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Seoul kindergarten student tests COVID-19 positive

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Seoul, May 25 (IANS) A kindergarten student in Seoul has tested positive for the novel coronavirus, the South Korean capital city’s education office said on Monday.

The development comes just two days ahead of the planned second-phase resumption of South Korean schools, including kindergartens, reports Yonhap News Agency.

The six-year-old student is believed to have contracted the virus from his art teacher at Young Rembrandts, a private art school in Magok .

The teacher, who tested positive on Sunday, had taught 35 students at the institute until Friday and had contact with three other staff members.

The teachers all wore masks and followed the institute’s quarantine guidelines and social distancing rules, according to the Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education.

The art school’s 91 students, three teachers and two parents have been tested for the virus and are awaiting their results, which will come out on Tuesday.

The teacher’s 38 contacts have been ordered to self-quarantine for 14 days, and 13 educational institutes in the same building as the art school will be closed for disinfection.

The boy’s kindergarten, 10 nearby kindergartens and five nearby elementary schools will remain closed for two days for disinfection and other precautionary measures, said the Yonhap News Agency report.

Under the government’s phased school reopening plan, schools are scheduled to resume in-person classes for the two lowest grades of elementary school, kindergarten students, middle school seniors and second-year high school students on Wednesday.

High school seniors returned to school last week after more than two months of delay due to the COVID-19 pandemic which has so far infected 11,206 South Koreans and killed 267 others.

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Column: Prime Minister sets the record straight – Spy’s Eye

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Modi in Leh

It is now clearly conveyed to the nation that India had put China on notice for its recent aggressive conduct on LAC and warned it of serious consequences of any further misadventure it might be planning against this country. Prime Minister Modi in his ”Mann ki Baat” on June 28, which is like an address to the countrymen, talked of India”s strong resolve in dealing with the military face-off with China on the LAC in Ladakh and gave out that ”a befitting reply had been given to those who cast an evil eye on India”s territory”. He added that ”India can handle friendly relations but also knows how to look into the eyes of anyone who challenged its sovereignty”.

Giving an insight into India”s strategy, the Prime Minister informed the people that among other things India was taking measures to become self-reliant in various spheres, including indigenous production of defence hardware to meet ”exigencies of national security and sovereignty”. India has since stepped up border infrastructure development on our side of the LAC as well as mobilisation of troops on the ground — apart from readying our Air Force and Navy for defensive action against any external aggression. The message given to China is loud and clear — stay off from giving any provocation by attempting to encroach on any point of disputed territory along the LAC. Defence of Ladakh is geared up in line with the declared stand of the Modi government that Aksai Chin had been illegally occupied by China and that this matter had to be set right. That India will stretch China on various fronts — economic and geo-political — is emerging as a strategic element of India”s long-term response to the current hostility of this neighbour.

While the situation on the LAC is still evolving, India has from its side confronted China with the demand of return to the status quo ante and engaged that country in border talks at the level of Core Commander on disengagement and deescalation. The government, meanwhile, is keeping up military and foreign policy endeavours to prepare for any aggravation. It is in this background that Prime Minister Modi, in a brief address to the nation on June 30, did not touch on China and confined himself to an announcement of extension of free ration scheme covering nearly 80 crore people for five months — till November end — giving them relief in a difficult time to see through Diwali and Chhat festivals. An added facility of using ration cards on an all- India basis was promised.

The Prime Minister reiterated the need for total caution during the Unlock-2 against corona. He came off as a compassionate leader who appeared to be giving priority to the internal scene relating to people in distress and by not bothering the latter with the issue of India-China tension on the border, also giving a message that his government was fully in control of things on that front. Since the majority of migrants belonged to UP and Bihar, what is the harm if the PM made a mention of the two major festivals of North India in his address to bring some cheer to this distressed lot? Hopefully, the sense of nightmare that crores of migrant labour experienced in the lockdown would be eased substantially — though the crisis of unemployment looming large for them would still confront them. Importantly, the Modi regime remains firm on building the economy indigenously by emphasising the idea of ”be vocal for local” and encouraging entrepreneurship and start-ups. Internal stability in India will be determined by the economic recovery.

Coming back to the issue of China”s aggressiveness on the border, it is clear that three aspects of the situation deserved to be taken note of in framing a long-term strategy of dealing with that country. First is the unmistakable fact that the intensification of cross-border terrorism in Kashmir by Pakistan and the military build-up on LAC started by China in the period following the abrogation of Article 370 by India, showed a new level of meeting of minds between these two allies against India — that was part of their bigger geo-political plan of acquiring a firm hold in the crucial Pak-Afghan-Kashmir tri junction. This territory anchored the superpower rivalry in the Cold War era for control of this region — a lesson China would remember as it positions itself as the other superpower in the present, conscious of the advantage it has of having Pakistan on its side. India has to weaken this alliance by carrying the anti-terror combat into the POK and damaging the CPEC where it would hurt China the most. China can create some more mischief on LAC in support of Pakistan but this is nothing that India”s army would not be able to handle.

Secondly, this is the moment for India to build the opinion of the entire democratic world against the dictatorial Chinese regime that was out to disturb world peace in chasing its blatant plans of dominating the world militarily and economically — as a new superpower. India must make it a point to highlight the role of Sino-Pak axis in fomenting terrorism of the Islamic radicals and using it as an instrument of political advancement through proxy wars and cross-border operations. For securing India”s interests in a peaceful and democratic Afghanistan, we should further strengthen bilateral relations with Russia, Israel and Iran in working for a place in the ”round table” convened to discuss that country”s future — at a time when the US is being expedient about accommodating the Taliban in power there. Fortunately, we have in the NSA and the EAM a very competent, experienced and knowledgable set of people who can achieve the international outreach that India presently needs to counter and override the challenge posed by the China-Pakistan combine.

Finally, it is in the realm of economic relations that India has to find ways and means of scuttling the economic power that China had tried to wield against its opponents, including India. In fact, the tough response of President Donald Trump on the US-China trade imbalance and the more recent US-led campaign against China”s alleged culpability in hiding information relating to corona pandemic from the world — India being on the side of the US in these matters — substantially accounted for the precipitate hostility of China towards India. India”s rightful offer to the businesses seeking to shift away from China, to relocate here added to the Chinese desperation which was reflected in the aggression on LAC. Tension on the borders was intended to project India as a land of conflict and distract global investors from this country. As important as the marshalling of defence preparedness against China, therefore, are the moves of India to battle with the latter on the economic turf. India has set the ball rolling by banning some 59 Apps of Chinese origin and linking it with the call for development of indigenous products and services to make India self reliant in all fields, including defence production.

Prime Minister Modi has clearly embarked on a comprehensive strategy of military consolidation, economic recovery and deeper collaboration with friendly powers to deal with the emerging challenges — particularly the threat posed by China in the immediate and long range. India”s relations with China of Xi Jinping can become irreversibly antipathetic unless China strikes a peace chord by retracing its steps in Galwan valley. People must rally behind the effort of Modi regime to safeguard national security and integrity — at a time when the corona pandemic has compounded the problems of the common Indian at home. Prime Minister Modi in his address on June 30 acknowledged the silent contribution of the farmer and the tax payer to the well-being of the nation. It is a matter of satisfaction for the nation that the Prime Minister has shown a rare capability of handling multiple crises with calm and confidence.

(The writer is a former Director Intelligence Bureau)

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Trump vows to defeat ‘radical left’ in Independence Day speech

In Baltimore, Maryland state, a group of protesters tore down a statue of the Italian-born explorer Christopher Columbus and threw it into the water on Saturday night.

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Washington, July 5 : US President Donald Trump has used his Independence Day speech to tout the country’s “progress” against the COVID-19 pandemic, despite a nationwide spike in cases and vowed to defeat the “radical left, the Marxists, the anarchists, the agitators, the looters”.

“We are now in the process of defeating the radical left, the Marxists, the anarchists, the agitators, the looters, and people who in many instances have absolutely no clue what they are doing,” Xinhua news agency quoted Trump as saying during his speech at the South Lawn on Saturday.

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“We will never allow an angry mob to tear down our statues, erase our history, indoctrinate our children or trample on our freedoms,” he said, referring to the removal of controversial monuments following the killing of black man George Floyd by police — an incident that has invoked a national outcry against racial injustice and police brutality in the country.

Trump also lambasted US media outlets, saying that they “falsely and consistently label their opponents as racists”.

“You not only slander me, you not only slander American people, but you slander generations of heroes who gave their lives for America.”

The president kicked off the holiday weekend by visiting Mount Rushmore in South Dakota state on Friday with the same focus — accusing “angry mobs” of waging “a merciless campaign” to wipe out US history while pledging to establish a “National Garden of American Heroes” that will feature statues of “the greatest Americans to ever live”.

As Trump centred himself on railing at “radical left” and the US media in his Fourth of July message, presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden put his focus on calling for racial justice.

“There has always been a push and a pull between our founding ideals and the forces of inequality,” said Biden in an online video, adding that “we have a chance to rip the roots of systemic racism out of this country.”

A series of polls show Trump was slipping farther behind his Democratic challenger currently as the president has been under pressure to “reset” his re-election campaign.

The US marked its 244th Independence against the backdrop of a hike of pandemic, a downturn of economy and a nationwide outcry for racial justice.

Trump”s speech was part of the 2020 “Salute to America” event, which also included multiple flyovers by military aircraft and a 35-minute fireworks display over the National Mall in Washington, D.C., on Saturday night.

However, much of the country cancelled or scaled back traditional celebrations and events for the weekend as health experts warned Americans to avoid large crowds at a time when the country is already experiencing significant surges of infections.

Under attacksfor a shaky response to the pandemic, Trump insisted that the spike in cases is a result of expanded testing, a claim rejected by the White House”s own public health experts.

“We”ve made a lot of progress, our strategy is moving along well,” Trump said of the pandemic in his speech on Saturday.

On Saturday, nearly 45,000 new daily cases were reported in the country, according to a New York Times database, with at least three states setting daily records.

The US currently accounted for the world’s highest number of infections and fatalities with 2,838,678 and 129,672, respectively.

The traditional Fourth of July parade in Washington, D.C., as well as firework shows in Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Diego and some other cities, were cancelled due to the pandemic.

But protests against racial injustice were continuing across the country.

Protesters held rallies, marches and sit-ins on Saturday in Chicago, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles and more than a dozen other cities and towns, according to a USA Today report.

After Trump”s July Fourth address, some protesters burned an American flag outside the Lafayette Square near the White House in protest against racial injustice in the country, local media reported.

As the flag burned, protesters chanted “slavery, genocide and war” and “America was never great”.

In Baltimore, Maryland state, a group of protesters tore down a statue of the Italian-born explorer Christopher Columbus and threw it into the water on Saturday night.

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Appeal to follow Kim’s order for ‘maximum alert’ against COVID-19

North Korea claims to have had no coronavirus infections so far, but many outside observers suspect that Pyongyang might be hushing up an outbreak, said the Yonhap News Agency report.

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North Korean Kim Jong un

Seoul, July 5 : North Korea’s main newspaper on Sunday made an appeal to carry out leader Kim Jong-un’s order that the country exercise “maximum alert” against the coronavirus pandemic.

Kim issued the order during a politburo meeting on June 2, warning that premature easing of anti-virus measures will lead to an “unimaginable and irretrievable crisis”.

The appeal was seen as a sign that the North’s COVID-19 situation could be serious, though Pyongyang claims there has not been a single case, reports Yonhap News Agency.

It was the second time in three months that the North has convened a politburo meeting to discuss the coronavirus pandemic.

On Sunday, the Rodong Sinmun newspaper said all people should rise up to carry out the leader’s order.

“In a situation where the prospect of resolving the risk is uncertain, we should be on maximum alert without becoming complacent or slackening,” the paper said in an editorial, calling for “absolute” obedience to anti-virus regulations and orders.

The official Korean Central News Agency also said the country is trying to carry out anti-virus measures in a stricter manner nationwide while redoubling monitoring and disinfection efforts in regions near the sea and land borders.

Last week”s politburo meeting shows the country puts the lives of people ahead of anything else, the KCNA said.

The Minju Joson, a cabinet newspaper, also said in an editorial that virus prevention centres across the country should try to come up with detailed and timely measures in a pre-emptive manner so as to maintain the emergency virus prevention system in a stricter way.

North Korea claims to have had no coronavirus infections so far, but many outside observers suspect that Pyongyang might be hushing up an outbreak, said the Yonhap News Agency report.

The country has taken relatively drastic anti-virus measures, including closing its borders.

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