Despite Covid lockdowns, world heads to temperature rise: UN report


Despite Covid lockdowns, world heads to temperature rise: UN report

However, this dip only translates to a 0.01 degree celsius reduction of global warming by 2050. Meanwhile NDCs remain inadequate.

A green pandemic recovery could cut upto 25 per cent off predicted 2030 greenhouse gas emissions and bring the world closer to meeting the two degree celsius goal of the Paris Agreement on climate change, said a new UN Environment Programme (UNEP) report on Wednesday.

The UNEP’s annual Emissions Gap Report 2020 reveals that despite a dip in the 2020 carbon dioxide emissions caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, the world is still heading for a temperature rise in excess of three degree celsius this century.

However, if governments invest in climate action as part of pandemic recovery and solidify emerging net-zero commitments with strengthened pledges at the next climate meeting — taking place at Glasgow in November 2021 — they could bring emissions to levels broadly consistent with the two degrees celsius goal.

By combining a green pandemic recovery with swift moves to include new net-zero commitments in the updated Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) under the Paris Agreement, and following up with rapid and robust action, governments could still attain the more ambitious 1.5 degrees goal.

“The year 2020 is on course to be one of the warmest on record while wildfires, storms and droughts continue to wreak havoc,” said UNEP’s Executive Director Inger Andersen.

“However, UNEP’s Emissions Gap report shows that a green pandemic recovery could take a huge slice out of greenhouse gas emissions and help slow down climate change. I urge governments to back a green recovery in the next stage of Covid-19 fiscal interventions and significantly raise their climate ambitions in 2021.”

Each year the Emissions Gap Report assesses the gap between anticipated emissions and levels consistent with the Paris Agreement goals of limiting global warming this century to well below two degrees and pursuing 1.5 degrees celsius.

The report reveals that during 2019 the overall greenhouse gas emissions, including land use change, reached a new high of 59.1 gigatonnes of CO2 equivalent (GtCO2e).

Global greenhouse gas emissions have grown 1.4 per cent per year since 2010 on an average, with a more rapid increase of 2.6 per cent in 2019 due to a large increase in forest fires.

As a result of reduced travel, lower industrial activity and lower electricity generation this year due to the pandemic, carbon dioxide emissions are predicted to fall up to 7 per cent in 2020.

However, this dip only translates to a 0.01 degree celsius reduction of global warming by 2050. Meanwhile NDCs remain inadequate.

A green pandemic recovery, however, could cut up to 25 per cent off the emissions the globe would expect to see in 2030 based on policies in place before Covid-19.

A green recovery would put emissions in 2030 at 44 GtCO2e, instead of the predicted 59 GtCO2e — far outstripping emission reductions foreseen in unconditional NDCs, which leave the world on track for a temperature rise of 3.2 degrees celsius.

Such a green recovery would put emissions within the range that gives a 66 per cent chance of holding temperatures to below two degrees celsius, but would still be insufficient to achieve the 1.5 degrees celsius goal.

Measures to prioritise in green fiscal recovery includes direct support for zero-emission technologies and infrastructure, reducing fossil fuel subsidies, no new coal plants, and promoting nature-based solutions — including large-scale landscape restoration and reforestation.

The report finds that action on a green fiscal recovery has been limited. Nearly one-quarter of G20 members have dedicated shares of their spending up to three per cent of GDP to low carbon measures.

There nonetheless remains a significant opportunity for countries to implement green policies and programmes. Governments must take this opportunity in the next stage of Covid-19 fiscal interventions, the report revealed.

The report also said the growing number of countries committing to net-zero emission goals by mid-century is a “significant and encouraging development”.

At the time of report completion, 126 countries covering 51 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions had adopted, announced or were considering net-zero goals.

The level of ambition in the Paris Agreement still must be tripled for the two degree celsius pathway and increased at least fivefold for the 1.5 degrees celsius pathway.

Responding to the Emissions Gap Report, Kat Kramer, Christian Aid’s climate lead, said, “The UNEP Gap report is a sobering reminder of the need for Covid economic stimuli to get us on track to tackle climate change.”

“Despite Covid lockdowns slowing emissions for a few months they barely created a dent in the overall picture and with emissions already bouncing back aggressively, we are on course to see global heating way beyond the goals of the Paris Agreement.”




87-year-old Indian-origin man from England becomes one of first people in world to get Covid vaccine


87-year-old Indian-origin man from England becomes one of first people in world to get Covid vaccine

Hari Shukla from Tyne and Wear said he feels it is his duty to receive his first of the two-dose vaccine, a moment UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson hailed as a “huge step forward” as Tuesday was dubbed “V-Day” or Vaccine Day in the UK.

An 87-year-old Indian-origin man from the north east of England will become one of the first people in the world to get a vaccine against COVID-19 when he receives his Pfizer/BioNTech jab at a hospital in Newcastle on Tuesday.

Hari Shukla from Tyne and Wear said he feels it is his duty to receive his first of the two-dose vaccine, a moment UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson hailed as a “huge step forward” as Tuesday was dubbed “V-Day” or Vaccine Day in the UK.

“I’m so pleased we are hopefully coming towards the end of this pandemic and I am delighted to be doing my bit by having the vaccine, I feel it is my duty to do so and do whatever I can to help,” said Mr Shukla.

“Having been in contact with the NHS (National Health Service), I know how hard they all work and the greatest respect for them – they have a heart of gold and I am grateful for everything they have done to keep us safe during the pandemic,” he said.

Mr Shukla was notified by the NHS based on the criteria set by the UK’s Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation as part of a phased rollout plan based on those at the highest risk of death from the deadly virus. People aged 80 and over, care home workers as well as NHS workers who are at higher risk will be first in line to receive the “life-saving jab”.

“Today marks a huge step forward in the UK’s fight against coronavirus, as we begin delivering the vaccine to the first patients across the whole country. I am immensely proud of the scientists who developed the vaccine, members of the public who took part in trials, and the NHS who have worked tirelessly to prepare for rollout,” said Johnson.

However, the UK PM struck a note of caution to warn that mass vaccination will take time and urged the public to remain “clear-eyed” and continue to follow the lockdown rules over the winter months ahead.

The NHS said it is undertaking the biggest and most highly anticipated immunisation campaign in history at 50 hospital hubs, with more starting vaccinations over the coming weeks and months as the programme ramps up after the first set of doses arrived from Pfizer’s manufacturing site in Belgium.

“We will look back on today, V-day, as a key moment in our fight back against this terrible disease, and I am proud our health services across the United Kingdom are about to embark on our largest ever vaccination programme,” said UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock.

“With over-80s and frontline health and care staff receiving their vaccinations from today, the whole country will breathe a collective sigh of relief as our most vulnerable loved ones start to be given protection from the virus. Now’s the time to sit tight and remain patient until you get notified by the NHS that it”s time for your vaccination,” he said, adding that the light at the end of the tunnel is visible but there is still a long way to go.

Since the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine got the green light from the UK”s Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) last week, the NHS said its workers have been working around the clock to manage the large-scale logistical challenge of deploying the vaccine.

“Coronavirus is the greatest health challenge in NHS history, taking loved ones from us and disrupting every part of our lives,” said Sir Simon Stevens, NHS Chief Executive.

“The deployment of this vaccine marks a decisive turning point in the battle with the pandemic. NHS vaccination programmes which have successfully helped overcome tuberculosis, polio, and smallpox, now turn their focus to coronavirus. NHS staff are proud to be leading the way as the first health service in the world to begin vaccination with this COVID jab,” he said.

The Pfizer/BionTech formula is an mRNA vaccine that uses a tiny fragment of genetic code from the pandemic virus to teach the body how to fight Covid-19 and build immunity. It is delivered in two doses of 21 days apart and, according to experts, it has shown a strong immunity response kicking in after seven days of the second dose.

The MHRA has stressed it has been cleared for mass rollout only after “rigorous” safety tests despite the process being speeded up due to the urgency of finding an effective vaccine against a pandemic which has devastated the world.

NHS national medical director, Professor Stephen Powis, has warned that the roll out of a vaccine will be a “marathon” not a sprint.

The Pfizer vaccine needs to be stored at -70C before being thawed out and can only be moved four times within that cold chain before being used. General Practitioners (GPs) and other primary care staff have also been put on standby to start delivering the jab on a phased basis.

Vaccination centres treating large numbers of patients in sporting venues and conference centres will subsequently start up when further supplies of vaccine come on stream, with a bulk of the rollout expected in the early part of the New Year.




UN chief Antonio Guterres,, group of 36 UK parliamentarians support agitating Indian farmers


UN chief Antonio Guterres,, group of 36 UK parliamentarians support agitating Indian farmers

These reactions came even as Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau reiterated his support for the protesting farmers despite India’s strong reaction to his earlier remarks that Canada will always be there to defend the rights of peaceful protests.

The spokesperson for UN chief Antonio Guterres and a group of 36 cross-party UK parliamentarians have come out in support of the agitating Indian farmers, saying people have a right to demonstrate peacefully and authorities should let them do so.

These reactions came even as Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau reiterated his support for the protesting farmers despite India’s strong reaction to his earlier remarks that Canada will always be there to defend the rights of peaceful protests.

“As to the question of India, what I would say to you is what I’ve said to others when raising these issues is that people have a right to demonstrate peacefully, and authorities need to let them do so, Stephane Dujarric, the spokesman for the UN Secretary General, said on Friday while responding to a question on the farmers’ protest in India.

Thousands of farmers are protesting on various borders of Delhi since November 26, seeking repeal of three farm laws enacted in September.

In London, a group of 36 cross-party parliamentarians have written to UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab asking him to make representations to his Indian counterpart, S Jaishankar, regarding the impact on British Punjabis affected by the demonstrations by farmers against new agricultural reforms in India.

“This is an issue of particular concern to Sikhs in the UK and those linked to Punjab, although it also heavily impacts on other Indian states. Many British Sikhs and Punjabis have taken this matter up with their MPs, as they are directly affected with family members and ancestral land in Punjab, the letter said.

“This is a joint letter calling for representation to be made by yourself to your Indian counterpart about the impact on British Sikhs and Punjabis, with longstanding links to land and farming in India,” it added.

The letter, issued on Friday, has been drafted by British Sikh Labour MP Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi and signed by other Indian-origin MPs including Labour’s Virendra Sharma, Seema Malhotra and Valerie Vaz as well as former Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn.

It urges the minister to set up an urgent meeting with them to discuss the deteriorating situation in the Punjab and seeks an update on any communication the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) has had with the Indian government on the issue.

The FCDO said the department has not received the letter as yet.

The police handling of protests are a matter for the government of India, an FCDO spokesperson said.

India has reacted sharply to remarks by Trudeau and other Canadian leaders to protests by farmers as “ill-informed” and “unwarranted”, asserting that the matter pertains to the internal affairs of a democratic country.

External Affairs Ministry Spokesperson Anurag Srivastava on Tuesday said: “We have seen some ill-informed comments relating to farmers in India. Such comments are unwarranted, especially when pertaining to the internal affairs of a democratic country.”

In a terse message, the ministry added that “it is also best that diplomatic conversations are not misrepresented for political purposes.”

India on Friday summoned Canadian High Commissioner Nadir Patel, and told him that the comments made by Prime Minister Trudeau and others in his cabinet on the farmers’ protest constituted an “unacceptable interference” in the country’s internal affairs and these actions, if continued, will have a “seriously damaging” impact on the bilateral ties.

When asked by a journalist on Friday about India’s strong reaction, Trudeau said in Ottawa, “Canada will always stand up for the right to peaceful protest anywhere around the world. We are pleased to see moves towards de-escalation and dialogue.”

On whether his comments would damage ties with India, he reiterated: “Canada will always stand up for the right of peaceful protests and human rights around the world.

The latest intervention by British MPs follows Dhesi and other politicians taking to social media to express support for the farmers. Lord Indarjit Singh, a crossbench peer in the House of Lords, also raised the issue in the Upper House of Parliament earlier this week.

The UK Cabinet Office minister responding in the House, Lord Nicholas True, refused to address a broad denunciation of any nation, adding: Our values are democratic; they are very widely shared and practised across the world. We wish to sustain that.

In Australia, Tung Ngo, a legislative council member in South Australian Parliament, on Wednesday urged the Indian government to continue allowing its citizen to exercise the fundamental right of any democracy, that is the right to protest peacefully.

“In our global community, we must help others in the plight against their local perils. We must…lend our voices to their cause, Ngo said.

Thousands of farmers from Punjab, Haryana and several other states have been protesting for the last ten days at the borders of Delhi against three farm laws.

Dubbing these laws as “anti-farmer”, these farmers claim that the newly enacted legislations would pave the way for the dismantling of the minimum support price system, leaving them at the “mercy” of big corporations.

However, the government has maintained that the new laws will bring farmers better opportunities and usher in new technologies in agriculture.




After China restricts access to Tibet, US urges nations to make laws over it


After China restricts access to Tibet, US urges nations to make laws over it

The Act, signed into law by President Donald Trump in December 2018 calls for denying access to the US for Chinese officials known to be involved in restricting visits to Tibet.

Slamming China for its “repressive” regime in Tibet, a top American diplomat has urged other countries to pass their own versions of a US law that calls for denying access to the US for Chinese officials known to be involved in restricting visits to the remote Himalayan region.

Robert A Destro, Special Coordinator for Tibetan Issues, on Friday said that together with partners around the world, the US has and will continue to call on China to provide unhindered access to foreigners travelling in Tibetan areas, including for diplomats and journalists, just as other countries give Chinese diplomats, journalists and citizens access to their respective countries.

The US adopted the Reciprocal Access to Tibet Act to press for greater access and transparency. Today, I call on our like minded friends and partners to pass their own versions of the Act, he said in his remarks at a virtual event: Religious Freedom in Tibet: The Appointment of Buddhist Leaders and the Succession of the Dalai Lama.

The Act, signed into law by President Donald Trump in December 2018 calls for denying access to the US for Chinese officials known to be involved in restricting visits to Tibet.

The Dalai Lama, Tibet’s exiled spiritual leader has been demanding meaningful autonomy for Tibetans.

The 85-year-old Dalai Lama fled to India in 1959 following a Chinese crackdown on an uprising by the local population in Tibet. India granted him political asylum and the Tibetan government-in-exile is based in Dharamsala in Himachal Pradesh since then.

Mr Destro said it is no accident that the Chinese Communist Party claims the right to direct the selection of the next Dalai Lama, and through that process to remake or in its words to Sinicize Tibetan Buddhism in its own Communist image.

“Nor is it a surprise that the Chinese Communist Party is ramping up its efforts to eliminate the Tibetan language and Tibet’s culture. It’s doing precisely the same thing with our Uyghur and Kazakh Muslim brothers and sisters in Xinjiang, and in its efforts to replace the teachings of Jesus and the Prophets with the state-inspired drivel of a ‘patriotic’ church,” he said.

“This is what information warfare looks like. In all it says and does, the Chinese Communist Party aims to control not only the information landscape, but the very thoughts of all whose perspectives and approaches to life in community differ from those of the Communist Party,” he said.

Consider the case of the Panchen Lama. It’s no accident that he was kidnapped when he was six years old. What better way to Sinicize Tibetan Buddhism by installing their own pliable and fake replacement who would promote the Communist Party and weaken Tibetan Buddhist individuality, while Sinicizing the real Panchen Lama from youth, relegating his traditional roots to what Leon Trotsky derisively called, quote the dustbin of history,” he said.

“Unfortunately, Tibetan Buddhists are not alone,” the American diplomat said.

“The Communist Party feels so threatened by faith in something other than the Party that its leaders are bent on controlling all aspects of religion, from the selection of Catholic bishops and the training of monks, to the content of scripture and the succession of Buddhist spiritual leaders,” he said.

“Driven by a need to control anyone or anything that exists independent of the Party, Communist Party officials use force, intimidation, censorship, and coercion to shape both the medium and the message,” he said.

He claimed that the Communist Party forces Chinese citizens into re-education and slave labour camps, threatens the families of regime critics, censors the brave scientists who sought to warn the world about COVID-19, and corrupt the short-sighted around the world with their bribes. And the Communist Party have the audacity to complain that we are interfering in their internal affairs.”

The United States, he said, is committed to helping Tibetans safeguard their way of life not just in Tibet but also in India, Nepal, Bhutan and everywhere that it flourishes.

Within a day of announcing my appointment, China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs criticized the US for interfering in China’s internal affairs, as if Tibetan Buddhism belongs to China. It doesn’t. Tibetan Buddhism belongs to Tibetans and to its adherents everywhere. If our commitment to human rights means anything, it is our collective duty to bring attention to this unfolding tragedy for Tibetans’ sake and for our own, he said.




US Senate passes bill to eliminate per-country cap for employment-based immigrant visas


US Senate passes bill to eliminate per-country cap for employment-based immigrant visas

The passage of the Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants Act by the Senate on Wednesday comes as a big relief to Indian IT professionals who come to the US on H-1B work visas and their current waiting period for Green Card or permanent residency is running into decades.

The US Senate has unanimously passed a bill that eliminates the per-country numerical limitation for employment-based immigrant visas and raises it for family-based visas, a legislation that will hugely benefit hundreds of thousands of Indian professionals in America who have been waiting for years to get their green cards.

The passage of the Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants Act by the Senate on Wednesday comes as a big relief to Indian IT professionals who come to the US on H-1B work visas and their current waiting period for Green Card or permanent residency is running into decades.

Originally passed by the US House of Representatives on July 10, 2019 by a bipartisan 365 to 65 votes, the legislation increases the per-country cap on family-based immigrant visas from seven per cent of the total number of such visas available that year to 15 per cent. It was sponsored by Republican Senator Mike Lee from Utah in the Senate.

The legislation eliminates the seven per cent cap for employment-based immigrant visas, a provision that will facilitate removal of the massive backlog of Indian IT professionals in the US. It also removes an offset that reduced the number of visas for individuals from China. Because of arbitrary per-country caps, the legal status of Indian IT professionals was constantly in jeopardy.

In fiscal year 2019, Indian nationals received 9,008 category 1 (EB1), 2,908 category 2 (EB2), and 5,083 category 3 (EB3) Green Cards. EB1-3 are different categories of employment-based Green Cards.

In July, Senator Lee had told the Senate that the backlog for an Indian national to get permanent residency or Green Card is more than 195 years.

The new legislation also establishes transition rules for employment-based visas from FY2020-FY2022, by reserving a percentage of EB-2 (workers with advanced degrees or exceptional ability), EB-3 (skilled and other workers), and EB-5 (investors) visas for individuals not from the two countries with the largest number of recipients of such visas.

Of the unreserved visas, not more than 85 per cent shall be allotted to immigrants from any single country. Running against time, the Senate on Wednesday moved the process very quickly. It was passed by the Senate Judiciary Committee by unanimous consent and soon thereafter it was considered by the full Senate. The Senate passed it quickly with unanimous consent.

Currently, there is a backlog of almost one million foreign nationals and accompanying family members lawfully residing in the US who have been approved for, and are waiting to receive, employment-based Green Cards. The largest number of them are from India.

The Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants Act creates a more merit-based system that levels the playing field for high-skilled immigrants, said Senator Kevin Cranmer, who worked to ensure that the legislation includes safeguards against fraud and abuse in the visa system.

The Senate passed the bill as Senator Cramer presided over the chamber. Immigration is often a contentious issue, but we should not delay progress where there is bipartisan consensus,” he said.

In February 2019, Cramer brought Debjyoti Dwivedy (“DD”), a North Dakota State University alumnus and Vice President of Immigration Voice, a group which advocates for this bill, as his guest to the State of the Union.

As Congress debates the many aspects of our broken immigration system, Debjyoti offers expertise and experiences that reflect North Dakota priorities and values, Senator Cramer said at the time. It is my hope we can finally pass a version of the Fairness for High Skilled Immigrants Act this Congress.

Being invited as his guest to the State of the Union was a great honour. To me, this demonstrates his appreciation for the important role immigrants play to North Dakota. His ardent support for the Fairness for Immigrants Act is found in both his conservative principles and his commitment to the people of North Dakota, DD wrote after the event.

In August, Senator Lee on the Senate floor said that he has always been struck by the fact that the government has conditioned green cards and a pathway to citizenship based solely on the applicant’s country of origin.

There may have been some legitimate reason many decades ago in fact for this, but this has led to a system that largely discriminates against green card applicants from one country, he told his Senate colleagues.

I mean literally one country. This is inconsistent with our founding principles. this is not how we try to do things as Americans, and it’s not right. Today, if you’re a work-based immigrant from India entering into the EB- green card application process, you will wait almost 200 years before your application is even considered solely because of where you were born, he had said.

Almost 200 years on a waiting list. Some people don’t even live that long. Our country isn’t much older than that, and that’s the amount of time they would have to wait based solely on the basis of the country in which they were born, Lee had said, urging his colleagues to lift the country-cap on Green Card applicants.

If you’re born anywhere else, anywhere else other than China; let’s say in Ghana, Sweden, Indonesia, basically any other country other than India your application will be considered immediately. This sort of discrimination is simply inconsistent with the principles of a merit-based immigration system and with our founding principles and the principles that unite us as Americans, he had said.




President-elect Biden, former Presidents Obama, Bush, Clinton vow to receive Covid vaccine publicly


President-elect Biden, former Presidents Obama, Bush, Clinton vow to receive Covid vaccine publicly

Obama, in an interview with SiriusXM radio, said he would be inoculated if top US infectious disease expert Anthony Fauci signs off on a Covid-19 vaccine.

Former US presidents Barack Obama, George W Bush and Bill Clinton as well as President-elect Joe Biden are volunteering to take a coronavirus vaccine on camera if it will help promote public confidence.

Obama, in an interview with SiriusXM radio, said he would be inoculated if top US infectious disease expert Anthony Fauci signs off on a Covid-19 vaccine.

“If Anthony Fauci tells me this vaccine is safe, and can vaccinate, you know, immunize you from getting Covid, absolutely, I’m going to take it,” Obama said.

“I promise you that when it’s been made for people who are less at risk, I will be taking it,” he said.

“I may end up taking it on TV or having it filmed, just so that people know that I trust this science, and what I don’t trust is getting Covid,” Obama said.

Freddy Ford, Bush’s chief of staff, told CNN the former president also wanted to help promote vaccination.

“First, the vaccines need to be deemed safe and administered to the priority populations,” Ford told CNN.

“Then, president Bush will get in line for his, and will gladly do so on camera.”

Angel Urena, Clinton’s press secretary, told CNN the former president would also be up for getting a vaccine in public on television.

Later in the day, Biden told CNN in an interview that he, too, would be willing to be vaccinated in public after government approval of vaccines, specifically saying he would rely on Fauci to say it was safe.

“It’s important to communicate to the American people it’s safe,” the 78-year-old said. “It’s safe to do this.”

He also lauded the three former presidents for their commitment, saying they had “set the model as to what should be done.”

Vaccines developed by Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna-NIH are expected to be approved by US authorities shortly.

A top science official said Wednesday the United States hopes to have immunized 100 million people by the end of February.




Afghan-Taliban negotiators agree on procedural rules for Doha talks


Afghan-Taliban negotiators agree on procedural rules for Doha talks

The contact groups have held five meetings so far to discuss rules and regulations as well as the agenda of the negotiations.

Negotiators from the Afghan government, as well as the Taliban, have agreed on procedural rules to continue the peace talks in the Qatari capital of Doha, it was confirmed by both the sides.

“Today (Wednesday), the plenary meeting was held between two Intra-Afghan negotiation teams. In this meeting, a joint working committee was tasked to prepare the draft topics for the agenda,” TOLO News quoted Nader Nadery, a member of the government’s negotiating team in Doha, as saying.

“The current negotiations between both teams show that there is a willingness among Afghans to reach sustainable peace and both sides are committed to continuing their sincere efforts to reach a sustainable peace in Afghanistan” he added.

Also confirming the development, Taliban spokesman Mohammad Naeem said that a general meeting of the two sides was held in Doha on Wednesday, and the joint committee was tasked with preparing the topics for the agenda of the talks.

“The current talks between the delegations from the two sides indicate that there is a will for peace among Afghans,” Naeem added.

The international community and Afghan leaders have responded positively to the news.

Deborah Lyons, head of the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan, said the world body welcomes the progress achieved by both negotiating teams in the Afghan Peace Process.

“Moving on to the agenda is a positive development. This breakthrough should be a springboard to reach the peace wanted by all Afghans,” TOLO News quoted Lyons as saying in a tweet on Wednesday.

Also taking to Twitter, US peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad, said: “I welcome the news from Doha that the two Afghan sides have reached a significant milestone.

A three-page agreement codifying rules and procedures for their negotiations on a political roadmap and a comprehensive ceasefire. The people of Afghanistan now expect rapid progress on a political roadmap and a ceasefire. We understand their desire and we support them.

“As negotiations on a political roadmap and permanent ceasefire begin, we will work hard with all sides for a serious reduction of violence and even a ceasefire during this period. This is what the Afghan people want and deserve.”

Abdullah Abdullah, head of Afghanistan’s High Council for National Reconciliation, welcomed the “initial major step” and thanked the “Republic’s negotiation team, all facilitators and the host Qatar for their valuable support”.

President Ashraf Ghani’s spokesman Sediq Sediqqi said the development was “a step forward towards beginning the negotiations on the main issues, including a comprehensive ceasefire as the key demand of the Afghan people for a lasting peace”.

Both the teams had formed small groups called “contact groups” on the opening day of the talks on September 12.

The contact groups have held five meetings so far to discuss rules and regulations as well as the agenda of the negotiations.




Pakistan’s Covid-19 cases surpass 406k mark


Pakistan’s Covid-19 cases surpass 406k mark

Frontline healthcare workers and people over 65 years of age will be the first to get the vaccine administered, he added.

Pakistan’s overall coronavirus caseload has increased to 406,810 after an additional 3,499 people tested positive in the last 24 hours, the Health Ministry said on Thursday.

In the same period, a total of 8,205 people died and 346,951 recovered from the disease in the country which is currently battling a serious second wave, Xinhua news agency quoted the Ministry as saying.

The two new figures increased the overall death toll and recoveries to 8,205 and 346,951, respectively.

Sindh province is currently the worst hit with 177,625 cases, followed by most populous province Punjab with 121,083 positive cases, the official figures revealed.

At a press briefing on Wednesday, Special Advisor to the Prime Minister on Health Faisal Sultan said that the government has approved to allocate a budget of $150 million to purchase vaccines.

Frontline healthcare workers and people over 65 years of age will be the first to get the vaccine administered, he added.

Meanwhile, Federal Parliamentary Secretary in the Health Ministry Nausheen Hamid said that the government will provide free of cost vaccine to its citizens and the vaccination will start in the second quarter of 2021.

The Pakistani government has also decided to observe “Covid-19 standard operating procedures compliance week” from Saturday for creating awareness in public about the significance of the SOPs in guarding against the disease.




Brazil Covid-19 death toll tops 173,000


Brazil Covid-19 death toll tops 173,000

With 287 new coronavirus fatalities reported in Brazil in the last 24 hours, the country’s death toll has increased to 173,120, the second highest in the world after the US, according to the Health Ministry.

Besides the new fatalities on Monday, the country also registered 21,138 new cases, which took the overall tally to 6,335,878, Xinhua news agency.

Brazil’s caseload is the third highest after the US and India.

Also on Monday, the World Health Organization (WHO) voiced deep concern over a sharp increase in infection and fatality rates in Brazil.

“I think Brazil has to be very, very serious,” said WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus at a press conference in Geneva.

The South American country managed to flatten the curve between September and November, but statistics rose again after lockdown measures were eased.




UK Government to ban installation of Huawei’s 5G network


UK Government to ban installation of Huawei’s 5G network

The government has given seven years to the telecoms operators to remove its existing technology from their 5G infrastructure at an expected cost of 2 billion pounds.

The British government on Monday announced that it is preparing to ban the installation of Chinese telecom giant Huawei’s 5G equipment from September 2021.

A spokesperson for the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) said that as per its earlier decision, the UK carriers will no longer be able to install Huawei equipment beginning September 2021.

A report on CNET recently stated that the UK government has laid out a roadmap for removing all telecoms equipment made by “high risk vendors,” including Huawei, from the country’s 5G network by 2027.

The UK government earlier in July had announced that ‘high risk’ vendors would be banned from the purchase of new Huawei kits for 5G from next year and their existing equipment phase out by 2027.

The government has given seven years to the telecoms operators to remove its existing technology from their 5G infrastructure at an expected cost of 2 billion pounds.

The decision came following new advice produced by the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) on the impact of US sanctions against the telecommunications vendor.

The US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) designated Chinese telecom companies, Huawei and ZTE, as national security risks to America’s communications networks.

In a U-turn, the UK government that earlier allowed Huawei to sell its 5G technology in the country, signalled a tougher stand against the Chinese telecom giant.

Meanwhile, Huawei called the decision “bad news for anyone in the UK with a mobile phone”.

Struggling to keep its consumer business afloat in the wake of the US sanctions, Huawei this month announced to sell off its Honor smartphone business assets to China-based Shenzhen Zhixin New Information Technology Co Ltd.




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