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Trump puts Cuba back on terrorism list, days before Biden takes office | US News

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Trump puts Cuba back on terrorism list, days before Biden takes office | US News

The Trump administration has re-designated Cuba as a “state sponsor of terrorism” – hitting the country with new sanctions just days before Joe Biden takes office.

Barack Obama had removed the communist island from the list in 2015, in what was regarded as one of his biggest foreign policy achievements – helping to restore diplomatic ties between Washington and Havana.

But Donald Trump was a vocal critic of the rapprochement during his 2016 presidential campaign. Over the course of his four years in office, the president has sought to reinstate many of the sanctions that were eased or rolled back by Mr Obama.

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2016: History Of US-Cuba relations

The Trump administration has been highly critical of Cuba for supporting Venezuelan leader Nicolas Maduro – and has also suggested that the country may have been behind alleged attacks that left dozens of American diplomats with brain injuries.

Cuba, whose current president is Miguel Diaz-Canel, has repeatedly refused to turn over US fugitives who have been granted asylum – including an American woman who fled to the country after escaping a New Jersey prison, where she was serving a life sentence for the murder of a state trooper.

Many US allies no longer believe that Cuba remains a sponsor of international terrorism.

The new sanctions reinstated by Mr Trump mean that most travel from the US to Cuba will be banned, and the transfer of money between the two countries will be heavily restricted.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said: “With this action, we will once again hold Cuba’s government accountable and send a clear message – the Castro regime must end its support for international terrorism and subversion of US justice.”

Some experts within Trump’s administration have questioned whether the decision to add Cuba to the terrorism list – which also features Iran, North Korea and Syria – was justified.

This is the latest 11th-hour policy to be announced by the Trump administration. An official representing president-elect Joe Biden said: “We’ve taken note of the last-minute manoeuvres. The transition team is reviewing each one.”

U.S. President Barack Obama delivers a speech at the Gran Teatro in Havana Cuba
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Donald Trump has been a vocal critic of Barack Obama’s stance towards Cuba

Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy also criticised the move, adding: “Domestic terrorism in the United States poses a far greater threat to Americans.”

During the election campaign, Mr Biden has said he would quickly reverse Mr Trump’s policies on Cuba as they “have inflicted harm on the Cuban people and done nothing to advance democracy and human rights”.

But this may be easier said than done. Emilio Morales, president of the Miami-based Havana Consulting Group, has warned unwinding such measures would take at least a year – and Mr Biden may not be willing to invest this sort of political capital.

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COVID-19: Number of positive tests in England down 17% to lowest number since 23 December, Test and Trace figures show | UK News

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COVID-19: Number of positive tests in England down 17% to lowest number since 23 December, Test and Trace figures show | UK News

The number of people who tested positive for COVID-19 in England is down 17% and is at its lowest level since the week to 23 December, new Test and Trace figures show.

A total of 274,898 people tested positive for coronavirus at least once in the week to 20 January, following a decrease the previous week.

Some 2,813,445 people were tested at least once between 14 January and 20 January – that figure is down 5% on week before.

The stats show that 470,950 people were identified as coming into close contact with someone who had tested positive in that period.

For those where communication details were available, 96.5% of close contacts were reached and told to self-isolate in the most recent week. Taking into account all contacts identified, 93.2% were reached – the highest ever figure.

The latest figures suggest the national lockdowns are having an impact and people are heeding the “stay at home” message.

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Daniel Pearl murder: British-born man acquitted over journalist’s killing to be released from Pakistan prison | World News

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An appeal hearing in the Daniel Pearl murder case was held at the Supreme Court, in Islamabad, Pakistan, Thursday, Jan. 28, 2021. The court on Thursday has ordered the release of Ahmad Saeed Omar Sheikh who was convicted and later acquitted in the gruesome beheading of American journalist Pearl in 2002. The court also dismissed an appeal of Sheikh's acquittal by Pearl's family. (AP Photo/Waseem Khan)

The Supreme Court in Pakistan has ordered the release of British-born Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh who was convicted, and later acquitted, over the beheading of a US journalist in 2002.

Mr Sheikh has been on death row since his initial conviction for Daniel Pearl’s murder 19 years ago, but his lawyer argued that his client “should not have spent one day in jail”.

Lawyer Mehmood A Sheikh added that the court also ordered the release of three other Pakistanis who had been sentenced to life behind bars for their part in Mr Pearl’s kidnapping and murder.

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The Supreme Court voted two to one in favour of Mr Sheikh. Pic: Associated Press

Mr Sheikh was formally acquitted of his involvement in April 2020.

The court also dismissed an appeal by the family of Mr Pearl and the Pakistani government over the acquittal of Mr Sheikh.

In statement released by their lawyer, Mr Pearl’s family said: “Today’s decision is a complete travesty of justice and the release of these killers puts in danger journalists everywhere and the people of Pakistan.”

The country’s three-judge Supreme Court ruled two to one in favour of upholding Mr Sheikh’s acquittal and ordered his release, Pearl family lawyer Faisal Siddiqi said.

The US government has previously said it would demand that Mr Sheikh be extradited to the US to be tried there.

“We urge the US government to take all necessary actions under the law to correct this injustice. We also hope that the Pakistani authorities will take all necessary steps to rectify this travesty of justice,” the Pearl family said.

Mr Siddiqi said that the only legal avenue left to pursue would be to ask for a review of the court’s decision, but added that would be carried out by the same court that upheld the appeal, meaning “in practical terms” there is no further legal route in Pakistan.

FILE - In this April 15, 2007, file photo, Dr. Judea Pearl, father of American journalist Daniel Pearl, who was killed by terrorists in 2002, speaks in Miami Beach, Fla. Pakistan's Supreme Court on Thursday, Jan. 28, 2021, ordered the release of Ahmad Saeed Omar Sheikh who was convicted and later acquitted in the gruesome beheading of American journalist Pearl in 2002. The court also dismissed an appeal of Sheikh's acquittal by Pearl's family. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee, File)
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Daniel Pearl (R) was beheaded after being lured to a meeting in Pakistan. Pic: Associated Press

Mr Sheikh was convicted of helping to lure Mr Pearl to a meeting in the Pakistani city of Karachi before the journalist was kidnapped.

Mr Pearl had been looking in to the link between Pakistani militants and Richard C Reid – the “shoe bomber”, who tried to blow up a flight between Paris and Miami with explosives in his shoes.

He went missing on 23 January, with his body being found in a shallow grave shortly after a video of his beheading was sent to the US consulate in Karachi.

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COVID-19: Tony Blair says UK should lead global push for immunity passports | Politics News

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Tony Blair says UK must 'completely reconsider' it's coronavirus vaccine strategy

Tony Blair has called for immunity passports to be rolled out and urged the UK to take advantage of its upcoming position chairing the G7 to push other countries to do the same.

The former prime minister said it was “inevitable” the idea will be developed by other nations, as the global race for inoculation against coronavirus gets under way.

A report by his non-profit organisation the Tony Blair Institute said the “only way to navigate allowing people to travel internationally again” is creating a global travel pass showing each individual’s COVID-19 status.

Live COVID updates from the UK and around the world

The idea has been mooted before but was rejected by Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove just last month, when he told Sky News: “I certainly am not planning to introduce any vaccine passports, and I don’t know anyone else in government who is.”

Since then, the Sunday Telegraph reported the government is funding at least eight separate firms to develop such a product, which is already in use in countries in the Middle East and Asia.

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Tony Blair’s institute said the UK should ‘lead or be led’

Mr Blair has made multiple interventions during the pandemic, and recently suggested the idea of pushing back the second dose of coronavirus vaccines to dramatically increase the number of people offered at least some protection.

The idea gained traction and is now government policy, helping boost the UK’s global standing in the race to administer jabs.

Turning his attention to what happens next, Mr Blair’s institute said the UK should “place the creation of a global COVID-19 travel pass as a key item on the G7 agenda”, when leaders from the US, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and Canada congregate in Cornwall later this summer.

It added Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s approach to international travel is “disjointed” and “unco-ordinated” – costing hundreds of billions in exports, foreign investment and tourism.

Geoff Holland, 90, and Jenny Holland, 86, from Mansfield receive their injections of the AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine at a former Wickes store in Mansfield, Nottinghamshire, which is being used as a covid vaccination centre. The couple, who met in a sheltered housing complex, were due to get married last April but had to postpone their wedding twice due to lockdown restrictions. They eventually held their ceremony in August. Picture date: Monday January 25, 2021.
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The UK is one of the countries rolling out a vaccine quickest

The report released on Thursday said: “The UK faces a choice: lead or be led. If we choose to wait, a confusing array of different passports await our citizens.

“We can avoid this and the complications of multiple passes and varying travel requirements if the UK takes the lead on developing a single, global COVID pass.

“In the year of the UK’s G7 presidency, there has never been a more momentous opportunity – or need – for the government to show global leadership.”

Zurab Pololikashvili, the UN World Tourism Organisation’s secretary-general, last week said at an event in Madrid: “Vaccines must be part of a wider, co-ordinated approach that includes certificates and passes for safe cross-border travel.”

The leaders of Spain, Italy, Greece, Cyprus and Malta have called for the introduction of certificates which designate if a traveller has been vaccinated or not.

In Australia, education minister Alan Tudge said on Monday planned “digital vaccine certificates” would allow international students to return to study in the country without the need for them to hotel quarantine.

Over three nights Sky News will host a series of special programmes examining the UK’s response to the pandemic.

Watch COVID Crisis: Learning the Lessons at 8pm on 9, 10 and 11 February

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