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6 Killed In Shooting At US Walmart Store, Gunman Dead Too

WASHINGTGON, Nov 23: An attacker shot and killed at least six people at a Walmart late Tuesday in the US state of Virginia, police said, adding the single shooter suspect is also dead.

The mass shooting in the city of Chesapeake comes just before Americans celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday and follows a weekend gun attack at an LGBTQ club in Colorado that left five people dead.

"Chesapeake Police confirm 7 fatalities, including the shooter, from last night's shooting at Walmart on Sam's Circle," the city confirmed on its Twitter account.

Chesapeake Police Department officer Leo Kosinski had earlier told reporters that there had been "multiple fatalities" at the megastore, which local media reported was busy with holiday shoppers.

Emergency calls were first made just after 10:00 pm Tuesday (0300 GMT Wednesday) while the store was still open, with rapid response officers and tactical teams entering "immediately" after arriving on the scene, Kosinski said.

Local media reported that witnesses said the shooting began at the back of the store and that at least five wounded had been rushed to the hospital.

Police did not provide any details about the suspected shooter's identity or how the assailant died.

"We believe it is a single shooter and that single shooter is dead at this time," Kosinski said, adding he did not believe any shots had been fired by police.

In the hours afterwards, news footage showed a major police presence around the Walmart, which is located about 150 miles (240 kilometers) southeast of the US capital Washington.

Kosinski said officers and investigators were carefully sweeping the store and securing the area.

Walmart, the largest retailer in the United States, issued a statement early Wednesday saying: "We are shocked at this tragic event."

The company added that it was "praying for those impacted, the community and our associates. We're working closely with law enforcement, and we are focused on supporting our associates."

Virginia state Senator Louise Lucas, who represents the Chesapeake region, said she was "absolutely heartbroken that America's latest mass shooting took place... in my district."

"I will not rest until we find the solutions to end this gun violence epidemic in our country that has taken so many lives," she wrote on Twitter.

Saudi Crown Prince Immune From Jamal Khashoggi Murder Suit, US Recommends

WASHINGTON, Nov 18: The US government recommended on Thursday that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was immune from legal action over the 2018 murder of a dissident journalist, according to court documents.

Prince Mohammed was named prime minister by royal decree in late September, sparking suggestions he was looking to skirt exposure in cases filed in foreign courts -- including a civil action brought in the United States by Hatice Cengiz, fiancee of killed columnist Jamal Khashoggi.

The killing four years ago of Khashoggi, a Saudi insider-turned-critic, in the kingdom's Istanbul consulate temporarily turned Prince Mohammed -- widely known as MBS -- into a pariah in the West.

His lawyers previously argued that he "sits at the apex of Saudi Arabia's government" and thus qualifies for the kind of immunity US courts afford foreign heads of state and other high-ranking officials.

The US government had until Thursday to offer an opinion on that matter, if it chose to offer one at all. Its recommendation is not binding on the court.

"The United States respectfully informs the Court that Defendant Mohammed bin Salman, the Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, is the sitting head of government and, accordingly, is immune from this suit," read the submission to the US District Court for the District of Columbia, from the administration of President Joe Biden.

But it added that "the Department of State takes no view on the merits of the present suit and reiterates its unequivocal condemnation of the heinous murder of Jamal Khashoggi."

The recommendation sparked fury from Cengiz as well as among supporters of her action, including representatives of Democracy for the Arab World Now (DAWN), the US-based NGO that Khashoggi founded.

"Jamal died again today," Cengiz tweeted.

"It wasn't a decision everyone expected. We thought maybe there would be a light to justice from #USA But again, money came first."

"The Biden admin went out of its way to recommend immunity for MBS and shield him from accountability," said DAWN's executive director Sarah Leah Whitson.

"Now that Biden has declared he's got total impunity, we can expect MBS's attacks against people in our country to escalate even further."

Agnes Callamard, secretary general of Amnesty International, called the recommendation a "deep betrayal."

Prince Mohammed, who has been the kingdom's de facto ruler for several years, previously served as deputy prime minister as well as defence minister under his father King Salman.

After a period of relative isolation following the Khashoggi killing, he was welcomed back on the world stage this year, notably by Biden, who travelled to Saudi Arabia in July despite an earlier pledge to make the kingdom a "pariah."

Thursday's recommendation gave the leader "a license to kill," said Khalid al-Jabri, son of Saad al-Jabri, a former Saudi spymaster who has accused the prince of sending a hit squad to try to kill him in Canada.

"After breaking its pledge to punish MBS for Khashoggi's assassination, the Biden administration has not only shielded MBS from accountability in US courts, but rendered him more dangerous than ever with a license to kill more detractors without consequences," he said.

Last year, Biden declassified an intelligence report that found Prince Mohammed had approved the operation against Khashoggi, an assertion Saudi authorities deny.

In the civil case, brought by Cengiz and DAWN, the plaintiffs allege that Prince Mohammed and more than 20 co-defendants, "acting in a conspiracy and with premeditation, kidnapped, bound, drugged, tortured, and assassinated" Khashoggi, a columnist with the Washington Post.

They seek punitive monetary damages and to prove that the killing was ordered by "the top of the Saudi leadership hierarchy."

Biden, Xi Clash On Taiwan, Find Common Ground On Ukraine

NUSA DUA (Indonesia), Nov 14: Presidents Joe Biden and Xi Jinping clashed Monday over Taiwan but found areas of common ground during the powers' first in-person summit in three years, including a joint warning against Russia using nuclear weapons in Ukraine.

Xi and Biden both sought to lower the temperature as they met for more than two hours on the resort island of Bali, with the presidents both saying they wanted to prevent high tensions from spilling over into conflict.

In a sign of headway on working together, the White House announced that Secretary of State Antony Blinken will visit China -- the most senior US visitor since 2018.

Biden and Xi, who is on only his second overseas trip since the pandemic, shook hands and smiled before the two countries' flags at a hotel in Bali, where the Group of 20 opens a summit on Tuesday.

Biden, sitting across from Xi at facing tables, said that Beijing and Washington "share responsibility" to show the world that they can "manage our differences, prevent competition from becoming conflict".

Xi, China's most powerful leader in decades who is fresh from securing a norm-breaking third term, told Biden that the world has "come to a crossroads".

"The world expects that China and the United States will properly handle the relationship," Xi told him.

Xi later told him that China and the United States "share more, not less" in common interests, according to a Chinese statement.

Tensions have risen sharply over Taiwan, with China in August conducting major military exercises after a visit to the self-governing democracy, which it claims, by US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Xi told Biden that Taiwan is the "first red line that must not be crossed in China-US relations," according to the Chinese foreign ministry statement.

The White House said that Biden told Xi he opposed any changes on Taiwan -- after the US leader repeatedly indicated that Washington was ready to defend the island militarily.

Biden raised US "objections" to China's "coercive and increasingly aggressive actions toward Taiwan, which undermine peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait and in the broader region, and jeopardise global prosperity," the White House said.

Despite the clash on Taiwan, the White House indicated it had found some common ground with China on Russia's invasion of Ukraine -- a high priority for Biden who is hoping to deprive Moscow of its key potential source of international support.

Xi and Biden "reiterated their agreement that a nuclear war should never be fought and can never be won and underscored their opposition to the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons in Ukraine," the White House statement said.

China, despite rhetorical support for Russia, has not supplied weapons for the war in Ukraine, with Moscow obliged to rely on Iran and North Korea, according to US officials.

Biden also nudged China to rein in ally North Korea after a record-breaking spate of missile tests has raised fears that Pyongyang will soon carry out its seventh nuclear test.

Biden told Xi that "all members of the international community have an interest in encouraging the DPRK to act responsibly," the White House said, using the acronym for North Korea's official name.

Xi's last in-person meeting with a US president was in 2019 with Donald Trump, who along with Biden identified China as a top international concern and the only potential challenger to US primacy on the world stage.

Although the meeting was the first time Xi and Biden have met as presidents, the pair have an unusually long history together.

By Biden's estimation, he spent 67 hours as vice president in person with Xi including on a 2011 trip to China aimed at better understanding China's then-leader-in-waiting, and a 2017 meeting in the final days of Barack Obama's administration.

On Tuesday, Xi will hold the first formal sitdown with an Australian leader since 2017, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese announced, following a concerted pressure campaign by Beijing against the close US ally.

Though he is engaging Xi, Biden has refused since the invasion of Ukraine to deal directly with Russian President Vladimir Putin, who is conspicuously absent from the Bali summit.

The Kremlin cited scheduling issues and has instead sent longtime foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, who arrived Sunday evening and underwent two health checks at a Bali hospital, according to an Indonesian health ministry official.

Lavrov, 72, denied reports that he was receiving treatment at a Bali hospital, telling Tass news agency that he was in his hotel preparing for the summit.

Lavrov's presence has thrown into question a customary G20 group photo and joint statement, with Russia sure to reject any explicit calls to end its invasion of Ukraine.

Taiwan To North Korea, What Joe Biden And Xi Jinping Said At Bali Meeting

WASHINGTON, Nov 14: US President Joe Biden and Chinese leader Xi Jinping held their first in-person talks since 2017 on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Bali, Indonesia, on Monday.

Biden reiterated that the US's one-China policy with regard to Taiwan, the self-governed island claimed by Beijing, had not changed. While the White House readout of the leaders' meeting was consistent with the administration's statements on the issue, Biden was more explicitly critical of China's pressure on Taiwan than in statements earlier this year following his calls with Xi.

The readout said Biden had raised objections to China's "coercive and increasingly aggressive actions toward Taiwan," which he said undermined peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait and in the broader region, and jeopardized global prosperity.

Xi too was explicit about Taiwan, calling it the "first red line" that must not be crossed in China-US relations. He said he hoped the United States would match its words with action and abide by the one-China policy.

Beijing had halted a series of formal dialogue channels with Washington - including on climate change and military-to-military talks - after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's August trip to Taiwan, a move US officials had called "irresponsible."

While there was no announcement of a formal resumption of those dialogue mechanisms, both leaders signalled they sought to enhance senior official-level communications between their countries, with Chinese state media reporting that both Biden and Xi had agreed to maintain strategic communications and conduct regular consultations.

The White House said Biden and Xi agreed to "deepen constructive efforts" to address issues such as climate change, health, and food security.

There have been fewer than usual senior-level visits between China and the United States in recent years, due largely to China's strict COVID-19 prevention measures. But the US readout, published before China's, said US Secretary of State Antony Blinken would travel to China to follow up on the leaders' meeting. The State Department said the visit could happen early next year.

Ukraine's Western allies have accused Russia of threatening to use nuclear weapons in Ukraine, though Russia denies doing so, and China has refrained from criticising Russia for the invasion or from calling on it to withdraw its troops.

But according to the White House statement, Biden and Xi "underscored their opposition to the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons in Ukraine".

Referring to US sanctions on Chinese firms, Xi said China opposed politicising and weaponising economic and trade ties as well as exchanges in science and technology.

He said starting a trade or technology war, building walls and barriers, and pushing for decoupling and severing supply chains ran counter to the principles of market economy and undermine international trade rules.

Biden told reporters after the meeting, there was no need for concerns about a new Cold War between the United States and China.

On North Korea, Biden said he made it clear to Xi that China had an obligation to make sure North Korea did not resume nuclear testing, although it was difficult to determine if Xi had that influence.

"It's difficult to determine whether or not China has the capacity. I'm confident China's not looking for North Korea to engage in further escalatory means because I've made it clear, and I made it clear from the very beginning and last year as well," Biden told reporters.

At the same time, Biden warned Xi that such actions by North Korea would result in bolstered US and allied military capabilities in Northeast Asia.

"In essence, Biden argued that North Korea's provocations come at China's expense, and therefore Beijing should exercise some of the leverage it has over Pyongyang to restrain them," said Jacob Stokes, an Indo-Pacific expert at the Center for a New American Security.




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