6 August 2020
LEBANON DECLARES 2-WEEK STATE OF EMERGENCY AFTER DEADLY TWIN BLASTS
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
CNN reported that the blast created seismic waves equivalent of a magnitude
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
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.
U.S. PLAN FOR HIGHEST-LEVEL TAIWAN VISIT ANGERS CHINA
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.
SRI LANKA SEES 71% TURNOUT IN PARLIAMENTARY POLLS
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
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, TWITTER PULL TRUMP POSTS OVER CORONAVIRUS MISINFORMATION
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
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
It later appeared to have been deleted.
PAKISTAN APPROVES MOST EXPENSIVE CHINA-AIDED PROJECT TO DATE
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).
BIDEN, TRUMP SCRAMBLE TO REPLAN NOMINATION EVENTS
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
COUNTRIES TIGHTEN MEASURES AS CORONAVIRUS TOLL TOPS 7,00,000
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
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.
HIROSHIMA: JAPAN MARKS 75 YEARS SINCE FIRST ATOMIC BOMB
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."