KEY COVID NOS. WORLDWIDE
Pos / Country / New Daily cases / Total Deaths / Daily Deaths / Active Cases / Deaths/1M Pop.
World 6,13,537 / 51,91,054 / 7,492 / 1,96,78,079 / 666
1 USA 94,221 / 7,98,070 / 1,436 / 93,88,406 / 2,392
2 Russia 33,558 / 2,67,819 / 1,240 / 10,40,198 / 1,834
3 UK 43,676 / 1,44,286 / 149 / 9,96,369 / 2,110
4 Germany 73,966 / 1,00,481 / 321 / 7,33,534 / 1,194
5 Ukraine 14,325 / 82,913 / 595 / 4,58,907 / 1,912
6 Netherlands 23,709 / 19,098 / 50 / 4,24,044 / 1,111
7 Poland 28,380 / 81,688 / 460 / 4,04,863 / 2,162
8 Turkey 27,592 / 75,618 / 175 / 3,98,034 / 883
9 Mexico 3,698 / 2,92,850 / 326 / 3,45,663 / 2,239
10 Belgium 12,115 / 26,705 / 36 / 3,18,027 / 2,290
11 France 32,591 / 1,18,734 / 81 / 2,92,867 / 1,813
12 Honduras 62 / 10,398 / 4 / 2,47,266 / 1,027
13 Czechia 25,864 / 32,408 / 48 / 2,25,779 / 3,018
14 Vietnam 11,811 / 24,243 / 125 / 1,94,274 / 246
15 Brazil 4,381 / 6,13,339 / 99 / 1,65,060 / 2,857
16 Norway 4,575 / 1,049 / 10 / 1,61,396 / 191
17 Italy 12,448 / 1,33,415 / 85 / 1,59,317 / 2,211
18 Hungary 12,637 / 33,519 / 176 / 1,55,003 / 3,482
19 Austria 15,365 / 12,180 / 66 / 1,51,943 / 1,342
20 Iran 4,813 / 1,29,280 / 95 / 1,44,517 / 1,512
23 India 9,283 / 4,66,584 / 124 / 1,11,481 / 334
78 Pakistan 350 / 28,677 / 9 / 14,188 / 126
92 Bangladesh 312 / 27,961 / 3 / 7,794 / 167
SCHOLZ TO BECOME GERMAN CHANCELLOR AFTER SECURING COALITION DEAL
Olaf Scholz will head a three-party coalition with broad plans for Germany's transition to a green economy, under a deal to end 16 years of government led by Angela Merkel.
Almost two months after his Social Democrat party won federal elections, he will go into power with the Greens and business-friendly Free Democrats.
Climate protection forms a big part of the coalition deal.
In a news conference, Mr Scholz, 63, said "sovereignty of Europe is a cornerstone of our foreign policy". He highlighted Germany's friendship with France and partnership with the US.
He spoke of daring to make greater progress in a coalition "on equal terms". He also pointed out that the three parties' wider memberships still had to approve what has been labelled a "traffic-light" coalition, because of the parties' red, yellow and green colours.
He will only take over as chancellor from Mrs Merkel after a vote in the Bundestag, expected between 6 and 9 December.
CHINA ANGERED BY BIDEN ADMINISTRATION DEMOCRACY SUMMIT INVITATION TO TAIWAN
China is reportedly furious over the Biden administration's decision to invite Taiwan to a first-ever "Summit for Democracy" next month, with Chinese officials blasting the U.S. as advancing its "geopolitical objectives."
The summit, part of Biden's pledge to help restore democracy across the world, will run from Dec. 9 to Dec. 10 for the first of two meetings. The U.S. invited 110 countries to the virtual summit, where world leaders will discuss "both individual and collective commitments, reforms, and initiatives to defend democracy and human rights at home and abroad," according to the State Department's website.
Taiwan's foreign ministry said in a statement to news outlets that the "invitation to participate in the 'Summit for Democracy' is an affirmation of Taiwan's efforts to promote the values of democracy and human rights over the years."
But China told reporters in Beijing it was "firmly opposed" to the invitation because Taiwan was "an inalienable part of Chinese territory."
"U.S. actions only go to show democracy is just a cover and a tool for it to advance its geopolitical objectives, oppress other countries, divide the world and serve its own interests," a spokesman told reporters.
ERDOGAN HOSTS UAE’S CROWN PRINCE IN ATTEMPT TO MEND TIES
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is hosting Abu Dhabi’s powerful Crown Prince, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, on Wednesday, as Turkey and the United Arab Emirates seek to repair their tense relations and increase economic cooperation.
The visit by the Crown Prince, seen as the de facto leader and the force behind the UAE’s foreign policy posture, is his first official trip to Turkey since 2012, and the highest-level visit by an Emirati official since relations hit a low. The Crown Prince’s brother who is the UAE National Security Adviser, Sheikh Tahnoun bin Zayed Al Nahyan, visited Turkey in August as the first major step toward mending strained ties.
MIGRANT TRAGEDY IS BIGGEST LOSS OF LIFE IN CHANNEL
At least 27 people headed for the UK have drowned in the English Channel near Calais after their boat sank.
The International Organization for Migration said it was the biggest single loss of life in the Channel since it began collecting data in 2014.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he was "appalled" by what happened, adding the UK would leave "no stone unturned" to stop human trafficking gangs.
Five women and a girl were among the dead, France's interior minister said.
Gerald Darmanin also said two people were rescued and one was missing. It was earlier reported 31 people had died, but the total was revised down overnight on Thursday.
Four people had been arrested near to the Belgian border, he added, saying: "We suspect that they were directly linked to this particular crossing."
On Wednesday evening, Mr Johnson and French President Emmanuel Macron agreed to step up joint efforts to prevent the crossings and stop the gangs putting people's lives at risk, Downing Street said.
CHINA UNDERCOUNTED THE NUMBER OF KIDS BORN BY NEARLY 12MN
China undercounted the number of children born in 2000 to 2010 by at least 11.6 million - equivalent to Belgium’s current population - partly because of its stringent one-child policy.
The latest statistical yearbook released by the government puts the number of children born during that period at 172.5 million, well above the 160.9 million in that age group recorded in the 2010 census.
The difference could be the result of some parents failing to register births to avoid punishment if they breached the one-child policy. China only started allowing all couples to have a second child in 2016, meaning some parents wouldn’t officially report a newborn if they were over the quota until the child turned six and needed to register for school, according to independent demographer He Yafu.
About 57% of the children later registered were girls, indicating the discrepancy could be partly linked to parents not reporting girls so they could continue to try for a boy.
In addition, the 2010 census was conducted on November 1, 2010, so would have missed births in the last two months of the year. Census surveys also typically don’t include people who have died or emigrated in the intervening years.
However, with China now effectively abandoning limits on family size, there could be less of a discrepancy in future.
ISRAEL, MOROCCO INK DEFENCE DEAL AFTER NORMALISING TIES
Israel and Morocco signed a landmark agreement Wednesday that lays the foundation for security cooperation, intelligence sharing, and future arms sales.
The memorandum of understanding is the centerpiece of a visit this week by Israeli Defence Minister Benny Gantz to Morocco, which established formal relations with Israel last year as part of the US-brokered Abraham Accords.
Gantz's trip is the first official visit by an Israeli defense minister to one of the Arab states that normalised ties under the accords.
In a statement, Gantz said that the agreement was “very significant and will allow us to exchange ideas, enter joint projects and enable Israeli military exports here.” The agreement was signed during a meeting between Gantz and his Moroccan counterpart Abdellatif Loudiyi in Rabat, with military attaches and two Israeli parliament members in attendance.
TALIBAN GOVT SIGNS DEAL WITH OZ COMPANY FOR CANNABIS CENTRE
The Afghan government has signed a deal with an Australian company, Cpharm, that wants to set up a cannabis processing centre in Afghanistan, a Taliban spokesperson said on Wednesday.
“All the stages of the contract with Cpharm have been completed and in a few days the project will be officially launched which will create jobs for many citizens,” Saeed Khosty, Taliban press director, said on Twitter. He said a representative of the firm pledged $450-million investment for the project in Afghanistan. “Afghanistan’s deputy narcotics minister met Cpharm’s representative on Tuesday in this regard.”
He added that the company, which produces medicinal cannabis cream, would be given access to thousands of acres of Afghan cannabis crops. Quoting a spokesperson for Cpharm, Khosty posted on Twitter: “Afghanistan has 6,000 acres of land for cannabis cultivation and they (Cpharm) need 5000 acres of cannabis.”
After taking control of Afghanistan in August, the Taliban authorities had vowed to crack down on the illicit drugs trade. Yussef Wafa, Taliban governor of Kandahar, had said in October that the group had been arresting drug users and would not let farmers grow cannabis or opium poppies.
However, poppy and cannabis cultivators said they have not seen any real change in Taliban’s attitude towards them. Cannabis and opium crops were known to be sources of revenue for the group when it was fighting a war against the US-led occupation of Afghanistan.
NEW ZEALAND TO REOPEN BORDERS IN JANUARY
New Zealand will reopen its borders to the world in January, the government announced on Wednesday. It will allow the return of displaced residents in January and tourists in April.
The South Pacific nation imposed harsh border restrictions when the pandemic broke out, effectively banning tourists and requiring returning residents to spend two weeks in a quarantine hotel run by the military.
At times, demand for quarantine beds has far outstripped supply, causing some displaced residents to wait months for available slots.
For the first 18 months of the pandemic, the border measures were considered vital in keeping New Zealand free from the virus.
But an August outbreak proved impossible to stamp out, prompting New Zealand to abandon its elimination strategy in October.
New Zealand is also removing a very-high-risk designation from certain countries, including Indonesia, India and Brazil, allowing people from those countries to return or visit.
SRI LANKA CABINET CLEARS CHINA’S ROLE IN TERMINAL PROJECT
Sri Lanka has decided to rope in China Harbour Engineering Company (CHEC) to construct the second phase of the Colombo Port’s East Container Terminal (ECT), which was earlier to be developed jointly by Sri Lanka, India and Japan, until Colombo reneged on a 2019 trilateral agreement.
In a Cabinet decision taken on Tuesday, Colombo approved the development of the strategic port terminal in stages, to be “totally operated” by the Sri Lanka Ports Authority. Prominent Sri Lankan firm Access Engineering and CHEC have won the bid to construct the facility, the Department of Government Information said in a statement.
CHEC, a subsidiary of the state-owned China Communications Construction Company, is already involved in strategic infrastructure projects in Sri Lanka, including the $1-billion Colombo Port City coming up near Galle Face — the capital’s iconic seafront — and a four-lane elevated highway connecting Colombo’s suburbs, with a near-$1-billion investment. The terms of the highway deal allow the state-run Chinese firm to own and run the highway for 15 years before transferring ownership to Sri Lanka.
With the ECT development project now, China’s role in Sri Lanka’s ports — China Merchants Port Holdings Company already holds majority stakes at the southern Hambantota Port as well as the Colombo International Container Terminal at the Colombo Port — has further increased.
CHINESE FIRMS EYE AFGHANISTAN’S LITHIUM
A number of Chinese companies have already begun “on-site inspections” of possible projects to tap lithium deposits in Afghanistan, having received the green light to do so from the Taliban regime, according to a report in the Chinese state media on Wednesday.
Lithium is one of many resources in Afghanistan present in large deposits but as yet untapped, largely because of years of political instability and the lack of infrastructure. A Chinese company secured the rights to mine one of the world’s biggest copper reserves in Afghanistan at Aynak more than a decade ago, but has not yet begun work on extraction.
While Chinese firms are aware of the risks and pitfalls, they have not wasted time scouting out potential deposits of lithium, a valuable resource for a range of industries from electric cars to energy storage systems.
A report on Wednesday in the Communist Party-run newspaper Global Times, citing Chinese businessmen, said, “Representatives of several Chinese companies have arrived in Afghanistan on special visas and are conducting on-site inspections of potential lithium projects, while others have made contacts about such projects.”
SWEDEN'S FIRST FEMALE PRIME MINISTER QUITS HOURS LATER
Hours after being tapped as Sweden's prime minister, Magdalena Andersson resigned Wednesday after suffering a budget defeat in parliament and coalition partner the Greens left the two-party minority government.
"For me, it is about respect, but I also do not want to lead a government where there may be grounds to question its legitimacy," Ms Andersson told a news conference.
Ms Andersson has informed parliamentary Speaker Anderas Norlen that she is still interested in leading a Social Democratic one-party government.
She said that "a coalition government should resign if a party chooses to leave the government. Despite the fact that the parliamentary situation is unchanged, it needs to be tried again".
The speaker of Sweden's 349-seat parliament Andreas Norlen said he had received Ms Andersson's resignation and will contact the party leaders "to discuss the situation", the Swedish news agency TT said. On Thursday, he will announce the road ahead.
GADHAFI’S SON DISQUALIFIED FROM RUNNING FOR PRESIDENT
Libya's top electoral body said Wednesday that the son and onetime heir apparent of the late Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi is disqualified from running in presidential elections that are supposed to take place next month.
According a list of barred candidates issued by the country's High National Elections Committee, Seif al-Islam Gadhafi is barred because of previous convictions against him. He can appeal the committee's decision in court within the coming days.
Seif al-Islam was sentenced to death by a Tripoli court in 2015 for use of violence against protesters who were calling for his father to step down, but that ruling has since been called into question by Libya's rival authorities. He is also wanted by the International Criminal Court on charges of crimes against humanity related to the 2011 uprising against his father.
Libya is set to hold the first round of its presidential elections on December 24, after years of U.N.-led attempts to usher in a more democratic future and bring the country’s war to an end.