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5 Dead, 40 Injured As SUV Rams US Christmas Parade

WASHINGTON, Nov 21: Five people were killed and 40 others wounded after a vehicle plowed into a Christmas parade in the US state of Wisconsin on Sunday, police said.

Officials said a red SUV broke through barricades at the Christmas parade in Waukesha, a suburb of Milwaukee just after 4:30 pm (2230 GMT), as spectators watched the annual tradition.

"We can confirm that 5 people are deceased and 40 are injured. However, these numbers may change as we collect additional information," the Waukesha Police Department said in a statement on their official Facebook page.

Police added they have a "person of interest in custody".

Police chief Dan Thompson had earlier told reporters that "some of the individuals were children" and that officers had recovered the involved vehicle. There were no other threats, officials at the press conference said.

A total of 11 adults and 12 children were taken to six area hospitals, Fire Chief Steven Howard told reporters.

During the incident an officer fired at the SUV in an attempt to stop it, the authorities added.

Schools will not open Monday and roads will remain closed, Thompson said, while the investigation is continuing.

President Joe Biden has received a briefing on the situation and the White House is "closely monitoring the situation in Waukesha and our hearts go out to everyone who has been impacted by this terrible incident," said an official.

"We have reached out to state and local officials to offer any support and assistance as needed," added the official.

Biden, Xi agree on need to avoid conflict amid growing differences

WASHINGTON, Nov 16: United States President Joe Biden and China’s President Xi Jinping on Tuesday agreed on the need to “responsibly” manage a competitive relationship but did not arrive at any significant breakthrough on any of the thorny issues that have led to increasingly confrontational ties.

The two leaders on Tuesday morning (Monday evening in Washington) spoke for over three hours in their first virtual summit, convened from the Roosevelt Room in the White House and the Great Hall of the People in Beijing.

Xi greeted Biden as an “old friend” while the U.S. President noted that the two, from their time as Vice Presidents, had “spent an awful lot of time talking to one another” and had “never been that formal with one another”.

The change in tone was obvious from a March meeting in Alaska between senior officials that saw accusations traded in front of the cameras and marked a turbulent start to the Biden administration’s engagement with China. But pleasantries aside, both sides essentially reinforced their positions on many of the core issues that have strained the relationship.

Any headway on these issues would have been a surprise, with expectations ahead of the summit focused firmly on what a senior U.S. administration official had described as discussing “guardrails” rather than on any specific deliverables.

The main takeaway was a mutual recognition of the need to manage competition amid differences. Biden called for “common sense guardrails to ensure that competition does not veer into conflict,” the White House said, although its readout did not detail the nature of these measures beyond saying the two leaders talked about how the two sides could continue to engage on a number of areas. The U.S. President also underlined the “importance of managing competition responsibly.”

Xi, for his part, said “mutual respect, peaceful coexistence and win-win cooperation” should be the “three principles” guiding ties, the Chinese Foreign Ministry said in its readout. He said the two countries “need to treat each other as equals” and that “no conflict and no confrontation is a line that both sides must hold.”

“Drawing ideological lines or dividing the world into different camps or rival groups,” he said, "will only make the world suffer”, calling on the U.S. “to meet its word of not seeking a ‘new Cold War’, with concrete actions.”

The unanswered question was how both sides would “responsibly manage” differences when neither appeared to give ground on any of them. The Chinese President said on the one hand that “the key is to manage [differences] constructively so that they don’t magnify or exacerbate” but added that “China will certainly defend its sovereignty, security and development interests.” He added that it was “important that the U.S. properly handle the relevant issues with prudence.”

Top of those issues is Taiwan. Biden said the U.S. “strongly opposes unilateral efforts to change the status quo or undermine peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait”.

He also “discussed the importance of a free and open Indo-Pacific, and communicated the continued determination of the United States to uphold our commitments in the region,” the White House said, highlighting the “importance of freedom of navigation and safe overflight to the region’s prosperity.”

Biden, in effect, said that the U.S. was committed to the status quo from its side on Taiwan, by underlining the country’s commitment to the “one China” policy, the Taiwan Relations Act, the three Joint Communiques and the Six Assurances. Under its one China policy, Washington recognises Beijing alone as the formal government of China, but under the Taiwan Relations Act, the U.S. will support Taiwan if it is attacked by Beijing.

Xi, in contrast, referred to what he called “the true status quo of the Taiwan question” which was that “there is but one China in the world and Taiwan is part of China.” “We have patience and will strive for the prospect of peaceful reunification with utmost sincerity and efforts,” he said. “That said, should the separatist forces for Taiwan independence provoke us, force our hands or even cross the red line, we will be compelled to take resolute measures.”

Biden also raised “concerns” on China’s actions in Xinjiang, Tibet and Hong Kong and human rights issues more broadly, which brought a response from Xi saying that “democracy is not mass produced with a uniform model” and “dismissing forms of democracy that are different from one’s own is in itself undemocratic.” “China is ready to have dialogues on human rights on the basis of mutual respect,” he said, “but we oppose using human rights to meddle in other countries’ internal affairs.”

Both flagged climate change as one area of cooperation, coming after a recent agreement announced by the two countries at COP26. In his opening remarks, Biden said the two countries ought to work together where interests aligned, highlighting climate change, while Xi said climate chane “can well become a new highlight of cooperation.”

US blacklists Israel's NSO group citing Pegasus spyware

WASHINGTON, Nov 3: The U.S. Commerce Department added Israel's NSO Group and Candiru to its trade blacklist on Wednesday, saying they sold spyware to foreign governments that used the equipment to target government officials, journalists and others.

Positive Technologies of Russia, and Computer Security Initiative Consultancy PTE. LTD, from Singapore, were also listed. The Department said they trafficked in cyber tools used to gain unauthorized access to computer networks.

The companies' addition to the list, for engaging in activities contrary to U.S. national security or foreign policy interests, means that exports to them from U.S counterparts are restricted. It for instance makes it far harder for U.S. security researchers to sell them information about computer vulnerabilities.

In the past, the NSO Group and Candiru have been accused of selling hacking tools to authoritarian regimes. NSO says it only sells its products to law enforcement and intelligence agencies and takes steps to curb abuse.

An NSO spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Contact information for Candiru was not available.

The Biden administration imposed sanctions on Positive Technologies, a Russian cybersecurity firm, this year for providing support to Russian security services. The company has denied any wrongdoing.

Spokespeople for Positive Technologies and Computer Security Initiative Consultancy PTE. LTD, also known as COSEINC, did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Pentagon: Chinese nuke force growing faster than predicted

WASHINGTON, Nov 3: China is expanding its nuclear force much faster than U.S. officials predicted just a year ago, highlighting a broad and accelerating buildup of military muscle designed to enable Beijing to match or surpass U.S. global power by mid-century, according to a Pentagon report released Wednesday.

The number of Chinese nuclear warheads could increase to 700 within six years, the report said, and may top 1,000 by 2030. The report did not say how many weapons China has today, but a year ago the Pentagon said the number was in the “low 200s” and was likely to double by the end of this decade.

The United States, by comparison, has 3,750 nuclear weapons and has no plans to increase. As recently as 2003 the U.S. total was about 10,000. The Biden administration is undertaking a comprehensive review of its nuclear policy and has not said how that might be influenced by its China concerns.

The report does not suggest open conflict with China but it fits an emerging U.S. narrative of a People’s Liberation Army, as China calls its military, intent on challenging the United States in all domains of warfare — air, land, sea, space and cyberspace. Against that backdrop, U.S. defense officials have said they are increasingly wary of China’s intentions with regard to the status of Taiwan.

“The PLA’s evolving capabilities and concepts continue to strengthen (China’s) ability to ‘fight and win wars’ against a ‘strong enemy’ — a likely euphemism for the United States,” the report said, adding that it makes China more capable of coercing Taiwan, the self-ruled island that China claims as its territory.

Wednesday’s report is the latest reminder to Congress, already leery of Beijing’s military ambitions, that the Pentagon’s frequent promises to focus more intently on countering China have moved only incrementally beyond the talking stage. The Biden administration is expected to take a new step by following through on its announcement in September of plans to increase the U.S. military presence in Australia, in addition to a controversial decision to help Australia acquire nuclear-powered submarines.

China’s military modernization is proceeding on a wide front, but its nuclear advances are especially notable.

The Chinese may already have established what is known as a nuclear triad — the combination of land-, sea-, and air-based missiles that the United States and Russia have had for decades, the report said. To its existing land- and sea-based nuclear forces China is adding an air-launched ballistic missile.

The Pentagon report was based on information collected through December 2020 and so does not reflect or even mention Gen. Mark Milley’s expression of concern last month about Chinese hypersonic weapon tests last summer that he said came as a troublesome surprise. Wednesday’s report only referred to the widely known fact that China had fielded the DF-17 medium-range ballistic missile, equipped with a hypersonic glide vehicle designed to evade American missile defenses.

In remarks shortly before the report’s release Wednesday, Milley told the Aspen Security Forum that the hypersonic missile test and other Chinese advances are evidence of what is at stake for the world.

“We are witnessing one of the largest shifts in global and geostrategic power that the world has witnessed,” he said.

The Pentagon report said China is pursuing a network of overseas bases that “could interfere with” U.S. military operations and could support Chinese military operations against the United States. President Xi Jinping has said China plans to become a global military power by 2049.

The Pentagon’s wide-ranging assessment of China’s military strategy and force development is the latest in an annual series of reports to Congress and in some respects was more detailed than previous versions. For example, it questioned China’s compliance with international biological and chemical weapons agreements, citing studies conducted at military medical institutions that discussed identifying, testing and characterizing groups of “potent toxins” that have civilian as well as military uses.

The basis of the Pentagon’s prediction that China will vastly increase its nuclear arsenal is not spelled out in Wednesday’s report. A senior defense official who briefed reporters in advance of the report’s public release, and thus spoke on condition of anonymity, said the forecast reflects several known developments, such as China’s addition of a nuclear bomber capability, as well as public statements in Chinese official media that have made reference to China needing 1,000 nuclear weapons.

The report also asserted that China has begun construction of at least three new missile fields that “cumulatively contain hundreds” of underground silos from which ICBMs could be launched.

The report provided no details on the new missile fields, but private nuclear analysts have reported that satellite imagery shows what appear to be vast new missile silo fields under construction in north-central China. In an update published Tuesday, analysts Matt Korda and Hans Kristensen of the Federation of American Scientists said they have seen continued construction progress and have discovered “unique facilities that appear intended to support missile operations once the silo fields become operational.”

One of those facilities, they said, is a complex in the mountains surrounded by what appear to be four tunnels into underground facilities. The tunnels are under construction and there are large amounts of excavated soil dumped nearby. This facility’s function is unknown but “could potentially involve missile and/or warhead storage and management,” the analysts said.

Other structures under construction may be technical service facilities and launch control centers, they said.

Bill Introduced In US Congress To Declare Diwali As Federal Holiday

WASHINGTON, Nov 3: Led by Congresswoman Carolyn B Maloney from New York, lawmakers on Wednesday announced that a bill has been introduced in the House of Representatives to declare Diwali, festival of lights, a federal holiday.

"I'm very, very happy and excited to be introducing the Deepavali Day Act this week alongside members of the Congressional Indian Caucus, which will enshrine Diwali into law as a federal holiday," Maloney said at an event at the US Capitol.

The historic legislation is co-sponsored by a number of lawmakers including Indian-American Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi,

Krishnamoorthi has also introduced a resolution in the US Congress recognising the religious and historical significance of Diwali.

Maloney said that Diwali this year symbolises the nation's continuing journey out of the darkness of COVID-19.

"I am very proud to celebrate with you the victory of light over darkness, the triumph of good over evil and the pursuit of knowledge over ignorance as we do every day. It is truly appropriate that Diwali this year symbolises our nation's continuing journey out of the darkness of COVID-19 and the terrible effects that Democrat depended on the people of our nation," she said.

"Celebrations like Diwali speak to the core of what we all desire for our nation to be a beacon of happiness, healing, learning and light and uncertain times. My colleagues, Indian-American community leaders and I believe that there is no better time to enshrine Diwali as a federal holiday than in the wake of this terrible dark pandemic," Maloney said.

Powerful Congressman Gregory Meeks, Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, supported the legislation.

"This is something that should be shared with all of us In American society. It's a good day, because we're talking about light over darkness. And that's what this is about," Meeks said.

The House Foreign Affairs Committee will be supporting this and advocating and moving forward with this great bill, he said.

Mr Krishnamoorthi said: "On this holiday of Diwali, we should say, be the light you wish to see in the world. Be the light in your community that is needed to dispel the darkness. Be the light in this community that brings hope to the hopeless. Let us be the light that helps the last, the least and the last."

"That is what Diwali is about. And that is why Diwali needs to be a federal holiday," Mr Krishnamoorthi said, adding that Diwali is also about celebrating Indian-Americans.

 

 

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