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Russia expels longtime US diplomat

Russia asked the US diplomatic staff in Moscow to leave for more than three years before January 31, 2022, in response to Washington’s move.

“US embassy staff who have been in Moscow for more than three years must leave Russia before January 31, 2022,” Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said yesterday.

This is Russia’s latest move in diplomatic tension with the US. The Russian Embassy last week said that 27 Russian diplomats and their families were expelled from the US and must leave before January 30, 2022. Zakharova said Washington’s new rule means that Russian diplomats are barred from staying in the US for more than three years.

“We want to respond in the same way,” Zakharova said, adding that more US personnel would have to leave Russia unless Washington scrapped the three-year rule and compromised by July 1 next year.

The US Embassy in Moscow has not commented on this information.

The US Embassy in Moscow, Russia in August 2017. Photo: Reuters.

The US embassy is Washington’s last representation in Russia after the closures of consulates in Vladivostok and Yekaterinburg, reducing the number of US diplomatic staff in the country from 1,200 in early 2017 to 120.

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said it was not too late for Washington to get Moscow to stop new expulsions if the US abandoned its plan to expel Russian diplomats.

Relations between Washington and Moscow, at their lowest point since the Cold War, are continuing to be strained over Ukraine.

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EU outlines a $340 billion plan to counterbalance China

The EU announced a plan to mobilize $ 340 billion in infrastructure investments around the world, to counter China’s Belt and Road project.

“Global Gateway will aim to mobilize investments of up to 300 billion euros ($340 billion) in the period 2021-2027, bringing together the resources of the EU, member countries, European financial institutions and other countries. national financial institutions,” the document from the European Commission on December 1 shows.

In the plan, the EU did not mention China’s Belt and Road project, but European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen emphasized that Global Gateway is “a road map for major investment in infrastructure development. worldwide”, implying that this is a project to counter China’s initiative.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen in Brussels, Belgium, in July 2019. Photo: Reuters.

The money for the Global Gateway does not come from the treasury of the EU and member countries. The plan needs funding from international organizations and the private sector to achieve its goals.

In addition to raising capital, the EU intends to share European technology and expertise with developing economies. “I want Global Gateway to be a trusted brand that stands out, thanks to its high quality, transparency and good governance,” said Von der Leyen.

China in 2013 launched a global investment strategy called Belt and Road, the flagship project of President Xi Jinping. Beijing says it has invested $139.8 billion in 2020, including $22.5 billion last year alone.

China says the project is aimed at developing land and sea infrastructure to better connect the country with Asia, Europe and Africa for trade and development. The project has found partners around the world, but the West sees the Belt and Road as a tool for China to influence poorer countries.

The EU strategy is part of the G7 countries’ plan to provide developing countries with a Belt and Road alternative, presented at a summit in Cornwall in June.

EU Commissioner for International Partnerships Jutta Urpilainen said Europe’s development aid from 2013 to 2018 was “very close” to the level of Belt and Road funding.

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WHO does not know the severity of the strain Omicron

The WHO said on November 28 that it was not clear whether the new strain of Omicron was more likely to spread or make the disease more severe than other strains.

“Preliminary data suggest an increasing rate of hospitalization in South Africa, but this may be due to an increasing total number of infected people, and not to a specific strain of Omicron,” a statement from the Foundation said. The World Health Organization (WHO) has paragraphs.

However, WHO reiterates that there is evidence that there is a higher risk of reinfection from this variant.

Medical staff take samples for testing at the Covid-19 rapid test center in Furstenfeldbruck, Germany, on November 27. Photo: Reuters.

WHO says it is working with experts to understand the potential impact of the Omicron strain on current responses to Covid-19, including vaccines.

“Currently, there is no information to show that the symptoms associated with Omicron are different from those in other strains,” the WHO said. “The initial reported infections were among those from the university, but understanding the severity of the Omicron variant takes days to weeks.”

The PCR test can detect the Omicron strain, and studies are ongoing to determine whether rapid antigen tests are affected, WHO notes.

The Omicron mutation, which first appeared in South Africa, is causing global concern. A series of countries have applied measures to tighten entry and exit and isolate and test people returning from Africa.

From November 29, the US and the European Union (EU) began to ban flights from South Africa and surrounding areas. Four Southeast Asian countries including Malaysia, Thailand, the Philippines and Singapore have tightened travel with southern African countries, requiring quarantine of people entering the country in the past few days.

The UK also banned entry for people from South Africa and five neighboring countries. Similar moves have been made in Australia, Japan, India, Iran, Brazil and Canada.

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China placates the Philippines after the interception of the supply ship

Ambassador Hoang Hoat Lien said that disagreement was “normal” and called the Philippines “friends” after the Chinese coast guard blocked the country’s supply ship.

“China and the Philippines are close neighbors. We have thousands of reasons for peaceful coexistence and win-win cooperation. It’s normal for friends and close neighbors to have disagreements.” Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Hoang Hoat Lien posted on Facebook on November 26.

“What’s important is how we handle and manage those differences in the spirit of finding common ground and setting aside disagreements,” Huang said, adding that the “giant ship of China-Philippines friendship” will firmly move towards a brighter future” if the two countries adhere to the principle of mutual respect.

The statement was made by Ambassador Hoang after the incident on November 16 by three Chinese coast guard ships blocking the way of two Philippine supply ships that were on their way to supply troops illegally stationed at Second Thomas Shoal, in the Spratly archipelago. of Vietnam.

Philippine National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon later posted a video showing the Chinese coast guard ship shining high-powered headlights and spraying water cannons at the Philippine supply ship, forcing it to abort its mission and return.

The wreck of the BRP Sierra Madre battleship on Second Thomas Shoal in the Spratly Islands of Vietnam in May 2015. Photo: Reuters.

The train blocking caused tensions between the Philippines and China to escalate. Philippine Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin protested the behavior of China’s coast guard, claiming that the country’s supply ships were protected under a mutual defense treaty with the United States.

Philippine Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana on November 22 expressed his objection to Ambassador Hoang Hoat Lien and ordered two supply ships to return to Second Thomas Shoal to resupply soldiers on the Sierra Madre wreck. The resupply operation took place on the same day without being obstructed by the Chinese coast guard.

However, a day later, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian demanded that the Philippines “respect its commitment” to the country and recover the wreck of the BRP Sierra Madre warship that ran aground on Second Thomas Shoal.

Minister Lorenzana yesterday stated that China’s request to withdraw the BRP Sierra Madre was “baseless”, as Manila had made no such commitment to Beijing. He also demanded that the Chinese coast guard withdraw from the Second Thomas Shoal area.

In 1999, the Philippine Navy bulldozed the dilapidated warship BRP Sierra Madre to Second Thomas Shoal, in the Spratly Islands of Vietnam, then deployed a small group of soldiers illegally stationed here. These soldiers depend entirely on supplies from the mainland.

Philippines releases video of China's coast guard spraying water cannons on supply ships

A Chinese coast guard ship sprayed a water cannon and shone its headlights on the Philippine ship on November 16. Video: Philippine National Security Council.

The Philippine Department of Defense said that China often maintains a coast guard ship near Second Thomas Shoal to monitor the activities of Philippine fishing boats, as well as monitor the resupply mission for the BRP Sierra Madre.

The Philippines has not commented on Ambassador Hoang’s latest statement.

Spokesperson of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Le Thi Thu Hang at a press conference on November 18 reaffirmed Vietnam’s clear and consistent stance on sovereignty over the Hoang Sa and Truong Sa archipelagoes as well as on the East Sea issue. asked to comment on the incident.

“Vietnam asks the parties to abide by international law and the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) in all activities in the East Sea, not to take actions to complicate the situation, contributing to maintaining peace and harmony. peace, security, stability and legal order at sea in the region,” Hang stated.

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Invite people to post vaccines to see the consequences of Covid-19

RussiaTop doctors have written to invite celebrities and anti-vaccination politicians to visit the hospital to see the consequences of Covid-19.

“We’re all busy and you probably know that. But because so many people read and listen to you, we’ll take the time to get you to the red zone, the intensive care unit. speciality and pathology department of our hospital,” Tass today posted an open letter from 11 Russian doctors, including Denis Protsenko, who is in charge of the main Covid-19 treatment hospital in Moscow.

“Maybe later, you will change your mind and help fewer people die,” read the letter to more than a dozen singers, actors, presenters and politicians.

Medical staff transfer Covid-19 patients hospitalized on the outskirts of Moscow, Russia in July. Photo: Reuters.

One of the guests was popular host Oskar Kuchera, who is skeptical of the vaccine’s safety and has nearly 300,000 followers on Instagram.

“We live in an era where the opinion of an expert in any field can easily be overshadowed by the voice of a celebrity,” Dr. Protsenko wrote on his personal Telegram page, explaining why. invitations written by doctors.

The Kremlin welcomed the letter as a “positive” move for the fight against Covid-19. “Hopefully the authority of these doctors will help at least one of them change his mind,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said today.

Russia has recorded more than 9.4 million infections and more than 266,000 deaths from Covid-19 since the beginning of the epidemic. However, many fear the actual number is much higher. Russia’s state statistics agency Rosstat once estimated the death toll from the pandemic in Russia by the end of September at nearly 450,000 people.

Despite the severe outbreak of the pandemic and the call from Russian President Vladimir Putin, only 37% of the population is fully vaccinated.

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France’s Covid-19 cases increased ‘lightningly fast’

The French government says the country’s infection rate is increasing at an alarming rate, with the number of daily new cases almost doubling in the past week.

According to health officials, as of November 20, the average number of new infections in seven days in France was 17,153, up from 9,458 cases a week earlier, equivalent to an increase of 81%.

“The fifth wave of Covid-19 is spreading like lightning,” warned government spokesman Gabrial Attal today.

The increase in infections in the most recent 7 days is three times higher than the average recorded in the previous three weeks, indicating that the number of infections is increasing exponentially.

Trocadero Square near the Eiffel Tower in Paris, France, in January. Photo: Reuters.

Currently, this situation has not caused a sudden increase in the number of hospitalized patients because of Covid-19. This may be due to France’s relatively high vaccination rate, which helps prevent the disease from becoming severe.

French hospitals yesterday reported a total of 7,974 Covid-19 patients being cared for, with 1,333 in intensive care.

“The number of cases is increasing sharply, but we also know that France currently has very wide vaccine coverage,” Attal said. “We seem to be ahead of our neighbors in their efforts to deploy booster shots.”

According to him, France applied Covid-19 certification early in the summer, ahead of most other countries, and this also helped the authorities control the disease better.

Attal stressed the government will continue to stick to its choice, forcing “those who have not been vaccinated to be subject to more restrictions than those who have been vaccinated”.

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The message of Mr. Xi when calling Mr. Biden an ‘old friend’

At the beginning of the online summit on November 15, Xi called Mr. Biden an “old friend”, apparently wanting to show goodwill and create an advantage.

As soon as they saw each other appear on the screen, Chinese President Xi Jinping and US President Joe Biden waved to each other. “This is our first time meeting online, although meeting in person is better. I’m happy to see my old friend again,” Mr. Xi used the old Chinese way of calling friends when sending greetings. Mr. Biden.

In China, calling each other “old friends” shows affection for each other, and at the same time shows a certain level of familiarity and trust. When Mr. Xi called Mr. Biden by this phrase, the once-warm relationship between the two leaders seemed to be evoking.

The two first met in August 2011, when Biden was vice president of the United States and Xi was vice president of China. After meeting in Beijing, the two went to Chengdu, Sichuan province. The purpose of Mr. Biden’s three-day visit was to build ties with Mr. Xi, who was then widely tipped to be China’s next leader.

Xi Jinping (left), then vice president of China, and Joe Biden, then vice president of the United States, at an education center in South Gate City, California, USA, in February 2012 . Photo: AP.

In December 2013, after becoming China’s president, Xi referred to Biden as “an old friend” when the two met again in Beijing. Mr. Biden also mentioned his “friendship” with Mr. Xi at the event.

Wang Huiyao, president of the Beijing-based Center for China and Globalization, said Xi’s way of calling Mr Biden an “old friend” at the videoconference showed sincere goodwill. Meanwhile, Daniel Russel, a former assistant secretary of state, said that this was part of the Chinese leadership’s efforts to find an advantage at the beginning of the meeting.

“Xi intentionally called Mr. Biden ‘my old friend’, after the US President repeatedly denied that they were friends over the summer. In response, Mr. Biden smiled and emphasized that all nations All countries, including China, have to follow the same rules,” Russel said.

Shi Enhong, a professor of international relations at Renmin University of China, also said that Xi’s way of calling Mr Biden an old friend amid strained relations between the two countries was remarkable.

“When we Chinese call someone an old friend, it means we have known them for a long time. But an old friend does not necessarily mean that he is still a real friend,” said the expert. like.

Amid the current US-China diplomatic tension, Mr. Biden probably also does not want to become too friendly with Mr. Xi in the eyes of Washington’s allies and political opponents.

In June, when asked if he would be able to contact the President of China “as two old friends” in the future, to offer to facilitate an investigation into the origin of Covid-19, President Xi Jinping said. The United States has tried to emphasize this point. “We know each other well, but we’re not old friends. It’s purely a working relationship,” Biden said.

The three-and-a-half-hour summit between the leaders of the US and China produced no breakthrough. However, both still emphasize the importance of cooperation in a moderate tone. Although he did not respond to Mr. Xi’s “old friend” greeting, Mr. Biden still expressed his desire to meet face-to-face, recalling the trip together in China before the two became heads of state.

According to Xi, the US and China cannot avoid differences, but the two countries should take steps to control and avoid aggravating differences. To that end, Beijing is willing to engage in discussions and cooperation with Washington on a wide range of issues such as economic development, energy, military, education, technology or environmental protection, said Chairman. China added.

“China and the United States should respect each other, coexist peacefully, and pursue mutually beneficial cooperation. I am willing to work with the President to build consensus and move the US-China relations forward. develop in a positive direction,” said Xi.

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Duterte can fight girls in vice presidential election

President Duterte is likely to confront his daughter Sara in the race for the Philippine vice president seat next year.

A spokeswoman for Sara Duterte-Carpio on November 13 confirmed that President Rodrigo Duterte’s daughter will run for vice president in the 2022 elections.

Hours later, Martin Andana, the Philippine presidential spokesman, said Duterte would confront his daughter and submit his candidacy for vice president on November 15. Duterte, who has been in power for the past six years, has repeatedly announced his withdrawal from politics.

Ferdinand Marcos Jr, a Philippine congressman and son of former president Ferdinand Marcos, said his party would admit Sara and he supported her as his deputy. However, Sara has not yet accepted the offer from Marcos. Duterte and Marcos are considered two of the most influential political families in the Philippines.

The Philippines stipulates that the president is in office for one term, and the vice president for two terms. Voters vote separately for the president and vice president, so the two offices can be held by members of opposition parties.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte (front row, left) and his daughter Sara Duterte-Carpio (blue dress) attend an event in Tokyo, Japan October 2019. Photo: Reuters.

Experts initially said that Sara was expected to run for the presidency of the Philippines, while Duterte was expected to run with his former aide, Bong Go. Experts say Sara or Bong Go when elected president of the Philippines can protect Duterte from the risk of being investigated by the International Criminal Court for his war on drug crimes.

With the announcement of running for vice president, Sara is likely to cooperate with Marcos. “That’s the politics of the Philippines,” Marcos said at the time. “Anything can happen, even at the last minute.”

The news that Sara could accompany Marcos in the 2022 election caused many to criticize because of the legacy left by their father. Former President Ferdinand Marcos was accused of corruption and human rights abuses, while Duterte waged a bloody war on drugs that left thousands of people shot dead without trial.

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US says it will ‘take action’ if Taiwan is attacked

Foreign Minister Blinken said that the US and its allies would “take action” if China used force to change the status quo on Taiwan, but did not give details.

“There are many countries inside and outside the region that consider any unilateral action to use force to disrupt the status quo as a serious threat to peace and security,” Foreign Minister Antony Blinken said yesterday when asked if the United States could participate in defending Taiwan if the island is attacked by mainland China or not.

“They, like the US, will take action if that happens,” he added, without specifying what action the country and its allies would take in a scenario where China attacks Taiwan.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken at a meeting at the headquarters of the US State Department on November 8. Photo: Reuters.

Blinken’s remarks come ahead of an online summit between US President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping, which is expected to take place next week. This will be the first meeting between US and Chinese leaders since Biden took office.

US President Donald Trump caused a stir last month when he announced that he was ready to help Taiwan defend itself if mainland Chinese troops attacked the island. This goes against the long-standing US policy of “strategic ambiguity”, in which Washington helps build Taiwan’s self-defence capacity, but does not promise to support the island’s defenses, in order to avoid angering North Korea. Terrible.

China has always considered Taiwan as a province awaiting reunification and vowed to use force if necessary. Recently, the Chinese military has continuously increased military pressure on Taiwan by traditional and non-traditional means. In addition to flights close to the island with a record high number of aircraft, the Chinese military also conducted many landing drills in the area near Taiwan.

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Jeff Bezos takes a private plane to the climate conference

Billionaires like Jeff Bezos and many businessmen are controversial when using more than 400 private jets to attend the COP26 conference on climate change.

Aviation sources said on November 2 that more than 400 private jets will bring about 1,000 VIP guests and accompanying staff to the United Nations COP26 climate summit, to be held in Glasgow, Scotland. England on October 31-12.

British media reported that Jeff Bezos, the chairman of the American corporation Amazon, also used a private jet worth $ 65 million to go to Glasgow to attend COP26. Many of the world’s top CEOs also participated in the conference.

US President Joe Biden and the leaders of Canada, France, Germany, India, Israel and Japan traveled to Scotland to attend COP26 on a plane. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson also plans to return to London after attending the conference in Glasgow on a plane using renewable fuel.

Johnson’s spokesman said the Prime Minister used a private jet because he had to travel around the country in a short time and a busy schedule.

Billionaire Jeff Bezos at the COP26 summit in Glasgow, Scotland, UK on November 1. Photo: AFP.

The International Council on Clean Transport says commercial aviation accounts for about 2% of global carbon emissions, but this figure will triple by 2050.

The use of private jets by billionaires and CEOs to attend COP26 has caused controversy in public opinion about their climate impact. The campaign group Transport and Environment in Europe says private jets cause 5-14 times more pollution than regular passenger planes and 50 times more than trains.

“There are no words to describe how bad a private jet is for the environment. It’s the worst way to travel,” said Matt Finch, UK policy director of the Transport and Environment Advocacy Group. Europe, said.

“Private jets can give the impression of high status,” says Finch, but thinks using them to attend climate change conferences is inappropriate.

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