27 Oct 2020
AMY CONEY BARRETT CONFIRMED TO US SUPREME COURT IN TRUMP PRE-ELECTION
The US Senate has confirmed Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court in
a victory for President Donald Trump a week before the general election.
Mr Trump's fellow Republicans voted 52-48 to approve the judge, overcoming
the unified opposition of Democrats.
The 48-year-old took the oath of office at the White House alongside
Her appointment seals for the foreseeable future a 6-3 conservative majority
on the top US judicial body.
Only one Republican, Senator Susan Collins, who faces a tough re-election
battle in Maine, voted against the president's nominee in Monday evening's
Judge Barrett is the third justice appointed by the Republican president,
after Neil Gorsuch in 2017 and Brett Kavanaugh in 2018.
The federal appeals court judge from Indiana fills the vacancy left by
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a liberal icon who died last month.
On Monday, she took the Constitutional Oath in front of a crowd of about 200
on the South Lawn at the White House.
JAPAN REJECTS UN TREATY BANNING NUCLEAR WEAPONS
Japan will not sign a United Nations treaty to ban nuclear weapons, a top
government official insisted Monday.
The UN said 50 countries have ratified the Treaty on the Prohibition of
Nuclear Weapons, known as the TPNW, paving the way for it to come into
effect in 90 days time.
Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato said Japan shared the goal of
achieving a nuclear-free world, but did not think the treaty was the way to
"Japan's approach is different from that of the treaty, and there is no
change to our position not to sign it," he told reporters.
The UN announcement was hailed by anti-nuclear activists, including
survivors of the nuclear bombs dropped over Japan in 1945.
But the treaty has been strongly opposed by the United States and the other
major nuclear powers.
With nuclear powers and non-nuclear weapons states sharply divided over the
treaty, it was not realistic to pursue the goal, Kato said.
Japan has refused to sign the treaty even though it is the world's only
country to have suffered nuclear attacks and renounces its own possession,
production or hosting of nuclear weapons.
The five nuclear powers and four other countries known or believed to
possess nuclear weapons - India, Pakistan, North Korea and Israel -
boycotted negotiations and the vote on the treaty, along with many of their
allies, including Japan.
US STOCK MARKETS SLIDE AS COVID-19 CASES RISE
US stock markets suffered their sharpest drop in weeks as concerns about the
economic impact of surging coronavirus cases sent shares tumbling.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed down 2.3%, after dropping more than
3% earlier in the day. The S&P 500 fell 1.8% and the Nasdaq 1.6%.
Stocks in Europe, where a rise in virus cases has prompted new restrictions,
Shares in travel and energy firms took some of the heaviest losses.
In the United States, cruise lines Royal Caribbean Group, Carnival and
Norwegian all dropped more than 8%, while in the UK, British Airways owner
IAG closed 7.6% lower.
Travel firms have been some of the most sensitive to warnings about the
virus, which experts worry will intensify as winter approaches.
On Monday, Michael Ryan, an emergencies expert for the World Health
Organization, said that Europe would need "much more comprehensive" measures
to get the virus under control.
"Right now we're well behind this virus in Europe, so getting ahead of it is
going to take some serious acceleration in what we do," he said.
On Monday, France's CAC 40 ended 1.9% lower, while Germany's Dax index
dropped 3.7%. In the UK, the FTSE 100 fell nearly 1.2%.
IRAN'S FOREIGN MINISTER URGES UN TO UNITE AGAINST US UNILATERAL ACTIONS
Iran's foreign minister used his speech for the 75th anniversary of the
United Nations to accuse the United States of initiating or joining eight
wars since 200 that displaced 37 million people and resulted in the loss of
hundreds of thousands of innocent lives and "unprecedented extremism."
Mohammad Javad Zarif said in a virtual speech to the U.N. General Assembly
that it was time for the 193-member world body "to recommit itself to stand
up - united - against unilateralism and war" promoted by the United States.
Zarif's speech had scheduled to be broadcast on Sept. 21 when world leaders
commemorated the U.N.'s 75th anniversary. But there were so many speakers
that the speeches of 58 leaders and ministers were carried over and only
shown Monday, two days after U.N. Day, which commemorates the entry into
force of the U.N. Charter that officially established the United Nations on
Oct. 24, 1945.
Zarif quoted a study released last month by Brown University's Costs of War
project that estimated the United States' wars since the 9/11 terrorist
attacks in 2001 have forced at least 37 million people to flee their homes
in the eight most violent conflicts - Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Libya,
Syria, Yemen, Somalia and the Philippines.
"How can we counter the unilateralism and disdain for international law by a
bully that only knows wielding a big stick and speaking arrogantly?" Zarif
asked, also citing U.S. with battles American Indian tribes, the Civil War
that ended slavery, and what he called "economic wars" resulting from U.S.
"In fact, no one wins in a war," the Iranian minister said. "It's time to
change tack - saving American blood and treasure and sparing the world from
MUSLIMS 'NOT PERSECUTED' IN FRANCE, SAYS COUNTRY'S MUSLIM COUNCIL
Muslims are "not persecuted" in France, the French Council of the Muslim
Faith (CFCM) said Monday as a row over radical Islam and freedom of speech
pits Muslim nations against Paris.
"France is a great country, Muslim citizens are not persecuted, they freely
construct their mosques and they freely practise their religion," said the
council, which acts as an official go-between for the state and observant
French President Emmanuel Macron has vowed to take the fight to Islamist
radicals after the October 16 beheading of a history teacher who had shown
cartoons of the Prophet Mohamed to pupils in a class discussion on free
But a backlash against his comments saw protests in Muslim-majority
countries over the weekend, with people burning pictures of Macron in Syria
and setting fire to French flags in the Libyan capital Tripoli.
Boycotts of French goods are under way in supermarkets in Qatar and Kuwait,
with further calls to spurn French products in Jordan, Turkey and other
The head of the CFCM, Mohammed Moussaoui, urged French Muslims on Monday to
"defend the interests" of the nation in the face of the international
"We know that the promoters of these campaigns say they defend Islam and the
Muslims of France, we urge them to be reasonable... all the smear campaigns
against France are counterproductive and create division," he said.
Regarding cartoons of the Prophet Mohamed, viewed as offensive by many
Muslims, Moussaoui said French law gave people "the right to hate" the
But he said he supported the stance of Macron, who has vowed France would
never relinquish cartoons or the right to mock religion.
Representatives of the CFCM were to meet Macron at the Elysee Palace later
CHINA'S COMMUNIST PARTY HOLDS KEY POLICY CONCLAVE
China's Communist Party (CPC) on Monday began a key conclave of top leaders
that will set the direction for the country's economic policies for the next
The 14th five-year plan (2021-2025) and a longer-term "Vision 2035"
blueprint will be in focus at the fifth plenary session, or plenum, of the
CPC's Central Committee, which meets for such sessions once a year.
China's State media reported President and CPC General Secretary Xi Jinping
on Monday delivered a work report at the start of the plenum, attended by
the around 200 members of the Central Committee, and "explained a draft
document of the CPC Central Committee's proposals for formulating the 14th
Five-Year (2021-2025) Plan for Economic and Social Development and future
targets for 2035."
This is the first such party meeting since the COVID-19 pandemic, and is
also the highest-level economic policy meeting held once every five years.
The party will likely hold two more such party plenaries, focusing on other
themes such as party governance, before its next leadership congress in 2022
when it will choose a new Politburo and Central Committee.
As with the economy-focused plenum five years ago, the current four-day
session, being held at the high-security Jingxi hotel in Beijing, will firm
up the next five-year plan. The 14th plan (2021-2025), the official Xinhua
news agency reported, will "lay out measures to nurture a new development
Three themes are expected to be in focus. The first is what Mr. Xi has
pushed as a new "dual circulation" model, placing greater emphasis on
self-reliance and the domestic market as a driver of growth - a task that
has taken on greater urgency against the backdrop of the trade war with the
U.S. and the pandemic triggering a collapse in global demand and
unemployment problems domestically - while striking a better balance with
NASA TO LAUNCH DELICATE STOWING OF OSIRIS-REX ASTEROID SAMPLES
NASA's robotic spacecraft Osiris-Rex is set to begin on Tuesday a delicate
operation to store the precious particles it scooped up from the asteroid
Bennu, but which were leaking into space when a flap got wedged open.
The probe is on a mission to collect fragments that scientists hope will
help unravel the origins of our solar system, but that hit a snag after it
picked up too big of a sample.
Fragments from the asteroid's surface are in a collector at the end of the
probe's three-meter (10-foot) arm, slowly escaping into space because some
rocks have prevented the compartment closing completely.
That arm is what came into contact with Bennu for a few seconds last Tuesday
in the culmination of a mission launched from Earth some four years ago.
The probe is thought to have collected some 400 grams (14 ounces) of
fragments, far more than the minimum of 60 grams needed, NASA said
Scientists need to stow the sample in a capsule that is at the probe's
center, and the operation was moved up to Tuesday from the planned November
2 date due to the leak.
"The abundance of material we collected from Bennu made it possible to
expedite our decision to stow," said Dante Lauretta, project chief.
Osiris-Rex is set to come home in September 2023, hopefully with the largest
sample returned from space since the Apollo era.
The stowing operation will take several days, NASA said, because it requires
the team's oversight and input unlike some of Osiris-Rex's other operations
that run autonomously.