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World Monthly Headline News October 2020


The dismal spectacle reminded viewers what is at stake in November for the US – and the rest of us. One unmistakable winner emerged from Tuesday’s presidential debate: Xi Jinping. The loser was the American public – and anyone else unfortunate enough to have sat through the grim 90-minute spectacle.

Variously described by commentators as a trainwreck, dumpster fire, shitshow and the worst debate in presidential history, it reflected the state of the race and the nation after four years of Donald Trump. This is America in 2020: wracked by a pandemic that has killed 200,000 people and highlighted its deep structural failings on healthcare and inequality, as well as the parlous state of its politics – a realm of bitter divisions in which facts appear to be optional.

Mr Trump lied, he blustered, he harangued and, above all, he interrupted. Most frighteningly, when invited to condemn white supremacists, he instead told the far-right Proud Boys to “stand back – and stand by”. He did this both by instinct and because Joe Biden remains ahead in the polls, with a lead that may well have been cemented by their performances. His base may have seen him as dominant, but to non-believers he was merely domineering.

The Democrat, for his part, pulled away from the “they go low – we go high” approach of 2016, dismissing his rival as a clown, a liar and America’s worst-ever president, and urging him to “shut up”. He failed to make an impact on issues including the revelations of Mr Trump’s astoundingly low tax payments and the future of the supreme court. But it was hard to argue with his conclusion that under Mr Trump “we’ve become weaker, sicker, poorer, more divided, and more violent”. Tuesday’s rancour was a manifestation of the bile spewed every day, out of sight of an international audience, in communities, towns and cities across the country. More...

By Laurence Broers South Caucasus expert, Chatham House

In scale and scope, the fighting that broke out on Sunday surpasses the periodic escalations of recent years, involving heavy artillery, tanks, missiles and drones. So far there are more than 100 confirmed deaths among civilians and Armenian combatants killed in action. Azerbaijan does not release data on its military losses, but these can be assumed to be at least as high. The fighting appears to be driven by an attempt by Azerbaijani forces to recapture swathes of territories occupied by Armenian forces in the Karabakh war after the Soviet Union collapsed. Hundreds of thousands of ethnic Azeris were displaced from these areas in 1992-4. The escalation follows a tense year - a diplomatic standoff, belligerent rhetoric and clashes in July to the north in the area of the international border between Armenia and Azerbaijan.

What are the dangers?
Previous escalations between Armenian and Azerbaijani forces have been contained after a few days. The intensity of the current fighting indicates that this may not be possible this time. Populated areas within the contested territory of Nagorno-Karabakh have been hit by missile strikes and bombardments for the first time since the 1990s. Civilian targets in Armenia and in Azerbaijan have also been hit. More...

John Otis

The campaign to remove Confederate statues and other symbols of white supremacy in the United States is resonating in Latin America, where protesters have destroyed monuments to European colonizers who brutalized Indigenous populations. The latest target was a statue of Sebastián de Belalcázar, a Spanish conquistador. He founded the Colombian cities of Popayán and Cali in 1537, while leading a military campaign that killed and enslaved of thousands of Misak Indigenous people.

After authorities foiled two previous attempts to remove the statue, located on the outskirts of Popayán, Misak leaders sent decoy protesters into the center of the city on Sept. 16, drawing police attention. Meanwhile, a smaller group of Misak approached the monument, used ropes to pull down it down, then pounded it with rocks, separating the head from the torso.

"The time has come to get rid of these statues all across the Americas," said Jesus Maria Aranda, a Misak leader who noted that the de Belalcázar statue was built atop a sacred Misak religious site. "The conquistadors did so much damage to Indigenous peoples." More...

Sheikh Sabah spent decades building bridges between rowing neighbours. His talents will be missed.
By James Reinl

United Nations – When world leaders mount the marble podium during the annual United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), they often spout a lot of doom and gloom. Not so for Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Jaber al-Sabah. When he entered the global spotlight in October 1963 as foreign minister of a newly independent Kuwait, he gushed with more passion and optimism than your average diplomat. He said, “genuine hopeful signs of lasting peace on Earth are appearing on the horizon” and issued a call to “banish colonialism, racial discrimination, religious intolerance” while also ending war, poverty and hunger.

He never let up. Sheikh Sabah, who died on Tuesday aged 91 after a series of medical setbacks, will be remembered as a steadfast optimist in a volatile region who spent a 70-year career putting out fires at home and abroad. “Sheikh Sabah was known internationally as a conciliator,” Gregory Gause, head of global affairs at Texas A&M University and a former scholar at the American University in Kuwait, told Al Jazeera. “He frequently took the lead in trying to mediate among the other Gulf monarchies when they had spats, including the boycott of Qatar by Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain. His mild-mannered style was more successful at bridging gaps in the world of diplomacy than in Kuwait’s domestic politics.” More...


Timothy Ray Brown, who made history as “the Berlin patient,” the first person known to be cured of HIV infection, has died. He was 54.

Brown died Tuesday at his home in Palm Springs, California, according to a social media post by his partner, Tim Hoeffgen. The cause was a return of the cancer that originally prompted the unusual bone marrow and stem cell transplants Brown received in 2007 and 2008, which for years seemed to have eliminated both his leukemia and HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.

“Timothy symbolized that it is possible, under special circumstances,” to rid a patient of HIV -- something that many scientists had doubted could be done, said Dr. Gero Huetter, the Berlin physician who led Brown’s historic treatment. “It’s a very sad situation” that cancer returned and took his life, because he still seemed free of HIV, said Huetter, who is now medical director of a stem cell company in Dresden, Germany.

The International AIDS Society, which had Brown speak at an AIDS conference after his successful treatment, issued a statement mourning his death and said he and Huetter are owed “a great deal of gratitude” for promoting research on a cure. More...

Jane Arraf

The ruler of Kuwait, Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah, has died at the age of 91. Born in an era when the tiny Gulf emirate's economy relied on pearl diving, his life spanned the discovery of oil and Kuwait's emergence as one of the world's richest countries. Kuwaiti state television announced the emir's death Tuesday after playing Quranic prayers. Sheikh Sabah spent four decades as Kuwait's foreign minister before becoming emir in 2006. He navigated relations with the U.S.-led coalition that drove Iraqi forces out of Kuwait after Saddam Hussein's 1990 invasion of the emirate.

A proponent of having U.S. forces in the deeply conservative Gulf region, he encouraged the establishment of American military bases there, including in Kuwait, where more than 13,000 U.S. troops are stationed. Sheikh Sabah was also known as a master diplomat who tried to mediate disputes in the volatile region. After the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq — despite widespread antipathy by most Sunni Muslim Gulf countries to the country's Shiite-led government — Sabah spearheaded the normalization of ties with Baghdad. The move, including his visits to Iraq, helped lead to reconciliation between Iraq and other Gulf states. Two years ago, he hosted a summit aimed at funding the rebuilding of Iraq after its battles against ISIS. He also made raising funds for the reconstruction of war-torn Syria a priority. More...

Mexico asks U.S. to "clarify" alleged hysterectomies on migrant women in ICE custody

Mexico City — Mexico said Monday it had requested more information from the U.S. on medical procedures given to migrants in detention centers, after allegations that detained Mexican women were sterilized without their consent. Rights campaigners alleged two weeks ago that a number of hysterectomies had been carried out at a privately run detention center in Georgia. The Mexican Ministry of Foreign Affairs said it sent a diplomatic note, asking the U.S. government "to clarify the situation, requesting information on the medical attention that Mexican citizens receive" at the Irwin County Detention Center.

The ministry said that consulate personnel had interviewed 18 Mexican women who are or were detained at the center, none of whom "claimed to have undergone a hysterectomy," an operation involving the removal of all or part of the uterus. The department added that seven of the women interviewed had been treated by the doctor accused of performing the sterilizations. Another of the women said she had undergone a gynecological operation, although there was nothing in her file to support that she consented to the procedure. The women interviewed did not deny that they had been "victims of bad practices for different reasons," the foreign ministry said.

In an article published Tuesday, The New York Times said it had spoken to 16 women with concerns over gynecological treatment they had received while in custody at the Irwin detention facility and asked five independent gynecologists to review the available medical files on each women. The Times said the independent doctors concluded that the area gynecologist used by the center, Dr. Mahendra Amin, had "consistently overstated the size or risks associated with cysts or masses attached to his patients' reproductive organs." More...

By Ben Westcott, CNN

Hong Kong (CNN) A kindergarten teacher who poisoned 25 children, killing one of them, after an argument with a rival staff member has been sentenced to death by a court in central China. In its official ruling Monday, the Jiaozuo Intermediate People's Court in Henan province described killer Wang Yun's motives as "despicable" and "vicious." "She should be punished severely in accordance with the law," the ruling said. The court heard that in the lead-up to the poisoning, Wang had quarreled with another teacher at the Jiaozuo kindergarten over how best to handle the students.

Then, on the morning of March 27, 2019, Wang added nitrite to porridge supplied by the school and intended for the other teacher's students. Wang had previously bought the nitrite online. According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nitrite is toxic and a likely carcinogen used in fertilizers, food preservation and even munitions and explosives. At high levels, it can stop the human body from properly absorbing oxygen. Wang had previously been caught trying to poison her husband, surnamed Feng, in February 2017 after an argument. On that occasion, Wang poured nitrite into a glass used by Feng, causing minor injuries. More...

"Kim Jong Un asked to convey the message that he is very sorry" a letter to South Korea's presidential Blue House said.
By Stella Kim and Adela Suliman

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un issued a rare apology on Friday over the killing of a South Korean official who was apparently trying to defect near the rivals' disputed sea boundary. "Comrade Chairman Kim Jong Un asked to convey the message that he is very sorry about creating a huge disappointment to our southern compatriots and President Moon Jae-In because of this unfortunate incident that happened in our waters," a letter sent to South Korea's presidential Blue House said. It was sent by the Unification Division, the North Korean body in charge of relations with its southern neighbor.

It is extremely unusual for a North Korean leader to apologize on any issue. But it came after South Korea's Defense Ministry said Thursday that the North had shot and burned the body of a South Korean official who disappeared from a government boat earlier in the week. South Korean President Moon Jae-in called the incident "shocking" and "very regretful," as it fueled anti-North sentiment and sparked a public backlash. More...

By Laura He, CNN Business

Hong Kong (CNN Business) Westpac, one of Australia's largest banks, has agreed to pay a record-breaking penalty of nearly $1 billion for systematically allowing money laundering on its watch. The company announced Thursday that it has agreed to the 1.3 billion Australian dollar ($920 million) fine with AUSTRAC, a regulator in Australia that fights financial crime. Westpac also admitted as part of that deal that it broke anti-money laundering and terrorism financing laws more than 23 million times.

"I would like to apologise sincerely for the bank's failings," CEO Peter King said in a statement. "We are committed to fixing these issues to ensure that these mistakes do not happen again. This has been my number one priority." If the fine is approved by an Australian court, it would be the largest corporate penalty in the country's history. A 700 million Australian dollar ($493 million) fine was levied on the Commonwealth Bank of Australia in 2018 after that bank admitted it failed to observe laws to prevent money laundering and financing of terrorism. More...

By Manu Raju and Ted Barrett, CNN

(CNN) Sen. Cory Gardner was blunt in 2016 about why he thought a Supreme Court seat should stay vacant despite then-President Barack Obama's demand to fill it. "The next election is too soon, and the stakes too high," Gardner, a Republican from Colorado, said in March of that year. Asked on Wednesday about his 2016 comments, amid President Donald Trump's effort to fill a vacant Supreme Court seat less than two months before an election, Gardner didn't answer when approached by CNN. "If you didn't see my statement, I'll send it to you," Gardner, battling to keep his seat for a second term, said as he got on a senators-only elevator. That statement, however, said nothing about his past position, instead noting that if a qualified nominee he supports comes forward now: "I will vote to confirm."

As Senate Republicans and the White House race to fill a Supreme Court seat following the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, many have struggled to reconcile their support for confirming Trump's nomination on the eve of an election with their steadfast opposition to even considering the nomination made by a Democratic President eight months prior to Election Day. Party leaders are pointing to the different partisan makeup in Washington, arguing it's normal to confirm a nominee when the same party controls both the Senate and the White House and not the norm in an election year with divided government like in 2016. More...

By Gawon Bae and Jake Kwon, CNN

Seoul (CNN) A South Korean government worker was shot dead after crossing a maritime border into North Korea, Seoul said Thursday.
According to Lt. Gen. Ahn Young-ho, a top official with South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff, a worker with the Ministry of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries went missing in waters 1.9 kilometers (1.2 miles) south of the Yeonpyeong Islands on September 21. A Defense Ministry official told reporters that a vessel belonging to North Korea's fishery organization first discovered the missing South Korean in the sea near the islands. The man was on a piece of flotsam large enough to support one person, was wearing a life jacket and was exhausted, the spokesman said.

The South Korean is thought to have being in the process of defecting to North Korea, and the Defense Ministry official said a member of the North Korean vessel's crew, believed to be wearing a gas mask, listened to the man making a testimony to that effect. Later, a North Korean patrol vessel opened fire on the attempted defector, who was killed. Following this, a soldier in a gas mask and hazard suit approached the body and burned it. More...

By Pamela Falk

United Nations — Laying down the diplomatic gauntlet, President Trump referred to the "fierce battle against the invisible enemy — the China virus" in a full throttle attack on China, as he spoke by video to the U.N. General Assembly's general debate that began Tuesday amid the coronavirus pandemic. "We must hold accountable the nation which unleashed this plague onto the world: China," Mr. Trump said.

China's President Xi Jinping's video message was part conciliation, part push-back. China has "no intention to fight either a Cold War or a hot one with any country," Xi said, but added, "Burying one's head in the sand like an ostrich in the face of economic globalization or trying to fight it with Don Quixote's lance goes against the trend of history." More...

Security forces will not remain anonymous, anti-Lukashenko protesters say
Agencies in Minsk

Anonymous hackers leaked the personal data of 1,000 Belarusian police officers in retaliation for a crackdown on street demonstrations against the veteran president, Alexander Lukashenko, as protesters staged another mass rally. “As the arrests continue, we will continue to publish data on a massive scale,” said a statement distributed by the opposition news channel Nexta Live on the messaging app Telegram. “No one will remain anonymous, even under a balaclava.” The government said it would find and punish those responsible for leaking the data, which was widely distributed on Saturday evening.

Tens of thousands of opposition supporters marched in the Belarusian capital, Minsk, on Sunday despite authorities deploying a heavy police presence. The protest came a day after officers detained hundreds of demonstrators at a women’s march in the city. People holding red and white protest flags gathered at the “March of Justice” that occupied the whole of a central avenue and walked towards the heavily guarded Palace of Independence, where Lukashenko has his offices. They held placards with slogans such as “Cowards beat up women” and “Get out!”. The loyalty of the security forces is crucial to Lukashenko’s ability to cling on to power after last month’s presidential election, in which he claimed a landslide victory. His opponents say it was rigged to hand the former Soviet collective farm boss a sixth term. More...

Vil Mirzayanov's apology comes as another scientist who worked on programme denied Navalny was poisoned with Novichok.

A scientist involved in the secret Soviet programme to create the Novichok nerve agent has apologised to the Russian opposition politician Alexey Navalny, who is recovering from poisoning in Berlin. Vil Mirzayanov, a chemist who was the first to reveal Novichok's development, in an interview with Russia's TV Rain on Saturday evening said he wanted to apologise to Navalny after Germany said it found "unequivocal evidence" he was poisoned with Novichok.

Navalny described his severe symptoms after falling ill on a plane on August 20, including the inability to form words, saying he still struggled to pour a glass of water or use a phone. "I offer my profound apologies to Navalny for the fact that I took part in this criminal business, developing this substance that he was poisoned with," said Mirzayanov, who now lives in the United States and wrote the first articles on Novichok's development in the early 1990s. More...

Donald Trump’s decision to ban downloads of the Chinese-owned platform prompts realignment of tech space
Agence France-Presse

China has accused the United States of “bullying” and suggested it may take unspecified countermeasures after Washington banned downloads of popular video app TikTok and effectively blocked the use of the Chinese super-app WeChat. “China urges the US to abandon bullying, cease (its) wrongful actions and earnestly maintain fair and transparent international rules and order,” a statement by the Chinese Ministry of Commerce said on Saturday. “If the US insists on going its own way, China will take necessary measures to resolutely safeguard the legitimate rights and interests of Chinese companies.”

The United States made the moves against the two Chinese apps on Friday, citing national security grounds and escalating a fight with Beijing over digital technology. Under the order, the Tencent-owned WeChat app would lose functionality in the United States from Sunday. TikTok users will be banned from installing updates but could keep accessing the service through 12 November. US officials described Friday’s measures as essential to national security as President Donald Trump confronts Beijing during a tough re-election campaign. TikTok users in the United States reacted with a collective shrug to the ban, but many are already planning an exit to other platforms should the clampdown lead to an outright ban. More...

By Ben Blanchard, Yew Lun Tian

TAIPEI/BEIJING (Reuters) - Taiwan scrambled fighter jets on Friday as 18 Chinese aircraft buzzed the island, crossing the sensitive midline of the Taiwan Strait, in response to a senior U.S. official holding talks in Taipei. China had earlier announced combat drills and denounced what it called collusion between the island, which it claims as part of its territory, and the United States.

U.S. Undersecretary for Economic Affairs Keith Krach arrived in Taipei on Thursday for a three-day visit, the most senior State Department official to come to Taiwan in four decades - to which China had promised a “necessary response.” The U.S. State Department has said Krach, who arrived in Taipei on Thursday afternoon, is in Taiwan for a memorial service on Saturday for former President Lee Teng-hui, who was revered by many on the island and internationally as the father of Taiwan’s democracy. More...

By Celine Castronuovo

Human rights attorney Amal Clooney on Friday stepped down from her position as the United Kingdom’s special envoy on press freedom, saying in her resignation letter that she is “dismayed" over the government’s effort to breach international law.

Clooney, in her letter sent to U.K. Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, said that she found it “lamentable” that Prime Minister Boris Johnson has announced a plan to override Britain’s international treaty obligations in the Withdrawal Agreement between the European Union and U.K., popularly known as “Brexit.” More...

“I have been dismayed to learn that the government intends to pass legislation — the Internal Market Bill — which would, by the government’s own admission, ‘break international law’ if enacted,” she said. More...

Marisa Peñaloza

Guatemalan President Alejandro Giammattei said Friday he's tested positive for the coronavirus. Giammattei made the announcement to Sonora, a local radio station. He said he feels well, is showing typical symptoms of high fever and body aches and has been treated at the Centro Medico Militar, one of the hospitals designated to treat COVID-19 patients in Guatemala City.

In a live appearance on the Guatemalan government website, Giammettei said he's following his doctor's recommendations, "resting and isolating myself from all public activity," though he said, "your government continues to work." Giammettei said he's asked his entire cabinet to be tested and to work remotely. More...

By Laura Smith-Spark and Vasco Cotovio, CNN

(CNN) The World Health Organization (WHO) has warned that coronavirus cases are surging alarmingly in Europe, as a "very serious situation" unfolds across the continent. As Covid-19 infections spike to record numbers, European governments are imposing strict local measures and weighing up further lockdowns in a bid to halt a second wave of the pandemic. But WHO regional director Hans Kluge said at a Thursday news conference that the increase in cases should serve as a warning of what is to come. "Weekly cases have now exceeded those reported when the pandemic first peaked in Europe in March," Kluge said. "Last week, the region's weekly tally exceeded 300,000 patients." More than half of European nations have reported an increase of more than 10% in new cases in the past two weeks, Kluge added. "Of those, seven countries have seen newly reported cases increase more than two-fold in the same period," he said.

"In the spring and early summer we were able to see the impact of strict lockdown measures. Our efforts, our sacrifices, paid off. In June cases hit an all-time low. The September case numbers, however, should serve as a wake-up call for all of us," he said. "Although these numbers reflect more comprehensive testing, it also shows alarming rates of transmission across the region." While there was an increase in cases in older age groups, those aged 50 to 79, in the first week of September, Kluge said, the biggest proportion of new cases is still among 25- to 49-year-olds. Countries across the continent have been easing lockdowns and reopening their economies, but governments are now scrambling to avert further outbreaks. "This pandemic has taken so much from us," Kluge said, citing the nearly 4.9 million recorded Covid-19 cases in Europe and more than 226,000 deaths. "And this tells only part of the story," he said. "The impact on our mental health, economies, livelihoods and society has been monumental." More...

For a year and a half, U.S. intelligence warned that Andriy Derkach was suspected of election interference. Yet Derkach—and his wild beliefs—kept drawing more Trumpist adherents.
The Daily Beast
Erin Banco, Sam Brodey, Spencer Ackerman, Asawin Suebsaeng

At the end of an elegant dinner in May 2019 in downtown Kyiv, Ukrainian parliamentarian Andriy Derkach handed a thick packet of papers to a former senior U.S. official he’d known for years. The packet was unremarkable in its presentation, the papers clipped on the top and crunched in the corners. The packet bore no insignia, title, or index page, and did little in the way of intriguing the former U.S. official. It wasn’t until months later that the official read through the pages. What was more remarkable was that U.S. intelligence had, for over a month, warned that Derkach was a stalking horse for the Russian security services and their attempts to interfere in American politics. It was the first in a series of reports, beginning in the spring of 2019, naming Derkach as part of a broader push to upend the U.S. election once again.

Despite the odd nature of the handoff, the dinner was one of the earliest known attempts by Derkach, current and former officials say, to pass materials to Americans in an attempt to push the debunked conspiracy theories that the former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter  were complicit in the siphoning of millions of dollars from the Ukrainian people and that Ukraine, rather than Russia, interfered in the 2016 election. (The latter is “a fictional narrative that has been perpetrated and propagated by the Russian security services,” according to President Donald Trump’s former point person for the region, Fiona Hill.) More...

Fresh claim suggests Kremlin critic was poisoned in his hotel room and not at the airport as first thought.

The nerve agent used to poison Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny was detected on an empty water bottle from his hotel room in the Siberian city of Tomsk, suggesting he was poisoned there and not at the airport as first thought, his team said on Thursday. Navalny fell violently ill on a domestic flight in Russia last month and was subsequently airlifted to Berlin for treatment. Laboratories in Germany, France and Sweden have established he was poisoned by a Novichok nerve agent, though Russia denies this and says it has seen no evidence.

A video posted on Navalny's Instagram account showed members of his team searching the room he had just left in the Xander Hotel in Tomsk on August 20, an hour after they learned he had fallen sick in suspicious circumstances. "It was decided to gather up everything that could even hypothetically be useful and hand it to the doctors in Germany. The fact that the case would not be investigated in Russia was quite obvious," the post said. More...

By William Harwood

Traces of a rare molecule known as phosphine have been found in the hellish, heavily acidic atmosphere of Venus, astronomers announced Monday — providing a tantalizing clue about the possibility of life. Phosphine molecules found on Earth are primarily a result of human industry or the actions of microbes that thrive in oxygen-free environments.

The researchers are not claiming life has been detected on the second planet from the sun. But the observations suggest at least the possibility of microbial activity in the upper layers of Venus' atmosphere, well away from the planet's inhospitable surface.

"We have detected a rare gas called phosphine in the atmosphere of our neighbor planet Venus," said Jane Greaves, a professor at Cardiff University in the United Kingdom and lead author of a report published in Nature Astronomy. "And the reason for our excitement is that phosphine gas on Earth is made by microorganisms that live in oxygen-free environments. And so there is a chance that we have detected some kind of living organism in the clouds of Venus." More...

By Tom O'Connor

In the wake of two fellow Arabian Peninsula states establishing ties with Israel, Qatar's envoy to the United States told Newsweek his country still backs an 18-year-old Arab plan that ties normalizing relations with the majority-Jewish state to an end of the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territory. On the eve of a White House signing ceremony for Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates' back-to-back agreements with Israel, Qatari ambassador to the U.S. Meshal bin Hamad Al Thani said Doha "remains committed to the just settlement of the Palestinian cause based on the Arab Peace Initiative and a two-state solution in a way that achieves security and stability in the region."

The Arab Peace Initiative was first endorsed by the Arab League at the 22-member group's 2002 summit. The proposal calls for the establishment of ties between Israel and the Arab World in exchange for the former's withdrawal from occupied territories that include the West Bank and Gaza Strip, as well as parts of Syria and Lebanon, along with the establishment of a Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital. More...

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is being replaced by his right-hand man, a politician so ruthless his nickname refers to one of the most brutal military rulers in Japanese history.
The Daily Beast
Jake Adelstein

TOKYO—The right-hand man of Japan’s longest-reigning Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe, who orchestrated the administration’s control of the press and helped cover up the corruption scandals that forced Abe to resign, is set to be the next prime minister.

Yoshihide Suga was crowned the president of Japan’s ruling party, the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), on Monday in an election that had been pre-decided in back-room deals. The LDP controls the lower house of Japan’s parliament and so their president will become the new prime minister. The Japanese press, who Suga has successfully tamed, did their best to spin his ascension as a story of a simple hard-working boy from a rural prefecture who worked his way to the top. But the real Suga is no country bumpkin. He is an information junkie, a control freak, loyal to his boss to a fault, ruthless, vindictive, and never forgets a favor or a slight. In a way, he shares many of the qualities that would make him an ideal number two in any yakuza organization in Japan; indeed, his past ties to the yakuza may come to haunt him as he takes power. More...

By Anna Chernova and Lianne Kolirin, CNN

(CNN) The perfectly preserved remains of an Ice Age cave bear have been discovered in the Russian Arctic -- the first example of the species ever to be found with soft tissues intact. The astonishing find was made by reindeer herders on the Lyakhovsky Islands, which are part of the New Siberian islands archipelago in Russia's Far North. Prior to this, only the bones of cave bears had been unearthed, but this specimen even had its nose intact, according to a team of scientists from the North-Eastern Federal University (NEFU) in Yakutsk, Siberia. The discovery is of "world importance," a leading Russian expert on extinct Ice Age species said. More...

Qatari government spokesperson says normalising ties with Israel 'can't be the answer' to Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Normalising relations with Israel "can't be the answer" to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, a Qatari official has said, adding that Doha will not join other Gulf Arab states in establishing diplomatic ties with Israel. "We don't think that normalisation was the core of this conflict and hence it can't be the answer," Lolwah al-Khater, Qatar's foreign ministry spokesperson said on Monday in an interview with Bloomberg.

"The core of this conflict is about the drastic conditions that the Palestinians are living under" as "people without a country, living under occupation," she said. Al-Khater's statement came ahead of Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates signing their normalisation deals with Israel in a ceremony scheduled in the White House later on Tuesday. More...

By Helen Regan, CNN

(CNN) Satellite images show that two important glaciers in the Antarctic are sustaining rapid damage at their most vulnerable points, leading to the breaking up of vital ice shelves with major consequences for global sea level rise. The Pine Island and Thwaites glaciers, which sit side by side in West Antarctica on the Amundsen Sea, are among the fastest changing glaciers in the region, already accounting for 5% of global sea level rise. Scientists say the glaciers are highly sensitive to climate change.

A new study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on Monday, found that the glaciers are weakening at their foundations and this damage over the past few decades is speeding up their retreat and the possible future collapse of their ice shelves. The researchers, led by Stef Lhermitte, satellite expert at Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands, used satellite data to document the growth of the damaged areas from 1997 to 2019. The images showed highly crevassed areas and open fractures in the glaciers. More...

BBC News

The prime minister Boris Johnson has faced scathing criticism in the House of Commons - and from five former prime ministers - as he called on MPs to back his controversial Internal Market Bill. The new law would override part of the the UK’s withdrawal agreement with the European Union — a deal agreed by Boris Johnson himself last year. The House of Commons voted to pass the bill, despite a growing number of Conservatives refusing to back the government. More..

Charles Maynes

Russian President Vladimir Putin provided a limited lifeline to Alexander Lukashenko as the Belarusian strongman paid a visit to the Russian city of Sochi on Monday amid the biggest crisis of his 26-year rule. For the past four weeks, Belarusians have repeatedly taken to the streets demanding Lukashenko's resignation following an August presidential election that demonstrators say was rigged to keep Lukashenko in power. On Sunday, a crowd of more than 100,000 again swamped downtown Minsk, the capital, for the fourth weekend in a row.

A repeated show of force by Lukashenko's security forces has led to thousands of arrests — and credible allegations of widespread torture — but has failed to stem voters' ire. Lukashenko's nickname in protest circles is simply "the rat." A standard chant at rallies has become a basic demand: "Leave." Lukashenko has refused to step down, arguing he won his reelection in a popular landslide.  More..

Russian leader agrees to $1.5bn loan with Minsk and says Belarus crisis should be resolved without foreign interference.

Russia has agreed to a $1.5bn loan with Minsk, President Vladimir Putin said at talks on Monday with Alexander Lukashenko, the embattled Belarusian leader, adding that the Belarusian people should resolve the crisis without foreign interference. Putin, in comments broadcast on television from the talks in Russia's Sochi, said he thought a proposal by Lukashenko to carry out constitutional reform was logical and timely.

Lukashenko arrived in Sochi to meet Putin on Monday, as protests continued across Belarus seeking the end of his rule following a disputed August 9 election. His plane landed in the Black Sea region a day after police arrested 774 people at anti-government rallies across the country, including 500 in the capital, Minsk, the Belarusian interior ministry said. At least 100,000 protesters flooded the streets of Minsk on Sunday. More...


No 10 says the Internal Market Bill was a "critical piece of legislation for the UK". But Mr Cameron said he had "misgivings" over it and breaking an international treaty should be the "final resort". Former Tory PMs Theresa May and Sir John Major, and Labour's Tony Blair and Gordon Brown have condemned the plan. However, Boris Johnson's official spokesman said the bill delivered a "vital legal safety net" so the government can "take the necessary steps to ensure the integrity of UK's internal market" - steps it hoped never to have to use. MPs will debate the bill at its secondly reading from 16:30 BST (15:30 GMT), with the PM making the opening remarks, and it is expected to pass this early stage after a vote at around 22:00.

But the legislation is likely to face more difficulties in its later stages, especially when the bill heads for debate in the Lords. Former Attorney General Geoffrey Cox has said he will vote against it, accusing Mr Johnson of doing "unconscionable" damage to Britain's international reputation. The PM's special envoy for Freedom of Religion or Belief, Tory MP Rehman Chishti, has resigned over the proposed law, saying: "I have always acted in a manner which respects the rule of law... [and] voting for this bill as it currently stands would be contrary to the values I hold dearest."

A senior government source told the BBC "all options are on the table" in terms of possible action against Tory MPs who do not support the bill. Labour's shadow business secretary, Ed Miliband, also called the proposed law "legislative hooliganism". Mr Miliband will stand in for Sir Keir Starmer at the opposition dispatch box after the Labour leader was forced to self-isolate at home when a member of his household developed possible coronavirus symptoms. More...


In a Zoom call with about 250 of them, he said the party must not return to "miserable squabbling" over Europe. The EU has warned the UK it could face legal action if it does not ditch controversial elements of the Internal Market Bill by the end of the month. And a Tory MP has proposed an amendment to the bill, which would affect trade between Britain and Northern Ireland. Meanwhile, the European Parliament has threatened to scupper any UK-EU trade deal if the bill becomes UK law. The two sides have less than five weeks to agree a deal before Mr Johnson's 15 October deadline - after which he says he is prepared to "walk away".

Informal talks are due to resume on Monday, with the next official round of talks - the ninth since March - starting in Brussels on 28 September. The Internal Market Bill, which will be formally debated in the House of Commons for the first time on Monday, addresses the Northern Ireland Protocol - the part of the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement designed to prevent a hard border returning to the island of Ireland. If it became law it would give UK ministers powers to modify or "disapply" rules relating to the movement of goods between Britain and Northern Ireland that will come into force from 1 January, if the UK and EU are unable to strike a trade deal. The EU says the planned changes must be scrapped or they risk jeopardising the UK-EU trade talks. More...

The Trump nomination shows that peace had its chance, and blew it.
Graeme Wood

Trolls are a Scandinavian invention, straight from the frigid sagas of Norse mythology, but Christian Tybring-Gjedde, a Norwegian parliamentarian, swears that he is not one. Observers of his antics this week could be forgiven for thinking otherwise. On Wednesday, he announced that he had nominated Donald J. Trump for the Nobel Peace Prize. “Can you name a person who has done more for peace than President Trump?” Tybring-Gjedde asked me, insisting that the question was a serious one. Kayleigh McEnany, the White House press secretary, agreed. ”This is a hard-earned and well-deserved honor for the president,” she said. Tybring-Gjedde defended his nomination on Fox News remotely, and to me in person at a café in Oslo. “Do we give the prize to Greta Thunberg, for screaming about the environment?” he asked. “The agreement he made between Israel and the United Arab Emirates could mean peace between Israel and the Arab world. That is like the [Berlin] Wall falling down.” Today the White House reportedly will announce that Bahrain, another Gulf monarchy, will recognize Israel.

If Trump wins the prize, it will be the fourth Nobel awarded for peace between Israel and its neighbors. (The announcement will come on October 9.) That will make Arab-Israeli peace mediators more successful at charming the Nobel Committee than the International Committee of the Red Cross, which has won three times in the prize’s 120-year history, but still less successful than my favorite, which is no one at all. The committee has declined to award a peace prize 19 times, most recently in 1972. (The next year, in a decision so trollish it might have come out of the Prose Edda, they awarded the prize to Henry Kissinger.) Giving the peace prize to no one at all is a tradition the Nobel Committee should revive, perhaps on a permanent basis. The record of achievement of the peace laureates is so spotty, and the rationales for their awards so eclectic, that the committee should take a long break to consider whether peace is a category coherent enough to be worth recognizing. Peace had its chance, and blew it. The Trump nomination—one of hundreds, including this second from a Swede—helps show why. More...

The Sun

The European Union has demanded that the UK government withdraws legislation which could break parts of the Withdrawal Agreement as Brussels threatens to walk out of Brexit trade talks. The European Commission warned Downing Street if the Internal Market Bill was not scrapped the EU would no longer negotiate with a trade deal with the UK and would sue Britain. However Minister for the Cabinet Office Michael Gove hit back at the EU’s demands.

When the president has faced off with China, he often ends up in a jam. And the solution to the TikTok stalemate isn't clear.

President Donald Trump has browbeaten his way into yet another expensive and politically loaded standoff with China — this time over an app populated with dancing ferret videos and at-home lip syncs. Trump’s order that TikTok’s parent company, Beijing-based ByteDance, sell off its U.S. operations — initially seen as a potential opportunity for an American company — has turned into a quagmire. China has issued new export restrictions that raise uncomfortable questions about what the American company might have to do to satisfy Beijing. TikTok is suing the Trump administration over the president’s order, which claimed the app could potentially funnel Americans’ personal data back to the Chinese government. And the U.S. government is apparently exploring alternate ways for TikTok to operate in America without selling off its entire business, The Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday.

Essentially, Trump has backed himself into a corner. His moves against TikTok are part of a broader tough-on-China push he has made a centerpiece of his reelection campaign, an outlet to deflect blame for mishandling the coronavirus. But each time he has chosen to face off with China — over trade, 5G technology or Hong Kong — he has ended up at a critical moment when he has to find his way out of a jam. This time around, Trump’s way out isn’t clear. If China delays a TikTok sale — or scuttles the deal altogether — Trump will be forced either to relent with Beijing or to ban the viral video app outright from U.S. soil. If Trump blinks, he risks looking like he caved to Beijing weeks before the election. If Trump follows through with his threats, he risks Chinese retaliation against the U.S. business community, not to mention angering millions of TikTok-loving Americans. And a deadline looms — Trump asked for a deal to be completed by the week of Sept. 20, and he said on Thursday that he wouldn’t extend the deadline. More...

Officials are worried a sale will make ByteDance and China "appear weak."
Karissa Bell

China could throw yet another wrench in TikTok’s attempts to secure its future in the US. Officials in the country are opposed to a sale and would rather see the app be banned than sold to an American company, Reuters reports. The report, which cites “three people with direct knowledge of the matter,” says that “Chinese officials believe a forced sale would make both ByteDance and China appear weak in the face of pressure from Washington.”  It also comes just days ahead of Donald Trump’s Sept. 15 deadline for TikTok to find a new home with an American company. Experts have said it’s unlikely a deal could materialize that quickly, but Trump said Thursday he would not extend the deadline.

Further complicating things are new trade rules in China, which could prevent a buyer from acquiring TikTok’s recommendation algorithm. Reuters reports that China is prepared to use the policy to “delay any deal reached by ByteDance, if it had to.” The company is currently entertaining offers from Oracle, and Microsoft and Walmart, who have teamed up on a bid. Current TikTok owner ByteDance is reportedly considering deals that wouldn’t include the app’s algorithm. More...

The testimony marks the first time members of Myanmar’s military have admitted to what the U.N. and international prosecutors call a genocidal campaign against the Rohingya.
By Dan De Luce and Christine Romo

The “clearance operation” began at 3 a.m. in western Myanmar, the soldier says. The colonel in charge told the troops in Myanmar’s 565th light infantry battalion their task was to wipe out the Rohingya villagers in the area, ordering them to “shoot all that you see and all that you hear,” Pvt. Myo Win Tun says in video testimony obtained by NBC News.

His unit carried out the order, the private says, raping women first before killing them along with children and the elderly. The troops buried 30 bodies in a mass grave near a cell phone tower and an army base, the soldier says. “The Muslim men were shot on their foreheads and kicked into the grave,” the soldier says. His shocking testimony, along with that of another soldier deployed to a nearby township, marks the first time members of Myanmar’s military have confessed to mass killings in August 2017 that United Nations officials and human rights groups call a genocidal campaign against the Rohingya minority. More...

By Charles Q. Choi

Super-muscular mice may now reveal a way to keep astronauts from losing muscle and bone in the microgravity of space, a new study finds. A major challenge astronauts face during prolonged space missions is the simultaneous loss of bone and muscle, which weaken and atrophy due to disuse outside the constant pull of Earth's gravity. Previous research found that in microgravity, astronauts can lose up to 20% of their muscle mass in less than two weeks. The husband-and-wife team of Se-Jin Lee and Emily Germain-Lee thought they might have found a way to fight bone and muscle loss when Lee and his colleagues at Johns Hopkins University helped discover myostatin, a protein that normally limits muscle growth, in the 1990s. More...

Analysis by Luke McGee, CNN

London (CNN) Britain's internal battle over Brexit has reached a new low. Ahead of a crucial round of talks between London and Brussels over the future trading relationship between the UK and the European Union, the British government made a startling admission: That it would be prepared to break the terms of an international treaty. The threat was relatively technical -- over an aspect of the withdrawal agreement that allowed the UK to leave the EU at the end of January -- but the admission by a government minister in the House of Commons sent shockwaves through diplomatic circles and raised questions about whether the UK can be trusted on the world stage.

The tumult came with the revelation that the UK is preparing legislation that, in the words of Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis, will "break international law in a very specific and limited way" by overwriting elements of the Brexit agreement Johnson signed last year. In public, the government has played down the suggestions that its Internal Market Bill, published on Wednesday, is designed specifically to blow up a part of the Brexit deal called the Northern Ireland Protocol. Quite the opposite -- the government claims it is committed to meeting its international obligations and that the offending passages in the bill merely seek to protect the unity of the UK's four nations in the event that a trade deal isn't reached in the next few weeks.

Some commentators suggest the threat is merely a negotiating tactic -- designed to put pressure on the EU ahead of the final stage of trade talks. However, leading experts in democratic norms are concerned that the admission in Parliament by a Cabinet minister that the government would knowingly break international law could have implications beyond Britain's messy exit from the EU. More...

Trump is expected to also announce a reduction of troops in Afghanistan in the coming days.

The U.S. plans to cut the troop presence in Iraq from 5,200 to 3,000 by the end of September as President Donald Trump seeks to fulfill a campaign promise to end America's "endless wars." The withdrawal will bring the U.S. troop level in Iraq down to 3,000, said Gen. Frank McKenzie, commander of U.S. Central Command. He announced the troop withdrawal during a ceremony for Operation Inherent Resolve, the global coalition to defeat the Islamic State militants, with Iraq's minister of defense. Trump has campaigned on ending America's wars, and has reduced U.S. troop presence in Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria. The news also comes as Trump faces backlash over allegations that he called U.S. troops "losers" and "suckers," and as he trails his opponent, former Vice President Joe Biden, in the polls just weeks ahead of the Nov. 3 presidential election. The announcement also comes two days after Trump accused Pentagon leaders of waging wars to ensure contractors "stay happy." More...

(Reuters) - Nobel prize-winning author Svetlana Alexievich accused the authorities in Belarus of terrorizing their own people on Wednesday as another opposition politician was detained by masked men in plain clothes. Maxim Znak was the latest figure to be seized in a systematic campaign by the government of President Alexander Lukashenko to round up leaders of a month-long mass protest movement. “What is happening is terror against the people,” said Alexievich, who summoned supporters to her home. “We have to unite and not give up our intentions. There is a danger we will lose the country,” she said. In a show of solidarity with Alexievich, who won the 2015 Nobel Prize for Literature, diplomats from at least seven European countries joined her in her flat. Lithuania said the envoys’ aim was partly to protect the author from abuse.

Saheli Roy Choudhury

SINGAPORE — Small miscalculations in a tense border standoff between India and China high in the Himalayas could lead to big mistakes, a former national security advisor to India said Wednesday. Troops on both sides have been engaged in a dispute since May and in June, a fatal clash killed 20 Indian soldiers. China did not disclose if its troops suffered any casualties. New Delhi and Beijing have been in talks to de-escalate the situation and disengage completely, but both sides have accused each other in recent weeks of breaching the informal border.

“I realize how small miscalculations lead to big mistakes,” M. K. Narayanan told CNBC’s “Street Signs Asia” on Wednesday. Narayanan previously served as national security advisor between 2005 to 2010 and has spent most of his public service career working in intelligence. “I think the powers in India, at least, know and understand this. I am not too sure whether the present Chinese leadership fully comprehends (it),” he said, adding that he was worried, “whether there are sober voices that can influence (President) Xi’s thinking.” more...

By Elinda Labropoulou, Chris Liakos, Stephanie Halasz and Tamara Qiblawi, CNN

thens, Greece (CNN) Europe's largest migrant camp, Moria, has been "completely destroyed" after massive fires broke out early Wednesday at the overcrowded site on Greece's Lesbos island, according to an eyewitness. Firefighters are trying to contain the fire at the refugee camp, home to an estimated 13,000 people, more than six times its maximum capacity of 2,200 people. More than 4,000 children, including 407 unaccompanied minors, live in the camp, according to the United Nations Refugee Agency. There are no reports of injuries so far, and authorities have said they are still assessing the scope of the damage. George Moutafis, a photographer on the ground, told Greek TV channel Mega that the camp has been "completely destroyed."

"The Moria camp no longer exists. The camp has been completely destroyed. The containers and tents have been completely destroyed. The fires are now out. Many migrants and refugees are now back at the camp and looking for their belongings," Moutafis said. Charity and activist groups on the ground also say that the fire has destroyed large swathes of the camp. The cause of the fire remains unknown, according to Greek authorities. The camp is under lockdown after 35 people tested positive for Covid-19 earlier this week. Local media suggested the fires may have been started deliberately. Migrants on the ground also report that the fires were started by refugee protesters when a demonstration erupted over lockdown measures. "Last night some people living in the camp were angry about the quarantine. They started a small fire. So police came and there was tear gas. And then the fire grew and we had to run," said a camp resident, who declined to disclose his full name for security reasons. More...

The ban over forced labour allegations is an unprecedented move likely to stoke tensions between China and the US.

The United States on Tuesday will move to block imports of cotton and tomato products from western China's Xinjiang region due to allegations that they are produced with forced labour, officials with US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) told Reuters News Agency. The actions, which hit two of China's major commodity exports, are expected to be formally announced later on Tuesday by CBP Acting Commissioner Mark Morgan, along with five other import bans involving Xinjiang forced labour abuses in an unprecedented move that is likely to stoke tensions between the world's two largest economies. The "Withhold Release Orders" allow the CBP to detain shipments based on suspicion of forced labour involvement under long-standing US laws aimed at combating human trafficking, child labour and other human rights abuses. more...

In August, Russia announced a joint project with China to produce a “new generation non-atomic submarine.” The project is part of an arms deal Moscow signed earlier this year with Beijing involving weapons deals in “three spheres: water, air, land,” the Russian agency for military and technical cooperation said. This “unprecedented cooperation” with China gives Russia an advantage over the U.S. Navy, which “projects its might far beyond its territories,” Mikhail Aleksandrov, an expert at the Moscow State Institute of International Relations’ Center for Military Policy Studies, told the state-run Federal New Agency.

Aleksandrov predicted it would be an “unpleasant surprise” for the Americans. “[B]ut the Americans themselves are to blame, as they are bullying Russia and spoiling for a fight,” he added. The claim of bullying is false; in fact, just the opposite is true. That is clear from recent incidents that are part of an uptick in “near-confrontation” military encounters between the countries. more...

By Elinda Labropoulou, Chris Liakos, Stephanie Halasz and Tamara Qiblawi, CNN

Athens, Greece (CNN) Europe's largest migrant camp, Moria, has been "completely destroyed" after massive fires broke out early Wednesday at the overcrowded site on Greece's Lesbos island, according to an eyewitness. Firefighters are trying to contain the fire at the refugee camp, home to an estimated 13,000 people, more than six times its maximum capacity of 2,200 people. More than 4,000 children, including 407 unaccompanied minors, live in the camp, according to the United Nations Refugee Agency. There are no reports of injuries so far, and authorities have said they are still assessing the scope of the damage. George Moutafis, a photographer on the ground, told Greek TV channel Mega that the camp has been "completely destroyed."

"The Moria camp no longer exists. The camp has been completely destroyed. The containers and tents have been completely destroyed. The fires are now out. Many migrants and refugees are now back at the camp and looking for their belongings," Moutafis said. Charity and activist groups on the ground also say that the fire has destroyed large swathes of the camp. The cause of the fire remains unknown, according to Greek authorities. The camp is under lockdown after 35 people tested positive for Covid-19 earlier this week. Local media suggested the fires may have been started deliberately. Migrants on the ground also report that the fires were started by refugee protesters when a demonstration erupted over lockdown measures.
"Last night some people living in the camp were angry about the quarantine. They started a small fire. So police came and there was tear gas. And then the fire grew and we had to run," said a camp resident, who declined to disclose his full name for security reasons. More...

By Diane Lincoln - Live Science Contributor 8 hours ago

The 313-million-year-old tracks were left by a tetrapod. Some 313 million years ago, a large lizard-like creature crawled up a coastal sand dune in what is now the Grand Canyon. Some time later, a light dew wetted the tracks cementing them in place and then a wind-blown sand buried them, preserving the animal's clawed footprints for eons. The paleontologists who studied the trackway say they are the oldest recorded vertebrate tracks in Grand Canyon National Park. Tetrapods, or four-legged beasts, left this set of tracks, along with another set imprinted a little later in time. The second set of footprints was laid down after some sand had accumulated in the first set, and the researchers said these prints could belong to the same species. These ancestors of modern reptiles lived in the sand 250 million years before T. rex, and they would have walked using a highly evolved gait. more...

By Luke McGee, CNN

(CNN) Five weeks have passed since Belarus learned the results of its presidential election, in which the country's Central Election Commission announced that President Alexander Lukashenko, often described as Europe's last dictator, had won with 80.23% of the vote. In the weeks that have followed, the country has seen mass protests from citizens who believe the vote was rigged, violent police crackdowns on those protestors and, possibly most disturbingly, three high-profile opposition figures -- all of whom are women -- have disappeared from public view or fled Belarus.

Belarusian state media said on Tuesday that Maria Kolesnikova, a key opposition figure, had been detained on the Belarusian side of the border between Ukraine and Belarus. The statement was made by Belarusian Border Control, and aired on state TV. "The disappearance of the candidates demonstrates beyond all doubt the brutality of this regime and how important it is that the international community doesn't lose interest in the appalling events that have unfolded since the election," Tom Tugendhat, chairman of the UK's Foreign Affairs Select Committee, told CNN. More...

EU Warns Johnson Over Tampering With Brexit Divorce Deal
Bloomberg Politics

Sep.07 -- The European Union is warning U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson not to tear up parts of the Brexit divorce accord he struck only a year ago. Johnson is ramping up his threats to walk away from the EU at the end of the year without a new trade deal in place. Bloomberg’s David Finnerty reports on “Bloomberg Markets: Asia.” More...

CBS News

Poisoned Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny's condition has improved, allowing doctors to take him out of an induced coma, the German hospital treating him said Monday. Navalny, a fierce, high-profile critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin, was flown to Germany last month after falling ill on Aug. 20 on a domestic flight in Russia. German chemical weapons experts say tests show the 44-year-old was poisoned with a Soviet-era nerve agent, prompting the German government last week to demand that Russia investigate the case.

"The patient has been removed from his medically induced coma and is being weaned off mechanical ventilation," Berlin's Charite hospital said in a statement. "He is responding to verbal stimuli. It remains too early to gauge the potential long-term effects of his severe poisoning." more...

Silvia Amaro

U.K. and EU negotiators are unlikely to reach a trade agreement in the coming months, Jean-Claude Juncker, the former president of the European Commission, said at an event Tuesday. The two negotiating teams started their eighth round of discussions over new trade arrangements on Tuesday — a necessary step after the U.K. left the European Union in January and agreed to work toward a trade deal with the bloc, to be implemented in January 2021. However, the trade talks have not made any significant progress so far and there are growing doubts that this will change in the coming weeks. “The situation is not developing in the best direction possible,” Jean-Claude Juncker, who led the executive arm of the EU between 2014 and 2019, said at an event hosted by financial services company Principal. “No deal is the most possible and probable and only outcome of the negotiations,” Juncker, who often played a key role in prior Brexit negotiations, said. More...

Unidentified defendants instead handed between seven and 20 years in prison over the journalist's murder in Turkey.

A Saudi court on Monday overturned five death sentences over dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi's killing, a final ruling in the case that saw the Washington Post columnist killed and dismembered by a Saudi hit squad. The court handed 20-year sentences to five people and three others were sentenced to between seven to 10 years, state media reported. The eight convicted were not identified.  The verdict comes after Khashoggi's sons said in May they had "pardoned" the killers, a move condemned as a "parody of justice" by a UN expert. more...

By Reuters

The British government is planning legislation that will override key parts of the Brexit withdrawal agreement, risking the collapse of trade negotiations with Brussels, the Financial Times reported on Sunday. Sections of the internal market bill, due to be published on Wednesday, are expected to “eliminate the legal force of parts of the withdrawal agreement” in areas including state aid and Northern Ireland customs, the newspaper said, citing three people familiar with the plans. A source told the FT that the move could “clearly and consciously” undermine the agreement on Northern Ireland that Prime Minister Boris Johnson signed last October to avoid a return to a hard border in the region.

The move comes as Britain and the European Union resume talks on a trade deal, with Johnson saying on Sunday that if an agreement is not reached by Oct. 15, both sides should “accept that and move on”. If the sticking point of fisheries and state aid cannot be resolved and a deal agreed, Britain would have a trading relationship with the bloc like Australia’s, which would be “a good outcome,” Johnson said. more...

By MailOnline Reporter

China has successfully launched a reusable experimental spacecraft on Friday as the country’s latest space mission appears to be shrouded in secrecy. A Long March-2F carrier delivered the spacecraft into orbit from Jiuquan Satellite Launch Centre in northwestern Chinese region Inner Mongolia, reported state media Xinhua, without specifying the time of the launch. No images of the spacecraft or its lift-off have yet to be released. Staff and visitors at the launch site were prevented from filming or discussing the project online, according to reports. more...

“A sea-launched missile test would definitely cross all of President Trump’s red lines because it would involve a major ballistic missile," Dr. Victor Cha said.
By Andrea Mitchell

U.S. weapons experts say they believe North Korea may be preparing to test a new strategic weapon system that would vastly expand Kim Jong Un’s arsenal and defy President Donald Trump’s threshold requirements for continued engagement with the U.S. The experts, led by Dr. Victor Cha of the Center for Strategic and International Studies “Beyond Parallel” website, have posted new and unusually clear satellite images taken Friday that show North Korea may be preparing its first submarine-launched ballistic missile test, potentially a major new development for the North.

The experts say the pictures show a submersible test stand barge at the Sinpo South Shipyard. According to the “Beyond Parallel” assessment, the primary indicator suggesting preparations for a test launch is the presence of several vessels within the boat basin, one of which resembles ships used to tow the test barge out to sea. Another indicator is two Romeo-class submarines anchored within the base that experts say could be used as escorts for an SLBM test maneuver. more...

On Sept. 3, the Russian news outlet Sputnik quoted the head of Russia’s Foreign Intelligence Service, Sergei Naryshkin, as he suggested the poisoning of opposition blogger and politician Alexei Navalny might have been the work of Western intelligence agencies. “We cannot rule that out,” Naryshkin replied when asked if the poisoning could have been a “provocation” at the hands of Western spies. The statement was one of many misleading and contradictory reactions from Russian officials and state media since Navalny became ill while on a flight to Moscow from the Siberian city of Tomsk on Aug. 20. Navalny is now in a coma in a Berlin hospital. German authorities this week confirmed he’d been poisoned with the Soviet-era nerve agent Novichok. That is the same agent use in the 2018 poisoning of an ex-Russian spy and his daughter in Salisbury, England.

The question to Naryshkin was in reference to a claim made by Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko during a recent meeting with Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin in Minsk. Lukashenko said his intelligence service had intercepted a call between Berlin and Warsaw during which the speakers on the line purportedly discussed fabricating the story about Navalny’s poisoning. The Kremlin denied receiving any such material from Belarus, and Naryshkin tiptoed around the issue of Lukashenko’s veracity, commenting: “If the president of Belarus said it, he had a reason.” more...


President Donald Trump has refused to condemn Russia over the poisoning of opposition figure Alexei Navalny, saying he has not seen proof. He said the case was "tragic" but urged reporters to focus instead on China, which he said was a bigger threat to the world than Russia. Nato and Germany say there is "proof beyond doubt" that Mr Navalny was attacked with a Novichok nerve agent. His team says he was poisoned on the Kremlin's orders. Russia denies this. On Saturday, the Russian foreign ministry suggested that if a Novichok-type nerve agent had indeed been used, it did not necessarily originate in Russia. Mr Navalny - an anti-corruption campaigner who has long been the most prominent face of opposition to President Vladimir Putin in Russia - is in a coma in a Berlin hospital having been airlifted there from Siberia, where he fell ill.

What did Trump say?
Speaking at a press event on Friday, he said he had yet to see evidence of poisoning in the case. "So I don't know exactly what happened. I think it's tragic, it's terrible, it shouldn't happen. We haven't had any proof yet but I will take a look," he said. He also stopped short of criticising Mr Putin and said Beijing posed a greater threat. "It is interesting that everybody's always mentioning Russia and I don't mind you mentioning Russia but I think probably China at this point is a nation that you should be talking about much more so," he said.

What is Nato's position?
Tests at a military laboratory in Germany show "beyond doubt" the presence of a Novichok nerve agent, the German government and Nato say. On Friday Nato called for Russia to disclose its Novichok nerve agent programme to international monitors. Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said members were united in condemning the "horrific" attack on Mr Navalny. more...

EU's chief negotiator says London must agree not to change UK law distorting trade with the bloc, The Times reports.

The European Union is demanding a potential veto on the United Kingdom's post-Brexit laws and regulations, The Times newspaper reported on Saturday, citing senior government officials. The British daily reported that the EU's chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, is said to be insisting that London must agree not to implement any change to UK legislation that could distort trade with the bloc without first consulting Brussels. Barnier's UK counterpart, David Frost, has rejected the approach, The Times reported. "The EU need to realise that what they’re asking for is at odds with what the British people voted for, twice, and not something we could accept," a British source said. EU diplomats said earlier that Barnier went to London on Tuesday to tell Frost the UK must move on state aid, or there will not be a Brexit agreement. more...


KARACHI, Pakistan (Reuters) - Tens of thousands of people protested across Pakistan on Friday against French magazine Charlie Hebdo’s reprinting of cartoons mocking the Prophet Mohammad, chanting “Death to France” and calling for boycotts of French products. “Decapitation is the punishment of blasphemers,” read one of the placards carried by protesters. The cartoons sending up the Prophet Mohammad triggered outrage and unrest among Muslims around the world in 2005 when they first published by Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten.

Earlier this week, Charlie Hebdo - a satirical weekly - revived the cartoons to mark the start of the trial of suspected accomplices in an Islamist militant attack on its Paris office in January 2015. The Islamist gunmen who stormed into Charlie Hebdo, killing 12 people, sought to avenge the Prophet Mohammad, a French court heard on Wednesday on the first day of the trial. Publication of the cartoons was cited as the reason for the attack. Friday’s protests were organized by the hardline Islamist Tehreek-e-Laibak Pakistan (TLP) party with rallies held in Karachi, the country’s largest city, as well as in Rawalpindi, Peshawar, Lahore and Dera Ismail Khan. more...

French president, who proposes law against 'Islamic separatism', defends free speech amid Charlie Hebdo attack trial.

French President Emmanuel Macron criticised what he called "Islamic separatism" in his country and those who seek French citizenship without accepting France's "right to commit blasphemy". Macron on Friday defended satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo, which published caricatures of Prophet Muhammad that helped inspire two French-born men to mount a deadly January 2015 attack on the paper's newsroom. The weekly republished the images this week as the trial began of 14 people over the attacks on Charlie Hebdo and on a kosher supermarket.

Speaking at a ceremony on Friday celebrating France's democratic history and naturalising new citizens, the French president said: "You don't choose one part of France. You choose France ... The Republic will never allow any separatist adventure." Freedom in France, Macron said, includes: "The freedom to believe or not to believe. But this is inseparable from the freedom of expression up to the right to blasphemy." Noting the trial that opened on Wednesday, he said, "To be French is to defend the right to make people laugh, to criticise, to mock, to caricature." more...

By Barbara Starr and Jennifer Hansler, CNN

Washington (CNN)As Russian President Vladimir Putin continues his efforts to exert his personal influence around the globe and meddle in American democracy and is accused of using a nerve agent to poison one of his main political opponents, President Donald Trump broke his recent silence on Russia and the attack on Alexey Navalny, calling it "tragic" but emphasizing that he has a good relationship with the Russian leader.

"I don't know exactly what happened. I think it's tragic. It's terrible; it shouldn't happen. We haven't had any proof yet, but I will take a look," Trump said on Friday in a news conference at the White House. In response to further questions on the matter he attempted to deflect to his favorite opponent, claiming that what China is doing is "far worse." And as he had done the night before at a campaign rally in Pennsylvania, he stressed, "I do get along with President Putin."

There was no reference to Russian efforts to interfere in US politics following Thursday's news that an intelligence bulletin issued by the Department of Homeland Security warned that Moscow is attempting to sow doubt about the integrity of the 2020 elections by amplifying false claims that mail-in voting resulting in widespread fraud. And the President made no mention of other provocations in recent weeks, including a collision between a Russian military convoy and a US armored vehicle that injured seven American troops. more...

By Jennifer Chu, Massachusetts Institute of Technology S

A binary black hole merger likely produced gravitational waves equal to the energy of eight suns. For all its vast emptiness, the universe is humming with activity in the form of gravitational waves. Produced by extreme astrophysical phenomena, these reverberations ripple forth and shake the fabric of space-time, like the clang of a cosmic bell. Now researchers have detected a signal from what may be the most massive black hole merger yet observed in gravitational waves. The product of the merger is the first clear detection of an “intermediate-mass” black hole, with a mass between 100 and 1,000 times that of the sun.

They detected the signal, which they have labeled GW190521, on May 21, 2019, with the National Science Foundation’s Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory (LIGO), a pair of identical, 4-kilometer-long interferometers in the United States; and Virgo, a 3-kilometer-long detector in Italy. The signal, resembling about four short wiggles, is extremely brief in duration, lasting less than one-tenth of a second. From what the researchers can tell, GW190521 was generated by a source that is roughly 5 gigaparsecs away, when the universe was about half its age, making it one of the most distant gravitational-wave sources detected so far. As for what produced this signal, based on a powerful suite of state-of-the-art computational and modeling tools, scientists think that GW190521 was most likely generated by a binary black hole merger with unusual properties.

Moscow pressed over details of chemical weapons programme as Nato mulls next steps
Luke Harding, and Philip Oltermann in Berlin

Russia is under pressure to reveal details of its novichok chemical weapons programme after Nato called for an impartial international investigation into the “appalling” poisoning of Alexei Navalny. Nato’s secretary general, Jens Stoltenberg, convened a meeting of member states to discuss the latest findings from Germany on the Russian opposition leader, who collapsed last month on a flight from Siberia to Moscow. German doctors treating Navalny in Berlin announced on Wednesday he had been poisoned with novichok, a lethal Russian-made nerve agent.

Speaking after the meeting, the Nato spokesperson Piers Cazelet said Moscow had “serious questions” to answer. The attempted assassination of Russia’s leading opposition politician was a breach of international law, he said, adding: “Those responsible [must] be brought to justice.” He continued: “The use of such a weapon is horrific. Nato allies are united in condemning this attack. It shows a total disrespect for human life. Time and again we have seen critics of the [Vladimir Putin] regime attacked and threatened. Some have been killed.”

By Elizabeth Cohen, Naomi Thomas, Zahra Ullah and Matthew Chance, CNN

(CNN) A Covid-19 vaccine developed and tested in Russia generated neutralizing antibodies in dozens of study subjects, and while the vaccine often caused side effects such as fever, those side effects were mostly mild, according to data published Friday in the medical journal The Lancet. Russia drew criticism when it announced the world's first approved coronavirus vaccine for public use in August -- even before crucial Phase 3 trials had been completed. In the Phase 1 and 2 studies of the vaccine, which is named Sputnik V, all 76 study participants developed antibodies to the virus that causes Covid-19, according to Friday's report in The Lancet.

The levels of neutralizing antibody response were similar to the immune response that people had after naturally recovering from Covid-19, according to the study. The researchers also looked at responses from T cells, another component of the immune system. "[Outcomes from] the trial also suggest the vaccines also produce a T cell response within 28 days," the researchers wrote.

Larger trials needed
Scientists not involved in the study said that, while the results are a positive sign, only larger, Phase 3 trials can confirm whether the vaccine actually prevents illness with Covid-19. "The data on the Russian vaccine studies reported in The Lancet are encouraging," said Brendan Wren, professor of microbial pathogenesis, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. In the study, half of the participants developed fevers and 42% developed headaches. In addition, about 28% experienced weakness and 24% had joint pain. The article did not say how long these side effects lasted but said "most adverse events were mild."

Al Jazeera English

Lebanon's army says it has found more than four tonnes of ammonium nitrate at Beirut port. That is the same highly explosive material that caused last month’s devastating explosion. Army engineers are reported to be dealing with the substance. Al Jazeera's Zeina Khodr takes a look at the effects the blast is still having on the people who lived through the ordeal.

By Andreas Illmer BBC News

To many Japanese, racism towards black people has long been considered something that happens in the US or Europe, not at home. But when the death of George Floyd in the US sparked a wave of protests demanding that Black Lives Matter, people in Japan joined in too. The protests and marches in major cities pushed a debate about racism in the country, and whether enough was being done to confront and change things. 'Paper cuts of racism' In June, public broadcaster NHK aired a segment to explain to Japanese audiences what was happening in the US, with the protests over George Floyd's death. The report, in a news show aimed at younger audiences, featured an animated video depicting the protesters as grotesque stereotypes, deeply steeped in racist imagery: caricatures with exaggerated muscles and angry faces, and with looters in the background. The reaction was largely negative - the US embassy called the segment "offensive and insensitive".


The US has imposed sanctions on senior officials in the International Criminal Court (ICC), including chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo accused the court of "illegitimate attempts to subject Americans to its jurisdiction". The Hague-based ICC is currently investigating whether US forces committed war crimes in Afghanistan. The US has criticised the court since its foundation and is one of a dozen states which have not signed up. Balkees Jarrah, senior counsel at the non-governmental organisation Human Rights Watch, condemned the sanctions as a "shameful new low for US commitments to justice for victims of the worst crimes".

Mr Pompeo's move marked a "stunning perversion of US sanctions, devised to penalize rights abusers and kleptocrats, to target those prosecuting war crimes", she tweeted. Created by a UN treaty in 2002, the ICC investigates and brings to justice those responsible for genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes, intervening when national authorities cannot or will not prosecute. The treaty has been ratified by 123 countries, including the UK. But the US - along with China, India and Russia - has refused to join, while some African nations have accused the body of being unfairly focused on Africans.

By Melissa Bell, Eva Tapiero, Pierre Bairin and Zamira Rahim, CNN

Paris (CNN) Fourteen people have gone on trial in Paris over their alleged involvement in a series of deadly terrorist attacks in the city, which began in the offices of French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, and ended at a kosher supermarket two days later. The suspects are accused of having provided logistical support to the perpetrators -- brothers Said and Chérif Kouachi, and their accomplice Amedy Coulibaly -- and face charges of participating in a terrorist criminal association. If convicted, several of the defendants face sentences of up to 20 years. At least one faces a potential life sentence.
Eleven of the suspects will appear in court -- 10 of them from behind bulletproof glass. Three others, who traveled to Syria in the days before the attacks began, will be tried in absentia.


It said toxicology tests at a military laboratory showed ""unequivocal proof" of an agent from the Novichok group. Mr Navalny was airlifted to Berlin for treatment after falling ill during a flight in Russia's Siberia region last month. He has been in a coma since. His team says he was poisoned on President Vladimir Putin's orders. The Kremlin has dismissed the allegation. The German government said it condemned the attack in the strongest terms and called for Russia urgently to provide an explanation. "It is a disturbing development that Alexei Navalny was the victim of a chemical nerve agent in Russia," it said.

Robin Young, Samantha Raphelson

A total of 28 trillion tons of ice has disappeared from the Earth’s surface since 1994, according to the results of a study that shocked the U.K. researchers who conducted it. This report fulfills the worst-case scenario that was predicted by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change 30 years ago. Scientists from Leeds and Edinburgh universities and University College London predict that by the end of this century, sea level could rise by more than 3 feet.

By MailOnline Reporter

China is expected to double the size of its nuclear arsenal in the next decade while owning the world’s largest navy as the country seeks to further expand its global power, the US has warned. The Pentagon claimed on Tuesday in a report that China already achieved parity with - or even exceeded - the US in several military modernisation areas. It also said that the Chinese military has made major progress in ship building, the development of ballistic and cruise missiles as well as integrated air defence systems.

Lopez Obrador emphasised his major achievements: the fight against corruption and his government's austerity.

For a president with a plunging economy and the world's fourth-highest number of confirmed COVID-19 deaths, Mexico's Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador is not doing so badly. In his second state-of-the-union address on Tuesday, Lopez Obrador emphasised what he considers his major achievements: the fight against corruption and his government's austerity. "This government will not be remembered for being corrupt; our principal legacy will be cleaning up Mexico's public life," he said.

The president also noted the challenges facing his administration, including the coronavirus pandemic and the struggling economy, but gave his positive take. Mexico will emerge from the pandemic with a better public health system, and his economic strategy relying on direct support to those most in need is beginning to bear fruit, he said.

SHANGHAI (Reuters) - China is able to make India suffer more severe military losses than in the past if it wants to engage in competition, state-backed newspaper Global Times said on Tuesday, after a fresh border flare-up between the two nuclear-armed countries. Indian forces foiled an attempt by Chinese troops to occupy a hill on the Asian giants’ disputed border in the western Himalayas, officials in New Delhi said on Monday.

On the same day, China’s military spokesman demanded India withdraw troops that Beijing said had illegally crossed their shared border. China’s foreign ministry said Chinese border troops had not crossed the line of actual control. “India ... said it preempted Chinese military activity,” the Global Times said in an editorial. “The word ‘preempt’ shows it was the Indian troops that first took destructive actions, and the Indian troops initiated the standoff this time.” It added that India faced a “powerful China” and that New Delhi should not have any “illusions” of support from Washington over the issue.

Agreement provides for the dismantling of rebel forces and integration of their fighters into the national army.

Sudan's government and the main rebel alliance agreed on a peace deal on Monday to end 17 years of conflict. The Sudan Revolutionary Front (SRF), a coalition of rebel groups from the western region of Darfur and the southern states of South Kordofan and Blue Nile, signed the peace agreement at a ceremony in Juba, capital of neighbouring South Sudan, which has hosted and helped mediate the long-running talks since late 2019.

The final agreement covers key issues around security, land ownership, transitional justice, power sharing, and the return of people who fled their homes because of war. It also provides for the dismantling of rebel forces and the integration of their fighters into the national army. The deal is a significant step in the transitional leadership's goal of resolving multiple, deeply rooted civil conflicts. Later on Monday, the United States, the United Kingdom and Norway welcomed the peace agreement as a first step in rebuilding stability in the country.

"The writing is on the wall. Official Arab boycott of Israel is almost over," Fawaz Gerges, a professor of international relations, said.
By Saphora Smith and Paul Goldman

Presidential senior adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner was among a group of top U.S. and Israeli officials who traveled to the United Arab Emirates from Israel on Monday on the first direct flight operated by an Israeli airline to the Gulf kingdom. The U.S. and Israeli delegations flew from Israel’s Ben-Gurion International Airport to the capital Abu Dhabi for meetings with their Emirati counterparts after Israel and the United Arab Emirates agreed to normalize relations Aug. 13 in a U.S.-brokered deal.

The diplomatic breakthrough between Israel and the UAE has been touted as a foreign policy victory for President Donald Trump ahead of November’s presidential election, as well as for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who, if the agreements are signed, will be the first Israeli leader to officially normalize relations with a Gulf state.

Bloomberg Politics

Aug.31 -- Chinese authorities have detained an Australian journalist and television anchor working for the Chinese government’s English news channel, CGTN, as relations worsen between the nations over trade and security concerns. Australia's government says it was informed on Aug. 14 that Cheng Lei had been detained in China. Geoff Raby, a former Australian ambassador to China and now chairman of Geoff Raby & Associates, looks at the ongoing tensions between the two nations on "Bloomberg Daybreak: Australia."

Eustance Huang

Whoever succeeds Shinzo Abe as Japan’s next prime minister is set for a “difficult year” ahead, Teneo Intelligence’s Tobias Harris told CNBC in an email. The analyst said the next leader needs to address pressing, “significant issues” after Abe’s surprise resignation of long-standing incumbent on Friday. Harris said that includes a “wide-open debate” about Japan’s national security strategy as well as new defense program guidelines and negotiations with the U.S. over host-nation support. “The next prime minister will also either have to prepare to deal with a reelected Trump or the transition to a new US administration, either of which will occupy much of his or her attention,” the analyst said, referring to the U.S. presidential election in early November.

Still, Harris said Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) will “likely move quickly to select a new leader to ensure stability and continuity” in a time when the country is hit by both recession as well the coronavirus pandemic. Abe’s departure risks leaving a “political vacuum” in Japan, Waqas Adenwala, Asia analyst at The Economist Intelligence Unit, warned in a Monday note.


Facebook and Google are among the US tech firms involved in the Pacific Light Cable Network project. New plans submitted to the US communication authority mention links with the Philippines and Taiwan only. The 12,800 km (8,000 miles) long cable has already been laid. However it needs permission from the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in order to operate. The project was first announced in 2016. At the time, Google said the cable would "provide enough capacity for Hong Kong to have 80 million concurrent HD video conference calls with Los Angeles". The US tech firms are collaborating on the cable via the Pacific Light Data Company. The proposed Hong landing station would have been run by a business owned by China's Dr Peng Group - one of the country's largest internet service providers.

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