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Politics, health collided in Taiwan's tortured BioNTech vaccine talks – Reuters

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Test tubes are seen in front of a displayed Biontech logo in this illustration taken, May 21, 2021. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration

TAIPEI, July 12 (Reuters) – As talks for Taiwan to access BioNTech SE’s (22UAy.DE) COVID-19 vaccine via two major Taiwanese companies reached a head last week, the German firm’s Chinese sales agent put forward a template contract seeking access to Taiwanese medical records.

The clause sparked alarm, as such a requirement would be anathema for Taiwan’s government, long wary of Beijing’s attempts at influence over the democratic island, a source with direct knowledge of the matter told Reuters.

“The other side did propose such a contract template, which made negotiators in Taiwan and the Taiwan government feel puzzled and troubled, but after talks, the other side stopped insisting and adjusted it in a short time,” the source said.

Reuters could not determine why Shanghai Fosun Pharmaceutical Group Co Ltd (600196.SS)sent the template, and the company did not respond to requests for comment.

But the incident highlights how politics became entangled with a public health issue, laying bare wider disagreements between the governments of China and Taiwan.

The BioNTech issue has challenged China’s efforts to project a benign global image through vaccine diplomacy, especially after Taiwan’s direct deal with BioNTech collapsed in January.

Shortly after Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen accused China in late May of blocking her government’s deal with BioNTech, Japan and the United States announced they would donate millions of vaccines to the island.

Germany also said it had been helping in Taiwan’s talks with BioNTech.

CONTENTIOUS CONTRACT

Fosun’s contract template, a copy of which was reviewed by Reuters, stipulated that it or its “authorised representatives” should have the right to audit the vaccination process, including checking facilities and reviewing documentation.

It also granted Fosun the right to collect data and interview vaccine recipients, something more akin to a clinical trial than a mass vaccination scheme.

Two other sources briefed on the talks said that personal information was never going to be sent to China, and that the contract was only a template based on a deal signed with Chinese-run Hong Kong.

“It was just that – a template” and a starting point for negotiations, one of the sources said.

On Sunday, Fosun said an agreement had been signed to provide the vaccines to two Taiwanese tech firms, Foxconn (2317.TW) and TSMC (2330.TW). Taiwan’s government allowed them last month to negotiate on its behalf, after public pressure about the slow pace of vaccines arriving.

TSMC said the template was not the contract they signed, and declined to comment further.

A representative for Foxconn’s billionaire founder Terry Gou, who led a high-profile campaign to buy the vaccines and donate them to Taiwan’s government, rejected the idea that the template was a problem, or that detailed data would have been sent to China.

Other data, such as reporting on patients who have serious reactions to vaccine shots, will be closely protected, she said.

“The follow-up information exchange shall comply with Taiwan regulations, protect privacy, and be used for medical purposes,” Amanda Liu told Reuters.

China’s Taiwan Affairs Office referred Reuters to a faxed statement on June 23 in which it denied seeking to block Taiwan from getting vaccines from overseas.

It said Taiwan’s government “on the one hand refuses mainland vaccines and on the other blames it for the lack of vaccines on the island”.

BioNTech did not respond to questions about the template contract. Taiwan’s Presidential Office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

China’s government had said repeatedly that if Taiwan wanted the BioNTech vaccine it had to do it through Fosun.

Chinese state media has also relentlessly focused on how bad the pandemic was in Taiwan, though even the latest outbreak was relatively small and is now well under control.

The drama has fascinated Taiwan’s public and led news coverage for weeks, even as other vaccines directly purchased by the government from AstraZeneca (AZN.L) and Moderna (MRNA.O) arrive.

One Taiwan-based official familiar with the vaccine talks said Taiwan arguably did not need vaccine deliveries as urgently as countries such as Indonesia and Thailand, where the virus is spreading fast.

Moreover, he said, Taiwan’s accusations that China earlier obstructed the BioNTech shots worked in Taipei’s favour because it prompted Washington and Tokyo into action.

“This was always a political not a health issue,” he said.

Reporting by Yimou Lee and Ben Blanchard; Additional reporting by Beijing newsroom. Editing by Gerry Doyle

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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Malaysia's Political Woes Worsen as Key Party Leaves Ruling Bloc – BNN

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(Bloomberg) — Malaysia’s largest political party said it is retracting support for the ruling coalition shortly after one of its lawmakers resigned as a minister, putting the administration of embattled Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin in a limbo.

Shamsul Anuar Nasarah, a member of the United Malays National Organisation, resigned as the nation’s energy minister Tuesday, shortly before a briefing by UMNO President Ahmad Zahid Hamidi urging Muhyiddin yet again to step down.

Muhyiddin has faced calls to resign in recent days after the status of emergency laws led to a rare rebuke from the monarch. The ruler clarified on Thursday that the ordinances remained in force — contrary to what a government minister told parliament earlier — and that he wished for them to be debated and annulled in the legislative assembly.

UMNO has presented enough letters to the king from its lawmakers declaring withdrawal of support for Muhyiddin, Ahmad Zahid added, without revealing their names. The current administration has lost its majority and Muhyiddin “must take responsibility for the failure under his leadership,” he said.

Ahmad Zahid was flanked by former Prime Minister Najib Razak, UMNO deputy president Mohamad Hasan, former Trade Minister Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah and former Deputy Finance Minister Ahmad Maslan.

Parliament Debate

UMNO’s support has been key to Muhyiddin maintaining the razor-thin majority he cobbled together to emerge as prime minister last year. Malaysia’s deputy minister, health minister, and vaccine coordinating minister are among the party’s members.

“Up until last week the government had only 114 seats, and now with the withdrawal of nine more MPs, Muhyiddin has at most 105,” said Wong Chin Huat, a professor of political science at the Jeffrey Sachs Center on Sustainable Development at Sunway University in Malaysia. “If he cannot reverse the loss of majority, his number is going to shrink to two digits in days, if not hours, to come. More UMNO parliamentarians may follow.”

READ: How the Pandemic Is Keeping Malaysia’s Politics Messy: QuickTake

The ruling coalition has the support of more than 110 MPs, Deputy Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob said in a statement last week. There are 220 members in the lower house of parliament.

The announcement came hours after Muhyiddin said the government plans to debate and annul the emergency laws in parliament next month, as he sought to end the rift between the government and the nation’s king over the matter.

The motion, to be taken up at a Cabinet meeting on Wednesday, may help resolve disputes related to the repeal of the emergency ordinance in a “harmonious and constitutional manner,” he said in a statement.

Record Infections

Muhyiddin has struggled to shore up support for his government since taking power in March last year, facing constant demands from coalition partners and threats of defections. In January he cited the pandemic to impose a state of emergency. Yet, infections have since more than tripled, while confirmed cases breached the one million mark late July.

READ: Malaysian Opposition MPs March to Parliament, Demand PM Quit

On July 8, UMNO withdrew support for Muhyiddin over his administration’s handling of the pandemic and the economy, and called for a new leader to take over until fresh elections can be held.

“Will an alternative majority emerge? If there is, the new PM should immediately convene the Parliament to table a motion of confidence in itself, to confirm his power and stabilise politics,” Wong said. “If an alternative majority fails to emerge, the power struggle may drag on. Muhyiddin may stay on or strive to stay on as the minority PM.”

(Adds analyst comment in seventh, final paragraphs)

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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Politics Briefing: Pallister apologizes for remarks on Canadian history, reconciliation – The Globe and Mail

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Hello,

This is the daily Politics Briefing newsletter, written by Ian Bailey. It is available exclusively to our digital subscribers. If you’re reading this on the web, subscribers can sign up for the Politics newsletter and more than 20 others on our newsletter signup page. Have any feedback? Let us know what you think.

BREAKING – Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister is apologizing for remarks on reconciliation that have caused a cabinet resignation and other turmoil in his province.

“I feel awful about the reaction and the misunderstanding I created with my comments,” the Progressive Conservative Premier told a news conference in Winnipeg on Tuesday.

“I am going to issue a statement later today, ask for forgiveness and understanding and ask that we unite,” he said.

In July, Mr. Pallister criticized protesters who had toppled statues of Queen Elizabeth and Queen Victoria on the grounds of the legislature, then made remarks that have been widely criticized,

“The people who came here to this country before it was a country, and since, didn’t come here to destroy anything,” Mr. Pallister said. “They came here to build.”

With his earlier statement, Mr. Pallister said he was trying to unite people to build “as our Indigenous people have done for millennia, as our Metis population has done, as our more recent immigrants have done.”

On reflection, Mr. Pallister said he understood he was misunderstood. “I apologize for that. I should have been clearer in my comments, but my heart was in the right place and so that’s why I am offering this statement of apology today, and asking for people’s understanding. Let’s move forward.”

The Premier’s comments were criticized by Indigenous leaders for downplaying the impact of colonialism. Indigenous and Northern Relations Minister Eileen Clarke quit her cabinet post, saying she and other cabinet ministers had not been listened to. Some caucus members have distanced themselves from Mr. Pallister’s remarks. Winnipeg Mayor Brian Bowman urged Mr. Pallister to apologize.

Also, Alan Lagimodiere, named as a replacement for Ms. Clarke, defended some intentions behind residential schools, and was called out on the spot by Opposition NDP Leader Wab Kinew. Mr. Lagimodiere later apologized.

“Alan is a fine man,” Mr. Pallister said Tuesday, noting he immediately apologized. “I stand by him.”

Asked directly if he was thinking of resigning, Mr. Pallister said, to the journalist who asked, “You’ll be among the first to know if that’s the decision.”

TODAY’S HEADLINES

MUSICAL CALL FOR MICHAEL’S RELEASE – The former bandmates of the Hungarian punk band that Michael Kovrig founded in 1996 have put out a song calling on all governments involved to work toward the release of Mr. Kovrig and Michael Spavor, both arrested in China in December, 2018. The two men were taken into custody soon after the detention in Vancouver of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou on a U.S. Justice Department extradition request.

SCORES IN REFUGEE CAMP DESPITE CANADIAN PLEDGES – Three years after Canada promised to find permanent homes for hundreds of rescue workers and their family members who were evacuated from Syria during its civil war, dozens of adults and children remain stuck in a Middle East refugee camp where their mental and physical health is deteriorating, according to federal officials.

CONCERNS RAISED ABOUT RACIAL PROFILING – Two organizations representing academics of Chinese origin in Canada are warning that new mandatory national security assessments for federal funding of university research could lead to “racial profiling Chinese researchers as foreign agents.”

DEFENCE CHIEF NOTES CHRONICLE FORTIN TURMOIL – An extraordinary set of handwritten notes by Canada’s acting defence chief appear to reveal a behind-the-scenes struggle between due process, political optics and support for the complainant after a sexual misconduct allegation emerged against Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin.

VOICES FROM MICHIGAN ON LINE 5 – The Globe and Mail’s U.S. Correspondent Adrian Morrow visits the Straits of Mackinac in Michigan to talk to residents about discontent relating to Enbridge’s Line 5 pipeline, which has the United States and Canada at odds. Story here.

WERNICK HAS WRITTEN GOVERNING GUIDE – Former top federal civil servant Michael Wernick says he has written a non-fiction book drawn from his more than three decades of experience in Ottawa, including time spent in cabinet rooms with ministers and prime ministers. Governing Canada: A Guide to the Tradecraft of Politics, is a “modest contribution” to Canada’s political literature, intended give people who are studying Canadian government, or those generally interested in it, another resource, says Mr. Wernick.

MCLACHLIN REUPS WITH HONG-KONG COURT – Despite Beijing’s tightening grip on Hong Kong, Beverley McLachlin, the former chief justice of the Supreme Court of Canada, has agreed to serve another three-year term as a foreign judge on Hong Kong’s highest court. Story here. From The Montreal Gazette.

THE LOOMING ELECTION

-The Hill Times suggests here that Liberal candidates, and campaign managers are preparing for an election campaign to get started on Aug. 8 or Aug. 15, with the election date set to be Sept. 13 or Sept. 20.

-Federal political parties say they hope to hold lively in-person campaign rallies if an election is called – but, with pandemic restrictions still in place, they acknowledge that the events won’t look the same as they have in the past. Story here.

Writing in Maclean’s, Philippe J. Fourner says the Liberals are intent on an election despite data suggesting the likely outcome would be a Liberal-led minority government – and not a majority -“Because [they] could potentially secure a majority and may not have another window to do so in the foreseeable future.” Story here.

PRIME MINISTER’S DAY

“Personal” according to the advisory issued by the Prime Minister’s Office.

LEADERS

Bloc Québécois Leader Yves-François Blanchet visits the riding of Salaberry—Suroîtand Châteauguay—Lacolle

Conservative Party Leader Erin O’Toole – No schedule provided by Mr. O’Toole’s office.

Green Party Leader Annamie Paul – No schedule provided by Ms. Paul’s office.

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh celebrates the 60th anniversary of the NDP, and holds a media availability.

OPINION

André Picard (The Globe and Mail) on whether you need to worry about breakthrough COVID-19 infections after getting vaccinated?: Don’t be duped by the “news” that infections and hospitalizations are up among the vaccinated. Of course they are. A lot of people are getting vaccinated. But, relatively, way fewer vaccinated people are ending up sick or in hospital and, here, relativity matters. The pandemic has become a pandemic of the unvaccinated.”

Kluane Adamek (Contributor to The Globe and Mail) on why Canada should Indigenize the Senate: “Transforming the Senate to truly reflect and include a majority Indigenous representation would be a significant gesture toward reconciliation. It would have natural legitimacy as a custodial body safeguarding the land and all peoples. In using his discretion to establish this new convention, Mr. Trudeau would set Canada on a new and more equitable constitutional path. “Indigenizing” the Senate could be among the Prime Minister’s most consequential legacies.”

Andrew MacDougall (The Ottawa Citizen) on how little (or how much) Justin Trudeau talks about Erin O’Toole during the pending election campaign will be a sign of the Liberal leader’s confidence: “The Opposition Leader will rail about how much Trudeau has burdened the country with debt. He’ll moan about how Trudeau has loaded families up with extra costs. And he’ll no doubt remind Canadians of how Trudeau has let the country down with his various ethical lapses, whether that be WE, SNC, or blackface (times three). And what can Mr. O’Toole expect to hear back from Justin Trudeau? Well, if the Prime Minister is confident about his prospects, very little. Very little at all. If the Liberals are liking their chances they’ll go back to “sunny ways” and once again promote the power of positivity.”

Send along your political questions and we will look at getting answers to run in this newsletter. It’s not possible to answer each one personally. Questions and answers will be edited for length and clarity.

Got a news tip that you’d like us to look into? E-mail us at tips@globeandmail.com. Need to share documents securely? Reach out via SecureDrop

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35 words that almost certainly will end Andrew Cuomo's political career – CNN

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With those 35 words from the investigators in New York Attorney General Letitia James’ office, the political career of the New York Democrat likely has come to an end.
That pronouncement came after a months-long investigation that included interviews with 179 people and the reviewing of more than 74,000 documents. And ended with the stunning finding that Cuomo sexually harassed 11 women, including state employees and a New York state trooper. He also retaliated against one woman who had gone public with her allegations against him, according to the AG report.
“Our investigation revealed that these were not isolated incidents,” said Joon Kim, one of the lawyers who led the investigation. “They were part of a pattern.”
Cuomo was defiant in an appearance following the release of the James report. He posted a point-by-point response to the allegations laid out by the state’s attorney general and insisted that the “facts are much different” than portrayed in that report. The governor also doubled down on his total innocence; “I never touched anyone inappropriately or made any inappropriate sexual advances,” he said.
Cuomo has, for months, bought time by insisting that he wouldn’t offer any comment about the various allegations against him until James’ report came out. “I ask the people of this state to wait for the facts from the attorney general’s report before forming an opinion,” he said this spring at the height of the furor over the allegations against him.
Well, the report is now out. And it paints Cuomo as a repeat offender, not the unfortunate victim of a single misunderstanding. And makes his assertion from March that “people know the difference between playing politics, bowing to cancel culture, and the truth” ring true — just not in the way that Cuomo intended.
While Cuomo allies have been trying in recent months to paint the James investigation as a political endeavor driven by a politician who would like his job, the details and length of the report make it very hard to sell that case in the court of public opinion. (Which, of course, doesn’t mean Cuomo won’t try!)
So, what now?
Cuomo will have to decide if he will resign his office or announce that he will forgo his planned bid for a fourth term next fall. While the report may alter that personal calculus, he was defiant in the face of calls to resign in the spring. (Much of the New York congressional delegation as well as Sens. Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand called on him to resign at that point.)
“I’m not going to resign, I was not elected by the politicians, I was elected by the people,” said Cuomo at a press conference on March 12. If that’s what he truly believes, then there’s no way he walks away before the end of his term.
Cuomo announcing he won’t seek a fourth term seems more likely. But there’s a bit of personal psychology tied up in Cuomo’s desire for a fourth term that might make it difficult for him to walk away. His father, the late Mario Cuomo, ran and lost his bid for a fourth term as governor to a little-known state legislator named George Pataki back in 1994. Andrew Cuomo would very much like to do what his father never could.
It’s possible, of course, that the Democratic-led legislature in the Empire State will take the decision out of Cuomo’s hands entirely.
New York Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, who has the power to begin impeachment proceedings against the governor, blasted Cuomo in a statement released just after the James report. “The conduct by the Governor outlined in this report would indicate someone who is not fit for office, said Heastie. He did not announce any plans to begin impeachment proceedings, but noted cryptically: “We will have more to say in the very near future.”
Knowing where the voting public comes down on all of this is simply impossible at the moment given the recency of the report and its findings. And the results were mixed even before Tuesday’s bombshell.
While 61% of Democrats had a favorable opinion of Cuomo and 53% said that the Assembly shouldn’t impeach him in a late June Siena College Research Institute poll that same survey showed that more than half of Democrats wanted Cuomo to resign immediately (13%) or not run for another term in 2022 (40%).
Presumably the number of women listed in the James report and the credibility that investigators found in their allegations will change some minds about what Cuomo should do next.
The last six years in politics have taught me — and should teach all of us — not to make any definitive predictions about how the public will react to allegations of this sort against a politician.
But it’s extremely hard to see any sort of path — today at least — for Cuomo to stay in office beyond 2022. If he even makes it that long.

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