28 Oct 2020
TRUMP'S PICK AMY CONEY BARRETT SWORN IN AS SUPREME COURT JUSTICE
Amy Coney Barrett was sworn in as the 115th Supreme Court justice Monday
evening, elevating a disciple of the late Justice Antonin Scalia to succeed
the late liberal icon Ruth Bader Ginsburg and establishing a broad
conservative majority for the first time since the 1930s.
In an outdoor ceremony on the South Lawn of the White House, just eight days
before the election, the 48-year-old judge took the first of two oaths to be
sworn in to the Supreme Court, with President Trump looking on. Supreme
Court Justice Clarence Thomas administered the oath in front of a few
hundred guests, most of them wearing masks, within hours of the
Republican-led Senate confirming her appointment.
The vote to confirm Justice Barrett was 52-48, with only one GOP senator,
Susan Collins of Maine, joining Democrats in voting against the nominee.
"She will make an outstanding justice on the highest court," Mr. Trump said
at the ceremony. He noted that she would be the first mother of school-aged
children to serve on the Supreme Court.
"I am grateful for the confidence you have expressed in me, and I pledge to
you and to the American people that I will discharge my duties to the very
best of my ability," she said.
A blatant Trump has however said he wanted Barrett to be confirmed before
Election Day so she could cast a decisive vote in any poll-related dispute,
potentially in his favour.
Meanwhile, Trump's exhortation to voters who have already cast their ballots
in early voting to revise their choice - an option some states offer - in
his favour is adding to growing apprehensions of a messy, and possibly
inconclusive and violent finale to the November 3 election.
Over 66 million Americans - about 50% of the 2016 turnout - have already
voted; 44 million through mail-in ballots and 22 million in person. With
surveys indicating a big lead for Democrats in early voting, Trump opened a
can of worms on Tuesday by tweeting: "Strongly Trending (Google) since
immediately after the second debate is CAN I CHANGE MY VOTE? This refers
changing it to me. The answer in most states is YES. Go do it. Most
important Election of your life!"
There are questionable assumptions and assertions in the tweet about a brief
trend from a week ago, including a shift in preference for him. But more
pertinently, only some states - including battlegrounds Wisconsin and
Michigan that Trump won narrowly in 2016 - allow a vote change, while some
others like Florida, Arizona, do not.
FRANCE, EMMANUEL MACRON AND ISLAM
On October 16, when an 18-year-old Chechen refugee in France beheaded
schoolteacher Samuel Paty, 47, days after he had shown caricatures of
Prophet Mohammed to his students, President Emmanuel Macron said: "We will
continue. We will defend the freedom that you taught so well and we will
bring secularism." He said France would "not give up cartoons, drawings,
even if others back down".
Days before Paty's killing, Macron had made a controversial speech. He
declared that "Islam is a religion that is in crisis today all over the
world", "plagued by radical temptations and by a yearning for a reinvented
jihad which is the destruction of the other".
He spoke of an "Islamist separatism" within the country, and the need to
counter it through the rules and values of the Republic, to build a French
version of Islam, an "Islam of Enlightenment" that would integrate French
Muslim citizens better with the French way of life.
The speech, and Macron's pronouncements after the killing of Paty, have
infuriated many Islamic countries, with Turkey and Pakistan taking the lead
in denouncing the French President of Islamophobia. Turkish President Recep
Tayyip Erdogan, who has long-standing rows with France and Marcron - over
gas reserves off Cyprus, over Nagarno Karabakh, and over the wars in Libya
and Syria - questioned Macron's mental health after the speech.
French secularism, or laicite, sees no place for religion in the public
sphere. In this way, it is the opposite of how India has practised its
So even though there is a real constitutional basis to Macron's positioning
on Islam - as necessitated by laicite - it is also a political necessity. No
French politician at this point believes s/he can afford to ignore the
impact of these events on French national life.
MELANIA TRUMP SLAMS BIDEN, DEMOCRATS IN FIRST SOLO CAMPAIGN STOP
Melania Trump lined up squarely with her husband Tuesday on her first solo
trip of the 2020 campaign, slamming Joe Biden, Democrats and the media as
she pushed the president's reelection message in the battleground state of
The first lady defended Donald Trump's record on COVID-19 even as he
continues to play down the threat of a virus that has killed more than
226,000 Americans. She sought to shift the blame to Democrats, who she said
tried to "put their own agendas ahead of the American people's well-being"
and focused on a "sham impeachment" instead of the coronavirus.
Mrs. Trump also denounced what she called Biden's "socialist agenda" and
criticized media coverage of "idle gossip and palace intrigue" in the White
Biden's "policies and socialist agenda will only serve to destroy America
and all that has been built in the past four years," she said. "We must keep
Donald in the White House so he can finish what he's started and our country
can continue to flourish."
Mrs. Trump also struck an empathetic tone on the virus, calling herself a
"worried mother and wife" who knows "there are many people who have lost
loved ones or know people who have been forever impacted by this silent
But she defended her husband's handling of the virus and said his
administration "chooses to keep moving forward during this pandemic, not
backward," insisting that schools, restaurants and businesses have learned
to operate safely during the pandemic.
"We don't close down and hide in fear. We get to work to find real and
lasting solutions," she said.
PAKISTAN TO STRENGTHEN TIES WITH AFGHANISTAN: PM IMRAN KHAN
Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan has said his government has decided to
strengthen relations with Afghanistan "no matter who is in power" in Kabul.
Inaugurating a two-day seminar titled 'Pakistan-Afghanistan Trade and
Investment Forum' here on Monday, Mr. Khan reaffirmed Pakistan's strong
resolve to continue to play its role for peace and stability in Afghanistan.
Mr. Khan said his government was making efforts to enhance connections with
the business community of Afghanistan in order to benefit from each other's
experience and give impetus to trade and economic relations.
The Prime Minister said his government has decided to strengthen relations
with Afghanistan "no matter who is in power" in the neighbouring country.
"Future of both countries is dependent upon their unity, mutual trade, and
enhanced economic interlinks," Mr. Khan said while highlighting the need to
support Afghan traders and investors.
He said both the Muslim countries had vast potential for investment and
economic activities, which would bring regional prosperity and development.
Both Afghanistan and Pakistan could benefit from the China-Pakistan Economic
Corridor (CPEC) and become hubs of trade and business, he remarked.
TAIWAN SAYS NEW ARMS PURCHASES TO BOOST CREDIBLE DEFENSE
Taiwan said Tuesday that the recent proposal of U.S. sale of missiles and
other arms systems will boost the island's ability to credibly defend
itself, amid rising threats from China.
The comments from defense ministry spokesperson Shih Shun-wen came a day
after China said it would exact unspecified retaliation against companies
that make the weapons systems, including Lockheed Martin Corp., Raytheon
Technologies Corp. and Boeing Co.'s defense division, the lead contractor on
a $2.37 billion sale of Harpoon missile systems to Taiwan.
Facing a potential Chinese foe with overwhelming superiority in missiles,
soldiers, ships and planes, Taiwan has struggled to assure its own people
and key ally the U.S. that it is capable of and willing to see to its own
defense. The sides split amid a civil war in 1949 and China considers Taiwan
its own territory to be brought under its control by force if necessary.
"The purchase of these weapons will enhance Taiwan's credible combat
capabilities and asymmetric combat capabilities," Shih told reporters at a
briefing, using a term for countering a much stronger foe with precision
weapons and advanced tactics. "This will also enhance our overall combat
capabilities to contribute to maintaining peace and stability across the
EU TELLS U.K. TO SAY HOW LONG IT WILL ALIGN WITH EU FINANCIAL RULES
Britain must spell out how far it wants to diverge from European Union rules
if it wants access to the bloc's financial market from January, a top
European Commission official said on Tuesday.
Britain has left the EU and access under transition arrangements ends on
Dec. 31. Future access for the City of London hinges on U.K. financial rules
staying aligned or "equivalent" to regulation in the bloc.
John Berrigan, head of the European Commission's financial services unit,
said Brussels has asked London for more clarification on Britain's
intentions to work out what is an "acceptable level" of divergence.
"We are almost ready," Mr. Berrigan told the European Parliament.
"There will be divergence... but we have to get some mutual understanding of
how much divergence is likely to happen, and is that going to be sufficient
to allow us to maintain an equivalence arrangement."
Brussels has granted temporary access for U.K. clearing houses, but chunks
of stock and derivatives trading would move from London to the bloc without
Separately, Britain and the EU are discussing a trade deal which would
contain only limited references to financial services to avoid tying the
bloc's hands, Mr. Berrigan said.
IRAN BUILDING UNDERGROUND NUCLEAR FACILITY, SAYS UN?WATCHDOG
Inspectors from the UN's atomic watchdog have confirmed Iran has started
building an underground centrifuge assembly plant after its previous one
exploded in what Tehran called a sabotage attack over the summer, the
agency's head told The Associated Press on Tuesday.
Iran also continues to stockpile greater amounts of low-enriched uranium,
but does not appear to possess enough to produce a weapon, Rafael Grossi,
director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, told the AP in
an interview in Berlin.
Following the July explosion at the Natanz nuclear site, Tehran said it
would build a new, more secure, structure in the mountains around the area.
Satellite pictures of Natanz analysed by experts have yet to show any
obvious signs of construction at the site in Iran's central Isfahan
"They have started, but it's not completed," Grossi said. "It's a long
process." He would not give further details, saying it's "confidential
information". Iran's mission to the United Nations did not immediately
respond to a request for comment.