World Newsletter

24 January 2020



Toxic misinformation has continued reaching new heights in 2020, one sign of

that is the “Birtherism” misinformation about Senator Kamala Harris, the

Democratic vice-presidential nominee, now exceeds that about President

Barack Obama at its peak in 2017, according to a new analysis.

Lies that Harris was not born American (she was) and is therefore not

eligible for the vice presidency spiked last month in the week after Joe

Biden announced her as his running mate, according to Zignal Labs, a media

insights company.

Falsehoods about Senator Kamala HarrisÂ’s American birth were mentioned on

social media and television 103,400 times in one week, Zignal Labs said.

That was higher than the volume of birtherism misinformation about Obama in

the week after President Donald Trump renewed questions about his

predecessorÂ’s birthplace in 2017, Zignal Labs said. Those mentions rose to

98,100 that week.

Birtherism theory about Harris has become the fifth highest election

misinformation topic by volume since January, according to Zignal Labs. The

topics that have surpassed it were falsehoods about voting by mail; Bill and

Hillary Clinton; billionaire investor and Democratic donor George Soros; and







Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz vice president Maryam Nawaz on Wednesday said

political decisions should be made in Parliament and not at the army


The 46-year-old daughter of former premier Nawaz Sharif was responding to a

question from a reporter about Army Chief Gen Qamar Bajwa and head of the

ISI Lt Gen Faiz Hameed's meeting with key opposition figures at the army's

General Headquarters (GHQ) in Rawalpindi last week.

Maryam, who was at the Islamabad High Court for a hearing of an appeal

against her conviction in the Avenfield property reference, was talking to

media at the court premises.

Replying to a question on the last week's meeting, she said, "I heard about

the meeting. From what I understand it was called to discuss

Gilgit-Baltistan which is a political issue...These decisions should be made

in parliament, not in GHQ."

Maryam said she was not aware whether her father was aware of the meeting.





US President Donald Trump has refused to commit to a peaceful transfer of

power if he loses November's election.

"Well, we'll have to see what happens," the president told a news conference

at the White House. "You know that."

Mr Trump voiced concern about ballots, an apparent reference to postal

voting, which he argues is susceptible to fraud even though he has voted in

this way.

More states are encouraging mail-in voting, citing the need to keep voters

safe amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Mr Trump was asked by a reporter on Wednesday evening if he would commit to

a peaceful transfer of power "win, lose or draw" to Democrat Joe Biden.

"I've been complaining very strongly about the ballots," Mr Trump, a

Republican, said. "And the ballots are a disaster."

When the journalist countered that "people are rioting", Mr Trump

interjected: "Get rid of the ballots, and you'll have a very - you'll have a

very peaceful - there won't be a transfer, frankly, there'll be a


Earlier on Wednesday, the president defended his decision to seek the

appointment of a new Supreme Court justice before the vote to fill the

vacancy left by the late Ruth Bader Ginsburg, saying he expects the election

results to end up before the court.

"I think this [the election] will end up in the Supreme Court, and I think

it's very important that we have nine justices," the president said.

"I think it's better if you go before the election, because I think this

scam that the Democrats are pulling, it's a scam, the scam will be before

the United States Supreme Court."

Mr Trump was apparently referring again to his much-disputed claims that

mail-in ballots are vulnerable to fraud.





Foreign Ministers from the Group of 4 — India, Brazil, Japan and Germany — a

group that is seeking permanent membership of the UN Security Council

(UNSC), met virtually on Wednesday to further their objective. The four

countries stressed delivering concrete outcomes, in writing and within a

time frame.

“Participated in #G4 Foreign Ministers Meeting that called for a decisive

push for UNSC reforms during #UN75. Unanimous call for text-based

negotiations in a fixed time frame. Reformed Multilateralism guides IndiaÂ’s

approach to the United Nations,” External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar


His counterparts at the G4 meeting were Motegi Toshimitsu (Japan), Niels

Annen, (Minister of State representing German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas)

and Ernesto Araújo (Brazil).

The Ministers reaffirmed their common resolve to “finally take decisive

steps towards the early and comprehensive reform of the Security Council

that was envisaged by Heads of State and Government in the 2005 World

Summit,” as per a joint press statement released by the Ministry of External


The G4 will work with “other reform-minded countries and groups” to start

text-based negotiations (TBN) without delay and seek “concrete outcomes”

during the 75th session of the UN General Assembly, which has just begun and

lasts until next September.

“G4 Ministers reiterated support for each other’s membership to the UNSC

“given the capacity and willingness to take on major responsibilities with

regard to the maintenance of international peace and security”, the

statement said.





Saudi ArabiaÂ’s King Salman made a rare address to the UN General Assembly on

Wednesday, using the moment to highlight the foundational notions of his

regime — his steadfast commitment to the Palestinians, his stature as

custodian of IslamÂ’s holiest sites and his assertion that Iran is

responsible for much of the regionÂ’s instability.

The prerecorded speech to world leaders suggested that the 84-year-old king,

who delivers only a handful of public remarks each year, retains oversight

of high-level policies despite the immense powers amassed by his son, the

crown prince.

In delivering his remarks, he became only the second Saudi king to deliver a

speech to the world assembly. The first was his late brother, King Saud, in

1957 at UN headquarters in New York. And like his brotherÂ’s speech 63 years

prior, King Salman noted the sacred role of Islam in Saudi Arabia and the

importance that entails.

“We in the kingdom, due to our position in the Muslim world, bear a special

and historic responsibility to protect our tolerant Islamic faith from

attempts by terrorist organisations and extremist groups to pervert it,” Mr.

Salman said.

Reading from a piece of paper and seated at a desk under a large portrait of

his father, King Abdulaziz, the current monarch reiterated his support for

Palestinian statehood as a prerequisite for recognition of Israel.

He said the Arab Peace Initiative, which offers Israel full ties with Arab

states in exchange for concessions that lead to a Palestinian state,

provides a basis for resolving the regionÂ’s longest-running conflict.

The king made no mention of recent deals struck by neighbouring United Arab

Emirates and Bahrain to formalise ties with Israel.

Despite the appearance on Wednesday that Salman was in control of major

policies, there are indications that change is already underway with Israel

under the guidance of the crown prince.





US President Donald Trump announced new sanctions related to Cuba on

Wednesday that will prohibit Americans from staying at properties owned by

the Cuban government as well as the import of Cuban cigars and liquor.

"Today as part of our continuing fight against communist oppression I am

announcing that the Treasury Department will prohibit US travelers from

staying at properties owned by the Cuban government," Trump said at a White

House event. "We're also further restricting the importation of alcohol and

Cuban tobacco."





China on Wednesday hit out at US President Donald Trump for his hard-hitting

remarks against Beijing at the UN General Assembly session, saying his

allegations were full of “fabricated lies” driven by “shady political


In his address on Tuesday, Trump blasted China for “unleashing” the plague

of the “China virus” onto the world, demanding that the United Nations must

hold Beijing accountable for failing to contain the coronavirus that has

killed nearly one million people across the world, including 2,00,000


Slamming TrumpÂ’s speech, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said

the American leader’s UNGA remarks about China “disregarded facts and

fabricated lies”.

“And driven by shady political motives, President Trump used the UN podium

to level unfounded accusations against China. China firmly opposes these

smears. Such acts have again shown that unilateralism and bullying are the

biggest threat to the world,” Wang said.

“Lies can in no way masquerade as truth. The world is fully aware of China’s

record in containing COVID-19, and the people have their fair judgment,” he

said, adding that the virus was common enemy of humankind.

“China is a victim of the virus and made its contribution to the global

fight against the virus,” he said.

In his hard-hitting speech, Trump demanded that China, where the coronavirus

emerged, be held accountable for failure to control the virus and for

allowing it to spread across the world.





A day after the Sri Lankan government tabled the contentious 20th Amendment

Bill, Opposition parties, including the Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB, or

United PeopleÂ’s Front) and the Tamil National Alliance (TNA), moved the

Supreme Court challenging it.

At least six petitions, including those of the SJB and the TNA, were filed

on Wednesday, following the OppositionÂ’s protest in the legislature against

the move. “We have filed a petition on the basis that the 20th Amendment

Bill adversely impacts the sovereignty of the people. The legislature and

judiciary are sought to be made subservient to the executive. That is not

acceptable,” TNA leader R. Sampanthan told The Hindu.

“Each arm of the government should be able to function independently,

without undermining each other,” he added.

Leader of Opposition and SJB leader Sajith Premadasa earlier said tabling

the Bill marked a “dark day for democracy”.

The thrust of the petitions, according to legal sources, is that the 20th

Amendment Bill cannot be enacted without a national referendum since it

impacts the “sovereignty of the people”.

Reversing the 19th Amendment, its replacement envisions a more powerful

executive, even as it reduces the Prime MinisterÂ’s role to a ceremonial one,

legal experts here have remarked.

Share Your Thoughts