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POLITICS

Ten former Pentagon chiefs warn Donald Trump against involving military in pursuing election fraud claims. All 10 living former Secretaries of Defence, who are a mixture of Republicans and Democrats, have cautioned against any move to involve the military in pursuing claims of election fraud. Signatories include Cheney and Rumsfeld as well as two ex- Secretaries of Defence appointed by Trump.

Indian state bans Islamic schools, drawing criticism. Assam, an Indian state ruled by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist party passed a law abolishing all Islamic schools, saying they provided sub-standard education.

UK parliament approves Brexit trade deal with EU as both sides look to future. The deal is inclusive of trade which covers about 20% of the UK economy but doesn’t cover services, including finance. London is Europe’s leading financial centre and it is unclear how the divorce will affect its position.

Thousands march against Nepal PM’s dissolution of parliament. Thousands of opponents of Nepal’s Prime Minister K.P. Sharma Oli marched through the streets of Kathmandu urging him to reverse his decision to dissolve parliament and call for early elections.

Turkish-Russian ties not an alternative to NATO or EU – says Turkish minister. Turkey’s relations with Russia are not an alternative to its ties with NATO and the European Union, Turkish Foreign Minister told a joint news conference with his Russian counterpart in Russia.

DEVELOPMENT

Japan developing wooden satellites to reduce space junk. A Japanese company and Kyoto University have joined forces to develop what they hope will be the world’s first satellites made out of wood by 2023. Research firm Euroconsult estimates that 990 satellites will be launched, on average, every year this decade.

COVID-19 is here to stay. World Health Organization experts have warned that even though the coronavirus pandemic has been very severe, it is “not necessarily the big one”, and that the world will have to learn to live with Covid-19.

Iran tells IAEA it plans to enrich uranium up to 20% at Fordow site. Iran has told the UN nuclear watchdog it plans to enrich uranium to 20% purity, a level it achieved before its 2015 accord, at its Fordow site buried inside a mountain.

Canary Islands sees more than eight-fold increase in migrants in 2020. As north and sub-Saharan Africans grew desperate after losing incomes from tourism and other industries because of the COVID-19 pandemic, 23,023 migrants arrived in the archipelago last year, up from 2,687 in 2019.

SOCIAL

Joe Biden says it will take years to vaccinate the US against COVID-19 at the current rate. “Even if we boost the speed of vaccinations to 1 million shots a day, it will still take months to have the majority of the United States’ population vaccinated,” he said. The vaccination takes two shots.

UK extradition decision on mental health grounds a victory for Assange, not press freedom, lawyers and campaigners say.  A British judge’s decision not to extradite Julian Assange to the US was based purely on mental health grounds. 

Virus found to be 3 times deadlier than flu. This is according to coverage of some of the latest scientific studies on the novel coronavirus and efforts to find treatments and vaccines for COVID-19, the illness caused by the virus.

Microplastics found in the placentas of unborn babies. The health impact of microplastics in the body is as yet unknown. But scientists said they could carry chemicals that could cause long-term damage or upset the foetus’s developing immune system. The particles are likely to have been consumed or breathed in by the mothers.

CONFLICT

Afghan troops, police abandon nearly 200 checkpoints to Taliban. Afghan security personnel have abandoned nearly 200 checkpoints in restive Kandahar province in recent weeks. In some cases, they left behind their weapons which were seized by the Taliban.

Violence closed 800 polling stations in the Central African Republic. More than 14% of polling stations failed to operate during the recent presidential and legislative election due to armed rebels who attacked voters and barred electoral staff, the electoral commission said. 

Breakthrough reached in Gulf dispute with Qatar. A breakthrough was reached in Qatar’s three-year-old dispute with Saudi Arabia and three other Arab countries, with an agreement to end their rift to be signed.

Iranian authorities seized a South Korean-flagged tanker in Gulf waters and detained its crew for chemical spill. Seoul confirmed the seizure of a South Korean chemical tanker by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps in the waters off Oman, and demanded its immediate release.

ECONOMICS

African free trade bloc opens for business. The African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) aims to bring together 1.3 billion people in a $3.4 trillion economic bloc that will be the largest free trade area since the establishment of the World Trade Organization. The World Bank estimates it could lift tens of millions out of poverty by 2035.

China and EU poised to sign long-delayed investment deal. The investment talks have centred on opening up Chinese markets for European investment and changing forced labour practises.

Africa’s debt and fragile economies likely to cause pain in 2021. Africa’s debt has doubled in the last decade with many countries likely to default. Along with subdued commodity prices, many African nations may experience political and civil unrest in 2021.

Turkey, Iran and Pakistan join China’s belt and road initiative. The governments of Turkey, Iran and Pakistan will revive a transnational rail service linking Istanbul, Tehran and Islamabad in 2021.

OPEC sees oil outlook for first half of 2021 full of downside risks. OPEC sees plenty of downside risks for oil markets in the first half of 2021, its secretary general said, before meeting allies led by Russia to discuss output levels for February.