World Newsletter

11 Dec 2020



A US government advisory panel endorsed widespread use of Pfizer's

coronavirus vaccine Thursday, putting the country just one step away from

launching an epic vaccination campaign against the outbreak that has killed

close to 300,000 Americans.

Shots could begin within days, depending on how quickly the Food and Drug

Administration signs off, as expected, on the expert committee's


"This is a light at the end of the long tunnel of this pandemic," declared

Dr. Sally Goza, president of the American Academy of Pediatrics.

In a 17-4 vote with one abstention, the government advisers concluded that

the vaccine from Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech appears safe and

effective for emergency use in adults and teenagers 16 and over.

That endorsement came despite questions about allergic reactions in two

people who received the vaccine earlier this week when Britain became the

first country to begin dispensing the Pfizer-BioNTech shot.

The decision came as Covid-19 cases surge to ever-higher levels across the

US, with deaths setting an all-time, one-day record of more than 3,100 on






Britain's foreign minister said Thursday that negotiations on a trade deal

with the European Union will reach a "moment of finality" this weekend, with

both sides assessing chances of an agreement as slim.

To prepare for a possible no-deal exit on January 1, the EU on Thursday

proposed four contingency measures to make sure air and road traffic can

continue as smoothly as possible for the next six months.

EU chief Ursula von der Leyen on Thursday published a back-up plan to

protect road and air travel and fishing rights if Britain leaves the union

without a trade deal.

"Negotiations are still ongoing. However, given that the end of the

transition is very near, there is no guarantee that if and when an agreement

is found, it can enter into force on time," Ms. von der Leyen said.

"Our responsibility is to be prepared for all eventualities, including not

having a deal in place with the U.K. on January 1, 2021. That is why we are

coming forward with these measures today," she said.

The EU Commission described the plan as "a set of targeted contingency

measures ensuring basic reciprocal air and road connectivity between the EU

and the U.K., as well as allowing for the possibility of reciprocal fishing

access by EU and U.K. vessels to each other's waters."

The measures would go into effect on January 1. Basic air transport will

continue for six months provided the U.K. agrees to reciprocate, as will

access for road haulage.

The interim fisheries regulation would continue until the end of 2021, but

it provides for "continued reciprocal access by EU and U.K. vessels to each

other's waters". Boris Johnson's government insists it will assume full

sovereignty over its waters on January 1, and Number 10 greeted the

publication of the plan with extreme caution.

"Once we leave the end of the transition period, we will take back control

of our waters," Mr. Johnson's official spokesman told reporters. On

transport issues, Number 10 promised to study the EU proposals, adding:

"This kind of statement from the EU is expected. We've obviously set out our

own plans in the event of an FTA not being reached."

They told their negotiators to keep talking, but set Sunday as decision day.





Israel and Morocco have agreed to normalize relations, President Donald

Trump said Thursday, marking the fourth Arab-Israeli agreement in four

months. As part of the deal announced near the end of Trump's term, the

United States will recognize Morocco's claim over the disputed Western

Sahara region.

Trump said Israel and Morocco would restore diplomatic and other relations,

including the immediate reopening of liaison offices in Tel Aviv and Rabat

and the eventual opening of embassies. US officials said there would be

joint overflight rights for airlines.

The White House said Trump and Morocco's King Mohammed VI had agreed that

Morocco would "resume diplomatic relations between Morocco and Israel and

expand economic and cultural cooperation to advance regional stability."

"Another HISTORIC breakthrough today! Our two GREAT friends Israel and the

Kingdom of Morocco have agreed to full diplomatic relations - a massive

breakthrough for peace in the Middle East!" Trump tweeted.

The US will recognize Morocco's claim over Western Sahara, the former

Spanish territory in North Africa where a long-running dispute has

confounded international negotiators for decades. Trump noted that Morocco

had been the first country to recognize the United States as an independent

nation just a year after the US declared its independence from Britain in


"It is thus fitting we recognize their sovereignty over the Western Sahara,"

Trump said.





President Donald Trump has signed an order requiring that all U.S. foreign

assistance be rebranded to ensure that recipients know that American

taxpayers have paid for it.

Mr Trump on Thursday directed the 22 federal agencies that distribute U.S.

aid abroad to use a common logo on their packaging. Currently, different

agencies - from the United States Agency for International Development to

the Department of Agriculture - use different logos on items that range from

sacks of grain to medical supplies, tents and water purification kits.

That has created confusion in some countries, according to U.S. officials

who say that aid from other nations, like China, is readily identifiable

with standardized logos.

To foster goodwill between the recipients of United States foreign

assistance and the American people, and to encourage the governments of

nations that are receiving foreign assistance to support the United States,

it is essential that recipients of United States foreign assistance be aware

of the manifold efforts of American taxpayers to aid them and improve their

lives, the White House said.

To further this awareness and to ensure United States foreign assistance

supports the foreign policy objectives of the United States and maintains

American influence and leadership, such assistance must appropriately and

conspicuously be identified as American aid, it said.





Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan has dared the Opposition alliance to

table a no-confidence motion in Parliament to oust him, as he criticised its

call to lawmakers for mass resignations to force him to call snap polls.

Khan said he did not backtrack from holding a national dialogue to steer the

country out of multiple crises. PDM, an 11-party alliance, had yesterday

said its lawmakers will resign this month.





he World Food Programme will receive its Nobel Peace Prize on Thursday, in

an event very different from the traditional pomp-filled celebration in the

Norwegian capital because of the coronavirus outbreak.

In Oslo, the head of the Norwegian Nobel committee, Berit Reiss-Andersen,

will give a webcast statement, after which David Beasley, the UN agency

boss, will give an acceptance speech from Rome, where it is based. The body

was given the prestigious award for efforts to combat hunger.

This year, 12 laureates were named across the six categories. All but the

Peace Prize have been awarded over the past days at low-key ceremonies

across Europe and the United States in the places where the winners live.

A Nobel prize comes with a 10-milion krona ($1.1 million) cash award - to be

shared in some cases - diplomas and gold medals. Traditionally, the lavish

Nobel ceremonies are all held December 10, the anniversary of the death of

prize founder Alfred Nobel, in Stockholm, except for the Peace Prize that is

held in Oslo, in neighboring Norway.






Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan and Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates have

agreed to continue working together to combat the coronavirus (COVID-19)

pandemic and eradicate polio from the country, according to a media report

on Thursday.

Mr. Khan, during a telephone conversation with Mr. Gates on Wednesday, told

him about Pakistan's commitment to combat the second wave of the coronavirus

pandemic through coordinated efforts and smart lockdowns, Geo News reported.

Pakistan has so far reported 4,29,280 coronavirus cases with 8,603 deaths.

Mr. Khan shared Pakistan's policy to control and mitigate the deleterious

impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on health and the economy.

The Prime Minister thanked the Gates Foundation for its critical support in

building Pakistan's emergency management capacity for polio eradication,

highlighting that anti-polio campaigns are being intensified across the

country, the report said.

Mr. Khan and Mr. Gates agreed to continue working together on the shared

objectives of eradicating polio and combating the COVID-19 pandemic, it

said. Pakistan is one of the three countries in the world, along with

Afghanistan and Nigeria, where polio is still endemic.





The United Kingdom has signed a free trade deal with Singapore covering

trade worth 17.6 billion pounds ($23.4 billion,) the latest in a series of

trade pacts that Britain is seeking to secure around the world post-Brexit.

International Trade Secretary Liz Truss, who was in Singapore for the

ceremony, said on Thursday the deal was the second-biggest that Britain has

signed in the Asia-Pacific region.

The agreement came as British and European Union officials make a final push

to break a deadlock over the U.K.'s future trade relationship with the bloc.

Britain left the EU on January 31, but remains in its economic structures

until the end of the year. The Singapore deal largely mirrors one that the

Asian city-state already has with the EU, and effectively allows trade to

continue as before after January 1.





A joint sitting of both houses of Bhutan's parliament approved a bill on

Thursday to legalise gay sex, making it the latest Asian nation to take

steps towards easing restrictions on same-sex relationships.

Lawmaker Ugyen Wangdi, the vice-chairperson of a joint panel considering the

changes, said 63 of the total 69 members of both houses of parliament had

voted in favour of amending the code to scrap the provision. Six members

were absent. "Homosexuality will not be considered as unnatural sex now,"

Wangdi said on phone from the capital city of Thimphu, without giving

details. The changes still need to be approved by the King of Bhutan to

become a law.

Rights activist Tashi Tsheten said he was "thrilled and really happy" over

the move, calling it a "victory" for the LGBT+ community.

Same-sex sexual relations are still outlawed in 68 countries, with the death

penalty in place in Iran, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Nigeria and Somalia. Another

27 nations impose maximum penalties for gay sex.

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