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With volley of missile launches, China warns US aircraft carriers to stay away – News in USA by Post24x7

2020-08-28 09:37:00

The missiles launched into the South China Sea on Wednesday included the DF-21D and DF-26B, the South China Morning Post reported, citing a person close to the People’s Liberation Army. Those weapons are central to China’s strategy of deterring any military action off its eastern coast by threatening to destroy the major sources of U.S. power projection in the region.

“China is signaling to the U.S., its allies and partners that China has an answer to America’s aircraft-carrier strike groups, an answer that is always available and not dependent on deployment schedules,” said Carl Schuster, an adjunct faculty member of Hawaii Pacific University’s diplomacy and military science program and a former operations director at U.S. Pacific Command’s Joint Intelligence Center. “In effect, China is saying, ‘If the U.S. puts two carriers in the South China Sea, we send aircraft carrier-killer missiles there.’”

The launches show the U.S. the growing cost of any armed conflict, with a high-profile reminder of China’s increasing arsenal of medium- and intermediate-range ballistic missiles. President Xi Jinping rolled out the new PLA Rocket Force as part of a massive military parade in October, showcasing a capability that is challenging American military superiority in Asia for the first time since World War II. Researchers at the University of Sydney warned last year that Chinese missiles could wipe out U.S. bases in the “opening hours” of any conflict.

A U.S. defense official who asked not to be identified told Bloomberg News that China fired four medium-range ballistic missiles during a series of military exercises this week. They landed in the sea between China’s southern Hainan Island and the disputed Paracel chain near Vietnam, the official said, not far from where U.S. carriers conducted drills in recent weeks to back up the Trump administration’s decision to challenge Beijing’s sovereignty claims.

“Conducting military exercises over disputed territory in the South China Sea is counterproductive to easing tensions and maintaining stability,” the Pentagon said in a statement Thursday. China’s “actions, including missile tests, further destabilize the situation in the South China Sea.”

The Chinese Defense Ministry reiterated its contention that the exercises weren’t directed at any one nation Thursday, without mentioning the missile launch. Still, ministry spokesman Senior Colonel Wu Qian accused “some U.S. politicians” of trying to provoke a conflict between the two nations, telling a briefing in Beijing that China was “not afraid.”

On Thursday, China’s military issued a statement saying it expelled a U.S. Navy guided-missile destroyer that “trespassed” into waters near the Paracel Islands, calling the ship’s move “provocative.”

The missile tests appeared intended for U.S. consumption, rather than a domestic audience, with coverage on the country’s heavily censored internet largely limited to foreign media reports. Earlier this week, China protested an American U-2 spy plane’s flight near the exercise zone in the East China Sea, presumably to glean intelligence about the country’s capabilities.

“The aim is to test the capability of the troops,” said Li Jie, a Beijing-based naval expert, who stopped short of confirming the missile test. “You could say it is sending a warning to the U.S., as the U.S. has increased its military activities in the South China Sea.”

While the two nuclear-armed powers have many incentives to avoid a clash, the risk of escalation is growing as the U.S. and its allies seek to push back against a more assertive Beijing. The U.S. has in recent weeks carried out a series military exercises around the region and approved a landmark fighter jet sale to Taiwan — against the backdrop of a national election President Donald Trump has attempted to focus on China.

The U.S. Navy’s recent exercises in the South China Sea have included joint operations by the USS Nimitz and USS Ronald Reagan carrier strike groups last month and separate drills by the Reagan this month. Those moves followed Secretary of State Michael Pompeo’s July 13 announcement clarifying U.S. legal opposition to Chinese claims over most of a vital shipping lane, parts of which are also claimed by Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam.

The real risk is a U.S.-China conflict over Taiwan escalating to nuclear war, in part because the DF-26 can be armed with both nuclear and conventional warheads, said Jeffrey Lewis, director of the East Asia Nonproliferation Program at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies in California.

“If the U.S. were to see DF-26 missiles mobilizing to strike U.S. aircraft carriers, the president would have to order strikes against missile bases throughout all of China, not just coastal areas,” Lewis said. “The United States would likely be striking China’s nuclear forces. It would be very hard to keep such a conflict limited.”

China launched at least one other DF-26 missile in recent weeks, in what the Communist Party’s Global Times newspaper characterized as a response to the U.S. carrier operations. The paper had earlier touted its “carrier-killer” missiles on Twitter — drawing a terse rebuttal from the U.S. Navy, which noted that the warships were nonetheless “still there.”

Although China has yet to prove the ability to sink a moving warship, the cost of losing a $10 billion aircraft carrier, the troops and hardware on board — and all the American military prestige they represent — would be immeasurable. That threat is causing Pentagon planners to consider less conspicuous ways of projecting force, with an internal Defense Department study recommending reducing the country’s carrier fleet to nine from 11 now, Defense News reported in April.

The PLA’s missile arsenal is among the many factors driving the U.S.’s shifting security posture in Asia, with the Pentagon cycling B-1 bombers to and from Guam, where they’re more vulnerable to attack. Concern about the threat also contributed to the U.S.’s decision to withdraw from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty with Russia and seek three-way arms talks with China.

Even before this week’s launches, China had quietly ramped up tests of ballistic missiles, in an apparent attempt to gauge their operational capabilities. The country fired off in excess of 100 ballistic missiles last year, more than three times North Korea’s record tally, Kyodo News reported in February, citing people familiar with the matter.

China possesses what former Pacific Commander Harry Harris has called “the largest and most diverse missile force in the world,” with scores of different weapons in development. The DF-21D can travel more than 1,500 kilometers (900 miles), while the DF-26 can deliver warheads an estimated 4,000 kilometers, far enough to reach Guam.

There are “real questions” about whether China’s carrier-killers actually work, said Ankit Panda, a Stanton senior fellow with the Nuclear Policy Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. The latest tests may provide the U.S. a chance to better understand their performance.

“The People’s Liberation Army Rocket Force has a busy testing schedule and this was likely operational training,” Panda said. “But certainly it’ll be a reminder to folks in Washington that China’s military continues to modernize and can deny access to the U.S. Navy in parts of the Asia-Pacific.”

This story has been published from a wire agency feed without modifications to the text. Only the headline has been changed.

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Sprint King Usain Bolt tests positive for Covid-19 after his birthday bash – News in USA by Post24x7

2020-08-25 07:31:00
Usain Bolt

KINGSTON: World-record sprinter and eight-time Olympic gold medalist Usain Bolt has tested positive for the coronavirus and is self-isolating at his home in Jamaica after last week celebrating his 34th birthday with a big bash mask-free.

Jamaica’s health ministry confirmed late on Monday that Bolt, who holds world records in the 100m and 200m distance, had tested positive after he posted a video on social media around midday saying he was waiting to hear back on his results.

“Just to be safe I quarantined myself and just taking it easy,” Bolt said in the message that he appeared to have taped himself while lying in bed. It was posted with the caption “Stay safe my ppl”.

The only sprinter to win the 100m and 200m golds at three consecutive Olympics (2008, 2012 and 2016) said he did not have any symptoms of COVID-19, the respiratory illness caused by the novel coronavirus.

Bolt said he took the test on Saturday, the day after he celebrated his birthday at a bash where partygoers danced to the hit “Lockdown” by Jamaican reggae singer Koffee.

“Best birthday ever,” Bolt, who retired from athletics in 2017, wrote on Instagram, posting a photo of himself holding his daughter, Olympia, who was born in May.

Fans wished Bolt a speedy recovery on social media – “drink up your ginger tea,” one wrote – although some accused him of carelessness.

Daily confirmed cases in Jamaica have surged to more than 60 per day over the past four days from less than 10 just a few weeks ago. Jamaica now has 1,612 confirmed cases, with 622 active cases and 16 deaths from coronavirus.

Officials put the uptick in cases down to the reopening of international borders as well as celebrations over a long weekend in August marking Independence Day and Emancipation Day.

They also put the blame at the feet of people who refuse to wear masks and practice social distancing.

The pickup has raised concerns over national elections that Jamaican Prime Minister Andrew Holness called for in September, six months ahead of schedule.

Holness on Sunday suspended all his campaigning activities, including motorcades, home visits and rallies, and asked other parties to do the same.

Authorities have also delayed the reopening of schools for one month and citizens are under a national curfew from 7 p.m. to 5 a.m. (Reporting by Kate Chappell in Kingston Editing by Sarah Marsh, Alistair Bell and Leslie Adler)

This story has been published from a wire agency feed without modifications to the text. Only the headline has been changed.

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Death Valley’s brutal 130 degrees may be record if verified – News in USA by Post24x7

2020-08-18 13:23:00
Death Valley

Death Valley recorded a scorching 130 degrees (54.4 degrees Celsius) Sunday, which if the sensors and other conditions check out, would be the hottest Earth has been in more than 89 years and the third-warmest ever measured.

The temperature, measured at the aptly-named Furnace Creek during a blistering heat wave, would be the hottest temperature recorded on Earth in August, said Arizona State University professor Randy Cerveny, who coordinates the World Meteorological Organization’s extreme temperature team, which is already investigating the mark.

That 130 is only below the disputed all-time record of 134 degrees (56.67 Celsius) at nearly the same spot in 1913 and a 131-degree mark (55 degrees) in Tunisia in 1931, but both were in July, traditionally the planet’s hottest month.

The relentlessly hot weather conditions at the spot support such an extreme reading, so much of the verification effort will be looking at how the measurement was taken and the sensor itself, Cerveny said. Sunday’s temperature would beat marks of 129 (53.9 Celsius) recorded three times in recent years, he said. The monitor is an official one that follows world guidelines, but still needs to be examined in a process that takes months, he said.

“We are having more extremes than we had in the past,” Cerveny said.

The world is “creeping up on (the 134-degree record) year after year. That is something that cannot be denied,” Cerveny said Monday. “These extremes tell us a lot about what will happen in the future.”

The western heat wave is due to a “massive dome of high pressure” that keeps roasting the West and the normal Southwest monsoon that would provide rain and relief is missing, so there has been no cooling, Cerveny said. Phoenix has gone weeks with temperatures not dipping below 90, even at night or early in the morning, he said.

The 130-mark capped a week and an ongoing summer of “very strange” weather, said Deke Arndt, director of the National Weather Service’s Center for Weather and Climate and former chairman of the U.S. national weather extremes committee.

On Saturday, a fire tornado formed during a wildfire near Chilcoot, California, worsened by the western heat wave. The fire was “burning so incredibly intense, so there is just so much heat going into it” that air rose in a swirl just like what happens in some thunderstorms, said Dawn Johnson, senior meteorologist at the National Weather Service office in Reno, Nevada. “It almost looks like a bomb went off.”

And days before that, a violent straight-wind derecho devastated parts of Iowa, Illinois and Indiana, killing four people and causing billions of dollars in damages. Also, the Atlantic keeps setting records for earliest hurricanes, with 11 forming before mid August and the beginning of peak season.

“These kinds of things are certainly consistent with everybody’s expectation for what we expect to see more often” with man-made global warming, said Jennifer Francis, a senior scientist at the Woodwell Climate Research Center, formerly Woods Hole Research Center, in Cape Cod, Massachusetts.

Death Valley’s National Park’s 130-degree temperature was recorded at 3:41 p.m. at Furnace Creek near the park’s visitor center. It’s the same area that holds the world record for highest temperature ever recorded — 134 degrees (56.67 Celsius) — set on July 10, 1913, although that record remains in dispute. Arndt said meteorologists have made good cases for and against the record’s legitimacy.

With this new temperature, Arndt said his former committee might look yet again at the 1913 record, which Cerveny said is based on peer reviewed research and is official.

While individual one-day records shouldn’t be used to make a case for or against climate change, scientists say the overall context of more extreme weather and higher temperature shows global warming at work.

Death Valley, an austere landscape in the desert of southeastern California, includes Badwater Basin, which at 282 feet (85.9 meters) below sea level is the lowest point in North America. Nearby mountains also help trap heat there and the dry land helps temperatures get hotter, Cerveny said.

Summer heat is so routinely extreme that tourists are warned to drink at least a gallon (4 liters) of water each day, carry additional water in their cars, stay close to their vehicles and watch themselves and others for dizziness, nausea and other symptoms of potentially deadly heat illness.

“I’ve been in Death Valley for 122 (50 Celsius),” Cerveny said. “It’s just like be enveloped in a thick hot blanket of air. There is just no relief to it.”

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US eases H1-B, L-1 visa ban rules with caveats – News in USA by Post24x7

2020-08-14 06:33:00
H1-B Visa

In a respite to a section of Indians on work visas to the US, the Trump administration has announced “national interest exemptions” for some H-1B and L-1 visa holders. Information technology (IT) and healthcare professionals who continue to be employed with the same employer will be exempt from travel restrictions.

According to political analysts, Trump’s recent move could be motivated by the upcoming elections in the US in November. American companies, including Facebook, Amazon, Google and Microsoft, had criticised the travel ban, saying the visa restrictions would hurt businesses, and further damage the already-struggling US economy.

On Wednesday, US Department of State announced the exemptions to the Presidential proclamations suspending entry of certain immigrant and non-immigrant (H-1B, H-2B, and L-1) visa holders into the US, which were issued in April and June. It will also apply to the family members of H-1B, L-1 and certain categories of J1 visa holders.

The US State Department said in its advisory that H-1B and L-1 visas can now be issued for employees who are “seeking to resume ongoing employment in the US in the same position with the same employer and visa classification”. It said forcing employers to replace existing employees may cause financial hardship.

“The pushback from American companies could be one of the reasons for the policy tweaks,” said Siddharth Pai, IT analyst and venture capitalist. “The H-1B programme was set up not just to outsource jobs to India or to benefit Indian companies, but to encourage work-life balance for US citizens. A blanket ban without getting into the nuances will not work.”

In June, Trump had signed a proclamation temporarily suspending non-immigrant visas till the end of the year following the economic crisis due to the covid-19 pandemic.

“It is impossible to locally develop the high-end skillsets overnight,” said Sanchit Vir Gogia, chief executive officer and chief analyst, Greyhound Research. “Outsourcing helps American companies save costs and achieve scale.”

IT industry apex body Nasscom said the move is a step in the right direction and will help US businesses access talent critical to its economic recovery phase in a post-covid world. “However, we remain cautiously optimistic. The impact can only be gauged in course of time,” it added.

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Joe Biden’s VP pick Kamala Harris has deep Indian roots – News in USA by Post24x7

2020-08-12 05:26:00
US Presidential Elections 2020

Democratic Presidential candidate Joe Biden has chosen his running mate this Tuesday, after a months-long search that began with several dozen options and has ended at Senator Kamala Harris.

The California Democratic senator has been riding steady in the vice presidential race, with most observers – including those in Biden World – thinking she always remained the favourite.

Even though in recent days, she’s been uncomfortable with the rash of headlines about the perceived tensions with Biden and his team, this nomination puts things into perspective.

This was where a young Kamala Harris spent time in the late 1960s, at a house in Lusaka, Zambia, that belonged to her maternal grandfather — PV Gopalan, an Indian civil servant on assignment in an era of postcolonial ferment.

The Indian government had sent Gopalan to help Zambia manage an influx of refugees from Rhodesia — the former name of Zimbabwe — which had just declared independence from Britain. It was the capstone of a four-decade career that began when Gopalan joined government service fresh out of college in the 1930s, in the final years of British rule in India.

“My grandfather was really one of my favourite people in my world,” Harris, California’s junior US senator, said in a recent interview.

Kamala has Indian heritage. Her mother, Shyamala Gopalan, a Tamil Indian-American who became a leading cancer researcher and activist, passed away from colon cancer in 2009.

From Kamala’s name (Shyamala gave her and her sisters Sanskrit names to connect their heritage with their identities) to Kamala’s focus on immigration and equal rights, Shyamala has had a profound influence and lasting legacy on her high-flying daughter.

After graduation from the University of Delhi, Shyamala got a PhD in nutrition and endocrinology from UC Berkeley. She stayed there for her career as a breast cancer researcher, then later worked at the University of Illinois and the University of Wisconsin–even eventually being a part of the Special Commission on Breast Cancer.

In addition to inspiring Kamala through service, she was also a civil rights activist. She passed this activism on to her daughter.

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Joe Biden picks Kamala Harris as running mate, first black woman – News in USA by Post24x7

2020-08-12 05:15:00
Kamala Harris

In choosing Harris, Biden is embracing a former rival from the Democratic primary who is familiar with the unique rigor of a national campaign. Born to a Jamaican father and Indian mother, the 55-year-old first-term senator is one of the party’s most prominent figures. She quickly became a top contender for the No. 2 spot after her own White House campaign ended.

In a tweet, Biden called Harris a “fearless fighter for the little guy, and one of the country’s finest public servants.”

“Together, with you, we’re going to beat Trump,” he said.

Harris and Biden plan to deliver remarks Wednesday near Biden’s home in Wilmington, Delaware.

She joins Biden in the 2020 race at a moment of unprecedented national crisis. The coronavirus pandemic has claimed the lives of more than 160,000 people in the U.S., far more than the toll experienced in other countries. Business closures and disruptions resulting from the pandemic have caused severe economic problems. Unrest, meanwhile, has emerged across the country as Americans protest racism and police brutality.

After Tuesday’s announcement, Trump quickly tweeted a campaign ad that dismisses Harris as “phony” and says she and Biden “jointly embrace the radical left.”

Trump’s uneven handling of the crises has given Biden an opening, and he enters the fall campaign in strong position against the president. In adding Harris to the ticket, he can point to her relatively centrist record on issues such as health care and her background in law enforcement in the nation’s largest state.

Harris’s record as California attorney general and district attorney in San Francisco was heavily scrutinized during the Democratic primary and turned away some liberals and younger Black voters who saw her as out of step on issues of racism in the legal system and police brutality. She tried to strike a balance on these issues, declaring herself a “progressive prosecutor” who backs law enforcement reforms.

Biden, who spent eight years as President Barack Obama’s vice president, has spent months weighing who would fill that same role in his White House. He pledged in March to select a woman as his vice president, easing frustration among Democrats that the presidential race would center on two white men in their 70s.

Biden’s search was expansive, including Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a leading progressive, Florida Rep. Val Demings, whose impeachment prosecution of Trump won plaudits, California Rep. Karen Bass, who leads the Congressional Black Caucus, former Obama national security adviser Susan Rice and Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, whose passionate response to unrest in her city garnered national attention.

Rice congratulated Harris on her selection, calling her a “tenacious and trailblazing leader.” Rice said she would support Biden and Harris “with all my energy and commitment.”

Bass tweeted, “@KamalaHarris is a great choice for Vice President. Her tenacious pursuit of justice and relentless advocacy for the people is what is needed right now.”

A woman has never served as president or vice president in the United States. Two women have been nominated as running mates on major party tickets: Democrat Geraldine Ferraro in 1984 and Republican Sarah Palin in 2008. Their parties lost in the general election.

The vice presidential pick carries increased significance this year. If elected, Biden would be 78 when he’s inaugurated in January, the oldest man to ever assume the presidency. He’s spoken of himself as a transitional figure and hasn’t fully committed to seeking a second term in 2024. If he declines to do so, his running mate would likely become a front-runner for the nomination that year.

Harris won her first election in 2003 when she became San Francisco’s district attorney. In the role, she created a reentry program for low-level drug offenders and cracked down on student truancy.

She was elected California’s attorney general in 2010, the first woman and Black person to hold the job, and focused on issues including the foreclosure crisis. She declined to defend the state’s Proposition 8, which banned same-sex marriage and was later overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court.

As her national profile grew, Harris built a reputation around her work as a prosecutor. After being elected to the Senate in 2016, she quickly gained attention for her assertive questioning of Trump administration officials during congressional hearings. In one memorable moment last year, Harris tripped up Attorney General William Barr when she repeatedly pressed him on whether Trump or other White House officials pressured him to investigate certain people.

Harris launched her presidential campaign in early 2019 with the slogan “Kamala Harris For the People,” a reference to her courtroom work. She was one of the highest-profile contenders in a crowded Democratic primary and attracted 20,000 people to her first campaign rally in Oakland.

But the early promise of her campaign eventually faded. Her law enforcement background prompted skepticism from some progressives, and she struggled to land on a consistent message that resonated with voters. Facing fundraising problems, Harris abruptly withdrew from the race in December 2019, two months before the first votes of the primary were cast.

One of Harris’ standout moments of her presidential campaign came at the expense of Biden. During a debate, Harris said Biden made “very hurtful” comments about his past work with segregationist senators and slammed his opposition to busing as schools began to integrate in the 1970s.

“There was a little girl in California who was a part of the second class to integrate her public schools, and she was bused to school every day,” she said. “And that little girl was me.”

Shaken by the attack, Biden called her comments “a mischaracterization of my position.”

The exchange resurfaced recently one of Biden’s closest friends and a co-chair of his vice presidential vetting committee, former Connecticut Sen. Chris Dodd, still harbors concerns about the debate and that Harris hadn’t expressed regret. The comments attributed to Dodd and first reported by Politico drew condemnation, especially from influential Democratic women who said Harris was being held to a standard that wouldn’t apply to a man running for president.

Some Biden confidants said Harris’ campaign attack did irritate the former vice president, who had a friendly relationship with her. Harris was also close with Biden’s late son, Beau, who served as Delaware attorney general while she held the same post in California.

But Biden and Harris have since returned to a warm relationship.

“Joe has empathy, he has a proven track record of leadership and more than ever before we need a president of the United States who understands who the people are, sees them where they are, and has a genuine desire to help and knows how to fight to get us where we need to be,” Harris said at an event for Biden earlier this summer.

At the same event, she bluntly attacked Trump, labeling him a “drug pusher” for his promotion of the malaria drug hydroxychloroquine as a treatment for the coronavirus, which has not been proved to be an effective treatment and may even be more harmful. After Trump tweeted “when the looting starts, the shooting starts” in response to protests about the death of George Floyd, a Black man, in police custody, Harris said his remarks “yet again show what racism looks like.”

Harris has taken a tougher stand on policing since Floyd’s killing. She co-sponsored legislation in June that would ban police from using chokeholds and no-knock warrants, set a national use-of-force standard and create a national police misconduct registry, among other things. It would also reform the qualified immunity system that shields officers from liability.

The list included practices Harris did not vocally fight to reform while leading California’s Department of Justice. Although she required DOJ officers to wear body cameras, she did not support legislation mandating it statewide. And while she now wants independent investigations of police shootings, she didn’t support a 2015 California bill that would have required her office to take on such cases.

“We made progress, but clearly we are not at the place yet as a country where we need to be and California is no exception,” she told The Associated Press recently. But the national focus on racial injustice now shows “there’s no reason that we have to continue to wait.”

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Coronavirus speeds up JSW Steel’s plan to overhaul US business – News in USA by Post24x7

2020-08-10 12:39:00
JSW Steel

The coronavirus pandemic is accelerating India’s most valuable steelmaker’s plans to overhaul its loss-making U.S. operations.

JSW Steel Ltd. outlined plans two years ago to invest $1 billion in the U.S. to expand its global footprint. That plan was curtailed by an economic downturn and import tariffs imposed by President Donald Trump, with the situation worsening with the virus outbreak.

The company will spend this year “in structurally fixing” its facilities as the pandemic has resulted in the “lowest spread U.S. steel prices have seen in the last decade,” according to Parth Jindal, director of the U.S. operations.

The steelmaker has idled its Ohio plant to begin upgrading its electric arc furnace and plans to restart production at the 1.5 million tons facility in March. It has also shut its pipe mill in Baytown to fix equipment and plans to automate and optimize operations to cut costs.

“Our plan is to reduce the losses and be extremely frugal and focus on completing these projects,” Jindal said in an interview. “From next year onward, we truly believe the U.S. operations will be well positioned to be earnings accretive to JSW Steel.”

As part of a shakeup, JSW last week brought in Mark Bush as the new chief executive officer for its U.S. operations, replacing John Hritz, who will now focus on strategy and legal affairs.

The unit of the JSW Group is still locked in a fight over import tariff waivers with Trump’s administration. When asked if JSW would eventually look to exit the U.S. operations, Jindal said the company remains “very committed,” to the business.

“Once the modernization projects are completed and we bring down our cost curve, then we see no reason why the U.S. business can’t generate positive earnings,” he said. “It still remains an important part of our organization and all efforts are on to turn around the operations at the moment.”

The company has changed its focus from coils to slabs at its Ohio plant as “it is no secret that the U.S. is extremely slab deficient,” he said.

This story has been published from a wire agency feed without modifications to the text. Only the headline has been changed.

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US sets record as coronavirus cases top 5 million – News in USA by Post24x7

2020-08-09 08:19:00

The United States set a record for coronavirus cases on Saturday, with more than 5 million people now infected, according to a Reuters tally, as the country’s top infectious diseases official offered hope earlier this week that an effective vaccine might be available by year-end.

With one out of every 66 residents infected, the United States leads the world in COVID-19 cases, according to a Reuters analysis. The country has recorded more than 160,000 deaths, nearly a quarter of the world’s total.

The grim milestone comes as President Donald Trump signed executive orders intended to provide economic relief to Americans hurt by the coronavirus pandemic after the White House failed to reach a deal with Congress.

On Friday, the U.S. Labor Department reported that U.S. employment growth slowed considerably in July, underscoring an urgent need for additional government aid.

Dr. Anthony Fauci told Reuters on Wednesday there could be at least one vaccine that works and is safe by year-end. But Trump offered a more optimistic view, saying it was possible the United States would have a coronavirus vaccine by the time of the Nov. 3 presidential election.

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China uses tech as tool of repression to monitor citizens: US commission – News in USA by Post24x7

2020-08-09 05:33:00

The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is committed to the production and use of technology that controls and surveils its population, according to a congressional commission of the US.

In a joint statement to Fox News, Chairman Robin Cleveland and Vice Chairman Carolyn Bartholomew of the US-China Economic and Security Review Commission said that China’s move to use technology as a tool of repression is “politically motivated to sustain the Party”.

“The Chinese Communist Party is committed to the production and use of technology that controls and surveils its population. The decision to use these tools of repression is politically motivated to sustain the Party,” the statement read.

The Chinese government monitored every corner of Beijing by state-of-the-art surveillance cameras. Facial recognition algorithms matched with images filed away in a secret database could see you in legal trouble for something you did near your front door. A semi-political post made in a private chat could lead to the loss of your job.

According to the report in Fox News, surveillance has become a booming business in the world’s most populated country with scores of tech start-ups moving in to meet the market demand with the government’s encouragement.

Several human rights activists said that the enterprise has quickly become a critical apparatus for suppression and abuses, especially on minority groups.

Beijing uses a system called the Integrated Joint Operations Platform (IJOP), which has the ability to audit entire populations.

The system is developed by a state-owned military contractor China Electronics Technology Corporation, IJOP. It is said to have been copied by Chinese military theorists researching how the US military used information technology during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and enhanced from there.

“From there, it can rapidly produce names of people classified as “suspicious” — and thus marked for possible detention — purely as a result of their travel patterns abroad, mobile applications installed and key phrases used in bulletins or private messages, sometimes as basic as asking someone else where they can pray,” the report said.

Joseph Humire, Executive Director for the Center for a Secure Free Society (SFS), told Fox News that Xinjiang serves as the “central nervous system of surveillance” in China, which is an IJOP that prompts you to enter identifying information, such as when you grow a beard, leave your house, or your blood type, etc.

“These apps try to determine your pattern of life, and if Chinese authorities determine any change in your pattern of life, they come to visit you,” he told Fox News.

“It is targeting the whole population with the focus on anyone who has independent thinking,” said Xiaoxu “Sean” Lin, a microbiologist and activist/spokesperson for the Washington-based Falun Dafa Association.

“Many technologies are involved in facial recognition including Facial Action Unit analysis, facial expression recognition, deep neuro network analysis, facial muscle movement recognition, topographic modelling, deep machine learning and supercomputer technologies,” Xiaoxu added.

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US covid-19 deaths rise for fourth week, new cases drop 5% – News in USA by Post24x7

2020-08-04 08:03:00

U.S. deaths from COVID-19 rose for a fourth week in a row to more than 8,500 people in the seven days ended Aug. 2, while the number of new cases fell for a second straight week, a Reuters analysis found.

Last week’s death toll was 36% higher than the previous week, though deaths are a lagging indicator and can continue to rise weeks after new infections drop.

The number of new COVID-19 cases reported last week fell 5% from the previous week to about 435,000, according to the Reuters tally of state and county reports. California, Florida and Texas collectively accounted for nearly 180,000 of the new cases, though new infections were lower in all three states compared to the previous week.

Cases rose week-over-week in 20 states, including in Oklahoma where cases have risen for nine weeks in a row, in Montana where cases are up for eight straight weeks, and in Missouri where infections have risen for seven weeks.

Testing for COVID-19 fell by 6% in the United States last week, the first decline since late May, according to data from The COVID Tracking Project, a volunteer-run effort to track the outbreak.

Nationally, 8.2% of tests came back positive for the novel coronavirus, still higher than the 5% level that the World Health Organization considers concerning because it suggests there are more cases in the community that have not yet been uncovered.

Thirty-one states had positivity test rates above 5%, according to the analysis, including Alabama at 22%, Mississippi at 21%, and Florida and Kansas at 19%.

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