BEIRUT BLAST: LEBANON IN MOURNING AFTER MASSIVE EXPLOSION
Lebanon is in mourning after a huge explosion in the capital Beirut killed
more than 70 people and injured more than 4,000 others on Tuesday.
The whole city was shaken by the blast, which began with a fire at the port
which exploded into a mushroom cloud.
President Michel Aoun said 2,750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate had been stored
unsafely in a warehouse for six years.
He scheduled an urgent cabinet meeting for Wednesday, and said a two-week
state of emergency should be declared.
The country will observe an official period of mourning for three days from
President Aoun also announced that the government would release 100 billion
lira (£50.5m; $66m) of emergency funds.
"What we are witnessing is a huge catastrophe," the head of Lebanon's Red
Cross George Kettani told local media. "There are victims and casualties
Officials said on Tuesday that an investigation was under way to find the
exact trigger for the explosion. Lebanon's Supreme Defence Council said
those responsible would face the "maximum punishment" possible.
The ammonium nitrate had reportedly been unloaded from a ship impounded at
the port in 2013, and then stored in a warehouse there.
Israel has nothing to do with the incident, an official said on condition
of anonymity. Israels Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi told Israeli N12
television news that the explosion was most likely an accident caused by a
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Tuesday offered US assistance to Lebanon
after Beirut was rocked by massive blasts.
We are monitoring and stand ready to assist the people of Lebanon as they
recover from this horrible tragedy, Pompeo wrote on Twitter.
CHINA BRANDS TRUMPS DEMANDS ON TIKTOK SALE A SMASH AND GRAB
Chinas state-run media has struck back in the war over TikTok, branding
U.S. demands for the sale of the social media apps American operations to
Microsoft Corp. as theft and suggesting Beijing may block the transaction.
The editorial, published late Monday by the China Daily newspaper,
represented Beijings strongest defense yet of ByteDance Ltd. and its viral
video app. China will by no means accept the theft of a Chinese
technology company, and it has plenty of ways to respond if the
administration carries out its planned smash and grab, it said. President
Donald Trump insisted several times on Monday that any sale of TikTok assets
would include some form of payment to the U.S., and demanded that TikTok be
sold to an American company by Sept. 15 or be shut down.
The war of words between Washington and Beijing has also spread into the
boardroom. At the same time as his advisers are racing against the clock to
strike a deal for its U.S. assets, ByteDances billionaire founder Zhang
Yiming has penned his second letter to his employees in as many days,
declaring Trumps real goal is not to save but to kill off TikTok.
Mortal Combat ByteDance became the worlds largest startup thanks to the
success abroad of TikTok, which American lawmakers accuse of posing a threat
to national security because of its ability to vacuum up data. Trump has the
power to cripple ByteDances prized asset by adding TikTok to the U.S.
entity list, which would compel American companies such as Apple Inc. and
Alphabet Inc.s Google todrop the service from their app stores.
While the China Daily acknowledged that selling the U.S. business might be
preferable to ByteDance, the newspaper compared the process to officially
sanctioned theft, a sentiment echoed in other prominent state media
including the Communist Partys Global Times newspaper. With
competitiveness now dependent on the ability to collect and use data, it
offers an either-or choice of submission or mortal combat in the tech
realm, the China Daily said.
SRI LANKA GOES TO THE POLLS AS CORONAVIRUS RISK RECEDES
Sri Lankans lined up before polling stations opened on Wednesday (Aug 5),
wearing masks and social distancing, to elect a new parliament that
President Gotabaya Rajapaksa hopes will clear the way for him to boost his
The tourism-dependent island nation of 21 million people has been struggling
since deadly militant attacks on hotels and churches last year, claimed by
Islamic State, followed painful lockdowns to slow the spread of COVID-19.
Rajapaksa is seeking a two-thirds majority for his party in the 225-member
parliament to enable constitutional reforms to make the presidency more
powerful so he can implement his economic and national security agenda.
Polls opened at 7am local time.
Election officials wore transparent face shields while medical personnel
were deployed to ensure voters kept strict rules to prevent the spread of
"There will be no chance of you getting infected by the coronavirus at
polling stations," said the chairman of the Election Commission, Mahinda
"The polling station is safer than the beach, the restaurant and the
marketplace, it's totally corona free.
Sri Lanka had reported 2,828 cases of the coronavirus and 11 deaths as of
Tuesday, which is small compared with other South Asian countries.
Rajapaksa, who was elected president in November, has claimed credit for
controlling the outbreak with strict lockdowns.
He is hoping to install his older brother and former president, Mahinda
Rajapaksa, as prime minister.
TRUMP ENCOURAGES MAIL VOTING IN KEY BATTLEGROUND FLORIDA AFTER MONTHS OF
In an abrupt reversal, President Donald Trump now is encouraging voters in
the critical swing state of Florida to vote by mail after months of
criticising the practice, and only days after threatening to sue Nevada over
a new vote-by-mail law.
His encouragement follows a surge in Democratic requests to vote for mail in
Florida, a state that Trump almost certainly must win to secure a second
term. Democrats currently have about 1.9 million Floridians signed up to
vote by mail this November, almost 600,000 more than the Republicans 1.3
million, according to the Florida Secretary of State.
In 2016, both sides had about 1.3 million signed up before the general
Whether you call it Vote by Mail or Absentee Voting, in Florida the
election system is Safe and Secure, Tried and True. Floridas Voting system
has been cleaned up (we defeated Democrats attempts at change), so in
Florida I encourage all to request a Ballot & Vote by Mail!, Trump tweeted
Theyve been doing this over many years and theyve made it really
terrific, Trump said.
This took years to do, he added. This doesnt take weeks or months. In
the case of Nevada, theyre going to be voting in a matter of weeks. And you
cant do that.
Florida GOP officials welcomed Trumps tweet.
White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany rejected the notion that the
president has changed his views. She said he supports absentee voting by
mail for a reason, as opposed to states mailing out ballots to all voters
regardless of whether they requested them. Most election officials say there
is little effective difference between absentee voting and voting by mail.
TRUMP: US DOING VERY WELL IN COVID FIGHT, INDIA HAS A TREMENDOUS PROBLEM
President Trump has said that as compared to big countries, America is doing
very well in the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic, while India is
having a tremendous problem battling the disease and China is witnessing a
massive flare up in infections.
I think were doing very well. I think that we have done as well as any
nation. If you really look, if you take a look at whats going on,
especially now with all these flare ups and nations that they were talking
about, Trump told reporters on Monday.
Dont forget, were much bigger than other than India and China. China is
having a massive flare up right now. India has a tremendous problem. Other
countries have problems, he said in response to a question.
MALAYSIA POLICE RAID AL JAZEERAS OFFICE, SEIZE COMPUTERS
Malaysian police raided the office of news broadcaster Al Jazeera and two
local TV stations on Tuesday, seizing computers as part of an investigation
into a documentary on undocumented migrants that enraged the government.
Al Jazeera, a Qatari-state owned broadcaster, said in a statement that
police seized two computers during the raid, which it called a troubling
escalation in a government crackdown on media freedom. It urged Malaysian
authorities to cease the criminal investigation.
Police opened an investigation last month into the Al Jazeera documentary on
the treatment of undocumented migrants after officials complained it was
inaccurate and biased. Seven Al Jazeera staff members have been grilled by
police as part of the probe for alleged sedition, defamation and violating
the Communications and Multimedia Act.
Police obtained court warrants to search the offices of Al Jazeera as well
as local broadcasters Astro and Unifitv, criminal investigation chief Huzir
Mohamed said in a statement. The two local TV stations had reportedly aired
Huzir said the raids were conducted jointly with the Malaysian
Communications and Multimedia Commission, which is also investigating the
He said police seized computers which will be sent for further analysis and
took statements from witnesses during the raids. No individual or entity
will be spared from action if they have violated the law, he said.
Al Jazeera said the raid was an attack on press freedom as a whole and
urged Malaysian authorities to cease the criminal investigation.
AUNG SAN SUU KYI CONFIRMS CONTESTING FOR SECOND TERM
Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi on Tuesday formally declared her intention
to seek a second term in an election in November that is seen as a test of
the Southeast Asian nation's tentative democratic reforms.
After decades of military rule, Suu Kyi, who won the Nobel Peace Prize for
campaigning for democracy, took the reins in 2016 after an electoral
landslide, but has been forced to share power with the generals.
Her international reputation slumped over Myanmar's treatment of Rohingya
Muslims but she remains popular at home, where her image is undented by
accusations of complicity in atrocities against the minority.
On Tuesday, Suu Kyi, 75, waved to a crowd of around 50 supporters on the
outskirts of the former capital Yangon to submit an application to run as a
Some of her supporters wore red-coloured face masks denoting their backing
for her National League for Democracy (NLD) party and shouted: "Mother Suu,
The Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), which is dominated by the
military and retired civil servants, will be the NLD's main opponent.