BIDEN ADMINISTRATION STICKS TO 'VAGUE' WORDING ON SAUDI TIES AFTER IMMUNITY DECISION
The US is continuing to review its relationship with Saudi Arabia despite a Biden administration decision that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman should be provided immunity from a lawsuit over the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Tuesday.
"The opinion that we provided does not speak in any way to the merits of the case nor the current status of the bilateral relationship.”
"Our review of that relationship is ongoing," insisted Blinken, who arrived in Doha on Monday, a day after the crown prince was at the football World Cup opening ceremony.
“The Biden administration has always claimed they are re-evaluating their relationship with Saudi, but time and again, it seems to be promises and gestures more than a real fundamental shift of policy,” Aziz Alghashian, a Riyadh-based researcher of Saudi foreign policy, told Middle East Eye.
The US said last month that it would reassess its relationship with Saudi Arabia after Riyadh backed an oil production cut at Opec+ that was seen as a snub to the US amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and heightened energy prices.
ZELENSKY TELLS UKRAINIANS TO BE ‘VERY FRUGAL’ WITH ELECTRICITY AMID RUSSIAN BARRAGE ON ENERGY FACILITIES
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky warned residents of the country on Monday to be “very frugal” with their electricity use as Russia continues perpetrating attacks on energy sources.
“Of course, energy workers, utility workers, rescuers and everyone involved are working at their maximum,” said Zelensky in his daily address.
“But the systemic damage to our energy sphere by the attacks of Russian terrorists is so significant that all our people and businesses should be very frugal and spread consumption by hours of the day.”
The president said that Ukrainians are using a higher level of electricity “than the country can provide at this time,” forcing energy workers to initiate unscheduled shutdowns.
“Therefore, I would like to appeal to all representatives of regional authorities and local communities: please do not stop communicating about the rational consumption of electricity,” Zelensky said.
Energy consumption is especially fragile in the Kyiv, Vinnytsia, Sumy, Ternopil, Cherkasy and Odesa regions, according to the president.
Zelensky called on citizens to “limit your personal use of electricity,” particularly during “peak consumption hours.”
INDONESIAN QUAKE TOLL 268, HUNT ON FOR SURVIVORS IN RUBBLE
Cianjur (Indonesia) : Indonesian rescuers used jackhammers, circular saws and sometimes their bare hands Tuesday to shift the rubble of flattened buildings as they searched for the dead and missing from an earthquake that killed at least 268 people.
With many missing, some remote areas still unreachable and over 1,000 people injured in the 5. 6 magnitude quake, the death toll was likely to rise. Hospitals near the epicentre on the densely populated island of Java were already overwhelmed. The quake struck at a depth of 10 km and also caused panic in the capital of Jakarta, about athree hour-drive away, where high-rises swayed and some people evacuated.
The quake was centred on themountainous Cianjur district. National Disaster Mitigation Agency head Suharyanto, said 1,083 people were injured and at least 151 missing. Rescue operations were focused on about a dozen locations in Cianjur, where people are still believed trapped, said Endra Atmawidjaja, a public works and housing official. “We are racing against time,” he said.
Initial rescue attempts were hampered by damaged roads and bridges and power outages, and a lack of equipment to help move the heavy rubble. Over 13,000 people were taken to evacuation centres, West Java governor Ridwan Kamil said. Trucks carrying food, tents, blankets and other supplies arrived fom Jakarta on Tuesday in temporary shelters.
CLIMATE CHANGE WILL FUEL DISEASES, WARNS GLOBAL FUND
GENEVA –– Climate change will end up killing people by fueling infectious diseases, the head of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria said Tuesday.
Executive director Peter Sands said that in 2022, the fund had witnessed the "escalating impact" of climate change on health.
While upsurges in malaria had hitherto been seen due to the increasing frequency and devastation of tropical storms, "with the flooding in Pakistan it was taken to a completely different scale", he said.
"What we are seeing is that the mechanism by which climate change will end up killing people is through its impact on infectious disease."
Sands said that parts of Africa which previously were unaffected by malaria are now becoming at risk as temperatures rise and allow mosquitos to thrive, notably at higher altitudes.
However, the population in such areas will not have immunity, with the resulting risk of a higher mortality rate.
"It's quite alarming," Sands told a briefing with the UN correspondents' association.
Other threats include tuberculosis spreading among the increasing number of displaced people around the world.
"TB is a disease that thrives on having concentrations of highly-stressed people in close confines with inadequate food and shelter," he said.
"The more that we see climate change-driven displacement of people, the more I think that will translate into the conditions that will at least make it more likely."
Sands also said food insecurity would make people more vulnerable to disease.
By the end of 2022, Sands said the Global Fund will have invested around $5.4 billion, which is significantly more than it has ever done before.
The Geneva-based organization's largest donors are G7 governments, led by the United States and France.
PAK FM: PEOPLE BEHIND ARMY CHIEF’S TAX DETAILS LEAK IDENTIFIED
Islamabad : Pakistan finance minister Ishaq Dar on Tuesday said two people who leaked the income-tax details of the army chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa have been identified, asserting that the probe would reach its “logical conclusion”.
In an interview to Geo News, Dar reiterated that leaking the army chief’s incometax details was “illegal”. “I’ve seen the interim report. I hope to receive the final report on Tuesday,” Dar said. “One person involved in the leak is from Lahore and another from Rawalpindi,” he said, adding that it was being probed if they had authority to access the details.
He said that the probe was ordered because it was illegal to divulge the tax details of anyone, except when a court had issued an order for it. Dar ordered a probe on Monday after investigative news website Fact Focus reported that Gen Bajwa’s relatives became billionaires during his six-year tenure, making assets amounting to Rs 12. 7 billion and leaked their tax details.
PUTIN UNVEILS RUSSIA’S ‘ARCTIC POWER’ WITH LAUNCH OF NUCLEAR ICEBREAKERS
President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday touted Russia’s Arctic power at a flag-raising ceremony and dock launch for two nuclear-powered icebreakers that will ensure year-round navigation in the Western Arctic.
Presiding via video link from the Kremlin at the launch ceremony in the former imperial capital of Saint Petersburg in northern Russia, Mr. Putin said that, going ahead, such icebreakers were of strategic importance for the country.
“Both icebreakers were laid down as part of a large serial project and are part of our large-scale, systematic work to re-equip and replenish the domestic icebreaker fleet, to strengthen Russia’s status as a great Arctic power,” Mr. Putin said.
The Arctic is taking on greater strategic significance due to climate change, as a shrinking ice cap opens up new sea lanes. Vast oil and gas resources lie in Russia’s Arctic regions, including a liquefied natural gas plant on the Yamal Peninsula.
The 173.3-metre Yakutia, with a displacement of up to 33,540 tonnes, can smash through ice of up to three metres. It will enter service in 2024. Two other icebreakers in the same series, the Arktika and the Sibir, are already in service, and another, the Chukotka, is scheduled for 2026.
Mr. Putin said a super-powerful nuclear 209-metre icebreaker known as Rossiya, with a displacement of up to 71,380 tonnes, would be completed by 2027. It will be able to break through ice four metres thick.
“They are needed for the study and development of the Arctic, to ensure safe, sustainable navigation in this region,” Mr. Putin said.
U.S., CHINA DEFENCE CHIEFS MEET IN CAMBODIA, DISCUSS TAIWAN, COMPETITION SPIRIT
U.S. Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin met his Chinese counterpart Wei Fenghe in Cambodia on Tuesday, with both sides describing the talks as productive without backing away from their core positions.
The rival powers have clashed over a host of issues including Taiwan, security and human rights, but there have been attempts to lower the temperature since a rare summit between the leaders of both countries last week.
U.S. President Joe Biden and Chinese leader Xi Jinping tried to cool the rhetoric but the differences were clear — and the exchange between their defence chiefs was similar.
A senior U.S. defence official said the talks between Mr. Austin and Mr. Wei on the sidelines of a conference of Defence Ministers in Siem Reap were “productive” and “professional”.
“Both sides agreed that it’s important that our countries work together to ensure that competition does not veer into conflict,” but “competition remains the defining feature of the relationship”, the official told journalists.
Mr. Austin sought the “reopening of a number of military-to-military dialogues and mechanisms to help manage that competition responsibly”, the official added.
That was a reference to procedures and exchanges that were scrapped after U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited Taiwan in August despite furious warnings and threats from Beijing.
The U.S. official said Mr. Austin and Mr. Wei had a “lengthy exchange” on Taiwan during the meeting, which lasted for an hour and a half.
A Chinese Defence Ministry spokesman described the meeting as “sincere, in-depth, practical and constructive”.
RUSSIAN PRANKSTER IMPERSONATED MACRON &SPOKE TO POLISH PREZ AFTER MISSILE BLAST
The Polish president spoke to a hoax caller pretending to be France’s Emmanuel Macron on the night a missile hit a Polish village, his office said on Tuesday. In a 7 minute recording of the call posted on the internet by Russian comedians Vovan and Lexus, Polish President Andrzej Duda can be heard speaking in English to the caller, who attempts to put on a French accent. The call, the second time in recent years that the pranksters have succeeded in getting through to Duda, took place on November 15. “I don’t want to have war with Russia and Emmanuel, believe me, I’m extra careful,” Duda tells the caller. Duda’s office said: “During the call, the president realised from the way the interlocutor conducted the conversation that there might’ve been a hoax attempt and ended the conversation.” Duda’s office is probing how the callers managed to get through to him.