17 Dec 2020
US SETS NEW DAILY RECORDS OF 3,700 COVID DEATHS, 250,000 CASES
The United States set a double record on Wednesday registering more than
3,700 deaths and over 250,000 new Covid-19 cases in just 24 hours, according
to figures from Johns Hopkins University.
With the new reported fatalities, the death toll in the US has now reached
more than 307,291.
The country has seen a spectacular spike in Covid infections for more than a
month now, with some 113,000 people currently hospitalised due to the virus,
according to data from the Department of Health and Human Services.
The numbers far outpace the rest of the world. About five percent of the US
population has contracted the virus, or about 17 million people.
The United States has already rolled out its vaccination programme against
COVID-19, and it aims to get 2.9 million doses of the vaccine developed by
Pfizer Inc and German partner BioNTech, by the end of the week.
But Dr Robert Redfield, director of the US Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention (CDC), earlier warned that the country's healthcare system could
face a collapse before vaccines become more widely available by next year.
Redfield had noted that the latest coronavirus surge had already proven more
devastating than previous waves in terms of its geographic scope and steeper
trajectory of rising infection rates, hospitalisations and deaths.
Earlier this month, the University of Washington's influential Institute for
Health Metrics and Evaluation had projected the death toll could reach
nearly 450,000 by March 1 without greater attention to social distancing and
Vice President Mike Pence will publicly receive the coronavirus vaccine on
Friday, and President-elect Joe Biden is expected get vaccinated as soon as
next week, amid concern that many Americans may refuse the injection.
Pence will get the shot during a White House event to "build confidence
among the American people," his office said in a statement. Second lady
Karen Pence and Surgeon General Jerome Adams are expected to receive the
vaccine along with the vice president.
CHARLIE HEBDO: FOURTEEN GUILTY IN 2015 PARIS TERROR ATTACKS TRIAL
A Paris court has found 14 people guilty of involvement in a series of
deadly militant Islamist attacks.
The January 2015 attacks on Charlie Hebdo magazine, a policewoman and a
Jewish supermarket left 17 people dead.
Eleven defendants appeared in court for the verdict on Wednesday, and three
were tried in absentia.
One of those not in court was Hayat Boumeddiene, the fugitive partner of
Amedy Coulibaly who was killed in the attack on the supermarket.
Boumeddiene, who fled to Syria a week before the attacks, was found guilty
of financing terrorism and belonging to a criminal terrorist network. She
was handed a 30-year jail sentence.
The main defendant in court, Ali Riza Polat, was found guilty of complicity
in terrorist crime and also given a 30-year jail term.
All 14 accomplices were found guilty on various charges, ranging from
belonging to a criminal network to direct complicity in the January 2015
attacks. Terrorism charges were dropped for six of the 11 defendants in
court who were found guilty of lesser crimes.
The three men who carried out the 7-9 January 2015 attacks were killed and
the accomplices, who first went on trial in early September, were accused of
obtaining weapons or providing logistical support. They all denied the
The trial, which was delayed repeatedly due to the Covid-19 pandemic, came
during a period when France once again faced a series of militant Islamist
attacks and renewed debate over cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad.
NEARLY 1.4 LAKH VACCINATED IN UK
Nearly 1,40,000 persons in the UK have received their first Covid-19 shots
in the first week of roll-out of the vaccine developed by Pfizer and
BioNTech, the minister in charge of the programme said on Wednesday.
The vaccine was approved for emergency use two weeks ago, with rollout
commencing on December 8, making Britain the first country to deploy the
shot outside of clinical trials. "A really good start to theprogramme. It's
been seven days and we have done England: 1,08,000, Wales: 7,897, Northern
Ireland: 4,000; Scotland: 18,000' UK 1,37,897," Nadhim Zahawi said in a
AF-TALIBAN DELEGATION IN PAK TO PUSH PEACE TALKS
A high-level Afghan-Taliban delegation arrived here on Wednesday to hold
talks with the top Pakistani leadership as part of efforts to push forward
the reconciliation process amid growing incidents of violence in Afghanistan
The Taliban Political Commission (TPC), headed by Mullah Abdul Ghani
Baradar, is on a December 16-18 visit to Pakistan, according to the Foreign
"During the visit, the delegation will meet the Foreign Minister and call on
the Prime Minister," the FO said.
The visit comes after a delegation, led by US special representative for
Afghanistan reconciliation, Zalmay Khalilzad, on Monday met Pakistan's Army
chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa and discussed with him the ongoing Afghan
AP reported that Baradar and his delegation were summoned to Islamabad from
Qatar, where they have been negotiating since September with Afghan
government representatives, officials close to the talks said.
According to a report in The Express Tribune, the delegation will discuss
issues of mutual interest, in particular, problems of refugees, relaxation
and facilitation of Afghan's movement to Pakistan, as well as issues faced
by Afghan traders.
The visit of the TPC delegation is part of Pakistan's policy to reach out to
key Afghan parties in the peace process with a view to facilitating the
Intra-Afghan Negotiations that commenced in Doha on September 12, 2020. It
is the second visit of the TPC delegation this year after it visited
Pakistan in August.
U.S. CONGRESS PASSES DEFENCE POLICY BILL THAT CALLS OUT CHINESE AGGRESSION
The U.S. Congress has officially passed the $740 billion defence policy
bill, which among other things include calling out Chinese aggression
against India along the Line of Actual Control (LAC).
The U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate on Tuesday passed the
National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which included key components of
Indian-American Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi's resolution language urging
the Chinese government to end its military aggression against India along
China and India have been locked in a military standoff along the Line of
Actual Control (LAC) in eastern Ladakh since May this year. Several rounds
of talks between the two countries to resolve the standoff have not yielded
any concrete outcome.
The House and Senate versions of the bill were reconciled by a bipartisan
Congressional conference committee earlier this month.
The inclusion of this provision, which Mr. Krishnamoorthi led as an
amendment when the bill passed the House, reflects the U.S. government's
strong support for its allies and partners like India in the Indo-Pacific
region and beyond.
Mr. Krishnamoorthi's measure, which passed each chamber with overwhelming
bipartisan support, will become law if President Donald Trump signs it.
WE WON'T ALLOW COMMUNAL ANARCHY IN BANGLADESH: PM
Bangladesh marked 49th anniversary of the victory in the Liberation War on
Tuesday with official events in its diplomatic missions in various
countries. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina greeted veteran freedom fighters in
Dhaka, and said Bangladesh would not allow communalisation of politics.
"Bangladesh is the land of Lalon Shah, Rabindranath, Kazi Nazrul,
Jibanananda. This Bangladesh is the land of Shahjalal, Shah Poran, Shah
Mokdum, Khanjahan Ali, this Bangladesh is the Bangladesh of Sheikh Mujib and
16.5 crore Bengalis - this country is for all. We won't allow anyone to
create any division and anarchy in the name of religion," said Prime
Minister Hasina in her speech delivered on the eve of the Victory Day.
The Victory Day was marked across the country as well as in the diplomatic
missions of Bangladesh in multiple countries. In the Bangladesh High
Commission here, High Commissioner Muhammad Imran led the celebration and
paid tributes to the sacrifices made by millions of people during the
nine-month-long Liberation War in 1971, which culminated in the birth of
Bangladesh on December 16. The day was also celebrated in India as Vijay
Divas as India paid tributes to the military martyrs in the India-Pakistan
war of December 1971.
"We also feel proud that our current leadership has effectively pursued
Bangabandhu's foreign policy of Friendship to All and Malice to None," said
High Commissioner Muhammad Imran as diplomats on both sides prepared for a
summit between Prime Ministers of India and Bangladesh, which is expected to
take place on Wednesday.
PAK. APPROVES CHEMICAL CASTRATION OF SEX OFFENDERS
Pakistan has approved the chemical castration of rapists as part of sweeping
new legislation sparked by outcry over the gang-rape of a mother on a
New laws approved by President Arif Alvi on Tuesday will see rape cases
expedited through the courts and create the country's first national sex
"The provision of the chemical castration of repeat as well as first-time
sex offenders... was added in the Anti-Rape Ordinance 2020", the President's
office confirmed on Wednesday.
Pakistan is a deeply conservative and patriarchal nation where victims of
sexual abuse often are too afraid to speak out, or where criminal complaints
are frequently not investigated seriously.
GOOGLE AD PRACTICES UNDER FIRE IN NEW LAWSUIT
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has announced that he was leading a
lawsuit against Google, accusing the tech giant of taking "illegal" actions
to hurt competition in the advertising technology market.
In a tweet on December 16, Mr. Paxton said his suit centres on the lucrative
market for digital ads, where Google obtains most of its revenue.
Google didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.
The case marks the second antitrust action against Goggle after the U.S.
Justice Department filed a landmark monopolisation case against the company
The lawsuit is yet another legal battle for Google, which is facing a
Justice Department antitrust lawsuit on its search practices and imminent
legal action from a separate group of state attorneys general who have also
been investigating the company for anti-competitive behaviour.
Texas' lawsuit will go after Google's stranglehold on its corner of the ad
tech market, which it and fellow tech giant Facebook dominate.
The suit accuses Google of abusing its market power to rig auctions for
placing ads and drive up online advertising pricing.
The suit will be filed by multiple states, Mr. Paxton said in an
announcement video, though he didn't identify what other states are