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Phuket Gazette World News: Iran nuclear deal ‘not perfect’ but buys time – U.S. official

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

Iran nuclear deal ‘not perfect’ but buys time – U.S. official
Reuters / Phuket Gazette
PHUKET: An initial agreement to curb Iran’s nuclear program was “not perfect” but bought time to try to secure a comprehensive deal, U.S. officials said on Tuesday in response to sharp criticism from Congress.

Major world powers struck an interim deal with Iran on November 24 giving Tehran an estimated $7 billion in sanctions relief in return for steps to restrain Iranian nuclear activities. The deal called for negotiation of a full agreement within a year.

Easing of sanctions began in late January.

Members of Congress have argued that it was unwise to ease sanctions before Iran took aggressive action to rein in its nuclear program, which the United States, Israel and others suspect may be aimed at building bombs. Iran has denied this.

“I was stunned when I saw what the agreement was. I’ve been disgusted as we’ve gone forward,” Idaho Senator James Risch, a senior Republican committee member, said during a contentious hearing of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Wendy Sherman, Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs and the lead U.S. negotiator with Iran, reassured lawmakers that negotiators would take a hard line on Iran’s nuclear program as talks progressed.

“We see this as a first step so we don’t consider the gaps that exist loopholes because this is not a final agreement,” Sherman testified.

“This is not perfect, but this does freeze and roll back their program in significant ways and give us time on the clock to in fact negotiate that comprehensive agreement,” she said.

U.S. lawmakers have some influence over Iran policy because of their ability to pass legislation imposing fresh sanctions on Iran, something President Barack Obama has opposed during the current negotiations and threatened to veto.

The dispute over the sanctions bill has caused friction between Obama and members of Congress, including some fellow Democrats like New Jersey Senator Robert Menendez, the leading sponsor of the legislation and chairman of the foreign relations panel.

‘I don’t believe any of you… are warmongers’

“Maybe the administration can be enlightened to understand the difference between tactics and warmongering and fear-mongering,” Menendez said partway through the hearing, referring to a statement from Obama’s National Security Council last month suggesting supporters of a sanctions bill preferred war.

Despite being one of only two Senate Republicans not co-sponsoring the sanctions legislation, Arizona Senator Jeff Flake said he did not like the “warmonger” reference and Illinois’ Richard Durbin, the number two Senate Democrat, also stressed that he did not question any lawmaker’s motives.

“For the record, I don’t believe any of you and any senator, any member of the House, are warmongers,” Sherman said. “I don’t believe that anyone prefers war.”

The attempt to impose new sanctions on Iran has stalled in the Senate and lawmakers are discussing whether to introduce a weaker, non-binding resolution calling for negotiators to set strict conditions in nuclear talks.

Several senators raised concerns about foreign companies laying the groundwork to invest in Iran in the absence of sanctions.

“There are people from all over the world who are clamouring to do business with Iran,” said Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee, the committee’s senior Republican.

David Cohen, Treasury Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Crimes, stressed that sanctions relief in the interim agreement was temporary. He promised, however, that there would be action against any violators of U.S. sanctions.

“We are poised to deploy our tools against anyone anywhere who violates our sanctions, just as we have always done,” Cohen said.

Sherman suggested that Iranian authorities could face some domestic backlash if rising expectations of such business deals were not realized. “Although we don’t want people to go because we think it does send the wrong message, if they do go it puts pressure perversely on the Rouhani administration,” she said.

Several lawmakers voiced concern about a proposed oil-for-goods swap between Russia and Iran. A Reuters report on January 10 revealed that Iran and Russia were negotiating a $1.5 billion per month oil-for-goods swap that would enable Iran to lift oil export substantially.

Sherman said the issue had been raised at “the highest level” to ensure it did not go ahead. “My own sense of this is, after a fair amount of clarity about this matter, that nothing will move forward at this time,” she said.

— Phuket Gazette Editors

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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine trial volunteer dies

Caitlin Ashworth

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AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine trial volunteer dies | The Thaiger

A volunteer for a Covid-19 vaccine clinical trial in Brazil has died. But he never actually received the experimental vaccine, although he was involved in the trial groups. He did, however, die of Covid-19.

But trials on the vaccine, being developed by Oxford University and the pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca, are set to continue. The university says “there have been no concerns about safety of the clinical trial.” The vaccine is also planned to be produced in Thailand and be available to the Thai population by the first half of 2021.

The 28 year old volunteer from Rio de Janeiro died from Covid-19 complications, according to CNN Brasil. He was apparently never injected with the experimental vaccine. If the volunteer had been given the Covid-19 vaccine and died, the trial would have been suspended, a source told Reuters, adding that the volunteer may have been part of the control group.

The Federal University of Sao Paulo is helping to coordinate the trials in Brazil and has also recommended the trials continue. So far, 8,000 volunteers have been injected with the first dose of the vaccine and some have already been jabbed a second time, a university spokesperson said.

“Everything is proceeding as expected, without any record of serious vaccine-related complications involving any of the participating volunteers.”

Thailand is set to be the Southeast Asia production site for the new vaccine. If the AstraZeneca trials are successful, the vaccine will be available to the Thai population by the first half of 2021. For Thailand, the vaccine is seen as a lifeline to save the country’s struggling economy, allowing borders to safely reopen and revive the tourism industry.

The company Siam Bioscience will manufacture the vaccine in Thailand and provide injections for the Thai populations as well as the neighbouring countries Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia, Philippines, Vietnam, Brunei, Cambodia, Myanmar and Laos.

SOURCE: Thai PBS

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World

The World’s 50 Best Foods: Thai massaman curry tops the list

Maya Taylor

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The World’s 50 Best Foods: Thai massaman curry tops the list | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Young Sok Yun on Flickr

The humble massaman curry has topped a list of the World’s 50 Best Foods, compiled by CNN Travel. Thailand’s coconut milk and potato-based curry (add the meat, tofu or vegetables of your choice) comes in at number 1, with 2 other popular Thai dishes also featuring. The hot and spicy shrimp soup, Tom Yum Goong, comes in at number 8, with papaya salad, aka somtam, in 46th place (mai phet please!) Tell us your favourite Thai dish, and why, in the comments section (below).

CNN Travel says its staff conducted extensive research on global cuisine to find the 50 best dishes ever created. Nice work if you can get it…

Italian pizza, Mexican chocolate, Japanese sushi, Chinese Peking duck and German Hamburger also top the delicious list.

Here’s what the writers had to say about the 3 Thai dishes that made the top taste grade…

Massaman curry, 1st place: Emphatically the king of curries, and perhaps the king of all foods. Spicy, coconutty, sweet and savoury. Even the packet sauce you buy from the supermarket can make the most delinquent of cooks look like a Michelin potential. Thankfully, someone invented rice, with which diners can mop up the last drizzles of curry sauce. “The Land of Smiles” isn’t just a marketing catch-line. It’s a result of being born in a land where the world’s most delicious food is sold on nearly every street corner.

Tom Yum Kung, 8th place: This best food Thai masterpiece teems with shrimp, mushrooms, tomatoes, lemongrass, galangal and kaffir lime leaves. Usually loaded with coconut milk and cream, the hearty soup unifies a host of favourite Thai tastes: sour, salty, spicy and sweet. Best of all is the price: cheap.

The World’s 50 Best Foods: Thai massaman curry tops the list | News by The Thaiger

PHOTO: Richard Lee on Flickr

Som Tam/Papaya salad, 46th place: To prepare Thailand’s most famous salad, pound garlic and chilies with a mortar and pestle. Toss in tamarind juice, fish sauce, peanuts, dried shrimp, tomatoes, lime juice, sugar cane paste, string beans and a handful of grated green papaya. Grab a side of sticky rice. Variations include those made with crab (som tam pu) and fermented fish sauce (som tam pla ra), but none matches the flavour and simple beauty of the original.

The World’s 50 Best Foods: Thai massaman curry tops the list | News by The Thaiger

PHOTO: www.needpix.com

SOURCE: Thai Residents | CNN Travel

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World

China ban on inbound, outbound tour groups to continue

Maya Taylor

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China ban on inbound, outbound tour groups to continue | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Bicanski on Pixnio

The Chinese government is to keep the current ban on inbound and outbound tour groups, amid fears that the winter months could bring a resurgence of Covid-19. The Bangkok Post reports that the country’s Ministry of Culture and Tourism has confirmed on its website that the ban remains in place. After several months with very low case numbers, officials are wary of the virus surging back this winter.

The ban on outbound tours is severely impacting places like Thailand, where former tourist hotspots are already suffering devastating economic consequences from the closure of the country’s borders in late March. Earlier this week, Thailand welcomed its first group of Chinese tourists in 7 months, but the Kingdom has a long way to go to get back to the 10.99 million Chinese who visited last year – if it ever does.

As the Covid-19 virus made itself known at the start of 2020, China put a stop to both domestic and outbound tours in January. Since July, domestic tours have started up again as a result of a significant reduction in Covid-19 cases.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

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