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01
September

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Staff working at Britain's business and energy department building will begin a strike on the same day as the country's new prime minister is named next week, the public service trade union said on Thursday.

Cleaners, security guards, reception workers, mail room staff and others at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) will walk out on Sept. 5 and 6 over health, safety and other entitlements.

The action was "a sign of things to come" for the next prime minister, the Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) said. Britain's new leader is expected to be named on Sept. 5 and formally begin work on Sept. 6.

"Our members all across the civil service are increasingly angry and desperate as the government does nothing to ease the cost-of-living crisis," PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said. The striking staff are on outsourced contracts, not direct government employees.

Britain's next leader will take power at a time of intense industrial unrest with union workers striking across a wide range of industries as surging inflation fuels demands for higher pay and better working conditions at the same time as the country faces a recession.

Liz Truss, the frontrunner to replace Boris Johnson as Britain's prime minister, said she would bring in "tough and decisive action" to limit strike action by trade unions if she becomes leader.

The union said the strike was due to the failure of ISS, the firm which employs the outsourced workers, to implement health and safety protocols and "putting PCS members at unacceptable risk". (reuters)

10
February

--.pngEven as America's top diplomat visits the Pacific region seeking to counter China's growing power and influence, the Washington ambassador of the tiny Marshall Islands said talks aimed at renewing agreements covering access for the U.S. military have stalled.

The envoy, Gerald Zackios, told Reuters there had been no talks on renewing its Compact of Free Association Agreement (COFA) with the United States since the end of the Trump administration in 2020, in spite of the priority the Biden administration has attached to boosting Indo-Pacific engagement. 

Zackios said this was because Washington had not appointed a negotiator empowered by President Joe Biden to discuss key issues beyond U.S. economic assistance, including remuneration for the legacy of massive U.S. nuclear testing on the islands, the presence U.S. military bases, and climate-change mitigation.

A senior official of the Biden administration told Reuters last week it plans to launch a new Pacific Islands initiative with allies and partners and to finalize COFA negotiations with the Marshall Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia and Palau, but gave no timeframe. read more 

The compacts are due to expire in 2023 in the former two states and in 2024 in Palau.

"They've stalled," Zackios said in reference to the Pacific republic's negotiations with Washington. "In the case of the Marshall Islands, I would use that word."

"My view is that these negotiations are stalled until we get a presidential appointed special envoy who will have the authority to discuss key issues that are important to the Marshall Islands." 

Katie Porter, a Democratic representative who has taken up the issue of the Pacific islands in the U.S. Congress, wrote to Biden's Indo-Pacific Coordinator Kurt Campbell in September calling for the appointment of a full-time presidential representative to manage the COFA negotiations.

A spokesperson for Porter, chair of the House Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations of the Committee on Natural Resources, said she had yet to receive a formal response.

The White House and State Department did not respond to Reuters requests for comment.

U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken is in Australia this week for a meeting on Friday of the Quad grouping with Japan, India and Australia, which is expected to include discussion of the Pacific islands.

On Saturday, he is due in Fiji, where he will seek to reassure Pacific island leaders that Washington and its allies are committed to tackling climate change and providing security and COVID vaccines as China steps up its aid and influence. 

The United States conducted 67 nuclear weapons tests in the Marshall Islands from 1946 to 1958 and islanders are still plagued by the health and environmental effects as a result.

The tests included the "Castle Bravo" at Bikini Atoll in 1954 - the largest U.S. bomb ever tested and 1,000 times more powerful than the one that destroyed Hiroshima in 1945.

In recent years, Beijing has upped its military and police links with Pacific island nations, while also providing loans and infrastructure.

Campbell warned last month warned of "strategic surprise" in the Pacific - apparently referring to possible Chinese ambitions to establish Pacific-island bases. read more

He said the United States had not done enough to help the region and there was a very short amount of time, working with partners like Australia, New Zealand, Japan and fellow Pacific power France, "to step up our game across the board."

23
October

The UK is allowing temporary use of the Flublok flu vaccine and ordering millions of doses as it seeks to get more vaccines into the public during the COVID-19 pandemic.

 

The surge in demand for a vaccine to prevent winter flu is causing a crisis in several European cities, increasing the risk of a "dual pandemic", which has the potential to cause death, as COVID-19 infections increase.

 

The UK is targeting vaccinations for over 30 million people, nearly half of the population.

 

The government also said it would authorize the supply of Flublock, which was used in the United States for the past three winters.

 

"Flublock is commonly used in the United States and evidence shows it is very good," said the deputy head of the UK's medical advisory, Jonathan Van Tam.

 

"I want to make sure to all parties that all vaccines have passed reliable clinical trials and rigorous regulatory checks to ensure they are safe, effective, and of high quality," he said.

 

Flublok has a permit for temporary supplies from the Health and Drug Regulatory Agency (MHRA). The MHRA is authorized to take such steps once a drug is confirmed to be safe and effective in responding to threats to public health.

 

Regulators are given extra powers during a pandemic, such as being able to give temporary clearance of any COVID-19 vaccine that meets safety and quality standards before being fully licensed. (Antaranews)

21
October

The Ministry of International Trade and Industry (MITI) Malaysia limits only 10 percent of management and supervisors who may work in the office (Work From Office/WFO) when implementing the Conditional Movement Control Order (PKPB).

 

"The government has agreed to allow management and supervisors who are in office for states (provinces) that undergo PKPB," said Minister of International Trade and Industry Datuk Seri Mohamed Azmin Ali in Putrajaya, Wednesday.

 

The Malaysian government has implemented a PKPB in the State of Selangor, the Kuala Lumpur Alliance Region, and Putrajaya from 14 October to 27 October 2020 related to the increase in COVID-19.

 

Those who are allowed by WFO include tasks involving accounting, finance, administration, legislation/law, planning, and Information Communication Technology (ICT).

 

"This decision was taken as a shared responsibility to protect the health of the people and workers," he said.

 

He said they were justified in being in the office, limited to only four hours from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. for three days a week.

For this purpose, said Mohamed Azmin, companies do not need to submit requests.

 

"Management only needs to issue travel permits for each staff member who may work throughout the PKPB period.

Employers also need to set guidelines following the needs of their respective companies," he said.

 

MITI implemented a decision by the State Security Council (MKN) to have industry introduce a Work From Home (WFH) basis for management and supervisory staff.

 

Azmin said that based on the MITI COVID-19 Intelligent Management System (CIMS) database system, the number of workers registered in the production, service, and construction sectors in Sabah, Labuan, Kuala Lumpur, Selangor, and Putrajaya was 3.1 million people. (Antaranews)

20
October

Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO) Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Monday (19/10), said 184 countries have joined the COVAX facility.

 

The program will finance the COVID-19 vaccine and distribute it evenly, to both rich and poor countries.

 

"The equitable distribution of vaccines is the fastest way to protect high-risk communities, stabilize health systems and promote a truly global economic recovery," Tedros said during a press conference in Geneva.

 

Ecuador and Uruguay were the last countries to recently join the COVAX facility, he said. (Antaranews)

19
October

France is preparing to expel 231 foreigners on a government watch list for suspected extremist religious beliefs.

 

Radio Europe 1 reported on Sunday, two days after a Russian-born citizen beheaded a teacher.

 

The French Interior Ministry, which is responsible for expels foreigners, declined to comment.

 

President Emmanuel Macron's centrist government has come under pressure from conservative parties and the right to take a tougher stance against citizens he sees as posing a security threat.

 

Macron held a Defense Council meeting with senior cabinet ministers on Sunday.

 

Earlier a man armed with a knife on Friday killed a high school history teacher by slitting his throat in front of the school where he teaches on the outskirts of Paris, police said.

 

We consider the attack an act of terrorism. The attacker was shot dead by police on patrol nearby.

 

The teacher shows cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad to his students in the class, which Muslims see as blasphemy, according to police sources.

 

French anti-terror prosecutors said they were investigating the attack, which took place at Conflans Sainte-Honorine, northwest of Paris.

 

President Emmanuel Macron arrived at the scene on Friday evening.

 

French broadcaster BFMTV reported that the suspected attacker was 18 years old and born in Moscow.

 

The incident echoes an attack five years ago on the offices of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo that published caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad. The publication of caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad caused problems in French society.

 

Less than a month ago, a Pakistani man used a butcher knife to attack and injure two people smoking outside the office where Charlie Hebdo was based at the time of the 2015 attack.

 

In Friday's attack, police sources said that witnesses heard the attacker shout "Allahu Akbar", or "God is great." A police spokesman said the information was being checked.

 

Another police source also said that the victim was beheaded in the attack, but this has not been confirmed. The attack took place on the street in front of the secondary school where the victim worked.

 

France attacked "Tonight, France was attacked, a teacher was brutally murdered," wrote French Education Minister Jean-Michel Blanquer on his Twitter account.

 

"Our unity and our determination are our only response to this act of terrorism," a Twitter thread posted on October 9 alleged that a history teacher at Conflans Sainte-Honorine showed cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad to his students.

 

The thread contains a video of a man saying his daughter, a Muslim, is one of the students in the class. He was shocked and irritated by his teacher's actions. The man in the video urged Twitter users to complain to the authorities. (Antaranews)

16
October

The death tolls due to exposure to COVID-19 worldwide have reached over 1.1 million, with the highest number of deaths in the United States with 222,656 deaths.

 

Through its official website, Worldometer reports that the number of COVID-19 deaths has reached 1,101,420, as of Thursday (15/10/2020). Meanwhile, the number of COVID-19 infections worldwide stands at 39,105,472 cases.

 

Under America, the highest number of COVID-19 deaths was reported by Brazil with 152,460 deaths, followed by India with 112,144 deaths, and the fourth by Mexico with 84,898 deaths.

 

Britain recorded 43,293 deaths, Italy with 36,372 deaths, Spain with 33,553 deaths, Peru 33,512 deaths, France 33,125 deaths, and Iran with 29,605 deaths.

 

Meanwhile, for the cure rate, there are 29.3 million patients worldwide declared cured of the disease. (RRI)

16
October

Sudanese officials are discussing plans to normalize relations with Israel after Washington gave Khartoum an ultimatum to respond to it in return for economic aid and lighter sanctions, CNN reported Thursday.

 

Citing two senior Sudanese officials, CNN said that a meeting was taking place in Sudan after the US issued a 24-hour deadline to agree on a peace with Israel.

 

According to the report, Washington will reduce Sudan's international debt along with the potential to be removed from the list of state sponsors of terrorism.

 

Some $ 600 million in aid for food and medicine will be provided to Sudan under the agreement. In addition, the $ 3 billion debt owed by the US in the next fiscal year will be cut, as reported by Al Arabiya, Friday (16/10/2020).

 

Speaking to The New Arab, a source close to Sudan's transitional sovereign council denied reports published by the Israeli news site i24 News that Sudanese General Abdel Fattah Al-Burhan intended to accept the offer. Burhan is the head of Sudan's transitional sovereign council.

 

The council will not discuss normalizing relations with Israel in a meeting scheduled to take place on Thursday, the source added. (RRI)

15
October

Warnings echoed in Germany for the people of Europe's largest economy to do their part in efforts to stop the spread of the new coronavirus as it grapples with a second wave of the COVID-19 outbreak.

 

The additional daily cases of COVID-19 in Germany hit a record Thursday.

 

"There is no doubt now that this is the beginning of a second wave (of the COVID-19 outbreak) which is huge," German Chancellor Angela Merkel's chief of staff, Helge Braun, told public broadcaster ARD.

 

"At the start of this second wave, the key is in our hands to stop the transmission of infection. The longer we wait and the less assertive we are, the more this virus will affect not only our health but also our economy," said Braun.

 

By European standards, Germany has so far experienced relatively low rates of coronavirus infection and death from COVID-19 during the pandemic. However, additional daily recent cases of COVID-19 have surged in recent weeks.

 

Germany's daily new COVID-19 cases have now hit a record 6,638, bringing the total cases since the start of the pandemic to 341,223, according to data from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases on Thursday.

 

The previous record daily increase was 6,294 on March 28, according to RKI data. German states agreed on Wednesday night to expand restrictive measures to counter the spread of the coronavirus to larger regions of the country.

 

The decision came as new cases of COVID-19 in Germany surged, but Merkel warned that even harsher steps may be needed.

 

German Health Minister Jens Spahn warned that people's behavior in the coming days will determine whether they can celebrate Christmas with their families this year.

 

"It is important to understand that we are not powerless against this virus. We can do something, we can all make a difference every day," Spahn told Deutschlandfunk radio on Thursday.

 

"We can be a barrier to the transmission of this virus if we are careful of each other and keep the number of new infections to a level we can handle."

 

Thursday's tally showed the number of reported fatalities from COVID-19 rose by 33 to 9,710. (Antaranews)

15
October

The Malaysian Ministry of Health (KKM) stated that it is increasing the preparedness of various aspects of health in dealing with COVID-19, including increasing the capacity of 54,706 RT-PCR tests per day.

 

"This achievement is the result of a cooperation agreement between 61 laboratories under KKM, the Malaysian Army, the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation, State Universities and Private Universities and private laboratories," said Malaysian Health Minister Adham Baba in Putrajaya, Thursday.

 

He said that 13 PTN laboratories under the Ministry of Higher Education and private laboratories are now pushing human resources to the maximum stage.

 

Until October 14, 2020, he said, as much as 42 percent of the country's laboratory capacity was used and that number would increase to test more samples, especially in the red zone, yellow zone, and screening and close contact detection activities by KKM.

 

"In Sabah, the Kota Kinabalu government health laboratory, the laboratory at Queen Elizabeth Hospital with a capacity of 2,500 tests a day are already operating. Meanwhile, the remaining samples from the whole of Sabah were taken by Malaysian Air Force flights to Peninsular Malaysia," he said.

 

In addition, laboratory equipment at the Tawau Kubota Health Clinic is being upgraded so that it can run RT-PCR testing and is expected to operate in the near future.

 

"In the field also early detection of positive cases of COVID-19, more RTK-Ag tests have been used," he said.

 

KKM reported that until October 14, 2020, at 12.00 there were 660 recent cases with four deaths. (Antaranews)

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