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U.K. Parliament suspended, witnesses report gunfire

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UK Parliament Gunfire

LONDON — Britain’s Parliament was locked down Wednesday after an attacker stabbed an officer and was then shot by police, and witnesses said a vehicle struck several people on the nearby Westminster Bridge. London police said they were treating the attack as a “terrorist incident until we know otherwise.”

The threat level for international terrorism in the U.K. was listed at severe. The city was also on alert for the Thursday funeral of Martin McGuinness, former IRA commander.

Dennis Burns, who was just entering Parliament for a meeting, told the Press Association he heard a radio message saying an officer had been stabbed. Police and security rushed outside as he was going in.

“When I got inside I was wondering what the hell was going on and I saw dozens of panicked people running down the street,” he said. “The first stream was around 30 people and the second stream was 70 people.
“It looked like they were running for their lives,” he said.
On the bridge, witnesses said a vehicle struck several people, and photos showed a car plowed into railings.
The former Polish foreign minister Radoslaw Sikorski posted a video on Twitter that showed people lying injured on the bridge.
Sikorski, a senior fellow at Harvard Centre for European Studies, says he saw at least five people lying on the ground after being “mown down” by a car.
In Parliament, witnesses reported hearing sounds like gunfire.
Leader of the House of Commons David Lidington said an assailant at Parliament was shot and that there were reports of other violence nearby.
Journalists there said they were told to stay in their offices. Press Association news agency reported that two people were seen lying within the grounds of Parliament.
George Eaton, a journalist with the New Statesman, said that from the window of Parliament’s Press Gallery, he saw police shoot a man who charged at officers.
“A large crowd was seen fleeing the man before he entered the parliamentary estate,” he wrote on the publication’s website. “After several officers evaded him he was swiftly shot by armed police.”
Prime Minister Theresa May was at Parliament when the incident began, but her office says she is safe.
The scene unfolded within clear sight of the London Eye, a large ferris wheel with viewing pods with views of the capital. Footage showed the pods full as viewers watched police and medical crews on the bridge.

Here is the latest on reports of the incidents outside Britain’s parliamen

The U.S. State Department says it is closely monitoring the incident outside London’s Parliament and urged Americans in London to avoid the area.
Spokesman Mark Toner said Wednesday: “We stand ready to assist in any way the U.K. authorities would find helpful.”
He added that the U.S. Embassy in London is closely following the news and stands ready to help any affected Americans.
He said: “Our hearts go out to those affected.”

3:50 p.m.
Witness Rick Longley told the Press Association that he saw a man stab a policeman outside Britain’s Parliament.
“We were just walking up to the station and there was a loud bang and a guy, someone, crashed a car and took some pedestrians out,” he said.
“They were just laying there and then the whole crowd just surged around the corner by the gates just opposite Big Ben.
“A guy came past my right shoulder with a big knife and just started plunging it into the policeman.
“I have never seen anything like that. I just can’t believe what I just saw.”
Lawmaker Adam Holloway told the AP he saw people running and immediately ran into his offices in Parliament to be with his staff. “A lot of us are locked in with our staff at the moment,” he said.

3:50 p.m.
The White House says U.S. President Donald Trump has been briefed on a gun and knife incident at Britain’s Parliament in London.
Trump himself said during a brief appearance Wednesday before reporters at the White House that he was just getting the news. He called it “big news.”
Trump’s spokesman, Sean Spicer, says the U.S. will continue to monitor the situation and update the president.
Britain’s Parliament was on lockdown after – according to officials – an assailant stabbed an officer then was shot by police.
London Police also said officers were called to an incident on nearby Westminster Bridge.

3:40 p.m.
British lawmaker Grant Shapps said on Twitter that he was walking through the cloisters of the House of Commons to vote when he heard four gunshots. Police told lawmakers to get down on the ground and crawl to cover.
“Police response instant. Heard commotion, looked round. Police weapons drawn, 4 shots, police ordered us to hit ground & get back, get back,” he said.

3:40 p.m.
The former Polish foreign minister Radoslaw Sikorski posted a video on Twitter that seems to show people lying injured in the road on Westminster Bridge.
Sikorski, a senior fellow at the Harvard Centre for European Studies, says he saw at least five people lying on the ground after being “mown down” by a car.
Sikorski told the BBC he “heard what I thought what I thought was just a collision and then I looked through the window of the taxi and someone down, obviously in great distress.
“Then I saw a second person down, and I started filming, then I saw three more people down, one of them bleeding profusely.”

3:35 p.m.
London police say they are treating a gun and knife incident at Britain’s Parliament “as a terrorist incident until we know otherwise.”
The Metropolitan Police says in a statement that the incident is ongoing. It is urging people to stay away from the area.
Officials say a man with a knife attacked a police officer at Parliament and was shot by officers.
There are also reports of a vehicle hitting pedestrians on nearby Westminster Bridge.
——
3:25 p.m.
A European security official says there was increased chatter on jihadi networks Tuesday following the U.K.’s adoption of an electronics ban aboard flights from certain mostly Muslim countries.
He said, however, there was no information that the incident was terror-related.
The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak about ongoing security operations.
By Paisley Dodds.

3:15 p.m.
The leader of Britain’s House of Commons says a man attacked a police officer at Parliament and has been shot by police.
David Lidington says the Parliament complex is in lockdown.
He says there are reports of further violent incidents neaby, and police say they have been called to a firearms incident on nearby Westminster Bridge.
Witnesses said a vehicle struck several people on the bridge, and photos showed a car plowed into railings.

3:05 p.m.
The leader of Britain’s House of Commons says a man has been shot by police at Parliament. David Liddington also said there were “reports of further violent incidents in the vicinity.”
London’s police said officers had been called to a firearms incident on Westminster Bridge, near the parliament.
A session of Parliament was suspended after the incident.
Britain’s MI5 says it is too early to say if the incident is terror-related.
——
2:55 p.m.
A session of Britain’s House of Commons has been suspended as witnesses reported hearing sounds like gunfire nearby.
The Commons’ speaker suspended the session as police responded to an incident.
Journalists at the Parliament building said they were told to stay in their offices.
The Press Association news agency reported that two people were seen lying within the grounds of Parliament.
Police had no immediate confirmation.

Metropolitan Police shared updates on Twitter:

The Press Association news agency reported that two people were seen lying within the grounds of Parliament.
Police had no immediate confirmation.

World

Joe Biden declares his administration ‘ready to lead the world’

“We need to invest in our people, sharpen our innovative edge, and unite the economic might of democracies around the world to grow the middle class and reduce inequality.”

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Joe Biden

New York: Joe Biden, who is to assume the presidency in January, has announced a policy of reasserting US world leadership as he introduced his foreign policy and national security teams.

The officials he is designating for the key roles in his administration are “ready to lead the world, not retreat from it, ready to confront our adversaries, not reject our allies, and ready to stand up for our values,” he declared on Tuesday in Wilmington while outlining his foreign policy.

In talking to world leaders, he said, “I’ve been struck by how much they are looking forward to the United States reasserting its historic role as a global leader.”

Biden was a critic of Trump’s brand of “America First” that prioritised the nation’s needs and was against military interventions abroad like in Iraq, Libya and elsewhere that the Democrat had advocated or been a party to.

By strengthening ties with allies and working with them, Biden said that he will “truly keep America safe without engaging in needless military conflicts, and our adversaries in check and terrorists at bay.”

Those he has picked for his team “embody my core belief that America is strongest when it works with its allies,” he said.

In resetting the foreign policy, he said, “Let’s begin the work to heal and unite America and the world.”

The pick for secretary of state, Antony Blinken said of his approach to foreign policy, “We must proceed with equal measures of humility and confidence. Humility because most of the world’s problems are not about us, even as they affect us. We cannot flip a switch to solve them.”

He added, “We need to partner with others. But also, confidence, because America at its best still has a greater ability than any country on earth to bring others together to meet the challenges of our time.”

Jack Sullivan, who will be the national security adviser, said, “We will be vigilant in the face of enduring threats, from nuclear weapons to terrorism.”

Without mentioning China by name, Biden spoke of the looming “competition for the future” and said the US would have to “do things like counter the predatory trade practices of our competitors and adversaries.”

But also, he said, “We need to invest in our people, sharpen our innovative edge, and unite the economic might of democracies around the world to grow the middle class and reduce inequality.”

Biden gave high priority to the environment and climate change as he introduced his high-powered envoy for the issue, John Kerry, a former senator, candidate for president and secretary of state.

“For the first time ever, the United States will have a full-time climate leader who will participate in ministerial-level meetings,” he said. “The world will know that one of my closest friends — John Kerry — is speaking for America on one of the most pressing threats of our time.”

He added, “I don’t for a minute underestimate the difficulties of meeting my bold commitments to fighting climate change. But at the same time, no one should underestimate for a minute my determination to do just that.”

Kerry’s remarks indicated the Biden administration will be pressuring other to do more to fight climate change.

He said, “No country alone can solve this challenge. Even the United States, for all our economic might, is responsible for only 15 per cent of global emissions. The world must come to this table to solve this problem.”

The US, however, has only 4.22 per cent of the world population.

He said that all the nations must increase their commitments to cutting greenhouse gases at the UN climate change conference next year in Glasgow “or we will all fail, together”.

Biden welcomed the decision by the Trump administration’s General Services Administration on Monday to provide his transition access to information for a “peaceful transition of power” to enable him “to control the pandemic, build back better, and protect the safety and security of the American people.”

Meanwhile, Trump made a rare appearance since the election for what was probably his shortest news conference to celebrate the stock market barometer, the Dow Jones Average, crashing through the 30,000 mark even though he had predicted that the market would crash if Biden won. He spoke about 60 seconds and left without answering the questions shouted at him.

Later, he conducted the annual faux ritual of the president “pardoning” a turkey from slaughter for the traditional Thanksgiving Day meal that features the bird as the main course.

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Health

Saudi Arabia to make COVID-19 vaccine free for citizens and residents

As per Gulf News, Dr Asiri told Al Ekhbariya that Saudi Arabia will receive vaccines through COVAX facility as well as through companies outside of the consortium.

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Saudi King Salman

Abu Dhabi: Saudi Arabia’s Health Ministry on Monday announced that it would make the coronavirus vaccine available for free to all citizens and residents.

“Those who have not tested positive for COVID-19 will be given priority in the vaccine campaign in the coming months,” said Dr Abdullah Asiri, the assistant undersecretary at the ministry.

He, however, added that those below 16 years of age will not be vaccinated unless research proves otherwise.

As per Gulf News, Dr Asiri told Al Ekhbariya that Saudi Arabia will receive vaccines through COVAX facility as well as through companies outside of the consortium.

“The Kingdom worked on two paths to obtain the vaccine, through the COVAX organisation, which the G20 had a role in creating and financing…Saudi Arabia will obtain a large number of vaccines through this facility, while the second track is directly contracting with the big companies to cover the gap that cannot be covered through COVAX,” Arab News mentioned Asiri as saying.

According to the World Health Organization, “the COVAX facility forms a key part of the COVAX pillar (COVAX) of the Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator, a ground-breaking global collaboration to accelerate the development, production, and equitable access to COVID-19 tests, treatments, and vaccines.”

The Saudi Health Ministry further expected that by the end of next year, the vaccines would cover 70 per cent of the Kingdom’s population.

“One of the most important goals set by the G20 during Saudi Arabia’s G20 presidency is to support all-inclusive and equitable access to vaccines, diagnostic and treatment tools,” said Dr Abdullah Asiri.

Dr Asiri added that a comprehensive plan for vaccine distribution will be ready “in the coming weeks”.

During the two-day G20 summit hosted virtually in Riyadh, Dr Abdullah Al Rabeeah, the supervisor general of the King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Centre, on Friday said that his country would be among the first ones to get hold of a COVID-19 vaccine.

Dr Al Rabeeah added that Saudi Arabia has spent over USD 200 million on COVID-19 vaccine and drug development.

Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz had in March also ordered free coronavirus treatment for all citizens.

Meanwhile, WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus on Monday announced: “There is now real hope that vaccines, in combination with other tried and tested public health measures, will help to end the pandemic.”

His remarks came after drugmaker AstraZeneca announced that its COVID-19 vaccine was up to 90 per cent effective. With this, AstraZeneca has become the third major drug company after Pfizer and Moderna to have reported late-stage data for a potential COVID-19 vaccine.

“The significance of this scientific achievement cannot be overstated. No vaccines in history have been developed as rapidly as these. The scientific community has set a new standard for vaccine development,” added Tedros.

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World

Biden plans to nominate topmost economist Janet Yallen as Treasury Secretary: Reports

The reports of her potential nomination were seen as welcome news by the financial market in New York, which was reflected in surging stocks.

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economist Janet Yallen

Washington: US President-elect Joe Biden is planning to nominate former Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yallen as his Treasury Secretary to lead his economic response to the raging coronavirus pandemic, which has wreaked havoc on the world’s biggest economy and led millions of Americans to lose their jobs.

A formal announcement on 74-year-old Yellen would be made soon, according to The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post. The Treasury Secretary is fifth in the presidential line of succession.

If confirmed by the Senate, Yellen would be the first woman to hold the job.

Currently at the Brookings Institute think-tank, she was Federal Reserve Chair from 2014 to 2018 and was Chair of the White House Council of Economic Advisors from 1997 to 1999.

Ms Yellen, who was the first woman to lead the Fed, would become the first person to have headed the Treasury, the central bank and the White House Council of Economic Advisers, The Wall Street Journal said.

The Biden-Harris administration, however, did not comment on the potential announcements.

The President-elect looks forward to announcing some members of his economic team early next week who will work with him to build the economy back better, said Jen Psaki, an advisor to the transition.

Her nomination would be one of the early signs that shows Biden plans to lean on experienced Washington veterans to lead the government next year, The Washington Post reported.

The reports of her potential nomination were seen as welcome news by the financial market in New York, which was reflected in surging stocks.

Janet Yellen is an excellent choice. There’s a lot to be excited about, but here’s a big one: As a former Fed chair, she has great relationships across the globe. She can start repairing the damage in economic diplomacy from the past four years, said Michael R Strain, Director of Economic Policy Studies at American Enterprise think-tank.

Yellen is an excellent choice for Treasury Secretary. She was my boss when I was a Senior Economist for International at the Council of Economic Advisors in 1998-99. The most wise boss ever! said Nouriel Roubini, New York University economics professor.

According to The Wall Street Journal, she is viewed by Biden transition officials as a credible authority on the dangers of prematurely withdrawing government stimulus and as someone who could collaborate closely with the Fed and executive-branch agencies to engineer more support if Congress is reluctant to take additional action.

Janet Yellen is an excellent choice for Treasury Secretary. Having had the opportunity to work with then-Chair Yellen, I have no doubt she will be the steady hand we need to promote an economy that works for everyone, especially during these difficult times. Congratulations, said Gary Cohen, who served as Assistant to the President for Economic Policy and Director of the National Economic Council from January 2017 until April 2018.

According to Johns Hopkins data, there are 58,696,029 COVID-19 cases and 13,88,724 deaths across the world. The US has recorded more than 12 million cases and 255,000 deaths, the highest tolls registered anywhere in the world.

The US economy, the world’s biggest, lost millions of jobs due to the coronavirus pandemic which battered the global economy. Economists said that the US economy entered recession in late March, when nearly the whole country went into lockdowns.

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