China urges US not to seek ‘political manipulation’ after Taiwan COVID-19 vaccine aid

China urges US not to seek ‘political manipulation’ after Taiwan COVID-19 vaccine aid
Workers handle Moderna COVID-19 vaccines shipped from the US at the Taoyuan International Airport in Taoyuan, Taiwan on June 20, 2021. (Reuters)
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Updated 21 June 2021

China urges US not to seek ‘political manipulation’ after Taiwan COVID-19 vaccine aid

China urges US not to seek ‘political manipulation’ after Taiwan COVID-19 vaccine aid
  • The United States delivers 2.5 million COVID-19 shots to Chinese-claimed Taiwan

BEIJING: China’s foreign ministry urged the United States on Monday not to seek “political manipulation” in the name of vaccine assistance after the United States delivered 2.5 million COVID-19 shots to Chinese-claimed Taiwan.
Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian made the comment at a daily news briefing in Beijing.


France charges 18-yr-old over Daesh attack plot: judicial source

France charges 18-yr-old over Daesh attack plot: judicial source
Updated 9 min 1 sec ago

France charges 18-yr-old over Daesh attack plot: judicial source

France charges 18-yr-old over Daesh attack plot: judicial source
  • Initial investigations indicated that he planned to carry out a terror attack
  • The man had been detained in the Drome region of southeast France

PARIS: French authorities have charged an 18-year-old man on suspicion of planning an imminent terror attack with a knife in the name of Daesh militants, a judicial source said on Wednesday.
Initial investigations indicated that he planned to carry out a terror attack “in the name of Daesh, to which he had pledged allegiance,” said the source, who asked not to be named.
The source added that the man had been detained in the Drome region of southeast France and charged in Paris.
The man, from a Muslim family, had adopted extremist views and was considered a threat, sparking France’s anti-terror prosecutors office (PNAT) to open an investigation on May 19, a source close to the case said.
Police arrested him on Friday and a video of him swearing allegiance to Daesh was found in his possession.
The source did not say whom he was planning to target in the attack or in which location.
France saw a wave of militant attacks from 2015 that left hundreds dead and pushed the country to its highest level of security alert.
There has been no repeat of a mass atrocity in the last years, but there have been several deadly attacks carried out by lone individuals.


Pakistan’s ex-PM denies deal with govt, will rally in Islamabad until elections announced

Pakistan’s ex-PM denies deal with govt, will rally in Islamabad until elections announced
Updated 4 min 11 sec ago

Pakistan’s ex-PM denies deal with govt, will rally in Islamabad until elections announced

Pakistan’s ex-PM denies deal with govt, will rally in Islamabad until elections announced
  • Videos on social media, TV show police clashing with protesters
  • Authorities use shipping containers, trucks to block major roads into capital

ISLAMABAD: Clashes between anti-government protesters and police continued in major Pakistani cities on Wednesday as former prime minister Imran Khan set out to the capital for a demonstration he hopes will bring down the government and force early elections, denying reports of a deal with the administration and saying that he would rally until fresh polls were called.
Khan was removed from office in a vote of no-confidence last month after losing his majority in parliament. The former premier has alleged his ouster was part of a Washington-backed foreign conspiracy and refused to recognize the new government of Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif. The US has denied the allegations.
Since his ouster, Khan has held public rallies across Pakistan to demand early elections. Last Sunday he announced that he would lead a massive rally to the capital and hold a sit-in until the government announced a date for polls. The government on Tuesday said it would not let Khan’s march enter Islamabad on the grounds that it aimed to spread “chaos and anarchy” in the country.
After media reports that Khan’s party had reached an agreement with the government, Khan posted “absolutely not” on Twitter.
He said: “We are moving toward Islamabad and no question of any deal. We will remain in Islamabad until announcement of dates for the dissolution of assemblies and elections are given.
“God willing we have to reach D-Chowk Islamabad. No hurdle can stop us,” Khan said in an address to supporters in Swabi en route to the capital. He was referring to a famous town square in the capital that has been a common destination for protest marches.
On Wednesday morning and well into the afternoon, the D-Chowk area wore a deserted look, sealed off with containers and guarded by a large contingent of Punjab and Islamabad Police.
At one point, about 20 PTI supporters appeared and chanted in favor of Khan but were chased off by police, batons in hand.
After brief negotiations, the protesters dispersed and the police officers sat under some trees to eat lunch. Other officers were immersed in their cell phones, following the latest developments and asking media correspondents present for inputs.
One woman, a PTI supporter, walked up to a small group of officers and said that she would return in the evening to join the protest.
“You won’t fire at us, will you?” She asked jokingly. The police officers smiled and said no.
Videos circulating on social media and local TV channels showed police clashing with protesters in Lahore and Islamabad, with Punjab police using tear gas on demonstrators in Lahore and baton charging them in the capital.
PTI supporters and police also clashed in Gujranwala when the officers tried to stop protesters with barricades but marchers forced their way through the obstructions.
According to PTI’s Gujranwala General Secretary Tariq Gujjar, 150 people from the caravan had been taken into custody.
All major roads linking the Punjab province with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, from where Khan started his march, were blocked with barricades. Police and district officials blocked the GT Road highway with shipping containers over the Attock Khurd Bridge, which marks the border between Punjab and KP. Media reported intense tear gas shelling on the bridge by anti-riot police in the afternoon on Wednesday.
The motorway M1 connecting the two provinces was also blocked off and other motorways traversing Punjab, including M2, were blocked at several points.
Section 144, which bans large public gatherings, was imposed on Tuesday in Lahore, the twin cities of Rawalpindi and Islamabad, and in Karachi, as well as other major cities in the country, while the Punjab government called in the paramilitary Rangers to keep law and order. Pakistani authorities also used dozens of shipping containers and trucks to block off major roads into the capital.
Former education minister Shafqat Mahmood from Khan’s PTI said on Twitter that police raided his house in the early morning hours of Wednesday.
“Police barged into my house without a warrant while I was not there. Do they really think these tactics would intimidate us?”
Meanwhile, PTI Sen. Ejaz Chaudhary was arrested after the Punjab government said that weapons were recovered from the vehicles of PTI’s Lahore office bearers.
An admin for Chaudhary’s account tweeted: “The place he was staying was stormed by over 100 policemen — the gate of the house broken — the family at that place harassed and phones taken. This will not dampen our spirit.”
A number of other PTI office bearers were also arrested.
Meanwhile, the Supreme Court is hearing on Wednesday a hurriedly moved petition seeking the removal of roadblocks and barricades, and the free movement of residents in the federal capital. The court asked Khan’s party and the government to agree on an alternate location to D-Chowk and inform the court. It has also ordered the government to remove all blockades and release arrested PTI supporters.

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Global effort will ensure ‘digital economy works for all,’ says DCO chief

Global effort will ensure ‘digital economy works for all,’ says DCO chief
Updated 31 sec ago

Global effort will ensure ‘digital economy works for all,’ says DCO chief

Global effort will ensure ‘digital economy works for all,’ says DCO chief
  • Deemah Al-Yahya, Digital Cooperation Organization secretary-general, told Arab News that the organization’s goal is to help facilitate a global digital transformation

DAVOS: Collaboration between governments, the private sector and civil societies is crucial to ensuring the digital economy works for all, according to an international  digital innovation expert, who described Internet access as “no longer a luxury, but a necessity.” 

Following the launch of a Digital Foreign Direct Investment initiative with the World Economic Forum on Tuesday, Deemah Al-Yahya, Digital Cooperation Organization secretary-general, told Arab News that the organization’s goal is to help facilitate a global digital transformation.

The DCO supports youth, women and startup entrepreneurs in its member states, which have a combined economic output of nearly $2 trillion and a population of 600 million, with the organization hoping to bring its initiatives to more countries in future.

The international body, which includes Saudi Arabia, aims to promote prosperity, social stability and growth of the digital economy by unifying efforts to advance digital transformation.

“We’re expanding by the minute,” Al-Yahya said. “But we are really focusing on creating the right impact; we have been created to deliver and accelerate the digital economy for our member countries.

“Therefore, the focus is not the expansion, it’s more rolling out the right initiatives, support and tools that will enable the member nations and like-minded countries to transform digital opportunities into reality. But we’re getting requests from several nations for them to join us.”

Figures released recently by the International Telecommunication Union showed 2.9 billion people still lack access to the Internet and are excluded from the digital economy.

According to Al-Yahya, Internet access is no longer a luxury, but a necessity “as important as having electricity or even water,” and governments are now realizing the importance of implementing digital transformation.

DCO was created to offer governments the tools, policies and guidance to facilitate this transformation. “It’s a huge issue, because it is the beginning of any cultural, social and economic reform,” Al-Yahya said.

“After the pandemic, for governments to start digitally transforming, they needed the right tools, reforms in their policies and regulations; they needed resources, they needed investment, and that need takes time.

“So (DCO) has been thought of and looked at to be that enabling force that helps governments. 

“DCO’s uniqueness is that we create a shared space between governments, the private sector and civil society to co-create and co-design together from the beginning to expedite that transformation,” she added.

Given the engine of the digital economy is data, legislation ensuring protection of data and online security is an important topic, and one the DCO takes seriously, Al-Yahya said.

“Cross-border data flow is a topic that we have to look into; it was the first, and is one of our major, initiatives (with member states).”

With 70 percent of their populations young and tech-savvy, DCO member states have a healthy entrepreneurial and startup spirit shaping the digital economy, Al-Yahya said.

“(Youth) needs are increasing, they need capital, they need the right environment to test and innovate; they need the right human capital development, and training and resources for them to learn,” she said.

“But, also, they need to connect to the world. Even if countries provide all of (those things), and change regulations and policies to enable startups, if they don’t have a market and a consumer base, they cannot grow.”

The keys to successfully implementing the digital transformation are striking a balance between over-regulation and too little regulation, as well as making foreign direct investment into the sector as easy as possible, according to Al-Yahya.

“We know that by the next decade, 70 percent of the global economy will be based on the digital economy and digital-enabled solutions, so the key to unlock any economic prosperity is FDI.”

Ensuring cross-border investment helps not only in terms of capital, but also knowledge transfer, innovation, and human capital development, she said.

“I truly believe that with cooperation, working together, we can help every person, every company, every country to benefit from the tremendous opportunities this economy that can bring,” she said.


Johnson takes responsibility but won’t quit over lockdown parties

Johnson takes responsibility but won’t quit over lockdown parties
Updated 25 May 2022

Johnson takes responsibility but won’t quit over lockdown parties

Johnson takes responsibility but won’t quit over lockdown parties
  • Johnson has faced repeated calls to resign from opposition politicians
  • The report by senior official Sue Gray gave graphic details and included photographs from more than a dozen gatherings

LONDON: A “humbled” Boris Johnson said he took full responsibility but would not quit after a damning official report on Wednesday detailed a series of illegal lockdown parties at the British leader’s Downing Street office.
Johnson has faced repeated calls to resign from opposition politicians and some in his own party over the alcohol-fueled gatherings, after it was revealed that he and officials had broken COVID-19 rules that all but banned people from socialising outside their households.
“I ... am humbled and I have learned a lesson,” Prime Minister Johnson told parliament, saying he would not quit over the scandal.
His foreign minister Liz Truss, seen as a possible successor, said she backed him “100 percent” after his apology.
The report by senior official Sue Gray did not specifically blame Johnson, but gave graphic details and included photographs from more than a dozen gatherings.
He attended some, including a party to celebrate his 56th birthday on June 19, 2020 that he was fined over but which Gray said he was unaware of in advance.
“Many of these events should not have been allowed to happen,” the report said. “The senior leadership ...must bear responsibility for this culture.”
Johnson, who commissioned the report after revelations of boozy Downing Street events, said he was appalled by some of the behavior it had uncovered.
Gray’s interim findings were published in January, but details were withheld until the end of a police inquiry that concluded last week with 126 fines handed out.

DISMAYING BEHAVIOUR AT ‘HEART OF GOVERNMENT’
Her full report included emails and messages that showed many gatherings were planned in advance, with discussions on who would bring alcohol — drinks that “we seem to have got away with,” the then head of Johnson’s Downing Street office, Martin Reynolds, said in one message.
There were warnings from another official that people should not be “waving bottles of wine” before a gathering that coincided with a televised news conference when ministers told the public to follow the COVID rules.
At one June 2020 event, Gray said “excessive alcohol consumption” led to one person being sick and a fight between two others.
At another, the night before the April 2021 funeral for Queen Elizabeth’s husband Prince Philip, individuals partied into the early hours and damaged a swing.
“Many will be dismayed that behavior of this kind took place on this scale at the heart of government,” Gray said. “The public have a right to expect the very highest standards of behavior in such places and clearly what happened fell well short of this.”
She cited multiple examples of a lack of respect and poor treatment of security and cleaning staff who had to remove red wine from walls after one event.
For months, evidence of the parties has dripped out into the media, forcing Johnson to apologize, change his office team and promise a reset to try to restore his authority.
Opposition Labour leader Keir Starmer said it was time for Johnson to quit, saying the report laid bare that the government believed that it was one rule for them and another for everyone else.
“You cannot be a lawmaker and a law-breaker,” Starmer — himself under police investigation for breaking COVID rules, told parliament. He has said he’ll resign if fined.
Johnson’s immediate fate lies in the hands of his Conservative lawmakers who can call for a leadership challenge.
Many had said they would wait for Gray’s full report before deciding whether to demand Johnson should go.
“Are you willing day in and day out to defend his behavior publicly?” Tobias Ellwood, a long-time critic of Johnson, implored of his parliamentary colleagues.
Others felt the report was less damning than it could have been. “This is all so banal,” one Conservative said on condition of anonymity.
Johnson had initially denied there had been parties or rule-breaking at Downing Street, and some lawmakers say his position is untenable if he is found to have lied to parliament, a matter under investigation by the Committee of Privileges.
By way of apology for his earlier denials, said he wanted to “correct for the record” that no rules were broken. “Clearly this was not the case for some of those gatherings after I had left,” Johnson told parliament.


Ukraine lawmaker calls on Germany to urgently back Kyiv with arms

Ukraine lawmaker calls on Germany to urgently back Kyiv with arms
Updated 25 May 2022

Ukraine lawmaker calls on Germany to urgently back Kyiv with arms

Ukraine lawmaker calls on Germany to urgently back Kyiv with arms
  • “We have only one choice, and this is to receive modern NATO style weaponry," Radina told Reuters
  • Ukraine needs longer range arms after mainly receiving anti-aircraft and anti-tank weapons at the start of the war

DAVOS, Switzerland: Western countries such as Germany must overcome reluctance to supply Ukraine with modern weapons as Kyiv risks running out of stocks in the war with Russia, lawmaker Anastasia Radina said.
“We have only one choice, and this is to receive modern NATO style weaponry because we cannot win the war with the Soviet style weaponry that we have,” Radina told Reuters on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos.
She said stocks of Soviet-built weapons were limited around the world, and Moscow had much more of these arms than Kyiv.
“What they are doing is waiting for us to run out of weapons or (the) collective West to be less united and more preoccupied ... with their own problems,” Radina said in an interview on Tuesday.
Ukraine needs longer range arms after mainly receiving anti-aircraft and anti-tank weapons at the start of the war, Radina said, adding that Kyiv has also asked for ground-based air defense systems to protect Ukrainian cities from attacks.
The German government has been considering supplying a surface-to-air defense system built by Diehl to Ukraine, according to a security source, but a deal has not yet been announced.
Radina said a system like this could help protect not only Kyiv, but also other cities like Kharkiv, Zaporizhya, Mykolaiv and Odesa: “These are cities that need proper air defense systems even more than Kyiv.”
The German government must understand that Ukraine is running out of time, the lawmaker said.
“This .. discussion about tanks is just humiliating. This poses a question with whom Germany really sides,” Radina said in reference to Gepard anti-aircraft tanks that Germany pledged a month ago but Berlin said will be delivered in July.
“It is time Germany proves in action with whom it stands. And proving in action means: Stop supplying Russia with money to basically be able to buy weapons and kill Ukrainian civilians and help Ukraine with proper ammunition.”