Update on International News

U.S. Political Friction with China, Delaying Reduction in Carbon Emission

While political tension between China and U.S. is growing, there is global warming issue to face and solve together. Although both countries showed commitment to global warming actions, their relationship finds difficulties for solutions. China was unpleased when U.S. walked away from Paris Climate Agreement and the U.S. addressing the orders. John Kerry, Biden’s climate envoy, traveled to China to invite the Chinese government for Biden’s “virtual climate summit.” Mr.Xi did not confirm the support while attending the conference between President Emmanuel Macron of France and Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany. Chinese media refused to accept the U.S. as a central international authority. China emits 28 percent of the world’s carbon dioxide, and the U.S. takes 14 percent of the total. This data accounts that two countries need coordination. However, the rivalries among the two countries accelerated the failure in communications

Source: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/04/15/world/asia/us-china-climate-john-kerry.html


South China Sea: Growing tensions between China and the Philippines

Philippine and Chinese embassy officials have been locked in a war of words over the presence of about 200 Chinese ships firstly occupying the Whitsun Reef, within Manila’s 200 mile exclusive economic zone, and subsequently spreading out to other areas of the disputed waters In South China Sea.
Whitsun Reef is set 175 nautical miles from the province of Palawan in the Philippines and around 638 nautical miles from the Chinese Island of Hainan.
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has denounced and condemned China’s territorial incursions, since this prolonged presence of Chinese vessels could lead to unwanted hostilities between the two countries.
While China maintains that Whitsun Reef is a traditional fishing ground in the Chinese waters where fishing boats can take refuge from rough seas, the Philippines claim that boats blatantly infringe and violate Philippine jurisdiction.
Nowadays, the Philippine military aircraft is sent daily to supervise the situation, while international concern is still growing.
Moreover, also Brunei, Malaysia, Taiwan and Vietnam have alleged competing territorial interests for islands, features and resources in the South China Sea, with more than 3.4 trillion dollars being made from trade in that area each year.

Sources: The Straits Times (Philippines files new diplomatic protests over Chinese boats in disputed waters, Asia News & Top Stories – The Straits Times)

CNN (Philippines asks Chinese fishing flotilla to leave disputed South China Sea reef – CNN)


Russian troops mass near Ukraine’s border

In the past three weeks, the Russian military forces have stationed two armies and three airborne formations to western regions along the border with Ukraine.
The NATO allies are alarmed about this concentration of Russian troops and the countless violations of a cease-fire in Eastern Ukraine, a region that has been locked in a conflict since Moscow’s 2014 annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula.
According to the chief of NATO, the current Russian deployment constitutes the largest concentration of troops near the Ukraine border since 2014.
On the other hand, the Kremlin has clarified that Russia is absolutely free to deploy its troops whenever it wants on its territory and has frequently accused the Ukrainian military of provocative actions aimed at claiming control of the rebel regions by force.
Alongside the build-up of Russian forces on the border, there have been four killings of Ukrainian soldiers against Russian-backed separatists in the area of eastern Ukraine.
The recent events have led the U.S. military’s European Command to raise the attention to the highest level, that is to say that of imminent crisis, in order to try to prevent new deadly engagements.

Sources: The Guardian (Nato tells Russia to stop military buildup around Ukraine | Ukraine | The Guardian)

The New York Times (Intelligence Chiefs Warn of Russian Troops Near Ukraine and Other Threats – The New York Times (nytimes.com))


Is vaccinating safely a luxury for countries?

Despite the initial enthusiasm for the vaccine against Covid-19 in less than a year, the problems are not late to arrive. Last week the EU and the British drug Regulation have verified the possible connection between AstraZeneca and rare forms of thrombosis.  Not to forget the suspension of J&J submitted to the scrutiny of US experts that are deepening its side-effects. However, the real issue is the possibility given to some states and not to others (striking example is Africa) to conclude contracts for the supply of doses with several pharmaceutical companies. The African Union purchased more than 220 million doses of the J&J, still under investigation, certainly cheaper than the Pfizer, and convenient in terms of single dose compared to the 2 inoculations provided by AstraZeneca. In addition, medical devices, and equipment for the preservation of vaccines essentially require considerable costs that not all countries can afford. Dr. Peter Drobac, Director of the Skoll Centre for Social Entrepreneurship claimed that this differentiated approach “may fuel conspiracy theories around the world about a two-tiered society”. On the other hand, the CDC is not planning to discourage the purchase of vaccines given that benefits outweigh the small number of potential side effects. Since 17 mln are AstraZeneca’s doses and more than three-quarters of the African population are under 35 (as shown by UN data) the clotting risk is much higher than in other countries, where the average age is more than twice that of Africa. Thus, the main goal remains the fair access and distribution of vaccines in all countries to ensure a halt to the pandemic.

Source: CCN World: https://edition.cnn.com/2021/04/16/africa/vaccine-inequality-blood-clots-intl-cmd/index.html


Democratic manifestations take Jimmy Lai and other activists to prison

Hong Kong celebrated its first National Security Education Day on Thursday and just after that, the judgment after Jimmy Lai and others were issued. They were found guilty of organizing and participating in two protests on August 18 and 31 in 2019, being banned by police and led to 14 months of prison. The convicted were Jimmy Lai, 72 y.o. founder of the pro- democracy Appl Daily newspaper and Lee Cheuk-yan a 64 y.o. former parliamentarian and veteran pro-democracy activist. In addition, also three former lawmakers have been imprisoned. The charges by the judge Amanda Woodcock mainly concerned the deliberate action of defying national authority and organizing demonstrations and non-authorized assemblies that violated the national peace. Furthermore, she added that the conviction reflected the seriousness of the crime and the awareness of the actions. On the other hand, the Lawyer of Lai, Audrey Eu argued that “he exercised his constitutional right of peaceful reunion”, thus not violating the rule of law which must be practiced not only inside tribunals but also down in the street. Moreover, Ng a 73 y.o. lawyer said that she was determined to defend Hong Kong’s democratic rights in terms of gaining people’s trust by serving the nation as the defendants did for most of their life.

Source:  CCN World: https://edition.cnn.com/2021/04/16/asia/hong-kong-activists-sentencing-intl-hnk/index.html


Johnson & Johnson Vaccine rollout stops after concerning symptoms

The US, South Africa and the EU will temporarily stop the distribution of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, after reports of rare blood clotting.

Following similar cases of what happened after some doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine, the FDA recommended the temporary pause of J&J inoculations “out of an abundance of caution”. In fact, only six cases of rare thrombosis were detected in more than 6.8 million doses of the vaccine, and one patient died from complications and another is in critical conditions.

Dr. Fauci, US’ top Covid adviser, said it was too early comment on whether it could have its authorization revoked. On the other hands, the World Health Organization declared that it was monitoring the situation and waiting for reports from the US and European regulators.

Finally Johnson & Johnson issued a statement saying that it shared “all adverse event reports” with the health authorities. It added: “We are aware that thromboembolic events including those with thrombocytopenia have been reported with Covid-19 vaccines. At present, no clear causal relationship has been established between these rare events and the Janssen (J&J) Covid-19 vaccine.”

Source: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-56733715


Raul Castro steps down as Cuba leader

Raul Castro told a party congress that he is handing over the leadership to a younger generation “full of passion and anti-imperialist spirit”.

He had risen to command on the 31st of July of 2006, when his brother Fidel provisionally delegated to him the presidency, due to a serious illness. Raul Castro guaranteed a smooth succession and demonstrated that the revolution could survive even without Fidel’s guidance. Aware of the intimidating charisma his brother had, Raul Castro designated the Communist Party as the “only worthy heir of Fidel” and fostered a more collegial way of leading, leaving behind any kind of individualism.

Under Raul Castro’s leadership, slowly ended all of those “absurd prohibitions” that were standing and Cubans were finally allowed to stay in the same hotels as tourists, they could have mobile phone and internet access, and they were allowed to sell their cars and houses, among others. However, his greatest achievement was the economic reform, which saved the Cuban revolution.

Raul will relinquish his position as first secretary of the Communist Party to Miguel Dìaz-Canel. As a final statement the leaving leader said that he had no obligation to depart, but that he is doing so for a question of principle and that nevertheless he will always remain a grassroots militant of the Party, of the revolution and of Socialism, till his death.

Source: Mauricio Vicent, (“Raul Castr, una revolucion diferente a la de Fidel”), El Pais, 17/04/2021



G20 leaders promise fair distribution of Covid-19 Vaccine

G20 leaders pledge fair global distribution of coronavirus vaccine

G20 Leaders have had a meeting on Sunday, where they pledged to “spare no effort” in order to ensure the fair distribution of Coronavirus vaccines all around the world. Despite that, they have not offered any new, specific funding plan to achieve that goal. The focus of the Summit was on the fact that the Covid-19 vaccine is expected to arrive and “hit” the market in a huge way. Consequently, leaders had to ensure that billions of doses will be immediately available for distribution and that they will be sold at affordable prices in order to guarantee their distribution to poor countries as well. The UE and UN pointed out the lack of funding (an amount of around $4,5 billion missing) that should be covered by G20 nations. Countries have already invested $10 billion in the Access to Covid-19 Tools (ACT) and its vaccine pillar, the Covax Facility. These two mechanisms are structured in order to ensure that vaccines do not remain only in the hands of the rich countries. This G20 Summit enhanced the solidarity intentions of the leaders. As the UB secretary general, António Guterres said: “This is not a ‘do-good’ exercise. It is the only way to stop the pandemic dead in its tracks. Solidarity is indeed survival.” In conclusion, the Summit on the bulk of vaccines that are going to be put in the market gives a ray of hope to the international scene, but there will be positive results only if the vaccines are accessible everywhere worldwide.

Source: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/nov/22/g20-leaders-pledge-to-spare-no-effort-to-distribute-covid-vaccines-fairly

UN urges to protect Tigray civilians from Ethiopia’s crisis

Full scale' humanitarian crisis unfolding in Ethiopia's Tigray | American Stock News

The UN has urged Ethiopian authorities to protect civilians, as the Ethiopian army plans to attack the capital of the northern region of Tigray. The fight that has erupted in November between the Ethiopian federal forces and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), which is the Tigray’s regional army, has reportedly killed hundreds and displaced thousands in recent weeks. More than 30,000 refugees were sent into neighbouring Sudan. Rebels have also fired rockets into the region of Amhara and across the border into the nation of Eritrea. The Tigray People’s Liberation Front is controlling the mountainous region and has vowed to keep fighting. The Ethiopia Government, in the meantime, has accused TPLF forces of harming the region’s economy by destroying its infrastructure, such as airports and railways. Phone and internet connections have been down since the outburst of the conflict.

Source: https://www.google.it/amp/s/www.republicworld.com/amp/world-news/africa/un-agencies-call-for-civilian-protection-in-tigray.html

Israeli PM flies to Saudi Arabia for “secret” talks

Israel PM 'flew to Saudi Arabia for secret talks with crown prince' - BBC News

Israeli media reported that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyhau flew to Saudi Arabia for secret talks and under the table meetings with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. According to Kan public radio, the Israeli Prime Minister met the Crown Prince in the city of Neom, along the coast of the Red Sea. Reportedly, Netanyahu was accompanied by Yossi Cohen, the head of Israel’s spy agency. This meeting marks the first known encounter between senior Israeli and Saudi officials, amid a US move to persuade Arab countries to normalise ties with Israel. Pompeo is trying to induce Saudi Arabia to follow United Arab Emirates, Sudan and Bahrain in building formal relations with Israel, principally due to the shared concerns over Iran. King Salman has long supported the Palestinians in their effort to secure an independent state but, according to many, his son, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, is more open to the idea of normalizing relations with Israel.

Source: www.google.it/amp/s/www.wsj.com/amp/articles/israels-netanyahu-meets-saudi-crown-prince-hebrew-media-says-11606120497

US Navy official visits Taiwan for guidance of the following administration

U.S. Navy Admiral Makes Unannounced Visit to Taiwan, Sources Say | World News | US News

On Sunday, a senior official of the US navy command visited Taiwan. It was under the Trump administration to guide Joe Biden in dealing with the issue and recognize Taiwan as an independent island. The meeting was favorable for both parties, but the content remains unveiled to the public. However, the meanings of ties with Taiwan are to hold China in check and ensure the anti-Beijing alliances. In order to indicate US commitment to free and open Indo-Pacific, US navy warships crossed the Taiwan Strait while the meeting was held. The US secretary, Pompeo, emphasized in the strong partnerships between the US and Taiwan, seeking not only economic welfare, but also defending freedom. The forward action from Biden is expected, but his traces so far seemed to incline toward Taiwan’s independence.

Source: https://edition.cnn.com/2020/11/22/asia/taiwan-us-navy-intl-hnk/index.html

Protests in favour of democracy in Thailand after the Parliament votes on constitutional reform

Thousands protest in Bangkok after Thai parliament votes on constitutional reform - CNN

Thai protesters have risked lengthy prison sentences by calling for reform of the monarchy to put boundaries on the King’s powers and ensure he respects and complies with the constitution: this movement is the biggest objection to the country’s establishment. The movement has organized regular demonstrations for the past five months, which demand the resignation of the PM, the dissolution of parliament and the integration of changes to the constitution. Protesters outside parliament mocked the military-backed government by bringing giant inflatable ducks to the rally (their “navy force”), which were eventually used as a shelter from blast of water cannons and gunshots fired by the police. Members of the Senate and of the House of Representative voted on Wednesday on seven motions of reform to the constitution, that, however, fall short on monarchial reform. The palace has not responded to the protests, but the King has stated that “Thailand is the land of compromise”.

Sources: https://edition.cnn.com/2020/11/18/asia/thailand-protest-constitution-vote-intl-hnk/index.html


President Fernández to present a new bill on legalizing abortion to the Argentinian Congress

Argentina braces anew for abortion battle | Daily times

Abortion in Argentina is currently allowed only in cases of rape, or if the mother’s health is in danger. President Fernandez had previously described abortion as “a matter of public health” and says that legalizing abortion will help save lives, as every year almost 40 thousand women are admitted to the hospital, after undergoing illegal abortion procedures. The Senate of the extremely Catholic nation had already rejected the proposed act in 2018. Since then, crowds of green-scarfed (that is the pro-choice movement’s symbol) feminists have been protesting for a legal, safe and free termination of pregnancy, and now hope that the president’s support will be decisive.  Mr. Fernandez also highlighted that “women who are more vulnerable and in a state of poverty are the major victims of the system, as they are the ones that undergo unsafe procedure because of not being able to sustain what an abortion entails”. He also stated that “the legalization won’t imply an extra burden for the health system and that the majority of the procedure would be of day-surgery and would not need surgical intervention”.

Sources: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-54980266


Americans continue to ignore warnings against Thanksgiving travel

Fauci: Thanksgiving gatherings will put families at risk | PBS NewsHour

As the pandemic curve is continuing to rise, with 200.000 cases a day, Americans are still stuck with their own traditions and do not want to give up traveling during Thanksgiving. Scientists and Experts urged American people not to travel for family gatherings the during Thanksgiving holiday. The problem is that denying Americans their traditions and celebrations, that characterize this part of the year, is very hard even if it is due to sanitary reasons. Despite Trump’s declarations that Covd-19 has disappeared, on Sunday, Dr Anthony Fauci, the leading infectious disease expert in the US and top public health official in the White House Coronavirus taskforce, said that the country is in a very serious and difficult situation at all levels because infections are tragically increasing. More than 50 million people are expected to travel this week to celebrate Thanksgiving. Therefore, Americans must reconsider the possibility to stay safe at home.

Source: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/nov/22/thanksgiving-travel-warnings-covid-coronavirus

Past week’s news

Joe Biden becomes the 46th president of the USA

              America has chosen Democrat Joe Biden as its 46th President on Saturday. Voters also made history in electing Kamala Harris, who will become the country’s first Black, Asian American female Vice President. Biden’s victory came after more than three days of uncertainty due to the delayed processing of mail-in ballots, which largely skewed towards Biden. Biden overtook President Donald Trump in Pennsylvania, getting him over the 270 Electoral College votes needed to win the election after tense days of razor-thin margins in various battleground states. President Trump, however, will not concede or, at least, that is what his campaign is saying. Biden won the office with more than 74 million popular votes, outpacing the record held by former president Barack Obama. In the end, it was the key state of Pennsylvania who led Biden to victory. What is more, Biden is only the fourth candidate to defeat an incumbent president, since he was able to rebuild parts of the so called “Midwestern Blue Wall” by flipping Michigan and Wisconsin (which Trump had won back in 2016). Now, as the President of the USA, Biden will face the biggest task of his career: will he succeed in uniting a divided country?

Pfizer and BioNtech announce vaccine candidate against covid-19 achieved 90 % success in its first analysis

On the 9th of November 2020, Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE announced the candidate vaccine against Covid – 19 to the world. After several discussions between companies and the FDA, they decided to drop the 32-case interim analysis in order to start the one with 62 cases. Later, the evaluated cases arrived at 94. The examination of the performance split between vaccinated volunteers and the ones who received the placebo, shedding light on the vaccine efficacy rate which is above 90%, 7 days after the second dose. Pfizer’s CEO Albert Bourla claims that they are reaching an important milestone in the vaccine development program. Consequently, they pointed out that protection comes after 28 days after the second dose, but the final percentage may be subject to change. Pfizer and BioNTech are still accumulating safety data which will be available by next week. In addition, the participants in the trial will be strictly monitored for long-term protection, getting checked for at least two years after the second dose. According to the project that, scientistsexpect to produce up to 50 million doses of the vaccineworldwide in 2020 and up to 1.3 billion in 2021.

Peruvian President Vizcarra faces impeachment and Peruvian people go on the streets to protest

Thousands of people have been protesting on Lima’s streets and in many other cities across the country to express their dissent against president Vizcarra’s impeachment. The protests, which are some of the most crowded of the last 20 years in Perù, started after the Peruvian Congress impeached Mr. Vizcarra over alleged bribery. Monday’s move in Congress came after a previous attempt to remove him in September, Mr. Vizcarra had previously said he would accept the impeachment vote and leave the presidential palace. However, on Tuesday, he questioned the legality and legitimacy of his removal. Protests started when Manuel Merino, who was Congress’ president, assumed the presidency interim: many young people took to the streets against this new government, which they considerillegitimate. The protests had started as peaceful protests, but became more and more rough as police responded violently, repressing the protests and opening fire on protesters and reporters. Manuel Merino resigned, giving his place to a third President in a week, Francisco Sagasti.

Nigeria cracks down on end-SARS protesters

Thousands have taken to the streets in Nigeria against the federal Sars unit (Special Anti-Robbery Squad), which has long been accused of extra-judicial killings, torture and extortion. The demonstrations have railed against systemic abuse by Nigerian police forces, but they have in turn been met by violence. End-Sars began as a largely online movement, gaining support all over the world, while mainly young people started to march in Lagos and cities across Nigeria. Amnesty International said people have reportedly been shot dead or brutally wounded at a protest against police brutality in Nigeria’s biggest city, Lagos. Several videos posted on social media showed officers firing live rounds and using teargas or water cannons at demonstrators, many of whom reported injuries. Many protested who rallied in recent days described the calls to disband Sars as just the beginning of the plan of ending police brutality, since, in Nigeria, experiences of police abuses are near ubiquitous. While protests have waned since last month, the failure to prosecute Sars officers, along with the creation of a new federal unit called the Special Weapons and Tactics Force, has fuelled anger.

Terrorist attacks in France continue

France is once again the scene of multiple terrorist attacks, with 8 attempts in 2020 only. The latest oneshave occurred between September and the end of October. On the 16th of October, a French teacher was beheaded in the middle of the street by an 18-year-old student, reportedly over a class on freedom of speech in which the teacher had shown caricatures of the Muslim prophet Mohammed. On the 25th of September four people were wounded, after a man attacked them with a butcher’s knife outside of the old Charlie Hebdo magazine headquarters, while at the end of October two brutal beheadings and a shooting occurred in Paris and in the South of France. On the 29th of the same month, 3 people were killed in the Notre-Dame cathedral in Nice, one of the victims beheaded, in a terrorist attack attributed to Islamic extremism once again. The latest attack dates to the 31st of October, when, in Lyon, a Greek orthodox priest was wounded after being shot twice by an assailant. Again, a terrorist motive is not excluded.

Terrorist attack in Vienna leaves 4 dead and 23 injured

On the 2nd of November 2020, a man shot dead 4 people, while injuring 23 more, in Wien, Austria. At 20.00 pm of that day, the heavily armed man, named Kujtim Fejzulai, opened fire in the city Centre, in an area also known as “Bermuda Triangle”. Panic and terror were spread all over peoples’ faces and the Austrian police urged them to stay at home or indoors as there was suspicion that this would not be just an isolated case. There was fear that other points in the city would be hiton the same night, which turned out to be true. Otherperpetrators, wearing a fake bomb vest, killed 2 women (ages 24 and 44) and 2 men (ages 21 and 39) before being eventually shot dead near the church of St Ruprecht by the police.

Hundreds of protesters in Belarus continue to push for president’s resignation

The force against current president Alexander Lukashenko is ongoing in the capital city of Belarus. For more than two months, hundreds of people have marched to oppose the sixth term reelection of Lukashenko. In the August election, protestors were enraged about the fact that Lukashenko rigged the election result, winning eighty percent of votes. At least 10 march participants were arrested. Although the United States and Europe concluded that the August election was unfair and unpeaceful, Lukashenko insisted that it is the US and European countries that are causing the discord in ex-Soviet countries. US authorities recognized the need of the Belarusian government to sanction civilians and expressed “support for the sovereignty of Belarus.” In the meantime, the EU supported the opposition force and Tsikhanouskaya, who is running against Lukashenko.

Hong Kong opposition lawmakers all quit after four members ousted

Beijing imposed a new law that allows the disqualification of “unpatriotic” members and induced the pro-Democratic caucus to resign. As an immediate effect, four legislators were disqualified. Among those disqualifiers, some had already been banned from running legislative elections. On the day of the new legislation, 15 remaining legislators chanted and held hands together in front of the press, then turned the resignation letters on the next day. This resolution by Beijing provides Hong Kong authorities with the power to justify unseat lawmakers. According to the decision-making body of China’s legislators, the four legislators’ campaign which hinders government legislation should have won the majority. Moreover, the implementation sought to end the forums for open democratic debate.