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Biden Proposes $33 Billion Package For Ukraine, Targets Russian Oligarchs

WASHINGTON, April 28: US President Joe Biden on Thursday proposed a huge $33 billion package for arming and supporting Ukraine, saying that "caving" in to Russia is not an option for the West as the war stretches into a third month.

Speaking in the White House, Biden also outlined proposed new laws to allow using luxury assets stripped from Russian oligarchs under unprecedented sanctions to compensate Ukraine for the destruction wreaked by the invading Russians.

He acknowledged the dramatic costs of US backing for Ukraine, but said there was no real choice in the struggle with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

"The cost of this fight is not cheap. But caving to aggression is going to be more costly if we allow it to happen," he said.

Reflecting the scale of the US assistance to Ukraine, which is badly mauling the larger and more heavily armed Russian forces, Biden confirmed that the United States has already sent 10 tank-killing weapons for every Russian tank sent into the country.

However, he pushed back against increasingly heated claims by Russian officials and state media that Moscow is fighting the entire West, rather than only Ukraine.

"We're not attacking Russia. We are helping Ukraine defend itself against Russian aggression," Biden said.

Calling rhetoric in Moscow about the possibility of nuclear warfare a sign of "desperation," Biden said "no one should be making idle comments about the use of nuclear weapons or the possibility that they would use that. It's irresponsible."

And after Russian state gas giant Gazprom announced it was cutting supplies to NATO and EU members Bulgaria and Poland, Biden said the United States was working to shore up European energy supplies.

"We will not let Russia intimidate or blackmail their way out of these sanctions. We will not allow them to use their oil and gas to avoid consequences for their aggression," Biden said.

The bulk of the proposed $33 billion package will be "$20 billion in military and other security assistance. This means weapons and ammunition flowing to the Ukrainian people," a senior US official told reporters.

A further $8.5 billion in economic aid will "help the government of Ukraine respond to the immediate crisis," while some $3 billion is proposed to fund humanitarian assistance and address the global food supply price shock resulting from Russia's onslaught against Ukraine, a major wheat exporter, the official said.

The proposed package also includes funding to address economic disruptions in the United States and elsewhere, ranging from the impact on food supplies to availability of critical components used in high-tech manufacturing.

Congress needs to approve the request and while both Republicans and Biden's Democratic Party have signalled they are keen to keep backing Ukraine, a dispute over Biden's request for an unrelated $22.5 billion Covid pandemic package threatens to complicate the approval process.

"I don't care how they do it, I'm sending both up," Biden said, but "we must also not let our guard down in our fight against Covid-19."

In parallel with Western military assistance -- which began cautiously with mostly defensive infantry weapons, but now includes heavy artillery and armed drones -- Washington is leading a sanctions onslaught designed to isolate Russia and pressure Putin.

Biden announced a proposal to ratchet up pressure on Putin's billionaire inner circle, with enhanced seizure and forfeiture procedures allowing oligarchs' assets to be "sold off" to "remedy the harm Russia caused and to help build Ukraine."

To date, European Union allies have frozen more than $30 billion in Russian assets, including almost $7 billion in luxury goods belonging to oligarchs, including yachts, art, real estate and helicopters, the White House said.

The United States has "sanctioned and blocked vessels and aircraft worth over $1 billion, as well as frozen hundreds of millions of dollars of assets belonging to Russian elites in US accounts," said the statement. One of the latest seizures was of a $90 million superyacht belonging to Russian billionaire Viktor Vekselberg.

The legislative package being proposed by Biden would also tighten the legal squeeze on oligarchs as they try to hide their funds.

One proposal is to allow seizing of property used to evade sanctions. Another is to expand the arsenal used by US prosecutors, doubling the amount of time they are allowed to pursue money laundering investigations from five to 10 years, and applying anti-racketeering laws used to tackle organized crime to sanctions evasion.

62-Year-Old Man Arrested For Shooting At New York Subway

NEW YORK, April 13: New York police have arrested a suspect accused of shooting 10 people on a packed subway car, authorities said Wednesday, following a day-long manhunt for the fugitive gunman.

Police had identified 62-year-old Frank James as the suspected gunman who detonated two smoke canisters as the train was pulling into a Brooklyn station, before firing 33 shots into the crowd.

"My fellow New Yorkers: we got him," Mayor Eric Adams told a news conference announcing the arrest.

James was spotted by officers on a Manhattan street, and arrested, said New York Police Department commissioner Keechant Sewell. He was taken into custody without incident and will be charged over Tuesday's attack, she added.

Video footage circulating on social media showed a man resembling James handcuffed and being placed into a police car.

No one was killed in the attack, which also left 13 others injured as they scrambled to get out of the station or suffered smoke inhalation. None of the victims suffered life-threatening injuries.

James had posted several videos on YouTube of himself delivering long, sometimes aggressive political tirades. His page was taken down later Wednesday for "violating YouTube's Community Guidelines."

In his videos he also criticized New York's mayor.

James' sister, Catherine James Robinson, told The New York Times that she was "surprised" to see him named as a suspect, adding: "I don't think he would do anything like that."

She said she had had little contact with her brother for years, according to the newspaper, and she contradicted one detail given by police: they had said the shooter was around five feet five inches, but she said James was over six feet tall.

The 36th Street station in Brooklyn, where the train arrived as the attack was being carried out, was heavily patrolled by police on Wednesday as travelers waited for their trains.

India too has concerns over human rights violations in US: Jaishankar

WASHINGTON, April 13: In the wake of secretary of state Antony J Blinken saying the United States (US) is monitoring cases of increased human rights abuses by Indian government, police and prison officials, external affairs minister S Jaishankar has said that human rights issues were not discussed in bilateral dialogue, hinted that “interests, lobbies and votebanks” had driven the US position, pointed to human rights violations in the US itself, and claimed that India would not be reticent about the issue.

Jaishankar also flagged the issue of a case on Tuesday, when two Indian-American Sikh men were assaulted in an alleged hate crime in New York.

Saying that the issue of human rights had come up in the past - including during Blinken’s visit to India last year - Jaishankar said, “We did not discuss human rights in this meeting. This meeting was focused on pol-mil (political-military) issues.”

He added, “People are entitled to their views about us. But we are equally entitled to have views about their views and about the interests and lobbies and votebanks that drive that. Whenever there is a discussion, we will not be reticent about speaking out.”

India, it is understood, believes that Blinken’s comment - which was one sentence in a fairly expansive set of positive remarks about the relationship - was driven by the Democratic administration’s need to cater to its “domestic constituency”. These include a set of progressive lawmakers, Muslim groups and human rights organisations.

The minister said India also had views about the human rights situation, including in the US. “We take up human rights issues when they arise in this country, especially when it pertains to our community. We had a case yesterday. That’s really where we stand on that matter.”

23 people injured after gunman fired 33 bullets in New York subway

NEW YORK, April 13: Police mounted an intense manhunt Tuesday for a gunman who set off two smoke bombs and opened fire in a New York subway car in Brookly subway, injuring 23 people in a morning rush-hour attack that prompted new calls to fight a surge of violence in the city’s transit system. Police said the gunman was believed to have acted alone and immediately fled the crime scene.

A gunman in a gas mask and construction vest set off a smoke grenade and fired a barrage of at least 33 bullets in a rush-hour subway train. Police were scouring the city for the shooter and trying to track down the renter of a van possibly connected to the violence.

Ten people were hit directly by gunfire, including five hospitalised in critical but stable condition, authorities said. Police said 13 more people suffered from smoke inhalation or were otherwise injured in the chaos as panicked riders fled the smoke-filled subway car. All of the victims were expected to survive their injuries, police said.

Sitting in the back of the train’s second car, the gunman tossed two smoke grenades on the floor, pulled out a Glock 9 mm semi-automatic handgun and started firing, said Chief of Detectives James Essig. He said the police found the weapon, along with extended magazines, a hatchet, detonated and undetonated smoke grenades, a black garbage can, a rolling cart, gasoline and the key to a U-Haul van.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority which is responsible for transportation in the New York City area announced last year that it had installed security cameras in all 472 subway stations citywide. But cameras weren't working at three stations where police went to look for evidence Tuesday, Chief of Detectives James Essig said.

MTA system chief Janno Lieber told TV interviewers he didn't know why the cameras malfunctioned.

As police searched for the shooter, Gov. Kathy Hochul warned New Yorkers to be vigilant. "This individual is still on the loose. This person is dangerous," Hochul said.

At least 23 were injured, five critically, in an attack at the 36th Street subway stop in Sunset Park after a man released two smoke grenades and started shooting. The following graphic card from the New York Times explains how the attack unfolded.

2 Sikh Men Attacked In Alleged Hate Crime In New York

NEW YORK, April 13: Two Sikh men were assaulted in an alleged hate crime incident in Richmond Hills area of New York, US, on Tuesday. The Consulate General of India in New York has condemned the assault, terming it "deplorable," and said they were in touch with the police who are investigating this incident.

One person has been arrested in connection with the crime, it said.

The attack on the two men - who were on an early morning walk - reportedly took place at the same location where a member of the community was attacked nearly 10 days ago.

According to local media reports, two suspects hit the men with a pole and removed their turbans.

New York Attorney General Letitia James, condemning the attack, tweeted: "Another hateful attack against our Sikh community in Richmond Hill. Both individuals who were responsible must be brought to justice. Anyone with information about this should immediately contact @NYPDnews."

NY State Assemblywoman Jenifer Rajkumar, the first Punjabi American ever elected to New York State Office, said that there has been an "alarming 200% rise in hate crimes against the Sikh community in recent years".

"I spoke to the NYPD soon after both of this week's incidents against my Sikh American family. I am calling for both incidents to be investigated as hate crimes, and that the perpetrators be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law," Ms Rajkumar said in a statement.

"We will educate all on Sikh culture so that everyone know as I do the generosity and kindness embedded in the Sikh American community," Ms Rajkumar, who is a former Director of Immigration for NY State, added.

The attack happened "very close" to the area where am elderly Sikh man was punched in an unprovoked assault on April 3.

The attack on the two individuals came on the same day as the shooting on a Brooklyn subway that injured 16 people, 10 of whom received gun shot wounds and left five other in critical but stable condition.

In January this year, a Sikh taxi driver was assaulted at JFK International Airport, with the attacker allegedly calling him "turbaned people" and asking him to "go back to your country".

Biden, Modi to continue 'close consultation' on Russian war in Ukraine

NEW DELHI, April 11: President Joe Biden said on Monday that the US and India are going to "continue our close consultation" on how to manage the destabilising effects of this Russian war in Ukraine as he held a virtual meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi to further deepen ties between the two countries.

"I'm looking forward to our discussions today. Mr Prime Minister (Modi), our continued consultation and dialogue are key to ensuring the US and India relationship continues to go deeper and stronger delivering our people and our global good that we all are seeking to manage particularly in your part of the world," Biden said in his opening remarks.

The meeting comes at a time when the crisis in Ukraine has worsened and a White House statement on Sunday said that President Biden will continue "our close consultations on the consequences of Russia's brutal war against Ukraine and mitigating its destabilising impact" on global food supply and commodity markets.

"I want to welcome India's humanitarian support for the people in Ukraine who are suffering a horrific assault, including a tragic shelling in a train station last week that killed dozens of innocent children and women and civilians attempting to flee the violence," Biden said seated at the head of a round table in the South Court Auditorium of the White House.

Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and External Affairs Minister Dr S Jaishankar were seated to his left, while Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin were on his right.

India's Ambassador to the US, Taranjit Singh Sandhu, and National Security Advisor, Jake Sullivan were also seated in the room. The United States and India are going to "continue our close consultation on how to manage the destabilising effects of this Russian war," he said.

"And we share a strong and growing major defence partnership. At the root of our partnership is a deep connection between our people, ties of family of friendship and of shared values, Biden said. The virtual meeting comes in the midst of some disquiet in Washington over India's position on the Ukraine crisis as well as its decision to procure discounted Russian oil.

Describing India and the US as two "vibrant democracies", Biden said: "We take the same concerns about the global challenges we face with COVID-19, advancing health security and tracking the climate crisis. And we share a strong and growing major defence partnership. Biden told Modi that he was looking forward to seeing him in Japan on 24th May, referring to the upcoming Quad summit.

6 Dead, 10 Injured In California Shooting: Police

SAN FRANCISCO, April 3: At least six people were killed and 10 others wounded in a shooting in the California state capital of Sacramento early Sunday, police said.

A video posted online showed people scuffling in the street, then starting to run as gunfire can be heard. The footage could not be verified.

Police said no arrests had been made and the scene remained "active."

"It was just horrific," said community activist Barry Accius, who arrived minutes after the shooting.

"Just as soon as I walked up you saw a chaotic scene, police all over the place, victims with blood all over their bodies, folks screaming, folks crying, people going, 'Where is my brother?' Mothers crying and trying to identify who their child was," he told local broadcaster KXTV.

The shooting happened around 2am in the downtown area, just blocks from the state capitol and close to the venue where the NBA's Sacramento Kings play.

The Sacramento Bee newspaper reported there was broken glass and police investigation markers strewn over two blocks.

Sacramento City police urged members of the public to avoid the area, saying in a tweet that a large police presence would remain at the crime scene.

Sacramento Police Chief Kathy Lester told reporters that officers on patrol nearby had rushed to the area after hearing gunshots.

"We had a large crowd in the area. We don't know if it was part of a club or an event," she said.

Lester said six people had died and another 10 had been taken to hospital with injuries. No one was being held in custody, she said.

Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg said it was difficult to find the right words to describe the tragedy.

"The numbers of dead and wounded are difficult to comprehend," he said.

"We await more information about exactly what transpired in this tragic incident rising gun violence is the scourge of our city, state and nation, and I support all actions to reduce it."

It is the latest mass casualty shooting in the United States, where firearms are involved in approximately 40,000 deaths a year, including suicides, according to the Gun Violence Archive website.

Lax gun laws and the right to bear arms have repeatedly stymied attempts to clamp down on the number of weapons in circulation, despite greater controls being favored by the majority of Americans.

Three-quarters of all homicides in the US are committed with guns, and the number of pistols, revolvers and other firearms sold continues to rise.

More than 23 million guns were sold in 2020 -- a record -- on top of 20 million in 2021, according to data compiled by website Small Arms Analytics.

That number does not include "ghost" guns, which are sold disassembled, lack serial numbers, and are highly prized in criminal circles.

In June 2021, 30 percent of American adults said they owned at least one gun, according to a Pew survey.

Imran Khan no longer PM, notifies Pakistan government amid political slugfest

ISLAMABDAD, April 3: Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf leader Imran Khan is officially no longer the prime minister of the country, Hindustan Times quoted the latest circular issued by the Pakistan government.

"Consequent upon the dissolution of Pakistan Assembly by the President of Pakistan in terms of Article 58(1) read with Article 48(1) of the constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan vide Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs, dated 3rd April 2022, Imran Ahmed Khan Niazi ceased to hold the office of the Prime Minister of Pakistan, with immediate effect," the government statement read.

With the Cabinet secretary's note, it is now clear that Khan is no longer the prime minister and Pakistan is run by the bureaucracy.

The new development arrived hours after President Arif Alvi dissolved the National Assembly on the PTI chief's advice. Also, on April 3, deputy Speaker Qasim Suri rejected a no-confidence motion against the Imran Khan government.

Meanwhile, the opposition has declared PML-N leader Shehbaz Sharif as the prime minister, who has the support of 195 members. Apart from this, the opposition also appointed Ayaz Sadiq as the speaker who re-validated the no-confidence motion against the Imran Khan government.

Earlier, the opposition filed a petition in the apex court against the dissolution of the Assembly, which was adjourned till Monday after Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial said that all orders and actions initiated by the prime minister and the president regarding the dissolution of the National Assembly will be subject to the court's order.

Pakistan Army has quashed the allegations of its role in the political events unfolding in Islamabad. "Army has nothing to do with the political process," Major General Babar Iftikhar. In Pakistan's history, no prime minister has completed a full term till now.

 

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