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US reviewing its global force posture to counter China's threat to India, says Mike Pompeo


Washington: The US is reviewing its global deployment of forces to ensure it is postured appropriately to counter the People's Liberation Army, given the increasing threat posed by China to Asian countries like India, Malaysia, Indonesia, and the Philippines, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Thursday.

Pompeo made those remarks in response to a question during the virtual Brussels Forum 2020 of the German Marshall Fund. "We're going to make sure we're postured appropriately to counter the PLA. We think that the challenge of our times, and we're going to make sure we have resources in place to do that," Pompeo said.

The force posture review is being done at the direction of President Donald Trump, as part of which the US is reducing the number of its troops in Germany from about 52,000 to 25,000, he said. Pompeo said that the force posture would be dictated by the ground realities.

"In certain places there will be fewer American resources. There'll be other places - I just talked about the threat from the Chinese Communist Party, so now threats to India, threats to Vietnam, threats to Malaysia, Indonesia, South China Sea challenges, the Philippines," he said.

 
 

"To the extent that that changed, the difference in what the US decided to do impacts adversely a threat some place, it may be that other nations need to step up and take responsibility for their own defense in ways that they hadn't done previously. So, we want to do this in full consultation with all of our partners all around the world, and certainly our friends in Europe," Pompeo said.

President Trump is being criticised for reducing troops from Germany. His critics say that this will increase the threat from Russia to Europe. Pompeo, however, did not agree with that argument. It has been a long time since there has been a strategic review of our force posture all across the world. The US undertook that starting about 2.5 years ago, whether that was our forces in Africa, our forces in Asia, the force we have in the Middle East and in Europe, he said.

"We began to say these are often decisions that were made in a different time. Should we reallocate those a different way? Should we have a different composition of those forces? Everyone always wants to talk about ground troops. I get it. I was a young tank officer. You described that. There's nothing I like as much as a good M1 tank.

"But it's often the case that the capacity to deter Russia or other adversaries isn't determined any longer by just having a bunch of folks garrisoned someplace. So, we really went to back fundamentally relook, what is the nature of the conflict, what's the nature of the threat, and how should we allocate our resources, whether that's our resources in the intelligence community, our resources from the Air Force or the Marines and Army," Pompeo said.

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." "Our broad set of allocation of security apparatus, our ability to counter cyber threats, how do we allocate them? What's the best way to do this? And the decision that you see the president made with respect to Germany is an outcome from a collective set of decisions about how we're going to posture our resources around the world," said the top American diplomat on Thursday.

Changes in force posture is being taken in consultations with allies and friends, Pompeo said. "President Trump has spoken to this. (Defense) Secretary (Mark) Esper will be in London today and in Brussels tomorrow. We'll talk about our plan and how we're thinking about delivering it," he said.

"But you should understand this, and I hope our European partners will understand this as well. When you see what we ultimately conclude, how we ultimately deliver on the statements of the president made, that they're aimed squarely at what we believe to be democracies' fundamental interest and certainly America's most fundamental interest," Pompeo said.

Earlier this month, Pompeo had said that China's actions, be it on the India border, or in Hong Kong or in the South China Sea, were part of the behaviour of the ruling Communist Party in Beijing in the recent past. China has been fast expanding military and economic influence in the Indo-Pacific region, triggering concern in various countries of the region and beyond.

China is engaged in hotly contested territorial disputes in both the South China Sea and the East China Sea. Beijing has built up and militarised many of the islands and reefs it controls in the region. Both areas are stated to be rich in minerals, oil and other natural resources and are vital to global trade.

 
 
 



NEET, JEE Main exam: Hope of postponement increased


New Delhi: JEE Main exam is scheduled to be held from 18th to 23rd July whereas the scheduled date for the NEET UG exam is 26th July. However, after the cancellation of the remaining class 10 and 12 CBSE exams, the hope of cancellation or postponement of NEET and JEE Main exam increased.

 

Postponed NEET, JEE Main exam: Parents

On Twitter, parents and students are questioning why the exams are not postponed yet?

They claimed that conducting examinations on the scheduled dates is nothing but risking the lives of 16 lakh students.

Meanwhile, experts say that cancellation of NEET exam is not the solution as in the current situation, India need to increase number of doctors in the country. However, they also believe that travelling from remote areas to cities to write examination during the pandemic times is very risky.

As per medical experts, the pandemic has not reached peak in the country. In such a situation, conducting national level exam not only pose threat to students and staff but also increases chances of transmission of virus in areas that has no cases.

Examination in shifts

Stressing the importance of physical distancing, experts also urged government to consider conducting examination in shifts.

It is expected that the decision over NEET and JEE Main examination will be taken soon. Till then, uncertainty prevails.




As Safoora steps out of jail, 2 Jamia students questioned


NEW DELHI: On a day Jamia Coordination Committee member Safoora Zargar stepped out of jail after she was granted bail under humanitarian consideration, two other Jamia students have been called in by the Delhi Police for questioning.

The two students are — Suyash Tripathi from the Law department and Arsalan Alhmed from the department of Social Studies. Both were called by Delhi Police on Wednesday and are being questioned regarding their alleged role in the anti-CAA protests and the conspiracy behind the Delhi Riots in which 53 people lost their lives.

The two Jamia students were sent notices to appear before the Delhi Police’s Special Cell, a specialized wing based out of the capital’s Lodhi Road area.

Jamia has been at the forefront of the anti-CAA protest that even saw violence. However, Jamia Millia Islamia claimed their students did not take part in the riots or indulge in any kind of violence.

ON Wednesday, Zargar, a key member of the Jamia Coordination Committee that was leading the anti-CAA protests in the capital, was released from the jail after she was granted bail on Tuesday. However, she also cannot leave Delhi without permission. The 27-year-old was arrested on April 10, under the draconian Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, on conspiracy charges over the riots.




India-China standoff: Satellite images indicate Chinese army structures, soldiers in Galwan Valley


Defying the agreed mutual consensus to disengage, Chinese People's Liberation Army troops has significantly ramped up its military presence in Galwan valley in eastern Ladakh.

According to a report by NDTV, new Satellite images show the presence of Chinese structures on both sides of the Line of Actual Control in the Galwan river valley. The new images appear to show possible defensive Chinese positions at the site. The new images also show shelters or accommodation having been constructed along the rock-face leading up the LAC.

Chinese military has also deployed a sizeable number of its troops in Galwan Valley, the site of the violent clashes on June 15 that left 20 Indian soldiers dead. The erection of a surveillance post by China in the area had triggered the clashes. However, Chinese troops have again put up some structure around patrolling point 14 in the area, notwithstanding India's stiff opposition.

The two sides on Wednesday held diplomatic talks under the framework of Working Mechanism for Consultation and Coordination on India-China Border Affairs. In the meeting, both sides agreed to ensure expeditious implementation of the understanding on disengagement of troops from eastern Ladakh as decided in a meeting of senior military commanders on June 6, the Ministry of External Affairs said.

On June 15, the clash occurred at the south bank of Galwan river, which flows in an east-west direction before its confluence with Shyok river. The killing of the 20 soldiers became the first fatalities faced by the Indian Army in a clash with the PLA since 1975 when an Indian patrol was ambushed in Arunachal Pradesh.

(Inputs from Agencies)




Mumbai: Fire breaks out in office of Bank of Bahrain and Kuwait at Nariman Point; none hurt


Mumbai: A fire broke out at the office of the Bank of Bahrain and Kuwait at Nariman Point in South Mumbai early Thursday morning, a fire brigade official said.

There was no report of any casualty, he said. The blaze erupted around 5.15 am in the bank's office and server room located on the ground floor of the 15-storey Jolly Maker Chamber 2 building.

The flames spread across the electric wiring and installations, office furniture, records and important documents, computers, UPS battery and false ceiling in an area of 4,000 sq ft on the ground floor, he said. The fire brigade received a call about the blaze at 5.21 am and rushed to the spot, the official said.

"No one was reported to be trapped inside," he said. Nine fire engines, including water tankers, were at the spot and efforts were on to douse the blaze, he said. The cause of the fire was yet to be ascertained, he added.




Despite opposition from Cong-NCP ministers, Uddhav keeps Ajoy Mehta as Principal Adviser


 

The Maharashtra government on Wednesday appointed additional chief secretary Sanjay Kumar as the next chief secretary. Kumar, who belongs to the 1984 IAS batch, will succeed incumbent and batchmate Ajoy Mehta, who retires on June 30. Kumar will take over on the same day and his tenure will be until February 2021.

Further, Mehta, who had received two extensions in all (September 2019 to March 2020 and March to June 2020), has been appointed Principal Adviser to Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray. He will be tasked with advising the CM on the restoration of economic and administrative systems post-Covid-19.

Mehta’s appointment is almost similar to that of former Cabinet Secretary PK Sinha, who after three extensions, took over as the Principal Secretary in the Prime Minister’s Office. The Free Press Journal broke the story recently. Incidentally, the government release is silent on the duration of Mehta’s appointment.

Both Mehta and Kumar abstained from comment.

With Kumar’s appointment, the CM has prioritised seniority. Apart from Kumar, additional chief secretary (general administration) Sitaram Kunte and additional chief secretary Praveen Pardeshi (urban development), from the 1985 IAS batch, had also been frontrunners for the post of chief secretary. Both Kunte and Pardeshi retire in December 2021.

A section of bureaucrats feared there would be two power centres in Mantralaya. Even though as chief secretary, Kumar will chair nearly 300 committees with a statutory role, the bureaucracy will find itself in a Catch-22 situation, having to go by Mehta’s decision, in his capacity as the Principal Adviser to the CM.

It must be mentioned here that the NCP and Congress ministers had complained to Thackeray against Mehta’s style of functioning. They had also strongly opposed another extension for Mehta after June 30. Even though Thackeray has not extended Mehta’s term, he has used his power of veto to appoint him Principal Adviser.

 
 
 



COVID-19: Human trial of new vaccine begins in UK


London: Volunteers have begun being immunised with a new UK coronavirus vaccine. About 300 people will have the vaccine over the coming weeks, as part of a trial led by Robin Shattock and his colleagues, at Imperial College London.

Tests in animals
Tests in animals suggest the vaccine is safe and triggers an effective immune response.

Experts at Oxford University have already started human trials, the BBC reported on Wednesday.

The trials are among many across the world – there are around 120 vaccine programmes under way.

First volunteer
Kathy, 39, who works in finance, is one of the first volunteers taking part in the Imperial trial.

She said she volunteered because she wanted to play a part in fighting the virus.

“I think it came from not really knowing what I could do to help, and this turned out to be something that I could do.

“And understanding that it’s not likely that things will get back to normal until there is a vaccine, so wanting to be part of that progress as well.”

After this first phase, another trial is being planned for October, involving 6,000 people.
The Imperial team hopes the vaccine could be distributed in the UK and overseas from early 2021.

Meanwhile the Duke of Cambridge met volunteers taking part in Oxford University’s trial, at the city’s Churchill Hospital.

Prince William told the volunteers: “It’s the most incredibly exciting and very welcome project that you’re all doing which is why it’s fascinating.”

Imperial vaccine
Many traditional vaccines are based on a weakened or modified form of virus, or parts of it, but the Imperial vaccine is based on a new approach, using synthetic strands of genetic code, called RNA, which mimic the virus.

Once injected into muscle, the RNA self-amplifies – generating copies of itself – and instructs the body’s own cells to make copies of a spike protein found on the outside of the virus.

his should train the immune system to recognise and fight coronavirus without having to develop Covid-19.




Why Black Lives Matter protests in America didn’t lead to a spike in coronavirus cases


Well, we are aware of the killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer last month following which protests across US began taking place even during a pandemic. We are sure that yuo'd be wondering how COVID-19 cases have not surged during these protests? We have the details of what possibly could be the reason.

It has been over three weeks that scores of Americans went to the streets to protest the killing of George Floyd. Despite thousands of people thronging the streets every day, the protests havent really led to a surge in cases - leading to speculations that social distancing rules are not so important if people are wearing masks. Well, the protesters wore masks during the protests, reported BuzzFeed News.

However, jumping to conclusions is not really a good idea, experts believe. Speaking to BuzzFeed News, Kate Grabowski, an epidemiologist at Johns Hopkins University said that it is good news that there hasn't been surge in the cases during this time adding, "all that we have learned from the epodemiology of the virus tells us that people who are in close proximity with people who are infected are at risk."

Something that is worth noting is that in cities with large protests, huge chunk of the populations were at home during the protests, according to an analysis based on cell-phone tracking data. This suggests that if there was virus transmission at protests, it is likely to have been countered by social distancing among the other cities population.

Moving on to what could be the other aspects, as per the experts. As reported by BuzzFeed News, experts agreed that wearing masks during the protests may have possibly reduced the risk of trasmission virus. However, they pointed out other reasons that could have reduced the risk. Experts say that several protesters were young which means that new infections were less likely to occur or cause severe disease which could reflect the official case count. What's more, while thousands of people took part in the protest, the numbers are still small compared to the total population of the cities.

Andrew Noymer, an epidemiologist at the University of California, Irvine told Buzzfeed News that "we will just never know for sure."

Findings by Safegraph, which was researched by researchers at San Diego State University, the University of Colorado, Denver, and Bentley University in Waltham, Massachusetts, states that the data did not allow to follow individuals but they could relate the timing of the protests and the population of cities that stayed at home.

Andrew Friedson, a health economist at the University of Colorado, Denver, said that one needs to understand what is going on with different parts of the population. Several cities have population in millions, he told Buzzfeed News.

During their research, Friedson and his team found that people in larger cities such as Aurora, Colorado, etc did not have protest while other cities did. Moreover, after the unrest began in cities with protests, it was found that stay-at-home behaviour increased.

Also, cities have also setup "pop-up" COVID-19 testing stations that has helped in concluding that low transmission rates during the protests.

New York, New Jersey and Massachusetts are the only three states in the US that are on track to contain the COVID-19 pandemic, according to data by a multidisciplinary team of epidemiologists, health experts, and public policy leaders, reported PTI.

New York state had been the epicentre of the coronavirus pandemic in the US, recording over 388,500 cases and more than 31,200 deaths so far.

However, the state has turned the tide and is reporting record low daily deaths and hospitalisations while gradually re-opening its regions.

The US has reported 2,347,022 coronavirus cases and 121,228 fatalities so far. Covid Act Now, a multidisciplinary team of technologists, epidemiologists, health experts, and public policy leaders, said that New York, New Jersey and Massachusetts are the only three states in the US on track to contain coronavirus.

"New York State is one of only three states that are on track to contain the COVID-19 according to a study by COVID Act Now. We went from one of the highest infection rates to one of the lowest and we did it by making decisions based on the science, the data and the facts -- not on politics," Governor Andrew Cuomo said.

He said New York is finally coming back and "I can't stress enough how important it is that we don't blow this incredible progress now".

He reiterated his appeal to all New Yorkers to wear a mask, get tested, socially distance, wash hands and "be smart."




Vandals damage Indian restaurant in USA's New Mexico state; paint the walls with racist graffiti


An Indian restaurant has been vandalised with racist graffiti written amid the devastation left by the attack in New Mexico state, according to media reports.

Local leaders and the community are rallying behind the Sikh-owned restaurant, India Palace, in Santa Fe, which suffered $100,000 in damages during the attack discovered on Monday, the Santa Fe New Mexican newspaper reported.

Besides causing extensive damage to the restaurant, the vandals had written slogans in support of President Donald Trump and "White Power", and racist remarks like "Go Home," according to the Santa Fe Reporter.

It said that the kitchen was completely made unusable, tables were overturned, glassware was smashed, wine racks were emptied, the statue of a "goddess" was beheaded and computers were stolen.

The restaurant had reopened only recently after being closed due to the COVID-19 restrictions.

Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham tweeted on Tuesday, "We will not stand for such hatred in New Mexico." She added that she had spoken to restaurant-owner Bajit Singh to "let him know that our community is with him."


Mayor Alan Webber described the vandalism a "sickening and appalling" hate crime and vowed, "We will find whoever did it and punish them to the full extent of the law."

He said, "The Singhs are a long-standing Sikh family that has used its own resources to feed homeless Santa Feans through the goodness of their hearts. For them to be attacked this way breaks our hearts."

The Singh family distributes free packages of food and sanitary products for homeless people in the area and these items were stolen during the attack, according to the Reporter.

The Reporter said that five fundraising campaigns have been launched to help the restaurant.

A 'GoFundMe' campaign by another restaurant Paper Dosa had raised more than $35,000, the New Mexican said.

One of the pictures of the graffiti posted on the Reporter's website was against the terrorist organisation Islamic State.

Because of their turbans, Sikhs are sometimes mistaken for Islamists or Iranian clergy who are represented in the media with turbans and are attacked.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations National Communications Director Ibrahim Hooper said in a statement, "This disturbing hate attack once again demonstrates that growing white supremacy, xenophobia, Islamophobia, and racism target every minority community and must be challenged by people of all races, faiths, and backgrounds."




Female banker attacked by a constable in Surat, Nirmala Sitharaman demands strict action


In a shocking incident on Tuesday morning, a policeman slapped and manhandled a lady banker in Surat leaving the woman with a fracture. This incident took place at Canara Bank (e-Syndicate bank) Saroli Branch in the city.

The incident was caught on camera and created a wave of outrage on Social media.

Check out the CCTV footage here:

 

After the outrage over the incident, an FIR was filed by the police.

Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman also took note of the incident and demanded strict action against the constable. She also said that she will be closely following this matter.

"Spoke to Dr. Dhaval Patel, Collector, Surat, on the incident of a lady staff of a Bank being assaulted in the premises. Although currently on leave, he assured me that timely action will be taken on the FIR filed late night," She tweeted.

Check out her tweets here:

 

The Finance Minister also said, "My office spoke to the Commissioner of Police, Shri. Bhrambhatt (IPS). He has assured us that he himself will visit the branch & assure the staff of their safety. Also, he assured that the accused constable shall be suspended immediately."





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