World Newsletter

23 Sept 2020



Chinese President Xi Jinping during his speech at the United Nations General Assembly on Tuesday assured the countries that China has no intention to fight a cold war or a hot one with any country.

Defending his country, Xi said, “China has no intention to fight either cold war or a hot one with any country.” The leader also warned nations against the dangers of ‘clash of civilizations’.

At the virtual meeting of world leaders, Xi urged the countries to not “politicise the fight against Covid-19”. Xi put across the following points at UNGA:

-- President Xi Jinping said that China will make Covid-19 vaccines available as global public good. He also said that several Covid-19 vaccines developed by China are already in phase three clinical trials.

Xi said that vaccines will be provided to developing countries on priority basis.

-- World should say no to unilateralism and protectionism, world trade organisation should be cornerstone of global trade, Xi said.

-- Any attempt to politicize Covid-19 pandemic should be rejected, Xi urged.

-- Chinese President Xi Jinping told UN: World should follow the guidance of science in combating Covid-19 virus.

-- Natural for countries to have differences but should address them through dialogue, Xi said.

-- Xi says world should give leading role to World Head Organisation (WHO) in international response to beat coronavirus pandemic.

-- We should enhance solidarity over coronavirus, the Chinese president said.

-- Covid-19 will not be the last global crisis, so we must join hands, Xi urged the world leaders at UNGA meet.

-- China will strengthen its Paris climate pledge by adopting more vigorous policies and measures, he said.

-- At the first virtual meet of UNGA, China pledged to achieve CO2 emissions peak before 2030, carbon neutrality before 2060.





The British government announced fresh steps on Tuesday to try to stop a coronavirus surge in England, as the World Health Organization warned that new cases worldwide soared to record levels last week.

The tally of 1,998,897 infections was "the highest number of reported cases in a single week since the beginning of the epidemic", the WHO said, adding that the number of deaths fell compared with the previous week.

The death toll in the United States passed another dismal milestone on Tuesday, soaring beyond 200,000 as cases approached seven million in the world's worst-affected country.

The ramped-up response in Britain followed warnings that the country could see an explosion of cases and deaths if it failed to take decisive action.

From Thursday, English pubs, bars and other venues will be required to close at 10:00 pm. Food and drink outlets will also be restricted to table service.

Britain has also shelved plans to allow fans to return to sporting venues in England next month and boosted fines for rule-breakers in broad tightening of restrictions.

Another advice from the UK PM was to “work from home”, a reversal of the recent “back to work” advice. Weddings will also be limited to 15 people, instead of 30, while planned pilot events for the return of spectator sport have been cancelled.





Earlier this month, the European Union privacy regulator sent a preliminary order to Facebook which called for it to suspend data transfers about its EU users back to the US. According to the order, EU officials are increasingly concerned about potential surveillance practices by the US Government, and are now looking to limit such by restricting the flow of user information.

That would essentially force Facebook to keep EU user data in Europe, and implement new restrictions on data-sharing between nations. Which, of course, would be expensive, restrictive and would make things increasingly complicated for The Social Network.

And now Facebook has issued an official response, saying that, if such rules are implemented, it may be forced to stop operating both Facebook and Instagram in Europe entirely.

As reported by Vice, Facebook noted that:

"If the decision is upheld, “it is not clear to [Facebook] how, in those circumstances, it could continue to provide the Facebook and Instagram services in the EU,” said Yvonne Cunnane, who is Facebook Ireland’s head of data protection and associate general counsel."

Facebook and Instagram have more than 410 million combined users in the EU region, and all them, theoretically, would lose access to both platforms, if Facebook were to follow through with this threat.

Of course, that's not very likely. Not only would Facebook lose a lot of money and market share, but it would also be a drastic action to take in response to data privacy measures. A more likely scenario would eventually see Facebook forced to establish EU-only data centers, which may be the eventual outcome.

But the fact that Facebook would threaten a full pull-out underlines the significance of the concern, and the rising concerns over data-sharing between nations.





What do you do when Vladimir Putin offers you Russia’s new coronavirus vaccine, for free? United Nations staff in New York and around the world are now facing that choice, after the Russian president offered on Tuesday to provide them the Sputnik-V vaccine in a speech to this year’s General Assembly marking the body’s 75th birthday.

Only results from small early studies on Russian vaccine have been published, raising concerns among some scientists that the vaccine isn’t ready yet for widespread use — and prompting worldwide memes about potential bizarre side effects.

“Any one of us could face this dangerous virus. The virus has not spared the staff of the United Nations, its headquarters and regional entities,” Mr. Putin said in a prerecorded speech from Moscow.

The coronavirus pandemic means this year’s General Assembly is a work-from-home production, for the first time in its history.

“Russia is ready to offer UN workers the necessary, qualified help, and in particular we propose to supply our vaccine for free to employees of the organisation and its subsidiaries who volunteer for vaccination,” said Mr. Putin, who announced the vaccine to broad fanfare last month and said his own daughter is among those who have taken it.

He described Tuesday’s offer as a response to popular demand: Some colleagues from the UN have asked about this, and we will not remain indifferent to them.

UN staff didn’t immediately speak out on whether they’d take him up on the offer.





US President Donald Trump on Monday restored the UN arms embargo on Iran and imposed sweeping new sanctions against Tehran, targeting Iran-related conventional arms transfers, several high-profile individuals and government bodies.

“Today, I am taking new actions to restrict Iran’s nuclear, ballistic missile, and conventional weapons pursuits. My Administration will never allow Iran to have a nuclear weapon, nor will we allow Iran to endanger the rest of the world with a fresh supply of ballistic missiles and conventional arms,” Trump said in a statement.

Trump said he has issued a new Executive Order, restoring United Nations sanctions on Iran, and imposing new sanctions and export controls on more than two dozen entities and individuals that support Iran’s nuclear, missile, and conventional arms-related activities.

The executive order blocks the property, and interests in property, in the US of those who contribute to the supply, sale, or transfer of conventional arms to or from Iran, as well as those who provide technical training, financial support and services, and other assistance related to these arms.

Noting that this executive order is critical to enforcing the UN arms embargo on Iran, Trump said that this order will greatly diminish the Iranian regime’s capacity to export arms to terrorists and dangerous actors throughout the region, as well as its ability to acquire weapons to build up its own forces.

Trump said that his administration is also imposing new sanctions and export control measures on 27 entities and individuals connected to Iran’s proliferation networks.





Sri Lanka’s Justice Minister Ali Sabry on Tuesday tabled the contentious 20th Amendment Bill in Parliament, as Opposition members protested by raising slogans against the move.

“We don’t want 20,” members of the main Opposition party Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB, or United People’s Front) chanted in chorus. The party is mulling moving the Supreme Court, according to political sources, to challenge the draft Amendment that greatly enhances the powers of the Executive President, while replacing the preceding 19th Amendment of 2015 that sought to clip them. In addition to strengthening the ambit and power of the President’s office, the Bill envisages a diminished role for the Prime Minister and Parliament.

Last week, the government said it would revisit the Amendment and Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa appointed a committee to study the proposed legislation and give recommendations.

However, it appears that no changes have yet been made to the draft that has triggered concern among public intellectuals, activists and government critics.

Commenting on the draft 20th Amendment in a recent column, senior political scientist Jayadeva Uyangoda termed it a “constitutional bombshell”.

Calling for resistance, prominent civil society activist Paikiasothy Saravanamuthu wrote “we cannot descend into majoritarian, populist, and authoritarian dynastic rule upon which the militarisation of our society will be set in stone for the foreseeable future and generations to come”.

Other oppositional voices, including from Tamil political parties, have cautioned that the Bill might take Sri Lanka on the path to “autocracy” and “dictatorship”.





A new opinion poll indicates that New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is poised to win a second term in office when the nation goes to the polls next month. But Ardern said Tuesday that she”s taking nothing for granted.

The 1 News Colmar Brunton Poll put support for Ardern”s liberal Labour Party at 48 per cent while support for the conservative National Party, led by opposition leader Judith Collins, was at 31 per cent.

Support for Ardern as preferred prime minister was at 54 per cent compared to 18 per cent for Collins.

Under New Zealand’s proportional voting system, larger parties typically form coalitions with smaller parties to govern.

Ardern’s popularity has surged since the coronavirus became the defining issue for her government six months ago. Her approach of trying to eliminate the virus has been widely viewed as successful.

Collins is promising more robust border controls to ensure the virus is kept out and sweeping tax cuts to help reboot the economy.

The two leaders met for the first televised debate of the election campaign Tuesday and were asked about the poll.

“We will keep working every day of this campaign and you will see no complacency from us and no assumptions,” Ardern said.


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