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Yangon: Myanmar holds national and state elections on Sunday in which Nobel peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy party will be looking to hold on to power.

More than 37 million of Myanmar’s 56 million people are eligible to vote. More than 90 parties are fielding candidates for seats in the upper and lower houses of Parliament.

The NLD’s landslide victory in the last election in 2015 came after more than five decades of military or military-directed rule. Those polls were seen as largely free and fair with one big exception the army-drafted constitution of 2008 automatically grants the military 25% of the seats in Parliament, enough to block constitutional changes. That proviso still holds true.

Overshadowing the polls is the coronavirus and restrictions to contain it, which are likely to lower turnout despite government plans for social distancing and other safety measures.

Suu Kyi’s party is heavily favoured to win again, though probably with a reduced majority. Suu Kyi is by far the country’s most popular politician, and the NLD has a strong national network, reinforced by holding the levers of state power.

Nevertheless, the NLD has been criticised for lacking vision and adopting some of the more authoritarian methods of its military predecessors, especially targeting critics through the courts.

Suu Kyi’s party has lost the cooperation of many ethnic minority parties, which are popular in their border-area homelands. In 2015, those parties were tacit allies with the NLD and arranged not to compete strongly where splitting the vote might give victory to the military-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party, or USDP.

Suu Kyi’s failure to come through with an agreement giving ethnic minorities the greater political autonomy they have sought for decades has disenchanted them, and this year they will be working against the NLD rather than with it. There are around 60 small ethnic parties.

The main opposition USDP was founded as a proxy for the military and again is the NLD’s strongest competitor. It is well-funded and well-organised. Whether voters still see it as tainted by its association with previous military regimes is not clear.

To a large extent, the polls are seen as a referendum on Suu Kyi’s five years in power, just as the 2015 election was seen as a judgment on military rule.

There has been economic growth, but it benefited a tiny portion of the population in one of the region’s poorest countries and fell short of popular expectations.

Not only were ethnic minority groups disappointed by Suu Kyi’s failure to grant them greater autonomy, but in the western state of Rakhine, the well-trained and well-armed Arakan Army a group claiming to represent the Buddhist Rakhine ethnic group has risen to become the biggest military threat in years.

The Election Commission’s cancellation of voting in some areas where parties critical of the government were certain to win seats has drawn sharp criticism. The move is estimated to have disenfranchised more than 1 million people. Critics have accused the Election Commission of conspiring to do the NLD’s bidding The topic that gets the most global attention, the oppression of the Muslim Rohingya minority, is not much of an election issue except for anti-Muslim politicians.

A brutal 2017 counterinsurgency campaign drove about 740,000 Rohingya to flee across the border to Bangladesh, but they have long faced systematic discrimination that denies them citizenship and the right to vote.

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Covid vaccine 90% effective in Phase 3 trial, says Pfizer

US biotech firm Moderna, several state-run Chinese labs, and a European project led by the University of Oxford and AstraZeneca are thought to be closing in on potentially viable vaccines.

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New Delhi: A vaccine jointly developed by Pfizer and BioNTech was 90 per cent effective in preventing Covid-19 infections in ongoing Phase 3 trials, the companies announced on Monday.

The statement was released as coronavirus cases are soaring across the world, and European stock markets and oil prices jumped on the news.

According to preliminary findings, protection in patients was achieved seven days after the second of two doses, and 28 days after the first.

“The first set of results from our Phase 3 Covid-19 vaccine trial provides the initial evidence of our vaccine’s ability to prevent Covid-19,” Pfizer chairman and CEO Albert Bourla said in a statement.

“We are a significant step closer to providing people around the world with a much-needed breakthrough to help bring an end to this global health crisis,” he said.

“We are reaching this critical milestone in our vaccine development program at a time when the world needs it most.”

Across much of the globe, Covid-19 infections rates are hitting record highs, with hospital intensive care units filling up and death tolls mounting.

Based on supply projections, the companies said they expect to supply up to 50 million vaccine doses globally in 2020, and up to 1.3 billion doses in 2021.

US biotech firm Moderna, several state-run Chinese labs, and a European project led by the University of Oxford and AstraZeneca are thought to be closing in on potentially viable vaccines.

Two Russian Covid-19 vaccines have been registered for us even before clinical trials were completed, but have not been widely accepted outside of Russia.

The Phase 3 clinical trial — the final stage — of the new vaccine, BNT162b2, began in late July and has enrolled 43,538 participants to date, 90 percent of whom have received a second dose of the vaccine candidate as of November 8.

Pfizer said it is gathering two months of safety data following the final dose — a requirement of the US Food and Drug Administration — to qualify for Emergency Use Authorization, which it expects by the third week in November.

“We look forward to sharing additional efficacy and safety data generated from thousands of participants in the coming weeks,” Bourla said.

– Dozens more candidates –

The so-called messenger RNA, or mRNA, vaccine is a new approach to protecting against viral infection.

Unlike traditional vaccines, which work by training the body to recognise and kill proteins produced by pathogens, mRNA tricks the patient’s immune system to produce viral proteins itself.

The proteins are harmless, but sufficient to provoke a robust immune response.

The study also will evaluate the potential for the vaccine candidate to provide protection against COVID-19 in those who have had prior exposure to SARS-CoV-2, as well as vaccine prevention against severe COVID-19 disease.

Pfizer and BioNTech plan to submit data from the full Phase 3 trial for scientific peer-review publication.

As of mid-October, the World Health Organization (WHO) has identified 42 “candidate vaccines” at the stage of clinical trials, up from 11 in mid-June.

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Trump, who never admits defeat, mulls how to keep up fight

He threw out baseless allegations that the election wasn’t fair and illegal votes were counted, promised a flurry of legal action and fired off all-caps tweets falsely insisting he’d WON THIS ELECTION, BY A LOT.”

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Washington: President Donald Trump never admits defeat. But he faces a stark choice now that Democrat Joe Biden has won the White House: Concede graciously for the sake of the nation or don’t and get evicted anyway.

After nearly four tortured days of counting yielded a victory for Biden, Trump was still insisting the race was not over.

He threw out baseless allegations that the election wasn’t fair and illegal votes were counted, promised a flurry of legal action and fired off all-caps tweets falsely insisting he’d WON THIS ELECTION, BY A LOT.”

While some in his circle were nudging Trump to concede graciously, many of his Republican allies, including on Capitol Hill, were egging him on or giving him space to process his loss at least for the time being.

Trump has not lost, declared South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham in an appearance on Fox News Channel’s Sunday Morning Futures, rejecting the reality of the situation.

Do not concede, Mr. President. Fight hard,” he urged.

Trump is not expected to formally concede, according to people close to him, but is likely to grudgingly vacate the White House at the end of his term. His ongoing efforts to paint the election as unfair are seen both as an effort to soothe a bruised ego and to show his loyal base of supporters that he is still fighting. That could be key to keeping them energised for what comes next.

He intends to fight, Trump economic adviser Larry Kudlow said as it was becoming clear that the president was headed for defeat.

Would Trump ever concede? I doubt it, said Trump’s longtime friend and adviser Roger Stone, whose prison sentence was commuted by Trump in July.

Stone asserted that Biden, as a result, will have “a cloud over his presidency with half the people in the country believing that he was illegitimately elected.

Allies suggested that if Trump wants to launch a media empire in coming years, he has an incentive to prolong the drama. So, too, if he intends to keep the door open to a possible 2024 comeback he would be only a year older than Biden is now.

Others in his inner circle egging him on, including his personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani. The former New York mayor has been promising to provide the president with evidence of voter fraud but has produced little, including during a press conference he held Saturday in the parking lot of a small Philadelphia landscaping company next to an adult bookstore.

Trump’s adult sons, Donald Jr. and Eric, have also urged their father to keep fighting and challenged Republicans to stand with them, as have congressional allies like Graham.

What I would tell President Trump is: Don’t give up. My advice is do not concede, said Republican Rep. Andy Biggs of Arizona in a podcast interview. Let’s fight this thing through. It is too important to give up. Some in the president’s orbit have been nervously looking toward Capitol Hill for signs of a Republican defection. But so far, most seemed to be giving him time.

I look forward to the president dealing with this however he needs to deal with it, Sen. Roy Blunt of Missouri said Sunday on ABC’s This Week.” Still, he said it was time for Trump to turn this discussion over to his lawyers, time for the lawyers to make the case that they have, both in court and to the American people, and then we’re going to have to deal with those facts as they’re presented. That has to happen and then we move forward.

At this point, we do not know who has prevailed in the election, said Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, telling Fox News he believes Trump “still has a path to victory. Other political allies and White House officials, however, have pressed Trump to change his tone and commit to a smooth transition. They’ve emphasized to him that history will be a harsh judge of any action he takes that is seen as undermining his successor. And they have advised him to deliver a speech in the coming week pledging to support the transition.

Trump senior adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner has told others that he is among those who have urged the president to accept the outcome of the race even if Trump won’t come to terms with how it was reached.

At Fox News, where prime-time hosts wield enormous influence over Trump, Laura Ingraham gave voice to the president’s belief that the election had been unfair, while also pleading with him to keep his legacy in mind and preserve his status as a GOP kingmaker by gracefully leaving office.

President Trump’s legacy will only become more significant if he focuses on moving the country forward,” she said Thursday.

This story is based on interviews with more than a dozen Trump aides and allies, many of whom spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss internal discussions.

That the peaceful transfer of power was even in doubt reflected the norm-shattering habits of the now-lame duck president, who even in victory never admitted that he had lost the popular vote in 2016.

Most aides believed the president would take the weekend to decide on a plan, which will most certainly involve more legal action. But some aides believe the legal skirmishes are more about putting up the appearance of a fight than producing results.

There were some indications Trump was moving in a less contentious direction, even as he continued to angrily complain to aides, reviving old grievances about the Russia investigation that began under President Barack Obama.

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Attack on Afghan university leaves 25 dead and wounded

Iran’s semiofficial ISNA news agency reported Sunday that Iranian Ambassador Bahador Aminian and cultural attach Mojtaba Noroozi were scheduled to inaugurate the fair, which would host some 40 Iranian publishers. Iranian state television reported the attack occurred, but did not offer information on its officials.

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Kabul: Gunmen stormed Kabul University on Monday as it hosted a book fair attended by the Iranian ambassador to Afghanistan, sparking an hours-long gunbattle and leaving at least 25 dead and wounded at the war-torn country’s largest school.
The ministry’s spokesman, Tariq Arian, would not break down the casualty numbers for the attack at the campus in the Afghan capital, though local media reports were saying there may be as many as 20 killed. Arian also said there were three attackers involved in the assault, all of whom were killed in the ensuing firefight.
As the sun slowly set over the Afghan capital, there were few details though the Taliban issued a statement denying they took part in the assault.
The attack came as the insurgents are continuing peace talks with the US-backed government. Those negotiations, taking place in the Gulf Arab state of Qatar, aim to help the U.S. finally withdraw from America’s longest war, though daily bloodshed continues and an Islamic State affiliate launches its own attacks on Shiites in the country.
Five hours into the fighting, sporadic grenade explosions and automatic weapons fire echoed down the empty streets surrounding the university’s fenced compound. Afghan troops stood guard. Earlier, students were fleeing for their lives from the site.
“Unfortunately, there are casualties, Arian said as the assault unfolded, without elaborating.
Ahmad Samim, a university student, told journalists he saw militants armed with pistols and Kalashnikov assault rifles firing at the school, the country’s oldest with some 17,000 students. He said the attack happened at the university’s eastern side where its law and journalism faculty teach.
Afghan media reported a book exhibition was being held at the university and attended by a number of dignitaries at the time of the shooting.
While Afghan officials declined to discuss the bookfair, Iran’s semiofficial ISNA news agency reported Sunday that Iranian Ambassador Bahador Aminian and cultural attach Mojtaba Noroozi were scheduled to inaugurate the fair, which would host some 40 Iranian publishers. Iranian state television reported the attack occurred, but did not offer information on its officials.
Iranian diplomats have been targeted previously by attacks in the country and nearly sparked a war between the two countries. In 1998, Iran held the Taliban responsible for the deaths of nine Iranian diplomats who were working in its consulate in northern Afghanistan and sent reinforcements to the 950-kilometre- (580-mile-) long border that Iran and Afghanistan share.
No group immediately took responsibility for the ongoing attack though the Taliban issued a statement saying they were not involved. However, suspicion immediately fell on the Islamic State group.
Last month, the Islamic State group sent a suicide bomber into an education centre in the capital’s Shiite dominated neighbourhood of Dasht-e-Barchi, killing 24 students and injuring more than 100. The Islamic State affiliate in Afghanistan has declared war on Afghanistan’s minority Shiite Muslims and have staged dozens of attacks since emerging in 2014.

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Sean Connery, first James Bond and global star, dies aged 90

In the career spanning half a century, the actor featured in many critically-acclaimed and commercial blockbusters such as “The Hunt for Red October”, “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade”, “Murder on the Orient Express” and “The Rock”.

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London: Legendary Scottish star Sean Connery, who became a global sensation as the first James Bond and featured in a string of cult hits in his five-decade-long career, has died. He was 90, the PTI reported on Saturday.
According to BBC, the actor passed away overnight in his sleep while in the Bahamas. He had been unwell for quite some time.
In the career spanning half a century, the actor featured in many critically-acclaimed and commercial blockbusters such as “The Hunt for Red October”, “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade”, “Murder on the Orient Express” and “The Rock”.
Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon mourned the veteran star’s death, saying that the country has lost “one of her best loved sons”.
“Sean will be remembered best as James Bond – the classic 007 – but his roles were many & varied. He was a global legend but, first and foremost, a patriotic and proud Scot – his towering presence at the opening of @ScotParl in 1999 showed his love for the country of his birth,” she tweeted.
Connery was born on August 25, 1930, to a Catholic factory worker and a Protestant domestic cleaner.
He left school at the age 13 with no qualifications and delivered milk, polished coffins and laid bricks, before joining the Royal Navy. But he was invalided out of the service with stomach ulcers only three years later.
He initially made a living by doing odd-jobs like driving trucks, working as a lifeguard and posing as a model at the Edinburgh College of Art. The actor spent his spare time bodybuilding.
It was in 1956 that Connery landed his first acting job for BBC production of “Requiem for a Heavyweight”. Soon after, he made his film debut with “No Road Back”. The following year, he appeared in films like “Hell Drivers”, “Action of the Tiger” and “Time Lock”.
A major breakthrough in his career came when Connery, a relatively unknown actor, was cast as James Bond after an interview with producers Albert Broccoli and Harry Saltzman.
It is said that author Ian Fleming was not fully convinced that Connery can pull off the part. However, the actor’s charismatic portrayal of the spy won over the critics and for many franchise fans, he is still the best James Bond.
He first played the role of James Bond in 1962’s “Dr No”, which he followed up with “From Russia with Love” (1963), “Goldfinger” (1964), “Thunderball” (1965), “You Only Live Twice”(1967), “Diamonds Are Forever” (1971) and “Never Say Never Again”(1983).
Connery’s portrayal has been a tough act to follow for successors like Roger Moore, Pierce Brosnan and Daniel Craig.
Bond made a global star out of a relatively new Connery but it also pigeonholed him for a long time.
The actor started challenging his image by shifting gears and taking up more dramatic movies such as John Huston’s “The Man Who Would Be King”, Richard Attenborough’s “A Bridge Too Far”, “The Name of the Rose”, which was a big international hit.
Connery won an Oscar for supporting actor for his turn as a tough Irish cop in Brian De Palma’s 1987 “The Untouchables”.
In the 90s, Connery starred in a string of hits such as “The Hunt for Red October” (1990), “The Russia House” (1990), “The Rock” (1996), and “Entrapment” (1999).
After the turn of the new century in 2000, Connery’s major acting appearance came in the superhero ensemble “The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen”.
The actor had officially announced his retirement in 2006 when he received the American Film Institute’s Lifetime Achievement Award.
Connery was married to actor Diane Cilento from 1962-73. The couple divorced in 1973 and Cilento died in 2011.
He is survived by his second wife, painter Micheline Roquebrune, whom he married in 1975 and his son Jason Connery.

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Three killed in Nice knife attack, one beheaded

The city Mayor Christian Estrosi confirmed that three people were killed in the attack, two of them inside the Notre-Dame basilica.

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Paris: At least three people were killed in a knife attack including a woman who was decapitated in the French city of Nice on Thursday, the local media reported citing a police source.

The city Mayor Christian Estrosi confirmed that three people were killed in the attack, two of them inside the Notre-Dame basilica.

This incident comes close on the heels of the tragic October 16 attack where a school teacher was beheaded in a Parisian suburb. His attacker was shot dead by the police.

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China’s Xi takes jabs at US in Korean War commemoration

In today’s world, the pursuit of unilateralism, protectionism and extreme egoism leads nowhere, Xi told an audience of government and party leaders, veterans and family members of those who served in what China calls the Chinese People’s Volunteers.

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Beijing: Chinese President Xi Jinping condemned unilateralism, protectionism and extreme egoism in a jab at the United States made during a rally on Friday to mark the 70th anniversary of China’s entry into the 1950-53 Korean War.
China refers to the conflict, in which it sent troops to aid North Korean forces against a United Nations coalition led by America, as the War to Resist U.S. Aggression and Aid Korea.
Although fighting ended in a stalemate, the war established China as a major player on the world stage and Friday’s commemorations closely fit with Xi’s drive to promote patriotism and the unquestioned leadership of the ruling Communist Party.
In today’s world, the pursuit of unilateralism, protectionism and extreme egoism leads nowhere, Xi told an audience of government and party leaders, veterans and family members of those who served in what China calls the Chinese People’s Volunteers.
Arrogance, always doing as one pleases, acts of hegemony, overbearance or bullying will lead nowhere, Xi said, according to comments released by the official Xinhua News Agency.
The anniversary comes as China’s relations with the U.S. have sunk to their lowest level in decades as the sides feud over trade, human rights, allegations of spying and Chinese policies regarding Hong Kong, Taiwan and the South China Sea.
Beijing, meanwhile, remains North Korea’s most important diplomatic ally and trading partner, and has pushed back at U.S. efforts to bring economic pressure on Pyongyang to prompt it to end its nuclear weapons and missile programs.
U.S. relations with North Korea featured briefly in Thursday’s presidential debate, with President Donald Trump saying the Obama administration left him a mess to deal with in terms of tempering relations with North Korea.
Trump said he had warded off a war that could have threatened millions of lives, and that former President Barack Obama had told him he viewed potential danger from North Korean leader Kim Jong Un as among the greatest national security threats.
Democratic nominee Joe Biden said Trump had legitimized a thug by meeting and forging a relationship with Kim.
Trump countered that Kim didn’t like Obama and insisted, Having a good relationship with other countries is a good thing.

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114 dead, 21 missing in central Vietnam’s floods, landslides

The fatalities, up from 111 reported on Wednesday, were mainly reported in the provinces of Quang Tri, Thua Thien Hue and Quang Nam, according to the committee’s latest report.

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Hanoi: Floods, landslides and other natural disasters triggered by downpours have left 114 people dead and 21 others missing in central Vietnam since early October, the country’s Central Steering Committee for Natural Disaster Prevention and Control said on Thursday.

The fatalities, up from 111 reported on Wednesday, were mainly reported in the provinces of Quang Tri, Thua Thien Hue and Quang Nam, according to the committee’s latest report.

As of 7:00 p.m. local time Wednesday, nearly 59,300 households with some 206,800 people in the localities of Ha Tinh, Quang Binh and Quang Tri had been evacuated.

Around 46,800 houses in Ha Tinh and Quang Binh remained inundated, the committee said, adding that more than 691,100 cattle and poultry animals have been killed or swept away.

Further search and rescue, post-disaster recovery and relocation of people are underway, according to the committee.

Vietnam’s Ministry of Industry and Trade is providing essential goods to isolated areas while strictly monitoring commercial activities especially the prices of those goods, Vietnam News Agency reported Thursday.

Authorities under the ministry will direct the quick restoration of local markets to meet people’s demand for goods in the affected areas, according to the report.

High risks of landslides and inundation may continue to threaten several areas in Ha Tinh, Quang Binh, Quang Tri and Thua Thien Hue, said the National Center for Hydro-Meteorological Forecasting. Enditem

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Afghanistan: 15 killed in stampede near Pakistan consulate

Officials said that around 3,000 Afghans had congregated on the open ground outside the consulate, waiting to collect tokens needed to apply for a visa, Dawn News reported a day after the tragedy.

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Kabul: At least 15 people were killed when a stampede broke out near Pakistan’s consulate in Jalalabad city where thousands of Afghans had gathered on Tuesday to apply for visas, the agency news quoted officials in the eastern city of Jalalabad as saying on Wednesday.

Officials said that around 3,000 Afghans had congregated on the open ground outside the consulate, waiting to collect tokens needed to apply for a visa, Dawn News reported a day after the tragedy.

Sohrab Qaderi, a provincial council member in eastern Jalalabad city said that the problem started when the people present there began jostling and pushing one another to get hold of their token from the consulate and soon the crowd got out of control leading to the stampede.

He further said that among 15 people who died, 11 were women, adding that several senior citizens were among those wounded.

Tens of thousands of Afghans every year travel to neighbouring Pakistan to get medical treatment, education and jobs. The two countries share a nearly 2,600-kilometre border.

Pakistan hosts about 3 million Afghan refugees and economic migrants, who have fled violence, religious persecution and poverty in their war-torn country.

Officials in the Pakistan embassy in Kabul were not immediately available for comment.

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