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Khalilzad meets with Turkish officials to discuss ongoing support

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(Last Updated On: December 4, 2020)

US Special Representative for Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad met Turkey’s Deputy Foreign Minister Sedat Onal in Ankara on Thursday night, where they discussed the importance of continuous support to the Afghanistan peace process, the Turkish government said.

According to the US State Department, Khalilzad will also travel to Qatar, where he will meet the Afghan Republic’s peace talks team and the Taliban’s team.

“It is imperative the parties build on the current momentum and accelerate their work to reach agreement on a political roadmap and a comprehensive and permanent ceasefire,” the department said in a statement.

Turkey’s Foreign Ministry said on Twitter that in the meeting, “they welcomed recent progress in Afghanistan peace negotiations and emphasized the importance of sustaining regional and international support for the peace process.”

COVID-19

Norway concerned as death toll rises to 29 from COVID vaccine 

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(Last Updated On: January 17, 2021)
Norway has raised concerns about the safety of the Pfizer Inc. vaccine after reporting that 29 Norwegians died after receiving the inoculation. 
 
According to Bloomberg, it’s unclear exactly when the deaths occurred, but Norway has given at least one dose to about 42,000 people and focused on those considered most at risk if they contract the virus, including the elderly.
 
Until Friday, the vaccine produced by Pfizer and BioNTech SE was the only one available in Norway, and “all deaths are thus linked to this vaccine,” the Norwegian Medicines Agency said in a written response to Bloomberg on Saturday.
 
“There are 13 deaths that have been assessed, and we are aware of another 16 deaths that are currently being assessed,” the agency told Bloomberg.
 
All the reported deaths related to “elderly people with serious basic disorders,” it said. 
 
“Most people have experienced the expected side effects of the vaccine, such as nausea and vomiting, fever, local reactions at the injection site, and worsening of their underlying condition.”
 
Bloomberg states that official reports of allergic reactions have been rare as governments rush to roll out vaccines to try to contain the global pandemic. However, US authorities reported 21 cases of severe allergic reactions from December 14 to 23 after administration of about 1.9 million initial doses of the Pfizer vaccine. 
 
The first Europe-wide safety report on the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is due to be published at the end of January.
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Two female judges killed in targeted attack in Kabul

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(Last Updated On: January 17, 2021)

Two female judges were killed and three others including a driver and a civilian were wounded in an attack by unknown gunmen in Kabul city on Sunday morning, police confirmed.

According to police three gunmen attacked the convoy of vehicles carrying Supreme Court employees in the Qala-e-Fathullah area of PD10 in Kabul city this morning.

Police did not provide further details about the attack.

No group has claimed responsibility for the attack so far.

This comes as targeted attacks have sharply increased in Afghanistan amid peace talks in Doha.

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Biden plans about a dozen Day One executive actions: aide

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(Last Updated On: January 17, 2021)

US President-elect Joe Biden is scheduled to issue a number of executive orders immediately after his inauguration – by using the powers of his new office to push policy changes on housing, student loans, climate change and immigration, a top aide said on Saturday.

Biden, who campaigned on a raft of promises to undo President Donald Trump’s legacy even before the COVID-19 pandemic hit the US, will unveil “roughly a dozen” previously promised executive actions on Wednesday, incoming Biden chief of staff Ron Klain said in a memo distributed to reporters, Reuters reported.

The actions to be taken on Wednesday include rejoining the Paris climate accords, reversing a travel ban on several majority Muslim countries, extending a pause on federal student loan payments, halting evictions and foreclosures, as well as mandating masks in inter-state travel and on federal property.

All of the measures were previously announced.

Most of the measures are a reversal of policies Trump pursued and do not require congressional action. But Biden will also unveil a long-expected immigration proposal that would provide a pathway to citizenship for millions of undocumented immigrants that does require congressional action, Reuters reported.

That measure, as well as Biden’s recent proposal for $1.9 trillion in spending on COVID vaccinations and economic stimulus, face uphill battles in a Congress narrowly controlled by Biden’s fellow Democrats.

A broader set of Biden’s “Day One” promises will be executed over the following nine days after inauguration, Klain said. Those measures include expanding COVID-19 testing and directing the government to favor American-made goods when it makes purchases.

“President-elect Biden is assuming the presidency in a moment of profound crisis for our nation,” Klain said. “During the campaign, President-elect Biden pledged to take immediate action to start addressing these crises and build back better.”

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