UNSC renewed Syria cross-border humanitarian aid deliveries mechanism

Agencies
January 11, 2020

New York, Jan 11: The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) on Friday renewed a six-year-long cross-border humanitarian aid deliveries mechanism into Syria.

According to Sputnik, the Security Council voted in favour of a resolution on Friday that allows cross border deliveries to be conducted via Turkey, preserving two checkpoints and excluding the Al-Yarubiyah border crossing with Iraq and the Al-Ramtha crossing with Jordan, until July 10, 2020.

Russia proposed to amend the adopted resolution by replacing a part of the draft which stipulates that humanitarian assistance into Syria should be delivered based on the principles of humanity, neutrality, impartiality and independence by the phrase that such aid should be provided "in accordance with the guiding principles of humanitarian emergency assistance, as contained in UNGA resolution 46/182."

The agreement was reached after Belgium and Germany decided to amend the original version of their joint resolution, which proposed keeping three points for cross-border deliveries into the Arab republic.

In December last year, the United Nations had said that over 235,000 people fled the Idlib region in the last two weeks after Russia and Syria launched airstrikes in a bid to take over the last major opposition bastion.

Russia backed Syria government launched a fresh assault to capture the province.

Syrian Bashar al-Assad regime, backed by Iran, has reportedly promised to take back the rebel-controlled area and broke a ceasefire that was announced in August.

They have since December 19 seized dozens of towns and villages from armed fighters amid clashes that have killed hundreds on both sides.

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Agencies
September 13,2020

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Beijing, Sept 13: As the deadline for ByteDance, TikTok's parent company, to sell its US business inches closer, the Chinese government on Saturday said the Donald Trump administration's deadline is tantamount to "coercive robbery".

The US President has categorically said that he will not extend the September 20 deadline for China-based ByteDance to sell the US business of TikTok or face the complete ban.

"The tricks of economic bullying and political manipulation that the US played on non-American companies are tantamount to coercive robbery," said a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson, Xinhua news agency reported.

The business sales talk of TikTok in the US has hit roadblock after China's update of the technology export rules. The update covers Artificial Intelligence (AI) technologies used by ByteDance.

China last month updated the list of technologies that are subject to export bans. The new list, released jointly by China's Ministry of Commerce and the Ministry of Science and Technology, added 23 items to export restrictions while technical parameters of 21 items were revised.

The new update in the export rules cover restrictions on technologies such as text analysis, content recommendation and voice-recognition. The technologies on the list cannot be exported without approval from authorities in China.

ByteDance had said that "the company will strictly abide" by the new export rules imposed by China.

Several US companies including Walmart/Microsoft and Oracle are in the fray to buy TikTok's US operations, which is touted in the range of $20 billion-$30 billion.

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Agencies
September 21,2020

Moscow, Sept 21: The rush to find a vaccine for the deadly COVID-19 is still underway, and many have volunteered to participate in the clinical trials in the hope to find one. In Russia, for example, over 60,000 people have reportedly applied to volunteer for the Sputnik V COVID-19 vaccine trials in Moscow. Meanwhile, more than 700 people have been administered the vaccine.

Sputnik V, an adenovirus vector-based vaccine, was developed by the Gamaleya Scientific Research Institute of Epidemiology and Microbiology, along with the Russian Direct Investment Fund and registered on August 11.

"Over 60,000 people have signed up as volunteers, several thousand people have passed the required medical tests to be registered as potential candidates for carrying out the tests," Mayor Sergei Sobyanin was quoted as saying in reports on Sunday.

According to Russian Tass news agency, more than 700 people have been injected with the coronavirus vaccine. "All of them are feeling good," Sobyanin said.

The vaccine was developed on a platform that had been used for a number of other vaccines.

On August 15, the Russian Health Ministry announced the launch of the vaccine production.

The Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF) and Dr Reddy's Laboratories Limited, a global pharmaceutical company headquartered in India, have also agreed to cooperate on clinical trials and distribution of Sputnik V Covid-19 vaccine in India.

"On regulatory approval in India, RDIF shall supply to Dr Reddy's 100 million doses of the vaccine. The Sputnik V vaccine, which is based on well-studied human adenoviral vector platform with proven safety, is undergoing clinical trials for the coronavirus pandemic," said a statement from the fund.

The Russian Direct Investment Fund said that the deliveries could potentially begin in late 2020 subject to completion of successful trials and registration of the vaccine by regulatory authorities in India.

Earlier this month, a study published in the peer-reviewed journal The Lancet said a Russian COVID-19 vaccine has shown no serious side effects and elicited an immune response in early human trials.

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News Network
September 16,2020

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Paris, Sept 16: The world has lost nearly 100 million hectares of forests in two decades, marking a steady decline though at a slower pace than before, a UN agency reported Tuesday.

The proportion of forest to total land area fell from 31.9 per cent in 2000 to 31.2 per cent in 2020, now some 4.1 billion hectares, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization.

It marks "a net loss of almost 100 million hectares of the world's forests," the FAO said.

Deforestation has hit particularly hard sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia, where it has accelerated in the last decade, but also Latin and Central America, where it has nonetheless slowed down.

Forests are being cut down mainly to make way for crops or farm animals, especially in less developed countries.

In southeast Asia, the forest now covers 47.8 per cent of the land compared to 49 per cent in 2015. In sub-Saharan Africa, it covers 27.8 per cent compared to 28.7 per cent five years ago.

In Indonesia, it is 50.9 per cent, down from 52.5 per cent. In Malaysia, it is 58.2 per cent, down from 59.2 per cent five years ago.

A country strongly focused on agriculture like the Ivory Coast has seen forests reduced to 8.9 per cent of the total land area from 10.7 per cent in 2015. Kenya, Mali and Rwanda have largely held firm against forest loss.

In Latin and Central America, forest covers only 46.7 per cent of the total land, compared to 47.4 per cent five years ago.

In Brazil, forests declined to 59.4 per cent of the country's territory in 2020 from 60.3 per cent in 2015. In Haiti, deforestation has continued apace -- falling to 12.6 per cent of the total land area from 13.2 per cent in 2015.

In contrast, in many parts of Asia, Europe and North America forest area has increased or stayed the same in the last five years with policies to restore woodland and allow forests to expand naturally.

In China, forests make up 23.3 per cent, up from 22.3 per cent in 2015. In Japan, they account for 68.4 per cent, the same as it was five years ago.

In France, forests cover 31.5 per cent of the land in 2020, up from 30.7 per cent in 2015. In Italy, they make up 32.5 per cent of the national territory, up from 31.6 five years ago.

In Britain, they make up 13.2 per cent, up from 13 per cent five years ago.

In Canada, it is unchanged at 38.2 per cent, and in the United States, unchanged at 33.9 per cent.

In Australia, the figure rose from 17.3 to 17.4 per cent and in New Zealand from 37.4 per cent to 37.6 per cent over the five years.

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