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French President Macron announces fundraising conference for Lebanon

Aman Sahay

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French President Emmanuel Macron on Thursday said an international fundraising conference for Lebanon will be held in the next few days after the deadly explosion that devastated Beirut.

On a visit to the gutted city, Macron said that France will organize a conference with European, American, and Middle Eastern and other donors to raise money for food, medicine, housing, and other urgent aid.

Macron also promised a “clear and transparent governance” so that the aid goes directly to the populations and aid groups.

On Tuesday, two enormous explosions devastated Beirut’s port that left at least 137 people dead and over 5,000 injured across wide parts of the country’s biggest city, shaking distant buildings and spreading panic and chaos across the Lebanese capital.

Prime Minister Hassan Diab said that 2,750 tonnes of the agricultural fertilizer ammonium nitrate that had been stored for years in a portside warehouse had blown up, sparking “a disaster in every sense of the word”.

The blasts were so massive they shook the entire city and could be heard throughout the small country, and as far away as Nicosia on the eastern Mediterranean island of Cyprus, 240 kilometers (150 miles) away.

The explosions also come as Lebanon awaits a UN tribunal’s verdict Friday on the 2005 murder of former Lebanese premier Rafic Hariri, killed in a huge truck bomb attack.

Meanwhile, leaders across the world expressed their grief and condolences to the victims.

In a tweet, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said, “Shocked and saddened by the large explosion in Beirut city leading to loss of life and property. Our thoughts and prayers are with the bereaved families and the injured.”

United States President Donald Trump said his military generals told him they “seem to feel” that the massive explosion was in fact a bomb attack.

Hi guys, I'm Aman Sahay. My dream is to explore each and every corner of this planet, and I'm passionate about it. All I want to say is - "Be Authentic Because You Are Already Unique".

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US Northeast digs out after massive snow storm, Two dead

Aman Sahay

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US Snow

People across the U.S. Northeast were digging themselves out on Tuesday after a powerful storm blanketed parts of the region with more than 2 feet of snow, prompting airlines to cancel flights and contributing to at least two deaths.

The nor`easter – an East Coast storm whose winds blow from the northeast – cut power to thousands of households, and halted some subway and train service in and around New York City. It dropped about 30 inches (76 cm) of snow in parts of New Jersey and Pennsylvania and up to 18 inches (46 cm) in New York City.

The snowy weather was expected to continue in parts of the Northeast, with a stretch from upstate New York to northern Maine hit the hardest, the National Weather Service said in its latest forecast on Tuesday. Snow could develop in the Upper Midwest on Wednesday before the storm runs its course, it said.

In Allentown, Pennsylvania, a 67-year-old woman suffering from Alzheimer`s disease was found lying dead in the snow on Monday after wandering away from her home, police said.

A man in Newark, New Jersey, died after being found lying in the snow on Monday, according to police officials, who said the death was not considered suspicious.

In New York City, public transit was coming back to life. Outdoor subway service, which had been suspended, resumed, buses were running on reduced schedules, and the area`s major commuter railroads had resumed partial or full operations.

The city`s LaGuardia Airport and John F. Kennedy International Airport, where flights were canceled on Monday, both said they were working to clear the snow and that they expected activity to pick up later on Tuesday.

The storm prompted widespread closings of schools and COVID-19 vaccination sites. In Connecticut, about 10,000 vaccination appointments were canceled on Monday, with plans to reschedule them for later this week.

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Putin Ordered To Begin Large-scale Coronavirus Vaccination in Russia

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Vladimir Putin

MOSCOW: President Vladimir Putin ordered a large-scale voluntary vaccination program against COVID-19 coronavirus to begin next week across Russia, saying teachers and doctors should be first in line to get the country’s flagship Sputnik V vaccine. Putin gave the order during an online meeting with ministers on Wednesday, a day when Russia, which has the fourth-highest number of recorded infections in the world, registered 589 new daily deaths from the coronavirus.

Putin said Russia will have produced 2 million vaccine doses within the next few days. Sputnik V, one of two Russian-made vaccines to have received domestic regulatory approval so far despite clinical trials being incomplete, requires two injections. A third vaccine is also in the works. Russia said last month that the Sputnik jab was 92% effective at protecting people from COVID-19 according to interim results. “Let’s agree on this – you will not report to me next week, but you will start large-scale vaccination… Let’s get to work already,” Putin told Deputy Prime Minister Tatiana Golikova. “I understand that you’re using very careful language and it’s absolutely right that we are cautious. But I know that industry and the (health) network are in general ready. Let’s take this first step.” Russia has already vaccinated more than 100,000 high-risk people, Health Minister Mikhail Murashko said during a separate presentation to the United Nations about Sputnik V.

According to the presentation, more than 45,000 people are currently participating in Sputnik V trials worldwide. The rise in infections in Russia has slowed since reaching a high on Nov. 27, with 25,345 new daily cases reported on Wednesday. Russia has resisted imposing lockdowns during the second wave of the virus, preferring targeted regional curbs. ‘ABSOLUTE PRIORITY’ The Kremlin earlier gave assurances that Russians were first in line to be vaccinated, with Moscow also discussing supply deals with other countries. “The absolute priority is Russians,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said. “Production within Russia, which is already being developed, will meet the needs of Russians.” Authorities in St Petersburg, which reported 3,684 new infections on Wednesday, ordered bars and restaurants to close from Dec. 30 until Jan. 3, to combat the rise in cases there, the RIA news agency reported.

Museums, theatres, and concert halls would be closed to the public in the city of more than 5 million people for the duration of Russia’s New Year holidays, from Dec. 30 to Jan. 10. In Moscow, a remote learning period for secondary school students was extended beyond Dec. 6 to the end of the year. With 2,347,401 infections, Russia only has fewer COVID-19 cases than the United States, India, and Brazil. It has recorded 41,053 deaths related to COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic.

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Iran Mulls Response as it Prepares to Bury Killed Nuclear Scientist

Aman Sahay

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Iranian President Hassan Rouhani

Debate raged in Iran on Sunday over how and when to respond to a top nuclear scientist’s assassination, blamed on arch-foe Israel, as his body was honoured at Shiite shrines to prepare it for burial.

Two days after Mohsen Fakhrizadeh died from wounds sustained in a firefight between his guards and unidentified gunmen near Tehran, parliament demanded a halt to international inspections of Iranian nuclear sites while a top official hinted Iran should leave the global non-proliferation treaty.

Iran’s Supreme National Security Council usually handles decisions related to the country’s nuclear programme, and parliamentary bills must be approved by the powerful Guardians Council.

President Hassan Rouhani has stressed the country will seek its revenge in “due time” and not be rushed into a “trap”.

Israel says Fakhrizadeh was the head of an Iranian military nuclear programme, the existence of which the Islamic republic has consistently denied, and Washington had sanctioned him in 2008 for activities linked to Iran’s atomic activities.

The scientist’s body was taken for a ceremony on Sunday at a major shrine in the holy city of Qom before being transported to the shrine of the Islamic republic’s founder Imam Khomeini, according to Iranian media.

Fakhrizadeh’s funeral will be held Monday in the presence of senior military commanders and his family, the defence ministry said on its website, without specifying where.

Israel has not officially commented on Fakhrizadeh’s killing, less than two months before US President-elect Joe Biden is set to take office after four years of hawkish foreign policy under President Donald Trump.

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