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Hi Munir,

We would like to invite you to this year's 19th International Anti-Corruption Conference (IACC) taking place 30 November to 5 December. For the first time ever, the conference will be entirely virutal and free for you to register and take part in more than 100 workshops!

The climate crisis, environmental damage and their links with corruption will be the focus of several workshops at the IACC.

See below for our two main events discussing how to pave the way for climate action taken with integrity - we are looking forward to seeing you there!

World Environment Day  

Climate Action: Time for Integrity

The impacts of climate change reverberate worldwide, but corruption exacerbates these impacts - effects particularly felt by vulnerable and marginalized groups. Corruption also enables environmental crimes like illegal logging or mining, which are all too often intertwined with undue influence and illicit lobbying from industry, such as the fossil fuel industry.

The session will feature voices from the Natural Resource Governance Institute, the Green Climate Fund's Independent Integrity Unit, Environmental Investigation Agency, Transparency Maldives and the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences. The panelists will seek to lay out some of the key drivers of corruption in the climate domain, followed by presenting solutions and tools to mitigate and counter these threats. 

London  

Corruption and the Amazon

Corruption enables forest crimes like land grabbing and illegal logging.The resulting environmental degradation often results in violation of the rights of indigenous peoples, traditional communities and small farmers in the Amazon.

This workshop will unpack how corruption in the Amazon is a key driver in causing negative environmental and social impacts. Experts in the field from the World Wildlife Foundation - Brasil, Transparency International Brasil, Peruvian Specialized Environmental Prosecutors (FEMA) and Transparency International's chapter in Peru, Proetica, will discuss this as well as colloborate together to address the needed legal, institutional, and public policy changes to fight corruption in the Amazon.

 The IACC, taking place online from 30 November to 5 December, is the world’s biggest anti-corruption forum, with over 100 workshops and plenaries featuring heads of state, international organisations, civil society, the media, private sector and more.

For more information, free registration and the full agenda, please visit: https://19thiacc.pathable.co/

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  Trump Says He Will Leave Presidency if Electoral College Votes for Biden

NEW YORK, Nov 28, 2020(APP):: US President Donald Trump said Thursday that he will leave the White House when the Electoral College formally certifies President-elect Joe Biden’s election win, but continued to cast doubt on the election result. Trump, who was responding to reporters’ questions in Washington following a series of video conferences with military service members on Thanksgiving, an American holiday, assuring he would leave the presidency on Jan. 20.

“Certainly I will, and you know that,” he said. The president, however, went on to say “it’s going to be a very hard thing to concede” and declared that the Electoral College would be making a “mistake” by voting for Biden. (In the United States, a candidate becomes president by securing the most “electoral” votes rather than by winning a majority of the national popular vote. Electors, allotted to the 50 states and the District of Columbia largely based on their population, are party loyalists who pledge to support the candidate who won the popular vote in their state.)

During the exchange with reporters, Trump continued to allege “massive fraud” related to the election and said his challenges in key states would continue. “You’re going to see things happening over the next week or two that are going to be shocking to people,” said Trump.

When asked whether he would attend Biden’s inauguration Trump replied, “I know the answer,” but declined to share it with reporters. Trump’s comments came amid steps taken this week to move along the transition of power including the General Services Administration releasing transition funds to Biden and Trump allowing the president-elect to begin receiving the President’s Daily Brief. After Thanksgiving Trump said he plans to travel to Georgia to hold a campaign-style rally, which he suggested would be in support of the state’s two Republican incumbent senators who face runoff races.

“Speaking of Georgia, we’re going there. I spoke with the two great senators today. I’ll probably be going on Saturday,” he said. Meanwhile, desperate efforts by Trump and his aides to overturn results in key states, either by lawsuits or by pressuring state legislators, have failed, and he is running out of options. Biden and Trump both stayed close to home to celebrate Thanksgiving on Thursday as the coronavirus pandemic raged across the country. Biden spent the holiday in the small seaside town of Rehoboth, Delaware, where he and his wife Jill have a vacation home. The Bidens are hosting daughter Ashley Biden and her husband Dr. Howard Krein for the holiday meal.

The former vice president, appearing with his wife in a video message posted to his Twitter account on Thanksgiving, said his family typically holds a large gathering on the island of Nantucket off Massachusetts, but would remain in Delaware this year “with just a small group around our dinner table” because of the pandemic. In the presidential-style address to a nation that has lost more than 260,000 lives to the coronavirus, the Democratic president-elect said Americans were making a “shared sacrifice for the whole country” and a “statement of common purpose” by staying at home with their immediate families.

“I know this isn’t the way many of us hoped we’d spend our holiday. We know that a small act of staying home is a gift to our fellow Americans,” said Biden. “I know better days are coming.”

Trump Says He Will Leave Presidency if Electoral College Votes for Biden

NEW YORK, Nov 28, 2020(APP):: US President Donald Trump said Thursday that he will leave the White House when the Electoral College formally certifies President-elect Joe Biden’s election win, but continued to cast doubt on the election result. Trump, who was responding to reporters’ questions in Washington following a series of video conferences with military service members on Thanksgiving, an American holiday, assuring he would leave the presidency on Jan. 20.

“Certainly I will, and you know that,” he said. The president, however, went on to say “it’s going to be a very hard thing to concede” and declared that the Electoral College would be making a “mistake” by voting for Biden. (In the United States, a candidate becomes president by securing the most “electoral” votes rather than by winning a majority of the national popular vote. Electors, allotted to the 50 states and the District of Columbia largely based on their population, are party loyalists who pledge to support the candidate who won the popular vote in their state.)

During the exchange with reporters, Trump continued to allege “massive fraud” related to the election and said his challenges in key states would continue. “You’re going to see things happening over the next week or two that are going to be shocking to people,” said Trump. When asked whether he would attend Biden’s inauguration Trump replied, “I know the answer,” but declined to share it with reporters.

Trump’s comments came amid steps taken this week to move along the transition of power including the General Services Administration releasing transition funds to Biden and Trump allowing the president-elect to begin receiving the President’s Daily Brief. After Thanksgiving Trump said he plans to travel to Georgia to hold a campaign-style rally, which he suggested would be in support of the state’s two Republican incumbent senators who face runoff races.

“Speaking of Georgia, we’re going there. I spoke with the two great senators today. I’ll probably be going on Saturday,” he said. Meanwhile, desperate efforts by Trump and his aides to overturn results in key states, either by lawsuits or by pressuring state legislators, have failed, and he is running out of options. Biden and Trump both stayed close to home to celebrate Thanksgiving on Thursday as the coronavirus pandemic raged across the country.

Biden spent the holiday in the small seaside town of Rehoboth, Delaware, where he and his wife Jill have a vacation home. The Bidens are hosting daughter Ashley Biden and her husband Dr. Howard Krein for the holiday meal. The former vice president, appearing with his wife in a video message posted to his Twitter account on Thanksgiving, said his family typically holds a large gathering on the island of Nantucket off Massachusetts, but would remain in Delaware this year “with just a small group around our dinner table” because of the pandemic.

In the presidential-style address to a nation that has lost more than 260,000 lives to the coronavirus, the Democratic president-elect said Americans were making a “shared sacrifice for the whole country” and a “statement of common purpose” by staying at home with their immediate families. “I know this isn’t the way many of us hoped we’d spend our holiday. We know that a small act of staying home is a gift to our fellow Americans,” said Biden. “I know better days are coming.”

President Proposes ‘Trade Triangle’ of Pakistan, China & ASEAN For Win-Win Prosperity

ISLAMABAD, Nov 27, 2020 (APP):: President Dr Arif Alvi on Friday proposed establishing a ‘trade triangle’ among Pakistan, China and Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to maximize the quantum of intra-regional business opportunities. In his virtual address to the 17th China-ASEAN Expo (CAEXPO) held in China’s Nanning city, the President said Pakistan’s stable macro-economic policies and ease of doing business offered an attractive market to both China and the ASEAN countries for trade cooperation in diverse areas.

The four-day CAEXPO themed ‘Building the Belt and Road, Strengthening Digital Economy Cooperation’ kicked off in the capital of South China’s Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region on Friday. The expo hosted 11 high-level forums, over 160 trade promotion activities and 229 booths for participants from 22 countries including Pakistan. President Alvi said despite the challenge of the coronavirus pandemic, Pakistan’s economy strengthened and its online businesses grew due to implementation of far-reaching economic reforms.

The President mentioned that Pakistan greatly learned from the experiences of China in establishing Special Economic Zones (SEZs) and invited the investors from ASEAN and China to explore Pakistan’s business potential. “We encourage the ASEAN countries and the Chinese businessmen to invest in SEZs as Pakistan’s macro-economic policies have changed tremendously with an improved state of ease of doing business,” he said.

Dr Alvi said Pakistan was making great progress after moving on from the original course of China Pakistan Economic Corridor, i.e. energy and infrastructure, to other areas of cooperation including agriculture, industries and socio-economic reforms. He mentioned that the second phase of Free Trade Agreement between Pakistan and China Pak was in place since January this year, while Pakistan had a sectoral dialogue partnership with ASEAN with increased mutual cooperation.

“We want to do a feasibility where Pakistan, China and ASEAN trade triangle can come up as well as feasibility into a Free Trade Agreement between Pakistan and ASEAN,” he said, stressing that such intra-regional arrangement could lead to prosperity. On exports to ASEAN and China, he said, textiles, food produce including meat and vegetables, surgical goods, minerals and Information Technology could be the prospective areas. Also, Pakistan produced best sports goods with its footballs used in several FIFA world cups, he added.

President Alvi recalled that China recently signed the world’s largest trade agreement – Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership – with a number of countries and emerged as a reliable trading partner and economic hub. On Pakistan-China relationship, he said the trusted bond was based on a friendship which was “deeper than oceans and higher than skies”.

He said CPEC had done wonders by turning Pakistan into an economic and strategic hub that provided an easy and fast route for transportation of goods from China and Central Asia to the sea. President Alvi lauded the 14 enterprises from Pakistan participating in CAEXPO and expressed confidence that the activity would support an increased trade activity among Pakistan, China and the ASEAN countries.

“This expo symbolically shows that China, beyond COVID-19, has provided leadership to the world in the area of trade,” he said. The CAEXPO being held at Nanning International Convention and Exhibition Centre has been co-sponsored by China’s Ministry of Commerce and its counterparts in the 10 ASEAN member states as well as the ASEAN Secretariat. Pakistan is participating in the 17th CAEXPO as a Special Partner for the first time and is making full spectrum representation through country pavilion, commercial display booths and an exclusive trade and investment conference on the sidelines.

President Alvi’s video speech was released together with speeches of Chinese President Xi Jinping and ASEAN leaders including the Presidents of Indonesia, Myanmar and the Philippines and Prime Ministers of Thailand, Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia.

Pakistan to Participate in 17th China-ASEAN Expo at China

BEIJING, Nov 26, 2020 (APP):: Pakistan will participate as a special partner in the 17th China-ASEAN Expo (CAEXPO) in Nanning, Guangxi province, China from November 27-30, said Gao Feng, spokesperson of the Chinese Ministry of Commerce. “We have invited Pakistan to participate as a special partner in this important event along with 10 ASEAN countries,” he said at a press conference on Thursday. He informed that President Dr. Arif Alvi will deliver a special message through video link, together with the leaders of China and ASEAN countries at the inaugural ceremony.

The CAEXPO would be addressed by Advisor to the Prime Minister on Commerce, Industries & Production and Investment, Abdul Razzak Dawood, Pakistan Ambassador to China, Moin-ul-Haque, as well as senior officials and leading executives.  At the invitation of the Chinese Ministry of Commerce and CAEXPO Secretariat, Pakistan is a Special Partner Country for the first time at this year’s Expo. Pakistan’s full-spectrum participation includes a dedicated country pavilion, extra booths for enterprises and special trade and investment events to highlight opportunities for China and ASEAN countries in Pakistan.

“Our special invited partner- Pakistan will be helped to provide online one to one matching service for growing businesses between Pakistanis and Chinese buyers,” Gao Feng added.
The Pakistan Pavilion, set up at the exhibition area of the CAEXPO would display major export and cultural items including sports goods, sportswear, garments, bed-linen, spices, and food items. Print and audio-visual material on tourist attractions of Pakistan would also be prominently showcased.

In addition to the Pavilion, Pakistani enterprises in China have set up a large number of stalls to promote their brands and products. They would take orders on the spot for products such as wooden, brass and stone handicrafts, onyx, gem-stones, leather items and jewelry.

On the sidelines of the CAEXPO, Pakistan’s Missions in Beijing and Guangzhou and Trade Development Authority of Pakistan (TDAP) have organized a special Trade and Investment Promotion Conference. The conference would highlight the potential of diversified trade with China and ASEAN and the opportunities of mutually beneficial investments, particularly in Special Economic Zones under CPEC.

As a longstanding friend of China with close ties to ASEAN countries, Pakistan’s first-time participation in the CAEXPO would underscore the country’s sustained efforts at regional economic integration and results-oriented cooperation, giving full play to the dynamism of our enterprises with high level government support.

The spokesperson said that 803 foreign booths were set up at the exhibition, including 574 from ASEAN countries covering the industries of food and beverage, agricultural products, home furnishing, education and tourism, investment, services, and etc.
There are 229 exhibition booths in the Belt and Road International Exhibition Area, covering 22 countries, including our special partner country Pakistan, he added.

UK Pledges £155 Mln Aid to Support Peace, Stability in Afghanistan

LONDON, Nov 24, 2020 (APP)::The United Kingdom (UK) has pledged £155 million aid to support peace and stability in Afghanistan. A statement issued by the UK Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) issued here on Tuesday said the UK aid pledge for 2021 would help reduce child mortality rates and improve access to education and vital infrastructure.

The statement added the new UK aid pledge would reduce child mortality rates, and improve access toeducation and vital infrastructure. It added the additional £15 million emergency support would help the most vulnerable cope with the cold winter and COVID-19. The UK remains the third largest bilateral donor to Afghanistan and a £155 million package of support for nextyear, was announced today by Lord Ahmad, UK Minister for South Asia, via virtual remarks to the 2020 Afghanistan Conference in Geneva.

He said the UK’s aid commitment would strengthen infrastructure and government systems, improve health and education services and create the jobs and investment needed for greater economic independence. The UK’s pledge, alongside those of other international donors, also takes into account the start of negotiations between the Afghan government and the Taliban and progress toward a peace process,the statement said.

It further said the continued UK development funding to Afghanistan beyond 2021 will be closely linked to both the peace negotiations and further progress on poverty reduction, rule of law, protection of women and minorities rights, human rights more broadly, and democratic governance. It added on top of this pledge, the UK is also committing £15 million to the UN’s World Food Programme, tohelp around 100,000 families facing immediate food shortages through the harsh Afghan winter in conditions exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The UK’s military and diplomatic efforts have been critical in supporting Afghanistan over the past 19 years. “Our UK’s aid expertise has helped millions of children go to school and provided life-saving food to those in need”, the statement said. Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab in his staement said: “The UK’s support has enabled important progress to be made in Afghanistan on education, access to healthcare, clean water and sanitation, and women’s participation in politics”.

“Our renewed commitment at this crucial time will help deliver a more stable Afghanistan, important both for the Afghan people, but also for the safety of the UK and the world”, Raab remarked. According to the statement, the UK aid funding will continue to be delivered predominantly through theAfghanistan Reconstruction Trust Fund (ARTF), with some funding also delivered through the UN AfghanistanHumanitarian Fund.

The aid pledge complements UK support to Afghanistan through diplomacy and security commitments and comes on top of the £70 million security pledge for Afghan National Defence and Security Forces in 2021, which was announced last month. The UK was working hard to support efforts on the peace process and the urgent need for a reduction of violence in Afghanistan, the statement said.

The statement further said the previous UK aid in Afghanistan has helped 749,000 children to gain a decenteducation, of which 290,000 were girls (from 2015 to 2020) provide 385,000 people with sustainable access to clean water and/or sanitation, of which 188,000 were female (from 2015 to 2020)make sure 94% of children under five suffering from severe malnutrition are treated, up from 24% in 2011 reduce the new-born mortality rate from 53 to 23 per 1,000 live births (from 2003 to 2018) provide 6.2 million people with access to electricity since 2004.

The UK remains the third-largest international donor to Afghanistan, after the US and Germany.The support the UK provides on improving Afghanistan’s security, development and governance is crucial to building a stable state and reducing the terrorist threat to the UK,the statement said.

Ex-Trump Senior Aide Bolton Urges Republican Leadership to Label President’s Behavior ‘Inexcusable’

NEW YORK, Nov 22, 2020 (APP):: Former United States (US) National Security Adviser John Bolton has called on Republican Party leadership to condemn President Donald Trump’s post-election behaviour as “inexcusable” for the sake of the party. Bolton, a conservative republican who served the Trump administration, told CNN’s “State of the Union” news programme on Sunday said that describing the president’s efforts to overturn the November 3, election results as a “nonviolent attempt at coup” gives “Trump too much credit.”

“I think he’s just playing for time in hopes that something will emerge that allows him either to have a good reason why he’s lost or in his mind, maybe still to win,” he said. “But I think that simply emphasizes the need for senior Republican leaders to join those who have begun to come out and say Trump’s behaviour is inexcusable.” “The Republican Party is not going to be saved by hiding in a spider hole,” he added. “We need all of our leaders to come out and say, ‘the election is over.’ We’re not talking about an abstract right for Trump to use his legal remedies. We’ve passed that.”

Trump’s former adviser also said that for Republican leaders that are “worried about Trump’s reaction, there’s strength in numbers.” “The more who come out and say, ‘He doesn’t represent us – he is not following a Republican game plan here,’ the safer they will be,” Bolton said. Trump has refused to concede to President-elect Joe Biden, who was declared as the election’s winner more than two weeks ago.

Instead, the president’s campaign filed a series of lawsuits in several battleground states contesting the vote and falsely alleging widespread voter fraud, in moves that Bolton on Sunday called “an exercise of raw political power.” Bolton also said he thinks Biden will be sworn in as president, but “the real question now is how much damage Trump can do before that happens.”

Bright Prospects for China-Pakistan Cooperation in Cotton Research, Industrialization

BEIJING, Nov 20, 2020 (APP):: As China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) being the flagship project of Belt and Road Initiative, it surely promises a bright prospect in cotton research and industrialization between China and Pakistan, with the concept of extensive consultation, joint contribution and shared benefits,” said Zhang Rui, Director, Center for Molecular Biology of Crops, Biotechnology Institute, CAAS.

She said China and Pakistan are among the few countries with complete cotton industrial value chain in the world. Despite the fact that both countries boast basically the same cotton plantation areas, China ranked the second globally in terms of cotton production while Pakistan stood at the fourth place, she said at a Webinar held here.

As per the facts lying behind the enormous gap of yield based on the virtually same planting areas, Zhang explained that it mainly attributed to the advantages that China had in cotton research and industrialization, including advanced biological breeding technology for cotton, high-quality cotton seed production technology and high-yield and high-efficiency cultivation and management technique for cotton.

“In China, the production technology of cotton seed is standardized, and the standardized cotton seed production technology has enabled the rate of seed germination to reach above 85%,” Zhang further explained, by citing Xinjiang, the main cotton producing area in China, where the temperature is relatively lower, but the plastic film covering technology helps raise the temperature of soil, thus promoting the germination and growth of seeds.

Besides, she mentioned the advancement of smart agriculture, saying “what is thriving in China presently is smart agriculture, which can make the cultivation and management of cotton more feasible, realize the prevention and control of plant diseases and insect pests, and predict the yield in advance.” However, common challenges still exist for cotton production in both China and Pakistan. “As climate changes, we both need to create new cotton germplasm that is resistant to both biological and abiotic stresses, develop high-quality and long-fiber cotton,

establish and improve mechanized planting and harvesting, and optimize management measures for planting and cultivation,” Zhang stated. Regarding the cooperation in cotton industry between China and Pakistan, Zhang listed the achievements made under CPEC, such as the establishment of China-Pakistan Cotton Biotechnology Joint Laboratory, which aimed at introducing high technology into Pakistan, as well as a comprehensive platform for agricultural technical cooperation.

Themed China-Pakistan Agricultural Cooperation and Prospects, the webinar was jointly held by China Economic Net, the Institute of Peace and Diplomatic Studies (IPDS) under the guidance of the Chinese Embassy in Pakistan and the Pakistani Embassy in China.

China Willing to Share Agricultural Experience with Pakistan: Nong Rong

BEIJING, Nov 19,2020 (APP):: China is willing to share experience in agricultural, rural and industrial development with Pakistan, jointly safeguard regional food security and enhance industrialization in Pakistan, Chinese Ambassador to Pakistan Nong Rong said on Thursday. Addressing a Webinar on China-Pakistan Agricultural Cooperation and Prospects organized by China Economic Net (CEN), the ambassador hailed the meeting of great significance as it focused on seed industry, agricultural product processing and agricultural investment.

Talking about the agricultural cooperation programs under China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), he suggested to strengthen cooperation in germplasm resources, genetics and breeding, disease and pest control, product processing, capacity building and technology transfer to help Pakistan enhance its agricultural modernization level, increase grain yields and effectively safeguard national food security.

According to Nong Rong, China was willing to step up communication and coordination with Pakistan, push for the completion of inspection and quarantine procedures as soon as possible, and facilitate Pakistani exports of cherry, onion, potato and other agricultural products to China at an early date.

The ambassador also called for the establishment of regular communication channels for information on agricultural industry cooperation, promoting B2B commercial cooperation between Chinese and Pakistani enterprises, and encouraging investment cooperation in seed industry, agricultural materials, agricultural machinery, agricultural product processing and cold-chain warehousing.

“Next year will mark the 70th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties between China and Pakistan,” he said, expressing his expectation that the two countries continue to strengthen cooperation in agriculture and other fields under CPEC so that the dividends and positive outcomes of the corridor would be more widely shared by the two peoples.

US to Withdraw Troops from Afghanistan, Iraq in Trump’s Waning Days

NEW YORK, Nov 18, 2020 (APP): US President Donald Trump’s decision, in the twilight of his presidency, to pull 2,500 American troops from Afghanistan and Iraq by mid-January has evoked sharp reaction from influential Democratic as well as Republican lawmakers. “I am formally announcing that we will implement President Trump’s orders to continue our repositioning of forces from Afghanistan and Iraq,” acting Defence Secretary Christopher Miller announced Tuesday at the Pentagon.

The Defense Department will cut the number of troops in Afghanistan from 4,500 to 2,500 and the number of forces in Iraq from 3,000 to 2,500 by Jan. 15, days before Trump is set to leave office. Miller also said that Trump’s decision “is based on continuous engagement with his national security Cabinet for the past several months, including ongoing discussions with me and my colleagues across the United States government.”

He added that he spoke with “key leaders in Congress as well as our allies and partners abroad to update them on these plans” earlier in the day.Pentagon to withdraw troops from Afghanistan. The announcement comes one week after Trump sacked senior leaders, including Defence Secretary Mark Esper, and installed a slate of officials who support his aim. Miller, who replaced Defence Secretary Esper, is an Army combat veteran who served in Afghanistan and Iraq.

“This (the troop withdrawal) is consistent with our established plan and strategic objectives,” he said. Miller did not take questions from reporters. Esper and General Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, had advocated for reducing the American presence there only when security conditions allowed.

But a senior Defence Department official, who was not authorized to speak publicly, said two conditions had been met: national security in the United States will not be threatened and the remaining troops will be able to assist the government in Afghanistan and Iraq, according to media reports.

Robert O’Brien, the national security adviser, said Trump had fulfilled his pledge to “Put a stop to America’s endless wars.” The remaining troops will mostly defend embassies and assist allies,” Brien said. The transition team of President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris did not immediately respond to a question on the announcement of troop withdrawals.

Top Democratic lawmakers, however, were quick to denounce it. “The Trump policy has been so erratic, almost based on whim, what happens when the president rolls out of bed each morning and how he feels,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer told reporters at the Capitol Hill. Senator Tammy Duckworth said that this is the wrong way to do, as it will leave behind a huge amount of American military hardware for the Taliban to use.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Republican, told reporters that it is extremely important in the next couple of months not to have any earthshaking changes in defence and foreign policy. A precipitous draw down in either Afghanistan or Iraq would be a mistake, he said. Republican senator Mitt Romney urged the Trump administration to reconsider and reverse this politically-motivated decision and avoid worsening America’s national security challenges.

“In Afghanistan, if we want to continue to move forward with a peace discussion with the Taliban, I think we have to have a presence. And if we want to have any chance of enforcing a peace agreement that involves the Taliban, we have to have a presence,” said senator Roy Blunt. Senator Jim Inhofe, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said that he looks forward to receiving detailed briefings on the plan from the Pentagon and the commander on the ground.

“As we evaluate the situation in Afghanistan and coordinate with our allies, we must ensure that our strategy and posture reflect the conditions on the ground,” he said. Inhofe said that Trump’s South Asia strategy has been extremely successful, and his administration has scored major counterterrorism wins across the region, including taking out terrorist henchmen al-Baghdadi, Soleimani and al-Rimi. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said that the announcement is a hasty move intended to undermine the incoming Biden administration.

“It ought to surprise no one that this comes just days after President Trump fired top Pentagon officials who stood against his counterproductive plans,” he alleged. Senator Dianne Feinstein said that Trump’s last-minute foreign policy moves are threatening national security and could have lasting effects well beyond his final months in office. “This is especially worrying as the president continues to obstruct a peaceful, timely transition from his administration to President-elect Biden’s,” she said.
Republican senator Josh Hawley welcomed the move, saying that American people deserve an end to this war.

Meanwhile, the House Armed Services Committee announced a hearing on Afghanistan on November 20, 2020. Senator Jeanne Shaheen, a senior member of the Senate Armed Services and Foreign Relations Committees, urged the Trump administration to carefully reconsider any decision to hastily withdraw US troops from Afghanistan and Iraq and to bear in mind the rule of law, US security and the sanctity of US alliances.

“We cannot allow these countries to, yet again, become a safe haven for terrorists looking to do Americans harm. “Further, we cannot leave NATO and our partners in the dark. Any withdrawal must be conditions-based. Congress passed existing laws to ensure that any withdrawal going forward is not based on arbitrary timelines or political considerations,” he said. The U.S. has had troops in Afghanistan since October 2001 after the 9/11 terror attacks. They sought the al-Qaeda militants who had reportedly planned the attack there and received support from the militant Taliban government.

Since February, the Trump administration has been negotiating with the Taliban to reach a peace deal with the Afghan government that would allow a withdrawal of American forces there. American troops invaded Iraq in 2003 based on flawed intelligence that indicated Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction and posed a threat to the United States.NATO countries, including the United States, have about 12,000 troops in Afghanistan. “We now face a difficult decision,” Secretary General Jens Stoletenberg said in a statement.

“We have been in Afghanistan for almost 20 years, and no NATO ally wants to stay any longer than necessary. But at the same time, the price for leaving too soon or in an uncoordinated way could be very high. Afghanistan risks becoming once again a platform for international terrorists to plan and organize attacks on our homelands. And ISIS could rebuild in Afghanistan the terror caliphate it lost in Syria and Iraq.”

UNHCR Urges States to End Limbo for Stateless People By 2024

UNITED NATIONS, Nov 11 (APP):: The UN High Commissioner for Refugees , Filippo Grandi , has called on world leaders to take “bold and swift” action to eradicate statelessness by 2024. Marking the sixth anniversary of the #IBelong Campaign, aimed at ending statelessness by 2024, he urged redoubling of efforts to resolve this affront to humanity in the 21st century.

The need is all the more pressing in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, which is worsening the plight of millions of stateless people around the world, the high commissioner warned. The COVID-19 pandemic has shown more than ever the need for inclusion and the urgency to resolve statelessness. A pandemic doesn’t discriminate between citizens and non-citizens.

It is not in any state’s, society’s or community’s interest for people to be left stateless and living on the margins of society, Grandi said. Though global data is hard to obtain as stateless populations are not always accounted for or included in national censuses, there could be about 4.2 million stateless, in 76 countries according to the UN refugee agency, UNHCR.

The actual number is believed, however, to be substantially higher. Statelessness is an easily resolvable and preventable issue, said the High Commissioner, explaining that it is a matter of political will to change a person’s status and life, yet the consequences of inaction especially during the middle of a pandemic can be life-threatening.

“To protect and save lives, we urge governments to resolve statelessness and make sure that no one is left behind,” he added. Launched in November 2014, the #IBelong Campaign aims to end statelessness within ten years, by identifying and protecting stateless people, resolving existing situations of statelessness and preventing the emergence of new cases.

The Campaign is also directly linked to target 9 of Sustainable Development Goal 16 (SDG16), to provide legal identity for all, including birth registration, by 2030. Statelessness is an easily resolvable and preventable issue – a matter of political will to change a person’s status and life, High Commissioner Grandi

While significant progress has been made in reducing statelessness worldwide since the launch of the Campaign in November 2014, the pandemic has now exacerbated many of the difficulties and injustices that stateless people face. Lacking important legal rights and often unable to access essential services, many stateless people are politically and economically marginalized, discriminated against and vulnerable to exploitation and abuse.

In many countries, stateless people, including stateless refugees, live in sub-standard and inadequate sanitary conditions which can increase the risk of disease. “Without citizenship, many stateless people do not have access to or are not included in essential public health services and social safety nets.

They have been left extremely vulnerable in the face of this pandemic,” Grandi said. Some countries have, however, shown leadership by including stateless people in their response to COVID-19, ensuring they have access to testing and treatment, food, clothing and masks, according to UNHCR.

Some governments have made birth registration and other forms of civil documentation an essential service, maintaining operations despite the pandemic, helping to prevent new cases of statelessness arising, the agency added.

Biden: Trump Refusal to Concede 'An Embarrassment'

WASHINGTON, Nov 11, 2020::Joe Biden has said President Donald Trump's refusal to concede defeat in last week's White House election is "an embarrassment". But the US president-elect - who has been making contact with foreign leaders - insisted nothing would stop the transfer of power. Mr Trump meanwhile tweeted he would ultimately win the race that all major TV networks have forecast he lost.

As happens every four years, US media projected the election victor. None of the state-by-state results have yet been certified, several vote counts are continuing, and the outcome will only be set. The president-elect was asked by a reporter on Tuesday what he thought of President Trump's refusal to acknowledge defeat.

"I just think it's an embarrassment, quite frankly," Mr Biden, a Democrat, said in Wilmington, Delaware. "The only thing that, how can I say this tactfully, I think it will not help the president's legacy." "At the end of the day, you know, it's all going to come to fruition on January 20," he added, referring to inauguration day. Mr Biden has been fielding phone calls with foreign leaders as he prepares to assume office.

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Irish Taoiseach Micheál Martin, French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel were among those he spoke to on Tuesday. Referring to those calls, Mr Biden said: "I'm letting them know that America is back. We're going to be back in the game." But as he and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris forge ahead, a little-known government agency led by a Trump appointee is stalling the handover.

The General Services Administration co-ordinates funding and access to federal departments for incoming administrations. However, it has so far declined to formally recognise Mr Biden as president-elect. Nevertheless, the Democrat said: "We don't see anything slowing us down, quite frankly."

Nearly $2 Trillion Traded on COVID-19 Vaccine News

LONDON, Nov 11, 2020: News of a breakthrough in the race to find a COVID-19 vaccine sparked one of the heaviest trading days since the height of the pandemic crisis, according to early data analysed by Reuters, with nearly $2 trillion changing hands on Monday. Traders stampeded to the riskier plays in equities, foreign exchange and bond markets after Pfizer released positive data on its vaccine trial, while rotating out of safe havens such as technology stocks, Japanese yen JPY= and top-rated bonds.

“Volumes (are) also surging as programmes and baskets go to work to either correct portfolio balances or address margin calls,” said Mark Taylor, sales trader at Mirabaud Securities, highlighting a jump in volumes in the airlines and banking sectors. In the United States, nearly $500 billion worth of trades went through stock markets on Monday, one of the busiest days since March, when coronavirus lockdown fears rattled financial markets. Europe saw $120 billion traded, according to Refinitiv data.

Value stocks, typically companies that are more sensitive to economic cycles, notched their best one-day performance against their growth-focused peers ever in the United States after Monday’s news of an effective vaccine against the coronavirus. A similar trend was noticed in the bond and currency markets where volumes matched the panic trading seen during the depths of the market mayhem in March and double that of April when the coronavirus pandemic slammed into markets.

Total turnover for the 33 currency pairs on CLS, a major settler of trades in the currency markets, totaled $627 billion on Monday. Average daily turnover was $707 billion in March and $380 billion in April. Bond market turnover also jumped. Nearly 170,000 contracts changed hands on the popular front-month German bund futures contracts </FBTPc1>, 1.5 times this year’s average, according to Refinitiv data.

Total turnover on German government bonds on Monday totalled nearly 9 billion euros ($10.63 billion), more than the average since the start of October, according to data from Marketaxess, a major trading platform.

Junagarh StateWill Soon Become a Part of Pakistan’

ISLAMABAD, Nov 10, 2020: Nawab of Junagarh, Muhammad Jahangir Khanji has made it clear to the Modi-led Indian government that Junagadh will soon become a part of Pakistan. Addressing a news conference in Islamabad on Monday, Jahangir Khanji has urged the United Nations (UN) to play its role for the liberation of the Junagarh State from an Indian illegal occupation.

The illegal annexation of Junagadh by Indian forces is against all norms and principles of international law, he added. Jahangir Khanji said that his forefathers had made an agreement to become part of Pakistan but Indian forces illegally captured the territory. The Nawab of Junagarh thanked the Pakistani government for issuing a political map showing Junahgadh in its territory. Muhammad Jahangir Khanji requested Prime Minister Imran Khan to highlight their freedom struggle at every international forum.

It must be noted that Junagarh was a princely state of pre-partition India and at the time of partition over 550 states were given the choice to join either Pakistan or India. The nawab of Junagarh decided to join Pakistan. On August 5, 2020, Pakistan had approved and released the new political map of Pakistan, which includes territories of Jammu and Kashmir and a part of Ladakh. The map also included Junagadh, Manavadar and Sir Creek in Indian Gujarat as part of Pakistan.

Biden To Reverse Some Trump’s Policies Upon Taking Office; No Significant Change Expected in South Asia

NEW YORK, Nov 08 (APP):: US President-elect Joe Biden plans to issue executive orders reversing a number of President Donald Trump’s policies, including Muslim travel ban, as soon as he takes office, a leading American newspaper reported Sunday. That report in The Washington Post comes hours after Biden was declared the winner of the 2020 presidential election.

In his passionate victory speech, Biden vowed “to make America respected around the world again,” with obviously in mind Trump’s strong-arm tactics that created tensions with U.S. allies. Some analysts here believe that Biden’s moves and pronouncements could mark the beginning of a shift in America’s attitude toward the world. But a veteran expert on South Asia at the United Nations was cautious in his assessment of the new developments.

“Under a Biden Presidency, the strategic parameters in South Asia may not change significantly,” the expert, who declined to be named, said in an interview with APP correspondent. “US-China tensions may moderate, but US will continue to build a strategic partnership with India to counter China,” he said. “However,” the expert added, “it (Biden administration) may be more sensitive on the Modi government’s grave human rights violations in Occupied Kashmir and against India’s Muslim population.”

“There will be other changes: possible revival of the Iran nuclear agreement, an erosion in relations with Saudi Arabia and some adjustments in US Afghan policy,” he predicted. Giving details of Biden’s move to undo some Trump’s policies, The Washington Post said that he plans to rejoin the Paris climate accords, which the U.S. officially left on Wednesday. He’s also reportedly planning to reverse the U.S.’s withdrawal from the World Health Organization, which is slated to take effect July 6, 2021.

Biden also wants to immediately repeal the ban on immigration that targeted many Muslim-majority countries and reinstate the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals programme, according to the Post. During his campaign, Biden pledged to take action on all of these issues on his first day in office. As regards Biden, he knows South Asia well, having visited the region as Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and Vice President under the Obama administration.

Ahead of the the presidential elections, Biden highlighted India’s repression in occupied Jammu and Kashmir in his party’s policy paper, with a call on New Delhi to take necessary steps to restore the rights of Kashmiri people. The paper, entitled ‘Joe Biden’s agenda for the Muslim American communities’, released in June, read, “In Kashmir, the Indian government should take all necessary steps to restore rights for all the people of Kashmir.

“Restrictions on dissent, such as preventing peaceful protests or shutting or slowing down the Internet, weaken democracy.” It added, “These measures are inconsistent with the country’s long tradition of secularism and with sustaining a multi-ethnic and multi-religious democracy.” India annexed Jammu and Kashmir on August 5, 2019, in violation of UN Security Council resolutions and international law, bifurcating the region into Union territories.

The move plunged the disputed Kashmir region into a virtual blackout after communication and internet services were cutoff, political leaders, activists and even children were detained, health infrastructure came to a halt, journalists were barred from reporting and all civil liberties were suspended. The Indian government has also denied access to all U.N. and non-UN humanitarian agencies and civil society organizations.

Kamala Harris Breaks Barriers as America’s Next Vice President

WASHINGTON, Nov 9, 2020:: Kamala Harris made history on Saturday with her election as Joe Biden’s vice president, becoming the first woman, first Black American and first Asian American to win the second highest U.S. office. Harris, 56, is widely seen as an obvious candidate for the Democratic Party nomination in 2024 should Biden, who will be 78 at their inauguration on Jan. 20, decide not to seek a second term. She hasn’t weighed in publicly on such speculation.

Edison Research and the major U.S. television networks on Saturday projected their victory, based on unofficial final results, even though the incumbent president, Republican Donald Trump, vowed to continue fighting in courts. A U.S. senator from California, Harris has a track record of shattering glass ceilings. She served as San Francisco’s first female district attorney and was California’s first woman of color to be elected attorney general.

Her background in criminal justice could help a Biden administration tackle the issues of racial equality and policing after the country was swept by protests this year. She is expected to be a top adviser on judicial nominations. Harris, whose mother and father emigrated from India and Jamaica, respectively, had her sights set on becoming the first woman U.S. president when she competed against Biden and others for their party’s 2020 nomination.

She dropped out of the race last December after a campaign hurt by her wavering views on healthcare and indecision about embracing her past as a prosecutor. Biden looked beyond some of the harsh words Harris had for him in that campaign to name her his running mate in August. She has proven to be a valuable and polished stand-in, appealing especially to women, progressives and voters of color, all critical to the party’s election hopes.

Harris, who developed a deep fundraising network during her Senate and White House bids, has been instrumental to Biden’s raking in record sums of money in the closing months of the campaign. Her selection sparked a burst of excitement in the Democratic base and among the party’s donors.

“Harris always made the most sense as a running mate for Biden because she had the ability to help him unify the Democratic coalition across racial and generational lines and was able to spike base enthusiasm,” said Joel Payne, a Democratic strategist who worked for Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign.

A TEAM PLAYER

Accusations from progressives that Harris did not do enough to investigate police shootings and wrongful conviction cases when she was California’s attorney general helped doom her own presidential run but surfaced little during her time as Biden’s running mate. Harris has often defended her record, saying as she did in a town hall event last year that she had worked her whole career “to reform the criminal justice system with the understanding that it is deeply flawed and in need of repair.”

Trump and his re-election campaign had sought to paint Harris instead as a tool of the Democratic left who would wield power and influence behind the scenes in a Biden presidency. Prior to her selection, several Biden aides say that Harris was able to put to rest concerns among some in the former vice president’s camp that she would be too personally ambitious to make a trustworthy partner.

Harris has shown herself to be a team player, taking on a lower-profile role and holding virtual and in-person political events that sometimes drew little news coverage, while often speaking in terms of what Biden would do for the country if elected and making an impassioned case against Trump. “Joe and I were raised in a very similar way,” Harris said of Biden at her October debate against Vice President Mike Pence. “We were raised with values that are about hard work, about the value and the dignity of public service and about the importance of fighting for the dignity of all people.”

DOUBLE DUTY

Harris juggled her running mate duties with her day job in the Senate. Befitting her background as a prosecutor, she was a deft cross-examiner of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett at Barrett’s Senate confirmation hearing in October, weaving Biden’s campaign message on healthcare and climate change into her line of questioning.

As the Senate’s only Black woman, Harris emerged this year as a leading voice on racial justice and police reform after Minneapolis police killed African-American man George Floyd in May. She marched with protesters on the streets of Washington and won over some liberal skeptics. Asked on “60 Minutes” last month why, given Biden’s age, he believed Harris would be ready to step into the presidency if something happened to him, the presidential candidate rapidly fired off five reasons.

“Number one, her values. Number two, she is smart as a devil, and number three, she has a backbone like a ramrod. Number four, she is really principled. And number five, she has had significant experience in the largest state in the Union in running the justice department that’s only second in size to the United States Justice Department. And obviously, I hope that never becomes a question,” he said. Harris is married to attorney Douglas Emhoff, who has been a fixture on the campaign trail. His two children from a previous marriage refer to their stepmother as “Momala.”

Canada Prime Minister Trudeau Congratulates Joe Biden On White House Win

OTTAWA, (APP) :: Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Saturday congratulated Joe Biden on winning the White House, shortly after US media called the race for the Democrat over Donald Trump.

Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Saturday congratulated Joe Biden on winning the White House, shortly after US media called the race for the Democrat over Donald Trump.

"I look forward to working with President-elect Biden, Vice President-elect (Kamala) Harris, their administration, and the United States Congress as we tackle the world's greatest challenges together," Trudeau said in a statement.

Global Uncertainty Could Risk World War Three: UK Military Chief

LONDON, Photo Courtesy BBC, Nov 8, 2020:: Current global uncertainty and anxiety amid the economic crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic could risk another world war, the head of Britain’s armed forces has warned. In an interview aired to coincide with Remembrance Sunday, the annual commemorations for those who have been killed and wounded in conflict, Nick Carter, Britain’s Chief of the Defence Staff, said an escalation in regional tensions and errors of judgement could ultimately lead to widespread conflict.

“I think we are living at a moment in time where the world is a very uncertain and anxious place and of course, the dynamic of global competition is a feature of our lives as well, and I think the real risk we have with quite a lot of the regional conflicts that are gong on at the moment, is you could see escalation lead to miscalculation,” Carter told Sky News. Asked if that meant there was a genuine threat of another world war, Carter replied: “I’m saying it’s a risk and we need to be conscious of those risks.”

Carter, who became the British military chief in 2018, said it was important to remember those who had died in previous wars as a warning to those who might repeat past mistakes. “If you forget about the horror of war, then the great risk I think is that people might think that going to war is a reasonable thing to do,” he said.

“We have to remember that history might not repeat itself but it has a rhythm, and if you look back at the last century, before both world wars, I think it was unarguable that there was escalation which led to the miscalculation which ultimately led to war at a scale we would hopefully never see again.”

Two Helicopters Collide Mid-Air in Malaysia

The transport ministry said both helicopters had taken off Subang Airport for a regular training session. “Tragically… two crew members had perished in the crash,” Transport Minister Wee Ka Siong said in a statement. He said an investigation had been launched. Helicopter flying as a hobby is gaining popularity among affluent Malaysians.

Azerbaijan Says Key Karabakh Town Captured

The fortress town sits on cliffs around 15 kilometres (nine miles) from Nagorno-Karabakh’s largest city Stepanakert and on the main road through the region to the territory of Armenia, which backs the separatists. Both sides have reported fierce clashes around the town in recent days, after Azerbaijani forces swept across the southern flank of Nagorno-Karabakh and pushed through its mountain passes. In a televised address to the nation on Sunday, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev announced that the town had been captured.

“With great pride and joy, I inform you that the town of Shusha has been liberated,” said Aliyev, dressed in military fatigues and standing in front of an Azerbaijani flag. He said November 8 would “go down in the history of the Azerbaijani people” as the day “we returned to Shusha”. “Our liberation march continues. We will go to the end, until the complete liberation of the occupied territories,” Aliyev said.

Celebrations in Baku: Flag-waving Azerbaijanis celebrated in the capital Baku after Aliyev’s announcement, with cars honking their horns as residents crowded along city streets. Armenian officials confirmed there were heavy clashes for the town but said the battle was far from over. “The fighting continues in Shushi, wait and believe in our army,” Armenian defence ministry official Artsrun Hovhannisyan said, using the Armenian name for the town, shortly after Aliyev’s announcement.

Armenian defence ministry spokeswoman Shushan Stepanyan said there was “the most ferocious combat” overnight for the town, while the Armenian government said taking Shusha was an “unattainable pipe dream for Azerbaijan”. “Despite heavy destruction, the fortress city withstands the blows of the adversary,” it said.

In the streets of the Armenian capital Yerevan, residents said they did not believe the town had been taken. “To know who controls Shushi we will listen to the commanders of our army, not Aliyev,” 50-year-old Arman told AFP on the city’s central Abovyan Street. “In any case I can assure you that the war will not be finished if the Azerbaijanis take Shushi.”

Shusha had been a majority Azerbaijani city before the 1990s conflict and has been a rallying cry for authorities in Baku promising to retake Nagorno-Karabakh. New clashes broke out in late September between Azerbaijan and the Armenia-backed separatists over control of Karabakh, which declared its independence nearly 30 years ago.

That declaration has not been recognised internationally, even by Armenia, and it remains a part of Azerbaijan under international law. The recent flare-up has been the worst in decades, with more than 1,000 people confirmed dead including dozens of civilians, although the death toll is believed to be much higher.

Diplomatic efforts: Fighting has continued despite several attempts by Russia, France and the United States to help reach a lasting ceasefire. The three countries make up the “Minsk Group” of mediators that helped broker a truce between the ex-Soviet rivals in 1994 but have failed to find a lasting solution to the long-simmering conflict. Diplomatic efforts appeared to intensify as the fighting raged around Shusha, with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Saturday speaking by phone to Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan and French President Emmanuel Macron.

Turkey is a key ally of Azerbaijan and on Sunday Erdogan congratulated Baku after its claim of retaking Shusha, saying it was “a sign that the liberation of the rest of the occupied territories is near”.

Biden Says He Will Not Let Trump ‘Steal’ Election by Prematurely Declaring Himself Winner, As Tensions Escalate

NEW YORK, November 2, 2020 (APP): Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden has said that he will not let President Donald Trump ‘steal’ the election following a report that the president will prematurely declare himself the winner on Tuesday night if it appears he is ahead. “My response is the president is not going to steal this election,” Biden told reporters when asked about Trump’s purported plans, revealed by Axios, a news website, between campaign stops in Pennsylvania on Sunday night, as U.S. political divide becomes increasingly violent, rattling activists and police.

Axios cited three sources who said Trump, who is trailing in polls, has privately discussed in detail potential November 3 election scenarios – including walking up to the podium and declaring he has won before official Electoral College results are revealed. Trump denied the claims, stating: ‘No, no that was a false report,’ after he landed in North Carolina for his third rally of the day, as both candidates stepped up their respective campaigns. But he did warn he is ready to send in lawyers to states like Pennsylvania to dispute ballots.

“We’re going in the night of – as soon as the election is over – we’re going in with our lawyers,” he said. He and the Republican Party have been launching lawsuits in states extending the deadline to accept mail-in ballots. “If people wanted to get their ballots in, they should have gotten their ballots in long before that,” he said. The president has repeatedly called for a result to be declared on election night.
“I don’t think it’s fair that we have to wait for a long period of time after the election,” Trump said.

Trump and Biden campaigned in Pennsylvania this weekend as early count is likely to favour Trump because of state laws against counting mail-in ballots before Election Day. However, that margin is expected to narrow. Numerous polls show Biden leading the president in Pennsylvania. The RealClearPolitics average shows Biden leading Trump by 4 points in the state. Trump won the state by roughly a point in 2016, contributing to what was widely considered a surprise victory.

Meanwhile, as the nation races toward Election Day, the tensions and acrimony surrounding an extraordinarily divisive campaign, coming on the heels of a summer of protests and racial unrest, are adding further uncertainty to an electoral process in which Trump has not committed to a peaceful transfer of power. On Sunday, vehicles with Trump flags halted traffic in New Jersey and jammed a bridge in a New York suburb. Another pro-Trump convoy in Virginia ended in a tense shouting match elsewhere in the area.

In Georgia, a rally for Democrats was canceled shortly before it was scheduled to begin on Sunday, with organizers worried about what they feared would be a “large militia presence” drawn by President Trump’s own event nearby. Sunday’s incidents came a day after a group of Trump supporters in Texas, driving trucks and waving Trump flags, surrounded and slowed a Biden campaign, leading to the cancellation of two planned rallies. The F.B.I. confirmed on Sunday that it was investigating the incident.

On his part, President Trump tweeted a video of the incident with a message, “I love Texas!” After the F.B.I. announced it was investigating, he tweeted again, saying, “In my opinion, these patriots did nothing wrong,” and instead “the FBI & Justice should be investigating the terrorists, anarchists, and agitators of ANTIFA.” In Graham, North Carolina, a get-out-the vote rally on Saturday ended with police using pepper spray on some participants, including young children, and making numerous arrests. Organizers of the rally called it flagrant voter suppression.

“These people are afraid,” the Rev. Gregory Drumwright, his eyes still burning, said as he assailed the police action in Graham. “There’s a climate of fear around this.” And those were just the incidents that were caught on video. Kristen Clarke executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, a voting rights group, said there had been many more. The group settled a lawsuit last month against officials in Graham who they accused of violating the First Amendment rights of protesters.

“We are very concerned about groups lurking and trying to intimidate voters in particular communities,” Ms. Clarke said. Her group’s election protection hotline received calls from nearly a dozen counties in Florida just over the past week, she said, reporting individuals or groups harassing voters at the polls. The atmosphere surrounding the country seems like it is preparing to deal with riots, rather than holding election parties.

Businesses and retailers across the country are boarding up their storefront windows and taking other security measures in anticipation of potential unrest on or around Election Day as many cities remain on edge following a summer of widespread riots and mayhem. In Washington D.C., hair salons, restaurants, clothing stores, and banks just blocks away from the White House were covered in plywood Sunday, as business owners prepare for a possible repeat of the violent riots and looting seen over the summer in response to the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, as well as the decision not to charge officers in connection to the death of Breonna Taylor in Louisville, Kentucky.

In an email sent to students last week, George Washington University suggested stockpiling frozen meals, medication and other supplies before November, 3 to prepare “for the Election Day period as you would for a hurricane or a snowstorm that would prevent you from going outside for several days to grab food or order takeout,” according to USA Today.

A representative with the Downtown DC Business Improvement District told the Washingtonian that several prominent businesses plan to close on Election Day or for at least the entire week. Washington Police Chief Peter Newsham said there were no “credible threats right now of violence,” but said a number of groups had applied for permits to conduct large demonstrations and the entire police department would be working on Election Day.

Closer EU-India Ties May Accelerate Geopolitical Realignment

SHANGHAI, November 1, 2020:: Rapprochement seems to have been a trend between the EU and India since the two sides held a video summit in July. Think tank reports and media commentaries are exploring the possibilities and potential of closer and more substantialized EU-India bilateral cooperation. And the issue of Germany's new Policy Guidelines for Indo-Pacific Region on September 1st has further intensified the policy debates of European political and policy elites on Europe-India relations.

Although declared as a strategic partnership in 2004, the EU-India relations have long been kept outside the list of priorities of the EU leadership. Negotiations on an EU-India Free Trade Area has been virtually frozen since 2013. By the end of 2019, EU-India trade accounted for a mere 1.9 percent of EU's total trade. 

The EU political leadership has been largely attracted to East and Southeast Asia, and has been prioritizing negotiation of FTA treaties with Singapore, Vietnam, and Japan, while also spending a large amount of energy and resource in its relationship with China. The European Union's new approach to India reflects its latest nuanced adjustments of its strategic assessments and policy orientations since this summer, due to a series of internal and external situational changes.

Europe's foreign policy community began to refocus its attention on India during the COVID-19 pandemic in March-April. Partly enlightened by the US proposed "Indo-Pacific Strategy," which appeared to intensify in the second half of 2019, and partly pressed by the huge geopolitical reshuffling resulting from the tense China-US strategic rivalry that accelerated in early 2020, and partly impacted by the ongoing pandemic, European politicians and think tankers are now attaching more importance to India in their strategic planning. 

EU's effort to develop bilateral relations with India is motivated by economic, political and strategic concerns. Given worldwide waves of economic nationalism, the EU is also stressing "European strategic autonomy" and economic sovereignty, emphasizing the necessity of mitigating external dependency, especially its dependency on China. India is increasingly viewed by Europeans as an alternative to China for Europe to diversify its external supply chains and to extend European exports and business. 

To gain an advantageous position in current international strategic competitions for cutting-edge technologies and emerging industries, the von der Leyen Commission is now carrying forward a new industrial strategy and working to build Europe's own digital platforms. It regards India as a potential partner for Europe's digital transformation, considering the highly developed Indian software industry. 

As more EU-China competition and conflicts appear in technology, industry, trade, and investment, India is being considered a counterbalance to China. Furthermore, as US-China tensions continue in the South China Sea, the neighboring Indian Ocean appears to be more and more strategically significant and the EU is hoping to exert its own strategic influence in this region. Finally, there is an EU-India commonality in their support for a continued process of global climate governance, so EU elites perceive potential cooperation on Europe's green deal. 

As globalization and regional integration suffer constant frustrations, geopolitics is being largely reshaped by emerging mercantilism, nationalism, and populism. With the world economy seriously disrupted by the relentless pandemic and international relations are more unpredictable by fiercer big-power games, closer EU-India relations may add a new element of unpredictability to the already turbulent and disturbing realignment of geopolitics. Economically and strategically, it is very likely that closer EU-India relations may be leveraged against China and worsen China's external environment. In particular, there might be increasing pressure for China to structurally readjust its foreign economic policy and security strategy. Its overall strategic assessment over its external environment may need to be recalibrated. 

However, the prospect of EU-India economic cooperation still remains uncertain because of profound bilateral divergences in culture, economy, and politics. The EU-India's democratic values and political system do not guarantee a steady development of substantial cooperation because there are varied motives and strategic concerns on both sides. 

The author is executive director of the Center for European Union Studies, Shanghai International Studies University. 

 Self-Controlled, Safe Domestic Supply System Needed to Safeguard National Security: Xi

BEIJING, November 1, 2020:: China should build self-controlled, safe and reliable domestic production and supply system in fields concerning national security, Chinese President Xi Jinping wrote in Qiushi Journal. The system could realize self-circulation at critical moments and ensure normal economic operation under extreme conditions, he added.

“In order to ensure China’s industrial security and national security, we must build self-controlled, safe and reliable domestic production and supply chain. We should strive to have at least one alternative source for important products and supply channels to form a necessary industrial backup system,” Xi said, according an article published on Qiushi’s website on Saturday.

Xi underscored the importance of industrial chain and supply chain: one key feature for major economic power is that its industrial chain and supply chain should not be disrupted at a crucial moment. China’s complete industrial chain has played a key role during the COVID-19 epidemic by guaranteeing the availability of important materials for epidemic prevention and control, however, the public health crisis has also exposed risks in the domestic supply chain and industrial chain, he said.

As nationwide production and economic resumption continues, “we shouldn’t and couldn’t simply repeat the previous model, but should strive to shape new industrial chain to enhance technological innovation and import substitution, which is the focus of deepening supply-side structural reforms and key to achieving high-quality development,” he wrote.

For the sectors where China has achieved pioneering advantages, for example the high-speed rail, power-generating equipment, and communication equipment, Xi suggested that technologies should be further honed, so as to forge strong countermeasures and deterrence capabilities when foreign parties block supplies.

In Safe Singapore’s ‘Cursed’ Town, Ghosts and Odd Happenings

SINGAPORE, Oct 31, 2020:: With a torch in one hand and an electromagnetic meter in the other, paranormal investigator Charles Goh scours some shrub land in suburban Singapore, looking for hidden graves that could give clues to a ghostly encounter he had three decades ago. Goh’s investigations have led him to the residential neighbourhood of Yishun, an area little visited by tourists that has developed a reputation for criminal, strange and sometimes supernatural events in one of the world’s safest cities.

In recent years, Yishun has seen buses spontaneously combust, cats strangled, peculiar murders, giant caterpillars and supposed ghost sightings – spawning reams of satirical sites, online memes and local media coverage. Even Netflix, the world’s largest streaming service, has poked fun at the town’s unfortunate reputation to promote the supernatural mystery series ‘Stranger Things’ and other horror content to local audiences. One blogger coined the ring road that circles the town “the devil’s ring”.

Local politicians say there are rational explanations for these events and statistics show crime rates are not unusual. But Goh, a safety manager for a construction firm, has a theory that ancient burial sites disturbed during the town’s rapid development could have been behind the spooky encounter he had at a military camp in Yishun thirty years ago. “In the day time I look out for the living, in the night time I look out for the dead,” said Goh, who went on to form the Asia Paranormal Investigators society in 2005.

Others who have investigated Yishun’s “weird and sometimes dangerous” reputation, like Japanese YouTuber Ghib Ojisan have come to less exciting conclusions. “I discovered that it is just a nice neighborhood,” said Ojisan, who started making videos about Yishun last year. But the normalcy of his encounters with friendly locals, tasty food, and neat parks haven’t dampened interest for his videos, attracting tens of thousands of views.

He says part of the fascination for his mainly Japanese audience is that Singapore is seen as an uneventful place. It was ranked as the second safest city globally last year, behind Tokyo, in the Economist Intelligence Unit’s Safe Cities Index. Local MP Louis Ng said that Yishun’s reputation can be put down to the fact that “bad news sells faster than good news” and that it is a safe town with a strong sense of community.

As for paranormal encounters, Ng quipped: “We have got a lot of temples around in Yishun, so hopefully that will help to curb this curse and the supernatural powers that are at play.”

Hungarian Politician Fined €12,000 For Giving PM Viktor Orbán Potatoes in Parliament  

BUDAPEST, October 29, 2020:: A Hungarian politician has been fined around €12,000 for attempting to give potatoes to Prime Minister Viktor Orbán in parliament last week. Péter Jakab, the leader of the right-wing Jobbik party, was fined 4.4 million Hungarian forints (HUF) for the gesture by the Speaker of the National Assembly, László Kövér. On 20 October, Mr. Jakab attempted to place a bag of potatoes on the Prime Minister's desk, a reference to recent electioneering allegations.

Opposition politicians have accused Orbán's ruling Fidesz party of buying votes in a recent by-election in Borsod by giving potatoes to those in poverty. But Péter Jakab was prevented from reaching the Prime Minister by several Fidesz representatives. "This is how illiberalism works," tweeted Péter Jakab on Monday after announcing that he had been fined for the gesture. "He who thinks that this punishment is all about me is wrong," Jakab added on Facebook, indicating that he would appeal the decision.

"That’s how much it costs Orbán to face the truth today." A spokesperson for the National Assembly of Hungary told Euronews that Péter Jakab's actions were a "blatantly insulting act" and confirmed that the politician had been fined HUF 4,413,600 (€12,025). Under Hungarian law, members are prohibited from "grossly offending or intimidating" the National Assembly or the dignity of any person or party. Politicians violating the rules on disciplinary conduct can be excluded or banned from sitting in the parliament by the Speaker and face fines of at least two months' salary.

The National Assembly spokesperson added that the Speaker had decided Péter Jakab's fine in line with the regulations. The Jobbik party leader has previously hit out at Prime Minister Orbán over the Hungarian government's request to rule by decree during the coronavirus pandemic. Speaking in March, Péter Jakab said the law placed the whole of Hungarian democracy in quarantine. The Hungarian Parliament voted to revoke the law in June but did not set a precise end date.

Dear Munir,

TORONTO-DANFORTH, October 28, 2020: This past week, I was back in Parliament for the first time since March! It's been a trying time for all of us, but I'm grateful to have this opportunity to advocate on behalf of our community and continue to shape the government's recovery plans from Ottawa. I took my first opportunity to speak in the House of Commons to talk about our local businesses. You can watch it here.

This week, I will continue with briefings about the situation in Nagorno-Karabagh at Foreign Affairs Committee and to review recovery measures for the arts and culture industry at Heritage Committee.

Please continue to provide your input on issues of concern, which informs my advocacy.

Heading into Halloween, I wanted to ensure that our community had clear and consistent messaging the types of celebrations and activities have been deemed permissible by Toronto Public Health and Ontario's Chief Medical Officer of Health. The City of Toronto has outlined a few creative and safe alternatives to trick or treating this Halloween.

To all in our community celebrating, Happy Oxi Day! We cannot celebrate with a parade, but it is important to recognize that today in 1940, Greeks said "Oxi" (no) to fascism and "Nai" (yes) to democracy. 

With that, here is our weekly federal update on:

  • Facebook Live: MP Battiste on Treaty Rights in Nova Scotia
  • 2021 Community Calendar Photo Contest
  • Staying cyber-healthy
  • Announcements on development of Canadian Covid-19 vaccines
  • Extended Disability Tax Credit Applications
  • Housing Supply Challenge
  • Rapid Housing Initiative
  • Tech Collect Drive

Facebook Live MP Jaime Battiste on Treaty Rights in Nova Scotia

Last week, we had a lively Ask Me Anything session, in which I was asked about the confidence vote, gun control, small business supports and other topics. You can catch it here in case you missed it.

Unfortunately, we were unable to reschedule MP Greg Fergus this week. I will notify you as soon as we can reschedule him to talk about his work as part of the Parliamentary Black Caucus and our government's actions to end systemic anti-Black racism.

Please join me tonight at 7:30 pm for a chance to talk about Treaty Rights in Nova Scotia with MP Jaime Battiste, Mi'kmaq leader and Chair of the Liberal Indigenous Caucus. Like my Facebook page to get a notification when I go live.

Please direct any questions to here in advance of the Facebook Live events. If we are not able to get to your question during the discussion, I'll provide a response directly to your email. 

2021 Community Calendar Contest

Thank you for the many submissions for our 2021 calendar contest! It is not too late for community members to submit their work. We are looking for personal photographs of your favourite spots in Toronto-Danforth ranging from shops, streetscapes, parks, and ravines

Each individual can submit up to 5 photos for consideration. Photos must be high-resolution, in landscape orientation, and must be submitted by 5:00pm on Monday, November 2. We will be sure to credit the photos selected. 

Please click here to submit your photos to enter the contest!

Staying Cyber Healthy

While you are taking steps to protect yourself and your community from COVID-19, make sure you also take care of your cyber health.

Cybercriminals are taking advantage of the health crisis and our increased reliance on cyber technology to continue to work, learn, shop and connect with friends and loved ones.

The RCMP has received several reports on cyber threats and fraud related to COVID-19.

You can find simple tips to avoid cyber fraud and ways to report cyber crimes here.

Funding to advance the development of Canadian COVID-19 vaccine technologies

Our government is actively pursuing the purchase and development of vaccines, treatments, and related supplies to protect against COVID-19 and support our recovery from the pandemic. This includes investing in Canadian projects and strengthening our country's biomanufacturing sector and capabilities to fight future pandemics through leading-edge vaccine technology.

Last week, we announced we've signed an agreement with Quebec City-based Medicago to secure up to 76 million doses of their COVID-19 vaccine candidate, enough to vaccinate 38 million people. This is the first domestically developed vaccine candidate the Government of Canada has secured.

We will also provide up to $23.2 million in funding through the National Research Council of Canada Industrial Research Assistance Program to advance six COVID-19 vaccine candidates in various stages of clinical trials.

Our government has now signed agreements with Medicago, AstraZeneca, Sanofi and GlaxoSmithKline, Johnson & Johnson, Novavax, Pfizer, and Moderna. Agreements signed to date will secure access to up to 358 million doses of their different COVID-19 vaccine candidates. Currently, there are three vaccine candidates currently under review and many others in clinical trials and in development.

Extending Disability Tax Credit Applications

The deadline to apply for the Disability Tax Credit (DTC) to receive the one-time payment has been extended to December 31, 2020. This will help more Canadians with disabilities access the benefit, as the COVID-19 pandemic has created challenges for some to collect the information needed to complete the DTC application process.

More information can be found here

Housing Supply Challenge

Far too many Canadians struggle to find, maintain, and afford a good place to call home. A lack of adequate housing supply combined with significant demand for housing has pushed prices up in Canada, contributing to a lack of housing affordability. To incentivize much needed innovation in creating new housing supply, the Housing Supply Challenge invites applications from across Canada to propose new ideas and solutions that break down the barriers that limit new housing supply.  Proposals that address barriers to supply, and ultimately help more people find an affordable place to call home, will receive funding to develop and implement their solutions.

Click here to find out more about the Challenge.

Rapid Housing Initiative

Another way our government is addressing the housing shortage in large cities is the Rapid Housing Initiative, which provides a total of $1 billion to rapidly create up to 3,000 permanent units of affordable housing across Canada. Toronto will receive much needed funding through the Major Cities Stream.

For more info, visit cmhc.ca/RapidHousing.

Tech Collect Drive

There is a digital divide in our city and as we move towards more online learning, families in our area need support. When you donate your used, broken and unwanted devices (computers, laptops and other equipment) to Tech Collect Drive, they are safely recycled or refurbished, and circulated back to the community to support individuals and families desperately looking for access to technology. 

More information on upcoming Tech Collect Drives can be found here.

Stay safe and please reach out by email or phone (416.405.8914, leave a message) for any questions, suggestions or feedback.

Yours,

Julie Dabrusin 

Julie

Muslim Rights Group 'No Longer Feels Safe in France'

WASHINGTON,Oct 27, 2020::A French Muslim human rights group on Monday announced plans to expand its activities outside the country amid concerns for its safety and recent controversial statements by officials on Islam. "As an organization, we no longer feel we can conduct our work in a safe environment, as our lives are threatened and the government designates us as an enemy,” said the Collective Against Islamophobia in France (CCIF) in a statement. The group said they had been targeted by hate messages, death threats and insults over the past week after the French government announced it wanted to dissolve the organization.

"Using fake news from the far right, some political figures in the entourage of president Macron have even tried to pin last Friday's attack on organizations who denounce Islamophobia, as if it was conceptually impossible to address both terrorism and contemporary forms of racism, including Islamophobia," said the statement. "For these reasons, whatever the outcome of the government's attempt to dissolve CCIF, we have decided to extend our activities internationally, to ensure continuity of our operations and protect our teams."

French authorities recently launched a massive wave of investigations on Muslim organizations in the country following the killing of a Paris teacher. Samuel Paty, 47, who taught history and geography at Bois-d'Aulne College in Conflans-Sainte-Honorine, was brutally murdered by Abdullakh Anzorov, an 18-year-old of Chechen origin. The suspect was gunned down by police. The teacher, during one of his classes on freedom of expression, had shown the controversial cartoons depicting the Muslim Prophet Muhammad, according to reports.

Muslim leaders across France have condemned the murder, stressing that extremists abuse religion for their own goals and their actions could not be justified through Islam. Community leaders also expressed their concern that the recent attack would again stigmatize French Muslims and inflame Islamophobic sentiments. The government has announced last week that it was probing 51 French Muslim associations, including the Collective Against Islamophobia in France. Interior Minister Darmanin claimed that elements of the organization had caused officials to consider it "an enemy of the republic."

Earlier this month, French President Emmanuel Macron described Islam as a religion "in crisis" and announced plans for tougher laws to tackle what he called "Islamist separatism" in France. "The problem is an ideology which claims its own laws should be superior to those of the republic," he said. Some civil society groups and organizations that "act against the law and values of the country" might be closed or face tight financial audits, according to Macron's plan.

US Slaps New Set of Sanctions on Iranian Oil Sector, Chipping Away at Diplomacy Prospects

WASHINGTON,Oct 27, 2020:: President Donald Trump’s administration slapped on Monday fresh sanctions on Iran’s oil sector including over sales to Syria and Venezuela, reducing Joe Biden’s room for maneuver if he wins next week’s election. The Trump administration has imposed since 2018 sweeping sanctions aimed at ending all of Iran’s key oil exports, punishing any country that buys oil from its adversary. Under new measures rolled out today, the administration said it was designating the National Iranian Oil Company, Iran’s petroleum ministry and the National Iranian Tanker Company under a counterterrorism authority, meaning that any future administration would need to take legal measures to reverse the finding.

The Iranian regime continues to prioritize its nuclear program over the needs of the Iranian people, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement. Biden, who leads in polls ahead of next Tuesday’s election, supports diplomacy with Iran and backed an accord negotiated under previous president Barack Obama under which Tehran sharply curtailed its nuclear work in exchange for promises of sanctions relief. The Treasury Department imposed sanctions on a British-based Iranian businessman, Mahmoud Madanipour, and related companies for transactions with Venezuela.

The Treasury Department accused him of arranging the shipment of tens of thousands of metric tons of gasoline to Venezuela, where Trump has been trying unsuccessfully to depose the leftist leader, Nicolas Maduro. The United States has also imposed sanctions on Maduro’s government and earlier this year succeeded in seizing fuel cargo of four vessels from Iran headed to Venezuela — which suffers major electricity shortages despite its plentiful oil.

'Muslims and pets not allowed': Indian journalist slams 'apartheid' post on Facebook

Demonstrators hold the national flag of India as they attend a protest against a new citizenship law, after Friday prayers at Jama Masjid in the old quarters of Delhi, India. — Reuters/Files

NEW DELHI, October 25, 2020:: Indian journalist Rana Ayyub on Saturday slammed a person for a Facebook post where he had notified the availability on lease of an apartment in Mumbai. The post had made clear that Muslims and pets aren't allowed.

Ayyub, who is an opinion columnist for Washington Post, in a tweet, said: "Muslims and Pets not allowed. This is 20th century India. This is one of the most posh addresses in Mumbai, Bandra."

Asia Becomes Second Region to Exceed 10 Million Coronavirus Cases

Officials wearing personal protective equipments (PPE) set fires to bodies of people who died due to the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) at a crematorium in Bangli, Bali, Indonesia.PHOTO: REUTERS

NEW YORK, October 25, 2929:: Asia surpassed 10 million infections of the new coronavirus on Saturday, the second-heaviest regional toll in the world, according to a Reuters tally, as cases continue to mount in India despite a slowdown and sharp declines elsewhere. Behind only Latin America, Asia accounts for about one-fourth of the global caseload of 42.1 million of the virus. With over 163,000 deaths, the region accounts for some 14% of the global COVID-19 toll. The Reuters tally is based on official reporting by countries. The true numbers of cases and deaths are likely much higher, experts say, given deficiencies in testing and potential underreporting in many countries.

Despite the Asian spikes, the region overall has reported improvement in handling the pandemic in recent weeks, with daily caseloads slowing in places like India - a sharp contrast to the COVID-19 resurgence seen in Europe and North America. Within the region, South Asia led by India is the worst affected, with nearly 21% of the reported global coronavirus cases and 12% of deaths. This contrasts with countries like China and New Zealand that have crushed infections and Japan, where COVID-19 had been stubbornly entrenched but not accelerating.

India is the worst-hit country in the world after the United States, although infections are slowing in the world’s second-most populous country. India is reporting more than 57,000 cases of the virus a day, viewed on a weekly average, with 58 new cases per 10,000 people in Asia’s third-largest economy, according to a Reuters analysis. India is averaging 764 COVID-19 deaths a day, the worst in the world and accounting for one in every 13 global pandemic deaths. The country has reported nearly 7.8 million infections, behind the U.S. tally of 8.5 million, and nearly 118,000 deaths, versus 224,128 in the United States. Unlike the recent U.S. surge, however, India’s slowdown saw the lowest daily caseload in nearly three months on Wednesday.

But India’s infections may surge again, doctors fear, with a holiday approaching and winter bringing more severe pollution from farmers burning stubble, worsening the breathing difficulties that many COVID-19 patients suffer. India’s eastern neighbour Bangladesh is Asia’s second-worst hit country, with nearly 400,000 cases. But daily infections have slowed to 1,453, less than 40% of the July peak. Although the pandemic is slowing in Bangladesh, the world’s biggest apparel producer after China faces harsh recession as a second wave of COVID-19 hits key markets in Europe and the United States.

Even if the country is making progress on controlling the disease, leaders of the key garment sector say international retailers are delaying orders or demanding steep price cuts, forcing them to lay off their workers. Some 1 million workers were furloughed or laid off. About one-third of those have been rehired since July, according to union leaders.

In Southeast Asia, Indonesia surpassed the Philippines last week as the worst-hit nation with more than 370,000 infections. The world’s largest Muslim-majority nation, Indonesia has struggled to get its outbreak under control. With the country due to host soccer’s under-20 World Cup next year, the government is racing to secure a supply of vaccines still under development, which some epidemiologists say means seeking a “silver bullet” solution before full vaccine efficacy and safety is known.

The Philippines, which last week reported its biggest daily tally in a month, has put partial coronavirus restrictions around the capital Manila until Oct. 31 to check COVID-19. Despite Asia’s patchy record, a World Health Organization expert said on Monday that Europe and North America should follow the example of Asian states in persevering with anti-COVID measures and quarantine restrictions for infected people. Mike Ryan, head of the UN agency’s emergencies programme, said the global death toll from COVID-19 could double to 2 million before a successful vaccine is widely used and could be even higher without concerted action to curb the pandemic.

China Lauds President Alvi’s Remarks About CPEC, Its Importance for Pak-China Development, Regional Connectivity

BEIJING, Oct 22 (APP): China on Wednesday lauded President Dr. Arif Alvi’s remarks about the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and terming it as a visionary pilot project of Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) which not only served to promote socio economic development of Pakistan and China but also aimed to enhance regional connectivity and shared prosperity. “We have noted these reports and we commend President Alvi’s comments on the CPEC,” Chinese Foreign Ministry’s Spokesperson, Zhao Lijian said during his regular briefing held here.

“As President Dr Arif Alvi said the visionary CPEC as important pilot project of the BRI not only serves to promote China and Pakistan’s socio economic development but also aims to enhance regional connectivity and share prosperity,” he added. He said, since its launch tangible outcomes in areas like energy, transportation infrastructure and ports had been achieved making concrete contributions to Pakistan’s national development. Zhao Lijian remarked that both Pakistan and China supported exploring possibility of opening the corridor to third parties based on consensus through consultation.

“If we look at Gwadar port as an example nearly 20,000 tonnes of commodities such as wheat, sugar and fertilizers have been transferred through the port to Afghanistan creating almost a 1000 temporary jobs,” he added. He said that China firmly supported the development of CPEC and stood ready to work with Pakistan to fully implement the consensus reached between the two leaders, focus on cooperation, social development, livelihood, industry and agriculture while advancing current projects to turn CPEC into a demonstration programme for high quality development of the BRI and bring more benefits to the two peoples.

In an interview, President Alvi had said that he was optimistic about the future of Pakistan. As a result of CPEC projects, Pakistan was going to emerge as international geo strategic Economic hub. He said, the CPEC also created favourable conditions for realizing connectivity between China, Pakistan and central Asian countries and Pakistan would further elevate cooperation with China various areas and accelerate high quality development CPEC. In a response to a question, he contradicted remarks of the US Secretary of State about influence of China’s infrastructure deals from Laos to Montenegro to Pakistan.

He said that for some US politicians, attacking China was a check-list they need to do every day. “This is so true for Pompeo.” Zhao Lijian said that China’s relationship with Laos, Pakistan and Montenegro was a traditional friendship and the US Secretary of State Pompeo did not need to waste his breath on sowing discord between us.

Intra-Afghan Talks Open Window of Opportunity for Realizing Peace, Stability in Afghanistan: China

BEIJING, Oct 22 (APP): China on Thursday said the intra-Afghan negotiations had opened a window of opportunity for realizing peace and stability in Afghanistan and hoped that both sides would put nation and people first, seize the opportunity, seek common ground and strive for the early outcomes. “The intra-Afghan negotiations have opened a window of opportunity for realizing peace and stability in Afghanistan,” Chinese Foreign Ministry’s Spokesperson Zhao Lijian said during his regular briefing while responding to a question about the first intra-Afghan talks currently underway in Doha, Qatar.

He said the Chinese side always supported an “Afghan-led and Afghan-owned” inclusive peace and reconciliation process, and maintained that the two sides should resolve the issue at the negotiating table instead of on the battlefield. Zhao hoped that both sides would put nation and people first, seize the opportunity, seek common ground while shelving differences, find the greatest common denominator, have confidence and show good faith, exercise patience and restraint, and strive for early outcomes.

“China holds that the international community, including the United States, should play a constructive role in advancing intra-Afghan talks and support relevant parties in doing their best to promote peace talks,” he said and added, “At the same time, we believe that no one should arbitrarily interfere in the peace and reconciliation process for selfish interests.”

The spokesperson said, to safeguard and promote security and stability in Afghanistan was an important prerequisite for peace, reconciliation, reconstruction and development. Terming the Afghan issue is complicated and difficult to resolve, he said, the internal and external factors must work in concert towards the same direction in order to achieve intended outcomes.

He remarked that the United States was the biggest external factor on this issue and added, “It should withdraw troops in an orderly and responsible manner, prevent further escalation of violence in Afghanistan, and create a favorable external environment for intra-Afghan negotiations, rather than the opposite.”

NYT Editorial Board Calls Trump ‘Greatest Threat to American Democracy Since World War II’

NEW YORK, Oct 17 (APP): The New York Times editorial board has called President Donald Trump’s reelection prospects the greatest threat to American democracy since World War II. The unusually strong editorial, which appeared Saturday, is accompanied by several other critical opinion articles dealing with Trump’s foreign policy, economy and race relations. (Trump and the New York Times have had a tumultuous relationship since he decided to run for president. The president consistently blasts the newspaper as the “failing New York Times and has repeatedly condemned articles written by journalists in the newspaper as fake news.

Today’s NYT editorial said, “Mr. Trump’s ruinous tenure already has gravely damaged the United States at home and around the world. He has abused the power of his office and denied the legitimacy of his political opponents, shattering the norms that have bound the nation together for generations. He has subsumed the public interest to the profitability of his business and political interests. He has shown a breathtaking disregard for the lives and liberties of Americans. He is a man unworthy of the office he holds. It said the editorial board does not lightly indict a duly elected president and listed several of the outlet’s biting critiques of his nearly four years in office.

Nov. 3 (the day presidential elections are scheduled to take place) can be a turning point. This is an election about the country’s future, and what path its citizens wish to choose, the board wrote. The resilience of American democracy has been sorely tested by Mr.Trump’s first term. Four more years would be worse. The enormity and variety of Mr.Trump’s misdeeds can feel overwhelming. Repetition has dulled the sense of outrage, and the accumulation of new outrages leaves little time to dwell on the particulars, the board said, adding that U.S. voters must recover that sense of outrage.The board said that Trump stands without any real rivals as the worst American president in modern history.

Pakistan Army Team Wins Pace Sticking Competition at Sandhurst

LONDON Oct 14 (APP): Pakistan Army team won the International Pace Sticking Competition held at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst, United Kingdom (UK) on October 13, 2020. A statement of Pakistan High Commission London issued here said, while displaying the highest standards of drill, turnout and discipline, the team from Pakistan Military Academy won this competition for the third consecutive time.

This year 9 teams took part in the competition, the statement added. In his message of felicitation, Pakistan High Commissioner to the United Kingdom (UK), Moazzam Ahmad Khan commended Pakistan Team’s dedication and spirit to take on the challenge. He said the Pakistan Team once again demonstrated the highest standards of professionalism and excellence maintained by our armed forces.

Pace Sticking Competition is being held in the UK since 1928 with its history linked to the Royal Regiment of Artillery, the statement said.

Joe Biden Should be our Next President

BOSTON, October 7, 2020, (USA): After winning the hotly contested presidential election in 1800, Thomas Jefferson gave an inaugural speech that confronted the simmering partisan tensions that had broken out in the young country — and set a goal that has been pursued by every president, right up until the day Donald Trump took office.

Many Americans hadn’t supported Jefferson, the first candidate to defeat an incumbent (John Adams), and in the new nation still adjusting to partisan politics it was still uncertain how the defeated Federalists would fare. But Jefferson, a Democratic-Republican, declared that he would be the president for all Americans: to “retain the good opinion” of his supporters, but also “conciliate that of others by doing them all the good in my power.”

That simple pledge — repeated, in one form or another, in the victory speeches and inaugural addresses of the next two centuries of presidents — came to be a bedrock assumption of American democracy: that the institution of the presidency is not a partisan spoil, but instead the nation’s foremost public trust. No president, not even Jefferson, has completely lived up to the ideal, and yet, until 2017, it endured as a goal, an aspiration.

If the past four years have proved anything, it is that Trump has neither the desire nor the ability to govern in that tradition. And if the career of former Delaware senator, two-term vice president, and now Democratic nominee Joe Biden has demonstrated anything, it is that he is uniquely suited to restore the standards that generations of Americans took for granted: that presidents aspire to serve all Americans; listen to all sides; advance the welfare of all; and put the national interest ahead of their own.

The Globe is proud to endorse Biden, a candidate who has the potential to restore not just common decency and civility to the Oval Office, but also a proper sense of the president’s role. The fact that Biden is not an ideological firebrand, and is thought unlikely to pursue reelection in 2024 if he wins this November, augurs well for the central challenge that will confront the next president: how to repair the damage from Trump’s four years.

That damage starts with policy. Trump’s myriad failures have been cataloged in these pages since he took office. On his watch, international alliances have frayed. His mismanagement of the pandemic response and recklessness with public health have let a deadly virus run rampant, killing more than 210,000 Americans and even sickening him and his advisers. The flames of racial hatred have burned with greater ferocity. Carbon emissions have continued unabated as climate disasters erupted across the country. Gun violence has raged. In each of those crises facing the nation, Biden would offer superior leadership.

Biden has spent almost his entire adult life in elective office, and in his Senate career acquired a reputation as a dealmaker and foreign policy expert. He is a supporter of common-sense gun control and environmental protections. He listens to the advice of scientists on matters of public health. As vice president under Barack Obama, he managed the 2009 economic recovery package — an experience that, sadly, will be relevant in 2021.

His victory in the Democratic primaries was built on support from Black voters, demonstrating an ability to build coalitions across racial lines that will be of critical importance in a starkly divided nation that must address the sins of its past. Biden has already made history by choosing as his running mate Senator Kamala Harris, a fierce defender of civil rights and LGBTQ rights and the nation’s first Black and Asian-American woman to be a major party’s vice presidential nominee.

Alongside this endorsement, the Globe editorial board outlines in greater depth the specific ways Biden would make a better president for various kinds of voters. But as important as those distinctions are, it would be wrong to see this election as merely a clash of different policy priorities or visions.

It’s also a referendum on the future of the presidency. Will Americans tolerate a president who abuses the pardon power to help his friends? Who attempted to enlist the help of a foreign government in his reelection, leading to his impeachment? Who has transformed the Justice Department into an extension of his political campaign? Who uses the bully pulpit of the presidency to attack protesters and undermine the integrity of the election itself? Who has refused to disentangle himself from his personal business interests? Who appears to care only for the minority of Americans who elected him in 2016, not the country as a whole? Who misled the public about the severity of the coronavirus pandemic?

That’s the president Donald Trump has been. And make no mistake: That’s the model of the presidency his reelection would affirm and condone.

Americans deserve better, and ought to demand better. If Democrats take control of the Senate and retain the House, Biden has the chance to be a transformative president, expanding health care access, preventing climate catastrophe and cleaning up our air and water, and protecting voting rights. But Joe Biden doesn’t need Congress at all for the most important job before him: to make the presidency great again.                          (Courtsy, The Boston Globe)

President Trump returns to the White House from Walter Reed National Military Medical Center

(October 6, 2020)

WASHINGTON: Each year, President Trump welcomes businesses to the White House from every American state to display their goods at the Made in America Showcase.
 
“Buy American, Hire American” is more than a motto for President Trump. It is the strategy that has driven his entire Administration’s economic agenda. His Proclamation on Made in America Day and Made in America Week 2020 reads, in part:

For too long, politicians failed to recognize the critical importance of using American labor to make American goods, so that the profits and jobs stay here at home. They enabled American companies to ship their jobs overseas and sat by while foreign companies ripped off our products . . .  
Fifty U.S. companies were invited to take part in this year’s Made in America Showcase. While unable to come together in person this year, many of these great businesses shared videos online explaining the importance of “Made in America!”

🎬 Goya Foods: Started by an immigrant to live the American Dream!
 
“Goya was started nearly 85 years ago by my grandfather, who came to the country as an immigrant to live and fulfill the American Dream,” Goya Foods CEO Robert Unanue said. “And we have fulfilled that dream.”
 
Another company, Mountain Ridge Gear of Colorado, shared its passion for using American-sourced materials for its products. “As long as this company exists, we will use American-made products to build our gear,” owner Eric Lynn said.
 
🎬 Mountain Ridge Gear: A veteran-owned, family-run business!

Kan Jam—a gaming business based in Buffalo, New York—“is proud to be Made in America,” the company tweeted. “Thank you to the current administration for creating an environment conducive for American based manufacturing!”
 
🎬 Kan Jam: An American company born and raised in Buffalo, NY!
 
In every state, small and large businesses such as these are putting patriotism first and contributing to our nation’s Great American Comeback under President Trump.
 
“The President extends his sincere appreciation to the companies that planned to attend this year’s event at the White House,” Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany said in a statement. “He is incredibly proud of their grit, ingenuity, and use of American labor to manufacture exceptional products in the homeland.”
 
President Trump says “Made in America” isn’t a slogan. It is a solemn pledge.
 
“On every front, my Administration will continue to fight for American workers, American jobs, and American businesses to ensure prosperity today and for America’s future generations.” (Courtsy by White House)

LHC Throws Out Plea Seeking Ban on Sharifs’ Speeches

(October 6, 2020)

ISLAMABAD: The top judge of the Islamabad High Court on Monday dismissed a petition seeking a ban on the appearance of PML-N supreme leader Nawaz Sharif and his brother, former Punjab chief minister Shehbaz Sharif, on media and social media after the petitioner failed to give a plausible explanation for invoking the court’s jurisdiction.

Chief Justice Athar Minallah rejected the petition, declaring it non-maintainable after the petitioner, Aamir Aziz Ansari, and his counsel, Adnan Iqbal, failed multiple times to satisfy the court’s queries pertaining to the jurisdiction and how the speeches violated the petitioner’s fundamental rights. “The tendency of invoking the constitutional jurisdiction of a high court in matters involving political content is certainly not in public interest and that too when the law provides for alternate remedies,” according to the written order.

In the order, Justice Minallah remarked, “It is settled law that certain pre-requisites are to be complied with before invoking the jurisdiction of a high court under Article 199 of the Constitution in order to seek a writ of mandamus (judicial remedy). “In this case, the petitioner has not fulfilled the pre-requisites nor could show that a legal right exists in his person to seek a writ of mandamus.” It added that the counsel could not give a plausible explanation for invoking the jurisdiction of the court when an alternate remedy was available to the petitioner under Section 26 of the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority Ordinance, 2002.

“The learned counsel was also not able to satisfy this court that which of the fundamental rights of the petitioner guaranteed under the Constitution had been violated requiring enforcement through issuance of a writ,” Justice Minallah added. On the counsel’s argument that the petitioner was concerned because the security of Pakistan was being threatened, Justice Minallah remarked, “The security of Pakistan is not frail nor can be threatened by mere political rhetoric.” He remarked, “The people of Pakistan, through their chosen representatives, have the will and resolve to safeguard the security of Pakistan. The security of Pakistan is surely not dependent on the issuance of a writ by this court.”

He said that the petitioner’s apprehensions regarding threats to security of Pakistan were “definitely misconceived”. In the order, Justice Minallah noted that such petitions unnecessarily involve courts in controversial matters which otherwise can be agitated before other appropriate forums. “It also causes miscarriage of justice to the legitimate litigants because adjudication of their cases is delayed,” the judge stated. “Politically motivated petitions inevitably make the administration of justice, including the courts, controversial because politics inherently is adversarial in nature,” Justice Minallah continued, adding that it is the duty of every enrolled advocate as well as the respective bars to ensure that the courts and the administration of justice are seen as impartial and neutral arbitrators of disputes.

“As a corollary, it is their duty to discourage litigants from bringing to the courts unnecessary litigation having political content, particularly when the law provides for remedies and appropriate forums,” he added. When the case was taken up, the petitioner’s counsel argued that Sharif has been convicted by a competent court and that he has also been declared an absconder, adding that Shehbaz Sharif, who is the leader of the opposition in the lower house of parliament, is facilitating his brother to malign the state institutions and to bring them into disrepute.

He had sought court’s help to refrain Sharifs from ‘defaming’ state institutions in any manner whatsoever and directions for Pemra to remove “hate-speeches” and not to air the same in the future on electronic and social media.

Trump Could Be Discharged from Hospital as Soon as Monday: Doctors

(October 5, 2020)

NEW YORK (APP):US President Donald Trump’s doctors said Sunday his condition was improving and he could be discharged from a hospital near Washington as soon as Monday but that his oxygen levels have dipped twice and that he received supplemental oxygen Friday. The president’s physician, Dr. Sean Conley, in a live press briefing Sunday at Walter Reed hospital in Bethesda, Maryland, said he was trying to “reflect the upbeat attitude” of the president and his medical team when he declined to share Saturday that Trump was placed on oxygen the day before.

Dr. Conley was pressed Sunday on why his rosy picture of the president’s health was contradicted moments later by White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, who expressed that the medical team was very concerned with the president’s health Friday morning when he experienced a drop in his blood oxygen levels and had a high fever. On Sunday, Dr. Conley said the president’s vital signs are stable, he isn’t experiencing shortness of breath and hasn’t had a fever since Friday. But they said his condition was more serious Friday before he was transported to the hospital.

He said the president experienced two drops in oxygen levels. In the first, late Friday morning, Trump’s oxygen saturation dropped below 94%, and he received oxygen for about an hour. He experienced a high fever at the time, Dr. Conley said, but he didn’t specify what his temperature was. The president’s oxygen level also dropped on Saturday, his physicians said, adding that he had been treated with the steroid dexamethasone. Dr. Conley declined to elaborate on what the doctors’ examinations of the president’s lungs had found.

Asked why he didn’t offer these details about the president’s condition at a briefing Saturday, Dr. Conley said: “I was trying to reflect the upbeat attitude that the team, that the president, through this course of illness, has had. I didn’t want to give any information that would steer the course of illness in another direction and in doing so it came off that we were trying to hide something, which wasn’t necessarily true.” Trump was taken to Walter Reed hospital Friday after a positive Covid-19 diagnosis. Since then, his advisers have offered mixed signals about his condition, seeking to reassure the public, but also saying he was “not yet out of the woods.”

The president’s chief of staff, Mark Meadows, said late Saturday on Fox News that Trump was improving after suffering from a fever and rapidly dropping blood oxygen levels on Friday. In a memo released Saturday evening, Dr. Conley, said the president “remains fever-free and off supplemental oxygen,” adding that “while not yet out of the woods, the team remains cautiously optimistic.”

Trump’s Covid-19 diagnosis cast doubt over his ability to confirm a new Supreme Court nominee, further scrambled the presidential campaign with just 30 days until Election Day in November and generated fresh anxiety about the virus that has claimed about 209,000 American lives. White House officials and the president’s allies maintained that Trump continues to conduct his presidential duties, despite his illness.

Trump addressed the public in a four-minute video posted to Twitter on Saturday, saying he was feeling much better and added that he wants to recover quickly so he can finish the presidential campaign. The president said he had no choice but to be out in public during the pandemic, explaining that he was willing to take the risk of contracting the coronavirus to continue leading the country. “I can’t be locked up in a room upstairs,” he said.

White House aides said Trump was continuing to work. “I spoke with the President. President Trump is fully engaged and fully in charge,” White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said in an email. White House national security adviser Robert O’Brien said Sunday that the administration isn’t taking steps to transfer power to Vice President Mike Pence. “No, that’s not something that’s on the table at this point,” he said on CBS News’ “Face the Nation.” He added later, “I’m not going to address hypotheticals, but we have plans for everything.”

UN Slams Suicide Attack in Afghan Province of Nangarhar

(October 5, 2020)

UNITED NATIONS (APP): The United Nations has strongly condemned Saturday’s suicide attack on a government building in Nangarhar province, eastern Afghanistan, and called for the perpetrators to be brought to justice. At least 13 people were killed and dozens more injured in the attack that targeted a district administrative building in Shinwar, where many civilians were present.

In a statement by his spokesperson, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said that those behind such crimes must be held accountable. “The Secretary-General reiterates the urgency of achieving a peaceful settlement of the conflict. The United Nations remains committed to support the people and Government of Afghanistan in this important endeavour,” the statement added.

Guterres also expressed his deepest sympathies to the families of the victims and wished a speedy recovery to those injured. UN Mission ‘outraged’
In a separate message on its twitter account, the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) expressed “outrage” at the killing of civilians.

“Extremists and spoilers need shunning,” it said, expressing full support to Afghans promoting a non-violent negotiated settlement to the conflict. The attack came as representatives of the Afghan government and Taliban are engaged in negotiations in Doha, Qatar, to end the conflict in the country which has raged for four decades, claiming thousands of lives and displacing millions over the years.

Pakistan to Participate in Silk Road International Film Festival to Be Held in Xi’an

(September 29, 2020)

BEIJING (APP): Pakistan will participate in the 7th Silk Road International Film Festival, under the guidance of China Film Administration, to be held from Oct. 11 to 16 in Xi’an, capital city of northwest China’s Shaanxi province. Co-sponsored by Shaanxi Provincial People’s Government and Fujian Provincial People’s Government with the theme “Silk Road Links the World, Film Connects Cultures,” the festival will feature six major events including film screening, film forum and film market, according to China Daily. More than 500 films will be screened online and in cinemas. Of the 102 films to be screened in cinemas, over 70 percent are from countries and regions along the Belt and Road.

Zhang Jiayi, a famous Chinese star from Shaanxi, has become the image ambassador of this year’s festival. More than 100 famous guests in the Chinese movie circle, including director Lu Chuan, director and actor Xu Zheng, and actress Yan Ni, will attend various activities. Representatives from countries including Italy, Japan, Singapore, Pakistan and Germany will attend the film festival via video link or recording. As an important part of the festival, the film forum will be held from Oct. 12 to 16 to bring influential directors, producers and experts from countries and regions along the Belt and Road together.

Film carnivals will also be held during the festival in scenic areas near a famous commercial street in Xi’an to present a cultural feast to local citizens and tourists.

Trump Will Leave Office If He Loses Re-Election Bid: Biden

(September 26, 2020)

NEW YORK (APP): Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden said Friday he was confident that President Donald Trump will step down if he loses his reelection bid in November, dismissing concerns that the president may seek to hold on to power even if he’s voted out of office. In an interview with MSNBC television network, the former vice president said that Trump’s efforts to sow doubt in the democratic process by raising concerns about voter fraud, particularly through mail balloting, amounted to a “typical Trump distraction.”

“I just think the people in the country are going to be heard on Nov. 3,” Biden said. “Every vote in this country is going to be heard and they will not be stopped. I’m confident that all of the irresponsible, outrageous attacks on voting, we’ll have an election in this country as we always have had, and he’ll leave.” Biden’s remarks came after Trump twice refused to commit to a peaceful transfer of power if he loses re-election. The White House has sought to play down his comments, saying that he will accept the outcome of a “free and fair” election, though Trump himself has repeatedly cast doubt on the trustworthiness of the eventual results.

“We want to make sure the election is honest, and I’m not sure that it can be,” Trump told reporters on Thursday. “I don’t know that it can be with this whole situation — unsolicited ballots.” Trump has for years pushed baseless claims of widespread illegal voting. He has also warned that an increase in mail-in and absentee voting during the coronavirus pandemic threatens the possibility of an accurate vote count, despite little evidence that vote-by-mail programs carry a substantial risk of fraud. Biden told MSNBC that despite Trump’s claims of voter fraud, he does not believe that federal law enforcement will back up those claims should Trump try to call the results of the election into question.

“I don’t think he’s going to get the FBI to follow him or get anybody else to enforce something that’s not real,” Biden said. Meanwhile, according to the military’s top officer and the leading Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee, President Donald Trump can’t expect military aid from the Pentagon if he disputes the election results,. General Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, stated in an Aug. 28 letter in response to questions from members of Congress that he views no role for the military in the election.

“The Constitution and laws of the U.S. and the states establish procedures for carrying out elections, and for resolving disputes over the outcome of elections,” Milley wrote. “State and Federal governments have qualified officials who oversee these processes according to those laws. We are a nation of laws. We follow the rule of law and have done so with regard to past elections, and will continue to do so in the future. I do not see the U.S. Military as part of this process; this is the responsibility of Congress, the Supreme Court, and components of the Executive Branch.”

Amid Divisions, UN Chief Urges Global Solidarity to Respond to Coronavirus Pandemic

(September 25, 2020)

UNITED NATIONS (APP): U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has decried the lack of international cooperation in tackling the still “out-of-control” coronavirus, and called for strengthening multilateralism and building trust among the countries to combat the pandemic. The dangerous mix of high geo-political tensions and complex threats to peace, now complicated by COVID-19, demands innovative thinking on global governance and multilateralism, he said while briefing the UN Security Council via video link. He told the 15-member Council that the tiny microscopic virus is now the number one threat in our world.’ He blamed a lack of global preparedness, cooperation, unity and solidarity for the international community’s failure.

The council met Thursday on the sidelines of the General Assembly’s annual gathering of world leaders ” both held virtually because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Guterres pointed to the nearly one million deaths and 30 million infections around the world and warned that the coronavirus remains out of control. “As countries go in different directions, the virus goes in every direction,” he said.
Guterres called for global cooperation among nations, global and regional organizations, international financial institutions, trade alliances and others. He said the idea of global governance must be broadened ‘to take in businesses, civil society, cities and regions, academia and young people.’

He said COVID-19 is a warning ‘that must spur us to action.’ ‘We have no choice,’ he said. ‘Either we come together in global institutions that are fit for purpose, or we will be crushed by divisiveness and chaos. Convened by Niger, in its capacity as the President of the Council for the month of September, the summit-level event discussed reforms to global governance in the context of peace and security, against the backdrop of the pandemic. The meeting was chaired by Mahamadou Issoufou, President of the Republic of the Niger. Alongside the responsibility of the UN to improve the effectiveness of global governance, Member States also have an equally important role in forging collective action to common challenges.

Conflict, human rights abuses, humanitarian crises, and stalled progress on development, reinforce each other and are interlinked, while global response is more and more fragmented, Guterres warned. The Secretary-General highlighted the partnership between the African Union (AU) and UN as a model to be emulated in relationships with other regional organizations, recalling the African Union-United Nations framework on peace and security on the continent. He called on the Security Council to deepen engagement by creating strong, formalized links and regular communications with the AU’s Peace and Security Council.

Doing so would enable the effective division of labour, allowing for AU peace enforcement and counter-terrorism operations, backed by Security Council mandates, with predictable funding, guaranteed by assessed contributions. “That is the only way we will build the coalition we need to beat terrorism on the African continent and fulfil the African Union’s flagship initiative to Silence the Guns,” he said.

France Urges International Pressure for New Lebanon Government

(September 24, 2020)

PARIS: France urges the international community to apply strong and unified pressure on Lebanon to form a new government, as frustration grows with the pace of reform in the wake of the giant Beirut port explosion. “The political forces have still not succeeded in agreeing to form a government,” French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian tells a videoconference meeting on Lebanon on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly. (AFP)

Guterres Says Unable to Take Action on UN Iran Sanctions Due to ‘Uncertainty’: Report

(September 21, 2020)

UNITED NATIONS: (APP):United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has expressed his inability to take any action on a US declaration that all UN sanctions have been reinstated against Iran because of an apparent “uncertainty” on the issue, according to a media report.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Saturday that all UN sanctions against Iran were “back in effect” under a “snapback” mechanism featured in the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers.

“There would appear to be uncertainty whether or not the process … was indeed initiated and concomitantly whether or not the (sanctions) terminations continue in effect,” Guterres wrote in a letter to the UN Security Council, according to Reuters news agency.
In his statement, Pompeo also warned UN member states with “consequences” if they refused to implement the sanctions.

“If UN member states fail to fulfill their obligations to implement these sanctions, the United States is prepared to use our domestic authorities to impose consequences for those failures and ensure that Iran does not reap the benefits of UN-prohibited activity,” he said.
The top US diplomat “notified” the UN Secretariat last month that Washington was triggering the mechanism.
However, other signatories to the nuclear accord assert that the American procedure lacks legal effect because Washington left the deal, officially

known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), in 2018. “It is not for the Secretary-General to proceed as if no such uncertainty exists,” the UN chief added to his remarks that coincided with the deadline set by Washington. Thirteen of the 15 Security Council members say Washington’s move is void because Pompeo used a mechanism agreed under a 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers, which the United States quit in 2018. U.N. officials provide administrative and technical support to the Security Council to implement its sanctions regimes and Guterres appoints independent experts to monitor implementation.

Guterres said that “pending clarification” of the status of the Iran sanctions, he would not take any action to provide that support.
Meanwhile, Iran’s UN Ambassador Majid Takht Ravanchi tweeted, “US illegal and false ‘deadline’ has come and gone. Swimming against international currents will only bring it more isolation.” Russia’s Deputy UN Ambassador Dmitry Polyanskiy said on Twitter, “We all clearly said in August that US claims to trigger snapback are illegitimate. Is Washington deaf?”

In August, the Security Council rejected a US-drafted resolution seeking to prevent an arms embargo on the Islamic Republic from expiring in October under the JCPOA. China and Russia strongly opposed the resolution and eleven countries withheld their votes on the draft that was only backed by the Dominican Republic.

OIC Contact Group on Kashmir Calls for Ending India’s Rights Abuses, Self-Determination for Kashmiris

(September 21, 2020)

NEW YORK: (APP): The Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) Contact Group on Jammu and Kashmir, which met in New York on Sunday, voiced “deep concern” over the continued human rights violations by India in occupied Kashmir, and called on UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, the Security Council and the Human Rights Council to take steps to end those abuses. The meeting, which was requested by Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi, was held on the eve of the UN General Assembly’s high-level debate opening on Tuesday.

Attending the meeting were permanent representatives of Saudi Arabia, Niger, Azerbaijan and Pakistan. The OIC Secretary General was represented by the Permanent Representative of the OIC Observer Mission to the UN, Ambassador Agshin Mehdiyev. The OIC group discussed the worsening human rights situation in Illegally Indian Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJK), according to a press release issued by Pakistani Mission to the UN. Reaffirming its stand on the Kashmir dispute, the Contact Group also urged the UN chief to press India to rescind the unilateral and illegal measures taken on and after 5 August 2019 and to implement the Security Council resolutions calling for a plebiscite to enable the Kashmiri people to exercise their right to self-determination.

Conveying a special message of the Foreign Minister Qureshi to the meeting, Ambassador Munir Akram stated that the RSS-BJP regime in India was implementing what its rulers had themselves called a “Final Solution”. The regime was engaged in systematically engineering a demographic change in IIOJK through new domicile rules, he said. The issuance of 1.6 million domicile certificates (since March) was meant to change the demography of IIOJK from a Muslim majority into Hindu majority territory. In another attempt to obliterate the Muslim identity of occupied Jammu and Kashmir the status of Urdu language was being changed under a new legislation, the foreign minister said.

Indian claims of “normalcy” in IIOJK were fallacious, he said, adding that the joint communication by eighteen Special Mandate Holders of the Human Rights Council issued last month had termed the human rights situation in IIOJK was in a “free fall”. Hundreds of young Kashmiris were extra judicially killed in “fake encounters” and “cordon and search” operations while the Indian security forces continued to enjoy complete impunity under black laws like Armed Forces Special Powers Act (APSPA) and the Public Safety Act (PSA). The Foreign Minister, in his special message, also sensitized the Contact Group about India having intensified its belligerent rhetoric against Pakistan, including threats of military aggression. In 2020 alone, India had so far committed over 2200 ceasefire violations.

There was a tangible threat of further escalation as India might conduct another “false flag” operation to justify renewed aggression against Pakistan, posing a serious threat to regional peace and security, FM Qureshi said. To this end, the Foreign Minister emphasized that it was imperative for India to:immediately lift its inhumane military siege and rescind illegal actions taken since 05 August; remove restrictions on communications, movement and peaceful assembly; release incarcerated political leaders; free arbitrarily detained Kashmiris; reverse new domicile rules; remove draconian security laws; prosecute military and civilian personnel involved in massive human rights violations; and allow unhindered access to the OIC, the Independent Permanent Human Rights Commission (IPHRC) and UN Fact Finding Missions and the international media to investigate the human rights violations in IIOJK.

US Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg Dies At 87

(September 19, 2020)

WASHINGTON: US Supreme Court Justice and liberal icon Ruth Bader Ginsburg died on Friday, opening a crucial vacancy on the high court expected to set off a pitched political battle at the peak of the presidential campaign. Affectionately known as the 'Notorious RBG,' the 87-year-old Ginsburg was the oldest of nine Supreme Court justices. She died after a fight with pancreatic cancer, the court announced, saying she passed away “surrounded by her family at her home in Washington, DC”.

Coming just 46 days before an election in which President Donald Trump lags his Democratic rival Joe Biden in the polls, the vacancy offers the Republican a chance to lock in a conservative majority at the court for decades to come. Trump issued a statement praising Ginsburg as a “titan of the law,” but gave no indication whether he intended to press ahead with a nomination. Accolades flowed in for the pioneering Jewish justice. “Our Nation has lost a jurist of historic stature,” said Chief Justice John Roberts.

Trump's predecessor Barack Obama said in a tweet that Ginsburg “fought to the end, through her cancer, with unwavering faith in our democracy and its ideals”. Biden said she was “an American hero, a giant of legal doctrine, and a relentless voice in the pursuit of that highest American ideal: equal justice under law”. In Washington, hundreds of tearful mourners laid flowers in front of the Supreme Court, where the diminutive Ginsburg sat for 27 years even taking arguments and issuing opinions from her hospital bed after repeated bouts of illness over the past two years.

US flags flew at half-mast on each side of the court building. People lit candles on the steps of the court while others held rainbow flags. Among the notably young crowd was Erin Drumm, a student at the Catholic University of America. “I came here because I think RBG represents everything that America should stand for,” the 19-year-old said. “She represents the freedom to choose and respect for science and other people regardless of their gender, race, ethnicity or religion.” Taylor Gutierrez, 26, said he wanted to celebrate Ginsburg's achievements, “especially as a gay man knowing that she helped create a more equitable society for us."

“But I think at the same time there's just a certain trepidation since we don't really know what's going to come next,” he added. “There's a very real fear that those things could be rolled back.” One placard on the court steps read: “We love you Ruthie Bear”. Ginsburg anchored the court's liberal faction, whittled to four by two Trump appointments since 2017. The appointment of a sixth conservative justice could lead to a court that would potentially remove abortion rights, strengthen the powers of business, and water down rights provided to minorities and the LGBTQ community over the past three decades.

Within minutes of the news of her death, the enormous political battle had begun — with Biden warning Trump had no right to name a successor so close to the November 3 election. Democrats are expected to fight tough to force a delay — an uphill battle given the control Republicans have on the Senate, which must approve any nominee.

Born in Brooklyn in 1933, Ginsburg was a law school star when women didn't study law, and a law professor with a powerful impact on the establishment of rights for women and minorities. She died on the evening that marked the beginning of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. According to tradition, those who die during the holiday are revered as a “Tzaddik,” or a person of great righteousness. Ginsburg's death gives Trump the opportunity to tilt the court to the right, potentially for decades, with media reporting that a new nomination could be quick.

But it also has the potential to mobilise voters on the Democratic side. Trump said in August he would have no qualms about naming a new justice so close to the election, and last week unveiled 20 names of possible choices, all deeply conservative. Drawing a line in the sand on Friday, Biden warned: “The voters should pick the president, and the president should pick the justice for the Senate to consider.” “This was the position the Republican Senate took in 2016 when they were almost 10 months to go before the election. That's the position the United States Senate must take today.”

Biden was referring to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's decision in 2016, in Obama's last year in office, to block the president's court nominee so that Trump could name his own the following year. But in a statement on Friday, McConnell rejected the notion he had set a precedent. “President Trump's nominee will receive a vote on the floor of the United States Senate,” McConnell said. The stakes are extremely high, according to Carl Tobias, a law professor at the University of Richmond.

“The political fight will be huge because appointing a very conservative person will make this the most conservative court in a century,” he said. According to NPR radio, Ginsburg raised the issue this week with her granddaughter Clara Spera. “My most fervent wish is that I will not be replaced until a new president is installed,” she said.

UNGA's Landmark 75th Session Opens in NYC Sans World Leaders

(September 15, 2020)

UNITED NATIONS: The 75th UN General Assembly session, which began Tuesday, will be unlike any other in the organization's three quarters of a century of existence -- world leaders will not be physically present in the iconic hall for their annual gathering because of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. The centerpiece of any General Assembly session is undoubtedly the General Debate, which starts on Sept. 22, a week after the official opening, in which usually over 100 hundred heads of state/government participated in the past years to discuss key global issues.

This year, because of the pandemic, world leaders will be staying away from New York and instead sending in pre-recorded videos of their speeches which will be broadcast "as live". Their absence is because US Government has notified that foreign leaders, without exception, will be quarantined for 14 days on arrival in New York. Pakistan's Prime Minister Imran Khan will address the 193-member Assembly via video-link on September 25.

According to the preliminary list of speakers, he is the 6th speaker in Friday's afternoon session. "He (Imran Khan) is expected once again to project the just cause of the Kashmiri people and call for action by the international community to halt India's massive violations of human rights, rescind the unilateral measures imposed in Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu & Kashmir since 5 August 2019 and promote a solution in accordance with the Security Council resolutions and the will of the Kashmiri people," Pakistan's UN Ambassador Munir Khan told APP special correspondent.

"He is also likely to speak about Islamophobia, including the BJP-RSS campaign against Indian Muslims; as well as on illicit financial flows and the reform and revival of the United Nations," Ambassador Akram added. The Prime Minister is also likely to address from Islamabad the Summit meeting on Financing for Development on Sept. 29 and the Bio-Diversity Summit on Sept. 30. Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi is scheduled to speak in the UN's 75th Anniversary Session on Sept. 2, and at a High-Level Meeting of the UN Alliance of Civilizations on Sept.

28. He will also address the 25th Anniversary of the Fourth World Conference on Women on Oct.1. In the hybrid format adopted for this year, the Prime Minister and Foreign Minister's video statements will be introduced by Ambassador Akram, who will be physically present in the General Assembly Hall. Each member state will send one diplomat to the hall in order to maintain social distancing. The landmark session will be presided over Volkan Bozkir, a veteran Turkish diplomat, who will assume the office as UNGA President on September 15.

Because of the strict restrictions, this time around there will be no bumping into presidents or the occasional global celebrity in hectic and sometimes crushed corridors at UN Headquarters in New York. There will be no marvelling at seemingly endless presidential motorcades on the streets around the UN complex and no "standing-room only" moments in the gilded General Assembly Hall, as the Organization's busiest time of the year is reimagined in the time of COVID-19.

The United Nations was established in 1945 and has been marking its 75th anniversary with what the UN Secretary-General Antnio Guterres has called an extended "people's debate" which "promises to be the largest and furthest-reaching global conversation ever on building the future we want." The event at UN headquarters on 21 September to celebrate the milestone (which will also take place online and remotely) will aim to "generate renewed support for multilateralism"; an issue many believe has become ever more urgent as the world faces up to the COVID-19 pandemic.

It's expected that the Secretary-General will address, in person, the High-Level event to mark the 75th anniversary in the GA Hall. The Sustainable Development Goals, or SDGs - the 17 internationally agreed targets to reduce poverty and maintain peace, whilst protecting the planet - have remained at the top of the UN's agenda during 2020, with many arguing, including the UN Deputy Secretary-General A mina Muhammed, that the pandemic has only underlined more forcefully why they are so important.

At the 75th GA session, the SDGs will be put under the spotlight in what is being described as a "first of its kind 30-minute global broadcast", created by writer and director, and SDG advocate, Richard Curtis, which will take audiences across the world "on a dynamic exploration of the times we live in, the multiple tipping points our planet faces, and the interventions that could transform our world" up to 2030, when, it's hoped, the SDG targets will be met.

Meanwhile, the SDG Action Zone, which, in past years, has provided a focal point and meeting place at UN Headquarters to promote the global sustainable development agenda, is moving online with appearances from "inspirational leaders" promised on the bill. And the UN will also be partnering with the Al Jazeera English flagship social media show, The Stream, in a series of discussions around the SDGs.

Earth's biodiversity, its rich variety of life, is declining at what the UN has warned "an unprecedented rate." Over one million species are at risk of extinction, two billion hectares of land are currently degraded and 66 per cent of oceans, 50 per cent of coral reefs and 85 per cent of wetlands have been significantly and negatively altered by human activity. A major international summit to discuss how to reverse the accelerating deterioration of the natural environment and how it is harmfully impacting people's lives was due to be held this year in Kunming, China, but it has now been postponed until May 2021.

In the meantime, a day of virtual meetings will be taking place under the auspices of the General Assembly on September 30. Progress on gender equality and women's rights has been severely impacted by COVID-19, as women and girls suffer a disproportionate social and economic fallout according to the UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres. On 1 October, this and other issues relating to gender equality and empowerment are due to be discussed at the UN in the context of the 25th anniversary of the internationally agreed Beijing Platform for Action which is widely acknowledged as the most comprehensive and forward-looking plan for advancing the rights of women and girls.

Sept. 18 will mark the first ever International Equal Pay Day, which focuses on aligning pay between men and women. Not strictly part of the General Assembly, but inextricably linked; many New Yorkers dread the opening of the new GA session every September which brings the closing of streets, presidential-motorcade-induced traffic jams on the city's First Avenue and the surrounding Midtown area, and enervating disruptions to general life.

This year, while world leaders stay away, New Yorkers, despite the severe, ongoing challenges of the pandemic, which include billions of Dollars in lost revenue from visitors and tourists, will no doubt enjoy a respite from the week or ten days when a small part of their global city is given over to presidents and heads of State.

China, India Agree to Ease Tension Along LAC

(September 6, 2020)

NEW DELHI: The chief of Indian army has admitted that the situation along the Line of Actual Control in eastern Ladakh is “delicate and serious”. At the end of his two-day visit to Ladakh, he said the situation along the Line of Actual Control is tense.

Meanwhile, Indian Foreign Secretary, Harsh V. Shringla, while addressing the Indian Council of World Affairs said that the ongoing tension between India and China at the LAC in Ladakh is the “most serious challenge” for India like 1962.

In the highest level face-to-face political contact between India and China since tensions first flared along the border in May, defence ministers Rajnath Singh of India and General Wei Fenghe of China met late on Friday on the sidelines of Shanghai Cooperation of Organisation meeting in Moscow.

Reuters reported that both sides agreed to work towards reducing tensions along their contested border running through the western Himalayas after a clash in June, during which 20 Indian soldiers were killed in hand-to-hand fighting.

Both countries agreed that "neither side should take any further action

that could either complicate the situation or escalate matters in the border areas," Indian defence ministry said in a statement.

Wei said the two sides should promote peace and stability and work to cool current tensions, China's ministry of defence said in a news report about the meeting posted on its website.

He said, however, that blame for the recent tensions lay "entirely with India", adding that China was determined to safeguard its national sovereignty and territory.

China urges India to withdraw troops illegally trespassing LAC to de-escalate situation

(September 3, 2020)

NEW DELHI: China has urged India to immediately withdraw its troops illegally trespassing the Line of Actual Control (LAC).

The Spokesperson of the Chinese Embassy in India Counselor Ji Rong, responding to a query on the China-India border situation said that China has urged the Indian side to restrain its frontline troops and immediately end all provocative actions that would escalate tensions.

He said India's move has grossly violated China's territorial sovereignty, seriously violated relevant agreements, protocols and important consensus reached between the two countries.

The spokesperson added that Indian steps have severely damaged peace and tranquility along the China-India border areas at LAC.

France: Charlie Hebdo Reprints Offensive Prophet Caricatures

(September 1, 2020)

PARIS: Move comes a day before 13 men and one woman - accused of assisting the 2015 attackers of the newspaper - go on trial.The French satirical newspaper whose Paris offices were attacked in 2015 is reprinting the controversial caricatures of Islam's Prophet Muhammad that the gunmen who opened fire on its editorial staff cited as their motivation.

The move was announced on Tuesday, a day before 13 men and a woman accused of providing the attackers with weapons and logistics go on trial on charges of terrorism on Wednesday.

In an editorial this week accompanying the offensive caricatures, the paper said the drawings "belong to history, and history cannot be rewritten nor erased".

The January 2015 attacks against Charlie Hebdo and, two days later, a kosher supermarket, touched off a wave of killings claimed by the ISIL (ISIS) armed group across Europe. Seventeen people died in the attacks - 12 of them at the editorial offices - along with all three attackers.

The attackers, brothers Cherif and Said Kouachi, claimed their attack on the newspaper in the name of al-Qaeda. As they left the scene at Charlie Hebdo, they killed a wounded policeman and drove away.

Two days later, a prison acquaintance of theirs stormed a kosher supermarket on the eve of the Jewish Sabbath, claiming allegiance to ISIL. Four hostages were killed during the attack.

The Kouachi brothers had by then holed up in a printing office with another hostage. All three attackers died in near-simultaneous police raids. The supermarket attacker, Amedy Coulibaly, also killed a young policewoman.

The decision to republish the cartoons will be seen by some as a defiant gesture in defence of free expression. But others may see it as a renewed provocation by a publication that has long courted controversy with its satirical attacks on religion.

The caricatures re-published this week were first printed in 2006 by the Danish newspaper Jyllands Posten, setting off sometimes violent protests by some Muslims who found the depictions offensive. The Prophet Muhammad is deeply revered by Muslims and any kind of visual depiction is forbidden. The caricatures were perceived as linking him with terrorism. 

Charlie Hebdo, infamous for its irreverence and accused by critics of racism, regularly caricatures religious leaders from various faiths and republished them soon afterwards. The paper's Paris offices were firebombed in 2011 and its editorial leadership placed under police protection, which remains in place to this day.

Laurent Sourisseau, the newspaper's director and one of the few staff to have survived the attack, named each of the victims in a foreword to this week's edition. Manhunt for Charlie Hebdo suspects as France mourns victims

"Rare are those who, five years later, dare oppose the demands that are still so pressing from religions in general, and some in particular," wrote Sourisseau, also known as Riss.

The president of the French Council of Muslim Worship (CFCM), Mohammed Moussaoui, urged people to "ignore" the cartoons, while condemning violence. The suspects, who go on trial from 08:00 GMT on Wednesday, are accused of providing various degrees of logistical support to the killers.

The trial had been delayed several months with most French courtrooms closed over the coronavirus epidemic. The court in Paris will sit until November 10 and, in a first for a terrorism trial, proceedings will be filmed for archival purposes given public interest.

National anti-terrorism prosecutor Jean-Francois Ricard dismissed the idea that it was just "little helpers" going on trial since the three gunmen were now dead.

 

Christchurch Mosque Shooter Sentenced to Life Without Parole

(August 28, 2020)

CHRISTCHURCH: The Christchurch shooter who in 2019 killed 51 people in deadliest attacks on two New Zealand mosques, Brenton Tarrant, has been sentenced to life imprisonment without parole, the New Zealand Herald newspaper reported citing a court ruling. 

It is the first time such a sentence has been handed down in New Zealand, the newspaper said. On March 15, 2019, New Zealand was rocked by two mass shootings at Al Noor Mosque and the Linwood Islamic Center in the central city of Christchurch.

The tragedy left 51 people dead and 50 others wounded. The attacker, then a 28-year-old Australia native, live-streamed the massacre on Facebook, and the video later appeared on other online platforms.

Brenton Tarrant, admitted to 51 charges of murder, 40 counts of

attempted murder and one charge of committing a terrorist act during the 2019 shooting rampage at twine mosques.

China, India Agree to Ease Border Tensions

(August 28, 2020)

BEIJING: A Chinese Defense Ministry’s Spokesperson Thursday said that China and India had agreed to further ease border tension following the clashes between the two militaries in Galwan Valley in June this year.

“Since the Galwan Valley clash, China and India have held several rounds of talks through military and diplomatic channels, and progress has been made in disengaging the frontline troops of both sides,” Chinese Defense Ministry’s Spokesperson, Senior Colonel Wu Qian said during a regular press conference.

Wu said that China and India have agreed to follow the important consensus reached by the leaders of both countries and other relevant agreements, continue to maintain dialogue and communication through military and diplomatic channels, further ease and cool down the China-India border situation, properly handle the remaining issues, and jointly safeguard peace and tranquility in the border area.

Terming China and India as important neighbors, he said maintaining peace and stability in the border area is not only conducive to both sides’ respective development, but also to regional and world peace and stability.

Wu hoped that India could work with China towards the same goal, bearing in mind the big picture of bilateral ties and putting the border issue in an appropriate position in this big picture, avoid misjudgment, keep divergences from escalating into disputes, and take concrete steps to bring the bilateral relations back to the right track of normal development.

On June 15, the Chinese and Indian soldiers engaged in a nightly medieval clash in Galwan Valley, where India was trying to build a

strategic road, connecting the region to an airstrip, close to China. As many as 20 Indian soldiers were killed during the fight.

Since then the two countries have held several rounds of commanders’ level talks to ease the situation on the border in Galwan Valley.

The disputed border covers nearly 3,500 kilometers (2,175 miles) of frontier that the two countries call the Line of Actual Control and that stretches from Ladakh in the north to the Indian state of Sikkim in the northeast.

The two countries have been trying to settle their border dispute since the early 1990s without success. Since then, soldiers from the two sides have frequently faced off along the contested frontier.

India unilaterally declared Ladakh a federal territory while separating it from disputed Kashmir in August 2019. China is among the countries to strongly condemn the move, raising it at international forums including the United Nations Security Council (UNSC).

India Orders Issuance of IIOJK Domicile to Non-Kashmiris in 5 days

(August 26, 2020)

SRINAGAR: The Modi-led fascist Indian government has directed the authorities to issue domicile certificates to the applicants in Indian illegally occupied Jammu and Kashmir, within five working days.

APHC leader and Chairman of Jammu and Kashmir Social Peace Forum, Advocate Devinder Singh Behl has strongly condemned the issuance of domicile certificates to non-Kashmiris on fast-track basis saying that India under a well-thought-out plan is engaged in changing the demography in Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir.

He urged the international community to prevent India from using nefarious tactics to upset the existing demographic composition in the territory.

On the other hand, India is expediting work on a strategic 290-km-long road linking Darcha in Himachal Pradesh with Ladakh amid the border row with China. 

It will be the second road link to Ladakh after Srinagar-Leh highway.

Earlier, at least 20 Indian soldiers were killed and 76 others injured in a fierce clash between the Chinese and Indian army personnel in a disputed Himalayan border area in June 2020.

China Warns US of Getting 'Burned' Over Taiwan Visit

(August 12, 2020)

TAIPEI: China warned Washington not to "play with fire" on Wednesday as a US delegation wrapped up a historic trip to the self-ruled island of Taiwan. Beijing has been infuriated by the highest-profile visit in decades to Taiwan, which it sees as part of its territory, as US-China relations plunge to a record low over a range of issues from trade to military and the coronavirus pandemic.

Health chief Alex Azar finished a three-day visit to Taiwan, during which he criticised China's handling of the pandemic and visited the shrine of a former Taiwan president hated by the Communist Party leadership. Beijing slammed the visit Wednesday and said it "firmly opposes official exchanges between the US and Taiwan under any pretext".

"On issues involving China's core interests, some people in the US must not harbour illusions, those who play with fire will get burned," said foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian at a regular press briefing. "I would also like to remind the Taiwan authorities not to be, subservient to others, to rely on the support of foreigners, and to be bent on pursuing independence, which is a dead end," Zhao said.

Beijing insists that Taiwan, which has been self-ruled since 1949, is part of "one China" and has vowed to react with force if it ever formally declares independence. On the last day of the trip, Azar visited a shrine to Taiwan's late president Lee Teng-hui Wednesday, praising his role in steering the island's transition to democracy. The US cabinet member wrote a message of condolence for Lee, who died last month aged 97.

"President Lee's democratic legacy will forever propel the U.S. Taiwan relationship forward," Azar wrote. Lee was a towering figure in Taiwan's recent history. He defied China by pushing for the island to be recognised as a sovereign nation and earned the nickname "Mr Democracy" for the part he played in its transition from authoritarian rule.

Beijing, which claims Taiwan as its own territory, loathed Lee. When news emerged of his death, Chinese state media called him "the godfather of Taiwan secessionism". Both Washington and Taipei portrayed Azar's trip as an opportunity to learn from the success of Taiwan's battle against the coronavirus.

The island has fewer than 500 infections and just seven deaths, compared with more than 160,000 fatalities in the United States. But the visit has also been an opportunity to ruffle Beijing's feathers at a time when US President Donald Trump is taking an increasingly hard line against China as he seeks re-election in November.

"We will continue to support Taiwan as our friend and our partner across security, economic and healthcare issues," Azar told reporters after a visit to a mask factory on Wednesday, shortly before flying back the the States. China takes umbrage at any formal recognition of Taiwan.

It called for Azar's trip to be cancelled and Taiwan accused Beijing of sending fighter jets over a de facto border on Monday, the day the US health chief met President Tsai Ing-wen. During his visit Azar has repeatedly contrasted Taiwan's open, democratic system with China's authoritarian leadership. In a speech on Tuesday he suggested the coronavirus might have been stopped sooner had it emerged in a more transparent and democratic place, such as Taiwan, rather than China.

He also hit out at Beijing for keeping Taiwan locked out of the World Health Organization. China has taken an increasingly hostile approach towards Taiwan since Tsai took office in 2016. Despite the pressure campaign she won a second term earlier this year with a landslide.

Malaysia's Mahathir Vows to Speak on Atrocities in Occupied Kashmir

(August 9, 2020)

KUALALUMPUR: Former Malaysian prime minister Mahathir bin Mohamad said Saturday he would highlight Indian atrocities and injustices in occupied Kashmir now "without restraint" as his country would not have to pay the price as he was not in an official position anymore.

Mohamad said he would not apologise for his speech at the United Nations on occupied Kashmir last year and will continue to "speak without restraint" on the issue. In a series of tweets following an event held in Kuala Lumpur in support of Kashmir, Mohamad said he had chosen to speak out last year despite being aware of the potential backlash.

“Standing up for humanity I had chosen to speak out despite being aware of the potential backlash. To my mind, keeping quiet is not an option when all the tell-tale signs were pointing towards another situation whereby a big and powerful country imposed its will with impunity on a small and defenceless nation,” he said.

He added, “What transpired since my contentious speech at the UN General Assembly in September last year only served to prove that what I had said was mild and to a certain degree, restrained.” The two-time former prime minister added that he will offer no apology as to what he said. “I offer no apology for what I had said though I am sorry that it had affected our palm oil export to India. I don’t know if that is a high price to pay for speaking out against such injustices,” Mohamad remarked.

In September 2019, Mohamad, then prime minister of Malaysia, had raised the Kashmir issue while speaking at the UN General Assembly, drawing a strong reaction from the Indian Ministry of External Affairs (MEA), which said New Delhi “completely rejects the references made in respect of Jammu and Kashmir, which is an integral and inalienable part of India.” He added that since he was no longer the prime minister, he could now speak about the Kashmir issue without restrain and threats of boycott.

respect of Jammu and Kashmir, which is an integral and inalienable part of India.”

Acknowledging the veteran statesman, Prime Minister Imran Khan said he was thankful to Mohamad for speaking in support of Kashmiris and against Indian repression in the occupied valley. “I want to thank Dr Mahathir Bin Mohamad for speaking in support of Kashmiris and against Indian repression in IIOJK - this time at a function on Aug 8 to mark a year of the illegal Indian actions in IIOJK,” he tweeted.

PM Imran, in his speech at the UNGA, had heavily criticised Indian PM Narendra Modi and his party’s ultra-nationalist hardline style of governance. He had also said that India ended the special status of occupied Kashmir by flouting 11 resolutions of the UN Security Council. "There is no other narrative left for India,” PM Imran had said, adding that there is another chance of a Pulwama-like incident to blame and ‘bomb’ Pakistan.

“India must lift this inhuman curfew,” the prime minister had said, adding that if the lockdown was not lifted, the eight million people under lockdown in the valley were likely to get radicalized.

World's Senior Most Leader Mahathir to Set Up New Political Party in Malaysia

(August 8, 2020)

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia's former prime minister and political leader Mahathir Mohamad, 95, said here on Friday that he was setting up a new political party as he seeks to take on the government, months after he quit as premier and his administration collapsed.

Mahathir, the world's oldest leader until his resignation in February, first entered parliament as an MP in 1964 and had two stints as prime minister, totaling a quarter of a century. But far from quietly retiring, the spry nonagenarian has continued to challenge the legitimacy of the leader who replaced him, and on Friday announced the new party.

Mahathir said the group, still unnamed, would be independent, champion the rights of the country's Muslim majority and battle corruption. "We will fight the parties involved in bribery and the stealing of money," he told reporters at a press conference. Mahathir said he will be chairman and the party would not be part of the current government or the opposition alliance of which he used to be a member.

Several other MPs also appeared with Mahathir at the announcement. The ex-premier used to be a member of a party called Bersatu, which he set up to contest the 2018 election, but it split when Mahathir´s shaky coalition government collapsed. The veteran politician was first premier from 1981 to 2003 but then launched a comeback ahead of the polls two years ago, to take on the corruption-mired regime of Najib Razak.

He led an opposition alliance to a shock victory and returned as prime minister. He led an opposition alliance to a shock victory and returned as prime minister. But the government collapsed this year amid intense infighting over whether Anwar Ibrahim should become the next premier, and Mahathir resigned. He sought to come back as prime minister but lost out to Muhyiddin Yassin, who now leads a coalition that includes Najib's scandal-plagued party.

Analysts said Mahathir's party would need the support of other parties to stand a chance of success. "Standing alone, he would be lucky to win back his own seat," Oh Ei Sun, senior fellow, from the Singapore Institute of International Affairs.

Aljabri claims a former colleague, Bijad Alharbi, showed up at his Toronto telecommunications company office posing as an investor and tried to persuade him to go to Turkey to visit family. Although he refused, Alharbi had succeeded in pinpointing Aljabri's location so the Tiger Squad could find him, the suit states. "Bin Salman now plans to send agents directly through the United States to enter Canada by land and, once and for all, eliminate Dr. Saad," he says. 

As a pressure tactic, the claim asserts bin Salman has ordered the detention and kidnapping of Aljabri's family members. Two of his children "disappeared" in mid-March and other relatives have been arrested, detained and tortured. He also says Saudi agents hacked his smartphones and froze his bank accounts. Bin Salman took power in Saudi Arabia after then-crown prince Mohammed bin Nayef was ousted in 2017. Human rights groups accuse him of bloody ruthlessness, including the killing of Khashoggi, whose body has never been found.

The lawsuit also names Bader Alasaker, the head of bin Salman's private office. It accuses him of recruiting, training and bribing U.S.-based employees of Twitter to obtain confidential information about critics of bin Salman in the United States, now subject of criminal proceedings in the U.S. Aljabri's American lawyers would not discuss the case, saying they would make arguments in court.

Saudi Crown Prince Sent Hit Squad to Canada to Kill Former Spy, Lawsuit Claims

(August 7, 2020)

TORONTO: The crown prince of Saudi Arabia sent a hit squad to Canada in an effort to hunt down and kill a former top intelligence official who knows too much, a civil suit filed Thursday in court in the United States asserts. The 106-page unproven complaint, which reads like a spy thriller, accuses Mohammed bin Salman of orchestrating attempts to silence Saad Aljabri, a permanent resident of Canada.

The document describes Aljabri as a 39-year veteran of the government of Saudi Arabia with expertise in national security and counterterrorism. As such, it says, few people know more about bin Salman than he does, including his allegedly corrupt business dealings and creation of a team of personal mercenaries called the Tiger Squad. Those mercenaries, the suit states, were behind the killing and dismemberment of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Turkey in 2018.

In addition, Aljabri says he had a close working relationship with American intelligence over the decades. He is, he claims, uniquely positioned to threaten bin Salman's standing in Washington. "Few places hold more sensitive, humiliating and damning information about defendant bin Salman than the mind and memory of Dr. Saad — except perhaps the recordings Dr. Saad made in anticipation of his killing," Aljabri asserts. "That is why defendant bin Salman wants him dead, and why defendant bin Salman has worked to achieve that objective over the last three years."

None of the allegations in Aljabri's claim for damages in United States District Court for the District of Columbia has been tested. Officials with the Saudi embassy in Ottawa did not respond to a request for comment. Public Safety Minister Bill Blair would not comment on the specific allegations in the lawsuit but said the government was aware of incidents in which foreign actors have tried to monitor, intimidate or threaten Canadians and people in Canada.

"It is completely unacceptable and we will never tolerate foreign actors threatening Canada's national security or the safety of our citizens and residents," Blair said in a statement. "We invite people to report any such threats to law enforcement authorities." Blair repeated Canada's condemnation of Khashoggi's murder and its support for a proper international investigation, saying that's why Ottawa imposed sanctions on 17 Saudi nationals linked to the killing.

Aljabri, a dual citizen of Malta and Saudi Arabia, fled the kingdom in 2017, first to Turkey and then secretly to Toronto, where he now lives. Bin Salman repeatedly ordered him to return home and threatened via instant messaging to "use all available means" and to "take measures that would be harmful to you," the complaint states. "We shall certainly reach you," bin Salman allegedly insisted.

According to the suit, which also names several top Saudi officials, Tiger Squad members arrived at Toronto Pearson Airport on tourist visas in mid-October 2018, less than two weeks after Khashoggi was murdered. "Bin Salman in fact dispatched a hit squad to North America to kill Dr. Saad," the claim asserts. To cover themselves, they entered through separate kiosks but aroused suspicion after claiming they did not know each other, the suit states. Agents with the Canada Border Services Agency denied all but one of them entry, a squad member travelling on a diplomatic passport, it says.

US to Introduce Iran Arms Embargo Extension Soon

(August 7, 2020)

The US will introduce a Security Council resolution next week to extend the UN arms embargo on Iran, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Wednesday. The top diplomat told reporters at the State Department that the measure is "eminently reasonable," vowing "one way or another we will do the right thing." "We will ensure the arms embargo is extended," he said amid opposition from China and Russia, two of the other veto-wielding permanent council members.

The embargo is set to expire Oct. 18 under the nuclear deal with Iran that Washington exited under US President Donald Trump-Pompeo said there are "nations lining up" to sell Iran weapons that will "destabilize the Middle East, put Israel at risk, put Europe at risk, risk American lives as well. We're not going to let it happen."

“The Security Council’s mission is to ensure international peace and security," said Pompeo. "The council would make an absolute mockery of that mission if it allowed the number state sponsor of terrorism to buy and sell weapons freely.”

One option the US could pursue in the event that either the measure fails to receive necessary support in the 15-member council, or if Russia or China exercise vetoes, is what is called "snapback." That would entail triggering all sanctions lifted as part of the 2015 nuclear accord, an option Pompeo said the US is considering. 

"We're deeply aware that snapback is an option that's available to the United States, and we're going to do everything within America's power to ensure that that arms embargo is extended," he said. "I am confident that we will be successful."

Trump unilaterally pulled the US out the nuclear deal in 2018 above objections of all participants, and has gone on to reimpose sanctions the US lifted under the agreement, angering Iran, which retaliated by reneging on some of its commitments. It is unclear if the US has standing to invoke snapback since it is no longer a party to the accord.

Life running inHiroshima city just before US nuclear bomb attack

USNuclear Bomb

Hiroshima city scenario USafter nuclear bombing 

Hiroshima after deadly US nuclear bomb attck

Japan Remembers Hiroshima Atomic Bombing on 75th Anniversary(August 6, 2020)

HIROSHIMA:  Japan mourned the 75th anniversary of the horrifying Hiroshima nuclear attack during World War II on Thursday, observing the event with toned down ceremonies due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Survivors, relatives and a handful of foreign dignitaries attended this year's main event in Hiroshima to pray for those killed or wounded in the bombing and call for world peace.

But the general public was kept away, with the ceremony instead broadcast online. Participants, many of them dressed in black and wearing face masks, offered a silent prayer at exactly 8:15 am (2315 GMT Wednesday), the time the first nuclear weapon used in wartime was dropped over the city. Speaking afterwards, Hiroshima mayor Kazumi Matsui warned against the nationalism that led to World War II and urged the world to come together to face global threats, like the coronavirus pandemic.

"We must never allow this painful past to repeat itself. Civil society must reject self-centred nationalism and unite against all threats," he said. Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who has been criticised by some for his attempts to revise a key pacifist clause of the country's constitution, pledged in his address to "do my best for the realisation of a world without nuclear weapons and peace for all time".

And UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, who addressed the gathering by video message because of the pandemic, warned that "the only way to totally eliminate nuclear risk is to totally eliminate nuclear weapons". The bomb attack on Hiroshima killed around 140,000 people, many of them instantly, with others perishing in the weeks and months that followed, suffering radiation sickness, devastating burns and other injuries.

Three days later, the United States dropped a second atomic bomb on Nagasaki, where 74,000 people were killed.

'No one can escape'

Many of the traditionally sombre events to mark the anniversary have been cancelled because of the pandemic, a global threat that carries an all-too-familiar fear for some survivors, including 83-year-old Keiko Ogura, who lived through the Hiroshima bombing.

With the outbreak of the virus, "I recall the fear I felt right after the bombing... no one can escape", she told journalists last month. She too urged people around the world to recognise the need to fight common challenges as one. "Whether it's the coronavirus or nuclear weapons, the way to overcome it is through solidarity among mankind," she said.

The landmark anniversary this year underscores the dwindling number of bomb survivors, known in Japan as "hibakusha", many of whom suffered physically and psychologically after the attack. Those who remain were mostly infants or young children at the time, and their work to keep the memory of the bombings alive and call for a ban on nuclear weapons has taken on increasing urgency as they age.

Activists and survivors have created archives of everything from the recorded testimony of hibakusha to their poems and drawings. But many fear interest in the bombings is fading as they recede beyond the horizon of lived experience and into history.

'Unspeakable horror'

"Just storing a pile of records... is meaningless," said Kazuhisa Ito, the secretary general of No More Hibakusha Project, an NGO that compiles documents and testimonial accounts from survivors. "What we want is to engage young people with this issue and exchange views with them, globally," he told AFP. The historical assessment of the bombings remains the subject of some controversy. The United States has never apologised for the bombings, which many see as having brought an end to the war.

Japan announced its surrender just days later on August 15, 1945, and some historians argue the bombings ultimately saved lives by avoiding a land invasion that might have been significantly more deadly.But in Japan, the attacks are widely regarded as war crimes because they targeted civilians indiscriminately and caused unprecedented destruction.

In 2016, Barack Obama became the first sitting US president to visit Hiroshima, where he offered no apology but embraced survivors and called for a world free of nuclear weapons. Hiroshima and Nagasaki were key stops on Pope Francis's first trip to Japan last year, where he denounced the "unspeakable horror" of the attacks.

 

Massive Explosion Sends Shockwaves Across Beirut, At Least 10 Killed, Hundreds Injured (August 4, 2020)

LEBANON: A huge explosion near the centre of Beirut killed at least 10 people and sent shockwaves across the Lebanese capital, shattering glass in people's homes and causing apartment balconies to collapse, witnesses and security sources said.

The blast occurred in the city's port area, where there were warehouses housing explosives, Lebanon's state news agency NNA and two security sources said. A third security source said there were chemicals stored in the area. A man reacts at the scene of an explosion at the port in Lebanon's capital Beirut on August 4, 2020.

Footage of the blast shared around by residents on social media showed a column of smoke rising from the port district followed by an enormous blast. Those who filming what initially appeared to be a big blaze were thrown backwards by the shock. At least 10 bodies were taken to hospitals, a security source and a medical source told. Hundreds of injured were taken to hospitals but many remain trapped in homes damaged by the explosion, the head of the Lebanese Red Cross said.

George Kettaneh told local media there was no exact figure of how many were injured as many were still trapped in homes and within the area of the blast. Others were being rescued by boat. Lebanese broadcaster LBCI quoted Hotel Dieu Hospital in Beirut as saying that it was treating more than 500 injured and was not able to receive more. Tens of injured needed operations, the hospital said, appealing for blood donations.

No Cause Known

It was not immediately clear what caused the blaze that set off the blast or what kind of explosives were in the warehouses. The governor of Beirut port told Sky News that a team of firefighters at the scene had “disappeared” after the explosion.

Meanwhile, Lebanon's internal security chief Abbas Ibrahim said the blast occurred in a section housing highly-explosive materials, and not explosives as had been reported earlier by the official state news agency, NNA. Speaking to reporters in televised remarks, he declined to speculate about the cause of the explosion in Lebanon's capital, saying “we cannot preempt investigations”.

“I saw a fireball and smoke billowing over Beirut. People were screaming and running, bleeding. Balconies were blown off buildings. Glass in high-rise buildings shattered and fell to the street”. The health minister told there was a “very high number” of injured.

Another witness said she saw heavy grey smoke near the port area and then heard an explosion and saw flames of fire and black smoke: “All the downtown area windows are smashed and there are wounded people walking around. It is total chaos.” UN spokesman Farhan Haq told reporters it was not immediately clear what the cause was, and that there was no indication of any injuries to any UN personnel.

"We do not have information about what has happened precisely, what has caused this, whether its accidental or manmade act," he said. The US Pentagon said: “We are aware of the explosion and are concerned for the potential loss of life due to such a massive explosion.” In Cyprus, an island lying west of Lebanon, residents reported two large bangs in quick succession. One resident of the capital Nicosia said his house shook, rattling shutters.

PM Imran Unveils New Political Map of Pakistan (August 4, 2020)

ISLAMABAD: The Prime Minister of Pakistan's announcement came a day ahead of the first anniversary of India’s controversial unilateral decision to revoke the area's semi-autonomy. The new political map of Pakistan.

Addressing the nation alongside Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi, the premier said that it would now be the "official map" after being approved by the federal cabinet, which had met earlier today, and would be the one used in schools and colleges.

The map clearly identifies occupied Kashmir as a "disputed territory" and states that the final status will be decided in line with the relevant United Nations Security Council (UNSC) resolutions. The map rejects the illegal steps taken by India on August 5 last year, he said, adding that the federal cabinet and the country's political leadership had supported it.

The premier maintained that the Kashmir issue could only be solved by following the UNSC resolutions which give the Kashmiri people the right to self-determination."Their right to self-determination, given to them by the world community, has still not been given. And we clearly want to say to the world that it is the only solution," he said, adding that the government will keep making efforts in this regard.

"We will do political struggle; we don't believe in military solutions. We will remind the UN again and again that you had made a promise to the people of Kashmir which you did not fulfill." Presenting the changes made in the map, the foreign minister said that administrative maps have been introduced before, but this was the first time that a map reflected the aspirations of the people.

He added that the map clearly showed occupied Kashmir as a disputed territory and the only solution to the issue would be through the UNSC resolutions and as per the aspirations of the people. The foreign minister added that it had also been made clear that Siachen is a part of Pakistan. "Through the map we are challenging their illegal occupation and claiming our right to the area," he said.

He maintained that Pakistan had also rejected India's claims about Sir Creek in the map. "We have said that our border is towards the eastern bank; India had claimed that it goes towards the west," he said, adding that by doing so, India was trying to capture several acres of the country's "exclusive economic zone".

Further, erstwhile FATA has been shown as part of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, he said. Qureshi said that the entire nation was united on the country's new political map. The federal cabinet, the Kashmiri leadership and Pakistan's political leadership has endorsed the government's move, he said.

"This gives a clear message to the people of Kashmir, that the government of Pakistan was with them in the past and will stand with them in the future." "Our destination is Srinagar," he said, adding that this was a "historic day". In the map, Jammu and Kashmir in its entirety, including Gilgit-Baltistan, has been shown in one distinct colour, the Foreign Office said.

Further, the Line of Control (LOC) has been marked with red dotted line. "The red dotted line represents approximately the LOC in Jammu and Kashmir. The state of Jammu and Kashmir and its accession is yet to be decided through plebiscite under the relevant UNSC resolutions," the map reads.

The map also contains an annotation for the area on the map marked "frontier undefined". "Actual boundary in the area would ultimately be decided by the sovereign authorities concerned after the settlement of the Jammu and Kashmir dispute."

Arab World's First Nuclear Power Plants Start Work (August 2, 2020)

Abu Dhabi: The first nuclear power plant in the Arab world started work in the United Arab Emirates yesterday. Hamad al-Qabi, permanent representative of the United Arab Emirates at the World Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), also announced this in a tweet.

The full name of this nuclear power plant consisting of four units‎ is 'Mhat-E-Brakah-Ul-Nuvi', which has a total production capacity of 5600  mw, while each unit can produce 1400 MW of electricity individually. Currently the first unit has started to power up, while the remaining three units are also nearing completion.

After fully operational, it will be able to meet 25% of the power requirement in the nuclear power plants in the United Arab Emirates. The Barakh nuclear power station is built near the coastal strip in the "West" area of Abu Dhabi, with an estimated cost of around $25 billion. The nuclear power station was built by a consortium of Korean companies led by The Korean Electric Power Company.

Although construction of the power plant began in 2011 and its first unit was to start work in 2017, it was constantly in turmoil due to the political situation in the region and finally, last day, after nearly three years of delay, the first unit of the Barak atomic power plant started working.

The remaining three units of the Berk-e-Nuclear Power Plant are almost complete, but it is time to say anything about how long they will be active and start production, according to reports.It was clear that the United Arab Emirates was the first country in the Arab world to build nuclear power plants, but the karachi nuclear power plant (KUP) was the first nuclear power plant in the world to be built in 1972, near the paradize point on the coast of Karachi.

7 People Including MP Killed in US Planes Crash (August 2, 2020)

ALASKA: In America, two planes crashed during the flight, killing 7 people including the Alaskan MP. According to the World News Agency, two small aircraft carrying passengers crashed into the air in the Canary Islands area of the U.S. state of Alaska, the collision was so terrible that the planes flew and the plane crashed in the area.

During the air operation, the plane was found in a tree-filled area, the bodies of 7 people have been recovered from the debris, including 67-year-old Member of the Alaska Legislative Assembly, Gary Canoup. They belonged to the Republican Party. They were flying their own private plane which crashed into another plane, carrying 6 passengers.

The Federal Aviation Administration has set up an inquiry committee to investigate the incident of the mp's plane crash, which will be subject to 15 days of reporting. America's leading political and social figures have expressed regret over the death of the MP.

Afghan President Refuses to Release Remaining Taliban Prisoners (August 1, 2020)

Kabul- Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has said that the last 400 taliban prisoners are facing serious crimes charges, so their early release is not possible. Afghan media reported that the Kabul government has released another 500 Taliban prisoners on Eid al-Adha, but Afghan President Ashraf Ghani said the remaining 400 prisoners are facing serious criminal charges, so their immediate release is not possible.

The Kabul government was to release 5,000 Taliban prisoners who have been released by the government in the wake of the February 29 agreement between the US and the Afghan Taliban, but President Ashraf Ghani's refusal to release the remaining 400 prisoners threatened to lead peace talks.

On the other hand, the first day of Eid al-Adha was peaceful today, with the Afghan Taliban and the Kabul government announcing a three-day ceasefire, and the country continues to have a traditional Eid celebration.

Corona virus: Euro Area Economy Shrinks By 12.1% , Biggest Drop on Record         (July 31, 2020)

The eurozone economy shrank by 12.1 per cent in the second quarter of 2020 compared to the previous one, the biggest drop on record, Eurostat announced on Friday. Gross Domestic Product (GDP) for the whole European Union is meanwhile projected to have fallen by 11.9 per cent, according to preliminary estimates by the bloc's official statistics agency.

"These were by far the sharpest declines observed since time series started in 1995," Eurostat indicated in a statement, flagging that the April-June period was "still marked by COVID-19 containment measures in most member states." No country was spared the economic impact of the global pandemic but the Spanish economy was hit the hardest, contracting by 18.5 per cent.

Portugal, which closed its border with Spain very early in the pandemic and imposed strict measures to halt the spread of the virus, registered the second-biggest contraction in the bloc at 14.1 per cent. The Iberian Peninsula is followed by France and Italy, two countries hit hard by COVID-19, which registered drops of 13.8 per cent and 12.4 per cent respectively.

Among the Member States for which data was available, Lithuania appears to have fared the best, with its GDP falling by 5.1 per cent. Germany, seen as a model for the containment of the virus, shrank by 10.1 per cent. By Alice Tidey

HK LEgco Election Postponed a Year, Gets Central Govt Support (July 31, 2020)

HONG KONG:Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam announced on Friday that due to the current severe COVID-19 situation in the city, the Legislative Council (LegCo) election scheduled for September has been postponed to September 5 next year. Experts and local lawmakers said the decision prioritizes public health and aims to ensure fairness in the election. Lam announced the decision at a press conference on Friday, saying that it was not made for political reasons, but for public health.

Before the announcement, many residents, politicians and organizations had urged the government to consider postponing the election as the latest wave of COVID-19 has been seriously impacting the city since July. According to the latest data from the HKSAR public health authority, Hong Kong reported 121 new cases on Friday. That marked the 10th consecutive daily increase of more than 100 cases, bringing the total number of cases confirmed in the city to 3,273.

Lam said that from July 8 to July 30, Hong Kong reported 1,852 new confirmed cases, a 140 percent increase from the total of the previous six months. The city is in the most severe epidemic situation since January, with the risk of a huge outbreak increasing. Lam also listed several reasons to postpone the election for a year, including that this wave may last weeks or longer; society needs more time to recover; and at least 3 to 4 months are needed to prepare for a new election for fairness.

Wang Guangfa, a respiratory expert at Peking University First Hospital, told the Global Times on Friday that Hong Kong is at a very critical point in curbing the further spread of the virus, and it would see its number of cases reach tens of thousands or even hundreds of thousands if it fails to control the situation in the near future. If Hong Kong had pushed for the election and let candidates’ campaign in crowded places, it would have been risky, experts said.

"Hong Kong should prioritize COVID-19 prevention and people's health. Postponing the LegCo election to contain the virus was a wise decision," Wang said. Top Chinese respiratory expert Zhong Nanshan told media on July 29 that community transmission has emerged in Hong Kong, and prevention is a priority. He suggested Hong Kong restrict group activities and ban illegal assemblies. He also called for large-scale nucleic acid testing in Hong Kong.

The COVID-19 situation has complicated the city's election, seriously impacting people's right to participate in the process, observers said. HKSAR LegCo Finance Committee Chairman Chan Kin-por told the Global Times that given the worsening coronavirus situation in Hong Kong, whether or not hundreds of thousands of Hong Kong residents working or living in the Chinese mainland and overseas will be able to return in time and cast their vote must be taken into account. Chan said it would be hard to ensure a fair and just vote if the government pushes the elections forward regardless of the coronavirus situation. 

Ip Kwok-him, a Hong Kong deputy to the National People's Congress and an executive councilor, told the Global Times that elections and campaigns can no longer be carried out normally and that the political views of candidates cannot be fully promoted, as the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the city has been increasing by over 100 a day for the last few days. Some residents may be reluctant to go out to vote. Ip said postponing the election is not what they want to do, but has to be made under the current situation. 

It was reported that from February to July, at least 67 countries and regions have postponed national or regional elections due to the COVID-19 pandemic. According to a BBC report in March, local and mayoral elections in England were postponed for a year until May 2021 due to the pandemic. 

Victor Chan Chi-ho, a candidate for the LegCo election who has prepared for the election campaign since submitting his application, told the Global Times on Friday that he supports the postponement, as he and his campaign team were concerned that the campaign and voting may further spread the virus. 

Lawrence Tang Fei, a member of the Chinese Association of Hong Kong and Macao Studies and also a candidate for this year's election, told the Global Times that he also supports the postponement, as daily infections have surpassed 100. "Hong Kong is a populous city. More than 3 million people swarming to more than 600 polling stations as well as other procedures during the election will increase the risk of community transmission." "More than 60 countries and regions have postponed their elections. Why can't Hong Kong do the same?" he asked.  

"The LegCo election should be held amid an atmosphere of peace and stability, so it can better fulfill its responsibilities under the Basic Law," Tian Feilong, a legal expert on Hong Kong affairs at Beihang University in Beijing, told the Global Times. He also noted that the decision was legitimate and reasonable.

Legal basis 

Lam also said that given the severe epidemic situation, the only practicable plan for the HKSAR government is to cite the Emergency Regulations Ordinance, considering infection numbers and the death toll are increasing, and election activities may worsen the epidemic situation. 

According to the Legislative Council Ordinance, the chief executive "may, by order, direct the postponement of a general election if, before the holding of the election, the chief executive is of the opinion that the election is likely to be obstructed, disrupted, undermined or seriously affected by riot or open violence or any danger to public health or safety." 

The chief executive must specify a date for an election and that date must not be later than 14 days after the date on which the election would have taken place, according to the Legislative Council Ordinance. Tian said that if the election needs to be postponed for a longer period, the chief executive may also use the Emergency Regulations Ordinance to make regulations for the postponement. The Emergency Regulations Ordinance states that when the chief executive considers a situation an emergency or public danger, they may make regulations they consider desirable for the interest of the public. 

In responding to how to deal with "one-year vacuum period" as the four-year term of the current LegCo is about to end, Lam told the conference that she has sought help from the central government. Tian said that Hong Kong's chief executive can also use Article 11 of the Legislative Council Ordinance to call emergency meetings to deal with important agendas, including policy addresses or financial budgets. But this is a remedy plan and is troublesome. 

A more practicable way is that the HKSAR government could submit a plan to the National People's Congress Standing Committee, Tian said. Some experts suggested to extend the terms of the current LegCo to avoid a "one-year vacuum period." According to a release from the NPC, the 21-plenary meeting of the 13th NPC Standing Committee is scheduled to be held on August 8. Relevant issues of Hong Kong may be solved during the meetings, observers said. 

Lau Siu-kai, vice president of the Chinese Association of Hong Kong and Macao Studies, told the Global Times that although the HKSAR government has the legal basis to postpone the election, its decision will lead to a series of questions that need to be answered. Against the backdrop of Hong Kong's current political and social situation, support from the central government and a judicial interpretation of the decision would help the HKSAR government's work. 

China's State Council supports the HKSAR government's decision to postpone the election for a year, noting that the central government will propose that the National People's Congress Standing Committee make a decision on the "one year vacuum period." The central government said in a release on Friday that it will offer the necessary support for HKSAR in dealing with the COVID-19 epidemic to ensure residents' health and safety. 

The Liaison Office of the Central People's Government in Hong Kong expressed understanding and support for the HKSAR government's decision on Friday. "This is a responsible move to protect the citizens' health and safety… it also fits the Constitution, Basic Law, and local laws and regulations." 

The Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office of the State Council said on Friday that the central government has decided to send Chinese mainland testing personnel to Hong Kong to help expand nucleic acid tests and to build a temporary quarantine and treatment center to contain the virus. 

Dismissing misinterpretations 

However, the decision to postpone the election has been misinterpreted by the opposition and foreign media, which claimed the government was using COVID-19 "as an excuse to interfere in the democratic process," according to Hong Kong media reports. Experts noted that these forces - and the foreign forces behind them - want to use the momentum of 2019's unrest and the illegal "primaries" organized by the opposition earlier in July to force the election as soon as possible, so that they can seize power in the city and paralyze the HKSAR government. 

Ip said people's lives should be prioritized over elections, and that certain opposition forces only care about political gains, which is extremely irresponsible. Regarding the claim that "postponing the election was a trick played by the government and pro-establishment camp as they don't believe they can win," Ip said such speculation was nonsense. 

Who residents choose to support in the election may not make a difference in a year, and candidates can use this time to consolidate public support, Ip said. The negative reactions from certain opposition forces are no surprise, as they know that hundreds of thousands of Hong Kong people in the Chinese mainland and abroad, most of whom support the pro-establishment camp, may not be able to return to vote in time, Chan said. 

But the fact that opposition forces disregarding the need for a fair vote reflects their eagerness to seize power and their selfishness in ignoring the risks of COVID-19, Chan said.

Japan to Lift Virus Ban on Re-Entry of Foreign Residents (July 31, 2020)

TOKYO: Japan will from next week lift a ban on the re-entry of some foreign residents, imposed to limit the spread of coronavirus, the foreign ministry has announced. Up to 90,000 foreign nationals with residence permits, including students, business people and trainees, are currently stuck outside Japan after authorities banned re-entry from over 100 countries in response to the global pandemic.

From August 5, those who left Japan before their destination countries were added to the ban list will be able to apply to return, the foreign ministry said in a statement late Wednesday. Those eligible will have to obtain a “re-entry confirmation letter” from the nearest Japanese diplomatic mission and submit evidence of a negative virus test conducted within 72 hours of their flight.

From September 1, those conditions will also apply to foreign nationals in other categories, including permanent or long-term residents and spouses and children of Japanese nationals or permanent residents. Japan has imposed an entry ban on visitors from more than 140 countries and regions, but the government has said it will ease them gradually.

Japanese citizens are able to re-enter the country from places on the ban list, and foreigners resident in Japan can apply for humanitarian exemptions to visit countries on the list and be allowed to return.

In Pulling Troops, Trump Doesn’t Hide Spite for Merkel (July 31, 2020)

MUNICH:In pulling 12,000 US troops from Germany, President Donald Trump is laying bare what has long been clear, there is no love lost between him and Chancellor Angela Merkel. Trump has clashed with plenty of US allies but he has appeared to have special enmity for Merkel, whose liberal, technocratic approach on issues from the coronavirus to immigration is at stark odds with the New York mogul’s in-your-face populism.

After the Pentagon made the cuts official, Trump said he was acting because Germany had failed to meet the NATO goal of spending two percent of GDP on defense although Italy and Belgium, which will take some of the US troops, spend even less. “Germany is delinquent. They haven’t paid their fees,” Trump told reporters.

“The United States has been taken advantage of on trade and on military and on everything else for many years, and I’m here and I’ve been straightening it out.” Trump, himself of German ancestry, has long accused NATO’s second largest economy of unfairly enjoying US protection while promoting cars and other exports.

Snub on summit

Trump first spoke of removing troops in June after Merkel, a scientist by training who has acted aggressively to stop COVID-19, rejected on health grounds Trump’s plan to convene the Group of Seven leaders in Washington. Trump had hoped to showcase a return to normal life ahead of November 3 elections,in which he faces a tough challenge from Democrat Joe Biden. Trump instead has mulled a wider summit that includes Russian President Vladimir Putin, who was kicked out over the takeover of Crimea.

Robert Menendez, the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, called the troop withdrawal “an affront to one of our closest allies” that would benefit Russia, which according to US intelligence intervened in the 2016 election to favor Trump. “Champagne must be flowing freely this evening at the Kremlin,” Menendez said. But the Trump administration has also targeted Germany over its own relationship with Russia, earlier this month opening the way for sanctions over their Nord Stream 2 gas project.

No patience for Trump

Trump’s 2016 election shocked US allies but most tried to deal with him. Japanese, British and French leaders all flattered Trump with invitations, even if French President Emmanuel Macron was also vocal on disagreements over issues ranging from climate change to Iran. Merkel from the start did little to hide her disdain for Trump. Several months after Trump took office, Merkel made waves when she said that the United States under Trump along with Britain, which voted to leave the EU, were no longer reliable partners and that Europe should “take its fate into its own hands.”

Trump in turn shattered norms of polite behavior between allies. In 2018, he wrote on Twitter that Germans were “turning against their leadership” over the “big mistake” on welcoming millions of migrants. Trump has frequently clashed with powerful women, taking sharply personal tones with domestic rivals including Hillary Clinton and Nancy Pelosi. Sudha David-Wilp, a senior transatlantic fellow at the German Marshall Fund of the United States, said that while gender could be a factor, Merkel had also been “joined at the hip” with Trump’s predecessor Barack Obama toward the end of his presidency.

For Obama, “Germany was seen as the indispensable partner, especially in light of Brexit,” David-Wilp said. “So I also think President Trump of course was probably wary of Angela Merkel and the other way around,” she added. And in personality, “President Trump and Chancellor Merkel are diametrically opposite,” she said. A recently published Gallup survey found that only 12 percent of Germans approved of how the United States exercises leadership.

Ivan Krastev, chairman of the Centre for Liberal Strategies, a research group based in Bulgaria, told a June conference at the Brookings Institution that he felt a shift in Germany which was “once the most pro-Atlantic country.” But Obama, while personally popular, also had disagreements with Germany, which he had pressed to show more magnanimity toward the rest of Europe including debt-ravaged Greece. “I do believe people are going to make a mistake if they believe that simply because Biden is back, Europe is back in its relations with the United States,” Krastev said.

Russia Jails US Ex-Marine For 9 Years Over Police Assault (July 31, 2020)

MOSCOW: A Russian court on Thursday sentenced former US marine Trevor Reed to nine years in prison for assaulting two police officers while drunk last year. Reed, a 29-year-old student and former marine from Texas, allegedly attacked police after attending a party in Moscow. He appeared wearing a facemask in a cage for defendants in a courtroom in the Russian capital as the judge read out the guilty verdict, saying the police officers had suffered “mental and physical harm”.

Reed was handed nine years in a penal colony, according to an AFP reporter in the courtroom. “This is completely a political case,” Reed told journalists after the verdict. “I will be asking my government for political support”. The case has caught the attention of US diplomats in Russia and US Ambassador John Sullivan said he was following proceedings along with the trials of other Americans detained in Russia. Reed has been held in a Moscow prison in pre-trial detention since August 2019. He pleaded not guilty to the charge, saying he remembers nothing of the incident.

His family has raised the alarm over what they say are irregularities in the proceedings and said the prosecution’s request for a nearly 10-year sentence was unfair. Reed’s father Joey told reporters after the verdict was read out that he was planning to appeal directly to Russian President Vladimir Putin over the trial which he said was “completely corrupt”. “We are not arguing about Russian law, we are arguing about how Russian law is applied,” he told reporters.

Reed’s case has attracted attention owing to the lengthy sentence faced by a US citizen and speculation in Russian and US media that Reed could become part of a prisoner swap. In June, Russia convicted US citizen Paul Whelan, also an ex-marine, to 16 years in a penal colony for espionage, prompting speculation he could participate in a prisoner swap. Whelan’s brother David said in a statement on Wednesday that “our family is not privy to government discussions, if there are any, about Paul’s case”. Sullivan has also raised concerns over the case against Michael Calvey, a high-profile American investor who was arrested last year for allegedly defrauding a Russian bank.

UK Had Europe’s Highest Rate of Excess Deaths During COVID-19 Pandemic: Official (July 31, 2020)

LONDON: The United Kingdom suffered the highest rate of excess deaths during the COVID-19 pandemic in a comparison of 21 European countries, an analysis from Britain’s statistics office showed on Thursday. Epidemiologists say excess mortality – deaths from all causes that exceed the five-year average for the time of year – is the best way of gauging deaths from a disease outbreak because it is internationally comparable. The Office for National Statistics (ONS) analysis confirmed Britain’s place as one of the countries worst hit by a pandemic that has killed more than 666,000 people worldwide. Around 65,000 more people than usual have died from all causes across the United Kingdom so far this year, the highest total in Europe. Thursday’s figures showed the United Kingdom also had Europe’s highest excess death rate when adjusted for the size and age of its population. The ONS said the excess deaths were spread throughout the United Kingdom, in contrast to many European countries where they were concentrated in particular regions.

Trump Floats Delaying Presidential Election(July 31, 2020)

WASHINGTON: The idea was immediately rejected by both Democrats and his fellow Republicans in Congress, the sole branch of government with the authority to make such a change. Both critics and allies dismissed the notion as an unserious attempt to distract from devastating economic news. Legal experts warned that his repeated attacks could undermine his supporters’ faith in the election process.

Trump’s statement on Twitter comes as the United States is enduring a multi-pronged crisis – a coronavirus pandemic that has claimed more than 150,000 lives, a crippling recession sparked by the outbreak, and nationwide protests against police violence and racism. Republicans and Democrats criticized a proposed delay, while election experts noted a president does not have the legal power to change the date of an election.

Others suggested Trump is seeking to sow doubt about the election results or distract from a new government report that found a historic contraction in the nation’s economy.

Israel Turning Mosques into Synagogues, Bars: Khatib                  (July 29, 2020)

JERUSALEM: In 1743, the Ottoman-era ruler of Palestine, Zahir al-Umar al-Zaydani, built a mosque in his name in the northern city of Tiberias. The Umari Mosque remained a magnet point for worshippers until 1948 when it was abandoned following the Nakba, a term used by the Palestinians to describe the creation of the state of Israel on the rubble of Palestine.

One of the landmarks of Tiberias, the mosque, also known as the Zaydani mosque, was built on the Mameluke architecture, with a big dome and a minaret. “Like most Palestinians, the Tiberias residents have fled to Syria and Lebanon following the Nakba,” Kamal Khatib of the High Follow-up Committee for Arab Citizens of Israel, told Anadolu Agency.“The Zaydani family, however, moved to the adjacent city of Nazareth,” he said.

Khatib said the Zaydani family had asked the Israeli authorities to give them permission to renovate the Umari mosque. “The Tiberias Municipality, however, refused, arguing that it would renovate it, but nothing happened,” he said. “Even since, the mosque has been closed with Israeli authorities banning worshippers and visitors from entering it,” he said. According to Israeli figures, there are around 1.5 million Palestinians living in Israel.

Mosques turned into bars

A study prepared by Khatib revealed that Israeli authorities have turned 15 mosques into Jewish synagogues.The study also showed that 40 mosques were either destroyed, closed, or abandoned, while 17 others were turned into barns, bars, restaurants or museums. For example, the Al-Ahmar Mosque in the northern town of Safed was turned into a concert hall, while Al-Jadid Mosque in the city of Caesarea was changed into a bar, according to the study.

The Ayn Hawd Mosque in Haifa and the upper floor of Al-Siksik Mosque in Jaffa suffered a similar fate. “After the Nakba, around 539 Palestinian villages were destroyed,” Khatib said. “All Palestinian structures, including mosques, have become an easy prey to the Israeli authorities.” Khatib recalled that mosques in the pre-Nakba era were teeming with worshippers. “After the Nakba, however, mosques were destroyed, particularly those in villages. Other mosques were either turned into synagogues, bars, museums, cafes or restaurants.”

Khatib lamented that the Israeli policy “disregards the sentiments of Muslims”, citing the al-Isaaf cemetery in Jaffa, where tombs were razed despite protests from local residents. Khatib said Israeli authorities have enacted legislation to confiscate property of Palestinians, who fled their homes. “The Knesset (Israel’s parliament) passed the law of absentees, under which Israel confiscated buildings and property of Arab citizens [who left their homes to other areas],” he said.

“The same policy was applied by Israel to numerous mosques and prayer places.” Khatib said Palestinians have made repeated attempts to “regain, renovate and stop assaults on mosques”. “However, all these attempts were rejected by Israel,” he said.

Denial: Israel denies the accusations of using mosques for other purposes than worshipping. In October 2015, the Israeli Foreign Ministry said there were around 400 mosques in Israel and that the number of worshippers doubled five times over the past 25 years. The ministry said that Israeli authorities allocate millions of shekels to construct worship places for Muslims living in Israel.

It cited that the government funds more than 100 mosques and pays the salaries of their imams. Khatib, however, dismisses the Israeli claim, saying “The Israeli government has never built a mosque in the country’s history”. “All the mosques have been built by our people, who collect donations to construct their worship places,” he said. Khatib continued that not all mosques are registered with the Israeli religious authorities. “The imams of these mosques get their pay from the mosque committees, which collect donations to pay for the requirements of the mosques.”

China Slams EU Export Curbs on Hong Kong over Security Law: Wang Wenbin (July 29, 2020)

BEIJING: China on Wednesday slammed a decision by the European Union to limit exports of surveillance equipment to Hong Kong over concerns about a controversial new security law in the city. The law, which was fast-tracked onto the statute books in June after months of pro-democracy protests in semi-autonomous Hong Kong, threatens life sentences for vaguely worded offences including secession and subversion of state power.

Critics say it violates the "One Country, Two Systems" arrangement that has governed Hong Kong since Britain returned the former colony to China in 1997, allowing the city freedoms unseen on the Chinese mainland. The EU limit on exports "violates the basic international relations norm of non-interference in other countries' internal affairs", Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said Wednesday.

"China firmly opposes this and has made stern representations with the EU," he said at a regular press briefing. The EU has struggled to agree on a united response to China's growing clout. Member states are divided over whether to stand up to Beijing -- a hugely important trading partner -- or try to cooperate. But the 27 nations on Tuesday came together around a proposal from France and Germany to limit exports to Hong Kong of technology that could be used for "internal repression, the interception of internal communications or cyber-surveillance".

The bloc will also launch schemes to support the population of the former British colony, granting visas, scholarships and academic exchanges to allow for easier travel to Europe, diplomats said. Wang on Wednesday told the EU to "stop any interference in Hong Kong matters and China's internal affairs".

The United States has responded to the security law with sanctions against Chinese officials, while countries including Canada, Australia and Britain have suspended extradition agreements with Hong Kong. Beijing insists the law is needed to restore stability in the financial hub after prolonged political unrest. 

Muslims Begin Downsized Hajj: Khalid bin Qarar Al-Harbi                                 (July 29, 2020)

MAKKAH, SAUDI ARABIA: Muslim pilgrims on July 29 begin the annual Hajj, dramatically downsized this year as the Saudi hosts strive to prevent a coronavirus outbreak during the five-day pilgrimage. The Hajj, one of the five pillars of Islam and a must for able-bodied Muslims at least once in their lifetime, is usually one of the world's largest religious gatherings.

But this year only up to 10,000 people already residing in the kingdom will participate in the ritual, a tiny fraction of the 2.5 million pilgrims from around the world that attended last year. "There are no security-related concerns in this pilgrimage, but (downsizing) is to protect pilgrims from the danger of the pandemic," said Khalid bin Qarar Al-Harbi, Saudi Arabia's director of public security. Pilgrims will be required to wear masks and observe social distancing during a series of religious rites that are completed over five days in the holy city of Mecca and its surroundings in western Saudi Arabia.

Those selected to take part in the Hajj were subject to temperature checks and placed in quarantine as they began trickling into Mecca at the weekend. State media showed health workers sanitising their luggage, and some pilgrims reported being given electronic wristbands to allow authorities to monitor their whereabouts.

Workers, clutching brooms and disinfectant, were seen cleaning the area around the Kaaba, the structure at the centre of the Grand Mosque draped in gold-embroidered cloth towards which Muslims around the world pray. Hajj authorities have cordoned off the Kaaba this year, saying pilgrims will not be allowed to touch it, to limit the chances of infection.

They also reported setting up multiple health facilities, mobile clinics and ambulances to cater to the pilgrims. The foreign press are barred from this year's Hajj, usually a huge global media event, as the government tightens access to Mecca. Saudi authorities initially said only around 1,000 pilgrims residing in the kingdom would be permitted for the Hajj, but local media reports say as many as 10,000 will be allowed to take part.

Some 70 percent of the pilgrims are foreigners residing in the kingdom, while the rest will be Saudi citizens, authorities said. All worshippers were required to be tested for coronavirus before arriving in Mecca and will also have to quarantine after the pilgrimage as the number of cases in the kingdom nears 270,000 - one of the largest outbreaks in the Middle East.

They were given elaborate amenity kits that include sterilised pebbles for a stoning ritual, disinfectants, masks, a prayer rug and the ihram, a seamless white garment worn by pilgrims, according to a Hajj ministry programme document. "I did not expect, among millions of Muslims, to be blessed with approval," Emirati pilgrim Abdullah al-Kathiri said in a video released by the Saudi media ministry.

"It is an indescribable feeling, especially since it is my first pilgrimage." The Hajj ministry said non-Saudi residents of the kingdom from around 160 countries competed in the online selection process but it did not say how many people applied. Some disappointed applicants have complained that the government-run lottery was not clearly outlined and that no reason was given for their rejection.

The Hajj ministry has fielded a deluge of anguished queries on Twitter from rejected applicants. But Hajj Minister Mohammad Benten insisted the process was transparent, telling the Saudi-owned Al-Arabiya television that "health determinants" formed the basis of selection. Despite the pandemic, many pilgrims consider it safer to participate in this year's ritual without the usual colossal crowds cramming into tiny religious sites, which make it a logistical nightmare and a health hazard.

Even in a regular year, the Hajj leaves pilgrims exposed to a host of illnesses. The government scaled back the pilgrimage as it could be a major source of contagion, but the move will deepen the kingdom's economic slump, analysts say. Saudi Arabia is already facing a sharp downturn in oil prices due to a collapse in global demand driven by national lockdowns, which triggered austerity measures, including the tripling of a value added tax and cuts to civil servants' allowances.

The virus has also battered pilgrimage-reliant businesses that support hundreds of thousands of jobs in Mecca, from travel agents to street barbers and souvenir shops. The Hajj and the year-round umrah pilgrimages together rake in some $12 billion annually.

LONDON (Layalpur Post):Queen Elizabeth of the United Kingdom honored those who sacrificed their lives in World War II on May 8, the 75th anniversary of Victory in Europe Day, and used the occasion to say she was proud of how people had responded to the novel coronavirus pandemic.

WASHINGTON: US President declares violent criminal violence during Black Lives Matter protests. The death of George Floyd, a black American citizen, was followed by protests all over the world, including America.

The protest later became a black lives matter. During this period, there were violent incidents in the United States, where protesters and Police Officers were killed, while the protesters also damaged valuable property.

US President Donald Trump has been opposed to these protests from the beginning, while the Black Lives Matter protests have now been declared criminal violence.

US President Donald Trump signed an executive order protecting monuments installed in the United States. "The great country will punish such unjust acts against America," he said.

LYALLPUR CITY: (Layalpur Post).The worldwide corona virus has consistently caused the disease, which is increasing in patients, but also in the daily number of deaths. The number of people affected by the corona virus has gone up to 99,33,964 worldwide, while the number of deaths has gone up to 4,97,530. Around the world, 4,54,153 patients are in hospital, quarantine centers and in isolation, of which 57,689 are in critical condition, while 53,82,281 have been cured.

America is still the most affected country with the corona virus, where only the most deaths are in the country. In the United States, 1,27,640 people have died from the Corona virus, while the total number of people who have been indeed has gone up to 25,53,68. In hospitals and quarantine centers in the United States, 13,56,660 corona patients are under-treated, of which 15,765 are in critical condition, while 10,68,768 corona patients have been cured so far.

Brazil is second in the list of countries with the number of patients with the Corona virus, with the number of people in The Corona reaching 12,80,54, while the virus has taken 56,109 lives. The total number of deaths in Russia from the Corona virus has gone up to 8,969, while its patients have reached 6,27,646.

India is fourth in the list with a rapid increase in the number of patients with the corona virus, with 15,731 deaths from the corona, while the number of patients affected by it has gone up to 5,11,478. In Britain, the death toll from corona rose to 43,414, while the number of cases of corona has gone up to 3,9,360.

In Spain, 2,94,985 victims of The corona have been affected, while the death toll has risen to 28,338. In Peru, 8,939 deaths have been reported due to the corona virus, while there are 2,72,364 reported in the Country. The total death toll from the Corona virus has gone up to 34,708 in Italy, with 2,39,961 cases reported so far.

In Iran, the total number of deaths from the corona virus rose to 10,364, while total case of the corona rose to 2,20,180. In Turkey, the number of deaths from the corona virus rose to 5,65, while total case of the corona rose to 1,94,511. Alsoread:  Corona is not being taken seriously in Pakistan

In Germany, the total number of deaths from corona rose to 9,26, while in the case of corona, 1,94,399. In Saudi Arabia, the total number of deaths from the corona virus has gone up to 1,474, while the number of patients in the country has gone up to 1,74,577. In France, the total deaths due to the Corona virus were 29,778, while in the Corona case, 1,62,936.

China, where the first case of the corona was found, has been largely controlled by the corona virus and only a few new corona patients are exposed daily, while the death toll has not been known for a long time. In China, the number of corona patients has gone up to 83,483 and the death toll has been reduced to 4,634.

The corona virus is spreading so fast in Pakistan that it has also come out of China, France, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Germany in the list of countries with a high number of patients. In the past 24 hours, new 3,138 cases of the corona virus have been reported in the country, while another 74 have been reported in the country.

In Pakistan, the number of case of the corona virus has gone up to 1,98,883, while the total number of deaths from this virus has gone up to 4,35. In the country of the Corona virus, 1,7,942 patients are still in isolation in hospitals, quarantine centers and homes, while 86,906 have been cured of the disease.

LAHORE (Layalpur Post): Muslim League (N) President Maryam Nawaz has said that a glimpse of Nawaz Sharif leaves his opponents in a state of shock.

Reacting to Nawaz Sharif's criticism of the photo that went viral in a London hotel, Muslim League (N) President Maryam Nawaz said that every move by Nawaz Sharif's opponents was reversed as usual.

Maryam Nawaz said that a glimpse of Nawaz Sharif would upset his opponents, while the image has pleased and encouraged the former Prime Minister's supporters. They are punished.

"They tried their best to kill Mian, but Allah saved him, they could force me into ICU and try to make pictures of my unconscious mother, so what is it difficult for them to photograph Nawaz Sharif in his house with women and girls?" If it was such a good thing, why did you hide like cowards?

                  Munir Ahmed Dar,                               Publisher & Chief Editor                               Daily "Layalpur Post"

Prof. Dato Dr. Nik Muhammad Nik Majid, my Ph.D. Agroforestry Studies, Supervisor, at the Faculty of Forestry, Univeriti Putra Malaysia delivering a Graduate seminar on "How to Write a Research project proposal for Ph. D. Forestry and M. Sc. Forestry degrees.       

Majid, Nik Muhamad, et al. “REHABILITATION OF EX-TIN MINING LAND BY AGROFORESTRY PRACTICE.” Journal of Tropical Forest Science, vol. 7, no. 1, 1994, pp. 113–127. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/43581796. Accessed 21 Apr. 2020.

Majid, N., Hashim, A., & Abdol, I. (1994). REHABILITATION OF EX-TIN MINING LAND BY AGROFORESTRY PRACTICE. Journal of Tropical Forest Science, 7(1), 113-127. Retrieved April 21, 2020, from www.jstor.org/stable/43581796

Majid, Nik Muhamad, Azizah Hashim, and Idris Abdol. "REHABILITATION OF EX-TIN MINING LAND BY AGROFORESTRY PRACTICE." Journal of Tropical Forest Science 7, no. 1 (1994): 113-27. Accessed April 21, 2020. www.jstor.org/stable/43581796.

Children in some Australian states began returning to school on Monday after an extended break due to the new coronavirus, as the country's rate of new infections continued to slow.

Students of New South Wales, the most populous state, and the northern state of Queensland began going back to school on a limited basis to lessen the risk of spreading the illness, state leaders said.

The NSW government said it has delivered thousands of litres of soap and hand sanitiser to schools, as well as personal protective equipment and temperature monitors. Class sizes will be reduced and activities will involve minimal physical contact between the students, many of whom have not attended school since mid-March.

"I know this is a huge relief for families," NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian told reporters in Sydney. "It is a huge relief for the state government because we know how important it is for students to receive that face to face teaching," she added.

Final year students, whose exams were interrupted by the virus response, would attend at least three days per week in class, Berejiklian said, with the plan to return to full-time class attendance for all students by the end of May.

NSW has suffered about 45% of the country's 6,941 confirmed cases and 97 deaths. But it has said it will begin easing some restrictions on personal movement later this week as the rate of new infections remains low.

The state recorded just one new case in the 24 hours to Monday morning, out of 13 new cases nationally.

Australia's second most populous state, Victoria, has asked parents to keep their children home if possible until the middle of the year and plans to give an update on its social distancing measures on Monday.

After giving a three-stage plan on Friday to ease restrictions on Australian domestic movement by July, state and federal officials will meet on Monday to discuss ways of dealing with the risks of crowds on public transport as businesses start to reopen, the country's chief medical officer said on the weekend.

Deputy Chief Medical Officer Nick Coatsworth said Australians would have to take responsibility for enforcing their own social distancing measures, as well as businesses and venue operators, to prevent a second wave of infections.

"A (second) wave across the country is unlikely but it's possible if we get out there and mingle too much," Coatsworth told Channel Nine Television. "We want people to get out, the shops to reopen, but they have to do it in a responsible way."

Australia has largely avoided the high COVID-19 casualty numbers of other countries after swiftly introducing nationwide stay-home orders and border closures, including closing the borders between states.

TOKYO: Japan has lifted a state of emergency imposed due to the coronavirus in 39 out of 47 prefectures, after a sharp fall in new infections.

The order still applies in Tokyo, Osaka and on the northern island of Hokkaido, where new cases are emerging daily. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Japan's rate of infection had reduced to one seventh of the country's peak.

He urged the public to be vigilant, wear masks, and keep following distancing guidance. "If possible, before 31 May, we would like to lift the state of emergency for the other regions as well," Mr Abe said.

Japan faced early criticism for its handling of a mass outbreak on the Diamond Princess cruise ship, docked off the city of Yokohama, but appears to have avoided an epidemic on the scale of those seen in the US or Russia.

There have been 16,049 confirmed infections in the country and 678 people have died with the virus, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

Doctors' warnings in mid-April that Japan's medical system could collapse under a wave of new Covid-19 cases have not come to pass.

CANTERBURRY:Thousands of businesses in New Zealand have reopened on Thursday as the country relaxes its coronavirus curbs, with some hairdressers seeing overnight queues round the block.

Shops, cafes, and public parks are all open as the country moves into Level 2 of its restrictions, described as a "safer new normal". New Zealand has reported no new cases of the virus in the past three days.

Authorities say the chance of community transmission is now very low. People are allowed to start seeing their friends and families again, with a limit of 10 people.

Professional sport is back on the menu - albeit with safety measures in place. And for those keen to let off steam after a long lockdown, gyms have reopened too.

There have been reports of crowds at shopping centres in some parts of the country, but for some a quiet catch-up on the waterfront was the first thing on their minds.

SRINAGAR (Layalpur Post): Today (Sunday) As the entire Umt Muslim Eid al-Fitr is celebrating, the Muslims of Kashmir have celebrated the religious festival in a strict military siege imposed by India.

The Occupation administration has imposed strict restrictions on Kashmir's in the vicinity of the occupied Jammu & Kashmir state area to prevent anti-India demonstrations, the Kashmir Media Service Research Section said in an analysis report released today on Eid al-Fitr.

"During Ramadan, Indian state terrorism was seen to be at a rapid pace, and during this month, Indian troops killed 25Heavily Kashmirs during 472 sieges and search operations," the report said.

At least 249 people were injured when soldiers used force during operations and peaceful anti-India demonstrations, the report said. Indian police and para-military personnel raided homes during the month of Ramadan, the report said.

People have staged anti-India demonstrations in Srinagar, Pulwama, Islamabad, Shopian, Badgam and other areas. They chanted Flick against India and in favour of independence. Indian soldiers and policemen used force against protesters at various places, resulting in clashes between forces and protesters and injuring several people.

Meanwhile, a spokesman for the party's Hurriyat Conference said in a statement issued from Srinagar today that the Kashmirs right will continue to struggle to achieve its own will. Before that, the people of occupied Kashmir watched Pakistani channels to learn about the moon's appearance last night.

It was announced that Eid al-fitr would be celebrated in Pakistan today. Similar announcements were made in Srinagar and other towns and villages.

KABAL:Afghan President Ashraf Ghani issues orders to release 2,000 Taliban prisoners. President Ashraf Ghani ordered the release of 2,000 Taliban prisoners after the Afghan government and the Taliban announced a three-day ceasefire on the occasion of Eid al-Fitr.

Afghan government's decision to release prisoners in response to the Taliban's 3-dayceasefire is a step toward Kharsgali, says afghan president’s spokesman.

On Saturday, the Taliban government in Afghanistan announced a three-day ceasefire with the Afghan government. Afghan President Ashraf Ghani also welcomed the announcement, saying the Afghan army will respect the ceasefire.

Montreal: CanadianPrime Minister Justin Trudeau called Saturday for caution and expressed concern about loosening lockdown measures in Montreal, the epicenter of Canada's coronavirus outbreak. "We need to make sure that we go progressively, and slowly and gradually on any reopening," Trudeau said, reminding reporters that he is himself a Quebecer.

"Of course, I'm worried," Trudeau said. While several Canadian provinces, including Quebec, are preparing reopening measures and a gradual revival of their economies, Trudeau stressed prudence and said that the country is not yet out of danger.

"Our focus right now is on recognizing that we are not in the recovery phase yet. We are not even fully into the restarting phase yet. We are still in the emergency phase," Trudeau said. "Being very careful, step by step, is going to be so important," he said. Quebec is the worst-hit province in Canada, with more than half of both the country's 67,000 cases of coronavirus and 4,700 deaths.

Montreal and its surroundings have suffered an elevated number of cases, especially at care homes for the elderly. Authorities in Quebec on Thursday delayed the reopening of Montreal's schools and shops for a second time, pushing the date to May 25. Canada's elderly have paid a particularly heavy price for the disease, the country's chief public health officer, Theresa Tam, said Saturday, calling the scale and impact "nothing short of a national tragedy."

She said that 20 percent of coronavirus cases in Canada were linked to long-term care homes and that 80 percent of deaths are "in seniors in these settings." "We've got to do better as a nation," she said, reiterating that issues with retirement homes should be addressed following the pandemic.

A truck packed with explosives blew up near a court in the eastern Afghan city of Gardez on Thursday, killing at least five people in an attack claimed by Taliban insurgents.

The explosion comes two days after at least 56 people were killed in attacks elsewhere in the country, including women and newborn babies, dealing a setback to peace plans in the war-ravaged nation.

“A car bomb explosion took place near a military court in Gardez city, which is a populated area. Dozens of civilians are feared to be dead and wounded,” said Tariq Arian, an interior ministry spokesman.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid in a statement said the rebel group was responsible for the attack.

Emal Khan Momand, a military spokesman in Paktia province where Gardez is located, said the attack was carried out by a truck packed with explosives. Five people were killed and 14 were wounded, he said.

Arian blamed the militant Haqqani network, which has ties to Taliban rebels and the banned Lashkar-e-Taiba. These groups rarely publicly claim responsibility for attacks.

The blast comes after gunmen attacked a maternity hospital in Kabul, killing 24 people, including new mothers and newborn babies, on Tuesday. A suicide blast claimed by the Islamic State at a funeral in eastern Nangahar on the same day killed 32.

President Ashraf Ghani condemned the attacks and said he had ordered the military to switch to offensive mode rather than the defensive stance it had adopted as the United States withdraws troops and tries to broker talks with the Taliban.

The Taliban denied any involvement in those attacks, but the government accused the group of fostering an environment in which terrorism thrives or of working with other militant groups who could have been involved, straining efforts by the United States to bring the insurgents and the Afghan government together.

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates -- Saudi Arabia announced Monday it was tripling taxes on basic goods, raising them to 15%, and cutting spending on major projects by around $26 billion as it grapples with blows from the coronavirus pandemic and low oil prices on its economy.

Saudi citizens will also lose a bonus cost-of-living allowance that had been in place since 2018, according to the country’s finance minister.

Despite efforts to diversify the economy, the kingdom continues to rely heavily on oil for revenue. Brent crude now hovers around $30 a barrel, far below the range Saudi Arabia needs to balance its budget. The kingdom has also lost revenue from the suspension of Muslim pilgrimages to the holy cities of Mecca and Medina, which were closed to visitors due to the virus.

The new measures are the most drastic yet by a major Gulf Arab oil producer since oil prices plunged by more than half in March, signalling that neighboring countries may also seek to impose higher taxes on residents this year. The United Arab Emirates said Monday it currently had no similar plans to raise taxes.

The International Monetary Fund projects that all six energy producing Gulf Arab states will be in economic recession this year.

“We are facing a crisis the world has never seen the likes of in modern history, a crisis marked by uncertainty,” Saudi finance minister and acting minister of economy and planning, Mohammed Al-Jadaan, said.

“These measures that have been undertaken today, as tough as they are, are necessary and beneficial to maintain comprehensive financial and economic stability," he said in a statement published on the state-run Saudi Press Agency.

In the first quarter of 2020, state revenues were down 22% from the same time last year, with the deficit reaching $9 billion, or 34 billion riyals. Oil revenues specifically were down 24%, compared to the same quarter last year.

On Sunday, the Saudi Energy Ministry directed Aramco to deepen production cuts and limit output to 7.5 million barrels per day in June. This comes as storage for crude nears max capacity due to lower demand for oil globally.

How WHO is re-imagining and fixing the links in the supply chains during COVID-19

WASHINGTON: The US president said the government's top infectious disease expert, Dr Anthony Fauci, would not testify in the House of Representatives but only before the Senate.

He argued this was because 'the House is a set-up. The House is a bunch of Trump haters.'

He later, said the US 'wants' and 'needs' to reopen amid the coronavirus outbreak.

WASHINGTON: The Former President Barack Obama called the United States' response to the coronavirus pandemic an "absolute chaotic disaster" and promised to campaign "as hard as I can" for former Vice President Joe Biden in a Friday call with 3,000 people who served in his administration.

A recording of the call was obtained by Yahoo News. Katie Hill,  Obama's communications director, confirmed the call to CBS News. In addressing the Trump administration's response to the global coronavirus pandemic, Obama cited concerns about division and tribalism in the country and internationally. That has contributed to an "anemic and spotty" response to the health crisis, Obama said.

While the challenge would be difficult for any government to address, it has been an "absolute chaotic disaster" in the U.S., he said. Obama blamed a "mindset of 'what's in it for me' and 'to heck with everyone else'" in President Donald Trump's administration.

Social distancing regulations in the U.S. have largely been determined by local authorities rather than the federal government. States have rolled out a patchwork of constantly changing rules that vary down to the county or city level at times.

U.S. coronavirus cases have reached about 1.3 million and deaths have topped 77,000. During the call, Obama also reacted to the Justice Department dropping its criminal case against Trump’s first national security adviser, Michael Flynn, saying he worried that the “basic understanding of rule of law is at risk.”

Obama has infrequently criticized Trump in the past. In late March, Obama appeared to take a swipe at Trump's initial skepticism of the coronavirus pandemic. "We've seen all too terribly the consequences of those who denied warnings of a pandemic," Obama tweeted March 31, without directly naming the president.

Obama weighed in on the federal response to the coronavirus outbreak in the context of warning about the impact of Trump's decision to ease up on fuel-efficiency standards the Democratic president had put in place to combat climate change.

Trump has claimed his administration's response to the pandemic saved "millions of lives," often citing moves to restrict China and Europe as successes. In the White House's response to Obama's latest remarks, press secretary Kayleigh McEnany did not mention Obama directly.

“President Trump’s coronavirus response has been unprecedented and saved American lives,” she said. “While Democrats were pursuing a sham witch hunt against President Trump, President Trump was shutting down travel from China. “While Democrats encouraged mass gatherings, President Trump was deploying PPE, ventilators, and testing across the country,” she said.

Last weekend, former President George W. Bush released a video encouraging Americans to stand up to the coronavirus pandemic that did not mention Trump, an omission that led to harsh criticism from Trump.

BEIJING: China on Monday threatened to retaliate against a US rule that tightening visa restrictions on Chinese journalists, in an escalating row after Beijing expelled more than a dozen American reporters.

Citing China's treatment of the reporters, the US Homeland Security Department issued new regulations on Friday limiting visas for Chinese journalists to a maximum 90-day stay, with the possibility to request an extension. Until now visas for Chinese journalists lasted for the duration of their employment in the United States.

"We express our strong dissatisfaction and firm opposition to this wrong action by the US side, which is an escalation of the political crackdown on Chinese media," Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said at a daily press briefing.

"We ask the US to correct its mistake immediately, otherwise China will have no other option but to take countermeasures," Zhao said, without providing more details about the possible retaliation.

The tit-for-tat actions against journalists have added to searing diplomatic tensions, with the two countries trading barbs over the coronavirus pandemic and US President Donald Trump threatening to impose fresh trade tariffs on Beijing. In February, China kicked out three journalists from The Wall Street Journal after the newspaper ran an opinion piece on the coronavirus crisis with a headline that Beijing called racist.

Weeks later, Washington curbed the number of Chinese nationals from state-run news outlets in the United States. Beijing responded in March by expelling more than a dozen American journalists from the New York Times, the Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal. Foreign journalists working in China receive one-year visas that must be renewed every year.

But in an annual report, the Foreign Correspondents´ Club of China (FCCC) said at least a dozen correspondents were issued press credentials valid for half a year or less. The report said Chinese authorities were "using visas as weapons against the foreign press like never before."

NEWYORK: Nearly eight years after he was last on the ballot, Barack Obama is emerging as a central figure in the 2020 presidential election.

Democrats are eagerly embracing Obama as a political wingman for Joe Biden, who spent two terms by his side as vice president. Obama remains the party’s most popular figure, particularly with black voters and younger Democrats, and Biden’s presidential campaign is planning for him to have a highly visible role in the months to come.

For President Donald Trump, that means an opportunity to focus the spotlight on one of his favourite political foils. In recent days, Trump and his allies have aggressively pushed conspiracy theories about Obama designed to fire up the president’s conservative base, taint Biden by association and distract from the glut of grim health and economic news from the coronavirus pandemic.

“Partisans on both sides want to make this about Obama,” said Ned Price, who served as spokesperson for Obama’s White House National Security Council.

The renewed political focus on Obama sets the stage for an election about the nation’s future that will also be about its past. As Biden looks to Obama for personal validation, he’s also running to restore some of the former president’s legacy, which has been systematically dismantled by Trump. The current president is running in part to finish that job.

Yet Trump’s anti-Obama push also frequently takes on a darker, more conspiratorial tone that goes far beyond differences in health care policy and America’s role in the world. His current focus is on the actions Obama, Biden and their national security advisers took in the closing days of their administration, as they viewed intelligence reports about Michael Flynn. Flynn had a short-lived stint as Trump’s national security adviser before being fired for lying to Vice President Mike Pence about his interactions with Russia’s ambassador to the US.

Trump’s own administration acknowledged on Wednesday that Obama advisers followed proper procedures in privately “unmasking” Flynn’s name, which was redacted in the intelligence reports for privacy reasons. Flynn ultimately pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI, though Trump’s Justice Department moved last week to drop the case against him.

Despite there being no evidence of wrongdoing by Obama, Biden or other administration officials, Trump is eagerly pushing the notion of an unspecified crime against the former president, branding it “Obamagate.” He’s being backed up by Republican allies, including Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley who took to the Senate floor this week to ask of the Flynn matter: “What did Obama and Biden know, and when did they know it?”

Trump’s zeal has sparked fears among some former Obama and Biden advisers about how far he may be willing to go in using the levers of government to push his case against them in an election year. The Justice Department is conducting an investigation into the origins of the Russia probe that ensnared Flynn and other Trump associates.

Trump’s renewed focus on Obama comes as Republicans grow increasingly anxious that the rising coronavirus death toll and cratering economy will damage the president’s reelection prospects in November. More than 84,000 Americans have died from the virus, and more than 30 million have claimed unemployment.

Biden’s campaign drew a direct connection between the president’s attacks on Obama and the twin crises battering his administration.

“It’s no surprise that the president is erratically lashing out at President Obama, desperate to distract from his own failures as commander in chief that have cost thousands of Americans their lives during this crisis,” said TJ Ducklo, a Biden campaign spokesman.

Trump’s emphasis on Obama also comes as the former president begins to emerge from a three-year period of political restraint as he prepares to embrace his role as leading surrogate for Biden. Last week, Obama told a large gathering of alumni from his administration that DOJ’s decision to drop the Flynn case put the “rule of law at risk.” He also criticised the Trump White House’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

Biden’s campaign has been eager to get Obama involved in the election, though his exact role is still forming, particularly given that the pandemic has upended the campaign’s plans for rallies and other in-person events in battleground states. The former president is also expected to campaign for Democratic House and Senate candidates across the country.

Though Obama campaigned for Democratic candidates in the 2018 midterms, he has mostly tried to avoid overt politics since leaving the White House. He’s spoken out publicly against Trump on rare occasions, frustrating many Democrats who have wanted him to be more aggressive in calling out his successor.

But the 2020 election has always loomed as the moment when Obama would step off the sidelines, and he’s told advisers he’s eager to do so. Despite his strident public neutrality during the Democratic primary, he spoke to Biden regularly and has continued to do so as the campaign moves into the general election, according to aides.

Biden’s campaign sees Obama as a clear asset as they seek to not only energise Democrats,but to also appeal to independents and more moderate Republicans who may be wary of four more years of Trump in the White House. A recent Monmouth University poll found 57 per cent of Americans say they have a favourable opinion of Obama. That includes 92pc of Democrats and 19pc of Republicans.

Obama’s favourable ratings are higher than either of the men who will be on the ballot in November. The same poll showed 41pc of Americans had a favourable opinion of Biden, and 40pc viewed Trump in a favourable light.

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