International


President Biden Picks Oval Office Art, Inauguration Spotlights Paintings, and More:

PERFORMERS WERE THE STARS OF YESTERDAY’S INAUGURAL ACTIVITIES, with singers like Lady Gaga, Jon Bon Jovi, and Bruce Springsteen participating in the celebration of President Biden and Vice President Harris, and poet Amanda Gorman delivering an address that stole the show, but visual art is playing a symbolic role in the transition of power, as well. Washington Post reporter Annie Linskey and photographer Bill O’Leary got a look inside Biden’s Oval Office, and found that a portrait of Benjamin Franklin had taken the place of one of President Andrew Jackson (a favorite of President Trump). The presence of Franklin, who was an inventor, writer, scientist, and more (really a jack of all trades), is “intended to represent Biden’s interest in fol...

China calls for 'better angels' to prevail in reset with Biden's US

China on Thursday congratulated President Joe Biden on his inauguration and called for a reset in relations between Beijing and Washington, as the new administration brought an end to the fractious term of Donald Trump. Beijing also said it welcomed news that the US would re-join the World Health Organization and the Paris climate accord, as Biden tried to immediately pivot his office back to a key role in global leadership. The new US president is expected to remain tough on China but commit to international cooperation after Trump's divisive "America First" approach. "With cooperation from both sides, the better angels in China-US relations will beat the evil forces," foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told a...

Trump leaves White House for last time, snubbing Biden's inauguration

US President Donald Trump left the White House for the final time on Wednesday, heading by helicopter to a nearby military base where he will fly to Florida, skipping the inauguration of successor Joe Biden in an extraordinary break with tradition. Trump, 74, and First Lady Melania Trump walked a short red carpet and boarded Marine One on the White House lawn on a sunny but chilly day in Washington for the short flight to Joint Base Andrews, where he will board Air Force One. In brief remarks to reporters, Trump said it had been an "amazing four years" and the "honor of a lifetime." "I just want to say goodbye," he said. Trump will be at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida when Biden is sworn in at noon (1700 ...

Samsung chief receives reduced 30-month jail term over corruption scandal

Samsung Electronics Vice Chairman Lee Jae-yong has been sentenced to two and a half years behind bars, following a new trial over a high-profile bribery scheme involving South Korea’s former president, Park Geun-hye. The verdict was announced by the Seoul High Court on Monday, after the corruption case against Lee was sent by the country’s Supreme Court for re-trial. The Samsung boss was found guilty of concealment of criminal proceeds, bribery, and embezzlement worth around $7.8 million, and was given a 30-month jail term. The bribery scheme involved an associate of former president Park Geun-hye, who is currently serving a 20-year jail term. Her sentence was upheld by South Korea’s top court last week. Lee’s new sentence is twice as lig...

WHO holds emergency meeting over new coronavirus strains

Global health experts gathered on Thursday to tackle new coronavirus strains blamed for a fresh surge in infections as countries including Britain and France tightened restrictions to head off a further worsening of the pandemic. The World Health Organization (WHO) emergency committee session came as their colleagues were seeking the origins of the virus on a long-delayed mission to the pandemic ground zero in Wuhan. Almost two million of the more than 91 million people who have caught the disease have died, but the figures are widely believed to be an underestimate. "When you first met almost a year ago, just 557 cases of the disease we now call Covid-19 had been reported to WHO," WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesu...

N.Korea's Kim calls for stronger military capabilities as party congress ends

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un called for increased military power and greater nuclear war deterrence, state news agency KCNA reported on Wednesday, as a rare ruling party congress came to a close after eight days of policy discussions. The Eighth Party Congress occurred less than two weeks before U.S. President-elect Joe Biden takes office and amid a prolonged gridlock in talks aimed at ending the North's nuclear and missile programmes in return for U.S. sanctions relief. "We must do everything we can to increase nuclear war deterrence even further as we build the strongest military capability," KCNA quoted Kim as saying at the conclusion of the congress. Since announcing a self-declared moratorium on nuclear and intercontinenta...

Tesla is making a major push for Chinese market share

Tesla is shaking up the competition once again with the release of its new Model Y in China for a lower-than-expected price that’s reportedly causing a run of advance orders. On the first day of 2021, the company announced the official launch of the Model Y SUV at its expanded Shanghai factory and began taking orders from customers with the deliveries to start in late February. Prices start at $52,074, not counting a government subsidy for prospective buyers, representing a 30-percent discount to prices for the car listed six months earlier. According to local media, the start of production and lower-than-expected price have attracted a lot of customers already. The planned production capacity is unknown, but it is expected to be over 200,...

Brazil to begin production of Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine this week

Brazil will be the next country – after India, China, and South Korea – to produce Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine against the coronavirus. The production lines will start operating later this week. “Brazil will start production of Sputnik V on January 15,” the Russian Direct Investment Fund, which finances the development of the vaccine, announced on Monday. The Russian vaccine will be manufactured by the Brazilian pharmaceutical company União Química at two plants, one in the capital Brasilia and the other in the city of Guarulhos. The firm has already received the cellular material to produce the vaccine from its developer, Moscow’s Gamaleya Institute. União Química is planning to apply to the medical authorities for the authorization of em...

Bully for borscht! Michelin Guide to restaurants will launch in Moscow in 2021

France's prestigious Michelin Guide announced Monday that it will launch its first ratings of Moscow restaurants in 2021. "The Russian culinary scene has seen new trends appear over the past 30 years, embodied by talented chefs who are committed to enhancing the quality of local products," Michelin said in a press release. The guide said that Moscow would be its latest destination after recently expanding to Beijing, Slovenia and California. Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin welcomed the news, saying that the guide's arrival in the Russian capital would "open up our city in a new way for both tourists and Muscovites themselves". Michelin said that chefs in Russia's capital had set themselves apart by highlighting the co...

Covid-19 pandemic leaves New Year’s tuna auction in Tokyo with no jaw-dropping bidding war & costly purchases

The auction, held every January at Tokyo’s main fish market, Toyosu, has been overshadowed by the raging coronavirus pandemic, which has slashed tuna prices, leaving the event without a showy bidding war for its delicious lots. The priciest tuna went for just 10 percent of last year’s top catch at Tokyo’s biggest fish market, as restaurant owners hardly need to compete for the biggest fish, given that diners are being forced to stay at home. The most expensive fish of the day, a prized bluefin weighing 208 kilograms (459 pounds) that had been caught off the coast of the northern Aomori region, was sold for only 20.84 million yen ($202,000). In 2020, a 276-kilogram bluefin sold at $1.8 million, marking the second-highest price on record. It ...

‘Without fear of death’: Xi Jinping orders Chinese army to be ready to fight ‘at any second’

China’s leader Xi Jinping has directed the military to bolster training in 2021 and use more hi-tech in its drills. The order comes after tense standoffs with India and Taiwan last year. Xi, who chairs China’s Central Military Commission, ordered the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) to maintain “full-time combat readiness” and to be ready to “act at any second.” “The commanders and the soldiers of the whole army must… carry forward the spirit of combat without the fear of hardships and the fear of death,” the order read, noting that this year will be the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Communist Party of China. Xi directed the PLA to bolster its “frontline training” and “substantially increase” the use of technology in exercises. C...

Chinese billionaire and Alibaba founder Jack Ma suspected missing after criticising President Xi Jingping

Rumours are strong that Alibaba founder and Chinese billionaire Jack Ma is missing after several media outlets reported that the high-profile businessman has not been seen in public for over two months now. Jack Ma did not appear in the final episode of his own talent show, Africa’s Business Heroes. UK’s Telegraph reported that Alibaba founder was supposed to be a part of the judging panel in November final but he was replaced by an Alibaba executive. Surprisingly, Jack Ma's picture was also removed from the website. According to Financial Times, an Alibaba spokesperson said Ma failed to attend the final “due to a schedule conflict”. It is to be noted that Jack Ma's huge business empire, Ant Group, has been under the scanner of Chinese g...