There are two aspects to the news- knowing the headline and understanding the intricacies of it. We at The Connectere focus on both. While The First Forum edition gives a brief about the headlines, The Weekly Analysis Edition is meant to educate the reader on what do various news mean and what are their intricacies. This initiative is meant to educate the reader on how to understand the important news. In the Twenty Third Edition we are covering the following news:

1. Knowing Kamla Harris, Joe Biden’s Vice presidential candidate
2. Sputnik 5 : The first Russian COVID19 Vaccine
3. Prashant Bhushan held guilty for contempt of tweets against CJI
4. Resignation of Lukashenko, the common voice of Belarus
5. Historic UAE-Israel deal struck over Trump’s mediation
6. Strain in Pakistani-Saudi ties over OIC

Knowing Kamla Harris, Joe Biden’s Vice presidential candidate

Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden has announced Kamala Harris as his running mate for the 2020 election — the first woman of colour to appear on a major party ticket. On the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th amendment of the US constitution, which granted women the right to vote, Harris also becomes the third woman to be selected as a major party vice presidential candidate after Geraldine Ferraro in 1984 and Sarah Palin in 2008.

With less than 90 days until the election, Harris’s selection is expected to excite many Democratic voters and bring intense scrutiny from President Donald Trump and his Republican supporters.

55-year-old Harris is the middle-class daughter of an Indian-born endocrinologist and a Jamaican-born economics professor. She was raised in Berkeley, California, and Montreal, Canada. Harris was part of the Civil Rights-era school bussing program as a child, which involved African American students being driven long distances to a previously segregated school.

In 2003, Harris was elected district attorney of San Francisco, and after adopting a tough-on-crime approach that saw the rate of felony convictions rise from 50% to 76%, she was re-elected unopposed four years later. In 2010, Harris won her first statewide election as attorney-general of California and after being re-elected in 2014, she won a landslide election to the US Senate in 2016.

Harris brings several credentials to the campaign. As the first woman and first African American ever elected as San Francisco district attorney and California attorney-general — as well as the first African American elected to the US Senate from the state — Harris has been a trailblazer for both women and African Americans.

For all the complexity of Mr. Biden’s vice-presidential search, there is a certain foreordained quality to Ms. Harris’s nomination. She has been regarded as a rising figure in Democratic politics since around the turn of the century, and as a confident representative of the country’s multiracial future.

Indeed, his choice reflects an emphatic recognition of the diversity of the Democratic political coalition and the foundational role that Black women in particular play within the party. Without their overwhelming support, Mr. Biden would have been unlikely to secure the Democratic nomination in the first place.

The 2020 United States presidential election is scheduled for Tuesday, November 3, 2020. It will be the 59th quadrennial presidential election.

Sputnik 5 : The first Russian COVID19 Vaccine

Russia is set to roll out the world’s first approved coronavirus vaccine amid scepticism about its effectiveness and safety after less than two months of human testing.

President Vladimir Putin announced that Russia had become the first country to grant regulatory approval to a COVID-19 vaccine, which showed “stable immunity” against the new coronavirus and had “passed all the necessary checks”. This announcement however drew mixed reaction from the people around the globe.

The “Sputnik V” is a vaccine developed by the Gamaleya research institute in coordination with the Russian defence ministry. It is based on a proven vaccine against adenovirus – the common cold. The vaccine is expected to provide immunity from SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, for up to two years, according to the Russian health ministry. But the results of the limited trials have yet to be made public.

The vaccine is administered in two doses and consists of two serotypes of human adenovirus, each carrying an S-antigen of the new coronavirus, which enter human cells and produce an immune response. It is a so-called viral vector vaccine, meaning it employs another virus to carry the DNA encoding of the needed immune response into cells.

The platform used for the vaccine was developed by Russian scientists over 20 years and had formed the basis for several vaccines in the past, including those against Ebola. Gamaleya’s vaccine is based on similar technology to the coronavirus vaccine prototype developed by CanSino, a Chinese vaccine-making company.

While numerous experts and governments have raised concerns that Russia is racing to be the first with an approved vaccine and compromising safety, some countries have shown interest in Sputnik V. The WHO said announced that it was looking forward to reviewing the clinical trials. Scientists in Russia and elsewhere have questioned the speed of the development and lack of transparency, saying offering the vaccine to the public before the important final-stage testing could pose serious problems.

The UK and other major nations have already said that it will not use Russia’s coronavirus vaccine at this stage. Several other nations will also first study the results of coronavirus vaccine in Russia and only after that may take a decision to use it.

Sputnik or спутник literally means ‘fellow traveller’, but has held a special place in Russian history. Sputnik was the first-ever artificial Earth satellite launched mankind. At the time, Sputnik was an invention way ahead of its time and had left the USSR’s then adversary USA in a state of shock. The successful launch shocked the world, giving the former Soviet Union the distinction of putting the first human-made object into space. The name is seen as a tribute and showcase of Russian supremacy in the field of science.

supreme court

Prashant Bhushan held guilty for contempt of tweets against CJI

On Friday, a three-judge Bench headed by Justice Arun Mishra found two tweets by lawyer Prashant Bhushan amounting to “serious contempt of court”. Although the judgment (whose author has not been clearly indicated) has not said anything new, it revives the debate about the relevance of the contempt law, how judges in mature democracies deal with criticism of judges, and how India’s courts have been responding to the contempt-versus-freedom-of-speech debate.

One of his tweets was about the role of the last four Chief Justices of India, and the other about the current CJI riding an expensive motorcycle while the court was in “lockdown”. Bhushan however even expressed some regret to the court at a later stage. As to the other tweet, the court held it tends to give an impression that the highest constitutional court of the country has in the last six years played a vital role in the destruction of Indian democracy.

The top court had earlier stated that it is of the prima facie view that the statements brought the administration of justice “in disrepute and are capable of undermining the dignity and authority of the Institution of Supreme Court in general and the office of the Chief Justice of India in particular, in the eyes of public at large”.

The Supreme Court is also currently hearing another contempt of court case against Bhushan, from 2009. Earlier this week, the same bench decided that it would hear the case on its merits. The case pertains to remarks Bhushan made in 2009 about former Chief Justice of India S.H. Kapadia and K.G. Balakrishnan in an interview to Tehelka magazine. He reportedly also said that half of the preceding 16 CJIs were corrupt; an allegation, according to the complaint, that Bhushan said he had no evidence for.

While Prashant Bhushan is currently not able to see any respite from the apex court, which is set to read out his punishment in the next hearing, he has drawn substantial support from the fellow advocates, senior lawyers and even some bar councils for his free expression of opinions. However from a larger standpoint, the views remain divided with some people supporting the apex court and the others condemning the harsh move against Bhushan.

Resignation of Lukashenko, the common voice of Belarus

Belarus, a former Soviet country, is witnessing massive protests from past 10 days following the declaration of election results and re-election of the current serving president. During the weekend, at a point of time, more than 100,000 protestors gathered on the streets of Minsk, the capital of Belarus. This is considered as the largest protest post-independence from the Soviet Union in 1990.

As per the official results, Alexander Lukashenko, known as Europe’s last dictator, was re-elected to serve his sixth term continuously from 1994 as the President with a massive vote share of more than 80%. On the other hand, the teacher turned politician opposition leader, who was considered to be the biggest challenge for the strongman in past 26 years of his rule, Svetlana Tikhanouskaya, received only 10% votes. Tikhanouskaya immediately rejected the outcome and claimed a straight victory with over 60-70% votes. Protests began claiming massive vote-rigging and demanding the resignation of the president followed by free and fair elections. Hours after claiming the results to be a fraud, Tikhanouskaya fled to Lithuania for the “sake of her children” and claimed that none of her decisions was made under any external influence in the video released on her husband’s YouTube channel.

Since then, large scale protests are being held out throughout the country by factory workers, TV presenters etc. with only one voice, resignation of the president. With over 7000 detained and at least 2 killed, hundreds of protestors and security forces have been injured in the clash. Stories of torture by the security forces too found its way on social media despite internet regulations. The security forces have resorted to tear gas, water cannons, rubber bullets and stun grenades to control the situation. In response, Lukashenko has been standing on the claim that the protests are an attempt to seize power by the opposition and external forces that are trying to stage a coup. On a visit to the factory workers on Monday, Lukashenko defended the results and argued that no elections will be held until he is killed. The audience booed in response and chanted “leave”. He offered medals for impeccable service during protests to the security officials on Tuesday. During this unrest, Lukashenko has turned to his all-weather friend, Russia. President Vladimir Putin has offered his assistance and assured that the problem will be resolved soon.

European Union Foreign Ministers have already agreed to impose new sanctions on Belarus in response to the violent crackdown. The UK has said that it does not accept fraudulent election results. The US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo has said that the US is closely monitoring the unrest. At the moment, neither Lukashenko nor protestors are backing out. Experts believe that Lukashenko is largely relying on Putin’s assistance, however, he’s in no rush to take any action similar to that of Ukraine in 2014 as the protest is anti-Lukashenko and not anti-Russia or pro-Europe.

Historic UAE-Israel deal struck over Trump’s mediation

Following Egypt and Jordan, United Arab Emirates (UAE) will now become the 3rd Arab nation and 1st Gulf nation to establish full diplomatic ties with Israel in what is being regarded as a historic game-changer and breakthrough. In an agreement brokered by the US President Donald Trump that took everyone by surprise, UAE and Israel have reached a peace agreement known as “Abraham Accord” to fully normalize their relations. Reportedly, the leaders of both nations will sign the historic agreement in the White House in the coming weeks. UAE developed back of the stage contacts with Israel over the past few years. Their common stance against Iran has brought them closer over time.

A joint statement was issued by the US, Israel and the UAE in this regard which emphasized the transformation of the region through massive economic growth, close relations and technological advancement. In exchange for the formal relations, Israel will suspend its plan to annex parts of the occupied West Bank. However, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that he will stick to the plan in the long run and has only agreed to delay it. The delegations from both the nations have agreed to meet in the coming weeks to sign agreements on tourism, flights, investment, security, energy, healthcare, etc. Mr. Trump referred to the decision as an ice-breaker for several Arab and Muslim nations that may follow the UAE and establish diplomatic ties with Israel. Possibly, Oman, Bahrain and even Morocco are expected to follow.  Following the announcement, foreign ministers of both the nation inaugurated direct phone service between the nations on Sunday. The head of Israel’s foreign intelligence service has visited the UAE being the first official to visit post announcement.

Iran, Turkey and Palestinians have accused the UAE of betraying the Palestinian cause and call the move as a stab in the back. Palestinian President rejected and denounced the agreement and said the deal was a betrayal to Jerusalem. Turkish foreign minister has accused the UAE saying that it has no authority to act on behalf or take decisions vital to the Palestinians. Turkish president Erdogan has gone to higher extents and threatened to call back its ambassador and suspension of diplomatic ties with the UAE. However, it’s hypocritical of Turkey to target the UAE, because it was the first Islamic nation to establish diplomatic ties with Israel back in 1949.

At the moment, major Islamic nations like Iran, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, Bangladesh etc. do not share a diplomatic relationship with Israel. The Palestinians have called upon the Arab and Muslim countries to oppose the move. On the other hand, much of the international community has welcomed the normalization. Oman, Germany, Egypt, the UK, France and even India has welcomed the move that would promote peace and stability in the region while Saudi has maintained its silence on the matter.

Strain in Pakistani-Saudi ties over OIC

Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, both member states of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), established in 1969 have been long term allies. This is evident from the fact that Saudi Arabia came to Pakistan’s rescue back in 1998 and offered oil on credit for the first time. However, over the years while India has been establishing better ties with the gulf, the Pakistani ties are deteriorating. In a recent happening, the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman declined a meeting with Pakistan Army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa.

The origin of the story can be traced back to 5th August 2019, when India revoked Article 370 and scrapped the special status of Jammu and Kashmir. Right from the time, Pakistan has been aggressive to this move claiming genocide in Kashmir and demanding a meeting of foreign ministers of countries in OIC specifically on the Kashmir issue. However, OIC has had a neutral stance because Pakistani claims are far from true. This as a whole turned out to be the reason for the frustration of Pakistan. Pakistani foreign minister, Shah Mehmood Qureshi, went on to state that he would be compelled to ask Prime Minister Imran Khan to create a new bloc of like-minded nations parallel to Saudi led OIC if it did not come together to raise voice against the abrogation of Article 370. The OIC is the second largest inter-governmental organization with the membership of 57 states. It is known to be the collective voice of the Muslim world and safeguards its interests. Turkey backed Pakistan’s stance intending to establish its leadership in the Islamic world.

Following the announcement, Saudi has had an aggressive front towards Pakistan and announced several revocations in the US$ 6.2 Billion massive package it offered to Pakistan in 2018 after Imran Khan got elected. The package had a US$ 3.2 Billion oil credit facility and a US$ 3 Billion offered at a very low-interest rate to be kept in the foreign reserve of Pakistan to strengthen its currency. Saudi Arabia demanded US$ 1 Billion of the reserve and is keen on demanding another US$ 1 Billion. It has also ended its deferred payment oil supply and denied any extension of oil credit facility.

Imran Khan has constantly denied any strain in Pakistan-Saudi ties over the Kashmir issue stating the ties are very good. However, the recent happening suggest differently. General Bajwa, who is well aware of the strained economic status of Pakistan visited Riyadh with at attempt to ease the dispute. He claimed that the centrality of Saudi Arabia in the Islamic world cannot be denied. However, Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman declined his meeting and Gen Bajwa had to settle for a meeting with the Deputy Defence Minister. His entire visit has not led Pakistan any further in Saudi ties and has turned out to be a complete failure. Considering the situation, it is evident that Pakistan will move closer to China for economic assistance and further isolate itself from rest of the world.


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