World Newsletter

WORLD NEWS
10 Dec 2020

BRITISH PM BORIS JOHNSON CONFUSES FARMER PROTESTS WITH INDIA-PAKISTAN

CONFLICT

 

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

and Pakistan.

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

lawmakers.

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

said.

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

to COVID-19.

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

AMERICANS

 

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

effective vaccine.

"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

him.

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

agency.

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

freedom violators.

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

two leaders.

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

election.

"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

Likud.

"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

investigation.

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

appropriately".

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

emerge stronger".

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.

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