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Daily Covid-19 infections could go up to 100,000 in US: Anthony Fauci

WASHINGTON, June 30: Top US epidemiologist Anthony Fauci on Tuesday told lawmakers if the current surge in Covid-19 cases in the southern states did not change, it could get “very bad”.

Fauci said he would “not be surprised” if daily infections, which are currently averaging 40,000, go as high as 100,000. He refused to give his estimation of fatalities.

Fauci was testifying at a US senate hearing along with other top public health of the the country, Robert Redfield of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; Stephen Hahn of the Food and Drug Administration and Admiral Brett Giroir of the heath and human services. All four are members of the White house task force on coronavirus, which is headed by Vice-President mike Pence.

“I think it is important to tell and you the American public that I’m very concerned because it could get very bad,” said Fauci, who has headed the US National Institute for Allergies and Infectious Diseases for decades.

He went on to state,“Clearly, we are not in total control right now.” And warned that the surge in southern states had put other parts of the country at risk as well.

Xi Jinping is a successor to dictator Joseph Stalin: US NSA O’Brien

WASHINGTON, June 27: US National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien on Friday launched the Trump administration’s sharpest attack on Chinese government, comparing President Xi Jinping to Russia’s brutal dictator Joseph Stalin whose policies killed millions, and warning that the Chinese Communist Party was seeking leverage over individual Americans through propaganda and collection of their “most intimate data” via big Chinese companies that made huge investments and had even pressured Hollywood into self-censorship.

Robert O’Brien, who described the foreign policy calculations of consecutive US governments towards Beijing as the US’ ”biggest miscalculation” since the 1930s, said China’s efforts to control the mind of people residing beyond its borders was underway. The communist party, he said, was using trade to coerce compliance with its diktats.

While NSA Robert C. O’Brien has come out openly detailing the penetration of the Chinese Communist Party in the US, his Indian counterpart Ajit Doval - as president of the Delhi-based think tank Vivekananda International Foundation - had written a paper on the penetration of PLA intelligence in “enemy countries”. The NSA, in his paper, had explained the structure of people’s Liberation Army intelligence and use of propaganda as a tool in democratic nations, an evidence of which the world is now recognising in the US, Australia, Canada, and Brazil.

O’Brien said the Trump administration had started taking corrective steps and outlined six steps taken by the administration to curb the Chinese influence in the US. But he underlined that this was just the beginning.

In his address to a group of people at Phoenix in Arizona, O’Brien underscored that there really was no difference between mega Chinese firms and the communist party in power in Beijing.

“The Chinese Communist Party seeks total control over the people’s lives. This means economic control, it means political control, it means physical control, and, perhaps most importantly, it means thought control,” he said, according to the transcript released by the White House.

O’Brien referred to the analysis by an Australian official that in Classical Chinese statecraft, there were two tools for gaining and maintaining control: the first is ‘wu’, weapons and violence, and the second is ‘wen’, language and culture. Chinese leaders have always believed that power derives from controlling both the physical battlefield and the cultural domain.

The NSA cited several instances when China, in addition to propaganda, used trade to coerce compliance with its dictates. Like when Australia called for an independent investigation of the coronavirus disease, the Chinese Communist Party threatened to stop buying Australian agricultural products.

O’Brien added that the Chinese reach extends to heads of international organisations who are not themselves Chinese officials.

China, he said, heads 4 out of 15 UN specialised agencies, more than the US, the UK, France and Russia, the other members of the permanent members of the UN Security Council, combined. He alleged that China uses these leaders to force the international bodies to parrot Beijing’s talking points and to install Chinese telecommunications equipment in their facilities.

For example, since Zhao Houlin of the International Telecommunications Union took his post, he began to aggressively promote Huawei sales. Secretary-General Fang Liu of the International Civil Aviation Organisation has blocked Taiwan’s participation in General Assembly meetings and covered up a Chinese hack of the organisation. The CPC has used China’s membership on the UN Human Rights Council to prevent criticism of its abuses in Xinjiang and Hong Kong, he said.

Outlining how the CCP’s strategy could touch American lives, he said the CCP was collecting “the most intimate data — your words, your actions, your purchases, your whereabouts, your health records, your social media posts, your texts, and mapping your network of friends, family, and acquaintances”.

“The CCP accomplishes this goal, in part, by subsidizing hardware, software, telecommunications, and even genetics companies. As a result, corporations such as Huawei and ZTE undercut competitors on price and install their equipment around the globe at a loss. This has the side effect of putting out of business American manufacturers of telecom hardware and has made it very difficult for Nokia and Ericsson. Why do they do it? Because it is not telecom hardware or software profits the CCP are after, it is your data. They use “backdoors” built into the products to obtain that data,” he said.

US restricts visas for Chinese officials

WASHINGTON, June 26: The United States is imposing visa restrictions on current and former Chinese officials responsible for “eviscerating” the freedoms of Hong Kong citizens, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Friday, signalling that the US would continue to tighten controls vis-a-vis the Chinese government officials.

The move coincides with an intensified US rhetoric against China in the midst of Trump’s re-election campaign, in which opinion polls have shown voters increasingly embittered toward Beijing, especially over the coronavirus that began from China’s Wuhan.

“I am announcing visa restrictions on current and former CCP (Communist Party of China) officials who are believed to be responsible for, or complicit in, undermining Hong Kong’s high degree of autonomy, as guaranteed in the 1984 Sino-British Joint Declaration, or undermining human rights and fundamental freedoms in Hong Kong,” Pompeo said in a statement Friday.

Pompeo said family members of such persons may also be subject to these restrictions.

Friday’s restrictions come just days after US President Donald Trump signed off on a legislation that cleared the path for imposing sanctions against senior Chinese officials for gross human rights violations of Uyghur minority groups in China’s restive Muslim-majority Xinjiang region.

On Twitter, Pompeo counted the visa restrictions as one of the steps to punish CCP officials “responsible for eviscerating Hong Kong’s freedoms” that had been promised by President Trump.

US shifting military to face Chinese threat to India, Southeast Asia: Mike Pompeo

WASHINGTON, June 25: The Chinese threat to India and Southeast Asia is one of the reasons the United States is reducing its troop presence in Europe, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Thursday in response to a question at the Brussels Forum virtual conference.

Pompeo was asked why the US had reduced the number of troops it has based in Germany. The US Secretary of State said that if US troops were no longer there, it was because they were being moved to face other places. The actions of the Chinese Communist Party meant there were “threats to India” and countries such as Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines and the South China Sea. The US military is “postured appropriately” to meet these “challenges of our time”, he said.

Pompeo noted that the Trump administration had carried out a long overdue strategic posture review of the US military two years ago. The US had carried out a fundamental relook at the threats it faced and how it should allocate its resources, including intelligence and military and cyber.

As part of this exercise, Pompeo said it was felt that the capacity to deter Russia or other adversaries wasn’t determined any longer “by having a bunch of folks garrisoned some place”.

“So we really went back to fundamentally relook at what is the nature of the conflict, what is the nature of the threat and how should we allocate our resources. Whether that is our resources in the intelligence community, our resources in the air force, the marines. our broad set of allocations of the security apparatus,” he said.

“The decision that the President made with respect to Germany is an outcome of a collective set of decisions about how we are going to posture our resources around the world,” he said, pointing that this would imply that there would be fewer American resources in some places.

“There will be other places - I just talked about the threat from the Chinese Communist Party - ... threats to India, threats to Vietnam, threats to Malaysia, Indonesia, South China Sea challenges, the Philippines. We are going to make sure we are postured appropriately to counter the PLA (People’s Liberation Army). We think that is the challenge of our time and we are going to make sure we have resources in place to do that,” he said.

Earlier, he announced the formation of a US-European dialogue on China so that the Atlantic alliance could have a “common understanding of the threat posed by China”. Pompeo said the two sides needed “a collective data set” on China’s action so the two could take action together.

Speaking about the Chinese threat, he cited the “bloody border confrontation with India,” Beijing’s South China Sea activity and its predatory economic policies as evidence.

Asked whether Huawei was part of the Chinese “surveillance state,” Pompeo said Chinese security force personnel worked on the top floor of the company headquarters and Chinese law required Huawei to pass any data, including personal data, to the Chinese Communist Party whenever the latter asked. He said there was more evidence that he could not state in public.

The day before the US foreign minister had tweeted: “The tide is turning toward trusted 5G vendors and away from Huawei. The world’s leading telecom companies-Telefonica, Orange, Jio, Telstra, and many more-are becoming ‘Clean Telcos.’ They are rejecting doing business with tools of the CCP surveillance state, like Huawei.”

Had ‘very frank’ discussion with China on ‘unprovoked aggression’: Pompeo

WASHINGTON, June 25: US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has said that he had a very frank discussion with his Chinese counterpart Wang Jiechi about the “unprovoked aggression” by Beijing on a number of fronts.

During the meeting in Hawaii last week, Pompeo said he also pressed for “more transparency” from China on the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic for the good of the world.

The meeting which was kept under wraps till the meeting day, took place amidst tensions between China and the US on a range of issues.

“I met with Yang Jiechi last week in Hawaii. We had a very frank discussion about the Chinese Communist Party’s unprovoked aggression on a number of fronts and I pressed him for more transparency on Covid for the good of the world,” Pompeo told reporters at a press conference on Wednesday.

“We’re concerned by Beijing’s behaviour and we’re not the only ones. And he and I talked about that. Our friends and partners are finding their voice and taking action to counter China’s malign activities, particularly in Europe,” he said.

President Donald Trump has announced a number of retaliatory measures against China last month, slamming China for imposing a controversial national security law on Hong Kong that undermines the autonomy of the former British territory.

The top US diplomat has led Trump administration officials in criticising Beijing for a lack of transparency and disinformation campaign on the coronavirus since it emerged in the central Chinese city of Wuhan.

American officials have indicated that Washington intends to punish Beijing over the spread of the pandemic that has hit America, making it the worst affected country with over one lakh deaths.

Last week Pompeo criticised the Chinese Army for “escalating” the border tension with India and militarising the strategic South China Sea. He also described the ruling Communist Party of China (CPC) as a “rogue actor.” In a scathing attack on the Chinese government, Pompeo said that the Communist Party of China wants to undo all the progress the free world has made through institutions like the NATO and adopt a new set of rules and norms that accommodate Beijing.

“The PLA (People’s Liberation Army) has escalated border tensions with India, the world’s most populous democracy. It’s militarising the South China Sea and illegally claiming more territory there, threatening vital sea lanes,” Pompeo said, a day after he expressed deep condolences to India on the death of 20 soldiers in violent clashes with the PLA troops at the Galwan Valley in Ladakh on June 15.

China’s official Xinhua news agency reported last week that Yang and Pompeo agreed to take action to implement in earnest the consensus reached by the heads of state of the two countries and maintain contact and communication.

Yang conducted in-depth exchanges with Pompeo on China-US relations as well as global and regional issues of mutual concern, the report said.

Both sides fully expounded their respective stances and deemed the dialogue to be constructive. They agreed to take action to implement in earnest the consensus reached by the heads of state of the two countries and maintain contact and communication, the report added.

Yang is a member of the Politburo of the CPC Central Committee and director of the Office of the Foreign Affairs Commission of the CPC Central Committee.

China’s government-controlled media has attacked Pompeo as “evil,” “insane” and an “enemy of mankind” for accusing Beijing for trying to mislead the world about the severity of the Covid-19 outbreak.

US says Masood Azhar enjoys ‘state protection’ in Pakistan

NEW DELHI, June 24: The United States on Wednesday said that Jaish-e-Mohammad founder Masood Azhar and 2008 Mumbai attack mastermind Sajid Mir were “widely believed” to be living “under the protection of the state” in Pakistan, which, additionally, had still not taken “decisive actions” against terrorists based on its soil.

The United State has pushed Pakistan for long through threats and appeals to arrest and prosecute terrorists sheltered there and in the state department’s 2019 country reports on terrorism released Wednesday, it welcomed the prosecution of Hafiz Saeed, the founder of Lashkar-e-Toiba, in 2019, along with 12 associates.

But Pakistan has made “no effort to use domestic authorities to prosecute” other terrorist figures such as Azhar and Mir, “both of whom are widely believed to reside in Pakistan under the protection of the state, despite government denials”, the repot added.

JeM claimed responsibility for the Pulwama terrorist attack in February 2019, that led to significant escalation in tensions between the two nuclear power neighbors. India carried out a retaliatory strike on a JeM camp in Balakot, Pakistan hit back with an air raid, that led to the first air battle between the two air forces in decades.

It was rare for the United States to have so very directly accused Pakistan of not only looking the other way as these two terrorists have lived and thrived there, but also of providing them state protection, which had been long apparent to most South Asian officials and experts.

The United States has bene critical of Pakistan for yers now for allowing terrorists sheltering on tis soil to operate against India to the east and Pakistan to the west, and had gone so far as to say the Haqqani Network, of the Afghan Taliban, was a “veritable arm” of the Pakistani intelligence agency, the ISI.

But accusing Pakistan of providing state protection to Azhar and Mir and their likes, is unusual, but not enough. “The United State has known of the presence in Pakistan of jihadi leaders who operate in India and Afghanistan but wants to keep its channel of communication open with Pakistan which is why it has not used the kind of firm language that it uses about other countries,” said Husain Haqqani, the former US ambassador to Pakistan who now lives in the US.

Hafiz Saeed’s arrest and prosecution, for the ninth time, in 2019, had come under intense global pressure as Pakistan had faced with the possibility of being blacklisted at the initiative of the US by a global watchdog on terror financing and money-laundering, the Paris-based Financial Action Task Force.

Pakistan narrowly escaped then, but has remained in the dock, as the US terror report reminded. “The FATF expressed serious concern at its October 2019 plenary about Pakistan’s continued deficiencies but noted it had made some progress and extended the deadline for full Action Plan implementation to February 2020.” A final call is expected later in the year, in October.

But in the US state department’s assessment, Pakistan still has much to show and improve. “Pakistan continued to serve as a safe haven for certain regionally focused terrorist groups.,” the report said, adding, “It allowed groups targeting Afghanistan, including the Afghan Taliban and affiliated HQN, as well as groups targeting India, including LeT and its affiliated front organizations, and JeM, to operate from its territory.

The report acknowledged that Pakistan had made “some” and “modest” progress on countering terrorism, “the most difficult aspects of its 2015 National Action Plan to counter terrorism remains unfulfilled – specifically its pledge to dismantle all terrorist organizations without delay and discrimination”.

US calls China ‘rogue state’, cites border attack

WASHINGTON, June 20: In a hard hitting speech, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Friday attacked China for its “rogue” attitude in its neighbourhood, specifically mentioning its recent border attacks against India.

“The PLA (People’s Liberation Army) has escalated border tensions with India, the world’s most populous democracy. It’s militarising the South China Sea and illegally claiming more territory there, threatening vital sea lanes,” Pompeo said during an online conference on democracy in Copenhagen, Denmark.

During questions he said democracies and freedom-loving peoples of the world needed to come together to tackle China.

Pompeo was careful to focus his criticism on the Chinese Communist Party but unusually cited Chinese leader, Xi Jinping, by name. “General Secretary Xi Jinping has green-lighted a brutal campaign of repression against Chinese Muslims, a human rights violation on a scale we haven’t seen since World War II. Now, the PLA has escalated border tensions with India,” he said.

Pompeo spoke a day after he expressed deep condolences to India on the death of 20 soldiers in violent clashes with Chinese troops at Galwan Valley in Ladakh on June 15.

Pompeo said China was responsible for “pushing disinformation and malicious cyber campaigns so as to drive a wedge between the US and Europe.” The Chinese Communist Party wants to undo the progress the free world has made and adopt a new set of rules and norms that accommodate Beijing.

He claimed Beijing had “lied about the coronavirus and let it spread to the rest of the world, while pressuring the WHO to assist its cover-up campaign. Hundreds of thousands of people have died, and the global economy has been decimated.” China continues to refuse to provide medical information or allow outside scientists.

Pompeo, who recently met Chinese Politburo member Yang Jiechi in Hawaii, said much of his conversation was about “the fundamental idea that we’re just watching [their] actions. It’s no longer enough to listen to what the Chinese Communist Party is saying. We can see their actions.”

He ticked off a number of them, “Hong Kong, Tibet, Xinjiang, what they’re doing in India, what they’ve done in the economic zones along the Philippines and Malaysia and Indonesia and Vietnam, the coercion on Australia.”

The US minister warned that “China’s objective is in fact to single out and indeed to threaten to single out more directly” individual countries. He called for a collective response from the world’s major countries to what Beijing was doing.

“America is engaging in a response to Chinese Communist Party and aggression in a way that America has not done for the past 20 years” and said this was now a bipartisan position.

Pompeo says UN vote on race, policing in US is ‘hypocrisy’

WASHINGTON, June 20: US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Saturday a UN Human Rights Council vote condemning racism amounted to hypocrisy.

“The council’s decision to vote yesterday on a resolution focusing on policing and race in the US marks a new low,” Pompeo said in a statement.

The council took the vote after a debate prompted by protests in the US triggered by the death at police hands of African American George Floyd.

However, a specific mention of racism and police brutality in the US was removed.

This sparked outrage from rights groups, which accused Washington and its allies of lobbying heavily to revise the text -- a charge to which the US mission in Geneva declined to respond.

The United States, which had complained of being singled out in the initial text, withdrew from the council in 2018 and was not present on Friday.

In his statement Saturday, titled “On the Hypocrisy of UN Human Rights Council,” Pompeo said discussion in the US about race following the death of Floyd “is a sign of our democracy’s strength and maturity.”

“If the Council were serious about protecting human rights, there are plenty of legitimate needs for its attention, such as the systemic racial disparities in places like Cuba, China and Iran,” he said.

“If the Council were honest, it would recognize the strengths of American democracy and urge authoritarian regimes around the world to model American democracy and to hold their nations to the same high standards of accountability and transparency that we Americans apply to ourselves,” Pompeo added.

Trump OKs bill to punish China over ethnic crackdown

WASHINGTON, June 18: President Donald Trump signed legislation Wednesday that seeks to punish China for a crackdown on ethnic minorities, even as a new book by former national security adviser John Bolton said the American leader expressed support for the brutal campaign in a private conversation with his Chinese counterpart.

The Uighur Human Rights Policy Act of 2020 passed with overwhelming support from Republicans and Democrats in Congress. Trump signed it with no ceremony, issuing a statement in which he said a sanctions provision intruded on executive authority and he would regard it as non-binding.

Still, Uighur activists see the approval as an important step. It is the first time any government has sought to punish China for a campaign of mass surveillance and detention of Uighurs and other mostly Muslim ethnic groups in the western Xinjiang region.

“Globally this should be a model for other counties who have been very lukewarm in their response to the ongoing atrocities in the Uighur region,” said Nury Turkel, a Uighur activist and member of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom.

The bill, which includes sanctions on Chinese officials directly involved in the crackdown, was expected to further inflame already tense relations with China amid the Trump administration’s criticism of Beijing’s response to the outbreak of the coronavirus.

The signing came as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was meeting in Hawaii with a senior Chinese diplomat, and as revelations from the soon-to-be-released Bolton book were emerging.

The former national security adviser said Trump asked at a White House Christmas dinner in 2018 why the U.S. wanted to sanction China over the treatment of the Uighurs, who are ethnically and culturally distinct from the country’s majority Han population and are suspected by the Chinese government of harboring separatist tendencies.

Bolton wrote that at the opening dinner of the Osaka G-20 meeting in 2019, with only interpreters present, Chinese President Xi Jinping explained the Chinese campaign to Trump.

“According to our interpreter, Trump said that Xi should go ahead with building the camps, which he thought was exactly the right thing to do,” Bolton wrote.

Bolton said another National Security Council official, Matthew Pottinger, told him Trump had made a similar remark during his 2017 trip to China, “which meant we could cross repression of the Uighurs off our list of possible reasons to sanction China, at least as long as trade negotiations continued.”

Trump issued a statement upon signing the legislation Wednesday that the new law would hold “perpetrators of human rights violations” accountable.

Members of Congress intended the legislation to increase pressure on China over the crackdown in Xinjiang, where authorities have detained more than a million people — from ethnic groups that include Uighurs, Kazakhs and Kyrgyz — in a vast network of detention centers. Many have been subjected to torture and forced labor and deprived of adequate food and medical treatment.

The law would impose sanctions on specific Chinese officials, such as the Communist Party official who oversees government policy in Xinjiang. Trump said in his signing statement that a provision dictating when sanctions could be terminated interfered with executive authority and would be considered non-binding.

Even with the signing statement, Turkel said the measure is “still an effective legal mechanism to address human rights abuses” and he thanked members of Congress for their support.

Sen. Jeff Merkley, a co-sponsor of the legislation, said the act requires the secretary of state to determine whether individuals responsible for “appalling human rights violations” meet the criteria for sanctions. “The United States cannot remain silent in the face of these atrocious and horrifying abuses,” the Oregon Democrat said. “As millions of Americans fight for racial justice here at home, we must also stand strong as a champion of human rights abroad.”

The legislation also requires the U.S. government to report to Congress on the human rights violations in Xinjiang as well as China’s acquisition of technology used for mass detention and surveillance. It also requires American authorities to look into the pervasive reports of harassment and threats of Uighurs and other Chinese nationals in the United States.

China has publicly brushed away criticism of its crackdown in Xinjiang, which it launched in 2014 as the “Strike Hard Against Violent Extremism” campaign in the vast resource-rich territory in the far northwest of the country.

 

Trump considers suspending H-1B, L-1 and other work visas

WASHINGTON, June 12: The Trump administration is considering suspending several categories of employment-based visas including H-1B for high-skilled foreigners and L-1 for internal company transfers, both very popular with Indian companies with US operations and Indians seeking to work in America.

The Wall Street Journal, which first reported this move, said President Donald Trump has not signed off on the proposal, which is part of a package of changes to other work-related visas and authorizations for foreigners yet, and things could change. An executive order is expected in some weeks.

The plan also includes ending Obama-era work authorization for spouses of H-1B visa holders cleared for Green Cards, which would impact mostly Indians. The Green Card waiting line is the longest for Indians because of a country-limit of 7% on the number of Green Cards — around 1 million annually — that can be issued to people from any one country.

Charges for H-1Bs could also be increased substantially to $20,000 from current $460, as processing fee or some kind of a surcharge.

The package seeks, additionally, to end or scale back work authorisation for foreign students, called Optional Practical Training.

The move stems from the administration’s efforts to boost employment in the country, which has experienced record job losses caused by the Covid-19 lockdown. The aim is to ensure Americans have the first crack at jobs that become available as the economy rebounds.

The suspension will extend into the new fiscal year that starts on October 1 and will likely impact new H-1B workers who typically apply then.

The White House did not deny the move and a spokesman told the WSJ in a statement, “The administration is currently evaluating a wide range of options, formulated by career experts, to protect American workers and job seekers, especially disadvantaged and underserved citizens—but no decisions of any kind have been made.”

President Donald Trump has already suspended all immigration in view of the Covid-19 epidemic, including Green Cards. Non-immigrant work visas were spared, but not any longer if this the package of changes being considered goes through.

The United States issues 85,000 H-1B visas every year; 65,000 to foreign workers hired from abroad and 20,000 to foreigners enrolled in US institutions of advanced learning. More than 70% of these visas tend to go to Indians either hired by American companies such as Google, Apple and Microsoft or Indian companies with US operations such as TCS, Infosys and Wipro.

This distinction between those hired abroad and here in the United States has blurred lately as the administration has chosen to hire more foreign students even in the open category to address criticism that the short term visa is being misused to bring foreign workers who are not really high skilled but are cheaper alternatives to Americans. For the same reason, the H-1B visa rejections and request for more paperwork have gone up.

L-1 visas for intracompany transfers, which have also been very popular with Indian companies who send executives from India to staff positions for their US operations, have also seen more scrutiny and curbs over a period of time.

The tightening of rules for both H-1B and L-1 has routinely been brought up by Indian officials with their US counterparts, but without much success. And now this.

The plan has been in the works for some months now and it is expected to be presented to the president for his approval soon.

Healthcare professionals and workers are expected to be exempted from the suspension. The move is facing opposition from several quarters, including colleges and universities, the WSJ reported.

Some Republican lawmakers have also cautioned against a hasty decision on the matter.

“American businesses that rely on help from these visa programs should not be forced to close without serious consideration,” nine Republican senators including Lindsey Graham and John Cornyn wrote in a letter to the president in May.

“Guest workers are needed to boost American business, not take American jobs,” the letter added.

US has 2 million coronavirus vaccine doses ‘ready to go’: Trump

WASHINGTON, June 6: President Donald Trump said on Friday that the US has already produced two million vaccine doses for the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) that are “ready to go” if they “check out for safety”.

“We had a meeting on vaccines yesterday. We are doing incredibly well. We can have some very positive surprises. Tremendous progress is being made on vaccines,” Trump said during a news conference from the White House.

“In fact, we are ready to go in terms of transportation and logistics. We have over two million ready to go if it checks out for safety.”

Trump also said “likewise, we are doing very well with therapeutics. Cures we are doing well.”

According to The New York Times, the Trump administration has selected five companies as the most likely candidates to produce a vaccine for the coronavirus disease.

“And the nice part is that four companies, you could even say seven or eight companies, that are doing some very similar and some very different on the vaccine front. And, some similar and somewhat different on the therapeutic front,” he said.

He, however, didn’t say which ones have started vaccine production.

The National Institutes of Health has been fast-tracking work with biotech firm Moderna on a potential vaccine to prevent Covid-19.

White House health advisor Dr Anthony Fauci had said earlier this week that there are at least four trials of potential vaccines that he is either directly or indirectly involved in.

Fauci said that by the beginning of 2021 “we hope to have” a couple of million doses.

Researchers have been accelerating the development of vaccine candidates by investing in multiple stages of research.

Trump even said on Friday that officials “understand the disease now.”

However, scientists have said they still don’t fully understand key aspects of the virus, including how immune systems respond once someone is exposed to it.

India, China will have more COVID-19 cases than US if they test more: Trump

WASHINGTON, June 6: US President Donald Trump has said that countries like India and China would have much more coronavirus cases than America, the worst-hit country in the world, if they conduct more tests.

Trump, in his remarks at Puritan Medical Products in Maine, said that the US has carried out 20 million tests.

Compared to the US, Germany is at four million and much talked about South Korea is about three million tests, he said on Friday.

According to Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center, the US has reported nearly 1.9 million cases and over 1,09,000 deaths, making America the worst affected country, while the total number of coronavirus cases in India and China stand at 2,36,184 and 84,177 respectively.

India has so far conducted over 4 million coronavirus tests, according to the health ministry.

Commenting on the COVID-19 tests in the US, Trump said: “We will be well over 20 million tests. Remember this, when you test more, you have more cases.

“I say to my people every time we test; you find cases because we do more testing. If we have more cases, if we wanted to do testing in China or in India or other places, I promise you there would be more cases… you are doing a fantastic job in getting out the swabs".

Puritan is one of the only manufacturers in the world producing the high-quality medical swabs that are crucial for rapid testing.

“And every swab you make at Puritan is proudly stamped with the beautiful phrase made in the USA.

“Thanks to the testing capacity that you are making possible, our country is reopening and our economy is recovering like nobody would've thought possible," he said.

Referring to the latest monthly employment numbers, Trump said that the economy is now back on track.

“We absolutely shattered expectations, and this is the largest monthly jobs increase in American history, think of that; that's a long time.

“I think it's more than double or about double of what our highest was before so this is the largest monthly job increase in American history. And we're going to have a phenomenal next year. We're going to have a tremendous couple of months prior to the election on November 3 very, very important date," the president said.

Seeking re-election for his second consecutive term, Trump is pitted against Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden in November 3 presidential elections. Most of the opinion polls shows that Biden is several points ahead of Trump.

“It's going to be a very important election because the only thing that can screw it up is if you get the wrong president and they raise your taxes, and they open up your borders so that everybody pours into our country," Trump said.

Reiterating that he has built a strong economy in the last three years, Trump vowed to bring the economy back on track, which has been badly hit by the coronavirus pandemic.

Describing the fight against coronavirus as the greatest national and industrial mobilisation since the World War II, Trump said that his administration has marshaled the full power of the US government and US industry to defeat the invisible enemy.

“It is indeed an enemy. It came from China, should have been stopped in China. They didn't do that," he alleged.

The administration, he said, has delivered over 1.5 billion pieces of personal protective equipment to doctors and nurses on the front lines.

“We slashed the red tape to speed up the development of vaccines. And vaccines are coming along incredibly well, wait till you see, and therapeutics. And we partnered at private sector leaders such as Puritan to build the largest and most advanced testing capacity on the face of the earth, like this one," he said.

The Puritan factory in Maine, he said, quickly ramped up the production to produce nearly 20 million foam tipped swabs each month.

“Then in April, my administration invoked the Defence Production Act to help you scale up even more. Under a USD 75 million public-private partnership, Puritan will soon double production to 40 million swabs per month," Trump added.

Trump invites Modi to G7 meet, discusses China standoff

NEW DELHI, June 2: A day after Donald Trump declared that he wanted to expand the G7 to include other important countries, the US president on Tuesday spoke to Prime Minister Narendra Modi to invite him to the grouping’s next meeting to be held in the United States of America.

As the 40-minute conversation went on, Trump and Modi also discussed other issues such as the India-China border standoff and the reforms of the World Health Organisation, a statement by the Prime Minister’s Office said.

The two leaders are learnt to have shared their perceptions about the standoff that was triggered last month after China’s People’s Liberation Army activated the Line of Actual Control at Naku La area in north Sikkim and then at three points in Galwan and one point at Pangong Tso in Ladakh sector.

The convergence in the views of the two leaders was also reflected in their view on the reforms at the World Health Organisation. Both leaders have been votaries of reforms in the WHO but have chosen to take a vastly different approach.

Modi also expressed concern regarding the ongoing civil disturbances in the US, conveyed his best wishes for an early resolution of the situation, a PMO statement said.

“The phone conversation underscores that even in such an unsettled world and the changing dynamics in the post-Covid-19 pandemic, the relationship between India and the United States remains strong,” said a top government functionary.

“The Indo-US relationship is at a historic high,” a second official said.

“When was the last time that a prime minister of India spoke about civil disturbances in the US and expressed confidence that the US President would be able to handle it. Or when did the US President call the Indian Prime Minister during a serious border standoff. All this shows that both the leaders have taken the relationship to a very different level,” he said.

Donald Trump had first given an indication of his intent to invite India to the G-7 on Saturday when he described the grouping of the seven countries - some of them among the most advanced economies of the world - as “outdated” and advocated rechristening it as “G-10 or G-11” to include India, Australia, South Korea and Russia.

“We want Australia, we want India, we want South Korea. And what do we have? That’s a nice group of countries right there,” he had said, hinting that the heads of these nations could be invited for the next summit to be hosted by the US on a reschedule date in September or November.

Prime Minister Modi commended President Trump for his creative and far-sighted approach, acknowledging that such an expanded forum would be in keeping with the emerging realities of the post-Covid world. Modi said that India would be happy to work with the US and other countries to ensure the success of the proposed Summit.

The G-7 currently includes the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Italy, Canada and Japan. India is a member of the larger version of the body that is called the G-20. However, according to an aide of the US President, Trump’s plan seems to bring together important allies on a platform to deal with China, a country with which the United States’ relations have gone from bad to worse under the Trump administration.

China Using Tactical Situation On Ground To Its Advantage: Mike Pompeo

WASHINGTON, June 1: China is using a tactical situation on the ground to its advantage and it has been making threats, like the one that is happening on its border with India, for a long time, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Sunday.

Pompeo, responding to a question on the aggressive Chinese behaviour on the India-China border and the South China Sea during an interview with Fox News, said that the threat posed by China is real.

"The Chinese Communist Party has been on this effort, on this march, for an awfully long time. They'll certainly use a tactical situation on the ground to their advantage. But each of the problems that you identified there are threats that they have been making for an awfully long time," he said.

Threats like the one that is happening on its border with India, they have been making for an awfully long time, the Secretary of State said.

With respect to the Chinese Communist Party's military advances, they are real, Pompeo said.

"General Secretary Xi (Jinping) is intent on building out his military capabilities. Our Department of Defence is doing everything it can to make sure it understands this threat," he said.

"I am confident that under President (Donald) Trump, our Department of Defence, our military, our national security establishment will keep us in a position where we can protect the American people, and indeed we can be good partners with our allies from India, from Australia, from South Korea, from Japan, from Brazil, from Europe, all around the world.

"We can be good partners alongside them and ensure that the next century remains a Western one modeled on the freedoms that we have here in the United States," he said.

Currently there are more than 60 bills in Congress, a majority of whom are bipartisan, against China, Pompeo said.

"This is something that I think people all across the political spectrum understand is a real risk. I don't know which of those will make it to the President's desk. Last week there was one that had to do with the Uighurs in China.

"I would encourage the members of Congress to continue to study this issue, to work to help this administration do the things it needs to do to prevent the Chinese Communist Party from its advances and to keep the American people safe. I know that they will. It's bipartisan," said the top American diplomat.

The Chinese Community Party of 2020 is a different one than it was 10 years ago, he said.

"This is a Chinese Communist Party that has come to view itself as intent upon the destruction of Western ideas, Western democracies, Western values. It puts Americans at risk.

"The list is long, whether it's stealing American intellectual property, destroying hundreds and millions of jobs here in the US, or their efforts to put at risk sea lanes in the South China Sea, denying commercial traffic the opportunity to move through, armed encampments in places that China has no right to be," Pompeo said.

The list of actions from the Chinese Communist Party is long, he said.

"For the first time we have a President of the United States who is prepared to push back against that and protect the American people, he said.

"They (the Chinese Communist Party) have become more aggressive in their efforts to do disinformation campaigns like we saw when the coronavirus was moving around the world, when they closed down their own province but allowed travel around the world, infecting hundreds of thousands of people. We saw the disinformation of that campaign trying to deflect attention," he alleged.

US House panel chair slams Chinese ‘aggression’ in border dispute with India

WASHINGTON, June 1: Eliot Engel, chairman of the powerful US House foreign relations committee, on Monday, slammed Chinese “aggression” for continuing tensions along the border with India, adding to growing US support for India in this dispute.

“I am extremely concerned by the ongoing Chinese aggression along the Line of Actual Control on the India-China border,” Engel, a Democrat, said in a statement. “China is demonstrating once again that it is willing to bully its neighbours rather than resolve conflicts according to international law.”

He added: “I strongly urge China to respect norms and use diplomacy and existing mechanisms to resolve its border questions with India.”

The chairman of the committee, which has oversight over the state department, is the latest US official to weigh in on India’s side in this border dispute with China.

Alice Wells, the outgoing head of the state department’s South and Central Asia department, had earlier said the border flare-ups were a “reminder that Chinese aggression is not always just rhetorical”.

“Whether it’s in the South China Sea or whether it’s along the border with India, we continue to see provocations and disturbing behaviour by China that raises questions about how China seeks to use its growing power,” she had added.

Also on the India-China dispute, President Donald Trump made an unsolicited offer of mediation which has been turned down by both India and China.

4,000 across US arrested as protests over George Floyd’s death continue

WASHINGTON D.C., June 1: Around 4,000 people across the United States have been arrested during the massive protests over the death of African-American man George Floyd last month.

The first arrests were made on May 26 and since then there have been around 4,000 arrests across the US so far, CNN reported.

While the anger continues to spread, the country is waiting for an address from President Donald Trump about the protests following the death of Floyd.

On Friday night (local time), Trump had briefly moved to an underground bunker as violence raged outside the White House. He again took shelter on Sunday night.

Meanwhile, several organisations like Google and Youtube have expressed support for racial equality.

Google’s CEO Sundar Pichai shared a picture of Google homepage which had a black ribbon at the bottom with a message that read, “We stand in support of racial equality and all those who search for it.”

Also, Youtube’s official Twitter handle’s icon has been changed to black from red.

Protests erupted in Minneapolis and other US cities last Tuesday after Floyd died following his arrest by four officers.

A viral video showed a police officer, Derek Chauvin, pinning the 46-year-old Floyd to the ground with his knee on his neck for nearly eight minutes. Floyd died at a local hospital shortly thereafter.

The four police officers were fired. Chauvin was also charged with murder and manslaughter, according to Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman.

 

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