US News

US president Joe Biden calls to end domestic ‘terrorism’, Change in ‘Law’

Washington [US]: United States President Joe Biden revealed condolences to the households of 10 people that were eliminated in a shooting event at a grocery store in the American city of Buffalo as well as asked for “every initiative to finish domestic terrorism”.

In a White House statement, Biden said: “We grieve for the family members of 10 individuals whose lives were senselessly taken as well as everyone that is enduring the physical and also psychological wounds of this terrible shooting. We are grateful for the valor of members of law enforcement as well as various other initial -responders who took instant activity to attempt to safeguard as well as save lives. The First Lady and also I are praying for the victims and also their family members, and hearts all throughout this nation are with the people of Buffalo.”

A man is detained following a mass shooting in the parking lot of TOPS supermarket, in a still image from a social media video in Buffalo, New York, U.S.

” Any act of residential terrorism, including an act committed in the name of a repugnant white nationalist ideological background, is antithetical to whatever we mean in America. Dislike should have no risk-free harbour. We need to do every little thing in our power to end hate-fueled residential terrorism,” he said further.

The mass-shooting is an increasingly alarming issue in the USA. Many people have lost lives in recent years.

Police has a tough challege while controlling frequent shoot outs at crowded localities.

An 18-year-old putting on armed forces gear as well as livestreaming with a helmet video camera opened fire with a rifle at a supermarket in Buffalo, eliminating 10 individuals and injured many others on Saturday (local time), ABC news reported pointing out authorities.
On April 11, Biden introduced further actions to attend to weapon physical violence, including stopping the proliferation of ghost weapons and also a detailed record on weapon trafficking, as per records.

US Shooting: FBI says ‘racially motivated hate crime’, 10 dead in Firing

New York [US]: The United States Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) suspects that the shooting in the city of Buffalo, where ten people were killed and three others were injured, was a racially motivated hate crime, Stephen Belongia, special agent in charge of the FBI’s Buffalo field office said on Saturday.

“We are investigating this incident as both a hate crime and a case of racially motivated violent extremism,” Belongia said during a briefing, reported Sputnik media.
According to the official, the perpetrator is now in custody. As per a tweet from Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz, Buffalo police responded to the scene of an “active multiple shooting event” at the Tops Markets on Jefferson Street in the city.

Buffalo Police Department gave out the information regarding the incident in a tweet and urged people to avoid the area. “BPD on scene of a mass shooting at the Tops in the 1200 block of Jefferson Avenue,” it tweeted adding, “Police say multiple people have been struck by gunfire. The shooter is in custody. Motorists and residents are urged to avoid the area.”

Expressing condolence in a tweet after the incident, Erie County Sheriff’s Office stated that Sheriff John Garcia “has ordered all available resources and personnel to assist” police, as per the media portal.

New York Governor Kathy Hochul said that she is taking stock of the situation. In a tweet, she wrote, “I am closely monitoring the shooting at a grocery store in Buffalo. We have offered assistance to local officials. If you are in Buffalo, please avoid the area and follow guidance from law enforcement and local officials.” (ANI)

 

Biden won over Trump as people wanted ‘less drama’: Musk slams US President

Washington [US]: Tesla CEO Elon Musk on Thursday (local time) said that US President Joe Biden is wrong to think that he was elected to transform the country and that he won over his rival candidate Donald Trump only because people wanted “less drama”.

Musk also said that he prefers a less divisive candidate in the 2024 election than former President Donald Trump. “Even though I think a less divisive candidate would be better in 2024, I still think Trump should be restored to Twitter,” Musk wrote on Twitter on Thursday evening.

Musk has been very critical of Biden’s few policies

“Biden’s mistake is that he thinks he was elected to transform the country, but actually everyone just wanted less drama,” he added.

Musk said earlier this week that Twitter’s decision to ban Trump was a mistake and he would reverse it if his acquisition of the social media company is successful.

Twitter recently agreed to be acquired by Musk in a deal worth USD 44 billion, although it is still subject to shareholder approval. (ANI)

 

CIA appoints Indian-origin Nand Mulchandani as first-ever CTO

Washington [US]: Nand Mulchandani, an Indian-origin man with more than 25 years of experience in Silicon Valley as well as the Department of Defense (DoD), has been appointed by Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) as the first-ever Chief Technology Officer (CTO).

The CIA Director William J. Burns made the announcement of Mulchandani’s appointment on April 29. Glad about Mulchandani’s appointment to the top post, said the CIA Director Burns, adding “since my confirmation, I have prioritized focusing on technology and the new CTO position is a very important part of that effort”. I am delighted Nand has joined our team and will bring his extensive experience to this crucial new role, he added.
Mulchandani brings substantial private sector, startup, and government expertise to the Agency, the CIA said in a media statement.

Upon getting aboard as the new CTO of the CIA, Mulchandani said, “I am honoured to join CIA in this role and look forward to working with the Agency’s incredible team of technologists and domain experts who already deliver world-class intelligence and capabilities to help build a comprehensive technology strategy that delivers exciting capabilities working closely with industry and partners.”

In his new role, Mulchandani will ensure the Agency is leveraging cutting-edge innovations and scanning the horizon for tomorrow’s innovations to further the CIA’s mission.

Prior to joining the CIA, Mulchandani most recently served as the CTO and Acting Director of DoD’s Joint Artificial Intelligence Center (JAIC). He also co-founded and was CEO of several successful startups such as Oblix (acquired by Oracle), Determina (acquired by VMWare), OpenDNS (acquired by Cisco), and ScaleXtreme (acquired by Citrix).

Mulchandani holds a Bachelor’s degree in Computer Science and Mathematics from Cornell University, a Master’s in Science and Management from the Stanford University Graduate School of Business, and a Master of Public Administration from the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. (ANI)

 

Biden fumbles on word ‘kleptocracy’ during address to Congress, Twitter flooded

Washington [US]: US President Joe Biden fumbled on the word “kleptocracy” during an address to the US Congress on Thursday, when he was seeking an additional $33 billion in aid to Ukraine and following the lapse, Twitter was flooded with reactions to his stuttering.

Tom Cotton, US Senator for Arkansas posted a clip of the speech on his Twitter handle, and captioned it as “Alarming”. In the clip, Biden can be seen fumbling with the word kleptocracy. After, two or three attempts he seemingly gets it correct. The video has garnered about 37,000 likes and over three million views on Twitter.
“We’re going to seize their yachts, their luxury homes, and other ill-begotten gains of Putin’s kleptoc- yeah – kleptocracy and klep- the guys who are the kleptocracies,” said Biden while addressing the US Congress.

Earlier, the US President mistakenly used the word “accommodate” while mentioning the Russian oligarchs. Still fumbling with words, Biden said that the US will “make sure we take their – take their ill-begotten gains.”

Twitterati were divided in their opinions. While some pointed out Biden’s speech defect and mocked at him, a few of them were defensive.

Exec Director of America Matters & former Army Special Forces Weapons, Jim Hanson responded to Tom Cotton, with the caption “America deserves better” in a tweet. Another Twitter user also agreed with the Senator that Biden’s speech was indeed alarming.

However, another Twitterati slammed Cotton by giving a befitting replying to his tweet which reads that a Senator mocking a President is even more alarming.

“A senator mocking someone’s stutter? Yeah, that is pretty alarming. Thanks for showing everyone quite clearly who you are,” the user commented.

“You know he has a speech impediment, right? It’s pretty publicly known. Are you mocking that?” wrote a third Twitter user. (ANI)

 

US President appreciates Bhavana for inventing Virus Combat Robot-VCR to Fight Covid

US President Joe Biden has written a letter of appreciation to 14 yrs old Bhavana Katta who is a class nine student at Flower Mound Marcus in North Texas, USA. She has created a Robot to fight infections or clean surfaces with UV light and disinfectant amid covid pandemic. She has invented the first version of,  the Virus Combat Robot, or VCR for short. This bot is having a boxy body sitting atop wheels, a white head with a human-like face on top, and two large foam arms falling at its sides with high-tech looking fingertips. The arms were made using old pool noodles and controlled by her key pad. This robot uses the UV lights and disinfectant sprayer to clean and disinfect any surface.  This unique VCR uses two web cameras, one in the head and the other in the body, to help the user navigate it remotely from a tablet computer. It can then roll through areas and spray a sanitizing disinfectant from its fingertips onto objects like furniture, surfaces, and walls – really anywhere you’d need to disinfect. She has designed the mechanical components of the VCR all the way down to the web-based controls she uses to navigate it. Katta also included speakers on the VCR so the user can talk to people who may be in an area that needs to be sanitized, as well as a hand sanitizer dispenser in the bot’s belly so they can de-germ themselves on the way out the door. 

In an exclusive interaction with our editor, Rajesh Vatsa, she explains her journey and achievement. Her family is equally excited.  

  •  Tell us something about your VCR.
Bhavana:  VCR stands for Virus Combat Robot. The robot is controlled by the web and I have the web control user friendly and easy to access. The robot is about 5 ft height, moves on wheels and also has speed control, and has 2 arms. So, the head is 3D printed and it can tilt and pan (2 DOF). And, it does this because the camera is in the head so when the user needs to look down from the camera at the ground, they can. The left arm goes 2 degrees of freedom (DOF) and in the left hand the middle finger is where the disinfectant sprayer comes out and the index and ring finger have UV lights so you can see where the disinfectant solution is going and the light kills bacteria. The right arm just gives a shake hand. In the middle there is screen. This robot is also a telepresence robot meaning that one person stands in front of the robot and the user stays where they are, and they can communicate through Jitsi (two way video and audio mobile conference). At the bottom there is a mobile touchless hand sanitizer dispenser. Finally, at the back there is an emergency stop button if something goes wrong.
  • From where and How the idea to create VCR came into your thoughts.
Bhavana:  The reason why I built this robot is because I saw some of my staff members at school disinfecting desks, chairs, and other furniture. And, the disinfecting solution is dangerous and harmful to the human body. So, my idea is that the staff member controls the robot at a far distance, staying safe.
US President Joe Biden has send this letter of appreciation to Bhavana.
  • What kind of role does Technology could play in our lives in the future?
Bhavana: Technology plays an important role in our lives today and in the future because our daily life is based on what technology does for us and we can’t live without it. Recently, technology is growing faster and it surrounds us everywhere we are. So, we should be aware of technology and how dependent we live off of it.
  • Which are your favorite subjects at the school?
Bhavana: Physics, Math, Electrical, Robotics, and Computer Programming are the subjects I like the most. I always love to read about science. Anything related with Computers always excited me.
  • Who else has helped you to create VCR?
Bhavana: My Dad, my Mom, and my little Brother have helped me to create this. They are equally excited to see that its working fine and now President Sir has appreciated our invention.
  • How do you feel after receiving the recognition from the US President and Vice President?
Bhavana: I feel proud and surprised to get that type of honor. I didn’t expect to get anything from creating VCR, but after receiving the letter I feel very prominent and grateful. This will motivate me to do better and I am working on it to improve it further.
  • VCR kind of innovations could help humanity at large. What else are you thinking of inventing in the future?
Bhavana:  Another idea that I am planning to create in the future is a robot that alerts students at school when a bus has arrived, this is because teachers don’t have to stand outside in the hot or cold while doing bus duty. I am working on this.
Bhavana with her VCR and Family members
  • What kind of support do you get from your teachers and family?
Bhavana:  Everyone supports me in everything I do, they all encourage me and give me recognition for what I create and what I am talented in. My parents are very caring and understanding, they support me in all the decisions I take. My little brother is smart, and I am a thankful elder sister.
  •  In which college would you like to join after school?
Bhavana: I would like to go to MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) to study electrical engineering and computer science. This is my goal to achieve further. I would like to invent things which our people can use and benefit.
  • Who is your inspiration?
Bhavana: My inspirations are based on what incidents happen around the community and I find ways to solve those problems and make them better. I like to read about great scientists and new inventions, new technology.
Bhavana with her younger Brother
Her father Mr. Srinivas Katta and Mother Mrs Gayatri Katta are so happy for Bhavana. They belong to Amalapuram, East Godavari District, Andhra Pradesh, southern state in India. Gayatri Katta admires her daughter, “She is a God’s gift and I am filled with gratitude for her. Bhavana is an amazing daughter.” For her father, she is very smart and innovative, she is amazing. He says that Bhavana is very helpful in nature and is independent. 
#Bhavana #katta #VCR #Virus #covid #fightingcovid #indianGirlinUS #PrideofAP

Pennsylvania shooting: Two teenagers dead, 9 wounded

Pennsylvania [US]: Two teenagers died and nine other people were injured as a result of a shooting incident in Pittsburgh in the US state of Pennsylvania, the police said on Sunday.

According to the results of the initial investigation, the incident took place at an Airbnb property, which was rented out to hold a party with as many as 200 people attending, many of them minors. Up to 50 shots were fired inside the premises and several more gunshots were made outside.
“Two male victims, both juveniles, were pronounced deceased in the hospital. There are at least 11 gunshot victims at the time of writing, including the deceased,” the police said in a statement.

When police units arrived at the scene, they heard additional gunshots in the vicinity and saw people leaving the area on foot and by vehicle.

The police are investigating other details of the shooting. (ANI/Sputnik)

 

Biden greets Jain community on occasion of Mahavir Jayanti

Washington [US]: US President Joe Biden on Friday extended wishes to the Jain community across the world on the occasion of Mahavir Jayanti and encouraged people to follow Lord Mahavir’s path of non-violence, truthfulness, and compassion.

Taking to Twitter, Biden sends his regards writing “Jill and I send warm greetings on Mahavir Jayanti to people of the Jain faith. This is a day to strive for peace, happiness, and the success of all. May we each pursue the values Mahavir Swami embodied: to seek truth, turn from violence, and live in harmony with each other.”
Prime Minister Narendra Modi also greeted people on the birth anniversary of Mahavir, the 24th Tirthankara of Jainism.

“Mahavir Jayanti greetings to you all. We recall the noble teachings of Bhagwan Mahavir, especially the emphasis on peace, compassion and brotherhood,” PM Modi tweeted.

Mahavir Jayanti is an important religious festival in Jainism that celebrates the birth of Lord Mahavir. The festival is marked with prayers and fasting.

The occasion marks the birth of the 24th and last Tirthankara, Lord Mahavir. This year, Mahavir Jayanti falls on April 14. (ANI)

Multiple people shot at New York subway station

New York [US]: Multiple people were shot at a subway station in New York’s Brooklyn on Tuesday (local time), the city fire department said.

Preliminary reports indicated that five people were shot, a law enforcement official said. The police were seeking a man with a gas mask and an orange construction vest, the official said, reported The New York Times.
The violent episode heightened simmering fears about public safety that have hindered New York City’s push to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The attack took place during the Tuesday morning rush at the 36th Street stop in Sunset Park.

Police officers were called to the 36th Street subway station, where the D, N and R lines pass through the Sunset Park neighbourhood, at around 8:30 a.m., a Police Department spokeswoman said. They had also received reports of smoke inside the station, reported The New York Times.

Transit officials said that trains on the D, N and R lines would be delayed because of an unspecified investigation.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which operates the city’s subway, said no additional details were immediately available.

A spokesman for Mayor Eric Adams declined to comment as reports were still preliminary. (ANI)

 

U.S. Oklahoma passes bill banning near-all abortions

Houston [US]: The state legislature in Oklahoma, a solid red state in south central United States, on Tuesday passed a bill that would make almost all abortions illegal.

Without debate, the state’s Republican-controlled House voted 70-14 to approve the bill, under which performing an abortion in the state would become a felony, punishable by up to 10 years in prison and a 100,000-U.S.-dollar fine. It allows only one exception for a medical emergency performed to save the life of the mother.
The bill, which passed the state Senate last year, is now awaiting Republican Governor Kevin Stitt’s final sign off. Stitt has previously said he would sign any anti-abortion bill that comes to his desk.

The bill follows the suit of a highly controversial Texas law taking effect last year that allows private citizens to sue anyone who performs, aids or abets an abortion after fetal cardiac activity is detected (usually after six weeks of pregnancy) without exceptions in cases of rape or incest.

The number of U.S. states passing restrictive abortion laws has grown in recent years. Just in the past three weeks, Arizona and Kentucky state legislatures voted to approve a 15-week ban on abortions while Idaho Governor Brad Little signed a law that bans abortions after about six weeks of pregnancy.

States like South Dakota and Tennessee have also moved legislation that takes aim at medication abortion, requiring women to make multiple trips to their doctor’s office in order to receive the two-dose regimen, said The Hill report.

The Guttmacher Institute found that approximately 862,320 abortions occurred in the United States in 2017, resulting in an abortion rate of 13.5 per 1,000 women between the ages of 15 and 44. (ANI/Xinhua)

 

Twitter to appoint Elon Musk to company’s Board of Directors, declares CEO Parag Agrawal

Washington [US]: Microblogging site Twitter on Tuesday announced that it is appointing Tesla CEO Elon Musk to the company’s board of directors.

The announcement was made by Twitter CEO Parag Agrawal.
“I’m excited to share that we’re appointing @elonmusk to our board! Through conversations with Elon in recent weeks, it became clear to us that he would bring great value to our Board,” Agrawal said in a tweet.

“He’s both a passionate believer and intense critic of the service which is exactly what we need on @Twitter, and in the boardroom, to make us stronger in the long-term. Welcome, Elon! I’m excited to share that we’re appointing @elonmusk to our board! Through conversations with Elon in recent weeks, it became clear to us that he would bring great value to our Board,” Agrawal added.

In response, Musk tweeted he is “looking forward to working with Parag and Twitter board to make significant improvements to Twitter in coming months!”

A day earlier, Musk had disclosed that he had taken a nine per cent stake in the social media platform.

Twitter said in a regulatory filing on Tuesday that it plans to appoint the Tesla and SpaceX CEO to its board for a term that ends in 2024. As part of the deal, Musk has agreed not to acquire more than 14.9 per cent of the company’s shares while he remains on the board, CNN reported. (ANI)

In a first, Muslims perform Taraweeh prayer at Times Square in US

New York [US], April 5 (ANI): In an unprecedented event, hundreds of Muslims broke their fast and offered congregational Taraweeh prayers at New York City’s Times Square in the US on the first day of the holy month of Ramzan.
Taraaweeh is — a part of the Holy Quran is recited each day during Ramzan until its completion. On Saturday night, 1500 meals were provided to Muslims on the pavements of Times Square, the city’s busiest artery, which was then followed up by hundreds of Muslims taking part in the Taraweeh prayers.
Times Square is a major commercial area and tourist destination in midtown Manhattan in New York City. It is one of the “most visited tourist attractions” which draws around 50 million visitors a year, as per media reports.
“We actually are doing this so that we can become closer and more contentious of our creator, our lord, Allah,” SQ, one of the organizers of the gathering said, according to CBS News.
“We’re here to explain our religion to all those that don’t know what Islam is all about,” he said, adding that “Islam is a religion of peace.”

For the first time ever, Hundreds of Muslims perform Taraweeh prayer at Times Square, New York - Culture
A person attending the Taraweeh said that there are a lot of misconceptions about Islam.
“There are crazy people throughout all cultures, all religions, and those small groups of people do not represent the majority … We’re encouraged to pray, fast, do good deeds, give charity,” the man said, according to CBS.
Ramzan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, during which the followers of Islam fast between dawn and sunset, pray for peace and guidance, give back to the community in the form of charity or zakaat or engage in humanitarian activities such as feeding the underprivileged and introspect to enlighten their souls.
This annual observance of Ramzan is regarded as one of the five pillars of Islam. It lasts between one sighting of the crescent moon and the next.

US President Joe Biden calls Putin ‘Murderous Dictator’, ‘Pure Thug’

Washington [US]: US President Joe Biden on Thursday (local time) called Russian President Vladimir Putin a “murderous dictator” and a “pure thug” while speaking at the annual Friends of Ireland Luncheon on St. Patrick’s Day at Capitol Hill.

“(Putin is) a murderous dictator, a pure thug who is waging an immoral war against the people of Ukraine,” Biden was quoted as saying by CNN.
Earlier on the same day, in a meeting with Micheal Martin, the Taoiseach of Ireland, he said that “Putin’s brutality and what he’s doing and his troops are doing in Ukraine is just inhumane.”

The strong remarks come just a day after Biden called Putin a “war criminal” during a press briefing.

“I think he is a war criminal,” Biden had said.

Biden had initially said “no” when asked whether Putin was a war criminal but returned to a group of reporters immediately to clarify what had been asked. When asked again whether Putin was a war criminal, he answered in the affirmative, reported Sputnik.

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said that US President Joe Biden’s remarks on Russian President Vladimir Putin speak for themselves when asked to comment on the remarks.

Kremlin had taken serious objection to Biden’s “war criminal” remark with spokesperson Dmitry Peskov saying, “We consider such rhetoric of the head of state, whose bombs killed hundreds of thousands of people all over the world, unacceptable and inexcusable.”

The recent rhetoric from Biden is a significant escalation in his condemnation of Putin’s actions in Ukraine, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on Thursday Biden’s comments were “absolutely unacceptable and inexcusable,” CNN reported. (ANI)

 

US: Biden speaks to French President Macron, discusses Ukraine war

Washington [US]: US President Joe Biden spoke with French President Emmanuel Macron to discuss Russia’s war against Ukraine.

Both the leaders reviewed recent diplomatic engagements and underscored their commitment to hold Russia accountable for its actions and support the government and people of Ukraine.
“President Joseph R. Biden, Jr. spoke today with President Emmanuel Macron of France to discuss Russia’s war against Ukraine. They reviewed recent diplomatic engagements and underscored their commitment to hold Russia accountable for its actions and to support the government and people of Ukraine,” White House statement read on Sunday (local time).

On February 24, Russia began a special military operation in Ukraine. (ANI)

 

Zelenskyy speaks to Polish counterpart, Bulgarian PM over Ukraine situation

Kyiv [Ukraine]: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Sunday (Local Time) held talks with the Polish President Andrzej Duda and the Prime Minister of Bulgaria Kiril Petkov where he discussed the current situation in Ukraine calling Russia an “aggressor” committing crimes against the country.

Taking to Twitter, Zelesnkyy wrote, “Held talks with President @AndrzejDuda and Prime Minister @KirilPetkov. Informed on the course of Ukraine’s defence, the crimes of the Russian aggressor. We appreciate the assistance provided and the support of for Ukraine’s integration.”
On February 24, Russia launched a military operation in Ukraine after the Donetsk and Luhansk people’s republic requested help in ‘defending themselves.’

The Russian Defense Ministry said the special operation is targeting Ukrainian military infrastructure only and the civilian population is not in danger. The West, however, denies these claims by the Russians and in response, Western nations have imposed comprehensive sanctions on Moscow. In addition, they introduced sanctions on Belarus for supporting Russia’s operation in Ukraine. (ANI)

 

Air raid alerts added by Google for Android phones in Ukraine

Washington [US]: American tech giant Google will now be adding Air Strike alerts for its Ukrainian Android users amid the ongoing Russia-Ukraine crisis.

According to GSM Arena, this update comes as part of Google’s Play Services and reportedly, the company is enabling it at the request of the Ukrainian government.
The feature is supposed to be supplemental to the already existing raid alert systems. The company’s VP of Engineering said that Google has used the same low-latency system that it uses for detecting earthquakes.

Earlier, shortly after the Russian military operation in Ukraine commenced, the company had announced that it would disable some of its Google Maps features in Ukraine such as traffic information and crowd data. Their argument was that the data could be used as military intelligence. (ANI)

 

Missiles landing near US consulate in Iraq launched from Iran

Washington [US]: Amid the ongoing US-Iran talks in Vienna to arrive at a new nuclear deal, a number of rockets launched from Iran landed late on Saturday night near the US consulate in Iraq’s Erbil city, media reports said.

A US defence official said that as many as 12 missiles were launched at the Northern city from neighbouring Iran, The Washington Post reported.
The city of Irbil is the capital of the Kurdistan region of Iraq.

There was no damage at any US government facility and there was no indication the target was the consulate building, which is new and currently unoccupied, the report said citing another official.

Lawk Ghafari, the head of Kurdistan’s foreign media office, said none of the missiles hit the US facility but the areas around the compound had been hit by the missiles. The Iraqi health ministry also informed that the incident did not result in any casualties.

The U.S. condemned what it called an “outrageous attack against Iraqi sovereignty and display of violence,” the report said quoting an official.

The attack came as negotiations in Vienna over Tehran’s tattered nuclear deal hit a “pause” over Russian demands about sanctions targeting Moscow over its war on Ukraine, the report said. (ANI)

 

YouTube blocks Russian state-funded media channels globally

Washington [US]: American online video sharing and social media platform YouTube on Friday (local time) said that it is blocking Russian state-funded media channels globally “effective immediately.”

“Our Community Guidelines prohibit content denying, minimizing or trivializing well-documented violent events, and we remove content about Russia’s invasion in Ukraine that violates this policy. In line with that, effective immediately, we are also blocking YouTube channels associated with Russian state-funded media, globally,” YouTube said in a statement, CNN reported.
Taking to Twitter, the tech company said that it began blocking RT and Sputnik’s YouTube channels across Europe, adding that it has already taken other steps since Russia began its military operations in Ukraine.

“We paused monetization and significantly limited recommendations for Russian state-funded media channels. Both actions are global & indefinite. Our Trust & Safety team has worked to quickly remove violative content. We’ve removed hundreds of channels & thousands of videos for violating our Community Guidelines, including our policies around deceptive practices and misinformation,” it said on Twitter.

YouTube added that when people search for topics on Russia and Ukraine, “our systems prominently surface authoritative news content in both our Top News and Breaking News shelves, and will continue to as needed.”

It also displays information panels underneath videos from news publishers with government funding.

Earlier, YouTube blocked Russian state media outlet RT from Ukraine only and also suspended its ability to monetize content globally. (ANI)

 

Facebook, Instagram to allow posts calling for violence against Russians

California [US]: Meta, the parent company of social networks Facebook and Instagram, is planning to allow the publication of calls for violence against Russians in response to the invasion of Ukraine, media reports said on Friday.

“As a result of the Russian invasion of Ukraine we have temporarily made allowances for forms of political expression that would normally violate our rules like violent speech such as ‘death to the Russian invaders.’ We still won’t allow credible calls for violence against Russian civilians,” Meta spokesperson Andy Stone said in a statement.
The Sputnik news agency reported the US media giant is going to allow posts that call for death to Russian President Vladimir Putin and Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko in a number of countries, including Russia, Ukraine and Poland.

This decision comes a few days after Russia blocked access to Facebook and other social media platforms, saying that it had discriminated against Russian media and information resources.

Media reports said that the Russian websites of BBC and Deutsche Welle, Twitter, and Apple and Google’s app stores were all blocked.

“In March 2022, a decision was made to block access to the Facebook network (owned by Meta Platforms, Inc.) in the Russian Federation,” the Russian media regulator statement had said.

Meta president Nick Clegg said the company was doing “everything we can to restore our services”.

Russia launched a “military operation” in Ukraine on February 24, which it claimed was a response to calls from the breakaway republics of Donetsk and Luhansk for protection against attacks by Ukrainian troops.

The Russian Defense Ministry said the special operation is targeting Ukrainian military infrastructure only and the civilian population is not in danger.

A number of countries including the US, Canada, and Australia have rolled out a comprehensive sanctions campaign against Russia, prompting many international businesses to leave the Russian market. (ANI)

US rejects Russia’s claims of biological weapons activities in Ukraine

Washington [US]: Rejecting the allegations made by Russia about the presence of US-funded chemical and biological weapons in Ukraine, the State Department on Wednesday said the Kremlin is spreading lies about such illegal activities in the eastern European country.

This comes after Russia said it has obtained evidence that the regime in Kyiv had urgently eliminated all traces of the US-funded military biological program in Ukraine.
Russian Defense Ministry spokesperson Igor Konashenkov on Wednesday said Ukrainian laboratories’ staffers testified last month that a number of dangerous pathogens of plague, anthrax, cholera and other deadly diseases were urgently disposed of.

“The Kremlin is intentionally spreading outright lies that the United States and Ukraine are conducting chemical and biological weapons activities in Ukraine. We have also seen PRC (China) officials echo these conspiracy theories,” the US State Department said in a statement in response to allegations made by Russia.

The State Department responded by saying that “this Russian disinformation is total nonsense” and not the first time Russia has invented such false claims against another country. “Also, these claims have been debunked conclusively and repeatedly over many years.”

“As we have said all along, Russia is inventing false pretexts in an attempt to justify its own horrific actions in Ukraine. The United States does not own or operate any chemical or biological laboratories in Ukraine, it is in full compliance with its obligations under the Chemical Weapons Convention and Biological Weapons Convention, and it does not develop or possess such weapons anywhere,” the State Department added.

On the contrary, the United States alleged Russia has active chemical and biological weapons programs and is in violation of the Chemical Weapons Convention and Biological Weapons Convention. (ANI)

 

Blinken, G7 FMs speak with Ukrainian FM Kuleba, express ‘united support for Ukraine’

Washington [US]- US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Monday held a meeting with the Foreign Ministers of G7 countries and the Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba over the ongoing crisis in Ukraine.

"Today, G7 FMs and I spoke with Ukrainian FM @DmytroKuleba (Dmytro Kuleba)

to express our united support for Ukraine. We will hold Russia accountable for its premeditated, unprovoked, and unjustified invasion and will continue to provide security, economic, and humanitarian assistance to Ukraine,” Blinken said in a tweet.
The G7 Foreign Ministers of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the High Representative of the European Union were also present at the meeting.

“Together we are supporting the Ukrainian people and imposing severe costs and consequences to hold Russia accountable for its war of choice. We stand with Ukraine and recognize the bravery and heroism of the Ukrainian people,” said a US state department readout.

The meeting comes after the news on Sunday of Ukraine agreeing to meet a Russian delegation in Belarus. The talks are expected to take place in the Gomel region at the Ukrainian-Belarusian border, Belta news agency reported.

The Ukrainian delegation that is expected to hold talks with Russia was reported to be headed to Belarus via Poland and the meeting is expected to start on Monday morning (local time) as per Sputnik News Agency. (ANI)

Russia vetoes UNSC resolution on Ukraine as India, China, UAE skip voting

              

New York [US]: Russia on Friday (local time) vetoed a draft UN Security Council resolution on Ukraine, while India, China, and UAE abstained from the vote.

The vote was 11 in favor, one against, and three abstentions.
India abstained from voting saying that the path of the “diplomacy was given up”.

“India’s deeply disturbed by the recent turn of developments in Ukraine. We urge that all efforts are made for the immediate cessation of violence and hostilities,” said India’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations, TS Tirumurti at the UNSC meeting on Ukraine.

“It is a matter of regret that the path of diplomacy was given up. We must return to it. For all these reasons India has chosen to abstain on this resolution,” Tirumurti said.

Meanwhile, China’s permanent representative to the UN, Zhang Jun said that the security of one country cannot come at the cost of undermining the security of other nations…, China abstained in the vote”.

“We believe that the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all states should be respected and that the purposes and principles of the UN Charter should be upheld,” said Zhang Jun.

“…Security of one country cannot come at the cost of undermining the security of other nations…China abstained in the vote…Ukraine should become a bridge between East and West, said China’s permanent representative to the UN.

During the UNSC meeting on Ukraine, US Ambassador to the United Nations, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, said that “Russia’s latest attack on our most fundamental principles is so bold, so brazen that it threatens our international system as we know it.”

Moreover, UK Ambassador to UN Barbara Woodward said that “Russian President Vladimir Putin has launched a massive invasion of Ukraine. His aim is to remove its govt & subjugate its people. This is not self-defense. It is naked aggression.” (ANI)

Amid Ukraine crisis, US Defense Secy speaks with 15 NATO ally, European counterparts

             

Washington [US]: US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin spoke with fifteen of his NATO ally and European counterparts regarding Russia’s military operations in Ukraine, Pentagon informed on Friday.

Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby said that Austin the Secretary spoke individually with Defense Ministers from Canada and Turkey. Austin also convened a virtual European Quint meeting with his counterparts from France, Germany, Italy, and the United Kingdom, Kirby said.
According to the Pentagon statement, Austin also participated for the first time in a secure teleconference with the counterparts from the Bucharest Nine (B-9) Countries – Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, and Slovakia.

“Secretary Austin made clear that the United States stands united with our Allies and partners to support Ukraine and to deter aggression against NATO, while avoiding conflict with Russia. The United States’ commitment to defending NATO territory is ironclad and the United States will continue to bolster our posture to better defend our NATO Allies,” the US Defense said in a release.

In the wake of Russian military operations, Austin said the US has deployed an additional 15,000 forces in recent days and weeks and now has more than 90,000 U.S. service members in Europe. “We have repositioned other forces within Europe to assure our Allies and deter Russian aggression against NATO,” the Pentagon said.

Austin lauded the unifying steps taken at NATO and commended its allies for the steps they have taken to bolster NATO’s Eastern Flank and to provide security assistance to Ukraine.

He asked NATO Allies to consider additional contributions to strengthen NATO’s defensive posture and bolster Ukraine’s capacity to defend itself in the face of “Russian aggression”.

Austin also spoke with his Ukrainian counterpart, Minister of Defence Oleksii Reznikov.

The US Defense Secretary made clear that the United States’ support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity is unwavering and that it will continue to provide defensive assistance to Ukraine. (ANI)

US experts warn spread of more contagious Omicron sub-type as restrictions lifted

               

New York [US]: Experts are warning of the spread of a new strain of Omicron variant in the United States and potential health effects after infection, as major states in the country rushed to shed off COVID-19 restrictions amid a continuous decline in cases and hospitalization.

An Omicron subvariant, known as BA.2, which appears to spread 30 per cent more easily, has made up 3.9 per cent of all infections, up from 1.6 per cent in the week ending Jan. 29, fueling worries the country may not return to normal as planned.
According to a report by National Public Radio, BA.2 is found to have quickly overtaken the original Omicron in South Africa and other countries and has even caused a second Omicron surge in Denmark.

Infectious disease experts cautioned the same could happen in the United States, raising fears that the spread “may be on track to rapidly accelerate in the near future,” the report said.

Meanwhile, the risks of cardiovascular disease of all types increased substantially in the year following COVID-19 infection, according to a study published this month in Nature Medicine which looked into the health records of more than 153,000 US veterans.

Experts estimated there might be millions of new-onset cardiac cases related to the virus, plus a worsening of the disease for many already affected.

“We are expecting a tidal wave of cardiovascular events in the coming years from direct and indirect causes of COVID,” The Washington Post reported, citing Donald M. Lloyd-Jones, president of the American Heart Association.

While New York State began to lift COVID-19 restrictions, not all residents favour the decision, The New York Times recently reported. (ANI/Xinhua)

Russia-Ukraine crisis: US, Allies request UN Security Council meeting on Monday, Putin is ready for consequences

                

Washington [US]: The United States and Allies on Monday requested an urgent United Nations Security Council (UNSC) meeting on Ukraine to be held on Monday, a source told ANI.

Earlier in the day, President Biden signed an Executive Order that will prohibit all new investment, trade, and financing by U.S. persons to, from, or in the “so-called Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics”
Notably, Putin on Monday signed a decree recognizing the independence of breakaway regions Donetsk and Luhansk. Putin made this announcement during a televised address to Russians.

After the announcement, the US said that it will soon impose sanctions on two Russia-backed separatist regions in Ukraine. The US strongly condemned Putin’s decision to recognize the “so-called Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics” as “independent.”

US Ambassador to UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield supported Ukraine’s call for an Urgent Meeting of the UN Security Council.

“Today, Russia announced that it will recognize as “independent states” parts of the sovereign territory of Ukraine in its Donbas region, which is currently controlled by Russia’s proxies. This is an unprovoked violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity,” she said in a statement.

“We support Ukraine’s call for an urgent meeting of the U Security Council. The Security Council must demand that Russia respect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine, a UN Member State. The Kremlin’s actions today are a wholesale rejection of the Minsk agreements and a violation of UN Security Council Resolution 2202 (2015),” she added.

She criticized Russia’s announcement and said that it is “nothing more than theatre, apparently designed to create a pretext for a further invasion of Ukraine.”

“Every UN Member State has a stake in what comes next. Russia’s actions threaten the international order that since World War I, has stood for the principle that one country cannot unilaterally redraw another country’s borders. This principle is enshrined in the U Charter which all Member States pledge to uphold. We must all stand with Ukraine in the face of this brazen attempt to usurp Ukraine’s sovereign territory. There can be no fence-sitters in this crisis,” her statement read.

Notably, Putin has also ordered the sending of the Russian Armed Forces to Ukraine breakaway regions after recognizing their independence in his Monday address to the nation.

“We are going to be looking very closely at what they do over the coming hours and days and our response will be measured according again to their actions,” a senior US administration official told ANI.

“Russian troops moving into Donbas would not itself be a new step,” the official said adding, “Russia has had forces in the Donbas for the past 8 years.” (ANI)

Kamala Harris warns Russia of ‘unprecedented’ costs if it invades Ukraine

             

Munich [Germany]: US Vice President Kamala Harris on Saturday (local time) warned Russia that if it invades Ukraine, the United States and its allies will impose “unprecedented economic costs” on Moscow.

In remarks at the Munich Security Conference in Germany, Harris vowed there would be a “swift, severe and united” response if Russia invades Ukraine.
“We will impose far-reaching financial sanctions and export controls. We will target Russia’s financial institutions and key industries. And we will target those who are complicit and those who aid and abet this unprovoked invasion,” CNN quoted Harris as saying.

Harris continued saying that “Make no mistake: The imposition of these sweeping and coordinated measures will inflict great damage on those who must be held accountable.”

“Let me be clear, I can say with absolute certainty if Russia further invades Ukraine the United States, together with our Allies and partners, will impose significant, and unprecedented economic costs,” Harris said in a tweet.

Harris is scheduled to hold a bilateral meeting with Ukrainian President Volodymr Zelensky later on Saturday, and will also meet with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, according to CNN.

Meanwhile, tensions have built up in Eastern Ukraine since Russia’s build-up of around 1,50,000 troops just over the border from the Donbas region in the east in Belarus to the north and Crimea to the south.

Russia claims the surge of forces, which is the biggest build-up of military might in Europe since the Cold War, has always been for military exercises and that it poses no threat to Ukraine or any other nation. (ANI)(instagram)

US ready to ‘respond decisively’ to Russian attack on Ukraine: Biden

             

Washington [US]: US President Joe Biden on Tuesday (local time) said that Washington is ready to respond decisively to the Russian attack on Ukraine.

“We are ready to respond decisively to the Russian attack on Ukraine which is still very much a possibility,” Biden said in remarks at the White House.
President Biden acknowledged reports on Tuesday that Russia has ordered the partial withdrawal of its troops near Ukraine’s borders, but stressed that the US has “not yet verified” the Kremlin’s claims and that an invasion remains “distinctly possible.”

“We have not yet verified the Russian military units are returning to their home bases — indeed, our analysts indicate that they remain very much in a threatening position, and the fact remains right now Russia has more than 150,000 troops circling Ukraine and Belarus, and along Ukraine’s border and invasion remains distinctly possible.”

“We are not seeking direct confrontation with Russia though I have been clear if Russia targets Americans in Ukraine, we will respond forcefully,” the US President asserted.

In remarks televised nationally, Biden emphasized that the path to diplomacy and de-escalation remains open but said if Russia invades Ukraine in the coming days or weeks “it will be met with overwhelming international condemnation.”

“Accountability matters. If Russia does invade in the days and weeks ahead, the human cost for Ukraine will be immense. And the strategic cost for Russia will also be immense. If Russia attacks Ukraine, it will be met with overwhelming international condemnation. The world will not forget that Russia chose needless death and destruction,” the US President said in White House remarks.

Biden’s speech came hours after Russian President Vladimir Putin said Moscow’s security concerns should be addressed and taken seriously.

Biden told reporters if Russia invaded Ukraine there would be crippling sanctions that could impact the American economy, that could suffer from disruption to energy supply and price hikes in the likely event that sanctions were levied on Russia in response to any invasion of Ukraine.

“If Russia decides to invade that will also have consequences here at home, Biden said in remarks at the White House.

“The American people understand that defending democracy and liberty is never without cost.”

He said the US was prepared to respond to other attempts at inflicting pain on Americans, including in cyberspace.

“We are not seeking direct confrontation with Russia, though I have been clear that if Russia targets Americans in Ukraine, we will respond forcefully. If Russia attacks the United States or allies through asymmetric means, like disruptive cyberattacks against our companies or critical infrastructure, we’re prepared to respond,” Biden said.

Amid the ongoing tensions that started in November at the Ukraine-Russia border, President Biden made it clear that the United States is not seeking to add to the volatility.

“Let me be equally clear about what we are not doing: The United States and NATO are not a threat to Russia,” said Biden, speaking from the White House.

“Ukraine is not threatening Russia. Neither the US nor NATO have missiles in Ukraine. We do not, do not have plans to put them there as well. We’re not targeting the people of Russia. We do not seek to destabilize Russia. To the citizens of Russia: you are not our enemy. I do not believe you want a bloody, destructive war against Ukraine,” he said.

Noting that Russia and the United States teamed up in World War II — which he called “a war of necessity” — Biden drew a distinction between the current state of affairs.

“If Russia attacks Ukraine, it will be a war of choice, or a war without cause or reason. I say these things not to provoke, but to speak the truth, because the truth matters. Accountability matters,” Biden said.

“If Russia does invade in the days and weeks ahead, the human cost for Ukraine will be immense,” he added.

Diplomatic efforts continued Tuesday between US and Russia. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken held a call with Lavrov, according to a State Department. Biden spoke with French President Emmanuel Macron on Tuesday about the evolving crisis. (ANI)(instagram Image)

US offers Ukraine loan guarantee of up to USD 1 billion

               

Washington [US],(ANI): Reaffirming its strong commitment to the Ukrainian people, the Biden administration has offered a sovereign loan guarantee to Ukraine of up to USD 1 billion to support its economic reform agenda and continued engagement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) amid Russia’s military buildup.

Taking to Twitter, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said, “We are working closely with allies to mobilize robust international support for Ukraine, including a US-backed sovereign loan guarantee of up to $1 billion to support key reforms. This support will bolster Ukraine’s ability to deliver prosperity for its people.”
“The United States is reaffirming our strong commitment to the Ukrainian people by joining with allies and partners to mobilize robust international support for Ukraine. The U.S. government is offering a sovereign loan guarantee to Ukraine of up to $1 billion to support its economic reform agenda and continued engagement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF),” State Department said.

This offer – combined with the strong partnership between Ukraine, the IMF, other international financial institutions, the G7 and other bilateral donors – will bolster Ukraine’s ability to ensure economic stability, growth, and prosperity for its people in the face of Russia’s “destabilizing behaviour”, according to the official statement.

“This action builds on the support the United States, our allies, and partners, including the G7 and international financial institutions, have provided Ukraine to help protect its economy amid Russian pressure in recent years,” it added.

Blinken also highlighted that between 2014 and 2016, the United States issued three separate USD 1 billion sovereign loan guarantees to Ukraine which played a critical role in helping Ukraine successfully stabilize its economy amid previous Russian aggression.

“The United States has provided over $2 billion in development assistance to Ukraine since 2014. The U.S. government has also worked to promote commercial participation by U.S. companies across the Ukrainian economy.”, as per the press release.

Furthermore, the Export-Import Bank of the United States intends to make available up to USD 3 billion to facilitate procurement of U.S. goods and services for projects in Ukraine, while the U.S. International Development Finance Corporation has a current investment portfolio in Ukraine of approximately USD 800 million across more than a dozen projects.

Blinken said that the US is exploring additional ways to support Ukraine and its people and will continue to advance efforts. (ANI)

‘Day Without Immigrants’ protest takes off in US cities

               

Washington [US](ANI): Hundreds of immigrants, including some Indian immigrants, held a nationwide “Day Without Immigrants” protest on Monday.

The protest took off in cities like New York and San Fransisco including a large rally outside the White House, aimed at building pressure on US President Joe Biden to prioritise the protection of immigrants and bringing reforms for them.
Advocates from different countries who have been residing in the US called on the Biden administration to offer a pathway to citizenship through the Build Back Better bill. Some families travelled to Washington D.C. to demand change and others chose to not go to work, send their children to school or purchase anything on Monday.

The organizers say the point is to show the economic impact the immigrant community would have if they didn’t spend their money or provide labour.

The call for reform comes as about 11 million undocumented immigrants and many documented immigrants living in the United States. Advocates say that there is a lot of frustration being aimed at the Biden administration and Democratic congressional leaders for promising immigration reforms on the campaign trail, and not delivering.

24-year-old Sumana Kaluvai grew up in America as a de facto American, but she faces the prospect of self-deportation and family separation. Voicing the concerns of an estimated 200,000 young immigrants living legally in the US for years as dependents of their parents on temporary work visas, Sumana and her advocacy group The Hidden Dream joined the protest in the western city of San Fransisco.

“There are thousands of engineers in companies like Google, Facebook, YouTube and others around the Bay Area, that keep these companies afloat. Companies hire our parents on various employment visas but then they don’t support them when it comes to filing for green cards or supporting their families through the long and uncertain immigration journey. That’s why I am here so that people like me of Indian origin come out and tell their stories,” Sumana told ANI.

After turning 21, many visa dreamers like Sumana abruptly lose legal immigration status and are forced to choose between returning to their native countries where they have spent little time, switching to an F-1 visa or continue to stay in the US illegally to stay with their families.

Some families have experienced slow-rolling family separations under the legal framework. Vara Ramakrishnan, an Indian Immigrant and also a human rights activist, come out on a cold winter morning to support the “Day Without Immigrants”. The strong-willed advocate underscores the visa caps and lengthy backlogs for green card applications — especially for foreign nationals from India, who have to wait decades for permanent residency.

Vara is clear-eyed about the long odds any immigration reform faces but also stresses that more Indian immigrants must come out and tell their stories. “Very few (Indian) immigrants are activists, Gandhi would be ashamed of us people! You need to be out on the streets.”

Many participants are planning another protest in Washington on February 28 to rally near the White House a day before President Joe Biden’s State of the Union address. (ANI)(image -instagram)

Biden signs executive order to preserve certain Afghanistan central bank assets: Blinken

               

Washington [US] (ANI): As Afghanistan faces a worsening humanitarian and economic crisis, US President Joe Biden on Friday (local time) signed an Executive Order as part of an effort to set aside USD 3.5 billion in Afghan central bank assets for the benefit of the Afghan people.

In a statement, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said, “the people of Afghanistan face enormous challenges: an economic crisis born of decades of dependence on international aid, severe drought, COVID-19, and endemic corruption.”
The statement said that the US also recognize that victims of terrorism, including of the September 11 terrorist attacks, have brought claims against the Taliban and are pursuing the central bank’s remaining assets in federal court.

“This Administration will continue to support these victims and their families, recognizing the enduring pain they have suffered at the hands of terrorists, including those who operated from Afghanistan prior to the September 11 attacks. These victims and their families should have a full opportunity to set forth their arguments in court,” the statement added.

The statement said that Afghanistan’s economic challenges were exacerbated when the Taliban decided to take the country by force rather than through a negotiated settlement. “But America’s ties to the people of Afghanistan, built during two decades of working side-by-side, are steadfast and enduring,” the statement added.

The Taliban took over Afghanistan after entering Kabul in August 2021, leading to the collapse of the Ashraf Ghani led government and mass evacuations.

A combination of a suspension of foreign aid, the freezing of Afghan government assets, and international sanctions on the Taliban, have plunged the country, already suffering from high poverty levels, into a full-blown economic crisis. (ANI)

Quad powerful mechanism to push back coercion in Indo-Pacific: Blinken

Washington [US], (ANI): US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Tuesday said Quad grouping is becoming a powerful mechanism for strengthening maritime security to push back against aggression and coercion in the Indo-Pacific region.
Blinken on Tuesday departed for his trip to the Indo-Pacific region for the Quad Foreign Ministers Ministerial Meeting in Australia and to attend other events and bilaterals in Fiji and Hawaii. “We’ll be first and foremost meeting with the Quad countries – Australia, Japan, India, the United States – following up on the leader level summit, the first-ever that the President had, and pursuing the work that I think is vital to the interests of Americans but also people throughout the region and around the world,” Blinken said before departing.
“The Quad is becoming a powerful mechanism for delivering, helping to vaccinate a big part of the world and getting a lot of vaccines out there, strengthening maritime security to push back against aggression and coercion in the Indo-Pacific region, working together on emerging technologies and making sure that they can be used in positive ways not negative ways, and an increasingly broad and deep agenda,” he added.
Separately in a tweet, Blinken said he is looking forward to productive meetings with leaders and communities to promote their shared values.
“Departing Washington for an important trip to the Indo-Pacific region. Looking forward to productive meetings with leaders and communities to promote our shared values and advance our goals,” said Blinken in a tweet on Tuesday.
“With our Quad partners, we are delivering results for our populations and the region, including by advancing cooperation on COVID-19 vaccination delivery, humanitarian assistance/disaster relief, maritime security, counter-terrorism, cybersecurity, countering disinformation, climate change, and critical and emerging technologies,” the US State Department had said in an earlier statement.
Blinken will meet with Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, Foreign Minister Payne, Japanese Minister for Foreign Affairs Hayashi Yoshimasa, External Affairs Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, and other senior officials to discuss a range of bilateral and global priorities.
The US Secretary of State will also engage with students, scholars, and technology leaders in Melbourne, according to the statement. Image(Instagram) 

Washington approves USD 100 million arms sales to Taiwan amid tension with China

              

Taipei [Taiwan] (ANI): The United States has approved a possible USD 100 million sales of equipment and services to Taiwan to “sustain, maintain, and improve” the Patriot missile defense system used by the self-governing island claimed by China.

“The State Department has made a determination approving a possible Foreign Military Sale to the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office in the United States (TECRO) of equipment and services to support participation in the Patriot International Engineering Services Program (IESP) and Field Surveillance Program (FSP) for five years, including engineering services support, designed to sustain, maintain, and improve the Patriot Air Defense System for an estimated cost of USD 100 million,” US Defense Security Cooperation Agency said in a statement on Monday (local time).
In a statement, the Defense Security Cooperation Agency said it has delivered the required certification notifying Congress following State Department approval for the sale requested by Taiwan’s TECRO.

“This proposed sale serves US national, economic, and security interests by supporting the recipient’s continuing efforts to modernize its armed forces and to maintain a credible defensive capability. The proposed sale will help improve the security of the recipient and assist in maintaining political stability, military balance, economic and progress in the region,” read the statement.

The statement stated that the proposed sale will “help to sustain the recipient’s missile density and ensure readiness for air operations. The recipient will use this capability as a deterrent to regional threats and to strengthen homeland defense. The recipient will have no difficulty absorbing this equipment and services into its armed forces.”

The proposed sale of this equipment and support will not alter the basic military balance in the region, the statement added.

In a meantime, Taiwan has welcomed the US move to approve USD 100 million arms sales. Taking to Twitter, Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said, “We welcome @StateDept’s approval of a USD100 million arms sale to Taiwan. The decision demonstrates the US government’s commitment to the #TaiwanRelationsAct & #SixAssurances. It also supports the maintenance of our defensive capabilities, as well as regional peace & stability.

The move comes at a time when tensions between China and Taiwan are heightened. The relations between China and the US have also deteriorated in recent times due to various reasons including Beijing Winter Olympics, Indo-Pacific and coronavirus pandemic.

China has repeatedly threatened Taiwan with invasion and has adopted an aggressive policy to intimidate the self-governing island.

For decades, the Chinese government has claimed authority over Taiwan. Though Taiwan is not recognised by the UN, its government maintains a relationship with the US and does not accept Chinese authority. (ANI)

Russian aggression in Europe would impact China’s interest all over the world: US

            

Washington [US]: The United States has passed on a clear message to China that a conflict in Europe would also impact China’s interests all over the world, reported NHK News.

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki, while speaking to reporters, on Friday, said, “Destabilizing conflict in Europe would impact China’s interests all over the world,” adding “Certainly, China should know that.”
This comes at a time when Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin held summit talks and affirmed a deeper partnership between their countries.

Along similar lines, senior US State Department official Daniel Kritenbrink conveyed on Friday that Beijing could have played a role to de-escalate mounting tensions along the Ukraine border as Chinese President Xi Jinping met Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“The meeting should have provided China the opportunity to encourage Russia to pursue diplomacy and de-escalation in Ukraine, that is what the world expects from responsible powers,” said Kritenbrink on Friday with respect to the meeting between Putin and Xi.

In a joint statement earlier in the day, Russia and China said they oppose further enlargement of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and called on the alliance to abandon its ideologically-charged Cold War approach, according to Sputnik. (ANI)

Biden marks ‘tragic milestone’ of 900,000 American deaths from COVID-19

               

Washington [US](ANI): US President Joe Biden on Friday marked the “‘tragic milestone” of 900,000 deaths from COVID-19 even as he urged Americans to do their part to fight the pandemic including getting themselves and their children vaccinated against the disease.

“Today, our nation marks another tragic milestone — 900,000 American lives have been lost to COVID-19. They were beloved mothers and fathers, grandparents, children, brothers and sisters, neighbours, and friends. Each soul is irreplaceable. We pray for the loved ones they have left behind, and together we keep every family enduring this pain in our hearts,” read Biden’s statement released by White House.
The US President said that the emotional, physical, and psychological weight of the COVID-19 pandemic has been incredibly difficult to bear.

“I know what it’s like to stare at an empty chair around the kitchen table. But I also know that we carry an incredible capacity within ourselves — not only to come through our grief stronger but to come together to protect one another,” Biden said.

Biden further highlighted American efforts to fight the pandemic and said that the US now has more tools than ever before to save lives and emphasized COVID vaccines as the “most important tool.”

“Vaccines and boosters have proven incredibly effective, and offer the highest level of protection. Two hundred and fifty million Americans have stepped up to protect themselves, their families, and their communities by getting at least one shot — and we have saved more than one million American lives as a result,” said Biden.

He urged all Americans to get vaccinated, get kids vaccinated, and get booster shots if eligible.

“It’s free, easy, and effective — and it can save your life, and the lives of those you love,” read Biden statement.

The number of US deaths caused by the novel coronavirus disease surpassed 9,00,000 on Friday afternoon, according to the tally compiled by Johns Hopkins University (JHU).

Less than two months ago, in mid-December, the United States passed the 8,00,000 mark in Covid-related deaths as the more-transmissible Omicron variant spread through the country. (ANI)(image-instagram)

China threat to US ‘more brazen’ than ever; trying to steal American innovation, tech: FBI Director

              

Washington [US](ANI): Stressing that threats posed by China in the United States is “more brazen” than ever before, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Director Christopher Wray said that China is trying to steal American innovation and technology than all other nations.

“When we tally up what we see in our investigations–over 2,000 of which are focused on the Chinese government trying to steal our information and technology–there is just no country that presents a broader threat to our ideas, our innovation, and our economic security than China,” Wray said in a speech at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library on Monday (local time).
“Here in the U.S., they unleash a massive, sophisticated hacking program that is bigger than those of every other major nation combined,” he said.

Speaking about the threat posed by the Chinese government in US, Wary said, the “threat posed by the Chinese government at home to our economic security and to our freedoms. Our freedom of speech, of conscience; our freedom to elect and be served by our representatives without foreign meddling; our freedom to prosper when we toil and invent. I’ve spoken a lot about this threat since I became FBI Director. But I want to focus on it here, because in many ways it’s reached a new level–more brazen, more damaging than ever before, and it’s vital–vital–that all of us focus on that threat together.”

Wray also stressed that his speech concerned the Chinese government and the Chinese Communist Party posing the threat the FBI is addressing, and not the Chinese people.

“I do want to be clear that the Chinese government and the Chinese Communist Party pose the threat we’re focused on countering–not the Chinese people, and certainly not Chinese Americans, who are themselves frequently victims of the Chinese government’s lawless aggression. Protecting them from the Chinese government is top of mind for us, too. “

FBI Director highlighted the recent case of the Chinese government stealing American secrets.

He said, “A recent case from Ohio is a great illustration of the Chinese government’s multiprong strategy for stealing our valuable secrets. This past November, a Chinese intelligence officer named Xu Yanjun was convicted of economic espionage in Cincinnati. He was part of the Chinese Ministry of State Security, which is one of their spy services, and he was in a unit responsible for stealing aviation-related secrets.”

“In 2015, the Chinese government publicly promised to stop handing hacked U.S. technology to Chinese companies, but their cybertheft program kept going strong. And in the years since, they’ve hit ever more companies and workers. We’ve seen small companies developing important medicines ransacked. We’ve seen big managed service providers remotely managing IT services for thousands of other businesses hacked, so the Chinese government could hijack their trusted connections with their customers and hack those companies, too,” he added.

Wray further stated that stealing innovation isn’t the only way the Chinese government shows their disregard for the international rule of law. Despite this China is targeting the people inside the US.

“The Chinese government is increasingly targeting people inside the U.S. for personal and political retribution–undercutting the freedoms that our Constitution and laws promise. The kinds of people the Chinese Communist Party tends to go after are not those that a responsible government would make their enemies–refugees, dissidents, and Uyghurs–people with their own ideas, who speak or worship as their conscience dictates,” he said. (ANI)

Pfizer, BioNTech seek emergency authorization for COVID-19 vaccine for kids under 5 years of age

              

New York [US]- The pharmaceutical companies, Pfizer and BioNTech, are seeking Emergency Use Authorization for their COVID-19 vaccine for use in children between six months and four years of age.

“Pfizer Inc and BioNTech SE today announced that following a request from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) the companies have initiated a rolling submission seeking to amend the Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine to include children 6 months through 4 years of age (6 months to <5 years of age), in response to the urgent public health need in this population,” Pfizer and BioNTech said in a statement on Tuesday (local time).
If authorization is granted, the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine would be the first COVID-19 vaccine available for paediatric populations under 5 years of age.

Pfizer and BioNTech said they expect to complete the EUA submission in the coming days.

“As hospitalizations of children under 5 due to COVID-19 have soared, our mutual goal with the FDA is to prepare for future variant surges and provide parents with an option to help protect their children from this virus,” said Albert Bourla, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Pfizer.

“Ultimately, we believe that three doses of the vaccine will be needed for children 6 months through 4 years of age to achieve high levels of protection against current and potential future variants. If two doses are authorized, parents will have the opportunity to begin a COVID-19 vaccination series for their children while awaiting potential authorization of a third dose,” Bourla added.

Ugur Sahin, MD, CEO and Co-founder of BioNTech, said that the vaccine has already demonstrated favourable safety, tolerability and efficacy profile in multiple clinical trials and real-world studies for all age groups starting from 5 years old.

“If authorized, we are very excited about the prospect of offering parents the opportunity to help protect their children 6 months through 4 years of age from COVID-19 and the potentially severe consequences of infection,” Sahin added. (ANI-Image -Kshvid)

China poses greatest threat to US economic security: FBI Director

               

Washington [US] – China poses the greatest threat to the United States in the field of economic security and innovation, stealing terabytes of data from hundreds of US companies, FBI Director Christopher Wray has said.

“When we tally up what we see in our investigations, over 2,000 of which are focused on the Chinese government trying to steal our information or technology, there’s just no country that presents a broader threat to our ideas, innovation, and economic security than China,” Wray said in a speech at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library on Monday.
Wray said that the Chinese government steals “staggering volumes of information and causes deep, job-destroying damage across a wide range of industries,” adding that the bureau is “constantly opening new cases to counter their intelligence operations about every 12 hours.”

According to FBI Director, stealing innovation isn’t the only way the Chinese government shows their disregard for the international rule of law.

“The Chinese government is increasingly targeting people inside the U.S. for personal and political retribution–undercutting the freedoms that our Constitution and laws promise. The kinds of people the Chinese Communist Party tends to go after are not those that a responsible government would make their enemies, refugees, dissidents, and Uyghurs, people with their own ideas, who speak or worship as their conscience dictates,” he said.

Citing the example of “Fox Hunt,” Wray said this program that President Xi Jinping claimed in 2014 was created to stamp out corruption, but in reality, it targets, captures, and repatriates former Chinese citizens living overseas whom it sees as a political or financial threat.

“Over the past eight years, the Chinese government has hauled home more than 9,000 people worldwide, bringing them back to China, where they can be imprisoned or controlled,” he said.

Currently, there are hundreds of people on U.S. soil who are on the Chinese government’s official Fox Hunt list and many more not on the official list, according to FBI Director. “Most of the targets are green card holders, naturalized citizens, folks with important rights and protections under U.S. law.”

Wray also stressed that his speech concerned the Chinese government and the Chinese Communist Party posing the threat the FBI is addressing, and not the Chinese people. (image -instagram)

Biden meets Emir of Qatar, discusses security in Gulf region

               

Washington [US]: US President Joe Biden met Emir of Qatar Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad Al-Thani on Monday where they reaffirmed their mutual interest in promoting security and prosperity in the Gulf and broader Middle East region.

Both sides ensured the stability of global energy supplies, supporting the people of Afghanistan, and strengthening commercial and investment cooperation said White House in a statement.
The President and the Emir welcomed the signing of a USD 20 billion deal between Boeing and Qatar Airways Group, which will support tens of thousands of U.S. manufacturing jobs.

In recognition of the strategic partnership between the United States and Qatar, which has deepened over the past 50 years, the President informed the Emir of his intention to designate Qatar as a Major Non-NATO Ally. (ANI-image instagram)

US believes China wants de-escalation in Ukraine crisis to avoid negative impact on its interests

              

Washington [US](ANI): The United States believes China prefers de-escalation in Ukraine because of the possibility of a conflict in Europe could have a negative impact on its interests, Sputnik reported citing a senior US administration official as saying on Friday.

“I would certainly suggest that it’s not in China’s interest to see a conflict in this situation, not just because of the Olympics but I think more broadly the impact of a devastating conflict in Europe would have on China’s interests all over the world,” the Russian News Agency quoted the US official as saying.
“We hope China will be speaking to these principles, the importance of upholding these principles to the path of diplomacy on Monday as well,” the official said.

The United Nations Security Council will hold a special meeting to address the situation over Ukraine on Monday. However, Russia has criticized the US-requested meeting, calling it a “PR stunt,” Sputnik reported.

“The US has been engaged in very active talks with China on a range of issues, but particularly on Russia and Ukraine recently,” the official said.

The US and its allies have accused Russia of amassing troops and military equipment in preparation for an invasion of Ukraine. Washington has threatened massive sanctions should Russia decide to advance on Ukraine, Sputnik reported.

It further reported that Russia has repeatedly rejected the accusations, saying that it has the right to move its troops within its sovereign territory and is not planning to attack any country. Moscow views the allegations as a pretext for the deployment of NATO military equipment close to Russian borders. (Image-USInstagram)

US revokes China Unicom’s authority to operate in America over security concerns

            

Washington [US]: The US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) said it revoked China Unicom’s ability to provide its services in the United States due to national security concerns.

This decision to eject the Chinese state-owned telecommunications operator from the US market adds to the tally of other Chinese firms sanctioned by the agency over security concerns.
“The Federal Communications Commission adopted an Order ending the ability of China Unicom (Americas) Operations Limited to provide domestic interstate and international telecommunications services within the United States,” the FCC said in a press release on Thursday.

The FCC said that revoking the Chinese state-owned telecom operator’s authority safeguards the United States’ telecommunications infrastructure from potential security threats.

The FCC said it found that the company’s subsidiary, China Unicom Americas, was subject to exploitation, influence and control by the Chinese government and could be required to comply with requests from Beijing.

The Chinese government could potentially access, store, disrupt, and misrouted US communications, which may allow them to engage in espionage and other harmful activities against the United States, the FCC said.

In March last year, the Commission found that China Unicom Americas had failed to dispel serious concerns regarding the retention of its authority to provide telecommunications services in the United States.

Meanwhile, Beijing has repeatedly denied US spying allegations. (ANI)

Nicholas Burns sworn in as new US envoy to China

               

Washington [US],(ANI): Career diplomat Nicholas Burns on Tuesday was sworn in to be the next US Ambassador to China.

“Today I was honored to swear in Nicholas Burns, our newly confirmed Ambassador to the People’s Republic of China,” Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman said via Twitter. “Ambassador Burns will be a strong voice protecting and advancing US interests in our relationship with the PRC, and I look forward to working with him again.”
Burns’ nomination was confirmed by the US Senate in December with a 75-18 vote.

In October, Burns said during a confirmation hearing that China represents the greatest security threat to the US and the democratic world.

Burns said that both countries should work on improving their communications in order to avert the possibility of a conflict and maintain regional peace. He promised to communicate directly with Chinese officials and to facilitate meetings with US counterparts, including President Joe Biden.

However, Burns called on the Biden administration to scale up security cooperation and arms provisions to Taiwan to defend itself from China.

Futhermore, Burns said China’s ongoing nuclear weapons buildup, its development of hypersonic missile technology, and economic dominance should be matters of concern for Russia. (Image -Instagram Nicholas)

Biden calls reporter to apologise for calling him ‘Stupid son of a b****’; White House transcript retains gaffe

              

Washington [US]: US President Joe Biden who was caught on live microphone using a vulgar epithet for a reporter during a White House event on Monday (local time) called up to apologize for the comment, according to the journalist.

During an event on Monday evening, reporter Peter Doocy attempted to ask Biden whether inflation was a political liability for him to which the President responded by calling him a “stupid son of a bitch,” reported Fox News.
Doocey appearing on FOX TV, Doocy said that Biden reached out to him “within about an hour of that exchange.”

“He said ‘It’s nothing personal, pal,'” Doocy said. “And we went back and forth, and we were talking about just kind of moving forward, and I made sure to tell him that I’m always gonna try to ask something different than what everybody else is asking. And he said, ‘You got to.’ And that’s a quote from the president, so I’ll keep doing it,” the US media network said.

“I don’t need anybody to apologize to me. He can call me whatever he wants as long as it gets him talking!” Doocy said.

At the White House event after Biden finished his prepared remarks, several reporters started shouting questions at the President. It was then that Doocy shouted out his question on whether Biden thought “inflation will be a political liability ahead of the midterms?”

“That’s a great asset. More inflation? What a stupid son of a bitch,” Biden said into a hot microphone. The moment was also caught on camera.

Interestingly, the White House put out an official transcript of the entire event and also included the President’s epithet.

According to the New York Post newspaper, previously too Biden has chided reporters for asking about subjects that he dislikes.

Last week, Biden attacked a woman Fox News reporter after she asked, “Why are you waiting on (Russian President Vladimir) Putin to make the first move, sir?” Biden replied, “What a stupid question.” Image -Instagram)

US orders families of embassy staff in Ukraine to leave country

               

Washington [US]: The United States on Sunday updated its travel advisory for Ukraine urging American citizens to leave the country and authorizing the departure of some embassy employees.

“On January 23, 2022, the Department of State authorized the voluntary departure of US direct hire employees and ordered the departure of eligible family members from Embassy Kyiv due to the continued threat of Russian military action. US citizens in Ukraine should consider departing now using commercial or other privately available transportation options,” the State Department said in an advisory on Sunday.
This advisory said Russia is planning significant military action against Ukraine.

“The security conditions, particularly along Ukraine’s borders, in Russia-occupied Crimea, and in Russia-controlled eastern Ukraine, are unpredictable and can deteriorate with little notice. Demonstrations, which have turned violent at times, regularly occur throughout Ukraine, including in Kyiv.”

The State Department said that US citizens in Ukraine should be aware that Russian military action anywhere in Ukraine would severely impact the US Embassy’s ability to provide consular services, including assistance to U.S. citizens in departing Ukraine.”

The State Department has urged American citizens not to take trips to the country amid “tension” along the border with Ukraine.

“Do not travel to Ukraine due to the increased threats of Russian military action and COVID-19. Exercise increased caution in Ukraine due to crime and civil unrest. Some areas have increased risk. Read the entire Travel Advisory.”

This advisory comes as several countries, led by the US, have accused Russia of amassing troops near the Ukrainian border in alleged preparation for an invasion. Moscow has said that it has no intention of invading Ukraine while stressing that it has the right to move forces within its own territory. (ANI)

In tit-for-tat response, US blocks Chinese airlines after Beijing’s action

Washington [US] (ANI): The US on Friday (local time) in a counterstroke to China’s virus policy blocked 44 passenger flights by Chinese airlines as Beijing had taken the same step against American carriers as part of its strict coronavirus control policies.
The move comes as China has been suspending flights by American carriers after alleging in-bound passengers had later tested positive for the coronavirus, said Ian Duncan, a reporter covering federal transportation agencies and the politics of transportation, writing in The Washington Post. The US Transportation Department issued an order Friday blocking 44 passenger flights by Chinese airlines. The restrictions begin on January 30 and run until March 29. The move will affect flights between Los Angeles and New York and five Chinese cities, reported The Washington Post.
Since the early days of the pandemic, the Chinese government has imposed a policy known as the “circuit breaker” that imposed limits on inbound flights by airlines if their passengers subsequently test positive for the coronavirus.
The US government argued that the policy is an unfair restriction on aviation that violates a long-standing agreement between the two countries.
The dispute over US-China aviation during the pandemic has been rumbling since late spring of 2020, when the Trump administration moved to block flights from China. The two countries eventually agreed to allow limited schedules.
In August, the Chinese government imposed capacity limits on United Airlines, an alternative sanction under the circuit breaker. The United States responded, targeting Chinese airlines, said Duncan.
The new US order goes further, banning passengers altogether. The four Chinese carriers targeted in the order will be permitted to continue operating flights from the United States to China if they only carry cargo. They still are allowed to carry passengers from China to the United States.
The suspended flights to China begin on January 30 and include flights from the carriers Xiamen Airlines, China Southern Airlines Company and Air China.
Airlines that operate a China-bound flight that contains between five and nine passengers who subsequently test positive for the coronavirus are supposed to have two options: suspend that flight for two weeks or limit that flight’s capacity to 40 percent for four weeks. The Chinese government says it applies the rules in the same way to domestic and international airlines, said Duncan.
But the Transportation Department says in the case of the most recent incidents, the US carriers were not given the choice and were told they must cancel the flights, while being denied advance warning.
“US carriers, who are following all relevant Chinese regulations with respect to pre-departure and in-flight protocols, should not be penalized if passengers, post-arrival, later test positive for COVID-19,” the department wrote in Friday’s order.
Meanwhile, Delta Air Lines, which has had 14 flights suspended by China in recent weeks, said, “We appreciate continued US government efforts to ensure fairness and access to China.”

Blinken says not anticipating big breakthroughs during meeting with Lavrov in Geneva

Geneva [Switzerland] (ANI/Sputnik): US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has said that he does not expect big breakthroughs on the Ukrainian crisis and security issues during his upcoming meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, which is to be held in Geneva on Friday.
“I don’t anticipate any breakthroughs,” Blinken told the German TV channel ZDF, when asked about the expected results of the meeting. At the same time, he noted that many intensive talks with Russia have been held lately. According to the politician, participants had the opportunity to discuss the results of the consultations, and the forthcoming meeting with Lavrov will show what conclusions the parties reached.
“At least, I hope we’ll know more tomorrow – about whether Russia is genuinely committed to trying to resolve these differences diplomatically through dialogue or not,” Blinken added.
Earlier in the day, Blinken arrived in Geneva for his meeting with Lavrov to discuss security matters in Eastern Europe after his visits to Kiev and Berlin. The talks are expected to start at 13:00 Moscow time (10:00 GMT). Sources in both delegations told Sputnik that the meeting is expected to last from two to two and a half hours, after which Lavrov and Blinken will hold separate press conferences.
In the past few months, the West and Ukraine have accused Russia of amassing troops near the Ukrainian border in alleged preparation for invasion. Russia has dismissed these claims, maintaining that it has no intention of invading Ukraine while stressing that it has the right to move forces within its own territory.
Russia has also expressed concern over NATO’s military activity near its borders and ongoing military support of Ukraine, including an increase in the number of Western instructors in Donbas.
In December, the Russian government proposed a set of mutual security guarantees in Europe to NATO and the United States, with their response still pending. (Image source: Instagram)

Disaster for Russia if it invades Ukraine, warns Biden

              

Washington [US],: US President Joe Biden on Wednesday (local time) said that Russia will be held accountable if it invades Ukraine amid rising tensions between the two countries.

“Russia will be held accountable if it invades Ukraine. It is going to be a disaster for Russia if it invades Ukraine. Our partner and allies are ready to impose severe costs and significant harm to Russia and its economy,” said the US President.
He warned Russian President Vladimir Putin of significant economic consequences when such an incursion occurs. “He (Russian President Vladimir Putin) has never seen sanctions like the ones I have promised will be imposed if Russia further advances into Ukraine,” said Biden.

But he suggested a “minor incursion” would elicit a lesser response than a full-scale invasion of the country. Biden said that the level of punishment would depend on what Russia’s invasion looks like.

“It’s one thing if it’s a minor incursion and we end up having to fight about what to do and not do, et cetera,” said Biden.

“But if they actually do what they’re capable of doing with the forces amassed on the border, it is going to be a disaster for Russia if they further invade Ukraine. And that our allies and partners are ready to impose severe cost and significant harm on Russia and the Russian economy,” he said.

“I have already shipped over USD 600 million worth of sophisticated defence equipment to the Ukrainians. The cost of going into Ukraine in terms of physical loss of life for Russians is going to be heavy, real and consequential,” Biden added

The US expects that Putin will be moving his 100,000 troops after amassing them along the Ukraine border.

“I’m not so sure he is certain what he is going to do. My guess is he will move in. He has to do something,” Biden said, describing a leader searching for relevance in a post-Soviet world. “He is trying to find his place in the world between China and the West.”

Biden made the remarks at the formal news conference marking his first year in office. (image – instagram)

US reports nearly 9.5 million child COVID-19 cases

               

Washington [US] (ANI/Xinhua): Nearly 9.5 million children in the United States have tested positive for COVID-19 since the onset of the pandemic, and child COVID-19 cases have “spiked dramatically” across the country, according to the latest report of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the Children’s Hospital Association.

A total of 9,452,491 child COVID-19 cases had been reported across the country as of January 13, and children represented 17.8 per cent of all confirmed cases, according to the report published Tuesday.
The overall rate was 12,559 cases per 100,000 children in the population.

Nearly one million child cases were reported in the past week ending January 13, four times the rate of the peak of last winters’ surge, according to the AAP.

The weekly case count is a 69 percent increase over the 580,000 added cases reported the previous week, and a tripling of case counts from the two weeks prior, according to the AAP.

This marks the 23rd week in a row child COVID-19 cases in the United States are above 100,000. Since the first week of September, there have been over 4.4 million additional child cases, according to the AAP.

Children accounted for 1.7 per cent to 4.4 per cent of total reported hospitalizations, and 0 to 0.26 per cent of all COVID-19 deaths, according to the report.

“There is an urgent need to collect more age-specific data to assess the severity of illness related to new variants as well as potential longer-term effects,” said the AAP in the report.

“It is important to recognize there are immediate effects of the pandemic on children’s health, but importantly we need to identify and address the long-lasting impacts on the physical, mental, and social well-being of this generation of children and youth,” said the report. (Image – Instagram)

US President Biden, Japanese PM Kishida to meet virtually on Jan 21, to discuss Quad

Washington [US] (ANI): Amid China’s growing assertiveness in the Indo-Pacific region, US President Joe Biden will meet Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida virtually on Friday (January 21) to discuss issues pertaining to the Quad (an alliance of US, Australia, Japan and India).
“President Joseph R Biden, Jr will meet virtually with Prime Minister Kishida Fumio of Japan on Friday, January 21 to further deepen ties between our governments, economies, and our people,” read a statement by White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki. The two countries seek to further deepen their ties and the meeting will highlight the strength of the US-Japan Alliance, which is the cornerstone of peace, security, and stability in the Indo-Pacific and around the world.
“President Biden looks forward to working with Prime Minister Kishida to advance our shared vision for a free and open Indo-Pacific, and to expand our close cooperation on critical issues like combatting COVID-19, addressing the climate crisis, and partnering on new and emerging technologies, including through the Quad,” added the statement. (Image source: Instagram)

US sees highest rate of children COVID-19 hospitalizations

Washington [US] (ANI/Xinhua): US pediatric hospitalizations related to COVID-19 are at the highest level since the start of the pandemic, according to the latest data of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The country is averaging 893 new hospital admissions each day for children 17 years and under, a record high since the CDC started to track the number from August 2020. Most of these hospitalizations are because of COVID-19, although some are children who were admitted for other causes but tested positive for COVID-19 when they were admitted or during their hospital stay, according to the CDC.
The country saw over 90,000 total hospital admissions for children 17 years old and under from August 1, 2020 to January 13, 2022, CDC data showed.
The highest hospitalization rates among all children are in those ages newborn to 4 years, who are not yet eligible for vaccination.
The Omicron variant does not appear to cause more severe disease in children than other variants of the virus, and the overall rates of pediatric hospitalizations are still lower than in any adult age group, according to the CDC.
The CDC expected COVID-19 children hospitalizations would continue to increase in the coming weeks.
The CDC urged everyone ages 5 years and older to get a COVID-19 vaccine to help protect against COVID-19. (Image source: Instagram)

Texas synagogue hostage crisis: Biden condemns anti-Semitism, extremism

Washington [US] (ANI): US President Joe Biden has condemned anti-Semitism after several people were taken hostage at a synagogue in the town of Colleyville, Dallas, and pledged to do everything to prevent “the rise of extremism” in the country.
“Let me be clear to anyone who intends to spread hate – we will stand against anti-Semitism and against the rise of extremism in this country. That is who we are, and tonight, the men and women of law enforcement made us all proud,” Biden said in a White House statement on Sunday. The US President also noted that law enforcement officers had acted cooperatively and fearlessly to rescue the hostages and thanked them for their “tireless work.”
At least four people were taken hostages by a man at a synagogue in the town of Colleyville for more than ten hours on Saturday.
A live stream of the Shabbat morning service at the synagogue on Facebook captured audio of a man talking loudly when the incident started. According to the law enforcement officials, the hostage-taker demanded the release of the Pakistani scientist Aafia Siddiqui, who was convicted of trying to kill US military officers while in custody in Afghanistan. Siddiqui is currently being held at FMC Carswell, a federal prison in Fort Worth Texas.
However, the suspect who took hostages, demanding the release of a Pakistan scientist convicted of trying to kill US military officers while in custody in Afghanistan, has been killed.
“The suspect is deceased,” Colleyville Police Chief Michael Miller said during a press conference on late Saturday (local time), explaining that the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) rescue team had entered the synagogue in Colleyville and that all the three remaining hostages were rescued unharmed, Sputnik News Agency reported.

Trump to hold ‘Save America’ rally in Arizona

Washington [US] (ANI/ Sputnik): Former US President Donald Trump will hold his first “Save America” rally this year on Saturday at the Country Thunder Festival Grounds in the city of Florence, Arizona.
“A Save America Rally is scheduled for January 15, 2022 at the Country Thunder Fairgrounds. The event will open at 6:00 am [13:00 GMT] and is scheduled to end at 9:00 pm [04:00 GMT on Sunday],” the official Twitter account for the Town of Florence said. The rally is expected to be attended by several Republican politicians.
The next Save America rally will take place in the city of Conroe, Texas on January 29, according to Trump’s official website.
The ex-president was initially scheduled to lead a rally on January 6 on the anniversary of the Capitol attack but cancelled several days before the event.
Trump continues to criticize the administration of US President Joe Biden. During the rallies, he has accused Biden of failure against the COVID-19 pandemic, inability to deal with economic problems and foreign policy failures in the Russian and Chinese directions.
Trump’s participation in the 2024 elections is still under question. He has said that he cannot give a definitive answer, but he will “please” his supporters.
On January 6, Trump supporters stormed the Capitol in Washington, in an effort to prevent the certification of Joe Biden’s victory in the 2020 presidential election. (Image source: Instagram)

US reports over 150,000 hospitalisations in 24 hours, faces lack of medics as COVID-19 cases surge

Washington [US] (ANI): The number of people hospitalized in the US with Covid-19 has reached a record high — 151,261 as of Wednesday. And as the infection due to Omicron variant spreads, states and health care systems nationwide are handling shortages of available medical workers.
Nineteen states have less than 15% remaining capacity in their ICUs. Four of them have less than 10%: Kentucky, Alabama, Indiana and New Hampshire, according to data Wednesday from the US Department of Health and Human Services, reported CNN News. The other states are– Arizona, Delaware, Georgia, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Missouri, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Texas and Vermont, according to HHS.
The Omicron virus is wreaking havoc in the country as the variant is spreading rapidly leading to a shortage of medical workers.
The medical workers have a greater chance to get exposed to the virus and they must isolate themselves if they are tested positive.
Governor of Washington, Jay Inslee announced on Thursday that he will be requiring hospitals to temporarily halt non-urgent procedures in an effort to get staff positioned to assist people who need help immediately, reported CNN News.

US proposing new UN sanctions against North Korea for recent missile launches: Envoy to UN

Washington [US] (ANI/Sputnik): The US proposes to the United Nations to impose new sanctions on North Korea for six missile launches conducted by Pyongyang since September 21, US Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield said.
“On top of today’s designations by @StateDept and @USTreasury, the US is proposing @UN sanctions following North Korea’s six ballistic missile launches since September 2021, each of which were in violation of UN Security Council resolutions,” the diplomat wrote on her Twitter page on late Wednesday. Later, a US diplomat told RIA Novosti that the US wanted five persons to be included in the list of the UN sanctions.
“The US nominated five individuals for UN sanctions who were designated by Treasury earlier today. We continue to coordinate with partners to prepare the additional three individuals and entities designated by State for UN nomination,” the diplomat said.
Since the beginning of 2022, North Korea has already conducted two missile tests: on January 5 and January 11. (Image source: Unsplash)

US Politics : Biden asks Senators to declare their stand on Democracy

               

Washington [USA] (ANI): US President Joe Biden gave a statement on changing the Senate’s so-called filibuster rules to push the voting rights legislation and rebuked the former president Donald Trump and his allies for disenfranchising anyone who votes against them.

Taking to Twitter he said, “The next few days when these voting rights bills come to a vote, will mark a turning point in this nation. Will we choose democracy over autocracy? Every Senator will have to declare where they stand.”
“I ask every elected official in America – how do you want to be remembered?”, he added.

Last year, President Joe Biden ripped apart the claims of Donald Trump’s ‘big lie’ about the 2020 presidential election and said that the US is facing the “most significant test of our democracy since the Civil War” due to alleged attempts by the Republican party to suppress and subvert the right to vote in fair and free elections.

Furthermore, he said, “When it comes to protecting majority rule in America, a majority should rule in the United States Senate. To protect our democracy, I support changing the Senate rules to prevent a minority of Senators from blocking action on voting rights.”

Earlier, Biden blasted efforts from Trump and others to sow doubt about the 2020 election months after it concluded, which have spurred action from Grand Old Party (Republican Party)-led state legislatures to push new elections laws that would limit absentee voting and make it more difficult for certain groups to vote.

Biden pointed to the dozens of court challenges thrown out by federal judges, including some appointed by Trump. He noted Wisconsin, Arizona and Georgia confirmed his victories in each state through audits and recounts, reported The Hill.

Notably, Just hours before Biden spoke, Trump issued a statement calling for Pennsylvania to conduct an audit of the 2020 results, in which Biden won the state by roughly 80,000 votes.

“The goal of the former president and his allies is to disenfranchise anyone who votes against them. That is the kind of power you see in a totalitarian state – not in a democracy. Today, we call on Congress to act to defend your right to vote – and our democracy”, he added. (Image -Instagram)

               

US House lawmakers to propose Bill to boost Ukraine Defense aid, sanction Russia

Washington [US] (ANI/Sputnik): House Republicans are set to introduce legislation that would boost US defense aid to Ukraine and reimpose sanctions on Russia if passed, Politico reported, citing a draft copy of the bill.
The bill’s Senate counterpart of the proposed legislation, entitled the “Guaranteeing Ukrainian Autonomy by Reinforcing its Defense (GUARD) Act,” was introduced in mid-December. The move comes amid increased tensions between Russia, the US and its allies over the buildup of Russian forces near the Ukrainian border. “President Biden is failing to adequately arm Ukraine & deter Russia’s military buildup. Today, I joined my House colleagues in reaffirming our commitment to Ukraine. The U.S. can no longer afford to be weak on the international stage,” Representative Mike Turner said on Monday in a tweet with a link to the report.
A draft copy of the legislation calls for $200 million in aid to Ukraine for air-defense capabilities and naval vessels, the reimposition of sanctions related to the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, and the consideration of state sponsor of terrorism designation for Russia.
Russian delegations are meeting with US, NATO and OSCE officials this week to discuss a range of bilateral and European security issues. (Image source: Unsplash)

US hopes to thwart China-Iran alliance by deft diplomacy

Washington [US] (ANI): US hopes to thwart the China-Iran alliance by mixing carrots and sticks to draw Tehran into a long-term dialogue on issues of concern to the US and its allies.
More dexterous diplomacy towards Tehran should mix carrots and sticks to draw Iran into a long-term dialogue on issues of concern to the United States and its allies, according to National Interest. The policy implication of this view–if one accepts “strategic competition” as the guiding principle on China–is that the Biden administration should “test the opposite premise” of isolating Tehran, “by restoring nuclear diplomacy, lowering regional tensions, and forging new arrangements.” Crucially, to accomplish this vision, a “fast timeline” of re-joining the 2015 Iran deal is necessary–but far from sufficient, writes Lyes Mauni Jalali for the National Interest.
Earlier, Iran had completely pivoted towards its “Look to the East Policy” after the withdrawal of the US from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action in May 2018 and imposition of new sanctions on Iran by Trump’s Administration and after these developments Tehran lost hope to normalize relations with the West and marched eastward.
Jalali said that Iran’s “Look to the East policy” strategy aims to strengthen Iran’s strategic cooperation with Russia and China.
On the other hand, incentives imply a rebuke of the policy of isolation. As it relates to Iran, economic integration (primary sanction relief) and political integration, in exchange for verifiable political ends should be the guiding diplomatic principle, according to National Interest.
Iran is also a pivotal player in Iraq, Lebanon, and Yemen, and has a key cultural foothold in Afghanistan, notably amongst the Dari-speaking population (Afghan dialect of Persian) including the Hazaras (Persian-speaking and of Shiite faith), chipping away at Russia’s cultural dominance of Central Asia. (Image source: Instagram)

US President nominates Lieutenant General Michael E Kurilla to head Central Command

Washington [US]: US President Joe Biden has nominated Lieutenant general Michael E. Kurilla to head Central Command overseeing possible operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.
General Kurilla, if confirmed, would replace General Kenneth F. McKenzie Jr., whose tenure is set to end this spring and as the leader of Central Command, General Kurilla would be responsible for the administration’s efforts to prevent terrorist groups from once again using Afghanistan as a launching pad for attacks on the West, according to New York Times. Lieutenant General Kurilla is a combat-tested commander, having been wounded in a 2005 gun battle during the Iraq war in the city of Mosul in Iraq when he was a battalion commander.
Further, Lieutenant General rose through the ranks, with stints as chief of staff to the head of the military’s Central Command at the time, General Joseph L. Votel, and assistant commanding general and director of operations at the Joint Special Operations Command.
At present, General Kurilla was also the Commander of the 82nd Airborne Division, one of the US Army’s most battle-tested units. And he is currently the commander of the Army’s 18th Airborne Corps at Fort Bragg in North Carolina.
Also, along with his nomination, Lieutenant General Michael E Kurilla is promoted to General.
Lieutenant General Michael E Kurilla holds a bachelor’s degree in aerospace engineering from the US Military Academy at West Point, a Master of Business Administration. from Regis University in Denver, and a Master of Science in National Security Studies from the National War College, according to New York Times.
The United States Central Command CENTCOM is one of the eleven unified combatant commands of the U.S. Department of Defense. It was established in 1983. CENTCOM’s main headquarters is located at MacDill Air Force Base, in Tampa, Florida.

Biden accepts Pelosi’s invitation to give State of the Union speech on March 1

Washington [US]: President Joe Biden has accepted House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s invitation to deliver the annual State of the Union address to Congress on March 1, the White House announced on Friday.
Pelosi, on Friday, sent a letter to Biden and invited him to give a speech and asked him “to share your vision of the State of the Union”. “The President has accepted the invitation of the Speaker of the House to deliver the State of the Union address on Tuesday, March 1, 2022,” principal deputy press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters travelling with the President to Colorado Friday, reported CNN News.
The State of the Union speech is an annual ritual in which Presidents showcase their objectives and agenda at the start of a new year.
All-State of the Union addresses have taken place in January or February since 1934 and so if Biden delivers the speech on March 1, it will be a month later than the usual time for the yearly address.
Biden may deliver the State of the Union in March, giving him more time to try to achieve some of his legislative goals before speaking to Congress and the country reported CNN News.
Notably, sharing concerns over certain provisions, Democratic Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia said he’s a no on the Build Back Better Act.
According to the White House, Build Back Better Framework is to set climate goals, create millions of good-paying jobs, enable more Americans to join and remain in the labour force, and grow the US economy from the bottom up and the middle out.
“President Biden promised to rebuild the backbone of the country – the middle class – so that this time everyone comes along. The Build Back Better Framework does just that.”, said the White House in a statement.
In April 2021, Biden gave his first address to Congress as President. As the address was in the middle of a pandemic, all the COVID protocols were taken care of.

Chinese national pleads guilty to stealing trade secrets: US Justice Dept

             

Washington [US]): A Chinese national pleaded guilty in a US court to stealing trade secrets from Monsanto agribusiness corporation to benefit Beijing, the Justice Department said in a statement on Thursday (local time).

“Xiang Haitao, 44, a Chinese national formerly residing in Chesterfield, Missouri, pleaded guilty today to conspiracy to commit economic espionage,” the Justice Department said.
“According to court documents, Xiang conspired to steal a trade secret from Monsanto, an international company based in St. Louis, for the purpose of benefitting a foreign government, namely the People’s Republic of China,” it added.

Assistant Attorney General Matthew G. Olsen of the Justice Department’s National Security Division said: “Despite Xiang’s agreements to protect Monsanto’s intellectual property and repeated training on his obligations to do so, Xiang has now admitted that he stole a trade secret from Monsanto, transferred it to a memory card and attempted to take it to the People’s Republic of China for the benefit of Chinese government.”

While US Attorney Sayler Fleming for the Eastern District of Missouri said: “Mr Xiang used his insider status at a major international company to steal valuable trade secrets for use in his native China.”

Xiang, who was then living in the US state of Missouri, was employed by Monsanto and its subsidiary, The Climate Corporation, from 2008 to 2017 as an imaging scientist before quitting his job and buying a one-way ticket to China.

Federal officials searched the Chinese national at a US airport in June 2017 and discovered copies of a Monsanto proprietary algorithm, which is considered a trade secret and intellectual property, in an electronic device as he was waiting to board a flight to China, the release said.

Xiang continued his trip to China where he worked for the Chinese Academy of Science’s Institute of Soil Science, but he was arrested when he returned to the United States, the release said.

Xiang will be sentenced on April 7. He faces up to 15 years in prison and a potential 5 million US dollars fine. (ANI)

US: 12 dead, including 8 children, in Philadelphia blaze

Philadelphia [US]: Philadelphia officials on Wednesday (local time) updated the death toll in the Philadelphia fire saying that 12 were killed, including 8 children.
“Fire officials now confirm that 12 people — eight children and four adults — died in the fire on N. 23rd Street. That total is one less than the number reported in an earlier press conference when recovery operations were still ongoing,” an updated news release from the city said, reported CNN. Philadelphia Deputy Fire Commissioner Craig Murphy initially said 13 people were killed; two others were taken to hospitals, and eight people were able to escape by themselves, reported CNN.
Firefighters faced heavy smoke, heat and limited visibility on all floors when they entered the building, according to the release, and were able to rescue one child, who did not survive.
The fire took place at a home that records show is owned by the Philadelphia Housing Authority, a municipal agency that leases homes to people with low income. The three-story row home was converted into two apartments, reported CNN.
Firefighters responded to flames around 6:40 am Wednesday at the row house at 869 N. 23rd Street in the city’s Fairmount neighbourhood.
Twenty-six people lived in the three-story building — eight on the first floor, and 18 on the second and third floors, fire officials said.
The housing authority was not aware 26 people were living in the building, said Dinesh Indala, the agency’s senior executive vice president of operations. The agency is checking how many were allowed to live there, he said, reported CNN.

Former US President Trump cancels Jan 6 news conference on anniversary of Capitol riots

Washington [US]: Former US President Donald Trump has cancelled the planned news conference on the one-year anniversary of the January 6 riot at the US Capitol.

In a statement, Trump blamed the House select committee charged with investigating the January 6 riot for the cancellation. He said he would instead touch on many of the themes he had planned to discuss at the news conference during a rally in Arizona set for January 15, reported The Hill.
“In light of the total bias and dishonesty of the January 6th Unselect Committee of Democrats, two failed Republicans, and the Fake News Media, I am cancelling the January 6th Press Conference at Mar-a-Lago on Thursday, and instead will discuss many of those important topics at my rally on Saturday, January 15th, in Arizona – It will be a big crowd!” he said.

Meanwhile, President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris will visit the US Capitol Thursday to mark the anniversary of last year’s riot, according to Fox News.

The president and vice president will deliver remarks during their appearance at the Capitol for the anniversary of January 6th.

Trump was expected to use the Thursday news conference to reiterate his false claim that the 2020 presidential election was stolen from him through widespread voter fraud and to criticize the House select committee investigating the events of Jan. 6, when a mob of Trump’s supporters stormed the US Capitol as lawmakers met to certify President Biden’s electoral win.

His remarks were expected to serve as a split-screen to a solemn prayer service in Washington that will mark the worst attack on the US Capitol in centuries, reported The Hill.

While Trump still commands the loyalty of the GOP and its voters, his planned news conference stirred anxiety among some Republicans who feared that the party and its candidates could be forced to relitigate the 2020 election and the former president’s false claim of fraud as the 2022 midterm elections near.

US, Japan to hold Security Consultative Committee ‘2+2’ meeting, amid Chinese assertiveness

               

Washington [US]: The US-Japan Security Consultative Committee “2+2” Meeting, 2022 will be held on January 6 to strengthen the alliance and to address global challenges amid Chinese assertiveness in the region.

“@SecBlinken, @SecDef Austin, and Ambassador Emanuel will virtually meet Japanese FM Hayashi and @KishiNobuo for the 2022 U.S.-Japan Security Consultative Committee Meeting on Jan. 6. We will strengthen our alliance to address global challenges, tweeted US Department of State, spokesperson, Ned Price.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, joined by US Ambassador to Japan Rahm Emanuel, will meet virtually with Japanese Foreign Minister Hayashi Yoshimasa and Defense Minister Kishi Nobuo on January 6, for the 2022 US-Japan Security Consultative Committee (“2+2”) Meeting, read a US Department of State statement.

The 2+2 Meeting has long been a high-level forum for US-Japan foreign and defence policy cooperation.

“During the meeting, the delegations will discuss ways the United States and Japan can strengthen our alliance to promote a free and open Indo-Pacific region and to address the COVID-19 pandemic, the climate crisis, and other global challenges,” added the statement.

China has been demonstrating an aggressive approach in pressing its territorial claims against its neighbours. (ANI)

Over 1 million new COVID-19 cases reported in US

Washington [US]: The US on Monday reported over 1 million COVID-19 cases amid rapid spread of the Omicron variant.
The US health authorities registered more than three times as many new cases as in any previous wave of the coronavirus, over 1 million reported on Monday alone, reported USA TODAY. A substantial increase in coronavirus infections was expected when this week’s numbers came out, but nothing like this. About 1 of every 100 Americans will have been reported as a positive case in just the last week, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.
On Tuesday, President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris planned to meet with the White House coronavirus response team to discuss a course of action as omicron becomes ubiquitous, reported USA TODAY.
By 7:30 pm ET Monday, Johns Hopkins University data showed about 1,042,000 more cases than the day before, and it wasn’t immediately clear that all states had reported in. That count clearly includes hefty numbers of backlogged cases.
About one-fifth of states reported infections Saturday and one-third Sunday. Still, the previous single-day record was about 591,000 cases, set Thursday, reported USA TODAY.
The preliminary total for Monday could drive the country to a weekly average of close to 450,000 cases per day. The previous highest total for a whole week, 1.76 million, figures to be not only surpassed but possibly doubled.
The US has recorded more than 55 million confirmed COVID-19 cases, or one for every six people in the country — and more than 826,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data.
Meanwhile, the Food and Drug Administration on Monday expanded the emergency use authorization of a booster dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine to include youths 12 to 15.

US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin tests positive for COVID-19 with mild symptoms: Pentagon

             

Washington [US]: US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has contracted COVID-19 and will remain quarantined at home for at least five days, he said in a statement released by the US Department of Defense on Sunday (local time).

“I tested positive this morning for COVID-19. I requested the test today after exhibiting symptoms while at home on leave,” Austin said, adding that his “symptoms are mild” and he is following his physician’s directions.
“In keeping with those directions, and in accordance with CDC guidelines, I will quarantine myself at home for the next five days,” he added.

The Pentagon chief said that he is going to attend upcoming key meetings virtually.

“Stemming the spread of this virus, safeguarding our workforce and ensuring my own speedy and safe recovery remain my priorities. To the degree possible, I plan to attend virtually this coming week those key meetings and discussions required to inform my situational awareness and decision making. I will retain all authorities. Deputy Secretary Hicks will represent me as appropriate in other matters,” the statement read.

He specified that the last time he met with US President Joe Biden was on December 21 and the last time he visited the Pentagon was on Thursday.

“My last meeting with President Biden occurred on Tuesday, December 21st, more than a week before I began to experience symptoms. I tested negative that very morning. I have not been in the Pentagon since Thursday, where I met briefly – and only – with a few members of my staff. We were properly masked and socially distanced throughout,” Austin said in the statement.

Number of coronavirus patients at New York hospitals nearly doubles in past 10 days

               

New York [US]: The number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 in the US state of New York almost doubled in the past ten days amid the spread of the Omicron variant, according to the latest data on Governor Kathy Hochul’s website.

There were 4,452 COVID-19 patients in New York hospitals on December 21. Updated coronavirus data released on Saturday, January 1, shows that the number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 now stands at 8,451.
Out of all the coronavirus patients hospitalized in New York, 1,112 are currently in intensive care. That number was at 828 on December 21.

“If you haven’t gotten your second dose, do so as soon as possible and get your booster if you’re eligible. We will continue to make vaccines, boosters and testing more widely available as part of our Winter Surge Plan so we can continue to keep each other safe,” Governor Hochul said in a Saturday statement.

The state of New York reported 88 coronavirus-related deaths on Saturday. A total of 89,675 vaccine doses were administered in New York over the 24-hour period.

Governor Hochul has urged people to wear masks and take all other precautionary measures amid the spread of the Omicron strain in the US.

People of Myanmar face ‘unprecedented’ crisis in 2022: UN report

New York [US], January 1 (ANI): The turmoil in Myanmar is projected to have driven almost half the population into poverty heading into 2022, wiping out the impressive gains made since 2005, according to a UN Humanitarian Needs Overview published on Friday by United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

This comes as people in the Southeast Asia country are facing an unprecedented political, socioeconomic, human rights and humanitarian crisis with needs escalating dramatically since the military takeover and a severe COVID-19 third wave, UN News reported.
The situation has been worsening since the beginning of 2021, when the military took over the country, ousting the democratically elected Government. Nearly 14 out of 15 states and regions are now estimated to be within the critical threshold for acute malnutrition.

For this year, the analysis projects that 14.4 million people will need aid in some form, approximately a quarter of the population. The number includes 6.9 million men, 7.5 million women, and five million children.

Price hikes, COVID-19 movement restrictions, and ongoing insecurity have forced the most vulnerable people to emergency strategies to buy food and other basic supplies, according to UN News.

Prices for key household commodities have risen significantly, making some food items unaffordable. At the same time, farming incomes have been affected by lower prices for some crops, higher input prices, and limited access to credit.

Monsoon floods in July and August have also affected more than 120,000 people, resulting in crop losses and contributing to food insecurity. For 2022, the humanitarian affairs office OCHA, says the outlook “remains dire”.

The political and security situation is “expected to remain volatile” and the fourth wave of COVID-19, due to relatively low vaccination rates and the emergence of new variants, is considered a rising risk.

According to the reports coming out of the country, prices are only expected to decrease marginally, while farm gate prices will likely remain low. As a result, consumer prices are projected to be higher, with incomes continuing to decrease.

The unrelenting stress on communities is having an undeniable impact on the physical and mental health of the nation, particularly the psychological well-being of children and young people, according to OCHA. (ANI)

US state of Colorado declares state of emergency due to fast-moving grass fires

              

Colorado [US]: The US State of Colorado declared a state of emergency due to fast-moving grass fires created by high winds in Boulder County, local media reported on Thursday (local time) as thousands of residents were ordered to evacuate.

“Today, Governor Polis declared a state of emergency due to grass fires created by high winds across the Front Range,” Governor Jared Polis said in a statement.
Two Colorado cities were ordered to evacuate due to quickly spreading wildfires fueled by high winds that burned down hundreds of homes in the Denver area, The Hill reported.

The local emergency management office issued evacuation orders for both Louisville and Superior.

“Prayers for thousands of families evacuating from the fires in Superior and Boulder County. Fast winds are spreading flames quickly and all aircraft are grounded,” Polis tweeted.

The declaration of emergency allows the state to access disaster emergency funds to support the emergency response efforts in Boulder and provide state resources including the use of the Colorado National Guard, Colorado Division of Fire Prevention and Control and activation of the State Emergency Operations Center.

Authorities said the emergency operations have been activated to respond to multiple wildland fires.

US will consult closely with Ukraine, NATO on diplomatic engagements with Russia: Blinken

Washington [US]: The United States will remain in close contact with both Ukraine and NATO allies on diplomatic engagements with Russia, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said after a phone call with the Ukrainian president on Wednesday.
“Reiterated full U.S. support for Ukraine in my call with Ukrainian President @ZelenskyyUa,” Blinken wrote on Twitter. “We will continue to consult closely with Ukraine, @NATO Allies, and partners in our diplomatic efforts to deter further Russian aggression.”

Biden says ‘we’ll see’ when asked about possible Jan 10 meeting with Putin: White House

Washington [US]: US President Joe Biden acknowledged the possibility of holding a meeting with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin on January 10, the White House said in a pool report.
“We’ll see,” Biden said on Tuesday in response to a question about a possible meeting with Putin on January 10. The meeting would take place days before a reported Russia-NATO meeting on January 12 and a Russia-Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) on January 13.
The United States and Russia are expected to hold talks on arms control and the situation in Ukraine on January 10.
Putin said earlier in December following a virtual meeting between him and Biden that they will have to meet again, possibly also in a video format. The two leaders last met in person in Geneva last June.

World Bank loans USD 221mn to Vietnam for economic recovery from COVID-19

               

Washington [US](ANI/Sputnik): The World Bank has signed an agreement with Vietnam in the amount of $221.5 million to finance the country’s recovery from the coronavirus pandemic.

“The government of Vietnam and the World Bank has signed an agreement for financing of US$221.5 million to support Vietnam’s recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic through policy reforms aimed at improving financial inclusion and spurring greater environmental resilience,” the World Bank release said on Monday.
The loan will be provided in a form of budget support for a period of 30 years with a grace period of five years, the release said.

The loan-linked reforms will include easing the existing tax burden on business entities, improving access to financial assistance for vulnerable groups, and reducing gender gaps in workplace, the release added.

The environmental part of the recovery plan will focus on green trade policies, acceleration of the e-government adoption, and renewable energy uptake, according to the release.

COVID-19: Jump in paediatric hospitalizations in New York, raises concern in California amid Omicron

California [US]: A jump in COVID-19 hospitalizations of children in New York has sparked concerns in California amid a surge in Omicron variant infections.

Rong-Gong Lin II and Luke Money, writing in Los Angeles Times said that the Omicron wave hit New York before California, where cases have been surging in the last week.
According to California health officials, they are monitoring the rise in paediatric hospitalizations.

“Unfortunately NY is seeing an increase in paediatric hospitalizations (primarily amongst the unvaccinated), and they have similar (5- to 11-year-old) vaccination rates,” Dr Erica Pan, the California state epidemiologist, wrote on Twitter. “Please give your children the gift of vaccine protection as soon as possible as our case [numbers] are increasing rapidly.”

Omicron Threat: US reports surge and more hospitalizations

The increase is concentrated in New York City and the surrounding metro area. Officials described paediatric admissions quadrupling in New York City in recent weeks, reported Los Angeles Times.

Half of the children being admitted to hospitals are younger than 5 and ineligible for vaccination. Three-quarters of those ages 12 to 17 who were admitted into hospitals for COVID-19 were not fully vaccinated, and 100 per cent of those ages 5 to 11 who were admitted into hospitals were not fully vaccinated, said Rong and Money.

The warning about paediatric hospital admissions comes as California’s public health director and health officer, Dr Tomas Aragon, warned that state modellers are predicting hospital surges for California.

“Why? Omicron is so contagious that it finds unvaccinated/non-immune people who are most vulnerable for hospitalizations and deaths,” Aragon wrote.

Aragon urged people to get vaccinated and boosted; to test before risky events, as well as three to five days after them; and to consider skipping or postponing high-risk indoor gatherings. Aragon also suggested improving ventilation and air filtration and improving the fit and quality of masks.

Health experts have increasingly urged people to upgrade their masks from cloth masks alone. A more protective mask-wearing setup involves a cloth mask over a surgical mask, which improves the fit; an even more improved setup involves wearing those that are higher grade, such as a KF94, KN95 or N95 mask, said Rong and Money.

Dr Anthony Fauci, President Biden’s chief medical advisor, recently urged people to not go to the kinds of indoor parties attended by dozens of people whose vaccination status you don’t know.

Fauci said it’s safer for people to attend smaller-size gatherings with family and friends in homes where everyone is known to be vaccinated and boosted, and even safer if people get rapid tests just before the event, reported Los Angeles Times.

Fauci on Sunday told ABC that recent data from Britain show that, in its Omicron wave, a lower percentage of newly infected people are needing hospitalization.

Unvaccinated people “are the most vulnerable ones when you have a virus that is extraordinarily effective in getting to people and infecting them the way Omicron is,” Fauci said in the televised interview. Omicron “might still lead to a lot of hospitalizations in the United States.”

While unvaccinated people are at the highest risk of contracting the virus and suffering severe illness, the Omicron variant’s mutations increase the risk of breakthrough infections among those who are vaccinated.

Still, vaccinated people, especially those who are boosted, are expected to be generally protected from severe illness and death, unless they have a weakened immune system.

New coronavirus cases dramatically increased through Christmas in Los Angeles County. On Tuesday, 3,052 new cases were reported; on Wednesday, 6,509; Thursday, 8,633; Friday, 9,988; Saturday, 11,930; and Sunday, 8,891. Officials warned that coronavirus case counts over the weekend are actually an undercount because of delays in reports over the holiday, reported Los Angeles Times.

Southern California’s COVID-19 hospitalizations are increasing faster than the San Francisco Bay Area’s.

Since December 1, the COVID-19 hospitalization rate in Southern California has risen by about 41 per cent, from 7.7 hospitalizations for every 100,000 residents to 10.8, reported Los Angeles Times. (ANI)

US should not interfere in Afghan affairs, says Taliban leader

Kabul [Afghanistan]: Senior member of Taliban-appointed Afghanistan government on Sunday warned the United States not to interfere in the country’s internal affairs, stating that “it is an independent country and it is making decisions independently.”
Tolo News reported that the deputy minister of foreign affairs for political affairs, Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanekzai pointed out the withdrawal of US forces from Bagram Airfield in August and said that “American soldiers fled from Afghanistan in the dark of the night.” He said that the country is independent now and that the last four months have been the first time in four decades for Afghanistan in which Afghans are making their decisions independently, as per the local media outlet.
After the fall of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan led by Ashraf Ghani and the Taliban taking control of the country in mid-August, most Afghans want to leave the war-torn nation as they fear repercussions from the group as well as dread the previous regime of the Taliban.
As the Taliban took control of Afghanistan once again after 20 years, experts also believe that Afghan women are most likely to face an uncertain future under the terrorist group regime.
The Afghan economy going from bad to worse since the Taliban’s takeover of Kabul, and it could shrink by 30 per cent or more in the coming months, International Monetary Fund (IMF) had warned.
As per a report published in Asia Times, since the Taliban has overthrown the democratically elected government in Afghanistan, the financial condition of the country is continuously moving towards a total economic collapse.

US to lift travel South African countries on 8 South African countries

Washington [US]: The White House on Friday announced that America is lifting the travel restrictions imposed on eight southern African countries last month following the discovery of the COVID-19 Omicron variant.
US President Joe Biden will lift the restrictions on December 31, just one month after the bans were first announced, according to White House assistant press secretary Kevin Munoz. Munoz noted that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended that the restrictions be lifted.
“On December 31, @POTUS will lift the temporary travel restrictions on Southern Africa countries. This decision was recommended by @CDCgov,” Munoz said in a tweet.
“The restrictions gave us time to understand Omicron and we know our existing vaccines work against Omicron, esp boosted,” he added.
The Biden administration announced the restrictions on South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini, Mozambique and Malawi last month to try and tame the spread of the omicron variant, according to The Hill.
Biden on Tuesday (local time) said that he was “considering reversing” the travel restrictions, telling reporters “I’m going to talk with my team in the next couple of days.”
He reiterated that the administration implemented the bans “to see how much time we had before it (omicron) hit here so we could begin to decide what we needed by looking at what’s happening in other countries,” The Hill reported.
Meanwhile, the US is rolling out new measures to fight COVID-19 variant Omicron by providing an additional USD 580 million from the American Rescue Plan Act to support seven partners who are working tirelessly in the global fight against coronavirus.
This additional USD 580 million is a significant contribution to turn vaccines into vaccinations; strengthen public health capacity; support communities in need, and provide urgent, life-saving relief, read a statement by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken.
Multilateral organizations are playing an indispensable role in these efforts, and with this additional USD 580 million, the US is supporting seven such partners to continue and accelerate the critical work they are doing to help end the pandemic, strengthen public health capacity, and provide urgent relief.

Amid COVID-19 concerns, US expands interview waivers for H-1B, L-1 visas

Washington [US]: Amid growing concerns of COVID-19 surge, the US on Thursday (local time) is temporarily dropping an in-person interview requirement for some work-visa categories – H-1B, L-1 and O-1.
The State Department is temporarily dropping an in-person interview requirement for some work-visa categories in 2022 to ease visa issuances, as the COVID-19 pandemic stretches into the third year, the department announced. Applicants for H-1B, L-1 and O-1 visas applying from abroad won’t be required to do an in-person interview at a US consulate, typically the final step before a visa is issued. Those categories represent the most common visa types companies use to attract high-skilled talent from abroad.
The consular officers are now temporarily authorized, through December 31, 2022, to waive in-person interviews for certain individual petition-based non-immigrant work visas and their qualifying derivatives in the following categories: Persons in Specialty Occupations (H-1B visas), Trainee or Special Education Visitors (H-3 visas), Intracompany Transferees (L visas), Individuals with Extraordinary Ability or Achievement (O visas), Athletes, Artists, and Entertainers (P visas), and Participants in International Cultural Exchange Programs (Q visas), added US State Department release.
Additionally, the Secretary of State, Antony Blinken has extended consular officers’ current ability to waive the in-person interview, through December 31, 2022, for the following other categories of non-immigrant visas: Temporary Agricultural and Non-agricultural Workers (H-2 visas), Students (F and M visas), and Student Exchange Visitors (Academic J visas).
We recognize the many contributions of international visitors to our communities and campuses. Lastly, the authorization to waive the in-person interview for applicants renewing a visa in the same visa class within 48 months of the prior visa’s expiration has been extended indefinitely, added the release.
The COVID-19 pandemic resulted in profound reductions in the Department’s visa processing capacity. As global travel rebounds, the US is taking these temporary steps to further commitment to safely and efficiently reduce visa wait times while maintaining national security. The determination was made with the concurrence of Department of Homeland Security partners.
However, embassies and consulates may still require an in-person interview on a case-by-case basis and dependent upon local conditions.
“We encourage applicants to check embassy and consulate websites for more detailed information about this development, as well as current operating status and services,” added the release.

Yemen: 8 million face reduced rations amid funding shortages, says UN

New York [US]: The UN food relief agency warned on Wednesday that it is running out of funds to continue providing food assistance to 13 million Yemenis.

From January, eight million who are going hungry in Yemen will receive a reduced food ration, while five million others who are at immediate risk of slipping into famine, will remain on a full ration.
“Desperate times call for desperate measures and we have to stretch our limited resources and prioritize, focusing on people who are in the most critical state”, said Corinne Fleischer, Regional Director of the World Food Programme (WFP) for the Middle East and North Africa.

The reductions come at the worst possible time for families in Yemen who are dependent on WFP’s food assistance to survive.

As currency devaluation and hyper-inflation drive the economy to near collapse, inadequate food consumption has risen rapidly, affecting half of all families over the last three months.

And food prices have more than doubled across much of Yemen through the course of the year.

Meanwhile, fighting across multiple frontlines continues to force families to flee.

“The Yemeni people are now more vulnerable than ever, reeling from relentless conflict and the deepening economic crisis that has pushed millions into destitution”, said Fleischer. (ANI)

Preclinical studies supports US Army’s pan-coronavirus vaccine development strategy

               

Washington [US]: The Spike Ferritin Nanoparticle (SpFN) COVID-19 vaccine developed by researchers at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research (WRAIR) not only elicits a potent immune response but may also provide broad protection against SARS-CoV-2 variants of concern as well as other coronaviruses, according to a series of recently published preclinical study.

According to a statement released by US Army, scientists in WRAIR’s Emerging Infectious Diseases Branch (EIDB) developed the SpFN nanoparticle vaccine, based on a ferritin platform, as part of a forward-thinking “pan-SARS” strategy that aims to address the current pandemic and acts as a first line of defence against variants of concern and similar viruses that could emerge in the future.
“The accelerating emergence of human coronaviruses throughout the past two decades and the rise of SARS-CoV-2 variants, including most recently Omicron, underscore the continued need for next-generation preemptive vaccines that confer broad protection against coronavirus diseases,” said Dr Kayvon Modjarrad, Director of the Emerging Infectious Diseases Branch at WRAIR, co-inventor of the vaccine and the US Army lead for SpFN.

“Our strategy has been to develop a ‘pan-coronavirus’ vaccine technology that could potentially offer safe, effective and durable protection against multiple coronavirus strains and species.”

Pre-clinical studies published today in Science Translational Medicine indicate that the SpFN vaccine protects non-human primates from disease caused by the original strain of SARS-CoV-2 and induces highly-potent and broadly-neutralizing antibody responses against major SARS-CoV-2 variants of concern including the SARS-CoV-1 virus that emerged in 2002, the statement read.

SpFN entered Phase 1 human trials in April 2021. Early analyses, expected to conclude this month, will provide insights into whether SpFN’s potency and breadth, as demonstrated in preclinical trials, will carry over into humans. The data will also allow researchers to compare SpFN’s immune profile to that of other COVID-19 vaccines already authorized for emergency use.

“This vaccine stands out in the COVID-19 vaccine landscape,” Modjarrad said. “The repetitive and ordered display of the coronavirus spike protein on a multi-faced nanoparticle may stimulate immunity in such a way as to translate into significantly broader protection.”

WRAIR developed a secondary candidate vaccine, a SARS-CoV-2 Spike Receptor-Binding Domain Ferritin Nanoparticle (RFN) vaccine, which targets a smaller part of the coronavirus Spike protein than the SpFN vaccine. Results from a study, published recently in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, show that this vaccine potentially offers similar protection against an array of SARS-CoV-2 variants and SARS-CoV-1.

“The RFN vaccine candidate is more compact and has some natural advantages as we try to increase the immune response against multiple coronaviruses using a single vaccine platform, so it is still under consideration as part of our pan-coronavirus vaccine development pipeline,” said WRAIR structural biologist and vaccine co-inventor, Dr Gordon Joyce.

“The threat from COVID-19 continues as it evolves, and eventually there will be other emerging disease threats,” said Dr Nelson Michael, Director of the Center for Infectious Diseases Research at WRAIR.

“Our investment in developing a next-generation vaccine is an important step towards getting ahead of COVID-19 and future disease threats.” (ANI)

Biden to announce new actions to protect Americans, help hospitals battle Omicron

Washington [US]: US President Joe Biden will announce new actions on Tuesday (local time) to protect Americans and help communities and hospitals battle Omicron, building on the robust plan he announced earlier this month to get people maximum protection ahead of the winter and prepare for rising cases driven by the new variant, White House said in a statement.
“President Biden will take several steps to ensure states and health systems across the country have the personnel, beds, and supplies they need as they battle rising Omicron hospitalisations, mostly among the unvaccinated,” the statement added. “The President is directing Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin to ready an additional 1,000 service members–military doctors, nurses, paramedics, and other medical personnel–to deploy to hospitals during January and February, as needed,” read the statement.
With regard to helping Americans and communities battle Omicron, Biden will announce six emergency response teams–with more than 100 clinical personnel and paramedics–are deploying to six states now: Michigan, Indiana, Wisconsin, Arizona, New Hampshire and Vermont. This is on top of the 300 federal medical personnel that we have deployed since we learned about Omicron.
For convenient testing, Biden will announce new actions to ensure Americans have access to free testing, including convenient, at-home tests. Since January 2021, the Administration has already taken significant actions to increase testing.
As a result, there are now 20,000 free testing sites across the US, four times as many at-home tests available to Americans than were available this summer, and at-home tests being made available at key community sites, such as community health centres and rural clinics.

Urgent need for stabilization of banking system in Afghanistan: UN

New York [US]: The need for liquidity and stabilization of the banking system in Afghanistan is urgent, the UN Emergency Relief Coordinator told a special meeting on Sunday, as he warned that if decisive and compassionate action is not taken immediately, it may “pull the entire population with it”.

“The value of the Afghani currency is plummeting, trade is wrecked by lack of confidence in the financial sector, and the space for borrowing and investment has constricted dramatically,” said Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Martin Griffiths while speaking virtually to the 17th Extraordinary Session of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) Council of Foreign Ministers in Islamabad, Pakistan.
“The need for liquidity and stabilisation of the banking system is now urgent – not only to save the lives of the Afghan people but also to enable humanitarian organizations to respond,” he added.

This comes as 23 million people are already facing hunger and health facilities are overflowing with malnourished children. Some 70 per cent of teachers are not getting paid and millions of children – Afghanistan’s future – are out of school.

He said Afghanistan’s economy is now in free fall, and “if we don’t act decisively and with compassion, I fear this fall will pull the entire population with it.”

Griffiths also welcomed World Bank’s Afghanistan Reconstruction Trust Fund to transfer USD 280 million by the end of December to UNICEF and the World Food Programme. “This step should be followed by reprogramming of the whole fund to support the Afghan people this winter.”

“Families simply do not have the cash for everyday transactions, while prices for key commodities continue to rise. The cost of wheat and fuel are up by around 40 per cent and food now accounts for more than 80 per cent of the average household expenditure. Basic social services that all Afghans depend on are collapsing as international development support has frozen up,” he added. (ANI)

SpaceX says 52 Starlink satellites successfully launched into orbit

Washington [US]: SpaceX announced on Saturday the successful liftoff of 52 Starlink communication satellites into the Earth orbit.
Earlier in the day, the US space company launched its Falcon 9 rocket from Vandenberg Space Force Base in California. Later, its first stage successfully landed on the Of Course I Still Love You droneship. “Deployment of 52 Starlink satellites confirmed,” SpaceX tweeted.
The Starlink project seeks to provide affordable access to broadband internet connections across the world.

US Congress passes bill banning imports from China’s Xinjiang

Washington [US]: US Congress on Thursday passed a bill banning imports from China’s Xinjiang region over forced labour of the Uyghur Muslims.
This is likely to worsen tensions between Washington and Beijing. The Uyghur Forced Labour Prevention Act was passed in the Senate on Thursday by unanimous consent after being approved by the House of Representatives earlier this week, Kyodo News reported. It needs to be signed into law by President Joe Biden, which the White House said he will.
It requires U.S. customs authorities to presume goods manufactured in Xinjiang are made with forced labour and that they should be banned from import, except for items from importers that can provide clear evidence to the contrary.
“This Senate will not stay silent in the face of genocide against the Uyghur people,” Democratic Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer tweeted. “America will not stand for it, and the global community shouldn’t either.”
China has been rebuked globally for the crackdown on Uyghur Muslims by sending them to mass detention camps, interfering in their religious activities and sending members of the community to undergo some form of forcible re-education or indoctrination.
Early this year, the United States become the first country in the world to declare the Chinese actions in Xinjiang as “genocide”.

US Congress members urge for meeting between Biden, Dalai Lama

               

Washington [US]: The Biden administration’s presumptive Tibet coordinator should push for a meeting between US President Joe Biden and the Dalai Lama, fully implement US laws on Tibet, end the practice of calling Tibet part of China and more, over 60 members of the US Congress said in new Senate and House bipartisan letters on Tuesday.

The letters to Under Secretary of State Uzra Zeya are the latest sign of Congress’ intensifying interest in Tibet, a historically independent country that the Chinese government has brutally occupied for over 60 years. Zeya’s appointment as special coordinator for Tibetan issues in the State Department is expected soon.
“These letters provide a vital framework for the next special coordinator to address China’s oppression in Tibet while making it clear that Congress expects the Biden administration to act quickly and meaningfully to support the Tibetan people,” said Franz Matzner, government relations director of the International Campaign for Tibet, an advocacy group with offices in Washington, DC and Europe.

“At a time when Freedom House has declared Tibet the least-free country on Earth alongside Syria, ICT thanks the 38 senators and 27 representatives who signed onto these letters and showed crucial leadership on the Tibetan issue. We look forward to working with the next special coordinator and encourage her to use these letters to advance US policy on Tibet,” Matzner added.

Marco Rubio, R-Fla., and Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., in the Senate and Jim McGovern, D-Mass., and Chris Smith, R-NJ, in the House led the letters. The broad, diverse and bipartisan swath of signers demonstrated once again Congress’ steadfast support for His Holiness the Dalai Lama, religious freedom and basic human rights.

Zeya currently serves as undersecretary of state for civilian security, democracy and human rights–a position that has traditionally doubled as the special coordinator. The Tibetan Policy Act of 2002 mandates the appointment of the special coordinator.

The letters to Zeya list 10 areas where Congress and the Biden administration can work together on Tibet, including:

The letter urges the administration to engage with the Dalai Lama and the Central Tibetan Administration, which provides democratic governance for Tibetans in exile. The letters suggest that President Biden invite the Dalai Lama to the Oval Office–as several of his predecessors have done–or meet with him in his exile home of India, among other options.

It also suggests resisting China’s attempts to interfere in the Dalai Lama’s succession. The Chinese government plans to appoint its own successor to the 86-year-old Tibetan spiritual leader, but the Tibetan Policy and Support Act of 2020 states that only the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan Buddhist community can decide on his succession. The letters urge the administration to “work with like-minded governments” to “affirm this principle as the international norm,” as the TPSA requires. (ANI)

US Senate to consider Los Angeles Mayor Garcetti’s nomination for country’s Ambassador to India

             

By Reena Bhardwaj

Washington [US]: Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti on Tuesday will appear before the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee for his hearing after his nomination from President Joe Biden to be the country’s Ambassador to India.
After more than five months of Garcetti’s nomination as ambassador to India was announced by the White House, the Committee has finally scheduled the hearing at 10 am and will see the mayor give a statement followed by questions from Senators.

Chaired by Senator Robert Menendez, Democrat lawmaker from New Jersey, the committee is made up of 22 senators, an equal split of Democrats and Republicans. However, Garcetti could face questions about criticism that he and his top aides failed to address allegations of sexual harassment by his former top advisor, which he denies.

Senator Ted Cruz, a Republican committee member, could also make an issue of Garcetti’s relationship with Hunter Biden, the President’s son.

Biden’s nominee to be ambassador to Pakistan, Donald Armin Blome, and Amy Gutmann, the president’s pick for ambassador to Germany, are also scheduled to appear before the panel at Tuesday’s hearing.

Known to be President Biden’s close aide, Garcetti is a political appointee who in the past has served as a co-chair of Biden’s presidential campaign.

In announcing his nomination, the White House emphasised Garcetti’s role in co-founding the bipartisan “Climate Mayors” network and in leading more than 400 US mayors to adopt the Paris Climate Agreement.

According to sources, the White House strongly considers Garcetti to have a steady hand to guide the India-US relationship as Washington sees New Delhi as a key partner in its effort to push back against China’s expanding power and influence.

Garcetti, a Biden loyalist, has served as mayor of Los Angeles since 2013. He has a master’s degree in international affairs from Columbia University and studied international relations as a Rhodes scholar at Oxford University.

The White House statement released earlier this year said Garcetti had spent 12 years as an intelligence officer in the US Navy Reserve Component, serving under the commander of the US Pacific Fleet and with the Defence Intelligence Agency, before retiring in 2017 as a lieutenant.

If approved by the senate foreign affairs committee Garcetti’s nomination goes to the full Senate. A simple majority is needed to pass but Republicans have stalled the confirmation process by putting a “hold” on nominees. (ANI)

US sanctions on Chinese firms over rights abuses are groundless, says China

Beijing [China]: China on Monday slammed the United States for imposing sanctions on Chinese firms including artificial intelligence start-up SenseTime, over their involvement in the human rights violations in Xinjiang province.
“US sanctions on Chinese entities including AI firm SenseTime, on so-called Xinjiang human rights grounds, are based on lies and disinformation, and interfere in China’s internal affairs and undermine China-US relations. China resolutely opposes, condemns it,” said Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesman Wang Wenbin, as quoted by Global Times. This statement comes after Chinese SenseTime Group postponed its USD 767 million Hong Kong initial public offering (IPO) on Monday after being placed on a US investment blacklist.
The company said that it remained committed to completing the offering and would publish a supplemental prospectus and an updated listing timetable, American news channel CNBC reported.
Last week, the US had sanctioned four Chinese companies for helping racially profile Uyghurs. The Chinese companies include SenseTime Group Ltd, Moxing Cartoon, Nings Cartoon Studio, and Shanghai Hongman Cartoon.
The artificial intelligence Chinese company SenseTime Group Ltd. was sanctioned for helping racially profile Uyghurs, said the US Treasury Department statement. SenseTime owns or controls, directly or indirectly, a person who operates or has operated in China’s surveillance technology sector, it added.
The company’s subsidiary, named Shenzhen SenseTime Technology Co. Ltd., has developed facial recognition programs that can determine a target’s ethnicity, with a particular focus on identifying ethnic Uyghurs, US authorities noted.
Early this year, the United States became the first country in the world to declare the Chinese actions in Xinjiang as “genocide”. In February, both the Canadian and Dutch parliaments adopted motions recognising the Uyghur crisis as genocide.
The latter became the first parliament in Europe to do so. In April, the United Kingdom also declared China’s ongoing crackdown in Xinjiang a “genocide”.

Blinken meets Australian FM Payne, reaffirms deep commitment to peaceful, secure Indo-Pacific

Liverpool [UK]: US Secretary of State Antony Blinken met with Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne in Liverpool to reinforce the ongoing efforts to promote peace and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific.
“Great to meet with my good friend @MarisePayne today. We reaffirmed both our nations’ deep commitment to a peaceful and secure Indo-Pacific, COVID-19 economic recovery and resilience, and cooperating to deliver results for our citizens and partners around the region,” tweeted Blinken. Both leaders met on the sidelines of the Group of Seven (G7) industrialised nations’ Foreign Ministers meeting held in the UK.
They discussed deepening the US-Australia alliance, the importance of committing to ambitious climate action in the next decade, and the need for like-minded allies and partners to continue to defend, strengthen, and renew democracy around the world, read State Department spokesperson Ned Price statement.
They also expressed concern over Russia’s ongoing aggression against Ukraine and reiterated support for a peaceful resolution of cross-Strait issues without resorting to threats or coercion and emphasized Taiwan’s important contributions to global health development.
Both leaders recommitted to the joint efforts in the region and to build back better from COVID-19, added the statement.
They also agreed on the importance of having a Senate-confirmed Ambassador in place in Canberra as soon as possible in light of the scope and scale of shared challenges.

US needs consultations with EU, Russia before approving NATO meetings format

Washington [US], December 10 (ANI/Sputnik): The US needs additional consultations with the EU and Russia before approving the format of any meetings between leading NATO states and Moscow, The Wall Street Journal reported, citing a senior official from the Biden administration.

“Within the next couple of days, we are obviously going to continue talking to our European partners. We are going to continue talking with our Russian partners and finding a way forward,” the official told the newspaper, adding that the US is “prepared to talk to the Russians about this full set of issues.” (ANI/Sputnik)

US-led Summit calls to uphold democracy amid challenges posed by China

Washington [US]: The US along with its strategic partners and allies wishes to uphold democratic values to counter challenges posed by expansionist authoritarianism seen in countries such as China.

The “Summit for Democracy,” which brings together some 100 countries and regions has added to tensions between the United States and China, with Beijing criticizing it as a divisive event that labels half of the world’s countries as non democracies based on a U.S. yardstick, according to Kyodonews.
Further, dozens of world leaders rallied behind the US calls to uphold democracy and human rights as President Joe Biden on Thursday hosted a virtual summit to counter challenges posed by authoritarianism seen in countries such as China.

Also, US strategic partners and allies such as Japan, South Korea, and the Philippines took part in the virtual summit.

Warning that autocrats seek to expand their influence around the world and justify their repressive policies as more efficient than democratic governance in addressing today’s challenges, US President Joe Biden said the world is now standing at an “inflection point” in history, according to Kyodonews.

Also, the Biden administration vowed to provide up to US $424.4 million for a “democratic renewal” that will include efforts to support independent media, defend free and fair elections globally and work with other countries toward using export controls to ensure technologies do not enable human rights abuses.

Meanwhile, the US State Department will set aside US $4 million to establish a multilateral fund to counter “authoritarian censorship” of the internet and invite like-minded partners to contribute jointly.

During the summit, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida called for working collectively against moves to undermine freedom, democracy, and rule of law and vowed to speak out against serious human rights violations, according to the Kyodonews. (ANI)

US court denies Trump appeal to stop house probe from getting White House records

Washington [US]: The US District Court for the District of Columbia Circuit denied former President Donald Trump’s bid to prevent the release of White House records from his administration to the US House Select Committee leading a probe into the events at the Capitol on January 6, a court ruling said.
“On the record before us, former President Trump has provided no basis for this court to override President Biden’s judgment and the agreement and accommodations worked out between the Political Branches over these documents… For those reasons, we affirm the district court’s judgment denying a preliminary injunction as to those documents in the Archivist’s first three tranches over which President Biden has determined that a claim of executive privilege is not justified,” the ruling said on Thursday. The central question in the case was whether a US federal court can, at Trump’s behest, override Biden’s decision to release to the congressional committee documents that he deems to be needed for a critical legislative inquiry, the ruling said.
The Select Committee will decide next week whether to file contempt charges against former Trump Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, who filed charges against US Speaker Pelosi and all nine members of the panel. Meadows asked the court to invalidate the subpoena that the Select Committee had issued to him and Verizon, the cellular operator for his prior personal phone records.
Former Trump adviser Steve Bannon is similarly fighting what he called the Select Committee’s overreach, prompting them to bring contempt charges against him for refusing to comply with the panel’s subpoenas.

US Indo-Pacific Command expresses grief over demise of Gen Bipin Rawat

Washington [US] : The US Indo-Pacific Command has expressed grief over the passing away of the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) General Bipin Rawat, his wife Madhulika, and the others who died in the tragic accident caused by a chopper crash.
On Wednesday, an IAF chopper crash in Tamil Nadu claimed the lives of 13 people including General Bipin Rawat. “I am deeply saddened to hear of the tragic passing of my friend General Bipin Rawat, his wife Madhulika, and the others who perished,” US Admiral John Aquilino, Commander, US Indo-Pacific Command said in a statement.
General Rawat was a great partner to US Indo-Pacific Command, and to the United States military, said US Indo-Pacific Command in a tweet. “His stalwart leadership and commitment to upholding peace and stability across the Indo-Pacific will be sorely missed.”
In another tweet, US Command added, “Gen. Rawat’s legacy includes an enduring impact on the strategic U.S. and India defence partnership and people-to-people ties. Our thoughts and prayers are with the Rawat family, the families and friends of all those who perished, and the Indian Armed Forces.”
General Rawat, India’s first CDS, was on a visit to the Defence Services Staff College in Wellington to address the faculty and student officers of the Staff Course when his chopper crashed near Coonoor in Tamil Nadu on Wednesday.
General Rawat was appointed as India’s first Chief of Defence Staff on December 31, 2019. He previously served as Chief of the Army Staff from January 2017 to December 2019. He was commissioned into the Indian Army in December 1978.
A veteran of counterinsurgency warfare, CDS Rawat served in the most difficult terrains including Northern and Eastern commands.

US, European allies underscore support for Ukraine amid tensions with Russia

Washington [US] : The US and its allies in Europe underscored their support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, after President Joe Biden briefed them about his call with Russian President Vladimir Putin, a statement from the White House said.
“The leaders [of European partners] underscored their support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, as well as the need for Russia to reduce tensions and engage in diplomacy,” a statement said on Tuesday. US President Joe Biden in his call with President Putin on Tuesday discussed the serious consequences of Russian military action in Ukraine and the need to de-escalate and return to diplomacy.
“They agreed their teams will stay in close touch, including in consultation with NATO allies and EU partners, on a coordinated and comprehensive approach,” the statement from the White House added.
Biden and Putin held their bilateral talks in a video conference format.
According to CNN, President Biden told his Russian counterpart that the US is prepared to launch strong economic measures that would cause a bigger punch than the sanctions issued in 2014 that failed to stop Russia from occupying Crimea.
This came as recent US intelligence findings estimated that Russia could begin a military offensive in Ukraine in a matter of months as it amasses up to 175,000 troops along the border, CNN reported.

Pakistan undermining global efforts to promote COVID-19 vaccination: Report

Washington [US]: As the world continues to campaign to overcome vaccine hesitancy, Pakistan appears to be creating anti-vaccine sentiment with the aim of spreading sectarian discord.

In an opinion piece for Washington based The National Interest, an American scholar has highlighted how groups apparently aligned with Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency appear to be sabotaging vaccination campaigns deliberately.
This is being done to further sectarian discord and to deny any diplomatic gain their opponents’ goodwill vaccination diplomacy might achieve.

Michael Rubin, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, cited the example of Hindu faith-based charity group Sewa International USA which has nearly four dozen chapters across the country and serves Hindus, Muslims, Christians, and Jews.

Sewa, which has been active in both vaccination and fundraising campaigns in both the US and India, began facing problems at the height of India’s second COVID-19 wave, when then-Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey announced a USD 2.5 million donations for the group to help its anti-COVID efforts in India.

Soon after the announcement was made, the blogosphere erupted and an activist named Pieter Friedrich posted an article to a self-publication platform Medium, alleging that Sewa was the “welfare wing” of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS).

Rubin said that sparked follow-on articles in more mainstream publications amplifying the criticism. Friedrich then announced a hunger strike to protest the donation, repeating the charge that Sewa was affiliated with RSS.

Rubin explained how that Friedrich is known primarily for gadfly efforts to cancel Mahatma Gandhi in both US and in South Asian circles. Friedrich often accuses the Indian founding father of everything from “white supremacy” to promoting Adolf Hitler.

The US scholar has argued that the Biden administration should continue to pursue its vaccine diplomacy and at the same time act against Pakistan’s government, which is weaponizing COVID-19.

“American efforts to immunize those in India and elsewhere against COVID-19 can buy the same goodwill and have the same lasting impact that George W. Bush-era efforts to counter HIV in Africa have had,” he said.

Meanwhile, Rubin also insists that it is important not only to provide vaccines and education but also to expose against unregistered foreign agents who seek to obfuscate and undermine efforts domestically.

"

Simply put, for Biden’s anti-COVID-19 efforts to work, it is time to call out the ISI and sanction Pakistan for actions that, quite literally, endanger the world,” he emphasised. (ANI)

Wall Street rallies second day in row as Omicron fears fade, tech stocks up 3pc

New York [US]: Wall Street rallied sharply for a second straight day on Tuesday, with high-flying technology stocks rising as much as 3 per cent, as investors’ fears over the impact of the Omicron variant of the coronavirus subsided.

“Time will tell whether investors are getting ahead of themselves but a couple of days without a negative Omicron headline has the dip buyers flooding back in,” Craig Erlam, analyst at online trading platform OANDA, said.
The Nasdaq Composite index that groups Big Tech names such as Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Netflix and Google settled up 462 points, or 3 per cent, at 15,687, for its biggest one-day gain since March. Nasdaq rose almost 1 per cent in the previous session.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average, which contains mostly industrial stocks, finished up 492 points, or 1.4 per cent, at 35,719. The Dow gained 1.9 per cent on Monday.

The S&P 500, an index of the top 500 stocks, settled up 95 points, or 2.1 per cent, at 4,687. The index climbed 2.1 per cent in the previous session.

Prior to Monday, US stocks had been battered for weeks, after the discovery of the Omicron variant in South Africa on November 24 and the reporting of the first US case from that on December 1.

Sentiment on Wall Street turned after global medical experts, including top US virologist Anthony Fauci, said at the weekend that early studies on the variant showed its effects might not be as severe as initially feared. (ANI/Sputnik)

Microsoft says disrupted Chinese hacking group targeting organizations worldwide

Washington [US]: Microsoft has disrupted a China-based hacking group that targeted organizations in the US and 28 other countries around the world, Corporate Vice President for Customer Security and Trust Tom Burt said in a blog post.

“The Microsoft Digital Crimes Unit (DCU) has disrupted the activities of a China-based hacking group that we call Nickel. In documents that were unsealed today, a federal court in Virginia has granted our request to seize websites Nickel was using to attack organizations in the United States and 28 other countries around the world, enabling us to cut off Nickel’s access to its victims and prevent the websites from being used to execute attacks,” Burt said on Monday.
The disruption will not prevent Nickel from continuing other hacking activities, Burt said, noting that Microsoft believes they have removed a key piece of the group’s infrastructure.

Burt pointed out that Microsoft believes the attacks being executed by Nickel were being used for intelligence gathering for government agencies, think tanks and human rights organizations. They have targeted public and private organizations around the world, including diplomatic organizations and ministries, and attacks often correlate with China’s geopolitical interests, Burt added.

Anchor Chris Cuomo fired over allegations of sexual misconduct, attorney says

Washington [US]: Anchor Chris Cuomo was fired by CNN not only over his role in helping defend his brother, former New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, but also over allegations of sexual misconduct, according to attorney Debra Katz.

“On Wednesday, December 1, 2021, I contacted CNN to report my client’s allegations of misconduct against Chris Cuomo. By Friday, I was in discussions with CNN about providing documentary evidence of my client’s allegations and making my client available for an interview with CNN’s outside counsel. Last night, CNN acted promptly on my client’s complaint and fired Mr. Cuomo,” Katz said in a Sunday statement, released by the Katz, Marshall & Banks whistleblower law firm.
The attorney said her client wished to remain anonymous and will continue to cooperate with CNN’s investigation into her allegations of “serious sexual misconduct” against her on the part of Chris Cuomo.

On Saturday, CNN said that Chris Cuomo was being “terminated” as new information came into light during a review by a “respected law firm” about his involvement with his brother’s defense.

Chris Cuomo was suspended indefinitely earlier this week. He had initially admitted to CNN that he offered advice to his brother’s staff, which is in violation of company rules.

Former New York governor Andrew Cuomo resigned after an investigation by New York Attorney General Letitia James found him to have harassed nearly a dozen colleagues, but he continues to deny any wrongdoing.

US, other world powers condemn Taliban over summary killings in Afghanistan

Washington [US] : The United States joined other international powers in expressing “deep concern” over the summary killings and enforced disappearances in Afghanistan after the takeover of Kabul by the Taliban in August this year.
“We are deeply concerned by reports of summary killings and enforced disappearances of former members of the Afghan security forces as documented by Human Rights Watch and others,” the State Department said. In a report released on November 30, the New York-based human rights watchdog documented the killing or disappearance of 47 former members of the Afghan security forces who had surrendered to or were apprehended by the Taliban between August 15 and October 31.
It also said that the Taliban “summarily executed or forcibly disappeared” more than 100 former security force members in just four of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces since the group took over.
A joint statement was issued by US, Australia, Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, Denmark, the European Union, Finland, France, Germany, Japan, the Netherlands, New Zealand, North Macedonia, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and Ukraine.
“We are deeply concerned by reports of summary killings and enforced disappearances of former members of the Afghan security forces as documented by Human Rights Watch and others,” the State Department said.
“We underline that the alleged actions constitute serious human rights abuses and contradict the Taliban’s announced amnesty. We call on the Taliban to effectively enforce the amnesty for former members of the Afghan security forces and former Government officials to ensure that it is upheld across the country and throughout their ranks.
Reported cases must be investigated promptly and in a transparent manner, those responsible must be held accountable, and these steps must be clearly publicized as an immediate deterrent to further killings and disappearances,” the statement further added.
The statement further added that they will continue to measure Taliban by its actions

Defence Ministers of US, Japan agree to hold meeting in 2+2 format

Washington [US] : US Secretary of Defence Lloyd Austin and Japanese Defence Minister Nobuo Kishi have held a phone conversation, during which they agreed to hold a meeting in a 2+2 format with the nations’ foreign policy chiefs, the US Department of Defence said.
During the conversation, Austin and Kishi expressed commitment to security and stability in the Asia Pacific region, as well as pointed out the strength of the US-Japanese alliance. “Secretary Austin and Minister Kishi discussed efforts to deepen defence cooperation to maintain regional deterrence, and agreed to hold a Security Consultative Committee ‘2+2’ meeting at an early date,” the Pentagon said in a statement on late Friday.
The ministers also stressed the importance of close trilateral cooperation between the US, Japan and South Korea.

Omicron variant now confirmed in ten US states

Washington [US]: Cases of the coronavirus Omicron variant have been reported by health officials in five additional US states today, bringing the total number of states with confirmed infections to ten.

New Omicron variant cases were reported in the states of Maryland, Nebraska, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Utah on Friday, according to health officials. Cases were also reported earlier this week in California, Colorado, Hawaii, Minnesota and New York.
Omicron, which was first detected in southern Africa, has emerged as a variant of concern, prompting new travel restrictions and public health measures in the United States and primarily Western countries.

The Biden administration has said that the Omicron variant is a cause for concern but not for alarm. White House COVID-19 experts said the United States is in a better position to deal with the Omicron than with previous variants.

South Africa health officials said the infections were discovered in fully vaccinated individuals, the cases were mild and the initial reactions in the United States and other primarily Western countries – overblown. (ANI/Sputnik)

The first female chief economist in IMF history Gita Gopinath, promoted as IMF’s First Deputy Managing Director

Washington [US] : Indian-American Gita Gopinath, the chief economist of International Monetary Fund, is being promoted as IMF’s First Deputy Managing Director, the fund announced on Thursday.

She would replace Geoffrey Okamoto who plans to leave the Fund early next year. Gopinath, who was scheduled to return to her academic position at Harvard University in January 2022, has served as the IMF’s chief economist for three years. “Both Geoffrey and Gita are tremendous colleagues- I am sad to see Geoffrey go but, at the same time, I am delighted that Gita has decided to stay and accept the new responsibility of being our FDMD,” said Kristalina Georgieva, IMF’s Managing Director. Georgieva said Gopinath’s contribution to the Fund’s work has already been exceptional, especially her “intellectual leadership in helping the global economy and the Fund to navigate the twists and turns of the worst economic crisis of our lives.” She also said Gopinath- the first female chief economist in IMF history- has garnered respect and admiration across member countries and the institution with a proven track record in leading analytically rigorous work on a broad range of issues.

Under Gopinath’s leadership, the IMF’s Research Department had gone from “strength to strength,” particularly highlighting its contributions in multilateral surveillance via the World Economic Outlook, a new analytical approach to help countries respond to international capital flows (the integrated policy framework), and Gopinath’s recent work on a pandemic plan to end the COVID-19 crisis by setting targets to vaccinate the world at feasible cost, said the IMF’s Managing Director. “As the pandemic continues its grip on us, the work of the Fund has never been more critical and international cooperation never more important.I am very thankful to Kristalina and the Board for this opportunity, and so look forward to collaborating closely with all the incredibly brilliant and committed colleagues at the Fund, working with whom has been an absolute privilege,” Gopinath said.

US to join gender equality pact at WTO ministerial meeting

Washington [US]: The United States will join the World Trade Organization’s (WTO) gender equality pact at the organization’s ongoing ministerial meeting in Switzerland, the Office of the US Trade Representative (USTR) announced.
“The Office of the United States Trade Representative today announced the United States’ intention to join the Joint Declaration on the Advancement of Gender Equality and Women’s Economic Empowerment Within Trade for the 12th WTO Ministerial Conference,” the USTR said in a statement on Thursday. The announcement reflected the Biden administration’s commitment to its guiding slogan “Build Back Better” by advancing gender equity, the statement said.
It was also consistent with the Biden-Harris administration’s strategy of advancing “the full participation of all people – including women and girls – in the United States and around the world,” the statement added.
The WTO’s 12th Ministerial Conference is being held between November 30 and December 3 in Geneva, Switzerland.

Series of appalling deadly attacks on displaced people in DR Congo

New York [US] : The UN refugee agency UNHCR said it is “appalled by a series of deadly attacks” on displaced people in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), its spokesperson told journalists on Tuesday in Geneva.
In the latest incident carried out by armed groups, UNHCR spokesperson Boris Cheshirkov cited local authorities in saying that 26 people were killed on Sunday at Ndjala site in the Drodro health zone in Ituri province. “Ten women and nine children were among the dead and 11 people were wounded. The attackers used guns, machetes and knives”, he told journalists at the UN in Geneva.
Since 19 November, this is the fourth attack on IDPs in Ituri Province – host to 1.7 million displaced people.
UN Humanitarian Coordinator in the DRC David McLachlan-Karr expressed his anger, saying, “I am shocked, outraged and deeply saddened by these repeated attacks on civilians who are forced to leave their homes to seek safety from the violence”.
“It is imperative to protect these populations. I reiterate that these women, men and children must be allowed to live in peace”, he underscored.
The UN official reminded that the attacks are “violations of international humanitarian law and the 2009 Kampala Convention on IDPs”.
“They must stop immediately. I don’t want to count anymore the number of attacks that these vulnerable people are already enduring”, he said.
Humanitarian aid is being deployed rapidly to assist them.
On 21 November, a militia group attacked Drodro, another site for displaced people, leaving 44 dead and over 1,200 shelters destroyed. They also attacked a site at Tche, wrecking almost 1,000 shelters, according to authorities.
As many as 20,000 inhabitants fled to Rhoe, seeking safety near the military base of the UN Stabilization Mission in the DRC (MONUSCO), which doubled in size from 21,000 to 40,500 in under 48 hours – forcing the newly arrived families to sleep in the open.
The main needs are food, shelter, health care and psychosocial assistance.

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