10 Dec 2020
BRITISH PM BORIS JOHNSON CONFUSES FARMER PROTESTS WITH INDIA-PAKISTAN
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Wednesday landed himself in a
controversy after he appeared to confuse the ongoing farmers' agitation
against the agricultural laws in India with the conflict between New Delhi
During the question period in the United Kingdom's Parliament, MP Tanmanjeet
Singh Dhesi asked Johnson to comment on the ongoing protests in India, which
have seen tens of thousands of farmers camped in the outskirts of Delhi for
over two weeks now. The British MP has been a vocal supporter of the farmers
and initiated a letter pledging support for the protests signed by 35 other
Dhesi said he was "horrified" to see that "water cannon, tear gas and brute
force" was being used against the farmers and questioned the British
government's position on the demonstrations. "Will the prime minister convey
to the Indian prime minister our heartfelt anxieties and our hopes for a
speedy resolution to the current deadlock, and does he agree that everyone
has a fundamental right to peaceful protest?" the British MP asked.
However, Johnson confused the protests that Dhesi was referring and seemed
to imply they were a diplomatic matter. "Our view is that of course we have
serious concerns about what is happening between India and Pakistan but
these are pre-eminently matters for those two governments to settle," he
Dhesi looked perplexed at Johnson's response. He later took to Twitter to
criticise the prime minister, saying "it might help if our prime minister
actually knew what he was talking about".
"The world is watching, issue is a huge one with hundreds of thousands
protesting globally (including in London, reported on by BBC) and the usual
Boris Johnson bluff and bluster heaps further embarrassment onto our
nation," he added. "Absolutely clueless! So disappointed with his response."
CANADA BECOMES SECOND NATION TO APPROVE PFIZER-BIONTECH COVID VACCINE
Canadian health authorities on Wednesday approved a vaccine manufactured by
Pfizer and BioNTech, and the inoculation programme could commence as early
as next week.
"Thanks to advances in science and technology, and an unprecedented level of
global cooperation, today, Canada reached a critical milestone in its fight
against Covid-19 with the authorisation of the first Covid-19 vaccine,"
Health Canada said in a statement. "Canadians can feel confident that the
review process was rigorous and that we have strong monitoring systems in
placeHealth Canada and the Public Health Agency of Canada will closely
monitor the safety of the vaccine once it is on the market and will not
hesitate to take action if any safety concerns are identified."
Canada is set to receive up to 249,000 doses this month.
Canada is now among the first nations in the world to have approved a
vaccine, following similar approval in the United Kingdom this month.The
approval paves the way for the Justin Trudeau government to begin
inoculating Canadians against Covid-19, which has killed more that 12,800
people in the country so far.
COVID-19 VACCINE: DON'T MIX SPUTNIK V WITH ALCOHOL, SAYS RUSSIAN OFFICIAL
A health official's warning that anyone getting vaccinated against COVID-19
with Russia's Sputnik V vaccine should give up alcohol for almost two months
has caused a backlash among some Russians who call the request unreasonable.
Anna Popova, head of the consumer health watchdog, said on Tuesday that
people should stop drinking alcohol at least two weeks before getting the
first of two injections. They should continue to abstain for a further 42
days, she advised. There are 21 days between the two Russian vaccine jabs.
Popova warned alcohol would reduce the body's ability to build up immunity
Her advice was contradicted by Alexander Gintsburg, the vaccine's developer.
"One glass of champagne won't hurt anyone, not even your immune system",
said Gintsburg. He said it would be prudent to reduce alcohol use by a
reasonable amount while the body built up immunity, but said there was no
need to give up completely. It was crucial however, he said, to refrain from
alcohol three days before and after the two injections required. He said
such advice was the same for anyone getting vaccinated around the world and
not specific to Russia or Sputnik.
DONALD TRUMP SIGNS EXECUTIVE ORDER PRIORITISING COVID-19 VACCINE FOR
President Donald Trump has signed an executive order that prioritises
Americans' access to COVID-19 vaccines before the US potentially begins
helping other nations.
If necessary, Trump said, he is ready to invoke the Defence Production Act
to ensure that COVID-19 vaccines first get to the Americans. The Defence
Production Act allows a president to force private manufacturers to ramp up
production and give the federal government priority on any orders it places.
American companies, he said, were the first to produce a verifiably safe and
"Together, we will defeat the virus, and we will soon end the pandemic, and
we will save millions and millions of lives, both in our country and all
over the world. And we've already started," Trump said during signing the
executive order on Tuesday at a White House event celebrating 'Operation
Warp Speed', his administration's effort to produce and distribute safe and
effective vaccines for COVID-19.
Trump told reporters that his administration provided a total of USD 14
billion to accelerate coronavirus vaccine development and to manufacture all
of the top candidates long in advance.
As per the executive order, the Secretary of Health and Human Services is
directed to provide priority access to COVID-19 vaccines to Americans.
"Through this action, Trump is putting the health and safety of Americans,
the viability of our economy and the security of our nation first," the
White House said.
FRANCE UNVEILS DRAFT LAW TO FIGHT ISLAMIST RADICAL 'ENEMY'
The French cabinet has approved a bill aimed at tackling radical Islam after
a recent series of attacks by extremists.
The draft law, part of a long-term drive by President Emmanuel Macron to
uphold secular values, tightens rules on home-schooling and hate speech.
Some critics, both in France and abroad, have accused his government using
it to target religion.
But Prime Minister Jean Castex called it "a law of protection" that would
free Muslims from the grip of radicals.
He insisted that the text was not "aimed against religions or against the
Muslim religion in particular".
The bill "supporting Republican principles" would tighten restrictions on
online hate speech and ban the use of the internet to maliciously reveal
personal details about other people.
This is seen as a response to the beheading of teacher Samuel Paty in
October. Paty, 47, was killed by a lone attacker after showing pupils
cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad.
The investigation has revealed an online campaign had been launched against
The law also bans "clandestine" schools which promote Islamist ideology and
tightens rules on home-schooling.
IRAN SAYS U.S. SANCTIONS HINDER ACCESS TO COVID-19 VACCINES
Iran's President Hassan Rouhani said on Wednesday that U.S. sanctions are
making it difficult for Iran to purchase medicine and health supplies from
abroad, including coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccines needed to contain the
worst outbreak in the Middle East.
President Donald Trump's administration has imposed crippling sanctions on
Iran's banking sector and its vital oil and gas industry since unilaterally
withdrawing the U.S. from Iran's nuclear deal with world powers in 2018.
While the United States insists that medicines and humanitarian goods are
exempt from sanctions, restrictions on trade have made many banks and
companies across the world hesitant to do business with Iran, fearing
punitive measures from Washington. The country is also cut off from the
international banking system, making it difficult to transfer payments.
Our people should know that for any action we plan to carry out for
importing medicine, vaccines and equipment, we should curse Mr. Trump a
hundred times," Mr. Rouhani was quoted as saying by the official IRNA news
He said even simple transactions to purchase medicine from other countries
had become extremely difficult and that it can take weeks to transfer funds.
Mr. Rouhani said authorities are nevertheless doing what they can to buy
vaccines from abroad, hoping to deliver them to high-risk individuals as
soon as possible.
INDIA ESCAPES US WATCH LIST, PAK SANCTIONS ON RELIGIOUS FREEDOM ISSUES
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo's intervention led to Pakistan escaping
sanctions for lack of religious freedom and India stopped from being listed
on a Special Watch List, said US Ambassador-at-Large for International
Religious Freedom, Samuel Brownback.
"There were several recommendations that the Secretary [Pomoeo] did not
follow, and this was one of them," he said about keeping India away from the
Countries of Particular Concern (CPC) list.
The US Commission for International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) had
recommended that India be put in the CPC list because of the Citizenship
Amendment Act (CAA).
Brownback said the US had privately discussed these issues with the Indian
government at a high level, and will continue to get raised. Pompeo is "well
aware" of the statute (CAA) and the issues associated with the Modi
government. And as I said, he's raised it at the highest levels, but just
decided at this point in time not to place them on a CPC or a Special Watch
List," he said during a briefing on rollout of US action against religious
Though Brownback was critical of India, he did not get baited by a question
posed by a Pakistani-origin journalist who wanted to know why Pakistan was
on CPC and India was not.
Brownback conceded that in India, some of the violence was carried out by
the government but a lot of the actions are by the government in Pakistan.
Also, Pakistan has half of the world's people that are locked up for
apostasy or blasphemy.
BREXIT: 'LARGE GAPS' REMAIN AFTER CRUCIAL TRADE TALKS IN BRUSSELS
Boris Johnson's dinner with EU chief Ursula von der Leyen - aimed at
breaking the Brexit trade talks deadlock - has ended without agreement.
A No 10 spokesperson said "very large gaps remain" - but talks will continue
with a "firm decision" on the prospects of a deal by Sunday.
Mrs von der Leyen said that the two sides were still "far apart".
Talks between the UK's chief negotiator Lord Frost and the EU's Michel
Barnier will resume in Brussels later.
The two negotiators also attended the three-hour dinner meeting between the
The BBC's Laura Kuenssberg said the evening had "plainly gone badly" and the
chances of the UK leaving the post-Brexit transition period at the end of
the year without a firm arrangement was a "big step closer".
Time is running out to reach a deal before 31 December, when the UK stops
following EU trading rules.
BYELECTIONS FOR VACANT SEATS IF OPPOSITION RESIGNS, PAKISTAN PM SAYS
As the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM), an anti-government alliance of 11
opposition parties, announced its members would resign en masse from the
national and provincial assemblies in an attempt to remove the incumbent
government, Prime Minister Imran Khan welcomed the move, saying byelections
would be held for all vacant seats.
A day earlier, the PDM had met in Islamabad to deliberate on the issue of
resigning from the federal and provincial assemblies. The meeting was
attended via video link by former PM Nawaz Sharif from London and
ex-president Asif Ali Zardari from the southern port city of Karachi. The
alliance had announced that all lawmakers belonging to its constituent
parties would submit their resignations from the national and provincial
assemblies to their respective party chiefs by December 31. The opposition
alliance is demanding the resignation of the PM and a fresh free and fair
"If the opposition resigns from parliament, the government will go ahead
with byelections on the vacant seats," PM Khan said. However, Khan said,
whenever the government engages with the opposition, everything boils down
to their corruption cases.
NETANYAHU RIVAL MOUNTS CHALLENGE
A leading rival of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the
right-wing Likud party announced his resignation from Parliament on
Wednesday as he launches a new party to challenge the premier.
Gideon Saar, an influential figure in conservative Israeli politics, had
challenged Mr. Netanyahu in a Likud leadership race in December but
decisively lost the primary.
With a Mr. Netanyahu-led coalition edging towards collapse, risking a fourth
Israeli election in less than two years, Mr. Saar announced his break with
"I will create a new movement with the goal of replacing Netanyahu," Mr.
Saar said in a virtual press conference late on Tuesday.
In a statement on Wednesday, Mr. Saar announced his formal resignation from
Israel's Parliament, the Knesset, freeing him to embark on his "candidacy
for Prime Minister".
It is not yet clear if Israelis will again head to the polls in 2021.
JOE BIDEN'S SON HUNTER SAYS HE IS UNDER INVESTIGATION OVER TAXES
US President-elect Joe Biden's son Hunter has said his tax affairs are under
The investigation is being conducted by federal prosecutors in Delaware.
Hunter Biden said he took the case "very seriously" but was confident an
"objective review" would show he had handled his affairs "legally and
The Biden-Harris transition team said the president-elect was "deeply proud
of his son".
A statement from the team said Hunter had "fought through difficult
challenges, including the vicious personal attacks of recent months, only to
Hunter Biden said he learned of the investigation on Tuesday. He did not
disclose any further details.
GOOGLE WILL LIFT POST-ELECTION POLITICAL AD BAN ON DECEMBER 10
Alphabet Inc's Google will lift its temporary ban on election-related
advertisements on Dec. 10, it said on Wednesday.
Google's pause of election ads, which came into effect after polls closed in
the US presidential election on Nov. 3, was one of its measures to combat
misinformation and other abuses on its site.
It was part of its 'sensitive events' policy, which seeks to prohibit
content that potentially capitalizes on or lacks reasonable sensitivity
towards events like public health emergencies or natural disasters.
The company said in an email to advertisers seen by Reuters that "we no
longer consider the post-election period to be a sensitive event."
Major online platforms have been under pressure to police misinformation in
political ads. Facebook Inc said in November that its post-election ban on
political ads would likely last another month.
Twitter Inc banned political ads last year.