Following is a summary of current world news briefs.
After a harrowing 2020, Asia tiptoes into the New Year
As Asia says goodbye to 2020 – a tumultuous year that saw the planet roiled by a deadly pandemic – celebrations will be smaller, shorter and more muted amid fears of coronavirus flare-ups. In Beijing, the capital of the world’s most-populous country, an annual New Year light show at the China Central Television Tower scheduled for Thursday through Sunday has been called off.
Hong Kong’s top court puts media tycoon Jimmy Lai back in custody
Hong Kong’s top court ordered media tycoon Jimmy Lai, the most high-profile person to be charged under the city’s national security law, back into custody on Thursday, saying a judge may have erred in a decision to release him on bail. The Court of Final Appeal’s ruling comes a week after Lai, one of Hong Kong’s most prominent democracy activists who is accused of colluding with foreign forces, was released on HK$10 million ($1.3 million) bail along with extensive restrictions that included barring him from using social media.
Saudi-led coalition strikes at Yemen capital after attacks on Aden blamed on Houthis
Saudi-led coalition warplanes struck targets in Yemen’s Houthi-held capital Sanaa on Thursday in retaliation for attacks in the southern port city of Aden the previous day that took place as officials in a government backed by Riyadh arrived there. The coalition accused the Houthi movement, which it has been fighting for six years, of staging the attack on Aden’s airport and a second one on the presidential palace.
Iran’s Zarif says U.S. plotting to fabricate war pretext – Twitter
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif accused the United States on Thursday of trying to fabricate a pretext for attacking Iran, and vowed Tehran would defend itself even though it does not seek war “(President) @realDonaldTrump & cohorts waste billions to fly B52s & send armadas to OUR region. Intelligence from Iraq indicate plot to FABRICATE pretext for war,” Zarif said in a tweet.
China gives its first COVID-19 vaccine approval to Sinopharm
China approved its first COVID-19 vaccine for general public use on Thursday, a shot developed by an affiliate of state-backed pharmaceutical giant Sinopharm, as it braces for greater transmission risks over the winter. No detailed efficacy data of the vaccine has been publicly released but its developer, Beijing Biological Products Institute, a unit of Sinopharm subsidiary China National Biotec Group (CNBG), said on Wednesday its vaccine was 79.34% effective in preventing people from developing the disease based on interim data.
World risks ‘moral catastrophe’ if COVID shots delayed in Africa, its CDC chief says
The world risks a “moral catastrophe” if COVID-19 vaccinations are delayed in Africa while wealthier regions inoculate their entire populations, the head of the continent’s disease control body said on Thursday. The Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) hopes significant vaccination campaigns on the continent will begin in April, its head, John Nkengasong, told reporters.
Bewildered and angry, Northern Ireland unionists fret over place in UK
As Northern Ireland’s unionists prepare to celebrate 100 years since the state’s creation cemented their place in the United Kingdom, post-Brexit trade barriers are triggering their deepest fears: being cut off from Britain and pushed towards a united Ireland. The British-run region remains deeply divided along sectarian lines, with Catholic nationalists aspiring to unification with Ireland while Protestant unionists seek to retain the status quo.
A divided United Kingdom exits EU’s orbit, enters Brexit unknown
The United Kingdom exits the European Union’s orbit on Thursday, turning its back on a tempestuous 48-year liaison with the European project for an uncertain Brexit future that will shape the fortunes of its people for generations to come. Brexit, in essence, takes place at the strike of midnight in Brussels, or 2300 London time (GMT), when the United Kingdom leaves de-facto membership that continued after it formally left the bloc on Jan. 31.
Belarus to hold referendum on constitutional changes, says Lukashenko
Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko said on Thursday the country would hold referendum on constitutional changes, the Belta state news agency reported. Lukashenko, who has faced weekly protests since claiming victory in an Aug. 9 election his opponents say was rigged, did not say when such a referendum would be held.
Reuters cameraman detained in Ethiopia has seen no evidence against him, lawyer says
Reuters cameraman Kumerra Gemechu has been held in solitary confinement for nearly a week without charge or being given any evidence of wrongdoing, his lawyer said. His lawyer Melkamu Ogo said on Wednesday that police informed him that their lines of enquiry included accusations of disseminating false information, communicating with groups fighting the government, and disturbing the public’s peace and security. However, he said he has seen no evidence.