World Newsletter

23 Nov 2020



With a withering opinion, a federal judge on Saturday threw out President

Donald Trump's last remaining legal challenge seeking to invalidate

Pennsylvania's election results, all but ensuring the state will finalize

its vote tally as planned this week.

U.S. District Judge Matthew W. Brann described the case put forth by the

president's campaign as a tortured "Frankenstein's Monster" and the remedy

it sought - effectively disenfranchising nearly seven million voters in the

state - as "unhinged."

Judge Matthew Brann wrote in his ruling that Trump's team had presented

"strained legal arguments without merit and speculative accusations" in

their complaints about mail-in ballots in Pennsylvania.

"In the United States of America, this cannot justify the disenfranchisement

of a single voter, let alone all the voters of its sixth most populated

state," wrote Judge Brann.

"Our people, laws, and institutions demand more."

Still, campaign lawyers tried to spin the ruling into a victory.

"Today's decision ... helps us in our strategy to get expeditiously to the

U.S. Supreme Court," Trump legal advisers Rudy Giuliani and Jenna Ellis said

in a jointly issued statement. They said they intended to seek an expedited

hearing before the Philadelphia-based U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third


Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro, a Democrat whose office had

defended state elections administrators in the case, simply tweeted: "When

can I say I told you so?"

"Suit dismissed," he added. "Laws matter."

The ruling also prompted Sen. Pat Toomey to acknowledge President-elect Joe

Biden's victory, two weeks after it had been called by all major news

outlets. In a statement, the senator described Brann, an Obama-appointee and

former chairman of the Bradford County Republican Committee, as "a fair and

unbiased jurist" and "a longtime conservative Republican."

"With today's decision . President Trump has exhausted all plausible legal

options to challenge the result of the presidential race in Pennsylvania,"

his statement read. "These developments, together with the outcomes in the

rest of the nation, confirm that Joe Biden won the 2020 election and will

become the 46th President of the United States."

"To ensure that he is remembered for these outstanding accomplishments, and

to help unify our country, President Trump should accept the outcome of the

election and facilitate the presidential transition process," he concluded.

Toomey is the latest of several Republican senators who have made remarks

critical of Trump's legal strategies and his claim that he won the election.

Besides, a prominent ally of Donald Trump has urged him to drop his efforts

to overturn his loss to Joe Biden in the US presidential election.

Former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie called the president's legal team

a "national embarrassment".

States have until December 8 to resolve election disputes, and electors will

meet on December 14 to formally vote for the next president.





The Indian approach to lowering COVID-19 vaccine prices has found support

from Pakistan, as well as all other neighbours, but China has sought time to

study it further.

A meeting of a WTO panel on Friday witnessed Pakistan, Kenya, Mozambique and

Eswatini joining the India-South Africa proposal for suspending patents and

other intellectual property (IP) restrictions on COVID-19 vaccines, drugs

and diagnostics for the duration of the pandemic, until global herd immunity

is achieved.

China has welcomed the proposal but India's global security partners such as

the US and the EU, as well as their pharmaceutical corporations, have not

shown any willingness to take a different approach during the pandemic to

ensure broad access to needed products.

India is engaged in a consensus-building exercise in the run-up to a

decision towards the middle of next month. Faced with opposition from the

US, the EU and Brazil, the proposal was put off when it was first tabled at

the WTO, with support from the WHO, on October 2.

The Indian and South African leadership to the proposal has led to wide

backing that is approximately close to three-fourths of the WTO membership.

It has also found support from Medicines Sans Frontiers that urged all

governments to "support this lifesaving move by India and South Africa to

make sure human lives are prioritised and countries can tackle this pandemic

by scaling up every COVID-19 medical tool that exists". "Nobody can afford

to let corporations that have been supported by billions in publicly-funded

research money to simply pursue their bottom-line interests without regard

to global COVID needs. This pandemic will not be over until it's over for

everyone,'' it said.






Cash-strapped Pakistan has secured $800 million worth of debt freeze deals

from 14 members of the G20 while it was still awaiting ratification by the

remaining six countries of the grouping, including Saudi Arabia and Japan,

according to a media report on Sunday.

Pakistan owes $25.4 billion to the Group of 20 rich nations as of August

this year. On April 15, the G-20 nations announced a freeze on debt

repayments from 76 countries, including Pakistan, during May to December

2020 period, subject to the condition that each country would make a formal


Pakistan along with 76 other poor African countries had qualified for the

G-20 debt relief initiative, announced in April this year for May-December

2020 period, to combat the adverse impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic.

During the past seven months, 14 countries ratified their agreements with

Pakistan, which has provided fiscal space of $800 million to Islamabad for

the time being, The Express Tribune reported, quoting government sources as


In addition to these 14 nations, two other countries had also approached to

extend debt relief to Pakistan.

According to official documents, Pakistan has not yet finalised the debt

rescheduling modalities with Japan, Russia, Saudi Arabia, United Arab

Emirates and the United Kingdom.





Nearly 2 billion doses of Covid-19 vaccines will be shipped and flown to

developing countries next year in a "mammoth operation", the U.N. children's

agency UNICEF said on Monday, as world leaders vowed to ensure the fair

distribution of vaccines.

UNICEF said it was working with over 350 airlines and freight companies to

deliver vaccines and 1 billion syringes to poor countries such as Burundi,

Afghanistan and Yemen as part of COVAX, a global Covid-19 vaccine allocation

plan with the World Health Organization (WHO).

"This invaluable collaboration will go a long way to ensure that enough

transport capacity is in place for this historic and mammoth operation,"

said Etleva Kadilli, director of UNICEF's Supply Division, in a statement.

COVAX - co-led by GAVI vaccine group, the WHO and the Coalition for Epidemic

Preparedness Innovations - aims to discourage governments from hoarding

Covid-19 vaccines and to focus on first vaccinating the most at risk in

every country.

At a G20 summit this weekend, leaders of the biggest 20 world economies

pledged to ensure the equitable distribution of Covid-19 vaccines, drugs and

tests so that poorer countries are not left out.

Even before the pandemic hit, access to vaccines was unequal with around 20

million babies not receiving vaccines that could save them from serious

diseases, death, disability and ill health, according to the WHO.






Antony J Blinken, a defender of global alliances and one of President-elect

Joe Biden's closest foreign policy advisers, is expected to be nominated for

secretary of state, a job in which he will attempt to coalesce skeptical

international partners into a new competition with China, according to

people close to the process.

Blinken, 58, a former deputy secretary of state under President Barack Obama

and a guitar aficionado, began his career at the State Department during the

Clinton administration. His extensive foreign policy credentials are

expected to help calm US diplomats and global leaders alike after four years

of the Trump administration's ricocheting strategies and nationalist


He has been at Biden's side for nearly 20 years, including as his top aide

on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and later as Biden's national

security adviser when he was vice president. In that role, Blinken helped

develop the US response to political upheaval and ensuing instability across

the Middle East, with mixed results in Egypt, Iraq, Syria and Libya.

But chief among his new priorities will be to reestablish the United States

as a trusted ally that is ready to rejoin global agreements and institutions

- including the Paris climate accord, the Iran nuclear deal and the World

Health Organization - that were jettisoned by President Donald Trump.

"Simply put, the big problems that we face as a country and as a planet,

whether it's climate change, whether it's a pandemic, whether it's the

spread of bad weapons - to state the obvious, none of these have unilateral

solutions," Blinken said this past summer. "Even a country as powerful as

the United States can't handle them alone."





US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Sunday defended his tour of Gulf Arab

states and the Trump administration's continued efforts to squeeze Iran,

even as a new US administration led by Joe Biden prepares to enter the White

House in January.

Although Pompeo has not taken questions from US-based reporters traveling

with him over the past 10 days, he sat down with the Saudi-owned broadcaster

Al-Arabiya in Dubai for brief televised remarks Sunday.

"Our policies don't change. Our duty doesn't change. My responsibilities

don't change," he said. "I still have an obligation - every hour, every

minute - to defend the American people and to keep them foremost in our

efforts, and we'll do that. We'll do that to the very last minute."

In what was likely his final tour of the Persian Gulf as secretary of state,

he touted the Trump administration's Mideast strategy that focused on Iran

as "the central threat inside the region" and for a maximum pressure

campaign that hampered Iran's ability to support militias in Iraq, Lebanon

and Syria.

"It'll be our policy until our time is complete," he said, stopping short of

saying when he'd cease work as the top U.S. diplomat.

The Trump administration is attempting to ramp up pressure on Iran before

Biden takes office as president. Biden has said he wants to return to

rapprochement with Iran. Analysts say Biden is expected to be more willing

to engage the Iranians in order to avoid major escalation, although he's

likely to press Tehran on its missile program and not just its nuclear


Trump is viewed favorably by Gulf heavyweights Saudi Arabia and the United

Arab Emirates for pulling the U.S out of a nuclear accord with Iran and

reimposing sweeping sanctions that have drained Iran of vital oil revenue.

Pompeo is scheduled to travel to Saudi Arabia late Sunday to meet Crown

Prince Mohammed bin Salman before heading back to Washington.





Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Sunday that Turkey saw itself

as a part of Europe but he called on the European Union to "keep your

promises" on issues such as the country's membership bid and refugees.

He spoke before an EU summit due to be held next month.

In recent weeks, the EU members have raised the prospect of sanctions

against Turkey over its gas exploration missions in the eastern


"We always see ourselves as part of Europe," Erdogan said in a virtual

speech to ruling party members and added: "We chose to favour Europe as long

as they don't force us to look elsewhere."

He added: "Keep your promises to our country, from full membership to the

issue of refugees. Let's establish a closer and more efficient cooperation


Turkey applied for membership in the bloc in 1987 and four years ago signed

a deal with the EU to manage the flow of migrants to Europe.

However, claims of democratic backsliding have seen its application

effectively suspended while both sides have accused the other of not

properly implementing the refugee agreement.

European heads are due to meet in Brussels on December 10 and 11 and have

voiced concerns over Turkish activity in parts of the Mediterranean that

Ankara unilaterally claims as its economic zone.

Tensions have also been stoked by Erdogan's insults against French President

Emmanuel Macron and Turkey's foreign policy in northern Cyprus and


In a bid to patch up relations, Erdogan dispatched his spokesman, Ibrahim

Kalin, who often takes a role in foreign affairs, to Brussels on Friday.

Over the last two weeks, Erdogan has talked about plans for judicial and

democratic reforms to accompany a change in economic policy, a sign that

some have suggested is a bid to win over Europe and the incoming

administration of President-elect Joe Biden in the US.





At least 13 people died in two massacres in different parts of Colombia,

authorities there said Sunday.

The killings took place in Antioquia department in the northwest and Cauca

in the southwest, areas hit hard by violence this year.

Since January, Colombia has suffered dozens of massacres -- defined as

attacks in which at least three people die -- making 2020 the worst year

since the signing in 2016 of a peace agreement with the former guerrillas of

the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).

In the Antioquia town of Betania, five coffee growers and three other people

were killed in an overnight attack at a farm, the authorities said.

Some "10 heavily armed men... entered a dormitory at the Gabriela farm" and

"fired indiscriminately," Betania mayor Carlos Villada told AFP.

The killings were believed to be linked to drug trafficking.

Meantime, in the small town of Argelia in Cauca department, at least five

people died and two were wounded in attacks by the same man in a pool hall,

a bar and a discotheque.

Other recent attacks have also targeted nightspots.





A Pakistani Minister on Sunday withdrew comments she made earlier that

President Emmanuel Macron was treating Muslims like Nazis had treated Jews

in Second World War.

France's Foreign Minister had demanded Pakistan authorities withdraw the

comments posted on Twitter by Pakistan's Federal Minister for Human Rights

Shireen Mazari.

She posted the remarks following a clash between Pakistan and France over

the publication of images of the Prophet Mohammad by a French magazine.

The images have sparked anger and protests in the Muslim world, especially

in Pakistan.

"Macron is doing to Muslims what the Nazis did to the Jews - Muslim children

will get ID numbers (other children won't) just as Jews were forced to wear

the yellow star on their clothing for identification," Ms. Mazari had said

in a tweet linking to an online article.

The article was, however, amended earlier on Sunday to reflect the fact that

the idea, if implemented, would be applied to all children in France and not

just to Muslim children.

In a follow-up tweet on Sunday, Ms. Mazari initially doubled down on her

claims following a condemnation by France's Foreign Ministry late on

Saturday, which described them as "blatant lies, imbued with an ideology of

hatred and violence."

Later on Sunday, however, Ms. Mazari tweeted: "The article I had cited has

been corrected by the relevant publication, I have also deleted my tweet on

the same." She said she had been alerted to the correction by the French

Ambassador to Pakistan.

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