South Korea’s trade minister drops bid to become WTO chief

South Korea’s trade minister drops bid to become WTO chief
South Korean Trade Minister Yoo Myung-hee is dropping her bid to become the next director-general of the World Trade Organization, making it highly likely that the job goes to former Nigerian finance minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, who would become the first woman to lead the organization. (AP)
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Updated 05 February 2021

South Korea’s trade minister drops bid to become WTO chief

South Korea’s trade minister drops bid to become WTO chief
  • The job will go to former Nigerian finance minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala
  • The WTO has never had a female or African as its leader

SEOUL, South Korea: South Korea’s top trade official is dropping her bid to become the next director-general of the World Trade Organisation, making it likely the job will go to former Nigerian finance minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala. She would become the first woman to lead the organization.
South Korea’s Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy said in a statement Friday that its minister for trade, Yoo Myung-hee, will soon tell the WTO she is withdrawing her candidacy.
The WTO, which makes world trade rules, announced in October that Yoo and Okonjo-Iweala were the two finalists to become its next director-general, ensuring a woman will fill the top job for the first time. The WTO had ben expected to announce a winner before the end of 2020, but the process dragged on because of disagreements between member states over the candidates, the South Korean ministry said.
While it appeared Okonjo-Iweala had broader support, the WTO operates by consensus, which means that any single member country can block decisions.
The South Korean ministry said Yoo discussed her candidacy with officials from the United States and other WTO member states before deciding to withdraw over “comprehensive” considerations.
The previous WTO director-general, Roberto Azevedo of Brazil, made a surprise announcement in May last year that he would leave the job a year early, citing a “personal decision.” He left without a successor at the end of August.
The Geneva-based WTO, which was created in 1995 out of the former General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, has never had a female or African as its leader.


Philippines to receive 300,000 courses of Merck’s COVID-19 pill

Philippines to receive 300,000 courses of Merck’s COVID-19 pill
Updated 6 sec ago

Philippines to receive 300,000 courses of Merck’s COVID-19 pill

Philippines to receive 300,000 courses of Merck’s COVID-19 pill
  • Asian nations race to get early access to the experimental pill amid large demand
  • Each pill is estimated to cost between $1.97 and $2.96
MANILA: The Philippines will receive 300,000 courses of Merck & Co’s COVID-19 antiviral drug next month, licensed importers and distributors said on Wednesday, as Asian nations race to get early access to the experimental pill amid large demand.
Singapore and Malaysia have signed deals to buy the drug, Molnupiravir, while Indonesia is finalizing a purchase agreement, among a slew of orders after data from interim clinical trials showed the pills could halve the likelihood of hospitalization or death for patients at risk of severe COVID-19.
“Molnupiravir can now be accessed by our countrymen upon being prescribed for such use by their respective physicians,” Monaliza Salian, president of MedEthix, a Philippine health care products importer, told a news conference.
MedEthix will import 300,000 courses of Molnupiravir for COVID-19 patients in four hospitals, she added. The shipment will be the first batch of the drug to arrive in the Philippines.
Each pill is estimated to cost 100 to 150 pesos ($1.97 to $2.96), said Meneleo Hernandez, president of pharmaceutical firm JackPharma, which will distribute the drug locally.
The Philippines has approved the “compassionate use” of Molnupiravir for 31 hospitals, Food and Drug Administration Chief Rolando Enrique Domingo said on Wednesday.
Molnupiravir would be the world’s first oral antiviral medication for COVID-19 if it gets regulatory approval.
The Philippines’ health ministry on Wednesday reported 3,218 new COVID-19 cases, the lowest single-day tally in more than five months. It has so far fully inoculated roughly 26 million of its 110 million population.
With nearly 2.77 million cases and more than 42,300 deaths, the Philippines has the second highest number of COVID-19 infections and deaths in Southeast Asia, after Indonesia.

Gunmen kill 4 Pakistani police near border with Afghanistan

Gunmen kill 4 Pakistani police near border with Afghanistan
Updated 17 min 57 sec ago

Gunmen kill 4 Pakistani police near border with Afghanistan

Gunmen kill 4 Pakistani police near border with Afghanistan
  • Pakistan has witnessed scores of such terrorist attacks in recent years

PESHAWAR, Pakistan: Unidentified gunmen attacked a police patrol overnight in northwest Pakistan, killing four before fleeing the scene, a police official said Wednesday.
No group claimed responsibility for the attack in Lakki Marwat, a town in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province bordering Afghanistan. Police official Umar Khan said a search operation for the culprits was still underway.
Khan provided no further details and only said the funeral of slain officers was held Wednesday morning.
Pakistan has witnessed scores of such terrorist attacks in recent years, most of which have been claimed by the Pakistani Taliban and the Daesh group. Both organizations have been emboldened by Taliban resurgence in neighboring Afghanistan, where Pakistani militants are still believed to be hiding.
Before the Taliban came to power in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Afghanistan often accused each other of turning a blind eye to militants operating along their porous border.


Japan condemns Sudan military leaders

Japan condemns Sudan military leaders
Updated 27 October 2021

Japan condemns Sudan military leaders

Japan condemns Sudan military leaders
  • Japan called for an immediate, safe, and unconditional release of Prime Minister Hamdok and other detained senior government officials

TOKYO: Japan strongly condemned the Sudanese security and armed forces’ actions of detaining prime minister Hamdok and other senior government officials and opening fire on the anti-military demonstrators, leaving many casualties.

“The government of Japan is deeply concerned about Sudan’s situation and condemns dissolving the Transitional Government by the arms forces,” an official statement by the foreign ministry said. “Such actions undermine the transition to civilian rule based on the Constitutional Declaration.”

Japan called for an immediate, safe, and unconditional release of Prime Minister Hamdok and other detained senior government officials.

“Japan closely cooperates with the international community and calls for the restoration of transition to civilian rule in Sudan,” the statement said.

This story was originally published in Japanese on Arab News Japan


Poland reports over 8,000 daily COVID-19 cases

Poland reports over 8,000 daily COVID-19 cases
Updated 27 October 2021

Poland reports over 8,000 daily COVID-19 cases

Poland reports over 8,000 daily COVID-19 cases
  • Since the pandemic began, Poland has reported 2,990,509 cases and 76,672 deaths

Poland reported 8,361 daily COVID-19 cases and 133 deaths on Wednesday, the health ministry said.
Since the pandemic began Poland, a country of around 38 million, has reported 2,990,509 cases and 76,672 deaths.


India’s top court probes spying charges against government

India’s top court probes spying charges against government
Updated 27 October 2021

India’s top court probes spying charges against government

India’s top court probes spying charges against government
  • India’s opposition has been demanding an investigation into how the Israeli spyware, known as Pegasus, was used in India

NEW DELHI: India’s top court on Wednesday established a committee of experts to look into accusations that Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government used Israeli military-grade spyware to monitor political opponents, journalists and activists.
The Supreme Court order came in response to petitions filed by a group of Indian journalists, rights activists and opposition politicians following an investigation by a global media consortium in July. The committee, headed by a retired judge, is expected to give its findings by year-end.
India’s opposition has been demanding an investigation into how the Israeli spyware, known as Pegasus, was used in India.
Modi’s government has “unequivocally” denied all allegations regarding illegal surveillance. India’s information technology minister Ashwani Vaishnaw in Parliament dismissed the allegations in July, calling them “highly sensational,” “over the top” and “an attempt to malign the Indian democracy.”
But the government in an affidavit did not tell the court whether it used the Israeli equipment for spying, citing security reasons.
On Wednesday, the court said the state cannot get a free pass every time by raising security concerns.
“Violation of the right to privacy, freedom of speech, as alleged in pleas, needs to be examined,” the Press Trust of India cited Chief Justice N.V. Ramanna as saying.
Based on leaked targeting data, the findings by a global media consortium provided evidence that the spyware from the Israel-based NSO Group, the world’s most infamous hacker-for-hire company, was allegedly used to infiltrate devices belonging to a range of targets, including journalists, activists and political opponents in 50 countries.
The company said in July it only sells to “vetted government agencies” for use against terrorists and major criminals and that it has no visibility into its customers’ data.
Critics call those claims dishonest and have provided evidence that NSO directly manages the high-tech spying. They say the repeated abuse of Pegasus spyware highlights the nearly complete lack of regulation of the private global surveillance industry.
Pegasus infiltrates phones to vacuum up personal and location data and surreptitiously controls the smartphone’s microphones and cameras. In the case of journalists, that allows hackers to spy on reporters’ communications with sources.
Rights groups say the findings bolster accusations that not only autocratic regimes but also democratic governments, including India, have used the spyware for political ends.