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World Monthly Headline News November 2020

Deirdre Shesgreen USA TODAY

WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump's senior adviser Jared Kushner will travel to the Middle East this week amid heightened tensions over the assassination of a top Iranian scientist who had been credited with overseeing Tehran's now moribund covert nuclear program. Kushner, who is Trump's son-in-law, will travel to Saudi Arabia and Qatar, a source familiar with the matter, who was not authorized to comment publicly, told USA TODAY. The trip was first reported by Bloomberg and the Wall Street Journal. The official said Kushner's trip will be focused on healing a long-standing rift between Qatar and its Persian Gulf neighbors, including Saudi Arabia.

But Kushner's visit to the two Middle East allies comes just days after the targeted killing of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, a nuclear scientist whom Israeli officials referred to as the "father" of Iran's nuclear program. He led Iran’s "Amad" program, which Israel alleged was a covert military operation to probe the feasibility of building a nuclear weapon. more...

By James McAuley

PARIS — Four French police officers were charged Monday with assaulting a Black music producer more than a week ago, an episode captured on video that has stunned the French public and shaken the government. Michel Zecler, the 41-year-old music producer, says that the officers repeatedly insulted him as they beat him and that they used a clear racial epithet while they did so. The officers denied that charge during their interrogation, Paris prosecutor Rémy Heitz told reporters Sunday.

The footage of Zecler, first released Thursday by the French news outlet Loopsider, shocked a nation that was already debating a controversial provision in a new security law that would ban recording police on active duty. The release of the footage followed an incident Thursday in which a police officer was shown on camera tripping an Afghan refugee as authorities cleared out a migrant camp in central Paris. more...

Jason Slotkin

Scores are dead after armed men on motorcycles gruesomely attacked agricultural workers in northeastern Nigeria. Officials say the attack occurred Saturday in the country's Borno state. Multiple outlets report that suspected Islamist militants attacked the farmers while they were harvesting the fields in a rural part of the state. Residents told Reuters at least 70 were killed during attack. A U.N. official in the region, Edward Kallon, said "tens" of civilians were killed.

"The incident is the most violent direct attack against innocent civilians this year. I call for the perpetrators of this heinous and senseless act to be brought to justice," said Kallon, who serves as the resident and humanitarian coordinator in Nigeria. The U.N. Security Council said that "those responsible for these terrorist attacks should be held accountable." Reuters reports that 30 of the victims were beheaded in the attack. At least ten women were reportedly still missing as of Sunday. Though no one has claimed responsibility, Reuters and the BBC note that at least two militant groups are active in the area: Boko Haram and Islamic State West Africa Province. more...

By Julia Hollingsworth and Isaac Yee, CNN

(CNN) New Zealand officials have filed charges against 13 parties that allegedly failed to meet their health and safety obligations when visiting an active volcano which killed 22 when it erupted last year. White Island, which is also known by its Maori name Whakaari, is an active volcano off the coast of New Zealand's North Island. It was a popular tourism destination before it erupted in December 2019, killing local guides and visitors. The country's workplace health and safety regulator, WorkSafe New Zealand, announced Monday that it had filed charges against 10 organizations and three individuals, alleging they did not do what was reasonably practicable to ensure the health and safety of workers and visitors to White Island.

The organizations each face a maximum fine of 1.5 million New Zealand dollars ($1.1 million), while the individuals face a maximum fine of 300,000 New Zealand dollars ($211,000).  "This was an unexpected event, but that does not mean it was unforeseeable and there is a duty on operators to protect those in their care," said WorkSafe chief executive Phil Parkes. In the weeks before the eruption, New Zealand volcano monitoring service GeoNet raised the alert level on White Island to Level 2 out of 5, meaning there was "moderate to heightened volcanic unrest."

Forty-seven people were on the island at the time of the blast, including honeymooners and families, and Parkes said they had gone there with the expectation that systems were in place to make sure they made it home safely. "That's an expectation which goes to the heart of our health and safety culture," he said. "As a nation we need to look at this tragedy and ask if we are truly doing enough to ensure our mothers, fathers, children and friends come home to us healthy and safe at the end of each day." more...

BBC

Australia has demanded China apologise for posting a fake picture on a government Twitter account that depicted an Australian soldier murdering an Afghan child. Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Beijing should be "utterly ashamed" for sharing the "repugnant" image. It comes amid escalating political tensions between the two countries. The image referred to alleged war crimes by Australian soldiers - murders of Afghan civilians and prisoners.

Warning: This story contains an image some people might find distressing.
Earlier this month, a report found "credible information" that 25 Australian soldiers were involved in the murders of 39 Afghan civilians and prisoners between 2009 and 2013. The findings from the Australian Defence Force (ADF) inquiry sparked widespread condemnation, and are now being investigated by police.

What exactly did China put online?
On Monday, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Lijian Zhao posted a fabricated image which portrayed an Australian soldier with a bloody knife next to a child. The child is seen holding a lamb. The image appears to be a reference to previously reported allegations that elite Australian soldiers used knives to murder two 14-year-old Afghan boys. The Australian Broadcasting Corporation reported the ADF report did not substantiate those allegations. more...

By Sara Mazloumsaki and Eliott C. McLaughlin, CNN

(CNN) The Iranian nuclear scientist assassinated Friday east of Tehran was shot by a remote-controlled machine gun operating out of another car, the semi-official Fars News Agency said Sunday. With top Iranian officials blaming Israel, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei and others have promised revenge for the killing of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, who was the country's chief nuclear scientist. There were conflicting accounts from Iranian news agencies about how the attack unfolded. One report published Sunday from Fars News said Fakhrizadeh was traveling with his wife Friday in a bulletproof car, alongside three security personnel vehicles, when he heard what sounded like bullets hitting a vehicle, and he exited the car to determine what had happened.

When he exited the vehicle, a remote-controlled machine gun opened fire from a Nissan stopped about 150 meters (164 yards) from Fakhrizadeh's car, Fars News said. Fakhrizadeh was hit at least three times, according to Fars News. His bodyguard was also shot. Following the gunfire, the Nissan exploded, Fars News reported, adding the attack lasted three minutes. CNN cannot independently confirm the news agency's version of events. The semi-official Iranian Students News Agency (ISNA) also reported Fakhrizadeh's car was hit by gunfire, followed by an explosion and more gunfire, citing Iranian Defense Minister Brig. Gen. Amir Hatami. "Based on reports received from members of his security detail, Mr. Fakhrizadeh's vehicle was initially targeted by gunfire, after which a Nissan vehicle laden with explosives was set off in close proximity to them as gunfire, targeting their vehicle, was continuing," Hatami said, according to ISNA. more...

The assault should cause "heavy human casualties" the newspaper urges.
politico

TEHRAN, Iran — An opinion piece published by a hard-line Iranian newspaper on Sunday suggested Iran should attack the Israeli port city of Haifa if Israel carried out the killing of the scientist who founded the Islamic Republic’s military nuclear program in the early 2000s. Though the hard-line Kayhan newspaper has long argued for aggressive retaliation for operations targeting Iran, Sunday’s opinion piece went further, suggesting any assault be carried out in a way that destroys facilities and “also causes heavy human casualties.”

Israel, suspected of killing Iranian nuclear scientists over the past decade, has not commented on the brazen slaying of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh. A military-style ambush Friday on the outskirts of Tehran reportedly saw a truck bomb explode and gunmen open fire on the scientist, killing him and a bodyguard. U.S. intelligence agencies and U.N. nuclear inspectors have said the organized military nuclear program that Fakhrizadeh oversaw was disbanded in 2003, but Israeli suspicion of Tehran’s atomic program and his involvement has never ceased.

Iranian officials have blamed Israel for Friday’s attack, raising the specter of renewed tensions that could engulf the region, including U.S. troops stationed in the Persian Gulf and beyond during President Donald Trump’s remaining weeks in office. Kayhan published the piece written by Iranian analyst Sadollah Zarei, who argued Iran’s previous responses to suspected Israeli airstrikes that killed Revolutionary Guard forces in Syria did not go far enough to deter Israel. He said an assault on Haifa also needed to be greater than Iran’s ballistic missile attack against American troops in Iraq following the U.S. drone strike in Baghdad that killed a top Iranian general in January. more...

THE ROYAL FAMILY made a "huge mistake" by "abandoning" Harry and Meghan after the Duchess of Sussex disclosed her miscarriage earlier this week, a royal expert has claimed.
By Oli Smith

The Royal Family botched an attempt to repair their relationship with Meghan Markle and Prince Harry, according to Russell Myers, the Royal Editor of the Daily Mirror. Mr Myers labelled the "cold" response from Buckingham Palace a "huge mistake" and a "missed opportunity". He suggested the failure to stand by Meghan and praise her for the op-ed suggests "how big those cracks are in the relationship".

This comes after Meghan Markle revealed she suffered a miscarriage in July, writing in an article of feeling "an almost unbearable grief". Buckingham Palace’s only comment on the sad news was a short statement that said it was “a deeply personal matter we would not comment on". This prompted criticism that the response "lacked empathy" and showed a "cold" side to the royals. TalkRADIO host Kevin O'Sullivan described the response as a "sulky" and "strange". more...

By Daniel Politi

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said that those who were behind the killing of the country’s top nuclear scientist should receive the “definitive punishment.” Khamenei gave his assessment a day after Mohsen Fakhrizadeh was killed in an ambush outside Tehran on Friday. Iranian officials immediately called it an assassination and pointed the finger at Israel. Israel has yet to comment and Iran hasn’t provided evidence of its accusation. But Israel was behind the assassination of Iranian scientists a decade ago, and Fakhrizadeh’s killing did appear to have been a carefully planned, military style attack that is similar to ones Israel has been accused of carrying out in the past. The New York Times says one American official and two other intelligence officials agreed Israel was behind the attack.

“There are two matters that people in charge should put in their to do list: 1- To follow up the atrocity and retaliate against those who were responsible for it. 2- To follow up Martyr Fakhrizadeh’s scientific and technical activities in all fields in which he was active,” Khamenei wrote Saturday. In a letter to the United Nations, Iran said there were “serious indications of Israeli responsibility” and that it reserved the right to “take all necessary measures to defend its people.” more...

By Meghan Roos

Iranian military officials vowed to avenge the death of Iran's top nuclear scientist on Friday, as talks to formalize deepening ties between Israel and Saudi Arabia reportedly fell apart despite the countries' shared distrust of Tehran.

The leaders of Israel and Saudi Arabia attended a meeting last weekend to discuss normalizing relations between the two countries, according to The Wall Street Journal. The paper published its report on the meeting just hours after Iran's Ministry of Defense announced that Dr. Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, the scientist believed to have led the country's "Project Amad" nuclear program in the early 2000s, had died following a roadside attack on Friday. Some political and military officials in Iran referred to Fakhrizadeh's death as "murder" and accused Israel of conducting the attack.

"Terrorists murdered an eminent Iranian scientist today. This cowardice—with serious indications of Israeli role—shows desperate warmongering of perpetrators," Foreign Affairs Minister of Iran Javad Zarif wrote on Twitter. "Iran calls on int'l community—and especially EU—to end their shameful double standards & condemn this act of state terror." more...

BBC

Mr Macron has not publicly commented about the incident, but has discussed the issue - and those involved - with Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin. The three officers identified in the video beating Michel Zecler have been suspended and are under investigation. The incident on Saturday has led to fresh scrutiny of the security forces. Stars of the French World Cup football team are among a number of public figures who have spoken of their anger after the footage captured in the French capital was made public.

On Friday, French media reported that a presidential official had described Mr Macron as being visibly upset by the incident ahead of talks with Mr Darmanin. Mr Darmanin earlier told French television that he would press for the officers' dismissal, saying they had "soiled the uniform of the republic". The officers were questioned in police custody on Friday. more...

Matthew S. Schwartz - NPR

A top Iranian scientist believed to be responsible for developing the country's military nuclear program has been killed, Iranian state television said Friday. Mohsen Fakhrizadeh was killed while in a car just outside the capital of Tehran by attackers using explosives and machine guns, the state media said, describing the assailants as "armed terrorist elements."

The scientist was rushed to a local hospital where doctors were unable to revive him. Iran's defense minister has confirmed his death, Iran's Fars News Agency reported. No one immediately claimed responsibility for the attack, but some Iranian officials said they believe Israel played a role.

"Terrorists murdered an eminent Iranian scientists today," Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said on Twitter. "This cowardice — with serious indications of Israeli role — shows desperate warmongering of perpetrators." The Israeli government had no immediate comment on Fakhrizadeh's killing.

In April 2018, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu mentioned the scientist when discussing Iran's nuclear program. "Remember that name, Fakhrizadeh," he said, while announcing that the Israeli spy agency Mossad had stolen documents from Iran about its covert nuclear activities. more...

By Ellen Mitchell

Israel's military is preparing for the possibility that the Trump administration will launch a military strike against Iran, Axios reported on Wednesday. Senior Israeli officials told the outlet that the Israeli government instructed military commanders to prepare for a potential strike during the “very sensitive period” between now and when President-elect Joe Biden takes office on Jan. 20. Israel is reportedly making preparations with the expectation that they would receive advance notice from the U.S. regarding any military action, but with concerns that such notification might come too close to the attack.

Israel is also preparing for the possibility of a retaliatory strike by Iran, either directly or through proxies in nearby countries. The New York Times reported last week that President Trump was considering a military strike against Iran in an attempt to stop Tehran's growing nuclear program. The International Atomic Energy Agency a day earlier had reported that the country’s uranium stockpile was 12 times higher than allowed under the Obama-era nuclear deal that the Trump administration withdrew from in 2018. Trump reportedly held a meeting Thursday in the Oval Office to discuss his options, but Vice President Pence, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, acting Secretary of Defense Christopher Miller and Gen. Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, dissuaded him against such actions. more...

Elliot Smith

LONDON — The U.K. announced Wednesday its largest peacetime borrowing level ever as the coronavirus pandemic is forecast to cause the largest plunge in economic output for 300 years. The British economy is forecast to contract by 11.3% in 2020, according to the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR), before growing by 5.5% in 2021, 6.6% in 2022 and 2.3%, 1.7% and 1.8% in each of the following years.

GDP (gross domestic product) is not expected to return to pre-crisis levels until the fourth quarter of 2022, and the economy will be around 3% smaller in 2025 than expected in the government’s March budget. The OBR also forecast that borrowing is set to reach a total of £394 billion this year ($526 billion), 19% of GDP, its highest level in peacetime history, before falling to £164 billion in 2021, £105 billion in 2022/3 and remaining at around £100 billion, 4% of GDP, for the remainder of the forecast period. more...

BBC News

Saudi Arabia's foreign minister has denied that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu flew to the Gulf kingdom on Sunday to secretly meet Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. "No such meeting occurred," Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud tweeted. Mr Netanyahu has declined to comment on the Israeli reports that he was on board a private jet that travelled from Tel Aviv to the Red Sea city of Neom. It would be the first known meeting between leaders of the historical foes. video...

Diaa Hadid

When Braden Chapman, newly patrolling with Australian special forces in Afghanistan, saw a fellow soldier shoot dead an unarmed Afghan man whose arms were raised, "I was taken aback," he recalls, "because I knew it was an execution." The alleged incident occurred in 2012, when Chapman was serving as an electronic warfare operator in Uruzgan province in southern Afghanistan. He tells NPR that another soldier tried to put "words into my mouth." He told Chapman to say that the Afghan man had been moving "to gain tactical advantage" on the Australian troops.

Chapman was serving in his first deployment. He recalls hearing casual talk from members of his elite squad about other killings the unit had committed in Afghanistan stretching back to 2005. "I guess that's just how this unit operates," he recalls thinking. It was, to some extent. That became evident on Thursday, when findings were made public of a four-year inquiry into suspected war crimes by Australia's special forces in Afghanistan, who numbered some 3,000 among a force of 26,000. more...

By Oren Liebermann, Jennifer Hansler and Kylie Atwood, CNN

Jerusalem (CNN) Secretary of State Mike Pompeo's visit to Psagot on Thursday marked the first time a top American diplomat has visited a settlement in the West Bank, considered illegal under international law. For any other Secretary of State, this move would have been unprecedented, breaking with decades of US foreign policy and ignoring UN Security Council resolutions. But not from Pompeo, who has been moving American policy in this direction since virtually the beginning of his time as the Trump administration's top diplomat.

Under Pompeo, the State Department ruled that settlements are not de facto illegal under international law, leaving it up to Israel's court system to determine the legality of construction on land the rest of the world considers occupied territory. Speaking about that decision earlier in the day beside Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem, Pompeo called it a "simple recognition of this as part of Israel" and "a recognition of the reality." "For a long time, the State Department took... a view that didn't recognize the history of this special place," Pompeo went on. "Today the United States Department of State stands strongly to the recognition that settlements can be done in a way that are lawful and appropriate and proper." Pompeo sat for a private lunch in the settlement of Psagot, which lies about 20 kilometers -- or 12 miles -- north of Jerusalem, and just a few kilometers east of Ramallah, headquarters of the Palestinian Authority. more...

Report says patrol commanders ordered junior soldiers to shoot unarmed civilians and cover up the crimes from 2009 to 2013
By Rhiannon Hoyle

SYDNEY—The practice was known as “blooding:” a shoot-to-kill order designed to battle-harden new troops. Patrol commanders of Australia’s elite forces in Afghanistan would order junior soldiers to shoot a prisoner so they could achieve a first kill. Pistols, grenades and hand-held radios would be left with victims to make it look like they had been armed. A cover story would be created and code of silence reinforced. more...

“A military attack would be detrimental to any inspection activity, let alone the safety of my inspectors," Rafael Grossi told NBC News in an interview.

By Keir Simmons, Saphora Smith and Laura Saravia

The head of the U.N. watchdog responsible for inspecting Iran’s nuclear program has warned against launching a military strike on Iran. “I would hope there would never be a time for a military attack,” the Director General International Atomic Energy Agency Rafael Grossi told NBC News in an exclusive interview on Wednesday.

His comments come after The New York Times reported Monday, citing four current and former U.S. officials, that President Donald Trump had asked advisers last week whether he had options to take military action against Iran’s main nuclear site. During a meeting last Thursday, a range of senior advisers dissuaded the president from moving ahead with a military strike, the newspaper reported. NBC News has not independently verified the reporting.

Grossi called suggestions that America was planning such an attack “total speculation.” “A military attack would be detrimental to any inspection activity, let alone the safety of my inspectors, which is the first thing I have to think about if somebody is planning to do something like that,” he added during an interview in Geneva. more...

By Oren Liebermann and Ruba Alhenawi, CNN

Jerusalem (CNN) Israel's military carried out a series of strikes on targets in Syria early Wednesday morning, including a site at the Damascus International Airport used as Iranian headquarters, following the discovery of improvised explosive devices planted in the Golan Heights, according to the Israel Defense Forces. The strikes killed three Syrian military personnel and injured one, according to Syria's state-sun SANA news agency, which said that air defenses had intercepted an "Israeli aggression." Israel Defense Forces (IDF) spokesman Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus said the military struck eight targets in Syria belonging to the country's military and the Quds Force, a branch of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps. The targets were all situated in the area between the Israeli frontier and the periphery of Damascus. more...

By Barbara Starr and Zachary Cohen, CNN

(CNN) US military commanders are anticipating that a formal order will be given by President Donald Trump as soon as this week to begin a further withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan and Iraq before Trump leaves office on January 20, according to two US officials familiar. The Pentagon has issued a notice to commanders known as a "warning order" to begin planning to drawdown the number of troops in Afghanistan to 2,500 troops and 2,500 in Iraq by Jan 15, the officials said. Currently there are approximately 4,500 US troops in Afghanistan and 3,000 troops in Iraq. The Pentagon and White House did not immediately respond to CNN's request for comment.

While Monday's news indicates that the Pentagon appears ready to remove thousands more US troops from Afghanistan and Iraq, it also suggests that Trump may fall short of fulfilling one of his core promises to withdraw all US troops from Afghanistan before he leaves office. On October 7 Trump tweeted: "We should have the small remaining number of our BRAVE Men and Women serving in Afghanistan home by Christmas!" Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell did not criticize Trump directly Monday while discussing the drawdown plans but warned of the potential ramifications of a rapid withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan, saying it would "hurt our allies." "We're playing a limited -- limited -- but important role in defending American national security and American interests against terrorists who would like nothing more than for the most powerful force for good in the world to simply pick up our ball and go home," he said in a speech from the Senate floor.

"There's no American who does not wish the war in Afghanistan against terrorists and their enablers had already been conclusively won," he said. "But that does not change the actual choice before us now. A rapid withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan now would hurt our allies and delight -- delight -- the people who wish us harm." The decision to pull additional troops out of Iraq comes as the Trump administration has moved to reduce the US military's footprint there in recent months. more...

Silvia Amaro

LONDON — U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson is self-isolating after coming into contact with someone who tested positive for the coronavirus, but it comes at a tricky time for his leadership, amid a reboot of government policies and as Brexit talks drag on. Johnson, who was severely-ill with Covid-19 back in April, announced on Sunday that he was self-isolating at his official residency. The U.K. asks people who have been in contact with a positive case of coronavirus to self-isolate for 14 days. “I’m in good health and have no symptoms, and will continue to lead on our response to the virus,” Johnson said on Twitter on Monday.

The timing of the self-isolation is difficult, however, as he is due to reveal a host of new policies this week. The reboot, which is expected a include more environmentally-friendly policies, comes after the departure of key political advisor Dominic Cummings, who had a leading role in Johnson’s successful Brexit campaign. Communications director Lee Cain also left the team last week. The prime minister was due to attend a key parliamentary session on Wednesday, but this may now happen via a virtual call. “I’ll have plenty more to say in the course of the next few days … by Zoom and other means of electronic communication,” the prime minister added. more...

Yen Nee Lee

Chinese state-backed tabloid Global Times claimed on Sunday that the signing of the world’s largest trade deal over the weekend proves that China is not the “expansionist empire” that the U.S. and Western countries have made it out to be. Instead, the mega pact — the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership or RCEP — showed that China can work with other countries “in an effective and mutually beneficial way,” the tabloid said on Sunday. “This is the fundamental way for China’s development. China has been seeking a win-win and all-win mode from the very beginning and, like rolling snowballs, has accumulated a large number of common interests around the world,” said the Global Times in an opinion piece posted on its website.

“Some US and Western elites are indeed behind the times in their way of thinking — they think of China as an ‘expansionist empire’ and see all China’s expanded cooperation with whichever country or region as part of its ‘expansion strategy.’ In fact, they have really misread China, the times as well as the world,” it added. RCEP, which covers nearly one-third of the global economy and the world’s population, was signed by China and 14 Asia-Pacific countries on Sunday. The other 14 participating economies are the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand.

Similarly, CGTN — the international arm of state-controlled broadcaster CCTV — said China defied the portrayal of “Western media” by showing that Beijing’s approach to the region is not “aggression,” but “well contemplated diplomacy.” Chinese state media act as a mouthpiece for the Chinese government. more...

*** Trump’s failed “America First” policy is “America Last” ***

By Gerry Shih and Simon Denyer

TAIPEI, Taiwan — After President Trump in 2017 scrapped a Trans-Pacific trade deal assembled by the Obama administration and 11 other governments, countries from Vietnam to Australia paused to ponder whether a trade agreement would be worthwhile without the United States. After four years and two new trade agreements, the answer from Asia appears to be a resounding yes. On Sunday, 15 countries, led by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations bloc and joined by China, Japan and others, announced they had struck the world’s largest trade deal, covering about 30 percent of the global population and a similar share of economic output, after eight years of negotiations.

The accord, known as the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), would cut tariffs on everything from Japanese auto parts to Malaysian palm oil and solidify supply chains within a sprawling new trade zone that would be larger than the European Union in population and gross domestic product. It is the second major pact in two years that excludes the United States: In 2018, Australia, Japan and nine other countries salvaged a version of the Obama-era Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) that Trump had rejected as a “disaster” for American workers.

Taken together, the two overlapping deals illustrate how Asian governments are looking to bolster regional trade — rather than looking toward Washington — at a moment when protectionist sentiment is rising in much of the world, including the United States. “The U.S. vacated the rulemaking and leadership role it previously aspired to, and the region has gone on to writing the rules in the absence of the U.S.,” said Stephen Kirchner, director of investment and trade at the University of Sydney’s United States Studies Center. Although the United States is eligible to apply to join the RCEP, it’s not clear that it would anytime soon. more...

*** Trump’s failed “America First” policy is “America Last” ***

Yen Nee Lee

SINGAPORE — China and 14 other Asia-Pacific countries signed the world’s largest trade agreement on Sunday — a move that analysts said will further elevate China’s political and economic influence in the region. The signing cemented the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) as the largest trading bloc globally, covering a market of 2.2 billion people and $26.2 trillion of global output. That accounts for about 30% of the population worldwide, as well as the global economy. It is also larger than what’s covered under the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) and the European Union.

Analysts said economic benefits of RCEP are modest and would take years to materialize. But the deal is a geopolitical victory for China at a time when the U.S. appears to be retreating from Asia-Pacific given President Donald Trump’s “America First” foreign policy, they added. It’s also not clear whether the U.S. will negotiate any mega trade deals with economies in the region under President-elect Joe Biden, the analysts said. more...

Reuters

MANILA (Reuters) - The death toll from the deadliest cyclone to hit the Philippines this year has climbed to 67, while many areas remained submerged in a northern region hit by the worst flooding in more than four decades, officials said on Sunday. President Rodrigo Duterte flew to Tuguegarao province to assess the situation in Cagayan Valley region, which was heavily flooded after Typhoon Vamco dumped rain over swathes of the main Luzon island, including the capital, metropolitan Manila. Twenty-two fatalities were recorded in Cagayan, 17 in southern Luzon, eight in Metro Manila, and 20 in two other regions, said Mark Timbal, the disaster management agency spokesman. Twelve people were still missing and nearly 26,000 houses were damaged by Vamco, he said. more...

Ten years after she left house arrest and vowed to fight for justice, Myanmar’s civilian leader has instead become a jailer of critics and an apologist for the slaughter of minorities.
By Hannah Beech

When Daw Aung San Suu Kyi emerged from years of house arrest a decade ago, having never used a smartphone or Facebook, she held court in the office of her banned political party, the smell of damp emanating from the human rights reports piled on the floor. Armed with nothing more than a collection of international awards, she wore fresh flowers in her hair, sat with impeccable posture and promised the world two things: she would ensure that Myanmar’s political prisoners would go free and she would end the ethnic strife that has kept the country’s borderlands at war for seven decades.

But the two pledges have gone unfulfilled, and the world’s most shimmering icon of democracy has lost her luster. Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi, 75, has turned into an apologist for the very generals who once locked her up, downplaying their murderous campaign against the Rohingya Muslim minority. Her strongest critics accuse her, as a member of the Bamar ethnic majority, of racism and an unwillingness to fight for the human rights of all people in Myanmar. more...

Scott Neuman

A new Vatican report on former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, who was defrocked last year amid allegations of sexual misconduct that spanned decades, shows that Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI were aware of the accusations against him. The Vatican on Tuesday made public a detailed 461-page report on an internal investigation revealing that the Holy See repeatedly downplayed or dismissed reports of McCarrick's alleged sexual transgressions involving both minors and adults.

Last year, Pope Francis dismissed McCarrick, the former archbishop of Washington, D.C., after a church tribunal found him guilty of "solicitation in the Sacrament of Confession and sins against the Sixth Commandment with minors and with adults, with the aggravating factor of the abuse of power."

The most striking revelation in the newly released report is that Pope John Paul II, who was made a saint in 2014, appointed McCarrick to the position of archbishop of Washington despite a letter from the late New York Cardinal John O'Connor in 1999 detailing allegations against him. McCarrick retired from the archdiocese in 2006.

Among other things, the report reveals that at the time of McCarrick's appointment as archbishop of Washington in late 2000, the Vatican was aware of allegations that included a report dating to 1987 by a priest who said he observed sexual conduct between McCarrick and another priest, and an anonymous letter charging the McCarrick with pedophilia with his "nephews." The report says that at the time, McCarrick was also "known to have shared a bed" with multiple men at his residences and a beach house in New Jersey. more...

Holly Ellyatt

LONDON — With President Donald Trump falsely claiming victory in the 2020 election, warning of legal action despite millions of votes still uncounted, a top German official has warned of an “explosive situation” and a potential constitutional crisis in the U.S.

“This is a very explosive situation. This is a situation that can lead to a constitutional crisis in the U.S., as experts are rightly saying. And it is something that must cause us great concern,” German Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer told German television channel ZDF early Wednesday, according to a Reuters translation.

The comments by Kramp-Karrenbauer, who at one stage was largely seen as a successor to German Chancellor Angela Merkel, came after Trump had taken to Twitter to accuse the opposition of trying to “steal” the election. Twitter attached a label over the tweet, warning that some or all of the content is disputed and might be misleading. more...

By JIM HEINTZ

MOSCOW (AP) — Russian President Vladimir Putin won’t congratulate President-elect Joe Biden until legal challenges to the U.S. election are resolved and the result is official, the Kremlin announced Monday. Putin is one of a handful of world leaders who have not commented on Biden’s victory, which was called by major news organizations on Saturday. But President Donald Trump’s team has promised legal action in the coming days and refused to concede his loss, while alleging large-scale voter fraud, so far without proof.

When Trump won in 2016, Putin was prompt in offering congratulations — but Trump’s challenger in that election, Hillary Clinton, also conceded the day after the vote. Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters Monday that this year is different. “Obviously, you can see that certain legal procedures are coming there, which were announced by the incumbent president — therefore this situation is different, so we consider it correct to wait for the official announcement,” he said. more...

By Ben Westcott, Steven Jiang and James Griffiths, CNN

Hong Kong (CNN)The Chinese government on Monday sidestepped questions on when it would congratulate United States President-elect Joe Biden on his election victory, with a Foreign Ministry spokesman saying only that China would act in "accordance with international practice." More than 24 hours after US media declared Biden victorious, China remains one of the few major countries yet to send a message of congratulations to Biden and his team on their defeat of Donald Trump, leaving many to speculate whether officials there are waiting for the outgoing president to concede defeat.

And with two months to go until Trump leaves office, Beijing may want to avoid anything that could further destabilize US-China relations. Speaking at a regular press briefing in Beijing Monday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said that China had "noted" Biden's declaration of victory. "We understand that the outcome of the general election will be determined in accordance with the laws and procedures of the United States," said Wang in response to CNN's questions. "We will handle the issue of the statement (of congratulations) in accordance with international practice." Wang did not elaborate what "international practice" might involve, especially given the large number of nations who have already congratulated Biden, including the United Kingdom, Australia, Israel, France and Germany. more...

Rachel Elbaum and Yuliya Talmazan and Adela Suliman and Saphora Smith, NBC News

LONDON — Sighs of relief rippled through capitals of longtime U.S. allies around the world Saturday after Joe Biden became president-elect. Many leaders have been battered by four years of the convention-smashing President Donald Trump and see in Biden a counterpart who will try and return America onto a path of multilateralism and international cooperation.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who had a fraught relationship with Trump, was among the first world leaders to issue a statement congratulating Biden and his running mate, Kamala Harris. "Our two countries are close friends, partners, and allies. We share a relationship that's unique on the world stage," Trudeau wrote soon after news emerged that Biden had won the pivotal state of Pennsylvania, according to NBC News projections. "I'm really looking forward to working together and building on that with you both."

Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo was less diplomatic. "Welcome back America!" she wrote on Twitter. "Congratulations to Joe Biden and Kamala Harris for their election!" Messages from foreign leadersand officials are common when a new U.S. president is elected. Less common, however, is the number this time around who have been referring to the previous administration — perhaps tacitly signposting their relief that it's over — when delivering their congratulations. There were many mentions of the challenges the new White House faced. Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfven congratulated Biden and mentioned the need for "multilateralism" — something the Trump administration has explicitly shunned. more...

By Mary Ilyushina, CNN

Moscow (CNN) Russian lawmakers submitted a draft bill that could grant former presidents lifelong immunity from criminal prosecution beyond their terms of office, state-run news agency TASS reported Thursday. Such a bill would give current President Vladimir Putin protection from prosecution if and when he decides to leave office. Under current Russian law, presidents cannot be prosecuted for crimes committed while in office. The proposed change seeks to extend the immunity beyond their terms of office so it would apply to offenses committed in the president's lifetime. It was submitted by a parliamentary group that assessed Putin's controversial constitutional amendments earlier this year.

"After the expiration of his term of office, such person has the right to count on the level of protection and legal guarantees that is not lower than those provided to him while he exercised presidential powers," senator Andrey Klishas, the group's co-chair which submitted the bill, told TASS. "This order acts as a guarantee against unjustified persecution of the former head of state and recognizes the importance of his role in the general system of public authority." The legislation has to go through three readings in the lower house of the Russian parliament, a review in the upper house, and then be signed by Putin to come into force.

Immunity
Among the first decrees Putin signed when he first came into office in 2000 was a document granting immunity to former president Boris Yeltsin, who stepped down and picked Putin as his successor. The new bill also complicates the process of revoking immunity by requiring the indictment of high treason or other grave felonies to be confirmed by the Supreme and Constitutional courts, where judges are nominated by the president. Then both chambers of the Russian parliament must support the motion by a two-thirds majority. Under current law, a former president could be stripped of immunity if a criminal case over state treason or grave felony is initiated by the Investigative Committee and supported by the both houses of the parliament. more...

USA Spot News

Russia denies Vladimir Putin planning to step down over health concerns

Geo News

Vladimir Putin plans to step down next year amid health concerns, report claims

Global News

Denmark is planning to cull up to 17 million minks after a mutated strain of the novel coronavirus was transmitted from the animals to humans.  Global’s Sharmeen Somani looks at the devastating impact that’s having on farmers and what the spread means to us. more...

By The Visual Journalism Team

Donald Trump is a man who prefers plain speaking to the language of diplomacy. During his four years in office, the US president has upended relationships with previously solid US allies, forged surprising new friendships and tweeted about it all - a lot. We've taken a look at the countries he's mentioned most on Twitter to pick out his most notable statements and give an overview of where US relations stand as we approach the election on 3 November. more...

By Oren Liebermann and Abeer Salman, CNN

Jerusalem (CNN)The United Nations and the European Union have criticized the demolition by the Israeli military of a large portion of a Palestinian community in the West Bank that left 73 people, including 41 children, homeless. The UN described the demolition in the community of Khirbet Humsa as "the largest forced displacement incident in over four years." Israel's Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT), which administers the occupied West Bank, said seven tents and eight pens were destroyed because they were built illegally in a firing zone in the Jordan Valley.

The UN said 73 people were displaced by the demolition in Khirbet Humsa on Tuesday. "We will note that the enforcement was carried out in accordance with the authorities and procedures, and subject to operational considerations," COGAT said in a statement. Harbi Abu Al-Kabsh, a 47-year-old Palestinian, said villagers were given no warning of the impending demolition. "They never told us that they are coming to demolish until we saw them coming with bulldozers," he told CNN. "They didn't even give us a chance to take our properties."

Al-Kabsh promised to rebuild his home on the same spot, despite years of legal battles over the fate of his community, and the immediate challenge of the onset of winter rains. "My cousin's wife gave birth two days ago and she is with her newborn outside under the rain. I'm now buying some rain covers to try to protect the children," he said. more...

Jamie Ross

The Kremlin-backed news network RT kicked off its Election Day coverage with an interview with Rudy Giuliani, who gleefully helped spread misinformation about the vote. President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer appeared on RT’s Going Underground show in an interview broadcast Tuesday morning. During the chat, Giuliani furthered a Russian disinformation campaign to make false claims about Joe Biden’s health, namely that he’s “suffering from dementia.” more...

Jaclyn Diaz

Former National Security Agency contractor and whistleblower Edward Snowden announced Monday he plans to seek Russian citizenship, while also maintaining his U.S. nationality. Snowden made the announcement on Twitter as he retweeted his wife, Lindsay's, message from Oct. 28 announcing the couple are expecting a baby. Snowden said they are seeking Russian citizenship to ensure they will be able to live with their future son. "After years of separation from our parents, my wife and I have no desire to be separated from our son. That's why, in this era of pandemics and closed borders, we're applying for dual US-Russian citizenship," Snowden said in his tweet. more...

The actor’s career and reputation were in tatters Monday morning after an astonishing High Court verdict found that a British newspaper was right to label him a “wife beater.”
Tom Sykes

Johnny Depp is a wife beater, the high court in London ruled today. The stunning verdict, which went against most expectations, will be appealed by Depp, his legal team said, calling it “as perverse as it is bewildering.” After examining 14 alleged episodes of abuse, the judge ruled that a 2018 story in the Sun newspaper that labeled Depp a “wife beater” was “substantially true.”

Depp was suing News Group Newspapers (NGN), the publishers of the British newspaper, for libel over the article that said the 57-year-old attacked his ex-wife, Amber Heard, 34, during their relationship. During the trial, Depp denied he’d ever been violent toward his ex-wife and claimed she’d been abusive toward him during their relationship, including accusing her of putting out a cigarette in his face and throwing a vodka bottle. However, lawyers for NGN based their defense on 14 specific allegations of abuse by Heard between 2013 and 2016. Heard was their star witness. more...

Yen Nee Lee

China’s factory activity expanded for the sixth straight month in October as business confidence grew to its strongest in years, a private survey showed on Monday. The Caixin/Markit Purchasing Managers’ Index for Chinese manufacturing came in at 53.6 for October, better than the 53.0 forecast by analysts in a Reuters poll. The latest reading was the highest since January 2011, the survey results showed.

PMI readings above 50 indicate expansion, while those below that signal contraction. PMI readings are sequential and indicate month-on-month expansion or contraction. China’s vast manufacturing industry has been recovering as the country’s coronavirus outbreak appears largely under control. The October Caixin/Markit PMI showed that the country’s manufacturing recovery has continued to pick up speed, said Wang Zhe, senior economist at Caixin Insight Group. more...

By Madeline Holcombe and Alta Spells, CNN

(CNN) A male suspect is in custody after two people were killed and five others injured in a stabbing attack Saturday night in Quebec City, reported CNN partner CBC News. According to preliminary reports, the suspect was wearing medieval dress, the Quebec City Police Service said in a post on Twitter. The five injured victims were transported to local hospitals with different levels of injury and the suspect was taken to the hospital for evaluation, police spokesperson Étienne Doyon said, according to CBC News. more...

AFP

New skirmishes between police and protestors broke out in Rome on Saturday following clashes in Florence a night earlier that Italy's interior minister blamed on "violent fringe elements". Protesters have taken to the streets in the past week in cities across Italy, including Rome, Naples and Turin, to criticise a new series of restrictions to aimed at stopping an alarming rise in coronavirus cases, even as the government considers more stringent measures to be announced as early as Monday.

Early Saturday evening in Rome, a sit-in at the famed Campo dei Fiori ended in a clash with police as some in a crowd of a few hundred protesters began throwing bottles and firecrackers, before being dispersed by police with riot gear and truncheons.  A second protest in Rome also ended in clashes with authorities. The protests in Italy's capital came a day after an unauthorised nighttime demonstration in the Renaissance city of Florence turned violent, when police sought to prohibit about 200 people from entering in the central Piazza della Signoria. Clashes broke out between riot police and protesters, some of whom hurled Molotov cocktails, bottles and rocks, overturning trash bins and breaking security cameras. more...

[Reuters Videos]

Defying strict rules that restrict gatherings to five people during the coronavirus pandemic, demonstrators walked through central Warsaw streets carrying black umbrellas, a symbol of abortion rights protests in Poland, and banners that read "I think, I feel, I decide" or "God is a woman". Military police lined the streets, some of in riot gear, as the demonstration began. video...

By Li Cohen

Britain is going on a roughly month-long lockdown as coronavirus cases to surge, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced on Saturday, just 3 months after telling The Telegraph that he didn't want to mandate a national lockdown and likened the measure to a "nuclear deterrent."

From November 5 to December 2, people will only be permitted to leave their homes for a short list of reasons, such as childcare, work, exercise, medical issues, or shopping for basic needs. Bars and restaurants will only be allowed to provide take-out options and non-essential stores will have to close. Johnson said the country is extending its furlough system through December to help businesses.

More than 1 million people have been infected with COVID-19 in the U.K., and more than 46,600 people have died, according to Johns Hopkins. There were 24,000 new cases on Friday, and Patrick Vallance, chief scientific adviser, said "theres a potential for this to be twice as bad or more compared to the first wave." more...

By ANGELA CHARLTON

PARIS (AP) — Many countries, especially in the democratic West, champion freedom of expression and allow publications that lampoon Islam’s prophet. So why is France singled out for protests and calls for boycotts across the Muslim world, and so often the target of deadly violence from the extremist margins?

Its brutal colonial past, staunch secular policies and tough-talking president who is seen as insensitive toward the Muslim faith all play a role. As France steps up security and mourns three people killed in a knife attack at a church on Thursday – the latest of many attributed to Islamic extremists in recent years -- here’s a look at some of the reasons the country is under fire.

HISTORY

France has the largest population of Muslims in Western Europe, more than 5 million in a nation of 67 million, a legacy of its colonial domination of large swaths of Africa and the Middle East. But the country’s efforts to integrate Muslim immigrants have faltered. The official French doctrine of colorblindness is intended to ignore ethnic and religious backgrounds and to have all French citizens seen as equally French. In reality, the ideal often fuels discrimination against those who look, dress or pray differently from the historically Catholic majority, instead of preventing it.

Muslims are disproportionately represented in France’s poorest, most alienated neighborhoods, as well as its prisons. That has bred angry outcasts who see their homeland as sinful and disrespectful toward Islamic traditions, or simply racist against Arab and other immigrants from lands that once enriched the French empire. While recent Islamist extremist attacks in France were carried out by those born abroad, French-born youth were behind much of the worst bloodshed in recent years, many of them linked to the Islamic State group. more...

By Celine Castronuov

Police had already arrested the suspected attacker, whom the AP named as Ibrahim Issaoui, after police wounded him in a confrontation Thursday outside Nice's Notre Dame Basilica, less than a mile from the location of a 2016 truck attack that killed dozens. The AP reported that among the victims in Thursday’s attack were a 55-year-old father of two who handled the Catholic Church’s holy objects, as well as a 44-year-old mother of three from Brazil who studied cooking and volunteered in poor communities.  more...


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