeed, we must affirm, and fight for, that truth now more than ever. More
than eight in 10 people in the world today live where they cannot practice
their faith freely," he said.
"We condemn terrorists and violent extremists who target religious
minorities, whether they are Yezidis in Iraq, Hindus in Pakistan, Christians
in northeast Nigeria, or Muslims in Burma," Mr. Pompeo said.
"We condemn blasphemy and apostasy laws that criminalize matters of the
soul. We condemn the Chinese Communist Party's hostility to all faiths. We
know several of you courageously pushed back against Chinese pressure by
agreeing to be part of this Alliance, and we thank you for that," Mr. Pompeo
said.
"Finally, our Alliance is off on the right foot as countries do their parts
to advance this mission," the top American diplomat said.
During the launch meeting, according to a senior State Department official,
participating countries are to discuss kind of areas that they are going to
work and focus on.


GERMAN STATE PREMIER QUITS, CALLS FOR POLL

The premier of Germany's Thuringia state stepped down and called for snap
elections on Thursday, barely 24 hours after he was elected with the help of
far-right AfD in a vote Chancellor Angela Merkel called "unforgivable".
Thomas Kemmerich, from the liberal Free Democrats, said he would apply for
the regional Parliament to be dissolved in response to the outrage over his
appointment, which drew comparisons with the rise of Nazis in the 1930s. "We
want elections to remove the stain of the AfD's support from the office of
the premiership," he said.
Mr. Kemmerich's election on Wednesday marked the first time in German
post-war history that a state premier was helped into office by accepting
far-right votes, crossing a red line in a nation haunted by its Nazi past.
He became the surprise winner of a run-off vote after AfD lawmakers ditched
their own candidate to back him, in what Mr. Kemmerich called "a perfidious
trick" by the far right.
Chancellor Merkel called the vote "unforgivable" and said the result "must
be reversed".
She reiterated that her centre-right CDU would never work with the
anti-Islam, anti-immigrant AfD, on a regional or national level.
Thousands took to the streets in cities across Germany late Wednesday to
vent their dismay at the vote outcome, including in Berlin, Frankfurt and
Thuringia's capital Erfurt.
Ms. Merkel's coalition partners, the centre-left Social Democratic (SPD),
reacted furiously to the debacle, calling for her conservative party to
clearly distance itself from the AfD if the national government is to
survive.


CHINA FUMES AS INT'L AIRLINES HALT FLIGHTS

China said on Thursday that it had lodged diplomatic protests with countries
whose airlines had cancelled flights to Chinese cities alleging that they
were spreading panic in the wake of deadly coronavirus.
The death toll in China's novel coronavirus outbreak went up to 563 as 73
people died on Wednesday, the highest single day fatalities so far, while
total confirmed cases rose sharply to 28,018, Chinese health officials said
on Thursday.
Several international airlines, including Air India and IndiGo, have
cancelled flights to China over fears of the virus spreading across the
world, a move which Beijing described against the WHO guidelines. Several
countries have also announced travel bans.
Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying told the media briefing online on
Thursday that the Chinese government was acting with openness, transparency
and a high sense of responsibility in sharing information enhancing
international cooperation in dealing with the virus.
"The WHO lauded China's strong measures and stressed many times that it does
not recommend and even opposes imposing restrictions on travel. As some
countries have taken such excessive steps as suspending flights, ICAO
(International Civil Aviation Organisation) has also issued bulletins and
encouraged all countries to follow WHO recommendations," she said.


SAUDI COLD TO PAK ATTEMPT AT ANTI-INDIA MEET

Pakistan's bid to call an immediate meeting on Kashmir by Saudi-led
Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) seems to have failed after Riyadh
showed reluctance to the move, according to a Pakistani media report on
Thursday. In December, there were plans to convene a meeting of the foreign
ministers of the OIC on Kashmir by Saudi Arabia, in an apparent move by the
kingdom to please Pakistan which skipped a recent summit of Muslim nations
in Malaysia seen by Riyadh as an attempt to create a new bloc to replace the
57-member grouping led by it.
Prime Minister Imran Khan had confirmed Pakistan's participation in the
summit hosted by Malaysia, but skipped the event at the eleventh hour due to
pressure exerted by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates - key
financial backers of the cash-strapped country.
The report by Dawn News came ahead of the bloc's senior officials' meeting
in Jeddah on February 9 to make preparations for the Council of Foreign
Ministers (CFM).
Islamabad's feeling of unease with the OIC over its failure to get the CFM's
meeting appears to be growing, as Riyadh has been showing reluctance to
convene the meeting on Kashmir.

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