Saturday, September 12, 2020

Tibetans hold anti-China protest in New York in solidarity with SSF commando

The Tibetan community across the world are angry about China's recent aggression in Ladakh

New York [US] September 12 (ANI): Members of the Tibetan community in New York organised a protest against China at Jackson Heights, also known as Little India, to show their solidarity with Special Frontier Force (SFF) commando Nyima Tenzin.

Nyima, a Tibetan-Indian hero of the elite covert paramili
tary unit SFF was killed on the night of August 29-30 in eastern Ladakh in India. The 51-year old soldier died after he stepped on to a 1962 vintage anti-personnel mine near the southern bank of the Pangong lake.

The Tibetan community across the world is angry about China's recent aggression in Ladakh and they accused Beijing of occupying Tibet for the past several decades.

The Tibetan National Congress led by President Tseten Lhagyal also held solidarity prayers as a tribute to brave SFF commando Nyima Tenzin.

The Non-Commissioned Officer (NCO) belongs to the Tibetan refugee community that has settled in India due to Chinese atrocities.

SFF is an Indian security unit that is primarily drawn from the thousands of Tibetan refugees who now call India home. It was formed in the immediate aftermath of the 1962 war with China.

A former SSF soldier Migmar Tsering Rangzen said they are ready to go back to the border by adding that "Tibetan are always with India. And we shouldn't say Indo-China border, but Tibet-India border". (ANI)

Oxford vaccine phase 3 trials resume after halt over safety concerns

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London [UK], September 12 (ANI): The third phase of AstraZeneca's coronavirus vaccine have resumed in the UK, days after they were halted over safety concerns.

AstraZeneca said on Saturday that it received confirmation from the United Kingdom's Medicines Health Regulatory Authority that it was safe 
to resume clinical trials, CNBC reported.

AstraZeneca, a UK-based biopharma giant, had announced on Tuesday that the phase 3 testing of its COVID-19 vaccine being developed by it with Oxford University has been put on hold due to a suspected serious adverse reaction in a participant in the United Kingdom.

The company said that that the "standard review process triggered a voluntary pause" to all global trials on September 6 so that independent committees and internal regulators could review the safety data.

"Clinical trials for the AstraZeneca Oxford coronavirus vaccine, AZD1222, have resumed in the UK following confirmation by the Medicines Health Regulatory Authority (MHRA) that it was safe to do so," Astra Zeneca said in a statement.

While trials can now resume in the UK, the status of trials elsewhere remains unclear.

"The company will continue to work with health authorities across the world and be guided as to when other clinical trials can resume to provide the vaccine broadly, equitably and at no profit during this pandemic," the statement said.

The University of Oxford, which developed the vaccine in partnership with AstraZeneca, said on Saturday that some 18,000 people have so far received the vaccination in trials.

"In large trials such as this, it is expected that some participants will become unwell and every case must be carefully evaluated to ensure careful assessment of safety," it said in a statement. (ANI)

Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan offer to host Intra-Afghan peace talks

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Doha [Qatar], September 12 (ANI/Sputnik): Uzbek Foreign Minister Abdulaziz Kamilov and Turkmen Foreign Minister Rashid Meredov offered on Saturday their respective countries' services to provide a platform for negotiations between the government of Afghanistan and the Taliban radical movement.

Kamil
ov and Meredov spoke via video conferencing at the opening ceremony of the landmark intra-Afghan talks in the Qatari capital of Doha.

"I would like to reaffirm Uzbekistan's readiness to host one of the rounds of the intra-Afghan talks in the wonderful city of Samarkand," Kamilov said.

Sputnik knew about Uzbekistan's offer since Friday from the Uzbek president's special representative for Afghanistan, Ismatulla Irgashev.

The Turkmen foreign minister, in turn, vowed his country's support to the "advancement of the peace process in Afghanistan, designed to importantly contribute to the strengthening of the regional security and stability," as quoted in a press release by the Turkmen Foreign Ministry.

"[Meredov] also emphasized that Turkmenistan has always called for the resolution of issues exclusively via diplomatic and political instruments and stands ready to facilitate the [intra-Afghan] negotiation process, including by providing political space," the press release read.

On February 29, the Taliban and the United States reached a landmark agreement in the Qatari capital of Doha. The key provisions of the deal were that the Taliban and the Afghan government release each other's prisoners -- 1,000 and 5,000, respectively -- and that the radical movement commits to reducing violence, as prerequisites of launching intra-Afghan talks.

The talks, which began on Saturday in Doha, are now expected to pave the way for a peace process and withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan after almost two decades of war and insurgency. (ANI/Sputnik)

Man arrested on suspicion of attempting to cause explosion in London

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London [UK], September 12 (ANI): The UK Counter Terrorism Police on Sunday arrested a man on suspicion of attempting to cause an explosion with a small improvised explosive device sent via post to a residential address in north London.

The suspect was detained on Saturday morning in Cambridge, easte
rn England, under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act. He was taken into custody at south London police station, Sputnik reported.

According to the press release, the suspicious package was received on Thursday in the London area of Cricklewood, and the specialized officers that attended the emergency call assessed it was a small improvised explosive device.

The man, who the Police said is in his 20s, was also arrested on suspicion of making and keeping explosives with intent to endanger life and property. (ANI)

Pompeo calls Afghan peace talks 'truly momentous occasion,' urges govt, Taliban to 'seize the opportunity'

US Secretary of Mike Pompeo

Doha [Qatar], September 12 (ANI): Calling the beginning of intra-Afghan peace talks a "truly momentous occasion," US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo urged the warring sides--Afghan government and Taliban-- to "seize the opportunity", adding that Washington is ready to support the negotiations.

The mu
ch-anticipated peace talks between the Afghanistan government and the Taliban have opened in Qatar's capital Doha to end the two decades of war that has killed ten of thousands.

"Today is truly a momentous occasion. Afghans have at long last chosen to sit together and chart a new course for your country. This is a moment that we must dare to hope. As we look toward the light, we recall the darkness of four decades of war and the lost lives and opportunities, but it is remarkable and a testament to the human spirit that the pain and patterns of destruction are no match for the enduring hopes for peace held by all Afghan people and their many friends," Pompeo said the remarks during the opening ceremony.

Topics on the agenda during the talks include a permanent ceasefire, Afghanistan's future political system and a range of social issues.

The Afghan government's 21-member negotiating team was led by Masoom Stanekzai, a former intelligence chief. On the other hand, the Taliban was led by Mawlavi Abdul Hakim, the terror group's chief justice and a close aide of the group's chief Haibatullah Akhunzada, Al Jazeera reported.

The negotiations, where the two warring sides will sit face-to-face for the first time, will start on Monday.

"We know that Afghans yearn to determine their own affairs. It's why you all are here. Free from outside interference. We hope you will enjoy cooperation and mutually respectful relations with your neighbours and other international partners and that you will indeed become self-reliant, liberated from the shackles of dependence on others," he said.

"So I cannot strongly enough urge you: Seize this opportunity. Protect this process. Respect each other. Be patient. Remain focused on the mission. We're prepared to support your negotiations should you ask, but this time is yours. This time is yours. I pray that you will seize the moment," he added.

Peace negotiations were expected to take place in March but were delayed repeatedly due to a prisoner exchange agreement made as part of the deal signed between the United States and Taliban in February.

According to the agreement, the Afghan government said it will release 5,000 Taliban prisoners while the Taliban agreed to release 1,000 Afghan troops. (ANI)

India, ASEAN adopt plan of action for next five years

External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar.

New Delhi [India], September 12 (ANI): External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar on Saturday co-chaired the ASEAN-India Ministerial Meeting with his Thailand counterpart Don Pramudwinai, during which the new ASEAN-India plan of action for next five years was adopted.

The meeting was held virtually and 
saw the participation of Foreign Ministers of the 10 ASEAN Member States and India, according to Ministry of External Affairs' statement.

The ministers discussed ways to strengthen cooperation to fight COVID-19 pandemic and exchanged views on important regional and international developments, the statement said.

During the meeting the status of the ASEAN-India Strategic Partnership in several areas including maritime cooperation, connectivity was reviewed.

"The meeting reviewed the status of ASEAN-India Strategic Partnership in several areas including maritime cooperation, connectivity, education & capacity building and people-to-people contacts. It reviewed the progress in implementation of the ASEAN-India Plan of Action (2016-2020)... The new ASEAN-India Plan of Action (2021-2025) was adopted at the meeting," it said.

"The meeting also reviewed the preparations for the upcoming 17th ASEAN-India Summit and also the progress in the implementation of key decisions of the Leaders of ASEAN Member States (AMS) and India arrived at the 16th ASEAN-India Summit held in Bangkok in November 2019 and the previous Summits," it added. (ANI)

Taliban releases 22 Afghan soldiers as goodwill gesture

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Kabul [Afghanistan], September 12 (ANI): The Taliban on Saturday said it has released 22 Afghan soldiers in the southern Hemland province as a goodwill gesture.

"Today in the Helmand province, 22 soldiers of the Kabul administration, who were captured in different battles at different times were rel
eased from the prisons of the Islamic Emirate [the Taliban] due to the beginning of the intra-Afghan negotiations and good intentions ... The expectation from the other side is also to take similar steps and make the most of the opportunities," the Taliban said in a statement.

The much-anticipated peace talks between the Afghanistan government and the Taliban have opened in Qatar's capital Doha to end the two decades of war that has killed ten of thousands.

Abdullah Abdullah, the chairperson of Afghanistan's High Council for National Reconciliation, said peace can be reached when all sides respect the opinions of each other, adding that it was the time to end the 40-year conflict.

"Welcome to all of you who have come together for Afghan peace. I am speaking here on behalf or as a representative of the President of Afghanistan [Ashraf Ghani]. I thank the Taliban for agreeing to the talks to the Afghan government. Today is the day to discuss ending the war, ending the pain of Afghans. We have come together to end the 40-years war to end political violence with the Taliban," Abdullah told reporters before the start of negotiations.

Topics on the agenda during the talks include a permanent ceasefire, Afghanistan's future political system and a range of social issues.

The negotiations, where the two warring sides will sit face-to-face for the first time, will start on Monday.

The Afghan government's 21-member negotiating team was led by Masoom Stanekzai, a former intelligence chief. On the other hand, the Taliban was led by Mawlavi Abdul Hakim, the terror group's chief justice and a close aide of the group's chief Haibatullah Akhunzada, Al Jazeera reported.

Peace negotiations were expected to take place in March but were delayed repeatedly due to a prisoner exchange agreement made as part of the deal signed between the United States and Taliban in February.

According to the agreement, the Afghan government said it will release 5,000 Taliban prisoners while the Taliban agreed to release 1,000 Afghan troops. (ANI)

Researchers study what makes memories so detailed and enduring

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Washington D.C. [USA], September 12 (ANI): The memories of the COVID-19 pandemic are likely to be etched in human minds with precision and clarity, distinct from other memories of 2020.

The process which makes this possible has eluded scientists for many decades, but research led by the University o
f Bristol has made a breakthrough in understanding how memories can be so distinct and long-lasting without getting muddled up.

The study, published in Nature Communications, describes a newly discovered mechanism of learning in the brain shown to stabilise memories and reduce interference between them. Its findings also provide new insight into how humans form expectations and make accurate predictions about what could happen in future.

Memories are created when the connections between the nerve cells which send and receive signals from the brain are made stronger. This process has long been associated with changes to connections that excite neighbouring nerve cells in the hippocampus, a region of the brain crucial for memory formation.

These excitatory connections must be balanced with inhibitory connections, which dampen nerve cell activity, for healthy brain function. The role of changes to inhibitory connection strength had not previously been considered and the researchers found that inhibitory connections between nerve cells, known as neurons, can similarly be strengthened.

Working together with computational neuroscientists at Imperial College London, the researchers showed how this allows the stabilisation of memory representations.

Their findings uncover for the first time how two different types of inhibitory connections (from parvalbumin and somatostatin expressing neurons) can also vary and increase their strength, just like excitatory connections. Moreover, computational modelling demonstrated this inhibitory learning enables the hippocampus to stabilise changes to excitatory connection strength, which prevents interfering information from disrupting memories.

First author Dr Matt Udakis, Research Associate at the School of Physiology, Pharmacology, and Neuroscience, said: "We were all really excited when we discovered these two types of inhibitory neurons could alter their connections and partake in learning. It provides an explanation for what we all know to be true; that memories do not disappear as soon as we encounter a new experience. These new findings will help us understand why that is."

"The computer modelling gave us important new insight into how inhibitory learning enables memories to be stable over time and not be susceptible to interference. That's really important as it has previously been unclear how to separate memories can remain precise and robust," added Udakis.

The research was funded by the UKRI's Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council, which has awarded the teams further funding to develop this research and test their predictions from these findings by measuring the stability of memory representations.

Senior author Professor Jack Mellor, Professor in Neuroscience at the Centre for Synaptic Plasticity, said:"Memories form the basis of our expectations about future events and enable us to make more accurate predictions. What the brain is constantly doing is matching our expectations to reality, finding out where mismatches occur and using this information to determine what we need to learn.

"We believe what we have discovered plays a crucial role in assessing how accurate our predictions are and therefore what is important new information. In the current climate, our ability to manage our expectations and make accurate predictions has never been more important," Mellor added.

"This is also a great example of how research at the interface of two different disciplines can deliver exciting science with truly new insights. Memory researchers within Bristol Neuroscience form one of the largest communities of memory-focussed research in the UK spanning a broad range of expertise and approaches. It was a great opportunity to work together and start to answer these big questions, which neuroscientists have been grappling with for decades and have wide-reaching implications," said Mellor. (ANI)

China's launch of new satellite fails

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Beijing [China], September 12 (ANI/Xinhua): Optical remote-sensing satellite Jilin-1 Gaofen 02C, which was launched aboard the Kuaizhou-1A carrier rocket from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in northwest China at 13:02 p.m. (Beijing time) on Saturday, failed to enter the preset orbit.

Abnormal p
erformance was identified during the rocket's flight, said the launch center.

The cause of the failure is under investigation. (ANI/Xinhua)

Paris police detain nearly over 125 people during Yellow Vest Protests

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Paris [France], September 12 (ANI/Sputnik): Over 125 individuals have been detained on the morning of planned Yellow Vest protests in the French capital, law enforcement officials said on Saturday.

"As of 12:00 [11:00 GMT], the police have detained 128 people," the Paris Police Prefecture said in a 
statement.

Earlier in the day, the number of detained people was at 81.

Police have gathered near the sites of planned Yellow Vest protests and have claimed to have found a range of prohibited items, including axes, knives, ice-picks, and balaclavas, while conducting searches of protesters.

A Sputnik correspondent at the scene has reported that demonstrators have already gathered at Place Wagram in the French capital. Protesters are expected to march in the direction of the Montmartre district in the afternoon. (ANI/Sputnik)

Lasting ceasefire in Afghanistan only after govt implements 'Islamic' system: Taliban

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Doha [Qatar], September 12 (ANI): A lasting ceasefire in Afghanistan will be reached once the government system in the country becomes 'Islamic', Suhail Shaheen, the spokesman for the Taliban's political office, said on the sidelines of the ongoing peace talks in Doha on Saturday.

"The Islamic Emira
te wants the system of government to become Islamic. When this is done, a ceasefire will be reached on that day," Sputnik quoted Shaheen as saying.

During their rule in Afghanistan in the 90s, the Taliban had established an Islamic system, which focuses on the implementation of Shariah.

The Taliban have been condemned internationally for the harsh enforcement of their interpretation of Islamic Sharia law, which has resulted in the brutal treatment of many Afghans, especially women.

The much-anticipated peace talks between the Afghanistan government and the Taliban have opened in Qatar's capital Doha to end the two decades of war that has killed ten of thousands.

Abdullah Abdullah, the chairperson of Afghanistan's High Council for National Reconciliation, said peace can be reached when all sides respect the opinions of each other, adding that it was the time to end the 40-year conflict.

"Welcome to all of you who have come together for Afghan peace. I am speaking here on behalf or as a representative of the President of Afghanistan [Ashraf Ghani]. I thank the Taliban for agreeing to the talks to the Afghan government. Today is the day to discuss ending the war, ending the pain of Afghans. We have come together to end the 40-years war to end political violence with the Taliban," Abdullah told reporters before the start of negotiations.

Topics on the agenda during the talks include a permanent ceasefire, Afghanistan's future political system and a range of social issues.

The negotiations, where the two warring sides will sit face-to-face for the first time, will start on Monday.

The Afghan government's 21-member negotiating team was led by Masoom Stanekzai, a former intelligence chief. On the other hand, the Taliban was led by Mawlavi Abdul Hakim, the terror group's chief justice and a close aide of the group's chief Haibatullah Akhunzada, Al Jazeera reported.

Peace negotiations were expected to take place in March but were delayed repeatedly due to a prisoner exchange agreement made as part of the deal signed between the United States and Taliban in February.

According to the agreement, the Afghan government said it will release 5,000 Taliban prisoners while the Taliban agreed to release 1,000 Afghan troops. (ANI)

CM Pema Khandu, Kiren Rijiju thank Indian Army for securing smooth return of five missing Arunachal Pradesh men

Indian Army on Saturday took the handover of all five Indian nationals at Kibithu border post (Picture tweeted by Union Minister Kiren Rijiju)

New Delhi [India], September 12 (ANI): Arunachal Pradesh Chief Minister Pema Khandu and Union Minister Kiren Rijiju on Saturday thanked Indian Army for securing the smooth return of five men from the state, who had recently gone missing.

"China's PLA has handed over our 5 boys to our side here at Ki
bitu area. I appreciate Indian Army for the smooth return of our citizens. I thank Indian Army Chief, his office and the local Commanders for constantly following up the matter and regularly updating me on the matter," said Rijiju said in a tweet.

Arunachal Chief Minister said he was "wholeheartedly thankful" to the government of India and Indian Army for their persistent efforts in securing their return.

"Absolutely glad to know that five of our Arunachali youths have been safely handed over to Indian Army by Chinese PLA. I am wholeheartedly thankful to the Govt of India and the Indian Army for their persistent effort in securing their return," he said.

Five Indian nationals who had gone missing from villages in Arunachal Pradesh near the border of China earlier this month have been handed over by the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA), the Indian Army said.

Indian Army on Saturday took the handover of all five Indian nationals at Kibithu border post after completing all the formalities.

"Individuals will now be quarantined for 14 days as per COVID-19 protocol and will thereafter be handed over to their family members," a Defence spokesperson said in a statement.

"Arunachal Pradesh is known for its rich natural heritage and adventurous people fond of exploring the nature for medicinal herbs and possessing traditional flair for hunting which involves surviving off the land for weeks in jungles and far-flung remote areas. During such adventurous forays, at times youth have inadvertently strayed to other side of LAC," the statement read.

The Defence Spokesperson said the Indian Army has always been proactive in tracing the lost locals and helping them return home.

"Three such incidents took place in the current year in Upper Subansiri and West Siang District including the latest one. All such individuals were brought back home safely after consistent efforts and coordination by the Indian Army in the past," the statement said.

According to the statement in the latest case, five individuals from Upper Subansiri District had also inadvertently strayed across LAC recently. "Indian Army approached PLA on the hotline to trace and return them. On September 8, the response on the hotline confirmed that the missing individuals had been traced." (ANI)

Iran condemns deal to normalise Israel-Bahrain ties, describes it 'shameful act'

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Tehran [Iran], September 12 (ANI): Iran on Saturday condemned the announcement of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Bahrain and Israel describing it as "shameful act".

"The Iranian Foreign Ministry strongly condemns the establishment of diplomatic relations between Bahrain and the Zi
onist regime and considers it a shameful act that sacrifices the cause of Palestine and several decades of struggle and suffering of the Palestinian people for the sake of the US elections," Iranian Foreign Ministry was quoted as saying by Sputnik.

According to the Sputnik report, Tehran also warned Israel against attempts to escalate tensions in the Persian Gulf and said Bahrain would be among the countries responsible for such destabilising acts.

On Friday, Bahrain and Israel agreed to establish diplomatic relations.

The move comes after last month, United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Israel agreed to normalise relations. The first two Arab countries to recognise Israel were Egypt in 1979 and Jordan in 1994.

A joint statement of the US, UAE and Israel had said, "President Donald J Trump, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel and Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the United Arab Emirates spoke today (Thursday) and agreed to the full normalisation of relations between Israel and the UAE."

The UAE is making a mistake by moving closer to Israel, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani had said referring to the announcement of normalisation of ties between the two countries. (ANI)

2 killed after single-engine plane crashes following takeoff in Los Angeles

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Los Angeles [US], September 12 (ANI/Sputnik): Two people have died after a single-engine plane crashed shortly after takeoff from Van Nuys Airport in the Los Angeles area, the NBC Los Angeles broadcaster reports.

The crash took place at 15:04 local time on Friday [22:04 GMT] and involved a Navion B 
plane that was bound for Santa Ynez Airport in Santa Barbara County, the broadcaster cited Ian Gregor, an official from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), as saying.

"The FAA and National Transportation Safety Board will investigate," the broadcaster quoted Gregor as saying.

The aircraft caught fire after crashing in a parking lot near Van Nuys Airport, the broadcaster stated, adding that firefighters responding to the incident managed to extinguish the blaze. (ANI/Sputnik)

50 dead in DR Congo mining well landslide

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Bukavu [DR Congo], September 12 (ANI/Xinhua): At least 50 people were killed on Friday evening after a landslide hit a mining well in Kamituga, South Kivu Province in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), according to a statement from the provincial governor on Saturday morning.

Govern
or Theo Ngwabidje Kasi confirmed that the majority of the victims are youth and children. The search is continuing to identify the dead and to provide assistance.

The cause of the landslide is under investigation.

South Kivu Province witnesses landslides every year due to artisanal mining activities in several communities. (ANI/Xinhua)

Saudi-led coalition airstrikes hit Houthi military site in Yemen's capital

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Sanaa [Yemen], September 12 (ANI/Xinhua): The Saudi-led coalition warplanes launched a series of airstrikes on a military camp under the control of the Yemeni Houthi militia in Yemen's capital Sanaa early on Saturday, residents and Houthis said.

The attack at dawn destroyed the Military Engineering 
Unit in Sawan neighbourhood in the eastern part of Sanaa, the Houthi-run al-Masirah TV reported.

There were no civilian casualties, according to the Sanaa residents.

The airstrikes came after a series of cross-border missile and drone attacks by the Yemeni Houthi militia against Saudi Arabia since the beginning of this week.

All Houthi attacks had been intercepted, according to the coalition statements.

Yemen has been mired in civil war since late 2014 when the Iran-backed Houthi rebels seized control of much of the country's north and forced the internationally recognised government of President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi out of the capital Sanaa.

The Saudi-led military coalition intervened in the Yemen conflict in March 2015 to support Hadi's government. (ANI/Xinhua)

5,488 COVID-19 cases registered in Russia in last 24 hours

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Moscow [Russia], September 12 (ANI): A total of 5,488 COVID-19 cases were registered in Russia in the past 24 hours, bringing the cumulative total to 1,057,362, Sputnik reported citing the country's coronavirus response center.

"Over the past 24 hours, Russia has confirmed 5,488 COVID-19 cases in 85
 regions, of which 1,229 (22.4 percent) have been detected actively, with people showing no clinical symptoms," the response center was quoted as saying in a statement.

Russia's capital Moscow recorded 670 cases, St. Petersburg registered 203 cases.

In the same time period, Russia recorded 119 COVID-19 fatalities, bringing the death toll to 18,484, and 5,428 recoveries, taking the total to 873,535.

As per the latest data by Johns Hopkins University, worldwide, the coronavirus cases have risen to 28,506,254 while the death toll stands 915,920. (ANI)

Uyghur activist protests outside Chinese Embassy in US on anniversary of sister's detention in Xinjiang

Uyghur activist Rushan Abbas outside the Chinese Embassy in the United States (Photo source: Rushan Abbas Twitter)

Washington [US], September 12 (ANI): Rushan Abbas, an Uyghur American activist, staged a protest outside the Chinese Embassy in the United States on the second anniversary of her sister's detention in northwestern China's Xinjiang province.

Tagging Chinese Ambassador to the US Cui Tiankai in her Twi
tter post, Rushan Abbas demanded the safe and speedy release of her family members.

"Protesting in front of the @ChineseEmbinUS on the 2-year anniversary of Dr Gulshan Abbas's extrajudicial detention and the detainment of 3 million+ Uyghurs in China's camps. @AmbCuiTiankai, we demand the safe and speedy release of our family members! Give us proof of life!" the activist said.

In a recent video statement, Rushan Abbas hit out at Disney over its choice to film several scenes of the movie 'Mulan' in Xinjiang, saying it is tacit approval of the Chinese government's brutal campaign against the Uyghurs.

Abbas, who herself is from Urumqi, the capital of Xinjiang, wondered whether the Disney crew passed by the concentration camp, where her sister is believed to be held by authorities.

"My own sister, a retired medical doctor has been detained since 2018. This week is the two-year anniversary of her disappearance. We have no news of her all these times. When I see the news about Disney's Mulan, I cannot help but wonder if Disney crews passed by the concentration camp where she is being held," she said.

Rushan Abbas has been living in the US since 1989.

China has been criticised globally for cracking down on the Uyghurs by sending them to mass detention camps, interfering in their religious activities and sending members of the community to undergo some form of forceful re-education or indoctrination. (ANI)

Afghan soil should never be used for anti-India activities: Jaishankar

External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar addressing a conference on Afghan peace negotiations in Doha, through video conferencing, on Saturday.

New Delhi [India], September 12 (ANI): External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar on Saturday said Afghan soil should never be used for carrying out anti-India activities and supported the need for an immediate ceasefire in order to establish long-lasting peace in Afghanistan.

Addressing a conference on
 Afghan peace negotiations in Doha, through video conferencing, Jaishankar reiterated that the peace process should be Afghan-led and ensure the interests of minorities and women.

"Our expectation is that the soil of Afghanistan should never be used for any anti-India activities," he said.

Taking to his Twitter, the External Affairs Minister said, "Addressed the conference on Afghan peace negotiations at Doha today. Conveyed that the peace process must be Afghan-led, Afghan-owned and Afghan-controlled, respect national sovereignty and territorial integrity of Afghanistan, promote human rights and democracy, ensure the interest of minorities, women and the vulnerable and effectively address violence across the country."

He stressed that India has been a major development partner of Afghanistan and said India has supplied more than a million tonnes of foodgrains to the war-torn country in recent years.

Jaishankar stated that India has also facilitated the travel of Afghan citizens to India for medical treatment. He added, "These are the examples of our deep commitment to the welfare, prosperity and stability of the Afghan nation."

He said, "The friendship of our people is a testimony to our history with Afghanistan", adding that no part of Afghanistan is untouched by India's 400-plus development projects.

The External Affairs Minister said India's friendship with Afghanistan is "strong and unshaken".

"We have always been good neighbours and will always be so," he further said.

The intra-Afghan talks between the Afghanistan government and the Taliban opened in Doha earlier in the day, which is aimed at establishing peace and stability in Afghanistan after nearly two decades of war.

The Afghan government's 21-member negotiating team was led by Masoom Stanekzai, a former intelligence chief. On the other hand, the Taliban was led by Mawlavi Abdul Hakim, the armed group's chief justice and a close aide of the group's chief Haibatullah Akhunzada, Al Jazeera reported.

Peace negotiations were expected to take place in March but was delayed repeatedly due to a prisoner exchange agreement made as part of the deal signed between the United States and Taliban in February.

According to the agreement, the Afghan government said it will release 5,000 Taliban prisoners while the Taliban agreed to release 1,000 Afghan troops. (ANI)

Indian Army takes handover from China of 5 men who went missing from Arunachal Pradesh

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Kibithu (Arunachal Pradesh) [India], September 12 (ANI): Five Indian nationals who had gone missing from villages in Arunachal Pradesh near the border of China earlier this month have been handed over by the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA), the Indian Army said.

Indian Army on Saturday took t
he handover of all five Indian nationals at Kibithu border post after completing all the formalities.

"Individuals will now be quarantined for 14 days as per COVID-19 protocol and will thereafter be handed over to their family members," a Defence spokesperson said in a statement.

"Arunachal Pradesh is known for its rich natural heritage and adventurous people fond of exploring the nature for medicinal herbs and possessing traditional flair for hunting which involves surviving off the land for weeks in jungles and far-flung remote areas. During such adventurous forays, at times youth have inadvertently strayed to other side of LAC," the statement read.

The Defence Spokesperson said the Indian Army has always been proactive in tracing the lost locals and helping them return home.

"Three such incidents took place in the current year in Upper Subansiri and West Siang District including the latest one. All such individuals were brought back home safely after consistent efforts and coordination by the Indian Army in the past," the statement said.

According to the statement in the latest case, five individuals from Upper Subansiri District had also inadvertently strayed across LAC recently. "Indian Army approached PLA on the hotline to trace and return them. On September 8, the response on the hotline confirmed that the missing individuals had been traced."

Union Minister for Youth Affairs and Sports Kiren Rijiju had said on Friday that the Chinese People Liberation Army (PLA) is likely to handover the five Indian nationals, who were missing from Arunachal Pradesh, to Indian authorities on Saturday, Union Minister for Youth Affairs and Sports Kiren Rijiju had said on Friday.

"The Chinese PLA has confirmed to Indian Army to hand over the youths from Arunachal Pradesh to our side. The handing over is likely to take place anytime tomorrow i.e. 12th September 2020 at a designated location," Rijiju said in a tweet. (ANI)

Pak financial regulatory agency removes records of Asim Bajwa's sons' companies from website

China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) Chairman Lt Gen (retd) Asim Saleem Bajwa (File photo)

Islamabad [Pakistan], September 12 (ANI): The Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP), the country's financial regulatory agency, has deleted the records of five of six companies owned by China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) Chairman Lt Gen (retd) Asim Saleem Bajwa's family members, FactFocus reported.

Investigations by FactFocus began recently into the assets accumulated by Bajwa's family during the military career of the retired general.

The five firms whose data was removed belonged to Bajwa's son while one company, whose data remained throughout on the website belonged to his brothers.

The development was reported by FactFocus on August 27. However, the five companies' records were restored on the SECP website after a few weeks. This is a significant yet bizarre incident where a government agency is responsible for regulating all firms in Pakistan and its nature of work should not meddle with politics.

Even SECP Chairman Amir Khan refused to comment when asked if he knew that the records were deleted and whether the person was ordered to do so. "You better contact the chief spokesperson of the SECP and this is the protocol that we follow," Amir Khan said.

When reminded that he was also the SECP's chief spokesperson along with the chairman of the commission, Amir Khan instead said the media section of SECP should be contacted.

FactFocus had made photographic copies of the SECP website on July 21, which included the records of companies owned by Bajwa's sons in Pakistan and other countries. Original photographs of some of the records were to be used as attachments so that readers will be able to view the details and verify the dates of capturing digital evidence by checking the files' properties.

However, during the Eid-ul-Zuha festival, the SECP removed the records of the companies owned by Bajwa's sons -- Muhammad Saleem Bajwa, Eusha Saleem Bajwa and Azib Saleem Bajwa.

On August 3, the first working day after Eid, FactFocus noticed the deletion of records from the site and continued checking it from different computers and places across the world. The result was the same -- all the records of these companies disappeared.

Despite repeated reminders to the SECP chairman, no response has been received so far.

Silkline Enterprises (Pvt) Ltd is the sixth company of the Bajwa family, which was listed on the SECP website but its data remained on the site throughout. This was the only company that belonged to Bajwa's brothers.

Earlier this month, Bajwa announced that he will step down as the Special Assistant to the Prime Minister (SAPM) Imran Khan on information and broadcasting following corruption allegations against him.

The development came after an investigative report by Pakistani journalist Ahmed Noorani alleged properties and business worth millions of Bajwa and his close family members in Pakistan and abroad.

The report claimed that Bajwa's brothers, wife and two sons own a business empire, which has set up 99 companies in four countries including a pizza franchise with 133 restaurants worth an estimated USD 39.9 million. (ANI)

Europe pivots towards Indo-Pacific amid row with China

Flag of European Union

New Delhi [India], September 12 (ANI): Enticed for decades by China, which became the fulcrum of its Asia policy, continental Europe has finally broken ranks and pivoted towards the democracies of the Indo-Pacific, in its search for allies.

Europe's geopolitical realignment has been led by its two p
roven heavyweights -- Germany and France. On September 2, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas announced his country's rotation in the direction of Indo-Pacific, which comprises countries on either side of the Malacca straits, through which more than 150 ships transit every day and links the Indian and Pacific Oceans. The tropical waterway is flanked by Malaysia and Indonesia's island of Sumatra.

A 40-page policy guideline released on September 2, said Germany wants to "promote a European Indo-Pacific strategy" where it makes "an active contribution to shaping the international order in the Indo-Pacific." Germany would, therefore, not only pivot towards the Indo-Pacific alone, but would be engaged in spurring a pan-European strategic shift towards the region.

The European powerhouse spotlighted that it "wants to work more intensively with the countries of the (Indo-Pacific) region, be it to strengthen the rule of law and human rights" and that the "security-policy sector plays a special role in this context." The emphasis on human rights is significant, as Germany has factored China's suppression of the ethnic Uyghur community in its policy shift.

"We want to help shape (the future global order) so that it is based on rules and international cooperation, not on the law of the strong," Maas said.

The shift in Germany's geopolitical disposition comes at a time when fear of economic dependence on China, after the COVID-19 pandemic, is overriding Beijing's allure as a massive market for German goods and services.

In forging a realignment, Germany is following the footsteps of France which has already been weaving solid security partnerships in the Indo-Pacific, with India and Australia as the standout hubs.

On September 9, top foreign ministry officials of India, France and Australia held their maiden video conference to discuss maritime security in the Indo-Pacific region. Topics included creating domain awareness of the Indo-Pacific waters, logistical support, and capacity building of other countries in the region, according to a media report. The trio was following up on the 2018 initiative of French President Emmanuel Macron.

In that year, the French head of state had energetically pushed the idea of an Indo-Pacific partnership with New Delhi, Paris and Canberra as the critical nodes, to counter China's assertiveness. During a visit to Australia in May 2018, before flying to India, Macron nailed the necessity for security collaboration among the three partners.

"We are not naive: if we want to be seen and respected by China as an equal partner, we must organise ourselves," Macron said during a speech at an Australian naval base. "This new Paris-Delhi-Canberra axis is absolutely key for the region and our joint objectives in the Indian-Pacific region," he said, according to media reports.

A deeper partnership with India and Australia is energising France's already solid presence in the Indian Ocean. La Reunion and Mayotte in the Southwest Indian Ocean are French overseas territories. France's two inter-services bases in Djibouti and in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) nail France's strong military focus on the Northwest Indian Ocean.

Germany's perceptible shift in position follows its realisation that the rising Indo-Pacific region is central to its sustained economic prosperity. In 2016, Germany, a major manufacturing superpower exported a massive USD 117 billion in merchandise, which passed through the contested waters of the South China Sea. Not surprisingly, Berlin has considered joining US warships, which have been periodically carrying out Freedom of Navigation Operations in the South China Sea.

"Our prosperity and our geopolitical influence in the coming decades will depend on how we work together with the countries of the Indo-Pacific region," Maas said during his address. "That, more than anywhere else, is where the shape of the international rules-based order of tomorrow will be decided. We want to help shape that order so that it is based on rules and international cooperation, not on the law of the strong," he added.

With Germany now also focusing on the Indo-Pacific, a Paris-Bonn bonding is expected to locomotive Europe, yet again, towards the East. The Franco-German alliance, where France takes the lead in security and Germany does the economic heavy lifting, avoiding a security high profile for historical reasons, has been a prominent feature of the Paris-Bonn relationship after the Second World War.

It is expected that Germany's Indo-Pacific policy will be shaped by Germany's Gestaltungsmachte doctrine, which focuses on a deeper engagement of the "shaping powers" of the region, which includes India, Australia and Japan.

With the European leg of the Indo-Pacific kicking in, it is possible to visualise a stronger European power profile along Africa's Indian Ocean coastline to energy choke points in the Gulf. If it can be linked with the stronger presence of the Indian Navy whose regional footprint is on the rise and further supplemented by the formidable naval presence of the United States in this zone, the basic elements of the brand new phalanx to counter China's push in the Indo-Pacific, including its western flank would have been firmly established. (ANI)

New York shines in blue during 'Tribute in Light' for those killed in 9/11 terror attack

NYC shines in blue on the 19th anniversary of 9/11 (Photo tweeted by The National September 11 Memorial & Museum). (Photo: ANI)

Washington D.C [US], September 12 (ANI): Blue lights dotted the sky of New York city with beams shining from the facades and spires of its iconic buildings as the city paid tribute to those who lost their lives in the terror attack in 2001.

"NYC shines in blue on the 19th anniversary of 9/11. #Tribu
teinLight's twin beams remind us of our loss and the blue lights shining from the facades and spires of buildings like @OneWTC and the @EmpireStateBldg remind us of our solidarity and strength together. #Honor911," The National September 11 Memorial & Museum said in a tweet.

"As Tribute in Light radiates from the NYC skyline tonight, we remember all the innocent lives taken far too soon 19 years ago. In darkness, we shine brightest," it said in another tweet.

On September 11, 2001, the United States faced the deadliest terrorist attack in world history. In a span of just 102 minutes, both towers of New York's World Trade Centre collapsed after planes hijacked by al Qaeda operatives crashed into them, claiming the lives of at least 2,753 people. (ANI)

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