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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.

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)


Russia admits ‘significant’ troop losses in Ukraine conflict

Moscow [Russia]: Russia on Thursday has admitted to suffering significant losses on the battlefield as a result of the conflict with Ukraine.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov briefly admitted that Russia had suffered a “significant” loss of its troops in Ukraine, calling the casualties “a huge tragedy” for the country in an interview with Sky News.
“We have significant losses of troops. It’s a huge tragedy for us,” said Peskov while replying to Russian losses.

When asked about the Russian President ending up in a war crimes case, he said, “No, he is not. We don’t see any possibility for it.”

In the latest move by the international community, Russia has been suspended from the Human Rights Council (HRC) in response to Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine in the General Assembly of the United Nations.

The UN General Assembly suspended Russia from the Human Rights Council in a 93-24 vote, with 58 countries abstaining.

Meanwhile, the European Union will commit a further 500 million euros (USD 543 million) in military support to Ukraine, European Commission President Charles Michel announced Thursday.

The pledge takes the EU’s military aid to Ukraine to a total of 1.5 billion euros (USD 1.63 billion) since Russia launched its invasion on February 24, he said in a tweet.

“Thanks and support to @JosepBorrellF for your proposal to top up the #EuropeanPeaceFacility with a further EUR500M. Once swiftly approved this will bring to 1.5 billion the EU support already provided for military equipment for #Ukraine. @ZelenskyyUa,” tweeted Michel.

The European Peace Facility, created in 2021, is an emergency fund of 5.69 billion euros that allows the EU to quickly finance military operations and “preserve peace, prevent conflicts and strengthen international security,” according to the EU.

Moreover, The Kyiv Independent reported on Friday that the Sumy region is completely free of Russian forces.

Sumy Oblast Governor Dmytro Zhyvytsky announced on Facebook that the region is clear of Russia’s forces, but that explosions may still be heard as rescue service workers dispose of ammunition left by the Russian military. (ANI)

US eases COVID-19 travel advisory for India from ‘Level 3’ to ‘Level 1’

Washington [US]: The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Monday (local time) has eased its COVID-19 travel advisories for India, taking it from Level 3 (high risk) to Level 1 (low risk).

The CDC in its advisory said it has changed its COVID-19 travel recommendation for India to “Level 1 (Low)” from “Level 3 (High).”
“The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued a Level 1 Travel Health Notice due to COVID-19, indicating a low level of COVID-19 in the country. Your risk of contracting COVID-19 and developing severe symptoms may be lower if you are fully vaccinated with an FDA authorized vaccine,” the US department of state said in a statement.

“Before planning any international travel, please review the CDC’s specific recommendations for vaccinated and unvaccinated travellers,” the statement added.

While giving key information for travellers to India, the CDC said, “Make sure you are vaccinated and up to date with your COVID-19 vaccines before travelling to India. Even if you are up to date with your COVID-19 vaccines, you may still be at risk for getting and spreading COVID-19. Anyone 2 years or older should properly wear a well-fitting mask in indoor public spaces. Follow all requirements and recommendations in India.”

CDC uses Travel Health Notices (THNs) to alert travellers and other audiences to health threats around the world and advise on how to protect themselves. (ANI)

US & Europe welcomes ICJ order asking Russia to suspend military operations in Ukraine

Hague/Washington: The US welcomed the International Court of Justice (ICJ) order asking Russia to suspend its military operations in Ukraine on Wednesday (local time), State Department spokesperson Ned Price said in a statement.

“We welcome the Court’s order and call on the Russian Federation to comply with the order, immediately cease its military operations in Ukraine, and to establish unhindered humanitarian access in Ukraine,” Price said while adding, “The United States will continue to act with our allies and partners in support of Ukraine.”
Earlier, the ICJ at The Hague ruled that pending the final decision in the case, Russia must suspend the military operations that it commenced on February 24 in the territory of Ukraine.

The US Press statement highlighted parts of the order including the court’s acute awareness of “the extent of the human tragedy that is taking place in Ukraine” as well as the “continuing loss of life and human suffering.”

The Court also observed that it did not possess any evidence substantiating Russia’s claims that genocide had been committed by Ukraine in the Donbas region, the press statement said.

Ukraine on February 26 had filed an application at the ICJ to initiate proceedings against the Russian Federation under the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.

Ukraine seeks to address what it calls “Russia’s groundless claims” that genocide has occurred in the Luhansk and Donetsk oblasts of Ukraine and establish that Russia has no lawful basis to take military action on the basis of those “false” claims.

Ukraine had also requested the ICJ exercise its authority to indicate provisional measures to preserve Ukraine’s rights and limit the ongoing and irreparable harm to the Ukrainian people as well as Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity within its internationally recognized borders.

“By thirteen votes to two, The Russian Federation shall immediately suspend the military operations that it commenced on 24 February 2022 in the territory of Ukraine,” the ICJ said in its order laying out provisional measures, adding that “Both Parties shall refrain from any action which might aggravate or extend the dispute before the Court or make it more difficult to resolve.”

Meanwhile, the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) is scheduled to hold an extraordinary meeting at 3:00 PM ET on Thursday to discuss the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Ukraine. (ANI)


US to allow Ukrainian refugees, provide weapons to defend

Washington [US]: US President Joe Biden on Monday (local time) announced to provide Ukraine with weapons against Russia’s military operations.

Taking to Twitter, the President also said that America will also allow Ukrainian refugees in the US, and send money, food, and other humanitarian aid to Kyiv.
“We will make sure Ukraine has weapons to defend against the invading Russian force. We will send money and food and aid to save Ukrainian lives. We will welcome Ukrainian refugees with open arms,” he said.

Earlier, US President Joe Biden authorized USD 200 million for additional arms and equipment to Ukraine, White House said on Saturday (local time).

“Today, President Biden authorized USD 200 million for additional arms and equipment to

Ukraine. This unprecedented fourth drawdown in less than one year brings the total U.S. security assistance to Ukraine to over USD 1.2 billion since January 2021,” the White House said in a tweet.

Biden’s decision brings total US security aid provided to Ukraine to USD 1.2 billion since January 2021.

Meanwhile, Secretary of State Antony Blinken tweeted: “I have authorized a drawdown of up to USD 200 million for additional arms and equipment to Ukraine. This unprecedented fourth drawdown in less than a year will bring total US security assistance provided to Ukraine to more than USD 1.2 billion since January 2021.”

Earlier, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy accused Russian forces of targeting a humanitarian corridor. (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)


Humanitarian situation in Ukraine is deteriorating at an alarming pace: UN agency

Kyiv [Ukraine]: The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) on Friday informed that the humanitarian situation in Ukraine is deteriorating at an alarming pace.

An estimated 1.9 million have been internally displaced and more than 2.3 million people have crossed international borders out of Ukraine, according to the UN Refugee Agency UNHCR.
Between February 24 and March 9 at the end of the day, 1,506 civilian casualties were recorded and this includes 549 people killed, 41 of them children, according to the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR). The real figure could rise considerably as reported casualties are confirmed.

“Three things are critical in the short term, as Emergency Relief Coordinator Martin Griffiths has stressed: civilians, whether they stay or leave, must be respected and protected; safe passage is needed for humanitarian supplies; and we need a system of constant communication with parties to the conflict,” the OCHA said in a daily briefing.

In terms of response, humanitarian organizations are deploying additional staff across the country and are working to move supplies to warehouses in different hubs including in to serve people in need.

So far more than 500,000 people are being reached by the UN and partners with some form of humanitarian assistance in Ukraine, including life-saving food, shelter, blankets, and medical supplies.

“If humanitarian access is secured, the UN and partners are set to reach much higher numbers given the scope and scale of the humanitarian operation being deployed,” OCHA said.

The UN Refugee Agency reports that by March 9, it had delivered 85 metric tons of humanitarian assistance to reception and transit centres in Vinnytsia in central Ukraine, which is hosting people who have fled hostilities further east. (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)


US will continue to provide support to Ukraine against Russian aggression: Blinken


Washington [US] (ANI): US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Friday (local time) spoke with Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba and said the United States would continue to provide support to Ukraine to help it defend itself against Russian aggression.

“Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken spoke today with Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba to offer support and condemn reports of mounting civilian deaths, including those of Ukrainian children due to airstrikes and rocket launch systems in and around Kyiv,” US State Department Spokesperson Ned Price said in a statement.
According to the statement, Blinken expressed his outrage at the Kremlin’s brutal tactics and underscored continued US support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.

“Blinken also emphasized to Foreign Minister Kuleba that the United States would continue to provide support to Ukraine to help it defend itself against Russian aggression,” the statement added.

Earlier, Kuleba stated that he had a call with Blinken and discussed the further supply of defensive weapons to Ukraine.

“Another call with my American friend and counterpart @SecBlinken on the need to use all US influence on some hesitant European countries in order to ban Russia from SWIFT. We also discussed further supply of defensive weapons to Ukraine,” he tweeted. (ANI)

UK will work to ensure sovereignty, independence of Ukraine: PM Boris Johnson


London [UK]: British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Friday said that the United Kingdom will work for as long as it takes to ensure the sovereignty and independence of Ukraine is restored, adding that the National flag of Ukraine flies over Downing Street.

“The national flag of Ukraine flies over Downing Street. The United Kingdom will work for as long as it takes to ensure that the sovereignty and independence of Ukraine is restored,” the Prime Minister’s Office said in a Tweet.
Meanwhile, he pledged that the UK will provide further support to Kiev “in the coming days.”

“The Prime Minister committed to providing further UK support to Ukraine in the coming days,” Johnson’s office said in the readout of the telephone conversation with Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Friday morning.

According to the statement cited by Sputnik News Agency, Zelenskyy updated Johnson on the most recent developments in Ukraine and the “terrible developments in Kyiv in the early hours of this morning.”

Meanwhile, Zelenskyy suggested to Putin that they sit down at the negotiation table amid escalating tensions over Russia’s military actions in Ukraine.

“I would like to address the president of Russia once again … let us sit down at the negotiation table to stop people dying,” Zelenskyy said in a video address, Sputnik News Agency reported.

Zelensky urged European countries to demand stoppage of “the war”.

Leaders from a number of countries including the UK, the US, Canada, and the European Union have condemned Russia’s military operations in Ukraine. They have also imposed heavy sanctions on Russia.

US President Joe Biden on Thursday said that the US will introduce a new wave of sanctions against Russia in a broad effort to isolate Moscow from the global economy.

The new package of sanctions aims to cut Russia off from the US financial markets and includes freezing the assets of four major Russian banks, including VTB Bank, the nation’s second-biggest bank. (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)

Scholz, Biden say there is no significant withdrawal of Russian troops: German cabinet


Berlin [Germany] (ANI/Sputnik): German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and US President Joe Biden said in a phone conversation on Wednesday that there is no significant withdrawal of Russian troops from the Ukrainian borders, a spokesperson for the German cabinet told reporters.

“Federal Chancellor Olaf Scholz exchanged views on the situation in and around Ukraine in a telephone conversation tonight with US President Joe Biden,” the spokesperson said.
“Both were unanimous that the situation in the region, due to the large-scale accumulation of Russian troops in the areas bordering Ukraine, should be assessed as extremely serious. The risk of further Russian military aggression against Ukraine remains, extreme vigilance is needed, no significant withdrawal of Russian troops has been observed yet,” the spokesperson said.

Kiev and Western states have recently expressed concern about the alleged increase in “aggressive actions” by Russia near the borders of Ukraine. Russia has repeatedly rejected such accusations, stating that it does not threaten anyone and is not going to attack anyone and that claims about “Russian aggression” are used as a pretext to deploy more NATO military equipment near Russian borders. (ANI/Sputnik)

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)

‘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)

US calls on Americans in Ukraine to leave in next 24 to 48 hours: White House


Washington [USA] (ANI): The United States is calling on all Americans in Ukraine to leave in the next 24 to 48 hours, US National Security Adviser (NSA) Jake Sullivan on Friday (local time).

“We want to be crystal clear on this point. Any American in Ukraine should leave as soon as possible and in any event, in the next 24 to 48 hours,” Sullivan said, according to CNN.
He said that if Americans stay they “are assuming risk with no guarantee that there will be any other opportunity to leave and no prospect of a US Military evacuation in the event of a Russian invasion.”

The National Security Adviser was speaking during a White House press briefing amid the ongoing situation in Ukraine. He also said that there is a credible prospect that Russian Military action in Ukraine would take place even before the end of the Beijing Winter Olympics.

“We continue to see signs of Russian escalation including now forces arriving at the border. As we’ve said before, we’re in the window when an invasion could begin at any time should Vladimir Putin decide to order it. I will not comment on the details of our intelligence information but I do want to be clear, it could begin during the Olympics, despite a lot of speculation that it will only happen after the Olympics,” Sullivan said during a White House press briefing.

He noted that the US forces’ deployments in Germany, Poland, Armenia are not soldiers being sent to go fight Russia in Ukraine.

“They are not going to war in Ukraine or fighting a war with Russia. They are going to defend NATO territory against aggression; defensive and non-escalatory deployments,” he added.

Meanwhile, CNN reported quoting Secretary of State Antony Blinken that a Russian invasion of Ukraine “could begin at any time,” including during the Beijing Winter Olympics, and the United States continues “to see very troubling signs of Russian escalation, including new forces arriving at the Ukrainian border.”

The top US diplomat made the comments alongside his counterparts from the Quad — Australia, India and Japan — following a day of meetings in Melbourne and after the State Department and Biden warned US citizens to depart Ukraine immediately. (ANI)(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)

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)

Storm threatens millions of Americans with heavy snow, high-speed winds on US East Coast


Washington [US]: A nor’easter churning along the US East Coast on Saturday with a dangerous mix of heavy snow and high-speed winds could develop into a historic storm threatening millions of Americans.

According to forecasters, the strorm threatens blizzard conditions and coastal flooding on East Coast and could be a historic storm in parts of New England, reported CNN.
Nearly 55 million people, stretching from the Mid-Atlantic to New England, were under winter weather alerts on Saturday morning.

Whiteout conditions are expected across the region, and several governors declared states of emergency as they urged residents to stay off roads.

There are also warnings of coastal flooding and the possibility of power outages due to downed utility lines, reported CNN.

Between 2 to 6 inches of snow had fallen early Saturday in parts of the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast — with more on the way.

More than 12 inches of snow are expected to blanket parts of the Mid-Atlantic Coast through eastern New England, the NWS Weather Prediction Center said Friday afternoon.

The Boston metro area faces the potential of more than 2 feet of snow that’s expected to collect quickly. Snow is projected to fall at rates of 2 to 4 inches per hour in some locations, reported CNN.

Blizzard warnings issued Friday covered 10 million people across 10 states in coastal counties from Virginia to New England — but excluding New York City.

Notable locations within the warning are Portland, Maine; Boston and Cape Cod, Massachusetts; the eastern half of New York’s Long Island; Atlantic City, New Jersey; and Ocean City, Maryland.

The difference in storm timing — even as few as six hours — would make a massive difference in impact on coastal flooding and erosion concerns.

More than 3,500 flights within, into or out of the US have been canceled Saturday, according to FlightAware. (Image -InstagramWeather)

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)

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)

People should learn to live with COVID-19: Top infectious disease expert Dr Faheem Younus


New Delhi [India](ANI): People should learn to live with COVID-19 disease and should not throw caution to the wind, said Dr Faheem Younus, Chief of Infectious Disease at the University of Maryland, on Tuesday.

Speaking to ANI, Dr Younus, top infectious disease expert, said, “We should learn to live with COVID-19. It doesn’t mean dropping our guard against COVID-19. We should get vaccinated or get a booster dose in order to avoid a high-risk situation. Going to a concert or to a bar may not be essential but taking care of our parents is important.”
He also emphasized on wearing good quality masks and getting vaccinated which will help people in keeping high-risk situations at bay.

“So as long as we continue to get vaccinated and wear good quality masks, then we can live with it. Wearing good quality masks and being vaccinated will help prevent death and hospitalisation,” Dr Younus added. (Image – Instagram)

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 judge rejects Facebook’s request to dismiss antitrust complaint


Washington [US]: In a blow to Facebook, US federal judge on Tuesday ruled that US antitrust officials can continue their case to break up Meta, Facebook’s parent company.

The decision allows federal prosecutors to try to prove their allegations that Meta has illegally abused a monopoly in the marketplace for social media — and that its subsidiaries Instagram and WhatsApp should be spun off, reported CNN.
The social media giant had argued the complaint should be dismissed.

District Judge James Boasberg previously threw out the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) complaint last June. At the time, Boasberg said agency prosecutors had not done enough to show that Facebook held a monopoly in social networking. But he left the door open for the FTC to resubmit its complaint with changes.

In August, the FTC refiled its complaint with the backing of its new chair, the vocal tech industry critic Lina Khan. Facebook again called for Boasberg to quash the suit, but in Tuesday’s opinion, the judge said the FTC’s “significant additions and revisions” from its earlier filing met the threshold for the case to continue, reported CNN.

The FTC didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. In a statement, Meta said it was confident “the evidence will reveal the fundamental weakness of the [FTC’s] claims.” The company also pointed out that Boasberg described the FTC’s job ahead as a “tall task.”

The case gives Khan a chance to make her mark in her first turn as a federal regulator. Khan played a key role in kick-starting the current wave of antitrust scrutiny of Big Tech platforms with a 2017 paper in the Yale Law Journal highlighting the dominance of Amazon.

Khan also helped lead a 16-month congressional investigation of Big Tech while working for the House antitrust subcommittee, a probe that produced a landmark report in 2020 finding that Amazon, Apple, Google and Meta enjoy monopoly power, reported CNN.

Meta had called for Boasberg to throw out the FTC suit on the grounds that Khan should not have been able to vote to approve the new complaint, given her past criticism of Big Tech companies.

Last July, company officials wrote to the FTC seeking Khan’s recusal from all matters related to the social media giant, but that did not deter Khan from voting in August to continue the litigation.

On Tuesday, Boasberg sided with the FTC on that issue, saying Khan’s vote saw her “acting in a prosecutorial capacity, as opposed to in a judicial role.”

But, as in his decision to toss out the original FTC complaint, Boasberg on Tuesday again rejected one of the US government’s central claims that Facebook had anti-competitively controlled how third parties could access the company’s data, reported CNN.

The lawsuit’s continuance signals further unwelcome scrutiny for Meta that could potentially end with some of the company’s most valuable assets spun off. (ANI- Image Unsplash)

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)

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.

Boeing wins USD 471mn contract to develop new systems for Japan’s F-15 fleet: Pentagon


Washington [US](ANI/Sputnik): Boeing has won a more than USD 470 million US Air Force contract to develop new systems for Japan’s fleet of upgraded F-15 Eagle Super Interceptors, the Department of Defense said in a press release.

“The Boeing Company [of] St. Louis, Missouri has been awarded a not-to-exceed $471,313,000 undefinitized contract action for the F-15 Japan Super Interceptor Program,” the release said on Thursday.
The contract provides for the design and development of an integrated suite of aircraft systems to support modification of the Japan Air Self Defense Force F-15MJ aircraft and the development, test and delivery of four Weapon System Trainers, the Defense Department said.

Work on the contract will be performed in St. Louis in the US state of Missouri, and is expected to be completed seven years from now by December 31, 2028, the department added.

US Presidential medical advisor Fauci says Omicron cases likely to peak by end of January


Washington [US] December 30 (Sputnik): Cases involving the coronavirus Omicron variant will likely peak by the end of January, presidential medical advisor Anthony Fauci said.

“I would imagine, given the size of our country and the diversity of vaccination versus no vaccination, that it likely will be more than a couple of weeks, probably by the end of January, I would think,” Fauci told CNBC said on Wednesday in response to a question about when the coronavirus cases will peak in the United States.
On Tuesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) provided data showing that the Omicron variant accounted for 58.6% of all new infections in the United States in the week ending on December 25. The Omicron variant, which was first detected in South Africa in November, is said by public health officials to be more transmissible but produces milder cases.

The current seven-day daily average of cases in the United States is about 240,400 per day, an increase of about 60 per cent over the previous week, CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said on Wednesday.

Covid Impact: Some 3,000 flights cancelled, 11,500 delayed worldwide


Washington [US]: Amid the global surge of the Omicron variant of COVID-19, almost 3,000 flights have been cancelled and more than 11,500 flights have been delayed worldwide on Tuesday.

A total of 2,969 flight cancellations and 11,512 flight delays worldwide on Tuesday, with 1,172 of the cancellations and 5,458 of the delays occurring within, into, or out of the US, according to the flight-tracking website FlightAware.
Earlier on Monday, Flightradar24 data showed that 12,528 delayed flights and 2,959 cancelled flights were reported with airlines and airports in the US, accounting for nearly half of all delays and cancellations worldwide.

Similarly, air travellers in the US continued to face flight disruptions, with 2,513 flights cancelled on Sunday and 2,850 on Saturday due to staff members calling in sick.

Amid the Holidays celebrations during the Christmas weekend, the US on Tuesday set a single-day record of new COVID-19 infections, with 441,278 new cases.

The seven-day moving average is now more than 240,000 COVID-19 cases a day, The Hill reported. This average of daily new cases reached 122,297, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

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)

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)

Understanding the Russia-Ukraine Tussle amid US-Russia Tensions. Exclusive Report.

Shweta Pandey

The United States and Russia are involved in a near-direct confrontation in Ukraine, perhaps their most serious faceoff since the end of the Cold war. US President Joe Biden in a video call with the Russian president, warned Putin of more serious action than the ones following Russia’s Crimea annexation, if the latter invaded Ukraine. Putin, on his part, sought a guarantee from the US President that Ukraine will not be allowed to join Nato, something the US is not ready to commit to.

Putin is not ready to negotiate.

The genesis of the Ukraine problem lies in the fact that Ukraine was historically part of the Russian empire for hundreds of years. Even as part of the USSR, the two were closely linked. Russia now claims that parts of Ukraine – especially its Russian speaking areas – were given to Ukraine when both were parts of the same country. Also, a large proportion of people in eastern Russia (as well as Crimea) is ethnic Russians and also speaks the Russian language. Russia also claims that it can’t look the other way if there is discrimination with Ukraine’s Russian speaking minorities.
It was on this pretext that Russia attacked Crimea and annexed it in 2014, despite protestations by the US and other countries. Thereafter, it backed, and as per Ukraine, also instigated the rebellion in its eastern regions of Donetsk and Luhansk.

Ukraine and Russia are at war and tensions can escalate further.

At present, the Russian-backed rebels control these two areas, although there is an international ceasefire in place. Ukraine now suspects that Russia will launch an invasion with the aim to annex the two pro-Russian regions like it annexed Crimea. Russia has reportedly amassed about 90,000 troops on the border.

In response, the United States has increased the shipment of weapons to Ukraine, both as a way to bolster the strength of the Ukrainian army, as also to send a clear message to Moscow that it is watching the situation closely. UK PM Boris Johnson too spoke to Putin in mid December on phone and told him that there would be serious consequences to any attack on Ukraine.
Of course, it is not clear whether the US or UK will involve themselves directly in the conflict if Russia indeed invades Ukraine.

US President Biden is supporting Ukraine

Russia, on the other hand, is spooked by the expansion and eastward march of the Nato alliance right up to its borders, as it feels that Ukraine is trying to join the US-led military alliance. After the erstwhile USSR disintegrated in 1991, many of the newly independent countries that were its part like Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania joined Nato, which Russia sees as its rival. After 1991, a total of 14 European countries that were earlier either part of the USSR, or that of the USSR-led Warsaw pact (Nato’s rival during the Cold War) or were under its influence have joined Nato. Naturally, this makes Russia nervous.


About the Author:

Shweta Pandey is a reputed journalist with a more than 10 years of working experience. She has been covering many political incidents and events internationally also. Views Expressed here are her own personal & professional views.

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)

Afghanistan Crisis: Imran Khan blames US for deteriorating situation in Afghanistan


Islamabad [Pakistan]: Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan has blamed the United States for creating a humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan that is affecting millions of people and allowing it to worsen.

“A man-made crisis is being created despite knowing that it can be averted if (Afghanistan’s) accounts (in the US) are unfrozen and liquidity is put into their banking system,” the Prime Minister said, Dawn newspaper reported.
The Prime Minister made these remarks at a ceremony held at Foreign Office to celebrate the successful holding of the extraordinary session of Organisation of Islamic Cooperation’s (OIC) Council of Foreign Ministers on Tuesday.

On the other hand, amid the deteriorating economic situation in Afghanistan, United States Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Tuesday (local time) said that Washington is looking intensely at ways to put more liquidity into the Afghan economy so as to provide money to the people of the cash-strapped nation.

“We are looking intensely at ways to put more liquidity into the Afghan economy to get more money into people’s pockets. And doing that, with international institutions, with other countries and partners, trying to put in place the right mechanisms to do that in a way that doesn’t directly benefit the Taliban but does go directly to the people,” Blinken said during a press briefing.

He further stated that Afghanistan is facing a difficult humanitarian situation.

“We’re very conscious of the fact that there is an incredibly difficult humanitarian situation right now, all it could get worse as winter sets in, and so that’s an area of intense focus for us, working closely with allies and partners,” Blinken said.

US Secretary of State said, “I am focused right now on the situation in Afghanistan, including the humanitarian situation, we continue to be the largest single providing humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan.”

The Taliban took over control of Kabul on August 15 and following this the country has been battered by deepening economic, humanitarian and security crises.

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

The international community, from governments to non-governmental organizations, has been providing various assistance to the Afghan people.

Despite a general amnesty by the Taliban, announced in August, mutiple reports say that more than 100 killings of former Afghan national security forces and others associated with the former Government have taken place.

At least 72 killings were attributed to the Taliban, and in several cases, the bodies were publicly displayed, UN News reported.

According to the UN, women and girls face great uncertainty when it comes to respecting their rights to education, livelihoods and participation. Some 4.2 million young Afghans are already out of school, the majority of them are girls.

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)

US ‘violates’ free trade rules, threatens supply chain security, says China


Beijing [China]: The United States has been severely violating free trade rules and threatening global supply chain security, Chinese Embassy in Washington spokesperson Liu Pengyu said on Thursday.

This reaction comes after the United States blacklisted several Chinese biotechnology companies and organisations which it said are involved in using technologies for military applications and human rights abuses.
“[The United States] severely violates the rules of free trade, gravely threatens the security of global industrial and supply chains, hinders the development of science and technology of human-being, and seriously undermines the well-being and interests of people in all countries including the United States,” Liu told Sputnik on Thursday.

The US has been making excuses to suppress and contain certain foreign companies and research institutions by applying measures such as export controls, Liu also said.

In a statement on Thursday, US Commerce Department said that it was adding 34 Chinese entities to its Entity List, meaning that US companies cannot export to the companies without a license, The Hill reported.

US Secretary of Commerce said that China is choosing to use biotechnology to pursue control over its people and its repression of members of ethnic and religious minority groups.

“The scientific pursuit of biotechnology and medical innovation can save lives. Unfortunately, the PRC is choosing to use these technologies to pursue control over its people and its repression of members of ethnic and religious minority groups. We cannot allow U.S. commodities, technologies, and software that support medical science and biotechnical innovation to be diverted toward uses contrary to U.S. national security,” said U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gina M. Raimondo.

“The U.S. will continue to stand strong against efforts by the PRC and Iran to turn tools that can help humanity prosper into implements that threaten global security and stability,” Raimondo added.

The United States has ramped up actions to target China on right abuses of its minorities. Recently it announced the diplomatic boycott of the Beijing Olympics over rights abuses. (ANI)

Biden warns of winter of ‘severe illness, death’ for unvaccinated as Omicron cases spike


Washington [US]: Amid the unabated spread of the Omicron variant globally, US President Joe Biden on Thursday warned about a winter of “severe illness and death” for unvaccinated Americans as COVID-19 cases continue to spike across the country.

“…I want to send a direct message to the American people: Due to the steps we’ve taken, Omicron has not yet spread as fast as it would’ve otherwise done and as is happening in Europe. But it’s here now, and it’s spreading, and it’s going to increase,” said Biden after meeting with members of his COVID-19 response team.
“For unvaccinated, we are looking at a winter of severe illness and death — if you’re unvaccinated — for themselves, their families, and the hospitals they’ll soon overwhelm,” he added.

Biden empathized on the need to get booster shots in guarding against the virus amid the spread of a new variant.

“About 60 million people have one — have been boosted. So, go get your shot today. Go get boosted if you’ve had your first two shots. If you haven’t, go get your first shot. It’s time. It’s time. It’s past time,” he said.

Compared to the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic, 2021 was “undoubtedly worse” for the Americas, where infections and deaths tripled, the top UN health official there reported on Wednesday.

Since the start of the pandemic, more than 98 million people in the Americas have developed COVID-19 and more than 2.3 million have died from the disease.

More than a third of all cases reported worldwide, and one in four deaths, have occurred in the region.

“And when we compare 2020 to 2021, this year was undoubtedly worse. We saw triple the number of COVID infections and deaths in this second year of the pandemic than we did in 2020,” said Dr Carissa Etienne, Director of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO). (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 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)

China laying mines, dropping bombs in Taiwan Strait to deter US, allies

Beijing [China]: China has increased the range of its military exercises near the Taiwan Strait in an effort to show force and attempt to deter the United States and its allies from intervening to protect Taiwan.

Chinese bombers are dropping bombs, conducting live-fire exercises, and laying mines over areas of the South China Sea and Taiwan Strait, according to the National Interest.
The latest Chinese bomber, the H-6J, practised bomb-dropping and sea mine-laying operations in a series of coordinated live-fire exercises using high-explosive aerial bombs.

However, the People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) would need to have established air superiority in order for the H-6J to fly low-altitude mine-laying or precision bombing missions, something which would not be at all assured in any kind of great power confrontation, wrote Kris Osborn for the National Interest.

Further, a bomber such as the H-6J would be extremely vulnerable to ship-launched from US Navy fifth-generation aircraft and would be easily seen by drones and networked ground surveillance systems, wrote Kris Osborn.

An aircraft as large as the H-6J could also be vulnerable to anti-aircraft fire coming from surface ships, depending upon how low it was flying to lay mines in littoral areas, according to the National Interest.

On the other hand, if the United States operates its amphibious assault ships and aircraft carriers in the region along with the sea-launched fifth-generation aircraft such as the Lockheed Martin F-35B and F-35C stealth fighters then it would likely make it extremely difficult for large Chinese bombers to operate under such circumstances.

China and Taiwan have been governed separately since they split in 1949.

Despite being governed separately for more than seven decades, China has threatened that “Taiwan’s independence” means war.

On June 1, Chinese President Xi Jinping pledged to complete reunification with self-ruled Taiwan and vowed to smash any attempts at formal independence for the island. (ANI)

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)

China terms US boycott as ‘grave distortion of spirit of Olympic Charter’

Beijing [China]: After the US announced to boycott the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing, China slammed the Biden administration for the decision and called the move a ‘pretentious act’ that will lead to ‘political manipulation’ and grave distortion of the spirit of the Olympic Charter.

“Such a pretentious act is only a political manipulation and a grave distortion of the spirit of the Olympic Charter,” Chinese Embassy in the US spokesperson Liu Pengyu said in a statement to Sputnik news agency.
The spokesperson also said that the “Biden administration’s decision to boycott the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing is a political manipulation that has no impact on the success of the event”.

“No one would care about whether these people come or not, and it has no impact whatsoever on the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics to be successfully held,” Liu said.

“No invitation has been extended to US politicians whatsoever, so this ‘diplomatic boycott’ simply comes out of nowhere,” Liu said.

In a symbolic protest against China’s “ongoing genocide and crimes against humanity in Xinjiang,” the Biden administration has decided not to send an official US delegation to the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing, said White House press secretary Jen Psaki on Monday.

US athletes will still participate in the Olympics, but the administration will not be sending government officials to the games. The same policy applies to the Paralympic Games to be held in Beijing, CNN reported.

According to CNN, the move marks an escalation of pressure by the US on China over allegations of forced labour and human rights abuses in China’s western region of Xinjiang, particularly against the Uyghur population and other ethnic and religious minority groups.

The US generally sends a delegation to the Olympics. Notably, in the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, first lady Jill Biden lead the US’s diplomatic delegation.

US likely to announce diplomatic boycott of Beijing Winter Olympics

Washington [US]: The Biden administration is expected to announce this week that no US government officials will attend the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympic Games, implementing a diplomatic boycott of the games, CNN reported citing sources.

The move would allow the US to send a message on the world stage to China without preventing US athletes from competing. The National Security Council, which has been privately discussing the boycott, declined to comment, CNN reported.
This comes after Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian on Tuesday said that China will successfully hold the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympic Games on schedule, despite the worldwide spread of the new Omicron coronavirus strain.

The WHO, on November 27, named the new COVID-19 variant B.1.1.529, which has been detected in South Africa, as ‘Omicron’. The World Health Organization has warned the Omicron variant, which has already been confirmed in Europe, Canada, Israel and Hong Kong, maybe more transmissible or evade immunity from previous infections and vaccines.

The Games are scheduled for February 4-20, 2022.

Meanwhile, Human rights activists have raised their voices against China’s detention of Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang province and crackdown on pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong.

In March, the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada and the European Union imposed sanctions on four Chinese officials and one entity for alleged human rights violations in the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, according to Sputnik. (ANI)

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)

Machine Gun Kelly reveals he accidentally stabbed himself to impress Megan Fox

Washington [US]: Rapper and songwriter Machine Gun Kelly has revealed that he once accidentally stabbed himself with a knife while trying to impress Megan Fox.

According to Fox News, Kelly, who has now started to go by his legal name Colson Baker, recalled the moment during an appearance on ‘The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon’. After the comedian brought up a story Pete Davidson had told during his own appearance on the show, Kelly told Fallon, “It was just a bad night.”
Davidson had revealed that Kelly had bruised his coccyx after the two fell off the stage at ‘Saturday Night Live’. The ‘Bad Things’ singer explained that his coccyx wasn’t the only thing he hurt that night.

At the time, the musician had just started dating Fox and in order to impress he decided to do a trick at home with a knife gifted to him by pal Travis Barker. Kelly admitted he threw the knife up in the air, but instead of watching it, he watched Fox.

“That was from when a knife stuck in,” Kelly said as he showed Fallon the scar and added, “‘Cause, you know how you throw it up, and you’re supposed to catch it? I looked at [Fox], and I was like, ‘Check this out.’ And I was like, ‘Ugh!'” He then recalled, “The next morning, as soon as she left, I was like, ‘Yo, I need stitches real quick.'”

Fox and Kelly reportedly began seeing each other in March 2020 while the two were filming ‘Midnight in the Switchgrass’. Fox, who was married to actor Brian Austin Green at the time, went on to file for divorce in November 2020.

The director of the film had opened up about the chemistry he noticed between the actors on set. Randall Emmett explained, “As a director, I felt, ‘Wow, there’s some real magic happening there,’ but I didn’t see any more than that.”

“They’re both incredible actors, and their chemistry was flawless. I was just looking at them and thinking, ‘Wow, that was a great scene,’ but didn’t really think about anything else,” he added, as per Fox News.

China sends 8 Aircrafts into Taiwan’s ADIZ amid visit of US lawmakers

Taipei [Taiwan]: As US lawmakers’ visit to Taipei irked China, as Beijing sent eight military aircraft into Taiwan’s air defence identification zone (ADIZ), local media reported on Friday.

The five US lawmakers arrived in Taiwan on Thursday to meet with government officials. The five-representative delegation is the second US congressional delegation visit to Taiwan this month. The recent visit is following a three-day visit to Taiwan by Senator John Cornyn-led group in November this year, reported Taiwan News.
The country’s Ministry of National Defense described the planes as four Shenyang J-16 fighter jets, two Xi’an H-6 bombers, one Shaanxi Y-8 anti-submarine warfare plane, and one Shaanxi KJ-500 airborne early warning and control (AEW&C) aircraft. The two bombers and the KJ-500 had entered the ADIZ from an area northeast of the Taiwan-held island of Dongsha, Taiwan News reported.

Taiwan’s Air Force sent aircraft, issued radio warnings and deployed air defence missile systems to monitor the Chinese activities.

Incursions by People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) planes into the southwest part of Taiwan’s ADIZ have occurred on an almost daily basis for more than a year, increasing tension in the region, Taiwan News reported.

Last month on China’s National Day on October 1, a record 38 Chinese military aircraft violated Taiwan’s ADIZ, though this was quickly surpassed by 39 more People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) planes the next day.

Beijing claims full sovereignty over Taiwan despite the fact that the two sides have been governed separately for more than seven decades. Taipei has countered the Chinese aggression by increasing strategic ties with democracies including the US, which has been repeatedly opposed by Beijing.

Bryan Adams tests COVID-19 positive for second time in one month

Washington [US], November 26 (ANI): Singer and guitarist Bryan Adams has tested positive for COVID-19 for the second time in a month and is receiving treatment at a hospital in Italy.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, the Canadian rock star posted the news on his official Instagram account on Thursday, after landing in Italy and testing positive at Milan’s Malpensa airport.
“Here I am, just arrived in Milano, and I’ve tested positive for the second time in a month for COVID. So it’s off to the hospital for me,” Adams wrote in the post.

Adams had previously tested positive for COVID-19 on October 30, hours before the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame ceremony at which he was due to perform the song ‘It’s Only Love’ with H.E.R. in honour of inductee Tina Turner. His last-minute exit caused a reshuffle with Keith Urban stepping in to replace him.

The ‘Baby When You’re Gone’ singer arrived in Italy to launch and do press events for the 2022 issue of the iconic Pirelli calendar which he had photographed.

A long-time and well-regarded photographer, Adams’ shoot for the Pirelli calendar, popularly known as ‘The Cal’, was named On the Road and shot in Los Angeles and subjects included Iggy Pop, St. Vincent, Grimes, Rita Ora, Normani, Cher, Jennifer Hudson and Saweetie.

Adams was due to shoot the 2021 Pirelli calendar but it was cancelled due to the pandemic, as per The Hollywood Reporter.

US: 5 people killed, several injured as car rams into holiday parade


Wisconsin [US]: Several people were killed and a total of over 20 suffered injuries after a car rammed into a holiday parade in Wisconsin on Sunday night (local time),

“The vehicle struck more than 20 individuals, some of the individuals were children and there are some fatalities as a result of this incident,” Waukesha Police Chief Daniel Thompson told reporters on Sunday evening without providing an exact number or any additional information on fatalities.
The Waukesha Holiday Parade was live-streamed on the city’s Facebook page on Sunday. A video from the parade showed a red SUV car driving through the crowd and hitting people on its way, Sputnik reported.

Local media said that more than one person was killed and multiple others were injured. There were also reports of shots having been fired from the car window.

“An officer did discharge his weapon at the suspect’s vehicle to try to stop the vehicle. No bystanders were injured as a result of the weapon discharge,” Thompson specified at the Sunday press conference adding that “we do not believe that there were any shots that were fired from the vehicle.”

The White House said it was aware of the situation in Waukesha.

“The White House is closely monitoring the situation in Waukesha and our hearts go out to everyone who has been impacted by this terrible incident. We have reached out to state and local officials to offer any support and assistance as needed,” a White House official said as quoted by CBS.

According to Waukesha police, it is unclear whether the Sunday car incident is related to terrorism.

US today is much more flexible partner than in past, says Jaishankar

Singapore: External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar on Friday said that the US today is a much more flexible partner, much more open to ideas, suggestions, working arrangements than in the past.

“I have been dealing with the US for close to 40 years now. US today is a much more flexible partner, much more open to ideas, suggestions, working arrangements, than in the past,” Jaishankar said in response to a query during the panel discussion ‘Greater Power Competition: The Emerging World Order’ at the Bloomberg New Economic Forum event in Singapore.
Answering another query, he said the manner of China’s growing influence is very different from the US.

“There is no question that the US has strategically contracted for some time. Relatively and absolutely, American power and American influence are not what they used to be. It is also clear China has been expanding, but the nature of China, the manner of its growing influence is very different from the US, and we don’t have a situation where China necessarily replaces the others – US,” he said.

“It is natural to think of the US, China as the big one, but there are other countries, not just India, which have come much more into play. There has been rebalancing in the world. I think different countries have different ways to do that. In essence, the landscape has changed and become more volatile,” he added.

The session was also attended by former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and former British Prime Minister Tony Blair.

Referring to Quad, which is a grouping of Australia, India, Japan and the US, Jaishankar said, “It is a good example of some countries coming together on a certain set of concerns or issues of interest.”

“This reflects a very different kind of world we are moving into…the real transition after 1982 is now occurring,” he added.

Answering a question about how the world is changing, he said it is not unipolar and not bipolar either.

“It is certainly not unipolar and it is not really bipolar either. There are many more players. A lot of what we are doing in terms of repositioning, working with countries, (it) is multipolar work,” he said.

“In a sense, it is partly a hedging strategy, partly autonomous partnership, often very issue-based (as) we work with different countries on different sets of issues,” the minister said. (ANI)

Xi warns Biden, says US ‘playing with fire’ on Taiwan issue

Beijing [China]/Washington [US]: The highly anticipated meeting between US President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping on Tuesday saw the two leaders locking horn on the issue of Taiwan, in a summit that saw a discussion on strategic and overarching importance and topics of mutual interest.

Both leaders held an “in-depth and constructive” meeting for over three hours and exchanged views on bilateral relations on issues of fundamental importance shaping the development of China-US relations.
Xi said that China will be compelled to take resolute measures, should the separatist forces for “Taiwan independence” “provoke us, force our hands or even cross the red line.”

Chinese President noted the new wave of tensions across the Taiwan Strait, and ascribed the tensions to attempts by the Taiwan authorities to look for US support for their independence agenda as well as the intention of some Americans to use the issue to contain China, Xinhua news agency reported. “Such moves are extremely dangerous, just like playing with fire,” Xi said. “Whoever plays with fire will get burnt.”

For the two countries to get along in the new era, three principles must be followed, Xi emphasised.

“First, mutual respect. The two countries need to respect each other’s social systems and development paths, core interests & major concerns, and respect each other’s right to development. Second, peaceful coexistence. No conflict and no confrontation is a line that both sides must hold. Third, win-win cooperation. The world is big enough for the two countries to develop individually and collectively,” he said.

Underscoring his country’s commitment to the “one China” policy, Biden strongly opposed unilateral efforts to change the status quo or undermine peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait.

Reiterating the importance of freedom of navigation, Biden stressed that the US will continue to stand up for its interests and values to ensure the rules of the road for the 21st century advance an international system that is free, open, and fair.

“On Taiwan, President Biden underscored that the United States remains committed to the ‘one China’ policy, guided by the Taiwan Relations Act, the three Joint Communiques, and the Six Assurances, and that the United States strongly opposes unilateral efforts to change the status quo or undermine peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait,” the White House said in a statement.

This meeting was held amid deteriorating relations between Beijing and Washington on several issues including human rights, trade and the growing arms race. Recently, Beijing has increased its military incursions in Taiwan and continues to claim sovereignty over the democratic island.

During the meeting, Biden raised concerns about China’s practices in Xinjiang, Tibet, and Hong Kong. Biden also discussed the importance of a free and open Indo-Pacific and communicated the continued determination of the US to uphold its commitments in the region.

In particular, the two leaders discussed the existential nature of the climate crisis to the world and the important role that the United States and China play. “They also discussed the importance of taking measures to address global energy supplies.

Both leaders also discussed the ongoing situation in Afghanistan and the Iranian nuclear program.

“The two leaders also exchanged views on key regional challenges, including DPRK (North Korea), Afghanistan, and Iran. Finally, they discussed ways for the two sides to continue discussions on a number of areas, with President Biden underscoring the importance of substantive and concrete conversations,” the White House said. (ANI)

Obama hits out at Russia’s Putin, China’s Xi for skipping COP26

Glasgow [UK]: Former US president Barack Obama on Monday criticized the presidents of Russia and China, Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping respectively, for not attending in person the UN Conference on Climate Change (COP26) in Glasgow, Scotland.

“I have to confess it was particularly discouraging to see the leaders of two of the world’s largest emitters, China and Russia, declined to even attend the proceedings, and their national plans so far reflect what appears to be a dangerous absence of urgency, a willingness to maintain the status quo,” he told the afternoon plenary session of the conference,
Obama, who was in office when the Paris Agreement setting out the goals to reduce carbon emission and limit global warming to 1.5 degrees was signed in 2015, claimed that little progress has been achieved since then.

“We are nowhere near where we need to be yet,” he said, adding that “most nations have failed to be as ambitious as they need to be.”

He also took a swipe at his successor Donald Trump for his decision to pull out of the Paris Agreement, saying that he “wasn’t really happy” about that, but praised president Joe Biden for renewing his commitment to tackling climate change right after taking office last year.

“Despite four years of active hostility towards climate science coming from the very top of our federal government, the American people managed to still meet our original commitment under the Paris Agreement,” he said.

Obama urged young people who have been protesting on the streets of Glasgow to remain “angry” as he admitted that keeping global temperatures below 1.5C is going to be “hard.”

The COP26 summit is running in Glasgow from October 31 till November 12. The event is aimed at boosting international efforts in reaching the goals of the Paris Agreement and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. At the summit, the parties are expected to pass some agreements to lower greenhouse emissions and achieve carbon neutrality. (ANI/Sputnik)

Trump slams Biden over ‘most embarrassing’ Afghanistan withdrawal

Washington [US]: Former US President Donald Trump slammed President Joe Biden’s administration for its withdrawal from Afghanistan and termed it the “most embarrassing and horrible thing”, reported TOLOnews.

“What they did with the so-called withdrawal, which was really a surrender, what they did, it was the most embarrassing, horrible thing, and I don’t know that if we will ever psychologically recover from that,” TOLOnews quoted Trump as saying citing his interview with Fox News.
The former President claimed that he would never have withdrawn from the war-torn country the way the Biden administration did, as per the news channel.

Notably, it was under the administration of Donald Trump that the deal with the Taliban was signed about the withdrawal of the US troops from Afghanistan, following which the number of US troops in the country was decreased.

Trump asserted that he would have withdrawn too but with strength.

“Don’t forget, I’m the one that brought it down to 2,500 troops. I would have been out too, but we would have been out with strength. We would have come out with strength,” TOLOnews quoted Trump as saying in the interview.

The Republican Party leader came down heavily on President Biden over leaving Bagram Air Base in the north of Kabul and said that it was a strategic airbase near China. According to him, China will take over the base, as per the news channel.

“We would have kept Bagram because it is next to China. And it is one hour away from their nuclear facility, and we gave that up too,” TOLOnews quoted Trump as saying.

Trump blasted Biden over leaving the US equipment and the American citizens in the war-torn country and said that Biden should not have withdrawn military personnel before evacuating all of these out of the land, reported the news channel. (ANI)

Japan, US exchange views on regional agenda

Tokyo [Japan]: US Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Daniel Kritenbrink met on Monday with Japanese Director-General of the North American Affairs Bureau Keiichi Ichikawa to discuss bilateral relations and exchange views on regional agenda, Japan’s foreign affairs ministry said.

“On November 8, Mr. ICHIKAWA Keiichi, Director-General, North American Affairs Bureau, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, held a meeting with Mr. Daniel Kritenbrink, Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs. They discussed a broad range of issues including Japan-U.S. cooperation towards further strengthening the Japan-U.S. Alliance and realizing a ‘Free and Open Indo-Pacific,'” the ministry said in a statement.
This was Kritenbrink’s first visit to Japan since he was appointed to his position in September.

The assistant secretary of state will remain in Japan until Wednesday before departing for Seoul for a visit from November 10-12. (ANI/Sputnik)

US reveals plans to develop powerful laser weapon after China’s hypersonic missile test

Washington [US]: The United States is developing a powerful laser weapon capable of blasting missiles and drones after China’s latest “nuclear-capable hypersonic missile” test.

Last month, Boeing and General Atomics Electromagnetics Systems (GA-DMS) was awarded a US Army contract to develop a 300kW-class solid-state “Distributed Gain High Energy Laser Weapon System.”
The delivery of the weapon will be a 300 kW-class distributed gain laser with an integrated Boeing beam director, according to the statement released on October 25.

“The high power, compact laser weapon subsystem prototype that GA-EMS will deliver under this contract will produce a lethal output greater than anything fielded to date,” said Scott Forney, president of GA-EMS. “This technology represents a leap-ahead capability for air and missile defence that is necessary to support the Army’s modernization efforts and defeat next-generation threats in a multi-domain battlespace.”

The partnership combines both companies’ expertise in Directed Energy to deliver best-in-class, combat-ready protection for the warfighter with unmatched speed, performance, safety and affordability, the statement added.

This comes after media reports the last month stated that China carried out its first-ever hypersonic missile test which took US intelligence by surprise. Multiple reports stated that China carried out a test in the month of August.

According to the reports, the missile flew through low-orbit space before cruising toward its target. It missed the target but the test is said to show “astounding progress” by China on hypersonic missile technology that “caught US intelligence by surprise”.

The US and Russia have also been working on hypersonic missiles. Such weapons fly at five times the speed of sound and can manoeuvre during flight, making them harder to track.

China had described reports of the first-ever test of a “nuclear-capable hypersonic missile” as a routine experiment to test the technology of spacecraft reusability. Responding to a question during a presser, China’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian had said that Bejing conducted “a routine spacecraft experiment to test the technology of spacecraft reusability.”

Later this month, a new Pentagon report revealed that China is constructing the infrastructure necessary to support its nuclear expansion over the next decade.

The Pentagon’s report titled “Military and Security Developments Involving the People’s Republic of China (PRC) 2021”, said that “the accelerating pace of the PRC’s nuclear expansion may enable the PRC to have up to 700 deliverable nuclear warheads by 2027. The PRC likely intends to have at least 1,000 warheads by 2030, exceeding the pace and size the DoD projected in 2020.”

China is investing in, and expanding, the number of its land-, sea-, and air-based nuclear delivery platforms and constructing the infrastructure necessary to support this major expansion of its nuclear forces, according to the report which was released on Wednesday.

China has possibly already established a nascent “nuclear triad” with the development of a nuclear-capable air-launched ballistic missile (ALBM) and improvement of its ground and sea-based nuclear capabilities, the report read. (ANI)

Direct flights to promote Vietnam-US cooperation

Hanoi [Vietnam]: Deputy Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Pham Thu Hang said operating direct flights between Vietnam and the US will promote cooperation in economics, trade, tourism, education, and people-to-people exchanges.

She made the comment at a virtual Ministry press conference on Thursday which also touched upon Vietnam Airlines’ plan to conduct its first regular commercial flights to the US starting late this month, after 20 years of preparation.
Hang said Vietnam Airlines recently received approval from the US Transportation Security Administration (TSA) for its aviation transport safety plan, paving the way for the airline to be licensed to operate regular flights between the two countries.

According to Hang, Vietnamese agencies are coordinating final procedures to authorize the plan and will assist other airlines that wish to operate direct flights to the US. (ANI/VOVWORLD)

Beijing slams US for refusing entry to students, fellows linked to military institutions

Beijing [China] : Beijing on Wednesday slammed Washington after US officials refused entry to many students and visiting fellows who had valid visas but were linked to military institutions.
The remarks came from Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin who said that nearly 30 students and visiting scholars were repatriated following interrogation in August 2021, despite holding visas to enter the US, Radio Free Asia reported. “In August 2021 alone, nearly 30 Chinese students and visiting fellows to the US suffered similar unjust treatment, with many more reporting rough handling during harassment, interrogation, and searches,” Wang told a regular news briefing in Beijing.
“Many of them were asked questions like if they or their parents are members of the Communist Party of China, and if they had been assigned any task by the Chinese government prior to their departure,” Wenbin added.
The spokesperson also said that some law enforcement departments and agents continue to recklessly stretch the concept of national security to wantonly harass Chinese students and scholars in an attempt to produce a chilling effect among Chinese personnel pursuing studies in the US.
“Such practices deviate from the mutually beneficial and win-win nature of China-US people-to-people and cultural exchanges,” he added.
Earlier in 2020, President Trump had issued an executive order, accusing Beijing of engaging in “a wide-ranging and heavily resourced campaign to acquire sensitive US technologies and intellectual property, in part to bolster the modernisation and capability of its military, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA).”
“The [Chinese] authorities use some Chinese students, mostly post-graduate students and post-doctorate researchers, to operate as non-traditional collectors of intellectual property,” the order said.
In other recent developments, the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has witnessed a 1,300 per cent jump in China-linked economic espionage cases over the past decade, the Pentagon said in a report released on Wednesday.
The Pentagon’s report titled Military and Security Development Involving the People’s Republic of China, 2021, said that the FBI in 2020 opened a new China-related counterintelligence case about every 10 hours.

Taliban deny reports of former govt security personnel joining IS

Kabul [Afghanistan] : The Taliban has denied reports that former Afghan security forces have joined the ranks of the Islamic State terrorist group, Sputnik reported citing Tolo News on Tuesday.
On Sunday, the Wall Street Journal reported that a small number of former Afghan intelligence officers trained in the United States and ex-employees of elite military units joined the local IS militants after the Taliban captured Kabul in mid-August. “It is impossible for representatives of the former government security forces to join the IS… we have not seen the evidence of this, and it cannot be possible,” the broadcaster quoted the Taliban representative as saying.
According to the WSJ report, the former security personnel are mostly US-trained Afghan spies who have been joining the terror group in northern Afghanistan.
As per Khaama Press, the WSJ report further states that the former Afghan spies are joining ISIS-K as they have been left broke after the government collapse and also to fight the Taliban.
Afghanistan has been witnessing a spike in targeted assassinations and bomb blasts.
According to media reports, Nangarhar has been facing targeted assassinations and bomb blasts, with the pro-Daesh/ISIS claiming multiple attacks.
As many as 65 terrorists affiliated to Islamic State (IS) have surrendered to Taliban-led authorities.
Earlier this month, the Taliban claimed to have dismantled a Daesh hideout in the capital Kabul, blamed for many attacks.
According to Anadolu Agency, the group claimed a massive suicide bombing in Kandahar, besides orchestrating targeted killings in Nangarhar and Parwan provinces as well as a massive suicide bombing in a Shia community mosque in the northern Kunduz province, killing more than 100 people.

US immigration service flooded with 20,000 Afghan humanitarian requests since Taliban takeover

Washington [US]: Following the existential crisis after the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan, Congressman Jim Langevin, in a House Homeland Security Committee meeting, called on US Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) to address the shortcoming “immediately” risen due to 14,000 humanitarian requests for Afghans seeking relocation to the United States, said an American broadcaster.

According to Voice of America, the CIS informed in the meeting that there were only six officers to process the requests of about 14,000 requests on Thursday.
“I want to say that again: 14,000 humanitarian parole applications with just six officers, that is completely and utterly unacceptable, and I call on USCIS to address the shortcoming immediately,” VOA quoted Langevin as saying.

The broadcaster informed that humanitarian parole is a “special permission” granted to non-Americans to come to the US following some emergency circumstances.

According to a USCIS official, the service gets even lesser than 2,000 humanitarian parole requests in a year from around the world, the broadcaster reported.

However, the service has been flooded with requests from Afghans, receiving as many as 20,000 such requests since August, which is up from 14,000 requests in mid-October, VOA reported citing the official statement.

A large number of Afghan Americans who had ties with the US military or the US government have filed requests for special immigrant visas or refugee status, reported VOA.

“USCIS issued an agency-wide request for volunteers to help process applications for humanitarian and significant public benefit parole and the agency will have significantly more staff assigned to this workload in the coming weeks,” VOA quoted the official as saying.

As many as 1,50,000 requests could be filed by Afghans in a year, reported the broadcaster citing an Afghan American lawyer, Wogai Mohmand.

“Their systems are not equipped to deal with that kind of volume, frankly, they don’t have enough staff to look at all those applications,” the broadcaster quoted Mohmand as saying during a webinar. (ANI)

US nearing to formalise deal with Pakistan for using its airspace for military operations in Afghanistan

The US administration on Friday informed lawmakers that the country is nearing a formalise an agreement with Pakistan for use of its airspace to conduct military and intelligence operations in Afghanistan.

Washington [US] : Islamabad has expressed a desire to sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) in exchange for assistance with its own counterterrorism efforts, one of the sources said. But the negotiations are ongoing, another source told CNN, and the terms of the agreement, which has not been finalised, could still change. An agreement was discussed when US officials visited Pakistan, the third source told CNN, adding but it is not yet clear what Pakistan wants or how much the US would be willing to give in return.
Currently, Washington uses Pakistan’s airspace to reach Afghanistan for ongoing intelligence-gathering efforts.
But so far there’s no formal agreement in place that can ensure continued access to a critical piece of airspace necessary for the US to reach Afghanistan.
The air corridor through Pakistan to Afghanistan may become even more critical if and when the US resumes flights into Kabul to fly out American citizens and others who remain in the country.
The US — without any formal agreement in place– runs the risk of Pakistan refusing entry to its military aircraft and drones en route to Afghanistan. (ANI)

US urges China to transform approach towards trade, embrace market policies

The United States on Friday called on China to take steps to transform its approach to trade and embrace market policies as was anticipated when the country joined the World Trade Organization (WTO) two decades ago.

Washington [US] : “Looking back over the 20 years since China’s accession to the WTO, these members noted that China and its economy have greatly benefited from China’s WTO membership, but China has not taken the anticipated steps to transform its state-led, non-market approach to trade and the economy. These members, therefore, called once again for China to embrace open, market-oriented policies,” said US Trade Representative (USTR) in a statement. Problems with China’s trade regime identified by WTO members include policies that skew the playing field against foreign competition, preferential treatment of state-owned enterprises, forced technology transfer and inadequate regulatory transparency, the statement said.
Almost all of the aforementioned problems persist despite having been identified during the WTO’s China’s trade policy review three years ago, the statement added. However, the United States holds out hope that China will take the initiative to address the problems now, it added.
The United States on Wednesday had expressed concern with China’s trade regime involving China’s industrial policies.
“While other WTO Members also seek to help their industries develop, China’s approach is materially different. China’s industrial policies go well beyond guiding and supporting domestic industries,” said David F. Bisbee, US Charge d’Affaires, Permanent Mission of the United States to the WTO.

Vaccine for Children: Biden administration announces plan to roll out COVID-19 vaccines for children aged 5-11

Washington [US] : The Biden administration has revealed plans to roll out COVID-19 vaccines for children aged 5 to 11, a White House statement said on Wednesday.

“Today the Biden Administration is announcing a plan to ensure that, if a vaccine is authorized for children aged 5-11, it is quickly distributed and made conveniently and equitably available to families across the country. The start of a vaccination program for children aged 5-11 will depend on the independent FDA and CDC process and timeline, but our planning efforts mean that we will be ready to begin getting shots in arms in the days following a final CDC recommendation,” read the statement.
According to the statement, the Biden Administration announced that it has secured enough shots to vaccinate all 28 million children who would become eligible if the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approves and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends it.

“The Administration has procured enough vaccine to support vaccination for the country’s 28 million children ages 5-11 years old. If authorized by the FDA and recommended by the CDC, the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for 5-11 year olds will be a dose and formula specifically for this age group,” read the statement.

The administration is also planning to make the vaccine available at hundreds of schools, clinics and community-based sites, as well as at children’s hospitals.

“The Administration will make vaccination accessible and conveniently located to families across the country, including vaccination clinics at doctors’ offices, hospitals, pharmacies, community health centers, and school- and community-based sites. Nationwide, more than 25,000 pediatric and primary care provider sites will provide vaccinations for children, in addition to tens of thousands of other provider locations that serve children, including pharmacies, children’s hospitals, and community health centers,” the statement said.

The Administration, in partnership with states and localities, will make vaccinations available at doctors’ offices across the country.

The Administration is launching a partnership with the Children’s Hospital Association to work with over 100 children’s hospital systems across the country to set up vaccination sites in November and through the end of the calendar year, said the statement.

The statement further stated that as part of the federal government’s pharmacy program, tens of thousands of pharmacies across the country will offer the vaccine to their local communities.

The Administration will also work with states and local partners to make vaccination sites available at schools and other trusted community-based sites across the country.

“To ensure that parents have the information they need to make informed choices for their families, the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) will conduct a national public education campaign to reach parents and guardians with accurate and culturally-responsive information about the vaccine and the risks that COVID-19 poses to children,” the statement added. (ANI)

India and USA discussed Terror financing

The Eighth ministerial meeting of India-US Economic and Financial Partnership Dialogue was held on Thursday (Local Time) in Washington DC and discussions were held on a range of subjects, including anti-money laundering and combating the financing of terrorism (AML/CFT)

Washington DC [US] : The meeting was chaired by the Union Minister for Finance and Corporate Affairs Nirmala Sitharaman and the United States Secretary of the Treasury Dr Janet Yellen, said the Ministry of Finance in a statement. During the ministerial meeting of the India-USA Economic and Financial Partnership, discussions were held on a range of subjects, including the macroeconomic outlook and recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, financial regulatory and technical collaboration, multilateral engagement, climate finance and anti-money laundering and combating the financing of terrorism (AML/CFT).
Both sides affirmed their commitments to continue collaboration both at bilateral and multilateral fora to address mutual and global economic issues and strive towards amicable strategies and solutions, said the Ministry of Finance in a statement.
In Joint Statement on the Eighth US-India Economic and Financial Partnership, the two sides reiterated that regular and productive dialogue on economic policies is crucial to the US-India relationship and to achieving their shared global future.
During the ministerial meeting, both ministers took stock of the extensive efforts that have already been undertaken by both sides to deepen mutual understanding and highlighted new elements of the vital bilateral relationship.
“We had productive discussions on a range of subjects, including the macroeconomic outlook and recovery from the pandemic, financial regulatory and technical collaboration, multilateral engagement, climate finance, and anti-money laundering and combating the financing of terrorism (AML/CFT),” US Treasury Department statement read.
“We continue to strengthen our cooperation in tackling money laundering and combating the financing of terrorism through increased information sharing and coordination. Both sides agree on the importance of fighting financial crimes and on the effective implementation of the Financial Action Task Force standards to protect our financial systems from abuse.”
The joint statement said both sides acknowledge the unprecedented impact that the COVID-19 crisis has had on lives and livelihoods.
“Today’s meeting featured the Economic and Financial Partnership’s first session dedicated to climate finance, reflecting our respective commitments to driving urgent progress in combatting climate change and the critical role of climate finance in achieving this shared global goal. We shared views on the re-energised global efforts to increase climate ambition as well as our respective domestic efforts to meet our publicly expressed climate goals,” the joint statement said.

US Naval Operations chief lauds India’s record of long, distinguished contribution to global security

US Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Michael Gilday on Tuesday lauded India’s record of a long and distinguished record of contributing to global security.

New Delhi [India], October 12 : Taking to Twitter, Gilday said, “It was an honor to participate in the wreath laying ceremony at the National War Memorial and attend the ceremonial Guard of Honor in India. India has a long and distinguished record of contributing to global security. I look forward to my engagements here in India.” Earlier he participated in a wreath-laying ceremony at the National War Memorial and attending the ceremonial Guard of Honour in New Delhi.

US Naval Chief is on a five-day official visit to India from October 11 to 15 and will interact with India’s Chief of the Naval Staff Admiral Karambir Singh, in addition to other high ranking officials.
Admiral Gilday is scheduled to visit the Indian Navy’s Western Naval Command at Mumbai and Eastern Naval Command at Visakhapatnam wherein he would interact with the respective Commanders-in-Chief.

US, Taliban officials to hold talks in Doha

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A US delegation is set to travel to Qatar over the weekend to meet with senior Taliban representatives. This announcement was made by the US State Department on Friday.

Washington [US], October 9 : This meeting will be the first in-person meeting between the two sides since the US drawdown from Afghanistan in August, Xinhua news agency reported. The high-level delegation will include officials from the Central Intelligence Agency, the State Department, and the US Agency for International Development.
“This meeting is a continuation of the pragmatic engagements with the Taliban on issues of US vital national interest,” State Department Spokesperson Ned Price told reporters.
While making the announcement, the spokesperson stated it is “not about granting recognition or conferring legitimacy.”
Price said the key priorities of the meeting are the continued safe passage out of Afghanistan of the US and other foreign nationals and Afghans seeking to leave the country.
US officials in the meeting will also press the Taliban to respect women’s rights, form an inclusive government, and allow humanitarian agencies free access to areas of need, the spokesperson added.
Since the Taliban’s take over of Afghanistan, there are a handful of nations like China and Pakistan who have shown interest in establishing ties with the outfit. Other members of the international community are adopting a wait and watch policy.

Thousands of Afghans received humanitarian assistance: UN agency

Thousands of Afghans have received humanitarian assistance within a week from September 27 to October 3 across Afghanistan, a United Nations agency said on Saturday.
In the northeastern region, over 173,000 vulnerable people received food assistance in Baghlan, Badakhshan and Kunduz provinces, the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in Afghanistan said while releasing its weekly report on the website.

“All health facilities are open in Kunduz and Baghlan provinces, but most are not fully functioning mainly due to shortage of medical supplies,” it said.
In the north, a total of 54,796 vulnerable people received food for one month under a World Food Programme (WFP) seasonal livelihood support program in Jawzjan and Sari Pul provinces.
On September 30, 3,150 displaced people from conflict from Jawzjan, Samangan and Balkh provinces in July and August received food in Mazar-i-Sharif city, capital of Balkh.
Afghanistan was already among the world’s worst humanitarian situations prior to the Taliban assuming power in August, which has deepened existing needs and vulnerabilities.
A USD 606 million flash appeal launched in September to assist more than 10 million vulnerable Afghans is less than 40 per cent funded.

Trump gave ‘misleading’ information on financial state of his hotel in Washington: Report

Washington [US]: Former President Donald Trump provided misleading information about the financial situation of his Trump International Hotel in downtown Washington, the US House of Representatives Oversight Committee said in a letter on Friday.

“By filing these misleading public disclosures, President Trump grossly exaggerated the financial health of the Trump Hotel,” the letter said, as quoted by NBC.
The Oversight Committee said Trump reported that the hotel earned him more than USD 150 million during his time in office but also lost more than USD 70 million.

The hotel received USD 3.7 million in payments from foreign governments and this fact violates the US Constitution, the Oversight Committee added. (ANI/Sputnik)

US says it supports Taiwan amid Chinese threat

The United States has said that its support for and defence relationship with Taiwan remains aligned against the current threat posed by the people’s Republic of China, the Pentagon said on Thursday.

Washington [US], October 8 : The remarks made by Pentagon spokesperson John Supple come amid a report in Wall Street Journal that claimed that a US special operation unit and a contingent of Marines have been secretly training military forces in Taiwan to help shore up the country’s defence. Though Supple declined to comment on the specifics of the report, he said that US’ support for Taiwan remains “strong, principled, and bipartisan,” in line with his country’s one-China policy and longstanding commitments, Focus Taiwan reported.
The US will continue to support the peaceful resolution of cross-Taiwan Strait issues, consistent with the wishes and best interests of the people on both sides, Supple said.
“The United States has an abiding interest in the peace, security, and stability of the Indo-Pacific – including in the Taiwan Strait,” he said.
“The PRC has stepped up efforts to intimidate and pressure Taiwan and other allies and partners, including increasing military activities conducted in the vicinity of Taiwan, East China Sea, and South China Sea, which we believe are destabilizing and increase the risk of miscalculation,” he added.
Taiwan said it will keep working with the US and other like-minded partners in promoting peace, security and prosperity in the region.
Appreciating US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan’s remarks on US support to Taiwan amid activities that are “fundamentally destabilising”, the Foreign Ministry of Taiwan tweeted: “We’ll keep working with the U.S. and other like-minded partners in promoting peace, security & prosperity.”
The US extended its support to Taiwan with Sullivan saying: “We are going to stand up and speak out”. Sullivan made the remarks in an interview with BBC a day after meeting with senior Chinese diplomat Yang Jiechi.
The Wall Street Journal on Thursday reported the Pentagon has about two dozen special operations troops working with select units of Taiwan’s armed forces, while a contingent of U.S. Marines has been training other forces on maritime tactics.
Meanwhile, Voice of America reported that US Defence department officials are refusing to confirm reports that American forces are in Taiwan and are secretly training Taiwanese troops.
On Wednesday, Taiwanese Defense Minister Chiu Kuo-cheng said China might mount a full-scale invasion of the island nation by 2025.
China has sent in recent days almost 150 military aircraft close to Taiwan while the US and other allied forces conducted drills in the South China Sea.
Since mid-September of last year, Beijing has stepped up its grey-zone tactics by regularly sending planes into Taiwan’s ADIZ, with most instances occurring in the southwest corner of the zone and usually consisting of one to three slow-flying turboprop planes.
Beijing claims full sovereignty over Taiwan, a democracy of almost 24 million people located off the southeastern coast of mainland China, despite the fact that the two sides have been governed separately for more than seven decades.
Taipei, on the other hand, has countered the Chinese aggression by increasing strategic ties with democracies including the US, which has been repeatedly opposed by Beijing. China has threatened that “Taiwan’s independence” means war.
On June 1, Chinese President Xi Jinping pledged to complete reunification with self-ruled Taiwan and vowed to smash any attempts at formal independence for the island.

US lawmakers walk out of classified Afghanistan briefing

Multiple Republican and Democratic lawmakers angrily stormed out of a classified briefing with members of the Biden administration on Afghanistan on Wednesday morning after their questions went unanswered.

Washington [US], September 23 : Citing sources, CNN reported that lawmakers were frustrated after State Department, Pentagon, Department of Homeland Security, and Office of the Director of National Security officials failed to answer their basic questions during the briefing for members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. State Department officials — both privately and publicly — continue to say that about 100 Americans are still in Afghanistan who wants to get out of the war-torn country after the Taliban takeover.
Some lawmakers have told CNN they do not understand that accounting, given the department has said that they evacuated more than 75 Americans from Afghanistan through evacuation efforts in the last few weeks. State Department officials have said that the dynamic situation on the ground is the reason they cannot give a more precise figure.
A State Department spokesperson told CNN on Wednesday that “as a general matter, we do not comment on communications with Congress, especially those conducted in a classified setting.”
Republican Michael McCaul of Texas, the top Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, told CNN’s Jake Tapper on “The Lead” on Wednesday that “everybody walked out” from the meeting, and he questioned whether administration officials knew the number of Americans still in the country.
“I don’t think they know all the answers, quite honestly,” he said of the administration.
A Democratic aide told CNN that some of the members left Wednesday’s classified briefing because there were Republican members who were not wearing masks in accordance with COVID-19 protocols. The aide added that many members are satisfied with the engagement from the State Department.
Evacuation flights continue to depart Afghanistan at a slow pace, including one over the weekend with more 21 US citizens on board. Officials say it takes a tremendous amount of work especially due to the coordination required between the US, Qatar and the Taliban to do background checks on people who do not have all the necessary documents, reported CNN

Pakistan desires strong ties with US, says Shah Mahmood Qureshi

Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi has said that Islamabad wants strong ties with the United States (US) amid the frayed ties between the two countries post messy military drawdown from Afghanistan.

New York [US], September 22 : Speaking at the session of the Council on Foreign Relations in New York, the minister said both Pakistan and the US have the ingredient to build a broad-based relationship between the two countries, reported Radio Pakistan. This comes as the US has expressed its desire to reassess ties with Pakistan. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken informed Congress last week that Washington is going to be looking at its ties with Pakistan in the coming weeks to formulate the role America wants Islamabad to play in the future of Afghanistan.
During his first testimony in Congress after the Taliban’s takeover of Kabul, Blinken noted that Pakistan has “harboured” members of the Taliban including the terrorists from the proscribed Haqqani network.
During an interactive session in New York on Tuesday, Qureshi stated that Pakistan wants to leverage its connectivity infrastructure including China Pakistan Economic Corridor to enhance regional trade and economic integration.
The minister added Pakistan’s climate-friendly energy policy offers opportunities for US companies specialised in clean and renewable energy.
Pakistan has shifted its focus from geo-politics to geo-economics and can work with the US through the development of Finance cooperation to general economic activity on the Afghanistan border, the minister added.
Qureshi’s pitch to improve ties comes at a time when Washington is seen giving a cold shoulder to Islamabad.
Notably, Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan has not received any call from US President Joe Biden since assuming office. The Pakistan Prime Minister recently came to the defence of the US President by saying that Biden faced “unfair criticism” over withdrawal from Afghanistan and it was the “most sensible thing” to do.
“There was so much unfair criticism of President Biden, and what he did was the most sensible thing to do,” said Khan, in an interview given to Russia Today last week.

US: FDA gives full approval to Pfizer-BioNTech COVID 19 vaccine


Washington [US]: The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on Monday gave full approval to Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine.

The agency made the decision, giving the Pfizer-BioNTech shot the full go-ahead for patients aged 16 years or older. The vaccine still holds an emergency use authorization for those aged 12-15 and for a third booster shot, FDA said in a statement.
“The FDA has officially approved the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine. While all three COVID vaccines have met FDA’s strict standards for emergency use, this FDA approval should give added confidence that this vaccine is safe and effective,” US President Joe Biden said in a tweet.

Meanwhile, acting FDA Commissioner Janet Woodcock also said that “the public can be very confident that this vaccine meets the high standards for safety, effectiveness and manufacturing quality the FDA requires of an approved product,”

The shot will now be known under the name Comirnaty.

The decision “will help increase confidence in our vaccine, as vaccination remains the best tool we have to help protect lives,” Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla said in a statement.

This “milestone puts us one step closer to altering the course of this pandemic in the US,” he added.

The Biden administration is also preparing to roll out an expansive booster-shot campaign next month, offering a third shot to patients who received the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines.

As the highly infectious Delta variant spreads, the US is experiencing a surge in Covid-19 cases. Many southern states are struggling for hospital capacity amid resistance from Republican leaders and the public to vaccinations and mask mandates.

The overwhelming majority of Covid hospitalizations and deaths in the US are among unvaccinated people. (ANI)

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