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

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

Sensex tumbles 554 points on weak cues from US, European markets

Mumbai (Maharashtra) [India] (ANI): The Indian equities markets benchmark Sensex slumped 554 points on Tuesday due to heavy selling pressure at the fag-end of the session on negative cues from the US and European markets.
Heavy selling was witnessed in auto, metal, pharma and IT stocks. Maruti Suzuki tumbled over four per cent. UltraTech Cement slumped 3.54 per cent. The Index heavyweight Reliance Industries fell 1.23 per cent. The 30 stock S&P BSE Sensex of the Bombay Stock Exchange closed at 60,754.86 points, which is 554.05 points or 0.90 per cent lower from its previous day’s close at 61,308.91 points.
Earlier the Sensex opened in the positive at 61,430.77 points and rose to a high of 61,475.15 points in the early morning trade. Later, the Sensex slipped into negative and again returned in the positive zone in the afternoon session.
Massive selling towards the end of the session dragged the benchmark Sensex down to 60,662.57 points towards the end of the trading session.
The broader Nifty 50 of the National Stock Exchange closed at 1.07 per cent or 195.05 points down at 18,113.05 points as compared with the previous day’s close at 18,308.10 points.
The Nifty also opened in the positive at 18,337.20 points and witnessed volatile trading. The Nifty touched a high of 18,350.95 points and low of 18,085.90 points in the intra-day.
There was heavy selling pressure in auto, IT, pharma and metal stocks. Maruti Suzuki slumped 4.05 per cent to Rs 7930. Tech Mahindra dipped 3.54 per cent to Rs 1660.65.
UltraTech Cement slumped 3.83 per cent to Rs 7566.25, a day after the company announced its third quarter results. UltraTech Cement on Monday said its net profit rose by 8 per cent to Rs 1,708 crore for the third quarter of the current financial year as against Rs 1,584 crore recorded in the corresponding period of the last fiscal. The increase in profit is mainly because of a one-time gain of Rs 535 crore in tax for earlier years.
HCL Technologies 3.09 per cent down at Rs 1219.85; Tata Steel 2.86 per cent down at Rs 1194.50; IndusInd Bank 2.22 per cent down at Rs 900.20; L&T 2.14 per cent down at Rs 2025.05; Bharti Airtel 2.03 per cent down at Rs 713.75 and Wipro 1.98 per cent down at Rs 633.40 were among the major Sensex losers.
Only seven of the 30 scrips that are part of the benchmark Sensex closed in the positive.
Axis Bank rose 1.83 per cent to Rs 725.60. HDFC Bank 0.53 per cent higher at Rs 1529.60; ICICI Bank 0.48 per cent higher at Rs 823.35; Kotak Bank 0.34 per cent higher at Rs 1941.50 and Dr Reddy’s Laboratories 0.25 per cent higher at Rs 4685.45 were among the major Sensex gainers. (Image source: Unsplash)

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

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

Taiwan seeks to join US’ Indo-Pacific economic framework

Taipei [Taiwan] (ANI): Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen’s administration is seeking to join an Indo-Pacific economic framework being planned by the United States, local news reported quoting a senior official on Monday.
“The government is paying close attention to the regional economic pact being touted by US President Joe Biden, although too few details have emerged from Washington for Taipei to make specific plans,” the official said, Taipei Times reported. America is expected to launch the Indo-Pacific economic framework next month after negotiations with Australia, India, and Japan, the official said.
Washington has shown deep concern over semiconductor supply-chain issues, while Taiwan is a leading chipmaker and has an interest in enhancing ties between the two countries, the official said, according to Taipei Times.
The US plans for a comprehensive economic framework for the Indo-Pacific is only one component in a larger regional strategy being considered in Washington, which Taiwan must observe closely, the official said.
Speaking at an event marking the 70th anniversary of the American Chamber of Commerce in Taiwan in December last year, Tsai said that Taiwan’s technological innovation and agile economy show that the country should play a role in the Indo-Pacific economic framework, Taipei Times reported further. (Image source: Instagram)

US sees highest rate of children COVID-19 hospitalizations

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Delegations arrive for Russia-US security talks at UN Office in Geneva

Geneva [Switzerland] (ANI): Delegations have arrived for Russia-US security talks at UN Office in Geneva, Switzerland. The preliminary part of the Russia-US strategic talks in the format of a working dinner took place in Geneva on Sunday evening and lasted for more than two hours, reported Sputnik News.
The Russian delegation will be led by Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov, and his US counterpart Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman will lead the US representatives. In December, Russia released its draft proposals on security guarantees. Negotiations on security guarantees between Moscow and Washington are scheduled for 10 January, followed by a Russia-NATO Council meeting to discuss the issue on 12 January, and a summit between Russia and the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) the following day, reported the news agency.
The US and NATO have voiced concerns over Russia’s military buildup in Ukraine. Moscow has repeatedly denied the accusations, saying that Russia has the right to relocate the troops within its territory at its own discretion, while NATO’s military activity near Russian borders poses a threat to its security. (Image source: Instagram)

Washington’s NATO military commitments complicate US strategic priority in Europe

Washington [US] (ANI): North Atlantic Treaty Organizations’ military commitments may prove costly for US strategic interest as Washington may be entangled in conflicts in Europe.
Many of America’s so-called allies are major liabilities rather than assets to US foreign policy. Indeed, they are potential snares, ones that can entangle America in unnecessary military confrontations, according to National Interest magazine. In too many cases, the “allies” that Washington touts are small, weak, often militarily useless dependents. Worse, some of them are on bad terms with more powerful neighboring states, writes Ted Galen Carpenter for the National Interest.
NATO constitutes a system of collective security, whereby its independent member states agree to mutual defense in response to an attack by any external party.
Earlier, the US along with NATO took part in military operations in Afghanistan and in Libya under the United Nations Security Council-mandated mission.
However, NATO’s strategic fixation on Russia might complicate US interest in Europe as many of the member countries such as the Baltic nations are militarily weak.
Meanwhile, the current tension between Moscow and Kiev has increased Washington’s attention.
Washington’s security relationship with Kiev goes far beyond arms sales. Over the past five years, US forces have conducted multiple joint exercises with Ukrainian units.
Further, Washington also has successfully pressed NATO to include Ukraine in the alliance’s war games.
Earlier, in April last year, US President Joe Biden assured Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskyy of Washington’s “unwavering support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity in the face of Russia’s ongoing aggression.”
On the other hand, Baltic nations are vulnerable dependents that could trigger a war between NATO (primarily the United States) and Russia, according to the 2016 RAND corporation think-tank report.
As a result of NATO’s expanded membership and mission, the United States has acquired a worrisome number of both types, according to National Interest. (Image Source: FreeRange)

Indian mangoes, pomegranates get market access in USA

New Delhi [India]: Mangoes and pomegranates from India will soon be available in the USA while the American Alfalfa hay and cherries will be sold in the Indian market, Ministry of Commerce and Industry said on Saturday.
This will become possible as the two countries have signed framework agreement for implementing “2 Vs 2” Agri market access. Under this deal two agricultural products from India will be exported to the US. Similarly two American products will be imported to India. From the Indian side, mango and pomegranate have been chosen for the export to the USA, while the USA will export Alfalfa hay and cherries to India.
“Mango and pomegranate exports will start from Jan – Feb 2022 and pomegranate aril exports from Apr 2022. Exports of Alfalfa hay and cherries from USA will begin in Apr 2022,” the Ministry of Commerce and Industry said in a statement.
“In addition, based on the ministerial discussions, Department of Animal Husbandry and Dairying (DAHD) also conveyed its readiness to provide market access for US pork and requested the US side to share a signed copy of final sanitary certificate for finalising the same,” it said.
The framework agreement for implementing the “2 Vs 2” Agri market access issues i.e. inspection and oversight transfer for Indian mangoes and pomegranate and market access for pomegranate arils from India and market access for US cherries and US Alfalfa hay was signed following an agreement reached in this regard between the two countries during the 12th India-USA trade policy forum meeting held on November 23, 2021.
India’s Department of Agriculture and Farmer’s Welfare and US Department of Agriculture have signed the agreement.

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

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

America not pushing for countries in Africa to choose between US, China: Ned Price

Washington [US]: United States is not pushing for countries in Africa to choose between a relationship with the US or China, the State Department has said after reports emerged that Beijing was appointing its own special envoy for the Horn of Africa.
“We are committed to promoting peace, security and prosperity in the Horn and we’ll work with all partners who share our objectives in that,” State Department spokesperson Ned Price said in a briefing on Thursday (local time), The Hill reported. “We don’t ask our partners to choose between the United States and any other country, that includes the PRC (People’s Republic of China). What we seek is not to make them choose but to give them choices,” he added.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Thursday announced the appointment of a US special envoy for the Horn of Africa, David Satterfield, to take over for veteran diplomat Jeffrey Feltman, who held the inaugural position since April, according to the publication.
“I look forward to welcoming Ambassador David Satterfield in the coming days as the US Special Envoy for the Horn of Africa once Ambassador Jeffrey Feltman ends his appointment,” Blinken said in a statement via Twitter.

US diplomat Sherman to meet with European allies ahead of Russia Talks: US State Department

Washington [US]: US Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman will meet with European allies in Switzerland and Belgium to jointly prepare for a series of security meetings with Russia next week, US State Department said.
“Deputy Secretary of State Wendy R. Sherman will travel to Switzerland and Belgium from January 8 to January 13,” the State Department said in a press release said on Thursday. “On January 11, she will meet with representatives from the EU institutions and jointly prepare with Allies for the NATO-Russia Council meeting.” Sherman will lead the US delegation during a session of the United States-Russia bilateral Strategic Stability Dialogue and will be joined by Under Secretary for Arms Control and International Security Bonnie Jenkins and Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs Chris Robinson, the release said.
During the bilateral meeting with Russia on January 10, the US Defense Department will be represented by Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Russia, Ukraine and Eurasia Laura Cooper and Lt. Gen. James Mingus, the release said.
Deputy Secretary Sherman will also lead the US delegation to the NATO-Russia Council meeting in Brussels, the release said.
Ambassador Michael Carpenter will head the US delegation during the OSCE meeting in Vienna, the release said.
The US-Russian negotiations on January 10 will be followed by a Russia-NATO Council meeting on the Russian security proposals on January 12 and a summit of Russia and the Organization for Security and Cooperation (OSCE) in Europe on January 13.
Earlier this week, US State Department spokesperson Den Price said the talks on January 10 as well as in subsequent meetings with NATO and the OSCE will focus on a narrow set of bilateral issues, including confidence-building measures.

Two Israeli newspapers hacked on anniversary of US assassination of Qasem Soleimani

Tel Aviv [Israel]: Israeli newspapers The Jerusalem Post and Maariv were attacked by hackers on Monday morning, which marks the second anniversary of the US assassination of Iran’s top general Qasem Soleimani.
“The Twitter account of Maariv and The Jerusalem Post website were targeted by pro-Iranian hackers in the early hours of Monday morning, with a photo of a model Dimona nuclear facility being blown up and the text ‘we are close to you where you do not think about it’ in English and Hebrew placed on the Twitter and website,” The Jerusalem Post said in a Monday statement. According to the newspaper, the photo spread by hackers also showed a ballistic missile falling from what appears to be a representation of Soleimani’s hand.
“We are aware of the apparent hacking of our website, alongside a direct threat of Israel. We are working to resolve the issue & thank readers for your patience and understanding,” The Jerusalem Post said on Twitter.
The newspaper said that it remains unclear whether the hackers were from Iran or elsewhere.
Qasem Soleimani, the commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards’ elite Quds Force was killed by a US drone strike in Baghdad on January 3, 2020.
A senior US administration official said in December that the US was preparing for attacks on forces in Iraq in January, in connection with the anniversary of Soleimani’s assassination.

Blinken welcomes David Satterfield as US special envoy for Horn of Africa

Washington [US]: Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Thursday that he looks forward to welcoming David Satterfield as US Special Envoy for the Horn of Africa as the current diplomat in that position finishes his appointment in the next several days.
“I look forward to welcoming Ambassador David Satterfield in the coming days as the US Special Envoy for the Horn of Africa once Ambassador Jeffrey Feltman ends his appointment,” Blinken said in a statement via Twitter. Blinken noted that the Biden administration invited Feltman to this position in early 2021 but intended his appointment to last less than a year.
“However, the ongoing instability in the Horn of Africa and the region’s interlinked political, security and humanitarian challenges demand sustained focus by the United States,” he said.
Blinken also said he is confident Satterfield will help to promote a peaceful and prosperous Horn of Africa.
Feltman will continue working at the State Department in an advisory capacity, Blinken added.

Try to Impact lives of people at large, Dr. Kalam’s words inspire me till date: Dr. Shyam Kadali, Group Leader, Intel Corporation, United States

Dr. Shyam Kadali is a reputed scientist in the field of Nanotechnology with Intel Corporation since last 11 years. A world class researcher and a true team leader, Shyam Kadali is working on semiconductors and emerging technologies. He has been a driving force in his organisation and always aims to bring an impact on the lives of people at large with his innovative ideas and sincere efforts. He is an expert in Colloidal suspensions/assembly, Polymer science, Fluid mechanics, Chemical characterization of materials, Complex fluid rheology, Light scattering, Microscopy, and other emerging technologies areas. He has been designated as Group Leader at Intel Corporation, Hillsboro, Oregon, United States. In his exclusive interaction with our Editor, he reveals more about the Intel, his personal life, current trends in emerging technologies and future of Nanotachnology.

First of all, let me take the opportunity to welcome you. Can you please elaborate more on your area of work for a layman? Nanotechnology is a term which is discussed about a lot these days but getting a clear picture on the scope and future prospects of the same would be quite helpful, especially if we are getting it from an expert like you.

Thank you so much. I am with Intel for more than 10 years as scientist. We are working on nanotechnology. We are working on chip design, transistors and emerging technologies and its advanced applications. Advanced applications are for every sector, be it medical devices, health sector, IT industry, technology related services and different businesses. Demand is growing and the technology is also advancing. So, future is very bright and huge potential is there.

That’s quite informative. So, is the scenario same for a country like India, as we are still considered as developing ones? Is there any other field which has very much the same potential?

There is great potential for countries like India. Indian education system is very strong, and we produce great talent. Talent who can focus on AI/ML and emerging technologies will find enormous opportunities in the emerging technologies areas. Another most evolving area is Data Science. I say that Data has become the Wisdom. If you can understand data, process data scientifically then you can solve many problems in every field of our modern lives. This is a win-win situation for both Consumers and Companies. Consumers know what they want from the products and manufacturers know that what exactly are the requirements of the consumers. As an example, let us take driver-less cars. Based on data, AI based applications enable the exact route for the vehicles and help it to move from point A to point B. This is a great innovation and data is playing an important role everywhere.

As you have also started your journey from India, it would indeed be very inspiring to know about your journey from you.

I always wanted to be an IAS, appear for UPSC. So, I was very passionate about learning different subjects. I used to study a lot and know more about various subjects. I got into Engineering and then I developed a deep interest in science. I started thinking that I should do something which will impact the society at large and bring change in the lives of millions. Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar has always been my inspiration and he used to say that “Knowledge is power in every field of life” and with this power we can bring the desired change in the society. I have read a lot about him, and his writings and I always feel that we should follow Babasaheb’s teachings and try our best to impact the society in a very positive way.

After NIT Suratkhal, I got an opportunity of a fellowship with Rice University. USA. This scholarship was about INR 2 crores, and it was a big boost to my research aspirations. I was able to work with very famous scientists and learnt a lot. After that I got into Intel as scientist. That was a great turning point for me.

Intel : the leader in semiconductors industry

What an incredible journey it is! Exactly how did intel help you in achieving your goals?

I always wanted to work on something which can impact millions of lives and bring a positive change in the society. Through technology, I can do that, and Intel is exactly doing the same. Intel works on newer technologies and every two years we move on to the latest technologies. We work on Transistors with newer technology. Intel constantly modifies its transistors and brings change in the entire emerging technology domain. That’s incredible and we are the first company doing this so successfully!

We start from scratch with silicon and then design chips and develop semiconductors with new technology applications. I really feel excited about this and till now I have five patents and several research papers in my name. My journey with Intel has been wonderful and a great learning experience.

Where there is will, there is a way! But such great journeys are never completed without hurdles and the environment is highly competitive. It would be really inspiring if you share something on that level with our readers.

Intel has been one of the forefront innovative companies but yes, during past few years, Intel was having a tough challenge in the field of developing transistors and semiconductors with new advanced applications. But Intel has a roadmap and very soon, we are again going to take the Leadership role in this domain. Intel is Intel. No match with others!

Being a part of such an organisation is rewarding indeed. Going back to your university days, please share something which still stays with you.

I always wanted to do something big and impact others’ lives. I got an opportunity to meet great Dr. APJ Kalam, Honourable Dalai Lama and few more legends while I was at Rice University. I have interacted with them. I got inspired so much that now whatever I do, I question myself if this act of mine is going to impact others’ lives in a positive way? Am I going to bring any change in people’s lives?

My interaction with Dr. Kalam was motivating. He told me that always look at the bigger picture and don’t think only of your village or country. Do something which will impact the people across globe. He has been my driving force. How Can I make an impact at large? (This is a question which always keeps the fire burning.)

Late President Dr. APJ Kalam visited Rice University and interacted with scientists on various topics.

Tell us something more about Dr. APJ Kalam and his contribution in the development of the Research in Science and Technology?

Dr. Kalam was the man who put India on the global science in the field of defense. India used to spend lot of money on imports. Be it ISRO or DRDO, Dr. Kalam always focussed on developing our own technology and systems. He used to say that you cannot become global power if you are dependent on other countries. He strongly believed that India should be the role model for others and other countries should look up to India for its technological achievements and contributions. Today in space technology or defense, whatever we have achieved is purely a contribution of Dr. Kalam and his team of great scientists. As a scientist, his missile programs, ISRO and DRDO are the examples of his vision. He has Changed the perception of India globally. Take the example of Pokhran Nuclear tests. He was the man behind the entire effort and convinced late Prime Minister Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee ji. The success story of Pokhran is the success story of Modern India. The whole world recognised that India has the knowledge, power, and talent to be a superpower.

Countries like India can do much better in the field of semiconductors: Dr. Shyam Kadali

What’s your take on brain-drain from India?

I am from semiconductors domain and let me say that R & D facilities are not conducive in India yet. There are many challenges. Young talent is leaving country in search of better opportunities and learning new technology. Look at the CEOs of global giants and most of them are of Indian origin. So, it’s clear that India has the required talent, but we are not able to provide them the best of facilities or opportunities in R& D. I always admire the vision of our First Prime Minister Jawahar Lal Nehru who built IITs and other premier Institutes and believed that Indians can be the best engineers, doctors and managers around the world. So, we need such visionary leaders and actual work on the ground. Also, premier institutions need a lot of new ideas and support. Leadership should have the vision to see the country 20 or 30 years from now!

Taiwan is a good example.  GDP of Taiwan comes mostly from semiconductors and newer technology related industry. They have a program for young talent where they go abroad, learn, do Ph.Ds, and then return to their country to serve the country. They are given incentives and all R&D facilities are world class. India needs to start such programs and nurture it’s great talent pool.

In semiconductors domain, India is the world’s second largest importer of semiconductors after crude oil. Look at the balance of payments, balance of trade. We lose money to buy oil. Money goes out of the country. In semiconductors, why to Import? Establish the manufacturing and assembling units in India to produce semiconductors. Current government has taken a few steps in this regard recently but a lot of new initiatives are required. This will help to generate lot of jobs, economic wealth, and opportunities. This can create half a million jobs in India instantly! India can capture huge potential in this sector.

Word of advice from you to the youth?

I always say to be focussed and try to think about the impact you are going to bring with your contribution in the field of technology. Look at the bigger picture. Once you have that motivation, you can do wonders.

As we learn, success is not fixed in a frame. Each one has his/her own definition, and a jolt of failure is hard to handle by many. So, what is success for you and how to tackle failures?

Success for me reminds me of the Shri Bhagwat Gita,’

कर्मण्ये वाधिका रस्ते मा फलेषु कदाचन।
मा कर्म फल हेतु र्भूर्मा ते सङ्गोऽस्त्व कर्मणि॥

Karmanye vadhika raste, Ma phaleshu kadachana
Ma karma phala he tur bhuh, ma te sangotsva karmanye

Keep doing your good work, results are going to come. Think about the impact you are trying to make. Never make money your goal. Wealth will follow once you achieve your goals. Focus on the new technology, new things, innovations and how you can bring positive change in the lives of millions. Yes, we should be sincere in our efforts and our work should be up to the mark. We should try to be the role model in our field.

When it comes to failures, I always tell my team that there is lot to learn from failures. Make a complete story of failures. Document what went wrong, document your learnings. Your efforts should not go to waste. We can learn from our mistakes, but wise men learn from others’ mistakes. It makes sense.

No failure is a bad failure or permanent. We have published papers on our failures explaining the steps which should not bring the desired results! Let’s think of pandemic situation. We need to be proactive rather than reactive. So many new frontiers are there, and opportunities are huge. We should focus on how we can solve the issues related with covid with the help of technology and science. This way, we should be ready for the future. I strongly believe that if we are focussed and sincere in efforts, nothing is impossible.

Focus is now on Emerging Technologies

#Nanotechnology #Dr. ShyamKadali #Semiconductors #Intel #Newtechnology #Emergingtechnologies.Top of Form

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

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

Over 1 million new COVID-19 cases reported in US

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

US sanctions trigger protest in Kabul

Kabul [Afghanistan]: After the US has frozen nearly ten billion dollars of Afghanistan’s assets and has imposed sanctions on the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, dozens of people took to the streets of Kabul on Sunday demanding the lifting of sanctions.
The protestors urged for the US sanctions on Afghanistan to be lifted as it has aggravated the economic crisis, reported The Khaama Press. The protesters said that the US must lift imposed sanctions and ease economic pressures on Afghanistan and allow the Afghan people to rebuild their country.
Following the Taliban takeover in mid-August, the US froze nearly 10 billion dollars in Afghanistan’s assets and slapped sanctions on the Islamic Emirate.
On December 21, hundreds of protesters marched through the streets of the capital towards the US embassy, calling for the release of Afghanistan’s frozen funds, reported Pajhwok Afghan News.
In the meantime, the stoppage of foreign aids to Afghanistan has crippled the already fragile economic system of Afghanistan and has adversely affected the lives of millions of people.

Putin warns Biden of severing relations if West imposes sanctions on Russia over Ukraine situation

Moscow [Russia]: Stressing that the call between Russian and the US President was substantive and specific, a Kremlin aide has said that President Vladimir Putin has warned his American counterpart, Joe Biden, of severing relations if West decides to impose sanctions on Moscow over the situation in Ukraine.
Biden warned Putin about new financial, military and economic sanctions against Russia in case of the escalation in tensions along its western borders during the phone call between the two leaders, according to Kremlin aide Yuri Ushakov. “Our president clearly responded that this would be a big mistake that of course may result in the full severance of relations,” Sputnik quoted Ushakov as saying. Putin added that such sanctions would have serious consequences and expressed hope this would not happen.
Ushakov has also said that the talks between the two leaders were substantive and specific.
“In principle, we are satisfied with the talks as they were frank, substantive and specific. And I can also say that the spirit of these talks was constructive,” Ushakov said.
Emphasising that the presidents discussed all key topics, Ushakov said that the conversation was very businesslike, meaningful, and the presidents, which is also very important, agreed to continue the dialogue after the new year.
The Kremlin aide also said that during the talks Joe Biden maintained that Washington is not going to deploy offensive strike weapons in Ukraine.
“Biden has clearly said that the United States is not going to deploy offensive strike weapons to Ukraine,” said Ushakov.
“It seems to me that Washington understands Russia’s concerns, although Washington has its own concerns. Yet, President Biden is ready to continue the dialogue with President Putin, and this is what, in fact, our leaders have agreed upon – the dialogue will continue. Moreover, the Presidents, as I have already said, will not only continue to maintain a dialogue but also push the negotiations that our respective interdepartmental teams will be conducting in Geneva,” Sputnik quoted Ushakov as saying.
Further, the aide said that Putin during his call with Biden outlined in detail the basic principles that were put in the documents Russia handed over and stressed that negotiations on three tracks are important for Moscow.
These tracks are bilateral talks in Geneva, the Russia-NATO Council in Brussels, and Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) summit in Vienna. “But the main thing is that we need a result, and we will achieve a result in the form of ensuring the guaranteed security of Russia,” said Ushakov.

China blames US for bringing serious humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan

Beijing [China]: Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said that the irresponsible withdrawal by the United States from Afghanistan has brought a serious humanitarian crisis to the Afghan people and enormous security challenges to regional stability.
“The entire world witnessed the Kabul Moment, when the US forces left Afghanistan in a rush. Such irresponsible withdrawal has brought a serious humanitarian crisis to the Afghan people and enormous security challenges to regional stability,” Wang Yi said. In his interview, China’s Foreign Minister said that China supports Afghanistan in building an inclusive government, ending turbulence, restoring stability and rebuilding the country so that the Afghan people will be able to enjoy the benefits of peace and tranquillity supplies.
On hotspot issues such as Afghanistan and Myanmar, China has stayed in close coordination with countries in the region to jointly safeguard stability in this part of the world, according to China’s state councillor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi’s interview to Xinhua News Agency.
In 2021, the entire world witnessed the Kabul Moment, when the US forces left Afghanistan in a rush. The scenes of chaos and even shocking brutality at Kabul airport will stay in the memory of humanity forever as a historic mark on the failure of the so-called “democratic transformation”, according to State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi interview to Xinhua News Agency and China Media Group.
Further, he mentioned that China has actively facilitated international coordination and played a constructive role in a stable transition of the Afghanistan situation.
Foreign Minister Wang Yi said that Afghanistan still faces serious challenges in the economy, people’s livelihoods, security and governance.
“The Afghan people have suffered from years of war and turmoil, and should not have to endure the ravages of the pandemic, hunger and cold and winterization. Facing the sudden changes in Afghanistan, China did not sit by, but extended a helping hand,” he said.
“We immediately reached out to the Afghan people with emergency humanitarian assistance, especially vaccines and food,” he added.

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

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

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

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

US should not interfere in Afghan affairs, says Taliban leader

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

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

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

Former Soviet leader Gorbachev stresses dialogue between Russia, US amid tensions over Ukraine

Moscow [Russia]: On the eve of the 30th anniversary of USSR disintegration, former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev on Friday stressed the importance of continued dialogue amid tensions between Russia and the US.
Russia’s Interfax news agency carried a written interview with the 90-year-old Gorbachev, one day before the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Soviet Union, reported NHK World. Many people in Russia blame Gorbachev for the collapse of the USSR. In a survey released by an independent polling firm on Friday, 63 per cent of respondents expressed regret over the dissolution, reported NHK World.
Gorbachev said the Soviet Union’s demise should not be blamed on his policy of perestroika, or restructuring, stressing that it allowed people to enjoy many rights and freedoms, such as those of speech and assembly.
The world’s first socialist country maintained one-party rule by the Communist Party from its foundation in 1922.
Gorbachev resigned as president of the USSR on December 25, 1991, ending its 69-year history.
In the interview, Gorbachev said that without his relations with Western leaders, including personal ties, the Cold War, the arms race and regional conflicts around the world could not have ended, reported NHK World.
Gorbachev also referred to the current international situation. He said serious talks on nuclear weapons and European security have finally begun, adding that it is necessary to expand the agenda and continue the dialogue even in difficult times.
Russia stands accused of allegedly deploying troops near the Ukrainian border in preparation for an invasion. Moscow has repeatedly denied those accusations, pointing to NATO’s military activity near Russia’s borders, which it deems to be a threat to its national security. Russia has also said it has the right to move forces within its own sovereign territory as it sees fit.

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

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

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

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

China slams US, allies over remarks on Hong Kong polls

London [UK]: China on Tuesday rejected remarks made by the US and its allies regarding the erosion of democratic elements of Hong Kong’s electoral system.
“China urges a handful of countries to take off their mask of hypocrisy, respect China’s sovereignty and unity, and stop any form of interference in HK affairs, which are China’s internal affairs,” said the Spokesperson of the Chinese Embassy in the UK. This year’s Legislative Council elections mark a sobering milestone in the Chinese government’s dismantling of Hong Kong’s democracy, freedoms and autonomy. The elections will be the first to take place since changes made under the ‘patriot’ electoral reform law; changes that have slashed the number of directly contested seats and require candidates to be screened by government officials.
The elections will also be the first since the passage of the National Security Law in June 2020, since which all of Hong Kong’s major opposition leaders are now in jail or exile.
The US, Canada, the UK, Australia, New Zealand on Tuesday expressed grave concerns over the erosion of democratic elements of the Special Administrative Region’s electoral system.
“Actions that undermine Hong Kong’s rights, freedoms and a high degree of autonomy are threatening our shared wish to see Hong Kong succeed,” said a joint statement released by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken.
“We urge the People’s Republic of China to act in accordance with its international obligations to respect protected rights and fundamental freedoms in Hong Kong, including those guaranteed under the Sino-British Joint Declaration,” the joint statement added.
“These changes eliminated any meaningful political opposition. Meanwhile, many of the city’s opposition politicians – most notably the majority of the NSL 47 – remain in prison pending trial, with others in exile overseas,” the statement added.
The criticism came as pro- Beijing candidates have swept to victory in Hong Kong’s Legislative Council election amid low voting turnout under amended electoral laws.
The election was the first in Hong Kong since Beijing amended electoral laws to reduce the number of directly elected legislators and vet candidates to ensure that only those loyal to China could run, Al Jazeera reported.
Some 30.2 per cent of eligible voters cast their ballots in Sunday’s election, a figure that is almost half that of the previous legislative poll in 2016.

US Congress passes bill banning imports from China’s Xinjiang

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

US looking at more actions against Myanmar’s junta, says Blinken

Kuala Lumpur [Malaysia]: The United States is looking at more action against Myanmar’s junta to press its generals to return the country to a democratic path, said Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Wednesday.
“The situation has not improved,” Kyodo News quoted Blinken as saying at a joint press conference with his Malaysian counterpart Saifuddin Abdullah in Malaysia. “I think it’s going to be very important in the weeks and months ahead to look at what additional steps and measures we can take individually, collectively to pressure the regime to put the country back on a democratic trajectory,” he said.
Last week, the United States imposed sanctions on dozens of people and entities in Myanmar.
Following a February military coup that ousted a democratically elected government led by Aung San Suu Kyi, Washington has so far focused on imposing sanctions on Myanmar military officials and their family members as well as military-related entities, Kyodo News reported.
According to the Japanese news agency, Blinken said the United States is also looking “very actively” at whether Myanmar’s treatment of the Rohingya ethnic minority group constituted genocide, a determination that could allow Washington to push for more actions.
Malaysia is the second leg of Blinken’s first trip to Southeast Asia since US President Joe Biden took office in January. The visit comes as Washington is seeking deeper engagement in Southeast Asia amid heightened rivalry with China.
Meanwhile, Blinken confirmed at the press conference that Biden has invited ASEAN leaders to a special summit next year, Kyodo News reported.

US will continue to play stablising role in Indo-Pacific, says Antony Blinken

Jakarta [Indonesia]: US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has said that Washington will continue to play its stabilising role in the Indo-Pacific emphasising that it is the fastest-growing region on the planet.
“What happens in this region in the 21st century will shape the trajectory of the world,” said Blinken while delivering remarks on the ‘US and Indo-Pacific’ during an event in Jakarta on Tuesday. Blinken also said that the Indo-Pacific is the fastest-growing region on the planet. “That is why the United States will continue to play its stabilising role in the Indo-Pacific,” he added.
The US Secretary of State is on a visit to Indonesia. He met Indonesian President Joko Widodo on Monday. The two leaders discussed how the US and Indonesia can work together to preserve security and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific.
Blinken’s remarks on the Indo-Pacific comes two days after the Group of Seven (G-7) foreign ministers expressed concerns about Beijing’s “coercive” economic policies.
The G-7 foreign ministers on Sunday held talks with their counterparts from the ASEAN countries for the first time, as well as from Australia, South Korea and India, on the second day of the G-7 gathering, apparently to coordinate with the 10-member ASEAN and three other regional powers over policy on China.
“We have been clear at this meeting this weekend that we are concerned about the coercive economic policies of China,” Liz Truss said at a G7 news conference in Liverpool.

US reveals new software vulnerability, warns hundreds of millions of devices at risk

Washington [US]: The US on Monday revealed a new software vulnerability and warned that hundreds of millions of devices are at risk.
A senior Biden administration cyber official, Jen Easterly, Director of the US Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) warned executives from major US industries that they need to take action to address “one of the most serious” flaws she has seen in her career, reported CNN. As major tech firms struggle to contain the fallout from the incident, US officials held a call with industry executives warning that hackers are actively exploiting the vulnerability.
“This vulnerability is one of the most serious that I’ve seen in my entire career, if not the most serious,” said Easterly on a phone call shared with CNN. Big financial firms and health care executives attended the phone briefing.
“We expect the vulnerability to be widely exploited by sophisticated actors and we have limited time to take necessary steps in order to reduce the likelihood of damaging incidents,” Easterly said.
CNN has reached out to CISA for comment on the call. CyberScoop, a technology news site, first reported on the contents of the call.
It’s the starkest warning yet from US officials about the software flaw since news broke late last week that hackers were using it to try to break into organizations’ computer networks.
It’s also a test of new channels that federal officials have set up for working with industry executives after the widespread hacks exploiting SolarWinds and Microsoft software revealed in the last year.
Experts told CNN it could take weeks to address the vulnerabilities and that suspected Chinese hackers are already attempting to exploit them.
The vulnerability is in Java-based software known as “Log4j” that large organizations, including some of the world’s biggest tech firms, use to log information in their applications. Tech giants like Amazon Web Services and IBM have moved to address the bug in their products.
It offers a hacker a relatively easy way to access an organization’s computer server. From there, an attacker could devise other ways to access systems on an organization’s network.
The Apache Software Foundation, which manages the Log4j software, has released a security fix for organizations to apply.
Organizations are now in a race against time to figure out how if they have computers running the vulnerable software that were exposed to the internet. Cybersecurity executives across government and industry are working around the clock on the issue, reported CNN.
“We’re going to have to make sure we have a sustained effort to understand the risk of this code throughout US critical infrastructure,” Jay Gazlay, another CISA official, said on the phone call.
Chinese-government linked hackers have already begun using the vulnerability, according to Charles Carmakal, senior vice president and chief technology officer for cybersecurity firm Mandiant, reported CNN.
To address the issue, CISA said it would set up a public website with information on what software products were affected by the vulnerability, and the techniques that hackers were using to exploit it.

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

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

Biden declares state of emergency in Kentucky after hit by tornadoes

Washington [US]: US President Joe Biden on Friday (local time) declared that an emergency exists in Kentucky after it was struck by several tornadoes.
He ordered federal assistance to supplement Kentucky and local response efforts due to the emergency conditions resulting from severe storms, straight-line winds, flooding, and tornadoes beginning on December 10, 2021, and continuing, read the US President Statement. The President’s action authorizes the Department of Homeland Security, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), to coordinate all disaster relief efforts which have the purpose of alleviating the hardship and suffering caused by the emergency on the local population.
It will provide appropriate assistance required for emergency measures, authorized under Title V of the Stafford Act, to save lives and to protect property and public health and safety, and to lessen or avert the threat of a catastrophe in the counties of Breckenridge, Bullitt, Caldwell, Fulton, Graves, Grayson, Hickman, Hopkins, Lyon, Meade, Muhlenberg, Ohio, Shelby, Spencer, and Warren, read the statement.
Specifically, FEMA is authorized to identify, mobilize, and provide at its discretion, equipment and resources necessary to alleviate the impacts of the emergency. Emergency protective measures, including direct federal assistance, will be provided at 75 per cent Federal funding.
Deanne Criswell, Administrator, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), Department of Homeland Security, named John Brogan as the Federal Coordinating Officer for Federal recovery operations in the affected areas, added the statement.
At least 70 people are likely dead after multiple tornadoes barreled through southwestern Kentucky on Friday.
“Now we are certain that that number is more than 70, it may, in fact, end up exceeding a hundred before the day is done,” CNN reported citing Governor Andy Beshear.
The devastating outbreak of 30 tornadoes ripped through six US states on Saturday, namely Arkansas, Mississippi, Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee and Missouri.

Imran Khan meets US Senators in Islamabad, discusses evolving situation in Afghanistan

Islamabad [Pakistan]: Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan met a four-member delegation of the US Senate in Islamabad and discussed the evolving situation in Afghanistan.
Referring to the evolving situation in Afghanistan, Imran Khan told the American Senators that the US must have a deeper engagement to promote the shared objectives of peace, stability and economic development, reported Radio Pakistan. During the meeting with US Senators Angus King, Richard Burr, John Cornyn and Benjamin Sasse, Khan also underlined the need to support the Afghan people by taking all possible measures to prevent a humanitarian crisis and economic collapse.
It comes as a few days after Pakistan refused to participate in the Summit for Democracy organised by the US on December 9-10 virtually.
The US had extended invitations to more than a hundred countries for the summit but China and some other countries were not included in the list.
Pakistan’s Foreign Office thanked the US for the invitation but said that it would engage with the country on a wide range of issues “at an opportune time in the future”, reported Geo News.

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

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

Pentagon not commenting on possible anti-Iranian drills with Israel

Washington [US]: The US Department of Defence is not commenting on possible joint drills with Israel that may be targeted at Iran, Pentagon spokeswoman Jessica McNulty told Sputnik.
On Wednesday, the Reuters news agency reported citing a senior US official that US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin and Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz during a meeting at the Pentagon on Thursday would discuss plans to conduct military drills to prepare for the possibility of an attack to destroy Iran’s nuclear facilities should diplomacy fail with Tehran. “We routinely conduct training with our Israeli counterparts as we deal with common threats in the region. We have nothing to add to the press reports,” McNulty said on late Wednesday.
On Wednesday, Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said that Austin and Gantz would discuss Iran’s nuclear provocations and destabilizing actions during the upcoming meeting.

France to consult with EU partners on US boycott of Beijing Olympics

Paris [France]: France has “well noted” the decision of the United States to diplomatically boycott the Winter Olympics in Beijing of 2022 and it will consult with European partners on the next step, a foreign ministry spokesperson on Tuesday.
“We have well noted the US choice and we will coordinate on this topic at the European level,” the spokesperson told a news conference. In a symbolic protest against China’s “ongoing genocide and crimes against humanity in Xinjiang,” the Biden administration on Monday announced that it has decided not to send an official US delegation to the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing
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 is looking to send a “clear message” that the human rights abuses in China mean there cannot be “business as usual,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki told media persons at a White House briefing.
President Joe Biden has said last month that he was weighing a diplomatic boycott as Democratic and Republican lawmakers, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, advocated for a protest of China’s human rights abuses, CNN reported.

Biden warns Putin of strong measures if Russia escalates in Ukraine

Washington [US]: Raising concerns over Russia’s military build-up near the Ukraine border, US President Joe Biden on Tuesday warned his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin of strong economic measures.
Biden and Putin on Tuesday held their bilateral talks in a video conference format. According to CNN, President Biden told his Russian counterpart that the US is prepared to launch strong economic measures that would cause a bigger punch than the sanctions issued in 2014 that failed to stop Russia from occupying Crimea.
“I will look you in the eye and tell you, as President Biden looked Putin in the eye and told him today, that things we did not do in 2014 we are prepared to do now,” national security adviser Jake Sullivan told mediapersons after Biden’s call with Putin on Tuesday.
Recent US intelligence findings estimate Russia could begin a military offensive in Ukraine in a matter of months as it amasses up to 175,000 troops along the border, CNN reported.
Sullivan said the Biden administration still believes that Putin has not made a decision on whether to launch a military offensive against Ukraine.

Without going into specifics, Sullivan said that the US is coordinating with European allies “at a deep level of specificity,” CNN reported.
The national security advisor said, “Biden was direct and straightforward with President Putin. There was a lot of give and take. There was no finger-wagging, but the President was crystal clear about where the United States stands on all of these issues.”
Besides the economic ramifications mentioned on the call, Sullivan said President Biden conveyed that the US is prepared to bolster defence capabilities in the region.
“He reiterated America’s support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. He told President Putin directly that if Russia further invades Ukraine, the United States and our European allies would respond with strong economic measures,” said Sullivan.
He said that the US would provide additional defensive material to the Ukrainians above and beyond that the US has already been providing, and would fortify NATO allies on the eastern flank with additional capabilities in response to such an escalation.
Tuesday’s conference was the fifth conversation between Biden and Putin since the former’s assumption of the presidential office.

China’s threat to Taiwan grows

Hong Kong: In the past few years, the fate of Taiwan has become a hot topic as the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) threatens it with ongoing aircraft flybys and naval
circumnavigation. Voices are approaching a concerned crescendo, with Admiral Philip Davidson, head of the US Indo-Pacific Command, warning the US Congress that a Chinese attack could occur by 2027 or sooner.
He testified, “I worry that they’re accelerating their ambitions to supplant the United States and our leadership role in the rules-based international order…by 2050. Taiwan is clearly one of their ambitions before that, and I think the threat is manifest during this decade, in fact, in the next six years.”
Admiral Davidson added, “We are accumulating risk that may embolden China to unilaterally change the status quo before our forces may be able to deliver an effective response. I cannot for the life of me understand some of the capabilities that they’re putting in the field, unless…it is an aggressive posture.”
Further, US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said on 4 December of Chinese military flights near Taiwan: “I don’t want to speculate, but certainly…it looks a lot like rehearsals.”
Fuller detail was found in the recent 2021 copy of the China Military Power Report issued by the Pentagon. It stated, “The PLA continues to prepare for contingencies in the Taiwan Strait to deter and, if necessary, compel Taiwan to abandon moves toward independence.
The PLA also is likely preparing for a contingency to unify Taiwan with the PRC [People’s Republic
of China] by force, while simultaneously deterring, delaying or denying any third-party intervention, such as the United States and/or other like-minded partners, on Taiwan’s behalf.”
It continued, “As part of a comprehensive campaign to pressure Taiwan and the Tsai administration, and signal its displeasure at warming Washington-Taipei ties, China has persistently conducted military operations near Taiwan and military training for a Taiwan contingency. Throughout 2020, China’s military increased provocative actions in and around the Taiwan Strait, to include repeated flights into Taiwan’s air defense identification zone and conducting combat drills such as island seizure operations. In 2020, Beijing also publicly refuted the existence of the Taiwan Strait ‘median line,’ a decades-long tacit agreement between the two sides intended to reduce miscalculation and avoid sparking accidental crises.”
NATO is currently concerned about Russian troops concentrating on the border with Ukraine. However, those concentrations fade away when compared to the military buildup that the PLA has achieved in close proximity to Taiwan, particularly its Eastern Theater Command.
Dennis Blasko, a prominent ex-US Army expert on the PLA, explained to ANI why Xi is prioritizing the PLA.
“It’s, number one, to defend China from attack. Number two, to deter Taiwan from further steps toward independence, and to deter the United States from supporting Taiwan in further steps toward independence.”
Deterrence is thus the linchpin of China’s strategy. “In order to deter, you have to have a credible force. And they are building that credible force. Again, by the theory of deterrence, you have to display the determination to use that force. And you do that through statements, you do that through exercises.”
Often, commentators envisage a D-Day-style amphibious landing of Taiwan presaged by missile barrages and aerial attack. However, such an attempt to reunify democratic Taiwan with the communist Mainland would be militarily and politically the riskiest move for Chairman Xi Jinping.
Is such a military invasion likely? Blasko told ANI: “I don’t think so. I don’t think they’ve got the confidence level that they could do that yet, and they certainly don’t have the sealift to do it … I think I’d be probably one of the few people to argue this, but I don’t think they want to go to war. No, at this point I think they’d consider having to go to war as a failure of their national strategy. They would much rather get everything they want through negotiations or other forms of pressure.”
Even though the PLA Navy (PLAN) has large vessels like Type 071 landing platform docks and Type 075 landing helicopter docks, quantities of shorter-range amphibious vessels like landing ships for an over-the-beach invasion has largely stayed static. Blasko estimated that the PLAN could land perhaps only 10,000 troops on the first day of an invasion.
Furthermore, PLA amphibious exercises are rarely larger than company-level training. An exception this year has been half a dozen battalion-level exercises using commercial roll- on/roll-off ferries. While Ro-Ros could greatly increase troop/equipment lift capacity, these would mostly require unloading at ports that would first need to be secured.
The PLAN’s limitations in amphibious capacity led Blasko to highlight the role that army aviation and special forces could play in any hypothetical invasion of Taiwan. The PLA has 15 army aviation brigades with perhaps 1,000-1,500 helicopters. By moving 4-5 aviation brigades into the area across from Taiwan, maybe 700-800 helicopters could be mustered for an assault.
In one or two days, these could land 10,000 troops behind the coast to attack airports and ports. Furthermore, the PLA Air Force’s (PLAAF) Airborne Corps of approximately 30,000 troops could participate in a Taiwan invasion. However, the PLAAF still needs more transport aircraft like the Y-20 for such a major airdrop. Notwithstanding, a significant amount of air assault, special operations and airborne troops could wreak havoc for Taiwanese defenders.
Blasko concluded that the above kind of scenario should be more prominent in people’s minds, despite his insistence that any military invasion on Taiwan is improbable any time soon. “I’m thinking that the whole across-the-beach invasion is what people are focused on, when China now has the capability to come in behind.” Taiwan’s terrain is unfavorable for heavy armor, so light, mobile units make better sense in any invasion scenario.
For any amphibious or air assault of Taiwan, there would be obvious movements and concentrations of troops, vessels and aircraft to give warning time. Blasko added, though: “On the other hand, if they wanted to do a bolt from the blue, they’ve got rocket forces that could fire from their garrisons or areas very close by. They could attack Taiwan with rocket fire, missile fire and air attack if they just wanted to punish … But the big invasion, whether it be by air or sea, that’s going to take the movement of a lot of folks over a lot of time.”
The Pentagon agrees that an amphibious invasion is China’s least likely approach. Its annual report said, “An attempt to invade Taiwan would likely strain the PRC’s armed forces and invite international intervention.” Nonetheless, it could launch a limited amphibious operation to capture Taiwan-owned islands in the South China Sea or Taiwan Strait.
It lists other possible strategies like an air and maritime blockade of Taiwan to force capitulation, an air and missile campaign, or limited force or coercive options (including information operations).
Perhaps the most likely is the “grey zone” tactics China has employed in the South China Sea and along the mountainous border with India. The country can use military, paramilitary, law enforcement or ostensibly civilians (for example, the People’s Armed Forces Maritime Militia is deliberately ambiguous, looking like fishermen but employed by the government for national strategic purposes) to achieve its aims.
Midyear, the US-based Center for Security Policy published a report entitled “Taiwan as Donbas? Subversion and Insurrection vs. Full-Scale Invasion”. Written by Grant Newsham, a retired US Marine Corps officer, Newsham contended that China could attempt a similar strategy in Taiwan to the one Russian President Vladimir Putin used in 2014 when seizing the eastern Donbas region of Ukraine. Putin denied any involvement in Donbas, claiming local militias and citizens were throwing off the yoke of Ukrainian oppression. However, these “little green men”, mysterious combatants that gave Putin (im)plausible deniability, were using Russian heavy weapons and armored vehicles.
Beijing has a decades-long history of subversion against Taiwan, employing academic, political, media, business, religious, community and “united front” organizations to curry pro-China sentiment, as well as old-fashioned espionage. It is presumed that China has a substantial “Fifth Column” presence in Taiwan, with groups able to spring into action to support a PLA assault. According to Newsham, they could conduct assassinations, attack key targets and seize ports and airfields.
For years, Beijing has been softening up Taiwan through public opinion warfare, psychological warfare and legal warfare. Many Taiwanese were already convinced their future lay with China. This was underscored by irrevocable economic ties, as many Taiwanese factories and businesses set up shop in China.
At the height of such sentiments, President Ma Ying-jeou’s administration from 2008-16 brought the two countries closer together than ever before. Indeed, the scene was being set for a “Chinese Donbas”. However, the election of Tsai Ing-wen and her Democratic Progressive Party in 2016
dramatically altered the balance.
Xi grew impatient with the slow game of courting Taiwan, and his heavy-handed treatment of Hong Kong, as well as his ham-fisted approach to Taiwan, awakened many to the dangers of forcible reunification with China. Xi’s continued aggression has caused alarm not only in Taiwan, but all around the world.
The Pentagon warned of rising tensions vis-a-vis Taiwan in this year’s report about China’s military. “Based on changing public sentiment in Taiwan, according to recent polling data, PRC leaders may perceive a closing window of opportunity to subjugate Taiwan under the pretenses of Beijing’s ‘one country, two systems’ framework. The PRC has increasingly resorted to an aggressive pressure campaign against Taiwan and the Tsai administration to curtail Washington-Taipei ties and deter ‘Taiwan independence.”
The normally cautious report also stated: “The PRC conducting persistent military operations near Taiwan – and training for a Taiwan contingency – likely signals a greater urgency for the PLA to continue to develop and perfect its strategy and capabilities should PRC leaders
look to a military option to achieve their objectives.”
China could creatively find an excuse to seize a Taiwanese offshore island or two near the Chinese coast, such as Kinmen or Matsu. Due to their isolation, these islands are extremely difficult to defend, and Beijing might foment a provocation, perhaps saying it was heeding local residents’ invitation to intervene, or blowing up a few Chinese fishing boats and pointing the finger at Taiwan.
As an alternative to amphibious invasion and all-out war, Newsham remarked: “Politics and public sentiment are fickle things. One expects ongoing and possibly intensifying PRC efforts to ‘soften up’ Taiwan by creating economic turmoil and psychological intimidation. The goal: to create a public sense of hopelessness and fear that Taiwan has no outside support and to weaken Taiwan’s military and the public’s will to resist. Already as part of this effort, Chinese military aircraft and naval forces are gradually expanding their presence around Taiwan.
One expects they will keep squeezing, and eventually maritime militia and regular fishing fleets will also ‘swarm’ Taiwan. In some respects this would be a ‘Donbas at sea’.”
A pro-China government, one that could acquiesce in the face of such Chinese actions, might be Taiwan’s greatest existential threat then.
Taiwan could very well have faced such a situation after the 2020 elections if Han Kuo-yu, a pro-China acolyte who benefitted greatly from Chinese information operations, had become president.
The USA particularly must wholeheartedly endorse military support for Taipei, otherwise Xi will see a green light to go after it. Taiwan needs such fortitude, for it cannot stand alone against the might of the PLA.
Newsham warned: “A thoroughly distracted, disinterested, frightened USA – and with a weakened military – would change the dynamic considerably. The PRC would be more willing to coerce Taiwan, ruin its economy, terrorize and demoralize the public, while beefing up its Fifth Column and sympathizers and using them to cause trouble … But if the Americans decide they can’t be bothered with Taiwan, or it’s just too hard, the Japanese and others will likely follow suit, and then a Formosa Donbas becomes possible.”

China assails US political system in new report ahead of Summit on Democracy

Beijing [China]: Ahead of the Summit for Democracy scheduled to take place later this month, China on Sunday released a report underlining the “dysfunction of US democracy”.
Launching an attack on the US political system, the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs in its report said democracy in the US has become alienated and degenerated, and it has increasingly deviated from the essence of democracy and its original design. “Problems like money politics, identity politics, wrangling between political parties, political polarization, social division, racial tension and wealth gap have become more acute. All this has weakened the functioning of democracy in the US,” the report said.
The report underlined that US democracy has three main ills which include the system being fraught with deep-seated problems, the practices of US democracy being messy and chaotic and the disastrous consequences of the US democratic model when applied in other countries.
According to the Chinese ministry, the biggest problem that the US faces with its own democratic model is that it often uses democracy as a justification to interfere other countries’ internal affairs which leads to even more problems.
“What is now imperative for the US is to get to work in real earnest to ensure its people’s democratic rights and improve its system of democracy instead of placing too much emphasis on procedural or formal democracy at the expense of substantive democracy and its outcome,” the report concluded.
US President Joe Biden has invited 110 countries to a virtual summit on democracy on December 9-10, excluding countries like China, and Russia, according to a list posted on the State Department website.
The list also includes Taiwan which has prompted criticism from China.

US to join gender equality pact at WTO ministerial meeting

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

US, Australia, UK sign agreement for exchange of naval nuclear propulsion information

Washington [US]: In a bid to enhance trilateral security partnership called “AUKUS”, the US, Australia and the United Kingdom have engaged in an 18-month consultation period to seek an optimal pathway for delivery of nuclear-powered submarines, United States President Joe Biden said a White House statement on Wednesday (local time).
The agreement for the Exchange of Naval Nuclear Propulsion Information among the three countries would permit parties to communicate and exchange Naval Nuclear Propulsion Information and would provide authorization to share certain Restricted Data. “Pursuant to the enhanced trilateral security partnership called “AUKUS” announced earlier this year, our three governments are engaging in an 18-month consultation period to seek an optimal pathway for delivery of nuclear-powered submarines for the Royal Australian Navy at the earliest achievable date. The Agreement would permit the three Parties to communicate and exchange Naval Nuclear Propulsion Information and would provide authorization to share certain Restricted Data as may be needed during trilateral discussions, thereby enabling full and effective consultations,” the statement issued by Joe Biden read.
Biden also said that the agreement among the US, Australia, and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (the UK) has met all statutory requirements.
“I have determined that the United Kingdom and Australia, by participating with the United States pursuant to international arrangements, are making substantial and material contributions to the mutual defence and security. The United Kingdom is a party to the North Atlantic Treaty, and Australia is a party to Australia, New Zealand, and United States Security Treaty,” he said urging for Congress’ favourable consideration to the agreement.

Germany in regular dialogue with US on Implementation of deal on Nord Stream 2

Berlin [Germany]: Germany is in a “regular and constructive” dialogue with the US on the implementation of the agreement on the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline and still opposes sanctions against the allies, German Foreign Ministry spokesman Christopher Burger said on Monday.
The German government called on the US Congress not to impose sanctions against Nord Stream 2, as it will damage the transatlantic partnership, according to the documents from the German Embassy in Washington, obtained by the Axios portal on Sunday. “In this regard, I can say that the heads of departments of the foreign and energy ministries were recently in Washington and held constructive negotiations with high-ranking representatives of the US administration and Congress. We are in close contact with the US administration on the implementation of the joint statement [on energy security and Nord Stream 2] and we are in regular and constructive contact at various levels,” Burger told reporters.
“We fundamentally reject the use of sanctions against the allies, so here (in Berlin’s appeal to the United States) there should be nothing surprising,” he added.

US expert expresses concern that Omicron COVID strain might spread widely

Washington [US]: A top US health expert has said that the Omicron strain of the COVID-19 is likely to spread widely.
As reported by Sputnik, the remarks came from Chief Medical Advisor to the President of the US Anthony Fauci who said that the Omicron variant has not been detected in the US yet, but the strain is highly likely to spread far and wide. “We have not detected it yet, but when you have a virus that is showing this degree of transmissibility and you are already having travel-related cases that they have noted in Israel and Belgium, and other places; when you have a virus like this, it almost invariably is ultimately going to go essentially all over…” Fauci said.
Earlier in the day, the Chairperson of Council of the World Medical Association, Frank Ulrich Montgomery, expressed concern that the new coronavirus strain might be as dangerous as the Ebola virus, and as contagious as the Delta coronavirus variant, Sputnik reported.
WHO identified the new South African strain as one of concern, as it is reported to carry a high number of mutations — 32 — which possibly makes it more transmissible and dangerous. The WHO has dubbed it Omicron, the 15th letter of the Greek alphabet.
Following the reports about the new variant, the United States, the European Union, Canada, Israel, Australia and other countries have restricted travel from several southern African nations over the health concerns.

US lawmakers introduce bill to help Taiwan expand ties as China tensions spikes

Washington [US]: Amid the deteriorating relations between Washington and Beijing, two US lawmakers introduced a bipartisan bill earlier this week, which seeks to help Taiwan develop ties with other countries amid China’s coercive actions designed to isolate the country.
The Promoting Ties with Taiwan Act, which was introduced this week aims to make it the policy of the U.S. government to use its diplomatic influence and reputation to help Taiwan expand connections with nations and partners around the world. The draft “Promoting Ties with Taiwan Act,” was introduced by Republican Michelle Fischbach and Democrat Scott Peters, Taiwan Focus reported.
Taiwan has split from China after the end of the civil war in 1949 and has since been governing independently. Beijing says that the island is a breakaway province, and considers any contacts between Taipei and other countries to be meddling in Chinese internal affairs.
The news introduced bill would require the US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken to develop a strategy to help Taiwan foster new bonds of friendship and trade connections around the world to prevent its isolation.
In a matter of 180 days following the passage of the bill, Blinken would be required to submit a strategy to Congress, including an evaluation of staffing and other resources needed to implement the new policy on Taiwan.
Moreover, one year into the submission of the strategy, Blinken would be required to submit a report to Congress detailing actions taken to carry out the strategy. So far, the bill has won support from 13 House representatives across party lines.
“Taiwan is a valued friend and an important trading partner for the United States. I’m proud to propose concrete steps that our government can take towards encouraging similar relationships between Taiwan and other countries around the world,” said Fischbach.
Peters said peace in the Taiwan Strait is an enduring security interest for the US, Taiwan, allies, and partners committed to a rules-based international order that promotes the prosperity and interests of all.
The representatives noted that Taiwan, which has full diplomatic ties with 15 nations, is being isolated as Beijing is constantly trying to pressure several countries into switching diplomatic recognition, Taiwan Focus reported.
The new bill is currently being reviewed by the US House Foreign Affairs Committee and needs to be approved by the committee and Congress before it can be signed into law by the president.

Spain register record-breaking 17-0 win over US in Men’s Junior Hockey World Cup

Bhubaneswar (Odisha) [India]: Over 70 goals were scored on the second day of the Men’s Junior Hockey World Cup in Odisha, with Spain registering a record-breaking win with a margin of 17-0 over the USA in a Pool C game.
Now with this win, Spain has set a new record for the highest victory margin in the history of the tournament. This record was previously held by Argentina, who defeated Egypt by 14-0 in a Pool D game earlier on Thursday. Argentina had broken the record of the highest victory margin in the tournament’s history, previously held by India, who had defeated Singapore by a margin of 13-0 in the 1982 edition of the tournament. However, Spain’s dominant display of skill meant that the record set by Argentina was broken in a matter of a few hours.
Indian Hockey team also dominated the day and registered a 13-1 win against Canada in their second pool B match after facing a 4-5 loss against France in their first game on Wednesday.
In another pool C game played on Thursday, the Netherlands registered a 12-5 win over Korea.
After defeating India in their first match, France continued their winning ways after registering a 7-1 win over Poland.

China asks US to stop elevating relations with Taiwan

Beijing [China]: China on Wednesday asked the United States to immediately “stop elevating relations with Taiwan in essence” following the second US-Taiwan Economic Prosperity Partnership Dialogue held this week.
“China deplores and strongly opposes this,” Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said. The spokesperson said that China firmly opposes all forms of official interactions in any name or form between Taiwan and countries with diplomatic ties with China. “The US should earnestly abide by the one-China principle and the stipulations of the three China-US joint communiques, immediately stop elevating relations with Taiwan in essence, stop any form of official interaction and contact with Taiwan,” Zhao said.
“We also have this stern warning to the Taiwan authorities that any attempt and act to solicit the United States and other foreign support and sabotage cross-Strait relations is doomed to fail,” Zhao added.
Earlier this week, Under Secretary for Economic Growth, Energy, and the Environment Jose W. Fernandez led the second annual US-Taiwan Economic Prosperity Partnership Dialogue (EPPD), conducted under the auspices of the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) and the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office (TECRO) in the United States.
The US State Department said in a statement that both sides welcomed the dialogue as an opportunity to deepen cooperation and strengthen the robust economic partnership between the two economies.
“The dialogue featured extensive discussions on supply chain resiliency, countering economic coercion, promoting the digital economy, strengthening 5G network security, and advancing collaboration in a variety of science and technology fields. Discussions focused on progress made over the past year and identified new areas for cooperation, information sharing, and mutual understanding,” the statement added.
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.

Rashmika Mandanna Heads To The USA To Join Vijay Deverakonda

National crush Rashmika Mandanna took to her Instagram stories to share the latest update of leaving her fans curious about her latest film shoot by posting a passport pic of hers, and she wrote, “This time quite away from you but will be back soon”. She also posed a question with another selfie asking “Guess where I am?”.

According to the reports, she is heading to the USA to meet her co-star Vijay Devarakonda, who is busy shooting in the US for his upcoming film ‘Liger’. Rashmika and Vijay Deverakonda are reportedly thick friends who have acted in a couple of films such as ‘Geetha Govindam’ and ‘Dear Comrade’, and also they reportedly often meet in Mumbai and do work-outs in the same gym. This is now adding some speculations about their relationship as she has left for the USA to join Vijay, let’s see what she has to say about it.

Rashmika has ready to release ‘Pushpa’ opposite Allu Arjun, and she is also busy shooting for ‘Aadavaallu Meeku Johaarlu’ with Sharwanand. Similarly, she has completed the shoot of ‘Mission Majnu’ in Hindi and is busy filming for ‘Goodbye’ alongside Bollywood Big B Amitabh Bachchan under the direction of Vikas Bahl. The film is jointly produced by Balaji Motion Pictures and Reliance Entertainment.

Former US President Obama nominated for Grammy award for his audiobook memoir

Former US President, Barack Obama

Washington [US]: Former US President Barack Obama has been nominated for the Grammy award for his audio book “A promised Land in the category Best Spoken Word Album, the Recording Academy said in a statement on Tuesday.
“Best Spoken Word Album Includes Poetry, Audio Books & Storytelling: Aftermath, LeVar Burton, Carry On: Reflections For A New Generation From John Lewis, Don Cheadle, Catching Dreams: Live At Fort Knox Chicago, J. Ivy, 8:46, Dave Chappelle & Amir Sulaiman, A Promised Land, Barack Obama,” the statement said. This is Obama’s third attempt to get the award after being previously nominated in the same category in 2006 and 2008.
Published in November 2020, “A Promised Land” is the first of a planned two-volume memoir book that presents the time of Obama in office and describes his early years up through the assassination of Osama Bin Laden in 2011.

US-India face shared challenges in areas like climate change, vulnerable supply chains, says Katherine Tai

New Delhi [India]: United States Trade Representative (USTR) Katherine Tai on Monday said that India and the US face shared challenges in areas like climate change, vulnerable supply chains, and promoting market-oriented principles and structures.
Tai, who is on a two-day visit, attended a welcome reception here hosted by the Union Minister of Commerce and Industry Piyush Goyal. While speaking at India-USA Trade Policy Forum 2021, Tai said “India and the US also face shared challenges in areas like climate change, vulnerable supply chains, and promoting market-oriented principles and structures. These areas are ripe for closer collaboration.”
Tai also said that trade relations with India are the top priority for President Joe Biden.
“The trade relationship between our two countries is a priority, both for President Biden and for me. That’s why it was important for me to come to India and relaunch the Trade Policy Forum (TPF) on my first trip to Asia,” she said.

“I know that all of you in this room are similarly invested in the trade relationship. You are putting in the hard work to build commercial ventures, navigate the trading system, and strengthen ties between our countries on a daily basis. The TPF was created to foster those same activities,” she noted.

She further stated that there is huge potential for growth between our two economies in areas like the digital economy, services, health-related trade, and even agriculture.

“I believe that a revived TPF can help our trade relationship keep pace with other important aspects of the US-India partnership. But it’s clear that bilateral trade is not living up to its potential,” she said.

Tai also said that she is looking forward to discussing how further collaboration on worker-centric policies can be benefited between the India-US trade relationship.

“President Biden and I are convinced that US trade policy requires a fundamental shift to ensure that our policies and actions focus on the impact that trade and trade agreements have on real, working people,” Tai said, adding that part of that means engaging in new ways with you all, and my Indian government colleagues, to connect trade more directly to working people.

“We are committed to ensuring the trade partnership is both robust and sustainable,” she added.

US to pursue ‘over-the-horizon’ mission in Afghanistan

Kabul [Afghanistan]: Underlining that the network of US allies and partners in the Middle East and beyond is a huge force multiplier, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said that Washington will pursue an “over-the-horizon” mission in Afghanistan in response to counterterrorism.
“We must work together to combat terrorism–including in Afghanistan from al-Qaeda, and from the malice and sectarian hatred of ISIS,” Austin said during the International Institute for Strategic Studies’ (IISS) Manama Dialogue 2021. “As I made clear last month when I convened the members of the Defeat-ISIS Coalition during the NATO Defense Ministerial, the United States remains committed to supporting our partners in Iraq and Syria to ensure the enduring defeat of ISIS,” he added.
US Defense Secretary further said that the US is focused on the evacuation of its citizens from Afghanistan, and will keep working on it.
“We remain focused on making sure currently that we can continue to get out those American citizens and legal prominent residents that want to come out of Afghanistan. So we will continue to work to do that,” he said.
The Taliban took over Kabul after an offensive that saw the lightning fall of the Afghan government forces.
The Taliban said that the US was defeated in Afghanistan and that there is no need for any foreign country to counter terrorism in the country, TOLOnews reported.
“There are no outsiders in Afghanistan. We will not allow any country’s presence by any other means,” said Inayatullah Khwarazami, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Defense.

Blinken says US investing in Africa without ‘unsustainable debt’

Washington [US]: In an apparent dig at China, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Saturday promised new investment in Senegal without “saddling countries with unmanageable debts.”
Blinken made this remark as he wrapped up his visit to Africa, where he underscored the depth and breadth of the US’ relationships with its African partners. “Our projects in Senegal – and to me this is the most important part – the projects build upon our values that we share as democracies, namely transparency, accountability, the rule of law, competition, and innovation. These are also the driving ideals behind the U.S. Government’s Build Back Better World initiative,” he said.
Blinken said that the US hopes to drive a race to the top with global infrastructure projects to close the gap while creating local jobs, protecting workers and the environment, reducing corruption, and “all of that without saddling countries with debts that can be unmanageable.”
This comes as Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), adopted by the Chinese government in 2013, has grown rapidly over the past few years. BRI has left scores of lower- and middle-income countries (LMIC) saddled with “hidden debts” totalling USD 385 billion, according to new research.
The US Government has announced a similar program, Build Back Better (B3W) a few months ago aimed at halting the BRI’s expansion.
Experts believe that China would potentially face difficulties in maintaining current deals and bilateral agreements under the BRI as the US and EU-led schemes to endorse transparency in trading, partnership and value-driven infrastructure development are conspicuously absent in the BRI’s terms of reference.
Since its launch in 2013, the BRI has been well received across the globe due to its easy loan parameters. But, these concessions facilitated economic and military expansion for the Chinese, allowing them to build infrastructure, establish military bases in BRI- recipient countries clearing the way for Beijing’s expansion towards fulfilling its goal of becoming a global power.
According to research published by AidData, China has used debt rather than aid, to establish a dominant position in the international development finance market.
The report has analysed more than 13,000 aid and debt-financed projects worth more than USD 843 billion across 165 countries.

US manages to halt construction of secret Chinese port project in UAE

Washington [US]: The Biden administration has managed to halt the construction of a secret development inside of a Chinese shipping port in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), one of the US’s closest Mideast allies, after intense pressure from the US.
This project, near Abu Dhabi, was halted after several rounds of meetings and visits by US officials, The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reported citing people familiar with the matter. After the intelligence agencies in Washington learned that Beijing was secretly building what they suspected was a military facility at a port, the Biden administration warned the Emirati government that a Chinese military presence in its country could threaten ties between the two countries.
“Last we checked, we had successfully convinced the Emiratis to shut down the project,” said one source familiar with the intelligence, as quoted by CNN. “But it’s still a live issue.”
Although the project was portrayed as purely commercial, US intelligence has observed ships disguised as commercial vessels that officials recognized as a type typically used by the Chinese military for signals intelligence collection entering the port, the report said.
In a statement, a spokesperson for the UAE Embassy in Washington said that the UAE “never had an agreement, plan, talks or intention to host a Chinese military base or outpost of any kind.”
This development comes as Beijing has sought to develop commercial ports in outposts around the world in what experts believe is a clear effort to enhance its military foothold. China has already developed commercial ports in Pakistan and Sri Lanka and its first overseas military base in Djibouti.
Earlier, the former Trump administration had sought to pressure the UAE to put a stop to the project at the port, which is run by a Chinese shipping conglomerate.

US to end combat mission in Iraq in 2021, confirms Pentagon

Washington [US]: The US military mission in Iraq will be completed before the end of this year during a meeting with his Iraqi counterpart Juma Inad, Pentagon confirmed on Saturday.
“The United States will uphold the commitments it made during the July 2021 U.S.-Iraq Strategic Dialogue, including that there will be no US forces with a combat role by the end of the year,” the Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby said on Saturday. This statement was made after US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin met on November 20 with Minister Jumah Inad Sadun al-Jaburi, Iraq’s Minister of Defense, in Manama, Bahrain, during the annual Manama Dialogue.
Austin further confirmed to the Iraqi defence minister that American forces will remain in Iraq at the invitation of the Iraqi government to support the country’s security forces, the statement said.
The sides also discussed the next stage of the US military mission in Iraq, which will focus on “advising, assisting, and sharing intelligence with the Iraqi Security Forces in support of the campaign to defeat ISIS,” the statement read.
The Pentagon chief again condemned the recent attack on the residence of Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa Kadhimi and expressed hope that the formation of the new government in Iraq will proceed peacefully.
The meeting took place on the sidelines of the Manama Dialogue international conference on regional security held annually in Bahrain.

After US, UK considering diplomatic boycott of 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics

London [UK]: Days after US President Joe Biden’s announcement on the boycott of the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said that he is also considering the same over the alleged human rights violations in China, according to media reports.
Russian news agency Sputnik stated, citing media reports, that the UK government is actively discussing the possibility to refrain from sending officials to the Winter Olympics in Beijing, with Foreign Secretary Liz Truss believed to be a supporter of the idea. Citing Times newspaper, Sputnik reported that under one of the considered options, the UK may be represented by the ambassador but not any other official.
On Thursday, United States President Joe Biden had said that his administration was considering a diplomatic boycott of the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing, according to NBC News.
Asked about the possibility of the boycott during an Oval Office meeting with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada, Biden responded that it was “something we are considering”, according to NBC News.
The White House usually sends a delegation to the opening and closing ceremonies of the Olympics, but this time, under a diplomatic boycott, it would not send the delegation.
The diplomatic boycott call has been advocated by top US lawmakers. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi had called for such a boycott, a move to protest against China’s abuses of human rights, said CNN.
Responding to it, China said that the politicization of the Olympics will harm the global sports movement in the world.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian reacted following US President Joe Biden’s remarks on the diplomatic boycott of the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing, Sputnik reported.
“The 2022 Winter Olympic Games and the Paralympic Games in Beijing are the stages for athletes from all over the world, and they are the real protagonists of the upcoming Games,” Zhao Lijian said.
“Any politicization of sport violates the Olympic spirit and harms the interests of athletes of all countries,” the spokesman added.
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.

US Senator introduces measure to trigger sanctions if Russia escalates Ukraine conflict

Washington [US],: US Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Menendez introduced a measure this week that would trigger a broad range of sanctions against the Russian government if it engages in or supports a significant escalation of hostilities in or against Ukraine.
“Substantial new sanctions should be imposed in the event that the Government of the Russian Federation engages in escalatory military or other offensive operations against Ukraine,” the amendment reads. Under the amendment, the US president will determine whether the Russian government is engaged in or knowingly supports a significant escalation in hostilities or hostile action in or against Ukraine compared to levels before November 1, 2021.
The sanctions would target high-level Russian government and military officials, entities and officials tied to Nord Stream 2, Russian banks, and state-owned businesses.
The measure would also ban primary and secondary sovereign debt transactions.
Moreover, the measure would authorise additional security assistance for Ukraine.
The amendment was submitted to be part of the 2022 National Defence Authorization Act, which the US Senate agreed to begin debate on Friday morning.

Indian origin Kamala Harris becomes first woman to get presidential power in US

Washington [US]: US Vice President Kamala Harris became the first woman with presidential power in the US on Friday, when President Joe Biden temporarily transferred power to her
The power transfer took place while Biden was under anaesthesia for a routine colonoscopy for one hour and 25 minutes, reported CNN. The US’ first female, first Black and first South Asian vice president Harris broke another barrier as she became the first woman to hold presidential powers in the country.
Harris worked from her office in the West Wing while Biden was under anaesthesia, according to Psaki.
Biden spoke to Harris and the White House Chief of Staff on Friday morning.
“POTUS was in good spirits and at that time resumed his duties. He will remain at Walter Reed as he completes the rest of his routine physical,” Psaki tweeted.
Biden, who turns 79 on Saturday, arrived Friday morning at Walter Reed Medical Center to undergo his first routine annual physical since taking office, according to CNN
In the US, it is usual for a vice president to assume presidential powers whenever the president requires anaesthesia.

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.

US extends support to Philippines amid China’s ‘expansive, unlawful’ maritime claims

Washington [US]: Highlighting that the US stands with the Philippines amid the latter’s standoff with China, the Biden administration said that it believes that Beijing actions asserting its “expansive and unlawful” South China Sea maritime claims undermine peace and security in the region.
“The United States stands with our ally, the Philippines, in the face of this escalation that directly threatens regional peace and stability, escalates regional tensions, infringes upon freedom of navigation in the South China Sea as guaranteed under international law, and undermines the rules-based international order,” Sputnik quoted State Department spokesperson Ned Price as saying. According to Price, Washington “strongly believes that PRC actions asserting its expansive and unlawful South China Sea maritime claims undermine peace and security in the region.”
Three Chinese coastguard ships blocked and first water cannons on two Philippines supply boats within the country’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ) in the disputed South China Sea.
Philippines Foreign Minister Teodoro Locsin said the incident took place near Ayungin Shoal (Second Thomas Shoal) on November 16 and the Philippine vessels.
“The acts of the Chinese coast guard vessels are illegal,” Locsin said in a statement shared on social media by the Foreign Ministry. “China has no law enforcement rights in and around these areas. They must take heed and back off.”
China claims nearly the entire South China Sea based on its so-called ‘nine-dash line’ that the international court ruled without merit five years ago.
It is not the first incident this year when tensions have escalated between the two countries
Earlier this year, the Philippines complained about the weeks-long presence of dozens of vessels from China’s so-called ‘maritime militia’ at Whitsun Reef, which lies about 320 kilometers (175 nautical miles) west of Palawan Island within its EEZ.

Bhubaneswar: Teams arrive for Junior Hockey WC

Bhubaneswar (Odisha) [India]: USA and Chile arrived in Bhubaneswar on Thursday for the much-awaited FIH Odisha Hockey Men’s Junior World Cup Bhubaneswar 2021.
Grouped in Pool C, along with Korea, Spain, and the Netherlands, the USA are in for a tough battle to make it through to the group stages. “We had a camp in California. It was around 10 days, so we had a training camp there. We were preparing as a team, so we are ready to go,” said Pat Harris, USA Head Coach, according to a Hockey India release.
Excited to compete in Bhubaneswar at the iconic Kalinga Stadium, Harris said, “The boys are very excited. This is the first time for many that they have been in such a hockey atmosphere. I think to the world, India has a very strong hockey culture with a big hockey stadium. So, I am sure the boys will really enjoy playing in the hockey stadium.”
While speaking about the team’s preparations, Chile Captain Nicolas Abujatum said, “We have been preparing a lot. We were a part of the Pan-American Championship, which was a big part of our process. Afterwards, we continued training for the World Cup with our staff. We are excited to play at Kalinga Stadium, as most of us have not played in such a great stadium.”
Meanwhile, Team Malaysia arrived in Bhubaneswar on Wednesday night. Speaking on the prospect of playing at the iconic Kalinga Stadium Malaysia Head Coach Wallace Tan expressed, “Our team is very excited to play at the Kalinga Stadium as it is a very big and respected stadium. Many big tournaments have been held here, and many legends have played here, so it will be an honour to play here.”
The USA will open up their campaign against Spain on November 25, while Chile and Malaysia, who are both placed in Group A along with Belgium and South Africa, will face off against each other in their first game of the tournament on November 24.

Biden ‘considering’ diplomatic boycott of 2022 Beijing Olympics

Washington [US]: US President Joe Biden has said that his administration was considering a diplomatic boycott of the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing, reported NBC News.
Asked about the possibility of the boycott during an Oval Office meeting with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada, Biden responded that it was “something we are considering”, according to NBC News. The White House usually sends a delegation to the opening and closing ceremonies of the Olympics but under a diplomatic boycott would not send the delegation.
The diplomatic boycott call has been advocated by top US lawmakers in the US. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi had called for such a boycott, a move to protest against China’s abuses of human rights, said CNN.
Human rights activists have raised their voices against China’s detention of Uyghur people in Xinjiang province and crackdown on pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong.

US lawmakers introduce measure to end recognition of Putin as Russian President after 2024

Washington [US]: Two members of US Congress introduced a resolution to end the United States’ recognition of Vladimir Putin as president of Russia if he remains in power after 2024.
In April, Putin signed a law that gives the Russian head of state the right to seek two more terms in office. In a referendum held last summer, more than 77 per cent of Russians who participated voted in favour of the constitutional amendments, according to Russia’s Central Election Commission. “Congressman Steve Cohen, Co-Chairman of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, better known as the Helsinki Commission, along with Ranking Member Joe Wilson of South Carolina, today introduced a Congressional Resolution to end recognition of Vladimir Putin as president of Russia after May 7, 2024, if the autocrat remains in power,” Cohen’s office said in a press release on Thursday.
The resolution claims irregularities in Russia’s elections have kept Putin in power and his continuation in office beyond 2024 would be illegitimate, according to the release.
The amendments envision a limit of two consecutive six-year terms for the President of the Russian Federation. The provision applies to the president at the time the legal changes enter into force, not taking into account the number of terms previously served in this position, thus paving the way for Putin to run again after his current term ends in 2024.

Palestinian president discusses Israeli-Palestinian conflict with US ambassador to UN

Ramallah [Palestine]: Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Wednesday discussed the Israeli-Palestinian conflict with US Ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield.
Abbas met with Thomas-Greenfield at his office in the West Bank city of Ramallah and warned that Israel’s practices in the Palestinian territories “would undermine the vision of the two-state solution,” the official Palestinian news agency WAFA said. Abbas informed the U.S. ambassador that the Palestinian leadership rejects the Israeli government’s decision to classify six Palestinian non-government organizations as terrorist groups, said the report.
It also said that Abbas told Thomas-Greenfield that the Palestinians reject the Israeli policies against the Palestinians in East Jerusalem.
Abbas reaffirmed the Palestinian side’s commitment to peace and to holding an international peace conference under the auspices of the international Quartet, which consists of the United Nations, the United States, the European Union and Russia.
The last direct peace talks between Israel and Palestine, which were sponsored by the United States and lasted for nine months, stopped in 2014 following deep disagreements on issues related to Jewish settlements, borders and security.

US designates Taliban, IS as ‘entities of particular concern’

Washington [US]: The United States has designated Taliban and the Islamic State (ISIS) as ‘Entities of Particular Concern’.
Besides Taliban and IS, the US also designated al-Shabab, Boko Haram, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, the Houthis, ISIS-Greater Sahara, ISIS-West Africa, Jamaat Nasr al-Islam wal-Muslimin as Entities of Particular Concern. In a statement, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Wednesday said that the challenges to religious freedom in the world today are structural, systemic, and deeply entrenched.
Blinken also designated Myuanmr the People’s Republic of China, Eritrea, Iran, the DPRK, Pakistan, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan as Countries of Particular Concern for having engaged in or tolerated “systematic, ongoing, and egregious violations of religious freedom.”
The US administration will continue to press all governments to remedy shortcomings in their laws and practices and to promote accountability for those responsible for abuses, Blinken said.
“I am also placing Algeria, Comoros, Cuba, and Nicaragua on a Special Watch List for governments that have engaged in or tolerated “severe violations of religious freedom,” he said.
“Finally, I am designating al-Shabab, Boko Haram, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, the Houthis, ISIS, ISIS-Greater Sahara, ISIS-West Africa, Jamaat Nasr al-Islam wal-Muslimin, and the Taliban as Entities of Particular Concern,” he added.
They demand sustained global commitment from all who are unwilling to accept hatred, intolerance, and persecution as the status quo, the secretary of state said.
“The United States remains committed to working with governments, civil society organizations, and members of religious communities to advance religious freedom around the world and address the plight of individuals and communities facing abuse, harassment, and discrimination on account of what they believe, or what they do not believe,” Blinken said.

Japan, US launches initiative to facilitate discussions on trade issues

Tokyo [Japan]: Amid China’s economic rise, Japan and the United States on Wednesday launched an initiative to facilitate regular discussions on trade issues.
The first series of meeting under the US-Japan Partnership on Trade is expected early next year, with the initial areas of focus including “third country concerns” and cooperation in improving a rules-based economic order in the Indo-Pacific region, Kyodo News reported citing officials of the two countries. The announcement was made as Japanese Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi held a meeting with U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai, who is on her first visit to Japan since assuming her position in March.
“Our close collaboration will support the Biden-Harris administration’s economic framework for the Indo-Pacific and help create sustainable, resilient, inclusive, and competitive trade policies that lift up our people and economies,” Tai said in a statement.
In an apparent reference to China, Japan and the United States have repeatedly raised the issue of “market-distorting practices,” such as industrial subsidies and overproduction, at meetings of the Group of Seven nations and other multilateral talks.

American journalist released from Myanmar’s jail reaches US

Washington [US]: Danny Fenster, an American journalist who was recently released from jail in Myanmar, has now reached the US. He expressed his gratitude to everyone involved in his release, a media report said.
“I just have so much gratitude right now for everything everyone’s done. I think every action everyone’s taken, it’s helped a little bit,” CNN quoted Fenster as saying Tuesday. It is Fenster’s first public remark since his release this week.
Fenster was wrongfully detained in Myanmar since May 2021 in a Myanmar jail on charges of visa breaches, unlawful association with an illegal group, and incitement that was widely condemned by press advocates and the US government.
The US on Monday welcomed the release of American journalist Daniel Fenster from prison in Burma, where he was wrongfully detained for almost six months.
“We welcome the release of American journalist Daniel Fenster from prison in Burma, where he was wrongfully detained for almost six months,” Secretary Blinken said in a statement.
“We are glad that Danny will soon be reunited with his family as we continue to call for the release of others who remain unjustly imprisoned in Burma,” Blinken said.
Fenster had served as the managing editor of Frontier Myanmar magazine.
This came as Myanmar has been in turmoil since February 1, when the Myanmar military led by Senior General Ming Aung Hlaing overthrew the civilian government and declared a year-long state of emergency. The coup triggered mass protests and was met by deadly violence.

Afghanistan: Taliban undertake military parade on US vechiles, Russian helicopters

Kabul [Afghanistan]: Hundreds of members of the Taliban on Sunday gathered upon the US-made armed vehicles to undertake a military parade in the capital of Afghanistan.
This was the second time when the group has undertaken a military parade after it ousted the democratically elected government in the country in August. The parade was supported by Russia-made helicopters, Khaama Press reported. Spokesperson of Taliban-formed Defense Ministry Enayatullah Khwarazmi said that the military show was held by the newly graduated soldiers.
The developments came as the Taliban has said that they will soon form their own army, Khaama Press reported.
Earlier in September, a bunch of helicopters was also seen flying over southern Afghanistan while jubilant Taliban members below stood aboard captured US military hardware as the Islamist group paraded them with pride.
Meanwhile, more than ten weeks since the takeover of Afghanistan, the Taliban government is now facing its biggest test of managing the country’s governance and its abject failure is threatening the regional stability.
Di Valerio Fabbri, writing in Geopolitica.info said that the Taliban’s governance tests are too many. But it looks like the regime doesn’t realise the enormity of the challenges as it pursues the single-line agenda of international recognition.
Earlier in the day, about 100 Afghans and Iranians gathered in front of the UN office in Vienna on Sunday to condemn the Taliban amid the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan.
This protest in Vienna is part of a global demonstration, organized by National Resistance Front (NRF) supporters and also Iranian diaspora organizations.

Trump calls US ‘radicalised mess’ after indictment of his former adviser Bannon

Washington: Former US President Donald Trump has commented on the indictment of his former adviser Steve Bannon, saying that it demonstrates how Washington is failing in all aspects.
“This Country has perhaps never done to anyone what they have done to Steve Bannon and they are looking to do it to others, also. If they would be so tough with China, Russia, and the world, who no longer respects us, maybe our Country would not be failing at a level at which we have never seen before,” Trump said in a statement. He added that the United States is heading in an “unthinkable” direction, with the situation having been exacerbated by the Afghanistan withdrawal, immigration issues and inflation.
“The USA is a radicalised mess!” Trump said.
On Friday, a US federal grand jury indicted former Donald Trump adviser Steve Bannon on two counts of contempt of Congress for failing to cooperate with the House Select Committee investigating the January 6 events at the Capitol.
Bannon, who had refused to testify as part of a subpoena issued by the House committee, may now face up to two years in prison if convicted of both counts.
The US House Select Committee has been trying to obtain records from the National Archives about communications in the Trump White House related to the January 6 events.

Biden, Xi to hold high-stakes virtual meeting tomorrow

Washington [US]: US President Joe Biden is set to virtually meet Chinese President Xi Jinping on Monday, marking the first bilateral meeting between the two leaders since Biden took office.
This meeting is likely to cover several topics including tensions over China’s military activity near Taiwan and human rights, as well as issues concerning climate change. This virtual meet comes after the US and China reached a deal on a joint statement on the need to tackle climate change at COP26 in Glasgow, UK. “In the evening of Monday, November 15 in Washington, D.C., President Joseph R. Biden, Jr. will meet virtually with President Xi Jinping of the People’s Republic of China (PRC),” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said a statement.
The two leaders will discuss ways to responsibly manage the competition between the United States and the PRC, as well as ways to work together where their interests align, the statement added.
Psaki further added that President Biden will make clear US intentions and priorities and be clear and candid about America’s concerns with China.
No major deliverables are expected from the meeting but Biden and Xi are likely to discuss issues concerning Taiwan, Hong Kong, Xinjiang, visa restrictions, arms control and a possible framework to ease tensions between the two countries, the Russian news agency Sputnik reported.
The meeting will put to the test Biden’s approach of trying to work with Beijing on areas of potential compromise while raising objections to China’s position on rights issues, its trade practices and its increasing military activity, The Hill reported.
Biden, in recent days, has rebuked China, saying, President Xi Jinping’s decision to skip a United Nations climate summit was a “big mistake” because it would diminish Beijing’s influence. China subsequently hit back at America over the criticism.

Young Taliban recruits refuse to believe 9/11 ever happened

Bagram [Afghanistan]: Many children born after 2001, growing up hating America and trained by the Taliban say that they do not know if the 9/11 attacks ever happened with some refusing to believe that the attacks were orchestrated by al-Qaeda.
One such child who never benefited from billions of dollars in Western aid money that elevated the lives of countless Afghans is Esmatullah Omari who said that when he was 12, he was trained by the Taliban to plant roadside bombs and at 16, he was attacking military convoys near Bagram airfield, the largest U.S. military base in Afghanistan and the epicentre of America’s longest war, reported The Washington Post. The Americans are now gone, however, the 19-year-old Omari stands guard at one of the Bagram’s entrances and still does not understand why did the Americans come in the first place.
Thousands of Americans who were infants or born after the 9/11 attacks joined the U.S. military to combat terrorism and support democracy in Afghanistan included the 11 out of the 13 U.S. service members killed in the dastardly bombing by the ISIS-K terrorists at the Kabul affiliate just days before the exit of the troops from the war-torn country.
At the same time, a generation was distinctly shaped by the 9/11 attacks who battled the Americans as the Taliban fighters. Many of them were children when they first tasted war, trading their childhoods for what they were told was their duty as Muslims, reported The Washington Post.
Many children joined the Taliban after the US forces killed their relatives. Some hated the government backed by the US who they believed to be corrupt. The Americans were portrayed as invaders willing to kill Muslims by the preachers at madrassas. The preachers also encouraged the students to wage a religious jihad against the foreigners, reported The Washington Post.
The young members of the Taliban were fed with positive imagery of al-Qaeda, especially its founder — the architect of the U.S. attacks, who was given protection in Afghanistan in the previous rule of the Taliban.
“Osama bin Laden was a hero and a mujahid,” The Washington Post quoted a 19-year-old Sharafuddin Shakir as saying who was surrounded by militants inside a former U.S. military outpost in Ghazni province that they now controlled.
“This is the duty of everyone to fight against the invaders and infidels who occupied our land,” said his uncle. Responding to a query about why the Taliban recruited the children, he said, “Jihad is mandatory everywhere,” reported the newspaper.
When Omari was 16, the US and the Afghan troops learned about a suicide-bombing mission that was being planned by his brother. The troops raided Nasru and shot his brother, reported the newspaper.
“I was in grade eight, but when my brother was martyred, I left school,” said Omari.
He formally joined the Taliban and said that he felt happy whenever he successfully attacked a vehicle.
A few months after his recruitment, his younger brother joined the Taliban along with several teenage cousins.
“I never listened to music, only the jihadi anthems,” The Washington Post quoted an 18-year-old fighter Mutawakil as saying, “Music is not good. It is a sin.”
Talking about the reasons for batling the Americans, he said that they had come here to root out Islam.
“They came here to root out Islam. They came to establish democratic rule here and wanted to use us for their own interests. They wanted to make us as they are. They wanted to kill our clerics and eliminate our religion,” the newspaper quoted him as saying.
Since the exit of the US troops from Afghanistan, the Taliban faces the challenge of protecting the Afghans from ISIS.
An 18-year-old Gul Muhammed Heymat said that he learned about the American forces in a madrassa where his teachers taught him what was required of him as a “good Muslim”, however, the clerics never mentioned the 9/11 attacks or the presence of al-Qaeda in Afghanistan.
They were told that bin Laden was a good Muslim and a mujahid, reported the newspaper.
Many other such Taliban young members do not know about the 9/11 attacks and were ready to die for their beliefs.
Shakir refused to believe that al-Qaeda and bin Laden orchestrated them, but he questioned whether the attacks even happened, according to The Washington Post.
“It was not true. The Americans invaded Afghanistan on the pretext of 9/11, but the real motive was that they were against the true Islamic rule in Afghanistan,” the newspaper quoted him as saying.

Trump scores two big legal victories with one lawsuit dropped, another dismissed

Washington [US]: Former US President Donald Trump on Friday (local time) scored two big legal victories with one lawsuit dropped and another dismissed.
A New York judge granted Trump’s motion to dismiss a lawsuit filed by his former personal attorney Michael Cohen against the Trump Organization and in another defamation lawsuit by former “Apprentice” contestant Summer Zervos, agreed to drop her claims, according to the court filing, reported CNN. The legal wins for Trump come as the former President’s activities during the final days of his presidency continue to haunt him, as he navigates numerous criminal investigations and business challenges linked to the Capitol riot on January 6.
Zervos had sued Trump in 2017 after he denied allegations that he had sexually assaulted her. A judge had recently ordered Trump to sit for a deposition in the case by December 23.
Cohen sued the Trump Organization in 2019, seeking reimbursement of legal fees and saying that after he began cooperating with federal investigators, the company failed to fulfill its contractual obligations to indemnify him or pay his legal bills relating to his work for the firm.
In a statement announcing Zervos was dropping her suit, her attorneys wrote, “Today the parties have ended Zervos vs Trump. After five years, Zervos no longer wishes to litigate against the defendant and has secured the right to speak freely about her experience. Zervos stands by the allegations in her complaint and has accepted no compensation,” reported CNN.
In another win for Trump, New York Judge Joel Cohen granted Trump’s motion to dismiss Michael Cohen’s 2019 lawsuit against his company, reported CNN.
“Cohen’s legal fees arise out of his (sometimes unlawful) service to Trump personally, to Trump’s campaign, and to the Trump Foundation, but not out of his service to the business of the Trump Organization, which is the only defendant in this case,” Judge Cohen wrote in his order.
In July 2017, according to the lawsuit filed in the New York State Supreme Court, the Trump Organization agreed to indemnify Cohen and to pay his attorneys’ fees and costs in connection with related investigations.

US launches talks with Japan to address steel, aluminum excess capacity

Washington [US]: The United States and Japan have started consultations to address issues concerning excess capacity in the global steel and aluminum market, the Office of the US Trade Representative’s (USTR) office said.
“United States Trade Representative Katherine Tai and United States Secretary of Commerce Gina M. Raimondo today announced the start of consultations with Japan to address global steel and aluminum excess capacity, take effective measures to ensure the long-term viability of our steel and aluminum industries, and find solutions to strengthen our democratic alliance,” the Office of the US Trade Representative said in a press release on Friday. US and Japanese officials will also work to resolve bilateral issues related to steel and aluminum tariffs and the two countries intend to take beneficial actions that will restore market-oriented conditions, the release said.
The US officials emphasized concerns about China and its role in supporting trade-distorting non-market policies that threaten US steel and aluminum industries, the release added.
The World Trade Organization recently undertook a trade policy review of China and identified severe and persistent excess capacity in the steel and aluminum sectors as one of several problems with the country’s trade regime.

Joe Biden won’t hold back concerns US has with China, says White House Press Secretary

Washington [US]: US President Joe Biden will hold a virtual summit with Chinese President Xi Jinping on Monday evening and the two leaders will confront tensions. Commenting on whether Monday’s meeting between the two leaders will concern over the border tensions with India, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki while responding to ANI said the US leader would “certainly discuss security-related issues.”
There has been no shortage of tension in the relationship in recent months as Biden has made clear he sees Beijing’s actions on a number of fronts as concerning. The President has criticised China for human rights abuses against ethnic minorities in northwest China, maritime issues, Taiwan, South China sea.
Speaking over it, Jen Psaki said: “Joe Biden will not hold back concerns the US has with China.”
Addressing a press briefing on Friday (local time), Psaki said that one of the purposes of this engagement is to also discuss areas where “there are strong concerns and disagreement”.
The meeting will be the third engagement between the two leaders since February. It comes after the US and China this week pledged at UN climate talks in Glasgow, Scotland to increase their cooperation and speed up action to rein in climate-damaging emissions.
“We are engaged first of all with members of Congress and on technical advisory providing technical assistance on legislation that’s currently working its way through Congress. But in addition to that, we have also taken measures on our own including visa restrictions, global Magnitsky and financial sanctions, export controls, import restrictions, the release of a business advisory and rallying the G7 to commit to take action to ensure all global supply chains are free from the use of forced labour,” she said.
Psaki said that there is likely to be no major resolutions as a result of the call. “I wouldn’t set the expectation … that this is intended to have major deliverables or outcomes,” Psaki said.
Biden and Xi have a history of face-to-face dealings stretching back more than a decade to when the two served as their respective countries’ vice-presidents. Pressed on Friday whether the two presidents’ personal relationship would impact Biden’s ability to press China to enact changes it has previously been unwilling to make, Psaki said that their history would instead allow Biden “to be quite candid”.
White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan and senior Chinese foreign policy adviser Yang Jiechi had come to an agreement on holding the Biden-Xi virtual summit by year’s end when they met last month for talks in Zurich but the two sides had not settled on a date.
The virtual meeting was proposed after Biden mentioned during a September phone call with the Chinese leader that he would like to be able to see Xi again, according to the White House.

Pakistan Army chief meets envoys of US, Russia, China after Troika Plus meeting

Islamabad [Pakistan]: Pakistani Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa on Friday discussed the situation in Afghanistan in separate meetings with the envoys of the United States, Russia, and China after the conclusion of the Troika Plus meet, reported local media.
The meetings took place at the General Headquarters in Rawalpindi, reported Geo TV citing the statement issued by Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR). Bajwa discussed the current situation in Afghanistan and the matters of “mutual interest” during the three meetings, reported the news channel citing the media wing of the Pakistani military.
The army chief talked about the need for global convergence on Afghanistan to prevent the deepening of the humanitarian crisis.
Earlier, the representative of the Troika Plus format urged the Taliban to cut ties with all terrorist groups and deprive them of the opportunity to act on Afghan territory.
The statement was issued after the Troika Plus meeting, comprising Russia, Pakistan, China, and the United States, was held in Islamabad on Thursday.
The four participants of the meeting “condemned in the strongest terms the recent terrorist attacks in Afghanistan and called on the Taliban to cut ties with all international terrorist groups, dismantle and eliminate them in a decisive manner, and to deny space to any terrorist organization operating inside the country,” the document read, as quoted by TASS news agency.

EU countries, US, UK calling for strong international reaction to Belarusian activities

New York [US]: Four EU member states that have seats in the UN Security Council – Estonia, France, Ireland and Norway – the United Kingdom and the United States, as well as Albania, have called for a strong international reaction to the Belarusian activities regarding the migration crisis on the border with Poland.
In a joint statement read out by Estonian Ambassador Sven Jurgenson in the UN Security Council, the countries accused Belarus of triggering a border migration crisis to exert pressure on the EU. “This tactic is unacceptable and calls for a strong international reaction and cooperation in order to hold Belarus accountable. It demonstrates how the [Belarusian President Alexander] Lukashenko regime has become a threat to regional stability. We call on the Belarusian authorities to stop these inhumane actions and not to put people’s lives at risk. International organisations need to be provided with immediate and unhindered access to people therein to deliver humanitarian assistance,” the joint statement read.
“The Belarusian authorities should understand that putting pressure on the European Union in this way, through a cynical instrumentalisation of migrants, will not succeed,” the statement added.

UN chief welcomes US-China declaration on enhancing climate action

New York [US]: UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Wednesday (local time) welcomed a US-China joint declaration on enhancing climate action at the Glasgow conference.
“I welcome today’s agreement between China and the USA to work together to take more ambitious #ClimateAction in this decade. Tackling the climate crisis requires international collaboration and solidarity, and this is an important step in the right direction. #COP26,” Guterres tweeted. China and the United States on Wednesday released the Joint Glasgow Declaration on Enhancing Climate Action in the 2020s at the ongoing 26th Session of the Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP26) in Glasgow.
The two sides pledged to continue working together and with all parties to strengthen the implementation of the Paris Agreement. They agreed to establish a working group on enhancing climate action in the 2020s to promote cooperation between the two countries and the multilateral processes.

US becomes 101st member of International Solar Alliance

New Delhi [India]: The United States on Wednesday became the 101st member country of the International Solar Alliance (ISA) to catalyze global energy transition through a solar-led approach.
“In a big boost to accelerate global adoption of solar energy, John Kerry, US Special Presidential Envoy for Climate announced at the UNFCCC COP26 that the United States of America (USA) has joined the International Solar Alliance (ISA) as a member country,” read Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change release. “We are happy to join the International Solar Alliance, which Prime Minister Narendra Modi took the lead in making,” said Kerry.
Union Minister for Environment, Forest and Climate Change, Bhupender Yadav said, that this move will “strengthen the ISA and propel future action on providing a clean source of energy to the world.”
“Happy that now the USA is formally a part of the ISA, a visionary initiative launched by PM Narendra Modi in 2015 at Paris COP. The number of countries who are now part of ISA is now 101”, tweeted Yadav.
“Move will strengthen the ISA and propel future action on providing a clean source of energy to the world,” added Yadav.
Dr. Ajay Mathur, Director General, the ISA said, “The US’ endorsement of ISA’s framework and approach is a heartening development, especially as our 101st member nation, which is a significant milestone in itself, demonstrating that nations across the world are recognizing the economic and climate mitigating value of solar, as well as this energy source’s potential as a catalyst for global energy transition,” added the release.
The launch of the ISA was announced by PM Modi and Francois Hollande, former President of France on November 30, 2015, at the 21st session of the United Nations Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP-21) in Paris.
Former UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon attended the launch, alongside the Heads of about 120 nations who affirmed their participation in the Alliance to dedicate efforts for the promotion of solar energy.
The framework was first circulated for countries’ support in 2016. The framework emphasizes delivering global relevance and local benefit to all countries through collaborations, with ISA’s key interventions focusing on readiness & enabling activities, risk mitigation & innovative financing instruments to facilitate the promotion and deployment of solar technologies in target markets, said the release.
The approach and methods detailed in the framework have already delivered results, with ISA building a solar project pipeline of nearly 5 GW installed capacity. The approach detailed in this framework will culminate in a vision for interconnected global grids, which was formalized and jointly launched as the ‘Green Grids Initiative – One Sun One World One Grid’ (GGI-OSOWOG), during the World Leaders Summit of the COP26 in Glasgow on 2nd November 2021 by the UK Presidency of COP26 and India Presidency of International Solar Alliance (ISA).
Earlier at COP26, the United States also joined the Steering Committee of the GGI-OSOWOG comprising of 5 members – USA, Australia, France, the United Kingdom, and India — and endorsed the One Sun Declaration along with 80 countries.
United States of America’s Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm had said that “the Grid-Sun combination will save the planet. The GGI-OSOWOG is focusing on the two most important pieces of the puzzle. We at the US Department of Energy are happy to be a partner with GGI-OSOWOG.”
US endorsement of the ISA framework follows remarks by Kerry at the Fourth General Assembly of ISA in October 2021, where he had said that ISA is critical to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and has an opportunity to accelerate Solar’s growth with member countries blessed with the world’s strongest sunlight.
Stating that Solar energy is at the heart of the urgent climate action, Kerry urged nations to take dramatic action to keep the 1.5-degree Celsius temperature rise and mid-century net zero emissions targets within reach.
The ISA is an inter-governmental treaty-based international organization with a global mandate to catalyze global solar growth by helping to reduce the cost of financing and technology for solar.

China does not respect US anymore, says Donald Trump

Washington [US]: Former US President Donald Trump has said that the Joe Biden administration is ineffective and China does not respect the US anymore, media reports stated.
President Biden had a telephonic conversation with Xi Jinping for the second time in September about which the White House clarified that the discussion was “part of the United States’ ongoing effort to responsibly manage the competition between the United States and the PRC,” reported Fox News. The White House said after the call that “the two leaders discussed the responsibility of both nations to ensure competition does not veer into conflict,” reported the news channel.
However, Trump said that he does not think that Biden’s administration is effective.
“I don’t think it is a good way to express it to China. It shows such weakness. We have shown such weakness,” Fox News quoted Trump as saying.
“China respected this country when I was president. China does not respect our country anymore. It is very sad,” Fox News quoted Trump as saying.
The former president further said that the message was not appropriate.
Donald Trump has said that he is “certainly” thinking about running for President in the 2024 election, but will “probably” wait until after the 2022 midterm elections to formally announce the same, reported local media.
“I am certainly thinking about it and we’ll see. I think a lot of people will be very happy, frankly, with the decision, and probably will announce that after the midterms,” Fox News quoted Trump as saying.
Trump called the timeline for the announcement “appropriate” and said that a lot of people are waiting for the decision to be made.
“It doesn’t mean I will. It’s probably appropriate, but a lot of people are waiting for that decision to be made,” Fox News quoted Trump as saying.

US special envoy expresses concern over surge in IS attacks in Afghanistan

Brussels [Belgium]: US Special Representative for Afghanistan Tom West on Monday (local time) said that Washington is worried about the spike in attacks by Islamic State in Afghanistan and remains concerned about al Qaeda’s presence in the country.
Newly appointed US special envoy spoke to reporters by telephone from Belgium, where he briefed NATO allies on the issues concerning Afghanistan, TOLOnews reported. He also held consultations on a “road map” toward recognition of the Taliban government after the US troop pullout in August.
“The Taliban have voiced very clearly and openly their desire to normalize relations with the international community, to see a resumption in aid, to see a return of the international diplomatic community to Kabul and to see sanctions relief,” he said. “The United States can deliver none of these things on our own.”
West has also said that he plans to visit India and Pakistan as part of his upcoming trip to Europe and Asia. “[Within] my upcoming travels, I do plan to visit Pakistan, Russia and India,” Sputnik quoted West as saying during a briefing.
The US Special Representative pointed out that he will be in Pakistan “later this week.”
The new US special representative for Afghanistan, Tom West, has started his first trip to Europe and Asia to discuss the issues concerning Afghanistan with international partners.
“I will be travelling to Europe and Asia starting today to discuss the way forward on Afghanistan with Allies and partners. The international community must act together to be effective,” US Special Representative tweeted on Sunday (local time).
“It is an honour to assume the role of US Special Representative for Afghanistan. I look forward to advancing America’s vital interests and supporting the Afghan people,” he said in another tweet.
Last month, Tom West assumed the office of the State Department’s Special Representative.

Kamala Harris to visit France to strengthen US alliances, partnerships in Europe

Washington [US]: US Vice President Kamala Harris on Monday (local time) said that she will head to Paris to strengthen United States’ alliances and partnerships in Europe and around the world, according to the White House.
Following the passage of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal, which will make America more competitive, Harris in the statement said that the US look forward to building on the progress by working with allies and partners to advance this Administration’s agenda–and our country’s interests–around the world. “Tonight, I will travel to France at the invitation of President Macron to build on our Administration’s progress strengthening our alliances and partnerships in Europe and around the world,” she said in a statement.
Further in the statement, Harris said that she will join leaders at the Paris Peace Forum to address the rising inequality that has been exacerbated by the pandemic.
“To promote security and stability in cyberspace, I will participate in a high-level meeting on the Paris Agenda for Technology and the Digital Domain. And to demonstrate our strong support for the people of Libya as they plan for elections later this year, I will attend the Paris Conference on Libya,” she said.
The Vice President also said that the alliance between the United States and France is America’s oldest, and among our strongest. “I look forward to discussing with President Macron our work together on the most urgent challenges of our time –including the climate crisis, the global health crisis, and regional security concerns. We will also discuss new opportunities for collaboration in the area of space.”

“It is fitting that the trip coincides with Armistice Day and Veterans Day. During World War I, and throughout our history, members of the United States and French armed forces fought side by side in defense of freedom. The courage and commitment of our military service members is a source of national pride and gratitude. We honour their sacrifice by continuing the work–bilaterally and multilaterally–to build a better and more peaceful future,” she said.
“I am departing for France on the heels of important progress for the American people, following passage of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal which will make America more competitive. And I look forward to building on our progress here at home by working with our allies and partners to advance this Administration’s agenda–and our country’s interests–around the world,” Harris further said.

The Great Resignation

By Kshvid News Desk with inputs from agencies

The term “Great Resignation” refers to the widespread trend of a large number of workers quitting their jobs during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Big Quit is another name for it. The Great Resignation is typically discussed in terms of the US labour force, but the phenomenon is global.

In July 2021, 4 million Americans resigned from their jobs, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. Resignations peaked in April and have remained unusually high for several months, with 10.9 million available jobs at the end of July, a new high. In the face of such a tidal flood of resignations, how can employers keep their employees?

“We tend to ponder about death and contemplate whether we are content with our lives or whether we would like to make changes when we come into contact with life-threatening events,” said Anthony Klotz, a management professor at Texas A&M University who created the phrase “Great Resignation.”

“The pandemic caused [people] to take stock of their lives and allowed them to reimagine them,” says the author.

Several surveys have revealed that many others are still considering it. One survey, conducted by Morning Consult for Prudential in mid-September, revealed that 46% of full-time employed persons in the United States are actively looking for or considering a new job. Experts predict that the cultural shift dubbed the “Great Resignation,” will have a long-term impact on the workplace.

Some may have sought a professional break because of pandemic-related burnout, while others may have sought more purpose and meaning in their work, and still, others may have just desired a bigger salary or the ability to work remotely at least part of the time.

Understanding the origins of these alarming figures is the first step toward addressing them. We conducted an in-depth review of more than 9 million employee records from more than 4,000 firms to determine who has been driving this recent movement. Employees from a wide range of industries, functions, and degrees of expertise were included in this worldwide dataset, which found two key trends:

  • Resignation rates are highest among mid-career employees

Between 2020 and 2021, employees between the ages of 30 and 45 experienced the biggest increase in resignation rates, with an average increase of more than 20%. While younger employees are more likely to leave, our research indicated that resignations among workers in the 20 to 25 age bracket fell over the last year (likely due to a combination of their greater financial uncertainty and reduced demand for entry-level workers). 

Employees in the 60 to 70 age group likewise resigned at lower rates than in 2020, while those in the 25 to 30 and 45+ age groups resigned at slightly greater rates than in 2020. (but not as significant an increase as that of the 30-45 group).

There are a few elements that may explain why these mid-level employees have accounted for the majority of the resignations. To begin with, the change to remote work has probably made companies believe that hiring people with less experience is riskier than usual, because new employees won’t receive in-person training and coaching. This would increase demand for mid-career employees, providing them more bargaining power when looking for new jobs.

It’s also plausible that many of these mid-level staff have been putting off moving out of their jobs owing to the pandemic’s uncertainty, indicating that the increase we’ve witnessed in recent months is the product of more than a year’s worth of resignations.

Of course, after months of high workloads, hiring freezes, and other pressures, many of these individuals may have simply hit a breaking point, forcing them to reconsider their work and life goals.

  • Resignations are highest in the tech and health care industries.

We also discovered significant disparities in turnover rates among organisations in other industries. While resignations in some industries, such as manufacturing and banking, have decreased marginally, 3.6 per cent more healthcare workers have left their employment than the previous year, and resignations in technology have grown by 4.5 per cent. Employees who worked in fields that had witnessed dramatic increases in demand as a result of the pandemic had higher resignation rates, which likely led to greater workloads and burnout.

Improving Retention Requires a Data-Driven Approach from Employers.

These patterns emphasise the significance of using data to determine not only how many employees are quitting, but who has the biggest turnover risk, why individuals are quitting, and what can be done to prevent it. Every organization’s details will vary, but three actions can assist any business better harness data to boost employee retention:

  • Quantify the problem

It’s vital to evaluate both the scope of the problem and its impact before you can figure out what’s causing your company’s turnover. To begin, use the following formula to get your retention rate:

Turnover Rate = Number of Separations per Year by Average Total Number of Employees

Similar formulae can be used to determine how much of your turnover is due to voluntary resignations versus layoffs or firings. This will assist you in gaining visibility into the source of your retention issue.

Next, figure out how resignations affect critical business KPIs. When individuals leave a business, the surviving teams are frequently left without crucial talents or resources, which has a detrimental impact on everything from work quality and completion time to bottom-line revenue. To acquire a whole picture of the costs of resignations, it’s critical to analyse how higher turnover connects with changes in other key variables.

For example, a trucking firm with which I worked discovered that a seemingly little increase in turnover owing to a nationwide driver shortage was costing them millions of dollars in hiring and training resources. Quantifying the problem aided leaders in gaining the necessary internal buy-in to solve it as well as making educated decisions about which types of retention initiatives would be most effective.

  • Identify the root causes

Once you’ve determined the extent of your retention issue, you’ll need to do a thorough data analysis to figure out what’s truly causing your employees to leave. Consider what circumstances may be causing increasing resignation rates. Metrics like remuneration, duration between promotions, pay raise size, tenure, performance, and training opportunities can all help you uncover trends and blind spots in your company. To better understand how work experiences and retention rates change across different employee populations, you can segment employees by categories such as location, function, and other demographics.

This analysis can help you determine not only which employees are most likely to depart, but also which individuals are most likely to be retained through focused interventions. After conducting thorough research, the trucking company discovered that drivers with less experience and a remote supervisor were considerably more likely to resign than those with greater experience and in-person support.

  • Create customised retention programmes

You can start creating highly personalised programmes geared at resolving the exact difficulties that your business struggles with now that you’ve discovered the fundamental reasons for turnover. If you notice that people of colour are departing your company at a higher rate than their white counterparts, a DEI-focused approach may be necessary. If you notice a strong link between time between promotions and high resignation rates, it may be time to reconsider your advancement practices.

Importantly, you may realise during this process that you are unable to make these kinds of data-driven decisions due to a lack of appropriate data infrastructure. Investing in an organised, user-friendly system for recording and evaluating the metrics that will guide your retention efforts is one higher-level intervention that may be required before you can begin any sort of targeted marketing.

It’s not easy to implement a data-driven retention plan, but it’s well worth the effort, especially in the current market. Even in the face of heavy competition from other employers, the trucking company I worked with experienced a 10% reduction in driver resignations after adopting a targeted retention campaign based on a careful study of key variables. You’ll be able to attract top people, minimise turnover expenses, and ultimately establish a more engaged and effective workforce with improved visibility into both the severity of your turnover problem and the core causes that drive it.

#great #resignation #economy #jobloss #unemployment #usa

Reliance Industries subsidiary signs agreement to sell assets in Eagleford shale play of Texas, USA

Mumbai (Maharashtra) [India]: Reliance Industries Limited (RIL) owned step-down subsidiary Reliance Eagleford Upstream Holding, LP (REUHLP) on Monday announced the signing of agreements with Ensign Operating III, LLC for the sale of its upstream assets in the Eagleford shale play of Texas in the United States of America (USA).
As per the RIL press release, with this transaction, Reliance has divested all its shale gas assets and has exited from the shale gas business in North America. “A Purchase and Sale Agreement (PSA) has been signed between REUHLP and Ensign
on November 5, 2021 for this sale. The sale is at a consideration higher than current carrying value of the assets,” the release read.
The Citigroup Global Markets, Inc. acted as the financial advisor to Reliance and Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP served as its legal counsel.

Samsung Electronics is chasing Apple in the US smartphone market

Seoul [South Korea]: Samsung Electronics has narrowed the gap with Apple in the US smartphone market in the third quarter of this year.
According to market research firm Counterpoint Research on the 5th, Samsung Electronics had the market share of 35%, up 5%p year-on-year. It is the largest quarterly share since the first quarter of last year (32%). Apple’s market share in the third quarter was 42%, up 3%p year-on-year. However, the market share gap between second-ranked Samsung Electronics narrowed from 9%p to 7%p.
Considering that Apple launched iPhone 13 series in September, Samsung Electronics’ third-quarter market share is better than expectations. It is analyzed that strong sales of foldable phones Galaxy Z-Fold 3 and Z-Flip 3, which were released by Samsung Electronics in August, had a positive effect on the expansion of market share.
“Apple’s iPhone 13 accounted for 17% of total U.S. sales in the third quarter despite recent supply disruptions,” Jeff Fieldhack, an analyst of the Counterpoint Research. “Samsung Electronics recently successfully released its foldable phone series and increased sales of low-priced 5G phones with Galaxy A32 5G models.

US stands with people of Myanmar as they strive to restore democracy: Blinken

Washington [US]: The United States stands with the people of Myanmar as they strive to restore the path to democracy and human rights in their country, said US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Monday.
Taking to Twitter, Blinken said, “One year ago, Burma held elections that reflected the Burmese people’s commitment to democracy. Today, we stand with and honor them, including the more than 1,300 who have lost their lives, as they strive to restore the path to democracy and human rights in their country.” Meanwhile, in a statement, the US Department of State reiterated the call for the military regime immediately to cease violence, release all those unjustly detained.
“One year ago, Burma held multiparty elections to select a new government. Independent observers reported that the elections, despite some concerns, were credible and reaffirmed the commitment of the Burmese people to democracy,” read the statement.
“The military’s coup on February 1 sought to overthrow the will of the people and erase the outcome of that credible election. The military’s subsequent and ongoing violent crackdown has further undermined human rights and fundamental freedoms and reversed a decade of progress toward a genuine democracy that the people of Burma clearly sought and still seek,” the statement said.
“The United States is committed to promoting justice and accountability for these and other abuses by the regime. Today, we reiterate our call for the military regime immediately to cease violence, release all those unjustly detained, and return Burma’s path to a genuine and inclusive democracy,” the statement added.
Myanmar is in turmoil since the coup on February 1, when the Myanmar military led by Senior General Ming Aung Hlaing overthrew the civilian government and declared a year-long state of emergency.
The coup triggered mass protests and was met by deadly violence throughout the country.

US reopens land, air borders to foreign visitors fully vaccinated against COVID-19 from today

Washington [US]: After 20 months of travel restrictions, the US is reopening its land and air borders to foreign visitors fully vaccinated against COVID-19 from Monday.
The United States is flinging its doors wide open to vaccinated international travellers on Monday, welcoming many visitors who’ve been shut out of the country for 20 months, reported CNN. The United States is largely wide open, although there are some state and local restrictions that still apply.
For example, there are mask mandates in Hawaii, Illinois, New Mexico, Nevada, Oregon and Washington. Washington, DC and Puerto Rico also require masks in indoor public spaces.
In some cities, including New York and San Francisco, there are vaccine requirements for indoor public spaces including restaurants, reported CNN.
Hawaii, which had some of the strictest entry requirements in the US, will now align with the new federal rules for international air travel. Although capacity restrictions in the state are easing, there are still some limits in place.
Getting vaccinated is the key requirement for the vast majority of international travellers hoping to enter the United States, reported CNN.
Children under 18 are exempt from the vaccination requirement. The CDC has the full slate of air travel requirements on its website.
Travellers must meet CDC criteria for being “fully vaccinated.” Paper and digital documentation are acceptable. Airlines are responsible for gathering and verifying this information from air travellers.
Air travellers also need a negative COVID-19 test. Testing is required of all fully vaccinated air travellers ages 2 and up, regardless of nationality. Passengers are required to test negative for COVID-19 within three days of their flight’s departure for the United States.
Unvaccinated Americans and a very limited number of unvaccinated international travellers exempted from the vaccination requirement must test within one day of departing for the US.
Many airlines have mobile apps and portals on their websites where vaccination and testing information can be processed digitally, reported CNN.
Customs and Border Protection anticipates an increase in travel volumes and wait times at land and ferry crossings and is encouraging travellers to have their identification and vaccination documents ready. The agency also encourages travellers to use its CBP One app.
Staffing levels will be at pre-Covid levels, according to CBP, but the agency will be balancing multiple priorities.
“Trade and travel facilitation remain a priority,” a Department of Homeland Security Q&A about the new policy says. “However, we cannot compromise national security which is our primary mission.”
Digital and paper documentation is acceptable for proof of vaccination, and vaccine cards do not need to be in English.
Travellers should be prepared to attest to their vaccination status and reason for travel. They should also be prepared to show proof of being fully vaccinated if requested by a CBP officer.
Children under 18 travelling with vaccinated adults are exempt from the vaccination requirement.
Covid tests are not required at land and ferry crossings. The web of rules and requirements to travel internationally right now is undeniably tangled, reported CNN.
US health authorities have said all vaccines approved by the US Food and Drug Administration and the World Health Organization would be accepted for entry by air.
At the moment, this includes the AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson, Moderna, Pfizer/BioNTech, Covaxin, Sinopharm and Sinovac vaccines.

Pentagon report confirms China intruded in Arunachal Pradesh, Congress asks PM Modi to withdraw clean chit

New Delhi [India]: Congress national spokesperson Pawan Khera on Saturday asked Prime Minister Narendra Modi to withdraw the “clean chit” given to China that it has not intruded in Arunachal Pradesh since a report given by the Pentagon to the US Congress confirmed that the country has intruded 4.5 km within the territory of Arunachal Pradesh.
The Congress spokesperson has further asked the Prime Minister to issue an apology and give a deadline to the country when the status quo ante of April 2020 would be restored across all our borders with China. “According to the 152-page report Military and Security Developments involving the People’s Republic of China 2021 given by the Pentagon to US Congress, it has been confirmed that China has intruded 4.5 km within Arunachal Pradesh’s territory and has constructed a village,” said Khera while addressing the media.
“Today is the time PM Modi should take back the clean chit given to China that it has not intervened in Arunachal Pradesh. We need an apology from the Prime Minister for misleading the world that China has not entered the territory,” he added.
“The Prime Minister must withdraw the clean chit and give a deadline to the country when the status quo ante of April 2020 will be restored across all our borders with China,” he added.
He said, “In June 2020, BJP Lok Sabha MP from Arunachal Pradesh, Tapir Gao had written letters to the Prime Minister, Defence Minister, Foreign minister, and also raised the issue in parliament, warning the country about the transgression by China into Arunachal Pradesh.”
“That clean chit is being used by China across the world. Because it has come by none other than the Prime Minister, China has been emboldened by this clean chit. Not just, Arunachal Pradesh, Ladakh, Ghogra, Depsang, Gogra Hot Springs, Daulat Beg Oldi, the PLA has also entered Uttarakhand,” he added.
Khera said, “According to the report, across the LAC they have constructed several villages and these are dual-purpose villages. These villages not only have a civilian population residing but also these villages will act as cantonments for the Chinese army. It has 101 structures, some of which are multistorey structures.”
“All this is happening to protect the ‘macho’ image that has been created for PM Modi since 2013,” he said hitting at the Prime Minister.

Bharat Biotech’s partner seeks Covaxin approval in US for children below 18 years

New Delhi [India] ): Bharat Biotech’s US partner Ocugen has announced that it had asked the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for Emergency Use Authorisation (EUA) of Covaxin for children below 18.
“We are pleased to announce our EUA filing to the US-Food and Drug Administration (FDA) through our partners- Ocugen,” tweeted Dr Raches Ella, Bharat Biotech’s clinical lead for Covid-19 vaccines. The World Health Organisation (WHO) on Wednesday granted approval for Emergency Use Listing (EUL) for Bharat Biotech’s COVID-19 vaccine, Covaxin.
The approval was done on the recommendation of the Technical Advisory Group (TAG) for Emergency Use Listing (TAG-EUL), an independent advisory panel that provides recommendations to WHO on whether a COVID-19 vaccine can be listed for emergency use under the EUL procedure.
Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin and AstraZeneca and Serum Institute’s Covishield are the two widely used vaccines in India.

Blinken discusses escalation of tensions in Ethiopia with Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta

Washington [US]: US Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke to Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta and discussed regional security issues of mutual interest, including the situation in Ethiopia, State Department spokesperson Ned Price said on Friday.
“Secretary of State Antony J Blinken spoke with Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta today to discuss regional security issues of mutual interest, including the situation in Ethiopia. The Secretary thanked the President for his continued leadership to promote peace and prosperity in the region,” Price said in a statement. Meanwhile, the 15-membered United Nations Security Council (UNSC) have also expressed ‘deep concern about the expansion and intensification of military clashes in northern Ethiopia’ and urged the warring sides to negotiate a “lasting ceasefire”.
They further called to put an end to hostilities and to negotiate a lasting ceasefire, and for the creation of conditions for the start of an inclusive Ethiopian national dialogue to resolve the crisis and create the foundation for peace and stability throughout the country, read the press statement of UNSC.
The yearlong conflict between federal government troops and Tigrayan forces has killed thousands of people and displaced more than 2.5 million people.
The UN has said up to 7 million people in the regions of Tigray, Amhara and Afar need help, including 5 million in Tigray where some 400,000 people are estimated to be living in famine-like conditions.
The UNSC members expressed deep concern about the expansion and intensification of military clashes in northern Ethiopia. They further expressed serious concern about the impact of the conflict on the humanitarian situation in Ethiopia, as well as the stability of the country and the wider region.
Following some of the fiercest fighting of the conflict, Ethiopia soldiers fled Tigray’s capital, Mekelle, in June.
In recent weeks, the conflict has expanded beyond Tigray’s borders, into the neighbouring regions of Amhara and Afar.

China lodges protest with US over criticism of nuclear build-up

Beijing [China]: Beijing on Friday lodged a protest with Washington, over a Pentagon report on military development which claimed that China has expanded its nuclear force at a high pace.
“China has lodged solemn representations with the US over its groundless accusations about China’s nuclear arsenal in a Pentagon report and interference in China’s domestic affairs including Taiwan question,” said Wu Qian, spokesperson for China’s Ministry of National Defense. “The Pentagon report is full of bias and distorts China’s defence and military strategies to hype the “China threat,” Wu was quoted as saying by Global Times.
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,” the report added.
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 Pentagon.
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.
On Thursday, China Foreign Ministry said that the Pentagon report is full of prejudice and disregarded facts that claimed Beijing is rapidly expanding the number of its nuclear delivery platforms.
“US is hyping up China’s ‘nuclear threat’ is nothing but a trick to manipulate words and confuse the public,” said Chinese Foreign Ministry’s spokesperson Wang Wenbin.

US Senators propose aid package to support arms purchases by Taiwan

Washington [US]: Amid the increasing Chinese military aggression, several high ranking US senators have introduced the “Taiwan Deterrence Act,” to boost deterrence across the Taiwan Strait and strengthen its ability to defend against China’s coercion.
This legislation authorises USD 2 billion a year for Taiwan in Foreign Military Financing, subject to Taiwan meeting certain conditions, US Senate Committee on Foreign Relations said in a statement. The Taiwan Deterrence Act, proposed by Republican Senators Jim Risch, Mike Crapo, Bill Hagerty, Mitt Romney, John Cornyn and Marco Rubio, calls for amendment in the US Arms Export Control Act to better facilitate arms transfers to Taiwan.
It also calls for an annual assessment on Taiwan’s efforts to advance a credible defence strategy vis-a-vis China. “The defence of Taiwan is critical to the future peace and security of the entire Indo-Pacific region,” said Risch.
“This legislation authorizes USD 2 billion a year in Foreign Military Financing for Taiwan, but it is not a blank check. This funding is contingent on Taiwan’s commitment to further advance initiatives championed by President Tsai to build a credible defence. I look forward to working with my colleagues in Congress, the executive branch, and Taiwan on our shared vital interests in the Indo-Pacific.”
Adding to what Risch said, Crapo argued that China’s increasing efforts to militarily overwhelm Taiwan is a threat to international diplomacy and regional security.
“It is imperative to get asymmetric capabilities, training and readiness resources to Taiwan quickly so it can protect itself from China’s encroaching aggression in the Indo-Pacific region.”
Senator Romney further added that this legislation would ensure that the US continues to support Taiwan in its effort to counter Chinese aggression and coercion by bolstering our support of Taiwan’s defence capabilities.
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.
Chinese President Xi Jinping pledged to complete reunification with self-ruled Taiwan and vowed to smash any attempts at formal independence for the island.

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.

Talks with Beijing impossible if Chinese Communist Party continues to threaten Taiwan, says official

Taipei [Taiwan]: Amid the increased security threats from Beijing, Taiwan’s National Security Bureau (NSB) Chief Chen Ming-tong said talks with China would be impossible while the country continues to threaten Taiwan with force.
Chen’s comments came in response to the release of the US Department of Defence’s (DOD) China Military Power Report for 2021, which stated that China aims to match American military power in the Indo-Pacific by 2027, with the intention of forcing Taiwan to negotiate on its terms, Taiwan News reported. “Threats to intimidate Taipei to come to the negotiating table is a long-standing strategy of Beijing but it will not work,” Chen said.
Chen added that the NSB has been paying attention to this approach for a long time and that it continually monitors the situation to identify potential points in time when China may try to leverage this pressure to realise its goals, Taiwan News reported.
Meanwhile, when Chen was asked by reporters whether Taiwan has any recent intel regarding the DOD’s estimate that China plans to have more than 1,000 nuclear missiles in its arsenal by 2030, he answered in the affirmative.
Taiwan is a democracy of almost 24 million people located off the southeastern coast of mainland China. 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 have been repeatedly opposed by Beijing.
China has also 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.

Travellers vaccinated with Covaxin can now enter US

Washington [US]: Travellers fully vaccinated against COVID-19 with Covaxin have been given the green light to enter the US from November 8. Talking to ANI over updating the approved travel list for Covaxin, CDC press officer, Scott Pauley said, “CDC’s travel guidance applies to FDA approved or authorized and WHO Emergency Use Listing vaccines and encompasses any new vaccines that may be added to either of those lists over time.”
The last-minute addition comes less than one week before the US launches its new travel system, which grants entry to foreign travellers who have received a vaccine that has been approved for emergency use by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) or WHO.
The US Centers for Disease Control (CDC) on Wednesday acknowledged the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) granting emergency use listing (EUL) to India’s indigenous vaccine Covaxin, developed by Bharat Biotech.
The WHO said in a tweet that the Technical Advisory Group, convened by World Health Organisation (WHO), has determined that the Hyderabad-based Bharat Biotech’s COVID-19 vaccine meets WHO standards for protection against COVID-19.
“WHO has granted emergency use listing (EUL) to COVAXIN®[?] (developed by Bharat Biotech), adding to a growing portfolio of vaccines validated by WHO for the prevention of #COVID19,” WHO said in a tweet.
The new US travel rules will also accept travellers fully vaccinated with Pfizer-BioNTech, Johnson & Johnson, Moderna, Oxford-AstraZeneca, Covishield, Sinopharm and Sinovac.
Covaxin, developed by the Indian biotechnology company Bharat Biotech in partnership with the Indian Council of Medical Research, has a 78 per cent efficacy rate against COVID-19 and is “extremely suitable” for low- and middle-income countries because it is easy to store, according to WHO.

Amid rivalry with China, Biden calls for strengthen US ties with Indonesia

Jakarta [Indonesia]: In an attempt to increase engagement in South Asia, US President Joe Biden on Monday said he is looking forward to strengthening ties with Indonesia, one of China’s largest trading partners in the region.
Biden’s remarks came during his first in-person meeting with Indonesian President Joko Widodo on the sidelines of the UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) in Scotland, Radio Free Asia reported. “I’m looking forward to building more on our bilateral relationship because we have so much that we can work together on and so much in common,” Biden said.
“From addressing the climate crisis to ending the COVID-19 pandemic to upholding freedom of the seas, there’s no global challenge today that doesn’t benefit from Indonesia and the US working together,” Biden added.
The US and Indonesian presidents also talked about freedom of navigation, economic cooperation, the political crisis in Myanmar, and the coronavirus pandemic during their meeting on the sidelines of the event, Radio Free Asia reported.
In response to President Biden’s remarks, Joko said that “Indonesia would become a reliable partner to Washington,” and invited the US to invest in environmentally sustainable sectors in the archipelago nation.
“I’m looking forward to US support by investing in our energy transition, especially in low-carbon technology,” Joko was quoted as saying by Radio Free Asia.
The Biden administration has been making efforts to engage in the South Asian region as Beijing competes with Washington for economic influence in the region.
In October, US Trade Representative Katherine Tai during the US-China trade relationship had also lambasted Beijing for unfair trade policies and said that “Beijing’s lack of adherence to global trading norms has undercut the prosperity of the US and other countries in the world.”
Tai’s remarks came while she delivered remarks at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) outlining the Biden-Harris Administration’s new approach to the US-China bilateral trade relationship.
“For too long, China’s lack of adherence to global trading norms has undercut the prosperity of Americans and other countries around the world,” Tai said.

Japan PM, Biden agree to closely cooperate towards free, open Indo-Pacific

Glasgow [Scotland]: Japenese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and US President Joe Biden on Tuesday agreed to enhance the bilateral alliance and closely cooperate towards a free and open Indo-Pacific amid increasing Chinese activities in the region.
The two held talks on the sidelines of the COP26 Summit. After arriving in the Scottish city of Glasgow earlier Tuesday, Kishida had a brief conversation with Biden, according to the Japanese Foreign Ministry
The two agreed to continue to jointly deal with climate change issues as well as regional issues, apparently mindful of the challenges and threats posed by China and North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs, Kyodo News reported.
Kishida told reporters later in the day he agreed with Biden to meet again at the earliest date possible, which could be later this year, to have more “thorough” discussions.
The Japanese leader already had phone talks with Biden after being elected prime minister by parliament last month, but it was the first time that the two met in person while serving in their current positions.
The Indo-Pacific region is largely viewed as an area comprising the Indian Ocean and the western and central Pacific Ocean, including the South China Sea.
While Beijing claims sovereignty over almost the entire South China Sea and has overlapping territorial claims with Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Vietnam and Taiwan.
China’s territorial claims in the South China Sea and its efforts to advance into the Indian Ocean are seen to have challenged the established rules-based system.

US formally recommends Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine for children aged 5-11

Washington [US]: Following rigorous review and authorization process by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) on Tuesday (local time) has formally recommended the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine for children 5-11.
“Today, following a rigorous review and authorization process by the FDA, the CDC has formally recommended the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine for children 5-11. This is encouraging news, and a major step forward for our nation in our fight to defeat the virus,” tweeted US President Joe Biden. “It will allow parents to end months of anxious worrying about their kids, and reduce the extent to which children spread the virus to others,” read White House statement.
Over the last several weeks, the Biden administration has been working hard to be prepared for this moment.
“We are ready to act. We have already secured enough vaccine supply for every child in America, and over the past weekend, we began the process of packing and shipping out millions of pediatric vaccine doses. These doses — specially designed for these younger children — have started to arrive at thousands of locations across the country,” read the statement.
The program will ramp up over the coming days, and be fully up and running during the week of November 8. Parents will be able to bring their children to thousands of pharmacies, paediatrician’s offices, schools, and other sites to get vaccinated.
“Because of the groundwork we’ve laid, we can be confident that vaccinations for kids will be available, easy, and convenient,” added the statement.
More than 78 per cent of Americans age 12 and older have gotten at least one shot, including millions of teenagers — and the vaccines have proven to be incredibly safe and effective.

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