Archive for December, 2020

Trump plotting false flag to ‘fabricate pretext’ for attack on Iran, Foreign Minister Zarif says

Posted by RT on December 31, 2020  |   Comments Off on Trump plotting false flag to ‘fabricate pretext’ for attack on Iran, Foreign Minister Zarif says

Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif has claimed “intelligence from Iraq” suggests the US is plotting to “fabricate” a reason to wage war on Iran. Stressing Tehran “doesn’t seek war,” he warned such a scam will be met with force.

Accusing US President Donald Trump and his cabinet of “wast[ing] billions” to surround Iran with air and naval military assets while Americans are suffering with Covid-19, Zarif revealed in a tweet on Thursday that Iraqi intelligence had tipped off Tehran to a US “plot to FABRICATE pretext for war.”

Iran doesn’t seek war but will OPENLY & DIRECTLY defend its people, security & vital interests,” the diplomat continued.

Tensions between the two countries are running exceptionally high due to the approaching anniversary of the US assassination of Iranian General Qassem Soleimani, the Quds Force leader killed in an airstrike in Baghdad on January 3.

While Iran retaliated at the time by striking two US bases in Iraq, allegedly causing brain injuries in an uncertain number of soldiers stationed there, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei renewed calls for “revenge” earlier this month, adding that Iranians should not “forget enmities” with the US government, no matter who is serving as president.

The US sent two B-52 bombers to the Persian Gulf earlier this week in a show of force, triggering outrage from Tehran. A military adviser to the Ayatollah reminded Washington that “all their military bases are covered by our missiles” and urged Trump not to “turn the New Year into mourning for Americans.” Another military officer warned that the US would meet a “crushing and fiery response” if the planes breached the country’s airspace.

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FILE PHOTO.
Trump ‘will go to the dustbin of history’: Iran’s Rouhani sends harsh farewell message to outgoing US president

The US has attempted to pin numerous apparent false flag attacks on Iran under the Trump administration, from the mysterious holes appearing in Saudi and Japanese oil tankers to the endless stream of rockets landing in Baghdad’s Green Zone that have an uncanny knack for coming to rest in unpopulated spaces. Trump’s financial backers for both the 2020 and 2016 elections were dominated by rabid Iran hawks, and the president’s ‘failure’ to start a war with their favorite bogeyman is no doubt weighing on the White House.

While Trump withdrew the US from the JCPOA nuclear deal in 2018, not merely reimposing sanctions but actually adopting new ones, Washington’s efforts to bend the other signatories to its will had mixed results. Insisting that Iran hold tight to the terms of a deal to which the US was no longer a part of, the White House didn’t get many takers.

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Pfizer’s Covid-19 vaccine first in the world to receive emergency use authorization from WHO

Posted by RT on December 31, 2020  |   Comments Off on Pfizer’s Covid-19 vaccine first in the world to receive emergency use authorization from WHO

The first vaccine against the novel coronavirus approved for emergency use by the World Health Organization is Comirnaty COVID-19 mRNA one produced by Pfizer/BioNTech, the WHO has announced.

The world health body announced the emergency approval on Thursday, as 2020 came to a close. Its Emergency Use Listing (EUL) will enable countries to expedite their own regulatory approval of the vaccine, and allow UNICEF and the Pan-American Health Organization to buy it for distribution, the WHO said.

“This is a very positive step towards ensuring global access to [Covid]-19 vaccines,” Dr Mariângela Simão, WHO’s assistant-Director General for access to medicines and health products, said in a statement. She added that “an even greater global effort” is needed to come up with enough of a supply to meet the needs of “priority populations everywhere,” however.

The WHO is “working night and day to evaluate other vaccines that have reached safety and efficacy standards,” said Simão, urging other developers to “come forward for review and assessment.”

The first vaccine against Covid-19 in the world was actually registered by Russia, which had requested EUL from the WHO in late October for its Sputnik-V jab. That certification is still pending. 

Pfizer’s vaccine was the first to be approved for emergency use in the US, on December 11. Moderna’s vaccine followed a week later.

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‘Zero tolerance’: France deploys more than 100,000 police to curb coronavirus curfew violations on New Year’s Eve

Posted by RT on December 31, 2020  |   Comments Off on ‘Zero tolerance’: France deploys more than 100,000 police to curb coronavirus curfew violations on New Year’s Eve

The police contingent deployed across France has been increased fivefold for New Year's Eve in order to prevent people from violating the Covid-19 curfew and staging illegal parties to mark the arrival of 2021.

The curfew, which has been imposed between 8pm and 6am, must be “respected,” French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said on Thursday.

To execute this order, more than 100,000 police officers, some 32,000 firefighters and 7,000 soldiers have been mobilized across the country on December 31. In Paris alone, some 9,000 officers are assigned to patrol the streets. The number of police working on the ground on an average day in France is around 20,000.

Law enforcement will show “zero tolerance” to those violating the restrictions aimed to stem the spread of the coronavirus, Minister Delegate in charge of Citizenship Marlene Schiappa warned. An infringement of the curfew is punishable with a fine of 135 euro.

Police have been assigned with a triple mission for the night: enforce the curfew, track down illegal parties, and tackle urban violence – traditionally on the rise on New Year's Eve.

The gendarmes “won't go in to check if there are six of you at the table,” Schiappa clarified. The authorities are only concerned with large parties that bring together dozens of people and could lead to spikes in Covid infections.

The officers have been asked to not only be strict with those attending such gatherings, but also to do everything possible to identify party organizers.

The coronavirus outbreak remains a difficult situation in France, as the authorities face criticism over the vaccination campaign being too sluggish.

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Christmas holiday lights in Paris © Reuters / Gonzalo Fuentes
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On Thursday, the country reported 19,927 Covid-19 infections, which is still a far cry from the target of 5,000 new cases per day set by the government under their containment strategy.

France has recorded 2.6 million coronavirus cases – the fifth-highest number in the world – and over 64,600 deaths since the start of the pandemic.

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China says it’s ‘ready to respond to all threats’ after US sends 2 warships through Taiwan Strait

Posted by RT on December 31, 2020  |   Comments Off on China says it’s ‘ready to respond to all threats’ after US sends 2 warships through Taiwan Strait

Beijing has slammed Washington after two guided-missile destroyers sailed across the Taiwan Strait on Thursday, the thirteenth such mission through the contested waterway this year, adding to already fraught US-China relations.

The USS John S. McCain and USS Curtis Wilbur conducted a “routine Taiwan Strait transit” on December 31, the US Navy said in a statement, claiming the exercise complied with international law.

But the drill was met with fury from Beijing, with Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Wang Wenbin saying during a regular news briefing: “US warships have repeatedly flaunted their prowess in the Taiwan Strait, provoked and stirred up trouble.”

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EU-China leaders' meeting via video conference © Pool Photo via AP / Johanna Geron
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He accused the US of “sending the wrong signals” to Taiwan independence forces and “seriously jeopardizing peace,” adding that China would remain on high alert, “ready to respond to all threats and provocations.”

His words come after Beijing condemned US laws in support of Tibet and Taiwan on Monday, as well as the US Embassy's call for the release of 12 Hong Kong activists, who were detained by the Chinese authorities as they tried to escape to Taiwan.

Less than two weeks ago, Beijing sent its Shandong aircraft carrier through the Taiwan Strait, escorted by six warships and eight aircraft, in an apparent response to movements by US Navy destroyer the USS Mustin, which had sailed through the waterway a day earlier.

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Anti-government protesters hold US flags during rally at the University of Hong Kong, China, September 2019. © Jorge Silva / Reuters
US must stop using Hong Kong, Taiwan & Tibet to meddle in China’s domestic affairs — Beijing

The US previously drew the ire of China by selling fighter jets and anti-ship missiles to island nation Taiwan, which Beijing views as Chinese territory that will one day rejoin the mainland.

Taiwan is among a number of flashpoints which have seen tensions ramped up between the US and China under the Trump administration, while the two nations have also sparred over trade issues, accusations of human rights abuse, and the Covid-19 pandemic.

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Canadian minister resigns after lying about lockdown-defying Caribbean vacation

Posted by RT on December 31, 2020  |   Comments Off on Canadian minister resigns after lying about lockdown-defying Caribbean vacation

Ontario’s Finance Minister Rod Phillips has resigned after he was caught taking a midwinter vacation in the Caribbean while his province was under lockdown. During the trip, Phillips hid the truth with fake social media posts.

Phillips resigned on Thursday, a day after Ontario Premier Doug Ford admitted to reporters that he knew the finance minister had been on the island of St. Barts for the last two weeks but had not demanded his return.

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FILE PHOTO:  A scenic view shows a beach at Anse de Corossol, on the west coast of the Caribbean island of Saint Barthelemy, also known as St. Barts.
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"At a time when the people of Ontario have sacrificed so much, today’s resignation is a demonstration that our government takes seriously our obligation to hold ourselves to a higher standard," Ford said on Thursday, announcing Phillips was stepping down.

Phillips returned to Canada on Thursday with his tail between his legs. “It was a significant error in judgment – a dumb, dumb mistake, I apologize for it, I regret it,” he told CP24 after landing in Ontario.

Canada’s countrywide coronavirus rules prohibit non-essential travel. Furthermore, Ontario went into a “hard lockdown” on December 14, a day after Phillips departed for St. Barts.

While there, Phillips made a series of Twitter posts that suggested he was still in Ontario. The vacationing minister shared photos of himself meeting with business owners, and a Christmas Eve video message in which he lamented the fact that Canadians couldn’t gather with their loved ones during the holidays.

During a video conference call on December 16, the finance minister even used a virtual backdrop of Ontario’s legislative building while he spoke. Keen observers noted that crashing waves could be heard in the background.

Throughout the coronavirus pandemic, government officials across the world have drawn scorn and ridicule for breaking their own lockdown rules. British virus adviser Neil Ferguson, Downing Street aide Dominic Cummings, California Governor Gavin Newsom, and US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi were all among those caught red-handed breaking their own rules this year.

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Doctors express ‘real & grave concerns’ over UK govt plan to delay 2nd Covid-19 vaccine doses amid infection spike

Posted by RT on December 31, 2020  |   Comments Off on Doctors express ‘real & grave concerns’ over UK govt plan to delay 2nd Covid-19 vaccine doses amid infection spike

A doctor-led lobby group has raised concerns over the UK government's radically altered Covid-19 vaccination strategy to prioritise first doses, as daily infections in the country surged to a new record high on Thursday.

In a letter to Health Secretary Matt Hancock, Doctors' Association UK accused the government of sending "mixed messages" over its new plans to make people wait 12 weeks for their second dose of the two-part Pfizer jab, so that more vulnerable people can be inoculated.

The UK reported a further 55,892 Covid-19 cases on Thursday, its highest daily total of the pandemic, surpassing the previous record of 53,135 set two days prior, and continuing the spike in infections over the last fortnight.

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Prime Minister Boris Johnson poses for a photograph with a vial of the AstraZeneca/Oxford University COVID-19 vaccine (FILE PHOTO) ©  Paul Ellis/Pool via REUTERS/File Photo
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Doctors' Association UK said it had "grave concerns" about the vaccine plans, because GPs had been given just two days to cancel appointments for second doses when they were already "stretched physically and mentally" amid the rise in infections.

In its letter, which was also addressed to the government's Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation, it said the "untested" strategy did not "follow the science" – a phrase repeatedly used by UK PM Boris Johnson to describe the government's response to the pandemic.

"Mixed messages and lack of evidence will inevitably lead to undermining the public trust in the vaccine and could negatively impact on uptake," the letter added.

On Wednesday, the UK's four chief medical officers said data seen by Britain's drug regulator showed that both the Pfizer and AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccines "offer considerable protection after a single dose, at least in the short term."

They added: "Prioritising the first doses of vaccine for as many people as possible on the priority list will protect the greatest number of at-risk people overall in the shortest possible time."

However, Doctors' Association UK said the jury was still out on whether a single dose of the Pfizer vaccine was sufficient, although Pfizer has said that initial protection against the virus is possible within 12 days of being inoculated.

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FILE PHOTO: General view inside the NHS Nightingale Hospital Birmingham, built in the National Exhibition Centre © Jacob King/Pool via REUTERS
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Citing the company's own advice, the doctors' statement said that plans to administer second doses up to 12 weeks after the first may yield a lower efficacy than the 95 percent level reported by Pfizer after its phase three trials on participants given doses just three weeks apart.

On Thursday, the UK reported a further 981 fatalities within 28 days of a positive test, the highest daily tally since April 24, taking the total death toll to 73,512.

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Fatal shooting of knife-wielding black man by police triggers mass protests in Ireland (VIDEOS)

Posted by RT on December 31, 2020  |   Comments Off on Fatal shooting of knife-wielding black man by police triggers mass protests in Ireland (VIDEOS)

Ireland has faced a wave of BLM-styled mass protests after a knife-wielding black man was shot dead by the country’s police (gardai) after all the less lethal attempts to subdue him failed.

Dozens of protesters gathered outside a garda station in Dublin’s northwestern suburb of Blanchardstown on Thursday, condemning the killing. The deceased, a 27-year-old black man identified as George Nkencho, was shot and killed by the police on Wednesday in the nearby village of Clonee.

The protesters carried banners reading ‘Justice for George Nkencho’ and ‘George was not a thug’, while chanting such slogans as ‘How many people Garda must kill?’

While the rally’s organizers maintained the gathering was peaceful and orderly, some of the protesters attempted to block roads in the area and disrupted traffic. Some protesters bluntly accused gardai of targeting Nkencho simply for being black.

“He was not a thug. Thugs work in groups. He was a single man,” a protester told the Independent, claiming the deceased was “mentally ill.”

Sporadic protests were also observed overnight, with dozens of angry black individuals arriving at the scene of the shooting incident. Some of them were shooting fireworks around the neighborhood, footage circulating online shows.

The ongoing unrest was triggered by the police shooting that occurred on Wednesday afternoon. According to gardai, it received reports of an aggressive knife-wielding man attacking members of the public at Hartstown Shopping Center. Nkencho inflicted “facial injuries” to a shop employee – who has been hospitalized – and was confronted by an unarmed police officer first.

The suspect, however, refused to comply and fled on foot before ultimately getting cornered. Nkencho, however, threatened the police with his knife and armed support was called in.

“The Armed Support Unit were also threatened with a knife and implemented a graduated response where the use of less-lethal force options (taser and OC spray) was initially administered in an effort to resolve the incident. The less-lethal use of force options were unsuccessful,” gardai said in a statement.

A short video circulating online shows the moment the suspect was shot. The man appears to be swinging his arm at a police officer, who manages to dodge the attack. Nkencho reportedly received at least three gunshot wounds and attempts to revive him were unsuccessful.

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Mr. Nkencho's sister Gloria said in a statement that her brother was “suffering from serious mental illness and those who knew him know the type of person he was, he was not a thug nor a criminal.” She added: “My siblings and I have witnessed the most traumatic experience of our lives as our brother was shot in front of us.”

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Rocky start: 2021 will begin with unwelcome, 220-meter wide asteroid visitor, NASA warns

Posted by RT on December 31, 2020  |   Comments Off on Rocky start: 2021 will begin with unwelcome, 220-meter wide asteroid visitor, NASA warns

As nations across the globe say ‘good riddance’ to 2020, NASA has warned that a monstrous 220-meter asteroid is headed Earth’s way early in the new year.

Before that, this year’s final asteroid, 2020 YB4, measuring just 36 meters in diameter or roughly half the wingspan of a 747, passed by the Earth shortly after 6am UTC at a distance of 6.1 million kilometers. That means, in terms of the threat posed by space rocks at least, the planet made it out of 2020 somewhat intact. 

However, in the first days of January, three additional, small Near Earth Objects (NEOs) will grace the Earth with their presence, for a brief time. 

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Just two days into 2021, the 15-meter asteroid 2019 YB4 will fly by at a safe distance of 6.4 million kilometers. The very next day, it will be followed up by two more chunks of cosmic debris in the form of the 15-meter 2020 YA1 and the 21-meter 2020 YP4, which will pass by at 1.5 and 2.1 million kilometers respectively. 

But the biggie will come on January 3, as the relatively mountainous 2003 AF23, measuring an impressive 220m in diameter or about as wide as the Golden Gate Bridge is tall, will shoot past at 6.9 million kilometers.  

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Israeli police commander indicted for assault on youngster during ultra-Orthodox protest against Covid restrictions

Posted by RT on December 31, 2020  |   Comments Off on Israeli police commander indicted for assault on youngster during ultra-Orthodox protest against Covid restrictions

The commander of a Jerusalem police station has been charged with assault after video emerged of him slapping a 12-year-old boy and harshly shoving a man during a protest by ultra-Orthodox Jews in early October.

The chief of Lev Habira police station, Shimon Marciano, was in charge of providing security at an October 4 rally in Jerusalem, which saw religious hardliners protesting against coronavirus restrictions.

Videos uploaded on social media after the demonstration, which became violent and saw ultra-Orthodox protestors setting fires and throwing stones at police, captured Marciano grabbing a 12-year-old boy, throwing him to the ground and slapping him. The boy was heard crying “I didn’t do anything” in the clip.

The commander then noticed that another protestor had been filming him. He raced after the man and shoved him in the back, with the demonstrator almost hitting a wall with his head as he fell to the ground.

Following a public outcry, the Justice Ministry’s Police Internal Investigations Department (PIID) launched a probe into Marciano’s actions during the protest and charged him with two counts of assault. The indictment said that his attack on the young boy was “without any reason or justification.”

The use of force against Palestinian demonstrators by Israeli security and law enforcement has been a common sight for years, but more recently various protesting elements of the Jewish population have also been subjected to harsh treatment. A number of videos depicting police brutality have been uploaded online after protests — be it by ultra-Orthodox believers, opponents of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, or Israelis angry with worsening Covid-19 restrictions.

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Marciano isn’t the first high-ranking Israeli officer indicted with assault in recent months. In November, Jerusalem chief superintendent, Niso Guetta, faced similar charges for tackling two anti-Netanyahu demonstrators.

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Paris police chief faces backlash for including Trotsky quote in New Year greetings card

Posted by RT on December 31, 2020  |   Comments Off on Paris police chief faces backlash for including Trotsky quote in New Year greetings card

Paris police chief, Didier Lallement, has caused a stir after quoting Marxist revolutionary Leon Trotsky in his official New Year greetings cards, sent out to hundreds of elected officials and institutions across the region.

After a tough 2020 and apparently seeking to inspire some camaraderie heading into the new year, Lallement drew on a passage from the founder of the Bolshevik Red Army in which Trotsky attempted to rally his “comrades” against the Russian bourgeoisie.

The French police chief selected a couple of lines from Volume One of Trotsky’s ‘Military Writings’, dated April 21, 1918 - months before the infamous ‘Red Terror’, the Bolshevik-led campaign of violence and executions in Russia.

“I am deeply convinced that we will create the necessary order by joint efforts, no matter how the black crows croak,” the quote reads.

“Just know and remember firmly that outside of this - collapse and destruction are inevitable.”

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FILE PHOTO: Didier Lallement attends a ceremony at the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, November 11, 2019 © Reuters / Ludovic Marin
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However, far from being a rousing message for 2021, Lallement’s quoting of Trotsky was questioned by French politicians of all shades, including right-wing Marine Le Pen who said the police chief had a “strange conception” of France’s Republican values.

“Should we see the source of his complacency towards the thugs of the extreme left?” the National Rally leader asked in a tweet on Thursday.

Socialist Party lawmaker Remi Feraud also chimed in to share his bafflement at the quote: “What drift ... Where have the republican principles that should found the authority of the State gone?”

Meanwhile, National Rally MEP Jean-Lin Lacapelle was stronger in his condemnation of quoting Trotsky in the cards.

“Let us recall that this sinister individual was a fervent supporter of the Red Terror, a repressive policy of mass arrests and executions, which killed at least 140,000 people,” he said.

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Lallement, who took office in March 2019, is something of a controversial figure among France’s political establishment and public, with as many as 40 percent of French people wanting him gone, according to a recent YouGov-HuffingtonPost poll.

His new year message contrasts to his call just a month ago for French police to hold “the republican line to the end” against those protesting controversial new security legislation, which included banning people from taking pictures identifying on-duty officers.

The government later pledged to remove that element of the bill.

In 2019, Lallement was captured by TV cameras telling a member of the French ‘gilets jaunes’ protest movement that “we are not in the same camp,” an incident that further marred his image as police chief for many members of the public.

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