While You Were Sleeping: 5 stories you might have missed, Aug 14

A Palestinian woman walks past a mural against Israel's plan to annex parts of the Israeli-occupied West Bank, in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, on July 14, 2020.
A Palestinian woman walks past a mural against Israel's plan to annex parts of the Israeli-occupied West Bank, in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, on July 14, 2020.PHOTO: REUTERS

Israel-Gulf deal unlikely to resolve Middle East conundrum

The agreement between Israel and the United Arab Emirates to establish diplomatic relations has stunned the rest of the Middle East, while offering significant political advantages to the leaders of the two countries.

It also represents a rare policy triumph for US President Donald Trump, who helped broker the arrangement and now claims responsibility for what he termed as a "huge breakthrough".

But although clearly historic, the UAE-Israel agreement will not necessarily result in a significant reduction in Middle East tensions.

And the leaders of both nations are already engaged in a propaganda battle over what the agreement means for their own countries.


Johnson resumes coronavirus lockdown easing in England but stiffens punishment on rule breaches

Prime Minister Boris Johnson ordered the reopening of the economy in England to resume, saying a rise in infections that prompted caution two weeks ago had now levelled off, but warning of harsher punishment for those who breach the remaining rules.

Last month, amid rising case numbers, Johnson said there was "a warning light on the dashboard" and paused the reopening of casinos, bowling alleys and skating rinks just hours before they opened their doors.

He said that phase of his reopening plan can now go ahead.


WHO downplays danger of coronavirus entering food chain

The World Health Organization on Thursday downplayed the danger of the coronavirus latching on to food packaging and urged people not to be afraid of the virus entering the food chain.

"People should not fear food, food packaging or delivery of food," WHO head of emergencies programme Mike Ryan told a briefing.

"There is no evidence the food chain is participating in transmission of this virus."


US designates Confucius Institute centre as Chinese foreign mission

The United States said on Thursday it would require the centre that oversees Chinese government-funded Confucius Institutes across America to register as a foreign mission, accusing it of being part of Beijing’s “global influence and propaganda apparatus”. 

Discontent over the language and cultural centres’ alleged role in advancing Beijing’s global propaganda campaign has long simmered in the US, but Thursday’s formal designation comes amid a sharp downturn in the US-China relationship in recent weeks.

The designation, usually applied to agencies involved in diplomatic and consular activities, would require the Confucius Institute US Centre to keep Washington apprised of its staff, property, funding and curriculum.


France says Covid-19 cases rising fastest among younger people is a 'troubling situation'

French health authorities warned Thursday that new coronavirus cases were rising fastest among younger people, as the number of confirmed infections per day continued to tick up.

In mainland France, the pace of growth in cases in the week of August 3-9 was fastest among people aged 15-44, the health ministry's DGS public health arm said, calling it a "troubling situation".

In total 2,669 tests had come back positive in the past 24 hours, it added, pointing to "regular growth" in daily new cases.