World Newsletter

27 Oct 2020




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

President Trump.

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 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 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,

also declined.

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 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

further misery."





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 (CPC) on Monday began a key conclave of top leaders

that will set the direction for the country's economic policies for the next

five years.

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

external demand.





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.

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