World Newsletter

6 August 2020



Lebanon's government on Wednesday announced a two-week state of emergency in

the country's capital following Tuesday's devastating explosion in Beirut.

There were two explosions in Beirut on Tuesday afternoon (local time), which

occurred barely within minutes of each other. The explosions took place in

the central port area of the city. In footage on social media, it appears as

though the two blasts were triggered in different buildings. Following the

first blast, the fire spread to a nearby building, triggering a bigger


The explosion was felt nearly 250 kilometres away, in the neighbouring

island of Cyprus, according to the European-Mediterranean Seismological

Centre (EMSC).

CNN reported that the blast created seismic waves equivalent of a magnitude

3.3 earthquake.

President Michel Aoun said the blast was caused by 2,750 tonnes of ammonium

nitrate stored unsafely at port warehouses for the past six years.

Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri said the scale of the losses "was too

great to be described", and the "biggest loss is the loss of dozens of dead

and injured".

Beirut Governor Marwan Abboud said the "apocalyptic situation" has left an

estimated 300,000 people homeless.

The Lebanese government gave the military the power to put any citizen under

house arrest in connection with the explosion.

The country's government has allocated 100 billion Lebanese ($66 million or

approximately Rs 494 crore) to deal with the aftermath of the explosion.

The international community has responded with both condolences for the dead

and offers to help the people of Beirut with recovery efforts.





The U.S. announced on Wednesday its highest-level visit to Taiwan since it

switched diplomatic recognition to China in 1979, a move Beijing blasted as

a threat to "peace and stability".

The visit, headed by health chief Alex Azar, comes as relations between the

world's two biggest powers plunge to historic lows.

"This marks... the first Cabinet member to visit in six years, and the

highest level visit by a U.S. Cabinet official since 1979," said

Washington's de facto Embassy, the American Institute in Taiwan, with no

date yet given for the visit.

Washington remains the leading arms supplier to the island but has

historically been cautious in holding official contacts with it.

Beijing views Taiwan as its own territory - vowing to one day seize it - and

bristles at any moves by other countries to recognise or communicate with

Taipei. "China firmly opposes official exchanges between the U.S. and

Taiwan," Wang Wenbin, a spokesman for China's Foreign Ministry, said as he

called for the visit to be cancelled.

Taiwan said Mr. Azar would meet President Tsai Ing-wen.





Polling for Sri Lanka's parliamentary election concluded on Wednesday with a

voter turnout of 71%. The results will be released on Thursday, the Election

Commission said.

After postponing the elections twice in the wake of the coronavirus

pandemic, Sri Lanka became the first South Asian country to hold election

months after COVID-19 struck, claiming 11 lives in the island. However, the

country's public health sector managed to contain the numbers - 286 active

cases as of Wednesday - with support from the Army, drawing international

praise, including from the World Health Organization.

Following health guidelines stipulated by the Election Commission, masked

voters queued up in polling stations that were equipped with hand washing

facilities. They maintained physical distancing with fellow voters, as they

elected representatives to the new Parliament, in which the ruling Rajapaksa

administration is seeking a two-thirds majority.





Facebook and Twitter have penalised US President Donald Trump and his

campaign for posts in which he claimed children are "almost immune" to


Facebook deleted the post - a clip from an interview he gave to Fox News -

saying it contained "harmful Covid misinformation".

Twitter followed up by saying it had frozen a Trump campaign account until

it removed a tweet of the same clip.

US public health advice makes clear children have no immunity to Covid-19.

A Facebook spokesperson said on Wednesday evening: "This video includes

false claims that a group of people is immune from COVID-19 which is a

violation of our policies around harmful COVID misinformation."

It was the first time the social giant had taken action to remove content

posted by the president based on its coronavirus-misinformation policy, but

not the first time it has penalised Mr Trump over content on his page.

Later on Wednesday, Twitter said it had frozen the @TeamTrump account

because it posted the same interview excerpt, which President Trump's

account shared.

A Twitter spokesman said the @TeamTrump tweet "is in violation of the

Twitter Rules on COVID-19 misinformation".

"The account owner will be required to remove the Tweet before they can

Tweet again."

It later appeared to have been deleted.





Pakistan's top economic body on Wednesday approved its costliest project to

date as part of the multibillion-dollar China-Pakistan Economic Corridor

(CPEC) agreement, giving the go-ahead for a $6.8 billion project to upgrade

its railway lines, the government said.

CPEC has seen Beijing pledge over $60 billion for infrastructure projects in

Pakistan, central to China's wider Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) to develop

land and sea trade routes in Asia and beyond.

The Executive Committee of the National Economic Council (ECNEC) approved

the railway project, known as Mainline-1 (ML-1), on a cost-sharing basis

between Islamabad and Beijing, Pakistan's finance division said in a


Under the project, Pakistan's existing 2,655km railway tracks will be

upgraded to allow trains to move up to 165km per hour - twice as fast as

they currently do - while the line capacity will increase from 34 to over

150 trains each way per day.

"The execution of the project shall be in 3 packages and in order to avoid

commitment charges, the loan amount for each package will be separately


At $6.8 billion, the ML-1 project alone is almost equal to Pakistan's entire

development budget for fiscal 2020/21, which stands at 1.32 trillion

Pakistani rupees ($7.9 billion).





The US election plunged deeper into unprecedented territory on Wednesday

when challenger Joe Biden announced he would accept his nomination virtually

and President Trump suggested breaking tradition by holding his own ceremony

at the White House.

Citing coronavirus health risks, the Biden campaign said he would make his

speech - the high point of a candidate's race - from his Delaware home. He

had planned to attend the August 17-20 Democratic convention in Milwaukee,

but the party said the risk was too high, and switched to a fully virtual

affair. "We are putting the health and safety of the American people first,"

said Democratic National Committee chairman Tom Perez.

Trump signalled he may also accept his nomination from home - in his case,

the White House. Trump's August 27 acceptance speech was originally planned

for North Carolina.

However, presidents are required to separate their campaigning from

taxpayer-funded governing. If he goes ahead, Trump would be breaking at the

very least with presidential decorum by turning the South Lawn of the

building into his personal campaign stage. Trump defended the idea as "by

far the least expensive" and would require less movement of staff and

guests. He said he would rethink "if for some reason someone had difficulty

with it".





France and the Netherlands imposed stricter mask-wearing rules on Wednesday

amid signs that the COVID-19 pandemic is flaring up again across the globe,

with the worldwide death toll exceeding 7,00,000.

Toulouse in southwest France announced that the wearing of face masks is

compulsory in particularly busy streets and squares from Wednesday. And

Paris and other cities are expected to follow suit soon, authorities said.

In the Netherlands, similar mask-wearing measures come into force in

Rotterdam and in some busy neighbourhoods of Amsterdam, including its famous

red-light district.

And Ireland has postponed the reopening of pubs and other nightspots on the

advice of scientists, concerned about rising infections.

A total of 7,00,489 deaths have been recorded so far around the world,

according to an AFP tally, double the number since May 26, with 1,00,000

registered in just under three weeks.

Europe remains the hardest hit region with 211,365 fatalities.

Brazil is driving a surge in Latin America and the Caribbean, where

infections passed five million on Monday. South America's largest country

has recorded more than 2.75 million cases, and nearly 96,000 deaths, nearly

half the region's 2,03,800 fatalities.

In South Africa, the hardest-hit country in Africa, some 24,000 health

workers have contracted the virus and 181 have died since March.





Bells have tolled in Hiroshima, Japan, to mark the 75th anniversary of the

dropping of the world's first atomic bomb.

Memorial events were scaled back this year due to the pandemic.

Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and the mayor of Hiroshima joined bomb

survivors and descendants for a reduced gathering in the city's Peace Park.

"On August 6, 1945, a single atomic bomb destroyed our city. Rumour at the

time had it that 'nothing will grow here for 75 years,'" Mayor Kazumi Matsui


"And yet, Hiroshima recovered, becoming a symbol of peace."

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