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Phuket Gazette World News: UN makes Syria deal; Kenya says White Widow not wanted for mall seige; Pakistan gets new island; Human remains found on salvaged cruise liner

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Phuket Gazette World News: UN makes Syria deal; Kenya says White Widow not wanted for mall seige; Pakistan gets new island; Human remains found on salvaged cruise liner | The Thaiger
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PHUKET MEDIA WATCH
– World news compiled by Gazette editors for Phuket’s international community

U.N. council agrees on Syria chemical arms measure
Reuters / Phuket Gazette
PHUKET: Ending weeks of diplomatic deadlock, the United States and Russia reached an agreement on Thursday on a draft U.N. Security Council resolution aimed at ridding Syria of its chemical weapons arsenal.

Samantha Power, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, said a deal was struck with Russia “legally obligating” Syria to give up its chemical stockpile and the measure would go to the full Security Council on Thursday night. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said an “understanding” had been hammered out.

The United States had been negotiating on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly with Russia, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s chief ally. The aim was to craft a measure to demand the destruction of Syria’s chemical arsenal in line with a U.S.-Russian deal reached earlier this month that averted American military strikes on Syria in the midst of Syria’s civil war.

Western powers on the Security Council backed away from many of their initial demands, diplomats say, in order to secure Russia’s approval.

A major sticking point between Russia and Western powers was whether the resolution would be under Chapter 7 of the U.N. charter, which covers the council’s authority to enforce its decisions with measures such as sanctions or military force.

The compromise draft resolution, seen by Reuters, makes the measure legally binding but provides for no means of automatic enforcement with sanctions or military force. Originally, the United States, Britain and France had wanted the resolution to state explicitly that it was under Chapter 7.

The only reference to enforcement in the draft is a threat that if Syria fails to comply with the resolution, the council would impose punitive measures under Chapter 7, which would require a second resolution that Russia could veto.

A U.S. State Department official hailed the deal as a “breakthrough.”

“The Russians have agreed to support a strong, binding and enforceable resolution that unites the pressure and focus of the international community on the Syrian regime to ensure the elimination of Syria’s chemical weapons,” the official said.

The U.N. Security Council will hold a closed-door session to debate the issue at 8 p.m. (0000 GMT), the French delegation said. A vote on Thursday was not expected, one diplomat said.

Diplomats from the permanent Security Council members – China, Russia, the United States, France and Britain – had been haggling over the details of a resolution to back the American-Russian accord announced on September 14 in Geneva to eliminate Syria’s chemical weapons.

Assad agreed to destroy Syria’s chemical weapons in line with the U.S.-Russian agreement in the wake of that sarin gas strike on civilians in the suburbs of Damascus last month – the world’s deadliest chemical arms attack in 25 years.

Washington has blamed Assad’s forces for the attack, which it said killed more than 1,400 people, and President Barack Obama threatened a U.S. military strike in response.

Russia and Assad have blamed the attack on rebels battling to overthrow him in a civil war that, according to the United Nations, has left more than 100,000 people dead.

Tough negotiations

A senior U.S. official said earlier that the United States and China – another permanent Security Council member – strongly agreed on the need for the council to quickly adopt a binding resolution on eradicating Syria’s chemical arsenal, a remark that appeared aimed at putting pressure on Russia to accept the measure.

Russia at first appeared unswayed. When asked earlier in the day if diplomats were close to a deal on a Syria resolution, Lavrov told reporters at the United Nations, “Russia’s very close, the U.S. is not.”

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry met Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi for about an hour on the sidelines of the annual gathering of world leaders at the United Nations.

“On Syria, both ministers were in strong agreement on the need for a mandatory and binding U.N. Security Council resolution,” said the senior U.S. official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, after the meeting.

“They discussed the value of unity among the P5 (five permanent members of the Security Council) and both felt it is important for the council to act quickly and for OPCW (Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons) to similarly act quickly,” the official said.

China has backed Russia to veto three council resolutions since October 2011 that would have condemned Assad’s government and threatened it with sanctions.

Western diplomats say that Beijing has little reason to support Assad but is eager to ensure Russia will continue to back it in the Security Council on issues like North Korea.

“China follows Russia on Syria,” a Western diplomat said on condition of anonymity.

Assad’s government last week disclosed to a U.N.-backed weapons watchdog the extent of its arsenal, meeting the first deadline of the ambitious disarmament deal that calls for the weapons to be eliminated by June 2014.

Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said on Thursday that Russia is ready to help guard Syrian chemical weapons sites and destroy Assad’s stockpiles but will not ship any of the chemical arms to Russia for destruction.

Kenya says ‘White Widow’ Interpol alert not linked to mall attack
Reuters / Phuket Gazette
PHUKET: Kenya asked international police agency Interpol to issue a wanted persons alert for Samantha Lewthwaite, a British citizen dubbed the “white widow” who has been cited by British police as a possible suspect in the Kenyan mall attack.

Ndegwa Muhoro, director of Kenya’s Criminal Investigation Department, said the so-called red alert for Lewthwaite is not related to the attack by Somalia’s Islamist al Shabaab militants on the Westgate mall in Nairobi that killed at least 72 people.

“The ‘red alert’ has nothing to do with Westgate. Her role in this attack is yet to be confirmed, but she is wanted on charges of possession of explosives and conspiracy to commit a felony,” Muhoro told Reuters.

The alert was issued as Kenyan police broadened the investigation into the weekend raid claimed by the al Qaeda-aligned Somali al Shabaab group, the worst such assault since the U.S. Embassy was bombed in the capital by al Qaeda in 1998.

Kenya said that it requested the so-called “red alert” notice for Samantha Lewthwaite, 29, on Wednesday. Interpol has joined agencies from Britain, the United States, Israel and others in the Kenyan investigation of the wrecked mall.

Lewthwaite, the widow of one of the suicide bombers who attacked London’s transport system in 2005, is believed to have evaded arrest two years ago in the port city of Mombasa, where she is wanted in a plot to bomb hotels and restaurants.

Interpol’s “red alert” cites that 2011 plot.

“The ‘red alert’ has nothing to do with Westgate. Her role in this attack is yet to be confirmed, but she is wanted on charges of possession of explosives and conspiracy to commit a felony,” Ndegwa Muhoro, director of Kenya’s Criminal Investigation Department, told Reuters early on Thursday.

Muhoro said she is wanted in a case related to another Briton, Jermaine Grant, whom police suspected of having ties to al Sh

— 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

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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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