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Russia to continue its snap military drills,says Putin

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Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Thursday that current regular large-scale snap military drills were a success and such exercises should be continued.

“The practice of conducting such snap inspections should be continued. We are seeing that the practice itself works well and allows consistent raising of combat readiness of the army and navy, as well as coordination of units,” Putin said during a video conference with military officials participating in the Southern Military District exercises, Xinhua reported.

Involving a total of 8,500 troops, 900 military vehicles, 88 warships and 200 aircraft, snap drills began Monday to inspect the combat readiness of troops stationed in the Southern Military District.

Some troops from the Central Military District, which includes Western Siberia and the Urals, are also participating in the exercises.

The practice of unexpected massive checks of combat readiness of Russian troops was introduced by Putin in 2013. Since then Russia had held regular snap drills in various parts of the country.

Putin on Thursday praised the personnel involved in the Southern Military District drills for demonstrating the best performance and professionalism.

Putin added that the drills confirm the troops’ willingness to reliably ensure Russia’s security in the south-western strategic direction including the Crimean peninsula, according to an official online transcript.

Moscow has been accusing North Atlantic Treaty Organization of its military deployment in several member states neighbouring Russia.

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Trump administration determines China committed Uighur ‘genocide’

The determination, issued on the last day of Trump’s term, has no immediate effects but likely to strain US-China ties.

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Uighur Muslim rights

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo says the Trump administration has determined China has committed “genocide and crimes against humanity” in its repression of Uighur Muslims in its Xinjiang region.

“After careful examination of the available facts, I have determined that the [People’s Republic of China], under the direction and control of the [Chinese Communist Party], has committed genocide against the predominantly Muslim Uyghurs and other ethnic and religious minority groups in Xinjiang,” Pompeo said in a statement on Tuesday.

he statement claims “exhaustive documentation” of the events “confirms that since at least March 2017, local authorities dramatically escalated their decades-long campaign of repression against Uyghur Muslims and members of other ethnic and religious minority groups, including ethnic Kazakhs and ethnic Kyrgyz”.

The determination comes a day before US President-elect Joe Biden is to take office. Biden’s campaign declared genocide was occurring in Xinjiang before the president-elect’s victory.

“I believe this genocide is ongoing, and that we are witnessing the systematic attempt to destroy Uighurs by the Chinese party-state,” Pompeo added.

The Reuters news agency reported that US officials briefing reporters on the move said in a call that “an exhaustive documentation of [China’s] own policies, practices and abuse in Xinjiang” viewed by Pompeo led him to make the determination that such acts had been committed since at least March 2017.

“This is a very serious and tragic set of actions that are taking place there in the western part of China,” Pompeo said in an interview on Tuesday on US TV station Fox News.

“This is forced sterilisation, forced abortions – the kind of things that we haven’t seen in an awfully long time in this world,” Pompeo said.

He said the designation is something they have been working on “for an awfully long time”.

The move is likely to place a further burden on the deteriorating ties between the world’s leading economies.

Washington has ramped up sanctions on Beijing over alleged abuses in Tibet, Xinjiang, Hong Kong and military incursions in the disputed South China Sea.

The Trump administration has also sanctioned Huawei, one of China’s leading telecommunications companies, as it plans to expand throughout Europe and North America.

The rare determination comes after Congress passed legislation on December 27 requiring the US administration to determine within 90 days whether forced labour or other alleged crimes against the Uighurs and other Muslim minorities are crimes against humanity or genocide.

China has been widely criticised for complexes in Xinjiang that it describes as “vocational training centres” to stamp out “extremism” and give people new skills, but which others have called concentration camps.

Pompeo’s determination does not have immediate effects, though it places a spotlight on Xinjiang, one of the world’s leading regions for producing cotton.

Last week, the United States imposed a ban on all cotton and tomato products from Xinjiang.

Pompeo said on Tuesday “the threat from the Chinese Communist Party is real. It is existential to the United States”, and that he is “counting on the next administration continuing our work”.

SOURCE : AL JAZEERA AND NEWS AGENCIES

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Italian PM Giuseppe Conte wins crucial vote of confidence

Conte will now lead a minority administration in a country prone to political disputes.

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Giuseppe Conte Italy PM

Italy averted further political chaos on Tuesday after Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte survived a confidence vote in the upper house of Parliament.

The country had been embroiled in fresh political uncertainty over the past week after a smaller party withdrew its support for the coalition government — thus stripping it off from having a majority in Parliament.

However, Italian lawmakers in the Senate supported Conte during a vote on Tuesday, by 156 to 140, allowing him to remain in office. He was also backed by the lower house of Parliament in a vote on Monday evening. Conte will now lead a minority administration in a country prone to political disputes.

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Kamala Harris to take oath of office on ‘second mother’s’ Bible

“That’s been her amulet so to speak, her oracle, my aunt’s Bible,” LaBrie told Yahoo News in an interview.

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New York, Jan 20: A Black woman’s Bible has featured in every single big moment of Kamala Harris’ political career up till now. She laid her left hand upon it as she took the oath of office to be Attorney General of California, and it was there when she swore to defend the Constitution of the United States, as a Senator from California. “I carry Mrs. Shelton with me always,” wrote Harris in a 2019 article in Bustle.

Shelton’s Bible will be one of two that will feature at Kamala Harris’ coronation at noon on Wednesday when she becomes America’s first woman Vice President.

“When I raise my right hand and take the oath of office tomorrow, I carry with me two heroes who’d speak up for the voiceless and help those in need: Justice Thurgood Marshall and Mrs Shelton,” Harris posted on Twitter, barely 24 hours before she takes office.

The second Bible belongs to the late civil rights icon and Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, in a nod to his role in Harris’ choice of Howard University for her graduation and in shaping her thinking to see law as a tool to bring equity. Marshall also graduated from Howard, a legendary school among historically black universities. Howard is only a short distance away by train from the White House.

The “Mrs Shelton” Harris invokes is Regina Shelton who owned three houses in a single block in Oakland, California, and ran a nursery school in one of them. This was a time when Kamala Harris’ mother, newly separated from husband Donald Harris, was looking for help to care for her girls Kamala and Maya and also needed a place to stay. Gopalan and her daughters moved into an apartment above the nursery. The bonds soon grew so strong that Harris began referring to Shelton as her “second mother.”

In an interview to Yahoo!, Shelton’s nephew Aubrey LaBrie said Shelton used to ferry Kamala and Maya to a Baptist church in West Oakland every Sunday. The Bible on which Harris has taken all her oaths of office is the same Bible that Shelton carried with her to church.

“That’s been her amulet so to speak, her oracle, my aunt’s Bible,” LaBrie told Yahoo News in an interview.

Harris will be sworn in by Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor on Wednesday, extending the ‘historic’ tag to yet another first. Harris will be the first Indian and Black American woman Vice President taking her oath of office from the first Latina justice on the US Supreme Court.

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