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Phuket Gazette World News: Britain says no to military intervention in Syria – Stunning parliamentary defeat

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PHUKET MEDIA WATCH
– World news selected by Gazette editors for Phuket’s international community

Britain says no to Syrian intervention as U.S. considers actions
Reuters / Phuket Gazette
PHUKET: Britain will not join any military action against Syria after a stunning parliamentary defeat yesterday of a government motion on the issue, dealing a setback to U.S.-led efforts to punish Damascus over the use of chemical weapons against civilians.

Following a 285-272 vote against a motion by British Prime Minister David Cameron to authorise a military response in principle, British Defence Secretary Philip Hammond confirmed Britain would not be involved in any action against Syria.

Hammond said key ally Washington would be disappointed that Britain “will not be involved,” but added, “I don’t expect that the lack of British participation will stop any action.

U.S. officials suggested President Barack Obama might be willing to proceed with limited actions against Syria even without promises of allied support because U.S. national security interests are at stake.

“President Obama’s decision-making will be guided by what is in the best interests of the United States,” White House spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said in a statement after the British vote. “He believes that there are core interests at stake for the United States and that countries who violate international norms regarding chemical weapons need to be held accountable.”

She added, “The U.S. will continue to consult with the UK government – one of our closest allies and friends.”

Britain’s Cameron, saying he would not override the will of parliament, said it was clear that MPs did not want to see a military strike on the Syrian government to punish it for a chemical weapons attack in the suburbs of Damascus last week.

Asked by Labour leader Ed Miliband whether he would promise not to circumvent parliament and authorise military action, Cameron said: “I can give that assurance. I strongly believe in the need for a tough response to the use of chemical weapons, but I also believe in respecting the will of this House of Commons.”

The parliamentary vote reflected deep misgivings stemming from Britain’s involvement in the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

In comments before the parliamentary vote, a White House spokesman said the United States had been encouraged by the support voiced by a wide variety of world leaders, such as the Arab League, on the need for a response to Syria’s use of chemical weapons.

U.S. officials conceded they lacked conclusive evidence that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad personally ordered last week’s poison gas attack, and some allies have warned that military action without U.N. Security Council authorization risks making the situation worse.

Obama’s top national security officials were briefing Congress on Syria late yesterday after some lawmakers complained they had not been properly consulted. But any intervention looked set to be delayed at least until U.N. investigators report back after leaving Syria on Saturday.

“When the president reaches a determination about the appropriate response … and a legal justification is required to substantiate or to back up that decision, we’ll produce one on our own,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest said.

‘Discrete and limited’

Syrian opposition sources said Assad’s forces had removed several Scud missiles and dozens of launchers from a base north of Damascus, possibly to protect them from a Western attack, and Russia was reported to be moving ships into the region.

But expectations of imminent turmoil eased as the diplomatic process was seen playing out into next week, and the White House emphasized that any action would be “very discrete and limited,” and in no way comparable to the Iraq war.

The United States and its allies have “no smoking gun” proving Assad personally ordered the attack on a rebel-held Damascus neighbourhood in which hundreds of people were killed, U.S. national security officials said.

In secret intelligence assessments and a still-unreleased report summarizing U.S. intelligence on the gas attack on August 21, U.S. agencies expressed high confidence that Syrian government forces carried out the attack, and that Assad’s government therefore bears responsibility, U.S. national security officials said.

Syria denies blame for the gas attacks and says they were perpetrated by rebels. Washington and its allies say the denial is not credible.

While U.N. chemical weapons inspectors spent a third day combing the rebel-held area where the attack took place, traffic moved normally elsewhere in Damascus, with some extra army presence but little indication of any high alert.

‘Monstrous crime’

The United Nations said its team of inspectors would leave Syria on Saturday and report to Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

France and Germany urged the world body to pass its report on to the decision-making Security Council as soon as possible “so that it can fulfil its responsibility with regards to this monstrous crime.”

The United States, Britain and France have said action could be taken with or without a U.N. Security Council resolution, which would likely be vetoed by Russia, a close ally of Assad. But some countries are more cautious: Italy said it would not join any military operation without Security Council authorization.

Western diplomats say they are seeking a vote in the 15-member Council to isolate Moscow and demonstrate that other countries are behind air strikes.

A report from Moscow that Russia is sending two warships to the eastern Mediterranean underscored the complications surrounding even a limited military strike, although Russia has said it will not be drawn into military conflict.

The ambassadors of the five veto-wielding permanent U.N. Security Council members appeared to have made no progress at a meeting held yesterday, a council diplomat said. The five – the United States, Russia, China, Britain and France – had held an inconclusive meeting on Wednesday to discuss a draft Security Council resolution that would authorize “all necessary force” in response to the alleged gas attack.

The International Committee of the Red Cross joined a chorus of international voices urging caution.

“Further escalation will likely trigger more displacement and add to humanitarian needs, which are already immense,” said Magne Barth, head of the ICRC delegation in Syria.

Increasing expectations that any action will be delayed ended a three-day selloff on world share markets, although investors were still on edge over fears of future turmoil in the Middle East.

Beyond circumstantial

According to the U.S. national security officials, evidence that forces loyal to Assad were responsible goes beyond the circumstantial to include electronic intercepts and some tentative scientific samples from the site.

“This was not a rogue operation,” one U.S. official said.

Western leaders are expected in Russia next Thursday for a meeting of the Group of 20 big economies, an event that could influence the timing of any strikes. The hosts have made clear their view that Western leaders are using human rights as a pretext to impose their will on other sovereign states.

A spokesman for the main Syrian opposition umbrella group, the Syrian National Coalition, said the opposition was confident Western leaders were prepared to act.

SNC leader Ahmed Jarba met French President Francois Hollande. An SNC spokesman said they discussed a two-wave inte

— Phuket Gazette Editors

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World

International travel slow to take off, Covid-19 restrictions evolving

Caitlin Ashworth

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International travel slow to take off, Covid-19 restrictions evolving | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Jetstar

While Thailand is working on safely, and slowly, reopening its borders to foreign tourists after a 7 month border closure, other countries are also adapting to new, pandemic-induced, travel measures and restrictions. Now some are slowly lifting restrictions and resuming flights, while some remain grounded. What’s happening in your part of the world?

In all cases, check your local travel restrictions and quarantine requirements, if any. And if you leave a country, what paperwork or restrictions will await you when you return? Don’t book any flights until you’ve done your homework.

Australia

Qantas Airlines flights from Australia to the US will continue to be grounded until at least January 31, 2021 which includes the destinations New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Honolulu. The airline will also continue to ground flights to Japan, including Tokyo, Osaka and Sapporo.

Singapore

Jetstar Asia, based in Singapore, will resume flights to major destinations in Southeast Asia with flights to Bangkok starting next month. Since flights are always changing due to uncertainties and travel restrictions, flights to select Southeast Asia cities are only being offered from October 25 to November 15. JetStar will then review flights again. Destinations include Clark in the Philippines, Jakarta in Indonesia as well as Kuala Lumpur and Penang in Malaysia.

Hong Kong

Hong Kong and Singapore have agreed on a travel bubble schemed that will allow Hong Kong nationals and Singapore nationals to travel between the 2 countries without going through Covid-19 tests or quarantine periods. But the countries have not announced when the scheme will begin.

Maldives

All incoming tourists and short-term visitors must have a certificate declaring negative Covid-19 test result issued 96 hours before arrival, extending the window from the previous 72 hours.

SOURCE: TTR Weekly

Catch up with the latest daily “Thailand News Today” here on The Thaiger.

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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

Covid19 – US infections “balloon”, world case total surpasses 40 million

The Thaiger

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Covid19 – US infections “balloon”, world case total surpasses 40 million | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Ipsos

“We were really hoping to crater the cases in preparation for a bad winter. We’ve done basically the opposite.”

New Covid-19 cases are again surging in many countries. Globally, the number of infected people exceeded 40 million as of last night with new infections starting to accelerate again. Today the total number of confirmed cases around the world is 40,323,461. The number of total deaths remains at 1,118,826 and recovered patients at 30,135,040 (as of 4pm Thai time).

Covid19 - US infections

Notably, the death rate from Covid-19 is not rising as treatment for complicated cases continues to rapidly improve. The US, India, Russia, Brazil, the rest of South America, and parts of Europe and the UK, are the current ‘hot spots’ (below).

Regionally, the surge of cases in Myanmar is causing headaches for Thai border officials in the north west of the country. The Governor of Tak decided to close the border checkpoints this morning. But the 2,000 kilometre long land border between Thailand and Myanmar has many unofficial “Natural” crossing points.

In the US, the nation’s top infectious disease doctor, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, says following public health measures is the way out of the crisis that has hobbled the economy, claimed thousands of lives and sickened millions.

“The predicted fall surge is here, and rising cases across the US appear to bear that out.”

The US is averaging more than 55,000 new cases a day, and 10 states reported their highest single-day cases counts last Friday. As of this morning, US time, there were more than 8.5 million cases and 219,674 coronavirus deaths, according to Worldometers.info

“The Covid-19 crisis would have to be ‘really, really bad’ to implement a national lockdown. Despite the climbing totals, a nationwide lockdown is not the way forward unless the pandemic gets “really, really bad.”

Tara Smith, a professor of epidemiology at Kent State University says the worst fears of rising cases, leading into winter, are being realised.

“We were really hoping to crater the cases in preparation for a bad winter. We’ve done basically the opposite.”

After hitting an all-time high in July, cases did drop significantly, but the US never reached a level where the public health system could truly get a handle on the outbreak or describe it as ‘contained’.

Now infections are on the rise again, driven by ballooning outbreaks across the country’s interior, especially in the Midwest, the Great Plains and the West.

Contributing to the rise is the return of students to schools and campuses across the country, puzzling resistance to social distancing and mask wearing recommendations, and more people spending time in restaurants and other indoor settings as the weather starts to cool down.

SOURCE: worldometers.info | nor.org

Covid19 - US infections

TABLE: worldometers.com

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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

2 Covid vaccine trials halted in phase 3 over safety concerns

Maya Taylor

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2 Covid vaccine trials halted in phase 3 over safety concerns | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Medical Xpress

After Johnson & Johnson paused phase 3 of its Covid vaccine trials due to safety concerns, a second pharmaceutical company has followed suit. Eli Lilly has halted phase 3 trials of a lab-produced antibody treatment, 24 hours after the Johnson & Johnson decision. The Bangkok Post reports that an unspecified incident led Eli Lilly to call a temporary halt to the trials. The day before, Johnson & Johnson paused its phase 3 trials after a participant fell ill. A spokesperson for J&J says the hiatus is temporary.

The 2 delays follow a similar incident with phase 3 trials of a vaccine being jointly worked on by Oxford University and Astra Zeneca, which was briefly delayed last month due to an unexplained illness in one participant. Trials of that vaccine have now resumed globally, with the exception of the US, for reasons unknown. Such snags are par for the course in the final phase testing of vaccine development, particularly as the number of participants is increased significantly to see if very rare side-effects are presented.

A spokesperson for Eli Lilly says the company backs the Data Safety and Monitoring Board in calling a temporary halt to phase 3 trials.

“Lilly is supportive of the decision by the independent DSMB to cautiously ensure the safety of the patients participating in this study.”

Eli Lilly’s trial began in August, aimed at recruiting 10,000 participants, across 50 sites, including the US, Denmark and Singapore, using a lab-produced antibody treatment, similar to that developed by Regeneron and used to treat US President Donald Trump recently. Eli Lilly has not given any further information about the safety concern which has paused phase 3.

Meanwhile, a J&J spokesman says such breaks are to be expected in large-scale trials and that reported illnesses or side-effects may be unrelated to the vaccine.

“It’s not at all unusual for unexpected illnesses in large studies over their duration. In some cases, serious adverse events may have something or nothing to do with the drug or vaccine being investigated.”

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

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