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Donald Trump confirms he will not attend inauguration of Joe Biden



President Donald Trump has said he will not attend his successor Joe Biden’s inauguration on January 20 as political rivals sought to oust the incumbent president before the scheduled transition.

Mr Trump tweeted to confirm he would not be present at the Capitol when Mr Biden takes the oath of office just hours after he made a video statement finally acknowledging that Mr Biden had won the race to the White House.

Traditionally the outgoing president and president-elect travel together to the ceremony at the Capitol from the White House.

In the earlier video statement, Mr Trump committed to a “seamless transition of power” as he conceded the race and condemned supporters who rioted at the US Capitol.

Mr Trump spoke out against the violence seen in Washington DC on Wednesday, calling it a “heinous attack” that left him “outraged by the violence, lawlessness and mayhem”.

He also said now that Congress has certified the results, the “new administration will be inaugurated on January 20” and his “focus now turns to ensuring a smooth, orderly and seamless transition of power”.

Mr Trump did not address his role in inciting the violence in his video.

Five people died as a result of the disorder at the Capitol, including a police officer who had been struck by a fire extinguisher.

Usually the outgoing president and president-elect travel to the Capitol together (Evan Vucci/AP)

But he did tell his supporters that, while he knows they are “disappointed”, he wanted them to know “our incredible journey is only just beginning”.

House Democrats announced they would impeach the president if outgoing Vice-President Mike Pence fails to work with the Cabinet to invoke the 25th Amendment, which would remove Mr Trump from office.

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Indonesia sends seized Iran tanker to Batam for investigation



Indonesia sends seized Iran tanker to Batam for investigation

The two supertankers, with crew members from Iran and China, were seized last Sunday (Jan 24) in Indonesian waters near Kalimantan island. 

The MT Horse, owned by the National Iranian Tanker Company and MT Freya, managed by Shanghai Future Ship Management Co, had a total of 61 crew members on board.

“The ships will arrive in Batam at around 3pm to 4pm later today,” Wisnu Pramandita, spokesman of the Indonesian coast guard, told Reuters.

Wisnu said some of the crew remained in the supertankers, but others were being detained on coast guard ships for questioning while the investigation was underway.

Wisnu told Reuters on Monday that the ships were “caught red-handed” transferring oil from MT Horse to MT Freya and that there was an oil spill around the receiving tanker.

Iran said on Monday that MT Horse was seized over a “technical issue” and had asked Indonesia to explain the seizure.


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AstraZeneca offers to bring forward some Covid vaccine deliveries to EU



AstraZeneca has offered to bring forward some deliveries of its Covid-19 vaccine to the European Union while the bloc has asked the British drugmaker if it can divert doses from the UK to make up for a shortfall in supplies, European officials told Reuters.

The Anglo-Swedish company unexpectedly announced on Friday it would cut supplies to the EU of its vaccine candidate in the first quarter of this year, a move that a senior EU official said meant a 60 per cent reduction to 31 million doses for the bloc.

That complicated the EU’s vaccination plans, after Pfizer had also announced a temporary slowdown in deliveries of its vaccine, and triggered an outcry in Brussels and EU capitals.

Two European officials said on Tuesday that AstraZeneca at two extraordinary meetings on Monday had offered the EU to bring forward to February 7th the start of deliveries from an initial plan to begin on February 15th.

One of the sources, briefed on talks, said that AstraZeneca had also revised upward its supply goals for February compared to the cuts announced last week, but the company offered no clarity on supplies for March.

This appears to be an overture by AstraZeneca to try and keep the peace with the EU as the row over its sudden cut to deliveries escalates, damaging trust between Brussels and the drugmaker before the shot has been approved in the region.

The second EU official, directly involved in the talks, said however there was no offer to increase supplies.

AstraZeneca has quarterly supply targets. Therefore an increase in February, if not followed by a rise in March, may not constitute an overall increase in the quarter.

The head of Lithuania’s drugs watchdog Gytis Andrulionis told Reuters AstraZeneca on Monday increased its planned supplies for February for Lithuania and other EU countries compared to Fridays cuts, but noted that was still not enough to comply with the EU contract.

AstraZeneca was not immediately available for comment.

Inadequate answers

After Monday’s meetings, EU health commissioner Stella Kyriakides said AstraZeneca had not offered adequate answers to questions posed by the EU.

The EU official involved in the talks also said that the EU had explicitly asked AstraZeneca whether it could divert to the 27-nation bloc doses produced in Britain, at least through March.

Covid vaccine

EU to monitor vaccine exports, but says it is not…

But the company did not answer these questions, the official said.

AstraZeneca has said the revised timetable was caused by production issues in Europe. One EU senior official told Reuters last week that the problem was at a vaccine factory in Belgium run by AstraZeneca’s partner Novasep.

A spokesman for the EU Commission declined to comment on details of the talks with AstraZeneca, but added that the EU wanted “a precise delivery schedule”.

On December 30th Britain granted emergency approval to the shot developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford University. A decision on authorisation in the EU is expected on Friday.

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Asia & Americas

Hillary Clinton to produce pro-Kurd militia TV drama



Former US Secretary of State and presidential candidate Hillary Clinton is producing a television drama in support of the Kurdish militias in Syria. Clinton is being joined in the project by her daughter Chelsea.

According to Hollywood Reporter magazine, the Clintons will be producing the drama in partnership with HiddenLight Productions. It will be based on the book The Daughters of Kobani: A Story of Rebellion, Courage, and Justice by the American author and journalist Gayle Tzemach Lemmon.

In the book, which is being published next month, Lemmon recounts the stories of women in the Kurdish militias in north-east Syria who fought against the terror group Daesh after its emergence in 2014. “The Daughters of Kobani… is an extraordinary account of brave, defiant women fighting for justice and equality,” Clinton told the magazine.

The Kurdish militias in Syria such as the Peoples’ Protection Units (YPG) and the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) enjoy popularity in the West, particularly for their use of women soldiers and their veneer of democratic principles. That is the image that has gained them much Western sympathy over the years, and American support militarily in the fight against Daesh and as a possible counterweight to Turkish forces in the region.

READ: Assessing the threat that Syria’s Kurds pose to Turkey and the US

European governments also more or less see them as partners for cooperation in Syria, and regard their administration in the country’s north-east as legitimate. A stain on the Kurdish militias’ aims for international legitimacy, however, has been their poor human rights record that remains largely overlooked.

The Kurdish groups’ human rights violations include the forced recruitment of child soldiers, abductions, torture, the crackdown on freedom of speech and the persecution of elements of the Arab population within the areas under their control. This month, the YPG was also reported to have fired on Syrian children as the group was attempting to forcefully recruit them.

There is also concern over the YPG’s connections to the internationally-designated terror group the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). The YPG is said to be the Syrian branch of the PKK.

That connection has led to action being taken against former foreign fighters with the YPG, even by the US and Europe. US intelligence, for example, arrested former YPG militant Daniel Baker earlier this month for allegedly attempting to commit a terror attack and armed conflict against pro-Trump supporters at the Capitol Building. The British authorities also arrested a fighter from the militia in 2018.

READ: Ex-US general criticises America’s support for YPG Kurds

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