Daily "Layalpur Post"

ECOSOC chief Munir Akram warns of serious clean water shortages by 2050

UNITED NATIONS, Jul 11, 2021 (APP): The President of United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), Pakistani Ambassador Munir Akram, has warned that by 2050 more than half of the world’s population would be at risk due to water stress, and called for a multilateral response to deal with the challenge. “Desertification alone threatens the livelihoods of nearly one billion people in about 100 countries,” Ambassador Akram told a special event on Sustainable Development Goal no. 6 , which is about “clean water and sanitation for all”. It is one of 17 anti-poverty Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) established by the United Nations General Assembly in 2015.

The event was part of the ongoing high-level political forum on sustainable development (HLPF), which is being held under the auspices of ECOSOC. In his opening remarks, the ECOSOC president also said intense water scarcity might displace as many as 700 million people by 2030. The critical importance of water, he said, has been highlighted further by the coronavirus pandemic. Access to safe drinking water, adequate sanitation and hygiene have been the first line of defence against coronavirus, which is particularly an acute requirement for developing countries, especially until the vaccine becomes available to all, Ambassador Akram said.

Yet, he said, three billion people around the world — almost 40 per cent of the global population — and two out of five health care facilities, lack adequate access to hand hygiene facilities. Over the last 20 years, Ambassador Akram said the overwhelming majority of disasters, almost 90 percent, have been weather-related events. Noting that 40 percent of the world’s population lives within shared river basins, the ECOSOC chief said without effective transboundary water cooperation, the potential for threats to peace and security were ever present. “Water and climate are tied through the hydrological cycle,” he said adding, “Climate change and associated changes in the hydrological cycle will lead to biodiversity loss.”

“Lack of investment in water infrastructure leads to significant, economic, social and environmental losses,” he told the meeting. Citing the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the ECOSOC chief said the total financing needed between 2016 and 2030 for transition to a water-secure world could require additional annual investments of US $ 500 billion. Global estimates for financing this water transformation range from US $ 6.7 trillion by 2030 to
US $ 22.6 trillion by 2050. Investments were needed not only to build new infrastructure but also to maintain and operate existing facilities, the Pakistani envoy said, warning that failure to improve water resource management could diminish national growth rates by as much as six percent of by 2050.

“While the present sources of international finance and investment are important, governments must explore new and innovative approaches for investment in environmentally sustainable water and sanitation-related infrastructure,” Ambassador Akram said. In this regard, he said, the UN could help the developing countries in identifying, formulating and offering reliable projects for water and other infrastructures essential to financing through public and private partnership.

India, three other countries’ bid to wreck UNSC reform process likely to fail

UNITED NATIONS, Jun 19, 2021 (APP): A desperate move by the aspirants of permanent seats on the United Nations Security Council India, Brazil, Germany and Japan to scuttle the UN process to reform the 15-member body appears to be heading toward a collapse. The move by the four countries, known as the Group of Four, followed their consistent failure to mobilize enough support among U.N.’s 193 members to make a formal bid to secure seats for themselves at UN’s high table, reflecting significant opposition to adding more permanent members to the council.

The Italy/Pakistan-led Uniting for Consensus (UfC) has been in the forefront of opposing the enlargement of “centres of privilege” on the ground that the Security Council would become dysfunctional. Instead, UfC advocates for more elected (non-permanent) seats to make it more effective, representative and accountable. The Security Council, which is responsible for maintaining international peace and security, has 15 seats. It includes 10 non-permanent members elected for two-year terms that come from all regions of the world, and there are five permanent members with veto power whose support is essential for any reform to be adopted the U.S., Russia, China, Britain and France.

The process to restructure the Security Council is being conducted since 2009 in the Intergovernmental Negotiations (IGN), a forum established by the UN General Assembly, which operates on the basis of consensus. The negotiations have made little progress because of G-4’s refusal to show any flexibility. The new situation arose on Wednesday when the General Assembly President, Volkan Bozkir, circulated an oral proposal to “ rollover” the IGN process on Security Council reform to the next Assembly session and forward the paper on elements of “convergence and divergence”, based on the negotiations held during the current session, along with the more comprehensive “Framework Document” of 2015 which lists the positions of various groups and countries.

As in previous years, the assembly president’s proposal was expected to be adopted by consensus. However, it is learned, the G-4 submitted amendments to the proposal to make the elements paper, which was prepared by IGN’s co-chairs, the sole basis for future negotiations. Throughout the past year, India and the other G-4 countries have insisted that negotiations should be held on a single text. This call for “text based negotiations” was not accepted in the IGN process, having been opposed by a wide majority of member states, including the African, Arab and UfC groups in the General Assembly. China and Russia also spoke out against the G-4 amendments.

In a display of its desperation, some of the G-4 countries understood to have made personal attacks on the assembly president, who hails from Turkey, and this factor further alienated the assembly’s members. Some diplomats at the UN believe that the G-4’s objective is to do away the current intergovernmental negotiating process on Security Council reform so that the next General Assembly president, Abdulla Shahid pf Maldives, whose election was actively promoted by India and other G-4 members, can start a new process aligned with their objectives to secure support for their persistent bid for permanent membership.

During Wednesday’s IGN meeting, Pakistan’s Ambassador to the UN, Munir Akram, stoutly defended President Bozkir’s proposal, saying it was consistent with precedent – in the past similar decisions have been adopted. “It is therefore most regrettable that some delegations have chosen to continue their divisive efforts in the IGN, to carry them forward into the General Assembly,” he said, saying they were promoting partisan objectives. “These are not procedural amendments; they touch on substance in this process of the IGN itself; and this process of the IGN should not be reopened since we have the co-chairs’ paper.”

Ambassador Akram called on G-4 to withdraw their amendments and not divide the assembly further, saying they are ultra-vires.“They (the amendments) do not enjoy wide support and if we are pushed to a vote, it will erode the objective of Security Council reform, and set it back by many years,” the Pakistani envoy said. “It will not give new life to the process; it will be its death knell,” he added. The issue will come considered again next Tuesday in the General Assembly when diplomatic observers expect G-4’s bid to fail. Meanwhile, hectic diplomacy is reported to be underway to avoid continuation of the bruising confrontation on the issue.

China calls for orderly withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan

China on Thursday called on the US to withdraw its troops in a responsible and orderly manner to ensure smooth transition in Afghanistan.

BEIJING, April 15, 2021(APP):China on Thursday called on the US to withdraw its troops in a responsible and orderly manner to ensure smooth transition in Afghanistan and to prevent further violence following US President Biden’s announcement of American troops withdrawal before September 11. The current security situation in Afghanistan is still complex and grim and the problem of terrorism is far from being solved,Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Zhao Lijian said during his briefing held here at International Press Center (IPC). He remarked that China’s position over Afghanistan issue is consistent and clear, adding, Foreign troops stationed in Afghanistan should withdraw in a responsible and orderly manner to ensure a smooth transition in Afghanistan and to avoid terrorist forces from taking advantage of chaos,he added.

Terming the US as the biggest external factor affecting the issue of Afghanistan, he said, The relevant decisions and actions of the US should fully respect the sovereignty, independence of and the territorial integrity of Afghanistan. He said, It must take full responsibility for preserving the outcomes of Afghanistan peaceful construction and reconstruction and accommodate legitimate security concerns of the countries in the region. On President Biden statement that he wants to withdraw troops from Afghanistan to focus on the threats posed by China, he said, the US side links its withdrawal from Afghanistan to China challenge which is detrimental to mutual trust between the two countries and it is not conducive to cooperation and coordination between the two countries on international and regional issues.

We have to emphasise that the political solution to Afghanistan and early realisation of peace and stability in the country and fight against terrorism are in the common interest of all parties concerned including China and the US and are also common aspiration of the international community,he added. Zhao Lijian said, the Chinese side will continue to make communication and cooperation with relevant parties in this regard and play constructive role in realising long term stability in Afghanistan.

Responding to a question on China taking part in Afghan peace conference to be held in Istanbul from April 24 to May 4, he said, China has indeed received the invitation to solve the Afghan issue. He said the Afghan peace conference will require international community’s help and support and added, China supports any efforts to promote the process of peaceful reconciliation and we are working with the relevant parties and keeping communication with relevant parties on this meeting. On April 14 US President Joe Biden had announced that the US will withdraw American troops from Afghanistan before the 20th anniversary of September, 11.

Syrian war ‘one of darkest chapters’ in recent history: UN envoy

DAMASCUS: The United Nations’ special envoy for Syria expressed “profound regret” that the organization has not yet been able to broker an end to the conflict that turned a decade old Monday, saying the tragedy will go down as one of the darkest chapters in recent history.

UNITED NATIONS, Mar 16, 2021 (APP,LPP): The United Nations’ special envoy for Syria expressed “profound regret” that the organization has not yet been able to broker an end to the conflict that turned a decade old Monday, saying the tragedy will go down as one of the darkest chapters in recent history. “The Syrian conflict has now raged for 10 years roughly the length of (the First World War and Second World War) combined,” Geir Pedersen, Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for Syria, told UN Security Council via video-link, while calling for new, creative international diplomacy.

The UN envoy said Syrians had been “injured, maimed and killed in every way imaginable their corpses even desecrated”, with others thrown into prisons or abducted, tortured, “paraded in cages and ransomed”. He shone a light on displaced Syrians again and again being forced to sleep outside in “baking heat and freezing snow”, as homes, hospitals and schools are destroyed by airstrikes, barrel bombs and rocket fire. He said civilians had been “denied humanitarian assistance, sometimes under sieges in which perpetrators deliberately starved the population…(and) faced human rights violations on an enormous and systematic scale.

“Syrian women have faced conflict-related sexual violence from all parties and the rise in early and forced marriages”, he added. Meanwhile, citizens are forced to cope with the COVID-19 pandemic with “a depleted and devastated health system”, the UN envoy continued, noting that most children have never lived a day without war and “many have gone without food, medicine or education, or been detained, recruited for battle, injured or killed”. Over the past decade, Syrians have seen no compromise between incompatible political visions, or any real progress in talks between the government and opposition to reconcile them, according to Pedersen.

Moreover, those responsible for actions that “may amount to crimes against humanity or war crimes” enjoy near-total impunity, which not only undermines a peace agreement but perpetuates the “living nightmare” that has been life in Syria, he said. “All Syrians have seen that the international community has been divided, trapped in geopolitical competition, caught in their own competing narratives, and often focussed on supporting one side (or other) in the conflict.” The world has not succeeded in helping deliver peace for ordinary civilians, he said, underscoring the need to find a way around a “you first” syndrome that “characterizes much diplomacy” there.

“Right now, there are demands on all sides but little movement on any side”, he warned. A health worker talks to displaced children about their hopes and worries in Atma camp, Syria. To move forward, the UN envoy stressed that the Syrian Government, opposition and key international players must identify not only what they hope to achieve, but how they can advance resolution 2254, which calls for a ceasefire and political settlement in the country. “At a time when there are so many pressing challenges, do not lose sight of the fundamental importance of a peaceful resolution of the Syrian conflict”, he said. “A political solution is the only way out – and I am convinced that it is possible”.

UN Special Envoy slams ‘ongoing brutality’ in Myanmar as dozens reported killed over weekend

NEW YORK: The UN Special Envoy on Myanmar has strongly condemned “continuing bloodshed” in the Southeast Asian country, as the military defies international calls, including from the Security Council, for restraint, dialogue and full respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms.

UNITED NATIONS, Mar 15, 2021(APP):The UN Special Envoy on Myanmar has strongly condemned “continuing bloodshed” in the Southeast Asian country, as the military defies international calls, including from the Security Council, for restraint, dialogue and full respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. Over the weekend, violence continued to rage across the south-east Asian nation and, according to media reports, dozens of people lost their lives, including 38 on Sunday alone.

In a statement, Special Envoy Christine Schraner Burgener said she “personally heard from contacts in Myanmar heartbreaking accounts of killings, mistreatment of demonstrators and torture of prisoners over the weekend.” “The ongoing brutality, including against medical personnel and destruction of public infrastructure, severely undermines any prospects for peace and stability.” Ms. Schraner Burgener also underlined that the international community, including regional actors must come together “in solidarity with the people of Myanmar and their democratic aspirations.”

The special envoy said she remains in close contact with regional leaders and Security Council members and relies on their continued support towards her efforts to calm the situation. The UN independent human rights expert on Myanmar also reiterated his appeal to UN Member States “to act” to address the crisis. Special Rapporteur Tom Andrews said on Monday, he was “heartbroken” and “outraged” at the reports of the largest number of protesters “murdered by Myanmar security forces” in a single day.“Junta leaders don’t belong in power, they belong behind bars. Their supply of cash and weapons must be cut now.”

Andrews, last week, called on the international community for a united global response in Myanmar’s hour of need, warning that the junta’s brutal response to peaceful protests likely met the legal threshold for crimes against humanity. Thus far, more than 120 protesters – including women and children – have reportedly been killed during the crackdown, including many who were shot by live ammunition, according to media reports. Hundreds more have been wounded, and over 2,000 arbitrarily arrested and detained, the media reports added.

Among those arbitrarily detained are an estimated 700 children, according to the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF). In a statement on Facebook, it said that many of those arrested or detained are being held incommunicado, without access to legal counsel, in violation of their human rights. “UNICEF condemns in the strongest possible terms the use of force against children, including the use of live ammunition, and the arbitrary detention of children, and continues to call on security forces to immediately refrain from violence and to keep children and young people out of harm’s way”, the agency stressed.

The UN Country Team (UNCT) in Myanmar also denounced the violence, calling for those responsible to be brought to justice. “Another tragic day for Myanmar with reports of numerous people killed in Mandalay and elsewhere by security forces”, the Country Team said in a Tweet, late on Saturday (local time). “The UN has made clear that such violence is unacceptable and those responsible should be held to account.”

New U.S. push for peace in Afghanistan splits government, not moving towards consensus: Report

NEW YORK: The United States’ new push for a political settlement to end two decades of conflict in Afghanistan is “exposing widening fault lines” in the Kabul government, with President Ashraf Ghani spokespersons opposing the proposal while his main rival, Abdullah Abdullah, welcomed it.

NEW YORK, Mar 14, 2021(APP): The United States’ new push for a political settlement to end two decades of conflict in Afghanistan is “exposing widening fault lines” in the Kabul government, with President Ashraf Ghani spokespersons opposing the proposal while his main rival, Abdullah Abdullah, welcomed it, The Washington Post reported Sunday. In a report from Doha, the venue of now stalled talks between representatives of the Afghan government and the Taliban, the newspaper said that even the two parties within the government “were not signaling moves towards consensus”.

The new approach nicknamed “moonshot” by some U.S. officials referring to its lofty ambitions is an attempt to reach a peace deal within weeks by applying unprecedented pressure to negotiating teams on both sides of the conflict, the Taliban and the Kabul government, it said. The former Trump administration’s focus was on the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Afghanistan, it was pointed out. The Biden team is applying “greater” pressure on the diplomatic front. As already reported, U.S.-Afghanistan policy is under review, and the U.S. special envoy, Zalmay Khalilzad, was on a regional tour last month to spearhead the new approach.

The Post quoted unnamed Afghan officials warning that the campaign could backfire, by deadlocking talks, undermining the elected government and plunging the country deeper into violence. The Afghan officials, spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter with journalists, the report said. The Afghan officials, it said, acknowledged that current levels of violence and the political stalemate in Doha are unacceptable, but disagreed with the Biden administration’s attempted reset.

A spokesman for Ghani’s office rejected the suggestion that the president is under greater pressure now from Washington to reach a peace deal. “If there is any pressure that we feel, it is the pressure from the Afghan people who have been terrorized” since the Soviet invasion in 1979, Fatima Murchal, Ghani’s deputy spokesperson, was quoted as saying. Taliban representatives in Doha also dismissed the implication that the change in approach would have an effect on the deadlocked talks.“Pressure from the United States never works,” Mohammad Naeem, the spokesman for the Taliban’s political office, was cited as saying. “We know this because they have already tried all forms of pressure for 20 years.”

Naeem said the group does not expect the United States to walk away from the 2020 deal, but if it does, “there will be problems, and they will be responsible for that.”
Meanwhile, the spokesman for Abdullah, the chairman of the High Council for National Reconciliation, called the new U.S. proposal a “positive starting point to boost the peace process and the peace talks.” Abdullah and other political rivals of Ghani’s government have the most to gain from the establishment of an interim government, one of the U.S. draft’s key elements. “We do not consider the proposal a setback or a step to destabilize the country. Rather, it is a step forward,” Spokesman Mujib Rahman Rahimi was quoted as saying.

Rustam Shah Mohmand, a former Pakistani ambassador to Afghanistan, who was also interviewed, supported the new approach from the United States, but warned that some of the specifics outlined in the U.S. draft peace deal such as detailing the structure of the interim government were a potential “distraction” that “could make matters more complicated.” Afghanistan is mired in one of the deadliest conflicts in the world. Last year, violence killed more than 3,000 civilians and wounded nearly 5,800, according to a United Nations annual report. Those numbers represented a drop in overall civilian casualties compared with the year prior, but U.N. data showed that, as the year wore on, deaths began reaching record levels.

“Ask anyone, and they will tell you a story about losing a son or a husband or a father,” Ihsanullah Sediq, a peace activist in Ghazni province, one of the country’s most volatile, was quoted as saying. Sediq, also a member of a conservative, religious Afghan political party, said, “From a humanitarian view, it’s not acceptable for this war to continue.” “The only way to find an end to this war is to create a new political environment, whatever you want to call it,” he said. “And it must come with international pressure. Because without it, the leaders in Kabul will not tolerate each other for even just a single week.”

China saving lives globally amid COVID-19 Pandemic

BEIJING (APP): The coronavirus pandemic has shattered the economies of many countries around the world.

BEIJING, March 9, 2021(APP): The coronavirus pandemic has shattered the economies of many countries around the world. In such circumstances, the world needs a success story to assure that the virus is containable and Covid-19 can be curbed. China introduced the world’s first coronavirus lockdown in Wuhan city, and succeeded in containing the spread of the virus. In early 2020, when several developing countries were struggling to acquire masks, corona test kits and other necessary equipment for protection, China extended aid and support to them in good will. Pakistan was one of the countries that received adequate assistance from China at the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic.

As the race to produce Covid-19 vaccines started, Sinopharm was amongst the leading firms to successfully develop and conduct clinical trials. China has developed several vaccines and now four distinct brands of them are available for local populations and abroad. China has shown generosity and has taken lead by its anti-epidemic cooperation with the rest of the world. “China has been promoting vaccines as a global public good and improving its accessibility and affordability in developing countries,” Zhang Yesui, spokesperson for the fourth session of the 13th National People’s Congress was quoted as saying, China Economic Net (CEN) reported on Tuesday.

China has provided vaccine assistance to over 69 countries and has promised to provide 10 million doses of domestic vaccines to the COVAX initiative to meet the urgent needs of developing countries. According to Zhang Yesui, over 40 countries have imported or are in talks to import vaccines from China, most of which are developing nations. Pakistan received its first doses of the coronavirus vaccines in February when China donated half-a-million Sinopharm vaccines to the country. At present, the frontline healthcare workers are receiving the vaccines while people above the age of 60 will start receiving the jabs from March 10.

Beijing has also encouraged Chinese enterprises to cooperate with relevant countries in vaccine research, development and production. In September 2020, Pakistan started Phase III trials of CanSino vaccine developed by CanSino Biologic Company of China. Around 18,000 volunteers took part in the trials that concluded successfully and now the Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan (DRAP) has approved the vaccines for emergency use in the country.

Pakistan also expects technology transfer from China for the production of Cansino vaccine in the future. According to Zhang Yesui, concrete efforts from the global community are needed for the promotion of equitable distribution and use of vaccines and to ensure that safe and effective vaccines are available and affordable to developing countries. The baseless claim that China exports Covid-19 vaccines to expand geopolitical influence is nothing else but narrow-mindedness.

Global representation of women in Parliament reaches ‘all-time high’: Report

LYALLPUR CITY: Ahead of International Women’s Day on Monday, the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU), a U.N. partner, has said that the global representation of women in Parliament reached a record high in 2020, but progress in this regard is “still excruciatingly slow”.

LYALLPUR CITY, Mar 07, 2021(APP): Ahead of International Women’s Day on Monday, the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU), a U.N. partner, has said that the global representation of women in Parliament reached a record high in 2020, but progress in this regard is “still excruciatingly slow”. “It gives me great pleasure to announce that for the first time, women now account for more than a quarter of parliamentarians worldwide”, Martin Chungong of IPU, the global organization of national parliaments, said in launching its latest report at the UN Office in Geneva. “The global average of women in parliament has now reached 25.5 per cent,” he said.

The IPU has been tracking women’s participation in parliament for decades, allowing it to measure progress and setbacks. “While we celebrate and welcome this all-time high, we feel that progress is painstakingly, or even excruciatingly, slow”, Chungong said. “At the current rate, it will take another 50 years before we can achieve gender parity in parliament. And of course, we all agree that this is not tenable, it’s not acceptable”. Following elections in 2020, the global proportion of women in parliament increased by 0.6 points when compared with the previous year.

The IPU chief singled out Rwanda, Cuba and the United Arab Emirates for having achieved gender parity, with women accounting for 50 per cent or more parliamentary seats. Referring to Rwanda as a role model for women’s participation in government, Chungong said, “we have seen evidence that where countries have come out of conflict and have had the opportunity to re-found the foundations of society or the legal framework of society, there is a greater chance of promoting gender equality, because this is something that has been articulated at the international level and it’s an opportunity for the society as a whole to sit down and say ‘this is what we want in the constitution’”.

The IPU advocates for well-designed quotas as the key to progress, as evidenced by elections held in 2020. Electoral gender quotas were applied in 25 of the 57 countries that had parliamentary renewals last year. On average, parliaments with quotas elected nearly 12 per cent more women to single and lower chambers, and 7.4 per cent more women to upper chambers. “Where women are involved in lawmaking on specific issues, the outcomes are better in terms of health care, in terms of the way even parliaments are functioning, making parliaments more gender sensitive”, the IPU Secretary-General said.

Though progress was reported in all regions, the Americas were again on top in 2020, with women making up 32.4 per cent of MPs. In Chile, Colombia and Ecuador, the percentage is higher than average. In Sub-Saharan Africa, Mali and Niger made significant gains in women’s representation, despite security challenges. The IPU said these countries are testament to the fact that women’s role in transition processes is key to their political empowerment. The proportion of women in parliament is lowest in the Middle East and North Africa region, with 17.8 per cent on average.

With the exception of New Zealand, the number of women MPs in the Pacific remained consistently low or entirely absent in 2020. The “Women in Parliament” report shows that the COVID-19 pandemic also influenced elections and campaigning last year. “The COVID pandemic has had a negative impact on elections, in some countries those elections were postponed”, Chungong said. “In others, in some 50 countries where elections took place, we saw that women faced all manners of impediments as a result of the pandemic that exacerbated existing gender imbalances in politics”.

The IPU said online violence against women has become even more widespread, threatening women’s participation in public life. However, the shift to remote, technology-driven parliamentary practices may have a potentially positive long-term impact for women in parliament.

Pakistan calls for intensifying push for UN probe into Indian atrocities in Kashmir

GENEVA: (1)-“Failure to hold India accountable for human rights abuses in IIOJ&K will erode the credibility of this Council, its members, and the global human rights agenda,” Ambassador Khalil Hashmi, Pakistan’s permanent representative to the UN in Geneva, said in the 47-member body’s general debate. (2)-united Nations Human Rights commissioner Michele Bachelet said they were continuing to monitor the situation in the Indian occupied Kashmir. She said restrictions on communications and clampdowns on civil society activists were “a matter of concern”.

GENEVA, March 3, 2021 (APP): Pakistan has urged the UN Human Rights Council to step up efforts to get access for independent observers into Illegally-Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJ&K) to conduct an impartial investigation into reports of multiple violations of human rights in the disputed territory. “Failure to hold India accountable for human rights abuses in IIOJ&K will erode the credibility of this Council, its members, and the global human rights agenda,” Ambassador Khalil Hashmi, Pakistan’s permanent representative to the UN in Geneva, said in the 47-member body’s general debate.

At the outset, the Pakistani envoy thanked the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, for voicing concern over the rights situation in occupied Kashmir which, he said, was highlighted by numerous reports by global media, independent NGOs and UN human rights machinery. Just last week, he said the ‘UN Mandate Holders’ (independent rights experts) warned about continuing demographic changes in IIOJ&K on religious and ethnic basis, as over 3 million illegal citizenship certificates have been issued to non-Kashmiris.

Earlier this week, Ambassador Hashmi pointed out, another group of UN experts termed attacks by Indian forces against Kashmiri human right defenders and journalists as a “pattern of silencing independent reporting through the threat of criminal sanction”. Last year, he added, the UN Experts had characterized the grim human rights situation in IIOJ&K as “in a free fall” and called on the international community to “step up”. “India continues to use torture and brute force, including pellet guns and inflict collective punishments through house demolitions as well as cordon-and-search operations in IIOJ&K.”

Over a thousand Kashmiri civilians are illegally imprisoned since August 2019, the Pakistani envoy said, adding that hundreds of habeas corpus petitions were pending before Indian courts. Armed with draconian laws, facilitated by a pliant judiciary acting as a veritable arm of occupation and oppression, he said Indian forces continued to act with absolute impunity. Pointing out that IIOJ&K has no civilian government since 2016, Ambassador Hashmi said that even the thin veneer of autonomy and rule of law now stood effaced.

“Indian military and the deep state rule the occupied territory with a ‘license to kill’ any Kashmiri daring dissent. “Such gross, systematic and continuing violations meet all the elements of objective criteria for a human rights situation warranting the Council’s attention and triggering its ‘prevention mandate'”, he said of the procedure to push for access for independent observers, accountability of perpetrators, and establishment of a commission of inquiry.

“Countries endorsing objective criteria and advocating prevention mandate cannot remain silent on Kashmir because doing so will further embolden India to intensify its state-directed repression against Kashmiri civilians,” the Pakistani envoy said. “Continued silence will also discredit the lofty human rights principles that countries claim to uphold”. United Nations Human Rights commissioner Michele Bachelet said they were continuing to monitor the situation in the Indian occupied Kashmir. She said restrictions on communications and clampdowns on civil society activists were “a matter of concern”.

She said that despite restoration of the 4G access for the first time since August 2019 in the occupied Kashmir, the “communications blockade has seriously hampered civic participation, as well as business, livelihoods, education, and access to health-care and medical information”. “Raids against human rights defenders in October and November exemplify the continued restrictions on civil society, and resulting impact on the rights of the people of Kashmir to impart and receive information, and to engage in free, open debate on Government policies affecting them,” Michele Bachelet said.

China urges relevant sides, world community for political settlement of Afghanistan

BEIJING: China said that situation in Afghanistan was still severe and complex and called upon the relevant sides and international community to deal with the peace process in Afghanistan in a responsible and constructive manner and work for political settlement for early peace and solidarity in that country.

BEIJING, Mar 1, 2021(APP): China on Monday said that situation in Afghanistan was still severe and complex and called upon the relevant sides and international community to deal with the peace process in Afghanistan in a responsible and constructive manner and work for political settlement for early peace and solidarity in that country. “Now the situation is still severe and complex, and the intra Afghan talks are going forward to substantial negotiations. We believe the relevant sides and international community should deal with it in a responsible and constructive manner and work for political settlement for the early realization of peace, solidarity and cooperation of Afghanistan,” Chinese Foreign Ministry’s Spokesperson Wang Wenbin said during his regular briefing held here.

He said that the Chinese side noticed the implementation of the peace agreement between the US and Taliban and the advance of the intra Afghan talks and also notice the relevant sides and the internationals concerns on the Afghan situation. “We support the Afghan led, Afghan owned inclusive, extensive and peaceful reconciliation process,” he added. The spokesperson said that the Chinese side would continue respecting the will of all relevant sides, take an impartial stance and continue to be supporter, mediator and the convenience provider of this process, and “we will continue playing constructive role in this regard.”

In response to a question on the report of China’s involvement in hacking India’s pier grid, he firmly opposed and rejected the report and said, “China is a staunch upholder of cyber security. We firmly oppose and fight any kind of cyber-attacks.” He pointed out that it is hard to track the origin of the cyber-attacks, adding, “You cannot make wanton guesses or smear a specific country without any proof. This is irresponsible and ill intentioned. China firmly opposes such behaviour.”

Pakistani political group calls for implementation of UN resolutions to resolve Kashmir dispute

NEW YORK:A prominent political group of Pakistani-American activists has urged the United States government to push for the implementation of United Nations resolutions that grant the Kashmiri people the right to decide their future through a UN-sponsored plebiscite.

NEW YORK, Mar 01, 2021(APP): A prominent political group of Pakistani-American activists has urged the United States government to push for the implementation of United Nations resolutions that grant the Kashmiri people the right to decide their future through a UN-sponsored plebiscite. The American Pakistani Public Affairs Committee (APPAC), in a resolution, also called on the Biden administration and the US Congress to form a bipartisan committee of congressional representatives to investigate the human rights violations in the disputed state and take steps to end the suffering of the people of Indian illegally Occupied Jammu & Kashmir (IIOJK). Headed by Dr Ijaz Ahmad, the aim of the New York-based APPAC is to elevate the status of Pakistani-Americans, promote better relations between the US and Pakistan by encouraging their full participation in the political system, and to work for interfaith harmony.

The resolution was also signed by Dr Mahmood Alam, Professor Faizan Haq, Dr Tanveer Mir, Dr Faisal Shah and Attorney Aisha U-Kiu. According to the resolution, the annexation of Jammu & Kashmir by Indian Prime Minister Modi’s right wing extremist regime on August 5, 2019, was a violation of the UN Security Council resolutions, undermined the world peace and created civil unrest in the region. The resolution also urges the US, as a permanent member of UN Security Council, to use its influence with the Indian government to demilitarize the disputed state and to end the collective punishment of the Kashmiri people, including rape, civilian crackdowns, closures of schools and healthcare facilities, and internet blackouts.

Israel, Bahrain leaders discuss Iran, possible vaccine plant in Israel

JERUSALEM: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Bahrain’s Crown Prince Sheikh Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa on Thursday discussed Iran and the possible involvement of the Gulf state in establishing a vaccine plant in Israel, the two countries said.

JERUSALEM, Feb. 25, 2021: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Bahrain’s Crown Prince Sheikh Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa on Thursday discussed Iran and the possible involvement of the Gulf state in establishing a vaccine plant in Israel, the two countries said.  Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates formalised ties with Israel on Sept. 15 in part over shared concerns about Iran, in a deal forged by former US President Donald Trump. Trump withdrew from a 2015 nuclear deal between Tehran and world powers, a move praised by Israel which has objected to the accord. His successor, President Joe Biden, wants to rejoin the deal. 

But in the week since Washington offered to talk with Tehran about reviving the nuclear deal, Iran has curbed UN monitoring and threatened to boost its uranium enrichment. Tehran denies it is seeking nuclear weapons. An Israeli official said on Tuesday that Israel hopes to prevent personal tension between Netanyahu, who is seeking re-election on March 23, and Biden over their differences on Iran policy by delegating talks on the topic to their senior staff. Netanyahu and Khalifa both released statements about their telephone call on Thursday but only the Bahraini announcement mentioned Iran. 

Their conversation stressed the importance for the “countries of the region to take part in any talks about Iran’s nuclear file,” the kingdom’s state media office said on Twitter. Netanyahu’s office said he spoke with Khalifa about visiting Bahrain once coronavirus restrictions would allow it. “The Bahraini regent also stated that he was interested in examining the possibility of Bahrain joining an investment in a vaccine manufacturing plant that is planned to be established in Israel together with other countries,” the statement said. Netanyahu said on Wednesday he was in talks with the heads of Pfizer and Moderna to open facilities in Israel. Neither company responded to Reuters requests for comment. Israel has been importing Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna Inc Covid-19 vaccines. Israel expects trade with Bahrain to be around $220 million in 2021, not including possible defence and tourism deals. 

lONDON:Broadsheet ends up paying £20,000 to Sharifs

LONDON: Broadsheet LLC, the UK-based asset recovery firm, has paid £20,000 to the family of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif after withdrawing its claim over the family’s Avenfield property in London, reports said on Tuesday.

LONDON, Feb. 24, 2021:Broadsheet LLC, the UK-based asset recovery firm, has paid £20,000 to the family of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif after withdrawing its claim over the family’s Avenfield property in London, reports said on Tuesday. The firm made the payment to the Sharifs for the settlement of the family’s legal costs after having withdrawn the attachment application from the London High Court for the seizure and sale of four Avenfield apartments in the Broadsheet vs Pakistan/National Accountability Bureau (NAB) case.

According to a private TV channel, lawyers acting for the Sharif family confirmed that the payment had been received in their bank account. Broadsheet’s lawyers also confirmed making the payment, the report added. Broadsheet was hired by Pakistan in 1999 to trace and recover assets of Sharif, his family members and around 170 other Pakistanis. On 19 June 2020, the company started the process in the London High Court for the recovery of money awarded through two court judgments. Before starting the attachment process, Broadsheet had obtained arbitration awards from the Court of Arbitration against Pakistan/NAB for breach of contract and damages to the tune of $28.7 million.

Commenting on the development, Maryam Nawaz, daughter of Nawaz Sharif and Vice President of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), termed the payment by Broadsheet “another hard slap in the face of the clique of liars and mudslingers”. “Broadsheet had to pay Rs4.5 million to the lawyers of Nawaz Sharif for raising questions about the London flats and then running away from the court,” she tweeted. “One ends up suffering such consequences in the game of lies and deceit. Any shame?”

In another tweet, she retorted that government authorities “had gone to catch corruption but got themselves out of the mess by paying Rs4.5m”. She also said that Broadsheet had been humiliated for its “false allegations” in court. “The accountability of those people remains who kept squandering the Pakistani nation’s money in the war of their personal ego, those who used to meet Broadsheet officials and ask for their share. All facts will become apparent to the nation now.”

UN appeals for rescue of Rohingya refugees adrift in Andaman Sea

COX'S BAZAR, Bangladesh. The UN refugee agency on Monday called for immediate efforts to search and rescue a group of Rohingya refugees, who have been adrift on the Andaman Sea for over a week.

UNITED NATIONS, Feb 22, 2021(APP): The UN refugee agency on Monday called for immediate efforts to search and rescue a group of Rohingya refugees, who have been adrift on the Andaman Sea for over a week. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said it had received reports of an unconfirmed number of Rohingya refugees aboard a vessel in distress as of Saturday evening. The refugees apparently departed from Cox’s Bazar and Teknaf in Bangladesh about 10 days ago. “In the absence of precise information as to the refugees’ location, we have alerted the authorities of the relevant maritime states of these reports and appealed for their swift assistance, should the vessel be found in their area of responsibility for search and rescue.

Immediate action is needed to save lives and prevent further tragedy, ” Indrika Ratwatte, Director of UNHCR Regional Bureau for Asia and the Pacific, located in Bangkok, said in statement. Refugees have reported that the vessel has been out of food and water for several days now, and that many of the passengers are ill, it added. “Many are in a highly vulnerable condition and are apparently suffering from extreme dehydration. We understand that a number of refugees have already lost their lives, and that fatalities have risen over the past 24 hours”, Ratwatte added. The Andaman Sea is a body of water in the Indian Ocean. It lies to the southeast of Bay of Bengal, south of Myanmar, west of Thailand and east of India’s Andaman and Nicobar Islands.

The UNHCR official appealed to all governments in deploy their search and rescue capacities and promptly disembark those in distress, stressing that “as always, saving lives must be the priority”. “In line with international obligations under the law of the sea and longstanding maritime traditions, the duty to rescue persons in distress at sea should be upheld, irrespective of nationality or legal status”, he urged. UNHCR stands ready to support governments across the region in providing any necessary humanitarian assistance and quarantine measures in the coming days for those disembarked, in line with public health protocols, Ratwatte said.

“The fact that refugees and migrants continue to undertake fatal journeys accentuates the need for immediate and collective regional response to search, rescue and disembarkation”, he added. Several hundred people are reported to have perished trying to cross the Andaman Sea, a journey once dubbed as “three times more deadly” than in the Mediterranean, due to starvation, dehydration, debilitating diseases, people being thrown overboard alive, or denied life-saving care and support. The complex Rohingya refugee crisis erupted in August 2017, following attacks on remote police outposts in western Myanmar by armed groups alleged to belong to the community.

These were followed by systematic counter attacks against the minority, mainly Muslim, Rohingya, which human rights groups, including senior UN officials, have said amounted to ethnic cleansing. In the weeks that followed, over 700,000 Rohingya – the majority of them children, women and the elderly – fled their homes for safety in Bangladesh, with little more than the clothes on their backs. Prior to the mass exodus, well over 200,000 Rohingya refugees were sheltering in Bangladesh as a result of earlier displacements from Myanmar.

China’s entrepreneurs’ alliance calls for further enhancing exchanges between women, youth

In pursuit of further expanding the existing people-to-people bonds that exist between China and Pakistan, a Chinese entrepreneurs association has stressed for enhancing contacts and exchanges between women, youth, sports, cultural figures and bodies.

BEIJING, Feb 21, 2021 (APP): In pursuit of further expanding the existing people-to-people bonds that exist between China and Pakistan, a Chinese entrepreneurs association has stressed for enhancing contacts and exchanges between women, youth, sports, cultural figures and bodies. The two countries enjoy unique friendship and all weather strategic cooperative partnership. However, these bonds could further be expanded in the areas of education, people to people contacts and exchanges particularly between the women and youth. These views were expressed by Zhang Na, Vice President of the Youth Committee of Entrepreneurs Association in an interview here on Sunday.

Zhang Na, who has long been eager to contribute to bringing China closer to the rest of the world, is determined to play to her strengths to further enhance people to people contacts and cultural bonds between China and Pakistan. This year marks the 70th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and Pakistan, and she intends to invite Pakistani women and youth, so that they will have more understanding for China. In March 2020, when the Covid-19 epidemic was initially brought under control in China, Zhang Na began to pay attention to help in the efforts of prevention and control of the pandemic abroad.

She and a few like-minded friends ran around together, raised money from various sides, and actively contributed China’s strength to the fight against the epidemic in various countries. So far, they have donated batches of supplies to ten countries, including Pakistan, Myanmar, Bahrain, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Ethiopia, Tanzania, Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Albania. For Pakistan, Zhang Na says she wants to play her role in bringing closer people of two countries, adding, “Our two countries are supporting each other and stood shoulder to should through thick and thin during last seven decades.”

She remarked that China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) was flagship projects of the Belt and Road Initiative launched by President Xi Jinping. China is cooperating with Pakistan and providing economic assistance under the corridor. “There is a need to also enhance interaction between the people of two countries particularly the women who have excelled in their respective fields,” she added. After learning that Pakistan was hit by the Covid-19 outbreak, Zhang Na felt that she should help the local people and develop the traditional friendship between China and Pakistan and the two peoples with practical actions.

“Many of our Chinese entrepreneurs are passionate, and they would like to have the opportunity to donate anti-epidemic materials including masks, protective clothing, gloves, hand sanitizer to people in need. After many efforts, the donated materials were finally handed over to concerned officials.” Zhang Na also believes in facilitating females in education and health wants to help Pakistani women especially the young girls through the local organizations working for the wellbeing of womenfolk. “The world is a big family. What we need most at this moment is solidarity between countries, mutual help and humanitarian solidarity,” she added.

Pakistani peacekeeper dies in Khartoum of traffic accident-related injuries

UNITED NATIONS(APP): Lance Naik Tahir Ikram, a Pakistani peacekeeper serving the United Nations-African Union Mission in Darfur (UNAMID), died Saturday at a hospital in Khartoum, Sudan, of injuries he sustained in a road accident earlier this month, according to information available here.

UNITED NATIONS, Feb 20, 2021 (APP):Lance Naik Tahir Ikram, a Pakistani peacekeeper serving the United Nations-African Union Mission in Darfur (UNAMID), died Saturday at a hospital in Khartoum, Sudan, of injuries he sustained in a road accident earlier this month, according to information available here. Ikram, a member of the Formed Police Unit stationed in Sudan’s South Darfur region, was driving his truck from Kalma to Nyala on Feb. 2, when he met the accident. He was admitted to Royal Care International hospital, Khartoum, but his condition deteriorated on Feb. 9 and he passed away Saturday morning.

The Pakistan Mission to the United Nations and Ambassador Munir Akram expressed condolences over the loss of Lance Naik Tahir Ikram, a member of International police peacekeeping. “His services will be forever remembered and valued in preserving peace,” the Pakistani envoy said in a statement. “His dedication in the line of duty is beyond the call of duty and we are immeasurably indebted to you,” Ambassador Akram said.

UNAMID ended its operations at the end of 2020. UNAMID is currently drawing down and the process is expected to complete by the end of June 2021. Out of the 6,000-plus military and police in the 13-nation Darfur contingent, Pakistan had 1,075 personnel.

China dismisses rumours of involvement in Myanmar coup as completely nonsense

China’s ambassador to Myanmar said on Tuesday the current political situation was “absolutely not what China wants to see” and dismissed social media rumours of Chinese involvement in the February 1 military coup as “completely nonsense”.

BEIJING, Feb. 16, 2021:China’s ambassador to Myanmar said on Tuesday the current political situation was “absolutely not what China wants to see” and dismissed social media rumours of Chinese involvement in the February 1 military coup as “completely nonsense”. In an interview with local media posted on the Chinese embassy's Facebook page, ambassador Chen Hai said China maintained “friendly relations” with both the army and the former ruling civilian government.

While Western countries have strongly condemned the Feb. 1 coup, China has been more cautious - emphasising the importance of stability. China nonetheless agreed to a UN Security Council statement that called for the release of elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi and other detainees and voiced concern over the state of emergency. Some of the protests against the coup that have drawn hundreds of thousands of people onto the streets in recent days have taken place outside the Chinese embassy in Yangon, with protesters accusing Beijing of supporting the military junta.

The ambassador dismissed viral rumours on the internet of planes bringing in Chinese technical personnel and troops to Myanmar as “completely nonsense”, saying the planes were regular cargo flights exporting goods such as seafood. He said China was “not informed in advance of the political change in Myanmar” and that it hoped “all things go well in Myanmar, rather than becoming unstable or even falling into chaos.”

“Many countries in transition are overcoming difficulties and challenges through their own efforts, and exploring development paths suitable for their own circumstances,” the ambassador said. China has traditionally been viewed with suspicion in neighbouring Myanmar, where it has significant economic and strategic interests and has often backed Myanmar’s position against Western criticism.

World Radio Day underscores radio’s role in encouraging peace

New York:World Radio Day underscores radio’s role in encouraging peace

UNITED NATIONS, Feb 13, 2021(APP): Marking World Radio Day, which is celebrated on Feb. 13, the United Nations cultural agency has stressed the importance of radio, saying it is a powerful medium for celebrating humanity and constitutes a platform for democratic discourse.This year’s theme “New World, New Radio” is an ode to the resilience of radio and a tribute to its capacity to adapt to societal transformations and listeners’ needs. One of the most widely consumed medium at the global level, the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) said radio has the ability to reach out to the widest audience, in the process having the ability to shape a society’s experience of diversity and providing a platform for everyone to be represented and heard.

The agency called on radio stations to celebrate World Radio Day’s 10th anniversary and the more than 110 years of radio. In celebrating the tenth anniversary of the day, Audrey Azoulay, Director-General of UNESCO drew attention to the past year as highlighting the extent to which this medium “remains essential to our contemporary societies”. As the world changes, so too does radio – evolving as it records humanity’s history by following and adapting to societal developments, she said. This has been extremely clear during the coronavirus crisis, where, among other things, the medium has made it possible to ensure the continuity of learning and fight against misinformation.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has reminded us of its added value: with a penetration rate of over 75 per cent in developing countries, radio remains the most accessible medium”, the UNESCO chief said, citing that as a reason why it has been “a key tool” in responding to the crisis. “It has helped to save lives by making it possible to relay health instructions, make reliable information accessible and combat hate speech”, she added. UNESCO said it has produced royalty-free audio messages in 56 languages, offering them to radio stations around the globe to counter false rumours. To remain the go-to medium of mobility, accessible everywhere and to everyone, it said that the medium has had to adapt to new technologies.

While radio of yesteryear was a simple transistor on our kitchen tables, nowadays, through smartphones, it follows us wherever one goes. The radio is no longer just a sound medium. Technological progress and digitization have made it possible for it to adapt to behaviors and lifestyles. Today it is listened to on television, and TV is heard on the radio while podcasts can be downloaded for listeners to hear whenever they like. “Radio thus remains an essential medium that proves its resilience on a daily basis, along with its capacity for innovation” Ms. Azoulay said.“This World Radio Day affirms the central role of radio, for today and tomorrow, because, more than ever, we need this universal humanist medium, vector of freedom.

Without radio, the right to information and freedom of expression and, with them, fundamental freedoms would be weakened, as would cultural diversity, since
community radio stations are the voices of the voiceless.” Noting, “in this century of images…radio mirrors the thoughts of a world that must be heard to be understood”, she pointed out that “with the creation of Internet radio, podcasts, smartphones and new technologies, it is truly blossoming in its second youth”. Radio also services society, sharing vital information during natural disasters, socio-economic crises, epidemics and other important events.

Public service announcements, alerts and broadcasts are but a few examples of how the medium provides services and solutions to best meet listeners’ needs. It connects people, forging or maintaining links – affirming its central role for today and tomorrow. “More than ever, we need this universal humanist medium”, the UNESCO chief said. Without it, she maintained that the right to information and freedom of expression and, with them, fundamental freedoms “would be weakened”, as would cultural diversity, “since community radio stations are the voices of the voiceless”. “On this World Day, UNESCO calls on everyone – audiences, radio broadcasters and audiovisual professionals – to celebrate radio and its values and to promote reliable information as a common good”, Ms. Azoulay added.

China reiterates principled stance on UNSC expansion, seeks package solution

BEIJING, Feb 10, 2021(APP,LPP): China on Wednesday reiterated its principled stance on the expansion of United Nations Security Council (UNSC) and sought a package solution that takes into account the interests and concerns of all parties. ” (Epansion) should be done through the widest possible democratic consultation and seek a package solution that takes into account the interests and concerns of all parties,❠Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Wang Wenbin said during regular briefing in response to a question regarding India’s candidature for permanent membership of the UNSC.

The spokesperson said, as for India’s bid for permanent membership to the UNSC, he could reiterate China’s principled position on this issue. “China supports UNSC reforms in a manner that increases the authority and efficacy of the UNSC, increase the representation and voice of developing countries so that that small and medium sized countries have a greater opportunity to participate in the decision making of the UNSC,”, he added.

He informed that the Chinese and India sides held consultations on Security Council issues and added, the two sides exchanged views on upholding multilateralism, peacekeeping operations and counter terrorism. Last month, Yang Jiechi, director of the Office of the Foreign Affairs Commission of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee in his meeting with Joanna Wronecka and Alya Ahmed Saif Al-Thani, co-chairs of the Intergovernmental Negotiations (IGN) on the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) Reform of the 75th Session of the United Nations General Assembly, through video link said China firmly upholds multilateralism and safeguards the authority of the UN.

At the same time, China supports reasonable and necessary reform of the UNSC to increase the representation and voice of developing countries. Yang, also a member of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee, said China will work with all parties to firmly support the IGN as the main channel for pursuing Security Council reform. Wronecka and Al-Thani, who are permanent representatives to the UN of Poland and Qatar respectively, expressed their willingness to maintain close communication with China on UNSC reform issue.

They pledged to work to build consensus under the IGN framework and sustain the momentum of dialogue and negotiation. According to media reports, China and India held consultations on UNSC agenda and discussed a wide range of issues in this regard during a meeting held yesterday. The Indian delegation briefed the Chinese side on India’s priorities during its UNSC tenure. India will hold the presidency of the UNSC in August 2021. China’s support as a permanent member of the UNSC will be key during India’s presidency of the council.

The Chinese delegation was led by Yang Tao, director general of the Department of International Organizations and Conferences, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of China. Prakash Gupta, Joint Secretary (UNP & Summits) led the Indian delegation.

Torture allegation high in Afghan detention centres: UN report

UNITED NATIONS, Feb 5, 2021(APP,LPP): “Torture and ill-treatment” of detainees persist in Afghan prisons, with nearly a third of those accused of security and terrorism-related allegations subjected to abuse, a new United Nations report said Wednesday. The report, released jointly by UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) and the Geneva-headquartered UN Human Rights Office, concluded that the percentage of detainees who had been tortured had fallen slightly over the 15 months to March 2020 to 30.3% from 31.9% in the previous two years, but remained “alarming”.

For the report, U.N. officials interviewed a total of 656 detainees, held in 63 government facilities across the country, between January 2019 and March 2020, when physical detention visits were suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic. The alleged torture included beatings, suffocation, and electric shocks. The U.N. says 30% of those interviewed provided “credible and reliable” accounts of abuse and mistreatment. “Torture can never be justified. It has lasting consequences for victims, their families and society,” Deborah Lyons, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Afghanistan, said in a statement.

“I recognize the efforts made by some Government Ministries and Institutions, but much more needs to be done to bring this practice to an end. In particular, perpetrators must be held accountable,” she said. “This would increase confidence in the rule of law and can be a contributing factor towards peace.” said the envoy. According to UNAMA, the report looks only at government facilities and not those of the Taliban or other anti-government elements, due to lack of access.

The percentage of credible allegations of incidents of torture and ill-treatment committed by the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF) was recorded at 30.3 per cent, down from 31.9 percent for 2017-2018. Allegations of torture in Afghan National Police (ANP) custody was 27.2 per cent, a decrease from the previously recorded 31.2 per cent. A reduction in allegations of torture in National Directorate of Security (NDS) custody from 19.4 to 16 per cent was noted. Notwithstanding the incremental progress and efforts made by the Government of Afghanistan, it remains a matter of serious concern that more than 30 per cent of all interviewees provided credible and reliable reports of torture and ill-treatment, the report said.

Some sharp regional differences are noted in the number of allegations made by detainees. There was a particularly high number of allegations of torture and ill-treatment concerning the ANP in Kandahar, with 57.7 per cent of complaints. The report also noted the disturbing reports of enforced disappearances allegedly linked to the ANP in Kandahar. The report states that there remains considerable scope for improvement to safeguarding those rights. For example, in almost no instance of detention either by the ANP or NDS, were detainees informed of their rights, able to access a lawyer, or went through medical examination, prior to questioning by officials.

Detainees’ ability to contact their families in early days after their arrests remained low, with 27.2 per cent in ANP custody and 19.7 per cent in NDS custody. Among further concerns are that nearly half of all persons detained by the ANP and NDS assert that they were asked to sign or thumbprint a document without knowing its content. The report expresses particular concern with the practice of solitary and incommunicado detention in NDS custody. In addition to other measures, UNAMA recommends the creation of an independent national preventive mechanism on torture described in the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture.

Such a dedicated mechanism would have the authority and enhanced capacity and expertise to inspect all detention facilities, conduct follow up investigations and make detailed technical recommendations on prosecution of perpetrators and remedial measures. Establishing such a mechanism would require concerted and sustained support from the Afghan Government and the international community, it said.

China, United States advised to refresh relations: China Daily

BEIJING, Feb 1, 2021(APP,LPP): Officials and experts have urged China and the United States to reshape their damaged relationship and called on the new US administration to employ positive policies to refresh ties with Beijing to benefit both nations and the world. Addressing the virtual Vision China event organized by China Daily, Vice-Foreign Minister Le Yucheng expressed hope that the new year will bring a new start to China-US relations.
Le said he was impressed by US President Joe Biden’s repeated appeal to people in the US for unity over division in his inauguration address. “I believe we need exactly the same spirit for China-US relations,” he added.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger’s historic visit to China as well as the famous “ping-pong diplomacy”. “As the story of ‘the tiny ball moved the big ball’ goes, it took those great men before us extraordinary wisdom and courage to break the ice in China-US relations,” Le said. “The challenges we face today call for the same vision and courage to break the ice again.”

Le called on the world’s two largest economies to shoulder their important responsibilities for world peace and development, and strive to expand their shared interests and cooperation. The joint fight against COVID-19, economic recovery and climate change could be priority areas of cooperation for the near term, he said.

The Vision China event, with the theme “Moving Forward: The Future of China-US Relations”, was broadcast online to a global audience. It was the 17th edition since China Daily launched the series, in which influential political, business and academic speakers are invited to tell China’s story from a global perspective and discuss major China-related topics of international interest.

In a speech at the event, Zhou Shuchun, publisher and editor-in-chief of China Daily, called on both countries to “stand on the right side of history” in developing their relations. Zhou said it is precisely because governments, politicians and people from both sides chose to “stand on the right side of history” that the two countries broke the ice more than 40 years ago and developed a fruitful relationship.

In his speech, Stephen S. Roach, a senior fellow at Yale University’s Jackson Institute for Global Affairs and former chief economist at Morgan Stanley, said the US-China relationship remains the major risk factor in the global economic outlook for 2021. He suggested the two countries rethink the nature of the dialogue between them and set up a full-time office that addresses all aspects of their relationship on a permanent basis.
In terms of the resolution of trade disputes between Ts Roach said Washington needs to look at its trade imbalances in the context that it has a major shortfall of domestic savings.

In resolving difficulties in the US-China relationship, Roach suggested shifting the focus of the economic and trade conflict away from bilateral trade to structural considerations. Da Wei, a senior fellow at the Center for International Security and Strategy at Tsinghua University, stressed the importance of “sustainable” and “effective” dialogues in improving China-US relations, and said the two countries need to establish some kind of mechanism to stabilize their ties.

He said there are elements of competition in China-US ties, but he didn’t think “the old-style Soviet-US Cold War competition” remains in relations between Beijing and Washington. There are broad fields in which China and the US can cooperate with each other, he said. David Firestein, president and CEO of the George H.W. Bush Foundation for US-China Relations, said that the notion that China is fundamentally a critically important competitor to the US will remain a core element of the US mindset toward China.

“The US-China relationship has always been immensely important. It has always been complex. It will remain complex and challenging as we go forward. … And I hope that this iss an opportunity where we can take stock of the US-China relationship,” Firestein said. John Ross, a senior fellow at Renmin University of China’s Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies and former director of economic and business policy for the mayor of London, said the inauguration of the new US administration should be “an opportunity to reset China-US relations after the rather negative period”.

Relations between China and the US are so important because they affect not only themselves but also the world, Ross said. He expressed hope that the new US administration will adopt a policy of win-win cooperation with China.

China launches 2nd Type 054A/P frigate for Pakistan: Global Times

BEIJING, Jan 30, 2021(APP,LPP): China launched the second Type 054A/P frigate for Pakistan on Friday in Shanghai, as the Pakistan Navy Chief Naval Overseer highlighted at the launch ceremony that induction of the Type 054A/P warships will significantly enhance Pakistan’s maritime defense and deterrence capabilities. The launch of the second Type 054A/P frigate was held at Hudong-Zhonghua Shipyard in Shanghai on Friday, reads a statement the Pakistan Navy sent to the Global Times on the same day.

The occasion coincides with the completion of 70 years of Pakistan-China diplomatic relations built upon historic bonds of friendship and mutual trust, the statement said. The Pakistan Navy has contracted the construction of four Type 054A/P frigates from China since 2017, and the first ship was launched in August 2020, media reported. All the ships are being delivered as per the planned schedule, the Pakistan Navy statement said.

These will be some of the most technologically advanced platforms of the Pakistan Navy Surface Fleet, equipped with modern surface, subsurface and anti-air weapons, sensors and combat management systems, Admiral M Amjad Khan Niazi, Chief of the Naval Staff of the Pakistan Navy, told the Global Times in a recent exclusive interview. “These ships will boost [the] potency of our fleet and significantly contribute in maintaining peace and security in the region,” the Pakistani Admiral said.

Commodore Azfar Humayun, Pakistan Navy Chief Naval Overseer, said at the launch ceremony that he acknowledges the commitment and hard work of China Shipbuilding Trading Company and Hudong-Zhonghua Shipyard to keep this important program on track in the difficult times of the ongoing global pandemic, according to the Pakistan Navy statement. Zhang Junshe, a senior research fellow at the PLA Naval Military Studies Research Institute, told the Global Times in a previous interview that the Type 054A, on which the Type 054A/P is based, is China’s most advanced frigate.

Compared with previous Chinese frigates, the new version has better air defense capability, as it is equipped with an improved radar system and a larger amount of missiles with a longer range, Zhang said, noting that the Type 054A frigate also has world-class stealth capability. The Hudong-Zhonghua Shipyard also launched China’s third Type 075 amphibious assault ship on Friday.

India may turn into virus ‘base camp’ due to inadequate control measures: Chinese experts

BEIJING, Jan 27, 2021 (APP): At a time when Indian media was relieved by high rate of coronavirus antibodies found in the New Delhi population, Chinese experts believed it did indicate the country’s inadequate virus control capacity, warning that India may even become a global ‘base camp’ for the virus if the situation continues after the borders reopen.

The natural herd immunity which Indian media hailed, although might be possible for New Delhi, was inhuman as it cost lives, Chinese analysts said, noting that the country may not easily reach herd immunity because it takes a long time, and by then the immunity in those previously infected would wane, which would result in a surge in infections and deaths.

The latest positivity rate from a serological survey conducted in January in Delhi was about 50 percent. The data demonstrated that at least half of the city’s 20 million people had been infected with the novel coronavirus, but official data released by its health authorities only recorded about 630,000 confirmed cases in the city, and just over 10 million total infections in the country.

The Global Times learned from local people that with the daily new cases continuing to drop in India in recent days, patients are able to access hospital treatment in an orderly manner, but it may be partially because not all coronavirus patients went to a hospital even with severe symptoms.

Indian media reported Monday that India saw its lowest surge in daily COVID-19 cases in nearly seven months, as the country reported 9,102 new cases in the last 24 hours. However, this did not mean the country would soon reach natural herd immunity, or soon get rid of the disease, Chinese experts said.

Feng Duojia, president of the China Vaccine Industry Association, told the Global Times that individuals may get immunity through infections, but those previously infected could still get infected after their immunity wanes, and they could still pass the disease to others.
The antibodies through infections cannot offer enough protection for the country’s population, Feng said.

WHO said that herd immunity against COVID-19 should be achieved by protecting people through vaccination, not by exposing them to the pathogen that causes the disease.
Tao Lina, a Shanghai-based expert on vaccines and immunology, told the Global Times that the results indicated that there were quite a number of asymptomatic patients that India has failed to detect and treat.

“If India cannot detect and treat coronavirus patients quickly, the country could become a base camp for novel coronavirus and spread the virus to the rest of the world when borders between countries reopen,” a Beijing-based immunologist, who requested anonymity, he said.

Tao warned that new virus variants detected in the UK and South Africa are a common enemy for all, and the protective barrier that the Indians generated could be weak against those new variants.

In contract to New Delhi, the positivity rate from a serological survey in Wuhan, the first city in China to see an outbreak, was only 4.43 percent, and in Hubei Province excluding Wuhan it was 0.44 percent, according to a national epidemiological survey of COVID-19 serum by China’s CDC.

The survey shows China has successfully fought the virus in Wuhan, and effectively prevented it from spreading on a much larger scale, as the overall population showed a low infection rate.

China is building a protective barrier among populations via vaccines on the premise of ensuring the health of the Chinese people, Tao said, slamming Indian media’s hailing of herd immunity as not something that a modern country should ever consider.

UN rights experts urge Sri Lanka to stop ‘forced’ cremation of coronavirus victims’ bodies

UNITED NATIONS, Jan 27, 2021(APP, LPP):A group of UN human rights expertsnhave urged the Sri Lankan Government to end its policy of forced cremation of the bodies of coronavirus victims, saying it ran contrary to the beliefs of Muslims and other minorities in the country, and could foment existing prejudices, intolerance and violence.

In a joint appeal issued in Geneva, Special Rapporteurs Ahmed Shaheed, Fernand de Varennes, Clement Nyaletsossi Voule and Tlaleng Mofokeng, said that no medical or scientific evidence indicated that burying the deceased increased the risk of spreading communicable diseases such as COVID-19. To date, more than 270 COVID-19 deaths have been reported in Sri Lanka; a significant number have come from the minority Muslim community.

All of the deceased were cremated in line with the country’s amended health guidelines for COVID-19 patients, which were issued on last March. “We deplore the implementation of such public health decisions based on discrimination, aggressive nationalism and ethnocentrism amounting to persecution of Muslims and other minorities in the country” the experts said. “Such hostility against the minorities exacerbates existing prejudices, intercommunal tensions, and religious intolerance, sowing fear and distrust while inciting further hatred and violence”, they added.

“We are equally concerned that such a policy deters the poor and the most vulnerable from accessing public healthcare over fears of discrimination”, they said, noting that it would further negatively impact the public health measures to contain the pandemic. Information received by the experts indicates that cremation often takes place immediately after test results are provided, without granting family members reasonable time or the opportunity to cross check or receive the final test results.

There have been several cases of cremations based on erroneous information about COVID-19 test results, the experts said, while noting that the President and Prime Minister had instructed the health authorities to explore options for burials in Sri Lanka. “However, we are concerned to learn that the recommendation to include both cremation and burial options for the disposal of bodies of COVID-19 victims by a panel of experts appointed by the State Minister for Primary Health Services, Pandemics and COVID Prevention, was reportedly disregarded by the Government”, they said.

“We strongly urge the Government of Sri Lanka to stop the forced cremation of COVID-19 bodies, to take all necessary measures to combat disinformation, hate speech and stigmatization” of Muslims and other minorities, “as a vector of the pandemic, and to provide remedy and ensure accountability for cremations that were carried out by error.”

Global economic recovery remains precarious, rebound of 4.7pc to barely offset 2020: UN report

UNITED NATIONS, Jan 25 (APP): The United Nations today warned that the devastating socio-economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic will be felt for years to come unless smart investments in economic, societal, and climate resilience ensure a robust and sustainable recovery of the global economy. In 2020, the world economy shrank by 4.3 percent, over two and half times more than during the global financial crisis of 2009. The modest recovery of 4.7 percent expected in 2021 would barely offset the losses of 2020, says the latest World Economic Situation and Prospects.

The report underscores that sustained recovery from the pandemic will depend not only on the size of the stimulus measures, and the quick rollout of vaccines, but also on the quality and efficacy of these measures to build resilience against future shocks. “We are facing the worst health and economic crisis in 90 years. As we mourn the growing death toll, we must remember that the choices we make now will determine our collective future,” said UN Secretary-General António Guterres, who will address the Davos Agenda event at 12 p.m. EST today.

“Let’s invest in an inclusive and sustainable future driven by smart policies, impactful investments, and a strong and effective multilateral system that places people at the heart of all socio-economic efforts.” Developed economies, projected to see a 4 percent output growth in 2021, shrank the most in 2020, by 5.6 percent, due to economic shutdowns and subsequent waves of the pandemic, increasing the risk of premature austerity measures that would only derail recovery efforts globally.

Developing countries saw a less severe contraction at 2.5 percent, with an expected rebound of 5.7 percent in 2021, according to the estimates presented in the report.

Key Areas of Impact

The UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs says that 131 million more people were pushed into poverty in 2020, many of them women, children, and people from marginalized communities. The pandemic has adversely affected women and girls disproportionately, exposing them to increased risk of economic devastation, poverty, violence, and illiteracy.  Women make up more than 50 percent of the workforce in high-risk labour and service-intensive sectors, such as retail, hospitality, and tourism – areas hardest hit by the lockdown. Many of them have limited or no access to social protection.

Massive and timely stimulus measures, amounting to US$12.7 trillion, prevented a total collapse of the world economy and averted a Great Depression. However, the stark disparity in the size of the stimulus packages rolled out by developed and developing countries will put them on different trajectories of recovery, highlights the report. The stimulus spending per capita by the developed countries has been nearly 580 times higher than those of the least developed countries (LDCs) although the average per capita income of the developed countries has been only 30 times higher than that of the LDCs.

The drastic disparity underscores the need for greater international solidarity and support, including debt relief, for the most vulnerable group of countries. Moreover, financing these stimulus packages entailed the largest peacetime borrowing, increasing public debt globally by 15 percent. This massive rise in debt will unduly burden future generations unless a significant part is channeled into a productive and sustainable investment, and to stimulate growth. According to the report, global trade shrank by an estimated 7.6 percent in 2020 against the backdrop of massive disruptions in global supply chains and tourism flows.

Lingering trade tensions between major economies and stalemates in multilateral trade negotiations were already constraining global trade before the pandemic. “The current crisis reiterates the importance to revitalize the rule-based multilateral trading system to put the world economy on the trajectory of a robust and resilient recovery,” said the Under-Secretary-General of the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UN DESA), Liu Zhenmin. “We must make global trade resilient to shocks to ensure trade remains the engine of growth for the developing countries.”

The report highlights opportunities for developing countries if they can prioritize investments that advance human development, embrace innovation and technology, and strengthen infrastructure, including creating resilient supply chains. Stressing the importance of stimulating investments, the report shows that while the majority of the stimulus spending went into protecting jobs and supporting current consumption, it also fuelled asset price bubbles worldwide, with stock market indices reaching new highs during the past several months.

“The depth and severity of the unprecedented crisis foreshadow a slow and painful recovery,” said UN Chief Economist and Assistant Secretary-General for Economic Development Elliott Harris. “As we step into a long recovery phase with the roll out of the vaccines against COVID-19, we need to start boosting longer-term investments that chart the path toward a more resilient recovery – accompanied by a fiscal stance that avoids premature austerity and a redefined debt sustainability framework, universal social protection schemes, and an accelerated transition to the green economy.”

An unprecedented crisis one that has killed more than 2 million people, uprooted many more lives, forced families into poverty, exacerbated income and wealth inequality between communities, disrupted international trade, and paralyzed the global economy – needs an extraordinary response. Ultimately, the report underscores the importance of achieving the Sustainable Development Goals – the blueprint for a fair, peaceful, and resilient world.

“Promoting inclusive and equitable growth, reducing inequality, and enhancing environmental sustainability is the best plan we have to recover from this crisis and safeguard the world against future crises. Building resilience must guide every aspect of the recovery and we will find women playing critical roles as champions of resilience,” added Maria-Francesca Spatolisano, UN DESA’s Assistant Secretary-General for Policy Coordination and Inter-Agency Affairs.

Billions Will Live in Poverty For At Least A Decade Due To COVID-19: Oxfam Report

LONDON, Jan 25, 2021 (Oxfam): The 1,000 richest people on the planet recouped their COVID-19 losses within just nine months, but it could take more than a decade for the world’s poorest to recover from the economic impacts of the pandemic, reveals a new Oxfam report today. ‘The Inequality Virus’ is being published on the opening day of the World Economic Forum’s ‘Davos Agenda’.

The report shows that COVID-19 has the potential to increase economic inequality in almost every country at once, the first time this has happened since records began over a century ago. Rising inequality means it could take at least 14 times longer for the number of people living in poverty to return to pre-pandemic levels than it took for the fortunes of the top 1,000, mostly White male, billionaires to bounce back.

In Asia, 711 billionaires have seen their fortunes increase by $1.5 trillion dollars since March, enough to give all 157 million people forced into poverty by Covid-19 in the region a cheque for $9,000 each. In South Asia—the poorest subregion—101 billionaires have seen their fortunes increase by $174 billion dollars since March, enough to give all 93 million people forced into poverty by COVID-19 in the region a cheque for $1,800 each.

East Asia and Pacific’s 610 billionaires have seen their fortunes increase by $1.3 trillion dollars since March, enough to give all 64 million people forced into poverty by Covid-19 in the region a cheque for $20,000 each. Per the report, the recession is over for the richest. The world’s ten richest men have seen their combined wealth increase by half a trillion dollars since the pandemic began more than enough to pay for a COVID-19 vaccine for everyone and to ensure no one is pushed into poverty by the pandemic. 

At the same time, the pandemic has ushered in the worst job crisis in over 90 years with hundreds of millions of people now underemployed or out of work. Women are hardest hit, yet again, the report revealed. Globally, women are overrepresented in the low-paid precarious professions that have been hardest hit by the pandemic. If women were represented at the same rate as men in these sectors, 112 million women would no longer be at high risk of losing their incomes or jobs. Women also make up roughly 70 per cent of the global health and social care workforce − essential but often poorly paid jobs that put them at greater risk from COVID-19.

The report says that fairer economies are the key to a rapid economic recovery from COVID-19. A temporary tax on excess profits made by the 32 global corporations that have gained the most during the pandemic could have raised $104 billion in 2020. This is enough to provide unemployment benefits for all workers and financial support for all children and elderly people in low- and middle-income countries. Gabriela Bucher, Executive Director of Oxfam International, said:

"We stand to witness the greatest rise in inequality since records began. The deep divide between the rich and poor is proving as deadly as the virus.” “Rigged economies are funnelling wealth to a rich elite who are riding out the pandemic in luxury, while those on the frontline of the pandemic shop assistants, healthcare workers, and market vendors are struggling to pay the bills and put food on the table.

Countries in Asia have taken several bold steps during the pandemic which include progressive policies unthinkable before the crisis. There can be no return to the old path. For countries in Asia, the fight against inequality must be at the heart of economic recovery efforts. Governments must ensure everyone has access to a Covid-19 vaccine and financial support if they lose their job.

They must invest in public services and low carbon sectors to create millions of new jobs and ensure everyone has access to a decent education, health, and social care, and they must ensure the richest individuals and corporations contribute their fair share of tax to pay for it. Achieve Universal Health Coverage, establish a fund to achieve universal social protection and ensure informal workers in Asia benefit from social protection. 

To reduce massive gender inequalities and disproportionate burden of the pandemic on women, governments in Asia need to use this opportunity and pro-actively adapt measures that reduce gender inequalities. Lan Mercado, Oxfam International Director for Strategy and Feminist Futures and Asia Regional Director, said: “Stop the inequality virus! Governments in Asia can take the right actions to protect Asians from the coronavirus and fight poverty and inequality. People in Asia must come together in solidarity and united action to secure a fair and just future”.

“Some countries in Asia have taken bold steps during the pandemic, progressive policies unthinkable before the crisis. There can be no return to the old path. The fight against inequality must be at the heart of Covid-19 economic recovery efforts. Governments must ensure everyone has access to a Covid-19 vaccine and that people who lose their job receive financial support.” 

About 500 Airbus staff under quarantine after Hamburg COVID-19 outbreak

HAMBURG, Jan 25, 2021 (Reuters): Airbus said on Sunday about 500 of its staff had gone into quarantine after 21 workers at its aircraft factory in Hamburg tested positive for the new coronavirus. The company said the staff had been asked to stay at home as a precautionary measure and it was examining whether the measures would impact production at the site. Health officials were still investigating what caused the outbreak, a spokesman of the Hamburg health authority said. It was also still unclear whether the workers had caught the more contagious variant of the coronavirus which was first discovered in Britain and is now rapidly spreading across Europe, he added.

Health authorities first ordered the quarantine on Friday and would probably be able to give more Airbus employs more than 12,000 people at its Hamburg-Finkenwerder site, making it the northern city’s largest industrial employer. “The cause of the cases is still under investigation. We are fully supporting the authorities,” an Airbus spokesman said. On Saturday, health authorities put Berlin’s Humboldt hospital under quarantine after 20 patients and staff tested positive for the more infectious variant. The quarantine covered about 1,500 doctors, nurses and technicians working at the hospital as well as more than 400 patients.

China Dismisses Objection Over Development Activities in South Tibet

BEIJING, Jan 24, 2021(APP): A Chinese foreign ministry’s spokesperson on Thursday said that China had never recognised the so-called Arunachal Pradesh and dismissed the Indian objection over development and construction activities in the Chinese territory. “China’s position on Zangnan region (South Tibet) is consistent and clear. We never recognised the so-called Arunachal Pradesh,” Hua Chunying said during her regular briefing in response to a question about building of new villages in South Tibet. The spokesperson remarked that China’s development and construction activities within its own territory are normal and added, “This is beyond reproach as it is in our territory.”

India NDTV reported this week that China built a village in the so-called “Arunachal Pradesh,” which China calls South Tibet or Zangnan. Using satellite images, it claimed that the village is located on the banks of the River Tsari Chu, which lies in the “disputed area”. India claims this area is its territory, but the Chinese government has never recognized the so-called “Arunachal Pradesh.” Meanwhile, Zhang Yongpan, a research fellow of the Institute of Chinese Borderland Studies of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS) said that the Indian media reports were a blatant attempt to stir up troubles on the China-India border.

He said that the report distorts facts, which jeopardizes the two countries’ efforts to maintain peace and tranquility in the border areas. So-called “Arunachal Pradesh” was founded illegally in the last century and occupies about 90,000 square kilometers of Chinese territory. The area has never been recognized by the Chinese government and Chinese ethnic minority groups such as the Moinba, the Lhoba and Tibetan people live in the area. Qian Feng, director of the research department at the National Strategy Institute at Tsinghua University, told the Global Times that he suspects it is another move by Indian media to hype anti-China sentiment.

“China and India haven’t demarcated the border line of this area yet. So they cannot accuse China of building a village on the Indian side,” he added. Echoing Qian, CASS research fellow Zhang stressed the McMahon Line in the eastern section was even more without legal basis. The Chinese government has never recognized this line, Zhang said. “It’s absurd for the Indian government to use this line to determine the territory administered by China and India. Indian media should not bring about the issue when the country is still plagued by the serious situation of a COVID-19 pandemic.”

Conference Explores Economic Cooperation Between Pakistan, Xinjiang

BEIJING, Jan. 23, 2021(APP): The speakers at the online conference for the Promotion of Economic and Trade Cooperation of Xinjiang, China — Pakistan Session underlined that Pakistan and Xinjiang have achieved fruitful cooperation results, and it is believed that it’s time for both sides to make joint efforts to further strengthen the depth of development in the fields of mechanized agriculture, food processing, agricultural tourism, textile technology transfer and skills upgrading.

The conference was held by the Commerce Department of Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region of China the other day, China Economic Net (CEN) reported. Khashih ur Rehman, Additional Secretary/Executive Director, Board of Investment, Pakistan said on the occasion that textiles and agriculture are two high priority areas for the development of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) in mutual cooperation. “The Pakistani government has set up a separate joint working group under the framework of CPEC agreement to promote agricultural development, and cooperation among leading enterprises has made great progress.

The textile and clothing industry is the largest manufacturing industry in Pakistan. Pakistan has a complete textile value chain in which Chinese enterprises are quite welcome to invest.” Xie Guoxiang, Minister Counsellor of the Chinese Embassy in Pakistan underlined that Xinjiang Autonomous region is located at the forefront of China and Pakistan and has great geographical advantages in bilateral cooperation. He said that in recent years, Xinjiang has actively developed modern industrial systems such as deep processing of agricultural products, textile and clothing equipment manufacturing, energy and tourism, made significant progress in related industries, and created more cooperation opportunities with Pakistani partners.

Because of Xinjiang’s special geographical location and diversified industrial layout, the prospect of cooperation between Xinjiang and Pakistan will be amazing and bright. Badar uz Zaman, Commercial Counsellor of the Pakistani Embassy in China stated that urban development and cooperation is the fulcrum and support of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor and the core project of connectivity. “Just as Xinjiang is a tourist city, Pakistan has its own tourism advantages. In recent years, the number of tourists in Pakistan has increased significantly, and there is great potential for tourism development, which will provide opportunities for expanding Pakistan-China cooperation. Chinese investors can explore investment opportunities in a number of industries in Pakistan.”

Zhou Xiaosan, Vice Mayor of Karamay Municipal People’s Government, Xinjiang argued that, “Karamay is aiming to strengthen the exchanges and cooperation with Central Asia, Russia, Pakistan and other BRI countries and regions. In the future, Karamay City will continue to actively participate in the construction of CPEC by focusing on impeded trade and closer people-to-people exchanges.” Ranbo, Deputy Commissioner of the Administrative Office of Kashgar, Xinjiang, mentioned that Kashgar is willing to make full use of the trade channel and air routes of Khunjerab Port and actively promote the facilitation of China-Pakistan trade development, improve the level of economic and trade cooperation, expand trade by allowing more Pakistani goods to enter the Chinese market through Kashgar.

The Cooperation Agreement between Xinjiang Silk Road Xidamen Technology Co.,Ltd and Belt & Road Consultants Pvt Ltd, Cooperation Agreement between Xinjiang Silk Road Xidamen Technology Ltd and Pak Link Enterprises were signed on the occasion. B2B meetings between Chinese and Pakistani companies covering textile, logistics, chemical industry, machinery, agricultural products and foods were held. Around 50 companies and 90 participants were present at the conference.

US Resumes WHO Support, Launches $1.9 Trillion Virus Plan

GENEVA, Jan 21, 2021: The United States on Thursday said it would resume its funding of the UN’s health agency as President Joe Biden shifts towards greater international cooperation in the fight against Covid-19, while also launching a $1.9 trillion plan to tackle the pandemic at home. On his first day in the job, Biden despatched his top expert Anthony Fauci to Switzerland and confirmed he had reversed the decision of former president Donald Trump to quit the World Health Organization (WHO). “Under trying circumstances, this organisation has rallied the scientific and research and development community to accelerate vaccines, therapies and diagnostics,” Fauci told a WHO meeting in Geneva, confirming that the US would continue to pay its dues to the organisation.

Biden was a fierce critic of Trump’s approach to tackling the virus in the US, which with more than 400,000 dead is the world’s worst-hit nation. The new president is seeking to vaccinate 100 million people in the next 100 days, increase the use of masks and testing, expand the public health workforce and offer more emergency relief to those struggling with the restrictions. “For almost a year now, Americans could not look to the federal government for any strategy,” said Jeff Zients, coordinator of the new Covid-19 task force. “As president Biden steps into office today, that all changes.”

Virus cases are approaching 100 million globally, with more than two million deaths and many millions -- from Beijing to Berlin -- still living under lockdowns, curfews or other restrictions. Europe has been particularly hard hit, though the Russian capital Moscow announced on Thursday it was lifting many of its harshest restrictions as Mayor Sergei Sobyanin expressed “cautious optimism” over the current figures. More contagious coronavirus variants have travelled quickly around the globe, tempering optimism that mass vaccination campaigns would bring a swift end to the worst phase of the pandemic.

And the WHO has repeatedly warned that richer countries are hogging the vaccine, a point underscored by data from Africa suggesting the second wave is proving far more deadly than the first. John Nkengasong of Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention said more infections meant more pressures on ill-equipped health systems, adding: “That also means you’re overwhelming the ability of nurses, doctors to manage patients.” However, the US provided a boost to efforts to share out vaccines across the world by announcing it intended to join the Covax initiative, a pool of doses supplied by countries and companies. 

Germany meanwhile confirmed it was willing to help Russia to develop its Sputnik vaccine -- which has been rolled out by Moscow despite still being in clinical trials. And early results from studies of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine suggested it would be effective against the British variant, which is fuelling a surge that has overwhelmed UK hospitals. “When you go into a hospital... in some cases it looks like a war zone,” said the British government’s chief scientist, Patrick Vallance. Britain is facing record daily death tolls and has rammed through the approval of several vaccines, betting heavily on the jabs as an ultimate solution to the contagion.

But the same urgency is not being felt everywhere. The Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan plans to vaccinate its entire population, but not until after March 13 because the period before has been deemed “inauspicious”. The shots will start after that, the prime minister’s office said, adding that it was “important we roll out the nationwide vaccination on an auspicious date”. In Japan, however, time is of the essence. With six months to go until the Tokyo Olympic Games, questions are intensifying over the viability of holding a tournament that will require thousands of athletes to fly in around the world.

Olympic chief Thomas Bach said there was “no reason whatsoever” to believe the games would not go ahead, adding: “This is why there is no plan B and this is why we are fully committed to make these games safe and successful.” While sports officials grapple with scheduling headaches and event cancellations, some politicians have had their reputations trashed by the virus. Mongolia’s Prime Minister Khurelsukh Ukhnaa quit Thursday after protests prompted by the treatment of a coronavirus patient and her newborn baby. TV footage showed the woman being moved to an infectious disease centre wearing only hospital pyjamas and plastic slippers, despite temperatures of -25 degrees Celsius (-13 degrees Fahrenheit). “As a prime minister, I must take the responsibility,” Khurelsukh said, describing the footage as “heartbreaking”.

Trump Planning on Forming New Political Party: Report

NEW YORK, Jan 20, 2021(APP): The outgoing US President, Donald Trump, is considering the possibility of launching a new political party as his White House tenure draws to a close, according to a media report. Trump discussed the possibility with associates in recent days, The Wall Street Journal reported, citing “people familiar with the matter.” The party would be named the Patriot Party. Trump is seeking to wield political power after he steps down from office on Wednesday, the newspaper said, but It’s not clear how serious he is about the project.

Starting a new party would require considerable resources and Trump’s legal and financial future is uncertain. The project would also probably face stiff resistance from the Republican party establishment, the report said. Trump enjoys widespread support among the Republican base despite his incitement of a mob that stormed the US Capitol earlier this month, the uncontrolled coronavirus outbreak that has killed 400,000 Americans, his recent feuding with Republican leaders and other controversies. Thousands of Trump supporters stormed the Capitol on January 6 following a speech by the president outside the White House in which he repeated his false claims to have won the presidential election. Five people died in the mayhem, including a Capitol Police officer.

The insurrectionists aimed to stop the certification of President-elect Joe Biden’s election victory as Congress affirmed the win. The Democratic-controlled House of Representatives impeached Trump on January 13 for “inciting insurrection” and he faces a potential trial in the Senate after he leaves office on Wednesday. If convicted by the Senate, Trump could be barred from running in the 2024 presidential race. Senate Republican Majority Leader Mitch McConnel on Tuesday said that Trump’s supporters who attacked the Capitol were “provoked” by the president and “fed lies.”

The votes of 17 Republican senators would be needed to convict Trump in the Senate and McConnell has not ruled out voting for conviction. Democrat Chuck Schumer is expected to take over as Senate Majority Leader on Wednesday, but McConnell will remain an influential voice in the Republican Party. Trump wished luck to the new administration in a farewell video released on Tuesday but did not mention Biden’s name. He has remained largely out of sight since the storming of the Capitol and has been stripped of his social media equipment.

He is set to leave Washington for Florida early Wednesday morning, hours ahead of Biden’s inauguration. He has refused to take part in the ceremonial peaceful transfer of power and will become the first outgoing president in over a century to skip the inauguration of his successor. The inauguration will take place under heavy security due to fears of more political violence, with the public kept away from the Capitol complex and some 25,000 US National Guard troops deployed to Washington. The pandemic will further dampen the event, with the limited number of guests required to maintain social distance and wear masks.

Gwadar Port development continues to advance: Cheng Xizhong

BEIJING, Jan. 14, 2021(APP): The development of Gwadar Port is forcefully driving the economic development of Balochistan and even Pakistan as a whole. Moreover, Gwadar Port will become the nearest sea port for Afghanistan, Tajikistan and other Central Asian inland countries, and become a regional logistics and shipping center.

Gwadar Port will also become an important logistics, trade, emerging industries, science and technology, culture and education center in southwest Pakistan, Cheng Xizhong, visiting professor at Southwest University of Political Science and Law said on Thursday. On January 6, President of Pakistan Dr. Arif Alvi visited Gwadar and underlined the need to utilize Gwadar Port free zone area for transit trade with regional countries including Afghanistan.

At a briefing on progress work about the master plan of Gwadar City and operationalization of Gwadar Port, the president said that the speedy flow of traffic at Gwadar Port must be ensured. He urged the authorities to accelerate development activities and remove all hindrances in this regard through consensus-building and consultation with the relevant stakeholders.

He particularly thanked the Chinese Government for constructing state-of-the-art China Business Centre (CBC) in Gwadar. President Dr. Arif Alvi’s visit has fully demonstrated that the Pakistani leadership attaches great importance to continuously promoting the construction of Gwadar Port, a shining pearl of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), he said in his article published by China Economic Net (CEN).

To speed up the construction of the related projects in Gwadar Port, relevant departments of China and Pakistan held the fifth meeting of the Joint Working Group (JWG) through video link on November 30, 2020, in which both sides reviewed progress on projects related to Gwadar Port, road and air infrastructure, provision of water supply and sanitation facilities.

Since early 2020, China and Pakistan have jointly strived to overcome the impact of novel coronavirus pneumonia and promote the stable and healthy construction and operation of the series projects in Gwadar. Relevant Chinese enterprises have undertaken an enormous amount of work in the fields of joint operations against the pandemic and social livelihood, and won wide acclaim and appreciation from all walks of life in Gwadar. Gwadar Port has become a bright spot of successfully balancing pandemic prevention and project construction during the CPEC development in 2020.

Now in Gwadar Port, five container cranes have been added. A stack yard of 100,000 square meters has been built. The seawater desalination equipment and container scanning devices have been added, and the port function has been fully restored. At the moment, the terminal can accommodate two 50,000 DWT freighters at the same time, and can handle bulk cargo, container and roll on-roll off cargo, with full operation capacity.

Trump and Modi use hate speech, mob rule for political advantage: Indian writer

NEW YORK, Jan 13 (APP): US President Donald Trump and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi espouse politics of hate and mob rule for political advantage, according to an article in an influential American newspaper, which brings out similarities between the two beleaguered nationalist leaders.

Rana Ayyub, a noted Indian journalist and author, wrote in The Washington Post that after watching the images of last week’s storming of the U.S. Capitol by Trump loyalists, “I couldn’t disconnect what was happening with the dangerous episodes of communal violence we have seen in India in recent years.”

Ms . Ayyub, a regular contributor to the Post, said that her friends often discourage her from writing op-eds about the rise of fascism and majoritarianism in India and the attacks and humiliation minorities suffer on the plea that it hurts the country’s global standing.

“But”, she said, “after witnessing what happened in Washington, how could we not speak up?”

“The post-truth world is increasing polarization and destroying shared principles,” she said.

Ms. Ayyub, whose article is headlined: ‘ India has suffered greatly under mob rule. Now Trump has unleashed it, too’, wrote:

“At the start of the (coronavirus) pandemic I thought Indians might be able to put aside the religious and political divisions that have long ravaged our country and unite to confront a common threat.

But the government, while bungling the response to covid-19, has continued to attack our civil liberties —some of India’s finest activists and student leaders have been jailed, the fundamentals of our famed secularism have been demolished by policies that humiliate and demonize Indian Muslims, and farmers have been forced to take to the streets in the harshest of winters to protect their dignity and livelihood.

“Hindu nationalist forces have used religion to divide citizens at a time when we urgently need a healing touch.

That’s why the cries to defend democracy issued by American journalists, politicians and citizens resonated so strongly.

“In the last week of 2020, a mob of thousands associated with the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, a radical right-wing Hindu organization, marched through the village of Dorana in Madhya Pradesh.

Police officers stood as mute spectators while the Hindu crowd shouted slogans against Muslims. When Muslims in the area protested, messages began circulating on WhatsApp asking Hindus to unite and retaliate.

One such message asked the ‘descendants of Aurangzeb’ to be taught a lesson for stopping a Hindu rally.

“A day later, violence spread across BJP-ruled Madhya Pradesh. A mob of Hindus climbed on the top of a mosque and placed a saffron flag on top of it as people chanted slogans of superiority.

The same day, two other mosques were attacked, and dozens of houses belonging to Muslim residents were torched, forcing hundreds to flee.

“Instead of protecting the Muslim citizens, cops marched into houses and arrested Muslim youths, invoking the draconian National Security law, for throwing stones at the Hindu mob in self-defense.

In a brazen response to the media over questions of injustice toward the Muslim youths, the home minister of the state absolved the Hindu rioters, blaming Muslims for bringing the destruction upon themselves.

The minister, Narottam Mishra, simply said ‘they will have to be removed from where the stones came.’

“The messaging that Muslims are unwanted in their own country was reiterated in New Delhi on Dec. 31, when Modi’s BJP formally inducted a radical nationalist, Kapil Gurjar, into the party ranks.

Gurjar fired shots during a gathering of Muslims during the Shaheen Bagh protests against the discriminatory Citizenship Act in India.

There was an immediate backlash, and the BJP expelled Gurjar from the party shortly after. Even the BJP realized it had gone too far, but not before images of Gurjar being welcomed and garlanded by party leaders went viral on social media.

“Just like the GOP (nickname for the Republican Party), the BJP backtracked out of political preservation.

And just like Trump, Modi is a leader who is unapologetic about the politics of hate that he has practiced in the past two decades and revels in the adulation of an insecure majority that finds the secular tradition of the country a threat to his group’s supremacy.

“On Jan. 1, a young Muslim stand-up comedian, Munawar Faruqui, was arrested mid-show in the city of Indore after a Hindu mob accused him of mocking Hindu gods and goddesses.

He remains in custody, but there’s no evidence that he cracked any offensive jokes.

A friend of Faruqui’s who was attending the show was also arrested — beaten by a man as he was being escorted by police.

They are but the latest example of the senseless violence and harassment Muslims face every day. Government loyalists, on the streets or in Indian institutions, feel emboldened to trample over people’s rights with impunity.

“But many Indians, including members of the country’s elite, would rather mock Americans who voted for Trump than confront their complicity in enabling similar fascist forces in their own country. The hypocrisy is outstanding.

“That’s why we must view the siege of Capitol Hill as a cautionary tale for India. At least Trump will be out of the White House on Jan. 20, while our country continues its march to complete submission before a demagogue who is not afraid to establish dominance through the power of the mob.”

U.N. warns of serious repercussions from U.S. plan to designate Yemen’s Houthis as terrorists

UNITED NATIONS, Jan 12, 2021(APP): The United Nations has warned on that a U.S. move to designate Yemen’s Houthi movement as a foreign terrorist organization is “likely to have serious humanitarian and political repercussions.” The decision over the designation was announced by US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, who issued a statement on Sunday saying that his aim was to hold what he described as the “deadly militia group” accountable for attacks that have threatened civilians, infrastructure and shipping.

Pompeo referenced the 30 December attack on Aden Airport, which killed at least 26 people and injured more than 50. The US chief diplomat will present his plan to Congress on 19 January and, if the US follows through on his threat, imports of food, and other essential items, could be negatively impacted, at a time when more Yemenis are starving, Stephane Dujarric, the UN spokesperson warned, briefing correspondents at UN Headquarters on Monday.

Pompeo’s statement on Sunday acknowledged concerns that the designations would have an “impact on the humanitarian situation in Yemen”, adding that the US would put in place measures to reduce their impact. Dujarric called for the US to ensure that licenses and exemptions are granted, so that humanitarian assistance continues to reach the people who need it, and the private sector can continue to function, in order to stave off complete economic collapse and large-scale famine.

The huge humanitarian operation in the country  the largest in the world cannot replace the private sector or compensate for major drops in commercial imports, he said. The political process in Yemen also risks being destabilized as a result of the terrorist designation, continued Mr. Dujarric, and the positions of the opposing sides in the conflict that has riven the country since 2015, could become even more polarized.

According to figures released by the UN in December, more than 230,000 Yemenis have died due to the war, mostly because of a lack of food, health services and infrastructure. Dujarric pledged that the UN will continue to work with all parties to “resume and continue an inclusive political process to reach a comprehensive negotiated settlement to end the conflict”.

UN chief urges climate action, pandemic response and highlights self-determination on UNGA’s 75th anniversary

UNITED NATIONS, Jan 11, 2021(APP): In his first major speech of the year, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres underlined the need for global cooperation to address today’s challenges such as the coronavirus pandemic and climate change, while also highlighting UN’s role in promoting the right of self-determination. The UN chief was speaking on Sunday during a virtual event to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the first meeting of the UN General Assembly, which was held in London.

“The General Assembly’s declaration on the granting of independence to colonial peoples in 1960 was a milestone for self-determination,” he said, adding that since the UN was established, more than 80 former colonies have gained their independence. “The work of the General Assembly has helped to boost global health, literacy, and living standards, and to promote human rights and gender equality,” he said, reflecting on some of its accomplishments since then in the course of his speech which was released at UN Headquarters in New York.

It is the place where UN Member States can peacefully address their differences and find solutions to global challenges, according to the 193-member Assembly’s current President, Volkan Bozkir of Turkey. “Over the past 75 years, we have achieved more together than we could have apart,” he said in a video message for the online commemoration, which was co-hosted by the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office of the United Kingdom. “As we move into the next 75 years and our world becomes ever more connected, let us tighten those bonds, so we can best protect and deliver for the peoples we serve.”

While the international community can be proud of its collective accomplishments, the Secretary-General stressed the need for greater action in the face of pressing issues, including the pandemic. Nearly two million COVID-19 deaths have been reported worldwide as of Sunday, according to data from the World Health Organization (WHO). The Secretary-General has frequently spoken of how the crisis has exposed inequalities and fragilities, both within and among countries, including threats to women and girls. It has further highlighted serious gaps in global cooperation and solidarity.

“We have seen this most recently in vaccine nationalism, as some rich countries compete to buy vaccines for their own people, with no consideration for the world’s poor,” he said. Meanwhile, global response to the climate emergency has been “utterly inadequate,” he added. Although the UN chief described the pandemic as “a human tragedy”, he emphasized that it can be an opportunity to achieve a more sustainable and equitable world, as outlined in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the Paris Agreement on Climate Change. “The central objective of the United Nations this year is to build a global coalition for carbon neutrality by the middle of the century. We need meaningful cuts now, to reduce global emissions by 45 per cent by 2030, compared with 2010 levels,” he said.

Guterres also reported that a global survey conducted last year revealed climate action is a top priority for the world’s people, more than 1.5 million of whom shared their hopes and fears as part of events marking the UN’s 75th anniversary. People worldwide also want to see better access to healthcare, education, safe water and sanitation, according to the survey. The majority, or a staggering 97 per cent, called for improved international cooperation to address global challenges. UK Minister of State, Lord Ahmad, acknowledged the collective concern over the damaging impact of climate change on the natural environment and global security.

“We all need to find new ways of doing things, so our progress is not at the expense of our planet but by us working together,” he said, recalling that the UK will co-host the latest global climate change conference, known as COP26, to be held in Glasgow, Scotland, in November. Following the official segment, the Secretary-General answered questions from several young people working in areas such as climate action, gender equality, global health and peace. Josie Naughton, co-founder of Choose Love, an organization that supports people displaced by conflict or persecution, asked about his appeal for a global ceasefire during the pandemic. She wondered if it could be a reality.

Guterres reported on tentative progress, including in Syria, Libya and South Sudan, but noted that conflict still rages in places such as Yemen. He cited mistrust and “spoilers”, or external involvement in a country’s affairs, as obstacles to peace. “Look at Libya: the spoilers are making it much more difficult to move forward after the ceasefire into a political solution. And we need to make sure that we are able to put an end to this kind of interference of countries that undermine the possibility of those that are in conflict in one country to come together,” he said.

The Secretary-General underscored the importance of a unified UN Security Council, and for major powers to overcome their differences and work together. “We need a strong Security Council able to take decisions and to implement them to make sure the ceasefires that are declared are implemented, and those that have not yet been possible become possible.”

STZs establishment to boost IT sector in Pakistan: Cheng Xizhong

BEIJING, Jan 10, 2021(APP): The announcement of the development of Special Technology Zones (STZs) in Pakistan is a revolutionary move and a strong indicator of Prime Minister Imran Khan’s government commitment towards the technological development and sustainability of the country’s digital landscape. The main objective of the establishment of STZs is to give incentives to the information technology sector to make it flourish for the benefit of the country. This was stated by Cheng Xizhong, visiting professor at Southwest University of Political Science and Law in his article published by China Economic Net (CEN) on Sunday.

Information technology is a revolutionary sector that needed to be exploited to meet the demands of the contemporary world, said Prime Minister Imran Khan, while addressing the launching ceremony of the Special Technology Zones Authority (STZA) in Islamabad. As mankind has experienced the agricultural revolution and industrial revolution, now it is going through the information revolution. In the process of coping with the COVID-19 pandemic, we have clearly seen the importance of information technology. Prime Minister Imran Khan pointed out that only those companies that adapted to information technology well in time have gained during the coronavirus pandemic.

In his latest article, Cheng Xizhong mentioned that Pakistan is committed to the development of digital economy. Information technology and digital economy are closely related and the new generation of information technology is the booster of digital economy. The development of cloud computing, big data, Internet of things, mobile Internet, artificial intelligence and other new-generation information technologies is accelerating global industrial division, economic restructuring and reshaping the pattern of global economic competition.

“Therefore, I believe that Pakistan is striving to build core technology industry ecology, to realize the coordinated development of the industrial chain, value chain and innovation chain, and promote the rapid development of the digital economy,” he added. He said the information technology industry is a labor-intensive industry, which can create tens of thousands of employment opportunities. It is the most suitable for young people with higher technical education. With the second-youngest population in the world, Pakistan can utilize the information technology sector in employing its youth. Also, the Pakistani nationals working in other countries can benefit from the STZs.

China’s information technology and the digital economy are developing rapidly. Pakistan is China’s second-largest source of foreign students, with about 28,000 students studying in China. We should encourage these students to return home after graduation, to make contributions to the development of information technology and digital economy, and to the realization of the four ‘zations’, namely, informatization, digitization, industrialization and modernization in their own country.

Now as the construction of China-Pakistan Economic Corridor has entered the second stage, the industrial cooperation between China and Pakistan with Special Economic Zones and Special Technology Zones as the carriers will become the focus. Therefore, I firmly believe that after STZs are fully in operation, information technology enterprises from China and other countries will rush to invest in Pakistan, and work closely with Pakistan’s partners, effectively promoting the fast development of Pakistan’s above-mentioned four ‘zations’.

Majority of Americans want immediate removal of President Trump, new poll

NEW YORK, Jan 09, 2021(APP): A new poll has shown that a majority of Americans want the immediate removal of incumbent President Donald Trump after the deadly attack against the US Capitol by Trump supporters. The poll, undertaken by Reuters and Ipsos, sheds light on the political mood of the country, with 57 per cent Americans supporting the immediate removal of Trump from office. Most supporting the removal are Democrats. Republicans are more supportive of Trump completing his term, which ends on January 20, after which Joe Biden will assume the country’s presidency.

Trump, who lost the 2020 US presidential election to Democrat President-elect Biden by about seven million votes, called on his supporters on Wednesday to march on Congress, telling them at a rally that “you will never take back our country with weakness.” About one-tenth of those participating in the poll said they supported the the rioters and regarded them as “concerned citizens”.

A very small minority, five percent, called the rioters “patriots.” However, the vast majority, seventy-nine percent, which included both Republicans and Trump voters, described the January 6 rioters as either “criminals” or “fools.” Seven out of 10 of the participants who had voted for Trump on November 3 were opposed to Trump’s actions in the run-up to Wednesday’s assault on Capitol Hill. The national survey was conducted on Thursday and Friday, and showed that 7 out of 10 who voted for Trump in the November elections were against the protesters who broke into the Capitol as officials were meeting to certify the victory of Democrat Joe Biden.

In the aftermath of the attack, five people died, including a police officer. Leaders from across the world condemned the act, marking a moment of unison for both Democrats and Republicans. On Monday, Democrats in the US House of Representatives will introduce misconduct charges, which could lead to another impeachment of Trump, according to media reports. “If the President does not leave office imminently and willingly, the Congress will proceed with our action,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in a statement.

Party allegiances were clearly visible in the poll, with nine out of every ten Democrats calling for Trump’s immediate removal, while just two in ten Republicans demanding the same. Thirty per cent claimed that the president should be removed using the provisions part of the 25th Amendment of the US Constitution, which enables the country’s vice president and the cabinet to remove a president if deemed incapable of discharging duties.

US House speaker calls top general to block ‘unhinged’ Trump from using nuclear codes

NEW YORK, Jan 08, 2021 (APP): The US House of Representatives Speaker, Nancy Pelosi, said in a letter to members on Friday that she has spoken to the top military officer about blocking an “unhinged” President Donald Trump from accessing the nuclear codes. “This morning, I spoke to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley to discuss available precautions for preventing an unstable president from initiating military hostilities or accessing the launch codes and ordering a nuclear strike,” Pelosi, a Democrat, wrote in the letter carried by news media.

“The situation of this unhinged President could not be more dangerous, and we must do everything that we can to protect the American people from his unbalanced assault on our country and our democracy,” she said. Dozens of Democrats and a growing number of Republicans have called on Vice President Mike Pence and the cabinet to invoke the 25th Amendment and remove Trump, claiming he is no longer fit for office.

In her letter, Pelosi said she and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer had reached out to Pence with no response, adding that they “still hope to hear from him as soon as possible with a positive answer as to whether he and the Cabinet will honor their oath to the Constitution.” “If the President does not leave office imminently and willingly, the Congress will proceed with our action,” she added. Numerous progressive lawmakers have pushed for legislation that would limit the president’s authority to launch a nuclear strike including by requiring additional officials to sign off on a launch and making the “no first use of nuclear weapons” an official U.S. policy.

Indonesia locates black boxes of crashed jet as body parts recovered

JAKARTA, Jan 10, 2021: Indonesian authorities on Sunday located the black boxes of the Sriwijaya Air jet that crashed into the sea soon after taking off from the capital Jakarta, as human body parts and suspected pieces of the plane were retrieved. The Boeing 737-500 with 62 passengers and crew was headed to Pontianak in West Kalimantan on Saturday before it disappeared from radar screens four minutes after takeoff. It is the first major aircrash in Indonesia since 189 passengers and crew were killed in 2018 when a Lion Air Boeing 737 Max in 2018 also plunged into the Java Sea soon after takeoff from Soekarno-Hatta International Airport.

Even before the latest crash, more people had died in air cashes in Indonesia than in any other country over the past decade, according to Aviation Safety Network’s database. Indonesia National Transport Safety Committee chief Soerjanto Tjahjono said the locations of Flight SJ 182’s two black boxes had been identified. “Hopefully, we can retrieve them soon,” said military chief Hadi Tjahjanto, without giving an estimated timeframe. Pieces of wreckage were brought to Jakarta port by rescuers. Authorities said they came from a depth of 23 metres (75 feet) near a group of islands off the Jakarta coast.

One twisted piece of metal was painted in Sriwijaya Air’s blue and red colours. Indonesian authorities said they had also retrieved body parts and clothing. Police asked families to provide information such as dental records and DNA samples to help identify bodies. The plane had 12 crew and 50 passengers on board, all Indonesians and including seven children and three babies. President Joko Widodo, speaking at the palace in Bogor, expressed “deep condolences” over the disaster and urged the public to pray the missing people could be found.

Queen Elizabeth and husband receive Covid-19 vaccines

DUBAI, Jan 10, 2021: Britain’s Queen Elizabeth and her husband Philip, both in their nineties, have received vaccinations against Covid-19, Buckingham Palace said on Saturday. “The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh have today received Covid-19 vaccinations,” the palace said in a statement. The Queen is 94 years old and Philip is 99, putting them in the priority category in Britain’s coronavirus vaccine rollout.

A royal source said the vaccines were administered by a household doctor at the queen’s Windsor Castle residence, adding that she made the news public to counter any speculation. With a highly transmissible new variant of the virus surging across Britain, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has shuttered the economy and is rushing out vaccines in a bid to stem the spread of the pandemic.

The government plans to vaccinate the elderly, the vulnerable and frontline workers - around 15 million people - by mid-February, to ease a new strict lockdown imposed after a spike in cases to daily records. Britain has the world’s fifth-highest official death toll from Covid-19 at nearly 80,000, and the 1,325 deaths reported within 28 days of a positive test on Friday surpassed the previous daily record toll from last April.

India promises to return missing Chinese soldier: PLA

BEIJING, Jan 10, 2021 (APP): China has called on India to immediately return its soldier who went astray in the  China-India border area and was found by Indian troops. Due to darkness and complicated geography, a soldier of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) frontier defense force went astray in the China-India border early Friday morning, and the PLA frontier defense force notified the Indian side of the information the first time, hoping the Indian side could assist in search and rescue of the lost Chinese soldier, according to a statement issued by People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Daily.

Nearly two hours later, the response from the Indian side came, confirming that the missing soldier had been found and would be returned to the Chinese side after receiving instructions from the superior authority. Certain Indian media’s hyping of the incident didn’t square with the facts. The Indian side should strictly adhere to relevant agreements reached by the two countries and waste no time to return the lost soldier to the Chinese side, so as to add positive factors for de-escalating the border tensions between the two countries and jointly maintaining peace and tranquility in the China-India border areas.

The Indian army agreed and promised to return the soldier after obtaining permission from their superior, said the statement, which asked India to abide by relevant agreements reached between the two sides. “We hope the Indian side could keep its promise and return the soldier as soon as possible,” the statement said, urging India to play a constructive role in easing tensions in the border areas and to jointly defend peace and stability in the region. Meanwhile, China and India are working on the situation of a Chinese soldier who lost his way in the China-India border area, with him later being held by the Indian side, sources close to the matter told the Global Times.

Indian media reported that a Chinese soldier was apprehended by Indian troops near the south bank of Pangong Tso Lake in Ladakh on Friday. Sources close to the matter told the Global Times that the soldier lost his way and was captured by the Indian side. China and India are negotiating the situation.

There were previously occasions when soldiers from both sides lost their way and crossed the border. In October, a PLA soldier went missing while helping a herdsman find his yak along the China-India border. After China urged India to help in the search, India later notified China that a missing person from China had been found and would be returned to China after a medical exam.

Iran Steps Up Nuclear Programme, Holds South Korean Tanker

TEHRAN, Jan 6, 2021: Iran said Tuesday it had stepped up uranium enrichment beyond the limits of its nuclear deal with world powers, amid heightened tensions with arch-foe the United States and after Iran seized a South Korean tanker in strategic Gulf waters. The Islamic republic said it was now refining uranium to 20 percent purity far above the level permitted under its 2015 agreement, but significantly below the 90 percent required for an atomic bomb in a step Washington condemned as “nuclear extortion”.

The European Union noted Iran’s steps “with deep concern” and planned to “redouble our efforts to preserve the agreement and return to its full implementation by all parties,” said EU spokesman Peter Stano. It was the most striking suspension yet of Tehran’s commitments under its landmark deal with six nations, which has been fraying ever since US President Donald Trump withdrew from it in 2018 and reimposed crippling sanctions.

A war of words has flared again in the final weeks of the Trump presidency and at a time when Iran and its allies have marked one year since a US drone strike in Baghdad killed Iran’s most revered military commander, Qasem Soleimani. Commemorations honouring Soleimani whom the US blamed for attacks on its interests in Iraq and elsewhere saw angry mourners in Iraq chant anti-US slogans, but passed off without violence.

‘Not hostage-takers’ 

Washington has meanwhile reversed an order to bring home its Nimitz aircraft carrier from the Gulf, citing “threats” against Trump, after recently also flying B-52 bombers over the region. Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps has warned it is ready to respond to any attack. The Iranian armed forces Monday also announced a two-day drill of domestically made drones, including “combat, surveillance, reconnaissance and electronic warfare”.

On Monday, the Guards launched a dramatic action on the high seas, near the strategic Straits of Hormuz, a chokepoint through which a fifth of world oil output passes. Its speedboats seized the South Korean-flagged Hankuk Chemi carrying oil chemical products and its multinational crew of 20, accusing it of having polluted sea waters. South Korea has demanded the ship’s release and deployed a destroyer carrying its anti-piracy unit to the area.

Seoul will send a government delegation to Iran “at the earliest possible date” to negotiate the release of the vessel and its crew, the foreign ministry said Tuesday. Iran’s move came after Tehran had urged Seoul to release billions of dollars of Iranian assets frozen in South Korea as part of the US sanctions. “We are not hostage-takers,” said Iran’s government spokesman Ali Rabiei.

“We are used to such allegations. It is the government of Korea that has taken over $7 billion of ours hostage on baseless grounds.” South Korea’s vice foreign minister Choi Jong-kun would go ahead with a planned three-day trip to Tehran early next week, his office said.

- Nuclear tensions -

Also on Monday, Iran first announced it had stepped up the uranium enrichment process at its underground Fordo site, in a move confirmed by UN nuclear watchdog the IAEA. President Hassan Rouhani had ordered the move in line with a law passed by the parliament, said a government spokesman. The legislature voted for the step after the November killing on the outskirts of Tehran of the country’s top nuclear physicist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, an assassination Iran blamed on Israel.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday charged Iran’s latest nuclear move proved it is seeking to build an atomic bomb -- a claim Iran has always strongly denied. “Israel will not allow Iran to manufacture nuclear weapons,” Netanyahu said.

European NGO Uncovers Ongoing Indian Disinformation Campaign Against China, Pakistan

BEIJING, Jan 5, 2021(APP): A reported released by a Brussels-based NGO has uncovered an ongoing Indian disinformation campaign launched to discredit nations in conflict with India in Asia, in particular Pakistan but also China to lesser extent. The report released in early December said it uncovered two Indian organizations creating and spreading disinformation against China to reinforce anti-China sentiment in India, China Global Television (CGTN) reported.

Titled Indian Chronicles, the report was released on December 9 by EU DisinfoLab, an independent non-profit organization focused on tracking sophisticated disinformation campaigns. The report named Srivastava Group (SG), an Indian holding company, and Asian News International (ANI), India’s largest video news agency, as the operation’s main players. Since 2005, SG has published fake news on hundreds of fake media outlets to reinforce pro-Indian and anti-Chinese feelings in India, according to the report.

Last year, EU DisinfoLab researchers reportedly uncovered 265 pro-Indian sites operating across 65 countries, and traced them back to the New Delhi-based SG. The report described how fake media websites and NGOs run by SG lobbied members of the European Parliament to write op-eds taking pro-India stances, often against China, which were then published on the SG’s news websites.

ANI then disseminated and repackaged the fake news or op-eds to multiply the repetition of online negative content about China, according to the report. The disinformation is ongoing, according to the report, which adds that the operation’s mission is to discredit nations in conflict with India in Asia, in particular Pakistan but also China to a lesser extent

Trump Pressures Georgia Official to ‘Find’ Votes to Overturn Election

Trump’s call to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, a fellow Republican, came as some of Trump’s allies in the U.S. Congress plan to object to the formal certification of Biden’s victory on Wednesday. The former vice president won by a margin of 306-232 in the state-by-state Electoral College, and by more than 7 million votes overall. On the call, which was released by the Washington Post, Trump repeatedly pressures Raffensperger to declare that Trump has won more votes than Biden.

“All I want to do is this: I just want to find 11,780 votes, which is one more than we have,” Trump says, according to audio of the call. “There’s nothing wrong with saying, you know, that you’ve recalculated.” The state conducted three separate ballot counts, resulting in two official certifications of Biden’s victory. Final results show Biden won 11,779 more votes than Trump out of nearly 5 million cast.

Raffensperger and his office’s general counsel reject Trump’s assertions and tell the president that he was relying on debunked conspiracy theories spread on social media about what was a fair and accurate election. “Mr. President, the challenge that you have is the data you have is wrong,” Raffensperger says. The White House declined to comment. Raffensperger’s office did not respond to requests for comment. Bob Bauer, a senior adviser to Biden, said the recording captures “the whole, disgraceful story about Donald Trump’s assault on American democracy.”

POSSIBLY CRIMINAL ACT

Trump’s action drew immediate criticism from election-law experts and congressional Democrats who said it could amount to an illegal act. “Not only is pressuring election officials against the law, threatening Raffensperger if he doesn’t comply with Trump’s wishes borders on extortion,” said Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein. Georgia State University law professor Anthony Michael Kreis said Trump may have violated state and federal laws against soliciting election fraud.

“If any other person did this – someone else with power to leverage over an election official – there is no doubt in my mind that at the very least a criminal investigation would be opened right away,” said Kreis, adding that he thought that was unlikely in Trump’s case. If Trump were prosecuted, he would likely argue that he genuinely believed that the election was rigged against him in elaborate ways, said Justin Levitt, an election law professor at Loyola Law School.

Biden’s narrow victory in Georgia was the first by a Democratic presidential candidate in a generation and has raised hopes among Democrats that they could win a pair of U.S. Senate runoffs in the state on Tuesday, giving their party control of Congress. Over the course of the call, Trump alternately cajoles, insults and threatens Raffensperger as he tries to convince him to overturn the results.

“We won the election and it’s not fair to take it away from us like this, and it’s going to be very costly in many ways,” Trump says. “I think you have to say that you’re going to re-examine it.” Since his election loss, Trump has encouraged supporters to hold raucous street rallies that have occasionally tipped into violence. Raffensperger and other election workers across the country have faced harassment and threats, with some going into hiding for their safety.

“There’s turmoil in Georgia and other places — you’re not the only one. We have other states that I believe we’ll be flipping to us very shortly,” Trump said. Even if Trump had won Georgia’s 16 Electoral College votes, he would still have lost the White House to Biden, who will be sworn into office on Jan. 20. Trump’s lawyers have had no luck over the past two months as they have pressured officials in Michigan, Arizona, Pennsylvania and other closely contested states to overturn his losses.

Trump’s call came days before Senator Ted Cruz is set to lead several fellow Republican lawmakers in a long-shot bid to disrupt the formal recognition of Biden’s win when Electoral College results are tallied in Congress on Jan. 6. The move is seen as a mostly symbolic protest and is not supported by Senate Republican leaders. Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, a staunch Trump supporter, said in a statement on Sunday that Cruz’ insistence on a vote audit commission had “zero chance” of success.

Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer said on Twitter that if Cruz and “his gang” wanted to investigate election fraud, they should start with Trump’s call with Raffensperger. Ten former defense secretaries urged Trump to concede, writing in a joint article that the time for questioning the results had passed, and that any effort to involve the U.S. armed forces in resolving election disputes “would take us into dangerous, unlawful and unconstitutional territory.”

Pakistan’s Substantial Export Growth Vindication of Govt’s Economic Policy: Cheng Xizhong

BEIJING, Jan 3, 2021 (APP): Pakistan’s exports which grew for the fourth consecutive month in December 2020 to US$2.357 billion, up 18. per cent from US.1.993 in the corresponding month of the previous year, is a vindication of the government’s policy to keep the wheels of economy running during the Covid-19 pandemic.This was stated by Cheng Xizhong, visiting professor at Southwest University of Political Science and Law in an article here on Sunday.

Prime Minister Imran Khan took to Twitter to extend congratulations to exporters for achieving record exports in the month of December 2020. “Congratulations to all the exporters on achieving record exports in December 2020 with a growth of 18% over the previous year. Well done and keep up this trend. A major pillar of our government’s economic policy is export enhancement and we will provide full support to promote export culture.”

Cheng Xizhong believed that there are three main reasons for Pakistan’s substantial export growth: First, this shows the resilience of Pakistani economy and it is a vindication of the government’s policy to keep the wheels of economy running during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The policies of the federal government of Pakistan are very wise, focusing on the prevention and control of the pandemic on the one hand and the economic recovery on the other. Judging from the current situation, the novel coronavirus pneumonia in Pakistan has been effectively controlled, and in this regard, Pakistan has done the best in South Asia.

At the same time, from the very beginning to now, the Imran Khan administration has strongly stressed the importance of economy development, improvement of people’s livelihood, increase of exports, and maintenance of a good state of finance, and to this end, promulgated a series of policies and measures.

Sharing the second reason, he said, the second phase of China-Pakistan Free Trade Agreement (FTA) came into effect on December 1, 2019. The conclusion of the second phase of FTA between China and Pakistan is an important measure to further enrich the all-weather strategic cooperative partnership and enhance the level of trade liberalization and facilitation between the two countries.

Since then, Pakistan’s exports to China have increased rapidly. For example, Pakistan’s rice exports to China have increased from 1.3% in the past to 24.4% in 2020. The Chinese government and people have a strong inclination for expanding trade between China and Pakistan. Some of Pakistan’s special vegetables and fruits are being favored by the Chinese consumers. At the same time, Pakistan is a very reliable supply chain for Chinese halal food.

Third, he said, the substantial growth of Pakistan’s exports should also be attributed to the cooperation between China and Pakistan in building the economic corridor. The corridor construction has entered a new stage, and the construction of special economic zones (SEZs) and industrial parks is steadily advancing.

Now the increase in overall exports is mainly driven by double-digit growth in proceeds from textile and clothing sectors as well as engineering products, surgical instruments and value-added leather products.Experts predict that once the SEZs and industrial parks are fully in operation, Pakistan will have a series of modern industrial product production lines. By that time, Pakistan’s exports will grow at a rate of 30-50 per year.

Pakistan Urges UN Rights Chief to Demand Release of Kashmiri Leader Aasiya Andrabi, Now in Delhi Jail

GENEVA, Jan 01, 2021(APP): Pakistan has called on the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, to push India to release Aasiya Anrabi, a detained Kashmiri rights defender and political activist, who faces an imminent risk of conviction by a “sham” court on January 18.

“Your timely intervention may help prevent miscarriage of justice; assist in breaking the vicious cycle of impunity and human rights violations in Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJ&K) and send a strong message of hope to the Kashmiri people, especially women leaders and human rights defenders,” Ambassador Khalil Hashmi said in a letter to the UN rights chief.

Ms. Andrabi, who is the founding leader of “Dukhtaran-i-Millat”, a prominent women rights organizations in IIOJK, has been under Indian custody on specious charges since 2016. She is currently languishing in New Delhi’s Tihar jail.In his letter, which was released on Friday, Ambassador Hashmi enumerated Ms Andrabi’s activities in defending human rights as also the history of her travails, while strongly urging the high commissioner to counsel India to:

— Immediately drop all fabricated charges against Ms Andrabi and her associates, and release her given the heightened risk to contract the coronavirus infection;

— Release all illegal detainees, especially political prisoners and human rights defenders, in IIOJK;

— Repeal draconian laws;

— Allow UN-supervised investigations into cases of extra-judicial execution; torture; ill-treatment, illegal arrest/detentions and custodial deaths; and

— Fully implement all recommendations of the two Kashmir reports, including the establishment of a UN Commission of Inquiry.

“As the world’s premier human rights defender and the most prominent woman activist, Pakistan requests you to take due cognizance of Ms Andrabi’s case,” Ambassador HJashmi said in the letter.

China’s 2021 Two Sessions to be held in March, 2021

BEIJING, Dec 27, 2020 (APP): The Two Sessions, a key event in China’s political calendar of 2021, will start on March 4 and 5.The 13th National People’s Congress (NPC), China’s top legislature will open its fourth annual session in Beijing on March 5, according to a decision made by the NPC Standing Committee on Saturday.

The decision was adopted via a vote at the end of the NPC Standing Committee session held from Tuesday to Saturday, the Chinese media reported.The fourth annual session of the 13th National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) is scheduled to open in Beijing on March 4.

The suggestion was raised in a draft decision approved at a Chairperson’s Council meeting of the 13th CPPCC National Committee earlier this week.Every year, the Two Sessions, as a window to observe China’s development and an embodiment of Chinese democracy, cover China’s essential economic and social development plans, drawing worldwide attention.

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China’s Largest Builder Showcases BRI Benefits with Highways in Pakistan, Algeria

BEIJING, Dec 25, 2020 (APP): The China State Construction Engineering Corp, the largest Chinese builder, has announced completion of an infrastructure project each in Pakistan and Algeria, two economies that are participating in the Belt and Road Initiative.“This marks the construction giant’s efforts to boost regional cooperation amid the COVID-19 pandemic,” China Daily reported on Friday.

According to CSCEC, the Sukkur-Multan Motorway, which is the largest transportation infrastructure project under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, was officially handed over to the Pakistani side last week.The 392-kilometer-long motorway, also known as the M5 motorway in Pakistan, is part of the country’s Peshawar-Karachi Motorway and was designed for speeds of up to 120 km/hour with a total investment of about $2.89 billion.

“The motorway opened to traffic in November last year and has greatly improved traffic conditions and helped drive economic development in central Pakistan,” said Xiao Hua, general manager of the PKM project.“More than 29,000 jobs were created for the locals in the peak time of construction and the operation of the motorway will be all done by the Pakistani side (from now on),” Xiao said.

Apart from the main body of the project, the Chinese constructor also built schools, roads, bridges, wells and water channels for the locals to make their lives more convenient, he said.The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor projects have achieved major progress despite grave economic and health challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, the daily quoted Asim Saleem Bajwa, Chairman of the CPEC Authority, as saying.

“After successful completion of the first phase, the CPEC is expanding into its second phase as per schedule despite a very serious setback of COVID-19 around the world, ensuring economic stability and well-being of the people of Pakistan,” Bajwa said while addressing an awarding ceremony for outstanding Pakistani staff of CPEC projects.

In Algeria in northern Africa, CSCEC has helped build an expressway linking Chiffa and Berrouaghia. It is part of the Algeria South-North Expressway project undertaken by CSCEC. The expressway opened to traffic last weekend, passing across the Atlas Mountains and through the Sahara Desert.With a total length of 53 kilometers, the expressway goes through the Atlas Mountains, which was the “bottleneck” part of the Algeria South-North Expressway, for its extremely high construction difficulties.

In the future, the expressway will also extend further southward to connect Mali, Niger and other countries in Sahil Area.Proposed in 2013, the BRI comprises the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st century Maritime Silk Road, which aim at building trade and infrastructure networks connecting Asia with Europe and Africa along the ancient trade routes of the Silk Road.

The government would continue to encourage SOEs (state-owned enterprises) to build more key infrastructure and manufacturing projects in the country and BRI partner economies over the next five years, said Peng Huagang, secretary-general of the State-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission of the State Council.

Climate Change: 2020 Closes Hottest Decade on Record – UN Weather Agency

UNITED NATIONS, Dec 25 (APP):As 2020 draws to a close, it leaves in its wake the warmest decade on record and one of the three hottest years ever measured, according to the UN weather agency.

Despite a cooling La Nina event, 2020 has been a year of exceptional heat that is now mature and impacting weather patterns in many parts of the world, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) said Friday.

And according to most models, La Nina is expected to peak in intensity either this month or in January and continue through the early part of next year.

“Record warm years have usually coincided with a strong El Niño event, as was the case in 2016”, WMO chief Petteri Taalas said in a statement.

Tuvalu, an archipelago of nine atolls in the South Pacific Ocean, where the average height of the islands is less than 2 metres above sea level, is highly susceptible to the effects of global warming.

However, he noted, “we are now experiencing a La Nina, which has a cooling effect on global temperatures, but has not been sufficient to put a brake on this year’s heat”.

“Despite the current La Nina conditions, this year has already shown near record heat comparable to the previous record of 2016”, said the top WMO official.

WMO has also documented the last six years as being the warmest.

In January, the UN agency will issue consolidated temperature figures for 2020, based on five global temperature datasets.

This will be incorporated into a final report on the State of the Climate in 2020, which will be issued in March and will include information on selected climate impacts.

To date, all five datasets for the first 10 months of 2020 has placed this year as the second warmest for the year to date, following 2016 and ahead of 2019.

Based on monthly reports from the European Unions’s Copernicus Climate Change Service, the United States National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies and the Japan Meteorological Agency, November has been classified as either the warmest or second warmest on record.

The difference between the warmest three years is small and exact rankings for each data set could change once data for the entire year are available, according to WMO.

Ranking temperatures for individual years is less important than long-term trends, the UN weather agency explained.

Since the 1980s each decade has been warmer than the previous one. And because of record levels of heat-trapping greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, the trend is expected to persist.

In particular, carbon dioxide is driving the planet to future warming because it remains in the atmosphere for many decades.

According to?WMO’s Global Annual to Decadal Climate Update, there is a one-in-five chance that the average global temperature will temporarily exceed 1.5 °C by 2024.

UNMOGIP Probe into Targeting of UN Vehicle by Indian Troops at LoC Continues: Spokesman

UNITED NATIONS, Dec 21, 2020 (APP):The investigation by the United Nations Military Observer Group in India and Pakistan (UNMOGIP) into Friday’s incident in which Indian troops at the Line of Control (LoC) in the disputed Kashmir region fired at a UN vehicle is continuing, according to a UN spokesman.

The vehicle was damaged but two UN military observers, who were conducting routine monitoring activities near Rawalakot on the Pakistani side of LoC, escaped unhurt. On Friday, the U.N. confirmed that its vehicle was damaged by an “unidentified object”, and that the Mission was investigating the incident.

“The investigation is ongoing,” UN Secretary-General Spokesman Stephane Dujarric said in response to a question from APP at the regular noon briefing in New York on Monday. “Nothing further to add,” he said about the progress in the probe.

On Friday, the Foreign office said that Indian troops “specifically targeted” the UN vehicle carrying two UNMOGIP officers from across the Line of Control, in what was termed a “new low” in their conduct. The officers were immediately evacuated by the Pakistan Army and brought back to the UNMOGIP field station in Rawalakot.

Global Climate Summit Ends; UN Chief Highlights Pakistan’s Pledge to Scrap Coal Power

UNITED NATIONS, Dec 14, 2020(APP):: The Climate Action Summit wrapped up Friday evening after some 70 world leaders, including Prime Minister Imran Khan, delivered a raft of new measures aimed at making a big dent in greenhouse gas emissions, and ensuring that the warming of the planet is limited to 1.5 degrees Celsius. Speaking to reporters at UN Headquarters in New York, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres especially mentioned the announcement by PM Khan that Pakistan was scrapping plans for new coal power plants.

“Pakistan announced no new coal power plants,” the UN chief said, as he recounted the number of countries coming forward with strengthened national climate plans (NDCs), with commitments covering some of the world’s biggest emitters on display. Pakistan has seen coal power capacity increase from very low levels to a substantial 5 gigawatts over the past five years. But in his address to the online summit, Prime minister Imran Khan said that 60% of all energy by 2030 will be from renewables and 30% of all vehicles will be powered by electricity.

On his Twitter account, Pakistan’s UN Ambassador Munir Akram drew attention to Pakistani premier’s ambitious plan as part of country’s unwavering commitment toward combating climate change. Meanwhile, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi failed to make new concrete announcements on the climate ambition of the world’s third-largest polluter. Modi only reiterated commitments announced in previous months, including increasing the country’s renewable power capacity to 175 gigawatts before 2022 and to 450 gigawatts by 2030.

China’s President Xi Jinping committed to increasing the share of non-fossil fuel in primary energy consumption to around 25% by 2030. Britain, which is hosting next year’s UN Climate Conference, announced that it will cut emissions by 68 per cent, compared to 1990 levels, within the next five years, and the European Union bloc committed to a 55 per cent cut over the same time period. Small island nations are not among large emitters of greenhouse gases, but they’re among the most affected by global warming, said Barbados Prime Minister Mia Mottley. This year’s hurricane season has ended with a record of 30 named storms.

The survival of these nations depends on other countries raising ambition in their emissions pledges, she said. Without more ambition “There will be no build-back-better for countries and economies like mine.” Italy will donate 30 million euros ($36 million) to the UN Adaptation Fund, Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said. France will introduce a new climate law over the next few weeks which will include specific measures proposed by citizens to help the economy transition toward climate neutrality, French President Emmanuel Macron said.

Measures to transition toward a low-carbon economy include halting all support toward the exploration of new fossil fuel deposits within the next five years, not building new coal plants and forcing financial firms to disclose financial risk, he said. UN Secretary-General Guterres called on governments to declare a climate emergency to accelerate efforts toward carbon neutrality. That’ll be the UN’s central objective for next year, he said.

“Five years after the Paris Agreement we’re still not going in the right direction,” Guterres said. “Commitments made in Paris were far from enough — we are headed for a catastrophic temperature rise of 3 degrees. At least 24 countries announced in the Summit new commitments, strategies or plans to reach carbon neutrality, and a number of states set out how they are going even further, with ambitious dates to reach net zero: Finland by 2035, Austria by 2040 and Sweden by 2045.

Officials see these announcements are a sign that there is real momentum as the member states head towards the next big step on the road to carbon neutrality, the COP26 UN Climate Conference, in November 2021. The Summit has been labelled as the starting gun for the “the sprint to Glasgow”, referring to the delayed UN Climate Conference (COP26) which is scheduled to be held in the Scottish city in November 2021. The year-long sprint is a push for countries to announce even more ambitious and wide-ranging plans to curb emissions and make their economies “greener” and more sustainable.

The coronavirus wrought economic havoc on the world but, with the release of COVID-19 vaccines expected in 2021, these officials hope that economies will begin opening up, and the UN is spearheading attempts to ensure that the world will “build back better”, rather than returning to a fossil-fuel dependent business as usual.

China’s Xi Targets Steeper Cut in Carbon Intensity By 2030

LONDON/BEIJING, Dec 13, 2020:: China’s President Xi Jinping on Saturday targeted a steeper cut in rates of carbon emissions relative to economic activity by 2030 and set new goals for growth in renewable energy and forest stock, as the country looks to reach the peak of its emissions before the end of the decade. “Today, I wish to announce some further commitments for 2030,” told Xi a one-day virtual U.N. summit on climate change via video before announcing the targets.

“China always honours its commitments.” China, the world’s biggest greenhouse gas emitter, will cut its carbon dioxide emissions per unit of gross domestic product, or carbon intensity, by more than 65% from 2005 levels by 2030, said Xi. That compares to targets China announced in 2015 of lowering carbon intensity by 60-65% by 2030. Xi also said that China will boost its installed capacity of wind and solar power to more than 1,200 gigawatts (GW) by 2030, and increase the share of non-fossil fuels in primary energy consumption to around 25% during the same period, up from a previous commitment of 20%.

As of 2019, China had combined accumulative installed solar and wind capacity of around 414 GW. China’s state planner is aiming to have 240 GW of wind and the same amount of solar capacity installed by the end of this year. “(China’s new target) demonstrates good will,” said Li Shuo, a climate advisor with environmental group Greenpeace. Li estimated that China’s new carbon intensity target would mean China would reach the peak of its carbon emissions between 2025 and 2030.

“However, Beijing has the potential to do more. Making its emissions peak earlier than 2025 is still something it should strive for,” said Li, adding that Greenpeace was expecting China to cut its carbon intensity by 70-75% by 2030. The European Union has urged China to halt all new coal projects and to stop financing overseas coal plants. But Xi’s speech on Saturday contained no mention of roadmaps for coal project elimination.

Kashmiris Facing Existential Crisis, Kashmir Advocacy Group Warns

NEW YORK, Dec 11, 2020(APP):: The World Kashmir Awareness Forum, a Washington-based advocacy group, has drawn international community’s attention to the grave human rights abuses in Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir over the past 73 years, and called for urgent steps to enable the Kashmiri people to exercise their UN-promised right to self-determination.

“With 100,000 civilian deaths, 10,000 missing and civic, political and economic life critically suppressed, the people of Kashmir are facing erasure from history,” the Forum warned in a statement marking Human Rights Day. “This year, the people of Kashmir have suffered even further escalations of human rights abuses, including an ongoing communications blockade, forced demographic changes and raids on non-governmental organization, journalists and civil society leaders,” Dr. Ghulam N. Mir, President of the Forum, said.

“All of this is taking place amidst a global pandemic, which Kashmir is incapable of properly addressing due to a critical lack of resources and healthcare infrastructure. It cannot be put more plainly: Kashmiris are facing an existential crisis,” he added. In this regard, the World Kashmir Awareness Forum put forward a set of demands to the Indian government, with a call to the international community to raise their voices in solidarity and support.

They are: Immediately lift the military siege, restore all internet connectivity and communications links and release all political prisoners; allow unfettered access to monitor and report human rights violations by credible international bodies and U.N. rights experts; halt and rescind all laws instituted to accelerate demographic changes in Kashmir; disarm and withdraw all Indian military and paramilitary personnel from the occupied territories and allow Kashmiris to exercise their right of self-determination.

“Kashmiris in the region and throughout the diaspora have endured 73 years of terror, suppression and indescribable loss,” Professor Khalid J. Qazi, Board Member of the Forum, said. “As we observe U.N. Human Rights Day, (the Forum) implores the international community not to forget the people of Kashmir. The only hope for an end to the senseless violence is by uplifting Kashmiri voices and uniting for a strong international response.”

39 Surprising Things Queen Elizabeth II Owns

LONDON, Nov 11, 2020:: Jennifer M. Wood, Paul Anthony Jones

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Photo by Eddie Mulholland, WPA Pool / Getty Images.

On June 13, 2020, Queen Elizabeth II was feted as part of Trooping the Colour, an event that has marked the official birthday of the reigning British sovereign for more than 270 years. April 21, the Queen's actual birthday, is also celebrated as such. Of course, having two birthdays is just one of the many perks that come with being the head of the royal family. From bats to Bentleys, here are 39 surprising things owned by Queen Elizabeth II.

1. All the Swans on the River Thames

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Photo by Sang Tan, WPA Pool / Getty Images.

Though she's more of a Corgi lover, Queen Elizabeth II has quite the menagerie of pets—especially if you consider the fact that she technically owns (or at least co-owns) all of the unclaimed mute swans on open water in England and Wales, though she "only exercises her ownership on certain stretches of the Thames and its surrounding tributaries." She shares ownership of the birds with the Worshipful Company of Vintners and the Worshipful Company of Dyers, an arrangement that dates back to the 15th century (back when the animals were considered a delicacy).

So just how many swans does the Queen have? We'll know soon enough: each year, they're counted during a five-day event known as the Swan Upping. This year's event will take place from July 13 to July 17 on the Thames between Sunbury and Abingdon, England.

2. A Pair of Dorgis

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Photo by Steve Parsons, WPA Pool / Getty Images.

Speaking of Corgis: In April 2018, it was reported that Willow—the Queen's last Corgi—had passed away at the age of 14. It marked the end of a canine era for Elizabeth, who has regularly been photographed surrounded by members of her beloved breed over the past 75-plus years. (She and her sister, Princess Margaret, were gifted their first Corgi—whom they named Dookie—in 1933.) While Elizabeth confirmed in 2015 that there will be no more Corgis in her future (she doesn't want to leave any behind), she isn't dog-less. She still has two "dorgis"—a cross between a corgi and a dachshund—named Vulcan and Candy, who can regularly be found at her side.

3. All the Dolphins in the United Kingdom

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Photo from iStock.

Dolphins and sturgeons and whales, oh my. Much like the aforementioned swans, the Queen's got a solid claim on many of the country's aquatic creatures. A statute from 1324, which originated during the reign of King Edward II, stated that, "… The king shall have wreck of the sea throughout the realm, whales and sturgeons taken in the sea or elsewhere within the realm, except in certain places privileged by the king." The law still stands today and covers not just whales and sturgeons but dolphins and porpoises, too, when they are captured within three miles of the UK.

Until recently the Crown also laid claim to the bulk of Scotland's wild crustaceans, but that now rests with Marine Scotland.

4. Nearly All of London's Regent Street

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Photo from iStock.

Located in the heart of London's West End, Regent Street is one of the world's most famous roads. Measuring approximately 1.25 miles in length, the street runs through both Piccadilly Circus and Oxford Circus and attracts more than 7.5 million visitors per year—and it's all part of the Crown Estate, meaning it legally belongs to Her Majesty. (Though she's not entitled to any of the royalties from the many storefronts that inhabit it.)

5. Half of the UK's Shoreline

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Photo from iStock.

Cityscapes aren't the only real estate in the Queen's portfolio. The Crown Estate also owns "just under half of the coastline around England, Wales, and Northern Ireland."

6. Six Royal Residences

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Photo from iStock.

One thing the royal family is not lacking in is places to call home. While Buckingham Palace—and its 775 rooms—is the Queen's main abode, her portfolio of lavish properties also includes Windsor Castle (the world's largest occupied castle); Holyrood Palace, a 12th-century monastery-turned-royal palace in Edinburgh, Scotland; and Hillsborough Castle in Northern Ireland, which sits on 100 acres. The Sandringham Estate, where the royal family spends Christmas, and Balmoral Castle, her favorite summer estate, are two of the Queen's personal possessions (she inherited them from her father).

7. More than 200 Launer Handbags

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Photo by Hannah McKay, WPA Pool / Getty Images.

The Queen is rarely seen without a handbag, which she actually uses to send signals to her staff. But she doesn't carry just any old bag: She prefers purses from luxury London designer Launer—the Royale (appropriately) and Traviata styles are her favorites—and the brand's CEO estimates that she has about 200 of them. At approximately $2500 a pop, that's a mighty pricey purse collection.

8. A Private ATM

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Photo from iStock.

It's doubtful that the Queen has much need to dig through her Launer purse in search of a tenner. But if the need for cash arose, there's a private money machine in the basement of Buckingham Palace, courtesy of Coutts bank, that's specifically for members of the royal family.

9. The Best Seat in the House at Wimbledon

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Photo by Oli Scarff, WPA Pool / Getty Images.

In 2010, Her Majesty stunned the crowd at Wimbledon when she showed up to watch Andy Murray play. It was the first time she had attended the world-famous tennis tournament in more than 30 years. She may not be a regular spectator, but she still commands the best seat in the house: the Royal Box, which is tucked just behind the court's south baseline.

"There is a view, among those who have attended the royal box, that it is one of the most special experiences in sport," Alexandra Willis, the head of communications, content, and digital at The All England Lawn Tennis Club, told The New York Times in 2017. "It's because of the fact that it's by invitation only—you can't just decide it's something you want to attend." Though the Queen may not be the biggest fan, the Duchess of Cambridge is a frequent fixture in the Royal Box.

10. The Tower of London

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Photo from iStock.

Her Majesty's Royal Palace and Fortress of the Tower of London—better known as simply the Tower of London—is yet another one of the Queen's possessions in right of the Crown. The property, which dates to the 11th century, has played an enormous role in royal history and is still one of the city's most visited tourist attractions. And it all belongs to Queen Elizabeth—including the Crown Jewels and, by extension, the Tower's famed flock of ravens.

11. 150,000 Works of Art (Many of them Priceless)

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Photo by Jeff J Mitchell, Getty Images.

The Queen's position puts her in charge of The Royal Collection, one of the world's largest and most impressive art collections (though she doesn't own it personally, it is held in trust by her). Of the million-plus pieces included in the collection are approximately 150,000 artworks from some of the great masters (think Rembrandt, Rubens, and Raphael). While some of these pieces are displayed in museums or otherwise made available for public viewing, many of them hang in royal palaces and estates.

12. Queen Victoria's Sketchbook

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Photo from Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain.

In addition to priceless works of art, The Royal Collection also features many personal artifacts from kings and queens past. Among the most impressive: Queen Victoria's sketchbook. (Elizabeth is Queen Victoria’s great-great-granddaughter.)

13. A Winning Team of Race Horses

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Photo from the Evening Standard / Hulton Archive / Getty Images.

Horses have long been one of the Queen's great passions—though it goes beyond riding them. She's also a savvy investor when it comes to race horses, and is said to have approximately 30 horses in training. As of late 2017, according to Harper's Bazaar, her impressive roster of race horses have earned the Queen close to $9 million over the past three decades with their 451 race wins. Her first victory came in 1949, when Monaveen—a horse she co-owned with her mom—won at Fontwell Park.

14. A Car Collection Worth More Than $10 Million

Photo by Chris Jackson, Getty Images.

Given that she served as a truck driver and mechanic during World War II, perhaps it's unsurprising that the Queen is a bit of a gearhead. While she's most often seen tooling around in her beloved Land Rover Defender—she's owned about 30 of them so far—her collection of cars goes way beyond that and is estimated to be worth about $10 million. Among some of the models in her collection: three Rolls-Royces, two Bentleys, and a custom Range Rover LWB Landaulet that features the royal flag and an open-air top (so that she can wave to her adoring public).

15. A Tiara Covered in 1333 Diamonds

Photo by Oli Scarff, Getty Images.

Any Queen worth her castle has got a great tiara, but Elizabeth has a lot of them. Among the many pieces of glittering headgear she inherited is the Diamond Diadem, which might be her most famous piece of jewelry. It's set with 1333 diamonds, including a four-carat yellow diamond in the center. While the Queen has worn it to every State Opening of Parliament since 1952, the piece was originally made for George IV to wear at his lavish 1821 coronation.

16. A Massive Fabergé Collection

Photo by John Stillwell, Pool / Getty Images.

While you may be content to amass Beanie Babies or Precious Moments figurines, the Queen has a much more befitting collecting habit: Fabergé eggs and accessories. Also part of the Royal Collection, the collection was started by Queen Alexandra and Edward VII around the turn of the century and is now estimated to include 600 pieces. Many of the pieces have been put on display to the public, including a blue cigarette case that was given to Edward VII by one of his many mistresses, Alice Keppel. Following the king's death, his widow, Queen Alexandra, returned the item to Keppel.

17. Westminster Abbey

Photo from iStock.

Westminster Abbey has played an integral part in some of the most important moments in royal history. In addition to being the setting for every coronation since 1066, it has hosted more than a dozen royal weddings and hundreds of royal funerals, memorial services, and beyond. Westminster Abbey is known a "royal peculiar," meaning that it belongs directly to the monarch, not a diocese.

18. Hyde Park

Photo from iStock.

With so many royal residences to choose from, the Queen is probably set in terms of green space. But if she ever wanted to stretch her legs a bit and mingle with some commoners, she owns some of England's most famous wide-open spaces, including Hyde Park, Kensington Gardens, The Regent's Park and Primrose Hill, and The Green Park.

19. A Gold Record

Photo by ADRIAN DENNIS, AFP / Getty Images.

We may never know if the Queen's got vocal chops, but we know that HM is the recipient of at least one gold record. In 2002, the royal family marked Elizabeth's 50th year on the throne with a Golden Jubilee celebration, complete with a star-studded concert dubbed the "Party at the Palace."

EMI later released a CD of the concert, which sold 100,000 copies within its first week in release. The Queen was sent a golden record in honor of this achievement, making her the only member of the royal family to earn that rock star accolade.

20. A Bat Colony

Photo from iStock.

The Queen is obviously a devoted animal lover, which might explain why she doesn't mind sharing Balmoral Castle with the colony of bats that has taken up residence in the property's main hall. She apparently likes to catch them with a butterfly net as they dart around her summer home.

21. The World's Largest Clear-Cut Diamond

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Photo from the Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons.

Weighing in at 530.2 carats, the Great Star of Africa—properly known as Cullinan I (after South African mining magnate Sir Thomas Cullinan)—is the world’s largest clear-cut diamond, worth somewhere in the region of $51 million. In 1910, it and several other stones cut from a gigantic diamond unearthed in South Africa five years earlier were presented to Mary of Teck (the consort of George V and Elizabeth II’s grandmother).

Back in the UK, the diamond was incorporated into the Sovereign’s Sceptre with Cross, the three-foot-long staff held by the monarch during their coronation. As such the diamond is now part of the Crown Jewels, which technically remain under the ownership of the Crown.

22. Three Crown Dependencies

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Sunrise at Isle of Man's Douglas Lighthouse. Photo by Stephen Meadows/iStock via Getty Images.

The Queen is the head of state of the United Kingdom, of course, as well as 14 overseas territories (including Gibraltar and the Falkland Islands) and the 16 so-called Commonwealth realms (including Canada, Australia, and New Zealand). But as the current reigning monarch, the Queen also technically owns three British island territories—namely, the Isle of Man, and the two largest of the Channel Islands, Jersey and Guernsey—which together comprise her “Crown Dependencies.”

The islands are all self-governing, so the Queen’s role in each one is largely ceremonial. Nevertheless, the arrangements linking these islands to the British Crown are ancient ones—so ancient, in fact, that their legislature has never been updated to make an allowance for a female monarch, and as a consequence the Queen technically holds the titles of Lord (not Lady) of Mann in the Isle of Man, and Duke (not Duchess) of Normandy in Jersey and Guernsey.

23. An Aberdeen Angus Cow

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Photo from naumoid / iStock via Getty Images.

While on an official visit to Canada in 2005, the Queen was presented with an Aberdeen Angus cow at the Calgary Stampede agricultural show. Sadly, she wasn’t able to bring her new gift back home to Buckingham Palace, so the cow remained in Calgary as the founding member of the Stampede’s own herd of cattle.

24. Two Tortoises From the Seychelles

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Photo from Katiekk2 / iStock via Getty Images.

One gift the queen was able to bring home with her from her foreign travels was a pair of native Aldabra giant tortoises, presented to her during an official visit to the Seychelles in 1972. Originally housed at London Zoo, the zoo has since rehomed the animals—which, given that they can reportedly live to more than 200 years old, will likely outlive the queen herself.

25. Her Own Flag

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Photo from the Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0.

The queen has her own coat of arms of course, and various rules and regulations govern the use of the Britain’s Union Jack and the Royal Standard flag in her presence. But she also has her own personal flag—depicting a crowned letter E in a circle of roses, on a navy blue background—which the royal household can opt to use on any building or vehicle in which the queen is staying or traveling. Reportedly, the flag was designed in 1960 at the queen’s own request to symbolize her as an individual, separate from her role as sovereign or head of state.

26. Four Guinness World Records

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Queen Elizabeth II departs church at Hillington in Sandringham on January 19, 2020 in King's Lynn, England. Photo by Chris Jackson / Getty Images.

The Queen has been presented with and currently holds four Guinness World Record titles: she is officially the world’s longest reigning queen, the world’s oldest reigning monarch, the world’s wealthiest queen, and appears on the money of more sovereign countries than any other person.

The Guinness World Record book is created every year, and 2021 releases October 6th, 2020!

27. A Gold Blue Peter Badge

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Photo by John Stillwell - WPA Pool / Getty Images.

In case you’ve never heard of it, Blue Peter is a long-running BBC children’s television program that, unbelievably, has been broadcast practically every week in the UK since 1958. As such, it’s now something of a cornerstone in British culture—not to mention the longest running children’s television program in the entire world.

As absolutely anyone from Britain will know, the show awards badges (bearing its famous sailboat logo) for all sorts of achievements, ranging from viewer competitions to fundraising activities, sporting achievements and conservationism. But in 2002, the program awarded its highest honor—a gold Blue Peter badge—to Queen Elizabeth II to celebrate her 50 years on the throne. Other gold badge honorees include JK Rowling, Steven Spielberg, Sir David Attenborough, and both the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, who were awarded their gold badges in 2017 in recognition of their work raising awareness of children’s mental health.

28. The British Seabed

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Aerial view Porthcurnick beach bay Cornwall. Photo by Nathaniel Taylor / iStock via Getty Images.

Probably the weirdest thing on this list (and that’s saying something), the queen technically owns all of the UK's territorial seabed through the British Crown Estate, from the mean low water mark out to a distance of 12 nautical miles.

29. An Offshore Wind Farm

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Wind farm off the Kentish coast, UK. Photo by Sophie Shoults / iStock via Getty Images.

Because the queen owns the British seabed, she also owns an offshore wind farm. Specifically: Thanet Offshore Wind Farm, which is located seven miles off the coast of Kent in the North Sea and, upon its opening in 2010, was the largest offshore wind farm in the world. In fact, the Crown owns quite a few offshore green-energy projects, including Europe’s largest tidal power plant, which is currently under construction in the Pentland Firth off the far northern tip of Scotland.

30. The UK's Continental Shelf

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White cliffs of Dover overlooking the English Channel. Photo from Xantana / iStock via Getty Images.

The 1964 Continental Shelf Act decreed that the Crown, as an extension of its ownership of the seabed, could lay claim to the UK’s continental shelf, up to a distance of 200 nautical miles in some places. The queen ultimately bears rights to the subsoil and minerals that lie in the UK’s marine shelf, while the government lays claim to the coal, oil, and gas deposits.

31. All of Scotland's Gold Mines

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Chris Sangster, chief executive of Scotgold inspects the Tyndrum gold mine on July 22, 2008 in Tyndrum Scotland. Photo by Jeff J Mitchell / Getty Images.

The Queen also owns the rights to all of Scotland’s gold mining activities. Which is potentially very bad news for the anonymous prospector who discovered Britain’s biggest ever gold nugget—worth at least $65,000—in a Scottish river in 2018. It remains unclear whether he sought permission to remove the gold from the river in which he found it; without it, the gold should legally automatically pass into the ownership of the Crown.

32. 25,000 Acres of Forest

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Photo by Daniel_Kay / iStock via Getty Images.

The Crown Estate also owns around a quarter of a million acres of rural land across the UK, most of which is used or leased for agriculture and mineral extraction. Around 8 percent of the Crown’s rural holdings are forested, however—meaning the queen owns and controls roughly 25000 acres (or 95 square miles) of British woodland.

33. Trafalgar Square

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Photo from Westend61 / Getty Images.

As well as owning much of Regent Street, Trafalgar Square—home to Nelson’s Column and the British National Gallery—is also owned by the Crown. Why? The site now occupied by one of London’s most famous landmarks was originally the location of the royal stables and falconry mews.

34. Queen Victoria's Wedding Dress

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Photo by Sion Touhig / Staff / Getty Images.

As a part of the Royal Collection, the Queen also owns Queen Victoria’s wedding dress—a cream and white silk, satin, and lace ensemble that proved so popular it helped to establish white as the customary color of bride’s gowns.

35. Henry VIII's Armor

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Photo from Jupiterimages / iStock via Getty Images.

Another item from the Royal Collection, the queen owns an impressive suit of armor produced sometime in the 1540s, and once owned by Henry VIII. To accommodate the king’s increasing waist size, the armor was at some point widened with a 2-inch section of plate metal, inserted and riveted into the back piece.

36. Queen Elizabeth II's Own Tartan

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Photo from Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0.

Thanks to their Scottish roots, the British royal family as a whole has their own style of tartan—named “Royal Stewart”—which has apparently been the official tartan of members of the current British royal line since the late 11th century. As the reigning monarch, however, the queen herself is the sole owner of a grey, black, and red pattern of tartan—named “Balmoral”—that was designed by her great-great-grandfather Prince Albert in 1853. Even fellow members of the royal family technically have to ask the queen’s permission to wear it.

37. Millions of Square Feet of Retail Space

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Views capture the opening of 800,000 sq ft Westgate Oxford on Oct. 24, 2017 in Oxford, England. Photo by John Phillips / Getty Images for Westgate Oxford.

Through the British Crown’s real estate empire, the queen owns or part owns 14 retail parks and three shopping centers—totaling some 4.3 million square feet of retail space.

38. A Baptismal Font

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Photo from Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain.

In 1840, Queen Victoria commissioned a silver-gilt font for the baptism of her first child, Princess Victoria, the Princess Royal. The Lily Font, as it is known, is now part of the Royal Collection, under the ownership of the Queen, and has been used at the baptisms of almost all members of the royal family ever since.

39. A National Collection of Mulberries

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Photo from c12 / iStock via Getty Images.

The site now occupied by Buckingham Palace was once (partly) a vast mulberry grove planted by James I in the 17th century in a failed attempt to rear his own silkworms. King James might have been unsuccessful, but the palace’s connection to these notoriously difficult-to-cultivate fruits lives on: in 2000, the Queen personally requested that the head gardener at Buckingham Palace plant a definitive collection of mulberry bushes—some 29 different species in total—that now comprise the plant’s official British National collection.

Jennifer M. Wood is a senior editor at MentalFloss.com, where she often writes about bad '80s movies, good British television, morbidly fascinating crimes, and Peeps. She writes more of the same for Condé Nast Traveler, Esquire, WIRED, Details, Rolling Stone, Complex and various other outlets.

Genocide Victims Often Early Targets of Hate Speech, Violence, UN Chief Says in Message         on Int’l Day: UNO

UNITED NATIONS, Dec 09, 2020(APP):: Social media platforms, technology companies, and religious and civil society leaders have a central role in combatting hate speech, “a clear warning sign” of genocide, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said Wednesday. In a message on the international day to commemorate the victims of genocide and affirm their dignity, which is observed on Dec. 9, he also highlighted the key responsibility of governments.

“Governments need to guarantee civic space for human rights institutions and defenders to do their essential work, and they need to protect the rights of those at risk,” he said. Guterres outlined that genocide is always preceded by “clear, multiple warning signs” and victims are often early targets of hate speech, discrimination and violence. But promptly recognizing and acting on these warning signs, remains a challenge.

“Hate speech is a clear warning sign, and we need to do better in rejecting it in all its forms,” said the Secretary-General, highlighting that all of society must be involved. “It is crucial that we all join hands to defend the principles of equality and human dignity and to repair the fissures and polarization that are so prevalent in our societies today.” The International Day of Commemoration and Dignity of the Victims of the Crime of Genocide and of the Prevention of this Crime was established by the UN General Assembly.

The day commemorates the adoption of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, in 1948, by the General Assembly. In the message, the Secretary-General highlighted that the imperative to prevent genocide is “foundational to the United Nations”. The Convention, adopted in the aftermath of the Holocaust and the Second World War, remains “as relevant as ever” as we work to prevent genocide and other atrocity crimes, he said.

“Crimes which are sadly still being perpetrated with impunity and no regard for the sanctity of human life,” he added. Hate speech is a clear warning sign, and we need to do better in rejecting it in all its forms – UN Secretary-General Guterres also called for credible and effective accountability to deter atrocity crimes and providing justice and remedies for victims. Meeting their psychological and material needs is equally important. “Victims have rights to truth, justice, reparation and a comprehensive package of guarantees of non-recurrence,” he stressed.

WHO Launches Year-Long Campaign to Help 100 Million People Quit Tobacco

UNITED NATIONS, Dec 08, 2220(APP):: The UN World Health Organization (WHO) on Tuesday announced the start of a year-long global campaign to help people quit tobacco, with millions citing the threat of coronavirus as a new incentive to give up the habit. Tobacco kills up to half of its users, claiming more than 8 million lives each year. Over 7 million of those deaths are the result of direct tobacco use while around 1.2 million are the result of non-smokers being exposed to second-hand smoke, according to WHO.

Smoking is also a known risk factor for many respiratory illnesses, and smokers are at a higher risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer, respiratory disease and diabetes – making them particularly vulnerable to severe COVID-19. “If users need more motivation to kick the habit, the pandemic provides the right incentive”, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in a statement issued in Geneva. WHO’s “Commit to Quit” campaign will advocate for stronger national policies, increasing access to cessation services, raising awareness of tobacco industry tactics, and empowering tobacco users to make successful attempts through “quit and win” initiatives, WHO said.

For instance, Florence, an artificial intelligence (AI)-driven 24/7 digital health worker, will tirelessly provide accurate information, help people make a quitting plan, and recommending help-lines and support apps. In one of its first campaign initiatives, the UN health agency rolled out the “WHO Quit Challenge” on the messaging service WhatsApp, and a list of “more than 100 reasons to quit tobacco”. The campaign will focus on twenty-two high-burden countries, where the majority of the world’s tobacco users live.

According to WHO, around 780 million people globally say they want to kick tobacco to the curb, but many lack the tools needed to do so. Their efforts are further complicated by the social and economic stresses that have come as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. “Millions of people worldwide want to quit tobacco – we must seize this opportunity and invest in services to help them be successful, while we urge everyone to divest from the tobacco industry and their interests”, Ruediger Krech, WHO Director of Health Promotion, said.

The agency also called on governments to ensure their populations have access to advice, toll-free quit lines, mobile and digital cessation services, nicotine replacement therapies, and other tools that are proven to help people stop using tobacco.

China Turns on Nuclear-Powered ‘Artificial Sun’

It uses a powerful magnetic field to fuse hot plasma and can reach temperatures of over 150 million degrees Celsius, according to the People’s Daily — approximately ten times hotter than the core of the sun. Located in southwestern Sichuan province and completed late last year, the reactor is often called an “artificial sun” on account of the enormous heat and power it produces.

“The development of nuclear fusion energy is not only a way to solve China’s strategic energy needs, but also has great significance for the future sustainable development of China’s energy and national economy,” said the People’s Daily. Chinese scientists have been working on developing smaller versions of the nuclear fusion reactor since 2006.

They plan to use the device in collaboration with scientists working on the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor — the world’s largest nuclear fusion research project based in France, which is expected to be completed in 2025. Fusion is considered the Holy Grail of energy and is what powers our sun. It merges atomic nuclei to create massive amounts of energy — the opposite of the fission process used in atomic weapons and nuclear power plants, which splits them into fragments.

Unlike fission, fusion emits no greenhouse gases and carries less risk of accidents or the theft of atomic material. But achieving fusion is both extremely difficult and prohibitively expensive, with the total cost of ITER estimated at $22.5 billion.

Pakistan Calls for Equal Participation of Persons with Disabilities in All Spheres

UNITED NATIONS, Dec 01, 2020 (APP): Pakistan’s Ambassador to the UN, Munir Akram, has called for ensuring “full and equal” participation of persons with disabilities in all spheres of society, including in coronavirus response and recovery. Speaking at a side event organized by the Office of the Special Envoy of the UN Secretary-general on Disability and Accessibility, Ambassador Akram, who is also the president of UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), said realizing the rights of persons with disabilities was “crucial” to fulfilling the pledge of the 2030 Agenda: To leave no one behind.

The event was co-sponsored by Pakistan and some other permanent missions to the UN as well some organizations. In his remarks, the Pakistani envoy pointed out that the 2006 Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) entailed on state parties to take all possible measures to ensure the protection and safety of persons with disabilities, including the protection of their access to the highest attainable standard of health.

Referring to the disruption caused by coronavirus, he said empirical evidence suggested that persons with disabilities have been disproportionally impacted by the pandemic as they are at a greater risk of developing more severe health conditions. “An integrated approach is therefore required to ensure that persons with disabilities are not left behind in our response and recovery efforts,” Ambassador Akram said.

In this regard, the Pakistani envoy proposed “universal accessibility” for persons with disabilities as a central pillar and bridge for the exercise of their human rights, and then move broadly towards the eradication of multidimensional poverty in accordance with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

As ECOSOC president, he said he had proposed greater fiscal space for developing countries, larger investment in sustainable infrastructure and adoption of new technologies to recover from the COVID crisis and achieve the 2030 Agenda. The development of “smart cities” with technological innovations can facilitate universal accessibility for persons with disabilities, he said. projects including development of “smart cities” which would facilitate universal accessibility for persons with disabilities.

Also, he said, all services related to the COVID-19 crisis, including remote/telephone medical advice, quarantine facilities, public information, including information on essential supplies and services should be accessible for persons with disabilities on an equal basis and provided on accessible platforms in various alternative formats, modes and methods of communication. Ambassador Akram hoped that next year’s High-Level Political Forum will adopt COVID-19 response and recovery strategy which is inclusive, accessible and capable, especially for people with disabilities.

Transparency International climatenewsletter@transparency.org

to Munir

  Transparency International logo   banner

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