APD | Weekly top 10 hot news (Mar. 20 - Mar. 26)



Every weekend, Asia Pacific Daily will provide you with a run-down of the latest hot news.

This week, the following hot news you should know:

Top 1 | U.S.'s Blinken says West needs to cooperate more than ever

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Thursday that cooperation between allies was more important than at any time in recent history and that relations with NATO and the European Union would be crucial to overcoming challenges.

Speaking on the last day of his three-day visit to Brussels, Blinken continued what many European officials said was a charm offensive to win back the support of allies sidelined during four abrasive years under U.S. President Joe Biden’s predecessor Donald Trump.

He later told U.S. diplomats in Brussels he wanted to mend and “modernise” relationships to focus on new challenges, which he has listed as China’s rise, COVID-19, climate change, a newly assertive Russia and keeping a technological edge on rivals.

Top 2 | Saudi official made death threat against UN's Khashoggi investigator: report

A Saudi official reportedly issued what was perceived as a death threat against a United Nations investigator following her investigation into the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Speaking to The Guardian, Agnès Callamard, the organization's special rapporteur for extrajudicial killings, said she was alerted to the threat by a UN colleague in January 2020. Two threats were allegedly made toward Callamard by a Saudi official during a meeting of senior UN officials in Geneva, in which the official reportedly threatened to have her "taken care of" if she was not reined in by the UN.

Top 3 | US senators seek elusive common ground on gun safety after two mass shootings in one week

On the heels of two mass shootings that have shocked the country, the Senate is, once again, weighing an overhaul of the nation's gun laws — with a murky path ahead.

Despite President Joe Biden's pleas on Tuesday, two House-approved bills to close gaps in the background checks system don't currently have the 60 votes needed to clear the Senate, according to senators who have spoken with colleagues to gauge support.

Democrats say they're determined to act, seeing it as a necessity to get some measures across the finish line while they control the White House and Congress. But getting 10 Republican senators to agree on any form of gun control, however popular or modest, will be tough.

Top 4 | Biden eyes $3T package for infrastructure, schools, families

Fresh off passage of the COVID-19 relief bill, President Joe Biden is assembling the next big White House priority, a sweeping $3 trillion package of investments on infrastructure and domestic needs.

Biden huddled privately late Monday with Senate Democrats as Congress has already begun laying the groundwork with legislation for developing roads, hospitals and green energy systems as part of Biden's “Build Back Better” campaign promise. Much like the $1.9 trillion virus rescue plan signed into law earlier this month, the new package would also include family-friendly policies, this time focusing on education and paid family leave.

The White House plans are still preliminary, with a combined $3 trillion in spending proposed to boost the economy and improve quality of life, according to a person familiar with the options who insisted on anonymity to discuss private conversations.

Top 5 | Thousands evacuated in Australia's worst flooding in almost half a century

Australian authorities issued fresh flood warnings and evacuation orders on Tuesday as torrential rains again pummelled several parts of the country, sweeping away homes, roads and livestock in the worst downpour in more than half a century.

The national weather agency has posted severe weather warnings in every mainland state or territory but one, affecting around 10 million people in the country of 25 million, across an area the size of Alaska.

No deaths were reported, but thousands of people have been rescued by emergency services in recent days. About 18,000 people have been evacuated with authorities expecting about 15,000 others to join them.

Top 6 | AstraZeneca's new trial data gives COVID-19 vaccine a boost in U.S

AstraZeneca’s coronavirus vaccine received a major boost on Monday after data from a large trial showed it was safe and effective, potentially paving the way for its emergency authorisation in the United States as countries in Asia accelerated its rollout.

The trials in the United States, Chile and Peru showed the vaccine was 79% effective at preventing symptomatic COVID-19 and could bolster confidence in the product after confusion over its efficacy data, dosing regimen and possible side-effects.

Many European countries halted the use of the AstraZeneca shot earlier this month after some reports that it was linked to blood clots, but have since resumed inoculation after a regional regulator said it was safe. A survey on Monday showed Europeans remained sceptical over its safety.

**Top 7 |**France's Le Drian urges EU to help steady Lebanon

France’s Foreign Affairs Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said on Monday he had asked his EU counterparts to consider ways to help Lebanon, which is facing its worst economic crisis in decades.

“France wishes that we discuss the Lebanon question,” Le Drian said as he arrived at a meeting of EU foreign ministers. “The country is drifting away, divided ... when a country collapses, Europe must be ready,” he said, expressing frustration at failed efforts to form a government.

Top 8 | Filipino troops kill rebel commander, rescue last hostage

Philippine troops killed an Abu Sayyaf rebel commander blamed for years of ransom kidnappings and on Sunday rescued the last of his four Indonesian captives, the military said.

Marines wounded Amajan Sahidjuan in a gunbattle Saturday night and he later died from loss of blood on Kalupag Island in the southernmost province of Tawi Tawi. Two other militants managed to flee and dragged along the last of four Indonesian hostages but troops finally rescued him on Sunday, regional military commander Lt. Gen. Corleto Vinluan Jr. said.

On Thursday night, three Indonesian men were rescued by police who also captured one of their Abu Sayyaf captors along the shores of South Ubian town in Tawi Tawi.

Top 9 | Police Use Water Cannon as German Lockdown Protest Turns Violent

Police deployed water cannon and pepper spray after a gathering of some 20,000 protesters against lockdown and other coronavirus rules in central Germany turned violent, with some demonstrators throwing bottles at police.

Protesters from all over Germany converged on the central city of Kassel for the march, which was organised by the "Querdenker" - "Lateral Thinkers" - online conspiracy movement.

Police said protesters disobeyed instructions they gave to help ensure people's safety, including by refusing to wear face masks and observe social distancing guidelines.

Top 10 | DPRK embassy in Malaysia to shut down in hours

The embassy of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) in Malaysia is prepared to shut down as the deadline given by the Malaysian government approaches.

A reporter from the China Media Group (CMG) saw that the nameplate of the embassy and the DPRK national emblem were removed on Sunday morning with authorities setting up a cordon around the area.