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Phuket Gazette World News: World ushers in New Year; South Sudan peace talks today; Putin vows to take down terrorists

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Phuket Gazette World News: World ushers in New Year; South Sudan peace talks today; Putin vows to take down terrorists | The Thaiger
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PHUKET MEDIA WATCH
– World news compiled by Gazette editors for Phuket’s international community

South Sudan peace talks set for New Year’s Day
Reuters / Phuket Gazette
PHUKET: South Sudan’s government and rebels are set for New Year’s Day peace talks in Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa, to thrash out a ceasefire to end weeks of ethnic bloodletting in the world’s newest state.

Both sides agreed to a ceasefire on Tuesday, mediators said, but fighting between government troops and militias loyal to former Vice President Riek Machar raged in Bor, the capital of the vast Jonglei state and site of an ethnic massacre in 1991.

“I’m worried that the continued fighting in Bor might scupper the start of these talks,” said Ethiopian Foreign Minister Dr. Tedros Adhanom, who is chairman of the regional Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) bloc that is mediating the talks.

“Hopefully both delegations will arrive tomorrow (Wednesday), start the talks and settle this problem once and for all,” Adhanom told Reuters by phone from Addis Ababa.

Western and regional powers have pushed both sides to end the fighting that has killed at least 1,000 people, cut South Sudan’s oil output and raised fears of a full-blown civil war in the heart of a fragile region.

It was not clear who controlled Bor on Tuesday night after a day of heavy fighting that started at dawn in the dusty town, which was held by Machar’s rebels for a few days at the start of the conflict. Nearly 200,000 civilians have been displaced.

The United Nations Mission in South Sudan said ethnic-based atrocities, often carried out against civilians by uniformed men, have taken place throughout the newly independent South Sudan.

“This can lead to a perpetual cycle of violence that can destroy the fabric of the new nation,” the United Nations warned in a statement. About 9,000 civilians are seeking refuge at the U.N. base in Bor.

The clashes erupted on December 15 with fighting among soldiers in Juba. The violence quickly spread to half of the country’s 10

states, dividing the country along the ethnic lines of Machar’s Nuer group and President Salva Kiir’s Dinkas.

Kiir has accused his long-term political rival Machar, who he sacked in July, of starting the fighting in an effort to seize power.

Machar has denied the charge, but he has taken to the bush and has acknowledged leading soldiers battling the government. There have been conflicting reports on whether Machar was in full control of the Nuer “White Army” militia fighting in Bor, though on Tuesday he told the BBC they were part of his forces.

The White House pressured all sides to cease hostilities and allow humanitarian assistance to flow to civilians.

“The United States will deny support and work to apply international pressure to any elements that use force to seize power,” White House spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said in a statement on Tuesday. “At the same time, we will hold leaders responsible for the conduct of their forces and work to ensure accountability for atrocities and war crimes.”

The fighting has revived memories of the factionalism in the 1990s within the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement, the group that fought Sudan’s army in the north for two decades. Machar led a splinter faction and fighters loyal to him massacred Dinkas in Bor.

Talks, catastrophic conditions

Both the government and the rebels said earlier on Tuesday that they were sending teams to start talks in neighbouring Ethiopia, though Machar told the BBC on Tuesday that he was not prepared to lay down weapons.

The U.S. special envoy to South Sudan, Donald Booth, said the commitment to send negotiators was an “important first step” towards a negotiated settlement.

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni said on Monday that East African countries had agreed to move in and defeat Machar if he rejected the ceasefire offer, threatening to turn the fighting into a regional conflict. No other countries have confirmed any such an agreement.

“The town is still partly in our hands and partly in the hands of the rebels,” Mayor Nhial Majak Nhial told Reuters on Tuesday from the government’s military headquarters inside Bor, 190 km (120 miles) north of Juba by road.

Medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) said about 70,000 civilians had fled Bor and sought refuge in the town of Awerial in neighbouring Lakes state, with no access to food, clean water or shelter. Others were hiding in swamps.

“Living conditions are verging on the catastrophic,” MSF said.

According to United Nations figures, fighting across the country has displaced at least 180,000 people, including 75,000 who are seeking refuge inside U.N. bases.

The African Union said late on Monday it was dismayed and disappointed by the bloodletting that came two years after South Sudan won independence from its northern neighbour, Sudan.

The AU’s Peace and Security Council said it would “take appropriate measures, including targeted sanctions, against all those who incite violence, including along ethnic lines, continue hostilities (and) undermine the envisaged inclusive dialogue.”

Revellers usher in 2014 with fireworks, festivities
Reuters / Phuket Gazette
PHUKET: From Sydney to Dubai, revellers welcomed 2014 with extravagant fireworks displays, while London prepared to celebrate by spraying clouds of fruit-flavoured mist and Chicago and San Francisco planned massive outdoor celebrations.

In New York, about one million people were expected to gather in Times Square for the New Year’s Eve street party as Miley Cyrus, Melissa Etheridge and hip-hop artists Macklemore & Ryan Lewis headline the festivities and the dropping of a 11,875-pound, crystal-encrusted ball marks the start of 2014.

“We’ve been living on granola bars and little bottles of water, because if you move, you lose your spot,” said Sheila Harshbarger, who had travelled from Indiana with her daughter and staked out her ground next to a row of police barricades in the frigid cold more than 14 hours before midnight.

There will be no crystal ball for Brasstown, in the mountains of North Carolina. At midnight it will hold its 20th New Year’s Eve “possum drop” – in which a caged opossum is displayed in a Plexiglas container for spectators.

“If New York can drop a ball… then we can lower the opossum,” organizers explained on their website.

The event got a last-minute go-ahead after a judge refused a plea by animal-rights group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals to stop the event.

Across the northern United States, partygoers braced for snow and freezing temperatures. Chicago, which could see a significant snow storm amid its flurry of festivities, was offering free rides on trains and buses from 10 p.m. to 4 a.m. to ensure revellers make it home safely.

In San Francisco, one of the last places in the world to see the clock strike midnight, some 200,000 people will gather on the waterfront for a fireworks display illuminating the city’s world famous Golden Gate Bridge.

Banana-falvored confetti

While organizers in cities like Chicago and New York were just starting to block off streets in preparation for the evening’s events, festivities were well under way in other parts of the globe.

As midnight struck in Sydney, Australia, a massive fireworks display lit up the night sky around the city’s famed Ha

— Phuket Gazette Editors

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Archiving articles from the Phuket Gazette circa 1998 - 2017. View the Phuket Gazette online archive and Digital Gazette PDF Prints.

World

Son of Sultan of Brunei dies at the age of 38

Maya Taylor

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Son of Sultan of Brunei dies at the age of 38 | The Thaiger
PHOTO: The Scoop

The son of the Sultan of Brunei has died at the age of 38, the government of Brunei has confirmed. Prince Azim, who was 4th in line to the throne, passed away on Saturday morning. While the cause of death has not been confirmed, his Wikipedia entry says he succumbed to a long illness.

CNN reports that the prince had made a name for himself as a Hollywood film producer, where he was known for hosting extravagant parties with celebrity guests that included Mariah Carey, Pamela Anderson, and Janet Jackson, among others. His success in film came despite international condemnation of his father’s harsh rule in Brunei, where parts of Sharia law are in force and capital punishment involves death by stoning.

The nation of Brunei has entered a 7-day mourning period, with leaders from neighbouring countries expressing their condolences on the death of the prince. A statement from the Indonesian embassy in Brunei said Prince Azim, “will always be remembered fondly.” The prime minister of Singapore, Lee Hsien Loong, described him as someone who was, “known for his kind and generous spirit, and for his dedication to charitable, educational, and youth causes.”

SOURCE: CNN

 

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World

Malaysian PM called to quit, criticised for “abuse of power” during Covid-19 crisis

Caitlin Ashworth

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Malaysian PM called to quit, criticised for “abuse of power” during Covid-19 crisis | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Facebook: Muhyiddin Yassin

While protesters in Thailand are calling on PM Prayut Chan-o-cha to resign, the Malaysia PM Muhyiddin Yassin is experiencing similar calls after he attempted to declare a state of emergency amid a rise in Covid-19 infections, but the request was rejected by the Malaysian King.

Some say the prime minister’s attempt to impose the order was intended to suspend parliament and “curb the government process”. Opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim recently claimed he had the majority of support in parliament and challenged the prime minister. He suggested the call for a state of emergency was to avoid a vote on the annual supply bill which he may have lost, effectively a vote of no confidence in the current PM and his government.

When Muhyiddin requested a state of emergency, Anwar said the Malaysian PM was trying to “curb the parliamentary process.” He said using the Covid-19 crisis as an excuse to suspend sessions is an “abuse of power” and called the state of emergency request a “descent into dictatorship and authoritarianism.”

“A state of emergency is declared when there is a threat to our national security. But when the government is itself the source of that threat, then a state of emergency is nothing more than the descent into dictatorship and authoritarianism. I strongly advise Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin to consider the legacy of these actions he is taking out of self interest and selfishness.”

Anwar released another media statement after the Malaysian King’s refusal saying it “affirms the strength of the constitutional monarchy and parliamentary democracy.”

King Al-Sultan Abdullah rejected the emergency order request yesterday. The prime minister holds a slim majority in parliament, but with his request rejected by the King, his hold on power is now palpably weaker. Now some leaders are calling on Muhyiddin to resign.

Ahmad Puad Zarkashi, a senior leader in the United Malays National Organisation made a Facebook post calling on the prime minister to resign.

“Thankfully, His Majesty the King was not influenced by the political game that could drag the country into more critical territory… The people’s wellbeing is more important. By right, Muhyiddin should step down.”

Opposition lawmaker Wong Chen calls the proposal for a state of emergency “malicious” and says the prime minister should resign or fire ministers who proposed the emergency orders.

SOURCES: Reuters | Twitter: Anwar Ibrahim

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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

UPDATE: World Covid cases surge again, US reports 81,000+ cases in past 24 hours

The Thaiger

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UPDATE: World Covid cases surge again, US reports 81,000+ cases in past 24 hours | The Thaiger

Both the rate of new infections and deaths from the coronavirus has begun to spike in the worldwide totals again with some countries and locations having to go back into lockdowns for a second or third time. In the US and parts of Europe a major new surge of cases is concerning health authorities, especially as these countries are now heading into cooler weather, and people gathering indoors.

As of Saturday morning, Thai time, a total of 42,462,925 people have been infected worldwide with Covid-19, 1,148,698 have died and 31,417,499 have recovered.

UPDATE: World Covid cases surge again, US reports 81,000+ cases in past 24 hours | News by The Thaiger

The following graph shows today’s top ten countries with the most new infections in the past 24 hours…

UPDATE: World Covid cases surge again, US reports 81,000+ cases in past 24 hours | News by The Thaiger

SOURCE: worldometers.info

Here’s a summary of some of the main world Covid-19 headlines…

ITALY

Italy has recorded another record with 19,143 new coronavirus cases in the last 24 hours. That’s up from Thursday’s record of 16,079 new coronavirus cases. 91 coronavirus deaths were also reported on Friday. The governor of Campania in Vincenzo De Luca has made a formal request for a national lockdown and says he will close his region “for 30 to 40 days” to try and control the recent surge.

The governor of Lombardy lamented that it is a “dramatic situation.” Lombardy was the epicentre of one of the first, and most dangerous. clusters in the world after the virus first spread out of China.

UPDATE: World Covid cases surge again, US reports 81,000+ cases in past 24 hours | News by The Thaiger

GRAPH: New cases surging across Italy – worldometers.info

US

A study from the Covid-19 forecasting team at the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation reports that… if 95% of Americans wore masks in public, more than 100,000 lives could be saved from Covid-19 over the next 4 months.

In a survey done in September, only about 49% of US residents reported that they “always” wear a mask in public.

The study calculated that, if the current extent of mask-wearing were to continue, and states continue with removing social distancing mandates, the death toll across the US from Covid-19 could reach about 1 million deaths by the end of February.

“The study had some limitations, including that the findings are only forecast projections from models and not definitive of what the future holds.”

The IHME Director Dr. Chris Murray maintains that the study still helps offer insight into how mask-wearing can make a difference.

URUGUAY

Uruguay is closing its borders during the summer season as a program to help curb the spread of Covid-19. Uraguay’s President Luis Lacalle Pou says that it will be “a restricted summer”.

“The borders will be basically closed, with exceptions that are already known and perhaps some more.

“Because today there are many cases, or several cases, in the education sector, we have decided to suspend face-to-face classes for two weeks.”

“Public safety measures will be enforced… avoid large gatherings and parties. We will be very strict when it comes to the topic of parties.”

Uruguay, with a total population of 3.5 million, has reported at least 2,701 confirmed new cases of Covid-19 and 53 deaths as of Friday morning and shares borders with Argentina and Brazil, both heavily impacted with a rise of Covid cases.

FRANCE

The head of infectious diseases at Tenon Hospital in Paris, Gilles Pialoux, says France is paying the price for ending the coronavirus lockdown too quickly.

On Thursday, France announced 41,622 new cases, and on Friday 42,032.

It will be “really difficult to avoid a second lockdown given the circulation of the virus.”

Gilles says local lockdowns or lockdowns “by population group” could be the solution. The doctor added the circulation of the virus among the “20-30 year old age group was far beyond the rest of the population”.

EUROPE

5 countries with the highest rate of new Covid infections, when measured against population, are all in Europe.

They are the Czech Republic, Switzerland, France, Belgium and The Netherlands. The number of new infections has risen sharply since the start of October, and continues to surge as the European autumn sets in.

As of last Thursday, the Czech Republic had a rolling daily average (across five days) of 10,579 new cases, meaning 988 new infections a day per 1 million population, a four-fold increase since the start of October. Belgium, was in the same situation with an average of 891 new infections per million residents as of last Thursday. The two countries have by far the highest rate of new Covid-19 infections.

UK

The UK has seen a sharp increase in its rolling averages during October, from 9,729 new cases to 19,290 per day. And the situation in Spain is less dramatic “but the daily average remains stubbornly high”. Infections per million are lower in other European countries, but they are still rising.

In comparison, the rolling averages of new cases in India and Brazil continue to fall, while the US is seeing a gradual but persistent rise. Its rolling average has risen from 43,089 at the start of October to 59,387 this week, representing 179 new cases a day per million population.

The UK’s economic recovery after the first wave of the Covid-19 pandemic has now flattened out and threatens to reverse and trigger a double-dip recession. The government has announced new restrictions to tackle the second wave which are expected to stifle business activity.

A new survey of business activity indicates private sector growth in the UK falling back as hospitality and transport companies struggled to cope with regional lockdown measures.

US

As autumn spreads across North American, 25 states in the US are reporting rising Covid-19 infections. White House Coronavirus Taskforce officials say there are “early signs of deterioration in the Sun Belt and continued deterioration in the Midwest and across the Northern States”.

Last Wednesday, at least 14 states had recorded their highest seven-day average of new daily cases, according to Johns Hopkins University. Including Alaska, Colorado, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, Montana, New Mexico, Ohio, Utah, Wisconsin, Wyoming.

Meanwhile, more than 41,000 people are currently hospitalised with the coronavirus across the country, according to the CovidTracking Project. Missouri and Idaho health officials say they’ll “soon be facing a crisis if hospitalisations continue to surge”.

The US reported the highest daily death toll in more than a month, with more than 1,100 new deaths.

UPDATE: World Covid cases surge again, US reports 81,000+ cases in past 24 hours | News by The Thaiger

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